NFL 2008 Draft Recap

For the sake of ethics, in case some of you would prefer to stop reading my column within the first couple lines as you usually do, let me make one thing crystal clear. This 2008 NFL Draft Recap will not be a review of all 32 teams and picks. That is what espn.com, nfl.com, and other such websites are for. This is a recap of my draft experience from a fan’s perspective.

As an NFL junkie, I have been to one Super Bowl (the most recent one in Phoenix, a thriller for the ages), the Hall of Fame Game in Canton Ohio, and the Pro Bowl in Hawaii in 2006 and 2007 (had to skip this one since the Super Bowl was expensive). I went to the NFL Draft in 2006. While I had a fabulous time, I really do not know anything about college football. The NFL is my passion. I read the USA Today Draft reports and try to learn. The only reason I went back in 2007 was because the Oakland Raiders had the top pick. I went again this year because the Raiders had the # 4 pick.

So why would a guy who does not know college football go to the Draft? Because there are plenty of NFL stars there, and I like meeting them. Plus, many of them autograph my football.

As crazy as this sounds, I root for the players that autograph stuff to have good careers. Some players choose to be nice about it, others forget that we fans are what pay their salaries.

Jim Cramer of “Mad Money” was there, and he graciously signed my football. What was funny was that he was sitting in the front row, and was asked to give up his seat so that the VIPs could sit down. Perhaps he got an even better seat, but it looked like he was simply asked to get up. I told him that I liked his prior show with Larry Kudlow, although in all honesty that was because of Kudlow. However, I was sincere when I told him I enjoyed his appearances on Celebrity Apprentice.

Various analysts from ESPN and the NFL Network were also happy to oblige regarding autographs. Gil Brandt, John Clayton, Mike Mayock, and Mike Tirico were friendly, as was former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski and former 49ers guard Randy Cross, both current analysts.

Current announcer and former Lions and 49ers coach Steve Mariucci was nice as well. I told him that after one game, I developed a high respect for him as a person. The Lions trailed the Vikings 28-21, when they scored a touchdown with seconds left. Then the long snapper misfired and the extra point never got kicked, as the Lions lost 28-27. Many coaches would have reamed a guy for blowing a game like that, but Mariucci was consoling the guy on the sideline, and he went to bat for him afterwards. I let Coach Mariucci know I found that classy, and he thanked me for my comments.

Jimmy Giles is working with the Buccaneers, and we both found it amusing that the Bcs drafted a guy named Dexter Jackson. In the Superbowl where the Bucs throttled the Raiders after the 2002 season, te MVP of the game was Dexter Jackson. So now they have another one. I told Mr. Giles that the Raiders could use some help on the offensive line, but he laughed and said he was done.

Legendary Raider Willie Brown autographed my ball. He was nice, and was surprised when I told him that I had met him previously, and felt that I owed him an apology. When he asked why, I told him that I met him in a club in Hawaii after the Pro Bowl, and asked him to autograph my ball while he was relaxing in the club. I let him know that I learned from that experience, and that it is one thing to ask for autographs at the Draft, but not when a guy is trying to relax during his private time. He was appreciative, and let me know that he hoped others would understand that as well.

Usually the only time to try and get autographs with announcers is when they take bathroom breaks. However, given that they go hours without breaks, I ask them if they will autograph my ball on the way back from their break, so it is less disruptive. Former 49 quarterback Steve Young and uber-announcer Chris Berman took their break simultaneously. They both promised to come back, and they did, but given how many people want autographs, it was not possible to get them both. The guy next to me went for Steve Young, which is fine because the one guy I really feel sheepish around is Chris Berman.

I have met Berman a few times, and had my picture taken with him at the Pro Bowl when he liked my sign paying homage to NFL Primetime. This time I just told him something heartfelt. I stated to him that in the days after 9/11, his showing of the Giants-Chiefs highlights were very meaningful and important to me. He seemed extremel grateful, and asked me what my name was. I told him, and again thanked him for those highlights during a low moment in history.

One man who is very genuine is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He autographed my ball last year, and was very good with the fans. Unlike his predecessor Paul Tagliabue, who moved quickly, Mr. Goodell, only starting his second year on the job, interacts very well with the fans. I told him last year that I love football, and was concerned the game was being tarnished by bad off field behavior. I told him I was glad he was cracking down, no matter how big the star. He said that he loves the game as well, which is why he is doing so. This year he autographed my ball again, and I told him that I admired the fact that a year earlier he spent 10 minutes with a fan in a wheelchair. I told him it was very classy, especially since the cameras were off. He told me that he much prefers it when the cameras are off. He is simply a nice guy, and a fabulous leader of the sport as well.

As for the new players, most of them are ordered not to give autographs. The worry is people will sell the autographs, which ruins it for true fans like me.

This year almost all of the top players wanted to sign stuff, and their handlers refused to allow it. Many of the players defied their handlers quickly when they were not looking, which meant only a couple people got autographs. One player deliberately signed stuff for the fans of the team that drafted him, openly ignoring the handlers.

Every year there is one or two star players that sign everything. Last year it was running back Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. His relatives made it clear that he was a nice boy, and that people were to let them know if he did not sign stuff. He signed everything in sight, and seemed happy to do it.

