Culbreath: DraftedWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Is anybody else a little burnt out over coverage of the NFL Draft?
The National Football League, not content with the ownership of the sports calendar it already holds from October to February, pushed back the NFL Amateur Draft into early May. The idea, of course, is to keep the conversation about the draft going. The more people talk, the more the players’ “draft stock” moves. If it starts to move, then that becomes a story. Are teams looking to move up? Move up for whom? The entire conversation becomes diabolically meta. You’d think Abed from the TV series “Community” were narrating the whole thing.
Consider this: the NFL has released next year’s schedule before this year’s draft. People are going through the Lions schedule and checking off wins and losses when they don’t even know who’s going to be on the team when the season starts. With all of the talk of the Lions looking to move up, they might have to lose some major pieces to get there. Are you comfortable assuming a certain number of wins if major names are on the chopping block? You laugh: I’ve seen rumors that Ndamukong Suh might be available if the return is right.
Oh man, I’m contributing to it, aren’t I?
See, a couple of months ago, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban threw a little shade at the NFL, saying it was getting to be too big. And sure, Cuban has a vested interest in seeing the league get taken down a couple of notches: money that isn’t spent on NFL merch can be easily spent on NBA gear after all. But when he said that, I think a lot of people sort of nodded in slight agreement. It started when they put in an extra week ahead of the Super Bowl, continued with nonstop coverage of the combine (always a bizarre thing to watch — it’s like an interactive meat market), and now the delay of the Draft, done only to keep the league in the conversation while the NBA and NHL are in the midsts of their playoffs.
Don’t get me wrong: in terms of sports in America, the NFL is still king. But this isn’t a monarchy, and there’s always room to grow. That’s why they’re willing to slap their name on a Hollywood movie about the draft, conveniently released a month beforehand. That’s why the schedule reveal gets a two-hour broadcast on cable television. And that’s why thy want the league to continue to be on the lips of every sports broadcaster in the country.
The problem, for me, is that I’ve had plenty. Earlier this week, Merril Hoge of ESPN talked up Buffalo standout Khalil Mack as the best defensive player in this year’s draft. Pretty cool for MAC fans; we could have back-to-back MAC picks for the first time ever. But he did so at the expense of Jadeveon Clowney (you know, the guy who smashed his way into your heart against Michigan two season ago), saying that while Clowney is an athlete, Mack is the better football player. Yeah, if you’re confused, I understand. I’m supposing it’s the difference between that boil-in-bag rice and regular rice. The regular rice can be just as good, but you have to tend to it some.
That kind of comment, though, has implications that make me hate broadcasting forever: now it becomes about Mack versus Clowney, and what that means for the teams looking for the help on defense. Will they suddenly pass on him now? Nope. If it’s one thing I’m always assured of, it’s that the national media has no idea what it’s doing at the draft, and that includes the NFL itself. Remember when Brady Quinn was considered an elite prospect, and was invited to the green room at Radio City Music Hall? The Browns skipped over him with the third pick, traded up to get him at 22, and they still overpaid.
I’ve seen the game tape from these prospects’ pro days a million times already. The topics are getting stale. If the NFL has accomplished one thing with this delay, it’s to burn people out on an oversaturated product already. We’re burnt out, guys, give us a break. Let us get out to the ball game a couple of times, and we’ll get back to you.
“Shaggy” Matt Culbreath is sports director at 1370-WSPD.