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The NFL Draft is insanely boring... except when it's not

May 6, 2016

  Last week, more than 4,000 people crammed into Chicago’s redundantly named Auditorium Theater to watch NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announce the names of 256 players. Two-hundred-thousand more watched the action on big TVs in Grant Park.

I’m always amazed at the attention the NFL draft attracts. This year, more than three million Americans watched a middle-aged white guy – also known as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell – walk up to a podium, open an envelope, and announce the name of a football team, followed by the name of a football player they planned to hire. Then everybody waited 10 minutes for the commissioner to walk out again, say another name, then walk back -- kind of like the way a coo-coo clock works.

They repeated this 256 times, over three days.  I am not making this up. 

More than 4,000 people crammed into Chicago’s redundantly named Auditorium Theater to see this. 200,000 more watched the action on big TVs in Grant Park. Why? To cheer or boo each time the coo-coo bird – er, the commissioner – announced a player’s name. These fans and officials filled 36,000 hotel rooms, and spent $81 million that weekend. The TV ratings were second only to Game of Thrones. Again, I’m not making this up.

The experts gave endless analysis to each and every pick before the draft, followed by endless analysis to each and every pick after the draft. But, incredibly, this is part of my job, so here goes:

Most pundits gave Detroit Lions’ new general manager, Bob Quinn, a B-minus, but I’d give him a B+. He used half of Detroit’s ten picks on linemen, who don’t excite fans like quarterbacks do, but they win games.

In the third round, the Lions picked center Graham Glasgow. Five years ago, Glasgow didn’t even get a scholarship to go to Michigan, so his parents paid his out-of-state tuition, about $50,000 a year. Then he got caught for three drinking violations, so he invited his 81-year old grandmother to live with him, he stopped drinking, and he fought his way into the starting lineup. Now that he’s been drafted, he can pay his parents back. 

In the sixth round, the Lions picked quarterback Jake Rudock, whose rise was almost as surprising as Glasgow’s. 18 months ago, Rudock was Iowa’s back-up quarterback. He graduated, transferred to Michigan, then lost his first game to Utah. But by October, he was leading the Wolverines to incredible comebacks, resulting in the Wolverines’ 10-3 record.

When Rudock takes his first snap from Glasgow, they will become one of the NFL’s most unlikely pairs.

Michigan State has beaten Michigan seven of the past eight years on the field, and most of those years in the draft, too. This year was no exception, with NFL teams drafting five Spartans to Michigan’s three.

The Spartan who got the most attention, though, probably wished he hadn’t. Quarterback Connor Cook had a sterling career. But when his teammates didn’t vote him a captain, and told NFL scouts they didn’t like him, the scouts decided Cook’s greatest weakness was his personality. Incredibly, they actually cared about this – for once – which dropped Cook from a possible first-round pick to the fourth round, which cost him a few million, easily. Well, there’s your golden rule in action, I suppose.

But don’t worry about Cook. The Oakland Raiders will give him a few years to prove everyone wrong, and he’ll make a lot of money doing it. 

But the biggest draft story is Laremy Tunsil, an offensive tackle from Mississippi. He was supposed to be the third player taken, but minutes before the draft started, a picture popped up on Tunsil’s twitter account, showing him smoking marijuana from a bong pipe. Twelve teams passed on him before Miami picked him 13th – which cost Tunsil about $10 million. Minutes later, more tweets from Tunsil’s account showed him asking Mississippi’s assistant athletic director for money, a clear NCAA violation.

The Miami Dolphins think the tweets probably came from Tunsil’s former financial adviser, whom Tunsil dumped before being drafted. If that proves true, that adviser might find it difficult to get new clients to trust him. He’ll find it even harder if he ends up in jail, which he just might.

Hmm. Come to think of it, this draft was pretty interesting. Next year, maybe I’ll even watch it.