Procrastination is one of my finer skills. Now that I’m finally done with higher-ed (God Bless), the Sunday Special is the first edition of my weekly column. The purpose of these are twofold: (1) to cover an intriguing story and (2) to hopefully provide you, the reader, with something we can share an interest in going forward. This may come in the form of an article, book, song, album, TV show, movie, whatever. Here we go.
Why does it seem like football fans don’t realize the NFL Draft starts on Thursday? It’s simply mind-boggling. On March 11th the entire world of sports as we know it was stripped right from under us as the OKC Thunder and Utah Jazz were prepared to jockey for the four-seed in the Western Conference. Ever since, we’ve been gambling on Cat Cave Derbies, watching HORSE competitions, and uniting over whether or not Carole Baskin killed her husband.
It’s time to resume some semblance of normalcy and that begins Thursday as we set up Zoom calls with our friends and boo the hell out of Roger Goodell for reasons we can’t explain. With that said, let’s take a look at five important questions and three of my favorite prospects heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.
Five Draft Questions to Consider:
How far does Tua fall? The Athletic’s Bob McGinn reported that Tua’s been completely wiped off three franchise’s draft boards. Despite the serious health concerns surrounding his hip and ankles, Tagovailoa’s (and Patrick Mahomes’) agent Leigh Steinberg assures the injuries won’t be a recurring trend in the NFL.
The eye-test has passed with flying colors since Tua’s walk-off TD pass in the 2018 National Championship. The 5-star, Elite 11, ukulele-playing quarterback has lived up to the hype since that historic moment first unfolded.
In my opinion, it would be remiss to draft either Justin Herbert or Jordan Love above Tua solely on the basis of health. I’d rather take the best available player instead of reaching on one of those two.
How much will player evaluations vary on a team-by-team basis? Last year the newly appointed Raiders’ brain trust of Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock turned heads by selecting Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell — a player widely-agreed to be a mid-to-late-first-round talent — with the 4th overall pick in the draft. Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network predicts “less groupthink” amongst decision-makers this year than in years past. The idea that we’ll see more of these types of head-turning picks could add an unprecedented degree of shock-value to Thursday’s first-round.
What will the Chiefs do with the 32nd pick? For whatever reason, links to Georgia RB D’Andre Swift have surfaced just months after KC won the Super Bowl with undrafted running back Damien Williams. The notion of whether or not running backs should be paid big money has surely been drilled into your brain already, so I’m not even going to get started. However, I will offer you this: The last Super Bowl-winning running back to make “significant” money was Marshawn Lynch at $7M in 2013. While I get that Swift (or any other potential RB pick) would be on a rookie contract, I’d rather expend my first round pick on a player worth re-signing in a few years like a corner, coverage-capable linebacker, or an offensive lineman to protect the NFL’s best quarterback.
How badly will COVID-19 impact the small-school players? Ex-GM and current ESPN NFL Analyst Mike Tannenbaum indicated on The Ringer NFL Show that the inability to conduct pro days and in-person interviews throughout the draft process may cause teams to draft second-tier players from Power 5 schools instead of taking on the uncertainty of players from smaller programs. We’ve seen players like Darius Leonard (South Carolina State) and Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington) blossom into stars over the past couple of seasons, so I would hate for the next iteration of them to be overlooked due to the unfortunate circumstances the world has been plagued with. And finally…
What the hell are my Dallas Cowboys doing on social media? Seriously though, who thinks broadcasting your team’s prospect interviews and soundbites of your scouting reports on Instagram and Twitter is a good idea? “Yo, 31 other teams in the league, here are the top talents on our board, what we think about them, and what we asked them in our interviews.” Are you kidding me? From the player’s perspective, this might serve them well if other teams take notice of an impressive response, but unless Jerry and Stephen Jones are sending smoke screens to the rest of the NFL, this looks like a highly questionable move on Dallas’s part.
WR Ceedee Lamb, Oklahoma – Lamb produced over 21 yards per reception in 2019 with his excellent ball skills and wizardry after the catch. Like the next guy on my list, Lamb has the ability to become the number one receiver wherever he lands next season.
