Ten Things I Think I Think
I think these are my quick-hit thoughts on the draft:
a. Hey Mike Silver! Good choice, being in St. Louis! Why wasn’t I that smart?
b. Ryan Mallett might turn out to be a fine pro, but I don’t know how you’d know that after this three-year disappearing act with New England. He’s one for four, 17 yards, zero touchdowns, one pick. Career rating: 5.2.
c. Thus, Jimmy Garoppolo.
d. The Bengals traded up in the fourth round to take center Russell Bodine, who could start right away. According to Bengalologist Geoff Hobson, that’s the third time in the team’s 47-season history (and first time since 2002) that the Bengals have traded up in any draft.
e. May draft: “I haven’t met anyone in the league who likes it. Not coaches, not scouts, not GMs,” said Mike Mayock on air Saturday evening.
f. I know, having watched a lot of the draft on TV, what Niners CEO Jed York meant when he Tweeted near the end of round three: “Day 2 of the draft is over. Now we can watch the last 15 minutes of the draft on TV.” The NFL delayed the picks too often and for too long, and all for the TV show. Not a fan.
g. Classic boom-or-bust pick by Seattle in the fourth round: defensive end Cassius Marsh of UCLA had 35 tackles behind the line in the past two seasons, started 36 games, and plays with the drive Pete Carroll will love.
h. Washington traded the pick to Dallas that the Cowboys used to draft a replacement for DeMarcus Ware—Demarcus Lawrence, pass-rusher from Boise State. So the pass-rusher Washington enabled Dallas to have will now chase Robert Griffin III twice a year.
i. Thought the Bills overpaid in acquiring running back Bryce Brown from Philly (a fourth-rounder next year that can turn into a third depending on performance), but look at it this way: Buffalo essentially traded Stevie Johnson, who was out the door, and fetched a four from San Francisco, for Brown.
j. Kudos to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald for nailing the Dolphins’ first-round pick, long-shot Tennessee tackle Ju’Wuan James, days before the draft. Great job on an unlikely direct hit.
k. And kudos to Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus. On Friday morning he wrote that San Francisco would be the perfect fit for the being-shopped Stevie Johnson. Four hours later Buffalo traded Johnson to the Niners.
l. Good for the Dolphins for fining and suspending defensive back Don Jones for being an idiot on Twitter after Michael Sam got drafted.
2. I think Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III’s season-opener just got a lot more interesting. He’ll have to face J.J. Watt coming from the left, Jadeveon Clowney from the right. On the road, in roaring Reliant Stadium. Yikes. Put on your track shoes, Robert.
3. I think, speaking of season-openers, I’ll be glued to the super-fast Brandin Cooks, the Saints’ first-rounder, on the rug inside the Georgia Dome. To me, that’s the game of the day on Sunday afternoon in Week 1: Have the Falcons done enough on defense to stop the Saints from scoring a ton with that scary offense? The biggest new Saint on opening day in Atlanta in 17 weeks, however, might be New Orleans’ second-rounder, 6-3 corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste, because if the Saints can’t match up with Julio Jones they might have to score 48 instead of 28 to win.
4. I think I watched a lot of draft-weekend TV, and the biggest star to me was Rich Eisen. He’s come a long way—and I don’t mean because he was ever no good. He’s always been good. But when he left ESPN to go to NFL Network, I thought, “My God, the guy’s going to be co-opted by the league, and he’s going to be Mr. Houseman.” And we all know that he, as the face of NFLNet, has to do a lot of things that border on overt promotion for the league. But it’s “NFL” Network. He knew that when he took the job.
This weekend he was John Stockton to his smart football panelists—Mike Mayock is simply the best, and Daniel Jeremiah was good too (except when giving every team a glowing report card after the draft, because draft report cards the night of day three are the height of folly)—and he was really good in challenging his panel in the 240s, when Michael Sam was still on the board. Eisen asked, incredulously, how a Marist defensive end (Terrence Fede) could be picked at 234, with the SEC defensive player of the year, Sam, still on the board. The answer is complicated; Fede is a legitimate prospect, and he deserves credit for working his way into being draftable. But it’s a smart question, a question all of America was asking, and good for Eisen for pressing his football men on it.
5. I think, not to try to get in Richard Deitsch’s kitchen or anything, but I applaud, too, Seth Markman, ESPN senior coordinating producer for NFL programming. He’s the man who runs ESPN’s NFL studio shows, and he’s the one who had to make the calls about the Michael Sam video—including him weeping like a baby when he got the call from the Rams that he was drafted, and including the stunning kiss with his boyfriend that all of America got to see. Turns out the video was tape-delayed by a few minutes, and Markman told me Saturday night he never had a chance to see the tape before it rolled.
ESPN was following Sam with a camera because he is being given the “Arthur Ashe Courage Award” at the ESPYs this year. Markman said all day, as Sam waited to be picked, the ESPN truck outside Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan had a live feed of his draft gathering, but just before the Rams picked, the feed went out. The camera on site was still recording the video of the moment, but the ESPNers in the truck weren’t seeing it. Finally, when the satellite feed came back up a couple of minutes after the pick, the video of Sam getting the phone was available, and Markman didn’t have time to view it—the news was so fresh and so immediate, he just had to run the video. “My job is to document the moment,” Markman said. The moment was too real not to. ESPN will get a mountain of criticism for airing two gay men kissing, but the network shouldn’t. ESPN aired reality. It was gripping TV.
