Walker's Weekend Mailbag: Super Bowl pick

March, 28, 2009

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

It's been another interesting week in the NFL. Let's see what AFC North readers have on their minds.

Derick Young from Casper, WY writes: James, are you going with the Chargers again this year? I believe you picked them to win before the season started. Who do you think now will win it all? Please do not say the Pats.

James Walker: I actually picked the New England Patriots last year, Derick. But that prediction went down the drain after Week 1. I'm not sure at this point, but I have about four or five teams in mind. I will probably pick a team outside the division, so I can blog the AFC North in peace next season.

Jose form Los Angeles writes: I'm a huge steelers fan, and my question is the steelers planning to make Dennis Dixon their #2 QB, or will they wait to get Byron Leftwich to be their backup, cause I think Dennis should get the opportunity to compete for the #2 spot.

James Walker: Right now, the team is waiting to make a decision on Leftwich or Charlie Batch to serve as the backup. I think Pittsburgh would be happy with either player. But the reigning Super Bowl champions cannot go into next season with Dixon as their No. 2. Starter Ben Roethlisberger takes too many hits to not have an experienced quarterback behind him.

Kevin from Blacksburg, VA writes: Mr. Walker, love your work. Steelers seem to be drafting high upside players, and are looking to give them all the time they need to develop. With great strides coming from Woodley and Timmons this year, can we expect the same from Mendenhall and Sweed this upcoming year?

James Walker: LaMarr Woodley was a starter and Lawrence Timmons was essentially a starter or fifth linebacker coming off the bench. That is a pretty high bar. I doubt either tailback Rashard Mendenhall or receiver Limas Sweed will start unless an injury occurs. But both will contribute and improve their production from last year. Here is a feature on Sweed from earlier this week.

EJ Sumski from Blakely, PA writes: I'm writing to you again to ask you this question: Who do you think is most likely to be traded? Brady Quinn, Braylon Edwards, Shaun Rogers, or Derek Anderson?

James Walker: Edwards would be the pick. He is in the final year of his contract and, barring a franchise tag, probably won't return to Cleveland when he becomes a free agent in 2010.

Mike from Cle. writes: Any chance the Browns go Tackle and Center with their first two picks? I know we need help on D, but when the o-line played well, they were at least enjoyable to watch.

James Walker: Mike, rule both positions out in the first round. The top tackles in this draft are projected to play the left side. With the Browns picking No. 5, they would be paying left tackle (top five) money for a player to line up on the right, which is never good. Cleveland signed John St. Clair to play right tackle and he should be an upgrade over Kevin Shaffer. Tackle and center could be options for the Browns' two second-round picks.

Bruce from Los Angeles writes: James, as always, love the blog... Besides getting coffee, it's one of the first things I do in the morning... My question is about O'Dell Thurman of the Cincinnati Bengals. With the charges being dropped and (the worst owner in the league)M. Brown being in favor of giving players a second chance. Do you think it's likely Thurman could find himself back with the Bengals?

James Walker: Bruce, thanks for the kind words. But to put it bluntly, this is not going to happen.

Nick from Knoxville writes: I noticed that the Bengals brought in Michael Oher for a visit. Does this mean they are thinking strongly about trying to move down about 10-15 spots in the draft? Has Andre Smith really fallen so far that Oher is now the 3rd tackle? If Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe are gone by No. 6, shouldn't they look at Raji, Curry or Orakpo (and at least a half a dozen others) before they look at Oher?

James Walker: They haven't brought in Oher yet, Nick. But the Bengals plan to in the next week or so. Oher is considered a reach at No. 6, but for the Bengals he could be higher on their draft board due to need at left tackle. No draft board looks exactly alike. But if Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe are gone, Cincinnati should at least consider the best defensive player.

Here are the most interesting comments in our AFC North inbox this week:

Brent from Newark Ohio writes: The Bengals i think are looking much better and as a Bengals fan cant wait for the upcoming season. Looking at the draft i like to look past the 1st round. Im looking at the RB that will be there in the 2nd or 3rd rounds and which will best fit with the Bengals. I will throw out some names for you. Cedric Peerman (Virginia) Javon Ringer (mich st) James Davis (Clemson) Ian Johnson (Boise st) and Glen Coffee (Alabama) out of these names which one would be the best fit behind Benson and reminder Glen Coffee 4.39- 40 fastest back in the draft.

The Wolf from Cleveland writes: In response to the Peppers/Rogers debate. I believe that Rogers and Mangini both know that they were each a little immature in this matter. Hence the reason that Rogers has showed up for workouts. A side note, has Rogers ever attended voluntary workouts in his career? If he has never shown up, then I would have to agree with you that Rogers will be around for a couple more years, and things are hopefully looking up and perhaps this is no longer an issue since he is participating in workouts now.

Jason Mills from Knoxville, TN writes: Take your Pick, QBs: James, how can you not deny Big Ben as the best AFC North QB. 2 Super Bowl Rings, 3 AFC Title games, and 1 Pro Bowl. The guy is a flat out winner and should easily be the number 1 guy (remember your debate about Ben vs. Romo last year?). Next, I'm going with Flacco. Rookie season was great and he has room to improve. Then Palmer, who would be amazing if he had an O-Line. It's a coin flip in my eyes between Anderson and Quinn though...

Kevin from Baltimore writes: I want to know where these steeler fans come off with they own the ravens, or think that when they come to Baltimore they take the city over. Fact is that ever since the ravens have bin competitive i.e. 2000 the team's have just about split the games and if there is a city that steeler fans dont travel to well its Baltimore. They handled us this year (props), split the year before, and we crushed them both times three seasons ago. Steeler fans should get off there high horse and realize they are not the only team in the afc north and NOBODY is taking over Baltimore. As a Raven season ticket holder there are fewer and fewer steeler fans coming here every year. We love it that way and stay out.

Alex from Baltimore writes: I don't really see how those steeler fans get off calling the Ravens chickens. It seems to me that they are putting up such a stink because they themselves fear Pittsburgh playing a night game in Baltimore and wish to pass it off on someone else. If not then why make such a fuss.

Kevin from Blacksburg, VA writes: Mr. Walker, big fan of the blog. Just wanted to say that I think I got the Steelers draft strategy figured out. They have been looking at high upside players and giving them time to fill out their potential in recent years with Woodley, Timmons, Sweed and Mendenhall. I believe this year they will draft a couple high upside offensive linemen and give them time to progress while the current line improves as a unit. In a year or two I think the Steelers will keep the linemen that developed into satisfactory starters and use the newer drafted linemen as cornerstones.

RJ from Virginia Beach writes: In regards to some of the NFL's new rules... I wish I had grown up in the 70s, before football had started to go soft. If the players are not willing to take some hard and unexpected hits, then they definitely should not be getting paid in the millions. And I'm sure there are lots of guys who would be willing to take some of those hits for a chance at that kind of money. I've never thought of NFL players as overpaid primadonnas... until now. And then there's the new "protect Tom Brady's knee" rule. Remember, the same thing happened to both Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer in the 2005-2006 season. But the NFL didn't seem to care... until it happened to Tom Brady. Now I see what's important to them. On the plus side, all these new rules tell us a lot about the teams and players that inspire them: the Steelers are tough and Tom Brady needs to be coddled.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter



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