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With NFL playoff berths on the line, week 16 was absolutely critical for teams that hoped to compete in the postseason.  Some squads stepped up (Packers, Bears, Chiefs and Rams) and others fell on their face (Chargers and Jaguars).  Let’s take a look at the performances I thought were most noteworthy.

Here are the Average Guy NFL Week 16 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Green Bay Packers – 45-17 over the New York Giants

Lambeau Field

The Packers need to beat the Bears in Lambeau next week to sew up a playoff berth.

Most Important Win

St. Louis Rams – 25-17 over their division rival San Francisco 49ers

Worst Loss

San Diego Chargers – 20-34 at Cincinnati Bengals

Biggest Surprise

Detroit Lions

Biggest Disappointment

Jacksonville Jaguars

Offensive MVP

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – 25 completions 37 attempts 404 yards 4 TDs 139.9 QB rating 2 carries 26 yards

Defensive MVP

Chris Harris, Chicago Bears – 1 interception 1 fumble recovery 11 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Jacoby Ford, Oakland Raiders – 99-yard kickoff return for TD 5 kickoff returns 188 yards

Most Surprising Performance

Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals – 16 completions 21 attempts 269 yards 4 TDs 157.2 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Eli Manning, New York Giants – 17 completions 33 attempts 301 yards 2 TDs 4 interceptions 63.6 QB rating

Offensive Rookie

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – 28 completions 37 attempts 292 yards 1 TD 107.0 QB rating fumble lost

Defensive Rookie

Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs – 54-yard interception return for a TD 4 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers – 6 receptions 122 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • I watched the entire Jets-Bears game today.  It was an excellent matchup but I was surprised that it turned into shootout.  I expected much more of a defensive battle. 
  • The Bears started with a lot of momentum and took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.  The Jets owned the second quarter, scoring 24 points and taking a 24-17 lead into halftime.
  • Jay Cutler was on fire in the third quarter, throwing three touchdowns and propelling the Bears to a 38-31 lead.  But then the defenses stepped up in the fourth quarter.  The only scoring was a field goal by the Jets.  It wasn’t enough, and the Bears got a big victory over the team that just won in Pittsburgh last week.
  • Mark Sanchez looked good today.  His throws were crisp and he was making good, quick decisions.  The Jets also did a good job integrating the Wildcat into the offensive game plan.  On defense, they really struggled to generate a pass rush without major blitzes.
  • The Bears offensive line has really improved.  They did a good job of protecting Cutler and giving him time to make his throws.
  • Of course, while I was watching that game I was tracking the 49ers-Rams game on the computer.  I was psyched when the Rams got off to a good start but they let up the two big plays and made it too close.  It’s always great to beat the Niners, but especially today with everything that was on the line. 
  • I really hope the Rams can win in Seattle next weekend for the obvious reason that I’d love to see them win the division and make the playoffs but also because I think it’s important for the NFC West winner to at least have a .500 record.
  • What a strange week this will be – with the rescheduling of the Vikings-Eagles game there will be NFL games on five days in week 16 – Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
  • Couldn’t believe it when I heard on the Giants-Packers telecast that Eli Manning has 29 turnovers this season.
  • A couple of other considerations for Offensive MVP this week – Matt Cassel and Matt Forte were also very impressive – but I had to go with Rodgers.
  • Jeez, the Patriots are good enough, but when you give up seven turnovers how in the world can you expect to compete Buffalo?

One BIG Question

After the last two weeks will the Giants have anything left to give next Sunday?

Let me know what sticks out to you about week 16 by posting a comment below.

Photo source: Brian Giesen

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The Sunday portion of NFL week 12 has been thrilling.  Through the first 11 games of the day (with Chargers-Colts being played), eight games have ended with a score differential of a touchdown or less.  Five of the six early games are included in that total.  This is what the NFL is all about.  I guess it makes up for a rather ho-hum Thanksgiving slate.

With the Sunday and Monday night games still to be played, here are the Average Guy NFL Week 12 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Chicago Bears – 31-26 over the Philadelphia Eagles

Eli Manning Warming Up

Eli Manning and the Giants rallied for a critical win on Sunday

Most Important Win

New York Giants – 24-20 over the Jacksonville Jaguars

Worst Loss

Tennessee Titans – 20-0 at the Houston Texans

Biggest Surprise

St. Louis Rams

Biggest Disappointment

Oakland Raiders

Offensive MVP

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears – 14 completions 21 attempts 247 yards 4 TDs 146.2 QB rating 7 carries 17 yards

Defensive MVP

Terrell Thomas, New York Giants – 1 interception 1 sack 6 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Brad Smith, New York Jets – 89-yard kickoff return TD

Most Surprising Performance

Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins – 17 completions 30 attempts 307 yards 2 TDs 1 interception 100.3 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans – 7 carries 5 yards 2 receptions 2 yards

Offensive Rookie

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – 22 completions 37 attempts 308 yards 3 TDs 113.3 QB rating

