Hayes: NFL draft brings relief from overanalysis


Bob Hayes, Columnist

Today is finally the day. We have survived three months of life without football and 17 #MockDraft iterations on every Internet domain known to man. The 2014 NFL draft begins Thursday night. If all goes as planned  it won’t  it will be an exciting night of finding out where college stars land in the NFL, booing Roger Goodell and, most importantly, extinguishing the agonizing months of pre-draft chatter.

When it comes to the annual draft of America’s most popular sports league, it seems like everyone has an opinion. I wonder if player-I’ve-never-seen-play-before will go to this NFL-team-I-won’t-watch-at-all-this-year! But wait; what if some other team has already taken him? What if a different team traded up and we are talking about an entirely separate scenario altogether?

The problem when it comes to predicting the draft, as everyone and his brother tries to do these days, is that there are too many moving parts that could instantly change the entire picture. We cannot even predict the St. Louis Rams’ second pick when we do not even know who the Houston Texans will have taken with the first pick  and that’s just the second pick! Now, what if St. Louis’ pick gets traded? What if Houston’s does? You might as well tear up your three-plus months of mock draft work.

Those who read my blog and follow me on Twitter know that I am all about previewing games and making predictions. Game predictions usually come with a day of analysis, and then the game starts. We know the players, the coaches and have seen the teams play over the course of the season. Predictions are fun because games that have yet to be played possess a wide margin of uncertainty, and I enjoy seeing how factors I have highlighted end up playing out on the field.

People love writing draft previews for these same reasons, but previewing the draft is like spending three whole months predicting a game, only for a star player to immediately go down, and then another gets swapped for a bunch of pieces and the coach whips out a game plan of which no one had any knowledge.

The NFL’s moving the draft back two weeks due to an event at the host site, Radio City Music Hall, has only added to the over-analysis of the event. ESPN’s Todd McShay  who, in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, highlighted all that goes into his draft preparation  has sorted hundreds of draft prospects in seemingly every way possible. I really look forward to how the “Best Redshirt Sophomore Defensive Backs with Blonde Hair and Green Eyes” draft board plays out. By now, even Johnny Manziel is bored of riding jet skis and making trick-shot videos.

In the three months of draft focus, an unbelievable amount has changed among hypothetical draft boards.

“The lead-up to the NFL draft is similar to campaigning for an Academy Award in that it takes place after the candidates’ body of work has been completed,” Kevin Lincoln wrote in a Grantland piece. “Without anything new to prognosticate from, this means the powers that be will do the only thing they can do: Change their minds.”

Just a few months ago, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was widely projected as the top pick, but analysts now say he may drop to the second round. Bridgewater has not played a game in this time span. Apparently, Bridgewater was never “going to go first overall” and now has no guarantee of dropping to the second round  it all comes down to what individual NFL teams want to do with picks, not what a guy in Bristol, Connecticut, wearing makeup thinks.

All in all, the NFL draft is a fun night of analysis, hypotheticals, glamour and an end to all the pre-draft hyper-analysis that has taken over sports programming. As a big fan of both college football and the pro game, I love seeing where collegiate stars will begin their professional careers. I just fear waking up Monday morning and seeing Todd McShay’s inevitable “2015 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0” on ESPN.com’s front page.

Bob Hayes is a Weinberg freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].