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Luck of the draft

Even for likely first NFL pick, success is not a guarantee

So it’s settled. A few months from now, the Indianapolis Colts will select Andrew Luck first overall in the NFL Draft. Then he will take over, at some undetermined point, for Peyton Manning, start for 10 or more years, and attain unimagined heights of glory.

Or he won’t.

In many different ways, Luck is the absolute personification of how large and pervasive the draft has become in NFL circles – perhaps too large. Why should a three-day affair late in April, involving no passes, runs, hits, blocks or kicks, trump the actual games?

Because Luck was looming, the Colts, sans an injured Manning, were all but encouraged to keep losing, 13 in a row, and their pair of wins late in the season were treated as tragedies because, apparently, proud professionals didn’t realize that Luck was the savior-in-waiting.

We’re in an NFL era where defense and running the ball is all but discouraged. The top quarterbacks are praised (and rules-protected) beyond belief, and everyone else is disposable or, worse yet, not given enough credit when a team succeeds.

Within that context, the expectations for Luck are already unreasonable. Add the hype about the draft, especially when the Super Bowl is done, and things will only get worse.

There’s no denying that, throughout NFL history, the draft has served as a positive means for teams to build champions, especially the Steelers of the 1970s and the Cowboys of the early ‘90s. Even the era of free agency hasn’t changed that notion, as witnessed by the Packers’ recent successes, mostly forged from well-conceived drafts.

Somewhere along the line, though, it got way out of hand. Part of it was the hot air of Mel Kiper and his ilk – okay, a lot of it. In their trusty hands, talented football players stopped being human and turned into glorified pieces of meat, bodies dissected, characters challenged.

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