I used to be a junkie.
Well, for the NFL Draft. Couldn't get enough of names scrolling across a TV screen for two straight days. Trade drama, curveballs, Mel Kiper. It was all great theater.
Things aren't the same. Three months of draft hype on ESPN and sports radio and the internet have robbed the event of much of its intrigue. I get it, because the NFL sells and the NFL wins, but it becomes a bit much, and I think it takes away from the bit.
I used to take it all in. Wrote a lot of words about college prospects and spent plenty of cash on the draft guides and online stuff.
I've stopped. The hype is just too much, and I don't know that I can count the number of times that guys listed in draft guides as third round picks ended up going in the top 20, or vice versa. There was a year where a guy listed as a potential first-round pick in the draft guide I bought ended up going undrafted, and I'm pretty sure he never made a roster out of training camp.
Not only that, but as I got more and more into hockey, the draft prep became much less of a priority.
This year is no different. The NHL playoffs start next week, and the draft begins Thursday night.
(That's another thing. I think the new format of the draft has hurt my interest. Part of it is the fact that evenings are family time, and my wife and kid have less than zero interest in watching the first round of the draft. Oh, and I'm a morning guy, so I don't feel like staying up late to watch it all unfold. It isn't that intriguing.)
The draft this year could be interesting. There isn't really a consensus No. 1 pick, like there was last year with Andrew Luck, and like there's been in the past with players like Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Reggie Bush. Oh, wait.
There also isn't really the potential for a story like Aaron Rodgers to unfold, where a guy sits in the green room for entirely too long before getting picked. Even if Rodgers didn't turn himself into one of the best players in the NFL, the 2005 draft would have been a hell of a story.
Because the Packers and Vikings chose to not suck last year, both pick in the latter stages of the first round, barring unlikely trades.
(I don't see either team moving up, though if there is a market for those late first-round picks Thursday, one or both could move down or out of the first round. Ted Thompson in Green Bay and Rick Spielman of the Vikings seem similar, in that they would rather have more picks than fewer. Thompson even talked about that last week, likening it to a baseball player getting more swings for a better chance at hits.)
Looking through a draft guide and some awesome notes from the great Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (I linked to the linebackers rankings, but you can check everything out from that page if you look in the left-hand column -- remember there is a pay wall once you hit 20 articles for a month), I've gotten a bit of a clue who the highly-coveted players are. It strikes as a depth draft and not a star draft, as last year was with Luck and RGIII going with the first two picks.
The Vikings have two first-round picks. Many are looking at Minnesota as a likely destination for Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. The Vikings have a hole at middle linebacker -- they've actually had a hole there for a few years now -- and could use a starter-type player there. Te'o is a good fit for 4-3 defenses, so there could be something to the steam.
Despite the Greg Jennings signing, the Vikings should also be looking for a top-tier wide receiver in the first round.
While Tavon Austin -- who would make a great replacement for Percy Harvin -- is likely to be off the board, guys like Keenan Allen (Cal), Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee), and Robert Woods (USC) could be intriguing choices. From the college football I watch, I really like Patterson, who is featured in these highlights.
A scout in McGinn's notes says Patterson is "not very smart," but they seem to like his athleticism. He projects as a better downfield threat than Jennings, and it would be a great addition for the Vikings when you throw in Jarius Wright as the slot guy.
The Packers pick late in the first round, and while a trade is always a possibility, let's pretend they are using the pick. Honestly, with Jennings gone, it's arguable the Packers could take Patterson if he falls to them, but it's more likely they go defense or offensive line with that first selection. Cheesehead TV does a good job outlining some potential candidates. I want to zero in on one, and that's Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien.
Dude can play the run and pass, and has plenty of size and speed for his position. I really hate to use hockey terminology, but the Packers simply have to be a harder team to play against. A guy like Cyprien would help immensely. Florida's Matt Elam would be a nice consolation prize.
I wouldn't mind seeing the Packers upgrade on the defensive line, but I think safety is a huge spot for them right now and really want to see Thompson get a top-notch starting safety out of this draft if he can.