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PREVIOUS SPORTS
• Sideline: Yes, Non–Conference Games DO Count
• NCAA Preview 2009
• Sideline: Time For The Talking To Stop
• Sideline: In Memory of Air McNair
• Sideline: Will Goodell Hand Out Hard Time?
• Sideline: Marshall's Not Joshing
• NFL Draft: No Rush To Judgment
• NFL Draft Analysis 2009 (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts
• Sideline: Will Play For Food
• Sideline: Wonderlic Scores
• Sideline: Manning and Sanchez
• Sideline: 2010 Leagues Sci–fi, or Fantasy? / March Madness
• Sideline: Break Out The Brackets
• Sideline: LaDainian Tomlinson On The Record
• Sideline: The Incredible Sulk Continues
• Sideline: Guildford Heat Fired Up
• Sideline: Super Bowl thoughts from the Valley of the Sun
• Sideline: I know I came in here for something
• Sideline: College Football National Signing Day
• Sideline: 27 Points — 27 Super Bowl thoughts
• Sideline: An Epic QB Matchup?
• Sideline: Appreciating Arizona for What They Were
• Sideline: NFL Divisional Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Bowl Season Hangover
• Sideline: Six weeks Later
• Sideline: Wildcard Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Santa's Sackings
• Sideline: A Weis Decision ...for Now
• Sideline: Eye on the Ticker
• Sideline: Lions — An Anagram of Losin
• Sideline: Ready for the Turkey
• Sideline: Making it to the Big Dance
• Sideline: Brighter Days Ahead for Chargers?
• Sideline: Unnecessary Hits To The Pocket / Upset: BYU
• Sideline: Romo's Pause / Seattle Seahawks
• Sideline: Weekend Prep: Red River and More
• Sideline: College Football's 'Crossroads' Weekend
• Sideline: Gramatical Error
• Sideline: Turning The Page
• Sideline: So Cal 'Quizzed
• Sideline: 3rd Tuesday Panic / Forté Yard Dash
• Sideline: Two and Oh; Oh and Two
• Sideline: No More NCAAffeine
• Sideline: Week 1 College Football
• Sideline: How To Spell Heisman / Chad Ocho Cinco
• Sideline: A Second Slice
• Sideline: The Favre story STILL won't go away
• Sideline: Olympic Notes / Ricky's Still Relevant
• Sideline: Committee Meetings
• Sideline: Let the QB Battles Begin
• Sideline: Slinging The Slinger — More Favre
• Interview: Clint Dempsey
• Sideline: Welcome to the 2008 season
• Sideline: Plus One
• 2008 NFL Draft Review
• Sideline: Draft: The Morning After
• Sideline: Draft: Thinking the Unthinkable
• Sideline: Draft: Ready For The Long Haul
• Sideline: Sofa–bound Sport
• Sideline: Post–Winter Wonderland
• Sideline: Six Impossible Things
• Sideline: Brady's Misdirection Play
• Sideline: Colorful Language
• Sideline: Let the Romo–bashing begin
• Sideline: Bowl Bites: The Wrap
• Sideline: All About The Coaches
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 3
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 2
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 1
• Sideline: Coach Situations Vacant
• Sideline: For Some, The Playoffs Are Now
• Sideline: A Certain Lack Of Welcome
• Sideline: Unrelated Notes
• Sideline: Two Thanksgiving thoughts
• Sideline: Halftime: NFC
• Sideline: Halftime: AFC
• Sideline: London / A Tale of Two Chads / Intimidation
• Sideline: Damp Squib / Other London Notes
• Sideline: Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em / Dolphins – The Aftermath
• Sideline: The Dolphins Did What?
• Sideline: Notes on the Defenses
• Sideline: Habits to be Broken
• Sideline: Overtime
• Sideline: This Week's Starters
• Sideline: USF: Covering The Spread / Fantastic Football
• Sideline: Grossman: The Final Act? / McNabb, the Epilogue
• Sideline: Eagles QB in Slight Controversy
• Sideline: Leftwich's Parting Gift / Boos cruise
• Sideline: Notre Dame M.I.A.
• Sideline: Looking Beyond NFL Wk. 1
• Sideline: Best Hope For Heisman
• Sideline: Coaching Hot Seats / AP Poll Feeling ’Appy
• Sideline: The NFL’s Prime Cuts
• Sideline: Michigan Falls to Killer Apps
• Sideline: Look Out Couch / The Taint's On You, Bud
SPORTS

SIDELINE
Observations, Opinion & Occasional Silliness by Richard L Gale

Punctuation Marks (part 2)
April 25, 2009

PREVIOUS SIDELINE NEXT SIDELINE

Do you remember Ken Swilling? Unless you're a Georgia Tech fan, possibly not, but almost two decades ago Ken Swilling — cousin of former New Orleans Saints LB Pat Swilling — was an outstanding football player, and touted by some as a future NFL star. At 6–2, 240–ish lbs, he was a big safety, so big, he was practically a linebacker. Then an ankle injury took him down a peg, and he ended up getting drafted in the seventh round of the draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He bounced to Cleveland, appeared for a moment on the New England roster, and then was gone from the NFL. Total tackles... zero.

