The tears poured down Rashan Gary’s face like the rain on Broadway as his dream became reality in Nashville at the NFL Draft.
The Green Bay Packers acquired the defensive menace from Michigan with the 12th pick late on Thursday in a captivating first round, but that was merely one of a number of extremes in a sporting event like no other.
Following validation after years of graft, Gary had barely stopped blubbing when Christian Wilkins stormed the stage, gleefully greeting infamous commissioner Roger Goodell after being summoned by the Miami Dolphins with the 13th pick. The immense Clemson tackle bounced into Goodell hoping for a playful shoulder bump, but instead nearly bowled over the 60-year-old in a manner he will hope to replicate on a regular basis on the field come September. It sparked laughter and likely a stern warning from his new boss, who did well to conceal the undeniable pain.
The first round of the draft beautifully framed an abundance of characters and wide-ranging emotions while showcasing an eclectic mix of players of all shapes and sizes with varying skill levels.
The NFL has become an increasingly compelling product in recent years that seems to be getting faster, so it was appropriate that one of the most unique athletes in the world, Kyler Murray, went first overall. The Arizona Cardinals were the beneficiaries of the mercurial Oklahoma quarterback shunning the advances of a prosperous career in MLB with the Oakland Athletics, whose exorbitant ninth pick investment in 2018 has now disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Pulses are already racing at the prospect of Murray flourishing in a similar vein to the reigning MVP and mind-boggling passer Patrick Mahomes. Blink and you will miss the 21-year-old dual-threat signal caller, who aims to revolutionise a league that frowns on those who dare to venture from the norm.
Yet alongside the prospect of the extraordinary next season, there is dysfunction and disaster in equal measure in the league: an element to sport that now tends to provide an equal dose of satisfaction to those watching.
The New York Giants, especially, have been ridiculed for their ineptitude and mismanagement in recent years and left the majority of the 200,000 in attendance stunned with their first pick. Gasps reverberated around the media tent when Daniel Jones, quarterback from Duke, was selected at a lofty No 6 to be the heir to a fading Eli Manning. His fellow draftee and soon-to-be NFC East rival Dwayne Haskins, who would later go to the Washington Redskins at 15, was even caught smirking after discovering the pick.
Another crucial element to the draft comes in the form of strategy. While some baffle those watching, such as the Cardinals’ attempt at suspense to take the entire 10 minutes permitted before picking Murray to kick things off, despite likely knowing their pick for weeks. A more intriguing aspect came in the form of six trades on the opening night. The Ravens striking a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles was especially noteworthy after it eventually saw Baltimore take Marquise Brown and therefore developing a narrative for the coming years. ‘Hollywood’ was the flashy sidekick to Murray at Oklahoma and is the cousin of superstar receiver Antonio Brown, whose histrionics to force a trade to Oakland have dominated the offseason. With his cousin now a villain in Pittsburgh, Marquise now bids to ensure a Brown hurts the Steelers' chances of success on the field.
So while most sports hibernate during the offseason, the NFL instead thrives, hyping up what is to come and capturing the imagination of millions of fans who remain engaged throughout the year despite the season lasting just five months.
It would be natural to assume attention would now turn to September 6, yet some remain so engrossed by this pathway to the league, next week will merely mark the countdown to next year.
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