SI.com At The Draft Blog
Fourteen writers in 11 cities bring you behind the scenes of the NFL's annual pickfest
Flowery Branch, Ga. 9:01 p.m.
First round last year: 6 hours, 4 minutes.
First two rounds this year: 5 hours, 50 minutes.
NFL, we love you. We're still awake after two rounds. --Peter King
New York City 8:58 p.m.
With the second round coming to an end, I have mixed emotions about the new draft format. Being a morning person, I was less than thrilled that the NFL elected to wait until 3 p.m. to start the draft. Chris Berman and I chatted briefly before the draft about our belief that it seemed like a West Coast-oriented move. In between telling him how much I dearly miss NFL Primetime, I asked why people on the West Coast can't wake up by 9 a.m. to watch the draft. I felt strongly at the time that I wish it had started earlier.
The increased speed of the draft has been enjoyable, however, limiting the agonizing time in between picks that had been such an annoyance in years past. More importantly, it got me another gig working for one of my other media employers, Sirius NFL Radio. I recently got the call from my producer letting me know that they could use me to do a shift tonight because of the unanticipated speed with which the teams have made their selections.
I may have been on the fence about the new format earlier, but now that I get another opportunity to continue talking about the game I love the rest of the night, I felt the need to tip my cap to Roger Goodell and the NFL for landing me an extra gig. --Ross Tucker
Tampa Bay 8:55 p.m.
Dexter Jackson, who caught two touchdown passes in the greatest upset in college football history, isn't afraid of jumping from Division I-AA to the NFL. Assuming someone passes along a portion of Jackson's conversation with Bucs beat writers Saturday night, the former Appalachian State receiver will need to be fearless when he meets future teammate Joey Galloway.
"When I came down for my visit to Tampa," Jackson said, "Jon Gruden told me they were looking for a speed receiver to really be a deep-threat guy as a slot receiver because Joey Galloway, he was aging."
Galloway should forgive Jackson, who caught three passes for 92 yards in the Mountaineers' opening-week win at Michigan, for his exuberance. After watching the entire first round go by without a receiver taken, Jackson grew concerned. "I started to worry a lot," he said. He knew he was the 10th receiver on a lot of draft boards, and he didn't realize he was about to be taken until receivers Donnie Avery, James Hardy and DeSean Jackson were selected.
When the Bucs' pick flashed onscreen, some of the veteran Tampa Bay beat writers saw the name and yelled, "He's coming back again?" Not exactly. The elder Dexter Jackson -- no relation -- served two stints with the Bucs from 1999-2002 and 2004-05. That Dexter Jackson was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXVII.
During the Q&A, Orlando Sentinel writer Chris Harry asked Jackson if anyone had mentioned that he shared a name with a Super Bowl MVP. "That's crazy, now that I think about it," Jackson said. Incredulous, Harry asked again if anyone with the Bucs had mentioned the similarity. "Just you," Jackson said. "That's it." -- Andy Staples
New York City 8:51 p.m.
One of the bigger surprises in the second round was the Packers' selection of Jordy Nelson at No. 35, since they already have Pro Bowl receiver Donald Driver and young studs Greg Jennings and James Jones.
I just talked with Nelson, who is still back in Kansas, and he said he didn't hear much from Green Bay before the draft. Nelson was drawing interest from teams like Washington, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Carolina. "The Packers must have been just sitting back and liked what they saw," Nelson said.
The 6-foot-3 Nelson said he hasn't been a receiver for that long and he can't wait to learn from the veteran receivers in Green Bay. He says he's not worried about the frozen tundra. "It gets a lot colder than you might think in Kansas, especially with the wind chill," Nelson said. "One thing I learned playing in some really cold games, a dropped pass hurts a lot more than a caught pass."
Sounds like a Packers guy already. He said, however, he didn't think to ask the team if Brett Favre was really retired. That would have been my first question. --Andrew Perloff
Alameda, Calif. 8:40 p.m.
Here's an easy way to irritate your notoriously irritable new boss. Darren McFadden's favorite team growing up in North Little Rock, Ark.?
"I liked Terrell Davis and John Elway," he admitted, to the amusement of the press corps here. Did he mention his affinity for the Raiders' divisional archrivals to Al Davis when they met, asked one reporter?
"No sir," giggled McFadden. "Not at all." --Jonah Freedman
Tempe, Ariz. 8:33 p.m.
I spent a few days with Cardinals' second-round pick Calais Campbell in Los Angeles before the combine as he worked out with UCLA's Bruce Davis and North Carolina's Kentwan Balmer, who was selected by the 49ers in the first round. Campbell, a defensive end from Miami who worked closely with former NFL defensive coordinator Foge Fazio and Giants defensive end Cedric Jones on the intricacies of playing in the league, was the one of the largest defensive end in the draft at 6-foot-8, 290 pounds. "You can't teach that kind of size," said his agent Gary Wichard. "He's going to be a monster at the next level."
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was surprised that Campbell, who at one time was projected to be a first-round pick, was still available at No. 50. "He was the highest-rated player remaining on our board," said Whisenhunt, who had Campbell rated as a top-30 player. "It's a position that is very difficult to find in the NFL. With his size and his skills, he was just too good to pass up."
