The Draft
Pete Williams
St Martin’s Press, 2006
Buy: Amazon US, Amazon UK

The 2005 NFL Draft brought the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith and, in the seventh round, Ryan Fitzpatrick, into the league. In The Draft, Pete Williams chronicles the year leading up to that draft. He follows more than 30 figures in some detail, including players such as Ronnie Brown and Demarcus Ware, who ended up going in the first round.

Along the way, we get a glimpse into how they prepare, the stresses they face and the sudden strikes of good or bad fortune that can have a huge impact on where they end up being picked.

The players are surrounded by a growing draft industry. There are agents, of course, many promising their clients that they can help them get picked higher in the draft and therefore make more money. There are also the specialist trainers, who condition players to perform at their best at the annual scouting combine, where NFL teams gather to watch prospective draft picks in a range of drills to gauge their speed, strength and explosiveness.

There are even consultants who teach players to come across well in interviews with teams. One is former actor Steve Shenbaum, who tells the author:

“Good actors are trying to be truthful, they’re not trying to act. The basis of our program is for an athlete to be truthful. I don’t want an athlete to try and be somebody he’s not. If you don’t go to church every Sunday, don’t say you go to church every Sunday. If you’re close to Mom, great. But if you don’t talk to your parents then don’t say you’re close to your family. I’m not going to try and make Rob Petitti [the Pittsburgh offensive tackle, who ended up being drafted by Dallas] into a choir boy. That’s not fair to him, and coaches and general managers are smart enough to know who is putting on an act.”

This cast of helpers are typically provided by the agent’s company and are part of how the agent sets about trying to boost the player’s draft position. Having the right support in place is a crucial part of selecting the right agent. If the agent already has a bunch of big names then he has credibility but how much of a priority will you be? On the other hand, an agent with no big names might give you lots of attention but have no clout. The people making these weighty decisions are young men, with no prior experience of the world they’re about to enter. It’s easy to make mistakes.

The Draft is written in a clear and unshowy style, which feels a little dry over the length of a book. It could have used a better proofreader, too – one who knows why “sound bytes” is wrong, for example. It’s also fairly repetitive, which can be frustrating. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that at least some of the book was drawn from several of Williams’ articles – hence the repetition – but I’ve no idea if that’s the case.

Nevertheless, if you’re interested in finding out how a year in the draft process works, or if you have a particular interest in some players taken in 2005, then this is worth a read.

Photo: SwimFinFan


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