How is this for irony? Four years ago Georgia didn’t want Jarrad Davis. Four years later Jarrad Davis will be a first round draft pick from the University of Florida. Georgia, meanwhile, may not have a single player selected when the NFL Drafts starting tonight.
When the Gators signed Davis no one ever thought he would ever be considered a top pro prospect, but he’s the perfect example of what happens when dreams and work ethic collide with exceptional coaching. He did well when he was on the field his first two years at Florida, but when Randy Shannon started coaching the linebackers two years ago the football universe aligned for Jarrad Davis and Shannon turned a good player with a lot of potential into someone who’s going to go in the first round.
Davis should be the first of as many as nine Gators who will be drafted over the next three days. That’s more than Georgia, more than Tennessee. Ironic isn’t it that the recent recruiting classes of both Georgia and Tennessee have been much higher rated than those of the University of Florida? It’s great to bring in classes of highly regarded recruits but they still have to be coached up once they get on campus.
Obviously, Florida has been doing a great job of getting kids coached up.
Here are where the Gators rank in Todd McShay’s final position ratings for ESPN. Please note that Caleb Brantley is listed at #24 due to allegations that he kayoed a woman. Brantley’s attorney, Huntley Johnson, claims to have video showing the woman walking away from the alleged altercation.
Offensive guard: David Sharpe #8
Defensive tackle: Caleb Brantley #24
Outside linebacker: Bryan Cox Jr. #13
Inside linebacker: Jarrad Davis #3, Alex Anzalone #6
Cornerback: Quincy Wilson #6, Jalen Tabor #9
Safety: Marcus Maye #3
AN NFL DEFENSE
If you count the guys who are going to be drafted or sign free agent deals and likely play in the NFL in 2017 then add them to the players who played in the league last year, then it’s pretty evident that Will Muschamp left behind an NFL defense.
DE: Alex McCalister (Philadelphia); Bryan Cox Jr. (2017)
DT: Jonathan Bullard (Chicago); Caleb Brantley (2017); Joey Ivie (2017)
LB: Antonio Morrison (Indianapolis); Jarrad Davis (2017); Alex Anzalone (2017)
CB: Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa Bay); Brian Poole (Atlanta); Quincy Wilson (2017); Jalen Tabor (2017)
S: Keanu Neal (Atlanta); Marcus Maye (2017)
ESPN CAN ONLY BLAME ITSELF
ESPN gave pink slips to an estimated 100 of its collection of reporters, analysts and talking heads on Wednesday. It had been rumored for weeks that the layoffs would take place in an effort to stop some of the bleeding at the network, which is losing money hand over fist. Some very good people with a family to support lost their jobs and while some of the others probably should have been shown the door long ago, they still have obligations to meet and now they are without a job so it’s a sad day all around.
With these high profile firings, ESPN is trying to show the world that it’s doing something about a shrinking bottom line but that’s something the network should have considered a long time ago. If you’re looking for a model of how NOT to run a business, then look closely at ESPN for a blueprint and you’ll see that ESPN only has to look in the mirror to see why it’s in trouble.
These are not the only reasons why ESPN is in trouble, but here are five big ones:
1. Paid too much to acquire rights to cover live events: ESPN is in the first of a nine-year agreement to televise the NBA at a cost of $1.5 billion a year. NFL rights cost a cool $1.9 billion annually. The College Football Playoff rights cost in EXCESS of $1 billion. Major League Baseball costs $700 million annually. Those aren’t the only ones ESPN paid too much for but it’s a good place to start.
2. At some point there is saturation: We have ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNNews and the SEC Network. I’m sure I’m missing something but all those networks require programming and live events. If you’re a college football junkie, it’s great that you can watch games from noon on Saturday until 2 a.m. on Sunday on all those networks but do you really stay up to watch wrist wrestling or strong man competitions when the networks are trying to fill time the rest of the year? ESPN wanted to be the one-stop shop for all things sports and created all these networks. What it has done is saturate the market and while sportsaholics may love it, eventually the financial bottom line takes a hit because you can’t always show something that people will actually want to watch. That’s one of the reasons the network is in trouble.
3. Instead of focusing on broadcasting ESPN also tried to dominate sports traffic on the internet: Name the sport and ESPN covers it on ESPN.com and with all the sports there are tons of reporters, columnists and analysts. ESPN made its mark as a broadcasting network and instead of focusing on what it did best, it expanded into the internet and magazine publishing. And it wasn’t good enough to simply add the written word to its broadcasting unit, suddenly it became necessary for every reporter to also be a talking head for video. And on and on and on. Bottom line is ESPN bit off far more than it could chew and it’s been a very costly decision.
4. Sports Center is less about sports and more about personalities: There was a time when Sports Center was fun. You stayed up to watch so you could see all the highlights from every important game, but highlights have become far less important and personalities dominate. There is way too much talk. Stuart Scott and Kenny Mayne were funny but now we have to listen to people talk who need someone to stuff a sock in their mouths. How much Scott Van Pelt can one take in a lifetime? That show at 6 p.m. with Jemele Hill? I can’t stomach it for more than two minutes. And why is it necessary every time there is an important basketball game involving Kentucky or Duke to get Dickie V’s take? I am convinced that if he could he would bear a child for Coach Cal or Coach K. Sports Center is the face of the network and should be all about reporting the sports news and showing the highlights and far less about people who must be paid by the word.
