NFL Nation: Ohio State
- As we mentioned earlier, this smells like a smokescreen. The timing is peculiar. Barron hasn't been linked to the Bills this entire offseason, but suddenly that's the case on draft week. Buffalo could be one of the teams looking to trade down, and this may be a case of drumming up interest in the pick. Teams like the Dallas Cowboys (No. 14) and the New York Jets (No. 16) are strong targets for Barron. The Bills would benefit if one of those teams or someone else wants to move up to No. 10 to grab Barron.
- On the flip side, Buffalo does have the tendency to draft the best available player. Remember C.J. Spiller? The Bills were fine at running back and took Spiller with the No. 9 overall pick in 2010. Spiller is still fighting starting running back Fred Jackson for playing time three seasons later. It's debatable whether Barron is a top-10 pick, but that may be the case on Buffalo's board.
- Speaking of the top 10, safety usually is not a position taken that high. The last time it happened in Buffalo, it didn't work out well. The Bills drafted former Ohio State safety Donte Whitner at No. 8 in 2006. The move was considered a major reach for the Bills, which turned out to be true. Whitner wasn't a bad player. He just wasn't a dominant player and was criticized for it in Buffalo. That is the kind of pressure that comes when a safety is drafted in the top 10. It's expected that safety must be a special talent.
- Finally, I think it's a mistake for Buffalo to draft Barron. Yes, Barron is a great prospect and the best safety in this draft. But the Bills are fine with George Wilson and Jairus Byrd at safety next season. Barron would have to compete to take one of those jobs, and it's possible Barron wouldn't start right away as a rookie. The Bills have other needs at left tackle, receiver, corner and linebacker where a rookie is sure to make an immediate impact. There should be quality players available at those four positions that can better help the Bills.
Both were among the reported 17 teams to send representatives to Pryor's workout. That indicates there is some level of interest from the NFL's two Ohio teams.
Earlier this summer, we provided all the reasons why the Browns should take a flier on Pryor. Browns president Mike Holmgren loves taking developmental quarterbacks. Pryor is a raw prospect who could use the tutelage of quarterback gurus Holmgren and head coach Pat Shurmur. If it doesn't work out, the Browns need help at receiver, too. Pryor ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds.
The Bengals also need as much talent as possible. They are starting rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, who is off to a slow start this preseason. Veteran journeyman Bruce Gradkowski is the backup, but the third quarterback spot is wide open. Jordan Palmer and Dan LeFevour are both expendable, and Pryor's athletic ceiling is much higher. He also spent time this offseason working with former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson.
It would make sense for both Ohio teams to consider Pryor this afternoon in the supplemental draft.
Cleveland, coming off back-to-back 5-11 seasons, is desperate for talent at any position. Pryor presents the perfect scenario for the Browns: He comes at no risk but could offer a high reward.
Pryor is projected to be a fourth-round pick in July's supplemental draft by everyone not named Drew Rosenhaus. That's a modest cost for someone with Pryor's athletic ability, big-game experience and pedigree. That is especially the case for the Browns, who have nine draft picks next year -- including two first-rounders -- following a cunning trade with the Atlanta Falcons.
The Browns have draft picks to spare in 2012. Why not grab Pryor now and begin teaching him the nuances of the NFL game?
In Cleveland, Pryor would work with two quarterback gurus -- Browns president Mike Holmgren and head coach Pat Shurmur. The pair developed NFL quarterbacks such as Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb and Sam Bradford, just to name a few. Like many observers, I have doubts about Pryor at quarterback in the NFL. But I like his chances a lot better working with Holmgren and Shurmur.
At best, Pryor turns out to be a viable starting quarterback in the NFL. Otherwise, Pryor could try his talents at wide receiver. Oh, by the way, the Browns need help there, too. They have arguably the league's worst group of receivers.
Holmgren said after the draft that his only regret was that Cleveland didn't select a developmental quarterback in the later rounds.
"I think philosophically, I always like to take a quarterback in the draft late," Holmgren explained. "But that also had to make sense. This year, based on our roster needs and what we had and what we needed to do, we did the right thing. Now, are we finished adding to the quarterback pile? I don’t think so. ... I think we are going to try and figure out a way to get another guy in here."
Adding Pryor in the supplemental draft would address those concerns.
Despite his big name, Pryor would not be a threat to second-year quarterback Colt McCoy, who enters the year as the starter. Pryor and McCoy played in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl and developed a healthy respect for each other in college.
Behind McCoy is backup Seneca Wallace, who signed a three-year extension in March and knows the West Coast offense better than anyone. But the third quarterback spot is there for the taking.
