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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
April 24, 2009

PREVIOUS SIDELINE NEXT SIDELINE

We are closing in on the NFL Draft, and the wall of The American's sports department is starting to transform itself into a 'big board'. Well, okay, a cork board — I am, after all something of a luddite who prefers to keep the draft as tactile as possible despite the fact that I'll be connecting to the event online and tweeting throughout.

Yes, don't groan: I have just signed up to the social networking cult that is Twitter (Username: Doubleblood), and will be punctuating the draft with appropriate oohs and aahs throughout — feel free to join me. In the meantime, there's still the analysis to do and this column to write, so I'd better lay some cards on the table and declare some favorite players.
Today: Offense,

Exclamation Marks

Quarterback: Matthew Stafford (Georgia). It's the whole Elway–ness of him. The only way he becomes a bust is by being on the Lions and simply stagnating. But this is a really a '1 and 1a' deal this year, because while physically I rate Stafford top of the pile, Mark Sanchez (USC) is just such an impressive young man at the personal level that I feel that he could really help some duff team's chemistry. I know Josh Freeman (Kansas State) is being talked of as a third round one selection at passer, but I rate Freeman closer to the pack than to these two.

Running Back: Knowshon Moreno (Georgia). Some teams have Chris 'Beanie' Wells (Ohio State) and Moreno ranked 1 and 1a at this position, several preferring Wells. Not me. Moreno is the more exciting option, with the receiving skills that a big bonus in the NFL. Considering Wells is bigger and supposedly more durable, it hasn't seemed that way. I don't even have Wells as my no.2. As long as no team uses Moreno as a workhorse, he'll pay his way from season one.

Receiver: I simply wouldn't want to be using a top 10 pick at receiver this year. Taking a receiver at the right value could be one of the two keys to day one of the draft. It's so long since Michael Crabtree was healthy enough to show what he's got that a slam–dunk no.1 comes with an asterisk. If it's a surefire possession receiver you want, look to Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina) instead. For a complementary receiver for a fraction of the price, Juaquin Iglesias (Oklahoma) could be the next chain–moving slot receiver.

Tight End: No clear no.1, but according to needs, Brandon Pettigrew if you want an all–round tight end, or Chase Coffman (Missouri) if you want a receiver. However, Shawn Nelson (Southern Mississippi) could be a sound investment pick when the headliners are gone.

Offensive Line: For me, Offensive Line is a no–risk scenario.; if you're worrying about the viability of line selections, you're already in trouble. That's why I like Jason Smith (Baylor), why I liked him best from the start of this process, and why he was gracing our draft preview in last month's print edition. The Detroit Lions should follow the Dolphins' example from last year, when Miami solved their relentless line issues with Jake Long. Eugene Monroe (Virginia) is another can't–miss prospect. For Andre Smith, see 'Question Marks', below.

Question Marks

The following are some players who mess with all attempts to do a mock draft. It really isn't clear what teams really think about them, how much they may drop, or how hyped one team may be about them. Thank goodness, because they're what makes the draft interesting!

Quarterback: Pat White (West Virginia). Some teams may not even regard him as a quarterback because of athletic ability that might deserve consideration at receiver. However, White has refused to give up the QB dream, and looked the part both at the Senior Bow and the Combine. He has humored the scouts enough to be polite, but he's given them no opportunity to strike him from under the heading 'quarterback'. Net result is that his ranking in this category is far from consensus.

Running Back: Donald Brown (UConn). So many teams go so much out of last season's class of runners that market interest may be a little diluted this year. If Donald Brown slips to the second round, that would qualify. Brown ran for over 2000 yards last season and is a conditioning fanatic, suggesting he is workhorse, yet was not overused before his senior season. Beyond Moreno and Wells, the order of the running backs is a muddle. Brown could go anywhere from the late 20s to the 60s.

Receiver: Percy Harvin (Florida). An undefined well of talent, Harvin is a WR/RB utility athlete that NFL coaches must figure out. Has played nothing resembling a pro offense, but is the kind of Reggie Bush–esc dual threat that keep opponents guessing. The question is, how much is a wrinkle worth? He has round 1 talent, but round 3 readiness.

Offensive Line: Andre Smith (Alabama). He wasn't ready to go at the combine, leaving suddenly, and so far the sporting hyperbole has moved Smith from top pick to undraftable and back into the first round. He's a great reason for teams to make moves to ensure they get Jason Smith of Eugene Monroe without having to think about Andre Smith, but the latter's talent is obvious. My opinion: I'm a fat lazy sportswriter and as good a lineman as Smith is, I suspect that he's a fat lazy lineman. I spend forever putting off the moment when I'm going to get in shape and in the meantime I get flabbier. When you spend a top 15 pick on an offensive lineman, you expect a different kind of work ethic. There's a nightmare scenario coming into focus, and it involves the Buffalo Bills.

Correction Marks

Natinals. N–A–T–I–N–A–L–S! This past week the Washington Nationals took the field with two players wearing uniforms that misspelled the team name. The team with no 'O'. This is just a beat writer's dream, surely, for a team that performs so poorly.

The Detroit Lions set themselves up for similar jibes by unleashing a new logo that looks suspiciously like the old logo with a couple of details added. One of them: teeth. Yes, the 0–16 Lions, the team with the least bite of any team in the history of the NFL, have added some teeth. This is, presumably, to coincide with all the attention they are going to get from making the first overall selection in the draft, but given this moment in the limelight, couldn't they have done more with the logo? The silhouette of the logo is the same as it was, the team colors are the same as they were before. It's not even as if the previous logo was an intrinsic part of the Lions history: the team has been going since 1930 and they didn't have a logo for the first forty.

The Lions missed a great opportunity to radically reshape their image, a design overhaul that coincided with success for the Broncos and Buccaneers in recent years. Instead, the Lions looked at what they had, tinkered a little, and then said 'hey, you can't improve on perfection!'. So that was the message the Lions wanted to say with the logo: 'a little bit different, but basically same old lions'?

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