April 26, 2008

First round last year: 6 hours, 4 minutes.

First two rounds this year: 5 hours, 50 minutes.

NFL, we love you. We're still awake after two rounds. --Peter King

With the second round coming to an end, I have mixed emotions about the new draft format. Being a morning person, I was less than thrilled that the NFL elected to wait until 3 p.m. to start the draft. Chris Berman and I chatted briefly before the draft about our belief that it seemed like a West Coast-oriented move. In between telling him how much I dearly miss NFL Primetime, I asked why people on the West Coast can't wake up by 9 a.m. to watch the draft. I felt strongly at the time that I wish it had started earlier.

The increased speed of the draft has been enjoyable, however, limiting the agonizing time in between picks that had been such an annoyance in years past. More importantly, it got me another gig working for one of my other media employers, Sirius NFL Radio. I recently got the call from my producer letting me know that they could use me to do a shift tonight because of the unanticipated speed with which the teams have made their selections.

I may have been on the fence about the new format earlier, but now that I get another opportunity to continue talking about the game I love the rest of the night, I felt the need to tip my cap to Roger Goodell and the NFL for landing me an extra gig. --Ross Tucker

Dexter Jackson, who caught two touchdown passes in the greatest upset in college football history, isn't afraid of jumping from Division I-AA to the NFL. Assuming someone passes along a portion of Jackson's conversation with Bucs beat writers Saturday night, the former Appalachian State receiver will need to be fearless when he meets future teammate Joey Galloway.

"When I came down for my visit to Tampa," Jackson said, "Jon Gruden told me they were looking for a speed receiver to really be a deep-threat guy as a slot receiver because Joey Galloway, he was aging."

Galloway should forgive Jackson, who caught three passes for 92 yards in the Mountaineers' opening-week win at Michigan, for his exuberance. After watching the entire first round go by without a receiver taken, Jackson grew concerned. "I started to worry a lot," he said. He knew he was the 10th receiver on a lot of draft boards, and he didn't realize he was about to be taken until receivers Donnie Avery, James Hardy and DeSean Jackson were selected.

When the Bucs' pick flashed onscreen, some of the veteran Tampa Bay beat writers saw the name and yelled, "He's coming back again?" Not exactly. The elder Dexter Jackson -- no relation -- served two stints with the Bucs from 1999-2002 and 2004-05. That Dexter Jackson was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXVII.

During the Q&A, Orlando Sentinel writer Chris Harry asked Jackson if anyone had mentioned that he shared a name with a Super Bowl MVP. "That's crazy, now that I think about it," Jackson said. Incredulous, Harry asked again if anyone with the Bucs had mentioned the similarity. "Just you," Jackson said. "That's it." -- Andy Staples

One of the bigger surprises in the second round was the Packers' selection of Jordy Nelson at No. 35, since they already have Pro Bowl receiver Donald Driver and young studs Greg Jennings and James Jones.

I just talked with Nelson, who is still back in Kansas, and he said he didn't hear much from Green Bay before the draft. Nelson was drawing interest from teams like Washington, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Carolina. "The Packers must have been just sitting back and liked what they saw," Nelson said.

The 6-foot-3 Nelson said he hasn't been a receiver for that long and he can't wait to learn from the veteran receivers in Green Bay. He says he's not worried about the frozen tundra. "It gets a lot colder than you might think in Kansas, especially with the wind chill," Nelson said. "One thing I learned playing in some really cold games, a dropped pass hurts a lot more than a caught pass."

Sounds like a Packers guy already. He said, however, he didn't think to ask the team if Brett Favre was really retired. That would have been my first question. --Andrew Perloff

Here's an easy way to irritate your notoriously irritable new boss. Darren McFadden's favorite team growing up in North Little Rock, Ark.?

"I liked Terrell Davis and John Elway," he admitted, to the amusement of the press corps here. Did he mention his affinity for the Raiders' divisional archrivals to Al Davis when they met, asked one reporter?

"No sir," giggled McFadden. "Not at all." --Jonah Freedman

I spent a few days with Cardinals' second-round pick Calais Campbell in Los Angeles before the combine as he worked out with UCLA's Bruce Davis and North Carolina's Kentwan Balmer, who was selected by the 49ers in the first round. Campbell, a defensive end from Miami who worked closely with former NFL defensive coordinator Foge Fazio and Giants defensive end Cedric Jones on the intricacies of playing in the league, was the one of the largest defensive end in the draft at 6-foot-8, 290 pounds. "You can't teach that kind of size," said his agent Gary Wichard. "He's going to be a monster at the next level."

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was surprised that Campbell, who at one time was projected to be a first-round pick, was still available at No. 50. "He was the highest-rated player remaining on our board," said Whisenhunt, who had Campbell rated as a top-30 player. "It's a position that is very difficult to find in the NFL. With his size and his skills, he was just too good to pass up."

That will do it from Cardinals camp as general manager Rod Graves said the team will not make any more moves before Sunday. "I don't envision us doing anything else today," he said. "We're as anxious to get home as you guys are." --Arash Markazi

This one is personal. Dolphins second-round draft pick Chad Henne is from my hometown in Wyomissing, Pa., and seemed destined for greatness ever since he started as a freshman for Wilson High School, a perennial power near Reading, Pa., an hour's drive west of Philadelphia.

I can honestly say I knew all about the athletic exploits of Henne before he even reached the high school level. To say I believed everything I was hearing, however, would be less than accurate. I used to work out in my high school's weight room while home from college on breaks with Henne's father Sheldon. On more than one occasion Sheldon told me about his son, then a hard-running fullback in eighth grade. At the time I took everything Sheldon said about Chad with a grain of salt, the product of meeting too many overzealous parents who were not able to objectively evaluate the athletic prowess of their children.

I can only look back now and laugh, knowing Sheldon was really being reserved about his son's ability. I don't think Sheldon even knew how good Chad really could be. After all, nobody can project having a future NFL quarterback for a son, especially when they are a fullback in eighth grade. One year later Henne was the All-County quarterback and a legendary high school career had begun.

Henne went on to start since day one at Michigan and seems uniquely qualified for the task that is now in front of him. If only I could say I had predicted this day would come eight years ago when I first heard about him. --Ross Tucker

Earlier this week I asked both ESPN senior coordinating producer Jay Rothman and NFL Network executive producer Eric Weinberger the same question: If a viewer has both ESPN and the NFL Network, why should he or she choose your draft coverage?

Weinberger: "We will all tell you -- and I am not trying to cop out of anything -- both networks' coverage is phenomenal. This is a monster of a show. They have obviously been doing it for longer than we have. The uniqueness for us and for our viewers is that this is our fulltime job. No one else can really say that. We have been analyzing players and educating viewers on this since the college football season started and really in earnest since our exclusive coverage of the senior bowl and combine. It's all that we do. We're not cramming for a test today. The main thing we can say is this has been our first and foremost priority since the Super Bowl ended."

Rothman: "You know why? Because we have been the voice of record for some time and I think our talent our is unmatched. Their guys do a great job and I respect and know all of them. But I stand by our guys." --Richard Deitsch

Almost every team in the NFL is looking to draft guys with passion for the game of football. Inevitably you will hear teams talk about a player's "motor" or the fact that he has a "lot of heart." Conversely, teams often cut the cord after a couple of years on high draft picks whom they deem to have "no heart" after they have received a large signing bonus and their work ethic and desire to play through pain has faltered. Can a player possibly have "too much heart?"

In Quentin Groves' case, the answer could be yes. Groves, a second-round pick by the Jags, recently had surgery on his heart after an irregular and accelerated heartbeat was identified by several team doctors at the combine in Indianapolis in February. It was another bad break for an elite athlete who was projected as a top-10 pick before the season following a dominant junior year that helped propel him to the top of the all-time sack list at Auburn.

Groves was plagued by a painful turf-toe injury this past season that limited his effectiveness and dropped him down some teams draft charts. He is the latest example of a player falling after returning for another season. Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn the last couple of seasons, as well as Brian Brohm and Chad Henne this season, are other players whose draft status was hurt after they returned for their senior year. Though publicly the NFL encourages players to stay all four years and earn their degrees, the teams put their money where their mouth is on draft day. Right now many teams seem to be putting a premium on flashes of brilliance as opposed to the consistent production of four-year starters and only time will tell if that philosophy pays off. --Ross Tucker

Newsflash from New Jersey: Jeremy Shockey is the Giants starting tight end.

"Can we talk about our draft pick?" GM Jerry Reese asked after a reporter opened a brief question-and-answer session with an inquiry about a possible trade involving Shockey. "Jeremy Shockey's our starting tight end, guys. Let's talk about our draft pick."

