By Jason Keidel
It’s rather presumptuous for us to say who decidedly won the NFL Draft before the players drafted play a single game. It’s all conjecture, educated guesses and luck. And even then, top picks will play like duds and low-end picks will play like stars.
So just some general observations…
Jim Harbaugh must be impossible to handle personally, because professionally there is no one alive who so dominates the pro and college game. The San Francisco 49ers were a mess before he got there, a beast while he was there and a mess when he was no longer there. Likewise, Michigan was a mess and are soon to be a juggernaut, if they aren’t already.
While Clemson and Alabama have played in the last two national championship games and Ohio State routinely wins the Big Ten, none of them had the most players picked in the NFL Draft. That’s right, Michigan did, with 11. Imagine what the Wolverines will produce once Harbaugh’s own recruits funnel through Ann Arbor.
Since Nick Saban is such a facile fan and media target, the masses delighted when they lost to Clemson in January. Moreover, it signaled to some the death of dominance from the Southeastern Conference. As Keith Jackson famously said… Whoa, Nellie! The SEC led all of America with 53 players drafted over the weekend.
Though the Browns and 49ers are at the top of the draft for a reason, they acquitted themselves well. San Francisco got two top-10 talents (Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster) in the first 31 picks. And the Browns got the best player in the draft, Myles Garrett; picked up a possible Pro Bowl TE in David Njoku at No. 29 and selected perhaps the best athlete in the draft, Jabrill Peppers, at No. 25. All five players were picked in one night.
The Bears are who we thought they were! Indeed, trading up one spot to pick a player who likely wasn’t going to be drafted in said spot speaks volumes of the Chicago Bears. Even better, there are reports that head coach John Fox didn’t even know they would make such a brazen move until hours before the trade. Bears GM Ryan Pace refuted this, but what else will he say?
Yes, the retroactive reportage tells us that you can’t take a chance if you’re dead-set on a certain player. But the 49ers weren’t taking a QB with their pick, which means the Browns would have had to hemorrhage picks to move up. But even if they were a threat to pick the QB, it’s Mitchell Trubisky! The Browns would have done the Bears a favor by stealing the slot.
Perhaps the most troubling news came from Peter King, the NFL pundit nonpareil, who says the last time a team made an identical move to pick their franchise QB was in 1998. The San Diego Chargers moved up to No. 2 to grab… Ryan Leaf.
Jabrill Peppers and Reuben Foster plunged down draft boards for diluted urine samples — and, in Foster’s case, a verbal beef at the combine — yet Joe Mixon didn’t last halfway through the second round. Does that say something about the NFL or about the Bengals? Cincinnati has been a sanctuary for more than one miscreant over the years. We love to wrap ourselves in platitudes about second chances when it suits us.
But can you root for a player who literally shattered a woman’s face with one swing? We can hear the apologists now. “That was three years ago!” Does that matter? “It’s only a big deal because there’s a video.” Since when is it bad to have irrefutable proof of an assault on a woman? While social media has it’s dark side, the fact that we can catch bad people doing bad things can only help our society.
Marvin Lewis is the longest-tenured coach not named Bill Belichick. But his seat is certainly warm, if not scalding. Maybe he’s just rolling the dice on anyone with talent. For his sake, one hopes the torment doesn’t win out.
Between free agency and the draft, it seems the Patriots just loaded up. Again. So the Patriots won the Super Bowl, the offseason and enter the regular season with the most accomplished HC/QB tandem since the AFL-NFL merger. And surely they are still the chalk to reach the Super Bowl, if not repeat as champions.
Folks love to find prudence in the later rounds. And the league abounds with top-tier players picked in the lower rungs of the draft. Tom Brady. Antonio Brown. Kam Chancellor. Devonta Freeman.
But still, it’s a stretch to say the Giants and Steelers found successors to Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Though he wasn’t lost in the bowels of the draft, would Cal QB Davis Webb have been available to the Giants at pick No. 87 if he beamed on team boards? Likewise, if Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs were such a sizzling prospect, would he have lasted until the 135th pick?
Those who bleed black & gold won’t be inclined to speed-dial Big Ben and tell him it’s cool to retire. And the Big Apple airwaves aren’t exactly buzzing with fans eager to dump Mr. Manning.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.
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