Draft on Draught (Do You Feel That Draft?)

Draft on Draught (Do You Feel That Draft?)

Photo Credit: AP

Seemingly the moment I turned 18, I received a letter in the mail from the Selective Service. I was compelled, by law, to inscribe myself into serving the United States government, should such wartime or emergency warrant a presidential decree. This is a far cry from the annual NFL draft, where the best eligible football players are pooled to latch on with a professional franchise.

These figurative warriors aren’t exactly signing their name in blood, but continuing a playing career at the highest level of competition is as lucrative as it is fleeting. The average NFL playing career spans only two and a half years. Even if an athlete is drafted and makes at or around a million dollars per year, that is hardly life-changing money for someone in their early-20s, even if it seems that way to them at the time. This is also in lockstep tandem with the inherent risk of a myriad of potentially-debilitating injuries. Concussions leading to CTE, catastrophic ligament tears or bone fractures, and chronic arthritis can all manifest from an early-life devotion to a collision sport. The mega stars of the NFL are vaulted in front of the camera to flaunt the riches of the Shield, while the real gladiators toil in the trenches they dug themselves for pennies on the proverbial dollar.

When you tune into the three-day spectacle that is the NFL Draft this coming week, take note of how happiness and relief are equally painted across the faces of the players who are selected and their loved ones. They made it. It took years of sacrifice and bodily abuse to reach a payday. Some are going to lose their composure and cry, like DK Metcalf. He should be an indication of how difficult a climb it is to reach the pinnacle. DK is the son of an NFL player and still needed to overcome a mountain of hardship and scrutiny to work his way to the league. When he cried, I cried. His tears and shaky voice on the phone with Seahawks brass were as genuine as it gets. Nothing beats the feeling of an emotional weight lifted.

Photo Credit: ESPN

I’ll be glued to my sofa all three days. Yes, I love seeing the reactions from all seven rounds. I live for the back stories. It’s a soap opera for football fans. I get invested in dozens of players from tracking them through college and studying their tape to prepare for the next fantasy season. I love football, they love football, and the draft is both the beginning and the end of the story. It is downright fun to mute the TV to “cut off” Mel Kiper Jr or Todd McShay to offer my dissenting opinion and exclaim how much smarter than them I think I am. There will be times when I applaud a great pick and then choke on my popcorn laughing when a team inevitably soils themselves in their own stupidity (unless it was my Cowboys).

The NFL Draft is must-see entertainment for a person like me. Call us what you want, but there exists a horde of nerds who will be catching the same high in unison. It signals the end of talking season and the beginning of “landing spot season.” As we near the end of a global pandemic, I hope that we can laugh, cry, and argue like it’s 2019 again, with high fives, chest bumps, and bear hugs, while wearing faded, over-washed jerseys that only appear shrunk. Here’s to this being the last draft where we don’t have a buddy’s draught glass to clink in acknowledgement of a player or beer well-picked. Cheers!

A Sorry System: An Op-Ed Look at Football’s Race Problem

A Sorry System: An Op-Ed Look at Football’s Race Problem

Photo by Bleacher Report

I am an apologist; we all are. If I burn my signature dish and order takeout (happens more than you think), I try to justify the cost of restaurant food as “a nice change of pace” or “supporting the struggling service industry during a pandemic.” I’m not saying these things facetiously; they are honest sentiments, but I am using them to mask my brooding frustration with myself for ruining the original plan.

In order to maintain an even keel or status quo, a decision is made to make an excuse or give reason to something that is occurring that will cause a shift in the comfortable norm. This is an innate survival trait for most people, but to some, their mere awareness of a constantly shifting fulcrum is used actionably to counterbalance the narrative. This, in turn, can alter the perception of negativity by that person or a group of people. What the hell does that mean? Basically, a person in a position of influence can manipulate a situation to suit their (or their company’s) best interest, especially if the norm is shifting away from favorability.

