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Saturday, April 25, 2009

2009 First Round Draft Surprises

The first round of the 2009 NFL Draft lived up to the hype with surprise trades, interesting picks, and down right steals within the first 10 picks. Quarterback Matthew Stafford of Georgia went number 1 overall, as expected. The St. Louis Rams played it coy for a while; taking their pick at the very last second. In the end, they drafted Jason Smith, OT from Baylor which was also predicted by most mock drafts. Then things got interesting....

Kansas City Chiefs select: Tyson Jackson DE (LSU)
Not many people saw this pick coming. Most mock drafters had Aaron Curry linebacker from Wake Forest being taken with this pick. I never would have predicted Jackson to be the third pick overall, but he was the best 3-4 defensive end in the draft. So maybe I should have saw him coming.

Seattle Seahawks select: Aaron Curry LB (Wake Forest)
I'm not sure how Kansas City could pass up a guy like Aaron Curry. But, I can imagine that Seattle was thrilled to still see him on the board. Analyst predicted Curry to go somewhere between the 1st pick and the 3rd pick. So, Seattle takes him with the 4th pick overall. Curry was by far the best linebacker in the draft and arguably the best all around player.

New York Jets (trade with Cleveland) select: Mark Sanchez QB (USC)
You would think that Jets fans would finally be happy. New York makes a deal with their former coach, Eric Mangini (Browns) to move up to the 5th pick and take the hotly contested quarterback Mark Sanchez. It was probably the most exciting move of day one. And yet, I'm pretty sure I still saw a few Jets fans griping.

Oakland Raiders select: Darrius Heyward-Bey WR (Maryland)
Bey is headed to the Bay area in this surprise pick from Oakland. Al Davis chose to get the guy with the fastest 40 yard dash time (4.3) and the biggest size (6'2", 210 lbs.). Most analyst deemed Michael Crabtree as the best receiver in the draft, with Jeremy Maclin being a close second. But, the Raiders left them both on the board and decided to go with raw speed with the 7th overall pick.

Jacksonville Jaguars select: Eugene Monroe OT (Virginia)
Here, the Jaguars make an excellent pick with Monroe, who was arguably the most talented offensive tackle in this year's draft. Mock boards had him going anywhere from the 2nd overall pick to the Rams or with the 4th overall pick to Seattle. With a couple of surpise picks and a trade in the top five, Monroe fell to 8th overall and Jacksonville gets a big guy up front for less money than trading up. Sweet deal for the Jags.

San Francisco 49ers select: Michael Crabtree WR (Texas Tech)
The 49ers scored big with the 10th overall pick in this year's draft. They have had a glaring need at the wide receiver position since Terrell Owens left in 2003. Coach Singletary never expected the best wideout in the draft to be available when the 49ers were on the clock. And there he was, Michael Crabtree sitting pretty at the number 10 pick. Crabtree is by far, the biggest play maker in the 2009 draft and the 49ers get him at a steal. Crabtree appeared happy to be chosen by the storied franchise saying he wanted to go to a team that "wanted and needed" him. Well, he may not have been wanted by Oakland, but he is both wanted and needed by the 49ers who now have their own big receiver in the NFC West.

Day one did not disappoint this fan, who thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. Now, if you're like me and can never get enough of NFL football, you will be roaring to go on Day Two. There is still a lot of talent to be had in the draft pool. Need examples of some late round picks that later became NFL super stars? See my previous post: Top Ten Biggest Draft Steals Of All Time.

Stafford Will Be The Number 1 Pick

The Detroit Lions have made their decision for their number 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft and it will be Matthew Stafford, quarterback from the University of Georgia. Steve Wyche of reports that Stafford signed a 6 year deal that will pay out $41.7 million in guaranteed money. It is also reported that the overall deal could be worth as much as $78 million.

Detroit's decision to go with a quarterback is not a surprising one. Many mock drafts, including mine, has Stafford as the number 1 pick. Aaron Curry, linebacker from Wake Forest, shook things up this week by announcing that he would take less money than last year's number 1 pick if the Lions were to choose him. But, the Lions kept after Stafford who also expressed a desire to play for Detroit, the only team to have a 0-16 season in NFL history.

