- Plus, the Raiders’ unfilled need, Cardinals GM Steve Keim on the brink, Nick Bosa’s social media stupidity, and, well, the merciful end of draft season.
1. A decade-and-a-half ago, when I was slightly younger and much more unemployed, I attended a horse race for the first time, the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Track. My friend Mike worked there, and if there’s one thing you should know about Mike, it’s that the “E” in his name is actually silent.
At Saratoga they have a little area where the horses come out and walk around before they head out to the gates (I’m sure there’s a name for it but I don’t know what it is—UPDATE: It's a paddock!). I was hanging out there that day because I had never seen a big horse up-close and horses are neat! There were two older gents who were around there too, jotting things down on their betting forms as they occasionally muttered, “he looks strong.”
To be clear: They were all thoroughbred horses. They all look strong, right? So I kept hanging out there because I became increasingly curious if we’d see any horses that didn’t look strong. Like, a horse with only three legs, or maybe a dog standing atop another dog, at which point I would say to myself, “Hmm, that horse is actually two dogs, I don’t believe I’ll be placing a bet on him.”
The point is, I listened to these two guys say a horse “looks strong” 53 or so times, despite the fact that there was no shortage of analytics and other information available on all the horses for betting purposes. That evening, I swore to myself that I’d never be adjacent to anything so stupid again. Yet, all these years later, I’m forced to endure an NFL draft season of combine and pro days.
The league and its broadcast partners have every reason to come up with watchable events during draft season, which is how you get a televised combine and full-on pro day coverage. But the unfortunate side effect is that the audience, which crosses over with our audience at The MMQB, is now under the impression that these events—at least the parts you can see—matter more than a very, very small amount.
The game tape is what matters. And the team interviews (which we don’t see) matter a bit too. The testing, or the performances against air, do not matter, except for the handful of players who bomb and the even fewer small-school players who perform exceedingly well. For the combine, all they’re televising is a bunch of guys dressed like Living Colour frontman Corey Glover circa 1989 doing a bunch of things they will never do on the football field. This year, D.K. Metcalf made all the headlines at the combine. And rightfully so since just completing the 40-yard dash—let alone running a 4.33—when you have 1.6% body fat would require some kind of Weekend at Bernie’s-type scenario. Metcalf went with the last pick of the second round, about a full round later than he was expected to when he declared for the draft. The few noteworthy things that happen at the combine will be covered, especially since they can be summed up in about four minutes.
As for pro days, I’ll pick on Adam Schefter because he’s better at his job, more successful and handsomer than I can ever hope to be and, more importantly, too classy to punch down at someone like me, but this tweet is ridiculous:
One NFL scout in Morgantown, W.V., just texted that QB Will Grier “put on a show” for NFL Teams in attendance and predicted he’s “a riser.” The WVU QB is expected to meet with at least 10 teams before the draft, including the Giants, Redskins, Chargers, Pats and Saints.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 21, 2019
Will Grier has more than 1,000 dropbacks over three seasons with two different programs on tape; claiming an afternoon throwing against air in gym shorts moved his stock in any significant way is the ramblings of a madman.
The media is full of smart people who do excellent evaluations of prospects as well as reporters who will sort through the mounds of meaningless information to tell you what’s relevant. There are a thousand better things you can do with your life than watch the combine and pro days—an example, just off the top of my head, would be staring into the middle distance—and for folks like me, if you stop thirsting for this theater of bullcrap we can stop covering it.
2. The most annoying thing about NFL draft fandom is that everyone seems to think there’s one universal board that every team must work off of. What? Clelin Ferrell went FOURTH!?!?!?! He should have gone, like, 12th!!!!! The separation between players is thin, and that was especially true in this draft once you got beyond Nick Bosa and Quinnen Williams. Different teams have different boards, two teams can feel differently about the same player and about how each player fits in a scheme and in a locker room.
Ferrell will probably be fine, maybe even very good. If I was a Raiders fan, I’d be more concerned with how this offense is going to function with Derek Carr’s seeming refusal to utilize play-action, and no tight end to move around in the formation.
Carr didn’t do much play-action under Todd Downing in 2017—Downing was Carr’s buddy and supposedly streamlined the playbook to fit the quarterback’s preferences—and Carr didn’t do it much for the Gruden regime last year. When Carr has worked play-action the past two seasons, the results have been bad (perhaps because he's uncomfortable turning away from the action after the snap).
The receiving corps has been very much upgraded, but the Raiders never replaced Jared Cook, the kind of tight end they could split out wide to tip coverages. The way the roster is built, Carr might be forced to do a Ben Roethlisberger impression next year, and that’s a very tall order.
