Truest statement about the 2022 NFL Draft, from NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah: “If this draft was an emoji, it’d be 🤷♂️.”
I have Bernhard Reimann and Arnold Ebiketie going in the first round, and Malik Willis not. I don’t have a quarterback going till the 20th pick. I have Kayvon Thibodeaux, the first pick in mockland last Thanksgiving, going 13th. I have teams fighting over a player out for the year with an Achilles injury.
It’s a strange year. I promise only one thing: We’ll forget about all these bad picks (at least I hope so) by midnight Thursday, when the real first round, live from Las Vegas, will be in the books.
This year’s mock:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, defensive lineman, Georgia
Expect a surprise, I heard out of Jacksonville recently. Hmmm. That would eliminate Aidan Hutchinson here. The trendy pick after that has been Walker, so that really wouldn’t be much of a surprise. Ikem Ekwonu, perhaps? I’ll go with the one-year-college-start upside guy, Walker.
It’s risky, and I’m as skeptical of one-year wonders as the next mock-drafter, but it falls into GM Trent Baalke’s history of taking the athletic playmakers. I’ve got a video to show you about Walker.
Tremendous effort by DL Travon Walker #44. If he doesn’t make this play, it might be a TD and Alabama has the lead going into halftime.
275-pounders shouldn’t be able to move like #44. 1st round talent, 1st round effort. pic.twitter.com/R8mRX7xJNs
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 11, 2022
You want to know why people around the NFL are smitten with Walker? The effort on this play—in the biggest game of his career, with other guys on his defense not selling out the way Walker was—is a big thing to football people. The troubling part for Walker and his 9.5 career sacks in 29 games is that if he’s the pick, the comparisons to Hutchinson will be forever. That’s something Baalke had better factor in.
2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, edge, Michigan
“A real Dan Campbell player,” one NFL GM told me about the steadiest player in this draft. Campbell got a lot of people to chuckle when he talked about wanting players who want to bite kneecaps. It was his way of saying he wants guys who love football, who don’t take off plays, who won’t allow the Lions to be downtrodden anymore. Ask scouts about Hutchinson and they’ll tell you that’s how he played every one of his 43 career games in Ann Arbor.
Hutchinson is a different cat. He’s been journaling—hand-writing, not typing—since he was 4. Some days he writes what he wants to be, he told me. “Just telling myself that I’m limitless,” he said. “I have an infinite mindset. I have no boundaries. There’s no mountain that I can’t reach. That’s how I view myself and me playing football.” Tell me Dan Campbell’s not going to froth at the mouth if GM Brad Holmes has the chance to draft this 6-6, 260-pound 10-year starter.
Final note: Some late buzz about the Lions being smitten with Kayvon Thibodeaux and strongly considering him here. I just can’t see them passing on Hutchinson.
3. Houston Texans: Ikem Ekwonu, offensive tackle, North Carolina State
If you’re the Texans, you’re really drafting for 2024. GM Nick Caserio’s got to be thinking of the long haul, and the long haul probably doesn’t consist of Laremy Tunsil and Brandin Cooks, both of whom will be 30 on opening-day 2024. So if you’re smart, and you’ve seen the top two edge guys go 1-2, you draft into the strength of this crop, tackle and wideout. Ekwonu is versatile and athletic, and a physical mauler. He’d be a cornerstone, a long-time leader of a currently lousy group.
4. New York Jets: Sauce Gardner, cornerback, Cincinnati
I know lots of people I like and trust are going Kayvon Thibodeaux here, but I’m leery. (By the way, notice the trend of the 2022 first round? “I wouldn’t rule out Kayvon Thibodeaux here,” 614 GMs and other football people said in the last week. I know, I know.) Jets GM Joe Douglas loves safe, and he especially loves safe when the stud (or so we thought) first-round pick of 2020, tackle Mekhi Becton, has struggled and has a major question mark over his head entering this season. Gardner might not have the feet or hips of Derek Stingley, but he has the consistent production, is highly competitive, and in a division with Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs (and Gabriel Davis), and whatever Bill Belichick has in store for the Jets, that’s six games a year when a top corner will be invaluable. And the Jets don’t have one.
5. New York Giants: Charles Cross, offensive tackle, Mississippi State
Lots of spy versus spy here. By that I mean, at first blush, it’s logical to think GM Joe Schoen would want the best available right tackle here, with Andrew Thomas set on the left side. And because Cross was consistently on the left side in college, and Evan Neal started a season each at left tackle and right tackle, Neal’s a better fit here. And it may be Neal. Who wouldn’t want a 40-game starter at a great program in the SEC? But what many don’t know is the Giants put Cross through some work to judge whether he’d be a good right-tackle candidate and came away happy that he would be. Cross, one GM told me, is the best pass-protector of the three top tackles, a power-forward type (6-7 ½, 335) who will be competitive on day one against good edge rushers. If the Giants are comfortable enough with his ability to play the right side, this is a solid pick.
6. Carolina Panthers: Evan Neal, offensive tackle, Alabama
I don’t know what Carolina will do. The Panthers could go Kenny Pickett here, because unless they trade their first-round pick next year to move into position to acquire another high pick, they won’t pick again till day three of the draft; they don’t have a second- or third-rounder currently. I know what they should do, and that’s take Neal if he’s there. The Panthers are as needy on the line as they are at quarterback, and there’s definitely not a sure long-term QB in this draft. Neal started 15 games at left tackle, 12 at right tackle and 13 at left guard in his three Alabama seasons. There’s been some chatter about teams downgrading him because of medical issues, but I’m told at least three-quarters of the teams in the league are good with his health. I won’t be shocked if they go Pickett or Malik Willis here, but the smarter play is getting a solution with versatility at a major need area.
7. New York Giants: Kyle Hamilton, safety, Notre Dame
Just a warning: Don’t be shocked if the Giants go Thibodeaux here. Lots of stuff out in the ether right now about the Giants being down on Thibodeaux, but I can tell you they’re interested and have done a ton of work on him since his Pro Day. Also, the Giants would love to deal this pick and recoup a 2023 first-round pick and go down, say, 10 to 12 spots so they still could get a strong prospect plus be in prime position in the ’23 first round.
So the call here is Hamilton, despite the fact the Giants have a good young third-year safety in Xavier McKinney. New defensive coordinator Wink Martindale loves versatile safeties, which is precisely what Hamilton is. He’s huge (6-4, 220) and instinctive, and can blitz, play sideline to sideline and play down in the box as an extra linebacker. This pick would make the Giants’ secondary tough to gameplan against because of the versatility of McKinney and Hamilton.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Drake London, wide receiver, USC
Kind of the first “they could do five things here” pick. I’m going with the receiver I hear they love. Some teams knocked London for not running a 40 in the runup to the draft after a late-October broken ankle caused him to miss USC’s last four games; he’s estimated at about 4.5, which is not top-end speed. Everything else about his game is top-end. His average game in 2021 (15 targets, 11 catches, 136 yards, one TD) was notable. Everyone knew the ball was coming to him, and his competitiveness in multiple coverages caught eyes. To keep up that level of production game after game is something that separates London from the other receivers in this crop. As for the Falcons’ need at wideout: When the guys in three-receiver formations look to be Olamide Zaccheaus, Auden Tate and Damiere Byrd … I rest my case.
