Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
27 Apr 2008
compiled by Vince Verhei
Each weekend of the regular season, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. This weekend, we're doing the same during the draft. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2008.
The night before the draft, Dallas trades linebacker Akin Ayodele and tight end Anthony Fasano to the Miami Dolphins for a fourth-round draft pick.
Aaron Schatz: Can someone explain the point of this from Dallas's point of view? Particularly the Fasano part?
Sean McCormick: That's a great move by Miami. My only explanation would be that the Cowboys already have Jason Witten as their starter at tight end and that they are looking to add receivers and go to more of a spread look for Tony Romo, in which case they don't need an additional pass-catching tight end. It's still a fleecing.
Bill Barnwell: Like I said in my Xtra Point, it's gotta be to open up a spot at linebacker for Zach Thomas or Bobby Carpenter. Ayodele was very much just a guy on a great defense. Fasano's no great shakes, but he's worth more than this.
Michael Tanier: With Ireland and Sporano in Miami, the only guy in Dallas who understands Fasano's value is Garrett, who may either want to go 3-WR more often or just got overruled. Ayodele is nothing special. I guess "Fasano for fourth-rounder" isn't crazy, but he's better than any TE/H-back you are going to get in the fourth round.
Bill Barnwell: I just watched the Giants-Cowboys game and Fasano had a miserable game. Absolutely awful. It might be bad feelings related to that.
Before the draft begins, the Miami Dolphins announce that Jake Long will be the first overall choice.
Sean McCormick: We might as well start with the pick we know, and that's Miami taking Jake Long. I was expecting Parcells to go defense, but I think he made the proper pick. The two top defensive options were Chris Long and Vernon Gholston, and both have to be projected into their positions in an NFL 3-4. Gholston is perhaps the easier projection of the two, but he's also the lesser prospect and I wouldn't touch him with the first overall selection. The most important thing, particularly in a draft that is rather flat at the top, is not to blow the pick, and Jake Long is probably the safest pick in the draft. He has the measurables that suggest he can play left tackle, but even if he struggles there, he should be a terrific right tackle, and you can always fall back and put him at guard if he proves to be another Robert Gallery, so there's a built-in safety net. But in addition to being a safe pick, Long also represents a rarer commodity than the other players at the top of the draft. It's easier to find pass-rushing prospects than it is to find elite left tackles. The Giants have four top pass rushers on their roster and they didn't take any of them before the end of the first round.
Michael Tanier: The Dolphins O-line could get good quickly with Long and Samson Satele. Really, it was one of the team's better units last year. Turn your decent unit into a strength first, then you know that your skill position guys won't be wasting their time.
Ben Riley: I've got a question about Brandon Albert, who has rocketed up the draft board on the assumption he can play left tackle. I understand the argument that he moved to guard because of D'Brickshaw Ferguson, but why didn't he play right tackle? Is there some reason Virginia needed him to stay on the left side of the line?
Sean McCormick: Maybe they simply wanted to take advantage of his ability to pull and block on the move. He's fantastic when he gets out in space.
Michael Tanier: Who was at left tackle for the Cavs last year? If they groomed a guy, and Albert was all-conference at guard, maybe they just resisted change.
Stuart Fraser: About the only thing you can really seriously question about Miami's pick is why the five-year contract; though if taking a year off was the only way to get the guy signed before the draft, fair enough.
The Rams select Chris Long.
Ben Riley: I'm looking forward to watching Walter Jones pancake Chris Long for eight quarters in 2008. SEAHAWKS!
(Sorry, I was channeling my inner Jets-fan-at-the-draft persona.)
(And I may have started drinking.)
Sean McCormick: I thought Chris Long would actually be a better player in a 3-4 or in a 4-3 across from an edge rusher. Supposedly the Rams are looking to give different looks and Long should be an excellent at moving around. He's my favorite player in the draft, but I think the Carriker/Dorsey combination would have been more effective than a Long/Carriker combination, especially if the Rams had found an edge rusher later in the draft. Safe pick, but I'm not sure it's the best match of team and talent.
The Falcons select Matt Ryan.
Sean McCormick: In a draft where there are three quality second-round quarterback prospects and Atlanta has three second-round picks to work with, this is a really dubious selection.
Ben Riley: I go the other way on that. They have a boatload of picks, and they need a quarterback, so take the best quarterback and build the line up in the second round.
Suzy Kolber to Matt Ryan: "When I say Atlanta, what's the first thing that comes to mind?"
I find it troubling that my internal response was "dog rape."
Sean McCormick: If Matt Ryan had Chad Henne's statistical profile, I might agree with you. But he doesn't. His starts are low, his completion percentage is a little low, and his skill-set is marginal. That doesn't mean he won't work out, but I think his ceiling is fairly low. I'd have taken the best player in Dorsey and looked at Henne or Joe Flacco at the back of the first round.
Ben Riley: Anyone watching NFL Network covering the Raiders draft table? Apparently Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens works for Al Davis.
Stuart Fraser: Aaaand Matt Ryan goes to Atlanta. Well, I wouldn't have picked him there. The identity of the best quarterback in this draft is far from clear cut, and it may be that none of them are really good starters. Certainly far too much of a risk with the No. 3 pick.
Michael Tanier: Sounds like I like Ryan better than some of you guys.
