The annual NFL Draft. It’s the great unknown in sports.
A good GM can build up a franchise and subsequently keep his team on top by finding key players yearly in the draft, like Green Bay has done over the past decade.
Meanwhile, a bad draft or two can sink a team’s fortunes for a number of years. (Remember 2009 and 2010 drafts, Jets fans? Exactly. Let’s blame everything on them.)
For every can’t-miss prospect, like the five-time MVP Peyton Manning, there’s another selected right behind him (remember Ryan Leaf?) that flames out in less than three years. For every sixth-round success like Tom Brady, who’s been tearing up the league for a decade and a half, there’s thousands of others who are cut before ever seeing the field.
It’s a crapshoot. But it’s an exciting one to witness. (That is, as long as you don’t mind listening to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. for 10 minutes between picks.)
This year’s class isn’t considered to be very deep. Some analysts see only six sure-fire prospects to be had and that doesn’t include Heisman-winning quarterbacks Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota—the two biggest question marks of the first round.
But we won’t know for at least a few years how deep this draft really is.
Looking back five years ago, the draft was loaded. If you had a high pick in 2010, you likely added a star player.
The first seven picks that year were Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams, Eric Berry, Russell Okung, and Joe Haden. These seven picks have a combined 16 Pro Bowl selections and five All-Pro honors between them. Only the talented, but oft-injured Bradford has yet to pan out.
Meanwhile, already eight of that year’s 32 first-round selections, and 13 players in all, have been named All-Pros. Five of those 13 (Suh, Earl Thomas, Maurkice Pouncey, NaVorro Bowman, and Rob Gronkowski) have earned the yearly honor multiple times.
In terms of Pro Bowl appearances, 32 of the 255 players selected have been voted to the season-ending All-Star game—enough for every team to get one. (FYI, the Jets have none.)
The biggest steal went to the Pittsburgh Steelers who nabbed WR Antonio Brown in the sixth round (195th overall pick) out of Central Michigan. Brown, who led the league in receptions (129) and receiving yards (1,698) this past season was subsequently rewarded with his All-Pro selection and his third Pro Bowl appearance.
Conversely the draft can be a disappointment. Just look at 2009.
One-time Pro-Bowl QB Matt Stafford was selected first overall by the Lions. After him it was seven straight swings and misses before Green Bay took fellow one-time Pro Bowler B.J. Raji with the ninth pick. In fact, not until Clay Matthews was selected 26th overall by Green Bay (again) was the first All-Pro found.
Six years later, only five players in the entire draft have been named All-Pros and only one of those (LeSean McCoy) has been a multiple recipient.
It ranks lower than even the 2005 class—the same one where Aaron Rodgers fell all the way to the 24th pick before—you guessed it—the Green Bay Packers snatched him up as well.
So for Jets fans, since we have the sixth pick, let’s hope that either this year’s class is as talented as the 2010 version, or we consult Green Bay before choosing.