Chip Kelly gets pragmatic about the draft


I don’t know Eagles coach Chip Kelly very well, but I like him.  I like him in part because he’s willing to explain things for what they are, not for what anyone wants us to think them to be.

When it comes to the draft, Kelly has pulled back the curtain on the notion, as perpetrated by the media draft machine, that there’s some sort of code that magically can be cracked.  There’s not; it’s all a crapshoot and anyone who tries to tell the audience otherwise is dumb or lying.

You don’t know how it’s going to pan out,” Kelly said Friday when discussing his team’s first-round pick, linebacker Marcus Smith, via  “Just going through the analytics of it, 50 percent of first-round picks don’t make it.  That’s through the history of time.”

With all due respect to the efforts of draft experts (real or self-titled) to make the process into something that can be figured out, Kelly realizes that the process is inherently impossible to solve.

“When you draft someone in the sixth round and you say, ‘Hey, we got a steal,’ my first question is, why didn’t you take him in the fifth, then?” Kelly said.  “If you’re so smart and you knew what you knew and you knew everything about the draft and you knew the guy was going to be an All-Pro — the people who brag about, ‘We got a sixth-round pick and he became an All-Pro player’ — then the first question is, well why didn’t you draft him earlier if you were so smart?  A lot of times you don’t know.”

That logic can be used against plenty of teams, including the Eagles themselves.  Last year, when quarterback Nick Foles developed into an unlikely star after being a third-round pick in 2012, G.M. Howie Roseman explained what the Eagles saw at him.

So why didn’t they take him in the first or second round then?  If they’re so smart and they knew what they knew and they knew everything about the draft and they knew the guy was going to be an All-Pro, then the first question is, well why didn’t they draft him earlier if they were so smart?

In an industry where people have a clear motivation to make things so much more complicated than they really are, Kelly keeps it simple.  It’s refreshing and it’s authentic and it’s honest.

No one knows what a college football player will do in the NFL until he’s in the NFL.  And many factors influence the outcome, from the player’s ability to overcome physical and mental adversity to the player’s work ethic to the player’s character to the team’s coaching staff to the team’s resources for developing players to the other players on the team to the systems used.

But if enough people understood that, the draft wouldn’t be viewed as a mountain that fans can climb with the assistance of the Sherpas who are paid to talk incessantly about prospects for five months.  And plenty of those guys would have to find work that actually carries with it accountability for being flat-out wrong.

46 responses to “Chip Kelly gets pragmatic about the draft

  1. Preach it, Chip. We all get excited or upset over picks but the reality is we need to see them on the professional field before forming strong opinions.

  2. Chip is right on this.To listen to these so called draft grades done right after the draft by these experts,only to look foolish later on.You really need 3 years to see if the draft was any good for a team.

  3. Why are you so mad at the draft? I think it’s a kind of dumb statement to say “if you knew he was gonna be so good, why didn’t you take him earlier?”. If I was a GM my answer to that would be “Because I didn’t have to. Why would you ever draft a guy earlier than you had to?”. The deeper in the draft a GM could take a guy who went on to be a stud the more value there was in that pick.

  4. The only thing we really know for sure about the draft is by the time its over Jim Irsay will be 3 sheets to the wind and Mel Kiper will continue to sport the Eddie Munster hairstyle.

  5. Why didn’t you take him earlier?

    Because you had another guy you really liked, except the whole league likes him so he needs to be gotten now. Eg. Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson if in the same draft, with same opinions as they had coming out from experts and teams. Brady would be the first choice in retrospect but at the time you’re picking 5th overall, so you take AD before the Vikings get him. You take the minimal risk someone will have the guts to take a 6th round player in the first and take Brady in round 2 (or even 3 if you think you’ll get away with it.) As for those who say how do you know he’s a 6th round rated? Reporters do have legitimate sources 9/10 times they know roughly the range. And when someone is expected to go later and someone likes him at round one, that comes out too eg Ja’Juan James Miami.

    I agree its a crap shoot on the whole though, but when you are in love with more than 1 player, tactics are needed.

  6. Chip is right.

    But to answer the question, is simple: because they know that other people (the other teams picking ahead of them) aren’t likely to be valuing the player they are at the same level they are. If they come to the 2012 NFL Draft thinking Nick Foles is a 1st Round pick, but that no one else thinks that, then they know they don’t have to use a 1st round pick on him and can take someone else.

    That’s the whole “we got a steal” spin. It’s being able to see a diamond in the rough and knowing when to move up or down to get him. It’s all a gamble and that’s why it’s fun to try and predict where they will go.

    As far as them panning out…no one knows. You can’t predict that. You can THINK that Nick Foles will be great and play the move-up/move-down game to get him, but whether or not your guess pans out won’t be determined until he actually plays.

  7. Chip kelly back to college in 2015. Horrible defense and a disappointing offense next yr sends him back to school.

  8. Pretty sure that’s how everyone thinks. Well, except the Raiders.

  9. What neither of you (Mike and Chip) are fairly representing is value.

    You don’t pick a guy in the third that you think you can get in the fourth. Inherently you don’t know for sure, and I suppose that’s Chip’s point, but you don’t pick a guy in the 5th that everyone values in the 6th.

