Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Updated: July 13, 1:26 PM ET
Nine supplemental picks never saw NFL action
By Len Pasquarelli
There were 13 defensive tackles selected in the final 2½ rounds of the 2006 NFL draft. How well any of the members of that baker's dozen fare the next few seasons ultimately could determine the manner in which the Miami Dolphins' dubious decision to use a fifth-round pick on Manuel Wright in last summer's supplemental draft is viewed.
In choosing Wright last summer, Miami forfeited its fifth-round selection this past April, a pick that would have been the 149th overall, right in the middle of the round. Could the Dolphins -- who chose a defensive tackle with the same surname, Rodrique Wright of Texas, who likely will miss his entire 2006 rookie season because of a shoulder injury, in the seventh round -- have landed a better prospect than Manuel Wright with that fifth-round pick? Or is the former Southern California defensive tackle, with a full NFL season on his league résumé, a better option?
Time will tell.
"We still feel good about [Manuel Wright]," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said between minicamp practices last month. "We still feel like taking him, because we wanted to get younger at the position, was the right call."
But when it comes to supplemental draft choices, time has rendered some telling evidence that, at least in the last few years, suggests that the gambles made on summer picks usually turn up snake eyes. With the league's summertime lottery scheduled for Thursday, it's pertinent to note that, of the 34 players chosen since the supplemental draft was introduced in 1977, there have been more than twice as many prospects who didn't log a single snap in a regular-season game (nine) as there have been Pro Bowl players (four).
Not even first-round selections in the regular-phase draft come with guarantees, of course. But whatever flimsy warranties are attached to supplemental picks aren't worth the paper on which they were written.
An underachiever in college, Wright notoriously was moved to tears when Saban criticized him during a training camp practice last summer. He appeared in only three games as a rookie, registered four tackles and a sack, and acknowledged last month that, because of the temptations of his mother's home cooking in the offseason, he reported to minicamps about 20 pounds overweight. His obvious physical tools mean his potential is boundless, but Wright also carries a huge risk quotient.
And that is typical for the supplemental draft, in which there have been more busts than bargains of late.
Not since 1999, when San Diego chose defensive tackle Jamal Williams and Green Bay selected guard Mike Wahle, both in the second round, has the supplemental draft produced a truly solid player. Consider the four players, counting Wright, chosen since then: Defensive back J'Juan Cherry (New England, fourth round, 2000) never played in an NFL regular-season game. Guard Milford Brown (Houston, second round, 2002) appeared in 18 games and started 16 of them in four seasons with the Texans, then signed with Arizona this spring as a free agent. Tailback Tony Hollings (Houston, second round, 2003) carried just 49 times for 149 yards in three years with the Texans and joined the Chicago Bears this spring as a free agent.
The 34 players chosen in the supplemental draft since 1977 have averaged 44.1 regular-season appearances, the equivalent of less than three full years in the league. Just five played in more than 100 games. Arguably the lone supplemental choice who looks likely to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, wide receiver Cris Carter, is the only one who logged more than 200 appearances.
Little wonder that, in the past 10 years, half the supplemental drafts featured no selections at all. Overall, there have been nine drafts in which no players were chosen and 10 in which just one player was selected.
The one player who is all but a lock to be chosen Thursday is former University of Virginia linebacker Ahmad Brooks, an enormously talented defender whose physical skills might be superseded only by the off-field problems he encountered before being dismissed from the Cavaliers squad. Representatives from 22 franchises attended Brooks' workout last month, and several teams -- Miami, San Francisco and Green Bay -- could be tempted to pull the trigger on him.
Certainly, in terms of potential, Brooks is ahead of Wright, last year's lone supplemental selection. He can play any linebacker position in a 4-3 or 3-4 alignment, has superb size, runs well and is explosive at times in rushing the quarterback. But he is hardly an angel. In fact, all seven supplemental prospects have faced some degree of legal or academic difficulty. Even the most pristine prospect in the group -- former Texas fullback Ahmard Hall, a former Marine sergeant whose dossier includes tours of duty in Kosovo and Afghanistan -- failed to qualify academically coming out of high school and, at 26, is an overage candidate.
A range of flaws such as these has come to define the supplemental draft in recent years. But although these issues might play some role in these prospects' not developing into productive NFL players, there is also this very basic element: Most of them simply haven't played much football.
San Diego Chargers
|2005 SEASON STATISTICS|
Brooks is the lone prospect in this year's supplemental class to have played more than two college seasons. Still, because of injuries that curtailed his 2005 campaign, even he has appeared in just 31 games. North Carolina State wide receiver/tailback Richard Washington has played in 17 college games. Texas defensive tackle Marco Martin saw action in only six games. Linebacker David Dixon never played above the junior college level.
Here's a sobering statistic: The seven players in Thursday's supplemental draft averaged just 17.4 Division I appearances in their careers.
That fact alone increases the caveat emptor element that already exists in any supplemental draft.
The supplemental draft, which has evolved over the years into a pool of guys toting excess baggage, wasn't always that way. During its early years, the supplemental draft wasn't nearly as risky because the pool of available talent often was composed not of misfits but rather of players who had graduated early but not in time to be eligible for the regular-phase draft in the spring.
Some of the more notable supplemental selections -- such as quarterbacks Bernie Kosar (Cleveland, 1985), Dave Wilson (New Orleans, 1981) and Dave Brown (New York Giants, 1992) -- fell into that category. The trio averaged 84.3 appearances. It will be an upset if any of the players in the 2006 supplemental draft lasts that long in the league.
The 34 players who were chosen in the supplemental draft since 1977 have averaged 44.1 regular-season appearances, the equivalent of less than three full years in the league.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .