Sorry for the convoluted headline, but something has been crossing my mind recently in regards to the draft and the way we predict sports in general.
The NFL Draft, for example, has so much preparation and speculation-- and the players themselves aren't immune to that. Imagine being a player: you're working throughout your college career to be an integral part of a successful team, you're slaving as hard as you can both in the weight room and the video room (or not, whatever) and then you go through the various offseason motions after you declare for the draft. You have every aspect of your personality picked apart by the media, in front of your family and friends, and it inevitably has some effect on you. You develop some expectation of when you'll be drafted, and that expectation is (as we all know) extremely unpredictable.
That enormous difference between your expectation of your draft day experience and the reality is what I'm getting at.
Ever since Aaron Rodgers' wreaked a vengeful havoc on the league for his fall in the '05 draft, it's become cliche for overlooked picks to subsequently say they're going to do something similar. But, at the time, no one had even the faintest idea that Rodgers would be so damn good. We just thought-- as is often the actual case-- that our predictions of a players' stock didn't remotely match up with what the teams themselves thought. For all intents and purposes, we forgot about Rodgers, but we now retrospectively have forgotten that we ever did. We didn't know about his seething sensitivity; and we had no basis to expect any legitimacy of his now famous vow to make the Niners regret picking Alex Smith.
We just didn't know.
That's only one very specific type of draft day experience. What about the guys picked much earlier than they thought, and the inevitable complacency? The Ryan Leaf effect? What about the agents who projected their clients' positions horribly, so that their clients either had some level of unexpected satisfaction or some level of added Rodgers-esque vengeful motivation or the million other significant emotions that can come with the unpredictability of draft day?
Even with the back stories of these players' lives, and hearing how they did in interviews, and hearing testaments to their character from coaches and teammates and friends, we still never have anything close to a full picture of their experience on that day. How they internalize Draft Day (or weekend), supposedly the most rewarding day of their young lives thus far, can affect their motivation throughout their entire career. And to some guys-- Rodgers, for example-- that motivation can change the entire landscape of the NFL.
That's why I always like to see players who cry when they're drafted. And Trufant, if I remember correctly, was bawling his eyes out.