Until yesterday, there had only been a low buzz heading into this week’s NFL Draft. While the lockout was ongoing, it seemed to be less of a deafening buzz leading into the draft than a low rumble. Sure, all the hype was ongoing-the obsessing with who would go where, which quarterback would be taken first, etc. But it didn’t quite seem the same. Amazing, even as the draft is now a three-day affair, with the first round coming on at Deion Sanders’ favorite time: prime time. Last year, the draft seemed to swallow almost everything in its path; this year, it’s still something of a big deal, but seemingly lessened by the lockout.
And even as news of Judge Susan Nelson’s ruling in favor of NFL players broke out, there doesn’t seem to be a ramping up of excitement heading into Thursday night. For one thing, the owners are expected to ask for an immediate stay of the ruling, which would in effect extend the lockout. The owners have already filed an appeal to the ruling, meaning that this dispute is only really beginning to heat up in the courtroom. If the immediate stay is not granted, then supposedly it could only be a matter of time before a new football year would begin, allowing for free agent signings and trades of players.
The inability to make trades of current NFL players is one reason why the upcoming draft would have been weakened. By taking one of the more inviting options teams have to build their rosters, it wouldn’t feel like a complete draft. Player movement, such as it is, would be restricted to draft picks. Which sounds great, if you have a few extra picks you wish to move to get the player you want. Wheeling and dealing will still be a part of the draft, but more likely not as big of a deal as in other years. However, if the lockout is declared to be officially over, one could assume that the draft will look much like it has in previous years, but may seem more chaotic because of the lack of time teams will have to make decisions regarding trades.
Which brings us to the Ravens. The general consensus seems to be that the Ravens need the following: a cornerback, a pass rusher, a wide receiver that can stretch the field, and an offensive tackle. If there were no lockout, perhaps one or two of those needs might have been filled via free agency or trade. Now we will have to wait and see if Ozzie Newsome and the braintrust will try to take care of those needs through the draft. Peter King of Sports Illustrated, in his mock draft has the Ravens getting their cornerback in Jimmy Smith, though he comes with some off-the-field baggage. There have also been rumblings that the Ravens will take Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith somewhere later in the draft as the speed receiver they have wanting to get. If the Ravens do draft a wideout, one could surmise that the Donte Stallworth experiment was a failure. Though in my opinion, it was a failure because he was used as the designated end around runner, and almost never as a deep threat. And it certainly couldn’t hurt to get someone to rush the passer to give Terrell Suggs some additonal help. Suggs had an amazing year last year; imagine what he could do if he wasn’t the only threat coming off the line. Getting another offensive tackle would allow Marshal Yanda to play guard, his natural position.
Of course, if the lockout remains lifted and the new year rules are in place, maybe the draft becomes the large scale spectacle again.