Want to know how flawed the NFL draft is? Two years ago, the Cleveland Browns traded down from No. 4 to bypass wide receiver Sammy Watkins, then traded back up to No. 8 to take cornerback Justin Gilbert…only to find out he likes getting paid to play more than he likes to play.
Columbus – Imagine a job interview where everything a candidate has ever done takes a back seat to what the prospective employer fears the applicant might not be able to do, even if they’ve already demonstrated time after time that they can do it.
Actually, you don’t have to imagine such a crazy hiring scenario.
Instead, you can watch it almost all day each of the next three days. It’s called the NFL Draft.
Thursday night, Friday night and most of Saturday will be consumed with endless analysis of how 32 NFL teams restock their rosters with new players.
It doesn’t seem like such a crazy process — this selection of top college talent headed to the pros — until you compare it to how every other business in America hires.
Think about it. At most places with a Help Wanted sign, you apply, they examine your resume, check your references and then make a decision on whether to hire you or not based upon your demonstrated qualifications and education.
In the NFL, they look at the resume — which is a player’s game film from college — but instead of taking that as proof of qualification for pro football, teams then start looking for reasons players can’t do the job.
You might have heard that Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones, who directed the Buckeyes to a national championship, isn’t the brightest cookie in the package.
That’s what one scout said about Jones.
As for Jones teammate Eli Apple, another scout said he has, “no life skills,’ and they even complained that Apple — and I’m not kidding — “can’t cook.”
The silliness isn’t limited to the scouting of Ohio State players, either.
Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, a Walsh Jesuit graduate from Hinckley, went 34-5 at MSU running a pro-style offense. Cook led the Spartans to their best three-year run of success in decades. He was MVP of two Big Ten championship games and a Rose Bowl.
But scouts are worried about Cook because he wasn’t a team captain. And one scout even said, “I don’t know what it is about him, but there’s just something I don’t trust.”
That’s real specific now, isn’t it?
A big part of where a player gets drafted in the NFL has to do with how he performed at the league’s scouting combine, where players don’t wear pads or helmets and where they engage in a series of tests that only loosely approximate actual football.
Whether a linemen gets drafted in the first round or the fifth round, or at all, can depend upon how fast he runs the 40-yard dash or how high he jumps, neither of which he’s ever asked to do once he starts playing in the NFL.
The NFL Draft is the only hiring exercise I’ve heard of where what you might not be able to do trumps what you’ve already gone a long way toward proving you’re pretty good at doing.
But, sometimes, the pendulum swings the other way, too.
The second-rated quarterback in this draft is Carson Wentz, who didn’t even play Division I football. But Wentz is big and strong and fast and he looks great throwing to wide receivers when there isn’t even a defensive back on the field.
So he’s going to go ahead of both Cardale Jones and Connor Cook in this draft.
If law firms hired lawyers the way NFL teams draft players, a guy who looked great in a three-piece suit with a stylish briefcase — but who had never passed the bar exam — would be more-coveted choice than a frumpy, slightly-overweight valedictorian from Harvard Law School.
Two years ago, the Cleveland Browns traded down from No. 4 to bypass wide receiver Sammy Watkins, then traded back up to No. 8 to take cornerback Justin Gilbert.
The Browns didn’t want anyone to know they were interested in Gilbert leading up to the draft, so they never met with him, never hosted him on a pre-draft visit and never worked him out.
If they had, they might have discovered that Justin Gilbert doesn’t love football as much as he loves getting paid to play football. So once Gilbert got his guaranteed contract, he got lazy and stopped devoting himself to the game.
In that same draft, the Browns had three quarterbacks who were still available at No. 22 rated ahead of Johnny Manziel. But guess what, they took Manziel.
Together, Gilbert and Manziel helped get both GM Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine fired.
Can you imagine any Fortune 500 company hiring an executive it never interviewed?
But the Browns did it, and other NFL teams do it, too, just to be sneaky. So no one will guess what they’re going to do.
What we should be asking is, Why are they doing it the way they’ve been doing it for years?
Bruce Hooley is a former sports editor of The Troy Daily News. Watch #Hooley Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday on Time Warner Cable Sports Channel (311/1311 HD).