I remember sitting in my living room in May and watching the NFL draft unfold. Every year I am glued to the draft and watch with such anticipation. I was ecstatic at the Dallas Cowboys pick of defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence out of Boise State. I thought before his pick the front office did a nice job by taking guard Zach Martin.
Then there was a wait and after the waiting was over we had a linebacker out of Iowa named Anthony Hitchens. I had never heard of Hitchens before and after hearing the naysayers, I mean experts, I thought maybe the Boys made a mistake. Hitchens was called a late round pick at best by those who are supposed to know these things.
I am glad to say I was foolish to ever let those blowhards affect my thinking. After doing some research on Hitch following his selection, I was shocked I never heard the name before. His stats during his junior and senior year were outstanding. A combined 234 tackles, 3 sacks and an interception show he was simply a solid football player, something this team needed bad. Maybe Anthony wasn’t the flashiest, or the biggest, which is why his name eluded me in college. But what he lacked in hype he made up in sound football plays.
Hitchens nine tackle effort against Jacksonville was his second best outing behind his 13 tackle game against St. Louis earlier this year. For the year Hitchens has 38 tackles and two pass deflections. And for anyone taking tabs on this “questionable” fourth round pick, both the 13 tackles in one game and 38 on the year are better production than the Steelers have gotten out of first round pick Ryan Shazier. Now in no way am I questioning the pick of Shazier, who is a talented linebacker. It just shows the value the Boys got in round four.
Hitchens has also been credited for two “stuffs” on the year. Both of those came in games he started for an injured teammate, early in the year against St. Louis and this past Sunday in London against Jacksonville. In each game the opposing team attempted a fourth and one run, only to be met by the instinctive Iowa product.
As nice as the fourth down stuff was, the more impressive play this last weekend against Jacksonville however was when Hitchens chased down Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts III. Shorts completed a 53 yard reception after burning cornerback Brandon Carr, and while it looked like a touchdown for sure, the ever hustling Hitchens chased down the receiver.
The following play was a fumble caused by defensive end George Selvie and recovered by safety Barry Church. That turnover may get the attention, but it is not possible without the hustle play by the former Hawkeye.
So while everyone loves to think Mel Kiper Jr. is the beginning and end of draft knowledge, he and his buddies were dead wrong about the fourth round pick. While general consensus was he should have been a late rounder, common sense shows he may have been a steal in the fourth. However it is sliced, the Dallas Cowboys were right about Anthony Hitchens this May, and teammates such as linebacker Bruce Carter aren’t afraid to say so.
One day perhaps people will realize the real experts in scouting are the front office personnel hired by NFL teams. Bogus things such as immediate draft grades are issued based on the musings of a talking head. It’s as if the work of scouts should be ignored and we should pray that our favorite teams are watching ESPN or NFL Network to see who’s next on the big board.
Or perhaps the draft “experts” are on television and not in an NFL war room for a reason.