Some quick thoughts on the first round of the draft: - Why did ESPN hire St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tory Holt as an analyst? . . . he did not provide any good insight and continually mispronounced players’ names . . . - As usual, Mel Kiper and Chris Mortenson were solid with their analysis . . . that is what us draftniks want . . .
- Every person watching the draft had to feel for Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers . . . after being projected as a top 7 pick, Rodgers had to sit for hours and watch his stock fall until the Packers picked him at number 24 . . .
- I love Miami’s selection of running back Ronnie Brown . . . I watched him at Auburn and was impressed . . . Brown never ran out-of-bounds, instead he would drop his shoulder and take on defenders . . .
- The Browns have weapons . . . Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, and Antonio Bryant are three receivers who will stretch a defense . . .
- Joey Harrington will be done in Detroit if he gets off to a poor start . . . with three stud receivers in Roy Williams, Charlie Rogers, and now Mike Williams . . . whew!!!
- I was impressed with Texas running back Cedric Benson . . . during the last few months, Benson was often compared to another former Texas back – Ricky "I never met a joint I could refuse" Williams . . . but Benson got clean shaved and lost the dreadlocks . . . like he told Suzy Kolber, he considered himself being interviewed for a job just like anyone else and he wanted to leave a good impression . . .
- Talking about Suzy Kolber, she looked good -- as usual . . .
- Mort and Mel stated that first pick, Alex Smith will probably be the starting quarterback for the 49ers this season . . . I just don’t understand why the media, last year, kept making a big thing about Eli Manning starting for the Giants as the season wore on . . . cripe, let the kid play so he can learn . . . I still believe that Bill Parcells stayed with Vinny Testaverde too long instead of giving Drew Henson or Tony Romo an opportunity to learn . . . - Jacksonville jumped on Matt Jones early . . . this will be a hit or miss pick . . . how many 6'6" white boys can run the 40 in 4.39? . . .
- Detroit got a steal of defensive lineman Shaun Cody in round two . . .
God gave us football fans a reprieve today with the weather. . . it's cloudy, cold, and dreary -- yeh baby, it's football weather in April . . . the draft is less than an hour away . . . just ordered my gyros and wings . . . have my Mel Kiper draft book and cheat sheets next to my new fat leather La-Z-Boy . . . baby, life is sweet!
As most of you know, award winning sports journalist Mitch Albom, of the Detroit Free Press, is under fire for fabricating one of his recent columns . . . this interesting article appeared in the L.A. Times:
Here are my predictions for the first round . . . things may change because of trades, which will occur . . . but I can only go by what the draft order is at this time 1. 49ers - the latest indicates Alex Smith – A. Smith, qb, Utah 2. Dolphins - they are blowing smoke by talking about Edwards . . . they go with a stud back - R. Brown, rb, Auburn 3. Browns - Cleveland needs a star playmaker . . . they get him - B. Edwards, wr, Michigan 4. Bears - Chicago needs a good running back . . . plus, with Thomas Jones there, the rookie isn’t rushed into the fracas - C. Williams, rb, Auburn 5. Buccaneers - Rodgers star has fallen . . . and Gruden is there to pick him up - A. Rodgers, qb, Cal 6. Titans - the team needs corners, but will get a familiar weapon for Norm Chow - M. Williams, wr, Southern Cal 7. Vikings - Vikes will try and move up . . . if Edwards is gone, they go defense - P.M. Jones, cb, West Virginia 8. Cardinals - if they make the trade for Travis Henry, they go cb here . . . if not, they go running back - C. Benson, rb, Texas 9. Redskins - there is so much talk coming out of Redskin Park who knows what is really happening . . . if they stay here with this pick, the choice is easy - A. Rolle, cb, Miami
