As the NFL draft moves closer, we squint in smoke filled skies to get a glimpse of team intentions. February brings a list of franchise needs, and free agency will scratch items from the notepad. And by April, the shopping list should be condensed. But the pattern fails to materialize, as big boards display prospect growth, and the annual game of cat and mouse remains intact. We are guided by puffs of smoke, and left on a personal quest for fire.
It’s easy to say Mark Sanchez will be the second quarterback to leave the board, but it’s harder to find a destination. With a release of smoke, more teams have appeared as possible takers. Tampa Bay, San Francisco, and the New York Jets were some of the popular mock locations, with Sanchez also poised for the upset of Matthew Stafford to become Detroit’s No. 1 choice.
He was first projected to free fall, with expectations of the second choice quarterback descending to the middle or lower portions of the first round. And with no dramatic change in skill, and without a shake up of signal callers at the top of the order, two additional franchises have joined San Francisco and Detroit as possible quarterback landing spots…supposedly.
In the dark clouds of draft deception, Seattle and Jacksonville are showing interest in the junior hurler. Burning eyes may receive a slight vision of the Seahawks drafting and grooming the successor to Matt Hasselbeck. But if you reach into Seattle’s roster and needs, can you feel the heat of fire?
In Florida, the smoke thickens. You have a hot seat coach and a newly extended quarterback, which makes Sanchez the imperfect fit. If Jack Del Rio, a former USC Trojan, chose to select a fellow alum, it gives him 8 months to start clearing out his desk and packing his bags. What can a first round quarterback do for coaches lacking job security? The question is answered with Dennis Green, Marty Schottenheimer, and Mike Shanahan.
If the interest in Sanchez comes from managing powers, and the selection is made, they are packing Del Rio’s bags for him. Last April, David Garrard received a 7-year $60 million contract extension, the richest in Jacksonville franchise history. 12 months later, would they bank the 8th selection of the first round on a raw junior quarterback? Egotistical managers aren’t quick to admit mistakes, so don’t bet on it. The Browns made Brady Quinn a first round choice, extended Derek Anderson, and then removed Romeo Crennel, marking the coach as the mistake. Vince Young was not the choice of Tennessee’s coaching staff, but the ownership made the selection, then targeted Norm Chow as their mistake. Drafting Sanchez, after extending Garrard, would act as management’s admission of their own error, and it takes more than 12 months for white collars to complete their fall from the high horse.
With puffs of smoke, you can spark a trade, leaving those with true interests to contemplate moving up in the draft order. That dark cloud also acts as a disguise, hiding the true intention, and leading others to believe a targeteted player will descend , deterring any active effort and negotiations to claim him first. Mark Sanchez to Seattle or Jacksonville? This is smoke, without evidence of fire.