NFL Draft 2015: How much does the spectacle mean?


Jan 30, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference for Super Bowl XLIX at the Phoenix Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It is draft day. After months of waiting, the grandest, non-athletic spectacle in the NFL has finally arrived.

Things can get pretty interesting around this time. Whether it is the need for something different after the thousandth mock draft we have seen, or the fact our brains have been deprived of football for too long, people end up doing things like predicting that the Chiefs will get Marcus Mariota with the 18th overall pick, or calling into C-SPAN to discuss Justin Houston’s contract in a segment on drone strikes.

It is easy to get excited about the prospect of watching your team get set for years to come, and terrifying to think about how badly they could set back the franchise by making the wrong pick *cough* JaMarcus Russell *cough*. This is especially true if you are also a fan of college football, and have spent your Saturdays watching your favored prospect tear up the NCAA, and imagining what he would look like in a Chiefs jersey. The draft is the first chance to make that dream a reality.

The league loves to eat all this up as well. Why else would a relatively short draft of only seven rounds end up taking three days? The NBA has 10 rounds, and it takes place on a single day. The MLB draft takes as many days as the NFL draft, but does manage to squeeze in 40 rounds.

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And while fans from all 32 teams will be crammed into the Roosevelt Auditorium in Chicago, cheering (and for some, booing) their teams’ first pick tonight, how much does all this spectacle actually mean? In my opinion, not as much as you might think.

I believe the old adage that you “build a team through the draft” is true. However, I also think it gets taken a little too far on a regular basis.

Unless a guy like Andrew Luck is on the board, then even the first overall pick of the draft is a bit of gamble. Remember when people couldn’t decide if Peyton Manning would really be better than Ryan Leaf? Thankfully for Chiefs fans, the Colts were smart enough to take Manning, leaving Leaf to go to the Chargers.

Even when you set aside guys who are not considered busts, many first-round selections are not making a big impact right out of the gate. The Chiefs have a great example in Dee Ford. Though he was taken in the first round, he saw limited playing time in his first year, and, on one play in particular, his rookie status showed. And though appearing to run away from Frank Gore is embarrassing, nobody is raising the red flag because a first-year player did not look like his pass-rushing teammates Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.

Yes, Tampa Bay is expecting to use the number one overall pick to field an immediate starter at the most crucial position on the team. Most likely it will be Jameis Winston, and he will be expected to be “the guy” for the Bucs ASAP. But even he will be forgiven if his transition to the pro game is not perfectly smooth.

For the most part, we realize that all the hype, endless mock drafts, and buildup is based on a ridiculous amount of speculation about guys who will likely not hit their stride (if ever) until a few years down the road.

Sports writers and fans like to talk about the draft being a look at the future of their team. But we all tend to look at these picks through rose-colored glasses. We understand that a seventh-round pick may never make the 53-man roster, but always seem to imagine how much every pick in the first three or four rounds will be contributing within a couple of seasons. Sometimes that happens, and sometimes it does not.

And that is my point — as exciting as the spectacle of the draft is, it tends to take years to figure out what its effect on the team actually was. Whatever meaning we ascribe to the pick today is likely to be different down the road.

Remember the 2008 draft? There was exceptional excitement throughout the Chiefs Kingdom based on how outstanding Kansas City’s draft class was. I remember talking to a fellow Chiefs fan and having phrases like, “best draft of all-time” thrown around. Over the next two seasons, though, Kansas City had only six combined wins. Today, there are only about five memorable names out of the 12 players picked that year – Glenn Dorsey, Branden Albert, Brandon Flowers, Jamaal Charles, and Brandon Carr.

The reason you remember a couple of those names is probably not pleasant. And of all of them, the best by far (and the only one still on the team) is Charles. Yet he felt more like insurance at the time, not the guy you would single out of the group to be the future of the franchise.

Do I expect anyone the Chiefs take over the next three days to have a profound impact on the immediate future of the team? Nope.

Still, there is always the chance that someone could. So I stay just as excited for the spectacle as the next guy.