NFC South: 2010 NFL Draft

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The year was 1982, long before cell phones and the widespread use of computers. Heck, even landlines weren’t all that dependable --- as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers found out.

As a reward for all his hard work during the year, the Bucs sent equipment manager Pat Marcuccillo to New York as their representative. It’s a pretty easy gig in theory -- listen to what you hear on the other end of the phone, fill out the card and hand it in.

The Bucs would have been better off sending Marcuccillo to an isolated island. In what prompted one of the most bizarre draft stories ever, the phone in New York started cutting in and out and Marcuccillo could hear only a part of what personnel director Ken Herock was instructing.

Herock told Marcuccillo to write down "defensive end Booker Reese." Herock also said to write down "guard Sean Farrell" because the Bucs were debating between the two. Problem was Marcuccillo never heard the first part of the instructions.

The Bucs were a little worried about possible difficulties in signing Farrell, and a quick conversation on the other line with his agent backed up their doubts. The clock was ticking down and Herock got back on the line to New York .

His message was to select Reese. But, again, the line wasn’t functioning right and Marcuccillo never heard that part. He was getting a little nervous and he asked if he should turn in the card he had written out. In perhaps the only part of the conversation that wasn’t ruined by the phone line, Herock answered that question and Marcuccillo turned in the card -- with Farrell’s name.

Back in Tampa , the Bucs’ brass freaked out. They so desperately wanted to correct their mistake that they quickly worked a trade with Chicago. The Bucs traded away their 1983 first-round pick to move up to the early second round where they selected Reese.

As it turned out, the Bucs should have just been happy to get Farrell. Reese spent two disastrous seasons with the Bucs before they traded him away for a 12th-round draft pick. Reese also earned infamy when he got his first check, a very big one. He took it to a Tampa auto dealer and selected a car. When it came time to pay for it, he handed the salesman the check. There was a big difference between the amount of the check and the price of the car (we're talking thousands of dollars) and the salesman asked Reese how he wanted to complete the transaction. Reese reportedly said, "Just give me the change'', which would have added up to about five more cars. After that, the Bucs started paying a little more attention to Wonderlic test scores.

Some fun draft facts

April, 20, 2010
4/20/10
2:57
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This is the time of year when the fine folks in the NFL’s public relations department really earn their pay.

Thanks to them, my wake-up call this morning came from a FedEx driver, who delivered a package with bios on just about every draft prospect you can imagine. They’re also sending out a steady stream of draft-related e-mails. Some of them are very lengthy, but you can find some really interesting stuff if you take the time to sort through them.

One of my favorites is the little “fun facts’’ section that came in an e-mail just a bit ago. I don’t have space to share them all with you, so I picked out five that I thought were pretty interesting:

  • Tennessee safety Eric Berry studied dentistry at Tennessee and interned at a Georgia dentist office this past summer.
  • South Florida wide receiver Carlton Mitchell’s mother, Angela, is the “cut man’’ for professional boxer Antonio Tarver.
  • Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy and Trent Williams will be in New York for the draft. It will be the first time three players from the same school have been present since Penn State’s Ki-Jana Carter, Kerry Collins and Kyle Brady were there in 1995.
  • Speaking of Oklahoma, the Sooners have had a great program, but they’re not known for producing quarterbacks. Although Bradford is likely to change things, you want to take a guess who’s the last Oklahoma quarterback to throw an NFL pass? Jack Jacobs for the Green Bay Packers back in 1949. Before you start filling up the mailbag saying that’s not correct, Troy Aikman doesn’t count. Yes, he spent two years at Oklahoma, but he transferred to UCLA and that’s where he earned his way to the NFL.
  • Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick has invited his college defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr. to wait with him in the “green room’’ during the draft. Johnson also is the father of NFL running back Larry Johnson Jr.

Programming notes for a busy week

April, 20, 2010
4/20/10
11:00
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We have started what should be the most interesting week of the offseason and it will really kick into high gear tonight when the NFL announces its 2010 regular-season schedule at 7 p.m. ET.

Very soon after that, I’ll do an analysis on the schedule for each of the four teams in the NFC South. We’ll continue with all our advance looks at the draft today, Wednesday and before it kicks off Thursday night.

