1. I think I believe Jake Locker will be drafted earlier than the vast majority of you think.
2. I think Clemson pass-rusher Da'Quan Bowers was underwhelming Friday in his campus workout and will slip out of the top 10. In November, he looked all but sure to be a top-five pick if he came out, but after undergoing postseason arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus, he needed a great effort Friday. He was just so-so. And to show how far his star has fallen, only one coach (Ken Whisenhunt) and two general managers (Thomas Dimitroff, Buddy Nix] attended the workout. He ran two 40-yard dashes in the 4.95-second range. To show you how mediocre a time that is, understand that 11 of the 14 tight ends at the Scouting Combine in February ran faster than 4.9.
3. I think the Bowers drop could be a very good thing for Atlanta or Tampa Bay. The Falcons, picking 27th in the first round, are almost certainly too low for Bowers, but the Bucs, who have assumed all along he'll be long gone by the time they choose at number 20, might be mistaken. Either way, both teams have a long-term rush need. Maybe they'll determine by the time of the draft Bowers has lost too much and doesn't have the speed they need to be a rush end. But at least he's in their ballpark now instead of being in the top-five area.
4. I think this has nothing to do with football and everything to do with life. A young life ended this weekend, a life of promise and early greatness that will never be fulfilled. Yale star student and hockey player Mandi Schwartz died of a cancer she fought so hard to beat at 23. If you'd like to be inspired, Google her name and read about how valiant she was, even as she knew she was fighting a battle she was very likely to lose. I hope her parents and close friends know how many lives of total strangers (like me) she touched and had an impact on.
5. I think there's a reason we in the media make a big deal about reports of off-field problem of prospective draftees. Two reasons, actually. Aqib Talib and Dez Bryant. We don't know yet if Talib struck a man with a gun and then fired a gun at the same man last month. We don't know yet if Bryant owes money to half the jewelers in Dallas. But there's smoke around each guy now, and each had smoke around them approaching the draft when they came out.
Have we been too judgmental on Cam Newton and Jimmy Smith (the Colorado cornerback with the pockmarked résumé) and others? Perhaps. I don't know many times I've said this in the past few years, especially when a player or agent gets angry about how the prospect is being portrayed in the media, but in the vast majority of cases we're reporting what teams think of these players. Most times those thoughts are accurate. Sometimes they're not. But we don't report them to assassinate players. We're trying to give as accurate a picture as we can into the process you're so interested in.
6. I think the team that makes the most sense for Donovan McNabb is Minnesota. The compensation that makes the most sense is a conditional fourth-round pick in 2012 that could rise to a three if McNabb starts 12 games this year. Or something like that. The Redskins can get partial payment (very partial) back for the move Mike Shanahan wishes he never made. The Vikings can sleep better at night knowing they don't have to rely on Joe Webb with a suspect offensive line and a veteran defense as they try to make one last playoff run with this core. McNabb can be happy knowing he has one more chance to take a contender deep into the playoffs. But if this happens, he'd better take full advantage of it, because it might be his last shot with a contender.
7. I think for all of you who think Mike Pouncey is the second coming of his twin, Steelers Pro Bowl center Maurkice, think of this: Mike Pouncey, in his first year playing center last fall (following in his brother's footsteps) had about 100 mis-snaps to the quarterback in the shotgun. I don't mean fumbled snaps necessarily, or snaps over the quarterback's head in the shotgun. I just mean snaps that the quarterback had to reach for and were not on target. I've spoken with a scout who's very interested in Pouncey but sees him as a guard. "Too much inaccuracy on the snaps,'' he said. "That can be practiced, and it should be. But you can't draft him expecting him to play center at a high level early like his brother.''
8. I think big companies and big coaches, like Nike and Pete Carroll, should do more things like what they teamed to do over the weekend in Los Angeles, hosting 250 local coaches and teaching them better ways to reach young people and smarter ways to coach them. I've always thought how silly it is that we hand whistles and clipboards to most anyone who will show up to coach our kids in youth sports, as though they were babysitters.
"I hope we can coach more and more people, both in high school and youth coaching, in all sports, to elevate the experience of kids in something that's such an important part of their lives,'' Carroll said. "Coaching techniques, and teaching how to get to kids, is something that can cross over to all sports.''
9. I think when Carroll says, "There's no question L.A. can support an NFL franchise, but knowing the area, the team has to win,'' truer words about the future of football in Los Angeles have never been spoken
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Did you ever think you'd see a crowd in Houston rooting 90-10 (my guess) for an Indianapolis team?
b. Butler, I mean. Over UConn tonight at Reliant Stadium.
c. My pick: Connecticut 62, Butler 57.
d. What can I say? I'm a Nutmegger, and I'm addicted to Kemba Walker. But if Walker is as physically and mentally shot as Jim Calhoun suggested late Saturday night, who knows if he's got one more marquee college night left in him?
e. My pick Tuesday night in Indianapolis: Notre Dame 62, Texas A&M 57.
f. Great to hear that Army First Sergeant Mike McGuire and his 200 men and women at their base in Afghanistan are putting the weight and recreation equipment you made possible through the USO (remember "Five For Fighting?'') to good use. In his latest e-mail, McGuire talked about the USO Tour of Afghanistan, and as a St. Louis-area native, he voiced his concern for the home team.
