With two days and three rounds of the NFL draft over, we offer our takeaways on what just happened — five to each guy. Here’s what we’ve learned:
- I don’t want to hear from Cincinnati owner Mike Brown on the Joe Mixon pick. I want to hear from his daughter, Katie Blackburn. She’s the team’s executive vice president who’s taking more of an active role running the club. And here’s what I want to know: How in the world can she sign off on the addition of a miscreant whose videotape of assaulting a woman is as bad … if not worse … as the Ray Rice video that drove Rice out of the league? Maybe the best running back in this draft, Mixon was off a lot of draft boards for obvious reasons. He was too much of a character risk, and cue that video. It’s horrifying, with Mixon knocking out a young woman with a single punch. I don’t care that she pushed him; I care that he responded by dropping her … then fled the scene. That should have gotten the attention of Blackburn, whom Sports Illustrated called “The NFL’s Most Powerful Woman Nobody Talks About.” Well, they will now. And what they should ask is how can a woman with her resume (Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School) approve of a player with Mixon’s violent history? Katie Blackburn, the floor is yours.
2. Former Dallas wide receiver Drew Pearson isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (and don’t ask me why), but he just made the Hall of Fame of draft presentations — nosing out former linebacker London Fletcher of Washington. Booed when he started to announce the Cowboy’s second-round draft pick, Pearson decided to toy with his audience and thanked Philly fans “for allowing me to have a career in the NFL.” Of course, that only made them boo more — which was the idea — and Pearson was off and running — pumping his fist and shouting, “THE FIVE-TIME DALLAS COWBOYS AND HALL-OF-FAME OWNER JERRY JONES, STEVE JONES AND THE JONES FAMILY, COACH JASON GARRETT AND ALL THE COWBOY PLAYERS THAT PLAYED BEFORE ME, PLAYED WITH ME AND PLAYED AFTER ME.” Drew, I don’t know if second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie makes it, but you just did. Now, that’s entertainment.
3. Washington, go to the head of the class. Few teams fared better the first two days. First, the Redskins stole Jonathan Allen at the 17th pick. Then, they added Allen’s teammate, linebacker Ryan Anderson, and UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau on Day Two — both of whom should bolster the league’s 28th-ranked defense. But that’s not all, Washington scored another bulls-eye when former GM – Hall-of-Fame hopeful Bobby Beathard — had grandson C.J. drafted by San Francisco in the third round.
4. Tom Coughlin’s in charge in Jacksonville, and the first two days are proof. The team’s head of football operations, Coughlin wants to take the heat off embattled quarterback Blake Bortles and why not? He makes way too many mistakes and bad decisions. With the Jaguars determined to stand by their man, Coughlin will try to protect him with a running game that was missing last year. Hey, it took Coughlin to two Super Bowls in New York (along, of course, with a terrific pass rush), so he figures that maybe, just maybe he can recreate the magic in Jacksonville … and he tried by opening this draft with running back Leonard Fournette and tackle Cam Robinson.
5. Mock didn’t hold up (surprise), but predictions of a run on defensive backs did. There were 29 taken in the first three rounds, including 19 in the first two.
- The second round has always been my favorite of the NFL draft o the sbecause, after the first round, teams stop making decisions based on the measurable and, instead, judge players on their tapes. So there are annually some real steals to be found in the second. Put Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham at 57 at the top of the list. Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie will be a really good fit at cornerback in Rod Marinelli’s defense in Dallas because of his physicality. He lasted until the 60th pick. Pass rusher DeMarcus Walker at 51 to Denver was another value pick.
2. All of Cleveland seemed to want the Browns to draft North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who is from Mentor, Ohio, and lists the Browns as his favorite team. But the Chicago Bears crushed those hopes when they traded up to the second overall pick to claim Trubisky after the Browns selected pass rusher Myles Garrett overall. But in the second round, the Browns found another Ohio native to become their quarterback of the future — Toledo’s (and Notre Dame’s) DeShone Kizer.
3. Two of the biggest surprises in the third round were cornerbacks Fabian Moreau of UCLA and Cordera Tankersley of Clemson. Moreau went to Washington at 81 and Tankersley to Miami at 97. Some teams had first-round grades on those two coverage players.
4. Ozzie Newsome is not only a Hall-of-Fame tight end; he’s a loyal alumnus of the University of Alabama. How loyal? As general manager of the Baltimore Ravens, he used half of his four picks in the first three rounds on Alabama players — cornerback Marlon Humphrey in the first and pass rusher Tim Williams in the third.
5. Two feel-good stories were running backs D’Onta Foreman of Texas and James Conner of Pitt. Foreman rushed for 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns last season at Texas and Conner 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns at Pitt. But they had sliding values in this draft. Those slides ended when local teams rose up to select them — with the Houston Texans claiming Foreman with the 89th pick and the Pittsburgh Steelers grabbing Conner at 105.
- Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien has had eight starting quarterbacks in three years and been forced into 14 quarterback changes. With a suffocating defense in place. O’Brien knows he Texans are a quarterback away from being an instant Super Bowl contender. So Houston sent its No. 1 pick next year to Cleveland to take Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Watson believes he’s the best QB in the draft, and he may be. Certainly, if you like winning, he is. He took Clemson to the national championship back-to-back vs. Alabama and played like a stud in both games. O’Brien hopes he’s the next Dak Prescott. Watson believes he’s the first Deshaun Watson will be good enough. If he isn’t, the Texans will again be held hostage to the most important position in the game … and the most dangerous on draft day.
- Al Davis may be gone, but the Raider Way remains. Earlier in the week, Oakland signed malcontent Beastmode running back Marshawn Lynch, who sat out last season after losing interest in football in Seattle, then picked up cornerback Gareon Conley despite allegations of sexual assault against him by a woman in Cleveland. Conley passed a lie detector test given by the Baltimore Ravens, but they still passed on him in favor of Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey. Conley said he’ll take a DNA test after the draft, and that apparently convinced the Raiders to gamble the way you do in Vegas, which is soon to be their home. Maybe they win this bet, but a lot of folks go bust in Vegas.
- If you don’t think it’s in the genes look at the first round. Two players, Jamal Adams and Marlon Humphrey, had fathers who were former No. 1 picks. Another, Stanford’s all-purpose back, Christian McCaffrey, had a father who was a star NFL wide receiver, a mother who was a soccer star at Stanford and a grandfather, Dave Sime, who was a silver medalist in the 1960 Olympics and once considered one of the world’s fastest humans.
- If there is one guy to root for it’s UCLA linebacker Takkarist McKinley, who carried his grandmother’s framed photo to the podium after being selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round. Abandoned by his parents, homeless for a time and a non-qualifier out of high school, he promised his grandmother on her death bed that he’d become a Division I player and be drafted into the NFL. When it came true, he carried with him a huge picture of her on to the stage. If you don’t root for that kid, you need a heart transplant.
- Of course the Cincinnati Bengals drafted knockout running back and knockout artist Joe Mixon. They’ve become the Boys Town of the NFL. Mixon may have been the best back in the draft, but after knocking out a woman as video cameras rolled in 2014, he was suspended by Oklahoma for a year and, despite two productive seasons, slid out of the first round. But not out of the Bengals’ sites. Cincinnati has become the home for wayward boys, and it seems as much a financial philosophy as a football one. Whether it’s signing Adam Jones or drafting troubled but gifted linebacker Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals have become the masters of obtaining high-end talent for discount prices because of “issues.” Of course, the presence of such players may be a part of the reason coach Marvin Lewis’ Bengals are 0-7 in the playoffs, too, but, heck, who’s counting? Not Joe Mixon.