Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
27 Apr 2009
compiled by Bill Barnwell
UPDATE: Find Part II of this three-part Audibles here.
On Saturday, we at Football Outsiders conducted a six-hour live chat that featured about 1000 comments from FO writers and readers alike. At the same time, Mike Tanier went to New York and live-blogged the draft, its picks, and his thoughts on each of the 64 Day One selections on behalf of the New York Times. On Sunday, myself, Aaron Schatz, and Doug Farrar chatted with ESPN.com readers as Day Two wound up about guys who didn't make the cut and what we thought about seemingly every team's draft.
We've gone through, pared down a lot of the commentary, mashed up all these different sources, and created a special version of our "Audibles at the Line" column featuring both writers and readers discussing the NFL Draft.
Part I covers the first 15 picks of the draft. Part II, running later today, covers the rest of the first round. Part III tomorrow will take care of the final six rounds.
Mike Tanier: Stafford may the best of a series of bad options. Unlike pre-programmed quarterbot Joey Harrington (the Lions' mega-bust selection in the 2002 draft), Stafford is an aggressive risk taker with an elite arm. He could become Tony Romo without tabloid coverage, or Brett Favre without the halo. When he's on (see the two-game road stretch against Kentucky and Auburn when he threw for 591 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions), he has the rifle arm and creativity to take over games. When he's off (like in his three-interception disaster against Florida), he'll press, compounding one mistake with another.
Dave Lewin: I would say that his ceiling is Kerry Collins.
Bill Barnwell: I just want to point out that I did predict, one year ago, that Stafford would be the first pick. Just to KC, not Detroit.
Vince Verhei: I am happy they didn't waste any time. It seemed like back in the day, the top guy would have a deal done and everyone knew it, but they still took 15 minutes.
Erin Andrews reveals in her interview that Stafford received a text message from "…the Manning Brothers"
Bill Barnwell: The Manning brothers share a cell phone?! I figure Peyton pays for it and he lets Eli borrow it for a few hours every day.
Dennis: Somehow no F-bombs from Gruden on NFLN yet. He constantly looks close to throwing one out there...
livingonapear: Do you think the lions' fans are angry that they took a "franchise" qb in a mediocre draft, or that they didn't take Sanchez? Are they angry about which QB was chosen, or that the team didn't take a LT?
Bill Barnwell: I think the Lions fans are angry they chose someone who isn't a surer bet.
drunkmonkey: Ha, Stafford said he wanted to play for a 'great organization like Detroit.' Haha, how did he keep a straight face?
Bill Barnwell: Maybe he meant the Red Wings?
Doug Farrar: My concern with guys like Stafford is that the arm obstructs the other issues.
Bill Barnwell: I think it's interesting that we're past the point in baseball where having a 100 MPH fastball is reason to take a guy with a top five pick, but we're not at that point in football.
Vince Verhei: My concern with Stafford is that for two years at Georgia, he was pretty lousy.
Doug Farrar: The Sanchez/Stafford debate is an interesting one, because you get people who go more for the system fit, and others who take the arm because "the guy will fit anywhere". Recent media conf. call I was on, Mooch was on Sanchez, and Gruden totelly went Stafford. Gruden seems far more interested in raw ability.
Vince Verhei: Chad Pennington is a better QB than Kyle Boller. Accuracy over arm strength.
Bill Barnwell: I mean...yeah. He does a lot of things better than Kyle Boller, though.
edgar allen poe: Well, how much does accuracy only make up a small portion of "qb completion percentage." That also includes ability to read zones, arm strength, etc.
Bill Barnwell: Precisely. Completion percentage doesn't directly yield accuracy, although there's a strong correlation.
Mike Tanier: The Rams franchise has become like Norma Desmond's "Sunset Boulevard" mansion. The structure is crumbling, the swimming pool is dry and the hallways are haunted by ghosts of past success, like Kurt Warner, Dick Vermeil and Marshall Faulk. Steven Jackson is still big, but the Rams offense has gotten smaller, so Jackson smears cold cream on his face and waits for his faithful butler Marc Bulger to serve him footballs.
