Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Off Season Questions: Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins

1.     So…John Beck
Who is this guy? Well John Beck was drafted in 2007 and apparently Mike Shanahan known in some circles as “That guy who benched a first ballot hall of famer in favor of Rex Grossman” thinks “the world of him”. Putting aside for one second my deep seated dislike and lack of respect for Shanahan I think we need to ask why exactly Shanahan thinks he’s so awesome that he deserves to be the starter. Shanahan says, according to ESPN, that he had Beck rated the highest in the 2007 draft class as far as quarterbacks were concerned. High praise right? Well let’s look at that star studded class of JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Kevin Kolb, Drew Stanton, Trent Edwards, Troy Smith, and Tyler Thigpen. Pretty epic draft class, their entire career records are so poor that Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is one win short of having more wins than all of them put together. So going back to Shanahan’s opinion, because that’s what it is…an opinion. Beck was not rated the highest in that draft class, that’s Shanahan’s opinion, he has not enjoyed anymore success than anybody in that draft class and has yet to win a single game in the NFL. He’s paired with a lunatic coach and one of the most dysfunctional organizations in the league second only perhaps to the Bengals.

2.     Which Leads Beautifully Into…
My next question! How far away from legitness are the Redskins? Answer: A long way, a really long way. The problem starts at the top, owner Daniel Snyder. Snyder has developed a nasty habit of throwing money on free agents and creating a tidal wave of hype that the player cannot hope to live up to. A perfect example of this is quarterback Donovan McNabb who is in limbo as waits to flee DC and never look back. McNabb, as I’ve talked about in earlier articles, was traded midway through last offseason from his beloved Philadelphia Eagles to division rival Washington. So of course several members of the media blew McNabb’s impact so far out of proportion that it was difficult to tell whether the Redskins had acquired McNabb or Gandhi. That the Redskins were viewed as being in contention for the NFC East last season is laughable. The Redskins organization has done this year after year bringing in high price free agents and swearing that this time is different. Back in the day this strategy had some merit and if the ‘Skins think that they’ve uncovered the next Matt Cassel then that’s great for them but I have my doubts. The Redskins this year showed signs of what the Raiders did last season, the beginnings of understanding that teams are built by the draft not by free agents. For instance last year I had the Raiders taking offensive lineman Bruce Campbell because he was fast, the Raiders always draft the fastest guy. Al Davis drafted Darrius Heyward Bay over the far superior prospect, Michael Crabtree due to 40 time. But then the Raiders shocked the world (and perhaps more importantly my mock draft) by taking Rolando McClain who was a solid prospect who instantly improved a pretty suckish Raiders defense. My point being that this season (with no free agency) the Redskins traded down and seem to have taken substance over style in solid pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan and running back Roy Helu (we’ll talk about him in a second). Teams have to be built through the draft especially when you have as many needs as the Redskins. If they continue to build through the draft and ease themselves off the crutch of free agency they should be contenders, till then the East belongs to Dallas, New York and Philly.

3.     The 100 Million Dollar Man
The Redskins have themselves a problem, about 100 million dollars worth of problems. Luckily (and by that I mean unluckily) for the Redskins those problems come nice and wrapped up in the behemoth that is Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth is a diva defensive tackle who has made a few things abundantly clear. 1. He has no intention of playing nose tackle. 2. He has no intention of being a Redskin. 3. The sooner he leaves the happier everybody (with the possible exception of his new team) will be. Haynesworth is gonna be a tough sell to numerous teams due to his well publicized feud with Shanahan during last offseason, his ridiculously high pay isn’t exactly helping. But like it or not, the moving of Haynesworth will dominate the Redskins organization until he moves.

