NFL Draft — Taking on a Life of Its Own

The annual NFL draft has taken on a life of its own.

The minute one is over, all the so-called experts conduct their mock drafts for next year, listing in order, who will go where. It’s a silly exercise, really, since it has no bearing on which college players will actually earn rating
or stay healthy.

These mock drafts, and there are plenty, are continually updated for an entire year up to the very minute of the next actual draft.
Maybe I’m being premature as to the timing of when the predictions for next April will get underway.
Right now, the “all knowing” are busy grading how each team performed. As if they have any idea.
It’s one thing to have seen a few games on television and have an opinion on a prospect. It’s another, to view a player’s entire career on tape, talk to his school’s coaching staff, coaches who faced him, trainers, and countless others who provide a more accurate profile on a player’s true abilities, temperament, intelligence, and attitude.

All those items mentioned above are standard operating procedure for EVERY player on the draft board.

That’s a fact.

So when you and I express an opinion on a player, it’s pure conjecture, other than those athletes who are obviously earmarked for success. Those, whose performance would be shocking if they DIDN’T become stars. And there are, truly, many of those in every draft.

The fact that over 600,000 attended the three-day NFL draft in Nashville is mind-boggling. But that’s what this lottery has become.

I’m not about to grade the teams, because I’m not qualified, and yes, no one has yet even suited up. And it is, when you think of it, awfully boring, when you consider hearing name after name for 32 teams over seven
rounds in three days.

But there are the big stories.

When it began, I felt an anticipation I’ve not experienced before for a pro football draft. It centered around whether the Arizona Cardinals, the team with the worst record last season, would select quarterback Kyler Murray for the first pick.

Kyler Murray


Murray is one of the new-age quarterbacks, who have remarkable athletic ability that transcends many professional athletes. He is lightning fast, has a terrific arm, and basically, to cut to the chase, can simply make plays, extend plays, turn nothing into something big, and basically has the knack to do things others cannot.

He’s so proficient, he was in demand as a baseball player, selected by the Oakland A’s with the ninth overall selection in the 2018 MLB draft. But Murray has decided on football.

There are always naysayers about everyone, and the knock on Murray is his size. He is listed at 5-feet 10-inches, and was officially measured at that size. Still, there are those who still feel he is shorter than that. Someone please explain that to me.

The issue is that Murray will get hurt, especially for a QB who can run, thus his value is lessened. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, who has a similar, but probably a less talented quarterback in Lemar Jackson feels anyone playing the game can be injured, that you can’t live your life in fear.

Kliff Kingsbury, the new head coach of the Cardinals obviously feels the same. Kingsbury began recruiting Murray, when the player was a high school sophomore, and the coach was offensive coordinator at Texas A&M.

That was in 2012.

Kingsbury, who became head coach at Texas Tech the next year, continued to recruit Murray. But Murray didn’t follow the coach to Tech, although the bond had been established. Now, the two are finally united. Kyler Murray’s modern style of play, fits perfectly into Kliff Kingsbury’s modern style of coaching.

I think it’s an exciting matchup that the Arizona Cardinals had to create.
Sometimes you don’t over-analyze, you just pull the trigger and go.

The decision to draft Murray led to the decision to trade Josh Rosen. The Cardinals sacrificed to move up and draft Rosen with the 10th choice last season. Rosen was one of the highly-heralded quarterbacks in the 2018 field but had a terrible season.

His statistics were sub-par, to say the least, and the image of Josh Rosen was of a rookie QB either running for his life in the face of poor protection, or making a critical mistake at the worst time.

Josh Rosen


As it turned out, my Fox NFL crew was assigned to broadcast five Cardinal games in the first eight weeks. I saw Rosen first hand, and I had the chance to get to know what he was about, the best I could.

Despite my decades covering the game, I know I am not an “expert” judging players. I have a good idea but I don’t know more than those who are paid to make those judgments. The professionals. What I saw was a rookie who was was working with his fifth offensive coordinator in the past four years dating back to his days at UCLA.

He had two in his first year in the NFL, a head coach who would last only one season, an offensive line that constantly put him at risk, and basically a recipe for failure.

When I meet an athlete I can only judge what I see. How he handles himself. Like I do with anybody. I was impressed with Josh Rosen and I guess the great Larry Fitzgerald feels the same. Instead of immediately heading to Miami after his trade to the Dolphins, Rosen remained to take part in Fitzgerald’s celebrity softball game for charity. He received a standing ovation and Fitzgerald, the future Hall-of-Fame receiver had this to say: “It’s just a testament to who he is as a man. He could have easily gone down to Miami already, but it shows you his commitment, his character, and just friendship. I’m very fortunate to call him a friend. Looking forward to seeing him do great things in Miami.”

I believe Larry Fitzgerald knows character when he sees it.

I’m not saying Josh Rosen will become a successful NFL quarterback based on what I saw and what Fitzgerald believes. I know he’s been an easy target.

Just as the Giants have been for drafting quarterback Daniel Jones of Duke as high as number six. Second-guessing is easy, and not one of the naysayers will ever admit they’re wrong years from now, but the Giants have done their homework on the most important position on a football team.
Time, of course, will tell. We know not every decision proves to be the right one. But I just have the gut feeling, the Cardinals with Murray, the Dolphins with Rosen, and the Giants with Jones, made the right moves.

Daniel Jones

When people ask me who were the top sports figures I’ve covered, I usually think of decency, character, and class, in addition to performance.

John Havlicek had it all.

He passed away last week, and it was especially sad for me.
I covered Havlicek as a local broadcaster for the Celtics during the 70’s.

Unless you spend time with a team on somewhat of a day-to-day basis, you don’t really get to know the athletes you cover.

As primarily, a network reporter, you see different teams and players from week to week, going in and out of cities for the different matchups.

When I covered the Celtics, Red Sox, Oakland A’s, and San Antonio Spurs I got to know the players on those teams.

John Havlicek was one of the very few athletes who were part of two separate eras of championship glory.

His first, was with in the mid-sixties when the Bill Russell-led Celtics dominated the NBA.

The second, was in the 70’s, when a totally different Celtics team, led by
Dave Cowens stood at the top of the league.

In his 16 seasons, Havlicek was part of 8 world championship teams.

He never lost one.

He was a sleek, fabulous clutch-shooting 6’5”, who played suffocating
defense, possessed unheard of stamina, and had remarkable intelligence on the court.

He always wanted the ball to take the last shot in a tight game.

He always wanted to defend the best shooter he was playing.

He always seemed to make the big play.

His composure never varied.

He was relentless.

Off the court he was a smiling, pleasant, and a kind gentleman.

John Havlicek was as good as anyone I’ve known in my profession.

Watching him and knowing him, you could almost say, he could have lived forever.

He’ll be missed.