Saturday, April 28, 2018

Vanilla is First on the List of Icee Cream Flavors for a Reason

No event in sports generates as much overthinking as the NFL draft. The men making the selections run so much bullshit past their competitors and, most importantly, their own customers (fans to you) they lose themselves in halls of funhouse mirrors they built themselves.

Fans love the crap dished out to them and come back for more. It's understandable. For once, their opinion is as good as the masterminds they root for and subsequently wind up hating. Nobody will find out whether Draftee X can or cannot play at the NFL level for some time.

Bill Belichick doesn't play the draft game very much. Most years, like this one, the Pats' choices are straight-ahead picks that ought to, but don't, result in little controversy. I always thought his endless series of low-round trades were a confession he was getting as bored with the draft as I was.

But the draft bullshit game doesn't need fodder. It generates its own fuel of 100 percent methane nonsense no matter what the Patriots or any other team does.

Exhibit A: My favorite piece of post draft analysis as heard yesterday on the Sports Hub.
Co-host Mark Bertrand: "What I want to know is why won't the Patriots draft for need?"
Co-host Scott Zolak: "Well, what are their needs?
Bertrand: "I don't know!!" This was said in exasperation. That's when I almost rear-ended that school bus.

What Bertrand meant to say of course, was that the Pats used their two first round picks on offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel when he thought they should have picked defensive players. But it sure was funnier his way.

Of course the Pats drafted for need. They lost offensive lineman Nate Solder and running back Dion Lewis to free agency, and replaced them. How is that controversial, or even very interesting?

I don't want to get lost in the mirrors, so I'll try to make this as simple as possible. All teams enter the draft with a list of their needs for the upcoming season ranked in order of their priority, and a list of hundreds of players ranked in rough order of their perceived ability. If Belichick took Michel despite the fact "analytics" have downgraded running backs to placekicker levels in NFL priorities, it's likely he did so because Michel was really high up on the Pats player list.

It is impossible for any team to get worse by adding a good player. Can't be done. I am very much of the "best available football player" school of drafting. Belichick is one of the teachers who made me that way. Unless/until Michel busts out (could happen for sure), I will assume that's what he was after the first 30 picks of the 2017 NFL draft.

Boring drafts are happy drafts. Know whose draft was even duller than the Pats' this year? The Eagles.