Combine Note  

Posted by Frazier

There are all sorts of things we could talk about regarding the combine. I am simply going to name the one that blew me away the most:

Darren McFadden outran DeSean Jackson.

That is absolutely startling. Jackson put up a nice 40 time, but he probably needed to burn. McFadden put up a ridiculous time.

We'll get to more analysis later. But we learned that McFadden is a startling physical specimen, and has the numbers to back it up.

Jackson, on the other hand, may be a huge gamble on the next level. I mean, he's smaller than I am, and while very fast, probably a little slower than most had expected.

Foresight is always 20-20? (Part III)  

Posted by Walter

11. Buffalo Bills

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Malcolm Kelly

Again, it’s not hard to see why the Bills would be interested in Kelly. Trent Edwards was a nice surprise in 2007, and he’s a big downfield pocket passer who needs reliable targets on both sides to be effective. The Bills believe 2007 was an anomaly for deep threat Lee Evans, so Kelly, at 6’4’’ and nearly 230 lbs., would seem to be the perfect compliment. Or does he? I have been a staunch Malcolm Kelly supporter, but even I think he’s being a bit overrated heading into the draft. Kelly has all the physical tools you look for, but he also has the knack for disappearing for long stretches during important games. Anyone who watched Oklahoma football this past season saw that the offense ran smoothest when Bradford was able to distribute the ball to all his weapons (Kelly, Iglesias, and Gresham). Despite his size and speed (honestly, Kelly should have been a man among boys in the Big 12) Kelly inexplicably was unable to take over games. Look, do I think Malcolm Kelly could turn into a big time NFL receiver? I sure do. But, he has not come close t showing the consistency or work ethic to warrant the number 11 overall selection….of course that will all change if he blazes a sub 4.5 forty time.

The pick will actually be…….Aqib Talib

This is just a gut feeling. Really, after Mike Jenkins all the other defensive backs are lumped together. Some teams will prefer McKelvin, others Talib, and still others Cromartie. My gut tells me that the CB desperate Bills will fall in love with one of those guys, and that guy will be Talib. Frankly, it’s the right choice. McKelvin and Cromartie may someday be good players, but they are still very raw and have a lot of development ahead of them. Talib, on the other hand, is a polished corner who already plays an NFL style game. More importantly, though, and the thing that the Bills will lust for, is that Talib has the uncanny ability to get his hands on the football and make big plays when he does. Defensive backs who bat down passes are a dime a dozen. The true value lies in the guys who are ballhawks. NFL quarterbacks don’t make many mistakes, so you need to have guys in your defensive backfield who can capitalize when they do. Unlike any other corner in the draft, Talib has the ability to channel his inner Ty Law and come up with the big play, as evidenced by his numerous interceptions and touchdowns at Kansas. I’m telling you, some team is going to sit down and watch film on this kid and just fall in love. Buffalo will be happy if its them.

12. Denver Broncos

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Ryan Clady

Ryan Clady will be LONG gone by the time the Broncos draft, but really you could put any tackle’s name in. The Broncos’ offensive line has gotten old in a hurry, and to keep up their tradition of dominant running games they are going to need to reload. That said, unless the nimble footed Clady falls all the way to 12 (unlikely), I don’t see any lineman being available that fits into what the Broncos try to do on offense. As we all know, the Broncos’ zone blocking scheme prefers lighter, quicker lineman, especially on the interior. Their entire running game is predicated on their lineman having the athletic ability to get to the 2nd level and get a “hat on a hat” with the opposing linebackers. While Clady is athletic enough to fit that bill, Sam Baker, Chris Williams, and Jeff Otah (the tackles likely to be available in this spot) are simply too upright and plodding to execute that scheme. It’s an interesting dilemma because if Denver were to draft based solely on need, they could reach for Virginia guard Brandon Albert who’d be a perfect fit for them. However, it’s doubtful that they’d use a high first round pick on a guard, especially when they’ve had so much success drafting lineman in the late rounds.

The pick will actually be…….Jonathan Stewart

Hmmmmm, a phrase about how many ways there are to skin a cat comes to mind. Yes the Broncos’ offensive line is getting old and may not be as dominant as they used to be. And yes that may have an adverse affect on the running game. And yes the Broncos need to do something in this draft to upgrade the running game to meet the lofty standards they’ve consistently set for themselves. But NO, reaching for an offensive lineman is not the only way to do it. Drafting the electrifying Jonathan Stewart would do just fine. Think about it. Since Clinton Portis left the Broncos have always had A+ offensive lines, blocking for B- backs, which was enough to make their running game a B+. If you no longer have that A+ line, you’d better have an A+ back. Enter Jonathan Stewart. The Travis Henry experiment has been, shall we say interesting, but even notwithstanding his paternity issues Henry is getting old. And nothing against Selvin Young who did a nice job last year, but he is simply not going to strike fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators the way Stewart will. Stewart is the classic Bronco one-cut back. In the Broncos scheme it is imperative that the running back do two things simultaneously. First, he must attack the hole where the play is called. Second, he must sense, not see but sense, the cutback lane. Stewart is a perfect one-cut back, because he has the “vision” to feel cutback lanes, but at 230 pounds he has the strength to square his shoulder pads and power through the hole should a lane not present itself. Stewart actually reminds me quite a bit of Terrell Davis, only with breakaway speed. This may not be a glaring need pick for the Broncos, but Jonathan Stewart would be a consistent 1600 yard back for Denver.

13. Carolina Panthers

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Jeff Otah

The Panthers do have some holes on the offensive line, but drafting a stud tackle before getting the necessary skill players would be putting the cart before the horse so to speak. This assessment rings especially true when one considers the fact that the Panthers already have a capable left tackle in Jordan Gross, and they drafted a future starting center last year in Ryan Kalil. Otah is a very solid offensive line prospect, but he is still extremely raw and there are questions about whether he has the feet to play left tackle in the pros. More of a mauler than a technician, Otah is actually very similar to Gross. To think that the Panthers are going to draft another tackle who may or may not be able to play on the left side (Gross has always been a stud RT and only an adequate LT) doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. If Jake Long or Ryan Clady, or some other sure fire stud left tackle were available then the Panthers would be smart to jump. But they have enough holes that they shouldn’t reach for a tackle project this early in round 1.

The pick will actually be…….Brian Brohm

I think I’ve been a bit unfair to Brian Brohm recently. While I am not enamored with his physical tools, I do think he has a chance to be a very solid NFL quarterback if he is drafted into the right system. There is a lot to like about Brohm. He is accurate, intelligent, throws well on the move, and has a great football pedigree. But there is also a lot to dislike. He is injury prone, he played in a QB friendly college system, and he has an alarming lack of pure arm strength. In reality I believe Brohm projects as a rich man’s Chad Pennington, who, lest we forget, was a pro bowl caliber QB for several years. All that said, I simply do not think the Panthers can afford to pass on him in this spot. Jake Delhomme has been playing on borrowed time for almost 2 years now and is no longer an adequate NFL passer. He got lucky one year and led his team to the Super Bowl, and for some reason that lightning-in-a-bottle run convinced the Panthers to overlook all his obvious shortcomings for the next 4 seasons. Moreover, the David Carr experiment has been a complete disaster, and while Matt Moore may have shown the ability to be a backup I seriously doubt the Panthers want to hitch their franchise to him for the next decade. No, Brian Brohm is a nice, safe pick. He may never be Joe Montana, but he probably won’t be Heath Shuler either. Sure Carolina could pass on Brohm and roll the dice with Andre Woodson or Chad Henne in round 2, but this is a franchise that has to realize they’ve always come up a bit short in the QB department. Drafting a second tier prospect and crossing your fingers isn’t the way to reverse that trend.