*9. Houston Texans: Garrett Wilson, wide receiver, Ohio State
*Projected Trade: Texans trade the 13th pick overall and an early third-round pick, 68th overall, to the Seahawks for the 9th selection.
And so here comes the run on receivers. Houston leapfrogs the Jets to get the franchise receiver for Davis Mills (who has a chance this year to win this job) or whoever the Texans pick next year to be the franchise passer. There’s a lot of love for Wilson in the league, even though he never led Ohio State in receiving in any of his three years and he’s a lean (6-0, 183) receiver who probably won’t play much heavier. He played the slot in 2020 and outside last year, so teams have plenty of tape to see him play all over the field in different offenses. Team like his ability to get open and to make things happen after the catch.
I look at Houston’s draft this way. Post-Watson, the Texans need some franchise players. If they come out of this draft with a long-term left tackle and a top receiver who can be counted on for the next five to eight years, it’s a profitable draft. Plus: GM Nick Caserio has the 37th overall pick, and he could use that on a second-level cornerback (Washington’s Kyler Gordon?) to attack another need area.
10. New York Jets: Jameson Williams, wide receiver, Alabama
The luxury for the constantly rebuilding Jets in taking a guy coming off a Jan. 10 ACL injury is that they don’t need to be in a hurry, and Williams, to many, was the draft’s top wideout before the injury. So whether he plays in late October or by Dec. 1 is not a make-or-break factor in what they do. Williams will be the number one receiver Zach Wilson needs to have a chance to be a good long-term quarterback. However the receivers line up on GM Joe Douglas’ board, getting one of the top three wideouts and Sauce Gardner in the first round would be a win for a franchise that hasn’t had enough of them.
11. Washington Commanders: Chris Olave, wide receiver, Ohio State
How cool would it be if it fell Wilson-Williams-Olave … teammates at Ohio State in 2019 and 2020 before Williams transferred to Alabama? They combined for 40 touchdowns last season in Columbus and Tuscaloosa. I wish I could figure a way for Olave to fall to Green Bay, because with his precision route-running and vaunted football smarts, he’d be a perfect 2022 fit for Aaron Rodgers. But I can’t see him lasting to the twenties. The fourth of four straight wideouts makes too much sense for Washington, which I think loves Drake London but will be thrilled with the sub-4.4 speed and top football IQ of Olave.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Stingley, cornerback, LSU
There are good fits, and there is Stingley in Minnesota, where he’d be coached by his old defensive coordinator at LSU, secondary coach Daronte Jones, and he’d be mentored by former Tiger corner Patrick Peterson. This is a dream scenario for the Vikings. Stingley’s career fell off a cliff after a strong 2019 season, the same way the LSU program fell off a cliff in the last two years of Ed Orgeron. In ’19, Stingley battled in practice with J’Marr Chase and played high-level in games; some scouts thought he was the best corner in the country as a true freshman. Fate smiles on rookie Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah on his first NFL draft choice—if indeed he can pick Stingley. “I think he was the best NFL prospect in the country as a freshman,” one GM told me, “and his workout this spring showed a lot of [Darrelle] Revis to me.”
*13. Seattle Seahawks: Kayvon Thibodeaux, edge, Oregon
*Projected Trade: Texans trade the 13th pick overall and an early third-round pick, 68th overall, to the Seahawks for the 9th selection.
Perfect Pete Carroll pick. Thibodeaux’s an LA kid, he’ll be supremely ticked off at not being the first edge off the board and falling this far, and Carroll knows how to feed into the mental game that fuels players. That, plus Thibodeaux would be the kind of top talent that the Seahawks never get to pick in the draft because they’re always picking at the bottom of the round, or later. Thibodeaux, if he works out, would be a good pick for a team devoid of a top-end pass-rusher, in a division with some serious passing games.
I’d like this pick, in this spot, for Seattle. I’m not alone. “Thibodeaux at 13 would be a coup for Seattle,” one GM told me Sunday when I apprised him of my diabolical plan to send the Oregon edge down the draft board.
14. Baltimore Ravens: Trevor Penning, offensive tackle, Northern Iowa
Kudos to Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager for IDing Penning to the Ravens. The fourth tackle, clearly, on boards around the league would be a very good fit in Baltimore, where there’s a hole at right tackle (31-year-old Morgan Moses due to fill it as of today) and where left tackle Ronnie Stanley has struggled to stay healthy. Penning started 31 games at left tackle for Northern Iowa, and his size (6-7, 325) would play well on either side. I think the Ravens feel good enough about Stanley’s future to not be forced into taking a tackle here. Picking a corner (Trent McDuffie would be very good value) will not surprise me.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Davis, defensive tackle, Georgia
Flip a coin here. Davis or Trent McDuffie. (And won’t WIP have a good laugh at my expense when the pick is neither guy.) But I’ll go with Davis because of his freakish athleticism at 335, his ability to impact the game all over the defensive front, and the prospect that he can succeed Fletcher Cox (32 in December) as the toughest guy to block on the Philadelphia defensive front.
The best thing I heard about Davis after his 4.78-second dash at the combine (at 341 pounds) was from one coach who thought Davis could play nose on first down and three-technique (the interior rush player) on second and third downs. That’s not common. He didn’t have great college production—19.5 tackles behind the line in 47 games at Georgia—and that would be a big concern to me. But someone will take him in the middle of the round, because he’s got such great potential.
16. New Orleans: Treylon Burks, wide receiver, Arkansas
He’d be the physical presence to play opposite the returning Michael Thomas in the Saints’ attack, which is desperate for a receiver. A few words about the Saints’ intentions here, in the wake of their trade with Philadelphia two weeks ago leaving them with 16 and 19, then 49 in round two. New Orleans was chided for adding a mid-first-round pick this year, with the feeling that this wasn’t a good year to have a second pick in the middle of a mediocre round. But the way the Saints look at is different. The Saints think they’re better than Tampa Bay, and winning the four regular-season matchups against Tom Brady by 11, 35, 9 and 9 points would buttress that argument. The Saints have had a top-five scoring defense two years in a row. They need another weapon on offense.
