If you're like many who ignored the hype going into the NFL Draft and are just joining others suffering from draft fatigue, congratulations. You effectively skipped the semester without anyone noticing. There's still time to cram for the final exam and earn a better grade than kids with perfect attendance.
Bills General Manager Brandon Beane had studied so much that his eyes were practically bleeding last week. During a pre-draft luncheon last week, he said he planned to conduct a practice test with staff members with hopes a mock draft would prepare them for anything when the first round began Thursday.
"Until it gets here, all you can do is be anxious and do the work," Beane said. "I feel good about the work. If you do the work, generally it should fall into place."
We'll see if the work pays off.
General managers, scouts and other experts spend countless hours evaluating players while breaking down video, attending combines, traveling to private workouts, interviewing prospects, conducting background checks and compiling more material than the federal government or, worse, Facebook.
But with so much information readily available, I've often wondered if most people with a computer and a shred of common sense could get through the selection process without embarrassing themselves. It doesn't take much to collect data from various rankings and mock drafts, identify needs and make reasonable choices.
Most teams likely have players in the same basic order as the draftniks, give or take a spot or two. Amateurs would be prone to mistakes, of course, but how many times have the Bills come away from the draft looking like amateurs? I'll assume you're aware of their long and disturbing history.
Although there's always an element of luck involved, the selection process isn't a total crapshoot. Beane needs to distinguish himself from general managers of the recent past and prove he's better than the Average Joe sitting at home. Here are three pieces of advice for him as he enters his first NFL draft as a general manager:
* Stay strong. Beane has shown the temerity and aggressiveness required to make bold moves over his first 11 months and has done a good job of rBeane needs to distinguish himself from general managers of the recent past and prove he's better than the Average Joe sitting at home. Here are three pieces of advice for him as he enters his first NFL draft as a general managervamping the roster. He made another solid decision when he traded Cordy Glenn, the 21st pick overall and a fifth-rounder for the 12th pick and a sixth-rounder.
Beane will need to resist the temptation to make a splash and pay the steep price associated with quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield. Moving up for any of them might cost the Bills two first-round picks this year, another first-rounder next year and more. It's too risky for my taste.
In the unlikelihood Beane gets his guy without surrendering the top pick next season or giving up too much this year, he should remain confident knowing Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph will be available at No. 12. He doesn't need to give up the farm to reach for some supposed top quarterback who may, himself, be a reach.
Rudolph could be better than the others. He could be a bust. The same is true for others selected before him. If Beane wants to reach, he can do so without giving up No. 22.
Since 2011, the following QBs were selected in the second round or later: Dak Prescott, Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick. That's five franchise quarterbacks and two others who played in the Super Bowl. Foles was named MVP of the Super Bowl in February.
How many do you remember in college?
Doug Whaley lost his job in part because he traded up for Sammy Watkins, and surrendered a first-round pick the following year, in a draft that was loaded with elite receivers. This draft has more quality quarterbacks than most, but I'm not certain a franchise guy is among them.
* Practice what you preach. Beane said last week that one of the main jobs of a general manager is finding a franchise QB. No argument here, but that didn't mean it was his only assignment or even primary assignment. The true role of a general manager is assembling a winning roster.
Beane and coach Sean McDermott have talked incessantly about building a team that can compete for the playoffs every year. It's with the hope they would someday bring a Super Bowl to Buffalo. Their vision allowed them to purge the roster and clear cap space, putting them in better shape for the years ahead.
Buffalo's success last season gave Beane and McDermott the credibility they needed and extra time to carry out their master plan. Yes, they need a quarterback but placing too much emphasis on finding one could compromise their chances to address other needs and set back the Bills for several years.
Trusting the process starts with them.
* Ignore the noise. Everybody seemed to have an opinion about what Beane should do with two picks in the first round, six in the first three rounds and nine overall. He's asked everywhere he goes. "At home, every day," he said.
The angst and sleeplessness he experienced is natural for someone in his position. But general managers and scouts can spend too much time and energy on player evaluation and different scenario. For years, it was hard to tell if Cleveland overprepared or didn't prepare at all.
Too much information can lead to paralysis by analysis. Scouts often become smitten with or lose interest in certain players because they're obsessed with hand sizes, Wonderlic tests and vertical jumps. Meanwhile, they ignore the eye test.
There's a difference between 40-yard dash times and football speed. Ryan Fitzpatrick was the most intelligent player in the league, but his career was littered with stupid decisions. Cardale Jones had massive hands and could throw the ball through a wall. Unfortunately, he often hit the wrong wall.
The question: Can the guy help his team? By now, Beane should know.
Look, he's bound to make mistakes. Every general manager does. He'll be pleasantly surprised by certain players and get lucky with others. If he makes enough intelligent decisions and hits on enough players, he'll pass the exam.
If not, when it comes to this draft, he'll be no different than you or me.