The NFL Draft

What’s atop the sports leaderboard this week?

No games, no tournaments, no on-field competition.

The NFL Draft.

This league is truly year-round. It really never stops.

There is no question people can’t get enough of it.

The draft was held in Detroit. It used to be a New York thing every year.

How many attended the latest in the Motor City?  700,000.

That’s the most ever.

How many watched the million TV shows talking about the draft?

Record numbers as well.

If you need a “franchise” quarterback to have a chance, there are six teams who went for one in the first 12 picks.

Some will be successful, many some will be hugely successful.

Perhaps some won’t pan out.

Mitch Trubisky, who the Bears traded up to get a few years ago is one who didn’t make it.

The Bears picked USC’s Caleb Williams number one.

No surprise there, and really no real shockers early on.

No draft in history had so many QB’s picked so fast.

In fact, no defensive player was chosen till the 15th pick.

Who did well, and who didn’t?

Come on, you don’t think anyone really knows do you?

One thing I do know, if you checked out all the “experts” who graded out each team’s draft I hope you didn’t take any of it seriously.

Those experts watch college games, and see lots of hi-lite footage, and make their assessments without really knowing anything about the players.

I can’t remember when they failed to gush over every pick, praising them to the skies, and interviewing many of them as if they just won the Super Bowl MVP.

Maybe a few were unenthusiastic, but not many.

Look, it may be proven that teams picked the wrong guy, but that’s no because they didn’t do their homework.

For those who look at a couple of games, and a few clips of a player in action, keep in mind what all teams do to prepare for the draft.

Here’s an idea. They watch tape of virtually every prospect in virtually every game he played in college.

They talk to the coaches, trainers, opponent coaches and anyone else who may have a line on an individual.

They have seen him in person at games, scouting days and face-to-face meetings.

This includes General Managers who do that work as well.

Someone prepares a report on them and have to defend that report in front of other scouts and the General Manager.

They rank each player, and when their turn comes up, they either go for what the club needs right now, or the next best player available.

It may be one and the same.

That’s how those decisions are made.  That’s their job. That’s all they’re thinking about.

And keep in mind, the first round is always glamorous. But if you look at every successful team in the league, check out the rest of the rounds, yes, even those taken sixth. That’s how teams are built. Your 3d, 4th, and 5th choices better be good.

So, for an outsider to grade a team’s draft is a joke.

It may make for interesting reading or hearing, but it’s a joke.

We’ll see.

I have a few observations on the quarterback frenzy early in the first round.

When the Bears traded fourth year Justin Fields to the Steelers, who had already acquired veteran Russell Wilson from Seattle, those in Chicago said good riddance to Fields who was a number one pick and wasn’t making progress. Those in Pittsburgh said why are we getting Fields when we already have Wilson.

I think the Bears should have kept Fields and use him as a wildcard threat.

A guy who could line up as a receiver, or in the backfield with Wilson at QB, and wind up running, catching or throwing.

Why not?

I believe the Steelers will employ him that way.

Or, take over if Wilson falters.

I am also thinking that the Jets might have been wise to either trade up from number 11 for a quarterback, or take one still remaining.

Why do the Jets think Aaron Rodgers, now 40, and coming off Achilles surgery and recovery, will be even better to lead them to the playoffs or beyond?

I don’t get it.

It’s clear that the modern quarterback prospect may not be a running QB exclusively, but one who is mobile enough to avoid a rush, extend a plays, or take off and scamper if need be.

The newer editions of those who play that position are not as big, but a lot more elusive.

Players like Josh Allen of the Bills are unique.They have size and can move.

Does that mean the traditional bigger in-the-pocket guys are a thing of the past?

Let’s not forget Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow. Good enough to lead his team to a Super Bowl someday.

This was Jim Harbaugh’s first draft as the new head coach of the Chargers.

Harbaugh has a franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert, who hasn’t yet won but with a better supporting cast can win and win big.

The Chargers first round choice was Joe Alt, an offensive lineman from Notre Dame.

Harbaugh picked Alt at number 5 to help protect his quarterback and among other things.

When asked why he didn’t go for a “weapon” on offense, meaning a receiver or running back, Harbaugh said he regarded offensive linemen as attacking weapons. The tip of the spear he called it.

A great take by the new head coach since the key to every game is what happens up front with the offensive and defensive lines.

How many teams with capable quarterbacks are stymied because the line doesn’t do its job.

It’s been popular to bash Bill Belichick.

The drop-off by the Patriots in the last few seasons, his departure from New England, and his failure in not getting another head coaching job for the upcoming season has made the coach who has won the most Super Bowls an easy target.

The documentary “Dynasty” about the Patriots also and I might add, falsely thrust him into a poor light.

Bill Belichick has been portrayed as a curmudgeon, who has a dull personality. Stay away from this guy.

Well, for those who have known the man as someone who has a keen sense of humor and wonderful feel for the history of the game, it came as no surprise that Belichick came out on one of the TV talk programs as a savvy analyst of the draft with a sense of humor, and a warm smile that connected with viewers.

He will be a presence next season before he returns to coaching.

He’s been criticized for his coaching style and the fact he was abrupt with the media and never gave them the information they wanted.

His record speaks for itself.

And controversy was never a problem for the Patriots.

While on the subject of those who don’t know but act like they do,  I have to mention Mike Francesca, a long time talk show host on WFAN in New York.

Francesca has made a living on giving his opinions, some on the money, many, many dead wrong and way off the mark.

Last week he predicted Tom Brady would fail as a football expert-analyst when he begins his Fox Sports tenure on the lead team on NFL games next fall.

Francesca claimed the following: “I don’t think his heart’s in it. I don’t think his personality is such. I think there’s a unique quality that you have to bring that allows you as an analyst to see the game, see the game quickly, plus bring personality into it. You’re going to spend a lot of time breaking down what happens on replay. I don’t see him there.”

Look, Mike Francesca may ultimately be accurate.

No one really knows what the finished product will be.

But to say he doesn’t have his heart into it, or is not prepared to do the best job he can do is nothing more than a guess, a bad guess.

I’ll just leave it at that.

See, we’re into the month of May, and the column above has been about the NFL.

It never really stops.