Struggling veteran Jake Delhomme, 36, is holding the seat warm until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. After that, Delhomme’s immense $5.4 million salary kicks in and Cleveland is expected to terminate his contract.
If you were general manager of the Browns, would you rather have an aging, overpaid veteran as the third-string quarterback, or an inexpensive player with upside like Pryor, who may develop into something greater down the road? The answer is a no-brainer.
The Browns are not the favorites to land Pryor. The current regime has taken a conservative approach to building the team's foundation -- and there's nothing wrong with that. Drafting Pryor is anything but conservative, but this would be a perfect calculated risk for Cleveland to take.
The worst-case scenario is that Pryor flops in the NFL and the Browns miss on a fourth-round pick, a spot that doesn't have a high success rate to begin with. Cleveland could wait to use that pick next year on a punter or a right guard and get the same result.
Opportunity is knocking in Cleveland. The team just has to be smart enough and willing enough to answer the door.
The Browns would be wise this summer to take a flier on Terrelle Pryor.
So as Tressel resigned from Ohio State this weekend following NCAA violations for players receiving illegal benefits, I wondered how he would fit in the NFL. After some thought and consulting with people who know the program better than I do, I came to the conclusion that Tressel wouldn't be a good fit.
One of Tressel's biggest assets -- recruiting -- also would be taken away. Ohio State was able to annually land some of the top talent in the country because Tressel and his staff were very good recruiters. Having better players than 90 percent of college football programs played a big role in Tressel's 106-22 record at Ohio State. The NFL playing field is much more balanced. The only recruiting that takes place is during free agency, and usually that comes down to which team is willing to pay the most money.
On the field Tressel was a conservative play-caller. Ohio State's offenses lacked imagination most seasons, despite Tressel having some dynamic players during his 10 years in Columbus. Tressel often described the punt as the most important play in football. In the pass-happy NFL, which is shifting toward high-scoring offenses, that philosophy could be a disaster waiting to happen.
Tressel is a great college football coach. But based on his track record, his style of coaching doesn't translate well to the NFL.
There is a good chance colleges will avoid Tressel for now until this most recent scandal fades. So if Tressel wants to immediately get back into coaching, and his only option is the NFL, his best fit would probably be as a position coach and not at the head of the team.
On Wednesday we check in with Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg to get a scouting report on Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward, who is a potential target of the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Adam, after watching Heyward closely the past few years, how would you break down his game?
Should Heyward's late-season injury be a concern?
Rittenberg: The elbow injury isn't a concern to me. He suffered it in the second quarter of the Sugar Bowl and still went on to have his best game as a Buckeye.
Heyward has drawn some pro comparisons to Vernon Gholston, who was a star at Ohio State but a bust in the NFL. Fair or unfair?
Rittenberg: The Gholston comparisons are a little unfair. Heyward is more than just a pure pass rusher and played quite a bit on the inside at Ohio State, which does a nice job of moving around its linemen. Heyward can affect games without solely pressuring the quarterbacks.
Instead, Cincinnati (2-7) goes with another Ohio State alum in Aaron Pettrey, who was signed by the team Tuesday. On the same day, the Pittsburgh Steelers made Reed available after cutting the veteran and signing Shaun Suisham.
Pettrey, an undrafted rookie, will make his NFL debut Sunday against the Buffalo Bills (1-8).
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Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 14:
Collision course: Expect a hard-hitting contest Sunday between the Cincinnati Bengals (9-3) and Minnesota Vikings (10-2). These are two of the most physical teams in the league, and both have a lot to prove. Minnesota is trying to rebound from a tough loss to the Arizona Cardinals, and Cincinnati is out to show it deserves to be among the elite. Points might be at a premium as both teams have top-10 defenses. The Bengals are ranked fourth in the NFL and first in points allowed. The Vikings are eighth but will be without middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. Therefore, look for the Bengals to shorten the game by giving tailback Cedric Benson 30-plus carries, which would keep the ball out of the hands of Vikings quarterback Brett Favre and tailback Adrian Peterson.
The Bengals will do everything they can to keep the ball out of Adrian Peterson's hands.
Division wrap: The magic number for the Bengals is one to clinch the AFC North division. This would be the first time Cincinnati accomplished that feat since 2005, which was also the team’s last playoff appearance. The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7) were eliminated from the division race Thursday in a loss to the Cleveland Browns (2-11). The Baltimore Ravens (6-6) have to win out and Cincinnati would have to go 0-4 the rest of the way for the Ravens to clinch it, because the Bengals own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Favorable schedule: Despite losing six of their past nine games, the Ravens (6-6) are in a favorable spot when it comes to their schedule. Baltimore plays teams with losing records in its final four games. It starts Sunday against the struggling Detroit Lions (2-10). After that, the Ravens play the Chicago Bears (5-7), Pittsburgh (6-7), and the Oakland Raiders (4-8). These are all considered winnable games for the Ravens, who likely have to run the table to extend their season.
