Let’s hope technology doesn’t catch a virus during NFL Draft
Hank Williams Jr. doesn’t need to ask. I think most every American sports fan is ready for some football.
It won’t be actual competition, but the three-day National Football League Draft that starts tonight, Thursday, is highly anticipated since sports fans have had nothing else to look forward to for the last six weeks. Unless, that is, you count ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary on the 1990s Chicago Bulls that began Sunday to rave reviews.
There are several curiosities to this draft. First and foremost, how will the technology work with all teams’ officials working the draft from home? Will there be glitches? Reportedly, the mock draft held Monday afternoon wasn’t perfect. What happens if there are serious glitches? Will some extremely smart and bored computer expert locked up in his computer cave try to hack the draft?
I must admit, I think it’s awesome how the real draft is going to have a fantasy football draft feel with GMs making picks by computer from their personal man caves.
How will the television broadcasts look? Can ESPN, ABC and the NFL Network hold captive audiences for three days with video conference television?
We don’t know if the NFL will have fans in stadiums, a full season, a shortened season or any season at all yet this fall. Does that uncertainly change the way general mangers build their rosters? Are draft candidates with medical questions going to slip because they were unable to visit teams in March and April?
The first two picks seem like no-brainers with the Cincinnati Bengals taking LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the first pick and the Washington Redskins taking Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young at number two. There have been some pundits thinking the Redskins could surprise and take a quarterback.
The one thing that’s always bothered me about draft telecasts, particularly ESPN’s in recent years, is the overbearing focus on quarterbacks. This year, the fascination is with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who probably would have been a top one or two pick had he not suffered a gruesome hip dislocation injury last November. Even with the injury concern, I don’t think he’ll get past pick five or six, currently held by the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers, teams who need a quarterback upgrade and may even trade up a couple spots to make sure they get their man.
Wherever he goes, expect a nauseating amount of discussion on Tagovailoa.
Detroit has the third pick and you wonder how the Lions will get snakebitten here. The league’s unluckiest team, or so it seems, is in a good spot to either bolster their depth with a trade with a team desperate to get Tagovailoa or pick Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah to fill a position of need. This can’t go bad for Detroit, can it?
Here in Green Bay Packers territory, Cheeseheads will likely have to wait deep into Thursday night before seeing their team make the 30th pick. I don’t rule out a trade up for a player the team’s braintrust may be truly targeting, but my guess is the general manager Brian Gutekunst stays put in the first round.
The Packers enter the draft with 10 picks and probably don’t want to reduce that number much with trades. Despite coming off a 13-3 season that ended one win short of a Super Bowl appearance, there are plenty of position groups that can use new blood, not only for this year, but in 2021 when free agency has the potential to take out some prominent names on the roster.
The internet chatter throughout the last two months has been focused on the Packers needing a dynamic wide receiver to pair with Davante Adams and provide Aaron Rodgers with more options. This draft is billed as one of the deepest ever for receivers with six, seven or eight first-round possibilities.
Obviously, Green Bay could go there early. But if the draft is that deep at the position, they could hold off on a receiver for a round or two. Of course that strategy didn’t pan out two years ago, when they drafted three in the middle rounds. J’Mon Moore is gone and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown have contributed little.
If a first-round talent at offensive tackle falls to 30, say Houston’s Joshua Jones, I think Green Bay grabs him. I don’t think Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray would fall to 30, but he would fill a huge need if he did. You can never have enough cornerbacks and, thinking ahead to Kevin King’s free agency next year, a first-round talent there makes sense.
I don’t think it will happen, but it wouldn’t totally shock me to see the Packers nab Wisconsin’s All-American running back Jonathan Taylor again, looking ahead, because Aaron Jones is going to be tough to re-sign as he enters free agency next year. Taylor seems to be viewed as an early second-round pick in the mocks.
If he stays at 10 picks, or somehow acquires more, there are many directions Gutekunst can go. He wouldn’t be wrong stock piling offensive linemen or frontseven guys on defense. A receiving threat at tight end in the early rounds would be good. Depth at inside linebacker would be great. As mentioned, another capable body in the defensive secondary would be great.
I hate to go back to the quarterback discussion, but yes, I envision Green Bay taking a quarterback in this draft. I don’t see it being in the first or second round, but it’s time to take a flier in the middle rounds on somebody that may turn into a solid number-two but isn’t necessarily weighed down with the immediate pressure of being “the successor” to Rodgers.
It will be interesting to see how teams with multiple first-round picks play their cards. Here in NFC North country, the Minnesota Vikings are one of those teams holding picks 22 and 25. NFC champion San Francisco is another with picks 13 and 31. The 49ers were pretty darn good last year. If they land another stud at 13, look out. The Las Vegas Raiders –– man is that weird to say –– have picks 12 and 19. Miami has three picks at five, 18 and 26. Jacksonville has picks nine and 20. Do they get what they want and make immediate upgrades with those picks or do they trade out, pick up more picks and build that way?
It’s time for a break from the boredom. Let’s get the Bengals on the clock and let’s get it started. My first-round draft to be mocked is printed below.
Matt Frey is the Sports Editor at The Star News.