By Alan Pergament
The Top 10 takeaways from the national and local media coverage of Thursday's NFL Draft:
1. National Guys Shutout: Maybe it was because so many teams have new coaches and general managers, but I can't recall a draft when the national "experts" were so wrong so often.
It started with the teams at ESPN and The NFL Network being stunned when Miami moved up to choose Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan and continued through the Bills choice of Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel.
Up until a few seconds before the pick, Mel Kiper Jr. and other national guys were still speculating on the Bills taking Syracuse's Ryan Nassib hours after several people on WGR radio -- including Joe Buscaglia, Chris Brown and Steve Tasker -- were correctly zeroing in on Manuel. Score one for the local guys, who often have had to listen to national guys scoop them with the help of player agents. The agents apparently were out in the cold Thursday, too. I began to think Nassib was a Bills smokescreen this week when I heard veteran Syracuse sportswriter Bud Poliquin hammer the quarterback he had covered during his SU career during a Channel 2 interview.
2. Jon Gruden Can Be Critical: Who knew that ESPN's chief cheerleader on Monday Night Football had a critical bone in his body? Starting with the Dolphins' pick and continuing with Minnesota's selection of Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, Gruden was critical of several players. However, he was pleased with the Manuel pick even though he had said repeatedly in recent days that Nassib was the top QB in the draft. "I fell in love with E.J. Manuel," Gruden said during his debate with Kiper on the merits of the pick. "There is a charismatic vibe about E.J. Manuel. He's a natural born leader... Man is he athletic... This kid brings it." However, Gruden added that Manuel has to learn to throw the ball better.
3. Mel Kiper Jr. Had a Bad Day: The guru of draftniks was beating the drum for West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o but no NFL team was listening. The new GMs apparently don't think that highly of Kiper. Kiper also forgot about the Bills when he said a few spots before they picked that no team would take a quarterback in the first round. Kiper also listed Manuel as the No.6 quarterback in the draft and had him rated as the 103rd-rated player. "E.J. Manuel would be a major reach at this point," said Kiper before the Bills made their pick. After the pick, host Chris Berman said: "Nobody had this." Wrong. Just about everyone in Buffalo had it hours earlier.
4. Manuel Is a Public Relations Winner: The Florida State communications department also came out a winner after the Bills' pick had a moving interview with Deion Sanders on The NFL Network. Manuel, who reportedly has a communications degree, immediately became a hit with many Bills fans. I suspect he'll sell a lot of tickets even if he doesn't play much early in the season.
5. ESPN's Adam Schefter First on Bills Trade: The NFL Network seemed to be sleeping while Schefter reported the Bills had traded the eighth pick in the first round to St. Louis for two extra picks. Schefter also was the one ESPN guy who seemed to know the Bills were after Manuel and not Nassib, the QB that Bills Coach Doug Marrone coached at SU.
6. McShay Hammers Manuel: ESPN's Todd McShay, who had to watch Kiper during ESPN's coverage, tweeted during the broadcast and hammered the Bills for taking Manuel. I'm sure you've heard by now that McShay tweeted the Bills pick was "the worst non-Raiders pick I can remember in years." Meanwhile, the NFL Network's Mike Mayock praised the pick and even speculated before it was made that "I think the wild card here is E.J. Manuel" after his teammates were focused on Nassib and Smith. "I love his upside and his arm," said Mayock, adding Manuel is like "a piece of clay" the Bills can mold. Kurt Warner also liked Manuel. I generally go with Mayock, who has a great track record. But McShay will get a lot of attention for that tweet and getting attention is what the new media is all about. The NFL Network's Michael Irvin also might get some attention for saying that sending Manuel to an "unstable place like Buffalo can be a dangerous thing."
7. Ch.7 Sends Stepner to NYC: It was nice to see that Channel 7 spent the money to send backup Shawn Stepner to Manhattan to cover the draft. But he didn't add much from being on the scene at 11 p.m. Channel 7 just replayed Sanders' interview with Manuel that aired on The NFL Network.
8. Poor Geno: Smith gets the Thurman Thomas Award for enduring the pain of being passed over in the first round. ESPN's cameras focused on Smith walking out of the room as the first round neared an end. Thomas, who went on to a Hall of Fame career after the Bills took him in the second round, should give Geno a sympathetic call today.
9. Woman on the Street Interview Scores: A Channel 2 interview with a female fan led to a rare insight from a so-called man or woman on the street interview. "Great pick, but I want to know if he can play in the snow coming from Florida." Make this woman a scout.
10. Will Bills Follow Gruden's Plan? Before the Bills took Manuel, Gruden suggested that the Bills follow the Washington Redskins' plan a year ago when they selected quarterback Robert Griffin III in the first round and quarterback Kirk Cousins in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. "If I were Buffalo, I'd pick a quarterback in the first round and another in the third or fourth round." Not a bad idea and one that gives tonight's coverage some suspense.
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