AFC South: B.J. Raji
A contract for the Jaguars' top draft pick, tackle Eugene Monroe, has fallen in line quickly on the heels of B.J. Raji's deal with Green Bay Thursday night, reports Michael C. Wright. Monroe's agent is en route to Jacksonville to finalize language on a five-year contract.
|Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images|
|The Jaguars appear to have a deal wrapped up with first-round pick Eugene Monroe.|
I confirmed the report with a source who said Monroe could practice Friday night.
The Jaguars endured an even longer contract dispute with defensive end Derrick Harvey a year ago. Harvey missed all of camp and never caught up.
This time, while dealing with the eighth pick in the draft again, the team had a quality contingency in place.
While Monroe may be in the starting lineup at some point this season, no one with the Jaguars is uncomfortable with the idea of veteran Tra Thomas being in the starting lineup. Thomas and safety Sean Considine, both former Philadelphia Eagles, were the two most notable free-agent additions in the first offseason under general manager Gene Smith.
Thomas was regarded as a better pass protection player than run-blocker in Philly, which led to questions about how he would fit with the Jaguars who will continue to be a run-first team.
"That's what we did," he said of the Eagles' offense. "We would go into a game and pass the ball 50, 60 times. I came from Florida State where we ran no-huddle and I was in a two-point stance the whole game. So I was bred to be a pass-protector, and that's usually what your left tackle is anyway.
"But I'm open to it. I've been working on getting my run game going. [Offensive line coach] Juan Castillo did a lot of work with me in Philly trying to get my run game better so it's good for me to come down here to an actual run team and have a coach that really forces the run."
While Monroe works to catch up, Thomas said he will work on his steps, which can key an improvement in run blocking. He said he doesn't always get his foot down to complete his second step as quickly as he should.
The Jaguars don't open their preseason schedule until Monday night, when they play at Miami.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
- Rick Gosselin's final mock draft.
- Jay Glazer's final mock draft.
- A 32 questions draft edition from Mike Silver.
- Mike Freeman lists 100 things he'd rather do than watch the draft.
- Jerome Solomon says Bob McNair and the Texans have gotten better at this.
- Players out of Texas taken high in the first round are hardly a sure thing, writes John McClain.
- Past picks at No. 15 have been more fizzle than sizzle, says McClain.
- McClain's final mock still has the Texans taking Clay Matthews.
- Lance Zierlein makes a couple trades in his mock.
- Bob Kravitz says this is when Bill Polian earns his money.
- Free-agent corner Keiwan Ratliff signed with the Steelers, says Mike Chappell.
- The Colts will watch a lot of things sort out before they get a sense of their possibilities at No. 27, writes Chappell.
- No. 2 and No. 1 on John Oehser's list of the top 25 picks of the Polian era. This was a great idea that gave us a lot to ponder over the last several weeks.
- Oehser reviews mock prognostications for the Colts.
- Curse insurance. Peyton Manning's not the Madden cover boy.
- June 6 is the day the Colts will hold an open practice at Franklin College. Tickets will be $10, says Oehser.
- Polian can pronounce Peria Jerry's name, points out Oehser.
- Oehser selects the best pick at each first-round spot for the Colts in their history.
- The moment of truth has arrived for Gene Smith, writes Vito Stellino.
- Peter King says the Jaguars turned down No. 23 and No. 47 from New England for No. 8.
- Michael C. Wright is sticking with B.J. Raji for the Jaguars in his final mock draft.
- A judge has been asked to revoke Jimmy Smith's bail, reports Jim Schoettler.
- Gene Frenette says Smith has slowed down the timetable to become part of the Pride of the Jaguars that honors their all-time greats.
- A look at the guy on the other end of the phone in New York, from Ryan Robinson of Jaguars.com.
- Smith won't be unprepared, says Vic Ketchman of Jaguars.com.
- Cole Pepper says it'll be Michael Crabtree at No. 8, and Malcolm Jenkins if the Jaguars trade back.
- The last four first-rounders were immediate contributors. Jim Wyatt asks whether the Titans continue the trend.
- The guys at the Tennessean make their picks and sample the national choices.
- Chuck Cecil isn't worried about the Titans replacing Albert Haynesworth, writes Jonathan Hutton.
- Joe Biddle would like to see the Titans with Anquan Boldin or Braylon Edwards.
- Wyatt runs through a mock draft done by a group of beat writers from around the country.
What I think they are thinking inside the headquarters of the four AFC South teams on the eve of the draft:
Those writers, columnists, analysts and bloggers are clowns. They have no idea what we're going to do or who we like. But pass the clips packet around, we want to see what they have to say anyway, just for giggles.
A lot of speculation says we'll go linebacker at No. 15 and we could. But if the right defensive end or cornerback is there, we could go that way too. We could cause a riot if we go offense first. We'll tip the Houston authorities if we're going that direction.
We'd sure like to bump back to get extra picks -- the more candidates we have for jobs and roster spots, particularly for a defense with a new coordinator, the better.
Those writers, columnists, analysts and bloggers are fools. They have no idea what we're going to do or who we like. We don't even have the time to read that stuff for laughs, though we might squeeze in a second here and there for the ones about our great first-round hit rate.
We're not constructed like the majority of teams in the league. They don't have our quarterback to build around and protect, our linebackers aren't big enough for them, and our corners might not excel at the man coverage they like to play. Those factors enhance the chances that -- early, middle and late in this draft -- players we really like for what we do will be available to us.
All we've got to do is wait to go on the clock and snatch them up. Then we'll find a few more as undrafted free agents.
Those writers, columnists, analysts and bloggers are jokers. They have no idea what we're going to do or who we like. But it's nice to see us at the center off all this speculation, and we hope they saw the new uniforms and understand how the fresh start in look will extend from our threads to our roster.
Has Mark Sanchez gotten so hot that someone will have to trade over us at No. 8 to go get him? Bummer. That's unfortunate, but we will still benefit. If someone goes ahead of us for him, that means one more player we might covet -- Michael Crabtree? Jeremy Maclin? B.J. Raji? One of the top offensive tackles? -- will be pushed back and still on the board when our turn comes.
It's the first draft for GM Gene Smith and it is important to make a good first impression here.
Those writers, columnists, analysts and bloggers are windbags. They have no idea what we're going to do or who we like. (One former player turned radio host said he'd jump off a bridge in downtown Nashville if we took a center with that first pick. Let's nudge up those grades on Alex Mack, Eric Wood and Max Unger, boys.)
With no glaring need, we've got a heck of a deal here. Our hope is the teams picking 16-29 all don't value the guy we have rated 16th very highly, or keep finding someone they like a bit better. Then our choice is simple and we just haul in a great player who will eventually be a fixture for us.
Later, we'll make a couple deals to move up a bit to ensure we get a couple people we really see as fits. We can't trade our four compensatory selections, but 10 picks aren't making this roster, even to upgrade the back end.
Throw eight bloggers in a blender with the first-round draft order, hit stir, mix or puree and you get the NFL Blog Network's mock draft.
My comments seem to run the longest of anybody's and I don't want to repeat myself here.
But here is a quick look at my thinking and the primary alternatives:
No. 8: Jacksonville, B.J. Raji -- There may be character issues for the Jaguars with Raji. But in this scenario he seems the clear choice with the top two tackles and top two receivers gone. The better scenario is probably them trading down, handing over the pick to a team that covets Mark Sanchez and getting additional players later.
No. 15: Houston, Clay Matthews -- They may look to drop back a bit for him. If Brian Cushing or Malcolm Jenkins were there at 15, I think I would have gone a different direction and I can see the Texans going with either of them. There has been so much focus on linebackers, maybe it's all been a smokescreen. Or isn't it possible they decide the best way to help the defense is to get even better on offense? What if an offensive player is their highest rated when they go on the clock? Might they spring a surprise with Knowshon Moreno?
No. 27: Indianapolis, Hakeem Nicks -- This one is the least predictable, as Bill Polian could take a player form just about any position. In this scenario, maybe it's Evander Hood, maybe it's a guy a lot of experts consider a second-rounder and Polian considers a perfect fit for a role on the Colts.
No. 30: Tennessee, Alphonso Smith -- Tennessee has former NFL defensive backs as GM, coach and defensive coordinator and minimal depth behind its two starters and nickel. Perhaps the Titans prefer Darius Butler or Sean Smith at corner, perhaps they prefer the first of the next tier of outside linebackers, Connor Barwin or Larry English.
A couple notes out of the Jaguars' press conference today with GM Gene Smith, coach Jack Del Rio and director of player personnel Terry McDonough. Thanks to the PR staff for sharing transcripts.
Reduced pressure: The team's three free agent signings from the outside, most recently receiver Torry Holt on Monday, has eased the pressures of the draft.
