Wednesday - Sep 23, 2020

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Of Linemen and Brassieres

Did you ever wonder what the NFL rookie draft, your fantasy drafts and your boyhood ex-girlfriend’s bra have in common? Of course not. You come here for that sort of derangement. Reaching along with days and weeks of hype invariably followed by disappointment are definitely some of them, but the connection is so much bigger than that.

In this week’s pre-draft Stat Lab spectacular, we’ve got draft meta-analysis, which is a nerdy way of saying analyzing analysis. Meta-analysis is less titillating than bras, so we’ll talk mostly about bras and not metas; specifically, bras and offensive linemen. Well, not bras and offensive linemen – this isn’t THAT kind of site (not yet anyway, it’s a down economy folks), but oh, just read on. This article is rated SFW (Safe for Work).

Forum dweller that I am, I read many strange things. In this coming draft, for example, east coast teams are at a disadvantage due to late time of day for their body clocks, Tim Tebow is creeping into the first round, and “with the eighth pick of the 2010 draft, the Oakland Raiders select Usain Bolt.” Still, none are more strange than that my increasingly begrudgingly beloved 49ers will wind up “reaching” for an offensive lineman in the first round. This is impossible: a drafted offensive lineman is never a reach.

After a long childhood on paper, fantasy football is maturing in late electronic adolescence. The game and the analysts are full of half-good ideas that now need the scrutiny of cold and calculating adulthood, none more than “the reach.” Our notions of drafting are immature, like a teenager’s mastery of a bra. The first time, it’s clumsy and you’re glad it’s over because it’s over. Then you get familiar enough that the work is efficient. Eventually, it’s not just the end you enjoy, but the art of the undoing itself.

Then you get attached to a woman and the bra becomes complicated again. It’s not just a frilly task, but a complex product of engineering with certain shapes, styles, traps, wraps, rings, sizes, and things – it is a curious object of necessity and commerce and what was once fun is now complicated.

The NFL and fantasy football drafts are front-closing, cross-shoulder, 36Cs with flat trim, elastic sides and amplifying support for your observing pleasure, in nude beige (beige – I’ll paint the ceiling beige).

The draft has become such a prolonged orgy of hasty over-analysis that basic sense is lost: if a guy you want ain’t gonna be there when you pick next, it’s not a reach to take him. Maybe your assessment of his value is too high, or that of his peers too low, but that’s a different problem, and that problem isn’t solved by volumes of player rankings accounting for everything from their vocabulary to their waistlines, nor is bad scouting fixed by adhering to some contrived chart of a pick’s theoretical mathemagical absolute value.

“The reach” is on shaky ground, “reaching” for an offensive lineman is inane.

A strong and dynamic offensive line is the universal need in the NFL. Championships have been won without football savant field generals like Peyton Manning, and first downs racked up by a 31-year-old Curtis Martin. Pass-first, run-first, young, old, genius, or dog-fighter – whatever you’ve got, whatever you’re trying to do, you need a big, fast, and nasty offensive line.

Offensive linemen also make for lasting investments. The average age of a starter these days is about 26, with the median about 28. That’s practically dead in running back years, and right about at quarterback age, except linemen are more often ready to start right out of college.

Despite this, less than one offensive lineman per team tends to be drafted in an average year; just four or five tend to go in the each round, a couple or so at each end. This is hardly appropriate treatment of a universal need.

The draft pick value chart is wrong. Analysts are wrong. Front offices are wrong. That whitey-froed box-headed South Park Canadian-looking loudmouth Mel Kiper is wrong. Draft picks, especially rookies, are just bets. In fantasy, we seek running backs like crazed addicts not just because they break, but also because they sometimes break out; the Ray Rices, the Chris Johnsons, the DeAngelo Williamses, even the Matt Fortes that once – they lurk. That is how offensive linemen should be drafted: early and often, in ceaseless search of power and greatness.

For live, fun draft chatter with the sharks, check out the stickied topics in the Main Tank.  To comment on this article, visit the Article Discussion forum. Please note this article was written prior to the draft, but delayed in publishing. Such is life.

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