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The fine line between stupid and clever


Although I rarely have positive things to say about Trump supporters, let me put in a kind word for Bill Belichick, who traded the 64th pick in the 2019 NFL draft to the Seahawks, who used it to select D.K. Metcalf. D.K. capped off an excellent rookie season by setting a record for receiving yards by a rookie in a postseason game, a day after Tom Brady was using his increasingly limited velocity to throw to a bunch of replacement-level-or-worse randos and barely ambulatory old guys. Many thanks and hopes for a restful January!

Seriously, I wouldn’t criticize Belichick too much for this — he had already drafted what he thought was the wideout he needed, and given the uncertainty of evaluating prospects, trading down in the draft is typically sensible. It’s more a clever move by Seattle than a bad one by New England. But this was also an unusual situation, one of those reverse-tulip mania situations in which a highly regarded prospect keeps falling because teams get irrationally fixated on some particular narrative. Metcalf had an incredible combine and was projected as a mid-first round pick at worst — Cris Collinsworth said after the game that he had him as the 7th best prospect in the draft — but for because of some concerns about his route-running just kept falling, to the point when he was literally in tears when the John Schneider finally called him:

The Seahawks are an analytics-driven front office, but they also recognize that analytics are tools you use to inform complicated decisions, not a few crude axioms that apply universally. Normally trading down is sensible — but when a prospect with a first-round grade at a position of need is still there at the end of the second round, it’s perfectly sound to say “this is getting ridiculous” and trade up at a reasonable price to get him. “Uncertainty” doesn’t mean we don’t know anything. Pace Sashi Brown, SUPERGENIUS, [extreme Jamie Lee Curtis voice] the central message of analytics is not “DeShaun Watson and DeShone Kizer are equally likely to become quality NFL QBs.”

And that’s not the only thing that led the Pats to one-and-done with the league’s best defense, and in two cases the 49ers (who were already gifted their franchise QB by the Pats) were the direct beneficiaries. One — picking N’Keal Henry over Deebo Samuel — seems like just pure bad luck; AFICT the former was generally regarded as a better prospect, and of course we don’t know how this will look in 3 years either. The more interesting counterfactual is that the Pats outbid the 49ers for Mohamed Sanu, leaving the 49ers to “settle” for…a significantly better wideout in Emmauel Sanders, who also cost less draft capital. Now, I can’t say that Belichick was wrong because he might have not known that Sanders was available, and it’s also possible that the Broncos might not have been willing to trade him to the Pats for the same price. But if he could have had either and paid more for Sanu, that’s…not great. Hey, even the best miss sometimes. And what Lynch and Shanahan have put together is really impressive.

For an even more extreme example of a top prospect falling for reasons that turn out to be pure bullshit, the 30 for 30 about the 1983 Draft — in which Dan Marino went 27th — is really good.

…in other news, Seattle’s MVP the last time the Seahawks and Packers met in the postseason has a new gig! Good luck with that.

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