Remember when Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib were in a “two-horse race” to be the Bills’ pick at No. 8? Neither do they. Unpredictability remained the theme of the 2013 NFL Draft on Friday, with Barkley and Nassib both failing to find new homes while Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu and Manti Te’o saw their slides stop in ideal spots. Oh, and you may have heard: the New York Jets found a new quarterback.
On Thursday, Geno Smith was so despondent he decided to leave New York in a tizzy. 24 hours and one cooler head later, he found out he may never leave. The most picked apart prospect in this year’s class has found a home, albeit one where the scrutiny won’t dissipate, but intensify. Make no mistake: Smith is the Jets’ new quarterback. Tim Tebow will soon be gone. Mark Sanchez — and his comical, fully guaranteed $8.25 million salary — shouldn’t be far behind. That leaves Smith to “compete” with David Garrard. It’s a competition that will be rigged in his favor, and one where even if he loses the first battle, he’ll most definitely win the war. Will Smith — who threw for 42 touchdowns compared to just six interceptions while converting 71.2 percent of his passes as a senior — cut it in the NFL? It’s hard to say. He missed more open throws than his completion percentage would indicate, and appeared to lose focus as the season progressed. But Sanchez has proven beyond any doubt he’s not the answer in New York. It’s time for a new question.
THE MANTI MOMENT
Don’t get me wrong: San Diego is an extremely nice place. It’s clean, has a world-class zoo and weather you’d usually only expect to find in a “Truman Show”-type bubble. But in NFL terms? It’s relatively anonymous, especially with the Chargers undertaking a mini-rebuild and facing an uncertain future in their home of 53 years. In other words, it’s an absolutely perfect spot for Manti Te’o to remake his image and launch his pro career. Between New Year’s Day and the Draft, Te’o’s life spiraled from idyllic to a Coen Brothers-esque nightmare. Everything that was good became bad, and the bad was really, really embarrassing. It was the kind of baggage that might crush a player under the bright lights of New York City, or even in a football-mad place like Minnesota. In San Diego, Te’o has found a home where he can focus on football instead of being the focus. Unlike when he received that first fateful message from “Lennay Kekua,” Te’o is in the right place at the right time.
FREE FALL OF THE NIGHT
Geno Smith has found happiness. Manti Te’o has found peace. Matt Barkley? Pain. The one-time “guaranteed No. 1 overall pick” has tumbled all the way to the fourth round — at the very least — which is just two fewer losses than USC suffered during its disastrous 2012 season. This, after Barkley was promoted by a handful of high-profile writers as a possible option for the Bills at No. 8. We know why Barkley is falling. He has a weak arm. It potentially got weaker when he racked his shoulder against UCLA in November. But this far? There’s no great explanation, especially with so many teams having such dire needs at quarterback. The smart money is on Barkley coming off the board early on day three, but then again, the smart money was on him coming off the board early on day two. Barkley will find himself an NFL team, but not before he loses a good deal of sanity.
HONEY, NO LONGER BADGERED
A player known for his off-the-field missteps as much as his amazing nickname committed one more blunder on Wednesday. Not only did Tyrann Mathieu decide to host a draft-night blowout, he decided to host a draft night blowout for "1st round draft pick Tyrann Mathieu, AKA Honey Badger of LSU." Or at least that’s what his flier said. The party was soon canceled, but reality wasn’t. Mathieu didn’t come off the board in the first round, or even the second, falling all the way to the Cardinals at No. 69 in the third. But while the slide may have been humbling, the destination was a relief. The Honey Badger will be playing alongside his college teammate and offseason training partner, CB Patrick Peterson. The jury is very much still out on whether Mathieu can get his act together, but he’s definitely in the right spot.
BIGGEST MISS BY MOCK DRAFTS
Barkley and Nassib are the obvious answers, but running backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin aren’t far behind. Widely considered the top two backs in the draft, Lacy didn’t get off the schneid until No. 61, while Franklin is still twisting in the wind. Three runners came off the board before Lacy (Giovani Bernard, Le'Veon Bell and Montee Ball), while one more went right after (Christine Michael). Things are even more bleak for Franklin, who will now be selected after Arkansas’ Knile Davis. This is the same Knile Davis who hasn’t put anything good on tape since 2010. Now the question is whether Franklin will slide out of the draft altogether like Chris Polk in 2012. It’s highly unlikely, but this has become the draft of “highly unlikely.”
INSTANT FANTASY IMPACT
After carrying the ball a staggering 924 times in four college seasons, Montee Ball may not be in store for a long NFL career. That’s an absurd amount of mileage for a player still eight months shy of his 23rd birthday. That doesn’t mean he won’t have a productive NFL career, however. Ball is not a special athlete, but he is a tenacious one. A powerful, one-cut back who runs angry, Ball is ready made to exploit the soft fronts he’ll face thanks to Peyton Manning’s $96 million arm, and is going to get more goal-line touches than most running backs could ever even dream of. That translates to fantasy gold, and major — if not long-term — production.
BIGGEST REACH OF THE NIGHT
Bill Belichick knows more about football than you. He knows more about football than almost anybody. But sometimes he knows too much for his own good. For all we know, Rutgers S Duron Harmon is a good player. We also know there was no need to snag someone widely considered a late-round prospect at No. 91. Head-scratching day-two picks have become an annual rite of spring for BB and the Patriots, but the problem is most of them still aren’t finding the itch. Maybe Harmon is the next Rob Gronkowski, but there’s a far greater chance he’s the next Tavon Wilson.
SURPRISE OF THE NIGHT
As we’ve established, it was a night of many surprises, but how about CB Dwayne Gratz, LB Sio Moore and CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson? They’re the three UConn Huskies who all came off the board between picks 64-70. Although UConn football is no longer an afterthought, the fact that it bested Miami (FL), Michigan and Ohio State’s combined total draft picks in the span of only seven selections is stunning.