Why the tape is not enough
Tonight is the NFL Draft and arguably the two best players on tape won't be taken early. One won't be taken at all, not just in tonight's first round but at any point in the next three days. Why? Injuries.
Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith had the best tape of any prospect according to multiple analysts, yet he likely won't be taken at all. The defensive standout tore his knee ligaments in the Fiesta Bowl and he's at risk to never play football again because of nerve damage in his leg. UCLA's Myles Jack will play football next year. The question is how long after that as he has a degenerative issue in his knee.
Jack made interesting comments yesterday about his knee, saying that he doesn't know how long he'll be able to play. He said that anything over three years is average anyway, so who knows what the future holds for any player. While all of what he said is technically true, he did himself no favors in being honest. Teams don't spend first round picks for average.
The larger point here though is the justification for teams putting in massive amounts of homework into drafting players. They're about to make multimillion dollar investments into these guys, so every piece of information is useful.
What's interesting is the difference between the extensive homework teams do on rookies versus the quick decisions made on free agents, who cost significantly more money. The difference in the two situations? Leverage.
A player essentially has to play where he's drafted. In free agency, especially with the best players, the player has options. Instead of convincing teams to pick him, it's the teams convincing the player that they're the right place to be and that convincing is both literal in conversational terms and financial. The more you want a player, the more money you give him.
If Jack's knee holds up for a decade and he plays at a high level, people will look back and scream about how he was the best player on tape and lament not taking him. However if he's out of the league in three years, the team that did take that risk will be mocked for selecting a player with such an obvious downside. Teams can't win unless they're the one that was right. The narrative plays the result. The reality? The projection business is hard and every situation is different. Some decision makers have the license to take risks. Some don't. Some do have that right, but probably shouldn't.
The only sure thing is that if anyone tells you they know exactly how a player is going to turn out, they're telling you they can do the impossible.
Yeah, that was a foul
The Hornets took a 3-2 lead over the Heat last night in a controversial Game 5. There were some bad calls both ways, but a blatant missed foul late has everyone's attention. Goran Dragic shot a three from the corner which was blocked by Kemba Walker. Dwyane Wade got the rebound and attacked the basket where he was rudely greeted by Cody Zeller. The Hornets forward crashed into Wade and no whistle blew. It was a foul. There is no debate.
The verticality rule is explained in this video. It's pretty simple. If you jump straight up and down, it's not a foul. If you jump horizontally and make contact, it's a foul. This was a foul.
It's frustrating and disappointing that a game's outcome can so heavily be influenced by someone not on one of the teams so blatantly not doing their jobs correctly. Refereeing is really, really hard. It's a thankless job that only comes up when something is wrong. Guess that's why we're talking about it.
Some will talk about "human error" being a part of the game, but the only errors that should exist in an ideal world would be made by those affiliated with the teams. If a player misses an open shot, that's the game. If a coach makes a poor strategy decision, that's less fun than seeing the players decide the game, but that's sports. A referee? Give me the robots!
The rules are the rules. Enforce them. And to anyone who thinks that wasn't a foul, learn the rules. There is no intelligent argument here. Just learn the rule.
Mike Tirico is leaving ESPN for NBC, which is a monumental move in the media world. Tirico has been at ESPN for 25 years and is the signature voice for the network. You probably knew all that. What you might not know is what it's like to have experience with Mike personally. That is just as big of a treat as it is listening to him call a game.
We've spent short amounts of time together on multiple occasions thanks to our mutual love for our alma mater. Mike is as proud of a Syracuse alum as there is and still dedicates a lot of time (and likely money) to the broadcast program.
Every time I see Mike, he makes me feel like an old friend that he's known for years. He has that special ability to make anyone feel important. He's invested in how you're doing. For someone who is a titan of our industry, he's incredibly human.
That humility is also what makes him so great on the air. He's smarter than all of us. Nobody knows more about more stuff than Mike. He covers NBA basketball, college basketball, NFL football, golf and tennis and I swear he knows each rulebook better than some of the officials in those sports. It's absolutely astounding. Yet, he delivers that information in a way that doesn't scream "look at me and how smart I am." He's just brilliant.
His role at NBC could eventually evolve into calling the NFL's premier weekly game (Sunday Night Football), the Super Bowl every three years and hosting the Olympics. He'll be calling the biggest events in sports and he's more than ready. I also expect him to be a part of the Kentucky Derby broadcast.
Back in 2012, we had Mike on my college radio show and I asked him about his bucket list. He said he'd gotten to do, or at least see, pretty much every event he could have dreamed of except two. One was the Indianapolis 500. The other was the Kentucky Derby. Both happen during the NBA playoffs, something Mike's giving up in the move from ESPN to NBC as the peacock network doesn't have any NBA rights and won't for the foreseeable future. The Indy 500 is on ABC, so he won't be able to call that although he could attend. The Derby however is on NBC, so expect him to have some role in that broadcast if his bucket list hasn't changed.
Reads of the Day:
Lions LB Deandre Levy with a powerful, necessary and potent piece on sexual assault prevention: http://www.theplayerstribune.com/deandre-levy-sexual-assault-awareness/
The MMQB's Andrew Brandt takes us inside an NFL war-room on draft day: http://mmqb.si.com/2014/05/07/nfl-draft-war-rooms
ESPNLA's Arash Markazi on Doc Rivers, including some powerful quotes from his son and player Austin: http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/clippers/post/_/id/8096/doc-rivers-stays-strong-in-eye-of-clippers-storm