Peter King: Yet again, draft provides no shortage of stories to talk about - Sports Illustrated

Yet again, draft provides no shortage of stories to talk about

Publish date:

I was in Radio City Music Hall for round one Thursday night, then went to south Florida Friday morning to report on the Dolphins and Ryan Tannehill for Sports Illustrated. Along the way, I checked in with the new face of sports in the District of Columbia, the strange draft of the Seahawks, the smart trading of Trent Baalke in San Francisco, the relative merits of taking a punter in the third round, rookie GM Les Snead treating the draft like a mutual fund in St. Louis, a controversial draft in Indianapolis (plus Jimmy Irsay's tremendous affection for me), and a general manager in Miami with a lot on his mind.

For all whose teams I didn't cover here, my apologies. Barring unforseen events in the league today (such as bounty discipline), I'll have more draft thoughts in Tuesday's column.

Where to begin? Chronologically.

Good trade by the Vikings. Not a bad trade by Cleveland.

Remember on the famous NFL Films clip when Bill Parcells is exhorting his Giants team back in the '80s by saying, "There's a reason you lift all them weights!'' And in this draft, there's a reason Cleveland built up all those draft choices entering this draft -- a league-high 13 in all.

I've been hearing GM Rick Spielman of the Vikings took advantage of a Browns team that didn't want to risk losing Trent Richardson, which is true. I've been hearing Browns GM Tom Heckert got snookered into throwing fourth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks. That's a load of crap. This is the easiest Monday Morning Quarterbacking to do (hey, that's trademarked!) after the draft.

There's no way Heckert could know what real offer Spielman had on the table. Spielman, as it turned out, had talked to Tampa Bay about the pick, but the Bucs were never seriously interested in it. But Heckert had no way of knowing that at the time. General managers making vital decisions for the long-term cannot sit there and say, "I wonder if Spielman really has something, or if he's bluffing.'' They have to make decisions on the fly. The Browns kept the top five picks of a vital draft intact and got the guy they wanted, Trent Richardson, and still had 10 picks to work with. I don't castigate Heckert. I applaud him.


To Kalil or not to Kalil. That was the question.

What it came down to for Minnesota, a team that desperately needed corners, is that the cornerback market was deeper than the tackle market -- and the tackle market had one great player in their eyes. And while I'd have gone corner-corner at the top or the draft and hoped a Bobby Massie type slipped to me in the third round, I understand why they did what they did. They went Matt Kalil at four, traded up to get safety Harrison Smith ahead of some interested teams at the bottom of the first round, and settled for Central Florida cornerback Josh Robinson at the top of the third. Hope he's got a short memory. Robinson will need it, with Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford on the schedule six times a year for the foreseeable future.

"When our coaches coached the Senior Bowl,'' Spielman told me, "they fell in love with Harrison Smith. At safety, the depth after him got really thin. So we felt that was a guy we really wanted to get where we got him. That's the point with what we did -- you've got to look at the depth at each position. Where we picked, we liked Morris Claiborne. We liked Justin Blackmon. But with Kalil, my point was, you've got to look at the depth and make your choice not only for that position but for what you think will be there at the other positions you need. And that's what it came down to for us.''

Spielman, clearly, was going to take Kalil all along. When he said in the days before the draft he was considering Claiborne, Blackmon and Kalil, he invented a market for a draft choice that should probably have had no market. That's what general managers have been trying to do since the beginning of drafts in all sports. With Spielman and the Browns, it clearly worked.


Is there any doubt the NFL will settle for nothing less than total world domination?

So you want to know what the draft is all about these days? Media, baby. All media, all the time. Check out Robert Griffin's two-hour, eight-minute media experience after being the second pick in the draft Thursday night.

I mean that: 128 minutes of doing interview after interview. Happily, apparently. I was in about the 111th minute, and he greeted me with, "Hey, I read the story in Sports Illustrated! Great stuff!'' (We put him on the cover last week, in a story I wrote.)

The roster of Griffin's interviews:

1. NFL Network.

2. ESPN.

3. The NFL's in-house interview at Radio City, heard only by fans at the draft.

4. SiriusXM NFL Radio

5. FOX Sports Radio

6. The BBC.

7. A Waco, Texas, radio station.

8. ESPN radio.

9. Redskins media conference call back to club headquarters in Ashburn, Va.

10. Redskins Nation TV.

11. Washington-area media at the draft.

12. A radio interview with Eddie George.

13. Press conference with national media at the draft.

14. Wounded Warriors on site at the draft.

15. Four brief one-on-one interviews with Washington-area media.

16. Me.

17. Nippon TV (Griffin was born in Japan, where his parents were stationed in the military. "I just want to say to all the fans -- I take pride in where I came from, Japan."