Where might that be? Lamb’s former college teammate Kyler Murray has been lobbying for Arizona to take him. With the Cardinals’ theft of Deandre Hopkins last month, they might be better suited taking a pass blocker to protect their franchise QB. In Philadelphia, rumors are swirling that the Eagles are looking to move up from the 21st pick to snag him. Philly’s reliance on the aging and injury-prone pairing of Alshon Jeffery and Desean Jackson is not enough for Carson Wentz moving forward. Not to mention, last year’s second-round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside caught just 10 passes all season, while Nelson Agholor departed to Vegas.
If I had it my way, Ceedee would end up a #DC4L at pick 17. Pairing him with Amari Cooper in Dallas might be a short-sighted pick considering Cooper just signed a five-year, $100M deal, but the star would look fantastic on the side of Lamb’s helmet.
WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama – The comparisons to Antonio Brown for his route-running ability are valid. Jeudy’s Bama teammate Henry Ruggs III no doubt has star potential, but Jeudy’s ability to separate from defenders puts him a class above the rest.
One of Jeudy, Ruggs, or Lamb will end up a Las Vegas Raider, but I think Jeudy makes the most sense for their current roster. Ruggs’ elite speed (4.27 at the combine) screams “big play guy”, but Jeudy could be the go-to receiver in an offense with deep-ball threat Tyrell Williams and security blanket Darren Waller.
The need for elite receivers is more pressing than ever in the new-age NFL. The Jets, Raiders, Colts, Eagles, Vikings, and Patriots are just a few teams that could bolster their passing attack this week — as 2020 is considered one of the deepest wide receiver classes in recent memory.
LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson – First and foremost, it’s probably not fair to categorize him as a linebacker. Simmons — a 6’4″ specimen with 4.39 speed out of Olathe, Kansas — is the type of player Bill Belichick dreams about. The versatility Simmons offers as a slot corner, linebacker, and safety should be unleashed by a savvy defensive mind at the next level. In an age where linebackers are increasingly relied upon in coverage, the Clemson product checks the boxes.
I’d love to see him come home, rep the Kansas City Chiefs, and win a Super Bowl in his rookie year, but that’s nothing more than a pipe dream. Simmons should be a lock to hear his name in the top 10 on Thursday.
All things considered, the technological obstacles, lack of consensus on prospects, and scouting restrictions involved in the 2020 NFL Draft should make this one of the more memorable ones we’ll ever witness. At the minimum, it will provide the best sports content of the quarantine era, that is, until The Last Dance drops this evening and the world finally agrees that Michael Jordan, not LeBron James, is the greatest basketball player of all-time.
Quarantine Entertainment Picks:
The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam
By traveling with the Portland Trail Blazers during the 1979-1980 NBA season, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Halberstam uncovered how the ’77 league champions unraveled just as quickly as they rose to the pinnacle of success. This book had been on my reading list for quite a while thanks to the high-praise given by Ringer CEO Bill Simmons.
While basketball was my first love as far as sports go, I now feel like a more complete NBA fan after reading this book. You’ll learn about the ABA-NBA merger, the highs (in multiple ways) and lows of Bill Walton, the ability of owners to “depreciate” players for tax purposes, skeezy college recruiting tactics, and how the NBA Players’ Association played a pivotal role in the massive salaries NBA players lay claim to today.
Wild Wild Country on Netflix (98% on Rotten Tomatoes)
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. It’s not a Netflix original, but boy does that platform hand out true-crime entertainment as generously as an Oprah Winfrey Show giveaway. In this 2018 documentary series, directors Maclain and Chapman Way capture the rise and fall of the controversial Rajneeshpuram community of Wasco County, Oregon in the 1980s.
The followers of Indian Guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his secretary Ma Anand Sheela built a commune from the ground up in hopes of creating a place to escape the real world and live in true harmony. Shortly after the community’s move from India, the nearby citizens of Antelope, Oregon began raising flags over some of the concerning behaviors of the Rajneesh people.
At times it’s inspiring, but it’s mostly sinister. I’ll leave at that. No idea how I’d never heard of this story.
If you enjoyed the first edition of the Sunday Special, consider subscribing to the ATM: At The Minute Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. And lastly, any and all feedback is appreciated. Have a great week.