10. Lions - "experts" have them taking Johnson from Texas . . . not so fast my friend - S. Merriman, dl/lb, Maryland 11. Cowboys - Parcells likes those guys from little schools - D. Ware, de, Troy State 12. Chargers - surprise surprise . . . look who is here - D. Johnson, lb, Texas 13. Texans - they go with best offensive lineman on the board - A. Barron, ot, Florida State 14. Panthers - John Fox loves defensive lineman to team up with Peppers - M. Spears, de, LSU 15. Chiefs - this is a perfect fit . . . the emotional Dick Vermeil needs defense . . . who better than this textbook kid whose motor is always going - D. Pollack, de/lb, Georgia 16. Saints - who knows which way this team is going? . . . T. Johnson, dt, Florida State 17. Bengals - Cinncy will love it if this guy is here - C. Rogers, cb, Auburn 18. Vikings - Tice missed out on a receiver earlier . . . not this time though - R. White, wr, UAB 19. Rams - it seems like they always need defense - D. Cody, de, Oklahoma
20. Cowboys - team needs a receiver . . . and this guy has slipped - T. Williamson, wr, South Carolina 21. Jaguars - they need help in the secondary - M. Jackson, cb, Michigan 22. Ravens - they lost Baxter to free agency . . . need to fill that hole - J. Miller, cb, Clemson 23. Seahawks - Holmgren will quickly snatch up this pass rush specialist - E. James, de, Wisconsin 24. Packers - they need help on defense . . . S. Cody, de, Southern Cal 25. Redskins - I’m going with what the talk is - J. Campbell, qb, Auburn 26. Raiders - they traded cb Buchanon earlier in the week . . . they go with this burner - F. Washington, cb, Nebraska 27. Falcons - Mora planned on going with defense, but he cannot pass up this kid - M. Clayton, wr, Oklahoma 28. Chargers - they went with a linebacker earlier . . . they might as well stay on that side of the ball - M. Roth, de, Iowa 29. Colts - defense!!! - T. Davis, lb, Georgia
30. Steelers - this is a perfect fit - M. Jones, wr/te, Arkansas 31. Eagles - they go with best player at his position - H. Miller, te, Virginia 32. Patriots - the Champs have some holes to fill . . . they go with a versatile player - D. Baas, ol, Michigan
Here is where I predict some individual players end up: - Maurice Clarett, rb, Ohio State - 5th round - Seahawks or Cardinals - Mike Nugent, k, Ohio State - 2nd round - Chiefs - Walter Reyes, rb, Syracuse - 4th round - Steelers - Charlie Frye, qb, Akron - 2nd round - Saints
Kojak began sucking on lollipops on the eighth episode . . . in fact one of his detectives even asked him why he has been eating lollipops . . . Kojak responded, "I'm trying to bridge the generational gap" . . .
The clock is ticking in Cleveland . . . two years may seem like a lot of time, but it isn't . . . in fact, the clock is ticking right now for the management of the Cleveland Cavaliers . . . the time is now . . .
The Cavs meteoric fall from a playoff spot has obviously left a sour taste with Lebron James as rumors continue to swirl that he will bolt from his hometown team once he becomes a free agent in 2 years . . . we will now see if the Cavs are truly serious about winning a title or is this once again lip service from another Clevelander . . .
If the Cavs are serious about keeping Lebron and winning a championship, then they need to show it by putting down the money and committing to Phil Jackson . . . I don't want to hear names like Flip Saunders, Mo Cheeks, Jim Calhoun, etc, etc, etc . . . don't get me wrong, these are all good coaches . . . however, they don't bring that instant credibility like the name Phil Jackson . . . when you sign Phil Jackson then you make a statement to the rest of the league that you are committed to winning . . .
Money is not the only thing that will make Jackson commit to Cleveland . . . the Cavs ownership must also secure another quality player or two in order to help Lebron . . . Jackson is not coming to Cleveland if the owners don't promise to get him the parts he needs in order to win . . . Lebron himself cannot do it . . . over the last month it is clear that Lebron is the type of player who can take over a game -- but he also needs help such as a Scottie Pippen-like player who can score and play defense . . . Lebron is taking them as far as he can by himself -- he needs help which means the Cavs have to open the wallet . . .
