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Pre-draft rants and rumors

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Posted: Thursday April 06, 2000 07:27 PM


Dr. Z is working on his annual draft preview, for the April 17 issue of SI. He took time out to share some rumors and answer a few questions from users.

I call this Loony Week. Handicap the Draft Week. Five days of nonstop phone calls, returned phone calls, calls that are never returned (a few, not many), returns that come in alongside other returns, so it becomes a two-phone tapdance. I am never more than two steps away from any phone. I take a portable phone into the bathroom with me.

Yesterday I was on the phone with Mike Shanahan, trying to determine whom the Broncos would draft. I hear the call-waiting beep. I'm expecting a call from Al Groh, and since the Jets have two picks to Denver's one, this one's doubly important, so I cut my Shanahan conversation short and punch in Al Groh.

"Sir, this is Getaways Weekend," I hear, "and I want to tell you about our wonderful weekend that can be yours for ..." The sentence is never finished because I am hollering at full maniac volume, "Take your freakin' getaway weekend and ...!" Blam! , goes the phone down into the cradle, which splits neatly down the middle. Damn plastic.

"I could hear you three rooms away, who are you screaming at?" my wife, Linda, wants to know. At one time I would have screamed at her, too, but not anymore, because she is a redhead (as you can see when you click on her name), and I would get as good as I got, and my lunacy defense would never hold up in court when confronted by the argument that I abused her verbally when she did absolutely nothing to deserve it, etc.

In a calmer moment she presents me with a question I've often wondered about myself:

"Why do they tell you anything? It's only a game for you and your readers, but to them, it's their livelihood."

Brrrrinnggg goes the phone. It's Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren. I ask him the same question my wife has just asked me -- why do you tell me anything when it's only a game for me, and for you it's, etc.

"Because it's a game for my family, too," he says. "It's fun. We like to look in the papers and magazines and see who everyone is picking. My girls keep charts. My wife keeps a chart. Everyone keeps charts."

The great game. The finest lottery of them all. Loony Week.

I hear rumors. Tons of them. Most of them go up in smoke, a few stick. Before I get into answering this week's questions, let me present you with a few of them, otherwise they'll get lost in the wash. I'll categorize them for you -- Class A Rumors, which are to be taken seriously, Class B Rumors, which might have some merit, and Class C Rumors, which fall into the C'mon Now category.

  • Broncos will trade up to Baltimore's No. 5 spot to draft QB Chad Pennington. A Class C Rumor when I first heard it. Seemed to make no sense. Why have two young quarterbacks of close to the same ability and very similar in style? Now it's a Class A Rumor. The answer is because the Denver staff is simply nuts about the young Marshall signal caller.

  • Jets will trade Keyshawn Johnson to Tampa Bay for the Bucs' two No. 1 draft choices. A Class B Rumor. Bucs won't confirm it. Groh, when I asked him how the club could afford to pay four No. 1s this year (his two plus the Bucs' pair), said, "two could be for next year." I asked him if really wanted to do this. "No," he said.

  • Forty-Niners will trade down to amass more choices (they already have two in the first round). A Class B Rumor.

  • Tampa Bay will trade out of the 13th spot and move down. A Class C Rumor. How many trades can they make?

    That's enough rumors. I'm getting dizzy already. On to the questions, draft ones first.

    Pat of Houston wants to know who are the worthwhile QBs, and what do I see in Spergon Wynn's future. To answer the first part -- Pennington, Chris Redman, Tee Martin and sleeper Giovanni Carmazzi of Hofstra. To answer the second, and this is the first Spergon Wynn question I've had to answer today, I see a sixth- or seventh-round draft for him, a season on the taxi squad and some valuable playing time, leading Barcelona or Scotland or Frankurt or some other exotic to whatever it is you lead them to in the World League.

    Second best O-lineman behind Chris Samuels? queries Josh of Lubbock. Stockar McDougle of Oklahoma is my choice.

    John S. of Atlantic City wants to know what the Dolphins, minus a first-round choice, will be looking for. Tight end, O-lineman, safety, based on the quality available.

    Brian of Miller City, Ohio, asks if the Redskins will trade their second and third picks to the Browns for LaVar Arrington. No. They'll get him where they are.

    Joe of Rockaway, N.Y., wants to know what the Giants will do. They'll draft a runner, either Ron Dayne or Shaun Alexander (still can't break the tie).

    Joe of Minneapolis wonders if the Packers will draft TE Bubba Franks or go for defense. It'll be the D. Shaun Ellis, if available.

    To Tim of Ottawa, Ill.: Bears should grab Corey Dillon if they can swing it. I don't think Plaxico Burress is in their plans. Looks more like Brian Urlacher, the linebacker.

    To Nate of Denver: Just who is the "proven back" you would bring in for the Chiefs? I think they'll give it another go and shoot for a runner in the draft; maybe Alexander could fall to them.

    To Mike of Roswell, N.M.: I agree with you that Kippy Brown was one of the major problems in Miami. I feel optimistic about Chan Gailey working with Damon Huard.

    To Rolf of Big Bear Lake, Calif.: Trent Green was having a sensational preseason last year until he got hurt. Having two fine QBs on your roster is a luxury few teams can claim. If you can manage it without losing a big chunk of your lineup, more power to you. It's a good situation for the club, bad for the youngster. I give it one more year until he demands some action from the Rams.

    Ryan of Winnepeg sees nothing wrong with the NFL's latest ban, multi-player celebrations, but hates all the chest pounding after a two-yard gain or loss. Me, too. I don't care one way or another about the NFL's latest ban. I do care, however, about crazier things that are happening in this country, for instance, why the hell hasn't Elian Gonzalez been given back to his father yet?

    To Brad of Minneapolis: Your analysis of the Vikings heading into a Niners-style down cycle, without the skins on the wall, is right on the money. I can't add to it. I can only agree.

    Greg of Ottawa wants to know if Bill Belichick will be a Parcells clone in Foxboro or will he go his own way, with success? I think the latter. His last days in New York cut the Parcells cord. I've always been in his corner, even in Cleveland. I think he has learned a lot from that unfortunate experience and will make the Pats highly competitive.

    David of Seattle wants to know what's up with the Hawks. Better or worse? Better. Linebackers were a problem last year, as was Fritz Shurmur's unfortunate death. They need a big stud in the middle. I tried to talk Mike Holmgren into going for Brigham Young's sturdy Rob Morris. He politely declined and said he preferred a down-lineman. I defer to a coach I respect.

    Ian Kenmore of Washington is pushing for Sam Spence, who composed a lot of the great background music for various NFL shows, for the Hall of Fame. Don't laugh. There should be a place for people like this. Fringe guys. Groundskeepers, such as the legendary George Toma. Great writers of the past. People like that. But not alongside Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke. In a different place, apart from the players but housed in a special wing in Canton.

    Dr. Z will expand on his SI Draft Preview next Thursday on The Mailbag will return in two weeks. Got a comment or question? Click here.

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