NFL Nation: Maurice Clarett

Draft room tale: Why Clarett?

April, 21, 2010
4/21/10
9:23
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The Denver Broncos’ selection of running back Maurice Clarett with the final pick of the first day of the 2005 draft will go down as one of the most shocking and worst picks in NFL history.


AP Photo/Ed AndrieskiDrafted by the Broncos in 2005, Maurice Clarett never played a snap for the team.
Sure, there were much bigger busts because they came with first-round price tags. But Clarett, who played one season of college football in 2002, qualifies because he was cut during his first training camp and never even played a snap in an NFL preseason game. Clarett was released after the team felt like he milked a minor injury and after he showed no interest in taking advice from Denver’s veteran players.

Clarett is currently serving a prison sentence in Ohio that began months after his release in Denver.

Still, as he looks back, former Denver general manager Ted Sundquist vividly recalls the Broncos’ reasons for taking Clarett. During the draft-preparation process, the Broncos kept Clarett in mind because during his one collegiate season, he displayed the dominant, one-cut, downhill running that Mike Shanahan’s Broncos craved.

Once the third round started to wind down, Clarett became the main topic in the Broncos’ war room.

“We felt good about him,” Sundquist said. “We knew all of the warning signs, but as a football player, he fit what we did better than everyone else.”

As the final pick of the first day approached, the conversation in Denver centered on how Clarett fit the Broncos’ system better than any other player on the board. The Broncos didn’t have a fourth-round pick and their fifth-round pick was at the end of the round. If Denver was going to make a run at Clarett, it figured it would come with the final pick of the first day, which was the team’s third third-round pick of the day.

“We felt that somebody could take this guy in the fourth round. We didn’t care that it was a third-round pick,” Sundquist said. ”It was a compensatory pick and we weren’t picking for another 60 picks. We had two other guys on our board that we liked. But one was an attitude player and the other didn’t pass our physical … after much discussion in that war room, Clarett was the guy.”

Sundquist said Denver personnel realized that the Broncos were about to shake up the NFL world with their surprising selection at 11 p.m. ET on a Saturday night.

“It sent shock waves,” Sundquist said. “I remember [Shanahan] saying something like, ‘let’s give them something to talk about.' ”

They certainly did.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

It was interesting to read the Bears coverage Wednesday morning in Chicago's two major newspapers.

Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times chronicled the high number of carries for rookie tailback Matt Forte this season. Meanwhile, Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune profiled backup tailback Kevin Jones -- who just happens to be facing his former team Sunday in Detroit.

Is it time for Jones to start easing Forte's load? That might not be a bad idea for the long haul, assuming the Bears are comfortable with Jones' recovery from offseason knee surgery.

Forte has an NFL-high 92 carries in four games, six more than Kansas City's Larry Johnson, and also leads the Bears with 18 receptions. Forte is on pace to rush 368 times this season, putting him dangerously close to the 370 mark that historically has caused problems for running backs. Mulligan details a study by Football Outsiders that suggests tailbacks who get at least 370 carries in a season face a greater risk for injury and typically see their production the following year drop by 35 percent.

Enter Jones, who has 71 yards on 20 carries this season. Players who tear an ACL typically need a full year to return to their previous strength, but there is some hope that he will be able to provide more consistent relief for Forte. On Sunday, Jones will face the Lions and said: "Most of all I want to beat them. No way I want their first win to be on us."

Elsewhere around the NFC North:

  • Green Bay officials moved quickly to add depth at defensive end after learning of Cullen Jenkins' season-ending chest injury. The Packers signed free agent Kenneth Pettway, who was with former Jacksonville teammate Richard Collier last month during the shooting that left Collier paralyzed from the waist down. Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has details.
  • Packers coaches have been impressed by how fast rookie quarterback Matt Flynn developed a rapport with his offensive teammates, according to Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, for one, said: "[He] seems to have a little chemistry with some guys. Nothing seemed to be too big for him. He didn't seem to be intimidated by anything and obviously he's played in some big games himself and so I think those are some of the traits we observed that impressed us as a staff."
  • David Herron, the linebacker who might replace injured Minnesota starter E.J. Henderson, was once the blocking fullback for Maurice Clarett at Warren G. Harding High School in Warren, Ohio. Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune tells his story.
  • Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press examines the Vikings' pass rush. The team has seven sacks in four games, good for No. 19 in the NFL.
  • Several Lions players are hinting that some offensive wrinkles could be employed Sunday against the Bears, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News.
  • Jon Kitna is on borrowed time with the Lions, writes Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press.

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