There’s also the feeling around the NFL that after losing Drew Brees one year and Sean Payton the next, the Saints are due to slip back. That is decidedly not the feeling in the building, nor with new coach Dennis Allen. Saints GM Mickey Loomis wants to give Allen the chance to be an impact playoff team with two or three big contributors in 2022. I cannot argue with that logic.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Trent McDuffie, cornerback, Washington
If Jordan Davis is here, I bet the Chargers are tempted. Brandon Staley loves very big, very athletic people on his front seven. But the third corner off the board would be more valuable to the Chargers, I think, and give them a formidable threesome (J.C. Jackson, Asante Samuel Jr., McDuffie) to attack the Mahomes/Wilson/Carr trio of top QBs on the Chargers’ schedule every year.
I looked into the buzz that the Chargers would try to move up to get a Trevor Penning, a long-term bookend for Rashawn Slater to protect Justin Herbert. It’s possible, because the Ravens are always amenable to dealing down when there’s not one player they’re desperate for.
*18. Green Bay Packers: Jahan Dotson, wide receiver, Penn State
*Projected Trade: Eagles trade the 18th pick to the Packers for the 22nd pick and a late third-round pick, 92nd overall.
Surprising for the sixth receiver in the round, if this is how it goes. Dotson is a better version of Randall Cobb, with maybe the best hands in the draft. Started 38 games and had 183 catches at Penn State. The knock on Dotson is he’s not as physically strong as his peers, and he’ll need to be feistier and a little bulkier to be a consistent weapon for Aaron Rodgers.
All along, I tried everything I could to get Chris Olave to the Packers. Barring a huge tradeup that might cost Brian Gutekunst next year’s first-round pick, it’s hard to see one of the top four receivers landing in Green Bay. Dotson’s a good alternative. He’s just not Olave.
19. New Orleans Saints: Devonte Wyatt, defensive tackle, Georgia
It’s either reach for CB4 or take one of the best two defensive tackles in the class and get the corner in the middle of the second round. This is what I’d do. Wyatt is probably the best three-technique in this class, and, like Travon Walker, was a versatile fit on the Georgia front. I bet Cam Jordan would lead the parade for Wyatt, knowing that attention Wyatt would draw in the middle of the line would give Jordan more chances to impact the game on the edge. Amazing: Georgia could have three defensive front players (Walker, Davis, Wyatt) get drafted in the top 20, three players who played a lot on the interior. I’d love to know if that ever happened before.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, quarterback, Pitt
Upset special: Pickett over Malik Willis—and it’s a gut feeling more than anything else. How cool would it be if the Steelers, who passed on Pitt’s Dan Marino is 1983 when a successor to Terry Bradshaw was desperately needed (they picked Gabe Rivera) would 39 years later take Pitt’s Pickett to be the long-term sub for Ben Roethlisberger? Pretty cool to think Pickett, who for the entirety of his college career has walked into the door to the right of the Steelers/Pitt complex on the South side of the gritty city, might walk into the left door as a pro now.
We’ve gotten so used to excoriating any team that would even think of drafting a quarterback high this year that we haven’t just sat back and considered, “Maybe Kenny Pickett is actually, you know, good.” It’s true that you can find two or three throws that any quarterback makes to make him seem really good or really bad. But you’ve got to have some level of talent to make the first throw on this Greg Cosell analysis of Pickett:
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) April 20, 2022
That ball traveled 39 yards in the air, was a perfect strike, and came with Pickett under pressure and on the run. A big-time NFL throw. Could it be Willis here? Yes, it could. I wouldn’t he surprised. But I’ve heard the Steelers think Pickett’s more likely to succeed as a pro.
21. New England Patriots: Bernhard Raimann, offensive tackle, Central Michigan
Toyed with Nakobe Dean. Toyed with Devin Lloyd. Toyed with Jermaine Johnson. Toyed with Lewis Cine, who is Bill Belichick’s kind of player. Even toyed with the corner who might go around 45th overall, Kyler Gordon. But the secondary tackle market is better than the secondary edge or corner market, for sure.
Raimann is one of the best stories in this draft, by far. Austrian kid who first played football on a club team in Vienna at 14. As a high school exchange student, he played receiver on his Michigan high school team for a year. Back to Austria to finish high school. Bitten by the football bug. Committed to Central Michigan for the 2017 season—but had to fulfill a six-month Austrian military commitment, so he didn’t start working with the team till 2018. Tight end for two years. Then the pandemic. When football practice began again, Raimann was moved to tackle as a 290-pound player, and he started 18 games at left tackle in the last 1.5 seasons.
Big, big upside—and the Patriots can likely use 2022 as a developmental year if they pick him. Great point by Daniel Jeremiah: “Reminds me of the Sebastian Vollmer pick.” The native of Germany played college football at Houston, and was a second-round pick of the Pats in 2009—and played on two Super Bowl-winning teams. The Patriots would take a replay of that, as would Mac Jones.
*22. Philadelphia Eagles: Devin Lloyd, linebacker, Utah
*Projected Trade: Eagles trade the 18th pick to the Packers for the 22nd pick and a late third-round pick, 92nd overall.
Dart throw. Howie Roseman could trade down again here. The receiver and corner markets, both of which he needs to hit before the end of day two, don’t align with what’s left on the board in this mock. Lloyd had experience doing everything in 32 starts over three Utah seasons. His 43 career tackles for loss show he’s a play-wrecker in the run game too.
One other point about Lloyd, wherever he goes: NFL Network will have an emotional feature story Thursday night about the two Utah players lost to gun violence in 2021. I’m told Lloyd’s words will be emotional and heavy in the piece—he was the Utah captain who had a huge burden on his shoulders helping his teammates get through the double-ordeal.
23. Arizona Cardinals: Jermaine Johnson, edge, Florida State
I think the Cards would love to get another weapon for Kyler Murray, and if I were GM Steve Keim I’d define that weapon differently. I’d be looking just as fervently at the offensive line that put Murray under so much pressure last season; fixing his protection is as important as getting him a home-run threat—especially when there are no more home-run threats left now the way I mock it.
So why Johnson here? Because of the big need to find a pass-rusher two years after the departure of Haason Reddick and a month after the loss of Chandler Jones. I understand the pick, but I’d probably pick Zion Johnson instead.
24. Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Linderbaum, center, Iowa
Tea leaves pick, because of Dallas’ love of building the offensive line (Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith); because of high regard for Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz; and because Linderbaum is rated consistently the best center and a top-20 overall prospect on many boards. Which, for a guy who plays only one position, is saying something. Linderbaum is a rock-solid center, with 35 starts at the position over the past three years. He’s a little undersized for NFL center (6-2, 298) and doesn’t have position versatility—at least not yet. But he’s a physical, competitive player with the Ferentz pedigree. Iowa turns out terrific offensive linemen.
25. Buffalo Bills: Zion Johnson, offensive lineman, Boston College
One of the very few issues that Buffalo has is at guard where Rodger Saffold is due to start at right guard this year at age 34 and the undrafted Ryan Bates is the likely left guard. To me, Johnson’s the perfect call here because even if Saffold and Bates turn out great in 2022, it seems a short-term fix. In five college seasons—two years at Davidson, one at BC after transferring—Johnson started 49 games. Give me a guy with 36 starts at guard and 13 at left tackle (in the ACC). Give me a guy who was a two-year captain after transferring. Give me a guy who never missed a game in five college seasons due to injury (58 games played in all). He’s a likely interior lineman, which lessens his value slightly. But his intelligence, football acumen and experience gives NFL GMs confidence Johnson can be a starter in 2022.
