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Forward LeBron James #6 (R) of the Miami Heat drives against center Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena on February 3, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images) (Marc Serota/2011 Getty Images)
Forward LeBron James #6 (R) of the Miami Heat drives against center Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena on February 3, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images) (Marc Serota/2011 Getty Images)

Drafting NFL quarterbacks more luck than science

Aaron Rodgers - picked at random? LeBron James' historical night , Optimus Reim and more Add to ...

Can you feel it! Super Bowl Sunday is that close. So we have some of that, in particular some thoughts on why, if Aaron Rodgers was so good, he was the 24th pick overall. Also a look at LeBron James' historic night and a t-shirt that Ron Wilson will not be buying any time soon. Here we go:

1. If Quarterbacks are so important, why can't anyone draft them right?

In Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger, Sunday's Super Bowl gets a pair of young, marquee quarterbacks in what should be the early prime of their careers going head-to-head for the biggest prize in the sport. Good stuff. But what's a little strange is that neither of them were the most coveted player at their position in their draft class -- Roethlisberger was the third quarterback taken in 2004 (though the ones taken ahead of him, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, have had nice careers too) and that despite the significance of the position, neither of them were particularly high picks. Rodgers, in particular, had a long stay in the green room: It was April 2005 and Rodgers was a smiling kid out of Cal expected to go high in the draft. On that big day, he sported a dark pinstripe suit and perfectly knotted tie. He was ready for his moment. Rodgers took a seat in the draft Green Room with cameras filming his every grin and fidget. There, he sat. And sat. And sat some more.

Two hours later. Still sitting.

Three hours later. Still sitting.

Four hours later. Still sitting.

The Packers picked Rodgers 4 hours, 35 minutes later with the 24th pick. It was one of the more embarrassing Green Room waits in draft history.

"I was starving," Rodgers joked this week.

It's stunning the list of players taken ahead of Rodgers, who is now one of the best pure throwers in football. Quarterback Alex Smith, the pseudo bust in San Francisco, was picked ahead of Rodgers.

So were names like Ronnie Brown, Braylon Edwards, Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, Pacman Jones, Troy Williamson, Carlos Rodgers, and Matt Jones.

"When it comes to Aaron the NFL mostly got it wrong," Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings said.

The question is why?

A couple of years ago Malcom Gladwell tried to figure that out in a story titled Most Likely to Succeed that used the challenge of drafting quarterbacks to investigate hiring practices generally. Definitely a good read if you've got some time to kill between now and Sunday: We're used to dealing with prediction problems by going back and looking for better predictors. We now realize that being a good doctor requires the ability to communicate, listen, and empathize-and so there is increasing pressure on medical schools to pay attention to interpersonal skills as well as to test scores. We can have better physicians if we're just smarter about how we choose medical-school students. ... The problem with picking quarterbacks is that [their]performance can't be predicted. The job [they're]being groomed for is so particular and specialized that there is no way to know who will succeed at it and who won't. In fact, Berri and Simmons found no connection between where a quarterback was taken in the draft-that is, how highly he was rated on the basis of his college performance-and how well he played in the pros.

2. For the Record: I'm taking the Steelers on Sunday and the NFL owners for the off-season

For a lot of reasons Sunday's game had me pretty pumped; the quarterback match-up is one and the franchises themselves is another. it's not often in North American sports you can say it, but in this case each franchise actually stands for something and it's fun to get caught up in that once in a while. But just to be a wet blanket, enjoy Sunday's game because there is the possibility that it could be the last NFL game anyone gets to see for a long time, as the labour drumbeat picks up intensity. Stephen Brunt sums up the mood nicely from Dallas: So what, in a nutshell, are the issues?

To oversimplify, the NFL's owners believe they erred in 2006 when in order to get a deal, they agreed to a salary cap based on roughly half of designated revenues, including new monies they might generate. That's why they decided to opt out of the contract early, as was their right, in the hopes of knocking that percentage down to something they consider more manageable. ... The owners would like the players to accept a smaller cut and a rookie salary scale, with the promise that the found money would be invested in the game and make everyone richer in the long run. On Wednesday, when he took his turn at the podium, Pash spoke of all kinds of wondrous things the owners might create: new stadiums in Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Francisco and Atlanta, more international games, perhaps even a team in London. (He did not mention that they could also opt to stick those newfound profits in their jeans.) ... What the owners would also like is for the players to agree to an 18-game regular season, which would increase both gate and television revenues, and fly in the face of the lip service paid to player health and safety issues.

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