Fast Friday 5: A dramatic idea for the 2020 NFL Draft

Andy Hart
March 27, 2020 - 7:04 am

Five fun Friday mini-columns from the world of (mostly) Boston sports for the price of one free click!

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Given that it’s pretty much the one and only event left on the professional sports calendar, there has been a lot of talk about the 2020 NFL Draft of late.

As of now, the Draft is scheduled to go on as planned, April 23-25, although all of the previously scheduled fan activities in Las Vegas have been canceled.

NFL GMs have apparently pressured the league to delay the event. They’re somehow claiming a lack of preparedness.

Get over it, all 32 teams are in the same coronavirus-driven boat. It may not be ideal, but nothing is in this weird new world we are living in. Shut up and make picks. Plus, now teams have a baked-in excuse for the busts that are sure to come, as they do every Draft. Listen closely, and you can hear the whining about a lack of pro days, missing medical re-checks and no face-to-face visits in the facility. Cry me a river.

Rather than pushing the Draft back, there is an opportunity to make it bigger, better and more dramatic than ever in this sports vacuum that has may son forcing me to watch old SlamBall games from SpikeTV on YouTube.

What’s the most exciting, interesting part and intriguing part of the NFL Draft?

The top five or 10 picks of course.

Unlike everything else in the entertainment world, the best part of the NFL Draft comes in the beginning of the event.

It’s like having the Super Bowl on the first weekend of the playoffs and building toward Wild Card games. It’d be similar to the headline singer opening the big concert while the up-and-coming band sends you home. It’s Mike Tyson or Jon Jones fighting at 7:30, right when the pay-per-view comes on the air.

It makes no sense.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In this unique year, with teams drafting behind closed doors and no Commissioner handshake in a crowd-filled room, this made-for-TV event is ripe to be flipped on its head.

Now, the first pick announced on TV to open the Draft should be No. 32 not No. 1. Then the picks, excitement and drama would build toward the top five and eventually No. 1 overall pick.

It would be TV sports heaven in this time when fans need entertainment, excitement and an escape more than ever.

Think of the racing of our collective minds when the No. 23 pick is on the clock and instead of the Patriots it’s the…Browns.

Did Bill Belichick trade up? Did he trade out of the round? Stay tuned!

Or when a supposed high-end prospect like, say, receiver CeeDee Lamb goes at No. 29 and people are wondering how it all played out for him to slip that far.

Or when the first round reaches the top five selections and Justin Herbert’s name has yet to be called. Did he rise into the top five or slip out of the opening night all together?

All it takes to make this happen is all 32 teams – who are going to be picking from satellite locations via various technologies anyway – to play out the first round in advance. They would submit their picks in order from 1-32 in traditional fashion in secrecy. No players or agents would be notified. And teams could be threatened with fines or lost later-round picks if the information gets out before the Draft is played out on TV.

Think about it, it’s TV sports gold!

It’s a different, unique way to watch a draft that makes it even more exciting at a time when we could all use something new, creative and fun in our lives.

Make it happen NFL.

The first round of the NFL Draft on April 23. Picks 32 down to 1.

Make it happen NFL, you know you want to.


Tanks for nothing?

Tom Brady took his talents to Tampa Bay.

As of now, that leaves the Patriots with a quarterback competition for the first time since 1992, which just so happens to be the last season in which New England played poorly enough to earn the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

Drew Bledsoe brought immediate stability and star power to the Patriots, as well as a trip to the Super Bowl.

Tom Brady took the torch from there, building the greatest dynasty in NFL history with six Lombardi Trophies.

Nearly three decades of success – free of questions at the quarterback position – built on the foundation of a 2-14 team that earned the No. 1 pick and right to select Bledsoe.

Now, maybe some people think that 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham is the next big thing in Foxborough. And maybe he is.

But there has to also be at least a hint of consideration – especially given New England’s precarious salary cap situation that includes the third-most dead money in the NFL thanks to Tom Brady and Antonio Brown – that 2020 may need to be a reset year both in terms of accounting and on-field results.

Michael Lombardi -- former Patriots assistant to the coaching staff, long time respected Bill Belichick pal and father of current New England assistant quarterbacks coach Mick Lombardi – made it clear last week via Twitter that he doesn’t think there is any chance of the 11-time defending AFC East champs tanking this coming fall for a theoretical chance at another franchise QB.

But why shouldn’t that be a consideration? Pride? Ego?

There is a better chance that Stidham falls on his face as an NFL starter than there is that he’s a franchise QB. That’s just reality.

