The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind as we create the quintessential draft guide. I have been getting inside the mind of Jeff Mans. I feel like Clarice Starling trying to keep up with Hannibal Lecter in the 1991 Best Movie Academy Award Winning film Silence of the Lambs. It is a riveting experience as Mans is on a quest to reinvent the draft guide to be everything that the other products are not. While reviewing the Draft Guide, I noticed that the rookie class this year, except for Sammy Watkins, seems difficult to determine how they will perform after college. They are having trouble growing up. So, I thought of a film that takes on that same subject, St. Elmo’s Fire.
St. Elmo’s Fire is the story of seven college friends who try to figure out life after college together. It was the start of the brat pack movies as Breakfast Club came out in the same year and the reason that they were named the brat pack, because in this movie that is how they act. Alec (Judd Nelson) and Leslie (Ally Sheedy) are the perfect couple only Alec has extracurricular activities and his best friend Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) is in love with his girlfriend. Jules (Demi Moore) is Leslie’s best friend, but a troubled sole who loves to play damsel in distress. Kirby (Emilio Estevez) is obsessed with Dale Biberman (Andie McDowell) who he went to a movie in college with before she became a Doctor. His obsession with her is the funniest part of the movie.
The most interesting character and the one that we will focus on in this column is Billy Hixx (Rob Lowe). Billy was the king of campus, but cannot figure out how to keep a job. He has a wife and small baby, but still runs around playing his sax in a band. His true soul mate is a sweet, shy and slightly overweight virgin named Wendy (Mare Winningham) who is also friends with Jules and Leslie. It is Billy that figures out that he can be a star if he gets away from his college days and tries to be the man he wants to be.
The reason that the movie is called St. Elmo’s Fire is not for the Georgetown bar that these selfish lost souls go to every night, but for the phenomenon that causes lightning storms on the high seas to look like a fire and sea men used to believe it would guide them to land. Well, now a look at a handful of the rookies in the NFL that you should fall in love with...
“Love, love, you know what love is? Love is an illusion created by lawyer types like yourself to perpetuate another illusion called marriage to create the reality of divorce and then the illusionary need for divorce lawyers.”
Johnny Manziel, 22nd pick of the 1st round to Cleveland, 6’0” 207 Texas A&M
There are other quarterbacks that we should talk about, but maybe none more like the characters from our movie. Manziel has been in the news all off-season even to the point where his GM suggested that he become more social media “saavy”. Manziel ran for 30 touchdowns last season and has the capability to be a threat in the Shannahan run heavy offense. Unfortunately, we don’t even know if he will be a starter. Consider him for dynasty leagues or your QB2 only.
Bishop Sankey, 22nd pick of the 2nd round to Tennessee, 5’9” 209 Washington
There are a lot of questions as there always is with a new Head Coach. Ken Whisenhunt is an offensive minded coach who took the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory a decade ago and then as the Head Coach in Arizona was defeated by the same Steelers a handful of years later. A spread the field offense should help the smaller Sankey to find space and be involved in the short passing game. Shone Greene is no competition. Sankey had 1870 yards rushing last season and had 37 touchdowns in his three year career at Washington. Don’t be afraid that Sankey will not get 3rd down looks as Dexter McCluster mans that spot. There will be plenty of touches for Sankey.
Carlos Hyde, 25th pick of the 2nd round to San Francisco, 6’0” 230 Ohio State
Why is he here? He is the backup to Frank Gore. Why not talk about other running backs that have more opportunity? Isn’t he third behind Kendall Hunter? Well, Hyde has size. Hunter is 5’7”. Gore is 5’9”. With his 6’0” 230 bruising inside running style, Hyde will be a contributor in a running game that will just get stronger. The 49ers had the 4th best rushing offense last season with 137 yards per game. You cannot argue with starting 20 games, rushing for 3.198 yards and 37 touchdowns while with the Buckeyes. Expect success.
Sammy Watkins, 4th pick in the 1st round to Buffalo, 6’1” 211 Clemson
Watkins combines both strength and speed. He will make an immediate impact as he has a reputation for being a hard worker. He is working hard with the first team and the timing with E.J. Manuel will come. He set school records at Clemson with 240 catches, 3,391 yards and 30 touchdowns. He is fast and at 6’1 211 pounds he is big enough to break tackles and make big plays. Expect a lot and in dynasty leagues, he is a 1st round pick.
Mike Evans, 7th pick in the 1st round to Tampa, 6’5” 231 Texas A&M
Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey who? Pairing the huge and uber talented Mike Evans with Vincent Jackson in Tampa immediately make them among the most talented wide receiver tandems in the league. Add second round draft pick Austin Seferin-Jenkins to the mix and you have a passing game played in the ozone. Mike Evans was blessed to play with Johnny Manziel who extended plays to take advantage of Evans never giving up. Enter Lovie Smith and Josh McCown to make the offense more about quick plays to get the playmakers the ball and Evans could be off to the races. McCown will have the kind of weapons he had in Chicago and Evans should be good for 10 TDs as Jackson gets double coverage.
Kelvin Benjamin, 28th pick of the 1st round to Carolina, 6’5” 240 Florida State
Benjamin is the answer to the trivia question: Who will Cam Newton throw to now that Steve Smith is gone? With red zone threat Brandon LaFell gone too, Benjamin should see a lot of work from the very beginning. He is not dumb. He spent four weeks with Cam Newton before training camp. Many believe that Carolina will not score much and not throw a lot, but when your leading receiver is your tight end with less than 900 yards, you need some playmakers. Benjamin can go up and get the ball and Cam Newton will need that as only Tolbert can score from in the red zone effectively.
“You know there are more people in law school right now than there are lawyers on the entire planet? Think about that.”
Handling life after college is not easy for the average 1985 yuppie. It is equally hard for NFL Players. They have to learn brand new systems, meet a new set of teammates, get timing in a faster game, deal with the media, deal with the fans, deal with expectations and above all think of their playing this game as a job. Those who work, watch film and understand the rigors of learning a VERY complicated game have the best chance. Do talent, size and speed bring those guys to the top? Of course, but they need to be able to harness that, dedicate themselves to their craft and execute on a game plan with the team. This may be hardest for guys in the limelight like Manziel, but the others will struggle with it too. So much money thrown at them. So many expectations. They have been stars for so long in their lives and now have to figure out how to get along in the NFL. There is no handbook for them. Maybe Billy Hixx siad it best and it’s St Elmo’s Fire they should follow:
“It's St. Elmo's Fire. Electric flashes of light that appear in dark skies out of nowhere. Sailors would guide entire journeys by it, but the joke was on them... there was no fire. There wasn't even a St. Elmo. They made it up. They made it up because they thought they needed it to keep them going when times got tough, just like you're making up all of this. We're all going through this. It's our time at the edge.”