If you're a New York Jets fan, and you find yourself standing in line at a Modell's somewhere in the metropolis this week waiting for your SANCHEZ jersey, you really should pause and give thanks to four people:
1. Safety Abram Elam, the most important of three players in the deal between Cleveland and the Jets that netted USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. Most important for several reasons, which I'll get to in a moment.
2. Rex Ryan, the Jets' coach, who finessed a vital part of this trade Friday night.
3. Mike Tannenbaum, the Jets' GM, who wouldn't take no for an answer.
4. Dawn Aponte. Capwoman, Cleveland Browns. Formerly the Jets' cap person, and formerly a VP with the NFL Management Council.
The trade got done when it got done -- and without another team busting in to trump the Jets at the last minute -- because Aponte spied a minute clause, one unknown-to-most, in the collective bargaining agreement (I bet Roger Goodell didn't know it was in there) that would have threatened the trade and quite possibly put it in jeopardy when the Browns were on the clock at 4:33 p.m. Saturday, trying to send the pick to New Jersey.
Here's what happened: When the Jets went to work out Sanchez at Mission Viejo High in California on March 24, he was so impressive and cast such a presence on the practice field that Ryan turned to Tannenbaum and said: "This is our guy. Let's go get him.'' Easier said than done, of course.
By last Friday, the Jets were having mostly fruitless discussions with the Rams, picking second, and Browns, picking fifth. The Rams wanted a ransom to move out of No. 2. At five, the Browns didn't want quite so much, but there was the matter of three players Cleveland liked. And the matter of not doing anything until Cleveland was on the clock, because if Sanchez wasn't there, the Jets weren't interested in moving from their pick at 17 to five. Given that the Jets didn't want to include their 2010 first-round pick in the deal, they had to get creative and throw in the three players coach Mangini wanted: Elam, defensive lineman Kenyon Coleman and backup quarterback Brett Ratliff.
Elam was the apple of Mangini's eye in the deal. In March, the Browns signed Elam, a restricted free-agent, to a one-year, $1.5-million offer sheet. The Jets, loaded with safeties, still matched it. And last Friday, when Tannenbaum and Mangini were talking conditional trade, Elam's name was front and center. He'd have to be in the deal for it to work for the Browns.
Not so fast, Aponte said. She remembered an obscure article in the CBA -- Article XIX of Veteran Free Agency, Section 3 (h). It said: "If a Club exercises its right of first refusal and matches an offer sheet, that club may not trade that player to the Club that submitted the offer sheet for at least one calendar year, unless the player consents to such trade.''
Aponte told Mangini the consent would have to be in writing. One problem: Now it was Friday, and the Jets had to finesse this very carefully. In March, Elam signed the offer sheet with Cleveland; he thought he'd be a Brown. A week later, the Jets matched the offer, and now he thought he was a Jet for good. So now the Jets had to find some face-saving way to ask Elam to sign this formal document approving a trade ... a trade that might not happen.
Late Friday, Ryan got on the phone with Elam and explained the lay of the land. The conversation went something like: We don't know if this is going to happen, but we know you had some interest in going to the Browns in March, and now we've got Jim Leonhard and Kerry Rhodes at safety, and you probably have a better chance to start in Cleveland, and you are Eric's kind of guy, but if the trade doesn't happen you've got to come back to us, and you're going to be a great player for us ...
Elam thought about it, then told Tannenbaum he'd do it. The Jets e-mailed Elam a PDF attachment with the correct language. He signed it and faxed it to the Jets' offices in Florham Park, N.J. The Jets re-faxed it to the league office, knowing that if they made the deal with the Browns on the clock, this was one technicality that, were it not satisfied to the league's approval, the trade could get knocked down.
At the same time, the Jets knew the Washington Redskins would be watching. If the Redskins knew they were doing this deal without a 2010 first-round pick included in the compensation package, Washington could jump in while New York struggled to make the deal, and the 'Skins could get Sanchez. A longshot, but a chance.
On Saturday, the draft got to Cleveland's pick. The Browns were set on moving down, and they pulled the trigger. The deal got approved by the league when it looked over the paperwork and saw Elam's signature on the legal document approving the trade.
And now you know ... the rest of the story.
One final note on the Jets: Tannenbaum told me Sunday night that running back Shonn Greene, whom New York traded three picks to get at the top of the third round, "was far and away the best player available'' when day two began, and the back his coaching staff wanted. We won't know if Sanchez is going to make it for a few years, obviously. But I like teams that love players and, within reason, break the bank to get them. I like the moves.
