I used to enjoy reading Peter King when I was younger. Now, I only consume his writing through the jaded, sarcastic FJM-style takedowns via KSK or occasionally when Doc mentions something he wrote on his TML blog posts. Quite simply, King's awful. But sometimes, he's so dumb, he's brilliant. His "Factoid That Of the Week That May Only Interest Me" in his most recent column is one of those times.
After three effusive paragraphs about Michael Oher's character and determination to become a better football player he notes:
That leads me to wonder one thing about the 2009 NFL draft: How do the Bengals, in need of a tackle and picking sixth overall, take the jiggly and unmotivated Andre Smith, and the Ravens, in need of a tackle and trading up to 23rd overall, take the supremely motivated Oher?
This is both a) idiotic because this was never the decision the Bengals faced and b) brilliant because how on Earth did the Bengals not face this choice?
As you will recall, without question Andre Smith and Michael Oher were the best offensive lineman in college football during the 2008 season and considered among the best prospects to emerge in recent, if not distant as well, memory. Yet, somehow, in the time from when the football season ended, until when the draft began, Eugene Monroe and Jason Smith became the undisputed two best offensive lineman in college football and consensus top offensive line picks.
This happens a lot. Many times, the fall or rise of a player's prospects can be traced to specific events. Andre Smith, notoriously, took his shirt off and fell from the top 3. Michael Oher, on the other hand, well, I have no fucking clue why we all decided he belonged as a low first round pick.
Thus, instead of the Bengals choosing between Smith and Oher, they really were choosing between Smith and Eugene Monroe. But the interesting question Peter backed his way into is why Michael Oher dropped so precipitously that the Ravens could get him at 23. For this I had no good answer, so I dug around our archives for every post where we mentioned Michael Oher. I tagged those posts and you can find them here. Here's a cherry-picked selection of findings:
Michael Oher's stock really hasn't dropped all that much, at least not in my eyes. He has just gotten pushed down by the influx of underclassmen (Andre Smith) and the emergence of Jason Smith. I have always been a big Oher fan but watching him in Mobile for a week at the Senior Bowl I saw why some have concerns. A lot of the time he was dominant but then for some reason he'd have lapses and get beaten by inferior talents. In terms of sheer talent Oher might be the most impressive blocker in this draft but the intangibles are a question mark. He is a boom or bust prospect but there is no way he should fall out of the top half of round one in my opinion.
I love how "intangibles" are what bother people about Michael Oher. There's a whole fucking book about how he overcame virtually insurmountable odds to end up graduating high school and playing college football. Sure he had help from a rich and influential family but it's nonetheless remarkable and required tons of hardwork from Oher. And even if you didn't know that, does that paragraph scare you away? It's the most negative thing I could find.
Moving on, Showtime interviewed another draft guy, Luke Chandler of New Era Scouting, about a month before the draft, here's the exchange:
WDR: In last week's MMQB, Peter King wrotre that teams are warming to Michael Oher. He said that teams are now beginning to feel that Oher will be able to handle the money that goes along with being a top draft pick and that he won't lose his desire to be great. Assuming Jason Smith and Eugune Monroe by the time the Bengals are on the clock at six, is Michael Oher now a viable option?
Luke: It almost makes too much sense, which is why I feel that the Bengals will do something silly here like draft Andre Smith and give him more money than the No. 1 overall pick. Oher is such an amazing talent and I think he'd give the Bengals the kind of pass blocking left tackle they need...which is why they draft the better run blocker (Smith), and probably drop Carson Palmer sixty times a game now.
Now it appears people (well, hapless Peter King) had concerns over maturity. Still no real red flags. In fact, a ringing endorsement of Oher from a professional scout. Then I can find nothing until our mock draft column where its clear Oher has fallen even further with no real reason given. I'd love to say we at WDR wanted Oher all the way without question, but really it's a mixed bag. From our mock draft column Jason Buck wrote (assuming Jason Smith & Eugene Monroe were gone):
Frankly, the WDR writers are split on this pick. About half of us still want the Bengals to take a very large man to protect the blind side of Carson Palmer. Whether that is Andre Smith or Michael Oher. In my opinion, Oher might still be available at #20 or later in the first round, and investing over $20 million guaranteed on Andre Smith is just too much of a risk. The guy blew the two biggest job interviews of his life, and he has the tag of being lazy and overweight. In another city, Andre Smith makes sense at #6. But in Cincinnati, who exactly is going to kick his rear to get him in shape?
Basically, the only reason not to take Oher at #6 was that he would be available at 20 or later. Annoying. We assumed Monroe would not be available so didn't write much about him. Of course, it turned out Monroe was available. What of Monroe now? Well, he's a good starter for the Jags, if you trust this article I found. According to Pro Football Focus, he's a top rated rush blocker and coming around on his pass blocking (his first game ever he had to block Freeney, so his rating looks unfairly low). So it seems as if maybe we doubly whiffed.
And while I wish we stayed consistent at WDR, after the draft, of course, our tone changes and we all seemed totally fine with Smith (or at least, we rationalized the pick quickly - even we are subject to koolaid drinking and brainwashing). See this:
Eugene Monroe, for all of his talents, has knee problems which is obviously a huge concern for a man his size. Michael Oher has all-world upside but lacked consistency. Fact is, the Bengals needed a tackle. No matter which one they took, there was some downside. To be honest, I'd rather have Monroe, but it's hard to kill them for this pick.
I also don't mind the selection of Andre Smith. Smith was the #1 projection for almost a full calendar year and it really all came apart on one day. I'm still trying to figure out his "character concerns" that people seem to blow out of proportion. While Eugene Monroe was there, uncertainty exists for him as well as he dislocated a knee cap in college. I like the Andre Smith pick.
So here's my final take on this whole debacle (unless, of course, Smith turns this around):
- Andre Smith never belonged in an organization like the Bengals, who despite Marvin's heroic efforts, still cannot wash the 2nd rate stink off of them
- The Bengals did suffer from the bad luck of having the draft hype machine talk Oher down to a high 20s pick from a top 10 pick. It's one thing to take a guy 5-10 spots early in the 1st round, it's another to take him 17 spots early. I sorta hate this logic, since if the Bengals wanted Oher, this was their only chance to get him...and trading out of a top 10 pick is very difficult...particularly if you are Mike Brown
- Eugene's knee problems stemmed from a dislocated knee cap in 2006...that gave him two years of college ball (2007 & 2008) to recover and for people to study his film. Maybe the Bengals could have done some more research to find out if that was less of an issue than made out by others, rather than drooling at the bargain they might get with Smith
Bottom line: the 2009 draft came loaded with awesome first round talents at the exact position we needed and we still have nothing to show for it. Disaster.