Derry: One Week Until Draft Delirium

The NFL, alone among major sports, feels it needs two weeks to build up suspense for it's mega-hyped championship game. The second the game is over, though, the countdown to draft day begins. Frank Derry thinks back on some draft gurus of yesteryear while awaiting the end of the 2006 season. By the way, that's the cover of the Scout Draft Guide accompanying this story.

In one week, football will officially enter its version of baseball's Hot Stove League season.

Once the Super Bowl is over, the rumor mills will start grinding out daily information on what free agents will land where, and what college players will be drafted when. No longer will we be concerned about whether Peyton Manning will be able to get King Kong off his shoulders, or whether Rex's performance will live up to his name … Gross Man.

I realize there will still be one more game to play, but the annual NFL Pro Bowl, which attracts players ONLY because it is played in sunny Hawaii, is the most worthless of all professional all-star games.

Any time you have a game in which the players obviously are simply going through the motions, it's a waste of time. I would love to see the Pro Bowl sidelined forever, replaced by the All-Star Game played many moons ago by college's best players against the NFL Champions.

Even though the game was sometimes a blowout, it was always interesting to see college's best against the World Champions. Despite the fact the game was played for charity, we, unfortunately, will never see it re-invented due in large to the risk of injury.

If you haven't guessed by now, I believe the season ends when the clock hits zero at the end of the Super Bowl!

There are a number of things that truly amaze me about the period of time from the Super Bowl's conclusion until draft day.

Included on that list are the unbelievable number of people who truly think they are draft experts. They think they know more than anyone, including Mel Kiper, the man generally looked upon as the original draft guru.

Kiper is good … and getting better … thanks to the number of sources he has throughout both college and pro football.

But the reality of the matter is that until this past December, Kiper was never ever better than No. 2 when it came to amateur's evaluating talent. He was second to a guy who rarely was seen on television; a guy who didn't have every hair on his head groomed to perfection; a guy who had a voice that only a mother could love; a guy who devoted every day of his life to the draft.

Unfortunately, Joel Buschbaum, draft expert extraordinaire for Pro Football Weekly, died at the age of 48 this past December.

In many ways, Buschbaum reminded me a lot of Pete Franklin, the original radio sports talk show host who got his start in Cleveland.

Franklin would spend countless hours holed up in his basement, watching every bit of college football video he could gets his fingers on and reading every little bit of information he could dig up.

A quarter century ago, Pete would put together a draft list that, quite frankly, the Browns, or any other NFL team for that matter, should have used. Teams could have saved millions of dollars they spent scouting players simply by following Peter J. Franklin's advice.

I wonder if Joel and Pete, who passed away a couple of years ago, are somewhere comparing their draft notes right now with the late Will McDonough of the Boston Globe.

If they are, I'm 100 percent certain that Pete is lobbying for the Browns to draft Wisconsin left tackle Joe Thomas. Pete, more-so than any draft expert I have ever known, stressed the important of developing strong offensive and defensive lines.

Of course, no NFL team would never admit to listening to an amateur draft-nik, or at least they won't admit it.

I am no draft expert in any way, shape or form, but I have always wondered how a player's stock can rise and fall so much after the season ends. Granted, if a player is found to be using steroids, snorting cocaine or smoking weed, then he'll understandably drop like a rock on some boards.

But what gets me is when a player is found to be not quite as tall or weigh as much as listed in his college program. When that happens, what he did on the field is deemed less impressive.

For example, if a quarterback like Ohio State's Troy Smith beats you when listed as a 6-footer, he is a potential first-rounder. But when his actual height turns out to be 5-foot-11, suddenly those three victories over Michigan are the result of having great teammates.

An even better example would be how far Vince Young's stock dropped last year when it was reported that he scored a 6 on his Wonderlic test. That proved untrue, but it might have accounted for his lasting until the third pick in the draft rather than being No. 1 or 2.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher did the right thing when he determined that the Wonderlic test, while definitely a part of the evaluation, was not nearly as important as what Young did on the field in big games.

I hope when the Browns make their decision on draft day, they won't put a whole lot of stock in whether a guy has a vertical leap a half-inch less than the norm; or if an offensive lineman's time in the 40 is not quite up to snuff; or if his wing span is a bit below average.

The one thing I hope they do is find a phone company that has service to the here-after, where three of the all-time great draft-niks reside. At this point, the Browns could use a bit of heavenly intervention.



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