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Friday, May 2, 2014
Rubbing elbows with best of the best

By Rich Cimini

Imagine schmoozing with Hall of Famers about the upcoming draft. Imagine attending skills clinics conducted by Jim Brown and Barry Sanders. These are among the activities that will occur Saturday and Sunday at the first Pro Football Hall of Fame fan fest at the I-X Center in Cleveland.

Several Hall of Famers will participate in the event, including New York Jets legend Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann and Franco Harris. They will interact with the fans in a variety of events, from Q & As to chalk talks to autograph sessions. It's a cool idea, one that other sports Hall of Fames should copy.

Right now, the draft is on everybody's mind. While reporting a story last week on the 50-year anniversary of the epic 1964 NFL draft, I interviewed Hall of Famer Paul Warfield (he, too, will attend the fan fest), and we got around to talking about the wide receivers in next week's draft. Warfield is one of the greatest big-play receivers in history, so if he's willing to discuss young wideouts, I'm listening.

Warfield called Clemson's Sammy Watkins a "dynamic performer" and he said Texas A&M's Mike Evans is "awfully good," but the player he believes could surprise is USC's Marqise Lee.

"He's a little under the radar because he had a few minor injuries at USC, but he's a talented young man and can make big plays," Warfield said. "He's not quite the physical size of a Sammy Watkins in terms of body mass, and he's not as big as Evans, but I like him. Lee has a physical stature that resembles mine, around the 6-foot range.

"He can give you the short catches. I like receivers that have that capacity, that can be a factor on every play. I like receivers that can beat their man and make the possession catch. He has all those qualities. He can run by you or make the possession catch at any instance. There has been so much emphasis on Watkins and Evans. Marqise Lee is not an unknown, but he could be someone available that will help your team."

Lee almost certainly will be available for the Jets at pick No. 18. Will they agree with Warfield's assessment?