This was my favorite scene backstage at the draft. Redskins PR czar Tony Wyllie was taking Griffin from one interview to the next, and trying to make sure everyone got a little piece of him, and Nippon TV was on its fourth question when Wyllie said urgently but quietly: "Hey Japan! You said, 'Two questions!' '')

18. Armed Forces Radio.

19. Pro Football Talk.

20. Another ESPN interview.

When I got to him, I marveled that he was still able to answer questions with some thoughtfulness. "I want to be fair to everyone,'' he said. "Plus, my teammates might be watching. I want to be sure I make a good impression. Then, once this is all over, I won't have to talk about myself for a while.''

Au contraire. You've only just begun to feed the monster, young man.


Morris Claiborne is still smiling.

I met the LSU corner for the first time backstage at Radio City, and all of us who did were impressed with his sincerity, poise and emotion. He was thrilled to go to Dallas in the trade-up from 14 to six in the first round. I covered much of his story at the top of my column Friday, but what's the most fun about the draft, after all the ridiculous hype and snoozy buildup, is when a great story happens, stunningly. And Claiborne, the best corner in the draft, who no one thought had a prayer of getting beyond the fifth pick in the draft, was there for the Cowboys to pluck at six after trading. Dallas missed the playoffs last year because it couldn't play pass defense in the fourth quarter of the biggest games. And now the Cowboys have rebuilt the secondary (Claiborne, Brandon Carr) in one offseason. Claiborne was shaking with emotion talking about how his son now "is never going to want for anything. Now I'm a Cowboy ... It's ... just ...

"Amazing. Amazing. Following in the footsteps of Deion Sanders. Amazing.''


Jeff Ireland, aka "Fireland,'' puts his career on the line with an Aggie.

I first met Jeff Ireland 10 years ago this month, working on a Dallas Cowboys draft story. Owner Jerry Jones opened the process for me, and I was able to watch the Cowboys prepare for the 2002 draft on the inside, in the meetings of scouts, coaches and the front office. In so doing, I saw the respect afforded national scout Jeff Ireland. When he spoke, the room listened. So when I went to Davie, Fla., to report on the Tannehill pick, I wanted to hear the story of how Ireland got to the point where the Dolphins had only passing interest in Matt Flynn and never were a real competitor to trade up for the second pick in the draft and the chance to pick Robert Griffin III. It's because, as he explained, they liked Tannehill so much.

"I got enamored last August,'' he said, sitting in his office, the one with the framed photo of Walter Payton with his arm around Ireland the kid at a Bears training camp long ago.

But first, the elephant in the room. The fact that Ireland is public enemy No. 1 in south Florida. Ireland doesn't shy away from it. Fans flew a plane at the final home game of the 2011 season begging owner Stephen Ross to fire Ireland. There was a protest of about 30 fans outside the team's headquarters in March asking Ross to fire Ireland. But Ross, to me, was resolute about Ireland's future. "I wouldn't keep him here if I didn't think he had a good long-term future. Our draft last year was a darned good class. We have confidence this year it'll be good as well. I've got faith in Jeff.''

Said Ireland: "This too shall pass.''

I doubt that. But he went on.

"It's a little strange,'' he said of intense heat, and I didn't mean the weather. "It is what it is. I love the fact that the fans are passionate, and they want what I want -- to win. I believe what I do. I have a strong conviction in what I'm doing. I'm a meat-and-potatoes football guy, and I can handle the heat.''

Tannehill and the rest of the players, and the scouts and coaches, will see the heat. They'll feel it. As I write in the magazine this week, the new quarterback will be paying for the sins of people he doesn't know or has only recently met.

One of Ireland's points to me about Tannehill, and why he feels so good about the pick, is he put a grade on the quarterback in December and it never changed, all the way up to draft day. His scouts understood the implication. Tannehill was not only going to have to be good enough. He was going to have to be mentally tough enough to handle what was going on outside the building -- the negativity built up from a decade of chasing the Patriots and some of that time chasing the Jets, with so many draft picks blown, with the quarterback position a revolving door of (mostly) incompetence.

"They see the protesters, the negative stuff going on outside the building,'' Ireland said. "They know what's going on. It's a tough business, and the expectations never change.''

Ireland and coach Joe Philbin spoke of the plan for Tannehill, a plan no one knows exactly right now. In his office Friday afternoon, Philbin pointed to the practice fields outside and said: "Out there is where we're going to find out about Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore and David Garrard. I don't remember a master plan that said, 'Here's when Ryan's going to play.' If there is one, I was never told about it. We'll let them come to work, and the best man will win.''

The best man had better be Tannehill by sometime late this season, at the latest, unless Moore keeps riding the magic carpet he found late last season in Miami's 6-3 finish. Ireland's handling the heat well enough, but he won't be able to survive if Tannehill's not the guy.


