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It Wouldn’t Be a Bengals Draft Without a Few Ex-Cons

By most accounts, the Bengals are getting high grades for their draft this weekend. In the first round, they bit on Alabama OT Andre Smith who bounced out of the scouting combine early, causing scouts to be concerned that he was irresponsible. Sure, he may be dumb for doing that, but he’s still a good football player. Rather, he’s a good run blocker — in the footage NFL Network showed when he got drafted, Smith was burnt on almost every passing play. Anyway, with Rey Maualuga shockingly still around in the second round, the Bengals snatched him up making it the second straight year they drafted a top USC linebacker (Keith Rivers was the other). Maualuga may have fallen because of questions regarding his character — in 2005, he initiated an off-campus fight, and in 2006 he was disciplined by Pete Carroll for “unruly behavior” at a party.

While Maualuga and Smith had “character concerns,” nobody compared to the team’s sixth round pick, Bernard Scott, who truly would fit the ex-con billing. Scott is a running back out of D-II Abilene Christian, by way of about three other colleges. He’s had a theft problem at one school, supposedly struck a coach at another school, and he didn’t play his senior season because of an off-field fight. He has been arrested five times and is finishing up his 18 month term of probation for giving false information to an officer during a traffic stop. But the guy supposedly is a talented running back and the Bengals are convinced the problems are in his past. Whatever. I’m guessing they’re just looking to pad their all-arrest team. What else would make sense?

Even Percy Harvin’s Confused by the Vikings’ Quarterback Situation

When I first saw the Vikings pick Percy Harvin in the draft, I was somewhat surprised and confused. Their biggest needs in my eyes are quarterback and secondary. I guess QB is a problem that they really couldn’t solve based on the lack of talent in the marketplace and maybe they didn’t feel there were good defensive backs available at 22. Because of that, they selected the versatile game-breaker, Percy Harvin. When I thought about Harvin and Peterson causing havoc behind that monster offensive line, I realized the Vikings made a good selection by giving themselves another excellent weapon. Still, there is one problem that looms over everything in Minnesota: who will get Harvin the ball?

Percy himself isn’t even sure of the answer to that question, judging by his introductory press conference on Sunday. Go to the 1:00 minute mark of that video and you’ll hear Percy say, “I’ve been waiting for this great opportunity to play with great players uhhh Adrian Peterson … uhhh … the quarterback … some of those players. So this is a great opportunity for me.” As good as Percy is and as much of a game-changer as he may be, I think he hit on the problem in Minnesota without even knowing it: they don’t have a real quarterback there. Sage Rosenfels can sling it around, but neither he nor Tarvaris Jackson is the answer. It’s too bad because the rest of the offense is really good.

Grading the Mock Drafts: Pro Football Weekly, Todd McShay, and Mike Mayock Got the Most Right

We see so much of these draft experts during February, March, and April it could make our heads explode (if not theirs). Turns out, the three most well-known draft experts might actually have their jobs because they’re better than just about everyone at what they do. When comparing the mock drafts of Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay of ESPN with Mike Mayock’s of NFL Network, Sporting News’ War Room, Don Banks’ at SI, Pro Football Talk’s, Jay Glazer and Peter Schrager’s of FOX Sports, five experts from CBS Sports, Pro Football Weekly’s, and National Football Posts, PFW, McShay, and Mayock all had the best.

Pro Football Weekly’s mock draft blew everyone out of the water getting an absurd 15 of 32 correct. Todd McShay was the best individual expert of the mock drafts I reviewed, nailing eight first-round picks on the nose, and essentially three others (he had the Broncos’ 12 and 18 selections correct, just in reverse order, and the Bucs taking Josh Freeman). National Football Post got 10 right and essentially one other (Freeman to TB). Mike Mayock had 10 exactly right from the first-round, just like NFP. Kiper got eight right and essentially one other with the Bucs taking Freeman at 19. Rob Rang, Chad Reuter, Clark Judge, and Pro Football Talk all had seven picks right in the first-round but didn’t have any other picks “essentially right” they way Kiper and McShay did. Top information guys like Mike Lombardi from NFL Network and National Football Post, and Don Banks at SI only got two first-round picks right. Jay Glazer and Peter Schrager at FOX only had five and three, respectively.

Furthermore, two “expert drafts” had Everette Brown going in the top 10. He went 43rd overall to the Panthers. Some dumbass articles just looking to pick on people say that McShay, Mayock, and Kiper have no idea what they’re doing because they got as many wrong as they did. In order to judge these, you have to look at success rates like batting averages or NBA field goal percentages. PFW blew everyone away batting .469. Mayock and NFP were next at .313, but McShay and NFP essentially went .344. When you figure that most people got well under 20% right, these guy’s predictions look a whole lot better. Let’s ease off them, please.

Special thanks to LBS contributor The Driver for help on this project.

UPDATE: A couple of Danish guys tell me they beat almost all the experts.

Lions, Jets Roll the Dice with Stafford and Sanchez, Worth the Gamble

Most of the Matthew Stafford reaction from Lions fans on my show Friday night was negative. Most Lions fans were scarred by the likes of Joey Harrington and all the other offensive skill position busts they’ve had recently and wanted to go with a safer pick. They wanted to build up the defense because it was so terrible last year. While I understand their concerns, here’s my argument in favor of Detroit’s pick and the Jets moving up to get Mark Sanchez: if you’re looking to achieve long-term success in the NFL (division titles, playoff appearances, double-digit wins, Super Bowl contention) year-in and year-out, you need a good quarterback. That may be understating things — you need a very good to great quarterback.