The franchise owners in the National Football League are billionaires. Without throwing down the obvious race ace in their hand, the influence of these individuals and groups that own NFL teams is immense. Many of them also own good portions of the major city they call home. Everyone knowing your name and business in a small town is small potatoes, compared to that extrapolated over a metropolis with hundreds of thousands to millions of residents. We, as normal non-billionaires, would surely opt-out of the seedy and shady underbelly of that world. Here is where race comes in: that world runs on a system. That system hums along like a diesel generator that gets daily maintenance from a team of expert mechanics. The mechanics have lived by the adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” for centuries. It now translates to “Any change is a threat.”

I make excuses all the time for my Dallas Cowboys. My fandom has been torn down and rebuilt with masking tape and Popsicle sticks repeatedly for the last 25 years, each time seemingly with less care and skill than the last. Jerry Jones is known for a lot of things, but I will highlight his propensity to “give second chances.” Jones also holds the gavel over certain ownership privileges when it comes to collective bargaining, almost as a pseudo-commissioner. Jerry operates on both ends of the conversation masterfully and seems impervious to the backlash from either side. Jerry Jones is the face of the system and thus knows how to work it in his favor. He wields as much power as an owner as anyone, but seems to always endear himself with black players who might have otherwise been victimized by a system that is designed to mercilessly cull athletes with “question marks” or “character concerns.”

The system is inarguably racist. Fortunately, for many NFL teams, change has been embraced in the name of progress and improvement. In a league whose employees are 75 percent people of color, we are seeing the gears of progress slowly churn in the right direction. However, every 10 years we are reminded of the distance still to go when the owners and NFL Player Association union negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement. Negotiations between white billionaires and mostly black millionaires are an almost-perfect microcosm of race relations in the United States. Racial innuendos have even been uttered to the press by NFL brass. The same old inflammatory rhetoric to dehumanize and delegitimize minority groups even trickles down to the NFL draft process, mostly at the quarterback position.

Dak Prescott was an exemplary college quarterback and was obviously raised to be a fine young man, who carries himself with integrity and class. Prescott also has developed into a Pro-Bowl caliber player and ultimately earned a large contract extension. He is, however, far from the only example of a black quarterback whose draft stock (and earning power) was deflated immensely between taking his final snap at Mississippi State and his name being called in the fourth round in 2016. There was no evidence on tape to suggest he couldn’t read defenses, make quick decisions, throw accurately into tight windows, or grasp a pro-style offense operating under center. Each of these scarlet letters floated in from the ether, via anonymous scouts or attention-seeking “draft analysts.” Any and all micro-aggressions that can be applied to a black quarterback were predictably clamped to Dak in 2016, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in 2017, Lamar Jackson in 2018, Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins in 2019, and Jalen Hurts and Jordan Love in 2020. Kyler Murray’s selection by Arizona at number one overall was the only example of these listed quarterbacks whose rookie signing bonus was not adversely affected by the rhetoric surrounding him as a prospect. This has been shown to be mostly due to the chasm of talent between him and the rest of that quarterback class. He also fit into new coach Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense like a glove. The extreme example of my point is the case of Lamar Jackson, who despite posting prolific passing numbers at Louisville, was pressured to change positions to “better utilize his skillset (athleticism).”

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With time, the universe is expanding and horizons are broadening. Offensive coaching gurus are all the rage. They are adapting schemes around their talent, instead of vice-versa. Quarterbacks with the ability to run the football, regardless of race, are cherished like never before for their propensity to stress the defense and extend plays beyond the pocket. The days of labeling just the white quarterbacks as “cerebral” or “a field general” are dwindling. There will come a time in the near future when the rumors will stop swirling around only black quarterbacks about work ethic, study habits, and effort. Eventually, the men who run the system will stop apologizing, making excuses, or outright ignoring deficiencies and character flaws in white quarterbacks, while illuminating lesser blemishes elsewhere. Someday, football will look back and feel sorry for the missed opportunities to be better…earlier. It took a Brian Billick to trust Randall Cunningham, Dick Vermeil to empower Mike Vick, and Andy Reid to elevate Donovan McNabb and then Mahomes for the football world to change perspective. Hopefully, tomorrow brings permanence to the steps we are taking right now.