Let's look briefly -- and in a few cases not-so-briefly -- at nuggets for the 32 teams (click team name to see complete draft class):
•Arizona. Stunned by the loss of running back Donald Brown to Indianapolis ... Can Beanie Wells stay healthy and productive as a 233-pound plowhorse between the tackles, the kind of back the Cardinals so desperately want? ... I like instinctive safety Rashad Johnson with the 95th pick.
• Atlanta. Needed strong up-the-middle help on defense. Got good value in 299-pound DT Peria Jerry at 24, and inconsistent safety William Moore (55th overall) might be a replacement for the waived (Clubhouse) Lawyer Milloy ... Biggest impact guy will be felt opening day: tight end Tony Gonzalez, acquired Thursday for a second-round pick in 2010. Thomas Dimitroff overpaid for a 33-year-old tight end in year 13, but Dimitroff has proven in 14 months on the job that he doesn't care what you and I and the man in the moon think about things like Sam Baker picked too high at 21, or a two for Gonzalez. He just gets the right players and doesn't beat himself up too much over the compensation.
• Baltimore. First two picks were gems for a team that rarely blows the high picks. How do you not love Michael Oher at 23, even with part of the organization frothing at the mouth over the prospect of sitting at Baltimore's original pick in the round and taking Rey Maualuga? ... Ravens have the highest-motor DT in football, Kelly Gregg. Now they just might have a DE to rival Jared Allen for motor -- Utah's Paul Kruger, a first-round prospect on one draft board I know of.
• Buffalo. Strange, I thought. Needing a tackle with the loss of Jason Peters in trade to Philly, the Bills really liked Eben Britton (who, from the sound of things, really likes himself, as you'll see in Quote of the Week a few notes south of here), yet put a guard/tackle from Louisville, Eric Wood, over him in an upset ... I like Aaron Maybin, but he didn't have a long apprenticeship at Penn State, starting only a year ... Mystified they didn't take a tackle in eight picks over the weekend.
• Carolina. GM Marty Hurney used to cover the Redskins when Bobby Beathard was the GM and traded the next year's first-round pick every year. Hurney's now on a two-year streak of doing the same. Last year, Jeff Otah; excellent value. This year, Everette Brown, a smallish rush end. We shall see ... I like the Syracuse fullback, 246-pound Tony Fiammetta, probably the best blocking back in college football last year, at pick 128. DeAngelo Williams might be better this year with Fiammetta clearing the way.
• Chicago. Traded out of day one and took a bunch of guys. Failed to get Anquan Boldin in trade, but didn't try very hard. Forget who's in the nine-man class. The Bears' draft is Jay Cutler.
• Cincinnati. Hard to knock this draft. Impossible, quite frankly. Might be the most starry top four since Hunley-Koch-Blados-Esiason of 1984. Andre Smith is a potential star left tackle who needs coaching and someone to lean on him ... Maualuga is the best tackler in the draft and shouldn't have been there when the Bengals picked at 38 ... Michael Johnson, as inconsistent a player as this draft featured, is a pass-rush-prospect steal at 70 ... Chase Coffman could play early as a second TE for Carson Palmer. Nice day for the Bengals.
• Cleveland. Saved $7-million or so in annual cap room by dropping from 5 to 17, which could buy a Braylon Edwards extension or a rich free-agent contract with another player ... Alex Mack will be a solid 10-year center ... Two receivers in the second round will keep Edwards honest. Or should ... Now, judging the trade: Tough call. I had one GM say it was a rout for the Jets, another said the Browns won. Not to cop out, but we need time to see how the Browns did. The Browns win, in my opinion, if Abram Elam becomes a solid starter (he should) and if Kenyon Coleman becomes a solid part of the defensive-line rotation (he should). And Mangini loves Brett Ratliff. He's given the kid one NFL chance, and now he's giving him another.
• Dallas. A draft only Mel Kiper could love. Who knows these guys? Sounds like a special-teams jamboree in San Antonio this summer.
