Single page view By Hampton Stevens
Special to Page 2

Spring has sprung. You can see it everywhere. No, not the bloomin' flowers. This isn't "Oprah." We mean the real signs of spring – the end of the NCAA Tournament, the beginning of baseball. After a soggy start, the PGA came roaring to life last weekend, too.

Even the NBA is about to begin playing. I think.

Of course, the surest sign that spring is here is when NFL teams start their annual throw-huge-money-at-college-players ritual. Yes, we're just days away from the yearly mix of cattle call, infomercial and million-dollar crapshoot known as the NFL Draft.

I get goose-pimply just thinking about it.

During ESPN's customary 473 hours of draft coverage (including live look-ins at Paul Tagliabue eating a sandwich), analysts will employ a bewildering array of slang, terminology, euphemism and jargon. But because pro football has been out of the news for a while – Todd Sauerbrun doesn't count – we're all a bit rusty on our draft lingo.

So Page 2 has compiled our 2005 NFL Draft Dictionary. Print it out and keep it close at hand in the days to come. You'll thank us when you need something to crumple up and throw at the TV as your team makes an especially bad first-round pick.

Best Athlete Available: Taking the most talented player remaining on the draft board, regardless of position, rather than one who can really help the team. The "Best Athlete" theory is often invoked when NFL front office people do something inexplicable. See: Kansas City Chiefs' pick of tight end Kris Wilson in the second round of the 2004 draft so that Wilson could back up backup tight end Jason Dunn, who backs up all-everything tight end Tony Gonzalez.

Bust: Warren Sapp without a shirt.

Character issues: Locker-room poison; the player with "character issues" will ruin the team that drafts him for years to come. Later, he will sign with the Patriots, where he will turn into the perfect teammate and become a pillar of the New England community.

Falling Stock: When a prospective player hits on the GM's daughter at the cocktail reception following his private pre-draft workout.

Franchise Player: A draft-eligible guy likely to eat at fast-food franchises so often that it threatens his ability to play. See: Washington, Ted, OAK.

Free Agent: In February, "Free Agent" means a big-name player seeking more money. In March, "Free Agent" is a kid who'll be lucky to land a spot with the Hamburg Sea Devils.

Intelligent, Overachiever: Code words that mean, "He's white."

Juice: Illegal performance-enhancing substances. Also, O.J. Simpson (archaic).

Natural athlete, Instinctive: Code words that mean, "He's black."

On the Clock: What Minnesota always forgets they are.

Project: A player with great physical gifts but no talent for football. Soon to vanish and never be seen again.

Rising Stock: When a prospective player runs the 40-yard dash one-tenth of second faster than he did the week before – a clear and surefire indicator of a Hall of Fame career.

Rookie Orientation: What a new receiver needs after his first catch over the middle. Usually starts with questions such as, "Do you know what day it is?" and "How many fingers am I holding up?"



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