I don’t pay any attention to draft grades, do you?
Grading NFL draft picks is like grading students on their 1st day of class. They haven't taken a single test. They haven't bonded with their teacher or classmates yet. But hey just slap a grade on them and possibly even stigmatize them from the start. So freakin' irresponsible.— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) April 30, 2021
As a high school teacher for 40 years, one of the most exciting moments for me every year was being handed my class rosters on the first day of school. From AP English classes to College Prep classes to Creative Writing classes, every roster gave me the wonderful sense of hope, that if I could set the right tone and create a productive and enjoyable learning environment that at some point in the year, the students would galvanize as a team and be motivated to drive the curriculum all by themselves.
As a teacher, you know that some students are naturally autonomous, some students need nurturing, some students need prodding and some students require special accommodations.
On the first day of class, I never wanted to know which students were which. I didn’t want to hear their former teachers say anything about them, because I did not want to be influenced by anything but my own observations and my own interactions with them.
I feel the same way about scouting NFL draft prospects. Sure, I peruse the big boards of many of the most popular national draftniks. But that’s just to help me get started on doing the research and film study myself.
That’s why I get peeved by draft grades, because the truth is, at the Cardinals’ every pick, they can only take one player —- so when draftniks say well the Cardinals should have taken another player with their pick at that point in the draft, it’s like having a car salesman tell you after the fact that you shouldn’t have bought the Honda when you could have bought the Toyota. WTF.
When I first write about the players the Cardinals select, I tend to focus on the positives, because that’s what I always did with my students and players —- relationships, imo, are fostered on discovering the positives in the person and then building on those positives. Every person has improvement areas. No person is infallible. But, the key is how we can all help each other, which is ultimately the best way to help yourself. This is the same way I feel about ROTB. We are a community of fans who ultimately can help each other learn and grown throughout the vicissitudes of an NFL season.
So here were my initial reactions to each of the Cardinals’ 2021 draft picks:
Cards got #1 MIKE LB in draft in Zaven Collins. LA, SEA, SF all love to run the ball and play action. W/ tandem of Simmons/Collins the Cards now have the ability to stuff and cover, with size, amazing length and speed. Championship teams are built from inside out.— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) April 30, 2021
When Rondale Moore burst on scene as true freshman and won Paul Hornung Award, I can remember hoping/dreaming that he would be a . Was thinking earlier today, Moore is the Kyler Murray of WRs. Has similar feet, wiggle, plus the Kyler TD hop over the goal line. Blazing speed.— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) May 1, 2021
Marco Wilson has the length, speed, toughness and agility to develop into a dynamic starting CB. He's a tad undisciplined/inconsistent, but not for lack of effort. He should be happy to bee in AZ because no team has a better history with Wilson DBs: Larry #8 and Adrian #24— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) May 1, 2021
Victor Dimukeje is a tenacious, junk yard alpha, like Markus Golden. Averaged 8 tackles for loss and 5.4 sacks a year at Duke (2nd all-time sack leader at Duke). I am surprised he was still on the board. Thought he would go in Round 4. Reminds me some of Kwity Paye too.— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) May 1, 2021
Tay Gowan is JUCO transfer who had 1 year at UCF, but opted out of 2020 season. At 6-1, 185, and 4.4 speed, Gowan has been on pundits' sleeper lists. Only 1 season in FBS (a good one) was not going to garner him Day 2 pick. Cardinals' DB coaches worked him out. Upside here— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) May 1, 2021
James Wiggins tore his ACL a couple of year ago and was solid in 2019 and all-conference in 2020. People underestimate how talented Cincinnati is and Wiggins was one of their leaders and top ballers. This is such a good value pick for— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) May 1, 2021
Michael Menet is a Sean Kugler type slobberknocker. In a year's time, he could be the Cardinals' starting RG. Menet is J.R. Sweezy with quicker feet. Another baller who should have been drafted a few rounds earlier.— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) May 1, 2021
Post draft observation:
This draft tells me that the Cardinals like their young depth at QB, RB, WR, T and DT/DE. I find this very encouraging. #let'sgetit— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) May 1, 2021
I love this draft —- the same way I loved walking into a class on the first day of school and seeing a room full of brand new faces, hopes and dreams.
I think Zaven Collins in tandem with Isaiah Simmons can potentially revolutionize the way NFL ILB tandems are designed —- in a league that has become infatuated with RPO’s, what could be better than having ILBs with tremendous athleticism and length to be able to take the romance out of those RPOs, by stuffing the run and getting their long arms in passing lanes and picking some of those passes off.
I think that if Rondale Moore can stay healthy, he can be the Kyler Murray of slot WRs.
I think the two young CBs, Marco Wilson and Tay Gowan are so talented and athletically gifted that eventually they could be the Cardinals’ two starting CBs.
I think that Victor Dimukeje is Markus Golden V 2.0. Total baller. Tremendous attitude.
I think that Michal Menet could be ready to challenge for the RG spot by year two and that he can smoothly take over for Rodney Hudson when Hudson retires.
There is tremendous potential here —- and we owe a good deal of thanks to Steve Keim, Quentin Harris, Adrian Wilson and the Cardinals scouts for their efforts, particularly in a year where pre-draft customs were greatly hindered and compromised.
So here comes the big hand-off of the personnel from the scouts to the coaches.
The Cardinals coaches have to know by now that player development must continue to improve. The coaches have to do a superb job of bringing the young players along and building the confidence.
How refreshing it is to hear Steve Keim insist that this year the Cardinals have the expectation that Zaven Collins and Rondale Moore are going to play and make a big impact right from the get-go.
How refreshing to know this year that they have a set plan as to where each player fits.
Now the day-to-day learning begins. The class roster for the entire Cardinals’ team looks brighter than ever. But, the day-to-day learning, effort and enthusiasm on the part of the coaches and players will determine whether this year’s team can compete for a championship. As Kyler Murray has been saying all off-season, “We have to start mastering the details, because that’s what championship teams do.”
Ah...turning the mundane grind into fruitful accomplishments and advanced growth!
Therefore, the 2021 gradebook is a clean page and the grade for everyone on day one: TBD.
To be determined.