4.     Helu, Goodbye
Yes that is a Roy Helu name pun, it is my first and probably will not be my last. Helu is a solid runner out of the University of Nebraska whose had back to back 1000 yard seasons and had some very strong showings last season. Meanwhile in the Redskins signed backfield there is Ryan Torain who showed flashes of potential last season after Clinton Portis suffered an injury to his groin that made me wince just hearing it. Which one of these men emerges as the featured back of this Redskins offense may prove to be a bigger deal than most people are treating it as. Think about this for a second, the Redskins are starting John Beck at QB (unless Shanahan is just yanking our chain) with possibly Rex Grossman as his backup. This star studded QB line up comes into a suspect offensive line with one real receiver and two good tight ends. That’s it. There’s definite talent on defense (Brian Orakpo is a monster. Fact.) but there’s not enough talent to be on the field most of the game, and if Beck and Sexy Rexy struggle to find their one receiver while DeMarcus Ware rides them to the turf then the ‘Skins better find a damn running game or perish. So which will it be? Helu? Torain? A mysterious stranger from the ranks of the undrafted? Nobody will know till the season gets started.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Off Season Questions: New York Giants

New York Giants

1.     Can Eli Manning Step It Up
For most quarterbacks a season where they threw for over 4000 yards and threw over 30 touchdowns would be cause for celebration. Not for Eli Manning, the Giants quarterback also threw 25 interceptions, which held back a Giants team that just missed the playoffs. If Manning ever wants to see the Super Bowl again (and maybe have something over his elder brother) he’s gonna have to step up his accuracy. The weapons are there in human safety blanket Steve Smith, playmaker Hakeem Nicks and the field stretching presence of Mario Manningham but can Manning deliver?

2.     Do the Giants have a running back they can count on?
Ahmad Bradshaw had a good season rushing for over 1000 yards and being a solid option in the passing game. That being said Bradshaw has proven to be injury prone and the Giants may not be able to count on him to be there every down. Then there’s Brandon Jacobs… Color me skeptical of Jacobs abilities who turns 29 in July and frankly if I was the Giants I wouldn’t have him back. It wasn’t just Jacobs’ less than great production, that he looked tentative at times trying to pick what hole he wanted to go through it was the “Manning Bowl” where I made my decision. It’s generally frowned upon in football to act like a 2 year old. Lists of things that are unacceptable in the sport of football include grabbing people’s facemask, holding, running in the wrong direction oh yeah and hurling your helmet into the stands because you got pulled from the game. Guess which one of these helped me decide that Jacobs can’t be depended on? The Giants’ need at running back is far from dire, Bradshaw can be a home run hitter when he wants, but the Giants may need to start looking for somebody more long term.

3.     The Boy Who Would Be King Prince
One pebble can cause 1000 waves. Similarly on shutdown cornerback can cause 3-4 wins. That’s the potential impact of Former Husker, now Giant Prince Amukamara. Amukamara is blazing fast, with great coverage skills that served him well in a great Nebraska defense under Coach Bo Pelini. With a 4.43 40 time Amukamara has the speed and the height (6’) to cover Jackson or Austin. With Prince presumptively taking over the 1 spot at CB half of the field may now be unavailable to a bevy of very good NFC East offenses. With a very strong defensive line and a good pool of safeties lead by Kenny Phillips Amukamara may be the missing piece to put this already pretty dominant unit over the top.

4.     Revenge is a Dish Best Served Sometime This Season
As you might have noticed last season, the Giants got owned by the Eagles. True, the slot blitzes in the second game kept Vick and his hapless offensive line guessing but there was still the fact that the Giants lost and DeSean Jackson shall never be forgotten for the miraculous play that he made that day. With the Eagles sitting pretty at the top of the division the Giants need to hit them where it hurts, right in the win/loss column. The Giants get their first shot at the Eagles in week 3. It should be a hard hitting game as the Giants try and reap their vengeance for the utter humiliation the Giants suffered when this happened…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnutUk02Sk0

Off Season Questions: Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles

1.     Can Michael Vick stay healthy?
Wow. That’s all many people could say after seeing quarterback Michael Vick last season. This was not the Michael Vick that Altanta fans knew, the Vick who made one read and ran for it. Vick was making multiple reads throwing ropes to Jackson and Maclin, completing passes efficiently, staying in the pocket, and not throwing interceptions. It was truly an incredible transformation to watch and by midseason nobody really seemed to care about Kevin Kolb as anything besides Vick’s insurance policy. Which is coincidentally the whole point of this question. Vick was nearly superhuman throughout the season except for when he was hurt. Part of that can be attributed to simply pathetic effort on the part of the Eagles line, but part of that lie on Vick’s scrambling which can open him up to big hits. Vick’s ability to escape more often than not is not in question, what is in question is what happens on the times that he doesn’t.

