Sullen Smith has to get over snub now that he's a Jet; more Snaps
NEW YORK -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as the night of Geno, Te'o and even a Gio unfolded in Friday's second and third rounds of the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall ...
• He called it a dream come true, but his face, demeanor and body language told quite a different story. Minutes after the New York Jets ended his free fall Friday night, making him the seventh pick of the NFL draft's second round (39th overall), Geno Smith wore a look that was part relief and part unadulterated annoyance. Oh, and he also wore a brand new set of clothes he never expected to don, given he had only packed the one suit he modeled Thursday night in the green room, as his first-round draft experience turned into a nightmare.
"I didn't [pack any extra clothes],'' Smith said, meeting the media for the first time as a Jet, "My mom actually went and bought me these today. I picked out only one suit and I expected to go yesterday.''
We did hear something about that, yes. It was in all the papers.
Smith may have been ill-prepared for his trip to New York and the draft, but at least now he can stay, unpack, and work on building that wardrobe, because the Jets' always fluid, always eventful quarterback situation is his to lead for the foreseeable future.
So much for new general manager John Idzik bringing a sense of calm to New York. In this year's draft, Smith was easily the second-most polarizing figure behind Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. So naturally, the Jets had to take him. After all, they're expected to release publicity magnet Tim Tebow any day now. And with Friday's second-round selection of Smith, four-year Jets starter Mark Sanchez might soon be following Tebow out the door, given New York's management has clearly lost faith in the turnover-prone 2009 first-round pick.
Smith said a lot of the right things Friday night about becoming a Jet, but it was also easy to see he's nowhere near over the dejection of being bypassed by the entire league in Thursday's first round. Though he said "there was never an issue of me not wanting to come back'' to the draft again Friday night, it had been reported that upon leaving Radio City Music Hall on Thursday night he said he had no plans to return. Something changed his mind, because there he was again at Radio City, after his mother's brief shopping spree.
We get it, Geno. You don't have to like it, falling out of a first round you thought was your certain fate. But you have to let it go now. You'll only be giving the doubters more fuel otherwise. The Jets, train wreck that they have been the past two years, are yours for the taking. That's absolutely the only thing that matters at this point.
"It's not that I don't smile, it's just that I kind of took that to heart, the things that happened yesterday,'' Smith said, when asked why he didn't wear a smile as he crossed the stage Friday night and greeted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upon being selected. "I'll smile as much as I can. But at the same time, remember all the things that happened.''
Smith is in the NFL now. The round he went in is officially irrelevant and the only garb he has to worry about wearing is colored green and white. If he has to remember anything about these last 24 hours, it would be that.
• Funny how things have a way of working themselves out in the NFL draft. After all the questions about who would be willing to take a chance on Notre Dame's Manti Te'o and LSU's Tyrann Mathieu, they both stuck their landing from this vantage point.
Mathieu, who dissolved into tears when Arizona made him the seventh pick of the third round, gets to join a Cardinals team that already features two former Tigers teammates in cornerback Patrick Peterson and linebacker Kevin Minter, who Arizona chose midway through the second round Friday night. If you're going to roll the dice on a guy with the history of failed drug tests Mathieu has, it's at least helpful to have a built-in support group waiting for him in Phoenix.
Mathieu said he's willing to take weekly drug tests if the Cardinals want, and do whatever else is asked of him, but what choice does he really have but to make that his default setting? He enters the NFL on a leash that's as short as any in recent memory, and has already received his second chance in football.
As for Te'o, who went sixth in the second round to San Diego, 38th overall, playing his ball in a relatively low-key, small-market corner of the NFL map might just be a godsend. Being as far away from the East Coast spotlight as possible should allow for Te'o to focus on football and get his NFL career off to a smooth start with a minimum of media noise and peripheral distraction. The Chargers clearly targeted him, giving up a fourth-round pick (No. 110) to trade up seven spots and select him with a choice that previously belonged to Arizona.
The Chargers are also in need of defensive leadership, which should allow for Te'o to quickly establish a foothold in the San Diego locker room, if he can deliver the goods on the field. Other than safety Eric Weddle, the Chargers defense doesn't really have many playmakers, so there's an opening there for Te'o to exploit. The Te'o/Junior Seau comparison ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. rushed out there Friday night sounds like a sizable blast of hyperbole, but the Chargers seem like the right team and San Diego the right town for the unique circumstances Te'o faces.
• Three rounds in the books, and only three quarterbacks taken: E.J. Manuel to Buffalo in the first round; Geno Smith to the Jets in the second round; and North Carolina State's Mike Glennon to Tampa Bay in the third round. Wow. From that standpoint, the 2013 quarterback class seems every bit as underwhelming as advertised all spring. Clearly in the case of USC's Matt Barkley and Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, who are still waiting to hear their name called as Saturday's fourth round looms, it has been a precipitous fall.
