Praise the Saints? I'll pass
Posted: Tuesday April 20, 1999 01:02 PM
Sports Illustrated pro football writer Paul Zimmerman reopened his Mailbag to answer a selection of your questions following the NFL Draft. Sorry, Saints fans, you'll have to wait a few months to start piling on -- Dr. Z's Mailbag will return in late summer.
After predicting the Saints would win one game last year, how many do you
predict they will win in 1999 after the Ricky Williams
I see the Saints with about the same amount of wins they had last year. I gave them the one-win blitz in '98 because I thought their defense would be shot without Winfred Tubbs. I was wrong. It held up just fine. They'll win it on defense, lose it when they have to throw the ball. Williams poses three problems: 1) Will he be in shape? 2) Wacko agent. 3) Fumble tendency. If all three are overcome, then he'll be good -- until the Saints have to abandon the running game and put it up, which will be often.
O.K., the question of the first round: What did the Colts see in Edgerrin
James that ranked him higher than Ricky Williams? More importantly, why give
their cards away before the draft? Hang on to Marshall Faulk until draft day,
make the deal with New Orleans for all of those picks, and still grab James who
would probably have been available in New Orleans' spot. Worst-case scenario:
Someone surprisingly grabs James before the 12th pick and they have to pay Faulk
the big bucks instead of James. Am I missing
Dick Vermeil wanted the Faulk deal done pre-draft. Trading down with New Orleans would have meant losing James, who would have been taken before the 12th pick, guaranteed. At any rate it would have been a hell of a gamble. If you start getting cute like that you usually wind up out-slicking yourself. James got the nod over Williams because he figures in the pass-catch game, which Williams doesn't.
Who do you think will be the most successful in the long run of all the QBs
taken in this draft? Also, who do you think made a bigger mistake: Indianapolis
for passing on Ricky Williams, or New Orleans for giving up so much to get
I think Tim Couch will be the most successful QB in the next few years because he'll have the best coaching. Long haul? Quien sabe? Question No. 2 is an easy one. Can't really fault Indy's pick, but think the New Orleans deal was cuckoo.
Doc, is Ernie Accorsi on something? The Giants' first two picks leave a lot
to be desired. How does he pick Luke Petitgout over L.J. Shelton and Aaron
Gibson? If you are going for a reach at RB, why not Jerry Azumah of New
Hampshire? At least he runs back kicks. Kerry Collins, Petitgout, Joe Montgomery
Please don't rip Ernie Accorsi to me. He's an old friend, also a serious cigar smoker, and we're a dying breed, now that ladies have taken up the pastime. I can hear you now: "Why is the Doc stalling on the Luke Petitgout pick?" Well, uh, it's like this. I liked John Tait, Matt Stinchcomb and Shelton better, but not necessarily Gibson. Petitgout is a reach. Collins? I had a long talk with Ernie about him. My thesis: Did you see his last action with the Saints, when he was just giving up and putting the ball up for grabs? Yes, said Ernie, and it was the fault of the offensive coaches, who didn't have a clue. I told Ernie I didn't buy it, and now I'm repeating it. End Collins discussion. Azumah? Interesting, but a lower-down pick. Montgomery? My prediction: He will take over for Gary Brown as the heavy-duty back (if he stays healthy) and will become the darling of the Meadowlands. This guy plays with real fire. He's a big Phil McConkey.
Is this Bengals draft the worst you have ever seen? I think so. Akili Smith
is not terrible, but they needed to trade with New Orleans or get Champ Bailey.
Then they should have taken Daylon McCutcheon in Round 2 and Kris Farris in
Round 3. And the Bengals wonder why they finish
Great potential in Akili. Will take time to develop. Bengals' draft wasn't horrible, wasn't great. Kind of so-so. CB Charles Fisher was rated very highly by some scouts. WR Craig Yeast is a tiny little wideout who can fly, RB Nick Williams is a monster. Elsewhere -- eh? Bailey would have been a nice pick, but a few years down the road, if Akili were tearing up the league, you'd be screaming.
The Buccaneers drafted both Anthony McFarland and Shaun King on draft day. Do
you think that McFarland will be the next Warren Sapp and really improve a
defense that is already tough? Also, is King the quarterback of the future for
the Bucs, or will they need to find someone else, or could Trent Dilfer really
take the Bucs to the Super
Don't understand the McFarland pick for the Bucs. Brad Culpepper is vastly underrated, Sapp plays when he feels like it. Not my kind of competitor, but he can turn it on when aroused. I like King a lot. But I like Dilfer, too, when he's not getting the ball dropped on him. Too many drops by the receivers. Maybe the ball he throws has some kind of weird spin. I'd have been happier if the Bucs would have gone for a possession receiver higher up, but maybe Darnell McDonald can step in. A lot of maybes here.
