NFL Draft Notes of Note; Poole Rising
Roger Goodell and company have done a masterful job of turning the NFL Draft into a big production that generates intense interest among fans throughout the country, a ton of coverage in the media, and three days of exposure on ESPN.
It isn’t great theatre. Every pick is analyzed ad nauseam by the insufferable Mel Kiper and a host of other talking heads, and we must watch as Goodell embarrasses himself by greeting each draft pick with a big bear hug, as if they were old friends or long-lost cousins. One of these days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him plant a kiss on one of the top draft picks.
Despite the excesses, the draft always produces a number of interesting storylines. Here are a few that got our attention.
Dogs Dominate: There's a reason Georgia won the national championship. The Bulldogs had a record five defensive players drafted in the first round and 15 players selected overall, the most ever from one school.
Bad year for QBs: NFL teams were underwhelmed by the quarterbacks coming out this year. The first one drafted was Pitt’s Kenny Pickett at No. 20 by the hometown Steelers. The next QB was not drafted until the third round. Things will be different next year, when Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young could go 1-2.
Conference Breakdown: As expected, boosted by Georgia’s 15, the SEC led the way with 65 picks, followed by the Big Ten with 48, the Big 12 and Pac-12 both with 25, and the ACC with 21.
Texas Shutout: No players were drafted from Texas, giving a clear indication of how far the Longhorns have fallen and how much work head coach Steve Sarkisian has to do.
Cardinal Slippage: Stanford had only one pick, Thomas Booker in the fifth round at No. 150. It wasn't that long ago that Stanford was one of the most productive teams in the country in terms of NFL picks.
Since the 2012 draft (David Shaw’s initial season), in fact, Stanford has had 43 players drafted, tied with USC for most in the Pac-12 and one ahead of UCLA.
Last year Stanford had five players drafted—Walker Little (round 2), Davis Mills and Paulson Adebo (3), Drew Dalman (4) and Simi Fehoko (5). It was only five years ago that the Cardinal had two first round picks—Christian McCaffrey and Solomon Thomas.
Four Stanford players were the No. 1 overall pick in the draft—quarterbacks Bobby Garrett (1953), Jim Plunkett (1971), John Elway (1983), and Andrew Luck (2012).
Other top 10 picks include No. 3s Norm Standlee (1941), Pete Kmetovic (1942) John Brodie (1957) and Thomas (2017); No. 6s Greg Sampson (1972) and James Lofton (1978); No. 7 Darrin Nelson (1982); No. 8s Bob Whitfield (1992) and McCaffrey (2017); No. 9 Tommy Vardell (1992); and No. 10s Jeff Siemon (1972) and Gordon King (1978).
Fun fact: Stanford has had eight tight ends drafted since 2010.
49ers Rundown: it was an unusual draft for the 49ers. For the first time in several years, they didn't make a draft day trade, which surprised some pundits given Deebo Samuel’s trade demands and the club’s desire to unload quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
It’s clear the Niners would prefer to keep Samuel. As for Garoppolo, they had a deal done to send him to Washington before he decided to have shoulder surgery and the trade fell through.
Second round pick Drake Jackson, the edge rusher from USC, has great potential which was not fully realized during his college career. He should pair nicely with Nick Bosa. In round three the Niners picked a bruising running back, Tyrion Davis-Price from LSU, and one of the fastest players in the draft, wide receiver Danny Gray from SMU. Given how the 49ers go through running backs, Davis-Price could be a good choice, and Gray may give them the deep threat they've lacked.
One head scratcher is that GM John Lynch and company didn't pick a center. Former Cal star Alex Mack is 37 and hasn't decided whether he's returning. If he decides to hang it up, the 49ers will regret not having picked a center.
In other news...
NBA Playoffs: The NBA Playoffs have already spawned a number of interesting story angles, including the embarrassing performance of the Nets, swept by the Celtics despite the presence of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Like many fans, I was delighted to see the demise of Irving, whose refusal to get a COVID vaccination kept him out of the lineup for more than half his team’s games, and Durant, who seems to spend most of his time trolling critics on social media.
Embiid Out: 76ers center Joel Embiid, who should win the NB’s MVP award, suffered a right orbital fracture and concussion in Philly's series-clinching win over Toronto that will force him to miss at least the first two games of the much-anticipated matchup with No. 1 seed Miami.
Question is, why was Embiid still in the game? There were less than four minutes left and the Sixers led 119-90 at the time of his injury.
Poole Rising: I have to admit I wasn't thrilled when the Warriors chose Jordan Poole in the first round of the NBA draft three years ago. Poole, after all, hadn't exactly lit up the Big Ten in his two years at Michigan. As a freshman he averaged only 6.1 points and was known primarily for his game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer to beat Houston in the second round of the NCAA tourney. He had a decent sophomore season, averaging 12.8, but was still a question mark in the mind of many NBA scouts.
Poole's rookie season with the Warriors had a lot of folks thinking "bust" as he hit only 33% from the field and 28% from three-point range. Year 2 was only marginally better, as he spent much of the season trying to find himself in the G League.
But Poole emerged as a rising star this year, averaging 18.5 points while starting the first half of the year until Klay Thompson returned and then carrying the offensive load over the final 20 games when Steph Curry was out. He drained 44.8% of his shots and 36% from three. A lot of people, this writer included, thought he should've won the NBA Most Improved Player award.
Poole's exceptional play has continued in the playoffs. He was the Warriors' main offensive weapon in the team's first three wins over Denver with 30, 29 and 27 points. Then in yesterday's nail-biter at Memphis, with Curry and Thompson off target for much of the game, he kept the Warriors in it with 31 points.
Along with his long-range bombs, Poole has expanded his repertoire to include aggressive drives to the hole and creative, pin-point passing. He is lightning fast and has an explosive first step that leaves many defenders in the dust. He had nine assists yesterday.
Only 22, Poole will be a big part of the Warriors' future for a long time to come.
NBA TV: According to Sports Illustrated, tomorrow marks the anniversary of the first NBA game to be broadcast live nationally in prime time, Game 6 of the Championship finals between Boston and LA in 1969.
The Lakers were ahead in the series 3-2, but the Celtics won that game in Boston 99-90 to force a decisive game 7 in LA. Led by John Havlicek's 26 points and player-coach Bill Russell's 21 rebounds and multiple blocked shots, the Celtics won 118-116 despite 42 points from the Lakers' Jerry West.
It was the Celtics' 11th title in Russell's 13 years. The Celtics, who finished fourth in the Eastern Division, were big underdogs to a Lakers' team featuring West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain.
This was also the only time in NBA history a player on a losing team (West) was named MVP of the Finals.