Welcome to the Draftivus Tuesday edition of ST&NO. As promised, my first ever 7-round soup-to-nuts mock draft will appear on Draftivus Friday, as an ST&NO special edition. (Did anybody else ever wonder why soup and nuts are the Alpha and Omega? Soup I can see, you eat that at the beginning of a multi-course meal, but nuts for dessert? Really? How about soup-to-chocolate cake? Yeah, that's the ticket.)
But I digest (something other than soup and nuts, incidentally.) Today's Donny Deutsch Big Idea will center on a brief pre-Draftivus evaluation of all 32 NFL teams, and what they may do this weekend. As usual, I have no interest in participating in an echo chamber, so prepare to read original thought and analysis. Ready.......... BEGIN
1. Let's begin with brief AFC team evaluations, as promised:
a. New England Patriots - They have to be hoping for a full recovery by Tom Brady more than anything. I don't consider that to be anything near a sure thing, as I mentioned when he got hurt last season. There is more than a fair chance that Brady could experience Carson Palmer-like issues. Brady really puts his lower body into his throws, so his mobility is key. If he is back healthy, this is obviously a team which can contend for a title. They could use a CB, and a replacement for Vince Wilfork or Richard Seymour, as one of them will almost certainly be gone after this season, for money reasons.
b. New York Jets - They need a QB, unless there is some conviction that Kellen Clemens can be a winning QB. I don't tend to think he can, but I don't have a lot of time watching his video, so I'm not saying that for sure. It seems that he has moved past Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge recently. I think the defense is going to be good with the additions of Bart Scott and Lito Sheppard. The Jets will be as good as their offense allows them to be. I think, if I were them, QB, WR, and the right side of the O-Line would be my draft priorities. I'd definitely draft Josh Freeman if he lasted until #17. He has the big arm to play in the wind in New Jersey.
c. Buffalo Bills - I had Jason Peters right early in the season too. He had a bad 2008 season, and didn't deserve to go to the Pro Bowl. Still, I think the Bills erred in trading him. Jim McNally (who is a great O-Line coach) called Peters "the most devastating blocker and pass-protector I've ever coached (outside of Anthony Munoz.") He went on to speculate that Peters felt it wasn't fair that he was paid less than Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker, two players whom he is clearly better than. Despite Peters' sub-par year, I never would have traded him. You pay a guy like that. Now, Buffalo has to be hoping that one of the 4 big-time LTs in the draft makes it to #11 (which is very unlikely.) I generally can't quite figure out what this team is doing, and it seems like management may be playing out the string until they can fire Dick Jauron (who is a good coach, and not the problem). Signing Terrell Owens is like wearing a cologne called Desperation.
d. Miami Dolphins - They re-signed Yeremiah Bell and Channing Crowder to pretty reasonable contracts, and that was key to their off-season. The loss of Andre Goodman to the Broncos was pretty major though. Unless they suddenly have a lot of faith in Jason Allen, I feel very confident that they'll draft a CB in Round 1. Really, I think that this is the lowest that my man Sean Smith goes, as Bill Parcells has always loved size/speed guys like him. Miami has a tough road to hoe in defending their division title, but it's doable with a good draft.
e. Cleveland Browns - They've done next to nothing significant this offseason, from a player-personnel standpoint. It looks like that's all about to change. Expect Braylon Edwards to be gone to the Giants for the 29th pick, and more. I strongly disagree with the Browns' preference of Derek Anderson over Brady Quinn, but they should preach it how they feel it. If they can get #22 out of Minnesota, or #20 out of Detroit for Quinn, suddenly they are in position to really remake their team, with three 1st-rounders and two 2nd-rounders. There is a lot of buzz about them taking Mark Sanchez, but he probably won't make it past #4. Expect Crabtree to be the 5th pick, and maybe a RB to be taken at the end of Round 1 (I think Knowshon Moreno might make it that far.)
f. Pittsburgh Steelers - They just fielded the worst offensive line ever for a Super Bowl winner. There won't be a worthwhile LT available at #32, so expect them to take an interior guy there, like an Eric Wood, and then go back to Tackle with a Gerald Cadogan-type a little later. This is an emergency need, as they're going to get Ben Roethlisberger killed one of these days if they keep up like they've been going. I would draft at least 4 O-Linemen, because they're talent-poor in that area.
