TV sports pundits tend to focus on the predictions they get right, while sweeping past blunders under the rug.
But when I asked NFL draft expert and football analyst Daniel “DJ” Jeremiah his best call in a recent draft, he answered, “I’ll tell you my biggest mistake: Russell Wilson.”
Wilson, star quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, threw two touchdowns and over 200 passing yards to win Super Bowl XLVIII last season. But Wilson almost never wore a Seahawks jersey in the first place.
“In 2012, I was a scout for the Philadelphia Eagles and really wanted the team to draft Russell at the top of the second round,” said Jeremiah between takes at NFL Network’s headquarters in Los Angeles. “I gathered and analyzed all of his data. His numbers showed that he could be great, but there weren’t any other 5’ 10” QBs in the NFL.”
Tom Brady and Payton Manning are both in the 6’ 5” range, and that height was considered the gold standard for NFL quarterbacks. “I dropped my recommendation for Russell down to a lower pick, and the Seahawks grabbed him in the third round [and seventy-fifth overall selection],” remembered Jeremiah.
The rest is history. And, as a life-long Seahawks fan, I made sure to thank Jeremiah on behalf of the city of Seattle.
But Jeremiah, who keeps meticulous digital records of all of his evaluations, always goes back to his notes and studies his mistakes. “We all get it wrong sometimes and in the case of Russell Wilson,” he said, “I learned that if you have the conviction about a player and the research to back it up, you shouldn’t get talked out of it just because it goes against the common practice of the day.”
During my interviews with Jeremiah, at NFL Network headquarters and on a sweltering day in his hometown of Murrieta, California, he asked me nearly as many questions as I asked him. He struck me as genuinely interested in learning about my life, family and career – as if he were about to write a profile on me, not vice versa.
“He’s so inquisitive, and doesn’t take any shortcuts on learning about players and who they really are,” said Jeremiah’s mentor, ESPN commentator Chris “Mort” Mortensen. “He understands how to bring together his passion as a student of the game with the technology to organize and share ever more information to an ever-larger NFL audience.”
As a married father of four, Jeremiah maintains a head-spinning schedule that includes recording his Move the Sticks podcast, giving up to six radio interviews per day, writing columns for NFL.com, broadcasting for NFL Network, evaluating players at NFL and college games, as well as maintaining a healthy social media presence (Sport Illustrated listed him as one of the sports world’s 100 most essential and influential people to follow on Twitter). With his Surface 3 tablet in tow, Jeremiah is the face of a new generation of multimedia sportscasters, sitting squarely at the intersection of All-American football fanatic and spreadsheet-wielding number cruncher.