Dr. Z's latest mock draft (cont.)
Your faithful scribe I fear is getting daft
Frank of Seattle asks why wouldn't a team give away the top pick in the draft, to rid itself of the headache and the exorbitant cost? Oy! And I called this column sane. Well, you see, Frank, if some team actually sandbagged in such a manner, its fans would line up with pickaxes, and the first target at the club's offices would be anything with glass, and the second would be the window that says, "Turn in your tickets here."
But just to show that he still has some modicum of sanity left, Frank invites me to visit the Washington wine country. I think I mentioned in a previous column, Frank old boy, that I used to go with a lady cattle rancher from Benton City named Sharon Engstrom, and we did a good number on the wineries in that area, and even made it to the International Pinot Noir Festival in McMinnville, Ore. What was one great thing about Sharon? She had a cattle herding dog named Morgan who could jump as high as your head and never tired of messing with dog fanciers such as myself.
Joe of Missoula, Mont., is agonizing about why highly rated draft prospects fail. He cites Ryan Leaf and Pacman Jones, "guys that did not have the head or heart for the game." Fairly accurate call on Leaf. Jury's still out on Pacman, if he somehow, miraculously, rights the ship. Joe cites possible lack of desire, after they've banked the big pay check. Less common, but not out of the question. Finally -- bad coaching in a bad organization. Yes, too often than you'd like to believe. Usually QB's are affected most in this situation, but even kickers can be destroyed by overcoaching from a staff that didn't have a clue. All your reasons are valid. Not everyone is astute, and some are only dimly competent.
Here's our Emailer of the Week, Chad Pawling of Hoboken, N.J., who steered me, via a web address that had more symbols than the tomb of Ramesses I, to a Sam Farmer L.A. Times piece that referred to something I mentioned in my last column, the nervousness of some clubs about the fact that cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has only one kidney. Born with two, but one was non-functioning and was removed when he was 8, the story said. Kind of like my brain.
Todd of Minneapolis wonders whether Jared Allen is worth the first and two thirds the Vikings gave up, considering the guy's DUI arrests and suspension last year. Only if he is over his drinking problem. Otherwise we're looking at Love Boat II.
John of Fort Collins, Colo., wants to know what's the best drafting spot, considering the huge prices of the top few. Depends on the talent available. If Lawrence Taylor's on the board, you want to get him as high as you can, no matter how much he costs, figuring a first ballot Hall of Famer is worth the price, which will be creatively spread over the next 1,000 years or so. But there are also years in which there isn't much dropoff until you get to the seventh or eighth position, or even lower. Then a team can get the player it needs for considerably less money. But if you're angrily pounding the table and saying, "Come on, Z, give me a number for an average year," I'd say around five.
Kurt of Westlake Village, Calif., has just about answered the question for us. "I checked the first round picks going back 20 years. It seems that about six to nine picks per year turn out to be worth the spot they were taken and the money paid." Trade down, he says. "You get more volume and more money for free agents who have proven themselves." And for me, more money for my book collection and my military miniature and coin collections and my cigar box label collection, and maybe now you understand why I am not placed in any position in which I have to responsibly deal with any figures over $20.
Here's one I can shortstop after one sentence, and I mean you, Jeff of Rochester, Minn. "It always makes me wonder how you so call football experts get these college players wrong..." etc. That's it. Shtop der pwesses! And it always makes me wonder how e-mailers such as you so called experts ever lose money on the stock market or pick a horse race wrong or vote for the wrong presidential candidate or get lost on your way to the barber's or dial a wrong number or... Linda, make some hot soup, I'm going to lie down for a while.
Shane of Hastings, Neb., proves something that George Young used to say. "You know what religion most NFL scouts are? Hindu. They all believe in reincarnation. This guy's another Lawrence Taylor, this one's another Unitas." Chris Long reminds him of Justin Smith, 10 years younger. Vernon Gholston is "Mike Mamula all over again." Jake Long? "Reminds me of any number of Big Ten linemen who look great on Saturday and average on Sunday."
Chris Long plays the run better than Smith did. Gholston has more talent but, so far, less desire than Mamula had. Jake Long? You might be right there. But don't be so bitter. It's the draft, man. Biggest lottery in the world. Best flesh market this side of Constantinople. Have fun. Draw up 30 or 40 Mock Drafts yourself. Watch the TV coverage all weekend with a couple of cases of beer at your side. Invite your friends and girlfriends over.
Bob of Huntington Park, N.Y., wants to know how all the clubs, as well as this fat dude sitting in my own swivel chair, could have been so wrong, with their near hysterical praise of Iowa's Robert Gallery when he came up. Charley Casserly, who ran the Redskins draft in those days, explained the following to me. "Linemen are so well coached at Iowa that you make mistakes with them. You confuse technique with natural ability."