What he can do for Jackson is uncertain: Smith played in Baylor's spread offense, and he did most of his run blocking on draws and delays. I see him as a developmental player who will struggle in his first season, but the Rams don't have the luxury of sitting the former tight end who was a rodeo star in high school. Still, this is a player with the upside to fill Orlando Pace's shoes.
Bill Barnwell: Jason Smith. Good pick. I'd rather have Monroe, though. Seems safer. More experienced.
Doug Farrar: And the Rams get the guy who might be the next Ryan Clady. Great player with a nasty streak and the media will love him.
Bill Barnwell: AWESOME moment where Mort says Jason Smith is a "tough guy" as he waves and giggles at the camera.
Doug Farrar: Chiefs...I beg of you...don't take Curry...let him fall to 4... (this has been the Seahawks Fanboy portion of your program).
Bill Barnwell: Doug, would Curry really make sense for Seattle considering they just let Peterson go to make a bigger role for Hill?
Doug Farrar: Tim Ruskell doesn't like prolonged contract issues. Ask Darrell Jackson and Bo.
Doug Farrar: I'd like the Seahawks to take Monroe, though, just because I'd hate to see Ruskell strike out on the two best back-to-back tackle classes ever. Crabtree would piss me off mightily, so I'm guessing that'll be the pick.
Peter: What's wrong with Crabtree?
Bill Barnwell: Great athlete, not necessarily a great route-runner. Won't be able to dominate with his athleticism at the pro level. Crabtree's upside is Randy Moss, but his downside is...I dunno, Dwayne Jarrett. That's a big range, but it's gonna be tricky.
Goodbye, Ladies: I'm curious what the FO folks think of Tyson Jackson. He seems like a repeat of Marcus Spears, although I hesitate to doubt someone with Pioli's track record.
Mike Tanier: [New Chiefs defensive coordinator Clancy] Pendergast likes to run a hybrid 3-4 scheme, and Jackson fits the mold: He can eat space at the point of attack as an end or slide inside and let a pass rushing specialist take the edge. Jackson wasn't very productive as a pass-rusher, and he will take downs off late in the game, but he can succeed in a system that requires him to occupy blocks and penetrate so others can make plays. [Scott] Pioli liked to draft defensive linemen high in the first round when he was a Patriots exec. This pick puts his stamp, and Pendergast's, on the Chiefs defense.
Bill Barnwell: I think he's better than Spears. He reminds me a lot of someone like Luis Castillo.
TomC: So is Dorsey gone or moving to DE?
Bill Barnwell: Dorsey will probably have to bulk up and play the nose. He's got serious DeWayne Robertson potential now. You could try him as a 3-4 end. I figured they'd draft Raji, move Dorsey to end, have Tyler at the other end, and then you have Hali as an OLB.
NewsToTom: Didn't Cleveland give Rogers a ton of money last year? Why would they take Raji?
Bill Barnwell: Rogers had an emo moment with Mangini and wants to leave.
Doug Farrar: Rogers can come to Seattle. I'll pay for the second seat out of my own pocket.
Aaron Schatz: It bugs me when they talk about how Tyson Jackson will fit in at defensive end in "Scott Pioli's scheme." Look, Pioli is the GM. It's Clancy Pendergast's scheme. They may do things a little more Patriots-like, but Pioli isn't out there drawing defensive plays.
Mike Tanier: Curry made some predraft waves when he announced that if he were drafted first over all, he would sign for less than Jake Long earned last season. Curry may have gotten carried away with his recession-ready sales tactics. "No reasonable offer refused! Bring a newspaper ad and I will match it! Push it in! Tow it in! I'll sign for less than Jay Berwanger got in 1936!" Careful, Curry: you almost talked yourself into a spot on the Lions roster.
Vince Verhei: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Bill Barnwell: Doug's going to need a few moments to collect himself.
Vince Verhei: Another big-school defensive player for Ruskell.
