TAPE DON’T LIE – APRIL16
By Leo Haggerty

DEJA VU

The hardest thing to do, when it comes to the National Football League Draft, is to separate fact from fiction.  You must attempt to decipher what is the truth and what is propaganda as it applies to a prospect.  As a member of the media, you have to discern if the information provided to you is correct or if it has been sent your way by a team that wants you to put doubt in the minds of teams above them on the draft board so that player will fall to them.

Let me remind you of a prime example of when a policy of disinformation that was circulated about Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp before the 1995 draft.  There were reports of failed drug tests and that cocaine was one of the banned substances detected.

Because of that, the University of Miami star, who was projected as a top five selection, slid all the way to #12.  That’s where the Buccaneers plucked #99 off the board and, when asked if the reported drug tests were an issue, Tampa Bay General Manager Rich McKay bluntly replied, “We had lunch with Warren two weeks ago and addressed the the issues.  Nothing that has come out was a surprise to us.”

Let’s fast forward to the 2021 NFL Draft where a similar scenario is transpiring but without drug testing.  After a Sports Illustrated article on Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, who is the consensus projected #1 pick, some teams may be having second thought about the 6’6″ signal caller.

In a cover story for the NFL Draft 2021 issue, when asked the importance of succeeding in the NFL, the 21 year old replied, “It’s not that I need this for my life to be OK.  I want to do it because I want to be the best I can be.  I want to maximize my potential.  Who wouldn’t want to?  You kind of waste it if you don’t.”

Well, that laid back response started a media firestorm.  Some pundits suggested that Lawrence didn’t have the “win at all costs’ mentality to be a franchise level quarterbacks.  Others stated that the recently married QB was just being “low key” which was his style.

So, now another round of due diligence starts for the top four teams in the draft.  Do the Jaguars and the Jets along with the 49ers plus the Falcons believe this kid has the mettle to be a decade long starter for their franchise or will he walk away in four or five years to pursue another interest?

Here’s the one quote from the Sports Illustrated piece that should resonate with every football fan especially the one for the team that drafts Lawrence.  It comes from Joey King, the Carterville head football coach at Trevor’s high school in Georgia, when he asked #16 before his senior year to name him just one goal that he held.  The future possible first pick in the 2021 draft casually responded, “Coach, I just want to be the best that’s ever done it.”

That statement should put to rest any doubt that people have about whether Lawrence has the intestinal fortitude and the mentality to be a franchise quarterback and then some.  To be the best ever he will have to compete at a high level with tremendous success over an extended period of time.

If he accomplishes two of those, the Clemson star will be considered as one of the top quarterbacks to have played in the National Football League.  If he checks all three boxes, we could have witnessing the GOAT when his career has finished.

So, with all that being said, always remember that game tape outweighs everything else.  That’s because the eye in the sky doesn’t lie and, over the past three years at the helm of the Tigers potent offense, Lawrence comprised a 34-2 log as a starter and won a National Championship as a true freshman

Don’t get caught up with the Pro Day or Combine performances because very few of the drills, if any, actually equate to what happens on game day.  Just remember, when evaluating a player, what happens between the lines when the lights go on is the best predictor.  End of story