For as long as their have been sportswriters, athletes and teams have had their names used as puns in headlines. Mark Sanchez is called "The Sanchise". Pittsburgh gets called "Blitzburgh". The Bengals are called "The Bungles". Jerry Rice is referred to as "The San Francisco Treat", although that's not a pun in the true sense of the word. Chris Berman practically made his career with it. And over the weekend, probably no player had their name used as a pun more than Ndamukong Suh. We got to hear how the Lions chose "A boy named Suh" or that they chose "The Suh thing". I generally try to avoid the puns, but in the spirit of the draft a thought I'd give it a try. So with their second pick in the first round, the 49ers chose a player that will make Iupati your pants. No? It's a work in progress. At least it's better than my first idea, "I potty, we potty, everyone potties for Iupati". So in the spirit of originality, or in this case lack thereof, I thought I'd focus on the winners and the losers of the draft.
Winner #1: God
I lost track of how many times recently drafted players said something along the lines of, "This is where God wants me to play." or, "This is the path God has for me." Honestly, I didn't realize God was that much of a football fan. But I guess he has to be. How else could anyone explain the reason for Tim Tebow getting drafted in the first round? And if Denver hadn't traded up to get him, rumor has it the the Bills would have. Sorry Bills, I guess God wants you to suffer. Or maybe he wants Denver to suffer depending on how Tebow's career turns out. And while we're at it, God must really want Lions fans to suffer. I've also decided that if their was ever a college version of Brett Favre, it would be Tim Tebow. Although Tebow is a lot more clean cut and wholesome looking. And who doesn't love someone who puts Bible verses on their face? But the Tebowmania over the weekend was enough to drive anyone crazy. Maybe Tebow knew this, which is why he turned down the invitation to attend the draft. Or maybe home is just where God wanted him to be.
Winner #2: Dreams
About the only thing that was mentioned more than God was dreams. Just about every recently drafted player I listened to said, "It's a dream come true." When those players who were invited to be there were sitting in the green room, didn't they hear the players chosen in front of them say, "It's a dream come true." when Deon asked them how they were feeling? After the first 5 guys all said the same thing, you'd think they'd want to change it up a little. Or at the very least, Deon should have stopped asking the same questions. Besides, do they really need to rub it in the face of all of us who've had our dreams come crashing down? We know you're realizing a life long dream. You don't have to remind us. It was kind of like in American Idol when the singers will hold up the number of fingers for the last digit of the number people need to call in order to vote for them. We're not blind. We can see the phone number on the screen. You don't have to hold up 6 fingers when we can see the "6" at the end of the phone number. I think next year I'm going to take a shot every time I hear someone say, "It's a dream come true."
More winners and losers after the jump.
Winner #3: The NFC West
The NFC West killed it on draft day. A good argument could be made that the Seahawks had the best draft of any team out there, the 49ers had one of the top 5 drafts, and that both the Cardinals and Rams drafts could be ranked in the top 15. I don't think any other division had all four teams with good to great drafts like the NFC West had. In fact, the Seahawks draft was so great, I've actually heard people say that it's now a three team race for the NFC West crown. Personally I wouldn't go that far. Matt Hasselbeck's best years are behind him and Charlie Whitehurst has yet to throw a pass in the NFL. Makes you wonder why the Seahawks were so high on Whitehurstto begin with. The draft also showed that all four teams are looking to be more physical. Five of the first seven picks in the division were either offensive of defensive lineman, and all together 4 O-lineman, 5 D-lineman, 5 LB's, 4 RB's, and 5 TE's were added over the weekend. Looks like the black and blue division could be moving West.
Winner #4: The Raiders
Before the draft I predicted the Raiders would draft workout warrior Bruce Campbell. I also figured it was a safe bet that they would target track star Jacoby Ford and his 4.28 40 yard dash. But I thought they'd draft them in the first and second round, not the fourth. Instead they went with Rolando McClain in the first and LamarrHouston in the second. They even chose OT Edwin Veldheerbefore Campbell. McClain ran the second fastest time of any LB in the combine and Houston ran the 3rd fastest of any DT, so they're not way out of character for the Raiders. What makes the picks surprising is that they fit obvious needs and can do more than just run really fast in a straight line. Rumor has it that Raider scouts have started to add an extra .1 of a second on the 40 times of players who are fast but struggle with other aspects of the game. I don't have conformation of that, so take it for what it's worth. But if I were a scout for the Raiders and I was tired of not having my recommendations listened to, I might fudge the numbers of players I didn't like in an effort to get Al Davis to choose the better player. But take heart Raiders nation. Al Davis can't live forever. Right?
Winner #5: Alex Smith and Frank Gore
The obvious reason Smith and Gore are winners is because the O-line was horrible last year and the weakest links were RT and LG. So almost overnight the line goes from bad to great, which translates into less hits on Smith and more yards for Gore. I don't think it's a coincidence that Gore's best year was in 2006 when he was running behind Larry Allen and Justin Smiley (Yes, Smiley was actually healthy for most of that year). Sure, Gore had more carries in 2006 than any other year, but his yards per carry where also dramatically better. He averaged 5.4 ypc in 06, compared to only 4.2 in 07, 4.3 in 08, and 4.9 last year. An extra 1/2 yard to a full yard per carry is a huge increase and can sometimes be the difference between getting a first down or kicking. But Smith and Gore aren't winners only because of an improved line. They're also winners because the 49ers didn't draft a QB and did draft a short yardage back. The fact the 49ers passed on Clausen twice, as well as McCoy and every other QB, shows they're commited to Smith. And while Gore may see the addition of Dixon as a bad thing, it means less pounding on his body, especially in those hard hitting short yardage situations, which means a longer career. Now if the 49ers could just get a top cover corner they'd really be set. But I guess you can't get everything you want. Unless you're Hugh Hefner, in which case you already have everything a man could possibly want.
