Mocking the Draft

Don't look now, but it's sports' biggest waste of time

Lowndes Shingler. John M. Longmeyer. Lou Cioci. Stop me when you've heard of one...Bill Van Burkleo. Sonny Utz.

Drawing a blank? Of course you are. Join the clueless crowd.

Because despite what geeks like Mel Kiper and Gil Brandt and Norm Hitzges and some eighth-grader with a Web site in Indianapolis try to sell you every April, the NFL Draft is the most overrated, underwhelming event in all of sports. (OK, No. 2. Gotta give Stephen A. Smith's Quite Franklyits props.)

If the draft was so damn vital, how could we not differentiate the aforementioned Cowboys picks from The Amazing Race's latest coagulation of anonymity? And how could these self-aggrandizing gurus have possibly stamped their approval on Jacob Rogers in 2004 and cautioned the Cowboys in 1989 to take Tony Mandarich over a quarterback named Troy Aikman?

Simple. Because--pssst!--they're guessing.

The dorky draftniks would have you believe the draft is an exact science whose immense power is harnessed and conveyed only through enlightenment extracted from unfathomable contacts, continual interviews and eternal film study. Really? Then how'd Blair Thomas get drafted before Emmitt Smith? How'd Rayfield Wright last until the seventh round? And how'd the Cowboys ever actually draft guys named Tom Piggee...Carter Lord...Stan Woofill...Stop me when you've heard of one...Bill Bailey...Alfonso Cain?

Because predicting the draft, and more precisely the futures of 20-year-olds, is at best wild speculation. Sorry, but Kiper is nothing more than a weatherman in a wig. (His hair helmet isa wig, right?)

This year's guess-fest commences Saturday on ESPN and will seemingly drone on until Mother's Day. During 2005's almost six-hour first round you could've driven to Austin and back, completed the entire Internet and memorized about one-eighth of the really creepy parts of Scientology. As for 2006's drama, the Houston Texans will likely take Reggie Bush No. 1, University of Texas hero Vince Young will go in the top seven, and two naps later the Cowboys will choose 18th.

Depending on whom you trust--trust no one--and factoring in coach Bill Parcells' stubborn commitment to run the ball 500 times a season along with new director of scouting Jeff Ireland's first draft, the Cowboys will take either Ohio State receiver Santonio Holmes (The Dallas Morning News, circa April 2), Auburn offensive lineman Marcus McNeil (draftdaddy.com), Florida State defensive end Kamerion Wimbley (draftshowcase.com) or North Carolina State defensive end Manny Lawson (The Dallas Morning News, circa April 24).

Buried beneath the bullshit, you can almost hear the legions of losers consulting their spreadsheets and chatting with their MySpace fantasy friends, looking for their last mock drafts--and their lost lives. Kiper, despite boldly predicting Mandarich would be a better pro than Aikman, has finagled a steady job yapping about prospects and 40-yard-dash times since the '80s. But these days everyone's a self-massaging genius. From the revered: former Cowboys director of scouting Gil Brandt on nfl.com. To the ridiculous: Allen Trieu starting draftshowcase.com at the age of 14.

From a recovering draftnik who covered the Cowboys and seven NFL Drafts for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, be assured not even Parcells or Ireland or Jerry Jones know who they'll take on the clock. The week before, Jerry lies to anyone willing to listen, and Parcells, as usual, provides fewer sound bites than Osama bin Laden.

Nonetheless, armed with as much ego as intelligence, the draftniks will immediately applaud or lampoon picks. Considering it takes NFL players about three years to mature, slapping a "D" grade on a draft is like being disappointed by your Quick Pick lottery numbers--three days before the drawing.

Just as ridiculous as purporting to know whom the Cowboys will pick lies the flimsy premise that the choices are of critical importance. Though each pick represents, if a team is lucky, only 1/47th of a roster, the draft--like Barry Bonds--has grown into a big, fake freak show.

Of the Cowboys' current 76 players, only 23 (30 percent) arrived via the draft. Among those not drafted by Dallas are its top three quarterbacks (including Drew Bledsoe), three of the top four receivers (including the former Philadelphia Eagle currently rolling his eyes at off-season workouts) and two of the top three cornerbacks (including starter Anthony Henry).

Sure, the Cowboys drafted three Ring of Honor members in '64 (Staubach, Wright and Bob Hayes), built their '90s dynasty by taking Michael Irvin, Aikman and Smith atop three consecutive drafts, selected five Super Bowl starters (Russell Maryland, Alvin Harper, Erik Williams, Leon Lett and Larry Brown) in '91 and have cratered recently after drafting only four Pro Bowl players (Dexter Coakley, Flozell Adams, Roy Williams and Jason Witten) in the last 10 years.

But more times than not, Dallas' initial lust is misdirected at an eventual bust. The Cowboys once took a sure thing 4th overall (Scott Appleton) who never played a down in Dallas and snared a Cinderella 320th overall (Larry Brown) who won a Super Bowl MVP. They've drafted a basketball player (Pat Riley in '67), a baseball player (Merv Rettemund in '65), a sprinter (Carl Lewis in '84) and even a convicted felon (Dwayne Goodrich in '00).

Further proof that nobody knows nuthin', five of the Cowboys' all-time best and worst draft picks looked exactly opposite at the time:

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