IMO, it's semantics ... the GM was using layman's terms to describe it but I think I understand the general sentiment he was getting at, and I tend to agree with it.
Say you're using a 9-point grading scale. Players graded in the 8.5-9 range are considered truly "elite", Guys 8.0 & up are solid first rounders, guys 7.0 & up are solid 2nd rounders, etc ... Now, obviously not all the guys are going to get the same grade from every team, either minor differences (7.2 vs 7.0) or a few wide variances (Take Bruce Irvin, because of scheme fit the 'Hawks were willing to rank him around an 8, whereas other teams that don't utilize a LEO probably had him in the 6.0 range because he din't project as well as a 3-down 4-3 DE) But even despite the individual differences between teams, there's usually a general consensus of the "range" most guys fall in.
In a typical draft year, you'll have 7-10 players that fall in the >8.5 range, the another 20 or so guys generally considered to grade out in the >8.0 range. These are the "1st round guys" Now, because each team has their own needs & preferences it means that certain guys will rise/fall. A team that's drafting towards the end of Round 1 still has a great shot to pick someone they've graded 8.0 because some other team had him graded slightly different and passed.
I think what the issue is this year is there are fewer guys graded >8.0 and/or widely varying opinions on certain players (i.e., a team like the Eagles that wants a mobile QB will likely have a much higher grade on Geno Smith than a team that wants a pocket passer) But there are a ton
of players in the 6.0-7.0 range. These are all very good players - 2nd or 3rd round grade. They're the core of your team, are above-average starters, and a lot of them are going to turn into Pro-Bowlers. The problem is that it's a much wider group to chose from, more room for error, and they lack the "name recognition" that the typical 1st rounder gets.
The main reason it matters and makes for a "weak draft" is because of the opportunity costs, contracts and public expectations that accompany a 1st round pick. High 1st rounders still carry significant contracts - the types of money teams usually want to spend on and structure their cap around the skill positions. Teams don't want to spend high picks on undervalued positions like RB, S, LB, or OG because of the increased costs (is the difference between an OG that you've graded as a 7.5 worth the extra price over an OG you've graded a 7 that you're pretty sure you can get in the 3rd? Or would you rather gamble that pick on one of the WRs that has a ton of questions and may bust, but if they pan out you've hit on an 8.0 that justifies his contract?) Even a player picked towards the end of Round 1 has more expectations placed on him (perfect example is James Carpenter, how would fan perception of his career value change if he had been selected in Rd. 2 instead of the 1st?)
IMO, this draft is very similar to the '09 draft - and in 3 years will probably be viewed the same. There's going to be a lot of quality players, and a few guys that prove to be "steals" in late rounds, but the 1st round is going to be a mess. Without consensus elite names at the top, there's not going to be much of a trade market. Teams that want to drop back will be forced to pick and will probably take more gambles to hit a "home run" and justify the cost of the high pick. We'll see a lot of busts at the top. The end of first round will be a crap shoot, because there are fewer 8.0 guys who will slip through, so teams in the bottom of the 1st will also have problems trading back and have to take guys with 2nd round grades ... they'll still wind up being solid players, but will probably be labeled as "underachievers" because their careers won't match the expectations usually placed on 1st rounders.
Bottom line, I think JS/PC definitely read this perfectly. They had no problem sending away that 1st because they knew it guaranteed an impact player usually only available in the top-15 of a normal draft, and they figured that pick #25 in this draft would net the roughly the same grade-range player they could get with #56. And since this is a draft that is especially deep in the middle rounds, it's exactly
the type where their due diligence is going to pay off and they'll still be able to grab quality guys deep into the 3rd day.
I'm sick of chasing after my dreams. I'm just going to find out where they're headed, and catch up with them later.
- Mitch Hedberg