SPORTS w/The Jock 4-28-11

photo: Bill Hurd

by Tom Weppel
As you all know, this week the National Football League will hold their annual college Draft. Compared to previous Drafts, the conditions and the scenario in which this is being handled is like night and day!
Obviously, the controversy surrounding the Collective Bargaining Agreement (or lack thereof) between the players and owners will have a significant impact on each and every team decision. The fact there have been no free agency signings by teams, as they usually do every March, changes the setting and strategies for all teams, especially in considering what teams are looking for, and where they intend to acquire their talent for this upcoming season.
Every year, after teams make their draft selections, teams go to work in bringing in rookies, showing them the ’ropes’, so to speak, and also working with their agents/representatives in signing contracts.
But with no CBA, it means teams have not had any communication with players, as we have seen. It also means rookies will not be allowed to come in and learn a teams’ playbook and/or ‘system’. That can have a huge negative impact on the teams and players, making things that much more trying and difficult.
In another twist, the Draft will begin on Thursday night, as opposed to past seasons, when it usually begins on Saturday. It’ll be interesting to see how this effects viewership and interest on ESPN, and the NFL Network.
As for the potential draft picks, a lot of the attention has been on Auburn QB Cam Newton. Every year, there are always questions as to how standout Quarterbacks will perform in coming out of college into the NFL. There have been plenty of busts, for sure, especially from First Round selections. The risk, commitment, and expectations are enormous, on the player, as well as the team.
That said, the question is out there as to whether Newton will be a franchise QB in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers hold the first pick. We shall see if they choose Cam Newton.
If they don’t, it is very possible they would still consider taking a QB later on, and there are a list of guys available, including Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), Jake Locker (Washington), Christian Ponder (FSU), and Andy Dalton (TCU), among others.
Without the ability to do deals and make trades, the future surrounding free agents (especially veteran QB’s) is also prominent. What will the Bengals do in consideration of Carson Palmer? What will the Eagles do with Kevin Kolb? What about the deal with Titans’ starter Vince Young? And, are the Niners still committed to Alex Smith?
In the meantime, the controversy, curiosity, and intrigue surrounding this Draft is enormous. We’ll see who takes who, and who does what…
While every NFL team is always very much looking forward to bringing in a very solid, strong Draft class, there is another aspect to consider which can play a key role and make an impact on every upcoming season.
And that aspect is the list of available players coming in off a team Injured Reserve list from the previous season.
Most people rarely give this much consideration whatsoever. The fact is, each team always…ALWAYS…has a number of guys that got injured at some point last season, and were placed on the IR. Some of those guys were veteran starters. Others were newly-drafted rookies. For some, those injuries occurred during Training Camp, before the season even got started!
Consider the situation with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Last year, they drafted DT D’Anthony Smith (6’2”, 298) in the 3rd Round, out of Louisiana Tech. Then in the 6th Round, they picked up Scotty McGee (5’8”, 182) out of James Madison, whom they felt showed a lot of potential as a specialist, on special teams, and in the return game.
The year before that, they drafted OT Eben Britton (6’6”, 310) in the 2nd Round, out of Arizona. Britton started 15 games as a rookie and was looking to be a solid anchor to the Jaguars O-Line last season. D. Smith was being looked upon as a potential starter on the D-Line last year.
Turns out that Smith and McGee suffered injuries during Training Camp, missing the entire season. Britton got injured halfway thru the season and was done for the year.
And so now, those guys will be coming in to this upcoming season with solid potential, and could end up being huge contributors. You can essentially consider them added bonus entities to the Jaguars’ depth chart, in addition to what they can and will do as a compliment to this years Draft, along with potential free agents.
Meanwhile, a lot of fans will have almost no clue to the impact those types of scenarios can and will have on each individual team, focusing more on who is being drafted and or signed off the street.
And so we shall see how this all plays out, on so many different levels. The stories alone can and will prove to be intriguing…