SI.com At The Draft (cont.)
Ann Arbor, Mich., 4:59 p.m.
ESPN's Trey Wingo (who I would implore ESPN make the host of the draft when Chris Berman retires) had an interesting segment with Herman Edwards prior to the Chiefs' selection of LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson. Wingo asked the former Kansas City coach which way he would go if he was making the pick. Edwards said he would trade down for a later first round selection and add a second or third-round pick. He then said he would pick a rush linebacker and add a wide receiver and lineman. "I would move down," Edwards said. "For the value of the pick, that's the decision I would make. You can still pick up a linebacker and they also need a wide receiver."
When I interviewed him early in the week, Jay Rothman, the head of ESPN's coverage, pledged that Edwards would not back down from being critical when news warranted it. "There are guys on TV that would love to get back in the league," Rothman said. "Herm has signed up with us for awhile and he does not have aspirations to go back into the league. We have had those conversations about being critical and forthright when needed....We are not asking Herman Edwards to burn bridges but he will be forthcoming on this broadcast."
So far, Edwards has been good. A little folksy, but he has interesting potential as a studio analyst.
Florham Park, N.J., 4:52 p.m.
How did the Jets-Browns trade conversation even begin?!?
As one writer wondered aloud: "Hey Eric, this is Mike Tannenbaum. Remember me... the guy who fired you."
On one level it seems almost completely implausible that Cleveland coach Eric Mangini would pull off a trade with Tannenbaum, the Jets GM who fired him. I suggested before the draft myself that such a thing was impossible. But in hindsight it makes perfect sense now that we've learned players will be involved. Mangini had a few guys he liked; he was happy to bring them to Cleveland. Sometimes these things work well for both parties.
Jets brass are on their way down to discuss details; and we'll have Mark Sanchez on the line in a few. And that, folks, marks the shortest draft day for one team in recent history.
Kansas City, 4:46 p.m.
Tyson Jackson. Meat. Potatoes.
That's the reason Kansas City passed on the best linebacker in this draft, and maybe the best player, Aaron Curry. Think back on the Patriots' picks in the Belichick-Pioli Era, and you'll see the defensive linemen picked in the first round who ended up driving the bus of everything they did on defense -- Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour. Now Scott Pioli is running the show here. A week ago, when I put Jackson at number three to the Chiefs in my SI mock draft, I didn't do it because of inside information. I did it because it made the most sense for a team that doesn't have a classic 3-4 defensive end on its roster.
That's what the Chiefs have right now -- the best 3-4 end in the draft. Now we'll see if the 295-pound Jackson can justify the high pick.
"I'm a country boy,'' Jackson just said on a conference call from Louisiana. "I couldn't take being in New York today. I've got to be with my family.''
Music to Pioli's ears.
New York City, 4:40 p.m.
For months, whenever Aaron Curry was asked what it would feel like to hear his name called at the NFL Draft, he always had the same answer: I don't know. On Friday, he even said he didn't care where he went, even if it was with the 252nd and last pick.
On Saturday at 4:32 p.m., Curry got the answer to where he would go and the world finally got its answer to what his reaction would be: Seattle, and tears.
Curry went to the Seahawks with the fourth pick in the draft, a destination that he had not talked much about in recent days. There was much speculation he could go No. 1, and virtually everyone assumed he would go in the top five. When Julian Peterson got traded to the Lions, it created an opening for Curry in Seattle. As recently as the morning of the draft, Curry and his agent, Andy Ross, swore they had no idea where he would go, but privately, Curry worried that he would slip out of the top five due to the draft's unpredictable nature. Turns out, he had nothing to worry about.
Englewood, Colo., 4:30 p.m.
The Chiefs did what my SI colleague Peter King boldly predicted in selecting LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson with the third pick, but pardon me for not getting excited. Jackson figures to be a solid pro, but the comparisons to Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour are premature at best, and potentially laughable if Jackson doesn't become a perennial Pro Bowler.
Funny, but I never heard any comparisons to Seymour until word leaked out that the Chiefs were considering Jackson at No. 3. Prior to that, most teams had him graded as a mid first-rounder.
I'll reiterate what I wrote earlier this week: With the third pick, I want an impact guy, not a good system fit -- particularly if I've got to pay him in the neighborhood of $30 million in guarantees. Jackson was not a standout at LSU, so it's curious why so many people now think he will be that guy as a pro.
Detroit, 4:14 p.m.
Wanted to give you some highlights of our first chance to talk with both new Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, and the two key Detroit decision-makers who chose him: Head coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew. The latter two briefly met here with the media before the draft, and we had a conference call with Stafford from Radio City Music Hall in New York:
Mayhew dodged the question whether the Lions really intended to draft someone else, like Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, if they didn't come to a pre-draft contact agreement with Stafford?: "At this point, it doesn't really matter,'' he said. "We've got him, he's a guy we targeted, he's the highest-rated guy on our board, and we're glad to have him.''
