Every year, people come out of the woodwork claiming that this college football player is going to be great in the NFL and why this college football player is going to be bad in the pros.
This time of year, everyone becomes a professional scout and a football guru, as if we all know exactly what makes up a good professional football player.
It’s kind of fun to do this, and everyone gets to express their football knowledge.
But let me fill you in on a secret—we don’t know anything until the guy actually plays.
It doesn’t matter how much film we watch, how many drills in a T-shirt and shorts we see him run during the combine, we still don’t know.
I guess that’s what makes it so great: because it’s one of the biggest gambles in sports.
Even the general managers and scouts, who are paid to evaluate talent, don’t really know. They make their decisions to draft someone based on what they saw and what they think.
The proof is in the pudding with the number of guys who are drafted that don’t even make the final 53-man roster at the end of training camp—let alone become productive pros.
You think the San Diego Chargers drafted Ryan Leaf knowing that he was going as bad as he was? Of course not.
If they really knew, they wouldn’t have taken him. How about the Oakland Raiders and Jamarcus Russell? The Raiders made us believe they knew for sure that they had a franchise quarterback. We all saw how that worked out.
There are so many stories of guys who were passed over by every team only to turn out to be very productive players and even Hall of Famers: Terrell Davis (sixth round, 196th overall pick), Tom Brady (sixth round 199th overall pick), are just two names that teams ignored for nearly the entirety of the draft.
I see that it’s fun to predict the future and I am certainly guilty of it too when it comes to other things, but when it comes to draft time, I let the “experts” handle psychic duties.
Then we all sit around our televisions and watch the scouting combine thinking we’re going to see the next great pro. Again, there is not way of determining that. You know what we can judge based off the combine? How good of an athlete a player is. That’s it. Nothing more.
I hate to use Brady again as an example, but its true. He had a horrible combine back in 2000. I think we can say he bounced back from that pretty well.
An even better example is Jerry Rice, who did not wow anyone with his combine, but became the greatest player that ever lived.
At the end of the day, it's purely a gamble. General managers and scouts might as well go to Las Vegas or Atlantic City, place as many bets as they have draft picks and watch most of their money go down the drain with the hopes that one of their bets is a winner. That’s how much of a gamble it is.
One pick that pans out can save the franchise, whereas one pick that doesn’t could set a franchise back for a decade.
And us as fans, we can continue to showcase our undying love and knowledge for the game by telling of our friends we know that some guy is going to be special without consequence.
But none of us, not even the people who are paid to, know for sure.