We may as well start here ... The NFL Draft was much cooler than expected. Coming in as a first-timer, I had a feeling it would be like watching a sitcom getting taped. Lots of bright lights, a big stage, and a bunch of people standing around.
Sure, some of those people would be drunk Jets fans, but no amount of inebriation can distract you from the simple reality that, you know, nothing that crazy is happening after the first few picks. It just seemed like, up close, it'd turn out to be a pretty mundane process befitting its official name: the "NFL Annual Players Selection Meeting."
BOY WAS I WRONG. The Draft is nothing like that. It's mystifying, not mundane. The amount of energy vibrating through Radio City Music Hall is pretty unbelievable. We all know about the Jets fans at this point, but what about the fans from every other NFL team that make the pilgrimage to New York City for the draft?
Coming in, I thought these people were pathetic. Waste money on a plane ticket, hotel room, and then camp out for hours on end to get some free tickets to what's essentially someone else's fantasy football draft? Uh ... I think I'm good.
But see, that's the beauty of it. Everyone that goes to the Draft is either going for their first time or coming back for their tenth, and in either case, they're ecstatic about it all. The cheering, booing, and trash talking continues unabated throughout the night. There are definitely peaks -- like when the Jets, Steelers, Patriots, Eagles, Giants or Cowboys make a pick -- but there's a buzz that remains pretty constant throughout.
Has it always been this way? Probably not. I can't imagine fans being this involved for more than one round, or with 15 or 2- minutes between each pick. But this year, with the draft in prime time and teams firing off picks every seven or eight minutes, the frenzy just never stopped.
Anyway, it was great. Now I understand why fans travel from all over the country for the NFL Draft. Everyone should go at least once. As sporting events go, there's truly nothing else like it.
Now, some other sites, sounds, and thoughts from the first round of the NFL Draft...
R.E.D.S.K.I.N.S. FANS ARE FIRED UP
So I approached these Redskins fans before the Draft, and I mentioned that my boss at SB Nation runs a pretty big Redskins website called Misterirrelevant.com, and ... then the cameras started rolling:
Donovan McRedskin? Hmm. Sounds like ... a racist McDonalds sandwich. MMMMM.
NFL IN-HOUSE MUSIC
Listen, I don't set the bar very high with music at sporting events. Basically, if we can avoid "Who Let the Dogs Out?" it's a moral victory. But good LORD the music at the NFL Draft is terrible. I don't know whether Roger Goodell just didn't want to spring for licensing rights, but between every pick the NFL plays a bunch of bad covers of songs that suck to begin with. Can you imagine a terrible cover of "Cleveland Rocks"? A heavy metal Seahawks fight song? That horrible Eagles chant, set to music? Each of those nightmares became reality at some point throughout the evening.
The NFL could have booked The Fray as the draft's house band and it would have been better than what we got. Just brutal from start to finish. Let's move on.
FUNNIEST CHANT OF THE NIGHT
When Roger Goodell brought a young Steelers fan, part of the league's Make-A-Wish foundation, to announce the Pittsburgh Steelers selection. From the moment Goodell began walking toward the podium, the fans at Radio City were showering the stage with "SHE SAID NO! SHE SAID NO!" It only lasted about 60 seconds, but let's just say the NFL's heartwarming PR moment rang a little hollow.
To the fans' credit, they quieted when the teen, a 15 year-old Leukemia patient named Zachary Hatfield, took the stage. This is from an article detailing Zach's dream come true:
His wish? To announce the team's first-round draft pick at tonight's NFL Draft. And, amazingly, that's just what he's scheduled to do, soon to become the envy of every Terrible Towel-holding Steeler fan.
So that's pretty cool. But still. Want to know what he'll remember? You get three guesses.
"SHE SAID NO!"
"SHE SAID NO!"
"SHE SAID NO!"
ERIC BERRY, THE BEST PLAYER IN THE DRAFT
I understand that NFL teams feel the need to build from the inside out, and that a player's value is all relative to his position, so I'm not saying that Eric Berry should have gone number one overall. What I am saying is that if he had gone number one overall, I would have totally loved the pick.
If you asked me to bet my life on one player from this draft making at least one All-Pro team, it'd be Eric Berry. Ndamukong Suh is pretty great, but the track record for top five DTs isn't great, so he's not necessarily a sure thing. Other than Suh, who's even close to Berry as far as certified skills? From day one at Tennessee he was out of this world. He's got all the measurables of an All-Pro, and he's got all the intangibles.
I'm not saying he should have gone first, but in five years, if every NFL team could choose to add one player from this draft, don't be surprised if Eric Berry is the no-brainer choice. The other prospects are good, but Eric Berry is the one guy with a realistic shot at being the best player at his position in the entire league. I'd say more, but we need to save room for this excerpt from Clay Travis' book on Tennessee football:
Beside me, UT defensive end Robert Ayers sits alone in his locker, clad in full uniform, reading passages aloud from his white-covered Bible. Ellix Wilson's voice fades and silence holds for a few minutes.