I'll give Ryan Grigson credit: He stands firmly behind the Colts' draft, which is a trait I'd want in the guy who picks my players.

Grigson, the Colts' rookie GM, inherited a team switching to a 3-4 defense, a team that gave up 27 points a game last year. But eight of the 10 players in his first draft class play offense. The first defensive player he took, Alabama defensive tackle Josh Chapman, in the fifth round, had surgery to repair a torn ACL in January, and his status for 2012 -- at least the beginning of the season -- is murky.

Grigson did set the Indy offense up well, surrounding top pick Andrew Luck. In come the first two tight ends on their board, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, and a speed receiver, T. Y. Hilton, to help replace the missing pieces that walked out the door at the same time as Peyton Manning. At the end of the draft, late Saturday night, Grigson would have loved to see the draft fall differently for the Colts. But he had no regrets.

"I've been in a lot of draft rooms,'' Grigson said, "and I've seen people reach way down, into the bowels of the draft board, to fill a need position. Then, once they come in and get in pads and they start playing, you figure you really haven't solved the problem you needed to solve. So we targeted some [defensive] guys, but when we couldn't get them, we had players on our board we knew could help us, and help us now.

"There are teams I've followed over the years and admired. Baltimore stays true to its principles and drafts smart. I've looked up to Ozzie Newsome, and he doesn't force things, even when I'm sure he feels the temptation to fill glaring needs. Instead of emotion getting in the way, he follows his board. Look where the Ravens are. They contend every year for the Super Bowl.

"All the days you spend on the road. All the hotels, all the flights, all the workouts, all the Pro Days ... It's late at night, and I'm having my Ruby Tuesday burger somewhere, thinking I've just seen a player I really like, and you start to think about how he might fit into the board. I mean, it's night after night. You feel confident you've got the players in the right order. And then because the board falls differently, you want to change all of that? I won't do it.''

A tight end like Fleener, Grigson said, "might not come out for another three years. I'm not going to turn down a player like that, with great value staring us in the face and a quarterback who can use the tight end so well. And Allen -- the tight end's an in-vogue thing now in NFL offenses.''

Considering the Colts signed a tight end, Dominique Jones, from Reading of the Indoor Football League this spring, the need was obviously there. Time will tell if those Grigson passed on were smart decisions.

The Colts are better, obviously, with Luck and two security blankets. But unless some incumbent 4-3 defenders -- Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will be first-time outside linebackers this year after careers at end -- can make a smooth transition to the new defense, Luck's going to have to be as explosive a rookie as Cam Newton was a year ago for Indianapolis to be consistently competitive this year.

"This is not a one-day job,'' Grigson said. "I'm fortunate to have a coach and owner who trust me, and we're fortunate to have a quarterback now. We're chipping away.''

Someone was going to take a chance on Janoris Jenkins. Now you'll know why the Rams were that someone.

Les Snead shouldn't be this smart as a first-year GM.

"Draft picks are like stocks,'' Snead said after midnight Friday. "But our draft, as a whole, is sort of like a mutual fund.''

I'll translate: Let's say you have seven picks in a seven-round draft, and you're coming off a 2-14 season, and you've got needs out the wazoo. The guys you pick in the first two or three rounds are guys you have confidence that as people and players will be good long-term investments. But if you have extra picks -- the Rams had four in the top 50 -- you can afford to try to hit a home run. If you fail, it's bad -- Pacman bad. If you succeed, it's great.

The Rams went 2-14 and changed coaches, and changed general managers. When coach Jeff Fisher and Snead began scouting the roster, they saw more holes than they'd have liked -- on the defensive line, at corner, at receiver, on the offensive line and at running back. But they were able, through trades, to pick up two extra second-round picks this year and extra first-round picks in 2013 and '14. So they went about their reconstruction knowing they had a luxury others teams didn't have. With a league-high four picks in the top 45 (later, 50 when they traded down at 45 on day two of the draft), they figured they could afford to take a shot on a boom-or-bust pick.

Snead was working for the Falcons last fall when he began looking into Janoris Jenkins. The Falcons wouldn't have a first-round pick in 2012 because they used it to help acquire Julio Jones last year. So he went to Division II North Alabama, where one of the best cornerbacks in the country was playing in exile from the University of Florida because of his marijuana record in Gainesville. "I go out to watch practice one day, and there's Janoris, playing gunner on special teams,'' said Snead. "And loving it -- playing as hard as he can, competing. That's the thing about this kid: He loves football. With everything that's gone in his life, he loves football. It's just all the other things he's had to get right.''

