As NFL Draft Day approaches and mock drafts flood the Web, consider: This year the second pick overall is worth less than the fifth pick. Only in America!
Everybody has Michael Vick going to the Lightning Bolts with the first pick. Arizona holds the second selection, and there's no consensus No. 2 collegian. The Cardinals have been trying desperately to trade down—they'd like to drop from second to about fifth, where they figure the pickings are just as good, and gain other selections in the process. But no teams seem eager to move up to second because everyone knows the fifth pick is just as good while less likely to generate fan outrage if he goes bust. (Any team that blows the second pick in the draft will be roasted for it, whereas no one will remember whom the fifth pick was.) More important, the upper picks will command far larger signing bonuses than those who go in the middle of the first round, but they won't necessarily be any better as players. Thus the higher you draft this year, the worse the damage to your salary cap: Trading down is very attractive financially, the reason numerous clubs (Arizona, Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Washington) have said they're trying to do so. If Arizona could trade the No. 2 selection straight up for the fifth or sixth choice—getting nothing extra in exchange—the team would do so in a heartbeat. But chances are the Cardinals couldn't land such a deal.
Ah, now we remember the delightful absurdities that make us miss the NFL so much!
And speaking of mock drafts, how come none of them actually mock the draft? Tuesday Morning Quarterback will go where others fear to tread with its First Annual Mocking Draft.
1. San Diego Chargers. John Elway, QB, Stanford. Even at age 40, Elway's better than anybody in this draft, plus you wouldn't have to give him a cap-killing long-term contract. Ominous note on Michael Vick: This gentleman completed just 177 passes at the collegiate level, versus 1,003 completions for Drew Brees. Because Vick threw so little, he didn't have the chance to expose his weaknesses, which somehow makes him more desirable. If the first pick, Vick is expected to command a $15 million bonus. That's $84,746 per college completion!
2.Arizona (CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN FOOTBALL-LIKE SUBSTANCE) Cardinals. Monty Beisel, DE, Kansas State. The Cardinals have been embarrassed by recent high picks who generated high expectations (Andre Wadsworth, Thomas Jones, etc.), so why not select a low-rated unknown? A low-rated unknown can't possibly be a bust since no one would expect anything of him. Also, he might sign for less.
3. Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0). Michael Jordan, North Carolina. He's got the itch again, but he's tried baseball, and the NBA at this point is beneath him. Line him up at any position, and see what happens. The Browns couldn't get any worse.
4. Cincinnati Bengals. Jiang Zemin, president, Persons' Republic of China. Sure he's overaged and a little undersized at 4 feet 11 inches, but he won't back down and has an explosive first step, as they know in Taiwan.
5. Green Bay Packers. (Projected trade with Falcons; Packers send their No. 1, No. 3, and No. 6 picks in 2001 plus their No. 2 pick in 2002, No. 4 pick in 2003, and choice of No. 5 in 2004 or No. 6 in 2003 to Atlanta for Falcons' No. 1, No. 3, and No. 5 picks in 2001 plus their No. 3 pick in 2002, No. 6 pick in 2003 and choice of No. 4 pick in 2004 or No. 5 pick in 2003. Also, teams agree to exchange Christmas cards.) Al Gore, associate visiting lecturer, Columbia University. Put him on the field and have him start talking; strong men will flee in terror.
6. New England Patriots. Doug Flutie, QB, Boston College. It's never too late to right a wrong.