Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Was there a draft this past weekend?

You wouldn't know it from watching ESPN, er, scratch that. So even as our friends at the worldwide leader continue their assualt on everything special about sports, this year's draft still had the usual draw for me. As a huge college and professional football fan, the draft has always offered me the perfect confluence of these two loves. Yes, ESPN (and the almost unwatchable NFL Network coverage) really has taken the hyperpole and hype to an extreme level, but if you manage to filter it out, there is still a lot to love. Here are my thoughts and highlights from the 2006 NFL Draft. I will put out the caveat that I spent most of the 1st and 2nd rounds in either airports or on airplanes, returning from a week in Florida. I did make some emergency phone calls to my buddy back in Pittsburgh to find out what was happening with the proceedings (the 2nd call right as the Steelers traded up to draft Santonio Holmes, during a brief 5 minute window between flights...clearly a good omen!!).

Thoughts:

1. See "Bush Whacked" for my thoughts on the first pick debacle. That one will go down in draft history...mark my words.
2. Brady Quinn's sister is clearly not dating AJ Hawk for his looks...yikes. That guy was born to be a LB in Green Bay, following in the great Ray Nitschke's large footsteps. To me, outside of Bush, that was the one "no-brainer" pick of the first round. He will be an immediate starter and future Pro-Bowler.
3. I love the pick of Michael Huff to Oakland, although most of the talking (or screaming) heads have panned them for this pick. If you really study the history of the Raiders secondary, it's littered with players just like Huff; hard-hitting, fast, and tough as nails (Haynes, Hayes, Tatum, Lott, Rod Woodson, etc.). He will be a great player for them. And to those critics slamming them for not picking Leinart, he would have not been a good fit in their vertical passing game. I mean, I'm as big a Leinart supporter as there is outside of LA, but he needs to be in a controlled passing game.
4. Leinart in 2006...shades of Roethlisberger in 2004? Hmm...only time will tell, but it is a strikingly similar slide, and I would bet he uses it as motivation in much the same way. Will he have the results Ben has had to date? Doubtful, but he, like Ben, fell into an ideal situation and should have a long productive career.
5. The Patriots getting the #2 RB with the 22nd pick and the Super Bowl champs getting the #1 WR on the board with the 25th pick is why the rich just keep on getting richer. They're smarter and more saavy than 98% of the rest of the league. It is fun to watch.
6. It is going to be Boom or Bust with this draft for the Tennessee Titans. I am firmly in the "Vince Young is not going to succeed as a pro" camp, but if he and LenDale White play to the capabilities, look out AFC South and beyond. It is a double down Trent-type gamble, but one that could have a huge payday.
7. How in the world does a defensive back as talented as Jimmy Williams slide to the #37 pick in a league where that position is at a premium? Mind-boggling. I have zero doubt that I could do a better job than half of the GMs in the NFL. The guy was an amazing player, and by all accounts had a clean off the field slate. He got bad rap for having an abbrasive attitude...yeah, I mean, who wants a cocky, confident, athletic CB? Those never work out well do they? Foolish.
8. The Vikings picking Tavarius Jackson in the 2nd round seemed like a head-scratcher until I watched the footage of him throwing lasers all over the field. You can teach the offensive system to the kid, but you can't teach that kind of arm strength. I do not usually get too caught up in the measurables, I am a past performance guy, but the throws he made on that film just jumped off the screen. He could be special.
9. I am officially convinced that AJ Smith is either A) trying to kill Marty Schottenheimer slowly with each draft or B) he is secretly competing with Matt Millen to see who can get fired first. "Let me see, should we take one of the two sub-4.4 WRs still on the board at #19 that we so desperately need, or do we take a gimpy CB with one college start and no games played in 2005. It's a no brainer...bring out the gimp!!" And then, again with some quality WRs still available in round 3 (Hagan, Brandon Williams, Stovall), he elects to draft an inconsistent, sidearm QB out of the ACC. Can't have enough of those around.
10. And finally, is there any way we can get Steve McNair to just retire? Is it too much to ask? I am not sure what kind of pictures this guy has of the media, but he is clearly the single most overrated player of the past 10 years. All weekend, all everyone wanted to talk about was how he was being mistreated by management, how superstars do not get treated that way, how he's given so much to this organization, blah, blah, blah. I just don't see it with this guy. I cannot put my finger on it, but he is just not that impressive. I'm sick of hearing about what a warrior he is all the time. Dick Butkus was a warrior. Jack Lambert was warrior. Ronnie Lott, warrior. Just because a QB plays with a sore tailbone, he's not a warrior. I don't get how some guys are such media darlings (NcNair), yet others can't catch a break half the time even though they are true superstars (NcNabb...subject for another day). That all being said, I'll be thrilled if he goes to Baltimore and plays sitting duck to the Steelers "Nasty D."

Steelers draft tangent:

1. After initially being bummed because the passed on White, I have grown to really love the Holmes pick. He (and third rounder Willie Reid) bring a speed demension to the Steelers offense that has been non-existent since...well...forever. They are two of the fastest players the team has ever drafted, which leads me to think...
2. There is going to be a shift in offensive philosophy. Coach Cowher alluded it to it a few times during the playoffs when asked about opening up the passing game, responding something to the effect, and I'm paraphrasing, "of course we're throwing more, we finally have a QB who can complete passes and win games, stupid." It's clear with the drafting of Holmes and Reid that they are going to be taking advantage of their speed to create mismatches and open up space for Hines Ward and Heath Miller. Couple that with the fact they did not draft a RB, thus leaving that position thin but fast (see Willie Parker) tells me they are opening it up. God bless Eli Manning's 2004 draft hissy fit that allowed Big Ben to slide to #11. Again, the rich get richer.
3. It is also clear that the Steelers fully expect Holmes to start from Day 1. When the pick was made, it appeared that he would return kicks and play some third and fourth WR, but with the selection of Willie Reid, one of the best KRs in college football last year, one could surmise that they expect Holmes to make an immediate impact as the #2 or #3 WR (hopefully #2, Ced Wilson is not exactly the 2nd coming of John Taylor). Again, all speculation, but with Ben as the QB, it makes sense.
4. As my prior posts stated, I like Bruce Gradkowski as a QB to groom as Ben's back-up, but I do like the selection of Omar Jacobs. He is a very gifted passer and athlete, and he has the potential to develop into a very good Roethlisberger caddy and/or trade bait (ala the Ron Wolf QB drafting/developing/trading crede).

Well, those are my thoughts. I could go on all day, but no one is reading this posting anyway.

3 Comments:

At 12:21 AM, Blogger Dan said...

Excellent work, as always, Boyer!

Don't forget - the Pats got the #2 receiver on the board, too.

While risky, I don't mind the Cromartie pick for SD - I think they needed DB help more than WR help....but my biggest question is - why not go after either a WR or a second DB later? Taking a QB in the 3rd when there are good players at both positions still available and you've already got $10mil tied up in Rivers? I don't get it.

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger Scott said...

Excellent writeup. Thanks for the McNair note, I can't wait for his era to begin. Can't he just injure himself at his personal gym and retire?

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger Boyer said...

Nah, McNair would injure himself at his home gym and then "tough it out" like the warrior he is.

 

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