Or is it just that this year's class was destined to suffer by comparison with last year's glamour group of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannenhill and Russell Wilson, no matter what? This much is true: quarterbacks that go as low as the fourth round rarely make an impact in the NFL. Kyle Orton in 2005's draft is the last fourth-round or lower selection to have any semblance of success as an NFL starter, and even he wasn't able to keep his No. 1 job for long in Chicago or Denver.
That's the history Barkley and Nassib are now up against as they await the start of their NFL careers. Whenever and wherever it might unfold.
• Alabama running back Eddie Lacy slid all the way to the 61st pick of the draft, near the bottom of the second round, but don't feel sorry for him. The Packers snatched him, and that makes him one of Friday night's winners in a lot of ways.
True, the Packers haven't always remembered they had running backs on their roster, so in love they are with their Aaron Rodgers-led passing game. But maybe that's just because they haven't met the right rusher. Lacy is the kind of power back Green Bay should be able to lean on some games, especially in cold weather settings.
Lacy was once thought to be a first-round pick, but he got dinged in the scouting process by some injury concerns, and the fact he has some wear and tear on his body from carrying the load for the Crimson Tide. He went at least a whole round later than expected, and had to swallow hard as he watched three other running backs go ahead of him in the second round: North Carolina's Giovani Bernard to Cincinnati, Michigan State's Le'veon Bell to Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin's Montee Ball to Denver.
• Bad night for a couple of quarterbacks taken in 2009's first round. Mark Sanchez might have seen his Jets tenure all but ended with the drafting of Geno Smith by New York, and Tampa Bay starter Josh Freeman had the expected warning shot fired over his head, when the Bucs took the 6-foot-6 Mike Glennon with the 11th pick in the third round, 73rd overall.
Freeman won't have the luxury of a two-game slump this season in Tampa Bay. Not with Glennon warming up in the bullpen at all times.
• The NFL is big on having guest selection announcers in the second and third rounds in recent years, but I'm not sure it will ever top Friday's highlight in that department: Former New Orleans Saints special teams standout Steve Gleason, who is wheelchair-bound and suffering in his fight against ALS, came on stage and announced the Saints' third-round pick of Arkansas-Pine Bluff offensive tackle Terron Armstead.
In order to communicate these days, Gleason has to look at a computer screen and spell words by looking at letters one at a time. Then the screen translates those words into his pre-recorded voice, and that's how he "announced'' the Saints pick. It was a moment that rendered so much of the pomp and silliness that goes on at the draft utterly irrelevant.
• Friday night picks I loved:
-- Miami taking Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor with the 54th overall pick, in the second round. The Dolphins now have their replacement for the departed Sean Smith.
-- Philadelphia getting Stanford tight end Zach Ertz with the third pick of the second round, giving the Eagles a young pass catcher who will help whoever wins the team's starting quarterback job.
-- San Francisco, after trading down from No. 34 to No. 40 in the second round, picking up Tennessee's seventh-rounder this year and third-rounder in 2014, landing Florida State defensive end Tank Carradine. The 49ers were all over Carradine for the past month or so, and getting a quality pass rusher in the top half of the second round is an example of not over-paying for a player coming off an ACL tear.
-- Denver drafting Wisconsin running back Montee Ball late in the second round. He's going to help the Broncos move the chains, and the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision all-time leading touchdown scorer knows where the end zone is.
-- Oakland using the second-round pick it got in Thursday night's first-round trade with Miami to select Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson, who had a top-32 grade on some teams' boards. Yes, the Raiders should have gotten more for dropping down nine spots in the first round, but I still like Oakland's draft so far in its post-Carson Palmer era.
• It didn't get much notice Friday night, but kudos to the Saints for getting a fourth-round pick out of running back Chris Ivory in a trade. New Orleans sent him to the Jets, as long rumored, for New York's fourth-rounder, 106th overall. Ivory went undrafted in 2010, led the team in rushing as a rookie, and the Saints wound up getting three seasons and a decent mid-round draft choice out of him. That's the way you win the personnel wars in the NFL.
• I think all those people who predicted Baltimore's demise last month now realize they might have greatly exaggerated. The Ravens had that mass exodus in free agency, but they've continued to recover nicely, adding Florida safety Matt Elam in the first round and Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown in the second round, after trading up with Seattle six spots to 56th to take him.
I'm not saying the Ravens obtained the next Ed Reed and Ray Lewis in the past 30 hours, but Baltimore did very well for itself. When you add in the likes of Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff, Chris Canty and Marcus Spears already on board from free agency, the Ravens defense should be able to field a starting 11 after all next season.