Monday, April 30, 2007

NFL Draft Afterthoughts

The 2007 NFL Draft was a exciting and long.

Long as in the slowest first round in NFL Draft history. The 72nd NFL draft set records for the longest Round 1, longest Day 1, and longest two days (over 18 hours).

Now comes the second wave of free agency and the rookie mini-camps. Agents will be very busy on the phones trying to get their unsigned guys to stick with teams and make a roster next year.

Also, today is the day when every newspaper, website and the mother has their own grades for the draft. You won't find those here - why? Because unless you're a super psychic no one knows in April what teams draft was good or bad.

It's too early to tell. Injuries, playing ability and other factors figure into it. Look if all the writers and so-called experts knew it all (including myself) then how did we all miss out on Marques Colston last year?

Last year, Chicago was give a D and Buffalo was an F in many publications, but both teams had excellent drafts. Fans, if you're down on your team's draft, don't be worried. A teams draft tends to turn out better than the so-called experts think it will.

The good thing is soon, very soon, training camps will start up, preseason games will begin and before you know it, the regular season is just around the corner.

Let the games begin.

Friday, April 27, 2007

NFL Draft Preview: Mock Draft/Top 20 Overall

(This is the eighth of an 8-part series leading up to the 2007 NFL Draft. For the next eight days we'll examine each position in the draft and rank our Top 10 at each position)

We're less than 24 hours away from the 2007 NFL Draft and here at the Football Fanatics blog, it's time for our annual mock draft.

Trades, smokescreens, rumours and all kinds of information and misinformation circle around in the final hours before draft day and this year is no different. And since it's impossible to figure the teams wheeling and dealing, so without worrying about accuracy we just wanted to have fun.

Without further delay, let's get to the picks.

2007 Football Fanatics Mock Draft:

1. Oakland - JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU
(Not taking Leinart or Cutler last season forced the Raiders to take a QB even though Al Davis wants Calvin Johnson)
2. Detroit - Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
(The Lions want to trade down, possibly with Tampa Bay. If they can't, Matt Millen takes the best player in the draft and his fourth receiver in five years.
3. Cleveland - Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame
(The debate is between AP, Joe Thomas and Quinn, but owner Randy Lerner wants Quinn)
4. Tampa Bay - Joe Thomas, T, Wisconsin
(The Bucs want Calvin Johnson, but if a trade with the Lions falls apart, Gruden won't pass up a left tackle the caliber of Thomas)
5. Arizona Cardinals - Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson
(The Card want Thomas but will be happy with the top pass rusher in the draft
6. Washington - LeRon Landry, S, LSU
(The Redskins want to trade out of this pick. If they can't Landry is the guy
7. Minnesota - Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma
(The Vikings would love to have Quinn or Landry fall to them. If AP is here though, Minnesota would be crazy not to take him)
8. Atlanta - Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville
(Bobby Petrino gets one of his own. Will look at Landry if available)
9. Miami - Levi Brown, T, Penn State
(Cam Cameron wants big lineman for his power running game. Brown fit the bill
10. Houston - Leon Hall, CB, Michigan
(The Texans traded with Atlanta to get Schaub and now it will keep them from AP, Landry and Brown)
11. San Francisco - Patrick Willis, ILB, Mississippi
12. Buffalo - Darrelle Revis, CB, Pittsburgh
13. St. Louis - Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska
14. Carolina - Reggie Nelson, S, Florida
15. Pittsburgh - Lawrence Timmons, OLB, Florida State
16. Green Bay - Marshawn Lynch, RB, California
17. Jacksonville - Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas
18. Cincinnati - Aaron Ross, CB, Texas
19. Tennessee - Ted Ginn Jr, WR, Ohio State
20. New York Giants - Paul Posluszny, OLB, Penn State
21. Denver - Alan Branch, DT, Michigan
22. Dallas - Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee
23. Kansas City - Justin Harrell, DT, Tennessee
24. New England - Michael Griffin, S, Texas
25. New York Jets - Greg Olsen, TE, Miami, Fla.
26. Philadelphia - Brandon Merriweather, S, Miami, Fla.
27. New Orleans - Chris Houston, CB, Arkansas
28. New England - David Harris, ILB, Michigan
29. Baltimore - Joe Staley, T, Central Michigan
30. San Diego - Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU
31. Chicago - Ben Grubbs, G, Auburn
32. Indianapolis - Jon Beason, OLB, Miami, Fla.

Top 20 Overall:
1. Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma
3. Patrick Willis, ILB, Mississippi
4. LaRon Landry, S, LSU
5. Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska
6. Joe Thomas, T, Wisconsin
7. Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson
8. Levi Brown, T, Penn State
9. Darrelle Revis, CB, Pittsburgh
10. Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas
11. Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame
12. JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU
13. Amobi Akoye, DT, Louisville
14. Paul Posluszny, OLB, Penn State
15. Leon Hall, CB, Michigan
16. Alan Branch, DT, Michigan
17. Ben Grubbs, G, Auburn
18. Ryan Kalil, C, USC
19. David Harris, ILB, Michigan
20. Joe Staley, T, Central Michigan

Thursday, April 26, 2007

NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Backs

(This is the seventh of an 8-part series leading up to the 2007 NFL Draft. For the next eight days we'll examine each position in the draft and rank our Top 10 at each position. The final installment will feature the Fanatics 2007 Mock Draft).

