The classic draft argument isn't Sam Bowie vs. Michael Jordan in 1984. There's only one answer to that. The debate is Hakeem Olajuwon over Jordan.
Olajuwon went with the first pick of that draft. Jordan was third. Olajuwon is one of the greatest players ever, a 12-time All-NBA first-, second- or third-team pick, and a two-time champion. It was a great pick, and Houston can't exactly regret the decision, right? Any team would sign up for a Hall of Famer and two titles with any pick. But, the Rockets did pass on the greatest player ever, so maybe there is some regret.
Joe Thomas isn't Olajuwon and Adrian Peterson isn't Jordan, but Vikings running back Peterson brought up an interesting argument. Thomas was the third pick of the 2007 draft, Peterson was seventh (and JaMarcus Russell was first, but that's beside the point). Thomas has played six seasons as the important left tackle position, and been to six Pro Bowls. He has three first-team All-Pro selections, and two second-team selections. He has represented the Browns franchise well on and off the field (just like Peterson has with the Vikings). He's well on his way to the Hall of Fame.
But he's not Peterson, one of the greatest running backs ever, the reigning MVP and a player you'd pay to watch every week.
— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) September 18, 2013
The debate of exciting vs. utilitarian is pretty unique to football. Thomas is a great player, and really fun to watch if you enjoy line play, although almost no fan does. That nobody remembers one highlight from Thomas' career doesn't mean his dominance at left tackle isn't a tremendous asset. If offensive tackles weren't important, they wouldn't have gone with three of the first four picks in this year's draft. No running back went in the first round. And please don't bring up that Thomas hasn't been to the playoffs; that's hardly his fault. He's the last of Cleveland's problems. Peterson couldn't have fixed them all either.
But Peterson would clearly have been more entertaining to watch. No matter how technically sound Thomas is as he eliminates some right defensive end from the play, it won't be as thrilling as seeing Peterson break off a long run. The Browns certainly would have sold more jerseys by picking Peterson.
So do Browns fans wish the team had picked Peterson over Thomas? Should the team regret taking a guy who has a real shot at going down as one of the best tackles ever, just because of who they passed on?