5. This is a sports network, not political and social commentary: Clay Travis argues that ESPN’s very leftward political slant has been one of the chief reasons subscriptions have been bleeding at a rapid rate. I’m not sure the impact is as great as what Travis portrays it to be, but I do know that most people I talk to turn to sports as a getaway from all the world’s social and political issues. I remember my late father and grandfather talking about how baseball helped the entire nation get through the depression because it provided an escape from the tough times. I think sports have always provided that escape and when suddenly the primary sports network deems it necessary to inject political and social commentary it turns people off.
SOMETIMES IT PAYS TO DO THE MATH
When Nick Calathes left the University of Florida after his sophomore season (2009) to sign a multi-year deal with a team in the Greek League, he got a signing bonus to go with two years at more than $500,000 a year plus other incentives such as housing and tax breaks. All his money was guaranteed. At best he would have been a second rounder in the NBA and while he probably would have made a team, he would have made league minimum (then about $300,000) and almost certainly a one-year deal.
There was no uncertainty when Nick made his deal. Because he had guaranteed money and an opportunity to play on the Greek national team (he has dual citizenship because his grandfather was Greek), there was no financial gamble for leaving school to play pro basketball.
Fast forward to 2017. Devin Robinson has chosen to leave the University of Florida a year early, joining 181 others from various schools across the country who have declared for the NBA Draft. There was talk that Devin might have played himself into the first round after two outstanding games in the NCAA Tournament in Orlando, but his stock probably slipped when he got to Madison Square Garden for Florida’s next two games. Currently, most of the people who spend their lives projecting the NBA Draft have Robinson mid-second round to undrafted.
He’s plenty talented and he’s quite a bright, articulate young man so he will have multiple free agent offers even if he goes undrafted, which means a real roll of the dice. If he is selected in the second round, he will be given every opportunity to make the team make an NBA minimum of $562,493. If he doesn’t make the team but the team thinks he could develop, they could sign him to a two-way contract which allows him to play in the Developmental League and be available for call up to the NBA for as many as 45 days. That would pay him somewhere in the neighborhood of $275,000.
If he’s undrafted and can’t make an NBA team as a free agent, Robinson will have to make a decision about playing in the Developmental League where the salaries range from $12,000 to $24,000 or go to Europe or somewhere else in the world to play professional basketball. Some players like Calathes make a lot of money playing overseas. Nick came back to the NBA for a couple of years, but went back to Greece because he plays a shorter schedule and with the tax breaks actually makes more money than he would riding the pine in the NBA. He’s an exception, though.
Depending on the league and depending on the city, there are some very good Euro contracts but what happens if you can’t catch on in Greece, Spain, France, Turkey or Italy where they offer the better deals? A player in Germany or Austria or Poland can figure to make $65,000 to $110,000 a year.
With all these numbers in mind, go back to the number 182. That’s the number of underclassmen who have declared for the draft. If it’s a typical year, about 1/3 of them will not hire an agent and will do the smart thing by going back to school. So let’s say 62 of them go back. That leaves 120 for a maximum of 60 draft slots and we haven’t even talked about the seniors or the international players who are draft eligible. If it’s a typical year, 1/3 of the NBA Draft will be filled by international players so if this year is typical 120 underclassmen plus seniors will be vying for 40 spots.
There are perhaps 20 Americans who have declared for the draft who have no worries. They’ll be selected and they’ll get guaranteed money for three years (minimum) in the first round. For all the others it’s a crapshoot.
You can’t fault a kid for wanting to live out a dream, but at some point the kids need to listen to reason and do the math. Unless they are pretty certain to be drafted in the first round, they need to stay in school and get that degree. There will still be time to live out the dream once they’ve got that college degree to back them up.
Marshawn Lynch, who retired after the 2015 NFL season with the Seattle Seahawks, is coming out of retirement after a deal that the Oakland Raider sent a fifth round pick in 2018 to Seattle. ESPN is reporting that Lynch and the Raiders have already agreed to a two-year deal.
Thirteen Louisiana-Lafayette players have been suspended indefinitely, accused of criminal conspiracy to commit felony theft. School police officials say the 13 athletes went to a dorm and stole items totaling $2,400. They were identified by video surveillance.
Shaq Wiggins will transfer to Tennessee as a graduate. Originally, Wiggins wanted to transfer to Mississippi State, but Louisville HBC Bobby Petrino wouldn’t sign a release.
Sophomore wide receiver Kirk Merritt has been kicked off the team for allegedly exposing himself and touching himself in front of a tutor back in the fall. Merritt was a high profile transfer from Oregon who sat out the 2016 season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are not expected to pick up the fifth year option on quarterback Blake Bortles. That has draftniks speculating that the Jaguars might pull a shocker tonight and draft Clemson QB Deshaun Watson.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
When the Jacksonville Jaguars step up to the podium tonight with the fourth overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, should they go for LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson or Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey? Or considering it’s the Jags, who are to the NFL what the Magic are to the NBA, do they do something stupid?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Very few things can settle me on a stressful day like the music of the late Antonio Carlos Jobim. He’s been gone since 1994 but his music lives on and even songs I’ve heard dozens of times still have that same effect on me. Today’s music is a combo of two incredible albums: “Wave” from 1967 and “Tide” from 1969. Just listening to those two records tonight makes me want to visit Brazil again very, very soon.