Cornerbacks are one of the darlings of the NFL Draft. Coaches, General Managers and Personnel Directors love to select corners, especially in the first round.

Because of the one-back and multiple-receiver sets, teams feel it's important to have three cornerbacks on the field a high percentage of the time in order to match up against all the fast receivers. Some teams played three cornerbacks as much as 62 percent of the time, with the least amount about 33.8 percent.

Over the past 10 NFL drafts, 43 cornerbacks have been selected in Round 1 -- the most of any position. During that time, 89 more were selected in Rounds 2 and 3 -- also the most of any position.

The feeling around the league is that you can never have too many good cornerbacks, especially considering how the game is played these days.

If you want more evidence of how important a good corner is to a team look no further than the big contracts given to Nate Clements and Dre Bly in the offseason.

As far as the top corner in this years class, there's a difference of opinion as to who's number one. The debate is between Pittsburgh's Darrelle Revis and Michigan's Leon Hall.

Revis has the size (6-0, 204) and speed (4.40) that you love to see in a corner. He is smart with great character. He's strong and will support the run, an intangible many cornerbacks don't like to do. He plays with a lot of confidence, is an excellent return man and could even play safety.

Hall is smart, mature and well-liked; he's an outstanding person. He can play press coverage and plays against the run well. He does not play as fast as his timed speed; you expect more from him as far as making plays. He has sure hands; he can return punts. He started 37 games at Michigan so he has a ton of big game experience.

Because of his size and ability to play the run so well, the Fanatics Blog puts Revis in the top spot - just a smidgen ahead of Hall.

The safety position seems to become more important every year, but it still ranks behind cornerback when the draft comes around. For the safety position, teams are looking for someone who can tackle, blitz and be able to run with receivers, tight ends and running backs.

In order to be a top player at this position, one needs to be a good tackler, as many teams now play eight defenders in the box against the run. You have to be a good blitzer and be able to cover big, fast tight ends, and speedy receivers. It also doesn't hurt to be a good special teams performer.

The 2007 NFL Draft has one of the deepest safety classes in a long time. As many as five could go in the first round.

The best of the best is LSU's LeRon Landry, perhaps the most complete NFL-ready performer in the draft. Landry has all the measurables: size (6-1, 213 pounds) and speed (4.35). He had a vertical jump of 37 1/2 inches and a long jump of 10-3.

He started 10 games as a true freshman at LSU in 2003 and earned second-team All-SEC honors. He started 38 games over the next three years at both strong and free safety. Landry is a hard-working player who plays smart and is very instinctive. He is a big hitter, a very good tackler, and he has very good anticipation. He doesn't have great hands and will drop some interceptions. He should start as a rookie and play in a lot of Pro Bowls during his career.

Top 10 Cornerbacks:
1. Darrelle Revis - Pittsburgh
2. Leon Hall - Michigan
3. Aaron Ross - Texas
4. Marcus McCauley - Fresno State
5. Chris Houston - Arkansas
6. Eric Wright - UNLV
7. Josh Wilson - Maryland
8. Daymeion Hughes - California
9. Jonathan Wade - Tennessee
10. A.J. Davis - NC State

Best Pro Prospect: Revis
Sleeper: McCauley
Falling: Hughes

Top 10 Safeties:
1. LeRon Landry - LSU
2. Michael Griffin - Texas
3. Reggie Nelson - Florida
4. Brandon Merriweather - Miami, Fla.
5. Tanard Jackson - Syracuse
6. Eric Weddle - Utah
7. Josh Gattis - Wake Forest
8. Aaron Rouse - Virginia Tech
9. Gerald Alexander - Boise State
10. Sabby Piscitelli - Oregon State

Best Pro Prospect: Landry
Sleeper: Weddle
Falling: Merriweather

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

NFL Draft Preview: Linebackers

(This is the sixth of an 8-part series leading up to the 2007 NFL Draft. For the next eight days we'll examine each position in the draft and rank our Top 10 at each position. The final installment will feature the Fanatics 2007 Mock Draft).

With more teams switching over to the 3-4 defense, linebacker has become a glamour position once again. Athletic, quick playmakers can find considerable playing time right away in the NFL.

One need only look at the last two seasons to see the impact athletic linebackers have in the league. Shawne Merriman and Demeco Ryans have won Rookie of the Year honors the past two seasons.

So who has the best chance to make an immediate impact and keep the linebacker as Rookie of the Year going?

Look no further than middle linebacker Patrick Willis from Ole Miss. Willis had a complete workout at the Combine. He ran two 40s in 4.51 and 4.53, the short shuttle in 4.46 and the cone drill in 7.23. He also had a 35-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot-11 long jump and did 21 bench presses. Willis worked out again on March 20 at Mississippi's Pro Day and ran 4.57 and 4.58 at a weight of 237 pounds.

He is versatile enough to play inside or outside in either a 3-4 or 4-3 alignment and he's one of the most complete, NFL ready players in this draft - next to Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson and LSU safety LeRon Landry.

He has very good athletic ability, is an outstanding competitor and a very aggressive run stopper. He has great stamina and does a good job playing off blocks. He showed skills dropping into coverage at his pro day and will play with injuries. Willis will be a good player and will make a lot of big plays for his team. He has Pro Bowl ability.

The best on the outside is Paul Posluszny, the latest in a long line of studs from Linebacker U - Penn State.

