October 18, 2017

Righting the Ship

Well, the 2013 draft is now complete and it is time to take a look at each and every player that Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie drafted.  With the departures of defensive tackles Desmond Bryant, Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour, the consensus for the first round pick would to be to address the pass rush.  McKenzie traded the third overall pick to the Miami Dolphins for the 12th pick in the first round and the 42nd overall pick.  With the 12th pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders selected DJ Hayden.  Hayden is a cornerback from Houston and was the top player on McKenzie’s board.  Even though there were plenty of top notch defensive linemen available to help with the pass rush, that need wasn’t addressed in the first round.

Still, the Raiders got a good player and cornerback is also a position that needs upgrading.  Hayden is 5′ 11″, 191 pounds and was the number two ranked cornerback in the draft behind Dee Milliner from Alabama.  Mike Mayock of the NFL Network had him ranked as the best corner in the draft.  After watching some film of him, I liked what I saw.  He has a nose for the ball, makes plays and rarely gets beat.  It’s possible that he could become a starter on day one.  But the amazing thing about this kid is that he almost died on the practice field late last year.  During practice, Hayden and another teammate collided and the collision resulted in massive internal bleeding.  He was rushed to the hospital and it was discovered the main blood vessel in his heart was nearly torn completely off.  The doctors immediately went to work on him and were able to repair the damaged vessel.  The road to recovery was pretty long, but Hayden is back at full strength and has been cleared by doctors to play football again.  I am really looking forward to seeing him play.

With their second round pick, (#42 overall) the Raiders took Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson.  When his name was announced, I stared at the television and said “WHAT? Who the hell is that?”  Watson is 24 years old and stands at 6′ 5″ and weighs in at 310 pounds.  He’s a former basketball and soccer player from England who played one year of football at Saddleback Junior College and then transferred to Florida State where he started in 12 of 13 games.  Although he is a raw talent,  he is very athletic and has been compared to Michael Oher of the Ravens.  Despite bringing back right tackle Khalif Barnes and signing free agent Alex Barron, the Raiders still have a need at that position.  You can count on Barnes to have AT LEAST one false start a game and that can be very frustrating.  False starts can kill the momentum of a drive.  With the zone blocking scheme being scrapped and the power blocking scheme being installed, Watson definitely has a chance to get some quality playing time at right tackle.

With their third round pick, (#66 overall) the Raiders selected outside linebacker Sio Moore from Connecticut.  Moore is 6′ 1″ and weighs 245 pounds.  Being a fan of Big East football, I knew who this guy was.  He’s non-stop energy on the field and always around the ball.  He was a three-year starter at Connecticut and racked up 274 tackles, 16 sacks, 44 tackles for a loss and picked off four passes.  He has something the 2012 Raider linebackers didn’t have.  That would be solid coverage skills.  I can’t recall the last time I saw I saw a linebacker from the Raiders pick off a pass.  He has played on the weak and strong sides and in a conference call with the Bay Area press, he said “Oakland is getting a real pissed off player.  I’ll outwork everyone out there and do everything they ask of me.  I’ll even be a special teams war daddy if they need me to.”  Hey, I’ll take that.  This is now a young team with few veterans and they need some good high energy players.

The fourth round pick, (#112 overall) was quarterback Tyler Wilson from Arkansas.  Wilson is 6′ 2″ and weighs 215 pounds.  The Raiders coached against him in the Senior Bowl, so they are familiar with his talents.  In his junior year, he completed 63 percent of his passes and threw for 3,638 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions.  His numbers dropped off a bit in his senior year, but he still managed to complete 62 percent of his passes and throw for 3,387 yards in 11 games.  He’s a leader and has been compared to Brett Favre because he can throw the ball from a variety of angles while under pressure.  Although he is somewhat mobile, he prefers to stand in the pocket and look for his target.  Throws a good mid-range pass, but needs to work on the deep ball.

The Raiders didn’t have a fifth round pick in this draft.  But, McKenzie did some wheeling and dealing and they ended up with four sixth round picks.  Their first pick of the sixth round, (#172 overall) was tight end Nick Kasa from Colorado.  With free agent tight end Brandon Myers heading to the Giants, drafting a tight end was definitely a good idea.  At 6′ 6″ and 269 pounds, Kasa is indeed a large mammal.  He’s a former defensive end and power fullback and should fit right into the power blocking scheme.  In his senior year, Kasa caught 25 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns.  I look for him to be more of a blocking tight end, but on occasion, he’ll go out for a pass.  He could end up being a target in goal line situations.

The second pick of the sixth round, (#181 overall) was running back Latavius Murray from Central Florida.  Murray is 6′ 3″ and weighs 223 pounds.  Although he wasn’t invited to the scouting combine, Murray ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at his pro day and that definitely got some interest from teams around the league.  He  is a nice complement to McFadden and will be able to grind out the tough yards between the tackles.  In four years at Central Florida, he had 453 carries for 2,424 yards and 37 touchdowns.  Out of those 453 carries, he had just one fumble.  Not only does he take care of the ball, his receiving skills are good too.  He caught 50 passes for 524 yards and six touchdowns in his four years at Central Florida.  This is an intriguing pick.  McKenzie may have found a diamond in the rough with Latavius Murray.

The third pick of the sixth round (#184 overall) was another tight end.  The pick was Mychal Rivera from Tennessee.  Rivera is 6′ 3″ and weighs 242 pounds.  He’s a pass catching tight end who has very deceptive speed.  A transfer from Oregon, Rivera caught 76 passes for 1,018 yards and six touchdowns.  He also set the Tennessee record for receiving yards for a tight end in one year with 562.  That beat the old record of 493 yards set by Jason Witten in 2002.  Rivera is also another player the Raiders coached against in the Senior Bowl.  Although not as big, he’s been compared to Kellen Winslow Jr.  He has “sneaky speed” and can stretch the field for big chunks of yardage.