14. Chicago Bears

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Rashard Mendenhall

If everyone doesn’t think it will be Mendenhall then they definitely think it will be some other skill position player on offense, right? RIGHT? Well, not exactly. The Bears are a team in absolute disarray. Their once vaunted defense has been decimated by injuries and defections, and you can count the number of NFL caliber offensive players on one hand. Cedric Benson has been an absolute bust, with Muhammad and possibly Berrian gone the receiving corpse lacks any type of threat, the offensive line is in shambles, and the quarterback situation is still manned by the Grossman/Orton two headed monster. In short, the Bears are in big trouble no matter which way they go because they can only plug one hole with this pick. It seems clear that the fan base would be placated most by a franchise QB, but while this class has depth, the only two 1st round caliber signal callers are probably going to be off the board by the 14th pick. That leaves the RB position to draw the ire of the fans. With Cedric Benson giving the Bears absolutely nothing in three seasons, conventional wisdom says its time to cut bait. Rashard Mendenhall is a local kid (having played at Illinois), who would instantly upgrade the running game with his toughness and game breaking ability. Still, for a team that has had an offense as bad as the Bears have, for as long as the Bears have, it seems unlikely that they will give up on a former top 5 pick just like that. I think we can all agree that Mendenhall is, right now, a better back than Benson, but to spend another first round pick on a RB when the team needs a talent upgrade at so many other positions would be a very tough pill for the Bears front office to swallow.

The pick will actually be…….Jeff Otah

I can almost hear the boos raining down already. Actually, this is the pick the Bears should make. It is clear to everyone that the Bears are currently going in the wrong direction. Their decline from the Super Bowl should continue for at least another couple years, meaning they have plenty of time (not to mention some more high draft picks) to retool and rebuild. The best way to start that process, though, is to solidify the lines of scrimmage. Now, the Bears are actually OK along the defensive line with Tommie Harris, Mark Anderson and Co. However, they need some serious help along the offensive front. Otah, the massive tackle from Pitt, may be just what the doctor ordered. Otah is incredibly raw, but a gifted football player. He is big, tough, mean, and derives great pleasure from knocking heads with defensive players. That said, he needs a lot of work as a pass protector so he’ll probably have to start his career as a right tackle. Previously I compared him to Jordan Gross which I don’t think is so far off. However, Otah is more physically imposing than Gross and has the potential to develop into a top flight left tackle (something Gross never did). Of course, that is only potential right now. At this point in the draft Otah offers the Bears the best value because, although it may take a year or two, he has the ability to develop into an all-pro left tackle.

15. Detroit Lions

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Leodis McKelvin
The pick will actually be…….Leodis McKelvin

Another pretty easy call. The Lions simply have to (HAVE TO!) take the best available defensive back in this spot. In an era where the passing game is having such a renaissance that slot receivers (a.k.a. third receivers) are getting multimillion dollar contracts, teams must stock their defensive backfield with a number of guys who can cover. It’s just not enough to have two anymore. Of course that doesn’t really matter for the Lions since they don’t have anyone who can cover. McKelvin, as I’ve stated, is somewhat of a project. However, his physical tools are undeniable. I think the Lions would rather have the more polished Aqib Talib in this spot, but it seems unlikely he will fall this far. Still, McKelvin is not a bad consolation prize. The Lions need to understand that they are still a few years away from competing, so they will have time to let McKelvin develop (he won’t be an immediate impact player). Plus, Lions’ coach Rod Marinelli is from the Tampa 2 school of defense, which prefers corners who are tough and physical. McKelvin fits both descriptions and should immediately upgrade the talent level in the Lions’ defensive backfield. The only other guy I could see the Lions jumping at in this spot is Miami’s Kenny Phillips. He probably can’t play corner in the NFL, but he is the classic impact Miami safety who would be more an immediate player than McKelvin, but doesn’t have the same long term potential.

