Monday, April 27, 2009

Grading Your NFL Team's Draft

Perhaps it's a function of the instant gratification world we live in, with more information than we can possibly process delivered to us instantly each day, but in recent years analysis and grading of NFL team's Draft Picks has become something of a sport in itself. And the time frame is shrinking. It used to be that journalists would wait until the rookies at least got a chance to practice in the first mini-camp prior to rendering a judgment about that player's probable success or failure. Now, they barely have the last pick chosen when the analysts on TV and the Internet pass out grades. And a lot of this is sheer foolishness. It may be fun to read, but it's still foolishness. There are too many questions that can't be answered right after the draft.

First of all, players have to make the adjustment from the system their team ran in college to the one employed by their new team in the NFL. Players often do not have a chance to showcase all their skills in college, and they blossom in the pros when they do get that chance. For example, if your college team never throws the ball to a running back, how do you know whether a given back can make the transition to catch the ball in the NFL?

Also, these are very young people, still growing physically and emotionally. How do you know which player will be able to add strength and stamina over the next few years? How do you know which players have the mental toughness to cope with the long season of travel, endless practices, and games played under super-intense pressure? The answer, you don't.

Another factor is, the NFL is the ultimate team game. We talk about the quarterback and the receivers all the time, but the teams that find players to fill specific roles tend to be the ones that succeed year after year. It's not just a game of a few superstars, like the NBA. Every contribution is important.

So, let's assume we want to ignore the pundits and give our favorite team a grade ourselves. What criteria do we use? That's a very difficult question to answer, isn't it?

What you find over a period of time is that there is an element of crapshoot in these draft day selections. The teams do the best they can to find the top talent, but the reality is there are as many misses are their hits for most teams. Out of ten picks, if you end up with 2-3 starters you are doing pretty well. Perhaps the best idea is to not fret about the "grade" passed out to your team by the experts, and instead just enjoy the NFL Draft as an opportunity to immerse yourself in football for an entire weekend, and with the season more than four months away, that's a blessing indeed.

Brian Hill is the author of several nonfiction books and the novel, Over Time - Love, money and football: all the important things in life. He's an avid grill master. Find his grilling tips, techniques, recipes, and menus.