IRVING, Texas -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as the NFL draft weekend winds down ...
• Quarterbacks make this league go round, and you have to think that most of the passers taken in the 2008 NFL draft landed in spots that are well-suited to give them chances to get on the field fairly quickly.
There were 60 quarterbacks who started for the NFL's 32 teams last season. In order of how I see them impacting their team's quarterback depth charts this season, here's how I break down the Class of '08 QBs so far:
1. Matt Ryan, Atlanta -- The Falcons won't want to rush the Franchise, but they also won't want to suffer through another season of watching Joey Harrington and Chris Redman as a starter. They're trying to win some fans back in Atlanta.
2. Chad Henne, Miami -- Put me down for believing that Josh McCown could wind up being the Dolphins starter on opening day, but I think Henne is going to get every chance to leap-frog John Beck and be No. 1 in Miami by midseason.
3. Joe Flacco, Baltimore -- The Ravens will play Kyle Boller and/or Troy Smith early because they've said all along this spring that Flacco might need some time to acclimate to the NFL game. But a lot will depend on how comfortable Flacco looks in training camp. If he's solid and smooth in his execution, he's going to get a shot at some point in his rookie season.
4. Brian Brohm, Green Bay -- I don't view Brohm as immediate competition for Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers seem committed to the guy who has patiently waited three full seasons for his starting shot. But Brohm is at least now in position to be visible just over Rodgers' shoulder, and his presence gives Packers fans someone to clamor for if Rodgers struggles or gets off to a sluggish start.
5. John David Booty, Minnesota -- The Vikings are still Tarvaris Jackson's team. But Booty, who was taken by Minnesota with the second pick of the fifth round, makes things much more interesting in a way that merely re-signing veteran backup Gus Frerotte did not. Booty can throw the ball, and this is the pivotal third year for coach Brad Childress in Minnesota, so he can't afford to wait forever for Jackson to develop as a passer.
6. Erik Ainge, New York Jets -- Ainge went in the fifth round, 162nd overall, and he represents another option for a team that isn't quite certain of anything at quarterback other than Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington will be in a preseason competition. Ainge is probably destined to be a backup in the NFL, but he probably overachieved at Tennessee and might be able to surprise once again.
7. Josh Johnson, Tampa Bay -- I'm absolutely shocked that Jon Gruden took a quarterback. Shocked. Add the University of San Diego's Johnson to the mix that includes Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Luke McCown, Bruce Gradkowski and, for the time being at least, Chris Simms. And don't forget -- Tampa still owns the rights to Jake Plummer. Who knows how the Bucs' always-fluid quarterback depth chart will shake out?
8. Kevin O'Connell, New England -- Call me crazy, but I think O'Connell, a third-round pick, isn't going to force Tom Brady to the bench this fall. But taking O'Connell probably got the attention of Patriots backup Matt Cassell, I'll grant you that.
9. Dennis Dixon, Pittsburgh -- The Steelers took a fifth-round chance on Oregon's Dixon, who at least gives them a youthful backup option behind Ben Roethlisberger.
10. Andre Woodson, New York Giants -- The former Kentucky standout fell a long way from last November on, but at least he went to a team that will give him a long look. And why not? All the Giants have behind Eli Manning is David Carr, Anthony Wright and Jared Lorenzen (himself a former Wildcat quarterback).
11. Colt Brennan, Washington -- The Hawaii star was worth a sixth-rounder for the Redskins, who are set with starter Jason Campbell and backup Todd Collins, but have need for a No. 3 passer to develop. Brennan getting the chance to be schooled in head coach Jim Zorn's version of the West Coast offense sounds like a break for him.
• Let me get this straight: the Lions traded two picks to Miami to select Central Florida running back Kevin Smith with the first selection of the draft's second day, No. 64 overall? I think I'm beginning to understand the draft strategy in Detroit. Whenever possible, you take the best available generically named running back -- providing his first name is Kevin.
The Lions cut injury-prone veteran running back Kevin Jones (first round, 2004) earlier this offseason and just replaced him with Kevin Smith. What, was Kevin Doe draft ineligible?
But seriously, not a bad recovery by the Lions after passing on Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall with their No. 15 first-round pick on Saturday. Smith, of course, led the nation in rushing last year for UCF, and listening to him at the scouting combine in February, he clearly has a chip on his shoulder with something to prove to the teams that classified him a second-day pick. Detroit seems satisfied to go to work with a backfield tandem of Tatum Bell and Smith.
• San Diego really must have a conviction about LSU fullback/running back Jacob Hester, throwing New England a second-round pick in 2009, plus a fifth this year to move back into the third round and take Hester 69th overall. Hester is certainly a different kind of runner than the departed Michael Turner, LaDainian Tomlinson's former backup, but he has been productive for the Tigers, rushing for more than 1,100 yards last season.
I'm going to give Chargers general manager A.J. Smith the benefit of the doubt on this one because his body of work in the past five drafts or so deserves it. When Smith targets a player and goes after him, he usually knows what he's doing. And let's face it: The Chargers' roster is so talent laden that Smith can afford to be choosey and take a few chances.
