It’s been a little more than a month since the Super Bowl and withdrawal is beginning to set in for fans of the National Concussion League. No punt, pass and kick contests. No collisions. It is a bleak time in the land of blocks and tackles.
Not to worry. This week, the league’s official 2018 calendar celebrates the first day of the new season. Strange, but then so is a sport when players try to knock each other silly and then celebrate the achievement.
We’ve just had the annual prospect combine, a kind of rookie meat market where the next community of players is poked and prodded, measured for the madness of the Concussion League. That was a week’s worth of fixes for fans. But it was just a warmup. Still ahead are free agent signings, mini-camps and off-season workouts. And of course, the main event – next month’s draft.
Nothing excites fans like this grab bag of talent, an opportunity for teams to restock their rosters with fresh blood. There is intrigue right up until the moment when Commissioner Roger Goodell, with appropriate solemnness in his voice, announces each team’s selection.
Much of the suspense this year surrounds quarterbacks. There are some appealing ones out there. Wyoming’s Josh Allen wowed scouts at the Combine. Sam Darnold of USC and Josh Rosen of UCLA carry can’t-miss credentials. Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma won the Heisman Trophy.
Prefer a tried and true pick from free agency? How about Kirk Cousins? Maybe Sam Bradford. Or AJ McCarron, or Case Keenum. Perhaps Teddy Bridgewater.
Faced with all these options and armed with the No. 1 draft choice, the Cleveland Browns chose a different route, trading with Buffalo for Tyrod Taylor, who took the Bills to the playoffs last season. That means the Browns are probably locked in at No. 1 on stud running back Saquon Barkley of Penn State. It also means they turned their backs on McCarron. They had a trade with Cincinnati for him last October but failed to file the necessary paperwork in time, nullifying the deal. This may explain why the team has won one game in the last two seasons.
So if the Browns have decided not to use No. 1 for a quarterback, that leaves the New York Giants with an interesting dilemma. If they want a quarterback as Eli Manning’s successor, they get to choose from the list of glitzy names — Rosen of UCLA and Darnold of USC, Mayfield of Oklahoma, Allen of Wyoming. Or they could be satisfied with Davis Webb, who was drafted in the third round a year ago as the potential heir apparent to Manning and use No. 2 to address other needs.
Indianapolis is sitting at No. 3, wondering if Andrew Luck will be healthy. He has missed 26 games over the last three seasons with shoulder problems. If they want QB insurance, the Colts could go after whichever California quarterback the Giants leave on the board.
Cleveland, with another pick at No. 4, is not standing pat after the 0-16 season and could still draft a quarterback in case Taylor doesn’t deliver. In addition to Taylor, new general manager John Dorsey traded for wide receiver Jarvis Landry, a three-time Pro Bowl choice, and cornerback Demarious Randall.
Denver is next at No. 5. Ever since Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos have been shopping for a quarterback and if front office boss John Elway is willing to spend the money, Cousins might be a fit. That’s unless the New York Jets, equipped with a league-leading $92 million in salary cap space, make a serious run at Cousins after wasting the last three seasons with retreads Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown at quarterback. Or one of the fancy high profile rookies might be there for them.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.