Ned Macey: I agree with Tanier if only because I hate the strategy of the early second-round quarterback. They work out rarely, while early second-rounders are your best value pick. If you get a mediocre linebacker, you can still play him and he's cost-effective at that spot. If you have a mediocre QB, your team is sunk.
Sean McCormick: I can understand that, but normally there is a difference between the physical ability of the guys at the top of the first and the guys at the top of the second. But Joe Flacco has No. 1 overall skills, while Matt Ryan has marginal physical skills. It's not a normal situation where you're passing up the 6-foot-5 rocket-armed guy for a 6-1 project.
Sean McCormick: I go back and forth on Matt Ryan, but there's no question that his Lewin Forecast suggests he's a major risk as a top-three pick. He looks like a Peyton Manning or a Philip Rivers, but his starts/completion percentage numbers are those of a late first/early second guy like Rex Grossman or Patrick Ramsey or Kellen Clemens. He has a high floor due to his work ethic, but Ryan isn't close to the third best player in the draft.
The Raiders select Darren McFadden.
Sean McCormick: The Jets are really close to getting squeezed. If Kansas City takes Glenn Dorsey (which they should), then the Jets will take Vernon Gholston and go on about their business. But if the Chiefs take Gholston or trade out, the Jets are stuck with the best player in the draft, only they can't take him. Ugh.
Ben Riley: Well, so much for my plans to order a Justin Fargas Fathead.
Al Davis is that one random guy in your fantasy football league who refuses to abide by conventional wisdom and takes, like, three quarterbacks in the first three rounds. Only, instead of being a fantasy team, Davis runs one of the NFL's most storied franchises.
Stuart Fraser: Oh, Oakland. We all knew you'd do that, but it doesn't make watching you do it any easier.
Lane Kiffin said publically (also correctly), pretty much, that he thought Oakland was set at running back and McFadden would be surplus to requirements. Al Davis drafts him anyway. I am left wondering if he did it just to wind Kiffin up.
What is it about the AFC West that makes coaches and GMs/owners not get on. Is Kansas City next?
On a wider issue, I'm wondering how often a running back is worth a first-round pick, especially a high one. Adrian Peterson was, or at least, if he keeps up current production, clearly will be. After him, who? None of the highly-touted first-rounders from 2005 looks that special now; the best of them is Joseph Addai, and the Colts offense barely missed a beat when Kenton Keith replaced him due to injury. It seems the only running backs who are really worth it in round one are the truly rare talents who only come along maybe once a decade (so the one before Peterson was probably Barry Sanders).
But they come along once a decade, and if there was one last year, it makes me skeptical that McFadden is really everything he's advertised to be. Especially since the year before Peterson we were told how special Reggie Bush was, and I'm sure the year before that there was a running back who was a one-in-a-generation talent as well.
Sean McCormick: I would have taken Dorsey, but you can make an argument that McFadden was the best player on the board. I think as a rule you would prefer to avoid the position in the top five, but you don't necessarily pass over a guy for a lower rated prospect. The positive is that a running back is likely to contribute immediately and to play out all of his rookie deal, so as long as you're willing to take that production and then be careful about a second contract, you can make an argument for taking someone like McFadden.
Ned Macey:I think LdT worked out alright between Sanders and Peterson. And Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, and Fred Taylor aren't exactly chopped liver. Still, I agree, a stupid pick for the Raiders based on what they have.
Michael Tanier: I think Davis' brother, who really belongs at that table in Godfather 1 where Don Vito and the five families discuss the drug trade, is undead.
Sean McCormick: The Raiders are going to seriously regret passing on both Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis when their run defense is caving in every week. They had a chance to match BPA with their biggest weakness with Dorsey, but they optedfor McFadden, who is worthy of the pick, but not nearly as good a fit with their needs.
The Chiefs select Glenn Dorsey.
Will Carroll: My issue with Dorsey isn't his play or the injury, but that everyone I spoke to said "Booger McFarland" in reference to him. OK, big DT, speedy, from LSU ... I get it, but if that's what you think he is, THAT'S worth a top-five pick? Would any sane human being, knowing what his career looks like, draft Booger McFarland in the first round? Is there anything like a similarity score for football players?
Bill Barnwell: SEC defensive tackles are pretty much sure things, guys-addicted-to-cheeseburgers aside.
Sean McCormick: Kansas City got a great player, but I'm not sure I could have passed up the package that New Orleans was supposedly dangling. I'd rather have two ones and an extra two than any player in this draft.
Ned Macey: I'm pretty sure Booger McFarland would still be a first-round pick. Guy was great for a number of years once Warren Sapp started declining.
The Jets select Vernon Gholston.
Sean McCormick: Gholston is a concern. I just watched the OSU-Illinois game with my eye on Gholston every snap and was stunned by just how little effort he gave. He provides no backside pursuit, he jogs after the ball carrier on his own side of the field, and for the most part he stepped into the blocker and just stayed there. Off that performance, I couldn't believe that he was a first-round pick, much less a top-six guy. That said, he looked much more dangerous when standing up, he dropped fluidly, and I can buy the argument that OSU's read-and-react scheme was significantly hindering his play. There really was nowhere else for the Jets to go with the pick, but I would be very, very concerned about Gholston's ability to consistently impact a game.
