Tales of NFL Draft Picks Past: Why Predictions Mean Nothing
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Last week, we used the 2007 NBA draft to show how silly the hyperventilating can be when it comes to projecting basketball players’ prospects. It’s just as much of a crapshoot in the NFL draft, perhaps even more given the greater likelihood of injuries in football.
So yes, we can all be intrigued by this year’s question of which team chooses Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and which team selects Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
But here are a few cautionary tales from drafts gone by of local players to remember before anybody concludes that college numbers translate into pro success, or that draft position means much of anything for a player’s future.
With the third pick in the first round of the 2002 draft, the Detroit Lions chose … an Oregon quarterback who competed seriously for the Heisman Trophy long before Mariota won it last year, and a quarterback who lifted the Ducks to unprecedented heights and a program-defining Fiesta Bowl win over Colorado. And with the 64th pick deep in the third round of the 1973 draft, the San Diego Chargers selected … a record-setting Ducks quarterback of his era but one whose Ducks’ teams never won more than six games.
The Lions’ first-round selection? Joey Harrington, whose unquestioned iconic status in Oregon football history never translated to the NFL where he played six seasons with four teams and ended with more interceptions (85) than touchdowns (79). The Chargers’ third-round choice? Dan Fouts, who made the NFL Hall of Fame after 15 seasons, all with the Chargers.
With the 61st selection of the 2012 draft, the San Francisco 49ers chose … an Oregon running back who rushed for more than 1,500 yards in three consecutive seasons, while averaging 6.6 yards per carry. With the 54th overall choice in the second round of the 2002 draft, the Seattle Seahawks picked … an Oregon running back who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in two straight seasons, while averaging 4.8 yards per carry for the Ducks.
The 49ers’ second-round pick? LaMichael James, who barely played last season for Miami after asking for his release from San Francisco after just 41 carries in three seasons. The Seahawks’ selection in the second round? Maurice Morris. While Morris never became an NFL superstar, he far exceeded the league’s career actuarial standards by playing 10 seasons with the Seahawks and the Lions.
With the third pick in the first round of the 1999 draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected … a Ducks quarterback whose single-season success was topped only recently by Mariota. With the 33rd overall selection down in the second round of the 1981 draft, the then-St. Louis Cardinals chose … a Portland State quarterback who amassed huge numbers but largely against inferior college competition.
The Bengals’ first-round selection? Akili Smith, whose record-setting Ducks days meant little in the NFL. In four abysmal seasons, he only completed 46.6 percent of his passes, with only five touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The Cardinals’ second-round choice? Neil Lomax, who played at Lake Oswego High before going to PSU. Despite injuries and playing for middling teams, Lomax made two All-Pro teams in eight NFL seasons.
With the 109th selection in the fourth round of the 2004 draft, the Buffalo Bills picked … a first-team all-Pac-10 selection from Oregon State. With the 153rd pick in the fifth round of the 2007 draft, the New York Giants chose … a tight end from small-school Western Oregon.
The Bills’ fourth-round pick? Tim Euhus. He caught just 14 passes in four seasons.The Giants’ fifth-round selection? Kevin Boss, who played at Philomath High School before heading to Western Oregon. Despite his small-school status, Boss racked up a respectable 150 catches in his NFL career and played a key role during the Giants’ Super Bowl run in 2007.
So what do these tales – and many others from Ryan Leaf to JaMarcus Russell – prove? That there’s not much point worrying where Mariota goes compared to Winston or vice versa. The true tale begins long after next Thursday.
Related Slideshow: Reactions to Mariota Winning The Heisman
Mariota was an inspiration in his home state. He further validated the Oregon football program," Tim Rohan wrote. "And he has become viewed as the N.C.A.A.’s ideal student-athlete, especially after character issues in part defined the previous two Heisman winners, Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel."
I have no idea if Mariota will make it as a pro quarterback; of all the alchemical sciences, quarterback evaluation has become the most confounding to me," Weinreb wrote. "Given Mariota's prodigious accuracy (he's thrown six interceptions in the past two years), intelligence and ability to run and throw with an equal measure of grace, I have to imagine he has a good shot."
"The sample size is small and the results are mixed when determining whether the reigning or current Heisman winner has an edge in head-to-head matchups," Sonnnone wrote. "In the previous two instances, a national title has been on the line, so the Jan. 1 semifinal will fittingly determine whether FSU or Oregon makes it to the national championship contest against the winner of Alabama-Ohio State."
"My ballot, in order, was Marcus Mariota, Amari Cooper and Melvin Gordon. I though there were the top three players in the nation, and that was before I went and looked at their statistics," Dohn Wrote. "In choosing Mariota first, it was based on watching him play, and his ability to make the correct reads and throw the ball with tremendous accuracy while playing at a high level."