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Friday, January 4, 2013
Wrong on Wilson? Hey, I liked Ryan Leaf

By Mike Sando

I once thought Ryan Leaf had the makings to become a top NFL quarterback and that the gap between Leaf and Peyton Manning wasn't all that significant.

"Maturing stock adds to Leaf's net worth" was the headline for a Sporting News piece I wrote in April 1998, a month before I started covering the NFL.

Lesson learned.

That experience 15 years ago comes to mind every time I'm tempted to pass judgment on an NFL team's freshly minted draft class. The truth is, none of us knows for sure how these things will turn out.

Russell Wilson is qualifying as another cautionary tale. He and the Seattle Seahawks became irresistible targets on draft day last year. It seemed safe to write off Wilson because he stood only 5-foot-10 and so few quarterbacks of that stature had succeeded in the NFL. But after one season, Wilson has already succeeded, tying Peyton Manning's rookie record for touchdown passes (26) while posting an 11-5 record.

As you might imagine, some of the initial post-draft reactions were a bit off-target. Do not worry, mistaken draft analysts. You've got company: