Words like “can’t miss prospect” and “instant starter” get thrown around like Footballs. Even with all the diagnosing of every aspect of these players lives and physicality, there is still players who do not pan out. The Draft is not a science. Technology has helped the process along, but in the end “The Tape Don’t Lie.” What you see from a player is mostly what you get. There are bright spots and red flags along the way that you double take on. Maybe you see a player that pops out on the field, but runs slower on the field. You go back and look at the film. You don’t skip over this player because he doesn’t run a fast enough forty. You look at his closing speed. You see how quick the player is, and you take into account how he plays and what type of instincts he plays with. Some players just seem to be faster in pads.
You also look at the players production, more so if he was from a small school or played lesser competition. This is one thing that I noticed about drafting players. What did they do in college? If a player never rushed for more than 500 yards a season in College, why would you think he would just be a stud in the NFL? Even if he split time as most running backs do now, he would still have numbers to back up his draft status. Willis McGahee split time with Clinton Portis in 2001 and with Frank Gore in 2002, but he still was productive. He rushed for over 1700 yards in 2002. Even after his injury, he was drafted in the first round. Why? Because once again, the tape doesn’t lie! He became a two time Pro-Bowler and is tied for 43rd all time with 63 TDs. That is more than OJ Simpson and Herschel Walker. (Clinton Portis is 23rd and Frank Gore is tied for 62nd place and climbing in case you are wondering.)
Marques Colston was selected in the seventh round of the 2006 with the 252nd pick of the draft. He came in at 6’5 224 lbs, ran a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash and had a vertical of 37″. No one thought that he garnered a pick with the exception of the Saints. Six 1,000 yard seasons later, he is a Super Bowl Champion and one of the best Receivers in the NFL.
There is another Wide Receiver of note in this Draft. A player not really of the draft since he went UNDRAFTED. Miles Austin came in at 6’2, 215 lbs running a 4.5 and had the best vertical jump of the group at 40.5′ (Position best) at his combine. Kudos to Jim Garrett for taking a deeper look at him after his sophmore year at Monmouth. But if Garrett could tell Austin was an NFL prospect in his back yard, why couldn’t the NFL? So what do the experts know? 32 teams let Miles Austin go undrafted, round after round, after round. You then ask what didn’t teams see on his tape? Not sure, but here are his production numbers: In three seasons at Monmouth, he averaged 19 yards a reception, hauled in 32 TDs, and amassed 2,659 yards of receiving. Clearly he did not have an NFL QB throwing him the ball, but he made plays and made the most of his talent and time on the field.
Take a look at some of the notable busts in the NFL from a Quarterback standpoint. Most of them had poor competion ratings. Ryan Leaf- 53%, Joey Harrington- 54%, Kyle Boller- 47%, and Akili Smith-56%. So on and so on. The other thing that you look for is where they are going and where they are coming from. Tim Couch had a 67% completion rating in college. He went to a bad Browns team but still was able to throw 3800 yards in one season and 4,275 yards in another. But at the end of the day, he didn’t meet expectations of a franchise QB. (see David Carr for more details)
Future Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino left some scratching their heads at Miami’s pick. He only had a 57.6. And while he did have an amazing performance at the 1982 Sugar Bowl he didn’t seem to wow you. What did they see in him? You take a look at catchable balls and the amount of work a player had to do. You take a look at how he does things and the decisions that he makes. Does he have a good release? Is he throwing spirals? Are the passes on time?
And then you have to look at system Quarterbacks like Andre Ware and David Kingler. Again you have to look at the mechanics and see the way they are throwing. Can they make NFL throws? How does he handle pressure and can he become a leader of men?
There will be hits and misses. There may be busts. their will certainly be risers and fallers, and some will slip through the cracks. The Draft Process is not an exact science, but all 32 teams hope that they find the right formula for success.