The 5: The NFL Draft is rank with deception and outright lies
TEMPE, Ariz. — Three years ago, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians added a page to the NFL’s silly season when addressing the rampant ruses and outright lies that emanate from teams’ headquarters before and during the NFL Draft.
“The best smokescreen now is the truth,” Arians said. “No one believes it.”
If only we could. The weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, and the three days on which the event is held, are rife with trickery and dishonesty.
“I refer to this time before the draft as ‘National Liars Month’ in the NFL,” former Cowboys personnel man Gil Brandt told USA TODAY Sports.
Here are five common deceptions.
Teams don’t draft for need
Arians says drafting for need will get you fired, but we all know the Cardinals need a quarterback of the future and they’d like a cornerback and a safety — and maybe an inside linebacker, a wide receiver and some more offensive line help. If they draft those positions, how then are we to interpret the moves, knowing they were not made to fill needs? While most teams push another lie — that they select the best player available — what Arians really means is you have to be careful not to reach to fill a need. That doesn’t stop teams from doing it every year, especially at the hardest positions to find: QB, cornerback and left tackle.
One of the more common deceptions involves a team feigning interest in a prospect it actually has no interest in drafting. The idea is to convince another team interested in that player to move up and get him. To do so, they either pay a high price or merely push the intended target player of the deceiving team further down the board.
Sometimes, the move seems illogical. In 2013, Kansas City, which had the No. 1 pick, went to great lengths to advertise its interest in West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. The Chiefs even brought him in for a workout and broadcast through back channels that the team was “fascinated” by him. Then they selected Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher. Smith fell all the way to the second round (39th overall).
In 2009, word leaked that the Rams, who had the No. 2 pick, had bought a plane ticket for USC quarterback Mark Sanchez for the Sunday after the draft. The Rams probably wanted a team in need of a QB to offer a bounty of riches in order to move up and draft Sanchez, but the ploy failed. The Rams drafted offensive tackle Jason Smith. Three picks later, Cleveland received that bounty of picks from the New York Jets so New York could move up and take Sanchez. Of course, the Jets weren’t drafting for need or reaching with Sanchez. Just look how well that worked out…
We got the guy we wanted
Count how many times you hear GMs or coaches say this on draft day. We don’t advise turning it into a drinking game. You’ll end up in the hospital… or the morgue.
We understand why executives say such things. Nobody is going to express disappointment with the player that fell to them (“he’s not who we wanted”), even if that disappointment is present in the war room. You want your draft pick to feel wanted and respected, and who knows, you may end up with a David Johnson. Even so, the statement rings hollow when repeated so often. It’s a lot like surgeries in sports. When is the last time you heard a team announce anything other than a successful surgery? We know team doctors are good; they’re not perfect.
He was rated higher on our board
Also not advised as a drinking game. The same principles apply here when GMs and coaches announce this with their second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh-round picks, and with the undrafted free agents they sign. It’s about loving and respecting their newest player, but don’t hold your breath on getting a look at said team’s draft board for verification.
We’re confident past issues won’t be a problem
To this, we reply “Johnny Manziel.” There were reasons he fell all the way to No. 22 in the 2014 Draft, despite a standout career at Texas A&M. Johnny Football had too much fun away from the game, too little personal accountability and, according to an affidavit, ex-girlfriend Colleen Crowley said that on Jan. 30 Manziel struck her so hard her eardrum ruptured. A Dallas grand jury has reportedly indicted him on a misdemeanor assault with bodily injury charge.
Most teams can cite instances of drafting players with red flags who have since run afoul of the law, exhibited no work ethic, poor attitudes or poor judgment. The Cardinals are hoping they don’t have one in defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche. As outwardly confident as GMs and coaches say they are, there is always concern with such draft-day gambles.