MMQB Mailbag: Reviewing Falcons' picks, Schefter's called shots, more
One of my very good friends, Corey Bowdre, is also one of the biggest Falcons fans I know. He knew I was in Atlanta for the draft and sent me this text message Monday: "Not very impressed.''
I heard similar thoughts in emails from other Falcon faithful, many of them centering around Atlanta's controversial move. The traded two second-round picks and a fourth to Washington for a first, third and fifth to move into position to take the seventh tackle in the first round, USC's Sam Baker.
It was controversial because Baker, in essence, cost the Falcons the second-round picks acquired in the Matt Schaub and DeAngelo Hall trades of the past two years ... though, in fairness, it also netted a quality second-tier receiver, Harry Douglas of Louisville.
I called Corey, the senior manager of premium sales for the Red Sox, and heard him out. "You would think if you gave up a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, that trading the pick you got for him plus something else that you'd get a bona fide number one pick in return,'' he said. "I don't think Sam Baker is that guy. I loved the Matt Ryan pick. I'm fine with passing on Glenn Dorsey for Ryan because it's easier to find a good defensive tackle than a good quarterback. But I also had a problem with not addressing the needs on both interior lines.''
The Falcons did what they did Saturday for a couple of reasons. They had eight or 10 prime need positions, positions that could have been filled by first- or second-round draft picks. Two of the top needs (maybe the top two, though I don't know it for sure) were quarterback and left tackle. Ryan was logical. Baker was a reach, without question.
Here's the rub on Baker. No one in the league, I'm sure, had him 21 on their draft board. Certainly not the Falcons. But when the Panthers made a monstrous trade to get the 19th pick overall to draft the sixth left tackle in the first round, Jeff Otah, the Falcons knew their situation was dire. If they didn't trade up to get Baker, they'd have to put off their search for a left tackle (and worst-case scenario, right tackle if he wasn't quick enough or long-armed enough to play the left side) until next year.
So they traded 34, 48 and 103 to Washington for 21, 84 and 154. With the two prime picks, Washington got Devin Thomas and Fred Davis, the receiver and tight end Jim Zorn wanted, and the Falcons got their left tackle and Douglas. Had Atlanta not taken Ryan with its first pick, GM Thomas Dimitroff would have taken Dorsey, then traded up somewhere low in the first round to try to get Michigan quarterback Chad Henne.
I asked the three network draft czars what they would have done. I presented this scenario: Would you rather exit this draft with Dorsey, Henne and no left tackle candidate? Or would you rather exit with Ryan, Baker and no starting defensive tackle candidate?
Mel Kiper, ESPN: "Dorsey, to me, was the best guy in the draft. But I'd have done what the Falcons did. Matt Ryan's going to be a big-time quarterback, and I thought Chad Henne was overrated. With Baker, everyone gets wrapped up in the fact that Atlanta reached for him. But forget that. Can he play? Sam Baker can play. He might have to play right tackle or guard, but he'll be a good player.''
Mike Mayock, NFL Network. "My biggest issue was giving up picks to get Baker, and reaching for him. But the runs on tackles put pressure on them. I understand. You know how I feel about Ryan. [Of the two scenarios] I'd have taken Ryan.''
Todd McShay, ESPN: "Can I create option three? Pick Ryan and keep the three second-round picks. But given the two choices, I'd rather have Matt Ryan, who I think is going to be a franchise quarterback.''
McShay was clearly bothered by the tradeup for Baker, but then I asked him: If you stay with the three second-round picks, and you have a desperate need at tackle, what would you have done? "That's the problem," he said. "Oniel Cousins [drafted 99th overall by Baltimore out of UTEP] maybe, but he's a third-rounder at best ... I'm glad you explained that to me. It makes a lot of sense. I guess if I had to pick one, I'd pick Ryan and Baker.''
My one point: Let's remember that Baker isn't chopped liver. He got hurt last year and wasn't the player he'd been the previous three years. But he exits USC having started 49 of 52 games at left tackle -- for, arguably, the best college program in the country. My gut feeling? The Falcons did reach, but Baker's a better player than middle of the second round.
Now onto your emails.
I'VE KNOWN ADAM SCHEFTER FOR A LONG TIME, AND I TRUST HIM. From Chad Walker, of Toronto: "When it comes to live draft shows, the league informs the TV stations of the picks 30 seconds before they are announced, so producers and talent can get B-roll, boards and thoughts ready. So Adam Schefter wasn't calling picks, he was ruining the drama of the draft for all of us. Rich Eisen was guilty of this as well. Why couldn't they just say with the pick, here is the Commissioner? Very frustrating!''
I think it's likely that the pick is given to the graphics people in the truck for the networks 15 or 20 seconds before the commissioner's announcement, but I'm told there is an embargo that is pretty strict about not reporting it on the air. For instance, I do know that Schefter's bosses were not very pleased that he announced the Dustin Keller pick by the Jets 15 seconds before Goodell did -- and, in fact, Schefter and his bosses are going to discuss whether he can break the picks on the air next year before Goodell calls them out.
Re your question, I went to the horse's mouth Monday night. I asked Schefter, who I trust implicitly, for his response to your email. Here it is: "Thank you for the backhanded compliment, Chad. I can honestly tell you that my producers, or the Network, or the league, did not give me a single pick. Not one. Nor would they ever; it's not fair to teams, fans, reporters, anybody. Any pick that I reported I got from a team or from hours and days and weeks of preparation (just ask my family, which I haven't seen in close to a month).
"In fact, not only did it annoy you, Chad, but it annoyed some of my bosses as well. They are -- and have been -- wrestling with whether they should allow me to report the pick or rain on the drama of the moment. And it wasn't just you, Chad. On more than a few occasions, I was able to tell Commissioner Roger Goodell the pick before he saw it on the card and marched up to the podium to announce it. At first he seemed a bit annoyed by it (and if you haven't noticed yet, I can be very annoying). But after a while, he seemed amused and accepted it.
"Chad, trust me on this: It's just one man trying really hard to do his job, and getting a little lucky -- no cheating at all involved. And besides, anyone following football knows the commissioner doesn't stand for or like cheating. He has no tolerance for it. If he found out I were doing it, he would fine/suspend/take away some of my draft pick air time. So, as Bill Belichick might say, I'm just trying to get ready for the next draft.''