NFL Draft: Quarterbacks


Have you grown as sick of hearing from ESPN’s Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr as I have? Since January, with increasing frequency, the dynamic duo have analysed the NFL draft every which way. They’ve rated the quarterbacks, they’ve done full 1st round mocks and the ole’ faithful top 10 list.

The favorite topic of their discussion is quarterback. Why not? It’s the sexiest position in football and the positions will sink or swim in this year’s draft. McShay and Kiper change their opinions like cheap suits. Cam was the best, then of late Gabbert seems to be the favorite flavor. Then there is my particular favorite, character. Why does Newton have bad character? Is it because schools wanted to buy him? Absolutely no proof exists that he entertained such discussion and even less that he actually took anything. Mallett’s stock, at least according to the ESPN experts, is in an absolute free fall. It seems somewhere along the testing process, Mallett acknowledged that he had smoked pot. At least he was honest, unlike some that denied ever doing so, I am  sure.

The winner in the character assault has been Gabbert. The golden boy that reminds me of Ryan Leaf has seen his ESPN stock skyrocket with the attacks on the SEC boys. Is this an attack on the Southeastern conference? Its us against the world, life  is tough I guess, when you are at the top. Gabbert ran almost strictly out of shotgun in a spread offense at Missouri. He lost most of the big games he played in and most importantly refused to take part in some aspects of the NFL combine. Where does Gabbert rank among the quarterbacks in Thursday’s draft? In my book, he should be either 2nd or 3rd quarterback taken. More specifically, despite the campaign from ESPN, he will be 2nd or 3rd quarterback taken…. not first.

Write it down, take it to the bank, Cam Newton is going first to the Carolina Panthers. Sure they took Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen last year, but you don’t pass on a once in a lifetime talent like Newton. Clausen was one of the most highly regarded high school quarterbacks in recent years and enjoyed great success in South Bend. Is Carolina even considering Gabbert? No. Why? Because they’re not sure he’s better than  what they already have. If Cam was gone and I was in dire need of a quarterback, I would consider Mallett instead of Gabbert. Maybe its the SEC in me.

What about the rest of the quarterbacks? Sure, if we’re talking late in the 2nd round and the franchise fate isn’t relying on the pick.  In my opinion, Jake Locker is the best of the rest. Reminds me somewhat of Heath Shuler, which is a bad thing, but we couldn’t have another one of him could we?  Taking Locker in the 2nd round isn’t as painful as the Redskins taking the Congressman with the 3rd overall pick in the 1994 draft. I am convinced that the Shuler pick and the subsequent Michael Westbrook selection with the 4th overall pick the following year put  Norv Turner in a hole too deep to ever recover from. Next Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin? Hardly.

What left? Andy Dalton from TCU? West Coast guy -which is code for- has a weak arm. Led the TCU look at me campaign. Again probably the SEC in me. Christian Ponder? Never delivered up to potential at Florida State. Why now? Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick? Small school competition leaves a big question mark in my mind. I know, it’s an SEC thing. I could see New England with one of its twenty picks, or whatever they have stockpiled, taking a chance, or Indianapolis. Need to start grooming the replacements for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning right? Since they are both going to play as long as Favre did, you have room to miss.

Next, we will review the running back candidates.

NFL Draft: Defense


A week from now, fans and experts alike will be breaking down round one of the 2011 NFL draft.

Historically, offense takes center stage with the top picks, but this year, marquee defensive players may rule the early going. Since the end of the bowl season, no less than five defenders have been mentioned as possible top overall selections.

Defensive lineman are a premium and this year’s draft will be no exception. Linebackers and defensive backs are rarely taken near the top, but both positions have an elite athlete that could go very high.

Defensive Tackle

With the rebirth of the 3-4 defensive scheme, you hear more specialized categories of d-lineman, 3 technique, 4 technique, 3-4 end, 4-3 end, etc. This year’s draft features a pair of elite athletes that may fit anywhere along either alignment.  Auburn’s Nick Fairley was a one man wrecking crew for Auburn’s National Championship defense. Fairley excels at interior penetration and some have projected him as the top pick in the draft. Across the state, Alabama’s Marcel Dareus  arrived on the scene after destroying Texas in the 2009 National Championship Game. Dareus has the versatility to perform both inside and outside.  Baylor’s Phil Taylor is exciting 3-4 coordinators with his mammoth size and strength. Nobody is stronger than Oregon State’s Stephen Paea. Paea set a combine record with 49 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press. Looking for a sleeper? Look no further than North Carolina’s Marvin Austin. Austin sat out the 2010 season due to off the field issues, but showed why he was the nation’s to defensive recruit coming out of high school during his career in Chapel Hill.