This year, Vernon Gholston of the New York Jets, the 6th pick, signed a ton of stuff. His father was with him, and made sure he did. I thanked his father, and told him that he was a true gentleman.

Two people that do not autograph stuff are Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk. Faulk has walked by me several times, and deliberately looks the other way. He does this with all the fans. Thankfully most of the players do not fall in this category.

As for the fans, most of the peoplein the crowd were fans of the Jets and Giants. The Patriots and Cowboys were booed the loudest, and even the 1-15 Dolphins were booed. One fan had a sign that read “The Jets Draft Blunders End Today.” The word “blunders” was in bold.

I could have sworn the Lions fans were yelling “Liar Felon,” but they were actually yelling “Fire Millen,” a reference to beleagured team President Matt Millen.

The Raiders had so many needs to fill, and running back was not one of them. Yet Al Davis loves flashy picks. He went with running back Darren McFadden. I met McFadden’s cousin, and even she could not get him to autograph someething although it was clear he wanted to do it. She gave me her contact information, and said she will try and let me know the details about minicamp. I wanted the Raiders to draft Chris Long, because is father Howie Long is a Raider legend. I would have been happy had we traded down fr additional picks as well, since Oakland has no second or third round picks. In all fairness, giving up the second round pick for Falcons cornerback Deangelo Hall is an excellent move. As for McFadden, this was clearly a case of taking a potential superstar over a need pick, which is fine. Between him and Jamarcus Russell, the building blocks are there.

Another Raider I met was Jerry Davis, the brother of the owner of the Raiders, Al Davis. Al Davis does not go to the draft for health reasons. He uses a walker to get around. Jerry Davis told me that he (Jerry) does not sign stuff because he never played for the team, so he thinks it’s a waste. However, when I told him I was a Jewish guy from Brooklyn and a member of the Raider Nation, he asked for my business card. He told me to write my home address on the card so that he could have his brother send me something. I am not holding out much hope on that one, especially since he is probably beyond busy. I did tell him that Al Davis is one of my heroes, and that I wished good health for him.

The second day of the NFL Draft is Sunday, but I have never attended the second day, and have no reason to this year. After the first round, I get bored. Besides, all the autographs are done, and my ball is full.

It was an enjoyable experience, and the 2008 season starts Thursday, September 4th, with the Oakland Raiders hosting the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football on September 8th.

I am so ready for some football.

eric

5 Responses to “NFL 2008 Draft Recap”

  1. chris naron says:

    I consider drafting a back like McFadden to be a defensive pick. Nothing helps the defense more than a back who can control the game. While Fargas and Jordan are good, they are only good at taking what they’re given. Having had to watch McFadden run on my college team’s (MSU Bulldogs) very good defense, I know he’s a back who can take what he’s given and take a lot more. You’ll be amazed at how much better the defense looks when they come on the field after a fifteen play drive.

  2. And McFadden fits with Davis in more ways than just his trophy value. McFaddens personal story fits as well. Davis has been able to work wonders with players with difficult pasts over the years. And I agree with Chris, a big powerful runner can help your defense, but also he can bruise up opposing defenses. I like the pick. Granted, I was surprised Davis didn’t go with beefing up the lines on both sides of the ball. I kinds feel sorry fo McFadden in a way – he’s going to take a lot of punishment if Davis doesn’t get the OL on track for the running game.

    Oaklands other picks are mixed. Where’s the safety they need? Where the DL picks? I don’t get it.

    I love the Jets 1st pick – hated the second. Between free agency, trades and the draft, we finally have a functional 3-4. I only wish Mangini had waited to implement the 3-4 until AFTER he had the talent to pull it off. He had the perfect 4-3 roster but tried to force the 3-4 anyway. I didn’t like that. And the stats show I was right. But then, when am I ever wrong? LOL! 😉

    As for the TE pick, the Jets are obivously, once again, getting cheap with their most dependable, durable, and loyal players. Last year we lost our best OL man, this year the Jets are driving out our best TE, Chris Baker – and for what? A rookie and Bubba Franks who at thirty is already slowing down. I don’t get this either. I hope they make peace with Baker and keep all three. With our QBs we need all the TEs we can get!

    JMJ

  3. Chicago Ray says:

    Football is always good in my world, and it sounds like ‘yer having a great time at the draft and I’m sure it is a great place to meet a lot of players and the likes in a different kind of environment than usual.

    Have fun….

  4. Joshua Godinez says:

    I love football. My wife hates it. I miss football. I’m not a real fan. I just like watching the games. I’m ADD concerning sports. I can root for a city, but I don’ t have the attention span to know who is playing what or any kind of history.

    You’re right about autographs being sold, obviously. I saw first hand at the Harry Potter premier when a few girls from my daughter’s Girl Scout troop went. There were many fans there, but we could see the professionals with their stacks of photos pushing the pix over the heads of the kids to get sigs. Rupert Grint caught them at it and just shook his head at them.

    I’m glad you were able to get a piece of personal history. Fans having fun makes me happy. Now I just need to get famous.

  5. parrothead says:

    I need to correct your final comment. “with the Raiders LOSING to the Broncos on Monday Night”

    I just have to point out that USC (the one that counts in Southern California not South Carolina) had two players drafted in the top 10, and four in the first round (no other team had more than two players drafted in the first round) and 10 over all.

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