On Thursday the NFL will promote it’s newest class from amateur sports into professionalism, and maybe, stardom. This is always a stressful time of year. How could it not be? Drafting the wrong player could be more than detrimental to a franchise, setting it back years and years (see the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins since 1999).
The level of angst involved in each team’s pick, exceeds and is reminiscent of, the 80s game show Press Your Luck. The game show consisted of 18 squares that lit up randomly and a button contestants had to push to stop the light on a square. In the squares were cash prizes, vacations, boats and other game show stuff. There was also a character called the Whammy that would basically erase any prizes the contestants had earned to that point. This of course caused contestants to rock back and forth muttering “no Whammy, no Whammy, no Whammy”, and looking crazier than the Joker in Arkham Asylum. As a kid I watch the cardiac arrest inducing reruns with the same shear glee, I assume, the rest of America did back in 1983. That is until some guy figured out the sequence wasn’t random, won a ton of money and then more or less killed the show.
There is a similar feeling around the NFL draft. The choices feel very random, and one wrong decisions can screw up everything a team has worked this hard to achieve. With the stakes this high, this is the pinnacle of drama. This year’s draft is set to be the most dramatic of them all. There are a lot of teams in need, and there are question marks all over the place. Thursday the questions, and the games, will begin.
“No Whammy, no Whammy, no Whammy.”
Will The Real Jadeveon Clowney Please Stand Up?
With Jadeveon Clowney, the talent is already there. He’s got the speed strength and size to be dominant at the pro level. There should be no question marks around him. None. Yet here we are wondering if he’ll pan out. The reason, of course, has to do with his effort. Clowney has been accused by numerous (albeit anonymous) sources of taking plays off. While his coaches come to his defense, the criticisms still hang in the air like the remnants of a smelly fart. After all, if the Houston Texans do take Clowney at number 1, can they expect a guy who gives his all every down? Should they expect the guy who allegedly saved himself for the NFL? It’s pretty unclear. Think about it this way, if a guy puts in less effort to keep himself injury free for the NFL it stands to reason that he would do the same thing in a contract year. He might do the same thing if his team looks like it might not make the playoffs, or if they’re getting blown out. This is not to say that Clowney is that kind of guy but once the questions are raised, they just kind of stay there.
Which Jadeveon will we get? The one who (allegedly) takes plays off? Or the Clowney who, all but erased a man from the pages of human history?
In Johnny Football We Trust?
Johnny Manziel needs no introduction. He was college football’s most electric offensive player by far. If you want to talk about a human highlight reel, Johnny Manziel is your guy. He’s also the guy that has been riddled with the biggest questions. He is after all, no stranger to controversy. Johnny is a star and isn’t shy about wanting to live the life style. His parents are affluent and as a result he’s had money to spend. This is important because we’ve seen how he spends it before he’s gotten his own multi-million dollar deal. He hasn’t been really reckless but, ever since Ryan Leaf, going to Vegas with your money is going to give any GM pause (this is before his height and risky play style are referenced). Johnny is the super athletic and hyper talented guy who, as of this moment, may or may not have his head screwed on right. Manziel earned the nickname Johnny Football, and with good reason, he can flat out ball. My opinion is that football won’t be the thing that gets Johnny off track.
Teddy Bridgewater And The Great Divide.
In his games he demonstrates the savvy, poise, and knowledge of a pro. At his pro day he looked bafflingly terrible. He’s Teddy Bridgewater, the most NFL ready prospect of all the quarterbacks. The pro-style offensive at Louisville prepared him for this. He had full autonomy of the offense. Not known for having the strongest arm, Bridgewater was a brains over brawn kind of guy. He uses his eyes to manipulate the defense, he’s incredibly intelligent showing an understanding of football concepts beyond his years. One pro day should not undermine these qualities. It just seems so strange to see a guy like Bridgewater look that off. Even in his episode of QB camp with Jon Gruden, his throws looked off. His poise and intelligence were there but the throws looks so…average. So the question with Bridgewater is the same as Jadeveon Clowney. Which one is the real one? Usually in these situations you go back to the tape. The tape doesn’t lie (usually) but, that pro day is the little red flag that could. It’s a red flag that’s not going to go anywhere until week 1 of the season.
2014 may prove to be the NFL’s gut check draft. It hardly seems like teams know what they want, even though most of that is the usual misdirection and gamesmanship that has come to define the biggest offseason event in sports. It’s the obsessing about hand size and 40 times, that define this moment. GMs and other front office executives are trying to show some clairvoyance by trying to see and know the very thing they can’t see and can’t know. We sit at home watching it like some sadistic game of Press Your Luck, which says a lot more about us more than it says anything else.