The Underdog Theme: Why The First Round is Overblown To Hell

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 9.14.07 PMDrew Corrigan, the pride of Grindhouse, N.J. writes for Dime Magazine. He offers his thoughts here on the ridiculous hype of the NFL’s first round. You can follow him on Twitter here

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 9.12.41 PMSoon after Richard Sherman (fifth-round pick) crippled the career of Michael Crabtree (first-round pick) in one sentence and the Seattle Seahawks captured the coveted Lombardi Trophy, the focus of the NFL shifted to a new season: draft season. Journalists, analysts, NFL GMs, hardcore NFL fanboys and even the regular NFL fan are gorged with information on hundreds of NFL prospects. Thousands of hours have been poured into scouting reports, combine film and season reviews on players that could win a Super Bowl for a prospective NFL team. Wait, did you understand the magnitude of that sentence? ONE pick, made by ONE team, could change the infrastructure of a team for the next five … maybe ten years.

The focus of the 2014 NFL Draft will be on the centerpieces of the college football season. The players perceived as “stars” before they have even touched a blade of grass on an NFL football field. The Johnny Footballs, Jadeveon Clowneys, Teddy Bridgewaters of the draft—the players who will have money and endorsement deals flaunted their way before anything is proven. These players receive 100 percent of the TV time available, along with 100 percent of the pressure that comes with being a top pick in the NFL Draft. However, with all of the hype placed upon the first night and first round of the NFL Draft, people begin to forget that 256 selections will be made. Sure, maybe these players won’t have personal relationships with Drake and be quoted in his verses. However, in a few years, that song, much like the player, will be forgotten.

Every single selection carries an importance with it, every player could make or break a team.Tell that to the Seattle Seahawks, who selected Sherman with the 23rd pick in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, or the New England Patriots who selected Tom Brady with the 199th overall pick in the 200 NFL Draft. No matter if that selection is No. 1 or No. 256, it has an opportunity to change the course of a franchise.

Five years ago, during the 2009 NFL Draft, the same atmospheric pressure was placed upon the shoulders of another class of starstruck college players, ready to break into the NFL. Some of the top picks that year included names like Mark Sanchez, Aaron Curry, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Knowshon Moreno. In the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Julian Edelman was selected by the New England Patriots with the 232nd overall pick. Mike Wallace was selected with the 84th pick in the third round. Is the picture starting to become a little more vivid?

Edelman and Wallace are enjoying longstanding and successful NFL careers. Edelman wasn’t even invited to the NFL Draft Combine for crying out loud. Yet Edelman has been a consistent threat on offense, defense and special teams during his tenure in the NFL. In 2010, Edelman averaged 15.3 yards per punt return for the Patriots, which set a franchise record and was second in the NFL to the great Devin Hester. During the 2012 AFC Championship Game, Edelman played 27 of 67 offensive snaps and 27 of 73 defensive snaps, covering Anquan Boldin and leading the Patriots the Super Bowl XLVI.

After Wallace was drafted in the third-round of the 2009 NFL Draft, he signed a three-year contract, worth $1.7 million dollars with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wallace amassed 4,042 receiving yards, two 1,000 yard receiving seasons and 32 touchdowns in four seasons with the Steelers. Wallace signed a five-year deal worth $60 million with the Miami Dolphins during free agency in 2013. Both of these players, selected in the later rounds of the NFL Draft, have done more than any of the players mentioned that were selected in the first-round of 2009. The players with all the expectations crumbled, while the unknown prospects from Kent State and the University of Mississippi are shining bright.

But, how bad have some of those selections from 2009 been doing?  Mark Sanchez is now a backup quarterback for the Eagles. Aaron Curry played two NFL games in 2012 and announced his retirement from the NFL one year later. Darrius Heyward-Bey ran a 4.25 in the 40-yard dash, but he is on his third NFL team in five seasons and has only amassed 2,380 receiving yards for his career. Knowshon Moreno has had one 1,000 rushing season after being selected with the 12th pick in 2009. All of these players were thrown copious amounts of money and never lived up to the expectations placed on their shoulders. While the NFL has fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh round selections who are winning Super Bowls and becoming franchise players.

NFL Draft insiders are so concerned about who is going to be selected number one overall tonight. Let me tell you, it doesn’t matter. The past five No. 1 overall picks have been: Matthew Stafford (2009), Sam Bradford (2010), Cam Newton (2011), Andrew Luck (2012) and Eric Fisher (2013). Matthew Stafford wouldn’t be a fifth of the quarterback he is today if Calvin “Megatron” Johnson wasn’t saving his ass on a bunch of heaves that should be interceptions. Sam Bradford is supposed to be the franchise QB of the St. Louis Rams, yet four years later and the Rams are still swimming in mediocrity. The Chiefs’ No. 1 overall pick from last season, Eric Fisher, has already had two off-season surgeries after heavily underperforming during his rookie campaign. While, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton are the exceptions to the rule, does the NFL hype up the first-round too much?

If the NFL and media are the only standards we have, then it would appear that the first round is the only round that matters in the NFL Draft. While the first-round is publicized more than a quote from Kobe Bryant, the latter rounds receive little-to-no attention. Heck, most fans tune out after the first-round, because if our team selects Jadeveon Clowney, who cares what else happens? Sure, it’s exciting, but NFL stars are made in the NFL, not in college. Players like Richard Sherman, Julian Edelman, Tom Brady and Mike Wallace are pure examples of this.

When watching the draft tonight, just remember that the first overall pick is just as important as the 265th pick. This future NFL star won’t be found in the green room tonight, cladded out in a suit that costs as much as the amount of dollars on their first NFL contract. The next Tom Brady or Richard Sherman is sitting somewhere in the United States, on a couch, or most likely, training to get their shot in the NFL.

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