2010 Draft Not All That It's Cracked Up To Be

Michael ErlerCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2010

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 03:  Injured quarterback Sam Bradford #14 of the Oklahoma Sooners cheers on his team after a touchdown while taking on the Miami Hurricanes at Land Shark Stadium on October 3, 2009 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Miami defeated Oklahoma 21-20.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

The NFL Draft has always been a fascinating dichotomy for Joe Football Fan. We spend a whole weekend in April laying about on the couch in rapt attention, listening to analysts prattle on about random college players from obscure outposts from across the country.

These "Draft Experts" whose job descriptions when you think about it are basically to be fortune tellers, have watched these young men—kids, really—at most a handful of times. From these scant sample sizes, they forecast the pro future of strangers, simply by focusing on a trivial detail here or a bit of coincidence there and without taking into consideration hundreds of variables, which, in their defense, is because they can't.

We take these men seriously because in most cases even their mere speck of knowledge trumps our complete ignorance. Not only is the average fan completely oblivious of most draft picks—everyone after the third round is a complete mystery—but that's exactly as it should be. If you're familiar with some linebacker who doesn't play for your alma mater and isn't an All-American, you're either a scout, single, or both.

Yet we still watch. We watch even that second (now third) day when the names just scroll by over and over again, like stocks—which is exactly what they are. The picks are coming fast and furious now, so quickly that the talking heads don't have time to educate the unwashed masses about the majority of them, again, mostly because they can't.

Why do we do it? Why do we subject ourselves to 18 hours of this stuff every year? Is watching the first round of the NBA Playoffs that unbearable?

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Well, in the case of the Eastern Conference, absolutely.

It's because we want to say we were there. When our team—our stupid, know-nothing, do-nothing, relationship-souring, bookie-enriching team—finally makes the blind guess that turns our decrepit franchise around, we want to remember THE PICK.

We don't just want to see the birth of the next NFL dynasty anymore. In the age of instant gratification, that just won't do. Now we want to see the moment of conception.

For New England, Tom Brady was the seed, the Patriots were the egg, and what that embryo grew into was beautiful and glorious, all at once.

We want that for our team. More so we want to say we saw it coming from the beginning.

We all fantasize about not just being Mel Kiper, but our team's general manager. What does that guy know that I don't know anyway? What makes him so special?

People argue whether it's football or baseball that's our national past-time, but it's neither. What we really enjoy is to predict, to second guess, to daydream.

Pro sports are just a vessel for that. They're also an excuse to drink and swear and gamble and yell at the TV once in a while.

Just to get your antennae up Charley Casserly, an ex-general manager now playing one on television, said fairly recently that this is the deepest first round he's seen since 1983.

As opposed to saying, "This draft is a total dog, 98 percent of the players won't make a difference in the grand scheme of things and if I were you I'd take the wife out to romantic picnic instead."

Me, I'm not that excited about the draft, and not because I'm some bitter, jaded, crusty old reporter. I'm not that old.

No, the reason I'm not turning cartwheels for April is because by now I've shed my Pollyanna innocence about the importance of that right guard being able to trap block or how will this defensive tackle play the three technique.

It's a quarterback league. It's almost entirely about them now.

The 1983 draft Casserly referenced gained its notoriety because of the depth of its quarterback class. Six passers in all were taken in the first round, and three—John Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino—ended up panning out, even though Elway was the only one who won.

1999 was supposed to be like that too, with five QBs taken among the first 11 picks, but almost immediately three of the five were exposed as busts, while another, Duante Culpepper, hit a quick peak before flaming out. Donovan McNabb's been pretty good but never elite.

As it turned out, 2004 was pretty good. Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have already combined for three Super Bowls, and Philip Rivers has been darn good as well.

Three passers were taken last year in the first round. Matthew Stafford showed some promise despite leading the Detroit Lions to only two wins. Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets was mostly mediocre, but he played his best ball during the playoffs, behind a team that emphasized running and defense. Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman? Meh.

How does 2009 compare? Sam Bradford, of Oklahoma, missed practically the whole season last year with a serious shoulder injury. Jimmy Clausen, the Notre Dame golden boy (ask the Cleveland Browns how those work out), didn't come close to winning anything of significance in his career, and critics question his attitude and leadership skills.

These two gentlemen represent the cream of the quarterback crop in 2010. Oy vey.

If that's not enough of a downer, take a look at the other skill positions—your running backs, receivers and tight ends. Last year, 10 of those kinds of players were taken in the first round to go along with the three passers.

This year, judging by the mock drafts of Kiper and Todd McShay of ESPN, Pat Kirwan of NFL.com and Don Banks of Sports Illustrated, six or maybe seven skill players will be taken at most.

The so-called deepest draft since 1983 is supposedly deepest at the offensive and defensive tackles, at linebacker, and at safety.

Most of them will not turn into the next Anthony Munoz, John Randle, Lawrence Taylor, or Ronnie Lott.

But a couple will.

So we'll watch.