Successful teams are built through the draft

Once your team is on the clock, it’s a struggle to keep from getting a little clammy.

The muscles around the shoulder blade, from mid-back to the lower neck, clamp up. And all the while, nothing is really happening.

The anticipation of the NFL Draft has been drummed up well by the league over some 10-plus years, though there’s no doubting one weekend can help take a team from mettling to spectacular.

It’s not anything to fret about if a team is picking late, either, nor is it wise to discount the later rounds.

Draft sleepers could include players like K.J. Wright, who Seattle drafted in the fourth round of 2011. As was guard Clint Boling, tight end Jordan Cameron, cornerback Davon House and running back Roy Helu.

To be fair, the 2011 draft was one that’s hard to compete with. There was talent everywhere.

Even in weak drafts, though, like in 2012, there are still players who can contribute in major ways.

Lamar Miller was taken by Miami in the fourth, Travis Benjamin by the Browns and Joe Looney by the 49ers.

All have contributed in significant ways to each of their teams. And it’s why the draft matters so much.

Last season, as I was wrapping up coverage of the final day, my uncle turned to me and asked:

“Why do these people care? Why do you cover it so thoroughly? Nobody knows if these guys are going to be good or not, it’s all a bunch of (baloney, for the sensitive).”

He was right to some degree. Nobody truly knows whether these players are going to be really good or not, though some scouts do better jobs than others.

Evidence: The Oakland Raiders recently defended themselves in a lawsuit, successfully, where two former scouts claimed age discrimination.

These men believed they’d done a good job when adding Chimdi Chekwa and Taiwan Jones during the fourth of 2011, even though some of the aforementioned were there for the taking.

House, who was drafted by current Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and his former boss Ted Thompson, recently signed a four-year, $24 million deal.

Chekwa and Jones might not make an NFL roster this year.

It’s often the case with bad teams, coupled by bad general managers, that scouts just aren’t doing a good job.

This has seldom been the case with Green Bay, recently Oakland, Baltimore, and New England. The scouting departments of each team know their strengths, weaknesses, and a keen sense of what they’re looking for.

There are similarities in what they do, but nothing is more striking than what they do with each pick, and how they translate it into draft currency.

The formula, in general, is simple. If a team either doesn’t like the layers who they’ve projected to go in a certain slot, and have no issues with moving back. They don’t fear trading up, though it’s seldom done by any of these organizations.

More teams are trending in this direction, with the addition of analytics into team front offices and a team-friendly collective bargaining agreement.

Whether your team is taking in some of the stats produced by guys like Chris Burke and others might mean the difference between a successful draft or a bad one.

Regardless of strategies, teams can get themselves from the middle of the draft one year, to the end of one the next. Will your team be a winner?


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.