The Combine, which serves as an opening ceremony for NFL Draft season, is underway. Now that draft season is officially here, so are some of the dumbest things that will be said all season long. It is a wonderful and miserable time of the year for those reasons.
There is no accountability
Before the 2010 draft Mel Kiper Jr said that if Jimmy Clausen was not a success in the NFL he would retire. Clausen, who perhaps coincidentally shared the same agent as Kiper, didn’t even get drafted in the first round, he went 48th overall. He was so good that a year later his team drafted a QB 1st overall; Clausen was out of the league after six seasons. Kiper is of course still going, having neither retired nor been forced to retire.
When NFL executives miss this bad, they rightfully lose their jobs and many never climb that mountain again. But for draft analysts, it doesn’t matter. There’s no risk involved.
Which brings us to my next peeve.
Everyone has embarrassingly short memories
Similar to how there is no accountability, everyone just keeps on trucking along despite producing bad take after bad take after bad take with no reflection. Remember the 2016 draft where there was a contingent of self-anointed draft experts who felt that Vernon Adams was the best QB in the draft? Even Vernon Adams didn’t think he was the best QB in the draft! Adams went undrafted and has changed CFL teams three times in five seasons. What did the people who put him on a pedestal learn? Nothing. Find someone who was hyping Adams and you’ll find that a year later that same person almost certainly hyped DeShone Kizer. Maybe if the guy you think was the best QB wasn’t wanted by the NFL you should take a seat and rethink things. Or not, because there’s a good chance these same “experts” have failed up to even better jobs than they had at that time.
Highlights against cupcakes
This happens all the time with QBs, but players at other positions are not immune. The games that get used to demonstrate why a guy is a franchise QB are often against some of the worst teams that QB played against. Give me the tape from games against NFL caliber players and good coaches. A pass rusher blowing up a future commercial real estate salesman isn’t convincing. A year ago there was a montage of DeVonta Smith lighting up CBs who were or were about to be high draft picks—that’s the good stuff. I’m not learning anything from watching a guy play Rutgers.
Getting hyped over pro days
At least those highlights are from an actual game. For the absurdity factor, nothing tops the pro day highlight.
Wow, what a play, against literally nobody. A group of toddlers would have offered more resistance. Meanwhile against human beings playing defense Zach Wilson threw more INTs than TDs and led the league in sack yards despite missing four games. But man, that pro day was something else.
The inconsistent obsession with measurables
Size matters in sports, there are no 5’10” linemen. You can usually tell a player’s position by their frame (and a few other physical traits, but that is for another discussion), and if you are wrong the player probably lines up opposite the position that you guessed.
Of course there are always exceptions. Kyler Murray is exceptionally short for a QB at a listed 5’10”, while at 6’6” Darren Waller entered the league as the tallest WR, though he now plays TE. When there are exceptions on either end of the spectrum of measurables, whether it be height, arm length, and even a 40 time, it is worth noting. Being in an extremely high or low percentile can be a detriment, or it can be a bonus. That’s useful information.
But when a player is normal size, who cares? Who cares if a defensive tackle is 6’2” and not 6’4”? Who cares if a guard is 305 and not 315? Teams are not put off by these differences. But there are some analysts who can’t talk about prospects without mentioning measurables. And they usually only mention them for players who play at or around the line of scrimmage, you don’t usually hear measurables about safeties.
If the player falls within the normal range of size and weight, it is worse than useless information, because it does a disservice to the audience. List or mention the height and weight of every pass rusher and the audience will eventually tune it out. List the measurables of a player when they are outside the norm and that information stands out and better informs the audience.
It seems every year there is a QB whose hand size becomes a thing. Last year it was Joe Burrow, this year it is Kenny Pickett. But nobody watches an NFL game and thinks “if only that QB’s hand was half an inch bigger.” It’s not why Burrow lost the Super Bowl.
There is another annoyance with hand size hoopla: it only applies to QBs. If hand size matters, it should also matter for pass catchers. But you never see a top WR prospect dinged for having small hands.
Mock draft simulators
I have wasted I don’t know how many hours on mock draft simulators. They’re fun! They’re also hopelessly unrealistic. It takes no effort to finish a mock draft simulation with at least 10 picks in the first four rounds, and a bunch of good picks next year, and to do so without ever trading up. Or you could pick up so many late picks that you wind up easily drafting 40+ players. And the ones that give a grade at the end are amusing. Do a mock draft simulation where you take only one position with every pick.
We live in a QB society pic.twitter.com/HuH0EAcx5i— mid-life crisis actor (@Southern_Philly) March 4, 2021
Overall draft grade A+, lol. Imagine doing that draft in real life, you would rightfully get killed for it.
Draft AI is completely broken. Try it yourself!
Talking shop to people who only buy the finished product
The people who analyze the draft for a living, or even just a hobby, exist in a bubble. That’s okay! Everyone has their own bubbles that they live in. Being a fan of a team is a bubble, there’s nothing wrong with that. But draft analysts are essentially critics of draft prospects, and they fall into the trap that being a critic can lead you to lose sight of the experience of the audience. A lot of draft analysts write for draftniks, not casual fans. It is understandable, because draftniks read all kinds of draft content.
But the majority of readers of draft content aren’t draftniks, they’re fans of their specific team and only care about their team’s success. They don’t care about how good a knee bender a pass rusher is, nor should they. Scout jargon can alienate your audience. You’re not a professional scout, and your audience aren’t decision makers in a front office.
Stupid one liners
Finally, there are all kinds of nonsense that people pack into a single sentence that you’ll hear every year. I don’t mind terms like “quicker than fast” or “he plays in a phone booth.” They sound silly, but they at least tell you something about the player’s ability. There’s some nugget of information there. But there are sayings that really don’t make any sense or are just plain stupid.
“Off the charts intangibles.” This is an oxymoron. You’re basically saying “his measurables are unmeasurable.” Having off the charts intangibles implies that others have charitable intangibles. If they could be charted, they wouldn’t be intangible!
“I’d draft him top half/top 20/first round but not top 10.” So you would draft a guy 11th, but at 10, forget about it? That’s dumb as hell.
“Only two QBs in this draft.” Two starting caliber QBs is a really good QB draft!
The 2013 and 2015 drafts didn’t produce a single starting caliber QB. 2014, 2016, and 2019 gave us one. 2017, 2018, and 2020 look like they’ve gave us two.
If a draft has just one legit QB in it, that’s about par.
“Late riser.” A thing that doesn’t really happen. This phrase is usually used in the week or two before the draft, when the draft evaluation process is over. There is nothing left for a prospect to do, there are no more games to play, no more Combine, and no more pro days. If a teams’ front office is moving a guy up their board in mid-April, they don’t know what they are doing. What causes a guy to be a “later riser” is that reporters and analysts with front office connections discover that a guy is higher up on teams’ evaluations than the public perception of the player.
“Safest pick in the draft!” You sure about that?
“This guy is a football player.” Yeah that’s why he’s going to be drafted you doofus. I only want to hear about how he’s a [insert name of a sport that isn’t football] player if he has a Jordan Mailata or Antonio Gates kind of background of not playing football before becoming a football player.
Does hearing an analyst describe a player as “sneaky athletic” count? The players are literally being drafted by teams in the NFL, there's no such thing as being sneaky athletic...— Colin Benner (@ColinBenner) February 23, 2022
If you are a draftable player, you are an athlete. The NFL does not take in guys who would get bested by Rich Eisen if he did all the Combine drills. The worst player in an NFL training camp is still an incredible athlete.
Unless you’re a kicker or punter.