The NFL Draft can produce some quality theater. The fact that it's an entertainment production centered on sports can numb us to the reality that what happens over those three days has a huge impact on the lives of hundreds of young men. In our area the most compelling drama centered on Gabe Marks - the most prolific wide receiver in Pac-12 history. Marks went undrafted, to the surprise of some including Mike Leach.
"I'm always surprised who's drafted and who's not because I've found the draft especially over the years to be very random," Leach said on a conference call Monday. "I think a lot of times guys are selected based on measurables rather than how good of a player they are. Gabe doesn't measure up particularly well on some of their measurables, but he's a better player than some guys that do."
Production doesn't matter— 9God (@throwitupto9) April 29, 2017
We haven't heard from Gabe since the draft ended, but he did fire off a tweet that simply read, 'Production doesn't matter'. To an extent he's right. NFL personnel weigh pro potential - however they gauge that - greater than college productivity. Look no further than UNC's Mitch Trubisky going second overall, 10 spots ahead of Clemson's national championship winning QB Deshaun Watson.
In the eyes of NFL decision makers Gabe lacks the adequate combo of size and speed. As a result he settled for an undrafted free agent contract with the New York Jets, which may end up being a very good thing for him. In some cases you're better off going the free agent route than getting picked. Either way it can be a struggle to make a team's roster. When you're a free agent you at least get to decide where you go. In Gabe's case he ends up with a team in need of receivers. That's a better place to be than a seventh round pick of a squad that is well stocked at his position.
Take Doug Baldwin for example. He went undrafted, and got signed by the Seahawks who needed receiver help in 2011. Baldwin didn't just work his way to a roster spot - he ended up being the team's top receiver that season. Since then he become one of the NFL's most reliable wideouts and a Pro Bowler.
Now there's no guaranteeing Marks can follow in those footsteps - but the comparison has been made in the past. Two guys who don't necessarily fit the mold the NFL wants. But both are tough, super competitive, and very good at catching footballs.
Baldwin was fueled by getting snubbed, and worked for what he's gotten in the six years since. As Leach said today the formula is now same for Gabe.
"The work starts there in New York. He's got to work extremely hard and become an important part of that team in order to make it."
In the meantime we may miss out on one thing we love about Gabe - his way with words. Again, we're yet to hear from him since the draft ended. That may seem like a bit of a surprise, but not when you consider something he told KREM 2 in December when asked about his fearlessness with the media.
"I mean you got to be playing good first of all," Marks said. "It's hard to come up here and just say whatever you want if you're not doing your job. So I try to do my job first of all then come up here and speak freely. But you don't get up here very much if you're not playing well. So I got to do that first before I can get up here and have some fun."
So it might be wise to expect a quieter more reserved Gabe in the coming weeks and months as he tries to earn a roster spot, perhaps letting his game do the talking. With the draft fueling his already intense approach to the game, hopefully by September he will prove that he does in fact belong.