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A Letter From the Editor: Beware the NFL Draft hype machine

As the 2023 NFL Draft quickly approaches, learn from the past.

NFL Combine Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The 2023 NFL Draft is on the horizon, and with only weeks away from the big event, it is important to remember the cyclical game which takes place every year at this time. But who am I kidding? These games have been played since the end of the NCAA football season, not just in the month of April.

What game am I speaking of? It’s the game which is the NFL Draft hype machine.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, every year you see those players whose draft stock sky rockets and puts them in the Top 10 of almost every NFL Mock Draft written prior to the selection process.

Likewise, there are those players who see their draft stock plummet, and some wonder if they’ll even be selected in the 1st Round when the moment arrives.

The stock up/stock down theory is absolutely valid in some instances. If there is a prospective player who gets into trouble off the field, or has a run-in with law enforcement at some point, some NFL organizations will view this player as a problem, and not worth the headache. While talented, that can be a justifiable reason for their stock to drop.

But then there are those times when players don’t see anything happen out of the ordinary. They might not have run as fast as they wanted in the 40-yard dash, but their tape shows they are capable.

There is some very shady stuff which happens behind the season with NFL Draft “experts” and player representation, but the key here is for you, the fan, to be able to identify if a player is being promoted, or downgraded, for the right reasons.

If you look at this time last year all everyone heard was how awful the 2022 quarterback class was compared to others. Saturday I did a deep dive into the quarterbacks drafted and how they did last season. Needless to say, I was shocked at how much they played last year as a collective.

I remember how Malik Willis wowed the scouts and people watching on television at every turn. He had a rocket arm, could run, and was even a great human being when witnessed giving some of his gear to a homeless man in Indianapolis during the NFL Scouting Combine.

While Kenny Pickett was deemed to be the most NFL-ready quarterback, there were some who saw Willis getting drafted over Pickett. As the first round played out, no quarterbacks were taken in the Top 10. That wasn’t a shock. Then, as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepared to pick at No. 20, there still hadn’t been a quarterback taken.

The Steelers made their pick with Pickett, but that wasn’t the craziest part of the media hype. Willis wasn’t the next quarterback taken...that was Desmond Ridder out of Cincinnati. Ridder and Willis, in that order, were both taken — in the 3rd Round.

What went wrong?

How would someone as talented as Willis be passed over by every team, twice?!

This is the warning message during this time of year. Scouts and draft “experts” will make some prospects out to be can’t-miss players, but when it comes down to actual evaluations, the teams who make these decisions as their livelihood typically see something different.

In 2023 the players who are rising and falling would be as follows:

Stock Up: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

Stock Down: Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia

Richardson was doing back-flips, literally, after his workout at the combine, and dazzled fans with his athletic ability. However, big questions remain with his ability to do the things necessary to be a quality, every week starter in the NFL.

Carter’s issues are not on the field. If it were based solely on his play Carter would be a lock as a Top 5 pick; however, his involvement in an accident which took the life of members of the Georgia football program have reportedly seen him taken off some teams’ boards.

The hype machine is real, and it’s imperative fans can read the tea leaves, as it pertains to the NFL Draft.

(Note: The Letter From the Editor column runs every Sunday during the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason.)