MMQB Mailbag: Ten people under most pressure on draft weekend
Billy Devaney is trying to turn around Rams, who are 6-42 over past 3 seasons
Two front office rookies, Trent Baalke and John Schneider, have tough calls
Mailbag questions on three-day draft strategy, Ben Roethlisberger and much more
There's pressure on everyone to figure out which draft picks will prosper and which will bust in their NFL career. There's pressure on the players too -- particularly the highly drafted ones. The 10 people on draft weekend who should be feeling the most heat:
1. Billy Devaney, GM, St. Louis.
And not only because he's on the verge of bypassing two franchise defensive tackles at No. 1 when his team doesn't have even a borderline Pro Bowl DT on the roster now. Devaney has to take Sam Bradford if he feels Bradford's a franchise quarterback, and this team does feel he has the kind of star quality on and off the field the Rams can build around. But the pressure will be on the Rams to turn around a franchise with a league-worst 6-42 record over the past three years. That begins by spinning gold out of the first pick of day two of the draft, the 33rd overall.
Inside the Rams, they're treating the first Friday pick as one of the most significant in franchise history, and they hope to get either a great player or, more likely, a passel of draft picks. Teams will have 19 hours to re-stack their boards at the end of Thursday night's first round in advance of the 33rd pick at 6 p.m. EDT Friday. When the Lions had a long night after the second round of 2009 to ransom off the first pick of the third round, they got the Jets to pay three draft choices to move up 11 spots and pick Shonn Greene. Privately, the Rams know they'll be able to ask for a 2011 first-rounder plus another pick, or a second-rounder plus two or three other bodies or picks for number 33, because some team is going to look at its board and see its 11th or 13th player overall is still sitting there.
2. Josh McDaniels, coach, Denver.
He's traded Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler in his first 15 months on the job. He and GM Brian Xanders have the 11th, 43rd and 45th picks to start the replenishment, and I expect them to at least take a quarterback by pick 45 to compete with Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn. It's all well and good for McDaniels to have his own program and to be making decisions to get a bunch of his own guys in there. But if this year ends without a quarterback of the future in place in Denver, and the Broncos hired McDaniels thinking at the very least he'd run a great passing game, well, the fans (and the owner) are going to be pretty disappointed.
3. Mike Holmgren, president, Cleveland.
Tom Heckert was hired in Cleveland to make the calls on draft day, but Randy Lerner didn't bring in Holmgren as the highest-paid franchise architect in football to stand behind a curtain on draft day and say, "That wasn't my call.'' Whoever Heckert picks will be on Holmgren's résumé, and with a franchise-defining crop of them (the Browns pick seventh, 38th and three more times in the third round), Cleveland has to come out of this draft a remade team.
4. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame. I don't know where he's going -- he was a last-second change on my mock draft for SI (which will be on SI.com on Wednesday); I previously had him going No. 9, to Buffalo -- but wherever it is, he's going to have a lot to prove about his game on the field and off. Clausen has had to answer all the questions about not being a good leader and his teammates supposedly hating him and all that, and I like what Clausen told a team interested in a first-round quarterback when asked about this.
"Coach,'' Clausen said, "after a while, you hear so many bad things about yourself that you'd go crazy if you paid attention to any of them. So I just shut it out and played.'' The coach he told that to loved it, and it convinced him to be a Clausen buyer, perhaps, on draft day.
5. The front-office rookies with two high picks: Trent Baalke, interim GM, San Francisco; John Schneider, GM, Seattle.
These guys are in places with strong head coaches, and Mike Singletary and Pete Carroll will exert their will on their respective drafts. I think the Seahawks, at six and 14, and Niners, at 13 and 17, both want to trade down for more picks. The decision that could be the diciest for the two young front-office mavens with quarterbacks as a position of interest: What happens if Jimmy Clausen is there at 13?
I know for a fact the Seahawks covet Clausen. They wouldn't seem to be a team with a quarterback desire in the first round, not after making the deal with San Diego for prospect Charlie Whitehurst. But they may not be able to NOT pick him if he's there at 14. Ron Wolf always taught Schneider in Green Bay that you never turn down the chance to pick a franchise quarterback.
6. Bill Belichick, coach, New England.
With the exception of picking up an aging Alge Crumpler, the Patriots have left the vast majority of their offseason work -- acquiring a pass-rusher, tight end and wide receiver -- to the draft. This doesn't have to be a home-run draft for them, but they have to hit some doubles, particularly after last year's lottery didn't result in much impact from high picks.
But the good thing for the Patriots is they ought to be able to get a good tight end (position of strength here) with one of their four picks in the top 54, and they could have a tough call to make on wideout Dez Bryant, who might be there when they pick at 22. So if the draft falls right for them, it could be a great two days for New England. But there's pressure to come up with players who will help the Patriots beat back the Jets and Dolphins right now.
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