SI.com At The Draft Blog (cont.)
Long Island, N.Y. 1:35 p.m.
First thought: Why the hell do the Jets headquarter in Long Island, an hour-long drive from their stadium in New Jersey? That's where I'll be all day, trying to sort out the Jets draft scenario.
Here's what we have to go on in the hours leading up to game time: The Jets are willing to trade up. (Helloooo, Kansas City.) They're willing to trade down. (Hellooo, Baltimore.) They're either seriously enamored with Darren McFadden, who was being trotted around the Time Inc. building last week, visiting with New York media. Or they're blowing all sorts of smoke screens at, ohhh, perhaps the New England Patriots, who pick seventh. (I tend to think the latter. If someone wants to trade up for Run DMC, the Jets probably want to be the team to reap the windfall.) Bottom line, Jets brass say they really, really like six different players -- how convenient -- and they'd be happy taking any one of them at the six spot ... or trading the pick.
Same ol' story, which makes prognosticating a completely laughable task, really, at this point. In the last three days, I've seen the Jets slotted to take any of six different people, mostly focused on Vernon Gholston, McFadden and, today, Matt Ryan. Even the early signing of Jake Long (which essentially makes the Jets' pick No. 5 in a Long-less draft) has done little to clear up the situation. Logically, the Jets' favorite six includes the aforementioned three, plus the Long boys, who will be gone, and either a corner like Leodis McKelvin or USC linebacker Keith Rivers, who might fill Jonathan Vilma's shoes nicely. Nothing has happened yet this morning to suggest otherwise.
At Radio City Music Hall, fans will cry for the sexy picks, McFadden and Ryan (neither of which makes a lot of sense). Online, a poll at the Jets' Web site says fans want a receiver, of which there are none deserving of a top 10 pick; another online poll has them begging for Gholston. Feeling pressure yet, Mangini? I would. Especially after watching this one minute and thirty-eight second-long gem, which is the first result when you Google "Jets Draft." -- Adam Duerson
Alameda, Calif. 1:30 p.m.
If you reside in the Bay Area and you're reading this, you obviously care a boatload about this draft to stay indoors on a day like today. It's shaping up to be a gorgeous spring weekend: mid-70s, sunny skies, light breeze. You know, the kind where, if you drive over the San Francisco Bay Bridge toward Oakland, you can see far enough up and down the bay to catch glimpses of four bridges at once.
Let's hope the Raiders are ready to build a new bridge. (Like how I did that one?) These are lean times in Bay Area sports, especially in the pro football department -- the 49ers' and Raiders' combined record over the past five years is 44-116 ... can that be right?
And here we are on yet another Draft Day, where the Raiders' recent results have been, well, awful. Even though Lane Kiffin has injected a dose of youthful hope into the franchise, we all know Al Davis does what Al Davis wants.
Will Darren McFadden be the answer? If the Raiders pick him at No. 4, can the two-time Arkansas All-American be the best Raiders running back since Marcus Allen? And do the Raiders actually need another body in the backfield? Or will Davis throw a curveball and go in another direction? Stay tuned. I'll be here for the next few hours at Raiders HQ in Alameda. --Jonah Freedman
Irving, Texas 1:15 p.m.
I think I've got the best SI.com assignment of all this draft weekend. I'm embedded at Valley Ranch, home of the win-now (or else) Cowboys, the team that last season did about everything you can do in the NFL except for snapping their galling 11-year streak of not winning a playoff game.
Simply put, they're not messing around in Jerry World this year. When you go 13-3 and earn the NFC's homefield advantage and still get bounced from the playoffs with a one-and-done playoff showing, well, a sense of urgency tends to prevail. Thus, Pacman Jones, that walking stick of dynamite who can only be described as a high-risk, high-reward acquisition. He's not the rebuilding-team type, if you get my drift.
