In some ways, NFL teams themselves are no better than draftniks when it comes to correctly predicting which players they’ll take in the first round.
Just ask John Madden, the Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster who says the draft is a complex guessing game disguised as a numbers game.
“You don’t know who you’re gonna take,” the former Raiders coach said Monday morning on his KCBS-740 AM radio show with Steve Bitker and Stan Bunger. “I see these pundits sitting there saying this team is gonna take this guy because they need this and they need that. I said you can’t say what they’re gonna take because you don’t know who’s gonna be taken above them. You don’t know who’s gonna be on the board.”
Things can get further complicated when family is involved, like on Saturday when Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie’s son, Khalil, was drafted by the rival Chiefs in the sixth round.
“Reggie knows this, if you really want someone in the draft you’ve gotta take him,” said Madden, with a tinge of Yogism. “And you have to take him before maybe you would think they’d be drafted. So if he’s (projected) to be drafted in the sixth round, maybe you take him in the fifth.
“It’s be a crapshoot that they were gonna get him anyway,” he added. “I mean, 32 teams and you’d be able to get your son?”
Disappointment is merely part of the draft process. Madden has lived through more than a few drafts where things didn’t fall according to the Raiders’ plan.
“We used to have like a lottery the night before (the draft) and we’d all write down who we thought we were gonna take,” Madden said. “We were probably 50/50 for who we were going to take because every team’s (draft) board isn’t the same.”
With the help of one of his competitors, Madden though was able to take some of the guesswork out of the first-round process. Back in the 1970s, former Rams and Chargers head coach Tommy Prothro shared his draft theory with Madden.
“We were drafting 25th, and Tommy had this formula where if you’re drafting 25th in the first round (he’d figure out) how many choices you have to have,” said Madden, noting Prothro’s math was based on all teams’ boards being different. “He had a special math. He was a bridge player. He was that type of thinker.
“You would assume that if you write down 25 names you’d be happy with, you’re gonna get one of those names. And Tommy says, ‘You don’t need 25.’ He said if you have 15 names on your board you will get one of those in the 25th pick.”
Madden excitedly delivered the news to Raiders owner Al Davis that Oakland only needed to identify 15 players on its first-round wish list.
“Oh, Tommy doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” said a dismissive Davis.
But, sure enough, when Oakland’s turn came up there were still players available on its top 15 list. So the next year, Madden again called Prothro, who provided him with the number of players the Raiders needed to list to assure themselves of drafting one of them.
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