Thursday, March 31, 2005

NFL DRAFT PREVIEW

Since this draft is so unsettled and the Patriots have the last pick of the first round again (not that I would ever complain about that), I thought I’d take a peek at the top of the draft, where even the experts are at a loss to predict who will be picked early.

#1 SAN FRANCISCO:

The question in the 2005 NFL Draft is not which player should be the number one pick, because then the obvious choice based on talent, immediate impact, and long-term impact would be wide receiver Braylon Edwards of Michigan or Auburn running back Ronnie Brown. However, with this being the number one overall pick of the draft, and San Francisco having three seventh round draft picks who have done little to distinguish themselves in the NFL, everything points to a quarterback.

This choice is especially made for them already what with rumors of trying to bring aboard troubled but talented wide receiver David Boston, and the fact that they have shelled out huge bonus money to super-chump running back Kevan Barlow. How do they, in light of these choices they have already made, pick a running back or a wide receiver with the first pick?

There is a trade rumor I’ve heard that San Francisco has already tried to squash as untrue of the 49ers trading the number one overall pick to San Diego for their number one pick last season, quarterback Philip Rivers. This would be great for the Chargers, who would be able to draft Braylon Edwards to go make a big three (or four) with QB Drew Brees, RB LaDanian Tomlinson (and possibly Keenan McCardell as the four in the equation).

Since I don’t see the benefit for San Francisco unless they are really high on Rivers, they appear to have that draft day dilemma of which quarterback to choose: Aaron Rodgers of California or Alex Smith of Utah. Much like the Drew Bledsoe & Rick Mirer, Peyton Manning & Ryan Leaf, or Tim Couch & Donovan McNabb & Akili Smith & Daunte Culpepper, these choices can make or break a franchise.

For San Francisco, most reports list them as leaning for Aaron Rodgers over Alex Smith. Personally, I would be scared to death to draft Alex Smith in the top half of the draft. To me, Smith is a project. Projects get drafted at the end of the first round if they have superior talents or in the middle to late rounds. The one thing about Smith that makes me shudder is the fact that he is a shotgun quarterback who is not used to playing under center. Great, just what you want with your number one draft pick: a quarterback who does not know how to drop back in the pocket. Sorry, I know I would have no interest in teaching a top five pick basic quarterback skills when he is needed to step in and produce immediately.

#2 MIAMI:

Poor Nick Saban, I would bet that LSU is looking pretty good right now as he digs into the reconstruction of the Miami Dolphins. The biggest problem facing Saban is going to be fan expectations. This team is not ready to compete this year, or the year after. Nor were they in any position to compete last year, with or without Ricky Williams. Their defense is aging, they have salary cap issues, they have no impact running back, quarterback, or wide receiver (That is, unless you believe wide receiver Chris Chambers will someday magically become the impact player he has shown flashes of over the years. Personally, I see him as a better physically built Terry Glenn; inconsistency is his calling card.), and they had a blithering idiot at the helm with a mustache that was described in conjunction with his pained sideline expression in Maxim, or FHM, or one of those Lad Mags as the Lip-Hamster of Indecision. That just about sums up Dave Wannstedt perfectly.

So who does Miami choose? Most likely, it is down to quarterback or running back. If San Francisco takes Aaron Rodgers, does Miami take Alex Smith? Or is A.J. Feeley, really the answer for the Dolphins at the quarterback position long term? (Um, just a guess, but no!) I think Miami feels compelled to give Feeley every chance to win the position, as they did give up a second round pick to Philadelphia for him.

So it comes down to running back. Auburn has two backs that will likely be top five or top ten picks this year: Ronnie H2 Hummer Brown and Carnell Cadillac Williams. Also, Texas running back Cedric Benson, who has inexplicably fallen to the number three back in the draft for some bizarre reason (I know, he doesn’t run in a straight line for forty yards as fast as the other two; like that is a relevant reason for him to drop. I think his production in college against quality opponents should factor a bit more into the decision.), should still be a top five pick.

Brown has the potential to be a special back; he has a great attitude, a great work ethic, has power and speed, and has been compared to LaDanian Tomlinson, except Brown is a bit stronger. It is a no-brainer. Miami should get the premier running back in the draft at number two.

#3 Cleveland

Here is what Romeo Crennel wants out of this spot in the draft: he wants to find another Richard Seymour. Unfortunately, I do not see another defensive lineman who is strong enough to play inside against the run and still quick enough to play outside and pressure the quarterback in 3-4 defensive alignment. So where to turn for Cleveland?

Crennel must be trying to get this pick moved to pick up a couple more picks because Cleveland, as the result of horrible drafting and personnel decisions by the Butch Davis regime, is desperate at many positions on both sides of the ball. GM Phil Savage and Crennel have tried to fill some of the gaping holes via free agency, but they still need an infusion of youth and talent on offense and defense.

I see Cleveland, if forced to stay in the three hole taking the best available player (Braylon Edwards, wide receiver out of Michigan), or if they can trade down to the 7 through 15 spot and grab an extra pick in the second or third round, grabbing one of the many talented defensive ends available in that range.

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WHITHER WILLIAM GREEN?

Since I’m on the subject of the Cleveland Browns, and since Patriots good-guy offensive guard Joe Andruzzi is there with former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, it seems appropriate to touch base on another Cleveland Brown with a Boston background. With Rueben Droughns arriving recently via a trade with Denver to be Mr. Inside and Lee Suggs as Mr. Outside in Cleveland, former Boston College running back William Green is looking like Mr. Released. After trying to sign restricted free agent Chester Taylor away from Baltimore only to have Baltimore match the offer, Cleveland has been trying to get anything in return for the talented but troubled tailback, Romeo Crennel is pretty close to the point where he will say enough is enough and dump the troubled young man into the wasteland of the pre-draft free agent market.

Could or would the Patriots consider signed the troubled local star? Um, no would be the likely answer. Drugs, alcohol, and spousal abuse issues are more than enough to keep the Kraft family from giving him another chance. Green’s best chance would be to latch onto a team desperate for a running back, which means waiting until after the draft to find that team that missed out on Cadillac Williams.

Being one failed alcohol or drug test from a mandatory one year suspension no doubt also weighs on any decision by NFL personnel men to pick up Green. I don’t blame Romeo Crennel for wanting to clear out the deadwood on the team. They need a fresh start top to bottom, just like the post-Pete Carroll Patriots needed when Bill Belichick took over. Of course, the Patriots had a bit more talent than the Browns do right now. Crennel has already been active in jettisoning the deadweight, and Green, despite being a first round pick in 2002, is just another negative on a team in need of positives.

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