By John Woods
like SBz on facebook & follow SBz on twitter
like SBz on facebook & follow SBz on twitter
I am one of those crazy fans seen at the beginning of ESPN’s coverage of the draft. I have been going every year since 2004, back when it was still at the Theater at Madison Square Garden - the Draft was at MSG from '96 until 2004, then the Javits Center for a year (the NFL was pissed at MSG for blocking the Jets potential stadium) and Radio City in 2006, where it's been ever since. I’ve survived rain, freezing (for April) cold, extreme heat, and being awake for 36 hours just so I can see who the Jets will pick.
And yet I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
And yet I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
The most off-putting element of attending the draft for most fans is the wait to get tickets. Tickets are free, but also first-come-first-served. Getting them requires waiting outside the theater for a few hours the night before. When the draft was on a Saturday fans lined up overnight, which generally required being on line as early as 3 or 4 am. Not anymore. The NFL now gives out wristbands at 12:01 on the day of, and fans can go sleep and return in the afternoon to line up again.
The NFL claims they won’t let fans line up before 10, but that is not the case - unless fans are there by 7 or 8 at the latest they won’t get in. However, being at the very front of the line does not guarantee a good seat; tickets are deliberately randomized. But that doesn’t stop people from getting there very early.
The first few years at Radio City were very chaotic. Fans could leave the line all the time and come back. I still remember in 2008 when I looked up from my iPod to discover that the line was no longer in front of me, and when I ran around the corner to see hundreds of fans packed together because the NFL had removed the barricades holding them back. As one guy yelled out, it was "like being F'ed in the A without a reach-around." Expletives were not abbreviated at the time. This type of stuff used to happen on a regular basis.
To the NFL’s credit, they’ve figured out how to run the draft more efficiently in recent years. Now fans can’t leave once they’re on line, thanks to the makeshift pens the NFL erects. Once tickets are distributed, the NFL lets everyone in a pen out first before allowing the fans in back to enter. It has worked surprisingly well.
But the best change has been to the draft process itself. First, teams have 10 minutes instead of 15 to make a selection. Five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, but with 32 teams picking it adds about an hour or so to the first round. And that brings me to the second change: broadcasting the draft during primetime. Much of the rowdiness of the fans in previous years could likely be chalked up to sleep deprivation. I remember falling asleep on the bus back home nearly every year. That doesn’t happen now.
If I could change one thing about the draft, it wouldn’t have anything to do with the actual process. I would stop ESPN’s reprehensible practice of showing draftees on the phone right before a pick happens. It spoils the whole process. No offense, Rolando McClain - the NFL is chopping down on that anyway.
Most of the fun I have at the draft happens not during it, but waiting on line to get tickets. The fans in line are more knowledgeable about football than virtually anyone I’ve ever met. I’m never bored, even when waiting for the time to pass. Only here can I bond with complete strangers that I’ll likely never see again, and not care one bit.
Or, for that matter, see fans from all over the country in the same place. Fans from as far off as Seattle, Phoenix, Dallas, or even foreign countries come for the draft. Where else could that happen for free? But it is NYC, and the Jet fans tend to be the majority. And yes, we do boo the pick if we hate it. Though lately we haven’t had reason to do so. Other sizable groups tend to be Giants, Eagles, Bills, Cowboys, and Patriots. But every team has at least one group of fans in attendance.
A few other things also deserve mention, such as the chants the fans come up with. Remember the Gate D scandal? The atmosphere can get like that. Women walking past get cheered or booed, with the cheers going to hot chicks and the boos to everyone else. Whenever the Eagles fans start up an E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES chant, everyone in the line always yells out “SUCK!” at the end. Steelers fans are greeted with “She Said No! She Said No!” (Roethlisberger), (while Pats fans get “18-1! 18-1!” It’ll be very interesting to see what the Saints fans get this year.
And of course there is the mass booing. The 2004 draft will forever be remembered as the Eli draft for how he refused to play for the Chargers. I still remember the reaction to him being picked #1, and later the hysterical laughter as we found out how much the Giants traded for him. (But needless to say it worked out.) Brady Quinn got the same treatment, right down to the hysterical laughter when we were told that Roger Goodell took him to a back room so he could cry. And speaking of Goodell and booing.
On a lighter note, fans are given a goodie bag before entering the theater. The most important item is a miniature radio, allowing the fans to listen to both ESPN and NFL Network’s coverage. (The respective league's network is the way to go, as is usually the case with any sporting event having a choice between ESPN and another channel.) Sheets of paper to keep track of picks are also included, as are pens, and a mock draft contest as well to keep the fans busy for the hour or so before the draft begins. The other items vary; my father still brings up the can of chili included in the 2004 bag.
