Thursday, April 25, 2013

4/25 (NFL Draft) Quickie

I enjoy the NFL Draft. I like the first round in primetime on Thursday -- I thought that was a brilliant move and it gives me/us a fun evening thing to gorge on while watching TV. I lead today's USA TODAY Sports column with the five most intriguing storylines of tonight's first round.

Longtime readers know my biggest quibble with the NFL Draft is the age limit -- if the NFL is willing to draft a player coming off their freshman or sophomore seasons (as they clearly would with South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, who would have been the No. 1 overall pick this year and will be next year, barring some kind of Lattimore-esque injury that never should have happened), then that player should be allowed in the league.

Rather than place artificial constraints on players (and teams), let the market decide: If teams are unwilling to spend draft picks on 18-year-old O-linemen in the same way they would on 18-year-old receivers or running backs (Adrian Peterson coming off his sensational freshman year comes immediately to mind), great.

But there will always be one (at least one), and clearly the NFL is nervous that the market inefficiency will be glaringly obvious -- as it is with the NBA -- that the most talented younger players are clearly worthy of being drafted.

That is why I continue to be mystified that a professional minor league for football hasn't emerged -- the leagues trying to compete at the NFL's existing margins (taxi squad players, etc.) are terrible ideas.

The one and only viable idea remains going directly after the 18-, 19- and 20-year-old players that the NFL can't or won't.

And so for better or worse, we are left with obsessively thinking about the system as it is -- about where Manti Te'o lands or how the Jets plan to humiliate Mark Sanchez or why Eric Fisher is the best talent of the draft or why Tavon Austin is the guy you'll want on your fantasy team next year, regardless of what team he ends up with or what Chip Kelly will do in his first Eagles draft.

Those are the best storylines of the draft, heading into tonight and leading today's "Morning Win" column for USA TODAY Sports. Please give it a read, pass it along and enjoy tonight's spectacle. Bro-hugs for everyone.

-- D.S.

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