Mailbag: Should Eli Manning and Julian Edelman Be Hall of Famers?

With a new crop of players set to enter the league, our readers first had questions about guys who've exited the league. Plus, will Orlando Brown Jr. be traded, will the Eagles take a wide receiver, will we see full stadiums next year and more draft questions.
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All of your questions answered here, with two weeks left until draft day. …


From Samuel Saperstein (@Samuelsap5): Is Eli Manning a Hall of Famer?

From cherokee jack (@Danielcramer_): Is Julian Edelman a Hall of Famer?

This is a two-fer for me because of what I said on Twitter on Monday night—that the case for Manning is similar to the case for Edelman. Both guys, to me, wouldn’t sniff the Hall of Fame based on regular-season production, and I’m not sure there was a point in either’s career when you could say, That guy is top five at his position. And on balance, I believe in most cases that being elite at your position for an extended period, more than just a point in time, is the prereq for getting in.

From there, the question becomes how much weight you put on big performances on big stages, and Manning and Edelman certainly have those. The former has heroic Super Bowl throws to David Tyree (a little bit of a prayer, but after a great escape) and Mario Manningham (an absolute dime) four years apart, and MVPs from both games. The latter has the game-winning touchdown after taking a huge hit from Kam Chancellor in Super Bowl XLIX, the impossible shoestring catch to spark the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history in SBLI and an MVP from SBLIII.

Does that outweigh never having been better than, say, the seventh- or eighth-best players at their respective positions? And if it doesn’t, and stats are applied to fight the case, what about fellow big-stage stars like Joe Namath and Lynn Swann?

Full disclosure: I tend to put weight on big-stage performances and the sort of toughness, both mental and physical, that Manning and Edelman showed. For me, it goes back to the purpose of playing these games for a player, which is to help your team … win the game and, ultimately, win championships. But I still don’t think I’d enshrine either in Canton, in part because I think it should be hard to get in.

From kcchiefsjunky (@kcchiefsjunky): What type of return are the Ravens looking for in an Orlando Brown Jr. trade?

Let me start here, Junky: I’m not sure how motivated the Ravens are to move Orlando Brown. The background here is that Brown was a three-year starter at left tackle at Oklahoma but widely seen, going into the 2018 draft, as a right tackle prospect, given who he is athletically, a 355-pound road-grader. And that’s where he wound up landing as he became a starter in Baltimore early in his rookie year.

Then last year, Ronnie Stanley, who may be the best left tackle in football, went down. That necessitated Brown flipping back over to what he believes is his natural position.

And here we are now, a couple of months after Brown’s camp first got the word out there that he wanted to play left tackle full-time, which simply isn’t in the cards in Baltimore, with Stanley coming back from injury. Some of Brown’s reasons are obvious (he’s now eligible for a new contract, and left tackles get paid more); some are less obvious (he’s actually left-handed, which plays into his comfort level on that side).

So the question is how another team would have to view Brown to trade for him, and really there are three conditions there: It would have to be cool with playing him at left tackle; it would have to be willing to give him a market deal or expose itself to losing him in free agency a year after trading for him; and it would have to trade a pick for him on top of that. Which is a lot to sort through, especially with a draft class that’s strong at tackle.

Then, there’s the Ravens’ side of this. If he were to play out this season and get paid in free agency next year, they could get a third-round comp pick while having a full year to find his replacement. Which means, on paper, you’d probably have to do better than a third-rounder. Who’s willing to give up a one or two for him? And pay him? And play him at a position he doesn’t have a ton of NFL history at, with the underlying concerns about his athletic capacity to handle it?

The truth on Brown is there are teams, and I talked to a couple on Tuesday, that believe Brown is already in the perfect scheme for his skill set and might not be quite the same guy elsewhere, and that’s before you even get to the move from right to left tackle.

All of this should explain why a trade hasn’t happened yet. The best chance one will, I’d say, might come after the first round of the draft if a team or two that struck out on finding a tackle on that first night and gets desperate. And by the way, none of this is to say Brown’s not a good player. He is a good player. The situation is just complicated.

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From Justin O (@lonelyjetsfan1): There’s been lots of talk about Caleb Farley slipping due to injury. Could you really see him falling to Round 2?

Justin, I’ll preface all this by saying that I’m not a doctor. But I can tell you what I know, which is that back injuries are probably the ones taken most seriously by teams before the draft, and having had two procedures in that area as a collegian is going to be a problem for Farley with some teams. And, by the way, no one’s lying when they say he should be ready for the season. That’s not where the issue would be. More so, it’s about how teams see him—and whether or not he’ll last long-term (or if you might be drafting a one-contract guy).

My buddy Dr. Jess Flynn actually addressed the topic for The 33rd Team, if you’re interested in learning a little more about Farley.

