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The 2005 NFL Draft - by Zennie Abraham

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Thanks to Frank Supovitz, SVP of Special Events for the NFL, Greg Aiello, Vice President of Public Relations of the National Football League, and Leslie Hammond, VP of Media Relations for the NFL, I was able to cover the 2005 NFL Draft. Here's my account - Zennie Abraham, Chairman and CEO, Sports Business Simulations.

The 2005 NFL Draft - Part 6

The J-E-T-S Jets Fans

The Draft Day is long. As I write this, it's now 8:29 PM on Saturday, and the majority of the press corps has departed. The stands to the left, right, and behind me are half empty; that they're only that is a example to the dedication of fans who attend this event. Some of those fans -- well, it seems to be most of them from a noise perspective -- are J-E-T-S Jets diehards. This spunky group cheered and commented on every team selection -- they also scream "We love you Suzy Kolber" in response to the ESPN personality's appearance on the main stage -- but were logically most concerned with their own team's decisions.
The Jets Fans Perform On Cue

L-E-G-S Legs!

Yelling for the Jets to select Clemson's speedy cornerback Justin Miller, the Jets contingent was humorously disappointed by the team's choice of a kicker, Ohio State Punter Mike Nugent. This disconnect between the Jets fans and team management led one member of the "Back of The Pack" club representing Draft.Com to yell "L-E-G-S Legs" at the Jets fans.

Finally the Jets supporters were rewarded when, with the 57th Pick, the team did select the surprisingly still available Miller. The Jets rabid backers erupted with the now familiar letter-based cheer. Apparently, the Jets brass listened to their fans.

I left the Javitz convention Center at about 10:30 PM. As I did, I passed the Chronicle's Miller and said "I'm heading out." Miller, striding back to his seat in the press area, said "Must be nice."

Maurice Clarett Gets Picked by Denver

It turns out I left before the real blockbuster news of the day occured -- later at just after 11 PM. Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett, who dared challenge and lost to a system that blocked freshman college players, was picked in the Third Round by The Denver Broncos. This was a total surprise to many, but I thought it was a smart move by the Broncos and for an unconventional reason: the guy will sell tickets.

Look, Maurice Clarett's been on television so many times, he actually can claim to draw ratings higher than a tennis match featuring Anna Kornikova. This should gain the attention of even the most jaded of sports marketers. The first preseason game Clarrett plays will be a television event -- it may even sellout because the sports media will point to it as a "must see" game. If the Broncos are clever, they will tell his story on their website and draw more traffic because of the content. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Oh, yes, I do think Maurice Clarett will do well to the tune of about 700 yards rushing for the season, should he stay healhty. Not a bad start. (An update on Clarrett - After being drafted by the Broncos, he didn't make the team, being cut after Training Camp on August of 2005. His agents worked to get him signed by another NFL team, but as they were doing that, he was reported -- but not yet convicted -- of robbing a couple at gun point. For more information, see the SBS NFL Business Blog

(Breaking News: Maurice Clarett Arrested Again, see Maurice Clarett is a Tragedy

NFL Draft Day Two

I arrived at 9:37 am, and must to my surprise, there was still a crowd of fans for Day Two. Not as large a crowd, but a nice sized group at any rate. Used to the facility's layout, I walked passed them, through the main doors, and down to the ballroom.

Sunday was a much quieter experience and a welcome change from the organized chaos of Draft Day One. What does remain is the constant play of music from NFL Films -- "march" music that sets the tone for the Draft. It's to the point that I hum some of the tunes as I work.

The small number of fans here -- I estimate about 330 people -- have been grouped into a tight formation of seats close together for ESPN's live telecast. The ESPN stage is still there, only today the television team's different. Gone are Chris Berman and Tory Holt. Replacing them are the very popular Suzy Kolber and Sean Salisbury. But Chris Mortensen and ESPN's Draft Day star Mel Kiper remain.
Mel Kiper On The Morning of Draft Day Two

ESPN's Mel Kiper

I had the opportunity to speak with Kiper for a moment. He informed me that ESPN "takes care of providing the research staff for me. I don't have to worry about that stuff." So ESPN's constructed a kind of infrastructure around him. What's interesting to me is -- of all the Draftniks in New York and the country -- how ESPN came to invest in Kiper. I mean I know there's an official story. But I wondered what the "unofficial" story was? For the answer, I turned to Bill Chachkes.