"Good to hear from you. Baseball season opens!!! Yes! So your SOX look very impressive on paper, should be a very solid team. I am very nervous on the PUJOLS thing, man, how can you not sign PUJOLS to whatever he wants? He is the greatest Cardinal (arguably). Stats do not lie. Definitely in my life he is the greatest. I know 'Stan the Man' and Ozzie Smith and many others have been great, but come on.
"I like where the Rams are going. Never lose faith. Hard times come and go. I will stick it out with them. I have attached our monthly newsletter that we started up since we have been here in Afghanistan. I hope you like it. It provides you with an in-depth look into what my soldiers do every day.
"Got to meet Matt Millen, a true BAD A** in his day with the Raiders. AWESOME experience. Also met Anthony Munoz, a Hall of Famer, and "The Factor Back," Merril Hoge. All three guys were great and spent a lot of time just talking and answering questions. Plus I got to try on all of Millen's Super Bowl rings. Take care and talk to you later.''
g. Thanks, Jon Daniels, for showing us around the ballpark in Arlington. What amazed me is the video sophistication. Behind the Rangers' dugout is a room with three video men and six stations where players can come in before, during and after games to see their at-bats, or to study the pitchers or hitters they're about to face. Six. I always knew baseball teams did this stuff, but we were shown how hitters, in a matter of seconds, can find any at-bat they've had against any pitcher -- from a variety of camera angles.
h. My favorite number -- after some interpretation -- from Friday's fine USA Today stat page of baseball team and player salaries: The infield of the New York Yankees (Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez) makes more money than the 53 players on the Royals and Rays.
i. I liked this one too: Peter Bourjos plays center field for the Angels. Vernon Wells plays left. Center, as you know, is a more important defensive position. After four games, Vernon Wells has made more money ($651,234) than Bourjos will make for the full season ($414,000).
j. Sox thoughts: I don't know how a batting order can be better than the Rangers' 1 through 9, unless it's the Yankees. The Nos. 1 and 6 batters, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz, had six homers in Texas' first 20 offensive innings ... If I had a one-week do-over on my preseason AL MVP, I'd chose Kinsler ... Not going to win many games allowing 44 base runners and 26 runs in 24 innings ... Sure am glad I'm not signing John Lackey's paychecks. No pitcher since the start of the 2010 season has allowed more base runners, and he's making $16.5-million a year ... Carl Crawford will settle down and be fine, but lefty curveballers could continue to feast on him ... Maybe it's because Texas pitchers know him so well, but Jerrod Saltalamacchia looked brutal at the plate and is very easily fooled.
k. That was a good playoff streak, Devils, going back a decade and a half. Had to end sometime.
l. Coffeenerdness: Some weeks there's nothing to add about the coffee itself. This is one of those weeks. But I do have a quote from Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, which I wanted to pass along. He told Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News, "We're in the business of humanity.'' Well, OK. But can you just make sure while you're in that business you get my latte right?
m. Beernerdness: Very pleased to find Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat at the ballpark in Arlington over the weekend. A few good ones there, but Sunset Wheat was the best. Light for a wheat, and slightly fruity.
n. Oh, and for the fourth time in my life I took the self-guided tour of the Texas School Book Depository over the weekend, and for the fourth time through there, I got goose bumps. You've got to take that tour, no matter how old you are, no matter whether John F. Kennedy is just another name in the history books to you. The tour itself has a tremendous you-are-there feel, because, of course, you are there.
You can stand six feet from where Lee Harvey Oswald leveled the rifle, and see the kind of book boxes he took aim from, and see the angle of the shots fired that you may have seen a hundred times, and you'll be forever impacted. Everyone always gets a different feel from standing there and looking at the same angle of fire Oswald saw.
My brother-in-law, Bob Whiteley, thought of something I never did. "Imagine how close JFK was to getting on the Freeway and getting away from there,'' he said. "A couple of seconds. And history would have been changed forever.'' Never thought of it that way, but he's right. Kennedy and his entourage were leaving the west side of downtown on their way to a luncheon event elsewhere in the city, at the Trade Mart, and Oswald got them after they'd been through the main part of the parade route and were a few hundred feet from speeding away safely.
And how about how the general public -- fans of the case, just about -- could just walk into the police staging area where Oswald was going to be transported on Sunday, with one of them, Jack Ruby, simply walking up to Oswald and shooting him. Imagine the security around such an event today. That was only 48 years ago, but it seems closer to the Wild West times than to today.
o. Time does not dull the idiocy of the State University of New Jersey paying Snooki of Jersey Shore $35,000 to come and speak to students there.
p. Want to see/hear a grown man cry? Matt Light's not going to do that (I don't think), but you will hear him talk about the frustration of being an NFL free agent with nowhere to go and no team to play for when we gather for another of my harebrained schemes to help Light's charitable cause, the Matt Light Foundation.
I urge those local to the Boston area to come to our Lockout Breakfast and NFL Draft Preview on Tuesday, April 26, at the Liberty Hotel in Boston. Tickets are $250 (but I promise the food and company will be worth it). Info: www.mattlightfoundation.org, or contact Margrette Mondillo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I asked Light the other day what it's been like being a free agent when you can't negotiate with any team, and you can't speak a word to any team. "Hello'' might be cause for a heavy league fine. Light said: "I thought being a free agent would be something fun, full of opportunity. Instead, it's been a nightmare.''
See? That's the kind of fun emoting you'll get at this event (with a big assist from local law firm Sullivan & Worcester LLP) on the morning of the 26th. Light will be there, with me (giving some sort of draft dish) and ESPNBoston's Mike Reiss, for a generous helping of Patriots news. We'd love to see you there.
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