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Get Ready For The Meaningless Draft Grades

In roughly a week from right now, the so-called experts will begin to issue grades to each team based on the picks they’ve compiled in the 2009 NFL Draft. We can issue our own grades right now -- they all get an Incomplete. It’s impossible to determine once the draft ends whether the players who were drafted are going to be any good. So it’s likewise impossible to issue grades to the teams who have taken them. And we have some hard evidence to support our view. A league source has found and forwarded to us Mel Kiper’s grades from the 2005 draft. History proves that Mel’s effort as to some teams deserves an F-minus. Here’s what Mel said regarding the Bengals, in giving them an A-minus grade: “Defensive end David Pollack and linebacker Odell Thurman were teammates at Georgia and are immediate upgrades for the front seven on Marvin Lewis’ defense. The Bengals helped the offensive line with another pair of teammates, center Eric Ghiaciuc and tackle Adam Kieft from Central Michigan, and thanks to his great physical attributes receiver Chris Henry is a good gamble in the third round despite some character questions. Fellow wideout Tab Perry was a sensible pick in the sixth.” Pollack was limited to one season, due to injury. Thurman was limited to one season, due to an inability to avoid substances of abuse. Henry turned out to be anything but a “good gamble.” Ghiaciuc remains unsigned after the expiration of his rookie deal. Kieft didn’t appear in a single game in two seasons and wasn’t tendered as a restricted free agent. Perry also left the Bengals after three seasons, with no RFA tender offer. He signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins, suffered a season-ending injury four days later, landed on injured reserve, and currently is unsigned and unemployed. The Vikings got a B-plus, with this explanation: “The Vikings targeted speed on their board and they definitely got it with wide receiver Troy Williamson, who wowed Minnesota enough that the Vikings passed on Mike Williams. Defensive end Erasmus James gives them much-needed help up front, guard-tackle Marcus Johnson will solidify the offensive line and running back Ciatrick Fason has the potential to be a terrific steal in the fourth round. Dustin Fox is a good cornerback and defensive tackle C.J. Mosley is a motivated overachiever.” Um, in hindsight, the effort should be given an F-minus. Williamson was a colossal bust, as was James. Fason, the guy who could have been a “terrific steal,” was taken two spots after Brandon Jacobs and three after Marion Barber. Fason is long gone -- the other two became stars. (And when Fason was drafted, Darren Sproles was still on the board.) When Marcus Johnson left Minnesota for Oakland recently, it left the Vikings without a single member of the Class of 2005 on the roster. Mel also gave a couple of teams lower grades than what they should have received. Here’s how he supported giving a C to the Patriots: “Guard Logan Mankins was a reach in the first round but the Patriots obviously like his size and nastiness, and he will help fill the void left by Joe Andruzzi’s departure via free agency. Ellis Hobbs has good size but not enough skill to be more than a nickel back, and safety James Sanders was a teammate of Mankins at Fresno State and both were helped by the relationship between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Fresno State coach Pat Hill. Tackle Nick Kaczur could play guard as well but came off the board a little early and Matt Cassel is a big project at quarterback.” Mankins, the “reach” in round one, has started every game in his career and has become an anchor of the offensive line. Kaczur has likewise been solid. And to the extent that Cassel was a “big project,” he turned out a lot better than Peter Brady’s volcano. Mel’s biggest blunder might have been his assessment of the Bolts. He gave the Chargers a C for what still could become a ’74 Steelers type of draft: “I like end/linebacker Shawne Merriman as an addition to the pass rush, but the rest of the players the Chargers selected were taken a little early. Defensive tackle Luis Castillo did not have a first-round grade and receiver Vincent Jackson was a reach in the second round as the Chargers were desperate to add a receiver. Darren Sproles should be a nice situational back who can also return kicks, but the remainder of the players San Diego took were more toward the undrafted free-agent category.” Um, Merriman has been one of the best players from a bust-filled 2005 first round, and Castillo has become a very good defensive lineman. Jackson is developing into an excellent option in San Diego’s supercharged passing game, and Sproles has shown that he’s much more than a “nice situational back,” as that franchise tag confirms. Look, we’re not saying that we expected Kiper to be able to divine the future the morning after the 2005 draft ended. Our point is that he shouldn’t have tried. No one should. Instead, grades should be handed out like we recently did for, issuing a “pass” or a “fail” to the first-round picks three years after the fact. Or as Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe recently did for the entire 2006 draft. Still, if someone wants to predict prematurely the ultimate outcome of a process that, on a pick-by-pick basis, is a complete and total crapshoot, it’s their prerogative. But it’s basically a game of Russian roulette -- without, you know, the potentially fatal consequences.