When the event moved to Radio City, the NFL had at its disposal a theater-quality sound system, and decided to play music between selections relating to the team on the clock. These range from good, like Minnesota getting “Immigrant Song,” to insane, like Baltimore getting “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray. Having 10 minutes of downtime between picks has led me in the past to mentally come up with better musical numbers to play.
In the spirit of the mock draft contest, and because everybody does one nowadays, I’ve come up with my own mock draft. I will be including a song (via Youtube) with each mock draft selection, with some commentary on why it should be played. Unless stated otherwise it should be assumed that each artist is from the team’s area.
- Indianapolis – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
All that’s left here is for the most hated commissioner in sports to announce the Colts’ pick. The last time that the first pick was already known (Matthew Stafford), the NFL didn’t waste any time announcing it. Not the case in previous years, when we were forced to wait 15 minutes for an anticlimactic selection.
Song: “Thriller” by Michael Jackson.
- Washington (from St. Louis) – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Thanks to the new CBA rules requiring contract slotting, many trades will happen early on. This one’s already happened. Three first round picks is a steep price to pay, but then again the Redskins have been incompetent for over a decade.
Song: I could just go with “Hail to the Redskins,” which the NFL already does. Instead I’ll go with some Ginuwine.
- Minnesota – Matt Kalil, OT, Southern California
The Vikings have been very fun to watch on draft day, thanks to passing selections (Kevin Williams) and terrible reaches (Christian Ponder). This is the safe selection.
Song: The aforementioned “Immigrant Song.” Prince and the Replacements would be in the mix.
- Cleveland – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
The other new development, as seen last year, is QBs going far earlier in Round 1 than they normally would. Nobody in his right mind would say that Tannehill is the 4th best player in the draft. But Cleveland needs a “franchise” QB. Or so they think.
Alternate – Trent Richardson. This is the far more likely pick. Richardson’s about as safe a pick as they come, but RBs don’t get drafted highly anymore. Even Adrian Peterson lasted until #8. But the Browns apparently love him.
Song: Some early rock songs thanks to the Rock Hall. (Don’t get me started on the selections.) I’ll pick an obvious one, “Rock Around the Clock,” to start. Anything’s better than “Cleveland Rocks,” the NFL’s current song choice. Apparently just mentioning the city somewhere in the song makes it ok.
- Tampa Bay – Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State
This is the safest pick to predict aside from the top 3. Claiborne plays the position that the Buccaneers need the most. In fact, the Browns could very well move out of #4 for a team that’s willing to pay big for Claiborne. They did it for the Jets and Falcons.
Alternate – Richardson. If Claiborne’s gone.
Song: My choices are between Matchbox 20 and boy bands if I go from the area. And the theme from “Pirates of the Caribbean” already gets used. What else is Tampa known for? Strippers. Let’s go with the greatest stripper anthem ever.
- St. Louis (from Washington) – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Tough call between Blackmon and Richardson here. Take the next Anquan Boldin or Stephen Jackson’s replacement? The Rams have been slated to take Blackmon for months now after trading down. They might have even taken him at #2. But if Richardson’s around?
Alternate – Richardson
Song: The NFL uses Nelly. I’ll go with Chuck Berry.
- Jacksonville – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Jaguars used to be known for terrible boom-or-bust selections; see Matt Jones, Reggie Williams, and Derrick Harvey. But Tyson Alualu’s surprising career so far (he was universally considered the biggest reach of 2010) probably influences them to reach on another mid-round prospect so high at a position of need.
Alternate – Blackmon. Blaine Gabbert needs an elite WR, and Malcolm Floyd would be a reach here.
Song: Two southern rock bands are from Jacksonville. Skynyrd can wait until round 2.
- Miami – Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The Dolphins need a QB, but they won’t be in a position to take one if Tannehill goes earlier. (Brandon Weeden at #8 would be laughed out of the building. Then again, it’s the Dolphins.) So they go for the pass rusher instead and roll the dice in Round 2 on one of the many QBs available.
Alternate – Tannehill. It’s unlikely that he gets past #8, whether by trade or by the Dolphins making a big reach.
Song: Same problems as with Tampa, except here my local choices are terrible rappers. (Flo Rida, Trick Daddy, etc.) I’ll go with the NFL’s choice of the theme from “Miami Vice.”
- Carolina – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
I was very surprised to see Cam Newton do as well as he did as a rookie. (But I thought the same about Vince Young. I was proven right later.) Give them a stud DT and they’re on their way back to contention.
Alternate – Coples. The Panthers tend to go BPA otherwise. He likely would be.
Song: I guess more southern rock here. Charlie Daniels, serve one up!
- Buffalo – Stephen Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
One of the few teams I watched this year were the Gamecocks, and Gilmore was one of the best players I saw. Give him a great front seven (like the Bills should have) and he’ll be very good.
Alternate – Malcolm Floyd. They need a WR badly. But do they want to have another head case WR to pair with Stevie Johnson?
