Sunday, April 26, 2009

Time will tell if this Bills draft class makes the grade

The perspiration hadn't even evaporated on this NFL draft and a friend wanted to know what grade I was giving the Buffalo Bills.

"Incomplete,'' was my response.

More than a quarter-century of covering pro football has taught me that is the grade you should always give out immeidately after a draft. Talk to me in a few years and I'll be happy to give you a grade on the Class of 2009.

I'll give you two reasons why these instant draft assessments aren't worth the shellack Mel Kiper Jr. uses to hold his Tarzan hair in place.

One of the reasons is named Mike Williams. You remember Big Mike. Taken by the Bills with the fourth overall pick in 2002 draft, the walking solar eclipse was a can't miss offensive tackle. People throughout the league called it a brilliant pick. Sadly, I was among the blind. I parrotted what every other so-called expert was saying.

Well, we all know what happened there. Big Mike became the biggest draft bust in team history, with the ramifications of that personnel whiff still being felt by a franchise in search of a competent offensive line.

The second reason I hesitate to pontificate about drafts that just occurred is named Tom Brady. Even Bill "The Genius'' Belichick wondered if Brady had the stuff to play quarterback in the NFL, waiting until the sixth round - a draft position normally reserved for clip-board-holding QBs - to select Gisele's hubby.

The point is, despite the millions on top of millions on top of millions that NFL teams spend on investigating these pro prospects they still get it wrong an awful lot.

And I'm cool with that because it tells me that no one has come up with a test to truly measure the athletic soul. There's a human element to this that's still not quantifiable. I hope it always stays that way.

So, my warning to all of you NFL crazies is to not get too ecstatic or too bummed out about your team's recent draft picks.

Just remember how wrong all the experts were about Mike Williams and Tom Brady - the bust and the guy who will one day have a bust at the Hall of Fame in Canton.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: I was there at the new Yankee Stadium for Opening Day, and I'll have a review of The House That George (Steinbrenner, not Ruth) Built later this week.