Lessons from the NFL Draft

May 1, 2017 Kevin Whalen

NFL Draft Image

Even though the Patriots barely participated, making only four picks total, fewest in franchise history, I still watched an embarrassingly large amount of the NFL draft over the weekend.  It can be highly entertaining. Take Dallas Cowboy legend Drew Pearson’s epic trolling of the Philadelphia Eagles fans. Then there was Roger Goodell.

As each player was selected, the TV analysts and “draft experts” started talking about measurables. This is equivalent to looking at a product and picking one based on a data sheet alone. What are the speeds and feeds? One guy had a great 40-yard dash, another benched pressed 225-lbs 30 times. They even talked about things like “fast twitch and loose hips”. These were not even things when I played football. Anyway, after the obligatory run through the numbers, they sometimes get into other factors, like injury history and personal background.

Many of these discussions are ugly. They involve violence against women, drug arrests, gun charges and more. One exception was when the Falcons drafted UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley.

McKinley’s grandmother, Myrtle Collins, had raised him in a tough neighborhood in Richmond, Calif., but she fell ill in 2011, while he was still in high school. He made a vow to her on her deathbed that he would play Division I college football, then used that promise as motivation during a discouraging stretch at a community college, after he got a scholarship to the University of California but failed to qualify academically.

When Atlanta made McKinley the 26th overall pick Thursday, he came up to the stage with a photo of Collins in his hand and a message of determination on his mind. “I made a promise to her and I stuck to it! I made that promise, man.

“I told her! Before she passed away, I was going to live my dream! I was gonna go D-I! I was gonna get out of Richmond, I was gonna get out of Oakland! I was gonna go to the NFL! I made that promise to her, man! Thirty seconds later she passed away!”

This was a great moment and it got me thinking that what teams are drafting is so much more than the product. You are drafting the environment that the player was developed in. You are drafting intangibles, like maturity, ability to handle pressure, riches and “the life”.

In our business, you are also choosing more than a product, more than speeds and feeds. Sure, those are important. You wouldn’t draft a player who ran a 6 second 40-yard dash, or couldn’t bench press 200lbs. However, measurables alone don’t tell the story. What else are you getting when the product looks good. Will it perform under pressure and do what it was advertised to do? What about the people behind the product, will they forget about you once they make the team, or will they be there in your darkest hours?

One reason why Arbor has been so successful over the years is because our products work as advertised, in the toughest network environments imaginable. However, we have worked for more than a decade with the world’s largest network operators not solely because of our product speeds and feeds. It’s because of the family that developed these products and the passion they bring to work every day. It’s about the overall environment these products were raised in and the people behind them. It’s about an ongoing commitment to customers, it’s about our ability to solve complex challenges and to be there in their moment of greatest need, when they are under attack and much is on the line. You don’t become a strategic partner to the world’s largest organizations if you only sell a product.

Who says the NFL Draft is boring?

To learn more about what makes Arbor Networks tick, check this out.

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