NFL writers released their final grades for the 1998 NFL Draft today and the results for the top two teams in the draft are decidedly different. The Indianapolis Colts, who had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and selected Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning, received an A-, while the San Diego Chargers, who picked Ryan Leaf No. 2 overall out of Washington State, were given an F.
“I’m kind of disappointed with that grade, I’ll be honest,” said former Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard, who has been out of football since 2000 — two years after drafting Leaf. “Ryan didn’t quite work out how we hoped, but I feel like the graders didn’t take a fair look at our whole draft. We got defensive tackle Jamal Williams at the end of the second round. That’s a good pick!”
Beathard also stressed that 15 years isn’t enough time to evaluate a draft fairly.
“What if Philip Rivers wins a Super Bowl one day for the Chargers?” said the 76 year-old. “The Chargers had to eventually get him after giving up on Leaf. So you could say Leaf paved the way for a Super Bowl, right? I mean, I think that would at least earn the ’98 draft a solid C+.”
Bill Polian, the general manager of the Colts in 1998 who drafted Manning, on the other hand, was very happy with Indianapolis’ final 1998 draft grade.
“I was worried, I’ll be honest,” he said. “When you look at the big picture, Peyton only won one more Super Bowl than Ryan Leaf did for the Chargers. I was thinking we might get a C or B-.”
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, who oversaw the final draft grading, said the Colts could have even earned a full A if their later round picks — such as Jerome Pathon, E.G. Green, Steve McKinney and others — hadn’t been forgettable NFL players.
The Arizona Cardinals, who used the No. 3 overall pick to take Andre Wadsworth, were given an F+.
“I’m happy to be above the Chargers,” said former Cardinals GM Rod Graves. “I feel a bit vindicated with that pick of Andre now.”
NFL experts are expected to issue their final grades on the 1999 Draft next October, serving as a final judgment on Cleveland’s No. 1 overall selection of Tim Couch.
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Also see … Honest NFL.com headlines: 2013 NFL draft