Draft isn't a mockery ... but parts of it sure are
Let me begin by saying that I love the NFL draft. If it wore something low-cut with pumps I'd take it to Vegas for a quickie marriage. I mean, how can you not fall hard for something that's the Mercantile Exchange of football?
Oh, yeah, baby, I'll be watching all 18 hours of ESPN's shoulder-pad-to-shoulder-pad coverage beginning at precisely 11 a.m. ET on Saturday (first pick is at noon ET). I figure it will take that long for the ball-and-chain's lawyer to draw up the divorce papers. But I have to admit, there are some things about the two-day event that I could do without:
With the No. 1 selection in the 2007 NFL draft, I mock ... NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Look, if we can gut it out for all seven rounds, so can you. Anybody can announce the first-round draftees, do the photo op, hold-up-the-jersey thing and then bolt Radio City Music Hall. But a real commissioner would stick around for everything, including the Mr. Irrelevant pick on Sunday.
With the No. 2 selection, I mock ... mock drafts.
Tango stiff Clyde Drexler had a better chance of winning "Dancing With The Stars" than NFL experts have of predicting the NFL draft. I'm not naming names, but one expert missed 24 of 32 first-round picks in last year's draft. Another one whiffed on 25 of 32 selections. Why? Because figuring out the inner workings of the draft is like trying to pick up a bead of water with oven mittens.
With the No. 3 selection, I mock ... "the next level."
You're going to hear that a lot this weekend. I don't know who came up with the phrase "the next level," but whoever it was deserves a four-coat application of Atomic Balm to their groin region. That would be taking pain to "the next level."
With the No. 4 selection, I mock ... Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas.
Thomas, expected to be chosen no later than the fifth overall pick, is stiffing the draft so he can go fishing with his father on Lake Michigan. Goodell himself reportedly e-mailed the Badgers star with a personal request to attend the NFL festivities, but Thomas said no. Fine. How heartwarming. Except that the NFL Network is going to have an on-board boat cam to record the moment Thomas receives the call. Sellout.
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Four words: Lions President Matt Millen. Somehow (and that's the strange genius of Millen) he'll figure out how to screw it up.
With the No. 6 selection, I mock ... entourages.
I was at the 2006 draft and you couldn't swing a lock of Mel Kiper's hair without hitting a member of some first-rounder's crew. They were like herds of draft cattle. The only people missing were Eric, Vince, Drama, Ari and Turtle.
With the No. 7 selection, I mock ... 15 minutes between first-round picks.
You can launch a dozen NORAD-controlled ballistic missile interceptors in the time it takes for Al Davis to zipper up his Members Only jacket and choose between JaMarcus Russell and Calvin Johnson. These teams have had months and months to scout, analyze and rank players on their big boards. If they don't have it figured out by now, another 15 minutes isn't going to help.
With the No. 8 selection, I mock ... the onstage photo op.
It takes about a nanosecond for the NFL to start the marketing process of a first-round pick. Player gets call from team ... player leaves Green Room for stage ... player is handed NFL-approved baseball cap ... player must wear $24.99 cap with $3,499 tailored Armani suit ... player looks like idiot; player's fashion consultant weeps in fitting room ... player shakes hands with Goodell and helps hold up NFL-approved jersey with, sigh, No. 1 number. That's why I wish Joe Thomas would have come to the draft. He could have worn a fishing bucket hat with lures stuck through the sides.
With the No. 9 selection, I mock ... whoever leaked the info about Louisville's Amobi Okoye, Clemson's Gaines Adams and Georgia Tech's Johnson allegedly doing a little cannabis.
It's just a theory, but I'm wondering if Lions owner William Clay Ford has, you know, done the deed. Why else would Millen still have a job?
With the No. 10 selection, I mock ... the Wonderlic test and player prospect psychological profiles.
Two words: Pacman Jones.
Two more words: Chris Henry.
Two more words after that: Tank Johnson.
With the No. 11 selection, I mock ... War Rooms.
Is there anything more exciting than watching guys in suits sitting at a conference table? With no sound? Plus, war rooms are where you plot the invasion of Iwo Jima, not where you pick a punter.
With the No. 12 selection, I mock ... the NFL Combine.
The world would be a better place without this stopwatch festival. The first time I see an orange cone drill during a game, then I'll buy into the Combine.
All you need to know about the Texans is: Their first-ever No. 1 overall pick, quarterback-of-the-present-and-future David Carr, is now the Carolina Panthers' backup QB ... they could have had Reggie Bush or Vince Young with the No. 1 pick last year, but chose defensive end Mario Williams ... and they still insist they're thrilled with Williams.
With the No. 14 selection, I mock ... 10 minutes between second-round picks.
In review, the first round can take as long as eight hours and the second can take as long as 5½ hours. This makes no sense. We do our 14-round ESPN fantasy football draft in two hours -- and that's with ESPN fantasy guru Eric Karabell mocking each pick, except his. The NFL only has seven rounds and it takes two days. If I'm Goodell, I give each team five minutes to choose a player (that's the time limit during rounds 3-7).
With the No. 15 selection, I mock ... players with cell phones in the Green Room.
Look, we know you're nervous. We also know you're not actually talking to anyone when the camera is on you and you're free-falling down the draft list. So man-up, stare into the camera and say, "Someone's making a big mistake," and then hope to God that Millen doesn't choose you.
With the No. 16 selection, I mock ... post-draft grades.
