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The Draft and the Season – Surprises Abound
Brace yourself – here comes another NFL draft.
by Tony Bogyo
April 22, 2007

If recent history tells us anything about the future, next weekend’s event in New York will have Bills fans shocked and potentially disappointed. Perhaps its too much Mel Kiper worship, but most fans feel if the draft gurus like the helmet-haired ESPN analyst predict a guy as a top 20 pick, the guy should be a top 20 pick. If Mel says the guys should go late in the first round and he gets picked in the top 15 people scream that the pick was a reach. A guy who gets selected a round later than the analysts say becomes a steal. A guy at a position ranked by analysts as the second best at his position shouldn’t be picked ahead of the guy Mel has ranked in front of him – he becomes a bad pick.

I’m not trying to bash Mel – the guys knows players and their qualifications to transition from the college game into the NFL and its certainly a tall order to predict which player will go to which team at which position in the draft – but the guy is a TV analyst, not an NFL front office personnel guy, coach or even player scout. On Saturday morning Marv Levy and company will be staring at their draft board and Mel will be having his hair quaffed in a makeup chair – that should tell you plenty about the differences of these men and what they’ll be doing all weekend.

Understandably, Mel Kiper is not shy about telling you what he thinks about certain players, where they should be drafted and to which teams they should go – that’s his job as an analyst. Similarly understandable is that Marv Levy and company will NOT tell you what they think about any player, how he would fit in with the team and where he should be selected. Tipping your hand would be suicidal.

As a fan watching this weekend, you really only have one side of the story – that of the analyst. Plenty of picks, particularly very early on, will lineup with what Mel Kiper predicts. The draft moves along and the front office NFL guys and the analysts seem to be on the same page – you start thinking that Mel and his cohort really are smart guys.

When the Bills pick don’t be surprised if they call out a name that causes your jaw to drop. THEY PICKED WHO? Last year the pick was Donte Whitner, a guy who was viewed as a “reach” because the analysts said he should have been available later. In 2003 Willis McGahee was the pick and you can still see the mark on my floor where my jaw hit (I still have a scar), By contrast, in 2002 the Bills selected Mike Williams just as many had predicted.

Although the analysts ridiculed Buffalo for the Whitner pick, he appears to be a solid player worthy of his selection position. The McGahee pick allowed the Bills to get rid of Travis Henry, although McGahee never became the premiere back the Bills thought they were getting. The Williams pick seemed like the right move, but it was a disaster. My point is that the value the pick the Bills make is not dependant on where the analysts think the player should be drafted, but what that player ultimately does on the field (and in some cases, off the field as well). So when Roger Goodell reads the selection card from the Bills on Saturday afternoon, make sure you’re sitting down, and don’t worry if Mel Kiper likes it or not.

On another note, I can confirm that hope is alive and well in Buffalo and throughout the legions of Bills fans worldwide. After a 7 year playoff drought, and constant promises of being a playoff contender next year, many fans are expecting good things. Sure, the Bills lost two starting linebackers, their #1 cornerback and primary running back without acquiring any replacements (can I remind everyone that the Bills only have 1 first round pick?) and the Bills seemingly have one of the most difficult schedules in the league, but hope spring eternal when you’re a Bills fan. Perhaps people are just too caught up in the Sabres success or too used to thinking greatness is just around the corner to realize that at this point in the year the Bills are a weaker team than they were when the season ended (with a losing 7-9 record, I might add), but rose colored glasses seem to be the style. A recent unscientific poll shows a whopping 79% of polled fans feel the Bills will improve upon their win record from last year and nearly two thirds predict a winning record. A full 37% feel that the Bills are a team that will post double-digit wins.

I enjoy the team spirit and a never-say-die attitude that are so prevalent in Bills fans, but to think this is our year is absolutely crazy. Sure, anything can happen on any given Sunday, but to think there are 10 or more happy Mondays in your Fall future is on par with thinking you’re a shoo-in to win Powerball because you bought $100 worth of tickets rather than the $1 pick your stupid brother-in-law bought – it just doesn’t make sense to me (note to self – remember to hide this article and suck up to your brother-in-law if he hits the big one).

I’m sure I’ll get hate mail and people will question my credentials as a fan for not predicting a 16-0 season, but I’m just not drinking that Kool-Aid. The Bills are a team with lots of holes and lots of young players. I think that if they have another solid draft they will be well positioned for the future, but they won’t be contenders this season (and it pains me to say that – I live in New England). Yet again, this year’s mantra will be “wait ‘till next year”.

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