6. I think Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie might have gotten two of the 10 best players in this draft, when history looks at it. Buffalo pass rusher Khalil Mack (who didn’t look too thrilled to be a Raider, by the way) and Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr are going to be franchise cornerstones. The Carr part, of course, assumes that he can be protected, and McKenzie could have gotten more O-line help with his eight picks than a single guard, third-rounder Gabe Jackson of Mississippi State.
7. I think it’s hard to not like what Pittsburgh did. Ryan Shazier can be next in the line of outside rushers (and five or six teams wanted him badly in the late teens or 20s) developed by Dick LeBeau. Stephon Tuitt has the body type to be a 3-4 Steeler end, good against the run and with potential to rush the quarterback. The fastest player in the draft, Dri Archer, will be used as a Darren Sproles type—very good value at 97 overall. The boom-or-bust pick is Clemson wideout Martavis Bryant, a 4.4-speed long-strider at 6-3 ¾. Will he be Limas Sweed? Or will he work to become a complete and more physical receiver, which Ben Roethlisberger needs badly right now? Either way he’s a good fourth-round risk.
8. I think Bill Belichick doesn’t have a lot of love for the internet. As he told longtime Pats beat man Tom Curran: “You should go talk to the geniuses that are online. I don’t know. My Face, Your Face, Instant Face.”
9. I think I am so pleased that Bill Nunn, who scouted for the Steelers for 46 years and died last Tuesday night at 89, had his moment in the sun on draft weekend. One of his protégés, Buffalo GM Doug Whaley, used advice from Nunn (“Do not ever be afraid to make a big move if you believe in it strongly”) as one of the spurs to deal his 2015 first- and fourth-round picks to simply move up five spots to take the No. 1 player on the Bills’ draft board, wideout Sammy Watkins of Clemson. Think of the significance. The biggest trade of the 2014 draft happened 48 hours after Nunn died—and it was pulled off by two African-American general managers …. Whaley and Ray Farmer of the Cleveland Browns.
Importantly, Nunn mentored Whaley from the time Whaley was a 23-year-old intern in the scouting department of the Steelers in the mid-’90s. “I’m glad you brought that up,” Whaley told me when we spoke late Thursday night. “I want to talk about how much Bill Nunn meant to my career, and my life.”
Whaley knows he has taken a colossal gamble by dealing so much to simply move up five spots. But he’s okay with it. At first I was not. But here’s how I see it. The number one player on Buffalo’s board was Watkins. Buffalo had the ninth pick in the draft. They used two prime picks next year to move up five spot to get him, and let’s face it—the first-round pick, judging by recent Bills history, could be a top 10 pick. This is not a move I would have made, but if you have to pay two number one picks to get the best player on your draft board at a crucial position for your team, I can see why Whaley did it.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. “We’re gay. We have boyfriends.” That was the reaction of Brooklyn center Jason Collins when told Michael Sam and his partner kissed on national TV Saturday.
b. We need to care about Boko Haram and the Nigerian abductions. We’re a civilized society, and we need to act.
c. Welcome to the world, Nicholas Alexander Marvez (son of FOX Sports’ Alex Marvez). Nicholas Alexander weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces, and was born at 1:13 p.m. Tuesday. “I have some new favorite numbers in my life, not to mention a healthy baby boy,” Marvez emailed over the weekend. “Overwhelming.” Alex will be a great dad. I can’t wait to see Nicholas’ mullet in a few years.
d. That was a hit in the Yu Darvish near no-hitter, the ball that dropped between the second baseman and right fielder. The scorer gave Alex Rios an error, and I agree with Harold Reynolds: That looked like the kind of play that 95 percent of official scorers would call a hit if a no-hitter wasn’t on the line.
e. Saw “The Grand Hotel Budapest.” Very cute and quirky. Not the best movie of the year, but two hours well spent.
f. Anyone notice this NHL oddity? Each Western Conference playoff series (Anaheim-Los Angeles, Chicago-Minnesota) was tied 2-2 entering Game 5 of the Wild-Hawks series Sunday night. All four games of Kings-Ducks had been won by the visitors. All five games of Wild-Blackhawks have been won by the home team.
g. Coffeenerdness: Thanks, Bongo Java in Nashville, for the great latte the other day. Artfully done.
h. Beernerdness: Tried the Yazoo Pale Ale the other night in Nashville. That is one fresh, hoppy, crisp beer. Looked like a good local craft beer scene in Nashville. I hope to experience more of it one day.
i. Did ump Laz Diaz embarrass himself the other night in the Yankees-Angels game or what? Amazing tht baseball lets umps get away with looking so foolish, egging on pitchers and managers—which is exactly what Diaz did.
j. May 7 in Atlanta: 94 degrees on my rental car’s dashboard. Did I miss spring?
The Adieu Haiku
Sam’s a Ram. What now?
The buzz will die down. And then:
Can he sack QBs?