I like the Jets getting Mark Sanchez, the Bucs getting the object of their long-term affection, Josh Freeman, and I absolutely love the Lions getting Brandon Pettigrew at 20 to pair with a quarterback they're handing the reins to. More Monday in Monday Morning QB, but those are a few quick thoughts. Enjoy day two tomorrow. Good night from Kansas City. --Peter King (Follow on Twitter.)
It's a lot to ask a kid who turned 21 less than three months ago to have a real grasp on the desultory history of the Detroit Lions over the past five decades, but Matthew Stafford seems to not only get the gist of it, he actually seems motivated to be the one who changes it.
Eisenhower was in the White House the last time the Lions won anything that really mattered, and for months now, Stafford has been asked how he could ever expect to reverse such a depressing legacy of defeat and failure? The questions have come because of the too-cute story that Stafford went to the same high school in Dallas that Bobby Layne attended, and Layne was on the last Detroit team to win an NFL title, in 1957.
But now that he's a Lion, and the Curse of Bobby Layne is his problem (Layne was unceremoniously traded to the Steelers in 1958), Stafford seems eager to get started on maybe the biggest challenge to ever face an NFL quarterback. What could be tougher than taking over an 0-16 team that last won it all 52 years ago?
"I know they haven't won a championship for 50 years,'' Stafford said Saturday. "Obviously since I've been watching they've been struggling some. But it's all about getting out there, competing, and doing what it takes to win and that's what I plan on doing.''
Sounds simple enough, but Lord knows it won't be. This is Detroit, kid. There's nowhere to go but up.
"It's crazy,'' said Stafford, when asked about his link to Layne. "But I feel like you couldn't write it any better than that. It's a wild story and it's fun to be living it, that's for sure.''
Spoken like a new Lions quarterback. The kind that has yet to lose a game.-- Don Banks (Follow on Twitter.)
Say this much for the Jets: They'll keep trying until they get it right.
One year after trading for future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, who retired after only one season in New York, the Jets traded up 12 spots Saturday on the first day of the draft and selected USC signal-caller Mark Sanchez fifth overall. Sanchez is expected to compete immediately for the starting job and provided a double splash because he came relatively cheaply: first- and second-round picks this year and three journeymen players.
The buzz of his selection was nearly overshadowed two picks later when the Raiders made made Darrius Heyward-Bey the first wide receiver off the board. At best Heyward-Bey was considered a mid first-rounder. His selection became even more intriguing when the cross-bay 49ers">49ers grabbed Michael Crabtree, the consensus top receiver, with the 10th pick.
Overall, the first two rounds reflected the widely-held opinion that there wasn't much separation among the players. Cleveland traded back three times in the first round before finally making a selection, and Dallas failed to make a single pick after dealing its only choice (second round) to Dallas.
The early winners would have to be the Eagles and Packers. Philadelphia traded up to 19 to get Jeremy Maclin, the consensus second-rated wideout, and added productive UConn running back LeSean McCoy in the second round. Green Bay, which is switching to a 3-4 defense, landed highly-rated Boston College nose tackle B.J. Raji with the ninth pick, then traded back into the first round and selected USC linebacker Clay Matthews.
The early losers: Oakland, which after taking Heyward-Bey, traded down in the second round and selected safety Michael Mitchell, who is not believed to have participated in a postseason all-star game and was not invited to the combine; Cleveland, which dealt back three times to take a center; Minnesota, which took wideout Percy Harvin despite his failed drug test at the Combine, and added lumbering offensive lineman Phil Loadholt.
Raised eye-brow: Denver, which traded its No. 1 pick next year (which at this point could be pretty high) to take cornerback Alphonso Smith in the second round.--Jim Trotter (Follow on Twitter.)
I'm not a big fan of writing about Erin Andrews because it's an easy play to get cheap web hits. I think she's handled her Internet stardom with grace and as a sideline reporter, she offers an appealing personality and a robust work ethic. People I trust at ESPN say she's a decent person and wants to get better as a reporter. All good.
While I understand why ESPN wanted her on the draft -- she's arguably one of the few sports broadcasters whose mere presence might actually bring in additional 20-something male viewers -- I would have opted for a more seasoned questioner for the Draft. Why? Her questions too often never rose above surface stuff.
• What are you thinking right now? (to Michael Oher). • What would it be like to throw to Calvin Johnson? (Matt Stafford). • How do you put it into words your emotional moment? (Aaron Curry).
Contrast that with -- and I can't believe I'm writing this -- Deion Sanders of the NFL Network. Sanders asked Stafford the following:
• Have you spoken to Matt Ryan andJoe Flacco about the pressure? • What is the first thing you will say to your new teammates in Detroit? • And, best of all, How do you look forward to dealing with no running game?
Specifics, specifics, specifics. Sanders had a very good day in his role.
To be fair, the post-pick interview gig is not easy. You have a finite amount of time and you are dealing with emotional people at a moment that might be the apex of their life. Plus, you are working on a stage in front of a huge and rabid crowd. ESPN has plenty of people in its arsenal -- Doris Burke, Bob Ley, Chris McKendry, Chris Mortensen, Kelly Naqi, Jeremy Schaap, Mark Schwarz, Ed Werder and Trey Wingo, just to name a few -- who are gifted interviewers. I would have found a different role for Andrews on the broadcast -- she'll be hanging out Sunday with Texas wideout Quan Cosby and comedian Bill Cosby for a Day 2 draft feature which has great promise -- and assigned one of those above for the post-pick gig. I'll no doubt hear from the Andrews supporters. Have at me, people. -- Richard Deitsch(Follow on Twitter.)
The Patriots are done with an unusual first day of the draft that ends in unusual fashion: by drafting a German-born offensive lineman who ...
• attended a high school called Quirinus Gymnasium
• apparently didn't speak English until he got to the University of Houston in 2004
• was projected by most as a second-day pick and
• will be a 25-year-old rookie come September
Other than that, Sebastian Vollmer is your typical 6-foot-8, 315-pound native of Kaarst in North Rhine-Westphalia. If all goes well, he'll be Kaarst's first and only member of the Neue England Fussball Mannschaft.
He'll be happy to know that Boston's Harpoon Brewery makes a damn tasty Altbier -- the indigenous beer style of Duesseldorf, Germany, a few miles from Vollmer's hometown.--Kerry J. Byrne
Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell put on a draft clinic today. He not only got Wake Forrest linebacker Aaron Curry, the player at the top of his board, with the fourth pick, but also Oregon center Max Unger, the player Ruskell wanted to select with the 37th pick, 12 slots later and walked away with an extra first round pick next season.
Ruskell figured that Unger might still be available later in the second round, so he traded the 37th pick in the draft to the Denver Broncos for their first round pick in 2010. It was quite a coup when you consider the Broncos haven't made the playoffs since 2005 and are breaking in a new coach and quarterback this season. That could easily be a Top 10 pick next year.
After speaking with reporters, Ruskell returned to the "war room" and traded the Seahawks' 68th overall pick in the third round and the 105th overall pick in the fourth round to the Bears for the 49th pick overall and selected Unger. So basically he had to give up a third and fourth round pick this year for the Broncos' first round pick. That's called working the draft, folks.
"That kind of came out the blue," said Ruskell about acquiring the Broncos' first round pick next year. "We had talked to them earlier in the day because they had the two (first round) picks and maybe the possibility would come up if our guy wasn't there (Aaron Curry) of going down but not this."--Arash Markazi (Follow on Twitter.)
The Giants already bolstered their linebacking corps by signing former Falcon Michael Boley to a 5-year, $25 million contract in the off-season, but with the first of their two second-round picks, the team chose linebacker Clint Sintim of Virginia.
While Sintim played strong-side linebacker in a 3-4 defense in Charlottesville, he'll be asked to fit into the Giants' 4-3 scheme right away. "[The system] is a little different, but the game of football remains constant, " said Sintim, who spoke to us from his home in Woodbridge, Va., where 20 to 30 of his friends and family members were assembled. And does he think he's better rushing the quarterback or better in coverage? "Man, I'm just a linebacker."
Sintim visited Buffalo, New Orleans and Kansas City and ended up visiting the Giants a couple weeks ago along with about 15 other prospects. And did Sintim have any inkling about which of those teams might end up selecting him? "Everybody kind of keeps their poker face throughout this whole ordeal," he said. "For me, it was just watching and waiting, man. Watching and waiting." --Elizabeth McGarr
File Ron Brace under "local boy makes good."
New England's second pick in the second round played schoolboy ball at Burncoat High in Springfield, Mass. before moving on to Boston College, where he created a formidable front wall as a defensive tackle playing next to B.J. Raji, who went to Green Bay with the No. 9 overall pick. Brace said he never imagined playing for the Patriots.
"I just know it was a dream of mine," he said in his media conference call a few moments ago. "I hope I'm not dreaming right now. This is a really good feeling."
When he steps on the field for the Patriots in September, it will be a first for him in many ways.
