The Oakland Raiders were dragged over the coals last season when they made the blockbuster trade that brought former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer to the Silver and Black. With the 2012 NFL Draft quickly approaching, now would be a good time to re-evaluate the trade and see whether or not the Raiders really made a poor decision.
Personally, I think first round draft picks are overrated. Sure, you can find a franchise player in the first round, but more often than not, you will find a bust or an underachiever at the NFL level. Don't believe me? Let's take a look at just a small sample of the NFL Draft.
The following players were taken in the first five picks of the NFL draft from 2006 to 2009 (I did not include 2010 or 2011 because it is far too early to tell with those guys): Reggie Bush: Good, but by no means the game changer he was supposed to be. Vince Young: A back up for the number three pick? A.J. Hawk: An above average player, but not worth a number 5 pick. JaMarcus Russell: Please, don't get me started. Vernon Gholston: A pass rusher with zero sacks at the NFL level. Aaron Curry: Though he looked promising at times for the Raiders last season, he is not the game changer a number four pick should be.
Now, these are only top five picks, and only over a period of four years, but I was easily able to find six guys who did not come anywhere near living up to what their pre draft potential was said to be. If you took the time to analyze all of the first round picks over the past ten years, you would be shocked to see how many guys are not even in the NFL anymore. So, with that in mind, I have always been one to advocate trading a first round pick for a player who has proven they can play at a high level in the NFL.
After all, people used to say the Raiders got ripped off in the Richard Seymour trade, now, you do not ever hear that conversation because of the impact Seymour has had on the Raiders. Because remember, veteran players not only have a track record to look at, but they also can offer intangible benefits in terms of mentoring young players like Seymour has.
Even if you do not believe that first round picks are over valued, you cannot seriously tell me that you think the Raiders could have found a quarterback of Carson Palmer's caliber with the 17th over all pick in this year's draft. Just not going to happen. Sure, there are other needs that the Raiders could have addressed, but that would have left them without a franchise quarterback (and no, I do not believe that Jason Campbell would ever turn into a true franchise quarterback).
However, let's not forget that the Raiders gave up more than just a first round pick for Palmer, they also gave up a future, conditional first round pick. So, worse case scenario, the Raiders will be giving up two first round picks for Palmer. Given the fact that the NFL Draft is right around the corner, I think a good way of analyzing the trade would be to compare it to the trade that the Washington Redskins made in order to draft Robert Griffin III.
There, the Redskins gave up three first round picks and a second round pick in order to get Griffin. However, despite the rather steep price the Redskins payed, there was relatively little talk about them overpaying. So, why did most see the Raiders as getting ripped off while most see the Redskins as having made a prudent decision? Well, the primary differences are age and potential. In Griffin, the Redskins will get a young player with his entire career ahead him. In addition, Griffin has a ton of upside and could turn out to be an all star.
The big problem with that thinking process is that it is purely speculative. We have no idea how long his career will last and until a guy has played at the NFL level, no one will be able to tell if they can succeed or excel in the NFL. Thus, with all of that potential and up side, the Redskins are also acquire a huge amount of risk.
On the other hand, in Palmer the Raiders received a battle tested quarterback who has shown he can be a top five passer in the NFL. There was also some risk on the Raiders side as well, Palmer is older and was coming off of some lackluster seasons and sitting out the beginning of last season. However, with that being said, I do not think anyone was concerned about Palmer being a complete bust. Mostly, the concern was over whether or not he could be great, as commentators believed that two first round picks should only be given up for a great player.
So, while Palmer is older, he is also a safer bet as he has established how good he can be, with the only question being whether he can return to that form as opposed to whether he can ever even reach that level. When it comes down to it, I believe that the risk associated with the Griffin trade makes the Palmer trade a much wiser decision. And when it comes down to it, I believe the Raiders are much more prepared to make a playoff push in 2012 with Palmer than they would be with whoever they could have taken at the number 17 pick.