Because nostalgia is fun and so is the pain of horribly failed decisions, over the next month we’re going to fire up the ol’ time machine and revisit drafts. Unofficially this great journey started Monday with a not-so distant trip to 2011, the year of the pass rusher.
At each stop we’ll remember the major storylines, the busts, the bargains, the trends, and some other things that start with “the”. Today, 2010 is under the microscope, and conveniently that’s a notorious draft year due to the presence of a righteous quarterback.
The BIG Story
Thankfully, the #TebowTime portion of our lives is long over. But if you can bear it, flash back in your mind to the spring of 2010. Suddenly you’re being bombarded with chatter of mechanics, a spread offense, accuracy, and if Tim Tebow truly has any hope whatsoever of succeeding in the NFL. That didn’t really die until late last August when Tebow was finally cut by the New England Patriots.
But before all that — the rise in 2011 when the fabrication of #TebowTime was created, the Peyton Manning signing, and the utter irrelevance in New York — Josh McDaniels had to become infatuated with Tebow. And oh did he ever, a love affair which started at the 2010 Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. It took all of 15 minutes during their interview for the Tebow light to fill McDaniels:
“We left (the combine) saying, ‘Boy, that’s pretty unique, what he has and his passion for this game and for winning.’ He’s been a winner, and you could see why”
A winner. A winner who wins, and he’s the winningest.
After often being projected as a mid-round pick or maybe a second rounder, McDaniels and then Broncos general manager Brian Xanders used the 25th overall pick to select a prospect whose primary problem was the throwing part of being a quarterback. They did that while earnestly seeking a long-term solution, and just a few years later John Elway promptly abandoned Tebow for Manning, who’s a short-term solution, though a rather effective one.
McDaniels didn’t even last long enough to see the fruits of his creation, getting canned in early December of 2010 after a 3-9 start. The following season John Fox and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy structured a system that maximized what Tebow could do (run), while extremely minimizing what he can’t do (pass…seriously there was one game when he attempted eight passes, but hey they won).
In fairness, 2010 was a pretty horrible year for quarterbacks. Possible bust Sam Bradford led the class as the first overall pick, and the next quarterback off the board following Tebow was Jimmy Clausen.
The Best Name
This almost went to Pat Angerer, because he has the NFL’s angriest name. But no, Zoltan Mesko deserves this prize, mostly because he’s highly skilled with a harpoon. He also likes dogs that fit into teacups.
Tebow actually wasn’t this draft’s worst bust. At least he hung around for a season or two and made a meaningful contribution. Rolando McClain, meanwhile, joined the esteemed ranks of Raiders busts while being selected with the eighth overall pick, 17 slots ahead of Tebow. When a top 10 pick isn’t on your roster three years later, that’s a significant failure.
The Tale of Tears
Jahvid Best gets the proverbial “oh what could have been” nod. Selected by the Detroit Lions with their 30th overall pick during a time when running backs still heard their names in the first round, Best had the sort of explosiveness through the hole that often had defenders chasing almost immediately. Sort of like this…
But sadly, that 88-yard run — which came during a 163-yard game in primetime — was the highlight of Best’s second-last career game. Best suffered a concussion the following week, his second of the 2011 season, and his third over a three-year period.
That was it: 255 carries over two seasons, and Best’s career was over. The NFL and “fair” don’t get along often.
The Most Disgusting Injury
Marc Mariani (seventh round, 222nd overall) is here to remind you kids that football is dangerous.
Just so, so many juicy basement prices that now melt your mind in hindsight.
- Greg Hardy (Panthers in the sixth round, 175th overall): Well into Day 3 the Panthers snatched a pass rusher who now has 25 sacks over just the past two seasons, and 33 overall.
- Kam Chancellor (Seahawks in the fifth round, 133rd overall): Just so Seahawks. Chancellor’s brutally physical presence established the Seahawks’ trademark imposing nature during their championship run, most notably when he laid out Julius Thomas early in the first quarter of the Super Bowl. Over the past two seasons he has 200 tackles while being effective both in coverage and against the run.
- Geno Atkins (Bengals in the fourth round, 120th overall): Well past the century mark in this draft Cincinnati was still able to select the league’s premier defensive tackle. Atkins had 12.5 sacks in 2012, and he had six over just nine games this past season with 20 tackles before tearing his ACL.
- Walter Thurmond III (Seahawks in the fourth round, 111th overall): Yawn, Seahawks.
- Alterraun Verner (Titans in the fourth round, 104th overall): The Titans couldn’t hold onto him in a free agent market this offseason that was handing all the dollars to DBs, but getting a corner this deep in Day 3 who has a season with 22 passes defensed (which tied Verner for the league lead this year) is some mighty fine work.
- Jimmy Graham (Saints in the third round, 95th overall): This could have been even more comical, as the only thing separating Graham from the fourth round in 2010 was three compensatory picks. What he’s done since at that nothing price over four seasons: 3,863 receiving yards (including two years with 1,200 or more), and 41 touchdowns. In 2013 his 16 touchdowns were the second most for any player, at any position.
- NaVorro Bowman (49ers in the third round, 91st overall): While the likes of Tony Moeaki and Armanti Edwards were coming off the board around him, the Niners sauntered up to select a middle linebacker who has 140 tackles in three straight seasons now.
- Rob Gronkowski (Patriots in the second round, 42nd): You could argue this isn’t much of a bargain because Gronkowski fell to the second round out of fear that he’d always be broken, fear that’s since been justified. I don’t really have a counter for that, other than to say if he can ever stay healthy over a reasonable stretch, the Pats purchased Gronk for an absurd price. The tight end has a +1,300 yard season, and two when he’s averaged over 80 yards per game.
- Dez Bryant (Cowboys in the first round, 24th overall): Bryant dropped due to the arbitrary character red flags planted on his head, and now a receiver who was selected one pick ahead of Tebow has 2,615 yards and 25 touchdowns since 2012.
The Jay Cutler Enemy
J’Marcus Webb (seventh round, 218th overall) is Jay Cutler’s enemy forever.
The Deep Regret
In 2010 the Patriots were aware that Aaron Hernandez could become a complete jerk, as he fell all the way to the fourth round due to concerns about his behavior at the University of Florida. But being a recluse and/or selfish is one matter, and Hernandez becoming a murderer — or at least an accused murderer for now — is an entirely different level of crazy the Patriots couldn’t be expected to predict.
The Expert Jumper
Joe Webb the quarterback was a failed misery. But Joe Webb the high jumper? That guy has a future.
The Expensive Guys Worth The Price
Great players require a great draft investment, and these guys were worth it…
- Ndamukong Suh (Lions, second overall)
- Eric Berry (Chiefs, fifth overall)
- Joe Haden (Browns, seventh overall)
- Earl Thomas (Seahawks, 14th overall)