Stafford will have some veteran experience to learn from on Detroit's roster. That comes in the form of Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper who, by many accounts, looks better than he did last season. With the deal in place, Stafford should be on time to training camp and all off season workouts. Detroit studied Stafford thouroughly; reviewing film, attending his pro day, and inviting him into town for a detailed workout.

Detroit hopes that Stafford's good looks, talent, and rocket arm will excite fans and become the face of the franchise. After debuting new uniforms and airing positive commercials locally, the Lions are taking on their daunting task of rebuilding with full steam. Now that they have made their choice with the number 1 overall pick, they will invest in making sure that choice has every chance to succeed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Latest NFL News

Its the day before the 2009 NFL Draft and teams are positioning themselves to get the best players to fill the voids in their roster. Teams and players are also making key decisions before the draft, which may or may not affect the draft picks tomorrow. In the past 24 hours, there has been a major trade, a possible trade request, and a major contract extension:

Tony Gonzalez Is Traded To The Atlanta Falcons
Score one for Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons for conducting this trade. They get the only TE in the history of the NFL to make 10 trips to the Pro Bowl and all they have to give up is a 2nd round pick in next year's draft. Gonzalez also caught 10 touchdowns last year (76 career TDs) and over 1000 yards.

Jason Campbell Wants Trade if Washington Takes A Quarterback
Jason Campbell is definitely feeling unwanted in Washington. There were reports that the Redskins were offering Campbell in pursuit of a trade for former Denver quarterback Jay Cutler. Now, it appears that the Redskins are serious about obtaining USC quarterback Mark Sanchez in tomorrow's draft; possibly trading up to do so (they have the 13th pick). Steve Wyche of reports that Campbell will request to be traded if the Redskins opt to draft a quarterback tomorrow.

Jake Delhomme Gets 5 Year Contract Extension
Jake Delhomme definitely feels wanted in Carolina. Even after his horrible performance in their playoff loss to Arizona, Carolina signed Delhomme to a 5 year, $42.5 million contract with $20 million guaranteed. Delhomme threw 5 interceptions in a home playoff game against the Cardinals last season. However, before that playoff game Delhomme had 15 touchdown passes and a QB rating of 84.7 on the year.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Aaron Curry Could Still Go #1

Aaron Curry is playing this draft thing smart. Which isn't surprising, seeing how smart he plays on the field. As the Lions continue to negotiate with Georgia QB Matt Stafford, Curry keeps his name and ability fresh in the minds of the Detroit franchise. He also mentioned that he would take less money than last year's number 1 overall pick, Jack Long.

On Pat Kirwan's Sirius radio show, Aaron Curry just happened to mention that he would be willing to do a pre-draft deal worth less than the $57.5 million ($30 million guaranteed) that the Miami Dolphins structured with Long, the offensive tackle from the University of Michigan. Why would Curry put himself in a position to make less money as the number 1 overall pick? He can already predict success in Detroit.

The thought of lining up with linebackers Julian Peterson and Ernie Sims was a positive scenario in Curry's mind. The Lions could re-think this pick if negotiations with Stafford come to a stand still. The Lions fans would probably be more excited and comfortable with them drafting a talented and explosive linebacker like Curry. So many rookie QBs have problems adjusting to the NFL and, as they say, defense wins championships. Having a pass rusher like Curry would provide the Lions a solid linebacker corp and their very own Ray Lewis, or Patrick Willis. Heck, he could be their very own Brian Urlacher who plays for their division rival, the Chicago Bears.

If Stafford does not get a deal done with Detroit and Curry becomes the pick, Stafford could fall pretty far from the number 1 overall spot. Mark Sanchez, QB from USC, is rising up the chart faster than anyone saw happening. Many mock drafters have him at the 4th pick now, going to the Seattle Seahawks. If Stafford does a "Lienart" and fall from the top 5, he could go as low as 10th or even near the end of the first round; reminiscent of QB Aaron Rogers who fell to 24th overall in the 2005 draft.

