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Lay your chips on the table, its the NFL draft
Live from Press Row
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Gambling is shunned by the NFL, unless you're in the war room on draft day. During this weekend's selection show, team headquarters are transformed into casinos and alleyways, minus the cocktail waitress or graffiti-stained walls, where heavy cash bets are played out in front a national televised audience.

The NFL draft is like a game of Cee-lo, craps, blackjack and high-stakes poker all rolled into one with coaches and team executives throwing in all their chips on the potential of a player becoming the bridge of success to their

Careers have been made and destroyed as a result of the draft. Every year around this time, coaches, general managers, scouts and the so-called draft experts channel their inner Miss Cleo by looking through a crystal ball with psychic visions landing that can't miss prospect.

However, this process is an inexact science that often leaves a plate full of scrambled eggs running down the faces of team personnel when their picks don't live up to expectations. Or - even worse - when a late-round sleeper wakes up to one day become a Super Bowl champion.

From Tony Mandarich and Ryan Leaf to Tim Couch and Akli Smith, the draft has seen its share of college stars turn into NFL duds. While in the same breath, hidden gems like Tom Brady (2000 sixth round, 199th pick) and James Harrison (2002 undrafted rookie, winner of the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year) have shined, making those who passed up on them look like a cluster of phony psychic network advisors.

It's way too early to tell now, but we're sure to see the same things happen with this draft class. Last year, several Atlanta fans were crying for Arkansas running back Darren McFadden or LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and shunned the team's first-round selection of Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan.

But after leading his team to an 11-5 mark with a trip to the playoffs and setting an NFL record for the most completions in a game by a rookie with 26, along with becoming only the second rookie quarterback to start in all 16 games and lead his squad to the postseason, Ryan has made fans forget about wanting McFadden, Dorsey and in some circles, former star quarterback Michael Vick (2001 No. 1 overall pick).

This draft's gambles begin with the previously winless Detroit Lions, owners of the first overall pick. All offseason, the continuous debate has been whether the Lions should select a quarterback like former University of Georgia star Matthew Stafford or trade down for multiple picks.

With one roll of the dice, a team can potentially make their organization a future viable commodity or open the door for an avalanche of failure. One thing is for certain, once NFL commissioner Roger Goodell heads to the podium with the card in his hand, all bets are final.

So here's hoping your and my favorite team cashes in on a future with a large payout.

In the real world, gambling is a sickness, but at the NFL draft, it's a way of life.