Monday, April 20, 2009 Updated: April 22, 3:45 AM ET
Lack of star power clouds first round
By John Clayton ESPN.com
The Seahawks appear to be flirting with the idea of taking QB Mark Sanchez, left, at No. 4. Defensive end/linebacker Brian Orakpo could be an option for the Bills at No. 11.
One of the standard questions in my inbox is, "What is my team going to get in the draft?"
This draft is tough to handicap because it lacks superstars at the top. Much like 2005, there is a lot of uncertainty in the top 10 -- and it's caused some interesting thinking. The Seahawks, for example, are seriously considering taking USC QB Mark Sanchez at No. 4, even though they are convinced that Matt Hasselbeck can play two or three years.
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The reason is the high price of the picks. If they have to pay a contract in excess of $10 million a year, they're thinking it may serve the long-term future of the franchise better to pay a quarterback instead of a wide receiver or offensive tackle.
The Browns have to be coy about their plans regarding WR Braylon Edwards. If they trade him too soon, it will tip off need for Michael Crabtree to fall to the No. 5 spot. The Bills face a nice riddle. Armed with two first-round picks after completing the Jason Peters trade, do they take a pass-rusher (a glaring need) such as Brian Orakpo or Aaron Maybin with the 11th pick, or do they take an offensive lineman to fill Peters' void?
I think the Broncos will get either defensive end Tyson Jackson or defensive tackle B.J. Raji with their first of two picks (No. 12) and then take a linebacker at No. 18.
The Chargers face a dilemma if Jackson is gone. They might have to take RB Beanie Wells. Quarterback Josh Freeman should be available for the Jets at No. 17, which is fine for the Tampa Bay Bucs because they'll probably take a defensive player at No. 19. Don't be surprised if the Bengals take OT Andre Smith at No. 6. I wouldn't be surprised if the Patriots grabbed DE Larry English at No. 23.
Let's dive into the mailbag:
From the inbox
Q: Any chance the Colts will bring Marvin Harrison back?
Bill in Muncie, Ind.
A: I don't see that happening. It would be hard from Harrison to come back into the Colts' locker room making the league minimum. (He was making $9 million a year.) The Colts can't offer more than the minimum salary for free agents, so Harrison's days in Indianapolis are more than likely over. The only way I can see something happening is if the team suffers a key injury in training camp or early in the season.
Shiva in Boston wants some specifics on what the Patriots will do in the draft. Clearly, defense is going to be the key. I can see them going for defensive end/linebacker Larry English in the first round and getting secondary help in the next couple of rounds. Somewhere in the second or third round, they need to draft a tight end. It's an important draft for them. Chris in Philadelphia wants to know why the Eagles aren't pursuing Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez. The Eagles are always conscious of the age of a player. Giving up two good draft choices for a player in his 30s isn't something they like to do unless they are desperate. Patrick in New Orleans is still stinging from the two-year disappointment involving former first-round pick Robert Meachem. He's worried Beanie Wells might follow a similar path. I'm OK with Wells because he's not going to be asked to handle 25 carries a game. Hi in Honolulu doesn't like mock drafts that have his 49ers taking defensive end/linebacker Aaron Maybin. He wants a Michael Crabtree-like receiver. To get Crabtree, the 49ers would have to move up. No. 10 isn't a good spot to get a receiver. It could be B.J. Raji, linebacker Brian Orakpo or an offensive tackle. Ravens fan Rick wonders why he isn't hearing much on long-term contract talks with Terrell Suggs. Don't worry. He's not holding out. He's one of the few players in the league who doesn't mind doing one-year franchise deals. Lynn in Killeen, Texas, still has trouble understanding the Cowboys' release of Terrell Owens but has faith that Roy Williams will work out at wide receiver. I don't think the Cowboys are going to make a big move at receiver. The big move was getting Williams last year. Justin in North Little Rock, Ark., acknowledges Jay Cutler was 12-1 in games in which the Broncos gave up 21 points or fewer, but he says a lot of quarterbacks have good records when their defense plays well. He doesn't believe the Broncos downgraded the quarterback position in the Cutler-for-Kyle Orton trade. Here's a more relevant stat. The Broncos won three games last year when the defense gave up 30 or more points. Can Orton top that? Colby in Hoquiam, Wash., wonders if Jack Del Rio is on the hot seat. Yep. The Jaguars took away his ability to pick the 53-man roster, so he has to win to stick around. Of course, he's won twice before when he was on the hot seat.
Q: John, do you think the Steelers will ever use QB Dennis Dixon? I just feel he is a talent that should not be wasted.
