Why take the NFL draft seriously?

I ask this question NOT as a non-sports fan who’s mocking the whole process, but as a serious football fan.

Ask yourself three questions:

  1. Who led the NFL in passing last year?
  2. Who led the NFL in rushing last year?
  3. Who led the NFL in receptions last year?

(Answers down below)…

1- Kurt Warner, 2-Priest Holmes, 3-Rod Smith

Now, the 4th and final question: what do Warner, Holmes and Smith have in common?

(Answer down below…)

NONE of them was drafted by ANY team in the N.F.L.!

In other words, the NFL’s scouts completely missed out on the league’s best passer, its best running back, and its best receiver.

I always have to add this disclaimer: I am NOT trying to insult NFL scouts. They’re generally smart guys, and they all know a LOT more about football than I do. But given their very dubious track record, why do we pay attention to the NFL draft at all? The truth is, NFL scouts and executives are GUESSING, just as Mel Kiper is. They have no clue who’s going to be great and who’s going to be an expensive bust!

So, why do we bother watching the NFL draft? Why do we pay attention when newspaper columnists give this team an A+ for tis drafte, and another team a C-, when we can’t possibly know for a few years whether any given draftee is going to be any good?

More than half of all first-round picks end up as complete busts, true.

But on average, the first-round picks have better chances at being a Pro Bowler than your typical undrafted player.

Kurt Warner, Priest Holmes, and Rod Smith … coincidental year. Just goes to show that you can find a diamond in the rough. It doesn’t mean that you should just throw away your first-round picks because they might not pan out.

Who was second in each category and where were they drafted?

Ok, I’ll answer my own question, plus some other info:

Passing Leaders

  1. Kurt Warner, undrafted out of Northern Iowa, via the Arena League to the St. Louis Rams
  2. Peyton Manning, 1st choice in the 1st round of 1998 out of Tennessee by the Indianapolis Colts
  3. Brett Favre, 2nd round, 33rd pick overall, in 1991 by the Atlanta Falcons our of Mississippi State
  4. Aaron Brooks, 4th round, 133 overall, in 1999 by the Green Bay Packers out of Virginia
  5. Rich Gannon, 4th round by the New England Patriots out of Delaware in 1987.

Rushing Leaders

  1. Priest Holmes, undrafted rookie free agent signed by Baltimore in 1997.
  2. Curtis Martin, 3rd round, 74th overall in 1995, out of Pitt by the New England Patriots
  3. Stephen Davis, 4th round, 103 overall in 1996, out of Auburn, by Washington Redskins.
  4. Ahman Green, 15th pick in the 3rd round in 1998 by Seattle Seahawks out of Nebraska.
  5. Marshall Faulk, 2nd overall pick in the first round in 1994, by the Indianapolis Colts.

Leading Receivers

  1. David Boston, 8th overall pick in the 1st round in 1999, out of Ohio State by the Arizona Cardinals
  2. Marvin Harrison, 19th overall pick in the 1st round in 1996, out of Syracuse by Indianapolis Colts.
  3. Terrell Owens, 28th selection in the 3rd round in 1996, out of UT-Chattanooga, by the San Francisco 49ers.
  4. Jimmy Smith, 2nd round (36th overall) in 1992, out of Jackson State by the Dallas Cowboys.
  5. Torry Holt, 6th overall pick in the 1st round in 1999, by St. Louis Rams out of NC State.

Sacks Leaders

  1. Michael Strahan, 2nd round in 1993 out of Texas Southern by the New York Giants.
  2. Peter Boulware, 4th pick overall in the 1st round in 1997 out of FSU by the Baltimore Ravens.
  3. Leonard Little, 3rd round (65th overall) in 1998 out of Tennessee by St. Louis Rams.
  4. Charlie Clemmons, undrafted free agent, via the CFL, to the St. Louis Rams (now with New Orleans Saints), out of U. of Georgia.
  5. Kareem Gbaja-Biamila, 5th round, 149th overall, out of San Diego State by the Green Bay Packers.

So six of the 20 leaders across four different categories were 1st round selections, while the top performer in two of these categories was undrafted. FWIW Rod Smith caught a lot of passes, but the NFL Receiving category is based on yards, not catches. Rod Smith was not in the top five in Receiving.

Now here is a list of the 1999 draft. Pundits say that it takes three years down the road to grade a draft. So let’s look at who was drafted and how they’ve done:

1999 NFL Draft:
Cleveland – Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky - Starting QB
Philadelphia – Donovan McNabb, QB, Syracuse - Hot Star
Cincinnati – Akili Smith, QB, Oregon - Dud
Indianapolis – Edgerrin James, RB, Miami - Hot star with blown knee.
New Orleans – Ricky Williams, RB, Texas - Star traded to Miami.
St. Louis – Torry Holt, WR, NC State - Top 5 receiver.
Washington – Champ Baily, CB, Georgia - Pro Bowl Alternate.
Arizona – David Boston, WR, Ohio State - Top 5 receiver.
Detroit – Chris Claiborne, LB, USC - Potential but not there yet.
Baltimore – Chris McAlister, CB, Arizona - Starter
Minnesota – Daunte Culpepper, QB, Central Florida - Stud QB
Chicago – Cade McNown, QB, UCLA - Bust
Pittsburgh – Troy Edwards, WR, Louisiana Tech - Bust
Kansas City – John Tait, OT, Brigham Young - Starter
Tampa Bay – Anthony McFarland, DT, LSU - Starter
Tennessee – Jevon Kearse, DE/LB, Florida - Phreak
New England – Damien Woody, C, Boston College - Starter
Oakland – Matt Stinchcomb, OT, Georgia - Bust
New York Giants – Luke Petitgout, OT, Notre Dame - Starter
Dallas – Ebenezer Ekuban, DE, North Carolina - Bust
Arizona – L.J. Shelton, OT, Eastern Michigan - Starter
Seattle – Lamar King, DE, Saginaw - Semi-Bust
Buffalo – Antoine Winfield, CB, Ohio State - Starter
San Francisco – Reggie McGrew, DT, Florida - Starter
Green Bay – Antwan Edwards, DB, Clemson - Semi-bust
Jacksonville – Fernado Bryant, CB, Alabama Semi-Starter
Detroit – Aaron Gibson, OT, Wisconsin - Bust (traded to Dallas)
New England – Andy Katzenmoyer, LB, Ohio State - Bust
Minnesota – Dimitrius Underwood, DE, Michigan State - Bust
Atlanta – Patrick Kerney, DE, Virginia - Starter
Denver – Al Wilson, LB, Tennessee - Starter