NFC East: Aaron Curry
2. Seattle’s starting lineup includes five players selected in the last three drafts – only one in the first round. The Seahawks did a good enough job that you forget about the big miss on linebacker Aaron Curry as the fourth overall pick in 2009.
4. This has become my favorite phrase the past couple of weeks, but I’ll use it again: draft and develop. Seattle’s defensive starters include nine of its draft picks. The Seahawks not only won a Super Bowl, they did it in inexpensive fashion. Their one big free agent, Cliff Avril (who does not start, but plays a lot), was key. Though he didn’t record a sack his pressures in the past two games resulted in huge plays -- the tipped pass for a pick against San Francisco and Malcolm Smith's return for a touchdown Sunday. The point: use all avenues to improve, but you don’t need a lot of free agents to succeed.
5. I like that players such as Kam Chancellor play special teams. My guess is that he hasn’t lost the drive that turned him from a fifth-round pick in 2010 to a starter and Pro Bowler. Meanwhile, the Redskins had a sixth-round pick (Bacarri Rambo) who was not a good special-teams player. Nor was fifth-rounder Brandon Jenkins. Sean Taylor used to love playing on special teams. When guys have that sort of hunger, it trickles down. When you don’t -- and when you have veterans who would rather not be on there -- it also trickles down.
6. It’s not just playing with a hunger, it’s preparing with one. That’s what turned London Fletcher from an undrafted guy into what he became. The Seahawks have multiple players like that; even former first-round pick Earl Thomas, whose talent is enhanced by his preparation. Phillip Thomas, a fourth-round pick by Washington last season, had a reputation in college for preparing a certain way. I don’t know if he’ll develop into a good player, but it gives him a shot.
7. Seattle’s defense plays fast and with a hunger that few other teams possess. It’s hard to emulate unless you get the right collection of players. But Seattle’s formula included constantly looking for such players, which is why the Seahawks made so many transactions early in Pete Carroll’s tenure.
8. By the way, Carroll is a defensive coach. He hasn’t harmed Russell Wilson's development. It’s why, when the Redskins were looking for a coach, my thought was to not write off one side of the ball for candidates. Good head coaches come from any side; maybe Jay Gruden will be one for the Redskins. But it’s why you should never limit yourself in a search (the Redskins did not, though it seemed like they favored Gruden from the get-go).
9. I also know that having John Schneider there helps tremendously. There are other successful organizations that do things well and do it a little differently (though the draft would be a common thread) so there’s more than one way to get there. It's wrong to think only Seattle has that formula, but the Seahawks are the franchise du jour. But for the most part there’s an organizational blueprint that is followed by the best teams, the ones who consistently win. I don't think the Redskins have always been on that same page. That's not to say they missed on everyone because they haven't; they just haven't developed enough lower-round picks to build depth or provide low-cost starters.
10. What Wilson did so well Sunday night is what Robert Griffin III needs to mimic: Hit the plays that are available, including those slant routes. They sustain drives. Wilson wasn’t always perfect in the playoffs on these routes (watch the New Orleans game when he missed them a few times by throwing behind the receiver). But in the past two games he was on target with those passes, especially on third downs. He also extended plays (in the playoffs and all season) and consistently hurt teams when doing so -- by throwing the ball, not running. Wilson knows how to operate in the pocket and he threw with a terrific (and consistent) base. Wilson ran 11 times for 42 yards in the postseason, including 3 carries for 26 yards Sunday night. The ability to run is helpful and needs to be used, but if it's a constant crutch then it's not a good thing.
“I mean, it’s natural for fans to kind of fear the unknown,” Spencer Paysinger, currently one of the Giants’ starting outside linebackers, told the Daily News. “Obviously the Giants have a great legacy in terms of linebackers and this is kind of scary territory for them because they don’t have a big-name linebacker to come in and pretty much set the tone.
“But just a word to the public: We have some capable guys.”
Love it. I could see it as a new marketing slogan. "The 2013 New York Giants: We have some capable guys." Fans could get customized jerseys with the linebackers' numbers and the word "CAPABLE" across the back shoulders instead of the player's name. It'd be a thing, and if the Giants' linebacking corps were to end up having a big year, it'd be a fun running joke for years to come.
