When the Oakland Raiders dropped their final game of the 2017 season, draft season began. For college athletes, preparation began even sooner. Draft season is a period unlike any other in sports. Over the course of four months, athletes are measured and dissected by everyone from scouts to draftniks. In all honesty, some make their living solely on profiling athletes. However, in their haste to throw out mock draft on national TV, they forget a few things.
For TV hairdos and walking soundbytes, they throw out numbers and opinion multiple times per week. Meanwhile, an athlete labors at a speed camp or training in warm weather. TV folk tend to forget how much the draft process affects the lives of so many. From the player to his family, the draft could be a golden ticket to a better life.
In addition, the majority of fans will never understand the concrete mixer the process is. On the outside, it looks like finishing drills and talking to teams. Yet, so much happens that most will never see. With that said, I decided to find someone that endured the process.
In 1998, the San Diego Chargers selected Ryan Leaf second overall in the draft. Granted, Leaf’s road has not been the smoothest. If you want that backstory, Google can help. I narrowed the focus to the draft process in general.
Draft experts both touted you and Peyton Manning as the first QB taken. How does that weigh on a prospect? This year, Allen, Rosen, Darnold, and Mayfield must deal that. What two pieces of advice would you give them on handling the process?
Leaf: Initially, it does not, as we have become programmed at that level to believe we are right where we are supposed to be. Remember, just because you are a great football player, does not mean you are a great person. Build that foundation first.
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Speaking of draft eligible passers, as a member of the quarterback fraternity, what criteria do you use to grade them?
Leaf: Statswise, I use YPA (Yards per attempt). Everything else, I just usually look at their possible landing spots before I look at what that may look like.
Critics of postseason games (Shrine, Senior Bowl) say these games are meaningless. In which ways does your opinion differ?
Leaf: The game, I believe is rather meaningless, but the week of practices are hugely important from a scouting viewpoint.
Which players in this draft class are your favorites?
Luke Falk QB (WSU), Lamar Jackson QB (Louisville), and James Washington WR (Oklahoma St).
Between now and the draft, what can every prospect do to improve their stock, whether on or off the field?
Hire a great agent, like Leigh Steinberg or David Dunn. Also, let the agent do the talking, prep for the combine as if it is your biggest job interview ever, because it is. Train and avoid the trappings of the new fame available. Find ways to be of service. That will keep you humble during a process that will fight you tooth and nail.
In that quick interview, Leaf hit the most crucial of point. The draft process is a job interview. While fans can turn on the TV, phone etc, and watch, these athletes are interviewing for a job.
In essence, the draft process can appear to be a roll of the dice. The talented players do not always succeed. Conversely, the less talented can find success with otherworldly work ethic.