Foresight is always 20-20? (Part II)  

Posted by Walter

6. New York Jets

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Vernon Gholston

With Eric Mangini attempting to build NE Patriots Redux in New York, the sentiment is out there, and fairly so, that the Jets will snatch up this versatile Ohio State product to plug into the Belichickian trademark 3-4 defense they are building. While it is true that Gholston, a true LB-DE hybrid in the mold of former Patriot Willie McGinest, possesses the rare combination of skill and size to pose matchup problems in pass protection, the one thing the Jets defense actually has is some decent 3-4 edge rushers in Bryan Thomas and Shaun Ellis. If the Jets are serious about switching to the 3-4 they need to find the correct personnel to play the position they don’t already have filled. Truth be told, despite Gholston’s eye-popping athleticism, what the Jets really need is a true thumping inside linebacker to team with David Harris, or an actual space eating nose tackle (which would free up DeWayne Robertson to move outside). With no Pat Willis or Vince Wilfork type prospects in this draft, the Jets are SOL.

The pick will actually be…….Darren McFadden

So the Jets can’t snag a top notch prospect to plug into their front seven. With the “Swiss Army” running back as the consolation prize, something tells me the Jets faithful won’t be too distraught. Actually, despite the appearance as a class value pick, drafting McFadden could be viewed as a need pick as well. While the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, may have more publicized needs (LB, WR, NT), there is simply no reason running back shouldn’t be near the top of that list. The Thomas Jones experiment failed miserably (to put it nicely), and while Leon Washington has proven to be a very nice player, he simply is not a featured back. Enter McFadden. By drafting this superstar in the making, in one fell swoop the Jets will transform their offense, simultaneously adding big play ability and a guy to take pressure off of the young Kellen Clemens. With Curtis Martin already retired, and Lavareneous Coles nearing the end of his career, the Jets desperately need an offensive superstar to lead them into the next phase in their franchise. Something tells me D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold may not get the job done.

7. New England Patriots

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Mike Jenkins

On paper it makes sense. The Pats are all but assured to lose Asante Samuel to free agency, why not replace him with this stud South Florida product? Well, the simple reason is that’s just not how the Patriots operate. Draftniks and pundits alike have been predicting that the Patriots would draft a first round cornerback since the days of Ty Law, yet the closest they’ve come was Brandon Merriweather last year (who I still project as a starting free safety, NOT a corner). In fact, if you look at Belichick and Pioli’s drafting history, they absolutely love drafting corners in the middle to late rounds. Since 2001 the Pats have drafted a total of 7 cornerbacks in rounds 3-7, and NONE in round 1. Though some of these picks were better (Ellis Hobbs – 3rd round, Asante Samuel – 4th round, Randall Gay - undrafted) than others (Christian Morton – 7th round, Brock Williams – 3rd round), the Pats have had enough success that it seems unlikely that they’ll break away from their strategy now.

The pick will actually be…….Vernon Gholston

Speaking of drafting trends, one position that Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli LOVE to address in round 1 is the defensive line. If you play defense with your hand on the ground, you’ve got a great chance to end up as a first round pick of the New England Patriots. Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, all three are pro-bowl caliber players, and all three were first round draft picks of Belichick and Pioli. If Gholston falls to seven you may be able to add his name to the list as well. Though not a “true” defensive lineman like Seymour, Warren, or Wilfork, Gholston isn’t a “true” linebacker either (of which Belichick and Pioli avoid like the plague in round one). As I’ve said many times, Gholston reminds me a lot of a young Willie McGinest. He has an explosive first step as a pass rusher, but also has the bulk to stand up against the run. McGinest struggled for years in New England as a full time OLB, and then a full time DE. It wasn’t until Belichick decided to use him in the “elephant” position in the 3-4 that McGinest consistently played at a high level. Gholston would be able to step right into the Patriots defense as a situational player, and learn the nuances of the position from the likes of Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel. Moreover, when the Pats decide to go to the 4-3 (which they often do in passing situations), they could put the following 6 players on the field to get after the passer (4 DL, 2 OLB): Seymour, Warren, Gholston, Jarvis Green, Mike Vrabel, and Adalius Thomas. Now that is scary.

