Thought this might interest you guys, published this morning. Hope you find it a good read, as I always have a fun time putting these columns together.
The Best Column On The Most Coveted Pick In The NFL Draft, Ever.
-Why Cleveland Is Sitting Pretty.
Monday, March 21, 2005
The Cleveland Browns may not know it yet, but come draft day, they may well hold all of the cards in this April's blue-chip Poker Game that is the 2005 NFL Draft. Not only has no clear-cut top prospect emerged since Southern California QB Matt Leinart decided to return for his Senior Year, but there is not even a clear-cut top ten.
With the draft rapidly approaching, however, team draft boards are becoming more visible and a few players seem to be at the top of many teams' to-draft lists. This naturally presents a musical-chairs-esque problem, and the Draft Day Shuffle is not to be withot at least one defining marquee top pick trade.
Firstly, San Francisco is far from sold that either Aaron Rodgers or Alex Smith can be their franchise QB of the future, and new head coach Mike Nolan already has two young QBs on his roster in Tim Rattay and Ken Dorsey, both who played behind possibly the league's worst offensive line last year, and on a team that featured the league's 30th ranked rushing offense, and had no clear-cut top receiving target.
Rattay specifically looked like a Pro Bowl Quarterback in 2003 filling in for injured Starter Jeff Garcia, with a quarterback rating of 96.6. Over his five year career, Rattay has amassed servicable starting Quarterback numbers--300/489 for 3274 yds, 19TDs and 12INTs and an above average 83.8 QB rating.
Drafting a QB with the first pick is becoming increasingly unlikely for a team with equal or greater holes at running back, offensive line, and wide receiver.
There is, however, a growing likelihood that the 49ers will select Michigan standout WR Braylon Edwards with the first overall pick in the 2005 draft. Being heralded as the top receiver by many with a close second in USC's Mike Williams, Edwards possesses all of the skills to reliably be a dominant force and an impact player on offense in his rookie campaign with the 49ers.
Not only will Edwards create a schism for the NFC West, but a proverbial babylonian shakedown with the top picks in the draft likely will occur if and when this happens, and the trading floodgates will poor open to and from the top teams.
The only team not participating will be Miami, who has little interest in moving on draft day, and is heavily expected to draft a blue-chip Running back in either Texas' Cedric Benson or Auburn's Ronnie Brown. However, now with the sudden re-emergence of retired RB Ricky Williams, Miami is likely to turn to either Quarterback or Defense with the 2nd pick in the draft.
New Head Coach Nick Saban and the rest of the Dolphins Organization are also quietly rumored to have Texas' LB Derrick Johnson as No.1 on their draft board. Cleveland at No.3 has many of the same needs that Miami does, and the only way to guarantee themselves their player of choice will be to draft him where they are at.
What this all invariably means is that for Chicago(4), Tampa Bay(5), Tennessee(6), Minnesota(7), and Washington(9), who all pick in the top 10, and all want a top receiver, will be fighting over USC's Mike Williams.
Sitting atop them all with the 3rd pick, and with the number one priority of trading down in order to stockpile picks and likely target DE/OLB Shawne Merriman for Cleveland's new 3-4 Defense, Romeo Crennel and the Browns Organization suddenly find themselves holding the most coveted pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
Now that we've broken down the why, let's get down to the meat and potatoes that are all of the potential deals that Cleveland may well have to pick and choose from on Draft Day in the short 15 minutes that they are on the clock.
(No.4 - CHI)
Chicago is not likely to trade up unless they feel threatened enough by Cleveland's potential trading down with another team. They came into this offseason with the surefire feeling that one or even both of the top two receivers in this draft (Edwards and Williams) would be available at No.4.
But since that may not be the case now, and isn't here, the Bears, in dire need of offensive playmaking and real receivers, might forfeit its 2nd pick to ensure that one of the two blue-chip wideouts lines up opposite FA acquisition Muhsin Muhammad in August.
RB Anthony Thomas is also on the trading block, and could spur some interest in a Cleveland team that is still looking to define its insecure backfield.
So, what's the big deal?: 1st Round Pick (No.4), 2nd Round Pick (No.39).
(No.5 - TB)
Tampa Bay has already more than shown its cards for draft day. They want Mike Williams, plain and simple. They sent more than a dozen scouts to his pro workout at the USF Sundome, including prospective teammate and 2004 1st Round Pick WR Michael Clayton.
