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Saturday, March 13, 2010
NFC North weekend mailbag

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Yes! The weekend mailbag, mourned by at least three people last week, returns after a brief hiatus. Remember, you can reach me through the mailbag portal, our massive Facebook following or via Twitter.

Let's get to it.

Responding to our post about Detroit's possibilities if St. Louis selects Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh at No. 1 overall, Facebook friend Dowveido suggests the Lions take Tennessee safety Eric Berry: He is to me the best player in the draft period.

Kevin Seifert: Our original post focused on the disappointing bench press of Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and the clear signs that Suh had passed McCoy as the consensus best prospect in the draft. Public conversation has centered around St. Louis taking Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford at No. 1 overall, leaving the Lions to draft Suh.

But what if the Rams pass on Bradford and take Suh? Would it still be a no-brainer to take McCoy at No. 2? Dowveido, for one, votes for Berry.

We've all see how an elite safety can impact a defense, from the intimidation of Ronnie Lott to the playmaking of Ed Reed. But on average, it just seems to be an NFL maxim that safeties are rarely taken at the top of the draft. Like it or not, the position is behind at least five others in terms of typical NFL ratings.

Taking a safety at No. 2 overall would be quite a luxury for the Lions, who already have an up-and-coming player at the position in Louis Delmas. When you go back in the history of recent drafts, you'll only find one safety taken No. 2 overall: Eric Turner by Cleveland in 1991.

With all that said, I'm going to stick with what I came to believe last year about Detroit's drafting policy. The Lions aren't going to discriminate among positions. That's what led them to take tight end Brandon Pettigrew with the No. 20 overall pick last year, despite greater needs at other spots. If their talent evaluators determine Berry is the best player in the draft after Suh, then I believe they'll take him take him based on that scenario.

That's a big 'if,' of course. A week bench press alone shouldn't be enough to alter a team's perception of a potentially elite player like McCoy. If I had to guess, I would say it would be an upset for Berry to supplant McCoy in Detroit's eyes.


Mbearased of Clayton, Ind., writes: If your team has no first or second round draft pick, does that mean they can not sign a restricted free agent with a first or second round compensation?

Kevin Seifert: Correct. As my colleague Mike Sando notes, the collective bargaining agreement explicitly requires a team to have possession of the necessary draft pick in order to sign an RFA to an offer sheet.

Conceivably, however, there is a way around that rule. Here's how it work, using fake names that of course have no reflection in reality:
1. RFA receiver Landon Farshall signs his tender offer extended by his original team, the Donkos.
2. The Donkos trade Farshall to the Dears for first- and third-round picks in the 2011 draft.
3. The Dears sign Farshall to a long-term contract extension.
4. And all of Rhicago rejoices.

Mark of Denver offers this brain twister: I was just reading the conversation between Mike Sando and John Clayton about the new proposed overtime rules, and I had a question that was not asked. What if, under the new rule, a team has to kick off, but they opt for an onside kick and recover. Then, said team then goes down and scores a FG. Technically, the game should be over, seeing as how the other team had a chance to have possession, but they were thwarted. (Don't they consider onside kicks turnovers?). Or, suppose a team scores a field goal, then they onside kick and recover, again, you would assume they would win, right?

Kevin Seifert: Ultimately, this would have to be explicitly explained in the wording of the rule. But just my opinion, and Mike shares it as well: I would hope that a failed kickoff recovery wouldn't count as a possession. That would defeat the purpose of the rule by allowing a team to lose by an overtime field goal before its offense gets on the field.

I'm also not certain how often a team would try the onside-kick strategy. If the other team recovers, it has a short field to drive for a touchdown to win it, or a field goal to put serious pressure on the offense. It might not be the wise move, regardless.


On Minnesota's backup running back situation, Noah of St. Paul writes: As a University of Iowa alum, I have to put in a good word for former Hawkeye Albert Young. I tend to think Ian Johnson would be better in this position, though, given how he was used as more of all-purpose back at Boise State. What are your thoughts on this? Is it that specialized of a role that we need to put a premium on LaDainian Tomlinson's proven ability (and risk that he's worn out)? Or are fresh legs equally important on third down? I see this potential signing as more of hype-generating tactic than an actual personnel strategy.

Kevin Seifert: Interesting take, Noah. Pursuing Tomlinson has certainly generated hype, but I do think he has a lot to offer in the role the Vikings have mapped out for him. Remember, Chester Taylor got 94 carries last season behind Adrian Peterson. That's an average of less than six per game. I think Tomlinson has six decent carries per game in him.

On third downs, the most important word is "reliable." The third-down back must be able to pick up blitzes, and he must have good hands. Making people miss and breaking big plays is secondary. As a veteran, Tomlinson is a more than competent pass-protector and his hands are trustworthy.

I would have some reservations about putting an unproven player like Ian Johnson in charge of protecting Brett Favre on third downs, assuming Favre plays in 2010. (Johnson spent last season on the Vikings' practice squad.) But with that said, there are a lot of people -- including Favre himself -- who think Albert Young could be ready for the job.

During his recent visit with coach Brad Childress, Favre mentioned Young's name several times. Said Childress: "Albert Young is a guy that has developed here tremendously in the last two years. As a matter of fact, Brett Favre and I had a long conversation about him when we were down south and he believes he's got a chance to be a good back in this league."

So I understand why the Vikings have pursued Tomlinson. But if it doesn't work out, Young could be the guy.