It's Super Bowl week, and short of my beloved Browns making the trip to
As far as who will win the game, I'm sticking with my preseason premonitions that Gruden will get the job done. I feel the game will be a tight one, and likely go down to the final minutes. Feeling that way, I'll gladly take the 4 points Tampa is getting in this contest. The over/under is 44 points, and I'm not sure which way, if any, I'll play the total.
I had a pretty decent season handicapping football on this site and via the e-mail newsletter I distributed on a weekly basis to the 114 of you who requested to be added. Here are my numbers ATS with just one game remaining:
NCAA Regular Season: 46-40
NCAA Bowl Games: 14-12
NFL Regular Season: 30-29-1
NFL Playoffs: 7-6
It's my annual tradition to take the month of February off when it comes to handicapping sports. I use the month to watch as much college basketball as humanly possible, compiling as much information I can on each of the 80-90 teams that will have a legitimate shot at securing an NCAA Tournament bid. I use that data to try and make March a winning one for myself and my readers…starting with late regular season and conference tournament play and going all the way out to the national championship game. Last season, my first handicapping the NCAA in print, I went 16-12-1 in pre-tourney plays and 11-9-1 in the tourney itself. I plan on mixing in some college hoops coverage in my weekly column as the tourney approaches. To be added to my sports handicapping newsletter/free selection mailing list…drop me a line at email@example.com.
Turning our attention back to the NFL Draft…the order of selection for the first couple rounds is now set except for a coin flip between Baltimore and Seattle to decide who gets the 10th and 11th picks. Oakland will get the final two picks in each round as a result of them getting Tampa's first two selections this season as part of the package for Jon Gruden. Also, we now know the complete list of underclassmen that will be available for the draft. Probable first round selections QB Eli Manning/Ole Miss, DE Will Smith/Ohio St., CB Nathan Vasher/Texas, and OLB Karlos Dansby/Auburn all elected to return to school for their final years of eligibility.
The Senior Bowl also took place this past weekend. Chock full of more talent than any of the other college All-Star games, the game itself was a bit boring as the North came away with a 17-0 victory. Of course, the game is not about the final score but about the individual performances of the individuals involved. And probably more important than the game itself is the scout-laden practices that take place the week before. Like with any of these games, several players helped and hurt their stock for the April 26th NFL Draft. Let's take a look…
Helped themselves: QB Kyle Boller/Cal, RB Justin Fargas/USC, RB Domanick Davis/LSU, FB Ovie Mughelli/Wake Forest, WR Sam Aiken/North Carolina, WR Doug Gabriel/Central Florida, WR Taylor Jacobs/Florida, TE Bennie Joppru/Michigan, OL Eric Steinbech/Iowa, OL Tony Pashos/Illinois, OL John Stinchcomb/Georgia, OL Montrae Holland/Florida St., OL Ben Nowland/Auburn, DL Michael Haynes/Penn St., DL Kenny Peterson/Ohio St., DL Kevin Williams/Oklahoma St., DL Nick Eason/Clemson, DL Ty Warren/Texas A&M, LB LaMarcus McDonald/TCU, LB Pia Tinoisamoa/Hawaii, CB Marcus Trufant/Washington St., CB Shane Walton/Notre Dame, CB Rashean Mathis/Bethune Cookman, S Cato June/Michigan
Hurt themselves: QB Dave Ragone/Louisville, QB Kliff Kingsbury/Texas Tech, WR Terence Edwards/Georgia, TE Mike Seidman/UCLA, OL Anthony Davis/Virginia Tech, OL Ben Johnson/Wisconsin, OL Steve Sciullo/Marshall, DL Rashad Moore/Tennessee, CB Eugene Wilson/Illinois, CB Andre Woolfolk/Oklahoma, CB DeJuan Groce/Nebraska, S Julian Battle/Tennessee, S Antwoine Sanders/Utah
Moving on to version two of my mock draft, I'll take a moment to add the disclaimers that it is very early and nearly impossible to get inside the minds of NFL general managers (in regards to their draft selections) before the scouting combines take place. The mock draft below will be much different from versions I submit in April. The draft inspires spirited debate; proven by the 37 e-mails I received during the first 7 hours that version one was posted. I was pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback I received. I wasn't sure how well NFL Draft coverage would go over with a couple weeks still remaining before the Super Bowl. Even more surprising were the number of people who thought a pass rusher was not an option…even after the news that Jamir would likely not be back and that Courtney may not be ready for the start of training camp. As the Buccaneers brilliantly illustrated in their run to the Super Bowl, putting consistent pressure on the opposing QB makes everyone on your defense better…and is imperative to playing winning defense in January.
