by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Things we learned from the NFL draft:1) Sunshine is overrated.2) Joey Harrington can now look to his right and his left.3) It’s OK to draft 20-year-olds, but not the ones who go to the Supreme Court.

Let’s begin with the sunshine.

Silly me.

Here I thought all anyone could want in life was beach, breeze and beautiful blondes.

Obviously, a subway that smells like urine is more attractive.

How else do you explain Eli Manning — of the Manning dynasty — essentially forcing a draft-day trade to the New York Giants from San Diego, warning the Chargers: “If you draft me, I’ll go to law school.” (And to think, in the old days, people used to threaten with violence.)

Hey. All San Diego wants is a starting quarterback. Is that so wronnng? True, it can offer only perfect weather, a gorgeous ocean, blue skies and bodacious bods. How can that compare to a Central Park mugging?

Ask the Mannings.

Never mind that the Chargers, for all their recent troubles, did go to a Super Bowl after the 1994 season, which is more than any quarterback named Archie or Peyton can say. Nonetheless, in the family view, San Diego is beneath them.

“We stated our opinions about what we wanted to happen,” Eli said. “We didn’t want to go there. We were patient. Things worked out.”

I don’t get it. Who’s this “we”? When you draft a Manning, is it like Pizza-Pizza? Do you get a twin?

Harrington will have to choose

sides On Sunday, after his final selection of a fine draft weekend, I asked Lions president Matt Millen what would happen if his top pick said: “Detroit? P-yew! I’ll go to law school.”

Millen snorted.

“My inclination would be to stick it out, take him anyhow. I hear a lot of guys come to the facility here, look around and say: ‘This is a lot different than I thought.’

“The perception of Detroit is one thing, the reality is another.”

Millen and Steve Mariucci hope that holds for more than just buildings. After all, can you imagine if the Lions had the No. 1 pick and Manning took at look at their track record?

Fortunately for us, this year’s crop of raw Lions talent — top-ranked by an ESPN poll of draft watchers — appears glad to wear the Honolulu blue. (Maybe they think you get a trip to Honolulu with that.)

True, top pick Roy Williams, the Texas wide receiver, admitted all he knew of the Lions was “Barry Sanders and the throwback uniforms” (both of which we see once a year). But he did say he was “happy to be here.”

So did the second pick, Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones, and the third pick, Oklahoma linebacker Teddy Lehman.

Even better news is, if Williams can start right away, quarterback Joey Harrington now has a second option. There were times last year, in the five or six minutes that Charles Rogers was healthy, that Harrington was clearly favoring him — even throwing into double coverage. And given his alternatives, wouldn’t you?

Now a defense will have to cover two legitimate threats — plus Tai Streets.
(NOTE: Millen, in trading down one pick, did give up on Miami’s Kellen Winslow Jr. I wonder if that will come back to haunt him. First-round-worthy receivers come around every year. Tight ends do not. And in a West Coast offense, it sure helps to have a big, fast tight end for those short dump passes. Plus the guy can block.)

Still, Millen got an additional pick with his swift maneuver, and when you need lots of help, you play the odds.

It’s not really for their own good

Playing the odds is all Mike Williams did, too. He’s Southern Cal’s sophomore receiver, projected as a high first-round selection.

But he never got picked. At the last minute, he wasn’t allowed in the draft.

Williams fell victim to the hypocrisy of the NFL’s winking collusion with college football.

He hired an agent — effectively ending his college career — only because Ohio State’s Maurice Clarett had won a decision in court, forcing the NFL to allow him — and other underclassmen like Williams — into the league. Williams, unlike Clarett, was a shoo-in for a multimillion-dollar deal.

Then, last week, the league won an appeal to hold off on that ruling. Which left Williams in limbo. Can’t go back to the Trojans. Can’t join the NFL.

What a joke. The NFL claims it’s locking the doors for the young players’ own good, that sophomores are not yet “ready” for the heavy hitting of the NFL.

Baloney. Williams turned 20 in January. Other 20-year-olds were drafted over the weekend. You mean they’re more “ready” because they’re juniors?

Ah, well.

It’s just part of the insanity of draft weekend, where hope springs eternal, the Lions always come out smiling, the Mannings are now booking a regular table at Rao’s, and people in San Diego are sniffing to see if they have body odor.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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