High draft picks are no guarantee

“Suck for Luck” and “Fail for Nail.”
No, these aren’t the names of newly-formed alternative rock bands who will be preforming on the Warped Tour next year. They are, in fact, the rallying cries for fans of teams that currently are languishing at the bottom of the NFL and NHL standings.
Those names fans want their teams to draft in next year are Andrew Luck, a highly-touted quarterback and Heisman Trophy contender for the Stanford Cardinals, and Nail Yakupov, a dynamic Russian-born forward for the Sarnia Sting who currently leads the entire OHL in scoring.
Both players have been talked about for a while now, and most draft prediction sites have them as near-locks for going first overall, respectively, leading to the fans of the teams that are struggling at the moment in the NFL and NHL dreaming of the day that either Luck or Yakupov will be playing for their team.
Now, while it’s all well and good to be thinking about what these players might bring your favourite team, culminating in an eventual turnaround that will lead to a championship trophy, nothing is fully assured.
While many players selected first overall have been worth all the hype surrounding them, such as Mario Lemieux and Peyton Manning, there are numerous cases where that hasn’t always been the case.
One of the most classic examples of a missed draft pick in hockey came back in 1993, when the Ottawa Senators selected Alexandre Daigle first overall.
At the time, Daigle was viewed as a “can’t miss” prospect who was being compared to players such as Steve Yzerman and Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard (don’t laugh, there is evidence on YouTube of this).
And, in fact, there were many accusations at the time that the Senators purposely had lost games late in the season to assure themselves of the number-one pick.
Whether they deliberately tanked or not (and judging by their roster that year, I don’t think it would have made that much of a difference to be honest), the Senators got the man everyone highly-coveted, leading Daigle to make this now infamous remark:
“I’m glad I got drafted first because no one remembers number two.”
The player selected second overall by the Hartford Whalers that year? A blueliner by the name of Chris Pronger.
Needless to say, that pick didn’t work out quite so well for the Senators as Daigle only registered 172 points in four-and-a-half seasons before being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers.
From that point on, Daigle became a journeyman of sorts throughout the NHL and in Switzerland, but he forever would be known for being one of the biggest busts in NHL history.
(Well, and for that outrageous photo of him wearing a nurse’s outfit for an advertising campaign, but that’s another story for another time).
Switching over to football, the most recent example of mega hype surrounding a prospect was prior to the 2006 NFL draft as everyone wanted to select running back Reggie Bush.
Bush, who was playing for the USC Trojans at the time and recently had won the 2005 Heisman Trophy, had become “must see” viewing due to his electrifying speed and the way he could juke players right out of their shoes.
In fact, a match-up on the final week of the 2005 NFL season between the Houston Texans and the San Francisco 49’ers was dubbed the “Bush Bowl”—as the Texans ended up losing the game but would up earning the top pick in the draft as a result.
However, on draft day, the Texans selected defensive end Mario Williams with the first overall selection and Bush went to the New Orleans Saints as the second pick, leading many pundits to call the Texans move as one of the worst in NFL history.
Five years after that draft, though, it appears it was the Texans who made the right choice. Williams has been selected to the Pro Bowl twice in his career while Bush now plays for the hapless Miami Dolphins.
In reality, the best drafts usually are not always by the team which has the first overall selection, but by those able to scout the best and make the most out of their late-round choices, which is something the New England Patriots and the Detroit Red Wings have done to build their franchises.
Besides, even if you do have the number-one choice, it still may take a number of years of similarly high selections in the draft order before the turnaround really can begin to be noticed, which is what has happened in recent years with the Pittsburgh Penguins—and seemingly is taking shape currently with the Edmonton Oilers.
So while fans of current bottom-feeders, such as the Indianapolis Colts and Columbus Blue Jackets, may be saving up to potentially purchase their Luck or Yakupov jerseys next summer, one thing they have to remember is that a highly-touted prospect is only part of the puzzle and not the solution for the team’s misfortunes.
Plus, if you miss on that sure-fire superstar, it may be another long few years of misery for those fans until the glory days return once again.

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