26. Tennessee Titans: Tyler Smith, offensive tackle, Tulsa
I chickened out. Originally I penciled in: Malik Willis, quarterback, Liberty. Thought process: Titans earn top seed in AFC playoffs. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill throws three picks in the first playoff game, including one in the final minute that allows Cincinnati to kick a field goal and knock Tennessee out of the playoffs. Coach, GM sign extensions. Building has hard time getting over toothless loss to Cincinnati. Tannehill, because of onerous contract cap number in 2022, has to be kept for this season but if he is mediocre, Titans can move on next March. If he is mediocre, maybe Titans can get a rookie ready to play by Thanksgiving this year.
As you can see, some real science was used to make that choice. But the Titans have not been front and center at the QB workouts this spring. And with left tackle Taylor Lewan turning 31 in July, it’s time to invest in the tackle market—particularly after the Isaiah Wilson first-round debacle of two years ago. They’ve got to feel Smith is a sure thing here.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: David Ojabo, edge, Michigan
Ojabo tore his Achilles at the Michigan Pro Day and likely will not play football in 2022. Before the injury, he was considered a prospect to go somewhere between seven and 15. I don’t know that he’ll get picked in the first, but I do know four teams are intently interested in him. One is having some significant medical tests done on him in the next two days, to see how his recovery is progressing and to judge whether he can play maybe very late this season or, if not, how healthy he will be a year from now.
Ojabo was the complement to Aidan Hutchinson on the Michigan defensive front, and his will and tenacity are much admired. If you’re the Bucs, you might not need the edge play of Ojabo this year. But with veteran rusher Shaq Barrett due to be 31 next year and the unsigned Jason Pierre Paul likely a one-year play this year if that, a duo of Ojabo and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka for the future is something the Bucs would love to have going forward.
28. Green Bay Packers: Arnold Ebiketie, edge, Penn State
This has shades of a late-first-round Penn State riser at edge from last year, Odafe Oweh. Ebiketie, a native of Cameroon, moved to the Washington area when his dad got a job at the Cameroon Embassy. Ebiketie fell in love with football. And now, with the Pack having lost Za’Darius Smith to the casualties of the cap, a promising edge player would fit well.
I do make this proviso: The Packers may need this pick, or one of two in the second round, to move up significantly to take a receiver to replace Davante Adams. This pick could be one of the most interesting in the round because of all the directions GM Brian Gutekunst could go. He could move way up to target a Chris Olave around 10th, or he could (as I predict) move up a lesser number of spots to take a lesser receiver. Green Bay’s a fascinating team in round 1.
29. Kansas City Chiefs: Christian Watson, wide receiver, North Dakota State
I am going to have Kansas City keep both picks here, 29 and 30, because I don’t have a great idea of what to do with them … unless GM Brett Veach gets very bold and uses both and maybe something more to move up in range to get one of the best receivers in the draft. Kansas City lost Tyreek Hill and replaced him with lesser free agents; Green Bay lost Davante Adams and replaced him with no one except Sammy Watkins. Both teams are likely to try to make a score in the draft at receiver.
If the Chiefs don’t put a ransom together to move up to the eight-to-12 area of the first round, I think the 6-4 and blossoming Watson is a strong play here. He runs sub-4.4, he’s played in significant bad weather, and he averaged a huge 20.4 yards per catch against lesser competition. He could be the kind of receiver Andy Reid lets learn and play a small role this year, while getting him ready for 2023. The reward could be good.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Lewis Cine, safety, Georgia
One of the great stories in this draft, and one of the players scouts like the most. Cine (pronounced “Seen”) was born in Haiti to a 16-year-old mom; it’s why he wore “16” at Georgia. His early life was split between Haiti and Florida, and he moved to Massachusetts to be with his dad for a few years, then finished high school in Dallas. That’s where he was tutored by Deion Sanders as a player and became a big-time recruit. At 6-2 ¼ and 200 pounds, he runs a 4.37 40-yard dash and hits like a strong safety. “What a lot of us like about him is he’s a natural leader, and he played his best in the biggest games,” said one GM. That includes being the defensive MVP in the national championship game against Alabama. Kansas City would be a good spot for him, and he could make a 2022 impact.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: Trey McBride, tight end, Colorado State
Warning: The Bengals will have options to trade out of this pick, and they’re a more willing trade team on draft weekend than they used to be. This is a golden spot to trade up and get the fifth-year luxury that a late first-round pick would provide, particularly with a team seeing quarterbacks remaining on the board. (First-round picks are in team control pre-free-agency for five years; second-rounders, four years.)
As for the tight end need, the Bengals are still in mourning after losing valuable starter C.J. Uzomah and his 965 snaps last year to the Jets in free agency. The Bengals did sign Hayden Hurst, but the former first-round Raven will be playing for his third team in four years; I doubt he’s the every-down tight end Cincinnati lost in Uzomah. McBride’s a versatile player with an excellent résumé at Colorado State as an inline blocker and a possession receiver. He caught a team-high 90 balls last year in a run-first offense. “McBride would be a classic Mike Brown pick,” one veteran GM told me. “He likes to use draft choices to fill holes.”
*32. Atlanta Falcons: Matt Corral, quarterback, Ole Miss
*Projected Trade: Lions trade the 32nd pick to the Falcons for a second-round pick this year (43rd overall) and a second-round pick in 2023.
This is all about a team, Atlanta, believing in a quarterback this year, and investing a chunk of draft capital in him that isn’t cost-prohibitive. (I hear the Falcons like Corral.) If you think you might have a long-term quarterback and it costs you two second-round picks, is that really a major cost? No, it’s not. This pick is not something I’m convinced about. It’s more about the concept of it. If a team wants a quarterback but isn’t positive about this group, it can still invest in one. It’s a conservative investment, keeping in mind that quarterbacks don’t come cheap. If you really want Corral or Malik Willis or Desmond Ridder, wouldn’t you think a price of two second-round picks would be worth the risk?
Very quietly, during the NFL meetings last month in Florida, owners passed what looked like a meaningless resolution—and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge story. But the resolution has some interesting meaning: Owners gave the NFL permission to schedule two more teams for a second short-week game.
No big deal, except to Amazon Prime, the new owners of the Thursday night package of NFL games. Amazon will attempt to get Americans who don’t have Amazon Prime membership to pay $8.99 a month now for its streaming service. So Amazon is focused on a great package of games this fall to help convince potential subscribers it’s a must-have service.
