In the NFL draft prospect evaluation business, you're going to be wrong a lot. Great talent meets a bad fit. Average talent meets a great fit. A player shows you something you never saw before. You just flat-out whiff. It happens -- a lot. When you consider that Ryan Leaf and Andre Ware still hold grades among the top 10 I've ever handed out at quarterback, you can gain some perspective on how difficult the football projection business is.
This week, I was asked about picks from the 2012 NFL draft that I had questioned on draft day. We'll call it fair game, but with a caveat. There are players from the 2012 draft who will become important NFL players, even Pro Bowl-level, who have barely played through 10 weeks. And some of those players will become stars -- that's just a historical fact. The college-to-pro jump is significant, and you don't see many great NFL players emerge overnight. That said, let's pull out my draft grades, quote what I said then and look at whether I should be eating crow now.
Pick: Trent Richardson to Cleveland at No. 3
What I said then: "The Browns will get questions on value, but they had a plan and stuck to it. They moved up to get Trent Richardson, ostensibly so Tampa Bay couldn't, and while a running back at No. 3 is always a tough value proposition, Richardson is a rare talent."
I didn't hammer this pick because I consider Richardson a special talent, that rare running back worthy of a top-10 pick. I do think a running back taken high will always be a questionable choice because of the injury risk, and Richardson was limited by injuries during the draft process. Cleveland knew it could move up to get Richardson knowing it still had an added first-round pick, diminishing the risk.
What I think now: Richardson is on pace to crack 1,000 yards on the ground, and you've occasionally seen that dynamic talent when he gets a seam.