I want to talk about the NFL Draft at the outset today – – but I promise that I am not going to pretend to be able to “grade” any team’s draft even before any one of their draft picks has reported to training camp. I prefer to look back at the draft from a different perspective.
There was something new about the 2018 NFL Draft. It was covered by ESPN and by FOX. You had a choice this year regarding which football gurus you preferred to listen to as you were waiting for the next pick to be announced. As I bounced back and forth between coverages, I noted these observations:
- None of the experts on either channel was particularly adept at forecasting the upcoming pick.
- On FOX, Joel Klatt and Troy Aikman were on-field quarterbacks. I found their commentary about the plethora of QBs selected early in the first round to be more interesting than the commentary on ESPN at the same time.
- Once the “QB-wave” had crested, Troy Aikman’s observations were pretty superficial.
- According to all the “analysts”/”gurus” on these programs, every player picked is super-talented and could become an All-Pro player down the line.
It is that last observation that grinds my gears more than just a little bit. History tells everyone who pays attention that somewhere between a third and a half of the players picked in the first two rounds of any draft do not amount to a drab of donkey dung in the NFL. Just because they are picked high in the draft does not mean they will do anything meritorious in the NFL. I would greatly prefer to hear the “analysts”/”gurus” be a tad more critical/discerning in their exultation of each and every pick. The fact that all these guys say that every pick is a great one and that the guy taken is going to be really good is lazy and sycophantic.
I have another over-arching view of the draft as it pertains to the New England Patriots. For at least the last month, all that I have heard about the Pats is that there is discord in the locker room and that they will have to find a way to draft Tom Brady’s replacement in this draft because Brady is the leader of the locker room rebellion. Well, maybe Brady is and maybe he isn’t; in fact, maybe there is a locker room rebellion and maybe there isn’t. Looking back however, here is what I see:
- The Pats were AFC Champions last year and played in the Super Bowl.
- They achieved that stature without much of a contribution from their draft picks last year. They had no picks in the first two rounds and both of their third-round picks sat out the season on IR. Both are expected back this year meaning that a team that was good enough to get to the Super Bowl is going to add two high draft picks from last year who contributed nothing to the team getting that far. Derek Rivers is a DE – – a position identified as a team need this year – – and Antonio Garcia is an OT – – another position identified as a team need this year.
- In this year’s draft, the Pats added an offensive lineman from Georgia, a running back to replace Dion Lewis (lost to free agency), a highly regarded CB and as a result of a trade with the Niners, they landed Trent Brown who might be a long-term starter at OT.
[Aside: I really like the Pats’ 7th round pick of Braxton Barrios from Miami. I think he may be the next Julian Edelman/Wes Welker/Danny Amendola for the Pats.]
There are plenty of “ifs” and “maybes” and “projections” in the commentary above; nevertheless, for a team that is coming off a Super Bowl level of performance in 2017, I would say that the future is not nearly as foreboding as many pundits/rumor-mongers would have you believe.
The other story that relates to the NFL Draft only because of its timing is that Jason Witten will be leaving the Dallas Cowboys to take the job with ESPN as the color analyst for Monday Night Football. Congratulations to ESPN for “breaking the mold” and putting someone behind the microphone who did something other than play QB in the league. From listening to Witten speak in interview settings, he is articulate and bright; if he can find a way to work harmoniously with play-by-play guy, Joe Tessitore, he should be just fine on MNF. And from my perspective, “just fine” will be a monumental improvement over the departed – but not lamented – Jon Gruden.
Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times interprets recent medical findings to the NFL here:
“Adults should average no more than one alcoholic drink per day according to a new international study.
“With the obvious exception, say, of Browns’ fans.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………