Defensive End

One of the biggest wild cards in the 2011 NFL draft is Clemson defensive end DaQuan Bowers. Once considered by many as a potential top overall pick, Bowers has seem his stock drop due to injury concerns. A healthy Bowers could be an absolute steal mid-way through the first round.  UNC’s Robert Quinn was another premiere Tar Heel defender that was suspended for the entire season. A strong combine has Quinn soaring up mock draft boards. Defensive end may be the deepest position of stellar athletes. Not unlike defensive tackle, alignment plays a role. 3-4 defenses seek more stout run stopping ends, while 4-3 defense’s go with more mobile pass rushing types. Wisconsin’s JJ Watt, Missouri’s Aldon Smith and California’s Cameron Jordan all project as first round selections. Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward is down the list a bit, but has upside above any other, and could be the steal of the draft.

Linebacker (Inside)

3-4 defenses seek more mobile inside linebackers, while 4-3 schemes deploy a larger, thicker run stopper.  Inside linebacker is one of the weakest groups in the 2011 draft. Michigan State’s Greg Jones was once thought of as a high first rounder, but has slipped quite a bit. A pair of high-profile athletes may be the best bargains on day two. LSU’s Kelvin Sheppard and Oregon’s Casey Matthews have good upside and would be smart picks by those of need. Sheppard led a rugged Tigers defense while Matthews comes from a family of NFL stars.

Linebacker (Outside)

Texas A&M’s Von Miller’s stock has grown more than anyone since the end of the 2010 season. Miller struggled early on, after a sensational junior season. Miller running a blistering 4.42 at the combine at 6’3″ 246 pounds. He is the premiere linebacker in the draft. UCLA’s Akeem Ayers is the next best on the board, thought to be an ideal outside man in the 3-4 setup. Georgia’s Justin Houston has the most intriguing size/speed combo. The All-SEC ‘backer is 6’3″ 270 with 4,6 speed.  The feel good story of the draft is certainly Boston College’s Mark Herzlich. Herzlich beat cancer, coming back for a fine senior season after sitting out 2009.


Was there a more exciting player in college football than LSU’s Patrick Peterson? Imagine a true cover corner, weighing 220 pounds with 4.3 speed! Throw in one of the elite kick returners in the game and you have Peterson. Peterson has been compared to Hall of Famer’s Rod Woodson and Mel Blount. Peterson may eventually grow out of the position when he tops 230 pounds, at which time he will move back to safety. Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara is the only other corner that is a sure-fire first round pick. After Peterson and Amukamara, those selecting a corner in round one may be reaching a bit. Colorado’s Jimmy Smith has nice size and speed, while Texas’ Aaron Williams may project at safety due to slow forty times. While Peterson is a game breaker, there is a serious lack of depth at corner in this draft.


Safety is not a position that usually is addressed early in the draft. Every couple of  years, an Ed Reed, Laron Landry or Eric Berry comes along. This is not one of those years. UCLA’s Rahim Moore is the consensus at free safety, he’s expected to go off the board early on day two. The top strong safety is Clemson’s DeAndre McDaniel who projects late on day two. Potential mid-round value will come from Florida’s Ahmad Black,  South Carolina’s Chris Culliver, Jeron Johnson of Boise State and Idaho’s Shiloh Keo.

Next week, we will give you a closer look, with our own mock draft.

NFL Draft: Offense


Are you as eager for a taste of some NFL as I am? It’s only the draft, but its the closest thing we are going to get for a while I’m afraid. While free agency and trading of players is on hold, NFL teams may trade draft choices.

What needs do your team have? To give you a preview, we will take a look at some of the draft picks that will garner the headlines next week. First the offense.


Without question, Auburn’s Cam Newton will (and should be) the #1 overall pick by the Carolina Panthers. Newton has off the chart measurables and is coming off an unbeaten National Championship season celebrated with a Heisman Trophy.  Blaine Gabbert of Missouri is the only other QB certain of a first round selection, while Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett and Washington’s Jake Locker will also be considered. The best value may come from the next group who will be selected on day two. TCU’s Andy Dalton has done nothing but win and is a perfect fit for a West Coast offense. Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick is second only to Newton in measurables, with mid major competition the only question mark. If you are looking for sleepers, Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor and Texas A&M’s Jerod Johnson fit the bill.

