A Week in Links: April 28

I’ve been slacking on posting new things, but I will get back into the swing of it this week. This week was a busy sports weekend with the NBA Playoffs, the rush for NHL playoff seeding and Manchester United being crowned champions of the Premier League, but the biggest story was the NFL Draft.

The NFL Draft’s ratings were up, and in this “bad draft” that wasn’t really bad but boring, and the excitement really never lacked. Rounds 2-3 were more exciting than Round 1, honestly.

Draftees, especially the first rounders who came to Radio City Music Hall in New York, show their joy and love for Roger Goodell for the only time in their career. They’ll criticize and call out their trusted commish on twitter very soon but they can act like friends for 30 seconds on Draft night.

Grantland compiled the best Commissioner hugs of the first round. Most are classic man-hugs with a few exceptions. West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin was probably the only player in this year’s first round that was shorter than Goodell.

Credit: Grantland

And Alabama’s Chance Warmack wins the award for “Most Smotheringly Large Man-Hug of the Night.” He was recently fined $50,000 by Goodell for “targeting.”

The most excited reaction of the draft didn’t come from New York, it came from one of Michigan “quarterback” Denard Robinson’s friends. He’s very, very excited. GIF via Deadspin.

***

This is the best time to be a fan in the NFL. It’s time for optimism and hope. Time for fans of the Jaguars to see their draft picks and think to themselves, “Hey, maybe we won’t totally suck this year.” USA Today compiled every draft pick that was made. The only thing that I will not post or write about myself is “Draft Winners and Losers.” It’s dumb. Players’ full potential aren’t realized until at least 2-3 years after they’re drafted. On paper, teams may have drafted college stars, guys who “are a perfect fit” for the teams that drafted them, but we won’t know it they are “busts” or not for a few seasons.

To go against everything I just said, San Francisco probably had the best draft for their already stacked lineup. They had a boatload of picks and used them to pick solid players who should hypothetically flourish in San Francisco. Here are their picks:

Round 1, Pick 18 (18): Eric Reid, S, Louisiana State
Round 2, Pick 8 (40) (from Titans): Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State 
Round 2, Pick 23 (55) (from Packers): Vance McDonald, TE, Rice
Round 3, Pick 26 (88) (from Packers): Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn 
Round 4, Pick 31 (128): Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
Round 4, Pick 34 (131) (Compensatory Selection): Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina 
Round 5, Pick 24 (157) (from Colts): Quinton Dial, DE, Alabama
Round 6, Pick 12 (180) (from Dolphins): Nick Moody, LB, Florida State
Round 7, Pick 31 (237): B.J. Daniels, QB, South Florida 
Round 7, Pick 40 (246) (Compensatory Selection): Carter Bykowski, OT, Iowa State 
Round 7, Pick 46 (252) (Compensatory Selection): Marcus Cooper, CB, Rutgers

***

Obviously there aren’t enough draft picks to go around for every single college player that is eligible to be picked so some enter the league as undrafted free agents. There are some undrafted free agents who have become stars in the NFL like Kurt Warner, James Harrison and Antonio Gates. There are also those who were undrafted free agents and were never heard from again.

This year had a cavalcade of players that were legitimate starters and household names in college but for whatever reason, weren’t drafted. Here are a few of the standouts:

Tyler Bray, QB, Kansas City Chiefs: Former Vol with a massive arm and questionable brain. Left school early to go undrafted.

Chase Thomas, LB, New Orleans Saints: Former Stanford Cardinal is a high motor guy, gym rat, other terms for hard-working white player.

Robert Lester, S, Carolina Panthers: The player who started 40 of his 48 games for Alabama owns three national championship rings and was a steal for Carolina as an undrafted free agent. I was shocked that Lester wasn’t drafted.

Phillip Lutzenkirchen, TE, St. Louis Rams: The Auburn Tiger who captured a nation has gone pro. The man with one of the hardest names to spell will be competing with Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks for an already-crowded St. Louis tight end depth chart. I loved him in college, he was a clutch, go-to, 6’5″ endzone threat, and I hope he makes the team.

Jake Stoneburner, TE, Green Bay Packers: Similar to Lutzenkirchen. Long last name, glue-for-hands catching ability and a locker-room leading tight end. The Packers will the sight of a tight end who can actually catch the ball instead of their normal experience with Jermichael Finley.

Collin Klein, QB, Houston Texans: The Texans were busy. They signed Heisman runner-up, Kansas State’s Collin Klein who is Tim Tebow without the passing accuracy. He could be a fullback, I guess. PUT HIM IN THE WILDCAT.

Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Buffalo Bills: Rogers is immensely talented and was a standout at Tennessee. He did have some “off the field issues,” transferred to Tennessee Tech and went undrafted. With his history of maturity issues, Rogers can be cut easily with minimal damage to the Bills, and if he pans out, Buffalo will have a talented receiver at a low price. Stevie Johnson, C.J. Spiller, new draftee WR Robert Woods and Rogers could have a high-flying offense going in Buffalo.

***

For all of these players – undrafted or not – they will all face the issue of dealing with going from broke to rich in a matter of days. ESPN and Grantland’s Jalen Rose, a former all-star NBA player, wrote some advice for these new 20-year-old millionaires. Many will be included in the statistic of broke former athletes, but some will get good advice and manage their money wisely. Here’s Jalen’s advice:

  1. Have friends, not dependents
  2. Save, save, save
  3. Don’t buy your dream house right away
  4. You can only trap yourself
  5. Concentrate on your staying power

***

Finally, ESPN and Grantland’s Brian Phillips did an absolutely incredible piece called “Out in the Great Alone” about the annual Alaskan sled-dog race, the Iditarod. This is a novella in which Phillips experiences the race first-hand, and introduces the reader to many of the colorful characters of Alaskan life. This is not only a literary achievement by Phillips, but a graphically stunning presentation of ESPN’s website. The display is full of amazing pictures, interactive travel-graphics and some cute puppies wearing snow booties. I would never want to go experience the Iditarod for myself, so I’m glad Brian Phillips did it so I didn’t have to.

Here’s a snippet of the story about the city in which the race ceremoniously starts:

Anchorage, Alaska’s one real city. Fairbanks is a town, Juneau is an admin building with ideas. Anchorage is Tulsa, only poured into a little hollow in a celestially beautiful mountain range on the outer rim of the world.

When you’re there, it truly feels like you’re at the end of something. Like a last outpost. You’re in a coffee shop, you ordered cappuccino, you can see white mountains from the window, and on the other side of the mountains is wilderness that hasn’t changed since 1492.

That’s an exaggeration, but not as much of one as you might think.

You need to go read this.

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