The Jaguars trade up for the Ravens' spot at No. 8.
Sean McCormick: Well, the Ravens will be taking Chad Henne, but who are the Jaguars coming up for?
William Carroll: I've been trying to figure out the "catch" with Flacco. Is it just that he's a QB? A guy with all the physical skills, no off-field issues, and the intangibles would normally be someone flying up the board. But he's not. He's a second-rounder and he's not budging off that while Chad Henne is going in the top ten. Is it just the small college?
Bill Barnwell: Does he really have the intangibles? Is he really that accurate? I mean, the book from what I've seen is that he's a guy with a big arm.
William Carroll: I heard one guy say he's got great makeup, so I'd assume they'd have mentioned the intangibles otherwise. NFL scouts are much quicker to tell you why they don't like the guy than why they like them, I've found. The why they like them seems very "me too." That and the disturbing physical references...
Ben Riley: Yeah, Bill is right. Beware the small school, big armed quarterback.
Sean McCormick: I think the idea is that Flacco is a project due to the combination of the small school and the fact that his footwork isn't NFL-ready. You can't take Flacco and play him this year, which basically nixes him for most teams in the first round. I think he'll go to either Miami or maybe to the Jets and have a chance to develop behind John Beck or the Pennington/Clemens monster. Flacco's upside is ridiculous. If you put on tape of him and Ryan side-by-side and didn't know anything about either player, it would never occur to you that Matt Ryan would be the top-three pick.
William Carroll: I always worry about transfers. I mean, why didn't he beat out some college guy? (Yes, I understand, Tom Brady...)
The Jaguars select Derrick Harvey.
Bill Barnwell: Well, this is the first real reach of the draft. They couldn't have grabbed Harvey at 12 or 14?
William Carroll: Does Harvey have local ties? Someone told me that with the JAX to LA rumors that they'd have a bias towards local players to try to stave that off.
Stuart Fraser: Well, it's possible that the Bengals might have taken Harvey, but I was going to call that a reach if they did. I am generally expecting the Bengals to reach as the guy they obviously wanted (Sedrick Ellis) is gone.
Cincinnati is really in their nightmare scenario where all the best players available are cornerbacks and offensive tackles, and the team that wanted to trade up just did.
Ben Riley: In my ESPN Magazine piece I wrote that, after Green Bay, Jacksonville was one of the teams most likely to trade down to stockpile midround picks, and praised them for the wisdom of this approach. So much for that. That move makes absolutely no sense to me.
The Bengals select Keith Rivers.
Stuart Fraser: I think Rivers is a bit of a reach, but there are some people who had him graded that high. I'd also like to note I called that one.
The Patriots select Jerod Mayo.
Stuart Fraser: OK, that wasn't who I expected New England to pick (I was expecting Leodis McKelvin). I get the impression they wanted Rivers, except that if I can figure Cincinnati will pick Rivers in that situation, I'm sure Pioli can...
Ben Riley: Right now, Doug Farrar is starting to salivate in a Seattle bar at the prospect of one of the elite tackles falling to the Hawks.
Doug Farrar: Heh. I'm in my home office, juggling a few things. Did a Washington Post webcast spot in which I talked about how the Redskins perhaps wouldn't have to trade up as much as they thought for a Clady or Albert. I knew about Long, Long and Ryan at the time, assumed McFadden and guessed Gholston. As I write this, the Pats just took Jerod Mayo at 10, and I'm starting to wonder if Walter Jones' successor might not actually be there at 25.
The Broncos select Ryan Clady.
Doug Farrar: I love Ryan Clady to Denver. He might be the most versatile of all the linemen this year -- the best able to run- and pass-block.
The Panthers select Jonathan Stewart.
Ben Riley: Great pick by Carolina. Get ready for the next fantasy football stud in Stewart.
Doug Farrar: Jonathan Stewart goes to the Panthers, leaving the Pacific Northwest
in a state of mourning. Weird pick. I thought they'd be better taking a lineman here and getting Kevin Smith or Matt Forte later on. Think he'll be a wonderful player, but I don't see this as need OR BPA.
Stuart Fraser: OK, Carolina, you draft DeAngelo Williams in the first round, let him have 265 carries over two seasons, see him average 4.6 yards per carry ... and then draft his replacement in the first round two years later.
Still, not complaining. Every pick that goes by without an offensive lineman being selected makes it more likely that Branden Albert makes it to 23...
Branden Albert does not make it to 23; he is picked by the Chiefs.
Stuart Fraser: Booooooooooo. Hissssssssss.
Yeah, this is a smart pick by the Chiefs. The line seriously needs rebuilding, and starting with a mobile guard might not be a bad idea given this is Herm "forward pass, what's that?" Edwards' team.
Bill Barnwell: Chris Long said Albert was the best player in the draft. Granted, he played against the guy, but he said Albert was better than any offensive lineman he went up against and it wasn't even close.
Albert and Dorsey? That's a hell of a start to your rebuilding plan.
Aaron Schatz: Build from the lines out, baby. Build from the lines out. I like Kansas City's draft.
Ben Riley: Wow, Bill Belichick is rocking the Regis Philbin electric pink monotone tie-and-shirt suit look. Truly amazing.
Brian Billick: "Bill, people talk about the emotional letdown coming off a Super Bowl loss..."
