The seeming marathon side show that the NFL Draft has become is one day behind us and in the books, so to speak. Just a warning, or a promise perhaps, that it may be in my back seat, but it is NOT fading away in my rear view mirror. I will writing about it for the next couple of weeks.
But today I wanted to hit 2 areas. The first will be a few observations on the TV broadcasts and the men and women who participated in those broadcasts. Then I want to jump to a brief summary of 4 teams, who efforts really stood out to me.
As always the media coverage was a mixed bag, with some really good, some pretty bad and lots of OK stuff. Because my editor lives in Canada, and cannot get regular USA ESPN coverage of the event he watches on NFLN and I watch ESPN coverage primarily. The best change for my money on ESPN was having MIKE GREENBERG anchor the desk for the two prime time evenings. Greenie, as Mike Golic used to call him on their morning radio talk show for more than a decade, is smooth in front of the camera and is well briefed before he hits the airwaves. He is articulate and informative. For me he seems to have ascended to the “star” level that Mike Tirico held with ESPN before heading to NBC, a few years back. He held the reins on the broadcast yet kept out of the way as “experts” Louis Riddick and Mel Kiper primarily filled in the details on trades and Picks.
RIDDICK is informative and sees the game as an ex-player, and briefly an NFL executive in personnel related positions. However, he made a comment several times about the selection of EDGE MYJAI SANDERS in Round 3, at Pick 100 by the Cardinals about his weight to play a specific spot at the pro level. I heard him twice reference his weight at 228 lbs. , which indeed is what he weighed at the Combine. When that weigh-in number appeared at the Combine I grabbed my notes from the Senior Bowl not remembering any shock when he weighed in there a month earlier. Sure enough, in Mobile SANDERS had weighed in at 242 lbs. My notes also reminded me that it had been mentioned during Combine work outs that SANDERS new weight loss was primarily due to a stomach flu he had been battling for over a week when he showed up in Indy. Then I also checked my notes from Pro Days and SANDERS was back in the mid 240’s again. That’s careless and shabby on Riddick’s part. Tighten up on the background info gathering Louis… you are better than that. Or if the info came from some intern, send him/her a direct note about incomplete information gathering. Then on Saturday Riddick pretty much reamed KIPER a new one over scouting comments on an OL he clearly liked a lot more than Mel did. He disgustedly listed all the specifics of his tape watching throwing Mel in the gutter, ala Vince Tobin a long time ago. The older and wiser Kiper let it go, but it was in poor taste on Riddick’s part, and only his opinion.
Ok, one last complaint, and then I’ll move on to some team considerations. Is any one besides me thinking that if you are going to parade multiple people out to help announce a Pick it would be better if the courtesy was extended to tell us who each the presenters are. Way too many times, social media ignorant, old guy me, had no idea who the second celeb standing up on that stage was. Not very socially acceptable Roger and League staff. Introduce all your presenters.
OK so now to real Draft stuff. I have a short list of 4 NFL teams who I felt really ended the weekend with exceptional groups of new players added to their rosters.
Both New York (New Jersey) teams had two Picks the Top 10 this year. And both used those Picks wisely IMO. But as things progressed I felt like the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets,Jets came out well ahead of the game with their later player selections. In fact, the JETS were creative enough to end up with 3 First Round Picks all of whom have the word “starter” imprinted on their foreheads. The Jets drafted 3 CB in the 2021 Draft, and all found roles to play in that secondary. But the team found their star CB, the Sauce on the pasta, with their first Pick, at 4 overall, in Sauce Gardner, from Cincinnati. Should be the best CB they have had since a guy named REVIS was in town, although a guy maned Antonio Cromartie might be a more apt player comparison for Sauce. Ohio State’s GARRETT WILSON came at Pick 10 and provides a big boost to the receivers room for them. Not to forget a solid all-around in-line TE named RUCKERT, also former Buckeye, at Pick 101. JERMAINE JOHNSON was their 3rd Round One Pick and should be a big boost in their Defense’s Pass Rush group. BREECE HALL, Pick 36, was the best RB in this draft class. Just two seasons ago the team’s leading rusher was 35-year old+ FRANK GORE. Now HALL brings big time youthful talent to town to add to last year’s Rookie RB MICHAEL CARTER. MAX MITCHELL is a long, lean OT from the Ragin’Cajuns down in LA, and once he builds up his slender body in the weight room he might be in line to take over for FANT in their OL. At Pick 117, in Round 4 the team added a serious pass-rush talent in MICHAEL CLEMONS of Texas A&M. This is a premier Draft group for the building JETS, who have also added some solid Vet Free Agents to their roster. It should also be noted that ending their Picks in Round 4 left the coaches with time to get in a round of golf, and the personnel people a chance to start their Rookie Free Agent offer calls early, tho technically that is against League rules.
