Tag:Buffalo Bills
Posted on: May 5, 2011 11:28 am
Edited on: May 5, 2011 11:28 am
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Toronto wants an NFL team, thinks it could happen

Toronto would have to revamp Rogers Centre or build a new stadium entirely in order to attract the NFL (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Apparently, Toronto feels like it has a pretty good shot of landing an NFL team at some point in the future.* But I’m thinking the city will have to wait just a little while longer.

*Personally, I think that’d be great if the NFL came to Toronto full-time. Toronto is a great city with fantastic restaurants, friendly people with awesome accents, and a strong public transportation system.

“They have to take care of the problem in Los Angeles first,” Toronto councillor Doug Ford told The Score. “Two teams are kind of in play here: Jacksonville’s number one; New Orleans is the other. So there’s two teams. Once they take care of Los Angeles, we’re going to fly over to New York, set up a meeting with [NFL commissioner Roger] Goodell and give him our pitch.”

One problem with Ford’s theory is that there’s little chance the NFL would present a franchise to Toronto if the city doesn’t improve its current facilities (or just build a new one). Rogers Centre – where the Bills play once a season – is not exactly a state-of-the-art, gleaming-new stadium.

But Ford has talked about the possibility of building a new waterfront stadium or providing more seats for the current facility (to do that, apparently the hotel inside could be yanked out or the stadium floor could actually be dropped deeper into the earth in order to create more seats, the latter of which would make Jules Verne a proud man).

But to compare this potential new franchise with playing host to Buffalo’s franchise once a year is not the right association to make, Ford said.

“If we had our own team, we’d treat it like it’s our own and build up a fan base,” he said. “They want to expand internationally. But what better expansion than down the street to Toronto? They can’t keep ignoring a market this size.”

Funny, the NFL has basically ignored Los Angeles the past 16 years. And if Ford believes the NFL will “take care of the problem” in L.A. first, he might have a long wait in front of him.

Still, he gets to live in Toronto, which is pretty cool, eh?

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Posted on: May 4, 2011 11:27 am
 

Podcast: post draft analysis and debate

Posted by Will Brinson

The draft is over, and Andy Benoit and I have recovered just long enough to bring you a full-blown draft recap podcast. Yes, you're welcome.

After a quick discussion of the current labor issues (what you need to know), we dive right into the winners/losers thing, and spend time making fun of the Seahawks and then making fun of Seahawks for making fun of us making fun of the Seahawks. It's quite perplexing. Then we debate the run of quarterbacks in the first round, the value of getting "your guy" instead of getting someone at the correct value spot, whether the Browns and Falcons deal was smart and how various teams fared with their individual drafts.

Just hit the play button below and don't forget to Subscribe via iTunes.

If you can't view the podcast, click here to download .
Posted on: April 30, 2011 8:39 pm
 

What the NFL draft taught us

C. Newton will try to make it big in Carolina (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

NEW YORK – Well, the 2011 NFL draft has come and gone. The ESPN and NFL Network sets, the podium and the big-screen TVs can be placed back into storage – along with the 2011 NFL season for now.

That being said, the draft taught us quite a few things about where the organizations are going and, maybe, why they won’t get there. Here are a few observations about what we learned.

1. The Panthers still have no idea about their quarterback situation – and about their direction in general: It feels like Carolina HAD to take Cam Newton with the No. 1 pick, and if the Panthers hadn’t, Newton could have fallen all the way until the middle of the first round. So, Carolina has taken a quarterback in the second round (Jimmy Clausen) and a quarterback in the first round (Newton) in back-to-back years. Are they any better now than they were three days ago? Probably not. Are they actually in a worse spot than they were three days ago? Quite possibly.

2. The Raiders still are too in love with speed:
Their third-round pick (CB DeMarcus Van Dyke) is really fast, but other than that, he has many way too many deficiencies. Their fourth-round pick (CB Chimdi Chekwa) is really fast, but he isn’t a great cover guy. Their second fourth-round pick (RB Taiwan Jones) is really fast, but he’s very brittle. It’s a replay of almost every other season. Which likely means Oakland still isn’t going to be much better than average for the foreseeable future.

