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2016 NFL draft this week!

Here we go! My hometown of Chicago is a more than fitting place to host the NFL college draft for the second year in row. For the first time in memory, the top two picks overall in the draft have already been traded. Tennessee traded their 2016 No.1 overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams who vacated St. Louis after last season, and the Cleveland Browns with the number two pick, traded with Philadelphia a bunch of picks in a block buster deal.

Last year the top two picks were quarterbacks. The Titans with the number two pick last year drafted a franchise quarterback. So this year they decided to give up the top overall selection for value and multiple picks.

Not a bad decision, as you can use your position to grab depth and quality young players to build your team with. Every NFL team, all 32, identifies players differently based on their value to that respected team.

In both cases, Tampa Bay and Tennessee last year fired their head coaches after or during the season after taking quarterbacks (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, respectively) with the first two overall picks. That concerns me because it says the ownership of both teams were not patient with their leadership.

When you change head coaches are you are building the team, the next coach hired may not be as good as the previous head coach at developing or evaluating young players. Your continuity has to be rock solid.

Some great players develop overnight, others it might take two-three years depending on the system they’re in, and the strength of the team. Remember three years ago the Vikings hired Mike Zimmer as head coach and drafted Teddy Bridgewater, even though most experts believed Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M was the better of the two quarterbacks.

Much of that was based on hype. Bridgewater has a low-key personality unlike Manziel, who had a reputation for partying and has so far been a major disappointment, investment and quarterback. He was indicted this week by a Dallas County Grand Jury on misdemeanor assault charges.

Character is also a major part of scouting and drafting, investing millions of dollars in players. Bridgewater led the Vikings to the NFL North title in year two (11-5) and made the Pro Bowl. The Vikings have a franchise quarterback. They were right. Cleveland, on the other hand, drafted Manziel two years ago and now have released him. And maybe because of that mistake, they did not want to invest big money on another quarterback in 2016. So they traded that pick to the Eagles. The NFL draft, like the NFL, stands for not for long.

The Vikings are in a great position to build their team up now that they have the quarterback and the running back to build around. Twenty seven years ago in 1989, four future Hall of Famers were selected in that draft’s first five picks: Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion Sanders. You cannot mock that draft — wow that’s impressive. The draft as ex-Vikings Vice President Frank Gilliam once said, is a time for celebration. You’ve worked 365 days to identify the players you need that fit your system. That’s why organizations like New England and Pittsburgh just reload each year.

NFL puts Vikings in prime spotlight

Nothing like a state-of-the- art brand new U .S. Bank Stadium to help generate local and national excitement. It’s 2016 and the doors will open soon, but first we have to get spring and summer out of the way. It helps to have a good football team, and the Minnesota Vikings were good last year.

 

They returned to the playoffs and are relatively young also with an average image (5)age of only 27 years on their 53-man roster. Usually the NFL looks closely at your quarterback and his potential before they schedule your team to prime-time assignments. Last year the Vikings had one prime-time assignment on Thursday night at Arizona.

 

When the Vikings were in the playoff hunt, they were flexed to Sunday night the final two games vs. New York and Green Bay, and the Vikings impressed all, including the NFL, by winning both games, thanks in part to QB Teddy Bridgewater. He played the best football of his young career.

 

Bridgewater led the Vikings to the NFC North Crown and was the second-best QB in passer ratings the last four games. He threw six TD passes with only one interception.

 

Bridgewater was awarded his Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 4.04.15 AMfirst Pro Bowl after playoff games and injury kept Cam Newton and Carson Palmer out. Bridgewater was next man up and would have won his first playoff game had Blair Walsh not missed against Seattle.

 

The Vikings open at home against their No.1 rival Sunday, September 18, at 7:30 in prime time vs. Green Bay on NBC. Week four, the Vikings host the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium in the first-ever Monday Night Football game at 7:20 pm.

 

Week five, another 2016 playoff team, Houston, comes to town. On Monday night October 31 the Vikings have another prime-time assignment against the Bears at Chicago.

 

Week 11, the NFC West Champion Arizona Cardinals with Minnesota-born stars Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. and Michael Floyd come to U.S. Bank Stadium.

 

Week 12, on Thanksgiving Day the Vikings travel to Motown to tussle with the Detroit Lions in the spotlight. And week 13, the Vikings host the Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo on Thursday night, December 1, at 7:30.

Fitzgeralds host Carol’s Night

It’s not every day you get to rub shoulders with royalty. The 2016 Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Benefit provided that opportunity for those who attended.

And it was for a wonderful cause. Thirteen years ago, April 10, 2003, a great woman, Mrs. Carol Fitzgerald, loss her battle with breast cancer.

Carol was an incredible woman with her gifts of giving, sharing and compassion. She was born in New Orleans, moved to Chicago, and eventually met and married her high school sweet heart Larry Fitzgerald in 1979.

She worked for the Minnesota Department of Health as an STD investigator. She co founded the African American AIDS Task Force and helped the late Dwight McWilliams start Community Fitness Today. She also joined the African American Breast Cancer Alliance.

The 12th Annual benefit was staged before 200 people packed into the spectacular Minneapolis Event Center with the new U.S. Bank Stadium and the great Mississippi River in the background. The three times Grammy winning Sounds of Blackness were the musical headliners and put on a wonderful performance featuring their new release Royalty.

The master of ceremonies for the evening was ESPN’s Emmy Award winning Ms. Josina Anderson. The evening also featured a remarkable opportunity to secure priceless, hard to find sports collectables during the silent and live auctions and items like Bulova his and hers watches and tickets to Vikings home games at the new stadium.

The Cardinals actually play the Vikings again next season in the new stadium. Jerseys were signed by Larry Fitzgerald, Jr., Ben Roethlisberger, Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, Stephen Curry and others just to name a few.

Nine-time Pro-Bowler Arizona Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. and his younger brother Marcus both shared private, emotional, heartfelt stories about lessons learned from their late mom. Larry Jr was a freshman star receiver at the University of Pittsburgh when his mom passed. Marcus was still in high school at Holy Angels.

The Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund has in 12 years raised over $600,000 for organizations across the country and locally.

A marvelous time was had by all. The event had Starkey Foundation Founder Bill Austin in attendance as well as New York Jets star Marcus Williams, KMOJ Radio Morning Show Co Host and Station General Manager Freddie Bell, ex Vikings stars Dr. Leo Lewis and Greg Coleman, prominent attorney Ann Viitala, and Natasha Borota, president of It Factor, with a group from Toronto, Canada.

It was again a wonderful event mixing sports and entertainment with the spirit for an important and worthy cause. If you would like to help the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund help others, forward your contribution to CFMF, P.O. Box 19177, Minneapolis, MN, 55419.

Again, thank you.

CredIt Photos Lou Lampson