Bill explained that Kiper was hired by ESPN in the 80s, and essentially emerged as the best candidate of three NFL Draft experts: Dave "TE" Thomas ("TE" because he played tight end in college), the late and legendary Joel Buschbaum, and Kiper. Of the three, Kiper was the most "telegenic" as Chachkes put it. Buschbaum could have had the job, but the kind of personality required for TV wasn't his. Thomas -- again according to Chachkes -- was also well known, but not the most popular person. From ESPN's point of view, Kiper was the best investment.

But my intepretation of Chachkes explanstion is this is a New York Story. All three "Draftniks" -- Kiper, Thomas, and Buschbaum -- are New Yorkers. ESPN's origins are in New York, and their current headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut are essentially just a freeway drive from Manhattan. Moreover, the NFL's headquarters are in New York. And one must consider that the Internet was in no way a central part of our lives as it is today. Now, one can live in San Francisco and still work for a New York based firm. Not then. So, rather than reach for an expert in another part of the country, the local supply proved to be just fine. And Kiper was picked from that group.
NFL.Com's Gil Brandt

The Famous Gil Brandt

Another Draft expert here is NFL.Com's Gil Brandt. Yes, famous. As personel director for the Dallas Cowboys during the "America's Team" years, Gil created much of the scouting process and evaluation techniques that are used by pro teams today. He's the first to insert computers and psychological evaluations into the overall activities of gathering information about potential draft choices. Thus, it's no surprise that the first thing Brandt showed me after exchanging greetings was a matrix comparing Colts Defensive End Dwight Freeney with Georgia and now Cincinnati Bengals DE David Pollack, where height, weight, span, 40-times, "cone-times" and other physical measures were listed. The two players were remarkably similar, except in the cone drill, where Freeney was better by about 3-tenths of second. That can be the difference between a defensive end tacking a running back or missing the tackle.

Another Falling QB: Adrian McPherson

Today's falling QB story in these halls is that of Adrian McPherson. Like Rodgers, he was projected as one of the top quarterbacks in this draft. And like Rodgers, he's falling far below the place -- in this case the second round -- where many thought he would be drafted.

McPherson's now-well-told-gambling problem has undoubtedly jinxed his chanced of being drafted in the top four rounds -- as I write this, we're three-fourths of the way through the Fourth Round of the Draft -- but in many people believe he's by far the best QB still available. A poll of ESPN website visitors revealed that 72 percent saw McPherson as the best passer still available. But down he goes, as teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers pass him for linebackers like Brady Poppinga out of Brigham Young and Virginia running back Alvin Pearman. In fact, he's dropped all the way to the Fifth Round so far, and the Niners passed on him with the first pick in this round, taking Ronald Fields, a defensive tackle from Mississippi State.

And he's still falling. The Niners, Chiefs, Bears, and Bucs have picked someone else. So considering that he was projected as a Second Round pick, McPherson's officially freefalling. Just how far down he will go is anyone's guess, especially since Dan Orlowski was just taken as the 145th pick by Detroit. Then, just as I let the ink dry on that last sentence, New Orleans drafted him with the 152nd pick. A steal in the view of some.

And here's another quarterback who's stock has fallen. I'll give you a hint: he was the NCAA's 2004 passing leader. Give up? It's Hawaii's Timmy Chang. This Run-and-Shoot quarterback is still undrafted. Why? The reasons vary from arm strength to height. However, he was a four-year starter for the Rainbow Warriors and rewrote NCAA, WAC, and school records. But with all of that, Chang has company: Oklahoma Sooners Quarterback Jason White.

White, the Heisman Trophy Winner of two years ago, wasn't even a mention among the top quarterbacks in this draft. He, like Chang and a set of other notables is on his way toward Free Agency.

In the case of Chang and White -- unlike McPherson -- poor Indianapolis Combine and post-season College All Star Game performances were the reasons given for their fall. Speaking of Chang, DJ Doyer of Draft.Com reported that he didn't play very well in the Senior Bowl because he was slow to pick up the standard pro offense that was used.

Chang stared in a "Run-and-Shoot" system employed by the Rainbow Warriors.

But what, then, was the reason for White's fall? Some player development observers have noted that White's success was more a function of the Sooners overall talent than White's individual skill. So, stripped of his protective skeleton of great players and coaching staff, he was left to swim in the waters of the NFL combine and didn't. He sank... more..

NFL Draft Part One | NFL Draft Part Two | NFL Draft Part Three | NFL Draft Part Four | NFL Draft Part Five | NFL Draft Part Six | NFL Draft Part Seven

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