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Draft frenzy out of control

Matt Unger | Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We are one day away from the return of Mel Kiper Jr. and his tub of hair gel, or, in other words, the annual television spectacle known as the NFL Draft.

Thankfully, this weekend ends almost three months of endless hype and build-up to the draft, which unfortunately grows larger every year.

In 1936, the draft began in a Philadelphia hotel without any media coverage as teams picked from 90 names written in chalk on a blackboard. It wasn’t until 1980 that the draft was even televised by a fledgling ESPN.

More recently in 2010, the draft was spread over three days so that the first round could air in primetime on Thursday night. Two networks, ESPN and NFL Network, now provide wall-to-wall coverage.

But the most frustrating part of the draft is the hype leading up to it, from the draft combine to multiple mock drafts (Kiper just released his fourth). Such mock drafts will likely be wrong beyond the first few picks as teams make trades to mess up the projected order.

Also on ESPN, it is hard not to run into Jon Gruden’s “QB Camp” in which he interviews potential quarterback draftees. Last year, he grilled Cam Newton on his lack of football knowledge before the rookie had a breakout season with Carolina.

In addition, ESPN analysts debate trivial items such as prospects’ height, 40-yard dash time and percentage of body fat. The star of these athletic traits this year has been Ryan Tannehill.

However, it is sometimes impossible for experts, fans and even NFL scouts and general managers to project a player’s success in a league where the average career spans three and a half years.

Too many factors such as injuries, desire to succeed, coaching environment, etc. play into whether or not a player is successful. This makes endless draft speculation worthless.

As a Cleveland Browns fan, I knew firsthand that first round picks Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Kellen Winslow Jr. and even Brady Quinn were all thought to be star NFL players when drafted. However, one of the above factors, which Kiper and crew could not have predicted, resulted in those players failing to meet the hype.

Unfortunately, the draft has served as the most hopeful point of the Browns season for me (four straight losing seasons coupled with one playoff appearance since 1994 will do that). Following the draft, the Browns will inevitably lose their first regular season game as they have done 12 out of the past 13 years. Discussion of next year’s draft will soon commence by early December with the team in the basement of the AFC North.

So, when I tune in to find the Browns pick Alabama running back Trent Richardson at No. 4, I will immediately tune out the talking ESPN heads (at least until the Browns’ No. 22 pick). Instead, I will wait for the real season in September to tell if Richardson and other picks are successes or failures.