Friday, April 24, 2009

The best 2009 NFL Draft grade goes to...

Minnesota. Or Jacksonville. Or Tampa Bay. Or maybe Buffalo. Dallas, perhaps?

Because predicting who'll get the most out of their draft class a day before the event is about as reliable as predicting it the day after the draft.

Consider this article, from ESPN's 2005 draft archive, titled "Solid drafts move Cardinals, Vikings forward," which provides us with the following excerpt:

The Vikings got playmakers on both sides of the ball in the first round, surprising some pundits by choosing wide receiver Troy Williamson over Mike Williams and adding to a fast-improving, young defensive front with pass-rush end Erasmus James. But the Vikes not only started fast, they finished nicely as well, adding "value board" prospects such as offensive lineman Marcus Johnson (who could replace right guard David Dixon), corner Dustin Fox (a potential "nickel" contributor as a rookie) and tailback Ciatrick Fason. If coach Mike Tice is as serious as he claims to be about returning to the power run game that Minnesota abandoned in 2004, Fason could be a factor.

Ciatrick Fason wasn't a factor anywhere except maybe in the unemployment line. Dustin Fox I barely remember; Troy Williamson and Erasmus James I want to forget. And Marcus Johnson just signed with the Raiders a month ago.

Didn't know that? Neither did I, until I read this article, titled "Vikings aim to flip lesson of '05 flops."

Seven players were taken by the Vikings that spring, and four years later, as the team prepares for another draft, none remain.


Obviously, the Vikings have done a much better job of improving their team via free agency the last few years than through the draft. Jared Allen was our pseudo-#1 pick last year and played better than any rookie would have and, Fred Smoot aside, our big-name free-agent or trade targets have panned out reasonably well or better. The draft is important (and finding Adrian Peterson helps), but it's not the only way to build, and, with the salaries commanded by top-of-the-draft, unproven rookies, its arguably not even cheaper any more.

(Meanwhile, what about the Cardinals' 2005 draft? Antrel Rolle looks like the only truly useful player in that bunch. The ESPN article goes on to question Seattle's "reach" for Lofa Tatupu and Denver's pick of Darrent Williams, who looked good in his two years in the league before being shot and killed in 2007.)

So, just keep in mind when you see "Draft grades" and other immediate post-draft coverage that the "experts" have about as good an idea as how a team's draft picks will pan out as you do. Of course, that won't stop me (and everyone else) from giving our views on the best and worst picks, especially for our chosen teams, next week. But as long as you acknowledge it's more fun than serious, you'll be all right.

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