Song: Just because “Buffalo Soldier” has the city’s name in the title doesn’t make it a good choice to play. How about Rush? The Bills’ll be in Toronto in a few years anyway.
- Kansas City – David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
It’s very rare to see a true guard go this high. Then again, there aren’t many guards like DeCastro available every year. Guard, center, and safety are usually the safest positions to draft, but they never go high. That should be changing soon.
Alternate – Richardson. The Chiefs aren’t shy about taking RBs early, and Jamaal Charles will never be the same after tearing his ACL.
Song: Going very old school for some Count Basie.
- NY Jets (from Seattle) - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Normally I don’t predict trades. But I hear my Jets want Ingram badly, to the point of trading to #12 or even #10, and I really can’t figure out whom the Seahawks would want. I would adore this selection. We’ve needed a pass rush for years now but never drafted anyone.
Alternate – Mark Barron, if they stay at 16 and Ingram or Courtney Upshaw are gone. The Jets have absolutely no one to cover Gronk. Jim Leonhard’s very overrated thanks to his race, but he’s still good if healthy. I doubt he’ll be 100% ever.
Song: I’m giving the Jets hip-hop. The Giants, as befit their fan base, will get older stuff.
- Arizona – Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
If Reiff’s here he won’t get past the Cardinals. As he likely won’t be, I’ll just go with the next best player at the position. Yes, Adams smoked some pot. So does every college player. I don’t care one bit, stupid ESPN exposes notwithstanding.
Alternate – Richardson. Really, at this point if Richardson was still around some playoff team would trade up to get him. But the Cardinals could use somebody better than Beanie Wells. As my brother (and his fantasy team) would angrily concur.
Song: Alice Cooper sounds good.
- Dallas – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Simple value. The Cowboys make the flashy selection usually. They need an RB. They also need to get rid of Tony Romo, but that won’t happen.
Alternate – Mark Barron. They couldn’t go wrong with either one.
Song: It was recently written that more songs have been written about Texas than any other stateI despise country. At least what it’s called today. Luckily there’s enough music from the area to even it out. Like, say, SRV.
- Philadelphia – Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
I see Vernon Gholston written all over him. (Then again, it took Aaron Maybin a few years to figure things out.) Maybe the Dream Team won’t ruin Upshaw.
Alternate – Ingram, if he’s still around.
Song: Philly soul.
- Seattle (from NY Jets) - Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
The same general rule against drafting interior OL and safeties goes for inside linebackers, oddly enough. Patrick Willis went #11, yet he’s the best defensive player taken in 2007. The Seahawks need pass rush, but after trading down they miss out on the good rushers. Kuechly would be a decent consolation prize.
Alternate – Upshaw, if he’s around.
Song: Grunge is the obvious pick. But if I never hear “Smells Like Teen Spirit” again it’ll be too soon. Soundgarden’s just as good.
- Cincinnati (from Oakland) – Malcolm Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
I’ll discuss the Floyd selection when the Bengals make their next pick. It baffles me that Carson Palmer can net a draft pick, let alone a #1. Then I remember that the Raiders made the deal.
Alternate – Luke Kuechly. Don’t be surprised to see them move up to get him. Having an extra 1 gives them a lot of room to maneuver.
Song: Isley Brothers to start things off.
Oakland has no pick, but if they did… Gangsta rap seems the obvious choice (sorry Kreashawn, that doesn't include you, and it never will), but I’ll go with local band Testament and “Souls of Black.” Very apt for the Silver & Black,
- San Diego – Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Excellent value for a team that consistently drafts well. Yet the Chargers still employ Norm Turner. And that’s why A.J. Smith will forever be the Lord of No Rings.
Alternate – Mike Adams. Here would not be a reach.
Song: No Los Angeles team means their songs go here. Beach Boys, or any other Southern California pop.
- Chicago – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Bills apparently want either Coples or Floyd, but neither will be around. They go with the best available CB instead.
Alternate – Michael Brockers. I could put in “any DL” instead.
Song: Um… Chicago?
- Tennessee – Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
Brockers is probably a better player even being only a RS sophomore, but the Titans, like many teams, are enticed by Poe’s workout numbers. Plus he’s a local kid.
Alternate – Kirkpatrick.
Song: The King.
- Cincinnati – Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Covering this and Malcolm Floyd… the Bengals aren’t afraid to take headcases. Pacman, Chris Henry, Ahmad Brooks… If a guy has talent they take him. The same goes with the Steelers, Ravens, Jets, and a few other teams. Winning tends to solve most character issues.
Alternate – Kendall Wright. The Red Rifle needs more firepower.
Song: The O’Jays get the second pick. Plus Coors will be happy for some cross-promotion.
