Initial thought: The biggest winner of the 2014 draft, is the NFL -- and my reasoning has nothing to do with TV ratings/buzz/drama/whatever.
Because of Michael Sam's courage and the Rams' bold, commendable decision to draft Sam, the NFL has been given a fabulous opportunity to show football and non-football fans alike just how progressive and accepting an institution it can be.
Why am I not confident the league will make the most of its chance.
To the draft from the college perspective ... Winner -- SEC. The draft kingpin continued its dominance with 49 picks, tops in the nation for the eighth consecutive year. Loser -- Big Ten. Failed to produce a top-10 pick for the sixth consecutive year, outdone in this regard by #MACtion. Winner -- ACC. The basketball conference produced 42 draft picks, second only to the SEC. Loser -- Big 12. The league had 17 draftees, one ahead of the Mountain West and nowhere near the volume produced by the SEC, ACC, Pac-12 and B1G. Winner -- MAC. Two first-round picks, which was one more than the Big 12 and two more than the Mountain West. Loser -- Interior offensive linemen. There were just 24 guards and centers selected in seven rounds (and only two in rounds 1 and 2: UCLA G Xavier Su'a-Filo and Colorado State C Weston Richburg). Winner -- LSU. The Tigers led all schools with nine picks ... Nine picks, 10 wins and three losses. Hmmmmm. Loser -- Alabama. Because of the aforementioned winner. Winner -- Louisville. Three first-round picks for a program that had never produced more than one in a single draft. Loser -- Running backs. Shut out in the first round for the second consecutive year. Winner -- Little guys. Bloomsburg and Lindenwood universities both had players drafted. Loser -- Texas. No players selected for the first time since Darrell Royal was a teenager (1937, to be exact). Think about that one for a minute. Winner -- Two-star prospects. There were two selected in the first five picks (Blake Bortles and Khalil Mack) and six taken overall in the first round. Loser -- USC. Only three players selected from a program that not long ago was producing multiple first rounders annually. The Trojans' total was lower than that of such storied football programs as Missouri, Boston College, Baylor and North Carolina. Winner -- Washington State. Safety Deone Bucannon (No. 27 overall) became the first Cougar picked in the first round since Marcus Trufant in 2003. Loser -- Stanford. Hoping to break the school record, the Cardinal instead tied the mark with six players selected. Winner -- Stanford. Because the program has reached the point where six draftees can be considered a disappointment. Loser -- Notre Dame. With eight draftees, the Irish tied Alabama for second. Eight draft picks + four losses? The only thing saving UND from being labeled an underachiever last season was the Everett Golson suspension. Winner -- Richard Rodgers. The Cal tight end seemed to play everywhere but tight end last season in the Bear Raid. But Green Bay liked what it saw enough to make him a surprise third round selection. Loser -- 31 NFL teams. Woe unto thee who passed on USC receiver Marquise Lee. In 2012, Lee was the best receiver in the country and one of the greatest in Pac-12 history.
What happened in 2013? Poor quarterback play, bad coaching and an injured knee. Sure, he ran an average 40 at the combine (4.52). But when healthy, Lee's game speed is as good as it gets -- he plays faster than he runs. Even with the Jaguars, Lee will be a star.
For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5716.