Overrated: The NFL Draft

April 25, 2008 | Comments (0) | by Rich Funk

Remember the story of the Emperor's New Clothes? Remember how the two people that made the Emperor his new clothes said that they were made from a special material and that if you couldn't see it, it was because you were a dumbass? But really, they were just scam artists and knew that everyone would be so afraid of seeming dumb that they all pretended to see the clothing?

That's sort of how I feel about the NFL Draft. ESPN is the clothing designers, telling us how important the draft is and that if you don't like it, you aren't really a true football fan. The Emperor, of course, is the one and only Mel Kiper Jr. And the townspeople are us, and everyone else that is told that if you have other plans for tomorrow (and Sunday), then you're a terrible person and should cover your head in shame. You probably hate America and Brett Favre too, don't you?

But this has gone on long enough. Allow me to play the 8 year old kid that breaks the silence and admits that the Emperor is indeed naked (Let me apologize to all of you who just thought of Kiper Jr. in the nude. That was unintentional...).

The truth is, I don't really think anyone "likes" the NFL Draft. Sure, even the most casual fan has at least some interest because you want to know who's going to help out your team. And if you have one of the top picks in a good draft, you may be getting a franchise player which is always a plus. But all the hype? The months and months of analysis? Totally unnecessary.

Let's take a closer look at why the NFL Draft is overrated.

1. Mel Kiper Jr.

Any discussion on the draft begins and ends with Kiper. He's one of those personalities that you either love or hate. There's no one that thinks Kiper is "Just ok". But love him or hate him, I actually feel sorry for him. His entire existence at ESPN is based around one weekend a year. If there was no media hype around the NFL Draft, you may not know who this guy is and he'd probably just wander around downtown San Diego with a beard, drinking milk and complaining about the heat.

Because Kiper is stuck as sort of a one-trick pony, he's really gotta hype up the draft as much as possible. And I don't blame him really. If I had only one thing to do at ESPN, I'd do whatever I needed to do to get people to watch, including wrestling midgets and giving draft analysis while experimenting with mushrooms.

But Kiper is in a bad situation. In the weeks and months leading up to the draft, the only thing the public wants is mock drafts. Men will kill to get the most current mock drafts. They come in second behind NCAA brackets on my list of "Things That Come Out WAAAAAY Too Early". But more than any other sport besides baseball, the NFL draft is as close to a crapshoot as you can get. Trying to predict what teams are going to take what players is sometimes an exercise in futility. No one can predict with any accuracy what college players are going to become in the NFL, so Kiper is forced to really hedge his bets sometimes when analyzing picks. You can say that anyone in the draft has athleticism and drive. But just once, I'd like to see Kiper grow a pair and really go out on a limb with his predictions. I wish he'd say things like "I guarantee on my reputation that this guy will make it to the Pro Bowl within 2 seasons" or "This guy is a complete bust. He'll never amount to anything." Hell, he could do a segment every draft looking at the people he predicted as "locks" for greatness and see how right he was. Now THAT would be interesting.

But no...Mel Kiper Jr. just continues to play it safe, never truly criticizing any players or making outrageous predictions that would make the draft much more enjoyable. Plus, he resembles Count Chocula. And I think he gets his overblown sense of superiority from his hairstyle. That thing is a motorcycle helmet. I bet a jumbo jet could crash into that thing and he'd still be sitting there giving us pointless analysis.

2. The Hype

I think I'd be more tolerant of the draft if it wasn't shoved in my face so much. The week or two leading up to the draft is alright. Since it's so close to draft day, it makes sense to get awareness out there. Either that, or by that point I just don't care so the commercials don't bother me as much.

No, it's the analysis that starts immediately following the Super Bowl that bothers me the most. In football, there truly is no offseason. The biggest crime to me is that NFL Live is on year round, but Baseball Tonight doesn't come back until the week before the season. Guys, can't we just take 1 week for a break?

But no, the beast that is the NFL Draft Hype Machine has to be fed. For the 2 months after the Super Bowl and before the draft, we have to see as many mock drafts as possible. Doesn't it seem like a complete waste of time to do mock drafts when A) The season isn't even over so we don't know the draft order yet and B) Underclassmen haven't all declared their intentions yet? What good is that? And the mock drafts come out so damn early that by the time we get to the draft, the "updated" mock drafts look nothing like the ones you saw in mid-February. Free agent signings can completely change team needs and players' performance at the combine can raise and lower their draft stock. At least wait until after all of that to start churning these things out, fellas.

3. "The Next"

If it's one thing I hate, it's draft day lingo. Players don't have potential, they have "upside". Players don't give a lot of effort, they "have a great motor". Players don't stink, they're "overvalued". Speak English please! Don't use the same 10 words to describe every player! While making the draft an easy target for a drinking game, it doesn't tell me much about the players.

Nothing irritates me more than when any player is named "The Next" somebody. Why does every player have to be "The Next" Barry Sanders or "The Next" Tom Brady? Why can't they just be themselves? And like I mentioned before, the analysts never go out on a limb. They always say "This guy has a chance to be the next Marshall Faulk." Well thanks for that, guy. You know what? I have a chance of becoming the next George Clooney too. I never said it was a good chance, but it's still a chance, right? All of us have a chance of waking up tomorrow morning as the opposite sex of what we are today. And if that were to happen, Melanie Kiper Jr. would still be in front of the camera spewing worthless analysis to us.

4. Who?

Outside the top 5-10 picks or maybe someone that went to your favorite school, most people probably have no idea who any of these people are. Yeah, that's fun. I just hope they all have enough "upside".

5. Even Having A Top Pick Sucks

It seems like every year, the team with the top pick tries to trade down for either more picks, or to save money. So having the first pick in the draft isn't even a good thing in some situations. And chances are, whoever you draft #1 overall is probably going to sit out (JaMarcus Russell) or complain his way to a trade (Eli Manning).

6. Really, No One Cares

Admit it. You don't watch the whole draft. Even the most hardcore fans don't watch more than the first round. I'm like most people. If I do watch, it's usually just until my favorite team picks, and then I'm on my way to enjoy the rest of my Saturday. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if 100 football fans were polled and asked if they cared about the entire draft or just when their favorite team was picking, 98 of them would say they only cared about their own team. And maybe you watch it because someone from your alma mater may be picked, and that's cool too. But other than that, there really is no reason to watch the draft live, especially if your team doesn't have a top pick. Just log onto ESPN on Sunday night and check out the results there. I know that looking at a box score is not the same as actually watching a baseball game, but with something as long and boring and drawn out as the draft is, it makes more sense to go out and enjoy your weekend and check in on the draft later.

Remember the Brady Quinn situation last season? What does it say about the draft that the most entertaining thing that happened was when someone didn't get drafted?

My advice for the draft? Air the thing on ESPN still, because there's not much else on during a Saturday morning, but cut back on the hype and promotion big time. It seems like the NFL Draft thinks it has to compete with the NBA Draft, but it can't. The NBA is a much more individual game, in as much that one single player can pretty much carry a team. So when your team has a chance to draft a Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, guys that can completely change the direction of your franchise, it's exciting. But no one football player can turn around an entire team, no matter how good. LeBron James and 4 random dudes can get to the playoffs in the East, but take LaDanian Tomlinson and put him on a team without a decent offensive line and no defense, and you're looking at a loooooong season.

So please, NFL Draft, realize that you just aren't as popular as you think you are and stop trying to make us feel bad if we don't worship you. Until that happens, I'll just continue to tolerate you. Unless you bring in Stephen A. Smith to yell at me for 20 minutes after every pick. Then all bets are off.