Now that the slow-motion Bronco-plosion of Super Bowl XLVIII is but a bizarre memory, football fans can start looking forward to the next big date on the NFL calendar. The date when dreams are made, phenoms are crowned and everyone watches a podium with heart in throat.
That’s right: it’s time to get pumped for the theatrical release of Draft Day, the latest glittering hunk of incestuous cross-promotion approved by the NFL and ESPN! All hail Goodell! All hail Bristol!
Further torturing the battered psyche of Cleveland sports fans, the movie casts Kevin Costner as the daring, charismatic and silver-foxy GM of the sad-sack Browns football franchise. (In real life, the Browns ran their last GM out of town after just one year. Good luck, Ray Farmer!)
With the draft clock ticking, Costner must launch the proverbial Hail Mary pass to reverse the franchise’s seemingly endless descent into irrelevance. Can he make the big move? Chris Berman, Rich Eisen and the rest of the NFL commentariat are on the edge of their seats!
Presumably, the players Costner will be drafting are fictional—barring an outrageous Johnny Manziel cameo. So we figured, hey, why not go all out? If you’re going to build a movie around drafting made-up football players, why not accept only the best?
And so the idea for Paste’s Pop Culture Pigskin Fantasy Draft was born. Who’s eligible: any man, woman or anthropomorphic creature who’s ever donned pads in a movie, TV show or other medium. For our draft, we’re using the same selection order as the 2014 NFL Draft, and making picks based on each team’s needs as outlined by Daniel Jeremiah at NFL.com.
One rule: no drafting characters who were based on real people. (Sorry, Rudy, you lose again!)
So without further ado, we turn the podium over to our first team. Houston Texans: you’re on the clock.
1. Houston Texans
2013 Record: 2-14
What they need: Imagine the Broncos’ Super Bowl disappointment stretched out across an entire season: bundles of expectation and fan excitement pushed off the top floor and hitting the pavement with a sickening thwack. Everything went wrong for the Texans this year, especially at quarterback, where starter Matt Schaub disintegrated spectacularly. So maybe it’s time to go with a real gamer under center…
The Pick: QB Paul “Wrecking” Crewe (Burt Reynolds) — The Longest Yard (1974)
Scouting Report: There may be other QBs on the board with more raw talent or more sympathetic backstories, but no GM could overlook the magnetic swagger of the original Paul Crewe. He can scramble, he can battle, he can disable opposing pass rushers with a well-placed howitzer to the junk. Manziel isn’t worthy of grooming this legend’s ample chest hair.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)
2013 Record: 7-9
What they need: Someone to protect starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who has spent his first four years in the league getting smacked, sacked, lit up and torn up like a doomed Mr. Bill made flesh.
The Pick: OL Kelvin “The Buffalo” James (Marcello Thedford) — Playmakers (2003)
Scouting Report: Most pop culture linemen come across as jumbo-sized gimmicks, overcompensating for the fact that they play an unheralded position. But “The Buffalo” was a rock-steady anchor on ESPN’s short-lived football drama Playmakers. You could see why the NFL wasn’t a fan of its bleak depiction of the lives of professional footballers, which at times bordered on comically dysfunctional. But even as he got caught up in the series’ seedy storylines, Buffalo was always a guy you could count on the hold the line.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
2013 Record: 4-12
What they need: A personality. What are the Jacksonville Jaguars, exactly, and what have they ever been?
The Pick: QB “Steamin’” Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) — Any Given Sunday (1999)
Scouting Report: Oh this will give the Jags some personality, alright. Between his highlight reel plays, sub-Puffy rap videos and ample commercial endorsements, Beamen will make Jaguars games appointment viewing the way Michael Vick did for the Atlanta Falcons a decade ago. Which is a little backwards, actually, since Beamen was a pre-Vick harbinger of the rise of freakishly athletic mobile quarterbacks.
4. Cleveland Browns
2013 Record: 4-12
What they need: Some teams are “unsettled at the quarterback position.” Then are the Cleveland Browns, who featured the three-headed monster of Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer lobbing passes in 2013. Weeden, the team’s 2012 first rounder, is gone. Sounds like this team needs … a replacement.
The Pick: QB Shane “Footsteps” Falco (Keanu Reeves) — The Replacements (2000)
Scouting Report: Now that he’s presumably gotten over his fear of making the big play, Falco is the guy you want in the huddle—if only to dispense gems like this, Off-the-cuff, half-assed inspiration should go far in Cleveland.
5. Oakland Raiders
2013 Record: 4-12
What they need: Seven years on, the scars from the JaMarcus Russell experiment still run deep in Oakland. But once again, the Raiders need a passer. So let’s forget about scouting college football powerhouses this time … forget about scouting human beings, even. It’s time to go off the board.
The Pick: QB Bones Justice (voice of Roman Foster) — Mutant League (1994)
Scouting Report: Transformed into a walking skeleton by a radioactive earthquake, possessed by his desire for teamwork, fair play and justice, Bones would fit right in with Raider Nation. Plus he can absorb limb-detaching hits without spending any time on the DL. Best of all: he’s used to feuding with a corrupt, power-mad commissioner, which could make him the CM Punk-style rebel the NFL desperately needs.
6. Atlanta Falcons
2013 Record: 4-12
What they need: Among other things, the Falcons need to apply more pressure to opposing quarterbacks. They had some of the lowest sack numbers in the NFL last year. And when you need sacks, who else you gonna call?
The Pick: LB Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler) — The Waterboy (1998)
Scouting Report: Channeling his man-childish rage after a lifetime of teasing and mild romantic disappointment, Boucher set the NCAA record for sacks in a game with 16. That’s half as many as the Falcons had in 2013! His teammates love him so much, he doesn’t even need to make an inspirational halftime speech, he just needs to show up.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2013 Record: 4-12
What they need: Continuing to flounder in irrelevance for the past three seasons, the Bucs need help from top to bottom. It wouldn’t hurt, though, for their defense to revert back to its early-’00s golden years.
The Pick: LB Charles Jefferson (Forest Whitaker) — Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Scouting Report: Boucher isn’t the only guy who uses his rage to fuel his on-field performance. If you mess with Jefferson—or his ride—he goes full Vesuvius. He’s a one-man army and future Oscar winner. Even with Tampa Bay focused on finding a defensive end, you don’t pass up on this kind of talent.
8. Minnesota Vikings
2013 Record: 5-10-1
What they need: Here’s another team looking for a quarterback. The Vikings have wandered in the desert with Christian Ponder at the lead since those halcyon days of post-heel-turn Brett Favre.
The Pick: QB Johnny Walker (Anthony Michael Hall) — Johnny Be Good (1988)
Scouting Report: While he probably could have used a better script to support him, Walker is a pure high school football QB messiah. Like Friday Night Lights’ Jason Street without the crippling injury or love triangle angst, Walker will be the Vikings’ all-American lynchpin. Bonus: is best friends with a young Robert Downey Jr.