A Strong Feeling About the NFL Draft

(1998 Photo By Jamie Squire -- Getty Images)
By Michael Wilbon
Thursday, April 27, 2006

I hate the NFL draft. I realize that saying anything against the draft amounts to blasphemy, but somebody's got to do it. The NFL draft is the most overrated, overhyped, obsessively overcovered non-event in sports. It's a nuisance, made-for-TV-by-TV event for people who couldn't tell a left tackle from a right guard, or zone from man-to-man coverage to save their mamas' lives.

I hate mock drafts. I hate alleged draft developments. I hate when somebody on ESPN breathlessly announces that someone named Antonio Cromartie is zooming up the draft board. I hate when some dope tries to tell me that an NFL team really cares that Reggie Bush's family might have gotten a break on a house from an agent who wanted to do a little favor for Reggie Bush . . . as if that has anything to do with whether he can scoot his behind into the end zone on Sundays.

I hate draft projections. I hate anybody who tries to tell me that Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt is a better prospect than Vince Young or Matt Leinart because chances are those are the same people who tried to tell me 23 years ago that Ken O'Brien had more upside than Dan Marino.

I love pro football, but I hate the draft. I hate being asked, "Who is so-and-so going to take" because not only do I not know, I don't care.

All praise to the Wizards for getting into the playoffs and for drawing LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers because that, especially in light of the Redskins not having a first-round draft pick, means draft talk is at a minimum in Washington and people with real sporting passions have something reasonable to talk about. Thankfully, there are playoff games being played right here this weekend, and every available inch of space in this newspaper and every second on local TV will not be dominated by baseless speculation from coaches and my brethren in the media on whether some sixth-round draft pick from Pluto State will wind up contributing on special teams this year.

It's too long. It's too slow. I hate the draft, but I love Mel Kiper, even though it's largely his fault that the draft has turned into a cottage industry for way too many people. I told Kiper I was writing this column today and that even though he makes his living analyzing the draft, he had to tell me one thing he hates about it. And though he was reluctant, Kiper said: "I hate the amount of time it takes to complete the first round. Fifteen minutes for a pick? It's disgusting. It should be eight minutes [for the first round] and then five from then on. The first round takes six hours. The first round lasts as long as a [Tony Kornheiser] bus ride across the country."

Yes, most every team takes the full 15 minutes, undoubtedly so ESPN -- one of my employers -- can perform an information dump on every single player. And what happens after three months of scouting plus those 15 minutes? A club takes, say, Heath Shuler in the first round and Gus Frerotte in the seventh.

My problem is what the NFL draft doesn't tell us. The draft never even hinted to us that Tom Brady, chosen in the sixth round, was going to lead a team to three Super Bowls. The NFL draft never told us that Terrell Davis, also chosen in the sixth round, was going to lead the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles. It never told us Kurt Warner was going to lead the Rams to a pair of Super Bowl appearances because Warner was never even drafted. It never told us Brad Johnson, a ninth-round pick, was going to win more Super Bowls than Dan Marino.

And then there's stuff we never should have listened to. For instance, the draft told us the combination of Shuler (No. 3 overall) to Michael Westbrook (No. 4 overall) would be leading the Redskins to one playoff appearance after another. The draft told us that Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Tim Couch and Cade McNown were going to be studs.

The point I'm trying to make is this: Who knew?

Sometimes the picks pan out, sometimes they don't.

Yeah, it's an unbelievably optimistic time, until you actually calm down and realize that some years you get Frank Wycheck in the sixth round and some years you get Dexter Nottage.

If the draft is so important, how come the Redskins didn't know that the wide receiver they took in the 12th round (Keenan McCardell) would wind up being 1,000 times better and playing three times longer than the guy they picked in the first round (Westbrook)?

On draft day, teams tell you how well they made out, how they plugged all their holes and solved all their problems . . . and by summer camp they're telling you all the things the kid can't do in order to drive the price down as he negotiates his first contract.

I learned nearly 20 years ago when working the NFL beat for The Post not to believe anything anybody with any team told me about the draft because 99 percent of it was posturing, hoping they could sucker some poor pigeon out of a middle-round draft pick by threatening to take a guy they had no interest in whatsoever. It's all misinformation and nonsense, and to what end?

Really, I don't need an eight-minute documentary on A.J. Hawk, linebacker, Ohio State.

While I'm at it, the only thing I hate nearly as much as the NFL draft is "American Idol." Actually, I don't hate "Idol" because I don't watch it. I hate it because people care so stinkin' much about it, because occasionally somebody has to look at the direction in which the popular culture is moving and simply rebel! I'm tired of Chris and Kellie and Elliott and even adorable little Paris . . . but not Katharine McPhee. (I swear I don't watch; I merely checked out the show's Web site today. I swear.) Did you see that moment when the button popped off her yellow dress? Do you think McPhee knows that she should never have selected "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston? Somebody should have told her that, yes, Houston has had her problems . . . but long before that she had maybe the greatest voice of all time. Whitney Houston, 20 years ago . . . now there was a can't-miss first-round draft choice, maybe a worthy No. 1 overall pick.

And until somebody like her appears before Simon and Randy and Paula, I'm not watching "Idol," and I'm not watching the NFL draft.

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