Kirwan: Ten questions being asked about the draft
Ten questions being asked about the draft
By Pat Kirwan
NFL.com Senior Analyst
(April 10, 2007) -- Whether I'm on my Sirius Radio Show, an NFL Network segment, or just talking football with people around town, there are a number of questions that seem to come up every day as the NFL Draft draws closer.
1. Is Brady Quinn being overhyped?
I say Quinn isn't overhyped. But I do feel he's been overanalyzed. It's not the first time that a quarterback (Quinn) who was expected to come out as a junior and decided to return for his senior year, got put under the microscope twice and had to answer many critics, while an underclassman (JaMarcus Russell) with a lot less to go on, got the hype. I can recall when speculations had Peyton Manning leaving Tennessee after his junior year and worthy of a top selection. He stayed in school, gained a lot more experience, worked on his skills and actually got better. Then a year later, a fast rising junior named Ryan Leaf split the votes as to which athlete was the best QB.
Last year, the same could be said for Matt Leinart. He won a national championship as a junior, but wanted another year of seasoning so he returned to school. The critics said it was a big mistake. His draft value supposedly went down. But none of those critics were to be found after he took the field as a rookie for the Cardinals.
There is something to be said for experience and production. Brady Quinn gets labeled as a guy who has accuracy issues. How about the fact that he threw more passes in college than Russell, Drew Stanton and Troy Smith combined? How about the fact that he threw more touchdown passes than Russell and Stanton combined? Any team that passes on Quinn can't predict they will ever be in a position to draft a QB of his caliber in the next five years. As one general manager said, "he could probably start for 10 teams in 2007 and make them better right away." Some people view the fact that he was tutored by Charlie Weis as a negative. It's the system that made him productive is the claim. Same stuff was said about Manning and Leinart. I say the experience with Weis is going to go a long way to help him survive and probably flourish in the NFL.
2. Should JaMarcus Russell be the first pick in the draft?
Well, Russell is going to be the first pick by the Raiders barring any last-minute changes by owner Al Davis. He knows a guy with arm strength and size don't come along very often. Someone told me that when Calvin Johnson visited the Raiders, Davis hardly had any time to even spend with the top receiver and possibly the highest rated player on most draft boards.
I always believe in taking a QB. And even though Russell has struggled with his weight at times and only has 29 career starts under his belt, he is what the doctor ordered for the Raiders. Oakland's plan to bring in a mobile QB like Josh McCown (via trade) in order to buy some time to let Russell develop is a good one.
Finally, LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pellini, a former NFL coach sold me on Russell when he told me the guy can call the protections and has the football intelligence to win in the NFL.
3. Which player is likely to disappoint after his rookie season?
No one can predict where the bust label should be put and in fact, it's a bad idea to think anyone can figure it out. Quarterbacks always stand the chance of being labeled, especially if they go to bad teams and have to play too early.
When I posed this question to two personnel, they both thought the highest risk in the first round is with the pass rushers, especially Jamaal Anderson and Jarvis Moss. They are two very talented young players, but considering what happened to Mario Williams his rookie season, there are issues that scare some teams.
Williams came out of college as a 6-foot-6, 295-pound specimen who had 26½ sacks in college and 35 reps on the bench press test. He finished up his rookie season with 4½ sacks. Mathias Kiwanuka had 37½ sacks at Boston College, but only got to the QB four times as a rookie. Kameron Wimbley had excellent numbers as a rookie, but he was moved to outside linebacker and the scheme helped him. If Anderson and Moss have to play with their hands on the ground, then there might be some concern.
Both players left school early, have under 20 college starts and neither one is much more than a one dimensional pass rusher at this point. Neither has demonstrated the power and strength to hold up on the line of scrimmage. Moss only had 16 reps on the bench (eight less than Quinn) and Anderson's 22 reps isn't much better. Neither player comes to pro football with 20 career sacks in college. Moss has 15 and Anderson 17½, which probably translates to very pedestrian numbers as rookies. I would never call any player a 'bust' before he gets his chance to perform. But there are clear cut concerns about the pass rushers in this draft.
4. Rate JaMarcus Russell vs. the other No. 1 draft pick quarterbacks in recent years?
The NFL is a brutal league, especially for young quarterbacks. The honeymoon ends the second you take the field and can't win games. Russell and Quinn will find that out in due time, but to suggest that either one can be compared to Eli Manning, David Carr, Carson Palmer or Alex Smith is impossible.
Most people will say Palmer is better, but have a strong opinion that Russell is quickly going to pass Eli Manning as a QB. The younger Manning threw 81 touchdowns in college to just 35 interceptions. He has a winning record as a professional quarterback (20-19). He led his team to an 11-5 record and the playoffs in his second year. He has thrown 54 touchdown passes to just 44 interceptions in his first 39 games. Call back later when Russell has 39 starts under his belt.
