A Draft Sobriety Test
Drunk on excitement from your team’s windfall last week? Let’s temper that enthusiasm a bit with a reality reminder. Plus answers to reader email on topics including the Packers, Patriots, Jets, Broncos and more
You may have heard in the past couple of days about the execution of fifth-year options on players from the first-round draft class of 2013. What that essentially means is NFL teams had until late Monday to guarantee fifth years of contracts to players who were first-rounders three years ago. Translation: If you’re any good, and you’re relatively healthy, you’re going to get your contract guarantee exercised for 2017. If you don’t get it exercised, there’s a good chance you won’t be on the team in 2017.
I tell you this today as a way of illustrating how the NFL draft can be exhilarating in one moment, but sobering in the next. You know how last Thursday you watched the first round and got excited when your team’s pick came on the screen, because that pick was bringing your team one step closer to the Super Bowl? You remember that feeling, right? The feeling that every pick is a home run because Kiper and Mayock love your guy to death?
Every pick is not a home run.
Some picks are double plays.
This week, 14 of the 32 first-round picks 2013 discovered their futures were either short-term or just plain finished. They include Bjoern Werner (24 to Indianapolis), who has already been cut; and Dion Jordan (three, to Miami), likely to follow at some point, after his drug suspension is finished.
For sobriety’s sake, let’s take the players whose teams have already told them they’re done, or the writing is on the wall unless they have a superb 2016 season, and match them with the corresponding pick in 2016. This shows what a tenuous business this is. And how there is no guarantee about the future in the NFL, no matter the pre-draft hype and post-draft exuberance:
|2013 first-rounders||2016 first-rounders|
|2. Luke Joeckel, OT, JAC||Carson Wentz, QB, PHI|
|3. Dion Jordan, DE, MIA||Joey Bosa, DE, SD|
|6. Barkevious Mingo, LB, CLE||Ronnie Stanley, OT, BAL|
|7. Jonathan Cooper, OG, ARI||DeForest Buckner, DT, SF|
|9. Dee Milliner, CB, NYJ||Leonard Floyd, LB, CHI|
|10. Chance Warmack, OG, TEN||Eli Apple, CB, NYG|
|12. D.J. Hayden, CB, OAK||Sheldon Rankins, DT, NO|
|16. EJ Manuel, QB, BUF||Taylor Decker, OT, DET|
|17. Jarvis Jones, LB, PIT||Keanu Neal, S, ATL|
|24. Bjoern Werner, DE, IND||William Jackson, CB, CIN|
|26. Datone Jones, DT, GB||Paxton Lynch, QB, DEN|
|28. Sylvester Williams, DT, DEN||Joshua, Garnett, OG, SF|
|29. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, MIN||Robert Nkemdiche, DT, ARI|
|32. Matt Elam, S, BAL||Emmanuel Ogbah, LB, CLE|
Not to bum you out, but the draft’s a crap shoot. It takes three years, in many cases, to see the results clearly.
Now for your email...
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WHY, THANK YOU
Excellent read on the Dallas draft room. I love when you are in the draft rooms and giving us insider info. The whole process really intrigued me.
Appreciate that, Carmen. Stories like this one are difficult to organize, because most teams automatically say no when it comes to sharing information in such a secure environment. Jerry Jones realizes football’s a show, too, and realizes there’s nothing so horrible or deleterious to the football environment of an organization about sharing information on a dramatic weekend. Every year I try to do one of these, and most years it’s hard to find teams to cooperate, either by allowing me in the room (in Dallas, I was not) or giving me the chance to ferret out information about what happened in the room.
HE DIDN’T LIKE IT
The Dallas draft room article was tedious. Tedious beyond belief if you’re not a Cowboys fan. The way you are capable of writing you could have done the same thing with 75% fewer words and made it interesting for the rest of us.
—Phil S., Los Angeles
Hope the other 5,000 draft-related words in the column were a little more tolerable, Phil.
HE DIDN’T EITHER
With all the possible storylines with the draft, why would you waste so much time, words and effort over Jerry Jones and the Cowboys? Lately if it’s not Tom Brady and the Patriots, it’s Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. There are 30 other teams in the league, and while you do cover stories about them, your time and efforts to bolster these two teams are wasted because they already have their own nationwide PR mechanisms that inundate us with all the news we don't care to hear about. If Jerry Jones thinks anyone would think he would jump from the highest point in Dallas and needs to make that a lead comment when talking about missing the QB he wanted, then our society is in real trouble. Please consider writing about the other 30 teams with as much consideration as you do about New England and Dallas. Your readers would appreciate it.