Ben Riley: Of course, NFL plays "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in the background.
Bill Barnwell: Nothing musically has come out of Seattle since 1992, Ben. You know that. You're all just a bunch of slackers in flannel.
Vince Verhei: If they had played anything by Death Cab, I would never stop laughing.
Vince Verhei: I went to high school with Chris Walla. Yeah.
Josh: What's death cab's DVOA?
Bill Barnwell: Pre-Transatlanticism? Very high. Post? Very low.
Karl Cuba: So will Curry play inside with Tatupu moving over to WILL?
Vince Verhei: No, no, no, Tatupu is inside.
Zach: I think the Browns should try and trade down, they must be able to get some good offers for the 5th pick.
Bill Barnwell: I really think the Sanchez hype from the top teams was an absolute smokescreen.
The New York crowd roars…
Bill Barnwell: Oh boy. Sounds like a Jets trade. Hey, I'll take credit for claiming that the Jets would trade up [in my mock draft].
Mike Tanier: Nick's drills shaped Mark Sanchez into a confident leader, and Witz's story heavily influenced me: I make my 6-year old answer kindergarten questions while playing T-ball. "Read that carpet cleaning sign in the outfield!" I shout as my son struggles to lift an aluminum bat. "What's 4 plus 3?" I scream as the line drive approaches his face. Other parents may scoff (or gape, or contact authorities) but I'll have the last laugh when my son is selected fifth overall in the 2024 draft.
Dave Lewin: I would take him as high as #4 as long as it's a situation where he can sit for a minimum of one year, preferably two.
Vince Verhei: What did the Jets give up for Favre last year? What have they spent on quarterbacks in back-to-back years?
Bill Barnwell: If the Jets manage to not have anyone get hurt like the Falcons did last year (and they won't, since they were like 1-2 in the healthiest teams in the league), they'll be fine.
DJ Any Reason: Doesn't the fact that the Jets were so healthy last year make it MORE likely that they'll be healthy this year? Isn't avoiding injury a skill, and isn't assuming good luck in year X means bad luck in year X+1 the gambler's fallacy?
Bill Barnwell: No, good luck in year X has been proven to mean marginally-slightly-better-than-average luck in year X+1. Injuries regress to the mean.
lk6: Sanchez grabs the football and says IT'S MORPHING TIME.
Jamie T: Ah yes, classic Jets. Problem? Inexperienced quaterbacks. Solution: draft one at number 4 who has started a grand total of 16 college games.
Another one of the endless Pizza Hut commercials air...
Bill Barnwell: "A pizza that never ends." It's a freaking infinite pizza?
Philly Homer: Infinite pizza = green room requirement for all the first-round OT's.
dan: I could go for infinite pizza right about now, actually.
Ned: The pizza could exist infinitely in the fourth dimension, time. Unless you eat it.
Philly Homer: I'm most of the way through a finite pizza.
MilkmanDanimal: I saw Infinite Pizza open for the Chili Peppers back in '94, great show.
Big Jgke: Wasn't infinite pizza a John Hughes movie?
Aaron Schatz: Wait, the Bengals took the guy with character issues? Is this a re-run?
Mike Tanier: Smith had a reputation as a big-ego, low-effort player long before he disappeared from the Combine. Smith conducted himself so poorly during his brief stay at the Combine that leaving may have been a wise move. Smith's private interviews with teams went so poorly that analysts believe he cost himself as much as $30-million by sliding down draft boards. "A lot of teams were a little offended. They couldn't tell how seriously he was taking it. He shrugged at the whole process," Ian Rapoport of the Birmingham News told me in March.
So much for lost money. The Bengals are known for selecting bad boys. It almost never works out for them. Putting a kid with a questionable work ethic into one of the most chaotic locker rooms in the league sounds like an impending disaster. Their scouts must have loved Smith's game film. For the record, that game film is (mostly) pretty darn good.
Bill Barnwell: I'm SHOCKED that Smith goes before Monroe. Monroe is a steal from this point forward.
