No one knew Joe Burrow would be the number one pick a year ago. The LSU signal caller was coming off a solid, yet unspectacular first season in Baton Rouge after transferring from Ohio State. Scanning some prominent preseason mock drafts, not a single one suspected Burrow’s meteoric rise over the 2019 season. How could they? Burrow went from throwing 16 touchdowns in 2018 to throwing 60 last year. He only threw one more interception despite throwing 44 more touchdowns.
Of course, Joe Burrow is only the most obvious example of what can happen over the course of a college football season. Some players come out of nowhere to dazzle fans and NFL teams alike, going on to realize their NFL dreams in ways few of us could imagine. Those mock drafts are filled with names that didn’t make it to the first round of the NFL draft and missing quite a few of those that did.
We stand on the outside of the college football season, not knowing if the Covid-19 Pandemic will end the season before it even starts. Who knows what the 2020 season could’ve brought in a world not plagued by a highly contagious virus. How many players, guys we haven’t even heard of yet, would have catapulted their name into the minds of every fan, pundit and NFL scout with a breakout season? As someone whose primary function as a sports writer is covering the NFL draft, this is the thing I feel most somber about losing with the 2020 season on the line.
There is a phrase, less known than its popular contemporary, referring to the “Sable Lining of a Sunbeam.” This phrase, which I intend to popularize to the best of my ability, refers to downside of largely good things to happen.
The college football season should be canceled. If that wasn’t evident before, today’s news of an outbreak in the MLB after only three days of playing should be a very frightening sign of what the future could look like for college athletes and other major sports leagues operating without a “bubble.” However, I refuse to accept that cancelling these leagues is, in itself, the bad thing. Cancelling the season for college athletes will keep them safe as well as the staffs of teams and stadiums that support them. That is the sunbeam. The sable lining is we lose out on a chance to see five months of great sport and witnessing ascension of players to high draft status. A small price to pay, ultimately, if even one life can be saved.
To be transparent, it felt important to write something to preface 2021 draft coverage. It felt insensitive to go forward without addressing the global pandemic-sized elephant in the room. In a perfect world, players can stay healthy and hopefully vaccines will be readily available in March in time for the combine.
As a sports writer, racking my brain on how to cover this upcoming draft class, I know these coming months will provide a unique challenge for all of us. However, even as the world changes on a daily basis, we can still figure ways to make draft coverage work. We can all agree sports and sports coverage provides a necessary respite from the stress and dread of everyday life. While we can’t ignore the world around us, there is no doubt we can do things to even spread a little joy and lightness.