The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

GOD BLESS WESLEY CLARK -- He gets it just right:
John Kerry was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for his service in Vietnam. In April 1971, as part of a protest against the war, he threw some ribbons over the fence of the United States Capitol.

Republicans have tried to use this event to question his patriotism and his truthfulness, claiming he has been inconsistent in saying whether he threw away his medals or ribbons. This is no more than a political smear. After risking his life in Vietnam to save others, John Kerry earned the right to speak out against a war he believed was wrong. Make no mistake: it is that bravery these Republicans are now attacking.

Although President Bush has not engaged personally in such accusations, he has done nothing to stop others from making them. I believe those who didn't serve, or didn't show up for service, should have the decency to respect those who did serve — often under the most dangerous conditions, with bravery and, yes, with undeniable patriotism.
Somehow, Wesley Clark has to be a part of the Kerry administration. He's too smart and too talented to be left aside. He clearly still has the desire to serve his country. We should take him up on his offer.

NFC DRAFT GRADES -- This is an examination of each NFC team's draft on the first day of the draft. Frankly, I don't know enough about most players drafted on the second day so I won't pretend I can provide decent commentary about them. Therefore, I'm grading each team based on what they did in the first three rounds only.

Arizona Cardinals: Head Coach Dennis Green got the wideout he wanted in Larry Fitzgerald, who was no worse than the second-best receiver in the draft. Fitzgerald and sophomore superstar Anquan Boldin should be perhaps the top receiving duo in the NFL. Karlos Dansby is a solid, unspectacular outside linebacker in the second round. Darnell Dockett is a thug just waiting to be sent to prison for a decade or so, but he's also an enormous talent at defensive tackle. If Green can straighten him out, he should pay off and using a 3rd round pick on him is not such a risk. Grade: B+

Atlanta Falcons: Got the stud cornerback they desperately needed in DeAngelo Hall, who will also become a star punt returner. WR Michael Jenkins at the bottom of the second round should provide help for QB Michael Vick. Getting QB Matt Schaub in the third round was brilliant. Shaub has all the intangibles needed to be a good quarterback in the NFL [think Tom Brady] and last year the Falcons couldn't beat anyone without Vick. Schaub should provide some security. Grade: A-

Carolina Panthers: CB Chris Gamble is a decent value at the end of the first round. He's got great potential, but little experience at cornerback. Could be a big success or could be a total washout. At the very least he will take several years to develop and won't be much help this year, outside of special teams. WR Keary Colbert in the third round is decent value and might become a productive third wideout. Grade: C

Chicago Bears: Getting DT Tommie Harris with the 14th pick was great and DT Terry Johnson in the 2nd round might work, too. Johnson, however, will have to move to DE in the NFL and Head Coach Lovie Smith must stay on him to produce. Anyone who followed the PAC-10 knows about Johnson's tendency to take plays off. WR/RS Bernard Berrian in the 3rd round should provide instant help on special teams. Grade: A-

Dallas Cowboys: I will never understand why the Cowboys did not take TB Steven Jackson in the first round. Instead, they traded down and got TB Julius Jones, younger brother of Thomas Jones, a first round bust a few years ago. Julius Jones is talented, quick and was productive last year, but he's notoriously lazy and testy with coaches. How this guy will co-exist with a thug like Bill Parcells is a mystery to me. Steven Jackson's ability to not only run, but catch the ball out of the backfield would have been ideal for a team like, Dallas, with its conservative offense and three inexperienced quarterbacks. Jones has had little experience as a receiver and does not block well. Jackson would have been perfect. Jones might pan out, but he's just as likely to be another disappointment. OT Jacob Rogers should provide good depth for an offensive line suddenly filled with question marks. He needs someone to ride him, though, and Parcells will certainly do that. Rogers could be a very good one. Grade: D

Detroit Lions: If GM Matt Millen is trying to save his job then he made a good argument this weekend. Getting Roy Williams, my pick as the top WR in the draft, was excellent and trading up to nab TB Kevin Jones with the 30th overall pick was masterful. Teddy Lehman in the second round was another good pick, since he was a tackle machine at Oklahoma. Lehman needs big tackles in front of him so he doesn't have to wade through trash, but the Lions have that already. The Lions are poised to make a move towards respectability this season. Grade: A+

