Now that the NFL season is over (or has been over) talk is of the incoming college class that will make their names known on Sundays. The combine just finished a few weeks ago and all anyone wanted to talk about was who would go first overall to the Tampa Bay Bucs. Everyone has a favorite for whatever reason and they aren’t afraid to tell you who it is. The draft brings out the GM/analyst in every fan/armchair quarterback. But that’s the great thing about it. It’s become such a spectacle where our favorite teams’ future seems to hang on that one decision. It feels like “this is the year ” or “another year of reloading.” But what is it about the draft?
The funny thing is that baseball and hockey have a draft that are nowhere as visible as football. Basketball sets up a lottery to try to keep teams from bombing in order to guarantee themselves the number one pick. It’s an interesting concept which has led to shock teams getting that valued top spot. But what’s incredible is that even though you might get that “can’t miss” guy sometimes it doesn’t always work out.
The NFL history books are loaded with top picks that never quite panned out and I’m certain that most NFL fans can name a few without even looking them up. Not they are necessarily busts but they didn’t end up being what the scouts said they were going to be. Maybe they didn’t get in the right system to begin with, maybe they were forced into action too soon, maybe they struggled with injuries at one point, maybe they didn’t have the talent necessary or maybe the situation just wasn’t right. For whatever reason these things happen. Last year’s number one overall pick of the Texans, Jadeveon Clowney struggled with injuries and barely saw action of any sort.
Then you look at baseball or hockey and even most seasoned fans have no idea who their favorite team drafted. They won’t see that guy play for six months if they are lucky to even years later in some cases. Some hockey players don’t even get drafted and sign as college free agents or come from Europe as free agents. We have no idea until they make an impact on the ice or on the diamond. As for basketball, it seems like college has become a showcase for the NBA level talent, so they play a year and hopefully get drafted in the first round with the idea that they can get a guaranteed contract. Second round picks aren’t afforded that luxury and can easily be cut and sent on their way. We’ve certainly seen plenty of free agent college players make it to the pros and make a difference as well. But the number one picks can be deceiving just as well.
That number one spot, it comes with a tremendous amount of promise and pressure. You can make the team or ruin it; curse and a blessing. It’s interesting how many teams gave up draft picks just recently at the NHL trade deadline in order to win now. These windows to win are small and many times the draft can be such a crapshoot. Players can get hurt, sign somewhere else, someone else can make a bigger move or even the wheels can just fall off. You have to go for it whle you can. Draft picks are great if you aren’t blessed with an abundance of talent but they can be a curse when you’ve got to win today and that rookie isn’t the final piece of the puzzle.