Drafting pro players is harder than it looks, isn’t it?

They say hindsight is 20/20. What looks like a good draft pick on draft day often goes up in smoke, while an unexpected late-round pick turns into gold.

Welcome to the highs and lows of being a general manager in the NFL. Talk about being second-guessed. General managers know all about the blame game, but then, it comes with the territory.

Draft picks can make or break the near- or long-term future of a franchise.

Who knew that when Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round for the New England Patriots, he would turn into a future member of the Hall of Fame? All of those teams that passed on Brady look clueless.

But if the Patriots were so smart, how come they didn’t draft Brady until the sixth round?

I’ll tell you why. The Patriots didn’t know Brady would be that good.

NFL Films put together a documentary called the “Brady 6,” detailing the six quarterbacks selected ahead of Brady that year. They are Chad Pennington, 18th pick to the New York Jets; Gio­vanni Carmazzi, 65th pick by the San Francisco 49ers; Chris Redman, 75th to the Baltimore Ravens; Tee Mar­tin, 163rd to the Pitts­burgh Steelers; Marc Bulger, 168th selection by the New Orleans Saints; and Spergon Wynn, 183rd to the Cleveland Browns.

Brady was the 199th selection in the 2000 draft.

Meanwhile, Julian Edelman, a quarterback in college, transitioned to receiver and punt returner after joining the Patriots as a seventh-round pick in 2009 (No. 232 overall), ultimately becoming Brady’s No. 1 target.

Football players are drafted largely on how they performed in college, along with the potential a GM or coach believes said player has for the NFL. Drafting athletes is not an exact science, which is why fans enjoy second-guessing draft picks.

For a variety of reasons, some very good to great college football players never make it in the NFL.

Granted, late-round draft picks who become stars are the exception and not the rule, but there are enough success stories that show how difficult it is to project who will excel in the NFL.

Check out these examples….

Kevin Ross, the Kansas City Chiefs’ 173rd overall pick in the 1984 draft, surprised everyone by becoming one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks.

Adam Teicher, writing for ESPN.com said, “Kevin Ross was nobody’s idea of a top cornerback when the Kansas City Chiefs selected him from Temple University in the seventh round with the 173rd overall pick in the 1984 NFL draft. Ross was 5-foot-9, 185 pounds and slow.

“Ross eventually established himself as one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks. He played 14 NFL seasons, 11 with the Chiefs. Much of that time he paired with Albert Lewis to give the Chiefs the league’s premier combination at cornerback during an era that saw passing become an increasingly important component for NFL offenses.”

One of the most dominant pass-rushers of all time was drafted in the 14th round in 1961 by the Rams. David “Deacon” Jones, the Mississippi Valley State product, was the 186th overall pick in the draft that year. Were the185 players drafted ahead of him better? Probably not, considering that Jones wound up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On even rarer occasions, talented athletes aren’t drafted because they don’t come from a football factory, i.e., Rolland “Bay” Lawrence from Tabor College in the early 1970s. Lawrence went undrafted, but was given a tryout by the Atlanta Falcons. After making the team as a special teams player, he evolved into an All-Pro cornerback.

I suppose stories like these give athletes everywhere a reason to hope.

Hillsboro resident Joe Klein­sasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. He can be reached at Joe.Klein­sasser@wichita.edu.

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