Ross Tucker
Friday April 17th, 2009

Do you swing a trade for Braylon Edwards or Anquan Boldin? That's the question wide-receiver needy teams are pondering a week before the draft, and there are plenty of them. Count the New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles among those teams looking for an elite receiver.

Edwards has more upside due to his tremendous big-play potential and deep threat speed. He can go up in the air and come down with the reception, but he also has a propensity to drop passes at inopportune times and his passion for the sport has been questioned. Color him the boom or bust tech stock, current economic environment notwithstanding.

Boldin, on the other hand, is known for his physical style of play. His toughness is unquestioned after he returned so quickly last season from the devastating blow he took from Jets safety Erik Smith that broke his orbital bone. He is more of a catch and run player than a guy who goes up and gets the ball, but he has been extremely consistent and fairly durable during his career.

Boldin has the warrior mentality that any coach would love to bring into his locker room and is thought to have less of a sense of entitlement than Edwards. Boldin is Diva Light compared to Edwards and isn't expected to have any issues going forward as long as he gets a market deal in his new home. Consider Boldin the bond guaranteed to generate a decent rate of return until his maturity date.

The argument can be made that Edwards is more attractive because of his age (he is 26; Boldin will turn 29 during the season) and the fact he is a true number one receiver who dictates coverage. He averaged 15.9 yards per catch last season, while Boldin averaged 11.7. Their career averages are 15.6 AND 12.9, respectively. What people tend to forget is the production Boldin had in his one season with Arizona before the Cardinals drafted Larry Fitzgerald. Boldin played in all 16 games that year, making 101 receptions for 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns. He can carry the mantle of being the guy and is eager to prove it.

The asking price for both players is at least first- and third-round picks. Both are hungry for new contracts in the neighborhood of $10 million a year, so the monetary component is likewise similar. For my money, I'd go after Boldin, but I am conservative by nature. Ultimately, it's going to come down to the level of risk tolerance within an organization. Stay tuned.

Now on to your mail ...

Hi Ross. I really like your insight analysis of the game. I totally agree when you say that draft prospects are overly analyzed, and that scouts don't focus on the on-field results enough. But what about a possible "hidden message" within the analysis. For example, does "overly muscular" mean "buyer beware of non-legal substance abuse"? Does "other interests" mean "LJ/Vick/Plax/Pacman clone in progress?" --Arnauld Chatainier, Toulouse, France

I don't think so, Arnauld. Though there have been unsubstantiated internet rumors regarding Brian Cushing's "overly muscular" physique, the "other interests" for Gerald Cadogan include playing the trumpet, producing Christian CDs and singing the National Anthem in front of President Barack Obama, so my gut tells me he won't be the next Pacman. Call it a hunch.

I take issue with your assessment that production is the only thing pro scouts should look at. I wish I could agree with you, and on some level I do. But as a Minnesota Gopher fan, I've seen your system fail. Greg Eslinger, one of the most decorated players in the history of the college, won the Outland trophy as THE BEST LINEMAN IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL his senior year, yet was drafted in the seventh round and has not seen a meaningful snap because he doesn't weigh over 300 pounds. Thoughts? --Tim, Woodbury, Minn.

I put very little stock in awards and honors because they really don't mean much, just like how some of the guys voted to the Pro Bowl are undeserving. Recognition in the NCAA has more to do with a college's sports information department than the player's production. The one thing that never lies is the game and practice tape, and if Eslinger, or anyone else for that matter, shows they can get the job done at the NFL level, meaningful snaps should follow.

I have to take issue with several of your poorly researched points re: the Vikings' dissing of Matt Birk.

First, in a March 5th article on, the ex-Viking center said "it was not about the money" and that he just fell in love with the Ravens organization and with their head coach. Secondly, Sullivan is in the same place Birk was when he took over for the Pro Bowler Christy some 10 years ago now. I have been a lifetime Viking fan and have always appreciated Birk, but the Vikings never won a SB with him. He will be missed, but let's not go overboard just to have something to write about. --Craig, Chicago

I got a tremendous amount of e-mail from Vikings fans reacting to last week's mailbag topper regarding Matt Birk and it was split almost exactly down the middle.

We can debate Birk's performance on the field and whether or not he is a descending player all you want --and we will likely find out soon enough if Sullivan is up for the challenge, as he very well may be. But you can't dispute my research on that story as it is impeccable, and I'll just leave it at that.

Why does T.O. get put into the same category as those who break the law? Of the players listed in your article, Owens hasn't done anything to break the law. I agree that his antics aren't the best for team chemistry, but coupling a law-abiding citizen with all the thugs listed isn't right. --Lawrence Foster, Bath, N.Y.

I said that the list was comprised of players who either had broken the law or had been divisive influences in the locker room and T.O. is clearly the latter. I could make a very strong argument that T.O. and his antics in the locker room and on the field are much more harmful to an organization and a team from a competitive standpoint than a guy getting busted for an incident off the field.

Sure, a legal transgression can be harmful for that individual, can create bad publicity for the team, and includes the possibility for a suspension, especially if it is not the first offense. But it doesn't really affect the rest of the team like a guy publicly and privately calling out teammates and coaches while practically demanding the game plan be altered to placate his desire for the football.

I'm a fan of one of your ex-teammates, Jason Campbell, back from his days at Auburn. After all of the trade discussions about the Redskins getting Jay Cutler, it seems as though he is saying all of the right things, both publicly and privately. Do you think, though, that this event in combination with his being in the same offensive system for a second consecutive year could lead to the breakout year that the Redskins have been waiting for? --Brad Williams, Auburn, Ala.

I certainly hope so, Brad. Jason is a good quarterback, a fine person and is very highly regarded by all of his teammates. He has had a rough offseason with the Cutler and Leftwich talks, but he has handled it like a true professional. Being in the same offensive system again, as you mentioned, should help.

That said, this is a make or break year for him. He has to get the job done this season or it'll be his last in Washington. If the Redskins draft USC quarterback Mark Sanchez next week, the pressure increases.

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