Through trade or otherwise, if your team manages to pick first or second in the draft Thursday night, and they select Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, or Sammy Watkins, do you buy that jersey once the number is revealed? As a Texans or Raiders fan, if Clowney, a defensive end, falls to your team, do you feel he’ll have enough impact on the organization over the coming years to make him the namesake on your jersey?
People do this. I mean, pretty much as soon as Nick Fairley–a defensive tackle and only the 13th pick overall–had a number, Michigan sports stores were stocking his jersey. Is Nick Fairley going to last with the Detroit Lions? Is Ndamukong Suh even going to last with them? Fairley has played two decent seasons in the NFL, but that wasn’t enough for the Lions to pick up his rookie-contract option when they had the chance this off-season. Suh is still under contract with the Lions, but that hasn’t stopped them from speaking to other teams about his trade value this spring.
When has a player, who is not a QB and was picked in the top five, went on to make enough of an impact on the team that drafted him to warrant a fan buying his jersey? It happens. Walter Payton and Jerry Rice are prime examples. But it’s risky. John Riggins was ushered into the NFL as a New York Jet. Wes Welker was originally picked up by the San Diego Chargers. Reggie White debuted as a pro for the Memphis Showboats. Do you see any of those jerseys on NFL game day?
Certainly, the future impact of a top-five-pick QB is somewhat easier to predict. John Elway and Peyton Manning have both had illustrious careers, and both led their original teams to Super Bowl victories. Funny thing though, as an Indy fan, are you wearing your Manning jersey to games these days–while he’s still racking up Hall of Fame numbers for another AFC team? It’ll probably be just fine once he retires, which is going to be very soon, but for now I don’t know. His heir’s jersey, that of Andrew Luck, seems to be a safe bet so far, but time will tell.
A QB is probably the surest thing when it comes to franchise top-fivers–Ryan Leaf aside, of course. Perhaps though, it’s just best to play it completely safe, and sport a name on your jersey that’s already made its mark. Every team has one or two. Well, sorry Jacksonville and Carolina. For the Saints, there’s Drew Brees. The Bills have the likes of Bruce Smith and Thurmon Thomas. The Lions have Barry Sanders, Alex Karras, and maybe even Jason Hanson. Teams like the Steelers and 49ers have so many, you can fill your wardrobe.
If you go that way, historic and classic, then you can get a bit creative. A buddy of mine is a Bears fan, and he went with Bronco Nagurski. Now we’re talking. That jersey will never go out of style. The same goes for a Joe Namath Jets jersey or a Rueben Mayes (if you’re Canadian) Saints jersey.
For those of you who’ll still take the risk on an unproven name however, there is occasionally a way out. Browns fans seem to have it down, and for good reason. I’ve seen Weedon converted to Weed, Couch changed to Ouch, and Richardson … you get the idea.
(photos credited to okunymys.webpage.com and www.you-think-too-much.com)