Posted on: May 1, 2008 7:36 am

Draft Round-Up AFC West

The Raid-ahs, Bolts, Chefs and Broncos all had significant holes to address in this year's draft.
Kansas City Chiefs - Here's a team that had a massive quantity of picks after the Jared Allen trade to Minnesota and needed each and every one.  Surprisingly, Glenn Dorsey (DT) fell in the Chiefs' lap from LSU.  Most pundits (myself included) thought the Falcons would take Dorsey and his combination of strength and speed a la Warren Sapp with the 3rd pick, but they didn't.  Very nice pick-up.  Next, KC addressed the offensive line with another 1st-rounder in Branden Albert (G) from Virginia.  He projects as a Tackle at 6'5"+ and 310 lbs.  The Chiefs may have reached a little for Brandon Flowers (CB) from Va. Tech, but with a run on Corners, they felt they needed to get a decent one in the 2nd round.  Jamaal Charles (RB) from Texas was next for the Chiefs in a bit of a surprise in the 3rd round.  I can only assume they were concerned about injuries to their RBs in the recent past and wanted to have one from the line of Holmes, Williams & Benson.  Decent speed at sub-4.4 adds some explosiveness to Larry Johnson's power.  At 6'7"+ & 270 lbs., Brad Cottam (TE) from Tennessee will provide a big target for whoever the Chiefs put on the field at QB.  The fact that he runs a 4.6 40 is pretty remarkable, too.  DaJuan Morgan (S) from NC State was the final 3rd-rounder for the Chiefs.  Good nose for the ball and plays the run pretty well.  Not as much range as you might hope, but a solid contributor-to-be from day one.  Great 4th round pick for a need position with William Franklin (WR) from Missouri.  Excellent speed, size and ability to get downfield will make Franklin an impact player almost immediately.  Div-2 1st team All-American Brandon Carr (CB) from Grand Valley State was next.  Majoring in Bio-Medical Sciences tells me he may be a thinker as well as a player.  Decent size and credentials to add some depth at DB.  KC finished out the draft with four picks in the 6th & 7th rounds with a huge Offensive Tackle, an average Wider Receiver, a massive Defensive End, & a soon-to-be-converted Tight End (to Tackle or Guard).  Overall, KC addressed their needs and had a couple of Christmas gifts come early.  Grade: A
Oakland Raiders - Do you think the Raiders have enough RBs now?  With Fargas, Jordan & Rhodes, why pick up Darrend McFadden (RB) from Arkansas when Glenn Dorsey is still on the board & Warren Sapp just retired?  A larger problem was that the team had only 5 picks in the whole draft.  Move a couple of those backs for some decent interior linemen if you can Skeletor!  Tyvon Branch (CB) in the 4th round was a good pick-up.  Realistically, he'll move to Safety, especially with the addition of DeAngelo Hall at Corner.  Arman Shields (WR) from Richmond is a bit of a question mark since his knee was injured early in 2007.  He had some success against major college talent, but his injury keeps that shadow of doubt 'til he performs at the NFL level.  Their final two picks were reaches with a recently-converted Defensive End and a big, slow Wide Receiver.  Al and Kiffin-kid better do some movement beyond the draft pray McFadden is Walter Payton reincarnated or this is almost completely a bust of a draft.  Grade: D+