Then Vols sophomore Eric Berry stands."When I say Killas, y'all say Killas and then when I say Trained Assassins, y'all say Trained Assassins and then when I say, Want Some, y'all say, Gone Get Some."
Then Berry starts, "Killas!"
"Killas!" the team replies in unison.
"Trained assassins!" Berry chants.
"Want some," Berry leads.
"Gone get some!"
"Let's go bang a motherfucker, man!" Berry screams in conclusion.
Sam Bradford's great and all, but ... come on. Eric Berry.
THE WTF MOMENT OF THE NIGHT
Unquestionably, it was the Jacksonville Jaguars choosing Tyson Alualu from Cal. The crowd booed lustily with about 70 percent of the draft picks, and cheered the remaining 30 percent. The criteria for what earned a boo or a cheer remains unclear to me, but the one exception to this rule was the Alualu pick, especially since most of the crowd was preparing themselves for Tim Tebow.
When Goodell said, "The Jacksonville Jaguars select Tyson Alualu," it was like the entire crowd had a brain fart. Do we boo? Do we cheer? It started out with "BOOO" but quickly turned into, "Who?"
And, um ... Jacksonville? That's not a great sign with a top 10 pick.
THE GENIUS OF THE NEW DRAFT FORMAT
I touched on this yesterday, but in addition to the energy it creates in Radio City, here's what's really great about the first round being on Thursday this year: now we get a full 24 hours where teams can trade up to the top of the second round, where they can go after guys like Jimmy Clausen, Taylor Mays and anyone else that slips through the cracks during the first round.
From a football standpoint, the most intriguing part of the draft isn't the really players. Instead, it's the GMs and their ability to maximize value, identify some of the hidden gems and move up and down the draft order to get the guys they want without sacrificing too much. When people dismiss the draft, they almost always say something along the lines of "Call me when they actually play a game." Nobody really "wins" draft night, they say. But the thing is, you can win the draft. Teams win and lose every year, and the teams that win most often are usually the franchises that you see in the playoffs year-in and year-out.
And now, the gamesmanship becomes even more paramount to the whole process, because for the 24 hours between Thursday and Friday, there's even more room for error or improvement and more anticipation for the 2nd round (at the least the top of the round) than ever before. I mean, just admit it: you're going to watch tonight to see where Jimmy Clausen ends up. Everyone will. The NFL got this one right.
Side-note: This also means a pick at the top of the second round become more valuable than low first round pick right now. Think about it. Would you rather pick at no. 29 and choose between three trade offers, or wait till no. 33 on Friday, and field 10 or 20? With the extra day, teams like the Rams can sit at the top of the second round and field offers all day Friday, pitting teams against each other in a bidding war as the rest of the league salivates over the possibility of landing a franchise quarterback in Clausen or a superstar pass rusher like Sergio Kindle or Carlos Dunlap.
Are these guys guaranteed superstars? Of course not. That's why they slipped to the second round. But give NFL teams 24 hours, and I guarantee you half the league can talk themselves into Clausen or Kindle as a diamond in the rough just waiting to be plucked up by their genius hands. (Translation: This next 24 hours will turn a lot GMs into complete suckers. Take advantage, Rams).
JERMAINE GRESHAM WAS A GOOD PICK AT NO. 21
This is completely irrelevant, except that my bosses questioned my football analysis after I argued that Jermaine Gresham was a nice pickup for Cincinnati. And ... Let me just make a couple of points here.
- In 2008, he was Oklahoma's second best offensive player on what was the best offense in the country.
- Sam Bradford, their best player, went number one overall.
- Both Bradford and Gresham missed the 2009 season with injuries that may or may not be chronic.
- Had Gresham entered the draft last year, he would have been a top 10-15 pick.
- The Bengals needed a tight end.
- If healthy, Gresham has a chance to be a game-breaking, top-5 tight end in the NFL.
Similar to the Eric Berry discussion, If you have a chance to draft a guy that could play in the Pro Bowl every year vs. a less-talented guy at a more "important" position, it's okay to take the guy that could be great. Really. Nobody's going to complain except Todd McShay. The goal in the draft is to get good players.
Now, back to things you might care about...
FAN OF THE NIGHT
I met this man Thursday afternoon outside Radio City Music Hall. His name's Karim Simmons, he's been attending the draft every year since 2004, he attended Thursday's event by himself, and he's why the NFL Draft is completely awesome. And awesomely surreal.
SO WHY AREN'T WE TAKING JIMMY CLAUSEN AGAIN?
If ever there was a reason for junior quarterbacks to stay in school, it's Clausen. I mean, good lord. I know that early-entree QBs tend to struggle with the transition to the NFL, but this many teams passing up Clausen makes no sense.
