To Gauge A Draft's Success, Ignore The Current Bluster

April 23, 2009|By David Steele

Presenting the 2008 Ravens draft report card. Not the usual draft report card since, you'll notice, it's coming a year after that draft, not five minutes after. More accurately, this is a report card on the report cards done right after the Ravens finished selecting last April - which, no matter how absorbed you get in them, are the one offshoot of the NFL draft that is as pointless as the mock drafts.

Of course, report cards and mock drafts do serve to turn the NFL into a year-round league, drive interest to an artificially high pitch and steal attention from more deserving sports events, like the first weeks of baseball, and the NBA and Stanley Cup playoffs. How noble that calling is, is up for debate.

But how useless is it all? The Ravens' 2008 draft was largely panned by the instant graders, mainly because it was believed the Ravens reached to take ... Joe Flacco.

At the time, USA Today gave the Ravens a C, because it was "anyone's guess" how Flacco's skills could translate from a small school to the NFL. CBSSports.com gave them a C+; the maneuvering the Ravens did to secure Flacco, trading down from eighth overall to 26th and then up to 18th, "baffled" the grader. Sporting News also went with C+, calling the move to get Flacco "a major risk."

Sports Illustrated, which used a different, nonletter-grade scoring system, put Flacco in the lower third of the first-round picks: "The negatives attached to Flacco make this pick risky considering the composition of the Ravens' locker room." Added the magazine's legendary Paul Zimmerman, "I don't think Kyle Boller is in trouble - yet."

Yahoo! gave them a C, citing NFL history that says tall quarterbacks "generally aren't very good." The same with Fanhouse (then AOL Sports), a C, plus the warning on Flacco that "it will be years before we know how well he works out."

Elsewhere, in all sorts of publications and Web sites, there were lots of C's, and uses of the words "reach," "gamble" and "risk." Notable amid all this: wide disparity, leaning slightly toward negativity, about Ray Rice in the second round.

This is not to thumb the nose at those who couldn't possibly have known how Flacco or Rice would play and how they fit with the Ravens. It's to thumb the nose at the idea that anyone could know that within minutes, or hours, or days, of the selection.

One year isn't even a fair distance from which to judge. On the Ravens Insider blog (baltimoresun.com/ravensinsider) colleague Jamison Hensley has graded last year's Ravens picks. Imagine that, grading NFL draft picks after actually seeing them play in the NFL. Still, the consensus for real evaluation is three years, meaning that the draft worthy of scrutiny now is not '08, but '06.

Hensley's grade for the Ravens' overall 2008 draft is B. Flacco gets an A. It makes sense right now. After the 2011 season, it might all look different, for all sorts of reasons. Ask Vince Young and Jay Cutler about that.

In 2006, meanwhile, the Ravens traded up to get Haloti Ngata, then took Dawan Landry in the fifth round and Sam Koch in the sixth. Then again: David Pittman in the third.

So which grades are more valid - the ones given after five minutes, or after 1.6 million minutes? It's your call.

Listen to David Steele on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Thursdays at 9:30 a.m. on Fox Sports 1370 AM.

nfl draft

When: Saturday (rounds 1-2, 4 p.m.), Sunday (rounds 3-7, 10 a.m.)

TV: ESPN, NFL Network

Ravens' picks:

1st round: 26

2nd round: 57

3rd round: 88

4th round: 123

5th round: 162

6th round: 198

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