The NFL Draft has already produced more actual fireworks – in the form of trades into the nos. 1 and 2 positions – than most years will. Nevertheless, as we enter the home stretch before the event it is very much still mocking season.
On a recent conference call, ESPN analyst Todd McShay said it would be a “reach” for Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook, and Christian Hackenberg to picked in the first round, and had this to say about Paxton Lynch (Via NJ.com’s Dom Cosentino):
“With Paxton Lynch, he has all the physical ability in the world; he’s just coming from an offense that is very simplistic,” McShay said. “He’s got to learn how to get his team in and out of a huddle, and how to make line checks, and pre-snap audibles, and get them out of bad plays into good plays—he hasn’t had to do any of those things.
“Teams have gotten him on the board, and he has not performed very well, and so there’s concern. So he’s a long-term developmental project, a lot like a Brock Osweiler. But I think he’s less polished than Osweiler when [Osweiler] was coming out of Arizona State.”
Lynch’s agent, Leigh Steinberg – who was the inspiration for Jerry Maguire, hit rock bottom with alcoholism, and is mounting a comeback – fought back hard against that assessment, and took shots at McShay in the process:
There are a lot of things to unpack here. First, McShay’s assessment of Paxton Lynch wasn’t “toxic” or “vitriolic,” at least not nearly by the standards of anonymous NFL Draft critiques. There’s a difference between calling someone a bum, and saying he isn’t a slam dunk and won’t be ready to contribute right away.
Steinberg essentially called McShay unqualified to play his role as draft expert, and questioned the efficacy of his analysis on those grounds (Mike Florio followed up and had a league source who pegged McShay’s influence inside front offices at nil). This is trodden territory for the whole genre, dating back at least over two decades, to when Colts GM Bill Tobin ripped Mel Kiper.
At this point, the general public has a pretty secure level of knowledge that pre-draft fodder is a combination of comprehensive research, an attempt to filter through smokescreens, and performance artistry. Nobody expects clairvoyance, and yet mock drafts are clicked voraciously despite overt overexposure.
If you’re worth your salt in this field, you’ll eventually accumulate lots of tape saying things like Blaine Gabbert will be better than Cam Newton:
McShay, by virtue of being on ESPN, has one of if not the largest platforms to opine on the Draft. Still, he’s one of dozens of voices that fans are parsing through, and they also have access to plenty of footage to form their own thoughts. Steinberg is out there advocating unconditionally on behalf of his client, and he should be.
There isn’t a single front office out there that knows for sure how good Paxton Lynch will be, or when. The inherent unknown of the NFL Draft is part of the theatre, and the uncertainty is understood by anyone paying enough attention.