We all understand how important the NFL draft is to each and every NFL team and how much millions of fans have come to enjoy and look forward to it.
Hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions have even made it a full-time hobby to be studied and prepared for year round, and some of us have even gotten as good at it as the NFL teams themselves.
Hell, a few of us are even better at it than some teams.
Who are my 10 best players in this year’s draft? If they land with the right teams in the right systems, I like:
Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson Devin White, LB, LSU Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
You want a few surprises who just might become great?
Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams – it’s all about the fit ... A.J. Brown – will he go all out, all the time? ... Alabama S Deionte Thompson – who doesn’t love a Bama safety, but he’ll have to play free ... Michigan EDGE Chase Winovich – will never be special but will play 12 years or until you throw him out of the gym ... Boston College OG Chris Lindstrom – never studied a B.C. guard I didn’t like ... Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson and Buffalo QB Tyree Jackson – you all take Kyler Murray, who I really do admire tremendously for what he is, and I’ll take one of these two and let’s see what happens.
Check back with me in two or three years and we’ll see if I knew what I was talking about.
We can argue back and forth about who the best prospects are today and who should take who, but the absolute fact is there is really no way to evaluate a draft until two or three years later, when we actually know what kinds of players these kids are becoming.
And though fans love to compliment the good teams when it turns out they were right, and jump all over the bad ones for all the picks they missed, there are very few of us “draftniks” who actually track how good we are at this.
All we really want to do is pretend we’re as good at it as the guys who do it for a living, because for us it’s a lot of fun.
But what I really want to do today is just take a breath and remember for a minute how we got here. Whose idea was it to make the draft this much fun?
In many ways, perhaps most, it was my dad’s.
The NFL was founded in 1920, and massive preparations are going on right now for the celebration of its 100th anniversary.
The first college draft was in 1936. Many credit former Eagles owner and NFL commissioner Bert Bell for the idea. Others believe it was George Halas who made it happen, which would be quite something since the whole purpose of the exercise is to create competitive balance in the league and Halas’ Bears were the dominant franchise of that era.
My bigger point is it’s been going on for 84 years — and for a long time no one but the teams themselves really cared.
When I attended my first draft at the Waldorf Astoria in New York on May 3, 1979, there weren’t more than 50-to-100 other members of the media in attendance. There was no TV or radio coverage, and not all of the major newspapers put a big focus on it.
It’s just in the past two decades or so that the draft has become what it is today.
In 1968 — the year after he founded Pro Football Weekly — my dad got the idea for some unique new content, including rankings and scouting reports of the top players coming out of college, published widely for public consumption.
He hired full-time scouts, Carl and Pete Marasco, who were both eventually hired away from him by NFL teams, making PFW the first ever other than the NFL teams to employ scouts.
Eleven years later, Dad passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving my brothers and I a struggling business we loved with all our hearts and the resume and clippings of a wannabe scout and extremely strange dude named Joel Buchsbaum – the granddaddy of all draftniks.
In '79, we published the first PFW Scout's Notebook, and then as Joel began to become a younger brother to me, Mel Kiper, working on his own, joined the fray a few years later.
Though the idea was my dad’s, it is as much or possibly a great deal more ESPN that deserves the credit for the explosion of interest that came next. Once they put the draft on television and hired Mel, it really started to take off.
It was the '90s, as the internet became a thing, when dozens of newly-minted draftniks decided they’d be experts too and started working at the draft year round and publishing more reports.
For many of us today, the four-day weekend at the end of April each year is every bit as much fun and important as the games themselves, and unlike any particular game, it is something we can enjoy all year long.
Why is this at all relevant, and why today?
Because it was exactly 40 years ago today, March 22, 1979, at roughly 8:00 in the morning that Arthur S. Arkush, my dad, died suddenly at the age of 53 while jogging along Lake Michigan.
The 22nd is always a difficult day for me, and at the same time a glorious one because I love him so much and he gave me and left with so many amazing gifts.
But I guess that’s obvious to anyone; he was my dad.
I’m off to the cemetery now to visit with the original Draftnik, but first I just want to take a moment and make sure you all know what he did for you.
— Hub Arkush