How do you rate Mike Holmgren's first draft? How do you think Brock Huard
Seahawks' draft is a real gamble. The key, of course, is if Holmgren's teaching ability is so good that he can get Huard's fundamentals straightened out and turn him into the QB of the future. If not, the draft's a bust. House Ballard's getting old and creaky. Something has to be done. Don't think Floyd Wedderburn's the answer.
Will Cowboys selection Ebenezer Ekuban be better than last year's pick, Greg
Ellis, another DE from North
Ekuban is a pass-rusher. The Cowboys need a Lamar King type to play the point and stand firm against the run -- in other words, a strongside wingman. They seem to be willing to sacrifice that for added pressure on the QB, which Ellis didn't give them last year. Which is a long-winded way of saying that I don't see much of an upgrade at the position.
Why didn't Emporia State's Brian Shay, the NCAA's all-divisions leader in
rushing and all-purpose yards, get selected? Although standing a mere 5'8"
and weighing 205 pounds, surely Shay is worth his
Brian Shay -- tough little runner, lots of heart. Usually guys like that earn a roster spot if they have a good camp, make their mark on special teams, hang around for a while and then disappear. The size-speed equation kept him off the draft board -- little, and not blazingly fast. Personally, I'd have drafted him, but I don't have to make a living at it.
Do you think the Steelers' choice of Troy Edwards was a panic pick after
Torry Holt and David Boston were taken? Edwards, to me, is very reminiscent of
Desmond Howard or Rocket Ismail, smallish wide receivers who have problems
getting off the line of scrimmage in the NFL. I don't think he solves the
Steelers' problems at wide receiver one
I agree with your analysis of the Edwards pick. Panic. Holt or Boston, yes. The Steelers need a long-range threat. Don't see Edwards in that role. But I understand their thinking. They had to do something, anything, to bring Kordell Stewart back to the land of the living.
With the their first three picks (Damien Woody, Andy Katzenmoyer as OLB, and
Kevin Faulk) and the pickup of Lamont Warren, it would appear that, across the
board, the Patriots have few holes talent-wise. Can they emerge from perhaps the
toughest division and make a run back to the Super
Don't like the Katzenmoyer pick at all. They've got that tackling machine in the middle, Ted Johnson, assuming he'll be back from injury. Katzenmoyer played like a zombie for much of '98. I like the Woody pick. Don't like either Faulk or Warren as the heavy-duty back they need. Super Bowl for the Patriots? What are you smoking?
What in the world was Denny Green thinking? He refuses to give up draft picks
to move up to get CB Chris McAlister, then trades a third and a fifth for a
tight end (Jimmy Kleinsasser). Then he uses another first-rounder on a kid who
didn't even play last year (DE Dimitrius Underwood). My god, this has to be one
of the worst drafts in recent
Denny Green called it his best draft ever. Looks to me like a two-player draft, Daunte Culpepper and Kleinsasser, who I like a lot. Underwood? A wasted pick in my book. I can't figure out what's what on that D-line anyway. Looked like the old revolving door, cast of thousands, with only John Randle staying on the field (and playing out of position at DE) last year. I talked to Denny before the draft. Told him he had to do anything to trade up for McAlister. He said they don't have the dough. Too much cap pressure. So they take a QB. Nevertheless, despite all this, I make the Vikes the winter book Super Bowl team from the NFC. Talentwise, the Culpepper pick makes a lot of sense, since Denny felt he was the best QB in the draft. He might not get another shot at a QB this high.
What do you think of the job the Bears did in terms of their draft? Did they
address all the needs they had, and do you think Cade McNown was the right pick
in terms of a Chicago
The Bears went into the draft with six picks, came out with 13. Saturation bombing. Plus, they got a good, workable QB. Numbers, names, a lot of head-scratching. Can they coach them up to NFL level? Well, we'll see how good Dick Jauron's staff is. If the Steelers' coaches got hold of all those young guys, you know there'd be some real action.
