Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sunday Sermon: Football! And Writing!

This doesn't fit into my schedule, but I thought I'd write it anyway.

This last weekend was thankfully the NFL Draft, which put an end to the interminable "mock drafts"...for about two days.  Which got me thinking about how the NFL Draft is a lot like the writing world.

Basically agents and editors are like the GMs and owners of the various teams.  They evaluate the stuff in their slush pile and they pick out what they think will be a hit just as NFL teams look at all the game tape and workouts and decide who they think will be a good player for their team.  While we try to imagine there's a scientific method to all this, a lot of time it's just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks.  Especially when the NFL Draft gets down to the 7th round at this point you have to figure they're just pulling names out of a hat.

And while the NFL and its lackeys would assure you that this process is infallible, we see every year that it is very, very fallible.  There's a long list of infamous "busts," the guys whose careers never matched the hype they received when they were picked.  One of the most infamous is Ryan Leaf, the quarterback the San Diego Chargers picked instead of Peyton Manning.  Leaf washed out a couple of years later while Manning set offensive records.  In the same way a lot of books agents and editors pick out of the query letter process end up being turkeys that lose money.  I'm sure someone somewhere has the list of those busts too.

On the flip side there are always those who are vastly underrated, the players who get picked very late or not at all.  The most famous example is Tom Brady, the University of Michigan quarterback who was picked in the 6th round, the second-to-last round.  Since many teams passed on him 6 times (and New England 5 times) he has won 4 Super Bowls and married a supermodel.  Not bad for a guy no one thought high enough of to draft in the big money rounds.  Then there are those who don't get drafted at all but manage to secure a tryout and end up making the team.  Those are like the indie authors like EL James or Hugh Howey who sell a bunch of books and wind up getting noticed by the big publishers.

My hometown team the Lions is usually pretty terrible, so it's no surprise their drafts usually end up sucking.  While the so-called "experts" might give them a good grade, after a few years it's usually pretty obvious they stink.  There might be 2 players left from their 2010 draft and 1 from 2009 and maybe 1 or 2 from before that.  Which means that all those other players they drafted from 4-5 years ago or longer have either been cut, signed somewhere else, or washed out.  The vast majority just wash out; the average lifespan of an NFL career is about 3 years, so what does that say for all this drafting "expertise?"

So as another cycle of mock drafts looms, just remember that really no one knows what they're talking about.  The same holds true for publishing.  As a guy once said about Hollywood, "Nobody knows nothing."


  1. Howdy. Just stopping by and found this interesting. I love Ryan Leaf because a few years before he was drafted by beloved Vols produced Heath Shuler, who was oft cited as one of the biggests busts in NFL history as a QB until Ryan Leaf showed up. His self destruction stole everyone's attention.

    And, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that San Diego didn't have the option of taking Manning, as he went overall number 1 that year.

    Although I think they said at the time they wanted Leaf and would have taken him if they did have the first pick, it's hard to know hoe much of that is true.

    I mean, the girl I took to my prom in high school want my first choice either, but I never told her that.

    1. And commenting from my phone still sucks.



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