Five years ago, when someone asked me what my plans for the weekend were, and I told them, "Watch the draft," I would get ridiculed. People would look at me like I was growing a 3rd nipple, on my face. Today, when I tell people I plan to watch the draft for a weekend, those same people--who continue to think very little of me mind you--still react as if I am the one with the problem. But those very same individuals are texting me, calling me, emailing me throughout the weekend as they, too follow the draft in their own way. Whether it is just updates from those of us who are tuning in, or catching snippets during commercials of other shows, or tickers at the bottom of the screen from your barstool at the neighborhood watering hole, people who otherwise have NEVER cared about the draft are just a teeny bit interested now.
There's no real surprise, as the NFL continues its inexorable march to interstellar dominance, pausing only to remove the remains of the NBA, NHL, and MLB from the tread of its boots. The NFL can not convince me they are in any economic trouble. Yet, they make moves like Roger Goodell freezing his salary, and trimming HQ staff as a way to commiserate with the common man. Profits are probably down a bit, but in this economy that is a huge win. In this market, Ford gets a favorable headline that reads, "Ford posts better than expected numbers." They lost $1.43 BILLION! What would they have said if they had only lost a few hundred million? Or--GASP--broken even? There would have been parades and orgies in the street.
So in the midst of the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs, and on the same weekend as the Yankees travel to play a series with the Red Sox, the NFL held its draft in New York City. Call me crazy, but other than the score of Game 6 between the Caps and Rangers, I couldn't tell you much about any other sporting event (oh, and the Nats went 1-2 against the Mets...congrats to Jordan Zimmerman.) I had two T.V.'s--each was tuned to either NFL Network or ESPN, with one serving to flip back and forth between Caps Game 6 and the draft.
First thing's first: MVP of the draft goes to none other than Mel Kiper, Jr. To suggest he gets better and better every year would be to understate his brilliance from the beginning.
The man straight up brings it. Sure, there are the hair jokes. Sure, the shaded glasses at various points through the years have made him look more like a Jersey con man than a football expert. In many respects, he is kind of like that guy at the racetrack that knows how to read the daily racing form. He feverishly scribbles on his copy of the form, circling this, underlining that. You wouldn't take your kids near him, or any small pets for that matter, as the hairdo and glasses give off a weird vibe. Then, in a polite voice and in a Baltimore accent, you hear him ask a little girl walking by, "You bettin' the ponies, hun?" And without question or provocation, he proceeds to ask all around him why anyone in their RIGHT MIND would bet on the 3 horse in the 5th race, saying things like:
"Makes no sense."
"They will regret this move."
"Mark my words, and you can replay this tape, that horse will be in a glue factory at this time next year, while my horse will be pumping out million dollar semen at a stud farm."
I think you get the point (SSBlitz, I did it...I cut the semen references in this article in half. If the product is watered, down, I blame you). The man has conviction. The man has principles. The man has a barber that you will never, ever meet. And without Mel Kiper, Jr., the draft would become empty and meaningless, like the lives of Paris Hilton's pets.
Which brings me to Todd McShay. If you think for a second you can waltz into the draft with your All-American looks and "ESPN Scouts Inc." moniker and question Mel Kiper, well sir, we have a problem. In the days and weeks leading up to the draft, they would do Kiper/McShay split screens and a couple thoughts occurred to me.
1) You could just see in Mel's face that he was thinking, "Where did this douchebag come from? What makes him think he knows more than me? Why did I agree to do a splitscreen with this Johnny Everyman-looking kid? He makes me look like a mob boss in a Grand Theft Auto game."
2) When Todd McShay said (and it happened more than once), "I have no idea what Mel is talking about. I just don't understand why he thinks that," I was literally standing on my couch, yelling,
"BECAUSE HE'S MEL FREAKING KIPER! THAT'S WHY!"
Message to Todd McShay...in 20 years, if you're still kicking it on draft day, we might be cool. Until then, don't mess with the resident Maryland boy. There's a reason he's on the set and you are at an undisclosed location.
On the NFL Network, Mike Mayock, while very sure of himself (a nice way of saying arrogant, but I like him so he is just sure of himself), started to get on my nerves at the end of Day 2. He reminds me of that girl we all dated that when we first met her, we were like, "WOW...this girl is hot, she loves to drink, and her morally casual beliefs make her the perfect partner on Morally Casual Wednesdays!"
Then she won't leave your house one day. Like, from say, Saturday night all the way until Mr. Irrelevant is called to the stage. All day long, you give her the hint. You pull out your Playstation, but she beats you in Madden. You pull out your old N64 and she destroys you in GoldenEye. You dig up your original Nintendo and she shuts you out in Blades of Steel. She knows more than you about sports, and she is starting to rub it in your face. This relationship will never last.
Mike Mayock knows his stuff to be sure. But at some point, his intimate knowledge of Division 3 interior linemen (and the women they love) becomes more creepy than impressive.
Phoning It In Award: Rich Eisen. Rich, we love you, but this was earned in the hard, last couple hours of the draft. Come on man, you can do better than telling me every 5 minutes how many picks away we are from Mr. Irrelevant. If I can force my wife and 1-year old to listen to Mayock break down the 248th pick of the draft, you can muster up something better than, "Did he go to Michigan?"
Best Nugget of the Draft: As the draft comes to a screeching halt at the end of Round 7, teams are frantically trying to reach dudes who aren't going to get drafted to sign. I believe it was actually Mayock who told the story of Matt Cassel and how he ended up with the Patriots. Teams will try to gauge how many suitors there are for a particular player and decide if it makes more sense to burn a late draft pick on the player or risk competing with other potential suitors. Apparently Matt Cassel was heading for undrafted free agency--no shocker there, as he never started a collegiate game. Norm Chow, a former coach for the USC Trojans, had signed onto the staff in Tennessee and had made a push to get Cassel to join the Titans after the draft. Someone in the Patriots front office caught wind of it and made him their 7th round selection. Turned out to be pretty smart. I call this the best nugget because I did not know the level of espionage involved, and also because it underlines how the Patriots always seem to make the right move. They already have TWO additional second round picks next year by the way. It seems like they are just always stockpiling picks (because they are). I am so jealous.
I made it to Mr. Irrelevant, Ryan Succop, K from South Carolina. It was a lot easier this year, due to the hangover I had all day Sunday. And when it was all done, I handed my wife the remote control, and begged her to change the channel. I knew i couldn't do it.
(After she went to bed, I watched NFL Total Access for the wrap-up show, and ESPN for its wrap-up. Did I feel dirty? You bet I did. But there is one thing I have learned...you have to ween yourself off of Mel. You don't just stop cold turkey.)