Many experts have been talking about the lack of skilled position players in this year’s NFL Draft. This was projected to be an O-Line heavy draft and that turned out to be pretty accurate with 9 of the 32 picks being O-Line players, a tone that was set with Offensive Tackles being taken at the #1, #2 and #4 positions. Toss in the 8 Defensive Lineman and 3 Linebackers and it seemed like the skilled positions were pretty weak overall.
By the time Baltimore took Florida Safety Matt Elam with the #32 pick we saw 3 Wide Receivers, 1 Quarterback and a Tight End grace the board. This was the first draft in 50 years since a Running Back was not selected in the first round. Of course draft position is not an automatic signal of how well a player will do in the NFL but it usually is a sign of how well you did in college.
A couple of things that have come out of this draft for me:
Draft experts are lucky to be correct 50% of the time…if even that. Two experts of note, ESPN “Draft Guru” Mel Kieper, based on his final mock draft released this morning, ended up getting 6 players correct (player on the correct team or draft position), that would be 19% correct while NFL Network’s guru Mike Mayock did a bit better with 9 players correct, 28% correct.
For some reason ESPN’s Chris Berman and Mel Kieper are HUGE on Manti Te’o. Beginning with the New York Giant #19 pick the words “These are the Manti Rounds” seemed to flow from their mouths every time their lips were moving. These two predicted Manti Te’o would be drafted by the Giants (#19), Bears (#20), Vikings (#23 and 25), Packers (#26) and Ravens (#32).
How far where they off?
Only one linebacker was selected between #19 and #32, Olgetree by the Rams.
I found myself actually rooting for teams not to pick him purely based on how much they were promoting him and his upside. Not sure what his upside really is though.
Ignoring the girlfriend hoax, that has been played enough; he disappeared against Alabama’s offense in the Championship Game. Yes he had 3 solo tackles and 7 assists but Lacy seemed to glide right past Te’o on his way to 140 rushing yards not to mention Bama’s O-line manhandled him and he missed a number of tackles by choosing bad angles on the ball.
I think some teams could overlook a single game (though this was a game it would have helped to shine) but his NFL Combine was pretty bad. Looking at the run down and you can see where there is concern:
Broad jump- Te’o 9’5” versus last year’s linebacker average of 9’8”
40 yard dash- 4.82 seconds, linebackers are expected to hit 4.70 or under.
Vertical jump- 33 inches, he ranked 8th out of all linebackers this year
Field Drills- He was stiff in the shuffle drill but looked better in drop back and shuttle.
Essentially he is about average for a linebacker, which is fine, and he will probably end up being a late Second Round or early Third Round pick but anyone entertaining him as a First Rounder was probably blinded by his success during Notre Dame’s undefeated season and not looking at the long run.
Finally I think whichever team does draft him they will need to consider the elephant in the room when he first walks in to the locker room. Agree with it or not, he will be targeted by some players for his girlfriend fiasco no matter how it is sliced and if he ends up in the wrong locker room (poor leadership or a media circus) he could end up getting picked on or mentally abused which could affect his play and career. Imagine walking in to the New York Jets locker room, no player leadership, an oblivious coach and owner and a collection of misfit toys that openly and anonymously rip their team mates apart, he would probably follow the same route that Tebow had to deal with last year and you know that Tebow is probably more secure in himself and his playing ability when compared to Te’o.
Personally I would like to see the kid end up on a team with good coaches and a decent veteran squad who will work with him and help him through the transition. He may not have a Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher career but with support and training he could be a solid anchor.
Third… and the only point that really relates to the hobby:
When it comes to Topps and Panini, they are going to have a difficult time promoting upcoming products using this year’s draft class.