2.     Oh To Be Young and Full of promise
The Eagles have one of the best young nucleuses in the league. Period. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek are some of the best at their position and coupled with reborn superstar Michael Vick have given the Eagles an edge similar to the University of Oregon last season, they can score from anywhere at any time. Can the offense score enough points to cover up lapses by a still suspect Eagles defense?

3.     Much Ado About Kevin
You really can’t just let this one slip by if you’re going to write about the Eagles this offseason. What’s going to happen to Kevin Kolb? Is he staying or going? And if (probably) going, where’s he going to go? The best package I’ve heard of was mentioned by John Clayton of ESPN in his mailbag, Arizona Cardinals second round picks in the next two drafts. Some might be reading this right about now and be asking why not a first rounder? I must admit I was asking myself the same question considering Kolb is almost certainly better than anyone the Cardinals or any other NFC West team besides the Rams has on the roster. Well that’s actually the problem, the Cardinals play in the worst division in the history of the NFL, that’s not my opinion it’s a fact. The NFC West was won last season, for the first time in league history, by a team that lost more games than it won. Thus a young guy like Kolb at the controls of a potentially very potent offense in Arizona might be able to get back to the top of the division and thus become a playoff contender moving their pick to the early 20’s as opposed to say #12. Second round picks are more predictable in that respect and offer a longer term pay off to the Eagles. Will Andy Reid buy it? That’s the question

4.     Behind a Strong Philly Offense Theres…
A pretty weak defense. Yup for all the prolific exploits of the Eagles offense (Miracle at the New Meadowlands included) the defense was softer than it should have been. The return of the injured Brandon Graham should lend some help to this defense but the addition of a shut down corner (Nnamdi Asomugha anybody?) would go a long way toward helping the Eagles.

Off Season Questions: Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys

1.     Will the defense perform under Rob Ryan?
Last year the Cowboys were in popular talks for the Super Bowl, the stage seemed set perfectly. The Cowboys fresh off a fairly productive season, winning their first playoff game in years, Romo was playing well and the team had a pair of good wide outs in Miles Austin and unproven (at the time) rookie Dez Bryant. The Super Bowl was going to be at the Jerry Dome, hopes had rarely been higher in Big D. Then of course the Cowboys ran into a problem, their defense. While the Dallas defense is home to a number of very good players (DeMarcus Ware, Keith Brooking and debatably Terrance Newman) the defense was atrocious last year surrendering 31 touchdown passes. In a division with the score from anywhere offense of the Philadelphia Eagles, and the stable of receivers chomping at the bit in New York, Dallas can no longer depend solely upon a strong offense. The question is whether this unit just needs a new season or whether Dallas needs an infusion of youth on defense.

2.     Ball’s In Your Court
Slightly related to the first question, the Cowboys did nothing to replace Safety Alan Ball who was an absolute liability in coverage last year. True, this wasn’t the strongest class of safeties with the first safety going in the second round, but it has become blatantly obvious that Ball is holding Dallas back and it will be interesting to see whether Jerry Jones and the Boys decide to make a play for Sam Huff if/when free agency starts.

3.     Can Tony Romo win the Big Game?
Throughout his career quarterback Tony Romo has faced criticism for choking under pressure, being more interested in hanging with celebrities than playing football and just not appearing completely focused at times. Coming back from a broken clavicle that sidelined him early in the season (effectively dashing any hopes the Cowboys had of a playoff run) Romo has a lot of questions to answer if he wants to remain the unquestioned starter of this team. Romo may never have had a more dangerous collection of pass catchers with Dez Bryant returning for his second season after a strong rookie season before being sidelined by an ankle injury, Miles Austin as his reliable #1 wideout and his good friend Jason Witten still attacking the center of the field. Romo’s backfield is strong with Felix Jones, Demarco Murray and possibly Marion Barber still backing him up. There will be no excuse for Romo to underperform this season and it will be a hellish offseason this time next year if he does.