3. The Patriots might be the new Bengals: OK, that’s perhaps a bit of a stretch, but maybe could you make the case that Bill Belichick’s arrogance of drafting players with off-the-field issues this year compares to Mike Brown’s indifference of drafting players with off-the-field issues. Either way, the Patriots took QB Ryan Mallett (you know his story well by now) in the third round and TE Lee Smith (who left Tennessee for Marshall after he was arrested on a DUI charge). Now, the Patriots will have to make sure they keep those guys in line. The Bengals haven’t always done such a great job of that, but I think Belichick can manage just fine.

4. Apparently, everything is cool with quarterbacks in Arizona, Seattle and Buffalo: Maybe those front offices forgot they’ll enter 2011 with Derek Anderson/Max Hall/John Skelton and Matt Hasselbeck/Charlie Whitehurst, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, respectively. I kid, I kid. The Bills apparently like Fitzpatrick, and the Cardinals almost certainly will go to free agency to find a QB. Maybe, though, those three teams also subscribed to the theory that this year’s quarterback class wasn’t really all that tremendous and decided to try another route to fill the needs of their team.

5.Maybe teams should look more toward the north part of the South for pro prospects:
Nine (!) North Carolina players were drafted (that’s right; I double-checked), six Clemson players were taken (and Da’Quan Bowers was only the third picked!), and, hell, even three Appalachian State players were nabbed. Why, then, were the Tigers and the Tar Heels a combined 14-12?

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Posted on: April 30, 2011 8:10 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2011 10:28 pm
 

2011 NFL Draft: Winners and losers

Posted by Will Brinson

NEW YORK -- The grind of the NFL Draft -- and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, three days of straight picks is definitely a grind -- is finally over. Which means we should probably take our time to sit back and reflect on who did well and do not do well. Or, alternately, we can just start calling people names right ... now!



WINNERS
Atlanta Falcons: Been flopping on these guys all weekend long it feels like -- I like Julio Jones a lot, but I didn’t like all the picks the Falcons needed to get him. I do, however, freaking LOVE Jacquizz Rodgers. They got a steal when they landed a lot more offensive explosiveness in the seventh round. Couple that with a few more solid adds in Andrew Jackson, Akeem Dent and K/P Matt Bosher and it was a good haul for Thomas Dimitroff. Good enough to have me thinking about picking them to win it all. Again.

Peyton Manning: Not only is the best quarterback in the NFL going to get real paid as soon as we get a new CBA, but he’s going to have two new guys -- Anthony Castonzo and Benjamin Ijalana -- in town to help keep him healthy.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills started off their draft with a good blueprint: DEFENSE. And they stuck to that blueprint throughout the rest of the draft too, only diverting twice to pick up Chris Hairston from Clemson to beef up the offensive line and Johnny White for backfield depth and special teams. Da’Norris Searcy out of Chapel Hill could be a steal for them in the fourth.

Wade Phillips: Not that you expected the Texans to actually go out and get anyone that’s an an offensive player early in the draft, but did a great job with their first five picks, particularly in trading back up to grab Brandon Harris. Given all the limitations on that defense and the switch they have to make, it’s good for him to at least get a head start out of the draft.

Cleveland Browns: Giving up a top-10 selection when you’ve got a young quarterback that needs weapons is no easy move ... unless you’re getting five picks in return and turn those into serviceable offensive products and some defensive standouts. Buster Skrine’s value fell post-Combine but he could be a good find, Jason Pinkston out of Pittsburgh will help and already-physical offensive line. Phil Taylor/Jabaal Sheard immediately improve the defensive line and Greg Little and Jordan Cameron give Colt McCoy some guys with good hands and upside.

