The NFL draft is good for very few things – multiple iterations of make believe rankings, too many Mel Kiper-esque bland, canned, and vanilla critiques of a player’s attributes, and at least one unforgettable (or maybe unforgiveable) suit. Despite all of the shenanigans, draft day epitomizes the career of a successful college football player and opens the door to the next chapter in his life.
All of the glitz and glam doesn’t come without a price. Many of these players have prepared years to bask in the spotlight of professional football only to get bumped down the draft board following sub-par pro days, slow 40-times, and a disappointing level of bench press reps.
Analysts like the aforementioned Kiper, begin analyzing and evaluating every misstep and mistake made during the “process”. Some genius even decided that a written test was needed to determine cognitive abilities only to fill the test with questions like, “Are you more like a dog or a cat?”
In short, this draft “process” has become ridiculous. Instead of measuring players by their on-field performance, NFL “experts” get hung up on the ramifications of Johnny Manziel wearing a helmet for his pro day. “Is he trying too hard?” “Is he too attention hungry?” In essence…”Can he make it in the NFL?”
Thankfully, one of the positive trends during the player evaluation process is the personal interview. Much like the 22-year old graduating senior is out interviewing for a spot to begin their career, players are interviewing with prospective franchises. Every interview is different and each is intended to be challenging in its own way – after all, each job is different. Rightly so, these interviews are usually held for owners and team managers to get to know the player that they are interested in drafting.
recently asked about his meeting with several NFL teams – he described it perfectly: “[The Dallas Cowboys] wanted to get my football knowledge, get to know about me and the way I play the game and the way I learned the game.” Ok…so far, so good. Donald then went on to explain that the Cincinnati Bengals started their interview by saying five words. At the end of the interview, they asked for those words and Donald said he remembered three out of five – baseball, yellow, and tree. Seriously, those are the type of questions you ask someone who is about to cost you several million dollars?!
They might as well be interviewing for investment banking positions at Goldman with those types of unnecessary questions. I will never understand the reason for asking these preposterous questions.
Donald summed up his thoughts on the “process” best by saying, “It is what it is. To be at the next level it’s the process you got to go through.” So that is the reason? It is what it is? Why can’t we get some real substance and stop the hypotheticals and madness?
In my opinion, the truthful reason for a majority of these odd draft process tactics is derived from ESPN’s desire to create 24/7 sports news. For ESPN to become successful and continue its monopoly over sports news the network must constantly create live “news” out of thin air – hence the breaking stories about Johnny Football’s personal life, Michael Sam’s coming out party, and Jadaveon Clowney’s lack of internal motor. Viewers want drama – that’s why we turn on the TV in the first place – and ESPN will give it to them. A happy viewer equates to higher ratings and you can’t fault ESPN for chasing the money.
In summary, we are trapped in a never-ending cycle of sports reporting and it is never more than leading up to and during the NFL draft.
A prospect’s stock should be based on two things. Foremost, on the field performance – throws to wide open receivers on pro day and other nonsense should not even play into consideration. Secondly, interviews should count for something because I do believe you are making a commitment to not only an athlete, but also a person. You must make sure your draft selection is worthy of the large contract you will negotiate.
In the end, everything and everyone surrounding the draft has a personal opinion and to exacerbate the issue, every opinion is sold to viewers as if it were gospel. It’s time we took a step back and realized how out of hand the draft process has become.
No longer is the draft symbolic of a player’s departure from one stage of life and into the next chapter. Today, we are honed in on practically stalking these players simply to find reasons why they will or will not become the next Peyton Manning. Mel Kiper may have industry connections and years of experience, but this does not mean he has any better insight into Johnny Manziel and his pro prospects than you and me.
It is time to stop making assumptions about who has “it” inside them. History has proven itself. There will always be an outlier. There are no variables to study or intangibles to critique that have proven any type of indicator towards success (other than on-field performance, of course).
I would rather sit back and watch these athletes make a name for themselves on Sunday rather than try to draw some conclusion based on shaky assumptions. We all know that method doesn’t work (as a reference, please see my March Madness bracket).
If you still don’t agree with me, I leave you with this – Russell Wilson would like a word with you.