g. Baltimore Ravens - This is an interesting situation. A lot of people have them taking Rey Maualuga, but I don't think I see that. I think they go with a WR like Darrius Heyward-Bey, who is a local. They could also go with a CB to complement Domonique Foxworth. LB is a need, but a little further down the list.
h. Cincinnati Bengals - They need a little bit of everything. I expect them to take one of the four big-time OTs, probably Andre Smith. They tend to ignore character red-flags. The Bengals also need help at WR, and throughout their defense. I'd be building the offense if I were them, though. For better or worse, they basically have to, paying Carson Palmer all that money.
i. Houston Texans - This is a team on the precipice of being very good. I expect them to take the best D-lineman (yet again) in the first round, and then a RB in the second, to pair with Steve Slaton. Maybe an Aaron Maybin and a LeSean McCoy? With a little better pass rush, they can win their division this year,
j. Tennessee Titans - They need a WR, as usual, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them take a LB early, either. This is a good and well-coached team, which is mostly drafting for depth.
k. Indianapolis Colts - Their O-Line isn't the greatest, particularly in the running game, and they could use a WR to replace Marvin Harrison. Anthony Gonzalez belongs where he is - in the slot, and even there, he's average. I think I see the Colts taking an interior offensive lineman, and messing up the Steelers' plans a little.
l. Jacksonville Jaguars - They signed Torry Holt today, which was a huge move for them. It probably takes them out of the market for Jeremy Maclin in the first round. The Jaguars severely lack talent on the left side of their offensive line, other than the nearly washed-up Tra Thomas, and there's no way I'd let Michael Oher or Andre Smith get past me if I were running their draft. B.J. Raji is another possibility. This is a team which wants to be strong on both lines, and is presently strong on neither.
m. Oakland Raiders - There is actually some talent here for a change. They are good at RB, TE, LB and LCB. JaMarcus Russell is a big-time talent, and he looked like he was starting to get it at the end of last season. The Raiders need help virtually everywhere else, and you never know what to expect of them. Odds are, they fall in love with some speed guy, and overdraft him. It's just a question of whom.
n. San Diego Chargers - Their right side of the offensive line could definitely use some upgrading, and they need to replace Igor Olshansky. If I were them, I think I'd be looking to take the best edge-rusher I could get in Round 1, because it's looking unlikely that they'll re-sign Shawne Merriman after this season. This roster does have some holes, and it isn't as great as it's perceived to be.
o. Kansas City Chiefs - Can they get out of the #3 pick? That's the question. If I were them, I'd trade down to #13 with the Redskins, and I'd totally ignore the value chart. For next year's #1, I'd make the deal in a heartbeat, because there is nobody they want to pay #3 money to. Otherwise, you may see Tyson Jackson go 3rd overall, because it's believed that Scott Pioli sees another Richard Seymour in him. Of course, if you go to #13, Jackson might be a Bronco at #12, so that's a risk.
2. And, since you haven't had enough, some NFC teams.
a. New York Giants - I think they're the favorites to win the Super Bowl if they land Braylon Edwards. It's a no-brainer in my opinion to trade for him, and even to pay Cleveland a little more than they may strictly want to. The Giants can't get a player with his polish and talent where they're picking. I loved the Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard signings, and I'm here to tell you, they have the best group of defensive linemen, by far, in the NFL.
b. Dallas Cowboys - I can't tell what they're doing. All I can think is that they are banking on addition by subtraction with the departure of Terrell Owens. They haven't done much to improve their roster this offseason, and they don't have a first-round pick thanks to the ill-advised Roy Williams trade. This is a team which seems to be losing ground.
c. Washington Redskins - They're hot to get Mark Sanchez, but I actually like Jason Campbell a lot. He's a bad fit for the Jim Zorn West Coast scheme, but he's a good player. If the Skins do get Sanchez, they should try to get a #2 for Campbell from a team like Minnesota. He'd do very well there. Washington is not good enough to win this division, in any case.