3. The other most annoying thing about NFL draft fandom is that everyone forgets that teams can not only trade their draft picks, but can trade them in exchange for another team's draft picks. Which brings us to Giants fans, who at some point over the past 18 months… I’m not really sure how to put this, but it seems like they collectively decided to do an Improv Everywhere-style mass impersonation of Jets fans.
If you don’t like the Daniel Jones pick, then don’t like the Daniel Jones pick. He was in a trio of uninspiring second-tier QBs in an uninspiring draft class. Some NFL teams thought he was better than Dwayne Haskins, and some did not. At Duke, Jones played behind a terrible offensive line with receivers who were not only unable separate consistently but struggled to catch the ball when they did. At Ohio State, Haskins played in an offense where almost every one of his teammates, in every game, was better than the man they lined up against. Haskins has a better arm. Jones is a better athlete. (I’d have thought Giants fans would have terror-induced diarrhea at the thought of Haskins standing like a statue behind an offensive line that hasn’t been good for years, but seems I'm mistaken.)
Jones would not have made it to 17, a fact that for some reason has made the obnoxious new faction of woe-is-me Giants fans go after respected journalists who will forget more about football than these internet tough guys will ever know. But let’s step into a fictional world where Jones might have been available at 17. What are the odds that, say, taking Josh Allen (a fine player but another guy in that clump of not-Bosa-nor-Quinnen players in this draft), to play under a defensive coordinator who primarily generates pressure via the blitz, instead of Dexter Lawrence would make a difference? (That’s a rhetorical question, the answer is “very low.”)
Projecting a quarterback’s success is difficult, and there will be a number of factors both in and out of Jones’s control that will determine what he becomes in the NFL. But, in short, this Jones pick is fine. It certainly shouldn't be moving anyone emotionally. I’ve spent the bulk of my life in New York, and I haven’t heard the city freak out over a draft pick like this since the Knicks missed out on Jahlil Okafor.
4. Either Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray are going to create a revolutionary offensive force some time in the next two seasons, or Steve Keim is never going to be an NFL general manager again. And it would really help if Andy Isabella was a big part of that. Within one year, Keim turned the 15th, 79th and 152nd picks of the stacked 2018 draft into: Andy Isabella. Isolated, that is roster-building malpractice, and that's before you even consider the seeming recklessness of the Kingsbury hire. This has to not only work, but work spectacularly well.
5. The beneficiary of the Cardinals chaos is Miami. It’s not just that the Dolphins might have landed their quarterback of the future, a guy who would have been the first or second quarterback off the board if he was in this draft. But they are taking absolutely no risk in getting him.
The Cardinals are on the hook for Rosen’s signing bonus, so the Dolphins owe Rosen $6.2 million total over the next three seasons. That’s third-string quarterback money. Even in the worst-case scenario—Rosen has to start throwing lefty after he mangles his right hand trying to fish a fallen Hot Pocket out of the break room garbage disposal, he alienates his teammates by peeing on all the toilet seats in the bathroom on a near-daily basis, and he plays with the pocket presence and awareness of Ryan Tannehill—the financial risk is as miniscule as you can have in a potential starting quarterback.
6. I actually thought Nick Bosa’s comments (re:his unfathomably dumb social media activity) were pretty encouraging. It ultimately won’t matter if he doesn’t follow through with actions (and words) in the future, but the sentiment he conveyed—that he was ignorant and thoughtless and that being exposed to people from a wider range of backgrounds over the coming years will cause him to reconsider his worldview, become more empathetic and ultimately grow into a more well-rounded and evolved person—is a good one.
But to be clear, just like last fall when one of the NFL’s broadcast partners used the biggest game of the regular season to run an advertisement encouraging racism, a lot of these tweets and accounts Nick Bosa interacts with and follows aren’t “political,” as if they’re drumming up support for reducing the capital gains tax (or whatever else is coming next for the nation’s obscenely wealthy). They are accounts that propagate racism (well, some of them propagate racism to distract people from the fact that they’re going against their own financial self-interests, but that’s a story for another time…). Bosa deserves any heat he has gotten and will continue to get, but he also gets the opportunity to be better going forward.
7. Alas, the perfect marriage—D.K. Metcalf and the Buffalo Bills—never came to be, a bitter end to the my 2019 draft dreams.
We’ll wrap this up with some brutal honesty: This draft season was a slog. Best of luck to all these guys, many of whom will become great players, but there was such a lack of intrigue this year. So, sorry. The post-draft column next year will be better. (Yeah, that’s right, I'm saying I will write something good one year from now.)
The next couple of months look promising though. The new Mountain Goats album is finally out. The NBA Playoffs should be good at least until the Finals. And the warm weather has held off thus far, so still time to keep your lawn from looking crappy all spring and summer. We’ll have lots to cover this fall, but for now, go live your life and forget about the 2019 draft.
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