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Volume 3, Number 12
December, 1998

View From the Cheap Seats The Randy Moss Lottery

by Dave Lind

The question was posed to me the other day, "How many GM's are kicking themselves now for passing on Randy Moss"?

The answer is, of course, lots of 'em. Every year some lucky team will strike unexpected gold in the NFL Draft, taking a chance on a player who popular wisdom has dismissed as being too small or too slow or too...whatever. The hall of fame could dedicate an entire wing to players who were either selected late or, in some cases, not at all, but who nonetheless vaulted to stardom when finally given an opportunity. Players like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Terrell Davis, and others have made many a scout swallow their words on their way to the hall of fame.

But Moss was different. Moss was no diamond in the rough. On the contrary, few recievers in the history of the league have ever come out of college with so complete a game. Fabulous speed, marvelous hands, incredible athleticism, he was without argument the total package. To a man, every person who ever saw Randy Moss play agreed that he was destined for NFL greatness...."IF". And that was really the key, that big "IF". IF he could stay out of trouble and IF he was willing to work and IF he could this and IF he could that. The only knock anyone could find against Randy Moss was Randy Moss. It became, to borrow a phrase from the political arena, "An issue of character."

Some...indeed many...doubted Moss' ablity to handle the pressures and temptations associated with NFL greatness, and to be truthful, many still do. It was because of the these doubts that a number of GMs passed on Moss, fearing some sort of meltdown that might tarnish the otherwise pristine public image that the NFL has worked so hard to cultivate.

The truly comical, and perhaps truly tragic, aspect of the entire Randy Moss scare was that while GM after GM panicked and passed on what was arguably the most positive can't-miss, immediate impact superstar of the draft in favor of players like Grant Wistrom and Kevin Dyson, the NFL's biggest headcase was snapped up without the slightest hesitation with the second pick, Ryan Leaf.

Which leads me to wonder, if they could do it all over again, how many GM's, if given the choice, would again pass on Moss? Let's examine them pick by pick:

#1) Indianapolis
Evaluation: The Colts were coming off a 3-13 year and haven't had a truly great QB since Bert Jones. In his rookie year, Manning is currently third in the league in passing yardage and has shown remarkable progress.
Pick: Manning
#2) San Diego
Evaluation: The Chargers had just lost their QB to retirement and were, like the Colts, in desperate need of rebuilding. Even though Leaf has lost his job, gotten his coach fired, shown no class, no professionalism, and no willingness to learn, it's hard for any team to pass on a potential All-Pro QB. Therefore, one cannot fault the Chargers for selecting Leaf over Moss.
Pick: Leaf
#3) Arizona
Evaluation: At the time, few questioned the Cardinals' decision to select Wadsworth over Moss despite the fact that they were talent-rich on the defensive line with the likes of Eric Swann and Simeon Rice. But Wadsworth held out of training camp and hasn't been nearly as effective in his first season as the Cards had hoped, causing some to wonder just how nice it might have been to see Jake Plummer lofting spirals downfield to a streaking Moss. Besides, in a year in which the Cards are 6-6 and in control of their own wildcard destiny, a game-breaker like Moss may well have been all they needed to elevate them to a division title or better.
Pick: Moss
#4) Oakland
Evaluation: The Raiders also passed on Moss, though not without some regret. The Raiders desperately needed help at the corner and Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson was the ideal pick. Al Davis was interested in Moss, however, and tried unsuccessfully to move up in the first round to get him. The Woodson choice has turned out well for Davis and the Raiders though, as the young corner seems a lock for AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Pick: Woodson
#5) Chicago
Evaluation: The Bears had already made moves to shore up their running game by bringing in Edgar Bennett and releasing Raymont Harris, so the decision to take Curtis Enis over Moss was strictly one of character. Enis performed capably for a while before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Pick: Moss
#6) St Louis
Evaluation: Of all the teams who decided to pass on Moss for character issues, the Rams are the only one with whom I agree. Not because of the "Moss Factor", but because of the "Vermeil Factor". In Minnesota Moss found a healthy, supportive atmosphere which assigned him a mentor and encouraged him to develop into a professional both on the field and off. Vermeil would most likely have handled Moss the same way he handled Lawrence Phillips: Tell him to stay out of trouble, then pray he listens. Grant Wistrom may not have been