NFL Draft: High Picks Don't Guarantee Success

Aaron LiebmanAnalyst IApril 26, 2008

This week we found out the Dolphins, who owned the No. 1 pick in the draft, had signed Jake Long to a five-year deal, revealing who would be this year’s first pick. 


Let’s be honest, though.  He’s an offensive lineman, and how many linemen have their own jerseys sell in mass quantities to fans?


His brother, a defensive lineman, was taken next, and although defensive linemen get credit for tackles and sacks (get stats), the first real position player was not selected until quarterback Matt Ryan by the Atlanta Falcons.


Ryan has big shoes to fill, replacing Joey Harrington, who’s played for three teams in three years; and of course, Michael Vick, who struggles every day not to drop the soap.

But before you Atlanta fans buy your Matt Ryan jerseys, consider what are the chances of Ryan having an impact on the Falcons?  And looking at history, who knows what chances he has of ever playing for them?


So many drafted players don’t make an impact until they leave for another team (like Jim Plunkett, who went from draft bust to Super Bowl MVP) or until they decide not to play for the team that drafted them.

Perhaps the most famous example is John Elway, who was selected first overall by the Baltimore Colts but refused to sign with them.  Just as blue-and-white John Elway horseshoe jerseys were being printed, he was traded to another horse-themed team, the Broncos.


Elway would go on to lead the Broncos to five Super Bowl appearances, winning two of them, while the Colts’ floundering attendance would result in them leaving Baltimore in the middle of the night for Indianapolis.

Even bigger hating than that came from running back Bo Jackson. He decided not to play football at all, rather than to play for Tampa Bay.  Considering Tampa Bay’s play at the time, it actually seemed to be the right choice.


He later wound up on the Raiders. Although his football career was shortened due to injury, he did manage a few highlights, including balling over Seattle draft bust and B movie star bust Brian Bosworth on Monday Night Football.  Bosworth was able to prove he has no talent at two fields.

Then again, some of these players will have an impact but finish their careers somewhere else.  Being from New Jersey, I saw my share of New York Jets Keyshawn Johnson jerseys.


He spent four seasons in New York before being traded to Tampa Bay, where he won a Super Bowl.  Before this season, all those Eli Manning jerseys looked like they would make good material for the fireplace. 

I’d like to see if anyone has any Ryan Leaf jerseys left, or have they just destroyed them or used them when they ran out of toilet paper.  A good theme for a party would be jerseys of draft busts.  If that were the case, Leaf jerseys would be the most popular choice.

It might look like you’ve got a good selection, and maybe you do…just not necessarily for your team…or not necessarily yet.