"I've never been to a pro football game," said Brace.-- Kerry J. Byrne
Vikings head coach Brad Childress got a lot of attention for his travel itinerary this week, heading to Gainesville to spend more time with, and personally address, character issues the organization had with Percy Harvin. Sounds like he wasn't the only one racking up the frequent-flyer miles. Someone from Foxboro squeezed in a quickie trip to Florida as well.
In explaining why Minnesota passed up Mississippi lineman Michael Oher -- the Vikings made up for that by grabbing Oklahoma's Phil Loadholt in the second round, with the 52nd overall pick -- Childress made it clear the competition for Harvin's services had heated up. "When you've got the New Englands of the world sitting right behind you, that contacted him and, really, I think, got in there after I got in there ...,'' Childress said. "He wasn't supposed to give that up. I got him to give that up to me, being a good soldier, now that he's one of us. You come to find out those things.''
Presumably, the Patriots wanted the same thing Childress did -- to "rhythm up'' to him, as the Vikings coach put it, so as to get a feel for what sort of fellow he is, now and going forward. Childress met on campus with the Harvin and Gators coach Urban Meyer, and sprung it on the player that he wanted to meet his family in Jacksonville.
"I mentioned to he and his family, 'Does this remind you of recruiting?' '' Childress said. "They said it did, and I told them, 'Here's the difference: You're not picking. We're picking.' Which kind of hit grandma and mom and stepdad and sister, oh yeah, that's right. It was a little illuminating when you look at it that way.''
At one point, Childress was sitting in the living room with Harvin's family "with the shih tzu and bouncing a baby on my knee. Literally.''-- Steve Aschburner
If teams simply drafted on talent alone, Rey Maualuga would have gone in the first round. He probably would have been the first of the celebrated USC linebacker trio to get selected. As it was, not only was he the last to be selected, he also fell all the way to the second round before Cincinnati picked him and reunited him with former Trojan teammate Keith Rivers.
The problem with Maulauga is that as much of a wrecking ball as he is on the field, he's a bit of a space cadet. I'm not just talking off the field, where he reportedly scored a 15 on the Wonderlic and didn't know who Vice President Joe Biden was, but on it as well. No one frustrated USC coaches more than Maualuga. He looked like he was running around with his head cut off and looking to hit anything that moved. The more tape pro coaches watched on Maualuga, the more times they probably saw him being saved by his teammates on missed assignments.
Huge hits might make for great highlights in college but if you can't play within the confines of a structured defense in the NFL, you might end up on the other end of those highlights.--Arash Markazi (Follow on Twitter.)
Hey wait: The Cowboys just traded out of the second round, to Buffalo.
That means the Dallas Cowboys don't have a pick on day one of the draft!
What will the headline be in the Dallas Morning News tomorrow? "Cowboys Join Romo in Cabo on Day One of the Draft?''
That is one interesting trade.--Peter King (Follow on Twitter.)
"In Belichick We Trust" is a common sentiment -- sometimes even a greeting -- among Boston sports fans. So I checked in with some of them at various draft parties to get their take on things after a day in which Patriots coach Bill Belichick has made more deals than Monty Hall.
"I'm psyched by what they did," said Frank Capobianco, who's watching the draft at a downtown Boston bar called The Times. "They're totally kicking it right now."
But "MikieMo," a member of "Patriots Planet," a popular a fan site that's hosting a party (and a rather rowdy sounding one at that) at the Commonwealth Restaurant in Quincy, Mass., wasn't quite ready to hail the chief after he traded away New England's only No. 1 pick.
"I'm in total amazement with everything that went down," he said. "Nobody here can figure out why they kept trading down."
Jim Maher, a 20-year season ticket holder watching the draft at CBS Scene outside Gillette Stadium, said only, "You gotta trust (Belichick). He knows what he's doing."
So far what he's doing is rebuilding the defense: CB Patrick Chung with the 34th overall pick, DT Ron Brace (No. 40) and versatile CB/KR Darius Butler (No. 41). The Patriots still have one more second-round pick on the slate (No. 58 overall).-- Kerry J. Byrne
Love the Dolphins' selection of West Virginia QBPat White -- if they're going to allow him to play the position. Speculation is that Miami will use him as a specialist, a "slash" type player, and maybe even convert him to receiver. But I've had multiple head coaches tell me that White should fight to remain at quarterback. They say he has all the tools to be successful at the position. The problem for White is that if he stands up for himself, he'll run the risk of being portrayed as a problem player.--Jim Trotter (Follow on Twitter.)
As soon as Cal center Alex Mack went to Cleveland at No. 21, one longtime Vikings beat writer looked at the big screen in the team's "draft party'' and said to no one in particular: ``It's gotta be Oher,'' as in Mississippi tackle Michael Oher. An instant later, a reporter from the second of the Twin Cities rushed by, saying "Gotta be Oher.''
Oher, yeah? Oher, no!
The Vikings' first-round pick at No. 22, despite their need at right tackle and Oher's availability at their slot, was Percy Harvin, the Florida wide receiver Minnesota had done a relatively poor job of keeping under wraps while doing an especially thorough job of due diligence. The folks clad in purple, with several hours worth of beverages in them, boisterously celebrated the choice, despite reports of Harvin's character issues. His skills as a receiver and a ball carrier for the Gators, and his potential in those roles plus some anticipated Devin Hester-like return opportunities, carried the moment.
Oh, some of the fans still booed head coach Brad Childress when he appeared a short while later -- that's a year-round pastime in the Land of 10,000 Lakes -- but they liked that Childress had traveled to Gainesville last week and personally signed off on Harvin as his team's pick.
"It helped to spend a day on his turf, ask a bunch of questions and get a bunch of answers,'' Childress said. "I was able to get a feel for the guy. We really meet [draft prospects] in sound bites, if you will. Fifteen minute interviews. Meetings in the office for 20 minutes.''
As for Harvin the player, as a wide receiver to complement Bernard Berrian, Childress said: "I think the X's and O's speak for themselves."--Steve Aschburner
We just had a conference call with the Giants first-round pick (29th overall), Hakeem Nicks, who spoke from his hometown of Charlotte. Nicks said he's used to being compared to Anquan Boldin and that his former coach at North Carolina, Butch Davis, compared him to Michael Irvin quite a bit. And what about playing for Giants coach Tom Coughlin? "He seems like a pretty cool coach," Nicks said, which elicited a great deal of snickering from the assembled New York media.
A self-described "great physical receiver that has a motor," Nicks said the hamstring injury he suffered at the combine in February is no longer an issue and that he'll be ready when the Giants rookie minicamp begins May 8. "Once I get up there, I'm full go," he said. "It's football time. I'm back to 100 percent, I've got my weight back down, and I'm ready to play football."
The Giants have had some success with their first-round picks over the past few years. Mathias Kiwanuka of Boston College (2006), Aaron Ross of Texas ('07) and Kenny Phillips of Miami ('08) all started during their rookie seasons and made immediate impacts. Kiwanuka started all 16 games at defensive end in '08 after Osi Umenyiora suffered a knee injury during the pre-season. Ross is currently a starting cornerback and Phillips, after making three starts in '08, could be the starting free safety in '09.--Elizabeth McGarr
It might not seem like a surprise that Aaron Curry was taken by the Seattle Seahawks with the fourth pick in the draft, but Curry never thought he'd be a Seahawk. He had never talked to Seahawks coach Jim Mora before today and he will visit Seattle for the first time tonight when he arrives from New York.
"I was a little surprised being that I didn't make a visit and hadn't talked to the coach," said Curry, who got a call from the Seahawks about a minute after they were on the clock. "I knew they were interested because they had just let go of Mr. [Julian] Peterson."
The Seahawks' lack of contact with Curry was by design as they were hoping to trade down with a team by making it seem they were interesting in selecting Mark Sanchez or Michael Crabtree. If Curry was gone, they would have actively pursued trading down with a team that wanted either Sanchez or Crabtree.
"There was a little bit of (masking our interest)," said Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell. "We had him scheduled to come in and then we said we're good and I think that played to our advantage."
Curry, who got engaged last month, quickly won over the media here in Seattle with his witty answers and referencing Seattle's "12th Man," which raised a couple of eyebrows during the conference call. Ruskell mentioned the combination of Curry's talent and character "were off the charts," which was evident as Curry invited Bryson Merriweather, a 12-year-old Leukemia patient from Alabama with him to the draft.
Curry, a self described mama's boy, hugged his mother and cried after being selected and laughed when he was asked if his mother would be moving with him to Seattle.
"She looked at me and said, 'If you end up in Seattle, there better be a room for me in your house, if there isn't a room there better be an apartment that is within walking distance,'" said Curry. --Arash Markazi (Follow on Twitter.)
