MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA'S BURNING QUESTIONS: Was Jadeveon Clowney's visit just for show?

Posted Apr 18, 2014

Mike O'Hara on making every draft pick count, Jadeveon Clowney's Allen Park visit and the rookie wage scale.

Burning questions –marking one of the greatest draft finds of this generation, what Jadeveon Clowney’s stop in Allen Park means in pre-draft tour and how implementing the rookie wage scale in 2011 has impacted NFL teams.

Q. It was 14 years ago as of this writing – April 16, 2000 – that the Patriots drafted Tom Brady in the sixth round and 199th overall. Was that a sharp draft decision by the Patriots, or was it luck that they got a future Hall of Famer who’s led them to three Super Bowl championships?

Tom BradyQB Tom Brady (Photo: AP Images)

A. It was some of both – good drafting and very good luck. No team hatches a draft plan to get its franchise quarterback in the sixth round.

Twelve quarterbacks were drafted in 2000. Chad Pennington, taken by the Jets, was the only first-round pick. Five of the 12 were sixth-round picks, and two of them – Marc Bulger and Brady -- had the best careers of any quarterbacks in the 2000 draft class.

Bulger was drafted by New Orleans but established himself with the Rams and played in two Pro Bowls.  His career didn’t come close to matching what Brady has done in New England. No other quarterback has matched Brady since Troy Aikman was drafted in 1989.

Q. Bottom line – is drafting a player that good that low luck or good drafting?

A. It’s more luck than anything in terms of drafting. Brady was a winning quarterback at Michigan, but there was nothing in his record with the Wolverines that indicated he was going to be special. It has been reported often over the years how he did not enhance his draft status in workouts before the draft.

Before the Patriots took Brady at pick 1999, they drafted six players – starting with offensive lineman Adrian Klemm in the second round --who combined to play 55 NFL games.

A lot of the credit goes to Coach Bill Belichick and his staff for developing Brady when they realized what they had. They kept four quarterbacks on the roster in Brady’s rookie season because they feared he would be claimed if they waived him.

Q. What does it say about the draft process for all teams, including the Lions?

A. Every pick counts – first round through seventh -- and so do the undrafted free agents. Every step of the process is important – live scouting, film evaluation, personal interviews, physical exams, background character checks along with testing at the Combine, pro days and personal workouts.

Last year’s draft by the Lions was an example of how it can pay off early and late in the draft and after it’s over.

They have gotten good value from draft picks Ziggy Ansah, Larry Warford, Devin Taylor and Sam Martin and some promise for the future from Darius Slay and Theo Riddick. Free agents Joseph Fauria and LaAdrian Waddle added to the value of their 2013 rookie class.

Q. Was Jadeveon Clowney’s visit to the Lions just for show, or was there a reason for it?

A. He’s the best prospect in the draft, and with NFL rules allowing teams to bring in 30 players for personal visits it was the right move if Clowney was willing to visit. And he was, obviously.

It’s a stretch of the imagination to think the Lions have a real chance to get Clowney with the 10th pick, but strange things happen in the draft.

If there is a run on quarterbacks and offensive tackles at the top of the first round and Clowney’s on the board at a reasonable position for the Lions to trade up – third or fourth overall – they might take a shot at it.

Q. This will be the fourth year of the rookie wage scale. Is it having a real impact on teams?

A. It’s not a question of saving money for teams like the Lions, who spend to the limit of the salary cap every year, but rather how it’s distributed. The rookie wage scale leaves a lot more money for veterans.

The 2010 draft was the last year before the rookie scale took effect, and the top two draft picks – Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh – got huge contracts. Bradford got $50 million alone guaranteed from the Rams. Suh got $40 million guaranteed from the Lions.

Suh’s salary-cap hit this year is $22.4 million. By comparison, Eric Fisher was drafted first overall last year by Kansas City and got $22.19 million on a four-year contract.

If Fisher pans out, he’ll get a big jump in pay in his next contract. That’s the way it should work – pay for performance.