Earlier this month, Tim Rohan of Sports Illustrated published this oral history of mock drafts, which sounds like some kind of cruel prank of an article but is actually a very good read about how the NFL Draft, an afterthought in the league’s early years, became a behemoth thanks to the driving twin forces of television and insane fanboys. You might think that a Serious Football Knower like ESPN’s Todd McShay relishes the chance to cobble together a mock draft every six minutes. You would be sorely mistaken. Turns out, McShay actively despises the practice, as noted here (bold part bolded by me):
“It’s my least favorite exercise of the year. But I’m contractually obligated… it is the most-clicked-on article that I write all year long.”
I am one of those people who clicks. I am one of those shameless hypocrites who goofs on mock drafts (“Good luck getting all those guesses right, asshat!”) while also gleefully devouring any mock draft that crosses my path. I scoff, and then I scroll down to my team, think about the player ESPN has slotted in, read half a paragraph about the fella, and then INSTANTLY form an ironclad opinion as to whether or not that’s a good choice. Oh wow, says here this guy is a MAULER. We could use a guy like that to toughen up the o-line! And if you do a mock trade? Oh man, does that tighten my nutsack. You mean we may not draft where we’re drafting? HOLY SHIT MIND ASPLODE. Mock drafts are my draft school.
I am one of the rapacious goobers who eats this stuff up by the shovelful, and that demand for pretend knowledge can actually have a very tangible effect on real people, even when McShay readily admits that he’s forced to assemble early mocks without seeing certain players at all. Even though a mock draft is just that, it has a way of establishing a perceived consensus where there is none. If a QB like Sam Darnold is near the top of a lot of mock drafts, well then I’m going to assume he ought to be near the top of the real draft, even though I have no clairvoyant evidence of any such thing. And if he falls, then I’m going to think he fucked something up, even though Darnold has virtually no control over what NFL teams think of him. I am going to find him damaged.
It’s this cart-before-the-horse mentality that actually gives the NFL Draft its drama. It’s the reason MILLIONS of people watch. You take in all the pre-draft bullshit, and then you see how the actual draft subverts all of it. The bullshit is strangely essential.
I will defend my God-given right to sit there and watch the draft for five hours, and I will gladly take a dump on any pretentious dick who looks down at me for such practices. I fucking hate sportswriters who spin their ties and go “None of this matters!” But I also recognize that the drama I’m watching has been manufactured entirely in my own brain. No one really “falls” in a draft, just as no one really “rises.” You go where you go. But it’s no fun to watch all this empty pageantry in a vacuum.
The NFL knows this. And while the NBA has quickly learned to capitalize on framing on-court games as personal dramas between bitchy Instagram users, the NFL is even better at conjuring lucrative events out of sheer nothingness. It’s not just the draft. The most popular articles on ESPN, by far, are Matthew “Pool Noodle” Berry’s fantasy musings. Are these musings worth a shit? They are not. Is Berry the human embodiment of every guy who ever hit on your girlfriend in a hotel bar? He is. It doesn’t matter. People lap that shit up anyway, because the NFL has so much downtime between games that it behooves fans like me to build up an entire feigned knowledge economy, and then build storylines around that economy. I buy fantasy preview mags, yes I do. They are 200 pages of delectable garbage.
And it isn’t just fans that knowingly take in this garbage. You don’t need me to tell you that the draft comes too late every year. They could hold the draft in February and no one would be worse off. I can practically guarantee the picking order would be unaffected, if not optimized. Instead, we are treated to a three-month gauntlet of combines, workouts, and tape study that apparently breaks the brain of every living scout. These people are fucking insane. More to the point, they ENJOY being insane. They enjoy mistaking punditry for objective evaluation:
They enjoy having all the time in the world to watch every snap that Josh Rosen has ever played, read through his combine interview transcripts, and then spend an extra eight weeks thinking to themselves, “Sure this guy is good, but does he WANT it?”
History has proven that all NFL teams, over time, draft with roughly the same success rate. I’m not saying teams should scrap their scouting departments and go asking hobos to draft for them, Haslam-style. But these men are just as prone to suggestion as you and I are. There’s plenty of catty-ass gossip in the NFL circles, much of it outright lies, and that gossip can take on real currency when it’s time to make actual football decisions. How many times have you heard a team crow that some player they took “was the clear No. 1 guy on our board!” Half those teams are lying, and the other half are buying into their own world of bullshit, arranging a draft board that probably hews close to NFL consensus, but has a couple of mild tweaks on it because Gus in personnel didn’t like that one dude’s hand size. But it’s crucial that both teams and fans believe those draft boards are sacrosanct.
