It's NFL draft week. I love the NFL draft. Let me count the ways.
Here I am in a communist country talking about a communist professional sports league. Communist? Yeah. If you learn about the history that created the modern NFL (since the merger with the AFL) it was formed with a communist mindset. The guy that owned the biggest team with all the money (Wellington Mara in NY) agreed to split TV revenue equally across the league. It could be argued that he didn't know what the league would become, but in my estimation it was Mara and Lamar Hunt (KC) that chose communism. I love the irony that the communism I'm talking about is beloved by right wing rednecks* and hillbillies across the land. Ok. Enough about that.
Note: I am a redneck, so I feel comfortable calling others that name. Perhaps a post about the term is coming. Hmm... Foreshadowing.
My NFL draft fascination started with the mid 80s Seattle Seahawks. In 1983 Seattle selected RB Curt Warner from Penn State. What!??! I had just moved to Washington State from Pennsylvania. I loved the national championship Nittany Lions. Odd coincidence, but I was in. Warner had an awesome rookie season culminating with a monster upset in the playoffs over Dan Marino and the Dolphins. It sucked when Warner blew his knee in the first game of the next season, but I was hooked. My team was winning and I was excited about it.
I started watching the draft religiously every year in the 90s. Every young athlete being selected was so excited to be joining an NFL team and they were all future all-pro with hall of fame potential. I fondly remember Dr. Z and a much younger Mel Kiper debating who "should" get selected by each team. Who can forget the Colts GM Bill Tobin defending the selection of LB Trev Alberts with "who the hell is Mel Kiper?" A classic. Kiper thought they should have taken QB Trent Dilfer. Poor Trent got stuck in Tampa Bay wearing a creamsicle uniform.
There's some crazy themes going on in the draft every year. A bunch of rich white guys selecting young strong black men one at a time to work for them? Let's just leave that one alone. However, there's some odd dynamics at work here. What other professions bring employees into their work place like this other than sports? Could you imagine Google, Microsoft, and Apple selecting employees this way? With the first pick in the 2023 tech draft from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Twitter selects... coder John Li. And then there's the age requirement. That just kills me. Here kid. Take this rifle and shoot that foreigner. No, you have to do this. It's the law. What? Play a game for a living? No. You're too young for that. You have to be two years removed from high school before you can do that.
Some of my favorite memorable moments.
The forementioned Kipers comment by Colts GM Bill Tobin.
I remember exactly where I was in the summer of 1987 when Seattle landed the first pick in the Brian Bosworth sweepstakes as he was a supplemental pick. I was in a work truck on Soundview Drive heading down the hill into Gig Harbor, WA. I heard about it on the radio. The Boz had a better career than most want to credit him with (all rookie team), but of course he was much more hype than substance and his career was cut short by bad shoulders.
Calling the Russell Wilson third round pick in 2012. Nailed it.
DT Gerald McCoy starting a new tradition in 2010. It was a common for players walking onto the stage to give the commissioner a handshake as they were presented as a new member of the NFL. Hugs happened, but they weren't the norm. McCoy was the third pick that year behind Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh. McCoy enveloped Roger Goodell in a huge bear hug. It's been all hugs all the time since that moment. See the picture above for reference.
Getting together with Brian to watch the draft since they've gone to a first round in prime time on Thursday nights. Will miss that this year. I hope he has a monster steak slowly smoked on his grill for me.
LOSER! The Jets fans have been a mainstay when the draft was held in Radio City Music Hall. In 1993 when RB Robert Smith was selected by the Vikings a drunk (presumably) Jets fan yelled "Loser!" at the top of his lungs. The entire crowd went silent for an awkward moment before giving the expected applause. F me. That was 30 years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday. Odd note about Smith while at Ohio State University. He wanted to take premed classes and possibly pursue becoming a doctor. His coaches told him no. I don't think I've ever rooted for Ohio State since.
Eli Manning standing on stage holding a Chargers jersey. The look on his face said "My dad said I wouldn't have to do this." The Manning family told Chargers owner Alex Spanos that Eli wouldn't play for them. It was John Elway all over again. It's been super rare for a player to refuse to play for a team after being selected in the first round. Bo Jackson comes to mind.
The Vikings missing their pick when the clock expired on them in 2003. Two teams ran to the podium to submit picks while we all watched in disbelief. Of course the Vikings got the player they "wanted". Sure you did.
In 1999 Mike Ditka traded his entire draft (and high picks the next year) to select Ricky Williams. Run Ricky Run is a worth while watch from ESPNs 30 for 30 series of documentaries if you're curious about his career.
If I thought about it awhile I'm sure I could list several more. Watching Aaron Rogers tortured face while he waited. Laremy Tunsil's slide due to a video of him getting high.
I love the draft. It's so fun to watch. Hoping that I can sneak away from my classroom Friday morning and watch the Seahawks select... DE Will Anderson. Dude looks like Khalil Mack or Von Miller. Yes, I'ld be happy with that pick. For that to happen I think four quarterbacks have to go one to four. I doubt it, but I would love it. Media overhypes the quarterbacks every year. However, this year feels different. We shall see. Most pundits seem to think DT Jalen Carter is headed to Seattle. I only watched the last two games of his college career focusing solely on his play. I didn't see anything special in either of those games.
Last thought. The draft is horribly flawed conceptually. Teams select first if they had the worst record. Is that meant to help with competitive balance? Just like the salary cap? Shared revenue? Hmm. Communism. So, flawed? Yeah. Think of it this way. The best team gets to pick before the worst team every round with one exception. The first overall pick. And then at the end of the draft, the best team gets an extra player. Does that one player make the difference in a sport that rosters 53 players. Perhaps. Just a thought. However, those first picks do miss a lot. Actually, only about half of the first round picks become stars. And then the percentage of star players drops quickly after the first round. You're chances of making a pro bowl after getting selected in the sixth round? Really slim. If you're mind quickly raced to "what about...". Remember, that guy was a rare exception, not a rule.
Fans and media tend to over-value picks. If you go back and look at your teams past drafts you're going to be really disappointed. Drafthistory.com is a great website. You can quickly sort through teams picks by year, team, and even college.