Sunday, May 1, 2011

The NFL Draft

The 2011 NFL Draft is in the books now, and I have mixed emotions.

Back in February, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.

I feel it is necessary to remind you of that because it really seems to me that everything that has happened since that day — or, more accurately, since the imposition of the lockout in March — has felt like the NFL was just going through the motions.

I felt that way when the NFL's 2011 preseason and regular season schedules were announced.

And I felt that way when the draft was conducted over the past three days.

OK, I get that these are the things that are part of the NFL's routine business. College athletes are drafted into the NFL every year, and schedules are announced every year.

And everyone speculates on what kind of impact each will have on the ultimate outcome of the season.

Still, I just can't shake the thought that 2011 will not be a business–as–usual kind of year for pro football.

Nevertheless, if the unexpected does happen and the NFL plays the 2011 schedule, I can't help wondering what kind of difference the draftees will make.

Other folks are wondering the same thing today:
  • Nate Davis of USA Today has a general list of the winners and losers in the draft.

    And the first one wasn't even a draftee this year. It was veteran quarterback Carson Palmer — not the TCU quarterback who was chosen as his heir apparent.

  • As Davis observed, seven quarterbacks were taken in the first round, tying a record. You'd think, on the basis of that alone, that the teams with pressing QB issues addressed them, wouldn't you?

    And yet, as Gregg Rosenthal writes for NBC Sports, eight teams still have significant quarterback issues to resolve.

    The position, Rosenthal concludes, remains "a seller's market."

  • At, Vic Carucci lists five players he thinks will have immediate impacts on their teams' fortunes.

  • And Pete Prisco of CBS Sports says Tampa Bay, Houston and the New York Giants had "A" grade drafts.
But Prisco also points out that "[g]rading a draft the day it's completed is a challenge. It's all just speculative."

Indeed it is. Some athletes have risen to the occasion and made the transition from the college level to the pro level, and some have been so exceptional at it that they have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame when their playing days were over.

But some athletes fall short of expectations — and that is why most of the sports writers I have known would rather not revisit what they wrote about a given draft a few years after the fact.

They know that much of their speculation already has been proven, by the passage of time, to be wrong.

A good example is the #1 pick in this year's draft, Cam Newton of Auburn.

Like Reggie Bush a few years ago, Newton won the Heisman Trophy. And anyone who saw him play this year knows he possesses many gifts that should make him a valuable commodity in the NFL.

But you never know.

Newton could be sidetracked, like Bush, by a collegiate scandal. Or he just might not live up to the hype.

In pro football, you measure the difference between the great and the near great in inches.

And it's still possible that we may measure the distance between the most recent Super Bowl and the next regular season in years, not months.

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