• These New York Jets, they're not messing around. Not one bit. It's pretty clear what they're doing at this point in 2009. They're going for it. Big time. Just as they did on Saturday, the Jets boldly made the draft's first deal of the day on Sunday, sending three draft picks (a third-, a fourth- and a seventh-rounder) to Detroit for the chance to select Iowa running back Shonn Greene with the first pick of the third round (65th overall).
It's pretty obvious that new Jets head coach Rex Ryan likes his defense plenty enough already, but he's bound and determined to upgrade a New York offense that wilted down the playoff-run stretch in 2008. With USC quarterback Mark Sanchez coming via the No. 5 pick on Saturday, and Greene adding his 1,850-yard rushing skills as a Hawkeye junior to the mix, New York is better suited to play the kind of game that Ryan saw Baltimore win big with last year, when he was the Ravens defensive coordinator.
Baltimore went 11-5 and won a pair of playoff games last season with a stout defense, an offense built around its pounding running game and a rookie quarterback in Joe Flacco, who knew how to take care of the football and make big plays when the opportunities presented themselves. That'll be the blueprint in New York this season, with Sanchez in Flacco's role, and Greene adding to an already strong running game that helps the Jets control the clock and shorten games.
And make no mistake, by trading up to select Greene, the Jets are sending an undeniable message to veteran running back Thomas Jones, who has stayed away from the team's offseason workout program in protest of his contract situation. Jones, who turns 31 in August, is a tough, durable runner himself, but in Greene the Jets now also have a bruising 227-pound rusher who said he's coming to New York to "move the chains.''
Greene features the physical style of play that Ryan wants to be the Jets' calling card, and New York was determined to go after him when he remained on the board after the close of Saturday's second round. Sources close to Greene say they were hearing that one unknown team would be jumping up to the top of the third round to select him, and that Detroit had put the 65th pick up for bidding.
"The Jets had him rated in the second round, and they think he's ideal for them,'' a source said. "It's perfect. [Greene] is from 90 minutes down the road from the Jets, in Sicklerville, N.J.''
The Jets didn't go for flash with their last pick in the draft (193rd overall), taking Nebraska guard Matt Slauson. But New York seems content to have rolled the dice and gone all in for Sanchez and Greene. There was no hesitation in New York. In 2009, the Jets are going for it.
• In past years, I remember being overly high on draft weekend on mid-round notables such as Mike McMahon and Adrian McPherson, so take the following quarterback insight with a grain of salt: I really think the Cowboys made a wise move in making Texas A&M's Stephen McGee the fourth quarterback taken in this year's draft, with the first pick of the fourth round (101st overall).
I look at McGee as sort of the Matt Cassel of this year's draft. Due to a torn labrum in his shoulder, he didn't play all that much in 2008 (three starts, six games total), which is usually a death sentence when it comes to creating any draft interest. But give McGee a couple years and let's see what develops. He's a big (6-3, 225-pound), tough-minded kid with strong leadership skills and an underrated arm, and there's a reason he went before more well-known prospects like Nate Davis of Ball State, Graham Harrell of Texas Tech and Chase Daniel of Missouri.
As a senior at A&M, McGee got a taste of playing in the West Coast offense of new Aggies head coach Mike Sherman, the former Packers head coach. It's a style he seemed to be well-suited to, and it should aid in his understanding of NFL offenses. I'm not saying he'll push Tony Romo out of Big D in two years, but just keep an eye on McGee. He might turn up somewhere in the NFL as a starter in the not-too-distant future.
• I don't know what to make of this pool-jumping story that has apparently made Bears third-round pick Jarron Gilbert a bit of a YouTube sensation. The San Jose State defensive tackle made waves (sorry, couldn't resist) last summer when he was video-taped jumping out of the shallow end of a pool after being told that ex-Rams, Redskins and Bears safety Adam Archuleta had once performed the same feat.
OK, I get it that it means Gilbert is one very strong dude. Granted. But does it ensure that he can really jack up the Bears' pass rush? I don't think so. No more than Kyle Boller being able to throw it through the goal posts from midfield on his knees made him a great quarterback in Baltimore when he was taken in the first round out of Cal in 2003.
