This is what I’ve been reduced to: the NFL draft

I have always thought the NFL draft, and especially the media coverage surrounding it, was silly.

I can’t imagine there are many people reading this who don’t know what the NFL draft is, but let me break it down.

So every April, all 32 NFL teams take turns selecting college players.

And … that’s it.

It’s like a grownup version of picking teammates for elementary school dodge ball. Except in this version, our nation’s sports media spends two weeks debating if Billy’s 44 1/2-inch wingspan is a greater liability than Bobby’s tendency to lolligag if he’s had more than one juice box at lunch.

It used to take two days for all 32 NFL teams to pick a total of 224 players in seven rounds.

Fortunately the NFL, in their infinite wisdom, realized just how absurd that was, and now it takes three days.

Two things have always irritated me about the NFL draft. The first is the amount of media coverage.

The draft occurs in late April every year. This is the time in which both the NHL and NBA playoffs are in full swing, and the MLB season is just getting underway. It is one of the best times of the year to be a sports fan.

Yet every year, the national sports media puts everything on the back burner for a couple weeks to concentrate on a list of names.

Names, mind you, of players that have never played a minute of professional football.

Which brings me to my second contention. The draft – and especially its precoverage – is a complete and utter crapshoot.

It’s hilarious to me to watch the draft “experts” give a “grade” to each team on their draft selections each year.

They’re usually wrong, because, just like us:

They.

Have.

No.

Idea.

For example, Mel Kiper, Jr. is an analyst for ESPN. He specializes in football draft coverage.

His draft boards are, somehow, the gold standard that other “analysyts” base their own draft boards on.

He’s also wrong, the vast majority of the time. As is every other prognosticator.

I would like to remind you of these draft gems from Mel:

• Johnny Manziel should be the #1 overall pick.

• Alkili Smith, drafted #3 by the Bengals in 1998, would be a “great NFL player.” (Smith threw 5 TDS, and 13 INTs in his career).

• “If Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame QB in 2010 draft) is not a successful quarterback in seven years, I will retire.”

Clausen proceeded to go 1-10, with three TDS and 9 INTs, in his career at Carolina.

Not only did Kiper not retire, but to this day he continues to incorrectly slap players around on his draft board, and get paid handsomely for it.

Anyway, this year the NFL draft was scheduled for about the same time, in late April. But, obviously, things were different with COVID-19.

In years past, the three-day event would be held at some swanky auditorium, where draftees wearing a tuxedo for the first time mixed with B-list celebrities and ESPN hair before being called up on stage to awkwardly embrace NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who they would prefer to punch in the face three years later.

This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, everything was filmed remotely. From announcers, GMs, players, and prognasticators, each contributor was filmed in their own home.

It was, just as all other draft broadcasts have been, awful.

And yet, I was so desperate for any kind of live sports action, so help me I actually watched it.

Some of it, anyway. In reality, I turned in for the first few picks and a handful of the Vikings picks afterwards. That was about all I could stomach.

Nevertheless, I was so hard up for some live sports action that I followed the draft online, something I’ve never done before.

I followed just enough that I think I can now reliably qualify as an “expert,” since noone can say otherwise at this point.

Here is my “expert” analysis.

I can tell you that the Vikings got an “A” grade for their picks.

They took a wide receiver (Justin Jefferson, LSU), a cornerback (Jeff Gladney, TCU), and an offensive lineman (Ezra Cleveland, Boise St.) with their first three picks, addressing their “primary needs”.

Due to some “clever” trades by GM Rick Spielman, the Vikings then filled up their roster with 12 more picks in rounds 3-7. Those 15 picks were the most ever in the seven-round era, which the “pundits” will again tell you is “masterful”.

I can also gleefully tell you that the Packers got a “D” grade.

They traded up to take a quarterback with their first round pick in Jordan Love (who had 20 TDs and 17 INTs last season at Utah St.), and then took Boston College running back AJ Dillon in the second round, thus fulfilling none of their “primary needs.”

The howling of Packer Nation online was rather satisfying to watch.

The irony/reality of the situation, of course, is that nobody will have any idea if those grades are accurate until years from now.

Green Bay fans were quick to point out that that Aaron Rodgers was selected in a similar spot as Love, and was just as unpopular a pick at the time.

Vikings fans, meanwhile, might remember that LaQuan Treadwell was picked in pretty much the same spot as Jefferson.

That’s what slays me about the draft. The media and fans put such hype and emphasis on this game of dodgeball pick-em, but I defy you to correctly name even two of the previous year’s picks correctly.

And yet, there I was for three straight days, closely following and analyzing each and every pick like I was Mel Kiper III.

Dangit, COVID-19, you won.

You’ve not only made me care about something that is objectively awful and silly, but I cared enough to write a column about it.

I sure hope we get back to sports soon. At this point, I’ll watch competitive underwater basket weaving, as long as it’s broadcast live.

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