Things I think I know about a draft that's hard to predict
Lord. How great was that golf? Angel Cabrera's approach shot on 18 and Adam Scott's putting and Cabrera's excruciating near-miss putt and Scott's winning putt ... and the sportsmanship. The real sportsmanship. And hitting those championship shots under such tremendous pressure. That's one of the best 40 minutes of sport I can recall, in any game, any match.
How many of you said, watching that: "I've got to get to the Masters!'' And you do. I scratched that off the bucket list two years ago, and I'm still determined to go again, once, twice, three times. Other than the theater and the beauty and the setting, what's so great about it? Everything.
Anyway, enough with my Masters infomercial. The next big sports thing is 10 nights away. That's the first night of filming of Draft Day, the next Costner movie, in which he plays Cleveland GM Mike Lombardi. (Sort of.) It's also the night of the first round of the NFL draft, which occupied most of my time this weekend when I wasn't drooling at the TV over the Masters.
This was mock draft weekend. When Paul Zimmerman suffered a series of strokes four-and-a-half years ago, SI's Mock Draft was handed down to me. I've done one forever, just not with the pressure that comes from following Dr. Z.
It used to drive Zim crazy, the time he spent on the unknowable. Many's the Sunday afternoon before the draft we'd be on the phone, Zim trying to crack the code of just one more team and asking if I knew anything to help. How angry he'd be if he found out something about, say, the Vikings at 11, that swayed him to make a change there, and then of course the dominoes would fall and he'd have to change 12, 13, 17, 18, 20, 23, 25, 26, 27 and 28. Aaaarrrrrgggghhhhh! Not happy Sundays.
Now, with round one of the draft moved to a Thursday night, the magazine has moved the mock to a week earlier. I used to file mine two or three days before the draft, online; now I file it 11 days before, and it runs in the magazine a week before. It's never very pretty. This year, it could be a stink bomb.
I talked in confidence to quite a few people around the league Friday through Sunday, so they could (I hoped) be relatively honest. I tried to barter some information as the calls went on, but mostly I was fishing. And the lines I cast over the weekend came up empty quite a bit.
Empathizing with me Sunday was Mike Mayock, the wizard of these things and of draft research, and we agreed on the three reasons draft-placement intelligence is going to be hard to come by this year. 1. The absence of no-doubt franchise quarterbacks means you can't pencil in great prospects at the very top. 2. There's a lack of must-have franchise guys at the top of the draft, with a bigger upper middle class than normal, meaning a Star Lotulelei could go sixth or 26th; beauty's in the eye of the GMs. 3. So many new GMs and franchise czars are at the top of the draft -- six new coaches in the top 10 of the draft, and seven new men running draft rooms -- that it's tough to predict what they'll do when they haven't developed a track record. Only two men among the top 11 teams in the first round -- Buffalo's Buddy Nix and Detroit's Martin Mayhew -- have been running drafts longer than two years.
"And,'' Mayock said, "you throw a Chip Kelly in there at No. 4. He could be so different. I'm not sure they value things in Philadelphia the way everyone else does in the league anymore. So we don't know that. Add to that the talent in the first round and the second round is pretty equal at a lot of spots. I could see [defensive end] Bjoern Werner going six, I could see him going 28. Right now, I think it's simply an unpredictable year. I feel very good about my player analysis as we sit here right now. I don't feel good at all about where those players are going.''
I'm in the same boat as Mayock. Here are a few things I know, or feel good about, in round one:
1. Kansas City hasn't found any takers for franchised left tackle Branden Albert -- I hear the Chiefs would take a high second-round pick for him -- and regardless whether Albert's moved or not, I don't see them doing anything but taking tackles Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher first.
2. Jacksonville GM David Caldwell, choosing second overall, says he's narrowed the pick down to two names. (Well, I should hope so, if you're picking second.) I think coach new coach Gus Bradley looks at a special pass rusher here, figuring he can find plugger interior defensive linemen and corners down the line, the way he's done in his last couple of coaching stops.
3. Oakland. Reggie McKenzie wants out of this pick. He really wants to recoup the second that was blown in the Carson Palmer trade. I can't see it happening.