I think I am going to lose my mind if I hear one more executive or pundit talk about the "best available player." My gut tells me that is a crutch that most people lean on, but is hardly common practice in reality. How often do teams take a player at the same position in both rounds one and two? Are you trying to tell me it never happens to be the case that the best guy on the board happens to play the same position as the player that the franchise selected in the first round? And for that matter, that a team picking in the first round would necessarily take their highest rated player even if they have an abundance of talent at that position already?
I am not saying it doesn't happen. The Lions under Matt Millen selected receivers in the first round even though they had done so in prior years. The Packers probably had Aaron Rodgers the highest on their board when they picked him with the 24th selection in the 2004 draft even though they still had Brett Favre under center. Most teams don't take the best available player when they select, they take the best player available for them. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't going to take the best player yet to be selected if he happens to be a 3-4 nose guard because they don't run the 3-4 just like a team likely isn't going to take a high pick at a position where they are already loaded.--Ross Tucker (Follow on Twitter.)
Bill Belichick said earlier today that the Patriots would take the best player on the board, rather than draft for need.
But his first pick (No. 34 overall), Patrick Chung, a 212-pound safety out of Oregon, is definitely a needs pick: the Patriots were desperate for help in the secondary last season, as evidenced by their dreadful 89.8 defensive passer rating and by the fact that they surrendered 27 TD passes last year, more than any team but Arizona. Even lowly Detroit, the worst pass defense in NFL history as measured by defensive passer rating (110.8), held opponents to 25 touchowns through the air. As recently as 2006, Belichick's defense surrendered a miserly 10 TD tosses.
On a team that could easily score 500 points on offense next season, it's only natural that they attack the secondary here in the draft. --Kerry J. Byrne
Newsflash: The Giants decided to use their first-round pick and, according to GM Jerry Reese, they didn't come close to trading down or up. "We didn't want to compromise the strength of our team by reaching too early in the first round," said Reese. "We knew we'd get a good player at 29." The player they got, UNC's Hakeem Nicks, was one of four players the Giants were considering at the time, according to Reese. And was USC's Rey Maualuga one of those four? "Could have been," Reese said with a smile.
Nicks caught 68 passes for 1,222 yards in 2008 and averaged a whopping 18.0 yards per catch. He had ankle injuries as a freshman and as a sophomore and injured his hamstring at the NFL combine in February. Reese said the weight gain that resulted from that hamstring injury didn't bother the team at all. "He kind of reminds you of an Anquan Boldin body type," said Reese, who had the chance to see Nicks play in person in '08. "Very long arms, big hands, can absorb contact. A lot of things I like about this guy."
While it was a fairly predictable pick, since the Giants released Plaxico Burress and did not re-sign Amani Toomer, the real news outside the Giants war room is the team elected not to trade for a more experienced receiver like Cleveland's Braylon Edwards.
The Giants, who had the 19th best passing attack in the NFL in '08, took Mario Manningham in the second round last year, but the 5-11 receiver from Michigan caught only four passes for 26 yards in seven games. Domenik Hixon (4th season), Steve Smith (3rd season) and Sinorice Moss (4th season) are still around for now and will be asked to make bigger contributions in '09 (the trio combined for 1,323 yards and 112 receptions). Said Reese of Nicks, "We'll throw him in the mix with the rest of the receivers that we have and we'll see how quickly he can come along." --Elizabeth McGarr
Clay Matthews III might come from a football family with his father, Clay Matthews Jr., and uncle, Bruce Matthews, both playing in the NFL for 19 years, but the thought of him following their footsteps into the NFL seemed like a pipedream five years ago when he came to USC.
Matthews was an unheralded, walk-on that seemingly was on the team because of his last name. He didn't get him much more than garbage time and special teams duty his first couple of seasons. But after two years of toiling in obscurity, he not only earned a scholarship and some playing time but quickly developed into arguably the best linebacker on a team that had three projected first-rounders at that position.
I caught up with Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt yesterday and he said he believed Matthews was perhaps the most prepared linebacker to make the transition to the NFL. It was Holt, who as USC's defensive coordinator last year put Matthews in a hybrid "Elephant" position, where he would stand in the position of defensive end, instead of getting in a three-point stance, and rush the quarterback. Matthews thrived at the position and quickly moved up everyone's draft board in the process.
"He's come miles since I first saw him," said Holt. "He was undersized and wasn't mature. He was just a late bloomer. He walked on and paid his dues. It's funny that he might be the best linebacker of the bunch now."--Arash Markazi (Follow on Twitter.)
Over the past two months, I've been hearing Todd McShay in my sleep. He's appeared on every ESPN outlet short of ESPN Sri Lanka and the folks in Bristol have hawked his on-air battles with Mel Kiper with the same ferocity Don King promoted the "Thrilla In Manila." Is McShay, ESPN Scouts Inc. director of college scouting since 2006, being groomed to succeed Kiper? The answer is clearly yes. "If he wants to stay here, yeah, I think he can be here for awhile," says Jay Rothman, ESPN's senior coordinating producer. "If he wanted to run a personal department, he could also do it."
A couple of highlights today from McShay:
• On Darrius Heyward-Bey: "This has bust written all over it. He does not catch the football consistently. If you're going to draft in the top 10, you better draft a guy that can do it all. Michael Crabtree can do it all. Being obsessed with the 40 times is one of the reasons that Al Davis and the Raiders continue to pick at this spot."
• On Josh Freeman (earlier in the week): "He is very much unpolished and I question his instincts and recognition skills...He is going to need a lot of work, I would not draft that player between 10 and 17."
ESPN made a late decision to add McShay to the set at Radio City (as opposed to a studio in Bristol). If nothing else, it gives McShay, 32, some experience in front of a live crowd. To get a pulse of how NFL Fans think McShay is doing, click here. That's Twitter Nation's take. --Richard Deitsch (Follow on Twitter.)
I'm making a guest appearance at a pit stop during a mad dash between the Ohio State and Cincinnati spring games. Thank goodness SI's corporate rate includes the loss damage waiver, because I nearly ran my rent-a-wreck off Interstate 71 and into a tree when I heard the Raiders drafted Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey at No. 7.
If you read my underrated/overrated column, which judged players not on 40 times but on actual on-field production -- you'd know that Heyward-Bey had vastly inferior stats compared to North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks, who was just selected at No. 29 by the New York Giants. In many cases, it's tough to compare two players at the same position because they played in different conferences. A receiver from Toledo faced vastly different competition than a receiver from USC. In this case, however, all the variables were controlled. Heyward-Bey and Nicks played in the same conference -- a conference that happened to be the most equal from top to bottom in any of the BCS leagues.
Here are the 2008 numbers:
• Heyward-Bey: 42 catches, 609 yards, five TDs, 14.5-yard average
• Nicks: 68 catches, 1,222 yards, 12 TDs, 16.9-yard average
It's not really rocket science. If Heyward-Bey can't light up N.C. State, he's not going to light up the Chargers.--Andy Staples
Apparently, Bill Belichik wasn't lying earlier today when he said there's "less than zero" chance the Patriots would trade up -- conflicting one of the more prevalent pre-draft rumors in New England.
They've now traded down twice. Here are the details of the two trades.
• New England traded the No. 23 overall pick for Baltimore's No. 26 and No. 162.
• New England then traded the No. 26 for Green Bay's No. 41, No. 73, and No. 83.
The Patriots have traded out of the first round completely, but now have four second-round picks today and four third-round picks tomorrow ... but stay tuned. --Kerry J. Byrne
Before RB Donald Brown was selected No. 27 overall by the Colts, the University of Connecticut football program had never had a player taken on the first day of the draft, let alone in the first round. That is understandable for a program that wasn't even Division I-A until this decade and has slowly but surely become a force in the Big East under coach Randy Edsall, a former Tom Coughlin assistant who has spent time in the NFL as an assistant. The Huskies figured to have four players taken today including Brown, offensive tackle William Beatty, cornerback Darius Butler, and hybrid defensive end Cody Brown.
Not bad for a program that never ranks among the top 25 schools in the country for recruiting according to all of the so-called experts. So if they aren't getting the top prospects yet they have four players good enough to go on the first day of the NFL draft, the question becomes are they just better at indentifying players in high school or more accomplished at developing them once they get on campus? The answer is likely both, considering Beatty's only other option was Division II Shippensburg in Pennsylvania and Butler was a man without a position until he settled in as a defensive back under Edsall's tutelage.--Ross Tucker (Follow on Twitter.)
Coach Josh McDaniels said the Broncos got both players they targeted for picks outside the top 10. They selected Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno at No. 12 and defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Ayers at No. 18.
McDaniels said he selected Moreno first because there was a lot of buzz that teams selecting between 13 and 17 had a strong interest in him. Rather than risk losing out on him, the Broncos moved swiftly.
McDaniels said he believes Moreno can be a three-down back. One thing that really impressed him was Moreno's ability as a pass protector. Normally that's one of the toughest adjustments for featured backs.
The Moreno pick was surprising to many because the Broncos signed running backs J.J. Arrington, Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan this offseason and also return, among others, Peyton Hillis and Ryan Torain. But McDaniels pointed out the team had seven running backs end up on injured reserve last year, and only three were available at last week's minicamp.