• The Bengals didn't wind up landing Shaun Rogers. They didn't come away with Dewayne Robertson. They missed out on Sedrick Ellis when the No. 10 Saints got proactive and traded up ahead of them by two spots with No. 7 New England on Saturday.
But they finally got some defensive tackle help in the middle of Sunday's third round, when they took Auburn's Pat Sims 77th overall. Sims has had some stamina issues in college, but he's a guy who I saw show up in the late stages of the first round in at least a couple mock drafts.
That said, I think it's written into the league's bylaws at this point that Cincinnati's defense must struggle against the run.
• The Cardinals and Bengals are teams with receiver issues, and their names are Anquan Boldin and Chad Johnson. Boldin has contract dissatisfaction, and as for C.J., well, he has general dissatisfaction with all things Cincinnati.
That's why Arizona and Cincinnati were smart to give themselves receiving options in the third round, with the Cardinals taking LSU's Early Doucet (81st overall) and the Bengals grabbing Andre Caldwell of Florida (97th overall) -- a pair of SEC stars.
The Cardinals and Bengals have said repeatedly that they won't trade Boldin and Johnson, but they're in a better position to consider making those deals today than they were yesterday.
• Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski is a tough, hard-hitting player with a name that sounds just as tough and hard-hitting. So it's perfect that he wound up going to Baltimore in the third round, 86th overall. The Ravens defense is as physical as any in the league, and that swagger that they're known for is a big part of their persona.
Zbikowski, who is also a boxer in his spare time, is going to fit right in with the mindset in Baltimore.
• After taking a complementary running back in the first round in Arkansas's Felix Jones -- and catching plenty of heat for it from the Dallas-area media -- the Cowboys gave themselves a little more backfield insurance on Sunday by drafting Georgia Tech tailback Tashard Choice.
Besides being wonderfully named for this particular event -- You think maybe someone in the Cowboys draft room said "draft choice'' and Jerry Jones jumped up and did it? -- Choice gives Dallas a fallback option if contract negotiations with Marion Barber don't yield that long-term deal both sides seek, or Barber suffers a serious injury.
With the Cowboys acknowledging that they don't see Felix Jones handling the full-time rushing load, it's Choice who legitimately will be Barber's backup. Jones will be a situational back, or a change of pace back.
Choice has a little confidence about him. In his conference call with Cowboys beat writers on Sunday, he informed them that he's going to "surprise some people'' and make teams pay for "sleeping on'' him in the draft.
• I'm not the only one thinking this, but Green Bay drafting Brohm in the second round is a move that pretty clearly tells Brett Favre that the Packers aren't interested in his lame idea about coming back at midseason if anything happens to starter Aaron Rodgers.
Green Bay to Favre: "Thanks, Brett. We're good. Enjoy your retirement. Please.''
• Kind of cool that the Texans saw fit to take Marion Barber's little brother, Dominique Barber, a safety from Minnesota. That ought to stoke the Houston-Dallas preseason series a tad more, as if the rivalry needed it.
• Only the Raiders. Oakland finally admitted the mistake it made when it traded up in 2005's first round to take Nebraska cornerback Fabian Washington. The Raiders went for him because Washington had a great 40 time that year, and we all know how Al Davis feels about speed. The Raiders traded Washington to Baltimore on Sunday, in exchange for a fourth-round pick.
What did Oakland do with that pick? They took Richmond receiver Arman Shields, who missed almost all of 2007 with a knee injury. That'll make him feel right at home in Oakland. The Raiders already have receivers Javon Walker, Ronald Curry and Drew Carter, all of whom have endured major knee injuries in the not-too-distant past.
• Here's an amazing draft-related statistic: If Dallas does indeed get Pacman Jones in uniform this season, they'll have nine, count 'em, nine first-round picks on defense. They are:
South Florida cornerback Mike Jenkins (2008), Jones (Tennessee 2005), RoyWilliams (2002), Terence Newman (2003), Bobby Carpenter (2006), Anthony Spencer (2007), DeMarcus Ware (2005), Marcus Spears (2005), and Greg Ellis (1998).
Yeah, the pressure is definitely on Wade Phillips this year.
• It seems like half the teams in the NFL this offseason are trying to duplicate the vaunted pass rush that helped the Giants win the Super Bowl. The Jets went for pass rush with Vernon Gholston in the first round, after signing rush linebacker Calvin Pace in free agency.
The Jaguars made a bold and costly move from 26th to 8th in the first round to get Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey, and then took Auburn defensive end-rush linebacker Quentin Groves in the second round.
The Vikings were so desperate for more pass pressure that they pulled the trigger on the risky Jared Allen deal last week. And Miami bypassed taking a quarterback with the first pick of the second round -- as widely expected -- to grab Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling, a pass rusher who was expected to go higher.
• This just in, courtesy of the Eagles' crack public relations staff: The proper pronunciation for Philly's third-round pick, Wisconsin cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu, is eye-key-GWON-new.
That's kind of what I thought.