That's it. It is a mechanical system and it has some flaws, certainly. It values starting above all else. One time, in talking about this kind of thing, then-Eagles general manager Tom Heckert said there should be a distinction between a starter on a bad team and a starter on a good team - and there is some merit to that point, because it is easier to start for a bad team. At the same time, short of having access to some personnel guy's evaluation of every player in the NFL, you really can't know.
This system overvalues some guys (like former Eagles linebacker Chris Gocong). It undervalues late-bloomers (like current Eagles right tackle Winston Justice). But as a rough guide, it passes the test. More important, it might help to explain just what the hell the Eagles were doing trading down, down, down into the middle rounds of the draft the other day.
With that, the grades:
* A+: Green Bay, Houston.
* A: Baltimore, Denver, New York Jets, San Francisco
* B+: Buffalo, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New Orleans
* B: Eagles, Cleveland, Tennessee, Arizona, Cincinnati, San Diego
* C+: Carolina, Tampa Bay, New England, Oakland
* C: New York Giants, Chicago, Seattle, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Washington, St. Louis
* D: Pittsburgh, Dallas
* F: Detroit, Atlanta, Miami
So the Eagles ended up with a solid B. They hit no home runs and really tanked only one pick - and whatever happened to Jeremy Bloom? They have been a middling drafting team for years and they were a middling drafting team that year.
The question becomes, of course, whether a team that relies heavily on the draft and aspires to greatness can continue to aspire realistically if it piles middling draft upon middling draft. The answer is no - which is why this team has been pretty much competing for wild cards the last few years and nothing more. It also might be why Heckert is now the general manager in Cleveland and Howie Roseman is now the general manager in Philadelphia - except that, well, good luck in finding anybody who will actually tell you that.
Anyway, here is another list. It is of the Eagles' picks in 2006, and how they graded out when rated against all of the other picks in the same round:
* 1. Brodrick Bunkley: B
* 2. Winston Justice: D
* 3. Chris Gocong: A
* 4. Max Jean-Gilles: C
* 4. Jason Avant: B
* 5. Jeremy Bloom: F
* 6. Omar Gaither: A
* 7. Lajuan Ramsey: C
Again, there are flaws. Justice has proved himself to be better than his grade, but only lately. Gocong seems as if he should be lower, based on how the Eagles ushered him out of the starting lineup so unceremoniously in the middle of last season.
At the same time, the third round that year was a real wasteland - no Pro Bowlers so far and only six players who were regular starters for more than one season. When you look at that season, you see what might be a validation of the Eagles' strategy of trading down relentlessly this past weekend. Based on this 2006 rating system, there were more than twice as many good, productive players in the fourth round as there were in the third, and just as many in the fifth round as there were in the third.
Checking other years - 2005-09 - for the same pattern, it is interesting. What follows is a calculation of a team's chances of getting a regular starter at a given area in the draft, and its chances of getting a future Pro Bowler:
Pick No.Starter Pro Bowler
1-16. . . 74% 26%
17-32. . . 61% 16%
33-48. . . 58% 6%
49-64. . . 45% 9%
65-80. . . 29% 3%
81-96. . . 19% 0%
97-112. . . 19% 4%
113-128. . . 25% 8%
129-144. . . 14% 1%
It is a very predictable pattern for a while but then, once you start to dig into the third round, it really blows up. Over that 5-year period, the late fourth round produced a measurably more productive group of players than the late third round - and better, in some ways, than the early third round.
It makes you wonder if, despite all of the money teams spend on scouting, that a lot of this really is just a game of chance after the first couple of picks. Only time will provide the answers, but this might offer a little insight into why the Eagles were willing to trade one guy with a 45 percent chance of making it in exchange for two guys with a 25 percent chance, one with a 19 percent chance and two with a 14 percent chance.
Because, in the end, maybe they are just darts in the wind. *
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