The annual post-draft analysis of analyses

By Homer J.

“Can’t Act. Can’t Sing. Slightly Balding. Can Dance a Little.”

That’s how the guy who gave Fred Astaire his Hollywood screen test rated the greatest hoofer of all time. The debut performance of Debussy’s timeless “Clair de Lune” was described as “ugly to the ears,” by the most respected Parisian critic of the time.

When George Gershwin’s beloved “Rhapsody in Blue” premiered at Aeolian Hall in New York in 1924, New York Tribune reviewer Lawrence Gilman was less than overwhelmed. “How trite, feeble and conventional the tunes are; how sentimental and vapid the harmonic treatment, under its disguise of fussy and futile counterpoint! … Weep over the lifelessness of the melody and harmony, so derivative, so stale, so inexpressive!”

“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 Porky’s 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, Webster.

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.

Let that be a warning to all of us as we try to make sense of this year’s picks, as surprising as they are. 

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 revered 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 QnA, 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.”

When I first posted this piece back in 2011, I referred to Dan as “the late, great Dan Cordtz and ended it by saying, “Dan’s gone now, but his answer still stands with so much of the post-draft analysis.” Much to my surprise and delight, Dan personally corrected me with an e-mail response that my report of his death was premature. 

Dan was last reported alive and well at age 91 and living in Florida. And Homer, thus chastened, reminds everyone that it is dangerous to assume anything and that – in the final analysis – all those draft report cards still don’t mean shit. 

Thanks so much to Homer for this reminder to all of us to hold our fire—and, for that matter, our over-the-top enthusiasm—for guys who have never played a snap of NFL football, even in OTAs. Time will reveal all. Mel Kiper and his ilk get paid to sound like they knows what he’s talking about, but it shouldn’t fool us into thinking they know any better than anyone else how any particular player is going to develop….

9 comments

  • A little bit of knowledge is always a dangerous thing. The fans and the experts create a consensus of a range of possibilities and then are shocked, shocked I tell you, that the organization, you know, those folks who actually make their living working these problems, and usually requite themselves pretty well, don’t behave according to the narrative. Living in the Nation’s Capital, a friend helpfully pointed out that of the numerous statues and other memorials that decorate the city, only one honors a critic (Will Rogers). The others speak to those criticized.

    It certainly is possible that the Steelers brain trust are completely overrated idiots, or, more soberly, simply misguided in this particular instance and ignoring what to the mob is divine wisdom. On the other hand…

    As Homer points out, I would counsel holding our fire in evaluating the draft for about three years. I am still waiting for the mea culpa from all the so called talent experts and fans why they never called out the teams in real time concerning the travesty of allowing transcendental talents such as Tom Brady and Antonio Brown to fall to the sixth round on their draft days (I believe the correct answer would be that they had no idea). At best, attempting to accurately predict the future given all the unknown and uncontrollable variables is treacherous business at best; at worst, foolishness. If you understand it for the parlor game it is, an entertainment and conversation starting exercise, than no harm is done. Give it time and see how it all works out.

    What tickles me is that it appears that they turned the ‘move Shazier to safety’ argument on it’s head and are going to use actual safeties to replace Shazier.

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  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    I must be a very dangerous person because I truly have very little knowledge.

    I am beginning to enjoy the strange draft choices the team makes when they end up taking my expectation and turning it on it’s head in ways that I hadn’t considered. Just as I start drinking the kool-aid of the naysayers, someone points out something that was obvious to Colbert, Tomlin and the rest of the folks involved in the drafting but was outside our radar range. It is glorious.

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  • Well, I learned nothing of the Steelers draft picks, but I did learn that there is a memorial to Will Rodgers here in in the National Capitol Region, which is good.

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  • Speaking of “experts”, didn’t Kiper say Clausen would be great by now and that if he wasn’t, he would retire?

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    • He did. We all heard it or saw video of it. Kiper lied- for the money and to keep his job. For that and for hairdo maintenance. It may be cheap living in Charm City, but ya gotta eat, and keeping up that thing on top of his head can run you into big bucks – even in the hairdo capital of the world.

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  • There are things we can glean from this draft. Chiefly we can see what time horizon the brass is looking at when they do the draft. They are not looking at this season. They are looking at next decade as in 2020’s.

    Second thing is Colbert continues to grow in his expertise and savvy of football strategy. There are a multitude of ways to play good defense and the best way is to find a market inefficiency.

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  • Greetings. I was traveling and working like a mad man during the draft, so I’ve largely been out of it. Like Ivan, I’d agree that if you really want to grade a draft, you wait several years. I’d argue you REALLY need 5 years, but you can make a lot of meaningful observations in years 3 and 4.

    The key question around this draft, at least as far as the first round pick is concerned, is are we seeing the beginnings of the Tom Bradley effect? He’s a coach from the college ranks and one of the things that the Steelers themselves touted was that he could help with evaluation.

    And let’s be honest, Colbert and Tomlin’s record in drafting in offense is better than on defense, and particularly on defensive backs (See Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown and Shamarko Thomas.) If we read the tea leaves correctly, Tom Bradley was very big on Edmunds.

    Now do good college coaches make for good NFL talent evaluators?

    I have NO idea what the record suggests. I suppose some do (Jimmy Johnson) and others don’t (Steve Spurrier.)

    Carnell Lake’s tenure as defensive backs coach and the so called “Lake Effect” generated a lot of sound and fury. As a coach, I think his record is mixed (William Gay and Keenan Lewis were success stories, Cortez Allen and Shamarko not so much.) But I always wondered about his talent evaluation skills, even if I concede that I don’t really know how much influence he had on picks.

    So I hope that Tom Bradley’s evaluations on Edmunds and Marcus Allen turn out to be correct.

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    • We can certainly hope the Tom Bradley effect on talent evaluation and coaching ’em up is better than the other Tom Bradley effect, the one in politics and political polling.

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      • hombredeacero

        LOL. You know when I wrote that, I wondered who might pick up on my usage of the “Tom Bradley Effect” and made a mental bet that it would be you!

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