5. Who's the safest pick in the 2007 draft?
The safest pick in any draft usually comes down to a great running back behind a very good offensive line or an offensive lineman. This year, I would say the safest pick in the 2007 draft is center Ryan Kalil from USC. If he goes to a team like Denver with the zone running scheme, he will start early and be very effective. As one O-line coach said, Kalil is a 10-year starter with a couple of Pro Bowls in him. If he struggles early with big nose tackles because he is giving up 30-40 pounds, the scheme can protect him. If he lasts to the second round, then he wins the safest pick award for sure.
6. Who's stock dropped the most in recent weeks?
If you define stock dropping as lost money, keep in mind that dropping five or six spots in the first round can cost a player more than dropping two or three rounds later on. The downward pressure on the running back position because of four offseason trades -- Willis McGahee, Thomas Jones, Tatum Bell and Reuben Droughns -- and three free-agent acquisitions -- Ahman Green, Jamal Lewis, Dominic Rhodes -- could cost Adrian Peterson a lot of money. Peterson hasn't done a thing wrong, but the pressure is real.
Two players who's stocks have dropped for other reasons are wide receiver Sidney Rice of South Carolina and running back Michael Bush of Louisville. Bush is a victim of injury and he has plummeted from a first-round pick to no one knows where for sure. Rice renounced his senior year of eligibility and jumped into a very good draft class of receivers. He has made some questionable decisions about performing for scouts and coaches in the past few weeks and now sits outside the first round looking in.
7. Who's stock has risen the most in recent weeks?
Take a look at DT Amobi Okoye from Louisville. He has a decent senior year as a 19-year-old and finished up as a probable second-round pick. He packed his bags for the Senior Bowl to prove he's better than that and after a week in pads in front of all the NFL brass, he jumped to a late first-round pick. He went to the Combine with that same focus and his workout and interviews moved him up the charts to a mid first-round selection. At his pro day workout, he clocked 4.88 in the 40-yard dash at a weight of 302 pounds. film studies on him by the defensive line coaches draw parallels to Warren Sapp. With just a few weeks to go, it looks like the teenager has climbed to a top-10 pick.
8. Who is the third quarterback in this draft?
There is no third quarterback worthy of a first-round selection. I asked a number of teams how they see the third quarterback and I got a different answer from almost everyone. There's no Jay Cutler in this draft for sure. Drew Stanton was the consensus third, back in January. Troy Smith didn't help himself that much at the Senior Bowl, but hung tough. Trent Edwards got healthy and his stock started to rise and there has been an under current of support in a few places for Kevin Kolb and John Beck. But the truth is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to the third QB.
Edwards was sacked 84 times in 31 starts and has foot and shoulder issues. But he has that it factor some teams are looking for. Stanton is a 64 percent completion passer who can run as demonstrated by his 1,500 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. But the it could be missing in some talent evaluators' minds. Smith has to deal with the height issue and his supporters point at Drew Brees. Kolb comes from a throwing system and some are leery of his numbers. His supporters point at Alex Smith. Beck has a release point that troubles some. For now, my advice is don't claim to know who the third QB is, but don't expect the run on these guys to start until the late second to early third round. As one GM said, "I think we'll wait until the second day and take a long look at that kid from Boise State, there's something about him I like." I said, 'are you talking about it?'
9. Will there be a lot of trading on draft weekend?
I expect trading to continue this year just like it did last year. Teams are getting more comfortable pulling the trigger on a trade using picks for picks -- 2008 picks for 2007 picks, veteran players for picks and they realize with the healthy salary cap situations most teams have right now, it works. Randy Moss should be the big-name player to be moved on draft day, but don't expect more than a second- or third-round pick as compensation and that only happens if he gets his contract restructured.
10. Which virtually unknown player would you want on your team?
Two players come to mind every time I'm asked this question -- Brown linebacker Zak DeOssie and Alabama fullback LeRon McClain. DeOssie can help a team in so many ways with his size, speed, intelligence and long-snapping ability. McClain is a classic fullback in the mold of Lorenzo Neal.
Re: Kirwan: Ten questions being asked about the draft
Interesting that he's got one of our potential targets, Jamaal Anderson, as a player who may disappoint in his rookie season. Whilst I respact his opinion, I'd still be happy to draft Anderson at 13 if that's the way it falls.
Re: Kirwan: Ten questions being asked about the draft
That was the first thing that popped into my head as well. Of course, it looks like the crux of his argument is that they're inexperienced. The number of starts and number of career sacks are just ways of restating that they left school early. The only other evidence he adds is that they're supposedly not strong enough to hold up at the point of attack, but I haven't read a lot of other opinions to the effect that Anderson wasn't strong enough to play the position.