Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Looking back at 2005 draft grades

You have to love the internet. The Vikings' 2005 draft was clearly horrible, and it takes little effort to go back and find out what the "experts" thought about the Vikings' draft at the time.

ESPN's Len Pasquarelli loved the Vikings' draft:

"It was anticipated that the Vikings, who had a pair of first-round choices by virtue of the trade that sent Randy Moss packing, would have a solid draft. But saying a team is going to choose wisely, and then having the club do it, are sometimes polar extremes. And as colleague Chris Mortensen noted on-air Sunday afternoon, credit Minnesota owner Red McCombs, who is on the brink of peddling his franchise, for having the vision to see beyond the "For Sale" sign, hold things together, and conduct business pretty nicely."

Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z gave the Vikes an A. They were the first team he listed, and here's what he had to say:

"Where do we start? Top pick Troy Williamson goes deep and doesn't walk off the field while the game's going on. The other first-rounder, Erasmus James, should have been the first outside rusher selected. Instead the Vikes got lucky and he was the fourth. Marcus Johnson is a serious mauler at either guard or tackle. Dustin Fox -- a cornerback or safety, take your pick -- vertically jumped 43 1/2, which is almost as high as I went when the Redhead presented me with those rugger tix."

Sports Illustrated's Don Banks
listed the Vikes #3 for draft winners. Among other things, he writes of Troy Williamson:

"His presence will stretch the field for the Vikings, giving them a reasonable facsimile of Moss, who was traded to Oakland."

Yahoo!'s Charles Robinson didn't have much bad to say about the Vikings, giving them an A+:

"High marks: Minnesota nailed its top three needs with high-quality players. Mississippi's Marcus Johnson can play guard or tackle and should be able to beat out Shannon Snell for a starting guard spot. Troy Williamson can absolutely fly and will give the receiving corps a deep threat immediately. Defensive end Erasmus James has the body and talent to start from Day 1. The Vikings also made three great depth picks with safety Dustin Fox, running back Ciatrick Fason and defensive tackle C.J. Mosely.

"Low marks: Not many mistakes here. A kicker later in the draft would have been a nice pickup."

Football Outsiders provided some links and found more draft graders giving the Vikings a grade in the A range, including NBC Sports' Ron Borges, The Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin, CBS Sports' Pete Prisco, Sporting News' Dan Pompei, and NFL Draft Scout's Rob Rang.

Look, it's hard for me to pick on these writers. As the great Dr. Farthing says, "Hindsight is 20/20 my friend." If I were blogging here in 2005, you could probably go to my archives and find me raving about the Vikings' draft (go to the archives now and you'll find all sorts of stupid things written). But I think there are two lessons to take here:

1. The draft is all about potential, and so there is little reason to pay attention to any "grades" for the draft before the players actually play.

2. There seems little reason to consider paid sportswriters "experts" on the game. Why, precisely, do I need to think these writers know more about football than serious fans? What do these writers do that proves their opinions on the game are more meaningful, relevant, and correct, than a blogger's opinion?


  1. PV:

    I think you're quite right about football writers not being worthy of being called "experts." The only reason they're called that is because most real football experts don't write about the sport. They're all in the football business itself. Outside of Dr. Z, I don't know of any football writers in the media that actually played the game at any level beyond Pop Warner, so they don't know anymore about the game than the average diehard fan does.

    I must say I notice you seem to have a burr in your ass about the lack of respect mainstream media gives to the blogging community. I think you should get over it. You're preaching to the converted here and Pete Prisco ain't reading you. Besides newspapers and the big websites are slowly coming around. You might even find the Star-Trib or the Pioneer Press offering you a blog writing gig in the future if you're not careful. Then you'll be part of the establishment and get to be considered an "expert" yourself.

