The NFL Draft captures the attention of 45 MILLION viewers, draws more than 70,000 people who attend in person, lasts for three days, and occupies the hearts and minds of the nation’s most erudite students of sports from the moment the Eagles hoisted the Lombardi Trophy to the moment Roger Goodell chuffs into the microphone to kick off the festivities.
Let’s think about this for a moment … starting with the 45 MILLION, many of whom admittedly start out watching the draft but fall away somewhere around hour five. Still, that’s an extraordinary number of people watching what is essentially football bingo. Just to provide some perspective, slightly more than 18 million tuned in to see the Astros defeat the Dodgers in the last game of the World Series, the Cavs and Warriors averaged about 20 million last season, fewer fans than watched the year before, when the Cavs took the championship, almost 8 million follow professional bowling, and a mere 2.4 million ponied up $100.00 apiece to watch Floyd Mayweather fight Manny Pacquiao.
There are some interesting questions in any draft season, as there are this year. Premium quarterbacks establish the success of a franchise and there is some doubt that this year’s crop has the goods. The top four or five this season are decidedly less promising than some in other years, but, hey, someone has to take them, and at least two will go in the first round if not in the first five picks. Case in point -Josh Rosen. Jim Mora, controversial former coach at UCLA, tossed Rosen, one of the top two quarterbacks in the draft and his former QB, under a bus by suggesting that as a privileged intellectual millennial, his passion for the game has to be questioned. Rosen may not be a tough-town quarterback like Johnny Unitas or Brett Favre, but the NFL has welcomed a host of qbs from snappy backgrounds, all of whom could be modeling for Ralph Lauren in the off-season. If the charge is that Rosen is too smart to stay interested in football, which is what Mora seems to have charged, the best quarterbacks on the field right now would be Chris Leak, now in the CFL, or Terrelle Pryor, both of whom had single digit scores on the Wonderlic test.
So that’s interesting.
Then there’s Saquon Barkley. Barkley, Penn State’s running back extraordinaire, is a true freak of nature and the most exciting football phenom since Barry Sanders. Picking up almost 4000 yards and 43 touchdowns is noteworthy, but anyone who saw Barkley play knows that this guy can bust into daylight with or without an opening. Rumor has it that Penn State really only had two running plays, which, if you have a Saquon Barkley, is really all you need. This year’s hot question is whether an NFL franchise will use a top pick on Barkley, knowing the half-life of running backs is about two years and remembering that in the last two seasons top running backs came from the middle of the draft. Several teams could conceivably pass on the most talented athlete in the draft.
So that’s interesting.
In red-hot franchise news, The Cleveland Browns,perennial doormats of the league, have a bunch of nifty picks and could conceivably jump-start a franchise that has been mired in misery. The NY Football Giants face the inevitable replacement of Eli Manning and may chose to use their highest pick to land one of those three quarterbacks of questionable value. Do the Giants take a last shot at a playoff with Manning or shoot the moon for the next franchise qb? How many quarterbacks do the Broncos need this year? The Jets … ’nuff said. The Cards have a plan to keep Sam Bradford on the field for 16 games next season; it involves adamantium and homeopathic treatments in which his knees and ankles will be routinely hit with soft mallets. Oh, so they could need to draft as well.
That’s pretty much it, so one wonders what will draw the millions to the event once again. It’s been a while since the end of the football season, but colleges will be playing their spring games at about the same time, the NBA and NHL are starting to shape up the playoff slots, and baseball is in full swing (as it were). Any excuse for a party? Makes sense, at least on the sports bar and giant tv screen level.
This may be mere cynicism, or more likely the annual squealing of a fan whose franchise will be drafting nothing but interior linemen, but I suggest that the draft allows us, the uninitiated and unpaid fans, the luxury of second-guessing the analytics guys, the scouts, the coaches, the trainers, and team doctors. I’ve already mentioned the Browns once; their draft history is so appalling that any of us could certainly have done a better job. Will they self-destruct again this year? 45 Million people will be tuning in to watch it happen. Want to make a football junkie drool in anticipation of juicy controversy? Just trot out the list of top draft quarterback flops; it’s a catnip canape for fans of all ages.
Ryan Leaf (2nd overall), Jamarcus Russell (1st overall), Akili Smith (3rd overall), David Klinger (6th overall), Tim Couch (1st overall), Joey Harrington (3rd overall), David Carr (1st overall), Vince Young (3rd overall), Jeff George (1st overall),
There are more serious issues to be considered in these parlous times; perhaps brains could be employed in service to other more pressing humanitarian efforts, but, no. Apparently we will once again clamor to see young men, only recently mud spattered and bloody, striding to the stage in thousand dollar suits to shake Commissar Goodell’s hand, jam on the ill-fitting team cap so that ears are flattened and spread, and flap a Cleveland Browns jersey with feigned glee.
If only there were some mechanism that allowed us to check the results with a quick scan of a screen, say, or even on the phone we carry in our pockets. It’s essential, of course, to have the results in real-time as there are only three months between the draft and the first exhibition games. I suppose we’ll all just have to settle in for the three-day marathon.marathon starting on April 26th.