Ryan Leaf. Akili Smith. Tim Couch You hear these names and cringe. What could they have possibly been thinking? Couldn't San Diego tell that Ryan Leaf was a little brat who pretty much whined his way out of the league and in jail? Why didn't the Bengals just see that Akili Smith was just a workout warrior?
Thing is, when Leaf was being evaluated as a prospect, no one really put much thought into Leaf's work ethic or his attitude. Sure, the NFL has always interviewed candidates, but the bulk of the evaluation process went into what was shown on film. Which is why at the time, you couldn't blame the Chargers for taking Leaf. In fact, many evaluators thought he may have been better than Manning.
We all know how that turned out. Leaf imploded and took his entire team down with him, and God knows where he is now.
It's a pretty safe assumption that Leaf was the biggest draft bust of all time. More proof that evaluating the all-important QB position is a tricky business. If you're team gambles on a DT, for example, high in the first round, and he doesn't pan out, all it means is that your run defense isn't going to be up to par for a few years. If there's enough help around him, (i.e Vernon Gholston), your team can still be successful. But as we have seen time and time again, a team with a lousy leader and passer at QB has no chance.
Generally, the success rate for 1st round QB's is about 50/50, give or take. Yet going all the way back to 2005, there have been only 3 "busts" out of 14 QB's taken (I consider Jamarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, and Matt Leinhart to be busts. I don't consider Alex Smith a bust just yet). I'm no math major, but that's about a 79% success rate. Most of these QB's have been to the playoffs and many have been to the Pro Bowl.
Have we finally figured it out?
Maybe we have. Teams are not looking so much into measurable and specific arm strengths. Interviews and a player's personality become more and more important. But is that the real reason why theses passers are more successful than ever? Even in an era where the spread and option offenses are more prominent at the college level than ever before? Even in an era with Twitter and Facebook when every move is analyzed and the average schmuck locked in his mom's attic can know if you're going shopping later in the day?
Maybe this age of information spreading is beneficial to these QB's. Back in the day, if an NFL player went out the night before a game, no one cared, as long as you were on the bus by 11:30. Nowadays, teams rent out half a hotel to keep everyone in one spot, even for home games.
Or perhaps it's the more prominent fact that the NFL stands for Not For Long league, where if you can't continue to do your job at the highest level, you'll be gone. Player's see this happen to the Ryan Leaf's of the world and use them as an example. Players finally understand what it takes to be an NFL player, or even more, and NFL QB. They realize it's not just their livelihood they're playing for, it's the GMs, coaches, executives, restaurants that make money on people watching the game, etc.
Anyway, I just noticed this new trend and thought it was pretty interesting.