I have long wished the football culture would change, and not just in the superficial “We care about brains now!” sense. I would give anything for the sport to be purged of its macho bullshit, and those who indulge in it (Fuck off forever, Richie Incognito). But the NFL doesn’t have any interest in that because A) It’s run by assholes, and B) The macho bullshit is arguably their most valuable commodity. It provides storylines where storylines never existed, nor needed. It provides takes out of the most mundane of affairs. I mean, look at this absolute dreck Adam Schefter is tweeting out:
To call this shit disinformation is an insult to disinformation. At least disinformation has the courtesy to be a fully formed lie. But this kind of mindless prattle from Schefter, whose job is to convince America that the NFL is never not fascinating, is a feature of the NFL, not a bug. Those endless draft smokescreens get still earnestly reported by access merchants like Schefter as if they’re worth anything. Even Schefter knows they’re crap and he still passes them along! Why? Because THAT is the product. The NFL has monetized those smokescreens.
As much as the collective borg of the League rails against “distractions,” the truth is that the NFL lives to be distracted. Even the whole Kaepernick saga has made otherwise mundane QB transactions into precious theater. They don’t really wanna stick to football. Distractions are what make the money. You don’t have to worry about the hot tub in Josh Rosen’s dorm room if you don’t want to, but scouts do. This is because they are dumb, and because, like any standard office drone, they love to waste time. And Roger Goodell, a man who was openly pleased with Laremy Tunsil having his life ruined in real time on Draft Night, isn’t about to discourage such thumb-twiddling.
Again, I am a rabid consumer of all this. It’s only natural to want to know everything about your favorite sport, even when the bulk of that “everything” is comprised of specious information. But the NFL, to its credit, is really good at packaging and selling that specious information. In fact, they’re better at making and selling bullshit than they are staging actual football games. I know this is true because I’d rather watch the Draft than a Cincinnati Bengals game. It’s not close, really. And you better believe I’ll be rushing to the computer the next six times that Gronk is nearly-but-not-that-nearly traded to another team. I did this to myself. I’m not even mad about it. I just wish the NFL was as good at everything else as they are at lying to me.
Now, are you all ready for some hot, lubricated draft action? YOU’RE GODDAMNED RIGHT YOU ARE!
It’s time for your NFL Draft Jamboroo. Let’s get this.
All draft days in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Thursday Night: I know my entire job is based around football schaudenfreude, but I have a very earnest plea going into tonight, which is that I truly hope none of the QBs end up sucking.* I mean it. I hope they all turn into absolute shitstompers. I hope Sam Darnold is more Rose Bowl Sam Darnold than Cotton Bowl Sam Darnold. I hope Josh Rosen is so good that fans have to suck it up and accept it anytime he publicly throws down a FUCK TRUMP take. I hope Josh Allen is Carson Wentz without all the fucking hunting photos. I hope Baker Mayfield does all the shit Johnny Manziel failed to do. And I hope Lamar Jackson is even better than all of them.
I just lived through a season that featured extensive appearances from Brett Hundley, Tom Savage, Jacoby Brissett, Blaine Gabbert, and a half-asleep Jay Cutler. I can’t do it again. Please don’t let me do it again. Save me. I need these guys to be good, and I need them protected by some sort of eletromagnetic forcefield that renders their ACLs invulnerable. I cannot bear to watch one more goddamn young QB get injured or forced to run a Jim Tressel offense by a braindead head coach. Protect these boys at ALL COSTS, especially Darnold because he looks like my love child.
*Unless New England drafts one.
Friday Night: By the way, this draft is coming to you live from Jerryworld all weekend. You know how the Philly draft was a shockingly lively outdoor festival? Okay, now picture the opposite of that, because Jerry is gonna Dallas-ify this stupid Draft by at least 30 percent. Look at this setup:
I don’t know why you’d hold this thing at JerryWorld if you’re only gonna use five percent of it. This setup looks like Media Night on Xanax. I know Philly fans have embraced their villainy at warp speed, but I’d rather have them presiding over this draft than a bunch of y’allers with feathered bangs milling around and barely paying attention. Just hold the draft outside permanently, invite half a million Eagles fans and half a million Jets fans, and have liquor fountains stationed every three feet.
Also, tonight’s draft will also be broadcast on Fox. Lucky you. Yes, if you’re sick of the chucklefest at ESPN, you can watch a totally different chucklefest over at Fox, which will actually be a simulcast of the NFL Network chucklefest. Never say the NFL doesn’t believe in variety.
