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.
7. Seattle Seahawks. Philip Condit, CEO, Boeing. Put him on the field and let large, ill-tempered players hit him. Seattle fans would pay to see that!
8. Chicago Bears. Abby Cohen, media-darling investment banker, Goldman Sachs. If she's ever going to become a Bear, now seems like the time.
9. San Francisco 49ers. Anna Kournikova, St. Petersburg State University. The real goal of any NFL team is ticket sales, right? Plus in San Francisco, Anna would give the team a marketing boost with roughly half the female demographic.
10. Detroit Lions. (Projected trade with Atlanta; Lions send their No. 1 and No. 6 picks in 2001, plus No. 6 picks in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 to the Falcons for Atlanta's No. 1 obtained from Green Bay. League sources become concerned that the Falcons are stockpiling No. 6 picks.) Barry Sanders, RB, Oklahoma State. He's well-rested!
11. Carolina Panthers. Lt. Shane Osborn, U. S. Navy. Greatest pilot in years a natural for the first-in-flight state.
12. Kansas City Chiefs. Jean Carnahan, U.S. Senate. Chiefs remain obsessed with acquiring in-state talent. (CF Dick Vermeil, Trent Green, etc.)
13. Jacksonville Jaguars. This Florida team sends up a selection marked Travis Henry, RB, Tennessee. But the league insists Jax has actually chosen Leonard Davis, OT, Texas.
14. Buffalo Bills. Bruce Smith, Washington Redskins. Wow, if the Bills ever got hold of a player like this, they'd never let him go.
15. Chesapeake Watershed Region Indigenous Persons. (Formerly Washington Redskins.) Marc Rich, financier, Switzerland. Having him around would make Dan Snyder seem a nice guy by comparison.
16. Washington Wizards. Shane Battier, forward, Duke. Whizzie GM Michael Jordan is being widely praised for the recent trade in which the team exchanged its only desirable player, Juwan Howard, for a group of journeymen whom Jordan plans to waive as soon as the season ends. The point of this, Jordan explained, was to get Howard's enormous guaranteed contract off the team's salary cap in exchange for players with expiring contracts who could be waived, thus freeing up salary cap space to sign someone good like—well, like Juwan Howard. Think about what Jordan is saying: The trade is a success because we gave up something of value and in return got absolutely nothing. But then in Washington's last two big trades, the team exchanged young all-stars Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace for aging journeymen with huge guaranteed contracts. So in previous deals the Wizards gave up value and got back liabilities, whereas in the Howard trade they gave up value and got back nothing. Since nothing is better than a liability, this really is a step forward! (Note: Only in Washington, D.C., does this kind of thing pass as reasoning. See this "Sports Nut" for more on the trade.)
17. Republican National Committee. Nancy Thurmond, South Carolina Bio-Technology Association. She could step in for Strom and play as a rookie.
18. Baltimore Ravens. (Projected trade with Atlanta; Ravens send No. 1 and No. 7 picks in 2001 plus No. 7 choices in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008 to Falcons for the Lions' No. 1 plus the right to swap No. 4 picks in 2017. Justice Department begins investigation of Atlanta's attempt to exert monopoly power on late rounds of draft.) Osama Bin Laden, National Islamic Front, Sudan. Bin Laden would be a nice fit for the Ravens' program and could provide leadership for younger players such as Ray Lewis.
19. New Jersey Jets. Cindy Crawford, Ford Agency. Draftniks at the Garden howl. They wanted the team go to with a younger, faster babe, such as Jessica Alba.
20. Saint Louis Rams. Zorgon Prime, shape-shifter, Aldebaran A&M. With a first-round exit last season, the Rams obviously need more space aliens to complement Kurt Warner.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This Florida team attempts to draft WR Cedrick Wilson of Tennessee, but the league insists it has picked DT Shaun Rogers of Texas.
22. Slate. Stephen King, Maine. Could be sign of planned switch to an all-type offense.
23. New Orleans Saints. Alex Rodriguez, Texas Rangers. If Ricky Williams really is going to jump to baseball, the Saints shouldn't take this sitting down. Note: Supposing Williams does leave the Saints, then a total of four high No. 1 draft picks, a high No. 2, two No. 3s, and many lower picks were expended on trades for the Williams/Ryan Leaf bust tandem. Ye gods.
24. Los Angeles Clippers. It makes absolutely no difference whom the Clippers draft, and it never will.
25. Philadelphia Eagles. John DiIulio, Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Eagles will adopt faith-based game plans and win legal permission to discriminate against homosexuals in huddle.
26. Minnesota Vikings. Jesse Ventura and all players, coaches, announcers, and cheerleaders from the XFL. One of the aforementioned was a true professional. Can you guess which?
27. Miami Dolphins. This Florida team fills out a confusing draft card for LB Eric Westmoreland of Tennessee, but the Supreme Court rules it really chose S Greg Brown of Texas.
28. Oakland Raiders. Mike Tyson, Montgomery County Correctional Facility. Yet another Raiders rehab project.
29. Tennessee Flaming Thumbtacks. Hillary Clinton, U.S. Senate. Wasn't Al Gore going to "go home and mend some fences"? So what's he doing in New York City? Bet he doesn't even know which city the Tennessee franchise plays in.
30. New Jersey Giants. Frustrated that Kournikova and Crawford are already off the board, the Giants "reach" and select Jennifer Lopez, to more boos from Garden draftniks. They know Lopez is already washed up—this year's Oscar dress was borderline tasteful.
31. Atlanta Falcons (from Baltimore). Dominic Raiola, C, Nebraska. Actual possible pick thrown in for variety.
Mel Kiper Watch: Readers should check out Slate's recent piece on this king of the draftniks. The article, by Bryan Curtis, was totally unfair since it labored under the assumption that people take Kiper seriously! There, Mel—now you can say, "Slate admits its article about me was 'totally unfair.' "
To appreciate Kiper's true nuttiness, bear in mind that he has already published no fewer than five mock drafts, with at least one more expected, and all the mock drafts have different players going to different teams. In his dueling projections, Kiper has Carolina taking Leonard Davis, or Steve Hutchinson, or Michael Bennett, or Dan Morgan, or trading up for LaDainian Tomlinson. He's got New England taking Todd Heap, or Kenyatta Walker, or Deuce McAllister, or Koren Robinson. He's got Kansas City taking Richard Seymour, or Fred Smoot, or Nate Clements, or McAllister. He's got Heap going as high as sixth and as low as 28th, with several other possibilities in between. He's got Bennett going as high as eighth or falling out of the first round completely, with other possibilities in between. He's got Bennett, an RB, going 17 picks ahead of fellow RB Tomlinson or 15 picks behind him, with other possibilities in between. It's a veritable festival of wild guesses! So far, Kiper has offered 155 possible selections for the 31 picks of the first round, and more Kiper guesses are due before the draft. By sheer random chance, one of these many manifold mock drafts will have some correct match between team and player, and Kiper will then claim to have "predicted" what happened.
Midway Point Warning: The draft marks the midpoint in that cold, empty period known as the NFL offseason. Ye gods, can we really be halfway back to the resumption of this ritualized nonsense? Waitress, I need a blueberry-almond martini quick!