You have your sources. You have your mountains of tape. You have your own mixed opinions. But whether you're drafting talent, or evaluating it and merely handing out opinions like me, sometimes it comes down to a hunch. It's just one reason why this sport can so often prove you wrong.
Josh Freeman falls in the "hunch" category for me.
When I put out my first mock draft for the 2009 NFL draft, which, per tradition, is always after waiting for juniors and draft-eligible sophomores to declare, I had Freeman going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 19 overall. And I recall it raised some eyebrows. In fact, I knew some people whose opinions I really respect who saw Freeman falling all the way to the third or fourth round. Earlier in the 2008 season, I absolutely waffled as to where I thought he could land. And I didn't entirely disagree with people who questioned putting him that high, because regardless of any positive feelings I had about him, he epitomized the high-risk, high-reward draft pick. I say that because he was one of those kids where, for every positive you could point out, there was always a flip side.
You could point to his huge arm, and then note that his completion percentage had fallen off as a junior to 58.6 percent. (We're having some of the same discussions about Jake Locker this year.) You could point to his improved TD-INT ratio as a junior, and then realize that in three seasons, he'd piled up a somewhat scary 34 INTs. You could point to his ability to extend plays, and then note the unremarkable 4.90 40-yard dash, as in, sure, he could evade people, but he wasn't going to run away from them. You could point to his great size -- his combine measurements were 6-foot-5¾, 248 pounds -- and then recall that another player you really liked, JaMarcus Russell, had similar measurements and was struggling mightily with the Raiders. (And we know where that has ended up.)
But here's what I saw:
• I watched the tape of a game where he went 29-51 for 478 yards and 3 TDs against No. 5 Oklahoma, but he also threw three picks. In terms of his completion rate and decision-making, I saw a good player on a bad team simply trying to do too much.