Manziel’s surprising drop, Rams draft Michael Sam, and all of the 2014 NFL Draft—the Monday Morning Realist


Every Monday morning, Section 215’s Akiem Bailum gives an in-depth and unfiltered look at all of the latest sports news in The Monday Morning Realist. You can follow Akiem on Twitter @AkiemBailum.

May 8, 2014; New York, NY, USA; A general view of the stage and podium before the start of the 2014 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

So, Realists…how about that NFL Draft this year?

I will admit that I am more of an NBA Draft person myself, but a lot was different about this year’s Draft. A certain SEC co-defensive player of the year out of Missouri was a major element to that, but also the pre-draft headlines about how mayors in Chicago and Los Angeles supposedly want the Draft in their locales.

I can only imagine if they staged the Draft in LA at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in front of a bunch of rabid Raiders and Chargers fans. Or in Chicago in front of Bears fans. It’s an idea I support.

But anyway, that’s another column for another time (maybe later this week).

The Houston Texans had the first overall pick, and despite weeks of speculation that neither Johnny Manziel nor Jadeveon Clowney would be the overall number one (or that the Texans would trade out of the top pick altogether), Houston selected Clowney with the first overall pick.

To which I tweeted: “#Watt in the name of #Clowney is about to go down in Houston?”

A friend of mine replied: Quarterbacks. Not much else had to be said there.

Speaking of quarterbacks, the Jacksonville Jaguars are seemingly always on the clock for QBs these days. Media and fans in Duval (as well as Bristol, Connecticut) love to play hot potato with Tim Tebow’s name given his Florida ties. But instead of using their third overall on Johnny Football, the Jags selected another QB with connections to the Sunshine State in Blake Bortles who played at the University of Central Florida.

Later on, wide receiver Mike Evans (who some Eagle fans hoped the Buccaneers would pass on so he would fall to number 22) was picked by Tampa.

Then, ESPN went into full frontal “Manziel Watch” mode.

The powers that be in Bristol had to be stunned that Bortles was picked over Manziel. Colin Cowherd threw out the radical idea of drafting Manziel (then signing Tebow) to Jacksonville, purely for financial reasons, of course.

The Minnesota Vikings passed on Manziel, and they needed a quarterback. The Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones, who we know loves to get his name on sports news outlets like this one, chose rationally and drafted Zack Martin over Johnny Football, much to the chagrin of Cowboys fans.

It was later found out that there were conversations within the Cowboys of drafting Manziel. But, the amount of money that Dallas (meaning Jones himself since the team, inexplicably, still has no general manager) invested in Tony Romo could fill all of AT&T Stadium.

Heck, Realists, it could probably fill the entire state of Texas.

I could only imagine Romo, whose career in Dallas could probably be made into a movie with a sad ending, looking at his television as his owner drafted a QB who is already popular among Cowboys fans (since many of them are also Texas A&M aficionados) and thinking, “Are you kidding me? This is some Texas-sized bull!”

On with Manziel watch—which started to look eerily like Rodgers watch in 2005 prior to the Green Bay Packers drafting him late in the first round out of California.

He’s had a nice career, I’ve heard, including a Super Bowl victory over the Steelers a few year ago. A few more years and he’ll start to be talked about as a Hall of Fame quarterback. Can all of this be verified, Realists? I’m just making sure.

Before the Eagles at 22 traded out of the pick amidst weeks of speculation that Chip Kelly would trade up and not down. The Cleveland Browns traded up to 22 to draft Manziel, and the Eagles used their newfound 26 on Marcus Smith.

If the Texans were jumping with joy at drafting Clowney with the first overall pick, they were cursing out Zygi Wilf and the Vikings for engineering a trade with the Seattle Seahawks at the 32nd pick in the first round. That became Teddy Bridgewater, who the quarterback-hungry Texans would’ve likely picked with the first pick in the second round.

In the end, plenty of teams attempted to solidify needs and others made picks that had you thinking of what New York club were they at prior to the Draft.

Once again, of course, the NFL has turned the draft into a made-for-TV event just as it has done with the schedule release. Thanks to Manziel (and Michael Sam), the ratings for this thing will likely be through the roof.

Of course, as I wrote last week, Realists, predicting the Draft is an inexact science. Tom Brady and Terrell Davis were once selected in late rounds while scouts were ready to have Canton make Hall of Fame busts for eventual busts JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf.

What it comes down to is that some players in the college game don’t transition well to the NFL. But, others in college already had their game tailored to the pro game despite a supbar showing in college. Scouts and the press treat the college and pro games at times as if they are one and the same when they are not.

If it is one thing we know about the pro game is that it is becoming more conducive to the pass and less so to the run. That sentiment was on full display in the draft as a grand total of zero runningbacks were selected in the first round for the second consecutive year. Add that to the fact that this draft was overloaded with wide receivers including Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham, Jr., Mike Evans, and others, and we’re likely entering an NFL with a great deal of passing and limited emphasis on the running game.

In addition, how far has the football program at Texas fallen? So far that no Longhorns were drafted in the entire draft. A few years ago, Texas produced Vince Young who everyone viewed as a future Hall of Famer who has since gone through his own transgressions both on and off the field. Cedric Benson was a Texas Longhorn. Now, they had gone 0 for the entire draft.

Georgia State had more players drafted than Texas (Ulrick John—Colts).

The standard protocol for the NFL draft is for interest to gradually wane as we get closer to pick #256 (aka Mr. Irrelevant). But, it actually increased as one notable was still on the board—Mizzou’s Michael Sam.

Earlier this year, Sam, who had declared for the Draft, revealed to the world that he was gay and would be attempting to become the first openly gay player in the NFL. This plummeted him on many draft boards, including that of CBS Sports who dropped him from 90 to 160.

So, the fact that he remained on the board up until late in the last round was a shock to many onlookers. Even executives, who shamefully wouldn’t attach their names to quotes saying they have doubts drafting Michael Sam, said he’d at least be drafted even if it was in the seventh round.

This was before the Rams and head coach Jeff Fisher decided to draft Sam with the 249th pick. He was later seen on TV extremely emotional and later was kissing his boyfriend.

It would have been a real shame if he did not get drafted given he was a co-defensive player of the year out of the SEC of all conferences. Could the plummeting of his draft status have something to do with him coming out? Likely, it did. NFL execs won’t say, but it likely did.

At least he was drafted and will have a real chance to make the team. Also, the St. Louis and Missouri media is already familiar with him from his days with the Mizzou Tigers.

Now, hopefully this can be another step to where this is no longer even mentioned as a topic of conversation. Hopefully, it can convince others who may be in the closet to feel comfortable as well.

Because, as I wrote when the Sam news first broke—let’s not evaluate him (and others, potentially) on their gay status, but on their game status.