|John Reed / US Presswire|
|Nick Fairley might be talented, but his commitment to play every down concerns teams.|
I love the draft, and I am a self-admitted draftnik. In fact, when I was in college the only time I ever got up early (before noon was considered early then) was to take the train into New York City to stand in a long line at the Sheraton Hotel to hopefully be lucky enough to grab one of the 500 seats available to watch the draft unfold live.
However, I was never early enough to beat Joel Buchsbaum in line. He was always front and center, and had the best seat in the house. This time of the year, I miss my friend, who passed away in January of 2003 at the young age of 48.
Joel, who wrote about the draft for Pro Football Weekly for 26 years before his death, was always the most informed person regarding the draft I had ever met. He also had the most incredible memory of prior drafts. He was a savant regarding the draft and with each conversation I learned much about the players and the league. This time of the year, I miss the phone calls, I miss his knowledge, and most of all I miss hearing his evaluation of the players. He was one of a kind.
There's a certain love-hate relationship with every draft, and this year is no exception. Here are some of my favorite players in the draft, some highly regarded prospects I wouldn't take and phrases I've heard that I don't quite understand.
Players who worry me
Auburn DT Nick Fairley: I know Fairley played well last year, but one-year wonders in college always concern me. My board would have Illinois' Corey Liuget and North Carolina's Marvin Austin ahead of Fairley, even though Fairley might have more God-given talent. The NFL is a war of attrition and requires great mental toughness to be successful, especially along the defensive line. Talent alone does not create success, but talent combined with work habits and consistent passion are critical factors. Fairley might be great, but he worries me -- enough that I would not draft him.
Maryland WR Torrey Smith: He is fast and explosive, but speed alone is not the true indicator of a receiver being successful in the league. Smith plays small down the field, he does not seem to be in balance when he has to compete for the ball, and often appears to trap the ball instead of catching it. He will need time to learn the finer points of route running and escaping the bump. Speed wideouts who play small down the field never are high on my draft board. Abilene Christian's Edmund Gates, to me, is a better value and will be a better pro.
Players I love
California DE Cameron Jordan: The defensive end shows versatile position flexibility, as well as the kind of quickness that creates problems on passing downs for guards and tackles. He has a pro game right now, and I feel he will make an instant impact for whichever team drafts him.
Alabama OT James Carpenter: When you hear everyone talk about the top offensive linemen in the draft, Carpenter is never mentioned. For me, though, he is the second best left tackle prospect on the board behind Tyron Smith of USC. Carperter has balance, he can play with power, and he has the feet to handle the edge. He is a ready-made left tackle, plus he can play inside at guard.
Phrases I hate
"He is a first-rounder." What does that mean? Former Browns owner Art Modell would often remind me that kids are not born first-rounders; we make them first-rounders. Here's my beef: By saying a player is a first-rounder, you have not described the player. For me, the round a player is drafted lies in the description, not the round. Is this player a starter, a backup or a potential starter? Rounds don't interest me; telling me what the player can do once he enters the league is all I care about.
"I wouldn't take him at No. 9, but would at 13." Huh? What does that mean? Now, I know the draft is all about money, but the difference between nine and 13, in terms of money, is not that great nor can it be qualified or quantified in an evaluation. If a player is good enough to take in the first 13 picks and the description fits the round, then what is the difference? As Bill Walsh would always say to every scout and coach, "It does not matter where we pick them; it matters how they play."
Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi