SI.com At The Draft Blog (cont.)
Chicago 2:59 p.m.
It's draft day in the Windy City, and Bears talk is swirling like the gusts off Lake Michigan. Will the Bears fill a hole on the O-Line with a prized tackle like Jeff Otah or Chris Williams? Or will they opt for local son Rashard Mendenhall, the flashy back from Illinois?
Or will GM Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith spring a surprise?
I'll be here at the Bears draft HQ at Halas Hall to give my two cents -- or as Papa Bear used to call it, a fair day's pay back in the '20s.
Though normally an NBA writer, I am a lifelong Chicagoan who grew up watching the Bears every Sunday -- often from the sidelines at Soldier Field. It was one of the perks of working as a clerk in the Bears ticket office, a job I held every summer from age 15 to 21. During my time with the Bears I had the chance to meet many players and coaches, including Walter Payton, Mike Ditka and George Halas.
I went to all the games, often seeing the action up close. I can still vividly remember the look on the faces of the Green Bay Packers' players as they came off the field after getting overrun by the Fridge in the end zone on that Monday night game.
The best memory came in '86, when I shuffled off to New Orleans as an employee for Super Bowl XX.
I no longer have any connection to the current Bears, except as a season ticket holder.
But I still follow the team closely, and I have many family and friends who live and die with the Monsters of the Midway. Like them, I'm looking forward to seeing what the Bears do with those two key picks at No. 14 and 44. --Marty Burns
New York City 2:54 p.m.
It takes a village to broadcast an NFL draft. The NFL Network and ESPN have 270 press credentials between them -- or more staffers than players that will be selected today.
Both networks face challenges unlike previous years: The league reduced each team's time to make a first-round pick from 15 minutes to 10. The second round has also been reduced from 10 to seven minutes. Plus, the draft begins at a later time -- the NFL wanted prime-time exposure for its biggest offseason showcase -- and the start of the third round was moved to Sunday. "Everything we have learned the past couple of years is out the window," says NFL Network executive producer Eric Weinberger. "We have to learn new timing."
With less time to prattle on about each pick, ESPN decided to streamline its on-air talent for its 16 hours of live coverage. Chris Berman, Keyshawn Johnson, Mel Kiper, Chris Mortensen and Steve Young are at the head table. Kirk Herbstreit, Ron Jaworski and Mike Tirico front the second set. Trey Wingo and Cris Carter join Kiper and Jaworski on a set Sunday. Reporters embedded with teams include Hank Goldberg (Dolphins), Rachel Nichols (Falcons), Sal Paolantonio (Giants) and Ed Werder (Cowboys). Suzy Kolber will conduct green room interviews. The NFL Network's main set players include Rich Eisen, Marshall Faulk, Steve Mariucci, Mike Mayock and Deion Sanders. A second set features former Ravens coach Brian Billick, Charles Davis, and Jamie Dukes. Adam Schefter will serve as the roving reporter. Fran Charles anchors a desk in L.A. Reporters at team facilities include Michelle Beisner (Falcons), Paul Burmeister (Raiders), Scott Hanson (Dolphins), Kara Henderson (Patriots), Derrin Horton (Cowboys) and Solomon Wilcots (Bengals). Sirius NFL Radio, one of my colleague Peter King's 18 employers, will also provide gavel-to-gavel coverage.
Last year's first round clocked in at an excruciating six hours and eight minutes, the longest in history. Thankfully, we're safe from a repeat this year. --Richard Deitsch
Tempe, Ariz. 2:48 p.m.
The best indicator that the Cardinals are headed in the right direction is their position (No. 16) in this year's draft. Not only are the Cardinals not picking in the top 10 for only the second time since 1995, but their first round pick is outside of the top 15 for the first time since 1985. This isn't to say the Cardinals, which finished last season at 8-8, aren't in need of some help. We're still talking about a franchise with only one winning season in the past 24 years.
The word of the day in the Cardinals war room is "flexibility." For the first time in years the Cardinals don't feel the need to draft a starter or select a player based on need. Coach Ken Whisenhunt says he doesn't envision their first-round pick being penciled in as a starter on draft day as has been the case for the past decade, but expects whoever he picks to push for the job and contribute early.
To that end the Cardinals have focused on two positions: cornerback and running back. The Cardinals wish list at cornerback includes Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Leodis McKelvin, Mike Jenkins and Aqib Talib. At running back they have their eyes set on Jonathan Stewart and Rashard Mendenhall. With seven picks, one in each round, and two picks in the top-50, expect the Cardinals to select one of the two running backs in the first round and try to trade up and select one of the cornerbacks at the end of the first round or in the second round if one or more of them drop.
