Trying to get a clue about this year’s NFL draft

by Gary Shelton on March 25, 2016 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Friday, 6 a.m.

The last time I felt like this, I was in biology class, and I think the test was in Chinese. Or was it Chinese class, and the test was biological?

Everyone seemed to know the answers but me. My palms were sweating. My throat was dry. Small animals were running around in my stomach. I had studied the wrong thing, I think. I was confused. I was outnumbered. I felt like the dumbest guy in the room, which was a distinct possibility unless Bruce Allen was there.

I'm not sure, but I think the first question on the quiz was: who should the Bucs draft with the ninth pick?

By now, you know how this entire draft is going to shake out. I, on the other hand, am an idiot. You have dissected Joey Bosa's 40-time, and you know all about Laremy Tunsil's bench press, and you can tell me how much better Jalen Ramsey's 40-time is over Vernon Hargreaves. I am reasonably sure they all play football. You are a draftnik. I, on the other hand, am a Trekkie.

You know.

I suspect.

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For me, it is this way every year. Everyone around me is sure about the draft. They have read all 163 of Mel Kiper's mocks, and they can tell you why a defensive end they've never seen from Oregon is better than one they have never seen from Ole Miss. They're the guys who will patiently explain to you the difference between Derrick Henry and Hunter Henry. Me? I don't know the difference between Eli Apple and Don Cherry (the Falcons, interested in peering through the peephole to check on player's sex lives, probably know).

Here's an admission: I don't know Jack about Myles Jack. I have no idea about the rankings of Sheldon Rankins.

The draft is the one event in sports where the guy next to you can argue loudly about the difference in, say, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, because they saw something written on NFL.com by a guy who doesn't know, either. A scouting report by a 20-year scout has nothing on a guy who has seen a nice Youtube video.

I even saw one draft that had Florida's Vernon Hargreaves going eighth to Miami and ninth to Tampa Bay. Now, that's a guy who can cover some field. The same draft had a Notre Dame wide receiver going with the 36th pick to Baltimore, and again with the 37th pick to San Francisco. And Su'a Cravens going 47th to New Orleans and 53rd to Washington. Know what I got out of that? Find another mock draft.

And so, as an outsider, I have to ask.

If these draftniks are so sure of what they predict, then why do all of them have five or six mocks?

This is silly to me. It smacks of just throwing names against the wall and hoping that, in one of them or the other, you are likely to get one right. Of course, the Cleveland Browns operate the same way.

Just asking, of course. For years, I've asked this about the draft. How many games did you see, say, Ali Marpet play in college. Invariably, the fellow writer I ask this of says “Oh, I saw him plenty.” Really? How? Because my cable network didn't pick up their games.

I am left to think that while I am watching college football, say Alabama vs. LSU, then others are charting plays about the third safety for Fresno State. What? Should I be watching more Fresno State?

At any rate, it seems to me that if you pick, say, 10 players, maybe 12, you should be in fine shape to predict who the Bucs are going to draft.

Yet, here we are. In various mocks, the Bucs are supposed to take cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and defensive end Joey Bosa, defensive end DeForest Buckner and Shaq Lawson, offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and defensive end Noah Spence and Leonard Floyd, and defensive end Kevin Dodd.

In other words, the Bucs could draft darn near everyone except for Jalen Ramsey.

All I know for sure is that the Bucs need to get this right. If they do things right, this will be their last shot in the top 10, which means that general manager Jameis Winston (or assistant Jason Licht) can't afford to make a mistake.

Of course, whoever they pick, they'll be amazed to find that he was still on the board.

I don't know about you, but I find the fascination with picking-up-teams incredible. Former Giants' general manager George Young used to call it the biggest non-event in sports. Right now, you can find an argument that says the team should trade up, and another that says it should trade down. I'm sure someone thinks they should trade with the Lightning for Steven Stamkos.

Again, I've never been among those who figure they have to memorize everything that Todd McShay writes down. You know what's really sick? The seven-round mock drafts. Like you really need to know that the team might (but probably won't) take a long-snapper from Slippery Rock.

But what do I know? I just follow along.

You? You knew it all the time.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Cecil DeBald March 25, 2016 at 8:02 am

I had a boss who graduated from Slippery Rock – don’t know how he ranked as a long snapper, though… always pictured him getting to class by having to cross a big old river by stepping on – you guessed it – slippery rocks. Always pictured him getting to class all wet… Anyway, must be Friday, agree with you, the only thing worse than the “experts” picking the NCAA Tourney are the “experts” picking the NFL draft. At least there is a reasonable amount of information on the teams in the NCAA. And then, on draft day, when the team in question doesn’t cooperate with the “expert” pick, the “expert” questions the acuity and sanity of the team…

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Gary Shelton March 25, 2016 at 9:00 am

Yeah, teams mess up, too. But at least they have professionals who spend all year trying to find out as much as they can. Not just reading what Mel said.

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