• For a team known through the years for its penchant of making some dubious choices early in the draft -- see Frostee Rucker, Odell Thurman, and Chris Perry -- the Bengals impressed me in 2009. Offensive tackle Andre Smith in the first round, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga in the second round, and defensive end Michael Johnson in the third round strike me as great value in just the right draft slots.
• It's laughable when NFL personnel men say the first round of the draft is all about taking the best available player, because everybody knows it's really about taking the best available player that fits your need. Case in point: Name the three teams that entered this year's draft with the most desperate need for a starting quarterback?
Any reasonable analysis would have listed the Jets, Bucs and Lions, probably in that order. Guess who took the three first-round quarterbacks, with two of them trading up to do so, and the other club owning the first overall pick? Yep. The Jets, Bucs and Lions. The teams that really needed quarterbacks went after them, aggressively. The teams that didn't need a passer took a pass on them and instead filled one of their most critical holes.
No matter what anyone says, it's always about need in the NFL Draft. Every year.
• Speaking of quarterbacks, I love that the Dolphins went after West Virginia's Pat White in the top half of the second round as a quarterback -- not just a "Slash''-type gimmick. After four record-breaking seasons as the Mountaineers quarterback, White has earned the right to either succeed or fail on his own merit as an NFL passer.
White's arrival isn't good news for Dolphins quarterback John Beck. The ex-BYU standout, a second-round pick of former head coach CamCameron's in 2007 is pretty much toast in Miami at this point. Miami's quarterback depth chart will feature Chad Pennington as the starter for today, Chad Henne as the starter of the future, and White as an intriguing option that gives Miami a hedge bet (or potential trade bait some day) should Henne not develop as expected.
• And the rich get richer. New England on Sunday somehow wangled a 2010 second-round pick and another seventh-rounder this year (No. 252) from Jacksonville in exchange for the first of the Patriots' three third-round picks, No. 73 overall. The Jags used the pick to select the little-known Derek Cox, a cornerback from William & Mary who most draft analysts didn't have among their top 50 prospects at the position.
Later in the round, New England was at it again, shipping its No. 89 pick to Tennessee for a Titans second-rounder in 2010. Tennessee took South Carolina's Jared Cook with the pick, a player many considered the draft's second-best tight end prospect.
How'd you like to pay New England's phone bills on draft weekend? But nobody works the draft process any more effectively than Bill Belichick, who seems to be doing just fine this year without his right-hand man, Scott Pioli, around. By constantly parlaying picks into even more picks, that's how the Patriots seem to be loaded for bear each and every year in the NFL Draft.
• I'd like to say a hearty thanks to cross-bay rivals Oakland and San Francisco for giving us a no brainer of a story line to follow as the years go by -- a head-to-head battle of first-round receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey, who shockingly went seventh to the always-puzzling Raiders, and Michael Crabtree, who "fell'' to the seemingly fortunate 49ers at No. 10.
Early on, of course, everyone's money seems to be on Crabtree leaving the faster Heyward-Bey behind.
• What would the NFL Draft be like if juniors weren't eligible? The top of it would play out very, very differently. Fifteen of the first round's 32 picks (47 percent) were juniors this year, including seven of the top dozen names off the board.
Between picks 5 through 12, teams took six juniors out of a possible eight selections: Sanchez, Andre Smith, Heyward-Bey, Crabtree, Aaron Maybin and Knowshon Moreno. Overall in the opening two rounds, 23 of the 64 picks were juniors, a cool 36 percent.
• How did I fare in my final, 7.0 mock draft of the year? Glad you asked. Not bad, but I believe I've had more prescient years. I had seven direct hits of player and team in the first round, and eight instances where I had the right player in the right draft slot (I had Josh Freeman going 17th overall, but to the Jets rather than the Bucs, who traded up with Cleveland for the slot).
I had 27 of the 32 players who wound up going in the first round in my final mock's first round (84 percent), with my misses being Larry English to San Diego at No. 16, Alex Mack to Cleveland at No. 21, Percy Harvin at No. 22 to Minnesota, Vontae Davis to Miami at No. 25, and Eric Wood to Buffalo at No. 28.
I guess I was a tougher evaluator than the Vikings and Dolphins because I had Harvin and Davis falling out of the first round due to their character issues.