With the fourth pick of the sixth round, (#205 overall) the Raiders finally took a defensive tackle.  Stacy McGee from Oklahoma was the pick.  McGee is 6′ 4″ and weighs 299 pounds.  There aren’t a whole lot of stats on this guy and that’s because he was nothing but trouble when he was a Sooner.  He’s had a DUI charge, been busted for smoking marijuana and countless other violations.  He was suspended from Oklahoma indefinitely.  My only guess with this pick is that McKenzie saw some promise with his play on the field.  I would also imagine he gave McGee an ultimatum.  It probably went something like “If you screw up once, you’re gone.  We’re giving you a chance and if you blow it, you most likely will not get another chance from any other team in the league.  Got it?  Good.”  To me, this looks more like a guy Al Davis would choose.  I hope it works out, but my hopes aren’t too high.

Their first pick in the seventh round (#209 overall) was used on wide receiver Brice Butler of San Diego State.  Butler is 6′ 3″ and weighs 214 pounds.  He began his football career at Southern Cal and after three years, he transferred out.  Apparently he and head coach Lane Kiffin weren’t getting along too well.  In his lone year at San Diego State, Butler caught 24 passes for 347 yards and four touchdowns.  He’s the son of former Atlanta Falcon defensive back Bobby Butler and he definitely has the size and ability to make the team.  The potential is there and I hope he gets a chance to show off his skills.

With their last pick in the draft (#233 overall) the Raiders selected defensive end Davis Bass from Missouri Western State.  Bass is 6′ 4″ and weighs 262 pounds.  He was a dominant player and played in 50 games.  He had a school record 40.5 sacks and 56 tackles for a loss.  Very impressive.  But, is he good enough for the pro level?  In the pros, will he be a defensive end or linebacker?  I guess time will tell, but he has a good burst and is very quick off the snap.  If he makes the team, he definitely fills a position of need.  With only 25 sacks last year, the Raiders need guys that can get to the quarterback.  I wish him the best of luck.

This was a good draft and it definitely filled some of the holes that were left by departing free agents.  Still, this team is a work in progress.  There’s too many positions that need quality players and not enough money to get the players to fill those holes.  It has been reported that they’ll be almost 60 million under the salary cap next year and McKenzie can start spending some money on free agents.  But before he starts bringing in guys from other teams,  he needs to re-sign some key players on the current roster.  Players like defensive end Lamarr Houston, left tackle Jared Veldheer and if McFadden proves he can stay healthy, I’d love to see him brought back as well.  There’s still a long way to go until opening day in Indianapolis, but it will be here before you know it.  I’ll be back before then with some more analysis.  Take it easy.

The Raider Guy

 

 

 

Draft Night: Going Long

The Chicago Bears selected Oregon offensive guard Kyle Long with their first pick in the NFL draft, 20th overall, and the first words out of Mr. Long’s mouth when speaking to the Chicago media were that he didn’t expect to be taken so high.

And those were also among the first words out of the mouths of most Bears fans, right after “Who’s Kyle Long?”

Long is the son of Raiders Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long and the brother of Rams defensive end Chris Long and is said to be the best athlete in the Long family.

Outside of these significant facts, however, Kyle Long doesn’t have as sturdy a football background as you might expect.

Kyle Long started his collegiate career at Florida State after turning a down a chance to play baseball for the Chicago White Sox but didn’t last long as a Seminole, derailed by a DUI and substance abuse.  He then spent time away from the game before going to a junior college and then Oregon where he was a part-time starter and actually would still be at Oregon if it were up to him but the NCAA denied him another year of eligibility.

There are many instances in collegiate sports of guys wanting to leave for the pros only to be told they’re not ready.  It’s not often that someone wants to stay in college and is told he can’t and then gets drafted a round or two higher than most expected.

Bears general manager Phil Emery said he has had his eye on Long for some time, saying he was the best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl and is enamored of Long’s athleticism and versatility noting that he will start his career at guard but can easily, in Emery’s estimation, move to tackle on either side if needed.

Emery isn’t the only one who envisioned Kyle Long coming to Chicago.  NFL draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr., of ESPN, had said he could see the Bears taking Long.  Mike Mayock, of NFL Network, raved about the selection, saying, “He’s one of my favorite players in the draft.  He’s one of the most aggressive offensive linemen.  He’s a gifted kid.”

Long came across as humble, mature and determined when talking to the media after his selection saying he’s “…looking forward to the opportunity of trying to earn the respect of my teammates and hopefully be able to help the Chicago Bears.”

Oh Halas, we hope so, too.

The Bears have quality players at quarterback; running back, wide receiver and tight end and an innovative, creative offensive mind in new head coach Marc Trestman.  So if they can block a little better it’s not crazy to say they’ll be 19-0 this coming season and be declared the Greatest Team in The History of God and Man.

Or maybe they’ll go 11-5, make the playoffs, and have an outside chance at the Super Bowl.

Offensive linemen are always popular picks on day one of the draft.  The Kansas City Chiefs selected Eric Fisher, an offensive tackle out of Central Michigan, with the top overall pick and he was followed by Luke Joeckel, an offensive tackle out of Texas A&M, who went second overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.  In all, nine offensive linemen were taken in the first round on Thursday night, the most ever.

Drafting big uglies to block for the glamour kids is usually the smart, safe move especially in a draft like this one, which offered no Andrew Lucks, Robert Griffin IIIs or Justin Blackmons.