Ryan Mallett: My man Freeman thinks Bill Belichick might have taken too big a gamble, and there’s a good chance he might be right. But if Mallett goes anywhere else, you would have heard everyone saying that about the GM that grabbed him. (Can you imagine the reaction if Carolina took him or, dare I say, the Bengals?) The pressure of falling in the draft because of character issues and having to play/perform well at an early time is lifted with his move.

Green Bay Packers: Not that it’s hard to “win” if you’re Green Bay, coming off a Super Bowl-winning season and sitting on a young, stacked roster. But “In Ted We Trust” applies here, because Thompson beefed up the Packers’ offensive line depth, got a superb second-rounder in Randall Cobb to potentially replace and just generally marked everything he needed off his checklist. Standard Packers draft, really.

Arizona Cardinals: They had a good first two days nabbing Patrick Peterson and Ryan Williams and then fared quite well in the later rounds, particularly with their selection of Quan Sturdivant, a pretty stupendous value in the sixth round. Some would argue they didn’t address their QB need and that’s fair, but they’ll be the leaders in the clubhouse for a veteran or a Kevin Kolb trade.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The rich get richer, per usual. Cameron Heyward is the future at defensive end, Marcus Gilbert -- a reliable offensive lineman -- is exactly what the Steelers need, and the Steelers stepped up and addressed their cornerback issues early on Day 3 of the draft by grabbing Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen.

America: For awesomeness’ sake, I’m going to hold out eternal hope that the Chiefs win the Super Bowl, Ricky Stanzi ends up shirtless in a downtown BBQ joint with an American flag as a cape, holding a huge turkey leg while belting out the “Star Spangled Banner” in celebration and this scene makes its way onto YouTube. America needs that.



LOSERS
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers were a classic example of how trading early-round picks and finding yourself extremely weak at certain positions can kill you: in a draft with ridiculous defensive line depth, they still couldn’t add to a weak position until the third round when they picked up a pair of undersized defensive tackles in Terrell McClain and Sione Fua. Kealoha Pilares was a good grab at the top of the fifth, though. And, of course, they were essentially forced to take Cam Newton at the top spot. If he busts, this draft is a total nightmare. It might even be a situation of Carolina just taking their medicine in the best-case anyway.

Carson Palmer: Marvin Lewis says the Bengals have “moved on” for Palmer too; you gotta think they’ll try and trade him just to get something in return, but it’s shame because the best scenario for him might actually be returning to the ‘Nati and helping to bring A.J. Green and Stanford product Ryan Whalen into the fold of Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley. Those are nicer weapons than he’ll find in retirement.

Jacksonville Jaguars: I think Blaine Gabbert will end up being pretty good. If he’s great, this ranking could change, but if Jack Del Rio’s job is on the line, how does he not convince Gene Smith to go out and get him some freaking secondary help before fourth round? (Caveat: Smith has killed drafts since he got to J-Vegas, so if he thinks Gabbert’s “the guy” going forward, more power to him.)

Ronnie Brown: There was some talk Brown might stick with the Dolphins even after they took Daniel Thomas out of K-State in the second round. Nabbing Charles Clay -- even if he’s a fullback -- probably means Brown is done with the ‘Fins. (And it might also mean they’re not as set on paying DeAngelo Williams whatever he wants too.)

Washington Redskins: All weekend long, the Redskins looked like winners as they kept avoiding making huge mistakes by trading down and piling up picks. But did they really end up getting anything of substantial value for it? Leonard Hankerson could be a nice pull in the third round, certainly, but for all the Redskins’ surprising patience, they didn’t once address their (very serious) quarterback issue or linebacker issue.

Reggie Bush: Sean Payton’s saying that he’s open to Bush coming back. That might be true. And it might not be true. But what he’s not doing is making a dumb, knee-jerk reaction on Twitter simply because his team drafted Mark Ingram. Which is what Bush did and it’s not going to help him in the short or long term.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos accumulated a lot of picks, and added a linebacker trio that could be dominant in a few years (Von Miller as the pass rusher, Nate Irving as the tackler and Virgil Green as the cover guy). But two tight ends and not a single defensive lineman? Did someone show John Elway the wrong depth chart before this thing kicked off on Thursday?