Ayers initially will line up at end, but McDaniels believes he can also play outside linebacker in the team's new 3-4 defense.
The Bucs traded up to 17 to take QB Josh Freeman, and some speculated that it stemmed from concerns that the Broncos had their eyes on Freeman at No. 18. But McDaniels said the team had targeted Ayers all along. --Jim Trotter (Follow on Twitter.)
Percy Harvin, who was just grabbed by Minnesota with the 22nd pick, has been labeled a risky bet because of some off-the-field issues. There's a bigger issue, though, regardless of off-field concerns: Florida receivers have consistently been the riskiest picks in the draft. It's been a fairly consistent phenomenon, not to mention an infuriating one for the teams that take them.
Harvin is the 17th Florida wideout taken in the draft since 1991 (the first draft of former Florida coach Steve Spurrier's players). Here are the others:
Andre Caldwell (third round 2008)Dallas Baker (seventh round 2007)Chad Jackson (second round 2006)Taylor Jacobs (second round 2003)Jabar Gaffney (second round 2002)Reche Caldwell (second round 2002)Travis Taylor (first round 2000)Darrell Jackson (third round 2000)Travis McGriff (third round 1999)Jacquez Green (second round 1998)Ike Hilliard (first round 1997)Reidel Anthony (first round 1997)Chris Doering (sixth round 1996)Jack Jackson (fourth round 1995)Willie Jackson (fourth round 1994)Ernie Mills (third round 1991)
All but Darrell Jackson have failed to live up to expectations. Many, like Anthony and Green, failed spectacularly. It's too many failures to be a coincidence. --Kerry J. Byrne
Twitter has really transformed the way the NFL draft is covered this year. Many of the writers here in Seattle, including yours truly, are not only writing about the draft, they are "tweeting" about the draft.
Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has jumped on the 140-character-limit craze, joining Twitter this week. He tweeted, "wished Matthew a long productive career and said u look good in blue" after Matthew Stafford was selected with the No. 1 pick. He then tweeted, "Jason Smith wouldn't let me go. he was so happy and surprised to go" after Smith was taken second by the Rams.
And when Michael Crabtree got picked by the 49ers Goodell tweeted, "i told crabtree that at least he gets to keep his same college colors." It has added a whole new level of coverage to an event I figured couldn't possibly be covered any more. --Arash Markazi (Follow on Twitter.)
The atmosphere around Foxboro today could not be more festive as fans anticipate New England's top pick.
Just before the draft kicked off at 4 o'clock, there was a rock band playing outside the new Patriots Hall of Fame, just under the iconic end zone lighthouse fans will recognize from television. There are fan tours going around the stadium, and the "End Zone Militia" -- the guys you see in colonial garb shooting their muskets after each New England touchdown -- is firing off smoky rounds for the guests down on the 10-yard-line about every 10 minutes.
And the bars and restaurants at the new Patriot Place outside the stadium are packed. I popped over to CBS Sports Scene, and it's mobbed with folks watching the draft and Yankees-Red Sox -- which is always a big-time event in Boston. One guy wore a t-shirt that said "Pedroia the Destroyer." Another guy sported a t-shirt that said "University of Belichick." One brave soul wore a Drew Bledsoe jersey -- a Buffalo Bledsoe jersey, at that.
Boston has a rep as a baseball town and CBS Sports Scene seems to reflect that: the restaurant's sound system was tuned to ESPN's draft coverage, but it was being shown on just one TV. Every other screen in the house, including a massive screen out in the parking lot, is tuned to Yankees-Sox.--Kerry J. Byrne
Somewhere (OK, somewhere on the NFL Network) Jon Gruden must be smiling. And they accused him of collecting quarterbacks too much when he was the Bucs head coach?
After signing Byron Leftwich this month and trading for the rights to select Josh Freeman on Saturday, Tampa Bay is back to its old ways. It's depth chart at the moment includes Leftwich, Freeman, Luke McCown, Brian Griese, and last year's fifth-round pick, Josh Johnson.
Who will be the three QBs standing come Week 1?: Leftwich, McCown and Freeman would be my guess, because how to do you properly develop two young passers like Freeman and Johnson at the same time?-- Don Banks (Follow on Twitter.)
Who's the big winner so far? Mark Sanchez. Mark Sanchez is the big winner. Sure, he only gets No. 5 money. But when you're talking about the difference between, say, $60 million and Matthew Stafford's $78 million, would you be willing to give up a few bucks to switch situations? The Lions were 0-16 and their offensive line was a mess last year. They haven't done much to rectify the latter this offseason. The Jets, on the other hand, were one game away from making the playoffs with a seriously retooled offensive line. Those five guys, including Pro Bowlers Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold and Damien Woody, could be a Top 3 unit in '09. So who would you rather be right now: Sanchez or Stafford?
Some more fallout from the Sanchez pick:
• Of the three players the Jets sent to Cleveland -- Abram Elam, Brett Ratliff and Kenyon Coleman -- the most interesting has to be Coleman, who started 15 games at defensive end in '09. His departure leaves Rex Ryan's defense thin along the line. Remember, the Jets were thinking about taking a defensive end a few hours ago. Now they need two.
• GM Mike Tannenbaum just sat down with us for a few minutes. He described his relationship with Cleveland coach Eric Mangini, with whom he began discussing this deal last night, to be pretty solid. The way he put it, you just can't afford to hold grudges if you hope to accomplish any trades like this in the NFL. But it wasn't just Mangini who forged the trade. Remember, Jets coach Rex Ryan's brother, Rob, is the Browns' defensive coordinator and he came into play as well.--Adam Duerson
There's the first shock. Utterly shocking. The Chargers take Larry English, the defensive end/outside linebacker from Northern Illinois. What it tells me is the Chargers want a pass-rush complement for Shawne Merriman, and they thought English was better than Robert Ayers, Clay Matthews and Connor Barwin. It's also interesting to note that Merriman is entering the lst year of his contract. So he's going to have to play well to get rich in San Diego.--Peter King(Follow on Twitter.)
If you're into instant analysis, here's a quick take: ESPN and the NFL Network have performed well so far and one person towers above the rest -- NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. He's prepared, confident and offers complex information in manageable bites. He's poised on camera. And he clearly loves his job. "This is way earlier than he (Darrius Heyward-Bey) should have been picked," he said of Oakland's curious selection. "They have all the skill positions covered. I hope they block some people this year." On Andre Smith: "His best year was his freshman year. I think elite speed can beat him." Mayock doesn't cheat viewers because we know he's prepared endlessly for this event. It shows.
NFL Network newcomer Jon Gruden has also been very good: Funny and informed. Offering some insight into the strange selection by the Raiders, Gruden said, "I remember when James Jett went by me on the field and he (his former boss, Al Davis) asked me if I could feel that."
It's painful to write but NFL Net's Deion Sanders has been surprisingly effective as an interviewer. (I'll post later comparing he and Erin Andrews, and why I think this gig wasn't the right fit for Andrews.)-- Richard Deitsch (Follow on Twitter.)
Well, so far in the Giants Stadium press room, we're following the same pattern we did last year: sitting around, waiting for the Giants to make a trade and making fun of the NFL Network. In 2008, the possibility of a draft-day trade involving tight end Jeremy Shockey was intriguing. That didn't happen until July. Today, everyone's focused on the possibility of a trade for Cleveland wide receiver Braylon Edwards.
Many had speculated that the Giants would take Maryland'sDarrius Heyward-Bey, if he had still been around, but, of course, he's not. When Oakland selected Heyward-Bey with the seventh pick, everyone in the Giants press room said the same thing: "Wow." Someone also mentioned he'd like to see the draft board that Giants GM Jerry Reese had just smashed. A few folks around here thought the Giants should have traded up to get Michael Crabtree (obviously didn't happen) and that they could decide to trade up to get Jeremy Maclin from Mizzou.--Elizabeth McGarr
I'm a Boston College grad and have followed the program pretty closely for 25 years (All Hail Flutie) and have written about the program quite a bit over the years.
I can tell you that the Packers picked up an absolute brick wall in defensive tackle B.J. Raji. He was the biggest reason why the Eagles were virtually impossible to run on last year. He bottled up everything in the middle as BC surrendered a miniscule 2.81 yards per rush attempt in 2008.. Only five teams were better in all of major college football:
-TCU (a ridiculous 1.72 YPA), which plays in a mid-major conference (Mountain West).
-Alabama (2.65 YPA), a dominant SEC power last year.
-Ole Miss (2.71 YPA), an awesome defensive club and the only team to beat national champion Florida last year.
-USC (2.73 YPA), which will probably have three linebackers drafted in the first round today.
-Tennessee (2.79 YPA), a traditional SEC powerhouse.
That's some pretty good company for Boston College ... and none of these defenses relied as heavily on one player as BC did on Raji.
