The 2008 NFL Draft teaches some lessons to the 2012 version

My! My!  How time flies!  Seems like only yesterday we were going through this period four years ago; College All-Star games, NFL Combine evaluations, Pro Day performances and preparations for Free Agency circa 2008.

Star after Star

The 2008 NFL draft brought us the Atlanta Falcon’s Matt Ryan and the Baltimore Raven’s Joe Flacco.  The St Louis Rams acquired Chris Long and the Arizona Cardinals took Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  The Miami Dolphins grabbed Jake Long and the Tennessee Titans selected Chris Johnson.

Then the Chicago Bears found Matt Forte in the 2nd round and the Philadelphia Eagles, 2 time Pro Bowler DeSean Jackson.

The Class of 2008 has much to be proud of as it seeks its own Free Agent opportunities beginning March 13th.  Wow, those players were “slam dunks” and most immediate contributors.  In fact how could anyone have missed on such entering talent?  Ryan, Flacco, Long and Long.  Rodgers-Cromartie, Johnson, Forte and Jackson.  These have been “staple” names every Sunday for the last four seasons.

How about Gholston, Hardy, Sweed and Brohm?

Wait, who?

Vernon Gholston, James Hardy, Limas Sweed and Brian Brohm.  Come on, every one of those players was projected 1st round to a high 2nd round selection.  They played the All-Star games, ripped through the Combine and dazzled us at their Pro Days.  All were projected in the top 40 to 50 picks, we’re talking around 10% of the “can’t miss” prospects of 2008.  Gurus and pundits had them climbing the boards as late as “days” before the start of the 2008 NFL draft.

Gholston, Hardy, Sweed and Brohm – Let those four names serve as a warning for the pre-draft overhype and multitude of mocks coming out over the next few weeks.  Not only did the experts get it wrong, so did the clubs, and we’re not talking the normal “down the liners”.  The New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers were members of this illustrious group, along with Mel Kiper, Mark Mayock, Pat Kirwin and Todd McShay.  The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated should be called out as well.

What the “heck”?

So how does that happen?  Why do the very sources that many NFL fans turn to for guidance so blatantly miss on high profile players from Ohio State, Texas, Indiana and Louisville?  How could NFL GM’s & Personnel Directors the caliber of Ted Thompson, Kevin Colbert, Mike Tannenbaum and Tom Modrak “bust” on such valuable picks?

I’ve warned about the momentum and synergy that builds around NFL player evaluations, the process and effect it can have on individual clubs.  I’ve sat back this past week and watched the words “skyrocket” and “flying up” used to describe the ascension of players on draft boards as a result of a fast 40, strong showing in the bench press or even a likeable media interview.  NFL front office executives are just people and can easily be swayed into the “group think” phenomena that at times clouded the 2008 NFL Draft, just as it inevitably will at some point with the 2012 version.

Certainly The Football Educator doesn’t have all the answers, but I’ll give you a few educated reasons as to perhaps “why” and “what happened” in my next post.

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