That will do it from Cardinals camp as general manager Rod Graves said the team will not make any more moves before Sunday. "I don't envision us doing anything else today," he said. "We're as anxious to get home as you guys are." --Arash Markazi
New York City 8:30 p.m.
This one is personal. Dolphins second-round draft pick Chad Henne is from my hometown in Wyomissing, Pa., and seemed destined for greatness ever since he started as a freshman for Wilson High School, a perennial power near Reading, Pa., an hour's drive west of Philadelphia.
I can honestly say I knew all about the athletic exploits of Henne before he even reached the high school level. To say I believed everything I was hearing, however, would be less than accurate. I used to work out in my high school's weight room while home from college on breaks with Henne's father Sheldon. On more than one occasion Sheldon told me about his son, then a hard-running fullback in eighth grade. At the time I took everything Sheldon said about Chad with a grain of salt, the product of meeting too many overzealous parents who were not able to objectively evaluate the athletic prowess of their children.
I can only look back now and laugh, knowing Sheldon was really being reserved about his son's ability. I don't think Sheldon even knew how good Chad really could be. After all, nobody can project having a future NFL quarterback for a son, especially when they are a fullback in eighth grade. One year later Henne was the All-County quarterback and a legendary high school career had begun.
Henne went on to start since day one at Michigan and seems uniquely qualified for the task that is now in front of him. If only I could say I had predicted this day would come eight years ago when I first heard about him. --Ross Tucker
New York City 8:22 p.m.
Earlier this week I asked both ESPN senior coordinating producer Jay Rothman and NFL Network executive producer Eric Weinberger the same question: If a viewer has both ESPN and the NFL Network, why should he or she choose your draft coverage?
Weinberger: "We will all tell you -- and I am not trying to cop out of anything -- both networks' coverage is phenomenal. This is a monster of a show. They have obviously been doing it for longer than we have. The uniqueness for us and for our viewers is that this is our fulltime job. No one else can really say that. We have been analyzing players and educating viewers on this since the college football season started and really in earnest since our exclusive coverage of the senior bowl and combine. It's all that we do. We're not cramming for a test today. The main thing we can say is this has been our first and foremost priority since the Super Bowl ended."
Rothman: "You know why? Because we have been the voice of record for some time and I think our talent our is unmatched. Their guys do a great job and I respect and know all of them. But I stand by our guys." --Richard Deitsch
New York City 8:15 p.m.
Almost every team in the NFL is looking to draft guys with passion for the game of football. Inevitably you will hear teams talk about a player's "motor" or the fact that he has a "lot of heart." Conversely, teams often cut the cord after a couple of years on high draft picks whom they deem to have "no heart" after they have received a large signing bonus and their work ethic and desire to play through pain has faltered. Can a player possibly have "too much heart?"
In Quentin Groves' case, the answer could be yes. Groves, a second-round pick by the Jags, recently had surgery on his heart after an irregular and accelerated heartbeat was identified by several team doctors at the combine in Indianapolis in February. It was another bad break for an elite athlete who was projected as a top-10 pick before the season following a dominant junior year that helped propel him to the top of the all-time sack list at Auburn.
Groves was plagued by a painful turf-toe injury this past season that limited his effectiveness and dropped him down some teams draft charts. He is the latest example of a player falling after returning for another season. Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn the last couple of seasons, as well as Brian Brohm and Chad Henne this season, are other players whose draft status was hurt after they returned for their senior year. Though publicly the NFL encourages players to stay all four years and earn their degrees, the teams put their money where their mouth is on draft day. Right now many teams seem to be putting a premium on flashes of brilliance as opposed to the consistent production of four-year starters and only time will tell if that philosophy pays off. --Ross Tucker
East Rutherford, N.J. 8:07 p.m.
Newsflash from New Jersey: Jeremy Shockey is the Giants starting tight end.
"Can we talk about our draft pick?" GM Jerry Reese asked after a reporter opened a brief question-and-answer session with an inquiry about a possible trade involving Shockey. "Jeremy Shockey's our starting tight end, guys. Let's talk about our draft pick."
That draft pick would be Kenny Phillips, a three-year starter from Miami who is so athletic, Reese said, that one Miami coach thought he could play corner in addition to strong or free safety. "We got nice value, and we got a need position as well," Reese said. "We don't want to reach for guys. We got what we wanted."
The Giants got a look at Phillips at the combine and sent a representative to his pro day in Florida but didn't have additional interaction with him. Reese said none was required. "We had a guy, had him targeted," said Reese, who mentioned he was surprised but delighted Phillips fell as far as he did. "We didn't have a lot to clear up about him."
Phillips said he thinks the Hurricanes' 5-7 record may have hurt him. He played both free safety and strong safety at The U and believes versatility is the biggest asset he'll bring to the Giants. "I can come down and play in the box, or I can go back there and be a ball hawk. I can go down there and be that guy on special teams. Whatever the team needs me to do, I can do that."
And what of playing for head coach Tom Coughlin, who spoke in his usual monotone for six minutes?
"I don't know a lot about him," admitted Phillips. "I've seen him on TV and everything. He seems like a really cool guy, really nice guy."
Is that so? Welcome to New York, Kenny. --Elizabeth McGarr
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