8. Baltimore Ravens

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Brian Brohm

On paper Brohm makes sense as he would give the Ravens their best quarterback prospect since ….well, ever. That said, there are two reasons I don’t see them grabbing the popular Louisville product. First, I think the Ravens’ front office still believes in the Steve McNair/Kyle Boller/Troy Smith trio. Now, if you’ll just stop laughing for a moment I’ll explain why I don’t think their faith is entirely misplaced. McNair is a has-been, no doubt about that. And Boller is a never-was, also no doubt there. BUT, and it’s a big but, neither McNair nor Boller are completely useless. Boller has performed capably in the backup role, and McNair is still a savvy veteran, and a classy guy capable of tutoring his eventual replacement. Which brings us to Smith. While he didn’t exactly light the world on fire as a rookie, the Ohio State product did show some flashes in the final games of the season. I’ve long touted the former Heisman winner as a future pro-bowler in the mold of Jeff Garcia, and I simply cannot believe the Ravens would give up on him so quickly. As a collegian Smith showed the mobility, leadership, and, most importantly, the accuracy to succeed in the NFL. The Ravens aren’t going anywhere in 2008, why not give him another year to learn under McNair? The second reason the Ravens won’t draft Brohm is that they have to be getting a little gun shy with QB’s. Their development of quarterbacks has been, let’s say spotty at best. We all know that Kyle Boller was an unmitigated disaster, but he’s not the only woeful quarterback tale the Ravens can tell. Before Boller there was Chris Redman (also of Louisville) who was going to be their QB of the future. Then it was the big free agent signee Elvis Grbac. Then, in 2005, the Ravens drafted little known Derek Anderson in the 6th round, subsequently gave him away, then watched him become a pro-bowler at 25. Basically, it seems that every decision this regime has made on a QB has been wrong. At some point, they’ve got to stop wasting their time.

The pick will actually be…….Mike Jenkins

A defensive pick for the Ravens? Sounds crazy I know, but bear with me. For as long as we can all remember, the Ravens have been about great defense and futile offense. While this may still be true to some degree as far as statistics go, the talent level is actually evening out between the two sides of the ball. In short, while the offense has been getting younger these past 5 years (though not necessarily any better), the defense has been getting OLD! If you look at the 2007 Ravens and choose their top players to build around for the future, the list would probably include at least 5 offensive players (Willis McGahee, Jason Brown, Ben Grubbs, Mark Clayton, and Yamon Figures) and possibly as few as 3 defensive ones (Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed). While the overall talent level of the time needs to rise dramatically, one could actually argue that the offense is slightly ahead of the defense in terms of rebuilding. Ray Lewis isn’t going to be around forever, and Chris McCalister has already lost more than a step. Adding Mike Jenkins would go a long way towards solidifying the secondary for years to come, as he is a tough, physical corner that is always looking to intimidate. Jenkins’ game is actually very similar to that of McAlister when he was in his prime. Learning under him for a year or two would do wonders for the South Florida product.

9. Cincinnati Bengals

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Sedrick Ellis
The pick will actually be…….Sedrick Ellis

This is one is actually so easy that even the masses can get it right. Ellis’ huge performance at the Senior Bowl notwithstanding, I simply don’t see him surpassing Glen Dorsey as the top defensive tackle available in this draft. Ellis is a bit more stout than Dorsey, but probably doesn’t have the same game changing pass rush ability as the LSU star. Moreover, at just under 6’2’’ Ellis doesn’t really have the size to be a top 5 pick, something Cincinnati is grateful for picking at nine. The Bengal defense has been a sore spot for years, and despite numerous picks spent on the unit, it hasn’t gotten a whole lot better. With Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph in tow, the talent is there in the secondary and Ellis’ presence on the line should free up the ends and linebackers to get more pressure on the passer. While Ellis may not ever be a game changing DT in the mold of John Randle or Bryant Young, he should be a stout, consistent performer for many years. This is both a need pick and a safe pick for a Bengals team that desperately needs some beef in the middle of its defense.

