Archive for April, 2015

Chicago’s ‘Draft Town’ opens a new era for the NFL draft (Shutdown Corner)

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
CHICAGO — The days of the NFL draft solely consisting of 32 team tables, Mel Kiper’s set and a few thousand fans sitting inside New York’s Radio City Music Hall are dead. Well, maybe not officially, but you certainly got the feeling a eulogy was in order after strolling down Michigan Avenue on Thursday afternoon to see thousands of football fans waiting to enter a mammoth football party in Grant Park called “Draft Town.” [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football is back: Sign up for a league today! ] Once inside the free event, fans were greeted by a scene that was part-streetfest, part-rock concert, and part-tradeshow. That the first-round picks were being called across the street inside Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre seemed only incidental to the entire scene. Which, of course, is exactly how the NFL likely wanted it. When the league uprooted its selection show from New York for the first time in 50 years and moved it to Chicago this weekend, part of the reason was that it could stage a big expo in its own name and extend its brand past the fans crazy, silly and/or stupid enough to sit in a theater to watch names being announced for hours at a time. And stage that expo they did in a scene that could be replicated in other cities in future springs. Los Angeles has been mentioned as a likely second stop on this tour and it’s not hard to imagine Super Bowl-style bidding if the first few versions prove as popular as the debut in Chicago seemed. The NFL, after all, has never passed up an opportunity to cram as much spectacle into its product as possible. Why confine itself to a Big Apple theater in a city where the draft is just one of the many interesting things going on? So what was in this “Draft Town?” There was “Selection Square,” a temporary amphitheatre of sorts that housed the picks table for every team and served as the spot where commissioner Roger Goodell announced Jameis Winston as the top pick. (Proving they were up to the challenge, Chicagoans loudly booed Goodell from both the park and inside the theater.) There was a skills exhibition where fans could kick field goals, measure their broad jump and race against a life-sized video of draft prospects in the 40-yard dash. A skydiving “Sweetness” simulator advertised the ability to know what it was like to be Walter Payton sailing over a pile of tacklers at the goal line. There were tents for all 32 teams where a crowd that sported a surprisingly wide array of jerseys could view memorabilia and other items of interest. Grouped by division, the popularity of the Cowboys area dwarfed that of the nearby Giants, Redskins and Eagles. Finally — and this is probably not surprising — there were plenty of places to spend money. The line for the NFL shop was the longest in the park. The queue for $7 beers and $6 Billy Goat double cheeseburgers was sizable as well. In the middle of it all stood a cigar-chomping Mike Ditka impersonator named Ray Hart who posed for pictures wearing the familiar Bears sweater vest, sport coat and sunglasses. “You’d be surprised at how many people think I’m the real thing until I take off the glasses or break character,” Hart said. “Especially when I got to [Ditka’s] restaurant dressed like this.” For this first-time draft attendee, the atmosphere and traffic outside was preferable to the scene inside the Auditorium Theatre at the actual draft. While Chicago fans got sufficiently amped for the Bears’ selection of West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White with the seventh selection, the rest of the night was mostly quiet with most fans coming to the sobering realization they were attending a TV event with no access to a TV (not unlike an actual NFL game itself). The absence of the night’s two biggest stars — quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota — didn’t help matters either. But build this entire event big enough while providing fans an excuse to come together and talk football in the spring and the rest won’t matter as much. If not all NFL fans are enamored with watching the drafting of relatively anonymous college players, then the league will attract fans by celebrating the game and the draft themselves. It’s a simple concept and one that worked pretty well in the Windy City on Thursday. It was enough to make the days of the relatively small gatherings in New York seem like a thing of the past.

Selections in the first round of the NFL Draft (Reuters)

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
(Reuters) - Selections in Thursday's first round of the NFL Draft in Chicago (pick number, team, player, position, college):1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Jameis Winston, quarterback, Florida State 2 Tennessee Titans -- Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Oregon 3 Jacksonville Jaguars -- Dante Fowler, Jr. ...

49ers unveil new alternate jerseys on draft night (Shutdown Corner)

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
Introducing the first alternate uniform in team history. #49ersRGB http://t.co/LqWbZcA2Mm pic.twitter.com/sSfLHO3DFN — San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 1, 2015 For the first time in their storied history, the San Francisco 49ers will run out alternate uniforms: all-black with red numbers and gold helmets. We can quibble about the fashion merits of the uniforms (the black-as-tough trend seems about 15 years out of date, but whatever), but what's a bit peculiar is that the 49ers announced the change smack-dab in the middle of perhaps the busiest non-game day of the entire year. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football is back: Sign up for a league today! ] As the opening picks of the first round of the NFL draft played out, the 49ers posted the above image and a hype video to Twitter. Were the uniforms starting to leak, or were the 49ers trying to grab a little extra juice? Whichever, the secret is out now.  So, thoughts? Cool unis or no? ____ Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. Follow @jaybusbee And keep up with Jay over on Facebook , too.

Safety Landon Collins near NFL dream – but his mom maintains he should’ve went to LSU instead of Alabama (Yahoo Sports)

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
This rift has not caused a rift in their relationship. The two are still close, brought even closer by going through Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago this summer.

NFL commissioner struggles with Mariota's name (The Associated Press)

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
Winning a Heisman Trophy and playing in the national championship game should be enough for everyone to know how to pronounce Marcus Mariota's name by now.

Bengals take tackle Cedric Ogbuehi with 21st overall pick (The Associated Press)

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
The Bengals felt they were in position to take a player in the first round who may not even play for them next season. Cincinnati was thinking long-term with the 21st overall pick in the draft on Thursday night, choosing offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi from Texas A&M even though he's coming off reconstructive knee surgery and is still months away from being able to play. Cincinnati doesn't need a rookie to come in and start right away at any position, so it went into the draft looking for players who will add depth for now and grow into a bigger role the following year. ''We've got our starting offensive line back and we've got good players.

Chiefs select cornerback Marcus Peters at No 18 in draft (The Associated Press)

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
The Kansas City Chiefs were willing to take a chance on Marcus Peters. The Chiefs selected the former Washington cornerback with the No. 18 pick in the NFL draft Thursday night, fully confident that Peters has matured after repeated run-ins with new Huskies coach Chris Petersen that led to his dismissal midway through last season. I told them, 'If you take me, I'm going to give you my all.''' The 6-foot, 190-pound Peters was considered one of the top defensive backs in the draft, but his situation at Washington resulted in red flags going up all around the league. The result was a whirlwind tour of the league - and countless questions about his past - that included a stop in Kansas City with Reid and general manager John Dorsey.

Patriots choose Texas defensive tackle Brown in first round (The Associated Press)

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
The New England Patriots keep using the draft to build a formidable young defensive line. The defending Super Bowl champions drafted Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown with the 32nd and final pick of the first round Thursday night, hoping they've found a replacement for five-time Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork. They used their first-round pick on a defensive lineman for the third time in four years, following Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones in 2012 and Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley last year.

NFL-Selections in the first round of the NFL Draft (Reuters)

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
April 30 (Reuters) - Selections in Thursday's first round of the NFL Draft in Chicago (pick number, team, player, position, college): 1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Jameis Winston, quarterback, Florida State 2 Tennessee Titans -- Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Oregon 3 Jacksonville Jaguars -- Dante Fowler, Jr. ...

Packers take Arizona St DB Damarious Randall in first round (The Associated Press)

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
Damarious Randall played safety at Arizona State. He'll probably be playing at least some cornerback in Green Bay. If the Packers had a baseball team, Randall might have been an intriguing prospect, too. The Packers have a glaring need in the secondary following departures in free agency at cornerback.