"I think one of the things that we had hoped to be able to do is to be able to acquire a guy like Tra Thomas who's a consummate professional [who] we know can play and start in this league and has for a long time," Del Rio said. "Torry Holt, the same thing, consummate professional, can come in and play for us right now; a Sean Considine. So all three of these guys fit that where you're not just totally void at the position and now you can really let the draft come to you. And I think that's so important.
"In each of those three cases those are positions that had we not been able to fill them prior to the draft, we would have been feeling some pressure and that can cause you to make bad decisions. So I feel good about the fact that we were able to address those things knowing that long term, yeah, we still have a desire to add players at those positions, but I think it doesn't force you into this feeling like you've got to do it early or anything like that. We'll be able to let the best player available come off the board."
Juggling 20 or 30: McDonough thinks there is very little consensus in how teams are stacking players through the first round.
"Not consensus, but I think a lot of teams probably have Aaron Curry as their top player," he said. "After that there are 20 or 30 players that you can juggle in any order. In past years it has been six, seven or eight players where everyone says, 'These are surefire guys.' In this draft there just might be a couple."
He views the second tier of players as very deep, and specifically mentioned depth at receiver and offensive linemen, two positions of need for the Jaguars even with Thomas and Holt in the fold.
"We look at the 20th pick and the 40th pick and there are a lot of similarities between those players," he said.
Asked how many top eight players there are in this draft, McDonough said: "One draft I don't know what year it was  -- the year Shawn Andrews, Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow, DeAngelo Hall, Roy Williams -- that draft, those were the guys. Everybody knew. Everybody knew those seven guys were going to go there. This draft, you don't have that. That is why there is so much speculation in the top 10. I think there is going to be some offensive tackles picked because of need up there. There's going to be some quarterbacks picked because of need up there. There isn't a defined, 'OK, these are the seven guys.'"
Quarterback in play: According to Smith, it's possible the Jaguars could take a quarterback at No. 8 if that's where their best-player-available draft strategy leads them. But if it happened that way it wouldn't be an indictment of David Garrard, it would be a stockpiling of talent.
"You're trying to get the best available player and if that's who it is, if it is a quarterback, it's obvious that you're going to have some financial ramifications," Smith said. "That position is paid differently than other positions, especially that high in the draft. But you have a good young player that we feel will be an eventual starter in this league. And we feel very good about David; it would make us very strong at that position. But again, quarterbacks have good trade value and I think that's the key that you have to understand."
The Jaguars could probably get more from a trade partner if the team looking to get to No. 8 is doing so for a quarterback, Smith said.
That sure seems to be an ideal scenario of the Jags.
Versatile Raji: Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji is in the mold of Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton, a true 3-4 nose tackle, Smith said. But he also said Raji could fit into any team and system.
Final prep: Smith and his staff will conduct a mock draft Wednesday and look to cover as many scenarios that could unfold in the seven picks ahead of them.
Jon in silver spring writes: Paul, love the blog...have a question about the Texans draft needs. Im an old school Houston guy, and have been watching this team since they been in existence and one MAJOR aspect thats lacking is secondary...yet all i hear is them picking another LB or DL...when Malcolm Jenkins is out there, the guy from Mizzou is out there...what gives? Thanks.
Paul Kuharsky: I think it's that the linebackers are perceived to be more worth the 15th pick than the corners -- this corner class is getting middling reviews. I agree it's a need, especially when there is no guarantee of Dunta Robinson beyond this year. And they could well take a corner at No. 15. Really, it's too bad there is no first-round caliber safety. That would be a real solution, but this draft doesn't appear to have one. "The guy from Mizzou," I presume, is safety William Moore. He's rated as a second- or third-rounder and they could go for him there.
Chris Kirk from parts unknown writes: I've been waiting to see what you had to say about Rhodes leaving for Buffalo but I decided to go ahead and e-mail you for your thoughts. This move has to move Running Back up on the list of the Colts priorities to address in the draft right? I'm as big an Addai-hater as you'll find among Colts fans so I've been hoping for them to address that position anyway. That being said I could have seen Polian standing pat(no matter how much I disagree) since between Rhodes, Addai, and Ball/Simpson we would have had a nice mix of youth and vets in our Running Back corps. Looking back at most of the Addai apologists from your column about replacing a Colt a lot of them brought up Rhodes potential presence in a two-back system as a reason to expect better production from Addai. With Rhodes gone our already anemic run game just went on life support leaving us with one barely proven runner. With a number of mock drafts having Wells and /or Moreno available at twenty-seven and two Receivers already on the roster good enough to start for most teams how can the Colts possibly put Receiver as a higher priority than Running Back?