Anonguy: Just what the Bengals need, an overrated problem child who has problems keeping healthy. Over/under on arrests/unexplained disappearances?
Bill Barnwell: 0. It's his agent, not him.
Anonguy: Odds that Al Davis goes further off the deep end and picks Heyward-Bey just because he's fast?
Bill Barnwell: Slim. Crabtree makes more sense.
dmstorm: Al loving fast is so overrated. Why then did he pick Gallery (which, people forget, was hailed as the greatest OLine prospect ever). Or why did he pick Huff instead of Cromartie, the superior athlete.
Bill Barnwell: WOW WOW WOW.
A collection of short thoughts from chatters: "AL DAVIS, YOU DIDN'T!" "OMG" "Whoa." "ALLLL DAVIS" "Al Davis loves speed" "wow, walter (from walterfootball.com) was right"
Dennis: Only reason to be shocked is if you don't pay attention to what Al Davis does in drafts...
Bill Barnwell: Shrug. His predilection for speed is overrated, but taking a guy who's ... an average guy at the college level?
KJT: Al Davis with a master stroke from deep within his crypt.
D: Bill didn't you say yesterday that the Al Davis will take a DHB because he's obsessed with speed was an false cliche.
Bill Barnwell: I did. I was wrong. Well, the Raiders are wrong.
dangerdonkey: The Raiders have become a very fast sucky team.
Mike Tanier: Al Davis almost halted his slow descent from innovator to maverick to eccentric to cartoon-like parody this offseason; Davis may be embarking on a late-career rally like King George III: The madness has lifted, and while the colonies are lost, there's still time to kick France's butt across the globe and get the empire back on track.
And then, Davis drafted the fastest player in the draft. So much for that historical allusion.
Beware of track guys who don't catch many passes. Heyward-Bey was a state track champion in Maryland, but his sub-4.4 speed only resulted in 51 catches in 2007 and 42 in 2008. Raw speed only gets you so far at the major college levels, and it means even less in the pros, where some of the fastest players in the league are used solely as kick
Heyward-Bey has a little more to offer than just breathtaking speed. He's well-built, allowing him to beat jams off the line and throw a block. He's fearless in traffic, allowing him to make some clutch catches (even though he'll also drop some easy ones). The only thing keeping him from the Steve Smith class of receivers is short-area quickness: Heyward-Bey isn't good at snapping off routes, so it will take time for him to learn how to get open against pro cornerbacks who can run nearly stride-for-stride with him.
Doug Farrar: And the Raiders pass up a guy with sub-Walter Jones upside for a guy who decelerates to sub-Pettigrew speed when he makes a cut. Apparently, it IS a re-run.
Raiderjoe: D Heyward Bey 6-2 210 4.25 40 going to be draft steal by Raiders. Will be like new Cliff Branch. Heyward Bey on one side Schilens on other Higgins there and some others- wr corpse going to be gerat. RB group alrady exclelent. QB coming into own. Z Miller great up and comig Te, line great. Offense moving on up to the eats side
buzzorhowl: "wr corpse", how appropriate.
MilkmanDanimal: There are not enough Sierra Nevadas in the world to make me understand the Raiders.
dan: "Offense moving on up to the eats side" -- they finally got a piece of the infinite pizza pie.
Mike Tanier: Writing "None" next to "Negatives" was a violation of the scout's code. We're supposed to nitpick every flaw in a player's game and write 200 words about how his technique slipped slightly against Maryland and how he doesn't execute the fold block just so. The knocks on Monroe are that he's a quiet guy who lacks a mean streak and that he lacks the upside to become an Orlando Pace-type. That's nit-picky criticism. At worst, Monroe will be another D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the player he replaced at Virginia. He'll probably be better: a slightly quicker Chris Samuels.
Bill Barnwell: Monroe does make sense, I guess. 49ers are upset.
Bill Barnwell: "Monroe has that swag about him". What, has Keyshawn been reading FD?
Vince Verhei: Deion shows off Monroe's ORANGE AND BROWN VERTICALLY STRIPED SOCKS. How did he not end up in Denver?