Schwartz said Stafford will play if he's clearly the Lions best quarterback, and he'll sit and wait his turn if he isn't.
"The best players are going to play, and we need to keep an eye toward that with Matthew,'' Schwartz said. "Is he the best player, and is he ready? And both of those questions have to be answered. We're in a really good position right now with a rejuvenated Daunte Culpepper. He's done an incredible job between the end of the season and now of making a commitment and being back. Anybody who saw any of our minicamp sees a lot of the old Daunte Culpepper.
"It's a great situation to be in. We don't have to force our hand and we don't have to make a decisions that's not based on merit. We go into this process not with, 'Hey, we're going sit him for a year regardless, or 'Hey, he's going to start right away.' I think we go in and say if he's ready in our eyes, and he's our best quarterback, then he plays.''
Stafford said he's ready for the challenges of being the guy asked to turn around Detroit's long-standing football futility. "I put a lot of pressure on myself to be great anyway,'' he said. "I'm a confident person. I believe in myself. I believe in my talent.''
Stafford was out to dinner last night with about 20 friends when he got the news that a deal with the Lions was done. Who picked up the check, someone asked? "I did,'' said Stafford, not missing a beat.
New York City, 4:09 p.m.
I have had the opportunity to speak with potential Rams picks Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe a number of times during the lead up to the NFL draft on Sirius NFL Radio and as a former offensive lineman I grilled these guys like an offensive line coach would on air to find out what really makes them tick. How important is football to them? Are they satisfied with just blocking their man or do they have a burning desire to physically punish the human being in front of them? If I learned anything by being around great players it is the passion they have for their craft and their love of the sport of football that separates them as much as anything.
You can feel the hunger in Smith's voice when he talks. The former tight end has taken a liking to the offensive line and he has a certain intensity to his voice when he talks about being on the field. He yearns to get back out there and prove he is the best while destroying the opposition. He is still somewhat raw but that seemingly only serves to intrigue some offensive line coaches.
Monroe is calm, cool, and collected. He thinks about his words before speaking and then does so in a thoughtful, monotone way. He was the number one ranked offensive lineman in the country coming out of high school and it seems as if he has been prepping for this since he was born. He already talks and acts like a pro and isn't fazed by anything, even when I asked him if he was frustrated by the persistent talk about his knee as of late.
Detroit, 4:04 p.m.
As Roger Goodell announces the Lions first pick, here's one example of how you can make statistics say anything you want them to say: Matthew Stafford is the 17th quarterback in the Super Bowl era (1966-on) to go first overall in the NFL Draft. You could thus theorize that his chances for ultimate success aren't very good, because of the first 16 quarterbacks taken No. 1, only three have gone on to lead the team that drafted them to a Super Bowl championship: Pittsburgh's Terry Bradshaw (1970), Dallas's Troy Aikman (1989), and Indianapolis's Peyton Manning (1998).
Three out of 16 (18.8 percent) isn't a very good success ratio in anyone's book. But let's look a little closer at that list of No. 1 QBs. In the case of John Elway (1983) and Eli Manning (2004), lumping them in with the rest of the non-Super Bowl-winning first overall picks because they were traded shortly after being drafted is just bogus. You can't make the case that Elway "failed'' to lead the Colts to a Super Bowl win, or that Eli Manning "failed'' to lead the Chargers to a Super Bowl win. Elway never played for the Colts and Manning never played for the Chargers, and they both deserve to be on the list of No. 1 quarterbacks who won Super Bowls with the teams they started with.
That means five of the 16 quarterbacks (or 31.3 percent) taken first overall led the first and only team they played for to a Super Bowl win (or more). And when you draw the lines a little more liberally, to include Drew Bledsoe (1993), who took New England to a Super Bowl in his fourth season but lost, the success ratio is even better (37.5 percent).
One more caveat: Jim Plunkett (1971) was drafted first by New England, but didn't find post-season success until he signed with the Raiders, his third team. He led the Raiders to a pair of Super Bowl titles, meaning that seven of the 16 quarterbacks (43.8 percent) taken in the coveted No. 1 spot at least started a Super Bowl during their careers.
Take that, Stafford doubters, and take heart, Stafford fans. Almost 44 percent at least going to the Big Game is not the worst of track records for No. 1 QBs.
New York City, 3:54 p.m.
All weekend long, Aaron Curry said he really was as calm as he looked, but admitted that come draft day, he would start getting "a little jittery." Just as he suspected, Curry has been calm on the outside, but increasingly nervous on the inside. "Feels like freshman year," he said early Saturday afternoon. "First game, first play. Am I prepared, am I unprepared?"
Reminded that at least before a game he could be comforted by the knowledge that he would soon be able to unleash his nerves with a big hit on the field, Curry threw his head back and laughed. "Can't do that anymore," he said. Not that he isn't confident. After watching some draft talk on television in his room and getting dressed in his new gray suit from elevéé, Curry caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and said in a sing-song voice, "I'm a beast!"
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