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Opinion

My NFL Draft love affair

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
25th April, 2021
15

As the classic Andy Williams song goes – It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Hearing those words sung in Williams’ crooning tones signifies to pretty much anyone who hears it, that it is indeed Christmas.

But, don’t worry, old mate Shooter hasn’t bumped his head, because I’m not even talking about Christmas.

The most wonderful time of the year is the lead up to the NFL’s greatest event – the NFL Draft.

Now, before you get up in arms about that statement, just hear me out.

I say this partly in jest, however, the Draft – unlike the Super Bowl – does not just feature two NFL teams. Oh no, the Draft is a time where all 32 teams have hope about the future, as they welcome the best college football players into the NFL ranks.

And what better way to do that, than by a roll call.

But not just any roll call.

I’m not talking about Mrs Wilson sending out the names of you and your schoolyard chums to get a response like “here”, “yes” or “present”.

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The usual response is for the called player to celebrate with those around them, hug their mum, possibly cry a little, as they are humbled by the fact that they are now part of a team and league, where they can make some big money.

We’re talking millions of dollars per season, which is not bad considering none of the NFL teams actually know if any players they select will actually be any good.

In fact, over the past few years at the NFL Draft, the supposed ‘top’ players – or those selected in the first round – haven’t actually ended up taking their team to the promised land, instead, a guy who was selected with the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft is actually the top dog, despite being old enough to be the father of this year’s entire draft class.

In 2015, Tom Brady’s current team – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – selected first overall, taking quarterback Jameis Winston from Florida State. But hang on, isn’t that the same position as Tom Brady? Yes, my keen-eyed reader, it certainly is.

Tom Brady of the Buccaneers

Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Winston became a laughing stock in league circles for throwing 30 interceptions in a season, the year before last.

This was the final year of Winston’s rookie contract and the final year he would play in the Bay.

He instead went, cap in hand, to be a backup for division rival New Orleans. The Buccaneers brought in a sprightly chap called Brady, they took out the Super Bowl and drank copious amounts of light beer, while standing on boats.

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But the key part to remember here is caution with your team’s first round pick.

The guy selected after Winston, was also a quarterback – Marcus Mariota from Oregon. He too was the shining ray of hope for his beleaguered team, the Tennessee Titans. He too, is no longer on the team that drafted him, having gone to backup and baccarat duties in Las Vegas with the Raiders.

Actually, out of the top ten players in that draft, only one is still on the team that drafted him, that being offensive lineman Brandon Scherff of the Washington Football Team.

Considering the draft is a new start and an opportunity for teams to build long term success, this is pretty grim reading.

Players are usually the ones referred to as “busts” if they don’t pan out, but this draft could holistically be considered a draft bust, if that were a thing.

But moving on, things must have gotten better the following year?

No, sir.

In 2016, two teams actually traded up to the top overall picks to grab their own ‘quarterback of the future’. The Los Angeles Rams picked Jared Goff and the Philadelphia Eagles took Carson Wentz.

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Both of these guys flashed some talent in their first few years, but come 2021, are they still with those teams?

Negative.

Jared Goff

Jared Goff with the LA Rams. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Despite those huge misses, there was actually a slightly better retention rate in that year’s top ten, with a whopping three players still playing in the teams that drafted them, being Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott and Ronnie Stanley.

In 2017, the Chicago Bears tried to ‘shoot their shot’ on a quarterback, by trading up to the second pick to grab Mitchell Trubisky, who is now a backup for the Bills.

While on the flipside, the Kansas City Chiefs traded up to pick at number ten and selected a guy named Patrick Mahomes. You might have heard of him.

Mahomes joins three other top ten players still on their original team.

In 2018, four quarterbacks – Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen were taken in the top ten picks, with only Mayfield and Allen left on those teams.

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Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens took a flyer with the final pick in the first round on a guy called Lamar Jackson, who went on to win league MVP in his second season.

Go figure.

Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

But, going back to Josh Rosen, he was actually fairly unlucky. The Arizona Cardinals picked him, but then sunk to get the first overall pick the following year. So, what did they do?

Chose a quarterback!

Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up.

The Cards chose Kyler Murray, then traded Rosen off the Miami Dolphins, though Rosen’s poor luck was nowhere near over.

The New York Giants shocked everyone by taking Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick, but the verdict on his success is well and truly out, while Dwayne Haskins was picked 15th by Washington. He is most definitely not on their roster anymore.

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While in 2020, there were three quarterbacks chosen in the top ten, with Joe Burrow getting his ACL being made into origami with the Cincinnati Bengals; Justin Herbert looking like a Hall of Famer with the Los Angeles Chargers and Tua Tagovailoa selected one pick ahead of Herbert by the Miami Dolphins.

Yes, those same Miami Dolphins who had traded for Josh Rosen the year prior. Seriously dude, go buy a lotto ticket, cos the NFL might not be for you.

The most problematic first round quarterback was selected at number 26 by the Green Bay Packers. His name is Jordan Love and although we’re not sure what he can actually do, he sure made incumbent quarterback Aaron Rodgers slightly disgruntled by his mere selection.

Rodgers, in a why don’t you love me kind of way (apologies that pun was unintentional) – only went out last year and became NFL MVP and then went to host the game show Jeopardy in the off-season.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

See, you really can’t write this stuff!

So, back to my message of caution as we head into this year’s NFL Draft. Because there is now the potential for the top five overall picks to be quarterbacks.

Five, you say?

Yes. The NFL Draft should be renamed ‘Sparta’, because this is madness!

I’m not saying that Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones all won’t pan out, but what I am saying is that in the wicked game of drafting, there are certainly no guarantees, no matter how high you pick them.

In short, the draft is ridiculous.

But I still love it.

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