Tuesday, April 26, 2011

NFL Draft Craft: Don’t believe a word you hear or see

image Mock drafts, like NCAA tournament brackets, are made to be busted. There’s Mel Kiper’s Big Board. Todd McShay. Clark Judge. Put all of these forecasts together and they’ll look like a first year stat students scatterplot. They’re all over the place.

Via the Daily Caller (yes, that site has a sports section and I was surprised, too), Joe Theismann doesn’t even think Cam Newton is worthy of a first round pick, much less the first overall pick of the Carolina Panthers. Nick Fairley? The Cowboys want nothing to do with him, according to at least one prominent draft analyst. Mark Ingram has a bad knee. Julio Jones is injury prone. Patrick Peterson has character issues. A.J. Green’s Wonderlic score is too low.

It’s all bullshit.

In the weeks leading up to any NFL Draft, the children who write and say stuff like the above all have an agenda. The Washington Redskins would absolutely love it if Cam Newton fell in their lap. So too would the New Orleans Saints found Mark Ingram still hanging around at pick #24. So their “sources” float stories about players they aren’t gonna pick.

Trust me—the more crap you hear about a player’s lack of potential in the NFL, the more teams there are looking at him and going, “Hmmmm.”

In about 48 hours, the Carolina Panthers will be put on the spot. I fully expect them to take Cam Newton. Nick Fairley. Marcell Dareus. Patrick Peterson. Julio Jones. Whichever player is expected by that organization to fulfill what the organization believes to be its greatest need.

The NFL Draft is all about filling needs and taking the best player available who fits the bill. The only team that always takes the best available athlete—regardless of position and regardless of need—is always and everywhere the completely dysfunctional Oakland Raiders.

But subterfuge is part of the game we call the Draft Craft. It’s crafting a message that makes your competitors doubt—ever so slightly—the capabilities of a player they really want. Generate enough negative buzz, and you’re the Green Bay Packers selecting Aaron Rogers.  The Seahawks and Shaun Alexander as the 19th pick. Or, the New England Patriots waiting patiently until the seventh round until Tom Brady is just there for them.

There is an inverse correlation between the amount of ink spilled about a player’s lack of ability and the interest teams have in him.

Making the right selection in the NFL Draft is a lot like picking players during college recruiting. You know you’ve got some good raw material. You know there’s a lot of potential there. But how much can you dissuade your competitors from pursuing him?

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