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The NFL Draft Makes Us Willing Prisoners of a False Reality

The following column has been edited for content: It has been formatted to fit your brain.

In Plato's "Allegory of the Cave", a group of prisoners are chained to the wall of a cave for their whole lives. Their arms, legs, and heads are fixed in place, allowing them only the view of the blank wall in front of them. Behind them is a huge fire and a raised walkway. As people walk between the prisoners and the fire, shadows are cast onto the wall they are watching. Sounds echo off of the wall. The only reality they know is the reflection of sound and the shadows cast in various shapes on the wall in front of them. To them, the shadows and sounds are what is real, as opposed to the reflections of reality that they truly are. To them, he who can accurately guess which shape or sound will come next is someone who fully comprehends and understands the world they live in.

In many ways, this is the NFL Draft as we know it. We are the prisoners that sit with our eyes and ears fixed on test results, second-hand reports of individual behaviors, college game film and expert analysis. Sure, all of these things are based on what is real...but aren't they all just reflections of a reality we simply can't comprehend? Hasn't history proven that experts are wrong every year in the draft? Don't we see players defy combine results every year, either performing at a high level despite mediocre test results or underachieving in the league despite stellar workout numbers? Isn't the NFL littered with Pro Bowlers that are probably miserable role models for our children? Reality is truly blurred every year at the NFL Draft. And the cast of characters trying to prove their greatness by predicting what comes next makes it all the more entertaining.

Personally, I have embraced the lunacy of clinging to the false reality of the NFL Draft. My favorite part is Mel Kiper, Jr. (of course) and whether he is right or wrong, I hang on his every word. Like so many mafia bookmakers before him, he peers into our eyes from behind those shaded lenses and passionately predicts what will happen next. When he is wrong--wait, scratch that--when teams fail to make the selections he judges as right, his indignant demeanor is priceless.

Mike Mayock, Todd McShay and the rest of the talking heads on draft day all attempt to win praise by purporting to understand the draft and convince us of what will or should happen next. But they are prisoners just like the rest of us--ascribing reality to that which is not real--at least not yet real.