Kevin of Mercer Island, Wash., asks how the same Gallery graded out at RG last year, after being moved from tackle, and if he can be a solid seven-year guy at the new position. I didn't grade him highly at guard. Too stiff. Six more years at the position? That will carry him until he's 33. I guess it's possible, but he might get recycled a few times.
Jason of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, wonders if it's time for the NFL to implement a rookie salary cap. Ed Garvey, the former Players Association head, proposed it more than 20 years ago and it never got very far. The agents, for one, would go crazy. Gosh, that would be tough, wouldn't it? It made a lot of sense to me at the time and it still does, but the opponents said it would chase the great athletes away from football and into basketball and field hockey and water polo, in search of the real big money.
Hear that bugle? It's sounds the end of draft questions. And here comes the next squadron.
First up, Robert of New Orleans. Stand at attention when you're addressing me! "Is there a way to determine steroid use from appearance?" Yes. Women with mustaches or beards. Men who weigh 290 or more with less than three percent body fat. Or more than 20 percent head fat. OK, you're starting to wobble, so I'll give you a reasonably straight answer.
The first time I noticed something odd was when I covered the Super Bowl and immediate pre-Super Bowl Steelers. Their bodies looked smoother, almost rubberized, like inflated balloons. I remember writing that they looked like nothing I'd seen before, like they were from another planet. No kidding, I really wrote this. I remember staring openly at Steve Courson, the guard and an admitted steroid user. He looked like he was inflated, or possibly pumped up with water.
Since then things were refined, and now the traces are tough to detect. They say undue amount of pimples on the back, and things I'm sure you've heard about, are tipoffs, but aside from too much bulk with not enough of a corresponding amount of body fat, I can't think of too many sure giveaways. Besides, human growth hormones have replaced steroids as the drug of choice.
Mark of Albuquerque isn't entirely happy about Dan Rooney openly endorsing Barack Obama as a presidential candidate. "I'd rather sports owners would keep quiet over those items and just direct their organizations," he says. I totally agree with you -- if they're endorsing McCain or any other George Bush lookalike. But the Obama boosters have an open invitation to be my guest.
Is this fair? No. Am I opinionated and biased? Absolutely. But for too many years I covered the Jets and sat at the dinner table at camp with a bunch of their coaches and argued politics, such as in the 1972 election, McGovern vs. Nixon. Only Mike Holovak, the backfield coach, was on my side, which was for McGovern. The others, the whole bunch of them, hollered and winged potatoes at me and told me to go back to Russia and tried to shave my head. No, just kidding, relax, just kidding. But it did get heated sometimes.
From Grant of Dusseldorf, Germany -- Does Troy Smith have a chance of stepping into Steve McNair's shoes at Baltimore? He might get the mechanics down, but few players could have McNair's heart.
From Gary of Philadelphia -- "I always thought McNair was a very good QB. Underrated. Very good leader. Played with guts. Do you have any good McNair stories?" Nah, aside from the ones everybody's heard, about being abducted as a child and raised by wolves in the forest. No, ha ha, sorry. No real stories, but I completely share your respect for him as a courageous NFL QB.
The same city, in which I was born, incidentally, produces an email from Guy T., who has some really nice things to say, and I thank you, but then has to introduce a confusing element at the end: "When you have something to say I always pay attention, but unfortunately it's not always about the sport. That's a shame. I guess it's no longer about just the sport."
Whew, you've got me confused. Is it a shame I don't write exclusively about football, straying occasionally into such esoterica as wine? Sorry, but I don't live in a box. Is it a shame that I don't pay attention only to the technical aspect of football? Ah, the heck with it. Just skip the parts that stray from the path. You ask if I ever get discouraged that the business end intrudes too often. Yeah, but even worse was the old era in which players got paid only a fraction of what they should have been making.
Anand of Kokomo, Ind., begins his letter, "Away from all the draft talk, a real football comment and question." OK, let me get ready for this. Helmet's a little tight. Uh, there, got it on... had to squeeze a bit. What's up? Forget about all these schemes, he says. It's all about one man beating the man in front of him. "Do you think this whole scheme thing is overrated?" Yes, in fact I think the whole game is over-coached, but that doesn't mean you can't outcoach or outscheme somebody. The Giants' put it to the Patriots, but it wasn't just a case of one man beating another. They rushed from different alignments, using different techniques and twists. The good coaches gear their schemes to the talents of their players.
Finally a non-football comment from Kathy of Santa Fe, N.M. "Of course the Olympics are absolutely political," she writes, and offers a complimentary word about the stuff I wrote last week about the protests. Well, thank you. I'm glad it reached somebody.