Now, the ankle might have had a lot to do with him, but so did a tag he acquired before the draft, one that compounded the issue: 'Tweener'. No–one was sure whether Ken was a linebacker or a safety. And with a suspect ankle, maybe nobody could be bothered to find out.

The point is, in those days, not being one thing or another made you a tough sell. Now it seems like most the league's defense are tweeners: corners who could be free safeties, free safeties that could be strong safeties, and strong safeties who could be linebackers (the 'Ken Swilling's), and so on down the line. Pick almost any defensive player from USC and you could make a case for them switching position. Keith Ellison is case in point, the Trojan strong safety listed amongst the best at his position for this draft, yet considered a linebacker convert. Oklahoma's Nic Harris is another in the Swilling mold.

Maybe Swilling was a player ahead of his time, or maybe he was a big body with a busted ankle, but I'm fascinated to see where Harris and Ellison land.

As for the rest of this draft's defensive players, the wealth of tweeners — especially LB–DEs — makes this one of the hardest drafts to categorize. While I picked some 'exclamation marks' and 'question marks' for the offense in the last column, doing the same for the defense requires smudging traditional position divisions.

Exclamation Marks

Linebacker: Aaron Curry (Wake Forest). So many players now come with character question marks, but Curry looks to be both a character plus and an explosive tackler. He could play inside or outside, and he is clearly one of the very best players in this draft. He has been mock–drafted into plenty of top 3 positions, but if he falls down the top 10, some team will be smiling very broadly on draft day and beyond.

LB/DE: Clay Matthews (USC). Matthews just got better from year to year to year at USC, and the improvement curve projects Matthews very high on my draft board. He's probably going in the second half of the first round, however, because of a mess of pass–rushers that include Aaron Maybin, Everette Brown, Brian Orakpo, and Larry English.

Defensive Tackle: Enough is mentioned of BJ Raji's (Boston College) ability to pressure the quarterback that his sheer tackling prowess seems understated. However, if fit — and here's another player with some injury history — Mississippi's Peria Jerry may be just as good a tackle.

Inside Linebacker: Rey Maualuga (USC) or James Laurinaitis (Ohio State)? Maualuga has Ray Lewis–like tenacity, athleticism, but off–field questions. Laurinaitis is the safer bet, may be the leader type, but may not take over a game. Picking one over the other may be a question of the team's style.

Cornerbacks: I'm not sure one player leaps off my board as a clear leader, but Vontae Davis (Illinois) is sitting there right now with hours to go. There are so many salable corners with these skills, but not those skills, that teams might like to slide down and address something else where the talent drop–off is more precipitous, such as at inside linebacker.

Free Safety: Is it cheating to call Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State) here? According to some, he's the best CB on the board. I have him at no.2 there, but he's also a top free safety in an unexceptional safety class. If that is cheating, I favor Alabama's Rashad Johnson.

Strong Safety: Patrick Chung (Oregon) is such a safe choice as a tackler, he's practically boring. If the injury bug dries up, William Moore (Missouri) — also on boards as a free safety — might figure at this position.

Question Marks

Cornerbacks: I am so pumped to see where all of the following end up, both in regard of their future teams, and in terms of the order: Jairus Byrd, Alphonso Smith, Darius Butler, Coye Francies, Sherrod Martin, Sean Smith. I reckon there's about an 8–deep of good corners before the talent thins, and when the back end of that group gets close, some desperate trading could occur.

Defensive End: Tyson Jackson (LSU). There seems to be a late surge for this defensive lineman, who is now getting serious consideration as a top 10 pick, maybe even a top 3. It is rumored the Patriots may be trying to move up to take him. Another DE of interest: how high will somebody draft Paul Kruger of Utah? He is an extraordinary story of off–the–field internal injuries and major surgery that there isn't time to recount right now. And yet, he's almost too good to miss.

(A risk of talent vs health? Sounds like that's sort of where we came in.)

Okay, enough talk. It's almost time to tweet our way through the draft (twitter.com/Doubleblood), and all this idle speculation about selections can soon be replaced by even idler speculation about what actual selections mean for their teams.

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