- On Thursday April the 26th the 2012 NFL Draft will commence, with all 32 teams looking for the next great player(s) who can take them to the Promised Land. The draft can be best described as a gamble; even the seemingly safest or best option could turn out to be one great big disappointment. So will your new Superstar player be the next Peyton Manning or the next Ryan Leaf?The truth is if it wasn’t for players such as the afore mentioned Leaf, JaMarcus Russell and Brian Bosworth the draft may not be as entertaining as it is, well if everyone got it right the whole time it wouldn’t be as much fun would it? Of course no one is ever branded a bust on draft day unless of course you listen to the tough New York crowd who will no doubt boo almost everyone and chant over-rated at anyone picked in the top ten including their own new prospects.
Experts will analyse, they’ll tell you how they went back and looked at the tape, how a player has tremendous up-side and why a team has ‘reached’ or missed with their last pick and who the ‘sleepers’ of this draft are and what various different players did at their pro day or at the combine, but one things for sure, the draft, despite it’s lengthy process will have drama and could decide the futures of General Managers and Head coaches across the league.
So when you sit down to watch what your team will do, before you cheer or boo, laugh or cry, just remember some of the successes and failures of years gone by…
There is no question that the Quarterback is the most important position in today’s NFL, no surprise then that the number one overall pick has been a QB on 27 occasions, including names such as Bradshaw, Elway, Manning and Aikman. Not all 27 have been quite as illustrious though, Michael Vick went from hero to villain and Phil Simms from villain to hero.
- In 1979 the New York Giants stunned everyone by picking Simms whose college career could be described as average at best and the chioce was roundly booed by the New York public, but Simms soon turned things around by winning his first five starts as a rookie. The ‘what if’ effect of the Giants drafting Simms was that the 49ers planned to select him in the third round as they preferred him to one, Joe Montana who they of course selected instead.
It’s easy to forget that future hall of famer Brett Farve was not in fact drafted by the Green Bay Packers but the Atlanta Falcons in the second round in 1991; it’s fair to say that Farve’s time in Atlanta wasn’t a success, his four pass attempts resulted in two interceptions and two in-completions. The Falcons coach at the time, Jerry Glanville didn’t approve of drafting Farve in the first place and said it would take a plane crash for him to come into the game, some how the Falcons got a first round draft pick for Farve from the Packers who clearly got the better of the deal in the end but had Farve stayed he may have been on the football scrap heap by the following year.
Not all future hall of fame Quarterback’s have been selected high in the draft. The 2000 NFL Draft produced something different. With the 199th overall selection (a sixth round pick) was a certain Tom Brady. Not even the draft genius that is Bill Belichick could have envisioned the career that Brady has had and is still having otherwise he would have been selected a lot sooner, crazy now to think that the Patriots had considered selecting Tim Rattay that year and not Brady. Another potential future hall of famer and Superbowl MVP, Kurt Warner took it one step further by not being drafted at all in 1994, but eventually signed with the Rams after a hugely successful Arena League career. More recently, in 2005 Aaron Rodgers may not have fallen as far as Brady or Warner but 22 teams including some in desperate need of a Quarterback passed on him until the Green Bay Packers took him with the 24th overall pick. Some of those teams are still looking.
Many people will tell you that Ryan Leaf is the biggest draft bust of all time and although it’s hard to argue against that claim, there is a challenger to that title. Step forward JaMarcus Russell the number one overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Oakland Raiders who have their own history of bad draft selections. Perhaps like Leaf before, the signs were there that Russell could be a risk, yet nobody seemed to see them until it was too late, too late for the Raiders at least. Many teams worked Russell out and were impressed with his overall ability. Former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick stated that Russell was the highest graded player that the Ravens had ever had on their draft board in his 9 years there. The Ravens weren’t the only ones who thought this way although the Raiders were the only ones who paid the price. This draft was not short on talent with Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis and Darrelle Revis all selected in the top 15. If it’s any consolation to the Raiders, the Cardinals (Levi Brown), the Falcons (Jamal Anderson) and the Dolphins (Ted Ginn Jr) were all top ten picks that year and can all go down as an epic fail. Examples of this kind of failure can be found in every draft by every team, although the number one overall pick will always be the main focus of any draft good or bad.
The draft isn’t all about the first round; winning teams are built with low round picks as well as superstars. Bill Belichick is the master of accumulating draft picks and always seems able to trade down to accumulate more picks and still get the players that are high on his draft board. The Patriots have built their recent success through low round draft picks, we know about Brady of course but there are plenty of examples of this kind of triumph in New England. The following players, who have been key to the Patriots success, were all selected in the 3rd round or lower, Teddy Bruschi (3rd round), Asante Samuel (4th), James Sanders (4th), Dan Koppen (5th) and Troy Brown (8th), there are more but I think you get the picture, the message is that although the first round guys will get the headlines teams need to find these gem’s in lower rounds in order to be competing on a long term basis.
Don’t panic if your team is part of a blockbuster trade on draft day, depending of course which side of the trade you’re on. Ahead of the 1990 draft The Dallas Cowboys traded away one of their very few talented players at the time, Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings in a trade now known as ‘The Great Train Robbery’. The Vikings received one of the greatest college running backs of all time who didn’t quite reach the heights expected of him in the NFL; however the Cowboys who had only won one game the previous season got 4 players and 8 draft picks over the next 3 years. This trade turned the NFL’s worst team in 1989 into the league’s best in the early to mid 90’s, winning 3 Superbowls. The recent trade made between the St Louis Rams and the Washington Redskins ahead of this draft in which the Rams gave the Redskins the second overall pick in return for the Redskins first rounder (6th) & second round picks this year and their first round pick in 2013 & 2014. This rivals the Walker trade but will it turn the Rams or Redskins into winners like it did the Cowboys?
If the NFL draft was a Hollywood movie viewers could complain that it’s too un-realistic, grab your popcorn sit back and let the drama begin.