We have entered what I like to call “The Silly Season” of the NFL calendar. That time of year when free agency has died down and teams start turning their attention to the draft—as do an army of would-be “draft experts” who have roughly a month to fill our heads with all sorts of nonsense.
From inevitable “Risers and Fallers” columns to the fervent tracking of who teams bring in for pre-draft meetings, this is the time of year when the volume is loud, and there is more and more noise every year.
I greatly appreciated Mike Tanier’s take on the rise of the draftnik in the New York Times. Money quote:
The draftnik subculture has its own rituals, some fun and accessible for the layperson, others arcane and mysterious. Some activities can help the uninitiated dip their toes into the draftnik lifestyle.
Be warned: in an egalitarian landscape with minimal separation between professional television analysts and some guy with old Auburn games on his DVR, one can easily go from curious newcomer to nationally recognized expert who gets 3 a.m. text messages about Mohamed Sanu in just a few weeks.
Draftniks quickly reach the point at which baseball sabermetricians appear mainstream and virile by comparison.
…true draftniks forget everything they ever said, wrote or thought about a prospect as soon as the NFL season begins; reflection and accountability of opinion cause only uncomfortable cognitive dissonance.
In his usual expert manner, Tanier couches a very sharp truth and what, to me, is the ultimate problem with what I call the Draftnik Industrial Complex in his (extremely) humorous writing—the complete and total lack of any real accountability.
When you watch prospects start flying off the draft board in late April, the trumpets will sound each time some amateur draftnik “predicted” the selection. But the roughly 80 percent or more that he or she gets incorrect? That will be met with only a shrug and the sound of the "delete" key being hit on a spreadsheet.
Now, this is all not to disparage the folks who genuinely work at their craft and who put in countless hours breaking down tape, talking to actual NFL scouts and personnel people and who actually take responsibility for their work.
Guys like our own Matt Miller, National Football Post’s Wes Bunting and NFL Network’s Chad Reuter are the real deal—guys who truly bust their ass, working throughout the year to learn as much as they can about as many prospects as they can so they can have a truly informed opinion about the names you see running across the screen during the NFL draft.
So yes, by all means, seek them out and learn from their knowledge, born from their tireless efforts. But beware the amateur draftnik who proudly proclaims he “said all along that Player X would be drafted by the Team Z”—but who falls deathly silent the remaining 200-plus other picks of the draft.