Is it just me, or is there less interest in the upcoming draft than in any year since the 1980s? Less excitement. Less everything.
And it’s not just the lockout, which a federal court lifted on Monday, and which the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals may well put back in place by the time of the draft. (Look, we all know this labor dispute is going to get worked out by the end of August. Everything between now and then is just legal gamesmanship carried out by lawyers who neither you nor I care about.)
No, it’s something else entirely.
This year, for the first time in what seems like decades, there doesn’t seem to be that one guaranteed, game-changing superstar on the board. The one guy everyone is dying to add to their roster. The guy who’s going to be the face of the franchise for the next ten years.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of very good, even excellent, players, but none who jump out as being perennial Pro Bowlers or the faces of their teams.
I like Patrick Peterson. Everyone likes Patrick Peterson. If your team drafts him on Thursday, you should be happy. Very happy. But not ecstatic. No one’s running out to buy a Patrick Peterson jersey. No one’s buying season tickets because his team just drafted Patrick Peterson.
I like Von Miller and Nick Fairley (Fairley more than Miller, by the way). But not enough to think either will turn a team around or put fans in the stands.
A.J. Green and Julio Jones? Very nice pieces, but just that — pieces. They will help your team, particularly if your team is about to say goodbye to Chad Ochocinco. But there’s no reason to believe they will lead your team.
Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Andy Dalton? One of those four will be an above-average NFL quarterback. Two will be out of the league before they’re 28 years old. A few months ago, each was seen for what he is — athletic, but flawed. Now, with the draft fast approaching, each is getting more attention than ever before, while doing nothing more than demonstrating at the combine and pro days that each is precisely who we thought he was — athletic, but flawed.
The feigned excitement about this crop of quarterbacks only points out what is missing from this year’s draft — Andrew Luck.
If Luck had not decided to return to Stanford for his senior year, we wouldn’t be faking excitement. No, there would be real, honest-to-goodness excitement, just like there is in most years. Luck was the one game-changing, team-changing player who everyone thought would be coming out this year, and he surprised us all by sticking around. Maybe he didn’t want to play in Carolina. Maybe he wanted to hang out one more year with his college buddies. Maybe he’s serious about getting his college degree just in case his pro career doesn’t pan out the way everyone believes it will. Unless he pulls a Jake Locker and regresses this year (”pulling a Jake Locker” is now a term of art, isn’t it?), we won’t need to fake excitement about next year’s draft.