David Wingate | Brown University
The offseason is upon us.
We’re only a month removed from the Philadelphia Eagles’ stunning win over the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII but we are truly in the darkest part of the year. Twitter exchanges become headlines, trade and free agent speculation becomes rampant (read: absurd), and James Harrison is probably off eating babies to stay in shape.
But shouldn’t the NFL draft, slated for late April, bring about some more tangible news? Should not 40-yard dash times, bench press repetitions and three-cone drills present some quantitative information to contrast the deluge of gossip disguised as analysis? Unfortunately, the answer is a hard no. The NFL combine, dubbed the underwear Olympics by some, gives us 5 pounds of nonsense for every pound of real data. Never forget when scouts wondered if Eli Apple could make it in the NFL because he couldn’t cook. Or when Ezekiel Elliot wore a fucking crop top to the draft. Or when Johnny Manziel did anything.
However, if this column is anything, it’s the model of journalistic integrity and sanctity. So without further ado, here’s some ~real~ story-lines to keep track of leading up to the draft.
Is Lamar Jackson a Wide Receiver?
Short answer: no. The 2016 Heisman trophy winner out of Louisville has been turning heads with his athleticism, and a number of teams have requested for him to work out as a wide receiver instead of a quarterback. The catch? The guy’s never played wide receiver, and he’s a damn good quarterback to boot. Over 3500 yards passing and 27 touchdowns through the air in his final season doesn’t exactly scream wide receiver to me. Plus, the excuse that he’s too small to play under center is ridiculous- at 6’3, 216 pounds the guy might not be Big Ben but he’ll still hold his own. Whether or not Jackson will be a good quarterback in the league remains to be seen- but debating what position he’ll play is just ridiculous, and more than a little problematic. After all, Josh Allen, another athletic ‘project’ QB, isn’t being asked to work out at tight end or wide receiver. But Allen is white whereas Jackson is African-American, which makes this whole situation fail the smell test to this columnist. To the NFL scouts asking this talented player to work out at a different position for reasons unclear: get your heads out of your asses.
Can Shaquem Griffin succeed at the NFL level?
You’ve probably heard of Shaquem Griffin by now- the University of Central Florida has turned heads for more than one reason. Not only was Griffin a monster in college- he was a key part of UCF’s undefeated season and was named Peach Bowl MVP- but he’s a freak athlete as well. Griffin ran a 4.38 second 40-yard dash, the fastest recorded by a linebacker in more than a 10 years. Plus, his bench press numbers were among the best at the combine. So why isn’t Griffin a consensus first round pick? It might be due to the fact that Griffin is an amputee- his left hand was surgically removed when he was 4. Obviously this might present problems to a linebacker trying to wrap up an NFL caliber running back. But Griffin’s been overcoming adversity his entire life, and there’s no reason to think he’ll stop now.
How will the QB frenzy shake out?
This draft doesn’t have a dearth of talented quarterbacks: Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, and Lamar Jackson are all considered potential first round picks, and there are plenty of quarterback needy teams near the top of the draft, including the Browns, the Giants, and Broncos. None of the prospects are without flaw: Rosen is injury prone, Allen and Darnold are raw, Mayfield is undersized and hot-headed, and Jackson would need to figure out how to focus his athleticism at the NFL level. How it’ll all shake out is anybody’s guess. The only certainty? Roger Goodell will collect some well deserved boo’s as soon as he walks onto that stage.