Amazon Prime has wanted a Black Friday game—a game on the Friday after Thanksgiving—as part of its schedule in 2022, or at the latest by 2023. This resolution gave the NFL the ability to take two more teams and make them play, in this case, on the Friday following a Sunday game. For each, it would be the second time of the year playing on three- or four-days rest, something no coach will actually want to do.
But for Amazon Prime—a new partner the NFL very much wants to help succeed because of the deep-pocketed ways they’ve shown as the first major player in streaming a series of games nationally—a Black Friday game would be huge. What better marketing tool for Amazon Prime than to put a game in the wheelhouse of their consumers, on the busiest shopping day of the year? With so many shoppers eschewing brick-and-mortar stores in favor of shopping from the couch, imagine the marketing heft when commercials can be targeted at stay-at-home shoppers.
All sounds great … except the deal’s not done yet. It’s not as easy as it seems. There’s some opposition in the league about playing a game on Nov. 25, and there’s a decent chance the NFL will put off a Black Friday game on Amazon Prime till 2023. But it’s going to happen, I’m told, by next year at the latest.
Amazon has made a huge bid for the game. I’m told it’s between $70 million and $100 million for a Black Friday game, which would be added to the current package. (That’s in the same neighborhood of what network partners have paid for wild-card playoff games recently.) Seems like a win-win.
Here’s why it might not be:
• Competition for sporting eyes that day. The eyes of the nation on Black Friday will be on the USA-England World Cup match in Qatar, going live at 2 p.m. ET.
• There’s a very small window to show the game. The NFL is forbidden from doing a night game on a Friday or Saturday before the second Saturday in December, to protect the audiences at high-school playoff games and college football games till mid-December. So that means the Black Friday game would have to begin no later than 4:15 p.m. ET or so.
• Internal league-office opposition. It’s big, I hear, perhaps big enough to turn down a $2-million-plus-per-team found-money windfall.
• Inventory. This might be the biggest problem. On Thanksgiving weekend, there are already six national TV games on the schedule: three on Thanksgiving, one doubleheader game Sunday, prime-time Sunday and prime-time Monday. How much is too much, particularly on a weekend when there’s likely to be at least two teams on the bye? So Detroit-versus-whoever in the first Thanksgiving game is a traditionally sketchy matchup, but the next five have to be pretty good. There really isn’t inventory to be sure that an extra game can be a solid matchup. And does Amazon want to write a big check for, say, Tennessee-Houston—one good team and one very iffy one?
So if the league okays the Amazon Prime game for Nov. 25, it would likely be wedged after the World Cup and before prime time, without a lot of buzz to it, on an untraditional day for the NFL, with at least one risky team. If the league okays it, it’s a clear sign—among the many we’ve seen in recent years—that money is the ultimate decider in the NFL.
Since I’m making a fool of myself once in this column with the mock draft, why not take a shot at double foolishness?
The NFL announced that it will make public the first Thursday night game for Amazon Prime (Week 2, Sept. 15) during the first round of the draft on Thursday. The full schedule will be announced May 12. My best guesses for the two early big games:
Opening night, Sept. 8, NBC: Bills at Rams, SoFi Stadium
Backup best guess: Broncos at Rams
The NFL will often save a monster matchup like Bills-Rams for later in the season, either for a Sunday night or Sunday network doubleheader game. This year’s a little different. Last year, the Dallas-Tampa Bay opener did such huge numbers—26 million viewers on all NBC platforms, the highest ratings for a Thursday opener in six years—that the NFL is likely thinking it has to come close to hitting that kind of home run this year. The last thing the league wants is a Debbie Downer-press release in the wake of the game announcing ratings for the season-opener were down X percent. Now, you might think Russell Wilson’s first game in a Denver uniform would do a big number too, and it would. But the NFL also has to think of a game that’s going to be competitive for four quarters. Broncos-Rams likely would be; Bills-Rams, most would argue, has a better chance to be tight at the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter. But neither matchup would surprise me here.
Opening Amazon game, Sept. 15, Amazon Prime: Chargers at Chiefs, Arrowhead Stadium
Backup best guess: Broncos at Chiefs
This game is going to show how much the NFL wants Amazon to win. September Thursdays are usually the gameslot the league uses to get the bottom teams their lone prime-time appearances of the season. To put Patrick Mahomes in a prime-time Thursday window in Week 2 is the NFL paying homage to a new way of seeing games—streaming—while forcing traditional football consumers (fans of a certain age) to understand what they have to do to get this newfangled Amazon Prime. I’m told Amazon wants Justin Herbert-Mahomes, and there is still some sentiment to put Russell Wilson in this slot instead for the Wilson-Mahomes starpower.
“I keep hoping that you will walk through the door and say it wasn’t real.”
—Tamia Haskins, the sister of the late quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who died this month when struck by a vehicle on a Florida highway
“We have 16 to 18 players on our board as first-round picks. Picking at 29 [and] 30, the odds of one of those guys falling isn’t great.”
—Kansas City GM Brett Veach, on Friday.
—Arizona GM Steve Keim, asked the likelihood of the team considering a trade for quarterback Kyler Murray.
“We’ll just watch Tyreek highlights.”
—Miami GM Chris Grier, on what the Dolphins will do without a pick on day one of the draft. Tyreek Hill came in trade from Kansas City for five draft picks, including this year’s number one.
Three months into his tenure as a rookie NFL GM with the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, John Schneider, picking sixth, chose a cornerstone tackle, Russell Okung, and an all-pro safety, Earl Thomas, 14th. That was the only time in 12 drafts that Schneider has had a top 14 pick, until this week.
I hear he’s trying to trade the ninth overall pick—no surprise for Schneider, who never met a trade he didn’t like—but if he doesn’t, he’s going to get one of the best players on a shaky board.
Since the Okung year, Schneider’s top pick per year has been, overall, 25, 15, 62, 45, 63, 31, 35, 27, 29, 27, 56. Average first pick in the last 11 drafts for Seattle: 38.
To help the Seahawks’ rebuild now, Schneider needs the sort of good fortune he and Pete Carroll had early in their union. Seattle used the 133rd pick in 2010 on Kam Chancellor, the 154th pick and 242nd picks in 2011 on Richard Sherman and Malcolm Smith, and the 47th and 75th picks in 2012 on Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson. (Seattle also signed Doug Baldwin in 2011 as an undrafted free-agent.) History will look at that as one of the great three-year value runs by a general manager in NFL history.
Daryle Lamonica died last week in California. He was 80. (More in 10 Things, below.) In 1969, in a 14-game season, he threw 34 touchdown passes. In the grand history of Raider deep-throwers, Lamonica, surprisingly, stands alone.
No Raider in the 52 seasons since—in eight regular seasons with a 14-game schedule, in 43 seasons with 16 games in the regular season, and one with a 17-game season—has matched Lamonica for the franchise single-season TD-pass record. No wonder he was nicknamed The Mad Bomber.
