Critical questions you must answer about a draft choice.


By Bill Smith

The draft like life is based on rules. In both, it isn’t how much you know, or who you know that gives you the power to succeed. It is how much you know about who you know that gives you power.

The secrets to a GM keeping his job is simple—avoid draft busts and don’t trade the barn for someone else’s head cases. We will discuss trade theory later. Now I want to review the questions that scouts and GMs MUST ask about players before they take the plunge to draft them.

Because of the controversy about the Lions taking a QB or OL, today we will look at that position. We will look at critical questions on other positions later in the week.

Over the last 30 years, more QBs taken in the first 2 rounds have failed than have been at least serviceable. While a good number of those guys have gone to really bad teams, that does not explain the high rate of failure. As a HC or GM, you can survive a QB bust taken in round 3 or 4. You probably won’t survive a bust at QB taken in the first round or early second.


Has this guy done as well on the road against a tough team as he has at home against Whats-a-Matta U? If a QB, RB or WR has built up stats against cream puffs at home but struggled on the road against good competition, he won’t be a consistent producer in the NFL.

Does he want the ball when the game is on the line? Winners do and busts do not.

Can he lead the team back to win when the rest of the game has gone badly? Being a Browns fan, I HATE JOHN ELWAY! But you have to give him credit for being able to pull out the tight game against a good team in the 4th quarter.

What was his Wonderlic score? Remember, the goal here is avoid a bust. Vince Young got a 6 on his first test and Matt Stafford got a 38 out of 50 possible points. That doesn’t mean that Stafford is the next Payton Manning but it does raise a red flag the size of the Atlantic Ocean about taking Young in the first round.

How does he do answering questions at the chalk board? Can he explain the best routes against a rotating zone vs against a combination man/zone coverage? If not, he will never be able to make the correct reads and the throws against live pass rush in the NFL.

What kind of competition did he play against on the road? If he played in division 2, he had better have dominated it. There is a reason that so many successful QBs that come from the Mid American conference—every big game against BCS conference teams is on the road. The more starts he has against top college talent, the better are his chances of succeeding in the NFL.

Is he a bad loser? With all respect to good sportsmanship, I don’t want a QB or any player that takes a loss well. I want them to do what Tim Tebo did when Florida lost to Ole Miss last year—promise to carry the team on his back and then do it.

Does he develop “happy feet” under a tough pass rush? You can tell a lot about a QB by watching his feet when he is under pressure from a good pass rush. Does he shuffle his feet in a way that would qualify him for a spot on Dancing with the Stars or is he solid in the pocket moving just enough to find a passing lane?

Where are his eyes when the pocket is collapsing around him? If he is looking down field despite the heat, he is a keeper. If he is looking at the pass rush in college, he will be spending a lot of time on his back in the NFL.

Are more than 20 percent of his passes thrown to backs rather than to a WR or TE? If he panics and uses the safety valve more than 20 percent of the time in college, he will never have the confidence to throw down field in the NFL.

After asking yourself all these questions, do you still want to take a QB with the first overall pick and give him 75 million in guarantees? I didn’t think so.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on and edits .

My email is [email protected]

Technorati Tags: NFL Draft,Stafford,Elway,Lions,Wonderlick test,Young,Manning
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2 thoughts on “Critical questions you must answer about a draft choice.”

  1. I like the question about how well a QB takes losses. I remember Troy Smith not really caring about getting killed by Florida in the National Championship. A pretty good example.

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  2. I think Stafford is still a good choice. He does want the ball when the game is on the line, he does make big plays in a tough conference like the SEC and I think he can lead a team when everything has gone wrong.

    I think we overrated Georgia this year. They weren’t as good as everyone thought they’d be but Stafford was still solid.

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