That draft pick would be Kenny Phillips, a three-year starter from Miami who is so athletic, Reese said, that one Miami coach thought he could play corner in addition to strong or free safety. "We got nice value, and we got a need position as well," Reese said. "We don't want to reach for guys. We got what we wanted."

The Giants got a look at Phillips at the combine and sent a representative to his pro day in Florida but didn't have additional interaction with him. Reese said none was required. "We had a guy, had him targeted," said Reese, who mentioned he was surprised but delighted Phillips fell as far as he did. "We didn't have a lot to clear up about him."

Phillips said he thinks the Hurricanes' 5-7 record may have hurt him. He played both free safety and strong safety at The U and believes versatility is the biggest asset he'll bring to the Giants. "I can come down and play in the box, or I can go back there and be a ball hawk. I can go down there and be that guy on special teams. Whatever the team needs me to do, I can do that."

And what of playing for head coach Tom Coughlin, who spoke in his usual monotone for six minutes?

"I don't know a lot about him," admitted Phillips. "I've seen him on TV and everything. He seems like a really cool guy, really nice guy."

Is that so? Welcome to New York, Kenny. --Elizabeth McGarr

With their only pick of the second round the Bears select ... Matt Forte of Tulane? First a tackle from Vanderbilt. Now a running back from Tulane. What are they trying to do, raise the team GPA?

Forte's pick has to be considered a surprise considering all the receivers on the board, as well as quarterbacks Chad Henne and Brian Brohm. Bears fans are going to have to be sold on this one. Angelo must be trying to light a fire under Cedric Benson. --Marty Burns

Our conference call with Dallas' opening first-round pick, Arkansas running back Felix Jones, was entertaining. Asked if he had a feeling that he might be headed to Dallas, Jones echoed the question, saying "I had a feeling.''

Did you now, Felix? Why? Because every single mock draft I've seen for the last four weeks have had you penciled in to Dallas at No. 22?

Personally my favorite moment came when Jones referred to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as "Coach Jones.'' One smart-mouthed reporter quickly asked Felix Jones what position Coach Jones coached?

"Well, Mr. Jones,'' corrected the Cowboys rookie running back, to a bit of laughter from the assembled media.

Felix Jones admitted he himself was a bit surprised that Dallas chose him ahead of the higher-rated running back Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois. But he seemed to trust that Jerry Jones must know what he's doing.

"I grew up watching the Cowboys,'' Felix Jones said. "Now I'm going to have a chance to play with their star on my helmet.'' --Don Banks

A dozen or so microphones and recorders were placed around the telephone in the Cardinals press room as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was introduced to the Arizona media moments ago. He made a quick impression by nearly cursing when answering his first question, what went through his mind when he was selected. "Oh shiiii," he said before he caught himself. "I just sat down, closed my eyes and said a quick prayer. It was a dream come true."

The always self-deprecating Phoenix media laughed as one scribe followed up with: "A dream come true to be a Cardinal or to be in the NFL?" After a long pause, Cromartie-Rodgers answered, "Both." --Arash Markazi

The Saints are on the clock with the 40th pick in the draft, and this is the pick they should be trading to the Giants for Jeremy Shockey, and ESPN goes to commercial, and the draft room here is emptying out, TV people headed off to the arena downtown for the NBA playoff game (you mean the Hawks are still in the playoffs?), and here comes the news ...

No Shockey trade. The Saints pick cornerback Tracy Porter, cornerback, Indiana.

When Sean Payton left work Friday, he made sure to tell GM Mickey Loomis that they could not be forced into overpaying for Jeremy Shockey. New Orleans' offer -- either a two and a six this year, or a two this year and a five next year -- just wasn't enough for the Giants.

A shame. Shockey will be an unhappy distraction for the Giants. I really thought they should have traded him. --Peter King

Just got a chance to sit down with SI.com's Dr. Z, who says he was the first person to do a real mock draft in the late 1960s. Ever since others jumped in, he's been charting the competition. This year, Dr. Z charted 10 well-known writers' first-round mock drafts and, unofficially, no one got more than seven players exactly right -- Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, Paul Needell of the Newark Star Ledger and Vinny DiTrani of the Bergen Record all got seven. Z also informally charted a version of Mel Kiper's picks from March and he actually had nine, but for today Z was focusing on mocks published this weekend. --Andrew Perloff

Don't expect the Cardinals to make any moves before their second-round pick (No. 50), coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves just flew away on a helicopter that descended upon the practice field at Cardinals headquarters. They are off to the Cardinals Draft Party at the University of Phoenix Stadium about 30 miles down the road. Before they took off they addressed the media. Here are some highlights:

• The first round went about as expected for the Cardinals, save for the bevy of trades in front of them, and they basically got the player they wanted. "If Cromartie was there he was going to be the selection we would make," said Graves. "We based it on the fact that he would give us the greatest margin of improvement and we would have opportunities later to address our other needs."

• Whisenhunt said he loved the speed of the draft even if "it went by real fast when we were up," although he said the trades scared him and the team from dealing their first-round pick to drop back in the draft. "There was a drop off [at cornerback] after Dominique and the players that were already picked and we didn't want to risk giving him up and not being able to get him later," he said. "There was no guarantee he was going to be there if we traded back."

Deion Sanders was one of the more excited people after Rodgers-Cromartie's name was announced as the Cardinals pick. Sanders, whose agent Eugene Parker also represents Rodgers-Cromartie, said he would love to work with him in the off-season. "You talk about a shut-down corner, he was one of the best," said Whisenhunt. "He might also get him doing some of the strutting and striding so I don't know." --Arash Markazi

The Chiefs continued a strong draft by selecting Virginia Tech cornerback Brandon Flowers in the second round. Combined with first-round selections Glenn Dorsey and Branden Albert, it's arguable that the Chiefs have had as good a day as any team.

That's critical because the Chiefs' recent drafts have left a lot to be desired. Of the 24 picks they made from 2003-05, only three are on the roster -- and only two of them are position players: linebacker Derrick Johnson and running back Larry Johnson. The other player is punter Dustin Colquitt. --Jim Trotter

Inside a broadcast truck on West 51st Street, about a football field away from the stage of Radio City, the NFL Network's production team is busy conducting a chaotic sympathy. There's more than 100 video screens inside the truck, from isolation shots on analyst Deion Sanders to a monitor tracking what ESPN is doing. The space is about as big as, well, Darren McFadden.

No matter what you think of the coverage of ESPN and the NFL Network, there's no arguing the work ethnic of the behind-the-scenes staffers in sports television. The production teams gets tipped a couple of minutes before each pick, which gives them time to set up b-roll film of the players and some stats. But the reduction of time between the picks has dramatically changed the production this year, especially for the talent. They have had to get in and out of discussions much quicker.

NFL Network executive producer Eric Weinberger said it's been an adjustment to the speed of the picks but was pleased with the coverage as the fastest first round since 1990 came to a close. "We've been able to keep up," Weinberger said. "We had our first break after the third pick and I heard [analyst] Marshall (Faulk) keep saying, "Wow, this is not like last year. There's much more of a frantic energy and pace today."

Weinberger said he had not heard of any technical glitches. Reporter Adam Schefter has had particular strong broadcast and is getting all sorts of abuse form his colleagues for reporting the picks before they come in. "All my friends are emailing to tell Schefter to stop (tipping) picks," host Rich Eisen said during a break. "They said they want to hear the picks from the commissioner." --Richard Deitsch

The Bears filled one of their big needs already with the selection of offensive tackle Chris Williams at No. 14. It looks as if they might be able to fill another at WR with the No. 44 pick. Several receivers projected to go in the first round have slipped into the second, meaning a value pick should be available when Chicago gets to select again.

Malcolm Kelly (Oklahoma), DeSean Jackson (Cal), Limas Sweed (Texas), James Hardy (Indiana), Dexter Jackson (Appalachian St.) and Arman Shields (Richmond) are all still on the board. The Bears have to be leaning in that direction right now. --Marty Burns

Vernon Gholston just graced us with a five-minute conference call. We graced him with some serious digital tape recorder-induced feedback. I'm talking Freddy Kreuger on a chalkboard shrill.

Gholston's a smart guy, so we got all the canned answers we expected: "I'm happy to be a Jet." "I didn't know where I'd go." Etc., etc... He did share this little tidbit, however, which Mangini and Co. reiterated. Gholston attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit, which pretty much serves as a University Michigan feeder. Instead of Ann Arbor, though, he landed in Columbus. A sin, of course. One guy who was in Michigan at the time, and who remembers scouting Gholston, is Jim Herrmann. Now Herrmann's the Jets' linebackers coach, and he had a lot to do with drafting Gholston.

