Buying into latest myth can get teams burned

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Every so often, an apparent new trend pops up in the NFL that gets its legs for some unfounded reason. And it usually involves a concept that teams can get by with inferior players at a certain position.

As one GM said to me at the owners' meetings this week, "I hope the latest myth floating around here lasts until after the draft, because I want a certain position to fall to me." Another GM looked at me and laughed when I asked him what he thought of the latest myth.

I expect five players to be drafted in the first round at the position some people with a straight face now claim isn't that important -- cornerback. If teams pass on them because they buy into the new myth, they might regret it.

Before we get to the new concept floating around The Breakers hotel this week, here are two other ridiculous myths that have circulated around the NFL in recent years:

Myth No. 1: Just manage the game. After Trent Dilfer led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl championship the idea that a team really didn't need a great quarterback to win it all started circulating. The myth said that a QB who could manage the game was good enough as long as the defense was above par. That myth caused a few teams to skip on quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. The fact is, the quarterback position is the most important one on the field. Sooner or later, every offense is going to have to run a two-minute drill to pull out a win and no manage-the-game guy can do that consistently in the heat of battle.

Myth No. 2: Don't waste a first-round pick on a running back. The Broncos had great success with their running game with late-round backs like Terrell Davis and Mike Anderson, to name a few over the years. The prevailing thought was that other teams should be able to succeed with late-round picks, too. How do you think the six teams that passed on Adrian Peterson feel about that concept? The Broncos' offensive line was pretty darn good and maybe, just maybe, teams made a mistake on their evaluation of Terrell Davis.

Those two examples lead me to the myth of 2008:

Cornerbacks are only as good as the pass rush: The Giants' Super Bowl victory has led some teams to conclude it was exclusively the pass rush with a bunch of average guys behind them in coverage that helped New York shut down the vaunted Patriots' passing attack. This myth should fade quickly, but a number of people came up to me this week and tried to make a case for downgrading corners.

I made a few points as I heard the corner situation unfold in front of me:

  1. You can't play Cover 2 all day and have corners play the flat area every down. All an offense has to do is put trips (three receivers) to one side and the opposite corner is all alone. As for the pass rush, a three-step drop and a ball directed at the receiver who is being single-covered takes the pass rush out of the equation.
  1. Down in the red zone, the fade route to a tall receiver really means the corner has to make a play on the ball and the rush will not be a factor before the fade is thrown.

Cornering the market

</center> Pat Kirwan has four cornerbacks being taken in his latest mock draft: 
  1. Chargers:Michael Jenkins, South Florida
  1. Sometimes it's the jam of the corner on the receivers that sets up the pass rush.
  1. Corey Webster is one of the Giants' corners who supposedly is just average. I asked Giants GM Jerry Reese about Webster and his first comment was, "Did you see the interception against the Packers?" Pass rush and corner play work hand in hand, just like an offensive line and a running back or a QB and his receivers.

I wonder who actually starts these myths. Is it the team that wants a corner to fall to them? Is it an outside observer who never coached or watched film? Or does someone actually believe you can get by with average guys?

Don't get me wrong, pass rush is a critical component to any football team, and the Giants' pass rush was great in Super Bowl XLII. But passing on a first-round corner later this month and reaching for a lower-graded pass rusher instead is dangerous business.

Chris Long (Virginia) and Vernon Gholston (Ohio State) will both be drafted before the first cornerback is taken because they are excellent football players. But soon after they come off the board, we will hear cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin, Aqib Talib, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Michael Jenkins called. Unless, of course, this latest myth has become a reality.

I doubt it.

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