•Denver. I got the feeling Denver was a kid who got $25 from Granny for his birthday, ran out of the house and said, "I better spend this before the old lady tells me to put some in the bank.'' ... Talked to Josh McDaniels, who was clear that "we felt like we had three first-round picks, not two.'' What he meant was taking a 5-9 cornerback Alphonso Smith at No. 37 and dealing next year's first-round pick to get it. Randy Cross has told me a few times what a special player Smith might be. We'll see; Denver had him graded the best corner on the board ... What will always shadow McDaniels, of course, is using the first of two first-round picks on a running back with crying needs across the board on defense. "I've learned the hard way that running backs are hard to come by,'' said McDaniels, "and we thought he was the best one.'' I know this: Robert Ayers, a one-year starting end at Tennessee, had better be able to rush the passer ... I also know this: I do not like a team trading draft picks one year out very often, and this team traded two of next year's stash.
• Detroit. Never, ever, ever have I heard a fan base boo the prospect quarterback and wild cheer a linebacker who doesn't sack the quarterback ... Give the glib Matthew Stafford a chance. Spent some time with him in February, and he's a likeable guy with a Dan Fouts arm. The money is stupid, of course, but we're judging players, not salaries ... Getting tight end Brandon Pettigrew has just turned Stafford from a 56-percent passer to 61.
• Green Bay. B.J. Raji's the best anchor for a 3-4 in this draft. I don't trust Clay Matthews, but we'll see. Why? He walked onto the USC campus weighing 161 pounds. Is his frame fine, adding 80 pounds in such a short time?
• Houston. Durability questions would have made me steer clear of Brian Cushing at 15. But I love the second- and fifth-round picks. Connor (Mike Vrabel) Barwin should be a good situational rusher with his physical gifts, while fifth-rounder James Casey, a tight end from Rice, is as hard-trying a kid as this draft featured. He might be Owen Daniels Jr.
• Indianapolis. Hallelujah! The Colts took a beefy DT high in the draft. Someone explain why USC line leader Fili Moala is still sitting there at 56. Great value pick there, but that shouldn't surprise you with Bill Polian behind the curtain.
• Jacksonville. If you're going to play smashmouth, and your line stunk last year, and you've just paid your smallish bowling ball of a back big money to be your back of the future, then no, I have no problem with going Eugene Monroe-Eben Britton 1-2 in the draft. None.
• Kansas City. Scott Pioli's first draft was like the Patriots' first few with Pioli running the scouting department in New England: blue-collar players who love the game and will work at it. Tyson Jackson may not lead the league in sacks (he had 18.5 in three starting seasons at LSU), but he will lead the team in "yes sirs'' and will play all four spots on the defensive line. I got a good feeling being around the Chiefs for a couple of days, but I don't know if that means they'll be a hustling 6-10 team or a hustling 10-6 team.
• Miami. Love Pat White; great pick to run the option. (And stop the silliness, Dolphins, about White having a good shot to beat out Chad Henne as the successor to Chad Pennington. I'm not buying it for a second.) One of the most intriguing prospects of this, or any, draft came in Round 4: 6-4 corner Sean Smith from Utah ... One guy I'd watch closely in camp is Brian Hartline, the Round 4 receiver, because he played special-teams for three years at Ohio State, played slot receiver and split receiver. He's a fascinating prospect.
• Minnesota.Percy Harvin needs the best babysitter in the great north woods. Brad Childress' fate may rest with whether Harvin keeps his head on straight ... Phil Loadholt, the biggest, baddest tackle on the board, also has NFL people who don't trust him to be an Eagle Scout, but he should walk onto the team as the starting right tackle.
• New England. I was told last night the Patriots loved Eric Wood, the Louisville center who projected to center or guard in the NFL, but if that's the case, they could have had him at 26 instead of trading out of the round for yet more picks. So I remain mystified about the continued trading rather than picking ... Brandon Tate's a poor man's Percy Harvin, with the same off-field question marks, picked almost exactly two rounds later than Harvin ... I go into the Patriots in more depth later, but I thought it was a strange draft, almost drunk with the power of moving back. The one reason you can never kill this team about drafting is it's taken a lot of no-name guys high over the years and many have become cornerstones.
• New Orleans. Draft was crippled by trades for Jonathan Vilma and Jeremy Shockey. If they fail, or if they're mediocre, this draft stinks, and their team does too ... I've never seen so many teams so in love with a corner who runs 4.53 as is the case with Malcolm Jenkins. "Great football player,'' I kept hearing in the last couple of weeks. Most football people think he'll eventually be a free safety, maybe even by 2010.