When Cleveland drafted Lebron they had to understand that they have to spend not only on him, but for other quality players as well in order to keep him happy to stay in Cleveland . . . Lebron is not going to give the Cavs a "hometown" discount . . . ask the Indians if Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, and Jim Thome gave them a "hometown discount". . .
The ball is in the Cavs court -- the best coach is out there for their taking -- but will we once again wait to see if another Cleveland sports team refuses to put up the money in order to make a full out effort to win a championship . . .
- Is it just me or is the honeymoon over for T.O. in Philly? . . . I'm not saying it's going to happen, but I would not be stunned if T.O. was traded . . . ever since he opened his trap last week when he demanded more money, things have not been happy in Eagleland . . .
- ESPN reports that the Redskins are hot for Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell . . .
- I think the 49ers are bluffing about taking Alex Smith at number one . . .
- Minnesota will not sit pat at number 7 because they covet either Braylon Edwards or Mike Williams . . .
- Someone is going to drop -- will that be Cadillac Williams, Pac Man Jones, or Cedric Benson? . . .
- This is the best draft in years because of the uncertainty . . .
- I'm not sold on Aaron Rogers or Alex Smith . . .
- Maurice Clarett will get drafted - why not? . . . I would gamble on the kid in the fifth or sixth round . . . you have nothing to lose . . . if he is a lunkhead in training camp -- you cut him . . . Clarett may be able to play in the NFL if he is in the right situation . . . it would be best for him to get drafted by a team far away from Ohio . . . he would fit well with Arizona because Denny Green is used to dealing with lunkheads (ala Moss) . . .
- Remember when Auburn's Aundray Bruce was the first pick of the draft . . .
- If the Browns draft Braylon Edwards, they will have two weapons next season . . . don't forget they also have Kellen Winslow . . . suddenly the Browns could become a bit dangerous . . .
Despite being the defending champions, the Pats have some holes to fill . . . New England lost Joe Andruzzi on the offensive line, Ty Law at corner, and Roman Phifer at linebacker due to free agency/salary cap casualties . . . then there was the unexpected health condition of linebacker Tedi Bruschi, who may not play this season . . .
This team has some work to do during Saturday's draft . . . speculation from the draft experts indicate the Patriots will be going with a cornerback with the last pick of the first round (number 32 overall) . . . that may be the wise move, but much like the Steelers who also have concerns at corner, there is an abundance of depth at corner in this year's draft, so don't be surprised if the Patriots look elsewhere in the first round . . .
It would not surprise me if the Patriots selected Michigan offensive lineman David Baas because of his versatality on the line . . . Baas started at guard for the Wolverines then moved to center last season and was co-winner of the Rimington Award . . . Baas has been impressive during workouts and has a the mean streak that offensive linemen need . . .
Everything may be pointing to the Patriots taking a cornerback at number 32, but don't be surprised if they go with Baas or another offensive lineman . . .
On Monday the sports world lost two sports figures . . . 45-year-old Sam Mills died from cancer of the intestines . . . Mills was a former All-Pro linebacker for the Saints and Panthers
Also on Monday, former college basketball coach Clarence "Big House" Gaines died from complications of stroke which he suffered on Saturday . . . Gaines, who was 81-years-old, coached for 47 seasons at Winston-Salem State where he rang up 828 wins which ranks him fifth all-time on the NCAA career list behind Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, Bob Knight, and Jim Phelan . . .
It's true that the Yankee bats woke up last night after The Boss' mandate after getting their clocks cleaned by Baltimore this weekend . . . New York smoked Tampa Bay 19-8, however Yankee fans should not be breathing easier . . . luckily the offense erupted for 13 runs in the second inning because once again Jaret Wright had another poor performance on the mound . . .
Wright pitched 5.1 innings and gave up 11 hits and 8 earned runs . . . as I have said before, and will continue to say throughout the season, New York made a big mistake by giving this head case a three-year contract worth $7 million a year . . . he was garbage in Cleveland and lucky in Atlanta . . .
