Posted: Tuesday May 2, 2006 12:08PM; Updated: Wednesday May 3, 2006 1:23AM
The Jets instantly upgraded their offensive line when they drafted tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson with the No. 4 overall pick.
JETS: They look like a pack of hooligans. They yell and scream and carry on, but believe me, the most sophisticated football fans in the country are the ones who attend the draft in NYC, and most of them are Jets fans. They make their views known at full room volume. When the club added to its roster of botched first-round choices by picking, say, Ron Faurot or Kyle Brady instead of Warren Sapp, they screamed and booed and hit each other over the head with rolled-up magazines, and fell to the floor in agony. When the team traded way up for Dewayne Robertson or drafted Chad Pennington late in the round, they cheered long and loud. So I was very curious to see how they'd react to the D'Brickashaw Ferguson choice on Saturday, after the tabloids had devoted the week to trying to whip the fans into an absolute frenzy for drafting Leinart ... perfect for New York ... the shame of the city if they pass him up ... and so forth. There were a few boos, but mostly cheers, and one guy pointed to his head. Smart! I told you they were sophisticated. So are the Jets, who are building from the ground up with the best tackle, and later in the round the best center, NickMangold. And they landed a very productive defensive player in Ohio State LB Anthony Schlegel, who I read hunts wild boars with a knife. Give the boar a knife, too, and I'd be impressed.
49ERS:Vernon Davis, the TE who ran the amazing 4.38, is going to catch a lot of deep balls down the seam, and if they can somehow keep Eric Johnson healthy, then they'll have a two-tight end offense that will prematurely age a lot of LBs and safeties. They're obviously giving young Alex Smith every opportunity to succeed, because they've added another flyer, tiny Brandon Williams, and to cap off one of the more athletic drafts in their history, they picked Manny Lawson, a defensive end who clocked a 4.43 at the combine workouts.
RAMS: Here's the good news: CB Tye Hill, who won the Fastest Man at the Combine Workouts prize with his 4.30; Joe Klopfenstein, an intriguing, athletic TE prospect, Southern Cal's Dominique Byrd, still another TE (Huh? Are they really the Rams?); John Alston, a linebacker with combine numbers you can't believe...4.40 speed, a long jump of 11 feet, third longest of all the jumpers in the joint (there's a guy who's improved by leaps and bounds). Here's the not-so-good news: DT Claude Wroten, who has...and we'll give you the euphemisms for being a jerk ... "issues," "baggage," "character problems," "immaturity problems," etc. Tell me something. When you overcome your immaturity problems, are you eligible for adult entertainment? Just asking.
LIONS: I see Rod Marinelli, the new coach, surrounded by some good, tough guy types; LB Ernie Sims, a punishing hitter, ditto Nebraska SS DanielBullocks, and G Fred Matua from the USC line. And I really like the highly productive RB, Brian Calhoun, despite what the Pro Football Weekly special draft publication said about him. Here's what it said. Under Positives: "Runs hard and competes hard to pick up extra yardage." Under Negatives: "Not a powerful runner who is going to pick up much yardage after contact."
PACKERS: Well, they lost Javon Walker, but they traded like crazy and wound up with 12 picks, high number for the weekend. From this mob emerges premier LB A.J. Hawk, a skinny pass-blocking tackle named Daryn Colledge (how could his parents not have named him Joe?), a 98-catch wideout, Greg Jennings, and a fine instinctive ILB, Abdul Hodge.
RAVENS: You bet I like drafts that lead off with two big guys, DT Haloti Ngata 338 pounds, and they say he still has some growing to do (Did I ever tell you why I really like King Kong? Because there's a guy who won't take any guff from the airlines), and Chris Chester, an athletic center who pulls out and leads plays. The sleeper light is flashing -- P.J. Daniels, a gusty little former walk-on RB who you might say would give Jamal Lewis a run for it if you were foolish enough to believe that these competitions are anything close to being fair.
RAIDERS: Don't start resurrecting the Robert Gallery pick and telling me, "Look at all the great guys they could have had who were drafted after him; this club doesn't know what it's doing." It was hats in the air all around when they made that selection. I think their top choice, CB-S combination Michael Huff, is just fine, and I salute the gambling instinct that led them to such guys as LB Thomas Howard and T Paul McQuistan and G Kevin Boothe, all of whom are on the rise and could pay off big some day. Doesn't it seem like about a year ago that all us draftniks were projecting Vince Young to the Raiders?
PATRIOTS: At BillBelichick's post-draft press conference, someone got up the nerve to mention to the coach that he seemed to have problems at LB, and uh, CB, too, and yet the team's first five picks were offensive players, including a kicker. Doesn't this seem odd? ("Odd, waddya mean, odd?" From what movie? Said by James Westerfield, playing Big Mac, the hiring boss, in On the Waterfront). I mean, it seems to be an offensive draft, does it not? And I got a kick out of Belichick's reply -- "If you take a running back in the first round and then trade up to take a receiver in the second round, it's going to be hard to have a defensive draft." The runner: the highly sought after Laurence Maroney. The receiver: Chad Jackson, No. 1 on some people's board. Then there are two really interesting TEs, Dave Thomas and Garrett Mills. And an astute observer of this column, someone who's still awake, that is, will note that I gave the Bears a low grade for doing the same thing, drafting to strength, not need. So where's the fairness, huh? Look, friend, I learned a long time ago you simply do not second-guess these babies up in Foxboro. They know what they're doing.
PANTHERS: I like need drafts. The stirring DeAngelo Williams to fortify the pounding running game, Richard Marshall, a big league corner to battle ReggieHoward for the nickel back spot, and James Anderson, a highly athletic LB, to compete for the vacancy outside.
STEELERS: Same deal here. Big needs were at WR for the departed Antwaan Randle El and FS for the loss of Chris Hope. So the first two drafts were Santonio Holmes, one of the top two or three wideouts, and FS Anthony Smith, not a burner but a guy with a great instinctive feel for the game.