'Grading' the draft (cont.)
Single or double shots
Carolina Panthers: Traded up for the tackle (Jeff Otah) to block for the runner (Jonathan Stewart), which provides John Fox with the kind of attack he's most comfortable with.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Traded way up, 18 spots, to get Derrick Harvey, an edge rusher, and then devoted their second-round choice to another one, Quentin Groves. I know the whole idea is to pressure the most dangerous man in the division, Peyton Manning, but getting these guys with the eighth and 52nd picks of the entire draft is a bit of a reach.
San Francisco 49ers: Two big guys to provide a grain of toughness on both sides of the ball, For the interior defense, to keep people off their inside linebacking phenom, Patrick Willis, they got 307-pound Kentwan Balmer in the first round. Next pick was a bruising guard, Chilo Rachal, who perfected his game at USC.
New York Giants: Free safety Gibril Wilson free agents himself out of town, in comes Kenny Phillips from the U., which is Miami, where they know all about safetymen. And here are two more good picks for needs, a pair of 242-pound linebackers, Bryan Kehl and Jonathan Goff.
Business as usual
Indianapolis Colts: No first-round pick this time, which produced the oddity of three picks listed as centers. One will hold the position, one will move to guard, probably the highest one picked, Mike Pollak, and one will have to deposit his chips at the teller's window. Philip Wheeler is a speedy linebacker whose weight is now 243. Wish mine was.
Arizona Cardinals: They said they loved Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the 4.29 corner, and by golly they were one of the few teams not lying. I wish Ken Whisenhunt and his speedy corner the best of luck, and that goes for DE Calais Campbell, who has been mentioned as an underachiever, but not to him, I'll wager.
The psychological war
New York Jets: So what do you do when you've picked two of the finest athletes on the board, DE Vernon Gholston and TE Dustin Keller, and people are sneering at them? Great workout warriors, they say. Gholston is on and off and Keller can't block. Well, if I were Eric Mangini, I'd make sure the clippings all find a place in their lockers. Strange things following consistent nagging --such as consistency, and blocking, and consistently blocking, you understand.
Tampa Bay Bucs: The top pick, CB Aqib Talib, is so gifted as a cover man that he actually sneers at receivers, I hear. Which doesn't bother his coach, who, I've heard, sneers at writers on occasion. It's an interesting draft that landed little Dexter Jackson, who can do a 4.33, and G/T Jeremy Zuttah, a technically gifted lineman with great potential.
New England Patriots: They always take a lineman, whether offensive or defensive. Some of them, even first rounders, are only dimly known. I mean, when they took Logan Mankins I thought it was a department store. But a few years later I was putting him on my all-pro team. This year? No linemen. The pressing needs of young linebackers to spruce up an aging unit, and corners to take over for two émigrés, was too great. Enter No.1 choice, Jerod Mayo, an OLB with numbers that say 242 pounds and 4.52, and corner Terrence Wheatley, who turned in a 4.37 at the combine.
The sliding scale
Baltimore Ravens: They wanted Ryan. Falcons got him. So we'll take our ball and go home, said Ozzie Newsome, and he packed up and pulled out of the pick. And there he was heading for the second round, when hello there, Joe Flacco, the big guy with the laser arm, was still aboard. So at 18 he became a Raven. I don't think Kyle Boller's in trouble -- yet. The kid is still too raw, and wild. And at the draft room in New York a great cheer went up when the Ravens, with their second-round pick, selected Rutgers star halfback Ray Rice, the greatest player to wear the scarlet since the great Paul Robeson.
New Orleans Saints: Same type of story. Glenn Dorsey, the terrific DT from LSU, was their man. They even traded three places up, to seven, for a shot at him. Sorry, the Chiefs got there first. So New Orleans did a volte face and picked equally devastating -- well, almost -- Sedrick Ellis of USC. One of the best DT's to come along in years. Suspecting that their corners were perhaps slowing down a bit, the Saints grabbed CB Tracy Porter (4.37) with the next selection.
Why aren't I cheering?
Kansas City Chiefs: Stars of the war room, stars of the TV studios and the draft, that's K.C., with its cast of thousands. And yes, the names are impressive, but how about the two that are missing? Jared Allen, their right DE who led the league in sacks last year, and ... well, the name escapes me, but it was the guy I was sure the Chiefs would bring in to give Brodie Croyle a run for the QB job. Sorry, no one to push Croyle, no Allen to line up at his usual spot. It's what I call a "yes, but..." draft.
I'm not wild about these
Seattle Seahawks: I can find only three interesting names, DE Lawrence Jackson and Notre Dame TE John Carlson at the top, and then a drop to the fifth round for a peek at 250-pound fullback Owen Schmitt.
San Diego Chargers: Not their fault. Only five total picks. I'll say this -- opportunistic corner Antoine Cason. Then I'll say goodbye.
Cleveland Browns: The first of five choices starts at round four with LB Bo Bell. They say he's mean. I know why. He's lonely. Earlier deals for DT Shawn Rogers (Lions) and DE Corey Williams (Packers) took their toll, which wouldn't be so bad, except that Cleveland had to throw in a gifted corner, Leigh Bodden, and I don't think that was such a good idea.
Green Bay Packers: Tell me, please, why two QB's? I mean, OK, Brian Brohm to make things interesting. But why Matt Flynn?
Houston Texans: So their venture into the O-line arena in the first round nets them a finesse guy, Duane Brown, after they traded down eight places. What I've always felt about this team is that linemen should be brought in by the truckload, not on little tippy toes.
St. Louis Rams: Chris Long is a good, safe pick at No. 1. Leonard Little's getting old, after all. Guard John Greco is too. Got to protect Mark Bulger before he's a basket case. But with every wideout on the board available for you in the second round, why take Donnie Avery. You what? You owe his father money? I've heard enough.
Washington Redskins: The first four picks and five of the first eight went for offensive players, with a punter thrown in. Never mind that age is creeping into the defense, and the death of free safety Sean Taylor left that unit depleted, so why ... ah, why bother?
Chicago Bears: A smooth, athletic offensive tackle, Chris Williams, backed up by a grinding runner, Matt Forte, makes some kind of sense at the top of the round, I guess, but not when your defense needs run stoppers and Rex Grossman needs a young QB to give him a run for his job.
Denver Broncos: Mike Shanahan feels that establishing the run (tackle Ryan Clady drafted first) is more important than stopping it, which the Broncos couldn't do last year, and far be it from me to second guess him. How about first guess?