Paul Kuharsky: I don't think they are crestfallen that Rhodes is off the market, but I think they would have loved to have retained the option of coming back to him after the draft as a low cost guy for sure. This is one of the toughest questions of the offseason -- how much was Joseph Addai responsible for the Colts' run struggles, how much was on the line and how much was it that both were banged up?
I think a third receiver still ranks as at least as big of a need as a second running back, if they still see Addai as the lead guy -- and I expect they do. Look at it this way -- in which situation would you be more confident:
A) Addai goes down and they have to make do with Mike Hart, Lance Ball, Chad Simpson, mid- to low-draft pick or undrafted rookie.
B) Reggie Wayne or Anthony Gonzalez goes down and they have to rely on Roy Hall, Pierre Garcon, mid- to low- draft pick or undrafted rookie.
I think they survive A better than B, which leads me to conclude they spend a value pick on a receiver over a back. Also I think this is a much better draft for receivers than backs and there will be more attractive wideouts at 27 than runnning backs..
Hey, we could see receiver and running back as two of the first three. Bill Polian may think he can fix defensive tackle and linebacker with less than premium picks.
Give the Jacksonville Jaguars some credit. Though they've not been big players in free agency, they have made a couple moves that alleviate the pressure on them to absolutely spend a high pick on certain spots.
|Torry Holt signs a three-year contract with the Jaguars.|
It can be worth as much as $20 million and comes with no bonus but a $4 million guaranteed base salary this season.
The Jaguars could still pounce on Michael Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin at No. 8 in the first round Saturday. After Holt, Dennis Northcutt, Mike Walker and Troy Williamson are the team's receivers and that's hardly an all-star collection.
But by signing Tra Thomas earlier this offseason, they eased the pressure to find a tackle. And by signing Holt they've eased the pressure to find a receiver.
They will still, certainly, address those spots, but if they don't do so immediately, that will be OK.
Which may make Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji the best possible option for them in the first round if he lasts until No. 8.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Mike Silver's annual ultimate mock draft allows teams to pick anybody.
- The top two running backs in the draft are hardly flawless, writes McClain.
- A look at a local: John McClain on Brandon Pettigrew.
- The case for Matthew Stafford as the No. 1 pick, from McClain.
- Teams get drug test results from the combine Monday, says McClain.
- Natalie Meisler looks at Gary Kubiak's participation at a clinic at Colorado State, where two of his sons play. (Thanks for Alan Burge for pointing out the link.)
- Alan Burge doesn't want to hear pleas for patience from the Texans' defense.
- What tender did Owen Daniels get? Burge ponders conflicting reports.
- In Mike Chappell's mock, the Colts take Brian Robiskie.
- The Colts will continue to draft best player available. Chappell breaks down the roster.
- Dominic Rhodes is no longer an option for the Colts in the backfield. He signed in Buffalo, says Chappell.
- Darrius Heyward-Bey has studied Marvin Harrison as he's gotten ready for an NFL career, writes Chappell.
- A look at Tony Dungy's life after football from Jarrett Bell.
- No. 8 and No. 7 on John Oehser's list of the top 25 picks of the Bill Polian era.
- A look at centers and defensive tackles in the draft, from Oehser.
- The Colts re-signed fifth-year veteran safety Matt Giordano.
- Chris Mortensen says the Jaguars are "nearing a deal" for Torry Holt, while team sources tell Michael C. Wright that the Jaguars are "making progress" on a contract for the veteran receiver. But agent Kennard McGuire told Jim Wyatt he doesn't know where that is coming from.
- Michael C. Wright has the Jaguars taking B.J. Raji in his mock draft.
- Wright looks at Jacksonville's needs.
- Cole Pepper also contemplates the Jaguars' needs.
- Vince Young intends to shut up and work, reports Jim Wyatt.
- David Climer makes the case for the Titans to finally spend their first-rounder on a wide receiver.
- The Titans will have good options at No. 30, writes Wyatt.
- Could Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers be a fit for the Titans? Gary Estwick takes a look.
- Some Titans chime in with Wyatt with their thoughts on the draft.
- A member of the Titans' front office is rehabbing after surgery, reports Wyatt.
New mock drafts from the National Football Post and NFL.com. We hit the AFC South highlights for you here, but you can find West Bunting's three-round draft here, and Steve Wyche's first round here. Also included, Don Banks' mock from late last week.
Bunting, interestingly, has defensive tackles as the first three picks in the AFC South.
