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"Life in the UK"
• 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
AFC WEST 2009 DRAFT
Richard L Gale hands out some grades and opinion on the NFL’s worst division ...and remain unimpressed
Adjusted Draft Grade D+
• The logic that made the Cutler trade acceptable was that the Broncos could use the extra draft picks to rebuild one of the worst defenses in the NFL, a defense so bad that it negated anything Cutler did and kept the Broncos from the playoffs. If so, mission unaccomplished. The Broncos selected more offense than defense over the draft weekend, spent their top pick on a running back despite a stable of capable free agent backs already acquired, and failed to draft a defensive tackle, considered the team's biggest need. They also did nothing at linebacker.
• The Broncos already had Correll Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan, JJ Arrington, and Peyton Hillis, all of whom have been starters, two of whom have had 500–yard seasons in relief duty. While none of these are a clear no.1 back, the Broncos had a viable backfield–by–committee, and needs elsewhere. However, Knowshon Moreno — the best back in the draft according to some (including this reviewer) — was there at pick 12, and the Broncos can be forgiven for wanting their own Ladainian Tomlinson–like mix of running and receiving, especially with BJ Raji off the board. One of the keys to success, after all, is to run well and stop the run...
• ...Problem is, when it comes to stopping the run, the Broncos are terrible. Defensive Tackle on the Broncos has been a site for journeymen and ex–Browns for years, so they really needed someone definitive in the draft. At pick no.18, they had the opportunity to take Peria Jerry or Ziggy Hood, but chose instead to take DE Robert Ayers, who could be viewed as tackle, and presumably is here for that purpose, though his most impressive performances were as an end, so conversion may stop him from being as impactful as other defensive linemen ranked below him. Also headed for camp is free agent DT Chris Baker of Hampton (and formerly of Penn State), a more natural inside guy who proved himself a fighter both in the trenches and, regrettably, away from the field — hence his non–drafted status. I have questions over the self–discipline of both these players.
• The Broncos gave some attention to their run blocking. Their last selection of round 2 was Richard Quinn, a tight end who will help their running game without giving up too much for the pass, but who has no business being drafted on day one. Also, two offensive linemen were taken. Seth Olsen and Blake Schlueter are the kind of zone–blocking talents that Denver has traditionally used well. It's hard to argue with the cost of them, though even a zone–blocking scheme needs a bit of prime beef from time to time, and these are fairly lean cuts.
• Next, Denver traded next year's no.1 to climb up and take a second–round pick, Alphonso Smith. I like his instincts and ability to make interceptions enough to overlook his lack of height (5–9) but he is not a day one shut–down corner. Spending a first to draft a second isn't the stuff great drafts are made of. In all, the Broncos rounded up five new players for the secondary, adding two safeties in the draft and two more corners in the aftermath. But Darcel McBath wasn't second–round talent, and is really a converted corner who provides nothing for the run defense, and Bruton is another of those nothing–special players Notre Dame has been churning out recently. Small (5–9, 163lb) undrafted free agent CB Tony Carter of Florida State could stick around as a returner and figure in the nickel.
• As some were expecting the Broncos to draft a replacement for Jay Cutler, a little too much is being made of the Brandstater selection right now, mostly because of the presence of head coach Josh McDaniel. Brandstater has a pro build (6–5, 220), but there's little evidence that he is the future of the Broncos.
• All in all, the Broncos did draft talent with Moreno, Ayers, and Smith, and found some things they can use later on, so this was no disaster in that respect. But considering the picks they had, their draft tactics were, at best, underwhelming, and at worst confused. The Broncos were within a game of the playoffs last season, and the AFC West seems there for the taking again, yet only Knowshon Moreno appears to be a year–one impact player.
Kansas City Chiefs
Adjusted Draft Grade C+
• The big question in KC coming out of this draft is 'What now for Glenn Dorsey?' with defensive ends drafted with the Chiefs' first two picks and two more undrafted DEs invited to camp. Is last year's first round selection now a bit–part player, trade bait, or a nose tackle conversion? Most probably Dorsey is now one of a deep selection of ends, as the Chiefs try to reverse the massive drop–off in sacks that followed Jared Allen's trade. Tyson Jackson and Alex Magee could be the making of Glenn Dorsey, as the Chiefs turn a weakness into a strength. In situations when they put four hands to the ground, any of these three can play to the interior. Call it a 3–4 defense if you like, but one of those 4s might look awful big and close on some downs. The rotation of youth will certainly help reinvigorate OLB Derrick Johnson, who fell from 4.0 to 1.5 sacks last year, and Tamba Hali, who fell from 7.5 to 3.0, not to mention rejuvenate aging inside additions Zach Thomas and Mike Vrabel. Watch also for undrafted free agent DE/LB Jovan Belcher of Maine, who could fit this system like a glove if he can catch on as an outside linebacker.
• CB Donald Washington will be an excellent nickel guy and may turn into a starter. Concerns about discipline may have factored into his 4th round selection, so on talent alone, he's a good value pick.
• The offensive line could have been addressed more thoroughly. They took Colin Brown in the 5th, and TE Jake O'Connell in the last round, but this were no better talents than many of the players scooped up by others in post–draft free agency.
