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Draft Notebook Cover to Cover

NFL: NOV 29 Cardinals at 49ers Photo by Rob Holt/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Two years ago, I bought a 120 page “3 Subject” spiral notebook (with a red cover) to start a new set of notes for the articles I was working on and for detailing my film studies of NFL Draft prospects.

Yesterday, quite coincidentally, on the eve of the 2021 NFL Draft, I had run out of room on my 240th page (front and back notes of the 120 pages).

Going back to my very first page, I was then writing an article about Larry Fitzgerald’s philanthropy (winning the Walter Payton Award) and the very first note I wrote was a quote from Fitz about his beloved mom:

“I don’t think my mother said no to anything.” (Fitz talking about how his mom would take him on her missions to feed the hungry and give aid to the sick)

Second line: “Greatness starts with giving.” (Walter Payton)

It deeply saddens me to think that for the first time in the course of 17 seasons and innumerable notebooks during that span, I may not be writing Fitz’s name on my first roster prediction following the draft.

For 17 years of writing roster predictions and depth charts —- I have always been of the mindset that “greatness starts with Larry.”

It might interest you to see the 2019 pre-draft depth chart I wrote on the back of page 1:

QB (3) Rosen, Glennon, Kanoff

RB (3): Johnson, Edmonds, Logan

WR (5): Fitzgerald , Kirk, Williams, Sherfield, Cooper

TE (3): Seals-Jones, Gresham, Daniels

OL (8): Humphries, Pugh, Cole, Gossett, Wentzel, Cunningham, Shipley, Golditch

DI (5): Peters, Nkemdiche, Pierre, Valentine, Tusini

ILB (5): Bynes, Cash, Gardeck, Turner, Walker

OLB (4): Jones, Reddick, Dora, Malveaux

CB (4): Peterson, Chris Jones, Nichols, Moxey

S (4): Baker, Swearinger, Ford, Owens

ST (3): Gonzalez, Brewer, Lee

Notes on these notes!:

  • I had assumed (wrongly at least for another 12 games) that the new coaching staff would move Haason Reddick to OLB.
  • Here we are two years later and only 11 players are still on the roster: 5 on offense, 4 on defense and 2 on special teams.
  • Amazing to compare that pre-draft roster when the Cardinals were the worst team in the NFL to this year’s pre-draft roster:

QB (3): Murray, McCoy, Streveler

RB (4): Edmonds, Conner, Jonathan Ward, Benjamin

WR (7): Hopkins, Green, Kirk, Isabella, Johnson, JoJo Ward, Richardson

TE (3): M. Williams, Daniels, Bunting

OL (10): Humphries, Pugh, Hudson, J. Murray, Beachum, Jones, Garcia, Gaillard, Winters, Miles

DI (6): Watt, Allen, Fotu, Lawrence, Phillips, Dogbe

ILB (5): Hicks, Vallejo, Simmons, Turner, Weaver

OLB (5): Jones, Golden, Gardeck, Kennard, Fitts

CB (4): Butler, Murphy, Alford, Whittaker

S (6): Baker, J. Thompson, D. Thompson, Washington, Banjo, S. Williams

ST (3): Lee, Brewer, Prater

It was interesting to re-discover my first mock with Kyler Murray at #1 (pre-Combine):

  1. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
  2. Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
  3. Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson
  4. Andy Isabella, WR, UMass
  5. Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis
  6. Danile Wise, DT, Kansas

6. Dakota Allen, LB, Texas Tech

7. Myles Bryant, CB, Washington

7. Matt Gay, K, Utah

My first mock in 2020: (with a trade down in R1):

18. K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU

39. Clyde-Edwards Helaire, RB, LSU

72. Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois

114. Leki Fotu, DT, Utah

131. Antonio Gibson, WR/RB, Memphis

141. James Lynch, DT, Baylor

154. Stephen Sullivan, TE, LSU

202. Francis Bernard, LB, Utah

222. Tyler Huntley, QB, Utah

  • I never, in my wildest dreams, thought that Isaiah Simmons would be on the board for the Cardinals at #8. Thus, Jeremy Chinn was the closest talent I could find in a Simmons-type role, particularly as a safety or weak side linebacker who could cover TEs.
  • My biggest hope was coming out of that draft with Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jeremy Chinn. But, I also was completely enamored with K’Lavon Chaisson, who, as it tuned out this past season, was underwhelming as a rookie with the Jaguars. Maybe Urban Meyer will know how to push Chaisson’s buttons.
  • Speaking of wildest dreams, to digress for the sake of humor, a teacher friend of mine who wrote a best-selling book after delivering a high school graduation speech that went viral, told me over lunch one day that he and has his wife had been invited to a little coastal town in Italy where the locals wanted to have him come speak about his speech and his book. They would pay for everything and they would even give him and his wife a parade. So, I asked him, did you go? He said, yes and elaborated on how amazing the people were and how warm and enthusiastic their reception of him and his wife was. So —- as my friend and his lovely wife were being driven through the quaint town in a horse and buggy with hundreds of people cheering, my friend said he turned to his wife and said, “Honey, did you ever in your wildest dreams think we’d be given a parade and treated like royalty in italy?” He then said, his wife turned to him with a wry smirk, slapped him on the thigh and whispered in his ear, “Sorry, honey, but I can’t quite recall ever seeing you in my wildest dreams.”

