SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 02: Troy Niklas #85 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a first down pass in front of Cody Peterson #53 of the Navy Midshipmen at Notre Dame Stadium on November 2, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Navy 38-34. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Updated: May 8, 2014 11:38AM
What is it that makes the NFL Draft more appealing than the World Series, the NBA Finals or the Stanley Cup? Check the marketing studies, folks, in terms of fan interest and popularity, it’s true.
Perhaps it’s the old “Hope springs eternal” factor. Over the last two decades at least one team, and in many years two or three, has gone from last place to first in its division in one offseason.
A couple of really nice draft picks, maybe a key free-agent acquisition or two, and suddenly the doormat of the division becomes the welcome mat to the playoffs.
For one three-day weekend in the spring, all 32 teams are legitimate contenders.
So what will the Monsters of the Midway do with the 14th pick in the first round? Will they find the next Dick Butkus, Walter Payton or Brian Urlacher? Or will they give us another Mike Hull, Stan Thomas or Michael Haynes? Or will they trade the pick?
As I listened to the guys on the Score the other day trying to identify the Bears’ worst first-round pick of all time — and as they rattled off Thomas, Haynes, Curtis Enis, Chris Williams and others — I screamed to myself and my windshield, “You’re missing it!”
For my money, the Bears’ worst first-round pick of all time was the one they traded to the Seattle Seahawks for quarterback Rick Mirer.
As coach Dave Wannstedt told me some time after, “Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
There you have it. No team in history has ever made a first-round choice that didn’t seem like a good idea at the time. Some work out, some cost general managers and coaches their jobs.
Drafting is, in fact, more an art than a science. If it were science, an awful lot of guys could learn to do it well.
Alas, there are only a handful of general managers in NFL history to have long, successful careers.
Here is what Phil Emery and his peers can control on draft day.
Each team “stacks” its draft boards, and few of the 32 look all that different. Take any one of the teams’ list of the top 32 players in this draft and at least 28 or 29 of those lists are all going to have at least 28 of the same players listed in similar order.
The player it chooses is pretty much a matter of taste — and need.
The one thing that every team strives to obtain is value. If you’re picking 14th, you want one of the top 10 or 12 players on your board.
If you take the 27th-best player at 14, more often than not, you will fail.
Keep in mind also that picks Nos. 8-10 are the hardest, not necessarily the best. The wiggle room is a lot tighter when you’re trying to nail the top 3, 5 or 8 talents than the top 14.
And most teams drafting in the top 10 are there because they’re bad, and they probably got there by being bad at drafting.
What are the Bears to do? I’d like to see them trade down to somewhere between 20 and 24, pick up an extra first-round choice next year or at least an extra couple second-round picks, and still get a Calvin Pryor, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Ryan Shazier or Bradley Roby.
If they’re stuck at 14, Justin Gilbert, C.J. Mosley, Taylor Lewan and Eric Ebron are all top 10-to-12 talents. At least one of them, if not more, should be available.
The Bears should take the best one.
You want this year’s sleeper/Kyle Long pick, try Troy Niklas from Notre Dame. He’s a home run or a strikeout, but if he goes out of the park, he’s a 500-footer to dead center.
Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and