Jeremy in Youngstown, Ohio
A: I think the Steelers are grooming Dixon to be the backup. He surprised them last year with how quickly he came back from a knee injury and how well he fit into the offense. Charlie Batch re-signed at the minimum, and he's year-to-year. He's also 34. They probably will let Dixon play more during the preseason. If he does well, he could be targeted for a backup job in 2010.
Q: I can't figure out why the Redskins are in the middle of all these quarterback talks. Now there is talk of them looking at Sanchez. I know that when people think of the QB situation in Washington, they come up with Jason Campbell and Todd Collins, but Colt Brennan is the future of this team. That's right, I said it.
Mike in Hannibal, Mo.
A: Here's the explanation. Joe Gibbs sold Dan Snyder on the idea that Jason Campbell could develop into a franchise quarterback. Snyder recognizes that a franchise quarterback is the key to the success of any team. Gibbs is gone, and Snyder isn't sure Campbell is his franchise quarterback. Campbell can still win over Snyder, but Snyder wanted Jay Cutler. He'll consider Sanchez. I don't think he views Brennan as a franchise quarterback. Brennan's arm isn't considered strong enough, but he could develop into a decent backup.
Q: I'm writing in regard to the issue of kickers and their increasing accuracy. I'm wondering how much opposition there would be to altering the dimensions of the goalposts.
A: I don't see a change in the next couple of years. However, if the game shifts into one of more field goals than touchdowns, then there will be change. Give kickers credit. They have beaten the odds. Rule-makers try to make kickers' jobs more difficult, but they keep improving. If defenses take away the ability of offenses to score touchdowns, the game could turn into a field-goal-kicking contest. That isn't compelling for fans to watch.
Q: The Titans have a lot of needs, but WR has been the problem for a while. If the Titans do not sign Torry Holt, would they consider drafting a wide receiver in the first round?
Billy in Littleton, Colo.
A: For some reason, the Titans don't like taking receivers in the first round. The Titans historically have used second- or third-round choices on wide receivers. Unfortunately for them, many of those picks haven't worked out. They'd love to find the next Derrick Mason. I still think the Holt move is the best one for them. They can use the first-round pick on a quarterback. (Update: Holt on Monday agreed to a three-year deal with the Jaguars.)
Q: Why don't the Cardinals use Matt Leinart as trade bait? I just don't see him as the quarterback of the franchise when Kurt Warner retires.
Dan in Tempe, Ariz.
A: Leinart hasn't won over anyone in the league. That's not to say he can't bounce back and be a productive quarterback, but no one is eager to trade for him. Leinart isn't the only former first-round quarterback whose stock has plummeted. The Bills couldn't trade J.P. Losman a year ago. He still doesn't have a job. Kyle Boller, Joey Harrington and others struggled to find work. Rex Grossman is still looking, and he has the aggressive Drew Rosenhaus trying to find him work. Until Leinart shows more on the field, he's only a backup in Arizona, and his trade value is minimal.
Q: I like the idea of killing two preseason games and going to an 18-game schedule, but only if it means more divisional games. Do you think they'd go to nine or even 12 divisional games?
Steve in Bronxville, N.Y.
A: The problem with that is the home-and-home disparity. Each year, one team would have one more divisional home game than the other three teams. That would distort division races. You're correct, though, that the model of having only a third of the games in the division is bad. It used to be that half the schedule was filled with division games. That was when the league had five teams in divisions.
Q: Bill Parcells rarely takes receivers in the first round. Do you see him taking Hakeem Nicks in the first round?
Nick in Yorba Linda, Calif.
A: Nicks could be the exception, but guys like Parcells are creatures of habit. You figure he might go for a cornerback over a receiver and get the receiver in the later round. There is just something about Nicks that might change Parcells' mind. I think Nicks could be there for the Dolphins. I'd consider it if I were Parcells.
Q: Am I the only one who feels that the Steelers' offense is in a bit of a conundrum when it comes to how to build their O-line? On one hand, they would like big mauler-types to control the clock with the running game, but to me they seem to need quick, nimble Colts-style linemen to protect Ben Roethlisberger due to his penchant for holding the ball.
Phillip in Detroit
A: It's not a conundrum. It's just the inevitable problems created by a long run for a great franchise. The problem started when Jeff Hartings retired and Alan Faneca was too old, in the Steelers' eyes, to make $8 million a year. Now it's a rebuilding process for the line, and that takes a few years. The Steelers won't go to the Indy-style offensive line because the Steelers still want to be more of a running team. Ben Roethlisberger is better carrying a passing offense -- he was 6-2 in games in which he threw 30 or more passes -- but the line needs to be bigger so the team can run the ball in November, December and January.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.