Belichick: "You didn't hear me bringing it up Brian."
The Lions trade up for the Chiefs' spot at 17, originally acquired by Kansas City in the Jared Allen trade.
Sean McCormick: Assuming Detroit takes Rashard Mendenhall here, this is going to be yet another draft where Matt Millen superficially seems to be doing a good job of maneuvering and getting the best player on the board.
And we all know that this spells doom for Rashard Mendenhall.
The Lions select Gosder Cherilus.
Sean McCormick: !!!!!
Ben Riley: The ESPN "Fan Grade" for the Cherilus pick: F. Every single other fan grade I've seen has been an A. Riots in the Motor City.
Stuart Fraser: OK, so what does the NFL have against Jeff Otah? I don't think anybody had Cherilus ahead of him. Of course, this is Matt Millen we're talking about.
Doug Farrar: The Lions just drafted a right tackle halfway through the first round. This, of course, makes complete sense.
Michael Tanier: Haven't been reading these. Just wanna interject: Lions ... duhhhhhhh.
The Ravens select Joe Flacco.
Sean McCormick: Baltimore just made out like bandits. As someone noted, if you reprogrammed the Terminator to play football, he'd throw the ball like Joe Flacco. And the Ravens got to pick up a bunch of picks in the process.
Bill Barnwell: How far can Joe Flacco throw the ball on his knees?
... and, literally as I type that, they show the shot of Flacco throwing the ball for distance. God.
Here's the list of Division I-AA quarterbacks drafted in the early rounds:
Not as bad as I might have though. Of course, I still think Flacco is more Brister and less McNair, but we'll see.
Sean McCormick: Flacco's tools are better than any of those guys. It's not even close.
Ben Riley: I'm sure that playing against colleges called "Towson" and "Monmouth" is a good way to show off one's "tools."
Sean McCormick: Tell it to Jerry Rice.
Anyway, the interesting thing is where Baltimore had to go to make the pick. My guess is that they thought Tampa Bay would take Flacco at 20.
Stuart Fraser: Quarterbacks are more than an arm. Flacco is not tremendously mobile -- yeah,
I know, Ben Roethlisberger ran a horribly slow 50 too, but Roethlisberger is such an exceptional (in the literal sense) talent that he's probably best not used as a comparator for anyone. Flacco's pocket presence will be severely examined whilst he's trying to wait for one of Baltimore's recievers to come open.
Sean McCormick: Flacco's footwork isn't ideal, but he has quick feet. I would normally be concerned about a guy who was 6-6 because they have trouble getting back and setting up before the rush gets to them, but Flacco has the foot speed to get back quickly. If you watch him on tape, he's actually pretty mobile. I mean, Delaware ran the option with him from time to time.
Mike Tanier: I had a little pucker session over at Deadspin when Flacco got drafted. But I stand by every word about how thrilled I am for him. I'm not going to pretend to offer unbiased scouting on him, but I think he can grow into a heck of a QB.
Doug Farrar: The Seahawks took time with Henne, Flacco and Brohm. Not a real big surprise. If the Seahawks trade down in the first to go up in the second (as has been rumored), I thought it might be to get a quarterback in the second round.
Ben Riley: The Seahawks might draft a quarterback, just not Flacco. Ruskell doesn't do small-school guys in the early rounds. Like, ever.
The Panthers trade up to acquire the Eagles' pick, then select Jeff Otah.
Ben Riley: That scream you just hear was Doug Farrar watching the best left tackle still on the board going to Carolina. Panthers are singlehandedly ruining Seattle's draft.
Doug Farrar: Nah. I don't like Otah for Seattle at all. They already have too many hybrid tackle/guard guys. Better not to try and make him into the agile tackle he most certainly isn't.
Bill Barnwell: Oh yeah. A 1, a 2, and a 4 for the Eagles' 1 is nice.
Ben Riley: Mayock on the NFL Network said that they were worried about St. Louis or Seattle. Which is absurd, of course.
Doug Farrar: The Otah pick is interesting. The Panthers now have a great right tackle who can't really play on the left side (Jordan Gross), a left tackle that the team wants to move inside to left guard (Travelle Wharton) and a rookie left tackle with serious issues against speed rushers. That's one big, powerful
logjam. How effective it will be, well, we'll see.
The Buccaneers select Aqib Talib.
Sean McCormick: It's a good thing you can't get any weed in Tampa. Wait a minute...
Russell Levine: Well, Gruden has never been a big character guy, so I'm not shocked by the pick of Talib. I don't like it, but truth be told this is about the spot -- 20 -- where the risk factor of taking a dubious character starts to make it reasonable. I do know that Talib is hugely talented and fits a need.
The Cowboys select Felix Jones.
Stuart Fraser: Ooh, all the "Jerry Jones hasn't picked a Razorback since 1970" people will have to find a new tag now.
I have a horrible premonition that the Steelers are going to pick Rashard Mendenhall. Please, Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, don't. Yes, there are no sensible offensive linemen left to pick. Still, you are thin at outside linebacker. You are thin at cornerback and one of your starters is 32. You could do with another wide receiver because Nate Washington really isn't the right guy to replace Hines Ward. You have five running backs on the roster currently and between them they must be capable of doing as well as might plausibly be expected given how bad your offensive line is.
