Once again Radio City Music Hall hosted the NFL draft, which has become one of the most essential events in the sports world. This year, the NFL and presumably its television partners, changed the format of the draft, moving it back to a 4:00 p.m. start, and holding only the first two rounds on Saturday, essentially form-fitting the draft for television viewers. ESPN, as only ESPN can do, not only gave us wire-to-wire coverage of the draft, but also gave us 8 hours of predraft coverage, an incredibly ridiculous amount of time to offer analysis and time-filler, especially when the final product — the announcing of the actual draft picks — is spaced out with nothing but the very same analysis and time-filler.

Yet the draft is riveting and holds football fans hostage for a weekend that should be owned by the NBA and NHL playoffs, and the start of Major League Baseball. But the draft is a perfect storm of unbridled hope for your favorite team as well as the merging of two groups: the college football fan, saying goodbye to his favorite players, and the NFL fan, eagerly awaiting the new rookies, hoping that they’ll be the answer to their team’s prayers.

As we watched Matthew Stafford selected as the first pick of the 2009 draft, I thought back to three years ago when Stafford arrived at Georgia as a seemingly sure thing. Analysts loved his arm strength and size, even loved his intangibles, his moxie and leadership ability, somehow identified watching grainy coaches tape to evaluate a high schooler. Yet here we are, just a few short years later, and Stafford is taking his $41 million guaranteed dollars — more than the guaranteed money to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady — to his new job in Detroit.

Yet for every sure thing, there are flame outs.

Stafford was one of the top two quarterbacks in the class of 2006, and was the quarterback that wasn‘t named Gatorade’s National Player of the Year. That was none other than Mitch Mustain, who now finds himself third on the depth chart at USC, a lifetime away from being the prize of Springdale, Arkansas, and the cornerstone of Houston Nutt’s Arkansas Razorbacks. Mustain is hardly alone, as other high profile recruits like Vidal Hazelton and Reginald Youngblood have disappeared from the rarified air of can’t miss football prospects to come crashing back to earth.

For every five-star recruit, there are players like Tyson Jackson, the first draft pick of noted draft guru Scott Pioli, who only managed to become the 14th highest rated strongside defensive end by Rivals in the class of 2004. Or Jason Smith, the cornerstone left tackle that was taken just before Jackson, who found himself an unranked two-star prospect when he signed with mid-level program Baylor. Let’s not forget the biggest “sure thing” of the draft, Aaron Curry, who accepted his only major offer from Wake Forest as an unranked, seemingly forgotten linebacker out of Fayetteville, North Carolina back in 2004.

What makes the NFL draft and college football’s National Signing Day great is the potential of it all. Each year we hope that our team has found that singular player that can make a difference for the years to come. And best yet, each year we can spend a few months believing it, as it’s the only game in football where the wins and losses won’t be seen for months.

(Unless the Oakland Raiders are involved.)

One Response

  1. Don’t sleep on Vidal Hazelton. He is the big prize for the Cincy BearCats. He’s is doing very well. He is on the map for a lot of NFL teams. He was the best receiver USC had. A Very physical player. The best blocker in College football and 4.4 speed. Stay tuned to the opener against rutgers

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