d. Philadelphia Eagles - With the report that Sheldon Brown wants out, I expect the Eagles to take a CB at #21, and tell Brown to shut up for a year, with the promise that his situation will be reviewed after the season. They could also go for a WR, but that's less pressing with the quality first-year play of DeSean Jackson. I think this team can compete with New York, and is better than Dallas.
e. Atlanta Falcons - They are an improving team, but they need to hit on this draft. Their biggest needs are TE and DB, particularly on the corner. If the rumors of them trading for Tony Gonzalez are true, they could feel really good about picking Alphonso Smith to play CB.
f. New Orleans Saints - If I were in charge there, I'd quit kidding myself that Reggie Bush is a legitimate RB, and take Chris Wells in the first round. Defense is always a concern, but they need to be able to run between the tackles. The construction of the Saints roster dictates that they be as good as possible on offense, and do their best with what they have on defense. I expect Gregg Williams to improve their defensive production by virtue of the scheme he's installing.
g. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Well, the big news is they're not running the Tampa-2 anymore. With the hiring of our old friend Jim Bates, there will be a full-on move to a Bates-style Run-Contain defense (unlike the year he was in Denver.) There has been a lot of talk about Peria Jerry, but he's more of a 3-technique guy in a 2 scheme, than he is the big 2-technique that Bates would favor. I could see a Rey Maualuga here, or a trade down for Ron Brace. There was talk of Josh Freeman, but he will be gone by #19, and you can do fine with Byron Leftwich if you protect him.
h. Carolina Panthers - They have no first-round pick, thanks to last season's very well-conceived acquisition of Jeff Otah, who was tremendous as a rookie, maybe the best all-around RT in the League. That's a deal I'd do again if I were Marty Hurney. This is a very good team, which is drafting for depth. I'd draft a guy like Nate Davis from Ball State in the second round. He was reported to have bombed his interviews at the Combine, but he has excellent talent, and wouldn't need to play right away in Charlotte. Charley Casserly said that Davis' stock is back on the rise.
i. Green Bay Packers - A lot has been made of the shift to the 3-4, and how the Packers need to draft players to play in it. I personally think that Ryan Pickett is fine for the nose in the short-term. The bigger issue for the Packers is at Offensive Tackle, particularly on the left side. If I were them, I'd be looking to pick a guy like Michael Oher. Chad Clifton is terrible on the left side, but you may be able to get away with him at RT for one year. Mark Tauscher has not been re-signed, and evidently won't be. That's not a big loss, as he's lousy too.
j. Chicago - The Bears are mostly sitting out the early part of this draft due to their acquisition of Jay Cutler. In my soup-to-chocolate-cake mock, I somewhat randomly have them taking DJ Moore from Vanderbilt in the second round. He can hang out with Jay, and the Bears' two Commodore draftees from last year, Chris Williams and Earl Bennett (who gave them absolutely nothing as rookies.)
k. Minnesota Vikings - This team needs a QB, and could use some help on the right side of their O-Line and at WR. If I were the Vikings, I'd be talking to both Cleveland and Washington right now. One of those two teams likely ends up with Mark Sanchez, and I'd be looking to land Brady Quinn or Jason Campbell if I were Minnesota. You can try to win with Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson, but I doubt both.
l. Detroit Lions - The Lions are in the catbird seat, and with 70% conviction (as of Tuesday morning) I think I see them taking Matthew Stafford. Charley Casserly was saying on NFLN Monday night that he has a hunch that Aaron Curry is their guy. In that case, don't be surprised if Detroit is in the mix for Brady Quinn (in exchange for the 20th pick). The Lions have a lot of picks to use in adding some quality players to go with their newer, fiercer logo. Did Drew Sharp make a reference to Bubbles from The Wire there? Is there another reference-able Bubbles?
m. San Francisco 49ers - It's hard to tell what San Francisco is thinking, because it's hard to put a finger on what sort of personality they're trying to have as a team. I think they'll be looking to upgrade their defense, probably starting with a pass rusher. As a side note, I think Alex Smith is going to win the starting QB job, and do a credible job for them. I've always liked his talent, and thought he was a victim of bad circumstances there. This is the year he proves it, with the smart and underrated Jimmy Raye (the 49ers' seventh OC in seven years) installing an offense which suits him.
