This Thursday the NFL will begin its annual draft with the first round. Friday will be Rounds 2 and 3, Saturday 4-7. By Sunday morning most football sites will have their draft grades for each team.
Don’t believe a darn word of them.
As I researched this article, I could not find one draft expert who liked the Seattle Seahawks draft last season. Most (no exaggeration, almost every single one) gave them their absolute lowest grades of all 32 NFL teams.
At the end of the season the grading was the complete opposite. Almost every single evaluator gave the Seahawks rookie class the absolute top grade.
Immediate results have become much more important in the NFL as fans and owners are showing little patience with coaches and players. Drafting for the future is a luxury very few teams can afford. Win now or look for another job somewhere.
Three teams, the Cardinals, Bears and Chargers, had their drafts rated highly last April only to have their head coaches let go once the real talent of the players became evident.
The Chiefs needed help, thought they got some but in reality received none. Their coach was sent packing. No one expected much out of the Jaguars draft. They were right. Say hello to a new coach there, too.
Some teams drafted well, but still not good enough to save the coach. The Bills and Eagles drafted some real contributing players. None the less, those players will now be playing in a different system than they were drafted into.
The Cowboys drafted for needed defensive help and got some. Not enough, evidently. They have a new defensive coordinator this season.
A few teams had poor drafts that had no real detrimental effect on their performance. The Broncos got very little help out their draft but were a knocked down miracle pass away from going to the conference championship. The 49ers had the worst draft in the league but were a play away from winning the Super Bowl.
Most draft evaluators aren’t rating a team on how they drafted. They rate a team on if drafting the way they (the one evaluating) would have drafted.
When Bill Walsh was running the show for the 49ers, I cannot remember a draft when the 49ers were given a high grade afterward. Five Super Bowl wins later, Walsh’s ability to evaluate talent can speak for itself. But in the days after each draft, no one thought that was the case.
Many teams get the benefit of the doubt just because of who they are. Bill Belichick will still be called a genius no matter who he picks. The Steelers have a long list of success dating back to the 70’s, but not so much lately.
Even the best evaluators can have a run of bad picks. The Colts Bill Polian built his team from nothing to a consistent contender and eventual champion by picking Peyton Manning, Edgerin James, Dwight Freeney, Dallas Clark and Marvin Harrison.
His last few years with the Colts weren’t so productive however with picks like Anthony Gonzalez, Tony Ugoh, Jerry Hughes and George (I know its Anthony. He just plays like George.) Costanza. (I know its Costanzo, he just….oh never mind.) Meanwhile, Polian is now with ESPN.
Those great Steeler teams of the 70’s were famous for being built through the draft. The ’74 draft produced four Hall Of Famers, Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. Meanwhile the ’73 and ’75 drafts gave them almost nothing. That’s the way it goes.
No matter if you think your team drafted well, poorly or in between, you won’t really know until August at the earliest. Even then it might not mean much for this season. I’m a Steelers fan and we picked Limas Sweed a few years back. They still made it to a couple Super Bowls. If you can overcome that, anything is possible.