And as for what it does to his stock, I’d say, free of injury, he’d have comfortably been the top corner in the draft for most teams. As it is, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Alabama’s Patrick Surtain (who might be the safest prospect in the draft) and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn (who has considerable upside) go before he does.

From texanjw (@texanjw): Do you truly think Bill Belichick will use draft capital to move up to take a QB? Fields?

Texan, I think the Patriots are taking a serious look at Justin Fields. Whether it’s enough to take him at No. 15 or trade up for him, I don’t know. What I do know is the Patriots had a high-level executive (Eliot Wolf) in Columbus for Fields’s first pro day, and are planning to have three guys with influence (in a year when you are only allowed to have three at pro days) in attendance at Fields’s second pro day on Wednesday, including OC Josh McDaniels.

The second workout, by the way, will be closed to the media. And as of the weekend, there were just two teams (the Niners and Patriots) scheduled to be there, which is a function of many having already seen Fields and most teams being huddled in draft meetings at this point in the calendar. Bottom line, this would be a lot of effort and lost man-hours for a smoke screen that probably really wouldn’t serve much purpose.

And there’s also this misnomer that Bill Belichick won’t trade up that we should dispel. We’ve seen the opposite from him when he’s had conviction. It just doesn’t happen all that often. It did in 2010 when he went from No. 44 to 42 to leapfrog the Ravens for Rob Gronkowski (Baltimore had actually failed Gronk on his physical, but that’s a story for another day). It did twice in 2012, with moves from No. 27 to 21 to get Chandler Jones and No. 31 to 25 to get Dont'a Hightower.

Again, I don’t know if the Patriots feel the way about Fields that they did about Gronkowski, Hightower or Jones. You could argue they’d have to think more of him to move up into the top 10 to get him, given the price and need for young talent on New England’s roster. But I do think there’s reason to keep an eye on it here.

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From Philly District (@philly_district): Will the Eagles draft a WR?

Philly, my belief is that part of the equation for the Eagles in moving out of the sixth pick was a belief in Philly that Ja’Marr Chase would likely be gone somewhere in the top five (and probably at No. 5, to the Bengals). So take that, and maybe you’d come to the conclusion that Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith would be in play at No. 12. I understand the logic, and I’m not going to fight you on the possibility that might happen.

But here’s what’s bugged me about that idea: GM Howie Roseman needs a strong couple of drafts the next couple of years, and if you look at his team-building philosophy, you’ll find a consistent, deep investment in the lines of scrimmage. Now, look at what the Eagles have up front. On offense, Jason Kelce is 33, Brandon Brooks is 31, Lane Johnson is 30 and Andre Dillard still needs to prove himself as the designated left tackle of the future. On defense, Brandon Graham is 33 and Fletcher Cox is 30.

If Roseman is using this draft and the next (he’ll have four picks in the first two rounds and probably three first-rounders in 2022) to turn the page and get younger, his history tells me the lines of scrimmage will get a hard look somewhere on draft day. I think the dream for the Eagles would be to have Kyle Pitts slip to No. 12 (not happening). Absent that, I don’t think you should ignore the possibility of them drafting guys like Rashawn Slater and Alijah Vera-Tucker.

From Maurisse (@MaurisseJ): Which OTs in the draft are teams targeting to move inside to guard?

Maurisse, the tackle thing is a good annual question—and there are a lot of guys about whom that question is being asked. Start with the Northwestern product, Slater, who’s drawn some comparisons to six-time All-Pro Cowboy Zack Martin, a college left tackle who kicked inside to guard as a pro. The rap on Slater is that you’re getting a really good player with a high floor who might wind up being better inside than outside in the pros.

Vera-Tucker’s another interesting one. Coming into 2020 he was seen as a top-shelf guard prospect. Then he opted out of the season; then he opted back in when the Pac-12 reversed its decision to cancel its season; then he was moved out to left tackle by the USC coaches. And now, some teams are intrigued by the idea he could play tackle in the pros, largely because of how well he played there in the fall.

After that, you have guys like Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins, really good players with concerns over athleticism leading teams to project them inside and into the smaller spaces of playing the guard spot. And weighing all those guys against more prototypical tackles like Oregon’s Penei Sewell (likely the first lineman to go) and Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw should make for interesting debates among coaches and scouts.

From Ray; @Blackbaud Community Manager (@BBRayRay1): Smart for Chargers to trade up for LT? If not, do you see any of the left tackles slipping to No. 13?