    There is an evaluation and an interpretation of value that obviously impacts when a player will go.

    The overlying truth here is that the draft is still a big guessing game, but the reality is that chance still has to be taken within its own frame of reference. Taking Teddy Bridgewater in the 2nd is different than taking him in the 5th as a team who doesn’t need a QB.

    Things change, and adjustment is half the game.

  10. If you know you can get a guy you want with a 5th or 6th round pick, why would you use a 4th or 5th to get him?! That’s why these guys all have draft grades and projections.

  11. No scout can foresee injuries either.

    All the talent in the world won’t overcome that neck fusion surgery or torn ACL that a late rd pick gets cut for to make room for a healthy player who may actually play that season.

  12. *better than any other GM in the division. Who won a SB? Thompson. Who wins the division every year? Green Bay. There’s not a single player on the Queens roster who’s better than a single GB draft pick in the last five years, so there’s always that.

  13. I love Chip but that is one of the stupidest statements a coach has ever made.

    If you know a 6th rounder is going to be great you dont take him in the 1st. You take him in the 6th because you dont need to take him earlier.

    He even contradicts himself later. He goes on to say the reason they traded back from 22 to 26 is bc they knew they could still get Marcus Smith at 26. Well Chip if you wanted him so bad why didnt you just take him at 22? Oh that’s right bc you could still get him at 26 and get something for 22. Same thing goes for drafting a guy who you like in later rounds.

    The fact he doesnt get that scares the hell out of me as an Eagles fan.

  14. No offense Florio, but if anybody reads this and it’s news to them, then they probably eat steak with a spoon. If anybody thinks ‘draft experts’ are any different than fortune tellers then they have never watched the draft or it’s coverage.

  15. Most people don’t watch the draft because they want to see if somebody is right they watch it because of the drama involved knowing NOBODY is going to be right.

  16. To me it’s all about identifying who the underrated values are. The draft is all about sniping for key strategic moves and knowing how to work the draft so that you can get the most leverage out of your chips you have to work with.

  17. I like the article but, to answer your question, teams dont pick a guy earlier because they know they can get him later. Therein lies their wisdom.

    Its about value and risk.

  18. I like Kelly– but he’s overstating it.

    GMs almost never say they “knew” a late round guy was going to develop into a stud. Virtually all of ’em talk about the player’s upside etc when drafted but most freely admit that there are limitations to players.

    Why not take a guy in a certain round? Because there are lots of players who all teams want. And guess what– those predraft rankings are almost always spot on. Go to the NFL site and look at their scouting reports and round projections– probably 95% accuracy on which round a player is drafted. And the ones they miss are probably drug or personal problem players kept quiet.

  19. Chip Kelly continues to demonstrate how naïve he is. The reason you brag about a Pro Bowl talent in the 6th round is the same reason you brag about buying a $2000 TV for $500. do you get it yet Chip?

    If you pay the least to get the most you win, and you have more ammo and picks to get other players that are more well regarded. is this concept really that complicated?

  20. Hey what is Chip Kelly trying to do? Put Merril Hoge and Mel Kiper out of job? Put a dent in the billions they make at ESPN? Oh my! What would become of Jon Gruden’s QB Camp if the masses were to get wind of this!!??

  21. I’m a Giants fan & I like Kelly’s honesty & his tendency to be straight forward & to the point. Now, when you ask, “Why didn’t you draft him earlier if you knew he was so good,” the answer is about maximizing the talent you acquire in the draft. Say I am the GM of a team & I am scouting a QB named Joe Smith from Notre Dame. From the outset, Smith is seen as a good QB who doesn’t do anything great, but is good all around. As a result, Smith is given a 3-4 round grade/projection. As I watch Smith, I see something that will translate well into the NFL & I feel he will become am All-Pro. In addition to QB being a need of ours, we also have needs at DE & WR. The guy I want at DE has a 1st round grade/protection & the WR I want has a 2nd round grade/projection. What I am going to do is draft the DE with my 1st pick, then draft the WR with my 2nd. At that point I would look at where my team is in draft order relative to other teams who may need a QB but haven’t selected one yet. Due to that trait I saw in Smith, I am going to draft him in the 3rd round even though he may be there in the 4th based upon his grade/projection. If there is another team who may take him ahead of me, I am going to trade ahead of that team to assure I get him. Finally, my 3rd round pick comes around & I select Joe Smith (QB – Notre Dame). If or when Smith becomes an All Pro, I will say that I saw it. If asked why I didn’t draft him earlier if I knew he was so good, I would say that I drafted him based upon what his consensus grade/projection was. If I reached & grabbed Smith in round 1 or 2, I don’t have the DE & WR that I needed; I am stuck with lesser talent at those positions if I drafted Smith ahead of his projection. See, while I knew Smith was going to be an All Pro player, I waited to draft him until the 3rd round because I knew he would be available then & I was able to address other needs with my first two picks. By doing that, I was able to maximize the talent I acquired with my picks based upon the grade/projection of the players. Yes, I run the risk of having another team jump in & take him, but I would like to think I would be in touch with the needs of other teams & savvy enough with my negotiating skills that if I needed to trade up a few spots to beat out another team for the guy I want, then I will be able to do it. Just because a GM thinks a guy will be an All Pro doesn’t mean that they need to draft him with their first pick. They draft him towards the front end of his projection, maybe even ahead of it, while you draft other players to fill other needs. That is how you become a good GM.

