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May 9, 2014
The Week That Was
The buildup to the NFL Draft dominated the week's headlines, and finally, there is something legitimate to talk about. There was also news on the future of the Big Ten Tournament.
Taylor Lewan goes to Tennessee Titans in first round
The former Michigan left tackle became the Wolverines' highest draft pick since Jake Long went No. 1 overall in 2008 when the Titans chose Lewan with the No. 11 selection.
Right tackle Michael Schofield and wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, meanwhile, are expected to be chosen sometime in the next two days, with rounds 2-3 tonight and 4-7 on Saturday.
What They're Saying
Most draft sites are questioning the pick of Lewan, not the player himself but the fact that he doesn't fit a need for the Titans.
"Not really sure how to grade this one, to be honest," SI.com's Chris Burke writes. "Lewan is a plug-and-play starter in the NFL and is not all that far behind Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews on this year's prospect list at tackle. But where are the Titans planning on plugging-and-playing him?
"Oher is the obvious candidate to be cast aside except he just signed a four-year, $20 million deal with $9.5 million guaranteed. Roos will turn 32 in October, so he's closer to the end of his career than the beginning but remains a very steady hand. Warmack is not going anywhere, and Levitre should retain his starting spot if he's healthy.
"So, put an asterisk by this pick until the Titans explain their motives."
Paul Kuharsky from ESPN.com gave the pick a 'thumbs up' even if some of his colleagues at ESPN - draft gurus Mel Kiper and Todd McShay -- talked about the lack of need:
"Lewan isn't a sexy pick, and it's the second year in a row that the Titans selected an offensive lineman in the first round. But Lewan could beat out Michael Roos this year, and Roos' contract is up after this season," Kuharsky wrote. "Tennessee wanted assurances they are solid at the spot."
In Nashville, they're not so certain that Lewan was how the team should have gone, as The Tennessean recaps: "One question can't be ignored: When will Lewan play?
"The Titans already have a durable left tackle in 10th-year pro Michael Roos, though he's heading into the final year of his contract. Earlier this offseason, the Titans signed former Ravens tackle Michael Oher to a four-year, $20 million contract to play on the right side.
"Titans general manager Ruston Webster said Lewan is worth waiting for, although coach Ken Whisenhunt said Lewan will be given a chance this offseason to compete for a starting job.
"'You want (a first-round pick) to make an immediate impact, you'd love for him to,'' Webster said. 'The key is their impact is over the course of their career. It is important that it's somebody that can be long-term and I think Taylor can do that.'"
My Take: The early part of Lewan's career will be interesting to watch. If he doesn't receive a fair shot to start in his rookie season, it could delay his opportunity to sign a prominent free-agent contract in a few years. Of course, if he can prove himself a standout before free agency, and has less wear and tear on his body, it could help, but certainly it appears on the surface that Lewan might be one of the rare first-round picks that does not start in his first year in the NFL.
From the Michigan angle, Lewan certainly helps add to the NFL resume every program must boast to attract recruits. However, he cannot do it alone, and U-M needs to reverse a bad trend of failing to produce consistent talent.
Consider that from 1990-99, the Wolverines had nine first-rounders and another eight from 2000-09. They've had just two since 2010 and 11 overall selections during the last five drafts.
Even if that number goes up two, with Schofield and Gallon, to 13, it's less than three per year. They averaged 4.6 in the first decade of the 2000s and 4.7 in the 1990s.
Not coincidentally, Michigan's .539 winning percentage over the last six years is its worst stretch since going 28-28-2 (.500) from 1962-67.
The lack of NFL talent is not the sole reason the Maize and Blue have been struggling, but it does explain a part of it. U-M needs to recruit more talent (and has been) and then needs to develop that talent. Getting that done will lead to more NFL Draft picks and greater success on the football field more importantly.
Big Ten Tournament headed to DC
On Tuesday, the Big Ten announced that the 2017 Big Ten Basketball Tournament will be played in Washington D.C., nine miles from 2014 member Maryland's campus in College Park.
What They're Saying
The reviews from fans on twitter were not positive, the Washington Post details.
Indystar.com's Zak Keefer agrees, taking the con side of a debate on their Web site against this decision.
"D.C.? How long until New York City comes into play? Or Brooklyn? The league can shout its reasons all it wants - this is about spreading their brand and welcoming in new members Maryland and Rutgers. But the bottom line is this: Washington D.C. isn't Big Ten country, and it will never be Big Ten country.
"Don't be shocked to see empty seats in the Verizon Center. And don't be surprised when this decision becomes a big black eye for the Big Ten.
"But that doesn't matter all that much now. Logic takes a backseat to greedy conferences looking to cash in as many ways as they can. The biggest losers here are the fans."
SBNation.com's Kevin Trahan says pish-posh to those criticisms, writing a strong piece on why the move will eventually be good for the Big Ten.
"Just moving the Big Ten Tournament to D.C. won't make much of a financial difference, but it's a major step in the conference's goal to "live in two regions," as Delany put it. The more integrated the Big Ten is into the East Coast sports scene, the more TV sets will get the Big Ten Network and the more money the Big Ten will get.
"By 2017-18, each Big Ten school is projected to receive $44.5 million from the conference, much of that from TV revenue. That's up from $27 million this year, and an increase of more than $25 million over the course of a decade. That's money that can go to improving facilities, improving athlete welfare, and generally, making Big Ten teams more competitive on a national stage.
"College athletics are changing, and the Big Ten is choosing to put its schools in the best position to reap the rewards of that change, rather than get left behind (see: Big 12, The American).
"If that means you have to go to Washington, D.C., once every three years to watch your team play in the Big Ten Tournament, it's probably worth the price."
My Take: I wrote my column about this yesterday, which you can find here. I consider myself both a traditionalist but also someone that understands the value of embracing the future. I think the Big Ten Tournament and Football Championship should be played in the conference's greater footprint but I also see the value in playing the games in D.C. or New York someday.