Smoke on the Water: Deep Purple’s classic has been adopted by the purple-clad Minnesota Vikings, who are trying to convince teams to trade up to their lofty draft slot. GM Rick Speilman has set the Grand Hotel on fire in hopes of convincing some team to rise up and give him multiple picks in order for the Vikings to slide back a few spots.
Even though Speilman got an unexpected assist from Colts owner Jim Irsay trumpeting his admiration of Ryan Tannehill, I don’t think the Vikings trade talks are anything more than a purple haze. Part of the problem is that the teams that are within feasible trading range for the #3 overall pick are not in the position to have extra picks to spare in a trade. Sure, the Rams and Browns both have extra picks, but they need those picks to help add overall talent to their own challenged rosters. Miami might truly and desperately want Ryan Tannehill, but moving from #8 to #3 is going to cost them, at minimum, both their 3rd round picks and a pre-Saturday pick next year too. That’s asking a lot for a team with a whole lot of needs.
I don’t blame Speilman and the Vikings for trying to drum up interest. But their “leaking” that they might take Justin Blackmon is a classic smokescreen that has no fire. They do have interest in Morris Claiborne, and that could potentially scare the Buccaneers at #5 enough to pull the old David Coverdale-for-Ian Gillen swap. That move didn’t exactly work out too well for Deep Purple, and I don’t see the prospects for that sort of deal working out very well for the NFL’s one eyed, one horned flying purple people eaters either.
To Build a Fire: Drivin’ & Cryin’s 1989 underrated gem fits nicely with what Jacksonville is trying to do with the 7th pick: building interest in a trade. GM Gene Smith has set up kindling in many places, hoping to smoke out some value for their pick.
I think Smith is going to get this fire raging. There are a lot of potential dance partners for a lot of different scenarios here. Any team that covets Ryan Tannehill–and there are teams that will–must get in front of Miami at #8. That puts Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Buffalo into potential play. If one of the presumed top 6 guys (Luck, RG3, Kalil, Claiborne, Richardson, Blackmon) slides, teams are going to want to get in on that action. Think Dallas or Carolina or even New England might flock to that flame? If the smoke about the Jets coveting Melvin Ingram is legit, Team Tebow could want to get in front of Carolina at #9, which also has some alleged interest in Ingram.
Jacksonville has a handful of likely targets with their pick at #7. Michael Floyd, Ingram, Quentin Coples, Stephon Gilmore, and maybe David DeCastro all make sense in north Florida. All of those guys could potentially be there at #11. Some of them will likely be available at #15. That makes it an easy decision for Smith to fire away the pick. Of all the potential trade smoke in the upper realms of the draft, Jacksonville trading away #7 is the most likely to actually produce real fire.
Smokin’ in the Boys Room: This Motley Crue (and Brownsville Station) hit refers (reefers?) to celebrated pothead Janoris Jenkins, who apparently smoked in a lot more places than the boy’s room. Jenkins admitted to as much in recent interviews, publicly coming forward that he continued to abuse marijuana even after transferring to North Alabama.
This news comes as little surprise to anyone who has done any modicum of background checking on Jenkins. I know several people directly involved with Florida athletics and the Gator football team, and the picture they painted of Jenkins at the time of his dismissal was downright scary. This is a guy that wasn’t just a daily pot smoker. More like hourly during the offseason, or so I’m told. Everyone I talked with at that time believed Jenkins transferred to North Alabama rather than entering the draft in 2011 because he wasn’t ready to abandon the chronic. The same people who advised me Cam Newton was a good kid that made a bad decision and accepted his punishment like a man have told me Janoris Jenkins is bad news, that he’s a person who lives for the minute and only for himself. I cannot speak for his post-Gator pot usage other than what Jenkins himself has admitted, but it says a lot that he couldn’t stop himself when the writing was burned into the wall. There are other players in this draft with some off-field flags, but it’s pretty easy to find coaches, teammates, and people in the know who will vouch for Michael Floyd, Mike Adams, and Riley Reiff. It’s damn near impossible to find anyone with anything positive to say about Janoris Jenkins the man. That is going to be hard for him to overcome and stick in the top 30 picks even though he is as top 10-caliber talent.
Fire Down Below: Bob Seger sang about the fire down below over 30 years ago, and in this draft that question hangs over North Carolina DE Quentin Coples. While he possesses all the physical traits teams covet–length, strength, speed, bulk–Coples earned the knock that he doesn’t always play to his best ability with a very lackluster 2011 season. Teams want to know how hot the fire down below burns in Coples, and that has caused his stock to slide.
One of the more common traits amongst draft busts is a lack of desire to push themselves when faced with adversity or failure. Coples certainly faced a lot of adversity last year at North Carolina, where the program tried to clean up the grease fire that former coach Butch Davis left behind. After a very strong 2010, when the grease was igniting, Coples was less aggressive and dynamic in 2011. He appeared to be playing to try and not get hurt, and his Senior Bowl week was hit and miss.
One of the telling signs to me happened in Mobile during Senior Bowl week. I got the chance to talk to Melvin Ingram and Coples for a few minutes each within 20 minutes of one another. Ingram was vibrant and excited about talking ball, enthusiastic and confident about his game and how he could impact at the next level. Coples was pretty reserved and nonchalant about his game and had little vibrancy to his eyes. Now let me be clear, this was an isolated 5-minute interaction with a complete stranger after doing that about 10 other times that day; I don’t blame Coples for being apathetic or lacking vigor, that might not be his personality. But the contrast between Ingram and Coples and their enthusiasm really made a big impression on me. I didn’t see the fire down below, and I’m not alone in that assessment. That is why you should not be surprised when Quentin Coples falls further than expected on draft weekend.
By the way, if you’re a fan of the Seger song, check out the cover version by a band from Grand Rapids MI called Wayland. It rocks!
Into the Fire: If you knew me in the late 1980s, you know I was arguably the biggest Dokken fan in Ohio. I had to buy the “Under Lock and Key” cassette three times because I wore it out with so much play on my knockoff Walkman. The song Into the Fire happens to be on the prior release “Tooth and Nail”, which I only bought twice, but it aptly fits the plight of several small-school prospects that are going to come off the board draft Friday.
The first of those players figures to be Montana DB Trumaine Johnson, who could realistically go as early as 35th overall. It’s a big jump from the Big Sky to the NFL. While Johnson has the size and measurables to make it, the adjustment in QB/WR skill and speed of the game leave him primed to get burned quite a bit his first season. I’m not as bullish on Johnson as many are, particularly as a corner. I do like his potential in a Charles Tillman kind of corner role after a year or two of adjustment, but where I think Johnson would burn brightest is as a Cover-2 base free safety.
Other non D-IA players who will hear their names called on Friday (the 2nd and 3rd rounds) and will be thrust into the fire include Coastal Carolina CB Josh Norman, Appalachian State WR Brian Quick, and Midwestern State guard Amini Silatolu, who has a legit chance to rocket past Johnson and be the first small schooler taken. Silatolu is getting some Burning Like a Flame buzz as a late first rounder, but I’ll breathe in that smoke after I see it.