4. Philadelphia. Eagles have been nutty about getting players who fit the 3-4. Hear they like Star Lotulelei a lot to play all along the line, even at nose. Where they go -- Geno Smith, pass rusher, best corner in the draft -- I don't know, but my guess is pass rusher.
5. Detroit. One of the two good tackles, Joeckel or Fisher, or cornerback Dee Milliner.
6. Cleveland. Another team that wants to trade out badly. The Browns might figure they can trade down a few spots and still get Geno Smith if that's who they want; maybe one of the tackle-loving teams -- Buffalo, San Diego, Miami -- will figure if Joeckel and Fisher are gone here, the only way to get Lane Johnson is to move ahead of Arizona at seven. (That's what I certainly figure.) So the Browns could be in a good spot to pick up the second-rounder they lost last year when picking Josh Gordon in the Supplemental Draft.
7. Arizona. How do the Cardinals not take Lane Johnson if he's there?
8. Buffalo. Heard guard a lot over the weekend, with coach Doug Marrone figuring he can get his quarterback either at 41 overall or by moving up 10 to 15 spots to get Ryan Nassib or the QB of his dreams.
9. New York Jets. Rex Ryan might want a corner (is the Pope an Argentinean?) but I hear he's awfully smitten with Barkevious (brother of Hughtavious) Mingo of LSU.
10. Tennessee. Another lineman, maybe a guard, is what I hear.
Scattershooting after that: I did one mock draft Saturday night that ended with no quarterbacks in the first round. But I eventually put Geno Smith in my mock for the magazine, because there's just too much smoke about him going in the first round. I just don't know who's going to take him ... At 13, Tampa Bay is growing impatient with the Jets on this Darrelle Revis trade. What I'm hearing is the current discussion is first-, third- and fifth-round picks for Revis, though I don't know which picks are this year and which next. If the Bucs stay put, they love Tavon Austin ...
At 16, St. Louis has to think receiver or safety. My money's on a safety here, because the Rams figure the market is so crowded with wideouts with make-it grades they can easily get one at 46 in round two. I think the Rams, and many other mid-round teams, worry about the long-term viability of freaky talent Cordarrelle Patterson. "Randy Moss type,'' said one personnel man to me. "That can be good, but obviously not all good." ... I agree with the Pittsburgh-Jarvis Jones linkage at 17 ... Study history if you want to have the best chance to nail the Giants, at 19, and know they've taken four pass rushers high in the last 10 drafts and just lost Osi Umenyiora in free agency ...
At 20, Chicago seems poised to take a tight end or Brian Urlacher heir, with all the offensive linemen likely gone by this point ... Cincinnati (21) likes Alec Ogletree and Eddie Lacy -- and a strange one for this high: Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden, who had a risky heart-valve problem in 2011 but now checks out OK. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has spent loads of time investigating Hayden ...
As I reported Sunday night, Minnesota GM Rick Spielman ate dinner the night before the Notre Dame Pro Day with Manti Te'o. The Vikings have four Notre Dame players on their roster. As Archie Bunker might say, Ipso fatso there Edith, that imaginary guy's going to the Vikings. Then again, he might not. But the Vikes do have two picks, 23 and 25, right in the Te'o neighborhood, and Minnesota has Tyrone McKenzie at middle linebacker ... Clueless about New England at 29, but the Pats pick 29, 59 and 91, and then not again until the seventh round. You have to figure one of those, at least, is a receiver, and one's a corner ...
Now for the Super Bowl participants. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh has been at a high number of receiver workouts, I'm told. "This isn't about 2013 for the Niners,'' one GM told me. "Harbaugh knows he'll be there for a while. They just lost Randy Moss, and Anquan Boldin is there for a year, and they don't know about [2012 first-round pick] A.J. Jenkins [out of Illinois]. Receiver's very logical for them there.'' Harbaugh is one who wouldn't be scared of Patterson. I like that match ...
At 32, Baltimore would love a physical safety to play alongside free-agent acquisition Michael Huff, but it could be that all three big safeties here (Kenny Vaccaro, Matt Elam and Jonathan Cyprien) are all gone, and a tight end they love, Tyler Eifert, is gone too. Alec Ogletree wouldn't surprise here, but the guy I gave them in my mock draft is someone I haven't seen anyone else put in the first round. It's that kind of year in mock draft-land.
