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Blog/Counterblog: The NFL Draft

Mike Pesca and I had a little debate yesterday about the merits of the NFL draft, and we decided to take it on to the blog. After you've read both sides, tell us what you think. I'll let Mr. Pesca go first...

As I watched the NFL draft on Sunday I remembered the words of the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who once noted that life must be lived forward but can only be understood backward. Kierkegaard must have been referring to the tendency of quarterbacks who favor the seven-step drop to leave themselves open to a DB jumping the route on a hot read.

Actually that's not why I thought of Kierkegaard at all. The frail and melancholy Dane was in evidence in every yelp of the crowd, and bold pronouncement of the prognosticators. This is my problem with the NFL draft. It doesn't mean anything. From the time a player is drafted until the time he becomes a bona fide player, so much can change that it scarcely makes sense to use the draft as a source of confirmation or consternation. But consternate the pundits do.

Read the rest of Pesca's thoughts, and my response, after the jump...

You may have noticed in the papers every "draft guru" has given the teams a letter grade. It's a little like a professor handing out final marks before the final, before the midterm, basically as soon as he sees who signed up for his class. And they're so often wrong.

Just for fun, I Googled 2004 draft grades, on the belief that those players will have spent three full years in the league now, enough time to offer a detailed assessment. Here's a typical quote from "Lions Grade: A. The Lions were the clear draft day winners. Matt Millen is finally getting some love from the media and fans around the nation."

And Fantasy Football Guide: "The Lions were able to address their biggest needs with two top-40 players — RB Kevin Jones (1-30) and LB Teddy Lehman (2-37) — and at the same time, they came away with WR Roy Williams (1-7), who was arguably the most physically gifted athlete in this draft."

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Detroit (A-) Maybe Matt Millen is starting to get it."

So what really happened? Roy Williams is great, Kevin Jones disappointing, Teddy Lehman is off the team, and the Lions haven't had a winning season since. On the other hand the Bears, a team that received grades between B- and C from most experts, parlayed their draft picks into a combined three Pro Bowls and the most fearsome defense in the league. And I didn't just cherry pick two teams. This is the rule, not the exception with NFL drafts. Someone has to do a thorough analysis of an industry that dismisses the Giants' pick of Osi Umenyiora (a two-time Pro Bowler) but applauds a first round selection of Kyle Boller (only a Pro Boller.) Who will that person be? Dan Pashman.

Well maybe this wasn't the best Blog/Counterblog ever. Everything Mike Pesca says is true. The prognosticating that goes on at the NFL draft is absurd. But Mr. Pesca failed to explain why that takes any pleasure whatsoever out of watching it.

The NFL draft comes three months after the end of the season (or longer if your team didn't win the Super Bowl like mine did). And it comes four months before the start of the next season. It's an oasis of football coverage and goodness in a vast wasteland of non-footballness and badness.

So I went to Giants Stadium on Sunday for the draft day party. My wife and I and some of our friends even tailgated in the parking lot. Then we went inside and walked on the field and re-watched the Super Bowl on the stadium big screen. It was awesome. After that we went home and I watched about four more hours of draft coverage over the weekend. Not because I expect the pundits to correctly predict anything. But because it's FOOTBALL. The NFL draft is for a football fan what a rusty hypodermic needle in the desert is to a junkie. It's not perfect. But at this time of year, it's the best we've got.