Can't ignore NFL Draft, but some can still try


POSTED: Thursday, April 23, 2009

Feel that breeze coming on?

Get ready for incessant blasts of hot air. Here comes the NFL Draft.

Interest in it is so high that it has spawned another nonevent event, the combine.

Self-proclaimed experts who have never been closer to a franchise war room than the computer in their parents' attic suddenly think they know better than the guys who get paid to pick the players.

(Well, I concede that may well be true in the Lions' case.)

This ties into the new world order, where everyone has a voice—regardless of how illogical or misguided its utterances may be.

For the most part, the NFL loves this. No matter how uninformed, biased or completely wrong the assertions, they generate interest.

And interest compounds upon itself.

I googled “;NFL Draft”; yesterday and got 13,827 news hits. “;Iraq War”; got 11,645. “;Banking bailout,”; just 213.

It's clear we can't ignore the draft: It's the player procurement process bridging the country's most popular amateur sport to the most popular professional one.

But where is the point of oversaturation?

I came across something yesterday called the “;Official Mock”; draft. What the heck is that? Real fake?

As for the rampant misinformation out there, how about the hatchet job on Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji?

Retracting the allegation of a failed drug test at the combine does not undo the damage. And since Raji wasn't quite the perfect citizen at BC, this case of bad reporting is more than enough to cost him a few spots in the first round, and significant money.

The worst part is this was done by supposed professionals, si.com, the Web arm of Sports Illustrated.

And of course no NFL type would plant that lie to scare off other suitors. We all know that kind of thing never happens around draft time. Man, there's more deception going on here than at the World Series of Poker.

One thing that does seem true is this draft's characterization as one with plenty of players who will turn out to be solid pros. But few, if any, superstars.

Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree could emerge as a Hall of Famer. But he probably won't be among the first handful of picks, where he belongs.

You know why?

Because he is undocumented for a time in the 40, and that scares off GMs who don't want to be held accountable in the unlikely event Crabtree turns out to be a bust.

Weak, you say? I agree. Almost as bad as shoddy reporting about failed drug tests.

If Crabtree wanted to, he probably could've run at the combine—but not for a time that would've helped his stock. Why risk further injury?

A lot of guys don't run at the combine for various reasons. A lot of guys are the opposite, “;Workout Warriors”;—great in the 40, the bench press and other measurables, not so much in their game tape and production.

So maybe the combine will outlive its usefulness if its sole reason for existence is player evaluation.

Too many get hurt training their bodies for its specific tests that don't always translate into winning football players.

But the NFL makes money off the combine. It's got a big sponsor, and it's on TV.

This spinoff's ratings may be too good to ever face cancellation.