Finally: Quarterbacks Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib and E.J. Manuel all should be gone by 41. (Buffalo picks there, and I expect the Bills to take a quarterback in the first two rounds.) The quarterback position is the toughest to figure in this draft. A sliding Geno Smith could make it more problematic if he's not taken in the first dozen picks -- and I cannot promise he will be.
Two other notes of note:
• Mayock-fest. When Mike Mayock did his pre-Scouting Combine conference call with the media in February, he answered more than 150 questions from more than 180 reporters. The call took two-and-a-half hours. This week, on Thursday at 1 p.m. Eastern, he'll do his pre-draft conference call with reporters ... and NFL Network is going to stream it live on NFL.com. Go to nfl.com/mayockdraftcall to hear it Thursday, if you have quite a bit of time. You know Mayock. He never cheats you. I could listen to the guy all day, and sometimes do.
• Tweetfest. I'll be hosting a Tweetup in Phoenix Friday night (5-7 p.m., Tom's Tavern, downtown Phoenix) to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation, and specifically the Tillman Military Scholars program, which sends vets and family members of vets to college. Admission, which includes beverages and food and great football talk, is $40 per person. I'll be on a panel with Cards coach Bruce Arians, GM Steve Keim and president Michael Bidwell, and there will be players there too. Pictures, autographs, a cold beer ... and I'm sure if you ask very nicely, Arians and Keim will tell you the Cards' pick at 7 in round one. Really hope to see you there. For tickets, call 602 379 0102.
"Yeah, that's golf. Golf gives and takes. So yeah, sometimes you make those putts, sometimes you just miss them. But that's golf."
-- Angel Cabrera, after coming within an inch of holing out and possibly forcing a third sudden-death hole at the Masters Sunday night. But he missed, and Adam Scott didn't.
"There is not a guy that's done more for this franchise in this offseason than Matthew Stafford. The guy's been in the building every day. He's been living here the entire offseason. He's been working out, he's helped us recruit free agents, he's been involved on a daily basis in trying to get ready for the season, and he would do anything to help us be successful."
-- Detroit president Tom Lewand, on his quarterback.
The Lions and Stafford will have a new long-term deal done by the end of the year. Write it down.
"I grew up a Dallas Cowboys fan. I loved Roger Staubach. I always dreamed of playing for the Cowboys, playing in the Super Bowl.''
-- Brett Favre, in an interview with Cowboys radio voice Brad Sham at an SMU-sponsored event in Dallas Friday.
"This is such BS! All the training and sacrifice just flew out the window with one step that I've done millions of times! The frustration is unbearable. The anger is rage. Why the hell did this happen?!? Makes no damn sense. Now I'm supposed to come back from this and be the same player Or better at 35?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that?? I have NO CLUE. Do I have the consistent will to overcome this thing? Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that was. Maybe this is how my book ends. Maybe Father Time has defeated me... Then again maybe not! It's 3:30 a.m., my foot feels like dead weight, my head is spinning from the pain meds and I'm wide awake. Forgive my venting ... Feels good to vent, let it out.''
-- Kobe Bryant, on Facebook early Saturday morning, after tearing his Achilles Friday night.
"This will cast a dark shadow over the entire day of golf, over this entire event, but more importantly over his entire career for the rest of the life."
-- Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, on the two-stroke penalty against Tiger Woods in the Masters Saturday, and what said penalty will mean for Woods in the future.
So ... on the day Tiger Woods dies, everyone will skip right by the 14 majors he won (or 18, or 24, by then) and say, "All of the victories are rendered insignificant by the time Tiger dropped his ball two feet behind the spot where he should have dropped it in the 2013 Masters. And that's the most important thing he ever did, positive or negative."
That is some pathetic golf analysis. Shouldn't these analysts go to Hyperbole School?
The most amazing thing about the notable NFL career of kicker Jason Hanson, who called it quits at 42 last Tuesday, is how good he was at the time of life when other players his age were long since retired or fired.
In the five years he kicked for the Lions since turning 38, Hanson made 85.3 percent of his field-goal attempts. A kicker with a career percentage of 85.3 would be eighth on the league's all-time field-goal-accuracy list.
The 1992 NFL Draft was 12 rounds in length, divided between a late-April Sunday and Monday. It was not a particularly good draft. Out of 336 players, none has been selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The draft is now officially history. When the 56th player in the draft, Jason Hanson, retired, he was the last active player of that class (by far) to leave the game.