Truth is, though, linebacker is the most questionable position on the Giants' roster for good reason. They simply don't invest in it. As much time as they spend in nickel packages or three-safety looks, and because their defense is designed around the concept of generating a pass rush with the front four, it's not worth their top resources.
Of the seven linebackers addressed in Ralph's story, three were undrafted and another, Jacquian Williams, was a sixth-round pick. Dan Connor is a former third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers who came cheap as a free agent after a disappointing year with the Cowboys. Keith Rivers and Aaron Curry are both former top-10 overall picks who were on the market because their original teams (and, in the case of Curry, a second team) gave up on them.
So it's little surprise that there's not much about which to be fired up. And Paysinger's assessment is likely just fine. If the Giants can find three "capable" starting linebackers, then they'll be happy with that. It's all they really want out of the group. There's some upside potential, of course. Mark Herzlich was a brilliant college player before he was diagnosed with cancer. Curry was talked about as a possible top overall pick in his draft year. Williams was a valuable piece of the Super Bowl title team two years ago and has looked more than "capable" as a coverage linebacker when he's been healthy. But the Giants don't need their linebacking corps to carry on the great tradition of Giants linebackers of the past. The Giants defenses of the present are built on the line and the secondary. That's where they spend their money and their high draft picks, and those are the players who need to play like stars in order for the Giants to succeed. Any greatness they get out of the three guys in the middle of the defense is kind of a bonus.
Tom Coughlin says he has never had a training camp competition as wide open as the one he currently has at linebacker.
Linebacker is just one of the positions where there will be competition. Here's a look at the best camp battles for the New York Giants:
The competitors: MLB Mark Herzlich, OLB Keith Rivers, OLB Spencer Paysinger, OLB Jacquian Williams, MLB Dan Connor, OLB Aaron Curry, LB Kyle Bosworth, MLB Jake Muasau, LB Etienne Sabino.
The 411: Herzlich, Rivers and Paysinger are the starters so far in camp. Williams, Connor and Curry make up the second team. Herzlich and Connor are competing to replace Chase Blackburn, and it appears like it's Herzlich's job to lose thus far. Paysinger definitely has a chance to hold on to a starting spot. If Rivers can stay healthy, he can do some of the things Michael Boley did. When healthy, Williams can be a three-down linebacker, and his speed and athleticism allows him to cover tight ends. Curry is a wild card.
What they're saying: "They told us nothing is set in stone, everybody has to work," Paysinger said of the coaches' message. "They say that when it comes to the depth chart, it can change any day, that we dictate how the depth chart goes. If one person has a great day, he might be going with the ones, if a person slips up a little bit, he might be going with the twos and threes."
2. Right tackle.
The competitors: David Diehl, Justin Pugh, James Brewer.
The 411: Diehl is the front-runner because of his experience and is the starter right now. Pugh was drafted for a reason with the team's first-round pick. Jerry Reese said there was initial concern about Pugh's arm length for the tackle position. However, the Giants will see what Pugh can do at right tackle with the second team. Brewer has been getting first-team reps at right guard while Chris Snee makes his way back from offseason hip surgery, but Coughlin says Brewer is in the mix.
What they're saying: "David Diehl is a highly motivated guy in the first place, and competition always brings out the best," Coughlin said.
3. Backup defensive tackle.
The competitors: Shaun Rogers, Johnathan Hankins, Mike Patterson, Marvin Austin, Markus Kuhn, Frank Okam.
The 411: The Giants loaded up at defensive tackle in an effort to stop the run this season. Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins will start at defensive tackle. There will be stiff competition for the spots behind the starters. When motivated and healthy, Rogers is a load. He and Hankins, the team's second-round pick, have been working with the second team. Patterson and Austin have received third-team snaps. Austin, the team's second-round pick in 2011, is going to have to fight for a roster spot. Kuhn, who impressed the coaches last season, is on the PUP list.
What they're saying: "He's been healthy for the first time," defensive line coach Robert Nunn said about Austin. "He's where he needs to be right now. He just can't disappear when the pads come on."
4. Fourth defensive end.
The competitors: Adrian Tracy, Damontre Moore, Justin Trattou, Matt Broha, Adewale Ojomo.
