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Wide Right: Jordanitis
by Jeff Cockey, 4/26/04

What a wicked draft this turned out to be. Round ended with the Super Bowl Champions taking Ben Watson, Tight End from Georgia (seems to me that Tom Brady would have been much more comfortable grabbing the ball from underneath Jake Grove’s hindquarters, butt – no pun intended - what do I know?) I am more than surprised by the goings on that I witnessed this weekend. A few of the highly touted players were passed over. Let me see if I can make sense of this.

About one year ago, I sat in the bar of a Boston area restaurant eating lobster ravioli and pretending to listen attentively to the conversation that our guests were trying to make. I had strategically situated myself so that I could see the television just over the shoulder of the person across the table from me and yet have it appear as though I was politely paying attention to what he had to say. That’s right, it was draft night.

The kid that was in charge of refilling my iced tea agreed to feed me updates about picks that I had missed, but I had to slip him a ten spot for the discreet info. So, to make a long story even longer, that night was filled with a lot of head-nodding and miscellaneous chuckles – you know, the kind you do when someone finishes a story that was really not that funny but you feel obliged to honor it with a fake laugh to make the person feel better (kind of like this story). I made sure that this year was different. This year I parked in front of the TV all day, watching intently with each pick that was made, creating a permanent groove in my buddy’s couch cushion.

Last year I wrote a column about running backs in the draft. In it, I made the bold prediction that our beloved Lee Suggs would be drafted in the first round, before Willis McGahee and Larry Johnson. I was, as we all know, mistaken. Yet I still contend that Butch Davis knew what he was doing and sees that Suggs should have gone ahead of those guys because he has the ability to be more of an impact player than either of them. Just one man’s opinion. So let’s take a look at this year’s draft results and explore the phenomenon I like to call Jordanitis. It can be a debilitating disease.

First, some history about Jordanitis. It occurs in all sports on the professional level, not just football. Answer me this: Why was Michael Jordan passed over in the NBA draft? He performed exceptionally well in college and had proven that he could play better than the best of them. Yet when it came time to pick the number one prospect, his name was nowhere to be found. This is Jordanitis.

Here are a few more examples: Why was Carmelo Anthony taken third last year instead of second? Was it Darko’s winning smile? I mean, Melo only won the National Championship. He was only the most exciting college hoops player that year, with a maturity in the game that usually takes many more years to develop. Yet he was relegated to the third pick. Jordanitis!

Oh hey, how about the Chargers slick move to give up only the most exciting player ever to step on a pro football field, Mr. Michael Vick, in order to grab themselves Drew Brees. Great job there guys. Does that one keep you up at night? It should. Sure you got LT in the trade as well and he is an amazing back, but the guy that touches the ball on every offensive down is your QB. And, I contend, when given the choice to have it be Drew Brees or Michael Vick . . . well someone should be fired for that trade. It’s like being offered Knob Creek but passing it up for a shot of Aristocrat and a Silver Bullet chaser. Who are these people? Jordanitis!

It would seem that the Chargers didn’t learn much from their Vick debacle. Let’s see if their draft day maneuvering pays off for them this year. Don’t count on it. I don’t see Philip Rivers being anything like an Eli Manning. More Jordanitis for the Chargers this year? You make the call, but I say, definitely.

Well as I read through the draft articles in the newspapers and The Sporting News draft magazine prior to Saturday’s fun, I saw that Jordanitis was not only here to stay, it was spreading like the monkey virus in this year’s pre-draft chatter. The first infected position was wide receiver. Clearly . . . CLEARLY, Larry Fitzgerald is the top dog. This guy does things as a receiver that no other receiver in this year’s class has ever done. Yet USA Today had him projected as the third pick behind Roy Williams of Texas. Behind? Give me a freakin’ break. Fitz caught touchdown passes in an NCAA record setting 18 games in a row. He snagged more acrobatic, one-handed catches than his competition did regular catches. The kid can flat out play. Yet, and here’s the rub, his pro workouts weren’t as impressive as Roy’s. Evidently, Williams was able to work his magic on the pro scouts more so than Fitz and thus was being touted as a possible higher pick at wide receiver than our Big East buddy. Sure, this makes sense. We should definitely let millions of dollars ride on a couple of forty-yard dash times and sit-down interviews instead of years of dominating, on-the-field performance. This is a great way to do business. It just blows my mind. Jordanitis!