Ray, we’re really making this the big-man mailbag. I don’t know if the Chargers would trade up from No. 13 for someone like Sewell or not. But what we can say is that GM Tom Telesco has a history of being aggressive in the first round—he spent fourth- and fifth-rounders in 2015 to jump from No. 17 to 15 and take Melvin Gordon, and a third-rounder last year to jump from No. 37 to 23 and take Kenneth Murray. We also know, for sure, there’s a tackle need in L.A., with Trey Pipkins the team’s starter at left tackle right now.

So yes, I could see the Chargers getting aggressive if, say, Sewell slides a little. And you didn’t ask for a scenario, but I’ll give you one, anyway. Let’s say QBs go 1-2-3-4 (as they do in Conor Orr’s mock this week), and then Ja’Marr Chase goes at 5 to Cincinnati, and Pitts goes at 6 to Miami. From there, you could see Detroit, very open to moving its pick, maybe fielding a phone call from L.A. at 7, and maybe then the Chargers could offer up their third- and fourth-rounders to jump up to No. 7 and reunite Justin Herbert with his college left tackle.

Fun scenario, anyway, and it’d be a good investment back into the young quarterback.

From Zach Fogelman (@FogelmanZach): Are the Jets really locked in on Zach Wilson? Is there any chance at all that Justin Fields will be the second pick??

Zach, the Jets aren’t running from rampant speculation that the hay’s in the barn and Wilson is headed from Provo to Gotham. GM Joe Douglas told me last week that he and his staff, in conjunction with Robert Saleh and his staff, had identified a clear top two among the quarterback in the draft class. I think it’s fair to assume that Trevor Lawrence is one of those two, which basically tells you it’s down to one guy for the Jets at No. 2.

Also, Douglas was asked on a conference call with the local media about Steve Young saying publicly that the Jets were “committed” to taking Wilson, and Douglas responded that “Steve’s plugged into BYU pretty well. It was good being out there at the pro day.” And if you really want to dive into that pro day, it’s the only one of the quarterback pro days to which Saleh accompanied Douglas.

Point is, we don’t have to make too many big leaps on our own to make an assumption on this one.


From R.B. (@Sports_Fi3nd): What’s your stance on Roger Goodell stating that the NFL wants full attendance at stadiums next season? Do you feel it is too soon for that to happen or do you think it can be done with the right measures in place? Keep up the great work, Albert!

Thanks, R.B.! First of all, just like I wasn’t playing doctor in the Farley case, I’m not going to play doctor here. But I do feel like there are a lot of signs that we’re going to get there. The Texas Rangers filled their ballpark to near capacity on Opening Day. And you better believe that if there’s not an issue there, other pro sports teams are going to follow suit (motivation: obvious), and there are a lot of pro sports events on the calendar between now and Labor Day.

We’re talking about five months of baseball game across the country, the rest of the NHL and NBA seasons, and then a full set of playoffs in both sports, plus a host of America’s niche pro sports (soccer, lacrosse) starting their seasons. My guess is that by the time September rolls around we’re going to have a mountain of data on what works and what doesn’t.

What I can’t predict, because I’m no epidemiologist (and even they don’t know), is what that data will tell us. I can’t say there won’t be any outbreaks stemming from a standing-room-only baseball crowd in Kansas City or St. Louis in July, and I can’t say there will, either. I just don’t know. But I do think there’s ample reason to be optimistic, and I understand why the NFL and its owners need to start planning for full stadiums now.

It’s not reckless to think about that anymore.

From Danny (@BetTheOver85): How does Kyle Pitts compare to when Eric Ebron came out, considering both are/were seen as freaks. Most TEs don’t contribute significantly for a few years, is he worth the high pick?

Danny, great question! And I do think it’s always important to look back over the years before throwing words like “generational” around—we went over this in a March edition of the mailbag, off a question about Pitts. With that established, as I said then, I do believe it’s fair to give Kyle Pitts the tag of being generational and will give you some context on that after we answer your question, which I had to vet with a couple scouts.

What I got back from my evaluators: The biggest gap is in hands and blocking. Pitts is a more natural catcher of the ball and a better blocker (Ebron was more of a “big receiver” whereas Pitts is a real tight end). Pitts is also taller, faster and a looser athlete than Ebron was in 2014. That said, one college scouting director texted it’s “not a massive gap. Ebron’s tape was very good. Pitts’s tape is Wow.” Another exec added, “Ebron was more of a, ‘Wow, he’s a really good athlete for a TE’ and Pitts is, ‘Holy s---, he might be as athletic as the WRs.’ ”

And the idea that it’s even close might bother some people. But remember, Ebron was the 10th pick in the draft and one of just four tight ends over the last 24 drafts to go in the top 10, joining T.J. Hockenson, Vernon Davis and Kellen Winslow. As for Pitts’s being generational, I’d say, based on how people are talking about him now, he’s the best tight end prospect since Davis in 2006. So yes, he’s a generational prospect.

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