x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

NFL draft: A boom or bust affair

The NFL draft is like an oasis in the desert for American football fans. but it's unwise to pass a snap judgement.

Jim Plunkett, the No 1 pick in the 1971 draft, had a slow start in his NFL career, but went on to win two Super Bowls.
Jim Plunkett, the No 1 pick in the 1971 draft, had a slow start in his NFL career, but went on to win two Super Bowls.

The NFL draft is like an oasis in the desert for American football fans. After the Super Bowl we spend months dissecting the star college players that our team may select. It is the one day all teams are even. It is the day you pray your team does not select a player who turns out to be a bust. In 1998, the San Diego Chargers took Ryan Leaf, the quarterback, with the second overall selection. Leaf was signed to a multi-million dollar contract and proceeded to play absolutely awful during his two short seasons as a Charger. Leaf has become the poster boy for the NFL draft bust. By the way, the player drafted ahead of Leaf in 1998 was Peyton Manning.

With the 2010 draft upon us, we should define what makes an NFL draft bust. Here are the top three criteria: * You must be taken in the first round. First-round picks get most of the media attention and get paid the most. If you are taken in Round 2 and beyond, you can be a disappointment if your NFL career does not work out, but that is not bust-worthy. For example, Tim Tebow, the Florida quarterback is expected to be drafted in Round 2. If he somehow gets selected in Round 1, he will be judged on a different level as a professional.

* You cannot fail with one team and then go on to succeed with another. The New England Patriots drafted Jim Plunkett, the Stanford quarterback, No 1 overall in the 1971 draft. Plunkett flamed out after five sub-par years in New England, but became a very good player with the Oakland Raiders later in his career, even winning two Super Bowls. He was on his way to being a huge bust, but he worked his way out of it.

* You must miss many games because of injury. I feel bad when players get injured, but as fans we still declare them a bust. My Chicago Bears drafted Curtis Enis, a running back, No 5 overall in 1998 and he was out of football because of an injury just two years later. After this weekend, the sports media will jump on the winners and losers of the 2010 NFL draft. Even though none of the draftees have taken a snap, some will grade which teams got it right and which teams messed it up. Better slow down, folks, because we will not know the answer to that for quite a while - and I don't mean a few games into this coming season, I mean a few years into this decade.

The NFL draft must be given time to see how it develops. Look at the 2007 draft for instance. The first pick was Jamarcus Russell, the quarterback, which seemed like a good choice then. Now you have to think the Raiders wish they went with running back Adrian Peterson or defensive back Darrelle Revis. Eli Manning was flirting with being a draft bust after being picked first overall in 2004, now he is a Super Bowl MVP winner after a stunning upset of the perfect Patriots. History makes it very clear; a rush to judgement right after the NFL draft will not render an accurate ruling. Just like playing quarterback, it is all about patience in the pocket. sports@thenational.ae

St Louis Rams Sam Bradford, quarterback, Oklahoma. Missed most of last year with a shoulder injury, but showcased his passing skills enough as a junior. Detroit Lions Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle, Nebraska. May be the most dominant defensive lineman in a generation. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle, Oklahoma. More speed than Suh, but not as powerful. Washington Redskins Eric Berry, defensive back, Tennessee. The complete package - the speed to cover and the size to tackle. Kansas City Chiefs Russell Okung, offensive tackle, Oklahoma State. Needed protection for QB Matt Cassell.