Bernstein: There's Nothing Like An NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is different from others in so many ways.

Dan Bernstein
April 23, 2019 - 1:36 pm

(670 The Score) We love pro sports drafts of all kinds, but nothing touches that of the NFL for all of the exact reasons why.  None other even comes close.

Drafts bring either new hope or the mirage of it, and the difference between the two ceases to matter as it's all going on.  Not one of these new players is bad yet, though some will be revealed to have used Twitter to promote a crackpot racist conspiracy theory involving J. Edgar Hoover, the original touring cast of "Wicked," IKEA corporation and surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd.  But for the moment it's all pure upside, regardless of where a team's first pick is, and how many new bodies in the new helmets.

The volume is part of it, our magazines and pdf files stuffed to the gills with more information than even the most dedicated football fan can be expected to handle.  It's plenty sufficient for three days of coverage, fully accounting even for the undrafted free agents who fill out rookie minicamp, so we can know about their respective and various abilities and deficiencies down to the details of middle-school beer parties and food allergies.

And that they show up and play immediately is also a thing.  There are no minor league years of development during which we lose track of those out of sight and out of mind, with the freshest football crop fighting for roster spots and playing time right from jump.

Related: 2019 NFL Draft Tracker

This allows for another thing fans crave, instant accountability for those making the decisions.  Even those general managers who go out of their way to temper expectations and diffuse responsibility know they are tied to the names they submit on those cards this weekend, and regardless of any conventional wisdom that governs how long it takes to judge success or failure, they own their picks as soon as they make them.  There's satisfaction in that for those who enjoy criticizing them.

Variance makes the entire process both entertaining and completely ridiculous, investing this much energy in something proven to be more random than most care to admit.  Some first-round selections will prove incapable of playing in the league, while some low picks and last-day filler will appear in the Pro Bowl.  This is a fact, that every genius involved in the process either working for a team or on the media side will be entirely and hilariously wrong about some of it.

And what's more, football has not been quite as standardized by tracking cameras, metrics and measurements in the same way as other sports, allowing for teams to value different assets and liabilities in divergent ways.  A game of small specializations constructed into multiple larger systems lends itself to seeing the same player through very different perspectives based on him doing certain jobs, with hard data only meaning so much.  The sheer number of specific positions is another variable in overall valuations as well.  The truth is that most NBA draft boards end up pretty much indistinguishable from each other when all the scouting work is done, while their NFL counterparts reflect significant ranges of opinion.

Fantasy football's immense popularity has made experienced executives of a significant portion of NFL fandom, a considerable Venn diagram intersection that is completely familiar with the ritual and responsibility of selecting a team with something considered to be at stake.  There is a reason why most fantasy vets admit that the best part of the endeavor is their draft-night conclave, since it's the cobbling together of talent that's the whole point -- the rest is some week-to-week roster construction, injury mitigation and tedious attention to accounting.

Most importantly, we have watched these players play.  They have been in big games on enough big screens for even casual fans to have scouting thoughts that may just end up being as right as those of anybody paid to have them.  These aren't high school pitchers or Cuban defectors, Latvian ballhandlers or a 16-year-old puck-moving defenseman from Slovakia who has been living with a billet family in Hamilton.  We have at the least a nominal exposure to the names likely to be called on the first and most important day.​  And it doesn't carry along the creepiness of college signing day, during which adults in red states and red hats send abusive social media messages to children.  

It's the NFL Draft, by far the best of its kind.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​