Plenty of people take the NFL Draft seriously. While understanding that the draft is the lifeblood of any NFL team’s success, the fact that people outside the 32 teams offices also live and die with it the way they do, and, in some cases have managed to make a nice little cottage industry out of it, they can wind up being taken way too seriously.
I don’t doubt for a second that Mel Kiper works like crazy to try to find out everything about a college player for you, but ultimately, Mel Kiper’s opinion is but one of many that are on display leading into the draft. So, I had to laugh a bit yesterday when my Twitter feed blew up when word breathlessly came down that Kiper had dropped Florida State QB Jameis Winston from #3 on his “Big Board” to 25th, after word came down of Winston’s significantly inappropriate language at the FSU Student Union that forced the school to suspend him for the first half of tomorrow’s key game vs. Clemson.
As we all know, Winston has had more than his share of foibles, the most serious of which was a rape charge that Tallahassee prosecutors refused to indict him on last year, but which has still led the federal government to investigate the school on charges it’s not following Title IX statutes. And we know what’s happening around the NFL as teams (and the league) try to come to grips with social issues like domestic violence and child abuse, and how to deal with the issues. But we also know that the NFL is driven by talent. And often, even after exhaustive background checks that might reveal behavioral issues, talent, is often what ultimately drives the final selection.
And that is especially true when it comes to QBs. Some will point to the case of Johnny Manziel and say his immaturity (and occasional entanglement with police) was the biggest reason why he fell to #22 in the draft. Certainly there was reason for concern, and Manziel did nothing to lessen those concerns with his post draft behavior. Yet behavior was not why he fell. The fact that he’s slightly under six feet tall and barely 200 pounds is a bigger reason. But Winston has prototypical NFL QB size at 6-4, 230. While most of his snaps are taken from the shotgun, he’s not looking to make plays outside the pocket (although his 28 yard TD run vs. Oklahoma State was as nice a run by a QB as we’re likely to see all year). He wants to make plays from the pocket. Has the size to take the hits and the arm strength to make all the necessary pro throws. He also is acknowledged as a tremendous on field leader (indeed that final drive vs. Auburn in the national title game last year may be all you need to see). Those are the measurables. And the NFL Draft first round is all about the measurables.
All of this could have huge meaning for the Dallas Cowboys. We obviously don’t know where the Cowboys will be selecting next May, and frankly, we also don’t know how/if Tony Romo’s back will hold up (the early signs, frankly, aren’t very promising). Romo is in the first year of a deal that guarantees him $55 million, and the Cowboys have never been serious about any Romo succession plan. Jerry Jones wanted Johnny Manziel to keep the Cowboys “relevant.” He was talked out of Manziel to help improve the offensive line (a move proving wiser by the week). But Manziel is not the prospect Winston is. Not even close. Would Winston’s potential availability harden Jones’ resolve to land himself his next QB? Winston’s talent would make the Cowboys “relevant,” even if his off field stuff might keep the team up at night. That’s why some team, whether it’s the Cowboys or some other team in the top 10 of the draft, is likely to take the flyer on Winston despite Mel Kiper having him 25th on his “Big Board.” And then hope he doesn’t wind up on the Commissioner’s Exempt List.