You can still drag and drop guys into our draft list to do your own mock.
No. 8: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 15: Houston Texans
No. 27: Indianapolis Colts
No. 30: Tennessee Titans
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Team needs: Receiver, defensive tackle, offensive tackle, defensive back
|AP Photo/Michael Conroy|
|It's unlikely that Boston College defensive lineman B.J. Raji will still be on the board at No 8, but if he is, expect the Jaguars to jump.|
Plan B: The Jaguars have lots of holes and if they can't address one directly with No. 8, the way Smith has talked of building through the draft, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't want to bump back to gather extra picks. Maybe the Jaguars are really interested in USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. But they struggled to sign Harvey last season. It would surely be harder to strike a deal with a top 10 quarterback who they don't expect to start this year. Perhaps they want someone else who's interested to come up and get Sanchez here. The Jaguars traded into this pick last year, so teams will have a good sense of what it would take to make a deal.
Scouts Inc. take: "After signing Tra Thomas, the Jaguars are now able to draft a project offensive tackle later in the draft as opposed to reaching in the first round for Andre Smith or Michael Oher. But, the Jaguars are not deficient in terms of glaring needs and wide receiver ranks right at the very top of that list. Michael Crabtree would be the ideal selection and in my opinion, as getting the best player in the draft at number eight would be a complete steal. Still, chances are that Crabtree doesn't make it that far. Is Jeremy Maclin worth that pick for Jacksonville? He certainly could be considering the position he plays and his big play ability, but overall, he isn't polished enough to come in an immediately be a go-to option. Two defensive players to keep an eye on are B.J. Raji, who is also unlikely to still be available but would be a tremendous get for the Jags, and Malcolm Jenkins, who could be exactly what Jacksonville needs to sure up their ailing and thin secondary. Mark Sanchez has been mentioned here, but I just don't see that happening." -- Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.
Who has final say: Jack Del Rio's desires will certainly be heard, but Smith made it clear when he took the post that he's got the final say on both draft picks and the roster.
On the Clock: Oakland Raiders, April 10.
|Scott Boehm/Getty Images|
|The Jaguars traded up for the No. 8 pick in the 2008 draft to select Derrick Harvey. This year, they may be looking to trade out of that same spot.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
A dip into the Jaguars' section of the mailbag:
Jeff from Jacksonville writes: Paul I have a two part question regarding the jaguars and the draft. First I believe that the Jags have put a smoke screen regarding drafting a QB in the first round, (although I do believe that they would do so if things did not work out the way they plan) I think that there main plan is to trade down and accumulate extra pics. Gene Smith has been preaching this since his first press conference and I dont believe it has changed. With the rise of Mark Sanchez from his workout, what are the chances that he might not even be there with the 8th pick for the Jaguars to try and trade, could it be that the Jags smoke screen was to big and now teams will try to trade in front of them to get Sanchez. Secondly, if Sanchez is avaliable what teams would probably be in the running for 8th pick from the Jags and what would be the compensation. The Jags are in a interested situation, they basically set the trade value for the 8th pick last year (which at the time looked like a steal since they didnt have to give up next year's first or a second) but now they are probably going to be looking for more than they paid last year for the same pic, I would love to hear your opinion on these two questions, like many, I check your blog everyday, I hope you have some new info for the team next week since they start off-season workouts. Thanks Paul, keep up the great work.
I'm not convinced the Jaguars will take Matthew Stafford or Mark Sanchez if one of them is available at No. 8 and agree with the idea that they'd like to trade down to accumulate picks. If Michael Crabtree, B.J. Raji, Jeremy Maclin or an offensive tackle they are in love with -- maybe Michael Oher -- remains available, they could be happy to stay put and address a need.
As for potential suitors: Teams that draft after the Jaguars who could want a quarterback include San Francisco (10), the Jets (17), Tampa Bay (19), Detroit (20, if the Lions don't use No. 1 on a quarterback) and Minnesota (22).
I really like Jeff's point that by trading into the eighth spot last year for defensive end Derrick Harvey, the Jaguars set the value for the very pick they may try to trade out of a year later.
Revisiting 2008: The Jaguars got the eighth pick in the draft from Baltimore in exchange for:
- No. 26 overall -- Ultimately used by Houston on left tackle Duane Brown out of Virginia Tech
- No. 71 overall (third round) -- Used by Baltimore on linebacker Tavares Gooden out of Miami
- No. 89 overall (third round) -- Ultimately used by Houston on running back Steve Slaton
- No. 125 overall (fourth round) -- Ultimately used by Oakland on receiver Arman Shields out of Richmond
(Quick aside: The Texans did pretty well with picks that first belonged to the Jaguars, didn't they? Duane Brown may be a long-term starter and Steve Slaton had a fantastic rookie season.)