Speaking of draft day, I’ll be joining my good friend, "The Fabulous Sports Babe'', on ESPN Radio Tampa Bay for the final hour of her show Thursday. That will be from 2 to 3 p.m. and we’ll be coming to you live from Peggy O’Neill’s Irish Pub and Eatery at 13910 W. Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa.

Once The Babe and I are finished, I’ll head over to One Buc Place to get set up for the first night of the draft.

Some draft records to watch

April, 19, 2010
4/19/10
5:04
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The NFL just sent out a press release with a whole bunch of facts and figures about the draft.

One of the more interesting notes had to do with the length of the draft, particularly first rounds. I’ve been hearing from a lot of you, especially New Orleans fans, who fear the Saints won’t be making their pick until the middle of the night Thursday. Well, that’s probably not going to be true.

With the first round of the draft moving to prime time, the rules have changed. There will be only 10 minutes between first-round picks, instead of 15 minutes in prior years. With that in mind, here are some of the time records for drafts.

  • Longest first round since 1967: 2007 (6 hours, 8 minutes)
  • Shortest first round since 1967: 1972 (2 hours)
  • Longest seven-round draft: 2007 (18 hours, 5 minutes)
  • Shortest seven-round draft: 1998 (14 hours, 25 minutes)
  • Most rounds on draft day: 30 (1943-1959 drafts)
NFL.com has started to reveal its 75 most valuable draft picks of all time, as voted on by fans.

Nos. 51 through 75 were released Monday and I’m seeing a handful of players with NFC South ties.

Warren Sapp (No. 54), Darren Sharper (No. 64), Julius Peppers (No. 71), Derrick Brooks (No. 72) and John Lynch (No. 73) made the list. Sharper’s the only one of the bunch not drafted by an NFC South team, but he spent last year with the Saints.

I know this thing is just for fun, but I’ve got some real problems with this list. Let’s start with Peppers. Was the guy one of the all-time greatest draft picks? I think not. Peppers had a very nice career in Carolina. But he basically did what a No. 2 overall pick in a draft should do and I’m not even sure he did that much. With a few good years in Chicago, Peppers might end up in the Hall of Fame. But I still don’t think you can declare him a great draft pick. No. 2 overall picks are supposed to be good and it doesn’t take a genius to find them. I’m anxious to see the rest of the list because I’m sure there will be some guys left off that were way better picks than Peppers.

On the flip side, I’ve got a real problem with Sapp and Brooks not being ranked higher. Again, I’ll have to wait to see the top 50. But you can’t tell me that Sapp at No. 12 overall and Brooks at No. 28 don’t belong in the top 50. Sapp might have been the first player in the 1995 draft if there weren’t some character questions. The Bucs got him at No. 12, which is great value, and he spent most of his career playing a No. 1 overall pick.

In fact, I’d argue that Sapp was way better than the guy at No. 53, Brian Urlacher. He was taken with the No. 9 overall pick, which means he should have had a better career than Sapp. Urlacher’s been pretty good at times, but I’ve also seen the word “overrated’’ tied to him at times by scouts and coaches. Urlacher’s a linebacker. So was Brooks and Brooks was a late first-round pick. I’d take Brooks over Urlacher any day, and if you look at their draft positions, Brooks was a much better value.

As for Lynch and Sharper, I’ll just say their rankings sound about right.

Mock pick for Carolina Panthers

April, 19, 2010
4/19/10
1:17
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As I’m sure you’re well aware, we published our Blog Network mock draft this morning. The Panthers don’t have a first-round pick, but I don’t want Carolina fans to feel slighted.

That’s why I’m going to go ahead and make my prediction on what I think Carolina will do with their first pick, which comes in the second round. Obviously, a lot depends on what happens with the picks ahead of the Panthers. Our mock only included the first 32 picks, so I’m doing some guessing on who might be off the board in the second round, before Carolina takes its turn.

I’m taking Al Woods, the defensive tackle from LSU. I know this isn’t the flashy pick many of you would like. But I’m not taking (alleged) quarterback Tim Tebow for the Panthers in the second round because I think that would be a wasted pick. Maybe Tebow develops into an NFL quarterback down the road, but John Fox doesn’t have the time to find out.

I also know a lot of fans are thinking Carolina will go with a wide receiver here. It could happen because the need is definitely there. But Carolina’s history of drafting receivers in the second round (Keary Colbert and Dwayne Jarrett) isn’t pretty at all. I think the Panthers will draft a wide receiver a little later.