Denver Broncos - A team at a crossroads is how I think of the Broncos.  With Cutler last year, it became evident he needed a lot of help.  Denver listened and got the second highest-rated Offensive Tackle on the board by many in Ryan Clady (Boise St.) to take over after Matt Lepsis' retirement.  Next, they hunted down a speedy Wide Receiver to stretch the field a bit, but may have reached a little with Eddie Royal (Va. Tech) early in the 2nd round.  More than anything, Denver expects Royal to help with the return game.  Kory Lichtensteiger (C) continued the offensive-help mindset in the 4th round out of Bowling Green.  He will add depth to a depleted OL and plays a little mean to make up for his lack of athletic ability.  Speedy, little Corner Jack Williams (Kent) was the first defensive player the Broncos selected.  He's undersized so could have problems on the LOS, but will add depth, at least, to a veteran-laden secondary.  Ryan Torain (RB) will be a wait-and-see project out of Arizona St. in the 5th round.  Injuries have hampered his development, but he's a solid rusher between the tackles when healthy.  Denver had 4 more picks, taking a Safety, D-Tackle, Fullback and a gem of an Inside Linebacker in Spencer Larsen (Arizona).  Their goal was to provide some support to a flagging offense and they've done a pretty good job.  Grade: B
San Diego Chargers - It was all about depth for a Chargers team that keeps coming close in this year's draft.  After being unable to move up for one of the elite Offensive Tackles, San Diego went for completing their secondary by choosing Antoine Cason (CB) from Arizona.  He should immediately compete for, at least, the Nickelback spot and maybe the starting Cornerback job.  Next, I'm scratching my head wondering what the Chargers saw to make them pick supreme tweener Jacob Hester (FB?) from LSU in the 3rd round.  At best, I saw him in the 6th round at Fullback and a free agent as a Tailback.  With their next pick, you assume Hester is to be a Fullback, because San Diego selected Marcus Thomas (RB) from UTEP in the 5th round.  The Chargers took a return-man Cornerback in the 6th round named DeJuan Tribble (Boston College) & finally got an Offensive Tackle in the 7th round with inconsistent Corey Clark (Texas A&M).  Their brief draft was like someone who went to the grocery store without a list.  Grade: C-
The Chiefs & Broncos really did a lot to help themselves through the draft.  The Chargers & Raiders just looked confused.

