Today is a great day to be a Jewish football fan.
On the very day we Hebrews celebrate the birth of Israel, a day to analyze the three days of the 2012 NFL Draft is also upon us. Israel and the NFL…my 2 favorite miracles of God.
Analysis of the draft will be later today as I fly from Minnesota to Los Angeles. Now it is time to march in an Israel pride parade in the Twin Cities.
Update: Now I am on the plane home, where I can offer some disjointed thoughts on both subjects. Before getting to the NFL Draft, the Jewish community in Minnesota is alive and well.
Although Minneapolis and St. Paul are adjoining cities, there is a rivalry between them. Minneapolis has about 40,000 Jews, with St. Paul kicking in 10,000 more. They often do events separately, but on this day celebrating Israel turning 64, they were united. A solidarity march was followed by several thousand people congregating at the Minneapolis Jewish Community Center.
I bought a t-shirt that would make Sarah Palin proud. It said “Jew Betcha,” in a mixture of English and Hebrew letters.
Some of the people in attendance were Democrats and some were Republicans. Some were Reform, some Conservative, and some Orthodox. Yet love of Israel united them all on this day. The Twin Cities Jewish community is thriving. May all cities across America show as much pride as they do.
Now on to football.
My coverage of the NFL Draft has been exceedingly light this year due to time and travel constraints. Also, the Raiders did not have a pick until the end of the 3rd round.
The Draft itself for those who did watch must have been thrilling. The first round saw a flurry of trades that left mock draft boards worthless after the first two picks. One reason for this was the new rookie wage scale. Before, when top picks would get 50 million dollars guaranteed, most teams would not want to trade up.
Now that number has dropped by almost 60%, making trades affordable.
My focus was on the Raiders. While we will not know the results for 3 to 5 years, the initial fan reaction was not so positive. The Raiders received a “C” grade. I think this is harsh. Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen are about defense, and the Raiders had so many holes on defense. Therefore, going almost exclusively on defense made perfect sense.
Of the two offensive picks, one was a tackle. One can never have enough beef on the offensive line.
The fact is with zero picks in the top 2 rounds, the Raiders were not going to get the very best of anything. Yet if these players work out in the trenches, the star players will have an easier time. A lack of flash and sexiness is not a curse. The wide receiver pick was an anti-Al Davis pick. Yet blinding speed does not mean a guy can catch the d@mn ball. So on that pick we shall see.
The major complaints for Raider fans should be in free agency.
Bringing in Quarterback Matt Leinart is a stunner. He started out his pro career by coming across as a bimbo more interested in being a celebrity than playing football. Then he kept getting injured. He has no arm strength, and has derisively been referred to as “Captain Check-Down” for his conservative dink and dunk dump off passes. Maybe he was brought in to carry Carson Palmer’s equipment.
A bigger surprise was bringing in a punter. While the selection does boom the ball 75 and even 80 yards, the Raiders already have Shane Lechler, the best punter in the NFL and perhaps greatest of all time not named Ray Guy. While competition is healthy, Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski should be left alone. Heck, Seabass kicked a 63 yarder last year to tie the NFL record.
As for the rest, one never knows. For every Peyton Manning there is a Ryan Leaf.
In less than 5 months, the NFL 2012 season kicks off and we will know a lot more. Some of the players the Raiders drafted will be on special teams. The opening kickoff will tell us a lot.
It cannot come soon enough.