Offensive line is the only position in which it’s easy, or at least easily conceivable, to switch a guy who struggles.  It’s not uncommon for a player to start his NFL career at left tackle only to be moved to the right side and then maybe to guard.  Not to say that all offensive line positions are interchangeable but there’s always a chance to find another spot for a big guy either because he’s floundering or the team is needing.

Other positions are a little more stagnant.  Not many fellows enter the Sunday league as a receiver and then find they’re better suited for safety.  Who is going to draft a quarterback in the first round and then a year or two or three years later decide he’d be better off at fullback? (Tim Tebow???)

It would be fun to see a 300-pound lineman struggle up front and then get moved to punter.

It would be a lot more interesting to see a punter moved to the line.

The 20th overall pick in last year’s draft was wide receiver Kendall Wright who went to the Tennessee Titans and caught 64 passes as a rookie.  Number 20s in the previous decade: Adrian Clayborn, Kareem Jackson, Brandon Pettigrew, Aqib Talib, Aaron Ross, Tamba Hali, Marcus Spears, Kenechi Udeze and George Foster.

Of all those guys the only surefire Hall of Famer is Foster, a different George Foster, the baseball player.   And, whoops, he’s actually not in the Hall of Fame.  How the hell could George Foster not be in the Hall of Fame?  Hitting 52 home runs in 1977 and having the most rockin’ sideburns outside of Wolverine should surely get one a bronze plaque in upstate New York.

Which brings us back to Kyle Long.  Five years ago the Chicago White Sox took him.  He said “no” but maybe there was something about Chicago that stuck with him.  Kyle told reporters Thursday night that after his pre-draft visit with the Bears he had a “great feeling about Chicago.”

It’s December 29th.  Snow is falling at Soldier Field and the NFC North crown is on the line.  That “great feeling” is Kyle Long flattening a Packers defender as Matt Forte sprints toward the endzone.  The roar of the crowd swallows all doubt.

Draft night: It’s a dream builder.

The Draft From The Couch

It is 30 minutes before the beginning of the 2012 NFL Draft.  I have been watching the draft since ESPN started televising it long ago.  I saw many of those early drafts without planning on seeing them.  Skipping school was a frequent event in my middle school and high school days.  I just put on the TV and once again the draft was on.  Now the draft is in “Prime Time” as Chris Berman would say.  Berman has been at the draft since I was a kid.  Now, at 45, I still watch Berman host this well-watched event.  For us football junkies, the draft is an event which now calls for a few beers, a few cheers and a few jeers.

As I wait to see Andrew Luck get picked number one, I wonder who the Giants will draft.  Last season, the Giants and their GM were ripped for not signing a tight end and a wide receiver.  Well, we all know what happened (I will remind those who don’t remember – Super Bowl Champions!!)  Jake Ballard excelled early in the season, making us Giants fans forget about the reliable Kevin Boss.  With the loss of Steve Smith and early injuries, it looked like the receiving corp was going to be weak and Eli was going to throw a few extra picks like the 2010 season.  Then came Victor Cruz.  Steve Smith who?  Cruz became Manning’s go-to guy.  Fans of the Jets figured that out late in the season.  Mario Manningham came up big often as well.  His catch in the Super Bowl is legendary.  So here we are a year later.  The Giants are in the same situation.  Ballard looks like he will be out all of 2012 and Manningham is now a 49er.  Hakeem Nicks and Cruz leave the Giants with one of the best one-two punches in the NFL but that third receiver and a top-notch tight end are needed to keep the Giants offensive attack potent. 

The Giants also lost their all-time leading rushing touchdown leader, Brandon Jacobs to those 49ers.  So “Earth” and “Wind” are gone, leaving “Fire” alone in the backfield.  “Earth” is Jacobs and “Wind” was Derrick Ward.  “Fire” or Ahmad Bradshaw is a good back and can be great at times, but he needs help.  I am not sad to see Jacobs go.  I can tolerate some of the off the field issues and the media outbursts, but watching him stop and run sideline to sideline instead of running straight ahead without stopping and flattening out would-be tacklers drove me crazy!  (Wow, Gary Clark, Jr. is playing the opening of the draft with rapping Ray Lewis.)  So, good-bye Jacobs.  Thanks for the memories but bring on the next Giants back.

The Giants need more than a receiver, a tight end and a running back.  The offensive line could use a little help.  Special teams need a real threat.  (Luck is now a Colt!)  Will Domenik Hixon return healthy and return kicks?  After a few years of injuries, he should probably only be a receiver.  A back who could return punts and catch some passes out of the backfield would be good.  On defense, the G-Men could always use another defensive back.  Terrell Thomas will be back.  He should have been in the Pro Bowl for the 2010 season he had.  The early season injury last year was devastating.  (RG3 is now a Redskin. I look forward to watching him against the G-Men for many years.)  I also think the Giants could draft a future replacement for either or both Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka, who will both be unrestricted free agents after the 2012 season.

Since the Giants will be drafting late in the rounds, they will be looking for the best player available that fits their many needs.  Although they have needs, the Giants will be fine.  They are usually competitive and I feel that expectations are higher than after they won the Super Bowl in February 2008.  (Trent Richardson is now a Brown! I really like Richardson and feel he will be in Canton one day if he can stay healthy.  Sorry Jets fans.)  Manning is probably the reason for those higher expectations.  He was stud last season and looks ready to play consistently at a high level. 