I'll be back Monday to take a look at the NFC's winners and losers in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Category: NFL
Posted on: April 30, 2008 8:35 am

Draft Round-Up III AFC South

Will the South rise again?  Let's take a look:
Houston Texans - Here's a team that thought needs-based in their strategy, but should have pulled the trigger on trading up.  Instead, they traded down and drafted Duane Brown (OT) from Virginia Tech #26 overall.  He's 6'4" & 315 lbs with good pass-blocking skills, but suspect run-blocking skills.  He was a reach this high, but Houston saw a run of Tackles early and made the move down taking what was left.  They reached again in the 3rd round with another need for the Texans at Cornerback with Antwaun Molden from Eastern Kentucky (Steve My-GEEE!). He's quick, but his coverage skills are in doubt.  Steve Slaton (RB) from West Virginia was next in the 3rd round.  At worst, he's a third-down back who's prone to injury.  At best, he'll put on some weight without losing any of his 4.5 speed and become an everyday back.  The Texans made a great pick with Xavier Adibi (OLB) in the 4th round from Virginia Tech.  While his run-stuffing ability is raw, he flows well in coverage and is instinctive to the ball.  The 5th round was Houston's big "maybe" pick with Frank Okam (DT) from Texas.  He's 6'4" & 345 lbs.  The coaches feel if they can keep his weight down to 320 or so, his inconsistent motor will become more dependable.  Dominique Barber (S) from Minnesota {Marion's brother} & Alex Brink (QB) from Wash. St. rounded out the draft for Houston.  Barber has a much better chance of making the team as a run-stuffing back.  Grade: C-
Tennessee Titans - A draft of tweeners, reaches and occasional positive surprises is how I would quantify the Titans' this weekend.  Chris Johnson, insert "who?" here, (RB) from East Carolina was the #24 overall for Tennessee.  He's light at 197 lbs., but fast beyond fast at 4.25.  Size and his ability to play between the Tackles makes this a bit of a reach to me.  Jason Jones (DE/DT) from Eastern Michigan was taken in the 2nd round.  Too slow to be an End and too small to be a D-Tackle, the Titans will probably still try him at DE first.  Tight End Craig Stevens from Cal was selected in the 3rd round.  The system he played in didn't really utilize the TE as a receiver, but Stevens is a good run-blocker which Alge Crumpler does NOT do for them.  Still, he could have been had later on.  Tweener #2 came in the 4th round in the form of William Hayes (DE) from Winston-Salem.  At 258 lbs., Tennessee will probably try to get him to shed a couple of pounds and more to OLB.  Lavelle Hawkins (WR) from Cal was a nice pick in the mid-4th round.  In this bad crop of WRs, he & Cal teammate DeSean Jackson look to immediately deliver in the NFL.  Stanford Keglar (OLB) from Purdue will provide depth and a solid special-teams player in the short-term for the Titan.  In the 7th round came Craig Williams (CB) from Washburn who has height and speed, but no experience against top-tier talents.  Grade: C
Jacksonville Jaguars - A trade with Baltimore gave Jacksonville the #8 pick overall (gave up 1-1st round pick, 2 -3rds, & 1 - 4th) and they selected Derrick Harvey (DE) from Florida.  This and their 2nd-rounder, Quentin Groves (DE) from Auburn, addressed an enormous need that they couldn't deal with in free agency, but was it necessary to move up to #8 and give up those picks.  They could have moved up to around #14, given up less and still gotten Harvey.  They also traded up to get Groves.  It's a dilemma for me, since Grady Jackson should provide "stability" to the middle of the line and two speed guys provide the edge-rush necessary for pressure, but was it too much?  The Jags weren't heard from again due to the trades 'til the 5th round with Thomas Williams (OLB) from USC who didn't even start for the Men of Troy.  He was a back-up to three 1st-round picks, though.  Trae Williams (CB) from USF was also selected in the 5th round.  Numbers comparable to former teammate & 1st-round pick Mike Jenkins make this a solid pick for the Jags.  In the 7th round, Chauncey Washington (RB) from USC was Jacksonville's final pick.  His academic problems and occasional injury couldn't completely blind the team to his good size and quickness through the hole.  Grade: B-
Indianapolis Colts - How would you like to be Jeff Saturday, pro-bowl Center for the Colts, and see 3 people drafted at your position?  Granted most of the draftees will be "moved" to Guard, it's gotta make you wonder.  Mike Pollak (C) from Arizona State was the first with pick #59 (2nd round).  Tall for a Center at 6'3", he may get moved to Guard in the short-term to see playing time immediately.  Philip Wheeler (ILB) from Ga. Tech came in the 3rd round has the size (6'2" & 248 lbs.) to be successful in the middle, but will need to hone his run-stuffing.  The 4th round brought the Colts an oversized Wide Receiver in Jacob Tamme (TE) from Kentucky.  He's torn both labrums while in school and it sure doesn't seem like it's from blocking too much.  Marcus Howard (OLB) from Georgia is a gem that fell to Indy in the 5th round.  He has great speed (4.45) and good size (6'0" & 235 lbs.) to translate into another solid Linebacker for Coach Dungy. The remaining 5 picks saw the Colts looking for depth with those other 2 Centers, another Tight End, a Wide Receiver & Mike Hart (RB) from Michigan in the 6th round.  Here's a pick that sure can't hurt the team given Hart's numbers in school.  Grade: B
Looks to me like the rich got richer & the poor showed why they were poor.
Category: NFL
Posted on: April 29, 2008 7:56 am
Edited on: April 29, 2008 7:58 am

