"The city that he builds shall bear my name... So let it be written, so let it be done."
The famous quote above was spoken by actor Yul Brynner - as Pharaoh Rameses II - in the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille classic The Ten Commandments. Much like ESPN's coverage of the 2009 NFL Draft, Commandments was an overproduced, gaudy opus of overacting and chest-banging self-indulgence. I'm referring, of course, to the commentators and "experts" trotted out every 2 minutes to bless us viewers with their knowledge and insight. Give me Chris Mortensen any day, but the rest can join me on my couch if they like. If I have to listen to Keyshawn Johnson and Steve Young try to "one-up" each other and argue all afternoon about whether QB's or WR's are more important to their football team, they may as well be available to make an occasional beer run.
There's another comparison one can draw from The Ten Commandemnts. Each year, the NFL draft's story line is the same for most of the teams involved; one that involves reaching the promised land. The draft is what it is - pick the players you think are the best and fit your needs. The New York Giants have had three productive and relatively successful drafts under general manger Jerry Reese. I have to admit that the Hakeem Nicks pick was not only predictable but anticlimactic; it was going to be Nicks, Kenny Britt or Brian Robiskie at #29 in the first round. Reese has shown to be a smart yet conservative in his drafting, so Nicks was the clear choice.
Nabbing Andre Brown - the often injured yet talanted running back out of N.C. State - was a pleasant surprise falling to the 129th pick. OLB Clint Stintim (Virginia) will be a nice addition to the linebacking corps, and OT William Beatty (UConn) was a smart choice in adding depth to a strong but aging offensive line. Each year I look for that pick that intrigues me - that player that flew under the radar that everyone thinks might be an impact player, but didn't play on the national stage or against the elite schools. In 2004, I was intrigued and excited about the trade for Eli Manning, but like most Giants fans the immediate bashings and less-than-stellar start to his career quickly derailed my enthusiasm. As I've mentioned, Jerry Reese makes smart but safe choices. I've been satisfied with most all of his picks the past few years, but his selection in the 3rd round (85th overall) has got me shivering with anticipation. That pick was Cal Poly Wide Receiver Ramses Barden.
Ramses Barden, that's who. http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/
He's 6'6", weighs in at 228 lbs and has an armspan of... well, let's just say that I wouldn't be shocked if he could touch the sidelines with his fingertips while standing on the "NFL" logo at midfield. He's a hulking figure and towers over everyone else running downfield. Built like a brick sh**house as my father used to say. A brick sh**house, indeed
In researching Barden and looking at some highlight films, what's most impressive about his physical attributes is his ability to keep defensive backs off his body by boxing them out to get himself into the best possible position (and his defenders into the worst possible position) for catching the ball. He seems to have good overall athletic skills for a big guy, and enough agility to get down on low passes over the middle while leaping for extremely overthrown balls. He does have his drawbacks according to the scouting reports; he's got average speed at best, and doesn't have overly reliable hands like Hakeem Nicks. He's not going to blow anybody off the line, but at 6'6", will he ever really need to?
I can't explain why I like this pick so much. Perhaps it's simple mathmatics - Eli Manning relied so much on the 6'5" Plaxico Burress that a replacement that's an inch taller and will potentially gain another few pounds of muscle before the season begins seems like a perfect fit. I understand that my enthusiasm needs to be tempered. He's a rookie. He may not be able to make the transition to the pro level. He may need time to develop his skills. There also happens to be a few other wideouts on the team that will have something to say about his playing time - Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, Mario Manningham and the aforementioned Mr. Nicks are all in the mix heading into the season.
I can't say how Tom Coughlin will handle this, but I know what I'd like to see him do: Give this kid a shot. IF he's healthy, IF he's proving himself consistently in training camp, IF he's going the extra mile to improve his game and IF he's able to handle the transition and make a connection with Eli... let's see what he's got. Even if it's only on third down situations or inside the red zone, I want that guy out there to compliment the sure-handedness of Steve Smith and the quickness of Domenik Hixon. I want to see the fade pattern make its triumphant return to the Giants offensive playbook.
I know what you're thinking. I should calm down. Take it easy on this one, right? There's no way for us to know how this will eventually work out, and the chances that a rookie receiver from California Polytechnic State University will make a significant impact in his first year or two are pretty slim.
You know what I'm thinking? I'm thinking that if Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon and Kevin Boss have proven one thing - it's that you don't need to be a first round draft pick or a seasoned veteran to make an impact on the receiving corps of the New York Giants. Somehow, someway, they will find a way to put your talent to use. I'm also thinking that I want to pre-order my professional "BARDEN" jersey once they put up his number on the team website.
Play the kid if he's up for it... So let it be written, so let it be done.
sources: gopoly.com / nfldraftblitz.com / nfl.com