Each year several hundred players identified to possibly have what it takes to benefit professional football teams. These players were identified through a combination of watching the game tape of their college career, and evaluating performances in the Senior Bowl [ located in Mobile, AL usually ], if they were one of the lucky players invited to play in the Senior Bowl.
The NFL Scouting Combine, which takes place currently in the Indianapolis Colts stadium, gives scouts, general managers, head coaches, basically entire front offices, owners and other people important in the drafting process to watch things in person that might otherwise go unnoticed.
SUPPOSEDLY, you get to see the immeasurables, things like a potential player’s charisma, football IQ, overall intelligence, the way his hips move, quickness in a small space, ability to take directions (AND ability to change directions), composure under pressure, composure when being grilled by people who know the game, blah blah you get the idea. I said supposedly because every year there’s a number of players who should never get drafted, or at least should get drafted much lower that end up going much higher based solely on how they performed at the Combine.
Let me get this straight, if a player has languished around doing absolutely nothing on the football field, eating potato chips and drinking beer, going to frat parties and being a detriment to his team, but then decides he really wants a multi-million dollar contract, he can just work out really hard for a few months with elite personal trainers, score really high at the Combine, or at his college’s Pro Day, or both, he deserves a pick in the first or second round rather than the 7th or going undrafted?
That’s a great way to find people who love football, understand it, and will provide reliable offensive or defensive output for years to come.
Despite some of the more brainless draft picks taken over the years, the NFL Draft is still the most important tool for teams to find continuity and success. There are other ways of getting decent players like buying them for exorbitant amounts of money during Free Agency, signing players from NFL Europe (I’m not sure if this is still around), signing college players who weren’t chosen through the draft, and of course there’s the NFL Supplemental Draft.
I’m not really sure how players enter the Supplemental talent pool, but I think it has something to do with players that are dismissed from their teams. Suspensions, criminal charges, taking money from crooked agents, missing a significant amount of time in college, in short, players who for whatever reason weren’t invited to take part in the traditional NFL Draft.
Even with all these other minor talent pools from which the 32 NFL teams get to choose from, the regular draft is where successful franchises are born. There are exceptions to this rule when a team gets really good in a short amount of time, but for continued success take a look around.
The Baltimore Ravens, guided by General Manager Ozzie Newsome, have arguably drafted better than any other team in the past two decades. The New England Patriots have Bill Belichick and had GM Scott Pioli, the New York Football Giants have Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin, and the Indianapolis Colts had Bill Polian and Tony Dungy.
In the past 20 years, these 4 teams have combined for 8 Super Bowl wins and 11 appearances. Teams that don’t draft particularly well like the New York Jets under Rex Ryan, can have short-term success but eventually begin to fall apart. After two consecutive appearances in the AFC championship game, they haven’t been to the playoffs since.
Maybe it has something to do with their troubles involving Tim Tebow, Darrelle Revis’s contract dispute, continued offensive struggles, or signing Mark Sanchez to a contract extension (WTF?) but mainly it has to do with not having successful draft classes to replace losses in free agency, and retirement.
The 2013 NFL Draft is finally over, and I can finally relax now that I know that my team (the Ravens) will be able to field a defense this season. I can’t remember the last time our team (or any team) lost that many star players in a single season to free agency and retirement. I tried to tell myself that this happens all the time, but honestly I was starting to lose faith in Ozzie the Wizard.
I know, shame on me.
I felt a little better when we signed OLB Elvis Dumervil from Denver for 5 million less than former-Raven OLB Paul Kruger (HAH!). I don’t want to get into a long conversation about the free agents we signed prior to the draft (I brought this up in a previous article, see State of the Franchise: Baltimore Ravens 3/30), but I really have to say at least one thing about Rolando McClain.
WHAT THE HELL MAN! If for some reason Ozzie and John Harbaugh don’t toss you off the team prior to the regular season, count your lucky stars and don’t go back to Decatur, GA for any reason until you can get your sh*t straight! Stop getting arrested and use that passion for life to show our team, and the entire NFL, that you’re not completely worthless. You were a top-10 draft pick in Oakland, and it’s about damn time you act like it.
There I said it.
This year’s draft class was different from any other I have ever witnessed. Only one QB went in the 1st round, which is crazy since there are a LOT more than 1 teams who need a new starting QB. It wasn’t even one of the quarterbacks we thought were going to be drafted in the 1st round, it was EJ Manuel, QB from Florida State. Nothing wrong with that, except he’s probably going to be asked to step in immediately since he got picked in the 1st round.
I refuse to make fun of this pick, even though it seems a little out there, especially when there were so many other quarterbacks available at the time.
Another quarterback, Geno Smith from West Virginia, went as high as 6th overall in a number of mock drafts, but didn’t get drafted until the 2nd round, 39th overall by the New York Jets. Now this I do have a problem with since the Jets have MANY other needs. They also have 5 other quarterbacks on the roster currently (4 others now that they released Tim Tebow), Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy (former Alabama QB), David Garrard and Matt Simms (?).
Quarterback is the one position where you do NOT need that much depth.
Very quickly I’ll list some of the other things I took from watching this year’s draft.
Manti Te’o didn’t fall as far as some sports analysts feared he would, and didn’t get taken as high as I thought he would (38 overall by the Chargers). Even though Geno Smith threw a hissy fit for not getting drafted in the 1st round, at least he didn’t fall as far as USC QB Matt Barkley (4th round, 98 overall by the Eagles), or Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib (4th round, 110 overall by the Giants).
Tyrann Mathieu (aka: the Honey Badger), despite getting dismissed from LSU last year for smoking weed, managed to get drafted pretty high (3rd round, 68 overall by the Cardinals) thanks to a vote of confidence from Patrick Peterson.