10. New Orleans Saints

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Leodis McKelvin

People expect the Saints to go defense with this pick, and for good reason. The defense has been very porous, especially in the back 7 against the pass. McKelvin would help, too. He is an incredible physical specimen, but also a bit of a project coming out of Troy. For everyone who thinks McKelvin could come in and have an impact right away like DeMarcus Ware, I refer you to Osi Umenyiora, who developed into an outstanding player only after several years developing. The bottom line is that this team was in the NFC title game 2 seasons ago, and they aren’t that far from returning. But to get there they need NFL ready prospects now, and McKelvin simply may not be that player. If Mike Jenkins fell to this spot, or the Saints fell in love with Aqib Talib, it might be a different story. But for a team as close as the Saints, I simply can’t see them using this pick on any sort of “project” player.

The pick will actually be…….Keith Rivers

Like the Ravens and their QB search, doesn’t it always seem like the Saints are looking for a linebacker? I thought it was just me, but then I took a look at their draft history. Since 2002 the Saints have chosen 5 linebackers in the first day of the draft: Sedrick Hodge, James Allen, Cie Grant, Courtney Watson, and Alfred Fincher. Notice anything? Yup, they all stink. Also like the Ravens, this Saints administration simply cannot seem to get it right. However, for all their troubles the Saints have not invested a first round pick in a linebacker. Enter Keith Rivers. Rivers is a physical specimen, born for the NFL game. He is big and fast, and you simply cannot overlook that he came from the NFL factory that is USC. Rivers is the type of immediate impact player the Saints need to get back to the playoffs, and unlike McKelvin he will help in the both the run and pass defense. While not much of a pass rusher, Rivers is actually very underrated in coverage making him a true 3 down linebacker, and an impact player immediately.

Foresight is always 20-20? (Part I)  

Posted by Walter

With the draft right around the corner here is our first stab at a mock. As we know the draft can be an unpredictable affair. Nobody ever gets it all right in a mock. Still, we here at the 323 are intent on raising the bar. Therefore, not only are we going to tell you who each team WILL pick, but we'll tell you why they AREN'T going to pick the player most people think they will.

Of course that makes things much longer so we'll have to do this 5 picks at a time all the way through the top 15.

1. Miami Dolphins

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Glen Dorsey

The reason this pick won't be Glen Dorsey is quite simple. He's a defensive tackle! In the history of football there have been exactly two DT's drafted first overall (Russell Maryland and Dan Wilkinson), and neither's arrival exactly lit the NFL on fire. Now Dorsey might be the second coming of Warren Sapp as a 3-technique pass rusher, but Dorsey has major concerns about his durability, and strength holding up against the run inside. Not to mention, last time I checked the 3-4 defense, which we know new Dolphins boss Bill Parcells favors, there was no 3-technique tackle.

The pick will actually be…….Matt Ryan

In past years you may have been able to do better than Matt Ryan, but you could do a whole lot worse. In a world of bust potential first round passers, Ryan is the anomaly: a polished passer who has top notch intangibles to equal his physical ability. Think about it. Every college passer that gets invited to the combine can throw the football. What separates an NFL QB is the ability to know where to throw that football under all circumstances. Like a great golfer, an NFL QB has to be able to repeat his motion no matter what the circumstances. When the Dolphins watch Matty Ice throw a 10 yard out or a deep post on the turf of the RCA Dome during the combine, they can rest assured knowing they'll get that same performance in the 4th quarter of a close game. Ryan Leaf…..well, he sure did look great at the combine didn't he?

