Eighteen short days until the draft, so it's time for yours truly to start devoting days and nights to draft education. I started with a conversation with Mike Mayock of NFL Network, a guy I like a lot because he's blunt and not afraid to be wrong. If you're afraid to be wrong in the draft business, you'll be mealy mouthed. That's not Mayock.
Ten Nuggets Mined From Mayock
1. "This is by far the worst year for the top 10 that I've seen. Down around 18, 20, you'll get every bit the player you'll get in the top 10 for a third of the price.''
2. His gut feeling is Detroit's taking Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford with the first pick of the draft.
3. "I can't bang the table for Stafford the way I did for Matt Ryan last year. I don't see an elite player in him every time I watch, which you need to see if you're taking a quarterback that high.''
4. Mayock, if he had his choice of first-round picks for talent and value, would be around 22. "The value in this draft is at 15 and beyond.''
5. He says eight or nine tight ends will be drafted in the first three rounds. He loves the best of the bunch, Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew. (I'd love to see the Bills land him, by the way. Perfect offensive weapon for a coordinator, Turk Schonert, who loves to use the tight end.)
6. He likes Eugene Monroe over Jason Smith, if you're picking a franchise tackle. "Smith's got a better upside. Very aggressive. But Monroe's got the best feet in the draft. He's a really accomplished technician.''
7. He thinks Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry -- who Detroit would play at middle linebacker if the Lions made him the first pick of the draft -- would be optimally used at strongside linebacker in the 4-3 because he can cover, he can play physically over the tight end, and he's got upside pass-rushing ability.
8. He's scared of Brian Orakpo, the Texas defensive end who's the apple of a few teams' eyes in the top half of the first round. "Buyer beware,'' Mayock said. "He's boom or bust. I don't know if he's DeMarcus Ware or Vernon Gholston. I've seen him have some really good games, and I've seen what I considered to be Brandon Pettigrew tearing him apart. The point is, I don't see it all the time from Orakpo, which concerns me.''
9. Of the elite quarterbacks, he likes USC's Mark Sanchez the best. "He's the most ready made for the pro game right now.''
10. If you need a cornerback in this draft, sit it out. There are no corners even well above average, never mind great.
A year ago, Mayock told me he liked Ryan, who played four years at Boston College, more than he'd liked any quarterback to come out in years. Not the case with the three early entry passers this year -- Stafford, Sanchez and Kansas State's Josh Freeman. "In the last 15 years, there have been 11 underclass quarterbacks taken in the first round,'' he said. "Of those 11, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers are the only clear successes. It's a dangerous thing, picking young quarterbacks so high.''
Now onto your e-mail for the week:
• JUST WHO LIKES THE 18-GAME SCHEDULE ANYWAY? From James, of Scottsdale, Ariz.: "Absolutely LOVED Adalius Thomas' response to the 18-game schedule. As much as I want to watch more meaningful football, I don't want these guys getting hurt and putting their family's well-being and their own in jeopardy because Roger Goodell and the owners want to make more money. But Peter, I'm confused. Don't the players' contracts get paid over a 20-game period, regardless of whether it's preseason or regular? Or do they just get paid for 16 games? And if so, how does the pay for the preseason games work then?''
Players are paid their salary in 17 game checks starting the first week of the regular season. In the preseason, veteran players get $1,425 per preseason game week -- $1,225 for the practice week, plus $200 per game. The league will say the players are getting 60 percent of the adjusted gross revenue, regardless of how and when it's paid. That's true, but the point players will make if the schedule's expanded to 17 games is a simple one: I'm playing 60 more plays, and I don't care what the accountants say -- I want one-seventeenth more money than I was making to play 16 games.
• THERE'S NO CONSISTENCY. From Kyle Cruel, of Philadelphia: "Is there any rhyme or reason to the way teams decide to either cut or trade troublesome players? We saw that Jay Cutler had extraordinary trade value, but didn't Terrell Owens and Plaxico Burress at least warrant some trade consideration before each team severed ties? Randy Moss garnered a fourth-round pick for the Raiders under similar circumstances so why not get something in return for them?''
Different stories there. Cutler's a 25-year-old franchise-quarterback type, and that profile of player NEVER comes on the open market. Owens is divisive and old, and nobody wanted to give up anything to acquire him -- then pay him as a franchise receiver. Burress is probably not even playing this year; who'd have given the Giants anything for a guy who might go to jail for two or three years? Moss: Remember what sort of damaged goods he was with the Raiders? He was quasi-boycotting games and practices, and the Raiders were desperate to get him out of town.
• NO CHANCE -- AT LEAST NOW. From Phil, of Wickenburg, Ariz.: "Think the Broncos can trade up with one of their No. 1s this year and get somebody like Mark Sanchez from USC, who I hear Josh McDaniels really likes?''
