Commentary

Not feeling the NFL draft

Updated: April 21, 2010, 4:44 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, and Gerard WarrenGetty Images, ICONTim Couch, Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren were drafted by Cleveland between 1999 and 2002. All fans, not just Browns fans, need to reserve judgment on the NFL draft until the players actually play.

Last April, after I clicked off two bloated days of the NFL draft, my wife looked up from her book and said, "Who won?"

There are many, many reasons to be a draft dodger, but the best one is in that question: At the end of it, nobody wins.

It's like reading a novel with the last chapter torn out, watching a movie with no third act, falling in love after the first kiss but before you've tried her spaghetti.

It's like "The Sopranos." Entertaining, but the ending sucked. Me, I like endings, winners, losers, results. So let's get some results, shall we?

Let's look at the drafts from 1997 to 2007. (2007, you'll recall, was 20 years after Brett Favre first started considering retirement.) Here's how many Pro Bowl years those draft picks have had since:

  • Indianapolis Colts 37

  • Pittsburgh Steelers 35

  • Dallas Cowboys 34

  • Seattle Seahawks 31

  • Philadelphia Eagles 27

  • Chicago Bears 26
  • Minnesota Vikings 26
  • Baltimore Ravens 25
  • New England Patriots 24
  • Washington Redskins 23
  • Green Bay Packers 23
  • San Diego Chargers 22
  • Arizona Cardinals 22
  • Carolina Panthers 20
  • New York Jets 19
  • Denver Broncos 19
  • St. Louis Rams 19
  • Atlanta Falcons 19
  • Kansas City Chiefs 18
  • Cincinnati Bengals 18
  • San Francisco 49ers 18
  • New York Giants 18
  • Oakland Raiders 16
  • Miami Dolphins 15
  • Tennessee Titans 14
  • New Orleans Saints 13
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers 12
  • Buffalo Bills 10
  • Houston Texans 10
  • Jacksonville Jaguars 9
  • Cleveland Browns 7
  • Detroit Lions 4
  • What slaps you across the face is that the Indianapolis Colts used the draft to climb out of their spider hole of the 1980s and 1990s to become a gorilla in the AFC, and not just with Peyton Manning (10 Pro Bowls). DE Dwight Freeney (5), RB Edgerrin James (4) and WR Reggie Wayne (4) were genius picks, too.

    What slaps you harder is that the Cleveland Browns could've done the same thing, but they screwed the Chihuahua. Their run of No. 1 picks from 1999 to 2002 is the single worst stretch of drafting since the Iraqi Republican Guard. Were they using an Ouija board?

    1999 -- Tim Couch, QB: first pick of the draft, 0 Pro Bowls, out of the league after five seasons. But hey, he married a Playboy Playmate. Bust marries bust.

    2000 -- Courtney Brown, DE: first pick of the draft, 0 Pro Bowls, didn't marry Playmate.

    2001 -- Gerard Warren, DL: third pick of the draft, 0 Pro Bowls. And they passed up LaDainian Tomlinson!

    2002 -- William Green, RB: 16th pick of the draft, 0 Pro Bowls. Now your server at Applebee's.

    The Oakland Raiders are not last on this list, but I don't see how. Between 1997 and 2007, Al Davis had 14 very high picks and got only three first team All-Pro seasons out of them. He could've done better using a blindfolded chicken. Or even Matt Millen.

    What really bugs me is how smug all these people will be about every pick. They're always grinning and puffing out their chests and spouting stuff like, "Look, we knew we had to move up and steal a 10-year starter in this league. This ain't our first rodeo."

    I like to clip and save these quotes for years later, when the final score is finally in.

    The whole NFL draft is this wonderful 77-float parade that goes past the first judge's stand and right off a cliff. We never hear the other shoe drop.

    Here's a sample:

    • "I think the consensus of opinion is that two guys like [Manning and Ryan Leaf] don't come along very often. If we're going to be successful in getting that type of quarterback, we're going to have to give up something, and we really did." -- San Diego Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard in 1998 after taking Leaf with the second overall choice. He was right about giving something up. He gave up his job two years later, in 2000, the same year Leaf was let go.

    • "We just didn't think it was worth it." -- New York Giants GM Ernie Accorsi, in 2000, on not trading up to get RB Jamal Lewis (who is one of only six backs to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season) and instead picking RB Ron Dayne, who was riding pine within months.

    • "This may be one of the best picks we've ever made." -- Giants coach Jim Fassel, on Dayne, same day.

    • "I think we made a great pick. To be a championship team, you need playmakers on both sides of the ball and we can do that with Courtney." -- Couch, on draft day 2000, talking about Courtney Brown. Takes a playmaker to know one.

    The whole NFL draft is this wonderful 77-float parade that goes past the first judge's stand and right off a cliff. We never hear the other shoe drop.

    If the draft really is worth all the hype and hair and, this year, red carpets (oy!), we should at least have a little follow-through. Here's my simple proposal: On the sleeve of every jersey, instead of the player's number, put the player's draft order number. For instance, Tom Brady would wear 199. Roger Staubach would've worn 129. Joe Montana: 82.

    And then you could look over at the bench and see all the 1s and 7s and 13s, doing nothing except hogging the heater space.

    The NFL draft comes off as though the story ends after the last pick, as though the movie ends the moment Dorothy's house lands on the witch; put on your coat, the movie is over, THE END.

    What it really is, of course, is THE START.

    Unless you're Cleveland.


    Love the column, hate the column, got a better idea? Go here.
    Want more Life of Reilly? Then check out the archive.
    Be sure to check out Rick's latest project, "Go Fish."

    Rick Reilly | email

    Columnist, ESPN.com