Draft Round-Up II - AFC North

<meta content="Microsoft SafeHTML" name="Generator" /><style type="text/css"> .ExternalClass .EC_hmmessage P {padding:0px;} .ExternalClass body.EC_hmmessage {font-size:10pt;font-family:Tahoma;}</style>Moving from the East to the AFC North, we'll do reverse order again:
Baltimore Ravens - had a curveball thrown their way with the retirement of Steve McNair.  Obviously, a QB is a need. Issues on their both lines, secondary, & offensive backs were concerns, as well.  The best way I can quantify the Ravens seven picks, all in rounds 1-4, is that they overpaid for them.  Joe Flacco from Delaware addressed their QB need, but did you really need to move a 2nd-round QB up to the 18th overall pick?  Ray Rice from Rutgers had over 2,000 yards at Rutgers in '07, but at 5'8" and no moves like Barry Sanders, he was a 3rd-round pick, at best.  And so it goes with, Gooden (LB), Zbikowki (SS), Cousins (G), Smith (WR) & Hale (OT); all should have been drafted at least one round later.  The Ravens then took flyers with Nakamura(S), Harper(WR), & Patrick (RB).  Harbaugh says they have a plan.  We'll see.  Grade: C-
Cincinnati Bengals - talk about a team with issues!  Wide Receiver was an obvious issue w/Henry's dismissal & Ocho-cinco being... Ocho-cinco.  Too bad for Cincy that this was a down year for Receiver talent.  So they take Keith Rivers from USC (OLB) with their first pick.  No major injuries...major contributor to a major program...safe, dynamic pick.  Then, 2 of their next 3 picks cover the WR dilemma; Jerome Simpson from Coastal Carolina & Andre Caldwell from UF.  Simpson pick is very suspect with Limas Sweed & DeSean Jackson still on the board.  Caldwell was good timing for a good player.  Pat Sims (DT) from Auburn fell between the two burners.  Anthony Collins (OT) from Kansas provides a serviceable lineman who was 1st Team All-American & an Outland finalist.  Jason Shirley (DT) at 6'5" 335 lbs sounds great 'til you hear he was dismissed from Fresno State for a DUI arrest (among other things).  Same old Bengals?  Lynch (FS), Sherry (TE), Craig (OLB) & Urrutia (WR) round out Cincy's draft.  Grade: C
Cleveland Browns - well, I hope you enjoyed last year's draft Cleveland, because it was most of this year's for you.  Round 4 saw the first Browns pick with 2 guys who could have gone in the 3rd.  Beau Bell (ILB) from UNLV had 126 tackles last year and can stuff the run.  Martin Rucker (TE), former Panther Mike Rucker's brother, from Mizzou provides another good set of hands for whoever QBs and insurance for the oft-injured Winslow.  From there, it was just one-dimensional players.  Ahtyba Ruben (DT) from Iowa State will be useful as a Nose Tackle only with little athletic leverage.  Paul Hubbard (WR) from Wisconsin while having size and speed has questionable hands and is coming off of a knee injury in '07.  Finally, mystery man Alex Hall (DE) from little St. Augustine's College (Go Falcons!) was good for Div. II, but the NFL?  Limited picks (5) with limited success do not make me very comfortable.  Grade: D
Pittsburgh Steelers - here's a team that believes strongly in the "take the best available athlete" strategy of drafting.  Otherwise, you can't explain how they didn't take the offensive linemen they desperately needed.  Rashard Mendenhall (RB) from Illinois is a strong, serviceable, long-term back and Limas Sweed (WR) from Texas topped many GMs' draft boards at his position.  Next, was Bruce Davis (OLB) who played Defensive End at UCLA, but must lose weight to play his projected new position.  Finally, in the 4th round, they pick up Tony Hills (OT) from Texas.  Injuries killed his college career, though, with 2(!) broken legs and nerve damage in his knee.  Yeesh.  To round out the injury parade for the Steelers, Dennis Dixon (QB) from Oregon shows up in the 5th round.  Probably another year 'til he's as good as he was the 1st half of last year after his torn ACL.  Ryan Mundy (FS) & Mike Humpal (OLB) round out the Steelers draft.  Grade: C-
The North didn't help itself that much, in my view.
Category: NFL
Posted on: April 28, 2008 12:49 pm

