Nothing But Questions as NFL Prepares for the Draft

Giants and Jets have to deal with uncertain landscape.

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    The way the commissioner wears his hat is only the start of the weirdness.

    Tuesday was a pretty strange day around the NFL, but it has absolutely nothing on Thursday.

    On Wednesday, Judge Susan Nelson turned down the NFL's request for a stay on her ruling lifting the NFL lockout which means that it is time for the league to start doing business.

    League officials have said that they will advise teams about how to proceed on Thursday regarding things like signing free agents and making trades while they simultaneously seek a stay in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Legalese aside, the firm takeaway from this is that the NFL either has to start the league year or run the risk of penalties for not complying with the court's decision. Doing so on the fly would be rough under normal circumstances, but it will be even more difficult with the ruling coming the day before the start of the draft.

    When Roger Goodell takes the podium at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday night, he'll probably get booed by a large portion of the fans that normally wait for the Jets to pick to voice their displeasure. Only then will we start learning the answers to the questions raised by this crazy period in football history.

    Will the league start doing business?

    Up until Wednesday, teams were only allowed to deal draft picks with each other to spin up and down the draft order. Now it would seem that all is kosher and that could dramatically change the way the draft unfolds over the weekend.

    That's the way it seems, but actual practice could be very different. The NFL has to impose a set of rules that escape scrutiny under its exemption from antitrust laws and that might not be possible by the start of business on Thursday night.

    There's almost no chance free agency will start immediately and that's good for both sides. Teams don't know who's an unrestricted free agent and players should want time for everything to develop.

    Could the draft be postponed?

    It would make some sense as the nature of the draft is something that could run afoul of the antitrust exemptions. Like everything else in the league up until now, the draft's existence has been collectively bargained but now it would be open to a legal challenge.

    That said, it is hard to believe the NFL would risk upsetting ESPN by dropping the selection process at this point. The network has spent a lot of money to broadcast the draft and the NFL owners have made it clear their only concern is piling up as much money as possible.

    How will this affect who gets picked?

    This is the one place where it should be business as usual. Teams were heading into Thursday prepared to draft players without having gone through the normal offseason of trades and free agency so there's not really much difference to how things look at this hour.

    What are the Giants going to do?

    Every mock draft in existence has the Giants taking an offensive lineman in the first round. Their names vary -- Florida guard Mike Pouncey, Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo, Colorado tackle Nate Solder -- but they all make sense because the Giants line is growing older and less competent with every passing day.

    General manager Jerry Reese hasn't shown much interest in doing the expected thing over the years, however. They had the same needs last year and took Jason Pierre-Paul to rush the passer, so we'll point out that the Giants may be looking to move on from Brandon Jacobs as a possible curveball.

    What are the Jets going to do?

    There's a lot less consensus when it comes to the direction the Jets are going to take in the first round. They've been linked to all kinds of players -- Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor, UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers and various pass rushers -- without any player or position looking like a cinch.

    They are also more affected by the labor uncertainty than the Giants. With free agents like Antonio Cromartie, Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes up in the air, the Jets don't know if they need to replace them now or if they will be able to keep them all in another year without a salary cap.

    It would be a good idea to address wide receiver at some point, they could use some depth in the secondary and an offensive lineman wouldn't hurt. Given the breadth of their needs, it might make sense to deal out of the first round to bolster their picks as the weekend progresses.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.