For the Packers, it's absolutely the appropriate pick. They ranked amediocre 14th on the critical Defensive Hog Index we use over at Cold, Hard Football Facts.com to rank defensive fronts. But they were one of the most porous run defenses in the league last year, surrendering 4.6 YPA (26th). Raji instantly improves this statistical weak link.--Kerry J. Byrne
Fair or not, the players that come before you at your college, especially if they play the same position, have an indirect effect on your standing in the eyes of NFL scouts and general managers. Penn State running backs got a bad reputation in terms of their on-field production after Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana Carter, and Curtis Enis failed to live up to expectations. Larry Johnson proved Penn State runners can play but his off-field incidents have changed his appraisal as of late.
This year the focus in this regard is on Texas' Brian Orakpo , who was just taken by the Redskins. Recent former Longhorns taken in the top 10 have failed to live up to expectations even if they have become solid players. Roy Williams and Leonard Davis have been the most successful of an underwhelming group that includes Vince Young, Cedric Benson, Mike Williams, and Michael Huff. Everette Brown of Florida State is another prospect who has to deal with the fact that former top 10 pick Jamal Reynolds did nothing in the NFL and Kamerion Wimbley's production has fallen off significantly since his rookie season.--Ross Tucker (Follow on Twitter.)
Interestingly, coach Josh McDaniels cautioned Friday that the team might go offense, even though the defense needs so much help. Everyone thought he was blowing smoke. Turns out he was surprisingly candid.
I love the pick, but I think they could have gotten him with their second first-round pick.--Jim Trotter
The draft couldn't have turned out any better for Mark Sanchez, who dreamed about playing in New York. Chatting with Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, who coached Sanchez at USC last season, after practice yesterday I got the sense the Seahawks weren't looking to take a quarterback as many were projecting and that if it were up to Sanchez, he'd be playing in New York.
He fell in love with the city while he was out there before the draft, walking through Central Park, devouring pastrami sandwiches at Carnegie Deli and checking out a couple nightclubs that he will no doubt return to now that he's gone from tourist to the Jets' new "franchise" quarterback.
It will be interesting to see if he can charm the unrelenting New York media the same way he was able to in Los Angeles. No player is more media savvy entering the NFL than Sanchez. He always made a point of shaking hands with reporters before and after interviews, even if that meant going down a row of about 10 people. --Arash Markazi (Follow on Twitter.)
Leave it to the Raiders. They take a receiver in Darrius Heyward-Bey at No. 7 who some feel might not be worthy of the 27th pick in the first round. Speed once again blinded Al Davis from seeing all other flaws. Heyward-Bey ran faster than any other pass-catcher at the NFL combine in February (4.3), but plenty of personnel men within the league told me they wouldn't take him high because of his unreliable hands, and that he absolutely disappeared in far too many of his collegiate games.
For Davis, it's simple, I suppose. He sees quarterback JaMarcus Russell heaving the ball as far as he can, and he sees the blazing Heyward-Bey running under all those rainbows. But there's so much more to playing receiver in the NFL than just foot speed, and many talented collegiate receivers have failed to make the adjustments in terms of route running, beating the press at the line of scrimmage, and the dramatically improved coverage skills of NFL cornerbacks.
What's that oft-quoted definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Kind of sounds like the Raiders drafts of recent vintage to me. -- Don Banks (Follow on Twitter.)
For pick-by-pick analysis by SI.com's Ross Tucker, click here.
All is quiet at Broncos headquarters. The team has moved its war room from the large team meeting room just behind the lobby to the coach's conference room on the second floor.
Unlike with previous coach Mike Shanahan, who had all the coaches, personnel people, medical staff and scouts in the war room, new coach Josh McDaniels has only himself, general manager Brian Xanders, owner Pat Bowlen and a few others. The media are now working out of the previous war room.
Don't look for much action for the Broncos in terms of trading up. McDaniels said yesterday he would not surrender the team's two first-round picks, Nos. 12 and 18, to move up for one player. That does not mean he won't trade one of the selections as part of a deal to move up.
Denver is expected to go heavy on defense. Many of their moves this offseason have been on offense, and they need to start adding pieces for the new 3-4 defense they plan to run. -- Jim Trotter (Follow on Twitter.)
It always has been politically incorrect to refer to draft rooms as "war rooms,'' though my hunch is a lot of battles get fought behind those closed doors. By the time a pick gets announced, of course, everyone contributing to the decision generally is on board, at least for public consumption. Even if it isn't true.
Consumption, consumption . . . that got me to thinking about an exchange a few of us had on Thursday with Rick Spielman, the Vikings' vice president of player personnel. Asked directly about differences of opinion on prospects and trade scenarios right up to and through a team's time on the clock, Spielman said: "There are split decisions in these meetings. Some guys like vanilla, some guys like chocolate. Then every once in a while, someone in the back will like strawberry and really screw it up.''
Pouncing on the opening, and desperate for some leakage of inside info, a Mike Wallace-wannabe asked Spielman his preference.
"I like that Napoleon," he said. Then the Vikings exec caught himself. "Netropolitan? Whatever it is, the one with the three in it.''
Spielman laughed as he turned a lovely shade of strawberry.-- Steve Aschburner
ESPN's Trey Wingo (who I would implore ESPN make the host of the draft when Chris Berman retires) had an interesting segment with Herman Edwards prior to the Chiefs' selection of LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson. Wingo asked the former Kansas City coach which way he would go if he was making the pick. Edwards said he would trade down for a later first round selection and add a second or third-round pick. He then said he would pick a rush linebacker and add a wide receiver and lineman. "I would move down," Edwards said. "For the value of the pick, that's the decision I would make. You can still pick up a linebacker and they also need a wide receiver."
When I interviewed him early in the week, Jay Rothman, the head of ESPN's coverage, pledged that Edwards would not back down from being critical when news warranted it. "There are guys on TV that would love to get back in the league," Rothman said. "Herm has signed up with us for awhile and he does not have aspirations to go back into the league. We have had those conversations about being critical and forthright when needed....We are not asking Herman Edwards to burn bridges but he will be forthcoming on this broadcast."
So far, Edwards has been good. A little folksy, but he has interesting potential as a studio analyst. --Richard Deitsch
As one writer wondered aloud: "Hey Eric, this is Mike Tannenbaum. Remember me... the guy who fired you."
On one level it seems almost completely implausible that Cleveland coach Eric Mangini would pull off a trade with Tannenbaum, the Jets GM who fired him. I suggested before the draft myself that such a thing was impossible. But in hindsight it makes perfect sense now that we've learned players will be involved. Mangini had a few guys he liked; he was happy to bring them to Cleveland. Sometimes these things work well for both parties.
Tyson Jackson. Meat. Potatoes.
That's the reason Kansas City passed on the best linebacker in this draft, and maybe the best player, Aaron Curry. Think back on the Patriots' picks in the Belichick-Pioli Era, and you'll see the defensive linemen picked in the first round who ended up driving the bus of everything they did on defense -- Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour. Now Scott Pioli is running the show here. A week ago, when I put Jackson at number three to the Chiefs in my SI mock draft, I didn't do it because of inside information. I did it because it made the most sense for a team that doesn't have a classic 3-4 defensive end on its roster.
That's what the Chiefs have right now -- the best 3-4 end in the draft. Now we'll see if the 295-pound Jackson can justify the high pick.
"I'm a country boy,'' Jackson just said on a conference call from Louisiana. "I couldn't take being in New York today. I've got to be with my family.''
Music to Pioli's ears.--Peter King
For months, whenever Aaron Curry was asked what it would feel like to hear his name called at the NFL Draft, he always had the same answer: I don't know. On Friday, he even said he didn't care where he went, even if it was with the 252nd and last pick.
On Saturday at 4:32 p.m., Curry got the answer to where he would go and the world finally got its answer to what his reaction would be: Seattle, and tears.
Curry went to the Seahawks with the fourth pick in the draft, a destination that he had not talked much about in recent days. There was much speculation he could go No. 1, and virtually everyone assumed he would go in the top five. When Julian Peterson got traded to the Lions, it created an opening for Curry in Seattle. As recently as the morning of the draft, Curry and his agent, Andy Ross, swore they had no idea where he would go, but privately, Curry worried that he would slip out of the top five due to the draft's unpredictable nature. Turns out, he had nothing to worry about. --Ted Keith
The Chiefs did what my SI colleague Peter King boldly predicted in selecting LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson with the third pick, but pardon me for not getting excited. Jackson figures to be a solid pro, but the comparisons to Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour are premature at best, and potentially laughable if Jackson doesn't become a perennial Pro Bowler.
Funny, but I never heard any comparisons to Seymour until word leaked out that the Chiefs were considering Jackson at No. 3. Prior to that, most teams had him graded as a mid first-rounder.
I'll reiterate what I wrote earlier this week: With the third pick, I want an impact guy, not a good system fit -- particularly if I've got to pay him in the neighborhood of $30 million in guarantees. Jackson was not a standout at LSU, so it's curious why so many people now think he will be that guy as a pro.-- Jim Trotter (Follow on Twitter.)
