Defensive linemen are the new dogs in purses of the League, so its no surprise to see the old heads of football creaming over Chris Long. After all, he represents the perfect cross section of tradition and progress, the scion of a football legend who fits the new model for team construction (the Giants guaranteed everyone is shelling out big money on the defensive line for the next several years). Yet ultimately, he bores me to tears. Nothing he does is particularly unexpected or interesting. He’s kind of big, and he’s kind of fast, and he does things with a technical perfection that made him an ACC superstar. That sounds like a nice story; wake me up when it’s over. One scout already dropped the line that “With Long “you have a finished product.” Finished products make for frequently unimportant and certainly uninteresting draft picks.
Vernon Gholston looks nothing like a finished product. Indeed, the same scout who seemed to dismiss Long’s upside called Gholston an “ascending talent.” That’s scout speak for a completely guy who looks completely unpolished but can run through two grown athletes like they were cardboard cutouts. He stands 6’4”, 264 pounds, and he can run a 4.67 40, has a 35.5 inch vertical, and he threw up 225 pounds 37 times on the bench. None of this is to say that physicality is or should be the sum total of measuring a player, but ignoring numbers like that is how you wind up with boring drafts. Remember, 2007 was supposed to be a rejection of the mentality that brought us Mario Williams (now vindicated), Reggie Bush (now exposed), and Vince Young (now as delightfully unsettled as ever). Vernon Gholston represents a return to giddy wonderment at a physical specimen that looks like he plays football because it’s the only way he can camouflage himself in mainstream society. So while the criticisms that he lacks technical soundness and relies too much on physical ability may be valid, they also may be wholly unimportant. It’s like criticizing a shark because he’s a messy eater; just shut up and look at what that magnificent bastard can do with the gifts God gave him.
Gholston’s unpredictability extends to his psyche as well. Go read his interview on NFL.com; he’s an auteur of violence of that listens to The Isley Brothers and refuses to acknowledge anyone ever hitting him hard enough to remember. Oh, and he sees Arnold Schwarzenegger playing him in his biopic. Know who Chris Long envisioned in the movie of his own life? Russell Crowe. For the record, The Terminator would kick Maximus’s ass. Hell, John Kimble owns the Gladiator every day and twice on Sundays. Everything is physical reality over image in Gholston’s style, which makes the image that does emerge so much sharper and (depending on who you are) scarier. There is no hope of “average” with Gholston; he will either destroy or be destroyed.
All of this makes Gholston significant in this draft, which is starting to shape up like a face off of old world and new world football. Chris Long (yawn) and Matt Ryan (YAAAAWN) are easy choices, but players like Joe Flacco (who toiled in obscurity) and Gholston are the selections that force teams to gamble; nobody will ever say that spending an important draft pick on them was “sensible.” Personally, I’m hoping for Gholston to remind us that there’s a reason why Julius Peppers puts asses in seats while Aaron Schobel eats at Denny’s without being bothered. If we know the end of the story, there’s no reason to read it to its conclusion. Chris Long’s ends with him becoming Aaron Schobel (not a bad ending, but worth a top five pick? REALLY?). Gholston’s story, which stars AHHNULD, has The Temptations on the soundtrack, and involves 264 pound man getting almost three feet above ground, is already interesting enough for me to start reading.