Keep the feedback coming. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. On to version two…
- Carolina (trade w/Cincinnati)-QB Carson Palmer, USC-The hapless Bungles are not only terrified of blowing another top 3 draft choice…but even more afraid to pay one. As a result, odds are that they will deal this pick to a team who is after Carson Palmer…who impressed scouts during practice week before the Senior Bowl. At this point, Carolina seems like the most logical choice. For arguments sake, we'll say Carolina swaps in the 1st round with Cincy and also gives up their second round pick to them. And the Panthers get the centerpiece they so desire to an offense that will be rebuilt over the next couple of seasons.
- Detroit-WR Charlie Rogers, Michigan St-It will simply be too tough for the embattled Matt Millen to pass on a receiver with Rogers' tools as a play toy for QB of the future Joey Harrington. The Lions desperately need help at CB as well, and if a team wants Palmer/Leftwich enough…I could see the Lions trading down and taking either Newman or Trufant.
- Houston-WR Andre Johnson, Miami Fla.-While Johnson is being projected as an early first round selection…I believe his stock will climb even further after the combines when his raw strength, size, and speed are put on display. The Texans need all kinds of help on the offensive side of the ball, but a WR with Johnson's tools will not be available with any of their later picks…when they can concentrate on RB and OL. This is another team also rumored to already be interested in moving down, which could create a bidding war for teams interested in Palmer, Leftwich, and Rogers.
- Chicago-QB Byron Leftwich, Marshall-A big guy with a rocket arm. To me, this is a no-brainer for ‘Da Bears if Leftwich is still on the board. When healthy they have a solid OL and Booker, Terrell, Robinson, and White are a talented quartet of receivers. Jim Miller, Henry Burris, and Chris Chandler are all either has-been's or never-will-be's.
- Dallas-OT Jordan Gross, Utah-While the Tuna will be tempted to go after the best player available here (Kennedy/Suggs/Newman?), he cannot ignore the gaping holes in the Cowboy offensive front. Gross is being projected as the top lineman in the draft, and a guy that should be able to step right in and handle his own against the large, fast, and powerful DE's and OLB's at the next level. If Gross is viewed by the Tuna as anything less than a 100% sure thing, he will jump on Kennedy, Suggs, or Newman.
- Arizona- DE Terrell Suggs, Arizona St.-The Cards have been woefully inept at pressuring the QB, and the hometown selection of the mega-talented Suggs would be a nice first step to trying to establish some sort of defensive credibility.
- Minnesota-DT Jimmy Kennedy, Penn St.-The Vikings wanted Ryan Sims last year, but luckily for them, "accidentally" took super tackle Bryant McKinnie. This year, in another stroke of good luck, they get their DT…when Jimmy Kennedy falls to them at #7. Kennedy and Chris Hovan instantly will form one of the top DT tandems in the NFL and start to solidify a traditionally weak Viking defense.
- Jacksonville-CB Terence Newman, Kansas St.-New head coach Jack Del Rio is a defensive guy and would be happy to land Newman, the draft's top CB here at #8. Newman is lightning quick, has great hands and feet, top-notch cover skills, and is just about 6 feet tall.
- Cincinnati (trade w/ Carolina)-CB Marcus Trufant, Washington St.-Now down at #9, a whole new group of players shudder in fear at potentially becoming the newest Cincinnati Bengal. With the addition of Marvin Lewis, defense likely becomes a more viable option with their 1st pick. Mike Brown should have selected Phillip Buchanon last year, and will now take Trufant to help out at CB. Trufant had an absolutely eye-popping Senior Bowl week and is rocketing up draft boards. However, if he ends up in Cincitucky…all that means nothing and his career is doomed.
