The Sky Is Not Falling, 2011 Draft Edition

With the 2011 draft now behind us, it would appear that Seattle will lose every game next year. Yep, that’s right, every single game. Cancel your season tickets, put your jerseys back in the closet, and go back to watching your 2005 season highlights DVDs, ‘cause the only topic left for us to discuss is whether the Seahawks should fire their entire staff today, or whether they should have fired all of them the second they failed to use the 25th overall pick on one of the top names that were still left on Mel Kiper’s Big Board™.

At least, that’s what many of the draft experts1 want you to think. Personally, I’ve always thought it was a bad idea to decree a team a failure before it even has a chance to step on the field, but maybe that’s just me. I mean, if reality actually looked like some of these post-draft predictions, then Brian Bosworth would be in the Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner would still be stocking grocery store shelves, and Ryan Leaf would need to buy tickets for two seats every time he got on a plane: one for himself, and a second one for his collection of Super Bowl rings.

Which brings us to Trent Dilfer’s rant, with which most of you are probably already familiar. Usually, I like Dilfer’s commentary; for all his faults as a player, he’s become a decent analyst who does his best work when he’s breaking down game tape and analyzing quarterback play. But this idea that the Seahawks “absolutely whiffed” in the 2011 draft because Mel Kiper and Todd McShay disagree with their decisions? Trent, you done stepped in it this time.

Here’s the deal: the Mel Kipers and Todd McShays and Bleacher Reports of the world seem to forget that they aren’t the only game in town when it comes to grading college talent. Back in the old days, when it was common for NFL executives to base their draft decisions on articles they read in Street & Smith2, Dilfer would have been justified in suggesting that the draft experts might know the college players better than the teams. However, that all changed in 1942 when the Eagles showed up to the draft with 64 notebooks filled with $8,000 worth of research on potential draft picks3. By the end of the decade, Philadelphia had gone to three straight championship games and the rest of the NFL had decided that their might just be something to this whole scouting thing.

Teams don’t pay all those scouts and front office personnel to sit on their hands and wait for Mike Mayock to unveil his first mock draft of the season. Believe it or not, they earn their salaries by evaluating college talent themselves. They watch game film, attend practices, interview coaches, conduct background checks, etc., and they do all this nonstop for months at a stretch. Granted, some teams still manage to be terrible at drafting no matter how much money they give their staff, but in general I tend to believe that a player evaluation done by a team of professional scouts is somewhat more trustworthy than one done by a self-anointed draft expert working on his own.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there’s no such thing as a surefire draft pick. No matter who is doing the evaluating, the end result of all those hours of research is a mere prediction, an educated guess as to a given player’s potential to succeed. Countless franchise cornerstones-to-be have failed miserably in the pros because of injury, underachievement, incarceration, or straight-up brain death, while plenty of fringe guys have gone on to have some pretty successful NFL careers.

So, now that I’ve worked all that ranting and disclaimering4 out of my system, tomorrow I’ll take a look at the potential of Seattle’s 2011 draft class.  I hate to leave you all hanging like this, but I’ve got a child I need to take to a doctor’s appointment.  Believe me, I’d rather stay here and write.

1 In Kiper’s case, I’m using the term “expert” rather loosely. As you might notice as you continue to read, I do not like him terribly much.

2 No, really. Tom Bennett, The Pro Style, page 35.

3 Bennett again, also on page 35. The Pro Style has been out of print for the last few decades, but if you can hunt down a copy it’s an interesting read.

4 Yes, I know the correct word is “disclaiming,” but it’s far less fun to say.