• So many thoughts flood to mind at the news that the Patriots traded cornerback Ellis Hobbs to Philadelphia today for two fifth-round draft picks:
-- First off is the strange reality that the two cornerbacks who started Super Bowl XLII for New England against the Giants less than 15 months ago are now Eagles -- Asante Samuel and Hobbs.
-- Secondly comes the natural question of whether the Eagles are trying to have something to do with every cornerback in the league who happens to be unhappy with his contract? Philly already traded the disgruntled Lito Sheppard to the Jets in February, and in recent days they've had to deal with the displeasure of cornerback Sheldon Brown, who also wants a new deal. You can add Hobbs to that list, because in his introductory conference call with Philadelphia media members, he said he believes he's underpaid and called his contract "frustrating.'' It's all rather puzzling, given that the Eagles went out and got Hobbs as something of a checkmate move in regards to Brown trying to force the team into a new deal.
-- And lastly, New England clearly means business about fixing the problems in its secondary. The Patriots finished 26th among the NFL's 32 teams on third downs last season, and they've already this offseason signed veteran cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden in free agency, traded away Hobbs and drafted Connecticut cornerback Darius Butler in the second round.
• What's up with Chicago's crush on Vandy? With the Bears picking Vanderbilt cornerback D.J. Moore in the fourth round (119th overall), LovieSmith's team is turning into the Commodores-North. Moore will have as teammates in Chicago four other ex-Vandy players: quarterback Jay Cutler, offensive tackle Chris Williams, receiver Earl Bennett and linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer.
By one unofficial count, there are six other Vanderbilt products in the entire rest of the NFL -- or one more than in Chicago.
• Somebody needs to give rookie Jaguars offensive tackle Eben Britton a hug. Quickly. Britton was considered a first-round prospect by some draft analysts (I myself had him at No. 22 to the Vikings in my final mock), but the Arizona standout wound up lasting until Jacksonville took him 39th overall.
And he's a bit grumpy about it.
"I couldn't be happier than to be picked by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but I was [ticked] off,'' Britton said, of going in the second round. "There isn't a better organization that I could have asked for, but every team that passed on me will regret it for the rest of the history of their franchise. I was always told I wasn't big enough, fast enough to play. Well, the chip [on my shoulder] just got a little bigger and somebody's going to pay.''
Britton didn't mince words about his goals in the NFL. "I want to lead the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Super Bowl and I want to become the greatest tackle in the history of the NFL,'' he said.
And then, as if that wasn't enough, Britton put the likes of Mel Kiper Jr. and his ilk on notice.
"You know what, if one of these draft guys lined up across from me, they'd be dead, so that's not something I'm really concerned with,'' Britton said. "If you want to line up across from Eben Britton, you're going to know what's happening to you, I guarantee that.''
• I couldn't help but be struck by the irony that 10 years ago this draft weekend I was a newspaper beat man covering the Minnesota Vikings, who were in possession of two first-round picks. They used the first one to select Central Florida's Daunte Culpepper at No. 11 -- their quarterback of the future.
Ten years later, the worm has officially turned. This weekend I was in Detroit, where I found Culpepper once again on an NFC Central/North team that owned a pair of first-round selections. This time, the Lions used the first one to, in effect, replace him, taking Georgia's Matthew Stafford at No. 1 overall.
Boil it all down and that that's pretty much the NFL's entire circle of life in a nutshell. Not to mention that Culpepper and I are getting old.
• For Brandon Pettigrew, the Lions' first-round tight end, this weekend was memorable enough in being selected 20th overall. But on top of everything, his mother, Elaine Pettigrew, flew for the first time in her life on Sunday, accompanying her son on a flight from Dallas to Detroit for his introductory news conference.
"She was a little nervous at first about it, but after a while she was all right,'' said Pettigrew, whose family is from Tyler, Texas, home to Oilers great Earl Campbell.
• Hands down the quote of the weekend came from new ESPN analyst Herm Edwards, on the risk pick that is Florida receiver Percy Harvin:
"This guy is one of those guys, whether he's driving a Ferrari, a Cadillac, a Volkswagen -- if he even goes to Disneyland and drives the little cars that run on the rail -- he's going to have a wreck. So you better have a good body and fender man. ... There're going to be some things you have to deal with, and you know that.''