4.     Can the Cowboys make the playoffs?
There are few division that are tougher in the NFL than the NFC East. With the exception of the Redskins (We’ll get to them in a little bit) all these rosters seem loaded with either big name players or players who are about to be big including Ware, Austin, Vick, Jackson, Tuck, Amukamara, Phillips, Nicks, Smith, Rolle, Bryant, Manning (I have my doubts but I’m obligated to put him on the list because he won a super bowl) and McCoy. Between all of these names it’s very legitimate to wonder whether the Cowboys have missed their window and this division is the Michael Vick show now. With a talented roster and a few key free agent pickups Big D could reinsert themselves in the conversation, but for now we just don’t know.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Super Exciting Update Time

Translation: Me talking about how I'm super busy this week but how there's light at the end of the tunnel.

Sup guys,
So it's the last week of high school (bittersweet etc.) and next week is finals. So there's good news and bad news there, bad news is that I'm swamped for the rest of week. Good news is that it's looking like I'll have next to no finals so I got a solid week to do what I do best, write sports articles when I could be using my time for something society considers "productive". Bottom line: Off season questions are gonna come out in droves next week. Also if you have an issue you want me to talk about, or a question you want me to answer it'll be time for my second mailbag (the first one was less than successful) drop it in there. I've been getting some questions about what I'm going to do once I'm out of offseason questions. To that I can't give a specific answer, but I can tell you that I have a lot of free time and an obsessive streak regarding football...so I'll figure something out.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

And We're Back

Sorry I'm late sports fans, been in Phoenix (8th place in Nationals for Mock Trial, boom goes the dynamite!) Well here's that long awaited draft coverage.

1.    Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB Auburn
The Panthers pulled the trigger on a potential superstar here. Newton is an incredible athlete Capable of things that are nothing short of mind boggling. Prime concerns with Newton are a learning curve as he transitions from the spread offense that he ran in college to a more pro style system with the Carolina Panthers. There have also been some concerns about whether Newton’s running abilities will be as effective at the pro level among fast and stronger defenders than he faced. That being said the Panthers had to make a call on how to get themselves out of the cellar. The Panthers have a TON of work to do in almost every area but Newton is, in my view, a step in the right direction.

2.     Denver Broncos: Von Miller, OLB Texas A&M
John Fox went defense here…good. Denver’s defense was horrible last year against the run. While Miller is suspect against the run his abilities to rush the passer are almost unquestionable. Miller has evolved since his freshman year from a diva who consistently missed class into a real hard worker and a class act. Miller will be a good addition to the Denver defense and should make an exciting pairing with 2009 Sack leader Elvis Dumervil.

3.     Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama
It wasn’t the pick I made, but it was the pick that the Bills needed and my hat’s off to them for that. The Bills also had an atrocious run defense last year, whereas their offense was ok. The Bills ignored the temptation to take the much over hyped Blaine Gabbert here and instead chose a player they can build a defense around as the Bills attempt to claw their way back to respectability.

4.    Cincinnati Bengals: AJ Green, WR Georgia
Bust proof. That’s really the only way to start a paragraph concerning newly minted Bengals receiver AJ Green. Green is the next in a long line of play making wide outs who have gone in the first round recently. Among those counted on this list are Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson& Andre Johnson. Good company to be in as AJ Green marks the end to the Ochocinco era and brings a field stretching threat to a potentially potent Cincy pass attack.

5.     Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB LSU
Great pick by the Cardinals, Peterson comes into another tired defense and makes their job much easier by simply taking away half of the field. Peterson is a fantastic prospect with coverage skills that are vaguely similar to sealing somebody in a biodome. Cornerback wasn’t a massive need for the Cardinals but they realized an opportunity here and they took it.