The 411: With Osi Umenyiora gone, the Giants need a fourth pass-rusher to emerge to play behind -- and sometimes alongside -- Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka. Tracy is the leading candidate for the fourth end spot, but Moore, the team's third-round pick, has impressed early. Until JPP is healthy, both Tracy and Moore could see snaps as the third and fourth ends.
What they're saying: "We've got some young guys that have to show up," Nunn said. "They look good when they're running around with no pads on, but you still see some things that get you excited."
5. Running back.
The competitors: David Wilson and Andre Brown.
The 411: Wilson and Brown technically are competing for the starting spot. But Wilson is the starter in camp and should be the starter for the season. Still, the two running backs likely could share carries, with the hot hand getting the majority of the carries in any given game. Brown is expected to resume his role as goal-line back as well.
What they're saying: "David is a different style of back than we've ever really had here at the Giants over the years," quarterback Eli Manning said. "A lot of speed and explosiveness. Both of them [Wilson and Brown] are different style runners, and we'll kind of understand that and put them in to do things that they are best at."
A look at the one move each team in the NFC East needed to make but didn't.
Dallas Cowboys: Upgrade at right tackle. The Cowboys believe they improved their offensive line with the first-round draft selection of center Travis Frederick, and they may be right. But the problem is the line needed more help than that. Instead of getting the disappointing Doug Free to take a pay cut and stay, the Cowboys could have explored other options, such as using another early-round pick on a tackle or signing one of the veterans (Tyson Clabo, Eric Winston) who were cut during free agency. Cap issues were one factor, but basically the Cowboys seemed content with the idea of a right tackle platoon or training camp competition between Free and Jermey Parnell. They claim the platoon of that pair worked well late last season, but it's likely the right tackle's play looked good only in comparison to Free's terrible first-half performance.
New York Giants: Anything of consequence at linebacker. Sure, they brought back Keith Rivers. Yawn. And they signed Dan Connor. Double yawn. And they took a chance on Aaron Curry, who was once one of the top prospects in the league but has already washed out with two teams. Interesting, but certainly not a confidence-boosting sign. Mathias Kiwanuka, who was one of their starting linebackers the past two years, will move back up to defensive end to help replace Osi Umenyiora, who left as a free agent. And there are some young guys the Giants brought in as rookies two years ago who may be good enough to play or start. The Giants feel they got stronger up front at defensive tackle and never mind spending on defensive backs, but the middle of the field remains a weakness for them against offenses that are willing to exploit it. Some guys are going to have to outperform expectations at linebacker in 2013.
Philadelphia Eagles: Spend some money on the secondary. The Eagles were the only NFC East team that had cap room to burn. Even though they needed to improve all four starting positions in the secondary, they chose to go the economic route, bringing in uninspiring cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams and safety Patrick Chung. Former Giant Kenny Phillips is a premium talent at safety, but they got him inexpensively as well, and the reason is a chronic knee problem that could keep him from ever playing for them. New coach Chip Kelly was looking for physical cornerbacks with the ability to tackle, which is fine, and I can understand that the Eagles felt burned by the way the Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie moves of two years ago worked out. But the moves at defensive back feel like half-measures, and you get the feeling they'll be looking to upgrade the same spots next year. This was a team that should have at least looked into trading for Darrelle Revis, though it would have been hard to justify giving up the No. 4 overall pick in the draft for him.
Washington Redskins: Get Pierre Garcon's foot fixed. This one is on Garcon, of course. The team can't force a player to have surgery if he doesn't want to have surgery. Garcon did have a procedure to repair a shoulder problem, which is good, but it was the torn ligament in his foot that bothered him last season, cost him six games and is at risk of flaring up again if rest didn't cure it completely. Garcon was a hugely valuable part of the Redskins' offense as Robert Griffin III's No. 1 wide receiver. Everyone has heard that the Redskins were 9-1 in regular-season games in which Garcon played. The Redskins' cap problems prevented them from improving the secondary or the offensive line and from keeping special-teams captain Lorenzo Alexander. But when they look back on this offseason, their biggest regret may be that Garcon didn't get the foot surgery he needed.
Dwayne Harris came on strong as a good No. 3 wide receiver option for the Cowboys in 2012. But after the team drafted Terrance Williams in the third round, Harris is ready to fight for his job.
The Cowboys picked up $2 million in cap space over the weekend because the post-June 1 cut of Marcus Spears took effect. Calvin Watkins speculates that the savings could help lead to talks with Sean Lee about a new contract.