Basically, the pressure is on Stafford to get a deal done. He doesn't have the luxury of playing hard ball with Detroit because Detroit holds all of the cards. Curry's statements have given Detroit another option that may provide more of an upside than drafting Stafford. Curry will play right away and could bring instant production. Stafford, although appearing ready for the next level, will take some grooming before he can really contribute to the offense.

Curry's willingness to "take one for the team" and take less money, highlights his character. He's not even drafted yet, but he's willing to do what is best for the Detroit Lions. Detroit is also being smart in this decision. Tom Kowalski of reports that they already have a deal in place with Curry. If Stafford's deal isn't in place by Friday, Aaron Curry will be the number 1 pick in the 2009 draft.

The absolute clincher in all of this? Detroit also has the 20th pick in this year's draft. There is a possibility that they could draft Curry with the top pick and watch Stafford fall down the draft board. If the Lions could manage to draft both Curry and Stafford, it would be one of the best first rounds for a team in recent memory. After becoming the first team to go 0-16 in NFL history, I'd say they are due for a few good bounces to go their way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lions Zone In on Stafford reports that the Lions are in negotiations to get a deal done with Georgia QB Matt Stafford before Saturday's draft. According to the report, the Lions are in talks with Tom Condon and Ben Dogra who represent both Matt Stafford and Baylor OT Jason Smith. Smith appears to be the back-up plan if a deal cannot be reached with Stafford in the next few days.

If taken with the #1 pick, Stafford would begin his career as the backup to veteran QB Daunte Culpepper. However, it is believed that Stafford has the skills to be competitive enough in training camp to give Culpepper a run for his money.

I, for one, hope the Lions get this deal done. It would give them a chance at having a true franchise quarterback. Also, it would give my mock draft a chance at being accurate.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Top 10 NFL Draft Busts of the Past 20 Years

For this top 10 Tuesday, we will explore the draft picks that didn't live up to the hype. These are the guys that were picked in the first round, signed the contract, made the roster, and then just fizzled out into oblivion. Some names you will recognize and some won't even ring a bell. These are the players whose college stats indicated promise and success at the NFL level. Once there, these guys didn't stand a chance. Here are my top ten draft busts of the past 20 years:

10) Jim Drunkenmiller (San Francisco 49ers, 1st round, pick 26, 1997)
Jim Drunkenmiller was drafted to be the successor to Steve Young. The 49ers, known for their ability to turn young rookie quarterbacks into superstars, picked Drunkenmiller to be their signal caller for the future. What they got was a guy who simply could not play at the next level.

Drunkenmiller's stats are grim. He played in only 6 games and threw only 1 touchdown along with 4 interceptions (a QB rating of 29.2). The 49ers traded him to Miami who ended up releasing him after a short stay.

9) Tim Couch (Cleveland Browns, 1st round, pick 1, 1999)
Tim Couch was going to be the savior of the Browns' organization. Expectations for Couch were high, to say the least. He was given the starting role over then starter Ty Detmer by the second game in his rookie season. Expectations are one thing, productivity is another. Couch's career just never got off the couch.

He had one promising season in 2002, where he threw for 18 touchdowns, but also 18 interceptions. That year, he managed to get the Browns' to a wildcard playoff game. A game that Couch couldn't even play in. Couch suffered a broken leg in the final game of the regular season and had to watch backup QB Kelly Holcomb start the game. The Browns lost; but Holcomb threw for over 400 yards. Thus started the QB controversy that eventually ran Couch out of Cleveland.

8) Andre Ware (Detroit Lions, 1st round, pick 7 1990)
Andre Ware's college career was off the chain. He was the first black quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy. In his junior year, he threw for almost 4700 yards and 44 touchdowns. Then, Ware decided to enter into the NFL draft. I can't say I blame him. Fame and fortune awaited him at the next level and all signs pointed to success. But, success was not to be had for Ware in the NFL.