Posluszny had a complete workout at the Combine where he ran his 40s in 4.70 and 4.71. He also had a 37-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot-8 long jump, ran 4.20 in the short shuttle, 6.94 in the cone drill and did 22 lifts. Posluszny's an outstanding person and a very instinctive player, which is very important for this position. He's smart and has great football IQ.

He's still trying to come back from a knee injury suffered in the Orange Bowl two seasons ago and his mobility is still somewhat of a mystery. Regardless, he's a tough, hard-nosed instinctive player who should do well at the next level.

Top 10 Inside Linebackers:
1. Patrick Willis - Mississippi
2. David Harris - Michigan
3. Brandon Siler - Florida
4. Anthony Waters - Clemson
5. Justin Durant - Hampton
6. Buster Davis - Florida State
7. Michael Okwo - Stanford
8. H.B. Blades - Pittsburgh
9. Desmond Bishop - California
10. Marvin Mitchell - Tennessee

Best Pro Prospect: Willis
Sleeper: Durant
Falling: Okwo

Top 10 Outside Linebackers:
1. Paul Posluszny - Penn State
2. Jon Beason - Miami, Fla.
3. Lawrence Timmons - Florida State
4. Stewart Bradley - Nebraska
5. Rufus Alexander - Oklahoma
6. Zak DeOssie - Brown
7. Stephen Nicholas - South Florida
8. Quincy Black - New Mexico
9. Tim Shaw - Penn State
10. Earl Everett - Florida

Best Pro Prospect: Posluszny & Beason
Sleeper: DeOssie
Falling: Alexander

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Line

(This is the fifth of an 8-part series leading up to the 2007 NFL Draft. For the next eight days we'll examine each position in the draft and rank our Top 10 at each position. The final installment will feature the Fanatics 2007 Mock Draft).

Defensive end may be the deepest position in the draft and there are plenty of different shapes, sizes and styles for every NFL team to grab hold of.

Defensive tackle is a different story. Two, maybe three will be first round selections and the depth at the position in recent years is nowhere in evidence in this class.

If an NFL team is looking for a pass rushing DE look no further than Clemson's Gaines Adams, Arkansas' Jamaal Anderson and Florida's Jarvis Moss, if it's an all-around end that's needed then Nebraska's Adam Carriker is your man.

How you rate them is based on need - different strokes for different folks as Sly & the Family Stone once sang.

Here at the Fanatics Blog, I believe the best is the on who's the most versatile and that means Carriker. The kid is big and tall(6-6, 296), has excellent quickness and explosion and can play in either the 4-3 or 3-4 alignment. He's a hard worker with a non-stop motor and he plays with pain. The kind of athlete a coach wants on his team.

The best pass rusher by far is Adams. He has the potential to be a quarterback's nightmare for years to come. He has decent strength and good sideline-to-sideline movement. His only knock is a lack of size to play the run, but as a pass-rushing specialist he could be a game-changing player.

Anderson has the potential to develop into that kind of player, as does Moss, but both need to work on their games. Improving their strength and building bulk would go a long ay for both guys. Neither emerged until their senior seasons and both have to prove they can be consistent at the next level.

The defensive tackles all have some risk.

Michigan's Alan Branch is falling on the eve of the draft because of health issues (he may have fractures in his legs) and the fact that some scouts and coaches feel Branch doesn't play hard all the time. He has a tendency to play high and get shoved back at times.

Louisville's Amobi Okoye is the most interesting prospect in the 2007 NFL Draft. He's only 19 and has tremendous potential, but right now that's all it is. He needs to get bigger and stronger and grow into his body. He's not ready to play over center and clog the middle, but his character, intelligence and quickness are top notch. Okoye has a tremendous upside, but the team that drafts him will have to be patient.

Justin Harrell of Tennessee has first-round talent, but a torn bicep caused him to miss most of last season and he may fall out of the first round. Harrell is a strong and explosive tackle who proved at the Combine that his injury is well healed. A very solid player.

Top 10 Defensive Ends:
1. Adam Carriker - Nebraska
2. Gaines Adams - Clemson
3. Jamaal Anderson - Arkansas
4. Jarvis Moss - Florida
5. Anthony Spencer - Purdue
6. Victor Abiamiri - Notre Dame
7. LaMarr Woodley - Michigan
8. Ray McDonald - Florida
9. Tim Crowder - Texas
10. Ikaika Alama-Francis - Hawaii

Best Pro Prospect: Carriker & Adams
Sleeper: Francis
Falling: Moss

Top 10 Defensive Tackles:
1. Amobi Okoye - Louisville
2. Alan Branch - Michigan
3. Justin Harrell - Tennessee
4. Tank Tyler - NC State
5. Marcus Thomas - Florida
6. Turk McBride - Tennessee
7. Brandon Mebane - California
8. Quinn Pitcock - Ohio State
9. Paul Soliai - Utah
10. Kareem Brown - Miami, Fla.

Best Pro Prospect: Okoye
Sleeper: Soliai
Falling: Branch

Monday, April 23, 2007

NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Line

(This is the fourth of an 8-part series leading up to the 2007 NFL Draft. For the next eight days we'll examine each position in the draft and rank our Top 10 at each position. The final installment will feature the Fanatics 2007 Mock Draft).

