The NFL Draft (love the initial caps) makes the season seem closer than it actually is. That’s always a benefit in my book. It is an excuse to get friends together to watch, although in my case we need to have a poker game going because of the 15-minute time slot for each pick. One benefit to that long break between picks is the incessant banter of the draft experts. OK, Chris Berman is as much of a draft expert as I am, but his personality is welcome, especially since this keeps him away from announcing baseball. Fair-haired Mel Kiper Jr. will be sure of everything he says, even though his mock first-round draft changed about 400 times between December and now.
The best part of the NFL draft is that we don’t know.
When the Redskins drafted Patrick Ramsey (get exact pick) near the end of the first round of the 2003 draft, he looked like the quarterback of the future. He played in a pro-style offense at Tulane and had all the tools. Two years later, it’s hard to say that we know much more about Ramsey, since every time he made one mistake he got yanked like a bad stand-up comic. The Jets traded a fourth-round pick (check this) for Ramsey. In Ramsey’s case, knowing a few things was a bad thing.
Regardless of whether the Titans select Matt Leinart, Vince Young, or someone completely different, I will have no idea how things will turn out. When Paul Tagliabue strides to the podium and announces the selection, I will be excited about the pick. Most likely, it’s all downhill from there (or immediately in the case of Pacman Jones last year), but I don’t really know that yet. Not knowing means that my team could have drafted their savior, a saavy leader who will lead the franchise to untold glory and an eventual ugly yellow jacket at the Hall of Fame. It’s the only way to react because deep down, we all want to be the optimistic about everything.
In two or three years we will know and some enterprising sports writer will post a “what were they thinking?” article and we’ll all laugh. Or cry. Most of us won’t remember that at the time, we didn’t know. We didn’t know about Ryan Leaf. We didn’t know about Akili Smith (although I had a feeling). We certainly didn’t know about Ki-Jana Carter. We weren’t ready for Jevon Kearse or late-round gems like Tom Brady, Terrell Davis, and Marc Bulger. We didn’t know that a college basketball player named Antonio Gates would become the top tight end in the game, or that an undrafted free agent running back named Willie Parker would set the record for longest touchdown run in Super Bowl history.
On Saturday, and for the die-hards, Sunday as well, we’ll know nothing. And we’ll like it that way.