The Rams had the 31st-rated run defense in football last year, and picked a 322-pound tackle, Michael Brockers, to help fix that in the first round. They have no big receiver -- really, no quality receiver to stretch any defense -- and so picked 6-4 Brian Quick at the top of the second round to help Sam Bradford get the ball downfield. Picking at 39, they took a shot on the problem-riddled Jenkins, and at 65, high in the third round, added Trumaine Johnson, a 6-2 corner from Montana.

"But without all the extra picks, obviously, it would have been tougher to take a chance on Janoris,'' Snead said.

The Rams have put in some safeguards and checks for Jenkins. Snead, or someone with the organization, will call him or talk to him every day about his life, which is a mess. He's had four children with three different women, and he'll have to use much of his first contract to straighten out child support and related family care things. Jenkins knows he'll be monitored by the man who holds the cornerback's life in his hands. "I look the kid in the eye and said, 'It's you and me,' '' Snead said.


I love what the 49ers did late Friday night and Saturday.

To become a great general manager, you have to be willing to take some chances. You have to be willing, on draft day, to make decisions that can impact your team for the next few years, positively or negatively. You have to have the courage of your convictions that if you trade down and lose the player you wanted in the first place, you'll be OK with that; the risk was worth it.

That happened to San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke late Friday night, as the third round was winding down. The 49ers had the 29th pick in the round, the 92nd pick overall. They liked a guard from Wake Forest named Joe Looney. Baalke knew the Niners liked Looney better than a lot of teams. He knew he might be able to get Looney in the fourth round. Might. No guarantees. And if he lost him, Baalke felt fine going with the next man on the board. So when the Colts called looking for a late-third-round pick, Baalke traded 92 to the Colts for the 97th pick and Indy's fifth-round pick in 2013.

On Saturday, at the start of round four, Baalke still thought he could wait for Looney. He dealt 97 to Miami for the Dolphins' fourth-round pick, 103 overall, plus the 196th pick and a sixth-round pick in 2013. At 103, Looney was still there. San Francisco was picking 125th. Dare Baalke wait? Carolina came calling for the 103rd pick, and Baalke dealt that pick for the 180th in this draft and a third-round pick in 2013.

Tick. Tick. Tick. No guards went from 103 to 111, and Chicago was a candidate, but the Bears passed on the line, as did Arizona at 112, and now Baalke was pressing the outer limits, and he picked up the phone and made a deal with Detroit, trading up eight spots from 125 to 117 and throwing in the Miami pick acquired an hour earlier (196) in order to draft Looney ... 25 picks after the Niners were going to take him at 92.

So at the end of the dealing, the Niners got their man. And they got this:

• The 180th pick in 2012 -- Michigan State free safety Trenton Robinson.

• Carolina's third-round pick in 2013.

• Indianapolis' fifth-round pick in 2013.

• Miami's sixth-round pick in 2013.

Along with a seventh-round pick in 2013 from Cincinnati in the Taylor Mays trade, and likely compensatory picks for losing guard Adam Snyder and wide receiver Josh Morgan in free agency, San Francisco now sits with a projected 13 picks in the 2013 draft, the most of any team in the league.

"I'd be lying to suggest building up that many picks was our intention at the start of it,'' Baalke told me Saturday night. "But we were able to turn the pick over three times and get our guy, plus five picks [four, after the deal with Detroit]. So it worked out. We're not trying to win in the court of public opinion, or win in the media. We're trying to win games over the long haul and build a team for sustained success.''

That's precisely the kind of deal that helps a team win over the long haul.


So what exactly are the Seahawks doing?

The Bruce Irvin pick at 15 in the first round wasn't that odd -- at least not to two GMs I spoke with. "He was going in the first round, guaranteed,'' one said. "He's got rare pass-rush skills.'' Now, Russell Wilson at 75? Well, believe me or don't, but one coach within 20 picks of the Seahawks said to me Sunday he'd have pushed hard for Wilson with that pick in the third round.

Clearly, though, the second-guessing with Seattle was hot and heavy through the weekend. "They just value players differently than almost every other team,'' one personnel director told me. "They get a feeling on a guy and it doesn't matter if they're the lone wolves -- they're going to take the guy no matter what anyone else thinks.''

On Irvin, coach Pete Carroll said: "Best pass-rusher in the draft.''

On Wilson, GM John Schneider told me: "One of the top three players I scouted this fall. We had a great conviction on him.''

Wilson gets knocked for being 5-10 ½. Which he should. "But he has a unique ability to find passing lanes, which I saw time and again,'' Schneider said. Wilson, he said, had fewer passes batted down last fall than Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or Ryan Tannehill. Great conviction. Schneider showed it last year with tackle James Carpenter (who?) in the first round, and he showed it twice this year. His picks are mindful of Ron Wolf's. That's one of Schneider's mentors. If Wolf wanted to pay a first-round pick for a 248-pound party-boy quarterback, no matter how many people in the organization looked at him funny about it, he was going to do it and not think twice.

