22. Baltimore. Joe Flacco's got a big arm, the biggest in the draft this year. He may make it as a rookie starter, but not many kids from Delaware step in as rookie starters in the NFL -- never mind rookie starting quarterbacks.
What worries me about the kid is this: He doesn't have the most self-confident air about him, and what happens if he starts slowly and feels the hot breath of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on his neck?
It'll be up to one of the most positive coaches ever to walk an NFL sideline, John Harbaugh, to make sure the spotlight isn't too big for Flacco. The Ravens are in a tough spot. They need to bring Flacco along slowly to build his confidence, but with a defense built to win now, they can't take it too slow with him. It'll be an interesting chemistry experiment in Baltimore this year.
23. Denver. Just whom exactly do you count on in Denver? The courageously diabetic quarterback? The who-knows-what-to-believe star wideout Brandon Marshall? Or the coach who might be running out of tricks with his magic wand?
The Broncos gave up 26 points a game last year. And just how embarrassing must it be to surrender more than 30 to Houston, Chicago and the Oakland Raiders, for God's sake, all in the span of 18 days? The Broncos' most important acquisition to help that defense has never started an NFL game. Niko Koutouvides will play middle 'backer after backing up strong linebackers for four years in Seattle. Not too much pressure on him, is there?
24. Cincinnati. Talked to Marvin Lewis the other day (more on that conversation in the Tuesday column), and he sounded very much like this is going to be a No-More-Mr.-Nice-Guy season. It was right about that time that Kentucky authorities said starting linebacker Ahmad Brooks had a June court date for allegedly punching a woman in the face.
Hey. Look on the bright side. At least Chad Johnson hasn't opened his mouth this month. Yet.
Lewis made it clear the Bengals were drawing a line in the sand with Johnson, which is just another reason to think this could be a season of distractions that could once more derail the Bengals. By the way, this super offense, with the great receivers? Outscored by five points last year. Hard to imagine Cincinnati turning it around this year.
25. Chicago. It's become fairly easy and fashionable to pile on the Bears for going three straight drafts -- 28 picks in all -- without picking a quarterback, despite going three consecutive years in the NFL's bottom quartile in team quarterback rating.
Beginning on Oct. 9 the Bears will play five top-10-caliber defenses in a seven-game midseason stretch (Vikes, Titans, Packers, Vikes, Jags), and by the end of that period I'll be stunned if Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton don't have every Chicago fan looking skyward and asking, "Why didn't we draft Chad Henne in the second round?''
You also have to be worried about the health and the holdout of Brian Urlacher, which is quite a dilemma. Do you pay a guy who's such a great leader but who also might be entering a fragile state of health? Lovie Smith will have to lord over an unsettled team.
GET YOUR NORMAN VINCENT PEALE SPEECHES READY
26. Detroit. I give up. Every year I think this has to be the season Detroit finally gets over the hump. Nope. Won't get fooled again. Lions are staring down the barrel of 6-10. But there's something different in Detroit, I think. It's Marinelli-ball. We're not seeing the quick fixes of the past.
Coach Rod Marinelli doesn't worry that he might lose his job; well, maybe he does, but his moves sure don't show it. He's going with a sea change at offensive coordinator, from the liberal Mike Martz to the conservative Jim Colletto, changing blocking schemes and three or four starters. And he may have five new starters on defense.
One thing Detroit really should do: Find out if last year's second-round pick, Drew Stanton, can play quarterback in the NFL. That's a question the Lions must answer for 2008.
27. Miami. I don't know who's playing quarterback, who's catching the ball or if Jason Taylor will ever speak to the great and powerful Bill "Oz'' Parcells. But you ask the people who know Parcells the best, and they'll tell you they like the way he's shaking up the bottom of the roster, and he's on his way to building a team that will give the Patriots a game soon. To do that in 2009 or '10, the Dolphins have to discover if they've got their quarterback of the future on the roster now. Best chance to be The Man, of course, is second-round pick Chad Henne.
28. San Francisco. When Mike Nolan took over the coaching job here three years ago, what do you think he'd have said if you told him: "Mike, in the year that decides if you stay or get canned, there's a good chance Shaun Hill will be your starting quarterback and Isaac Bruce your key receiving weapon?'' Heck, Bruce was old when Nolan took the job. And I can guarantee you Nolan had never heard of Hill when he took over.
Strange days in San Francisco, especially with the arrival of Mike Martz to retool a horrific offense that scored in single digits in six of the final 13 games last year. Hill will try to beat out Alex Smith, the former first pick in the draft, and my guess is Nolan thinks Hill is better. To get into the playoffs looks like a 50-foot putt on an undulating green for the Niners.
29. St. Louis. Look on the bright side: I talked to a personnel guy the other day who said, "Chris Long was the top player on our board. The Rams have no idea what a great player they're getting.'' I like the Long pick because he'll be driven every-day he is on this planet to prove his legions of doubters wrong.
Jake Long would have been a better pick for this team, but that's a moot point because he wasn't available. Orlando Pace can't make it through a year healthy, and Alex Barron is a below-average player ... those are your bookend tackles, the guys who have to keep a relatively frail (for a quarterback) Marc Bulger upright for 16 weeks. Unless Bulger makes it through the year unscathed, I'd be surprised if the Rams won six games.
30. Oakland. We're beating a dead Darth Vader to say it's broke, and Al's not fixing it. Winning 4, 5, 4, 2 and 4 games over the last five years (New England won 18 last year; Oakland's won 19 in a half-decade) should tell you something. But it doesn't tell the Raiders anything, except, "Let's keep doing what we've been doing and see what happens.''
For this year, maybe JaMarcus Russell throwing to Javon Walker will get it done, though you can't count on Walker with his injury history to play 16 games. And maybe DeAngelo Hall and Nnamdi Asomugha will form the best cornerback tandem in football and repel big days from Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers. Maybe. The best thing Oakland could do is hand the team to a good coach (I vote for Lane Kiffin) and let him build the team his way. It can't be any worse than what's happening now.