The Vikings are up and they will most likely pick Matt Kalil, the OT from USC.  (They just did.)  It is sad to see how the Vikings dropped to just 3-13 last season.  I bet Vikings fans miss the 2009 Brett Favre .  (Jaguars pick Justin Blackmon with the 5th pick.  Too early to pick him?)  Who will be the first defensive player picked?  (Good time for me to get a beer.)  Now we know, the Cowboys pick Morris Claiborne.  If any team needs a defensive back, it is Dallas. 

Looks like the Rams are collecting picks.  The Bucs pick Alabama safety Mark Barron.  He is going to punish a few receivers during his NFL career.  I like this pick and reminds me of those days when the Buc defense was dominant. (Fans are chanting “Dolphins suck”.)  The Dolphins are up next and should pick Ryan Tannehill with the eighth pick. Yup, they did.  Big guy.  Panthers select tackle-machine Luke Kuechly, a linebacker out of Boston College.  Solid pick.

So nine picks are in.  Bills are up.  They select CB Stephon Gilmore from South Carolina.  He skipped his senior year and gets picked tenth.  Good move on his part.    The Chiefs select DT Dontari Poe from Memphis.  Wow!  He is wearing a huge, sparkling watch.  Not a fan of the watch.  I stopped wearing a watch several years ago since cell phones have the time.  Why the watch?  The Eagles pick a DT too.  It is Fletcher Cox out of Mississippi State.  Twenty more picks before the G-Men.

The Cardinals pick the big WR out of Notre Dame, Michael Floyd.  I like Floyd more than Blackmon.  He is a nice complement to Larry Fitzgerald.  No giant watch either.  Great pick!   Will the Rams pick or make another trade?  I am a Rams fan.  I have been since the days of Fred Dryer, Lawrence McCutcheon and Jack Youngblood.  The Rams do pick and select Michael Brockers,  a DT out of LSU.   Great beard.  Lebron, your beard sucks compared to Brockers.  6’5”, 322 pounds!

Bruce Irvin is selected by the Seahwaks.  He is a pass-rushing linebacker with off-the-field issues from West Virginia.  Mel Kiper is going nuts saying he is a second-round pick.  Go Mel!  Up next, the Jets.  Here we go.  Will the crowd jeer or cheer?  Will they pick another quarterback?  Will they take LaMichael James since they could not trade up for Richardson?  No, they go DE by picking Quinton Coples from North Carolina.  Will he be better than Vernon Gholston?

Cincinnati is on the clock.  Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are young stars and need a third young star at the running back position.  But the Bengals go Dre Kirkpatrick, the CB from Alabama.  The Bengals drafted here for a need.  I don’t like it.  They could have grabbed a CB in free agency and picked the best available player in the draft.  I would have went with an offensive lineman instead like David DeCastro from Stanford or Riley Reiff out of Iowa. 

The Charges pick DE Melvin Ingram from South Carolina.  He is quick and physical.  Nice pick for the Bolts.  He should bring back memories of a healthy Shawne Merriman.  The Bears pick LB Shea McClellin from Boise State.  He beats Doug Martin and Kellen Moore off the board.  The Titans are up next and the Pats moved up to the 21st pick.  The second Baylor Bear is picked.  The Titans take WR Kendall Wright.  The Pats pick Syracuse DE Chandler Jones as their choice.  Good pick by the Pats who need some help on defense.

The Browns are up next and pick 28-year-old Brandon Weedon!  Wow!  Is the Colt McCoy era already over?  Madden cover-star Calvin Johnson announces Riley Reiff as the Lions pick.  Great pick!  Matthew Stafford should be happy.  He is almost 6’6” and 313 pounds.  Steelers pick DeCastro.  Awesome!  I am also a Steelers fan and love this pick.  Will they pick a back with their next pick?  The Pats got another pick and select Dont’a Hightower, the LB from Alabama.  Again, the Pats pick a defensive player and that is what they need to do.  Patriot fans should be happy with these two first-round picks.

I’m getting nervous.  Will TE Coby Fleener be available when the Giants pick?  Fleener (6’6”, 244 pounds) would give the Giants the TE they desperately need.  Whitney Mercilus gets picked by Houston with the 26th pick.  He is a big DE that may help fill the void left behind with the loss of Mario Williams to Buffalo.

The Bengals are picking again and take Kevin Zeitler, an OG from Wisconsin.  So they get the offensive lineman I suggested prior.  Wisconsin plays a pro-style offense so he should easily take his place on the line to protect the young Dalton.  They should take the best available back with their next pick. 

Green Bay is up next.  Will they take a running back?  Doug Martin might be a good fit.  But it is probably defense.  It is and they choose Nick Perry from USC.  He was a DE in college but will probably be a LB in the NFL.  Up next are the Vikings, the 49ers, the Bucs and the Giants.  The Vikings select Harrison Smith, a safety from Notre Dame.  OK, two more picks and then the G-Men.   The 49ers go WR with A.J. Jenkins out of Illinois.  Now the Bucs after trading up.  They pick Doug Martin.  Good pick for them.  Martin and LeGarrette Blount in the same backfield.  Not too shabby!

The Giants are up next with the 32nd and last pick of the first round.  Will they take the TE Fleener?  Or do they surprise and take LaMichael James?  Or what about offensive line?  Here is the big moment.  The Giants take RB David Wilson from Virginia.  Well, I wasn’t expecting that.  I thought the big tight end would be the pick or an offensive lineman.  Wilson is fast and a great athlete.  He also returns kicks and catches passes.  So I am happy to have the next Giants back but I am anxious to see if we get a tight end, an offensive lineman, a few defensive players and another receiver.  (At least we are all set at punter.)  Well, that is why the draft is so great.  More rounds to come.  But that is tomorrow night.  I can now go to sleep and dream about future Giants and future Super Bowl championships.

