LEFT UNSAID AT THE NFL DRAFT
A lot can be said about the National Football League draft by what isn’t said in the first round. The two most noticeable things to go unsaid in round one last night in New York were Geno Smith and Manti T’eo. Smith was the most highly publicized quarterback going into a draft in which quarterbacks weren’t expected to figure prominently. If any quarterback went in the first round it was expected to be smith. One quarterback did go in the first round, but it wasn’t Smith, nor was it the only other quarterback being given a chance to go ahead of Smith, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib. It was E.J. Manuel of Florida State, who was taken on the 16th pick by the Buffalo Bills. What makes that choice particularly interesting is, while the Bills do need a quarterback, they’re coached by former Syracuse coach Doug Morrone. It was generally felt if Morrone went for a quarterback in a down year at the position it would be Nassib, his guy. The second notable name to go unsaid in round one was Manti T’eo. It was generally accepted that some personal issues late in his senior season would hurt the Notre Dame linebacker’s value on draft day, but the prognosticators still expected a first round call. A number of issues surface with the absence of those two names in round one. The scouts, unlike the media, which has a tendency to fall in love with a prospect and stay in love with him, do their homework, with their employment riding on their assessments. Colleges don’t produce as many NFL style quarterbacks as they once did, college coaches often putting their signal callers in multi tasking formations to cover for deficiencies at other skilled positions, and guys like Smith, who like to keep run options open as long as possible, are frequently too late delivering passes to recievers, after the coverage has already caught up to them. The premium on that type of quarterback is on the decline as the NFL’s love affair with the “wild cat” continues to wane. Scouts may have also detected the attitude problem that surfaced with Smith’s “I’ll take my ball and go home” approach to being snubbed in the first round. The scouts, unlike the media, actually made notes on T’eo at the combines, where questions surfaced about the actual extent of his ability. The most notable thing about this year’s draft is the abundance of riches in the non skill positions, primarily the offensive line. Three of the first four picks, and four of the front seven, were offensive linemen. Including defense, eight linemen were taken before the first skill position player was selected. More than a quarter of the first round picks were used on offensive linemen, with well over half the round going for linemen, including defense. With there also being a bounty of defensive backs and linebackers in this year’s draft a savvy shopper like Patriots head coach Bill Belichick knows where the bargains and hidden gems will be found, which explains why he traded out of the first round to get four later round picks. With nothing to show for day one the Patriots are still likely to come out of this draft as flush as anyone. You can tell a lot about a draft by the names that are called in round one. Sometimes you can tell even more by the names that aren’t called. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.