Monday Quarterback: Drafting Order

Quarterback Matt Barkley is hoping to catch on with the Philadelphia Eagles. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman
Quarterback Matt Barkley is hoping to catch on with the Philadelphia Eagles. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman

The 2013 NFL Draft has come and gone. All of the hoopla and hysteria surrounding the league’s next round of stars and sure-to-come busts has gone bye-bye. The media circus has left town.

The 20 million viewers that tuned in to watch the first round of the NFL Draft made for high-end drama and great theater. The pageantry has left the building. Play time is over. Now the real work begins.

The nitty-gritty details of making an NFL roster are now a dearth reality. Hype won’t protect you from getting busted in the mouth or embarrassingly getting your ankle broke on the football field. It’s time to put up or shut up. They say that loose lips sink ships.

So it is high tide time for quarterback Geno Smith, the New York Jets second round draft pick, to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Clearly humbled by the fact that he was not selected in the first round, Smith, picked in the second round, has to get over his little pity-parties and do what he do.

Forget about proving the critics wrong with reckless and immature tweets. Action speaks louder than words, Mr. Smith. The only things the people of New York care about are wins, touchdowns and going deep into the postseason. By making Smith the second signal-caller chosen in this year’s mediocre QB class, the Jets are telling Smith they expect him to make it happen.

The Jets aren’t looking for excuses anymore. With the blowout failure of the Mark Sanchez Project, the Jets are counting on Smith to be the answer to their quarterback situation for years to come. The fact that he will be right smack in the glare of the world’s media center is something not lost on Smith.

But cheers from Jets fans made Smith’s initiation process into the NFL a little easier to inhale.

“It was just a once-in-a-lifetime moment,” Smith said. “I can’t even explain it. I’ve done so many things in my life but I don’t think any of them amount to what I just experienced out there. I’m proud to be a Jet. You know, everything that I’ve been to up until this point is extremely-you know, I think is an extreme blessing for me and my family, because, you know, it only happens once.”

Once a year-from the first pick to Mr. Irrelevant-wide-eyed college student athletes take their first step into being grizzled professionals. Every year, experts predict winners and losers in the draft.  But the real winners and losers are really determined on the football field during training camp, not in the Green Room.

The annual NFL Draft is a show. Earning a paycheck and making a career in the league will come without the shadow of the media. Hitting the playbook, going through the arduous task of two-a-day practices during the sweltering heat in the summer is where dreams will either be affirmed or broken.

Setting it off on the football field and being studious in team meetings is where redemption can be found for the undrafted free agent or that fall-from-grace draft pick. This is where linebacker Manti Te’o, picked in the second round by the San Diego Chargers, finds himself.

After a tumultuous offseason, Te’o has a chance now to regain some traction of normalcy back in his life. The former Notre Dame star and Heisman Trophy runner-up, Te’o is probably more than a little eager to get back in football mode after a public relations nightmare involving a hoax played on him derailed his stock as a big-time player.

Caught in a web: Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has been publicly outed about a fake dead girlfriend. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman
Caught in a web: Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o has been publicly outed about a fake dead girlfriend. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman

Te’o was thought to be a sure-fire first round draft pick. However, the public embarrassment of being duped by a man pretending to be his dead girlfriend in a deceitful and fraudulent scheme, and the fallout from the aftermath, no doubt left question marks about Te’o.

It was widely predicted that either the Chicago Bears or Minnesota Vikings would probably select Te’o in the first round.  Both teams passed him up. The Chargers, looking to upgrade their tepid defensive unit from a year ago, snagged Te’o with their second pick in the draft.

“He’s a great kid, we did a lot of work on Te’o and I’ve seen him for a number of years,” said Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco. “He loves football. He’s passionate about it. He loves to practice. He loves to play. He’s a lot like (first-round pick) D.J. (Fluker) in that regard. He’ll bring that to us.”

Te’o, a consensus All-American in his final year as a collegiate star, is raring to go.

“It’s a perfect scenario being right here next to home,” Te’o said. “My parents can come watch. I can go home. It’s San Diego. We’re all excited. I can’t be any happier. I’m just looking forward to get (ting) up there and getting this whole thing started.”

Anticipation of the next step is something all draftees and rookie free agents are anxious to do. Former USC star quarterback Matt Barkley is definitely one of those guys.  Selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round, Barkley had his own question marks coming into the NFL Draft.

A not so good senior season, further complicated with a shoulder injury that required surgery, Barkley’s stock plummeted in a downward spiral. As history suggests, USC quarterbacks tend to play their pro careers at the NFL level as later round prospects instead of a first rounder.

So it is no surprise that Barkley wound up going later than some people expected, which gives new Eagles coach Chip Kelly an out should the ex-Trojan flameout.  As head coach, Kelly never won a national championship at Oregon. The football program is about to be hit with major NCAA sanctions because of alleged improprieties under his watch.

What this tells me is that Kelly is a dodger. That’s too bad, because his proposed high-octane offense will be able to run but won’t be able to hide from the sophisticated strategies and battering of NFL defenses, regardless of who is operating as his starting quarterback, Barkley included. The NFL is the great equalizer. Kelly and Barkley will both find this out soon enough.





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