Bottom line to my logic on Woods: I’d really like to give the Panthers super-sized defensive tackle Terrence Cody, but he went in the first round of our mock, although I have seen some others where he’s available in the second round. The Panthers really need a run stuffer for the middle of their defensive line. Fox has had Kris Jenkins and Maake Kemoeatu through the years and they worked out well. After Cody, Woods is the big body that makes the most sense for the Panthers.

Again, we all know Fox is under pressure to win this year. He’s a defensive coach and one of his core philosophies is to stop the run. That’s why I think Fox sticks with basics and gets a big guy for the middle of his defensive line.

My logic on the mock draft

April, 19, 2010
4/19/10
11:47
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As you probably already have seen, we rolled out the Blog Network mock draft this morning.

Just wanted to share some thoughts with you on my picks. I felt pretty confident taking Gerald McCoy at No. 3 for the Buccaneers. In other words, there’s a real chance this could happen.

As long as St. Louis takes quarterback Sam Bradford first overall, the Bucs will have a shot at McCoy or fellow defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. They’ll be happy with either one.

I didn’t feel nearly as confident taking South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul with the No. 19 pick for Atlanta. I went into the mock thinking I’d get Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham, but he was taken before I got on the clock. I also have seen a lot of other mocks where Pierre-Paul was gone before the Falcons picked. Also, the draft was done last week. That was before I found out Sunday that the Falcons sent all of their top brass to a private workout by Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas. Not saying the Falcons definitely will take Thomas, but it’s possible. Still, I think the need for a pass-rusher is heavy on Atlanta’s mind.

Speaking of not being able to take the guy I wanted, it also happened at No. 32 for the Saints. I was locked in on Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, but Mike Sando beat me to the punch and gave him to the Cardinals at No. 26. I had to scramble a bit and couldn’t find another outside linebacker I thought was worth the value here. That’s why I went with Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap. The Saints aren’t desperate at defensive end, but they don’t have a lot of young guys there and Dunlap could be a long-term solution.

Carolina didn’t have a first-round pick. But, in fairness to Panthers fans, I’m going to project what I think they’ll do with their second-round choice. I’ll do that later this afternoon, after I take my turn in today’s marathon draft chat.

Falcons looking hard at local WR

April, 18, 2010
4/18/10
5:28
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The common assumption out there, and I’ve been firmly in this category, is that the Atlanta Falcons are going to go with a defensive player with their first-round pick -- No. 19 overall.

[+] EnlargeThomas
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesThe Atlanta Falcons were out in full force to watch Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas on Sunday.
But I just heard something that made me pause a bit. A league source tells me the Falcons were out in full force Sunday for a workout by Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas. General manager Thomas Dimitroff, college scouting director Dave Caldwell, personal director Les Snead and assistant director Lionel Vital all were in attendance. About eight to 10 teams had representatives at the workout, but the Falcons had, by far, the biggest contingent.

Yes, the workout was in Atlanta, so logistics weren’t an issue for the Falcons. But I think they must be looking hard at Thomas if they sent so many people to watch. They already should have a good read on this guy since he’s in their own backyard, but this is a sign that they’re doing extra homework.

Drafting a receiver wouldn’t be a total surprise for Atlanta. Dimitroff admits the Falcons draft for need and defensive end and linebacker seem to be the needs everyone talks about. But there also is a need at receiver.

Roddy White is firmly established as the No. 1 receiver. Michael Jenkins has been the other starter, but he’s somewhat of a role player. In the long term, Thomas could be an upgrade at No. 2. The Falcons still have high hopes for Harry Douglas, but he’s coming back from a major knee injury and projects more as a slot receiver. Veteran Brian Finneran is also in the mix, but he’s more of a situational player.

Thomas is in the Jenkins mold. He’s a bigger receiver -- 6-foot-2 and 229 pounds. He’s not a burner, but he’s tough to tackle and can make things happen after the catch. The best stat I saw on him is that he averaged 25 yards a catch last season. Thomas isn’t known for his blocking, which is perhaps Jenkins’ biggest strength. But he has the size and can be taught to become an effective blocker. He’s also born and raised in Georgia and the Falcons like that kind of thing -- see Dunta Robinson and, in the past, Keith Brooking.

Yes, the Falcons may still go with defense first, but don’t rule this one out. Keep in mind, this team is built around quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons try to give him all the toys he needs to succeed.