Defensive Rookie

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants – 2 sacks, 8 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – 26 completions 35 attempts 344 yards 1 TD 114.5 QB rating 12 carries 51 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • The local FOX affiliate had to show the Panthers-Browns game so there was no watching the Packers-Falcons matchup.  So instead I tuned in for the whole Jaguars-Giants game and it was a good one.
  • Jacksonville had complete control in the first half.  David Garrard excelled and the Jaguars O-line opened up hole after hole for the backs while the New York defense seemed to have missed their wake up call.  Jacksonville piled up 145 yards on the ground through the first two quarters.
  • The second half was a different story.  The Giants defense caught a lucky break early with the Terrell Thomas interception and showed a much greater sense of urgency.  They blitzed quite a bit and it was particularly successful in the last few minutes of the game as they repeatedly hit Garrard.
  • One Jacksonville player I was really impressed with who doesn’t get much PT was the running back Rashad Jennings.  He has the patience to let the blocking develop and then explode.  That is a skill that is not often seen at that level in such a young ball carrier.
  • The absolute key to the Giants win? Zero turnovers.
  • Of course I’m very excited that the Rams beat the Broncos in Denver, but boy it was nerve racking. I was following the game online as the Rams let the Broncos get closer and closer and closer.  I was sure they were going to fold like they did in San Francisco.  Then FOX switched to live coverage after the Eagles-Bears game was over.  I was thrilled to see the defense finally get the stop they needed.  Now the Rams are back in first place in the NFC West.
  • Miami really stopped Oakland’s running game.  If you take away Jacoby Ford’s 13-yard run the Dolphins held the Raiders to just three yards on 11 carries…hard to believe.
  • I predicted the Chiefs would fall in Seattle.  I was clearly wrong.  What a game for Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe.

One BIG Question

Which game is bigger next week – Steelers at Ravens on Sunday night or Jets at Patriots on Monday night?  Let me know which one you are looking forward to more.

Photo source: Marianne O’Leary

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The NFL is a quarterback-driven league.  Most often, the teams with the best quarterbacks are the teams that have the best records.  This is especially true in today’s pass happy NFL.  In the past couple of decades it has been a very rare occasion that a team without a star quarterback has won the Super Bowl.

Lombardi Trophies

You need a great QB to win one of these

So at the halfway point of the 2010 NFL season what teams have gotten the most out of the quarterback position?

  1. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning
    Without much run support and with an average offensive line at best, Manning has led the Colts to a 5-2 record while throwing 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions.  He’s also made the most of an injury-plagued receiving corps.  Even though he may have lost a tick he’s still the elite quarterback in the NFL.
  2. San Diego Chargers – Philip Rivers
    Although he’s not one of my favorites, Rivers deserves his props.  While his team has struggled to a 3-5 start he’s been steady, leading the NFL with an average of 331 yards passing per game.  Like Manning, he’s had to deal with a receiving corps that’s been decimated by injury.  Still, he’s put up the third best quarterback rating (98.9) in the NFL through the first eight weeks.
  3. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton
    Orton’s been nothing less than spectacular for the Broncos.  He’s second to Rivers in averaging 314 yards per game.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns with only five interceptions against defenses that have not had to respect the Denver running game at all.
  4. New England Patriots – Tom Brady
    Efficiency is the key for Brady.  He’s completed 65% of his passes.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions.  But, he’s averaging only 229 yards passing per game.  Maybe most importantly though he’s led New England to the best record in the NFL.
  5. New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees
    He’s thrown a frightening 11 interceptions but Brees has also completed 71% of his passes and has thrown a league leading 16 touchdowns while trying to make up for the loss of the Saints top two running backs.
  6. Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan
    Ryan’s quiet consistency has been a key to Atlanta’s 5-2 start.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 62% of his passes for an average of 245 yards per game.
  7. Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb
    Combined Vick and Kolb have thrown for 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions.  They’ve completed nearly 63% of their passes.  Two of the Eagles three losses have come when one of the quarterbacks were knocked out of the game.  With two quarterbacks with such differing skill sets as Vick and Kolb it is hard to adjust the game plan on the fly if one has to substitute for the other.
  8. Tennessee Titans – Vince Young and Kerry Collins
    The Titans have not exactly been racking up the yards through the air.  They rank 24th in the NFL at 187.6 yards passing per game.  But Young and Collins have combined for 14 touchdowns and five interceptions while helping Tennessee start the season at 5-3.
  9. Houston Texans – Matt Schaub
    Schaub has been steady but not spectacular and has not matched up to his 2009 season.  He’s completing 63% of his passes but only has 10 touchdowns compared to six interceptions.
  10. Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco
    Playing against top competition gets Flacco the benefit of the doubt.  His numbers are just okay – 59% completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, six interceptions and 236 yards passing per game.
  11. New York Giants – Eli Manning
    His 11 interceptions send off sirens, but in fairness to Manning many of them went through his receivers hands or were tipped.  Otherwise, he’s completing an excellent 66% of his passes while throwing 14 touchdowns and averaging 255 yards per game.
  12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson
    Freeman has a very impressive six 4th quarter comebacks in just 16 starts, including two in a row.  He’s only thrown three interceptions to eight touchdowns while leading the Bucs to a 5-2 record.
  13. Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Cassel
    He hasn’t lost games for the Chiefs but he really hasn’t won games for them either.  He does have a respectable 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.  He’s only completing 59% of his passes though while throwing for 171 yards per game.
  14. Detroit Lions – Shaun Hill, Matthew Stafford and Drew Stanton
    The trio has combined for 14 touchdowns and an average of more than 250 yards per game.  To the negative they’ve thrown nine interceptions.
  15. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers
    It’s hard to believe that Rodgers could be this low but he’s thrown nine interceptions to only 12 touchdowns while completing 61% of his passes for an average of 251 yards per game.
  16. Cincinnati Bengals – Carson Palmer
    He was pretty atrocious early on but Palmer has rallied some through the middle of the season.  He has 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
  17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon
    Roethlisberger’s four game suspension necessitated the starts for Batch and Dixon.  Roethlisberger has played quite well but their production at the position in the first four games was putrid.
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars – David Garrard, Todd Bouman, Trent Edwards and Luke McCown
    This foursome has thrown 15 touchdowns while completing nearly 64% of their passes.  The key contributor of course has been Garrard who has completed 68% of his passes for 13 touchdowns.  But his interceptions are high (7) and his yards per game are low (157).
  19. Miami Dolphins – Chad Henne
    As he continues to find his rhythm with Brandon Marshall, Henne is developing into a solid NFL quarterback.  He’s completed 63% of his passes for an average of 238 yards per game.  Interceptions have been his achilles heel.  He has seven, compared to eight touchdowns.
  20. New York Jets – Mark Sanchez
    He’s a polarizing figure among NFL talking heads and Sanchez has probably seen more ups and downs than any other quarterback in the league.  His nine touchdowns to four interceptions ratio is good but he’s only completed 53% of his throws for an average of 194 yards per game.
  21. St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford
    As I’ve written before, one thing is for sure, when he actually has some weapons Bradford is going to be nasty.  The fact that he’s led the Rams to four wins in eight games counts for a lot.  He’s already thrown 11 touchdowns.  His eight interceptions are not good nor is his 59% completion percentage.  However, much of that can be put on that receiving corps.
  22. Buffalo Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards
    There’s a lot to like about Fitzpatrick.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns to just five interceptions.  He’s completed 60% of his passes for 240 yards per game.  But the outings of Edwards have to count here and so does the Bills 0-7 record.
  23. Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo and Jon Kitna
    Maybe this isn’t fair to Romo.  After all he did complete nearly 70% of his passes, threw 11 touchdowns and had numerous drops by receivers.  But Romo also threw some critical interceptions, Kitna has been less than mediocre and the Cowboys are 1-6.
  24. Oakland Raiders – Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski
    Campbell and Gradkowski have combined to throw 10 touchdowns and average 197.5 passing yards per game.  Their interceptions are high (8) and their completion percentage is low (54.8) but they have led the Raiders to four wins.
  25. Washington Redskins – Donovan McNabb
    It pains me to put McNabb this low but the stats are the stats.  He’s only completing 57% of his passes and has thrown eight interception to seven touchdowns.
  26. San Francisco 49ers – Alex Smith, Troy Smith and David Carr
    Across the pond the 49ers got a good performance from Troy Smith.  Alex Smith has been mediocre at best, completing 59% of his throws for nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.  Carr was predictably awful in a short relief stint.
  27. Seattle Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck
    The Seahawks are 4-3 but Hasselbeck has played predominantly poorly.  He’s completed only 57% of his passes.  He also has seven interceptions to just six touchdowns.
  28. Minnesota Vikings – Brett Favre and Tavaris Jackson
    It’s hard to believe Favre is the same guy who threw 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions last season.  He’s already thrown 11 interceptions through seven games with only seven touchdowns.
  29. Cleveland Browns – Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme
    I’ve been saying this for years – Delhomme is just plain awful.  Wallace has been decent and McCoy has been okay in managing games.
  30. Chicago Bears – Jay Cutler and Todd Collins
    Collins set quarterback play back centuries in just one game.  Cutler has been brutalized but is completing 61% of his passes and averaging 247 yards through the air per game.  He’s evened up at seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
  31. Arizona Cardinals – Derek Anderson and Max Hall
    These two have been atrocious.  They’ve combined to complete less than 53% of their passes and have thrown 12 interceptions with five touchdowns.
  32. Carolina Panthers – Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen
    After the past few years Panthers fans are used to poor performances at quarterback.  This season they are at an all time low though.  Moore and Clausen have thrown a league-worst 13 interceptions and have completed 52.2% of their passes, also worst in the NFL. 

