Sports teaches us to make the best of our decisions. What’s next matters, not what’s transpired, but we also have to learn from our choices.
Texas A&M defensive tackle Justin Madubuike and wide receiver Quartney Davis might have been better off to return for their senior years. Madubuike was drafted in the third round by Baltimore, though he was projected to be a second-round pick by most. Davis was undrafted, signing a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Davis was projected to be a late-round pick, so he probably was prepared mentally for not hearing his name called. It has to help his psyche a trio of former teammates made NFL rosters last year despite being undrafted — linebacker Tyrel Dodson, linebacker Otaro Alaka and offensive lineman Keaton Sutherland.
Madubuike doesn’t have to worry about his immediate future, third-round picks make opening-day rosters unless they fall flat on their face. And there’s no danger of Madubuike doing that. He’s too good and works too hard. His motor never stops.
It’s just that Madubuike financially might have been better off to return to A&M. As the 71st pick, he’ll get a four-year contract worth approximately $4,768,596, which includes a signing bonus of $1,089,679, according to Spotrac. If had gone in the middle of the second-round — say the 48th pick — he would have received a four-year contract worth $6,764,502, which includes a signing bonus of $2,479,638. That’s a huge difference.
Some thought Madubuike even could climb into the first round, which would have justified him leaving A&M early. Maybe he was hampered by not being able to work out with teams because of COVID-19. It’s hard to believe he didn’t go in the second round.
If he’d have returned for his senior season, Madubuike could have developed into one of the nation’s best defensive tackles. The Southeastern Conference’s top defensive tackles this season were Auburn’s Derrick Brown and South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw, who both opted to come back for their senior year and were rewarded by being first-round picks. Brown was taken seventh by Carolina and Kinlaw went 14th to San Francisco. Kinlaw will get a contract worth approximately $15,486,677, including a signing bonus of $8,824,492. Kinlaw’s bonus will be more than Madubuike’s four-year contract.
But on the flip side, what if Madubuike would have opted to return to A&M and got hurt or what if the season gets shortened or pushed back? Madubuike going to Baltimore is a good fit. They needed help inside. If he produces, he’ll be in line for a new contract and get his big bucks in 2-3 years.
A&M’s two highest drafted players last year were both juniors, center Erik McCoy and tight end Jace Sternberger. McCoy, a second-round pick by the Saints, started every game. As the 48th pick, he got a nice contract and was a steal for the Saints. He’s going to be a starter in the NFL for a long time. Sternberger, a third-round pick by the Green Bay Packers, had a concussion in training game, then hurt his ankle in an exhibition game and basically missed the whole season. The 75th overall pick at least was earning a check, but he still has to prove himself. And oh, by the way, Green Bay drafted Cincinnati tight end Josiah Deguara in the third round.
Third-round picks are just iffy. So much is expected from them, but the bottom line is every NFL team thought there were at least 64 players better. A&M has had eight players drafted in the third round since 2000 with only two earning high grades. Defensive tackle Ron Edwards, taken by Buffalo in 2001, played 11 seasons with the Bills, Kansas City and Carolina. He appeared in 139 games, starting 96. Offensive lineman Seth McKinney, drafted in 2002 by Miami, played in 93 games with the Dolphins, Cleveland and Buffalo, starting 46. But the other third-rounders — Sternberger, defensive lineman Daeshon Hall (Carolina, 2017), defensive back Brandon Williams (Arizona, 2016), defensive end Damontre Moore (New York Giants, 2013), offensive guard Taylor Whitley (Miami, 2003) and wide receiver Chris Cole (2000, Denver) have combined to play in 173 games with only 16 starts.
Hopefully, Madubuike will be become the program’s best third-round pick since the later part of the 1990s, when tight end Dan Campbell, defensive back Rich Coady, offensive lineman Steve McKinney, defensive back Ray Mickens, linebacker Dat Nguyen and offensive guard Rex Tucker all were impact third-round picks.
Mann continues Punter U legacy
A&M punter Braden Mann taken in the sixth round by the New York Jets should continue A&M’s run of fine punters in the NFL, following Shane Lechler (5th round 2000, Oakland Raiders) and Drew Kaser (4th round, San Diego Chargers 2016). But don’t forget about Steve O’Neal, the 13th-round pick by the Jets in 1969, who is a household name for any NFL fan over 50.
The Bryan dentist drilled an NFL record 98-yard punt in his second game with the Jets on Sept. 21, 1969 at the Denver Broncos. His punt went from the Jets’ 1 to the Broncos’ 1.
It’s still an NFL record, one that Mann hopefully will get a chance to tie or better. And it just so happens the Jets play Denver this season, but the game will be in New York. If Mann can do it there, he can do it anywhere. I wonder if Mann even knows who Frank Sinatra is? Well, if he hits a 98- or 99-yard punt, he will. He’ll be the toast of New York.
Mann is expected to replace Lachlan Edwards who was a seventh-round pick from Sam Houston State in 2016, but Edwards is an unrestricted free agent. Edwards averaged 45.9 yards on 87 punts last season. The Australian had 28 punts inside the 20. Edwards set the franchise record for net punting each of the last three seasons going from 40.5 yards to 40.8 to 41.6. Edwards is known for his hang time, while Mann will give the Jets a much stronger leg.
Gennesy back in NFL
Former Texas A&M offensive lineman Avery Gennesy, who signed a free-agent contract with Jacksonville after the 2017 draft, has yet to see the field in an NFL game, but he’s getting another chance with the Tennessee Tians who signed him last week before the draft.
The 6-3, 318-pound Gennesy had a strong showing with the Houston Roughnecks in the XFL, allowing only one quarterback pressure in 222 pass plays, according to Pro Football Focus. Gennesy couldn’t make it with Jacksonville, Denver or Cleveland, so in 2019 he played with the Atlanta Legends in the Alliance of American Football, which went bankrupt in April of that year.
Tennessee drafted only one offensive lineman, but it was a good one, Georgia offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson, who went in the first round. The Titans did sign three offensive linemen as free agents — Valdosta State’s Brandon Kemp, Texas State center Aaron Brewer and TCU offensive tackle Anthony McKinney. Gennesy, because he’s more of a guard, at least has a chance to make the team and block for former Aggie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Patience in order for football timeline
Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork has stressed patience in regards to when college football players might return to the practice field and whether the 2020 season will start on time. It’s a sound approach since A&M’s season opener against Abilene Christian is 132 days away. Heck, many presidents’ four-year terms are decided by their first 100 days.
And it has been “only” 46 days since the Southeastern Conference men’s basketball tournament was canceled, which kind of led to everything getting shutdown in Bryan-College Station. I say “only” because it feels more like 46 weeks.
So yes, 132 days can be a long, long time if that’s your next vacation or when you’ll see a loved one for the first time in many months. But since you can’t eat in a restaurant or go to church and some people have only been outside their house for essentials in the last month, it does seem far-fetched that there will be 80,000 people at Kyle Field in a little over four months. Then again, if anyone would have told you last year at the time everything that has transpired, they’d have been quarantined, a word that unfortunately we now use all the time.