|Grading the beef at NFL meat market|
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist
Gotten over your open-mouth catatonia, after the two-day, 18-hour Monsters Ball of a Beauty Pageant Marathon known as the NFL draft?
The NFL draft is like a beauty contest that way. There aren't many dogs -- not at face value, first night in. Every contestant looks good in the lobby at the Miss Universe pageant, and at the NFL draft.
See, in baseball, hoop and hockey, expansion has diluted product -- like having a Miss Universe contest with three million entries. Let's eliminate pretenders before it gets to us. There are not 30 teams' worth of badasses in the NBA, 30 teams' worth of brilliant skaters and defensemen in the NHL, or 30 ballclubs' worth of big-league arms in MLB. Plus, when those three leagues draft amateurs, they are drafting children of 18, 19, maybe 20. The NFL, for the most part, drafts fifth-year seniors, 22 and 23 years old. Big difference.
So, ipso facto, the NFL, man, the NFL, the NFL is on fire!
Even on draft day. Although the draft takes too long.
Fifteen minutes is long enough to draft three good players.
Each team should get five minutes -- OK, 10, max, to appease the bean-counters and beer people -- to make their first pick. Ratchet up the tension, put a live round in the chamber. Plenty wolf-like DBs, reptilian linebackers, Mesozoic D-linemen, dancing bear OLs, impala-like WRs, and QBs so plentiful the NFL can afford to tell the Heisman Trophy winner (Eric Crouch) and the two QBs who should have been runners-up (Woody Dantzler and Antwaan Randle-El) that they have to change positions to play in this League. That's working off some kind of talent base, right there. So after three months prep time, what's an extra 10 minutes? PICK already!
That's me talking. Sportswriters, broadcasters and mavens like to complain about time of game. Insiders' pet peeve. The public doesn't really care one way or another, as long as they get the right warm bodies. Ah, yes ... the public. If there's a precedent here, it is Ancient Rome. Pro football has won the heart of the Mob that is America, just as Proximus runs it down to Maximus in "Gladiator":
"Win the crowd. Win the crowd, Maximus." And you win Rome.
(Editor's Note: The following comments contain the same deeply-held regional biases that color all discussions of NFL teams; these are our teams, so we believe; this is the marketing genius of the League. R-Dub's inherent regional preference NFL teams are Tennessee, Oakland, San Francisco and Washington ... apparently, R-Dub has gypsy in him. Road Dog's NFL regional preferences are more linear -- Jints, Jets, the Bills if they do well or the other two are having down years, and anybody from Brooklyn.)
1. Houston Texans: David Carr, QB, Fresno State, (33) Jabar Gaffney, WR, Florida, (50) Chester Pitts, OT, San Diego State, (66) Fred Weary, T, Tennessee, (83) Charles Hill, DT, Maryland.
R-Dub: Took eight minutes to announce a guy who was already buying a house in Houston. Carr's good. He's good. But he ain't no Joey Harrington. Carr's best move -- buying Boselli & Co., plus Pitts, Weary, new Rolies. I'm talking about before the season.
Road Dog: Yeah, but thought Spurrier luuved Jabar Gaffney so much? Shined him on for a QB at the end of the first round. Cost him money. Gaffer might not get so open in Dom Capers' scheme.
R-Dub: Peppers a no-brainer. The DeShaun Foster pick is striking. Looks the evilest back coming in, the one likely to think he can outwrestle Peppers. Has that Edge, that Edgie James look about him; same kind a monster eye-opening game as a senior. Much impressed Fox, a D coach, would see it. Maybe some of Artie Shell rubbed off on him, long ago. League's evening up. Again
3. Detroit Lions: Joey Harrington, QB Oregon, (35), Kalimba Edwards, DE, South Carolina, (68) Andre Goodman, DB, South Carolina.
R-Dub: Sorry, Spike, but this arranged marriage had to be, and one day you'll be happy with Joey. Now, normally I never side with the wallets, but if Ford wanted Joey, then the guy with the gold should make the rules, for this one time, anyway. Love Joey. Something about his game clicks. He's aware. He doesn't zone out. There's something about his smile, his presence, the way he looks right at you, expectantly, that will make the players in the huddle with him feel like, "This is my guy, he's with me, and he won't blow me off in front of society, patronize me if we're at a black-tie Quarterback Club-type event. He's DOWN." The kind of guy that another guy will break his arm for; sometimes, in the NFL, it comes down to that. Did we mention Violence with Sex, Decadence and Shoulder Pads? Joey's got the Maximus thing going. Remember when he stood on the Autzen Stadium field and raised his head to the sky and drank it all in before his last home game against Oregon State? Bobby Layne and Joe Montana, without the bad habits.