Wanted to give you some highlights of our first chance to talk with both new Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, and the two key Detroit decision-makers who chose him: Head coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew. The latter two briefly met here with the media before the draft, and we had a conference call with Stafford from Radio City Music Hall in New York:
• Mayhew dodged the question whether the Lions really intended to draft someone else, like Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, if they didn't come to a pre-draft contact agreement with Stafford?: "At this point, it doesn't really matter,'' he said. "We've got him, he's a guy we targeted, he's the highest-rated guy on our board, and we're glad to have him.''
• Schwartz said Stafford will play if he's clearly the Lions best quarterback, and he'll sit and wait his turn if he isn't.
"The best players are going to play, and we need to keep an eye toward that with Matthew,'' Schwartz said. "Is he the best player, and is he ready? And both of those questions have to be answered. We're in a really good position right now with a rejuvenated Daunte Culpepper. He's done an incredible job between the end of the season and now of making a commitment and being back. Anybody who saw any of our minicamp sees a lot of the old Daunte Culpepper.
"It's a great situation to be in. We don't have to force our hand and we don't have to make a decisions that's not based on merit. We go into this process not with, 'Hey, we're going sit him for a year regardless, or 'Hey, he's going to start right away.' I think we go in and say if he's ready in our eyes, and he's our best quarterback, then he plays.''
• Stafford said he's ready for the challenges of being the guy asked to turn around Detroit's long-standing football futility. "I put a lot of pressure on myself to be great anyway,'' he said. "I'm a confident person. I believe in myself. I believe in my talent.''
Stafford was out to dinner last night with about 20 friends when he got the news that a deal with the Lions was done. Who picked up the check, someone asked? "I did,'' said Stafford, not missing a beat.-- Don Banks (Follow on Twitter.)
I have had the opportunity to speak with potential Rams picks Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe a number of times during the lead up to the NFL draft on Sirius NFL Radio and as a former offensive lineman I grilled these guys like an offensive line coach would on air to find out what really makes them tick. How important is football to them? Are they satisfied with just blocking their man or do they have a burning desire to physically punish the human being in front of them? If I learned anything by being around great players it is the passion they have for their craft and their love of the sport of football that separates them as much as anything.
You can feel the hunger in Smith's voice when he talks. The former tight end has taken a liking to the offensive line and he has a certain intensity to his voice when he talks about being on the field. He yearns to get back out there and prove he is the best while destroying the opposition. He is still somewhat raw but that seemingly only serves to intrigue some offensive line coaches.
Monroe is calm, cool, and collected. He thinks about his words before speaking and then does so in a thoughtful, monotone way. He was the number one ranked offensive lineman in the country coming out of high school and it seems as if he has been prepping for this since he was born. He already talks and acts like a pro and isn't fazed by anything, even when I asked him if he was frustrated by the persistent talk about his knee as of late. --Ross Tucker
As Roger Goodell announces the Lions first pick, here's one example of how you can make statistics say anything you want them to say: Matthew Stafford is the 17th quarterback in the Super Bowl era (1966-on) to go first overall in the NFL Draft. You could thus theorize that his chances for ultimate success aren't very good, because of the first 16 quarterbacks taken No. 1, only three have gone on to lead the team that drafted them to a Super Bowl championship: Pittsburgh's Terry Bradshaw (1970), Dallas's Troy Aikman (1989), and Indianapolis's Peyton Manning (1998).
Three out of 16 (18.8 percent) isn't a very good success ratio in anyone's book. But let's look a little closer at that list of No. 1 QBs. In the case of John Elway (1983) and Eli Manning (2004), lumping them in with the rest of the non-Super Bowl-winning first overall picks because they were traded shortly after being drafted is just bogus. You can't make the case that Elway "failed'' to lead the Colts to a Super Bowl win, or that Eli Manning "failed'' to lead the Chargers to a Super Bowl win. Elway never played for the Colts and Manning never played for the Chargers, and they both deserve to be on the list of No. 1 quarterbacks who won Super Bowls with the teams they started with.
That means five of the 16 quarterbacks (or 31.3 percent) taken first overall led the first and only team they played for to a Super Bowl win (or more). And when you draw the lines a little more liberally, to include Drew Bledsoe (1993), who took New England to a Super Bowl in his fourth season but lost, the success ratio is even better (37.5 percent).
One more caveat: Jim Plunkett (1971) was drafted first by New England, but didn't find post-season success until he signed with the Raiders, his third team. He led the Raiders to a pair of Super Bowl titles, meaning that seven of the 16 quarterbacks (43.8 percent) taken in the coveted No. 1 spot at least started a Super Bowl during their careers.
Take that, Stafford doubters, and take heart, Stafford fans. Almost 44 percent at least going to the Big Game is not the worst of track records for No. 1 QBs.-- Don Banks
All weekend long, Aaron Curry said he really was as calm as he looked, but admitted that come draft day, he would start getting "a little jittery." Just as he suspected, Curry has been calm on the outside, but increasingly nervous on the inside. "Feels like freshman year," he said early Saturday afternoon. "First game, first play. Am I prepared, am I unprepared?"
Reminded that at least before a game he could be comforted by the knowledge that he would soon be able to unleash his nerves with a big hit on the field, Curry threw his head back and laughed. "Can't do that anymore," he said. Not that he isn't confident. After watching some draft talk on television in his room and getting dressed in his new gray suit from elevéé, Curry caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and said in a sing-song voice, "I'm a beast!"--Ted Keith
I'm told the offers right now are not nearly enough to get the pick, and the Rams are still quite likely to use the pick on an offensive lineman or maybe Mark Sanchez. But a lineman is much more likely there.
I'm not sure what team is competing with the Jets, but I'm guessing Washington. Big mystery there.
If the Jets get the pick, it would have to be for the 17th pick this year and next year's one ... plus something else. --Peter King (Follow on Twitter.)
By the time Aaron Curry went up to his room at the Westin to start getting dressed for the draft, a few of his fellow draft hopefuls had already made it down to the lobby, dressed and ready to get on the buses that would take them to Radio City Music Hall an hour later.
Curry had a good excuse for running late, however. He was doing interviews with ESPN and NFL Network with Bryson Merriweather, the 11-year-old boy from Alabama whom Curry met at St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis and invited to New York for the draft. Curry had spent all day Thursday with Bryson and his father, first at the Empire State Building, then at ESPN Zone for lunch, and then for a shopping spree at Niketown, and Curry had covered their airfare and hotel expenses.
For all that Curry had given him, Bryson wanted to give something back. Before Curry got on the elevator to head to his room and change, Bryson gave him a backgammon set from St. Jude's as well as an autographed football card of himself. Curry proudly displayed Bryson's card when he got back upstairs for all his well-wishers to see. "First and only one," he said. "This kid's going to be a future Pro Bowler some day."--Ted Keith
I just got settled at Gillette in time to catch an NFL Network interview with Bill Belichick.
He made a couple interesting comments, saying that the chances of the Patriots bundling their picks and moving into the top 10 are "less than zero." A report on Boston sports radio WEEI I heard on the way down, meanwhile, squashed rumors of the Patriots moving up to grab Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree. So that's two reports indicating the Patriots will stay put at No. 23. But given New England's track record, not to mention the general minefields of misinformation that seem to define draft day for every team, it's hard to put a lot of stock in the current wave of news. Belichick did leave some wiggle room, noting that there were "a lot of inquiries on our picks."
He also said the Patriots will go for the "highest player available" on their board and not draft for need.
Belichick will address the media after New England's first selection. In the meantime, there's a fan event here at Gillette and I'll scope that out to gauge their mood (most likely giddy given the general tenor of Boston sports these days). I'll also check in by phone with fans at some of the various draft parties taking place around the Boston area to get their reaction, too. Belichick's Patriots have a history of surprising fans with their picks, so it will be interesting to hear what they have to say.--Kerry J. Byrne
Ah, access. Sports networks love nothing more than promoting insider status. Courtesy of ESPN communications ace Bill Hofheimer, ESPN will have cameras at the following draft day parties and homes:
Connor Barwin, CincinnatiDonald Brown, ConnecticutEverette Brown, Florida StateVontae Davis, IllinoisDarrius Hayward-Bey, MarylandMalcolm Jenkins, Ohio St.Jeremy Maclin, MissouriClay Matthews, USCAaron Maybin, Penn St.Knowshon Moreno, GeorgiaBJ Raji, Boston College Mark Sanchez, USCAndre Smith, Alabama Chris Wells, Ohio St
ESPN will also be with uber-agent Drew (Next Question) Rosenhaus, who reps LeShon McCoy (Pitt), Darius Butler (UConn), Alphonso Smith (Wake Forest), Louis Delmas (Western Mich) and Cornelius Ingram (Florida).
Florida all-purpose back Percy Harvin and USC linebacker Rey Maualuga turned down the ESPN cameras. -- Richard Deitsch.
