NFL DRAFT DAY 1
This yearís draft was notable because it had two quarterbacks at the very top of the list, Jamais Winston and Marcus Mariota.
The right quarterback is absolutely essential to reach the championship level but judging a quarterback is also the most difficult task. The only one Iíve thought was a sure thing was Andrew Luck, and that was because Iíd not only seen him play often but had talked to him. One time, at the media lunch before the Big Game when Luck was a senior, he appeared in a blue shirt and gold tie. When I kidded him about wearing Cal colors, he explained that he had only one tie and one clean dress shirt. And, when he was praised, he always deferred credit to his teammates.
Heís been the same person in the NFL and has been very successful.
For an example of how judgments can be both good and bad, the 1998 draft is a classic. The top two quarterbacks were Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. Manning had the background, including a father who had played in the NFL, but Leaf was an outstanding athlete who seemed to have the potential to be much better.
In the media, there was a lengthy debate over which quarterback the Indianapolis Colts should take. There was no debate in the mind of Coltsí general manager Bill Polian, who had earlier ridden Jim Kelly to three successive Super Bowls for the Buffalo Bills, though, all losses.
Manning has gone on to a career that will make him an easy choice for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Leaf flamed out early.
I see some similarities between that draft and this one. Iíve never met Mariota but he seems to be very well grounded. He played in a much different offense at Oregon than he will as a pro but he made all the throws. Heís also very intelligent. It will be a big surprise if he doesnít become a star in the NFL.
Winston is a totally different individual. The Bucs had to draft him because heís a hometown hero but heís already been in trouble, accused by rape as an undergraduate. That case was stonewalled by the state attorney general who just happened to be Florida State alum Ė Iím sure that was just a coincidence Ė but Winston probably feels that heís bullet proof. Now, though, he can be investigated by the NFL if he does anything wrong, and the NFL is very sensitive to those issues.
Collegiate problems are often an indicator of future problems, as we saw with Johnny Manziel last season. The Bucs should have a backup plan.
On the local front, Sam Spear and I talked yesterday afternoon and agreed that the Raiders should go for a defensive lineman first. So, of course, they drafted wide receiver Amari Cooper. I canít criticize the pick because Cooper has been an outstanding receiver and that was a big need, too.
Frankly, I donít know what the 49ers are doing now. They got rid of their most successful coach since Bill Walsh and have many holes, though general manager Trent Baalke disputes that.
This is beyond dispute: The 49ers are headed for the bottom of the NFC West.
Meanwhile, they unveiled black uniforms! Are they taking fashion advice from Phil Knight? Theyíre hide-your-eyes ugly.
My conclusion: For the first time in years, the Raiders are headed for Bay Area supremacy. That wonít translate into playoff success this year but theyíre on the right track. The 49ers are on the road to nowhere.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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