A number of years ago, I listened to a radio talking head say he enjoyed the NFL Draft more than the Super Bowl.
When I heard this, it just didn't make any sense. I mean, what do you enjoy more: preparing fillet mignon or eating it? Sure, cooking can be fun, but sometimes the meat is too fatty or it's overcooked and everyone blames you--either way, it just doesn't seem as satisfying.
But since first hearing that comment, I've become a regular football writer who covers the sport (mostly the Steelers) on a year-round basis. I need content to write about all the time, which is much harder in February, March, April, May.....well, you get the idea. Thankfully, the very second the Steelers' season ends, the coverage of the upcoming NFL Draft commences.
As it pertains to a site like BSTC, a lot of readers and posters adopt new signatures to go along with their screen names during draft season.
Instead of "7th Heaven" or "Tom Brady is stupid and I want to punch him in the face," you'll see stuff like:
"My draft wish list: 1. Andrew Billings 2. Karl Joseph 3. (insert some other defensive lineman here)" or my personal favorite: "Screw any cornerback prospect who ever lived."
It's rather amazing how into the draft people are. Just the other day, I read a comment from a poster (I forget which article it belonged to) that said, and I'm paraphrasing, but pretty close, "When Stephon Tuitt was still available [when Pittsburgh's turn came around in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft], I began jumping up and down."
That's some real emotional investment right there. Let's clarify here: That reaction wasn't because Troy Polamalu saved everyone from the very real potential of watching the hated Ravens walk out of Heinz Field with the AFC title in January of 2009; we're talking about a reaction to a defensive lineman from Notre Dame (who could have easily gone on to become the next Ziggy Hood for all anyone knew at that point) still being on the big board in the spring of 2014.
Are there any sports leagues playing right now? I'm sure there are, but none of them better be going head-to-head with the draft on April 28. Don't believe me? Last year, ESPN's Round 1 coverage averaged 7 million viewers, according to nypost.com (down 29 percent from the previous year). Conversely, the NHL's Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning averaged 5.551 million viewers on NBC and its cable affiliate, the NBC Sports Network. Even though NBC's ratings for the Final were the second highest ever, they still fell short of ESPN's sub-par TV numbers. In other words, more people tuned in to see Roger Goodell announce the first professional football homes of 32 college prospects (half of whom might one day wind up on some "the most infamous draft picks in history" list) than the Blackhawks win their third Cup in six years.
Fans are so into draft coverage, they even get emotional about mock drafts--not the real one, mind you, but mocks that people make (and people make thousands of them).
Two weeks ago, Jeff Hartman posted an article detailing a mock draft Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com did in-which he had William Jackson going to the Steelers in Round 1 and Tyler Boyd, a receiver out of Pitt, coming to Pittsburgh in the second round.
One of the first people who commented on the article said, "Some mock drafts just shouldn't be made. Why in the ACTUAL BLEEP would Pittsburgh draft there DEEPEST position for "depth" in the 2nd rd?? This pisses me off more than drafting a NT in rd 1 lol. Excuse my language but this made me salty."
Speaking of mock drafts that shouldn't have been made....as soon as I read that quote, I knew I had my annual April Fool's idea. It would be a mock draft that made absolutely no sense (and include Boyd as the first round pick). Unfortunately, I had a bad toothache on April 1 (preemptive karma?), so my draft was delayed by a few days. Despite this, the response was huge (25,000 people read it), and even though Jeff let everyone in on the joke when he edited the title (bless his soul), that didn't stop tons of readers from losing their minds and questioning my sanity and/or intelligence. In-fact, in one exchange I had with a really, well, salty guy on Facebook, he, in addition to accusing me of insulting the integrity of Steelers fans, implied that he would and could kick my butt. Maybe he could beat me up, but what would he tell the police after I called them? "Look, officer, he wrote a mocking mock draft; I had to defend the integrity of Steeler Nation."
A few days later, I wrote my article about the time Rich Gannon killed the Steelers with many tiny punches to the gut, and the response wasn't nearly as great. Sure, this was about a loss from 14 years earlier, but I put a lot of time and effort into that article. The mock draft, on the other hand, took me about an hour. Yet, people saw the title and said, "Mock draft! Must read!"
The point was, anyone can make a mock draft. In-fact, everyone does, and the prospects and projections are all over the place. Eli Apple, the cornerback from Ohio State (better known by BTSC members as this year's version of Darqueze Dennard but with a wooden leg and a humped back) is projected to go in the first round in some mock drafts, but not until maybe the second round in others.
I've seen Keanu Neal, a safety out of Florida, projected as a third round pick by some. However, in certain mock drafts, he's projected to go late in the first round.
Back to Apple. If he is the Steelers pick at 25, I guarantee you some of the online reactions will look like this: "Noooooooooooooo!" (Picture O'Donnell to Brown in Super Bowl XXX, but with Chris Berman turning to Mel Kiper for his take afterwards.) Of course, if Apple was picked (get it?) in the second round by Pittsburgh, that would be considered great value.
So just to bottom line it for you: If Apple is selected in the first round, it would be awful, but in the second round--a round where a guy is expected to start sooner rather than later--the choice would be sound, this despite his many apparent deficiencies.
There's just so many people making predictions and sharing opinions on players, I don't know what to believe. The only thing I know for sure is even the likes of Leremy Tunsil, Joey Bosa, Jalen Ramsey and, yes, Andrew Billings are gambles.
I also know that you, yes you, are dead-set against drafting a cornerback in the first round again this year (and the sun will set in the West this evening).
"I don't care if the Steelers finished 27th against the pass," said you last year. "I don't want a corner! I dare you to cross this line. Oh damn, nobody is covering Gronkowski, and now we're ranked 30th. Still, no corner for you! OK, I dare you to cross this line."
Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer takes a car for a test-drive, and he and the salesman just keeping driving on E and refuse to stop for gas? Yeah, that's what this whole "no cornerback in Round 1" thing reminds me of.
Or better yet, you know how sometimes your girlfriend/wife goes on and on all day complaining about her thighs (you in the regular season, complaining about the Steelers pass-defense), but then later that night says, "Honey, want to go get pizza?" Yeah, maybe that's what your cornerback boycott reminds me of.
In my opinion, the regular season is so much better than the draft season. In the fall, interesting stories come at you non-stop. As for the draft, it's just a three-month version of sitting in your living room and watching Ben Roethlisberger, Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin huddled together on the sideline, talking about what to call on third and goal: "Should they pass?" "I'm predicting a run." "If they run, I'll lose it!"
As for you, much like that radio guy, you might love the draft more than the Super Bowl. Maybe you'd even be in favor of trading Antonio Brown for a top-five pick because it would be so darn exciting! (You know who you are.)
Seriously, AB for a top-five pick? How could you do better than the best wide-receiver in the NFL? You could draft eight tiny receivers with the ability to band together and transform into a huge athletic freak of a tight end capable of defeating the Decepticons (and poor red zone efficiency), and he still wouldn't produce more than No. 84.
I know what you're going to say: "We could get Ramsey." Ramsey? Nobody knows if he's a corner or a safety, and he might be the first guy picked in the draft.
That should tell you all you need to know about the crap-shoot that is the annual NFL Draft (but it won't).
Finally, with everyone else making predictions, I might as well go ahead and make mine: The Steelers first round pick will be Artie Burns, cornerback, Miami.
Sure, why not?