RENTON, Wash. -- Still shocked at two things this morning:
I reached out to Clausen when the first round ended, and when I identified myself, I got a dispirited "I can't talk now,'' and a hangup. Don't blame him. It had to be a devastating night for a kid who played behind a bad offensive line at Notre Dame, played most of last season with two torn ligaments in his foot and played very well with the traits the NFL wants in a player -- good deep arm, very good pocket awareness, experience in a pro-style scheme -- in a league where the quarterback is king. It's a classic example, to me, of where this league is. Clausen's perceived petulance, which has been overrated, cost him. Now he'll have to wait 'til the second round kicks off tonight at 6 Eastern to see who gets very, very lucky and gets a top-10 talent for second-round money.
Now for the Jags' pick. It's an interesting story. Jacksonville GM
I don't mind a team having a strong belief in a player. But the team has to know value. The 10th pick overall was right around the spot where the trade-downs were percolating. Smith told me last night the reason he didn't trade the pick is that there was nothing that came to him remotely approximating value for the pick. "There wasn't a lot of ability to trade down,'' Smith said from Jacksonville. Understood. But I still think at that point you take anything you can get and bail out -- unless you have a legitimate fear that Alualu was going in the next few picks.
"You can call this a reach,'' Smith said, "but the more work we did on him, the more we saw an excellent player with high character and excellent competitiveness who'd played every spot on the defensive line. I watched every game he played the last two years. The more I watched, the more I became convinced this was an excellent player for what we do. He had 17 sacks, playing inside a lot, and another one in the Senior Bowl. He's a very disruptive player.''
This pick's going to be fascinating to watch. When a player doesn't show up in the mock drafts of respective analysts like Mayock, or as a first-round-graded pick by Gil Brandt, and he goes 10th overall, the cries of "reach'' are going to go up. "This is not a popularity contest,'' Smith said. "I don't give a damn about perception. I care about picking the right player for our team. My attitude is, 'You can outsmart people some of the time, but you can outwork them all of the time.' If you can't trust your ability to judge players after all the work you put in on them, you shouldn't be in this business.''
All eyes will be on Alualu, early, in Jacksonville. He's going to have be the knifing pocket-disrupter Smith saw on film to take the heat off this pick.
"There might have been jaws dropping in your business,'' Smith said, "but I don't think there were in draft rooms.''
I beg to differ. I talked to some of those jaw-holders, and this was the surprise pick of the night, by far.
This morning, I asked Brandt about the pick. He said two things in defense of Smith, who is a well-admired scouting veteran in the league. He said he thought Alualu would have been picked low in the first round, regardless of the personal grade he had on him. He also said he knows Jacksonville was trying to trade down.
"But I'll tell you a story about trading down,'' Brandt said. "When we picked
The Rams are on the clock, but I don't think they want to be. They want to trade the next pick on the board, the 33rd overall, and I think they've got a chance to get a pretty good price after teams have a 19-hour break to figure out how much they want to pursue the pick.
I talked to four front-office types late last night and very early this morning and asked for candidates for that 33rd pick. There wasn't as much variation as I thought. Here's how the candidate list shapes up:
As of 12:30 a.m. Eastern time today, the Rams had gotten one serious phone call from an undisclosed team about the pick, and communicated with a few other teams by e-mail. GM
"He's nasty, and football is his life ... He's football. He'll come early, stay late. We're gonna throw him right in. He will be our starting left tackle -- day one, hour one -- and we will live with him through whatever the pain is. He's a line coach's dream. Thirty-one other line coaches are sad right now.''
"Clausen's plunge the final act of the