What is it that makes the NFL Draft more appealing than the World Series, NBA Finals or Stanley Cup? Check the marketing studies folks, in terms of fan interest and popularity it’s actually true.
It has to be the old “Hope springs eternal” factor. During the past two decades at least one NFL team, and in many years two or three, have gone from last place to first in their divisions in one offseason.
A couple of really nice draft picks, maybe a key free agent acquisition or two to go with them and suddenly the doormat of the division becomes the welcome mat to the playoffs.
For one three-day weekend in the spring, all 32 NFL teams are legitimate contenders.
So what will the Monsters of the Midway do with the 14th pick in the first round? Will they find the next Dick Butkus, Walter Payton or Brian Urlacher, or will they give us another Mike Hull, Stan Thomas or Michael Haynes. Or will they trade the pick?
I was listening to the guys on the SCORE the other day trying to identify the Bears’ worst first-round pick of all time and as they rattled off Thomas, Haynes, Curtis Enis, Chris Williams and others, I was screaming to myself and my windshield “You’re missing it!”
For my money, the Bears worst first round pick of all time was the one they traded to the Seattle Seahawks for Rick Mirer.
As Dave Wannstedt told me some time after, “Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
There you have it. No team in NFL history has ever made a first-round choice that didn’t seem like a good idea at the time. Some work out, some cost general manager’s and coaches their jobs.
Drafting in the NFL is in fact more an art than a science. If it was science, an awful lot of guys could learn to do it well.
Alas, there are only a handful of general managers in NFL history to have long, successful careers.
Here is what Phil Emery and his peers can control on draft day.
Each team “stacks” their own draft boards and at the end of the day very few of the 32 look all that different. Take any one of the 32 teams’ list of the top 32 players in this draft and at least 28 or 29 of those lists are all going to have at least 28 of the same players listed in very similar order.
The player they choose is pretty much a matter of taste, and need.
The one thing that every one of the 32 teams strive to obtain is value. If you’re picking 14th, you want one of the top 10 or 12 players on your board.
If you take the 27th best player at 14, more often than not you will fail.
Keep in mind also that picks Nos. 8 through 10 are the hardest, not necessarily the best. The wiggle room is a lot tighter when you’re trying to nail the top 3, 5 or 8 talents than the top 14.
And most teams drafting in the top 10 are there because they’re bad, and they probably got there by being bad at drafting.
What are the Bears to do? I’d like to see them trade down to somewhere between Nos. 20 and 24, pick up an extra No. 1 next year or at least an extra couple second-round choices and still get a Calvin Pryor, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Ryan Shazier or Bradley Roby.
If they’re stuck at No. 14, Justin Gilbert, C.J. Mosley, Taylor Lewan and Eric Ebron are all top 10-to-12 talents, at least one of whom if not more should be available.
The Bears should take the best one.
You want this year’s sleeper/Kyle Long pick, try Troy Niklas from Notre Dame. He’s a home run or a strikeout, but if he goes out of the park he’s a 500 footer to dead center.
• Hub Arkush cover the Bears for ChicagoFootball.com. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.