Just as an aside, and having nothing to do with Jordanitis, our man Wilford received some very decent write-ups, especially in USA Today, but the receiver crop this year is something special – seven WR taken in the first round. All I can say is thank God the pre-draft chatter did not hold true and LF took his rightful position as top receiver in the draft.

Moving right along, we come to the running backs. And once again, Virginia Tech was right in the mix with another great RB to send to Sunday’s gridiron. Of course I am speaking of Kevin Jones. The man flat out dominates. He’s the Top Gun. No, no, there’s one "O" in Jones boys and the plaque for the alternates is down in the ladies room. But you wouldn’t know it from the trash that was talked in the pre-draft publications. The Sporting News Pro Football Draft magazine had Steven Jackson listed as the number one RB pick in the draft. And why? Because "he takes awhile to reach full speed." "Won’t make a lot of defenders miss." "Lacks a classic second gear when breaking into open field." "Must improve blocking technique." "Is not a big play receiver." So why was he number one in their book? Because he "is big and strong with a lot of potential."

The word to focus on is "potential." So let me see if I have this straight. Even with all of these problems he is said to be a better pick because of potential? That’s a lot of money to base on possibilities. Would you take that risk? I wouldn’t. But then again, some might call me biased since I, you know, got a VT degree hangin’ on my wall. Jordanitis! Ah, whatever. So here’s how I would have drafted this year’s class of running backs:

KJ . . . then Chris Perry from Michigan . . . then Steven Jackson.

First of all let me just say that I can’t believe any of the running backs slipped as low as they did. But I am even more surprised about KJ being the third one taken. Did you hear them interview the team that took Chris Perry? He said that it was basically a coin flip between Perry and Jones but they went with Perry because he has the ability to make tacklers miss. What? Have you seen KJ play? Evidently Jones is so good he had the ability to make you miss out on picking him, a better back than Perry, and I believe better than Jackson as well.

Not on the topic at all, but how close was I to peeing my pants when Atlanta traded up to get another late pick in the first round? I thought for sure that they would take Jones. Imagine Vick and Jones and Hall. What an unstoppable team. But instead they take a wide receiver from Ohio State. Oh that makes sense, Ohio State is most definitely known for their great receivers. Ridiculous!

Now The Sporting News had Doug Easlick listed as the tenth best fullback in the draft, yet they say this: "Although Easlick is likely to drop to the final round or go undrafted, he is underrated." So why do you have him at tenth? Well, move him on up peeps, maybe to the East Side? Let him hang out with George and Weezie. The man is off the chain. I mean for goodness sake, they’ve got guys from McNeese State, East Carolina, and Duke ahead of Dougie E. Move him up, this is your mock draft folks. You can do what you want. This is a case of reverse Jordanitis. Easlick is seen as a guy with greater potential than some rated above him yet they projected him lower. I am so thoroughly confused by their twisted logic. It’s like when asked about the $87 billion to support our troops in Iraq, and Senator Kerry said, "I actually voted for it, before I voted against it." What in the hell does that mean? And why is The Sporting News rewarding potential for one position but not others in their draft predictions? I can’t even think straight anymore.

All of this to say that the entire pre-draft hoopla was full of Jordanitis. And in a very bad way. Let’s let it ride on the possibility of potential displayed over a few days of NFL workouts and not the several years of outstanding performance on the field? When will that start to matter?

Riddle me this. You just got tickets to the Tech/USC game to be played at Fed-Ex field at the end of the summer. You’ve got a great hotel room in downtown DC, so that the kids and the wife can enjoy the culture and museums while you head to M street in Georgetown for some pre-game fun. So it comes time to make the flight reservations and Travelocity has a new feature. Stuck between travel dates and number of layovers you’d like to have they ask you this: Would you like a pilot who has flown incredibly well over the past several years, performing above his peers and making his airline one of the best out there. Or . . . you can select this other pilot who performed extremely well in the flight simulator last weekend. Reminds me a lot of that "You Make The Call" thing that used to air during NFL games. I miss that. At least they got it right with Fitzgerald, but we will see how wrong they were about KJ. Nobody works harder than that kid does.

So for this week’s movie trivia I have come up with this blatantly easy quote. But frankly one of my absolute, all-time favorite movie lines ever, thus it deserves some face time.

"My boy’s wicked smaht."

Questions, concerns, and insults? Let ‘em rip baby. [email protected]

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