Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NFL Draft

The NFL draft weekend is over, the NU picks have settled, and the collective brains of football fans have recovered after the severe neurological strain of being shouted at by pundits in flashy suits who will all be proven wrong as soon as the first snap of the NFL preseason begins. The draft has evolved from the comfortable atmosphere of a back alley craps game in the league's early years to a Vegas style revue missing only the show-girls and unexpected tiger attacks. At the center of everything is ESPN's ringmaster Mel Kiper, Jr. whose Big Board has only slightly less power over the fate of young men than General "Buck" Turgidson's.

The sweater invites you to the
World of Make-Believe while the
hair invites you to a world of
brutal gangland debt collection

The NFL draft is so compelling for a number of reasons. Unlike basketball, hockey, or baseball, the NFL is basically it for worldwide professional football. Baseball, basketball, or hockey players have a much wider network of minor leagues or foreign pro leagues as occasional fall-backs. NFL washouts can play in Canada, which is not quite the same game. The Arena League is on hiatus and NFL Europa no longer exists, although I liked the classy move of changing the name to "Europa" because the American pronunciation was the thing keeping Europeans from watching World Bowl 2001 MVP Jonathan Quinn. The NFL also has just the right amount of rounds. While baseball has dozens of rounds, with very little chance of seeing even highly touted prospects for years, the NBA has only two rounds, with bad teams essentially risking the team's future on each first-round pick.

The differences between the MLB and NBA drafts encourage vastly
different strategies

The NFL, on the other hand, has the perfect amount of rounds, allowing for both high-profile draftees expected to make an immediate impact and guys that you try to talk yourself into over the whole summer who will often be heartlessly cut after appearing for five minutes in a preseason game and then forced to wander from door-to-door in dusty Texan hamlets offering to mend fences or perform cone drills for a bowl of gruel or a lift to the nearest slow-moving freight train junction. When high profile picks bust, they inevitably work third shift at a garage door factory in Russia, Ohio.

The scouting aspect of the draft is so fascinating because of the way performance at drills at the combine or on a pro day can greatly raise or lower stock. Of all of them, nothing can make or break a prospect like the 40-yard dash, which does not seem to be a particularly effective judge of 90% of what happens on a football field. If anything, offensive linemen should be graded up for a slower 40 speed for my amusement since the only time they run 40 yards at a clip at maximum velocity is on some broken play that involves them comically lumbering down the field with a the terrified wide-eyed look of an undercover cop who has gone too deep and now has to kill his partner in cold blood in order to prove his loyalty to the maniacal head henchman of a drug kingpin.

The obsession with the 40 time is chronicled in Rough Draft, where Clay Travis, a 28 year-old former lawyer turned sportswriter, joins a bunch of players in training for the 2008 draft combine. The trainer, Kurt Hester, has observed that speed is valued much higher than strength in the combine, and the prospects know that mere tenths of a second separate them from multi-million dollar signing bonuses and falling from the draft altogether. Travis shows that the 40 and all of the other combine drills are skills in and of themselves, and that succeeding in them has only an ancillary connection to football skill. Hester is also portrayed as a lunatic Cajun who travels everywhere on a fanboat and talks like Paul Prudhomme, except that he would use a blend of Cajun spices to blind a wild boar before beating it to death with a floppy fat guy hat.

Occasionally, to get a high school team fired up when they're training in his Louisiana gym, Hester releases wild alligators he's caught in the swamps in the weight room. He's put camouflage tape around the alligator's mouth, but the kids don't know this and go wild thinking the thrashing gator is about to attack them. After he's gotten them fired up, Hester sprints across the weight room, pulls out a knife, and stabs the gator in the head with a large hunting knife. He did this before a Louisiana high school football game recently, his team was playing a team nicknamed the Gators, and the team he trains won by four touchdowns. When I tell Eastern Michigan defensive end Jason Jones this story in the locker room a few minutes later, Jones nods, "That's a good idea," he says.
Of course, most teams take things other than 40 speed into account when drafting a player, but its importance is almost certainly overvalued. Especially if you are Al Davis, who appears to get a list of players based only on 40 time and a special Raiders psychological test where players are subjected to hours of watching footage of balcony rants and rambling old person stories.