If losing this season, the first year after Brady, set the Patriots up to get a shot at Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State rising star Justin Fields, shouldn’t that be pondered?

After all, doesn’t Belichick always do what’s in the best interests of the football team, both short and long term?

If he dismisses tanking out of hand, without even a consideration, then is he really doing what’s in the best interest of his team?

Just asking!


Rivers of love

Brady wasn’t the only franchise mainstay quarterback to switch teams this offseason. While Philip Rivers is still chasing the kind of Super Bowl glory that Brady has achieved practically annually, the former Chargers leader certainly brings a new face to the Colts franchise that’s looking to rebound from Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement last summer.

Rivers has had a very nice career in San Diego/L.A. He’s going to get support as a would-be Hall of Famer when he calls it a career.

And while he’s a fiery force on the field, he clearly connected with so many teammates over the years, something former Chargers offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger noted on Twitter.

Interestingly, Ohrnberger was a fourth-round interior offensive line pick by the Patriots out of Penn State in 2009, spending three seasons in New England from 2009-11, in which he played five games with no starts. Ohrnberger went on to start eight of the 21 games he played for the Chargers.

That Ohrbberger spent three years sharing a locker room with Brady and still calls Rivers his “favorite teammate” tells you just what kind of guy the Colts are getting to take over the quarterback job this fall in Indy.


The Ghost and Adam Vinatieri

The Patriots moved on from a franchise great last week when New England cut veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowski after 14 seasons in Foxborough.

Gostkowski, who finished last season in IR after hip surgery after struggling through four games, is the Patriots all-time leading scorer. The former fourth-round pick out of Memphis achieved All-Pro status and helped New England win three Super Bowls and advance to three others in his career.

Yet Gostkowski never seemed to be fully embraced by Patriot Nation or get the respect he probably deserved.

Why? Simple, he wasn’t Adam Vinatieri.

Gostkowski was drafted to replace not only the greatest kicker in Patriots history, but maybe in NFL history.

He had to fill the kicking shoes of a living legend after Vinatieri left for the Colts via free agency.

Gostkowski could never measure up, whether it be in reality or legend, even when he did his job about as well as any kicker in the game for an extended period of time.

Belichick acknowledged the shoes Gostkowski had to fill and the job he did filling them, from day one.

“He succeeded the most accomplished kicker in NFL history,” Belichick said in a statement. “For some, this may have been too difficult a challenge. But from his rookie year, Stephen exuded a maturity and confidence that demonstrated he was up to the task. He made several crucial kicks his rookie year and established a top level of performance and consistency for years and years to come. Stephen is a great teammate who made outstanding contributions over a decade of championship football."

Yes, yes he did.

There is no shame in Gostkowski not being Vinatieri, much the way there is no shame in Bledsoe not quite being Brady. Both are still very much Patriots franchise legends in their own right.


At home working out

There are plenty of challenges on the home front for all of us these days in this coronavirus-controlled world.

Working from home with kids around all day is a…let’s be kind and call it a challenge.

Trying to stay healthy and work out from home is even more difficult as we all search for ways to get a sweat with gyms shut down and while keeping our social distance.

Professional athletes, including Patriots veteran safety Devin McCourty are no different. The recently re-signed New England captain is using a similar technology-driven approach to stay in shape that so many other Americans are utilizing these days.

“It’s been something that has been, I would say, a work in progress. Fortunately enough, I ordered a Peloton in the beginning of February,” McCourty said this week on a conference call with local media. “I had thought about it for a while and I ordered it, and that’s been key for me just to being able to, no matter the weather, jump on that. Other than that, it’s been FaceTiming my trainer and trying to do workouts that way, him letting me know some things I could get in the house and figure it out. I think the good thing is everyone has that same mentality, players trying to figure out how they can get workouts in, trainers walking around their house and figuring out things that guys can do and then passing it along. Everyone’s kind of going through the same thing and trying to figure that out, but it’s definitely challenging.”

McCourty understands, though, that there are a lot greater challenges going on in the world. That’s why he even acknowledges that despite being a ways off on the calendar NFL training camps and even the season aren’t clear from the possibility of being affected by the coronavirus.

“Just how everything’s going,” McCourty says, focusing on more important things, “it feels like everything is on the table. Training camp could start on time or it could be delayed, it seems like everything – it just seems like that’s like, I don’t want to say the last thing you worry about, but I feel like it’s kind of down on the things of importance, just because everything that’s going on right now, because of the health of people and just seeing different stories come out every day. It just feels like this season’s kind of on the back burner with just trying to make sure everybody stays safe.”

We're all in this together.

Related: How can we be mad if Tom Brady isn’t?