The best TD seasons of notable quarterbacks playing as Raiders: Ken Stabler 27, Jim Plunkett 20, Jeff Hostetler 23, Rich Gannon 28, Carson Palmer 22, Derek Carr 32.
Carr’s 32 TDs came while throwing 573 passes in 2015. The year Gannon won the MVP, 2002, he threw 26 TD passes in 618 attempts. Lamonica threw his 34 scoring passes in 426 attempts. He ushered in the kind of football Al Davis loved to play and preached for a half-century.
In his first three seasons with the Dodgers after being traded from the Red Sox, Mookie Betts will make $77.0 million. In his first three seasons with the Sox, the key player Boston got in return, Alex Verdugo, will make $4.42 million.
Since the trade, Betts, compared to Verdugo, has 23 more runs scored, 37 fewer hits, 11 more extra-base hits, 14 more RBI, an on-base percentage nine points higher, and an OPS 65 points higher.
For $72.5 million more, I’d have expected a bigger gap between Betts and Verdugo by now.
SEATTLE — I saw a triple play here Wednesday night. Runners on first and second for the Mariners, no outs, bottom of the first, and Seattle’s Jesse Winker socked a low liner toward right field … but Texas first baseball Nate Lowe speared it eight inches off the ground for an out. The runners were both sprinting off their bases. I said out loud, “Triple play.” And for some reason, neither runner tried to get back to his base. The leadoff man, Adam Frazier, was gesturing when he got to third, though I have no idea why. Maybe Frazier thought the ball was trapped. No chance. I had this crazy thought when I saw neither guy try to get back to his base: Unassisted triple play!
Lowe could have done it. He hustled to first and touched the base for the second out, then looked to second and with Frazier making no attempt to get back to second, it would have been easy. Do it! It’s history! I guess Nate Lowe couldn’t hear me telepathically. He tossed the ball to the shortstop, who tagged second for the out.
On Mr. Nerd’s scorecard, I wrote:
L-3, 3U, 3-6
Strange event. I’m not sure how many people around me in the stands knew what happened. When a triple play happens, the PA announcer doesn’t yell, “Ladies and gentleman, that’s a triple play!” No one around me seemed even inquisitive about it. No one said, Holy crap! Never seen one of those before!
Is that odd—that I think it was a really big deal, seeing a triple play, while no one around me seemed to care at all? It’s odd to me.
I cannot tell you how meaningless it is to be good at a sport before puberty.
Do not compare. Do not care.
Just learn to love the game.
— Tom House 〽️ (@tomhouse) December 10, 2021
House, the former MLB pitcher, teaches proper throwing mechanics to all levels of baseball players and quarterbacks.
Essential for coverage of the NFL Draft. Thank you, @Ourlads_Shonka, and wishing you and Peggy the best of health.
Overcoming adversity and teamwork are among the things that make football great, and this 41st anniversary guide reflect that fully. pic.twitter.com/Yj2nMmkP3W
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) April 23, 2022
Reiss, the ESPN reporter, echoing what many of us who cover football for a living feel: The Ourlads Guide has been essential draft prep material for years.
For 30-plus years, I’ve watched, marveled, admired and been humbled by my brother Joe’s dedication to ministry across the globe. Now, he’s off to Moldova and Ukraine to serve those whose lives have been turned upside down by war, death and grief. @RoadsofHope pic.twitter.com/0J3fYkBUq2
— Phil Savage (@PhilSavage) April 23, 2022
Savage, the former Browns GM and current Jets scout, on his brother’s life of service.
I wanna win Super Bowls with the Cardinals, AZ is home. https://t.co/xwEw42uDBl
— Kyler Murray (@K1) April 21, 2022
The Arizona quarterback is at odds with the team over his contract.
News: Hooters signed marketing deals with the father-son duo of John Daly and John Daly II, who is the company's first-ever NIL ambassador. pic.twitter.com/E2rYfizCfl
— Mark J. Burns (@markjburns88) April 19, 2022
Burns is a sports business reporter.
That, friends, is the least-surprising photo in the history of photography.
Good question. From Jeff Breitenfield, of Madison, Wis.: “I honestly don’t get all the hostility in the league toward Baker Mayfield. In 2020 he led the Browns to a playoff win in Pittsburgh and was the toast of the town, and in 2021 he plays almost the entire season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder and now they’re ready to dump him on the street curb.”
Jeff, it’s a good point. I’d just say the Browns didn’t have a conviction of Mayfield exiting 2021, and then Deshaun Watson fell into their laps, and they had a decision to make that the Browns never thought they would face. I agree that Mayfield was done wrong, but going forward, the Browns made a deal for a guy they thought was a better quarterback. I understand the issue (believe me) with the 22 sex suits against Watson. But as far as football and football alone, Watson’s a better option.
On mock drafts. From Terry, of Maine: “Just one thing about your column with info and stuff about the mock drafts: there is no such thing as a BAD mock draft. They are ALL wonderful, and interesting, and sometimes silly. I look forward to yours, which (along with all the others) I will have forgotten all about by next Sunday.”
That’s the spirit, Terry. For too many of us, it gets to be a referendum on how smart we are, or how many people we know who will tell us secrets. It is, to some degree, but there’s so much spy versus spy stuff that goes on. I don’t let it get to me the way I once did.
I like this idea. From Dave Borasky, of Durham, N.C.: “I really enjoyed reading about Mark Ahlemeier’s retirement and the Joe Buck tribute in your column. Thinking back on your story about Gene Steratore’s crew a few years ago, I wonder if others would have interest in a story or series of stories about these behind-the-scenes heroes. The folks who take care of the turf, arrange transportation, clean the locker rooms, etc. We all know who the coaches are, and many of the GMs, but you start to drill down much deeper and there must be an army of people that we the fans take for granted.”
Well, that gets me thinking, Dave. The story on Steratore and his crew was 16,000 words long, and I’m assuming you don’t want to read 16,000 words on a grounds crew. But stories about them, yes. I really like that idea, and I’m going to think about adding it to the column for next season. Thank you.
On the USFL. From Steve Evans, of Royal Oak, Mich.: “I watched the first two games [of the USFL] and they were entertaining and seemed to have fewer penalties, but a few too many mental errors by players and coaches compared to the NFL. But the NFL needs this league if only to give young players and coaches a chance, to give officials experience and to play with new rules. If Fox and NBC are patient and they can market the league, they have a chance for year two. I just wish that the NFL would provide players under contract a chance to play in the league. I think David Blough of the Lions could showcase his talents (or fail) if given the opportunity.”
I like the thought, particularly with backup quarterbacks in the NFL. They need to play. This would be a great opportunity for them, plus give the league something for fans in NFL cities to watch.
I’m a hypocrite, he says. From Allon Bloch: “Very interesting flip-flopping in your responses this week. You support the Rooney rule and support a stricter future version, then bristle at the idea of someone restricting your job, then suggest ‘guardrails’ for another journalist. So basically rules for everyone else, but not you?”
