The N.F.L. draft: like watching astroturf grow

Obscure names, lots of waiting, deals that never close ... and record TV viewership.
Obscure names, lots of waiting, deals that never close ... and record TV viewership.

Many no doubt believe the term 'ꀜdraft'ꀝ as it'ꀙs associated with the National Football League pertains to the gale-force breeze created by the incessant yapping about the event. Draft talk typically picks up in earnest about three TV commercials after the close of the Super Bowl. Between then and late April, a veritable Twitter archive is accumulated by way of online N.F.L.-draft discussion. The topic also dominates sports-talk media, with experts of every affiliation able to describe in microscopic detail seemingly every aspect of a potential pro-football player'ꀙs background and capability.

What'ꀙs the result? For Seattle Seahawks fans it'ꀙs Russell Okung, Earl Thomas and players to be named later . . . and yet later.

There was a time not long ago — last year, actually — when the N.F.L. draft was a spectacle confined to an otherwise quiet weekend. This year the first round was aired by ESPN on Thursday. Rounds two and three would be the TV fare for Friday (3 p.m.); the rest would come Saturday morning starting at 7.

Let'ꀙs see: seven rounds of the draft, 32 teams . . . that'ꀙs 224 less-than-household names to be announced at intervals just lengthy enough to allow team strategists to pick somebody while ESPN airs commercials. Of course, it lures an enormous viewing audience. Last year'ꀙs televised draft drew a record number of eyeballs, prompting the bold move to take on (in the Seattle market) the last half hours of Oprah and Chris Matthews.

Locally the event also was chronicled by the KIRO-radio sports guys, who shared their encyclopedic wisdom about each team, its needs and the efficacy of its draft picks. After listening for a while I joined non-football-oriented friends at a restaurant in Burien but was still captive of the TV coverage, viewable on a bar-room plasma from across the main room.

The televised draft continues to be a fan fave even though most picks never pan out. Indeed, research by a Yale prof concluded that only half the top-five picks find success in the N.F.L.

That being the case, at the very least Seahawks brass, including new coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, may be taking solace in the fact that Okung, a room-size left tackle from Oklahoma State, and Thomas, a savvy safety from Texas, were tabbed sixth and 14th, respectively.


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