Around here, we've been looking at mock draft after mock draft, arguing about which position we need to take in the first round, debating even which offensive tackle we need to get, et cetera, but there's one common thread - filling in a current need with a first round pick. Major helmet-tip to our pal-across-the-pond Spongie for sticking yesterday's Dan Pompei column in the comments section, where he says the Bears should be planning for the future in this year's draft. Follow me below the jump where we look at the article and discuss the best ways to fill a hole on a team.
This isn't something I personally have pounded the drum for, because to me the immediate needs we have are too glaring to ignore, but there's a pretty interesting case here. And it's a case made in the first few paragraphs:
It's a trap to examine the Bears' roster and determine they must select an offensive tackle and a defensive tackle with their first two picks in the NFL draft because that's where their most glaring holes are.
A better plan, depending on how the draft falls, might be to ignore those positions for the time being. The best way to fill holes isn't through the draft — it's through free agency. Veterans are easier to evaluate and ready to play; rookies can be mysteries.
It's a very solid point; you aren't sure what you're getting in the draft, so you'll pay more for the certainty a veteran can provide. Pompei also says it typically takes a player about a year to be NFL-ready.
Once Tillman, Kreutz and Urlacher reach the end, it may be too late to use the draft to replace them. You have to anticipate that it will take at least one year for a draft pick to be ready to play, and it likely will take longer for him to be able to play at a high level. Expecting anything different is setting up your team and maybe the player for failure.
So for Pompei, you take a player in the draft who won't be needed immediately, but will be ready when it's time to fill the hole. It sounds good until you consider the Bears have tried to fill this offensive-line-void in both ways the last three or four years: the draft (Chris Williams, J'Marcus Webb, Josh Beekman) and free agency (Kevin Shaffer, Noted Pylon Orlando Pace, Frank Omiyale).
In a vacuum situation, if I were the general manager of some random football team, it'd be a very good philosophy. The problem is, for most positions on the Bears, there is an immediate need, with the exceptions being defensive end, tight end, and maybe linebacker, and I imagine most Bears fans would revolt if the first round pick ended up being either a DE or TE. If we followed Pompei's philosophy somewhat, and took Martez Wilson in the first round (for argument's sake), we'd be looking to fill quite a few positions with ready-to-play free agents. How do the Bears have money for possibly two starting offensive linemen, maybe a wide receiver, a cornerback, a linebacker or two, and a defensive tackle? They don't.
Free agents provide the security of knowing what they generally provide at a higher price. Draft picks come cheaper than free agents, but you aren't sure what they will provide.
So how about it? Does Pompei's philosophy make sense to you? If you were running a team, would you rely on draft picks to come in and play or try this philosophy?