Running Back

There is a reason that Alabama running back Mark Ingram has paid a visit to so many NFL teams leading up to the draft. Ingram is NFL ready and without question to top player at the position. He has many of the same attributes as Emmitt Smith and while pedestrian in the forty, nobody is faster in the ten yard sprint to the hole. A trio of backs are a step down from Ingram and figure to go anywhere from late on day one to early on day two. Illinois’ Mikel Leshoure and Daniel Thomas of Kansas State are big backs, while Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams offers more moves. Projecting as late round sleepers are Alex Green from Hawaii and Maryland’s Da’Rel Scott.


Fullback continues to be phased out by many NFL offensive coordinators and those at the college level as well. A trio bringing very different skills figure to have their name called during the draft. Tulsa’s Charles Clay was a college tailback, USC’s Stanley Havili a traditional fullback while Stanford’s Owen Marecic was a two-way star for the Cardinal.

Wide Receiver

Two future Pro Bowler’s highlight the wide out position in Georgia’s AJ Green and Alabama’s Julio Jones. Both arrived in the SEC as elite recruits and didn’t disappoint. Both could end up in the top 10 overall, with Green projecting as high as the top 5.  Maryland’s Torrey Smith and Jonathan Baldwin of Pittsburgh may be the next two to go. Smith has incredible speed numbers and excels at returning kicks while Baldwin has prototype size, much like his Panther predecessor Larry Fitzgerald. Those looking for late round value will consider Hawaii’s Greg Salas and Terrence Tolliver of LSU. Salas was highly productive but may be viewed as putting up system numbers while Tolliver’s numbers were limited by weak play at quarterback.

Tight End

It is uncommon for a tight end to be selected in the first round, but Notre Dame’s Kyle Rudolph is uncommon talent. Rudolph arrived in South Bend as the top prep player at the position in the nation and delivered. Kyle missed much of the 2010 season due to injury but has elite skills.  There is no clear-cut next best at the position, I like Arkansas’ DJ Williams.  If you are looking for a sleeper, look no further than South Carolina’s Weslye Saunders. Saunders was suspended in 2010 for violation of team rules, but is massive and mobile.

Offensive Line (Tackle)

Usually one offensive tackle stands out as the sexy pick at the position. Not so this year with four players worthy of first round selection, in no particular order. USC’s Tyron Smith and Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin helped themselves with strong combines. Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo and Nate Solder of Colorado have prototype size and will be in the mix. Someone will get a late round steal with Auburn’s Lee Ziemba. Ziemba who started at left tackle for four years for the defending national champs, figures at right tackle at the next level.

Offensive Interior (Guard/Center)

NFL scouts are looking for athletes that can contribute at both center and guard. The flexibility is a huge advantage as teams only have eight lineman active on game day. Three figure to be considered on day one, Florida’s Mike Pouncey, Danny Watkins of Baylor and Florida State’s Rodney Hudson. Pouncey is the brother of Maurkice, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie with Pittsburgh this season. Watkins is old for a rookie, having served as a firefighter for four years out of high school before attending Baylor. Hudson is the finesse player of the bunch, having been honored as the top lineman in the ACC for two seasons running. USC’s Kris O’Dowd has a big upside and could be a steal for the team that selects him mid draft.

Tomorrow, we will take a look at the defense

What city has the worst pro sports teams?

I am sure many folks would love to  recommend their own city for this honor, but the choice is clear.

My own hometown of Washington DC has the worst pro franchises in the country. For the sake of argument, we will leave the NHL out. There are two reasons for this; its the least popular of the big four and Washington’s hockey team is quite good.

Don’t get me wrong, I wish the District had solid pro franchises, but as we sit, right now, they do not. Looking at the current NBA season, the upcoming NFL (maybe) and MLB seasons, winning is not, nor will be a regular occurrence.

Where should we start? Lets start with the Washington Wizards since they are currently engaged in regular season play. We start at the top with the owner Ted Leonsis. Leonsis assumed  ownership of the team less than a year ago. I will give Leonsis credit, he is biting the bullet as the club is undergoing a total rebuild. Gone are the contracts of Brendan Hawyood, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and most recently Gilbert Arenas. The team’s PR efforts have been lauding the “Six first round picks” from the 2010 and upcoming 2011 drafts. John Wall and this year’s high lottery pick are legit, but lets face it, late round selections are far from a certainty.  The Wizards rebuild stalled in 2009 when the team traded the 5th pick overall to Minnesota for Randy Foy and Mike Miller. A steep price for a one year rental of both. With that pick, the team could have added names like Brandon Jennings or Stephen Curry to name two. If Washington is fortunate enough to land Arizona forward Derek Williams or North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes this summer they will be on their way. With lots of cap room the future looks bright, but its going to be a while. Back to back to back high lottery picks says it all.

