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Let the Draft Celebrations Begin

If you're reading the material on this site then you don't need the reminder, but the 2011 NFL Draft starts on this evening. With all the legal complications surrounding the NFL this off-season due to the lockout, the draft represents a brief moment of fun for fans and a feeling that at least some parts of the NFL are still functioning. It isn't quite business as usual because the lockout has, so far, nixed free-agency thus confining teams' ability to bargain to trading draft picks. But even with those restrictions it is still the draft. There will still be surprises and busts and drama like there is every other year--and I can't wait.

During the past couple weeks of mock draft madness here on the Daily Norseman, I've been quiet (bordering on MIA) because, not following any college football, I don't feel qualified to add to the discussion. More informed folks like Chris, Ted, Eric, and Kyle do a good job of handling the material, which is fine by me. Honestly, all the uncertainty surrounding the draft in general, and mock drafts in particular, makes me want to growl with irritation--you wouldn't believe the weird looks that gets me in a coffee shops.

All those what-ifs make me feel a little crazy. Too many iffy possibilities and hypotheticals tend to put my brain in a knot, they always have. "What if J.J. Watts is still available at the same time as Jake Locker and it is raining and they are both Pisces? What will the Vikings do then?" Deuced if I know, I'm an Aquarius.

Since the chances of Rick Spielman calling me in a panic and asking me what to do are fairly slim, I'm not too worried about not having an answer.

But finally, finally, like a nighttime thunderstorm after a day of hot, heavy, humid weather, the Draft is nearly upon us and the speculation will end. Well, at least some of the speculation will end. That will be enough for me. Seriously, we have a lockout going on that might shorten or cancel next season and a Vikings stadium bill in the legislature--I have all the uncertainty I can handle, thank you very much.

Despite my frustration with all the uncertainty involved in mock drafting, I like the draft. Nope, not kidding, despite all my grousing about mock drafts I do like the draft itself. Don't mistake, I still have plenty of issues with how the draft values players because I think that it frequently overvalues statistics (anyone who's studied statistics knows they're limited and can be manipulated*), but the show is great.

Maybe it's like my affection for the Grammys and the Academy Awards or even the Teen Choice Awards, but I like all the excitement and pageantry when those first round picks are announced at the NFL Draft. I like the stories about the players and the road they took to get to that moment. I like seeing the players dressed in suits (ZZ Top was right, every girl's crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man). I like that first picture with the drafted player holding up his new team jersey. And I love seeing the players' parents beam with pride as their sons get the chance to do something they have been dreaming about since they were in Pop Warner--play in the NFL.

For the players and their families, the draft can be a great moment, highlighting past successes and hard work while pointing toward a promising future. However, this year, with the overshadowing element of the lockout, that moment was in jeopardy. The NFLPA was, at one point, recommending that members of this current draft class shouldn't attend the draft. I realize that the NFLPA is trying to make a statement, but for the NFLPA to try to make their statement by depriving these young men of a moment they have been dreaming of all their lives seems nothing short of, well, despicable.

Football careers, in comparison to say being a CPA or a grade school teacher, are pretty darn short. In the course of those short careers, at any given time a player is just about guaranteed that there will be at least one analyst saying he's a bust or that he's overrated or that he's not playing up to his potential. It seems like that kind of criticism surrounds players from the time they are in high school. Now, leading up to the draft a player may be the subject of all manner of scrutiny and speculation, as they will be after the draft. But in between all that analysis and scrutiny is a brief moment when their name is called and they get to feel like a rock star. Whatever they may have done in their college careers, and whatever they might accomplish in their professional careers, these players deserve to have that moment, that draft day memory.

In a way, when the players in this draft class show up for the 2011 NFL Draft they are sticking it to the man. As some of my college friends will attest, I'm a fan of that.

So, brace yourselves, the "will they trade up or trade down" speculation is almost at an end. How are you going to celebrate the moment?

*Statistics are utterly worthless without the context of knowing their statistical significance and margin for error.