Monday, April 24, 2006

Evaluating Talent: Even the NFL Gets It Wrong

Scanning some Husker forums over the past week, I've seen several threads concerning Harrison Beck and the status of his sore shoulder. The injury itself doesn't sound serious, and likely will just need some extended rest. That leads to questions about whether Nebraska is going to recruit a Junior College quarterback to compete with Beck for the starting job in 2007. Invariably, the response from some recruitniks is to repeat a party line of "there is no problem with Beck; Beck is the man; please ignore the man behind the curtain". The implication is that it doesn't matter if Beck only completed 1 out of his 10 passes last season, it doesn't matter if observers are concerned about Beck's slow development. All that matters is that Rivals rated him highly and Bill Callahan and Jay Norvell say he's fine.

The problem is that (a) Rivals has moved onto high school juniors now, and (b) of course Callahan and Norvell are going to say Beck is fine. Are they going to dash Beck's confidence? Are they going to come out and rip their players, especially after the criticism Callahan took for his "dumbest team in America" quip?

The fact is that talent evaluation is an art, not a science. Even the NFL gets it wrong... Can you say Ryan Leaf? Akili Smith? How do you explain Kurt Warner? With the NFL draft this weekend, an AP story talks about the number of undrafted players who turn into stars. Let's face it, talent evaluation is simply opinions and even the best frequently get it wrong.

That doesn't mean that Harrison Beck is a bust...far from it. The pedigree that the recruitniks awarded to Beck isn't worth anything. The questions that some raise about Beck will eventually need to be answered by him...and on the field. If he answers the call and develops into the quarterback people claim he is, people will remember that pass he threw into the West Stadium against and laugh about how far he came.

Update: Another article via the Omaha World-Herald from the Washington Post about the NFL Draft and how it frequently is a crap shoot.

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