The Raiders' special combine evaluation procedure tests endurance and mental fortitude


No NU players were drafted this year, although three went as undrafted free agents to the NFC North. Tyrell Sutton chose the Packers after receiving numerous offers. John Gill will be a Lion. Gill had some momentum going into the draft, even being identified as a potential sleeper in a Dallas newspaper. Most excitingly, Eric Peterman will reunite with Brett Basanez on the Chicago Bears. Before announcing the signing, Angelo noted that the Bears had found a pretty good receiver in their own backyard, and he was not talking about Jeff Samardzija. The Sun-Times, when not extensively covering Mr. T's jury selection as a lead story on their website, has also reported that C.J. Bachér will attend a tryout for the Bears along with Missouri's surplus Chase and Florida's Drew Weatherford.

"If you're innocent, I'm your best man," Mr. T told the reporter
lucky enough to get this monster scoop. "But if you're guilty, I pity
that fool." "You've got to testify! Tell somebody about it. God is good!"
he told an admirer as he tried to leave the building. "I pity the fool
that don't get it." Mr. T then apparently spent the next 3 hours
reminding state employees and passers-by that he indeed pities
fools in case anyone had forgotten over the past 25 years.


The Chicago Bears' draft has been overshadowed by Jay Cutler trade and the lack of any first day picks. I've never seen any of the Bears' draft picks play except for Juaquin Iglesias and Henry Melton. Melton remains a BYCTOM favorite for his play as an enormous bowling ball of a running back during his freshman and sophomore years at Texas before converting full time to defensive end. He formed part of an enormous running back arms race with Texas A&M, who unleashed Jorvorski Lane upon the world.

Although they tried to recruit even bigger backs than Melton and Lane, recruiting
violations forced the Horns and Aggies to stick with normal sized running backs

The Bears also took another Vanderbilt player in corner D.J. Moore, which could put as many as five Commodores on the Bears roster, exacerbating a well-established trend. In crucial Vanderbilt news, Cornelius Vanderbilt was locked in corporate warfare with James "Diamond Jim" Fisk and Jay Gould in the Erie War over control of the Eerie Railroad during the 1870s. Gould became so desperate to control the landlord that he turned to a British con-man who was apparently so confident in his swindling activities that he adopted the impossible name "Lord Gordon-Gordon." When Gordon-Gordon escaped to Canada with more than $1 million of Gould's money, the jilted titan of industry formed a small band to personally extradite the confidence man by kidnapping him. Instead, Gould and his merry band was arrested by Mounties before he could escape with Gordon-Gordon. The arrest of Gould and his men and subsequent denial of bail by the Canadian authorities led to an international incident between the U.S. and Canada. As the Manitoba Historical Society relates, Minnesotans prepared to go into battle for their incarcerated countrymen:

The situation in the United States was reaching a high state of tension. The St. Paul Pioneer of August 1, contained a heading, "Our People Should Make Ready," denouncing the crime committed by the corrupt and venal Canadian authorities and advised putting no obstacles in the way of the Fenians should they decide to move upon the colony in force. If any other plan should he preferred, it should be well matured, but there should be no delay in preparation. "It should be swift, silent and terrible."

Gordon-Gordon escaped from Gould's bearded wrath by melting into the
background disguised as a typical nineteenth century American

The Bears also took wide receivers Johnny Knox and Derek Kinder, who will stand in Peterman's way at camp, Buckeye linebacker Marcus Freeman who has been described as the Lance Briggs to Laurinaitis's Urlacher, and finally the alliterative duo of tight end Lance Louis and safety Al Afalava from San Diego and Oregon States respectively.

With football season still months away, expect to hear very little about any of these picks unless one of them gets horribly injured or arrested in Canada with a threat of Fenian raids as retribution.

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