  2. I see your point on complaining about mainstream media v. blogs. Though for me, it's not as much about the lack of respect given to blogs--as you point out, the blog format is being embraced by many media outlets--as about expressing my disrespect for bad writing. My point has been many paid writers for major media outlets are little different than bloggers, and the writing quality and content is often weak. It's the point I was making again here, even though I'm not explicitly criticizing these writers (honestly, it's too easy to make fun of three year old draft grades). But since a lot of these writers are paid, and are getting a wide audience with a major media outlet, I hold them up to much tougher scrutiny (my most recent post at the stupid "We Have Mixed Feelings About Sven Sundgaard" blog is about the stupidity of a recent relationship advice column at Yahoo!, which means all I did was waste my time in writing it).

    I might add that based on the Vikes' 2005 draft, even the people working in the football business could hardly qualify as experts!

  3. Anonymous6:39 AM

    if i remember correctly, the only team that drafted better than the vikes that year was the lions who assembled the greatest offense in the history of man.


  4. Anonymous10:01 AM

    Sports writers, to me, are mainly for entertainment purposes only. The only true value they have comes in their connections, because they sometimes hear rumblings about potential trades and such before the general public.

    If you want true expert opinions, you have to go to the teams' statisticians, or those working for the Elias Sports Bureau. The databases are so tremendously comprehensive that you can contend (to a certain degree of confidence minus the margin of error) what stats correlate with converted downs, wins, yards per carry, etc. The difficulty comes in jumping from correlation (teams who end the game with a kneel down typically win) to causation (the kneel down won the game for them).

    That's why it's all so doggone fun!

  5. Anonymous1:35 PM

    PV: "Why, precisely, do I need to think these writers know more about football than serious fans?"

    I'm going to answer that with a quote from a 1998 post by a guy named Jon Bernstein in the baseball newsgroup. This has always stuck with me as being a useful reply when people ask the question you just asked. It's a long quote, so I'll put it in bold so you can tell when it's over:

    This business about "knowing more about the game" doesn't make sense to me. Baseball is a big, big, topic, and it's highly unlikely that anyone has mastered all of it. "Knowing about the game" includes stuff like knowing what a major league clubhouse is like; how to turn the pivot at 2B and how to grip a change-up; who won the World Series in 1916; and what the relationship is between walks, singles, doubles, triples, home runs, and runs scored. It includes baseball fiction and baseball
    historiography; it includes APBA and broadcasting and labor relations.

    Hell, even labor relations would include subsets like the history of labor relations, the economics of labor relations, the law of labor relations, race and labor, the minor leagues and labor, and I'm sure several other elements -- and labor relations itself is only a subset of the geneal topic of the business of baseball.

    No one person will be expert in all those things. And, there's no clear relationship between them; knowing a lot about baseball history doesn't mean that you'll know a lot about how to adjust to hitting a knuckleball, and knowing how to control the strike zone as a hitter doesn't mean that you'll know how valuable two walks, a strikeout, and a HR are vs. four singles. People can have pretty broad interests and areas of expertise (Joe Morgan clearly qualifies), but it's just meaningless to talk about one person "knowing" baseball, as if that will settle some question.

    That pretty much nails it.

    As Peter said, the writers have access we don't. So in general writers probably know more about certain aspects of football --- like what the current mood is like inside the Vikings locker room, how the players were effected by Sean Taylor's death, what the coaches really think of Tarvaris Jackson, and so on --- than serious fans do. Aside from that, they are nothing more than serious fans themselves, so shouldn't be assumed to know more or less about any particular topic than serious fans do.

    P.S. check your email :)

  6. Anonymous1:42 PM

    To answer your question as it pertains to analyzing the draft...

    The writers might know more about whether the front office really got the guys they wanted, as opposed to just saying they got the guys they wanted. They might have a little more insight into why the Vikings passed on some guy or other. They probably know a little bit more than you do about what other teams thought about the Vikings' choices.

    But I'm not sure any of those things would necessarily translate to more accurate draft grades. So I agree with your general point.