Green Bay Packers: Do you think Head Coach Mike Sherman was traumatized by his defense letting Philadelphia convert a 4th and 26 play in the NFC playoffs last year to end Green Bay's season? I do, especially after watching the Packers take defensive backs with their first two picks. Ahmad Carroll is a speed burner and excellent value late in the first round. I've been a fan of Carroll for several weeks and thought a team could take him in the middle of the first round and still have good value. CB Joey Thomas [2nd round] is another speed burner who dominated lesser competition at Montana State. Adjusting to the NFL will be shock to him so look for him to help on special teams this year. Grade: B

Minnesota Vikings: Head Coach Mike Tice continued his makeover of the defense by taking DE Kenichi Udeze with the 20th pick, OLB Dontarrious Thomas with the 48th pick and DE Darrion Scott with the 88th pick. USC's Udeze has been plagued by injury rumors and talk that he might need surgery before he plays a down in the NFL. Even if he does I like the pick. It's great value at #20 and Udeze was the best pure pass rusher in the draft. He practically lived in the opposing team's backfield in 2003, as he was the best defensive lineman on the best defensive line in college football. Grade: B+

New Orleans Saints: Taking DE Will Smith with the 18th pick was excellent value and should help Head Coach Jim Haslett continue his radical remodeling of the defensive line, which has been woeful for several years. WR Devery Henderson, who was the best offensive player on that great LSU offense last year, is a speedster with decent hands and the author of The Bluegrass Miracle--the most amazing play in college football in years. His speed should go over very well on the fast surface in the Superdome. Grade: B+

New York Giants: The draft's biggest trade sent Philip Rivers [4th overall], a 2004 3rd round pick, and a 2005 1st round pick from the Giants to the San Diego Chargers for QB Eli Manning. The Giants gave up a lot, but if Eli produces like Peyton does then no one will care. Success in the NFL revolves so much around good quarterbacking [witness the Falcons last year and the Titans every year] and if Eli becomes a perennial star like his older brother, the Giants will be a threat to win the Super Bowl every season--soon. G Chris Snee from Boston College is a bowling-ball shaped brawler who should help the Giants run the ball. Grade: C+

Philadelphia Eagles: Does Head Coach Andy Reid want to run the ball more often? That's the first thing I thought of when Philadelphia traded up in the first round for the second straight year, this time to select massive OL Shawn Andrews from Arkansas. Andrews is absolutely gigantic, sometimes weighing more than 400 pounds. Kind observers will weigh him at around 370 pounds, but he usually looks heavier. Reid apparently plans to play Andrews at guard, at least at first. If Andrews keeps his weight under control [which he has never done before] then he should be a real road-grader for the Eagles. He does not have the speed or agility to excel in the passing game and he won't adjust quickly to QB Donovan McNabb when McNabb wants to break the pocket and move around. FS Matt Ware was a steal with the 89th pick. He can play safety, but also help out at cornerback and should be superb on special teams. That was a very good selection. Breaking my first-three-rounds-only rule, I note that Philly took Maryland TB Bruce Perry in the 6th round. Perry is a top talent who has been undermined by a terrible attitude and work habit. Frankly, he's a lazy slob who doesn't care about anything unless he thinks it will result in a 60 yard TD run. A great coach like Ralph Friedgen couldn't straighten him out. If Andy Reid can, Perry will be a steal and could even become a star in the NFL. It would take a big change in Perry's attitude for that to happen. Grade: C+

Seattle Seahawks: DT Marcus Tubbs was a solid and expected selection with the 23rd pick overall. He should help stiffen a porous Seattle run defense. If he can keep his weight under 335 pounds or so, Tubbs should develop into a nice lineman. OLB Michael Boulware was an excellent pick in the second round. Boulware is a spectacular athlete who runs a 4.5 in the 40. He needs to add at least 10-15 pounds of muscle if he's going to play linebacker, though. Right now he looks more like a strong safety to me. He could play that position, too. He's a good value pick. Grade: B+

San Francisco 49ers: I was prepared to give the Niners an A for this draft once I saw them trade down, get more picks, and still acquire WR Rashaun Woods with the 31st pick. This was a great value selection for San Francisco, as Woods is a terrific wide receiver. He's got good, though not great speed, but also excellent hands and superb route-running. Woods was a big producer in college who broke just about every Oklahoma State and Big 10 receiving record. Woods should have gone much higher in the first round and to get him at #31 qualifies as possibly the steal of the first round. G Justin Smiley in the second round has good speed for a lineman and should excel blocking in the west coast offense. WR Derrick Hamilton in the 3rd round was a good value pick. Hamilton has only average speed, but his good size and hands should help him develop into a very nice player for the Niners. He was definitely a big producer in college, as any fan of ACC football could tell you. Grade: A+

