Is the draft overrated in terms of building a team?

It seems like trading away picks for an established player is a lot easier and far less risk averse than taking someone you hope will be established in 3-4 years – especially if you have a decent core to begin with.

IMO, it only makes sense. I’m not even talking “win now” mode necessarily, either.

Your thoughts?

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It’s more of a crap shoot with the draft, but at lower prices if you can find guys that can contribute for 4 years. But of course you only draft 7 each year, so even if every pick you make pans out, you still have to have free agents (yours and those from other teams). Considering the high prices that a good FA costs, I would think you have to draft good players to afford the big FAs.

It’s true that some FAs aren’t that costly, you can sign some of them without trading away a pick when their contract is up, and that is so important to building a team. 2nd chance players often seize the opportunity to improve their market value in future years, and be excellent value. And there are some established players that aren’t worth the contract you gave them when you signed them or traded for them. They get a lot of money and they’re satisfied, that’s why it’s so important for the new team to have somebody on staff that knows him pretty well. So, FA is kind of a crap shoot too.

I would add that when it comes to building a team, you gotta have some continuity. If you’re switching coaches and systems every 2-3 years, then guys that fit when you drafted them won’t fit as well after changes are made. Plus, you have to have good coaching when it comes to development and training, I suspect THAT is very underrated.

So, the long way around the barn answer is that the draft isn’t overrated in my opinion, cuz if you can’t draft well then your chances of building a competitive team are reduced. But there are a number of other factors too.

The draft is important. Many teams and fans place WAY too much value in individual picks.


I think the way GMs use the draft is foolish. If I were a GM here is how I would address the positions:

QB- I would draft a QB in the top 3 rounds every 2 years. It’s the most important position in football and QBs rarely hit the FA market. QBs are a huge commodity even sitting on the bench. Belichick drafts more QBs high than any team and he has the best QB of all time.

RB- I would look for RBs in rounds 2-4 every other year. Flood the position. RBs come in and produce immediately. Huge value in having quality production immediately, and they’re not hard to find in these rounds.

WR- Same as RBs. Rounds 2-4 every other year. They take a little longer than RBs to produce usually, but rounds 2-4 are gold mines for WRs.

I would avoid drafting offensive line, and look towards the FA market. Not enough value in linemen, and too many busts high. I do think later round o line picks can have value. If I had 4th or 5th round pick I would target offensive line. Unless someone like Tunsil falls in your lap in the draft avoid taking linemen high.

Defensive line- can’t miss top 15 picks aside, I would also avoid drafting and look towards FA/trades.

Same with LBs… I would not draft them unless in the top 15.

I would never draft DBs or TEs only acquire them via FA or trade. The learning curve is too steep, and you can’t afford to not have immediate production in the draft.

So basically, yes the draft is overrated. Unless you have a top 15 pick, or plan on taking a QB in the first I would trade out of the first all together. Use rounds 2-4 to draft RBs and WRs. And then trade the rest of the picks for proven players like you suggest. Rounds 6-7 picks are no different than UDFAs really.

People can say what they want, but: Jarrad Davis, Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Teez Tabor, A Shawn Robinson, KJ and Tavai can all be found in FA without having to spend 1st or 2nd round picks on them. It’s a joke really. You can literally find these types of players in FA every single off season.


I suppose if you are good enough at drafting, you don’t need to trade away your future picks for vets…and yes, hitting on draft picks is VERY important for Cap reasons, you can get guys to contribute for cheap and it’s typically easier to resign your rookies to long-term contracts before they become Free Agents. Good teams don’t let their good players go…typically anyways.

IMHO, the value of the draft has increased since implementation of the rookie pay scale. I understand the premise of an experienced player with a history of performing adequately in the league vs an unknown but the difference in Pay level is significant. Take as a random example for instance, of our 5th round pick who is under contract for 4 years and less than 2.9 Million Dollars vs Diggs originally was a sixth-round pick but is now under contract for 3 years and 18.5 million dollars. In retrospect the 2014 season may have been the greatest seasons in the history of the Lions as to the ability to have fielded a playoff team capable of winning in the playoffs and at the same time having nearly 40% of the cap tied up in 3 players. That was of course being Stafford Sue and Calvin Johnson. In retrospect is it any Wonder at all that we lacked depth?

If you get it right, it’s the most important part of building a team. But there’s other ways. You don’t HAVE to nail a draft… but you rather would. The thing I disagree with a lot of people, is the thought that the first 3 picks (or any arbitrary number) have to make impact on day one. Many picks should be looked at as down the road, or future contributors (Depth or tradeable). How I’ve wanted the Lions to take some of these qb’s in the 2nd or 3rd round. It’d be labeled as a waste to many. But, a quality backup, a possible Tom Brady, or a Garapollo like trade is very appealing to me. And I’ll get flamed here, but I supported the Teez pick. He wasn’t going to do much year 1, but if he came back from that injury, he was as sticky as they came in coverage. It ended up as a bad pick. Why we never tried a conversion to safety is still questionable. Conversely, I hated the Abdullah pick. I felt Ameer had a good place in the NFL, but in no way was he an every down guy. He would’ve worked out better in the Theo Riddick role. Maybe even some slot. Two bad picks, but bad for different reasons.
Then the Theo pick. Great pick. Perfectly used.
Draft overvalued? No way.

High quality OL players rarely hit free agency. I think that says a lot about why teams draft them so high every year. Teams rarely let them walk.

