A lot has to go wrong in a season for your football team to pick second overall. In fact, if your team is picking that high, your team probably needs to fire their head coach and general manager (oh wait). The Giants learned the hard way that just running slants and go routes down the sideline doesn’t work well in the NFL. This isn’t Madden, this is real life. You know what the one silver lining from Eli attempting 143 passes to Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, Travis Rudolph, Hunter Sharp, Darius Powe and Kalif Raymond is? The Giants have a chance to make a selection that will change the franchise forever.
First let’s address the elephant in the room.
The narrative that a running back can elevate an entire offense is false. A great running back will add incremental value to any offense, but when was the last time an elite offense was carried by a great back and a mediocre quarterback? In 2012, Adrian Peterson was the league MVP. He rushed for over 2,000 yards on nearly 350 carries for an average of 6.0 yards per attempt. Yet, based on Football Outsiders DVOA, their offense was ranked 15th. The Vikings had the 6th best rushing offense and 22nd best passing offense by DVOA. If running backs can transform an offense, how is it possible the Vikings offense was league average?
The Giants cannot draft Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick. Barkley is a tremendous prospect, he’s the second best running back prospect Football Outsiders has ever projected. He will be a major asset to any team that drafts him. Having said that, when picking second in the draft, it’s crucial to get as much value from that draft slot. Drafting a running back that early is horrible value for the second pick. Especially when you consider the value franchises receive from nailing a quarterback in the draft. Even if you aren’t concerned with drafting a player who will already be one of the highest paid players at his position (and impossible to extend after year four), you have to at least appreciate what a rare opportunity it is to draft someone who can carry the franchise on his back for the next 10-15 years.
I used Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value (AV) metric to quantify the difference in value between quarterbacks and running backs taken in the top 10. Since 2000, there have been 26 quarterbacks and 13 running backs drafted in the top 10. Below are the average number of years players from each position have played in the NFL and the AV they averaged over their careers.
Establishing that quarterbacks play longer and deliver more value to their teams than running backs shouldn’t come as a surprise to even the casual football fan. However, look at the table below, eight out of the ten players who were drafted in the top 10 with the highest average AV are quarterbacks. When NFL teams nail a quarterback, they deliver way more value than running backs do.
I recognize drafting a generational franchise quarterback is rare. History indicates it’s unlikely any of these prospects will be elite franchise quarterbacks. It’s why generational quarterbacks are so revered by fans. But, when teams do draft a player of that caliber, they consistently lead great offenses nearly every season they play.
To prove this point, I analyzed the offensive DVOA of the four generational quarterbacks of the last decade (if I was going to put a fifth quarterback in this chart it would have been Eli, I swear). All four of these quarterbacks had an average offensive DVOA of around 7 or better. Further, only 10 seasons out of a combined 56 seasons did they lead an offense that was not ranked in the top 10 by DVOA.
|Player||Offensive DVOA Average||# Seasons Ranked Outside Top 10||Seasons|
Taking a quarterback sets your franchise up for the next decade, if not more. It stabilizes the entire organization. Every year you have a great franchise quarterback, you are a Super Bowl contender. Michael Lombardi calls great quarterbacks “deodorant quarterbacks”, since they mask the stink of a bad team and can elevate everyone around them. It’s the most valuable position in the NFL and unless you are the Browns, opportunities to select a franchise quarterback do not come often.
I love Eli Manning. I’ll be there in Canton when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. He’s my favorite athlete of all time. Think about the feeling you have had over the last decade, going to Giants Stadium to attend their home opener in September thinking, “because we have Eli, we can win it all”. Don’t you want to keep feeling like that over the next decade and beyond?
Thanks for reading. Go Giants!