Friday, May 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL draft speculation? It's all daft

In the entire history of history, there has never been an event where so many said so much while knowing so little.

Yeah, it's the NFL draft, all right.

This is the beauty of the draft, of course. No one knows anything about anything. Not the NFL scouts. Not the chattering heads on TV. Not the guy next to you who wants to argue about offensive tackles. Not you. Not me.

Together, we are all fumbling through the dark, talking seriously as we move. Together, we are guessing.

Still, there have been hours upon hours, hundreds of them, spent on the draft. There have been dozens of mock drafts by dozens of self-proclaimed gurus. There have been giant swings in the player rankings, even though it has been months since anyone played a down of football.

There have been endless debates over Teddy Bridgewater's glove, Jadeveon Clowney's passion, Johnny Manziel's size. There have been countless reports over which teams like which players, although those teams aren't saying a word. There are constant trade rumors, although some seem to make no sense.

And you know what?

Most of it is hooey.

George Young, the late general manager of the Giants, used to call the draft "the biggest nonevent in football.'' And that about covers it. Neither the NBA nor the NHL playoffs get nearly the attention the draft gets. If you had a nickel for every word spent on the draft, well, you could buy your own team. Maybe two.

That's the secret to loving the draft. Don't think of it as drama. Think of it as comedy. Think of it as a giant, slow game of picking sides, where teams line up to make millionaires out of guys who can't play pro football. Except in rare circumstances, that's the way it usually works out.

If you back away and look at it from a distance, it's amazing the draft has grown so big. Hope sells, one supposes. Enough that the draft has become a three-day miniseries (and it might go to four) where human bobbleheads chatter incessantly about offensive tackles, who might play for the next decade without anyone discussing them nearly as much.

At the top of the pyramid, of course, are the general managers and scouts. They're the guys trying to get someone to nibble on their liar's poker. (Remember last year, when the Chiefs simply loved Geno Smith.)

The teams, of course, would like to believe they're the smart guys here. But it doesn't always work out that way, does it? In the draft, no one is an expert, not even the experts. Someone's going to draft a Ryan Leaf, or a JaMarcus Russell, or a Joey Harrington. Or, to put it in the language of the locals, someone will take Dexter Jackson, or Josh Freeman, or Brian Price.

No, those guys don't know anything. Not really.

Because the teams say so little, however, the commentators have become a cottage industry. No one is sure exactly where Mel Kiper came from, or when he arrived, but the guy is a star when it comes to the draft. He's the guy whose paper every other mock drafter copies.

But you know what? Kiper has no idea, either. This year, for instance, he did five mock drafts. In them, he had three different guys going No. 1. Manziel went as high as first and as low as eighth. Anthony Barr went as high as sixth and as low as 25th. Bridgewater went as high as fifth and as low as not being drafted in the first round.

In other words, wherever Bridgewater goes, Kiper will have had the proper range. At least once.

No, those guys don't know anything, either. Not remotely.

Then there are the rest of us, the ones who read the mock drafts and watch the YouTube videos and decide what we think about players we have never seen. Take Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. The truth is very few people saw Mack play. But everyone has an opinion.

Here's my favorite line I've read on a player this offseason. It's about Auburn punter Steven Clark, who supposedly "has short arms.'' What? He's a punter! What are his arms too short for? High snaps? Don't you picture a Tyrannosaurus rex, his fingers sticking out of his short sleeves, in punt formation?

Then there is Bridgewater, who had a bad pro day, and suddenly he can't throw in the right direction. If I were Bridgewater, I would show up at the draft wearing my passing glove. I would never take it off again. I'd be like Michael Jackson.

Then there is the receiver who lacks "ideal size'' and lacks "ideal muscle or strength.'' He lacks "elite speed.'' His hands are "steady, but he'll have his share of focus drops, especially when he hears footsteps.'' His "character needs investigation.''

That player? It's Sammy Watkins, supposedly a lock for the top five.

The consolation? Evidently, the scouts don't know anything, either.

So why do we watch? Other than the fact The Big Bang Theory is a repeat?

We watch because we perceive our teams getting stronger. We watch because we like young players on the rise. We watch because, every now and then, Chris Berman stops talking.

We watch because, every now and then, Bill Tobin tells off Kiper. We watch just in case Mike Ditka trades away his entire draft again. We watch in case the Bucs forget to draft Booker Reese, then trade away their No. 1 pick in the following season to make sure they make their mistake.

We watch, basically, because we don't know any better.

And really, isn't that the fun of it?

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