St. Louis Rams: TB Marshall Faulk has been plagued by injuries in recent years and the Rams offense just isn't the same without him. Thus, grabbing TB Steven Jackson, the best runner in this draft, with the 24th overall pick, was great. Jackson can block, catch well, and is a good runner with speed and power. In other words, he's a perfect fit for almost any offense, but particularly useful for the Rams. Head Coach Mike Martz will know just how to use Jackson and the Rams need no longer live in constant fear of Marshall Faulk's injury history. DE Brandon Hargrove has great speed and athleticism, but is very raw and will be of little or no help on defense this year. He's a project. The rest of the draft was just average, but acquiring Jackson so late in the first round, without trading down, was incredible and for that reason alone, the Rams had a good draft. Grade: A

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Taking WR Michael Clayton with the 15 pick is defensible, but I question it with Rashaun Woods still sitting on the board. I also think the Buccaneers could have used someone like DT Tommie Harris [to replace Warren Sapp] or TB Steven Jackson, to provide more balance to the pass-happy offense. Clayton is a nice player with decent speed and great hands, but he needs to add some bulk to his frame or he'll get killed by safeties in the NFL. Getting DB Will Allen in the 3rd round was good. Grade: D+

Washington Redskins: Taking Sean Taylor with the 5th pick was expected. I never believed Gibbs' talk about Kellen Winslow and Winslow shouldn't have believed it either. People get sucked in by Gibbs' public image and forget that when he needs to deceive people, he can lie with the best of them. Taylor will provide some much needed pop and physicality to a secondary that looks small and frail without Champ Bailey. It will be interesting to see if Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams uses Taylor to blitz and attack offenses, or if he utilizes him more in the passing game, allowing his cornerbacks to press closer to the line of scrimmage. Either way, Taylor was the best player on a great college team in Miami last year and should soon challenge WLB Lavar Arrington as the best player on Washington's suspect defense. Trading down, getting more picks, and getting someone like Tommie Harris or Kenichi Udeze would have been my choice, but there is little doubt Taylor will soon be one of the top safeties in the NFL. TE/H-B Chris Cooley is perfect for Gibbs' offense and expect to see a lot of him quickly if he stays healthy in training camp. Cooley already has the body he needs for the NFL and has very good hands. He was hugely productive in college and will catch anything near him. He's got only average speed and won't run away from anyone, but he should be extremely useful to the offense running those underneath routes. He will also more than hold his own as a blocker. The Redskins gave up a 2nd round pick to Denver in the Portis trade. I like getting Portis, but I don't like giving up such a high 2nd round pick. Giving up a 3rd round pick for a starting quarterback like Mark Brunell makes a bit more sense. Points taken off for yielding a high 2nd round pick in the Portis trade. Grade: B-

AFC DRAFT GRADES -- This is an examination of each AFC team's draft on the first day of the draft. Frankly, I don't know enough about most players drafted on the second day so I won't pretend I can provide decent commentary about them. Therefore, I'm grading each team based on what they did in the first three rounds only.

Baltimore Ravens: Normally, I'm a big fan of the Ravens on draft day, as I think Ozzie Newsome might be the best GM in the NFL. However, this was an uneventful day for the Ravens, made necessary, in part, by the trade with got Baltimore QB Kyle Boller last year. Dwan Edwards, a 2nd round pick, is a big run stuffer who should help the Ravens clog up the middle and allow MLB Ray Lewis to clean up the garbage. I still think DT Randy Starks would have been a better pick, though. Devard Darling, the 3rd round pick, is a tall and rangy wideout with average speed and pretty good hands. He might emerge one day, but I don't see him as a big help for the Baltimore offense in 2004. And that offense needs all the help it can get. Grade: C