Mock draft coming Monday morning

April, 18, 2010
4/18/10
1:26
PM ET
Keep your eyes on ESPN.com Monday morning because we’re going to unveil the Blog Network Mock Draft.

Each of the eight division bloggers made the picks for the teams they cover. I’m not allowed to reveal my choices yet, but I think you’ll find one pick to be surprising, another to be not surprising at all and another to be somewhere in between.

I’ll explain my picks in this space soon after the mock draft becomes public. Also, since Carolina doesn’t have a first-round pick, I’ll go ahead and project -- or guess -- what the Panthers will do in the second round.

NFC South mailbag

April, 18, 2010
4/18/10
1:11
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Rum in New Orleans writes: Many times fans claim their team/owner is cheap, but do they really check out the League payroll levels? I guess this is directed at the Bucs, but folks used to claim Mr. Benson was cheap because of the level of our FAs -- but when you'd read the NFL payrolls, the Saints were always near the top. We used to have to OVER-PAY for folks to come down South -- how much do you think Drew Brees, Who Dat Nation, and a Lombardi change recruiting? What are the strong and the weak points of each team in the NFL South?

Pat Yasinskas: Very relevant question right now because I get a steady stream of complaints from Tampa Bay and Carolina fans about their teams being cheap. In Tampa Bay’s case, it’s hard to argue that, but I just wish fans would look at the bigger picture and stop blaming frugality for all their problems. The Bucs made a conscious decision to start building through the draft. Right or wrong, that’s what they’re doing and their plan is to not sign big-name free agents, no matter how much their fans scream for them. They’re also planning to use some of that money to re-sign some of their own core players -- Barrett Ruud, Donald Penn and Cadillac Williams -- to long-term deals. As far as the Panthers, nobody had ever called Jerry Richardson cheap before this year and it’s ironic that he suddenly has that label. Yes, he let some high-priced veterans go and wasn’t a big player in free agency. But the Panthers haven’t been a big player in free agency since the year the signed Ken Lucas and Mike Wahle. Yes, I think some of what Richardson has done (or hasn’t done) this offseason is tied to Richardson’s concerns about the labor situation. But the fact is the Panthers have believed in building through the draft throughout the time John Fox and Marty Hurney have been there. Atlanta’s another team that believes in building through the draft, but Arthur Blank opens the checkbook now and then and he did it this year for Dunta Robinson. If you’ve ever seen the Falcons’ practice facility, you know Blank is far from cheap. And you’re right, Tom Benson used to have a reputation for being cheap and that probably wasn’t deserved because the Saints did have to overpay at times. But those days are over. New Orleans is now a place where players want to be.

Andy in Whispering Pines, N.C., writes: I've been reading some of the other blogs and have seen that Albert Haynesworth may be had for a second-round pick. Being that Carolina is in dire need of a defensive lineman, what are thoughts on a trade for a pick. Oh yeah, he is only 28 which is much in line with the youth movement that Fox has been working on!

Pat Yasinskas: There’s no doubt Haynesworth could help the Panthers, who desperately need a force in the middle. But I don’t see this happening. The Panthers don’t have their first-round pick this year. If they trade away their second-round pick, there’s a good chance they come out of this draft without any impact players. That just doesn’t fit Carolina’s philosophy. Plus, Haynesworth comes with the sort of baggage Richardson doesn’t like. Also, think back to the early days of the Panthers when they made a trade with Washington for defensive tackle Sean Gilbert. That turned out to be a disaster and I’m sure Richardson remembers that.

Rob in Bush, LA writes: I haven't seen anyone talk about this but maybe I missed it. The NFL Draft starts at 6:30 p.m. New Orleans time Thursday night. In past drafts, each team has 15 minutes to make their selection. 32 teams X 15 minutes each = 8 hours. The Saints, picking at 32, won't be picking until about 2:30 a.m. in the morning local time. How many people will see it "live"? Might not even make the morning edition of the Times-Picayune. Whose idea was this?

Pat Yasinskas: Blame the NFL and television. It’s all about ratings and the success of the NBA draft in prime time that has set the stage for this. The good news is that each team will only get 10 minutes this year as opposed to 15. So you're looking at maximum of five hours and 20 minutes as opposed to eight hours. Also, not every team will take the full time allotted for their picks, but it still will be pretty late when New Orleans makes its pick.

