You are anxiously awaiting your turn to help pick the future of your football team. No pressure right? This is what NFL and NBA teams are faced with for months until the day finally comes when teams are given the opportunity to select a player from college. The teams gather for up to four months before the draft in continuous meetings in the “war room”. The war room is where teams argue, converse, and eventually come to an agreement on what the future plan of their respective teams is. Team’s entire futures can be based on if they pick the best player available. In this paper we will be looking at the players who did not turn out as well as previously thought. So are the highest picks always the best? I do not think so.
So how does the draft work? It is very similar between the NBA and NFL. The only key difference is that the NFL has seven rounds and the NBA has two rounds. The reason is mainly because the NFL’s teams must field a 53 man roster while NBA teams must fill only 12 spots. The order of the picks is determined by the team’s record from the previous year. This is in use only in the NFL. In the NBA, teams enter a lottery. The team with the worst record will have the best chance at the first pick; however this is not a guarantee. In the NBA many times the team with the worst record does not secure the first pick and can end up with the second, third, or so on. The teams are guaranteed at least the 12th pick because only the 12 worst teams are entered into the lottery.
The NBA and NFL drafts are televised live on ESPN. The 2011 NFL draft drew 8.31 million viewers (up 11% from the previous year). The NBA draft drew 6.89 million people, slightly less than the NFL (tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com). The players are announced by the current commissioner that year, so this year’s draft will be announced by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NBA commissioner David Stern. Teams in the NBA and NFL phone into the commissioner who they would like to select and he goes to the podium and announces it. Teams are allowed to trade picks with other teams. They can trade picks for other selections, or they can trade picks for current players. Some trades have a mixture of both players and draft picks.
Now let’s get into specifics. In my thesis statement I asked if the players chosen the highest are always the best. I replied negatively because I believe there have been so many busts as well as diamonds in the rough throughout the years. A bust is a player who is supposed to be of superstar caliber who does not do well in the NBA or the NFL. There have been many, some even the top overall choice in their draft. There have also been players who are supposed to be average at best who turn into some of their league’s best talent. In the upcoming paragraphs I will talk about the players who certainly did not pan out as well as the teams they were chosen by thought they would.
The first player I will analyze is considered the biggest bust of all, Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf. After a phenomenal junior season with the Cougars, he decided to go pro. Many thought he would be one of the greats and should be picked first, but many thought that Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning should go first. It turns out the right choice was Manning. He was picked first by the Colts with Ryan Leaf following him. He went to the San Diego Chargers with high expectations but spent only three horrible years with the team before being traded. He eventually faded out of the league. He wasn’t known for his arm or his stats, but he is known for being lazy, hot-headed, and the biggest bust of all time. (bleacherreport.com)
Let’s take a look at one of the NBA’s biggest busts of all time. The first overall selection in 1998, Michael Olowokandi. The seven foot center came out of an rather unknown school, The University of Pacific. After averaging 22 points per game and 11 rebounds (http://www.ibiblio.org) he was becoming very popular among NBA scouts. Throw in an incredible run in the tournament and he quickly became the highest rated player in the country. When the draft came around the Los Angeles Clippers selected him first overall. After three average and unproductive seasons, he began to show some growth. Averaging 12 points per game in his 4th and 5th season, his career spiraled downwards. In his prime he averaged 4.5 points per game (espn.com) and was released and never again signed, making him one of the biggest NBA busts ever.
Sticking with the NBA, let’s take a look at one of the most popular college players of all time. After averaging 28 points (Gonzagauniversity/athletics/stats) per game in his junior season at Gonzaga and a heart breaking loss to the UCLA Bruins in the NCAA tournament Adam Morrison decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NBA draft. After drawing Larry Bird comparisons he was picked with the third overall selection by the Charlotte Bobcats. Deemed to average over 20 points a game because of his great shooting ability, Morrison struggled to find his range. Even though many thought it was a rookie slump (in which he averaged 8.3 points per game) it continued for the next 2 years. He was released by the wizards before the start of the 2011 season and has gone on to play in Serbia (espn.com). With a career average of 7 points per game and very undeveloped athleticism I consider him one of the biggest busts of all time.
As I look back at the NFL for historic busts, none may have come with as much controversy as Tony Mandrich. At a usually unglamorous position of right tackle, Tony Mandrich was one of the most hyped prospects of all time. Considered “The incredible Bulk” he was known for his inhuman strength, speed and power. Plowing through defensive lineman week after week for the Michigan State Spartans he became the 2nd selection by the Green Bay Packers in 1989. He was drafted in front of three future hall of famers. After a quick rise the fall was just as fast. After discovering the ridiculous amount of steroids Tony used during college he was never the same without them. Being a below average Tackle Tony left the NFL for a couple of years before returning with the Indianapolis Colts for a stint. Tony was never even an average Tackle, but he was projected to be the greatest.
A lack of commitment has not been a problem with all players but it is usually the players who have tons of potential. This next player was a favorite among Michael Jordan who picked him first overall in the 2001 NBA draft. Coming straight out of high school Kwame Brown was full of promise, talent, and hope. The Wizards selected him and expected him to immediately produce. Kwame never really got into a groove becoming one of the biggest laughing stocks in NBA history. Averaging six points per game, and 6 rebounds, Kwame is the definition of unproductive. Kwame is most notably remembered for begging Kobe Bryant to not pass him the ball because he would drop. Kobe then asked the coach to place Kwame on the bench where he belongs.
As you can see the draft can be a very misleading tool for franchises. Scouts must really take time to access many things including attitude, will, and on the field performance. Just because a player makes a great run or has a great season, does not mean he can do it consistently for years to come. Some teams do find luck in the draft though. Teams in the NFL and NBA have found hall of famers in the late rounds, as we will take a look at players who turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
My first example is a player who is currently in the NBA. Manu Ginobli was the 57th pick in 1999 (second to last). He was a young hot-shot prospect from Argentina. Foreign players were a hot commodity in the nineties, and the San Antonio Spurs took a chance on the young 22 year old shooting guard. Standing at 6’6 he was of good height and had a greatly developed jump shot. So why did teams pass on him? Many teams did not like that the 22 year old Ginobli had a 3 year deal with his Argentinean team Estudiantes Bahia Blanc (jockbio.com). If you were to draft him you would have to wait till he was 24 to join the team. Manu looked good to start his career, and was very mature because of his age. Manu became one of the only second round rookies to make one of the two all rookie teams. Averaging a career 15 points, and winning three titles, Manu has had one of the most unexpected and complete careers of all time.