What do you think of my list?  Who would you rank higher and who would you rank lower?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: daveynin

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Halloween was all treats and no tricks for me as I got to watch the Rams beat the Panthers.  It was the first time I’ve watched them since they beat the Redskins.  I saw a lot of positives and will share my observations below in the Quick Takes.

Let’s get right to the Average Guy’s NFL Week Eight Awards:

Waving the Packers flag

The Packers got a huge win on Sunday

Most Impressive Win

Green Bay Packers – 9-0 over the New York Jets

Most Important Win

San Diego Chargers – 33-25 over the Tennessee Titans

Worst Loss

Dallas Cowboys – 17-35 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Dallas

Biggest Surprise

Oakland Raiders

Biggest Disappointment

Washington Redskins

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Arizona Cardinals

Offensive MVP

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions – 9 receptions 101 yards 3 TDs

Defensive MVP

Aqib Talib, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 45-yard interception return for TD 2 interceptions 5 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Dan Carpenter, Miami Dolphins – 5 field goals

Most Surprising Performance

Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders – 15 completions 27 attempts 310 yards 2 TDs 120.9 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Seattle Seahawks offensive line

Offensive Rookie

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – 25 completions 32 attempts 191 yards  TDs 112.4 QB rating

Defensive Rookie

Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions – 17-yard fumble recovery return for TD 2 sacks 5 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Brandon Lloyd, Denver Broncos – 7 receptions 169 yards 1 TD

Welcome Back Mike Williams

Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4 receptions 105 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • From watching the Rams I can tell you that when he gets some more talented receivers around him, Sam Bradford is going to be unbelievable.  He makes good decisions, puts the ball where it needs to be, buys time by scrambling and exhibits strong leadership.
  • I was really impressed with the Rams defense.  It has improved quite a bit just in the weeks since the win over the Redskins.  Chris Long and James Hall are getting good pressure, the linebackers are reading plays quickly and the secondary showed some good one-on-one skill and an eye for the ball.  The only concerning thing was their two-minute defense, which gave up some big plays.
  • The tackling from both the Rams and Panthers was excellent.
  • Today was Isaac Bruce day in St. Louis.  It was great to a see a player who was one of my favorites for about a decade back on the Rams’ sideline.
  • This is now almost a weekly thing – I have to give big props to Steven Jackson for being out on the field and turning in an inspired performance just four days after having surgery on his left ring finger.
  • The two games that shocked me the most – Green Bay shutting out the Jets and Oakland blowing out Seattle.
  • I think the third down conversion statistic is one of the most important stats in the game.  Consider: Buffalo converted 11 of 23 third downs and almost beat Kansas City; San Diego converted on 12 of 18 third downs and beat Tennessee; and Seattle was one of 16 on third downs and lost to Oakland.