One of the best things about draft day, NBA or NFL, is the misinformation and gamesmanship. I'm way more familiar with the latter than the former, having covered about 20 NBA drafts through the years to about a half dozen pro football editions, but the cat-and-mouse stuff is very much the same. Everyone wants to know what the other guys are thinking, no one wants to tip his hand as to what he himself might be considering and they all treat the media as an annoying but necessary nuisance, vital to spreading their gospel --- and misinformation --- but prone to asking pesky questions.
This leads to a lot of flat-out guessing, to fill the vacuum of legit facts, and that was in full bloom at Winter Park in suburban Eden Prairie, Minn., in the days and hours leading up to the Minnesota Vikings' draft maneuvers. This much was clear: The Vikings had been showing a special interest in controversial Forida wide receiver Percy Harvin for the No. 22 pick, even dispatching head coach Brad Childress to Gainesville early in the week to meet with and discuss some of Ha rvin's alleged issues man-to-man. Let's all remember, Childress' undergraduate degree from Eastern Illinois is in psychology. Hmmm. He can be his own Wonderlic.
Harvin was strictly a caveat emptor choice as Saturday arrived -- I'm not sure if that was an official Scouts, Inc., designation or not but in reportedly failing the drug test at the NFL scouting combine in February (marijuana), Harvin added to a pile of character questions that stretch back to altercations he had with one coach/teacher and other students in high school. There was the 12 he was said to have scored on the Wonderlic test (prospects typically average 20, with receivers hovering closer to 17), as well as nagging physical issues with his neck, ankle and foot. Then again, Harvin is considered an extreme talent and a terrific complement to the Vikings' Bernard Berrian. Last season, the 5-11½ receiver caught 40 passes for 644 yards and seven touchdowns, and rushed for 660 yards on 70 carries with 10 touchdowns. The Vikings are convinced he could log time, in a Devin Hester way, returning kicks and punts, even though he has little or no experience at that.
Keeping him on the field, out of the trainer's room and out of trouble apparently would be the greater challenge than anything he'd encounter on Sundays .. Which gets back to the Vikings' cloak-and-dagger stuff. They refused to confirm their continuing investigation and conversation with Harvin, but they didn't exactly deny it. It seemed as if they were quite content to have the info out there, if only to keep the other teams guessing. Then again, in this economy, a special, short-notice trip to Florida is a luxury if it's only meant as a smokescreen. So there was a definite feeling of "They think that we think that they think that we think ...'' around the facility as Saturday's selections approached.
The Vikings have six picks -- no fourth, no sixth but two sevenths -- and wouldn't mind adding a couple, even if it meant sliding down a few spots. Their other great need is on the right side of their offensive line and they feel the options a little later might be just as good as they will be at No. 22.-- Steve Aschburner
Aaron Curry, the Butkus Award-winning linebacker from Wake Forest, had just finished a quiet dinner with over a dozen family and friends at ESPN Zone on Friday night when he found out he would not be the top pick in the NFL Draft.
True to his high-character reputation that had been as much of an attraction for teams in this draft process as his football ability, Curry sent a text message to Lions general manager Martin Mayhew congratulating him on coming to terms with Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. Mayhew quickly got back to Curry, assuring him it was a tough choice for the team and that Curry was sure to be a great pro. Asked about that conversation this morning after finishing brunch with his family at the Westin hotel in Times Square, Curry seemed perfectly at ease with not being the No. 1 pick, which is something he had wanted, if not sweated over.
Despite his praise for Stafford, and his compliments for the Lions, that does not mean, however, that Curry was just going to shrug his massive shoulders and forget about it. Instead, his shoulders had suddenly gotten an attachment. "It's another chip," he said. "First high school, then college [he was lightly recruited out of E.E. Smith High School in Fayetteville, NC], now this," he said.--Ted Keith
I've had two NFL sources tell me there's no truth to the National Football Post report that Matt Cassel has signed a $36 million contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs.
One of the sources said not only has there been no deal reached, but there have been no substantive talks between the Chiefs and David Dunn, the agent for Cassel, for a new contract.
I noted with some interest at the NFL meetings less than a month ago that Dunn was frustrated that the Chiefs apparently planned to allow Cassel to play the season at his one-year tender of $14.65 million. And the two sources I've spoken to say nothing has changed, that there is not a new deal with the Chiefs' quarterback of the future in place. --Peter King
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Just getting set up at the Chiefs' headquarters. The team offices used to be a few hundred yards away at Arrowhead, inside the stadium. Now they're in the practice complex, next to three full-sized fields, in a new sanitized building. No sight of the football people over here on the media side.
Give me a couple of minutes to get some reaction on the report from Mike Lombardi on the new $36 million contract for quarterback Matt Cassel.-- Peter King
Move over, Rodney Peete. Matthew Stafford is the new No. 9 in Detroit. The Lions first-round pick has made his first pick, and it's No. 9 for a jersey number. Not much history to this particular digit in Lions history, unless you consider Peete an underrated Motown legend. Last I heard, the former USC passer was wiling his days away on the set of FOX's Best Damn Sports Show Period. In other words, obscurity.
One press room veteran here at the Lions team complex did come up with a famous Detroit No. 9, but no matter how well he plays, Stafford will never replace Gordie Howe in the hearts of this city's fans.-- Don Banks
I'm getting a serious case of the willies being at the Lions' Allen Park team complex here for draft weekend. I was last in this building on draft weekend 2002, which also happens to be the most recent year Detroit took a first-round quarterback, selecting the doomed-to-fail Joey Harrington at No. 3.
Just coincidence? Maybe. But we'll see how far this one happens to extend, won't we?
You might remember that the big controversy of that selection was that then-Lions general manager Matt Millen supposedly wasn't all that crazy about taking Harrington, but gave in to the wishes of the team's owners, the Ford family, who thought a new face of the franchise was needed. Reports later surfaced that Millen was on board, but then-head coach Marty Mornhinweg wanted Texas cornerback Quentin Jammer in that No. 3 spot.
This year, it was clear that new head coach Jim Schwartz was Matthew Stafford's biggest proponent within the organization, but sources told me that other members of the front office (general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand) had varying degrees of questions about the wisdom of taking the Georgia quarterback.
I guess vigorous debate and a little dissent when it comes to first-round quarterbacks are just Detroit traditions on draft weekend. -- Don Banks
**REMINDER: Weigh in here with your own draft thoughts.**
When the NFL draft begins around 1 p.m. here in the Pacific Northwest, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian will be on the sidelines at Husky Stadium for his first spring game as a head coach.
While Sarkisian, the former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at USC, tries to turn around the fortunes of a team that went winless last season, a part of him will be thinking about how Jim Mora will be trying to improve a Seahawks team that went 4-12 last season. Sarkisian and Mora chatted Wednesday at a charity event in Seattle and not surprisingly the conversion centered on Mark Sanchez, who Sarkisian coached in college and who Mora might coach in the NFL.
Sanchez has become a trendy pick for the Seahawks with the No. 4 pick, which wouldn't surprise Sarkisian, who thinks his former quarterback is prepared to play in the NFL next season if need be. Sarkisian, who was the quarterbacks coach with the Oakland Raiders in 2004, has been keeping in touch with Sanchez on an almost daily basis, giving him advice on dealing with NFL teams to relaxing with his family in California rather than sweating it out in the green room in New York on draft day.
"We've been talking and he's excited. It's a great time for him," said Sarkisian. "It can get stressful so I keep reminding him to do something fun and relax. What he's doing (on draft day) isn't going to change the way people think at that moment so go relax and be with your family during that moment."
As much as Sarkisian would love to have Sanchez join him in Seattle ("That would be fun. I'd show him around") the sense along Seahawks Way is that the Seahawks are leaning towards drafting a player that will make an instant impact on the team with Michael Crabtree and Aaron Curry being on top of their wish list. As much as they like Sanchez, the Seahawks believe Matt Hasselbeck is still a Pro Bowl quarterback when he's healthy and they would rather select a player that can help him rather than learn from him. -- Arash Markazi
The informative folks at The Nielsen Company released an interesting stat yesterday: Viewership for the NFL Draft has increased 62 percent since 2002. Those are astounding numbers for an annual sports program, and it's why the two-day Goodellapalooza has become one of the most important days on ESPN's calendar. Last year ESPN averaged just over 5 million viewers for its draft coverage -- the NFL Network drew 496,000 viewers, approximately 146,000 more viewers than 2007 -- so you'll understand why both entities cover the event with an army only slightly smaller than Napoleon's.