Brett Favre, by the way.

So Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn will have some surprising company in camp this summer. "We don't exactly have our quarterback position set in stone for the long run,'' said Schneider. So we see.


Making sense of Bryan Anger.

Can a punter, drafted 70th, possible justify that pick?

Let's look at the best punter in the league last year, and let's look at Jacksonville's punting situation last year. San Francisco's Andy Lee was 9.0 yard per punt better than the Jags did on their 99 punts, and, in net punting, 7.5 yards per punt better than Jacksonville. Let's say new punter Bryan Anger, drafted in the third round Saturday, approaches Lee's performance. On a team averaging six punts a game, is 54 yards of field, and 45 net yards of field position, worth it?

The 45 net yards difference, if Anger can provide that, is about four first downs per game. Over the course of a season, if a ball-control team like Jacksonville is 64 first downs better -- and that is not exactly fair, because it's assuming Anger will be as good as Lee is, and there's no guarantee of that -- that should be the difference in a game or two.

Should be.

Anger, one special teams coach told me this weekend, is one of the best directional punters he's ever seen. "I never get the chance to just kick down the middle of the field,'' he told me. "At Cal, we always wanted to pin the guy in the corner or the sideline. Field position today is so big in football. It's a big deal nobody really focuses on.''

The best two punters alive are Lee and Shane Lechler. Anger went to Cal. All three in the Bay Area at one time -- the cradle of punters. "I look up to them,'' said Anger, who's never met them. "If I could do what they do, I'd be a very happy person.''

The Jaguars are counting on it. They're banking a pick almost no other team in the league would consider on it.


Awards That May Interest Only Me Dept.

Most notable notes from the 77th National Football League draft:

Best pick, offense:Amini Silatolu, G-T, Midwestern State, 40th overall to Carolina. Multiple teams targeted him late in the first round, and GM Marty Hurney got a great value here. He'll bring an attitude and versatility to the Panthers and should be a 10-year starter wherever Carolina needs him.

Worst pick, offense:Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State, 102nd overall to Washington. Allow me to jump on a crowded bandwagon. The only reason to do this, and I mean only, is because you're injury-protecting Robert Griffin III. All the other reasons aren't legitimate. Cousins' trade value won't increase as a No. 3 quarterback behind Griffin and Rex Grossman; ask Bill Belichick about Ryan Mallett. And what I really hate about the pick is that the Redskins won't have a first-round pick in 2013 or in 2014. GM Bruce Allen should have tried to peddle this pick for a third-rounder in 2013 somewhere, and if he couldn't find one, he should have buttressed a need position and taken second-round-tackle and value pick Bobby Massie here.

Best pick, defense:Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall, 59th overall to Philadelphia. The Eagles took a page from the Giants and improved their pass-rush with good depth in the front seven in this draft. Curry should be a 25-snap rotational rusher.

Worst pick, defense:The Colts passing on CB Trumaine Johnson to take TE Dwayne Allen with the first pick of the third round. Indy was crying out for secondary help. No team in the league last year was as generous in the secondary as the Colts, who allowed opposing passers to complete 71.2 percent of their throws. And they didn't draft one cornerback.

GM of the weekend (tie):Trent Baalke, San Francisco; Buddy Nix, Buffalo. I detailed Baalke's multiple moves to set up the Niners as a power player in the 2013 draft. And getting LaMichael James late in the second round gives Jim Harbaugh the home-run back he hasn't had in an offense that needs a threat like that. As for Nix, who rebuilt his defensive end position in free agency (Mario Williams, Mark Anderson), he bought a new secondary over the weekend, with first- and fourth-round corners (Stephon Gilmore and Ron Brooks) who will become starting and nickel corners, respectively.

The key to Buffalo's draft could end up being offensive tackle Zebrie Sanders, a fifth-round tackle from Florida State who started at age 18 in the ACC, and started 50 games in college. Cordy Glenn and Zanders one day could make this a great draft.

Trade-up of the weekend:Dallas moving from 14 to 6 in the first round to pick LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. Dallas opens with the Super Bowl champion Giants and two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Eli Manning in the NFL's season opener on Sept. 5. The Cowboys play four games against Eli Manning and Mike Vick, and others against Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan.

"We're up 12 with [four] minutes left against the Giants, and then we can't make a play in the secondary for the rest of the game,'' said Cowboys president Stephen Jones. "Believe me, we're all sick having to use our second-round. Sick. I can't tell you how much that hurts. But look at our secondary now. We signed [Kansas City cornerback] Brandon Carr in free agency, and now adding Morris ... We are thrilled about the improvement we've made in the secondary, particularly with the way the game is being played now.''