Teams seem to want to get their franchise QB and LT and other OL straight first and then begin to fill out other positions. So if you don’t have your guys there you will most likely have to draft them. Just about every other position can reliably be filled through free agency and trades.

I think BB and a lot of others will say they will look anywhere to improve their roster, but without solidifying QB and OL first you’re probably spinning your wheels, especially in today’s NFL.


The general consensus with most GMs is that you build through the draft primarily. This would include Bob Quinn. You supplement with FA.

I hear your point though. We’ve had some success through the years trading low round picks for starters. Going back to Chris Houston and Lawrence Jackson and on through Snacks.

Some teams absolutely amaze me on their ability to whiff in the draft and still be competitive. Seattle, for example. Originally, they had some great drafts. But not so much lately. And they do some of what you suggest in many cases i.e. trading picks for proven quantities like Sheldon Richardson or Clowney. But then, for as many as they miss on they usually hit on a pick late. Like 2017 and Cason. Or Griffith in the 3rd.


I wonder how much of a difference it would make it a team that doesn’t draw FA’s as well as other teams would fare as far as being more aggressive with trading picks.

A lot of good points here
I think drafting well is exceptionally important because it maximizes the talent you can acquire for your roster. The larger your pool of first contract talent, the less you need to spend on FA. Every team has a contract ceiling called the salary cap. The goal has to be to extract maximum talent under that cap. You can do that most effectively if a greater chunk of your roster is first contract players (vs other teams).

I think you could call getting rid of a seemingly compromised Diggs a roster/cap efficiency move. Cold analysis requires those decisions.

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I think if you rely on getting Free Agents, your only hope is to overpay them…or else you’re typically fighting 31 other teams for a Free Agent player, well theoRiddickly speaking of course. You’re probably only battling a half dozen teams but still if you’re relying on building your team with Free Agents, you’re not going to be a good team.

In other words, the draft is how you want to build your team.

Quinn has been somewhat successful building this team through the draft. It gets overlooked, but there are signs that we could be building up to something. His best draft was 2018. His worst was 2017. But we have a lot of what I like to call “building blocks players” on this roster. Guys that might not be superstars, but create the base of the team. Decker, Glasgow, Ragnow, Robinson, Hand, Walker, Kerryon, Davis, Tavai (hopefully), Harris (hopefully), Hock, and Galloday.

Moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see how Quinn handles the second year contracts on his initial class in 16. He needs to make decisions on Glasgow and A’Shawn in particular. And offer Decker a 5th year.

I like the draft , But it’s a crap shoot. You don’t know if your getting a diamond or a dog turd no matter the round.

there are no certainties If you try to build off a foundation with holes in it, your other players will be compromised because of that…they will struggle in some ways.

what I mean is you can’t go at the drafts scatterbrained thinking “I need a DE, LB, WR, RB ,OT, DE, CB TE.” To me you build strong foundations offensively and defensively FIRST as THEE most important task.

That is, that you get players that are absolute cornerstone pieces all across your O-line that are HIGHLY able, skilled, durable, and very reliable players that will be in place for years. Solid players, then you get the same in place for your defensive line…the front line or first line of your defense AKA the defensive foundation . They are durable, they are strong, skilled roadgraders that you plan to have for years. They are SOLID at the point of attack in every possible way.

THEN, you can get very select players to play behind them so…their should be little struggle. you can get your top RB’s WR’s, or most coveted TE’s on offense…you can get your solid LB’s , DE’s, DT’s, CB’s , S to MAKE sure that your not exposed or burnt BUT ….YOU MUST HAVE you solid foundations FIRST weather it’s Offense or Defense because if there are weaknesses in them, that will negatively affect play and players behind our front lines.

And you have the Draft, you have Free Agency, Waivers, an area and time set for Trades.

For example, there are issues on our O-line so it negatively effects our offensive players and their plays and execution.

Our Defense has no great foundational players or STRONG building blocks across it’s front , SO in return…everything behind it -their play suffers.

the draft isn’t overrated at all, but you can’t shop like WE are a Patriots Team that has won many bowls and can just ‘REFINE’ their roster during drafts/off-season’s.

The Detroit Lions are NOT them, so you can’t get caught up buying “shiny new things” when you have to repair the foundations of your O-line & Defensive .

you CAN possibly have, …The right players ON your Lines BUT have them in the wrong or Less- Efficient spot on that Line as well.

No need to explain it much better than that.

that already happened back on the April 29th. The window to exercise 5th Year options closes one week before the NFL draft. This year that date would have been May 3rd 2019.

Personally I think you use the draft to get solid high floor players to build a good roster. Once that is done you can try to hit on few superstars through both the draft and FA - But you build your base through the draft. I think too many GM’s try to be too smart and always hit home runs. Hit singles and doubles and all of a sudden adding 1 or 2 homerun hitters put you over the top. I realize it is harder than it sounds regardless of how you do it.

You mean Cleveland?

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I like your approach in general
There are exceptions to anything but overall I would follow it

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The wisdom in Iggy’s trading out of the 1st unless we’re picking top 10-15 is that there are usually only a dozen or so players with 1st round grades to begin with.

Relying on free agency to build a nucleus is not feasible, nor is it for adding the top talent. You can build depth, special teams and occasionally add an interesting wrinkle, but scouting and acquiring the proper players to begin with is how you build a championship team.

It is still a numbers game. It’s better to pick 10+ players in a draft than 7 or less. Schneider and Carroll epitomize what an NFL team needs to do to be great.

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