From Jan. 1 to May 1, Rick, The MMQB staff did not write a single story about the Cowboys. In the 17 Monday Morning Quarterback columns I wrote in the first four months of this year, I didn't lead one of them with the Cowboys. So our overwriting of the Cowboys ... well, I'm not exactly sure where that comes from. Every year on draft weekend I have a choice: review the draft the way about 175 other football writers in the United States covering the NFL do, with team-by-team grades or analysis or opinions; it's a good option, and I read virtually all of them. Or I could take readers into the inner sanctum of a team that was a major factor in the draft, telling you about the drama in the room, about their failed attempts to trade both up and down in the first four rounds. In short, I can tell you exactly what happened to one team in the draft room in an exciting draft. That's what I chose to do. At The MMQB, we’re trying to tell distinctive stories. We felt this was one. I am sorry you feel it was a waste of your time. But we’re not going to change what we do.
ON DALLAS’ DECISION
I really don't understand the Cowboys’ thinking regarding the Lynch non-trade—why would they be willing to trade a two and a three to draft him in the 17-23 range, but not in the 24+ range (when they changed the offer to a two and a four)? Isn't the later spot even better for them, since they would sign Lynch to a smaller contract? I know that teams assign specific values to spots, but in this case it seems the Cowboys should have been viewing this as trading the picks for Lynch (wherever they got him) and being happy to get him for less money. Makes no sense.
—Bryan B., New York
Excellent question, Bryan. In fact, when I sat with Jerry Jones the day after the draft, one of the things he told me was he wished they hadn’t made the distinction between the third-round pick and the fourth once the first round got past No. 23 or 24. As Jones said, “Once you’ve decided you’ll give your three to get him, then you should give the three no matter where it is.” Jones added that Dallas likely could have gotten something back after overpaying the two and three (using the draft trade value chart) to pick up, say, the 26th pick, and John Schneider is a smart enough GM in Seattle to know he’d have to even out the value by throwing Dallas a third-day pick if the offer was a two and a three for No. 26. One other point, though: I didn’t get the sense the majority of the room would have, at the end of the draft, traded Jaylon Smith and Maliek Collins for Paxton Lynch.
ON RAVENS PICKING KEENAN REYNOLDS
The headline “Ravens 1, Patriots 0” implies that Bill Belichick was outmaneuvered by Ozzie Newsome for Navy QB/WR/RB/KR/PR/ST Keenan Reynolds. Perhaps he was. But given Belichick’s track record of spending higher than necessary draft picks on players he really covets (e.g. a 2015 fifth-rounder on long snapper Joe Cardona), isn’t it also possible that he was just window shopping during all those private workouts and personal meetings?
—Paul G. Brookline, Mass.
Possible, yes. But very unlikely. Keenan Reynolds is a guy the Patriots wanted a lot, and would have taken if not for Baltimore picking him first. That’s the draft.
Pre-draft speculation around Baltimore was that the Ravens were eyeing Alabama CB Cyrus Jones as a possible potential third- or fourth-round pick—especially if a cornerback option didn't play out in the first two rounds. So in the second round (and with their first pick of the draft, no less), the Patriots grabbed Jones, a Baltimore native who would have loved to play for the Ravens, and who in the Cotton Bowl made the kind of big plays the Ravens sorely lacked in 2015. I would argue that the Patriots drew first blood with their selection of Jones, and the Ravens' selection of Keenan Reynolds only evened the score.
Good point, but I don’t know how high Jones (who also would have sated the Ravens’ return need) was on Baltimore’s board. Was he a lot higher than, say, Tavon Young, the cornerback from Temple whom the Ravens picked 40-some spots later? I don’t think either of us know that. I certainly don’t.
ON THE JETS’ PERMANENT QB SEARCH
As for your comment on the QBs the Jets have drafted, I think you missed some important info. The first two were all Mike Tannenbaum. Mark Sanchez was a clear franchise pick and Greg McElroy was a late-round dart. The next two were from John Idzik, and I believe only Geno Smith was his pick as Rex Ryan was obsessed with Taj Boyd. They should have drafted Lacy over Geno. Finally, the last two picks are Mike Maccagnan’s. Bryce Petty is a project and Christian Hackenberg is the hopeful future. I don't think it is correct to lump all of an organization’s picks at a position into the same category when it spans three different regimes.