4. Buffalo Bills: Mike Williams, OT, Texas, (36) Josh Reed, WR, LSU, (61) Ryan Denney, DE, BYU, (97) Coy Wire, S, Stanford.
R-Dub: Bledsoe was their draft day bonanza, but in the end Williams will be the one who plays longest and best. Don't know how Reed does it, but he manages to do it, has a feel for open space. At least, he did in college. It actually looks as if the Bills drafted in order to tantalize Bledsoe into coming (and accepting a pay cut on the QT -- in order to fit under the cap, you understand)
Road Dog: How come the Jints didn't trade for Bledsoe?
5. San Diego Chargers: Quentin Jammer, CB, Texas, (39) Toniu Fonoti, OL, Nebraska, (48) Reche Caldwell, WR, Florida, (71) Ben Leber, LB, Kansas State.
R-Dub: How can you complain here? Three quite lovely starters, one with the best DB name in ball. Jammer. How can you top it? Well, first he has to learn how to get a jam on the likes of Brown and Rice. The big boy from Nebraska will come in being able to drive block some, but he has no feet for pass protection right now. Caldwell helps their quick-strike capability. Would have to rate them on the plateau just below the Cowboys and Raiders with these picks. Not a bad day for GM John Butler. Not bad at all.
R-Dub: The few, the proud -- the one, actually, but maybe a great one. Sims not only is a Balrogian unblockable whirling dervish, he has the best and most entertaining personality of all the defensive linemen in the draft. This guy makes Charles Barkley look like Allan Greenspan. He and Kansas City Star columnist and maven Jason Whitlock should come in a boxed set. 10-to-1 Whitlock nicknames Sims by October. Vermeil? Those are tears of joy. What happened to the rest of their draft? Sims is the rest of it
Road Dog: Am I going crazy or is this Freeman guy the second defender taken from Alabama-Birmingham in the first 43 picks? No wonder "Crimson Tide" is now a better movie than football team.
7. Minnesota Vikings: Bryant McKinnie, OT, Miami, (38) Raonall Smith, LB, Washington State, (70 Willie Offord, DB, South Carolina.
R-Dub: Mount McKinnie is so solid it's ridiculous, but the Vikings can't stop anybody and haven't been able to, really, since Dungy left. Raonall Smith -- is he even as good as, say, Kailee Wong? He'd better be.
Road Dog: Speaking of ridickalus, they passed on Roy Williams? South Carolina is getting a lot of guys picked. Does Lou Holtz have a laboratory down there where he fixes these dudes up from scratch?
R-Dub: Killer good, and leave it to the Cowboys and Jerry Jones to make theater out of the whole thing; all they were missing were the cheerleaders and a locked lavratory. Jerry's pure old school, except for the lift. Not that I mind the lift. Stay around young people, stay young. Picked up extra DB for trading down and still got Roy, who they compare to Ronnie Lott. I know Ronnie, went to Super Bowls with him and the Niners, never lost a one; what was it, four? Yup. And even I look at Roy and think, "He's better than Ronnie."
And that Gurode -- who do you think was blowing those holes in Nebraska's D-line that a conga line of RBs came dancing through? And Bailey? Bailey is just what the doctor ordered. If Galloway goes down again, roll out the flatbed and get 'Tonio in there.
Translation: Dallas cleaned up.
Road Dog: #%$@! Last one outta the Meadowlands, kill the lights.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: John Henderson, DT, Tennessee, (40) Mike Pearson, T, Florida, (89) Akin Ayodele, LB, Purdue, (108) David Garrard, QB, East Carolina.
R-Dub: Dahmn! Was hoping Big Boy would drop to the Titans. These scouts don't miss a whole lot, not this early. Was hoping somebody'd go for the okey-dokey, think Haynesworth, the other UT DT, was as good as Henderson, and flop 'em. Not a chance.
Road Dog: Akin to what?
10. Cincinnati Bengals: Levi Jones, OT, Arizona State, (41) Lamont Thompson, S, Washington State, (67) Matt Schobel, TE, TCU.
Road Dog: So the Ben-gals get the Mel Kiper Jr. Loony Bin Award for the team Mel pounces on like a starving leopard and declares that they have made the Unholy Reach of the Draft and Crossed the Line of Death, and then stays on them all day. Way to go, Mel. I'm surprised the Taliban ain't hired you away for PR.