2. St. Louis Rams

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Chris Long

Let's be clear on one thing, Chris Long is worthy of the number 2 overall pick. The reason he won't be drafted here, however, is because he is just way too similar to Adam Carriker, the Rams' first round pick from a year ago. Long and Carriker are similar in size and stature, and they both play a game eerily similar to former Ram standout Grant Wistrom. And while very team in the NFL would love to have a pair of Grant Wistrom's anchoring their defensive front seven, I simply do not believe a team with as many holes as the Rams can afford to invest two consecutive early first round picks in defensive ends that, while solid two way players, will never be dynamic 15 sack performers.

The pick will actually be…….Jake Long

Really, the reason the Rams can get away with not picking Chris Long, is because Jake Long is available (you know what they say, two Long's don't make a right…..thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week). The city of St. Louis knows how important a dominant left tackle can be after watching Orlando Pace dominate for the past decade or so. With Pace not far from the Rams' fans' collective memories, the front office realizes that they can get away with picking Long ahead of some of the other, sexier names and still not disenfranchise the ticketholders. Moreover, the Rams shelled out huge money extending Marc Bulger's contract, then watched him go out in 2007 and nearly get killed on every drop back When you are paying your QB that type of money, you'd better have someone watching his back.

3. Atlanta Falcons

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Matt Ryan

Well it's easy to say the pick won't be Ryan because he'll be long gone by the time the Falcons are on the clock. That said, if he is available the Falcons will bite quicker than [insert Mike Vick joke here……thank you, thank you, try the veal.] Truth be told, though, the Falcons are a lot further away than people may think. The talent drain from Atlanta over the past few years has been tremendous. In addition to Vick the Falcons have lost defensive stalwarts Rod Coleman and Pat Kearney, as well as pro bowl TE Alge Crumpler. Bottom line, things are going to get a lot worse in Atlanta before they get better. The Falcons have plenty of time to draft their franchise QB in Rd. 2 or 3 and let them develop. This team is old (see Brooking, Keith and Dunn, Warrick), and they are going to be terrible for a while. Taking a chance on a non-first round QB is not the worst idea for this franchise.

The pick will actually be…….Glen Dorsey

After everything that has happened to the Falcons, Glen Dorsey would be just what the doctor ordered. As I said, the talent drain in Atlanta has been tremendous, especially on the defensive side of the football, and it is only going to get worse. Keith Brooking is getting old, and he won't be around much longer. Jamaal Anderson, last year's first round pick, has talent but played uninspired football in 2007. Dorsey is the type of dynamic playmaker who will not only be a perennial pro bowler and leader for the Falcons defense, but will command double teams and make more room for Anderson to work. Perhaps more important than anything Dorsey will do on the field, though, is the fact that he will be a good citizen off of it. Arthur Blank is a nice man who is trying to do right by his fan base. He's been burned twice recently by Vick and Bobby Petrino. Dorsey is the type of high class individual this team desperately needs to build around for the future.

4. Oakland Raiders

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Darren McFadden

I'm still not quite clear on this one, so let me see if I've got this straight. Several years ago the Raiders draft promising rookie Justin Fargas out of USC in the 2nd round. Injuries keep him from ever putting together a consistent season, much to the chagrin and frustration of Raider Nation which always believes he is capable of far more. In 2007, finally healthy and all but forgotten behind free agents Dominic Rhodes and Lamont Jordan, Fargas breaks out and seizes the starting RB gig with a 1,000 yard season. Then, immediately following the season the team gives him a contract extension, only to pay big money to his replacement that they take 4th overall? Yeah, it don't make sense to me either. As much as Al Davis loves making a splash in the media, there is simply no way he can defend taking McFadden, and shelling out the money necessary to do so…..especially after paying Jamarcus Russell big money as the top pick last year. McFadden may be the top talent in the draft, and an absolute stud in the making, but face it Raider Nation, it just ain't gonna happen.

