After reading the recent ‘Morning Joe’ article on dream franchises, I got to thinking about expansion teams and what their initial draft choices signify (and how I might do things differently). The 2002 Houston Texans and the 1999 Cleveland Browns were the two most recent NFL expansion teams. They both got a chance to stock their pond with talent through expansion drafts (we lost Clarence Williams & Raymond Jackson in ’99 [who?]; Avion Black in ’02) then, as if following some Siren’s Song, both teams used the first pick in their respective drafts on QB's.
Predictably, the results were staggering (for the signal callers):
1999: Tim Couch sacked 56 times; 2000: played in only 7 games.
2002: David Carr sacked 76 times(!): 2003: played in 12 games.
I can hear owners readying the “Face of the Franchise” argument. But, I think NFL fans are smarter than that. We know that a new team isn’t going to be competitive for at least a few years. That is why I NEVER would have chosen a QB at all that first year (at least not with a premium pick).
Forgetting about the expansion draft for a moment, here’s what I’d have done.
(1) Deal that first pick away to the highest bidder quick as possible, even if it was to a soon-to-be divisional rival. Get more picks!
(2) Middle Linebacker, baby. No matter how weak a team is, MLB smashing opposing QB’s is fun. It's a higher impact investment for a fledgling team, and a statement of bad intent.
(3) Stud Running Back. Imagine the Browns with Edgerrin James or Texans with Clinton Portis. I know RB’s have become less sought after in the last decade, but they mean a lot to a team that can’t yet protect its passer.
(4) Build the Offensive Line. ‘Cause you gotta start somewhere, right? After rounds 3-7 (all O-linemen), my team would have a legitimate 5-man unit. Our running game might even be a “strength.”
What do you think? What would your priorities be if GM’ing an expansion squad?