The last page of this notebook is where I wrote all the stats for Trevon Moehrig, Patrick Surtain, Jaycee Horn, Caleb Farley, Greg Newsome, Asante Samuel, Elijah Molden, Aaron Robinson and Ifeatu Melifonwu —- which I added to my thread on “Top Value Picks for Cardinals”:

Career Stats:

*Trevon Moehrig --- 124 tackles, 7 int., 26 pbs, 2 forced fumbles

* Patrick Surtain --- 116 tackles, 4 int,, 24 pbs, 4 forced fumbles

Jaycee Horn --- 101 tackles, 2 int., 23 pbs, 2 forced fumbles

Caleb Farley --- 43 tackles, 6 int., 19 pbs, 0 forced fumbles

Greg Newsome --- 55 tackles, 1 int., 20 pbs, 0 forced fumbles

**Asante Samuel --- 71 tackles, 4 int., 29 pbs, 1 forced fumbles

**Elijah Molden --- 100 tackles, 5 int., 19 pbs, 4 forced fumbles

**Aaron Robinson --- 103 tackles, 1 int., 16 pbs, 2 forced fumbles

**Ifeatu Melifonwu ---88 tackles, 3 int., 19 pbs, 2 forced fumbles

* players I like for Cardinals in Round 1

** players I like for Cardinals in Round 2 (include Farley if he slides to Round 2, which is possible due to recent back issues, his ball production in 2 seasons at CB, 6 ints. and 19 pass breakups is outstanding).

Page 1: Larry Fitzgerald’s

Page 240: Career stats of top cover men in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Gambo 5:

This morning I was pleasantly surprised to see this year’s Gambo 5. Which inspired the following tweet:

In my opinion, these are a realistic 5 choices because it’s very unlikely that the Bama WRs or the top 2 tackles (Sewell and Slater) or the top 2 CBs (Surtain and Horn) or LB Micah Parsons will slide to #16.

It was particularly disturbing to see a couple of Cardinals’ fans post videos of guys vomiting in reaction to the Gambo 5.

When one thinks of how hard these players have worked to get into the position to be drafted in the 1st round —- not only just the hard work and dedication, but for the obstacles they have overcome —- their stories are what the tonight’s celebration is all about and with each player fortunate enough to be selected over the weekend.

Kwity Paye, my goodness, lost his grandfather (his mom’s day) when Liberian militants burnt his hut down while he was sleeping. Kwity’s mom somehow managed to elude the machine gun toting militants and wound up getting herself and her children to a Liberian refugee camp. From there they sought asylum in the USA and moved to the projects in Providence, Rhode Island.

Kwity Paye’s mom has been working 3 to 4 jobs around the clock for many years in order to keep her kids in schools, to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. It’s amazing that she was somehow able to get Kwity enrolled at Bishop Henricken, one of the most prestigious parochial high schools in Rhode Island, one that has a tradition of academic and athletic excellence.

For Kwity Paye to work as hard as he did in his classes and on the football field at Bishop Hendricken and then be offered a full ride by Jim Harbaugh to Michigan —- is a total testament to the American dream and to a mother’s ability to dedicate every ounce of energy she has to keeping her children protected and well nurtured —- and thereby making her children’s dreams possible.

While the vast majority of this year’s NFL draft prospects were not refugees, so many of them faced enormous obstacles.

Therefore, let us celebrate these young men tonight, tomorrow and on Saturday.

Amen, Gungus!

Yesterday, I donned my double masks and did my pre-draft grocery shopping and I had every intention of purchasing a brand new red covered 120 page spiral notebook, except that my CRS Syndrome (Can’t Remember Sh—-) somehow kicked in as I sauntered past the stationery aisle in search of a steaming carton of buffalo chicken wings.

Back at home, when I realized that I had forgotten to buy the new notebook, I peered into my desk cabinet and was nicely surprised to see that at some point ages ago (CRS again!) , I had purchased a six pack of white legal pad notepads.

And now at my desk on top of the old red notebook sits my a new while notepad.

Today, page one of the notepad is perfectly blank and staring me in the face.

“I find I am so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement that only a free man can feel...a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain...”

I hope...I hope...

Happy 2021 NFL Draft to, all of you my friends. Thank you for making this journey extra special.