One day in the distant future Americans will look back at the 21st century and chuckle at the idiocy of our sports media tropes. Our great-grandkids will snicker while walking through a virtual museum of NFL Draft time capsules, bemused at how dated and artificial so many of the concepts were. 3D episodes of First Take will be beamed above, kids will swipe through Buzzfeed slide shows of “Each Team’s Biggest Bust,” and the final artifact will bring the house down.
Like documents from the Salem Witch Trials or medieval medical devices, they will see morning after “Draft Grades” and wonder how this could’ve ever been a thing. These hollow bits of cyber flotsam which judge the unknown will be our modern snake oil to cure blindness. Much like deciding whether your summer vacation of 2034 will be fun, or reviewing a movie that still hasn’t even released its trailer, “Draft Grades” are exercises in… well, nothing.
I’d argue they are exercises in guess work, but it’s not even that studious. It’s like throwing a pebble into a lake and guessing whether it hit a brown trout on the head. But it was a bizarre night, and with an eye toward dissecting its twists and turns, let’s break it down a little more fundamentally, with a little less definitiveness.
Something I liked: The Bills nabbing Clemson’s Shaq Lawson. Rex Ryan’s defensive genius card has been stamped as “probationary.” His first season in Buffalo was less than inspiring, especially in his supposed area of expertise. But if anyone can figure a way to get the most out of an explosive, fast, agile, powerful defensive end it should be Rex. His shoulder injury obviously scared some teams off, that’s the only way he would’ve slid that far. But he’s my favorite player in this draft.
Something I didn’t like: The Cowboys taking Ezekiel Elliott at #4. History is unkind to teams that select running backs in the top 5. Over the last 20 years? That list includes Trent Richardson, Darren McFadden, Reggie Bush, Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, Curtis Enis, and Ki-Jana Carter. There were a few hits, including Jamal Lewis, Edgerrin James, and LaDanian Tomlinson. But those three were all more than 15 years ago, and the game has changed since then. It all means you have a much better chance of selecting a massive bust than you do a workhorse running back. In the last decade only one team that has taken a back in the first round and won the Lombardi with him (Steelers and Rashard Mendenhall – the 4th RB taken in ’08).
Something that made financial sense: The Broncos trading up to grab Paxton Lynch. Brock Osweiler got a $71M deal from the Texans, $31 guaranteed. Lynch will earn approximately $9 over the life of his rookie contract. That means John Elway just traded away a third-rounder for a quarterback that’s approximately $62M cheaper, but has started only 7 fewer games in the NFL. New meaning to the phrase “good value pick.”
Something that made no sense: Sam Bradford pitching a fit and demanding a trade. The way his agent spun it “The Glass Skeleton” was uncomfortable with a young quarterback being drafted to eventually take his spot. This is a somewhat stunning admission when you think about it. The draft is held every year, yet roster sizes don’t expand. Thus, every player is fending off a younger, cheaper replacement every day of his life. The Patriots selected Jimmy Garoppolo in the 2nd round. The Saints and Cowboys have been open about finding their next quarterbacks. And Bradford believes he is above that reality? My goodness.
Something that was slightly terrifying: Laremy Tunsil’s night. We’ve all had bad days, ones where coffee spills on your dry-cleaned shirt, the engine light goes on just two days after getting it out of the shop, there’s massive construction delays on the way to work, and you just found out it’s going to rain all weekend when you finally got that tee time. But has anyone every had the series of total humiliation over the course of three hours that Tunsil did? Video of his gasmask bong drops right before the draft, he slides out of the top 10, screenshots of him asking for money from coaches go public, he admits to taking improper benefits from Ole Miss, and a PR assistant has to aggressively cut short his Q&A, drag him off stage, and lock him in a room. As a backdrop Deion Sanders asks on national television whether the hacks were by his stepfather, who is actively suing Laremy. Forget Tunsil’s rash of poor judgement here for a moment. Could you imagine waking up today and trying to collect yourself after that three-hour car crash of your life?
Something that was painfully predictable: Chip Kelly using a high pick on a familiar face. He was the head coach at Oregon when DeForest Buckner committed to the Ducks, so of course San Fran took him at #7. The Niners have plenty of holes, and using a top 10 pick on a pass rusher makes sense. But Chip’s rash of poor personnel decisions ruptured Philly. It took 6 quarters before Kiko Alonso reinjured his knee. Bradford, Byron Maxwell, Demarco Murray, Marcus Smith, Nelson Agholor all look like disasters. Clearly Kelly stumped for this pick. Would you really trust him with any player decision?
Something that worries me: The avalanche of “Draft Grades” rolling down the mountain right now, nonstop all weekend, gift-wrapped for future generations.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.