In today’s edition of “Cross Country Round Table” the Footbawl bloggers were asked to share their overall thoughts on the draft, and the stories that interested them the most.
Joseph: Is it weird that, of all the 253 players that were picked, the one I’m thinking of wasn’t drafted at all?
This time last year, Vontaze Burfict was the focus of nearly unanimous praise, coming off a spectacular sophomore season at Arizona State. I’d just transferred to the school from the University of Utah; through my pessimism of ASU’s athletic department, their lackluster season, my love of ‘The Other U’ and their impending Pac-10 arrival, I never found myself excited for the Sun Devil’s football program. But Vontaze was, at the very least, a silver lining to what I considered a wasteland for collegiate sports.
At the beginning of last season, I’d have called both CB Omar Bolden and Burfict first-round picks, without question. Despite not playing at all last year due to a knee injury sustained in April, Bolden still managed to impress and was drafted in the 4th round by the Denver Broncos, joining teammate Brock Osweiller.
Burfict—who saw increasingly diminished playing time as the season progressed, who registered just 68 tackles, who caused frequent penalties, who refused to return to the field in the Sun Devil’s closer against rival University of Arizona, who received criticisms for being out of shape and arguing with former coach Dennis Erickson, who ran a 5-flat 40, who reportedly failed the drug test at the Combine—went undrafted and was signed as a free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals have a minor need at middle linebacker, although the assault charges against starter Rey Maualuga were recently dismissed in court. No one from the mainstream press thought enough of this story to get comment from Burfict, but my buddy Master Tesfatsion at the State Press (a guy well on his way to big things) decided to ask how he felt about going undrafted.
“I didn’t get drafted like I wanted to, but I’m blessed to be on an NFL team,” Burfict said.
Okay… so there’s a hint of humility in there, right?
“I know that I’m a first, second round pick and the Bengals got a steal in the draft because nobody drafted me.”
When I was fortunate enough to hang out with Beanie Wells, it was just a month before the draft. The Combine had wrapped just four days earlier, and so I was eager to ask what Beanie thought of the latest rookie crop. As we’re talking, Burfict himself walked by and dapped Beanie before hitting the free-weights. It was kind of humorous because we were talking about guys that did well, particularly R.G.III, when Burfict walked by. I couldn’t help but ask about Burfict, but obviously had to exercise some tact. In case you don’t know, it’s not wise to talk ill of a guy who has anger issues, a wanton disregard for authority, and a documented hatred of the media.
So I asked Beanie, what would you say to someone who didn’t accomplish what they set out to at the Combine? How do you help someone improve?
He just smiled, shook his head, ignored the obvious ESPN quote-bait I’d left for him, and simply said, “You have to look in the mirror. It all starts with you.”
Do you suppose Vontaze has done just that? Or do you feel he doesn’t deserve this second chance?
Ben: I think as a sports fan, and as someone who tries to look at things in a reasonable manner (antonyms, I know) this almost becomes a numbers game.
Over all of our years watching pro athletes, how often do we really think players like this take an honest look at themselves in the mirror and try to think about what they could have done differently? If you match that number up against the number of guys who don’t hold themselves accountable for their own lapses in judgment it comes up substantially lopsided for the latter. But at the end of the day each case is different and I don’t know Vontaze personally so we have to wait and see I suppose. But my gut feeling here is this isn’t someone we will be talking about a few years from now. I hope for his sake someone is throwing this quote in my face down the road.
What I thought was interesting over the weekend, was how certain teams fall in love with their own draft boards and lose perspective of the bigger picture. In the first round Seattle drafted a need (edge rusher Bruce Irvin) and ignored value, but later on they take quarterback Russell Wilson simply because they had him rated highly. It’s hard for me to reconcile that sudden shift in philosophy, but here is my attempt: Pete Carroll likes being thought of as a weirdo. I’m going to ignore mentioning Kirk Cousins here, because I don’t want to beat a dead horse with the carcass of another dead horse.
The 49ers also had a few interesting selections. Not a lot of people considered WR A.J. Jenkins from Illinois a first round selection, but they took him at #30 overall regardless. But the real head scratcher for me is LaMichael James from Oregon being taken in the second round. San Fran is probably as deep at the running back position as any team in football and this really caught me off guard. I know they don’t have a lot of holes, but it has always been my philosophy that you can’t have enough solid offensive lineman or corners in this league.
Nate, what was one of the picks that surprised you the most?
Nate: I’d love to be that guy who points at some 4th round pick from Wofford and says, “Wow, that’s a reach, I didn’t get it.” But let’s be honest, the worst pick in this draft was in the first round, and it’s not even close. Maybe this is more of that dead horse beating you talked about Ben, but I really can’t imagine why the Browns got Weeden in the first round. And I think it’s okay to overanalyze this pick, because to me it’s more than just “the Browns reached for a 28 year-old QB.” I think it’s another reflection on how quickly and harshly young quarterbacks are judged. Unless your name is Alex Smith, for some weird reason.
Colt McCoy isn’t good, and that’s obvious. But he has been a starting quarterback for 21 games. That’s barely more than a full season. And because he hasn’t thrived with the Browns, a situation that most quarterbacks would struggle in, he’s immediately deemed as a bust and is on the trading block. I think it’s interesting that guys like McCoy and Clausen don’t get chances because they weren’t first round picks, but a guy like Alex Smith gets chances over and over again until he can finally prove everyone right, which I still think could be a fluke.
That label of “first round quarterback” becomes a shield that guys can use to deflect any sort of criticism, unless you’re really a fuckup of the Leaf, Harrington, Akili variety. And I just think it’s ridiculous that McCoy could be sent packing just so Brandon Weeden can struggle just as much for presumably more money. Because at the end of the day, Weeden is going to struggle. He’s going to be just as bad, if not worse. And the Browns’ offense is going to be just as anemic, and people are going to wonder if they were too harsh on Colt. But that’s okay, maybe he’ll be a USFL MVP or something. It’s where NFL busts go to die, right JP Losman?
So yeah, that’s my beef. Think the Browns will prove me wrong?
Ben: Honestly, no. Cleveland had two draft picks in the first round and I think they embarrassed themselves with both of them. I don’t think Richardson was a bad player to take, but trading up one spot when it seemed unlikely that anyone else was going to make a move for the Alabama running back is precisely why the Browns are the Browns. I would have played chicken with the Vikings in that spot, and the worst case scenario is someone else pulls the trigger and you don’t draft a running back in the top five. Oh no!
What were your overall draft thoughts? Let us know in the comments section!