Oakland Raiders: Al Davis didn’t have a first-rounder, so it’s okay to temper expectations a little bit, but Al really isn’t going to stop over-drafting athleticism until the day he dies. And considering how hot it was in Radio City Music Hall when they played “California Girls” for the second time on Saturday, I can’t imagine hell’s freezing over any time soon.

David Akers: With the Eagles’ decision to reach up into the fourth round and grab Alex Henery out of Nebraska, as well as the fact that Akers wasn’t happy about his transition tag, it’s pretty obvious that the incumbent kicker’s days as a Philly legend are numbered. (You could also add Henery as a loser here, too: having to come in and kick in front of Eagles’ fans sounds worse than listening to drunk Jets’ fans boo everything for eight-straight hours.)

Seattle Seahawks: Maybe Pete Carroll’s drafts are just too “zany” for me to understand, but the James Carpenter pick strikes me as possibly the biggest reach of the first round, maybe even ahead of Jake Locker and Christian Ponder. Unless bring Matt Hasselbeck back or land another veteran QB in the offseason, it’s almost impossible to imagine them sniffing the playoffs again.

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Posted on: April 29, 2011 10:57 pm
Edited on: April 30, 2011 12:05 am
 

NFL Draft day 2: Winners and losers

Posted by Will Brinson

NEW YORK -- Well, the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft are under wraps. The lights are off at Radio City Music Hall, the boos and screams have subsided, and now we make knee-jerk reactions about who did well and who did poorly on Friday.



WINNERS

Ryan Mallett: Unbelievably, while in the middle of living out a Tom Petty song, Mallett caught a miracle branch extended by Bill Belichick and the Patriots, and now finds himself in the only situation in the NFL that could really get people excited about his potential.

Washington Redskins: Dan Snyder must have been hogtied before this draft started, because the ‘Skins actually traded down during the second day of the draft. Four fifth- AND seventh-rounders won’t win you a Super Bowl tomorrow but it’ll help strengthen a roster.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos took advantage of San Francisco’s desperate hankering to nab Colin Kaepernick, moved back and picked up a bunch of draft picks. Then they got a guy who will be one of the biggest steals of the draft in Nate Irving, added Rahim Moore at safety and picked up Orlando Franklin to help the line.

Buffalo Bills: They drafted defense in the first round. And then they drafted defense in the second round. And then they drafted defense in the third round. There’s really no reason to stop until the seventh ends.
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Cincinnati Bengals: They called Carson Palmer’s bluff for the second-straight day, and they did so in a way that could be teachable for some other first-round reachers, like the Titans and the Vikings: let the arguably-indistinguishable quarterbacks like Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder and Jake Locker fall.

Cleveland Browns: They’re stacked with picks for the next two years and they’re making great selections all over the place. Greg Little gives Colt McCoy a weapon and Jabaal Sheard can slot into their new 4-3 as an end.

Houston Texans: They jump back on the good side during the second day after grabbing a linebacker who can help out in the 3-4 shift in Brooks Reed and then trading back up to into the second to grab the talented Brandon Harris from Miami.

Randall Cobb: Cobb had to hang around for the entire second round in New York City, but it was worth it, since he went to the Packers (he actually said he would have waited ‘til the seventh to end up there). Just a case of Ted Thompson looking far enough ahead. Again.

New England Patriots: I don’t know why Colin Cowherd is stealing my line about the Patriots owning every single first-rounder in the 2030, but it might not matter if it actually happens -- Pats already have two first- and second-rounders in next year’s draft.

Sam Bradford: The Rams went defense in the first round when Julio Jones and A.J. Green didn’t fall, but went out and got their franchise QB some nice weapons with great hands in TE Lance Kendricks and WR Austin Pettis.

LOSERS

The NFL: It was the second day of the draft and in the middle of the league trotting out veterans -- both of the league and the military -- and a score of fans to announce draft picks and huge new NFL players, the Court of Appeals ruled that the lockout was back on. It just felt dirty.

Ryan Mallett: He plummeted in the draft, falling all the way to the middle of the third round. And it looked like he was going to fall out of the third, with no one really expressing interest in the Arkansas quarterback. Then Belichick came calling.

Carolina Panthers: Said it before the round started, but it remains to be repeated, because they had no second-rounder. Hard to win on Friday without one of those. On the bright side, they took their medicine and used their two third-rounders on defensive tackles.



Da’Quan Bowers: Don’t get me wrong -- I like his spot in Tampa, and they’ve got a shot to hit an absolute home run with him late in the second round. But there’s no denying his health cost him a big old pile of money.

Atlanta Falcons: The Browns, using a pick obtained in the first-day trade for Julio Jones, grabbed Greg Little one pick after Torrey Smith went. Neither’s better -- or even close to better -- than Jones, but is Jones five draft picks-worth better than either of them? I’m not sure about that.

Marion Barber: The Cowboys drafted DeMarco Murray and it looks like Barber’s book is just about closed in Dallas.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Sssshhhhh. Do NOT tell Jacksonville, but they actually were horrible on defense in 2010. Actually, no, wait, tell them, because they’re only drafting offense for some reason.

Detroit Lions: I actually like the guys they got in the second day -- Titus Young and Mike LeShoure will help make the offense more potent -- but who’s going to protect Matt Stafford? If Jim Schwartz thinks the guys he’s got can do the job, they’ll be fine. But if not, 2011, meet 2010 and 2009.

Derek Jeter: Not football-related, but a certain sportswriter who was monitoring the Yankees game during the draft tells me he’s “terrible.” What? It was a theme!

Marvin Austin: The big fella out of Carolina was taken by the Giants, which would be fine, if the Giants didn’t play in New York City. The guy who single-handedly unearthed an agent and academic scandal at Carolina (still ongoing!) via his own Twitter account doesn’t need the bright lights of the Big Apple.

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Posted on: April 29, 2011 8:46 am
Edited on: April 29, 2011 9:29 am
 

Ryan Mallett is there for Cincy's taking

Posted by Andy Benoit
R. Mallett (US Presswire)
Sot the first round has come and gone. From it, we saw four quarterbacks come off the board (Jake Locker at eight?! Christian Ponder at twelve!?) But two high profile quarterbacks still remain: Andy Dalton of TCU and Ryan Mallett of Arkansas.

Many have long figured that the Bills (picking second in the second round) and Bengals (picking third) are in the market for a new signal-caller. Don’t bet it on with Buffalo – the coaching staff is genuinely pleased with Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bengals, on the other hand, are more of a mystery.
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We’ll find out Friday exactly where the Bengals stand on the Carson Palmer saga. Mike Brown is a sucker for top-notch athletes (character concerns be damned) and it’s possible that Mallett was Cincy’s targeted quarterback all along. If that’s the case (and this is merely educated speculation that it is), then the Bengals find themselves with a golden opportunity to cut bait with Palmer and commit to their future.

We’ll find out Friday.

Tom Murphy of Arkansas Online spent draft night with the 70 Mallett family members and friends at Steel Wings duck lodge in Humnoke, AR. As the first round concluded, Mallett said, “Whatever team is going to be smart enough to pick me, we’re going to make something happen. I just want to play ball, that’s what I say.

“I’m not disappointed. I mean I’m disappointed, but I have a chance to play in the NFL, so I’m not too disappointed.”

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Posted on: April 27, 2011 9:11 am
Edited on: April 28, 2011 11:57 am
 

Ranking the NFL's 32 final draft decision makers

Posted by Andy Benoit

There are many ways a person could rank the top draft decision makers for each NFL team. Among those criteria: team history of success; number of first-rounders who have panned out; the number of late-round gems discovered; consistency of the players developed within the organization.

But without a scientific formula, sometimes the best rankings can derive from a standard eyeball/smell/gut test. Thus, here is a ranking of all 32 “final draft decision makers” in the NFL.

Lists like these tend to attract criticism and rebuttals. Have at it -- this is meant to be a discussion starter.

1. Bill Polian, ColtsB. Polian (US Presswire0
Sticks unwaverlingly to his formula: invest in a small handful of elite skill position players on offense and playmakers on defense, and then surround them with low cost youngsters who fit your scheme. In the 2000s he led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl win and annual division titles. In the '90s he ushered in the most successful expansion franchise in NFL history (Carolina Panthers) and oversaw the four-time AFC Champion Buffalo Bills.

2. Kevin Colbert, Steelers
Doesn't get much attention because A) he rarely does interviews; B) the Steelers are often drafting late in the first round and C) he's almost always looking two or three years ahead when drafting players, which minimizes the hype of Pittsburgh's rookie class. These methods have brought in guys like LaMarr Woodley, Troy Polamalu, Lawrence Timmons, Mike Wallace and Maurkice Pouncey to name five.

3. Ted Thompson, Packers
It took major intestinal fortitude to pull the trigger on Aaron Rodgers when Brett Favre was still on the roster and many believed the 2005 Packers were in position to "win now." Virtually the entire Packers Super Bowl roster this past year was comprised of players who were drafted by the organization and in their prime. That's perfect planning paying off.

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4. Bill Belichick, Patriots
The best trader of picks the NFL has seen since Jimmy Johnson. Like an alchemist, he regularly turns one late first-round selection into two or three solid contributors who fit the Patriots' ever-changing system.

5. Mickey Loomis, Saints
Is batting about .750 with his high-round draft picks, and has managed to snag several small-school gems in middle to late rounds (See: Jahri Evans, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, who was primarily a basketball player at Miami).

6. Ozzie Newsome, Ravens
Simply has a knack for connecting on stars. His latest include Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Ray Rice and (maybe) Michael Oher and Joe Flacco. Because of good mid-round drafting, depth is generally a plus for this club. The only true black eye on Newsome’s resume is the Kyle Boller pick, for which Brian Billick shares equal blame.

7. A.J. Smith, Chargers
Supposedly not the most likeable guy in the room, but that's in part because he has a gift for ruthlessly getting the most out of his resources. Part of that is replacing players a year too soon rather than a year too late.

8. Andy Reid, Eagles
Aside from Green Bay, Philadelphia is the only NFC team that has consistently drafted for the future first and the present second. Because of that, the Eagles are able to stay afloat when they do miss on a high-round pick.

9. Mike Holmgren, Browns
Jury is still out in Cleveland, obviously. But a person's track record has to count for something, right? And Holmgren's is pretty good.

10. Mike Tannenbaum, Jets
Home runs (D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis -- who was a grand slam -- and possibly Mark Sanchez) outnumber strikeouts (Kellen Clemens, Vernon Gholston). Willing to be aggressive and trade up to get his guy. So far, it's worked well.

11. Jerry Reese, Giants
Has done a superb job building off the foundation that Ernie Accorsi put in place.

12. Thomas Dimitroff, FalconsT. Dimitroff (US Presswire)
Ex-New England front office executive instantly turned the rudderless post-Vick Falcons around by nailing the Matt Ryan pick. Has since retooled the offense with solid role players and upgraded the speed on defense.

13. Mark Dominik, Buccaneers
Made the bold commitment for the Bucs to get younger on both sides of the ball. Already, those young players have turned out a 10-6 record, putting the team a year or two ahead of schedule. The decision to draft Josh Freeman one day could lead to a Lombardi Trophy.

14. Marty Hurney, Panthers
For the most part, Panthers have been consistently competitive for 10 years despite the absence of a star quarterback. How? Solid offensive line (Jordan Gross and Ryan Kalil were successful high draft picks), good running game (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were two more successful high picks) and a staunch defense (Jon Beason has more than lived up to first-round billing).

