April defines the true nature of the NFL and how much lying, the dropping of red herrings and subterfuge goes on in the league, especially when it comes to the annual shopping spree that is the draft of college talent. Teams don’t want their true intentions to be known. From now until May 2, the truth is up to debate. You can’t believe much of anything you read or hear and only half of what you see with your own two eyes. Welcome to the draft process, where black is white and white is black. We’re through the looking glass.
By its nature, the NFL is a game of disguise and deception. The term “competitive advantage” has always been part and parcel to the NFL. If you can convince your opponent that they’re onto what you’re planning, the surprise of proving them wrong has become an art form.
The draft is the only time when all 32 organizations play against one another in a three-day, round-robin tournament. There couldn’t be much more at stake, as teams put their franchise futures on the line in hopes of landing the players that help them turn the corner as they attempt to assemble a squad that has what it takes to bring home the Lombardi Trophy. If that requires lying, so be it.
Over the next few weeks, you are going to hear rumors of the Vikings being enamored with specific players. Some of the rumors will be based loosely in fact. Some of the stories will be flat-out lies – planted by those within the organization to throw others off the scent of the players they truly covet. They don’t make much attempt to disguise their shenanigans. It’s part of the cloak-and-dagger nature of the NFL that the truth is up to interpretation and lying is allowed.
By the time we get to draft weekend, teams will have looked at virtually every possible scenario as to what it will take to land the players they covet. It can be a first-round blue-chipper or a mid-round player that a scout or coach is convinced will be a difference-maker the team can’t pass on. Trades will take place based upon those evaluations, but the critical part of making sure a team lands a prospect it has big plans for requires silence and secrecy.
In many ways, the draft is like the ultimate human chess game. Organizations will work out players they know they aren’t going to draft simply to throw other organizations off the scent of their true intentions. It’s very secretive – not unlike the Mafia or the CIA. There is silence and vendetta involved and nobody is immune. Does Tennessee have an interest in Marcus Mariota? The Titans know, but they’re not going to let on. If they do, a key member of the organization may drop a quote or two to well-placed media sources to get the (wrong) word out. If another team covets Mariota, they had better come to the Titans with their hat in hand and an offer for that pick that will blow them away.
It’s a strange annual rite of passage for NFL organizations. The covert nature of the draft is something some teams have perfected – giving the illusion of interest and diverting the attention away from their true intentions.
As the days count down until the draft, we’re going to hear about several players being linked to the Vikings at No. 11 in the first round. Some will be legitimate interests the Vikings may have in a specific player. Other times, there will be no substantive basis to back up the rumors – and that’s how the organization wants it to be.
If you made it through April Fool’s Day unscathed, consider yourself fortunate. However, don’t let your guard down simply because it’s April 2. The best lying is yet to come, as teams position themselves to bring in the best talent the college cattle call has to offer. On May 2, the NFL world will realign and truth can start being told – such as how an organization believes a third-round pick is a gift from draft heaven that they never thought would be available to them.
Until then, take everything you read or hear with a grain of salt because it’s just as likely that any rumor you hear will be a well-place lie, not the truth.
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