The League

Rob Rang
Draft Guru

Rob Rang

Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com

Hindsight Is 20/20, Except for Janikowski

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I have a hard time understanding how many of my esteemed colleagues can explain how obviously bad the selection of Ryan Leaf, Tony Mandarich, or Charles Rogers seems based on their subsequent NFL struggles.

The general managers who drafted these players weren't wrong to rank these prospects highly. Every other team did, as well. The Colts ultimately made the correct decision, obviously, when selecting Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf, but the decision wasn't as easy as some have made it out to be, according to scouts I know who worked under that department.

Similarly, at the time Charles Rogers was viewed as a can't miss prospect. He was drafted between Carson Palmer and Andre Johnson. Would Matt Millen have been considered a fool for drafting Johnson?

Mandarich was yet another example of scouts over-emphasizing power, rather than athleticism on the field.

Subsequent bouts with substance abuse and struggles with the immense pressure that comes with being a top 5 selection turns the NFL draft into an incredibly high-stakes game of poker. NFL scouts are football guys first. Rarely do they own degrees in psychology.

The worst draft pick, in my opinion, is, indeed obvious, but it is not the choice many of my colleagues have picked. I believe the worst offensive pick -- at least in modern football times -- occurred when the Oakland Raiders selected kicker Sebastian Janikowski from Florida State with the 17th pick of the 2000 draft.

Never mind that Janikowski was selected in between LB Julian Peterson and QB Chad Pennington. Never mind that he's never gone to a Pro Bowl or led the league in scoring or field goal accuracy. Never mind that Janikowski was a character risk facing possible deportation when he was drafted. Never mind that he's been a consistent character concern since the selection.

What matters most -- at least in terms of this discussion -- is that no kicker is worthy of first round consideration. The kicker position has never warranted a selection in the first round. It didn't in 2000. It didn't in 1980. It won't in 2010 or 2020.

The NFL Draft is about gaining maximum value per pick. Using a 1st round pick on a kicker was considered a monstrous reach the one time it happened. It won't occur again -- proving the move was the most historic gaffe in NFL Draft history.

By Rob Rang  |  March 31, 2009; 3:50 AM ET  | Category:  Draft Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I've heard all the accolades and quotes for one Mr. Al Davis (Al leaves more football knowledge in the "bowl" in the morning than most folks will ever know), and I am aware of what he has done for the evolution of the sport. But when a man drafts a kicker...a KICKER...in the first round of the draft at 17 (not 32 mind you) it is time to put his wheelchair on cruise and point him in the direction of the bright warm light. Rest well Al, God in heaven knows you deserve it.

Posted by: wprioleau | March 31, 2009 3:48 PM

Sorry, Rob. At the time, Janikowski was the best college kicking prospect since Jason Elam. Janikowski hit a 60-yard field goal in high school. He routinely 50+ yarders for FSU and he left FSU as its 2nd all-time in points scored. At the combine he was timed at a 4.6 40 despite weighing 250lbs. Janikowski is, today, the Raiders' all-time leading scorer. He's hardly a bust and hardly the worst draft choice ever.

Posted by: tracker2 | April 1, 2009 12:00 PM

Anyway, everyone knows the worst Al Davis pick ever was Todd Marinovich.

Posted by: tracker2 | April 1, 2009 12:17 PM

Tracker2: It was the worst choice because he was drafted 17TH OVERALL! COME ON MAN!

Posted by: jamalnasir_2000 | April 1, 2009 2:07 PM

JamalNasir -- he's been one of the top kickers in the league for nearly a decade! It's a great value pick and he would have been gone by the early 2nd round, if the Raiders had not have pulled the trigger when they did.

If the problem is selecting special teams players in the first round, then why no outrage over Russell Erxleben: http://www.nfl.com/players/russellerxleben/profile?id=ERX415291

Posted by: tracker2 | April 1, 2009 3:33 PM

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