The National Football League draft begins Thursday. The draft is the process that the 32 NFL teams use to pick from among the best college players available for the league next season.
I like the NFL draft, but not for the reasons most people do.
Most football fans like the draft because they think it’s fun to predict which teams will pick which players. Folks on ESPN spend weeks making these predictions, called mock drafts.
After the draft, fans love to argue about which team chose the best players and had the best draft.
I think those predictions and arguments are silly. After all, everyone forgets the mock drafts the moment the real draft is over. As for figuring out which team had the best draft, you really have to wait a few seasons to know who the stars are.
I like the NFL draft because it is a reminder of how hard it is to predict anything in sports. The NFL draft is always full of surprises. If you don’t believe me, look at some of the best players on the Washington Redskins.
Wide receiver Pierre Garcon caught a league-leading 113 passes last season. Garcon was not picked until the sixth round out of seven in the 2008 NFL draft. Two hundred four players, including more than 25 wide receivers, were picked before he was. Only one of those wide receivers (new Redskin DeSean Jackson) has caught more passes during his career.
Running back Alfred Morris scored 20 touchdowns and ran for 2,888 yards in the past two seasons. Morris, too, was a sixth-round pick. But no one in the 2012 draft has gained more rushing yards than Morris.
London Fletcher is retired, but he was the Redskins’ best defensive player for many of the past seven seasons. Fletcher was not even drafted after he played at John Carroll University. He tried out for the St. Louis Rams, made the team and played 16 seasons as an NFL linebacker.
These surprises in the NFL draft are a good reminder for kids, as well as their coaches and parents.
Too often I hear that kids are heartbroken because they didn’t make some U-9 travel soccer team or an AAU basketball team for 10-year-olds. Sometimes the kids are cut after a one-day tryout.
NFL coaches scout players for years. They study hundreds of hours of film. They put the players through every imaginable test during the NFL Scouting Combine. But those coaches still make lots of mistakes when picking players in the draft.
If coaches who have dedicated their entire careers to evaluating football players make mistakes with grown-up players, what chance do part-time coaches have when picking players from among a bunch of kids?
So don’t worry if you get cut when you’re young. Keep playing. Who knows? You might even get drafted.
Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 19 sports books for kids, including the football book “Quarterback Season.”