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Mailbag: Room for differing views on draft

3/15/2011

John from Gansevoort, N.Y., has no problem with the NFL Players Association encouraging college prospects to skip the televised draft proceedings during a lockout. He says those affiliated with ESPN who expressed views to the contrary are toeing the company line in the interests of enhanced television ratings.

Mike Sando: There's room for multiple views on this one, inside and outside ESPN. Most of the feedback I've heard from the outside lines up with the viewpoint I expressed. Several others used the mailbag to raise questions such as yours.

ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd supported the NFLPA on this issue during his show Tuesday morning. I was on the show and told him I had no issue with any college prospect deciding on his own to skip the event on principle. The NFLPA would seem petty, in my view, if it pressured prospects to stay away.

My general thought was that the draft should be bigger than a labor dispute. That seems reasonable.

The NFLPA has subsequently clarified its intentions, suggesting it could hold an alternate event for players after NFL teams make their selections. Let's see what they have in store.


Gregory from San Jose, Calif., thinks the NFL draft could be just fine without the top prospects in attendance. He could see them greeting their new teammates someplace off site. After all, he says, the players are the game, not the owners or the commissioner. Who cares about Rodger Goodell welcoming Cam Newton and posing for pictures?

Mike Sando: I'd enjoy watching draft prospects interact with their new teammates right away.


Alex from Philadelphia wants to know how much pressure I feel to "toe the company line" and he wonders whether I would be reluctant to express a viewpoint that "went directly against the fiduciary interests" of ESPN.

Mike Sando: I have felt no pressure, ever. I have never even thought of these issues in relation to what they might mean for ESPN. In retrospect, it stands to reason that the networks might favor an 18-game regular-season schedule and the opportunity to generate additional revenue. I'm completely against the 18-game schedule because I think it would dilute the product and put players -- quarterbacks in particular -- at additional risk.


Tom from Winnipeg thinks NFL owners are doing far more than the NFLPA to hurt players by attempting to extend the schedule, impose a rookie wage scale and skim additional revenue. He thinks there's nothing "petty" about the NFLPA "merely recommending" players skip the draft.

Mike Sando: I was advocating on behalf of the fans and the players because I thought the draft experience for both would suffer if college prospects skipped the draft.

This doesn't mean the NFLPA is wrong on other issues.

As I noted, "The NFLPA naturally wants to make life tougher for the league in big and small ways during the lockout. That is understandable, but urging players to avoid such a quintessential fan-friendly event would come off as yet another slap in the face for the people paying the bills."

This subject has dominated the mailbag in the last 24 hours or so, but there's room to discuss a football-related question. Here goes ...


John from Walla Walla, Wash., thinks the Seattle Seahawks have too many needs to stand pat in the draft. He thinks they need to trade down for more picks and he wonders about potential trading partners.

Mike Sando: The Seahawks hold the 25th overall choice. They have shown they're willing to deal with just about anyone. Take a look at the seven teams picking right after Seattle in the first round and you'll see the possibilities:

  • No. 26: Baltimore. The Seahawks and Ravens swung a trade involving Josh Wilson last season.

  • No. 27: Atlanta. Seahawks executive John Idzik worked with Falcons executive Rich McKay in Tampa Bay. Neither makes the personnel decisions, but at least there's a connection.

  • No. 28: New England. The Patriots and Seahawks made the Deion Branch trade last season.

  • No. 29: Chicago. Former Seahawks president Tim Ruskell works for the Bears now. He worked some current members of Seattle's personnel team.

  • No. 30: New York Jets. The Seahawks and Jets made the Leon Washington trade during the 2010 draft.

  • No. 31: Green Bay. Seahawks general manager John Schneider worked under Packers general manager Ted Thompson for years. They are close friends.

  • No. 32: Pittsburgh. No obvious connections stand out.

The Seahawks' front office has multiple ties to other teams around the league, from Tennessee to San Francisco to Cleveland and beyond.

We know Schneider and coach Pete Carroll aren't afraid to wheel and deal, but it's difficult to project what might happen. How the draft unfolds often dictates the urgency teams feel to move up. Without knowing how the draft will unfold, we cannot know how those pressures will affect trades.

In theory, yes, the Seahawks could use additional picks as they look to upgrade their roster. They are without a third-round choice. They have a long list of potential unrestricted free agents. They have much work to do, in other words, and the lockout could force them to rely more heavily on the draft in getting that work done.

I tend to think we'll have free agency at some point before the season, however.