No, NFL teams don't need more time to evaluate draft prospects

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

NFL general managers want the league’s draft pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. Currently set for April 23-25, the draft has already been pulled from Las Vegas, where a grandiose show, complete with selections being ferried across the Bellagio fountains, had been planned.

Now, it will be a big televised teleconference or something like that.

That’s just draft night, though. A lot of work goes into it, and with a pandemic upon us, the logistical challenges make business as usual in the run-up to draft night essentially impossible. 

There will be no in-person workouts at facilities, which the NFL ordered closed as of Wednesday in an effort to level the playing field since states and cities have different orders about what can and can’t be open.

“General managers are concerned that, in this current environment, with offseason activities canceled and some teams’ facilities closed, there won't be enough time for player physicals, gathering psychological testing, getting further verified information about the players and some teams having to conduct the draft from home,” ESPN reported.

This is all true, and if you are a hardworking member of an NFL front office, these concerns make complete sense. 

The 2020 NFL draft will not be the grandiose show 2019 was due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

If you are a fan of the NFL though ... eh.

Do you really want your favorite front office to have more time to think this over? 

Was not having more time to plan and plot picks the reason for all the draft blunders of years past? Or was it having too much planning and plotting?

Let’s say you follow one of these woebegone franchises that always seem to be drafting high and losing big. You want to give your front office an extra couple of quarantined months to talk themselves into some of these moves?

Such as confusing sound roster construction with drafting a wide receiver three years in a row? (Detroit)

Or drafting Johnny Manziel, whose promise to “wreck the league” applied only to your team? (Cleveland)

Or overlooking a lack of consistent production and declaring Josh Rosen worthy of trading up into the top 10 to acquire? (Arizona)

Or selecting a running back in the top five? (Multiple offenders)

Or ... well, we can go on. And on. 

Put it this way: If the NFL draft was a week after the Super Bowl, would the Chicago Bears in 2017 have simply drafted a quarterback off of what they saw in college football, rather than contort themselves into believing a one-year starter at North Carolina, Mitchell Trubisky, was better than a national champion and All-American at Clemson, Deshaun Watson?

Is that cherry-picking bad picks? Of course. No doubt extensive work has yielded gems. More work might not be the answer, though.

The NFL draft may be the most analyzed, reanalyzed and overanalyzed event in America. It’s quite possible NASA launches go off with less analysis. Physical. Mental. Emotional. Educational. Whatever evaluators can come up with.

We know that Joe Burrow was the best quarterback in college football last season ... and that he has a size-9 hand, which may or may not be a red flag

It’s all part of the NFL’s plan. Not so much to analyze, reanalyze and overanalyze, but to drum up stories that dominate the news for months. Nothing wrong with that. It’s brilliant entertainment. 

As such, the NFL scouting combine, which always seemed like a lark, is now a prime-time, nationally televised affair that has everyone discussing things like fluid hips and short-area quickness.

So what if Tom Brady looked comically slow and weak at his scouting combine? He was always fast enough to climb a post-Super Bowl podium and strong enough to hoist a Lombardi Trophy.

So what if Lamar Jackson tested so poorly on the Wonderlic that, combined with all sorts of other scouting “truisms,” it convinced an entire first round of quarterback-desperate teams that he wasn’t worth picking ... only to become the league MVP in his first year as a full-time starter?

These are not secretive prospects. Guys who show up for the draft have played three or four years of college football. There is even ample video of them practicing in college, not to mention playing high school football and competing in All-American camps and the Senior Bowl.

Kansas City became convinced it should take Patrick Mahomes when watching film during his sophomore year at Texas Tech. In an effort to hide their interest, the Chiefs watched very closely, but mostly from afar, and then took him. The moment that cemented it? When he got hurt in a meaningless game as a junior but returned to the field to play anyway. 

They didn’t need an extra month of visits to the facility to zero in on what was important. 

So the NFL is saying the draft is going on and the teams will have to adjust. It’s possible that less will be more for some of them, anyway.

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