Saturday: As much as I like Baker Mayfield, I think it’s stupid for the Browns to draft a QB at No. 1 when they can get some stallion like Saquon Barkley up top, and then just turn around and draft a QB three slots later. NFL teams are still god-awful at drafting QBs, so you may as well secure the best position player you can before turning around and saddling your team with a rookie QB who’s destined to fail. That’s just common sense. I think missing out on Carson Wentz has the Browns so spooked that they will now overdraft quarterbacks for the next two decades. It’s gonna be pretty sweet.
•The Jets have not gotten the proper amount of shit for burning three second rounders just to move up three slots in the first round. Again, it’s long been established that the draft is a crapshoot, so it probably behooves you to horde as many bullets as you can. I know people like Bill Belichick can go way too far with this, but blithely trading away three second rounders—potential quality starters!—strikes me as completely stupid. Every team wants to trade down in the draft. They leak that shit every hour. So I’m always amazed when some other dopey team indulges that request, especially when that team happens to be the Jets.
•I was looking up Matthew Berry for today’s post and did NOT know that there’s another Matthew Berry, who is a YouTube star:
You thought there couldn’t possibly be a worse Matthew Berry in the world. But ohhhhhh, oh how you were wrong. I should never underestimate humanity’s capacity to appall me.
•Now that I’ve seen Josh Allen’s old racist tweets, I know he’s going to Buffalo. It’s a lock. They’re made for each other.
“Low,” by 1000mods. Did you know there’s such a thing as Greek stoner rock? You do now! From Bradley:
1000 mods is a Greek stoner rock band and this song fucking shreds. Not sure if it makes me want to throw a chair or smoke a joint, possibly both.
No law against doing both, except in most states. Anyway, this is the good shit. I say drizzle it with Ouzo and then set it on FI-AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
In fact, let’s go down the Greek stoner metal rabbit hole, because it seems promising! There’s Bull Doza! There’s Audiobreed! And there’s something called Semen of the Sun. I deeply approve.
You junior hot takers out there should just quit while you’re ahead, because you’ll never, ever compete with Deadspin Award winner and Evil Reichl Twin Christine Flowers. The second someone tells me that there’s a new Christine Flowers take take out in the ether, my nipples get erect and I sprint directly into the flames:
Glorifying Meek Mill is not a good look for the Sixers
Oh fuck yeah. I’m ready, Christine. Work your magic.
Despite years of die-hard Philly sports fandom, I am no longer rooting for a home team in the playoffs.
By allowing Meek Mill, just hours after his release from prison, to ring the bell in their pivotal game against the Heat, the Sixers did something that was unnecessary, irrelevant to the sport, and designed to alienate the simple, crazy, decades-loyal fans like me. And now, as Michael Corleone would have put it, they are dead to me.
You know what? I don’t even wanna fisk this. I want you to experience this take unadorned, just like when Chez Panisse presents you with a bowl of plain strawberries. When the take is freshly sourced, you shouldn’t fuss with it. You can only ruin it with bells and whistles! I am a minimalist at heart and I believe that SIMPLICITY IS BEST.
Some may ask how I square my anger at the Sixers with my very public, very proud support for the Eagles, considering that players like Malcolm Jenkins have supported Mill by attending rallies in his honor and playing his music in the locker room.
Yeah, how do you do that, you fucking weirdo?
My answer is this: While individual Eagles may support him, the team itself didn’t take a position. (Yes, I know that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie sat with Mill at the Sixers game Tuesday night. I maintain that he is an individual. If every Eagles player and front-office staffer had been there, I’d be having a different conversation with myself.)
Perfectly normal train of logic. Hear all about it in Christine’s new country music song, “Support Meek Mill, My Ass (I Won’t Support Meek Mill).”
These optics are more horrifying than a marathon of The Walking Dead.
Oh God, are you telling me the Sixers are gonna keep Meek Mill on a farm for 10 endless episodes? Because I’m not down with that.
I’m sure that more than a few Sixers fans were happy to see Mill’s cat-ate-the-canary smile flashing from his courtside seats.
So true. Look at the diabolical grin on this man. What’s he planning? PROBABLY A SEX ASSAULT OF SOME KIND! I bet he can’t wait to get a whole crew together to pop even MORE wheelies.
Special treatment is exactly what Mill wanted… Unbelievably, Mill got it from the Sixers, a basketball franchise that should have been worried about winning a championship but instead sent a message to all the law-abiding Philadelphians who worked hard to pay for their playoff tickets that they were fools and chumps. The felon got courtside seating. The rest of us work 9-to-5 to afford a few hours of joy.