My point was not about who picked them. My point was that this organization has used three first-round or second-round picks on quarterbacks since 2009, and that’s a lot.
ON THE PACKERS’ DRAFT
Do you have any intel as to whether Ted Thompson tried to trade down and out of the first round? If not, why didn't he? The Packers took UCLA DT Kenny Clark, and I imagine Thompson could have gotten him mid-second round since Clark wasn't nearly as high on most pre-draft analysis and seeing how so many high-ranked D-linemen and linebackers were still sitting there on day two for teams to take. Seems like Ted missed a perfect chance to get some more picks.
—Mike B., Madison, Wis.
That usually is not Thompson’s way. Green Bay did have a chance to trade with Dallas. Cowboys VP Stephen Jones talked with Alonzo Highsmith of the Packers late in the first round, offering Dallas’ 34th and 101st picks overall for Green Bay’s 27th overall pick. So Green Bay, by gambling that Clark would have been there at 34, could have dropped down seven spots, picked their guy, and had a high fourth-round pick in the swap. The Packers obviously didn’t want to risk moving down seven spots.
Does Roger Goodell understand just how unpopular he is, or does he believe all of the draft attendees were Patriots fans who flew in for the occasion?
Oh, he knows. Everyone in the league office knows. I’ve got to think it’s a pretty big quandary among top league officials right now.
ELWAY IS NOT A GENIUS
John Elway is now a genius by finding an incredible quarterback in Paxton Lynch and is ready to start the season with Mark Sanchez? Elway plays the press by saying this is the way he wanted it all to work out after all. It’s good to be positive, but the chiming in of the press and rewriting of history is a bit much. Elway has made something of a bad situation but has not justified the praise he is getting.
My colleague at SI, Greg Bedard, would agree with you. I wouldn’t. I have no idea if Sanchez or Lynch is the answer, and I’m certainly not confident enough in Brock Osweiler to pay him $37 million guaranteed (and an average of $18 million) after seven not-so-luminous starts. The praise for Elway is simple: He hasn’t been held hostage by Osweiler (though he almost paid him). He hasn’t been held hostage in trade negotiations for Sam Bradford with the Eagles. And he set a price for Colin Kaepernick and wouldn’t budge, which I thought was smart because no one knows what Kaepernick is right now. Elway didn’t have a great choice this offseason. What I thought was good was that he didn’t overpay for a choice he didn’t like.
TUNSIL’S TUMBLE “EXCITING”?
Where is the outrage for the comment by the commissioner that the events that unfolded for Laremy Tunsil were “exciting?” How is it exciting for a young man to be subjected to humiliation and the loss of millions of dollars because of a what appears to be a crime? Imagine if hackers had posted a fake photo or a photo revealing something about a player's sexual orientation and it caused the player to drop in the draft. Do you think the commissioner would call that exciting? Roger Goodell is a foolish promoter and doesn't care at all about these kids.
Agreed. An idiotic thing to say by Goodell.
WEST COAST IGNORED
Your comment, “Joshua Garnett (who?!),” is a perfect example of how much of the mainstream sports media ignores the west coast. Who is Garnett? Only the Outland Trophy winner, and the leader of the one of the best blocking lines in college football.
—Ralph B., Hercules, Calif.
The comment is about this: I saw 8,451 mock drafts and don’t recall seeing his name in one of them.
THE DRAFT HUG
I rarely watch the draft but caught some of rounds one and two this year, and I was struck by the great irony of the draft hug. I have no idea how long the ritual of new draftees hugging the commissioner has been in existence, but in a league where the heavy-handed commissioner is vilified by the NFLPA and players in general, the draft hug is a great conflict between a humanizing element and a draft “right of passage” vs. the staged media machine that is the NFL. Curious what your thoughts might be here.
—A displaced Canadian Steelers fan in N.J.
I think it’s harmless enthusiasm. I have heard many statements similar to yours that these new NFL employees shouldn’t be bear-hugging the commissioner, but I would say it’s not too big a deal to me. This is perhaps the most exciting moment of their young lives, and these kids are fired up. I would ask people who would say “Cool it on the hug,” if they think it’s important to legislate joy and legislate what a kid’s reaction should be. I don’t.
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