Meanwhile, the Jets just traded up to No. 30 right in the middle of our dinner. We're officially in Freak Out mode. Purdue tight end Dustin Keller is the pick, and the reaction here isn't much different than at Radio City Music Hall: Kyle Brady-level hysteria. Someone's going to break something.

My favorite observation from the NFL Network's Keller bio: "Doesn't block." Not "can't block." Not "struggles at blocking." Just "doesn't block," as if he often thinks about blocking but simply chooses not to. That makes sense for New York. Bubba Franks, the tight end they acquired from Green Bay this offseason, is a better blocker. Keller, who had 142 career grabs at Purdue, will be more of a receiving threat. And Chris Baker, who's unhappy making less than Franks, will likely get dealt, perhaps for a pick tomorrow. --Adam Duerson

There were a lot of "I-told-you-so's" in the Giants media room when Roger Goodell announced Kenny Phillips as the 31st pick. Phillips was the fifth defensive back taken in the first round, and for the second year in a row, the Giants selected a DB with their first pick. New York took Texas cornerback Aaron Ross last year with the 20th pick, and he made an immediate impact, starting nine games, playing in 15 and making 42 tackles.

The Giants still have James Butler at safety, but with Gibril Wilson gone to the Raiders, Phillips could also see immediate playing time depending on how things go during training camp with newly acquired safety Sammy Knight, who'll enter his 12th NFL season. --Elizabeth McGarr

Roger Goodell was beaming at the podium when he announced that this was the shortest first round since 1990. The fans seem happy too, especially since two New York picks rounded out the round. The only people who don't seem happy are the TV people scurrying all over the place looking very stressed. --Andrew Perloff

With every receiver still on the board and quarterbacks Chad Henne and Brian Brohm still out there, the Bucs picked ... a cornerback who admitted to testing positive three times for marijuana while in college?

Jon Gruden said he loved the selection of Kansas corner Aqib Talib, who likely will compete for the starting spot opposite Ronde Barber that came open when Brian Kelly signed with Detroit. Gruden downplayed a Pro Football Weekly report earlier this month that revealed Talib, who deflected 35 passes and intercepted 11 in the past two seasons, had admitted to failing the tests early in his career at Kansas.

"I'm not going to live in the past," Gruden said. "I'm going to live in the future. I trust this kid, and we're going to give him the opportunity to prove it. He understands exactly what we expect of him."

Talib said he made some bad choices after leaving Richardson, Texas, for Lawrence, Kan., but he said he has cleaned up his act. Talib was suspended for the first two games of the 2006 season, meaning his most recent transgression probably took place during the offseason between the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

"I went through a little phase in college," he said. "That stuff happened two and a half years ago."

A little wacky tobaccy use wasn't enough to scare off Gruden, who said Talib reminds him of Charles Woodson, who played for Gruden in Oakland. Like Woodson, Talib returned kicks and occasionally played offense in college. Last year, Talib caught eight passes for 182 yards and four touchdowns for the Jayhawks. Gruden smiled Saturday when someone asked whether Talib might moonlight on offense as a Buc.

"We'll use offense as motivation," Gruden said. "Cover that guy, and we'll let you play offense. Cover that guy, we might get you a reverse." --Andy Staples

It appears as if there will not be a wide receiver taken in the first round of a draft for the first time since 1990. The first wideout taken that year was Alexander Wright by the Cowboys in the second round.

Only twice since 1990 has fewer than three wide receivers been taken in the first round: 2006 (Steelers took Santonio Holmes at No. 25) and 1992 (Redskins took Desmond Howard at No. 4). --Jim Trotter

As a former I-AA player I am thrilled by the Baltimore Ravens draft selection of former Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco. For those of you keeping track at home, that is two I-AA (now FCS) players (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the other one) selected in the first 18 picks, not bad for a "lower level" of football.

These two selections, along with impressive victories like Appalachian State over Michigan and Delaware over Navy are the latest indication of the closing gap between BCS and FCS competition. The chances of a team like Appalachian State beating Michigan 10 years ago would have been infinitesimal. The proliferation of the spread offense and the lower scholarship limits for the big boys have been a boon to football at the non I-A level.

Flacco is known for his big arm and he now has an excellent opportunity to carry the lower level flag that Steve McNair recently surrendered. If Flacco is even close to as successful as former I-AA player Tony Romo, the Ravens will be thrilled with their selection. --Ross Tucker

While Jets fans in Radio City seem pleased with the selection of Vernon Gholston at No. 6 overall, questions remain about how exactly Vernon Gholston will fit in to Eric Mangini's 3-4 system. The Jets also acquired Calvin Pace, another DE-LB hybrid, this offseason and have Bryan Thomas at OLB.

Gholston didn't even want to guess at his press conference. "That's for the coaches to decide," Gholston said about how often he will line up with his hand on the ground with the intent of rushing the QB.

Gholston said he has confidence in his coverage abilities and everyone knows he can get after the quarterback. For a defensive chess player like Mangini, Gholston is an intriguing weapon. For a team that had just 29 sacks last season, he better help improve the pass rush. The Jets are going to have to create a lot of turnovers and get that offense good field position, because they might not be able to do much to improve at skill positions on offense today. --Andrew Perloff

Tim of Boston writes in to ask if Jerod Mayo was a reach at No. 10. I say no, not at all. It's exactly like the Dwight Freeney scenario I talked about in my mock draft review. Mayo went to the perfect team -- he is very smart, can play all the linebacker positions and he gives the Pats front seven more team speed.

Mark my words: In two years, Mayo will be a star. --Michael Lombardi

McFaddenmania continues as the press here was given a quick eight-minute phone call with the Raiders' No. 4 pick. The Arkansas stud is in for an interesting awakening out on the West Coast, far away from his family. "It's going to be a good thing for me being away from home," he admitted.

He also says he's psyched to play for Lane Kiffin, who presided over Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Matt Leinart and Steve Smith during his two years as offensive coordinator at USC. Kiffin admitted he envisions a do-it-all role for McFadden, similar to how he molded 2005 Heisman winner Bush.

But going at No. 4? "It surprised me," McFadden said, "but coach said they were missing [a guy with] big-play ability and that's something I can help with." (For the record, McFadden sees himself as an upfield runner, a little different than Bush.)

When asked about the fan culture of the infamous Black Hole, McFadden said, "It's going to be very important to carry on a tradition because you never want to ruin a tradition." Recent Raiders tradition is all about losing, Darren. Ruin away. --Jonah Freedman

Here's an example of the draft-season axiom that the more you hear, the less you know: Coming out of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in late February, I was fairly well convinced that Baltimore loved Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco and would trade back into the lower half of the first round to get him. I wrote that at least a couple times.

But lately the buzz has been about Michigan's Chad Henne as having ascended to the No. 2 highest rated quarterback in this draft, and that the Ravens were all over him. Guess not. If Matt Ryan didn't fall to No. 8, Flacco was their guy all along.

I love the pick. Flacco's got the best arm of any quarterback in this draft, he's got the moxie you want from your QB, and I say in the long run he'll be the best of the Class of '08 passers. Baltimore has their quarterback of the future, and Henne and Brian Brohm will have to wait for some other needy teams to call their names. --Don Banks

The first upset of the day down here: Sam Baker, a four-year starter and favorite punching bag of the Mel Kiper set, just got grabbed by the line-hungry Falcons. Baker had a knee scope lat year, then missed three midseason games with a hamstring injury. He was the fifth- or sixth-rated tackle by most of the draftnik press, and now he's the seventh offensive lineman taken. Atlanta traded from its strength in an interesting deal, dealing a pair of twos and a four to Washington for a one, three and a five. The numbers: Atlanta deals overall picks 34, 48 and 103 to Washington for 21 (Baker), 84 and 154.

Could the Falcons have sat at 34 and gotten Baker? We'll never know. Obviously the Falcons didn't want to take the risk. --Peter King

The dominoes began falling for the Chiefs today.

Coach Herm Edwards said that with the acquisition of LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey at No. 5, Tamba Hali will move from left end to right end, and tackle Alfonso Boone will start at left end on run downs. The tackles will be Dorsey and Ron Edwards, with Tank Tyler and Turk McBride in the mix.

The Chiefs plan to initially line up Virginia guard Branden Albert (taken at No. 15) at tackle, though Edwards did not say which side. --Jim Trotter

Why did the Bears tab Vanderbilt's Chris Williams over slightly higher-rated tackles Branden Albert of Virginia and Jeff Otah of Pitt? GM Jerry Angelo said Williams had a longer history at left tackle, where Chicago needs immediate help. He also said Williams' intelligence (remember, he went to Vandy) might help him make a quicker transition.

