It’s Draft Season In The NFL

Peyton Manning. AP photo

With football season over, NFL teams turn their attention to the annual draft of college players. Most fans seem to believe that their team is only a player or two away from Super Bowl glory. General managers and player personnel often know better; whole units need to be revamped.

One position of need for many teams is quarterback. As well as the 49ers played this year, you can’t help but wonder what might have happened had they been stronger in the passing game. While Alex Smith was much improved, the loss to the Giants showed the difference between elite and journeyman.

It is considered a foregone conclusion that Indianapolis will take Stanford’s Andrew Luck with the first pick after releasing Peyton Manning.

Several teams may attempt to trade up to get Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. For a team already solid at QB but with many other needs such as the St. Louis Rams, it may be possible to collect a package of players and draft picks in a trade with a club that feels RG3 is the answer.

The Super Bowl runner up Patriots (I love saying that) need a pass rusher; it has some stockpiled picks.

It could reverse field and trade up rather than down.

But who to take? That’s why the combine serves such a useful function for the league. Not because it defines who will be great NFL players, but because it keeps fans buzzing about football the endless debate between combine monsters with great measurables versus proven players with only average test results. After all, how else is a hard-core football fan in Buffalo or Green Bay supposed to make it through the rest of the winter (which lasts until about Memorial Day)?

So we can all be ready to see Peyton Manning firing footballs through the air for the Miami Dolphins or maybe the Arizona Cardinals, and fans in about 26 cities can start to wonder if any of their draft picks can actually help.

* With college basketball heading toward the conference tournaments, everyone loves to speculate on how many bids a league will get, and while the WAC has performed better than expected, moving from the 22nd best conference to about No. 13, it still is almost definitely a onebid league. Which makes it a lot like the Big West, where UH is headed next year. But with both Hawaii and San Diego State joining next year, and Long Beach State enjoying a resurgence, there’s an excellent chance the Big West could get to multiple bid status before the WAC does.

* Basketball is the one sport where a single player can make a huge difference. When Pittsburg lost point guard Trey Woodall, the Panthers lost eight straight games, starting the Big East 0-7. Woodall comes back and Pitt beats ranked teams Georgetown and West Virginia back to back. When Ohio State lost Jared Sullinger to an injury, the Buckeyes became quite ordinary. And Syracuse was not the same team when Fab Melo was out.

Even the best college teams are more fragile than most coaches would like to admit.