Draft weekend is one of my favorite times of the year. NFL executives have spent the past nine months studying and now it's finally time to take the exam. As they enter the war room it is essential that they rely on their knowledge of every team's strengths and weaknesses and, most importantly, how those teams will think and react. Here are my recommendations for several teams this weekend:
Plan A would assume the Falcons did not select Boston College quarterback
If the Raiders suspect we are trying to trade up to get McFadden then this freezes the pick, meaning the pick is not for sale to anyone else at that moment. My main goal is to tie up the Raiders' phone lines, freeze their pick and determine what Baltimore is thinking at No. 8.
The Ravens are my main competition for a quarterback and I need to do whatever is possible to determine their course of action. I don't expect the Raiders to move, but I am hoping they will offer me some vital clues with each one of my calls. On draft day, every team's strategy has to be declared; it's now time to show your hand. Every phone call I make, I closely listen to the voice on the other line to determine if they are bluffing or if they have something concrete in the works.
If the Raiders pass on every deal offered and select McFadden, as I suspect, and I also determine that Baltimore is on the move to acquire Ryan, then I call the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 5 to discuss flopping picks. I know I cannot freeze Kansas City's pick because the Chiefs have so many holes that they will be trying to acquire picks all day.
I also know Baltimore GM
If I lose Ryan to the Ravens then my choice is pretty simple: I take
I also will worry about the Chicago Bears trying to move into the bottom of the first round. But I know Bears GM
Now, Plan B. If the Falcons pick Ryan at three, then I stay where I am and pick Stewart, assuming the Raiders take McFadden. I will still work my plan to get back into the first round to get Henne. But now I know Baltimore will be even more serious competition. So I may have to move further into the first round, calling the Redskins at 21 and the Steelers at 23. I have to work every single one of my options and keep applying the pressure on all the teams to finalize a deal. My goal is to come out of this draft with a running back and quarterback, two cornerstones of the future for my team. Nothing can stop me from achieving that goal.
Last season, in the two games against the San Diego Chargers, who happen to be a very big physical defensive team, Denver scored a total of six points. Against the stronger Jacksonville Jaguars, they scored 14 and mustered only 47 yards rushing. At times during the 2007 season when playing the bigger, more powerful teams, the Broncos looked like a 2A high school team trying to step up in competition to beat a 5A team. They were simply overmatched in the line.
It is critical in the NFL to have symmetry with your personnel. Right now, the Broncos don't have that fluid feel to their offense. They have a tremendous drop-back passer in
Cutler is at his best when he can stand behind the center and throw the ball all over the field. He has very unique skills that can eventually lead a team to the Super Bowl, but he needs to have an offensive line that can highlight those skills. The Broncos need to acquire bigger bodies to help protect Cutler, not only to throw the ball down the field but also to control the line of scrimmage.
Cutler was uncanny last year in his ability to throw the ball with defensive lineman all around his legs. But Cutler took too many unnecessary hits and the Broncos needs to do a better job of securing him in the pocket.
Many teams in the NFL stole the Broncos approach to running the ball, now the Broncos need to steal other teams' approach to rebuilding their offensive line. This draft is critical for the Broncos to add size if they want to compete with the big, physical teams in the AFC.
The Raiders may have been the slowest offensive team in football last year. They finished 29th in the NFL in plays over 20 yards. They have no one on their offensive team that their opponents would worry about defending. McFadden's running style fits the style of the Raiders running game. It's a zone scheme with very little decision making involved, which would clearly highlight McFadden's big-play ability. Drafting McFadden allows the Raiders to take the burden off their young quarterback as they try to slowly find an offense that best suits the talents of
Beyond the draft, the Raiders greatest challenge will be trying to find the right system of offense that can utilize the skill set of Russell. The Raiders will have to go through the same process that Philadelphia Eagles coach
It will take more than 20 games for the Raiders to get the right feel of what Russell does best. In the meantime, drafting McFadden allows them to have a home run threat in the back field and some much needed speed for their offense.
With Stewart, they would get a big back who is very hard to tackle, allowing Bush to be a complement player. The former Duck has outstanding running skills, he can pass protect, he can catch the ball with ease and has a powerful body that can handle the punishment. Every time he touches the ball, he is capable of making the big play. He may be rookie of the year under the creative mind of Saints coach
Fix my offensive line. I know the boo birds will be calling because everyone in the city wants the Eagles to draft a wide receiver. But McNabb was sacked 44 times last season, the second most in his NFL career, and the Eagles allowed 49 sacks overall, ranking 28th in the NFL. What is more alarming about their sacks total is they allowed 19 sacks on first down, ranking 31st in the NFL. And first down is regarded as the optimum down in the NFL to throw and avoid sacks. When you allow that many sacks on first down, there is something wrong with the performance of your offensive linemen. Right now, the Eagles offensive line does not match up well in their division against the stronger defensive lines they play twice a year. And until that gets turned around, it does not matter who plays wide receiver for them.