Ron Adams and I were juniors in high school when the Philadelphia sports world was consumed by the 1999 NFL Draft. Who would the Eagles take with the No. 2 pick: Ricky Williams or Donovan McNabb?
Adams, like me an Eagles fan pretty much since birth, wanted McNabb. When he settled in to watch the draft on Apr. 17 of that year, he didn’t know he’d be starting a tradition that would be continue through today: Watching every pick of every round of every draft.
Breathless draft coverage is pretty much mocked by everyone, from non-sports fans and casuals to hardcore football maniacs and sports reporters. Even former Chicago Bears cornerback Jerry Azumah, who was taken in the fifth round of that 1999 draft, recently complained about the saturation.
But what about those for whom breathless analysis of the draft is a feature, and not a bug?
Adams and I are still friends, but I didn’t know until he mentioned it the other day that he’d watched every pick of the draft since the year the Eagles took McNabb. When I mentioned it to my editors, they said I should interview him. What a country!
My editors told me the first question I had to ask you. It is: What the hell is wrong with you?
That is a question my wife asks all the time. Now [the draft] is Thursday night, Friday night and one Saturday afternoon. You don’t look like as much of a loser. But back when I first started watching it it was all day Saturday and then all day Sunday which would lead to questions like, “Why are you watching the sixth round?”
How did you get into the draft in the first place?
For me, it was the whole big hoopla in Philadelphia around whether or not they should draft Donovan McNabb or Ricky Williams. I was always interested in football … I used to remember going late my dad taking me to Jersey to watch it on satellite TV when they were blacked out. That is why I was such a big proponent of them drafting McNabb, because I watched from when I was a kid. After Cunningham, you had the Detmers and Bubby Brister and Rodney Peete. I remember how bad that was, and I thought a good quarterback could make me forget Ricky Williams.
What makes the draft interesting to you?
I actually like watching the strategy behind it. It has become very apparent to me that like you have the quarterback, the guy that protects the quarterback (offensive tackle), the guy to sack the quarterback (defensive end) and the guy who intercepts the quarterback (cornerback). Those are the four positions that teams should be drafting high in the first round. You shouldn’t even be drafting other positions outside of that unless you have all four of them locked up.
[It all] revolves around trends, the way the league is changing, the type of year it is. You’ve seen the Eagles talk about how they drafted Wentz because they didn’t think the quarterback draft would be good for the next year or two, and that’s proving to be the case.
What kept you watching every round, every year?
I probably would have stopped in college except I went to Northwestern. Although it’s not a great school for football, it’s a major program. I was a cheerleader for four years and we’re blessed to be in the Big Ten. I got to watch us get our asses kicked by Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Larry Johnson. I remember being on the sideline when someone mentioned Ben Roethlisberger likely being a first-round pick. And I was like, “From Miami of Ohio?” And I remember when Drew Brees got drafted in the second round. I’m like, “Man, if he looked anything like he did when he was throwing for over 350 yards versus Northwestern, then I’d take that guy too.”
I was also rooting for people that I went to school with to get drafted. One of my fraternity brothers was a prospect. I remember sitting there, you know waiting, waiting, waiting, then the seventh round comes and he doesn’t get drafted but he gets picked up as a free agent.
Does being a fan of the Eagles help make the draft more interesting?
Yes. For the past, half-decade or more, the Eagles have had Howie Roseman. And they do a lot of trading. So they’re always active in the draft—you can always look for a trade up or trade down ... Out of all the teams, the Eagles are one of the most exciting ones to watch in the draft because on draft day you never know what’s going to happen.
I mean the press in Philadelphia, and fans, we were all lamenting that they didn’t have a first-round draft pick and then bam, they make a trade before the season [with the Vikings for Sam Bradford].
Does it start to drag for you during the late rounds? Why keep watching?
Again, my wife asks me this, and says, “You’re a loser.” There’s still a lot to watch. Because in the later rounds … sometimes players get traded. For instance, one year the Eagles traded two fifth-round picks for Ellis Hobbs one year. This year, as an Eagles fan, you might be watching to see if they trade Mychal Kendricks. But he won’t get traded until another team misses out on a linebacker they wanted in an earlier round and decides to trade for Kendricks.
You’re going to the draft now that it’s in your hometown, right?
I got lucky and was picked from the waiting list. The most exciting thing is: I don’t know who the Eagles are going to have this year. Last year I knew it would be Wentz. I’m really excited to be part of one of those fans cheering when they say the Eagles are on the clock. I’m looking forward to seeing if people still boo Roger Goodell. And I’m also looking forward to watching it with my brother Reggie. Because all those times I was on the couch being called a loser by my wife, he was the one in there with me watching it.