Who are the REAL prisoners, I ask you?
The bell that Mill rang on Tuesday night was the death knell for my Sixers fandom.
Excited for Christine’s next Sixers take three days from now. She remains without peer in the take game. YASSSSS KWEEN…
Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2018 chopping block:
The best is when a team drafts a QB and then has him play for some lame duck before bringing in a whole new staff the next year. That’s always the best way to develop talent. The Jets and Browns are prepared to perfect this model.
Before we get to the poop story, I am seriously considering adding some grandpa stories to this column for 2018, so if you’ve a solid story about your grandpappy eating some weird shit or firing off guns in his underwear, hit me up.
Now, reader Sam sends in this story I call DIARY OF A POOPY KID:
When I was around the age of 7, I loved wearing sweat pants with the elastic ankle bottoms. I also loved playing outside so much that I would take breaks from playing to hold in an oncoming dump, rather than quickly flee inside to relieve myself.
One summer evening, I was playing at the neighborhood playground when I got the distinct pressure at my sphincter and knew I had a choice to make: I could run inside and release, or I could pause, hold it in until the sensation went away, and resume playing. I chose the latter.
After probably another hour of playing, the rumbling reemerged, and this time there was no stopping it. As I waddle-ran toward my house, I tried (unsuccessfully) to push the turd back into its home. Even though I knew I was actively pooping my pants, I truly believed I had the ability to poop and then secure the dookie back inside myself.
When I got home I ran straight to my parents’ bathroom and pulled my pants and underwear down, discovering nothing. This perplexed me, and I waddled around the bathroom for a few moments trying to figure out where it could have gone. Even at 7 years old, I knew I couldn’t have actually made the poop vanish back into its rightful home. So I wiped up, pulled my pants back up, and decided to revel in the victory - the poo magically disappeared!
It didn’t take long for me to notice a warm, wet sensation around my ankle. Resting right where the elastic bottom was tightly gripping my leg was a smoldering, smeared 7-year-old’s shit. I used toilet paper to wipe it off of me and threw my sweat pants in my parents’ hamper. My parents never said a word to me about it and vice versa.
Salt and pepper pistachios. I won’t go back to regular pistachios. Those just have salt. These have salt AND pepper. Whole new world of flavors. I never truly lived until I bought these.
CARACU!!!! From Brazil comes the heart of darkness in a can. Allow our man Pedro to explain:
I don’t know how the policy of gametime beer applies to darker beers, but I’d like to introduce you to a notorious Brazilian beer called Caracu. This stuff isn’t just dark. Light bends around it. It tastes like motor oil passed through a sweaty gym sock. And it’s also considered to be an aphrodisiac when combined with a raw egg. Nothing gets a man more in the mood for lovin’ like nasty beer and salmonella.
I actually checked Youtube to see if people really drank this beer with a raw egg, and there’s one video where a dude BLENDS the egg into the beer. And he seemed to like it! Now that takes some guts. I mean, the can is threatening enough. Not only does it have a bull on it, but the bull is a FUGITIVE. They’re screaming at you to not drink this, much less turn it into salad dressing. I’m wary. I’mma let the rest of the Deadspin staff try this on video.
“All this pre-draft hubbub is a bunch of malarkey. When I want to look at a player, and I mean REALLY look at him, I don’t do any of that Columbine stuff, okay? I don’t have him jump through hoops. I don’t make him swing on ropes. I don’t ask him if he’s into the girly business. That’s neither here nor there. When I wanna REALLY know about a player, this is what I do. I take him deep into the Appalachians, okay? Then, I have him strip naked, but not in the touch-touch way. Then, I hand him an empty canteen, a kitchen knife, a box of wet matches, and Oklahoma Dave’s ‘playbook’ of telephone pole symbols and rock carvings. Then, I tell that young man to meet me in Chicago. He’s got ONE WEEK. That’s it. If he meets me there, I know he’s gold. If he doesn’t, he might be dead, but I still feel like he’s been through an important test. I’ve been a jail a couple times.”
War For The Planet Of The Apes, which I watched on an airplane without seeing any of the other new ape movies. Boy, was I surprised to learn that the apes are the GOOD guys in this shit. Charlton Heston would NOT approve.
“This is a bootleg copy of Itchy & Scratchy Meets Fritz the Cat. Because of its frank depiction of sex and narcotic consumption, it is not for infantile intellects such as yours. Now toodle-oo.”
Enjoy the draft, everyone.