Booms and Busts Coming Draft Day

As we near the draft, every first rounder is viewed as a can't-miss prospect. The reality is that as many are busts as are major contributors. Let's stroll down draft memory lane to 1998, when Randy Moss came to the Vikings and a lot of signing bonus money was wasted elsewhere.

On draft day, everyone is an expert. You're convinced that the player you took is going to be the real deal and everyone else must have been nuts to let him slide that long. But, in the end, it's the heart of the player and finding the right situation that makes a star.

It is also said that you can't truly judge a draft until four or five years after the fact. So, for the sake of argument, let's do that. The year was 1998. Randy Moss was a troubled youth playing for Marshall University and the NFL wanted no part of him. Although he was clearly a first-rounder, he was drawing comparisons to Jerry Rice as having that much God-given ability. Yet, he slid all the way to the Vikings at No. 21.

What did the experts have to say back then? The two acknowledged draft gurus of the day – ESPN's Mel Kiper and the late Joel Buchsbaum of Pro Football Weekly weighed in on positional players and the results were somewhat disconcerting with hindsight as a guide. Examine the following:

QUARTERBACK – While both rated Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf, which, if you recall was a hot draft question before the picks were made as to who would go No. 1, neither rated Matt Hasselbeck in their top 20. Both had Leaf, Charlie Batch and Brian Griese in their top five, as well as a bevy of trivia answers (including Mike Bobo of Georgia) ahead of Hasselbeck. Five years later, Hasselbeck is a starter and nobody remembers Mike Bobo.

RUNNING BACK – Who was seen as the biggest can't-miss prospect in the Class of '98? Curtis Enis, who wallowed with the Bears. Fred Taylor was next – at least he's performed well (when healthy). The next list of blue chippers was Robert Edwards, Robert Holcombe, John Avery and Skip Hicks. Ugh! Oh, by the way, on the third round an "overrated" prospect from Nebraska got taken – Ahman Green.

WIDE RECEIVER – We all remember Randy Moss, but do you remember he wasn't the first wideout taken? That was Kevin Dyson. Nice choice, Tennessee. But at least they didn't take Marcus Nash or Tony Simmons – high picks that were simply anemic and taken two rounds ahead of Hines Ward.
MIDDLE LINEBACKER – It was a strong class in '98 that included Keith Brooking and Takeo Spikes. But Vikings fans will remember who was ranked as the No. 3 LB in that class – Kivuusama Mays, who ended up with the Vikings. Who did uchsbaum and Kiper have rated lower than K Mays? Jeremiah Trotter. Oy vey.
CORNERBACK – What a year for corners! Charles Woodson and Duane Starks were the blue-chippers from the group, but even budget conscious teams got their money's worth. Not even cracking the pre-draft top 10 CBs were Patrick Surtain and Samari Rolle, both of whom have gone to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, while higher-rated players like Cordell Taylor and Artrell Hawkins went to Hawaii on their own dime for vacations.

What does all this mean? Even the experts aren't right when it comes to projecting NFL stars on draft day. For every Ahman Green, there are three John Averys, which is why every pick is important and, although many in the TV, radio and print media think the draft is over after the first round, you never where your next stud player is coming from.

* First it was New Orleans. Now it's Chicago jumping on the Dewayne Robertson bandwagon. A VU Bears source told us Wednesday that G.M. Jerry Angelo was raving about Robertson and that the Bears are considering taking him over Jimmy Kennedy on draft day. It's starting to look more and more like the Vikings will have to move up to have a crack at him.
* From the Don't Quit Your Day Job Department comes this: USA Today puts out a weekly publication formerly known as Baseball Weekly. Trying to cash in on the rising popularity of football, where showcase games don't end in ties, in 2002 it changed its name to Sports Weekly. However, baseball is obviously its forte. If you get a chance, check out this week's edition. It printed out the 2003 NFL schedules as well as the prime time games on ABC and ESPN. Who's playing at the Metrodome on a Sunday night game in Week 2. According to Sports Weekly, it's the Bears at the Twins!

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