NFC South: Dennis Hickey
The team announced it has hired Eric Stokes as the director of college scouting. That should only improve a front office that had been a bit down in numbers since some shuffling last year. The Bucs haven’t had a true director of college scouting since last year when Dennis Hickey was promoted to director of player personnel.
Stokes spent the past two years as Seattle’s assistant director of college scouting. Before that, he worked as an area scout for the Seahawks for seven seasons and also did a three-season stint in the team’s pro personnel department.
Stokes played two seasons as a safety for the Seahawks, who picked him in the fifth round of the 1997 draft. He was selected by Cleveland in the 1999 expansion draft, but an injury ended his career.
AtlantaFalcons.com is running a tournament-style bracket to let fans decide who their favorite Falcons legacy player is. Today's matchup: No. 7 Tommy Nobis vs. No. 10 Warrick Dunn.
Tony Gonzalez makes an appearance in Funny or Die's "Field of Dream 2" spoof of the NFL lockout.
Wofford College and Spartanburg businesses have a lot riding on the outcome of pending NFL labor talks. Wofford has been the summer home of the Panthers for the past 16 years, but the lockout threatens to cancel training camp. Not hosting the Panthers would mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars for local businesses.
New Orleans Saints
A group of retired players has filed a complaint against the NFL, the named plaintiffs in the Tom Brady antitrust action and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. The retired players’ complaint takes particular aim at Drew Brees, one of the Brady plaintiffs, claiming Brees "voiced his antipathy for NFL retirees."
The Saints' homecoming against the Falcons in the rebuilt Superdome a year after Hurricane Katrina was a significant moment in the city's recovery, according to an NC State University study.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A new CBA with a higher cap floor could lead a team like the Bucs, which has a low payroll, to spend big on free agents such as Nnamdi Asomugha, according to NFL.com's Jason La Canfora.
The Bucs reportedly have no interest in signing Ronde Barber's brother, Tiki, when free agency begins.
The team has promoted former college scouting director Dennis Hickey to director of player personnel.
Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: decision-makers.
Make no mistake, general manager Thomas Dimitroff is the man running the draft room in Atlanta. He comes with a heavy personnel background from his days as a scout with the New England Patriots and this is the time of year he enjoys most. Dimitroff has a good working relationship with coach Mike Smith and the two often watch film together. That gives Dimitroff a strong feel for what his coach wants in players. So far, this arrangement has worked very well, with the Falcons producing winning records in each of the three seasons Dimitroff and Smith have been together. One last thing on Dimitroff -- he’s not a dictator. He values the opinions of those around him and that includes more people than you’d expect. Even though the Falcons were almost certain they were going to take quarterback Matt Ryan in 2008, Dimitroff was asking an Atlanta staffer who was at some of the pre-draft media events in New York for updates on the quarterback’s demeanor.
In the early years of the regime of coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney, there was a lot of talk about them running an equal partnership, and that was very true. But Fox is gone and Ron Rivera is in his place. Even before Fox left, the partnership stopped being equal. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but Hurney has been calling the draft shots for at least a couple of years. That was extremely evident last year when the Panthers used a second-round pick on Jimmy Clausen, a quarterback Fox wanted no part of. Rivera and his coaching staff will have input and college scouting director Don Gregory is an important cog. But more than ever, Hurney is the person running the draft in Carolina.
New Orleans Saints
General manager Mickey Loomis isn’t a real public person and that probably prevents him from getting the full recognition he deserves. He and coach Sean Payton are very much in this together and their track record has been very impressive. Loomis is at his best as an administrator. He knows what Payton and his staff are looking for and he matches up that knowledge with what his scouts give him. Anybody can hit on first-round picks, but the Saints have had some big success in the middle (Jahri Evans and Jimmy Graham) and later (Marques Colston) rounds. That’s the mark of a machine that’s working well.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mark Dominik is the general manager and he prides himself on being a person who carries (the best) parts of people like Rich McKay, Jerry Angelo, Tim Ruskell, Bruce Allen, Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden in his thinking. So far, it has worked out pretty well. In his first draft, Dominik landed Josh Freeman, who has turned out to be the first true franchise quarterback this team has ever had. Amid a lot of distractions, Dominik never has taken his eye off the fact that the Bucs are building everything around Freeman. Coach Raheem Morris and scouting director Dennis Hickey play big roles in the process, but you started to see Dominik’s blueprint take hold last season when the Bucs went 10-6.
In a bit of irony, director of college scouting Dennis Hickey, who is still employed by the Bucs, drew the short straw to do the pre-draft press conference on the same day former coach Jon Gruden said the team "reached" when it took wide receiver Dexter Jackson in the second round last year.
This made Tampa Bay's pre-draft disinformation event a bit more interesting than most. While Hickey did a fine job of not getting very specific about this year's draft, he wound up talking quite a bit about the previous draft classes selected by Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen and he played some serious defense. That was particularly true when Hickey was asked about the Jackson pick.
"We evaluated him and we took him at a position that we felt he deserved," Hickey said. "That's where we took him."
Hickey was then asked if he thought the Bucs reached on Jackson.
"That is up for you guys to decide," Hickey said. "It is the ultimate second-guess, right? Let me say this, we are excited about Dexter. A lot of guys want to judge everybody based off their first year. We think Dexter has made a lot of progress and we are excited about him."
Hickey also was quizzed about Gruden and Allen not drafting many "elite" players. He also played defense on that and said he believes the Bucs have made some good picks.
Our friends at Pewter Report have the full transcript of Hickey's interview here.