One BIG Question

Can Mark Sanchez find the form that helped him lead the Jets to wins over the Patriots and Dolphins?

What performances did you think were Sunday’s best?  Let me know by posting a comment below.

Photo source: Paul Kehrer

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I’ve been looking forward all week to the Ravens-Steelers game and was really excited to see it was going to be on in our market.  It was somewhat strange to me that much more of the media attention was focused on the Redskins-Eagles game.  There was never any doubt to me that Ravens-Steelers was the marquis matchup of week four.  I’d say it absolutely lived up to my expectations.  It was a brutal game and I’ll include more of my thoughts in the quick takes section below.

As for now, on to the Average Guy’s NFL Week Four Awards (before the Sunday night game):

Most Impressive Win

Denver Broncos Stand

The Broncos stood tall in week four

Denver Broncos – 26-20 at Tennessee Titans

Most Important Win

Baltimore Ravens – 17-14 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Worst Loss

Cincinnati Bengals – 23-20 to Cleveland Browns

Biggest Surprise

Jacksonville Jaguars

Biggest Disappointment

New Orleans Saints (I know they won, but…)

They Are Who We Thought They Were

San Diego Chargers

Offensive MVP

Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos – 35 completions 50 attempts 341 yards 2 TDs 1 Int 93.8 QB rating 3 carries 11 yards

Defensive MVP

Shaun Phillips, San Diego Chargers – 31-yard interception return for TD 4 sacks 6 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Marc Mariani, Tennessee Titans – 98-yard kickoff return for TD

Most Surprising Performance

LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets – 19 carries 133 yards 2 TDs 3 receptions 22 yards

Most Disappointing Performance

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans – 19 carries 53 yards 3 receptions 11 yards

Offensive Rookie

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – 23 completions 41 attempts 289 yards 2 TDs 1 Int 84.3 QB rating

Defensive Rookie

Taylor Mays, San Francisco 49ers – Punt Block “return” TD 11 tackles

Valiant Effort Award

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams – 22 carries 70 yards 3 receptions 54 yards (with groin injury)

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Terrell Owens, Cincinnati Bengals – 10 receptions 222 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • I really enjoyed watching the defenses of the Steelers and Ravens. 
  • Haloti Ngata is just plain nasty in the defensive trenches for the Ravens.  They moved him around quite a bit and no matter where he was he caused havoc.  He finished with 1 sack and 11 tackles. 
  • The Steelers have incredible speed all across their defense.  In addition to the usual suspects, Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons was impressive flying to the ball.
  • It’s not fair to judge Joe Flacco based on the first four weeks.  He played at the New York Jets, at Cincinnati and at Pittsburgh.  Still, he delivered when it really counted today.
  • I’m not surprised that San Francisco put in a strong effort against the Falcons.  They are a passionate team that played hard against an Atlanta team that I think is overrated.  The 49ers just had too many things working against them.
  • I’m shocked that the Bengals lost to the Browns.  Especially since Carson Palmer seems to have fixed some of his issues.
  • Even though they lost, I’m impressed with the Lions performance against the Packers.  They converted 10 of 17 third downs and Shaun Hill had 331 yards passing.
  • Carolina linebacker James Anderson deserves a special mention.  He had an outstanding day with two fumble recoveries, 16 tackles and one sack.

One BIG Question

With Ben Roethlisberger back will the Steelers go undefeated the rest of the season?

What are your thoughts on week four?  Do you disagree with any of my picks?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: Julio Enriquez

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My buddy Ed over at The Outsider’s Sports Blog came up with a great idea for us to put together “dueling” blog predictions for the NFL Draft. I’ve always been a big fan of the NFL Draft – a complete sucker for the way ESPN lures me in with their days long telecasts. I’m curious to see how the new three day format plays out and as a Rams fan I’ve got a lot at stake.

So the way we are going to do this is to each make our prediction and then alternate who gets to make the first comment. This should be a lot of fun so hold on and here we go…

1. St. Louis Rams

Average Guy – Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Outsider – Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

Avg. Guy – A few months ago I was convinced the Rams had to take Ndamukong Suh. I loved the potential of him disrupting every running play and putting heat on the QB. That’s something the Rams have not seen in a long time. But, Sam Bradford has made a believer out of me. His performance at his pro day was impressive and I think it was all it took to convince Billy Devaney and the Rams brass that he has all the tools. Hopefully Bradford stays healthy and becomes the franchise I’ve been waiting for since Jim Everett. I mean that with all do respect to Kurt Warner. I love the guy but I don’t think he was ever considered a franchise quarterback.

Outsider – I thought and think that Ndamukong Suh is the best player available in the draft. However, in the National Football League (tm Ron Jaworski) a premium is placed on the quarterback position. In the last 3 years, rookie quarterbacks Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez have led their teams to playoff berths. Bradford has all of the tools. He is incredibly accurate and can make the deep throws. If the Rams can a) protect him, and b) get him some receivers, Bradford can stabilize the QB position and lead the Rams back to the top of the ever-suspect NFC West. I do take issue with the Warner not being a franchise QB, but that’s another argument for another time.

