There isn’t a ball. There isn’t a field. There isn’t a game. There isn’t a scoreboard.
Nobody wins or loses, even if every analyst and football writer will give out “grades” because suddenly they’re experts in the three-cone drill, shuttle run and broad jump — and also whether an offensive lineman has “short arms” or “bad feet.” (What is this: “Project Runway?”)
The NFL draft? It’s glorified grocery shopping. The league never would want this annual exercise to be reduced to something so trivial because they’ve committed 15 hours of television programing to it and everybody needs to get paid. But that’s all this is.
Fans sit on couches and watch the general manager from their favorite team walk into Kroger, push a cart down the aisle and make a selection. (“He took the pork and beans! You dolt! The cannelloni beans were sitting right there! You get a C-minus.”)
I understand the importance of the NFL draft. Really. It’s where teams get most of their players. It’s considered more compelling than drafts in other sports for a few reasons: 1) the NFL is bigger; 2) college football is a bigger feeder system than other sports, and we’ve watched several of these players for years; and 3) the NFL excels at staging, packaging and selling.
But as something really worth devouring for the consumer, the draft is overblown. We get occasional moments. The Falcons cleared the decks for Julio Jones. But what did we see? He looked good in a suit. The draft is national signing day on steroids. It’s geeks, guesses and debates. The closest thing to a football game that happens in a draft is the huddle. Well, and timeouts. There’s 10 minutes between first-round picks, seven minutes between second-round picks, five minutes between third- to seventh-round picks.
Imagine if they didn’t have a year to prepare.
Like recruiting, the draft has spawned an entire industry/subculture. They give us their mock drafts. They sell us preview guides and wrap-ups, and maybe if we buy both we get a free T-shirt. We get insight from experts such as Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki, famous for this gem on Cam Newton: “Very disingenuous. Has a fake smile. Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them.”
Was he giving the thumbs down to a quarterback or a freshman coed rushing a sorority? And, on a related note, who the hell is Nolan Nawrocki?
The draft used to be held in one day. Now it’s in prime time Thursday and Friday and all day Saturday.
Here’s my viewing tip: Find a good movie.