EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft. Gosselin will resurrect some of his college scouting reports this offseason for a look back at how NFL talent evaluators viewed draft prospects. What better place to start than Tom Brady, who just claimed his record seventh Super Bowl ring.
GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: Brady backed up Brian Griese as a sophomore on Michigan’s national championship team in 1997, then took over as the starter in 1998. Despite setting a school record for completions (200) that year, Brady split time at quarterback with Drew Henson for much of 1999. He won 20 of his 25 career starts and closed his career with a 34-of-46 passing performance for 369 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-34 Orange Bowl overtime victory over Alabama, twice rallying the Wolverines from 14-point deficits. There should have been an inkling then. But there wasn’t. Brady measured 6-4.3, 211 pounds at the NFL scouting combine with a 5.24-second 40-yard dash and a vertical jump of 24 ½ inches. There were 15 offensive lineman at that combine that both ran faster and jumped higher than Brady. Gosselin ranked Brady as the seventh quarterback on his draft board, a sixth-round value. The Patriots drafted Brady in the sixth round. But New England did not envision Brady as the GOAT when the Patriots made the pick. If the Pats did, they wouldn’t have waited to select him with their second choice of the sixth round and the 199th overall pick in the draft.
Here are comments on Brady from five talent evaluators leading up to the 2000 NFL draft:
Scout: Awful. Not even on my board. Weak. He’ll make somebody a good husband or a good medical salesman.
Scout II: Has a quick, (former Michigan QB Brian) Griese-type release.
Quarterback coach: Backup. Could be a #2 in this league for a long time. Has the size but not enough arm.
Offensive coordinator: More instinctive than (Michigan State QB Bill) Burke. Makes better decisions, makes more plays.
General manager: Like him. Just wish he was a better athlete.
NFL CAREER: When you talk about the GOAT, the conversation involves three quarterbacks – Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana and Brady. All were selected to the NFL’s 100th anniversary team. None was a first-round pick. Unitas wasn’t even drafted. But it’s not where you start. It’s where you finish. Brady will finish as the greatest winner in NFL history. He quarterbacked teams to a record seven championships, including last weekend when, at the age of 43, he steered his second team (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) to a Lombardi Trophy. The first six came with the New England Patriots. Brady has won a record 230 NFL games as a starting quarterback – and that doesn’t include the 34 he won in the playoffs. He has passed for an NFL-record 581 career touchdowns and ranks second all-time in passing yardage with 79,204. He has been voted to 14 Pro Bowls in his 20-year career. He’s been voted a Super Bowl MVP five times and an NFL MVP three times. Historically, the early rounds of a draft are about a player's measurables. The right, size, speed and strength give a player the best chance for success at the next level. But the later rounds are about the game tape. The Patriots watched the tape. They watched him lead Michigan on a game-wining drive in the closing minutes to beat Ohio State in 1999. And they watched that Orange Bowl. There was something there to be explored. As a sixth-round draft pick, Brady is the greatest overachiever in NFL history. And no one saw it coming. But the Patriots drafted him – so they became the beneficiary.