By Joe Landers
Teddy Bridgewater didn’t deserve the precipitous drop that came after his Pro Day. He had a great college career and, by all accounts, can command a complex offense with the best of the 2014 prospects.
256 prospects will get drafted, another 650 will get invited to a camp as an undrafted free agent. Essentially, each season, 10,000 seniors and eligible underclassmen are auditioning for 900 invites to compete an an NFL camp. It’s unfair. Of the 9,000+ that won’t even get a tryout, their tryouts have come and gone unbeknownst to them.
For some, it came in the form of college practices where they didn’t stand out. For others, they may have seen adequate time in games, but weren’t standouts on the field, statistically, or when scouts would pop in to observe the random practice. Many who had standout careers from Bemidji State to Arizona State may have bombed the exam that was their college all-star game. For those not afforded the opportunity to shine at the National Combine, their Pro Day or Regional Combine is their one shot to show how they compare athletically to peers at their position.
Fair or unfair, the NFL rookie selection process is among the most harsh, impersonal, and rigorous in the world. Organizations can and do use every crumb of evidence to piece together their predictive construct for prospects. Anyone with an agenda will sensationalize those crumbs to gain leverage at the expense of the prospect’s reputation. It’s cruel. Miss one step and value invariably will drop. It’s unforgiving. The guys I actually have the most empathy for are those who put everything on the line, battled through or valiantly fought back from injuries to lead their units, practice, and play in every game, only to see their value drop and opportunities dwindle or outright evaporate due to future medical concerns. (See Antone Exum)
Take a moment to think about all of the tremendously talented college football players who will never even get a shot. What about Chris St. Hilaire, the 5’9”/175 receiver (dripping wet with high tops) from Fairmont State who beat all odds up to this point and led his team for four years, but won’t even get a shot? Or the 5’9”/205 linebacker from Kentucky State who has worked out 350 days a year for 12 years to maximize his potential and, yet, his career will be abruptly and summarily ended. It’s heartbreaking. It’s all many of these guys have ever known. Stars… to what? Where do they go from here?
Pause once more and consider the path to Senator, Congressman, Governor, President, SEAL, FBI Agent, CIA Operator, Green Beret, Delta Operator, Astronaut, Neurosurgeon, or Cardiac Surgeon. These are all careers that are far more selective than being one of the 900 rookies that get to step foot on an NFL practice field or the 500 that end up on a roster over the course of the season.
When we hear the hyperbole this weekend about how this is the most competitive job market in the world, put it in perspective with the careers that are exceedingly more selective. When you hear people crying foul for Bridgewater possibly falling out of the first round, think about all of the other players who have been studs their whole life and don’t stand a shot of even going in the seven rounds of the Draft. Think about how tough it was for Danny Dietz to become a SEAL. Don’t cry a river for Teddy. Root him on, be passionate about it, but at the end of the day, keep it all in perspective.