The 2011 NFL Draft is over.
The professional talent scouts have spent months evaluating talent and selecting players in the annual high stakes ritual that can make or break a team. A great decision can result in a playoff birth, while a bad one can be costly, especially when selecting quarterbacks.
With so much on the line then, one would think that the highly paid experts know what they are doing.
Guess what—they mostly don't.
Of the quarterbacks taken early in recent years, most have flopped.
JaMarcus Russell, Tim Couch, David Carr, Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, Matt Leinart, Cade McNown, Kyle Boller, Brady Quinn, J.P. Losman, Jim Druckenmiller and Patrick Ramsey were all taken in the first round.
It is safe to say that none paid off. Alex Smith, Vince Young, Brian Leftwich and Rex Grossman haven't exactly been thrilled audiences.
The experts are right about half the time at best. The other half of the time, they are very wrong.
Consider this, some of the greatest quarterbacks of all time were not first round picks.
Brett Favre was a second rounder. Joe Montana was a third rounder. Johnny Unitas was selected in the ninth round. (Yes they had more rounds years ago). Tom Brady was a sixth round selection and Kurt Warner wasn't even drafted.
If the trend persists, it is likely that some of this years first round picks will flop. Who will it be? Who will end up with an early exit to the dust bin of draft disasters?
Only time will tell, but rest assured some of them will.
On the other hand, there is a good chance that somewhere back in the pack is the next great quarterback; the next Favre, Montana, Unitas or Warner.
How can the experts be so wrong so often? Really now, shouldn't they know better? After all they are paid big bucks to do this, while fans like us have just as much likelihood of being right and we do it for free!
Surprisingly, this problem isn't unique to sports.
It turns out professional selectors in other industries have a dismal track record of selecting star performers. Most CEOs flop. The few that are hall of famers in the business world were unpredictable.
Bill Gates never finished college and wouldn't even qualify for entry level management position in most companies. Lou Gerstner, who saved IBM from collapse, had no background in computers.
How are these related? Why are expert selectors in so many industries wrong more often than they are right? I think its because they try to objectify that which cannot be measured.
Einstein said all that is measured does not matter and all that matters cannot be measured.
Over reliance on big names from big schools and a spreadsheet of physical metrics will not reliably predict a future hall of famer. It is the intangibles that make the difference at the end of the day.
What's inside is what matters; the drive, the will to win, the mental toughness and the ability to stay focused and out of trouble are just as important as the physical talent.
Of the 2011 draft class, which quarterback will we be watching five years now and who will be sitting on the sofa on Sundays watching TV with us?
Only time will tell and your guess is as good as mine or any of the experts. But for what its worth, here are my prognostications. I wish them all well. These are all great athletes and deserve their success. No one enjoys watching someone fail and I truly hope they are all successful. But the odds are, they won't be.
Cam Newton enjoyed a Heisman, a national championship, being the number one pick and a lot of controversy. But being the top pick may not be such a blessing. He will likely be a starter next season. With little time to acclimate to the NFL and a heap of unrealistic expectations, the pressure of it all might get to him. I think the odds are stacked against him. Very few quarterbacks have ever stepped into a starting role right away not been disappointing. What goes up must come down and I see trouble ahead for Newton.
Jake Locker certainly is a gifted athlete. But he is mistake prone, does not have a particularly strong arm and was not able to lead the Huskies to very many victories. You could chalk that up to not having the best team around him but great quarterbacks manage to win somehow. Locker just didn't win a lot of games and that concerns me. Under pressure he makes too many bad throws.
Blaine Gabbert certainly is talented. But Missouri under his leadership wasn't particularly successful. I get the sense that celebrity status and all that brings with it will be a distraction for him.
Now there is something about Christian Ponder that inspires confidence. He does not posses the best stats, strongest arm or dominate in any category. But he wins. His performance at the Senior Bowl was very impressive. He just gets it done. I see him being successful.
Similarly, there is a steadiness and a competence about Andy Dalton that is reassuring. He knows how to win and has done so very consistently. He is level headed and stable. I think he will be successful
Colin Kaepernick needs some grooming. But he has incredible athleticism and physical abilities that are off the charts; better than Cam Newton according to their mutual trainer. His intangibles are even more compelling and his track record is is clear. He rewrote the NCAA record books in several areas and he finds a way to win. Before his last game against Boise State he was quoted as saying "I have to beat Boise". Trailing at the half, he imposed his will on the game. He simply would not be beaten. As long as he is not rushed into a starting role prematurely, I think he could emerge as the next franchise quarterback in San Francisco.
Ryan Mallett is a gem no doubt. But unless Tom Brady gets hurt or retires, Mallett is stuck playing the waiting game. He may languish on the sidelines forever. Being second to Brady means sitting on he bench, probably for a very long time and that does not spell success.
Now don't get me wrong. I wish them all success. But my hunch is, five years from now, Ponder, Dalton and Kaepernick will emerge as the best of the class of 2011. Only time will tell.