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"Ryan Leaf," he was told.
Of course. This was shaping up as the Peyton Manning-- Ryan Leaf draft, and Hasselbeck, who was just hoping to be a late-round pick, knew he wasn't in Leaf's league. Now he wouldn't even be in his combine.
In fact, Leaf would be the second pick in the draft, Hasselbeck the 187th. Leaf got an $11.25 million signing bonus from the Chargers, Hasselbeck $50,000 from the Packers. Yet the kid from BC was euphoric about working as Brett Favre's understudy. "I was soooo not ready to play in the NFL that first year," Hasselbeck recalled last week. "If the Packers had put me in as a rookie, I'd have failed and all those scouts who doubted me would have said, 'He can't play. Never should have been drafted.'"
To the contrary, Hasselbeck, who was traded to the Seahawks in 2001, has been to three Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl and is the unquestioned leader of his team. Leaf, out of the NFL for six years after failed trials with four teams, is the quarterbacks coach as well as golf coach at Division II West Texas A&M. And in the decade since this infamous draft, not much about the science of the selection process has changed.
HOW TO sum up the 1998 draft 10 years later? Scary. Historic. Consider this:
? Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard—the architect of two of the Redskins' title teams—traded a pair of first-round picks and a second-rounder to move up one slot to select Leaf. It is arguably the worst trade in NFL history.
? Coaches Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson ran the drafts of the Jets and the Dolphins, respectively, and made 22 picks between them. Only three of those players became starters for more than one season.
? Some of the disparities in draft position included running backs Curtis Enis at No. 5 and Ahman Green at No. 76; wideouts Marcus Nash 30th and Hines Ward 92nd; defensive backs Terry Fair 20th and Pat Tillman 226th. Jason Peter and John Avery were bonus babies, yet London Fletcher and Jeff Saturday were undrafted.
"Boy, that is a sad commentary on scouting," says Mike Lombardi, who as the Eagles' director of pro scouting that year was key to the team's having the best draft in the league: left tackle Tra Thomas, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, defensive tackle Brandon Whiting, return man--cornerback Allen Rossum—all of whom would become regulars for six to 10 years—and linebacker Ike Reese, who would become a special teams captain.