This was the NFL Draft that went off the road before the first pick and kept burrowing into the woods deeper and deeper until that special moment right after the Dallas pick when Rich Eisen yanked off his own head and shrieked, “I hadn’t prepared for this!”
Okay, that didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean Eisen wouldn’t have tried to do so if he thought it would help people stop booing Roger Goodell, but instead the entertainment was basically as a nation of draft junkies simultaneously wept and cursed for four hours.
Which is just as it should be – a festival of rage based on so many people realizing simultaneously that months of pretending to know things about football has turned out to be a colossal waste of time.
From the moment Cleveland decided to fight orthodoxy and take Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first selection, the day just got progressively weirder. USC quarterback Sam Darnold fell to the New York Jets. Cleveland jumped about 12 more coveted players to take Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. Buffalo traded up to take double polarizing quarterback Josh Allen of Wyoming.
And just when it looked like both the 49ers and Raiders would luck into the guys they wanted, Chicago stole Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith from San Francisco, and San Francisco stole Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey from Oakland, and Oakland frantically traded down so Arizona could have UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who looked like he’d just been handed a sizzling hot pan with no handle. New Orleans traded two first round picks for Texas-San Antonio defensive tackle Marcus Davenport, and the Raiders ended up taking UCLA tackle Kolton Miller, who most folks thinks is a far cry from McGlinchey.
And then, because that wasn’t sufficiently bizarre, they traded their third pick to Pittsburgh for wide receiver Martavis Bryant
(For the record, nobody knows if McGlinchey or Miller will be 10-year starters or washouts, and projections on where they might fall on the scale will not happen here. Both John Lynch and Jon Gruden got players they hope will keep their high-priced quarterbacks safe and unjostled, so they did “address a need,” as the pundits say. Maybe that will help your moods).
And so it went. The first day of the annual Pavlovian recitation of names most people barely know that began with Goodell learning what commissioners should have known well before this – that even human shields cannot save you from yourself – ended with every draft pundit in America asking his or her editor if it would be permissible to give 26 teams “F” grades in their first nonsensical report card stories.
That is, except Baltimore, which traded up to 32 to get Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, who should have been a first-rounder, and formerly paralyzed Steeler linebacker Ryan Shazier, who walked onto the stage to introduce the Pittsburgh pick at 28. Those were the feel-good moments, unless you feel good about Goodell being booed like Public Enemy No. 1.0.
Oh, a few teams won nods of tolerance for their safe and solid choices, like Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (New York Giants), or Darnold, or NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb (Denver), or Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson (Indianapolis).
And that, children and adults, is what the NFL Draft should be in these angry times – another vehicle to vent angrily about something they once loved. With every surprised guffaw, the TV boys exposed how off the rails this evening went, and the reactions everywhere else ran the gamut from “Well, maybe the general manager knows something we don’t” to “No, no they don’t.”
I will put it to you, then, that this was the right draft night for the country’s general mood. America has never been less satisfied with its place, and all human interactions seem to begin with a shaken fist and a guttural “Why I oughta . . .” Thus a draft where only a few fan bases got what they wanted and everyone else wanted a do-over seemed perfect.
Whether this can be blamed on Roger Goodell’s schadenfreude-soaked appearances or the Browns re-establishing their Brownsian bonafides is for others to decide, but it seems fair to say that this was not the thigh-slapping commode-hugging good time most folks thought Draft Night would deliver.
Except for Lamar Jackson and Ryan Shazier. If that’s your idea of good entertainment, and it should be.