Will Robert Griffin III be a star or a dud?


Robert Griffin III poses next to a sculpture of himself made with food from Subway. He is expected to be picked by the Redskins in the NFL Draft on Thursday. (Bebeto Matthews / Associated Press )

Tonight is a big night for pro football fans: The National Football League (NFL) starts its annual player draft.

The draft is when teams choose from the best players who are leaving college. In the draft, last season’s worst team picks first, which gives them the best chance to get a star player. The Washington Redskins recently made a big trade, so they will get the second pick in this year’s draft.

The Indianapolis Colts have the first pick, and the team announced it will choose quarterback Andrew Luck from Stanford University. The Redskins will probably take the Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, with the second pick.

Football fans expect these two quarterbacks to be big stars. Washington fans are hoping Griffin will help change the Redskins from long-time losers to big-time winners.

I don’t want to be a spoilsport, but I looked up the past 15 NFL drafts. I learned that just because a player — especially a quarterback — is picked early doesn’t mean he will be a big star.

In the past 15 years, NFL teams have picked 17 quarterbacks in the first three picks of the draft. Some of those players — Peyton Manning (first pick, 1998), Donovan McNabb (picked second in 1999) and Eli Manning (first pick in 2004) — have had great careers. But many of the quarterbacks picked early in the draft have been flops. Here are their names:

JaMarcus Russell (first, 2007)

David Carr (first, 2002)

Joey Harrington (third, 2002)

Tim Couch (first, 1999)

Akili Smith (third, 1999)

Ryan Leaf (second, 1998).

In addition, Vince Young (third, 2006) and Carson Palmer (first, 2003) have had some good games but mostly have been disappointments.

Others, such as Matt Stafford (first, 2009), Matt Ryan (third, 2008) and Alex Smith (first, 2005) have been good, but they are not superstars.

Don’t get me wrong: I think Griffin will be a very good player. He’s a terrific athlete with a strong arm and world-class speed. Griffin is also a smart guy who graduated from Baylor University in three years. (College is usually four years.) Those smarts should help him figure out professional defenses.

But the record of quarterbacks who are high picks in the NFL is a good reminder that there are no guarantees in sports, even kids’ sports. Just because you were the best player in elementary or middle school doesn’t mean you will be a star in high school.

It is also a good reminder that coaches should not be so quick to cut kids from their teams. Think of it: Professional football scouts, coaches and general managers who dedicate their careers to judging quarterbacks are wrong almost half the time in the first three picks!

So what chance does a volunteer coach have of picking the best players from a bunch of 8- or 10-year-olds?

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 17 sports books for kids, including “Quarterback Season” and “Touchdown Trouble.”

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