The 2017 NFL Draft is approximately two weeks away, which means we are approximately three weeks away from least engaging stretch of the NFL offseason. In the spirit of that, let’s check out how things look around the league:
Stock up: Speculative thinking
For the first time in over a dozen years, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in the market for a quarterback—perhaps even one who can serve as Ben Roethlisberger’s successor. Ranking the 10 best quarterbacks in the NFL is a wholly arbitrary endeavor, but history suggests that teams generally find franchise signal callers in the first round (save for Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees, though the latter was the 32nd overall pick in his draft). In other words, if the Steelers believe Ben’s replacement is in this draft, they are probably going to draft him in the first round.
Stock down: Bold claims
Skip Bayless, the king of the hot take, believes the Cleveland Browns should select former Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson with the first pick of the draft.
There isn’t anything particularly controversial about this analysis—Cleveland hasn’t had a serviceable quarterback, arguably, since Bernie Kosar, and Watson has been among the best players in the country over the past three seasons—but Bayless took his piping-hot take a step further by declaring Myles Garrett, the “presumed” top pick of the draft (more on that in a second), a potential bust.
Again, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but numerous professional scouts, many of whom have almost certainly studied Garrett far more extensively than Bayless has, have dubbed the former All-American a generationally-talented prospect. The last time Bayless took a swipe at the consensus top pick in the draft—well, I’ll just leave this here:
I'll say it AGAIN: Give me RG3 over Luck - any day, any night, any year, any career.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 15, 2012
While we’re here, might as well toss this one up, too:
Long term give me Josh Freeman over Cam. Better leader, more consistent passer, more clutch, more poised under fire, more careful with ball.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) November 16, 2012
Thus, Myles Garrett will almost assuredly become the greatest defensive player in NFL history, while poor DeShaun Watson is destined to become a historic bust. Sad!
However, actual scouts who are not paid to provide spicy takes are not immune to making borderline superlative statements. Lance Zierlein, a (very good) draft analyst for NFL.com, compared Garrett to future first-ballot Hall of Famer Julius Peppers.
Come on, guys. Aim lower on these player comparisons. Garrett very well could become the greatest pass rusher in NFL history, but comparing him to a dude with 144 career sacks and nine Pro Bowls is a little extreme.
While Bayless is probably wrong to boldly declare Garrett a bust, he does bring up an interesting point.
Stock up: Opportunity costs
There is apparently some tension afoot in Cleveland’s front office. According to ESPN’s resident football wizard Adam Schefter, the Browns have yet to determine which player they will select with the first overall pick. Garrett, as expected, is one of the options (and perhaps the frontrunner), but the team also seems to be quite interested in addressing its longstanding quarterback predicament.
This, on the surface, seems like such a typical Browns move—like, of course Cleveland would find a way to mess this up.
There is no doubt that pass rusher is one of the three most valuable positions on an NFL roster. Quarterback, however, is a distant first in the positional hierarchy, and if the Browns truly believe Watson or Mitchell Trubisky has franchise potential, then it makes sense to pick one of them.
The list of terrible quarterbacks who have actually won Super Bowls is not especially long. The list of teams that have won Super Bowls without Hall of Fame pass rushers, on the other hand, has quite a few more entries. This doesn’t tell the entire story, but consider the list of Super Bowl MVPs: 28 of the 51 award winners have been quarterbacks. The three games in which pass rushers won the award were quarterbacked by Roger Staubach, Jim McMahon and Peyton Manning. More often than not, good quarterback play outweighs a dominant pass rush.
With that said, I still think the Browns should (and probably will) select Garrett with the No. 1 pick. I can definitely understand if they don’t though.
Stock down: “Character concerns” and “off-field issues”
The only universal truth in the NFL is that if you can run really fast, throw really hard or jump really high, you’re gonna find yourself a job. Former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who was dismissed last fall for punching a woman in an on-campus cafe, is a really, really good football player—similar to Le’Veon Bell in terms of size and skillset, per Zierlein. That player comp is gonna be enough to make Mixon’s future employer and fans forget about the surveillance (fair disclaimer if you’ve never watched this, it is disturbing) tape depicting the aforementioned incident in a hurry.
This isn’t to say that Mixon does, or does not, deserve a chance to play professional football. I am not even slightly envious of the person who ultimately has to make that decision (hopefully their public relations department is better than United Airlines’).
Stock down: The No Fun League
In yet another stunning display of cartoonish villainy, the NFL is investigating a charity arm wrestling tournament in Las Vegas attended by 20 or 30 players, including Pittsburgh’s James Harrison. Because the league prohibits players from making promotional appearances at casinos, Harrison, along with the other participants, could receive fines from the NFL.
The issue here isn’t necessarily that Harrison and his co-workers broke the rules—they did, technically—but more so the fact that the NFL doesn’t allow such appearances in the first place. NFL owners just voted by an overwhelming majority to relocate the Raiders to Las Vegas, a city built on gambling profits. In fact, many NFL teams, including the Steelers, benefit from lucrative sponsorships with daily fantasy sports websites such as Draft Kings and Fan Duel (check here for a complete list of such sponsorships). Interestingly, numerous state attorney generals consider daily fantasy sports to be “illegal gambling.”
At what point does a promotional appearance become a conflict of interest? Will Antonio Brown catch a fine for playing blackjack at the Rivers while wearing his own jersey? Are the Patriots no longer allowed to bro down at the Kentucky Derby?
Loosen your underwear and lighten up, NFL.
Stock down: the city of Pittsburgh
Rest in peace, Mr. Rooney.