We sometimes have a difficult time fully investing ourselves in the NFL Draft not because it is an hours-long recitation of names — though it is — but because there are no stakes. This morning, everyone is saying, “Tim Tebow is a winner!” for going in the first round to the Broncos, and “Jimmy Clausen is a loser!” because he wasn’t drafted on the first day. Everyone is pretending that we will be obsessing over this draft, this particular draft, just like last year’s particular draft, for decades to come. And we won’t. We won’t remember who went in the first round, and who got “snubbed,” and who “reached” for a player, because as much as everyone likes to pretend the future of every franchise is on the line during the NFL Draft, it just isn’t. We’ll get into the Jets’ and Giants’ first-round picks a little later today, but we’re gonna talk about this now.
How many people remember what happened in past year’s drafts? Other than the occasional quarterback disaster, how much does it really change? The NFL Draft is set up as a construct for the future, but that doesn’t track; it’s more accurate that it’s a spring promotion for a league that needs some headlines, a spectacle that poofs into a plume of smoke after it’s gone. Ben Roethlisberger fell down many draft boards the year he came out, and was the Embarrassed Guy Waiting to Be Selected. Do you remember that? Does anyone? Does it matter? At the time the STORY OF THE DRAFT was the fall of Big Ben. But that was never an actual story in Roethlisberger’s career narrative; everyone had forgotten about that by training camp. (And now they’ve really forgotten about it.) The NFL Draft is perpetually about only itself.
So keep all this in mind when you read all the stories today about Tim Tebow’s “win” and Jimmy Clausen’s “loss” and how Josh McDaniels went “all-in.” A football team is a multi-tentacled beast, and the draft is just one component — one tiny component, really — in its story and fate. The draft is fun, one supposes, if that’s your thing. But no one knows what’s going to happen; they’re just trying to make some good TV.
Oh, and in the wake of Tebow/ClausenGate, you probably shouldn’t listen to anything Mel Kiper says ever again. But you knew that.