Rolando McClain retired from football again on Monday, this time permanently he says. When I heard the news I couldn't help but think back to the pre-NFL Draft process in 2010, when many thought McClain was a no-brainer pick for the New York Giants if he was available at No. 15 -- and others were convinced the Giants should mortgage whatever they had to in order to move up to select the middle linebacker of their dreams.
Yours truly fell hard for the 'no way the Giants can pass on McClain if he is available' chatter back in 2010, and learned a valuable lesson. Witness some of what I wrote in a prospect profile back then:
If 14 teams somehow let McClain slide to the Giants I really don't care what else General Manager Jerry Reese accomplishes. Grab this guy and you can call your draft a success.
McClain is a dominating physical presence at 6-foot-4, 256 pounds. He has the size, strength and athletic ability to be the best Giants middle linebacker since -- dare I say it -- Harry Carson. I am not saying he will be that good, but it sure is nice to think about. It's highly unlikely McClain will be available to the Giants at No. 15. If he is, though, I don't see how the Giants can pass him up.
If he is available to the Giants, this feels like a no-brainer to me. ... I have not thought of ANY reason why the Giants would pass on McClain if he somehow falls to them at No. 15.
There were others on the McClain train. SB Nation's Mocking The Draft said McClain was the "most sure-thing as a middle linebacker prospect in the draft since Patrick Willis." Read the comments in that post and you see that many Giants' fans were willing to trade almost anything to get into position to draft McClain.
Reese didn't fall for the hype, however, and the Oakland Raiders took McClain with the eight overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft. The Giants were forced to 'settle' for Jason Pierre-Paul. Despite JPP's rough 2013 season I think everybody understands how that worked out.
In Pierre-Paul the Giants have a player who can be among the game's most dominating defenders when his body and mind are right. McClain is a young man searching for what he wants to do with his life who seemingly didn't love football and is done with the game after three seasons and 41 games. "If football made me complete I would play. But whenever I think of it my heart pulls me away from whatever reason," McClain said in announcing he was done with the game.
McClain's retirement, and the fact that he was never anything near Patrick Willis or Harry Carson as an NFL player, is a reminder that despite its thorough nature the NFL scouting process remains far from perfect.
No matter what a player looks like coming out of college, and no matter how passionately fans feel about a team's need to grab one certain player, there are never any guarantees. It's easy to get attached to a certain player or a certain idea during the buildup to the draft, but there is no player in any draft class that a franchise, the Giants or otherwise, can't live without.