Buffalo Bills: WR Lee Evans, taken with the 13th overall pick, is a speed burner who can stretch the field, something the Bills lacked in 2003, to terrible effect. Evans has the speed and body to be a super wideout in the NFL. Later, the Bills traded up to get QB J.P. Losman with the 22nd pick. Any time a team trades up to get a QB in the first round it is going to be controversial, but I love the move. I think Losman is going to turn into a fine QB, possibly better than one or two of the passers taken ahead of him. Losman has a good arm, excellent poise, and terrific mobility and pocket awareness. With good coaching I think he'll emerge quickly. For now, he can learn behind Drew Bledsoe. The Bills had a terrible offense in 2003 and I think they took big steps to improving it on draft day. Grade: A

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals traded down several times in the first round to stockpile picks and they wound up with eleven of them, which is quite good and they get points for that. However, they did not get a top cornerback out of this draft when they could have taken at least Ahmed Carroll and they lose points for that. The Bengals need a good cornerback and the trade with Denver, which netted CB Deltha O'Neal does not quite qualify. O'Neal has been very uninspiring since entering the NFL and I see no reason why that should change in Cincinnati. Taking TB Chris Perry with the 26th pick overall was unexpected, but does make some sense. Perry will provide insurance in case Rudi Johnson gets hurt or turns out to be one-year wonder. If necessary, he can be used as trade bait. However, the Bengals needed to get a top cornerback prospect out of this draft and they didn't do it. Grade: B-

Cleveland Browns: The Browns got one of the best players in the draft in TE Kellen Winslow, who should thrive in the west coast offense being run by QB Jeff Garcia. They had to yield a 3rd round pick to get Winslow and they lose points for that, since it appears the Lions would have taken WR Roy Williams anyway. Sean Taylor, taken in the 2nd round, is a bruising safety with good speed and an excellent value at that point in the draft. Grade: B-

Denver Broncos: The Broncos wanted a linebacker and they got the second-best one overall, DJ Williams from Miami. [Teammate of LB Jonathon Vilma, who went to the Jets at #12.] Williams should help the Broncos solidify their linebacking corps, which has contract and injury problems, and which was shredded by Peyton Manning in the playoffs last January. TB Tatum Bell, taken in the 2nd round, has great natural speed and athleticism and the Broncos must see him as the natural heir to departed TB Clinton Portis. Considering Denver's record in producing top tailbacks, you'd have to give Head Coach Mike Shanahan the benefit of the doubt. Darius Watts is a hugely productive receiver from Marshall who has good speed, but will need to bulk up a bit if he's going to survive the hard-hitting safeties of the NFL. Grade: C

Houston Texans: Dunta Robinson might be the best overall cornerback in this draft and the Texans got him without trading up. This should allow them to move CB Marcus Coleman to safety and strengthen the entire secondary. That's good value. DE Jason Babbin is a speed rusher off the edge who needs to operate in space to pressure the passer. If he can get away from the tackle he'll get to the quarterback. If the tackle gets his hands on Babbin, he's out of the play. The Texans traded up to get him so there must be something about him GM Charley Casserly and Head Coach Dom Capers really like. There were no 2nd or 3rd round picks and they lose points for that. Grade: C+

Indianapolis Colts: TE Ben Hartsock in the 3rd round was a solid selection, as he will probably be one of the top blocking tight ends in the NFL in a year or two. However, SS Bob Sanders was taken too high. At only 5'8" tall, Sanders is going to have a big problem playing in the NFL. LB Gilbert Gardner, taken in the 3rd round, is a decent prospect who might replace departed Marcus Washington one day. Grade: D

Jacksonville Jaguars: The big goal for Jacksonville in this draft was to get a weapon or two for franchise QB Byron Leftwich, the 7th overall selection in the 2003 draft. To that end, WR Reggie Williams was taken by the Jags with the 9th pick in the first round. Williams has great size and strength, excellent hands, and surprising quickness. He's not fast, but the Jags were looking for a big possession receiver to serve as a security blanket for Leftwich and Williams will definitely turn into that sort of player, at the very least. Daryl Smith, taken in the second round, is a versatile and quick linebacker who should step in and start from day one. Greg Jones, the FSU tailback taken in the 3rd round, is a massive Jerome Bettis-type and very good value where he was taken. If TB Fred Taylor reverts to his injury-prone ways, the Jags will not have to abandon the running game, as they have in years past. Grade: B+

Kansas City Chiefs: I'm not sure what to make of a tight end who stands only one inch over six feet tall. You might get away with that in college, but not in the pros. That's going to be a problem for TE Kris Wilson, the 61st pick overall. I'm also not impressed with Junior Siavii, a DT taken with the 36th pick. Siavii has a lot of size, but is fat and out of shape. Randy Starks would have been a much better pick at #36. Grade: D