"It may be his strongest point," Angelo said. "I think it's real important (for offensive linemen). We need this player to contribute." --Marty Burns

No more picks, no more interest? Looks like the rest of the Bay Area football media wants to enjoy the beautiful weekend, too. Less than an hour after the Raiders made Run DMC their man, the party looks to be over. The buffet is closing up and there are less than 20 scribes still here, probably a third of the scrum that waited around for the No. 4 pick.

A conference call with McFadden might be nice -- it's supposedly upcoming. So would a trade for more picks today that would actually help the team. Then again, so would an afternoon on the grass in Berkeley's Tilden Park. --Jonah Freedman

Nothing has happened at Giants headquarters since the coffee maker went haywire two hours ago. The sound kept going in and out on the lone television in the press room (only on ESPN), so we, too, are now watching the NFL Network, although the periodic silence was admittedly wonderful.

My favorite line from the coverage so far? When one NFL Network analyst said, "Jerod Mayo loves the game of football." You think?

Before the Patriots snapped him up with the 10th pick, some thought Mayo could fall to the Giants and fulfill a need at linebacker. Weakside linebacker Kawika Mitchell went to the Bills and Reggie Torbor, who filled in on the strong side for Mathias Kiwanuka when he broke his leg, went to the Dolphins. It looks like the front-runner for the 31st pick, barring any unexpected trades, is still safety Kenny Phillips. --Elizabeth McGarr

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt came into the draft wanting a cornerback and said that there were two at the top of his board that he wanted. After that there were about five that he thought would be available somewhere in the late first and into the second round. If one of his top two corners was available at No. 16, he was going to take him and as luck would have it the guy they wanted all along -- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- was there.

Most of the media here at Cardinals camp figured Arizona would take Rashard Mendenhall, arguably the best player and tailback still on the board, and then take a cornerback in the second round, but in the end Whisenhunt couldn't pass up adding Rodgers-Cromartie to a depleted secondary in the pass-happy NFC West. --Arash Markazi

Oops. I was wrong. I blew it. I thought Baltimore would take Michigan QB Chad Henne at No. 18, but this one's a stunner. Three personnel people I know and trust don't think Joe Flacco is in Henne's league. They think Henne's a better leader with a better resume, a four-year starter at a very high level of play. And Flacco certainly isn't going to be ready to play as soon as Henne. This one really surprises me. --Peter King

Sometimes it's the moves you don't make that turn out to be your best. That's what the Saints will say one day about the first day of the 2008 draft. If the NFL Network is correct, the Saints offered the No. 5 Chiefs this year's first round pick (No. 10), next year's first-round pick, and this year's seventh-round pick in order to move up to five and take LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.

Remarkably (at least to me), the Chiefs turned down New Orleans and took Dorsey themselves. The Saints then responded by trading up from 10 to No. 7 New England, getting USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis for the price of swapping first-round picks and throwing the Patriots a third-rounder. That's getting the draft's second-best DT -- and a player some feel is close to Dorsey's level -- for a heck of a lot less of a price tag.

I say the Saints will wind up thanking their stars that the Chiefs turned them down. At least now New Orleans still has the ammo to get Jeremy Shockey away from the Giants, and they'll have a first-round pick next April. --Don Banks

The Chiefs traded up to 15 to get Virginia offensive lineman Branden Albert because they were fearful that another team would take him before they were on the clock at No. 17. Kansas City gave up its first (17), third (66) and fifth for Detroit's first (15) and third (76).

Earlier in the day, the Chiefs selected LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey at No. 5. Before Saturday, the Chiefs didn't believe Dorsey would be available when they were on the clock. They were even skeptical early Saturday afternoon, when word began to circulate that the Rams were going to take Chris Long and the Falcons were zeroed in on Matt Ryan. The reason: They had no idea which way the Raiders would go at No. 4.

When Oakland selected running back Darren McFadden, the Chiefs listened to trade offers from New Orleans and New England -- the Saints offered the best deal, which included their first- and seventh-round picks this year and a No. 1 next year. But the Chiefs decided that wasn't enough for a guy whom many consider to be the best defensive player in the draft.

Interesting note, when the Raiders selected McFadden, a gathering of Chiefs fans at the team's practice facility cheered. And when it was noted that Kansas City was listening to trade offers, the fans booed. They cheered again when Dorsey was selected. --Jim Trotter

An NFL official told me the league was happy with the six draft prospects they invited to New York City this week. Unlike last year, when Brady Quinn was left to languish, none of the six picks in the Big Apple on Saturday were embarrassed by a long delay. "You just want to get out of there as soon as possible," newest Chief Glenn Dorsey said. In many people's minds, Dorsey was the one player in the top five who fell. Many people in the building thought Dorsey would never last past No. 3. But Dorsey said all the right things and said he was thrilled to be going to Kansas City.

The Chiefs will probably be a good fit for Dorsey, who said he's not used to the big city and said playing in Arrowhead should be a lot like playing in the environments of Baton Rouge. Often compared to Warren Sapp on the field, Dorsey also has some of Sapp's infectious personality off it. Of the six prospects in New York, Dorsey and Chris Long were the two most charismatic. --Andrew Perloff

Eric Mangini just addressed the media here and Jets fans have gotta love the way the coach envisions using Vernon Gholston. Says Mangini, "I'm a big fan of linebackers who you can move around wherever you want." In other words, look for Gholston and ex-Cardinal Calvin Pace to get shuffled all over the place, sometimes in a three-point stance, sometimes dropping into coverage, but never showing their cards. It worked brilliantly two years ago (and lesser so last year) against the Patriots.

A Jets fan will tell you Gholston was an easy pick at the six spot, especially given the board. He'll be a sweet compliment to newly-acquired nose tackle Kris Jenkins, plus coach Mangini gets to tweak the Patriots, who seemed to love the Ohio State defensive end at No. 7. The atmosphere here pretty much mirrors what I would expect at Radio City Music Hall. There were no high-fives, but no one's bashing their head on a laptop keyboard either. The best/worst thing anyone has had to say so far: "Another smart guy who won't say a thing [to the media]." In other words, "Ho hum." --Adam Duerson

Hopefully Jerod Mayo just got out of picking weeds when he unexpectedly went number 10 overall to the New England Patriots. While most players eligible for the draft sit and watch every tantalizing pick, waiting for their name to be called, Mayo went a different route.

Mayo told me on a number of occassions during our discussions for his Rookie Diary on Sirius NFL Radio that he would not watch one second of the draft because he didn't think he could handle the anxiety. Instead of sitting on a couch watching the tube, Mayo elected for some yardwork with his mom in his hometown of Hampton, Va. He said he would just mow some grass and pick some weeds on draft day with his cell phone on him in case someone called.

Though I consistently told Mayo I did not believe him and thought he would end up watching the draft, he has a proven track record of keeping his word. Mayo kept his promise to get his degree from Tennessee when he graduated early enough that he could declare for the NFL draft after his junior year.

The maturity Mayo showed in getting his degree early in an era in which many players don't graduate is just one of the reasons the Patriots chose him. Thankfully, Mayo can now come inside from the yardwork and get ready for a flight to Boston where he will begin his apprenticeship under Tedy Bruschi. --Ross Tucker

I'll never forget spending a week with the Boise State football team before the Fiesta Bowl and talking to Broncos coaches as they went over game tapes. While Oklahoma was clearly the most talented team across the board, the one player that stood out amongst the rest was Ryan Clady. "He's a special player," said Boise State coach Chris Peterson. "He'll be playing on Sundays."

Clady, now a Denver Bronco, may end up being the only Boise player involved with that unforgettable Statue of Liberty play that ends up making an impact in the NFL. If you don't remember Clady, click here and pay close attention to No. 79. --Arash Markazi

I just talked to Matt Ryan's father, Mike, who said that multiple teams thought Matt might end up being a Raven because they had been told there was a very likely possibility the Ravens would trade up. Mike Ryan seemed a bit surprised but was very pleased that his son was headed to Atlanta. When asked about the controversy surrounding his son's new team, Mike said he believes his son is up to the challenge. "People follow Matt," he said. "They have since grade school. He's very well equipped for this challenge."

Like his dad, Matt seems to be a humble kid. His dad explained that when Matt first arrived at Boston College, he weighed 190 pounds, and when he took his shirt off, everyone laughed. At one point Matt was considered a serious candidate to be the No. 1 picks. So for a kid who no one had heard of a few years ago, to be drafted No. 3 is pretty good. --Andrew Perloff

The Bears' big decision on whether to go for help on the offensive line, or at the skill positions, has been made easy. It looks as if they might have their choice of top-10 graded Branden Albert or Jeff Otah. Incredible.