Again, nothing personal against the experts, but this is like grading which college programs had the best recruiting classes. I repeat, nobody knows how this is going to play out. If they did, Ryan Leaf wouldn't have been the No. 2 pick in 1998, Tony Mandarich wouldn't have been chosen before Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders in 1989, Blair Thomas wouldn't have been selected 15 spots higher than Emmitt Smith in 1990, Lawrence Phillips wouldn't have been the sixth overall pick in 1996, and Joey Harrington wouldn't have been the No. 3 choice in 2002.
With the No. 16 selection (supplemental), I mock ... all those who mock New York Jets and Giants fans.
Yeah, they're nuts. You got a problem with that? There is no better draft-day highlight (with the exception of watching Thurman Thomas fall asleep during the 1988 draft) than seeing the utter despair and anger on the faces of Jets and Giants fans after their teams make a selection. It doesn't matter who gets picked. The Giants could have taken Joe Montana in the 1979 draft and some G-Men follower would have muttered, "He's a bum. Too small. Too pretty boy."
With the No. 17 selection, I mock ... cross-promotion.
Last year at the draft, as I was trying to write a column, some knucklehead in the row behind me kept talking and talking. So I turned around to tell him to stick a knee pad in his mouth and it was ... Mark Wahlberg? What the hell? Wahlberg was there to chat up his new football movie, "Invincible," a fine Disney production that I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend for DVD buyers of all ages. But he and co-star Greg Kinnear looked like they wanted to be there only slightly more than Matt Leinart looked like he wanted to plummet to the 10th pick. So, if you don't mind, can we keep the NFL draft to, well, the NFL draft.
With the No. 18 selection, I mock ... lack of perspective.
I'm pretty sure more hours of the 2007 draft will be televised than the combined airtime of the 2004 Republican and Democratic national conventions.
With the No. 19 selection, I mock ... trade ups, trade downs.
The last great trade up was Da Coach's 1999 blockbuster when he sent all of New Orleans' picks to get Ricky Williams. Otherwise, it's Zzzzzzzzzzzzz-ville when it comes to these kind of proposed deals. Esteemed ESPN professor John Clayton tells me it's simply too hard to trade out of a draft spot, which is why we shouldn't get too excited about the pre-draft rumors.
With the No. 20 selection, I mock ... the value chart.
The value chart puts a point total on each pick of the draft. For instance, the No. 1 overall pick is 3,000 points. The 255th and last pick of the draft is worth 0.45 points. I have no idea what egghead came up with the chart, or why Mike Ditka didn't consult it in 1999.
With the No. 21 selection, I mock ... the team officials sitting at the draft desks.
You think these people are high-ranking front office types, don't you? They're not. They're usually two schmoes whose only job is to hand a card to an NFL draft gofer. The two people manning the Houston Texans' desk last year were Emily Burguieres, the daughter of the team's vice chairman; and Jay Mooney, a fourth-grade teacher from Maryland who was buddies with now-former Texans GM Charley Casserly.
With the No. 22 selection, I mock ... anybody who comes to the draft on the second day.
OK, I'll give you the second and third rounds. But if you're still hanging around Radio City Music Hall by the seventh round, you need therapy or the new Madden '08.
With the No. 23 selection, I mock ... conventional wisdom.
I think the Raiders will take LSU's Russell, but I wouldn't. In the nine previous drafts, seven quarterbacks have been chosen No. 1 overall. Only two of those quarterbacks -- Peyton Manning and Michael Vick -- have even reached a conference championship and only one (Manning) has reached a Super Bowl.
With the No. 24 selection, I mock ... post-selection interviews with team officials.
Just once I'd like to hear this:
Boomer: "Well, Coach, I take it you're thrilled with your pick in the first round?"
Coach: "To be completely honest, he's a pig with lipstick. But what can I do? My owner, who made a fortune selling Mary Kay products, thinks he knows more about football than our entire scouting department. So instead of taking the left tackle we had rated No. 1 on our board, Bill Walsh Jr. here made us draft an intramural quarterback from DeVry Institute. Said he had good measurables."
With the No. 25 selection, I mock ... the agent who worms his way into the live shot from the newly drafted player's living room.
Please stay out of camera sight. We strictly enforce the Drew Rosenhaus no-fly zone.
With the No. 26 selection, I mock ... the Detroit Lions.
Just habit, I guess.
With the No. 27 selection, I mock ... all those casual NFL fans who will become outraged if Central Michigan OT Joe Staley is chosen after Auburn guard Ben Grubbs.
Be honest, you've never watched 11 seconds of Staley or Grubbs.
With the No. 28 selection, I mock ... the instant endorsement commercials.
I understand the reasons for the draft day rookie commercials. But it would be nice if they did something first, such as play in an actual NFL game.
With the No. 29 selection, I mock ... the decision not to have ESPN's Mike Golic at the draft.
I know: he's doing an Arena Football League game. But we're going to miss watching the big lug whipping cookies at the crowd.
With the No. 30 selection, I mock ... Nick Saban.
Sure, you're safe and sound in Tuscaloosa with your guaranteed $32 million Alabama deal. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins are trying to clean up your Daunte Culpepper mess. Thanks.
With the No. 31 selection, I mock ... Mel Kiper.
It's just not right that he has all that hair and he can name, without looking at his notes, the right outside linebacker at Grambling State.
With the No. 32 and final selection, I mock ... Al Davis.
If you don't take Calvin Johnson with the first pick, then you might as well put patches over both eyes of your Raiders logo.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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