Sunday, April 21, 2013

A sweet gesture by Neil Diamond and my take on the Bills draft

                Before shooting the breeze about the upcoming NFL draft, I just wanted to say how cool that was that Neil Diamond showed up at Fenway Park yesterday to sing the Red Sox anthem – “Sweet Caroline.” What makes the story even sweeter is that this wasn’t pre-arranged. About an hour before the game, Diamond arrived at Boston’s baseball cathedral and called the Sox front office to ask if he could sing his song live during the seventh-inning stretch.

                Other than David Ortiz’s F-bomb in his opening remarks - Big Papi can be forgiven for getting caught up in the emotions of the moment – it was a marvelous way for a wounded city to start the healing process after the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent spell-binding manhunt.

                I experienced first-hand the galvanizing power of sports in New York City in the aftermath of 9/11 when my son and I attended the World Series game at Yankee Stadium in which President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch. Baseball provided respites from the tragedy of the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center towers and murdered 3,000 people. It helped bring people together.

                The same was true yesterday at Fenway. And Diamond’s trip to one of baseball’s most hallowed diamonds made the day even more memorable.
                Here’s my take on the Bills in the upcoming draft: If you believe, as General Manager Buddy Nix says he does, that there are two or three potential franchise quarterbacks in this draft, then you better not wait; you better take the one you’re most in love with right away.

                A lot of people believe that guy is Ryan Nassib because of his familiarity with Bills head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, whom he played for at Syracuse. Some see this as similar to the Miami Dolphins taken Ryan Tannehill higher than projected last year because the Fish had just hired his former college coach, Mike Sherman, as offensive coordinator.

                Some of the mock drafts also have the Bills taking Matt Barkley of USC or Geno Smith of West Virginia. I’m not enamored with either of those quarterbacks. I’m really hesitant to take a QB from Southern Cal, given the track record of Trojan alumni Mark Sanchez, Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, etc. What I saw of Barkley was a guy who benefitted greatly from having athletic receivers. Smith seems to be a popular choice because of the recent success of Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson – guys who can run the read option with great efficiency. But I think, given RGIII’s serious injury, the read option is going to be a short-lived fad deemed too dangerous to a quarterback’s health.

                There’s also talk about using the eighth overall selection on an offensive lineman to replace free-agent departure Andy Levitre. Alabama’s Chance Warmack and UNC’s Johnathan Cooper are possibilities. It’s definitely a need, as is linebacker, where Georgia’s Alec Ogletree has been mentioned.

                But if they do that they run the risk of losing out on their QB, which they desperately need.

                Again, if they’ve identified one they love, they best not wait.   

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