Oh, What A Wonderful NFL Draft It Was!
If you missed this weekend’s NFL Draft, what were you thinking? This year’s draft had more drama, twists, turns and emotion than a TV novela! I’ve followed the draft since 1985 and have witnessed the slides of quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Brady Quinn, and Tim Tebow along with Thurman Thomas’s epic hour-after-hour draft day plummet, but have never enjoyed viewing such an eventful NFL Draft weekend as this one. First I have to thank Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M junior, for making himself the most transcendent athlete in sports. Black, white, male, female, young or old, no player in recent memory has so captured the sports audience. His followers on Twitter rival the most established sports athletes and his draft day saga (not anything else, Roger Goddell, if you’re listening) drove ESPN’s Thursday night viewership to a record overnight 6.8 rating, which was almost 50-percent higher than last year's. Thursday's round one of the draft had a higher viewership than the 2013 Orange Bowl. Here are some quick examples of Johnny Football’s market dominance on the world of sports since the NFL Draft.
Within 24 hours of Manziel’s selection by the Cleveland Browns the team had sold more than 2,300 season tickets. His jersey outsold Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Tim Tebow's jerseys combined after their draft years on NFLShop.com. Since April 1, Manziel also has the top selling jersey in the league and his previously mentioned Twitter account has gained close to 200,000 followers in the last four days. He has given a new meaning to Roger Tidwell’s line, “Show Me The Money!” I’m thinking he should trademark the name Johnny Ca$h rather than Johnny Football.
Moving on to the end of last weekend’s draft, two story lines emerged as round seven ended. The first was one of desolation as for the first time since 1937 the Texas Longhorns did not have a player selected in the NFL Draft. Boy, were times tough during the final years of Mack Brown’s tenure. Some of the names passed on by NFL execs included former four and five-star high school athletes like defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and wide receiver Mike Davis.
Second was the story of Michael Sam, the first openly gay athlete to come out before entering the NFL Draft. Sam’s selection by the St. Louis Rams was ground-breaking but also indicative of how ready America is to accept an athlete’s sexual orientation. It’s the kiss that has rocked the sports world. Call me crazy but I thought we had already seen a man kiss a man on TV or at least in the movies. Seriously, Brokeback Mountain was not a bad movie!
Last, and for you football fans, most important, is a look at which teams I thought won their divisions in the year’s draft, which was a deep and loaded.
North: Minnesota – General Manager Rick Speilman traded back into the late first round for the third straight year and may have finally found the team’s quarterback of the future in Teddy Bridgewater. The team also addressed several defensive needs and helped the depth along the offensive front.
Best Picks: QB-Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville, G/OT-David Yankey, Stanford, DE-Scott Crichton, Oregon State, DB-Antone Exum, Virginia Tech, OLB-Brandon Watts, Georgia Tech.
South: Tampa Bay – The Bucs only had seven picks but did a great job of adding weapons to their offense. Mike Evans should be a dangerous threat at wide receiver. They also have enough height and athletes now to have a great summer league basketball team!
Best Picks: WR-Mike Evans, Texas A&M, TE-Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington, RB-Charles Sims, West Virginia, WR-Robert Herron, Wyoming.
East: New York – The Giants are another team that did a solid job of adding talent to its offense. I love Odell Beckham and Andre Williams. They also picked up a few late round defensive gems that should stick.
Best Picks: WR-Odell Beckham, LSU, C-Weston Richburg, Colorado State, RB-Andre Williams, Boston College, OLB-Devon Kennard, USC.
West: St. Louis – The Rams had the best draft! They built their team the way it should be, along the offensive and defensive fronts. Greg Robinson on offense and Arnold Donald on defense should be Pro Bowl players one day. I also love defensive back Lamarcus Joyner. Drafting Michael Sam in the seventh round was historic but, more importantly, a good football move.
Best Picks: OT-Greg Robinson, Auburn, DT-Arnold Donald, Pittsburgh, DB-Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State, RB-Tre Mason, Auburn, QB-Garrett Gilbert, SMU.
North: Baltimore – If Timmy Jernigan can avoid off-field distractions, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome scored two top 20 players in the first two rounds. C.J. Mosely should fit in nicely and Jernigan will be a run-stuffer at defensive tackle. The Ravens also drafted the smartest player in the draft in John Urschel.
Best Picks: LB-C.J. Mosley, Alabama, DT-Timmy Jernigan, Florida State, TE-Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State, RB-Lorenzo Taliaferro, Coastal Carolina, C/G-John Urschel, Penn State.
South: Jacksonville – I wasn’t a big fan of the Jaguars drafting Blake Bortles with the third overall pick, as I felt there was better value at the selection but after that, they nailed it! Adding weapons at wide receiver and offense will go a long way to helping Bortles development.
Best Picks: WR-Marqise Lee, USC, WR-Allen Robinson, Penn State, CB-Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma, LB-Telvin Smith, Florida State, DE-Chris Smith, Arkansas, RB-Storm Johnson, Central Florida.
East: New York – J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets! Coming into the draft the team wanted to add talent to its offense which it did but also didn’t forget about coach Rex Ryan and his vaunted defense. Safety Calvin Pryor can lay the lumber!
Best Picks: S-Calvin Pryor, Louisville, TE-Jace Amaro, Texas Tech, CB-Dexter McDougle, Maryland, WR-Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma, G-Dakota Dozier, Furman, QB-Tajh Boyd, Clemson.
West: Oakland – I can’t believe I’m writing this but the Raiders had one of the top three drafts! They added a potential pro-bowler in Khalil Mack and the best passer in the draft in Derek Carr. General manager Reggie McKenzie also helped his team along the offensive and defensive fronts.
Best Picks: OLB-Khalil Mack, Buffalo, QB-Derek Carr, Fresno State, G-Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State, DT-Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech, CB-Keith McGill, Utah.