“Now, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right,” as private investigator Thomas Magnum used to say before launching a sentence with the word but. There’s a certain irony, bordering on chutzpah, for the occupant of a soapbox in an alternative newspaper complaining that the media are oversaturated with “expert” opinions. Still, there’s nothing like draft weekend to make you pine for those Kiperless days when there were only three TV networks, no 24-hour news cycle and much more blissful silence.
Lordhavemercy, if you made it through all 112 hours of ESPN’s live draft coverage (and that was just Saturday!), you probably deserve both a medal and a full psychological evaluation. You probably also came away with the impression that the entire draft revolved around Brady Quinn—the Notre Dame QB who, to the apparent astonishment of every armchair QB in ESPN’s employ, was not picked third overall, nor fourth, nor fifth through twentieth. And you may have gone into Sunday’s draft coverage (tapes of which, by the way, should become the secret weapon of every interrogator at Gitmo) repeating the telewisdom that the Miami Dolphins had set their franchise back a decade by choosing Ted Ginn Jr. with the ninth pick.
Except to see who chose whom, I’ve never paid a whole lot of nevermind to draft-related coverage. Partly that’s because the draft is a competition in which the immediate winners are judged by fans and Media Geniuses and can’t be decided on the field—and because the initial judgments so often prove so wrong.
Lest we forget, the expert consensus last year was that the Titans blundered by risking their future on Vince Young instead of the safer pick, Matt Leinart. Eddie George was rightly regarded as a great draft choice. But so, wrongly, was Tyrone Calico.
On Saturday, the Geniuses were hailing the genius of the New England Patriots and their genius coach for acquiring Randy Moss. Of course, they thought the Raiders also were geniuses when they acquired Moss a couple of seasons ago. He helped Oakland to the worst record in the NFL last year.
So what to make of the Titans’ draft? Really, who knows?
As if to reinforce that question, you could find grades ranging from A to D bestowed by the pack of draft experts and NFL beat writers around the country. The consensus, however, appears to be that the Titans deserve no better than a C, and maybe worse.
Why? Partly it’s because, on a team with clear needs at wide receiver, running back, cornerback and defensive end, the Titans made a safety their top pick. Never mind that they also needed improvement at safety (what, other than a QB and tight end, don’t they need?) and that almost everyone thinks this particular safety, Michael Griffin, will be an excellent NFL player.
Partly the low grade is because the Titans appeared to take a chance on their second- and third-round picks, Chris Henry and Paul Williams, neither of whom performed in college like a future high choice. On the other hand—and with honest draft assessments there should always be a prominent other hand—if collegiate excellence were the major predictor of success in the NFL, Rashaan Salaam and Gino Torretta would be in the Hall of Fame.
And partly the experts were unimpressed because the Titans waited until late to collect the wide receivers that had been their greatest perceived need. The Geniuses looked askance at everyone but Chris Davis of Florida State, a pass catcher and kick returner who may prove almost as shifty on the field as Pacman Jones does on the street. The draft wisdom on Joel Filani is that he’s a tall but slow receiver whose gaudy stats were inflated by Texas Tech’s aerial circus offense. And sixth-rounders seldom pan out. Counterwisdom: Filani sounds a little like Drew Bennett (who never even played WR at UCLA). And we remember another unheralded sixth-round pick named Tom Brady.
Only with the passage of time can we fairly judge a draft choice or trade. But that’s the last thing you’ll hear when there’s airtime and column inches to fill.
It’s not really their fault. We get deluged with mock drafts and instant analyses because they’re what we want. We don’t have the patience to wait for answers. We want definitive pronouncements, not maybes. We don’t just want information. We want experts to tell us what to think.
For what it’s worth, I’d give the Titans (and every other team) an I—for incomplete. If you want to see the final grade, check back in about three years.