Draft Round-Up AFC LEAST

I know there are those of you who just don't care, but tough.  It's what I do.
We'll save the best for last, so let's start with the AFC East; home of the worst team in the league in '07:
Miami Dolphins - seemed to be telling us that they really are dedicated to the idea of moving Jason Taylor and be "married to" the 3-4 with their picks of two LARGE Defensive Ends in Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford.  Perhaps Taylor can move to an outside LB spot.  Jake Long from Michigan was taken with the first anti-climactic pick of the draft and should anchor the Dolphins offensive line for many years to come.  Chad Henne from Michigan joins his Wolverine teammate with a 2nd-round pick to push some never-was' at Quarterback.  Finishing up with two Guards, two Running Backs & a Defensive Tackle, Parcells shows where his mind is.  Get bigger, get stronger and run on 1st, 2nd & 3rd downs.  Hell, he may even on 4th if they're close enough.  With so many holes to fill, the Dolphins did their level best to stabilize a downtrodden franchise.  Grade: B
New York Jets - with only six picks, the Jets had to be very strategic in their choices.  Vernon Gholston at Defensive End, the only player to get a sack off of Jake Long, was their first pick at #6 overall.  Typically known as a big-game player, Gholston's a bit inconsistent which is why Chris Long was rated ahead of him.  The Jets then went to a receiving Tight End with Dustin Keller from Purdue.  While on paper his numbers are there, Keller's only 6'2" and 242 lbs which doesn't translate to the pro game well for a traditional Tight End.  He did run a sub-4.6 40 at the combine, so maybe the Jets will line him up in the slot more often than not.  They then addressed needs at Cornerback, Wide Receiver and Offensive Tackle.  Their most interesting pick was the anti-thesis of Chad Pennington with the selection of Eric Ainge at 6'5-1/2" and a traditional pocket-passer in the 5th round.  So few picks, but all leave me wondering about their wisdom.  Grade: D
Buffalo Bills - having 10 picks and the 31st-worst pass defense in the league tells me they may look at their secondary.  With 2 of their first 4 picks, the Bills picked up the highest-rated Cornerback, Leodis McKelvin from Troy, and Cornerback Reggie Corner (yep, that's his name) from Akron.  They picked up another in the 7th round from Pitt, Kennard Cox.  Wide Receiver was also a position of interest with Lee Evans & Josh Reed being the "best" they could field.  Here they picked up big-body James Hardy from Indiana (6'5-1/2" 217 lbs.) and 1000-yard-man Steve Johnson from Kentucky.  Chris Ellis, Defensive End from Va. Tech, provides a bit of a question mark in the injury and character categories with 3 surgeries while in college and an arrest or two, but should contribute early & often.   Finishing up with a Tight End, Outside Linebacker, Running Back & Offensive Tackle, the Bills addressed some needs and pure quantity.  They still needed to look Quarterback, though, Lohsman & Edwards are miserable.  Grade: B
New England Patriots - Going undefeated all season 'til the Super Bowl may make you think a team doesn't have any holes to fill.  With free agency, age and suspect performance in the Super Bowl, you would be wrong.  An aging Linebacking corps was obviously the top priority for the Pats with the selection of 3 Outside Linebackers with their seven picks.  Jerod Mayo from Tennessee leads the group at the 10th overall pick and providing 140 tackles for the Volunteers in 2007.  Shawn Crable from Michigan and Bo Ruud from Nebraska (yep, his younger brother) were the other two.  With Ellis Hobbs as their sole good Cornerback, the Pats picked 2; Terrence Wheatley from Colorado & Jonathan Wilhite from Auburn.  They went on to pick Kevin O'Connell, QB from San Diego State, and Matthew Slater, listed as a Wide Receiver from UCLA, but will probably be a Return Specialist.  The glaring question mark I have at the end of the day is: Did the coaches watch the offensive line get paralyzed by their lack of athleticism in the Super Bowl?  With this in mind and no free agent pick-ups, you have to wonder.  Grade: C
Next, we go North to Alaska!  Okay, maybe just the Rust-Belt with the AFC North.
Category: NFL
Posted on: April 20, 2008 6:13 pm

Brrrrr....a bit Drafty in here.

Sorry it's been a while since I last graced these pages with an entry, but frankly there really hasn't been a lot of sports news going on worthy of comment.  Sure the NBA & NHL Playoffs have begun and some folks ARE ACTUALLY WATCHING!  Not many for the latter, I'm afraid.  The former is to be seen.  Judging from the excitement of Game 1 of the Spurs / Suns series, this may be must-see TV.