•New York Giants. Sorry. I still can't figure why, with five picks in the top three rounds, they didn't go get Anquan Boldin or Braylon Edwards. Giants fans have every right to have the attitude "In Jerry We Trust'' about GM Jerry Reese, and they'll just have to trust that Hakeem Nicks or the tall drink of water from Cal Poly, Ramses Barden, is going to be a go-to guy for Eli Manning by October. How many times does that happen in the NFL with rookie receivers? Not many.
•New York Jets. Two-person draft. I don't buy it's a desperate team with a desperate GM making a desperate move, getting Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene and saying goodbye to the rest of the draft profligately. Quarterbacks are expensive. And Greene might have been the highest-rated back on the Jets' board, from what I hear. (Sounds impossible, but stranger things have happened on NFL draft boards.)
•Oakland. Darrius Heyward-Bey got picked seventh overall because of his speed. Period. To me, taking him this high is the kind of classic combine mistake teams made 15 years ago, pushing a player way up because he's an incredible specimen, not because he's a great football player. Heyward-Bey is a player with questionable hands and tremendous athleticism who should have been chosen 27, not 7.
•Philadelphia. Now, no one knows if Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy are going to be players. But getting them at 19 and 53, respectively, constitutes the best value picking of any team on day one of the draft, as happened last year with DeSean Jackson in the middle of Round 2.
•Pittsburgh. Utilitarian draft, with Ziggy Hood coming in to be a starter, eventually, at end instead of 4-3 tackle ... Kraig Urbik (now, doesn't that sounds like a Steeler offensive-line name?) is a brawler who might have to play guard after a tackle career at Wisconsin ... And after losing Nate Washington in free-agency, Steelers picked his deep-threat heir in Mike Wallace of Ole Miss.
•San Diego. I was like everyone else -- Larry English at 16? Crazy -- until I got on the phones Saturday night and kept hearing, "Great pick.'' Imagine if Shawne Merriman comes back healthy, and this team has Merriman, English and Shaun Phillips coming off the various edges.
•San Francisco. For a team that hasn't picked a great receiver since Terrell Owens, Michael Crabtree's a welcome choice. He's 6-2, 215 pounds ("a faster Boldin,'' one personnel man told me last week) and he finally gives the 49ers some respect in the passing game ... Glen Coffee may play more than you think if Frank Gore can't hold up.
•Seattle. The Seahawks had an odd weekend. They must really not trust Leroy Hill to take the tag off him and essentially make him a free-agent. I love the deal for Denver's one in 2010; it showed me Tim Ruskell isn't as worried about his job as others are for him ... And Aaron Curry is a bulletproof pick. He should lead that defense for years.
•St. Louis. I can't be happier for the fans of the Rams that this team did the right thing and took a 10-year tackle. Why? The tackle situation was as bad as any single position for any team in football, and getting Jason Smith to replace Orlando Pace was essential ... James Laurinaitis over Rey Maulaluga at LB? It has to do with the Rams' belief that the Ohio State kid can better run a defense. I'll be writing about the Rams' weekend more in-depth at the top of Tuesday's column, but I think it was a positive weekend for St. Louis.
•Tampa Bay. Josh Freeman is almost a one-man draft. That's how excited the Bucs are to have him. The one thing the Bucs had to have out of this spring was a quality quarterback. They failed to get Jay Cutler. That put the pressure on them to go get Freeman. I'll write more about the Bucs tomorrow also, but I liked them identifying what they wanted and going and getting him.
•Tennessee. Not a huge Kenny Britt fan. Not at all. But he's a big receiver and Mike Heimerdinger must think he can get something out of him early; I thought a center for the long term would have been smarter ... The pick I like better is Sen'Derrick Marks, to replace the lost Albert Haynesworth. He just needs to be in the rotation with the other terrific young middle-cloggers Jeff Fisher and Mike Reinfeldt have gathered.
•Washington. Well, Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato were telling the truth after all -- no 2010 first-rounder would go in any deal for Mark Sanchez. I like Brian Orakpo, if he's playing hard every snap.
"Every team that passed on me will regret it for the rest of the history of their franchise.''--Tackle Eben Britton, drafted 39th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Chicago and Dallas are in the clear. Their first picks came after No. 39. But all you other teams out there, all 29, you're in big, big trouble. Huge trouble. When Eben Britton speaks, we all quake because Britton is the best tackle in the history of football, and when he gets out there on the field, boy, he's going to put Munoz and Ogden and Shell to shame.
Come to think of it, the Jaguars passed on Britton, too. So Jack Del Rio, beware. You've got a guy in your locker room determined to make a fool of you.