(Sort Of A) Draft Preview: Luck First, Bears Whenever, And a Draft Quiz

The Indianapolis Colts officially announced on Tuesday that they will select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick in the NFL draft.

In other breaking news, Mitt Romney is going to win the GOP nomination, Carson Daly has no talent and Amelia Earhart won’t be home for dinner.

Luck is the smart pick, the safe pick and something of a kismet gift or karmic certainty for a team whose logo is a horseshoe that’s turned up so, as tradition says, the “luck won’t run out.”  Luck will do well in Indianapolis just so long as he wasn’t planning on getting help from Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday, Ryan Diem, Pierre Garcon, Joseph Addai, Raymond Berry or Weeb Ewbank.

But will Luck be better than Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winning QB from Baylor who will be taken second by the Washington Redskins?  At first, yes.  In the long run…yes.  Griffin is good but Luck is the type of guy who wins in the NFL for the long term because he’s such a good pocket passer.  Also, the Redskins do very little right and, despite last year’s Indy imbroglio, the Colts seem to know what they’re doing.

Luck and Griffin will face each other in the third week of the exhibition season in Washington but Luck’s first regular season action will come September 9 against the Bears at Chicago’s Soldier Field.  It’s the belief in some circles, and the hope in others, that one of the Bears Mr. Luck will have to contend with on that day is defensive end Chandler Jones who spent his collegiate days busting heads for Syracuse.

The Bears could select Jones with the 19th overall pick in the first round as they look to add some youth to their defense which has an average age of 62.7.  The Bears haven’t taken a defensive player in the first round since defensive tackle Tommie Harris in 2004 in part because they often haven’t had a first round pick because of trades (two of them sacrificed for QB Jay Cutler) and also because Chicago has spent the last decade or so relying on linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman.  But those gentlemen, despite all being selected to the Pro Bowl last year, are old.  So is defensive end Julius Peppers who is the Bears’ best player but is now 32 and looking more like Alan Page than Jason Pierre-Paul.

The Bears also are likely to get defensive with their first pick because they’ve already spent much of this offseason focusing on offense having traded for wide receiver Brandon Marshall and signing quarterback Jason Campbell, running back Michael Bush, receiver/returner Eric Weems and receiver/special teamer Devin Thomas.  The Monsters of the Milky Way have also brought in several defensive free agents including former Buccaneers linebacker Geno Hayes but the feeling is that when it comes to college kids, new GM Phil Emery wants to bolster the defense.

Then again, anyone who watches football and believes in the sanctity of human life knows the Bears offensive line protects about as well as a pierced condom having surrendered 105 sacks the last two seasons.  The fact that Jay Cutler is still alive, ambulatory and willing to come back for more is a testament to that young man’s toughness, tenacity and ability to read the numbers on his $7.7 million annual salary.

If Cutler is healthy this season and Marshall stays out of trouble, running back Matt Forte settles his contract dispute and Bush lives up to his billing Chicago could suddenly have a potent offense that can strike quickly but also grind it out and eat the clock.  But only if they five big fellas up front can open holes and get in defenders’ ways as they try to go all-Gregg Williams and rip off Cutler’s leg and chase Kristin Cavallari with it.

Cutler’s chances for survival, and Chicago’s potential for success, already seem to be improved by Mike Tice’s promotion from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator, replacing the mad genius Mike Martz who was sort of like Nero and Cutler was a lot like Rome.  Under Tice, the Bears will almost certainly concentrate on keeping the quarterback alive first and coming up with fancy crossing patterns second.  And if last year’s first round pick, offensive tackle Gabe Carimi, comes back from the knee injury that knocked him out for nearly all of 2011 and former first-rounder Chris Williams can return from the wrist injury that saw him miss last season’s final seven games, maybe the O-line already is taking a step toward solvency and salvation.

Still, when you’re the Chicago Bears you like big uglies, especially from Midwest teams.  So if Wisconsin center Peter Konz or his Badgers teammate, guard Kevin Zeitler, or Michigan center David Molk are around don’t be surprised to see them get the call from Halas Hall.

No matter whom the Bears draft it seems a tall order for them to significantly close the gap on their division rival Green Bay Packers.  The Super Bowl champion New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and maybe even the New Orleans Miscreants also appear to be ahead of the Bears at this point, but there’s hope.  If Chicago’s defense can keep its foot on father time’s throat for one more season and the offense learns to block first and ask questions later , the Bears could go a long way toward earning the NFL-maximum five prime-time games they’re slated for this fall.

Quick Quiz: (no cheating! Answers below)

1.) Who was the top pick in last year’s draft?

2.) Who was last year’s “Mr. Irrelevant?”

3.) Who was the top pick in the 2002 draft?

4.) Who was the top pick in the 1992 draft?

5.) Who was the 199th overall pick in the 2000 draft?

6.) Peyton Manning was the top overall pick in 1998, Ryan Leaf was second.  Who was third?

7.) Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Steve Spurrier was taken with the third overall pick in the 1967 draft.  What future Hall of Fame QB was taken fourth?

8.) What running back who wore #20 was taken with the top overall pick in the draft by the Detroit Lions in the 1980s?

9.) How many receivers were taken before Randy Moss in the 1998 NFL draft?

10.) What two players with the same last name were taken 1-2 in the 2008 draft?

(Answers below)

Random Thoughts:

Is Gregg Williams friends with Metta World Peace?

The Colts not only have the first overall pick in the draft but also have the last pick, 253, with which “Mr. Irrelevant” will be taken.