Mike Tanier: Raji was the talk of the Senior Bowl: A big man with exceptional power who beat up some of the best college linemen in the nation. After the Combine, a story circulated that Raji tested positive for marijuana (the report was later retracted).Ultimately, it hasn't hurt Raji's status: this is about his post-Senior Bowl draft slot.
Big Jgke: raji is sweating alot!!! hopefully he can afford A/C now...
Doug Farrar: I really like Raji. Nose-sized guy who can disrupt all over the place.
Karl Cuba: If the Niners pass on Crabtree I'm personally going to fly across the Atlantic and the USA and kick McCloughan in the nuts.
Doug Farrar: Be interesting to see Seattle's midget corners "defending" Crabtree twice a year if it goes that way at 10...
Sisqo from San Fran: Michael Crabtree to my Niners!?! With the character and diva questions about him going into the draft, I think having him drop as far as he did will give him that extra anger to prove everyone wrong for passing on him. Thoughts guys?
Bill Barnwell: My thought is YOUR NAME IS SISQO WHY ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT DIVAS?!?
Mike Tanier: Crabtree caught 97 passes last year, 134 passes in 2007. There weren't many incompletions to watch: according to The Sporting News Draft Annual, Crabtree caught 94 percent of the passes thrown to him. That percentage, like Crabtree's raw totals, was inflated by Texas Tech's spread offense, which is built around short passes that often only travel a few yards in the air. That offense is a bigger concern than Crabtree's foot, which will be fully rehabbed by the start of camp. Crabtree didn't have to run NFL-style pass routes at Texas Tech: he often just floated out to an empty spot in the field, hauled in a soft pass, then ran for daylight.
MilkmanDanimal: Does Crabtree really have that bad of an attitude? So he's arrogant and thinks he's the best. If that prevents you from drafting a WR, you'd pretty much have a team with no WRs. Big deal, I'd take him in a second.
Doug Farrar: So ... Morgan as the speed guy, Crabtree as the main man, and Vernon Davis on drums?
Anonguy: "I'm on the cover of a video game I'm not even in! Don't people know who I am?!"
Goodbye, Ladies: It looks like Aaron Maybin will be the pick for the Bills. What do the FO guys think of him? Based on the combine numbers that AlanSP and I looked at for DE's/3-4 OLB's, he projects very well.
Mike Tanier: This is a risky pick for a team that suddenly likes making risky moves, like playing in Toronto and employing Terrell Owens. Maybin has great quickness when turning the edge as a pass rusher, but he's a one-move guy, and he's at his fastest when he weighs about 235 pounds. Maybin tried to bulk up in the offseason, and he looked much slower at the Combine when he was 249 pounds. There are better pass rushers on the board, starting with Everette Brown. This pick reminds me of the Donte Whitner selection a few years ago: the Bills got a pretty good player, but not a great one who really addressed a need.
Bill Barnwell: I don't think he ends up as a star, but as a decent NFL player, absolutely. Look at his [ostentatious] watch, though. Jesus.
Big Jgke: i really like the diamond tennis bracelet that maybin and monroe were rocking. They're not just for rich ladies anymore!!!
Drunkmonkey: Flava Flav is on the phone about that watch.
Insancipitory: Well, i suppose crying is to be expected. No one wants to live in Buffalo.
Mike Tanier: In fairness, Moreno is not like [fellow sub-100 Speed Score backs] Ron Dayne (doughy bowling ball), William Green (head case) or Trung Canidate (tiny dust mite). He has the receiving skills to contribute to the passing game, and his power and patience will make him a solid 20-carry back. But the emphasis is on "solid", not "spectacular."
Josh McDaniels, the N.F.L.'s newest enfant terrible, is definitely doing things his own way. He'll have a running back by committee, and the committee may have 12 members. Challenge McDaniels at your own risk: get him mad, and he may take his football and go home.
Vince Verhei: WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?????
