Days 2 and 3 of the NFL draft are an exercise in waiting for the players you've heard of to be drafted. Much respect to you if you've broken down tape on the small-school prospects who are coming off the board in the fifth round, but I think the majority of fans are spending those hours waiting to see when that big-school quarterback gets selected or where that injured halfback is going. That's why today's column is a look at three prospects who were drafted far later than their name recognition might have suggested. I'll start in Arizona, where the new regime is counting on Patrick Peterson to help counsel one of the most tantalizing playmakers in recent college history
In case you were busy on eBay trying to unload your Tim Tebow Jets jersey, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
The San Antonio Spurs dispatched the Los Angeles Lakers, 103-82, to advance to the Western Conference semifinals. Lakers center Dwight Howard, who was ejected from the game after getting two technical fouls, said after the game, "Gotcha! Oh, man, that was hilarious! Classic Howard. I was all like, 'T me up! I totally want to never play basketball in a Lakers uniform again,' and they totally did! Joke's on them! I'm pranking people left and right! L.A. is Prank City!" When asked if this meant he was going to re-sign with L.A., Howard's demeanor quickly shifted. "Absolutely not," he said. "This has been the worst year of my life."
Stephen Curry drained six 3-pointers as the Golden State Warriors beat the Denver Nuggets 115-101 in a pivotal Game 4. "Do I feel threatened by Curry? Absolutely not; my legacy is intact," said TNT analyst Reggie Miller after the game. Miller then wiped the steam off his bathroom mirror and examined his temples. Were they grayer than the day prior? "Perhaps," Miller said to himself, "but that just means you're getting wiser. More mature. And some punk kid in Oakland can't take that away from you."
From time to time, our friend Jalen Rose will drop by to give us five quick takes on whatever's causing a ruckus in the world of sports. Welcome to Jalen Rose's Fab Five. This week, Jalen has some advice for the newly drafted NFL rookies.
1. Have Friends, Not Dependents
You’re gonna realize that your entourage (if you have one) is going to get upset with you for only two reasons: your time and your money. There’s a difference between a friend and a dependent. A friend truly cares about your best interests. A dependent only sees fame and dollar signs; that’s it. You’re living your dream. That’s not enough for a dependent — a dependent now wants you to fund their dream. That’s when you get in trouble. Like Biggie said, money and blood don’t mix. Think of it like fishing. Maybe you’ll help them catch the first few fish, but ultimately you want them fishing on their own. Staking their clothing line, or their record company, or their seafood restaurant — you’re still fishing for them. You have no idea if they can even hold their own pole. You’re not a suppressed college kid anymore. You’re a professional. It’s time for you to grow, and if the people around you aren’t ready to grow, then you need new people.
(Remember this: If you’re the smartest, richest, and most successful person in your crew — by far — then maybe you need a new crew.)
In case you were out changing the world with the first-ever mass-produced backyard eagle coop (patent pending), here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
On a day when men in the trenches were in demand, the Kansas City Chiefs selected OT Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan with the first overall pick in the NFL draft. "Oh, that's awesome, I love Eric Fisher," said casual Chiefs fan and Kansas City transplant Bill Franzen. "I remember watching him in college and thinking to myself, 'Man, I hope that guy ends up on my Chiefs.' What an exciting year to have the top pick in the draft. I remember last year; I was in the break room at the actuarial firm where I work, and I was like, 'This team is an Eric Fisher–type talent away from contending.' I just can't wait to watch him stop guys from hitting newly acquired quarterback Alex Smith next year." Franzen then paused, looked over his shoulders and asked in a whisper, "Right? Was that a good reaction to have? I have no idea what to think."
Manti Te'o was among the high-profile prospects to drop out of the first round of the NFL draft. Te'o's embarrassment was compounded by a phone call he received from someone purporting to be an NFL general manager. "He said his name was Trick Footballsworth of the Los Angeles Footballers and that I was for sure going to be his first-round pick," a sheepish Te'o explained after the first round was over. "All I had to do was give him my social security number, some bank passwords, and then mail my car keys to a P.O. Box in Simi Valley. Anyone could've fallen for that, though, so I'm not going to beat myself up too hard over this. Though I do need a ride."
In the fall of 2011, Margus Hunt, Southern Methodist University’s standout defensive end from Estonia, made a decision to reconnect with his homeland’s rich music history. “Music is in the roots of what we’ve been doing for the past 100 years,” Hunt says. “I always wanted to learn to play something, because I couldn’t sing or dance.” Once he found that a guitar class wouldn’t fit his schedule, Hunt opted for the piano. As the semester was ending, Hunt’s teacher asked if he wanted to perform at her recital. A leader of a revitalized Mustangs football program, Hunt spent that winter juggling both football and feverish piano practice with roommate and teammate Szymon Czerniak. The following April, he walked onstage at SMU’s O'Donnell Hall more nervous than he’d ever been during his gold-medal discus throws at the World Junior Championships or a four-year football career at SMU. Barely squeezing his legs under the piano, Hunt tickled out the first few bars of “Expression,” a Helen Jane Long composition that’s both calm and minimalistic — the same kind of collected repetitive piano pieces he listens to before a game. Hunt’s performance garnered a standing ovation, and the students who’d already performed joined their Estonian peer on stage. Most were between the ages of 5 and 10, and there, in the middle of them all, was the 6-foot-8-inch Hunt — the former world-class shot put and discus thrower, the future NFL player — smiling.
“It was incredible,” Czerniak recalls. “There’s this big, 300-pound, Russian-looking guy and all these 5- to 10-year-old kids. He took it really seriously.”
