by Kent Sterling
There are very few nights that are anticipated by sports fans with more glee than the NFL Draft. Because no one can anticipate all the movement among teams, no one can accurately predict who will go where. ESPN’s Mel Kiper gets paid big bucks to analyze the draft, and I am as likely to pick the top ten picks in order as he is.
The draft makes us all feel smart, or equally dumb, and what used to be an one-day party for owners and general managers is now an American obsession.
Many questions will be answered beginning Thursday night, and even more questions will be prompted by those answers. Here are my top ten issues that may be resolved or caused by the draft:
1 – Are the Rams still convinced that Sam Bradford is their long term answer at quarterback?
Not if they watch their own games. Bradford misses reads regularly, and while he took a step forward in his fourth season, it was from a C level quarterback to a B- level. It’s difficult to see any common threads between Bradford and the quarterbacks who have played at a championship level.
If the Rams are committed to the very expensive Bradford who is coming off ACL surgery, the reason is hard to fathom. Are the Rams really interested in Johnny Manziel, or was the workout at Texas A&M a smoke screen? I think the interest is real, and this draft might provide a pleasant shock for Rams fans tired of watching former #1 overall pick Bradford play like a third rounder.
Manziel would provide a major headache for defensive coordinators, and Jeff Fisher likes accumulating headache causing players. An offense with Tavon Austin, Zac Stacy, and Manziel would make for a tough week of prep. The 49ers and Seahawks are built to harass Bradford, but would have trouble finding Manziel.
2 – Can the Colts get enough help with their first pick at #59 and only four other selections to take a step forward toward a Super Bowl?
Sure they can, but given only five cuts, GM Ryan Grigson can’t afford to swing and miss. Grigson is going to have to make hay with undrafted free agents too. The Colts need a safety and interior offensive linemen – not sexy positions of need, but sexy isn’t an option at 59 anyway (unless you’re talking TV channels, and then sports director Chris Hagan comes immediately to mind).
Unless Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward drops to 59, it’s unlikely Colts fans will recognize the player’s name, but whomever is selected will absolutely be expected to help the Colts immediately.
3 – Why is Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson not an upper half of the first round guy?
He ran a 4.61 40 at the Combine. That didn’t help, but he has great size and was an elite player in the Big Ten. While speed is very important for a receiver, so are all the other things Robinson brings to the table – a 40-inch vertical, great hands, and the ability to gain position to make a play on the ball despite consistent double teams this past season.
Robinson caught eight balls or more for 100+ yards against Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Central Florida, and Illinois, and while that and while that and $1.85 will get you a half dozen donut holes at Taylor’s Bakery, it shows that despite constant attention, he can make plays.
Sometimes a football player’s potential should be calculated by doing more than assessing statistics. Robinson is a good football player.
4 – Will the Rams trade out of the #2 or #13 spot in the first round?
If the Rams want a tackle, they will deal the #2 pick. There are three elite guys – Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, and Taylor Lewan – and one of them is going to be available as far down as #10. Throw Chatard High School’s Zach Martin in that mix, and the Rams are damn likely to have a solid option at #13, so why not deal in the same way they did in the 2012 draft when they fleeced the Redskins? The #2 pick is the last installment of the RG3 bounty, and the Rams might spin it into another set of gifts that just keep on giving.
If they want a special target for whomever plays quarterback, Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is a special receiver, according to every expert going. But the Rams have invested two picks in the first four rounds of the past three drafts on receivers with varying degrees of success – Austin, Stedman Bailey, Brian Quick, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis, and Greg Salas.
The Rams have 12 picks in the draft, and could wind up with as many as 15 if they choose to slide down a couple of times.
5 – Is Houston hell bent on trading out of their #1 overall pick?
Earning a #1 pick is a blessing and a curse. The decision made will attach itself to the general manager forever, and they occasionally cost a team executive his job. If they hold on to the pick and take Jadeveon Clowney, he better prove worthy of that trust. If GM Rick Smith deals the pick and Clowney becomes the second coming of Deacon Jones, that’s costly too.
Combine the level of awful the Texans represent and the depth of this draft, and the logical answer is to deal the pick to a team just a piece or two away from a Super Bowl for a bunch of picks.
6 – Did Grigson make a fatal error in dealing what became the 26th overall pick for running back Trent Richardson?
That’s the question that will be asked repeatedly until both Grigson and Richardson have left town. In mock drafts, guys in the 26 area include cornerback Jason Verrett, offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandijo, and cornerback Bradley Roby of Ohio State.
The Colts will doubtless implement schemes to specifically exploit Richardson’s strengths, and that should help, but this season will doubtless determine Richardson’s value to the Colts moving forward.
So far, they trade, despite Richardson’s mediocrity in 2013, is a win for the Colts because the 26th pick of the 2014 Draft has yet to play a down.