Miami Dolphins: Traded up to get G Vernon Carey in the first round. I like Carey and think he was the best guard in this draft, but I also believe he would have been available if Miami had not moved. They lose points for moving up when they didn't have to. A team with such a weak record in recent drafts as Miami has had needs all the picks they can get. CB Will Poole was a good value pick in the 4th round. Grade: D

New England Patriots: Getting DT Vince Wilfork with the 21st pick was brilliant. He'll become a quick contributor to the great New England defense. Head Coach Bill Belichick will know just what to do with Wilfork. Ben Watson is a good tight end [#32], though I would have taken Ben Troupe at that point. The Patriots have had little success trying to replace Ben Coates and hope Watson will do the job since a good tight end is valuable in Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weis' system. Second round pick DE Marquise Walker [LSU] should become a solid pass rusher and contributor along the defensive line, but it will take a year or two. Belichick needs to get Walker into shape. The experts are calling this draft another New England masterpiece. I'm not so sure. Getting Wilfork is great, but more could have been done. It's a good draft, but not a masterpiece. Grade: B

New York Jets: The Jets got the best linebacker in the draft with Jonathon Vilma from Miami and a good nickel cornerback prospect in Derrick Strait from Oklahoma. The second round pick was sent to Tennessee to obtain WR Justin McCareins before the draft. Grade: B

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders got the best player in the draft with the second overall selection, OLT Robert Gallery. This massive, strong, and quick left tackle will soon develop into a Jonathon Ogden-type offensive lineman who startles people only when he does NOT dominate the opposition. The only thing that can undo Gallery is injury. He's a surefire superstar left tackle. The Raiders followed that up by nabbing Jake Grove, a big center out of Virginia Tech. Grove is widely considered to be the best center in the draft and should step in immediately and start. Getting two offensive line starters with their first two picks is good work. If Norv Turner's offense does not work in Oakland he won't be able to blame the blocking. Grade: A

Pittsburgh Steelers: Pittsburgh got its man in Ben Roethlisberger, a big quarterback from Miami [Ohio]. Roethlisberger is perfect for the team and the town of Pittsburgh and should be the starter no later than opening day 2005. Decent arm strength , excellent poise and superb mobility make Roethlisberger a very promising young passer. The Steelers need a lot of help in the secondary and they got some in small college CB Ricardo Colclough, who could develop into a nice #2 cornerback. That won't happen for a couple of years, probably, as Colclough had difficulty dominating top college wideouts in the senior bowl. Getting Max Starks from Florida in the 3rd round was a good value pick. Starks is gigantic, but if he can keep his weight under control he can be a prototypical Pittsburgh road grader. Steelers get points off for not finding a good running back prospect in this draft. Grade: B-

San Diego Chargers: Got the QB they wanted in Philip Rivers after selecting Eli Manning overall and trading him to the New York Giants for Rivers and a 2004 3rd round pick and a 1st in 2005. College football has never produced a quarterback more experienced than Philip Rivers and he may be as ready to play immediately as Eli Manning. Igor Olshansky, a 2nd round pick, is very strong and quick and has great intangibles, but is still learning the game. It might take a year or two for him to round into an NFL player, but I like the pick. Nate Kaeding, a kicker taken in the 3rd round, was the best place-kicker in the nation last year, but I don't like taking a kicker that high, no matter how good he is. Taking TB Michael Turner in the 5th round was a very good value pick. Turner has a very high upside. He might be a washout, but as a fifth round pick there is little risk and if he becomes an NFL player, the Chargers have injury insurance for LaDainian Tomlinson or trade bait. Grade: B+

Tennessee Titans: The Titans traded out of the first round and wound up with three 2nd round picks and two 3rd round picks. With the 40th overall pick they took TE Ben Troupe, who was hugely productive at Florida and should replace H-B Frank Wycheck very nicely. Also in the 2nd round, the Titans got DE Antwan Odom, who is a very quick pass rusher and a good value pick where he was taken. In the 3rd round the Titans nabbed DT Randy Starks, who has the size, strength, and talent to be a first round pick. That was a great value selection by the Titans. All in all, the Titans got no great prospects, but a number of very good college players who should develop very nicely under a great coaching staff in Tennessee. Grade: A