The NFL draft: a diehard football fan's delight

Kevin Wandra's picture

Football always has been been my favorite sport. There is simply nothing like it.

Quarterbacks displaying poise in the pocket and connecting with swift-footed receivers on deep passes. Elusive running backs carving apart defenses with their fancy footwork. Offensive linemen utilizing their brute strength and power, driving defenders into the ground.

Hulking defensive linemen and linebackers breaking through a gap in the offensive line and pummeling an unsuspecting quarterback, driving him unmercifully into the turf. Aggressive defensive backs delivering knockout blows to helpless receivers crossing into dangerous territory over the middle.

I love it all, but my deep passion for football does not solely pertain to what occurs on the field. One of my favorite aspects of football is an annual event that drives teams to their respective “war rooms” in April during the offseason, the NFL draft.

I have long called the NFL draft the NFL’s version of Christmas. The two-day event, held in New York City, is where championship teams are primarily built.

Football is the ultimate team game, but one pick can make or break a franchise.

Imagine if a team had had the foresight to draft an underrated prospect by the name of Tom Brady before the New England Patriots selected him in the sixth round of the 2000 draft? What if the Jets had drafted the greatest wide receiver of all time, Jerry Rice, in the first round of the 1985 draft instead of Al Toon, a good player whose career was cut short by a series of concussions, six picks earlier?

Those are just two of many examples I could provide.

Impatiently waiting for each team to decide the future of its franchise is perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of watching the NFL draft.

Will the team making the next pick select the best available player or a player who best fills a need? Will it pick a player nobody expected it to draft?

After each pick is made, each team’s fan base either vocally lambastes the pick or roars in approval. Then ESPN’s and NFL Network’s talking heads chime in with their (mostly) in-depth analysis. (Listening to ESPN’s draft expert, Mel Kiper Jr., whose perfectly coifed hair always draws attention from viewers, and NFL Network’s Mike Mayock is like sitting back and absorbing the wisdom of renowned philosophers Aristotle and Socrates.)

Soon after the first day of the draft, another part of the fun is logging on to the Internet’s various NFL websites and reading the grades of each team’s draft. Who passed? Who failed? Who went higher than expected? Who went lower than anticipated?

The day after the draft concludes, the same websites have complete grades for each team's entire draft. (Just thinking about it gets me excited.)

I have watched both days of the draft in its entirety since I can remember (probably since 1995, the first year I had cable). If you think there are NFL draftniks like me who are insane for sitting in front of a TV for hours spread over two days watching football analysis interspersed with highlights, keep in mind that the NFL draft has a higher TV viewership than just about anything else on ESPN excluding NFL games.

Crazy or not, this sportswriter, one of the most diehard NFL fans you could ever imagine meeting, will be sitting in front of a TV April 26-27 with my trusty NFL draft guide — if you’re interested, buy the one published by the Sporting News; there is none better — by my side as I watch all the various sights and sounds of yet another NFL draft.

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