"Countless hours in the weight room. Countless hours in the cafeteria.''-- First-round pick Aaron Curry of the Seahawks, describing how he was able to put on much-needed weight at Wake Forest.
"I am ashamed and humiliated ... I realize I cannot be the husband, father, son and citizen I want to be until I overcome my addiction. It is my highest priority, and will be the toughest challenge of my life, but I am going to get the help I need to achieve a complete recovery.''-- Former NFL receiver Jimmy Smith, in a remarkable mea culpa after his arrest on drug charges Thursday. You don't often hear or read players be as humble and full of regret after screwing up as badly as Smith did. I applaud him, and those who wrote the statement ... if, indeed, he meant what he's quoted as saying.
"Should I be near a phone the next time the Raiders pick? Maybe they'll pick me.''-- Tweet from sahyder1 to me on Twitter at 9:09 p.m. ET Saturday, following the Raiders' reach for wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey at 7 and the strangest pick of day one, safety Michael Mitchell, at No. 47 overall. How strange? Mitchell was the 73rd-rated safety on ESPN draftnik Mel Kiper's board. Not the 73rd-rated player.
The writer, Ayaz Hyder of Piscataway, N.J., is the first weekly Twitter award-winner in MMQB. Follow me and you might be next. That's a threat.
The Twitter thing is going well. I have no idea what the value is to my company or to me, but it's fun, and the 6,490 Twitterers as of Sunday night came up with some good questions. Not very painful to respond, either. Sorry for all of you trying to get to me in the 24-hour period from 4 p.m. Saturday to 4 p.m. Sunday. Writing. Reporting. Monitoring. Traveling.
Maybe Darrius Heyward-Bey is Cliff Branch. Maybe he's Plaxico Burress. But before he ran a 4.28 second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, he was a second- or third-round receiver on most NFL draft boards. He could turn into a great NFL receiver and be an exception to the rule of guys who fly up the board because of great combine performances. But the likelihood is the Raiders picked him way too high. He's a big, athletically gifted receiver with mediocre hands who can run past corners. That should have translated to a far better college career than he had. In three seasons at Maryland, Heyward-Bey had four 100-yard receiving games. He never had more than five touchdown catches in a season. His annual numbers:
The Raiders clearly reached. They have to hope he's the kind of guy who rises to a challenge rather than shrinks from it.
Never too early to get started on the 2010 draft. Here are the teams that have acquired extra picks for next year's draft, and where they are in the draft:
1. San Francisco (from Carolina, for choosing DE Everette Brown)
2. Seattle (from Denver, for choosing CB Alphonso Smith)
1. New England (from Jacksonville, for choosing DB Derek Cox)
2. New England (from Tennessee, for choosing TE Jared Cook)
1. Philadelphia (from Seattle, for choosing WR Deon Butler)
Fifth Round(No 2010 fourth-round picks traded)
1. Philadelphia (from New Orleans, for choosing P Thomas Morstead)
2. Detroit (from Denver, for choosing QB Tom Brandstater)
1. Carolina (from Oakland, for choosing TE Brandon Myers)
2. Buffalo (from Philadelphia, in the Jason Peters trade)
3. Philadelphia (from Indianapolis, for choosing P Pat McAfee)
1. Miami (from Kansas City, for choosing TE Jake O'Connell)
Most picks in 2010, as of this morning: New England, 9; Philadelphia, 9.
Fewest picks in 2010, as of this morning: Denver, 5.
So I stayed at the Kansas City Marriott at Country Club Plaza over the weekend. I was pleased when I made the reservation because of the ridiculously low rate --$129 a night, which I think is the lowest rate I've had at any hotel since the training-camp trip last August. A city Marriott for $129 a night? Unheard of. Great tip for bean-counters in a bad economy, everywhere.
Here's the problem: The hotel was a jobsite. Still is. The lobby Friday featured the thudding and destruction of a major construction project. It was impossible to sit in the lobby without having your senses destroyed. I'd have stayed here anyway because I don't hang around in hotel lobbies, and the rooms were quiet. But my question is: Why doesn't a hotel chain as good as Marriott let potential hotel guests know that they'll be staying in a construction zone? Then you'd totally understand the mess you're heading into.
In the lobby Friday, I commented about the massive mess to one of the bellmen, but he couldn't hear me because of the construction noise.
