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Brady is proof drafting isn't a science


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POINT OF VIEW Feb 3, 2004

Call Paul Woody at (804) 649-6444 or e-mail him at pwoody @timesdispatch.com

HOUSTON Every spring, the NFL draft rolls around, and in every draft, the sixth round rolls around.

Thirty-two players are taken in that round, more if there are compensatory selections awarded.

The teams that select players in the sixth round are not looking for stars or even starters. At that point of the draft, they're taking their chances on players they see as flawed but who might make the roster as backups or special-teams players or as practice squad performers.

When the New England Patriots drafted Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, with their second selection in the round - Virginia cornerback Antwan Harris was selection 6A for the Patriots - they weren't thinking they just had selected a two-time Super Bowl MVP.

It just worked out that way.

When Brady was selected as the MVP of Super Bowl XXXVIII, on top of winning the award in Super Bowl XXXVI, he joined Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr as a multiple winner of the Super Bowl MVP trophy. Brady no longer is seen as a sixth-round draft choice. He's seen as one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL.

Add in Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who wasn't even drafted but probably would have been the MVP on Sunday had the Panthers won, and it raises the question of how college quarterbacks are evaluated by pro scouts.

Certainly, some first-round quarterbacks have worked out well. Bradshaw won four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Troy Aikman and John Elway won two with Dallas and Denver. Jim Kelly led Buffalo to four straight Super Bowls.

But Brady is lengthening the list of low-round, or no-round, draftees who have distinguished themselves in the Super Bowl. Mark Rypien led the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl title, and he was a sixth-round draft choice. Kurt Warner led the St. Louis Rams to one Super Bowl victory and a second Super Bowl appearance, and he wasn't drafted.

Starr, a two-time Super Bowl MVP for the Green Bay Packers, was a 17th-round draft choice in 1956.

"He's just got it," Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson said of Brady. "I don't know what 'it' is, but he's got it."

"He's just cool," Patriots wide receiver Troy Brown said of Brady. "I think he has the ability to make everyone around him cool. He comes in the huddle and no one is panicking or frantic."

Brady lasted until the sixth round in 2000 because he was seen as a marginally talented quarterback with an average arm that allowed him to be an accurate, if not impressive passer.

His size, 6-4 and 225, and University of Michigan and Big Ten pedigree, made him worth the low risk and low cost of a sixth-round selection, especially the Patriots' second pick in the round.

"Nobody has worked harder than Tom in four years he's been with the Patriots," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "He's improved tremendously as a player, and that's mainly a credit to his work and perseverance and the coaching he has received.

"He's got poise. He's accurate. He makes great decisions with the ball. He's tough in those two-minute situations or situations at the end of the game when you want to play a certain way. He's very good at that. He's been a terrific player for us all year and made some huge plays for us last night."

Evaluating football players is an inexact science, sometimes wildly so.

If talent scouts could measure a player's innate football intelligence, his feel for the game, his leadership ability, work ethic and ability to handle pressure, drafting players would be much easier.

But a scout never knows how a player will react when he's thrust into the ultra-competitive environment of the NFL. They can't be sure what he will do to be a better player when no one else is watching or how deeply he believes in himself. And those things are large factors in determining whether a draftee who was taken almost as an afterthought succeeds.

The Saints kept telling Delhomme he couldn't make it in the NFL. Delhomme refused to believe them.

Brady was either a late bloomer or severely misjudged by the NFL's talent scouts. Probably, it was a bit of both.

And, probably, NFL teams need to think about more than arm-strength and the so-called "measurables" when they look at all players, especially quarterbacks.

Brady and Delhomme stand as proof of that.

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Funny, they could have asked me what I SAW with my own eyes at Michigan.

I'm not saying I would have drafted him in the first, there WERE questions on his arm, but the guy had all these qualities at Michigan in his last year. He had "it." If anything, the team always waited until they needed him to pull some magic to let him loose. Ironically, it wasn't until he was gone that Carr opened up the offense and spread the field so that they could take advantage of all those excellent receivers.

WHy he fell to the sixth, I'll never know.

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I was there at Michigan, too. To be honest, I thought Griese managed the game better and Henson was a better athlete. Brady was a decent QB at U of M, but nothing special.

Plus I was in an English critique group with him. Damn, I wish I still had some of his papers.

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Henson was a better athlete but I don't believe Griese managed the game better. He simply had a better team to manage with, if ya get me.

You don't remember the almost comeback vs. MSU when Henson put us in a hole with his mediocre play? And that was just the beginning. I really think if they had not gone with that dumb platoon in his last year that he'd have done even better.

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Mark Rypien led the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl title, and he was a sixth-round draft choice. Kurt Warner led the St. Louis Rams to one Super Bowl victory and a second Super Bowl appearance, and he wasn't drafted.

Gibbs has already pointed out, his teams from the past always seemed to have players that were late round picks or undrafted free agents. There were only a few Number 1 picks when Gibbs was here before. (M. May, D. Green & D. Howard)

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