Kyle in Peachtree City, Ga., writes: I have been watching USF DE Jason Pierre-Paul lately. And I believe he is the real deal. Is there any way the Atlanta Falcons will trade up to get him or is there any chance he drops to us?

Pat Yasinskas: I think there is a chance Pierre-Paul could be there when the Falcons pick at No. 19. It would be very interesting to see what the Falcons do if he is available. Pierre-Paul is an awesome athlete, perhaps even the best natural athlete in this year’s draft. He has the potential to be a tremendous pass rusher, which the Falcons desperately need. The one knock is that Pierre-Paul only played one year at a Division I program and doesn’t have a ton of experience against top competition. General manager Thomas Dimitroff seems to prefer guys who have a strong history of production. But I could see him making an exception here because Pierre-Paul’s upside is so great.

Ryan in Charlotte writes: With all this talk about Steve Smith needing someone to work with, should the Panthers just let Smitty interview and scout some receiver prospects? Then he can actually find someone he likes and maybe the Panthers draft the guy? Would this ever even be able to happen?

Pat Yasinskas: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if something like that already has happened. I’m not saying the Panthers have been sending Smith and a notebook to pro days or that he’s been doing in-depth interviews with prospects. But it’s not uncommon for teams to use current players as sounding boards on potential picks. They might have asked Smith about which receivers he likes or let him chat with a few of them as they came through for pre-draft visits.


TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik just did his pre-draft meeting with the media and it was more entertaining than these things usually are. Believe me, I sat through more than a few of them when Marty Hurney and John Fox didn’t say anything that was remotely quotable.

Dominik wasn’t revealing anything dramatic about Tampa Bay’s strategy and nobody does that in these situations. But he did throw out some pretty good lines as he danced around any specifics about any specific players.

But Dominik did admit this draft is critical for a team that has gone out of its way to say it’s building through the draft. Now, he’s got to back it up and he admits it.

“If this draft doesn’t succeed, I won’t either," Dominik said.

That may sound pretty dramatic, but it’s simply fact. The Bucs -- from ownership on down -- are building this team through the draft. Although fans might not like it, that’s the plan. You can at least see some traces of the plan playing out with some of last year’s draft picks, like Josh Freeman and Sammie Stroughter, already playing important roles. The 2010 draft is the next step in this process and Dominik isn’t hiding from the fact, the Bucs have to hit on most of their 11 picks.

A few other notables out of Dominik’s session:

First, for the fans that are constantly screaming about ownership being cheap, and I’m not saying that’s inaccurate, Dominik had a response.

“Money is not an issue for anything in this draft … at all," Dominik said.

Dominik also was asked about the Bucs not getting receivers Santonio Holmes and Brandon Marshall, who recently were traded to other teams.

“I know there was a report out there that we were one of the four finalists for Brandon Marshall," Dominik said. “That’s not true."

The Bucs weren’t in the market for Holmes either. Dominik wouldn’t get into specifics, but he certainly implied that character issues were considered when the Bucs pondered pursuing either receiver.
Amid all our other duties today, the rest of the guys from the Blog Network and I have been working on a mock draft that’s going to run Monday.

Note to AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky, who is doing a great job putting it all together in an auxiliary tent in Nashville: You know there’s going to be some major trade this weekend and you’re going to have to blow the whole thing up and do it all over.

Anyway, for the moment, we’re progressing nicely. I’ve made Tampa Bay’s pick and I just made Atlanta’s. I’ve got a break now as Kuharsky tracks down the guys who have to do the picks before New Orleans comes on the clock at No. 32. So I thought I’d give you a little update.

Obviously, I can’t tell you who I picked because that’s a secret -- until Monday. But I’ll give you one little hint. One of the guys was a player I never thought I’d be taking at the spot I did. Let’s just say something happened somewhere else that threw off what I thought would be automatic.
The New Orleans Saints are the final stop in today’s edition of NFC South team-by-team mailbags.

Will in New Orleans writes: I was under the impression that Alex Brown filled the Saints’ hole at defensive end. So why do draftniks, including ESPN's own Mel Kiper Jr. in his latest four round team mocks, still predict that the Saints will draft a defensive end in the first round? it doesn't make sense given their needs at outside linebacker and defensive tackle.