The Steelers select Rashard Mendenhall.
Sean McCormick: Mendenhall was the best player on the board. It's tough to argue with the pick considering the value of the player, even if it doesn't help them right away.
Ben Riley: Unbelievable value pick for the Steelers.
Seahawks nation warily turns its eyes toward Kentwan Balmer...
The Titans select Chris Johnson.
Sean McCormick: Dangerous player, and there was rumbling that several teams gave Johnson a first-round grade. He's arguably more of an impact player than any of the receivers who were options at this point. Interesting pick. Looks like receivers a-plenty in the second round.
The Cowboys select Mike Jenkins. The Texans follow by selecting Duane Brown.
Sean McCormick: Well, it's safe to say that this draft didn't work out for Houston at all.
Stuart Fraser: Um, that may be just a teensy bit premature.
I am still moping about Pittsburgh taking a running back. Still, I guess Houston's first-round experience was probably worse.
It seems that nobody at all wants a wide reciever in the first round. Is it really that horrible a draft for them?
Sean McCormick: Pretty much.
Actually, I would expect about five guys to go in the next ten picks.
Ben Riley: Actually, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News thinks this is one of the deepest WR classes in recent years. It's just that no one is a Calvin Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald-like standout.
Background music for Seahawks picks: Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Pearl Jam's "Evenflow." In Seattle, it's always 1992.
Stuart Fraser: My favorite ever bit of background music was when the NFL Fieldpass radio feed faded back from a commercial just prior to the Jets' pick in 2006 with the Kaiser Chiefs' "I Predict A Riot." I always wondered who they thought the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS were going to pick.
The Seahawks select Lawrence Jackson.
Ben Riley: Ruskell is nothing if not consistent. In the first round, he's taking a defensive player from a major program. It's just that simple.
The 49ers select Kentwan Balmer.
Bill Barnwell: Hey! Another guy with a somewhat questionable work ethic. Fortunately, the 49ers locker room is so strong as to pull Balmer in line ... oh. Oh well.
The Jets trade up for the Packers' pick and select Kentwan Balmer.
Sean McCormick: Aside from being a harsh condemnation of the wide receivers, it's a pick that makes a lot of sense for teams with the Jets quarterbacks. With a smaller quarterback like Clemens, or a weak-armed guy like Pennington, you absolutely need a quality target at tight end who can open up the middle of the field. The Jets have been absolutely hamstrung by their lack of a third target in the passing game after Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery. There were a number of ways to go about addressing the issue, but this one works best with their quarterbacks.
Mike Tanier: Chris Baker and Bubba Franks and now Keller? I guess there's a role for all three. I guess drafting Keller makes more sense than signing Franks, but it's still a reach in my book.
Sean McCormick: Franks is there to block, and he's hardly at a point in his career where he's a reason to avoid drafting someone. Baker is a good player but is threatening to hold out if he doesn't get a new deal. Now he's not getting a new deal. Expect to see him shipped out -- maybe even Sunday.
Mike Tanier: Overall, I give the new 10-minute format five trillion thumbs up, though those of us who try to do pick-by-pick stuff on the Internet may have to rethink how it is done.
The Rams select Donnie Avery.
Bill Barnwell: Donnie Avery?
Sean McCormick: Donnie Avery.
Stuart Fraser: Given that most of the people who were evaluating wide receivers thought one or more of them would be picked in the first round, I'm not terribly worried by the fact that the first one who went isn't one of the ones that was supposed to be the best.
Or, "if in doubt, assume the NFL teams know more than we do,"
Sean McCormick: Atlanta's decision to take Ryan looks even worse based on how the board shook out. Brohm and Henne are both still on the board, and the board doesn't match up especially well with their needs. Don't like it at all.
The Saints select Tracy Porter.
Doug Farrar: Tracy Porter is an absolutely perfect pick for the Saints. He's ridiculously quick in man coverage, and that will have New Orleans ignoring the fact that he's not a great tackler. Good news is that he can out-cover Hole in Zone, who has been told that he'll be playing nickel from now on. Disgruntled, HiZ has demanded a trade to the Bengals.
The Bills select James Hardy.
Will Carroll: I talked yesterday in Buffalo about Hardy vs. Devin Thomas in the first. Now they get Hardy in the second? I realize I'm the least expert guy here, but this seems like such a steal.
Sean McCormick: Well, the Bills certainly got a big receiver. I'm not sure he's a huge steal, though. Clearly the receivers were badly overvalued. Hardy is a nice red-zone threat, but he doesn't run very crisp routes and he doesn't really pull away when he gets the ball on short passes. I also worry about these really big receivers in the NFL, as they usually take a while to learn how to beat press coverage. Often they're better once they've moved on to their second teams.
Ned Macey: As an Indy native living in Ann Arbor, awfully strange to see two IU guys go before the second Michigan guy. Baltimore definitely smoke-screened Peter King on Henne, but if they did like him (just not as much as Flacco), I wonder if they're upset they didn't just sit and take him with their second-rounder.
When are the Eagles going to pick? Next week sometime?
The Minnesota Vikings are on the clock.
Sean McCormick: Is our long national nightmare of Tavaris Jackson coming to an end?
The Vikings select Tyrell Johnson.