Baseball spring training is winding down and everyone has hope, right?  No. Any hope of a Cinderella season went out the window when pitcher Stephen Strasburg underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his billion dollar arm. What did the Nationals do in the off-season? They signed a 31 year outfielder to a 126-million, seven year contract. Hey, a nice gesture and certainly a golden parachute for the Werth family, but wow!  There is no salary cap in baseball, so I guess its not that bad.  The team is owned by the Lerner family, real estate tycoons for generations in the DC area. The ExposNationals were owned by Major League Baseball from 2002 to 2006 until the Lerner’s took full control. Are we on a five year plan? If so, this is the year! Seriously, the current owners took over a disastrous situation and a very long term plan continues. Outfielder Bryce Harper is at least a year away and brings hope not unlike Strasburg. Kudos for efforts to bring in Zac Greinke in the off season, but puzzling the reluctance to resign the very popular and productive Adam Dunn. After back to back years having the #1 overall pick in the Amateur draft, the Nats will be picking sixth in June. I guess that’s progress.

Last, the beloved Washington Redskins. Most want to point the finger at owner Dan Snyder. Horror stories are well documented, but its not all his fault. I am sure franchises with cheap owners would love to  have a free spending billionaire ala Steinbrenner controlling the team’s budget. What I do not understand is the total disregard for the NFL draft. I realize it worked under the legendary George Allen, I watched it myself as a kid. But free agency has changed the game, and the Skins have been the #1 customer. Lets talk about the now. We start at quarterback, where the team gave away Jason Campbell for a quickly aging  Donovan McNabb (34). The Skins also gave up even more premiere draft picks to acquire a 30 year old right  tackle (Jamaal Brown) who was coming off a injury filled season. Now, the Redskins enter the 2011 draft like a donut (nothing in the middle). The team has no quarterback, needs running backs, receivers and interior lineman. The defense you ask?  Well, 31st in the NFL last season led by Albert Haynesworth. Well, not really as he doesn’t like the coach, the scheme, only the pay checks.  Fortunately, Brian Orakpo fell in their lap two years ago and Laron Landry is a quality strong safety. DeAngelo Hall had a fine season, but London Fletcher will soon hit the wall and there are plenty of holes to  fill.  First in War, First in Peace, last in the NFC East… again.

Last minute NFL free agency rush!

With the NFL bargaining sessions extending for another week, one thing we know for sure is that full blown free agency is still at least a week away. Not unlike their brothers in the NBA, NFL clubs rushed to complete last minute transactions in advance of last night’s deadline. Yes, the deadline to find common ground on the Collective Bargaining Agreement was extended 24 hours, and subsequently for seven more days but only for labor discussions. “The Tolling Agreement” prevents all 32 clubs from conducting or executing player transactions.

Some clubs chose to sit tight, waiting to see what end result an eventual new CBA may bring, while others rushed to complete some last minute housekeeping. The Redskins are never shy to miss an opportunity, and the burgundy and gold added safety O.J.Atowge who had been cut loose by the St.Louis Rams. Other moves were mostly clubs retaining their own players;  Pierre Thomas (Saints), A.J. Hawk (Packers), Owen Daniels (Texans) and Leon Washington (Seahawks). The premiere free agent signing was safety Bob Sanders joining the San Diego Chargers. Sanders was an elite player for the Indianapolis Colts, but injuries limited him to just nine games over the past three seasons.

Just for fun, here’s a sneak peek at some of the free agent talent awaiting a new home. The top quarterbacks are Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck and San Francisco’s Alex Smith. Peyton Manning could be added to that list but he obviously isn’t going anywhere.  Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams, Cincinnati’s Cedric Benson and Miami’s Ronnie Brown are all capable of carrying the load on a new team. Other skill position potential free agents include Minnesota’s Sidney Rice and former Giant Plaxico Burress who will be released from jail in June. Former teammate Brandon Jacobs has already given his approval of a potential return to the G Men. We will break down all the key free agents and where they may be headed once we get through all this contract business.

For now, we can all enjoy the weekend, no stakeouts of Washington hotels, not at least until Monday.