Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The First, And Most Certainly Not The Last, NFL Draft Preview

"Where's Zack?...Well then, we'll sail without him!"

So now that the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft has passed, the debating begins as to who should go where. 26 of the 32 spots have been decided, with the four remaining teams in the playoffs spots still to be determined, and that always intriguing coin flip that will take place for the third pick between Cleveland and Tampa Bay. I always wanted to see how that goes on. What are the regulations? Do they do it on a field? On a floor? On a table? And if it is on the table, is there a free-fall rule or is the coin dead if it goes off the table through an interference rule? I demand they televise this somewhere, even if it's on NFL Network. I mean how great would that be? This is a big moment, I mean this is for the third overall pick in the draft. If someone trades up with the #3 team, or the #3 team gets who the #4 team wanted, the coin flip will be looked back on in an historic sense. Have they thought of any other way to decide it? Maybe rock-paper-scissors? Ok, how about this: Kind of like the NBA Lottery, but a little different. You get a huge sweepstakes drum, fill it up with 500 postcards from fans of each team. So 500 Brown postcards and 500 Tampa postcards (I know this took a bit of a Regis & Kelly turn, but star with me). Then, you hire a model to spin the thing aorund a bunch of times. I'm thinking anywhere between 20-25 seconds. Then, the Commish reaches in, grabs a postcard, and that would determine the winning team. Also, the person who submitted the postcard would get the jersey of the guy who the team drafted, or something like that. See, a little interactive thing there, kind of rewarding fans of bad teams a little.

Ok, so now down to analysis. Anyone who knows me knows that this is the come all, be all for me. The NFL Draft, for whatever reason, is the greatest day of the year for me. I fill out countless mock drafts, watch hours of combine footage on the weekends, check out hundreds of web sites, all for the latest and greatest info on the prospects taking part. It also is fun if you can accurately predict a "sleeper" who goes in the late rounds, and then, in his first year, he makes a huge impact on the team he's playing for. I mean I love that because it makes you feel like you can beat the experts. Like you know what you're talking about.

Ok, so first, here is a list of all the underclassmen who have declared for the draft. Bare in mind that any one of these guys can recant within 72 hours of declaring and go back to the college ranks unless they sign an agent:

(if you click on the team, you can check out their team site at CBS Sportsline, which is also where I got this list)

Jon AbbateWake ForestLB5-11245Jr
Jamaal AndersonArkansasDE6-6262Jr
Antwan ApplewhiteSan Diego StateDE6-4245Jr
Jon BeasonMiami (Fla.)LB6-0236Jr
Alan BranchMichiganDT6-6311Jr
Colt Brennan*HawaiiQB6-3195Jr
Michael BushLouisvilleRB6-3247Sr
Keenan CarterVirginiaDT6-1330Jr
Stanley DoughtySouth CarolinaNT6-1315Jr
C.J. GaddisClemsonCB6-0205Jr
Ted Ginn Jr.Ohio StateWR6-0180Jr
Anthony GonzalezOhio StateWR6-0195Jr
Chris HenryArizonaRB6-0220Jr
Chris HoustonArkansasCB5-11181Jr
Brandon JacksonNebraskaRB5-11210Jr
Dwayne JarrettSouthern CaliforniaWR6-5215Jr
Calvin JohnsonGeorgia TechWR6-5235Jr
Charles JohnsonGeorgiaDE6-2222Jr
Marshawn LynchCaliforniaRB5-11215Jr
Robert MeachemTennesseeWR6-3210Jr
Zach MillerArizona StateTE6-4253Jr
Jarvis MossFloridaDE6-6252Jr
Reggie NelsonFloridaS6-0195Jr
Greg OlsenMiami (Fla.)TE6-5252Jr
Adrian PetersonOklahomaRB6-2218Jr
Antonio PittmanOhio StateRB5-11195Jr
Darrelle RevisPittsburghCB6-0200Jr
Sidney RiceSouth CarolinaWR6-4200So
Gary RussellMinnesotaRB5-11215Jr
JaMarcus RussellLSUQB6-6252Jr
Brandon SilerFloridaLB6-2238Jr
Luke Smith-AndersonIdahoTE6-5253Jr
Ramonce TaylorTexasRB5-11195Jr
Lawrence TimmonsFlorida StateLB6-3230Jr
Darius WalkerNotre DameRB5-10207Jr
Danny WareGeorgiaRB6-1216Jr
Dwayne WrightFresno StateRB6-1210Jr
Eric WrightUNLVCB5-11190Jr