15. Scott Pioli, Chiefs
Was an integral part of the Patriots dynasty and is showing a knack for finding players who fit the Chiefs’ scheme.

16. Billy Devaney, Rams
Has not been at the helm long; will soar up this list if his 2011 draft class turns out to be anything like his 2010 class.

17. Mike Shanahan, Redskins
A nod to experience more than anything. Shanahan The GM has never been as good as Shanahan The Coach. But Shanahan The GM has still been around the block a time or two and knows exactly what he wants. Having Bruce Allen handle some of the technical GM duties is helpful.

18. Ken Whisenhunt/Rod Graves, Cardinals
Only one player they've taken in the first three rounds has not contributed (Cody Brown). The rest all have been part of a club that has won postseason games two of the past three seasons.

19. Jerry Angelo, Bears
Seems to have a slightly better feel for the veteran market than the rookie market, but we're nitpicking. Has done a fine job finding players who fit Lovie Smith’s Cover 2 defense. Offensively, he’s building around Jay Cutler (for whom he traded significant picks to get).

20. Mike Reinfeldt, Titans
The assumption is he occasionally has to cater to the demands of Bud Adams, which could be a challenging wrinkle to his job. Overall, has constructed a deep roster and seen a few gambles pay off (notably Chris Johnson in 2007).M. Reinfeldt (US Presswire)

21. Rick Spielman, Vikings
Too many busts early in his tenure, though some of that was beyond Minnesota's control (Kenechi Udeze's health issues, Erasmus James' injuries). While forcing a few picks into the lineup, the Vikings also have gotten their money's worth from top picks Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Adrian Peterson (considered a risk because of injury problems at Oklahoma).

22. Jerry Jones, Cowboys
Yes, the Cowboys have a talented group. But a bulk of that talent was acquired when Bill Parcells was around.

23. Martin Mayhew, Lions
Still waiting to see what becomes of the major investments on offense (outlook appears good but still not certain).

24. Jeff Ireland, Dolphins
Brand new in his role as top decision maker. It wouldn't be fair to judge him based on what his former boss (Parcells) did.

25. Gene Smith, Jaguars
In two years has shown willingness to rebuild in bunches by using back-to-back draft picks on the same position. In that time, not a lot has changed in Jacksonville's bottom line, though there is legitimate optimism about this franchise's direction.

26. Pete Carroll, Seahawks
It's way too early to judge. His first draft class looks like it could turn out to be spectacular at the top (Russell Okung has star traits, Earl Thomas has shown flashes and many like Walter Thurmond) but very few men have successfully worn the GM hat while coaching.

27. Trent Baalke, 49ers
The Niners' draft record during his two years as VP of Player Personnel was iffy, but he wasn't the final decision-maker then. His first draft class will likely prove to have produced long-term starters with the first four picks (Mike Iupati, Anthony Davis, Taylor Mays and NaVorro Bowman). Iupati, in fact, seems destined to be a perennial Pro Bowler.T. Baalke (US Presswire)

28. Buddy Nix, Bills
Bills are full of overachievers, but part of overachieving is not being very talented. The Aaron Maybin air ball in 2009 puts a damper on what was otherwise a solid draft class. But Nix, a national scout at the time, wasn't fully responsible for that draft class. His 2010 draft class is off to a slow start but its still in the judgment phase.

29. Rick Smith, Texans
Houston is overhauling its defensive scheme after spending five years investing first-round picks on players who were supposed to fit that scheme.

30. Mike Brown, Bengals
He would be a great fantasy drafter because he always takes the best player. Problem is, in the real draft, team chemistry needs to factor into your decisions. Those "best players" Brown takes are often available because of character red flags.

