Plot thickens as draft approaches
CLEVELAND -- One Monday closer to the draft, and in this morning's issue, here are the headlines:
Another chapter for Bill Belichick's new book, Why I Hate That Team in New York I Never Refer to By Name.
I'm not going to trust the smoke signals coming out of Kansas City in the next 12 days, and neither should you.
Why GMs and coaches could be under additional pressure in draft rooms this year.
Meet your new right tackle, Dolfans. Or ...
In my Stat of the Week, an argument why Bill Parcells absolutely, positively, will pick a defensive player to kick off the 2008 draft -- and his legitimate refuting of said argument.
Item 1: This draft is going to have some real intrigue. In the 12 days between today and the first two rounds, I expect not only that Miami draft czar Parcells will control the lives of those hoping to be the first-overall pick -- which has gotten much print and airtime in the last few days -- but also that there will be some major behind-the-scenes gnashing of teeth between the Jets and Patriots.
And all you Kansas City fans, pay attention. Your ball club is very much a part of this story too.
The Jets pick sixth in the first round. The Patriots pick seventh. Let me tell you a story about the last time New England picked directly behind the Jets high in a draft. It was 2001. New England held the 50th pick, New York the 49th. The Patriots very much wanted Purdue tackle Matt Light in the second round, but worried that the Jets might want Light too. New England personnel chief Scott Pioli called Light with the draft at the 47th pick and asked if he'd heard from any other teams recently. "Yeah,'' Light said. "I've got the Jets on the other line.'' Pioli thanked him, hung up, and the Patriots called the Lions, at 48, and swapped picks, giving Detroit a sixth-rounder in return. New England ended up with Light, who went on to become a three-time Super Bowl starter at left tackle. New York picked running back LaMont Jordan.
Now, when this story has been discussed over the years, the Jets have been quick to say they wouldn't necessarily have taken Light. (To which I say, "Maybe.'' Or "Yeah, right. And Joe Namath took knitting classes every night in Manhattan.'')
We can argue about New York's intent in 2001, but I can tell you this year's first round is already causing angst with the Patriots and Jets. As in the draft seven years ago, this draft finds the Jets and Patriots with similar needs. Not exactly the same needs -- the Jets might look at tackle and quarterback here, two spots the Pats won't pick in the first round -- but there are similar players very high on each team's draft boards. Glenn Dorsey. Vernon Gholston. Sedrick Ellis. Chris Long. Keith Rivers.
Moreover, the two organizations are warring clans now, after Spygate and the Deion Branch tampering charges, and that leads to an interesting scenario. Rich Cimini of the New York Daily News and Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe have written intelligently about the two teams trying to trade down. Cimini says because the Jets have spent so much guaranteed money this offseason, they'll be looking to shed the sixth slot in the draft; makes sense, I think, partly because of the estimated $20 million in guarantees the sixth pick will command.
However, after spending a good chunk of the weekend on the phone, I think the opposite could happen. I think if a player each team loves is sitting there when Kansas City goes on the clock at five, both could try to trade with the Chiefs to get the guy they want.
"We'll have our phone lines open,'' Chiefs president Carl Peterson said with a chuckle Saturday. "I can tell you if the guy we've targeted at five is not there, we'll definitely be interested in trading down.''
Wait: You need to add this proviso, Carl -- if you know the guy you want isn't going to be taken by the Jets or Pats, you've got to try to trade down just as hard.
Lots of teams trade little pieces of draft information this time of year. But you can be sure that the Patriots and Jets will be ultra-secretive when talking to friends in the league. They simply don't want their arch-enemy to know what they're thinking. Peterson also realizes that if New England is kept guessing about who the Jets want, and if the Patriots guess about who New York wants, he might be able to get either team to trade up. The Chiefs can win by keeping their lips zipped, and by dropping hints to the Pats and Jets that they'd better move into the fifth spot if they want to be sure to get the guy they love.
My theory is Peterson likes Jake Long and Matt Ryan. Also, there's a slight chance he might want Boise State's Ryan Clady, who is probably a better left-tackle prospect than Long. The way I see it, Long will be long gone by the fifth spot ... But if Atlanta doesn't take Ryan, he'll be there at 5. And should the Chiefs move down, Ryan would probably still be available at 6 and 7, too.
Here's what I love about this story: Don't put it past the Jets and the Patriots to try to trump each other.