Thursday Thoughts: Draft Memories
The NFL Draft is tonight, and for the 41st year in a row, it’ll be televised on ESPN. Prior to 1980, most fans simply read about their team’s picks in the newspaper the next day. But it’s a big event now – one that gets much higher ratings than NBA and Major League Baseball playoff games. Here are three of my favorite memories from the 38 drafts I’ve watched:
1) There’s no greater memory than listening to Colts GM Bill Tobin utter these famous words in 1994: “Who in the hell is Mel Kiper?” He said this after the then-unknown draftnik criticized Indy for drafting Trev Alberts with the fifth overall pick. Kiper, who’s been wrong A LOT over the years, was right in this instance, although referring to Trent Dilfer as a “franchise quarterback” is laughable now. Not only did Tobin come off as thin-skinned and petty at the time, but he came off as incompetent a few years later when Alberts was out of the league. This clip also reminds me of a time when the so-called experts weren’t afraid to be critical. These days, with so many eyes on the draft, Kiper and others like him play it safe and rarely rip a team on the first night.
2) Aaron Rodgers’ dramatic slide down the draft board in 2005 was painful to watch. At the time, I kept hoping some team would take him before he got to the Packers. For one thing, I felt bad for the former Cal quarterback, whom many projected as the likely No. 1 overall pick just a few weeks earlier. The other reason I wanted Rodgers to get drafted before No. 24 was because I didn’t want then-GM Ted Thompson to select a quarterback. Green Bay still had future Hall of Famer Brett Favre at the position and there were so many bigger needs. Nevertheless, I have to admit I reacted a lot better to then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue calling Rodgers’ name than I did a year ago when Roger Goodell called Jordan Love’s name. That’s because I thought Rodgers was the much better NFL prospect. Anyway, here’s hoping the first round of the 2020 draft will be as fond a memory a decade and a half from now.
3) Nobody would ever suggest that a fan or a beat writer knows as much as a general manager, but to dismiss the opinions of those not holding a job in the NFL is ridiculous. Unlike performing surgery or filling a cavity, there’s no extra schooling needed to analyze a college football player. All you really need are eyes and a working computer. And once in a while, that’s enough to make the amateur scout smarter than the professional. A great example of this came in 2007 when the Packers drafted Justin Harrell with the 16th pick in the first round. Very few people outside of 1265 Lombardi Avenue liked the choice. While Thompson saw a 300-pound defensive end with great raw power and unlimited potential, pretty much everybody else saw an injury-prone and underachieving player. Harrell would go on to be an all-time bust, but at least this unfortunate selection left us with a classic YouTube video.