  22. I see the point Chip is making very clear. That word value along with potential confuses people all the time, most of these fans never seen these kids play or broke down their film, the most they saw was sportscenter cut ups. Value meaning your position & what we are willing to pay you, thats the GAMBLE, Cloweney will sign his contract in Aug & be making more money than Russell Wilson. Moving back slots to get 1 for 2 is like buying the a 2 for 2 sand which at McDonalds although you might not need 2 the price of one would be cents lower. Every position has a rookie scale attached, if every player was set to make 1 million Gm’s would draft on needs but how could you draft for need & not best player when your gonna have to pay the guy based on where you picked him… If you need mlb & the best player on the board is a safety who you gonna take, remember your gonna have pay him based on where you pick him… It’s easy to let Gm & coaches do all the work & the fans turn around & judge lol

  23. no one is guaranteed after the first 3-5 picks…After that, its can the guy play and will he put his body on the line – who knows.

  24. The people arguing Chip on here are funny and missing the point. He is simply calling out the so-called experts, not questioning the entire process. Eagles have traded down twice and up once so we’re obviously playing the same game as everyone else.

  25. Drafting players is akin to playing the stock market. Its always a gamble,unless of course, you’re an insider, and then you risk going to jail.

  26. He’s a 50+ year old man who calls himself ‘Chip’

    How can anyone take him seriously?

  27. If you know you can get a guy you want with a 5th or 6th round pick, why would you use a 4th or 5th to get him?! That’s why these guys all have draft grades and projections.

    The problem is ho DO YOU KNOW. If you like a guy a lot and would take him all day in 5th or 6th, but believe he will go higher, and when your 4th pick rolls around and there is no one else you love, then why not, especially in the later rounds.

  28. you can at least make the odds in your favor doing your homework on players watching tape etc when you reach for a player no one even had on there top 200 players list thats just stupid

  29. “We got a sixth-round pick and he became an All-Pro player’ — then the first question is, well why didn’t you draft him earlier if you were so smart?”

    Of course no one knows for sure but if you do your homework and know your stuff, you are not going to draft a guy in the 2nd round that you can get in the 4th. Even if you think he is a first round talent. Not knowing your stuff will make you over pay.

    Chip Kelly=Tool

  30. Kelly’s comments reflect the fact that he spent many years in college coaching. Recruiting is much the same as the draft. You HOPE and THINK a player is going to be productive for you, but you don’t KNOW he will be until it happens.

  31. More evidence why Chip Kelly would be better as an offensive coordinator instead of a Head Coach.

    He just can’t grasp basic concepts of the NFL, like the draft, how and when to score points, time outs, two minute drills …

  32. Though it might not be the draft specifically it seems to me there is someone else around here who is part of “an industry where people have a clear motivation to make things more complicated than they really are.” I am thinking of a time when someone took a certain QB saying that he felt super bowl wins was the measure of great QBs and turned it into the QB wanted more money or he wanted to be traded and he was on the outs with his team even though the QB repeatedly denied it and stated that he intends to retire with his current team. You mean making things more complicated like that?!?!? I remember thinking then that there is another person who would “have to find work that actually carries with it accountability for being flat out wrong” if he could no longer focus on just getting the story first and had to you know, actually getthe story right. Someone around here is being a bit of a hypocrite i think.

  33. Isn’t Kelly saying that the draft has been figured out: each team has a 50/50 shot at success when drafting in the 1st. Sounds like he’s figured it out to me.

  34. Here’s what I know: regardless of WHO the players were, Chip and Howie decided to address LB depth first(I don’t care what they say, we’re not getting any takers on Brandon Graham, they’ve been trying for months) and then drafted 2 more WRs to add to the 9(freakin 9!!!) already on the roster and eschewing our teams biggest weakness, our 32nd ranked secondary. Gotta keep worrying out our #2 ranked offense though because Denver proved that offense wins championships…oh wait.

  35. What everyone is missing is this, you don’t know if you can get that player at a later spot so if you really like him why risk not getting him at all and just take him a round earlier
    If Brady is your guy and everyone rates him in 6th why risk not getting him by waiting until 6th round? I am sure everyone would happily move up a round to get an all pro

  36. This is why I don’t follow the draft or even training camps. None of this matters a damn bit until the games count.

  37. As a Lions fan I’ll simply say this:

    I hate Ted Thompson. Dude is too good at his job.

    Kelly is abso-freaking-lutely right. The draft is a fun offseason diversion. It is good TV.

    I want someone who tracks these things to go back and grade the draft grades put out there by the likes of Kiper, McShay & Mayock. I’m pretty sure Kiper’s grading of Jimmy Clausen would be called into question.

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