6.     Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones, WR Alabama
Shocking trade by the Falcons (two first round picks and some picks in the 4th) to move up to #6 to grab Julio Jones, interesting choice. The Falcons needed a #2 receiver to put opposite Roddy White and Jones may fit the bill to perfection. Was it worth the trade? We’ll find out this season!

7.     San Francisco 49ers: Aldon Smith, DE Mizzou
I was left scratching my head on this one. The 49ers have very real needs at quarterback as the only quarterback who looks to be coming back is named Alex Smith and the people of San Francisco have had 5 years to note how much better things might have been if they had drafted Aaron Rodgers. Yet with his first draft pick as NFL coach Jim Harbaugh decided on a defensive end. Smith is an up and coming junior from Mizzou who will probably be very productive in a very solid 49er defense that is lead by 3X Pro Bowler, Patrick Willis

8.     Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker, QB Washington
Billed as the “anti Vince Young” the Titans chose Washington QB Jake Locker. Locker was once heralded as “Tim Tebow, if Tim Tebow could throw” and was projected to be going #1 this time last year. After a return to school to claim a bowl win over a fearsome Nebraska defense that harassed him into interceptions and an all around bad showing in a regular season defeat, Locker brings some possible stability to a Titans franchise that is clearly rebuilding despite having home run threat and former 2000 yard rusher, Chris Johnson.

9.     Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT USC
The Cowboys take a lineman in the first round for the first time since Jerry Jones started being “the Boss” in Dallas. A three year starter at the right tackle spot on the USC Smith is a solid prospect with a huge amount of upside and a high ceiling as a prototypical left tackle.

10 Jacksonville Jaguars: Blaine Gabbert, QB Mizzou
Gabbert took a bit of a tumble to a spot originally occupied by the Redskins who traded down in the ever-present quest for more draft picks. Gabbert is never going to be elite, not probably, never but Gabbert will be a solid starter for this still young Jaguars team that is looking to take control of the house that Peyton Manning built. In my opinion Jacksonville would have been better served finding somebody ready to play right away but Gene Smith has an apparent vision and Blaine Gabbert is right in the middle of it.

11 Houston Texans: JJ Watt, DE Wisconsin
The Texans had two ways that they could go with this draft pick, cornerback and defensive end as they transition to Wade Phillips’ 3-4 set in an effort to improve a defense that routinely blew games for a very impressive offensive unit. The good news is that the Texans are stacked at nearly every skill position with starters by the name of Andre Johnson Matt Schaub and Rushing leader Arian Foster. Bad news is that the pass defense was one of the NFL’s worst last season (I’m guessing everyone has already seen Glover Quinn’s moment of glory?). In JJ Watt the Texans make a great pick to pair with or replace 2006 #2 overall selection, Mario Williams. Watt is an impressive player who is as Jon Gruden so accurately put it “a self made man” who went from being a blocking tight end at Central Michigan to playing Defensive End at Wisconsin.

12 Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder, QB Florida State
Seriously? No, seriously? That was about all I could say for about 5 minutes after the Vikings shocked everyone in attendance and just about every person in Minnesota who hasn’t switched allegiance to the Packers (and to those people I can only shake my head in deep disappointment). Ponder is smart, very smart and has a good arm and had some Heisman hype coming into the past season. But the guy just cannot stay healthy and was a high second round prospect at best in my view. The Vikings probably could have and should have traded down and snagged Ponder in the second and focused time on a defensive end. Also the Vikings have been plagued of late with injuries to their cornerbacks (Antoine Winfield has not looked 100% since he hurt his ankle and Cedric Griffin is a miracle if he comes back  even close to as good as he was following his injury). That the Vikings let a grade A prospect like Prince Amukamara slip by them in favor of a quarterback who could have waited till later in the draft was a deplorable lapse by the Vikings regime. 