Trade-down of the weekend:Baltimore trading 29 overall for 35 and 98 overall. In this business, you have to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. Ozzie Newsome does. The Ravens had crushes on two players late in the first round -- Dont'a Hightower and Kevin Zeitler. The cost to trade up from 29 was too steep, the Ravens thought, and so they dealt back six spots with Minnesota and got the guy who even the dumbest mock- and real-drafters had in the first round, Alabama's Courtney Upshaw, at 35. At 98 comes Delaware guard Gino Gradkowski, who could transition to a long-term center (and successor to Matt Birk). When I called around over the weekend asking for players GMs and coaches liked, the brother of Bruce Gradkowski came up a few times, and he'll have the chance to solve a long-term problem for a gritty offensive team.

Rabbit ears of the weekend:Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay. The Colts, who allowed the 28th-most points in the league last year, have the added construction problem of changing from a long-time 4-3 defense to the heavier-front 3-4, with many needs. They had four picks in the first two days of the draft and used none on defense, which I noted in an incredulous tweet late Friday night. To which Irsay, using his @JimIrsay Twitter account, responded Saturday: "Hey Peter King, we had NO defense, unlike now, in 1998, n B Polian took 4 Offensive picks n looking back at ur comments then, u said Great Draft!''

I think that means Irsay disagreed with my opinion. But I am honored he remembered my post-draft words of 14 years ago.

Media guy of the weekend (print):Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. McGinn had 10 direct hits in his mock draft, including the unlikely bull's-eye of Dont'a Hightower to New England, Whitney Mercilus to Houston, Kevin Zeitler to Cincinnati and Courtney Upshaw to the Ravens a few picks too early. And he had 85 of his annual top 100 go in the top 100 of the draft, including Regina (Canada) defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who was picked 89th overall by the Saints.

We missed Rick Gosselin's terrific draft reporting this year in the Dallas Morning News, because Gosselin has taken a job as sports columnist at the paper and has to be more concerned with Yu Darvish than Amini Silatolu these days. But McGinn's hard work served his readers very well in Wisconsin this year, as usual.


Brian Dawkins bows out.

So many admirable things about Brian Dawkins, who retired the other day. His play on the field, certainly; the man had an anvil in his shoulder pads, and though so many enforcer-type safeties got the reputation at one point or another for being dirty, Dawkins intimidated receivers while for the most part retaining their respect. I know, I know. Giants fans hate the guy because they think he went over the line. I don't -- at least not purposefully. What I also respected about him was his willingness in some very tough times to stand up and be counted when so many other high-profile players around the league wouldn't be accountable to the press and public. I'll miss Dawkins' terrific play. His teammates will miss his leadership. We'll all miss his common sense.

"Do you blame me?''

-- Ryan Tannehill, asked at his introductory Dolphins news conference Saturday in Davie, Fla., why he would get married at 23, and then pointing to his wife, Lauren, who is an aspiring model.

"You want to be a Bengal this time -- for real?''

-- Cincinnati receivers coach James Urban, in his phone call to Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu during the third round Friday. On Thursday, Sanu got a phony phone call from someone claiming to work for the Bengals, informing him that the team was about to choose him. Then, coincidentally, it was Cincinnati that drafted Sanu two rounds later.

"I would never speculate on that. He's dancing right now.''

-- Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson, asked over the weekend if veteran wide receiver Donald Driver, competing on Dancing With The Stars this spring, would be back with the team in 2012.

"Hail to the Redskins,

"Hail victory ...''

-- Robert Griffin III, an hour after being drafted by Washington, on a conference call with Redskins beat writers.

For those outside the Beltway, those are the first lines of "Hail to the Redskins," the franchise's fight song.

"Because 1 plus 7 equals 8.''

-- San Francisco first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins, a wide receiver from Illinois, talking about why he picked the number "17'' to wear as a pro. He wore "8'' in college, at Illinois, but because "8'' is the number of Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, the Niners aren't giving it out, and Jenkins had to improvise.

Jenkins had a Quote of the Week Vb, sort of, when asked about his unusually long fingers. "They called me ET back in high school,'' he said.

"I'm angry about it, frankly. It's not true. I have a clear conscience. I've never, ever listened to an opposing coach's headset. That's all I can say.''

-- New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis, who stands accused of wiretapping the opposing coaches' booth in the Superdome so he could listen in on conversations of the opposition from 2002 through 2004.

Of the first 102 picks in the draft, eight were quarterbacks. Of the final 151 picks of the draft, only three were quarterbacks.

Ryan Lindley, taken 185th by the Cardinals, went to the perfect spot. With the Cardinals not sold that Kevin Kolb is their long-term quarterback, the 6-3 ½, four-year starter at San Diego State (he started all 49 games that he played for the Aztecs) will have to beat out Rich Bartel to make the roster. If he does, he should provide fair competition for Kolb and John Skelton should they struggle.

