If you’ve already read my title, you’re probably thinking of what is the biggest mistake made at every draft. Picking a run-and-gun quarterback? Not quite, Ben Roethlisberger is a perfect example of that. Well, on the field at least. Trading away your top picks? Not if you look at what the Patriots do year after year. Bill Belechick has proven that if you draft about twenty players every year, a few of them are bound to be decent. Oh, I know now. It’s being the Raiders! While Al Davis seems to be a negative nowadays when it comes to picking the future, but the man does have three Super Bowl rings.
Give up? I’ll give you one hint: it has almost nothing to do with any of the teams who will be drafting young talent.
Each and every year when the draft approaches, millions of opinions about each potential draft pick are thrown around and made known. ESPN alone has dozens of NFL analysts saying who "the next Peyton Manning" is or who will be a worse pick than Ryan Leaf. Overanalyzing and overhyping every prospect of the draft is a theme all too common.
Leaf is the literally the perfect example of a "great pick" gone bad. Every analyst was saying that Leaf could be the next greatest quarterback in the league (no pressure or anything). He was a "no-brainer", an "automatic pick" for the Chargers. Even Skip Bayless has admitted he was high on Leaf pre-draft, which is saying a lot coming from Bayless, who is "never" wrong. Heck, even Leaf was high on himself, saying, "I'm looking forward to a 15-year career, a couple of trips to the Super Bowl and a parade through downtown San Diego," after being drafted. With confidence and pressure to draft Leaf, it’s no wonder the Chargers traded two first round picks, a second round pick, and four-time Pro Bowler Eric Metcalf to the Arizona Cardinals to move up to second overall (from third overall), so that the team would be absolutely sure to pick Leaf.
Leaf’s long, lustrous career included 14 career touchdowns alongside a mere 36 interceptions and 16 fumbles, while posting a wonderful 50.0 career quarterback rating.
He was out of the league after 2001, three years after being drafted.
Overhyped? Perhaps a tad bit.
Peyton Manning, one pick earlier, was a scrutinized choice by many, even by his kicker, Mike Vanderjagt, who in 2002 after a 41-0 playoff loss to the Jets, said Manning lacked intensity to be a great quarterback. Oops. Despite Manning’s nearly 30 interception rookie season, I don’t need to look at the rest of his stats to say I’m pretty sure he’s done okay since then (you know, just 11 Pro Bowls, four MVPs, and one Super Bowl MVP on top of being one of the top 10 NFL players of all time).
Now, the Mel Kiper’s and Todd McShay’s of the world are going out and deeming who is the next great one, and who won’t make it after a few stints in the league. Of course, no one really seems to realize that players drafted late (Tom "Bieber" Brady in the 6th round) and many undrafted players are what make up the heart of the league.
To give an idea, here are a few undrafted players you may have heard of: Bart Scott, Jeff Saturday, Ryan Grant, Kurt Warner, Adam Vinatieri, Wayne Cherbet, James Harrison, Antonio Gates, and Hall of Famer Warren Moon.
For every sure-fire superstar Deion Sanders, there’s always a "sure-fire superstar" Mike Junkin. The NFL draft could very way be the most unpredictable event in sports, so all the so-called experts and analysts can say who will be a franchise player, but that means absolutely nothing until said player proves it out on the field, so stop overhyping and overevaluating evry single player; none of this "insider information" means anything.
To all fans: please don’t kill your team or boo your future as they’re picked (I’m looking at you, Jet fans who wanted Michael Crabtree over Mark Sanchez). Give them a few years to grow, and then you can boo them all you like.
On the same note, when making a potentially make or break pick for your franchise, try to be as sure as you can, and ignore all the hype. One bad pick (a la JaMarcus Russell) can set your franchise back years, while one great pick (like Mr. Manning) can have your franchise set for years.
In the end, it’s up to the teams, whether they would rather make an exciting pick, with a potentially huge upside, but could be a big mistake like Cam Newton, or if they would rather make a safe, sure-fire pick in a future perennial Pro Bowler like Patrick Peterson.
Oh crap, I'm a hypocrite…