This story was going to be nice, it really was. Nice, complimentary, maybe even fawning. In April the New Orleans Saints were the only team who thought Marques Colston was worth a draft pick, spending a late seventh-rounder on the receiver from Hofstra.
|A draft afterthought, Marques Colston leads the NFL with 869 receiving yards. (AP)|
Today Colston is one of the best receivers in the NFL. Not one of the best rookie receivers. One of the best receivers, period. He is on pace for 96 catches, 1,500 yards, 13 touchdowns. Those are Pro Bowl numbers, which makes sense. He's a Pro Bowl receiver.
Does this make the Saints smarter than everyone else? Yes, but they're not as smart as I thought they were. They're not as smart as this story was originally going to make them look, because I noticed another name on the Saints' list of 2006 draft picks. This name makes the Saints look dumb. This name makes their selection of Colston look lucky.
The name: Mike Hass.
Hass was named the best receiver in college football last season at Oregon State, winning the Biletnikoff Trophy. That's nice for him, but college awards do not automatically translate into NFL success. Ask Heisman winners Archie Griffin, Andre Ware, Gino Torretta, Danny Wuerffel ... you know what I'm talking about.
Hass was a great college receiver, no question, but he showed up at the scouting combine in February and embarrassed himself. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds, slower than four defensive linemen and 12 of the 16 linebackers there. Hass had a so-so vertical leap of 32 inches. He was average height and weight at 6-foot, 205 pounds. His 9-7 long jump was among the worst at any skill position.
The Saints drafted him in the sixth round, No. 171 overall. That was 81 picks before New Orleans took Marques Colston, who attended the same combine. Here's what he did: Measured at 6-4, 231 pounds, the biggest receiver there. Ran the 40 in 4.52 seconds. Leaped 37 inches vertically. Long-jumped 10-3.
Nobody wanted Colston. Nobody but the Saints -- and they wanted Mike Hass first. Hass doesn't play for the Saints any more -- he was released in September and has since surfaced on the Chicago Bears practice squad. I'm guessing Mike Hass is a nice guy, a solid citizen, so forgive me for using him to make my point:
NFL teams spend millions of dollars and thousands of man hours every year on the draft, but they're never going to get it completely right. Sometimes players from small schools slip through the cracks, go unnoticed until they show up at some team's training camp as a free agent and play their way onto a roster spot. Sometimes players from big schools, like Willie Parker from North Carolina, go unnoticed because they didn't get to play much in college for whatever reason. Parker barely ran for 1,000 yards in four years at UNC, went undrafted by all 32 NFL teams and landed at Pittsburgh, where he will soon top 1,000 yards for the second season in a row.
But there was no excuse for the NFL to miss out on Marques Colston. He went to the combine. He showed up with that prototypical body and put up terrific numbers for speed and explosion. He played in the meat market known as the East-West Shrine Game, where he had five catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. And at Hofstra, which produced longtime NFL receiver Wayne Chrebet and shares a training facility with the New York Jets, Colston approached 200 catches, 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.
One month before the draft, 24 NFL teams visited Hofstra to watch, measure and interview Colston. I spent five minutes with him on Sunday after the Saints' 38-31 loss to the Steelers, so I don't claim to know him, but let me tell you something: He's impressive. Not just an impressive receiver, though he did catch 10 balls for 169 yards against the Steelers despite the fact that fellow starter Joe Horn was inactive.