I don't think McDaniels knows who he likes right now because he wasn't studying rookie quarterbacks with Cutler on the roster. My feeling is McDaniels will use his first two picks on defensive players, which he should do, with leaks all over the field on D.
• WAS BOWLEN TOO KNEE-JERK HERE? From Doug, of Madison, Wisc.: "It sounds like Denver owner Pat Bowlen made this decision based on his feelings being hurt by Cutler ignoring him. Everyone seems fine with that. Yet the media [although you not so much] are crucifying Cutler for wanting to be traded because his feelings were hurt. Why the double standard?''
It wasn't that Bowlen's feelings were hurt, but rather he felt an employee should show some very small amount of respect to the man who owns the team and signs his paychecks, rather than ignoring him for weeks on end. In the end, Cutler got what he wanted. I'm sure he regrets some of the things he did, but in the end the painful stuff got him what he wanted -- a trade. At least I think that's what he wanted. You never know with some of the weird crap he was saying late in this episode, like telling Jay Glazer he never wanted this to happen.
• YOU MAKE A GOOD POINT, SCOTT. From Scott Smith, of San Dimas, Calif.: "Peter, do you believe in karma? If I did, I would have to say Cutler just racked himself up a big dose of bad karma with the way he behaved to get himself out of Denver. [I love the stark contrast between his prima-donna behavior to how Jason Campbell acted humble and professional when learning he was on the trading block.] This made me think: How many players have actually improved their careers by forcing a trade through negative behavior? I know some players have had short-term gains, but I'm having trouble thinking of anyone who benefited long term from this sort of behavior.''
I'll have to think about that one. At first blush, I'd say I could think of two. John Elway talked his way out of Baltimore and won two Super Bowls in Denver, where he's the most revered athlete in the history of Colorado. Eli Manning's dad forced Eli's way out of San Diego. That worked out pretty good for the boy.
• HE WANTS THE JAGS TO GO AFTER A PASSER, I THINK. From Pyrofish, of Mims, Fla: "I have to take issue with you on the Jags. If the Jags draft a top QB, it's not because they don't believe in David Garrard. Every Jags fan knows it was the injured line and subpar receivers that made David look bad last year. However, if a kid who could become the next Big Ben, or Marino, or Elway, is available at No. 8, who doesn't need that guy? If you pass on him, as the Jags did Big Ben a few years back, you not only don't have your future QB, you now have to play against him too. It's a lose-lose situation. Draft talent, not need. David's the man on this team for several more years, that's in stone. Not to mention, look what you can get for trading a franchise QB these days! Look at it as an investment!''
Well, if you have a strong feeling about one of these guys being a franchise quarterback, of course you take him. But that would mean seven teams in front of you, including at least two with major quarterback needs long-term, would have passed on the guy you're sure is a surefire superstar. I don't think there's a no-doubt starter at the position in this draft.
• YOU GOT IT RIGHT. From John Jeyapaul, of Nashville: "Peter, if the league extends the regular season, will they tack on two weeks and have a Valentine's Day Super Bowl? Most of the fans will be in trouble if that's the case.''
The Super Bowl, with an extended season, will be contested on the second or third Sunday in February.
• I GUESS I DON'T GET THE GUN THING. From Brett, of Rochester, Minn.: "I must say that you are completely missing the point. We have a PEOPLE problem, not a GUN problem. Guns are inanimate objects; they do NOTHING by themselves. It all boils down to what people do with them. Same thing goes for knives, cars, etc. Any of those can be used maliciously to hurt or kill people when an individual decides to do so. And when an individual decides to do something as heinous as kill another person, I do not believe for a second that outlawing the item [gun, knife, etc] they intend to use will do any good. They are going to break the law to murder someone, so they will break the law to obtain their intended item. Outlawing firearms will only disarm the law-abiding citizens. ... I am deeply, deeply saddened by all these tragic deaths, Mr. King. As terrible as they are, they do not change the fact that you can't legislate morality.''
Yes, we do have a people problem. But one of the jobs of the government is to protect citizens from things that can hurt them. We're obviously not doing a good enough job of protecting our citizens from obtaining guns, because dangerous citizens seem to obtain them easily, day after day in this country.
• WELL, OK. BUT LET'S SOLVE ONE PROBLEM AT A TIME. From Willy, of Los Angeles: "Love your column. It's not Monday without it. About your gun-control statement, I would love to see 'nutjobs' have their guns taken away just as much as everyone. However, I don't believe that would solve much. If you're crazy enough to murder innocents, you're crazy enough to to do it without a gun. Outlawing guns won't stop murders. The murderers will just find a different [and possibly more dangerous] way to kill.''
Let's get the excess guns out of society first -- or at least try. Then we'll move on to the next murderous weapon.