For defenders of the NFL draft as must-see TV, last night was tough. A total of five skill-position players in the first round, including just one quarterback, is a pretty tough sell to the casual fan. There was one group, though, who couldn't have enjoyed last night any more than they did. Just trust me when I say that for us line-play nerds, last night was crazy. But we understand that some of you don't spend a lot of time watching the MAC (we actually don’t either), observing guard play in the ACC, or keeping tabs on the left tackle when the Heisman Trophy winner has the ball. Don't worry. We’re here for you. It’s with all that in mind that we present a special draft edition of the Trenchie Awards with the hope that after today you might know each top-10 pick just a bit better.
1.Eric Fisher, Chiefs
2. Luke Joeckel, Jaguars
The prevailing wisdom in the lead-up to the draft is that an offensive tackle would go first overall. It just wasn’t this offensive tackle. From what I can gather, it was really Fisher’s excellent Senior Bowl week that got things rolling downhill, and by the time yesterday rolled around, no one was really surprised when he ended up jumping Luke Joeckel. The question is why he did.
Both — as you’d expect from players who go one and two overall — have elite feet and quickness. They each look very comfortable getting into their pass sets, and you’ll have to watch a ton of tape to catch a pass rusher getting to the edge on either. They stonewall guys so effortlessly that often, defenders just give up.
Chris: This doesn't feel like a no. 1 draft-pick hug to me. I may be a little distracted with the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen camerawork, but this seems a little low-key. Maybe Goodell was just getting warmed up? Maybe they hugged for like 20 minutes backstage and Goodell told him where Jimmy Hoffa was buried?
Rembert: This is a no. 1 draft-pick hug, when the no. 1 draft pick is an offensive tackle. This hug screams "no one is excited about us hugging." Or "Hi Mister Goodell, I'm Eric Fisher, thank you so much for downloading the PDFs of my résumé and cover letter that I sent to you via Dropbox."
As I write this, we stand about seven hours from the start of the 2013 NFL draft, and all anyone seems to know is that, really, no one knows jack. Last year, any drama that normally comes with the early parts of Round 1 was gone long before Roger Goodell stepped to the podium. Andrew Luck was the no. 1 pick since kindergarten, and I’m pretty sure no one thought the Redskins had climbed up to no. 2 for Michael Floyd. With the new rookie salary scale in place, last year was supposed to usher in a new era of trade craziness and general mayhem, but aside from Jerry Jones’s typical insanity, things pretty much went according to plan. This year, we’re on some Mad Max–type stuff.
Just about everyone concedes that a tackle is going first overall, but which one? Where does the first quarterback go — Oakland, Philly? Does Buffalo really take Ryan Nassib at eight? Who could’ve known that Socrates was actually talking about the NFL draft that whole time? In honor of true wisdom, here are five sort-of-but-not-totally crazy predictions about this year’s draft class.
1. Jonathan Cooper will have the best career of any player in this draft
There are a lot of factors pointing toward Cooper’s success, but it starts with what type of guard even warrants mention as a top-10 pick. The success rate on guards selected in the first round is higher than any other position, but usually even the best ones don’t end up going until the 20s. Last year, David DeCastro was the consensus best guard available, and widely viewed as one of the draft’s safest picks. He went 24th.
Lost amid all of yesterday’s free-agent chatter was the news that after 12 seasons, Steve Hutchinson’s NFL career is over. Ray Lewis and Tony Gonzalez were the names oft-mentioned this offseason when discussing all-time greats walking away from the game, but Hutchinson belongs in any conversation about the best players of the past 10 years. A seven-time All-Pro and a member of the NFL’s ’00s All-Decade Team, Hutchinson isn’t just one of the best guards of his era — he’s one of the best guards of all-time.
The timing of the announcement is fitting, mostly because of how Hutchinson fits into the thought process about how teams should be built. From his time in Seattle and Minnesota, Hutchinson represents a way of valuing interior line play that often goes overlooked but is rarely regretted. Likely filling Hutchinson’s role in Tennessee will be free-agent prize Andy Levitre, who owes at least part of his six-year, $46.8 million contract to Hutchinson.
With free agency and the draft process revving up, there are plenty of questions for every NFL team. But for most, there's one issue that trumps the rest. This is the latest in a team-by-team look at the offseason tasks that just can't get botched.
In the latest installment of this series, there was a look back at the Chicago Bears' checkered history of drafting offensive tackles. The swings and misses of the Jerry Angelo era have left the team with question marks all along its offensive line, and considering those holes, it would make sense for the team to spend this offseason addressing its issues up front. The Cowboys are in a similar position, only their issues aren’t a product of Jerry Jones swinging and missing — they’re a product of him not swinging at all. Right now, Tyron Smith is the Cowboys’ only reliable starter on the offensive line. He also happens to be the only high draft pick the Boys have spent on the position in the past decade.
It would seem that the one thing Dallas can’t afford to fuck up this offseason is getting Tony Romo some protection, but again, Jerry’s logic is on a bit of a different track. “If you’re going to have a guy operate behind an offensive line that can handle a porous offensive line, it’s Tony,” Jones said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Tony has some of the best percentages operating behind pressure situations of anyone in the NFL. If there were a place theoretically that you had to have a weakness with Tony Romo at quarterback, that might be a place to have it. You just can’t have it all.” Unless you’re Jerry. Then you can both own the team and be the GM — in this case, the GM keeping that team from any sort of real success.
Legends were made last night, in the same way they always are. At game’s end, with a third title in four years secured, a coach already cast in bronze was doused in Gatorade. A quarterback with the perfectly smeared eye black and the perfectly telegenic girl kissed a hunk of crystal. Everything about Alabama’s 42-14 win seemed the pristine image of college football lore — except, of course, that its best player spent all night with his gut spilling out of his shirt.
Last year, Alabama’s defense earned much of the credit for Nick Saban’s second title run. Six Tide defenders went in April’s draft — four in the first two rounds. It was touted as one of the best college defenses ever, and in Bama’s 21-0 rolling of LSU in the national championship game, AJ McCarron and friends hitched along for the ride. Against the Irish, the point total may have doubled, but the players of the game still didn't earn a single one of Bama’s 529 total yards. They won this one up front, and they wasted no time in showing how.
From the first drive, it was clear that the Alabama line was set to take it to Notre Dame all night. Irish star Louis Nix had an admirable showing against All-American Barrett Jones in the middle of the field, but to either side, the night belonged to the champs.