The safest position to pick in the first round is on the offensive line. Case in point, in the last four years, 13 offensive linemen were drafted in the first round. Last season, those 13 players started 192 of a possible 208 games. That is a 93 percent success rate and the only reason it wasn't closer to 100 percent is injury, not performance.

This years class of tackles, guards and centers have some nice players in the mix, but not a lot of depth.

At tackle, three names pop out as sure first round picks. Wisconsin's Joe Thomas leads the way with Penn State's Levi Brown and Central Michigan's Joe Staley not far behind.

Thomas is a prototypical left tackle with all the measurables, even though he could stand to pack on more weight to his 311-pound frame. He's athletic, quick and has great field awareness. He bends well at the knees and drives off his blocks. Thomas impressed everyone at the Combine with a 4.92 in the 40.

Brown is well-rounded and intelligent. He received not one but two degrees at Penn State. Has size, agility, quickness and works very hard. The only real weakness in his game is a tendency to play high in his stance.

Staley is a former tight end who is rising fast on teams draft boards because of his quickness and athleticism. Has the frame to get bigger and with his huge wingspan, he can smother opponents. Once he learns the position better, Staley could be a big-time player.

Guards are usually not selected much in the first round, but this season three may number ones. They are Justin Blalock of Texas, Ben Grubbs of Auburn and Tennessee's Aaron Sears.

At Center, USC's Ryan Kalil is a solid all-around player who needs to get bigger and add weight, but has the chance to be a solid 10-year starter. Boston College's Josh Beekman and Hawaii's Samson Satele could sneak into the bottom of the first round as well.

Top 10 Tackles:
1. Joe Thomas - Wisconsin
2. Levi Brown - Penn State
3. Joe Staley - Central Michigan
4. Tony Ugoh - Arkansas
5. Doug Free - Northern Illinois
6. James Marten - Boston College
7. Ryan Harris - Notre Dame
8. Marshall Yanda - Iowa
9. Brandon Frye - Virginia Tech
10. Allen Barbre - Missouri Southern

Best Pro Prospect: Thomas
Sleeper: Free
Falling: Harris

Top 10 Guards:
1. Justin Blalock - Texas
2. Ben Grubbs - Auburn
3. Aaron Sears - Tennessee
4. Andy Alleman - Akron
5. Mike Jones - Iowa
6. Manuel Ramirez - Texas Tech
7. Tim Duckworth -Auburn
8. Nathan Bennett - Clemson
9. Cameron Stephenson - Rutgers
10. Mansfield Wrotto - Georgia Tech

Best Pro Prospect: Blalock
Sleeper: Alleman
Falling: Jones

Top 5 Centers:
1. Ryan Kalil - USC
2. Samson Satele - Hawaii
3. Josh Beekman - Boston College
4. Dustin Fry - Clemson
5. Doug Datish - Ohio State

Best Pro Prospect: Kalil
Sleeper: None
Falling: Datish

Sunday, April 22, 2007

NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

(This is the third of an 8-part series leading up to the 2007 NFL Draft. For the next eight days we'll examine each position in the draft and rank our Top 10 at each position. The final installment will feature the Fanatics 2007 Mock Draft).

What can you say about Calvin Johnson that hasn't already been said in newspapers, magazines and all over the Internet? In a word - awesome.

The former Georgia Tech standout has all the tools - size (6-5), speed (4.35), phenomenal hands and no ego or attitude problems. He has the potential to be a field-stretching, game-changing superstar. He's clearly the best receiver by far in the 2007 class.

He doesn't appear to have any weaknesses and is, as far as athleticism and potential goes, the best player in the draft. Even so, I don't think you ever take a wide receiver number one overall, no matter how talented he is. Only two receivers in NFL history - Irving Fryar and Keyshawn Johnson - were selected first overall and while both had decent careers, they aren't the kind you expect from a number one overall selection.

Wideouts can be game breakers, but in the end, receivers don't win Super Bowls, quarterbacks do. Do you hear me Al Davis?

The wide receiver class is solid and deep, but unlike Johnson, every other selection has question marks. Some are rated too high (Ted Ginn Jr, Robert Meachem) and some are rated too low (Anthony Gonzalez).

The tight end spot is down this year with really only two potential first round picks - Miami's Greg Olsen and Arizona State's Zach Miller.

Olsen will definitely be a first-round selection after his showing at the combine where he ran a nice 4.51 in the 40 to go along with his 6-6, 254-pound frame. Miller is equal in size to Olsen, but his 4.87 time in the 40, dropped his stock a little.

Top 10 Wide Receivers:
1. Calvin Johnson - Georgia Tech
2. Dwayne Bowe - LSU
3. Robert Meachem - Tennessee
4. Anthony Gonzalez - Ohio State
5. Ted Ginn Jr. - Ohio State
6. Dwayne Jarrett - USC
7. Sidney Rice - South Carolina
8. Jason Hill - Washington State
9. Steve Smith - USC
10. Aundrae Allison - East Carolina

Best Pro Prospect: Johnson
Sleeper: Allison
Falling: Ginn Jr.

Top 10 Tight Ends:
1. Greg Olsen - Miami, Fla.
2. Zach Miller - Arizona State
3. Ben Patrick - Delaware
4. Scott Chandler - Iowa
5. Martrez Milner - Georgia
6. Matt Spaeth - Minnesota
7. Joe Newton - Oregon State
8. Michael Allan - Whitworth
9. Clark Harris - Rutgers
10. Jonny Harline - BYU

Best Pro Prospect: Olsen
Sleeper: Allan
Falling: Chandler

Saturday, April 21, 2007

NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs

(This is the second of an 8-part series leading up to the 2007 NFL Draft. For the next eight days we'll examine each position in the draft and rank our Top 10 at each position. The final installment will feature the Fanatics 2007 Mock Draft).