Hanson played 327 games for Detroit over a 21-year career and made two Pro Bowls.
Well, now I've seen the other side. I spent three days last week in Boston, Detroit and Chicago talking to advertisers and ad agency reps about the new NFL-exclusive website SI is foolish enough to be giving me to play with. This week, I'll do more in Manhattan, and I'll travel to Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles.
1. Dress is pretty casual. I have never dressed well consistently, but I figured I should on this trip, and so I went in with a pinstripe suit to chat with the Chevy Silverado folks. Not a tie in the room. Oooops. Same on the tour of agencies and companies in Chicago.
2. Youth is served. Oldest of nine people in the room for one of the meetings: 30. Impressed with the intelligence of a room full of execs young enough to be my children. They do what people should do when they're trying to figure if there's a match between them and a media company: They think and brainstorm and throw out ideas that get dismissed a minute later. A cool experience.
3. We on this side of the biz always think the ads will be there, but ... There's money out there. That I see. But you have to work for it, and you have to convince people why their money will be better spent on this site than on sites and TV shows significantly more mountainous.
4. Thought I'd be meeting in some pretty stuffy board rooms. Not. Met most of Casual Friday with different agencies, and their meeting places are just as casual. In one place they brainstorm on the wall (a giant dry-erase wall) with markers.
5. You do a better job if you can drink well out there. I have closed Ditka's. Now that is a point of pride. I'm not usually a bar-closer or a restaurant-closer, but when the Iron Mike's Icon Cabernet flowed, I got a pretty good second wind. Talk about emptying the NFL Story Saddlebag, those guys for four big companies got my best stuff that night. And when the party of 12 went downstairs, golly, everyone was gone and the place was being vacuumed.
Needed a couple of good nights' sleep after the Chicago-Detroit trip. This week, I have Pat's Run, the 4.2-mile race memorializing the late Pat Tillman and raising money for his foundation, Saturday at 7 a.m. in Tempe, Ariz. That'll be interesting, to see the energy I have left for that one.
"Glad the business side is out of the way. Now its back to playing football and bringing number 7 back to Pittsburgh. Love!!! #Steelernation"
-- @E_Sanders88, Steelers wideout Emmanuel Sanders, on Sunday after Pittsburgh matched the one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet Sanders signed with the Patriots.
"Talked to my dad about the viewer calling in on Tiger. We both agreed its best viewers can't call in holding penalties on me.''
-- @geoffschwartz, offensive tackle of the Kansas City Chiefs, on the Tiger Woods penalty-stroke affair.
"Am I the only one who woke up seeing a bunch of "DQ" tweets & thought something had happened w Dairy Queen?"
-- @andyroddick, after the Tiger kerfuffle.
Everybody's a comedian.
"Wow. I love golf."
-- @AaronRodgers12, after Adam Scott made a long putt, and it was followed by the incredible Angel Cabrera approach shot on 18, forcing a playoff at the Masters.
1. I think the Antoine Winfield signing by Seattle is another good one -- in part because of the plans the Seahawks have for the 35-year-old Winfield. Though Winfield played 1,100 snaps last season, it'd be a fluke if he matched that this season. The Seahawks plan to use him in the nickel role, which means maybe 600 snaps a season. Not even sure he'll hold up playing that much, but at least he has a chance to stay on the field if he's not asked to play every snap. And he'll do it for less than the $3 million he would have gotten guaranteed in Minnesota to stay. Clearly Winfield was motivated by the chance to play with a Super Bowl contender.
2. I think Cincinnati-Pittsburgh games next season all of a sudden got more network-attractive, assuming the Bengals and James Harrison get their deal done today. Harrison trying to sack Ben Roethlisberger (and Harrison will be revved up in a big way for those games, having been cap-purged by the Steelers) will be eight must-see quarters.
3. I think the Falcons won $200 million in government support for a new retractable-roof downtown stadium because they showed the suits the money -- $800 million of it from owner Arthur Blank and other non-taxpayer sources. Blank indicates he'll still probably have PSL seating in the new stadium, with user fees helping defray his investment.