Landmark for Holmes: Although Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes was in no mood to celebrate, he accomplished a goal Thursday that he has waited for his entire career. Holmes caught six passes for 93 yards against Cleveland to go over 1,000 yards receiving for the first time. He barely missed the milestone several times in the NFL and at college at Ohio State. This has been Holmes’ most consistent year to date with Pittsburgh.
Cleveland's D shows up: The Browns entered Week 14 ranked last in total defense. But the unit had its most impressive performance of the season Thursday, holding the Steelers to 216 yards. With nothing to lose, Cleveland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan constantly brought pressure and the defense recorded eight sacks of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Six different players notched sacks. It was the highest team total for Cleveland in seven years.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Here are the most interesting stories Monday in the AFC North:
- The Cleveland Browns could have interest in Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins with the No. 5 overall pick in April's NFL draft.
Morning take: Interest? Sure. But should they do it? No. Cleveland has more pressing needs at linebacker.
- Is Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger worth the drama?
Morning take: Any fan base in the NFL would take two rings in four seasons from their quarterback. I think the answer to this question is easy.
- Is it possible that Baltimore Ravens linebacker and pending free agent Ray Lewis isn't a good fit for the Dallas Cowboys?
Morning take: Reporters in Texas can't make up their minds on Lewis. What's that all about?
- Here is a Q&A from over the weekend on the Cincinnati Bengals.
Morning take: Fans are concerned about losing receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and rightfully so, because things appear to be heading in that direction.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Here is your one-stop shopping around the AFC North:
- In light of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer's recent comments bashing Ohio State, a neighbor recently dropped a copy of Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel's new book at Palmer's doorstep.
Morning take: Palmer thought he was looking forward to the USC-Ohio State game on Sept. 13 before. Now he probably cannot wait until it's over.
- Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton failed his running test Sunday and was placed on the training camp physically unable to perform list.
Morning take: This is not a good sign. There already is growing concern for Pittsburgh's aging defensive line, and now its longtime anchor comes into camp out of shape. Hampton becomes yet another Steelers lineman to watch closely this summer.
- Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times provides Sunday's recap of the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback derby.
Morning take: Kyle Boller is showing his experience by playing it safe the first week of training camp. He doesn't take many chances, but Troy Smith and Joe Flacco have. It will be interesting to see if that strategy lands Boller the job.
- According to Steve Doerschuk of the Canton Repository, Browns head coach Romeo Crennel believes defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is a rising star.
Morning take: That's high praise coming from Crennel, who has seen many coaches come and go. Tucker has a unique way of displaying high energy without being overbearing, and most importantly, players want to give Tucker their maximum effort.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Here is your one-stop shopping around the AFC North:
- Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer is taking heat from Bengals fans for his comments bashing Ohio State in a radio interview Thursday in Los Angeles. Palmer said, among other things, that he "cannot stand the Buckeyes" and that their fans "drives me absolutely nuts." Palmer's alma mater USC plays the Buckeyes in a big game in September.
Morning take: Hmmm. This puts Palmer in a very odd spot. Most Bengals fans in Cincinnati happen to be big-time Buckeye fans, which means Palmer is essentially criticizing his own fan base. Palmer usually thinks things through before speaking, but our guess is he probably didn't put those two things together. Buckeye Nation likely will let him hear about this one for a while, at least until the two teams play on Sept. 13.
- Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters he's unsure if linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs will sign the franchise tender and report to training camp with veterans on Wednesday. The two sides were unable to reach a long-term deal this offseason.
Morning take: This would be a bad move for Suggs. The deadline passed last week and there's nothing else that can be done. Suggs will make his point but at the risk of joining the team late and having a slow start to the season. If Suggs doesn't perform well in a contract year he will not get the type of money he wants next year, either. It's not worth it.
- Award-winning writer Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer points out the drastic change in optimism going into this year's training camp for the Browns.
Morning take: As a former Browns beat writer, I can say this is the most optimistic I've seen the team, local media and its fan base in a long time. It's not even close.
- Mark Curnutte of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that Chad Johnson finally is ready to move ahead with the Bengals.
Morning take: This was a predictable outcome to a bizarre offseason between Johnson and Cincinnati. The Bengals held most of the cards in this dispute from the beginning and played their hand well. Now, it's time for "Ocho Cinco" to focus on football.