NFL Newshound 4/30/14

1 May, 2014 by Shaun Lowrie

Our regular look at some of the more tenuous NFL media stories continues. It's officially draft-season, which means reams of speculation, very little tangible evidence, and a lot of contradictions. Today, Blake Bortles is destined for Canton, Matt Cassel is the new Matt Schaub and the Vikings get a literal steal...

Stretching belief (but not the field)

ESPN's Matt Williamson was once a college scout for the Cleveland Browns, which begs the question of how, exactly, he is qualified to analyse Quarterbacks. Unless he was in any way responsible for Kelly Holcomb, because we liked Holcomb.

Anyway, we digress. Today Williamson pipes up about Blake Bortles. Bortles has a number of featurettes on the ESPN site today, which inevitably means at least 75% of them are complete rubbish. One of WIlliamson's assertions about incumbent Vikings starter Matt Cassel caught our eye in particular:

"Cassel, I think, you can win with. I could see him being Matt Schaub with the Texans before Schaub (struggled) a year ago_"_

Um, let's back up there a little Matt. You see, the problem with that comparison is that Cassel did actually play in the league before he joined the Vikings, and in the period before Schaub went all pick-6 crazy, Cassel was one of the worst starting QB's in the league.

In 2012 Schaub threw for 4,008yds, 22 TD's, 12 INTs and led the Texans to the postseason.

In 2012 Cassel threw for 1,796yds, 6 TD's, 12 INT's and was benched for Brady Quinn.

So all we're saying to Vikings fans is not to bank on Matt Cassel being Matt Schaub, and probably assume he will be more like... er... Matt Cassel.

Taking the High Road

If there's one thing that gets Terry Blount's goat, it's people exploiting Seahawks QB Russel WIlson's divorce for their own ends. Yes, Blount takes aim at those scurrilous rumor-mongers at TMZ etc who deal in '...__inaccurate reports... that specialize in private lives of public figures.'Good call Terry, we're on board with this campaign. What kind of person would use the divorce of someone to generate column inches of their own verbal diarrhoea?

"However, a fair question to ask: Will going through a divorce affect Wilson’s play in 2014?"

Ah. We see. You would. We're sure Russ appreciates the concern.

Hall of Fame

Here's our favorite draft story today - ESPN Insider Peter Keating writes of 'Four indusputable reasons why UCF QB Blake Bortles is more likely to go boom than bust'.

This had better be good.

Reason 1: 'H__e has already played well in the kind of offense NFL teams use today.'

Ok Pete, nice try, but 'indusputable'? For years players have been labelled 'More NFL ready' or exalted in pre-draft shows because they 'played in a pro-system at college' and proven unable to handle the rigors of the NFL.

Jimmy Clausen, for example, was rated higher than he should have been for this exact reason. The fact is, many of those players have ended up as busts, and many of those from the last few drafts such as Matt Barkley, have shown that 'pro style' QB's are far from NFL ready. Just because the type of offence is changing, doesn't mean every defensive co-ordinator in the league isn't trying to stop them. Just ask RGIII...

Reason 2: 'At age 21, he is already a veteran'

Wow. Where to start... in fact no, balls to it: John Beck, Brandon Weeden, Tim Tebow. All older than Bortles, all busts.

Reason 3_: 'His statistics, interpreted properly, are too good.'_

Now we're in dangerous territory. 'interpreted properly'?

"back in 2006, David Lewin, then a college student writing for Football Outsiders, found that he could predict quarterback performance in the NFL reasonably well by looking at just two college stats: games started and completion percentage"

Did he now. Well Sam Bradford had a 68% completion percentage at Oklahoma, and how has that panned out? At best we're on the fence, but at worst, you could argue that Bradford's lack of playoff games, massive cost in salary and general mediocrity weigh him more towards the bust category. Regardless, to say that certain stats prove that Bortles will be 'indisputably' good is madness. Which brings us on to Keating's final reason...

Reason 4 'The game of football has invested too much in him already'

Yes. This is real. This man is paid to write articles for the biggest sports network in the world.

Do we even need to elaborate why this is madness? Keating bumbles some reasoning based on Bortles's upbringing in Florida, his family income, the amount spent on college athletes these days, and other reasons that could apply to many other players in the NFL draft.

We're not sure what Keating is getting at here. The NFL has invested nothing in Bortles being a professional football player, and in fact 31 teams will be actively trying to prevent any success once he is drafted. The idea that Bortles is more likely to be drafted due to his upbringing, the slightly disconcerting tendency of local education authorities towards athletic success at the expense of academics, and financial investment may be true, but it doesn't mean he can't fail.

The 'game of football' invested everything, mind body and - quite literally in some cases - soul into Tim Tebow's success. He was born and raised in Florida, deemed a freakish talent from a  young age, had a supportive family and became a college superstar. Nothing could have been a better advert for the 'game of football' - something that doesn't exist as a tangible body - than Tebow becoming an NFL megastar. Instead, he'll be working college games on ESPN next year.

'it's worth repeating one last time: Blake Bortles won't be a bust.'

Bookmarked, Peter.

'He goes where no ordinary draft expert would dare...'

Remember Bucky o'Hare? Along with 'Biker Mice from Mars' and 'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes' it is one of those things that make us question whether Pickwatch's cereal was spiked with LSD. It's also our favorite 'Bucky'.

Bucky Brooks, however, is not our favorite Bucky.

Today he proves just why, by picking Khalil Mack to be selected by the Raiders at no.5.

And then by the Vikings at no.8.

Most blatant draft smokescreen of the day:

_"_We’ve already gotten some calls about teams wanting to move up," - Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome

Sure you have Ozzie. I bet teams are desperate to get to that coveted number 17 spot a week before they know who will be available.

Shaun Lowrie is the founder and editor of Pickwatch, a site designed to give you a new perspective on experts in the NFL media by tracking their performance when picking games or predicting draft picks, team performance, or player potential. You can contact him at [email protected] or on twitter at @pickwatch