Tuesday, June 18, 2024

What value was there taking a long snapper at pick 185?

The Long Snapper, one of the least exciting positions on a football field yet the Miami Dolphins took it upon themselves to draft Blake Ferguson with the 185th pick in the 6th round of the NFL draft. 

Judging from social media, the pick of cornerback Noah Igbinoghene at pick 30 in the 1st round over an elite running back had already got many ‘fans’ grumbling (see here for why you don’t need to be quite so angry anymore), and this pick escalated that for some into a seismic rage. But when you look at this from a football and business point of view, this has the potential to be a great long term pick.

By the time the Dolphins got to this point in the draft, they had already acquired 10 players, 9 drafted and traded for Matt Breida. That is a massive haul when you also take into account the 10 free agents already signed. That’s 19 players brought in to compete in several key positions.

Long Snappers aren’t sexy picks

Once you get to the 6th round of any draft it can become a virtual lottery, gambling on if these players have the talent and ability to make it to the elite level. You could write each name on the back of a playing card and pick one at random, it can be that hit and miss.

So, in this scenario, why wouldn’t you stack the deck in your favour knowing that one of the best college players in the country at a particular position is still available?

We know the approach the front office took was to value positional need over the best available player during the draft. By using that formula it’s very unlikely that at this point they saw any other players that could upgrade the existing roster to a suitable level that they couldn’t acquire in free agency.

Previous Long Snapping incumbent Taybor Pepper had some huge boots to fill when he joined the roster in 2019, replacing Dolphins legend and former Pro Bowler John Denney, and whilst he had an OK season, the opportunity to upgrade presented itself.

Blake Ferguson has been without a doubt the best Long Snapper in college football for the past few seasons and comes from a family with one foot already in the NFL in his brother, Reid, long snapper for divisional rivals the Buffalo Bills. 

He has natural leadership skills, being named a permanent team captain (twice and the first time in LSU history this honour has been bestowed on a long snapper), a trait highly valued by Flores.

His influence on the team is further evident in his nickname of ‘hype city’, a reference to him screaming on the sideline to urge his team to victory. Ferguson also graduated from LSU’s Flores MBA Program, which is designed to help students develop leadership skills in a professional setting. 

Sports analyst and commentator Lance Zierlein is quoted as saying, “Four-year long snapper and team captain, exceptional character for locker room or community events, able to hit perfect laces at frequent clips, rockets it to the holder or punter without much hitch, repeatable placement for field goal snaps.”

Reliable, consistent, and a leader in the locker room, Ferguson fits the archetypal blueprint the front office now craves in a player and no doubt many other front offices. By not drafting Ferguson they ran the risk that he hit free agency, and then he would have had no end of suitors looking to employ his talents.

Although met with a lack of approval from a large section of the fan base, this was a fantastic move which has the potential to solidify the Long Snapper position for the next 15 years. It might not have been the most exciting pick, but we know we’ve acquired a potential league-leading talent that will be a starter from day one, how many other players could you say would offer the same at that point in the draft? 

As a side note, what I really hope happened on the night just before this pick was that Brian Flores and Chris Grier were so happy with a job well done and how they’d resisted external pressure and stuck to the master plan, they were both kicking back, feet on the desk, fat cigar in one hand, beer in the other. One says to the other “you know those fans that have an opinion on everything we do… well, do you know what would wind them right up?”

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