Illegal Use of Hands to the Face

Illegal Use of Hands to the Face

Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Pretty sure we can all agree that we’ve been trapped inside for far too long due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Normal activities like shopping, watching movies, attending sporting events, and going to concerts have all been altered, put on hold, or just flat canceled, like the “Fyre Festival” but worse. Most agree that the general publics’ assimilation back into society is going to be bumpy at times given the year we’ve all just spent in our own “Fortress of Solitudes.” Habits like wearing only sweatpants, binge-watching Netflix to start the day, clandestinely filling our coffee mugs with wine to get us through yet another Zoom meeting aren’t going to be the new normal, because we are going to have to go back to the old normal. You know like bars. Remember bars? Bars are great, right?

Now imagine you are finally able to go out with your friends to a bar. The weather is perfect, it’s been a great night of drinks, food, music, that girl you were flirting with (insert Wolf of Wall Street GIF HERE) and sure, you’re tipsy, it’s pushing 3 AM and now you’re even stumbling through the bar, man, just like old times, life is good….and then…oops…you accidentally bump into someone. No biggie. What’s the worst that could happen. Just a bump. Now close your eyes and think about the biggest badest NFL player that you would never ever in a million years want to bump into at a bar come the end of the night…and tell me why it’s Aaron Donald and why he’s about to straight whoop your ass…

BAM!
ZONK!
BIFF!
KAPOW!

…it’s too late… you are down and out and the NFL Defensive Player of the year is allegedly providing you with a VIP tattoo session you never remember signing up for. Total nightmare fuel for me personally. This never happened during my wine-crazed Zoom meetings!

Photo Credit: Andy Sheean | KDKA-TV News

Well, that’s the gist of the claim being made by Attorney Todd Hollis on behalf of his client, who Da Vincent Spriggs, a Pittsburg man claiming to have come out on the wrong end of a bar fight with perennial All-Pro, Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams. The man, sporting a swollen right eye with visible stitches, his arm hanging in a sling, stood next to Hollis as his lawyer described his client’s injuries. “His eye is closed, with 16 stitches in his eye and a concussion and other serious injuries he’s suffered, this is a severe incident.”

According to the account Sprigg provided Pittsburg police with, Aaron Donald and another man confronted him after Spriggs accidentally bumped into Donald at Pittsburg’s Boom Boom Room nightclub. During the exchange, Spriggs claims that Donald and the other man punched and kicked him. Spriggs admitted to police that he threw a bottle of alcohol at Donald. According to Hollis, the incident wasn’t just contained to the club. “When they got outside, Mr. Donald approached Mr. Spriggs and Mr. Spriggs was punched and attacked again allegedly, by Mr. Donald and the individuals that were a part of his group,” Hollis told ESPN.

When asked by local KDKA’s Andy Sheehan if the attack was provoked, Spriggs confirmed he was assaulted and Hollis exclaimed that “It was definitely unprovoked.” Aaron Donald nor legal representation for him have spoken to date regarding the matter. Who is at fault in the incident still remains to be seen, but the Pittsburg Police will be weighing in after Spriggs filed charges on Wednesday, April 14th.

Pittsburg Police are currently reviewing this case and plan on collaborating with the Allegheny District Attorney’s Office to determine the next steps in the case. According to CBS Los Angeles, The Rams Franchise released this statement: “We are aware of the report regarding Aaron Donald. We are collecting more information and will have no further comment at this time.” The NFL Leauge Office has yet to weigh in, but disciplinary measures could be handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell if he thinks that Donald’s actions violate the NFL player conduct policy.

