Be Grateful Your Employer Doesn’t Draft

I may oppose the draft as a hiring process, but I still think trades and free agency would be fun.

I got a little carried away with pre-NFL Draft excitement yesterday and wrote the following on Twitter:

I’d like to take that back after observing the first round of the NFL Draft last night.

The NFL’s version of the hiring process is the most demeaning, dehumanizing and demoralizing spectacle you’ll ever witness. And you probably witnessed it, too, which is amazing, considering there were NBA and NHL playoffs airing simultaneously. There were actual movies playing, but you chose to watch a casting call.

I was employed by the Minnesota Vikings in 2007 in a non-football related position. (They already had an offensive line coach, so, I took what I could.) That was the year the Vikings drafted running back Adrian Peterson, a player for whom there were concerns based on a few injuries he suffered in college. Peterson, who would become the consensus No. 1 running back in the NFL by his second season, was the seventh player picked in the 2007 NFL Draft. By any measure, the Vikings got a steal.

I remember spending August in Gage Complex during training camp, seeing this well-to-do guy from the South walking around training camp ,wide-eyed, shaking the hand of anyone willing to bear his grip. (I can confirm it is outrageously firm.) It took a good 40 men, 1,000 hours of research and millions of dollars to get him into a Vikings jersey. Still, he looked to me like any new guy on the job. Truly, a rookie.

That’s what gets lost in the NFL Draft. You can compare 40-yard dash times, Wonderlic test scores, criminal records, and religious affiliations all day, but when it comes down to it, you’re still hiring a kid. The process is a brutal one, too. It’s transparent, with pundits and analysts flooding the industry left and right to inundate us with their opinion on who is overrated or underrated, who has character concerns and who has tremendous upside.

Jimmy Clausen went unselected in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Coming out of high school, many expected he would be a No. 1 pick someday.

Take Jimmy Clausen. Clausen was the starting quarterback for Notre Dame for three seasons before foregoing his senior season to declare for the draft. In high school, Clausen was given the label “the LeBron James of Football” by his private quarterback coach. Sports Illustrated, always hungry to predict the next prodigy, took that sentiment and ran with it. There were even whispers by some that if Clausen could — which NFL rules clearly stated he couldn’t — declare for the NFL Draft out of high school, he may have been serviceable. Not game ready, but someone who could learn for a few years and then play.

Instead, Clausen waited and watched as he was passed by 28 teams in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. It wasn’t for lack of ability. Everyone agrees Clausen is the second-most mechanically sound quarterback in this year’s draft, behind the No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford. However, there remain questions about his intangibles — his attitude, his leadership skills, his ability to earn the respect of players a decade his senior. Imagine graduating at the top of your Harvard Law class and you get rejected by the first 28 firms to view your resume.

That’s got to sting a little bit.

The NFL Draft is a brutally honest hiring process. Granted, there isn’t a single athlete who’s draft-eligible that doesn’t recognize their own shortcomings and weaknesses. You don’t become an elite athlete — which many of these kids are — and not have total awareness of your pros and cons. Still, that makes it no easier when greasy 50-somethings who never played the game — you know who I’m talking about — make their check by picking apart your entire existence just so their mock draft results have justification.

So a guy runs a 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. Do you know how fast that is? 4.4 might be an ideal speed for a running back prospect, but if you or I ran 40 yards that fast, we’d probably blow out our faces. We’d leave the scene in a wheelchair. We would look more fondly upon a sedentary lifestyle.

We football fans know everything when it comes to rating 21-year-old men, right? We’ve watched enough college football to know who is going to be great and who’s going to be a bust. Now, think back to yourself at age 21. Put yourself under a magnifying glass. Check your own history. Would you hire you? Would you want your past made subject to a scouting report, so that every future employer could be aware of your potential  or lack thereof?

I would like to flip-flop really, really hard on the statement I made 24 hours ago. Have mercy on these young men trying to fulfill their dream and be grateful you don’t have to be drafted. Point and laugh at the Jimmy Clausens who wait, anxiously, and remain unemployed, but know that things might not be so different for yourself if you were put through the same ringer.

32 thoughts on “Be Grateful Your Employer Doesn’t Draft

  1. I’ve actually contemplated the merits of doing a “fantasy draft” of sorts amongst library employees.

    I assume my experience, friendly nature, and Midwestern work ethic would bode well. Additionally, I’ve got all the intangibles you look for in library peeps such as height to get to the top shelves, the ability to deal with freaks without actually murdering them, and–of course–I bring munchies. Library peeps LOVE themselves some munchies.

