Survivor’s Guide to Reaching the NFL Draft Without Losing Your Mind

Survivor’s Guide to Reaching the NFL Draft Without Losing Your Mind

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

If you are the typical draft junkie, you are bottoming out right about now.

You’ve read so many mock drafts that instead of counting sheep at night, you count Browns draft picks. You’ve watched Jon Gruden’s QB Camp become the Inside the Actors Studio of NFL draft programming. You now recognize GIFs of Patrick Mahomes’ hinky passing mechanics more readily than you recognize photos of your grandparents. You’ve spent spring afternoons watching pro days. Pro days.

We’ve done and said everything there is to do and say about the 2017 draft. And it’s still more than a week away. At this rate, we’ll all be cackling maniacs by next Thursday.

The best way to keep from going draft crazy this time of year is to watch baseball or playoff hockey/basketball to satisfy your sports hunger instead of listening to the umpteenth talking head debate Mike Williams versus Corey Davis. But you are the one who clicked this article, pal.

So the next-best thing is to filter the faint signal from the deafening noise, remember that this is all supposed to be fun and not grueling prep for the LSAT-like exam about obscure linebackers, and take the following tropes and traditions of the home stretch before the draft with as much salt as your dietician and cardiologist will let you have.

Anonymous Scouts

Contrary to popular opinion, anonymous scouts/personnel execs are not figments of our imaginations, nor are they fictitious characters who act like insult-comic sock puppets who say things on-the-record sportswriters could never get away with.

They are real insiders with real expert opinions. They help us learn more about the prospects, their teams and the evaluation process. Sometimes, they give us sizzling-sirloin takes about players who are ready to serve to the hungry draftnik universe. That’s when the trouble arises.

Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer has received plenty of scrutiny from NFL scouts for his skills and his personality.Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

There’s an old coaching adage about the passing game: When you throw the football, three things can happen, and two of them are bad. Coaches don’t think that way anymore, so the proverb should be repurposed. When an anonymous scout is saying something highly quotable (yet still anonymous), three things could be happening, and two of them are bad:

  • He could just be advancing his team’s agenda by taking a sure-to-be-publicized potshot at a player his team actually wants to draft with a later pick.
  • He could be dead wrong about the prospect, passing on thirdhand gossip as firsthand insight, or indulging some personal bias, all the while making it sound like truth from the mountaintop because he works for a team and we don’t.
  • Or perhaps he is gifting the universe a nugget of absolute truth about DeShone Kizer’s diva personality, and it’s our journalistic duty to spread this enlightenment to the masses.

The fact so many anonymous scouts sound like they are mad that the bartender just announced last call makes the third option highly unlikely in many cases.

Those of us who do a lot of draft legwork hear a lot of rumors and off-the-record whispers from good sources, of course. Here’s a good rule of thumb for separating meaningful observations from character assassination: If you have read questions about “work ethic” or “character issues” from multiple sources for many months, chances are the prospect doesn’t spend all of his free time jogging from the weight room to the volunteer soup kitchen. But if a mystery expert starts popping off about a player two weeks before the draft like your angry uncle losing a political argument, it’s best to just do what you do to your uncle and tune it out.

Back-to-Camp Rumblings

Nuggets of news emanating from team facilities at the start of offseason training activities (OTAs) are the opposite of anonymous scout eruptions. Anonymous quotes are zesty but, alas, uncorroborated. OTA rumblings are 100 percent documented and on the record but require the kind of reinterpretation usually limited to graduate comparative literature classes.

This year’s OTA welcome-back interviews were more eventful than most. For example, Adam Jones went full Joe Pesci in Goodfellas on a reporter who asked one too many questions about his January arrest. (One question was apparently one too many.)

But most of the news and notes required a little between-the-lines reading to fully appreciate. Andrew Luck spoke enough about his January shoulder surgery and cautious approach to offseason work to make Colts fans scurry to the nearest draft ranking chart to see what quarterbacks will be available in the middle rounds.

And then there’s Tom Savage’s cryptic remark that the Texans quarterbacks will have “a fun and peaceful room,” as John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported. Sounds like those tales of Bill O’Brien and Brock Osweiler stopping just short of clubbing each other over the head with 9-irons weren’t…