Michigan left tackle Jake Long signed a $57 million deal last year with the Miami Dolphins and was the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Was it the right move by the Bill Parcells-led 1-15 Dolphins? As much respect as I have for Parcells' football knowledge and the 6'7", 315-pound Long's physical prowess, I still have no idea.
Will he be another Orlando Pace (seven consecutive Pro Bowls with the Rams) or another Tony Mandarich (a much hyped bust drafted ahead of Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, and Derrick Thomas—nice move Packers)? The left tackle, who protects most quarterbacks' blind side, is a very important position in football. Still, who knows for sure?
Not ESPN's Mel Kiper, even though he comes across like he knows the answer. I'm sure at the end of the NFL draft he will give every team a grade. This is silly. How can you give a grade to someone before they have taken the test, i.e., before the players have performed in the pros? The only fair way to a give a grade for a team's draft is 10 years later when we see the results of the picks.
Even with modern techniques, such extensive scouting, game film watching, interviewing, the taking of intelligence tests (apparently not Vince Young's strong suit), and the testing of physical skills at the NFL combine, teams still make major drafting mistakes. If you really need an example, how about Tom Brady being drafted in the sixth round?
There is still no good way to measure heart, determination, dedication, and pride. Not to mention injuries, which could be affected by luck or how injury prone the player turns out to be.
While teams in all sports are better at drafting than they used to be, the evaluation of talent will never be a perfect science—no matter much ESPN and other sports sources try to convince you otherwise.