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Time Will Tell

Posted Apr 28, 2010

The 2010 NFL Draft is now in the rear view mirror and there is one 3-word phrase that should be used to assess the performance of each of the NFL’s 32 franchises: Time will tell.

But instead of casting such a time-tested and wise judgment on teams and their draft choices, many football experts and observers will cheer or jeer the 1st-round selection, compliment or criticize the move to choose a WR over a DB, and laud or denigrate the overall effort.

And in much the same manner that a 1st-round draft pick can fail to deliver on his potential, these swift and presumptive judgments can be failures as well.

To illustrate the danger of assigning a grade to a team’s draft effort too soon, take a look back at the Vikings 2005 draft. The team’s first 5 picks were Troy Williamson, Erasmus James, Marcus Johnson, Dustin Fox and Ciatrick Fason. By the 2008 season, only James and Johnson remained with the team, while Williamson (traded), Fason (cut) and Fox (cut) didn’t see their careers pan out with the Vikings. James has had his career interrupted by injuries and was traded to Washington; Johnson wasn’t able to grab and keep a starting job along the offensive line.

But you wouldn’t have thought such a fate would follow the Vikings 2005 draft class after reading opinions offered by many in the national media.

One national publication gave the Vikings an A , saying “No team came away with more talent. Troy Williamson will ease the loss of Randy Moss.” Another publication gave the Vikings a B , saying “Marcus Johnson will solidify the offensive line and running back Ciatrick Fason has the potential to be terrific.”

On the flip side, the 2006 draft and reaction to it can also illustrate the risk involved in casting a final judgment too quickly after a draft.

Five of the Vikings 6 draft picks from that year remain on the roster, with DE Ray Edwards, LB Chad Greenway and CB Cedric Griffin comprising 3 important pieces to the defense’s core. OL Ryan Cook is perhaps the team’s most versatile lineman and QB Tarvaris Jackson remains a work in progress.

The 2006 class is a productive one. Five of the 6 remain – 3 of them are starters - and the team can win with all 5 guys playing regularly. But what was said about the class immediately following the draft?

Local reaction from fans and media wasn’t too harsh, but one national publication gave the Vikings only 1 star out of 5, even calling Greenway an “overachiever” at the time.

Ultimately, a quick judgment of a team’s draft effort has the chance to be accurate, but it’s far more likely that a mischaracterization will occur. What we can learn from looking back at previous drafts and the reaction from fans and media to those drafts is that time will tell. Some players develop quicker than others, some suffer injuries and some change positions. There are just too many factors that come into play, which is why authoring a water-tight judgment on a team’s draft effort only moments following the conclusion of the draft is a bad practice.

Remember, time will tell.