The NFL draft takes place in just two weeks, which means we’re about to get some severely exaggerated scouting reports from so-called experts in the field of draftology.
In light of that, we figured we’d take a fond look back at some of the most epic scouting report blunders from the pundits of the draft world.
To be clear, we aren’t really intending to rip on these poor souls in charge of prognosticating the unprognosticatable. The draft is a bloody crapshoot, and we all know it. But there’s a market for draft experts simply because fans have an insatiable appetite for forecasts, no matter how unreliable they are.
Here are 10 projections we hope you didn’t take to the bank.
1. Mel Kiper compares JaMarcus Russell to John Elway
“JaMarcus Russell is going to immediately energize that Raider nation,” said Kiper after Russell was taken first overall in 2007. “That fanbase, that football team, on the practice field, in that locker room.”
How do you get past quotes like those?
2. Todd McShay says Blaine Gabbert is better than Cam Newton
Gabbert is now a backup in San Francisco after three horrendous seasons in Jacksonville, while Newton is coming off a breakout season in which he led the Panthers to the playoffs.
3. Mel Kiper says Ricky Stanzi will have the best career among the quarterbacks in the 2011 class
Unfortunately, no video of this one. But Kiper apparently made that statement on an ESPN draft recap show, shortly after Stanzi was taken in the fifth round by the Chiefs. The 2011 class wasn’t exactly superb, but it did produce Cam Newton and Andy Dalton. Three years into his career, Stanzi is a backup in Jacksonville. He’s yet to throw a pass in an NFL game, but he’s still a great American.
4. Mike Mayock rates Mark Sanchez ahead of Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford was the #1 pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, but NFLN expert Mike Mayock placed him behind Mark Sanchez on his big board. Why? Mayock called Sanchez the safest pick because he had a higher floor than Stafford:
I think the safest pick is Sanchez. Sanchez has a very good arm that I would compare his arm to Matt Ryan. And he’s got the best accuracy and footwork amongst the three.
I’ve been very positive on all three of them and I like all three of them. But I wouldn’t bang the table for any of them like I did for Matt Ryan last year. Matt Ryan was my number one guy on the board all year long.
But amongst those three Freeman reminds me of Joe Flacco both on and off the field. And I think if I had to pull the trigger in the top 10 pick with a quarterback I would take Sanchez because I would feel like his floor is higher than the other guys.
Five years later, that high floor has taken Sanchez to being a backup with the Eagles after a boom or bust tenure in New York while Stafford has thrown for at least 4,600 yards each of the last 3 seasons.
5. Mel Kiper predicts Mike Williams will be a Hall of Famer
Kiper apparently told Merril Hoge he’d see him at Williams’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony after ranking the USC wide receiver No. 1 among all players in the 2005 draft. He’d be out of the league three years later, returning only for a short stint as an afterthought with the Seahawks in 2010.
Years later, Kiper admitted that was a big whiff:
Williams was one of my worst evaluations ever. His career is not over, but he’s with his third team (Tennessee Titans) in as many seasons. Someone has to light a fire under Williams, who has been a huge underachiever in the NFL. I thought he was the best player in the 2005 draft, but he wouldn’t justify a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft.
6. Mel Kiper rips the Colts for drafting Marshall Faulk, not drafting Heath Shuler or Trent Dilfer
Technically, he ripped Indy for trading for a second pick in the top five and still refusing to take a quarterback like Shuler or Dilfer. But you get the idea.
“That’s why the Colts are picking second every year in the draft,” he said, “not battling for the Super Bowl.”
Turns out the Colts knew what they were doing.
7. Mel Kiper says Wes Welker isn’t worth a second-round pick
“I don’t care how much you like his work ethic,” Kiper apparently added, “he has done nothing to show a value that high.”
Since 2007, Welker has caught more passes than anyone else in football… by a wide margin.
8. Todd McShay calls the Jets picking Sheldon Richardson “a real head-scratcher.”
"The Sheldon Richardson pick is a real head-scratcher. It's a complete non-scheme fit & Jets have so many other needs" – @McShay13 #NYJPick
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 26, 2013
It’s early, but it’s McShay’s analysis that looks like the head-scratcher. Richardson, of course, went on to win the 2013 defensive rookie of the year award.
9. Mel Kiper ranks Jimmy Clausen as the fourth-best player in the 2010 draft
“I had him as the fourth-best player,” Kiper said in a post-draft conference call, after Clausen plummeted into Round 2. “That’s my rating. That’s my opinion, and I’ll stand by it. We’ll see what happens three years from now.”
Well, it’s been four years, actually, and Clausen appears to be done in the NFL.
10. Nolan Nawrocki rips Cam Newton’s character and calls him a bust
The Pro Football Weekly expert has become the face of particularly harsh draft projections, especially when it comes to quarterbacks in recent years. Some might even call him a troll scout. Nawrocki’s most infamous scouting assessment came when talking about future Panthers QB Cam Newton, who he said would destroy a locker room:
Can provide an initial spark, but will quickly be dissected and contained by NFL defensive coordinators, struggle to sustain success and will not prove worthy of an early investment. An overhyped, high-risk, high-reward selection with a glaring bust factor, Newton is sure to be drafted more highly than he should and could foreclose a risk-taking GM’s job and taint a locker room.
Newton is already a two-time Pro Bowler with a list of NFL records to his name at the start of his career. Not bad for someone with a glaring bust factor.