Adrian Peterson leads a fairly weak running back group in this years draft and is the clear-cut best runner in the class.

The former Oklahoma Sooner has it all - size, speed, strength and explosiveness. His stock rose even higher after he ran a 4.40 at the Combine and proved he has hands and could be a decent receiver at the next level.

The red flag on Peterson is his health. He's a straight up runner in the mold of Eric Dickerson and was injured in each of his three seasons at Oklahoma. He also had some fumble problems in college. Even so, Peterson should be a top 10 pick and has the potential to be a superstar in the league.

Cal RB Marshawn Lynch is the other back mentioned as a first round talent. Lynch has decent size and slippery quickness and is a real threat as a receiver.

His stock has dropped a little of late because of some character issues and bad interviews at the Combine. He also has a history of injuries and was never a full-time starter with Bears - sharing time with J.J. Arrington and Justin Forsett in his collegiate career. Durability is a concern with NFL scouts.

Louisville's Michael Bush would have been a first-round pick for sure, but a broken leg in the opening game of the season against Kentucky that required two surgeries will have Bush falling to the third or fourth round.

He's a huge back with deceptive speed and may be a steal for the team that pulls the trigger on him. For this reason, Bush remains as the third back on the Fanatics list, despite the injuries.

Top 10 Running Backs:
1. Adrian Peterson - Oklahoma
2. Marshawn Lynch - California
3. Michael Bush - Louisville
4. Tony Hunt - Penn State
5. Antonio Pittman - Ohio State
6. Lorenzo Booker - Florida State
7. Kenny Irons - Auburn
8. Brian Leonard (FB) - Rutgers
9. Chris Henry - Arizona
10. Garrett Wolfe - Northern Illinois

Best Pro Prospect: Peterson
Sleeper: Bush
Falling: Lynch

Friday, April 20, 2007

NFL Draft Preview: Quarterbacks

(This is the first of an 8-part series leading up to the 2007 NFL Draft. For the next eight days we'll examine each position in the draft and rank our Top 10 at each position. The final installment will feature the Fanatics 2007 Mock Draft).

The debate rages on as to who will be the first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft - LSU QB JaMarcus Russell or Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson?

While that issue is up in the air, the best quarterback in the draft, according to NFL scouts and other experts in the media, isn't. All point to Russell and his amazing physical gifts.

He has the size (6-6, 265 pounds), decent speed (4.8) and arm strength to make all the throws in the NFL. He is a specimen - of that there is no arguement, but there are some question marks in his game that can't be ignored.

Russell is prone to make dumb decisions and throw off his back foot. He came out early and has less than 30 starts in his college career. In addition, he didn't play in a pro-style offense at LSU and spent most of his time in the shotgun. So there's definitely a learning curve involved.

He will be drafted first or second overall because of his physical abilities, but Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn has the best upside of any of the quarterbacks in this draft.

Quinn was a four-year starter, in a pro-style offense that was run by Charlies Weis, a two-time Super Bowl winning coach who groomed Tom Brady while he was offensive coordinator of the Patriots.

Quinn put up decent numbers at the combine, including a surprising 24 reps in the bench press and has all the throws. The knock against him was his 2-8 record in big games with the likes of USC and Michigan. That is minor to say the least. He has been over-analysed to the point of nausea.

While Quinn doesn't have the physical makeup of Russell, he is the more NFL-ready quarterback and the one with the better future in the league. So based on what we've already discussed - the Football Fanatics Blog goes against the grain and rates Brady Quinn the number one signal caller in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Top 10 Quarterbacks:
1. Brady Quinn - Notre Dame
2. JaMarcus Russell - LSU
3. Drew Stanton - Michigan State
4. John Beck - BYU
5. Trent Edwards - Stanford
6. Troy Smith - Ohio State
7. Tyler Palko - Pittsburgh
8. Kevin Kolb - Houston
9. Jared Zabransky - Boise State
10. Jordan Palmer - UTEP

Best Pro Prospect: Quinn
Sleeper: Toby Korrodi, Central Missouri State
Falling: Smith

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Three Top Draft Prospects Admit Using Marijuana

Three top draft prospects reportedly admitted to past marijuana use in interviews taped by the league at the NFL scouting combine in February and distributed to each of the 32 teams.

Pro Football Weekly reported that Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams and Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye made the admissions during the standard interviews.

All three players are considered possible top-10 selections in the draft. An official with one NFL team, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the interviews are not meant to be released or discussed publicly, said this morning he didn't think the draft status of any of the players would be affected. Players also undergo drug testing at the combine and there's no indication that any of the three tested positive.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

NFL News and Notes

Grant Wistrom has done it all in his college and NFL careers, winning three national championships at Nebraska and a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams. Now he's looking to add the title of "coach" to his football résumé, and he's willing to start small.

Released last month from the Seattle Seahawks, the 30-year-old defensive end plans to move home to southwest Missouri and become an assistant coach at the Springfield high school where his older brother, Chance, is principal.

Wistrom hasn't officially retired from the NFL, but said Monday he is "99.9 percent sure" he won't be playing an 11th season in the pros.

