Posted: Tuesday April 26, 2005 2:13PM; Updated: Tuesday April 26, 2005 4:25PM
Maurice Clarett went to the Broncos in the third round and could play a role this fall.
Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images
Happy Tuesday, everyone. One personal note here: I'll be taking a vacation week beginning tomorrow, so I'll be skipping Monday Morning Quarterback and the Tuesday e-mail edition next week. MMQB will be making a well-rested return May 9.
On with the show, leading off with an interesting Maurice Clarett question about NFL Europe and his football readiness now.
HOW SHOULD MAURICE CLARETT PREPARE FOR THE NFL? From Jay Corbeile of Woonsocket, R.I.: "Denver's depth at running back, and the fact Maurice Clarett hasn't played in a game in two years, it would surprise me if he made any real contribution this year. If he stays on the bottom of the depth chart while getting into football shape, do you think it would be smart for Denver to send him to Europe next spring?"
Jay, I wouldn't be surprised if Mike Shanahan did in 2006, though I'm not sure he'd do that if he felt Clarett was going to be a big part of his offense a year from now. He'd want him working in Denver in the Broncos' own off-season program. But we're getting ahead of ourselves a little bit. I wouldn't be surprised if Shanahan found a role for him this year. Remember the recent history of Denver backs. They get hurt. In droves. Look for the Broncos, with Reuben Droughns dealt to Cleveland, to use Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson as the one-two punch to start the year, though both have injury histories. That would give the next wave -- Ron Dayne if he makes the team (I have my doubts; he can't move the pile well for a man his size) and then Clarett -- a chance to play some role or other this year. Thanks for giving me the chance to opine about Clarett being drafted so high, relative to where we all thought he'd be picked. Basically, there are three reasons why it wasn't the stupid move Football America makes it out to be:
1. Denver had reason to believe Clarett was being targeted by two teams near the top of round four. I'm hearing Cleveland and Dallas each had interest. Whether they did or not, the Broncos may have heard they did. And with the back they liked most around this time of the draft -- Louisiana Tech's Ryan Moats, an elusive 5-foot-8 kid who had 1,774 rushing yards last fall -- gone to Philadelphia earlier in the third round -- they figured if they wanted to be sure they got Clarett, they had to pick him at the end of the third.
2. This is the 101st pick, folks, not the 21st. Remember Demorrio Williams? Neither do I. He was the 101st pick last year. If you think a guy has value to your team -- and remember Terrell Davis ran a 4.67 coming out of Georgia, which is five-hundredths of a second faster than Clarett ran last month -- and you're afraid to use the 101st pick in the draft on him, I would say your drafting philosophy is flawed.
3. Remember Clarett the player, not Clarett the nincompoop. Two years and four months ago, on a field full of stars at the Fiesta Bowl, Clarett might have been the most impressive player. He caught Sean Taylor from behind and knocked a ball loose from him. He rushed for 1,237 yards and scored 16 touchdowns against the brawn of the Big Ten. He can run between the tackles or outside of them. My biggest knock on him is his injury history; going back to high school, he always seems to get dinged. Because he hasn't played football for two years, and because he's done some dumb things at Ohio State (none of which, from what we know, include using illegal substances), you should ignore his productivity.
Plus, as Shanahan told me Monday: "He knows how important this chance is to him. He knows if he fails here, he's probably working in a factory.''
DID YOU READ MY REASONING, MIKE? From Mike of Flint, Mich.: "Why so critical of the Lions first pick? Williams was the highest-rated player in the draft by Mel Kiper, and the Lions took DE Shaun Cody -- defensive co-player of the year in the Pac-10 -- with their second pick. They also got a LB that led the country in sacks last year. The Lions only had seven picks and they used five of those on defensive players. If you can get the highest-rated player you get him."
In the past three drafts, the Lions have used the second-overall, seventh-overall and 10th-overall picks on wide receivers. I realize Mike Williams is good, but I think it's a ridiculous use of resources, taking three players in the top 10 who all play the same position. If the Lions were set on defense, which they aren't, I'd say fine, take Williams. But this is a team dying for a pass rush, and the Lions could have had any pass-rusher in this draft.