The weeks leading up to the NFL Draft are some nasty business. It’s part spycraft and part high school gossip as teams and agencies to erect smoke screens and circulate rumors. Here is a strange world where it matters if someone is a “backwards hat kinda guy” or if his teammates go to his birthday party. As such, with four quarterbacks driving most of the pre-draft narrative and hype cycle, this year featured nasty and active leaks. In particular, the rise of the S2 tests, a kind of new-age Wonderlic, introduced fertile new ground for meaningfully meaningless draft prognostication; CJ Stroud (who the Texans picked second overall) graded out poorly on some nebulous “cognition” metric. To everybody who isn’t chronically NFL Draft-pilled it’s all inane and insane. Or, as Colts general manager Chris Ballard eloquently put it, “it’s bulls**t.”
“I get frustrated,” Ballard told reporters during a press conference after the Colts picked Anthony Richardson with the fourth pick in the draft. “All the crap that comes out about these kids. It’s crap. Like, it’s bullsh**t. I’m sorry, but it’s bullshit. Like people that leak these stories, these negative stories on kids. I just don’t — I don’t agree with it. It’s bullshit.
“These guys work their ass off to get where they need to be, and then all week you’ve got to read . . . and then they’ve got to answer questions. So, anyway, not on Anthony, it’s on some other kids int the draft that are good kids, and I thought had to take a little bit of a beating that they shouldn’t have had to take.”
While Ballard didn’t name names, it’s clear that he’s talking about CJ Stroud, who was the subject of a particularly targeted smear campaign, presumably from a team hoping to muddy the waters enough that he might fall to them in the draft. Clearly, these concerns weren’t all that concerning, considering that the Texans picked Stroud with the #2 pick of the entire draft.
On the other side of the pre-draft cold war, Will Levis was set up to fail as he soared up draft boards thanks to some positive press coverage and conjecture, only to fall out of the first round once the Draft actually began.
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