  2. Fortunately for Clausen and the rest of the NFL draft class they have 224 chances at a job. I’d apply for a job if I had 224 chances for employment.

  3. I’d rather be drafted than traded, unless I had a say in the trade. But, if I made as much as these guys, I guess that would soften the blow a bit. Good thoughtful post today.

  4. Excellent post, Andrew. As the mother of a nowhere-near-elite-yet, 8 year old athlete, I think we do need to cut these players a little slack. The potential salary and payoffs notwithstanding, they are kids. Objective assessment is a necessary part of the NFL draft process, but I for one, readily admit immense gratitude that no such measures were applied to me when I was looking for my first job. Thanks for keeping it entertaining.

    • Truly, I thought it was a silly post idea, but after write a few paragraphs, I kept thinking, “Those poor guys.” Yeah, they’ll get paid, but their privacy is gone. They’re subject to judgment and assessment by EVERYONE. And give your kid some time…they peak around 12. :)

  5. I think moving the draft to primetime made it even more of a spectacle. It was already boring as it is. The only thing I find more annoying than watching the draft is hearing the people in my school say :”OMFG the Broncos got Tebow!!!111!11″

    • It would have been a whole lot MORE annoying if you were hearing them say, “OMFG, the Panthers got Tebow!!!111!11”

      Trust me on this.

  6. Usually the whole world doesn’t know you don’t get the dream job you’ve always wanted, or your 2nd choice, or 3rd, etc. And usually there isn’t a camera in your face to get your reaction when they announce that the other guy got it instead. Pretty devastating but almost perfect in its lack of bs.

  7. Nice article, and yes the NFL draft is a nerve racking process for these young guys. I cannot imagine how nervous and anxious Clausen or McCoy felt waiting to hear their names. As for the 40 times, I posted a 4.61 which is fairly fast but in the realm of RB’s that is slow. Even though the .4-.2 seconds does not seem like a great deal I ran against someone that could post near 4.2’s and was absolutely smoked by their speed.

  8. I am not an expert on on American football (that’s what we call it here in the UK… as your soccer is our football) and the extent of my knowledge is what I have gathered from “Friday Night Lights” (best show on TV) and I once talked with Troy Aikman on the phone (I worked at a Hyatt in the US back in the day and everyone in the office got soooo excited and I was like Who’s Troy Aikman?) but the draft process does indeed seem brutal and also a bit of a popularity contest… you seem to have to not only be the best at what you do but be able to schmooze the right guys, shake the right hands and most of these young men are still, well, almost boys… an awful lot of pressure!!!

  9. My 13 yr old son loved watching the draft….He knew alot about it! He is a football jock with a good golf swing ( I would prefer golf) I said “This draft thing is ridiculous!” He said, “Mom…do you know what an honor to be picked up by a team especially the frist round? ”
    He dreams of being drafted ….I despise the hero worship and idolizing these overpaid athletes( no football is not life ) but I watch my son’s love for the game and excitement and it softens me. I also throw a mean spiral( have thrown a million times to my son!) and was a huge nittany lion fan growing up. My dad taught me all about football and was proud I could throw better than most boys when I was 13.!!!!
    We lost my dad over 2 years ago and I know he’d be thrilled to watch Brady play. Well…. he IS thrilled.
    I liked your post. Remember Brady L. down the road….you may see him drafted and his mom jumping up and down!

  10. Are these young men over analyzed? Probably. If you were going to give a 22 year old between $11 million and $72 million (What 1st round players were paid last year), wouldn’t you rather over analyze than under analyze?

  11. We never truly realize how barbaric and brutal these so called try-outs are for football players. While it is entertaining to watch, these players are basically signing a contract that is guaranteeing injury and diminished well being. I really enjoyed ur post!

  12. Be Grateful Your Employer Doesn’t Draft « Lance Furuyama – Fresh Since '82

  13. awesome article. Im a swede and not over familiare with how the NFL seasons goes down, but Ive heard this rumor about the players arent allowed to be drug tested during seasons.. Is this true?

    and I sort of would like someone take a hard look at me, because I would hire me :p just not in the sales department or as a salesman! haha

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