Take away the 13 runs that were scored in the second inning, and the Yanks lose 8-6 . . . The Boss should not be pleased with what he has seen from his pitching staff so far this season . . . tonight Randy Johnson starts for the Bombers . . . he has been unimpressive so far this year . . .
USA Network is bringing back the old detective series Kojak with Ving Rhames as the star . . . Rhames may be a good actor but there is only one Theo Kojak and that is Telly Savalas, my Greek phillo (friend)
This past weekend I bought the first season of the original Kojak at DVD . . . Savalas was one smooth dude as Kojak . . . also starring on the show was Savalas' brother who played Stavros, another NYPD detective . . .
Funny thing though, I've watched seven episodes and he has yet to put a lollipop in his mouth and say "Who Loves Ya, Baby"
After a horrible 1-5 road trip where the Yankees got swept by the Orioles and smoked by the World Champion Red Sox, "The Boss" finally spoke up -- and rightfully so . . . the Yankees pitching staff has been shredded . . . there is not one consistent starter while the bullpen is even worse . . . look for reliever Tom Gordon to be gone soon if he does not improve . . . after being rattled in the playoffs last year against the Twins and Red Sox, Gordon has picked up where he's left off . . . on Saturday he came in and gave up a three run homer which cost the Yankees the game . . .
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a good spot at number 30 . . . if by some chance a player slides, the Steelers could be there waiting with open arms to grab him . . . who could forget when the Miami Dolphins snatched up a quarterback named Marino late in the first round after he kept sliding . . .
Otherwise, the Steelers need to improve their cornerbacks . . . Deshea Townsend and Willie Williams are the starters and second year corner Ricardo Colclough is a future starter . . . but the Steelers are one injury away from trouble at this position . . . and who is to say that Townsend and Williams play as well as they did last year . . .
The two studs coming out of college at the corner position are Pac Man Jones from West Virginia and Antrel Rolle from Miami – these guys will be long gone by the time Pittsburgh selects at number 30 . . . Auburn’s Carlos Rogers is the next rated corner, however some pre-draft sheets have Rogers being taken as early as number 15 to Kansas City and as late as the last pick in the first round . . . more than likely Rogers will be off the board by number 30 . . . if he is there – take him!!
That leaves Bill Cowher with a plethora of next level corners such as Fabian Washington, Marlin Jackson, Justin Miller, and Eric Green . . . because of the depth at this position in the draft, the Steelers may go another direction if Rogers if off the board and wait to snag a corner later in the draft . . .
Mel Kiper has the Steelers taking tight end Heath Miller from Virginia . . . however, I can see Cowher rolling the dice here and reaching a bit to take the multi-talented Matt Jones from Arkansas . . . Jones, who is 6-6 and ran the 40 in 4.40, was a quarterback at Arkansas and is projected as either a tight end or wide receiver in the NFL . . . a few months ago Jones was looking at being selected in the fifth round, but he has been impressive in individual workouts . . . he is a work in progress, but the type of player Cowher likes ala Slash Stewart, Hines Ward, and Antwaan Randle El . . .
The Steelers go with Jones here . . .
As far as addressing their need at corner, the Steelers can draft some raw talent later in draft by taking someone like Karl Paymah from Washington State or Stanford Routt from Houston . . . both players have size and great speed . . . there is also Daven Holley from Cincinnati . . . remember, last year in the second round Pittsburgh took Colclough from a little known school . . . I see the Steelers draft shaking down like this: 30th pick - Matt Jones, wr/te, Arkansas 62nd pick - best cornerback 93rd pick - best running back
Next I preview the defending champion New England Patriots
In less than a week the third new era of the "new" Cleveland Browns will begin . . . there was the failed tenure of Chris Palmer and Dwight Clark . . . then came the knight in shining armor, Butch Davis and his can-do ego . . . now the Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage era begins with their first NFL draft as the head honchos of the Browns . . .