13Detroit Lions: Nick Fairley, DT Auburn
Around the time that this pick was announced the Bears, Packers and Vikings threw up a prayer that their interior line held up in the face of a suddenly fierce Detroit defensive line. The Lions decided here that they would place priority on finding somebody to somehow make Ndamukong Suh more scary than they would protecting Stafford’s blind side. Jeff Backus can only hold up for so much longer but it’s hard to fault the Lions for this selection because a Suh-Fairley tandem is going to be a nightmare to deal with.

14 St. Louis Rams: Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina
With Julio Jones off the board the Rams made the smart choice and looked defense with this pick. Content to find a playmaker for Sam Bradford in a later round (and they did but more on that in offseason questions, which will be coming soon) the Rams selected an absolute monster in Robert Quinn. The Rams have all the makings of a possible dynasty of NFC West championships considering the epic floundering that is going on in the rest of the division at the quarterback position. Watch out for the Rams to be in the playoff conversation this season.

15 Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey, C Florida
There are three words that can regularly be heard in draft analysis and those words are the same words one might use to describe a failed relationship (shoulda, coulda, woulda). In this case I should have seen this draft pick coming as I had heard rumors that Miami was looking to improve their interior protection, the Dolphins could have had a top running back prospect to take pressure off Chad Henne who just isn’t ready for prime time, and I would have pulled the trigger on that pick.

16 Washington Redskins: Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue
It’s always a shame to see somebody be told they have to play for the Redskins. Nothing personal but this organization has been dysfunctional for years and I have deep seated issues with Mike Shanahan. That being said the Redskins have a solid character player and versatile defensive end who will add well to a team that clearly has a long way to go before they can even begin to think about going to the playoffs.

17 New England Patriots: Nate Solder, OT Colorado
Well played Belichick, well played. With this Belichick takes a line prospect with good upside and the frame that one would look for when assessing a prospect. Nobody knows better than Belichick the importance of protecting your quarterback. In Solder Belichick has plan B if Matt Light leaves in free agency.

18 San Diego Chargers: Corey Liuget, DT Illinois
The Chargers add some defensive talent here as the Chargers come back from a season where they didn’t win the AFC West, something that was totally unthinkable just a few months ago. Phillip Rivers will be glad of the help as he tries once again to strap the team to his back and launch them into the Super Bowl that his right arm has been promising San Diego for years.

19New York Giants: Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska
Massive steal here for the Giants, never in any of the drafts, predictions and endless coverage that I watched was there any idea that Prince Amukamara would last this long. Amukamara has tremendous speed and good coverage skills. What’s more the ceiling is fairly high on Aumkamara because originally he was recruited to Nebraska to play running back and only afterwards was moved to cornerback. The Giants add a potential shutdown corner to an already potent defensive mix.

20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa
Nice choice here for the Buccaneers as they add another youthful player to a squad that should have made the playoffs last season and was denied by a BS rule about division winners automatically making the playoffs (even if that division has made the decision to try playing the game without quarterbacks). Clayborn joins a (for lack of a better nickname) Fearsome Foursome in sophomore defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price and rookie Da’Quan Bowers. This Bucs unit is literally bursting with potential to really ruin Matt Ryan, Jimmy Clausen/Cam Newton, and Drew Brees’ collective days.

21 Cleveland Browns: Phil Taylor, NT Baylor
The Browns make a shrewd choice here selecting Shaun Rogers replacement while making off with the Falcons’ first rounder for 2012. Maybe this Holmgren guy knows a thing or two about football. Taylor is a massive force who should provide support to a Browns unit that faces potent running games in the Steelers’ Rashard Mendenhall and the Ravens’ Ray Rice.

22 Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College
And so it begins. The Colts’ offensive line has gotten long in the tooth in recent years and struggled mightily this year to protect Peyton “Nobody knows who the Colts are without me” Manning. Manning will be glad of the support as he looks to capture another Super Bowl ring so he can stop hearing all this hype about some guy named Tom Brady.