R-Dub: Question is, who is Levi supposed to be protecting? On the other hand, Lamont Thompson is Takeo Spikes on wheels, and the TE, while not Jerramy Stevens or Jeremy Shockey, is the best tight end in the draft not named Jeremy. Ease down, Mel. Ease down.
11. Indianapolis Colts: Dwight Freeney, DE-LB, Syracuse, (42) Larry Tripplett, DT, Washington, (74) Joseph Jefferson, CB, Western Kentucky.
R-Dub: Of course, Dungy lobbied for D, even though McKinnie made Freeney disappear in the Miami-Syracuse game. That was on grass. Indy plays on turf. Freeney's after-burner has a premium on turf; off the edge, he'll burn you. Only question is whether Dungy puts him in Neanderthal, in a three-point, at end, or Cro-Magnon, two-point off the edge; the question is -- can Freeney backpedal? He might never have to, but still, it would be nice, as a change-up.
Road Dog: Anytime a Colts team picks a U-Dub defensive tackle, I'm hearing "Superstition" and thinking "Little Stevie Emtman."
12. Arizona Cardinals: Wendell Bryant, DT, Wisconsin, (49) Levar Fisher, LB, North Carolina State, (81) Josh McCown, QB, Sam Houston State, (98) Dennis Johnson, DE, Kentucky.
R-Dub: Think Jake Plummer didn't lobby for Donte Stallworth instead? Something about a front-seven player from Wisconsin leaves us cold. They have to make a great leap in speed adjustment; hunting down corn-fed Midwest RBs not the same as tracking coastal carriers and Floridian flashes. McCown we like. Brash. Busted up soon, but humility will be good for him. Throws a nice ball anyway. Kind of a mixed-message draft. Bet the Snake isn't throwing any keg parties this week though, if that's a clue.
Road Dog: Le-who? Wasn't he in "Roots"? Kinda small, ain't he?
13. New Orleans Saints: Donte Stallworth, WR, Tennessee, (25) Charles Grant, DE, Georgia, (44) LeCharles Bentley, C, Ohio State, (82) James Allen, LB, Oregon State.
R-Dub: National Lampoon's Holy Vertical Stretch goes to the Big Easy. But if Donte doesn't have underneath foot jive, no DB will let him get on top of them that easy. They'll be in their backpedal at QB Aaron Brooks' last telegraphed hard count. Maybe I'm just mad that Donte didn't drop to the next pick and the Titans ...
Road Dog: Hear Charles Grant is a specimen, but you can say that about a vial of pis ... mmpfh ...! (Dog briefly muffled by R-Dub.)
R-Dub: ... so the Titans logically dump pick 14. They have Wychek. Giants GM Ernie Accorsi's heart goes thump with the idea he has the makings of the next Bavaro. Without a stone-wall defense and Parcells, the first Bavaro wouldn't have won a Super Bowl.
Road Dog: Yo, Jints' D's leaking, spewing oil all over the jernt, and we're taking wides? From Auburn? Ernie. Call me. Soon.
15. Tennessee Titans (from New York Giants): Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee, (45) Tank Williams, S, Stanford, (77) Rocky Calmus, LB, Oklahoma.
R-Dub: Haynesworth should go nuts. If he has any kind of motor at all. Ryan Sims would be Mean Joe Green from this spot. Why? Because O-lines must double on the sick moves of Javon Kearse ... and Kevin Carter, when he wants to show up. Carter might be too highly evolved to play D-line. We like the Tank Williams pick to replace Blaine Bishop. You can see the gears grinding in Jeff Fisher's head-"Rocky Calmus is like me in my dreams, Rocky Calmus is like me in my dreams." He'd better hope Rocky Calmus is not like Boz in his reality. McNair remains near-weaponless.
Road Dog: Titans take no running back early, even though Eddie George fall down go boom-boom? Ray-Ray's all up in his head. Eddie George is Calista Flockhart, Ray-Ray's the dancing baby.
16. Cleveland Browns: William Green, RB, Boston College, (47) Andre Davis, WR, Virginia Tech, (76) Melvin Fowler, C, Maryland.
R-Dub: Like the running back. Runs with 'tude. Kind of a bigger Wilbert Montgomery, maybe. Who? Well, he's the guy that got Dick Vermeil to his first Super Bowl; you know who Dick Vermeil is, don't you? Same theory, or at least Butch Davis is hoping so. A. Davis has a tendency to get behind people. Gotta like him for that.
