The elaborate dance performed around Johnny Manziel recently was so predictable as hardly worth notice. But the predictable part really didn't have that much to do with Manziel himself; it had to do with the fact that there always seems to be some off-field fool the NFL has mis-identified as an on-field great player.
More than anywhere else in life, professional sports is a business where much money is spilled on seeming potential instead of on performance. We do not know yet who they will be, but we do know there will be busts in the draft that is held later this month.
Want some potential candidates for that sad distinction? Start with the group of players who already had off-field issues before they got their pockets lined with the NFL's millions.
--Let's begin with Noah Spence, who began his college career at Ohio State, was banned by the Big Ten after two positive tests for Ecstasy, wound up at Eastern Kentucky and arrested last spring for public intoxication. Some consider him the best pass rush prospect in the draft. But they also wonder if he can be trusted to mature.
Baltimore was interested in Spence but the Ravens are wary after what happened last year. They were interested in another pass rusher, Randy Gregory, but passed on him because of his history with marijuana. Dallas, which apparently never met a player it wouldn't take a chance on, chose Gregory in the second round. He is suspended for the first four games next season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
--Then there is Mississippi tackle Laremy Tunsil, considered a very possible No. 1 overall pick. Were his problems in college over cars and airline tickets just the acts of a kid chafing at some of the NCAA's rules, or a sign of immaturity and/or an attitude of entitlement that opened a window into his character? Try to figure that out with many millions riding on the call.
--How about his college teammate, Robert Nkemdiche, who fell from a fourth floor hotel window, leading to a police search of his room that turned up a cache of seven marijuana cigarettes, leading to a drug arrest.
--Or consider the matter of Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, arrested for speeding, charged with a DUI, driving a 2016 Cadillac Escalade shortly before 1 in the morning. Ever wonder how a college player can afford an $80,000 auto even before he gets drafted?
--Or LSU cornerback Rashard Robinson, who was suspended and later kicked off the team, arrested for breaking into the apartment of a former teammate.
By now, you get the idea.
There are a lot of questions about a lot of these players heading into the draft, and no one, no matter what they may say after the fact, knows with absolute certainty which of these players will turn out okay and which will be a bust. There is a lot of revisionist history in the NFL, but the fact is that Peyton Manning was not rated that much ahead of Ryan Leaf when both were in the same draft.
Leaf, of course, is part of a long list of high draft busts.
Or have you forgotten names like Lawrence Phillips (murder charge, committed suicide in jail), Art Schlichter (gambling), JaMarcus Russell (a fat slob) and Charles Rogers (substance abuse), just to name only four among many?
Imagine if any of them had the verve, the fight, the, shall we say, want-to, of a player like Tom Brady who, upon being chosen with the 199th pick in the draft, told Patriots owner Robert Kraft, "I'm the best decision this organization has ever made." Based on achievement vs. draft position, Brady in fact surely was among the best draft choices in NFL history.
For the four in the previous paragraph, and Manziel, however, they could have told their NFL team, "I'm the dumbest decision this organization has ever made."
Here's another example: offensive tackle Antone Davis of Tennessee, who was chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles with the eighth pick in the first round of the 1991 draft.
Before that draft, I had accompanied a scout from the San Francisco 49ers on a coast-to-coast trip to check out several draft-eligible players. When we got to Knoxville to meet with Davis, he not only showed up late for his interview with the 49ers' scout but also was hideously out of shape. He blamed it on all the offseason travel and banquets and downplayed the fact he was about 25 pounds overweight.
Well, if you are going to show up for what amounts to a job interview for an important, well-paying position that involves physical work, wouldn't you think it might be a good idea to be in shape?
Apparently it did not bother the Eagles all that much, but Davis wound up a bust, of course.
We could throw more names into the mix -- Rick Mirer, Tim Couch, Heath Shuler, Blair Thomas and Steve Emtman, to name five more.
Or how about Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan? In 2012, Miami traded up to choose him with the third overall selection. In three years, Jordan has as many sacks (3) as drug suspensions, including the entire 2015 season.
The tale of Mirer, the Notre Dame star, is not atypical. After he bombed out with Seattle, which chose him with the second overall pick, he wound up signing with Green Bay as a backup to Brett Favre. Mike Holmgren explained that Mirer seemed like such a talent coming out of college, he had to see for himself what went wrong. Holmgren saw, and Mirer never played a down with the Packers.
So, you see, the problem is not just talent but something that doesn't show up on college game tapes and can't always be divined by pro scouts before the draft. It works both ways. Manning was a great quarterback but, seriously, did anyone have a clue he would be one of the most driven workers in the history of the NFL?
The problem is there is no reliable way to see inside a person's head, no matter how much time and effort a team spends studying.
Keep that in mind in the next three weeks of posturing, analysis and predictions leading up to the draft. There will be some major busts. We just don't know yet who they will be.
--Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than four decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.