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Pat Leonard: Love for NFL draft quarterbacks not named Trevor Lawrence a bit too strong
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Pat Leonard: Love for NFL draft quarterbacks not named Trevor Lawrence a bit too strong

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Mac Jones of the Alabama Crimson Tide warms up prior to the Vrbo Citrus Bowl against the Michigan Wolverines at Camping World Stadium on Jan. 1, 2020 in Orlando, Florida.

Mac Jones (10) of the Alabama Crimson Tide warms up prior to the Vrbo Citrus Bowl against the Michigan Wolverines at Camping World Stadium on Jan. 1, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images/TNS)

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a generational talent and the best player in this NFL draft. That’s why Urban Meyer took the Jacksonville job, and that’s why the Jaguars are drafting Lawrence No. 1 overall on April 29, no questions asked.

But after Lawrence, the best players in this draft are not quarterbacks. So it’s a bit curious that the Jets and Niners are acting with such certainty about BYU’s Zach Wilson and, if the rumors are true, Alabama’s Mac Jones.

Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts and LSU wideout Ja’Marr Chase are potentially franchise-changing talents, and after Lawrence, they are the players that have most of the teams in the top 10 drooling.

Granted, quarterbacks are just treated differently. It’s the most important position. There is almost no prohibitive cost for landing a great one and teams who don’t have one are desperate.

So maybe that’s what is happening here: maybe desperation is ruling the top of this draft.

I just find it strange that a QB like Wilson, who played behind a strong offensive line against weak competition, is being treated as such a sure thing over some of these other blue chip prospects — let alone over Sam Darnold, who I believe will light it up in Joe Brady’s Panthers offense.

I find it unusual that the Niners’ aggressive trade up would be for Jones, who many evaluators considered a late-first/early-second round prospect prior to Kyle Shanahan’s reported interest.

I find it incredibly off that the quarterback who buried Lawrence in last year’s College Football Playoff, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, isn’t the one jumping toward the top of the board.

Of course, everyone evaluates these players independently and comes to their own conclusions. Some teams are in different stages of the process than others, and that might dictate their desire or need to make a change for the long-term or to go all-in for now.

Also, when you’re selecting No. 2 overall and you love a quarterback, as the Jets do, you take him because he’s there and you hope to not be picking there again for a long time.

Plus there’s the combination of a weaker projected QB class next year, and this year’s uncertainty about so many prospects due to opt-outs and a compromised scouting process.

But I’m skeptical that suddenly three QBs are being fawned over as sure things, with Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance also projected first rounders, when only one QB has warranted that praise the whole way.

Lawrence is the one generational talent in this QB class — so good that the No. 1 pick has been set for months — and yet others are being treated as the sure No. 2 and 3 picks as if they are no-brainer moves.

I could be wrong about these players. Wilson and Jones might become stars. But frankly, I think the Jets and Niners are doing every other team behind them a favor by locking on to these other QBs, because the better players are sliding down the board to their foes.

INJURY-APOLIS

This weekend was especially important in the NFL draft process. About 150 prospects traveled to Indianapolis to undergo an in-person medical examination with an NFL medical staff.

The pandemic’s cancellation of the annual NFL combine in late February eliminated the centralized medical gathering process that typically takes place two months before the draft.

Instead, this year, there were 330 virtual exams performed on the athletes, with the NFL’s 32 medical staffs assigned about 10 athletes apiece. Labs, tests and imaging were completed at designated sites closer to the athletes’ homes around the country.

But NFL evaluators still wanted more information and assurance, even as GMs, coaches and scouts gathered what they could themselves through trips to colleges’ pro days.

So this weekend was designed for teams to take a closer look at the top prospects, as well as those with medical histories who warranted a closer exam.

Each team was allowed to send just one orthopedic surgeon and one athletic trainer this year. All NFL medical personnel in Indy are already vaccinated.

To limit players’ exposure to others, not every team examined every prospect. Instead, a select group of surgeons examined each player and will share that information with all 32 teams.

To reinforce the necessity for these protocols, three Notre Dame players reportedly could not go to Indianapolis because they tested positive for COVID-19 after their pro day, per NFL Network: OT Liam Eichenberg, OL Aaron Banks and DE Ade Ogundeji.

There has been no indication that Giants offensive line coach Rob Sale, who worked out Notre Dame’s linemen at their pro day, has tested positive. But the Giants wouldn’t be obligated to make that public even if he did.

HARD KNOCKS

Attorney Rusty Hardin admitted at a Friday press conference that his client, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, has had sexual encounters with female masseuses. But Hardin and his legal team insisted any encounter was consensual and said Watson is “dumbfounded” by the 22 lawsuits he faces for alleged sexual assault and harrasment.

He said Watson started crying when first told that one of the lawsuits alleged he had used force on one of the women.

“Never at any time under any circumstances did this young man engage in anything that wasn’t mutually desired by the other party,” Hardin said.

In court, plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee agreed to share all of the identities of Watson’s accusers, which Hardin said was necessary to fully dispute the allegations.

In fact, Hardin said the reason he hadn’t spoken publicly extensively prior to Friday was that “we don’t know what happened for sure.”

Hardin made a peculiar attempt to cite the pandemic as one reason for Watson’s frequenting of so many different masseuses. There are at least 40 involved in this case, including the 22 lawsuits alleging misbehavior and 18 statements in defense of Watson as an upstanding man.

“Folks this guy has been getting two-to-three massages a week,” Hardin said. “The math I do on that is anywhere from 120-140-150 massages a year. He’s been here since 2018. In the year 2020, all of a sudden spas shut down. If ya’ll remember, nobody was getting massages unless there was an ad hoc way to do it.”

The main point Hardin wanted to get across on Friday, though, was that he felt Watson already had been tried and convicted on social media. Several sponsors suspended or dumped Watson, 25, this past week, including Nike and Beats by Dre, and his career in the short term is in jeopardy, too.

“What he wants more than anything,” Hardin said, “is to get back his reputation.”

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