Center Stu Clarkson was taken by the Bears with the very last pick of the 1942 NFL draft and not only went on to play for their 1946 NFL Championship team but he was also a decorated hero in World War Two.

ANSWERS TO QUIZ QUESTIONS:

  1. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
  2. Defensive End Cheta Ozougwu of Rice who was taken with the 254th pick by the Houston Texans.
  3. David Carr, Houston Texans
  4. Steve Emtman, Indianapolis Colts
  5. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
  6. Andre Wadsworth, Arizona Cardinals
  7. Bob Griese, Miami Dolphins
  8. Billy Sims, 1980 (Barry Sanders was taken third overall in 1989)
  9. One.  The Oilers took Kevin Dyson with the 16th overall pick.  Moss went 21st to the Vikings.
  10.  Jake Long, Dolphins, then Chris Long, Rams.

 

How the Colts Trade of John Elway in 1983 Comes Full Circle

The Colts franchise is in a familiar draft position. They hold the number one pick in the draft, and “a can’t miss” QB from Stanford, Andrew Luck, is at the top of the draft board. It’s 1983 all over again, kind of. This time the Colts are not between a rock and a hard place

With the number one pick in the 1983 draft, the then Baltimore Colts selected Stanford QB John Elway. This was despite Elway’s refusal to play for the Colts. After numerous trade rumors and Elway’s threat to play baseball, the Colts ended their Elway era before it even started, and traded the QB to the Denver Broncos.

Elway’s trade to the Broncos still has a major impact on the NFL today, and has finally come full circle.

The off-season’s biggest story occurred when the Indianapolis Colts cut Peyton Manning, the most iconic Colt since Johnny Unitas. And who signs Manning? The Broncos, whose front office is led by Elway, a position he arguably never would be in if he wasn’t traded to the Broncos in 1983.

You could also make a strong argument that if the Colts never had to trade Elway, Manning never would have been a Colt. The Colts drafted Manning with the number one pick in 1998, Elway’s last year in the NFL. The Colts also never would have had the number one pick in 1998, if it wasn’t for a downward spiral of bad decisions after the Elway trade; they could never live it down.

During Elway’s career, the only time the Colts came close to the Super Bowl was in 1995 when they made it to the AFC championship game behind QB Jim Harbaugh. Fast forward to 2008. Harbaugh is the head coach at Stanford, and his prize recruit is Andrew Luck. Who is now set to become the Colts number one pick in the draft.

How it has all come full circle.

Trades Involving Big Name QB’s That Never Happened

It’s often mentioned that championship teams are built through the NFL draft.  It’s a fairly cliché statement, but it’s entirely true.  What’s often overlooked is that draft selections are only one aspect of the draft.  The ability of front office staffs to wheel and deal during the draft can also make lasting impacts on NFL teams.  The most impactful trades often involve quarterbacks.

There are a lot of trade rumors involving QB’s flying around draft weekend, and usually none of them end up true.  Imagine though if some of them did in fact become true.  The NFL landscape would certainly be different.  Listed below are some draft time trade rumors from the past 25 years (as reported by the major media) involving star QB’s, that never became true.

 

1983 NFL Draft – Rumored John Elway/#1 Pick Trades

Before the 1983 NFL draft, John Elway told the Baltimore Colts (owners of the NFL’s #1 pick) not to select him.  That’s because Elway wanted to play for a team located on the west coast, and if he was selected by the Colts, he insinuated he might abandon football, and pursue a career in baseball.  In the end, the Colts selected Elway, but soon after traded him to the Denver Broncos.  The rest is history.

With Elway’s strong statements before the draft, it appeared to the major media that the Colts would trade the #1 pick; thus trading the rights to select Elway.  The Los Angeles Raiders and San Diego Chargers were two teams mentioned as likely candidates to win the Elway sweepstakes.

The San Diego Chargers owned three picks in the first round, and were having difficulty signing All-Pro QB Dan Fouts to a new contract.  The Raiders had a solid veteran QB in Jim Plunkett, but Al Davis always liked to make a splash at the draft.

The Baltimore Colts were willing to trade the #1 pick/Elway to the San Diego Chargers for all three of the Chargers first round picks, but the Chargers were unwilling to give up the 5th overall selection.  Perhaps if the Chargers hadn’t signed Dan Fouts to a new contract the night before, the Chargers might have been more willing to give up that 5th overall pick.

There were a number of different rumored trade offers from the Raiders.  One scenario stated the Raiders were offering a number of top picks in the 1983 and 1984 drafts, as well as former first round selection in QB Marc Wilson.  Another rumor mentioned that the Raiders would consider trading future Hall of Fame RB Marcus Allen.  Lastly, it was also rumored that the Raiders were attempting to attain first round selections, in order to trade them for Elway.  Reportedly, the Raiders were offering RB Kenny King, G Mickey Marvin, and future Hall of Fame DE Howie Long to the Chicago Bears (6th pick) or the Philadelphia Eagles (8th pick).

The Dallas Cowboys were also rumored as being interested in Elway.  It was rumored that the Cowboys offered the Colts their top selection in the 1983 draft (23rd overall), and a number of veteran players, possibly QB Danny White and DT Randy White.

Lastly, despite Elway’s request to play for a team on the west coast, the New England Patriots were supposedly highly interested in selecting Elway.  It was rumored that the Patriots would offer the Colts their first round selections in 1983, 1984, and 1985, as well as a veteran player or another top selection.

In the end, the Denver Broncos were truly the dark horse candidate to get John Elway, and made out the best.

In hindsight, the Chargers should have traded all three first round selections for Elway.  The Chargers did pick up three solid players with their picks; LB Billy Ray Smith, RB Gary Anderson, and DB Gill Byrd.  However, none of those players had Hall of Fame careers.

