1. The Dallas Cowboys can't evaluate either troubled players or receivers, so why are they being praised for drafting Dez Bryant? They proved adding security guards and mentors can't help with the Pacman Jones experiment, and made an awful trade for wide receiver Roy Williams. Jerry Jones may have regretted passing on Randy Moss, but his efforts to make up for that -- including Williams, Terrell Owens, Antonio Bryant -- have never worked. And don't say Dez Bryant must have been a good pick because the draft-savvy Ravens wanted him in the next spot. If there's one position Baltimore doesn't know, it's receiver.
2. Denver spent two first-round picks on guys who will have no real impact this year. No. 22 pick Demaryius Thomas is a physical freak, but coming from Georgia Tech, he has no real route-running experience. Tim Tebow could win the starting job at some point, but that would just be an admission Denver is building for the future. The Broncos have never completely fallen off the map. Since the NFL expanded to 16 games in 1978, they've had losing records in non-strike seasons just four times. Their worst record in that span was 5-11 back in 1990. Every franchise hits a cliff at some point. Josh McDaniels is teetering on it.
3. New Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell was taken too high by Joe Gibbs in 2005 and has lived off that reputation as a first-round quarterback. He has been the promising, big-armed guy who didn't have any stability on the coaching staff. Mike Shanahan knows quarterbacks and didn't think so. Campbell's an upgrade, but Oakland's offense is still going to struggle most weeks.
4. Quarterbacks, left tackles and defensive ends have owned the top of the first round over the last decade as rules have changed to help the passing game. What does it say about this year's draft class that defensive tackles went No. 2 and No. 3 and a safety went No. 5 overall? Only two defensive tackles have gone in the top three over the last 15 years (Darrell Russell No. 2 to Oakland in 1997 and Gerard Warren No. 3 to Cleveland in 2001); and only one safety has gone in the top five in that span (Sean Taylor to Washington at No. 5 in 2004). Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Eric Berry are very good players. But their draft spots speak to the lack of talent in positions teams usually covet that high in the draft.
5. Rookie quarterbacks' ability to win immediately is an overrated trend. Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez only won because their teams had strong running games and defenses. When they had to throw the ball a lot, they got in trouble. None of the rookie QBs in this year's class are in that kind of situation. Bradford, Clausen and Tebow are likely the only QBs who will start games and their teams have little chance of having winning seasons.
6. After Tebow and Clausen, the most heated draft debate was about Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, who some thought was being stereotyped because he's white and therefore destined to play fullback instead of tailback. But if Gerhart ends up playing fullback in Minnesota, it won't be because of race. The Vikings need a running back to take pressure off Adrian Peterson, but it has to be a player whose effective in the passing game, like Chester Taylor. What down is Gerhart supposed to play? Ever heard of a 230-pound third-down back?
7. The 49ers didn't have the splashiest draft, taking OT Anthony Davis and G Mike Iupati, but they took a big step toward reaching the playoffs. The NFC West was, by far, the weakest division last season and got even worse during the offseason. The Niners face a relatively easy schedule, drawing the AFC West, so they have a good shot at double-digit wins.
8. Some say the Eagles and Giants reached for defensive ends Brandon Graham and Jason Pierre-Paul in the first round. What choice do they have in their division? With Donovan McNabb in Washington, the NFC East could have four Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks next season. Philly's Kevin Kolb is unproven, but he has a lot of weapons around him. New York's Eli Manning and Dallas' Tony Romo should both have big seasons as well. Getting to the quarterback will be the only way for defenses to survive.
9. Most draft graders have their formula all wrong. Experts reward teams that got recognizable players from big programs who went lower than projected in all the mock drafts. Teams were lauded for picking up Notre Dame's Clausen, Texas' McCoy and Sergio Kindle, Alabama's Terrence Cody, USC's Everson Griffen, Tennessee's Dan Williams, Maryland's Bruce Campbell, etc. Aren't these players less likely to be steals because teams have had so many opportunities to scout them?
10. You're about to see a few early 2011 mock drafts, including mine. (I nailed Taylor Mays to the Niners, just in the wrong round). Just after the 2009 draft, multiple mocks had Mississippi's Jevan Snead at No. 1. Snead went undrafted (but landed in QB-deficient Tampa Bay, where he could stick). Washington quarterback Jake Locker will probably be listed at No. 1 overall several places this week. Locker's skill set might be more effective in college than the pros (think Tebow), and he'll get picked apart next season. Maybe Sam Bradford was lucky he didn't play last year.
1. McNabb was the wrong quarterback for the Eagles for some time. McNabb throws a beautiful long ball, but wasn't the right quarterback to run an offense that tries to control the game with short passes. Kevin Kolb doesn't have McNabb's arm, but he'll put star young receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in good position to make plays.
2. Kolb will throw for at least 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns this season. Those numbers may sound gaudy, but 10 quarterbacks threw for that many yards last season and a lot of them didn't play in systems that pass nearly as much as the Eagles. Kolb threw for 391 yards and 327 yards in his two starts last season and he'll be able to string together several 300-yard games.
3. McNabb got discouraged when things started going wrong. Just look at the last two games against Dallas. His offensive line fell apart, but McNabb didn't appear to do anything to help the morale of his teammates. Kolb acts more like Tom Brady and will try to rally the troops. Not many people know much about Kolb, but he has the intensely competitive personality you need to succeed at quarterback.