- Seattle-DT William Joseph, Miami Fla.-John Randle is so old he should be carbon dated and the Seahawk run defense was non-existent this year. Finally, Seattle has stripped Holmgren of his total power on draft day. He's turned heads in the past, and the Seahawk brass will play it safe with the solid Joseph…who they can immediately plug in on their defensive line.
- Baltimore-OT Eric Steinbach, Iowa-The Ravens disgust me, but you have to admire Ozzie Newsome's ability to judge talent. The guess here is that they go after Steinbach, a polished lineman who can play both tackle or guard, and that he unfortunately becomes a pretty damn good lineman for years to come.
- St. Louis-OT Kwame Harris, Stanford-The Rams may lose Orlando Pace at left tackle, and John St. Clair was an utter disaster at right tackle. It's not just coincidence that they have not been able to keep QB's healthy and that they continue to lead the league in turnovers. The line needs help, especially on the ends. Harris is a monstrous specimen with a good head on his shoulders, and has a good shot to end up in St. Louis.
- Washington-DE Michael Haynes, Penn St.-While many assume Spurrier will go offense here, the ‘Skins need help along the defensive line badly. Bruce Smith is circling the drain, and Haynes will be his eventual replacement.
- New England-ILB E.J. Henderson, Maryland-Belichick is likely to go defense with each of his two first round selections and Henderson is an ideal fit to play one of the LB positions in his complex defensive scheme. Henderson is very athletic, always around the ball, and will fill the role the Pats had hoped Andy Katzenmoyer would.
- San Diego-WR Bryant Johnson, Penn St.-Bryant Johnson established himself as the most polished WR and accomplished route runner in this year's draft during Senior Bowl week. With the top 3 offensive lineman off the board, the Chargers will fill another need here by adding a top notch WR for Drew Brees.
- Kansas City-S Michael Doss, Ohio St.-While their need for a CB may be greater, I think the temptation to pluck a player like Doss off the board here may be too great for the Chiefs here. Much like Ed Reed last year, Doss may not be one of the top guys on the board in when it comes to numbers. But Doss is fierce against the run, and is ready to step right in and be a legitimate starting SS in the NFL.
- New Orleans-DE Jerome McDougle, Miami Fla.-The Saints need a lot of help defensively and in all likelihood will expend both of their picks here on that side of the ball. With the first selection they will take McDougle, who had a solid Senior Bowl week and is the top available player, off the board.
- New Orleans-CB Andre Woolfolk, Oklahoma-One, if not both of these picks, will be used to help repair a porous Saint secondary. Woolfolk, a tall and rangy CB will fit in well.
- New England-DE Kenny Peterson, Ohio St.-Peterson has shot up draft boards due to his ability to play both inside and out and defends the run as well as he rushes the passer. Belichick loves guys that can play more than one spot…and that will land Peterson in New England.
- Denver-QB Kyle Boller, Cal-A strong arm, nice touch, and NFL body has moved Boller past Chris Simms, Dave Ragone, and Rex Grossman as the consensus #3 QB in this draft. Knowing he will not be available next round, and that he has yet to face plant a teammate's driveway….Shanahan makes him the pick here.
- CLEVELAND-DT Rien Long, Washington St.-With Long, DeWayne Robertson, and Jonathon Sullivan still on the board…and Gross, Harris, and Steinbach off the board…the Browns will wait until round two to address the offensive line and take a top DT off the board here. Of the three available, Long is by far the most athletic (6'7, 290, 4.95) and could help provide the Browns with something they have lacked since the days of Michael Dean Perry. An interior lineman that can rush the passer as well as play the run. Gerard Warren has underachieved, Orpheus Roye is not getting any younger (or cheaper), and there is no one behind them. The Outland Trophy winner fits nicely.
- NY Jets-ILB Terry Pierce, Kansas St.-Marvin Jones and Mo Lewis are not getting nay younger, and here the Jets look to add some youth to the LB corps with the addition of Pierce…who can play both inside and outside.
- Atlanta-WR Taylor Jacobs, Florida-Michael Vick will watch anxiously on draft day as the team adds some new weapons for him to utilize. Look for the Falcons to take two WR's on day one, and go with Jacobs here. Jacobs is being advertised as the most polished Florida wideout to enter the draft in several years and add a dimension to the Falcon attack.