The choice between the two networks depends on where you live (given the NFL Network is in less homes) and what analysts you trust. ESPN's gurus include the omnipresent Mel Kiper Jr. and Kiper-in-training Todd McShay. The NFL Network trumpets the less flashy but equally obsessive Mike Mayock. Both networks have hired recently-fired coaches (ESPN's Herman Edwards and NFLN Jon Gruden) and offer egocentric former Cowboys (Keyshawn Johnson and Deion Sanders) on the set. The NFL Network will highlight its exclusive war room access while ESPN is promoting the McBoard, where McShay channels CNN's John King by using a perceptive pixel touch screen to react to picks and to identify the best available players. One move sure to attract the sports blogosphere: Erin Andrews will do green-room and post-pick interviews -- a move ESPN's communication department boldly highlighted in the second paragraph of a 1,359-word press release on its Draft coverage. Some things will look similar on both networks: Count on hosts Chris Berman (ESPN) and Rich Eisen (NFLN) to lob softballs for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the annual interview.
ESPN senior coordinating producer Jay Rothman likes to refer to the draft as "our ultimate reality television." That's a fair description. While my colleagues are deployed at team headquarters throughout the country and the big show at Radio City, I'll be in bucolic Ann Arbor (current temperature: 80.1 degrees) to chronicle all the highs and lows of the media circus. ESPN and NFLN, you are officially on the clock. -- Richard Deitsch
This is my second year here in New York City experiencing the draft and already I can see an even greater level of fan involvement and interest from last year to this year, let alone five to 10 years ago. The NFL does a fantastic job marketing the event and pro football's popularity has never been higher but there are really two things about this weekend that stand out and make it a holiday of sorts for millions of fans: hope and personal involvement.
The hope is pretty simple and it is akin to a politician selling change. It is late April and that means every fan out there can believe that this is finally their team's year. Sadly, a lot of that hope will be dashed by early October. But for now they can dream big and people are finally talking about franchises like the Lions and the Rams because this is their center stage and their time to shine.
The personal involvement component is a little bit deeper. Most fans aren't 6-5 and 320 pounds. They don't run a 4.4 forty. As such, they realize they don't have what it takes to play in the NFL. But their fantasy team kicked butt last year and they could easily do a better job picking players than their favorite team's front office, right? --Ross Tucker
I'm spending my draft weekend here in Winnersville, USA, home of the newly re-branded Detroit Lions (You know what they say: Get the font and the logo just right, and the victories are sure to follow). They're forecasting strong thunderstorms blowing through this area Saturday afternoon and evening, and I assume those are the long hoped for winds of change that Lions fans have been keeping an eye out for since, oh, 2001 or so.
With Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford already secured and in line for enough guaranteed money to make an AIG executive blush, the Lions new braintrust of coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew can get down to the business of concentrating on the remaking of the rest of Detroit's roster. There's obviously plenty of work to be done besides the quarterback position.
The Lions own the 20th pick of the first round, and then the first pick of the second round, 33rd overall. They absolutely have to come away with two starters with those selections, and then probably two more Sunday morning, when they get the 65th and 82nd overall picks, both of which are third-rounders. The plan is that those five players will set the course for the "new'' Lions, the team that will begin chipping away at the colossal failure Detroit has become this decade.
Lions fans seem quite wary of everything about the team's fresh start, and can you blame them? After 0-16, and the never-ending debacle that was the Matt Millen era -- does anybody but me think it's not a good sign that the new GM and the old GM share the same initials? -- football fans in Detroit are the Wile E. Coyote of the NFL world. Always ready for the rock slide to bury them at any moment.
But hey, I was once a beat writer for a Tampa Bay team that was in the midst of an NFL record 12-year streak of double-digit loss seasons, and even the Bucs eventually turned it around and wound up winning a Super Bowl. So all things are possible, and even the worst franchises can be remade into a winner. I'm not saying it's going to happen this year, or even next, just that despite recent evidence to the contrary, the Lions are not eternally damned to reside at the very bottom of the NFL food chain.
Here's hoping the return of Motown's team starts in earnest today, with Stafford and two other stars to be named later donning Honolulu blue. Ten years is a long time to wander in the NFL desert, and when it comes to the draft in particular, the Lions are long past due for some winning moves.-- Don Banks
With apologies to Nick Bakay...
Five things I'm thinking about as I get ready to hop on a New Jersey Transit bus out to Giants Stadium, where GM Jerry Reese and his staff are huddled for the day:
1. Will the Giants make a deal for Cleveland wideout Braylon Edwards?
After releasing Plaxico Burress and deciding not to re-sign 13-year veteran Amani Toomer, the Giants could certainly use a playmaker at wide receiver, though during a pre-draft press conference, Reese explained the position was not "a glaring need." It's been said New York won't consider trading away its first-round pick (29th), which would likely be one of the Browns conditions for parting with Edwards, but Reese could conceivably work out the deal during the draft. "If it's best for us to trade our number one pick, we can do that," said Reese. "But you always want to have your number one pick going into the draft."
2. It's supposed to be a glorious 85 degrees in sunny New York City today. What will the temperature be inside the windowless Giants media room?
3. If the Giants don't orchestrate a trade for a wide receiver today, how might they use their first-round selection to draft one?
By the time the Giants will be on the clock with the 29th pick, Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech), Jeremy Maclin (Missouri) and Percy Harvin (Florida) should all be gone. Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland) and Hakeem Nicks (UNC) could still be available, and while Kenny Britt (Rutgers) may not be first-round material, the Giants also have two picks in the second round, thanks to last July's Jeremy Shockey trade with New Orleans.
4. Will the Giants be able to maximize their picks?
New York has five picks among the first 100, and the team has 10 picks overall. Only the Patriots, Bengals and Cowboys (all with 11 picks) have more opportunities to stockpile talent over the weekend.
5. Thank goodness I am riding the bus and not driving out to Giants Stadium. I am letting someone else worry about traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel.--Elizabeth McGarr
The weather dude said that this will be the first 80-degree day in Boston in seven months -- yet most winter-beaten, sports-mad New Englanders will be packed into barrooms, beer halls and lyric little bandboxes for some afternoon delight: the red-hot Red Sox hosting the Yanks at Fenway at 4:10 p.m. and a critical draft for the Patriots, who should make their first of four scheduled picks today a couple hours after first pitch.
A large group of Patriots fans even dished out 70 bucks a pop on this first summery day since September for the honor of hunkering down inside Gillette.
Of course, nobody knows what the post-Scott PioliPatriots will do with their bounty of picks today (one in the first, three in the second). But it's pretty obvious what they should do.
The Patriots need tons of help on defense, particularly when it comes to defending the pass. Bill Belichick has not uncovered an impact defensive back since Asante Samuel in the fourth round of the 2003 draft. In fact, there have been so many swings and misses along the way that you'd think that a 1999 vintage Mariano Rivera was hurling the picks at the Patriots.
Safety Guss Scott was taken in the third round in 2004. He was out of football by 2006. Dexter Reid (fourth round 2004) started two games with the Patriots. Brandon Meriweather (first round 2007) has yet to live up to expectations of a top pick. And cornerback Terrence Wheatley (second round 2008) spent most of his rookie year on IR.
The impact of the draft gaffes has been felt on the field, where the Patriots were among the worst pass defenses in football last year, with an 89.8 Defensive Passer Rating. You can't win titles that way, no matter who's at quarterback.--Kerry J. Byrne
Welcome to the second annual SI.com At The Draft Blog. Today, we have dispatched 12 writers throughout 10 cities across the country. They have one goal: To bring you behind the scenes of the first two rounds of the 2008 NFL Draft. The dozen:
• Peter King: Want to know what Kansas City executives are going to do with the No. 3 pick? In between Starbucks runs, Peter is at the Chiefs headquarters to bring you the scoop.
• Don Banks: After putting the finishing touches on Mock Draft 7.0, Don flew to Detroit on Friday to see how the Lions new regime would handle its first draft.
• Jim Trotter: The Broncos are in prime position with first-round picks at No. 12 and No. 18, so this SI magazine writer is in Denver to see what happens.
• Ross Tucker and Dominic Bonvissuto: This duo, which includes a former NFL offensive lineman in Tucker and a puny editor in Bonvissuto, has every corner of Radio City Music Hall covered.
• Arash Markazi: The party is in Seattle, where USC quarterback Mark Sanchez is a possibility with the No. 4 pick.
• Steve Aschburner: Giving the NBA playoffs a rest for a day, Steve will check in from Minnesota to see what the Vikings are going to do with the No. 22 pick.
• Kerry J. Byrne: The publisher of the brilliant ColdHardFootballFacts.com is in Foxboro, where he'll keep an eye on the unpredictable Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
• Adam Duerson: This SI Presents writer is at Jets headquarters, where he'll see if Rex Ryan and company stay put at No. 17 or try to move up.
• Richard Deitsch: SI.com's media guru is on his couch in Ann Arbor, Mich., to offer instant analysis on how the talking heads on ESPN and NFL Network are doing.
• Ted Keith: Closing out our crew, Ted has been embedded with top prospect Aaron Curry and will keep us apprised of the Wake Forest linebacker's every move.
The blog will run from now until the end of the second round. Have any thoughts along the way? Feel free to weigh in with your reactions here. --Dominic Bonvissuto