Every now and then, if I’m bored at work or need to kill time, I’ll break out an old draft magazine or two and start reminiscing.
You would be amazed how much reading these old previews can help put everything into context about scouting college football players.
Reading things such as “Alex Smith has the mental makeup of Brett Favre” helps you realize you’re not the only person that makes a mistake every now and then.
We all make mistakes, especially when it’s dealing with this crazy thing we like to call the NFL Draft.
Fans, self-appointed experts, scouts, and the front offices of an NFL franchise all get it completely wrong every now and then. It just so happens that the teams are the ones that get to make those mistakes in dazzling, money-squandering fashion.
No matter how many millions of dollars they spend on scouting, or how much they crosscheck every player with a fine-toothed comb, sometimes teams are just guilty of getting caught up in the hype.
It’s understandable considering the NFL Draft is one of the biggest pure hype machines in all of sports these days.
After witnessing a good three months of overanalyzing and overindulging a lot of these prospects, their judgments may become a little clouded.
As you flip through the pages of these previews, it brings back to mind all of the prospects who were rated as elite and were referred to as “future All-Pros.”
Why did we feel so compelled to dub Vernon Gholston the next Shawne Merriman or Reggie Bush the next Marshall Faulk?
Why was every draft expert who rags on Al Davis these days calling JaMarcus Russell one of the most polarizing quarterback prospects of the decade?
It seems everyone was guilty of getting caught up in the hype. Maybe, sometimes we as a draft society get caught up in flashy style instead of solid substance. It happens every year.
We should keep this in mind as we witness the sports world coming with an all-out blitz in terms of building up Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy.
Sometimes, we seem to forget that these are simply 21- and 22-year old-kids who are developing and growing as not only football players but people as well.
The pressures we are saddling these two youngsters with is almost getting to be unreal at this point.
Let’s just take 2008 top five defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey of LSU as a recent example.
It only takes watching a highlight of Dorsey, where ESPN analyst Todd McShay gleefully gushes over the big man with lavish praise after lavish praise, to realize that we were up to the same shenanigans just two years ago.
That’s unfairly singling out McShay though, because Dorsey was universally recognized throughout the draft community as an elite prospect who had All-Pro written all over him.
And how did it all turn out?
Well to put it nicely, Dorsey has been severely underwhelming for a top five pick in his first two seasons.
So what could have gone so wrong? Could it have been that are expectations were just a little too high?
It could go to show that we have a tendency to overvalue the top 10 players in each draft.
Most have a hard time living up to the extravagant expectations bestowed upon them. They usually aren’t as elite compared to the rest of the pack as we like to make them out to be.
There will usually be a player at the same position coming off the board later in the draft who can either equal or surpass their production.
Not only that, but we also might overestimate the type of impact that a defensive tackle can have in the present day NFL.
The importance of defensive tackles is slowly being phased out in this era of 3-4 defenses, heavy passing, and specialty one- or two-down defensive lineman.
Combine the limited opportunity to make a noticeable impact with the difficulty it takes to play the position, and you have a recipe for a severe letdown.
The fact is that there is so much more coming at a defensive tackle in the NFL that isn’t coming at them in college. The blocking schemes in the NFL can be both frustrating and overwhelming to a young tackle.
No matter how great a defensive tackle may be, they can most always be contained and schemed for with an offense’s style of play and game plan.
And just actually how important is a great tackle to great defense anyways?
For example, even though Kris Jenkins went down midseason last year with an injury, the Jets were still able to finish as the best total defense in the league, and ranked eighth in rush defense. Plus, they were able to make a run to their first AFC Champinship game in years.
Jenkins is considered one of the top defensive tackles in the league, and yet his absence was felt marginally by his defense.
That isn’t to downgrade the importance of defensive tackles; it’s just to put it in perspective.
Depending on the defense, having a quality defensive tackle can be just as an important as an offense having a quality quarterback. A defensive tackle can be the centerpiece to a defense and can open things up for other players to be successful.
Still, as we’ve seen in recent drafts, finding a great defensive tackle can be a tough proposition. Having one top DT turn into a dominant force is a difficult. So for two to pan out and outperform mighty high expectations seems questionable.
The last time two defensive tackles went in the top three was 1992, and Steve Emtman was involved.
I don’t have to tell Colts fans how that one turned out.
Point being that Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh do look like great prospects, but we might have to temper our expectations when it comes to the type of impact they will make in the NFL.
A few magazine covers is one thing, but let's slow down on carving their headbusts for Canton.
We've created some large expectations for these two rookies to deal with. They have mighty big jerseys to fit into, both literally and figuratively, this coming season.