2. Detroit Lions

Avg. Guy – Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Outsider – Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

Outsider – A great pickup for the Lions. Suh dominated at the college level playing big-time competition. He is adept at both stopping the run and rushing the passer. Suh could team with offseason acquisition Kyle Vanden Bosch to form a decent defensive line pairing. With Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, and Jay Cutler quarterbacking NFC North rivals, the Lions need all of the help they can get on the defensive side of the ball. That being said, they could move down and draft one of the offensive tackles available to help protect last year’s #1 overall pick, Matthew Stafford.

Avg. Guy – Like you I think Suh is the best player available. The Lions continue to build with a guy who should dominate the interior trenches for years to come.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Avg. Guy – Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Outsider – Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma

Avg. Guy – Tampa fans were spoiled for a while with Warren Sapp blowing up offenses from the inside of the defensive line. They’ll be spoiled again with McCoy. I don’t see the same type of explosion in him that I see in Suh but he’s still really good. The Bucs have a lot of needs so they can easily take the best player here and that is McCoy.

Outsider – Tampa, like Detroit has needs across the board, but McCoy is the pick here. Tampa can’t afford to miss out on the disruptive force that McCoy can bring to their interior. Tampa has their QB of the future in Josh Freeman. Could Tampa trade out of this pick and add some more picks to address their needs? Then another team (Browns, Bills, ???) could trade up to pick Jimmy Clausen?

4. Washington Redskins

Avg. Guy – Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
Outsider – Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State

Outsider – The first four picks, all from the Big 12, none from Big 12 Champ Texas. With the Donovan McNabb trade, it only makes sense to go with the tackle. Chris Samuels’s retirement opens it up for Okung to start immediately at left tackle. With this pick and Mike Shanahan’s ability to direct offenses, look for some shootouts in the NFC East this year.

Avg. Guy – And how mad will you be if you have to watch McNabb carve up the Eagles defense? Here’s the team I had pegged to trade up with the Rams for the #1 pick and the right to draft Sam Bradford. After the McNabb trade that is obviously not going to happen. Here’s where we start getting into a string of picks where need is likely to trump talent/rank. The Redskins O-line was a huge deficiency last year and did not protect Jason Campbell at all. With the big investment in McNabb the Redskins can not let that happen. The “experts” seem to be divided on the OT rankings but I think Okung is the logical pick here.

5. Kansas City Chiefs

Avg. Guy – Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
Outsider – Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame

Avg. Guy – The Kansas City pick may be the linchpin that holds the key to the first half of the first round. With Bulaga, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams and Tennessee safety Eric Berry still available this may be a place where a team trades up to get a big talent. The Chiefs could really use a playmaker in their defensive backfield and Berry certainly fits that bill. But, if they keep the pick, I see them investing more in the offensive line. They need to protect their QB of the future Matt Cassel, last year’s big acquisition.

Outsider – I think this pick gets traded. The Chiefs feel that they can get one of the players at the top of their board (one of the tackles or Berry) with the 7th or 9th pick. The also have enough needs that they’ll want to accumulate picks. Can the Chiefs con the Bills and Browns into a bidding war over the fifth pick? Clausen wowed the scouts in his pro day. I think he will be a much better pro than Brady Quinn and scouts seem to agree.

6. Seattle Seahawks

Avg. Guy – Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
Outsider – Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma

Outsider – The Seahawks have their QB of the present in Matt Hasslebeck and their QB of the future in Charlie Whitehurst. Veteran Tackle, Walter Jones has been hobbled over the last two seasons and this would be a great opportunity to add a good tackle prospect. The Seahawks have two first round picks and don’t see an elite tackle prospect being available at 14.

Avg. Guy – I’ve got to agree. The run on tackles continues with the Seahawks who are absolutely desperate for one. Seattle allowed an embarassing 44 sacks in 2009.

7. Cleveland Browns

Avg. Guy – Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
Outsider – Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

Avg. Guy – The Cleveland war room will be extremely excited to see Berry fall to them. He’s one of the top five talents in the draft but because of the run on tackles he’ll be available for the Browns who have been working to rebuild their defense in the offseason. Mike Holmgren will get his eventual defensive leader with this pick. I know you’re shocked I didn’t tab Clausen for the pick.

Outsider – Another pick in agreement. Although it may be K.C. picking Berry here. For some reason, top safeties aren’t valued as much as other positions. Still, Berry can cover and hit and will be a great fit wherever he’s picked.

8. Oakland Raiders

Avg. Guy – C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
Outsider – Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa

Outsider – Now it gets fun. Really, I can see almost anyone drafted here. Bulaga makes the most sense for the Raiders, as they need help to protect JaMarcus Russell (bust) or open up holes for Darren McFadden (bust) or maybe give time so that Darrius Heyward-Bey (epic bust) can be open. Given that line of thinking, maybe they’ll draft Greg Paulus or T.A. McLendon.

Avg. Guy – Hilarious! An offensive tackle would make the most sense here…and that is exactly why the Raiders won’t pick one. It should be no surprise that I think Oakland’s pick will be a big surprise. I think they will continue their obsession with speed and playmaking and choose Spiller. I have no idea who will be handing and throwing him the ball though.

9. Buffalo Bills

Avg. Guy – Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
Outsider – Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

Avg. Guy – After spending a lot of time thinking about Jimmy Clausen I think Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix will choose to strengthen their defense and take Williams. The Bills are transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and desperately need an interior lineman to stuff the run. Williams should do that for them for many years.

Outsider – I think if the Bills can’t get Clausen, they’ll draft an offensive tackle. They could potentially go for C.J. Spiller as Marshawn Lynch is sure to be dealt. Davis is big and has blocked for some prolific offenses, both passing and rushing. Heck, I even saw him attempt a pass at the 2008 Papajohns.com Bowl.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars

Avg. Guy – Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
Outsider – Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama

Outsider – At this point in the draft presentation, ESPN will go into full Tim Tebow mode. For his sake, hopefully his hometown Jaguars have enough sense not to pick him. With the signing of Aaron Kampman, the Jaguars filled a hole at defensive end. Now they can fill another hole at linebacker. McClain should start almost immediately in the middle of the Jags 4-3 defense.

