So, what do we know after the NFL draft?
Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. Nathan. Zero.
Sam Bradford could be Otto Graham, or Ryan Leaf…or, perhaps, Brian Sipe.
Tim Tebow could be Terry Bradshaw, or Rex Grossman…or, perhaps, Bert Jones.
We know nothing because there is nothing to know. Until these guys have played in the for-real NFL with for-real professionals, we won’t know anything.
This is part of the fun of the NFL Draft, and all of the problem. If it were so easy to predict who will have success at the next level, more people would do it, ESPN’s ever-expanding draft coverage notwithstanding.
This is not to say that the draft isn’t important; of course, it is. My beloved Super Bowl Shufflin’ Bears were built over successive drafts; most of the guys that kissed the Lombardi Trophy in January of 1986 had four years or less of NFL service. Lynn Swann (first round) and John Stallworth (fourth round) were taken in the same draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers; both of them found their way to Canton. Of course, everyone’s favorite draft story seems to be Tom Brady, the greatest sixth round pick in the history of the NFL.
But Tom Brady actually highlights the basic problem with grading drafts a week after they happened. No one knew that New England stole a future Hall-of-Famer in the sixth round; how could they? No one could know that the guy who was only keeping the chair warm in Michigan for “can’t-miss” Drew Henson (remember him?) would be talked about in the same breath as Joe Montana. In fact, if you can dig up anything on Henson from back then, he was the guy who was supposed to end up with multiple championships and the super-supermodel wife.
Funny how things work out, isn’t it?
Sometimes, a player is who we thought he was. There’s a reason why Buffalo drafted another running back a couple of years after taking Marshawn Lynch, and it ain’t because Lynch needs the help as much as Lynch needs replacing.
As laughable as it seems on the surface, we might actually be talking about the Detroit Lions dynasty one day.
Seems to me that, about 12 years ago, the Indianapolis Colts were more famous for sneaking out of town at midnight than for any championship aspirations. Then they drafted guys like Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne and suddenly the Irsays’ folly has posted a wonderful record over the last decade and appeared in two Super Bowls, winning one rather historically (first black head coach and all that).
Remember, opinion was evenly split over who would have the better career, Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf. A lot of people who get paid a lot more than I do were convinced that Leaf would be superior over the long haul. A lot of people were wrong.
Seems to me that the New Orleans Saints used to be People’s Exhibit 1b (to the Lions’ perpetual 1a, of course) of futile NFL franchises; now there are children who will grow up knowing nothing but a great Crescent City football team for the last three or four seasons, while their parents shake their heads in wonder at a team so godawful once upon a time that the fans wore paper bags to games…when they bothered to come at all.
We won’t know until we know, but until then, everyone is 0-0 and the championship is within reach.