The pick will actually be…….Chris Long

Remember when I said that Al Davis loves to make a splash in the media……well what could possibly be a bigger splash than selecting the son of one of the all-time great Raiders? Not only is Long a steal a four, but watching him suit up in the Black and Silver will conjure up memories of Papa Howie and the Raider glory days. The Raider offense is a work in progress, no doubt, but they actually have some skill position pieces in place (Russell, Fargas, Zach Miller) and there is a ton of unrequited talent on that O-Line (don't forget former #2 overall pick Robert Gallery who played MUCH better in the 2nd half of last season). The defense, however, is another story. Already one of the toughest, youngest, and most underrated units in the league, the Raider defense would be downright scary with the addition of Long. The Raider defense could grow into something truly special, which would take a lot of pressure of Jamarcus Russell and let him grow at his own pace. By 2010 this would be one of the best team in the league.

5. Kansas City Chiefs

Everyone thinks the pick will be……..Jake Long

No need to mince words here, if Jake Long were available I think the Chiefs would take about 10 seconds to make this pick. But the chances of him dropping to five are very unlikely, especially with all four teams drafting ahead of them in need of a left tackle. Of course, since those teams are drafting 1-4 they obviously have other needs, but its pure wishful thinking to believe not one of them would snap up the best left tackle prospect on the board. What has happened to KC is really amazing, and serves as a valuable lesson for the rest of the league. Two seasons ago everyone knew that Willie Roaf and Wil Shields wouldn't be around forever, but for some reason the Chiefs buried their heads in the sand rather than planning for the future. I guess you could say that their management lost sight of the forest through the trees, but I just say they were downright stupid.

The pick will actually be…….Ryan Clady

Is Clady the 5th best player in the draft? No freakin way. But then again neither was Levi Brown last year. And therein lies the most recent trend in NFL drafts. Teams reaching, and I mean reaching, in the first round to grab potential left tackles. Consider the following list of tackles all drafted in the first round, and all drafted higher than they graded out at: Levi Brown (5), Joe Staley (28), Jamaal Brown (13), Alex Barron (19), George Foster (20), Kwame Harris (26). And that is just in the last 5 years. Well add Clady to the list. Only a Junior, Clady actually has a ton of potential. He has great size and has outstanding feet (some, not me, say better than Long). Still, it will be a huge reach at #5 for the Chiefs, but one they might just be willing to make a la the Cardinals last year.

Recruiting Wars  

Posted by Frazier

Sorry we disappeared there for awhile. I'd like to say that we've been working on some pretty big things (actually, we have, but it's still a work in progress). Mostly, we've just been reeling from end of the season, and then the football game that shall not be named.

But it's important to take a moment and comment on the recruiting wars that are wrapping up. Everyone is projecting winners and losers, and giving out rankings and all that. But it's essentially useless. As hard as it is to project college performance to the pros, projecting high school to college is even more difficult.

Add to that the fact that most of these kids aren't even finished growing, and that position coaches and off-field workouts will have more of an influence over their success than their most recent 40 times, and the whole thing is generally insane. Here's what you need to know:

LSU, USC, Florida, Ohio State, Michigan, Texas and Oklahoma all recruited enough talent to be nationally relevant for years to come. Just as they do every year. Elite programs are elite because they reload. The top tier schools aren't going anywhere.

Florida State and Miami recruited great players, as always. This is nothing new, what matters is how well they develop, or fail to.

It doesn't matter if Clemson, or someone else had an amazing recruiting class. What matters is how they play. When Al Groh first came to Virginia, they had classes ranked in the top ten for a number of years. Those teams underachieved. Of all the super-recruits that we had, only Chris Long and Heath Miller were really worth it. Others may be in the NFL, but they didn't leave lasting impacts on the college level.

So let's wait to get excited about Clemson, or whoever. It simply doesn't matter. I recall something about a great coach being able to take yours'n and beat his'n and his'n and beat yours'n.

The #1 draft pick three years from now won't be any of the names being tossed around by everybody right now. It'll be the kid that works the hardest, and makes his team better.

The whole recruiting thing is insane to begin with, and the attention paid is getting more ridiculous by the year. I can't wait to simply recycle this column for signing day next year.

The Team

How's the look?