Supplemental draft fraught with risks

In addressing the viability of Southern California defensive tackle Manuel Wright in the supplemental draft Thursday, Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese said, "Somebody will jump on (him)."

An apt choice of verb there, jump, because by nature, exercising a pick in the supplemental draft clearly demands a leap of faith. Teams are asked to consider prospects about whom they have scant knowledge, who they have scrutinized far less than players eligible in the regular draft, and who, by definition, typically come with increased risk.

In general, the prospects in the supplemental draft would not be there except for some sort of character flaw or lapse of judgment. The lottery is for special cases, players who have forfeited their remaining college eligibility, usually, in recent years, because of academic deficiencies or other off-field issues. And so the evaluation of the supplemental draft should begin with an acknowledgement that most of the prospects in the talent pool will enter the NFL toting excess baggage.

Those evaluations should also note that, historically, the supplemental draft has been a monumental crapshoot.

During its early years, the supplemental lottery wasn't quite so risky, because the players in the pool were often prospects who actually graduated early, but not in time to be eligible for the regular-phase draft. Some of the most notable supplemental selections -- like quarterbacks Bernie Kosar (Cleveland, 1985), Dave Wilson (New Orleans, 1981) and Dave Brown (New York Giants, 1992) -- fell into that category.

More recently, though, the supplemental draft has evolved into a kind of clearinghouse for players with warts, and with no alternative but to seek employment at the pro level because they can't return to school.

The physically gifted but motivationally challenged Wright possesses rare size and quickness and is an intriguing player. But he is also an underachiever whose dubious work ethic was obvious even during his audition for NFL scouts last week. He is a gamble, and because the franchise which chooses him must forfeit its corresponding round pick in the 2006 draft, there is a certain caveat emptor approach to any deliberations about whether to take him and in which round.

Of the 33 players chosen in the supplemental draft, which dates back to 1977, there have been just two defensive tackles. So will Wright be as productive as Jamal Williams, one of the NFL's premier interior defenders against the run, taken by San Diego in the second round of the 1998 supplemental draft? Or will he bomb out like Dan Sileo, selected by Tampa Bay in the third round in 1987, whose career included just 10 appearances?

Indeed, the disparate careers of Williams and Sileo represent a microcosm of the history of the supplemental draft.

The supplemental draft has produced one likely Hall of Fame player in wide receiver Cris Carter, who was selected by Philadelphia in the fourth round in 1987. Other quality supplemental picks, in addition to Kosar, included quarterback Steve Walsh (Dallas, 1989), tailback Bobby Humphrey (Denver, 1989), wide receiver Rob Moore (New York Jets, 1990), guard Mike Wahle (Green Bay, 1998) and Williams.

Just as notable, though, are the busts.

Bodacious linebacker Brian Bosworth cost the Seattle Seahawks a first-round pick in the '87 supplemental draft and his career lasted only 24 games. Arizona used a first-rounder on quarterback Timm Rosenbach in 1989 and he played just 26 games before retiring to pursue a career in the rodeo. Dave Brown, chosen as the successor to Phil Simms, never lived up to that billing. Defensive end Darren Benson, a third-round pick by Dallas in 1995, appeared in 12 games. Because of injuries, the jury is still out on tailback Tony Hollings, a Houston Texans second-round selection in 2003, but the former Georgia Tech standout has rushed for a total of 149 yards in two seasons.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.