The regular-person draft

Posted: April 26, 2012 by terryvandrovec in Uncategorized
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Tonight in New York City, 32 divisions of one of the most powerful companies in America will gather together and begin divvying up the latest crop of young talent.

That’s essentially what the NFL Draft is, in corporate terms even though we tend not to look at it in that way. But what if we did? What if conventional companies, be it newspapers or trucking firms or schools, filled jobs in the same way. That is: Monitored prospective employees through college, put them through aptitude tests, studied their backgrounds, got to know them through a series of interviews, tested their performance under pressure and then – in ceremonial fashion – drafted them according to a predetermined order.

Could that work?

In theory, something like that already exists. For example, I once spent a weekend in a minor-league baseball stadium with Seth Wickersham. He went to one of the top journalism schools (Missouri) and had job offers from two of the titans of the sports writing industry (Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine) right out of college. And deservedly so.

JaMarcus Russell wore No. 2 and played like No. 2 during his disastrous NFL career.

But I’m willing to bet that’s not always the case. It’s probably more likely that connections and location and timing and even luck have a plenty to do with job placement. And there’s almost no way, unless we’re talking about a government job dealing with top-secret information, that regular companies do the kind of pain-staking research on prospective hires that NFL teams do.

This week, a scout used the phrase “natural-knee bender” during a conversation with me in regard to an offensive tackle. Seriously. People are practically making stuff up. That’s how in-depth this stuff goes. (On a related note, I’ve been tagged with the label of slow blinker, and will never live it down. Sigh.)

Nonetheless, football scouting remains an inexact science. No. 1 picks flame out (cough, JaMarcus Russell) and undrafted players turn into All-Pros (thumbs up, Victor Cruz). And, of course, NFL teams have the resources to dissect talent that in a way that few can.

Plus, the world is arguably better off having evenly distributed talent in some fields. For instance, my wife is an elementary school teacher. That profession is unique in that, aside from a few elite private schools in major cities, there aren’t really levels. There isn’t an NFL equivalent. And it’s good that quality teachers are scattered across the country – better than having them all in one spot. (Probably. There’s always a chance that having a super school could change the world. You know, maybe cure AIDS or invent the perfect set of running headphones. Important stuff like that.)

All that said, we’re probably more in control of making it in our respective professions than we realize or like to admit. It’s just that most of us have wondered what it would be like to get drafted by an NFL team – picking out the perfect 12-button suit, hugging mama (and maybe baby mama), slapping on a bad baseball cap, giving Roger Goodell an awkward thug hug and signing a multi-millon dollar contract.

Perhaps that’s why we watch.


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