The Best 2010 NFL Draft Week Debate… Carroll Does Well in First Draft

April 26, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

The three-day marathon called the NFL Draft is finally over. I was skeptical at first, but I must admit, going against what I argued not too long ago… the three day format was a success. I was proven wrong. I probably watched more draft coverage this year than ever before. And apparently I am not alone, as ESPN had record ratings. However, today we are going to recap the draft and debate which team had the best overall draft. How did your team fare? Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan are making two good choices as Babe is now a big Jimmy Clausen fan, and Bleacher Fan will join millions of others with his man crush on Tim Tebow. I, however, am going in a different direction. I am headed out West where Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks had themselves a very good draft.

Sports Geek and I are long time readers of Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback. And this morning, he has a fascinating review of the draft and some of the behind the scenes chatter. He and I agree that the Seahawks did a lot to improve their team. With their first pick and the sixth overall, they drafted Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung. Now, I know the average fan can’t name the names of the offensive lineman, but this guy appears to be the real deal. He was a two-time All-American in Stillwater and is rather huge. He is 6-feet 5-inches and weighs 307 pounds. Longtime Seahawk tackle Walter Jones is expected to retire in the coming days, and Seattle expects Okung to just slide right into the tackle position manned by Jones for thirteen years.

With the thirteenth pick safety Earl Thomas out of Texas was selected. Now, some of you Big XII fans should be familiar with Thomas. While he played safety in college, the Seahawks believe he can play some corner if needed, and that’s what separated him from the other safety candidates like former USC Trojan Taylor Mays. Carroll has been under fire from Mays for somehow causing his draft stock to fall. Mays was under the assumption that Carroll may draft him. But, Taylor, you aren’t in sunny California anymore… that’s not how it works outside the fantasy known as the University of Southern California. The training wheels are off!

I really like the second round pick, and 60th overall, of Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate. Sports Geek earlier this year wrote an argument about Tate. It’s hard to argue against some of the things he did in South Bend, and under major scrutiny at that. He’s a little on the small side, but I’ve just got a feeling he could do well in Seattle. I was actually a little surprised he fell all the way to 60.

It was a great first draft for Carroll in Seattle. He filled needs with the first three picks, but he also traded away picks in order to get running backs Leon Washington and LenDale White. If those two guys can stay healthy and focused, they should succeed in the northwest. The NFC West is up for grabs, and this draft will go a long way in helping Seattle compete in the West.

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The Best 2010 NFL Draft Week Debate… Mile High Strategy

April 26, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

Success in the NFL Draft is measured and evaluated twice.

The ultimate measure of success cannot be determined until years after the draft has concluded, when we can take a perspective view afforded only by time and then say with certainty “Yes, this player was a successful draft pick” (i.e. Tom Brady), or “No, this player was a bust.”

Because we don’t have the luxury of foresight, we are left to grade the draft only by the standards we know today. There are essentially two questions to be asked in this regard:

First, did the team select players that can effectively fit the team’s scheme? Second, did the team maximize their draft opportunities to get as much value out of those picks as possible?

By those standards, the Denver Broncos CLEARLY had the best draft of 2010. They formalized a specific plan, and they executed that plan FLAWLESSLY.

To begin with, head coach Josh McDaniels sent a clear message to his team and to the league at large, that he is interested predominately in high-character, high-commitment players. With last year’s departure of Jay Cutler, and now Brandon Marshall in 2010, McDaniels is making it known that there is a certain “quality” of player that he wants on his team.

He held true to that philosophy with his first pick of 2010, when he passed on wide receiver Dez Bryant (who was arguably the most talented receiver in the draft) to instead select Demaryius Thomas out of Georgia Tech. Bryant brings with him a great deal of off-field questions, following a suspension which cost him most of the 2009 season and questions about his “attitude.” While Thomas is no slouch as a wide out, he does not bring as much on-field upside as Bryant has. However, Bryant’s upside ON the field seems to have been outweighed by his OFF-field baggage, and that appears to be all that McDaniels needed to know.

