Sunday, April 29, 2007

Gettin' drafty in here!

While I wait for the Sabres to dump the Rangers (they're in OT right now as I write this), I figure I should toss up some reaction to the NFL Draft. Because hey, it's the NFL Draft. Wheeeee. (Usually the draft is more exciting around here, but right now, the Sabres have such a command on the Buffalo sports consciousness that I truly think that if it were announced that Jim Kelly had been cloned and then the Bills had drafted him, the reaction around here would be, "That's nice. Now how 'bout that Sabres power play!")

First, about the Bills: Looks like another standard Bills draft. Some needs filled, others not so much. What's nice is the general lack in the Marv Levy era of the old standby of Tom Donahoe's drafts: the general focus on solid athleticism on the part of the guys they pick, and the general sense that the organization has done its homework, come into the draft with a group of players in mind, and then gone about the task of getting as many of those players as possible without making a lot of gonzo trades with draft picks. Yes, they did move some picks around in order to grab the guys they wanted, but none of it really struck me as insane moving around.

So, the good: they got their new running back (Marshawn Lynch) and stud linebacker (Paul Posluzsny). As is a long-standing practice of theirs, they took a defensive back in a later round (safety John Wendling, sixth round) who is apparently a very fine athlete. In fact, the drafts of the 90s under Bill Polian and John Butler tended to emphasize strong athletes in the lower rounds, guys who could be groomed into starters over a couple of years, and it was that draft strategy in part that had the Bills as one of the league's best teams of that era. Tom Donahoe didn't seem to draft those kinds of prospects very well, which is one big reason the Bills haven't made the playoffs since the Donahoe era began. (It should be noted here that Butler, not Donahoe, presided over the Bills' 2000 draft, which may well be the worst draft in team history. Not a single one of those players panned out, and in the NFL today, if you have an entire draft fail to pan out, it usually spells several years of disaster for a franchise.)

The not-so-good: the Bills virtually ignored the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, not taking a single lineman until their second pick in the seventh round, when they took a defensive lineman who may have already peaked. True, the Bills signed several new offensive linemen already, but they've been very poor at developing O-line talent in this decade (Jason Peters is the lone standout), which is a trend that has to reverse if the team really wants to be a power again in the NFL.

:: The Miami Dolphins are getting older and older at the positions that make a good football team. That organization's in trouble.

:: Does Matt Millen not remember that he was an offensive lineman? And does he not remember spending his final year as a player on the 1991 Redskins, the team that had the best offensive line I've ever seen? Why does Millen keep insisting that taking wide receivers in the top five is a good idea? Why does Millen still have a job? What is going on in Detroit?!

:: Boy, Bill Belichick really thinks he's some kind of football deity, doesn't he? The StuPats have traded for Randy Moss, of all people, who is an aging player with bags of character concerns; plus, New England drafted in the first round a guy who also comes with bags of character concerns. This, plus Belichick's boorish behavior after his boys choked in the AFC Championship Game and the slide of Tom Brady's halo over the last few years make pretty clear that if the StuPats win the Super Bowl this year -- and they very well might -- they'll look more like the Cowboys of the 90s in doing so, when everybody starting hating them.

:: Geez, now the Sabres and Rangers are in the second OT. I'm going to wrap this up now.

:: And as I wrote that sentence, apparently the Rangers won. Well, that's OK. The Sabres let the Islanders have a win in their series, too. That just means we'll take 'em in five.

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