When did Ryan Grant become Ryan Goddamn Grant? Really, am I missing something here? He went from being nothing special at Notre Dame to being nothing special for the New York Giants to being buried on the depth chart in Green Bay to making the Packers' a legitimate title contender. Seriously, what the hell happened?
I watched this guy at ND and never once did I say, "Holy hell, this guy's a monster." Now, I realize I've never said those words about anyone, ever, but the point is this (and stop me if you've heard this one): Running backs are a dime-a-dozen. They just are. And unless you can get your hands on Adrian Petersen or Ladainian Tomlinson in the top half of round one, wait 'til later, because something almost as good is about four rounds away, and about five times as cheap.
My belief is that there's somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred human beings currently inhabiting our planet who could rush for 1,100 yards on four yards-per-carry, while scoring eight touchdowns in an NFL season. Think about what I just wrote: One hundred guys. Now, it's entirely possible that I'm full of shit (it's been known to happen), but it's also possible that the number might actually be higher. But I'm going to go ahead and assume I'm right about this one. One hundred guys (wait, that's kind of gay).
Just think about how lucky Selvin Young, Willie Parker and Grant were to find themselves in their current situations:
Selvin Young: Never a stud at Texas, and went undrafted. It could have been a death sentence but he was desirable enough to Mike Shanahan that the Broncos' head man reached out and signed him as a free agent. What if, say, Jacksonville would have offered him more the day before? Maybe he makes the team in training camp, maybe he doesn't. But even if he does, he's sitting behind Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew and never sees the field. A couple years may pass and he might be struggling to make a roster, any roster, despite his obvious game-breaking ability.
Willie Parker: Another undrafted guy who made the most of his opportunity. Fast Willie rushed for less than 1,000 yards in his four-year career at North Carolina, a school not necessarily noted for its football tradition. Most guys like that don't even get into someone's camp. Parker did, benefited from injuries to Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley and made the most of it. The odds were stacked against him, despite (my apologies for being redundant) his obvious game-breaking ability.
Grant: I touched on him a little already, but it's worth noting that he needed a million breaks to get to where he is now. Grant was a sixth round selection of the New York Giants and sat on their practice squad in year one. Year two saw him miss the entire season with an injury. Going into 2007, he found himself behind Brandon Jacobs, Reuben Droughns (aka Robin Droggins) and Derrick Ward. Most guys in Grant's situation get cut and never find their way to a roster. But he was traded to Green Bay and given new life. Sort of. Grant was still behind Deshawn Wynn, Brandon Jackson and Vernand Morency, and needed their ineffectiveness/injuries/drug suspension to finally get noticed. And when he did, he was great. But that opportunity was never guaranteed to him.
You might think I'm crazy. You might think that cream always rises to the top, and that Young, Parker and Grant would have eventually become quality NFL RBs. But I will always disagree with you. More people are playing football than ever before, and their are too many out-of-nowhere success stories to support my beliefs (Priest Holmes, anyone?). There are 32 starting RBs in the NFL...do you really think there aren't a ton more capable of handling that position?
Which reminds me...
Since RBs are a dime-a-dozen, the GMs who were responsible for giving Edgerrin James and Shaun Alexander mega-contracts a few years back need to be shot in the face with a gun or rifle (is a rifle a gun or just a rifle? I suppose it's both.). You're much better off drafting a fast guy in the fourth round every other year until one sticks.
Also, for NFL GMs who read this...
Don't draft Steve Slaton as high as the mock drafts are projecting. I mean, sure, he's a modern day Tatum Bell (with a little Michael Bennett mixed in) but he's not worthy of being a top 15 selection. He's just not. This guy will never be the kind of 1,300-1,500 yard rusher that you look for with a high first round pick. Trust me. This isn't to say that he won't be a consistent 1,110 yard rusher, but--as we've learned--you can find fellows like that on the scrap heap.
End of those words.
The kids are growing up, people, and Mick Cronin's coaching ability has finally allowed me to sleep well at night.
It doesn't seem real, actually, beating Louisville, Syracuse and Villanova in their first four Big East games. Not only because last year was a disaster, but because we're not exactly talking about a supremely talented roster here. Think for a moment and name me one player on this roster who you're absolutely positive will play three seasons in the NBA. You can't. Unless you're flat-out lying to yourself you cannot name one player on this team who will ever hear their name called by David Stern.
That's not to say they don't have their right to exist on the Big East level, because they absolutely do. But even the young guys, the so called "talent" on the roster, is only okay. I mean, sure, I like Deonta Vaughn, but he'll never play in the league. And Anthony McClain, look, the guy's getting better, but he's no shoe-in to make an NBA roster--he has miles to go. Rashd Bishop will be a great four-year player but never a next-level guy. I could go on and on, but then I'd seem like I was bashing a team I'm falling in love with. And I'd also be getting away from my point: Mick Cronin can really coach, and his mildly talented roster is how I know such things. Teams like Cronin's current squad usually compete with conference heavyweights when they're full of third and fourth year players, not when they're a mishmash of semi-promising freshman, an overachieving sophomore and a buttload of seniors who will be lucky to play in the Turkish B-League next year.
End of all words.
(Note: I was going to write a few dozen words about Yancey Gates, but my bed is calling my name. Plus, I'm traumatized by the extended weiner shot I just witnessed in Sunday's episode of The Wire.)
Podcasts coming Monday.
Keep the change, you filthy animals.
-Brad Spieser (Brad@TwinKilling.com)