The Wistrom brothers and Parkview High School head coach Wes Beachler confirmed Monday that Grant Wistrom would be joining the Parkview staff.

Spurned by their primary offseason target for bolstering the offensive line, the Seattle Seahawks are bringing back veteran guard Chris Gray with a two-year contract worth $2.1 million in base salary, plus bonuses, according to the NFL players association.

Gray, who turns 37 in June, will be starting his 15th season -- his 10th with the Seahawks -- when Seattle has its first minicamp next month. His team record of 121 consecutive starts ended last Dec. 31 in the regular-season finale because of a bruised right quadriceps, but he returned to start both of Seattle's playoff games in January.

His base pay is $820,000 for the upcoming season and would be $1.28 million for 2008.

The Seahawks were close to signing San Diego free agent guard Kris Dielman early last month after they flew him to Seattle on a private jet. While he was out to dinner with Matt Hasselbeck and some other Seattle players, Dielman got a text message from his agent that a Seahawks contract worth approximately $49 million was all but ready to be signed.

But Dielman instead heeded his own doubts, plus constant calls from Chargers teammates to stay with the defending AFC West champions. The next morning, he signed a six-year deal with San Diego worth $39 million, with $17 million guaranteed in the first two years.

Seattle starting offensive line entering the 2007 season will likely have Gray at right guard and oft-injured veteran Floyd Womack, who re-signed earlier this offseason for $700,000 and one year, at left guard. Sean Locklear, a third-round draft pick in 2004, will be beginning his third season at right tackle opposite Jones. Chris Spencer, the team's first-round pick in '05 who started 13 games plus both playoff games last season, will be back at center.

Making only their second dip into the free agent market this offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday signed unrestricted defensive end Nick Eason, who played the past two seasons for the Cleveland Browns.

Expected to add depth and flexibility to the defensive line, Eason signed a one-year contract, believed to be for the league minimum base salary.

The only other unrestricted free agent signed by the Steelers this spring was offensive lineman Sean Mahan, formerly of Tampa Bay, who will contend for a starting spot at either center or guard. The Steelers traditionally rely more on the draft than on free agency to build their team and that philosophy will not change under first-year coach Mike Tomlin.

Eason, 26, is coming off the most productive season of his career, having notched 23 tackles in a backup role with the Browns in 2006. He is a good fit for the Pittsburgh defense because he has the kind of size the Steelers want at defensive end in their 3-4 front, and can also slide inside to tackle on occasion.

Pittsburgh last week lost top veteran backup Rodney Bailey, who signed with Arizona as an unrestricted free agent, and Eason will ostensibly replace him on the roster.

A former Clemson standout, Eason was chosen by the Denver Broncos in the fourth round of the 2003 draft. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve, spent some time on the Denver and Cleveland practice squads, then earned a roster spot with the Browns in 2005.

Eason has 44 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble in 30 regular-season appearances.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Shield Calls It Quits After 14 Years

Kansas City guard Will Shields is retiring after 14 NFL seasons, during which he made a record 12 Pro Bowl appearances and anchored one of the top offensive lines in the league.

The 35-year-old announced his decision on his website on Sunday. He said the physical requirements of football had become more difficult with each passing day.

Shields, who made a team-record 224 starts, made his 12th Pro Bowl appearance last season to tie the record held by Minnesota guard Randall McDaniel.

The Chiefs had been waiting for Shields to decide whether he would come back for another season. Making the announcement entirely without warning on his website seemed in keeping with the privacy he has closely guarded throughout his stellar career. A team spokesman said Sunday night the club was not aware of Shields' announcement.

Shields strongly contemplated quitting after the 2005 season.

On his website, Shields thanked fellow players, coaches and his wife and children.

"I am looking forward to a future filled with sports in mind," he wrote. "Whether it is in the stands, on the sideline, in the press box or in an office -- football will remain in my blood. My best wishes to all and I hope to see you soon. Thank you again, for all your support."

Shields was a third-round draft choice out of Nebraska in 1993 who quickly developed into one of the best players at his position.

Quick and agile for a 300-pounder, Shields led the way Pro Bowl runners Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson.

For several years, he teamed with Pro Bowl left tackle Willie Roaf, Pro Bowl left guard Brian Waters and Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez to form one of the best blocking units in the NFL.

Roaf retired abruptly just before the opening of training camp. It's possible that only Waters and Gonzalez will remain of the great Chiefs line of a few years ago because center Casey Wiegmann, an 11-year veteran, is also contemplating retirement.

Shields' absence, although not unexpected, is certain to leave a big hole in the offensive line as the Chiefs give second-year quarterback Brodie Croyle the chance to compete for the starting job.

Shields also has been active in community affairs, but never used his work in that area to raise his own profile. He created the "Will To Succeed" Foundation in 1993 and dedicated it toward improving the lives of abused, battered and neglected women and children.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Wilson To Be Released By Denver; Carlisle To Raiders

Denver Bronocs linebacker Al Wilson scheduled a press conference today to announce that he is being released by Denver and will become and unrestricted free agent.

Wilson was the number one pick for Denver in the 1999 NFL Draft and quickly emerged as the defensive leader of the club.

Wilson leaves the Broncos as a four-time Pro Bowl player and one of the top defenders in franchise history.

