What experts said about Michigan QB Tom Brady before the 2000 NFL draft

If there’s one thing we do know about the NFL draft, it’s that nobody really knows anything. As much as NFL teams and independent evaluators crunch tape and watch games live and go to the scouting combine and all the post-season games and interview players and all that, when it comes right down to it, the player selection process is a total crapshoot.

There is perhaps no more obvious example of this in the history of professional football than the matter of one Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, the Michigan alum who had to wait until the 199th pick in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft to hear his name called by the New England Patriots.

I think we all know what happened after that.

Still, while it’s easy to cape on evaluators for missing wildly on Brady… did they really? How much of Brady’s greatness was based on the things you can’t see or easily figure out? Brady was not an impressive physical specimen, and even at a time when quarterback mobility was not the desired trait it is now, Brady was relatively pocket-bound. Would he have succeeded elsewhere? It’s impossible to say.

So, on the anniversary of the greatest draft pick in Patriots history, let’s go back to see what people were saying about Brady at the time. To put it mildly, people were not overly eager to frame him as a lead-pipe lock prospect.

We’ll start with a scouting report from those who would have known… this is from the Patriots’ own website!

Notes: Baseball catcher and football quarterback in high school who was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 18th round of the June 1995 baseball draft. Opted for football and redshirted at Michigan in ’95. Saw limited action in ’96 and ’97 and started the past two years. Completed 3 of 5 passes for 26 yards, no touchdowns and one interception in ’96, 12-15-103-0-0 in ’97, 214-350-2,636-15-12 in ’98 and 180-295-2,216-16-6 in ’99, when he often shared time with super sophomore Drew Henson. Went all the way against Alabama in the Orange Bowl and completed 34-46-369-4. Unlike many Michigan quarterbacks, Brady is a pocket-type passer who plays best in a dropback-type system.

Positives: Good height to see the field. Very poised and composed. Smart and alert. Can read coverages. Good accuracy and touch. Produces in big spots and in big games. Has some Brian Griese in him and is a gamer. Generally plays within himself. Team leader.

Negatives: Poor build. Very skinny and narrow. Ended the ’99 season weighing 195 pounds and still looks like a rail at 211. Looks a little frail and lacks great physical stature and strength. Can get pushed down more easily than you’d like. Lacks mobility and ability to avoid the rush. Lacks a really strong arm. Can’t drive the ball down the field and does not throw a really tight spiral. System-type player who can get exposed if he must ad-lib and do things on his own.

Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN:

Overall: Fifth-round grade | Position rank: No. 10 quarterback

Smart, experienced big-game signal-caller, getting very high grades in the efficiency department this past season. Brady cut his interception total from ’98 in half, tossing 20 TD passes compared to just six interceptions. He threw for 2,586 yards, completing an impressive 62.8% of his aerials. For his efforts, Brady was named team MVP. After working as Brian Griese’s backup in ’97, Brady went on to start 25 straight games with the Wolverines.

He’s a straight dropback passer who stands tall in the pocket, doesn’t show nervous feet, and does a nice job working through his progressions. He’s not going to try to force the action, rarely trying to perform beyond his capability. He threw a TD pass in all 16 games he started against Big Ten opposition, while tossing 15 straight completions during the second half of action this past season against Michigan State. He’s accurate, throws a very catchable ball, and also knows when to take a little off the pass.

This past season, Brady completed over 60% of his passes in eight games. The only time he was really off the mark was against Penn State, when he completed just 17 of 36 passes, tossing two TD strikes compared to three interceptions. At the pro level, his lack of mobility could surface as a problem, and it will be interesting to see how he fares when forced to take more chances down the field.

Sure, he doesn’t have the total package of skills, but you have to be impressed with his level of performance this past season against Notre Dame (17-of-24), Wisconsin (17-of-27), Michigan State (30-of-41), Ohio State (17-of-27), and Alabama (34-of-46 for 369 yards and 4 TDs).

Combine note: Ran a 5.24 40-yard dash and had a 24½-inch vertical jump.

Five different evaluators to longtime NFL analyst Rick Gosselin. The first one is BRUTAL.

Scout: Awful. Not even on my board. Weak. He’ll make somebody a good husband or a good medical salesman.

Scout II: Has a quick, [former Michigan QB Brian] Griese-type release.

Quarterback coach: Backup. Could be a #2 in this league for a long time. Has the size but not enough arm.

Offensive coordinator: More instinctive than [Michigan State QB Bill] Burke. Makes better decisions, makes more plays.

General manager: Like him. Just wish he was a better athlete.

From Angelique S. Chengelis, Gannett News Service:

Joel Buchsbaum, Pro Football Weekly: “He is not what you’re looking for in terms of physical stature, arm strength, and mobility, but he has the intangibles and production and showed great [Brian] Griese-like improvement as a senior. He could make it in the right system, but will not be for everyone.” .

Norv Turner, Washington Redskins head coach: “He played awfully well last year. He’s very accurate. He’s very good in the pocket. He’s limited in his mobility in terms of taking off and running, but he’s got a good feel for the pocket, so he avoids people and gets the ball to [his receivers].”

Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe:

“A pocket passer who will compete for a practice squad spot with the Patriots… Drafted as a catcher by the Montreal Expos in 1995 out of Serra [San Mateo, Calif.) HS… Completed 52.8 percent of his passes with 20 TDs and six interceptions. Only Elvis Grbac had more TD passes in a season for the Wolverines… throws a great slant… at 6-4 214 pounds, has some mobility… Platooned with sophomore Drew Henson… Was projected to go in the third round, but dropped quickly.”

In fact, the only person I’m aware who was positive on Brady when he came out of Michigan was Bill Polian, then the general manager of the Indianapolis Colts. As the Colts had selected Peyton Manning with the first overall pick in the 1998 draft, they weren’t really in the market for a quarterback… but Polian told me back in 2015 that his team had a first-round grade on Brady.

Tom Brady would have been a guy, and we were very high on him. Our guys really loved him, but we weren’t in the quarterback market, obviously. Those would be the guys I remember us giving solid, first-round, can-lead-you-to-a-championship grades.

Brady was less of a slam-dunk, of course. Less of a known commodity than Peyton was. But he had such a great last half of his last season [at Michigan], and fought Drew Henson for the starter’s job, and he really came on. I don’t remember where we ultimately put him, but it was certainly a very high grade. We weren’t in the quarterback business, and it wasn’t going to be an issue for us, but it was a very high grade.

So, when you’re getting ready for the 2024 NFL draft, it’s important to remember that nobody really knows anything, and even those who do hit right with their pick are as lucky as they are good at what they do.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire