An explosive look at the NFL Draft from the inside out that exposes the multilayered feeding frenzy that swarms around America's top college players.
The Draft follows a handful of NFL hopefuls through the ups and downs of the 2004 college football season and the predraft process, culminating with the 2005 draft. Among the prospects are Virginia defensive end Chris Canty, who overcomes a devastating early-season knee injury to reestablish himself as a top draft hopeful, only to suffer a detached retina in a nightclub skirmish; and Fred Gibson, a talented but rail-thin Georgia wide receiver who struggles to put on the weight needed to go over the middle in the NFL.
It's a complex environment, with college coaches attempting to protect their "student-athletes" from exploitation (while fully aware that they can only remain competitive if they attract NFL-caliber players to their schools), along with sports agents and NFL scouts trying to stay a step ahead of their competition.
These parties provide a multi-angled view of the world of emerging NFL talent. The reader follows the season through the eyes of a host of power players and scouts, from veteran agent Pat Dye Jr. to Jerry Maguire clone Jack Scharf, to the coaching divisions of Florida State University and the University of Virginia---headed by longtime Bill Parcells disciple Al Groh. Also central to the narrative are the Atlanta Falcons and executives Rich McKay and Tim Ruskell (now with Seattle), who use a character-based evaluation system to set their draft board. These parallel stories weave together, culminating in draft weekend, to create a gripping and fascinating look at a world few see from the inside.
Sports business writer Williams follows the NFL's team selection process from the fall 2004 college football bowl season through the much-anticipated April 2005 draft in this behind-the-scenes look at how the big league secures its talent. Williams explains the draft's history, league-wide rating systems and the use of psychological tests with as much zeal as he invests in chronicling players' extensive preparation for lesser-known evaluative events such as the Senior Bowl, the National Invitation Camp or "Combine" and school Pro Days. Through these events Williams concentrates on agents, team managers, scouts, trainers and the talent with an eye trained on the unique business investment analysis process that the draft is. There's a great deal of sympathy for agents, but very little football played in this book; the reader does not get to see why athletes like Chris Canty and Fred Gibson, whose "stock" rise and fall during the season, or first-round picks Ronnie Brown and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams are the subjects of so much discussion. Williams may get inside the draft with concern for each interested party's stake in the outcome, but he does not get inside its various parties' heads with any significance. The lengthy quotes and lack of critical perspective on the draft process can give this book the patina of infomercial, but football fans will appreciate Williams' patient explanation of the vagaries of professional football's exhaustive job interview process.