The waiting game ends. Here’s to Fifth Avenue suits and stylish pocket squares and orchestrated handshakes with Roger Goodell. Best of all, here’s to the end of mock drafts. Now that’s something most of us can get behind.
The NFL Draft finally begins Thursday, two weeks later than in past years, with 32 names to be called in the first of seven rounds that will play out over three days in New York City.
Husker fans might wish to monitor the back end of the first round, with some prognosticators believing Stanley Jean-Baptiste could hear his name called later in the night.
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock really got the buzz going for the former Nebraska cornerback when he brought up his name in answer to a question from Sports Illustrated writer Peter King about a storyline from the first round that might surprise people.
Mayock: “I’m going to give you this one: Stanley Jean-Baptiste slips into the first round. He’s what today’s NFL is all about. He’s too long (6-foot-3 and 218 pounds) and moves too well for this not to happen.”
Another draft guru, Daniel Jeremiah, issued a mock first round this week that had Jean-Baptiste going No. 30 to San Francisco.
That’s not to say Jean-Baptiste has won over everybody, with SI not listing him among its top 100 players in the draft. Among those 100 players were 14 other cornerbacks.
Still, he seems a master of good timing, on the draft board at the very moment many teams are looking for their own version of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, whom Jean-Baptiste closely matches in size.
Add to it the fact that Jean-Baptiste is still viewed by some as the type of raw prospect — having moved from wide receiver to corner midway through his sophomore year -- who has the potential for star status when he does touch his ceiling. He also put up numbers in workouts that rivaled Sherman’s of a few years back, even bettering him in some categories.
And if there were questions about his speed, Jean-Baptiste seemed to mostly eliminate them at Nebraska’s Pro Day when he ran back-to-back times clocked at 4.45 and 4.48 seconds.
If Jean-Baptiste is not selected Thursday, the best guess is he won’t have to wait too long Friday when the second and third rounds occur.
In that respect, this draft should be more friendly to Nebraska than a year ago, the worst draft numbers-wise for the program in four decades, when NU had just two players selected, Rex Burkhead and Daimion Stafford. And Burkhead, first to go, didn’t hear his name called until the sixth round, making it the first time since 1970 the Huskers didn’t have a player picked up in the first five rounds.
In all likelihood, NU will have at least two players picked in the first five rounds this time, with offensive guard Spencer Long hearing projections anywhere from the second to the fifth round.
The question for Long seems to be if he will get picked up Friday or have to wait until Saturday, when the final four rounds take place.
One person who doesn’t think Long will last until then is Jason La Canfora, an NFL writer for CBS Sports who on Wednesday wrote: “No one is talking about Nebraska offensive lineman Spencer Long, but I believe the kid is going in the second round. … (Long) impressed teams at late workouts and he has a big buzz among offensive line coaches. It’s possible Long could play all three interior line positions at the NFL level.”
Another former Husker to give notice in the later rounds is wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, who ran an impressive 40 time of 4.45 seconds at the NFL combine, while measuring in at 6-2, 225 pounds. Although Enunwa couldn’t participate in position drills at the combine after suffering a hamstring injury, he was said to have impressed in a special workout in mid-April that drew representatives from upwards of 15 teams.
And certainly there will be interest around here in what happens with Taylor Martinez — who worked out as a quarterback, defensive back and wide receiver at Nebraska’s Pro Day, posting numbers in the vertical, broad jump and 20-yard shuttle that would have been better or matched any of the quarterbacks at the combine.
Not that Martinez is locked in on trying to play QB at the next level. He has said he is keeping an open mind. “I’m an athlete so I can go out there and play whatever position.”
For those Huskers who don’t have their names picked in the draft, which might be Martinez’s lot, there still is the opportunity to land with a team in the free-agency frenzy that follows the final pick.
Offensive tackle Brent Qvale will monitor the draft as close as he can Saturday while also performing his duties as a groomsman in the wedding of former NU teammate Cole Pensick.
The wedding takes place at 2 p.m.
“My fiancée is going to have her phone and my phone and she’ll be acting as my second agent,” Qvale said.
The big man made a good case for himself at Nebraska’s Pro Day and drew some positive reviews while participating in the NFL Players’ Association Collegiate All-Star Game.
Qvale also was asked to conduct O-line position drills at the workout Long and Enunwa held for a bunch of teams on April 17.
Now he’s just trying to keep sane as he waits to see what comes next.
“As cliché as it sounds, you have to try to relax,” Qvale said. “You have come to the fact that there’s really nothing you can do now. … Just know that all the work you did during your college career that’s on film, just let that speak for itself.”
One thing Qvale doesn't have to worry about Saturday? He doesn't have to give the toast.