Philadelphia is a phenomenal city. Proud and passionate.
That was on full display as the 2017 NFL Draft shone its lights in the city of Brotherly Love. Tens of thousands flocked, dressed head to toe in their teams gear, to see which collegiate stars found their way to their favourite team.
Cleveland held the No.1 overall pick, again, and again, needed to make it work after years of failed draft selections. 26 starting quarterbacks in the past two fifteen years suggests some errors on draft night.
The quarterback prospects always play an enormous role in how a draft unfolds. Experts suggested this group was far from the best we’ve seen but demand clearly outweighed supply as teams jumped above each other to secure the one they thought had at least a chance to lead their team to the promised land.
Chicago skipper from three to San Francisco’s pick two to ensure they landed North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky – the premier QB in the pool but far from a certain NFL leader. That left franchises like Houston, Cleveland, Arizona and New York Jets clamouring to find the next great play caller.
As always, NCAA superstars doused in scandal were among the player pool. Alabama heavy-hitter Reuben Foster (diluted drug sample, among others), Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers (diluted drug test) and tailback Joe Mixon (domestic violence) were among the highest profile names who saw their stock fall as the picks began.
Here were my favourite parts of what was the best draft yet;
AS EXPECTED, FOURNETTE LANDS IN JACKSONVILLE
Far from surprising but a personal favourite of mine, Leonard Fournette, landed as expected in Jacksonville to give the Jaguars a bull ready and willing to carry the load. Blake Bortles has struggled recently but on both sides of the ball the Jags are talented. Fournette is a throwback running back who seeks contact and runs over defensive backs once he strikes the second level. He will help Bortles but Bortles will need to help him. We saw what Alabama did to Fournette when the QB was no threat so despite all his otherworldly ability, he will need some solid quarterback play.
With young studs Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Dante Fowler Jr on defence and receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns as talented a duo as any – the scene is finally set in Jacksonville. We shall see…
JAMES CONNER BEATS CANCER THEN GOES FROM PITT TO THE STEELERS
James Conner is an undoubted talent. He loves contact, can bounce in and out of holes and is solid in the passing game. That all took a back seat 18 months ago when Conner injured his MCL which led to a random blood test revealing a large growth in his chest. Conner was diagnosed with Hodgins Lymphoma, immediately pausing his NCAA career and placing the NFL a million miles away. Conner triumphed over the disease and returned to Pitt and was 1st team All-ACC in 2016. At pick 105, his hometown Steelers called his name and the transformation from cancer sufferer to NFL pro was complete. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin was complimentary of Conner before adding some typical coach speak, telling Conner to immediately jump in his car and get to the Steelers practice facility nearly two hours away from where Conner and his family was. Tomlin also jokingly said the team would not be reimbursing Conner for his gas (fuel) usage – the brutality of the NFL.
THE HAVE’S AND THE HAVE NOTS
In the NFL, you either got one or you don’t.
A quality quarterback gives you a shot at winning a ring. A poor QB gives you nothing but headaches. Ask Houston, New York Jets, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Los Angeles and Oakland once Derek Carr went down. The Raiders went from Super Bowl contenders to also-rans once Carr fractured his ankle.
That’s why we witnessed phenomenal movement and constant trading as teams desperately tried to acquire a quarterback for the future.
Chicago started the trend jumping from 3 to 2 to secure Trubisky. Kansas City surprised many to jump up and grab gunslinger Patrick Mahomes whilst NCAA Championship-winning Clemson star Deshaun Watson was nabbed at pick 12 by Houston who have tried everything thus far to place a talented QB on its already talented roster.
Like Jared Goff and Carson Wentz twelve months ago, the road is rocky for a rookie QB and whilst the plan for these fellas will be to sit back, learn and watch the pros, some will be thrown into the fire. Sink or swim.
THE PHILLY EXPERIENCE
Since moving from Radio City Hall in Manhattan in 2015, the NFL Draft has spent two years in Chicago before Philadelphia had its go. The famous Rocky Steps at the Philly Museum of Art was the scene and the masses arrived, ready to rock.
As usual, commissioner Roger Goodell was booed but it was not until the commissioner invited famous team alumni to read out selections that things got real.
Case in point; Former Dallas Cowboy Drew Pearson reading out the 60th overall selection whilst trolling the Eagles fans like only a Cowboy great can.
Anytime the Eagles NFC East rivals were picking, boos erupted around the theatre but the crowd saved its best for Dallas. Pearson cheekily thanked the Eagles fans for the ‘Boys championships and thanked them on behalf of everyone in the Dallas organisation. The louder the crowd booed, the more Pearson had to say. It was entertainment at its very best and the reason why the NFL Draft is far more than just a selection process.