With the crescendo of excitement and piqued fan emotion that comes with the NFL draft, the dirty elephant in the room is constantly looming. It is a four-letter word that may account for the strongest emotional bond between an NFL front office, its fans and the draftnik community: B-U-S-T!
This connection between the three consumers of the draft process (team, analyst and fan) is rooted in the negativity inherent to most draft bust realizations, particularly those in the first round.
For the organization, it can mean worse results in the standings and the loss of jobs at the top of the regime.
The analyst, if he was high on the player and rated it a quality pick at the time, is left stung by the reality of inaccuracy. Missing on players, like for actual NFL front offices, is something that draftniks have to be able to handle.
And the fan, perhaps with the least at stake but the highest emotional charge of the three parties, endures the ridicule of those in his life that do not share affinity for the same team and whatever negative impact shows up on the team's win/loss mark.
With respect, there is quite a different level of true consequences felt at each of the three stations in the wake of a draft bust. The men whose professional lives directly relate to the development and ultimate success of these players are much more in the crosshairs than either the analyst or fan, whose lives go on almost without incident from these same outcomes. But this does not change the draft bust condition from being one of the most agonizing components to the NFL experience.
The coincidence of Jason Smith (pictured above) being one of the biggest recent draft busts is rooted in the cross section that the St. Louis Rams, his drafting team in 2009, once again have the No. 2 overall pick three years later. And that the most tempting prospect for the Rams not to trade out of this slot is another would-be franchise left tackle in Matt Kalil from the University of Southern California.
It also serves as an example of the suffering I described above as a tangible aspect in the aftermath of a draft bust. The general manager (Billy Devaney) and head coach (Steve Spagnuolo), at the time of the Smith draft selection, presided over a 10-38 three-year run and were both fired at the conclusion of the 2011 season.
St. Louis Rams Nation has obviously suffered through this period and some of their pain is directly related to the Jason Smith pick. And while many revisionist draftniks will presently wax poetic about seeing Smith's potential failure, the reality is that he was widely seen as a franchise left tackle that would serve as Orlando Pace's successor for years. The industry's two most visible draft analysts both agreed he should go in that spot to the Rams three years ago.
As the combine finishes up early this week, there will be an even more fevered pitch surrounding the hype and prospect of different players. This presents an excellent juncture in the process to mock the entire first round and comment on the bust potential of every player predicted at each slot.