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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 02 2008

Analysts set Drago up for fall

On Tuesday, Mike Dragosavich went before some local cameras and microphones and put on a happy face. It was a good effort, but there was evidence it looked forced and the reason was not his fault.

No, it was the NFL analysts. They set him up for the big fall.

Not once in the weeks leading up to the NFL draft did the man we call Drago say anything about the necessity of being drafted, not to my knowledge anyway. His line was more like: I’m just hoping for a shot, whether it be the draft or free agent or whatever.

It was guys like Mel Kiper who put the Bison punter on a pedestal. Drago didn’t ask to be labeled “the best player available” in the latter stages of the fifth round and all of the sixth and seventh rounds. It was the analysts who said Drago was the first- or second-best punter available.

The analysts are supposedly keyed in on the think tanks around the NFL, but when it came to Drago, you have to question their sources.

As it turned out, there were flaws in the scout’s evaluation of Drago and nobody even offered the punter a free agent contract. So, it leaves us with two possibilities:

- The analysts could care less about punters and didn’t do much homework on them. Scouts had questions about Dragosavich’s delivery time and consistency. He also had some inopportune shanks in workouts.

- NFL scouts and front office personnel either gave the analysts bad information or they don’t provide them much information at all. Nobody, after all, had Joe Mays as a probable draft pick.

When Philadelphia selected the ex-Bison linebacker in the sixth round, the folks at the ESPN sports desk were probably left scrambling for information. Did anybody else notice the broadcast crew didn’t talk about Mays at all? Almost all of the other picks got some kind of review.

It was several Web site analysts who sang Drago’s praise all winter. NFL.com said Drago “is likely to be the second punter drafted after Ray Guy Award winner Durant Brooks.”

It’s not much different than college recruiting. You hear about the stars given to recruits by online networks like Rivals.com. The more stars, the better the player – or so they tell you.

Well, last weekend, NDSU had more players drafted than the University of Alabama. Five years ago, the Tide probably had recruits with more stars than the Bison had players. NDSU? It was still a Division II school rarely seen on a national recruiting map.

Today, Drago is in Boston for a tryout with the New England Patriots. You can only hope the disappointment of not living up to Mel Kiper is gone.

He’s a free spirit who had his spirit dampened by the system. It took away some of the excitement of what a lot kids could only dream about: a chance to try out with an NFL team.

Readers can reach Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546 or jkolpack@forumcomm.com.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com