Pat Yasinskas: Brown definitely brings some stability to the defensive end spot. But, even after his signing, the Saints had free-agent Jimmy Wilkerson in for a visit. That shows me they still are looking for depth at defensive end. Also, Brown, Will Smith and Bobby McCray aren’t exactly young and the Saints are in a position where their roster is talented enough that they can look a year or two down the road. I wouldn’t rule out a defensive end in the first round. But, at the moment, I’d lean toward a linebacker. We’ll see.

Mario in Fremont, Calif., writes: Do you think with Denver trading Brandon Marshall, they will try to trade a receiver from Saints. Saints are loaded with some good receivers and they might be interested on the draft day?

Pat Yasinskas: I’ve wondered that, not just about Denver, but any team in need of a receiver. If I’m a general manager and I’m looking to trade for a receiver, the Saints would be the first team I call. The Saints have several receivers on their bench that could start for other teams. I don’t see any way they’d part with Robert Meachem. The guy I wonder about is Lance Moore. Not sure if it was totally because of injuries or what, but he seemed to be all out of favor last year and the Saints have plenty of other options. If they want to add a draft pick or two, Moore might be able to get that for them. Not saying that will definitely happen, but it’s something to think about.

Jim in Ocean Springs, Miss., writes: Is there anything to the rumor that the Saints are looking into a Jammal Brown-Albert Haynesworth trade? It would solve big needs for each team.

Pat Yasinskas: To my knowledge, at this moment, no. Think it’s just a pipe dream by some fans.

Dave in Norfolk, Va., writes: Just out of curiosity, does everyone associated with the Saints get a Super Bowl ring? I mean even players like Deuce McAllister who was signed on as an honorable captain and was on the sidelines during the Super Bowl? How about the players on the practice squad? Do they get a ring?

Pat Yasinskas: Very good question and I’ve got a little experience in this one, going back to my days in Charlotte. Panthers didn’t get Super Bowl rings, but they got NFC Championship rings and that created some pretty major issues within the organization. Same with the Bucs –- I know some people there who did and did not get rings when Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl. The basic rule of thumb is the team decides who gets rings. All players, including those on injured reserve, get them. Same for the coaching staff. I haven’t heard anything on how far the Saints are going with the rings, but I’m guessing McAllister gets one just as a common courtesy for his contributions to the franchise. Where you get into the really sticky area is when you start giving out rings to people beyond coaches and players. From what I’ve seen elsewhere, general managers, top scouts and department heads throughout the organization will get them. It gets tricky beyond that because NFL teams employ hundreds of people and they can’t all get rings. I know former Carolina radio play-by-play man Bill Rosinski was quite upset when he didn’t get a ring. I also know some lower-level employees in Carolina and Tampa Bay at least were given the chance to buy replica rings.

Mailbag: Atlanta Falcons edition

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
4:47
PM ET
Good news for Atlanta fans. You’re going to get almost a double dose of a Falcons’ mailbag. Your responses to the item from a few days back about Atlanta’s struggles in play-action passing were so strong and diverse that I’m going to do a separate post to highlight some of your replies. I’ll do that one either tonight or Thursday.

But, first, here’s the Atlanta stop on our tour of team-by-team mailbags.

Jeff in Atlanta writes: I was just looking at the insider article about what round defensive players should be taken. I see they have Brandon Graham slated as an outside linebacker. Does this mean the "experts" don’t think he would be as productive in a 4-3 DE position as he would in a 3-4 as an OLB?

Pat Yasinskas: I don’t break down film like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. But the word I’ve heard on Graham is that he could fit in either system. Obviously, the Falcons run a 4-3 defense and I see Graham as a very real possibility with their first-round pick. The thing I like best about Graham is that he produced at a pretty high level throughout almost his entire career and he did it against some strong competition. He might not have the upside of some of the other defensive ends in this draft, but I think the bust factor is pretty low with this guy.


Ned in Canada writes: Reports are Ted Ginn is on the block, I believe Atlanta should send a 4th or 5th round pick for him. It’s not a big risk if he flops as a WR you still get an elite return specialist, and if he does well as a WR he would solidify their WR core. What do you think?