Three picks later, McDaniels backed up his high-character initiative by selecting “Mr. High Character” in Tim Tebow.

The Tebow pick, in my estimation, was THE pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, and I think that McDaniels’ decision to go with Tebow was the PERFECT move for his Denver Broncos. Despite ESPN’s ongoing (Kiper-driven) insistence that this was a bad decision – one that many implied COULD cost McDaniels his career if proven unsuccessful – there is little doubt in my mind that Tebow will be successful in Denver.

I am tired of hearing about Tebow’s supposed inability to fit in the NFL. As I wrote in a previous verdict, Tebow doesn’t have to throw the ball conventionally to be successful. He only has to win, and winning is the one thing that has PROVEN he can do better than just about anybody in the 2010 NFL Draft. He just needed an organization to believe in his ability the way that Urban Meyer and the rest of the Florida Gators program believed. As he said during his post-selection interview, he did not need for EVERY team in the NFL to like him. He just needed to prove to ONE team that he would be successful in the NFL.

Fortunately for Tebow, Josh McDaniels agreed.

Rather than listen to the overblown criticism provided by outlets such as ESPN, McDaniels chose the one player that most exemplified the ideals which he himself prized above all others. The result is that Tebow is once again in an environment where he is being called upon because of his intangible qualities (although I never understood how you could question the “tangibles” of a kid with Tebow’s resume). Just as Urban Meyer believed in the special blend of talent, commitment, and character that Tebow possesses, and built a program designed to maximize those qualities, McDaniels has cast his support for the former Heisman Winner, NCAA record-holder, and two-time national champion (it still fascinates me that people will question his tangibles when he has accomplished so much).

Finally, the action that made the Broncos so successful with the 2010 draft was not the fact that they simply picked good players that fit their organization. It was the manner in which they got those players. Thanks to brilliant draft-day maneuvering, the Broncos flitted across the draft board all day long, only stopping to make a pick when they felt it suited their needs best. They essentially decided for themselves when they would pick, and it didn’t matter if it was their turn or not. When they wanted to make something happen, they made it happen. They traded back in the draft, then forward again, all to put themselves in the best possible position to get the players they WANTED and NEEDED without having to overpay.

The Denver Broncos had the best draft of 2010 for one reason – they went into the draft with a clearly defined plan, and they stuck to that plan. While we will not be able to judge the ultimate success or failure of the 2010 NFL Draft for many years to come, one thing is certain – no team executed their plan better than did the Denver Broncos. For that reason alone, I give them an A+!

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The Best 2010 NFL Draft Week Debate… Cunning Cats

April 26, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer.

“I just want to tell you (that) you just made the best pick in the draft and I’m going to make you guys proud.” That’s a quote from Jimmy Clausen about being drafted with the 48th overall pick by the Carolina Panthers. And I have to agree with him.

The Panthers entered the 2010 NFL Draft at a definite disadvantage, having traded away their first round pick to San Francisco last year to acquire defensive end Everett Brown during the second round of the 2009 draft. This year’s draft class was teeming with talent especially in the area of quarterback – quite possibly Carolina’s greatest need – but it looked like the elite, difference making players would be gone by the time the Panthers’ first pick came around. Call it fate, divine intervention, or just dumb luck, but the most NFL ready quarterback in the entire draft class was still on the board when the Carolina’s pick came up, and the Panthers pounced on their man – Jimmy Clausen. This kicked off one of the most prolific drafts in the history of the franchise for Carolina and enabled the organization to walk away from the 2010 draft boasting the most talented class of draftees in the NFL.

I admit it seems a little like I am stealing a page from Loyal Homer and pulling for my home town team simply because they are…well, the home town team. But, that could not be further from the truth. Unlike Loyal Homer, I am aware that sometimes the grass, or in this case turf, IS greener on the other side. I entered the NFL draft with the lowest of expectations (the first sentence of my last article serves as proof of that), but I was absolutely blown away by quality of player that Carolina was able to acquire during the draft.

