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Tuesday, May 2, 2006
The disease of the NFL draft

By Tim Keown
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It occurred to me during the NFL draft that those of us who hold conventional notions about professional sports need to update our thought processes. The old-guard thinking, which emphasizes wins and losses and performance on the field, is no longer the prevailing mentality.

Mario Williams
We'll see if the Texans regret taking Mario Williams over Reggie Bush.
I was seriously thinking about how the NFL draft could possibly summon enough national interest to merit the wall-to-wall, monthlong coverage when the whole idea of this shift in thinking became obvious.

Drafts never used to be the most important dates on the sports calendar. A fan would watch the draft with interest, but it wasn't that big a deal. But since the proliferation of fantasy sports, which are all about drafts, the focus has gradually shifted.

The NFL draft is really no different than the one you have with your friends the first weekend in September. And since you usually do pretty well in that forum, you feel you have a voice in the real one. The distinctions blur and the NFL draft becomes a bunch of highly paid professionals doing what you think you can do better.

Reality no longer dictates fantasy. Now fantasy dictates reality. The NFL draft is an epic adventure in prognostication and overanalysis. The propensity to ignore on-field performance in favor of workout numbers and 40 times is a growing disease that will continue to cripple the overthinkers and benefit the coaches and GMs who understand the game is still played on the field and not in the mind.

And to bring reality back into the mix, consider this: The same mentality that overemphasizes overanalysis produces a world in which people can actually convince themselves that Mario Williams is a better pick than Reggie Bush.

This Week's List
How good is Mel Kiper?: He already knows who's going to be drafted next year, that's how good he is.

And before you ask: No, he's not the only one who cares, not by a long shot.

Here's an idea nobody but me will want to implement: The dates for the NBA and NFL drafts should be decided just one week prior to the event; just tell everyone it will be on a weekend, and give them a one-month window, but keep the insanity to a minimum by giving only a seven-day advance notice.

If you're still wondering whether the Texans did the right thing by passing on Bush, think of it this way: Who do you think sold more tickets Monday, the Texans or the Saints?

Bringing a new meaning to the term "Elimidate": Reggie Evans and Chris Kaman.

In any non-testicle grabbing week, these two would have been voted cutest couple: Dwyane Wade and Gary Payton.

You might not have noticed this, and it might be more of an observation than a fact, but here's what's happening in the NBA playoffs: A renaissance is taking place in the field of creative layup making, in which Tony Parker, Mike Bibby and Steve Nash are entering the pantheon of great layup makers Nate Archibald, Pete Maravich and Rod Strickland.

If someone said you could merge the combustible personalities of Bonzi Wells, Ron Artest and Mike Bibby to make a run at the Spurs, you'd probably say one thing: Coach of the Year.

Then again: Rick Adelman, the man nobody notices.

I don't know what this means, but it surprised me: Mike Fratello, career playoff record 20-42.

If it were my money, I'd build a hermetically sealed case and keep him in it till the date passed: The Titans are getting all kinds of grief for keeping Steve McNair away from the team facility because they fear he might get injured on company time and be able to collect a $50 million bonus.

Oh, boy, come and get it: More Roger Clemens drama, and this time it includes the Red Sox! And the Yankees!

So many candidates, only one winner: In his new book, John Daly says gambling will be the end of him.

He didn't get much help from his Memphis Grizzlies teammates, so there's only one conclusion to reach: It's going to be a long, itchy offseason for John Walker Gasol.

Yeah, officer, he was about 8 feet high and about yay wide, with a salmon hanging out of his mouth, and he was just a'standing down there at the 1300 block of Beale: You can talk all you want about the Utah Jazz being a ridiculous nickname, but for my money there's nothing quite like the Memphis Grizzlies.

Today (today) I consider myself (self) the luckiest man (man) on the face of the earth (earth): Drew Brees, who went from LaDainian Tomlinson to Reggie Bush, and all he had to do was agree to be paid gobs more money for the privilege.

And finally, it's kind of like Liechtenstein, only less vocal: After the Clippers finished off the Nuggets on Monday night, Elton Brand gave thanks to "Clipper Nation."

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Page 2 here.