Rashard Mendenhall remains an intriguing option, but what good is a running back if you don't have an offensive line to block for him? Ditto for MSU's Devin Thomas. The Bears won't be able to get him the ball if Rex Grossman is lying on his back. --Marty Burns

With Darren McFadden in pocket, Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin just addressed the media for the first and perhaps last time today. Among the best nuggets:

• Yes, defense was the biggest need, but "this was the guy we had to have." There was never a discussion of trading the pick. Kiffin and his staff considered it somewhat of a long shot that McFadden would even fall to No. 4, and actually discussed trading up to get him. If you believe that's not Al Davis talking, I've got an earthquake-proof bridge to sell you.

• There was little interest from other teams in grabbing the Raiders' pick -- more were interested in snapping up Glenn Dorsey, whom few expected to fall to the Chiefs at No. 5. Cue the shoulda-wouldas in Raider Nation.

• McFadden will likely be the opening-day starter, perhaps even in a split backfield with the recently re-signed Justin Fargas. Kiffin also loves his new toy as a receiving tailback, and will often even line him up out wide.

• The oft-publicized character issues? Not an issue (especially on this team, which has become a haven for guys with so-called "character issues" that make McFadden look like a choir boy). "I can't find one person who will tell me they've ever had an issue with him, in the weight room, in practice," Kiffin said. "He's passionate about football."

• And finally, the Raiders may not be done on Day 1 after all. Kiffin said the team may deal for more picks depending on how the board shakes down. "There are a couple of players where we'll have to look at giving something up for next year." And there are plenty of holes to fill: defensive line, receiving corps, another cornerback ... the list goes on.

• Best joke I've heard all day at Raiders HQ: Oakland's premier offensive players are now McFumbles and JaMumbles. --Jonah Freedman

All right. Everybody out of the pool. I'm done. It's all downhill from here. When the Patriots at No. 10 picked Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo, it meant that my final mock had the exact top 10 trade that went down between the Patriots and Saints, with both players being correctly tabbed. Hand on the Bible I didn't see anyone else's mock predict that one correctly.

I'll not match that sort of prescience any time soon. Be forewarned. Anything I say now is subject to change. Or not happen. My psychic powers are spent. --Don Banks

First two trades in the top 10 since 2004. The Patriots' trade with New Orleans was totally logical, because once Glenn Dorsey was gone, Sedrick Ellis was the guy the Saints had to have to bolster a weak interior defensive line and the Patriots saw all the front-line defensive linemen off the board. The Jag trade amazed me. This is a two-person draft for them -- Derrick Harvey, the defensive end who'd become a cult guy in the last few days since it became known he was the third or fourth player on Bill Parcells' board in Miami, and the 58th overall pick. After that, Jacksonville does not have a pick till the 143rd choice overall, midway through the day tomorrow in the fifth round.

It's amazing to me that the Jags saved their second-round pick in the deal, surrendering two third-round picks and a fourth in the deal.

Now Baltimore sits at number 26 for their first choice. The Ravens will try to move up a few spots to pick off Chad Henne, the Michigan quarterback. In my mock draft Monday, I had Henne go to Baltimore at number 20. That's about where I expect him to go. --Peter King

Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey may have been shooting up draft boards, but did the Jaguars need to trade all the way up to No. 8 to get him?

This seems like the draft's first reach, but maybe the Jags know what they're doing. Jacksonville is only about 75 miles from Gainesville, Fla., so Jags scouts and coaches have had plenty of chances to see Harvey up close and personal. They know he's a "high-motor" guy with excellent burst off the line. Line him up next to John Henderson, and the opposing line will have issues.

Jacksonville's pick does raise one question, though. Given that Jacksonville picked Reggie Nelson -- another ex-Gator -- in the first round last year, are the Jags trying to stock their team with players local fans already love in an attempt to boost sagging attendance? Remember, the Jags had to tarp off several sections in their stadium to lower seating capacity so that their games wouldn't get blacked out. --Andy Staples

Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith are meeting the press here. Nattily attired, too. Both in nice suits, which I'm sure for Dimitroff is a rarity.

"We're definitely excited about Matt Ryan being the quarterback of the future for the Atlanta Falcons,'' said Thomas Dimitroff. "Glenn Dorsey was a legitimate consideration. It came down to us ... the tipping point ... was the value for the position. What sold us on Matt? He's the prototypical quarterback, very intelligent, a big-time leader, a game-winner. He'll take a shot in the face and get back up.

"We're excited about him being at the helm ... It wasn't a difficult decision. I can't stress it enough. He has the ability to [lead] not only the offense, but the whole team. I was in New England with a guy who was like that, and it was important.''

Said Smith: "When we met with Matt, [offensive coordinator and QB coach] Mike Mularkey and Bill Musgrave put him through a lot on the board. They tried to trick him. He was outstanding on the board. He's very cerebral.'' --Peter King

Ouch. Just dislocated my right arm trying to slap myself on the back for nailing the Patriots-Saints trade in the top 10 of my final mock draft on Friday. But it did make all kinds of sense to have No. 10 New Orleans come up to No. 7 and get Sedrick Ellis, the draft's second-highest rated defensive tackle, because you knew the Patriots were willing to vacate their pick from day one.

I didn't have the exactly order correct in my top six, but I had all six players who were chosen 1-6. I got Jake Long, Chris Long and Darren McFadden matched up accurately, but I had Matt Ryan going sixth to the Jets, Glenn Dorsey going third to the Falcons, and Vernon Gholston going fifth to the Chiefs.

I really like the moves the Saints have made this offense. That defense is considerably better with Jonathan Vilma, Randall Gay, Bobby McCray and Dan Morgan all added to the mix, and Ellis gives them even more of a play-making presence in the defensive interior. I know we said this a lot last year (and were wrong), but look out for the Saints. --Don Banks

*Editor's note: Former NFL lineman Ross Tucker typed the following post on his blackberry because the NFL's wireless connection in Radio City Music Hall is unbelievably and inexcusably down.

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time I was in an apartment in Northern Virginia with a case of beer, anguishing over every pick the Wahington Redkins made. As a back-up lineman fighting for a roster spot, I was keenly aware how devastating it would be to my chances of making the team if the Skins drafted a lineman. With most teams only keeping nine offensive linemen, one draft pick along the offensive line would mean one less spot available for me. The NFL is a zero sum game and the math isn't hard to figure out.

There aren't too many other professions where you can literally watch your employer attempt to replace you on live TV. I always loved the draft and considered it one of my favorite days as a huge football fan growing up. Once I became an NFL player, it became my least favorite weekend on the NFL calendar. Every pick was agony and though I know I shouldn't have watched, that is easier said than done. Everybody rubbernecks and looks at car crashes on the side of the road when they drive by, and for me this was no different. If my career was going to be negatively affected, I wanted to know immediately and with my own eyes, not from a text message or phone call from a friend.

I can still recall watching the Cowboys draft Al Johnson in 2003 and knowing I may not be in Dallas much longer. My family couldn't comprehend why I was so upset when it happened that day in late April. After I was cut in late May, they understood.

For the first time in seven years, I have nothing at stake today. Though I wish I was still playing, I must admit it was a lot easier to wake up today than it had been in years past. --Ross Tucker

In Tampa, we have to agree with the decision of the assembled media in Long Island to watch the NFL Network's draft coverage, if for no other reason than the NFL Network keeps running a crawl explaining that draft analyst Mike Mayock believes a "bubble butt" is an essential trait for a lineman. The best part: he's absolutely correct. (As a former lineman myself, I can say that). --Andy Staples

If the Bears are thinking OT right now, they've got to be happy. Kansas City was one of the teams expected to go after offensive line help (Ryan Clady of Boise State), so its selection of DE Glenn Dorsey means one more quality tackle moves down on the board. Clady will probably still get scooped up, but it could help push another tackle like Jeff Otah or Chris Williams down to Chicago's first spot at No. 14. --Marty Burns

The NFL got it right this time. After watching the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn agonize in the green room for hours the past three years, the six players that were invited to New York for the draft were the top six players selected. Vernon Gholston was the last to go, being by his lonesome for only 10 minutes before being selected by the hometown Jets. --Arash Markazi

The most predictable ending since Hayden Christiansen donned the Darth Vader helmet in Revenge of the Sith. And at least here at Raiders HQ, that's good news for all of us wolfing down our barbequed ribs and Caesar salads. Now the silver-and-black are off the board until tomorrow, thanks to them dealing away their pick in the second round for cornerback DeAngelo Hall. That also means none of us here will have to wait around until the second round -- a serious possibility if the Raiders had actually traded the pick.

