I’m fascinated by drafts, because they’re so unpredictable. You think someone’s going to be great, he sucks. You think someone will suck, he’s great.
Growing up a Jets and Nets fan, I have plenty of personal experience in this area. The Jets selected Blair Thomas, and I thought we had the next Marcus Allen. The Nets selected Pearl Washington, it was akin to the new Magic Johnson arriving in town. I was crushed when the Jets took Jeff Lageman, and he wound up quite good. I was stoked when the Nets landed Yinka Dare, and he turned punchline.
You get the idea.
Anyhow, if draft picks are fascinating, double draft picks are really fascinating. Especially when they turn disastrous. Which leads to this question: Which was worse—the Cleveland Browns’ 2012 first round picks, or the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2009 first round picks?
In 2012, the Browns, coming off of a 4-12 season, needed lots of help. Their starting quarterback, Colt McCoy, was little more than an OK backup (but, really, a third stringer on most clubs). Their best running back, Peyton Hillis, ran for 587 yards, but had precious little natural talent. Hence, the team—blessed with two first-round picks—went after skill-position guys. With the third overall selection, they grabbed Alabama halfback Trent Richardson, the universally acknowledged best runner on the board. Then, at No. 22, they took Brandon Weeden, a quarterback from Oklahoma State. This one opened some eyes, because Weeden—a former minor league baseball player—would be turning 29 during the season. But, hey, he had a big arm and tons of charisma. Cleveland needed both.
The results were dreadful. Richardson ran for 950 yards, but averaged a mere 3.6 yards per carry. He was jarringly underwhelming in all areas, and now—a mere three years later—is out of the league. Weeden was a tiny bit better, but he too only last two seasons in Ohio, before stinking in Dallas. Yesterday he signed with the Texans, the organization’s 765,432nd mediocre quarterback.
The worst part? What could have been. In taking Richardson, the Browns passed on Matt Kalil, the All-Pro offensive tackle now living large in Minnesota. They also passed on Luke Kuechly and Dontari Poe, both stars. A better running back, Doug Martin of Boise State, wound up in Tampa.
Weeden, at 22, isn’t as blatant. Russell Wilson went to Seattle in the third round, a blunder 31 franchises have come to regret. But there are a solid 50 guys picked after the 22nd spot who have had better NFL careers. That hurts.
In a way, the Wolves are more interesting. And more painful. Rubio, the heavily hyped Spaniard, was selected fifth overall, based in large party on his unique ability to make all sorts of passes look flashy, funky, cool. And, truly, he’s not a bad NBA player. Does he start for most teams? Yeah, probably. But he’s a horrific shooter; one that opposing defenders can all but ignore from outside, oh, 10 feet. That’s a problem.
What crushes Minnesota is what came next. After nabbing Rubio, the team (really, GM David Kahn) grabbed Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn—a second point guard. Truly, this was the second coming of the Detroit Lions using four-straight first round picks to select wide receivers. Why would you want two rookie point guards? Why would you need two rookie point guards? Apparently, Kahn (an all-time horrific owner) thought the Rubio-Flynn pairing reminded him of Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe. A few years ago Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams spoke with Dave Wohl, Minnesota’s lead assistant coach. He recalled a conversation he had with Kahn, and how the owner made the backcourt comparison. This, from the article …
The dagger, of course, is this: Immediately after Minnesota took Flynn (who now plays in Australia, and did nothing in the NBA), the Golden State Warriors (giddy as a rat in a pie shop) selected Davidson’s Steph Curry. Then, two picks later, the Raptors snagged DeMar DeRozan. Later, the 76ers took Jrue Holiday. The Hawks added Jeff Teague. Hell, the Wolves used a third first-round selection on another point guard, North Carolina’s Ty Lawson, but traded him. Ultimately, he’d become the best of the three.
So … which draft is worse? The Browns, who wound up with squat? Or the Wolves, who wound up with a serviceable point guard but let an MVP illogically pass through the night?
I vote Minnesota.