Sean McCormick: I guess the answer would be no. We'll have to settle for our long national nightmare of Rex Grossman coming to an end.
The Bears select Matt Forte.
Sean McCormick: No! The NFC North quarterback blight rages unabated.
Ned Macey: I agree with Steve Young on this one. Do the Bears really think Grossman is better than Benson? When the O-line played well in 2006, Benson was fine. I guess with two sort-of-equal players (Brohm and Henne), it is sort of hard to pull the trigger on the first one. Nobody I guess is likely to take one before Tampa Bay, so maybe one of these teams can trade back in after the first one goes.
The Bengals select Jerome Simpson.
Stuart Fraser: Good to see Cincinnati drafting a receiver. The Bengals obviously still have problems along the defensive line, but in many ways I think WR was the biggest problem. Something I'm going to talk about a bit in PFP 2008 is how the Bengals ought to be asking themselves "What Would Polian Do?" given that they seem to be trying to build a team somewhat similar to his sort of roster.
One of his hallmarks is to address any problem with your area of strength (i.e., offense in general and passing offense in particular) before trying to improve your weakness. So the crucial thing for Cincy to do was pick a wide receiver as soon as reasonably practicable -- and not even Matt Millen wanted any part of this lot in the first round, so R2 it is.
Looking at the list of teams remaining to pick, is it possible that neither Henne nor Brohm will even go on the first day? Is this a new record for the player named in the 0-4 wins category in PFP?
The Redskins select Malcolm Kelly, then the Jaguars select Quentin Groves.
Sean McCormick: Interesting to see teams loading up at certain positions. Washington is flooding their receiving corp and now the Jaguars have taken two consecutive edge rushers, and in both cases the teams got terrific value with their second selections.
The Packers select Brian Brohm.
Sean McCormick: And the NFC North quarterback blight is over! (And to think it was the team with arguably the best quarterback in the division that had to take Brohm.)
The Steelers select Limas Sweed.
Stuart Fraser: I hope 6-foot-4 is tall enough for you, Ben. So, Pittsburgh upgraded a position where the starter was below average (also a Pro Bowler, but um, no, he's really not that good) and a position where the starter was above average but into an age-related decline. I should probably be happier with this than I actually am.
It does seem rather unfair to Najeh Davenport, who outclassed Parker in terms of production last year and is now probably going to get cut, given that there are probably only three roster spots for running backs and the franchise more or less has to give two of them to Mendenhall and Moore (or else look *really* stupid). I can't see Parker being cut, even though... well, I think we need a table here:
Maybe they will keep all four backs, which doesn't say anything encouraging for the Steelers run/pass ratio in '08.
Maybe the offensive line is better than we all think and it's just Willie Parker is a terrible back. Najeh Davenport's statistics kind of suggest that. On the other hand...
Aaron Schatz: Hmm. I guess I should not have expected to come home from a barbecue at 8 p.m. and hop right into Audibles... but hey, Jason the cartoonist was in town from Denver and I don't get to see him often. We watched some of the draft and got to make fun of Leodis McKelvin's name together. We also noted that Tampa Bay now leads the league in players whose first and last names both end in "ib."
Ned doesn't like the "early second-round quarterback" strategy? I wasn't aware that was a specific strategy. Drew Brees worked out, but what other early second-round quarterbacks can people remember prior to last year? None, for a good reason. From 1998-2006, the only quarterbacks chosen between picks 30 and 50 were Brees and Patrick Ramsey (technically the last pick of the first round).
Ned Macey: Aaron raises a good point about the strategy I don't like, so I'll rename it the second-tier quarterback strategy. Between picks 18-60 (to cover Flacco-Henne) in the same 98-06 time period, we get (in rough order of quality) Brees, Pennington, Campbell, Grossman, Shaun King, Boller, Batch, Losman, Quincy Carter, Ramsey, Tuiasosopo, with an incomplete for Clemens and Rodgers.
My theory is that quarterbacks necessarily get pushed too high, so the second-tier guys are players with very real flaws. They seem like either marginal starters or good back-ups.
Now, obviously, some disastrous busts are in the top 17, but there have also been about eight or nine very good to great quarterbacks taken in this same period. I believe top-17 picks in this period make six of this year's top 14 in DPAR, compared with one of the other group (two with Favre if we expand the time period). I realize that a bust hurts more with a high pick and understand why you would stay away from Ryan, but I don't think the strategy for finding a guy is to take from the second tier.
Will Carroll: How much of this was that they fell and fell, but when they went, it was in a grouping of about four or five teams that might have taken them if they passed? Might the teams have perceived this as "we have to take him now" rather than as the actual value of the pick?
Sean McCormick: But I think that ignores recent history, as teams are increasingly wary of investing high first-round picks in quarterbacks and are looking to go the other way. It's not a coincidence that in the last three drafts you've gotten Tavaris Jackson, Kellen Clemens, John Beck, Kevin Kolb, Drew Stanton, Brian Brohm and Chad Henne after years of there being very few second-round selections (and I would count Trent Edwards and Brodie Croyle, who both went high-third, as part of the trend). You're also seeing the second first-round quarterback drop past where he was expected to go -- huge drops in the case of Rodgers and Quinn, a smaller but still significant drop for Leinart. Whatever the drafting trends were in 1999 that created that
bloated quarterback class, they're very much going the other way now.