But the joke here now among the scribes is that fans are probably growing thirstier for blood by the second. Atlanta's pick of Matt Ryan means all the top defensive linemen are still on the board, and that's still the Raiders' most glaring need. And there went LSU's Glenn Dorsey to Kasnas City, just behind McFadden at No. 4.

Still, Run DMC is now a member of the Raider backfield, and he's the kind of explosive player this team might need -- maybe even a LaDainian Tomlinson-type. Pair him with JaMarcus Russell and that's two pretty damned dynamic players moving with the rock next season. And with that, I'm off for a second helping of ribs. --Jonah Freedman

The revolution starts now. Fourteen media members at the Jets team headquarters put it to vote and, alas, we're watching the draft on the NFL Network, not ESPN. (NFL Net won by a very wide margin.) Quoth one anonymous reporter: "I can't handle Berman for that long."

Twenty minutes into the draft, I think we whiffed on the pick. NFL Net's sound has gone haywire twice already, and something went wrong during the Matt Ryan pick, leading them to replay the moment. --Adam Duerson

There was no other pick. For this team, at this time, the Falcons had to take Matt Ryan. In March -- before they had visited with Ryan at Boston College -- Atlanta braintrust, led by GM Thomas Dimitroff, were sold on Glenn Dorsey. But everything they saw in Chestnut Hill, Mass., at a workout and a greaseboard session after seeing him throw, and at a dinner in Boston's Back Bay, led them to Ryan.

One particular thing they loved: Dimitroff asked Ryan a trick question at dinner, a question designed to have him say he was playing with inferior players around him. Ryan didn't take the bait. He said he loved his teammates and was indebted to them for helping BC win 11 games.

Dimitroff loved it. Absolutely loved it.

The Falcons are going to be bad over the next couple of years. I mean, 8-24 bad, or something like that. They need a guy who won't blame anyone, who will be the ultimate team guy and care about nothing but winning. They got that guy in Ryan.

Talked to Ryan at length last night. "Winning,'' he said about 16 different ways, "solves everything.'' It'll take a while, but I like the pick. --Peter King

We got an email today from Rocco, a die-hard Cowboys fan in Toronto (of all places), and he's wanting to know how in the world Bill Parcells picked Jerry Jones' pocket on Friday for inside linebacker Akin Ayodele and tight end Anthony Fasano, for a mere fourth-round pick?

It's a good question. The Dallas to Miami pipeline is getting plenty of use this offseason, but the Dolphins getting two potential starters for one fourth-rounder is no small trick. Ayodele has at least been a decent starting linebacker in the Cowboys' 3-4, and Fasano was a second-round pick just two years ago. What's up with that?

Rightly or wrongly, Ayodele became expendable when the Dolphins signed ex-Dolphin inside linebacker Zach Thomas in February. To me, that's counting on Thomas and his concussion history more than you should, but that's apparently how Dallas views it. As for Fasano, who played hurt a lot last season, the Cowboys didn't think he was developing sufficiently enough behind Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten. I remember seeing Fasano drop a sure touchdown pass from Tony Romo in that Week 13 showdown at Texas Stadium against the Packers, a game Dallas wound up winning.

You'd have to expect that the Cowboys will be looking to draft another tight end, although they are high on third-year veteran Tony Curtis, who caught three passes last season, all for touchdowns. One way to look at the trade is that Dallas just reacquired the fourth-round draft pick that it sent to Tennessee in exchange for Pacman Jones. --Don Banks

Not to be outdone, the Rams at No. 2 took another player named Long -- Chris Long of Virgina. He is a very high intense player who plays hard every snap. He will benefit from the notoriously loud Edward Jones Dome, utilizing the energy in the building. Fans will enjoy watching his excellent quickness off the snap. --Michael Lombardi

The first pick is off the board. Jake Long, to the Dolphins, is a very athletic and lean big man. He has great toughness and long arms and can play right or left tackle. He fits what the kind of player that Parcells converts most, especially on the line. The key to this pick is it sets the tempo of the kind of player that the Dolphins will pick this weekend. --Michael Lombardi

Touching note from the Jets' Hofstra digs, where beat reporters actually bring baked goods in for each other. (No, really. Honest to blog.) One reporter has his fingers crossed that Oakland takes McFadden, simply so that Jets brass are spared the inevitable, merciless booing when New York (he thinks) passes on McFadden.

The buzz around here suggests Troy's Leodis McKelvin is the Jets' guy. Not the sexy pick, but certainly a need-based move. New York had just 15 INTs in 2007, which ranked 20th in the league. (On the flip side, they'd be wasting McKelvin's record-breaking return skills. Justin Miller and Leon Washington are handling the Jets' return game just fine, thank you.) Financially, though, McKelvin would make sense. The Jets spent boatloads of free agent money in the offseason, and a guy like McKelvin might be a little cheaper to sign than some of the more obvious choices (Gholston, McFadden, Ryan...). Less sensitive note: Over on FSNY, someone just referred to Glenn Dorsey as a "Big Fatty." --Adam Duerson

What's the greatest sign you're sitting amongst a room of jaded football scribes? The hearty round of belly-laughs in the Raiders media room upon NFL commissioner Roger Goodell telling the ESPN crew that Draft Day is "the best day in the NFL."

In any case, there's growing speculation that the Raiders could trade down their No. 4 pick -- perhaps with New Orleans for its No. 10 pick -- which would obviously be a huge sign that Lane Kiffin's desire for help on the defensive line has somehow won out over Al Davis' love affair with speed. In other words, no Darren McFadden. Right. I'll believe it when I see it. Stay tuned. --Jonah Freedman

It's draft day in the Windy City, and Bears talk is swirling like the gusts off Lake Michigan. Will the Bears fill a hole on the O-Line with a prized tackle like Jeff Otah or Chris Williams? Or will they opt for local son Rashard Mendenhall, the flashy back from Illinois?

Or will GM Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith spring a surprise?

I'll be here at the Bears draft HQ at Halas Hall to give my two cents -- or as Papa Bear used to call it, a fair day's pay back in the '20s.

Though normally an NBA writer, I am a lifelong Chicagoan who grew up watching the Bears every Sunday -- often from the sidelines at Soldier Field. It was one of the perks of working as a clerk in the Bears ticket office, a job I held every summer from age 15 to 21. During my time with the Bears I had the chance to meet many players and coaches, including Walter Payton, Mike Ditka and George Halas.

I went to all the games, often seeing the action up close. I can still vividly remember the look on the faces of the Green Bay Packers' players as they came off the field after getting overrun by the Fridge in the end zone on that Monday night game.

The best memory came in '86, when I shuffled off to New Orleans as an employee for Super Bowl XX.

I no longer have any connection to the current Bears, except as a season ticket holder.

But I still follow the team closely, and I have many family and friends who live and die with the Monsters of the Midway. Like them, I'm looking forward to seeing what the Bears do with those two key picks at No. 14 and 44. --Marty Burns

It takes a village to broadcast an NFL draft. The NFL Network and ESPN have 270 press credentials between them -- or more staffers than players that will be selected today.

Both networks face challenges unlike previous years: The league reduced each team's time to make a first-round pick from 15 minutes to 10. The second round has also been reduced from 10 to seven minutes. Plus, the draft begins at a later time -- the NFL wanted prime-time exposure for its biggest offseason showcase -- and the start of the third round was moved to Sunday. "Everything we have learned the past couple of years is out the window," says NFL Network executive producer Eric Weinberger. "We have to learn new timing."

With less time to prattle on about each pick, ESPN decided to streamline its on-air talent for its 16 hours of live coverage. Chris Berman, Keyshawn Johnson, Mel Kiper, Chris Mortensen and Steve Young are at the head table. Kirk Herbstreit, Ron Jaworski and Mike Tirico front the second set. Trey Wingo and Cris Carter join Kiper and Jaworski on a set Sunday. Reporters embedded with teams include Hank Goldberg (Dolphins), Rachel Nichols (Falcons), Sal Paolantonio (Giants) and Ed Werder (Cowboys). Suzy Kolber will conduct green room interviews. The NFL Network's main set players include Rich Eisen, Marshall Faulk, Steve Mariucci, Mike Mayock and Deion Sanders. A second set features former Ravens coach Brian Billick, Charles Davis, and Jamie Dukes. Adam Schefter will serve as the roving reporter. Fran Charles anchors a desk in L.A. Reporters at team facilities include Michelle Beisner (Falcons), Paul Burmeister (Raiders), Scott Hanson (Dolphins), Kara Henderson (Patriots), Derrin Horton (Cowboys) and Solomon Wilcots (Bengals). Sirius NFL Radio, one of my colleague Peter King's 18 employers, will also provide gavel-to-gavel coverage.

