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McCoy Ready for "Schoolyard" Draft

Posted Jan 7, 2014

In two weeks, the NFL's radically altered Pro Bowl week will kick off with a player draft to determine the two sides, and Tampa Bay's all-star DT Gerald McCoy is already looking forward to the experience

  • Gerald McCoy and his fellow Pro Bowlers will be placed on two teams via a draft on Jan. 21-22
  • Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice will conduct the draft with help from fantasy football champions and top Pro Bowl vote-getters
  • McCoy thinks the team captains will focus on the quarterback position first
Gerald McCoy's breakthrough performance in 2012 put him in the Pro Bowl, and for a time it looked like he might have won that trip to Hawaii just in the nick of time. The NFL's all-star game had been the target of ever-increasing criticism based on the quality of play, and league Commissioner Roger Goodell was speaking of its potential demise as recently as October of 2012.

Well, McCoy is headed back to Honolulu in a little less than two weeks, because the Pro Bowl lives on thanks to some out-of-the-box thinking. The NFL and the NFLPA got together and said, a la the Six Million Dollar Man, "We can rebuild it. We have the technology. We can make it better than it was."

It remains to be seen whether the actual game will be an enormous improvement – a few rule changes offer promise, such as sped-up clocks, two-minute warnings in each quarter and more defensive formation options – but the week leading up to it is guaranteed to be more entertaining thanks to the new "Pro Bowl Draft."

Combining the inherent tension of a schoolyard pick-'em with the big names of a fantasy football draft, the new procedure for choosing the two sides in the Pro Bowl is something completely new on the NFL landscape. It may not carry the importance of the playoffs that will still be going on or the long-term impact of the upcoming NFL Draft, but it's still awfully good television. Who isn't curious to see if Peyton Manning or Tom Brady is the first quarterback taken, or if a sack artist like Robert Quinn is considered more valuable than an offensive star like LeSean McCoy?

-- DT Gerald McCoy played in his first Pro Bowl following the 2012 season
And then there's this: What if you happen to be one of the players in the draft? What will that experience be like? McCoy is about to find out, as is fellow Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis and the 86 other players who were tabbed as this year's all-stars. McCoy says this is the first time he'll be involved in a schoolyard-type of draft since he was, well, "…in the schoolyard."

Like most adults who took part in after-school competitions or neighborhood pickup games, McCoy remembers the experience well. There's a certain aspect of that experience he's not eager to relive in Honolulu.

"Just picking guys – 'I want him! I want him!'" said McCoy, setting the scene. "I just don't want to be that guy standing over there rocking back and forth, [saying], 'Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have been here.' I want to be one of the first D-linemen taken. Like, 'We've got to have him.' That would be great."

Actually, McCoy won't have to worry about going anywhere near last, because the NFL is spreading the draft out over two days. A total of 22 players – 11 on each team – will be drafted from such positions as guards, centers, fullbacks, interior defensive linemen, punters and special teamers. While the point of that seems obvious – sparing the feelings of some players at positions that would not likely be coveted early in the draft – somebody is going to get a very good start to their team with the likes of McCoy or Justin Smith.

Of course, McCoy didn't expect to go first, either. He figures the league's premier position will take center stage on the second day of the draft, to be televised live on the NFL Network on Wednesday, January 22.

"You can't win without quarterbacks so you've got to take your quarterbacks first," said McCoy. "Then you've got to get a guy to block for him, and then you've got to get a guy to go get him."

It remains to be seen if the draft will follow that tried-and-true general manager hierarchy of quarterback/left tackle/defensive end/cornerback, partially because it remains to be seen who exactly will be playing general manager that night. Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will definitely be involved, as they are the captains of the two Pro Bowl squads. Joining them in the decision-making will be one winner each from the NFL.com Fantasy Football game. Rice and Sanders will also be assisted by two player captains each, with those captains coming from the top Pro Bowl vote-getters on offense and defense who are not involved in the conference championship games.

So, Team Rice or Team Sanders? While noting that Sanders has professed a preference for younger, hungrier players, McCoy said he would happily suit up for either NFL legend.

"I don't care," he said. "Deion said he doesn't want guys with five [Pro Bowls] and up, so that's kind of where I am. Jerry was willing to take whoever, so I don't know."