Aaron Schatz: I'm sure Jonathan Stewart is a good running back, but is John Fox allergic to DeAngelo Williams or something? That team had a number of other holes. They needed a running back in the first round, instead of letting Williams start? Now we get into one of the huge problems with doing the projections in PFP, trying to read Fox's mind as to how he'll split the carries between two backs.
Both Baltimore and New England made out like bandits. There's nothing like trading down and getting extra picks so you can take the player you wanted anyway and pay him a lower salary.
I think we're stuck with Cincinnati not solving the Chad Johnson issue before we have to write the Bengals chapter and send the book to press. We're going to be stuck with a chapter that talks about "what if Johnson isn't back," the way the BP guys had to go to press waiting for Minnesota to finally pull the trigger on a Johan Santana trade.
Tennessee: The Detroit of running backs.
Brohm to Green Bay and Henne to Miami is pretty funny. Talk about your quarterback controversies. It's one thing to argue about the young prospect versus the veteran, but now you have two fanbases who get to debate the virtues of one young prospect versus another slightly older prospect.
Stuart Fraser: Aaron Rodgers has, I think, a better chance than John Beck, who to me clearly looks like "some guy the old coach/GM drafted and is clearly just a placeholder until the new management's passer gets up to speed."
Rodgers probably has the more formidable competitor; that said, Holmgren has been quoted as saying it takes quarterbacks three years to understand his version of the WCO, meaning that Rodgers has a substantial head start. In Miami, the offense is new to everyone. Heck, in Miami having an offense will be new to everyone.
Mike Tanier: I am not listening to any Eagles talk radio this weekend. But I do agree with the angry fans: it's not like there was no place on this team for, say, Kenny Philips.
Sean McCormick: Several teams had what look to be very strong drafts. As I indicated, I thought Miami made the proper choice at the top of the draft, and they did a good job by eschewing Henne at the top of the second for Merling, as they correctly determined that there was no one else really in the market and that they could afford to wait. I also liked their predraft trade with Dallas, so you're talking about a very productive 48 hours.
Kansas City had a tremendous first three picks. Everyone had the Chiefs pegged as a team likely to reach badly for an offensive lineman, but instead they turned the fifth pick into the top player in the draft, added arguably the second-best line prospect in Branden Albert, and then took a corner in Brandon Flowers who most people agreed was the best-looking secondary player in the draft when you turn on the film. Flowers didn't run well and that hurt his stock, but in Herm Edwards' defense, he won't be asked to play a lot of man coverage, and his ability to support the run and to deliver punishment will be maximized. Really nice drafting.
Washington and Jacksonville took different routes but had the same rough idea; the Redskins traded down and flooded their receiving corp with fresh blood, while the Jaguars traded up twice to flood their defense with edge rushers.
I very much liked the two players the Ravens took in Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, and I liked the spots in the draft where they took them even better. I'm sure some people will question the decision to trade back up to 18 to land Flacco, but supposedly the Jets were trying to package picks with Flacco as the target, so the Ravens didn't want to miss out. If you consider Flacco and Henne to be equivalent prospects, then it doesn't look so good. But if you consider Flacco and Matt Ryan to be equivalent prospects -- and I do -- then Baltimore's maneuvering looks great.
Bill Barnwell: I'm not upset with the Eagles. They didn't have a position of obvious need and got blown away with an offer (basically, trade this year's 1 for a likely similar 1 and pick up a 2 and a 4 in the process). That's almost always a good trade to take.
Mike Tanier: The Eagles need some developmental offensive linemen. They need a safety. Could use a linebacker with some real blitz ability. Depth at CB assuming Lito moves. They need receivers, though they did get one, and really there was no great option in this draft.
I just wanted them to follow up the Samuel signing with some other bold move. "Hey. we got Philips, check out our secondary!" "Hey, we got Mendenhall or Felix, watch us run teams over." Nope. Meh.
Bill Barnwell: I'm very interested in why the Patriots think Mayo works as opposed to any other linebackers who have come out the past few years.
The most interesting thing for me about this draft is how the wide receivers went. There was a perception as to how that whole group of players would break down and it went almost entirely differently than how anyone predicted, with teams reaching for players lower on most mock draft boards than the well-known group of players at the top of the list (Kelly, Thomas, Jackson, etc.). Any ideas as to why that is? Has there been a shift in how receivers are perceived, or is it just that there can be significant amounts of variance in a relatively middling crop of players?
Some thoughts on second-round picks:
One more first-round comment: Felix Jones was the other running back who the adjusted 40-time score saw as below-average (103.98). With all the talk that he's such an explosive big-play back, that simply didn't come out in the combine numbers.
Sean McCormick: I think the receivers came off the way they did for a pretty simple reason: The guys who were thought of as the top group weren't fast enough. The two guys who came off the board first -- Keller (who was drafted for his receiving chops) and Avery -- placed 1-2 in the short shuttle at the combine. I think the fear is that the bigger receivers didn't have the necessary quickness to get in and out of their breaks or to get cleanly off the line.
