Evaluating incoming talent is essential in securing long-term success. For years, NFL scouts analyze film, hoping to discover the next X-Factor for their franchises. The work is grueling, but the results are worth a valiant effort.
Walter Peyton, Peyton Manning, and Jerry Rice are a few examples of first-round picks that were involved in building winning cultures. Their talent created a winning dynamic in the locker room – leading to success on and off the field. When it was time for these stars to relocate, they did – hoping to become an asset to a new franchise.
NFL: First Round Draft Picks are entryways to rebuilding periods – big or small
Relying on first-round talent to improve the roster is not always the best. The process has an extensive timeline – forcing franchises to suffer a few losses before receiving their return. As competition in the league rises, so will the desire to win now. Front office executives are focused on short-term success more than ever – increasing the number of transactions that occur outside of the draft.
Experience is a crucial part of sustaining a career in the NFL. First-round talent is impressive, but consistency is valuable to front offices. If a veteran proves he can perform well, adding him to the roster could be a good decision.
In 2022, the Los Angeles Rams benefitted from targeting a veteran receiver. The franchise offered Odell Beckham Jr. a one-year contract – strengthening their odds of becoming Super Bowl champions. The transaction was beneficial, and Beckham performed better than many expected. His twenty-one post-season receptions equated to two touchdowns and helped the Rams win Super Bowl LVI.
NFL: Should Franchises become more aggressive toward acquiring veteran talent?
Los Angeles benefitted from signing Beckham. His veteran experience elevated his teammates and aided in the Rams’ victory. When they called his number, he answered. If Los Angeles relied on a rookie receiver, could he perform the same?
Players picked high in the draft are expected to perform well. Becoming an X-Factor is rare, but some athletes can make things happen. Christian McCaffery is one of the few. His NFL debut foreshadowed his dominant career. McCaffery recorded 1,086 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in his rookie season. He gave the Panthers an identity – solidifying his value.
Kyle Shanahan’s staff was determined to improve the roster this year. A midseason trade sent Carolina’s leading rusher to the Bay. The San Francisco 49ers invested four draft picks to add a premier running back to the roster. Adding McCaffery to the starting line-up presented problems for opposing defenses. At the end of the season, San Francisco’s newest addition ranked eighth in rushing yards (1,139) and accounted for eleven total touchdowns. The trade proved successful, aiding San Francisco in becoming Super Bowl LVII favorites.
Sensational rookie debuts are rare. When they happen, they are special. If franchisees are looking to win in the immediate future, taking a risk on a veteran could be the best option. Numerous franchises struggled to find a consistent starting quarterback this year, while Cam Newton remained unsigned. The reward is unknown until the player has a chance to produce. San Francisco and Los Angeles benefited from taking a gamble and we can expect other franchises to do so soon.