New York Giants
Aaron Curry says "proving people wrong is not a motivation," though he admits the motivations that helped him become a top college linebacker disappeared when he got his big first-round NFL contract with Seattle. Curry believes renewed focus and determination can help him be a help to the Giants, who felt his talent warranted taking a low-risk chance.
If fullback Henry Hynoski has to miss significant time with his knee injury, Bear Pascoe's value as a tight end who can line up at fullback will become even more obvious to Giants fans.
DeSean Jackson has dropped agent Drew Rosenhaus and is the latest NFL player to be connected to Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports. Not sure what it all means for Jackson's future with the Eagles, as he got a long-term contract extension last year, but I know lots of people around the league are monitoring what's going on with Roc Nation and what effect its presence will have on the market.
The fact that Bennie Logan is new should help him as the Eagles' defensive coaching staff continues to throw ever-changing schemes and fronts at the players this offseason.
Mike Shanahan says Alfred Morris' success isn't a product of the Redskins' system and that Morris is a good enough back to gain yards in any offensive system. And that may well be true, but it doesn't change the fact that Morris' running style fits the profile of what Shanahan looks for in a back, which is likely why he was able to get him in the sixth round and why Morris was able to get the chance to be the starter in the first place as a rookie in 2012.
People often ask what the Redskins' plan is at inside linebacker when London Fletcher inevitably decides to stop playing. Keenan Robinson, who was a rookie in 2012, is part of the answer. And he says he's almost all the way back from the injury that ended his 2012 season and ready for more playing time.
New York Giants
Steve Tisch, one of the Giants' owners, theorizes that going to the Jets was a bad thing for Tim Tebow's career. Which, duh. But lest you think (as I did upon reading that headline) that even the Giants' owners can't find interesting things to discuss about the Giants this time of year, Tisch also says he liked the Aaron Curry signing and the draft.
Whatever becomes of Ryan Nassib, he'll always be able to say his first day on the field with the Giants went better than Eli Manning's did back in 2004.
Monday's was the first Chip Kelly practice that was open to the media. The reporters who were there spent the morning live-tweeting the music that was blaring and trying to track who was playing quarterback for which play. Les Bowen says the pace and the atmosphere lived up to the hype.
And remember the other day when Michael Vick supposedly beat LeSean McCoy in a 40-yard dash? Well, McCoy isn't going down like that. He claims Vick started early and won't agree to a rematch.
In his weekly mailbag, Mike Jones says the Redskins don't appear to have any interest in bringing back Chris Cooley and discusses replacement options for London Fletcher.
The Redskins' secondary, however the pieces end up fitting, is going to have to come together quickly this season. Rich Tandler looks at the early tests the schedule poses.
Tim MacMahon believes that the plan to involve Tony Romo in the game planning and playcalling more than in prior years is the latest erosion of the authority of head coach Jason Garrett, and I can see where Tim MacMahon's coming from. Thing is, though, if it works, Garrett's not on the "hot seat" anymore, right?
With rookie minicamp over, Cowboys first-round pick Travis Frederick has returned to Wisconsin to continue working on the Android app he's helping to develop. You know. That old story. Heard it a million times. I think Ray Nitschke had to miss part of his rookie minicamp for the same reason, but Google's coming up blank on that.
I don't remember whether I mentioned this to you guys at all before the draft, but the Giants haven't picked a linebacker in the first round since Carl Banks in 1984. So it's no coincidence Sean McCormick thinks "it's hard to remember the last time the Giants had even one really good player in their linebacking corps." The Giants tend to spend their resources on really good players who play other positions, like the defensive line and wide receiver and quarterback, and the result at linebacker is stuff like this:
The current starting trio of Dan Connor, Keith Rivers and Jacquian Williams is typical of the patchwork approach general manager Jerry Reese has taken during his tenure. Connor is a solid two-down plugger who is vulnerable in the passing game due to his lack of speed. Rivers is a former top-10 pick who has accumulated more surgeries than sacks in his five-year career. And Jacquian Williams is a guy named Jacquian Williams; he reportedly played in each of the past two seasons, but Giants fans can neither confirm nor deny his presence on the roster.