Last year's first round clocked in at an excruciating six hours and eight minutes, the longest in history. Thankfully, we're safe from a repeat this year. --Richard Deitsch

The best indicator that the Cardinals are headed in the right direction is their position (No. 16) in this year's draft. Not only are the Cardinals not picking in the top 10 for only the second time since 1995, but their first round pick is outside of the top 15 for the first time since 1985. This isn't to say the Cardinals, which finished last season at 8-8, aren't in need of some help. We're still talking about a franchise with only one winning season in the past 24 years.

The word of the day in the Cardinals war room is "flexibility." For the first time in years the Cardinals don't feel the need to draft a starter or select a player based on need. Coach Ken Whisenhunt says he doesn't envision their first-round pick being penciled in as a starter on draft day as has been the case for the past decade, but expects whoever he picks to push for the job and contribute early.

To that end the Cardinals have focused on two positions: cornerback and running back. The Cardinals wish list at cornerback includes Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Leodis McKelvin, Mike Jenkins and Aqib Talib. At running back they have their eyes set on Jonathan Stewart and Rashard Mendenhall. With seven picks, one in each round, and two picks in the top-50, expect the Cardinals to select one of the two running backs in the first round and try to trade up and select one of the cornerbacks at the end of the first round or in the second round if one or more of them drop.

A possible trade that has been bounced around has the Cardinals sending disgruntled wide receiver Anquan Boldin to either the Redskins or Cowboys for a first round pick. Cardinals general manager Rod Graves said that he has no plans on trading Boldin at the moment, but with the possibility of nabbing both a running back and cornerback on their wish list by the end of the day the temptation might be too great. --Arash Markazi

I've been seeing buddy Ed Werder on ESPN today, talking about the Cowboys moving up for Darren McFadden.

After I picked my bruised jaw up from the floor, I called up the column I wrote in the April 7 edition of SI, a column with Jerry Jones saying there's no way he'd deal both of his first-round picks to get McFadden, who wouldn't be a starting player. "Six or seven years ago, the 'wow' factor about McFadden might have gotten to me,'' Jones, a Razorback alum, told me at the NFL meetings. "But it is so obvious to me what we need to do with our first-round picks. These picks are currency, and this is a 'now' draft for us. Quite candidly, I can't afford to get caught up in what would be a luxury pick for us because he's a Razorback.''

I don't expect the tradeup for McFadden to happen, but in the offhand event that it does, Jerry, we're going to hold you to those words, and wonder how the world turned upside down in 19 days. McFadden might -- underline might -- get 150 carries playing behind Marion Barber; maybe, eventually, he would take Barber's job. But imagine if Jones plaid two running backs $6-million-plus per year, with the richer one, McFadden, carrying it less than Barber? On what planet would that scenario make sense? --Peter King

Drive it in! Tow it in! Drag it in! The Bucs will accept your trade!

They're flying the football field-sized Buccaneers flag outside today, which can only mean one of two things. This either is a big day at One Buc Place, or the Bucs plan to add a revenue stream by opening a Ford dealership in the space between the practice facility and Raymond James Stadium.

If you've driven around your average American suburbolopolis, you know you can't sell cars without a giant flag. The Bucs have that, and they also have General Manager Bruce Allen, who could serve the same role at the dealership. I can just imagine the meeting between Allen and top salesman Jon Gruden as Denver Broncos officials wait at Gruden's desk, sipping from those little 4-ounce water bottles and wondering if the dealership will accept their offer.

Allen: Jon, they're offering a 1996 Chevy Suburban as a trade. Have you looked at the thing? It's covered in mud, and the tailpipe is falling off. How many more miles do you expect to get out of it? Also, do I need to remind you that these are the same guys who rooked us into giving them our 2008 seventh-round pick for Jake Plummer after he'd already retired?

Gruden: Bruce, Jake Plummer is a fine quarterback, and the 1996 Chevy Suburban is a fine automobile. We have to make this deal.

Allen: But you've already taken six 1996 Chevy Suburbans in trade, and they're still sitting on our lot.

Gruden: Bruce, 1996 Chevy Suburbans are like QBs. You can never have too many.

Speaking of trades, the Bucs may end up shipping off their second-round pick today to land an established star. Tampa Bay is rumored to be in the mix for Philadelphia cornerback Lito Sheppard and Miami defensive end/mambo kingJason Taylor. As for Tampa Bay's first-rounder, the buzz down here is that the Bucs would love to grab Cal receiver DeSean Jackson with No. 20. --Andy Staples

This is purely unscientific (how could it be anything else?), but here are one man's odds of the available big-name players being traded this weekend, now that Kansas City's Jared Allen and Tennessee's Pacman Jones have already been moved:

--Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey: 3 to 1 -- The Saints don't sound willing to give up anything more than their second-rounder this year and maybe a fifth in 2009. The Giants want more than that, but we'll see if they get motivated to make a deal once New Orleans' No. 40 pick approaches and New York is still seeking either an outside linebacker or a safety to fill holes in their starting defensive lineup.

--Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor: 4 to 1 -- I'm doubtful that Bill Parcells can coax a late-first round pick out of anyone for Taylor, who will be 34 on opening day and probably won't play more than another two years. But maybe a defensive-end needy team like No. 21 Washington, No. 24 Tennessee, or No. 26 Jacksonville will consider it. All were playoff teams a year, and while Taylor's contract might be prohibitive in D.C. or Jacksonville, maybe some creativity could be shown on that front by Taylor, who clearly wants out of South Florida. No. 27 San Diego is another contender who could use Taylor's skills to get over the hump in the AFC.

--Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard: 5 to 1 -- With five or six cornerbacks carrying first-round grades, it figures to be difficult for the No. 19 Eagles to find someone willing to take Sheppard in exchange for a first-day pick. But the Eagles would have takers if the price is right, say a third-rounder for the two-time Pro Bowl pick. Keep an eye on Tampa Bay, which figures to draft a receiver in the first round, but still needs to replace cornerback Brian Kelly in its secondary. The Bucs have made it known they don't want to give up a second for Sheppard, but let's see where the Eagles' bottom line is. This much we know: Sheppard won't play again for Philadelphia, so there's only so much leverage to be had for the Eagles. --Don Banks

What is a draft without crazy Jets fans? I talked to at least 100 Gang Green supporters outside Radio City in jerseys ranging from Riggins to O'Brien to Jenkins (as in new Jet DT Kris Jenkins). Ninety percent want Darren McFadden and plan to boo loudly if the Raiders take the running back at No. 4. Radio City may erupt at about 3:40. One guy's whole body was painted green with "In McFadden We Trust" stenciled in. When I announced to a big group of Jets faithful that Oakland might take McFadden, half yelled out "Gholston," and the other half "trade down." I was surprised, not a single Jet fan wanted Matt Ryan. Most of them said he's a bust waiting to happen. --Andrew Perloff

There's a multiple-TV-truck draft-day buzz here 53 minutes before the draft, and thanks to heavens for sending extra second-round picks for DeAngelo Hall (34th overall) and Matt Schaub (48th) and an extra, compensator third-rounder (98th, for Patrick Kerney, who the former regime should never let leave, by the way). Four picks in the top 48, seven in the top 103. They want to come away with four starters, at least.

Quick league stuff from a cauliflower-eared phone night, and less this morning: The Rams, obviously, are set to take Chris Long, the Falcons primed to take Matt Ryan, and the Raiders ... well, you'd think Glenn Dorsey. Any logical person would say Dorsey. But my money's on a classic size-speed defensive end, Vernon Gholston. More of Al Davis' style.

Which would drop Dorsey to died-and-gone-to-heaven Kansas City. I think the Chiefs run the card to the podium in New York, thrilled to have gotten Dorsey to anchor their defensive line for the next 10 years. If the Chiefs can find a suitor for very big compensation, maybe they drop back. But I doubt it.

What caught my eye this morning from an early perusal of the 'net: Plugged-in Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News handed the Chiefs Vanderbilt tackle Chris Williams at number five. No one works this draft harder than Goose. He is a maestro. At the same time, this would stun me, and the rest of the Kiperized world.

One last thing: The Saints won't raise their offer of second- and sixth-round picks for Jeremy Shockey. I don't think anyone else is in the game. I think the Giants probably do the deal by sometime early in the first round, but I could be wrong. --Peter King

Five things I'm thinking about as I head out to Giants Stadium:

1. Will the Giants orchestrate a draft-day trade involving disgruntled tight end JeremyShockey? Giants GM Jerry Reese has insisted he hasn't shopped Shockey, but the Saints, who have expressed interest, could conceivably put together an appealing enough offer by the end of the draft.

