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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

Thinking the Unthinkable
April 25, 2008

Somewhat perplexed by draft analysis even before the event has begun, Mrs Football daintily enquired why the opinion of columnists mattered — surely the teams know what they're doing. It was an eerily domestic echo of Bill Tobin's "Who the hell is Mel Kiper, anyway?" comment.

But opinion and the draft are inextricable. Consensus of opinion defines a player's draft day worth, and that worth is central to getting the best value for draft picks. Right or wrong with the crystal ball of talent, this 'market value' approach is what Kiper and co have been preaching all these years. And when somebody disobeys market value, you'd better expect the draft gurus to pounce.

Not that I'm claiming to be a draft 'guru'. At best I'm only a 'gu' (at least that's what my dietician says), and by the time we know which players are busts and which are Pro Bowlers, nobody remembers what ESPN’s commentator said, let alone some hack overseas. It's a rare draft where we can say with any conviction "Well, they fouled that up".

But a 'value' gaff can label a team's front office as inept. Last year's Dolphins draft was pretty much an instant stinker, passing over Brady Quinn to take Ted Ginn Jr to replace Wes Welker who they'd traded away to gain a pick that was used on an interior lineman. The columnists ripped Miami, and that was mild by comparison to the reaction of 'Phins fans who had briefly been rejoicing the opportunity to draft passing savior Quinn. Instead they got John Beck, and the fans were baying for blood five months before the 2007 debacle even began. Four floundering starts and a 1–15 season later, the Miami draft boys — including coach Cam Cameron — were packing their bags.

The Dolphins did the one thing that was unforgivable: to be in position to take the player the fans could only dream of taking ...and then not take him. As meanness goes, that's up there with stamping on a kid's toy, and as public relations goes it's about as acceptable as mooning the Queen. And then there was the value. Quinn at nine would have been considered above value; Ginn at nine looked a little screwy. It's as much about where you pick as who you pick.

So, let's turn this whole 'mock draft' routine around. Here's this gu's opinion of what the teams need to NOT do on draft day. Here's the borderline–bozo potential. Here's 'stupid' before we even start:

Miami Dolphins
With Jake Long already secured, the Dolphins are off to a good start. The worst thing they could do now would be to draft a QB, which would undermine Beck, who isn't beyond salvage. They clearly need to evaluate what they have over a period greater than four games.

St Louis Rams
The Rams are on the verge of actually having a defense as long as they go with a D–lineman. Having taken two DTs last year, Glenn Dorsey would be a luxury when they could add a marquee DE such as Chris Long or Vernon Gholston. Considering the market value of this year's top players at each position, almost anything else would be madness.

Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have so many urgent needs — QB, CB, DL, OT — and so many first day picks in a deep draft, that they really should resist the temptation to trade out of the No.3 spot. DL seems obvious, especially if Dorsey is available. One year on from Bobby Petrino, skipping leader–like Matt Ryan in round one to take quieter Brian Brohm of Louisville might take some explaining, even in round 2.

Oakland Raiders
Where to start? Taking Darren McFadden while Michael Bush hasn't been tried? Reaching for unready Ryan Clady at tackle while the coach wants defense for now? These aren't exactly wrong moves, but the Raiders don't get another pick until no.104, so whoever it is better not whiff.

Kansas City Chiefs
+ + + STOP PRESS: DE ALLEN TRADED TO VIKINGS + + +
The Chiefs are so far from being in the playoff hunt that they need to be stockpiling talent — taking a safe ready–to–go player over superior upside would be a waste. What they shouldn't do is trade away what talent they already have. Oh dear. Then again, at least this many picks — 13 in all — is the equivalent of a big red 'reset' button. And with this many needs, 'stupid move' = trading up when they are in position to take their first stud right here.

New York Jets
IF Darren McFadden is still available at pick 6, passing on him would be pretty dumb, especially as he would be a tempting upgrade over anything the division rival Patriots have. Other than that, ignoring the fact that their 3–4 defense requires personnel changes could be unwise.
+ + + STOP PRESS: JETS TRADE DT ROBERTSON TO BRONCOS + + +
Yuh, that last sentence again, only more so.

New England Patriots
What not to do: assume that last year's Super Bowl loss was an aberration, rather than a defense getting tired. Any less than three first–day defenders should make Pats fans anxious.

Baltimore Ravens
Matt Ryan note: Mel Kiper says that if Matt Ryan isn't taken by this point of the draft, he's 'done'. Seems safe enough, right? If you desperately needed a QB and the top guy was sitting there, you'd take him, right? I mean unless you were Cam Cameron, I guess. Who did you say was offensive coordinator of the Ravens now? Oh.

Cincinnati Bengals
The worst thing the Bengals could do is to be distracted by the shenanigans at receiver and roll the dice on the next generation of prima donna, when what they need is some nice safe, reliable linemen to shore up the offensive line and replenish the defense. If they are sure their guy is problem–free, even a slight reach would be forgivable at this year's no.9 pick!

New Orleans Saints
After an inspired 2006, the Saints wilted in 2007, and defense was the difference. If they don't address the secondary at least once with their first two picks, 2008 will be another year of being outscored in shootouts.

Buffalo Bills
The Bills have some of the most clear–cut needs of any team: WR, a pass–rush DL, and selections at both CB and FS. They'd have to get monumentally sidetracked to avoid one of these at pick no.12.

Denver Broncos
The Broncos are perfectly placed to take one of the best receivers in the draft. However, this is a deep draft and the best days of their zone–blocking offensive line are in the rear view mirror, MLB needs an upgrade and the revolving door at DT has to be halted. [edit: Hmm, I'm not sure acquiring Dewayne Robertson from the Jets halts the revolving door so much as temporarily lodging a dodgy knee in the way].

Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have been effective in a poor free agency year, but with outstanding needs at defensive line and everybody else looking there early in the draft, they must be careful not to reach. Going anywhere near receiver in the early stages would be wasteful, too.

Chicago Bears
A Bears team rebuilding their offensive line may find the good OTs off the board in round one, so reaching for second round talent when they could have first round RB talent would be a concern. Not taking an early to mid–round RB at all would be a mistake when the rest of the league — and even the 2006 Bears — proved that a two–back system is necessary.

Detroit Lions
The Lions are another team way down the queue for the defensive line help they crave in the first round. There will be a suitable DE — Derrick Harvey, Calais Campbell or Phillip Merling there at pick 13, but if RB Rashard Mendenhall is still on the board after the Bears pick, the Lions would be mad to pass up the opportunity.

Arizona Cardinals
Pick 16: the Cards might be well placed for their choice of cornerback, and there are schools of thought that call for upgrades at RB and OL, so to foul this up, the Cards need only panic about their choice between saintly old Kurt Warner and hedonistic young Matt Leinart, and draft another QB to muddy the waters.

Houston Texans
CB or RB, RB or CB? If 2006 pick Charles Spencer doesn't look good to go at tackle for 2008, maybe OT. But any selection for the defensive front 7 before the second day would suggest another year with a lack of playoff urgency in Houston.

Philadelphia Eagles
Pick 18 in the first round would be abut right for the first safety to come off the board, and the Eagles have a big need there. But be warned, if the Eagles don't take the first WR at 18 or at least some WR by their second pick at 49, that's going to be as popular in Philly as the non–Quinn selection in Miami last year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Just don't draft another QB. Seriously, how many is that now?

Washington Redskins
We may never know whether the Redskins take my advice (yeah, I'm sure they're waiting on my every word), but with two third round picks and not much spent in free agency for once, the Redskins might want to consider moving up a few spots in the first round. It does seem kinda strange for them not to tinker with their draft picks in any way. The one dumb move would be to sit quietly while somebody — such as division rival Philadelphia — takes the best safety from under their noses.

Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys want a runningback, but I'd question taking lightning–fast Felix Jones rather than all–rounder Jonathan Stewart if he is available. Not a dumb move, but it would seem another step away from controlled, possession football. If the Cowboys want a Razorback so badly, perhaps they'd better trade up for McFadden.

Pittsburgh Steelers
After years of being plundered through free agency and retooling through the draft, the Steelers are starting to lose that battle. Urgent but sure talent is required. Players with questions about character or injuries should not apply. 'Niche' players are a no–no here.

Tennessee Titans
That the Titans are taking a receiver seems to be a given, and a big receiver is always desirable. However, they also need a return specialist of the type they used to have in Derrick Mason, who was worth 1000 yards as a receiver his last four seasons with Tennessee. If only there were one like him in this draft. And there is: DeSean Jackson of Cal. If he's available, Tennessee shouldn't be obsessional about receiver size – not when they've signed Alge Crumpler at TE and regained WR Justin McCareins in free agency.

Seattle Seahawks
The release of Shaun Alexander has everybody slavering for the next generation of RB at Seattle, but this team still has two workable starters in Maurice Morris and free agent pick up Julius Jones, and TJ Duckett is now also on the roster. As a team in coaching transition with needs at positions such as TE and OL — which usually need working in — taking an 'instant pop' position such as RB with either of their first two picks might be less draft smart than lazy pundits would have us believe.

Jacksonville Jaguars
One prominent draft service has mocked them a WR in round 1, and if a fast deep threat were to be sitting there at 26, it would be hard to argue. None the less, with four picks on day one, a quickly–contributing defensive lineman is essential in this post–Giants age of D–line emphasis. Taking neither would be anticlimactic.

San Diego Chargers
Not much needed on a team expecting a Super Bowl run. The one thing that usually undermines such expectations is injury, so taking players who can contribute in patches is essential. Any 'projects' deserve a mark against.

San Francisco 49ers
Every effort now must be about Alex Smith blossoming into a franchise passer, so any investment towards the players around him is the right choice. Despite defensive needs, if the 49ers are in position to take one of the right tackles likely to be there late in the first round — such as Gosder Cherilus or Duane Brown, Sam Baker, or a sliding Branden Albert (less likely) — they must go there.

Green Bay Packers
Clearly Aaron Rodgers has been dying to get his shot at QB, so a day one pick there would be a head scratcher. That said, they are desperately short of depth, so not taking a look–see later on would be strange too. With Brett Favre gone, the oldies on the team become both starting corners, so if they don't take a cornerback by the end of the second round, that would also constitute a booboo.

New York Giants
There's not usually many wrong things you can do when you've just won the Super Bowl, but thinking that their defensive reputation allows them to go offense first might require a double–take, especially with the wealth of linebacking talent that could be sitting there at the end of round one.

Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings traded away most of day one in order to acquire DE Jared Allen. They can undo that good work by not following up at either RT or WR at pick 47. Everything else is of far lower importance.

Indianapolis Colts
The Giants proved that a pass–rushing defensive line causes problems for the Patriots. So when the Colts get around to their first pick at no.59, guess where they should go. An O–linemen could be their other day one selection, but as this is a column about what not to take, let's be ridiculous and say QB. No, of course I don't mean to replace Peyton Manning; my point is that Jim Sorgi and Manning represent the most stable twosome since Gary Kubiak backed up John Elway, yet Denver still had their Tommy Maddox moment.

Cleveland Browns
The Browns don't even pick until day two, but fortunately they don't need much. What they do need is defense (talk about being late to the party!), most of all at corner where they need depth even if last year's second day selection Brandon McDonald is in the mix to take over at starter. Ergo, waiting until round 5 for defense could equate to a no–show.

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