Pat Yasinskas: Rarely do you ever rule anything out and I’m not going to rule this one out because the Falcons could use some depth at wide receiver. That said, I think it’s a long shot because the Falcons firmly believe in building through the draft and don’t like to part with their picks. Receiver is not an area of desperation. They’ve got Roddy White as their No. 1 guy and Michael Jenkins as their No. 2. I know a lot of people don’t think that highly of Jenkins. But I will say this, he fills the role the Falcons want at that spot. With White and tight end Tony Gonzalez, they’re not looking for a No. 2 receiver to produce 80 catches. They want someone who can block and catch the ball in traffic. Jenkins does those things. They also have high hopes for Harry Douglas as he returns from an injury and Brian Finneran is a dependable veteran backup.


Jeff in Charleston, S.C., writes: Have you heard any whispers that the Falcons are looking to make a trade offer for Vikings DE Ray Edwards (RFA)? I don't believe Edwards has signed his tender yet and he has until Thursday if I'm not mistaken, correct?

Pat Yasinskas: Nope, haven’t heard anything on that one at all. Deadline to make offers to restricted free agents is Thursday.


Adam in Atlanta writes: Something hit me this morning about the draft. What do you think about the Falcons taking Taylor Mays to play outside linebacker at 19? Kind of like the Panthers did with Thomas Davis. He's definitely fast enough and he hits like a freight train. Is it too much of a risk that early?

Pat Yasinskas: Hmm, I hadn’t really thought of that one. Actually, might not be a bad idea. But I still think the Falcons go with a defensive end in the first round. I think upgrading their pass rush is, by far, their biggest need.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are next in our series of team-by-team mailbags.

Nick in London, Ontario, Canada, writes: I was wondering why the Bucs wouldn’t even try to acquire a Santonio Holmes or a Brandon Marshall?

Pat Yasinskas: Nick’s question was asked in various ways by a whole bunch of Tampa Bay fans. I’ll try to answer them all right here. I realize it’s fun, easy and popular to see a big name on the market and automatically say the Bucs should go after that guy. It’s natural, but you’re getting away from reality. Fact is, like it or not, the Bucs are going through a rebuilding process and it’s not always going to be pretty or popular. But they’re sticking with their plan of building through the draft and that means it’s probably going to take time for this team to become good. The days of the short-term fix ended when Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen were shown the door. Yes, Holmes and Marshall are still relatively young, but they bring up another reality check as to what’s going on in Tampa Bay these days. Throughout the Tony Dungy days, the Bucs were big on character. When Gruden and Allen came in, things loosened up in that regard. Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris might not be quite as extreme about character as Dungy was, but they pay close attention to it. Holmes is facing a suspension at the start of this season. If he was a good guy that just needed a change of scenery, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin probably would have told his good buddy Morris to give the guy a chance. That didn’t happen. Marshall also carries baggage. The Bucs are building this franchise around Josh Freeman and they’re not going to bring in a receiver with the potential to destroy their quarterback. For the record, the Bucs had a No. 1 receiver in Antonio Bryant. He ripped Freeman and criticized the coaching staff and front office last year. Did you notice how quickly the Bucs pushed him out the door when free agency started?

JP in Inverness, Fla., writes: Since the Bucs passed on Brandon Marshall (which I am still not sure the risk was not worth it) might they be interested in Ted Ginn? I do not see that he would cost much, and while he is definitely not a number 1, he might be a number two and getting him for a fifth or sixth round pick could not hurt, right?

Pat Yasinskas: I’m definitely keeping my eyes and ears open on this one. Ginn doesn’t come with baggage and it sure looks likely that the Dolphins are trying to move him. Ginn never quite lived up to his draft status and his skill set doesn’t fit with the current Miami offense. But there is some talent there and you could throw him into the mix with Reggie Brown, Michael Clayton and all those other receivers the Bucs have and see who rises up as the No. 2 guy (while still looking for an answer at No. 1). I think this one is at least a possibility, although it’s hard to imagine the Bucs parting with any of their draft picks.

Scott in Tampa writes: Matt Mosley suggested that the Redskins may be willing to part with Albert Haynesworth for a package including a second round pick. Since the Bucs have two picks in the second round this year, do you see any way this could go down? It would allow us to use maybe use our No. 3 pick on a top offensive tackle like Russell Okung instead of Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy.

Pat Yasinskas: Very doubtful and it kind of goes hand-in-hand with my answer to the first question on receivers. The Bucs made a play at Haynesworth last year, but that was before they really locked into the whole idea of building with youth. They’re very serious about that. They value this year’s draft pick tremendously and don’t want to part with them. Plus, like the receivers, Haynesworth would come with some baggage.

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