Playing third string to starter Rodney Peete and backup Erik Kramer, Ware never really had significant playing time. When he did, it was dismal. He only made six starts in which he threw 5 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. By 1994, he was with the L.A. Raiders who cut him after just a few games.

7) Cade McNown (Chicago Bears, 1st round, pick 12, 1999)
Cade McNown was the Bears highest draft pick since Jim McMahon in a quarterback rich draft that also featured Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb. McNown was thought to be the most ready for the NFL. That notion proved to be false.

McNown was in constant trouble off field with everything from false handicap parking passes to playboy bunnies. His career, however, was not much to talk about. He threw 16 total touchdown passes and 19 interceptions as an NFL quarterback.

6) Akili Smith (Cincinnati Bengals, 1st round, pick 3, 1999)
Like I said, 1999 was a quarterback rich draft. Akili Smith was a part of that draft class and unfortunately for the Bengals, he did not live up to his 3rd overall pick billing. Smith started off his NFL career as a contract holdout; he missed a lot of his first training camp which proved to be his first mistake.

Akili Smith never really got a handle on playing in the NFL and went on to only start 17 games in which he threw only 5 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. The Bengals released Smith in 2002 and his pro football career eventually fizzled out.

5) Charles Rogers (Detroit Lions, 1st round, pick 2, 2003)
Former Detroit Lions GM Matt Millen really liked drafting receivers. Charles Rogers was the first of four wideouts taken in the first round of the draft and the biggest bust of the franchise. The homegrown receiver (born in Saginaw, star at MSU) started off his rookie season on a positive note with 3 touchdowns in his first 5 games.

Then, Rogers broke his collar bone during a practicing drill and was gone for the season. He rehabbed, came back, and on the third play in the following season, he broke his collarbone again. The following year, Rogers failed a drug test which caused the Lions to request that he return $10 million in bonuses. The league suspended him for 4 games. Rogers went on to catch only 1 touchdown after his collarbone injury and drug suspension. The Lions officially released him in 2006.

4) Heath Shuler (Washington Redskins, 1st round, pick 3, 1994)
Here's another rookie who decided to hold out of training camp in contract negotiations. Shuler started 8 games during his rookie season and with his 10 touchdowns (11 picks) the Redskins were hopeful in his abilities.

Then, Shuler threw 5 interceptions against the Cardinals and was eventually benched for pro bowler Gus Frerotte. Over subsequent seasons, Shuler went on to throw 21 picks and just 5 touchdowns. He left the NFL in 1998. He moved on to politics and is now a congressman in North Carolina.

3) KiJana Carter (Cincinnati Bengals, 1st round, pick 1, 1995)
The Cincinnati Bengals actually traded up to grab KiJana Carter, which makes this bust even more tragic. Carter busted his knee on his third carry in his first preseason game. He was never able to make much of his NFL career after that. A couple of one season stints with the Redskins and the Saints didn't help much. His single season best was a paltry 464 yards rushing.

2) Lawrence Phillips (St. Louis Rams, 1st round, pick 6, 1996)
Lawrence Phillips had trouble from the start. While in college, Phillips had an altercation with an ex-girlfriend that left the woman pretty banged up. He was suspended from the team. The public outcry was that Phillips needed to be off the team altogether. His coach, however, stuck with him and Phillips eventually entered the 1996 draft.

His off-field reputation followed him and Phillips was taken with the 6th pick, when some felt he should have been picked higher. While with the Rams, Phillips had trouble with coach Dick Vermeil who eventually cut the running back after he failed to show up to practices and meetings. Vermeil was saddened by the turn of events and even called Phillips the best running back he ever coached. Phillips tried a comeback here and there but eventually his off-field problems continued. In October of 2008, Lawrence Phillips was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.