- Indianapolis-OG Jeff Faine, Notre Dame-The interior of the Colt offensive line was simply offensive this season, and Dungy will pluck the top lineman off the board here at #22. Faine is a mean SOB, and a helluva lineman that can play C or G, both needs for the Colts.
- NY Giants-DT DeWayne Robertson, Kentucky-This massive defensive tackle will get plugged right into the Giant rotation on their defensive line and immediately help their run defense. The Giants must bolster the trenches and will likely take the best lineman available on either side of the ball. Robertson is that guy in this scenario.
- San Francisco-DT Jonathon Sullivan, Georgia-The Niners ignore their need for depth in the secondary (for now) to take one of the remaining premier DT's. Sullivan emerged in his junior year for the ‘Dawgs and has parlayed it into 1st round draft status.
- Pittsburgh-CB Dennis Weathersby, Oregon St.-The Steelers need serious help in the secondary and Weathersby seems to be a perfect fit here. A tall, experienced cover guy…many feel he would be an even better safety after excelling at CB for the Beavers.
- Tennessee-RB Larry Johnson, Penn St.-Anyone who watched the Titans playoff run saw that Eddie George is just not Eddie George tomorrow. This pick makes sense, and gives George a talented and physically mature RB cut from his same mold to pass the torch to.
- Green Bay-QB Rex Grossman, Florida-This pick will almost assuredly be either an ILB (T.Pierce/G.Hayes/L.McDonald/C.Smith) or a QB. The Pack is on record as being fans of Grossman's as the eventual replacement to fill the huge shoes Brett Favre will eventually leave open.
- Philadelphia-ILB LaMarcus McDonald, TCU-Philly's LB's were picked to pieces by the RB's and TE's of the Buccaneer west coast offense. McDonald, who I feel will be a phenomenal pro player, is not the fastest or strongest guy but he's simply always around the ball and making plays. He could be a sleeper for the Browns pick, but if he falls this far…look for Philly to gobble him up.
- Oakland-OLB Boss Bailey, Georgia-With the first of 5 first day selections for the Raiders, they grab the heir apparent to Romanowski in Bailey…a lightning quick pass rushing OLB from Georgia.
- Oakland-WR Kelley Washington, Tennessee-Continuing their replacement of old parts, the Raiders select Washington…a mega talented wideout with some injury concerns. Should he stay healthy, he and Jerry Porter could form one of the most athletically gifted pair of WR's the league has seen.
- Cincinnati-DT Kevin Williams, Oklahoma St.
- Detroit-CB Rashean Mathis, Bethune Cookman
- Houston-OT Tony Pashos, Illinois
- Chicago-DT Ty Warren, Texas A&M
- Arizona-CB Shane Walton, Notre Dame
- Dallas-QB Chris Simms, Texas
- Minnesota-S Troy Polamalu, USC
- Jacksonville-WR Brandon Lloyd, Illinois
- Cincinnati-QB Dave Ragone, Louisville
- Seattle-ILB Gerald Hayes, Pitt
- Baltimore-DE Cory Redding, Texas
- St. Louis-CB Donald Strickland, Colorado
- Washington-OG Vince Manuwai, Hawaii
- Buffalo-DE Calvin Pace, Wake Forest
- San Diego-OT Jon Stinchcomb, Georgia
- Kansas City-CB Kevin Garrett, SMU
- New Orleans-OG Montrae Holland, Florida St.
- Miami-OT Brett Williams, Florida St.
- New England-RB Lee Suggs, Virginia Tech
- Denver-DE DeWayne White, Louisville
- CLEVELAND-OT George Foster, Georgia
- NY Jets-S Terence Holt, North Carolina St.
- Atlanta-WR Doug Gabriel, Central Florida
- Indianapolis-DT Nick Eason, Clemson
- NY Giants-OG Todd Williams, Florida St.
- San Francisco-CB Bryan Scott, Penn St.
- Pittsburgh-RB Justin Fargas, USC
- Tennessee-OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa, Hawaii
- Green Bay-MLB Clifton Smith, Syracuse
- Philadelphia-TE Jason Witten Tennessee
- Oakland-RB Chris Brown, Colorado
- Oakland-DE Tyler Brayton, Colorado