Monday, January 29, 2018

Silly season

It’s that time of the pro football year again, sports fans. And I don’t mean Super Bowl LII.

It’s the time of the year when normal fans of the sport like to play general manager. They believe they can forecast the future.

They jump all over rumors – real and otherwise, mostly otherwise – with regard to the annual National Football League college draft. They analyze, overanalyze and draw all kinds of conclusions, a vast majority of them incorrect.

It’s silly season once again and the draft zealots are off and running at a dazzling and incredibly dizzying pace. By the time the April 26-28 event unfolds in Arlington, Texas, what we see and hear today will not be even remotely close to what eventually transpires.

Who will the Browns select with the No. 1 pick? Will it be a quarterback over super duper running back Saquon Barkley? Will they trade it? Discuss. 

The lottery is exactly 87 days away and already, a fever has gripped its fandom. They try to make sense out of rumors spread throughout the NFL leading up to the big and very popular event.

They jump on a variety of Web sites and inject their thoughts based solely on their belief they have a good idea of what is going to happen. They do not hesitate to offer suggestions to those in charge of their favorite team.

There is no more vocal, ardent and emotional fan base than that of the Cleveland Browns. The brand new front office has given that starving fan base renewed energy and hope the immediate future is not nearly as dismal as the past 19 seasons have been.

And thus, they closely – and I mean real closely to the point they hang on his every word – follow the utterings of General Manager John Dorsey as he begins his quest to turn the NFL’s annual loser into a winner.

They attempt to parse his words during a time when general managers, head coaches, scouts and front-office people in general flirt with the truth to the media. Can you say smoke screens? Prevarication has become an art form with these guys.

What people on that level say at this time of the year means nothing. It’s not what they say that counts. It’s what they don’t say. Deception is the name of the game and it’s a game they enjoy playing.

Never let the opposition know you’re thinking. Keep them guessing. Sometimes it works. Much more often than not it doesn’t.

The gullibility factor lures ordinary fans into the picture and gives birth to nonsense, providing crazy scenarios that have absolutely no chance of eventuating. With two of the first four selections, for example, some fans openly suggest trades that makes sense to them at the time.

They are swayed by the thoughts of, in this case, Dorsey when asked of his thoughts on this player or that player. Those thoughts are taken seriously.

Case in point the Senior Bowl game last weekend in Mobile, Ala. Dorsey, who almost certainly will grab a quarterback with one of his two early picks in the first round, praised quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen.

Pundits, draft experts and fans jumped all over that and had Dorsey homing in on one of them with one of those choices. One site predicted the undersized Mayfield was a virtual lock to be the top pick in one of its early mock drafts.

Mel Kiper Jr. the venerable college draft expert with ESPN, is convinced, at least right now, that Dorsey will make Allen, who has a bazooka attached to his right shoulder, the No 1 selection. Hang in there. That will change soon enough.

That’s all part of silly season. Between now and late April, Kiper and his draft brethren will change the top of their mocks based on rumors and inside information. They almost certainly will look entirely different at the top by the time NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell puts the Browns on the clock.

In the meantime, we’ll all be subjected to the wild scenarios that exist in the minds of those faux general managers who valiantly continue to tap into Dorsey’s thoughts as they vicariously help him turn this franchise around.

Next up on the college draft rumor mill circuit, the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis Feb. 27-March 5. That’s when quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen step front and center.

This will be the first time many teams will be able to see the top-rated underclassmen perform in person. They are solidly in the crosshairs of pundits, several of whom have the Browns taking Darnold, a few others believing Dorsey will select Rosen.

It will be interesting to see how the new Cleveland GM discusses them with the media. His words no doubt will further influence fans and pundits alike and once again change the course of conversation.

For the next 87 days.

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