• Of asides, the Chiefs chose Ryan Succop as Mr Irrelevant, and will bring former all–pro Irving Fryar's some Londen to camp as a defensive back. After spending little more than a 2nd rounder to get Matt Cassel, there was little more to the draft than reintroducing the concept of sacking opponents. They accomplished that, but not a lot else. With the 31st–ranked defense and 24th–ranked offense last season, they could advance a long way from two wins on those two things alone, however.
Adjusted Draft Grade F
• Boy, it's hard to deal with a review of the Raiders draft without presenting them as a caricature. But what can you do when a team consistently, stubbornly, and it seems almost wantonly ignores the consensus value of players. If you were going to caricature them, you have them taking a player purely because of speed, or spending high on a player nobody has heard of. But that's what they do, and all you can picture is that famous shot of Al Davis growling at the camera over a glass of bourbon. For anybody who suspects Al Davis of being certifiable, this wasn't a strong counter–argument.
• Darrius Heyward–Why? Because of speed, of course, the usual obsession. I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd drafted Usain Bolt. The caricaturist within me wants me to paint DHB as some blurry–legged flailing–armed pure sprinter, but in fairness Heyward–Bey caught 51 balls in '07, and 42 in '08, makes good moves, and is a solidly–built target with lightning deep speed. On deep routes it will be difficult to have anyone stay with him, and he looks the ball in better than some people would have you believe. So don't believe the anti–hype. He will stretch the field and open it up for other receivers. The Raiders entered this draft lacking any other receivers of note, which is why they also drafted Louis Murphy, which nobody is reviewing because it's just so darned entertaining saying the Raiders are mad, bad and not very dangerous anymore. But where DHB is a deep threat, Murphy is an over the middle, sharp–route, chain–moving possession receiver, the perfect complement. Oh wait... he's actually a superfast, straight–line receiver who hasn't proven himself as a playmaker and never managed more than 38 catches in a season at Florida. And we all know about how Florida receivers adapt to the NFL. Ah, and my defense of Oakland's picks was going so well.
• Michael Mitchell? For a moment there, I thought it was just me who'd been caught out, shuffling through my papers for some notes. The TV and radio guys weren't doing any better. Doesn't mean Michael Mitchell won't be all–pro, it just means that nobody was expecting him to go in the top 50 picks. I'm even sure any other team was thinking of using a pick on him at all, and therein lies the problem: DHB went at pick 7 when most had him in the latter stages of Round 1 (and certainly not before Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin), and then Mitchell is taken in Round 2, approximately five rounds before conventional thinking. And then there's DL Matt Shaughnessy, also a reach in Round 3. I'll tell you what my pre–draft notes have written next to Matt Shaughnessy: they have the words 'ho hum'.
• The Raiders did match some of their needs, if taken purely on the basis of position, and did resist drafting any more running backs, but an offensive tackle would have been nice or at least a guard, and they ignored the line completely. Sometimes the Raiders draft talent, but the draft misses add up to enough to hide any successes. The starters they draft — and there may be as little as one here — just don't connect up.
San Diego Chargers
Adjusted Draft Grade C–
• Years ago, there was a British gameshow called Bullseye, based on playing darts. When contestants failed to win anything of significance, the presenter would torment them further by revealing the unclaimed star prize and declaring 'Look what you could have won!'. That catchphrase came to mind when the Chargers selected DE/OLB Larry English at pick 16, forgoing Clay Matthews, Everette Brown, Robert Ayers, and selecting shortly after Brian Orakpo and Brian Cushing had already gone off the board. Nonetheless, the Chargers can be happy with English, who racked 30.5 sacks over three years against second–rank opposition, and had a good Senior Bowl. They may also be happy with a free agent invitee, Darry Beckwith of LSU, a sound–tackling ILB who only went undrafted because of recurrent knee problems. Both of these players are high character players, which may be important on a team that could be getting frustrated by annually squandered opportunities.
• Frustrations may not be satisfied by the rest of the draft. Two defensive tackles were taken in the fourth round, and neither are draft–list studs. Some felt that the Chargers needed to look out for a successor to Ladainian Tomlinson, but Gartrell Johnson seems like a hard–nosed rhythm back who will have difficulty finding a share of the work with Sproles spelling LT. Kevin Ellison will probably be retrained as a linebacker after a college career at safety, and is far from ready. These don't seem like the players to take the Chargers beyond the AFC West squabble into which they have progressively mired themselves.
• Brandon Hughes might be a bright spot, however. He has speed, and could become a man cover option for future years. Of course that wasn't actually a need. Needs were also to be found at guard and tackle, where they selected Louis Vasquez, a big strong guard who nonetheless probably had a tag lower than a third round pick, but no tackle was touched until after the draft, when three undrafted line bodies were invited to camp. Of those, tackle Sam Allen of Grand Valley State has the best chance of sticking, though he's going to take a while to bulk up and adjust from a mere 280 lbs on a 6–5 frame.
• For the most part, this was an uninspiring draft that fulfilled few of San Diego's needs. English will be a starter, Hughes could be a starter one day, but for the most part, these guys look destined to fight for back–up roles, and only Hughes was drafted below value.