Last week, I spent time in St. Louis before the draft and in Kansas City during the draft. (By the way, I wasn't in the Chiefs' draft room, as a paper in Chiefland reported. Barack Obama couldn't get in the Chiefs' draft room with Scott Pioli running things now. But I was in the building with my good buddy Bob Gretz.) I wrote about the Chiefs for Sports Illustrated this week, but I haven't done much with the Rams, so I wanted to give you a few thoughts here before the draft is in the rearview mirror for them.
Put simply, I really like what the Rams did, particularly in selecting Baylor tackle Jason Smith in the first round. And I applaud Billy Devaney, the St. Louis GM who is in an interesting and uncomfortable position there. The team might be sold, he's leasing a home, and his future is anything but secure. The best thing he could have done for Billy Devaney was to have picked Mark Sanchez, which a large chunk of St. Louis wanted him to do. And he would have been justified in doing so because of Sanchez's talent and charisma and the fact that Marc Bulger might be on his last starting legs.
But Devaney went boring, taking the tackle.
"I don't care if I screwed up in picking the tackle No. 2,'' Devaney told me. "I was tired of seeing our quarterback get killed. I don't care if we give up 50 points a game, I'm not going to sit around and watch our quarterback get abused the way he did last year and the way he would have if we didn't address the offense line.
"I understand and I appreciate our fans who say, 'Go get the quarterback. He could be a franchise quarterback. How many times are you in position to get an elite quarterback' They're right. But how many times are you in position to get an elite left tackle? You can't get one down the line in the draft. You can't get one in free-agency; they're never available. Plus, I really believe, like our coach [Steve Spagnuolo], that the personality of your team revolves around a big, tough, physical offensive line.''
I said this before the draft: There is no team with a worse position group in the league than the Rams at tackle. They have got Alex Barron, who has never fulfilled anything close to the expectations he brought with him as a first-round pick in 2005 and who will probably be allowed to walk when he becomes a free agent after this season. That was the only pure tackle on the roster before Saturday's draft. That's why a tackle was essential. That's why three tackles wouldn't have been overkill in the draft for the Rams.
If Sanchez had gone to the Rams, I think he would have become David Carr. Must be a terrible thing for Carr, by the way. He gets picked No. 1 in the draft, and what he's remember for most is getting sacked -- 208 times in his first four seasons. He never led the league in anything in those four seasons, other than being sacked. Three times in those four years he led the NFL in times sacked. But that's what the Rams would have been with Sanchez there.
Picking Smith gives the team a chance to try to rebuild a bad offensive line. I couldn't agree with their pick more.
Did you wonder, like I did, why the Bucs, set on taking Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman with their first-round pick, paid the Browns a sixth-rounder for the privilege of moving up two spots in the round.
Blame the Mel-Kiperization of the draft world.
"A lot of mock drafts had Denver taking Josh Freeman,'' Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik said the other night. "I thought paying a sixth-rounder was a small price to pay for insurance to make sure we got our guy.''
Dominik told me the fact that Raheem Morris was a one-year assistant at K-State before returning to the Bucs last season was a key part of Tampa Bay falling in love with the kid. "We got tremendous feedback from Raheem on him,'' said Dominik, "plus we met him and wanted to get answers to questions like: 'Was he a self-starter? Was he a big film guy? Was he a worker?' The answers came back yes, yes, yes.''
Now onto your e-mail:
• I DON'T THINK THERE'S ANYTHING TO IT. From Aaron Brochard of Phoenix: "Please tell me why, in the economic times we're in, Roger Goodell would consider having the Super Bowl overseas? I get that the average fan doesn't go to the big game, but that's still lost revenue for the United States and hundreds of employees/businesses. Love the weekly articles.''
Aaron, I don't think the NFL is considering going overseas with the game. I think the story that came out was a case of someone in the NFL saying that someday it's not out of the realm of possibility that the game could go to London or Germany. I don't think that day is soon. Roger Goodell acknowledged as much.
• THAT'S A GOOD LINE, CHAD. From Chad Short of Dallas: "Britney Spears' father, Jamie Spears, was able to get control of Britney due to her self-destruction. Are there any grounds for the NFL to do the same thing with the Oakland Raiders? At some point someone needs to step in and say enough's enough.''
Well, I think a lot of Raider fans share your pessimism. I do know this: There's going to be incredible pressure on Darius Heyward-Bey to produce, and produce early, because not only will the eyes of Raider Nation be on the guy, but he's also got Michael Crabtree, the best receiver in this draft, playing across the bay.
• YOU'RE REACHING, I THINK. From Jason Coppola of Greenwich, Conn.: "I am coming to you for a bit of clarification. In the third round, the Giants traded up to the Eagles slot and picked 6-foot-6 wide receiver Ramses Barden. I am wondering why the Eagles would allow their division rival to take their spot and select a potential clone of Plaxico Burress? Did the Eagles even consider this when they traded picks or do you see it as a reach pick for the Giants?''
The Eagles, I'm sure, didn't know who the Giants were going to pick. Even if they did, I doubt they'd have been very concerned to see a receiver from Cal Poly go to a division rival. Not that I'm saying Barden can't play. But I just don't think if you're the Eagles you're thinking about that when you're acquiring an extra fifth-round pick just for trading down six slots in the round. If you're the Eagles, you're thinking you could get the same player at 91 that you'd have been taking at 85, and it means you can pay the same player less money because you're taking him six slots lower. It's the way the Eagles do business.
• INTERESTING THOUGHT, BUT IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT THE BRONCOS DID. From Ryan Spaustat of Steamboat Springs, Colo.: "Enjoyed your article on the Matthew Stafford contract. Along those lines, do you think that finances played a part in the Broncos trade to get Alphonso Smith. Is it possible they didn't want a potential top 10 pick next year because of the cost involved?''
I don't think so. As Josh McDaniels has told me a couple of times in the past three days, Smith had a first-round grade on their board -- I think he was Denver's top-rated cornerback in the draft -- and Denver simply thought if Smith could be added and integrated alongside Champ Bailey for the next year or two, the team would be much better at corner than it was a year ago.
• A TAD FLAWED, BUT INTERESTING POINT. From Alex Martin of New Orleans: "You write: 'I've never seen so many teams so in love with a corner who runs 4.53 as is the case with Malcolm Jenkins.' Interesting way to look at it. Especially when you consider Nnamdi Asomugha ran a 4.5 40 coming out of college, too. How did he work out?''
Very well. He's the highest-paid cornerback ever. But I'd bet you a grande latte that there was more interest higher in the draft for Jenkins, who was drafted 14th overall, than there was in 2003 for Asomugha, who was drafted 31st.
• HE ENTERS THE LEAGUE WITH ONE STRIKE AGAINST HIM, THAT'S WHY. From Jeff Rich of Spring Hill, Tenn.: "I don't understand what makes Percy Harvin such a huge risk. Maybe I'm missing something, but he played three years of college ball for a coach with a reputation as one of the strictest disciplinarians in college ball, and somehow I never heard a bad word about him. Yes, I get the positive test being a strike against him and I'll concede that's an issue. But from the tone of all the articles I've read since, it's like he's a classic pain-in-the-rear troublemaker who's been nothing but a headache. If that was the case, they kept it well under wraps at Florida for three years.''
The one-strike thing is big, plus he was suspended for bumping an official in high school, was involved in a major basketball fight in high school, and missed two Florida games for what the school said were migraine headaches, which has been widely derided in the NFL community. Teams weren't sure entering the draft why he missed those two games, but they didn't buy it was for migraine headaches. Whatever, he'll have a chance to be the best offensive weapon in this draft.