Homer J.’s Annual Draft Analysis Post

2-1qnatp3by Homer J.

“Can’t act. Can’t sing. Can dance a little.”

That’s how the guy who gave Fred Astaire his Hollywood screen test rated the greatest hoofer of all time. Debussy’s timeless “Clair de Lune” was described as “ugly to the ears,” by the most respected Parisian critic of the time. “Fiddler on the Roof” was described as “nothing special” by the Variety stringer who reviewed its off-Broadway opening. And Rex Reed and most of the other jerks who review movies panned the greatest movie of all time, “A Christmas Story.” (They just hated producer Bob Clark, because he did those Porkys movies and Reed would never know what to do with a Red Ryder BB gun, anyway).

But my favorite review of all time was Vito Stellino’s review of the Pittsburgh Steelers 1974 draft in the Post-Gazette.

“The Steelers seem to have come out of the first five rounds of the draft appreciably strengthened at wide receiver but nowhere else. They didn’t get a tight end. They didn’t get a punter. They didn’t get an offensive tackle who might’ve shored up what could well become a weakness. What they did get was Swann, who seems to be a sure-pop to help; Lambert, who figures to be the No. 5 linebacker if he pans out; and three question marks.”

Guess he didn’t think much of that Stallworth kid or that 5th round pick out of Wisconsin, Mike Webster. Unquestionably the greatest draft of all time, with four future Hall of Famers, but one of the top football writers in the country wasn’t at all impressed. You never know. Great picks can meet with awful misfortune, like Gabe Rivera or the Penguins’ Michel Briere. A tragic car crash ended Rivera’s career. Another ended Briere’s life. So many other seemingly great choices have met with career ending injuries.

Often a great quarterback choice ends up with a terrible team, and is beset by injuries because the team can’t protect him. Other good quarterbacks—guys like Matt Cassell—have the luxury of sitting on the bench and developing behind great quarterbacks….and they become great value when they are either plugged in to sub for the injured star or traded away for a first or second round draft pick.

And sometimes, guys who look good in college turn out to be great when the hit the pros. Yep, you really can “coach ’em up.” And guys in the locker room play a big part in attitude adjustment.

The Steelers didn’t get their punter in the 1974 draft, but they actually did get a tight end named Randy Grossman who today is the proud owner of four Super Bowl rings.

The NFL Player Selection Meeting (draft) is sort of like Christmas, are we are all like Ralphie – waiting to see if we got our Red Ryder BB gun or that shutdown corner we’ve been asking Santa to bring. We love it. It’s fun, and it’s fun to see what the other kids got. But I never forget Vito Stellino’s instant analysis of the greatest draft ever. And, remember, Vito was a helluva football writer.

And when I read and hear the pronouncements of all the “experts” on the blogs and on NFLTV and ESPN, I recall the wisdom of the highly respected ABC News economics correspondent, Dan Cordtz. Every so often, Dan would come in to do radio reports on the latest jobless figures or factory output numbers. Really boring stuff, but sometimes very important. He would do a 30-second report, giving the numbers and a brief explanation. Then we were required to do an informal Q&A, where he would explain the figures in layman’s language.

Invariably, my question to Dan would be, “what’s it all mean, Dan?” And invariably, the bald-headed, moustachioed sage would do a countdown and give the same answer, “Three, two, one,…..It don’t mean shit.” 

Dan’s retired now, but his answer still stands with so much of the post-draft analysis.

(This is Homer’s annual analysis of NFL Draft Analyses. It was first published in BTSC 2011, and it still stands, except that Cassell didn’t become that great a QB. The draft grades the self-proclaimed experts give still don’t mean shit.)

Thanks so much to Homer for this reminder that not all of these shiny new toys will work the way they are supposed to, and that maybe that unregarded package from the very back of the pile—you know, the one with the unimpressive wrapping job, the slightly battered box, containing, God forbid, a book, will turn out to be the one that brings you joy year after year, long after some of the more exciting-looking things have been consigned to back of the toy box. It’s also worth remembering the expert analysts who were falling all over themselves over the splendid draft the Steelers had just aced—in 2009…

13 comments

  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    First I don’t get either of my ponies, one of which I now realize wasn’t all that good and now you tell me my shiny new toys are all that good and the shine is just temporary! You are a mean man when you haven’t had your breakfast beer.

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    • cold_old_steelers_fan

      I really need to do a better job of proofing my responses… “my shiny new toys are NOT all that good” is how that portion should have read.

