GOLDBERG ON FOOTBALL: A draft day filled with uncertainty Print
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Saturday, 26 April 2008 15:18
NFL Headline News

 NEW YORK (AP) -The NFL got one thing right Saturday: the top six picks in this year's draft were the six players the league invited to New York for the event.
No one had to be like Aaron Rodgers or Brady Quinn, sitting in the green room while team after team passed on them.
Whether the teams got it right is another story because for all the platitudes about the great players they got, nobody will REALLY know what they got for a year - or two or three.
And there are plenty of questions for teams doing the picking - as many or more as there were trades in the first round (eight).
The best you can take is that some teams acted from some sort of desperation, like the Jets, who traded up from 36th overall to 30th to take a tight end they didn't really seem to need, Purdue's Dustin Keller.
Or Baltimore, which moved down, then back up to 18, to take the ``hot'' quarterback from the combine, Delaware's Joe Flacco. Is Flacco, who by most estimates needs a year or two of development, really better than Michigan's Chad Henne or Louisville's Brian Brohm, who remained on the board deep into the second round? Brohm went 56th overall to Green Bay and Henne a pick later to Miami - 38 and 39 picks after Flacco.
But the Ravens get the benefit of the doubt because Ozzie Newsome and his folks have a solid track record.
Or the Raiders, who kept saying they were overstocked with running backs - Justin Fargas, LaMont Jordan, Michael Bush - then took Darren McFadden with the fourth overall pick. Granted, McFadden was rated the best player in the draft and we should have known the Raiders would take him because Al Davis kept telling us that they already had all those other running backs.
The strangest may have been the Carolina Panthers trading away next year's first rounder to Philadelphia to choose offensive tackle Jeff Otah with the 19th overall pick. It was hardly the same thing as Cleveland trading away its first rounder last year to take Brady Quinn. Quinn is a quarterback, the most valuable commodity you can have.
This, in fact, was closer to what San Francisco did last year, giving away its first rounder to take a tackle, Joe Staley. Staley showed promise, but that pick ended up being seventh overall and went to New England, a team that hardly needs the help of a pick that high. The Pats traded down three spots and still got Tennessee's Jerod Mayo, the second highest-rated linebacker.
``He is one of the better linebackers we have seen in a while. You know we haven't been picking at this point in the draft either,'' said coach Bill Belichick, who only once before had used a first-round pick on a linebacker - Craig Powell at No. 30 overall when he coached the Browns in 1995.
Take Belichick at his word.
But wonder about John Fox and Marty Hurney, Carolina's coach and GM, who basically put their jobs on the line by trading away that 2009 choice for Otah. Otah had better help the Panthers make the playoffs, because if he doesn't, Fox and Hurney probably won't be around next year when the Eagles have their pick.
``Otah is a big, physical offensive tackle. We just felt like you don't have a lot of opportunities to get players like that. We made several calls and when we got to Philadelphia, we were able to make the deal,'' said Hurney, who got running back Jonathan Stewart with the 13th overall pick.
``We did (give up a lot). We definitely did. But I think what we did is we feel like we got two players that will help the personality of the offense that we want and the team.''
Cliche, of course.
More likely they jumped because they feared that the quality offensive tackle they wanted would be gone after a run on the position - Gosder Cherilus of Boston College had gone to Detroit two picks earlier and Otah was the last one left considered a sure first-rounder. In fact, Southern California's Sam Baker, who had slipped way down after being a potential high pick a year ago, went two picks later when Atlanta traded up to get him, proving again that left tackles are hard to get.
All this is speculation, of course, because no one knows how all these things will work out.
But some things just feel right, such as Pittsburgh using the 23rd overall pick on running back Rashard Mendenhall, who was expected to go earlier. Willie Parker has been a nice running back for the Steelers, but he's a speed back. Mendenhall may not be Jerome Bettis or Franco Harris, but he's more ``Pittsburgh'' than Parker, who is probably better off with 10-15 carries a game.
And some teams just seem to know what they're doing - notably the Patriots, Ravens and Colts, who didn't have a first round pick. And the Giants, who had six rookies help them win the Super Bowl last season.
Their first rounder was safety Kenny Phillips to plug a hole opened when Gibril Wilson left as a free agent. Some folks thought they liked Tyrell Johnson of Arkansas State better but Phillips was rated the top safety on the board and has the pedigree of playing at Miami. When the Giants took him, it made it 14 straight years that the Hurricanes have had a first-rounder.
Still, GM Jerry Reese, lauded endlessly for last year's draft, warned before this season that it might not happen again.
Reese knows the truth that many fans don't.
It's all a guessing game.
----
Dave Goldberg covers the NFL for The Associated Press. Write to him at dgoldberg(at)ap.org.
 

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