Sure, Clausen seems like a weird hybrid of "douche" and "pansy," but he's still just as physically talented as Sam Bradford. Or, if not quite at Bradford's level, he's close enough to make it a debate. And yet ... no takers. Nobody needs a quarterback, I guess? Not quite.
- Seattle (Matt Hasselbeck)
- Minnesota (Brett Favre ... Tavaris Jackson)
- Oakland (JaMarcus Russel)
- Buffalo (Trent Edwards)
- San Francisco (Alex Smith)
- Pittsburgh (Ben Roethlisberger?)
- Arizona (Matt Leinart)
- Cleveland (Jake Delhomme???)
- Miami (Chad Henne ... Chad Pennington)
- Carolina (Matt Moore)
Those are the teams that either need a quarterback, or have a quarterback that's old enough so that it's time to start looking for a replacement. Now, is Clausen an obvious fit for any of those teams?
Not necessarily. But again, if the Rams can roll the dice with Sam Bradford's gimpy shoulder at number one, some team should be willing to go after Clausen, a guy with all the talent you'd ever want in a quarterback, no red flags and plenty of room for growth. Put Clausen at Oklahoma and Bradford at Notre Dame the past few years, and there's a good chance this whole conversation's reversed. Instead, Clausen had to run a pro offense with college players, a bad college line and the constant pressure of unrealistic expectations.
Pictured above, two Steelers fans named Zack and Yusef. Here's Zack on Ben Roethlisberger:
"Honestly? I just think he's got problems gettin' chicks. I mean the dude looks like Seth Rogen."
For more on Yusef's "pimped out" Snuggie, click here.
DALLAS AND DEZ BRYANT: A REALITY CHECK
Ordinarily, I'm all for taking the player that everyone writes off for character issues. And as a Cowboys fan, because it's really the only way that teams picking in the 20s can hope to hit a home run, I'm happy they went in that direction. I just wish they'd taken Sergio Kindle.
At the draft, the prevailing sentiment was that Cowboys had just lucked into the most explosive player in the draft. And by the way people were talking, you'd think Dallas just landed Randy Moss. But here's what Dallas is getting: the best receiver in a pretty crappy receiver class. He'll hopefully open up the field for Miles Austin and Jason Witten, and best case, he's got the chance to be a legit big play threat every time he touches the ball. Then again, he's also proven himself to be kind of a moron.
Worth the risk? Sure. But Dez Bryant isn't Randy Moss, or even anywhere close. At best, he'll be a great second receiver. And if this section gets thrown back in my face one day, I'll be thrilled.
Oh, look! We've gotten this far without mentioning Tim Tebow! Can we keep this pace up??? Nope. Have to at least acknowledge the so-called "big story" from day one. (sigh) I guess.
ALL HAIL JOSH MCDANIELS, BOY GENIUS THAT'S BOUND TO FALL ON HIS FACE
Here's the bottom line with Tim Tebow: he doesn't suck as much as Jerry Jones said he does, but whoever lands him is going to have to be creative if the union's going to be even a little successful. Thus, Tim Tebow is the perfect player for Josh McDaniels, a football coach who seems hell-bent on proving to the world just how BRILLIANT! he is.
It's a disease that a few of Bill Belichick's most prominent disciples has displayed over the years. Belichick, himself, has it, but so does Charlie Weis, Eric Mangini, and now McDaniels. It's not just that McDaniels wants to win, but he wants Denver to win because of him. So drafting Tim Tebow was the logical move there.
So what if they already have two quarterbacks? You think Denver won't platoon Tebow with Knowshon Moreno in the Wildcat, and put Brady Quinn with Kyle Orton on the outside? You obviously don't realize how creative Josh McDaniels is.
Or ... maybe he's just a guy with an inferiority complex, overcompensating at every turn for a perceived lack of respect. Here's a good look at McDaniels from the Denver Post back in March:
During McDaniels' initial whirlwind, tumultuous first season with the Broncos, he let it be known no player is above what he views best for the team. Not the star quarterback. Not the superstar wide receiver. Not the talented tight end.
The star quarterback, the superstar wide receiver and the talented tight end have all been jettisoned since McDaniels took over. None of which is to say that Tim Tebow can't be successful in the NFL.
But given the context here -- especially since Josh McDaniels appears to be exactly the kind of uncompromising ass that karma tends to punish -- you get the feeling that a massive Tebow failure in Denver might just be part of a larger narrative. And that narrative's theme? Josh McDaniels thinks he's much smarter than he is. Drafting Tebow in the first round might have made sense for someone, but Denver's not that team. Something tells me this is going to end badly for McDaniels.
And that's probably a good place to stop. All in all, my first experience with the NFL Draft was pretty fantastic. And it definitely won't be the last. Unrelated: NDAMUKONG SUH AND A SEAL