Saturday, April 16, 2011

Smoke in the mirror

The more you hear regarding the National Football League’s college draft later this month, the more you should ignore.

Veteran observers who zealously follow the annual lottery know most of what comes out of the 32 war rooms prior to the selections is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Believe it and you’re fooling only yourself.

It’s a game all the teams play. No one knows for certain why. Perhaps it’s because the cloak-and-dagger approach gives them a thrill. Then again, the paranoid minds that dot the NFL landscape are perfect fodder for such behavior.

One would think that after all these years, this kind of pre-draft nonsense would at least slow down to the point where it would be considered silly. But as along as some take it seriously, it will continue.

It all feeds perfectly into the NFL public relations machine that whirs along on a 365-day rotation. If it gets people talking and thinking NFL, why not? That’s what the league is all about.

And given that the league’s PR image is taking a beating what with the labor unrest and uncertainty about whether they’ll be a 2011 season, perhaps the blathering that leads up to the draft isn’t so bad after all. At least from the league’s point of view.

It is interesting to watch the hundreds of draft gurus (at least it seems as though there are that many) taking stabs at predicting what will happen April 28-30. Some are already on their eighth version. And we still have about two weeks left.

There are so many possibilities regarding the top 10 picks. And with the Browns picking sixth, many of their fans hang on what some of those gurus are predicting. Actually take them seriously. Only problem is these so-called experts can’t seem to make up their minds.

One week, it’s Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green to the Browns. Wait a minute. Cincinnati will take Green. Make that Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. What’s that? Bowers will be gone, too?

In that case, it’ll be either Alabama wideout Julio Jones (then again maybe not because he drops too many passes – shades of Braylon Edwards) or North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn (then again maybe not because he missed the entire 2010 season because of an NCAA violation and he might be rusty).

But what if quarterbacks Cam Newton and/or Blaine Gabbert drop to No. 6? Then what? Didn’t Browns President Mike Holmgren indicate the club would select a quarterback? Sure did. But in the first round?

Smoke and mirrors.

Cleveland General Manager Tom Heckert Jr. obviously knows how to play the game, too. Asked recently if he’ll take the best available player or place a greater emphasis on need, he replied, “ . . . we’re going to take the best available player. If you have two players rated the same, then you can go with need.”

It appears as though he’s getting better with the non-answer because the two greatest needs he has are wide receiver and defensive line. And the top half of the first round draft is loaded with good receivers and defensive linemen.

What about the possibility of trading out of the sixth slot? “Right now,” Heckert said, “we’re going through different scenarios. If we trade up, whom do we trade up for? If we trade back, whom can we still get? Those are the things we’re pretty much thinking of.”

In other words, try to guess what I’m going to do because I have no idea.

Fun and games. And we still have almost two more weeks of it.

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