The Cowboys aren't in the market this weekend for players to develop. They need the last few pieces of the puzzle, in order to enter the 2008 season fully locked and loaded for what doubtless will be head coach Wade Phillips' make-or-break year. They need a running back to pair with Marion Barber, another cornerback (even if Jones gets to play this year), and a receiver who can both get open and lower the median age at a position populated by Class of 1996 draft picks Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn.
Until the Chiefs swung the deal with Minnesota for Jared Allen this week, the Cowboys were the only NFL team with two first-round picks, at No. 22 and 28. Every mock draft east of Bhopal, India seems to have the Cowboys taking Arkansas running back Felix Jones at No. 22, and then going cornerback at No. 28 (Virginia Tech's Brandon Flowers is a popular guess, although I had South Florida's Mike Jenkins falling that far).
All in all, it should make for some entertaining draft-watching, because we know Cowboys owner Jerry Jones loves the spotlight and will find it and thrust himself in front of it if at all possible. It's a big draft in Dallas this year. Nobody's under any other illusion than it's a win-now world for these Cowboys. -- Don Banks
1 p.m. New York City
Draft weekend unofficially started about 41 hours ago when Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck shared their fondness for butt pads with a room full of corporate bigwigs. Minutes earlier, the deep-pockets in the audience heard Roger Goodell ask them to spend advertising dollars with the NFL Network in the fall. That was preceded by Amani Toomer asking Michael Strahan about his gapped teeth and the Giants defensive end returning serve by telling the wide receiver his nose reminded him of Gonzo.
The whole exercise, part of an NFL Network party at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan, was equal parts riveting and ridiculous. In other words, it was exactly like the NFL draft.
Welcome to the inaugural SI.com At The Draft Blog. Today, we have dispatched 14 writers throughout 11 cities across the country. They have one goal: To bring you behind the scenes of the first two rounds of the 2008 NFL Draft. The baker's dozen plus one:
Peter King: Want to know what Atlanta executives are going to do with the No. 3 pick? In between Starbucks runs, Peter is at the Falcons headquarters in Flowery Branch, Ga., to bring you the scoop.
Don Banks: A few hours after putting the finishing touches on Mock Draft 7.0, Don flew to Dallas on Friday to see what the Cowboys are going to do with their two first-round picks today.
Michael Lombardi: This former NFL personnel man spent 22 years in war rooms with the likes of Bill Belichick, Al Davis and Bill Walsh. Today, he's at the NFL Network headquarters in Los Angeles to bring us his expert analysis.
Andrew Perloff, Richard Deitsch, Ross Tucker and Dominic Bonvissuto: This quartet, which includes a former NFL offensive lineman in Tucker, has every corner of Radio City Music Hall covered.
Arash Markazi: The party is in Arizona (right, Matt Leinart?), where the Cardinals may or may not deal Anquan Boldin.
Jonah Freedman: This San Francisco-based SI.com producer bypassed the 49ers draft and made the drive to Oakland to see if it's possible for the Raiders to screw up the No. 4 pick.
Jim Trotter: The Chiefs are in prime position at No. 5, so this SI magazine writer is in Kansas City to see what happens.
Marty Burns: Giving the NBA playoffs a rest for a day, Marty will check in with his hometown Bears to see what steps Lovie Smith and company are gonna take to get Chicago back in the playoffs.
Adam Duerson: This SI magazine writer/reporter is on Long Island, where he'll pray with Jets executives for Darren McFadden to fall to No. 6.
Elizabeth McGarr: What's going on with the world champions? Elizabeth drove out to Jersey to watch the Giants happily close out the first round.
Andy Staples: Closing out our crew, this high school and college football junkie will give us the back stories on the draftees while hanging out with the Bucs in Tampa.
The blog will run from now until the end of the second round. Have any questions along the way? Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be interspersing reader comments into the blog throughout the day.
So sit back, relax and settle in for a long day ... and night. Come to think of it, a butt pad may come in handy. --Dominic Bonvissuto
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