Nobody knows anything.
— William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade (1983)
Maybe a good way to look at the start of the football draft is to look elsewhere: show biz, for example, or big-league baseball.
Leave aside the dubious idea that the Seattle Seahawks would stun the pro-football world by opting for a one-time high-school ne'er-do-well named Bruce Irwin with the 15th pick of the first round Thursday early in the prolonged Roman circus the National Football League draft has become.
Will new-Hawk Irwin, a defensive end from West Virginia, prove to have been the correct choice?
Answer: Nobody knows, precisely because, as the Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman observed: "Nobody knows anything."
Goldman was referring to cinema, an eminently unpredictable industry in which "certain" hits become colossal flops and a virtual talk-less film from France wins the top 2012 Oscar. Who knew? Nobody.
Goldman could've been referencing baseball. The New York Yankees sent young, untested Jesus Montero to the Mariners for strapping all-star pitcher Michael Pineda. Montero has been productive in the middle of the M's lineup while Pineda has a shoulder injury and is out for the season.
Who knew? Certainly not Yankees General manager Brian Cashman, who said of the Pineda development: "I'm devastated."
Perhaps he was echoing the fans and front-office managers of the Los Angeles Angels. The off-season acquisition (for 10 years at $240 million) of Albert Pujols was supposed to make the perennial pennant-contending Angels locks for the 2012 World Series. On Thursday (April 26), the former "player of the decade" broke out of his 0-for-21 slump with a weak single that lofted his average to .224. The Angels fell to 6-13.
This is all by way of suggesting that the time to admire or regret an NFL draft pick is months and maybe even years later. For every consensus "instant-impact" player taken during the first few rounds, there have been at least an equal number who, for whatever reasons, haven't panned out.
Certainly Hawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider are aware of this. They also seemed to feel when they traded down from the 12th-selection position that Irvin would be available at number 15. He might've actually still been on the board at 43, where Seattle is scheduled to pick during the second round Friday, though likely not at 75: the Hawks' third opportunity.
Irvin was a high-school drop-out who got into trouble before turning his life around. He's considered small but uncommonly fast for a defensive end. The Hawks had several other likely candidates at that position when they went on the clock at 15. It just so happened that Carroll had something of a history with Irwin, who might've gone to play for the coach at USC if the prospect had qualified for admission.
Now, of course, the cliché "time will tell" applies. Such would seem to be the case for every first-round choice this year, or at least for picks two through 32.
Numero uno this year was Andrew Luck, who brings to the Indianapolis Colts perhaps the greatest skills of any Stanford quarterback since John Elway (number one in 1983). Luck also presents instant marketing potential in that the QB, luckily, will play for a club with horseshoes on the helmets.
Yet, while it's doubtful anyone would wish bad luck to befall the Colts' selection, those who have followed the franchise know that a first pick scarcely is a guarantee of success. True, Indy picked well in the top position in 1998, claiming Peyton Manning, now working for Elway in Denver. But the club's horseshoes weren't quite so lucky in 1990, when the Colts picked quarterback Jeff George, never an NFL standout.
Two years later, Indy again was first out of the draft gate, taking Washington Husky great Steve Emtman, who would have a brief, injury-riddled pro career.
Bruce Irvin? The temptation, given that Carroll and Schneider have drafted pretty well during their brief tenures with the Seahawks, is to suggest that maybe the team leaders know something. William Goldman might disagree.