It came down to waiting for the NFL Draft for me to have any really good material for thought.  It takes a lot for me.  You watch and listen so much to sports you get a bit jaded.  But I digress.  Let's talk Mel Kiper Jr.'s hair.  I still think it's a piece.  Anyway, regarding Mel, the only thing of interest I've seen from him is the verbal sparring matches he and Todd McShay, director of college football from Scouts Inc., are getting into.  At last, someone calling the self-professed talent guru out.  Their disagreements make for better TV than that fast-talking BaltiMORON could provide by himself spouting about what the 49ers need in the sixth round without challenge.

Even better have been the talk-radio geeks trying to tell you and I your local teams record for the 2008-09 season after the schedules were released.  This before the teams have drafted!  What are these idiots and their program directors thinking?  The trades and picks associated with the draft will make an enormous impact on the record of teams.  Let's ask what kind of difference Adrian Peterson made for the Vikings?  Here's another for-instance-thought: the Atlanta Falcons have 4 picks in the first 2 rounds (3, 34, 37, & 48).  Do you think the players chosen with these picks or those traded for them could have at least some small impact on the success or (more likely) failure of the Atlanta Falcons in 2008-09?

Finally, has anyone seen the man-love being poured over Chris Long like gravy on a Thanksgiving turkey.  Oh my God, I thought Kiper was going to make a stain on himself gushing about the immediate impact Howie Jr. would make with his leadership and work ethic and his "pedigree" (?).  Yeah, he's gonna be good.  Maybe REAL good.  Ask yourself a question though...when's the last time you saw a great Defensive End make an impact in the pros who was white?  David Pollack?  Guess we'll probably never know there.  I just was listening and asked myself the same question.

Category: NFL
Posted on: March 31, 2008 7:29 pm

So Much Going On!

It's an amazing time of the Sports Year.  Today marks the "official" Opening Day of Major League Baseball.  The Detroit Tigers strangely took it on the chin from the Kansas City Royals.  The New York Yankees had to abbreviate their final Season Opener at Yankee Stadium with the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Rays (no longer of the Devil) of Tampa Bay finally won an "away" Opener against the Baltimore Orioles.  And the San Francisco Giants are as bad as we thought judging from the first eight innings of their game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Money well spent on Barry Zito, huh.

At the same time, the NCAA Final Four has been named.  It is to be as it should, a battle of the best four teams in the nation; North Carolina Tar Heels, Memphis Tigers, UCLA Bruins and the Jayhawks of Kansas.  No Cinderellas to dillute the genepool of three games that should absolutely rock any fan of the "rock."

Shortly, fans of the National Football League will be going over reports from the Combine, film from past games and rumors involving the Wonderlic Test and just how dumb that kid is.  We'll all be waiting for Mel Kiper Jr. to tell us what he thinks he knows about the quality of young men our universities have put forth both physically, mentally & behaviorally.  He'll be wrong 25% of the time.  Just be prepared.

Amidst all this, I keep coming to a point and failing to care.  One of our own, Amerigo Vespuci (Amanda), is in the hospital and not doing very well.  One of her fellow Iowans, sporgie, has alerted a good sized group of her condition and it has just taken the wind from my sails.  AV as many of us call her, has told us stories of her life before and during cancer.  She has enticed us, challenged us, fought with us and celebrated with us.  Hers is a spirit that you can tell fills any room she enters and leaves it barren when she exits.

We all kind of "play" like we're friends and enemies on our posts and blogs.  We mock the trolls, feed the rivalries, and cheer our beloved alma maters or favorite pro teams.  We try to find an oasis of nothing but sports talk or social interaction from our lighted screens.  We seek to escape the everyday tedium or "reality" of a life that is not all we wanted or solace from something that can just be too much. 

I'm going to ask you to forego this search for a moment or two more.  I promise to go back to being my reasonably sardonically amusing self on my next entry.  Today, though, I need you to take a second out to thank God or your god(s) that you have your health, your family and your friends.  I need you to look around and remember how very much worse it could all be.  Watch ten minutes of the news, after they discuss the election, and you will realize just how much worse.  I'm asking you to think of a young lady who's going through some stuff that we wouldn't wish on anyone.  Help her with your thoughts, your prayers, your appreciation for your "discussions" with her and your appreciation of your own situation.

Get well, AV.  We'll talk to you real soon.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com