The NFL Draft has been dominating our television screens over the past few days. It’s been a cavalcade of dreams come true for so many young men that have finally gotten to this point. They have worked tirelessly since Pop Warner and finally get the chance to have their moment in the sun.
And at the risk of making it sound as if I’m raining on their parade, I guess that’s why I hate it so much.
In all fairness, it’s not the players’ fault. It’s more the fault of the league who builds these guys up as if all of them are going to be stars. The assumed positivity of the ESPN network has almost gotten out of control. Sure, they’ll mention that a guy had a sub-average 40 time or that he tested positive for marijuana at the combine. But they’ll also roll over it within seconds and then show one of their ridiculous over the top montages that Michael Jackson would have wanted during the “Dangerous” tour. Which seems like it’s a little much for a dude that gets taken in the seventh round.
While it may not seem as if I’m Captain Happy here, I’ve actually been trying to use the approach of positive thinking more often in my life. But the one thing that always keeps me grounded is reason. You have to be reasonable about things in life, and the reality is in three and a half years you’re not going to have any goddamn idea who 80% of these guys are. The draft is overrated, plain and simple.
So why might that be? For starters, ESPN has molded the draft into a multi-million dollar showcase that is way too big for its own head. And that’s a pretty serious achievement considered how big of a head the four letter has already. It’s almost mind-numbing when you think about it.
Then there’s the missing variable: You always hear all these great stories about so and so being a walk-on or being undrafted after a good stretch of the season. That should tell you something right there: The draft skips a lot of guys that end up being good football players due to their inability to put up great numbers at the combine.
In other words, it’s hardly an exact science. All of the number crunching and interviews can’t really give you the exact idea of what a guy will be like when the lights go on during a regular season game.
But because of the pressure ESPN puts on these clubs by trying to make the draft this explosive piece of ratings dynamite, the positivity that they attempt to inject ends up distorting the clubs’ view of the players themselves. The front office guys can say they are only watching what they learned from their visits and research on a player, but let’s cut the bullshit – all of those guys are watching the main feed.
From a network standpoint, it makes sense. The hype machine is in full effect right around this time of every year, and with good reason. The NFL draft absolutely crushed both the NHL playoffs and the NBA playoffs on Thursday night. The numbers weren’t even close, further proof that even if LeBron James is playing the NBA still isn’t dick compared to the King-FL.
But I worry that the product may be getting diluted, and that some of these guys may be getting too much of an ego boost once they hit the most physically demanding league in pro sports. Some might call it motivation, but when the success rate is so small it’s hard to imagine it being more of a positive than a negative.
I fight all of these demons by not involving myself with it. I know people who are obsessed with mock drafts and they are total morons. Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. make crazy stupid money in the industry, almost to the point where it’s depressing. (Editor’s note: Who the fuck is Mel Kiper Sr. anyway? I think that if you’re famous and the person who has given you the name “Jr.” isn’t famous, then there’s no need to differentiate. His name is Mel Kiper) The industry of the draft itself has become its own separate industry, with teams banking on their picks to save their season. When in reality it takes so much more work than that.
Take for example the Jacksonville Jaguars, who took this Blake Bortels cat out of UCF which was clearly done for regional appeal. Say Chad Henne either gets hurt or continues to be Chad Henne, and Bortels gets in there and either gets his leg snapped like a twig or goes 4 for 27 in three consecutive games with ten picks. What can the Jags determine from this? That Bortels probably doesn’t have what it takes to be an NFL quarterback. But also one more thing as well…
It also allows them to determine that they are in the same place they were this weekend: With the third overall pick, and a very uncertain future. (And now no running back…so maybe perhaps even a higher overall pick)
And that’s precisely why the NFL draft is so overrated. While sold as a blockbuster Radio City Music Hall event with millions of viewers, in reality all of the Gatorade advertisements in the world can’t change that at best it’s nothing more than a vicious cycle in down years. (such as this one) Without an Andrew Luck that you KNOW will have big league success, it becomes – simply put – a necessary evil that guys like me who aren’t college football fans have to suffer through reading about.
I do realize that the draft is where the NFL gets a lot of its future (and current) stars. And I also realize that every ten years or so there’s a Tom Brady story that makes it all seem worthwhile. But somebody has to call out the draft for what it really is: An overrated hype-fest. And that somebody is me.
And if that makes me “Old Man Raincloud”, tough shit. Looks like there’s going to be a 115% chance of Meehan once the rosters get cut down to 53.