Enjoy it this year NFL fans, because there may not be a draft in 2012

For the past two days, columnist Michael Silver has taken to the pages of Yahoo! Sports and Twitter to rant about the NFL draft.

No, not because he thinks it’s wrong for the NFLPA to instruct top prospects not to attend Radio City Music Hall next month and no, not to lash out about the fact that players and owners are ruining the Holy Grail of the NFL offseason.

He’s ranting that the NFL draft should become yet another victim of the current labor dispute.

Silver offers a cold dose of reality when it comes to the draft: that it’s not as important as 1,7000 players fighting for their financial livelihoods. And as much as I’d like to punch him in the ear and tell him to get on board with the rest of us draftnits, he’s right.

He’s also right about something that will really make devote draft followers sick to their stomachs: The fact that there may not be a draft in 2012 if the owners and players can’t agree to a new CBA.

In the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, the draft is kind of … how shall I say this gently? … illegal. The notion that a person trying to ply his trade can be denied the opportunity to negotiate his/her services on the open market – in this case, that he is prohibited from signing with 31 of the NFL’s 32 franchises – isn’t simply un-American; it’s also a violation of federal law.

In fact, the controversy over the upcoming draft would likely be moot if not for a stipulation in the recently expired CBA that this year’s draft would proceed as scheduled. Otherwise, the players would have had an excellent chance of convincing a judge to disallow it. And if there’s still no CBA a year from April, even if the players are successful in blocking the lockout and the owners merely impose rules while the two sides wage their fight over the antitrust lawsuit, you can forget about a draft happening in 2012.

Even though the situation looks bleak, I’m willing to bet that most fans believe everything will eventually work out. That there will be a football season next year and the events of these past months will fade away once that ball is placed on the tee in Week 1. But Silver makes a great observation here. If the courts rule against the owners’ lockout, that doesn’t mean that a new CBA will be put in place. The players and owners still have to agree to a new deal and thus, we could be back to square one after next season even though the lockout has ended. How nauseating does that sound?

In the meantime, we can still enjoy the draft but read Silver’s column in full and then tell me you’re still excited for the end of April to come. Personally, I think Silver’s anti-draft rants can be toned down a notch. He seems to be revealing in the fact that he has solid points and those points suck the life right out of whatever excitement fans still have left about this offseason. As a NFL fan and a diehard draft follower myself I want to say to him, “Are you enjoying all of this, Eyebrows? Are you enjoying the fact that we don’t have free agency and trade rumors to chew on for the next couple of months and now the powers at be are also trying to ruin the draft, too? Because it sure seems like it.”

But as a realist, I say: “Damn it Silver, right on.”

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