A possible trade that has been bounced around has the Cardinals sending disgruntled wide receiver Anquan Boldin to either the Redskins or Cowboys for a first round pick. Cardinals general manager Rod Graves said that he has no plans on trading Boldin at the moment, but with the possibility of nabbing both a running back and cornerback on their wish list by the end of the day the temptation might be too great. --Arash Markazi
Flowery Branch, Ga. 2:44 p.m.
I've been seeing buddy Ed Werder on ESPN today, talking about the Cowboys moving up for Darren McFadden.
After I picked my bruised jaw up from the floor, I called up the column I wrote in the April 7 edition of SI, a column with Jerry Jones saying there's no way he'd deal both of his first-round picks to get McFadden, who wouldn't be a starting player. "Six or seven years ago, the 'wow' factor about McFadden might have gotten to me,'' Jones, a Razorback alum, told me at the NFL meetings. "But it is so obvious to me what we need to do with our first-round picks. These picks are currency, and this is a 'now' draft for us. Quite candidly, I can't afford to get caught up in what would be a luxury pick for us because he's a Razorback.''
I don't expect the tradeup for McFadden to happen, but in the offhand event that it does, Jerry, we're going to hold you to those words, and wonder how the world turned upside down in 19 days. McFadden might -- underline might -- get 150 carries playing behind Marion Barber; maybe, eventually, he would take Barber's job. But imagine if Jones plaid two running backs $6-million-plus per year, with the richer one, McFadden, carrying it less than Barber? On what planet would that scenario make sense? --Peter King
Tampa Bay 2:24 p.m.
Drive it in! Tow it in! Drag it in! The Bucs will accept your trade!
They're flying the football field-sized Buccaneers flag outside today, which can only mean one of two things. This either is a big day at One Buc Place, or the Bucs plan to add a revenue stream by opening a Ford dealership in the space between the practice facility and Raymond James Stadium.
If you've driven around your average American suburbolopolis, you know you can't sell cars without a giant flag. The Bucs have that, and they also have General Manager Bruce Allen, who could serve the same role at the dealership. I can just imagine the meeting between Allen and top salesman Jon Gruden as Denver Broncos officials wait at Gruden's desk, sipping from those little 4-ounce water bottles and wondering if the dealership will accept their offer.
Allen: Jon, they're offering a 1996 Chevy Suburban as a trade. Have you looked at the thing? It's covered in mud, and the tailpipe is falling off. How many more miles do you expect to get out of it? Also, do I need to remind you that these are the same guys who rooked us into giving them our 2008 seventh-round pick for Jake Plummer after he'd already retired?
Gruden: Bruce, Jake Plummer is a fine quarterback, and the 1996 Chevy Suburban is a fine automobile. We have to make this deal.
Allen: But you've already taken six 1996 Chevy Suburbans in trade, and they're still sitting on our lot.
Gruden: Bruce, 1996 Chevy Suburbans are like QBs. You can never have too many.
Speaking of trades, the Bucs may end up shipping off their second-round pick today to land an established star. Tampa Bay is rumored to be in the mix for Philadelphia cornerback Lito Sheppard and Miami defensive end/mambo king Jason Taylor. As for Tampa Bay's first-rounder, the buzz down here is that the Bucs would love to grab Cal receiver DeSean Jackson with No. 20. --Andy Staples
Irving, Texas 2:19 p.m.
This is purely unscientific (how could it be anything else?), but here are one man's odds of the available big-name players being traded this weekend, now that Kansas City's Jared Allen and Tennessee's Pacman Jones have already been moved:
--Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey: 3 to 1 -- The Saints don't sound willing to give up anything more than their second-rounder this year and maybe a fifth in 2009. The Giants want more than that, but we'll see if they get motivated to make a deal once New Orleans' No. 40 pick approaches and New York is still seeking either an outside linebacker or a safety to fill holes in their starting defensive lineup.
--Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor: 4 to 1 -- I'm doubtful that Bill Parcells can coax a late-first round pick out of anyone for Taylor, who will be 34 on opening day and probably won't play more than another two years. But maybe a defensive-end needy team like No. 21 Washington, No. 24 Tennessee, or No. 26 Jacksonville will consider it. All were playoff teams a year, and while Taylor's contract might be prohibitive in D.C. or Jacksonville, maybe some creativity could be shown on that front by Taylor, who clearly wants out of South Florida. No. 27 San Diego is another contender who could use Taylor's skills to get over the hump in the AFC.
--Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard: 5 to 1 -- With five or six cornerbacks carrying first-round grades, it figures to be difficult for the No. 19 Eagles to find someone willing to take Sheppard in exchange for a first-day pick. But the Eagles would have takers if the price is right, say a third-rounder for the two-time Pro Bowl pick. Keep an eye on Tampa Bay, which figures to draft a receiver in the first round, but still needs to replace cornerback Brian Kelly in its secondary. The Bucs have made it known they don't want to give up a second for Sheppard, but let's see where the Eagles' bottom line is. This much we know: Sheppard won't play again for Philadelphia, so there's only so much leverage to be had for the Eagles. --Don Banks
New York City 2:14 p.m.
What is a draft without crazy Jets fans? I talked to at least 100 Gang Green supporters outside Radio City in jerseys ranging from Riggins to O'Brien to Jenkins (as in new Jet DT Kris Jenkins). Ninety percent want Darren McFadden and plan to boo loudly if the Raiders take the running back at No. 4. Radio City may erupt at about 3:40. One guy's whole body was painted green with "In McFadden We Trust" stenciled in. When I announced to a big group of Jets faithful that Oakland might take McFadden, half yelled out "Gholston," and the other half "trade down." I was surprised, not a single Jet fan wanted Matt Ryan. Most of them said he's a bust waiting to happen. --Andrew Perloff
Flowery Branch, Ga. 2:07 p.m.
There's a multiple-TV-truck draft-day buzz here 53 minutes before the draft, and thanks to heavens for sending extra second-round picks for DeAngelo Hall (34th overall) and Matt Schaub (48th) and an extra, compensator third-rounder (98th, for Patrick Kerney, who the former regime should never let leave, by the way). Four picks in the top 48, seven in the top 103. They want to come away with four starters, at least.
Quick league stuff from a cauliflower-eared phone night, and less this morning: The Rams, obviously, are set to take Chris Long, the Falcons primed to take Matt Ryan, and the Raiders ... well, you'd think Glenn Dorsey. Any logical person would say Dorsey. But my money's on a classic size-speed defensive end, Vernon Gholston. More of Al Davis' style.
Which would drop Dorsey to died-and-gone-to-heaven Kansas City. I think the Chiefs run the card to the podium in New York, thrilled to have gotten Dorsey to anchor their defensive line for the next 10 years. If the Chiefs can find a suitor for very big compensation, maybe they drop back. But I doubt it.
What caught my eye this morning from an early perusal of the 'net: Plugged-in Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News handed the Chiefs Vanderbilt tackle Chris Williams at number five. No one works this draft harder than Goose. He is a maestro. At the same time, this would stun me, and the rest of the Kiperized world.
One last thing: The Saints won't raise their offer of second- and sixth-round picks for Jeremy Shockey. I don't think anyone else is in the game. I think the Giants probably do the deal by sometime early in the first round, but I could be wrong. --Peter King
East Rutherford, N.J. 2 p.m.
Five things I'm thinking about as I head out to Giants Stadium:
1. Will the Giants orchestrate a draft-day trade involving disgruntled tight end Jeremy Shockey? Giants GM Jerry Reese has insisted he hasn't shopped Shockey, but the Saints, who have expressed interest, could conceivably put together an appealing enough offer by the end of the draft.
2. What gems will the Giants uncover this year? As the ESPN draft promo featuring late-round picks Ahmad Bradshaw, Kevin Boss, David Tyree (and also Eli Manning, who didn't have to be uncovered but took some dusting off) points out, "The draft matters" (but some of you already knew that). All eight '07 draft picks made the team and most made significant contributions, but Reese noted last week that the NFL is a "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately" league.
3. How late did Reese stay up last night?
4. Will Miami safety Kenny Phillips be headed to the Giants with the 31st pick of the first round? The Eagles and the Redskins both have secondary needs, but the buzz would indicate that if Phillips is still unattached at the end of the first round, he'll be a New York Giant. He looks good on paper (6-2, 211, 4.48 40-yard dash) and on film and has drawn comparisons to the late Sean Taylor. Drafting Phillips would allow the Giants to fortify their secondary after losing starting safety Gibril Wilson to the Raiders.
5. For people who aren't from New York, driving through -- heck, even merging into -- the Lincoln Tunnel can be a harrowing experience. If only the subway went out to the Meadowlands... --Elizabeth McGarr
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