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Examining the structure of several recent NFL re-builds

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Long-time Hogs Haven member BarNunn is well established for his contrarian and, occasionally, thought provoking, takes. Over the last few days, as the conversation has heated up about what to do with the number two overall pick, he’s made some interesting points. Late last night, he posted the following:

The roster building / QB discussion has its twists. the Jaguars, a bad team, drafted Lawrence #1 over all. A bad team with a generational QB and a new coach bringing in a college offense. They won 3 games and fired the coach. they just finished year 3 and haven’t won a playoff game

Texans started their new Regime and built the team. drafted their QB in year 3 and went to the playoffs. They had extra draft picks And a top LT that was in place before the new regime took over.

Chiefs started their new regime, traded for a QB to get started and didn’t draft a 1st round QB till year 5 and are now in their 3rd Super Bowl. Mahomes had an experienced 1st rd LT when he started

The Lions started a new regime and traded for a mediocre QB and gained picks to start their new regime and won playoff games in year 3. the new regime used their very first draft pick on a T

The 49ers started their new regime and traded for a backup QB. They are now in their 2nd super bowl and neither has been with a 1st round QB. they have a probable HoF LT

The Bengals did Not draft Burrow until year 2. they drafted their new LT at 11 the year Before they drafted Burrow

Even RG had a top first round LT for his one good season before his ego derailed his career.

there is No easy button. there is no definitive right or wrong answer but new regimes that draft a top QB in year 1 don’t do as well over all as the others. They just don’t.

When you look at teams that are successful, you have to look at the 2-3 drafts before they started showing success. this year, we’re not that team

keep an open mind on everything. If we draft a QB in the first, any QB, don’t gauge anything on year 1 or maybe even year 2. Lawrence isn’t a bust. he’s a good QB drafted to a bad team. If we don’t draft a QB in the first, don’t gauge anything on year 1 or 2 if they don’t produce the results you hope for

there are more sure thing first round QBs in the dumpster than there are starting quality good first round QBs

It got me thinking: What are the details of the situations he briefly covers above? Is the information accurate? Does he have a point?

In the spirit of answering those questions, I intend to explore each in a bit more detail.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Year of GM re-boot: 2021 (Trent Baalke)

Major transactions:

  • (2019) Jaguars trade Jalen Ramsey (CB) to the LA Rams for two first round picks (pre-Baalke).

Major draft picks by year:

2021 - Trevor Lawrence (QB), Travis Etienne (RB)

2022 - Travon Walker (DE), Devin Lloyd (LB)

2023 - Anton Harrison (OL)

Model:

Load up on draft capital by moving a major piece prior to starting a re-build. Draft a franchise QB early on and build around him.

Houston Texans

Year of GM re-boot: 2021 (Nick Caserio)

Major transactions:

  • (2022) Texans trade Deshaun Watson (QB) and a 6th round pick to Cleveland for 2022, 2023, and 2024 first round picks, a 2022 4th round pick, a 2023 third round pick, and a 2024 fourth round pick.

Major draft picks by year:

2021 - None.

2022 - Derek Stingley (CB); Kenyon Green (OL)

2023 - CJ Stroud (QB); Will Anderson (EDGE)

Model:

Load up on draft capital by moving a major piece prior to starting a re-build. In a year with a very weak QB draft - 2022 (Kenny Pickett was taken first) - instead focus on bringing in key pieces on both the offense and defense. The following season, draft a franchise QB.

Kansas City Chiefs

Year of GM re-boot: 2017 (Brett Veach)

Major transactions:

  • (2018) - Chiefs trade away Alex Smith (QB) to Washington for a 3rd round pick and Kendall Fuller.

Major draft picks by year:

2017 - Patrick Mahomes (QB)

2018 - None. Traded first round pick to move up for Mahomes in 2017.

2019 - None. Traded first round pick as part of a package for Frank Clark.

2020 - Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB)

2021 - None. Traded as part of a package for Orlando Brown (OL).

2022 - Trent McDuffie (CB), George Karlaftis (EDGE)

2023 - Felix Anudike-Uzomah (EDGE)

Model:

Trade up for a franchise QB in year one. Allow him to sit behind a veteran for a year. Parlay future draft capital to add key veterans around the QB on his rookie deal.

Detroit Lions

Year of GM re-boot: 2021 (Brad Holmes)

Major transactions:

  • (2021) Lions trade Matt Stafford (QB) for Jared Goff (QB) and first round picks in 2022 and 2023.

Major draft picks by year:

2021 - Penei Sewell (OL).

2022 - Aidan Hutchinson (EDGE); Jameson Williams (WR)

2023 - Jahmyr Gibbs (RB); Jack Campbell (LB)

Model:

Load up on draft capital by moving a major piece prior to starting a re-build. Add talent around your veteran QB in subsequent drafts.

San Francisco 49ers

Year of GM re-boot: 2017 (John Lynch)

Major transactions:

  • (2017) 49ers trade a second round pick for Jimmy Garoppolo.
  • (2021) 49ers trade #12 for #3, 2022 first and third round selections, and a 2023 first round pick in order to draft Trey Lance.

Major draft picks by year:

2017 - Solomon Thomas (EDGE), Reuben Foster (LB)

2018 - Mike McGlinchey (T)

2019 - Nick Bosa (EDGE)

2020 - Javon Kinlaw (DT), Brandon Aiyuk (WR)

2021 - Trey Lance (QB).

2022 - None. Traded for Lance. Fortunately hit on Brock Purdy (7th round).

2023 - None. Traded for Lance.

Model:

Trade for a veteran QB early on and try to surround him with key pieces in the draft. When that doesn’t net the desired results, roll the dice and trade up for a QB in the draft. When that doesn’t work out, use your final draft pick on a Hail Mary QB selection.

Cincinnati Bengals

Year of GM re-boot: 2019 (Zac Taylor, Head Coach; The Bengals have an odd arrangement where their owner, Mike Brown, is effectively their GM)

Major transactions:

  • None.

Major draft picks by year:

2019- Jonah Williams (G)

2020 - Joe Burrow (QB)

2021 - Ja’Marr Chase (WR)

2022 - Daxton Hill (CB)

2023 - Myles Murphy (EDGE)

Model:

Draft a left tackle in a weak QB draft (2019, where Dwayne Haskins was the next QB available). Effectively tank the following season and take a QB at number one overall. Spend the next several drafts selecting players to surround your QB.

Conclusions

These are all great examples of some of the better teams in the league, and I appreciate Bar for offering them up, and they certainly provide a number of common themes. Some that I see:

  • Offload veteran assets either just before or concurrently with the hire of the new GM, in order to give him enhanced draft capital (Jaguars, Texans, Lions); To a certain extent, this is akin to what Washington has already done in moving Montez Sweat and Chase Young.
  • Even if you have great draft capital, don’t force a QB pick in a draft that has poor QB talent (Texans, Bengals). To an extent, the 49ers did the opposite of this in the 2021 draft: They reached on a sub-par talent.
  • Add an above average veteran and focus on building the rest of the team around him (Lions, to an extent, the Jimmy G. 49ers).

I’m sure there are other trends here, or insights that others can add. Please do so in the comments.

Poll

Did reading this piece change your thinking about how to handle the #2 overall pick at all?

  • 17%
    Yes.
    (79 votes)
  • 62%
    No.
    (292 votes)
  • 20%
    I have to think more about it.
    (93 votes)
464 votes total Vote Now