Sean's being cute here, of course. Giants fans surely know Williams as the 2011 sixth-round pick who made a key contribution as a special teamer and coverage linebacker during the postseason run two years ago and had had injury problems in 2012. But none of that makes him a reliable starter on a team that always contends for the division title, and there are reasons to doubt the credentials of both Rivers and Connor on that front as well. Mathias Kiwanuka appears to be moving back up to the defensive line full-time. They recently signed former first-rounder Aaron Curry in case they might be able to get something out of him that his first two NFL teams couldn't, and as Sean writes, they still have Mark Herzlich kicking around. They get by at the position, but they rarely do anything great there.
It's also important to note the Giants spend less time every year in their base 4-3 as passing offenses continue to get more complex and they have to run nickel corners and third safeties into the lineup to offset them. So linebacker is, by definition, a low-priority item for them. Still, there are times when the pass rush isn't dominant and the secondary is lost and the Giants look soft in the middle of the defense, and when that happens you have to think the lack of top talent at the linebacker position is costing them. It's likely to happen a few times this year as well. It's just a decision the Giants always seem to make to go in that direction.
Clarence Hill writes that the newcomer who made the biggest impression at Cowboys rookie minicamp was 73-year-old defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Along with defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, Kiffin could indeed be the most important addition the Cowboys made this offseason, one way or another.
Jean-Jacques Taylor still can't figure out why the Cowboys refuse to draft quarterbacks. Even teams that are set at the position, like the Giants and the Steelers, drafted guys to develop in that bargain-bin fourth round this year. But the Cowboys never draft one. I mean, like, never. Even the guy they have starting for them wasn't drafted.
New York Giants
The Giants did sign linebacker Aaron Curry over the weekend. He was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2009 draft. I remember he was thought of as the "safest" pick at the top of that draft. But he's washed out with two teams -- the Seahawks and the Raiders -- and now the Giants will hope they can draw out some of the talent that made him such a high pick. When you don't invest in linebackers, this is what you do. You hunt for bargains you hope can outplay their cost. If Curry doesn't play well, the Giants won't have lost much. But if he does ...
This year's Giants first-rounder, Justin Pugh, lined up at right tackle during rookie camp after playing left tackle at Syracuse. As you know, the Giants don't know yet where they'll use Pugh, but one of the reasons they drafted him was because they believed he could line up at any of the five offensive line positions. Surely, if he performs at right tackle throughout the offseason, he could find opportunity there.
Jeff McLane considers fourth-round pick Matt Barkley a legitimate contender for the Eagles' starting quarterback job. And yes, Jeff knows full well that fourth-round picks rarely make it as starting NFL quarterbacks. But one of the guys ahead of him was only a third-rounder last year, and the other turns 33 next month. So anything's possible.
Whoever the quarterback is, the Eagles' first-round pick will be one of the key men in charge of keeping him safe. Lane Johnson said he enjoyed rookie camp but is eager to get going this week with the veterans around for OTAs.
Rich Tandler poses the question of whether the defending NFC East champions are prepared to handle the higher expectations they face in 2013. Not to oversimplify, but I think much of that answer depends on the health of quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is as you may have heard recovering from offseason knee surgery.
The Redskins drafted a couple of running backs in the late rounds this year, and with Mike Shanahan it's always worth wondering how the running backs will be deployed. Keith McMillan took a look at the two new guys.
New York Giants
Aaron Curry was the No. 4 pick in the entire NFL draft just four years ago, but he couldn't make it work with Seattle or Oakland and is now looking for work. The Giants are looking for linebackers. They will take a look at Curry, Ralph Vacchiano reports.
It's fascinating to me to talk to people around the league and learn about the different ways different teams evaluate quarterbacks. The Giants took Ryan Nassib in the fourth round of this year's draft not because he's some awesome physical specimen with a huge arm but because they like what he showed in college as a leader. This is remarkable because, in the Giants' ideal situation, Eli Manning remains healthy and productive for several more years and Nassib never has to lead them out of a huddle before a meaningful play. But teams view quarterbacks as commodities, and Nassib has what the Giants think are the makings of a good one.
Eagles guard Evan Mathis recently had a minor ankle surgery that will keep him out of action through the OTAs and minicamps. Mathis and the Eagles believe he'll be fine in time for training camp.