Based on the numbers on the draft value chart we have up at ESPN.com, the Jaguars "won" the trade with Baltimore -- No. 8 is worth 1,400 points and the four picks Jacksonville gave up were worth 1,127 points. (The Ravens wound up trading back up to No. 18 for Joe Flacco.)
A trade partner for Jacksonville later this month has a blueprint for what it will cost to get to No. 8.
A similar deal out of the spot this year would leave the Jags with 13 picks, including three third-rounders and two fourth-rounders.
Here's what they have right now:
Round and Overall pick
* -- from Miami
** -- Compensatory selection.
ESPN's John Clayton said on the air since the report that it could drop Raji out of the top five, but not out of the top 10.
|AP Photo/Winslow Townson|
|If B.J. Raji (90) is available at the No. 8 pick in the draft, the Jagaurs may be willing to overlook some off-field issues to take him.|
The Jaguars are at No. 8.
Raji seems universally regarded as the draft's top player at his position.
New Jaguars general manager Gene Smith has talked about building from the inside out and told me last month that he'd like to reacquire the identity the team had when Marcus Stroud and John Henderson were paired in the middle of the defensive line and were regarded as the league's toughest interior tandem.
Raji was reportedly very good during Senior Bowl week. Jack Del Rio saw him up close, though he and his staff coached the other team. (Marvin Lewis and the Bengals, who pick sixth, got to work with Raji as they coached the North team.)
If the Jaguars check out Raji and are OK with him missing the 2007 season because of academics and are OK with the drug test and the direction he's heading now, they could find him a great value when their turn comes.
If that's the case, they are sure to be hoping that teams ahead of them like Seattle (No. 4), Cleveland (No. 5), Cincy (No. 6) and Oakland (No. 7) are turned off by recent developments. History, of course, suggests it wouldn't turn off the Bengals or Raiders if Raji's their guy.
I asked Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. what bearing he thought a positive drug test could have on Raji's status. Here's what he said:
Williamson: Hard to comment on that one due to not knowing the specifics. What drug was found in his system? Is the entire thing confirmed? Assuming that it has been, it surely doesn't help Raji's cause, but there are several teams (Oakland, Cincinnati, Kansas City) who really could use him and Oakland and Cincinnati are prone to overlooking an off-the-field indiscretion or two. Still, it isn't like those teams do not have other needs, so a tie would probably go to a prospect other than Raji. However, the position he plays, his versatility at that position and the lack of anyone really close to him as defensive tackles go in this draft ensures that he will be off the board quickly. No way he gets out of the top 10 and I say 33 percent that he is there for Jacksonville. But ... Jacksonville all of a sudden could really benefit from the problems of two huge prospects in Raji and Michael Crabtree (injury). Both are among the best players in this draft, but Jacksonville might snare one at No. 8, which would be a home run.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Team needs: Defensive tackle, outside linebacker, safety, running back.
|Chris Morrison/US PRESSWIRE|
|USC linebacker Clay Matthews could fill a void for the Texans.|
Dream scenario: All indications are that the Texans are expecting to address linebacker with the 15th pick in the draft. Ideally, they'd have their choice of the two USC guys projected to be selected around the middle of the first round -- Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews Jr. Matthews may be viewed as having a bit more upside as he has not reached his peak. And the Texans have inside information on him, as his uncle, Bruce Mathews, is now a part of Gary Kubiak's staff. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Matthews would give the Texans the sort of size -- and hopefully the sort of durability -- they covet.
Plan B: Boston College's B.J. Raji will be out of range, but the Texans will have to consider a defensive tackle who can get some interior push, take some attention away from Mario Williams and help Amobi Okoye get back on track. Candidates at No. 15 might be Peria Jerry of Mississippi or Evander Hood of Missouri. A team in need of a lot of help on defense probably cannot afford to go offense, but Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells would have to be tempting to a team in need of a big back to pair with Steve Slaton.