General manager Savage has a decision to make . . . all pre-draft sites point to the Browns taking Utah quarterback Alex Smith . . . however, I’m not sold on this pick . . . first round quarterbacks are a dime a dozen and a risk unless your name is Peyton Manning or Carson Palmer . . . I think it is even a bigger risk taking a quarterback with a pick as high as the third overall . . . this year's draft does not have a stud q.b. to justify taking him at number 3 . . .
Look at some of the quarterbacks who have led their team to the Super Bowl in recent years: Brady, Delhomme, Warner, Collins, Gannon, Dilfer . . . who was that last guy? . . . yeh, Trent Dilfer who is now the Browns quarterback . . . I know that Dilfer and Collins were first round draft choices, but they made it to the Super Bowl after they flopped with their original team was claimed off the scrap heap . . . in this year’s draft, a quarterback would be a good choice if the Browns had, say the 10th or 14th overall pick, not the 3rd overall pick . . .
In what direction does boy genius Savage go? . . .
All signs point that the Dolphins will pick Auburn workhorse running back Ronnie Brown with the second pick . . . . unless Nick Saban is throwing up a smoke screen, this looks like a done deal . . . however, if Saban is bluffing and passes on Brown, then Cleveland should not hesitate and take the Auburn back . . . since returning in 1999, the Browns lacked a true stud in the backfield . . . William Green was a risky pick a few years back because of his off-the-field problems . . .
Also, I am not sold on newly acquired back Rueben Droughns from Denver . . . is Droughns the real deal or is he another by-product of the Denver running system, such as Olandis Gary and Clinton Portis? . . . if Brown is there – take him . . . if Brown is slow to develop, Savage has himself an insurance policy in Droughns and Lee Suggs . . .
Realistically though, it looks like Brown will be a Dolphin . . . so what now? . . .
The Browns could trade down and acquire additional draft picks . . . that may be the smart move . . . this team has a lot of holes to fill . . . they need another offensive lineman and they could snatch an Alex Barron or Jammal Brown in the mid-first round . . . they also need a linebacker and Texas’ Derrick Johnson leads the list . . . he could possibly be taken around the 8th to 11th pick . . . to take him at number three would be a reach . . . Savage could slide down a bit and gamble that Johnson would be there at 7, 8 or 9 . . .
Maybe a trade could be made with Minnesota at number 7 being that the Vikings want either Braylon Edwards or Mike Williams at wide receiver . . . and it is quite possible both could be gone by then . . .
If the Browns cannot work a deal and are stuck with the third pick they may have to look at a playmaker such as Edwards . . . yes Browns fans, you may have to root for a Michigan player . . . since 1999, the Browns have draft a ton of average receivers who turned out to be busts . . . I’m sorry, but Dennis Northcutt and Andre Davis do not strike fear in cornerbacks . . . Edwards would be the first bona fide stud at a skill position for the Browns in many years . . .
If the Browns stay with the third pick, I say take Edwards . . .
In the second round Cleveland can address their need for a future quarterback by taking Auburn’s Jason Campbell . . . Campbell has been impressive since leading the Tigers to a perfect season in 2004 . . . he has also impressed the NFL teams during workouts . . . if Campbell is gone by the 34th pick, then Cleveland could look to build their offensive line by taking a David Baas, Ray Willis or Chris Spencer . . .
They should not consider taking Akron quarterback Charlie Frye just because he is from northeast Ohio . . . reports indicate that Frye has small hands and lacks zip on the ball . . . if Campbell is gone, the Browns should hold off and consider taking former Florida State quarterback Adrian McPherson or Georgia q.b. David Greene later . . .
McPherson has all the tools to be a stud, but he has a checkered past while in Tallahassee . . . it seems that McPherson finally has his head on straight and could be a steal in round 3 or 4 . . .
Predictions: 3rd overall pick - Braylon Edwards, wr, Michigan 34th overall pick - Jason Campbell, qb, Auburn 67th overall pick - Chris Canty, dl, Virginia 103rd overall pick - best offensive lineman on the board
During the course of the week I will be previewing Saturday’s NFL Draft . . . my next column will be a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers