Always Draft a Hall-of-Famer

We don't yet know what to make of Demarcus Ware, the outside linebacker selected by the Cowboys when the club decided against moving down from the No. 11 spot that netted him.

But we know this: We love that they decided against moving down from the No. 11 spot. Because the key to draft success is drafting superstars. And the surest way to do that is to nab ‘em high.

We'll wait until the Cowboys and Ware get out of the gym-shorts period of the year – what we have longed called "The Underwear Olympics'' – and into pads before we fully judge the player. But we needn't wait before we judge the strategy, as it is based on a long-held Fish Philosophy (it's on Page 113, Rule 247 of Mike Fisher's Little Purple Book of General Managing):

Draft future Hall-of-Famers.

OK, I know, it's not that easy. Who the heck knows which piece of raw collegiate meat is going to be marinated into a superstar?

Well, I am certain of this: There are such finds in virtually every draft, which belies the wobbly annual "this is a weak draft'' copout. After all, supply and demand dictates that there will be stars in every generation, and in the NFL, generations turn over almost yearly.

And I know this: You don't find better players by moving down. You find MORE players, but not BETTER players.

So, do you buy it? That SOMEBODY in the 2005 NFL Draft is going to be a stud? Because SOMEBODY in every draft is?

Let's take a glimpse at, say, 1988 to 1999, to see if future Hall-of-Famers were there for the plucking:

In 1988, Neil Smith, Tim Brown, Sterling Sharpe and Michael Irvin were taken in the top 11. That's four superstars in the first 11 slots.

In 1989, Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders were four of the top five picks. Four Hall-of-Fame finalist-types.

In 1990, Junior Seau was fifth and Emmitt Smith 17th.

In 1991, Brett Favre was 33rd and Aeneas Williams was 59th.

In 1992, we can find no one in the first three rounds who qualifies.

In 1993, Willie Roaf was No. 8 and Jerome Bettis No. 10.

In 1994, Marshall Faulk and Willie McGinest were top-four picks. Later came Issac Bruce (33) and Larry Allen (46).

In 1995, Steve McNair was No. 3, Warren Sapp No. 12 and Ty Law No. 23.

In 1996, Eddie George was 14, Marvin Harrison 19 and Ray Lewis 26.

In 1997, Orlando Pace was No. 1 and Tony Gonzalez No. 13.

In 1998, Peyton Manning was No. 1 and Randy Moss No. 21.

In 1999, Donovan McNabb, Ricky Williams, Edgerrin James, Torry Holt, Champ Bailey, Daunte Culpepper and Jevon Kearse were in the top 16. (Wow!)

Are there morals to this story? Sure. I know I'm asking a lot to demand my NFL team somehow sniff out Emmitt Smith's greatness before he goes 17th, Ray Lewis' greatness before he goes 26th, and Brett Favre's greatness before he goes 33rd. I know that no scout should be fired for underperforming in 1992, inasmuch as no great players emerged from the first day. And in 1999, I know that if I owned both the Cowboys and a time machine, I'd re-do that Ebenezer Ekuban (No. 20) mess.

Yeah, yeah, it's an inexact science and all that crap, but. … looks to me like a team that has a chance to pick in the top five, the top 10, the top 15, had better exercise that opportunity. … because THERE ARE SUPERSTARS THERE!

And maybe you can get a Larry Allen at No. 46. But a surer bet comes if you take an Orlando Pace at No. 1. Hey, maybe you can luck out with a superstar on the second day. But you will seem "luckier,'' I say, if you somehow have two first-round choices and you USE them.

None of this assures that the Cowboys have in Demarcus Ware a future Pro Bowler, a future superstar, a future Hall-of-Famer. We don't know yet if the Cowboys got the right guy.

But we do believe that in not "cleverly'' sliding down, in not trying to exchange a premier draft slot for multiple non-premier slots, in not attempting to exchange quality for volume, the Cowboys did the right thing.

Mike Fisher is the editor of www.DallasBasketball.com and hosts a daily sports-talk show, "Fish For Lunch,'' noon-to-3 on 990 Texas Talk Radio (990am in North Texas, and www.990texastalkradio.com on the web.) Contact him at Fish@DallasBasketball.com.

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