SI.com At The Draft (cont.)
East Rutherford, N.J., 6 p.m.
Well, so far in the Giants Stadium press room, we're following the same pattern we did last year: sitting around, waiting for the Giants to make a trade and making fun of the NFL Network. In 2008, the possibility of a draft-day trade involving tight end Jeremy Shockey was intriguing. That didn't happen until July. Today, everyone's focused on the possibility of a trade for Cleveland wide receiver Braylon Edwards.
Many had speculated that the Giants would take Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey, if he had still been around, but, of course, he's not. When Oakland selected Heyward-Bey with the seventh pick, everyone in the Giants press room said the same thing: "Wow." Someone also mentioned he'd like to see the draft board that Giants GM Jerry Reese had just smashed. A few folks around here thought the Giants should have traded up to get Michael Crabtree (obviously didn't happen) and that they could decide to trade up to get Jeremy Maclin from Mizzou.
Foxboro, Mass., 5:54 p.m.
I'm a Boston College grad and have followed the program pretty closely for 25 years (All Hail Flutie) and have written about the program quite a bit over the years.
I can tell you that the Packers picked up an absolute brick wall in defensive tackle B.J. Raji. He was the biggest reason why the Eagles were virtually impossible to run on last year. He bottled up everything in the middle as BC surrendered a miniscule 2.81 yards per rush attempt in 2008.. Only five teams were better in all of major college football:
-TCU (a ridiculous 1.72 YPA), which plays in a mid-major conference (Mountain West).
-Alabama (2.65 YPA), a dominant SEC power last year.
-Ole Miss (2.71 YPA), an awesome defensive club and the only team to beat national champion Florida last year.
-USC (2.73 YPA), which will probably have three linebackers drafted in the first round today.
-Tennessee (2.79 YPA), a traditional SEC powerhouse.
That's some pretty good company for Boston College ... and none of these defenses relied as heavily on one player as BC did on Raji.
For the Packers, it's absolutely the appropriate pick. They ranked amediocre 14th on the critical Defensive Hog Index we use over at Cold, Hard Football Facts.com to rank defensive fronts. But they were one of the most porous run defenses in the league last year, surrendering 4.6 YPA (26th). Raji instantly improves this statistical weak link.
New York City, 5:45 p.m.
Fair or not, the players that come before you at your college, especially if they play the same position, have an indirect effect on your standing in the eyes of NFL scouts and general managers. Penn State running backs got a bad reputation in terms of their on-field production after Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana Carter, and Curtis Enis failed to live up to expectations. Larry Johnson proved Penn State runners can play but his off-field incidents have changed his appraisal as of late.
This year the focus in this regard is on Texas' Brian Orakpo , who was just taken by the Redskins. Recent former Longhorns taken in the top 10 have failed to live up to expectations even if they have become solid players. Roy Williams and Leonard Davis have been the most successful of an underwhelming group that includes Vince Young, Cedric Benson, Mike Williams, and Michael Huff. Everette Brown of Florida State is another prospect who has to deal with the fact that former top 10 pick Jamal Reynolds did nothing in the NFL and Kamerion Wimbley's production has fallen off significantly since his rookie season.
Englewood, Colo., 5:39 p.m.
Everyone thought the Broncos would go defense with their first pick. Instead, they took running back Knowshon Moreno. The selection elicited gasps among the media at Broncos headquarters.
Interestingly, coach Josh McDaniels cautioned Friday that the team might go offense, even though the defense needs so much help. Everyone thought he was blowing smoke. Turns out he was surprisingly candid.
I love the pick, but I think they could have gotten him with their second first-round pick.
Seattle, 5:29 p.m.
The draft couldn't have turned out any better for Mark Sanchez, who dreamed about playing in New York. Chatting with Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, who coached Sanchez at USC last season, after practice yesterday I got the sense the Seahawks weren't looking to take a quarterback as many were projecting and that if it were up to Sanchez, he'd be playing in New York.
He fell in love with the city while he was out there before the draft, walking through Central Park, devouring pastrami sandwiches at Carnegie Deli and checking out a couple nightclubs that he will no doubt return to now that he's gone from tourist to the Jets' new "franchise" quarterback.
It will be interesting to see if he can charm the unrelenting New York media the same way he was able to in Los Angeles. No player is more media savvy entering the NFL than Sanchez. He always made a point of shaking hands with reporters before and after interviews, even if that meant going down a row of about 10 people.
Detroit, 5:16 p.m.
Leave it to the Raiders. They take a receiver in Darrius Heyward-Bey at No. 7 who some feel might not be worthy of the 27th pick in the first round. Speed once again blinded Al Davis from seeing all other flaws. Heyward-Bey ran faster than any other pass-catcher at the NFL combine in February (4.3), but plenty of personnel men within the league told me they wouldn't take him high because of his unreliable hands, and that he absolutely disappeared in far too many of his collegiate games.
For Davis, it's simple, I suppose. He sees quarterback JaMarcus Russell heaving the ball as far as he can, and he sees the blazing Heyward-Bey running under all those rainbows. But there's so much more to playing receiver in the NFL than just foot speed, and many talented collegiate receivers have failed to make the adjustments in terms of route running, beating the press at the line of scrimmage, and the dramatically improved coverage skills of NFL cornerbacks.
What's that oft-quoted definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Kind of sounds like the Raiders drafts of recent vintage to me.
Englewood, Colo., 5:09 p.m.
All is quiet at Broncos headquarters. The team has moved its war room from the large team meeting room just behind the lobby to the coach's conference room on the second floor.
Unlike with previous coach Mike Shanahan, who had all the coaches, personnel people, medical staff and scouts in the war room, new coach Josh McDaniels has only himself, general manager Brian Xanders, owner Pat Bowlen and a few others. The media are now working out of the previous war room.
Don't look for much action for the Broncos in terms of trading up. McDaniels said yesterday he would not surrender the team's two first-round picks, Nos. 12 and 18, to move up for one player. That does not mean he won't trade one of the selections as part of a deal to move up.
Denver is expected to go heavy on defense. Many of their moves this offseason have been on offense, and they need to start adding pieces for the new 3-4 defense they plan to run.
Eden Prairie, Minn., 5:04 p.m.
It always has been politically incorrect to refer to draft rooms as "war rooms,'' though my hunch is a lot of battles get fought behind those closed doors. By the time a pick gets announced, of course, everyone contributing to the decision generally is on board, at least for public consumption. Even if it isn't true.
Consumption, consumption . . . that got me to thinking about an exchange a few of us had on Thursday with Rick Spielman, the Vikings' vice president of player personnel. Asked directly about differences of opinion on prospects and trade scenarios right up to and through a team's time on the clock, Spielman said: "There are split decisions in these meetings. Some guys like vanilla, some guys like chocolate. Then every once in a while, someone in the back will like strawberry and really screw it up.''
Pouncing on the opening, and desperate for some leakage of inside info, a Mike Wallace-wannabe asked Spielman his preference.
"I like that Napoleon," he said. Then the Vikings exec caught himself. "Netropolitan? Whatever it is, the one with the three in it.''
Spielman laughed as he turned a lovely shade of strawberry.
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