Every team that drafts in the top five has to answer the same question. Do we select a quarterback, a positional need, or do we take the best player on the board? We’ve seen all three answers over the years to varying degrees of success. The Cardinals drafted Kyler Murray in 2019 after drafting Josh Rosen in the top ten a year before. We saw the 49ers draft Nick Bosa in that same draft class despite the defensive line not being a positional need. The same occurred this year with Chase Young being selected with the second pick by the Washington Football Team.
Many experts point to a reality that only a handful of top-five draft picks do what they are asked to do. That is bring the franchise a Super Bowl. The media wants to tell fans that if you want to win, you need to draft a quarterback. Sure, you can draft Blake Bortles or Mitchell Trubisky, but the only player that can turn around a franchise is from the quarterback position.
Chase Young is Proving Otherwise
Anyone who has watched Chase Young and the impact he has on the Washington Football Team’s defense knows that taking the most talented defensive player is worth the selection. Washington didn’t need a defensive lineman. After all, they selected three in the first round in the last four drafts before taking Young. When we watch a game-changer like Young, we see how he has turned an average defense into one of the best. He might be the sole reason the Football Team is first in their division.
Granted, teams have tried to draft the generational defensive talent and have failed. In 2015, the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted edge rusher Dante Fowler. After a few average or injury-plagued seasons, they traded Fowler to the Rams halfway through the 2018 season. Likewise, the Houston Texans drafted the generational talent in Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney showed the talent but never panned out in Houston and they eventually parted ways with him. However, we have seen success. Not just with Chase Young, but with many other game-changers.
The Generational Talent in Your Defense Pays Off
In 2019, the 49ers drafted Nick Bosa and turned the 49ers’ defense into one of the best in the NFL, helping them reach the Super Bowl. We are seeing the impact of Myles Garrett in a Cleveland Browns defense, and team, that has been surprising many in this 2020 season. Jalen Ramsey helped bring one of the best defenses to Jacksonville in 2018 and is currently helping the Rams lead one of the best defenses in the NFL. When a defense has that one player that is a future Hall of Famer in it, the rest of the defense is suddenly going to be better off. This isn’t just a recent trend. Reggie White proved this in Green Bay. Ronnie Lott proved this in San Francisco. Aaron Donald is currently proving the value of a game-changer in Los Angeles.
Speaking of Aaron Donald, we are also witnessing the value of these defenders in a hard-cap era. It feels impossible to overpay for a game-changer that you can build your defense around. Khalil Mack was asking to be the highest-paid defensive lineman when he was in Oakland. Once he was traded to Chicago, we saw the difference he made for both teams. While it’s hard to add depth to a team that commits a lot of its salary cap to one player, we see the impact makes it worth it. A defensive coordinator’s job becomes significantly easier when there is a player that they can build around.
What Can Teams Learn From Chase Young?
Looking ahead, we see that this draft is shaping up to be a rarity where quarterbacks are going to be drafted early, and often. Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields are likely to get drafted one and two, respectively. We also are seeing a handful of quarterbacks that are likely going to be top ten draft picks in Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, and even Kyle Trask. Jones and Trask are not projected top ten picks at the moment. However, many of the teams drafting in the top ten already have a starting quarterback on their roster. Teams like the Falcons, Bengals, Chargers, and Dolphins (Dolphin? Oh right, they have the Texans first-round pick this year) should all consider taking that generational talent.