Scouts Inc. take: "Houston is in a very good position for draft day. It will be tempting to add a first-round running back like Beanie Wells, but offensive line coach Alex Gibbs certainly has never needed running backs with strong pedigrees in order for his ground game to be successful. The obvious answer for Houston is to go with defense -- and I certainly would not object. Even a situational pass rusher like Aaron Maybin could yield immediate dividends, as Antonio Smith could move inside on passing downs and Maybin would line up opposite Mario Williams. Clay Mathews Jr. also makes a lot of sense. I can live with the Texans' defense at each level, especially with their ability to put points on the board on offense, but another playmaker at any level would surely be a welcome addition. One wild card to consider: Percy Harvin -- just a hunch, but wow, he could do great things with this group. If Matt Schaub can finally stay healthy, the Texans are not all that far away from becoming a contender. This draft could put them over the top." -- Matt Williamson, Scouts Inc.
Who has final say: General manager Rick Smith and coach Gary Kubiak work to find a consensus, but the Texans won't wind up with players Kubiak doesn't endorse.
Now On the Clock: New Orleans Saints, April 2.
David in Jacksonville writes: The Jags should trade down if they can. This team has needs on both sides of the ball and lacks playmakers on the roster. It is going to take a few good drafts to fix this roster. What are the chances the Jags can trade down? Will it take a QB (Stafford or Sanchez) to fall and someone behind the Jags wanted to trade up into the top ten?
Paul Kuharsky: More picks would be better, sure, but if they don't hit better than it won't matter.
From the outside, I would suspect they are willing to sink or swim with David Garrard at least a year more -- with better protection and better targets -- before judging if they made a mistake there or not with the big contract. In conversations I've had with people inside their headquarters, they still believe in him. I've not heard from the inside how they feel about Sanchez or how they feel about the idea of taking a quarterback at No. 8.
With the holes they have, a trade down scenario or using the pick to address defensive tackle or receiver or offensive tackle seems most sensible to me. If they take a quarterback, then they cast doubt on Garrard and create a whole other storyline. That doesn't mean they won't, though.
Glenn in Cumberland, RI writes: 2 ideas. What are your reactions? Now that the Titans have lost out on Carr and Bush, do they go in a veteran direction like Dre Bly or Chris McCalister? Both might not like the demotion, but should still be pretty effective as a nickel corner. Also, what would you think about the Titans trying to trade LenDale to the Saints or Iggles who need a bigger back and then bring on Deuce as a guy to spell CJ. Deuce breaks down when asked to carry the ball 25 times, but what if he only had 10 touches a game? Could really have an impact. Thoughts? Glenn CBS '93 - Roar Lions Roar
Paul Kuharsky: I'm not sure the Titans want to go so old with the depth at corner. If they judge one of those guys to still be able to play effectively, are those guys going to come in and be content to rank as the fourth corner from the start? The Titans are not in the market for a nickel - Vincent Fuller has been quite good in that role and was re-signed.
LenDale White is in the final year of his initial contract, and doesn't have great trade value because of that and because his numbers were largely a product of the Titans' system. Tennessee need to think about who can replace him in 2010. I don't think they are looking to replace him this season.
Chris Kirk from parts unknown writes: I was wondering if you thought there was any chance the Colts would look at James Laurinaitis with their first round pick. I'm not sure d-tackle is as pressing of a need as many since I liked what I saw out of Antonio Johnson last year and on paper Daniel Muir adds even more bulk to the middle. It seems like the easiest way to bring toughness and physicality to the front seven is with a tough linebacker and Laurinaitis makes our defense tougher by just walking in the door. This is a guy who would've been a top ten pick if he'd come out last year and I'm surprised more teams aren't talking about him. Given the Colts recent history with drafting OSU guys(Gonzo, Pitcock, and Roy Hall) can you see the Colts going that direction again with Laurinaitis?
Paul Kuharsky: Not impossible, but if he's strictly an inside guy to them, that's not where they need the most help. I don't think it's a sure think they are looking defensive tackle in the first -- the top three are likely to be gone. They could have better options at receiver. But if the highest-rated player on their board isn't a DT or a receiver or a backer, they're not going to be afraid to take him wherever he plays. It's how they want to operate in the first couple rounds.
|The best moments from Jay Cutler in 2008.|
Rob in Chattanooga writes: Paul, I was just wondering if you had given any more thought to the idea of the Titans possibly trading for Jay Cutler. I know they just locked up Collins for two more years. But with the ever-dwindling confidence in VY and Collins' age, isn't it worth taking a shot at Cutler? It seems like they could afford to offer a couple of draft picks, cash and maybe a player or two to get him. Your thoughts? Thanks!
Paul Kuharsky: I just don't see the Titans being a good trade partner for Denver. They don't have a quarterback the Broncos want.
