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Tuesday, Feb. 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports

Column: Draft provides optimism, discussion at quiet point in offseason

At this point in the NFL offseason, some teams are feeling pretty good. Others, not
so much.

With the curious exception of Cedric Benson, the marquee free agents all have new teams, and it’s safe to pass judgment on that portion of a team’s offseason. Some teams, such as Tampa Bay and Buffalo, did quite well. Others — Atlanta — have yet to make much of a splash.

Even for teams in the latter designation, though, all is not lost. Free agency is important, but it largely provides stopgaps, short-term solutions.

Tonight’s NFL Draft will be the real determinant of teams’ fortunes for years to come.

As the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s proved, a draft can almost single-handedly provide the core of a team for better or worse. The draft is the long-term building process.

The draft, above all, represents hope. For the bad teams, this is where their new foundation comes from. For the league’s top teams, this is where they draft for value,
reloading at the positions they are already strong at, trying to become dynasties or at least as close to that as is possible in this day and time.

This wonderful, annual optimism is but one reason the NFL Draft reigns supreme among all off-field events in all of sports.

It is situated in that perfect part of the offseason in which there is nothing else in football happening. There is no free agent frenzy, spring football is done and the recruiting year is generally in a lull. Football fans need their fix, and this three-day free-for-all fits the bill.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m generally captivated by the NBA Draft as well and even loyally follow the MLB draft online when it comes around.

That said, those drafts often have little imagination to them. The NBA Draft is so short there is little room for surprise or intrigue in its two short rounds while baseball has become an almost mechanical balancing act of talent versus signability.

The NFL Draft, on the other hand, can have players rise and fall several rounds away from their projections. There is ample room to discuss reaches, sure things and sleepers.

Ah, sleepers, the source of so much obsessive speculation. The NFL Draft, with its seven rounds, offers teams the luxury of taking chances. Be it a 380-pound lineman who dominates lower classifications despite subpar fitness or a former college basketball player being reinvented as a tight end (think Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham).

This speculation offers so much more room for discussion, and in the midst of the football-barren late spring, that is exactly what the NFL wants.

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