Amazing thing about Lindley's career is how similar each of his four seasons were. He completed 242, 239, 243 and 237 passes from 2008 through 2011. He threw 427, 437, 421 and 447 passes in those four years.

Lindley's arm strength, decision-making and command of the pocket will serve him well at the next level. His accuracy will determine if he has a chance. Last year it was a paltry 53 percent.

On Thursday, 39 days shy of the 10-year anniversary of being the Yankees' first pick in the 2002 Major League Baseball draft, former Edmond (Okla.) high school pitcher Brandon Weeden was chosen 22nd overall by the Browns. Time will tell whether picking the Oklahoma State quarterback was a bargain or a waste, but Weeden -- the 71st pick in the 2002 MLB draft -- was chosen ahead of some pretty good baseball players. The roster of those picked after Weeden 10 years ago:

80 -- Curtis Granderson, Yankees center fielder.113 -- Josh Johnson, Marlins No. 1 pitcher.193 -- Matt Capps, Twins closer.242 -- Adam Lind, Blue Jays first baseman.294 -- Howie Kendrick, Angels second baseman.510 -- Brandon McCarthy, A's No. 1 pitcher.674 -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox center fielder.

Ellsbury, picked 603 spots after Weeden, didn't sign with the team that drafted him in 2002, Tampa Bay. He attended Oregon State, then signed with the Red Sox out of college.

You know those annoying credit card hawkers in airports? They're pretty annoying. Take the one I saw in the Fort Lauderdale airport Sunday morning around 6:15. (Give the guy credit. He gets an early start.) He was pedaling the American Express SkyMiles card. I walked by and he said, "Sir, can I interest you in a great credit card deal?'' I said no; I already have the card.

"You can get another one!'' he said.

I was going to ask him what the purpose of that would be, but at 6 in the morning, I'm not too interested in talking about things I enjoy, never mind credit cards.

"Peter Konz...... Welcome and on Fridays I like Chick-fil-a chicken biscuits.''

-- @TysonClabo, the Atlanta offensive tackle, welcoming top Falcons draft pick Peter Konz to the team Friday night. Konz, a center from Wisconsin, will have to buy Friday morning goodies -- donuts, biscuits and whatever the offensive linemen want -- for the position group all season long.

"The Charlotte Bobcats have a better win percentage than some of the 'expert' mock drafts.''

-- TCrabtree83, Green Bay tight end Tom Crabtree.

Guilty as charged, your honor.

"I think Poe pick reflects move to a nickel defense league. Need NTs that stay on field for 3 downs. He's not a run stuffer yet. Needs work.''

-- @SethPayneTrain, former NFL defensive tackle Seth Payne, after seeing Dontari Poe get picked 11th overall by Kansas City.

I couldn't agree with Payne more. This pick was not simply to get the run-stuffer Kansas City needs. It's to get a third-down player -- maybe on the end, maybe as a disruptive inside rush guy -- who will be very hard to block.

"As a black person and Boston-area native, I'm sickened and heartbroken by the deplorably racist reactions of some Bruins fans to Joel Ward.''

-- @cgasper, Boston Globe online sports columnist Chris Gasper, after some hockey fans tweeted blatantly racist remarks following Washington Capital Joel Ward's winning Game 7 goal against the Bruins Wednesday night. Ward is black.

Thanks for saying it, Chris. Remarks like those cannot go unchallenged.

1. I think if you're looking for draft grades, you'll have to look somewhere else. Grading drafts after they happen is like grading students for the term on the first day of class, and I've been out of that business for a few years now.

2. I think Kellen Moore going undrafted after going 50-3 in college and putting up stupid numbers and being one-quarter of an inch shorter than Drew Brees and 1.5 inches taller than Russell Wilson is patently absurd. I hope he makes the Lions and wins a playoff game. Soon.

3. I think those at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan who uproariously booed the 10-year-old child making the late-round Patriots' draft choice need to do some value-system adjustments with their lives.

4. I think when commissioner Roger Goodell issues his discipline against Saints players (almost certainly this week) for their purported involvement in the bounty scandal, he might be surprised at the intensity of the fight from the National Football League Players Association over the sanctions.

It's not just the fact that the union is trying to protect its members without the definitive proof it was seeking that the players promoted and pushed the bounty system. (Though Goodell, I'm told, feels secure in the knowledge that the players were more than just the bankers of the system.) The players will use as their bedrock point, I believe, that the system was imposed and pushed by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, not some cadre of rogue defensive team leaders. This thing is not going away.