4. I think a fifth-round pick for Chris Ivory -- if the Jets really want the Saints' undrafted running back, which they do, for the right price -- is probably fair to both sides. That's the 141st overall pick, and it leaves the Jets, pre-Revis trade, with all four top picks intact, with a veteran hard-running back there as the fifth-rounder.
5. I think this news item came to our attention over the weekend: Tyrann Mathieu admitted to extensive marijuana use while at LSU. In other news, the Masters had a slightly dramatic climax Sunday.
6. I think someone's going to have to tell me, if the Patriots really wanted Emmanuel Sanders in restricted free agency, why they signed him to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. That's like saying, "Well, we sort of want him, but we're really not sure, and we'll give him a D-minus deal, and maybe Pittsburgh will just take the third-round pick in return." I don't get the gesture. At all.
7. I think for those questioning the Steelers matching the offer and forgoing a third-round pick and paying $2.5 million for a potential starting receiver for one year on a playoff contender ... I mean, really. Why wouldn't they match? Unless they were rich at the position and thought they could get by without a marginal starting player making marginal starter's money?
Sanders had 44 catches for a team-high 14.2 yards per catch. He'll likely start alongside Antonio Brown. Folks, that's worth $2.5 million, a starting wide receiver on a team that's going to send the quarterback back to pass 575 times.
8. I think that was a good job by Rick Maese and Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post Sunday, delving into the use of pain medication by NFL teams -- and particularly how the use of "miracle'' pain-killer Toradol is declining with the scares we've seen about its continued use. Maese and Jenkins reported that the Rams don't give Toradol out anymore.
9. I think Peyton Manning is learning patience. He has learned in his offseason throwing sessions he still isn't throwing as well as he did before his four neck surgeries, but it's not bothering him, I'm told, because he knows nerve regeneration can take years. He's learned to use what he has and not worry about what he doesn't have.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. If you read one sports story today, read this one by Chuck Culpepper of Sports On Earth on the late Frosty Westering, a football coach from Pacific Lutheran in Tacoma.
b. If you read one story about football this week, I strongly suggest buying Sports Illustrated and diving into Jim Trotter's long one about the reconstruction of the Oakland Raiders. Very good insight about the Mark Davis-Reggie McKenzie relationship ... and a good story about the Raiders' groundskeeper. Or, should I say, the way the practice fields were kept up under Al Davis.
c. And if you read one story about journalism this week, read this incredibly sad gem from Jeff Pearlman on being whacked as the unpaid adviser to the Manhattanville College student newspaper.
d. I don't know how I missed this, but what a cool gesture this was by the former president.
e. Memo to MLB: Maybe scheduling the Mets to start the season in Queens (six games), Philadelphia (three) and outdoors in Minneapolis (three, minus Sunday's sleet-out), and then Colorado (three), with temperatures for one game this week scheduled to be in the teens, wasn't such a great idea.
f. Memo to MLB II: Maybe scheduling the Yankees to start the season in the Bronx (three games), Detroit (three games) and Cleveland (two coldouts, one game) wasn't such a great idea.
g. Memo to MLB III: Maybe scheduling the Twins outdoors in the north for the first six weeks of the season wasn't such a good idea.
h. By the way, baseball needed to suspend Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin for five games longer than the period Dodgers pitcher Zach Greinke will be gone with his fractured collarbone (which will keep Greinke out for two months), which would be a revolutionary but justifiable penalty. Instead, Quentin got eight games. There was no need for Quentin, who clearly has some sort of anger-management problem, to charge the mound Thursday night in San Diego. And for major-league baseball to slap Quentin on the wrist is to say to him and all other outlaws who have made blood sport out of charging the mound in a misplaced-traditional rite of machoness, "Hey, go kill the pitcher. It's OK."
i. Coffeenerdness: You know you're drinking too much espresso when you have a Starbucks gold card in your wallet and on your Starbucks phone app. Different cards too. Gold at both. That means I'm over the top as a latte man.
j. Beernerdness: Doubt I am the first, but I managed to have an Iron Mike's Ale (nice and dark) and glass of his Iron Mike's The Icon Cabernet (bold, heavy on the blackberry aroma) in the same evening. And I'm a better man for it.
k. Veep is back for another season on HBO. It's as snide and back-stabbing as I recall, and that's a good thing.
should instruct a class in class.
Wouldn't you enroll?