A recent discussion in the comments on a Big Cat Country post written by Alfie Crow started the topic of drafting scared. I have been an advocate of drafting Florida State's quarterback Christian Ponder, as has Crow. Where we differ, though, is where in the draft order the Jaguars should select Ponder.
To summarize: I believe that Christian Ponder is every bit as good as any quarterback in this draft and is worth the 16th overall selection. However, the market value of Ponder is lower than that and the Jaguars could benefit from trading down in the first round, acquiring more value in the draft and then selecting Ponder. Alfie believes that a franchise quarterback is a premium that is important enough that a team shouldn't risk trading back and missing out on the player they want.
That is something I call drafting scared.
When the Jaguars shocked the sports world by selecting Tyson Alualu with the 10th overall selection, the instant reaction was that it was a pick made out of fear. Chris Steuber described it as "an obvious panic move." What Steuber meant by that was that Alualu's stock was equal to a late first round pick or second round pick. By picking Alualu, the Jaguars showed that he was the player they were targeting and that they feared if they traded down that he wouldn't be available to them when they picked again. Either that, or the Jaguars had no trade partner and instead of choosing a player of top value, they chose the player they planned on trading down for.
Sources have since told Alfie that the Jaguars received an offer from the 49ers, ruling out the latter possibility. It appears that the Jaguars did fear that Alualu would be gone if they traded down, but that's not drafting scared. McDonough is convinced Alualu would have been taken a few picks after the Jaguars selection if they'd passed on him. Consider this excerpt from a Vito Stellino article last April:
"'Our intel says there were a lot of teams very close to us that would have selected him,' McDonough said. 'He wasn't a reach.'
What happened after the Jaguars made the selection convinced him that other teams coveted him.
'We got calls from Denver and Miami and they were raving about the pick,' McDonough said.
The Jaguars also were worried about Seattle coach Pete Carroll sitting at the 14th spot in the draft because Alualu dominated USC during the past two years, when Carroll was the Trojans' coach.
The next three teams, including Denver, traded down after they selected Alualu, and the Jaguars wonder if at least one of them did that because they wanted Alualu.
That doesn't really sound like a team that panicked to me. That's a team that calculated that Tyson Alualu was the guy they had targeted as worth their 10th overall selection, and made the judgement that they could not select him at any lower of a pick. Had the Jaguars moved down in the draft order by even the smallest amount they may have missed out on their opportunity to select Alualu.
That brings us to the Christian Ponder debate of today. If the Jaguars deem Christian Ponder to be worth the 16th overall pick, that doesn't necessarily mean they should automatically select him. They have to try to manuever themselves as low in the draft order as possible before another team would select him. If they deem that spot to be 16th, then they should select him. However, I believe that by moving down five to ten spots in the order, the Jaguars could receive the maximum value in the draft and still come away with their player.
Drafting with the fear that another team will reach for a player targeted on your draft board will only cause a team to reach themselves.