R-Dub: At 23, Al Nosferatu put the screws to Denver trading up through WASH and ATL to steal Harris. Denver was on Harris -- Al hasn't forgotten or forgiven Denver and the League for denying him John Elway, back in the day. This year's Chucky pick -- Phil Buchanon, 4.27 corner with KwikGripHoldTitePaste coverage and punt return ability. You know Al. One of his theories is "Give me two great corners, and I can move the earth." He might have 'em now. Is Oakland native Langston Walker a Killer Lawrence? Will Jolley be another Todd the Bod? It's immaterial. If the "Raid-ess" take Antonio Bryant, instead of letting him fall to Dallas, then they have the best draft of 2002. But since Walker is said to be 6-8 and 345, and they can take their time with him, they might have had the best draft anyway. What you upChucky is what you get.
Road Dog: You happy, I'm happy.
18. Atlanta Falcons (from Oakland from Washington): T.J. Duckett, RB, Michigan State, (80) Will Overstreet, LB, Tennessee, (158) Kurt Kittner, QB, Illinois, (184) Khalil Hill, WR, Iowa.
R-Dub: Duckett's a load. A fast load, bouncing 250 in 4.5-plus range. Match him with signee Warrick Dunn behind Vick, let good times roll. So what if Jamal Anderson's feelings are hurt. He can get over it in Jacksonville, where if you put him and Fred Taylor together, you have two good legs and one helluva running back.
Road Dog: Dan Reeves wants to stand up Will Overstreet, college D-tackle, make him a LB. Wanted to make Tommy Maddox into an NFL QB; Tony Lilly into a Pro Bowl FS ... and my man Art Shell still ain't got no head job. They're scared of him, I think.
19. Denver Broncos: Ashley Lelie, WR, Hawaii, (51) Clinton Portis, RB, Miami, (84) Forfeited selection. (96) Dorsett Davis, DT, Mississippi State, (144) Herb Haygood, WR, Michigan State.
Road Dog: Forfeit? What is this? Chess? Bridge?
20. Green Bay Packers (from Seattle Seahawks): Javon Walker, WR, Florida State, (92) Marques Anderson, S, UCLA, (135) Najeh Davenport, FB, Miami (Fla.).
R-Dub: Ahhhh, got a thing with Florida State receivers. At best, historically they are complimentary guys, not lead horses. Take the best they ever had, Peter Warrick, for example. Where is he? Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Walker will become the next Antonio Freeman. Bret Favre will be staring bullet holes through him in meantime.
21. New England Patriots (from Wash via Oakland via Tampa Bay, the You Ignorant Slut Pick): Daniel Graham, TE, Colorado, (65) Deion Branch, WR, Louisville, (117) Rohan Davey, QB, LSU, (126) Jarvis Green, DE, LSU, (253) David Givens, WR, Notre Dame.
Road Dog: You can't replace ... say, what was that big tight end's name again, you know the one they had ... Ben Something? ...
22. New York Jets: Bryan Thomas, DE, UAB, (57) Jon McGraw, S, Kansas State, (88) Chris Baker, TE, Michigan State, (121) Alan Harper, DT, Fresno State.
Road Dog: Whoever they are, they're under the Brooklyn radar ...
R-Dub: (Quickly pulled off break) ... J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets -- who? C'mon, Boom, find an excuse to say, "Mar-shallMarshallMarshall!"
24. Baltimore Ravens: Ed Reed, S, Miami (Fla.), (54) Anthony Weaver, DT, Notre Dame, (123) Ron Johnson, WR, Minnesota.
R-Dub: Ozzie Newsome has a nose for the good/great player everybody else sort of sleeps on. Ed Reed is that player this year. It's not a matter of 40 times, heights, weights ... in the end, it's a matter of making plays. Ed Reed makes them.
26. Philadelphia Eagles: Lito Sheppard, CB, Florida, (58) Michael Lewis, S, Colorado, (59) Sheldon Brown, CB, South Carolina, (91) Brian Westbrook, RB, Villanova, (162) Freddie Milons, WR, Alabama.
R-Dub: Lito and the DBs. I hear Lito's versa-tile, can run back some punts, can cover somebody, can do some things.
Road Dog: Yeah, and I also hear tackling ain't one of them. For some reason, Lito makes me think of ... pizza.
27. San Francisco 49ers: Mike Rumph, CB, Miami, (69) Saleem Rasheed, LB, Alabama, (91) 3 No Trump ... No, cancel that. Pass.