The Hands That Hold the Trophy & Hand Size Matters

The Hands That Hold the Trophy & Hand Size Matters

Photo Credit: NFL
The species homo sapiens translates to “wise humans.” We are descendants of homo erectus, homo ergaster, and finally homo heisenburgensis. As the greatest, most intelligent of the Great Apes, we have developed utilitarian expertise with our frontal appendages. Anything to do with basic survival, such as blunt fists to dominate rivals, tactile dexterity to sign lucrative contracts, and on to clasping objects like food, tools, and leather spheroids with our opposable thumbs. We, as existential beings, have a keen perception of disparities in size and quantity, as it applies to mating behavior, assigning roles within a tribe, and especially in selecting leadership for the survival of the tribe.

Our hands tell a story if you wholeheartedly assume truth in the work of palm readers and clairvoyants. The callouses, lines, and type of daily moisturizer can indicate someone’s work ethic, age, and marital status, so who is to say that something as rudimentary as thumb-to-pinky length cannot absolutely determine someone’s potential success on a synthetic field wearing spandex? I submit that an arbitrary threshold of half-centimeters should function as no less than a tiebreaker to determine someone’s professional worth.

A male gladiator with grandiose aspirations in the National Football League as a quarterback or wide receiver shall be vaulted to prominence and high regard if his hands, measured from distal phalanges one to five, tip to tip, are greater than or equal to 23.5 centimeters and, if not, ostracized and ridiculed as inferior. Of course, there are bound to be a few outliers and exceptions, but the gray area has no place in this mathematical world. It would take otherworldly ability in all other areas of concern to overcome such a pivotal deficiency as hand size. Large hands aid in performance in inclement conditions, by offering the athlete more surface area tension to maintain possession of the precious Faberge Egg that is the football. Turnover of possession is the leading cause of turnover in the workplace, which can be costly to the health of the tribe.

Photo Credit: Steve Helber | AP
In summation, my hypothesis is that hand size is even more vital and value-bearing than current evaluators are willing to admit publicly. As a fantasy football analyst, I have not yet been led into peril by adding appropriate weight to this metric. NFL franchises should heed my advice and prosper or ignore elite talents like Joe Flacco and Hakeem Nicks at their own demise. If you need me, I’ll be in the bathroom with a pencil and tape measure (installing a medicine cabinet).
Photo Credit: NFL

Hand Size Matters

But Not Really

By: Scott “Stacks” Simpson

Each year the brain trust that is the fantasy football analytics community randomly narrows its evaluation lense to obsess over some trivial aspect of the NFL Draft evaluation process, I don’t know, like “hand size” for instance. They spend hours in their mom’s basement pouring over their Google Sheets looking for that one piece of fantasy football data that will suddenly unlock the keys to fantasy success. 69,000 hours later they emerge victoriously, theory in hand! Now all their new theory needs is a name, a few slick “Thread Tweets” and bam, “The Fantasy Football Hand Size Metrics Data Matters Because I Created This Colorful Speardsheet Theory” is ready to get Tweeted out. Just a second. I’m having a little trouble fitting this all into one Tweet. Might have to, yeah, I’m gonna need more characters. Dammit!!

Here’s what I think. Hand size, shmand shize. Who actually thinks that “hand size matters” in professional football? Hahahaha! Let me just catch my breath real quick. Hahahaha! No, I’m fine. Really. They obviously don’t matter in the least. If you don’t believe me just ask Diontae Johnson. Pretty sure he has “Keebler Elf” hands and he still caught 88 passes and only dropped 16. Not sure how many other math majors are out here, but even using that new convoluted math, 88 > 16.

Mark Sanchez perfectly executes a textbook “ Butt Fumble” that was subsequently returned for a touchdown by the Patriots.
Photo Credit: ESPN via YouTube
Not fully convinced yet? OKAY. Whatever. Did you know that Mark “Butt Fumble” Sanchez has monster 26.67-centimeter hands?! We are talking 10.5 inches of pressure-pointing football gripping hand power. Some good those horse hooves did him though when it came to, you know, holding onto the football. You might say, “Scott. You are overreacting. It’s not like he was second in the WHOLE NFL in 2012 with 14 fumbles…Oh wait he was. Interesting.”

