Tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York, the NFL will welcome its next class of millionaires as the league’s worst teams get the first shot at college football’s biggest stars. Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III are the sure-thing first two picks, as Indianapolis and Washington have made their intentions clear. In fact, the NFL Draft has been so obsessed over by the likes of ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. that it makes Academy Awards handicapping seem restrained.
So rather than pretend to offer any fresh insight about tonight’s event, let’s envision our own 10-team draft, with NFL teams picking the best players from our favorite football movies. Real-life portrayals don’t count — sorry Billy Dee Williams as Gale Sayers in the original Brian’s Song, and Michael Oher in The Blind Side — nor do real pros moonlighting as actors.
Indianapolis, you’re on the clock. With the first pick of the 2012 Hollywood Football League Draft, the Indianapolis Colts select…
1. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (2011 record: 2-14)
Willie Beaman (Jamie Foxx), QB, Any Given Sunday
The Colts need a quarterback after parting ways with Peyton Manning, and Beaman is an electric, budding superstar who will need every ounce of his athleticism to survive behind an aging offensive line.
2. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (5-11)
Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds), QB, The Longest Yard
The Skins may have preferred Beaman, but they’ll happily settle for Crewe despite his checkered past. Crewe wouldn’t be the first NFL star to go from prison to the huddle — See: Michael Vick — and his ability to rally a team of oddballs and castoffs will come in handy in D.C.
3. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (3-13)
Samson (Richard Kiel), OL, The Longest Yard
The Vikes have a young quarterback who needs some protection to gain confidence; Samson would break a defender’s neck rather than let anyone touch his signal-caller. Like his former teammate Crewe, he’s got some baggage, but he could blossom in Minnesota — or at least star in a Fargo sequel.
4. CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-12)
Darnell Jefferson (Omar Epps), RB, The Program
Though he suffered from a slight case of fumble-itis in college, Jefferson proved to be a shifty back with breakaway speed. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Might struggle with the Wonderlic Test, though, since he’s practically illiterate.
5. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-12)
Dr. Death (Vister Hayes), CB, The Best of Times
Death is a punishing throwback to the times when cornerbacks could pummel wide receives with impunity. He’ll have to adjust his game to the modern rules, but if he can stay focused, he’ll add an edge to the Bucs’ defense that’s been missing since Warren Sapp retired.
6. ST. LOUIS RAMS (2-14)
Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), WR, Jerry Maguire
Great hands, but the best thing about Tidwell might be the chip on his shoulder. Even though he’s the first receiver drafted, he’ll be irritated that five players were chosen before him. He’s hungry, and to be honest, he’s very signable. His agent just suffered a meltdown.
7. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (5-11)
Phil Elliott (Nick Nolte), WR, North Dallas Forty
The Jaguars need a draw at the gate, and Elliott is probably not the answer there. But he’s a tough S.O.B. who comes down with every ball. He’s not afraid to play through pain, and he’d run through a brick wall to win. That’s the kind of guy you can build around.
8. MIAMI DOLPHINS (6-10)
Reno Hightower (Kurt Russell), QB, The Best of Times
There’s something to be said for great quarterbacks being jerks. Dolphins fans know a little something about this from the glory days of Dan Marino, who wasn’t afraid to bark at his teammates when they messed up. Hightower is cut from the same cloth. When he gets angry and selfish, he’s virtually unstoppable in the clutch.
9. CAROLINA PANTHERS (6-10)
Bobby Boucher Jr. (Adam Sandler), LB, The Waterboy
A project, to be sure. But this tackling savant can dominate a game like no defensive player since Lawrence Taylor. He’ll require some creative coaching to stay motivated, and his mother could present a challenge to management, but his bone-rattling eruptions are highlight material.
10. BUFFALO BILLS (6-10)
Brian (Chris Penn), LB, All the Right Moves
A one-named tackling machine from a dead-end steel town in Pennsylvania, he’d fit right in in Buffalo, a blue-collar city with a franchise proud of its linebacking tradition. Mature beyond his years, he’d be running the defense by the first preseason game. Unaffected by adverse weather conditions, he’d thrive in the bitter Buffalo winters.
Who did I leave out of the Top 10? What movie gridiron jock would you want on your team?