31. John Elway, Broncos
No track record to evaluate.

32. Al Davis, Raiders
One apparently solid draft (2010) does not erase years of atrocious ones.

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Posted on: April 25, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 12:31 pm
 

Cats should take biggest gamble: Pass on Newton

Posted by Will Brinson

No less than 48 hours ago, I told a relative at Easter that I had "fully talked myself into the Panthers taking Cam Newton." That's a by-product of several things, including: a) the franchise's need for a "face" that people care about, b) the unparalleled upside that Newton represents, c) the lack of any decent quarterback on the roster and d) the need to sell tickets and get fans re-invested.

When I woke up on Monday though, I felt entirely differently, and now I'm pretty sure that the Panthers absolutely need to pass on Newton, acquire as many decent assets as they can, and focus on getting Andrew Luck in 2011. (Quite conveniently, Clark Judge is hearing they'll do just that.)

That's not saying they should "tank" -- and, disclaimer time: I'm actually a Panthers fan, so that would be kind of miserable for me. They shouldn't. No one should tank in the NFL because, unlike the NBA or MLB, things can change quickly, and teams can become successful overnight.

But have you seen Carolina's schedule? It's nuts. There are -- at most -- five winnable games on the slate in 2011, and it wouldn't matter who they had quarterbacking, as long as that person is either a rookie or a second-year Jimmy Clausen, because it's going to be a struggle.
Panthers' Problems

Obviously the Panthers get the Falcons, the Saints and the Buccaneers twice in 2011, and only an insane optimist could expect more than two wins against those three times total. Two, which is dangerously hopeful, would include a win against the Bucs at home and either a random upset of Atlanta or New Orleans, or a late-season win where one of those teams doesn't trot out their full "A-team" because their seeding decision has been settled.

Look at the rest of the schedule, and the even the most bullish fan would find a hard time arguing that, with Cam Newton and/or Jimmy Clausen at the helm, the Panthers will win five games. I mean, where are the wins? Against the Cardinals, in Arizona, during the opening week of the season? Maybe.

Week 2 against the Packers can already be ruled out, as can Week 12 against the Colts in Indy and the Week 15 matchup against the Texans in Houston; all of those teams have too much offense for the Panthers to compete. So let's say they lose those three games and go 1-5 in the division.

That leaves a home matchup against Jacksonville in Week 3, a trip to Chicago in Week 4, a home matchup against the Redskins in Week 7 followed by the Vikings coming to town in Week 8, a Week 10, post-bye matchup against the Titans in Charlotte and a trip to Detroit in Week 11. Winning three of those games, based on the success that the 2010 team had, would be considered a tremendous success. That's a 4-12 record for the season, a miserable year, and a learning experience with regard to whether Jimmy Clausen can be the future of the franchise (my answer is no, but Marty Hurney apparently still wants to find out).
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It's also probably good enough to land them the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, which will net them Andrew Luck of Stanford, unless he decides he really loves graduate school.

And yes, I understand that this is a game of chicken that no NFL front office can reasonably play; it predicates itself on thinking that your team will be awful, and that's not a mindset you see in the NFL. But the schedule is what the schedule is, and then there's this: everyone in this draft is pulling trigger on a quarterback.

Most folks believe that there's a chance six -- SIX! -- quarterbacks could be gone as early as the first round. If six of the 10 (or so) teams that are truly desperate for quarterback help take a first-rounder, there's a pretty good chance that they won't even be looking for Luck come next year, significantly improving the Panthers chance that they would wind up with the most coveted option in the 2011 draft, even if they didn't finish with the worst record. (For instance, if the Bills draft Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton third overall and finish 2-14, are they taking Luck? They can't.

And that should be the scariest fact for Hurney and new coach Ron Rivera when they start looking at their options for the coming season: even if they do take Newton, they could finish with the worst record in the NFL (in fact, one could argue drafting Newton improves their chances ...) and be faced with a decision on having to draft their third straight franchise quarterback. That's something that isn't even considered an option. Even if Luck was there, Carolina would have to think defense, which would be a shame.

Look, landing Luck vis-a-vis the No. 1 overall pick next year is far from a guarantee. But the odds of it happening for Carolina are at least as good, if not better, than hitting a home run with Cam Newton.
 
 
 
 
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