Gil Brandt is not a journalist. He is a pillar of the game. But he is 90, and if you heard his interview that got him in hot water with his Dwayne Haskins comments, you might change your mind about the guardrail concept. Regarding bristling at being restricted, it’s just not done in our business, a league saying a reporter can’t interview people in the league anymore or have access to the games because it doesn’t like what he’s writing.
1. I think this draft will be a TV spectacle, and though I won’t be there (I plan to be at two different teams during the course of the draft), the visuals from Las Vegas should be fun and, well, excessive. “The visuals will scream Las Vegas,” said NFL Network VP and executive producer Charlie Yook. “And starting Monday with our coverage, the central part of the coverage will be the mystery of the draft. We don’t know what we don’t know.” I maintain that’s a very good thing. We always know so much, too much, about the first round. This year, we really don’t know for sure who the first pick will be, we don’t know if a quarterback goes in the top half of the first round. That’s great, really. Play that up, ESPN and NFL Network. That should be the hallmark of the Thursday night coverage.
2. I think I’m not convinced the Giants will trade problem wideout Kadarius Toney. I certainly would be wary of trading for Toney, the Giants’ man-child wide receiver who had some wonderful moments last year, including in the unlikely win over New Orleans. He’s slithery, very fast, and hard to bring down. Now the Giants, I think, have to decide if he’s going to be a fit in their offense with the new Brian Daboll/Joe Schoen regime. Reported Pat Leonard, who reported that the Giants are looking to trade Toney in the New York Daily News: “His commitment came into question behind the scenes during his rookie year due to lack of playbook study, poor meeting behavior and frequent injuries.” Maybe Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes could reel him back to reality. Maybe. But my gut says Brian Daboll is going to try to get Toney back in the program, and soon.
3. I think I take Mel Kiper at his word that being unvaccinated is “very specific to my own personal medical history.” He will miss being onsite for the draft in Las Vegas because ESPN requires its talent to be vaccinated; he will appear on draft coverage from his home studio in Maryland. When you’ve been a part of something for 38 years, I’m assuming it’s got to be something pretty significant for Kiper to have eschewed the shot.
4. I think if I were John Lynch, I wouldn’t trade Deebo Samuel until I absolutely had to. He’s too good. I’d keep the volume down on any incendiary talk, which Lynch surely will do, starting today at his pre-draft press conference, and let things simmer for a while. Not saying Samuel will change his mind—he told ESPN’s Jeff Darlington he wants out—but if every professional sports star who asked to be traded actually was, we’d have 25 mega-trades a year, not three or four.
5. I think there’s a risk in not trading Samuel now, obviously. There will be an argument that Samuel will fetch the most value before the draft, particularly with a desperado team like the Jets having two picks in the top 10. It’s interesting to consider where the interest might be greatest. Lynch will have to consider whether trading Samuel for, say, the 10th pick in the draft, and turning that pick into the possible first receiver in the draft, would be worth it. I would say no, because what’s the second prize here? It’s the Jets’ first-round pick in 2023 plus something (or some other team’s first-rounder plus something). One GM told me Friday when I asked what is fair market return for Samuel that a mid-round first this year, plus something significant this year or next—either a player or second-day pick.
6. I think Daryle Lamonica, the first real mad bomber of a quarterback for Al Davis’ throw-it-deep Raiders in the sixties, had great impact on the game and should not be forgotten. From 1967 to 1969, the last three years of the AFL, the Lamonica-led Raiders were 37-4-1 in the regular season. Think about that: The best three-year regular-season mark for the Tom Brady Patriots: 39-9. The Raiders went 12-1-1, 12-2 and 13-1 (John Madden’s rookie season as coach) in the last three seasons of the American Football League. At the time Davis traded with Buffalo for Lamonica in 1967, Joe Namath was the all-everything quarterback in the AFL. Let’s look at the numbers, Namath versus Lamonica, in the last three years of the sixties:
Namath: 29-12-1, 9,888 passing yards, 60 touchdowns, 62 interceptions.
Lamonica: 36-4-1, 9,775 passing yards, 89 touchdowns, 60 interceptions.
Hats off to one of the underappreciated players of his era.
7. I think I’d guess that James Bradberry of the Giants, the good corner New York GM Joe Schoen needs to trade to be in good cap shape going forward, will be dealt before the end of the weekend. I don’t have a great feel for where he’s going, but Kansas City wouldn’t shock me. In that division, you’re going to play six games every year against upper-tier quarterbacks, and the KC corner situation is just okay; L’Jarius Sneed is the only difference-maker the team has. Bradberry would be a good fit there, but Kansas City’s not looking to add a big-money player. We’ll see if Schoen can find a home for Bradberry this week.
8. I think I’d look into signing Earl Thomas if I were a team in need of a safety. But I’d have four concerns:
a. He turns 33 in May, and hasn’t had a great year since 2017—though he made the Pro Bowl in 2019.
b. He didn’t play in 2020 or 2021 after slugging a Ravens teammate in camp in August 2020. His teammates wanted him gone. He behaved irregularly as a Raven, which is being nice.
c. When you’re 33, and you’ve played 4, 15, zero and zero games in the last four years, the real sign of how much you want to play is whether you’d be willing to play for the minimum with a big incentive package. If not, I’d let him pass.
d. I’d want to be pretty sure Thomas loves football, still, to even consider it.
9. I think I love draft lists people people who study the game—such as this one from Doug Farrar and Mark Schofield of Touchdown Wire. The reason this list is so interesting is because it’s different, and it’s full of surprises, all backstopped by tape. The top five from Farrar and Schofield: Kyle Hamilton, Sauce Gardner, Charles Cross, Evan Neal, Jermaine Johnson II. The video you’ll see is conclusive. Enjoyed it.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. The MMQB Alum Story of the Week: Robert Klemko of the Washington Post, with Serhii Korolchuk, reporting on the ground from the embattled capital of Kyiv, Ukraine, on the autopsies of the bodies that keep coming, and the degradation that just won’t stop.
b. Please skip this section, and go down to 10d, if you are leery of the kind of detail work that makes this story so powerful. It is extremely unpleasant. Wrote Klemko/Korolchuk:
KYIV, Ukraine — One body has been haunting the coroner. She was shot through the face with a high-caliber bullet through a car windshield. Then a Russian armored vehicle ran over the car, crushing her rib cage like a soda can and tearing off what was left of her head.
Volunteers peeled her body out, zipped her into a black plastic bag and laid her in the trailer of a refrigerated 18-wheeler. She rode an hour through capital-city suburbs before being removed carefully from the bag and laid on coroner Vlad Perovskyi’s metal autopsy table.
The gunshot that killed her disturbs him less than the way her body was treated later.