23 Philadelphia Eagles: Danny Watkins, G Baylor
I’ve got a riddle, what do you do when you have arguably the most dangerous corps of skill players in the NFL? If you said “Protect your quarterback” congratulations! You have common sense. If I had to pick a team that is most likely to genuinely frighten a defense I would go with the Eagles, between Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Brent Celek and Michael Vick the Eagles can and will score from anywhere and everywhere. Vick shocked the world this past season by showing that he has learned to read defenses, check down when necessary, and go through more than one progression before sprinting away. You know what makes all of these things easier? Time. Vick will certainly be happy of the extra time and frankly just the amazing life story of Danny Watkins. Watkins is from Canada and grew up wanting to be, and is a fireman whose entire engine showed up to cheer loudly for him at the draft. Watkins originally played rugby and went on to be a very good offensive lineman at Baylor. While at the age of 25 Watkins is older than most prospects and doesn’t have as much time you can’t really be mad at a choice like this.

24 New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan, DE Cal
The Saints are a team with few true needs, so they added to their defensive line with a prospect who I was shocked to see last this long. Jordan is one half of a VERY good first round for the Saints. We’ll get to the other guy in a couple of picks.

25 Seattle Seahawks: James Carpenter, G/T Alabama
First thoughts of many people after this selection was announced “Who is James Carpenter?” To answer this question, James Carpenter was a tackle in one of the most bruising offensive line units I have seen. That is to say that James Carpenter is part of the Alabama offensive line. The unit has been described as (due in no small part to Carpenter) Mauling, brutal, incredibly physical, and talented. Many had Carpenter with a late second round grade so I’m going to say this may have been a reach with other prospects still on the board that could have been a help to Seattle.

26 Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Baldwin, WR Pitt
The events surrounding this pick were interesting to say the least. The Ravens were originally slated to pick at #26 but ran out of time after failing to secure a deal with the Bears. As a result they “passed” and the Chiefs chose in their stead. The Chiefs selected Jonathan Baldwin a 6’4” coverage nightmare with tremendous body control and the ability to leap spectacularly and grab balls most can’t even think of touching. He should be a good compliment to Dwayne Bowe who appeared to come into his own last year.

27 Baltimore Ravens: Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado
Color me skeptical as far as this pick is concerned. Smith is a good player and fills an area of desperate need for the Ravens, an area that may well have cost them a shot at the AFC Championship game. But Smith has a number of red flags after reportedly failing three separate drug tests at the combine that ultimately cost him a shot at being in the top 15. Maybe it’s nit picking but I can’t recall anyone ever looking less excited to be told that they’re going to be an NFL player. Smith may be a headcase, on the upside for Ravens fans he’s in a locker room with Ray Lewis who will certainly do his best to help Smith get his act together.

28 New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram, RB Alabama
Now there’s that other prospect I was talking about earlier. The Saints trade their first rounder for 2012 for a tremendously talented back in Alabama’s Mark Ingram. Ingram is not the fastest RB in the draft (that title went to Oakland’s Taiwan Jones) but he’s a hard nosed runner who fights for every inch and is tremendous after contact.

29 Chicago Bears: Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin
The Bears drafted for need here and if you are Jay Cutler you say thank you 1000X over. The Bears line was horrible last year giving up 60 sacks and even more hits on QB Jay Cutler. Without having had a first round pick in two years the Bears’ Jerry Angelo redeems himself somewhat by picking a potential starter for years to come.

30 New York Jets: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE Temple
The Jets add another great prospect to their defense. The Jets are sort of like the “Anti Texans” they have great coverage, actually superb coverage between Antonio Cromartie and All universe cornerback Darelle Revis. But next to no pass rush and depend on the wacky blitz packages of head coach Rex Ryan. With Wilkerson the Jets get a pass rusher to give Tom Brady yet another thing to think about in New Meadowlands stadium.

31 Pittsburgh Steelers: Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio State
The Steelers add another face to their defensive line unit. I suspect that this pick was really more for the sake of depth than it was need as the Steelers already have a great defensive front in Brett Keisel, his beard and the other two guys on the line.

32 Green Bay Packers: Derek Sherrod, OT Mississippi State
A year ago the Packers realized that Aaron Rodgers on his feet was better than Aaron Rodgers on the ground. One year later the Packers decided this logic still made sense, hence Derek Sherrod.