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April 20, 2001

by Bill Hogan



The San Diego Chargers management has a better chance of getting struck by lightening than using their number one (overall) draft pick to select a future Hall of Famer.

Ten past number one (overall) picks have had Hall of Fame careers. There are 211 current HOF members. Do the math. I know, when John Elway, Bruce Smith and Troy Aikman become eligible, the number will rocket to thirteen.


My point is, the draft is a crapshoot. Nobody, least of all "expert" analyst Mel Kiper Jr., knows which players will succeed and which will fail. (More on Mel, later).

Letí flash back:

November 28, 1964 Ė The New York Giants, with the first pick in the draft and the need for a running back, select Auburn RB, Tucker Fredrickson. Brilliant choice!

The San Francisco 49erís are next and also need a running back Ė they select UNC FB, Ken Willard. Outstanding!

The Chicago Bears are now on the clock holding the third and fourth picks of the first round. With their hopes of getting a quality running back dashed, they go with a linebacker from Illinois named Dick Butkus. WHO?

The Bears are still on the clock. With Fredrickson and Willard gone, they "roll the dice" with the number four pick and select a halfback from Kansas Ė Gale Sayers. Doh!

November 29, 1956 Ė Quarterbacks are selected with the top two draft picks this year. Two hundred picks later, in the 17th round, the Green Bay Packers gamble on a little known signal caller from Alabama named Bart Starr.

Bart Starr: 1966 NFL MVP, Super Bowl I MVP, Super Bowl II MVP, 1977 Hall of Fame Inductee.

January 27, 1955 Ė Suffering from a serious shortage of quality quarterbacks, Notre Dameís Ralph Guglielmi is the only one selected in the first round. The Washington Redskins take him with the fourth pick.

It was nothing short of genius when, in the 9th round, the Pittsburgh Steelers chose Louisville QB Johnny Unitas (he was the 102nd player picked in the 1955 draft). What a coup for the struggling Steelers!

It was something short of genius when the Steelers cut Unitas before the í55 season. The Baltimore Colts gave him a shot in 1956.

Johnny Unitas: Led Colts to 1958 and 1959 NFL Championships, three-time NFL Player of the Year, 1979 Hall of Fame Inductee. Arguably the NFLís all-time greatest quarterback.

Thereís a lesson to be learned from this stroll down memory lane. You never know.

* * * * *

Prospective players are scouted, timed, measured, poked, prodded, analyzed, observed, interviewed and graded. And, if thatís not enough information, they also take an intelligence test!

Intelligence test? I think the person who came up with the idea of making football players take an intelligence test should have his or her head examined.

Can you see Dick Butkus, Ray Nitzke or Lawrence Taylor sitting down with a number two pencil, trying to calculate the hypotenuse of a triangle? Not a chance.

Lawrence, If Walter Payton is at the fifty and running down the sideline, and youíre standing at the fifty in the middle of the field, is Walter going to score? Answer: "Iíll rip his head off at the fifteen".

Congratulations, LT, you just calculated the hypotenuse of a triangle!

Intelligence test? Iíd love to see Mel Kiper, Jr. describe his first round "sleeper" like this: "Well, heís not fast, heís not strong, got no vertical leap, was injured most of his college career, doesnít work or play well with others, but hell, he aced that intelligence test!"

* * * * *

In 1944, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Norm Michael, a fullback from Syracuse, in the 18th round. Michael was delighted when he heard the news. 55 years later. (You can read more about this at www.espn.com).

The NFL draft has become so hyped that, not only is it impossible to get selected without knowing it, but the chances are, Mel Kiper, Jr. will know the name of your childhood dog!

There are hundreds of web pages dedicated to the 2001 draft. Every prospect at every position is analyzed and scrutinized by the "experts". Sports television and radio shows feature the upcoming draft daily. ESPN will have complete coverage of the first three rounds this Saturday.

So-called "experts" will "predict" the order of the draft. They will pontificate every possible draft scenario for every team on the clock and revel in delight at every correct prediction.

But, what are they predicting? Are they using their vast knowledge base to uncover the next Walter Payton? NO! They are predicting the obvious. It doesnít take a brain surgeon to identify a teamís positional needs. Itís not an act of genius to identify the best prospects at each position.

Mel Kiper, Jr. has his own web page at espn.com. In his bio, he boasts that his "pre-draft predictions are frequently the most accurate in the business, often as much as 80 percent correct on first-round selections"

Iím not impressed. I have a friend who is a stat-rat and a huge Giants fan. He can tell me who the Giants need and who they will most likely select.

Iíd be a hell of a lot more impressed if Mel will identify which of the 2001 draftees will be among the 2020 Hall of Fame inductees.

You can keep your prospect database, Mel. What it takes is a crystal ball and a lot of luck.


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