Michael McCarthy takes us through five things to take away from the first round of this year’s NFL draft.
5. Chip Kelly is a Seinfeld fan
I like Chip Kelly. I have no idea if he’s a genius who will change the face of the NFL or if he’s a mad man, but he is certainly the most interesting and unpredictable head coach in the NFL.
There is an episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza decides that his misery is down to the fact that his instincts are wrong. He decides that, since every instinct he has is wrong, in order to be happy he should simply do the opposite of what he would normally do.
Kelly has adapted and adopted this philosophy, with one key difference. Everything everyone else thinks he should do is wrong, so he does the opposite. This began with his decision to cut or trade as many star players as possible from the Eagles’ roster.
DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy were all shown the door. It continued with moves to trade for Sam Bradford despite the Rams’ QB having suffered back-to-back season-ending knee injuries and then adding the most high-profile third string QB possible when he signed Tim Tebow.
As the draft drew closer more and more reports suggested that Kelly was putting together a move for his former Oregon Ducks QB Marcus Mariota. This rumour seemed to make some sense of his off-season moves. There was a grand plan after all.
Kelly was going to move heaven and earth to trade up and get the QB he really wanted all along. Except he didn’t. Reports vary on what exactly the Eagles offered for the second overall pick but evidently it wasn’t enough. Keep defying conventional wisdom Chip!
4. The Highlander Curse – “there can only be one”
Since the movie Highlander was released in 1986, there have been four previous occasions when quarterbacks were taken with both the number one and number two picks in the draft.
2012 – 1. Andrew Luck 2. Robert Griffin III
1999 – 1. Tim Couch 2. Donovan McNabb
1998 – 1. Peyton Manning 2. Ryan Leaf
1993 – 1. Drew Bledsoe 2. Rick Mirer
On each occasion, one QB has proven to be successful whilst the other has flamed out. Although it may be slightly premature to judge the 2012 class, Andrew Luck looks destined for a stellar career whilst RG3 is in the last chance saloon.
McNabb, Manning and Bledsoe are all multi-time Pro-Bowlers and have each been to at least one Super Bowl. Let’s just say Couch, Leaf and Mirer don’t have quite the same credentials.
So it begs the question, if there can be only one, who will it be? Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota?
3. Running Backs Are Back
Like mullets and 80s rock, write off running backs at your peril. Last year it seemed Trent Richardson had killed the first round running back forever. In 2012, Richardson was seen as a can’t-miss prospect and was taken 3rd overall behind Luck and RG3.
Fast forward through three highly unspectacular seasons of diminishing returns and he is clinging to his NFL career in Oakland, the place where NFL careers go to die.
Stung by how badly Richardson performed, and with the league moving towards a passing game, teams shied away from drafting running backs early. No running back was taken in the first round in either 2013 or 2014.
But then came some signs of life. Eddie Lacy and Le’veon Bell, both drafted in the second round in 2013 have become stars in two of the league’s best offences. When 2014 rookie Jeremy Hill began to tear up the league, it was official – running backs were cool again.
Despite injury concerns, Georgia running back Todd Gurley was taken in the top ten by the St. Louis Rams. Then, in a move that seemed impossible the last two years, the Chargers actually traded up to grab Melvin Gordon with the 15th pick.
2. Off-field Matters Matter
NFL draft prospects must glance longingly at the lives of young Premier League football players. It seems football clubs in England are willing to excuse all manner of indiscretions from young stars. Get fat and slow if you want, smoke what you want, do and say what you want. As long as you stay out of prison and deliver on the pitch, then it’s all good.
Not so in the NFL. A number of high-profile prospects fell out of the first round due to off-the-field issues. The most unusual is pass-rushing OLB Randy Gregory.
Considered a top ten talent, Gregory has been the subject of unspecified concerns relating to “off-field matters.”
NFL.com veteran scout Gil Brandt ranked him as the 23rd best player entering the draft, and admitted to downgrading him based on these unspecified problems.
“Gregory’s (6-4 7/8, 235 pounds, 4.61 40) off-field problems drop him from the top 10, but he’s a talented pass rusher who posted 17.5 sacks the past two years.”
Wide-receiver Dorial Green-Beckham is another who has dropped from the first round on the basis of off-field concerns. With Green-Beckham they are well documented, arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession, which was later reduced to a trespassing charge and a rumoured physical altercation on campus led to his dismissal from the University of Missouri football team in 2014.
1. Wide-Receiver Fever
The 2014 draft was considered one rich in wide-receiver talent. Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jnr head the class but the likes of Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin and Davonte Adams give the 2014 class a chance to be the best WR class in NFL history.
Heading into this year’s draft, scouts were similarly excited about the receiving talent on show. As a result of the success of last year’s class, teams were keen to get a wide receiver early. Amari Cooper and Kevin White both went in the top ten as expected and were followed by four other speedsters to make a total of six wide receivers taken in the first round.
Michael McCarthy, Pundit Arena