This likely means more practice reps this summer for disappointing former first-round pick Danny Watkins, who would take Mathis' first-team reps at left guard with Todd Herremans likely moving from right tackle to right guard to make room for first-round pick Lane Johnson. More reps are a good thing for Watkins, since the Eagles will need depth and would like to be able to count on him more than he's allowed them to so far.
People ask sometimes about suspended Redskins safety Tanard Jackson and whether he might serve as the answer for the team this year at free safety. But as Mike Jones writes in his recent mailbag, the earliest the Redskins can even get a look at Jackson is Sept. 1, and that's if his indefinite drug suspension is lifted on the earliest possible date. They need to move on to other options, and Jackson is not likely to play for them.
It may have been a head-scratcher to see the Redskins draft another tight end, given what they have on the roster at that position. But from the Redskins' standpoint, especially in the third round, Jordan Reed is not just another tight end.
Tony Romo will be playing less golf this offseason, which Calvin Watkins and I agree is bigger news than it should be to those who have operated under the unsubstantiated belief that Romo cares more about golf than football.
There was some concern that the Cowboys needed to take a defensive lineman in the recent NFL draft and didn't. But a deeper look shows that they have more defensive line depth than you might think.
» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)
Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: History in that spot.
My colleague Mike Sando from the NFC West bureau has done some outstanding research on this very topic. Over the past 15 years, he's discovered that running backs have been quite popular at No. 27. From 1995-09, there were four running backs taken, three wide receivers and three offensive linemen. True to form, the Colts selected Donald Brown at No. 27 overall in '09 and there's a good chance he'll start for the next six or seven seasons.
In '08, the Chargers selected cornerback Antoine Cason at No. 27. He's had four interceptions and 10 pass breakups in his first two seasons. Teams at the bottom of the first round love it when cornerbacks slip a little bit. That's why I keep saying the Cowboys will keep a close eye on Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty. And remember, you heard it here first. In '07, I took at trip to Tulsa, Okla., to do a story on a former team roper named Robert Meachem. He'd become a star receiver at Tennessee and the Saints selected him at No. 27 . Meachem was a huge disappointment in his rookie season, reporting to work out of shape. But now he's a key member of the Saints' elite corps of receivers. So in the past three years, you've seen teams connect on those late first-round picks.
New York Giants
Most people believe the Giants need to draft a linebacker in the first round. And as Sando's research indicates, that's been a very popular position at the No. 15 spot, where the Giants will be. In the past 15 drafts, teams have selected five linebackers at No. 15. Will Alabama's Rolando McClain still be available? We're about to find out. The Steelers selected Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons at No. 15 overall in '07 and I'd say that's worked out pretty well. The Chiefs took offensive tackle Branden Albert out of Virginia in '08 and last year the Texans went with former USC linebacker Brian Cushing. That's two excellent linebackers at No. 15 in the past three years. Bodes pretty well for Giants fans.
For whatever reason, there's been an inordinate number of defensive backs taken at No. 24 overall. And it wouldn't surprise me to see the Eagles continue that trend. The team could take a safety or cornerback and feel pretty good about it in my mind. The Eagles have a lot of practice selecting in this range, so they won't get caught off guard. Last year, the Falcons took defensive tackle Peria Jerry out of Ole Miss in the No. 24 hole. And in '08, the Titans selected running back Chris Johnson, now the most prolific runner in the league. In '07, the Patriots drafted Miami safety Brandon Meriweather and turned him into a pretty versatile player. And how can anyone forget the No. 24 pick in the '05 draft? It was the ultimate green room debacle, Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers. That's obviously worked out pretty well for the Packers.
There's no real consensus at the No. 4 pick over the past 15 drafts. But there's only been one quarterback taken No. 4 overall -- if you can believe that. The position is so valuable that the top player at that position (Sam Bradford this year) is almost always gone by No. 4. Last season, the Seahawks played it really safe with Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, who's going to be an excellent player in the league for years to come. The Raiders selected Arkansas running back Darren McFadden No. 4 overall in '08 and you can't say that's really panned out for them. Of course, nothing they've done the past decade has really panned out for them. The Bucs took Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams No. 4 overall in '07 and we all know that his life ended tragically this past January. In '06, the Jets found an excellent left tackle in D'Brickashaw Ferguson of Virginia. The Redskins would be wise to follow the Jets' lead in three weeks. In '05, the Bears went with Texas running back Cedric Benson. But I wouldn't worry about the Redskins taking a running back at No. 4. There's no one good enough to tempt them at that spot. Shanahan would rather go with the old warhorses, Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson.
