Book of the Month: The Draft
Today I want to look at a book that for the most part flew under the radar. It received a review in Sports Illustrated after it came out in 2006, but it never reached bestseller status. The Draft by Pete Williams is an interesting book that more people should take a look at.
The Draft focuses in closely on the 2005 draft, telling the story from as many different sources and angles as possible. The book chapters alternate, some focusing on the NFL front office of the Atlanta Falcons, some dealing with specific draft entrants, and others covering the world of agents. The author dedicated a year to following these groups, and it gives a unique perspective. First, Williams reminds you how fluid draft status can be. In covering Chris Canty, a defensive end from Virginia, he was covering a likely first round draft pick. Then Canty blew out his knee in October, and he wrapped up by getting hit in the eye with a beer bottle in January. Because of this, Canty dropped to the Dallas Cowboys in the 4th Round. That cannot be predicted the summer before the draft.
Second, Williams gives the draft a sense of history. He meticulously describes the creation of the draft in the 1930’s, with its origins in ensuring competitive balance and lowering players’ salaries (by decreasing competition over signing them.) He details where the draft combine came from, the nature of college’s pro days, the origins of player-agent relations, and the origin of $10,000 pre-combine training regimens. This puts the draft in its proper context. As the book makes clear, the draft is not simply a two-day event in April. It is the culmination of a more than year-long process of scouting, evaluation, training, planning, and effort. That year-long process, in turn, is the culmination of a decade-long process that created what is now a multi-million viewer television extravaganza on ESPN.
What does the book do poorly? If you are interested only in the world of first round draft picks, they get short shrift here. Williams gives some attention to Auburn running backs Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams, but they are distinctly away from the book’s focus. The book can also be repetitive. If you read an historical anecdote once, expect to see it again in a couple of chapters. Nevertheless, I would recommend the book for its wealth of information about all of the aspects of the draft process.
Finally, a bit of trivia. Who invented the 40-yard dash? Paul Brown. The innovator who invented the guard shuttle as a method of calling plays from the sideline figured that 40 yards was the max players would be expected to run on a normal play. Given that he began coaching in the world of single-platoon football, all of Brown’s players had to cover punts. On a punt, he expected players to have to run approximately 40 yards. The rest is history.