For someone who fancies Pittsburgh sports talk at the water cooler by day and on the bar stool by night, a passerby posed a question to me the other day that stopped me dead in my tracks:
“So who do you think they’ll get in the second round?”
I was aghast, not knowing whether to slap this person for asking such a presumptuous question or bear-hug him in hopes of consoling each other’s obsession over predicting next week’s NFL Draft. I mean, for the love of Mel Kiper, how on earth can you guess who the Steelers are going to take with the 53rd overall pick if you don’t know who they are selecting at 23? But if you’ve determined picks 1 through 52 off the top of your head then, boy, I must salute your savvy fanhood.
To play along I started spitting out some scenarios that involved Boston College OT Gosder Cherilus in the first round and Maryland DT Dre Moore in the second. You know, if they are both available.
It was only then my curious inquisitor crinkled his brow and interrupted me as if we were speaking in different tongues.
“No, the Penguins, who do you think they’ll play in the next round?”
Forgive me, Mark Madden, for I have sinned. How could my Pittsburgh sporting interest wander astray at time when my local hockey teams needs my undivided attention? This is the exact type of sentiment that will carry a three-hour Junker & Crow “Jagoff of the Week” show on ESPN Radio, so I’ll spare you the drivel. But it seems nowadays you are scorned in this town, at least on talk radio and in the blogosphere, for thinking the Steelers are relevant in the offseason with all the Penguins success.
Anyway, there are a lot of mixed feelings on the NFL Draft, though the TV ratings say otherwise. In the spirit of that, here are Five Reasons to Love and Loathe the NFL Draft.
Five Reasons to Love the NFL Draft
No. 1: Everyone’s an Arm-Chair General Manager
Sports fans thrive on debates. Who your team should select is the penultimate discussion. Add in the incremental clues as other teams make their selections and one could turn their living room into a “war room.” The reasons shows like American Idol are so popular is that they enable viewers to become “experts” and discuss who they think should be picked. Although imagine having delusional contestants show up at the Combine only to throw a fit when they are told they aren’t draft-worthy. Or, image having Steeler Nation text “OT or DT” during the Draft to determine the pick. Who needs Kevin Colbert?
No. 2: Hello, My Name is: BUST
Knowing what a player’s strengths and weaknesses are before they enter the league is a good way stroke one’s fanhood. With all the magazines and talk on Draft day you already have a reason to throw beer on your first-round quarterback. I mean, obviously he is no good because of his poor footwork and those small hands of his. Seriously, though, it’s nice to be familiar with every player that enters the league and for most of them the introduction comes from the Draft day analysis.
No. 3: Roll The Tape!
For those with short attention spans and mild forms of ADHD, having someone spoon-feed you some of the best highlight-reel plays from the 2007 college football season is a soothing football fix, particularly in April. As soon as a player’s name is read off that 4-x-6 card you get to see a montage of some monstrous Big Ten offensive tackle pancaking every slap-dick defensive tackle in the MAC, or perhaps an SEC defensive tackle man-handling some poor sap from the Sun Belt. Back when LaVar Arrington was drafted you couldn’t get enough of his flying squirrel tackles.
No. 4: Hurts So Good
There’s nothing like watching a grown man lose millions of dollars in signing bonuses or even his job on live television. Last year was no different. With all the egos in sports you gotta take pleasure in seeing a can’t-miss prospect with that dopey looking on his face waiting for his cell phone to ring while sitting in the green room by his lonesome, or at least with his girlfriend for bloggers to ogle. And then there’s watching a team draft a player to supplant the aging has-been, especially when that soon-to-be-released player has to analyze the pick like Keyshawn Johnson did for the Panthers’ selection of Dwayne Jarrett last year. Sure, Keyshawn, you can teach him a thing or two.
No. 5: Hope Springs Eternal
Though analysts may issues letter grades and winners and losers, nobody really loses on Draft day. Even if you are a fan of the Cleveland Browns you’ve got be excited about your team’s prospects. That punch-in-the-gut feeling you have while driving home from the stadium after your team is eliminated from playoff contention and you realize that none of your draft picks can play dead in a Western … that’s month away from now. On Draft day, we hope!
Five Reasons to Loathe Draft Day
No. 1: Just Give Roger the Stinking Card Already!!!
The first round of the 1972 draft lasted just two hours while last year’s first round was a six-hour, eight-minute marathon. Heck, most hostage situations that don’t last that long! (Ain’t that right, Cedrick Wilson?) No wonder there is talk about moving the Draft to Friday night and cutting Commissioner Roger Goodell’s trips to the podium from 15- to 10-minute intervals in the first round.
No. 2: What The Mel?
When a “sporting event” is based solely on projections, opinions and a little bit of transactions, voices are all too important. And every April we sit down and think what Mel Kiper, Jr. tells us to think. This slick-haired soothsayer is the Dalai Lama of the NFL Draft. When he goes on sports talk shows the hosts give him verbal back rubs for his vast knowledge. But the real question is: If Mel ever gets sick, will the Draft go on?
No. 3: He’s Hot, He’s Cold
The posturing that goes on between general managers and agents brings out the worst in Draft reporting. The Sporting News touched on this in this week’s issue when they mentioned how Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman went on a sports radio show last year and quipped that there’s a rumor out on Adrian Peterson. “He needs shoulder surgery. Spread that around.” And, sure enough, a report surfaced that Peterson needed surgery. It’s frustrating to see players’ “stock” rise and fall when none of them play a down of football all because teams are baiting-and-switching teams to trade while keeping a poker face. That’s understandable. But when we see guys like Tennessee LB Jerod Mayo climb Kiper’s “Big Board” at the last minute you got to think Kiper’s palms are being greased by player’s agent.
No. 4: Ghosts in Pac-Man’s Closet
When Pac-Man Jones was about to be drafted in the first round out of West Virginia an NFL team sent someone knocking on the front door of Pac-Man’s next-door neighbor in Morgantown and, without an introduction, began interrogating the young woman with questions like “What time does he usually come in at night?” or “Are there loud parties and disturbances next door?” Either that person was not from the Titans or Pac-Man lived next to Helen Keller. Teams have to alter there Draft picks because of off-the-field concerns and it really skews the entire Draft process.
No. 5: Just Read All About It
The Draft produces a list of teams and names. You can read the complete list in the agate section of the next day’s newspaper so why waste an entire day WATCHING it? That’s not to say you shouldn’t watch the Pirate game on Saturday and only read the box score in the Sunday paper. But imagine if a Pirate game was simply Lanny Frattare walking up to home plate and reading an entry from his scorecard every 15 minutes. Now that would be easier to mock than a stupid Draft.