by Aubrey Bruce, For New Pittsburgh Courier
The 2021 NFL Draft is fast approaching on April 29, and what do you know? The information that we currently have about players eligible to be drafted this year will be just as meaningless the day after the draft as it is now. Why? Well, because no matter how grandiose the design of a house, it is not relevant until you enter the bedroom, turn down the lights and pull back the cover after a hard day’s night.
The player selection process is a largely inaccurate event at best and a complete gamble and shot in the dark at the very worst. Having a great architect to design a great house for you is a moot point if you don’t have the craftsmen to complete the construction of the home. Great plans are always outweighed by great execution and followed up by coaching and management. The only thing that is predictable is that the process itself will always remain unpredictable.
Remember quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell, Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow?
What about Steve Emtman, a defensive lineman that was the 1992 first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts? Well, you’re better than me because Mr. Emtman didn’t even enter my radar screen until I started writing this column.
Hey, don’t forget quarterback Tim Couch, the No. 1 pick of the Cleveland Browns in 1999. Although he led the team to the playoffs in 2002, after numerous injuries he looked more like a high-priced “China doll” and it became the general consensus from fans and foes alike that the beleaguered and often-injured signal-caller should have remained a “couch potato” instead of attempting to play the rough-and-tumble game that the big boys in the NFL play.
The Buffalo Bills’ drafting incompetency was really jinxed and put on full display during the 1970s, drafting defensive end Walt Patulski in 1972 and linebacker Tom Cousineau in 1979. In between those horrible picks for the Bills, the Pittsburgh Steelers had four players from their 1974 draft class turn out to have busts residing in Canton, Ohio, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
More often than not, many first-round draft choices have been visualized and projected to be savers and even saviors not just for a franchise to succeed, but often just for a team to merely survive. A few players presently, as well many unfortunate players from past seasons, have been adorned with saviors garb while simultaneously being decked out sporting a crown of thorns—not marching towards the end zone but running towards the cross of failure waiting to receive its next sacrificial lamb.
It takes a village to raise a child, just like it takes a vast and consistent team and management support system to elevate a player with great talent to position his team to be at the very least, competitive. Almost every team in the NFL has lucrative periods of player acquisitions and dry and unproductive periods as well. As I previously mentioned, the success of any player depends on several factors. From coaching, ownership and, believe it or not, even the fan base and demographic can play a significant part in the success or failure of a franchise.
Everyone has to buy in. Doubt is like venom from a poisonous snake that can ruin the psyche and the spirit of a young and impressionable athlete, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and more than eager to perform at a high level to succeed for his team and his city. This tidbit is for fans and prognosticators alike…What a draft choice looks like on paper will always be exceeded by his or her performance when competing.