- Cleveland (from Atlanta) – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Falcons traded 5 picks for Julio Jones last year, including two #1s. Jones looks to be very good, and so does Phil Taylor, who the Browns took with their new pick. As before, it would not surprise me to see more playoff teams make this sort of deal.
Alternate – Brandon Weeden, if they don’t take Tannehill at #4. Weeden’s also a big reach (actually, all of the QBs outside of the first two are) but they really want a better QB than Colt McCoy.
Song: To switch things up, Bone Thugz.
The Falcons would get the Allman Brothers Band, rather than more terrible southern rap. I’d go with the studio version of “Whipping Post.” But all 22 minutes of the version off “At Fillmore East” deserve to be heard.
- Detroit – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Matthew Stafford threatens to become the new Chad Pennington in terms of injuries. It’s almost comical. Get him some protection.
Alternate – Either Kirkpatrick or Jenkins, both of whom could fall very far thanks to character concerns.
Song: Motown at first. In later rounds, Bob Seger or the MC5.
- Pittsburgh – Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Much like the Giants and pass rushers, the Steelers churn out linebackers continuously. When in doubt, predict them to take the best one available.
Alternate – Michael Brockers. Actually, add “defender” in place of “one.”
Song: “Renegade.” NOT “Black and Yellow.” Never that song, expressly written for the purpose of being played at Pittsburgh events. At least “Renegade” has some charm. All “Black and Yellow” does is just repeat the titular colors for 4 minutes.
- Denver – Michael Brockers, DT, Louisiana State
Mock drafters have been predicting a DL to the Broncos for months. If the team’s smart they stick with their plan. Tebow was a fluke occurrence. They’re not a good team.
Alternate – Stephen Hill. If he (or another WR) is the call, then Peyton has a hell of a lot of pull for a guy coming off of a broken neck.
Song: The Fray? No. I’ll just go with some Western music here.
- Houston – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Texans fans want another WR to pair with Andre Johnson. They don’t have many needs, surprisingly enough.
Alternate – Jonathan Martin, if he’s around. Remember when the Texans had the worst offensive line in NFL history? David Carr probably wouldn’t have been a great NFL QB (only Aaron Rodgers has been good coming out of Jeff Tedford’s system) but being hit on nearly every play killed him.
Song: More Texas blues.
- New England (from New Orleans) – Andre Branch, OLB, Clemson
The Patriots have to be thinking about the post-Brady era. They can’t win forever with such a terrible defense. (Though drawing the Giants both previous Bowls was some extreme bad luck.) Why not trade both #1s and steal Ingram or Coples? They’re both better pass rushers than Branch.
Alternate – Devon Still. They need DLs badly in any case. Still can move outside in the 3-4.
Song: Old, pre-80s Aerosmith.
As for the Saints, Fats Domino.
- Green Bay – Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
The Packers could go virtually anywhere here, as they’ve consistently done, and in all likelihood they’ll take best available. OL happens to also be a need position.
Alternate – The BPA, whomever that may be.
Song: No, not any of the stupid novelty songs that Cheeseheads write yearly. Violent Femmes instead.
- Baltimore – Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Another pick that seems blatantly obvious. The Ravens concentrate on the lines whenever possible. They also know that picking interior OL late in round 1 generally is a productive strategy.
Alternate – Kevin Zeitler, if Konz is gone. The next best OL.
Song: DMX. Has to be rap. I wanted to go with some songs from “The Wire.” But I’m probably the only guy with HBO that hasn’t seen the show.
- San Francisco – Rueben Randle, WR, Louisiana State
Tough to call for the 49ers. I’ve never liked Alex Smith, but he’s earned another shot and the alternatives aren’t great. I figure they’ll try to trade down. If not, Randle’s the best WR left, and they need some O.
Alternate – Peter Konz. He won’t escape round 1.
Song: Two schools of thought here. One would be the Dead. The other, far better one is Metallica.
- New England – Nick Perry, OLB, Southern California
Of course, the Patriots will probably just trade it for yet another future #1. Never gets old.
Song: Does it matter? This pick’s getting moved anyway.
- NY Giants – Cody Fleener, TE, Stanford
The Giants were extraordinarily lucky to even make the playoffs, let alone win the Bowl. They’re not a team that can really afford to take a luxury like Fleener. But does Jerry Reese know that?
Alternate – Peter Konz. The Giant fans I’ve befriended want him. A few years ago and they would have gotten him. Blame Nick Mangold.
Song: Bruce, as their fanbase is from Jersey. Unfortunately it’s going to be “Empire State of Mind” in real life. The same negatives go for that as with “Black and Yellow.” Belmont Park even tried making it the official song of the Belmont Stakes two years ago. Fan reaction was so negative that they had to stop after only a year.
Bruce sure knows how to close.
Having said all that, by the time this post is published, I will be waiting outside at 50th Street between 5th and 6th.
Wish me luck!