The road is never an easy one. Some assume it is and gloat in their teams selection of a Ryan Leaf, George Rogers or Rashan Salaam. And, when they turn out to suck they deny they ever wanted them or cheered for them. “Ryan Leaf is a bust, I always said he was.” Others brag about their football intellect stating things like, “Remember, I called it! I said Matt Forte would be a stud.” Regardless of the situation or whether the guy pans out or not tis the season for evaluating talent and getting ready for the 2009 Draft.
It starts just before bowl season (NOW) and continues through April until Draft Weekend. I love Draft weekend. For me it is right up there with Superbowl Sunday, College Bowl Games, the Masters, the World Series, March Madness and the Stanley Cup finals.
It is the weekend when champions are built. It is a day for the boys getting together, drinking a few beers, eating some burgers and nachos and watching team’s destinies take shape before your very eyes. Draft Day parties are a blast.
My colleagues and close friends have often referred to me as Mel Kiper Jr. Jr. Since high school in the late 80s I’ve studied the players and the teams needs and would anxiously await the Draft to see how I would do up against the “so called” professionals. Not to brag but most years I do pretty well and occassionally I will pull a rabbit out of a hat and call a mid-round pick on the fly.
My gold medal or crowning acheivement if you will was nailing the first three picks of the Dolphins in 1994 when they took DT Timmy Bowens, LB Aubrey Beavers and OL Tim Ruddy. Other highlights are when I called QB Kyle Orton going to the Bears in the 4th Round of the 2005 Draft and nailing Hester, Dvorceck and Anderson in 2006. I also called QB Matt Ryan being selected by the Atlanta Falcons and having an immediate, positive impact. For a brief moment on a spring weekend you feel like you know as much as the guys in the war rooms do. And, in some cases, you might even know more.
Yes, sometimes the “geniuses” in the war rooms will over-analyze situations or needs and pick the absolute wrong guy (Rick Mirer, Cade McNown or Curtis Enis). They are smart and do know the game. Their is no question about that. However, it seems alot of them check their common sense at the door.
A young kid like Dan Marino hangs on for the first 28 picks in the draft. Teams take Todd Blackledge and Ken O’Brien before him. WHAT? Zach Thomas a hall of fame caliber line backer hangs around until the 5th Round. Richard Dent collects dust until round number 8. But every year it happens. Guys that you like that should be gone just sit there for nothing more than being over analyzed. “Oh, he tried pot once, was caught drinking, he doesn’t lift 250 pounds as much as the other guys or can’t run a 4.4 second forty.” Like Jimmy Johnson said years ago, “You can have your combines and tests, give me 22 guys that know how to play the game of football.” Here, here Jimmy!
Now, I’m not against all of the tests and combines and other things. At some point you have to seperate groups of kids that appear equal at times. Simply put I am not a fan combine numbers and physical appearance first (see Alonzo Spellman). Give me a kid that hits hard, isn’t afraid to take a hit, that comes from a winning or well coached program and has a love and intelligence for the game. Passion and common sense should have a place at the war room table.
I look forward to writing many more pieces on the 2009 Draft in the coming months. In the meantime, enjoy the bowl games and the NFL playoffs.
In closing let me give you 3 dark horse players to keep an eye on this bowl (including all-star games) season.
QB Tyler Lorenzen from UConn – His stats aren’t going to break any records. No doubt about that. However the kid has terrific accuracy, range and height. He doesn’t play with any receiving stand outs and should get a chance to prove himself in an upcoming all-star game. I see him as a Matt Cassel type. He will probably get selected in the 6th to 7th Round and spend a year or two on a teams development squad. He would actually do well in a west coast or run first type of offense. Chicago, NY Giants or San Francisco are possible destinations.
RB Arian Foster from Tennessee – I felt bad for this kid in 2008. Everything was set up for him to have a great season and then Tennessee collapsed. The offensive line was terrible and that effected his numbers. Career wise he ran 650 times for almost 3,000 yards and 24 TDs. He made 83 receptions for 742 yards, an average of about 9 yards per catch. He is a special kid, well liked by teammates and coaches. He is also obsessed with winning and that is a good thing. He can play in almost any system. Denver would be a great spot for him but replacing Deuce in New Orleans would work too.
LB Joe Mortensen from Kansas – Joe hurt a knee ligament last season and had some turf toe this season. It has slowed him down but he has played while injured. This will effect what round he is drafted in but won’t effect the type of player he has the potential to become. When you are named 1st Team Big 12 you aren’t a bad player and are probably draft worthy. He has the perfect NFL frame and the tenacity to go with it. An NFL team that already has a linebacker that can give him a couple of years to develop is probably his best bet. I am thinking Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas or Seattle.