As sports fans, we all do plenty of silly things. We cheer and we scream; we love our team team and we hate all the other ones. We idolize some players and villainize others, often without reason. I know as a Jaguars fan that my hatred of Peyton Manning borders on being completely irrational. Some fans risk life and limb to stand shirtless in the crowd with their chests painted their teams' colors just to show the pride they feel for their team. Some fans even feel extreme enough about their fandom that they fly off the handle and make serious mistakes. I'm thinking specifically of the tree poisoning incident at Auburn. But all of the silly and ridiculous things that sports fans do pale in comparison to the most bizarre practice in all of sports: NFL Draft Grades.
Let me get this out of the way right now: I never have and never will like draft grades, nor will I ever write them myself.
I was more involved in the draft this year than I usually am, because this is my first year looking at the draft as a writer. I played the game, followed individual players and kept mostly on top of who the risers and fallers in the draft were. I certainly watched and read enough to know who I think will succeed, but the idea of grading prospects as NFL players before they have even played one snap in the NFL strikes me as absurd. Isn't that why the NFL is looking to create a rookie pay scale, because the rookies are unknown commodities?
I'm certainly willing to state which players and picks I like and dislike. Why wouldn't I? It's only natural for someone as... intellectually curious as I am to make those kinds of judgments. The thing is, draft picks are not something that can be judged right away. Picking teams is ultimately not about how much people like what a GM has done, but how the players perform on the field. If you asked me, I would find it difficult to judge how successful Cam Newton's (pick #1) or Patrick Peterson's (pick #5) careers are, because at this point, they have the same career NFL stats as Greg McElroy (pick #208) and Tommie Campbell (pick #251). Not to mention, of course, that people are often wrong in their assessments and inevitably biased.
For example, I remember in the 2008 draft thinking that the Tennessee Titans pulled an "Al Davis" drafting Chris Johnson. At the time, I thought he was the 4th or 5th best running back in that draft. Would you say the Titans had a good draft now? They did get Chris Johnson. The same site gave the Titans 2008 draft (which gave them a 2000 yard rusher) a D- and the Jaguars 2008 draft (which was so terrible it sent the Jaguars franchise spiraling out of control) a C+. At the time, I might have agreed. In retrospect, I'm sure that writer would probably like to change his answer.
I could say that I loved the Saints' draft, snagging Cam Jordan and Mark Ingram in the first round, and I think that could be agreed upon by many right now. However, just like in school, letter grades are a bit too... cold and emotionless. It leaves no wiggle room, and quite frankly it doesn't account for a lot necessary elements to building a successful team. So, for those of you who do enjoy reading draft grades feel free to continue doing so, but I'll make it clear right now that I have no interest in them, and I will not judge my team, or any team, by anything other than what the players do on the field, and by that system, there are 32 NFL teams receiving an "INC" grade from me.