You can almost always count on finding the RAVENS in a short list of standout teams, post Draft. Same thing this year, though we must remember that they traded away WR HOLLYWOOD BROWN to Arizona for extra Picks. The team can deal with any repercussions from QB LAMAR JACKSON later, but for now it allowed them the luxury of drafting 11 players overall. S KYLE HAMILTON & OC TYLER LINDERBAUM will most likely be in the starting lineups come September. TRAVIS JONES DT UCONN will likely allow the team to prune a few 30+ year old DL from their roster, which is the way they do it to keep players fresh and Salary Cap dollars down. OL DANIEL FAALELE, all 380 lbs.+ of him, will try to lock up a RT job, and CHARLIE KOLAR TE Iowa State, will make another inline/slot TE to give LAMAR yet one more really good target in that short-to-intermediate passing game that he handles so well. The team has had an excellent Punter for a decade plus in SAM KOCH, but Sam is nearly 40-years old and not too many 40-somethings are quite as good as Mr. Brady. So they grabbed P JORDAN STOUT from Penn St at Pick 130. When the team’s Bog Board got thin at WR shortly after they had taken TE/KOLAR, they switched gears and went after TE ISAIAH LIKELY, who they liked a lot. Their thinking was that with his good speed and soft hands he could serve as a slot receiver more so than an inline TE. The real cherry on top of this tasty draft cake, is Edge Rusher DAVID OJABO out of Michigan, taken in Round 2 at Pick 45, who tore his Achilles at his Pro Day. He may likely have to red shirt in 2022, but might come in as their next OWEH (his former Penn State teammate) in the 2023 season. OZZIE NEWSOME clearly mentored now GM ERIC DeCOSTA quite well. Check out the piece in this weeks Peter King piece on Football in America, at NBCsports.com . He spent much time over the course of the Draft with the Ravens in their Draft Headquarters. Some tasty insights. here @ https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2022/05/02/baltimore-ravens-draft-room-nfl-fmia-peter-king .
So what were the PACKERS to do, after having been forced into a trade of their top wideout DAVANTE ADAMS to the RAIDERS? They clearly needed to upgrade their receivers room, but were faced with the undeniable tradition of not taking wideouts in Round 1, even tho they had two first round picks this go round. 2002 was the last time the PACK had taken a wideout, JAVON WALKER, with a first round pick. Tradition won out and the team took 2 talented defenders from Georgia with those first two Picks. LB/Edge TRAY WALKER (22) & DT/DEVONTE WYATT(29). But they did have a plan for a Draft they felt was replete with receivers. Early Friday afternoon in Vegas, they traded Picks 53 & 59 for Pick 34 and took athletic wideout CHRISTIAN WATSON of North Dakota St. They later took two more wideouts in ROMEO DOUBS & SAMORI TOURE. Also of note was the selection of 3 solid roster candidates along the OL in SEAN RHYAN #92, ZACH TOM #140, RASHEED WALKER #249. RHYAN will get a shot to start at either an OG or OT spot, while TOM might be able to backup everywhere along that OL. I would also make note of the fact that several of their Picks may be of help in their woeful Special Teams units. In particular I am thinking of DOUBS, CARPENTER & TOURE. They wound up with 11 Picks overall and kept digging up guys who were often ranked a good 30-Picks or more above their actual selection spot.
I felt like the CHIEFS also put together a very solid and useful Draft class with their 10 Picks. And to their credit they did not “knock themselves out” (like Green Bay) with trying to replace the traded star TYREEK HILL with 2nd Round talent at WR, late in Round 1. And yet, they still got highly regarded SKYY MOORE out of the MAC at Pick 54. They used 4 Picks to bolster their secondary which lost Charvarius Ward/CB, TYRANN MATHIEU/S & DANIEL SORENSON/S all to VFA. TRENT McDUFFIE in Round 1 is likely to win WARD’s spot at CB, and Bryan Cook/S will get a shot at taking over for MATHIEU. At Pick 30 they grabbed Purdue DE/ER GEORGE KARLAFTIS, who may be the long term answer to replace aging and expensive FRANK CLARK next off-season. LEO CHENAL/LB is an amazing athlete who will shine on Special Teams and be groomed for playing time in their LB group. I like this group for its top level talent at positions of need, usable volume & fits for their schemes.
As they used to say at the Polish social gatherings when I lived in Wisconsin “winner, winner, chicken dinner”, for these 4 teams..
Next up, later in the week, I will give you my group of five, who left me wanting more from their 2022 Draft efforts.