And who can forget the quarterback with the largest hands of all time, 28.58 centimeters to be exact, the perennial all-pro…I mean… one-time pro-bowler…hmm…starting quarterback…scratch that…back-up…well, barely a backup…only played in four career NFL games…Jim Druckenmiller…who completed 21 of 52 (40%) career passes with one touchdown and four interceptions. Should I keep going? I think I will.

I know you all wasted a late-round flyer on the 49er’s 4th round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, WR DeAndre Smelter, and his mammoth 27.94-centimeter mitts? That’s DeAndre Smelter. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. DeAndre Smelter. He has one career catch for 23 yards. DeAndre…with a ‘De’…and then an ‘Andre’…just like D’Andre Swift but with an ‘e’ after the… never mind, you get the gist.

Photo Credit: American Football International

Time to end this silly little debate once and for all. The greatest wide receiver of all time, no questions asked, Jerry “Tiny Hands” Rice’s hands measured in at a mere 24 centimeters. Those are practically children’s hands compared to the other freaks on this list. I’m surprised he even made an NFL roster, let alone set the all-time NFL record for receptions and receiving yards given how important hand size is in determining an NFL player’s future success. Welp looks like it’s back to the mom’s basement to give that ole hand size theory a rewrite.

Deshaun Watson’s Got 99 Problems, And A Masseuse is One

Deshaun Watson’s Got 99 Problems, And A Masseuse is One

Photo Credit: Aaron Reiss | The Athletic

Earlier this afternoon, at a press conference with her attorney Tony Buzbee, Ashley Solis identified herself as a victim of alleged sexual assault by Deshaun Watson. Before she spoke, Buzbee addressed the media and said, “Ashley Solis is the reason we are all here. Ashley Solis came to me and told me a very troubling story about Deshaun Watson…She was the first individual to file a lawsuit. It is because of her bravery that we are all here.”

Solis, choking back tears, addressed the media and said, “I hope my story gives [other victims] the courage to speak out. I was afraid. I’m not afraid anymore. I do exist….I will not let Deshaun Watson define who I am. I will not let him win. He needs to be held accountable for his actions. I will not let him take my power away. I am strong now and know who I am.”

She went on to describe her experience following the incident and said, “Some days I feel like a hero, other days I feel like a failure. I replay the incident over and over in my head like I’m trying to wake up from some horrible nightmare, except the nightmare is real.”

Photo Credit: Carmen Mandato | Getty Images

The Houston Police Department (HPD) announced on Friday that a police report had been filed against Watson and just yesterday, Texan’s chairman and CEO Cal McNair responded publicly to the allegations against their star quarterback and said, “ We want to assure you that we take these allegations very seriously. As reported, HPD and the National Football League are conducting investigations and we will cooperate fully.”

McNair’s statement to season ticket holders was the first public statement made by the team since the lawsuits were filed on March 16th, 2021. Deshaun Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, has denied all the allegations on behalf of his client but recently muddied the waters further when he disclosed that Watson had positive interactions with 18 separate massage therapists. What constitutes a “positive interaction” is anyone’s guess and there’s no guarantee that these statements will even be admissible in a court of law.

The announcement left many wondering how many massage therapists does one starting NFL quarterback need? One? Two? Fifty? No seriously. It has been reported by the Houston Chronicle that since March 25th, 2020, Deshaun Watson has sought treatment from at least “50 women for massages” across the U.S.

Now, 22 out of the 50 massage therapists are currently suing Watson for alleged inappropriate sexual conduct. The plaintiffs’ claims range in severity from “exposing himself” all the way to “forced oral sex.” I’m not a legal expert, nor do I play one on Twitter, but the patterns described in the lawsuit depositions are extremely concerning for Watson, the Houston Texans franchise and the NFL.

Hardin has yet to respond following Buzbee’s press conference but sufficed to say that right now Deshaun Watson’s got 99 problems, and a masseuse is one.