The NFL draft is here.
By the time you read this, you might already know who did what. If that’s the case, it might be fascinating to check back on the thought process that preceded the lottery.
There is a curiosity and excitement in the air that’s above what we’ve experienced in past seasons.
Why? Because there are a load of highly-touted quarterback prospects and there are plenty of teams who are looking for the man to lead them to the promised land.
The big question? How many, if any, can get the job done.
Teams fortunes for years to come may be decided with what they do beginning Thursday night. So will the careers of General Managers who are paid to be right.
Two years ago, Eagles GM Howie Roseman traded up to the second spot and selected Carson Wentz. Last year, Wentz was headed for an MVP season when he went down with a severe knee injury. The Eagles were winning big at the time. After Wentz was knocked out of action backup Nick Foles came in and led the Eagles to the championship. Wentz is expected to return this season. Philadelphia has two big-time quarterbacks and Howie Roseman is golden.
My good friend Ernie Accorsi, solidified his reputation when he chose Eli Manning to QB the Giants after making a deal with the Chargers.
Ernie liked both Manning and Ben Roethlisberger in that 2004 draft. The Giants had the fourth pick, the Chargers were No. 1.
Manning insisted he would not play for San Diego. It is rare such a declaration is made by a player. It once worked for the great John Elway, who spurned Baltimore and wound up as a championship quarterback in Denver.
In 2004, the Chargers took no chances and completed the following deal with the Giants: San Diego at No. 1 would draft Eli Manning. The Giants would select QB Philip Rivers at No. 4. Thus, there was no chance Eli Manning would be taken by the teams picking second and third.
The Chargers would send Manning to the Giants. Rivers, who the Chargers coveted, would be theirs, and rest is history.
Manning led the Giants to two Super Bowl titles. Roethlisberger, by the way, has done the same for the Steelers who grabbed him at No. 11.
Rivers has had a successful and long career. But no Super Bowl appearances.
So the annual draft of college prospects is not only about who chooses whom, it’s also about the trades that are made in the eleventh hour.
Teams might trade up for a higher pick to get a particular player they desire. In that case they would offer extra draft choices.
Or they might trade down several notches to gain more selections in later rounds.
Two facts about any draft in any year:
- The results may not be known for several years.
- It’s NOT only about the first round.
History indicates, the building of a team is based on the entire draft. You better be on-the-money about picks 2, 3, 4 and even beyond if you expect to be a contender.
There is a glut of highly-touted quarterbacks available this year. If you’ve followed this, you know who they are.
Sam Darnold of USC. Josh Rosen, who starred for UCLA, the cross-town rivals of the Trojans. Josh Allen, from Wyoming, a team that didn’t play a high-caliber schedule. Then there is Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Mason Rudolph from Oklahoma State is on the top list.
The final QB candidate is the most intriguing: Lamar Jackson. Jackson played at Louisville and won the Heisman Trophy in 2016.
If you win the Heisman vote, you’re regarded as the top college player of the year.
Here’s the quandary? While all of the above have the credentials to possibly lead a team to contention for a championship, all of the above have question marks that present serious doubts.
For example: many scouts are convinced Allen is the best of the crop. But his completion percentage has been mediocre.
There are those who feel Darnold doesn’t have the hands to protect the football. He turns the ball over too much. That’s the worst thing a quarterback can do.
The questions go on down the line.
Here are the reasons why Lamar Jackson is a wild-card. He doesn’t fit the mold of the “traditional” quarterback profile. He wasn’t the drop-back signal-caller at Louisville most pro teams possess.
But he does have a certain electricity, and special athletic skills we’ve seen on NFL teams that are extremely effective.
Think of Russell Wilson of the Seahawks, and even the Texans’ Deshaun Watson.
Wilson has given Seattle a dimension that befuddle opponents and he’s helped make them a champion during his tenure.
Same goes for Watson, who was injured and KO’d for the season in 2017, but not before giving the Texans a effective spark.
Both Wilson and Watson can take off in an instant and with their speed, disrupt a defense. But they can also throw well from the pocket.
While Russell Wilson has become a fixture in the league, and Watson is more about potential, they are both dangerous.
Jackson could be the same.
Baker Mayfield is in a similar spot. He’s done everything right. But the knock on Mayfield is his height. He’s 6-feet, considered too short to throw over those huge defensive linemen. But Russell Wilson is shorter at 5-feet-11 inches.
How has that worked out for the Seahawks?
Decisions, decisions, decisions!
That brings us to the man considered the best player on the board.
He’s not one of the quarterbacks. He’s a running back. Saquon Barkley who had a spectacular career at Penn State is considered a one-of-a-kind performer. I’ve heard one true expert say he’s the best running back he’s seen since O. J. Simpson!
Let’s now discuss the teams involved.
The Cleveland Browns, who simply can’t get it right in drafting and building a team, has the first and fourth choices in the first round. But the Browns might have finally found the man to get it right. His name is John Dorsey, and he’s built up a strong reputation as a General Manager in Kansas City and in the front offices of the Packers and Seahawks.
It has been widely assumed the Browns would take the best quarterback in their view at No. 1, then Barkley with the fourth pick.
But it appears there is no way Saquon Barkley will last till the fourth selection.
With the lack of certainty of the quarterbacks, might the Browns go for Barkley first, then see what QB is out there at number four?
The rule of thumb seems to be, if you are not certain that your choice for quarterback will become your franchise quarterback for a decade, at least, and make your team a championship contender, choose elsewhere.
That’s the gamble facing so many teams this year.
There’s been action even before the draft. The New York Jets traded up from number sixth to third. They need a quarterback desperately.
The Buffalo Bills went from 22 to 12. They might even move up higher in another deal.
Everybody watches the Patriots. Where New England drafts and who they select is always a top-secret, James Bond-like adventure.
When the Patriots jumped to 23rd in a trade with the Rams, observers were wondering if there was still another move in Bill Belichick’s back pocket.
If the 2018 NFL draft is history when you read this, consider the factors that may have gone into what transpired.
If you haven’t, be aware of the importance of what’s about to happen.
It will probably be the most crucial development in the next decade for your favorite NFL team.