NFL Nation: Michael Mitchell
I'm guessing at least a few of the veterans on Detroit's roster sat up a little straighter Thursday after new coach Jim Schwartz released cornerback Travis Fisher, who by default was the Lions' No. 1 cornerback entering training camp. At least, Fisher thought he was.
Here's what he said a few weeks ago, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News:
"It's a situation for me, personally, to go into camp feeling like I'm the No. 1 guy."
Sorry, Travis. The Lions released him on the eve of their rookie minicamp, a bold move in the sense that they aren't really in position to shed talent. Whether you think Fisher was a talented cornerback or not, he probably belongs on an NFL team. You can't say that about every player whose name has resided on the Lions' roster in recent years.
Consider it a mild warning shot for a group of players who has no business being comfortable or making assumptions about its role on the team.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Schwartz said Thursday the team has made no decisions on its quarterback depth beyond the release of Drew Henson, according to Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com. Schwartz also acknowledged the team hosted veteran defensive lineman Kevin Carter on a visit, saying Carter could play defensive end on early downs and move to defensive tackle in obvious passing situations.
- The Lions promoted pro personnel director Sheldon White to a vice president's position and said they are reorganizing the geographical arrangement of their scouting department. Also, regional scout Mike Butler will not return, according to Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
- Green Bay rookie defensive tackle B.J. Raji admitted Thursday that he once tested positive for marijuana while playing at Boston College. Here's what Raji said, according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "I'm a man, that was a mistake I made in the past, which is the past."
- Raji and fellow first-round pick Clay Matthews are in the same spot as their veteran defensive teammates: Learning a new scheme. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
- Minnesota has invited Cole Konrad, a 315-pound former wrestler at the University of Minnesota, to its rookie camp this weekend on a tryout basis. Mark Craig of the Star Tribune has the story.
- Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune profiles Marcus Fitzgerald, the younger brother of Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald. Marcus, a receiver who sat out last year after tearing a hamstring muscle at the 2008 Marshall pro day, has also will get a tryout with the Vikings this weekend.
- Here is Chicago's full list of tryout players for its rookie camp this weekend, according to the team Web site.
- Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times writes the Bears were planning to take Ohio safety Michael Mitchell in the fourth round of last weekend's draft -- not in the second round as Mitchell had indicated in interviews after Oakland selected him.
The 2009 draft began early in the NFC North. The arrival of new Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler raised the stakes in the Black and Blue, and in some ways the rest of the division spent the weekend trying to catch up.
Detroit drafted Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, a strong-armed passer whose physical skills have been compared to Cutler. Minnesota attempted to improve the players around its own shaky quarterback situation, drafting receiver Percy Harvin and offensive tackle Phil Loadholt. And Green Bay devoted a pair of first-round draft picks to improving a defense that will face three improved offenses in division play.
The Cutler trade left the Bears with a shallow class, but they had a four-week head start. Let's take a look at the highs and lows of the weekend from a Black and Blue perspective.
In a rare marriage of need and talent level, Green Bay managed to select the best defensive lineman in the draft when it took Boston College nose tackle B.J. Raji with the No. 9 overall pick.
|Cliff Welch/Icon SMI|
|B.J. Raji gives the Packers some flexibility along the defensive line.|
Need-based fanatics could point out that the Packers already had a starting nose tackle in Ryan Pickett. They could also document greater needs at defensive end, linebacker and offensive tackle. Fantasy football players, meanwhile, were probably drooling at the possibility of receiver Michael Crabtree joining an offense that already includes quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
But you don't pass over a player of Raji's caliber because you have Ryan Pickett on your roster. You don't grab the fourth-best offensive tackle ahead of the top defensive lineman. And you don't turn greedy with your offense when it was your defense that largely put you in a 6-10 hole last season.
And so Thompson pounced on Raji, who figures to start immediately. Pickett could move to end, or defensive coordinator Dom Capers could find other innovative ways to keep both players on the field. If you're the Packers, it's a great problem to have.
The Vikings might have drafted the NFL's 2009 rookie of the year, or they could have the league's latest embarrassment. The spectrum is that wide for Harvin, whose resume of questionable behavior dates far beyond a reported positive drug test at the annual scouting combine.
Harvin's competitiveness has sometimes gotten the best of him, resulting in multiple suspensions during high school competition in Virginia. Harvin attributed most of his mistakes to "growing up," but it's pretty clear the Vikings have a live wire on their hands.
Should he keep himself in check, Harvin will get an opportunity to excel against defenses that will be focused on tailback Adrian Peterson. Harvin's open-field running ability is unparalleled for receivers, and he could also help in the short term as a kick returner.
The Vikings, however, aren't that far removed from an era of relative lawlessness highlighted by the exploits of receiver Randy Moss and a 2005 sex party aboard a cruise ship on Lake Minnetonka. They have made a great public showing of their internal crackdown on misbehavior, and as a result they have a lot riding on Harvin's future.
Most surprising move
In his first four drafts as the Packers' general manager, Ted Thompson executed 14 draft-day trades. All but one of them were to move down. It was a volume approach to roster-building: The more players you draft, the better your chances are of building quality depth. So I'm sure a few people fell out of their seats Saturday when Thompson gave up a second-round choice and a pair of third-round picks to move up from No. 41 overall to No. 26 in order to grab USC linebacker Clay Matthews III.
