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NFL Draft, Day One

April 28, 2007

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Well, the first day of the NFL draft is finally over. It was the longest first round in history, the longest first day in history. I’m exhausted just from watching it.

It’s impossible to evaluate a draft until three years after it’s finished, but that doesn’t stop anyone from trying. Including me.

My two teams took completely different approaches this year.

The Jets were very aggressive. They traded up in the first round to get the top corner in the draft, giving up one of their two second round picks to move up eleven slots or so. Then they traded up again in the second round, this time surrendering their third rounder to snag a highly-rated linebacker who’d slid down significantly. That left them without a third rounder. Today’s swaps and some previous moves also left them without a fourth or a fifth, so the Jets won’t be drafting again until round six, and maybe not until round seven. They are going to end up with a very small draft class, probably no more than four players. On the other hand, the two guys they got today are prime, and both of them should make an immediate impact on the team.

The Giants, on the other hand, were totally passive. With trades flying around like bullets and teams moving up and down and sideways and hopping over one another, the G-Men just sat there and picked when their turns came. One, two, three. Tomorrow, I expect, they will go four, five, six, and seven. The first two of the three players they got today were solid, I think. The first round cornerback will be of help to our aging secondary, and the second round wide receiver (Steve Smith — I was actually hoping the Carolina Panthers would draft him a couple pick earlier, so they could start Steve Smith and Steve Smith as their wideouts) looks be pretty decent as well (however, if Amani Toomer comes back and Sinorice Moss finally plays some, the Giants won’t really need another wide receiver). The third round pick seemed like a real reach — all the draft magazines had him rated as a sixth or seventh rounder. The biggest problem is, the Giants did nothing to address their most pressing need — a left tackle to replace Luke Pettigout and fortify the offensive line. Last season, when Eli faded down the stretch, I was screaming for the Hefty Lefty. Well, I have a feeling that I may get to see him this year. Unless the Giants do something to fix that line, Eli is going to bloody well get killed back there.

All in all, I thought the Jets had a much better day than the Giants did.

Of course, when watching the draft, a true fan not only wants his own teams to do well, he wants their archrivals to do poorly. That worked out better for me, I think. The Eagles traded away their first round pick, and then took a quarterback with their first pick of the day, in the early second round. That won’t please Donovan McNabb at all, and certainly did nothing to strengthen the team. He wasn’t even an especially great prospect, according to most of the commentators. I think Andy Reid shot himself in the foot.

Even at that, he did better than the Miami Dolphins, who shot themselves in the head. When Detroit, Cleveland, and then Minnesota passed on Brady Quinn, I was screaming and cursing, because that meant he would fall into the lap of the Dolphins, and finally solve their long-standing quarterback problem. I visualized myself cursing his name for the next fifteen years, as he led the Dolphins to victories over the Jets just like Danny Marino just to do. But then the Dolphins punted their brains, and passed on Quinn to pick a speedy wideout / kick returner coming off an injured foot. No one in Radio City Music Hall could believe it, and neither could I. I think the Miami fans will remember this day with as much fondness as Jets fans remember the day we passed on Marino to select Ken O’Brien… the day we passed on Emmitt Smith to take Blair Thomas… the day we passed on Warren Sapp to pick Kyle Brady…

And it’s great that it someone else’s turn to be really, really stupid.

As for the other great rival of the Jets, the Pats of New England… well, there I am less sanguine. The Patriots wheeled and dealed and traded down and down again, and wound up with only one pick today… but they have stockppiled something like forty-seven for tomorrow, and Scott Pioli and The Vile Belichick have a satanic skill at the finding gems in the later rounds. The Patriots draft doesn’t look like much right now, but I have the feeling that by the end of training camp, they’ll have the usual hatful of talented young players.

And Dallas, well… to tell the truth, they moved around so much I don’t have any sense of what the hell they were doing. They traded up, they traded down, they did this and that, and who the hell knows? The big thing is actually next year. The Cleveland Browns gave up their first round pick in next year’s draft so they could go up and pick Brady Quinn… which means I have to root for the Browns to do well next year, since I don’t want the despised Cowboys to get a primo choice. Go, Brownies, go!

Brady Quinn’s fall was the big story of the day. From where I sit, it wasn’t warranted. I think Al Davis made a mistake. In the long run, Brady Quinn will have a better pro career than Jamarcus Russell. Yes, yes, Russell has a “cannon for an arm,” as I heard fifty times today. I’ve seen a lot of cannon-armed quarterbacks come and go in the years that I’ve been watching football. Bert Jones had a cannon for an arm. Richard Todd. Roman Gabriel. Jeff George. Kerry Collins. I’d rather have a Joe Montana or a Phil Simms. The fact that Russell can fling the ball eighty years off his back foot is only likely to be relevant if the Raiders sign Quicksilver and The Flash as wideouts.

We’ll know for sure in ten years or so, I guess. And have a clue in three.

That’s why they play the games.

Meanwhile, there’s another day of draft tomorrow.

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