For a while on Saturday afternoon, being drafted was the only thing that seemed irrelevant for Tae Crowder.
The linebacker from Georgia was on the phone with his agent and a number of NFL teams, sifting through the free-agent offers being proposed and about to become official once the final pick of the draft was named. Crowder was weighing everything from signing bonuses to depth charts to coaching styles as he and his camp tried to make up their mind.
“It was crazy,” Crowder said on Wednesday. “It was really stressful.”
Then the Giants made his mind up for him. With the 255th and last pick in the draft, they selected him instead of hoping that he would select them (yes, the Giants were among the teams expressing interest had he gone undrafted). Crowder became the 10th draft pick in the team’s 2020 class, one that began with Georgia teammate Andrew Thomas as the fourth overall selection and ended with Crowder being named this year’s "Mr. Irrelevant."
That’s the backhanded title bestowed on the last pick in each draft since the mid-1970s. The Giants had two others “honored” with that description before Crowder, who now proudly wears the cardboard crown.
“I knew about 'Mr. Irrelevant,' but I didn’t know all the stuff that came with it,” Crowder said. “It’s pretty special for me and my family, so we’ll have fun with it.”
Normally, the last pick in the draft receives not only the distinction but also a bevy of salutes, including a week-long trip to Newport Beach, California, for him and his family, a trip to Disneyland, a golf tournament, a roast where he receives “advice,” and the Lowsman Trophy, which is a mimic of the Heisman Trophy (although in this one, the player is fumbling the football). Because of the coronavirus, it isn’t clear whether Crowder will be able to receive any or all of those perks.
“They’ll reach out to me when everything clears up and we’ll have to find a way to plan it with my family,” he said.
The Giants have a little bit of history with the final pick in the draft.
They had the last pick in the NFL’s first draft in 1936, selecting guard Phil Flanagan from Holy Cross 81st overall at the end of the ninth round. Flanagan never signed with the Giants. At the time, NFL salaries were so low that many players had better options in other pursuits.
Since the 1970 merger, the Giants had made the final pick twice, selecting running back John Tuggle from California in 1983 and quarterback Larry Wanke from John Carroll in 1991. In both years, the NFL had 12 rounds of the draft instead of the current seven. Though they barely made an impact on the field (Wanke was never on an NFL roster), Tuggle played one season and died of cancer in 1985. His number 38 was on a sticker on the helmet of each player who represented the Giants in Super Bowl XXI.
The "Mr. Irrelevant" who made perhaps the biggest impact on the field for the Giants was fullback Jim Finn, who led the way for many of Tiki Barber’s best games. He was the final pick in the 1999 draft by the Bears.
For now, Crowder is celebrating being drafted, not being drafted last. He said his hometown of Hamilton, Georgia, has embraced his new status. He is only the second player from Harris County to be drafted; Jordan Jenkins was selected in the third round by the Jets in 2016.
“It means a lot to me and my family and my community,” Crowder said. “I’m one of the first ones from my town to get drafted and that’s pretty big for where I’m from, a small town. People don’t really make it from here. It brought the city out; they have my name hanging up in different places and things like that. It was a dream come true.”
Would that have happened if he had just signed as an undrafted free agent? And where would he have begun his NFL career?
“You never know,” Crowder said.
It’s irrele… well, it just doesn’t matter.