LITTLE ROCK — Assuming the selection of another 120-plus players was completed late Saturday night, the end of the NFL draft is to be celebrated.
No more teasing mock drafts, revealing mock drafts and updating mock drafts. No more trade rumors. No more day and night appearances by ESPN’s draft insiders Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr, who have logged more face time than Robert Sterling’s self-proclaimed “silly rabbit.”
And, at the top of the thank goodness list, no more conjecture about when Johnny Manziel will be selected. Not that it means a thing, but I happen to be one of those who believes Manziel will have a spotty career — highlights that underscore his uncanny sixth sense and an equal number of plays where he fails to put sufficient zip on a deep-out pattern or lacks the discipline to go through his reads.
That said, I thought my cue to bail had occurred about an hour into the telecast of the first round when Cleveland traded up to get the No. 8 pick and ESPN’s crew confidently informed its audience that the Browns would address problems at quarterback by picking Manziel.
Dadgum Browns. Dadgum ESPN.
The NFL commissioner’s announcement of cornerback Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State was not the first or last oops.
Best I can tell from the experts, Gilbert is not a good tackler, No. 9 pick Anthony Barr of UCLA lacks linebacker instincts, and No. 10 selection Eric Ebron is a wide receiver who lined up at tight end for North Carolina.
Until Cleveland chose Manziel with the 22nd selection, Jon Gruden — the sure-to-be next coach at Arkansas, Texas, Ohio State, Tennessee, Miami, and others — argued Manziel would be a star in the NFL because he burned Alabama two consecutive years. Conveniently, he ignored the fact Texas A&M’s offense was not the only hurry-up to bedevil the Crimson Tide defense, which is at its best when there is time to adjust at the line of scrimmage.
Although neither was picked during the first three rounds and proving this theory will take three years minimum, among SEC quarterbacks, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron and Georgia’s Aaron Murray would be the personal choice ahead of Manziel for long-term success in the NFL. Arguably the SEC quarterback with the most upside, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger removed himself from consideration when he reportedly failed a drug test.
ESPN’s telecast attracted almost 10 million viewers and I wondered how many others grabbed the remote after Manziel was selected almost three hours into the production.
For somebody who has not had a season-long rooting interest in a particular team since Jim Brown retired from the Cleveland Browns, sitting through three days of name calling is unappealing. The Thursday night production resembled the Academy Awards show sans humor from the host, in-house pizza delivery and A-List selfies. Instead of acceptance speeches, there were hugs between the draftee and the commissioner.
Manziel was the magnet for staying tuned. Besides, I am caught up on “The “Blacklist” — Berlin is on his way to take down Reddington — and “Crisis” — will FBI agent Dunn ever free her kidnapped daughter who is being raised by Dunn’s sister?
Although Manziel must have been frustrated by the long wait to hear his name, he was very good in the brief Q-and-A, saying the right things about competing with Brian Hoyer and naming the various people he had dealt with in the Browns’ organization.
A laugh-out-loud moment occurred after the teams that supposedly needed a quarterback had passed on Manziel and it became clear that Dallas, at No. 16, was going to get an opportunity to select the former Heisman Trophy winner.
On site in Dallas, Ed Werder assured us that the Cowboys’ hierarchy had convinced owner-GM Jerry Jones that defense was the way to go. On set, they teased Manziel, but agreed that defense was the priority
The Cowboys chose offensive lineman Zack Martin.
Harry King is a sports columnist. His email isHLeonK42@gmail.com.