DJ Hayden’s love for the game and burning determination got him drafted on the first day of the draft (1st round, 12 overall by the Raiders), even after sustaining a life-threatening tear of his IVC (inferior vena cava) 6 months ago. Most people (upwards of 95%) with this injury die before or during the surgical operation. Somehow the University of Houston corner back is back on the field, this time in the National Football League.
No running backs went in the 1st round, not Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (2nd round, 58 by the Broncos) or Alabama’s Eddie Lacy (2nd round, 61 by the Packers), South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore (4th round, 131 by the 49ers) or anyone else. Lacy and Lattimore both dropped due to injury concerns, but Montee Ball’s only fault, being used a lot in high school and college, was a double-edged sword; Some teams take that to mean he’s reliable and non injury-prone while others look at the mileage on his body due to taking an enormous amount of carries and/or hits.
Two offensive tackles got drafted 1st and 2nd overall for the first time in the draft since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. Three offensive linemen were grabbed in the top 4 picks, and five in the top 10. That leaves two conclusions on the table.
Either the linemen are that much better than usual this season or the skill position players, especially QB and RB, were just that much worse than usual.
West Virginia’s Tavon Austin (1st round, 8 overall by the Rams) needs recognition as perhaps the biggest play making wide receiver in this year’s draft. No wonder Geno Smith threw for so many touchdowns. Austin is reminiscent of ex-Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, or perhaps Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson. Even though he’s only 5 ft 8 in and 180 lbs soaking wet, he should immediately step in as one of Sam Bradford’s top receiving options, as well as be able to contribute during punt/kick returns, or as a slot receiver.
At least that’s what’s expected of him.
Florida State’s EJ Manuel (1st round, 16 overall by the Bills), I mean what can I say about this pick that hasn’t already been said? Even though the Bills already swapped picks with the Rams (used to acquire Tavon Austin), many people think that he still got drafted too high.
I can’t think of a single mock draft that had him picked ahead of better known quarterbacks such as Barkley, Nassib, or Smith.
EJ obviously has talent, otherwise he wouldn’t have even been a subconscious thought during the first day of the draft. He has prototypical size and height (6 ft 5 in, 237 lbs), can make all the throws required of an NFL-ready quarterback, and solid mobility (think of Andrew Luck or Ben Roethlisberger). Not the type of mobility that makes him a threat to score with his feet every time he touches the ball like Michael Vick or Colin Kaepernick, but the ability to generate 1st downs by scrambling when necessary, or to buy time in the pocket for coverage to ease up.
His flaws are just as obvious, which is the reason he wasn’t even rated as a 1st-round prospect by most football analysts. He lacks sufficient accuracy to hit smaller windows of opportunity at the next level, he has trouble reading through a complete progression, lacks experience playing under center and/or running a pro-style offense. He forces throws into impossible blanket coverage on occasion. He is not so overwhelmingly good that he can create offense without significant help around him, very possible seeing as how he’s probably going to be starting in Buffalo’s defunct offensive system.
To put it in layman’s terms, he doesn’t have enough skill position options, or even sturdy offensive linemen to keep him from getting annihilated 3-6 times a game. I’m sure he would be much more likely to become a dependable starting quarterback if given time to adjust to the speed of pro football, even thought that’s highly unlikely now that Ryan Fitzpatrick is in Tennessee (Didn’t the Bills JUST give him a contract extension last year?).
I’ve read stories about quarterbacks taking years to develop back in the good ol’ days like Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw, Baltimore’s Johnny Unitas or Oakland’s Jim Plunkett. The shelf life of a quarterback, especially one drafted in the 1st round, has lessened to the point where sometimes a single losing season can lead to him being traded/waived/cut, along with the head coach, general manager and more depending on how desperate the owner/front office is.
Nobody is more guilty of having an itchy trigger finger than the Raiders, especially when under the ownership of the late Al Davis. He hired 8 different coaches since 1998, and only 1 coach has been able to last more than one full season since 2006.
FACT: 15 different quarterbacks have started at least 1 game in a Raiders uniform in the past decade (2003+).
Players all across the league are being given less time to situate themselves, and must spend more time learning complex playbooks than ever before. EJ Manuel and Geno Smith, along with pretty much every other draft pick in the 2013 class, are no different; They will most likely be given less than 2 full seasons to make a good impression on their coaches/bosses.
I’m only mentioning quarterbacks separately since no other position deals with as much criticism and publicity. They will always get more credit and more blame than the rest of their teammates, which puts them in an even more precarious spot.
It’s time to sink or swim, put up or shut up. Although I’m not a fan of this ideology, I understand the reasoning behind this mentality to a certain extent. Too many jobs are on the line and too much money involved for a franchise to give much more time than they are currently without something substantial to show for it.
As in wins and losses, butts in the bleachers, TV contracts and PSL season ticket sales.
Good luck to all those lucky players drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft. Here’s one piece of advice you can take to the bank:
Don’t get repeatedly arrested or get caught taking drugs or steroids. Put some money away with your financial adviser and exercise restraint when thinking about adding to your exotic car collection. They just aren’t a great investment, but in the back of your mind you already knew that.
Babymommas can get expensive rather quickly. Just think of each illegitimate kid as a few million dollars being stolen out of your bank account. Use simple math when adding up your expenses:
Contract + Bonuses + Endorsements
– Babymommas – Exotic Cars – Strip Club Expenses – Patron/Cristal/Ciroc/Dom Perignon/Moscato – Agent Fees – Rent on 4 Unnecessary Mansions – Charity Costs – TAXES
= Net Income
Next up will be my opinion on Baltimore’s 2013 Draft Class, including Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, Brandon Williams, etc.
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