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Prince Amukamara Fell in Draft Because He Is Nigerian? Unlikely

Prince Amukamara slipped to the 19th spot in the NFL draft before the New York Giants finally picked him up. Amukamara was widely considered to be the second-best cornerback in the draft, rating just behind Patrick Peterson who went fifth overall to the Cardinals. Though no other cornerback was drafted between the two, 13 other players were picked before Amukamara. So how can the drop be explained? According to Dan Pompei’s sources, an anti-Nigerian bias could be the reason. From his National Football Post column via Evan Silva at Rotoworld:

A lot of NFL people are skeptical about Nigerian players like Amukarma. “And it’s not just white men,” one executive said. “It’s whites and blacks.” It’s still a subtle form of racism. The word on Nigerians: they are soft, not tough enough and too educated. It would be a pity if that’s what cost Amukamara.

Wow, that’s a pretty explosive charge coming from his sources. NFL draft personnel question everything about a player, and we even heard rumblings that being a redhead could cost Andy Dalton. Let me go out on a limb and say that’s not what caused Prince’s slip. Instead, sometimes these things just happen like they did to Brady Quinn and Aaron Rodgers. For Quinn it was warranted, for Rodgers it was a mistake. I’m guessing Amukamara will prove it was a mistake for so many teams to pass on him.

Meanwhile, like Evan Silva points out, the most notable Nigerian player in the NFL was one of the toughest running backs ever: Christian Okoye, who was nicknamed “The Nigerian Nightmare.” Other Nigerian players include Jeff Otah and Osi Umenyiora, two guys with whom you definitely don’t want to mess. If some teams passed on him because he’s Nigerian, they’re fools. Or maybe they just wanted to avoid the on-stage fashion show Prince’s family put on.

Jim Harbaugh Betting on Alex Smith to Start at Quarterback for 49ers

Here I was thinking Jim Harbaugh was some sort of genius coach only to find out he’s planning on having Alex Smith back as his starting quarterback this season. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Harbaugh gave Alex Smith the team’s playbook to prepare for the upcoming season even though he is a free agent.

“Alex is definitely going to have a head start,” Harbaugh said after the draft. “He’s played in the NFL, he’s won games in the NFL. If I’m a betting man, then I’m betting on Alex Smith.”

Maybe Colin Kaepernick (the team’s second-round pick) is the team’s future at quarterback and Harbaugh just realizes he needs time to develop. I sure hope that’s the case because I don’t envision either man being the quarterback of a playoff team. You already know how I feel about Alex Smith as a quarterback, I’m just surprised Harbaugh doesn’t feel the same way. Maybe he hardly watched pro football while he was busy coaching collegiately the past several years. That has to be it.

Rex Ryan Believes Jets Would Have Beaten Packers in the Super Bowl

The mouth of Rex Ryan has roared once again (insert foot here). We already knew from his harsh comments about Kerry Rhodes that Rex doesn’t hold back in his new book Play Like You Mean It, but even this wasn’t expected.

Bob Wolfley at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel shared a clip from Rex’s book where he says he feels the Jets could have beaten the Packers in the Super Bowl:

I thought Green Bay was to going to have the upper hand on Pittsburgh. Their passing attack was giving everyone problems. But I truly believe we would have beaten Green Bay. We only lost to them 9-0 during the season, and we gave them two of the field goals because of mistakes.”

Hey, that’s great that Rex thinks his Jets could have beaten the Packers. Maybe they could have. The problem is they lost to the Steelers and didn’t earn the chance.

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John Beck Could be Washington Redskins’ Starting Quarterback

With Donovan McNabb set to leave the organization and Rex Grossman a free agent, the Washington Redskins do not have a clearcut starter at quarterback. Many analysts pegged them as a team interested in drafting a quarterback, but they completely ignored the position despite having 12 picks.

It’s quite possible that the Redskins didn’t like any of the quarterbacks in the draft class or that they didn’t feel one was worth taking where they were selecting. Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder were all gone before they picked in the first round. Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton were off the board when they picked in the second. Whether it was by design or by coincidence, the Redskins did not add an arm.

It’s starting to sound like that was the plan.

Both Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen popped on ESPN Saturday afternoon and reported that the Redskins like John Beck and are preparing to enter the season with him as the starter. Beck is a former second-round pick by the Dolphins who only lasted two seasons in Miami before being released. He was with the Ravens in ’09 and the Skins last year as their third quarterback. The BYU product hasn’t thrown a pass in the league since 2007 and he only has one touchdown and three interceptions in his career.

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Ryan Mallett an Excellent Value Pick for the Patriots

Four quarterbacks were taken in the first round of the NFL draft, two more went in the second round, and perhaps the strongest armed QB of them all lasted into the third. It wasn’t until the 74th overall pick that Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett was finally selected, and it was by the team that already has Tom Brady — the New England Patriots.

The Pats are the same team that picked up Randy Moss when nobody else wanted to touch him, so maybe it’s no surprise they took a chance on Mallett. Mallett admitted he was immature when he first went to college and he reportedly admitted to drug use during interviews with teams. Despite his problems, there is little doubt he has the arm to be a top NFL quarterback — just ask Brandon Marshall. So why did he drop so far in the draft? There are two reasons to explain his free fall.

One, teams must have been turned off by Mallett’s attitude and past and they must not have believed he could become a successful franchise quarterback. Two, six QB-needy teams decided to take other players ahead of Mallett, meaning there was less demand for a quarterback.

The Patriots, sitting there in the third round with back-to-back picks, decided to pull the trigger on the strong-armed quarterback. The question is if this is about finding a future replacement for Tom Brady or about capitalizing on value. I think it’s much more of the latter than the former.

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Jake Locker, Christian Ponder Were Reaches for Titans and Vikings

James Carpenter going 25th overall to Seattle may have been a shocker, and the bounty the Falcons paid to move up and select Julio Jones was surprising, but nothing was more stunning than seeing Jake Locker and Christian Ponder go eighth and 12th respectively. I figured Locker would sneak into the back end of the first round and that Ponder would be a second-round pick, but I never thought these guys would each go Top 12. That’s just insane.

Locker seems like a likable guy and his physical tools (arm strength, size, and speed) are undeniable. The guy is talented. But I’ll harp on the same issue many analysts have with him: he just doesn’t have accuracy. I know his team at Washington was not very good and that he made the Huskies, but the guy just is not accurate with his passes. I’ve seen him unable to throw the football to immobile targets. How’s he supposed to throw on the run with Pro Bowl defensive backs covering his receivers? Locker can make plays happen, but I just don’t see him doing well in the NFL. Then again, this could be my Angels bias creeping up because I’d like to see what he could do in pro ball.

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Julio Jones Is Good, but Atlanta Falcons Traded Way Too Much

The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft was filled with surprises, ranging from Jake Locker going 8th overall to James Carpenter getting picked by the Seahawks at 25. While fans were shocked left and right, one move that stood out to me for its outrageousness was Atlanta’s decision to trade five draft picks for Julio Jones. I like Julio Jones, but I’m not sure I’d deal five picks for a receiver guaranteed to be a combination of Calvin Johnson and Reggie Wayne.

Atlanta gave up the 27th overall pick, their second and fourth-round pick this year, and their first and fourth-round picks in 2012 just to move up to the sixth spot. That’s two firsts, two seconds, and a fourth all for Julio Jones. That’s close to too much to surrender for a franchise quarterback. What can a second receiver do for you?

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