Thursday, April 26, 2012

NFL Draft Thoughts

The NFL First Year Player Draft (which nobody every calls it because monosyllables are sexy) is, at its essence, a glorified class attendance list. It is nervous-looking men in suits having meetings and then calling out a name whom, after the first round or two, only local rooting interests (of the school the kid went to, not the team) have ever heard of. This is a fact, and the genus of the NFL is that it has taken class attendance and turned it into a three month buildup to a three day extravaganza.
The real fun, of course, comes in the weeks leading up to the drafts, when everyone suddenly becomes a "draft expert", largely by parroting the various, intrinsically inaccurate mock drafts that go up everywhere. Even the draftiest of draftniks - professional hair helmet Mel Kiper Jr. (who should never be allowed to speak about baseball on air again) and the like - admit that the predictions they are making are complete hooey, because they have no way to predict which picks are going to get traded. And yet, there are endless iterations of mock drafts and serious-sounding experts giving sonorous takes on whom Jacksonville might take at 7.
I listened to one of those the other night. The hard-hitting, insightful, insider-driven analysis said that the Jaguars might trade their pick. Or they might take a wide receiver. Or they might take a cornerback. Or a linebacker. Or a defensive lineman. And really, there were "a lot of directions" they could go.That sounds remarkably like "I have no goddamn idea, but they're paying me and I've got two minutes of airtime to fill", but let it pass, let it pass.
The manufactured drama is thick on the ground, though. In a draft where everyone knew that the first pick would be Stanford QB Andrew Luck - the team possessing said pick having ditched one of the five best quarterbacks in NFL history to assure him of a smooth landing spot, there was an attempt to claim that the Colts might actually be selecting Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. Because, well, no, really, there was never any reason to assume that. Now, with the first two picks locked down, there are ominous warnings that Minnesota, at #3, might not pick titanic slab of beef Matt Kalil, because Minnesota's coach said something in passing that, if you squint hard enough, makes it look like he might not want to take the guy who's the best fit for his team. And then there's the saga of Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M quarterback whose risen up the "draft charts" and then dropped and risen and dropped and...without having thrown a single pass in months. But hey, they need someone to talk about as a wild card, and this year Tannehill got elected, Mike Mamula being otherwise engaged.
I shouldn't be too hard on draft fans, though - at least the ones who aren't claiming that Bernard Pierce's running style is more conducive to a fifth-round pick because he squares his shoulders improperly and is tight in the hips. (Note: If you ever describe another human being you are not sleeping with as "tight in the hips", you have entered stalker territory) Really, what the draft is selling is hope - hope that your team's going to get a star player, hope that they're going to dig up a gem in a later round, hope that they've made themselves better. And for months, until these kids actually put on pads and start playing, they're something to dream on. It's my opinion, based on pretty much no expertise, that the young Mr. Tannehill is going to be the next coming of Dan Orlovsky. But until the games start and he starts younger Detmer-brothering the ball all over the place, he's going to be the bright and shining quarterback of the future. That's a few months of hope, and hope's really all most fans can ask for.
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