Why would we want to go to the NFL draft? Why does an event that consists of Roger Goodell reading names into a mic and then hugging a few prospects appear on our sports bucket lists?
I get the draftnik thing. I am one. As I headed to Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday morning, I packed the new (maybe final) edition of the royal-blue Mel Kiper guide, with Luke Joeckel and Geno Smith on the cover. I Instapapered a bunch of articles about Jerry Jones’s master plan to trade down and control the seventh round.
But why see it live? Later that day, I asked Mike Burton, a Browns fan who’d come all the way from Regina, Saskatchewan. Burton said, “It’s part of football lore, football cultu—” And then he broke into a run across a midtown Manhattan street at rush hour to get in the ticket line for the draft.
I was running after him when I thought, Who cares about why? So today, let’s focus on how. This is how you get into the NFL draft.
The NFL draft is here, and Ephraim Salaam and I decided to celebrate the occasion with a special edition of the Trenches. We started off with some talk about the Darrelle Revis and Percy Harvin trades, but from there it was all draft all the time. We discussed some of the top tackles available, how their draft spots might affect the rest of the first round, when teams would start talking themselves into this year's group of quarterbacks, and what sort of dynamic offensive players have become coveted throughout the league. And as a bonus, there's video!
In 1983, John Elway was on his way to being the first pick in the NFL draft. However, the Baltimore Colts had that pick, and Elway had zero interest in playing there to the point that he would announce he was instead going to play for the New York Yankees. In the days leading up to the draft, Elway's agent, Marvin Demoff, would hold meetings with the Colts and Yankees to see what could be done. Below is a page from Demoff's diary chronicling the frantic meetings as the draft grew closer.
You can see much more on the famous 1983 NFL draft Tuesday night when ESPN presents its latest 30 for 30 film, Elway to Marino.
In the past month, the deck of quarterback mediocrity has seen plenty of shuffling. First, it was in Buffalo. Less than two years after getting $24 million guaranteed from the Bills, Ryan Fitzpatrick was released, off to Tennessee to back up Jake Locker. Three days later, the Cardinals, hoping to avoid a $2 million roster bonus and $9 million in salary, released Kevin Kolb. On Monday, the Oakland Raiders traded for Matt Flynn, who was Russell Wilson’d in Seattle last offseason. The next day, the Cardinals traded for former Raiders starter Carson Palmer. I hope everyone is following here.
Where each quarterback ended up is mildly important, but what all the movement really says, it says collectively. For the handful of NFL teams actively searching for a long-term answer at quarterback, this may not be the draft in which they’re going to get it.
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.
On October 16 of last year, the Chicago Bears released offensive tackle Chris Williams. The move meant that from Jerry Angelo’s tenure as the team’s general manager, which stretched from 2001 to 2011, only one first-round pick remained on the roster (his final one, Gabe Carimi; we’ll get to him). Angelo’s struggles were eventually what cost him his job, but nowhere were those struggles more pervasive than at offensive tackle.
In the 2002 draft, Angelo’s first at the helm, the Bears selected Boston College left tackle Marc Colombo with the 29th pick. Blake Brockermeyer, the team’s left tackle from its 13-3 2001 season, had been cut a few weeks before the draft to save the team a $500,000 roster bonus, and although James “Big Cat” Williams had gone to his first Pro Bowl in January, at age 33, it was his first.
Four years ago, Andre Smith got off a plane in Indianapolis as the best left tackle at that year’s NFL combine. The previous season, he was awarded the Outland Trophy, given to college football’s best interior lineman. He’d been named an All-American by every outlet with a printing press or an Internet presence. And come draft time, it was expected that Smith would be one of the first five players off the board.
Then he left.
Before completing any of his workouts, Smith was back on a plane to Alabama, without telling anyone. Later, his explanation was that in switching his representation, he’d lost some time to prepare for the drills. He didn’t feel ready.
This excuse was hardly enough for those involved. He was skewered — for a lack of maturity and a lack of attention to detail. Smith’s pro day in Tuscaloosa didn’t help much, either. The video of his jiggle during the 40-yard dash is still Internet legend. A tumble down hypothetical draft boards began. Smith went from the best tackle in the draft to the consensus no. 3. By March, Mel Kiper had him clear out of the top 10. In botching the “pre-draft process,” Smith had done himself in.
The 2012 NFL draft is in the books, and already Vegas has posted propositions related to this year’s picks. I’m lying. They haven’t. But I have. So shake loose some fake jermajesties from your fake wallet and let’s have some fake fun with these.
Over/under 3.5 plays into Andrew Luck’s first game before the network shows a graphic comparing his stats to Peyton Manning’s at the same point in his career
I’ll say under. Looking forward to seeing whether Luck ’12 or Manning ’98 recorded a faster jog out of the tunnel during their inaugural pregame introduction.
Before we ask whether the Chiefs were nuts to take Dontari Poe, can I share one NFL draft story from the Olden Times?
If you were really interested in the NFL draft around, say, 1993, here’s what you had to do. You had to wait for Mel Kiper Jr. to come on a local sports radio show. If that show aired during the hours you were in English class, you had to leave your bedroom stereo blaring and a tape winding while you were at school. Later, from this tape, you had to harvest Mel Kiper’s 800 number. Then you had to leave a message on an answering machine — in Mel’s office? Mel’s basement? — that included your mom’s credit card number. And then you had to sweat it out until a thick, blue draft report arrived in the mail.
I’ll spare you the story about walking 10 miles in the snow to meet Joel Buchsbaum. But let’s remember those innocent days as we walk into an 82,000-seat football stadium to watch this year’s NFL draft.