Last month, the Broncos tried to trade him to the New York Giants for a third-round choice. That trade didn't happen because he failed a physical. He had back problems last year along with a thumb injury. Wilson's rights returned to the Broncos, who were, at the time, seemingly willing to keep him on the roster.

With a $5.2 million salary and a $600,000 roster bonus, Wilson didn't fit into the Broncos salary cap after a busy offseason. His release will save the Broncos $1.63 million.

In other NFL news, unrestricted free agent Cooper Carlisle, one of the few starting-caliber offensive linemen still available in the veteran unrestricted free agent talent pool, has reached a contract agreement with the Oakland Raiders.

Carlisle, 29, played the first seven years of his career with the Denver Broncos. The Raiders saw the chance to get a quality player from a division rival as a bit of a coup. Carlisle will sign a two-year contract, the financial details of which were not yet available.

With 38 career starts, including 16 starts at right guard in each of the last two seasons, Carlisle figures to quickly challenge for a job in the Oakland lineup. The Raiders are revamping their offensive line after surrendering a league-worst 72 sacks in 2006, and are transitioning to a zone-blocking scheme under first-year head coach Lane Kiffin.

For his entire Denver tenure, Carlisle played in the zone-blocking scheme, which calls for smaller, quicker offensive linemen. His familiarity with the blocking system system should give Carlisle an edge in competing for a starting job and should help speed implementation of the new style in Oakland.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bledsoe Calls It A Career

Drew Bledsoe retired Wednesday, ending a 14-season career in which he made two Super Bowls.

The top overall pick by New England in the 1993 draft out of Washington State, the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback played for the Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys. He was a starter for all three teams, but ended up as a backup with the Cowboys.

Bledsoe threw for 44,611 yards and 251 touchdown passes in his career.

"I feel so fortunate, so honored, to have played this game that I love for so long, with so many great players, and in front of so many wonderful fans," he said. "I fulfilled a childhood dream the first time I stepped on an NFL field, and the league did not let me down one time. I retire with a smile on my face, in good health, and ready to spend autumns at my kids' games instead of my own. I'm excited to start the next chapter of my life."

The 35-year-old Bledsoe lost his starting job to Tom Brady in New England in 2001 when Bledsoe got hurt in the second game of the season, and to Tony Romo in Dallas after Game 6 of last season.

He also asked for his release from the Bills after the 2004 season, when the team informed him it was going with J.P. Losman as the starter the next year. Bledsoe didn't want to be a backup there after he led the Bills to the brink of the playoffs.

He then signed with the Cowboys and was their starter for all of 2005 and part of '06.

In 1996, Bledsoe guided the Patriots to the AFC championship. They lost to Green Bay in the Super Bowl.

He remained the Patriots' starter until he was tackled by the Jets' Mo Lewis in the second game of the 2001 season and injured his chest. Brady took over, although Bledsoe got New England into the Super Bowl in place of the injured Brady by beating Pittsburgh in the AFC title game.

Brady then was the MVP of the Super Bowl win over St. Louis.

The Bills acquired Bledsoe during the 2002 NFL draft by dealing their first-round pick in 2003 to New England. Bledsoe had strong first season in Buffalo, setting 10 team passing records, including single-season marks with 4,359 yards and 375 completions.

His numbers, however, began to decline drastically. In his final 30 games with Buffalo, Bledsoe never finished with more than 296 yards passing, while throwing 29 touchdowns and 27 interceptions during that stretch.

He finishes seventh all-time in yards passing, 13th in touchdown passes and fifth in completions (3,839).

Friday, April 06, 2007

Carr Signs With Carolina

Former Houston Texans QB and No. 1 overall pick David Carr signed a two-year deal with the Carolina Panthers on Friday. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Carr was released by the Texans after Houston acquired Matt Schaub in a trade with Atlanta earlier this offseason. The first player selected overall in the 2002 draft, Carr will serve as the backup to Panthers starter Jake Delhomme, who is coming off an uneven 2006 season.

Carolina coach John Fox reiterated during the Panthers' courtship of Carr that Delhomme is the unchallenged starter, but the addition of Carr certainly provides an interesting alternative if the incumbent struggles as he did a year ago.

Carr, 27, chose the opportunity with the Panthers over one in Seattle. He visited with Carolina coaches and team officials on Monday and Tuesday, then made a two-day trip to meet with the Seahawks, where he would have also been a backup. After returning from the Seattle visit, Carr counseled with his wife and opted for the deal with Carolina.

The Cleveland Browns also indicated interest in Carr in recent days and the Miami Dolphins considered him as well. The only visits he made, however, were to Carolina and Seattle.

In five seasons with the Texans, he completed 1,243 of 2,070 passes for 13,391 yards, with 59 touchdown passes and 65 interceptions, and a passer rating of 75.3. But Carr was the most-sacked quarterback in the league during his tenure with the Texans. Playing behind one of the league's most porous offensive lines, he was sacked a remarkable 249 times.

Carr started 75 games but recorded just a 22-53 record. Between bonuses and base salaries, the Texans paid Carr more than $35 million in five seasons. When they acquired Schaub, whom they immediately named the starter, they initially hoped to be able to trade Carr, but instead released him rather than prolong his time with the franchise.

The move also means the Panthers now have the top two picks from the 2002 draft. Carolina selected defensive end Julius Peppers with No. 2 pick.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Stingley Passes Away at Age 55

Former New England Patriots' receiver Darryl Stingley, who was paralyzed after a hard hit during an NFL preseason game nearly 30 years ago, has died. He was 55.