The Cowboys also should have offered a bit more for Elway.  Although, if they did, I’m sure the team wouldn’t have gone through the collapse they did in 1988 and 1989; which ultimately led to the birth of a dynasty.  Who knows if it was even nothing more than a remote possibility, but the Patriots also should have made more of an effort to get Elway.

Meanwhile, it’s debatable whether the Raiders made the right decision by not trading for Elway.  The Raiders would go on to win the Super Bowl in 1983.  Without Marcus Allen and/or Howie Long, that probably doesn’t happen.   However, I’m sure the Raiders would have loved to have had Elway at QB with some of their more talented teams in the early 1990’s.

Lastly, the Colts would have been better off taking trade offers from any of the rumored trades, before actually selecting Elway.  Once they selected Elway, and he refused to play for them, their bargaining power was reduced significantly.  In the end, the Colts picked up an unproductive QB in Mark Herrmann, a talented tackle, albeit not a Hall of Famer in Chris Hinton, and a first round selection in the 1984 draft (used on G Ron Solt).

 

1987 NFL Draft – Rumored Steve Young Trades

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed QB Vinny Testaverde to a contract weeks before they would actually be able to select him #1 in the 1987 NFL draft.  This gave the Buccaneers a few weeks to shop around highly talented QB Steve Young.  Eventually, the San Francisco 49ers would pick up Young for second and third round picks.  However, the Green Bay Packers and the St. Louis Cardinals had also been in trade talks with the 49ers for Young.

After the draft, Packers head coach Forrest Gregg stated the 49ers asking price for Steve Young was too steep.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals elected to choose a QB in the draft by selecting Kelly Stouffer.

Looking back, the Packers should have realized the asking price for Steve Young wasn’t too steep.  However, they came out of it rather unscathed, with a smart draft selection of Don Majkowski, and a smart trade for Brett Favre.  The Cardinals however didn’t get so lucky.  Stouffer never played a snap with the Cardinals, refusing to sign with them.

 

1992 NFL Draft – Rumored Steve Young Trade

The San Francisco 49ers reportedly made a trade offer to the Los Angeles Raiders, in which they were going to trade the NFL’s top rated passer, Steve Young, for the Raiders first and second round selections, and WR Tim Brown.  49ers head coach George Seifert admitted the 49ers attempted to trade up in the draft, but didn’t get into the specifics on any trade offers they may have made.

The Raiders ended up picking defensive lineman Chester McGlockton with their first round pick, and the Raiders traded up in the second round to pick offensive lineman Greg Skrepenak.

Clearly, it looks like the 49ers benefited from this trade not occurring.  Steve Young continued to be one of the best QB’s in the NFL, and led the 49ers to a Super Bowl championship in 1994.

If the trade did go through, the 49ers would have had Hall of Famer Jerry Rice and most likely future Hall of Famer Tim Brown at the receiver’s positions.  Coincidentally, the two players would be paired together as Raiders during the 2001-2003 seasons.

 

1992 NFL Draft – Rumored Phil Simms Trades

What turned out to be a rumor with no legs, the New York Giants were reportedly interested in trading veteran QB Phil Simms, so they could move up in the 1992 NFL draft and select QB David Klinger.  The San Diego Chargers and Los Angeles Raiders were supposedly interested in Simms.  The Giants denied the rumor.  Simms remained with the Giants for a few more years and eventually won the starting job back.   Jeff Hostetler, the Giants starting QB at the time, would end up with the Raiders one year later.

 

1993 NFL Draft – Rumored Joe Montana Trades

If you thought the sight of Joe Montana in a Kansas City Chiefs uniform was strange, imagine how he would have looked in an Arizona Cardinals uniform, or a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform.

The Buccaneers were the original front running team to get Joe Montana.  They had a surplus of draft picks, some youthful talent, and Montana worked with Buccaneers head coach Sam Wyche when Wyche was an assistant with the San Francisco 49ers.  But Montana had no interest in going to a team that wasn’t a contender, and chose against being traded to the Buccaneers.

Despite Montana’s request to go to Kansas City, it looked as if Montana would end up in a Cardinals uniform because they were offering more compensation for him.  The Cardinals were offering the 49ers their first round selection in the draft (20th pick).  At that point in the trade negations, no other team had even offered the 49ers a draft selection in the second round.

The Detroit Lions and the Los Angeles Raiders also expressed interest in trading for Montana, but their type of offensive styles didn’t appeal to Montana.

Eventually, the 49ers and Chiefs came to an agreement.  The 49ers sent Montana, safety David Whitmore and their third round selection in the 1994 draft.  In return, the 49ers received the Chiefs first round draft pick (18th overall).

You can’t really fault the Buccaneers or Cardinals for not getting Montana.  Montana wanted to go to the Chiefs, and when the Chiefs offered enough compensation, a deal was made.  The Buccaneers and Cardinals were merely curious bystanders.

 

1995 NFL Draft – Rumored Mark Brunell Trades

In 1995, Mark Brunell wasn’t a household name; however some NFL teams recognized his talents, and were willing to take a chance on him.  The team Brunell played for, the Green Bay Packers, already had a talented and young QB on their roster in Brett Favre.

The Philadelphia Eagles actually had a deal in principle made with the Packers for Brunell, under the stipulation that they would be able to sign Brunell to a long term contract.  Brunell and the Eagles never reached a contract agreement, and the Eagles agreement to send their second and fifth round selections to the Packers fell through.

The St. Louis Rams were also reported as a team interested in Brunell.  In the end, the Jacksonville Jaguars sent their third and fifth round picks to the Packers for Brunell.

