If baseball is America’s pastime then, at this time of year, the NFL Draft is its day job.
Draft time isn’t just for the professionals. Amateur ‘scouts’ from across the country spend hundreds of hours poring over college games, combine results – the NFL’s version of a meat market – and even interviews in order to put a number or a grade on a kid a fresh out of college.
Draftniks get into virtual fisticuffs on social media over whether such and such has the ‘measurables’, the ‘tape’ or if they simply love the game of football enough to put it all together in the big league.
Bearing in mind these are young men barely out of their teenage years – it can get downright creepy at times.
This is not just an exercise for the nerdiest corners of the web, though. More Americans watch – and boo – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell read out 32 names on a podium over the course of four hours than tune in for the last round of the Masters.
So if you want to know what all the fuss is about, and find yourself at a loose end at approximately 04:00 GST on Friday morning, this year’s first round is shaping up to be more compelling than most.
Hoping the Browns go Mayfield at 1 so this clip goes down in the annals of the NFL draft.— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) April 24, 2018
“Hue, what was your first impression of Baker Mayfield?”
“Well, I have a great story about that...” pic.twitter.com/VoX9e3U4b6
All eyes on Cleveland
The Cleveland Browns’ record over the last two years reads an atrocious one win, 31 defeats. They hold picks No1 and No4 in a quarterback-stacked draft. And John Dorsey, the Browns’ general manager, is known for keeping his cards superglued to his chest. Desperation and deviousness are a potent mix.
Unlike recent years, when the top pick of the draft was known to everyone and their mother before the curtains were raised, it’s been hard to cut through the chatter coming out of Cleveland.
Some like them taking Wyoming’s Josh Allen, who sorely lacks for accuracy but is easy to fall in love with thanks to his mortar of an arm. Others like ‘high-ceiling’ USC signal-caller Sam Darnold. Then there’s analytics company Pro Football Focus’ darling Baker Mayfield from Texas Tech, and arguably the most talented of the lot, UCLA’s Josh Rosen – but who some claim has a personality defect.
Pick your favourite flavour. But quarterbacks are gold dust, not ice cream, and many QB-starved teams will trade the farm and the clothes they are wearing if they fall in love with just one of them.
What does this mean? Expect at least two big trades on the night.
One reason why the Browns have kept everyone guessing is that some team may hand over that farm if they believe they will take the quarterback they are besotted with at No1. And if they don’t go for a passer first up then the New York Giants’ phones, at No2, will be ringing off the hook.
Throw in the Jets and Denver too and a quarterback could be in play in the first five picks. Watch for Miami, Buffalo and Arizona to muscle their way in. Either way, Dorsey’s going to have some fun.
The QB who would be king
If you’re falling asleep – or waking up – in time for the bottom half of the draft, what the New England Patriots decide to do may give you a timely slap around the chops.
There have been reports that Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, is increasingly not welcome in New England and that TB12 himself is sick of taking less money than the superstar amount he deserves.
Belichick, it is claimed, is still raw over being forced to trade Brady’s heir apparent Jimmy Garoppolo by Kraft.
The Patriots are Tom Brady's franchise and Brady is making sure Bill Belichick knows that pic.twitter.com/E8DUiOBS5g— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) April 18, 2018
It means a disgruntled Brady, at 41, has no would-be successor on the roster. That’s all about to change over the course of the weekend.
What makes the situation all the more intriguing is that the Patriots hold pick No23, after trading Brandin Cooks to the Rams, as well as No31.
That they’ll package both picks and make a massive jump seems unlikely given the many gaping non-QB holes they have to fill. But if the right QB falls, they could well go and get the man who will be Brady’s replacement.
The name to look out for? Louisville’s Heisman Trophy winning signal caller Lamar Jackson in what would represent a future seismic shift for the Pats’ offence.
His ability in the pocket is under question though underappreciated by some. He is without doubt, however, an electrifying runner with shades of Michael Vick, the most unique quarterback of his generation.
From Brady and Belichick to Jackson and Bill’s protege Josh McDaniels? Set that alarm …
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