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Why draft grades are meaningless

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You can lead a horse to water, but you can't convince them that the draftee they hate might be an All-Pro.

Al Bello

It's Monday, and the draft is over. You are either extremely excited about how your team drafted, or you're extremely down on your team for how they drafted. Yes, we are all "armchair GMs" around here. We know for certain that Player X fits our system and that Player Y doesn't. We speak in concrete terms that linebacker X will be a bust and safety Z will be a Hall of Famer.

Example: Why in the wide-world-of-sports would the Broncos neglect the linebacker position until the fifth round? And even so, why did they draft an outside linebacker when they so clearly need an inside linebacker (popular sentiment, not my own as I think Nate Irving and Steven Johnson are more than capable).

My point is that we all "know" what is best for our favorite team, and even though we try to be impartial, we all speak in pretty concrete terms about our opinions about how the Broncos drafted.

Back to my opening sentence, "It's Monday, and the draft is over." Now what? Yes my friends, it's time to grade the 2014 NFL Draft.

Ugh, how meaningless is this?

I know I'm not saying anything new here, yet most of everyone who reads this article will have already looked up the Broncos overall draft grades. Why? Why do we do this? Why do we even care? Is it all about instant gratification? Instant bragging rights? Is it for an "I told you so" argument yet to be had? Regardless of the reasoning behind it, we all eventually look up the draft grades as if they mean anything.

To emphasize my point, a few months ago we witnessed the Seattle Seahawks win the Super Bowl. Yes, I'm going there because they are the champs. The Seahawks have a very young core of players who, without them, would have been nowhere near sniffing distance of the playoffs let alone winning the Super Bowl.

What do the Seahawks have to do with draft grades? Well, as it turns out, plenty. Lets take a look at the draft grades handed out to the Seahawks from a few years ago (AKA when they drafted all these amazing players that turned them into a championship team)

Lets start with the "Richard Sherman" draft (2011) shall we? How did that draft get graded? Look below:
ESPN/Kiper: C
Sporting News: D
NBC Sports: B+ (way to go guys, you graded them the highest of any major news site)
Yahoo! Sports: C
Sports Illustrated: B
Fox Sports: D
Rotoworld: B+

The highest grade was a B+, the lowest was a D with a few C's sprinkled in between. Man, can you imagine being a Seahawks fan waking up on Monday morning and reading about how badly the front office bombed that draft and that they wouldn't be any good for years to come because of it? Yeah, looks like draft grades were real important there, right?

So how about the next year, 2012? Y'know, the year they drafted their Super Bowl-winning quarterback in the 3rd round. Lets take a look shall we? C
Sports Illustrated: C
Fox Sports: B
Rotoworld: B-
ESPN/Kiper: C-

Football Outsiders compiled all of these grades from additional sites such as Yahoo! Sports, Sporting News, CBS Sports, NFLDraftScout, and the ones I've included above. They show that the highest grade given was a B and lowest a D- (yes, a D Minus)

It looks like back-to-back dreadful drafts will land the Seahawks towards the bottom of the NFL with the likes of the Raiders, Chiefs, and Browns for years to come. There is no way that a team with these grades could possibly compete and win a title a few short seasons later, is there?

Can you imagine the insufferable people back then saying "Why did the Seahawks draft Malcolm Smith and Richard Sherman? Why did they just draft Russell Wilson when we just picked up a QB? We needed Player X way more!" Or, Heaven help the poor souls who actually backed the Wilson, Sherman and Smith picks. I bet they were ridiculed and shamed into creating a new internet account so people wouldn't know their true identity when they logged back on in order to talk about their favorite team.

So why am I writing this? Easy- it's because we all want to see people grade the Broncos draft as an "A". We all want to act as if a high grade in this instant reaction world means something. We all want to say "we should have moved up to draft this guy" or " we shouldn't have picked this guy when this other guy was available" as if we know any better than anyone else. Remember, there is a 50/50 chance that whoever a team drafts will be a bust, and that percentage only goes down as the round they are drafted in goes up. There are "sure-fire future Hall of Fame players" picked that everyone loves each year, and each year those same players bust out of the league.

In the opposite vein, every year there are players getting drafted that nobody believes in, yet turn to gold.

Give the Broncos an "A" in this draft, or give them an "F". The reality is that nobody knows. Love the Cody Latimer pick or hate it, only time will tell if he's the next Megatron or Charles Rodgers (or serviceable). Nate Irving may never become the Mike Linebacker that we all think the Broncos need, or maybe he will and the Broncos were wise to not mortgage their draft future to pick Mosley who may or may not be any good in the NFL. Steven Johnson might be that next "Mike" linebacker for all we know (and we all know I hope he is).

So everybody have your fun by talking in concrete terms while using "Big Boards", "Mock Drafts", and "Draft Grades" as your ammunition. Just know that as you type those words, that you don't know any more than the person who disagrees with you.

I mean, hey, I loved that 6th round RB out of Georgia. He's a future Super Bowl and NFL MVP.... but some of you probably disagreed back then. And nobody knew that Terrell Davis would be a star any more than they were certain that Ashley Lelie would be.

Remember that when relying on grades to predict the future.