Dr. Dean Schuyler is a smart guy, a man who uses big words such as "counter-intuitive" and "if, in fact" in regular conversations.

He is also a prominent Charleston psychiatrist and a blog-happy College of Charleston basketball fan who almost completely agrees with me on the reasons behind the mind-blowing popularity of the NFL draft.

Sure, it's the neat combo of the two most popular sports in America — pro football and college football — but the draft also taps into our frustrating real lives during tough times. Plus, the disturbing fascination with fantasy football and snack foods.

There is wall-to-wall NFL draft coverage on ESPN and ESPN2.

More draft buildup than ever before.

"War Room" reactions from Seattle to Miami.

"Do I know people whose life totally starts and stops with the NFL draft? Absolutely," Schuyler said. "It's young and old, black and white.

"The draft meets the needs of people in different ways, and one of them is quantitative. People say, 'I really enjoy thinking how my team would fit with this guy or that guy?' Or how would another team fit? All of which includes a real lack of data. The fact is, you have no idea how a player with no professional football experience at all fits into your favorite professional team or another team. So, really, it's all just fantasy."

Fantasy vs. reality

Fantasy football strategy, too.

Fantasy football is a concept in which pretend NFL owners with wacky team names — say, the dominant Stonewashed Genes — "draft" real NFL players and win or lose games each autumn week based on how those players perform statistically.

Some of these folks are truly nuts, I tell you.

Overly obsessed.

Negligent in their real-life duties.

By the way, if you are interested in trading down in a draft next August, let me know.

"You talk to people about pro football and ask about a score," Schuyler said, "and they say, 'I don't care much about that. I just care how my guys did.' So it seems there is a need for people to have 'their' team. And they can do things the actual wealthy NFL owners cannot do, like pick players from other teams. Clearly, this stuff satisfies a need."

Of course, big-time sports are entertainment and entertainment always has been the great escape.

But life for many people is extra stressful right now.

Except when the Carolina Panthers are on the clock and taking text messages from the Dallas Cowboys, agents and Jake Delhomme's accountant.

At least Mel Kiper Jr. has toned down the 'do.'

'Need' picks

Your favorite NFL team can decide how it selects players, which "need" positions to emphasize and whether to move up or stay put.

It's kind of like gambling, but closer to the American appetite for ratings, rankings and somewhat controlled contests like "American Idol."

"It all has something to do with control," Schuyler said. "If you're in a situation where you feel you are less and less in control of your life, this is for you.

"The NFL draft or a fantasy draft will give you a lot more sway."

Thanks, Dean. Good stuff. And we don't even have to stretch out on a couch.

At least not until Matthew Stafford or Mark Sanchez become the next Tim Couch.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or gsapakoff@postandcourier.com.