Cap considerations and the Broncos actually wanting what the Titans could offer player-wise would make it difficult to put together the sort of deal you propose. And the Titans would create an awkward environment with two starters.
They are going to need another quarterback soon, but I don't think it lines up to be this one.
Brian Fullford in Jacksonville writes: Considering he went to Vanderbilt and with the aging Collins and bust in Young, why is Tennessee not more of a choice for the Cutler? I imagine Fisher would love his fire and wouldn't have a Cutler in the backfield be a bigger draw for FA wide receivers? On another note, I'm a bit shocked at some of my Jaguar brethren. The uproar at the Jones release has them clamoring for Gene's head. It is a sad affair when such mediocrity is missed. I don't believe for one second this pushes WR up the charts at the #8 pick but does it put more of an impetus on trading out? I like Oher but if he is hot\cold like some are saying then the Jags may have Raji, Monroe and Smith kids they would be willing to pay #8 money. What does your gut (or sources) tell you, Paul?
Paul Kuharsky: I certainly think the Titans would like to have Cutler as their quarterback for the long haul. You ask why Tennessee isn't more of a choice for him. He's not doing the choosing here. He's under contract to Denver, and Denver can choose to trade him wherever it likes or not to move him and deal with the consequences of the impasse.
Free agent wide receivers are not wary of Tennessee as so many people seem to suspect, at least not because they don't like the offense. When the Titans offer a big contract, people jump. Nate Washington got a pretty good deal considering his resume and he had plenty of interest from other teams. There was no headliner in this free agent class. David Givens, who had horrible luck suffering a horrible injury, had other good options and didn't hesitate to sign in Te
As for Matt Jones, I thought he turned into a nice possession guy last year. It's a lot easier to find one of those than a deep threat, which the Jaguars always seem to need.
I think B.J. Raji and Eugene Monroe will be gone by No. 8. If Michael Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin fall there, I think they'd be hard to resist no matter the track record. Perhaps best-case is a quarterback there and the Jets or someone in love with him wanting to trade up. But Jacksonville's got to end up with an impact guy at the top of this draft.
William Guice from Spring Hill, TN writes: I was hoping for the NFL to at least discuss a new overtime method, but oh well. I have an idea for a new overtime model & would love your thoughts... How about field goal attempts/free kicks...like penalty kicks in soccer. The only people on the field are a kicker & his holder. Each team gets 3 attempts from the 40, then the 45 (if needed), then the 50 (if needed), then the -45 (if needed). Alternating turns. Flip a coin to pick end or who goes first. The one who has the best round of kicks at a yard line wins! Go no further back than the -45. It makes teams have kickers that can kick the long ball. Can you imagine the pressure of just a kicker & a holder on the field with a rocking or a silent stadium...waiting to see if that guy can make the kick. Anyway...just a crazy idea. Peace ~
Paul Kuharsky: My strong feeling is that a football game needs to be decided by football, not a gimmick. The college construct is gimmicky enough -- teams don't even naturally take possession of the ball at the opponents' 20. They certainly don't naturally ever have only a kicker and holder on the field with a game on the line.
I've got no problem with NFL overtime as it is. I'd have no major issue with a rule that the team that loses the toss gets to field a punt or a kickoff before the game becomes sudden. Anything more than that I am against.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
I asked Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com's senior analyst, to share his thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round given these parameters -- their primary needs are left tackle, defensive tackle and cornerback.
Here's what Rang had to say in our e-mail exchange:
Left tackle: This appears to be the Jags' best bet in the first round, as the talent and depth of this year's tackle class is so good they'll almost surely have at least one of the elite offensive tackles -- Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith, Andre Smith, or Michael Oher available to them. All four are ranked by most teams as legitimate top ten selections. Oher is the most controversial of the bunch due to questions about his mental strength, but in coaching him at the Senior Bowl (where he was very good), the Jaguars will have an unrivaled history with him. That fact has led me to give Oher to Jacksonville in each of my first three mock drafts.
DT: The only defensive tackle worthy of consideration at No. 8 would appear to be Boston College's B.J. Raji. He'd provide the team with a similar run-stuffer they lost with the trade of Marcus Stroud, but like Stroud, there are concerns about his consistency.
CB: If Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins is available, he could be a steal at this point in the draft. Jacksonville has been willing to gamble on pure athleticism with Matt Jones and Reggie Nelson in the past and Illinois' Vontae Davis is expected to put together an eye-popping workout ala his brother (Vernon) a few years ago.