Uncertainty looms heavy over NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is similar to the New York Stock Exchange; football franchises select talent to add to their team in the same way stockbrokers invest in shares of companies. The energy at both events is exciting, serious and anxious all at the same time.

In both cases experts invest in prospects that they deem valuable and for both the results are never certain, frequently leading to huge let downs and in other cases unexpected successes. But unlike the New York Stock Exchange, this year the NFL draft will take place in Chicago.

The decision to switch locations breaks the 50-year old NFL tradition of hosting the draft in New York. Instead of its usual location of New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, the draft will take in Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, starting Thursday April 30 at 8 p.m. ET.

Yet for the players eligible for the draft, Chicago may not be as popular of a location as New York. This year, two of the years top prospects at the quarterback positions, Marcus Mariota of The University of Oregon and Jameis Winston of Florida State University (FSU), have decided not to attend the draft. A choice that could lead to some very awkward moments as the two NFL bound talents will be selected but will not be present to be acknowledged on stage.

The NFL asks all players predicted to be drafted in the first round of 32 selections to attend the event. Then at the draft, players sit at tables with their family as they wait for their name to be called on stage. Considering the way the draft is presented as a spectator event and the fact that it is nationally televised ensures that the absence of college football’s two biggest stars will certainly be noticed.

For many NFL prospects, coming on stage and accepting the jersey of their new team is the proudest moment of their lives, it is the instance when they have officially made it to the NFL, a dream of thousands of student athletes who play NCAA football but a reality for only a handful. Yet for some athletes the draft can quickly go from a joyous time to a very painful one, when they are not selected as early on as they anticipated.

This was the case for Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the 2005 NFL Draft when he was forced to wait for hours as his stock was passed over for other talents. Rodgers had an excellent college career at The University of California, Berkeley and was predicted to be a taken in the draft early on based on his immense playing value. Instead Rodgers was selected 24th overall as the nation watched his draft stock drop in value from the top to near the bottom of the first round.

Ultimately, Rodgers would have the final word as he quickly reached prominence in the NFL leading the Packers to a Super Bowl Championship in 2010 and winning the league’s Most Valuable Player Award for the 2011 and 2014 seasons. Aaron Rodgers fall in the draft did not influence the success he would later have in his playing career and could have acted as a source of motivation to beat all of the teams that decided not to draft him in 2005.

But Rodgers draft story does reveal that attending the draft can be embarrassing if one is not drafted early on and the individual’s disapoitnment will inevitably be projected across the country as ESPN cameras capture the emotions of all players in attendance. Nearly all football media projects Marcus Mariota to be selected second in tonight’s draft, making every other outcome seem like a let down in comparison and partly justifying his decision to watch the draft at home with his family in Hawaii.

Few players have a better combination of college football accomplishments than quarterback Jameis Winston. Florida State’s former play caller lead the Seminoles to a 2014 BSC National Championships and 26-1 record over the two years that he started at the position. Individually, Winston won the 2013 Heisman trophy awarded each year to the county’s most outstanding college football players. These outstanding accomplishments may make it hard to believe that Winston garners more attention for his unacceptable behavior off the field than his excellence play on it. From getting caught stealing crab legs at a restaurant to yelling obscenities in the middle of Florida State University’s student union, Winston became known for bad behavior. Bad behavior that is dwarfed when compared to a 2013 sexual assault charge that was eventually dropped by Florida courts.

In the eyes of NFL scouts, Winston must be considered innocent until proven guilty, but his affinity to get in trouble and high likelihood that he could poorly represent his future NFL team and the league in general should be considered when evaluating his draft value.

The NFL’s public image was hurt last year by severe cases of domestic abuse committed by players such as Greg Hardy of the Dallas Cowboys and free agent Ray Rice and with this in mind Winston’s value in the NFL should be considered based on what he can do on the field and what he can do off it.

Over the last month Erica Kinsman, the women and former FSU student who accused Winston of rape in 2012 filed a suit against Winston for his alleged actions in addition to a Title IX suit against FSU for holding biased disciplinary hearings over the case. These updates reveal that Winston’s sexual assault case is still firmly open and should be taken seriously by NFL scouts.

Many sources speculate that Winston chose not to attend the draft in order to avoid attaching controversy to the event. Yet being selected as the first overall in the pick, as Winston he is widely projected, would reveal an even larger controversy for the NFL. That they value on field perception above all else, even at the cost of their public perception.

It is likely that Winston will be selected first by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an event that would reveal just how low the NFL has stooped, ignoring the character and conduct of players and instead focusing only on their production. Only time will tell if this production and potential will translate to the demanding world of the NFL.

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