1) Ryan Leaf (San Diego Chargers 1st round, pick 2, 1998)
If you take the encyclopedia and look up the term "draft bust" you will most likely find Ryan Leaf's picture. The hype surrounding Leaf in the 1998 draft was extremely high. It was common knowledge that the two standouts in the draft class were Leaf and Peyton Manning. Manning was the more mature and polished quarterback; Leaf was the bigger, stronger QB with the rocket arm. Most analysts agreed at the time that drafting either Leaf or Manning would provide the drafting team a sure fire franchise quarterback.

The Chargers traded two 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick to move up to the second spot to draft either Manning or Leaf. San Diego drafted Leaf and signed him to a contract that included the biggest signing bonus ever paid to a rookie. After signing the contract, Leaf skipped out on the Rookie Symposium, which is mandatory for all incoming draftees. In his first 9 games, Leaf threw 2 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Included with his very poor performance on field, was a horrible attitude toward his teammates and the media while off the field.

A notorious exchange between Leaf and a reporter in the Chargers locker room was caught on film and showed Leaf having to be restrained by teammate Junior Seau. Later, a separate video showing Ryan Leaf playing a pickup game of flag football while he was supposedly nursing a shoulder and wrist injury, solidified his self destruction in San Diego. The story of Ryan Leaf as a draft bust is now used as a cautionary tale for incoming rookies as well as the teams that draft them. Teams are now more likely to do extensive research and testing on their picks; especially the players drafted high in the first round.

Those are my top 10 draft busts of the last 20 years. There were definitely other players who could have made this list. But, I felt that each of these rookies had extraordinary expectations before they ever took a snap in the NFL. The disappointment and money lost on these draft picks definitely left teams and their fans hurting for seasons to come.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Boldin Still Wants Out

Last season, the Arizona Cardinals made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Since that time, they have lost their offensive coordinator, Todd Haley (now the head coach of the Chiefs), their starting quarterback flirted with free agency (and had hip surgery), and now one of their star receivers is officially on the trading block. Anquan Boldin wants out of Arizona and he's not shy about it.

Truth be told, Boldin wanted out way before the Super Bowl. In fact, he was discussing the possibility last summer; before the season even started. The Florida native and former Florida State Seminole wants to go home and play for the Miami Dolphins.

But, with two years left on his existing contract, he has had to wait on the Cardinals to make the decision regarding his future in Arizona. Its a tough decision. Boldin missed 4 games last season (recovery from severe blow to face; nagging hip injury). He still managed to nab 89 receptions, 1038 yards, and 11 touchdowns.

Productivity has never been a problem for Boldin. His attitude, on the other hand, has gotten in his way at times. The sight of Boldin getting into a heated shouting match with Offensive Coordinator Haley during the playoffs put him in a bad light. His team was on its way to winning the biggest game in the history of the franchise and advance to the NFC Championship game. Instead of cheering on his team or even appearing ready to enter the game, Boldin appeared to instigate an exchange with Haley, which prompted the Coordinator to yell at Boldin and dismiss him altogether in an attempt to coach his driving offense.

So now the Cardinals are at an impasse. They do have one of the best wideouts in the game in Larry Fitzgerald, but Boldin brings balance and is always a continued threat when on the field. Fitzgerald's new contract is mammoth compared to Boldin's and the Cardinals have acknowledged that. But, Boldin wants more than they are willing to give; perhaps because he is simply not happy being a Cardinal. Arizona wants huge compensation. They are looking for a similar trade deal that was made between the Lions and Dallas during last season for wideout Roy Williams. Dallas gave up a 1st, 3rd, and 6th round pick in this year's draft to obtain Williams. Teams that have shown interest are: the Ravens, Eagles, and Giants. If the trade does happen, the Cardinals will want Boldin out of the NFC.

After all of this, the Cardinals still want to work out a way to keep Boldin in Arizona. In fact, Warner initiated such talks in his own contract negotiations, stipulating that the Cardinals find a way to keep Boldin on the roster. Also, Larry Fitzgerald has indicated that he would be willing to do whatever it takes to keep Boldin on the team; maybe even restructure his own contract. But, when a player wants off a team, it is very difficult to bring together all of the elements in place that would be needed to change his mind. Just ask the Denver Broncos and Jay Cutler.