4. The No. 37 pick in this year's draft is gold. As Andy Reid mentioned in Sunday night's press conference, he has a night between the first and second round to either trade that pick for a No. 1 next season or take a high value player. This spot is particularly juicy before they institute a first-round rookie salary cap.
5. The Eagles were moving farther away from the Super Bowl with McNabb. They were 11-5 last season, but they beat up on a particularly weak schedule. They were 0-4 during the regular season against playoff teams and didn't show up in the postseason.
6. Philadelphia has an insurance policy in Michael Vick. Do you think they didn't see this scenario unfolding when they signed Vick last summer? Although that's another public nightmare on the horizon, when Vick mentions he wants to be the starter, he is a talented security blanket.
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Press-box notes and observations from the Saints' 31-17 win over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV ...
1. It's surprising the most pass-happy Super Bowls of all time could be one of the more boring ones in recent history. Nothing inspires less imagination than a 4-yard pass and 4-yard run after the catch. Bring back the days of Lynn Swann catching long bombs. The 8-yard pass play is just too easy right now. That’s one of the reasons why this Super Bowl would have been more fun with Brett Favre in it.
2. On the surface, Sean Payton's decisions to go for it on fourth down and try an onside kick seemed like two of the gutsiest calls in Super Bowl history. But not for the NFL's No. 1 offense. Payton knew Dwight Freeney was basically done and he'd be able to rack up points against the Colts. Payton's risks were very calculated. He always knew he could score points and didn’t mind playing from behind.
3. Drew Brees ran a clinic in how to neutralize a pass rush with quick passes in the second half -- evidence that quarterbacks are mostly responsible for sacks. Every time you hear an offensive line can't protect a quarterback, that's probably not an accurate statement. Whether it's the David Carr-run Texans or the Steelers' offensive line in front of Ben Roethlisberger. "Brees makes everyone look better by getting rid of it quickly -- receivers, running backs, linemen," Reggie Bush said after the game. "You just know what you have to do and it’s easier."
4. Bush showed he was a nice player this postseason, and had a nice game in the Super Bowl, but the Saints don't need him moving forward. Just like the Colts, they can fill in tons of parts as long as they have Brees. Bush, who is due a lot of money from New Orleans, might be better served in a more featured role in a place like Seattle or San Francisco. He'd have a better chance to be a real star elsewhere.
5. The Colts' Jim Caldwell clearly lost the emotional battle to Sean Payton. This was not a night for Caldwell's unflappable style. Would have been nice to see him kick a speaker or something in the postgame press conference. But he was as steady as always ... and not in a good way.
Early thoughts on the Saints-Colts Super Bowl ...
1. From a football standpoint, the Saints and Colts is the best possible matchup for the Super Bowl. At one point, both teams were 13-0 and bona fide challengers to go 16-0; it's also the first matchup of the top conference seeds since 1993. Two great offenses, huge stars like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, the Saints reaching their first Super Bowl. But the NFL playoffs are definitely less interesting without Rex Ryan and Brett Favre. Jets-Vikings would have been more exciting.
2. Both defenses give up a lot of yards. The Colts’ defense ranked 18th in yards allowed, and the Saints ranked 26th. Indy doesn’t care how many yards you rack up, as long as it surrenders field goals instead of touchdowns. And New Orleans makes up for all the yards by creating turnovers (the Saints ranked second in the NFL in takeaways). These two teams could rack up 1,000 yards in a dizzying Super Bowl. Get ready to hear a lot about the red zone and turnovers over the next two weeks.
3. Both teams’ offensive lines are coming off impressive performances. The Saints allowed just one sack against the Vikings’ fearsome defensive front. The Colts yielded two early sacks against the Jets and then figured out the blitz and kept Manning secure the rest of the afternoon. Even though both teams have effective pass rushers, it’s hard to imagine either getting to the quarterback often in south Florida.
4. The Colts lost only five fumbles in the regular season (tied for first in the NFL). The Saints’ strategy of swiping at the football on every tackle probably won’t work, especially if Indy doesn’t run the ball much. Even with Manning at quarterback, New Orleans has a better chance of getting its turnovers off interceptions. Manning threw 16 picks during the regular season.
5. The Saints had a much harder road to the Super Bowl. Indy had to beat two 9-7 teams (Baltimore and New York) to get here. New Orleans dominated the Cardinals, who were good enough to be a play away from winning last year’s Super Bowl, and the talented Vikings. The Colts haven’t faced a real offense in a while. Will they need time to reacclimate?
1. With all the rules protecting quarterbacks, can you blame New Orleans' Bobby McRay for unloading on Arizona's Kurt Warner on an interception return? Defenders around the league have to be frustrated with how delicate they have to be around the quarterback. Shortly before the big hit, the officials took back a Saints interception on a questionable roughing penalty on Scott Shanle. Officials have to be more consistent on those calls (Packers fans surely agree after the no-call at the end of the Cardinals game), and should have to focus on intent instead of incidental contact.
2. Throw out the Saints' offensive performance against the Cardinals' JV unit. With Arizona's injuries and inability to rush the passer, tackle or cover anyone, that might as well have been an exhibition game in New Orleans on Saturday.
3. Don't pin the Cowboys loss on quarterback Tony Romo. The Cowboys quarterback made this offense and its mediocre set of receivers look a lot better than it was all season. Once Flozell Adams went out and Dallas fell behind, they were in too many must-pass situations and didn't have a chance against Minnesota's pass rush.