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  • There’s also the idea that you think you got your Christmas pony and it turns out you didn’t. Two noteworthy examples of that were the mid-round choices of Alameda Ta’amu and Frank Summers. Some people had been clamoring to draft Ta’amu in the second round. We traded up and picked him in the fourth, sending Steeler Nation into boundless joy. And Frank the Tank was a huge fan favorite before the draft, and getting him was another really big deal. Ta’amu had personal problems and didn’t develop as quickly as hoped, and ended up at Steelers West. The Tank actually started the first game of his rookie season, but didn’t pan out here either, and ended up at Buffalo. By the way, the Redskins used the pick they got from the Steelers in the Ta’amu deal to pick a second quarterback in that draft….Kirk Cousins. The pony that they mortgaged away the future to get in the first round – RG III – turned out to have a gimpy leg. They didn’t shoot him, but they sent him to Cleveland, which is about the same thing. You never know.

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    • “They didn’t shoot him, but they sent him to Cleveland, which is about the same thing.” Isn’t it the truth? Cleveland—destroying quarterbacks since 1999…

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    • hombredeacero

      Funny you should bring up Ta’Amu. I remember that one of the ironies of the 2012 draft, was in some of the most impressive footage of David DeCastro showed him absolutely manhandling Ta’Amu.

      Honestly, I don’t remember a ground swell for Ta’Amu, but that means squat as I don’t follow college football.

      But I do remember people stopping just short of proclaiming him as Casey Hampton’s successor…. It didn’t quite work out that way.

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  • And what were people saying about Ross Cockerall when he came out? Isn’t it great that Homer can write something five years ago, don’t put it in the freezer, but leave it on the kitchen counter and when you come back it is neither spoiled or stale?

    We are now in that space where teams are being graded on whether they faithfully took the advice of con artists and dilettantes who swear they know better than those whose livelihoods, mortgage and college payments rest on the results. As Dale Lolley pointed out this weekend, we are now in a good position to evaluate the results of the 2013 draft. If they did, these ‘experts’ (professional and fan alike) will not be required, as Hombre likes to say, show their work. Lucky for them.

    The good news is that we can now loosen our grip and stop holding our breath. The mock draft tsunami of 2016 is finally over. Though no doubt there are a few out there who almost certainly are in the process of being the first in their neighborhood to foist the first 2017 mocks on a starving public. In the meantime we will amuse ourselves with declarations of success or failure before any of these newcomers have been, in the words of special teams coach, Danny Smith, issued their first pair of Steelers shorts.

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    • hombredeacero

      You know, mock drafts are fun. But you have to take them for what they are – an exercise in fun. The problem is A. When you take them too seriously and/or B. When they proliferate to the point where they take on a life of their own.

      Playing General Manager for a day is fun, and there’s nothing wrong with it, as long as you hold yourself accountable. How often do you see Mel Kipper say, “You know, I had him rated as a 6th round talent, and he was a Hall of Famer, and since then I’ve gone and back and tried to see what it is a missed about… Antonio Brown/Tom Brady/Terrell Davis.” (Ok, maybe he does do that, I live outside the US so I haven’t seen Mel in YEARS, as ESPN Deportes doesn’t show him, and much of ESPN’s live streaming via the web is blocked in this part of the world.)

      As for the proliferation of mock drafts, that’s a simple function of were/are discussion in your article about your vacation. Sadly, the model for profitability for sports internet sites is to carpet bomb with content, and mock drafts are low hanging fruit.

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      • Kiper does, at least once a year, state that the one thing no tape can show is effort, personality, and willpower. Brown’s measurables and tape pegged him as a 6th rounder. But every head coach says his players have great effort….AB just followed up on it.

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    • cold_old_steelers_fan

      I think Homer uses irradiation.

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  • Good article. I always get a chuckle when the BTSC crowd has their mock draft in their signature, or plays GM and second guesses Colbert and Tomlin for making the selections they do. Of course, I’m sure those same arm chair GMs had in-depth interviews with the draftees in question, called their college coaches directly, and got to analyze every facet of their college tape with a room of full-time professional football people too.

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    • hombredeacero

      Again, I don’t have any problem when a blog takes issue with a coaching or personnel decision. I remember when the Steelers cut Isaac Redman. Almost all, if not all, Steelers writers whom I know, both bloggers and pro’s took it as a ho hum decision and didn’t think twice about it, let alone question whether it was a wise one.

      I thought the decision was strange and, barring more information, thought it was a mistake given his track record. Didn’t suggest the guy was Fast Franco Bettis or anything like that, but thought he’d proven himself to be a good number 2 back.

      Well, I was wrong. Redzone Redman’s days as a rusher were over but there was more to the story. As we now know he was injured and had been injured since training camp (and the Steelers apparently didn’t take the injury seriously enough to put him on IR…..)

      My point with that example is that to question is healthy.

      The problem is when both journalist and/or bloggers don’t cop to their own fallibility.

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    • Oh, good heavens! I hope they aren’t missing any meals while researching and preparing these vital early mock drafts.

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