Head Coach Romeo Crennel has publicly expressed interest in trading for Bucs backup Quarterback Chris Simms, and the Bucs have 13 selections headed into April's Draft, plus any potential compensatory picks from last year's player exodus from the team. Simms becomes a restricted free agent in 2006, and would mandate a 3rd round compensatory pick from any team that signs him, should the Bucs not match the offer sheet. And since Head Coach Jon Gruden has been courting nearly every mobile QB in Free Agency this offseason, a red flag goes up that the pocket-passing Simms is likely headed out of Tampa Bay soon.
While being mentioned as a likely candidate to trade down, do not rule out the salary-cap minded Bucs to both secure their future WR duo in Clayton and Williams, and rid themselves of a draft choice or two that they may not be able to afford.
So, what's the big deal?: 1st Round Pick (No.5), QB Chris Simms, 4th Round Pick (No.102)
(No.6 - TEN)
Currently No's 1 and 2 on Tennessee's WR chart are 3rd year wideout Tyrone Calico and 5th year wideout Drew Bennett. While Bennett enjoyed a breakout year when backup QB Billy Volek took over for the injured Steve McNair, promising young WR Calico has thusfar averaged about as many receptions for his career as games missed due to injury.
The Titans have been mentioned several times as a possible destination for Mike Williams, as is trading up with the Browns to obtain him. New Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow coached Williams at USC in 2003 and knows first-hand what a dominating and unique talent the WR is.
With the team slated to receive an arsenal of compensatory picks in the 2006 draft for their salary cap casualties this year, and as high as a 3rd round pick this year for Javon Kearse, the Titans are in a prime position to leapfrog Chicago and Tampa Bay to secure their future No.1 wideout.
So, what's the big deal?: 1st Round Pick (No.6), 2nd Round Pick (No.37), 2006 2nd Round Pick
(No.7 - MIN from OAK)
Don't count out any crazy move by this organization this offseason. The Vikings pick here because they traded their star WR Randy Moss. They have publicly stated they would be in love with themselves to get specifically Mike Williams with this No.7 pick, but that is now extremely unlikely considering both Tampa Bay's and Tennessee's respective draft boards.
Minnesota likely is the front-runner in trading up with Cleveland, however, because it has several things working for them. For starters, the Vikings have two 1st Round Picks-- Nos.7 and 18--as well as two RBs on the trading block in Michael Bennett and Onterrio Smith.
Cleveland, not sold on their current backfield of Lee Suggs, William Green, and Adimchinobe Echemandu which averaged just 3.6 yards per carry last season, have already added Baltimore RB Chester Taylor, and are looking to trade William Green, and are looking for a future franchise RB to move the chains and keep their defense more rested on the bench.
Minnesota has already made a slew of free agent signings and trades this offseason, and still looks hungry to shake up the draft.
So, what's the big deal?: a) 1st Round Pick (No.7), 1st Round Pick (No.18); b) 1st Round Pick, RB Onterrio Smith, 2nd Round Pick (No.49)
(No.8 - ARI)
Arizona is not trading up. Last year's draft was a surefire indication of that. Oakland had the majority of mainstream media and draft experts convinced that Larry Fitzgerald would be a Raider, and still could not convince Arizona to trade up.
Now, with a strong young WR corps that includes two 1st Round Picks and a 2nd Round Pick from the past two drafts (Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Bryant Johnson), Arizona is now in the market for a franchise RB, and with all of the WR scrambling going on, it is quite possible and likely that one or even two of the "big three backs" falls fo them at No.8.
Arizona, given their choice, would love to draft Cedric Benson here, and they have a legitimate enough shot at grabbing at least one of the three backs, that trading up, at least to the No.3 pick, is not a realistic investment in a franchise that is continuing to build into a playoff team.
So, what's the big dea?: Nada.
(No.9 - WAS)
Washington is an intriguing option to trade up. In addition to their draft picks, the Redskins have on the trading block LB LaVar Arrington and WR Rod Gardner, and a gutsy owner in Dan Snyder with a knack for egregious offseason moves. Arrington was selected with the No.2 pick in the 2000 Draft, and is arguably still worth a solid first rounder, despite missing most of the '04 season due to knee injury.
Gardner may spur interest as well, adding to the Cleveland WR corps a solid No.2 wideout and dependable playmaker. No.9 may be too far for the Browns to want to slide, however, as they are in the hunt to land DE/OLB Shawne Merriman, and may not be able to guarantee him at this spot with Detroit, Dallas, San Diego and Houston all looming just below. Should the likely case that a stud RB fall to No.8, Arizona would certainly consider trading down at least a few spots, as all those five of these teams are all secure at the position, Carolina being the next candidate to draft RB.
So, what's the big deal?: 1st Round Pick (No.9), LB LaVar Arrington
There you have it. My work is done here. Now go play computer chair GM and make your own mock draft.