NEW YORK -- The Beast had a long visit with former Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry today in Central Park. He's an extremely engaging guy who seems as excited about giving to the community as he is about collecting huge paychecks. He's even told the Lions he'd give them a discount in exchange for the "prestige" of being the top pick in the draft.
"I heard some bad stuff about the city," said Curry, "but it's not that bad at all. I really enjoyed it there. And to play between Ernie Sims and Julian Peterson would be amazing."
Curry and Baylor's Jason Smith have become close through this whole process. They're still talking about Wake Forest blowing out Baylor early in the '08 season.
"Jason says they would've beat us 65-0 if we played later in the season," joked Curry.
According to Curry, the two players only collided once during the game -- on a blitz.
"He got me," Curry said of Smith.
Curry said he doesn't think Detroit "can go wrong" with him or Matthew Stafford. And that's the type of attitude that has already endeared Curry to Lions fans. A recent newspaper poll in Detroit indicated that fans were leaning toward Curry. But the Beast still thinks Stafford ends up in Motown.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
NEW YORK -- After a slight delay (two hours), the Beast arrived in the city a little past midnight Thursday. This morning, I'll join my pal Randall Liu from the league office and nine players for a youth football clinic in Central Park. Here are the players attending this weekend's draft:
- Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
- Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
- Brian Cushing, USC
- Josh Freeman, Kansas State
- Eugene Monroe, Virginia
- Michael Oher, Ole Miss
- Brian Orakpo, Texas
- Jason Smith, Baylor
- Matthew Stafford, Georgia
The nine players will begin their day with an appearance on CBS' "Early Show" before heading over to Central Park for the NFL Play 60 Youth Clinic. There's a remote chance I'll be speaking at the clinic, so I've prepared extensive notes. For some reason, the kids in New York are dying to hear about ESPN.com's Blog Network.
The players will then visit Mt. Sinai Children's Hospital before ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. A photo shoot in front of the Radio City Music Hall marquee is next on the agenda, and the players will be interviewed by ESPN and the NFL Network at Radio City after that.
Pretty full day. I'll tag along as long as the league will allow it, which is probably not long. We've been offered access to Curry, but I'm quickly finding out that pretty much every reporter in the country has a similar arrangement. I'll check in via Blackberry every now and then.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
There's nothing I love more than some good standing broad jump play-by-play. I used to scoff at the NFL combine, but it's grown on me over the years. The broad jump play-by-play man just told me how sports tape "promotes the flow of blood" before a player leaps into the air.
So far, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry has the most impressive broad jump with 10 feet, 4 inches. USC linebacker Brian Cushing just recorded 10 feet. (That's Frank's boy). And fellow USC linebacker Rey Maualuga just had a disappointing 8 feet, 10 inches. The wild shock of hair shooting out of his headband could've hindered the leap.
OK, this is so addictive. If you're at work, also check out the 3-cone drill, which was invented by Titans scout C.O. Brocato. It's easy to make fun of the NFL Network for devoting 25 hours to men running 40s and cone drills, but it's exactly what they should be doing.
Mel Kiper Jr., a frequent contributor to this blog, was asked a few minutes ago to name the "safest player on the board." His initial answer was "nobody," explaining that he never thinks anyone is completely safe.
"[Wake Forest OLB] Aaron Curry would probably fit into that category," Kiper eventually said. "He's not going to be a bust. And he may be a boom. I've had him on top of the Big Board since Oct. 5."
Todd McShay currently has Curry going to the Chiefs at No. 3. He thinks new GM Scott Pioli will fall in love with Curry's versatility.
In other news, Kiper said he didn't think there was a "super elite" quarterback in this draft. If he were drafting for the Lions or Chiefs, he'd try to trade for Matt Cassel before selecting either Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford. But he thinks the Patriots will hold onto Cassel for one more season as a "hefty insurance policy."
Who's the player who has the most to lose at the combine? That would be Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, according to Kiper. If he runs a solid 40, there's a great chance he's the first defensive back taken. If he runs a mediocre time, there's a good chance he moves to safety. No pressure at all.