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Kramer dishes out some opinions on NFL draft

The NFL draft is the least exciting “event” in sports. Nothing really happens. A few big guys around our age sit in a big ballroom and wait to have their names called. It’s like high school graduation, but with 10 minutes of prognostication between the announcement of valedictorian and salutatorian. The draft is televised because many Americans will watch virtually anything about football, as evidenced by the success of Craig T. Nelson’s Coach. But the draft is not without its merits. It’s an utterly optimistic event; every fan thinks his/her team will improve through the draft, and it’s hard to fault their logic. Adding a talented young player should have only positive repercussions. But in the highly-monetized world of professional football, top draft picks demand exorbitant salaries based purely on perceived potential. JaMarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, Charles Rogers, Courtney Brown, Joey Harrington, Robert Gallery, David Carr, etc. have all proven that if teams aren’t careful, they can waste millions of dollars and countless hours of time developing a player who just isn’t talented or hard-working enough to make it in the League. 

But a track record of exalting failures like the schlubs listed above doesn’t stop the so-called experts from offering their opinion at every possible stage of the draft, including literally 364 days before. Draft experts release their asinine, make-believe mock drafts into the internet to poison the sports fan’s reading enjoyment of both the NFL and college seasons, like so many syringes being dumped into a pit of syringes, a la Saw II. Except not as gross—anybody who accuses football or hockey of being “violence porn” might first examine cinema’s obsession with torturous death. But anyway, draft commentators are wrong as much as they’re right because they don’t have access to the resources of every team’s front office and they don’t know any team’s exact plan. They don’t know if a team most values defense or offense, what positions are considered the most pressing, if the coach wants the most NFL-ready prospect or the one with the most potential, or a myriad of other things that affect a draft pick, but they keep trying, bless ‘em.  All 32 franchises have a unique approach to the draft, and thus there is no such thing as a “best available” prospect at any given point in the draft. Nor is it yet possible to grade any team’s draft and say whether they succeeded or failed. That article can be written in like four years, when we actually know if Tim Tebow is the quarterback of the future for the Denver Broncos or the youth leader of the future at some megachurch. I trust each team’s front office to make better decisions than a guy with hair like mine or Mel Kiper’s, so I’m not going to denigrate any team’s selections based on my incredibly limited knowledge. Instead, here are, in my opinion, the best and riskiest moves of the draft. 

Sam Bradford and Ndumakong Suh as the top two picks

St. Louis and Detroit both did a nice job of not overthinking their positions atop the draft board and took players who filled obvious needs and who have gobs of talent exhibited both in college ball and in combine measurables. The Rams filled their most glaring need, a quarterback, by drafting Oklahoma’s Heisman-winning signal caller, Sam Bradford. Bradford is a smart pick not just because he has made opposing defenses look silly (50 touchdowns, eight interceptions, and a 180.84 passer rating in 2008) and had a flawless pro day which alleviated any concerns about his injured throwing shoulder. Bradford also showed in three seasons under the microscope of a power program that he’s mature enough to be a franchise quarterback. Sam Bradford will spend his spare time learning how to assault defenses, not women, and that’s going to give him a competitive edge over less mature rookies and will rightfully make him a very marketable face of the franchise.

Suh, unlike Bradford, is almost sure to be a success on the field. He joins the Lions, a franchise that already has a marketable face in QB Matthew Stafford, so the weight of being the team savior does not fall on his burly shoulders. Instead of worrying about the hopes of a fan base on life support like Bradford and Stafford, Suh will be able to focus all of his energy on preparing for his rookie season. I think Suh will have the most impact of any rookie this season, stepping into the starting position from day one of training camp and spending so much time in the opposing backfield they’ll start to think he’s a fullback. Most scouts rate Suh as the most NFL-ready prospect in the draft, and his potential to make an immediate impact as a pass-rushing DT is clear from his stellar Senior season in which he recorded 12 sacks. Now that the Lions’ offense is finally back on track, look for their defense to improve markedly with the boy (OK, man) named Suh.

Denver Broncos draft Tim Tebow in the first round

Denver coach Josh McDaniels may take home the Gob Bluth Annual “I’ve Made a Huge Mistake” Award.  Taking Tebow with the 25th pick was a huge gamble for the Broncos. Tebow is a proven winner and has exhibited truly once-in-a-generation leadership abilities. His Florida teams lived up to quite considerable hype, but for once Tebow is in a different position. Nobody expects anything from him after his throwing motion has been picked apart and his ability to play quarterback in the NFL has been not just questioned but openly mocked (by esteemed drunk and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, no less).  Making Tebow an NFL quarterback is a project, but we know he will dedicate himself to learning as much as he can and I feel that, in a few years, Tebow will supplant Kyle Orton in Denver only to be the same kind of barely competent game managing quarterback that Orton is. Or hey, maybe by that time he’ll be head coach at the University of Florida and Urban Meyer’s cardiologist will finally be able to relax.

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