C.J. Stroud's draft stock is falling! Falling! Now crashing! And burning!
It's over, folks. UDFA Land, here he comes. How dare he snub football royalty (the Manning Dynasty having taken over Football after a bloody coup in the mid-2000's, deposing a military junta led by the surviving members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins)?
If it actually happened! Which it might not have! At all!
This is the part of the article where I'm supposed to recount the drama surrounding C.J. Stroud's supposedly falling draft stock and how it's related to a dubious story spread by legendary Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn about him flaking on a football camp set up by the Mannings, but I've got to be honest with you: it's not that I don't want to (okay, I don't want to), it's that I'm jealous.
My whole "thing" as a writer is that I like to take the more ridiculous elements of college athletics and attempt to satirize or expose them in a way that allows an outside observer to take three huge steps back and go "okay, this is a little insane". Reality, having gotten more asinine over the past decade, has consistently subverted my attempts to do this, but at no point in the football calendar am I more frustrated than in the two months leading up to the NFL Draft.
The already extremely thin veil of respectability that football media personalities reluctantly don for most of the year is tossed straight into the trash in favor of Macho Man Randy Savage's shades and fifty-gallon cowboy hat. Last year it was Dan Orlovsky intimating that Justin Fields aloof and didn't want to be a leader ("Those online classes, I knew it!" shouted the laziest elements of the Michigan commentariat), and this year it's Quinn jumping at the chance to impugn the name of a guy who has exactly zero knocks against his character.
I get why they do it. At no time is football fandom writ large conditioned to both consume and accept the most base, catty gossip from ostensibly unserious human beings. The NFL Draft is one of those rare moments where college and professional fandom intersects, with collegiate pride and professional success on the line given how the whole thing shakes out.
It's no wonder why the Orlovskys and Quinns of the world take advantage of the situation, because Clicks Rule Everything Around Me and there's no better way to guarantee that your name will be repeated by dopes like Johnny Ginter than to say some ridiculous shit with virtually no sourcing or verification.
SOURCE: A legitimate concern NFL teams have with Kentucky QB Will Levis is his deathly fear of milk.— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) March 3, 2023
Ive been told he screams in terror at even the sight of milk, let alone the taste. It impedes his daily tasks, source said. Im worried how hell fit in an NFL program. pic.twitter.com/0YcV9vJzCM
As a reminder: people believed that. Otherwise normal, rational human beings read that, decided that it was a real thing that was really real, and then filed it in their brain as something true. Will Levis, afraid of milk. Fact.
This is why I'm jealous. I don't have either the media cache or a veneer of respectability (however tenuous) that would allow me to put out MICHAEL MAYER DID THE FAKE HAND SHAKE PULL AWAY AT THE LAST SECOND AND BRUSH BACK YOUR HAIR THING TO THE POPE or BRYCE YOUNG EATS WORMS into the ether and have people actually believe it.
C.J. Stroud will be fine, even after suffering the slings and arrows of a guy I'm usually only vaguely aware of. It's becoming increasingly apparent that Stroud isn't going to be the number one pick, but honestly, who cares? The difference between being a very high first round draft pick and a slightly less high, but still very high first round draft pick is pretty negligible, especially if you end up going to a franchise that's somewhat less of a dumpster fire than you would've otherwise.
I think Quinn and his ilk know that, which is why they have absolutely zero compunction about turning the NFL Draft into an increasingly ridiculous rumor mill. The only thing that suffers is the quality of the discourse surrounding what should be a fun celebration of players and their collegiate achievements, and my mental health as I try and come up with something even more absurd than what's already out there (Infante beat me to it, the jerk).
The irony is that some players really do have red flags that are newsworthy and should be discussed; Cincinnati Bengals running back and second round pick Joe Mixon's recent legal issues, for instance, have had people revisiting whether or not his punching of a woman in a bar should've been a disqualifying factor for him getting drafted. That's a conversation worth having, because it speaks to a number of serious issues like how the NFL treats the abuse of women, or whether a player's past actions should influence their present earning potential, or how we report on those things in the first place.
But those are tough discussions to have, requiring nuance and thought. The idea of C.J. Stroud giving the middle finger to Archie Manning and yelling "I HATE KIDS" is easy clickbait.
It's not hard to imagine why Quinn, and media figures like him, choose the latter over the former.