I'm actually fairly bored by the NFL. Professional sports in general, besides Major League Baseball, rank just a few rungs above pro wrestling with me. All that pageantry and money puts me off. See the NBA's ridiculously long, confoundingly organized playoff system, calculated to build the most fake excitement possible into games where even the athletes look bored. And the NFL's endzone antics and videotaping controversies fare no better in my head. Sure, the MLB has performance-enhancing drugs, but would you believe football players get by on fairy dust? You don't think Junior Seau —all 39 hulking years of him — has been injecting anything fishy of late? The man's gotta be held together by duct tape.
I manage to get excited about professional football and basketball exactly twice in each season:
1.) The playoffs (in the case of the NBA, the last hundred days or so).
2.) When a former Razorback takes the field or court.
Ronnie Brewer, Joe Johnson and — to a much lesser, wince-inducing extent — Jannero Pargo have been all over the court, but we haven't really been repping on the professional gridiron of late. Of course, plenty of Razorbacks take the field every game, putting in quality time at their positions, but this year's class looks to be game-changers all.
Darren McFadden is getting along just fine, financially and otherwise. He's reportedly taking snaps at a variety of positions — including quarterback. We all know how quickly D-Mac can assert himself on the field. I have a feeling he'll only share time with Michael Bush and Justin Fargas for so long before they start loading up on No. 20 jerseys and plastering his grinning face all over the local market campaigns. The Raider veterans certainly won't mind the hefty contract and media glare when McFadden gets a chance to live up to his potential. And oh yeah, guess what? The weak legs and tendency to fumble haven't reared their heads at all this off-season. McFadden hasn't put the ball on the ground once.
Felix Jones, save the crazy jersey controversy with former Cowboy Darren Woodson, has had a warm reception in Dallas. Marion Barber might be their franchise man, but Jones won't be sitting long enough to warm the bench. Tim MacMahon of the Dallas Morning News compares the sets he's seeing to the Saints' use of Reggie Bush and Duece McCallister in 2006. You know, when New Orleans led the nation in offensive production. Of Jones, he says, “The Cowboys did not draft a backup running back in the first round. They drafted a complementary back. There's a big difference.” Because of Felix the Cat, we all know that the second fiddle can play every bit as hot as the first.
Of all the 2008 Hog draftees, the Denver Broncos' seventh-round pick of Peyton Hillis has to be the biggest steal. Hillis had NFL talent from the beginning. He only got better as his career went on, and his decreased production can easily be attributed to the flowering of Jones and McFadden. An offense can only rack up so many yards per game. Rumors of off-the-field issues reportedly lowered his stock on draft day, but in a league that still employs Pacman Jones, Denver will get little trouble out of Hillis. All Razorback fans really remember is his awesome tendency to occasionally speak his mind. (Funny the coaching staff didn't appreciate that in the same way.) He's by no means a shoe-in for starter in Denver. Several players are competing for the fullback slot, and Bronco fans seem most concerned about his blocking abilities. If they get a gander at those hands of his in action, they might recognize where his true talents lie.
Another seventh-rounder, Marcus Monk's prospects with the Chicago Bears are a bit, um, up in the air. The 6-foot-4 receiver, who holds the record for career touchdown receptions by a Hog, is looked upon mostly as a red-zone threat, though his speed has impressed of late. Once a second-round talent, always a second-round talent — no thanks to Michael Grant, whose over-aggressive tackle in practice sidelined Monk for most of the 2007 season. The coaching staff might not be sold, but Bears message-boarders are anything but reserved in their love for the wide receiver. On a thread extolling the many virtues of Monk, one chimes in, “I heard if your tooth falls out and you put it under your pillow Marcus Monk leaves you a dollar.” Maybe not, but he could help make several if he can haul in some tosses in the end zone.