*= decided to go back to Hawaii...disregard the next few lines about him

Ok, so a couple of surprises are both on this list, and not on it. First, the surprises leaving early. Maybe we were all too naive here in Gamecock Country when Sidney Rice told the world that he would stay at least another year, which is the same thing Coach Spurrier resonated. Then, Rice had big games against Florida, Clemson, and Houston, all of which were on national TV. Then, Rice got a late first-round grade from the competition committee, and he bolted. All the promise of next year being "the year" for Carolina were dashed in that one moment. I know that these things happen. Simply put, Rice, in the beginning, was all about playing college ball, and in his heart of hearts, he probably wants to stay in school and finish out. However, when you're talking about $10 million guaranteed to late first rounders in their first contract, you have to understand that this opportunity may not come around again for him. Yet, you have to wonder, what if Rice stayed in school for one more year? First of all, this one of the deepest receiver drafts maybe in the history of the draft, and if Rice had stayed, even if he had a "mediocre" year, he still would probably go higher next year than he will this year. Rice has all the intangibles to be great in the NFL, but there are as many as four guys ahead of him (Johnson, Jarrett, Ginn, Samardzija) that have abilities as well. Another one is Colt Brennan, the QB out of Hawaii. The guy clearly has a ton of ability, but right now, he's not really ranked that high (around 4th or 5th on most sites). Also, most of his numbers came against below average opponents who were trying to get over a four hour time difference. Brennan had an impressive bowl performance against Arizona St., which I have to say is the biggest reason he decided to come out. I think that now that Brennan is officially out of obscurity, he should stay another year so that more people could track his progress. You have to believe also that Hawaii would get a ton of games on TV if Brennan decided to stay, given his recent boost in popularity.

A name I'm surprised isn't on here is Brian Brohm, the QB from Louisville. Brohm had an impressive season, leading Louisville to win the Orange Bowl despite the fact that Michael Bush, their star running back, missed almost the entire season. Brohm suffered a thumb injury this year, causing him to miss almost a month of action. Also, the aforementioned Bush is leaving early to go to the draft, and Brohm's coach, Bobby Petrino, took the job as the coach of the Atlanta Falcons. So, Louisville is out a coach and a running back, and yet Brohm believes he could win a national title with the Cardinals next year. Another name that may not be called on either day is Tom Zbikowski. He is a fourth-year junior who is petitioning the NCAA to get another year of eligibility. Zbikowski is known as the Golden Gloves winner who has pursued his boxing career to a certain extent, but will likely continue playing football. If Zbikowski were to come out this year, he has been listed as a late second to early third round pick. In hindsight, he really should have come out last year, especially after the game he had against the Trojans at South Bend.

Ok, now comes the good part: What are the Patriots going to do? Ok, we know for certain that the Pats will definitely have the 24th pick overall, which they obtained from Seattle for Deion Branch. I wasn't writing this when it happened, but this was what I was thinking: "How the hell did we just get a first round pick for Deion Branch?" This guy is like a second-tier receiver who was completely a product of the New England system (same can be said about David Givens). I mean think about it, when San Fran attempted to trade T.O. to the Ravens, they got a second-rounder in return. Then, when the trade went through for Owens to be in Philly, Baltimore got a fifth round pick for him and San Fran got a backup lineman. So when you compare the two, and consider that Branch was holding out and probably wouldn't have played in a game this year, this was a steal. Anyway, they have the 24th, and, depending on the outcome of the season, they could end up with the 28th, 31st, or 32nd overall picks. Now, here's my opinion: trade up or trade out. I would definitely suggest trading out of one of the picks, then getting more picks in a draft that is deep in basically all the positions they need (WR, G, LB, S). Then, there is always the option of packaging the picks and moving up the draft board if they become enamored with a top-10 pick. Then, the final possibility is staying put, which could very well happen. The draft is pretty deep, but when you start to look at players that may end up in the lower third of the draft, it really wouldn't surprise me if they stay put. Ok, with all that being said, here's how each of the three scenarios may play out:

