I am fascinated by how we rank or appraise things...


What do the following men have in common?

Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger, and Spergon Wynn.

They are all quarterbacks chosen BEFORE Tom Brady in the 2000 NFL draft. 2000 was a particularly poor year for quarterbacks, and that makes the late choice for Brady (199th overall) a little more mystifying. Of those six QB's chosen before him, only one (Bulger) ever played in a Pro Bowl (twice); only two (Bulger and Pennington) became starting quarterbacks; one played in ten games (Wynn), one in three (Martin), and one never played in an NFL game at all (Carmazzi). In fact, of the 199 players chosen BEFORE Brady, 17 never played a single down in the NFL, and another 27 played 16 or fewer games (I chose 16 because that was the number of games in a season, till this year's increase to 17). And it wasn't as if Brady played for an obscure college (Michigan). His stats for his senior season were quite impressive -- and Michigan beat Alabama in the Orange Bowl, 35-34. Yet somehow the people who scouted talent for the NFL teams, with many millions of dollars hanging in the balance, were not impressed.

Another bit of trivia: the two top players chosen in that draft, Courtney Brown and Lavar Arrington, came from Penn State. Brown was a defensive end, who I think got hurt early in his NFL career, which did not amount to much. Arrington was a linebacker and a beast for a few years, going to the Pro Bowl three times, but I think he also got hurt; both he and Brown were out of the league by 2006.

Now, football is a business in which mistakes in appraisal show up quickly and are punished severely. The football Cardinals franchise -- often the worst-managed franchise of all the major American sports -- had a long history of picking undistinguished players in the first round, and even a couple of bad drafts in a row can mire your franchise for a good long time. And still the experts get things wrong, or bad luck has its way.