If I know anything about the NFL draft, it’s that nothing ever goes as anticipated.
Players will get drafted entirely too high, teams will trade up and down like crazy, and excellent players will fall and be picked later than expected — much to the delight of the teams drafting them.
You’re more likely to fill out a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket than you are to perfectly predict what will happen in the draft.
The NFL draft has become more than just teams picking players; it has become a spectacle, one crawling with fans up and down Rockefeller Center. But draft attendance is what really separates the fans from the super-fans.
Those who stay to watch “Mr. Irrelevant” get picked are probably the same folks who are up waiting for the parking lot gates to open to start tailgating.
No other sport’s draft is as impactful or influential as the NFL’s. One good draft can turn a bottom-feeding team into a playoff contender, and one home run pick can reverse a franchise’s fortunes instantly (see Cam Newton).
Frankly, if you want to contend in the NFL, you need to draft well.
Anyone who has managed a fantasy football team and failed miserably like myself can acknowledge how difficult it is to draft and account for every need. The difference is all I have to lose is my pride. Meanwhile, NFL general managers have their jobs, the respect of fans and the trust of the franchise’s owner. But hey, who’s comparing?
General mangers have to manage their draft rooms like military generals: adapting to new conditions set by other teams, plotting their own moves, and managing communications with fellow squads. The Draft Room for many teams is a controlled chaos, and when they’re on the clock, every second is critical.
The 32 best players in college football will have their names called on Thursday, and even though they’re the most likely to start during week one, it doesn’t mean everyone after is null and void. The last two teams to take the Lombardi Trophy home, the Packers and Giants, both enjoyed contributions from late round-picks. Names like James Starks, Tyler Sash, Jacquain Williams and Frank Zombo certainly won’t be seen on the jerseys of fans, but they were all important during their teams’ Super Bowl runs.
The building blocks are drafted early, but the glue that holds a draft class together is found in the late rounds.
Typically the only pick we can be 100 percent sure of is the number one overall pick, but this year it’s quite clear that Robert Griffin III will be picked by Redskins at number two. After that, it’s entirely up in the air.
Will the Browns go after Alabama running back Trent Richardson? He looks like the kind of talented back that can give a team its identity like Adrian Peterson or Maurice Jones-Drew, but names like Reggie Bush and Cadillac Williams are fresh in the minds of GMs who shy away from selecting running backs in the first few picks.
Where will LSU cornerback Maurice Claiborne go? In a pass-happy league, it’s important to have a strong secondary, and who ever gets Claiborne could very well have the league’s next shutdown corner — regardless of his Wonderlic score.
USC tackle Matt Kalil looks like the safest pick in the draft, and Rams quarterback Sam Bradford would no doubt appreciate him protecting his blindside. But would he prefer Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, whose physicality and hands are comparable to those of Andre Johnson? The Rams have a litter of picks courtesy of the Redskins, so the possibilities are endless for St. Louis.
Bill Belichick’s magician-like abilities to take one pick and turn it into three or four has the Patriots stocked four picks in the first two rounds. They are in desperate need of defensive help, so they could very well be on the move on day one, per usual.
When Roger Goodell goes to the podium, it’s impossible to say what will happen, but one thing that’s certain is calamity will ensue. While general managers are gaining gray hairs by the moment, we as fans get to sit back and enjoy the best entertainment New York has to offer.
And until we actually get to see how pitiful some teams look once September rolls around, hope springs eternal all over the country.