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Draft’s 3 dreaded words

Posted by Eric Fisher On May 4

Fisher column logo2I don’t know.

Those are three words you don’t often hear from sports columnists. You hear those words even less frequently, if that’s possible, from hosts of sports shows on radio and television.

When it comes to the NFL Draft, however, we should probably hear it more often. We should hear it from the so-called experts, and we should hear it from fans.

First, the so-called experts. Wouldn’t it be great if, when asked about a defensive back from Southwest Wyoming State selected in the fifth round, the television “expert” replied, “Geez, Tim. I’ve never seen him play. In fact, I could only find four minutes of tape on him. An NFL scout told me he has loose hips and has trouble tracking the ball, but I haven’t seen enough of him to make that judgment. Is he a good pick in this slot? I don’t know.”

Of course, we’ll never hear that type of honesty. The so-called expert would likely be out of a job.

The same is true of radio and television hosts paid for spouting off opinions. That’s why you’ll never hear one of them say, “Who? From where? I’d never even heard of that school, let alone that player, until I was reading a draft guide a few weeks ago, so I certainly never saw that guy play. Would he be a good fit for the Eagles? I don’t know. What state is that school in?”

The fans are just as bad. The bulk of the players on NFL rosters are picked after the first two rounds or signed as undrafted free agents. Let’s be honest. Most of us have hardly seen most of these players in action. But that doesn’t prevent nearly everyone from being an expert.

Most opinions about the draft are based on reading other people’s opinions. And people’s opinions are often based on other people’s opinions. But just because you read the same thing in three different draft previews doesn’t mean it’s right.

Was North Carolina receiver Mack Hollins a good pick for the Eagles in the fourth round? I don’t know. I’ve read and heard that he’s supposed to be a terrific coverage guy on special teams. I know he broke his collarbone last October, so, even if you watch North Carolina games, you didn’t have a full senior season to observe.

Maybe Hollins isn’t as good as receiver Ryan Switzer, his North Carolina teammate selected by the Cowboys 15 picks after the Eagles selected Hollins (and one pick after they traded up to select San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey). Perhaps Hollins and Switzer aren’t that good. Perhaps they only looked good because they were on the receiving end of throws from North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who was the second pick in the draft. Then again, maybe Trubisky is the one that is overrated.

The truth is – here are those three words again – I don’t know.

This doesn’t mean opinions are completely invalid. Being concerned that the Eagles didn’t find a starting cornerback for the upcoming season in a draft overflowing with talented cornerbacks is a legitimate concern. Arguing the merits of taking cornerback Sidney Jones in the second round even though a torn Achilles tendon suffered at his pro day workout in March will cause him to miss, at the very least, the first portion of the season, is a topic worthy of debate.

You don’t have to watch half a season of games to observe that the surprising run on quarterbacks and receivers in the first 12 picks pushed defensive players such as defensive end Derek Barnett (Eagles), safety Malik Hooker (Colts), cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Ravens) and defensive end Jonathan Allen (Redskins) down to the mid-teens, where teams were thrilled to scoop them up.

But will Allen end up a better player than Barnett, making the Eagles look silly? I don’t know.

Will the Eagles regret selecting Barnett instead of one of the available cornerbacks? Maybe. As of right now, though, I don’t know.

Which teams had the best drafts? I don’t know how anyone can be sure at this point. But that didn’t stop some writers from providing grades for every team’s draft.

The NFL Draft is a lot of fun. It’s interesting to talk about. But that’s all a lot of it is – simply talk.

There are people who know a lot about the players in the draft. They watch countless hours of tape, talk to college coaches and watch individual workouts and practices for the Senior Bowl. And they’re not always correct in their judgments.

There are other people, like our own Gordon Glantz, who spend a lot of time studying the draft. They are good at analyzing whether teams got good value by selecting players in various rounds and draft positions.

But even these experts are making, at best, educated guesses. Their words are not the gospel.

As for Joe from the Northeast, Tony from Fishtown and more than half of the media – and I’m being conservative in that estimate – they are merely parroting other people’s opinions.

When it comes to the NFL Draft, it would be more honest if all of us, including the so-called experts, would sometimes say those dreaded three words: I don’t know.

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