One other note from the road:
Changing planes at DFW on Sunday, I used the men's room near one of the American gates. I walked into one of the toilet stalls with the automatic flushers.
WHOOOOOSH. I closed the door to the stall and sat down.
Three more times I heard the same WHOOOOOSH as I sat there and minded my own business.
Of course, no flush when I get up and leave the stall. Gotta love technology.
In the midst of trying to figure out how to restock the team of the decade, Bill Belichick took time out to mail a very nice note and donation to the Dr. Z benefit, which is now three short weeks away. He wrote: "My best wishes for a successful fund-raising effort in support of Paul Zimmerman, one of the great keepers of the football flame. Sincerely, Bill Belichick.''
We have the auction site up and running. It's www.DrZ.cmarket.com.
And we have one grand auction item up on the site we really are proud of. Private donors are making one of the great Super Bowl trips you could imagine possible for next season. Imagine flying with a friend, sib or spouse to Miami for the game, playing a round of golf (if you'd like) at a terrific course like Doral in South Florida, going to a Super Bowl party (sounds like that'll be my job Saturday night), and then going to the game on Sunday and flying home Monday. Please, please, please tell your friends to log on and try to bid for this. I can guarantee a good time will certainly be had.
To recap, SI pro football writing legend Paul Zimmerman suffered three strokes in late November and is currently unable to read, write or speak coherently. We're trying to jump-start his therapy and road back to writing one day, hopefully, by raising money to allow him to undergo some aggressive therapy in Michigan and New Jersey. Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Jets coach Rex Ryan will star at our fund-raising event, a Pro Football 2009 preview dinner/roundtable/auction May 18 (open bar 6:15 p.m., dinner 7 p.m.) at Mayfair Farms in West Orange, N.J. (Hey: Maybe Ryan will bring his handsome new son ... er, quarterback. Name of Sanchez. Just kidding.)
Tickets are $225 apiece, or $1,500 for a table of eight, and are available by sending a check, payable to Dr. Z/Nothing is Impossible Foundation'' to:
Dr. Z/Nothing is Impossible Foundation21 Pine St.Suite 202Rockaway, N.J., 07866
All tickets are tax-deductible. Donations may be sent to that address as well. For further information, please e-mail me in the box that comes with this column, or Barbara Neibart at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's just a short time until the event. Please get involved, either by coming to Mayfair Farms that evening, or by bidding on an auction item or two. Thanks.
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of draft weekend:
a. Someone in Washington is going to have to convince Jason Campbell he's the Redskins' quarterback of the future.
b. Hey, ESPN: Who is Eugene Monroe, and who is Jason Smith?
c. Really, really good story by ESPN's Rachel Nichols on Michael Oher and the altruistic goodness of his adopted family.
d. Noted on our draft blog: UConn had more players picked on day one (four) than Florida, Oklahoma, Michigan and Penn State (three) combined.
e. I'm pretty confident there's nothing to the story of the new contract for Matt Cassel, unless the two most plugged-in people to the story (other than Cassel) lied independently within five minutes of each other Saturday afternoon.
f. The Mid-American Conference has first-, second- and third-team all-conference teams. Ohio University safety Michael Mitchell did not make any of the three last fall. The Raiders used the 15th pick of the second round on Mitchell.
g. I asked three GMs Saturday and Sunday where they had Mitchell on their boards. One said he had a seventh-round grade. Two said he had a free-agent grade.
h. Mitchell is the highest-drafted player of this decade not to have been invited to the combine.
i. You get the point. The pick of Mitchell, and where he was picked, was greeted with as much incredulity as any pick I remember. The only team clearly in competition for him was Chicago.
j. Hoping you didn't buy in Jersey, Kellen Clemens. Hope you're renting.
k. Really like the Brian Orakpo pick for Washington. He fell into the team's lap.
l. You watch: Abram Elam will make a Pro Bowl someday in Cleveland.
m. I don't think it's simply training by the agents. I think the top five picks in this draft -- Stafford, Smith, Jackson, Curry and Sanchez -- will be poster guys for what is good about the NFL. I get the feeling you don't have to force them to do or say the right thing.
n. "Prime U is not what we do. It's who we are.'' Who writes this crap for Deion Sanders? And if he thinks it up himself, what in God's name does it mean? What a pile of crap.
o. And another thing, NFL Network: If you show the Eli Manning commercial playing with the kids one more time, I'm throwing a brick through my TV. I mean, 220 times in one weekend is plenty.
p. I don't like Brian Hartline to the Dolphins in the fourth round. I love it.
q. I like Seattle's forward-thinking and all. But Mike Teel? I mean, does Seattle have a scout on the East Coast? And did he actually watch a Rutgers game the past couple of years?
r. Maybe they're just looking for Charlie Frye II.
