The draft wasn’t always the draft. It was always a selection process to procure new talent in which the worst teams selected players first, that much is true. But it hasn’t always been the media frenzy it has now become, complete with red carpet arrivals and round the clock coverage.
Future commissioner Bert Bell was the mastermind behind the NFL’s first draft in 1936. As fate would have it, the first player ever selected in the draft, Jay Berwanger, decided he didn’t want to play pro football after all.
I think it’s safe to say that tonight’s first pick will not follow suit.
In today’s NFL, it’s easy to think that all legendary talent gets drafted with the first or second pick. Last year’s draft history would tell us this is true: Andrew Luck was drafted first overall by the Colts and the Redskins moved up to take Robert Griffin III at number two. They’re both proving to be worth the high picks.
But history also tells us that Russell Wilson was chosen 73 picks later in the 3rd round of the draft. And that his Seahawks advanced farther in the playoffs than the Colts and the Redskins, whom the Seahawks beat in the first round to advance.
It’s not as cut-and-dry as it might seem in either capacity; there were extenuating circumstances throughout the year for all three teams. But it goes to show that sometimes the 75th pick can be just as valuable, and occasionally more valuable, than the first or second pick.
To test out this theory, let’s play a game. Try to match each player with their respective draft pick:
A. (6) – Tom Brady was taken with the 199th pick in the 6th round. He was infamously drafted before 6 other QB’s, and will inevitably go down as one of the best to ever play the game.
B. (5) – Three quarterbacks were taken with the first three picks of the 1999 draft: Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, and Akili Smith. Only one survived to achieve success…and it wasn’t Couch or Smith.
C. (1) – See above.
D. (3) – Shannon Sharpe was selected 192nd overall and spent 9 seasons with the Broncos, during which time he won two Super Bowls with the team.
E. (2) – The Bucs selected Ronde Barber 66th overall in the 1997 draft…and he’s still with the team to this day, 15 years later. And he’s still one of the best cornerbacks in the league.
F. (4) – Ryan Leaf is perhaps the most well-known of draft day busts, and also the saddest. He was taken by the Chargers with the 2nd pick in the 1st round by the Chargers and played there for only 2 years. He had all the potential in the world, but none of the drive.
Now, that list is admittedly deceiving, as there have been plenty of worthy #1 picks over the years: the Manning brothers both went with the first pick, as did Troy Aikman, John Elway, Earl Campbell, Terry Bradshaw, and plenty of other notables. It just goes to say that the draft might determine which team a player calls home for a time, but it doesn’t have anything to do with that player’s inherent talent and drive to be the best.
Who’s the diamond in the rough this year?
We’ll just have to wait and see. (That’s the best part!)
Happy draft day, everyone!