5. I think that reminds me of something Goodell said to me during one of my three or four substantive interviews for a Sports Illustrated profile on him. I forget the topic, but I made the point the union was going to fight hard on some issue or another. He looked at me with a humorless stare and said: "We've got good lawyers too."

6. I think the best NFL news of last week, aside from the Luck/RG3 savior stuff in two NFL cities, is that the Pro Bowl is on life support. It should be. There is no reason to play a game that no player really wants to play, and it shows every year, with the lack of effort making it a mockery. I'm making that assumption, really, based on highlights/lowlights and what I saw the year it was in Miami, because I don't watch the game. The NFL should know by now the game is unfixable.

7. I think Ross Tucker, my buddy at SiriusXM NFL Radio, had a great takeaway on the draft, on the inexact science of talent evaluation. "Boise had as many guys drafted as USC and Texas combined, even without Kellen Moore,'' Tucker observed.

8. I think I love what the Raiders did over the weekend -- independent of the draft. They announced they would donate 10 percent of all ticket sales between May 1 and June 30 to the Oakland Unified School District. That should help motivate all fans thinking of buying seats to do so in the next two months. It's a tremendous cause, for those who aren't familiar with the needy school district. And I applaud the Raiders for stepping up to the plate.

9. I think I like lists as much as the next football follower. But is there a defense for Green Bay fullback John Kuhn being 92nd on the NFL Network's list of the top 100 players in the NFL? After playing 29 percent of his team's snaps over the past three years? After not being in the top-20-rated fullbacks on the ProFootballFocus list of fullbacks for the 2011 season? It's absurd.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a.Veep is the best new thing I've seen on TV since the rookie year of The Office.

b.The Office, by the way, has become unwatchable. Silly, ridiculous plots.

c. Tremendous baseball point by Keith Olbermann. The baseball aficionado pointed out Saturday that for Mickey Mantle's big-league debut in 1951 and for Bryce Harper's in 2012, Vin Scully was in the broadcast booth both times.

d. Harper looks like he'll be incredibly fun to watch over the years, as long as he does something about that haircut.

e. I'm no big hoops fan, but that Derrick Rose injury was incredibly sad and that Clippers comeback was utterly amazing.

f. I'd like to host a fireside chat with Eli Manning and Kevin Durant. Subject: How to play your best when the game is on the line. Durant's incredible.

g. I know this is redundant, but when the NHL playoffs are on, I cannot look away. Devils down three games to two, Game 6 goes to overtime in New Jersey and the Devils win 3-2. Game 7 goes to a second overtime in Florida and the Devils win 3-2. Thirty-two of 48 games in the first round of the playoffs were decided by a goal. The first five games of Phoenix-Chicago went to overtime. And Sunday in Philly, another overtime job in Game 1 of Devils-Flyers. Great sport.

h. How does Doc Emrick not get hoarse more often?

i. This can't have happened very often: Through five innings Saturday against Miami starter Anibel Sanchez, Arizona led 2-0 with its third and fourth batters striking out in all six at-bats.

j. Story of the Week, from the New York Times, on the brutish Ty Cobb, and some sick vengeance.

k. Bruce Springsteen at Jazz Fest in New Orleans Sunday, during the day. What a scene that must have been.

l. Coffeenerdness: JFK Airport, Delta terminal, Starbucks, 7 a.m. Friday. I am 18th in line. There's one barista making drinks and also getting the drip coffee orders and making the drip coffee when need be. There's one person at the register taking orders. There are four more employees on hand. One is on garbage detail. One is getting pastries and food. One is in the back, apparently straightening out the stock for the day. One is -- well, I'm not sure what she was doing, except the barista kept calling for her and she never appeared, though there was evidence of another employee in the back of the store, behind the door.

Six employees, painfully slow line, one making the espresso drinks and pouring the drip coffee that everyone is in line to get. Might there possibly be a better deployment of your employees, Seattle?

m. Beernerdness: Not a great beer selection at the Marlins new ballpark -- I saw four innings there the other night -- but I have to hand it to them: At several locations in the lower concourse was Presidente Beer, the tasty light pilsner from the Dominican Republic. Very good light, drinkable humid-weather beer.

n. The stadium itself reminded me of the Diamondbacks stadium in Phoenix, a spacious monster, with a huge center field and that bizarre structure in left-center that I guess is supposed to illustrate the diversity and art and wildlife of south Florida but just looks awful. It's a comfy place. The food is tremendous; I strongly recommend the steak soft tacos (not sure if that's what they're called) at the Miami Mex stand in the upper deck.

I loved the diversity -- major league baseball, and all sports really, need to attract fans of all color and nationality, and two Latino families sat on either side of me. I wonder how long the fans will come. A vast number of them the other night were there to be social and to see the big new spaceship in Little Havana, not to watch the game.