Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A little draft update, 23 days out


We are just 23 days away from the NFL Draft. Of course, it is Mock-draft season. We see one mock draft after another, from one expert after another. Presently, a number of new trends are emerging. Just what are they?

Cam Newton goes #1 to Carolina

This notion left me shaking my head. A week after we got a scathing character report on Cam, his stock has never been higher, according to the mocks.

If true--and that's a big IF--this only goes to show that we evaluate quarterbacks on exactly the wrong criteria: Athletic ability and upside potential. Are those bad criteria? You damn betcha! We settled all of this in the debate last year, folks. The most import aspect of the QB is his mind, and particularly the intangibles of leadership, ability to handle big pressure, and desire. After this, we can begin to talk about accuracy and toughness.

There have been a hundred great athlete QBs who went bust. Not the least of these are Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell and now... maybe... Vince Young. Your athletic ability says nothing about your prospects as an NFL QB. Sorry folks that's the truth.

But is Cam likely to be the #1 selection? This is a different question. I still think the answer to that is NO. Granted, the Panthers are acting in a provocative manner right now, but I think they're playing a little game of Snooker. I think they are trying to snooker some team into making a deal for that #1 pick. That might be the Bills. That might be the Bengals. That might be the Cardinals. That might be the 49ers. That might be the Redskins.

When the chips are down on draft day, I think the Panthers won't be able to pull the trigger on a new QB. They will either trade the pick or use it for a defensive player like Marcell Dareus, Patrick Peterson, or Von Miller. If you take QB #1 in 2011, you are reaching like a moefoe. This class just isn't that good. If they do reach for a QB, it will be Gabbert.

The Bengals go defense?

You should have seen my face last night as Charles Davis and Steve Wyche had the Bengals taking defenders in their mocks. This was all the more puzzling because both Charles Davis & Steve Wyche showed Blaine Gabbert still on the board as they threw defenders at the Bengals. I almost fell out of my zero gravity recliner. That ain't easy to do folks.

Let me just say this... The Bengals want a defender with their #1 pick about as much as you want a peanut butter and motor oil sandwich, seasoned with a little Iodine-131 from Fukushima. Does that sound appetizing to you folks? I didn't think so.

Neither CB nor a DE answer pressing Bengal needs. I do believe that they are taking a QB or WR with that top pick, and then they will go after the complimentary position in the second round. It would be Gabbert in the 1st, and maybe Leonard Hankerson in the 2nd, if the scenario unfolds as Davis & Wyche have it.

Some still say that the Redskins select Julio Jones

Charles Davis is one of many who still think the Redskins will select Julio Jones. I've never bought that theory. I do worry about it sometimes, but it doesn't seem very realistic to me. If anything, this is a pimp-fake. The Skins may be trying to pimp the Rams for some picks.

The learned Redskin insider (featured on Path to the Draft) didn't buy the Jones theory either. I was encouraged by the fact that he sees things as I do. He believes the Redskins are 3-4 defensive team without 3-4 defensive personnel. Incidentally, Mike Lombardi called this one a month ago. Defense is their most devastating problem. It's even worse than their QB need.

WR is a deep, deep 3rd priority for the Redskins. No matter how bad their receiver stock is, a receiver can't help until you settle your QB problems. Furthermore, no matter how bad the QB problem is, Shanahan has a more pressing political problem.

Shanahan began his reign by blowing-up a good and functional 4-3 defense by arbitrary whim. Now the Skins have one of the worst defenses in the league. This terminated Mike's honeymoon in one shot, and created a lot of angry Redskin fans... not to mention one disgruntled Albert Haynesworth. That's $100m worth of disgruntledness there.

The consequences of this bad defensive move cannot be overstated. When Mike Shanahan get's fired in one year's time, people will point to his 3-4 defense verdict as the key mistake that shank his battleship. Notice I say when, not if. That isn't easy for me. I'm a big Shanahan fan and booster.

Shanahan's got a Fukushima Daiichi reactor leaking plutonium on his hands. He has to get this under control and clean up the mess quickly. Perforce, the Redskins go defense with this pick.

Tyron Smith is #1

Tyron Smith took a page from Andre Smith's playbook and did the shirtless Olympics at the USC Pro Day. For Tyron, it was a good move. Critics were worried about his sudden move up from 285 to 307. They were concerned that his new weight might all be flab. Nope, not even close. He looked like a clipping from the pages of the Incredible Hulk comic book. He looked every inch the prototype OT. There are questions about whether he is a right OT or left OT, but this hardly matters. He looks like the prototype, and it is a very poor class of tackles in 2011. Tyron will probably be the first offensive lineman off the board.

We'll see Jerry takes Tyron, or selects a flashy playmaker who puts butts in the seats. The Redskins fans seem terrified that the Cowboys will take their chosen 3-4 defender just to kick sand in their collective face. There may be some hair on that dog. The strategy of denial is a key stratagem in warfare.

Most teams are poorly positioned in this 2011 draft

If I've heard it once now, I've heard it a dozen times: Nobody likes their draft position in the 2011 Draft. Carolina fans are pissed that the team might reach for a QB at #1. Bengal experts are pissed that they might not get a QB at #4. Cardinal experts are pissed that they can't get a QB at #5. Dallas experts are pissed that they might not get a CB or the correct DE at #9. Redskin experts are pissed that they can't a QB at #10 and that Dallas may snatch their DE pick ahead of them. Lion experts are pissed that they might not get Tyron Smith at #13. The Rams are pissed that they might not get a crack at a receiver at #14.

Everybody is poorly positioned in this draft... except the Broncos. Many Bronco fans seem quite happy with the prospect of taking Marcell Dareus at the #2 overall slot. Some think Patrick Peterson would be better, but they also seem to like Darius.

For this reason, I suspect we may see more trade action on draft day than most experts expect. There's just too much discontentment with batting order for folks not to try something here. I think teams may find a way to help each other out. I know it seems unlikely due to the inability to bundle players and picks. It seems even more unlikely due to the inability to mortgage future picks. However, I still suspect that they may find a way to get it done this year.

The Ruling of the judge

As you know, the NFL and NFLPA just exited the courthouse in Minnesota a few hours ago. We expect a ruling in a 'a few' weeks. To me, a few weeks means at least two and less than four. Project 14 to 21 days for a ruling.

I find it intriguing that the NFL's counselor was questioned for nearly 5 hours by the judge. Comparatively little time was spent questioning the NFLPA's counselor. If you are questioned for 5 hours by the judge during a hearing, I presume this means you have a questionable position or case. Think about it folks.

Let's suppose for one moment that the judge rules in favor of the NFLPA. Let's suppose that this occurs sometime in the next 14 to 21 days. This would mean that the lockout could lifted, or partially lifted, anywhere between April 20-27. She could issue the verdict quite literally the day before the draft. That would be amazing.

It has been said that the NFL would need 24-48 hours of prep time to comply with the court order. Free agency could commence within 24-48 hours of the ruling. Suppose the verdict comes down on Friday April 22, 2011. What then?

We would have an amazing free-agency blitz in the immediate prelude to the draft. This has the potential to make for a very exciting, but chaotic and disorganized week of major moves.

Think about it folks.