Craig: Grades? Let's just see it all play out

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 30, 2012 - 11:24 AM

Although we won't know who did best in the draft for years to come, the selections did offer plenty to debate.

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It might be a few years before we know if LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne's low Wonderlic score did or didn't matter in judging his ability to play football.

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Assigning grades the day after the NFL draft is kind of like stopping the Masters after the first hole and slipping the green jacket onto someone you think might win the tournament 71 holes later.

No one knows how anything associated with the 2012 NFL draft will turn out. Just like no one knew instantly in 2005 that taking Troy Williamson and Erasmus James ahead of Aaron Rodgers would be two bad ideas that would haunt the Vikings into the 2020s.

It'll take years for these 253 picks to reveal which of the league's decision-makers were brilliant last week and which ones wore floppy shoes, an orange wig and a red rubber ball stuck to their nose. Here are five story lines:

Belichick vs. Draftniks

The most fascinating pick came when the Patriots took Illinois defensive back Tavon Wilson 48th overall. Within seconds, battle lines were drawn between Bill Belichick, the five-time Super Bowl champion, and draft experts whose rankings shape the fans' and the media's perception on where players should be drafted.

According to NFL.com and ESPN.com, Wilson was a potential seventh-rounder. ESPN's Scouts Inc. ranked him as the 24th-best safety available.

Belichick shrugged, comparing Wilson to offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who went from perceived second-round reach in 2009 to second-team All-Pro starter two years later. If you think the predraft hype is out of control, you're rooting for Beli- chick on this one.

Claiborne vs. Wonderlic

The Cowboys' decision to trade the 14th and 45th picks to move up to No. 5 and take Louisiana State cornerback Morris Claiborne is further evidence that teams place little emphasis on the Wonderlic intelligence exam. So why should players such as Claiborne, who tied a record-low score of 4, have to put up with the indignity of it all?

If the test doesn't matter and the scores can't be kept confidential as promised, the league should discontinue the test. That's what Claiborne said he did after finishing fewer than 20 of the 50 timed questions.

"I came to the combine for football," Claiborne said. "There weren't any questions about football."

Punters vs. 'Players'

The Jaguars were ridiculed as laughingstocks when they selected punter Bryan Anger of California with the 70th overall pick in the third round. But shouldn't we wait before we laugh?

Anger was the first punter in 17 years to be selected in the top 75 picks. The last one was Todd Sauerbrun, who was taken 54th overall by the Bears in 1995. All he did was play 13 years and make All-Pro four times.

Saints vs. Goodell

If the NFL had a death penalty, the Saints would be on the edge of extinction. Unfortunately for the Saints, the first two rounds of the draft offered no relief or picks while the third round brought a defensive tackle project from Canada.

With the 85th overall pick, the Saints chose 6-5, 318-pounder Akiem Hicks. He played at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, a school that's comparable to NCAA Division II in the United States.

Don't dismiss the Saints' just yet, though. They have a history of finding late-round beauties such as Jahri Evans, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham.

Mel vs. 2017

When it comes to people responsible for making the draft the event that it is, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. is the visionary standing at the front of the line. He also knows how to feed the insatiable beast.

Within hours of the final pick, his grades were in. They were based on how well teams filled their needs with players that were the best value according to Kiper's rankings.

The Eagles and Buccaneers earned the only A's. The Seahawks and Raiders had the worst grades (C-minus). The Vikings got a B.

How closely will those grades match the reality of 2017? Who knows. There's still 71 holes to be played.

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com

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