Friday, April 23, 2010

Draft Musings

Gopher spring game arrives tomorrow, which will give us something to Gopher football-related to talk about other than arrests, major injuries, and how the coaches are saying the quarterback competition is still open even though we all know it's not. If you're one of the unfortunate souls like myself who won't be able to see it in person, it will be aired on the Big Ten Network at some point. So that will give us plenty to discuss next week.

For today, like just about everybody I know who is even a casual football fan, I want to talk NFL draft. I'm not going to hand out grades since you can't judge a draft until at least four or five years down the road and I'm not going to give a 2nd round mock draft because really what's the point? What I want from a draft "expert" or analyst is to tell me who they think is good and who they think will be a bust and why. It's a total guesstimation to try and tell me you think you know who's drafting who. Everyone for every team lies this time of year, but what I want to know is who is going to be good. And if I'm going to rip on analysts for being wrong about these kind of things, I might as well get my uneducated opinion out there to be ripped too.

For the life of me, I'll never understand why you HAVE to take a quarterback #1 overall. The three best players in this draft went #2, 3, and 4, which means the Rams, with the top pick, didn't get one of those three because they HAD to have a franchise quarterback. Look, a good QB is important and the NFL has become a passing league, but call me crazy, if you have the #1 pick and you want to improve your team, you take the best player available. Not only that, but very, VERY few QB's can come in right away and be good without a lot of help around them. Successful 1st round QB's of late like The Sanchize, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger were certainly talented, but they also had talent around them from day 1, and weren't asked to do much as rookies. All of those teams had excellent running games, and allowed the QB's to get their feet wet by doing as little as possible while getting starter reps. If you insist on starting a rookie QB, this is the way to do it.

The way not to do it is to throw the kid into the fire on a terrible team with no help. David Carr, Alex Smith, Joey Harrington, JaMarcus Russell and the many top 5 QB busts of the last decade or so could have been solid players (well ok not Russell. What the hell were the Raiders thinking? I'd say what the hell are the Raiders ever thinking when it comes to the draft except they might have actually made a really good pick last night grabbing Bama LB Rolando McClain. He should be a keeper), but when you're getting killed each and every week, it takes a very rare person to be able to survive that and eventually thrive. Peyton Manning is one. Drew Bledsoe was another. John Elway was a third. I'm probably forgetting someone, but it's a pretty short list of highly drafted rookie QB's in the last 30 years who are thrown into the fire and make much of a career, let alone a Pro Bowl-caliber one. We might be able to add Matt Stafford to this list, as his rookie year in Detroit went much better than I thought it would, but if the Rams plan to throw Sam Bradford to the wolves this fall, history tells us he's much more likely to fail than succeed.

Plus, Bradford's not even the best QB in the draft. Colt McCoy is. I've been bullish on McCoy for awhile, and while both Jer and I would LOVE to see the Vikes snap him up with the 34th pick, I highly doubt it happens. The difference for me with McCoy and Bradford is that we know McCoy can handle adversity. He's played with extremely talented teams at Texas and then last year with a subpar group who he willed to the national title game. The Horns last year had no running game, and no real receiving threat other than 41 year old Jordan Shipley in his 17th year of eligibility. Colt's stats didn't compare to 2008, but his completion percentage was still around 70%. He's another Drew Brees, and just like Brees, he's going to make some team in the 2nd round very, very happy. I wish it were The Purple but I doubt it happens.

My problem with Bradford is we just don't know. His Heisman winning season of 2008 was played for the absolute dream team: an offensive line, if I'm not mistaken, who were all drafted, a couple of NFL caliber receivers, the best TE in the country in Jermaine Gresham, and Oklahoma's usual stable of running backs. Bradford ran the country's best offense like a machine and was rarely hurried, let alone sacked. Then just about everyone graduated and Bradford barely made it through game one last year before BYU hurt his shoulder. Hey, could he have faced adversity and led a worse team to a BCS game like McCoy? Maybe, but the point is, we don't know, and that would be a major red flag for me if I had the #1 pick. That, and he clearly wasn't one of the four best players in this draft.

