What we are looking at above is a number of specific answers to some larger and much more stubborn questions. This image, an original text in the Remember Some Guys tradition, bears the handwriting of a young Tom Ley and was furnished to this website by his mother, Mom Ley. It illustrates the results of an auction-style NFL fantasy draft held at a time that leading experts have estimated but not yet ascertained. That is what we know for sure. The rest is conjecture. This is the way it goes.
The Guys whose names appear give some sense of the time period. There are only so many years in which Byron Chamberlain was being selected in fantasy drafts, for example, which pegs this all squarely in the middle of the first decade of this millennium, but the valuations on the rest are confusing. Shaun Alexander’s price suggests he was chosen near or just after his peak, which came in 2006, but the mere presence of Garrison Hearst’s name on the list moves the prospective timeline back a couple of years. The price that Mom Ley paid for Priest Holmes suggests that she got in on the early side of his Demigod Period; that David Boston was drafted at all does not work with any of the possible timelines suggested above; the mysterious Nikki’s prioritization of Frank Wycheck is honestly very difficult to parse by any measure; whatever the year, Andreas got himself a steal on the reliable Curtis Conway at just $5. It is possible that knowing the price paid for Antowain Smith would cause all the stubborn tumblers above to fall into place and open the vault, but the image cuts off and leaves us short, there. We can only ever know so much. All drafts are like this, as they happen and for a decent while after that.
On Thursday night, NFL executives attempted to do something that fantasy football idiots have done with relative ease for many years now, which is draft players onto their team without everyone involved being in the same room at the same time. As is typical for the NFL, this extremely mundane thing was handled with a preposterous and distinctive combination of grave seriousness and thunderously chowderheaded overdetermination. Seahawks GM John Schneider destroying multiple walls in his home so as not to Block The Internet Waves is, just on its own, a perfect little poem about how powerful men think and act in this country at this moment. Other executives were less vigorously smashy, but similarly overwhelmed by this simplest of technological tasks. These decision-making men live in bleak suburban instamanses or Arizonan permutations of the Parasite house or rusticated island estates, but it was clear that none of them had ever done any actual work there.
It went up the chain like this. Roger Goodell went on Good Morning America and talked about what he insisted upon calling his Man Cave; a video later revealed that said cave featured a throw pillow with the NFL logo on it. After a long introductory video scored with plaintive pianos and voiced through the pipe-organ sinuses of Peyton Manning, which played like a political campaign ad that had somehow figured out how to get weepily drunk, Goodell took the podium and pretended that he was the President of the United States. He thanked the troops. “Let us dream of better days,” he said, “and help others,” and then he tossed it to Harry Connick, Jr. for the national anthem. People desperate for sports—any sports, even this patchy conference-call version of sports transactions—instead got a prolonged dose of the same uneasy energy that’s suffuses those Verizon ads where they’re like “we know you’re scared of dying and depressed. Verizon is scared, too.”
It’s all very odd, but there are, all across this country, men who vibrate at precisely this uncanny frequency, and to whom all of this weird-ass shit was both deeply normal and pitched at exactly the right level of emotional seriousness. These are highly competitive, secretly maudlin men who read Sun Tzu and apply his ancient teachings to browbeating or inspiring the employees of the Petco stores they manage or the Subway franchises they own; they believe shockingly strange things in many cases, but they are also deeply and proudly normal. NFL executives differ from people like this in degree, but not in kind. Treating something goofy like a remote draft as if it were an extremely complicated neurosurgical procedure is an authentic expression of how they view their jobs and the world, and the relationship between the two. (It is telling that the league’s only owner-exec, immortal scotch wizard Jerry Jones, insisted that his scouting staff not interrupt his draft deliberations and made his pick—the coolest player available, Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb, credit where due—from a room on his nauseatingly gaudy yacht. It is surprising and honestly disappointing that, given the circumstances, he did not somehow manage to draft Pamela Anderson.)
Was any of this good? It’s hard to say, but all things considered it was both unbearable and totally fine. In the absence of any actual sports to watch, there was—and will still be over the subsequent rounds of conference calls in the next few days—at least something that was nearly sports. There was the NFL being very busy doing NFL things with all the pomp and circumstance that can be managed over Zoom by men who believe at the very core of their beings that computers are somehow not real, or anyway less real than the results of a punt returner’s Wonderlic test.
Some of these picks will work out and most will not. Even the ones that fall into the former group will spend most or all of their careers in anonymity, aching in the dirt. One or two or three of the players drafted will become Dudes. Some will wash all the way out, quickly or less quickly, and people will remember them for that. Some will ascend to claim the level of status as the players whose names an adolescent Tom scrawled down however many years ago; we must believe that the next Antowain Smith is out there, and the fact that this is surely true is not the only reason we need to believe it.
But during this draft, at this moment of great cultural need, all these players and the many whose names have not yet been called will become and be Draft Guys, and memorable for that. They will honor the Draft Guy legacies of Mike Mamula and Curtis Enis and Dan McGwire and Bjorn Werner; this generation will meet its own analogues to Robert Gallery and Cadillac Williams and Vernon Gholston and Knowshon Moreno. They will be—they are now, although no one truly knows it yet—Draft Guys to remember. This is how it goes. Sometimes it feels more momentous than others.
So: who are some Draft Guys that you remember?