With the NFL hype machine finally slowing down after the draft, it’s time to evaluate the key results from the event and make some bold predictions for the near future.
Bold Prediction Number 1:
Despite nearly universal opposition, the NFL draft will once again take place in May of 2015.
Due to scheduling conflicts at Radio City Music Hall, the draft was pushed back to the latest date in NFL history and everyone from fans to GMs proved to be frustrated with the resulting marathon of pre-draft hype. When the cameras finally turned on and the draft cards were finally being filled out, every American could have been able to release a scouting report for the first round on par with ESPN talking head Mel Kiper Jr. Teams were put under even greater pressure to make the right decisions, and now that the draft spans three days it garnered nearly uninterrupted attention from the networks.
But for all the griping that may exist, the TV ratings indicate the NFL has no incentive to return to previous formats. Over 32 million American watched the first night of the draft, destroying both the NBA and NHL playoffs, and the doldrums normally reserved for Saturday rounds 4-7 saw nearly two million Americans watch in anticipation of Michael Sam’s draft position (more on him later).
The NFL is king and much like the concussion issue the league has faced, they will continue to get their way if eyes are glued to the screen and money keeps rolling in. Sure, we’d much rather be watching the draft at the end of April, but were our TVs tuned into the NFL Network this year? You betcha.
Bold Prediction Number 2:
The Cleveland Browns will be an intriguing self-destructive force this season.
According to Deadspin if you include mentions of his ‘Johnny Football’ moniker Johnny Manziel was mentioned over 130 times during ESPN’s coverage of the drafts first round. So in trading up to take Manziel, the Browns were already on their way to having a higher profile this season. But when it was announced on day two that superstar receiver Josh Gordon was facing a season-long suspension for failing a drug test, things went to another level. The Browns chose not to address the developing need they faced at receiver and are now staring a disastrous 2014 campaign in the face. One can only imagine Manziel scrambling around looking for open receivers that aren’t there, only to be squashed by a defensive lineman 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Earlier this week Cleveland also re-signed cornerback Joe Haden to a massive contract with $45 million guaranteed, and while Haden is certainly one of the top defensive backs in the league, the Browns still had the 23rd ranked scoring defense last year. If the team was willing to spend that kind of money, why weren’t they more active in finding help for Haden on the defensive line or the linebacking corps?
Bold Prediction Number 3:
Michael Sam will be on an opening day roster, but not that of the St. Louis Rams
The Twitterverse exploded when the Rams drafted Sam in the seventh round, making him the first openly gay player in the NFL. The subsequent celebration that included Sam kissing his boyfriend on national television was groundbreaking and signaled why we are in a new era of American sports. Sam has been confident, open and above all a consummate professional in how he has addressed the media and his understanding of the historical significance of this moment.
But he’d be the first to tell you there is a long road ahead when it comes to football. The Rams are stacked at the defensive end position and Sam is going to toe the line on making the roster nearly the entire preseason. Sam is a solid pass-rusher, but the Rams already have proven experience in that department. I’ll be the first to say that unless he really makes an impression on special teams, Sam will face a fate not at all unfamiliar to seventh round draft picks: getting cut and finding a better fit elsewhere.
There will be an outcry, but the decisions the Rams make will be entirely based on football and while Sam is without a doubt an NFL-caliber player, he has a better chance to see the field in a place like Chicago or Tampa Bay.