Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

April 24, 2014

What will happen in NFL draft? No one really knows

(Continued)

This year’s pre-draft assessment has been as fluid as butter on a hot ear of corn. Ratings – and rantings – shifted over whether Bridgewater, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel or Central Florida's Blake Bortles had the most potential as a pro quarterback. Listening to all the talk and speculation served only to make one dizzy. That was followed by an equally spirited debate over whether South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney's defensive ability was more hype than performance.

Many of the draft gurus do have a flair for assessing talent and determining a team's needs, but there is certain information that the general public isn’t privy too.

Jack Bechta, who writes for the National Football Post, correctly pointed out that a potential draftee’s medical condition is never discussed. For a team to pass along information from a medical file or report on the outcome of a physical would be an open invitation for a lawsuit – a slam-dunk case if proven.

Discussion about a player's character or work ethic, often determined from studying practice films or interviews with college coaches, becomes classified information. Same with intelligence matters.

The so-called draft experts then must deal with information passed along by coaches, always speaking anonymously, who occasionally spread false and misleading information about a player to confuse teams also considering the prospect. It's one thing for a reporter to accurately pass along tidbits supplied by a coach or scout; it’s something else to know for sure whether that "news" also is the truth.

Except for the No. 1 selection,  there's no reason to think a team would ever knowingly tip its hand about who it will select.

This much is known about the 2014 draft. Not one running back was listed among the 30 players invited to New York. Alabama's Eddie Lacy came last year but didn’t get drafted until late in the second round. Alabama and Texas A&M will be represented by three players each. The Southeastern Conference has 11 invitees, more than twice as many as the Atlantic Coach Conference or the Big Ten.

If it turns out some skeptics were right and Bridgewater hangs around until all the hors d'oeuvres have been eaten and his name still hasn't been called, at least he spent time in good company.

In the end, though, the draft matters -- mock lists don't.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

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