Dennis: WOW. Looks like they are playing the fantasy football "get all the running backs" plan. Stockpile every running back, then trade them for the other positions you need.
Bill Barnwell: I'm higher on Knowshon than Speed Score is, but I still don't think he's a first-round player.
joe football: Further proof all former Patriot coaches/executives are double agents, sabotaging other AFC teams.
Doug Farrar: Moreno's a great side-to-side runner who will really show out behind that offensive line -- wait until he sees Ryan Clady!
Ed: Somewhere, Cutler is bonging beers and giggling like a schoolgirl!
Mike Tanier: Orakpo's problems are his technique and his consistency. Watch the Oklahoma-Texas game tape (you really should, it's awesome on many levels) and you'll see Orakpo sack Sam Bradford twice and manhandle Phil Loadholt, a pretty darn good blocker. But he was invisible in some other games, sometimes giving up when his initial move was thwarted. He has an effective swim move but needs to expand his array or pass rush techniques, and he must get better at redirecting and battling.
Vince Verhei: "What? Denver passed on Orakpo? TAKE HIM! TAKE HIM NOW!"
Bill Barnwell: Maybe Campbell posed as Dan Snyder and called in to make the pick.
Drunkmonkey: I bet Campbell is thinking, "What do I do now? I can't request a trade, but I know they don't like me."
Bill Barnwell: Have a great year, become a free agent, and get paid?
Mike Tanier: Jenkins is quick and smart in coverage like [former Ohio State defensive backs Antoine] Winfield and [Nate] Clements, but he's bigger and not quite as fast when turning and running deep. He's smart and capable in zone coverage like [Donte] Whitner, but he isn't quite as big or strong.
A square peg? Hardly. Jenkins' closest comparison isn't an ex-Buckeye, but an ex-Longhorn. Michael Griffin arrived in Tennessee as a cornerback-safety tweener, but Jeff Fisher and ex-coordinator Jim Schwartz knew just how to use him. Griffin was a perfect fit as a Cover-2 safety who sometimes matched up on bigger slot receivers or top tight ends. Jenkins can fill the same important roles.
KJT: My friend just called me up and said the Saints should use their pick to send Reggie Bush back to college.
Bill Barnwell: I still think Jenkins ends up at a corner on the pro level.
Doug Farrar: He will in New Orleans, McKenzie's just about done. Great pick for them. It would be even better if he could clone himself, and one Jenkins could play corner and the other one play safety.
Ed: So when do all the overrated USC linebackers start getting taken?
Vince Verhei: Maybe right now...
Mike Tanier: Cushing blogged about his pre-draft routines at imatopprospect.com. Among his entries was a listing about his daily diet. "Every morning I usually wake up early to start my day off with a protein shake and a bananna . . . Next meal, two hours later, will be something like egg whites with sundried tomatoes and two wheat toast pieces . . . 4:30: grilled chicken with black beans and corn sauté . . . 6:30: A turkey souvlaki Greek sandwich wrap with celery. 8:30: salmon with a baked potato, with a little butter and broccoli."
A few comments. First, campus cuisine has apparently changed a lot since my day. Even the training table athletes in college would have listed cheese fries in at least three of those meals. Second, while Cushing is described as "blue collar" on those NFL Network promos that have run every six minutes for three months, his salmon, sauté, and souvlaki diet reveals a blue collar guy with some black tie tastes. Finally, spelling doesn't count in football, which is a good thing. Cushing spells like a Middle English playwright, and he capitalizes like e.e. cummings with a broken keyboard. I cleaned his prose a bit for the Times.
Doug Farrar: It would appear that the Texans have "Cushlash".
Ed: Rocking the ponytail, way to bring back the early 90's, Cushing.
Doug Farrar: Eisen: "The Texans have more Cuching for the pushing." That was unfortunate.
Vince Verhei: Eisen: "The Texans now have more Cushing for the pushing." There's a Michigan joke to be made there...
Anonguy: The Texans are now a fat chick?
You can read Part II here.
65 comments, Last at 29 Apr 2009, 7:29am by AlanSP