n. St. Louis Rams - This is a team which badly needs new ownership, more than anything. They lack talent everywhere except the defensive line and free safety, and they need a lot of help. I expect them to draft Jason Smith on Saturday.
o. Arizona Cardinals - This team needs a starting RB in the worst way, and some interior O-Linemen would help too. This is another offensive team, much like the Saints and Colts, which nonetheless needs to focus on fixing a few holes on offense. I like Arizona's defense, and I think they are good enough to challenge for a return trip to the Super Bowl.
p. Seattle Seahawks - I have no way of knowing what they're thinking about, but my hunch is that they'll take the best OT left in the first round. I think they made a smart trade for Cory Redding, and now need to upgrade their talent on the offensive-line side.
3. Jamie Dukes is a clown, and he needs to watch the wide brush he is painting with. Responding to the verification that reports of failed drug tests by B.J. Raji and Vontae Davis, and failed steroid tests by Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews were false, Dukes opined that "bloggers" should be held accountable, and get sued.
Bloggers are now a convenient bogeyman for a lot of frustrated media people, who want to blame somebody. It seems to me that Rotoworld, which initially reported the rumors, isn't a blog. It's powered by msnbc.com, which is very mainstream, and it repeated an SI.com report, which is also very mainstream. Dukes can shut the hell up, because he obviously doesn't know what he is talking about.
4. I'm a pretty regular reader of dailykos.com, which is a political blog. Markos Moulitsas, the founder, was actually one of the founders of SBNation (and is still a board member, last time I checked.) Whether you like his politics or not, (which is totally irrelevant to this point), he's a guy who definitely gets what Web 2.0 and blogging are all about.
Charlie Pierce, shooting the messenger:
d) I would like an explanation, in detail, of how much the people who work for the various "organically sprouting" news operations, both locally and nationally, actually will get paid. I know the HuffPo doesn't pay its contributors, and I'm willing to bet that nobody at A Better Oakland makes enough to live on, either. Is this the new business model for the new paradigm? Don't pay the reporters and writers?
For Charlie Pierce and many of his journalism friends, this debate is about how they continue to get paid. For me, I don't give a (bleep) who gets paid or how much, but whether people get the news they need to make informed decisions in a democracy. If people get paid in the process, great! If they don't, but people still get good information, then great!
And you know what? Lots of "amateurs" are producing excellent information. Sometimes, even better than what the pros used to deliver. Now the old media types can rail and complain and bitch and moan about this, but it is what it is. The times are changing, and the culture with it. And consumers are getting increasingly sophisticated about how and where and from whom they consume their news. Shoot the messenger, Charlie, but it doesn't change anything. I'm not the reason people are deciding to take more direct ownership of their media production and consumption.
Oh, and one more thing Charlie: The Huffington Post does pay its reporters.
This was really striking to me, to read this on the same day that John publicly announced that he got a press credential for the Draft. Every day, this site is putting out great content, which is consistently superior to that of our competition, and we're doing it at a much lower cost. The granting of the press credential is something which John can be very proud of; but I, and the rest of the staff, feel a lot of pride in it too, and I encourage every member to take equal pride in it. Each member of this community contributes to the aggregate quality and credibility of it.
5. It sounds like a quality mini-camp just occurred, which gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. I like all of the details I've heard so far, and I continue to be impressed with Kyle Orton, and his manner of expressing his thinking.
6. I felt good about Josh McDaniels' comments about Peyton Hillis from the mini-camp. He sounded impressed with Peyton's skill set, and that puts him in agreement with me, and most of our community members here. Peyton needs to play a big role this season, and into the future.
7. Retired for John Elway.
8. If Kyle Orton wins a Super Bowl for us someday, I pledge to start making Number 8 an all-Kyle, all-the-time item. You see that Kyle? Keep up the hard work, buddy, and you'll earn a permanent place in ST&NO.
9. See you on Draftivus Friday for the soup-to-chocolate-cake Mock. Don't even think of being anywhere else on Draftivus Saturday or Sunday than MHR.
From John updating us from Radio City, to the rest of the staff providing instant analysis of picks, to every member of this community having an opportunity to share their thoughts, this will be the best Draftivus Miracle yet.