Clip: Ryan Switzer talks ignoring detractors from chrisbraven on Vimeo.
On Friday, April 21st, 2017, I went onto national satellite radio and outraged thousands upon thousands of football fans.
By making sense.
Hit the jump to find out why.
Football is not a science.
Let us not forget that.
If it were, the pundits would be right far more often, the outcomes far more predictable.
Did you know that NO draft 'expert' on the professional level is more than about 40% accurate in their first round mock drafts alone? Most only get a third of the picks right, and that's a good year.
In High School, a 33% is a huge "F."
In Pre-School, it's a concerned note home.
Yet, people act as if one is obligated to be predictable, to go by the published alignments of rank, when doing a mock draft. Else, it is treated as sacrilege. These talent rankings are treated as Biblical Canon.
Last time I checked, there was no mention of prospect evaluations at the Council of Trent.
So, I was invited to make the draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens spot on SiriusXM Radio's Mock Draft with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller hosting. There were no trades. There was no other round but the first. Just, make your pick. And keep it moving.
So, I began to consider anew what the Ravens offense really needs. A flashback to the Giants game of 2016, and Beckham splitting the seam to the death of Ravens' D--uncatchable speed--played again in my mind's screen. This wasn't an indictment of defense--that's largely been shored up. This was a mandate to have a player like that on offense, even a catalyst that could free many other weapons to be like that. Perriman has that kind of speed. We saw that Wallace still possesses that speed, on the 90-yard TD reception vs. Pittsburgh. Pitta still has difference making ability, leading all TEs in receptions.
The Ravens need a playmaker who can riddle the middle, freeing up the outside for dangerous Deep Joe strikes, and who could pull off a Beckham-like diagonal tear for a long distance.
This is not all about speed. This is not all about size. It is about the right fit, for a long-term solution. I asked myself, "Who would be the key to unlock unstoppability on this offense?" Not just for one season or a season and a half. For a career. Ravens fans can remember highly drafted WRs that had the speed suite credentials and caused enough angst to fund a office floor of therapists: Perriman (although he is coming around), Figurs, Clayton, Darling, Taylor. They all would have passed the litmus test of current pundits, but they all, save Perriman who has turned things around, failed in B'more.
The answer was obvious.
Of the players that I've interacted with and interviewed, leading up to this draft in our #P2theP series, there is one who has a very stable foundation, along with a stable and solid upbringing, along with a stable and solid work ethic, along with a stable and healthy career, along with superlative production against superlative competition.
Why isn't this obvious to everyone?
It's not just one of the aforementioned list. It's that he embodies ALL of those things. You want someone who is mentally focused and without distraction (he is engaged to the love of his life, Gabie Dinsbeer, so scratch the club/bling/$$balla syndrome), who has the work ethic, the confidence, and the skills. I just don't think the other highly ranked WRs have checks in all of those boxes. And if they do, they do not have the production against top talent.
Do I really have to go into the numbers?
Switzer was an All-American his very first year in college because of return touchdowns. He notched 5. Having seen every one, having watched every one of his games, I recognized that he has a special skill for this. Not everyone does.
|Infographic courtesy Michael Switzer Design @switzdesign4u|
But, for him to have more 60+ big plays that anyone in the United States of America--can we go ahead and add 'World' to that designation, I'm sure there's not some Saudi dude over there destroying big plays in American football--in the last four years, says a lot.
North Carolina has not backed down from top competition. The ACC is the home for exactly half of the College Football Playoff definitive champions. Two of Four (years). Ryan has done what he does against the best of them. Yes, Florida State AND Clemson. He was never caught from behind by either. Or anyone else, ever.
For me, it has been more than the numbers, and more than the accolades. It has been having in-depth conversations with his father. And teammates. And, of course, the man himself.
One cannot measure the heart of a man, but one can look to many indicators and see a trend.
Back in 2007, my co-host Rich Hallstrom and I sat down with then-Dolphin Wes Welker. The record holder for NCAA return touchdowns (tie). It was a memorable night, actually, because he was almost all the way down the backdoor hallway out of the Dolphins locker room, and I called his name out in a desperation pass of a request. Like most things thrown his way, he caught it, turned around, came back. Not only did he agree to do the interview, but he agreed to walk back out on the field and do it there.
|Thunder Sports interviews WR Wes Welker [center]|
That humility, that perspective, netted the man a trade to New England and Denver and years of big-time relevance, championship contention.
I see many similarities between he and Switzer, but I see more stability in the young Tar Heel, and I also see better speed and field vision. I do not say that flippantly, because Welker forever has my respect. Yet, it rings true.
As for the draft, I wanted to move down, I wanted to trade for a 2018 number 1 and then swap 2nd round picks with someone. No go, according to the anonymous SiriusXM responder on the other end of the emails. Just my pick, round one, and done.
A D-1 University Athletic Director told me, today in fact, that a GM from the Rams had talked about taking an unexpected prospect in the first round. But, he said, it becomes a money game. Why pay first round money if the person can be drafted later for less expected funds. Totally understandable.
Again, though, this mock draft did not allow for such metrics. If I cannot trade, if there are no more rounds, I have the one pick.
Why get a guy that clearly has the talent, but has more question marks elsewhere?
Why get someone with an injury history?
Why be normal?
Ryan Switzer is in essence a first-round choice not because of prognostications and financial metrics, but because of what he will bring to a team in the long term, compared to what other receivers in this class will bring, based on his recent past and his lifelong narrative.
I pulled the trigger.
I tried to preface it, I had told friends and colleagues in the days leading to the draft--including Ryan's father--that Pat Kirwan would ream me for this pick. I predicted that as soon as I got off the air, he would say something like, "He's a good player, but that is a bad pick."
It turns out that I was too easy on myself.
Kirwan called it, "The worst mock draft pick ever."
Picks 1-18 in the Fan Mock Draft are up. If you're a Ravens fan dont look at pick 16.— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) April 21, 2017
Kirwan "The worst pick in fan mock draft history" pic.twitter.com/bERSVjPsZw
Again, it goes back to, do I stay in line with convention, or do I boldly tell the world what I think would work?
In 2010, Antonio Brown would have been treated the same way. With less production and accolades at Louisville. But in 2017, picking Antonio Brown would make sense financially, schematically, and personnel-wise. People would laud it.
There is an Antonio Brown in this draft.
Who's to say it isn't Ryan Switzer?
In the end, I am happy that did it. Most of the ensuing conversations and debates online were fruitful, in that dudes allowed for me to make my point.
Kirwan invited me to call back in December and review this choice, regardless of where Switzer goes.
I believe, at that time, there will be some vindication out there.
But I don't need that now.
I've played, observed, and studied this game long enough to know:
Some people are destined for greatness,
Some people prepare themselves for it.