“I’m used to seeing horrible things done to bodies,” Perovskyi says. “But I was very shocked to see such horrible treatment of the deceased by the Russians. How can someone shoot a person and then run over the body?”
… In a 20-by-20-foot room in a building on the campus of Kyiv Regional Clinical Hospital, Perovskyi and a team of five men have processed more than 200 dead civilians and Ukrainian soldiers in the past seven weeks. With prolonged power outages in many suburbs, Kyiv’s morgues have become a bottleneck for the dead.
“Compared to guys in the army that are at the front lines, this is the least I can do,” Perovskyi says.
In a room with multiple windows, the death investigators dare crack only one in an effort to alleviate the oppressive stench of decomposing human flesh. Any more open windows and the flies swarming outside would have free rein. As it is, dozens of them are stuck to a twisted band of sticky flypaper hanging from the ceiling.
c. The detail … the alarming, wretching detail. This is why it’s so important to have journalists on the ground in a war zone. The world must see this, read this. I know the danger, but I’m so glad Klemko is there. I know the kind of reporter he is.
d. Football Story of the Spring: (Don’t know how I missed this three weeks ago …) Dan Pompei of The Athletic, on Bears hero defensive lineman Steve McMichael’s fight against ALS.
e. More and more football players who sacrificed everything for the game are aging and getting nightmarish diagnoses like ALS. It’s impossible to think football has no connection to ALS or to other degenerative brain diseases. What is admirable about the story was the humanity. Pompei used a great way to illustrate who McMichael was, and is, with his wife Misty. He wrote:
What does McMichael miss about the life he used to live?
The taste of Wagyu filet. And pizza. About the only thing he gets to taste now is Diet Coke from a sponge on a stick.
He misses going to Home Depot with Misty.
Being able to scratch an itch.
The tingle from chewing tobacco in his lower lip.
The way a drag from a Marlboro Ultra Light fills up the senses.
The baritone notes he used to hit singing a song like “Gimme Three Steps” with Hampton and Otis Wilson in their band, Chicago Six.
f. Just a splendid account of a very sad story. Pompei: “Death does not intimidate him any more than any New York Giants ever did. ‘I’ve already lived 10 lives, so I’m okay,’ he says.”
g. Baseball Story of the Week: Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press found a college class in New Jersey that is trying to get Major League Baseball to overturn an erroneous 12-year-old call and give Armando Galarraga the perfect game that was taken from him in 2010.
h. Sixteen students in a Monmouth University Law and Society class researched the infamous game in 2010 between Galarraga’s Tigers and Cleveland. With two outs in the ninth inning, ump Jim Joyce rules Cleveland’s Jason Donald safe on a play at first base. Replays showed he was clearly out. But the call stood, MLB refused to overturn it, and the game went down as a one-hit victory for Galarraga.
i. The class filed an 82-page brief to MLB in February, asking for the wrong call to be overturned and for Galarraga’s game to be ruled perfect. They’re still waiting. Wrote Carino:
Galarraga, who is now retired from baseball and living in Texas, was so touched by the effort that he conducted a Zoom meeting with the students to tell his story and express appreciation.
“It’s amazing, what they’ve done,” he told the Asbury Park Press via phone last week. “I’m floored.”
The point of the project is not just to help Galarraga, although that is certainly its focus. As Gabriella Griffo, a junior in the course, explained: “It’s about how flexible law really is.”
j. Music Story of the Week: Steve Inskeep of NPR on “Record Store Day,” which was Saturday. But the great thing about the story is how much there is to know about the rise of vinyl records from what we once thought was the graveyard of classic record albums. “The death of the brick and mortar record story has been greatly exaggerated. They’re actually thriving.”
k. I had no idea. But how amazing is this stat from NPR: Vinyl sales jumped 61 percent last year. More than one of every three albums sold in 2021 were vinyl records.
l. I’ve never met Jay Wright, but I get the impression he’s left the basketball world, and the world, a far better place than the one he walked into at the beginning of his coaching career. That’s a great legacy to leave. Congrats on a great career to Wright, who retired as Villanova’s coach last week.
m. Assume you saw the video of the junior-college pitcher, Owen Woodward, sprinting off the mound to violently tackle a batter, Josh Phillips, after Phillips hit a home run off him. The North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference suspended Woodward for four games. Four games. That’s the lightest suspension for an offense of that magnitude that I’ve ever seen. Woodward’s off the team now, but however that happened, whether he was kicked off or quit, the conference made a stupid call by giving the kid four games.
n. Congrats to Miguel Cabrera, one of the best players of our time, on his 3,000th hit.
o. And no, when Aaron Boone intentionally walked Cabrera on Thursday in his last at-bat, with Cabrera sitting on 2,999 hits, it wasn’t a slap in anyone’s face. It was Boone trying to do the best thing to win a game. The situation: Detroit up 1-0 at home, two outs, bottom of the eighth, runners on second and third, Cabrera up. The play here is walking the cleanup hitter to get a force at any base. That’s what Boone did. Big deal. I know the fans wanted to see Cabrera’s 3,000th hit, but Boone’s job is to try to win a game. No issue at all to me.
p. Amazing, to me, that only seven men are in the 3,000-hit/500-homer club: Hank Aaron, Albert Pujols, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Miggy.
q. If you gave me one player to start my team with for the next 10 years, I’d pick Vlad Guerrero, 23. If you gave me one more, I’d take Wander Franco, 21.
r. RIP, Paul Meyer. The longtime baseball beat writer (Reds, for the Dayton Journal Herald, Pirates for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette), who died last week, was a classic baseball writer, as Jason Mackey of the Post Gazette wrote in his obit for the paper. He lived for the game and the beat. When I got a job at the Cincinnati Enquirer out of college in 1980, one of my gigs was backup beat guy on the Reds. On my first road trip covering the team, the three other beat people—Meyer, Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, Earl Lawson of the Cincinnati Post—took me out to dinner at the Marriott in downtown Atlanta around midnight. I’ll never forget thinking, Not sure I can get used to eating dinner at midnight. (The other interesting thing about that dinner: Lawson told a prostitute we weren’t interested. She was pushy, wanted to negotiate, and Earl said, “Leave us alone! We’re eating!”)
s. Meyer, McCoy and Lawson were absolute gems to me. So sad Hal’s the last one standing. I was 23 years old. They told me how to act in the clubhouse, who were the good guys to know, who to steer clear of. Paul Meyer one day told me, “Lay back if you see two or three guys around Bench or Seaver. Just wait. Get your own stuff.” He could do that because Bench and Seaver were so terrific to deal with. Dan Driessen too—quiet guy, but always helpful. Another Paul—Zimmerman—used to live by that talk-to-guys-away-from-the-crowd ethos too. I don’t know what it was, but all three of those guys treated me like their kid brother in a very competitive business, and I’ve never forgotten it. You made a big impact on me, Paul Meyer.
Best guy in this draft?
In five years, Derek Stingley
will rise above all.