At the 2018 NFL Annual Meeting, I went to great the Oakland Raiders General Manager and recent NFL Executive of The Year Reggie McKenzie. I said “Remember, last year, when I said you should draft Cam Robinson? He became an all-pro with Jacksonville,” as McKenzie nodded in acknowledgement. “Now,”I continued,” I have another name for you: Cortland Sutton, SMU wide receiver. He’s going to be an NFL Hall of Famer. Watch.”
So, I watched the 2018 NFL Draft hoping that my words to McKenzie casued the drafting of Sutton. But not only did that not happen, Sutton fell out of the NFL Draft 1st Round, into the 2nd Round, and to the rival Denver Broncos.
A number of football observers had downgraded Sutton as a 2018NFL Draft second-day player – not me. To me, Sutton plays like Dez Bryant, but is two-inches taller and just as fast. In fact, I think he plays faster than Dez.
But what I most like about Cortland Sutton’s game is his combination of 6-4 height, rangy arms, and pass catching desire make him an excellent red zone target. Put Sutton in an offense ran by Derek Carr and coached by Greg Olson and Jon Gruden, and you have that Raiders All-Pro. But, it didn’t happen.
No, the Raiders elected to take a risk and trade for the speedy Pittsbburgh Steelers WR Martavis Bryant. But the problem is, well, Bryant has a substance abuse problem. One that, sadly, looks like it hasn’t gone away.
While I pray that it does not come to pass that Martavis Bryant is suspended, I have to ask why the Raiders didn’t take Sutton, or really stay the normal course of drafting obvously talented players from colleges you and I have heard of, and then paying them? The Oakland Raiders under Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie seem to be working as if they have Oakland Raiders Owner Mark Davis in their ears whispering “Ok, I’ve spent way too much money on this Las Vegas Stadium relocation, so you guys are gonna have to Moneyball it, OK?”
And so that’s what the Oakland Raiders did. Top-10 defensive tackle, but have a heart problem? They’ll wait for you to drop to the fifth round before they take you. All-conference, but you have an injury that makes teams pass on you? The Raiders want you, but cheap. Great offensive skill position players available for the Raiders in the 1st Round? No thanks, they’ll take a small-school offensive lineman. Great game-breaking wide receiver in the 1st Round that the Raiders could have let drop to the lower part of that and got him? Forget it, trading for a speed-demon with substance abuse issues was the better thing to do.
You see? Moneyball.
While the Raiders were making everyone remember how much they love the Oakland A’s Billy Beane, Cortland Sutton was wowing Denver Broncos fans and media. “Courtland Sutton Impresses Denver Broncos During OTAs” reports Fansides’s Cameron Parker. “‘Court,’ (Sutton) he’s a friendly target and I like throwing him the football. He’s done really, really well. I think he’s come a long way and I’m excited to throw him the football,” said Broncos quarterback Case Keenum. And then there’s this tweet by Zac Stevens of BSN Broncos:
Courtland Sutton does it again.
Smothered in coverage 25 yards down the field, Paxton Lynch put one up on the sideline for Sutton. Turning back shoulder, Sutton snagged the ball w/his left hand & left hand alone and touched both feet in bounds on his way down before falling out
— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensBSN) June 13, 2018
Meanwhile, the Raiders are keeping watch on the Martavis Bryant situation. Let’s hope he comes out of this OK. Let’s hope there was no issue. But the next time, for the 2019 NFL Draft, the Raiders should try a new strategy.
Listen to me. Better yet, make me Raiders Assistant GM.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media