Mike Tanier: Without one or two guaranteed guys, it makes sense that the wide receivers would be hard to predict. Take the top 2 or 3 prospects away from any position and there's a lot of guesswork. It all came down to system and specific need when each team picked. The Bills needed size. The Eagles needed quickness/return ability. The Redskins needed bodies. While I usually hate their draft strategy (let's take Saturday off), I like the idea of getting two pretty good prospects from this class and letting them compete.
Russell Levine: As a Michigan/Bucs fan I'd just like to express my gratitude to Gruden for drafting Dexter Jackson of Appalachian State. The guy ruined my entire fall and now I get to watch him become Jacquez Green 2.0 in Tampa.
Stuart Fraser:It is interesting to compare how the Bengals look now and how they might look had they accepted Washington's offer for Chad Johnson. The Bengals took Keith Rivers and Jerome Simpson, the latter of which I would regard as a reach if I had any confidence that draftnik groupthink had evaluated this year's wide receiver class halfway competently. This leaves them with a big hole along the defensive line and a smaller one at safety (and still some questions in their multiple-receiver packages). If they'd accepted the Redskins' approach for Chad Johnson, who I'm becoming more and more convinced will not return at anything like his previous form if he returns at all, they could have grabbed someone like Kentwan Balmer or Phillip Merling with that pick (they could have traded down again and still grabbed one of them, actually).
Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make proud. And embroil them in a ridiculous dispute with a praise-motivated wide receiver represented by Drew Rosenhaus.
Doug Farrar: I never understood why the Redskins were so hot on making the Johnson deal in the first place. But yeah, the Bengals get the booby prize. If you're offered up to two first-round picks for a 30-year-old disgruntled wide receiver that is spending his entire off-season bemoaning his presence on your team, the only potential drawback is that you might injure yourself getting to the phone quickly enough to agree to the deal. So the Redskins kept their picks and had a very solid first day. Jim Zorn's offense doesn't require a Hall of Fame receiver; it needs three receivers who are consistently good. Zorn sees Randle El as his new Bobby Engram and Santana Moss as his Deion Branch. He needed a big receiver who would require a defense's focus, and he got two of them in Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. The Chiefs and Dolphins were Saturday's big winners, but the Redskins were the ultimate beneficiaries of the fact that sometimes, the draft doesn't go the way you want it to, and you wind up thanking random deities that it didn't.
As far as the Seattle picks, I was doing these mock drafts for Seahawks.NET, and I kept circling around USC's Lawrence Jackson thinking how obvious it would be if they went with him. Then I would think, "Well, you want the mocks to be interesting, so bring up a player like Tyrell Johnson who people maybe haven't heard of." But Tim Ruskell doesn't like "interesting." He doesn't like projects, and he doesn't like surprises. He wants his day one draft picks to be as NFL-ready as possible, and that's what he got in Jackson and John Carlson. Jackson started 51 games for NFL U, and though he was kind of the forgotten man among first-round defensive ends, he may be the most versatile. He's played all over the line, rushed the passer from inside and out (Justin Tuck?) and has even had some success in coverage. Carlson's that same type of versatile but unspectacular player. He can do everything required of the more traditional tight end position, and he can do it now, at a level that will allow him to compete for serious starting time right away.
Aaron Schatz: And unlike last year's tight end, he is not yet old enough to run for President.
Doug Farrar: My big "HUH???" of the day had to be Detroit. Gosder Cherilus strikes me as a guy who just stands there and mauls people -- not a lot of technique or facility at the left tackle position. The Lions apparently see him as a right tackle out of the box, which is fine, but why do you go with him that early? I've read that they desperately wanted Derrick Harvey (good move, Jacksonville) or Jerod Mayo, but I don't get Cherilus being third on the board of any team with a mid-first round pick. Oh, and by trading down two picks, they effectively passed on Branden Albert. Ouch.
Mike Tanier: I'm the kind of guy who says "Geez, we shouldn't pile on the Lions cuz it gets old". But my God, everything they do is just awful.
Stuart Fraser: I'd just like to point out that pick 71 is listed as Ravens (from Ravens through Bills and Jaguars). Is everybody managing to follow all these trades?
Bill Barnwell: I'd like to place a bet on "Bryan Smith appearing in the bottom half of the FO Top 25 Prospects in 2009".
The Patriots chose a quarterback in the third round? That must mean he's twice as good as Tom Brady!
Stuart Fraser: I wonder what odds you could get on Pittsburgh going the first three rounds without drafting a lineman on either side of the ball (Bruce Davis is an outside linebacker in Pittsburgh's 3-4). I'm left wondering if they think that either Chris Keomeatu or Sean Mahan is a plausible starter at left guard, on the grounds that fourth-round picks aren't normally considered likely opening day starters.
Doug Farrar: I'm really enjoying Charley Casserly's analysis on the NFL Network, especially his takes on Demetrius Rodgers-Cromartie and Mario Manningway. Turns out the NFL Network won't miss Bryant Gumbel after all.
Bill Barnwell: I love Baltimore grabbing Oniel Cousins at the end of the third round. He's a project, but he's in the right place to be developed into a starter.
Stuart Fraser: According to the NFL.com draft tracker, Tennessee fourth-round pick William Hayes is 0'0" tall, which might make him a bit undersized to succeed at this level.
Doug Farrar: Undersized, yes, but many intangibles. He came in under everybody's radar, for sure.
216 comments, Last at 04 May 2008, 9:41pm by Alex