R-Dub: How many 'Canes must a man try to draft, before he can walk like a man. Har-Rumph Har-Rumph Har-Rumph, Mel Brooks in "Blazing Saddles" draft. Good, funny, yet strangely empty.
Road Dog: Another forfeit? Who's biddin'? Omar Shariff?
28. Seattle Seahawks (from Green Bay Packers): Jerramy Stevens, TE, Washington, (54) Maurice Morris, RB, Oregon, (60) Anton Palepoi, DE, UNLV, (85) Kris Richard, CB, USC.
Road Dog: Take him. He's a thug? Good. You win with thugs.
29. Chicago Bears: Marc Colombo, T, Boston College, (72) Roosevelt Williams, CB, Tuskegee, (93) Terrence Metcalf, G, Mississippi, (104) Alex Brown, DE, Florida, (199) Adrian Peterson, RB, Georgia Southern.
R-Dub: The unknown DB Williams will help them. They wanted him bad. B.C. had two players taken in the first 29? Who knew?
Road Dog: I'm still wondering how the Jets passed on Urlacher.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kendall Simmons, OG, Auburn, (62) Antwaan Randle-El, WR, Indiana, (94) Chris Hope, S, Florida State.
R-Dub: Mel Kiper Jr. calls Simmons a "knee-bender." I love the grammar of grid talent evaluators. Fifth offensive tackle taken in the first round. What does that tell you about beauty? Randle-El intrigues as situational QB, reverse-field WR, punt returner, not as a Hines Ward, blue-collar, sacrifice-my-body-to-Godzilla type.
Road Dog: Randle-El could've been on IU Final Four squad. Can help the Knicks, maybe. Somebody please help the Knicks.
86. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marquis Walker, WR, Michigan, (119) Travis Stephens, RB, Tennessee, (250) Tracey Wistrom, TE, Nebraska, (254) Aaron Lockett, WR, Kansas State.
Road Dog: ... or is it just indigestion?
90. Miami Dolphins: Seth McKinney, C, Texas A&M,
R-Dub: See what I mean about beauty contests? This is the second team Ricky Williams has toyed with, just by showing a little leg.
Road Dog: In the film, Ricky played by Jeffrey Wright, in Jean-Pierre Basquait lisp.
31. St. Louis Rams: Robert Thomas, LB, UCLA, (64) Travis Fisher, DB, Central Florida, (84) Lamar Gordon, RB, North Dakota State, (95) Eric Crouch, WR, Nebraska.
R-Dub: What Martz should do is work Crouch in some at QB on the developmental squad. By the 2003 season, he'll be ready to take snaps in the red zone. He could do some things down there, a lot more things than Kurt Warner, who is great from the 10 to the 10, but puts no pressure on the edge of the defense near goal line. No roll-ability. You're off, Mel. Crouch is no reach, not this late. It's how he's aligned. At WR, true, they might wait on him forever.
Road Dog: Crouch? You're asking me? Better to call Miss Cleo.
R-Dub: Spurrier's World is like "Field of Dreams" -- If they take Betts, he can catch. Of course, the Ball Coach lusted over Joey H., but, no way, Jose. Ramsey might be better suited anyway, at least in the sour grapes category; he has more of a caboose than Spurrier's QBs usually do, anyway. Nice arm. We loved hearing that Chris Mortensen, an old foxhole buddy from salad days on the NFL beat, picked Ramsey out without knowing who he was, just by watching his thrown ball and asking "Who is that?" That's how Teddy Ballgame, Ted Williams, first spotted Henry Aaron. He heard a ball hit, came running out of the clubhouse in spring training to ask: "Who hit that?"
D.C.'s draft was free agency, actually. Vet LBs Jesse Armstead and Jeremiah Trotter. Especially Trotter, the Undertaker. You not only sign them -- you take them away from divisional rivals New York and Philadelphia. Then you line 'em up with LaVar Arrington and, my God, any drafted rookie on offense, no matter how stacked like Mr. Universe he is, is fresh meat. Watching them hit in camp this summer, Ramsey will be glad to be a Ball Coach Bonus Baby wearing a red "Don't Touch Me" shirt. The actual games will be a little more risky. Whether he is the Washington QB of the future is another matter. Spurrier keeps looking at 8x10 glossies of Joey Harrington and sighing heavily. He'll get over it. Eventually.
So, yeah, how 'bout them Cowboys? Especially for lunch?
Road Dog: Dub, you took the words, and taste, right out of a Jints fan's mouth. Thanks for the dirty lowdown. Yeah. Thanks a lot.
Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."