Avg. Guy – Not just because of his name, I think Morgan is the pick here. The Jags play in a division where Indianapolis lives on having two speed pass rushing ends putting pressure on the quarterback at all times. With Morgan and Kampman, Jacksonville will be taking the same approach. The Jaguars have some additional needs but the chance to solidify the defense from the front line out is too much to pass up.

11. Denver Broncos

Avg. Guy – Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama
Outsider – Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State

Avg. Guy – McClain is the perfect pick for the Broncos who cut former starting ILB Andra Davis. McClain will come right in, take over a leadership role on the defense and make an immediate impact. With the addition of McClain and the veteran linemen Denver picked up in free agency their defense starts to look like one of the toughest in the AFC.

Outsider – The thought is that the Brandon Marshall – Josh McDaniels rift will end with the talented, yet difficult Marshall being traded elsewhere. Bryant was prolific in the Big 12 and should carry that level of production to the NFL. The Broncos will need a physical receiver to play opposite the speedy Eddie Royal.

12. Miami Dolphins

Avg. Guy – Earl Thomas, S, Texas
Outsider – Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

Outsider – The Dolphins missed out on their most obvious need, wide receiver. Dan Williams is a good consolation prize. He’s a run stuffer who is suited to play at nose tackle in the 3-4 defense. Tony Sparano adds another piece to his defense, potentially replacing aging vet Jason Ferguson.

Avg. Guy – Bill Parcells and his crew will be ecstatic to have a talent like Thomas fall to them here at 12. He was a ball hawk at Texas and will come into Miami and strengthen the back line right away.

13. San Francisco 49ers

Avg. Guy – Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
Outsider – Joe Haden, CB, Florida

Avg. Guy – The 49ers will not go into this draft planning to grab a QB in the first round. But Clausen dropping to them at pick 13 will provide an opportunity they cannot refuse. Alex Smith is ultimately not the QB Mike Singletary would like to run his offense. Singletary wants to run a team based on defense and running the ball, but wisely he was adjusting his game plan around his talent. With a second pick in the first round, San Francisco can afford to gamble here. With Bradford and Clausen drafted into the same division this will lead to endless comparisons. Of course, I hope Bradford stomps him every time.

Outsider – After multiple offensive picks, Samurai Mike goes defense. Joe Haden would provide the 49ers with a true shutdown corner. Haden started for 3 years at Florida and produced on defense and special teams. The 49ers could draft a tackle or C.J. Spiller here, but they’ll gamble that one of the tackles will be available at 17 and that they can get a complementary back for Frank Gore in a later round.

14. Seattle Seahawks

Avg. Guy – Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
Outsider – C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson

Outsider – Pete Carroll does backflips and invites both Sir Mix-A-Lot and Eddie Vedder to the Seahawks facility to celebrate. Seattle gets the most dynamic runner in the draft. Spiller was exceptional as a receiver out of the backfield at Clemson, as well as on special teams. Believe me, I’ve seen him roast the Wolfpack up close and personal on multiple occasions. Seattle, with the picks of Trent Williams and Spiller will be hailed as the surprise of the opening day of the draft.

Avg. Guy – The Seahawks improved their offensive line with their first pick. Now it will be time to improve their defensive line. Pass rushers are quickly becoming a part of the NFL’s glamour set. Pierre-Paul’s ridiculous speed and athleticism will be to Pete Carroll like a shiny, new red bike under the Christmas tree is to a 9-year old boy.

15. New York Giants

Avg. Guy – Joe Haden, CB, Florida
Outsider – Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech

Avg. Guy – The Giants would love to have McClain fall to them at this pick. I definitely don’t see that happening. I think that will make them a good candidate for a trade to pick up a linebacker later in the 1st round. If they keep the pick they may go with an offensive lineman. But I think they go with the best talent available here and that is Haden. In what may be the new gunslinging NFC East I guess you can’t have too many good cornerbacks.

Outsider – This is a perfect spot for the Giants to trade out of if McClain is not available. If the Giants do stay at 15, I can see them going for the best player left on the board and picking Cousin Derrick. I think the Giants believe they can get a Sean Weatherspoon or Sergio Kindle later in the round and pick up a pick or two for later. Tennessee also has need for a DE to replace Kyle Vanden Bosch, so if a team values either Morgan or Jason Pierre-Paul, this may be the spot to jump up and get them.

16. Tennessee Titans

Avg. Guy – Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama
Outsider – Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida

Outsider – The bookend on a mini-run of defensive ends. Pierre-Paul has amazing athleticism for a defensive lineman. His frame and college productivity remind me of Manny Lawson, the former hybrid DE/OLB from NC State. Will he be able to parlay the skill into NFL production? Pierre-Paul, at the least should prove to be an upgrade to a Titan front four that has suffered from free agency losses of stalwarts Alfred Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch.

Avg. Guy – Pierre-Paul would be an excellent pick for the Titans as they would love to get a good DE, but I see him going earlier. They also need to add some quality and depth to their defensive backfield and Jackson will help them do that. If they think Tye Hill is any sort of answer there I can tell you he is not.

17. San Francisco 49ers

Avg. Guy – Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
Outsider – Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho

Avg. Guy – After picking up their QB of the future with the 13th pick the Niners get a lot of value and fill a need with Davis. I’ve got Davis falling quite a ways and unfortunately San Fran will be the beneficiary.

