Clint's Corner Archive

Clint's Corner Archive

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The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.

For 4/20/98

And the winner is...

Each year all 30 teams in the NFL spend millions of dollars evaluating college talent, jockeying back and forth on and before draft day, and ultimately diving up the top 200 or so college players who made themselves eligible for the NFL draft. It's tough enough just to predict the top 10 selections until they are made, let alone all 7 rounds. Yet each and every year, amazingly, every GM in the league is ecstatic following draft weekend, having filled all of their teams needs with a crop of the most talented players available.

"We couldn't believe that so-and-so was still there when we picked." "If you had told me I'd get him at this pick in this round, I'd have told you that you were nuts." "We had all of the players we picked rated very highly on our draft boards." How can all 30 teams make comments like this with a straight face? How can 200 players be scattered around by a totally random selection process to the complete and total satisfaction of each team?

From ESPN to the Globe and Herald, sports writers to talk radio to Internet chat rooms, everyone is grading their team's draft. How can you assign a grade to a team when none of the players drafted have even put on a uniform yet? Did the Pats get high marks the day after they picked up Ben Coates in the 5th round? Was Ron Wolf praised 24 hours after finding Dorsey Levens in the 5th round? Why was there no league wide chatter moments after Terrell Davis went to Denver in the 6th round? On the flip side, the Bengals have earned high draft grades with the recent picks of Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkenson, and all-world running back Ki-Jana Carter. How would you grade all of those teams past drafts today? Things change, huh?

For these reasons, we cannot comment at all on the Pats draft, and the standard "we're thrilled" comments from Carroll, Grier, and Kraft should be taken in context. What war room team ever came out on Monday morning and said "Ya know, we really blew it this weekend!"? For all we know, Robert Edwards is a complete bust, but 6th round RB Harold Shaw is the next Terrell Davis. Tebucky Jones may lose the starting spot to last year's "bust", Chris Canty. Who knows? The Pats took Center Jason Andersen from BYU with their final pick. Tom Nalen, a former Broncos 7th round Center from Boston College, today is a starter and anchors the middle of one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Ask Tommy to show you his Super Bowl ring. How many of the 200 or so players taken ahead of Nalen are starting today? How many of them have a ring? Will Andersen start for the World Champion Pats someday? All we know at this point is that New England has added 10 players to their roster, all of whom may someday contribute to the future success of the Patriots. Period.

Having said that...

I am still, just as a fan, pleased overall with the class of '98. No one can argue that the Pats #1 need going is was to replace the departed Curtis Martin. Curtis Enis was touted as the best candidate available to do that, but the Pats wisely refused to trade up given what it would cost them. Their patience paid off when stud runner Robert Edwards fell all the way to #18. There are those out there who would have grabbed DT Vonnie Holiday from North Carolina, but unless those fans want to see more repeats of the 7-6 playoff loss to the Steelers, why take a highly rated DT when a highly rated player is there who can fill your greatest void? Selecting Edwards was the best thing the Pats could have done at that spot.

My theory on the Pats draft can best be described in baseball terms. Most teams in the draft come to the plate with a clean count. They can elect to take a pitch or two to size up the situation, or they can gamble with a big swing to either hit the home run at the risk of getting to a quick 0-1 count. The Patriots were in the rare position of stepping up the plate with the count at 3-0. They got the green light right away, and could swing for the fences without much worry. The Jets, however, with many later round picks, started off at 0-1. Their room for error was not as great, as they had to carefully weigh each and every pick. They had to choke up on the bat, wait for their pitch, and just to get the ball past the infield.

Finding a few starters in rounds 4-7 is a lot harder than doing the same thing with 6 of the first 83 picks. Many a player has stuck out after getting the count to 3-0, and plenty of players have homered on the 0-2 pitch, but it's clear that the Pats went to bat with the count very much in their favor, and they took a few huge cuts at the ball. Time will tell whether the Pats struck out or hit the ball out of the stadium.

Please check in later this week for my full class of 1998 analysis. It will added to the end of this column. I have a lot of reading to do!