Stingley was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital early Thursday after he was found unresponsive in his Chicago home, according to Tony Brucci, an investigator with the Cook County medical examiner's office.

An autopsy was scheduled. The cause of death was not immediately available.

Stingley played football until Aug. 12, 1978, when the 26-year-old receiver went up for a pass during a preseason game and was hit from behind by Oakland Raiders' safety Jack Tatum. The hit broke Stingley's neck and left him a quadriplegic.

Stingley was born and raised in Chicago. He was a star running back at John Marshall High School. He attended Purdue on a football scholarship.

In 1973, he was a first-round draft pick of the Patriots.

"On behalf of the Kraft family and the entire Patriots organization, we're deeply saddened by news of Darryl Stingley's death, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Stingley family at this time," team spokesman Stacey James said.

Stingley, who used a wheelchair, became a symbol for violence in the game. He wrote a book about his experiences entitled "Happy to Be Alive." It was published in 1983.

He served as executive director of player personnel for the Patriots and often visited paralyzed patients.

Stingley regained limited movement in his right arm and operated his electric wheelchair on his own.

In 1993, Stingley started a nonprofit foundation in Chicago designed to help inner-city youth.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Goodell's Player Policy Could Include Lifetime Bans

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's to-be-unveiled player conduct policy might allow him to issue lifetime bans for players involved in serious criminal activity, according to a published report.

NFL Players' Association executive director Gene Upshaw, who was briefed on Goodell's policy, told The Washington Post, however, that Adam "Pacman" Jones and Chris Henry are not facing lifetime punishments. Jones and Henry met with the commissioner Tuesday in New York.

"None of these cases we're talking about will be a permanent ban," Upshaw told The Post in a telephone interview. "I don't think we're at that point yet with these cases. We understand there will be some type of suspension, but not that."

Upshaw and six players met with Goodell on Tuesday. The commissioner briefed the panel on several issues, including the conduct policy, but Upshaw told The Post that Goodell didn't brief the panel specifically on Jones' or Henry's situations. Upshaw and the players left before Goodell's meetings with Henry and Jones.

Upshaw told The Post that under the new policy, a first-time offender would have to undergo counseling and be placed on probation and might be fined. A second-time offender might face suspension if his infraction was considered severe.

"One thing was clear: Once a player has gotten himself into this fix, it's going to be up to him to get himself out," Upshaw told The Post.

Goodell has said he will announce his decision on suspensions or other disciplinary action for Jones and Henry before the draft on April 28 and perhaps in the next 10 days.

The NFL had no comment and lawyers for the players had no immediate response. The meeting with the players was held away from the NFL offices where six television cameras stationed themselves with no one to interview.

Henry is one of nine Bengals who were arrested last season, leading to calls for a crackdown on player behavior. But Jones has become the focus for Goodell, who took over as commissioner in September and has been preoccupied by the issue almost from the start of his tenure.

Since being drafted in April 2005, Jones has been arrested five times and questioned by police in 10 episodes. Last week, Las Vegas police recommended he be charged with a felony and two misdemeanors for his role in a Feb. 19 strip club fight that led to a triple shooting.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Titans Talking to Turner

The Tennessee Titans are getting serious in their search for more help at running back and they started Monday by visiting with restricted free agent Michael Turner of San Diego.

Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt was not available for comment. But San Diego general manager A.J. Smith had said several teams had inquired about Turner as the NFL meetings wrapped up last week.

Agent Bus Cook said he hadn't had much time to talk with Turner, who was checking out of a Nashville hotel Monday afternoon. But he said Turner enjoyed his visit with the Titans.

The Titans released Travis Henry last month, and he quickly signed a new deal with the Denver Broncos. Henry rushed for 1,211 yards last season, a big reason why Tennessee ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing with Vince Young.

Henry's departure has left Tennessee with LenDale White and fullback Ahmard Hall, both rookies last year, on the roster with Quinton Ganther and Dontrell Moore. White, a second-round draft pick in 2006, had 61 carries for 244 yards.

Turner is a restricted free agent who the Chargers tendered high enough that any interested team would have to sign the running back to an offer sheet and pay up with a first- and third-round draft pick to San Diego.

Or they could try and lower that cost in a sign-and-trade with San Diego, which Smith said he is open to before the draft April 28-29.

Running backs have done well this offseason. Frank Gore got a four-year extension from San Francisco that included more than $14 million in guaranteed money, and Willis McGahee picked up a contract with a maximum value of $40.12 million after being traded to Baltimore earlier this year.

Both running backs have had serious knee injuries in their past.

Turner has been healthy and averaged 6.3 yards a carry last season as backup to LaDanian Tomlinson and finished with 80 carries for 502 yards.

Turner is scheduled to make $2.35 million in 2007, and Cook said the Chargers have incentive to make a move if they choose.

"If they can get a nice draft pick for him right now, next year they get nothing for him," Cook said.

The Titans entered free agency with lots of room under the salary cap, and they still have plenty of space left.

Their biggest moves included signing cornerback Nick Harper away from Indianapolis. They also lured restricted free agent linebacker Ryan Fowler away from Dallas, safety Bryan Scott and receiver Justin Gage.

The Titans also have Corey Dillon scheduled to visit Wednesday.