If you were a fan of the Packers under Favre, the Broncos under Elway, the Colts with Peyton Manning, and the Patriots with Brady, you can/could be confident that your team will be in the playoffs and threatening for the Super Bowl almost every year. That’s not to say that defense doesn’t win championships — it does, just look at Pittsburgh this year — but defensive-minded teams have off seasons more often than ones with excellent quarterbacks. If that weren’t the case, then Brian Billick wouldn’t have been fired by Baltimore. While Matthew Stafford or Mark Sanchez might not develop into stars, there’s no question in my mind that having a good quarterback is essential to building a franchise. Why do you think Bears fans were so elated to have Jay Cutler? Stafford and Sanchez might not be the guys, but they’re worth the gamble, especially for Detroit. Lions fans should be patient and be willing to live or die with Stafford. Going QB with the first pick was the right move.

Raiders Show Why They’re the Raiders, Select Biggest WR Bust Heyward-Bey

If there’s one player in this draft that I’m confident will wind up being a bust, it’s Darrius Heyward-Bey. Because Maryland’s quarterback was a local kid from LA, Chris Turner, I saw a good amount of their games and paid attention to what they did. Let me tell you this: I never once remember hearing or seeing Darrius Heyward-Bey, and that’s part of my biggest concern with him. How is it possible for a guy who’s supposedly a top-10 pick in the NFL draft to be so easily taken out of games in college? For an 8-4 team, does 42 catches, 609 yards and 5 touchdowns impress you? That doesn’t seem too impressive for a 12-game season. Heyward-Bey only had one game where he caught more than five passes and that also was his only 100-yard game of the season. Does that scream out game-changer to you? Me neither.

Al Davis and the Raiders are running the team the same way they did 30 years ago when Davis was a genius — playing the speed game. Heyward-Bey ran one of the fastest, if not the fastest 40 times at the combine. Darrius ran a sub-4.30 40 which was a time good enough to get Chris Johnson drafted from East Carolina in the first-round by Tennessee last year. Speed certainly is a weapon, but I’d be more concerned with taking a player who’s more of a play-maker with great route-running abilities and hands. Speed alone wouldn’t make me take a guy with the 7th pick in the draft. I feel sorry for you, Raider fans. You needed a big-time receiver and instead you got a speed demon who can be taken out of the game without much trouble. Way to rebuild the franchise, Oakland. Thanks for playing.

High School Rivals to Play Out Rest of 1993 Game that Ended in Tie

My buddy Robert DoBucki shared this story with me and I was just stunned when I read it. This is just like the worst thing that could ever happen to someone who’s still trying to live out their high school dreams. Take me for example — you can’t give a dude like me a baseball again, we gotta let go at some point. That apparently isn’t the case for Phillipsburg High of New Jersey and Easton Area High of Pennsylvania. The schools have played against each other on Thanksgiving Day every year since 1906 with the winner receiving “The Fork of the Delaware” trophy (the towns are separated by the Delaware River). So in 1993 the game apparently ended in a 7-7 tie since there was no overtime. I guess someone had the brilliant idea of settling the score from the ’93 game:

The gridiron grudge match will be played this weekend. There will be no ties this time around. They’re even breaking a century-old Turkey Day tradition, all in the name of who gets the bragging rights from that night so many years ago.

“Typically, you don’t get second chances in life. And to get this kind of second chance means the world to both sides of the river,” {Phillipsburg coach Bruce] Smith said.

We can thank Gatorade for organizing the replay of the game, and arranging for Peyton and Eli Manning to serve as honorary coaches. As hard as it may be to believe, ten thousand tickets for the dinosaur show sold in 90 minutes. I think they should invite Uncle Rico to do the honorary coin toss.

The Falcons Are Going to Have a Scary-Good Offense This Season

When the Saints acquired Jeremy Shockey last offseason I didn’t like the move. Many people felt it was a great addition to their team and that it would give Drew Brees another weapon. Instead, I saw a guy who was coming off a broken leg and nowhere near worth the second and fifth-round picks they gave up for him. Furthermore, I felt that Brees already had tons of receiving weapons and that the TE really wasn’t part of their offense. I was right on pretty much every account. Oh yeah, and the Saints would kill to have that second-rounder back on Saturday, believe me. Anyway, I bring this up because the Chiefs and Falcons had a very similar swap — a second-round pick for a Pro Bowl tight end. The difference is Tony Gonzalez is the fine wine of tight ends, improving with age. He’s not coming off a major injury, and he’s a billion times more reliable than Shockey (in every positive respect possible). Simply put, he’s the perfect addition to the Falcons’ offense.

The Falcons already had something special brewing last season — a rookie quarterback, Matt Ryan, playing with excellent poise and forming a good combo with emerging wide receiver, Roddy White. The line did a great job of run-blocking and made Michael Turner an MVP candidate. Now add a reliable and veteran tight end like Tony Gonzalez to the mix, a guy who works hard and just wants to win? It’s over. While Atlanta could use some serious defensive help (a LB or two, a DT would be nice), there’s no doubt in my mind that their offense will be scary-good next year. If I’m playing fantasy football I’m loading up on my Falcons.

Going back to Gonzo, if Buffalo had made the deal for him at the deadline last year (Tony killed the trade, ostensibly because he didn’t feel Buffalo was a real contender), they would have just been wasting a draft pick on a guy that wouldn’t have put them over the top. With Atlanta, this might very well make their offense good enough to win the NFC. Perfect trade by the Falcons. As for KC, that second might as well be a third given how well the Falcons will finish next season. I wonder how pissed Matt Cassel is right about now. So much for that 8-8 turnaround-season I was predicting.