First, credit must be given to the draft savvy of general manager Marty Hurney and company for not panicking. Both Hurney and head coach John Fox came under fire toward the end of last season as the Panthers underperformed. There was even speculation that one or both of them would not return in 2010, but owner Jerry Richardson gave them a vote of confidence, at least for one more season, and it appears to be paying off in a huge way. Not only did the Panthers avoid the temptation of mortgaging the team’s future for yet another year by trading away the following year’s draft pick, as they did in 2008 and 2009, but they were able to capitalize on the mistakes of other teams that passed on an elite stud like Jimmy Clausen. Sure, this may seem like common sense to most, but we are talking about the Carolina Panthers here… a franchise that has been so conservative with early round picks that they have failed to draft a quarterback in the first three rounds since they did so with Kerry Collins in 1995. Considering that Carolina stood by this philosophy through seasons where Chris Weinke and Rodney Peete were taking the majority of the snaps under center, I would say this is a bold move. Ultimately, the Panthers did not trade up to get Clausen, not that they did not try, but they rode out the roller coaster ride of tension and drama and in the end were rewarded for their efforts. The Clausen pick – and the entire Panther’s draft picks in general – have the potential to contribute immediately. That may well have saved the Panthers season as well as the jobs of Hurney and Fox in the process.

From top to bottom the Panthers drafted players that would fill in holes in the team’s major areas of need – quarterback, wide receiver, and defensive end. Not only did the Panthers draft their quarterback of the future in Jimmy Clausen, but they also acquired two other college quarterbacks in Cincinnati QB Tony Pike and Appalachian State QB Armanti Edwards. While Edwards figures to fit in more as a wide receiver, he is still an option for a team that seriously lacked options. The Carolina Panther’s quarterback depth went from nonexistent to crowded in the course of just three days. Before the draft Matt Moore seemed like the heir apparent to the Panther’s starting job, but now his hold on the job is fragile to say the least. Some have suggested that drafting Pike demonstrates the team is unsure about Clausen, but that is not the case. The Panthers lacked legit backup options and Pike provides that in spades. He has big time BCS experience and can lead an offense, so he is a welcome addition to a team that has brought in fossils like Vinny Testaverde in times of need. The 2010 Panthers will be armed and dangerous.

Similarly the Panther’s receiving corps was glaringly thin. Brandon LaFell of LSU, David Gettis of Baylor, and Armanti Edwards figure to change that right away. LaFell plays with a physicality that is already drawing comparisons to a younger Muhsin Muhammed. Edwards brings an athleticism and speed to the Panthers that will allow him to stretch the field opposite Steve Smith, or in the slot, not to mention opening things up in the wildcat formation. I have even heard comparisons between Edwards and another college QB turned wide out – Anquan Boldin. These receivers remind me of the Panthers receiving corps of “Smitty,” “Moose,” and Ricky Proehl… the corps led the team to its only Super Bowl in franchise history. At this point, Gettis is just icing on the cake.

The Panthers also picked up a pass rusher that is desperately needed in Greg Hardy. Since the departure of Julius Peppers, the Panthers have been left without a big play defensive lineman. Greg Hardy could definitely be that guy. He is a sick athlete with a motor that does not quit. Admittedly, he has an injury history, but he has a ton of upside, projecting as a first rounder just a few years ago. I also think drafting a guy like Hardy is smart in these cost conscientious days because Hardy figures to be a much cheaper option than buying a big name in free agency.

In the end these are all great moves, but I feel that after the Panthers’ selected Clausen they sealed the deal for walking out of the draft as the biggest winners in the draft. Make no doubt about it, the Rams have a great quarterback in Sam Bradford, but seeing how Clausen and McCoy were available nearly 50 picks later, I would say they overpaid. Clausen has been touted as the most NFL ready quarterback playing in an NFL type offense at Notre Dame. I am a huge fan of his cocky, gunslinger attitude and I think it is exactly what Carolina needs right now. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Clausen is the future of the Carolina Panthers. I do not think there is another team that gained so much in one single pick. That makes the Cardiac Cats the undisputed winners of the NFL draft.

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