2. I think Ken Whisenhunt is in mourning this morning. The Cards really, really wanted Donald Brown for the kind of person he is and the kind of player he will be, and Bill Polian beat them to Brown. Peyton Manning, Donald Brown. That's an Eagle Scout convention right there.
3. I think -- no, I know -- that it's no lock Braylon Edwards opens the season with Cleveland. The Browns want to see how he takes to the new regime, how hard he works in the offseason and how he fits into Brian Daboll's offense. No coincidence that the Browns took two receivers in the second round. If Edwards doesn't get on board, I doubt the Browns will make him a rich man when his contract is up after next year.
4. I think the Patriots' draft was ... well, uninspired. Keep in mind, we all said the same thing about Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Matt Light and Logan Mankins. But it was almost like the Patriots lost a guy (Percy Harvin? Brandon Pettigrew? Larry English?) they liked right above their first-round pick, then just started dumping, and by the time they picked, they were down to the Patrick Chungs of the world at 34.
That pick was odd. They've got a pair of 25-year-old safeties, James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather, they like very much. Is it possible they picked Chung to be mostly a special-teams demon for a year or two?
Except for well-regarded cornerback Darius Butler, the Patriots four second-rounders were greeted with shoulder shrugs around the league. I really like Brandon Tate, warts and all, because he's probably the best returner in the draft, and if he screws up one time with his poor personal track record, the Patriots can just cut him. But the upside on him -- as it might have been with Harvin -- is big when you've got such a big cushion because of all the extra draft picks. I think what I liked most about New England's draft is that the Patriots, for the second year in a row in 2010, are scheduled to have four picks in the first two rounds.
5. I think in the interest of fairness in advertising, here's how I fared in my Sports Illustrated mock draft (wasn't that a beautiful design and layout and gatefold presentation in the magazine?), finalized last Sunday:
a. I had nine direct hits out of 32 picks (assuming you count Josh Freeman to the Bucs; I had Freeman to Tampa as the 19th pick, and the Bucs moved to 17 to take him), and 27 of the 32 first-rounders somewhere in the round.
b. My misses: Larry English at 16, Eric Wood at 28, Kenny Britt at 30, Beanie Wells at 31, Evander Hood at 32. Guys I forecasted in Round 1 who went in Round 2: Connor Barwin 17, LeSean McCoy 21, Rey Maualuga 26, Eben Britton 28 (I believed in you, man! Don't be mad at me!), Alphonso Smith 29, Max Unger 30.
c. Pick I was most proud of: Tyson Jackson, at 3 to Kansas City. I'm sure I'm missing some mock out there, but I didn't see anyone other than me putting Jackson three before Thursday. I was on pins-and-needles around pick 11 and 12, hoping for Malcolm Jenkins and Brian Cushing to go 14-15, because I knew how much the Saints and Texans wanted Jenkins and Cushing, respectively, and luckily they stayed on the board.
d. Pick that ought to get me fired: Connor Barwin 17 to the Jets. I tried to hit a home run because I know Rex Ryan loved him ... but no one loved this projection that much.
e. Pick that worked out ... sort of: LeSean McCoy to the Eagles. I had the Pitt running back going to Philly at 21 because I knew they loved his hands, and a back with hands was a must for the Iggles entering the draft. He did go to Andy Reid -- 32 picks later, in Round 2.
f. Now I know how Paul Zimmerman felt over the years. "It's torture,'' he'd tell me, year after year, trying to get the mock as close to on the mark as he could. I saw how he worked it, starting at the league meetings in March and tirelessly calling every team, finding someone on each team who would give him one or two nuggets to point him in a direction.
But here's how tough it is: Zim had five direct hits last year, and I know for a fact he worked it almost daily for a month. It's just so hard to get right, because as Zim used to say: "One team making one pick you never figured screws up the whole thing.'' This year, who had the Jets getting Sanchez at five, or the Chargers pegging English at 16, or the Ravens moving away from Rey Maualuga and trading up to 23, unexpectedly, to get Oher?
g. Zim, please come back. You can have the mock back next year. I just borrowed it for a year. It's your franchise.