What is your overall assessment of the Falcons' second- and third-round
picks? I do not quite understand why they would trade away a first-round pick
for a tight end, a position where we have two pretty good players already. That
trade tells me that this guy was worthy of being picked in the first round, and
I am not so sure of that. Granted, Reeves believes that next year's first-round
pick is going to be a low pick, but it is still a first-round pick. What are
Falcons' draft: First-rounder Patrick Kerney's a good pick. They need someone to relieve some of the pass-rush duties. Don't know why they traded up for the tight end, Reggie Kelly. A puzzler for sure. Jeff Paulk's a big, muscle-bound slammer who will rattle some teeth, until Bob Christian's back. I really like the No. 4 pick, DB Johndale Carty. Real tough. Big hitter. They could have used him vs. the Broncs. Like fifth-rounder Eugene Baker, too. Skinny little high-production wideout who can fly.
I was wondering what your take is on the Dolphins' pick of Cecil Collins. Is
it a good move for Jimmy Johnson that late in the draft, or does it hurt his
image in conjunction with his addition of a troubled Tony Martin earlier in the
I can see it now. First week in Miami, Cecil Collins gets the Biscayne tour, featuring the streetcorner where Eugene Robinson was nailed. Then he's introduced to his date for the evening, who will read him his Miranda rights. O.K., it's in poor taste, I know. Let's give the young man a chance. I mean, he's only had about a dozen already. But look at it this way. The upside is huge. The downside is a wasted fifth-round pick. As for Tony Martin ... the jury's out -- literally.
San Francisco GM Bill Walsh is known for being a genius in the draft.
However, it seems that he failed to address one big need in the offense.
Despite the fact that the 49ers need to protect Steve Young's blind side (they
don't have another quarterback who can play if he falls), Walsh decided not to
draft a quality offensive tackle. He also failed to find a quarterback to
succeed Young. How do you think this will hurt the team? Finally, how would
you evaluate the 49ers' draft? Although the QB and OL problems were not
addressed, I think Walsh did a great job in trying to rebuild the
The Niners had three problems this offseason. Shoring up the defensive front, building a wall in front of Young, and clearing the $28 million debt in the salary cap. You can't solve all that with the draft. DT Reggie McGrew is a solid pick. DE Chike Okeafor's a gamble. DB Anthony Parker's a sleeper who could develop. I'm not sold on the Niners' O-line, and I wasn't last year. And the year before.
Can you tell me why Rufus French wasn't drafted? I saw a ton of his games,
and he's an outstanding player. He can catch, run beautiful routes, and is a
great person. Also, since he wasn't drafted what will he have to do to play NFL
Rufus French going undrafted was, to me, the biggest mystery in the draft. I still don't have an accurate reading on what happened. Check back with me later, OK? Hate to cop out, but I want to get this right.
Why did Jevon Kearse fall to No. 16 when he is the best physical specimen in
the draft, and will he be this year's equivalent of Randy Moss? And why do
people want to make him a defensive end when he is clearly a Lawrence
Taylor-type linebacker (only bigger and
Pre-draft, I had Jevon Kearse slated for the No. 12 spot. He was a "yes, but" pick. Yes, we like him, but we need something else. If Chris Claiborne had been picked earlier, the Lions would have taken Kearse at No. 9. The Bears supposedly liked him, but some of their scouts felt he was another John Thierry. So they compromised on a QB. The Steelers and Chiefs needed offense. Which dropped him to No. 15, and I thought he would have been a better pick for the Bucs than McFarland. Tennessee's a good fit for him. He'll play well there. He's not a linebacker, he's not a defensive end, he's an open-side rusher, a position created by LT.
How come Denver didn't trade up with any of their picks? I didn't mind the Al Wilson pick because I really like him, but the second and third rounds have a lot of talent out there for your teams. I figure with two third-round picks, one fourth-round pick, three fifth-round picks ,and so on, that we could have moved up to get better depth for our team.
Another thing is, how come Mike Shanahan reaches for draft picks so much?
Denver had a solid draft but guys like Montae Reagor, Lennie Friedman, Chris
Watson and Travis McGriff all could have been drafted
in later rounds, instead of the first three. I think that all of those picks were
Before the draft, the word from Denver was that they were going to trade up to get those two or three special choices. So then they hold their position and pick up a mob -- 12 choices, one less than the heaviest team on the board, Chicago -- and the only pick that interests me is Al Wilson at No. 1. I really don't like their draft. They could have used those picks to select some real eye-openers. But the bottom line is that a draft can only be analyzed a few years down the road, and some of the least accurate writing is done by reporters, such as yours truly, taking shots a day or two later. I look back at some of the things I've written in the immediate post-draft period and I want to cringe. But that's the thing about this business. We make mistakes and it's, ho hum, people forget. But for the poor coaches and player personnel directors, their errors haunt them forever.
Dr. Z's Mailbag will return in late summer.
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.