2. What gems will the Giants uncover this year? As the ESPN draft promo featuring late-round picks Ahmad Bradshaw, Kevin Boss, David Tyree (and also Eli Manning, who didn't have to be uncovered but took some dusting off) points out, "The draft matters" (but some of you already knew that). All eight '07 draft picks made the team and most made significant contributions, but Reese noted last week that the NFL is a "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately" league.

3. How late did Reese stay up last night?

4. Will Miami safety Kenny Phillips be headed to the Giants with the 31st pick of the first round? The Eagles and the Redskins both have secondary needs, but the buzz would indicate that if Phillips is still unattached at the end of the first round, he'll be a New York Giant. He looks good on paper (6-2, 211, 4.48 40-yard dash) and on film and has drawn comparisons to the late Sean Taylor. Drafting Phillips would allow the Giants to fortify their secondary after losing starting safety Gibril Wilson to the Raiders.

5. For people who aren't from New York, driving through -- heck, even merging into -- the Lincoln Tunnel can be a harrowing experience. If only the subway went out to the Meadowlands... --Elizabeth McGarr

First thought: Why the hell do the Jets headquarter in Long Island, an hour-long drive from their stadium in New Jersey? That's where I'll be all day, trying to sort out the Jets draft scenario.

Here's what we have to go on in the hours leading up to game time: The Jets are willing to trade up. (Helloooo, Kansas City.) They're willing to trade down. (Hellooo, Baltimore.) They're either seriously enamored with Darren McFadden, who was being trotted around the Time Inc. building last week, visiting with New York media. Or they're blowing all sorts of smoke screens at, ohhh, perhaps the New England Patriots, who pick seventh. (I tend to think the latter. If someone wants to trade up for Run DMC, the Jets probably want to be the team to reap the windfall.) Bottom line, Jets brass say they really, really like six different players -- how convenient -- and they'd be happy taking any one of them at the six spot ... or trading the pick.

Same ol' story, which makes prognosticating a completely laughable task, really, at this point. In the last three days, I've seen the Jets slotted to take any of six different people, mostly focused on Vernon Gholston, McFadden and, today, Matt Ryan. Even the early signing of Jake Long (which essentially makes the Jets' pick No. 5 in a Long-less draft) has done little to clear up the situation. Logically, the Jets' favorite six includes the aforementioned three, plus the Long boys, who will be gone, and either a corner like Leodis McKelvin or USC linebacker Keith Rivers, who might fill Jonathan Vilma's shoes nicely. Nothing has happened yet this morning to suggest otherwise.

At Radio City Music Hall, fans will cry for the sexy picks, McFadden and Ryan (neither of which makes a lot of sense). Online, a poll at the Jets' Web site says fans want a receiver, of which there are none deserving of a top 10 pick; another online poll has them begging for Gholston. Feeling pressure yet, Mangini? I would. Especially after watching this one minute and thirty-eight second-long gem, which is the first result when you Google "Jets Draft." -- Adam Duerson

If you reside in the Bay Area and you're reading this, you obviously care a boatload about this draft to stay indoors on a day like today. It's shaping up to be a gorgeous spring weekend: mid-70s, sunny skies, light breeze. You know, the kind where, if you drive over the San Francisco Bay Bridge toward Oakland, you can see far enough up and down the bay to catch glimpses of four bridges at once.

Let's hope the Raiders are ready to build a new bridge. (Like how I did that one?) These are lean times in Bay Area sports, especially in the pro football department -- the 49ers' and Raiders' combined record over the past five years is 44-116 ... can that be right?

And here we are on yet another Draft Day, where the Raiders' recent results have been, well, awful. Even though Lane Kiffin has injected a dose of youthful hope into the franchise, we all know Al Davis does what Al Davis wants.

Will Darren McFadden be the answer? If the Raiders pick him at No. 4, can the two-time Arkansas All-American be the best Raiders running back since Marcus Allen? And do the Raiders actually need another body in the backfield? Or will Davis throw a curveball and go in another direction? Stay tuned. I'll be here for the next few hours at Raiders HQ in Alameda. --Jonah Freedman

I think I've got the best SI.com assignment of all this draft weekend. I'm embedded at Valley Ranch, home of the win-now (or else) Cowboys, the team that last season did about everything you can do in the NFL except for snapping their galling 11-year streak of not winning a playoff game.

Simply put, they're not messing around in Jerry World this year. When you go 13-3 and earn the NFC's homefield advantage and still get bounced from the playoffs with a one-and-done playoff showing, well, a sense of urgency tends to prevail. Thus, Pacman Jones, that walking stick of dynamite who can only be described as a high-risk, high-reward acquisition. He's not the rebuilding-team type, if you get my drift.

The Cowboys aren't in the market this weekend for players to develop. They need the last few pieces of the puzzle, in order to enter the 2008 season fully locked and loaded for what doubtless will be head coach Wade Phillips' make-or-break year. They need a running back to pair with Marion Barber, another cornerback (even if Jones gets to play this year), and a receiver who can both get open and lower the median age at a position populated by Class of 1996 draft picks Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn.

Until the Chiefs swung the deal with Minnesota for Jared Allen this week, the Cowboys were the only NFL team with two first-round picks, at No. 22 and 28. Every mock draft east of Bhopal, India seems to have the Cowboys taking Arkansas running back Felix Jones at No. 22, and then going cornerback at No. 28 (Virginia Tech's Brandon Flowers is a popular guess, although I had South Florida's Mike Jenkins falling that far).

All in all, it should make for some entertaining draft-watching, because we know Cowboys owner Jerry Jones loves the spotlight and will find it and thrust himself in front of it if at all possible. It's a big draft in Dallas this year. Nobody's under any other illusion than it's a win-now world for these Cowboys. -- Don Banks

Draft weekend unofficially started about 41 hours ago when Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck shared their fondness for butt pads with a room full of corporate bigwigs. Minutes earlier, the deep-pockets in the audience heard Roger Goodell ask them to spend advertising dollars with the NFL Network in the fall. That was preceded by Amani Toomer asking Michael Strahan about his gapped teeth and the Giants defensive end returning serve by telling the wide receiver his nose reminded him of Gonzo.

The whole exercise, part of an NFL Network party at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan, was equal parts riveting and ridiculous. In other words, it was exactly like the NFL draft.

Welcome to the inaugural SI.com At The Draft Blog. Today, we have dispatched 14 writers throughout 11 cities across the country. They have one goal: To bring you behind the scenes of the first two rounds of the 2008 NFL Draft. The baker's dozen plus one:

Peter King: Want to know what Atlanta executives are going to do with the No. 3 pick? Inbetween Starbucks runs, Peter is at the Falcons headquarters in Flowery Branch, Ga., to bring you the scoop.

Don Banks:A few hours after putting the finishing touches on Mock Draft 7.0, Donflew to Dallas on Friday to see what the Cowboys are going to do with their two first-round picks today.

Michael Lombardi: This former NFL personnel man spent 22 years in war rooms with the likes of Bill Belichick, Al Davis and Bill Walsh. Today, he's at the NFL Network headquarters in Los Angeles to bring us his expert analysis.

Andrew Perloff, Richard Deitsch, Ross Tucker and Dominic Bonvissuto: This quartet, which includes a former NFL offensive lineman in Tucker, has every corner of Radio City Music Hall covered.

Arash Markazi: The party is in Arizona (right, Matt Leinart?), where the Cardinals may or may not deal Anquan Boldin.

Jonah Freedman: This San Francisco-based SI.com producer bypassed the 49ers draft and made the drive to Oakland to see if it's possible for the Raiders to screw up the No. 4 pick.

Jim Trotter: The Chiefs are in prime position at No. 5, so this SI magazine writer is in Kansas City to see what happens.

Marty Burns: Giving the NBA playoffs a rest for a day, Marty will check in with his hometown Bears to see what steps Lovie Smith and company are gonna take to get Chicago back in the playoffs.

Adam Duerson: This SI magazine writer/reporter is on Long Island, where he'll pray with Jets executives for Darren McFadden to fall to No. 6.

Elizabeth McGarr: What's going on with the world champions? Elizabeth drove out to Jersey to watch the Giants happily close out the first round.

Andy Staples: Closing out our crew, this high school and college football junkie will give us the back stories on the draftees while hanging out with the Bucs in Tampa.

The blog will run from now until the end of the second round. Have any questions along the way? Feel free to email us at dom_bonvissuto@simail.com. We'll be interspersing reader comments into the blog throughout the day.

So sit back, relax and settle in for a long day ... and night. Come to think of it, a butt pad may come in handy. --Dominic Bonvissuto

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