There's no drama in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft (other than seeing whether the Raiders can find a token head case remaining on the board in the second round). We all know what's going to happen, until those late round picks come around and leave us wondering, "Who the hell that is,"and "Where'd they dig up this stiff,"and "California State Polytechnic has a football team?"
The late rounds are where we find our "gamers,"guys who do the "little things"and the real "team players"that coaches love to go over and over with us.
In the last few years though, there have been some players that came out in the late rounds that have made real impacts on their teams. Check out this murderer's row:
Terrell Davis -RB -Georgia -Pick No. 196 -1995, Denver (2000 yard rusher, Super Bowl and NFL MVP, Two Championship rings)
Jay Riemersma -TE -Michigan -No. 244 -1996, Buffalo (Solid contributor with the Bills, now with the Steelers)
Matt Hasselbeck -QB -Boston College -No. 187 -1998, Green Bay (Now with the Seahawks, star of my fantasy football team two years ago, plus the star of a really annoying Qwest commercial. Nothing but upside)
Donald Driver -WR -Alcorn State -No. 213 -1999, Green Bay (Solid offensive number guy that has become a major target for QB Brett Favre)
Mike Anderson -RB -Utah -No. 189 -2000, Denver (Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2000, one of the bright spots on a team that has struggled since the departure of The Man, John Elway)
Tom Brady -QB -Michigan -No. 199 -2000, New England (Has won three Super Bowls, including two MVPs in the big game, and is undefeated in the playoffs)
I mention Tom Brady because he is the greatest single example of how a team can find someone in the late rounds that can bring that team to new heights of success. People have always thought that you must get a QB in the first three rounds; that if the guy doesn't have pedigree (The Manning Bros.) or a big name (Bledsoe, Elway, Marino) he doesn't belong at the top of the list. And maybe that's true. Those guys had great situations that they played in during their collegiate careers (save for maybe Elway, who didn't have a single winning season at Stanford and was still the number one pick in the 1983 draft), but it doesn't necessarily translate into success in the pro ranks.
Look at Ryan Leaf (No. 2 overall pick in 1998; turned out to be a complete nut) and Rick Mirer (No. 2 overall pick in 1993; turned out to be completely talentless), two top QB prospects that faded quickly in the bright lights of the NFL.
Mark my words --- the next Tom Brady has arrived.
The Denver Broncos, with the 25th pick in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft is (should be): Craig Ochs, Quarterback, The University of Montana.
If the name sounds familiar, you either have a very good or a very bad impression of the former Fairview High standout who had two terrific years at Colorado before transferring to Montana and playing inspired football, winning the Big Sky Conference title and leading the Grizzlies to the 2004 Division I-AA National Title game. It's no secret that Ochs will be on the board for some time before being drafted, if he's drafted at all. This is where I convince the powers-that-be that he deserves a shot at the big time.
Six-foot-two inches tall, 212 pounds, terrific arm strength and good pro speed for a quarterback (4.8 40) means he can hold his ground in a rough-and-tumble league. Add another 10 pounds of muscle after joining his first pro team, and he's going to be in terrific shape to face the rigors of a 16 game season. Add in that he's a smart, steady quarterback with high intelligence (34 on the Wonderlic) and good footwork, and he would be a terrific addition to the Predominantly Orange and Blue.
The question comes down to room on the roster, which is only a problem if you let it be. When evaluating draft picks, it's so important for teams to evaluate the positions they already have filled. Matt Mauck, a late-round pick last year from LSU, is an average-armed QB that floats his passes into double coverage.
Tell me if you've heard this one before: Average quarterback leads his team to a share of the National Title in college, then is immediately snapped up by Coach Mike Shanahan as a "steal,"only to be exposed as soon as the season starts. Last time that happened, his name was Brian Griese and thanks to a nasty bump on the head, Shanahan compared the young Michigan project to Joe Montana.
Bottom line, Ochs is more mobile, makes better decisions in and out of the pocket and is a proven leader. His Wonderlic score puts him in good company, near some guys named Elway (score: 30), Steve Young (score: 33), Drew Bledsoe (score: 37), and way above guys like Brett Favre (score: 22) and Dan Marino (score: 16). Not that the Wonderlic is everything -witness Griese's tally of 39 -but it certainly does tell you something (for instance, the rumor that former league laughingstock Ryan Leaf earned a score of 1 in his first shot at the Wonderlic would certainly explain a lot).
The answer is simple. Trade Mauck for a brand new sixth rounder and get the services of the next Tom Brady.
It's a snap.