I mean really, if you're the Rams, would you rather have Bradford and then whomever they take at 33 tonight, or Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh (for Mike Morris, it's pronounced "In-dom-uh-kin". It's not that hard there Superstar) and then have your pick of McCoy or Jimmy Clausen? You'd have to be crazy to say the former, which means the Ram must be crazy.

Seriously, as a Vikings fan how much does it suck that because the Rams took Bradford #1, Detwah gets the draft's best player in Suh and now he's going to wreak havoc on The Purple twice a year. Although, I suppose had the Rams made the right pick and taken Suh, we'd still have to face a dominant DT in Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, who ended up in Tampa. These two seemed to me like the biggest slam-dunk, no-brainer choices in the whole draft, but of course, because they're DT's, the unwritten archaic NFL draft rules say you shouldn't take them #1 overall. Why? Because Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson didn't work out in 1994, and before that, the Canes Russell Maryland was only so-so. Yep, 0-2 on superstar DT's taken #1 overall more than 15 freaking years ago means you can never, ever draft them there again while teams keep swinging and missing on top QB's. Makes perfect non-sense to me.

Another unwritten archaic draft rule is that "you shouldn't take safeties in the top 5 because they're not worth top 5 money." Thank goodness Kansas City didn't listen, and took the third best player in the draft in Tennessee S Eric Berry, who should only start for them from day one and barring injury be a Pro Bowler for years to come. I mean really, who would want that from your first round pick?

The fourth best guy in this draft is former Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant, and yes, I hate that Dallas was smart enough to trade up to get him. You have to think Jerry Jones is still pissed he passed on Randy Moss for character issues back in 1998, and wasn't going to let another uber-talented pass catcher with perceived character issues get away from him. Bryant isn't quite in Moss' class of athlete (then again, no one other than maybe Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders has been), but he's still clearly the best receiver in this draft, and had he not made one dumb decision- lying to the NCAA about hanging out with the aforementioned Neon Deion- he would have probably gone to the Skinnies at #4 (not that taking an OT there was a bad decision. Taking a LT in the top 10 is never a bad decision. It's the safest position to take. When in doubt, draft a LT. Unless his name is Robert Gallery. Suck it Iowa! Speaking of which, it's perfect that Hawkeye OL Bryan Bulaga would go from the Gophers biggest rival to the Vikings biggest rival. Not sure he's a LT or even a RT, but for the Cheeseheads to get him at 25, who really cares. He'll start somewhere for them next year and should stay there for a long time. I HATE it when Minnesota's rivals make smart decisions. Thank God Jerry Angelo is still running the Bears and the Lions are...well crap they did just get Suh and Jahvid Best. I'm not sure I can live in a world where Detroit does things that make sense.).

Other than that one dumb decision, I'm not sure what all of these character issues are that people are worried about for Bryant. He's cocky? He's arrogant? He might have an attitude problem? Um, he's a wide receiver. Other than Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, and Wes Welker don't they all have some prima donna in them? I mean that's what makes them good receivers is because they're selfish. Anywho, so Bryant falls all the way to 24, and along with Best (because the opportunity for him to start with the Leones right away should be wide open) he's the favorite for offensive rookie of the year in 2010.

As for Big Ten wideouts, there'll definitely be some intrigue tonight for rounds 2 and 3. Either Eric Decker or Arrelious Benn will be the first Big Ten receiver taken, and both should be gone in round 2. I know Decker won't end up in Purple because that's the last thing the Vikes need, so I just hope he doesn't go to the Cowboys or a division rival. I can live with him anywhere else. MSU's Blair White probably won't be taken until Saturday, but the former walk-on could be a nice 3rd receiver for somebody for a long time. He's a big, physical kid who clearly isn't afraid of hard work and could be a steal late.

Actually, what's with the whitey receivers this year? Decker, White, Florida's Riley Cooper (if he doesn't go play baseball) and the 57 year old 17th year senior Shipley could all be solid NFL players. I'm not sayin' I'm just sayin'. Also, as much as I hate Notre Dame, Golden Tate could challenge Bryant for the best wideout in this draft.

Ok, that's enough ramblings for today. For those going to the Gophs game tomorrow, I'm jealous, but enjoy it, and when I get to see it on BTN, I'll have some thoughts on it. Until then, enjoy the weekend- and let's hope Brew's Crew can go a whole weekend without having someone thrown in jail. I don't ask for much.

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