If Clausen wants to know how he could fall all the way to #48 even though he was considered a mid to high first round talent, he can look to Ben Roethlisberger. Part of the fallout over the Big Ben case is that teams were more concerned than ever over character issues, especially at the QB position. The perception of Clausen is that he's immature and a "me first" player. I'm not saying that's the kind of person he is. I'm only saying that seems to be the perception among a lot of teams. And just when he thought he caught a little break by going to a team with a great running game and defense, much like the Jets, that same team went ahead and picked another QB later in the draft, Tony Pike. Almost like they're hedging their bets. They're hoping Clausen doesn't have the character issues associated with him, but if he does, they still have a rookie QB to develop in Tony Pike, and at the bargain basement price of a late 6th round pick. So not only did both QB's fall a lot further than either of them thought, but now they have to compete against each other just to make the team. It is possible they both could earn a roster spot, but right now their are a lot of QB's on the Panthers trying for a limited number of spots. Other than Clausen andPike, the Panthers also have starter Matt Moore, journeyman QB Josh McCown, 2nd year QB Hunter Cantwell, and recently signed rookie QB Armanti Edwards. At least they can be greatful they aren't Jevon Snead who skipped his Senior year at Ole Miss and didn't even get drafted. Whoever is giving him his career advice needs to be fired.
Loser #2: Jacksonville Jaguars
I have no problem with the Jags taking Tyson Alualu. And while I think they should have traded down, I understand why they didn't. And anyone who says they wanted to trade down but couldn't find a partner doesn't know what they're talking about. All 3 of the picks after the Jags had no problem finding trade partners, not to mention Trent Baalke said this after the first day of the draft, "We started making calls at 10 when the player [Davis] was available. Jacksonville was at 10. They didn't want to make the trade. They had a guy targeted,". The reason they didn't trade down, and the reason the 49ers traded up, is based on the value they place on the player versus the value of the next best available player, the odds they could lose out on their preferred choice, and the benefit from any extra picks acquired. In other words, after Alualu, the Jags didn't have a player they valued highly. They didn't think the risk of loosing out on Alualu was worth the extra picks for trading down. Conversely, even if the 49ers thought their was a 90% chance Davis would still be their at 13, it was worth giving up a 4th round pick to change the odds to 100%. Considering they knew Miami was shopping their pick and Dallas also needed an OT, their fears were not entirely unfounded. So why am I calling the Jags one of the losers of the draft? Because Alualu wasn't even who they had targeted. Who they really wanted was Rolando McClain. But because the Raiders avoided their usual bungling ways and chose McClain, the Jags were left with only Alualu who they had placed a high value on. They had no choice but to take him unless a team came in with a monster offer, and an additional 4th round pick just wasn't going to cut it. Plus, they get bonus loser points for choosing the rest of their draft by picking names out of a hat.
Loser #3: Everyone who was chanting when the Steelers made their pick
When it cam time to announce the Steelers pick, Rodger Goodell and a teenager wearing a Steelers jersey strode onto the stage. Immediately a chant went up of, "She said no! She said no!". Funny right? I thought so too until I found out who the teenager was. His name was Zach Hatfield, and not only was he a huge Steelers fan but he was being granted his desire to announce the Steelers first round pick through the "Make-A-Wish Foundation" because he'd been diagnosed with Leukemia. D'oh! To their credit, the chant immediately stopped and Zach was loudly applauded. The one bonus was seeing the incredible discomfort of Rodger Goodell as he stood off to one side.
Loser #4: Political Correctness
Over the weekend a Boston based radio host, Fred Toettcher, made this comment about Tim Tebow's draft party, "It looked like some kind of Nazi rally...so lily-white is what I'm trying to say. Yeah, Stepford wives." Some people are outraged by the comments. They claim that of Don Imus got fired for calling the Rutgers women basketball team a bunch of "nappy-headed hoes", then Toettcher should also be fired. Personally, I don't think Toettcher should be fired. But then I didn't think Imus should have been fired either. Sometimes while trying to entertain, people make bad jokes. If people got fired every time they made a bad joke, I would have been kicked out of Niners Nation a long time ago. Consider my Iupati joke as exhibit A. And I'm not even being paid. But what gets me are the people claiming to be so offended by all this. Do you think anyone on the Rutger's women basketball team listens to Imus, or even know who he is? Do you think Tim Tebow or anyone at his draft party listens to the Toucher and Rich show? So it took someone to go up to them and say, "Hey, listen to this really offensive thing that was said about you." Well if it's so offensive, why are you making sure the offended parties are aware of it? Who's worse? The person who said the offensive statement, or the person who made sure the offended parties heard it?
Loser #5: USC
First the Trojans finished the season 9-4, their worst record in 8 years. Then their head coach who turned the program around and brought them back to national dominance, Pete Carroll, bolted for the NFL. Finally the first round of the NFL draft came and went and not a single player form USC was chosen, while players from Fresno St, Idaho, Boise St, and TCU were chosen. Of course, that first player chosen was Tayler Mays, who had his comments about lasting that long over hyped by the media. The guy was frustrated and felt he was given bad advice from Carroll, which he was. Cut him a little slack. But take heart Trojan fans. You now have Lane Kiffen leading the way, and anyone's better than Paul Hackett.