Liotta: Mock drafts have now become mockery itself

That rumble you’re feeling while reading today’s Examiner is none other than the NFL draft, a once-orderly process for replenishing the league’s rosters that has grown into a two-day, seismic media extravaganza that has blown off the Richter scale.

This rite of passage into professional football, once left to football men whose livelihoods were decided by football games, has erupted into the mother of mock drafts, a windfall of windbags predicting who’s rising, who’s falling, grand poobahs of grading one team’s success and another team’s failure.

There is no doubt about it. The NFL draft is the most overhyped moment of the sports year. Beats the Super Bowl. Beats the Masters. Beats the World Series. By a mile.

For months now, the draft — and all it entails — has been everywhere. Talking heads going on and on about how much they love this guy or that, the needs of this team or that. Guys who couldn’t get near the sport, guys who began printing draft previews in their garage, are now escorted like royalty onto one program after another in order to wax poetically about the football talents of Matt Ryan or Jake Long.

And now all that verbosity has evolved into video clips of likely draftees made available online, episode after episode of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” declaring bust or bonanza futures for kids still trying to shake off the after effects of adolescence. All in the name of quenching the football fan’s inexhaustible thirst for hot air.

The over-the-top moment for me came earlier this month was when ESPN brought its cameras onto a college campus and broadcast live the workout of one I-won’t-name-him aspiring pro athlete. I think the field was in between phys-ed classes.

The broadcasts breathlessly described this player going through one drill after one as if examining a rare gem, gushing over his physical attributes. Like anybody could really tell from a nice workout in shorts and sneakers whether the kid could take on Ray Lewis.

Throughout this marathon of statistics, mountain of information and meaningless video highlights, I had to keep reminding myself that none of this had an ounce of value. None of these so-called experts knows who is or isn’t going to make it. Or how good an NFL player a kid is going to be.

Long, who will be the first pick overall, might become the greatest offensive lineman of all time. Or a bust. Or anywhere in between. And every opinion on that subject is sheer folly. The guy at the end of the bar has as much chance of being right as Mr. Draftnik up next on your favorite sports station.

Don’t get me wrong. The draft itself is great theater. I love watching each team methodically shape its future in a competitive format. For me, the highlight of the draft will be the commissioner introducing Long as the first selection and knowing that this fog-inducing hype has finally come to an end.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner.

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