AFC East: Fred Smerlas
NFL.com editors narrowed each team's list of candidates down to the top 10, which seems a little unfair to the organizations steeped in history. The Dallas Cowboys' 20th most impressive pick is more deserving than the Houston Texans' sixth.
How can they be considered great draft picks if the teams that evaluated them declined to include them on their final rosters? Sounds to me like they were accidental draft picks more than savvy selections.
But if that's how they're going to do it, then I'd like to see Gary Fencik, a 10th-round pick in 1976, listed under the Dolphins.
Anyway, each team has 10 candidates fans can choose from when voting through April 18 at NFL.com. Parts of the list will be revealed on NFL.com and the NFL Network beginning April 19. The top 10 will be saved for the draft telecast.
The AFC East candidates, in alphabetical order:
Buffalo Bills: Gary Anderson (seventh round, 1982); Ruben Brown (first round, 1995); Joe DeLamielleure (first round, 1973); Jim Kelly (first round, 1983); Reggie McKenzie (second round, 1972); Andre Reed (fourth round, 1985); O.J. Simpson (first round, 1969); Fred Smerlas (second round, 1979); Bruce Smith (first round, 1985); Thurman Thomas (second round, 1988).
Miami Dolphins: Dick Anderson (third round, 1968); Larry Csonka (first round, 1968); Leon Gray (third round, 1973); Bob Griese (first round, 1967); Sam Madison (second round, 1997); Dan Marino (first round, 1983); Jake Scott (seventh round, 1970); Dwight Stephenson (second round, 1980); Jason Taylor (third round, 1997); Zach Thomas (fifth round, 1996).
New England Patriots: Tom Brady (sixth round, 2000); Nick Buoniconti (13th round, 1962); John Hannah (first round, 1973); Mike Haynes (first round 1976); Lee Roy Jordan (second round, 1963); Ty Law (first round, 1995); Curtis Martin (third round, 1995); Lawyer Milloy (second round, 1996); Richard Seymour (first round, 2001); Andre Tippett (second round, 1982).
New York Jets: Joe Fields (14th round, 1975); Mark Gastineau (1979); Craig Hentrich (eighth round, 2000); Keyshawn Johnson (first round, 1996); Joe Klecko (sixth round, 1977); Mo Lewis (third round, 1991); Joe Namath (first round, 1965); Marvin Powell (first round, 1977); John Riggins (first round, 1971); Wesley Walker (second round, 1977).
I had the pleasure of speaking to Fred Smerlas on Friday afternoon. Let me correct that. I had the pleasure of listening to him.
Smerlas, a five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, is a riveting gabber. We covered a bunch of topics, among them his AFC East predicitions now that Tom Brady has thrown his last pass of 2008.
Perhaps not surprisingly, he sees the division coming down to the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots, a pair of teams he played for. He also takes exception to much of the media anointing the New York Jets the new team to beat.
"The Jets are frauds," Smerlas said from his office in Marlboro, Mass. "They barely beat Miami, a team that absolutely sucks. I've watched tape of [the Dolphins], and they're in trouble. The Jets had a hard time with them.
Compared to Favre, Smerlas said Bills QB Trent Edwards "is a much more structured player. [Marshawn] Lynch is a good running back. Their O-line is good. Their defense is better. Buffalo is balanced on offense, defense, special teams."
But Smerlas isn't about to give up on the Patriots either.
"So who's going to be there? The Patriots and the Bills will be there in the end."