Matthews intrigues the Packers on a number of levels, but let's be honest: They faced urgency to start addressing the transitional holes revealed by their shift to the 3-4 defense. The team has been vague about who might start at outside linebacker opposite Aaron Kampman, and in retrospect it seems clear Thompson has planned to address the issue during the draft. When you target a position, and especially when you extend it to one particular player, you must be willing to wheel and deal. Surprisingly, Thompson was.
File it away
In a few years, we'll all be able to look back and determine whether Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo was right to trade himself out of the second round of this draft. The Bears had the No. 49 overall pick and were in position to draft Georgia receiver Mohamed Massaquoi or Alabama safety Rashad Johnson, but Angelo instead gave up the spot to acquire picks in the third and fourth rounds.
Reportedly, that d
ecision came after Angelo was unable to trade for Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin. The Bears also were hoping that Ohio safety Michael Mitchell would be available at No. 49, but Oakland grabbed him at No. 47.
In the end, Angelo addressed his defensive line with those choices -- selecting San Jose State defensive end Jarron Gilbert and Texas defensive end Henry Melton, respectively. Will Gilbert and Melton prove a better grab than anyone the Bears might have selected at No. 49? We'll file that one away for a later.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree has come off as a prima donna during pre-draft interviews with teams. Thomas: "There are questions about Crabtree's foot and attitude. His diva attitude during pre-draft visits turned off the Rams and the Browns (who pick fifth overall) to the point where neither team is considering Crabtree for their first-round pick." Televised interviews with Crabtree have raised questions in my mind about how the Seahawks might view him as well. Would veteran receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch and Nate Burleson be able to mentor him effectively? Might the prima donna tendencies grow worse with money in Crabtree's pockets and people around him telling him how great he is?
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at ways the Rams and other NFL teams process draft-related information. Former Rams coach Dick Vermeil says it's harder for teams to mislead one another.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expects action from Rams general manager Billy Devaney during the draft. Burwell: "Devaney has said that he'll be aggressive. He is not afraid to take chances, to make moves, to wheel and deal his way around the draft board. I'm still not sure he can pull off a trade to move down in the first round. The better bet is that Devaney will work hard once the draft begins to move up out of that second-round pick (No. 35 overall) into the lower half of the first round."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic outlines what the Cardinals want in a running back to pair with Tim Hightower. Somers: "Hightower would seem to fit the role of the inside pounder, the gainer of tough yards. He proved adept last season at picking up first downs and scoring touchdowns. He struggled some when he was the featured back and ended up with more runs for negative yards than coaches found acceptable. Luckily for the Cardinals, the upcoming draft is deep in running backs. And it's possible that one of the top three -- Georgia's Knowshon Moreno, Ohio State's Chris Wells and Connecticut's Donald Brown -- will be there when the Cardinals pick at No. 31."
Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean says nothing appears imminent between Tennessee and Arizona even though the Titans have inquired about Anquan Boldin. My take, lifted from our Thursday chat: "Knowing [Titans GM] Mike Reinfeldt, I'm questioning whether he would want to give up picks for a player, then meet that player's very high demands on a long-term agreement."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com also does not expect the Titans to move seriously for Boldin.
Also from Urban: Larry Fitzgerald is indeed sharing the cover on the 2010 version of John Madden's football video game.
More from Urban: Hightower has dropped 15 pounds and improved his conditioning. Scheduling issues had hurt his conditioning last offseason.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune describes Aaron Curry as the "safe pick [Seahawks general manager Tim] Ruskell covets" in the draft.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says no 2009 NFL draft prospect has made him waffle more than Crabtree. O'Neil: "Dude is a playmaker, flat-out. ... I've worried that the spread offense inflated his numbers, too much. That he might be a product of a system, but then you watch how the man runs after the catch and you imagine what he would do in the Seahawks' offense with the new emphasis on the play-action pass."
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com says the Seahawks hope to put substance before hype in determining which players to draft. Farnsworth: "There has been talk, from Ruskell, among others, that this draft lacks the franchise-quality players who justify being selected -- and paid -- as Top 5 picks. It's a situation that has prompted the Seahawks to look at top of this draft class differently."
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle offers a first-round mock draft featuring the following NFC West selections: Jason Smith (Rams), Mark Sanchez (Seahawks), Knowshon Moreno (49ers) and Donald Brown (Cardinals). The Moreno pick would not shock me -- the 49ers would arguably be selecting the top back in the draft -- but it would probably shock Frank Gore.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider takes a round-by-round look at draft prospects who might help the 49ers on offense.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat lists the 49ers' top five needs in this order: pass-rusher, offensive tackle, receiver, running back and quarterback.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee lists seven players as possibilities for the 49ers with the 10th overall choice in the draft: Crabtree, Aaron Curry, Tyson Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Oher, Brian Orakpo and B.J. Raji. Barrows: "No one knows for sure, but it's a safe bet the following players are gone before the 49ers are on the clock: quarterbacks Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez, offensive tackles Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Andre Smith. (And, yes, A. Smith will be gone)."
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 2009 draft could make or break Scot McCloughan's tenure as the 49ers' general manager.
Briandean of Niners Nation suggests which players the 49ers should draft in each round: Oher (1), Larry English (2), Ramses Barden (3), Coye Francies (4), James Davis (5), Devin Moore (5), Mike Reilly (6), Bear Pascoe (7) and
Michael Mitchell (7).