With the made-for-TV draftniks so caught up in the number of can’t-miss prospects in an industry where history tells us that roughly half of them can and will, it’s jarring when they find fault with one of the guys destined to become an instant millionaire on April 22.
But there he is, ESPN’s junior-made-for-TV draftnik in the endless loop that is SportsCenter, telling the world that the defensive back who hurt himself the most on Tuesday was Florida’s Joe Haden, who required 4.57 seconds to run 40 yards in a straight line without pads on his body or a receiver in his crosshairs.
And so the junior-made-for-TV draftnik declared that Haden will “struggle” to make it into the top 10.
A quarter-century ago, that same thinking applied to a certain receiver who required 4.58 seconds to run 40 yards in a straight line without pads on his body or a ball in the air. And he ended up being only the greatest player of all time at any position, and he’ll be joining the immortals in Canton later this year.
Though none of this means that Haden will be heading to the Hall of Fame 25 years from now, it does mean that the made-for-TV draftniks would be wise to apply a broader lens to the black-and-white absolutes they force feed us every year at this time.
The only guy who partially avoids that trap is NFL Network’s Mike Mayock. Unlike the ESPN made-for-TV draftniks, Mayock is willing to raise red flags that require analysis more substantive than the Nard Dog’s “this muffin tastes bad”-style of critiquing.
The problem is that, if these guys focus too much on the lessons we’ve all learned based on history — most notably, that roughly half of the first-round picks if not more (see 2005) will never pan out — two things will then happen that will make the made-for-TV draftniks and those who employ them extremely uncomfortable. First, the audience might wonder what the made-for-TV draftniks thought about past players who found a glass ceiling between the NCAA and NFL levels of the sport. (Andre Woodson, anyone?) Second, the audience might expect the made-for-TV draftniks to attempt to tell us who this year’s busts might be.
But the only honest answer to that question is, “We don’t know. Nobody knows.”
And then the cottage industry of the made-for-TV draftniks would implode.
So while many of the folks who actually scout players for NFL teams and, as a result, have real accountability for their mistakes, believe that the made-for-TV draftniks are fools, the reality could be that they’re geniuses.