Thursday, April 22, 2010

Draft Day Tidbits

Thursday marks the first primetime NFL Draft. They probably picked a good year for this move, because there is plenty of drama, especially outside the top pick.

Or two picks.

We'll have plenty of coverage, including a live chat, on NFL FanHouse, and you're invited to join us for that.

In the meantime, I have decided not to do a mock draft, since there are approximately four million of them available on the internet. Instead, here are a few takes as we wind down the final eight hours until the NFL's annual "Player Selection Meeting" gets underway in New York.

Ndamukong Suh is the best player in the draft.

I have felt this way since November, when I watched Suh consistently destruct opposing offensive lines. There's just no way around it, but there was also no way that the Rams were going to take him first overall.

For starters, the Rams are trying to build a franchise around this pick. You have to have quality defensive tackles, but you can't build franchises around them.

When you drive through the Twin Cities this summer, and you're looking at billboards touting Vikings season tickets, you're not going to see Kevin or Pat Williams on them. You're going to see Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, and that Favre guy. That's just how it is.

Not only that, but can the Rams justify giving $50 million guaranteed to a defensive tackle on a quarterback-less team? Probably not.

The team benefiting the most from this is Detroit, since they pick second and need a defensive tackle ... desperately.

No one knows what Washington is going to do.

Michael Lombardi wrote about this on NFP. There is a ton of uncertainty with the Redskins and their new management -- general manager Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan.

Many people in the NFL believe the draft will start with Washington at the No. 4 pick. No one really has a feel for what the ‘Skins will do, and they can head in a number of different directions. But I keep hearing offensive tackle is not one of the positions they’ll pick — no smoke screen. I have a hunch, and it’s only a hunch, that it might be safety Eric Berry.

This is interesting. We're pretty sure Tampa Bay will take Gerald McCoy third, so the top quarterback and two defensive tackles will be gone when Washington selects. There is a chance the Redskins will look for an offensive tackle, no matter what Lombardi says, because it's a move they probably need to make at some point.

But there are enough holes on the Washington roster that Shanahan and Allen could look in a bunch of different directions and be totally justified in their decision.

The Tim Tebow factor reigns supreme.

Mike Florio of the ever-popular Pro Football Talk likes to remind people of this.

It only takes one.

Yes, there are 32 teams in the NFL. But if just one of them values a player as a blue-chipper or a first-rounder, the player can be considered those things.

Tebow is this year's example of a polarizing player who only needs that one team to see value in him.

The hunch is that more than one team thinks of Tebow as a first-round pick, and it's hard to imagine he'll still be on the board when the teams reconvene Friday for the second round. Instead, if (and I mean "if") Tebow lasts until the bottom portion of the first round, you can expect teams to jockey to get in a position to take him.

Of course, you never know when you'll see a curveball thrown. Maybe Tebow is more solidly a first-rounder than we all think he is.

This aspect of the draft alone is going to be very, very interesting.

Jimmy Clausen's leadership skills are rightfully under fire.

If you saw Clausen get picked apart by ESPN's Jon Gruden, you know what I'm talking about.

The breakdown really starts at the 3:40 mark, after Gruden softened Clausen up a bit by talking about touchdown passes, go routes, footwork, and leprechauns.

Florio saw this and made a very salient point.

Undercarriage of bus? Meet Notre Dame receiver.

On camera, Gruden seemed to measure his words carefully but he still made the unmistakable point that in this situation the blame falls to the quarterback. Off camera, we're hoping that Gruden pulled Clausen aside and said, "Look, Jimmy. You're already getting killed by Todd McShay for having leadership and maturity issues. When you publicly blame your receiver for something that ultimately was your responsibility, you give guys like McShay something tangible to point to. You never publicly blame your teammate like that, not right after the game or six months later or six years later. And if he told you that he saw the hand signal but that for whatever reason he chose to ignore it, then you resolve the situation in house. Regardless, you take the responsibility for not giving the guy a clear signal, for not being sure that he got it, or for not having the kind of relationship with your receiver where he'd never dare do anything other than what you tell him to do."

And, no, we don't know whether Gruden said anything like that. But if he's really trying to help the players and not simply himself, he sure as hell should have.

Bottom line: This calls into real question the leadership skills of Clausen.

Very few quarterbacks -- the class of Marino, Elway, Favre, and the like -- can get away with bus-chucking receivers over interceptions.

Jimmy Clausen, soon-to-be NFL rookie, isn't one of those.

Don't think for two seconds that teams are looking past this clip. They're going to question what Clausen's real leadership skills are, and in a draft where Clausen is competing with Tebow and Colt McCoy for first-round attention, he could be the one who falls.

Noted NFL Draft guru Mike Mayock seems, by the way, to agree with this sentiment.

"There are these nagging concerns about what kind of kid is he and the other night people around the league were talking about this," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said this morning on the Dan Patrick Show. "He threw his wide receiver under the bus. And quarterbacking 101 is you take responsibility. Everything is your fault."

Jimmy might need to learn this. Perhaps his Gruden experience will be the starting point.

Eric Berry is a factor in this draft.

Lombardi talked about this on NFL Network Thursday morning. He might even come off the board before the Redskins pick at No. 4. That may involve a team moving up to take him, but as we have talked about, it only takes one.

Berry could go as high as third or fourth, but the reality is that he could also fall to the bottom part of the top ten, depending on what teams want to do. He is a highly-rated player, but he plays a position (safety) that doesn't often produce top-notch players with high draft picks.

Jason Pierre-Paul has "Bust" written all over him.

If you still want to indict Mike Mamula all these years later, you'd be comparing him to Pierre-Paul, a player who missed 26 games in his career at South Florida, but has shown the athletic potential to maybe be a top ten pick.

It's that tough balance teams have to strike. You have mountains of tape on a player, and you get to scout them in person at games, followed by Pro Days, combines, and individual workouts.

In the end, the eye in the sky doesn't lie.

Pierre-Paul is an intriguing prospect, but there are flaws. His production in college was a question mark, and when you watch him, it's easy to lose him on plays, especially when he runs stunts.

I think Paul is almost a definite stand-up player at the next level, leaving him as only a real good option for a 3-4 team.

Even then, there is bust potential because of his uneven production and durability in college.

Then again, I once said LaDainian Tomlinson had "bust written all over him," too, so take this with a bit of a grain of salt.

I have no idea what the Vikings or Packers will do.

Part of that is a product of how deep they're picking in the first round. Almost assuredly, someone will fall to them who we don't think should.

Can the Packers get a shot at a guy like Kyle Wilson, Mike Iupati, Taylor Mays, or one of the top offensive tackles? Will the Vikings get a crack at Clausen or Tebow, or will they stick to their needs and look for a top defensive player?

There's reason to believe that both teams will just take the best player available. The Packers seem to have this as a strategy, while the Vikings are practically picking in the second round and should probably employ that method.

The Favre factor is a non-factor for the Vikings. No matter what he does, they are going to need a quarterback unless they laughably think Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels can be the guy.

As for Green Bay, many are projecting them to take an offensive lineman, but there are multiple scenarios where the best player on the board is likely a defensive back, and I don't see them deviating from the idea of staying true to that board that they spent so long working on.

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