Outsider – Ah, the pick that should belong to the Panthers. THe 49ers really need to upgrade their offensive line, particularly the right tackle position. While the marquee offensive tackles have been snapped up at this point, many people feel that Iupati can slide outside to the tackle position and maintain his production. Iupati is a safer pick than reaching for one of the other tackles available.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers

Avg. Guy – Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
Outsider – Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida

Outsider – The Steelers once vaunted offensive line has eroded over the last few years. If the Steelers want to keep Ben Roethlisberger upright, they’ll begin to invest in their o-line. Pouncey won the Rimington Trophy as college football’s best center. Now if he can only knock some sense into his soon to be knuclehead, college skirt chasing, almost rapist quarterback.

Avg. Guy – Yes, I was going to say that if they want Roethlisberger to remain upright they may want to keep him away from the sauce. No doubt the Steelers need offensive line help and since I still have Iupati available he’ll be the pick here.

19. Atlanta Falcons

Avg. Guy – Brandon Graham, DE-OLB, Michigan
Outsider – Brandon Graham, DE-OLB, Michigan

Avg. Guy – Atlanta has one glaring need and that is DE. Of course, there are a number of teams ahead of them that need the same thing. So at this point I have all of the top line prospects off the board. Graham may be a bit of a need-based reach. But for a team that may be a player or two away from a big playoff run the reach may be worth it.

Outsider – Can’t argue with you on this one. John Abraham’s sack total declined from 16.5 in 2008 to 5.5 in 2009. The Falcons need a complimentary threat off the edge.

20. Houston Texans

Avg. Guy – Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State
Outsider – Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State

Outsider -The Texans need a big play threat at RB to compliment Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson in the passing game. Of their 4 backs in their committee approach, only Arian Foster (he of the pterodactyl language http://deadspin.com/5060091/tennessees-arian-foster-refuses-interview-requests-unless-you-speak-pterodactyl) averaged over 4 yards a carry. With increased production in the backfield, the Texans offense could possibly lead the team to its first ever playoff berth.

Avg. Guy – Again we are on the same page. A cornerback may be considered by the Texans, but the position that they can get the most bang for their buck for with this pick is Mathews. He would be an excellent complement to Steve Slaton in the backfield.

21. Cincinnati Bengals

Avg. Guy – Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
Outsider – Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

Avg. Guy – A major slider in my projections, Bryant has a lot of talent but has made some poor decisions. The Bengals may have signed Antonio Bryant, but the chance to add another Bryant will be too much to pass up with the 21st pick. I would not be surprised if another team traded up to an earlier pick to get Bryant if he starts to slip past the middle of the first round.

Outsider – The definition of a need pick. The Bengals need a compliment in the passing game to Chad Ochocinco and free agent acquisition Antonio Bryant. The Bengals seem to be convinced that the torn ligaments that cost Gresham his senior season. Compared favorably in college to 2009 first round draft pick Brandon Pettigrew of Oklahoma State.

22. New England Patriots

Avg. Guy – Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas
Outsider – Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State

Outsider – Ah, the Patriots. Bill Belichick is the Bizarro Al Davis. You never know who either of them will pick, yet Belichick’s picks pan out where Davis; do not. Another spike in the ESPN Tebow-gasm. Still, I think the Patriots stay true to their needs and get Vince Wilfork some help on the defensive line. This pick would also provide the Patriots insurance in case Wilfork is not re-signed in the offseason. Though with Belichick’s draft history, it will surprise no one if the Pats trade out of this pick.

Avg. Guy – Certainly agree with you on the likelihood of New England wheeling and dealing. The Patriots do have more needs than usual to fill and a bunch of picks so they are likely to move up and down through trades to get the players they target. A key focus for the Patriots will be to get some more pressure on the quarterback. Kindle’s experience playing end and outside linebacker makes him an optimal talent to jump into New England’s 3-4 alignment.

23. Green Bay Packers

Avg. Guy – Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
Outsider – Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

Avg. Guy – Green Bay could certainly use some offensive line help, but their major need is T and quality at that position is not available here. Ultimately it wasn’t their offensive line that let them down in the playoffs, it was their defense. The addition of Wilson, an excellent CB, should help the pass defense. In another note, I’m looking forward to your Philly pick.

Outsider – I agree with you on this pick. I can’t see the Packers as the type of team to reach for a tackle like Bruce Campbell. The Packers secondary was burned by Farve and the Viking receivers twice last year, not to mention the score-fest that was their playoff loss to the Cardinals. Wilson should help shore up both the defense and special teams. He’ll be the heir apparent to Charles Woodson.

24. Philadelphia Eagles

Avg. Guy – Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
Outsider – Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas

Outsider – It’s strange to say, but the Eagles have so many holes on defense. What was a force to be reckoned with a few years ago has succumbed to age and the Eagles philosophy of trading/releasing players before they begin to fade. The Eagles will consider defensive backs Earl Thomas and Taylor Mays, but their need of an edge rusher to fit the Jim Johnson blitz, blitz, and blitz some more defense will trump the secondary concerns. Brian Orakpo (a Texas product like Kindle) was one of the top performing rookies last year and the Eagles hope to see similar results. The Eagles could package later picks (they have 2 picks in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds) to jump back up into the first round if either of the elite secondary prospects slip.

Avg. Guy – You are right, the Eagles could definitely use some help in the defensive backfield, at both CB and S. At this point in the round the quality at those two positions is not there. Pouncey is a solid talent who should be able to come right in and hold up well in the middle of the line where Philadelphia has had some recent injury issues.

25. Baltimore Ravens

Avg. Guy – Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
Outsider – Earl Thomas, CB/S, Texas

Avg. Guy – Another team that could use help at cornerback, the Ravens will pass on settling at that position for a much better talent in Gresham. Joe Flacco was superb last year. His biggest issue was his receivers dropping balls. The additions of Anquan Boldin and Gresham could make the Ravens one of the most dangerous offenses in the AFC.

