THE DRAFT IS FINALLY HERE… ALMOST

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As someone who watches ESPN on default, I’m getting sick of seeing the contrived debates between Mel Kiper and Todd McShay and we’re still a week away from the NFL draft. Yet even with all the overkill, one of the best days of the year for football fans is finally coming and this weekend’s draft will be particularly interesting.

(Even if the NFL is trying to ruin it by dropping it back to a 4:00 p.m. EST start. The draft is great, but much better when it’s an early morning/afternoon event. You’ve gotta earn the right to waste the entire weekend…)

One of the more contrived elements of the NFL is “draft season.” Players being traded like stocks, with their value seemingly going up and down on a big board is one of the great frauds of televised sports. Not a single college football player has played a snap of football since January, yet according to draft experts these guys have done more in the last month to help or hurt their chances than anything they’ve done on the gridiron.

I am not claiming to be a talent evaluator (although I did watch about 20 hours of the NFL combine), but every year I want to bang my head off a wall listening to people proclaim players who never did much of anything on the field as guys who are going to excel on Sundays. This year is no different. The names may not be the same, but once again, here are five guys guys who are going to get paid that I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. May they all avoid playing in Minnesota.

JOSH FREEMAN

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I watched this kid play against the Kansas Jayhawks and he looked absolutely lost. He’s obviously a monster at 6-foot-6, but all the tools in the world won’t help you if you don’t have a toolbox. Here’s what I wrote about him after spending Halloween weekend watching him play.

“Kansas State QB Josh Freeman couldn’t have looked any worse than he did on Saturday, when he literally gave the game away in the first half. Maybe he was the 6’6” giant that we saw wandering around Massachusetts Street the night before dressed as The Rock.”

For all the talk about drafting this guy at the bottom of round one, he wasn’t half the quarterback that Todd Reesing was, even if Reesing looks like he should by playing for a high school B-Squad.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

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I defy you to find a good NFL player who has a hyphen in his name. (Maurice Jones-Drew does not count, he added the hyphen after college to honor his grandfather.) Even if I’m one of the charter members of the Rashon Powers-Neal fan club, I’m not taking a kid that nobody heard of until he ran a top-notch 40-yard-dash time at the combine.

Hayward-Bey has Troy Williamson written all over him. Remember him? (Hopefully you don’t.) He of “blessed with incredible speed,” should have been a perfect replacement for Randy Moss, who the Vikings had to replace with the first round pick they got from the Raiders. Instead, Williamson had some of the worst hands in the NFL, never did much of anything, and got traded for a 6th round pick three seasons later.

Somehow, NFL scouts continue to ignore mediocre career numbers and a general lack of touchdowns because guys run a really fast for 40 yards while wearing Under Armor and shorts. To top things off, Scouts, Inc.’s has this wonderful tidbit: “multiple sources inside NFL scouting departments have warned us regarding Heyward-Bey’s ‘football character’.”

If he puts on your team’s cap this Saturday, switch to hard liquor.

Kenny Britt

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Mel Kiper has Kenny Britt going to Minnesota while Percy Harvin lasts until the thirtieth pick. If this happens I will throw up all over myself. I wouldn’t draft a player from Rutgers in the first place. That place breeds mediocrity, and Kenny Britt is the pick of the litter. He sounds like a great guy!

“Scouts have serious concerns regarding his maturity, work ethic and practice habits. Scouts who have interviewed him have described him to us as ‘arrogant’ and having ‘an inflated opinion of his skills’.”

That’s exactly the kind of guy I want to throw millions of dollars at, especially if the Vikings are going to trust Tavaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels to get him the ball. Britt put up impressive numbers during his senior year — almost 1,400 yards on 87 catches, but here’s a pretty good equation to consider:

RUTGERS + ARROGANT + INFLATED OPINION ON SKILLS = RUN AND HIDE FROM KENNY BRITT

Matthew Stafford

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Sorry, but put me on the list of people who doesn’t understand how this kid is such a lock as a quarterback of the future. After entering college as an all-world recruit, he’s completed 52, 55, and 61 percent of his passes in three years of playing. For all the talk of his Uncle Rico-like arm strength, he sure throws a lot of really ugly balls (watch a Sportscenter highlight of him throwing — wobble would be kind), and you need to pay the kid $40 million to play for you.

If I’m Detroit, I’m rolling with Daunte Culpepper again, and trying to leverage the number one pick into signing Aaron Curry for below-market money. (I’m already assuming the pick is untradeable.) I just don’t see how you can validate taking a quarterback who played with a number of very good offensive weapons, yet struggled in a number of very big games — most notably a three-pick performance against Florida. For a team with big preseason aspirations last year, Georgia and Stafford definitely left a lot to be desired… and I don’t gamble the future of a winless organization on a guy who hasn’t reached his potential. I’ve already got a team full of those guys.

Beanie Wells

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When I think of running backs that I want on my team, I usually eliminate the guys who have sat out large chunks of the season with injured toes and concussion issues. I have been down on Beanie Wells since he failed to show up for the USC game early last season. Here’s a guy who is built like an F-150, but is about as reliable as the cars made in Detroit. I’d rather trust a back that makes it through a season, or at least breaks something, instead of the variety of knicks and dings that have cost Wells and the Buckeyes.

McShay has Beanie going at #14 to New Orleans, the first running back off the board. I would be shocked if a team that already has dealt with band-aids like Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister would draft a guy that has trouble staying on the field. While his production while he plays has been good (save the Penn State game last season), his performance in the Fiesta Bowl says all that it needs to about his track record. Sixteen carries for over a hundred yards before missing most of the second half after getting his bell rung.

If we’ve learned anything in the past couple years, you can find a running back in just about any round. Picking a guy with question marks like Wells in the first round just isn’t smart.

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