If the Eagles had been able to sign Brunell, it would have changed the franchise.  Brunell came into his own during the 1996 playoffs; during a time when the Eagles were struggling to find a suitable QB to lead their talented roster.

 

2010 NFL Draft – Rumored Ben Roethlisberger Trades

Coming off another off-season embarrassment relating to their franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger, it was rumored that the Pittsburgh Steelers were interested in trading him.

It was reported that the Steelers offered Roethlisberger to the St. Louis Rams as a way to attain the #1 pick in the draft.  However, the Rams had no interest in the trade, and selected QB Sam Bradford.

The Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders were also mentioned as possible trading partners with the Steelers for Roethlisberger.  The Steelers confirmed they had spoken to the Raiders about Roethlisberger, but denied speaking to the Browns.

 

One final note: If there is a big name QB with trade rumors attached to his name, it appears that the Oakland Raiders will always be interested.  Every QB on this list, with the exception of Mark Brunell, was of interest to the Raiders.

 

Andrew McKillop runs the sports research blog SportsDelve.com.

The 2011 Raiders Draft by The Raider Guy

Greetings!  I hope everyone is doing well on this Thursday morning!  More talk from ESPN says that a deal will hopefully be reached “soon.”  Well, if there is no football by the first scheduled game, I will be looking for something else to do on Sunday afternoons.  What else is there to do on Sunday afternoons in the Fall except watch the NFL?  Get it done, guys!  GET IT DONE!

Enough talk of the lockout.  It’s depressing.  It is time to talk about the 2011 draft choices of the Oakland Raiders.  They traded their first round pick to acquire Richard Seymour.  Seymour has done well in silver and black and has emerged as a team leader.  I for one am glad to have him as a Raider.

With their second round pick, the Raiders selected Stefen Wisniewski from Penn State.  They are hoping he can step right in and start at center.  Some of you may remember his uncle Steve Wisniewski.  Steve played left guard for the Raiders and made it to eight pro bowls.  Steve was a nasty player and loved being a Raider.  He loved it so much that he is now a coach for the Raiders.  Hopefully some of the nastiness he showed on the field will be taught to his nephew.  I can’t wait to see Stefen in action!

In the third round, the Raiders selected defensive back DeMarcus Van Dyke from Miami (FL). This kid can flat out fly. Van Dyke is 6 foot 1 and 176 pounds and ran a 4.25 40 at the NFL Combine.  One thing we all know that Al Davis covets is speed.  He got it with this pick. With the Raiders taking a corner in the third round, it looks like they are getting some insurance for the possible (or should I say “definite”) loss of Nnamdi Asomugha to free agency.

Also in the third round, the Raiders selected offensive lineman Joseph Barksdale from LSU.  At 6 foot 5 and 323 pounds, the long armed Barksdale definitely has the size to be a dominant tackle.  The only question about him is his work ethic.  He tends to be lazy at times.  But with Hue Jackson and Coach Wisniewski barking at him, they should whip him into shape.  I hope to see him become the starting right tackle for the Raiders for many years to come.

Up next was fourth round pick defensive back Chimdi Chekwa from Ohio State.  Chekwa is 6 feet and 191 pounds.  This pick definitely adds more depth to the secondary and Coach Jackson envisions Chekwa playing at corner.  But he also went on to say that Chekwa is so talented that he could play other positions if the opportunity arises.  My thinking on that comment is that he could be used as a punt returner.

The next selection is one of my favorites.  Speedy Taiwan Jones out of Eastern Washington was also picked in the fourth round.  There was no way the Raiders would pass up an opportunity to draft this kid.  Especially after he ran a 4.25 in a private workout.   At 6 feet and 194 pounds, he has decent size and a very quick first step to go with it.  Once he gets in the open field, forget about catching him.  He’ll probably bring back some memories of Napoleon Kaufman to Raider fans.  With Darren McFadden and Michael Bush in the backfield, this is not a “need pick.”  He is also coming off an injury (broken foot). But, if Jones can get a few carries a game, he can demonstrate what a weapon he can be.  I hope he gets a chance.

In the fifth round, the Raiders selected wide receiver Denarius Moore from Tennessee.  Moore is 6 foot 1 and 194 pounds.  He only had 25 catches in his first two years, then had a combined 87 catches in his final two years.  He had a 21 yard average per catch in 2010 with 981 yards and 9 touchdowns.  He ran a 4.39 40 and could be a solid deep threat.

In the sixth round, Richard Gordon, a tight end out of Miami (FL) was selected.  At 6 foot 4 and 265 pounds, Gordon definitely has the size to play at the next level.  Gordon was more of a blocker at Miami as he only had 10 catches in four years.  Look for the Raiders to start him off as a special teams player.

Then, in the seventh round, David Ausberry from Southern California was selected.  At 6 foot 4 and 235 pounds, Ausberry could become a huge target for Jason Campbell.  He started at receiver in college, but was moved to tight end for his senior year.  He has a reputation as a very physical player and has even lined up as a fullback at times.  His versatility could make him a keeper.

Well, there you have the 2011 Oakland Raiders draft class.  Two offensive linemen, a running back, two corners, a wide receiver, a tight end and it looks like Ausberry can play receiver, tight end or fullback.  There were no defensive linemen or linebackers selected in this draft. Granted, the defense was good last year, but it never hurts to draft some defensive linemen to add some depth.  Still, I love the Wisniewski, Barksdale and Jones picks. I am also very curious to see where Ausberry will end up.

Until my next article, I’ll be watching baseball and keeping an eye on the labor talks.  Take it easy.

The Raider Guy