Outsider – The Ravens do need secondary help and Earl Thomas fits the bill perfectly. He can play at either corner or safety and would help shore up a shaky Ravens back four. He will start out as a nickel corner and perhaps eventually replace Hall of Famer-to be Ed Reed.

26. Arizona Cardinals

Avg. Guy – Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB, TCU
Outsider – Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB, TCU

Outsider – The Cardinals desperately need help in two areas, linebacker, and sports psychologist for QB Matt Leinart. Jerry Hughes was a sack machine at the college level. In his last 2 years at TCU he had 26.5 sacks. Arizona needs a replacement for Bertrand Berry and potentially Chike Okeafor.

Avg. Guy – Well jeez, I thought I was going out on a limb with this pick until I saw that you were projecting the same thing! One way or another the Cardinals really need some front seven help on the defense. Hughes is a playmaker and is capable of making plays at linebacker and defensive end. Impressed with his athleticism, versatility and potential, I think Arizona will jump on him with the 26th pick.

27. Dallas Cowboys

Avg. Guy – Bruce Campbell, T, Maryland
Outsider – Bruce Campbell, T, Maryland

Avg. Guy – Here comes the workout champion! Campbell blew people away at the combine with his impressive mix of size, speed and strength. The challenge is that his technical skills are nowhere near his physical attributes. I think Jerry Jones falls in love with his He-Man body type and brings him on board. Hopefully, he won’t make the decision while he’s drunk at a bar and on somebody’s cell phone video.

Outsider – Wow, two picks in a row. Dallas needs an offensive tackle to replace Flozell Adams. So they go to the man that wow’ed ’em at both the NFL Combine and in the Evil Dead Trilogy. This is my BOOM-stick! Hail to the king, Jerry Jones… Hail to the king!

28. San Diego Chargers

Avg. Guy – Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama
Outsider – Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama

Outsider – Mt. Cody goes to San Diego. The Chargers weakness on the defensive line was exploited in the playoff loss to the Jets. The Chargers really need help on both lines and at running back, but can afford to pick up the running back in the second round. His conditioning has been questioned, but the Chargers need to replace Jamal Williams up front with a run-stuffer who can let the speedy linebackers make the tackles.

Avg. Guy – Okay, make it three in a row. A month ago I would have told you that the Chargers would definitely select a RB with this pick. After doing my research, I’m leaning much more toward them picking a NT/DT. Cody is the perfect replacement for Jamal Williams at the center of San Diego’s front three. They should still be able to get a quality RB in the 2nd round.

29. New York Jets

Avg. Guy – Taylor Mays, S, USC
Outsider – Everson Griffen, DE, USC

Avg. Guy – The Jets could go a few different ways here. They are most likely to focus on defense. When Rex Ryan was the D Coordinator in Baltimore his team always succeeded because he had playmakers and ballhawks. Mays can be both, especially in a defense designed by Ryan. If not safety, the Jets are likely to pick up a defensive lineman or outside linebacker.

Outsider – I’ll predict Mays’ USC teammate Griffen to the Jets. Marques Douglas, who started 12 of the 16 games at DE for the Jets last year is in a contract year. Griffen would give the Jets insurance and depth at that position. If the Jets do sign Jason Taylor for their rush outside linebacker, then this pick will either be defensive line or secondary help. If the Jets can get any form of pass rush, they’ll be very dangerous.

30. Minnesota Vikings

Avg. Guy – Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers
Outsider – Taylor Mays, S, USC

Outsider – Minnesota needs help in the secondary, having to play against Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler twice each year. Mays played free safety at USC, but perhaps would be more suited at the strong safety in the NFL. The Vikings would be amenable to that transition. The Vikings DBs not named Cedric Griffin (who blew out his knee in the NFC Championship game) had a grand total of 3 interceptions last year. At this point, the ESPN Tebow watch goes into full overload.

Avg. Guy – McCourty fills a need position for the Vikings and should be a nice player for them. You are definitely right about ESPN and Tebow. Especially here because one of the big questions surrounding Minnesota’s draft is if they will address their need for a future quarterback in the first three rounds. I don’t think they will do it here.

31. Indianapolis Colts

Avg. Guy – Jared Odrick, DT/DE, Penn State
Outsider – Brian Price, DT, UCLA

Avg. Guy – Picking at the tail end of the first round, the Colts will look to the best available talent that can play on either line. Odrick, 2009 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, is a solid lineman that can potentially play defensive end or tackle.

Outsider – I agree that the Colts need help along the defensive line. Price was Pac-10 defensive player of the year. Price will bring some energy and help free up Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis to make some plays.

32. New Orleans Saints

Avg. Guy – Everson Griffen, DE, USC
Outsider – Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri

Outsider – The final pick for this evening of the draft will be overshadowed by the Tebow talk. Weatherspoon had a great amount of experience in coverage facing the wide-open Big 12 offenses. He will be a great fit in the frenetic, blitzing Saints defense. Safety could be an option for the Saints if they decide not to re-sign Darren Sharper long-term. Will any team be desperate enough to draft Tebow here? I doubt it, but look for the Heisman-winner to go in the first few picks of the second round. While Tebow is known for his strong Christian beliefs, never, ever refer to him as Football Jesus. There’s already a Football Jesus and he wears #17 in San Diego.

Avg. Guy – Oh my goodness I just threw up all over the place…you had to get that last reference in there didn’t you? The funny thing is I actually saw the New Orleans version of Football Jesus last month…it was very cool. Speaking of New Orleans, they really need a defensive end or outside linebacker. With Griffen and Weatherspoon still available they will have their choice of solid answers at either position. Ultimately I think Griffen’s high potential ceiling and freakish athleticism will lead to him being the pick.

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