Never in the history of sports journalism has a prediction been discredited so rapidly. Literally ten minutes after submitting my previous attempt of this article, where I declared that the St. Louis Rams would wise up and hold on to their No. 2 spot to select Robert Griffin III, it was announced that the Free Agency dictatorship known as the Washington Redskins fulfilled the decree many others figured would eventually happen. That is the NFL Draft in a nutshell. At least I remembered to write it in bold print.
2011 witnessed some bizarre developments through the first round, as well. Roger Goodell departed from Radio City Music Hall with a non-concussed head intact. The Atlanta Falcons surrendered five picks to move up to the No. 6 slot and claim Julio Jones, who did record 959 receiving yards during his rookie campaign while missing three games. Quarterbacks Jake Locker (Tennessee Titans), Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville Jaguars), and Christian Ponder (Minnesota Vikings) were all selected within the span of Picks 8-12...and in THAT order.
Did I envisage Locker being taken in the top 10? Yes I did, actually, but I had him going to Jacksonville. Did I believe Blaine Gabbert warranted his high-end draft hype? No I did not - I predicted a slide to the Seattle Seahawks at No. 25 - and after last season's performance, can you blame me? Fill out all the mocks you must, but due to the nature of unprecedented trades (as we have just witnessed) and the unpublicized preferences of each individual franchise, the NFL Draft is impossible to prophesy. The only guarantee of 2012 is that the Colts will choose Andrew Luck...or will they...
Here's to hoping that the Italian Trojan is either inhumanely intuitive or 100% inaccurate from this point forward, with 10 more bold predictions that will have people laughing at me within a month's time:
1. The Commissioner will be booed...again.
Last season, it was because of the Lockout. Whether fans have since found evidence incriminating Goodell in the case of Bounty Gate, they still strongly disapprove of his proposed 18-game tour across Europe, or he walks across the stage modeling one of Chris Berman's ties and a smug expression fit for a stepdad, there will be a valid reason for the repeated hisses and jeers.
2. The Indianapolis Colts will keep us waiting longer than five seconds.
Jim Irsay and Chuck Pagano will be catching up with Peyton Manning via Skype without having realized that the Draft has started. Then they double-check to make sure they spelled Andrew Luck correctly. After almost drafting tight end Andrew Szczerba out of Penn State thanks to a typo, Indianapolis submits their sweated selection of the Stanford quarterback as time expires.
3. The Rams regret their decision.
They reverse the trade and even toss in Jason Brown and James Laurinaitis. Then the Redskins undo that
trade and in turn pay for the Rams' entire trip to London, including room and board. Mr. Griffin goes to Washington...
4. The Cleveland Browns reach for Ryan Tannehill at No. 4.
They regret not pursuing Manning harder. They despise the Redskins for stealing Griffin III from them. Their new in-house band "The Dawg Days of Summer, Fall, and Winter" is without a drummer. Instead of settling for another need, and despite an arsenal of nine draft picks to adjust their strategy for aspired value, the Browns hastily and desperately grab another quarterback-of-the-future that will pound their franchise further into the ground.
5. Chaos ensues.
Thanks a lot, Cleveland. Now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for some unfathomable reason, are inclined to seize Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon with the No. 5 pick. Within a matter of seconds, the Cincinnati Bengals have traded their two first-round selections to the Rams
and lock up LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, solidifying their secondary and propelling them closer to AFC North supremacy. Later on, the Rams suddenly change their mind about Bradford and use one of those acquired picks to take a risk on Arizona State project Brock Osweiler. Every viewer at home is fresh out of Pepto Bismol, but I insincerely reassure you that most of what's left of the first round is rather boring...
6. Mr. Oakland = Josh Robinson.
The honor of Mr. Oakland is awarded to the prospect who registers the fastest 40-time at the NFL Combine, and this year's victor is the cornerback from Central Florida, who posted an illusory 4.33. At the moment, the Raiders possess only two draft choices, respectively in the fifth and sixth rounds, and it would be a decent blind side to see the surging Robinson last that long - he additionally topped all defensive backs in the broad jump (133 inches) and vertical leap (38 inches), and his fluid quickness should transfer to the field along with his ability to play the ball in coverage. No matter, as Oakland will package those lonely picks and current Head Coach Dennis Allen to jump into the second round, for they would have swiftly scooped him up even if they still owned the No. 17 overall slot. They actually have been drafting smarter recently, but with the hole left by released Stan Routt and the escalating worth of Darius Heyward-Bey as an effective weapon in the offense, all signs indicate that the Raiders will revisit the glory of Al Davis, and Josh Robinson will someway somehow be a part of it.
7. The New England Patriots package a trade with Cleveland - and draft Trent Richardson.
It's about time that the Patriots make a necessarily big move in the Draft, and with two first-round picks of their own, Bill Belichick utilizes his former ties with the Browns charismatically to take advantage of the vulnerable mess that is Cleveland. While they would still be ignoring their abysmal defensive personnel, an underrated priority of this franchise in their quest to hoist the Lombardi trophy once again is to re-ignite that Corey Dillon-esque magic out of the backfield driven by a single workhorse. Richardson would be the steal of Day One in spite of his diminishing status.
8. The New York Giants will select an offensive lineman OR a linebacker with the 32nd pick.
It is a well-known fact that General Manager Jerry Reese notoriously covets the highest ranked player on his board regardless of position. Their last first-round offensive lineman was tackle Luke Petitgout in 1999, and they haven't selected a linebacker this early in 27 drafts (Carl Banks in 1984). It will be tempting to replenish their tight end corp or replace the freshly cut Brandon Jacobs (right on point), but chances are that this year will present the Giants with both value and need to conclude the round. Cordy Glenn, Zach Brown, Mike Adams - I honestly don't care, so long as they don't take defensive end Andre Branch out of Clemson.
9. Chris Owusu will be drafted in the fourth round.
It has been rumored that Stanford's talented wide receiver, kick returner, and potential impact player (in some facets reminiscent of Troy Brown) will go undrafted courtesy of his unfortunate history with concussions. The results of his medical evaluation constituted at the Combine remain eagerly awaited, but Owusu's top-five 40-time of 4.36 and overall impressive presence that week had to have captured the attention of several scouts. The bill of health will be passed, and Owusu will reunite with Andrew Luck as the 97th overall pick early on Day Three.
10. The last pick of the Draft = DaJohn Harris.
The former USC defensive tackle was recently diagnosed with PFO (patent foramen ovale), a condition where a small hole in your heart that is meant to close upon birth does not indeed close. A projected third-round selection otherwise, this prevented Harris from working out at the Combine, and teams will either overreact and cautiously avoid him, or frankly forget who he is. In the end, the Green Bay Packers could use all of the depth they can get across the line, and the USC Trojans will elevate the title of Mr. Irrelevant to brand new heights!
The Italian Trojan is off the clock.