The Man-Cave is going all sporty, and few sports are as show biz as the NFL.
If there's one thing for sure about American football, it's that the NFL runs its sport as if it were a performance art. Everything is drama, everything is slickly produced and everything is high budget, and last night’s draft was no different.
So what is draft day? Imagine it akin to Transfer Deadline Day in the Premier League, but there are guaranteed to be moves. It’s as if someone gave the controls to Jim White and said ‘do what you want, mate’, but by heck is it exciting.
The draft is always surrounded by months of speculation and a media frenzy, as everyone tries to guess exactly what the outcome will be, and who ends up where. In case you’re not familiar with the format, the 32 teams in the NFL each get to pick a player coming out of college and it goes in order, starting with the team that has the worst record picking first, down to the eventual Super Bowl champions who get pick number 32. It then goes back to the start, and they begin another round.
The big names in this year’s draft were Johnny Manziel, a gloriously arrogant man-boy of a quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater (also a QB), Blake Bortles (again, a QB) and defensive end Jadaveon Clowney. Clowney will be best remembered for this vicious hit which made him an internet star and a top pick at the draft.
He did end up going number one overall, however the big surprises were the other big names. Blake Bortles was the first quarterback taken off the board to Jacksonville, and being from Florida that makes some sense for him, but it was still a bit of a surprise as few had him that high up (he was the third pick). Johnny Manziel plummeted down the board and away from the teams that were expected to take him, including the Dallas Cowboys, and he ended up going to Cleveland, whose record at picking QBs in the first round in the last few years leaves a lot to be desired.
Why was this big news? Well all the teams who desperately need a quarterback decided to pass on him, which is not a very good sign, before Cleveland traded up (exchanged players/picks with another team) to get higher up the board and take him. That sent Twitter into a meltdown, and at one stage last night, 5% of all tweets sent in the United States contained the word Manziel. He didn’t seem too thrilled, but it looks like the folks in Cleveland are happy, if this brilliant headline is anything to go by:
Johnny Manziel learning he is a Cleveland Brown is what pure joy looks like. pic.twitter.com/0HgvyDXPsF
— SB Nation (@SBNation) May 9, 2014
Teddy Bridgewater sneaked in late in the first round to end up going to Minnesota, a team that is also desperately short of real talent at the QB position, and although he had a big reputation, people were unsure whether he would go last night or today, but the Vikings took a punt on him being worth a first-round pick.
The Cowboys passing on Johnny Manziel and taking a tackle instead, Zack Martin, was not as surprising, but fans had certainly gotten themselves in a tizzy by the time they got on the board and had been thinking that Johnny, a Texas boy through and through, would be the perfect pick and make the organisation a shed-load of money in merchandising. They went for a less risky and better pick for the good of the team, which could mark a slight departure for the Cowboys, who normally do things big, a Texan trait. As an example, take their stadium: it cost $1 billion and it had the largest high-definition screen in the world hanging from the roof, until it was surpassed by the one at the Texas Motor Speedway.
Other surprise picks were the Bills giving up a lot to take wide-receiver Sammy Watkins (although they clearly feel they need to give their talented QB some support), while the San Francisco 49ers took Jimmie Ward, a safety. No team yet has chosen Michael Sam, who would become the first openly gay athlete in the NFL, which would be a watershed moment for the sport and could well happen today in the later rounds.
You can keep up to date with all the comings and goings and all the rest of the picks over on the NFL’s page, as we move in to day two. Now, there are only four more months until the season starts. At least we’ve got the World Cup to look forward to.