Draft advisory board usually on the mark
Plight of DE prospect Warren notwithstanding, committee does credible job
In an interview with the New York Post over the weekend, former Michigan defensive back and underclassman prospect Donovan Warren said he felt somewhat misled by the NFL's draft advisory board in its pre-draft evaluation of him.
"They told me I would get drafted, and drafted pretty high," Warren told the Post. "It was definitely shocking and eye-opening when I didn't get drafted after that."
Uh, welcome to the real, eye-opening world, kid.
As good as the advisory board has been in recent years -- and the numbers suggest the committee, which analyzes the bona fides of underclassmen in the talent pool, has done an estimable job -- the draft remains what it has always been.
An inexact science, subject to, well, human subjectivity at all levels.
Young men who forfeit their final season of college eligibility, and there are those who do so for some noble reasons, do so at their own potential peril. My personal attorney has long advised me that every decision should be an informed decision. But the mouthpiece always earns his three-figure hourly rate by declaring that, and no matter the amount of input and information from outside sources, the decision is ultimately my responsibility.
According to the NFL, here are the figures, since 2000, for the number of underclassmen in the draft and how many were selected:
Are there a few calls, in hindsight, for which I'd love a mulligan? You bet. But life doesn't offer many do-overs, so the best course is to move on.
Which is precisely what Warren should do, too.
Of the 53 underclassmen eligible for the 2010 draft, seven went undrafted, and arguably the most prominent of those was Mississippi quarterback Jevan Snead.
"There really are no regrets," said Snead, a strong-armed passer who probably would have been better served returning to Ole Miss for his senior year. "At the end of the day, it's on you, no matter what someone or some committee might tell you."
Said former Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer, projected by some draftniks as a borderline first-round pick, but who slipped to the sixth round: "There's a lot of 'He said this' and 'He said that.' But the only truth you get is where they pick you, and then you've just got to make the most of it."
To his credit, Warren insisted he had no regrets about his decision, but conceded that he does "have a chip on [his] shoulder."
That's good, because he'll need it as a New York Jets free-agent signee.
Neither of the advisory board members who returned calls Monday revealed the grade Warren received from the six-man caucus, typically comprised of personnel chiefs, general managers and scouts. One personnel man did offer, not for attribution, that he was "a little surprised" Warren wasn't selected, but added that his grade probably wasn't as lofty as the player perceived it to be.
According to the league, the advisory board does offer an "informed, realistic assessment of a player's draft potential." But the NFL cautions that the committee's evaluation "is only an opinion, and is not to be considered binding in any way, or a guarantee that a player will be drafted in a certain round, or at all."
The committee isn't supposed to take into account things like the ankle injury Warren sustained last season or his pedestrian 40-yard time (4.65 seconds) at the combine.
If Warren feels the committee struck out in its evaluation of his skills, the advisory board actually has a pretty good batting average in recent years. Not every underclassman applies to the board, of course, because for some prospects (largely first-rounders), their draft status is self-evident. Nor is there any way of discerning just how close the committee has come on its evaluations with the actual round in which a player is chosen.
Still, the numbers look pretty good.
Only three times in the past 10 draft classes have there been fewer than five underclassmen selected in the first round; never in that stretch has there been less than four. In the past four springs (counting this year's draft), 80.7 percent of underclassmen (155 of 192) have been drafted. After hitting 70 percent on underclassmen just once (2004) in the first 18 years of the current system, more than 72.5 percent of the players in the underclass pool have been chosen each of the past four years.
The percentage for 2009 was an all-time high (89.1 percent, 41-of-46) and this year's 86.8 percent mark was the second-best ever.
Early predictions were that this would be the largest underclassmen group in history, because of the specter of a rookie salary scale when the NFL and NFL Players Association finally get together on an extension to the collective bargaining agreement. But the 53 players represented only the fifth-biggest underclassmen collection. Certainly the advisory board wasn't overwhelmed this year by the volume of work to which it was subjected.
Warren probably wishes the group had parceled out more time for watching his film. But the board is still governed by the old NFL adage that "the film doesn't lie," so that likely wouldn't have helped.
What will help is temperament. It seems Warren, a collegiate corner whom the Jets will convert to free safety, already has a good head start on having a bit of a 'tude.
"Every day I go out there," Warren said, "I've got something to prove."
That was always the case, whether Warren believed it or not. But he certainly believes it even more now.
Len Pasquarelli, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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