A Different Feel
Thursday night, Round 1 of the NFL draft will begin at Radio City Music Hall. Although the venue is the same, this 76th edition of the NFL draft will have a very different feel to it.
For the first time since 1987, the league will hold this annual ceremony in the midst of a work stoppage. For many of my generation of fans, this will be a first, so as much as we look forward to the draft this year, we all dread the thought of what is to come after Mr. Irrelevant's identity is revealed.
Sure, we'll have a couple of weeks of water cooler material when the draft is over. We'll hype or scrutinize every moved made by the various front offices of our favorite teams. But when the initial shine wears off, we are left only to contemplate the terror of a partial or total loss of the 2011-12 NFL season.
So as interested as I am to see who the Cowboys take at No. 9, I will also be interested to see how many little differences there are in a draft held during the owners' lockout.
We know some things for sure. Unless Judge Susan Nelson (presiding over the players' lawsuit against the NFL) orders the 2011 league year to begin immediately, there will be no picks traded for current NFL players. This makes our mocks a little easier, but will take some of the excitement out of the draft.
There also won't be any swapping of draft-day selections. This means no Eli for Philip Rivers trades soon after being selected.
The league flexed a little muscle by inviting a record number of players to this year's festivities in New York. Twenty-five players are set to attend the draft in person, which should make for a very crowded green room. This despite the union's attempts to get players to stay away from the draft, and to instead attend an alternative NFLPA function.
The lockout will surely make for some uncomfortable moments. For instance, teams are apparently not allowed to talk to players after drafting them. So do they call the player and say they are about to draft him only to hang up abruptly after Roger Goodell makes the announcement?
Yes, this lockout will loom over everything. It will be the 600-pound gorilla setting front and center during every pick. Still, it won't just be the mood around the draft that is affected.
Teams will have to change their approach to this year's draft based on need. The lockout has prevented most free-agent activities, and no draft-day trades means teams are filling holes with picks as opposed to veterans from other teams.
We might see more maneuvering with trading picks than we have in the past. Teams drafting for need may become even more desperate to move up to grab a player at a certain position.
And what if the two sides wait until the last possible hour to reach an agreement? With rookie camps and training camps potentially lost, the growth of this rookie class could be stunted dramatically in the first season.
With all of this in mind, the 2011 NFL draft is perhaps more intriguing than in the past. I can't wait for it to be here, but I dread what happens after it's over.
Another Mock Draft
Mock drafts are typically a crapshoot. This year there are some huge first round mock derailments in the making.
After years of zero questions regarding the first pick, nobody is still exactly sure what Carolina will due with the No. 1 pick. They could go with Cam Newton, Marcell Dareus, or trade down to a slightly lower pick.
Will Ryan Mallet end up in Miami, or maybe Minnesota? Or do his alleged of the field issues push him to the second round?
There is nobody that knows for sure how the draft will turn out. Nevertheless, Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, your buddy in the next cubicle and even your grandmother seem to have put together at least a mock of the first round.
I think the only thing we can all bet the house on is that a large number of defensive linemen are going to be taken in the first round. Draft experts have been floored by the amount of top tier talent is available at both defensive end and tackle.
Ultimately, one is doing good to predict 40% of what is going to happen in the first round. And as much as we think we know about these players, there is nothing at the combine that tests heart, will, or dedication. Years from know we will look back and wonder why so and so slipped to the 5th round and how so many teams didn't see this or that in evaluations.
As fans, we're just like the experts in that we do these mocks to have some sort of record as to what we were thinking, just in case we we're right. We'll laud our shrewd predictions and quickly discard our obvious misses.
Everybody wants to play general manager for a day and give their two cents. Everybody seems to have a take on who will help the team, who will prove to be a steal or who will prove to be the next gigantic bust that we talk about for years.
I am no different.
So here is yet another take on the upcoming NFL draft.