Thoughts of the Day: March 27, 2020

NFL DRAFT WILL BE HELD APRIL 23-25

While chatting with an old friend on the phone Thursday – without question the best way to keep appropriate social distancing to prevent the spread of the corona virus – the subject of the NFL Draft came up. The draft, in case you live on Mars or in a yurt in Outer Mongolia, will still be held and commissioner Roger Goodell has no intention of delaying it beyond the scheduled April 23-25 dates. Of course, that means we’ll probably have to deal with a draft minus players sweating bullets in the green room while they wait hearing their name called since it’s unlikely all the travel bans and social distancing rules will most likely still be in place. That means no obligatory hug and photo bomb from Goodell on the stage. We won’t get to hear New York Jets fans boo whoever the Giants select nor will we hear those same fans act as if the world is coming to an end should the Jets pick someone they don’t like.


The draft was going to be held in Las Vegas, the new home of the team formerly known as the Oakland Raiders, which was the home of the team formerly known as the Los Angeles Raiders, which they became when they left Oakland the first time. Raiders fans are probably disappointed that they can’t show up in mass to cheer when Jon Gruden chooses new players that they will be cheering for in the fall but they’ll still be happy. The draft is simply another date with the reality that Las Vegas is now an NFL city with a state of the art football air conditioned domed stadium rising in the desert.


Another thing that will be quite odd is staging a draft without the pro days on college campuses or the private workouts. Some guys whose stock might have dropped like a rock based on what the scouts saw at pro day will stay high on some team’s boards and others who could have risen dramatically might get stuck with waiting until the last day to hear their name called.


My friend pointed out, “This will be like the old days when teams drafted their people based on the films they saw and not so much on what they saw in person. We had a lot more surprises in those days. I liked it better. I might not be as entertained this year as I have in the last few years but I’ll still be happy to find out who my team (Tampa Bay Bucs) draft to come play with the Brady Bunch.”


The first NFL Draft was held in 1936 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago. It went on for nine rounds and there was absolutely no media coverage where Jay Berwanger, the first Heisman Trophy winner, became the first player ever selected. When the Philadelphia Eagles couldn’t meet Berwanger’s demands of a $1,000 a month salary, Berwanger was traded to the Chicago Bears. The Bears offered the exorbitant salary of $13,500 but Berwanger wanted $15,000 and went to work with a rubber company and agreed to become a part-time coach at his alma mater, the University of Chicago.


There were 90 players listed on a blackboard on that first draft. Nobody was working with a bank of telephones back to team headquarters where officials were on the phone with potential draftees as well as other teams looking to make trades, etc. Without the cat and mouse games that dominate today’s draft, things moved rather quickly. Nowadays, the draft lasts three days and teams get 15 minutes between each first round selection, time that is typically filled by Mel Kiper and Todd McShay in what they perceive as a battle to prove which one is the smartest guy in the room.


It wasn’t until 1980 that the first televised draft took place and ever since then, it’s been a place where drama queens are born and where we spend three days wondering how much hairspray it takes to hold Kiper’s famous pompadour in place while wondering how is it that someone who was a zillionth-string walk-on QB at Richmond (McShay) can be viewed as an expert on all things pro football.


Since pro days on campuses were cancelled along with the private workouts and interviews, teams are going to be drafting somewhat blindly this year. They’ll have to trust what they saw on film of each player, Senior Bowl workouts as well as combine performances.

“This will be closer to the old days than any draft we’ve had since then,” my friend told me. “I’m tempted to just watch something on Netflix instead of the draft, but since by then we’ll have been almost two full months without any sports, I know I’ll end up watching it. What I might do is turn the volume off completely and just watch.”


Now that’s a concept.


SPORTS ILLUSTRATED THREE-ROUND MOCK NFL DRAFT

In its latest mock draft, a three-rounder, four Gators will hear their names called – C.J. Henderson, Jonathan Greenard, Van Jefferson and Jabari Zuniga.

Gator in the first round: C.J. Henderson, CB, to the San Francisco 49ers with the 13th pick

SEC players in the first round: 1. Cincinnati: Joe Burrow, LSU, QB; 5. Miami: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama; 8. Arizona: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama; 9. Jacksonville: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn; 11. New York Jets: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia; 12. Las Vegas: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama; 16. Atlanta: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU; 17. Dallas: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina; 18. Miami: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama; 19. Las Vegas: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU; 20. Jacksonville: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama; 21. Philadelphia: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU; 22. Minnesota: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU; 25. Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

SEC players in the second round: 35. Detroit: Grant Delpit, S, LSU; 39. Miami: D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia; 47. Atlanta: Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M; 53. Noah Ibinoghene, CB, Auburn; 56. Miami: Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State; 58. Jordan Elliott, DT. Missouri; 59. Seattle: Marlon Davidson, DT, Auburn; 63. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU

Gators in the third round: Jonathan Greenard, EDGE, to Buffalo with the 86th pick; Jabari Zuniga, EDGE, to New Orleans with the 88th pick; Van Jefferson, WR, to Minnesota with the 89th pick

SEC players in the third round: 70. Miami: Lloyd Cushenberry III, C, LSU; 72. Arizona: Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn; 73. Jacksonville: Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia; 76. Tampa Bay: Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia; 79. New York Jets: Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina; 81. Las Vegas: Raekwom Davis, DT, Alabama; 99. Darrell Taylor, EDGE, Tennessee; 105. Minnesota: Logan Stenberg, OG, Kentucky


THINKING OUT LOUD ON FRIDAY: Nobody, it seems, is burning up the phone lines trying to get a deal for former Tampa Bay Bucs QB Jameis Winston. I’m sure he’ll play for someone, but he’s not going to get much of a deal and is going to have to prove that he can take some coaching … Will the New England Patriots stick with what they’ve got – last year’s backup Jarrett Stidham and veteran Bryan Hoyer, who they got in a trade – or trade up for a QB in the draft? I could see the Patriots maybe moving up a little bit in the second round to pick Georgia’s Jake Fromm. From a mental standpoint and leadership qualities, he might be the QB with the most Tom Brady-like qualities out there. I could also seem them taking former Alabama/Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts in the second round. Hurts may wind up being the steal of the entire draft … The cancellation of the NCAA Basketball Tournament is going to cause serious financial hardship at small schools in non-power leagues. The NCAA is only going to distribute $225 million instead of the anticipated $600 that would have been doled out if there had been a tournament. The lower amount of money will be hardest felt by the non-power Division I football playing schools and the Division IAA football schools and it will put an end to the notion of eliminating football games between Division I and Division I-AA schools …. Former Harlem Globetrotter Curley Neal died Thursday at the age of 77. He was 68 years old. Other than Pete Maravich, he’s the greatest I ever saw dribbling a basketball … The first make or break game of the 2020 college football season will take place on September 19 in Tuscaloosa when Georgia comes to town. I can’t see Alabama losing at home. If Georgia loses this game, can you imagine how enormous the pressure will be on the Poodles on October 10 when they play Auburn and again three weeks later when they play the Gators in Jacksonville. Georgia will start the season ranked in the top five. You can bet the ranch on that. I think it’s entirely possible Georgia finishes the season outside the top ten which will have their faithful wondering if perhaps Kirby Smart is Mark Richt, Part Deux.

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