The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

May 5, 2014

Some can't-miss NFL draft picks do just that

ENID, Okla. — Unless you have been living in a cave the last several months, with no television, no radio and no Wi-Fi (not to mention running water), you know the National Football League draft begins Thursday.

The NFL draft is nearly a year-round closet industry these days. Everyone and his brother-in-law comes out with a mock draft nearly every other day from the end of the season until the draft begins.

ESPN has been offering draft analysis since just after the final gun of the BCS championship game. They have analyzed prospects in terms of a number of factors, height, weight, speed, intelligence, everything short of whether or not they cry at sad movies. The consensus right now seems to be Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina will be the first player drafted.

Clowney is what draft watchers call “a freak,” which in football seems to be a good thing. The last time someone called me that, my feelings were hurt.

Some experts say Blake Bortles of Central Florida will be the first quarterback off the board, while others say it will be Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. No matter the order, the players chosen high in the first round of the NFL Draft are can’t-miss prospects who are sure to be stars in the league for many years to come. Don’t count on it.

Though NFL teams spend a lot of money and time evaluating prospects every year, they manage to miss some of the time.

Take quarterback JaMarcus Russell, for instance. The Oakland Raiders drafted him No. 1 overall in the 2007 draft. They paid him $39 million. For their money they got seven wins. That’s just more than $5 million per victory. I would be more than happy to help them lose for much less. In that same draft, Oakland passed up the likes of Calvin Johnson of the Lions and Adrian Peterson of the Vikings. The Raiders released him in May 2010, and he remains out of football.

The Detroit Lions drafted receiver Charles Rogers No. 2 overall in 2003. He once had 270 receiving yards in a single game, but injuries and suspensions stalled his career. The Lions released him in 2006.

Defensive end Steve Emtman was the No. 1 overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 1992. Nine games into his rookie year, a knee injury sidelined him. He was never really healthy again, and he wound up starting just 10 games for three teams over six seasons.

In 1989, offensive tackle Tony Mandarich was the No. 2 overall pick of the Green Bay Packers. Before the draft, Sports Illustrated called him the greatest offensive line prospect of all time. He turned out to be a bust. That year, the Pack passed on Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.

 But for every high-round flop, there are low round surprises.

Oklahoma State’s Thurman Thomas slipped into the second round because of questions about his injured knee. All Thomas did for the Buffalo Bills was rush for more than 12,000 yards and score 88 touchdowns in a hall of fame career. Then there is the draft steal of all time, Tom Brady. The Michigan grad was the 199th player picked in the 2000 draft. Thus far, he has won three Super Bowls and has taken New England to five AFC championships. He will be a hall of famer someday.

All the pre-draft analysis in the world can measure a lot of things, from vertical jump to 40-yard-dash speed, from Wonderlic test score to arm length, but it can’t measure things like heart and competitive desire.The top guys chosen in Thursday night’s first round will get the glory, the publicity, the big bucks. But the guys who get the job done may well come much farther down the draft board.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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