6. I think it was a pleasure to share quarters Saturday at the Chiefs' draft with old friend Bob Gretz (bobgretz.com is one of the underrated football-knowledge and football-opinion sites on the 'net, and Gretz is one of the most thoughtful writer/broadcasters I know). We were sitting there watching the nine first-round picks being introduced before the draft, and as the camera panned the crowd packing three levels of the Radio City Music Hall, Gretz said what I wished I'd said: "Look at that! Look at it! The NFL is amazing -- there's not even a game going on, and the place is packed, and millions like us are watching like it's some huge event.''
Year after year, I say the same thing (actually, I stole this from a smart man in the league): The draft is the fourth-biggest pro sport in America, just behind the NFL, baseball and the NBA. It's bigger than the NHL.
7. I think the Dolphins could be stealing a big exec from the Red Sox any day now -- Sox chief operating officer Mike Dee --to be their CEO. Bill Parcells, the not-so-closeted Red Sox-a-holic, and Dee will get along just fine if the subject around the water cooler is Papelbon instead of Chad Pennington. I inquired about Dee to the Dolphins over the weekend. I thought the "no comment'' was telling. I hear if he goes, Dee will have nothing to do with the football side, but everything to do with ratcheting up the interest in the Dolphins on the business side.
8. I think the Vikings easily took the biggest risks on draft weekend, picking all-purpose threat Percy Harvin at 22 and tackle Phil Loadholt at 54. Foxsports.com reported Harvin tested positive for marijuana use at the scouting combine, which would mean he enters the NFL with one strike against him on the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Loadholt had off-field issues too, getting arrested for suspicion of DUI/disorderly conduct.
Minnesota VP Rick Spielman said of Harvin, "When we evaluated him just on football between the lines, he was definitely a top 10 pick.''
Well, of course he was. Everyone could see that. Where you get in trouble is taking risks on guys when the risk-reward ratio is high Now, if you're New England, and you've already got a great team without the holes of Minnesota, and you'd be able to stomach a big mistake there, I can understand taking the chance. I'm surprised the Vikings took it at 22.
9. I think I'm scratching my head at the fall from grace of two players: cornerback Ellis Hobbs in New England and linebacker Leroy Hill in Seattle. Hobbs went to Philadelphia for two fifth-round picks; Hill had the franchise tag removed from him Sunday by Seattle GM Tim Ruskell, making him a free-agent.
Hobbs is a gutsy, feisty little corner, a confident kid who gave the Patriots some good games covering top receivers. But the Patriots are a totally bottom-line group, and with keepers Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite making the team last year, and Darius Butler coming in Saturday, that's three cornerbacks picked in the first, second and fourth rounds of the past two drafts. Bill Belichick figures youth will be served, but I like that acquisition for Philly.
Now in Seattle, the loss of Hill will free up $8.3 million in cap room unless he takes a lesser contract. I hear Hill is likely to move on, particularly with Aaron Curry sure to dwarf his salary.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I am so ticked off I missed Zack Grienke on Friday night. What a great story -- he threw a three-hitter to beat Detroit (and the kid from West Orange, Rick Porcello) to go to 4-0. The story of the month in baseball, with nothing even close for second place: Grienke. In 29 innings, he's struck out 36 and given up zero earned runs.
b. And the Royals drew 36,363 to the refurbished Kauffman Stadium. Good for them.
c. Was that you, Zack, in the Classic Cup on the Plaza for breakfast Saturday morning? If so, a lot of us left you alone on purpose.
d. By the way, thanks to two Tweeters for steering me to the Classic Cup. Great pulse-of-the-Plaza breakfast spot.
e. Mariano Rivera's career blown saves against Boston: 12. Mariano Rivera's career blown saves against the other 28 teams in baseball: 47.
f. Wow. Did you see the straight steal of home by Jacoby Ellsbury Sunday night? I can't remember the last one of those I saw. I kept thinking, Jackie Robinson!
g. Coffeenerdness: Underrated coffee, always, comes from the French press. Had it Saturday, and even though it always comes out a little muddy at the bottom of the cup, it's like Espresso Junior.
h. Good to spend the weekend around you, Ken Fost. You are Vasco de Gama, a true explorer.
i. And great to have you home, Jack Bowers. You've got a little surprise, and I mean little, coming from your beloved St. Louis Cardinals in the mail.
j. I do believe it might be time to throttle the season down for a while. Talk about a never-ending campaign. Have a good week.