1.) Trading Down: The Pats will likely trade down with the lower of their first rounders in this scenario. Of course, since the Draft is still about three months away, a lot could happen as far as player values and team needs go. I'm going to use the trade value chart that was invented by Jimmie Johnson in the early 90's. If you don't know what I'm talking about, it is a chart that details the value of every single pick in the draft. Then, if a team uses the chart, they can determine how much they have to give to move up, or how much they should expect in return if they move down. The chart, provided by NFL Draft Countdown (which is a really great site if you are looking for the latest news and rankings dealing with the Draft), states that the 32nd pick (because we're going to win it all) has a value of 590. Right here, you have two very interesting possibilities as far as how much a team will go in order to move up. In years passed, it has not been uncommon for a team looking to move up here to give a third rounder and a first rounder in the next year. The logic here is that the team will be good enough that the trading of first rounders will be a wash and the third round pick is inconsequential as long as they get their guy. Recall back in 2003 when Baltimore and New England struck a deal, with the Pats sending the 19th overall pick to the Ravens for the 41st overall spot, coming in the second round, and their first rounder in 2004. In that same year, the Pats had the 13th overall pick as well, and drafted Ty Warren. The Ravens ended up taking Kyle Boller (by the way, you have to love how everyone on God's green Earth thought the Ravens got a "steal" with drafting Boller there...priceless). The Pats would go on to trade the 41st to move up to draft Eugene Wilson, then the following year, the Pats drafted 21st with the Ravens pick, and got Vince Wilfork. So, these trades definitely have their value. I would go and suggest the Pats try and get a late second rounder and a #1 for next year. Teams like Tampa or the Jets, both of whom have two second-rounders, could be ideal trading partners. Here's how I think it may play out:

New England trades 32 (590) to Tampa. New England receives #61 (292), #100 (100), and a first rounder next year (the reason I threw in the extra pick is that going from 61 to 32 is a gigantic jump, worthy of a little more than a 2nd and a future 1st)

61. Aaron Ross, CB, Texas. We're going to go ahead and say the Pats drafted Posluszny by deafult in the first round, because, well, basically, it's my thing, and I do what I want. Anyway, Ross has always been a guy that has impressed me. He plays well in big games. He has good size at 6'1. He won the Thorpe Award last year as the nation's top defensive back, and if he's still available, this would be a steal here.

100. Manuel Ramirez, G, Texas Tech- I got a couple numbers that will make you understand why I'm taking this guy right here: 6'4, 335 lbs., 550 lb. bench press...you do the math. The Pats should be looking toward the future, which is Laurence Maroney. And in order to keep the future healthy, adding this guy to the equation wouldn't hurt.

2.) Staying Put: So the Pats have been taking offers for both the 24th and 32nd pick all day long, but the guys that they really want are still on the board, so they stay status quo and draft with the picks. Honestly, it's not so bad considering how top-heavy this draft is in terms of talent. There will be a lot of potential pro-bowlers going in the first 50 picks. So, the Pats will probably be looking for a pretty special pick to get out. So if they stay, here's how they should work it:

24. Paul Posluszny, OLB, Penn St. This is just the guy. That's all I have to say. This guy just screams Belichick. Remember, if the Cowboys didn't draft Bobby Carpenter, the Pats would have, and you wouldn't have been hearing about the great Maroney-Dillon running combo. Now, the Pats have a legitament shot here of getting more youth at the linebacking position. Also, when you consider Tully Banta-Cain is a free agent, and the effectiveness of Junior Seau next season remains in question, this would be the smart pick.

32. Marcus McCauley, Cb, Fresno St. See, I just can't see Asante staying. I mean he played out of his mind this year, nabbing 10 interceptions, and has turned into one of the best corners in the league, and therefore, would probably want to get compensated as such. McCauley (again this may be a stretch with him falling this far). He has good size at 6'1, 200 lbs. From what I have gathered from other sources, this guy is real fast (once clocked a 4.35 40) and has great leaping ability. You just have to hope that this guy is not a workout warrior and slips a couple of spots. Honestly, I wanted to put Sidney Rice here, but I just can't see Belichick and Scott Pioli picking not only an underclassman, but one from South Carolina. I mean I love my school, but we don't have any kind of "football IQ" flowing out of here. Don't worry, it's coming.

3.) Trading up. I think there is one guy they are going to target if they want to move up, and that's Reggie Nelson. This guy is, right now, the biggest mover and shaker on the draft board. He is explosive and is a heavy hitter, which the Pats definitely need. Rodney Harrison not only cannot be called upon to stay healthy, but is also getting up there in age. You can also start Nelson opposite of Harrison at strong safety. I mean this guy is that good. Also, the Pats and Florida seem to have a pipeline through which the talent flows. There is some kind of mutual thing going on between Belichick and Florida coach Urban Meyer, which is not a bad relationship to have at all. In this scenario, the Pats would trade their #24, their third rounder, and a third rounder next year to move up to St. Louis' spot at #13. They have to move this high when you consider that Carolina, picking #14, is also in the hunt for a safety. I would be happy with this trade. They definitely need another physical presence in the defensive backfield.

There is another scenario where they could trade up and down, but all that would be is combining #1 and #3, which is definitely a real possibility. Anyway, that's all for right now, but stay tuned because I will be putting up a lot more stuff about the Draft up until April. Take care everyone. Peace.


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