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I believe I speak not only for myself when I declare that Thursday night at 7 PM can't come too soon. At that time—prime time on ESPN—the NFL draft will finally begin and the sports pages of America will suspend their frolic through the enchanted forest of what if?
They're going out with a bang. In Thursday's Tribune I count eight features contemplating the draft, round one of which (the only round held tonight) will find the Bears (in all likelihood) drafting a single player, who will not take the field in a game that matters for another four months. By contrast, there are two stories about the Blackhawks, who are in the thick of the NHL playoffs and trying to defend the Stanley Cup.
Up to a point, it's been fun to read and talk about whom the Bears might draft, to imagine this gifted young athlete sending the team straight to the Super Bowl, or, conversely, falling on his keister, confirming beyond any dispute your conviction that the team is run by nincompoops. But there is only so much that can be written about any event that hasn't happened yet, that when it happens almost certainly won't unfold along the lines anyone has predicted, and that might not matter much anyway.
For instance, standard fare in the run-up to the draft is the "mock draft." The Thursday Tribune offered its "mock draft 2.0," which was its mock draft 1.0 upon further reflection. The Tribune offered a mock draft 2.0 last year too, the round-one draft picks for all 32 teams. It got 27 of them wrong.
Meanwhile, the Sun-Times, which on Thursday offered a mere five stories on the draft, dabbled in numerology. Fourteen has been a mystical number on Chicago sports pages in recent days, the Bears having the 14th pick in the draft's first round. The number's been examined every which way, and on Thursday the Sun-Times looked back at how the 14th picks over the past decade have worked out for their teams.
If you stop to think about it, this intriguing exercise reveals nothing whatsoever, except that 14th picks work out well when teams draft smartly and not so well when they don't. A better idea would be to go back through the last ten drafts and list all the all-pro NFLers drafted after the 14th pick. Bears GM Phil Emery won't lack for talent when he drafts, regardless of who's been drafted already. The problem is that if he's not sure who whose players are, neither are the scribes who would hold his feet to the fire if they did.