THE GRAPEVINE: 2011 NFL Draft buzz and observations

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: 2011 NFL Draft buzz and observations

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The Ravens selection of Jimmy Smith is an interesting one for sure and it has had somewhat of a polarizing affect on fans in the Baltimore area.

Supporters of the move are attracted by Smith’s measurable physical skills and his prototypical body for the modern day cornerback. They are quick to point out that the moves fills a glaring team need and that the value of the pick at No. 27 is just too tempting to ignore.

Detractors will point to the lengthy history of Smith’s off-the-field transgressions and his lack of commitment. They are quick to toss in cutting barbs such as, “Smith gives new meaning to drinking the purple Kool Aid” (a reference to the codeine abuse) or “And these are just the bad things he’s done and been caught.”

Time will tell if Ozzie Newsome made the right decision to turn in the card on Jimmy Smith. But until such time plays out, here are a few thoughts to consider:

·         The Ravens so far have come up empty with the risky selection of Sergio Kindle. It’s hard to envision a scenario in which the team DID NOT exhaustively investigate Smith, fearing another air ball on draft day.

·         The selection might save them some money because now it seems a bit inconceivable that the Ravens will bring back both Chris Carr and Josh Wilson, particularly with Domonique Foxworth returning from an ACL injury.

·         The Ravens defense has almost always had star power and solid leadership. The influences of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata should help accelerate Smith’s maturation. That said at some point Smith has to become “one of the boys.” Chris McAlister never did, was a bit of a loner and consequently he was never a “we” guy – always a “me” guy.

The Ravens escaped from the botched draft day trade unscathed for the most part. Despite the fumble by the Chicago Bears who failed to properly call in the draft pick swap (Ravens to obtain No. 29 and No. 127 in exchange for their own No. 26), the Ravens ended up with their man. That said the Ravens were placed at risk by the Bears error – one that Chicago’s GM Jerry Angelo has readily and profusely admitted to.

So why is there no consequence to the Bears?

Why aren’t the Ravens entitled to the draft pick compensation that the Bears offered?

What if Jimmy Smith was taken off the board by the Chiefs who because of the Bears’ organizational brain fart jumped in front of the Ravens and seized the No. 26 overall pick as time on the pick clock ran out?

Roger Goodell (who by the way is becoming more and more like Bud Selig) should force the issue upon the Bears but instead he’s made a polite suggestion to Chicago’s brain trust to make the Ravens whole.

Well here’s a not-so-polite suggestion for the Commissioner – GROW A PAIR!

At the very least the Bears should be forced to pay the difference in salary between what a No. 27 draft pick earns and a No. 29 draft pick (the one the Ravens thought they acquired from Chicago). And that difference should count against the Bears’ cap and not the Ravens’ cap.

Draft Observations

I find myself going back and forth from ESPN’s draft coverage and NFL Network’s and here are some meandering thoughts:

·         Chris Berman needs to give it up. He brings NOTHING to the table and just like the last few drafts, he seems poorly prepared.

·         Mel Kiper, Jr. remains the ESPN star and his passion is contagious. That said I do enjoy Mike Mayock’s take as well as that of Charles Davis on NFL Network.

·         Adam Shefter far outshines Chris Mortensen who like Berman has worn out his usefulness.

·         ESPN has to be benefitting from NFL Network incessant replays of the Alyssa Milano and the Play 60 spots. I think it’s time for NFLN to hire some account execs to sell ads.

·         Cam Newton has been well-coached and delivered smooth albeit canned answers during his pressers. It reminds me a bit of the end of Bull Durham when Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) addresses media questions after being coached up by veteran Crash Davis (Kevin Costner). Newton is a poser and come September, he’ll be EXposed.

·         As for the war rooms, first blush suggests that the Tampa Bay Bucs, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints and the Washington Redskins have all outperformed many of their previous draft day efforts.

Today I expect the Ravens to get a pass rusher, a RB and a backup quarterback. The name of Christian Ballard has been mentioned quite a bit but word is he was a drug flunky at the NFL Combines. That said the Ravens are dialed in tightly with the Iowa staff and I’m sure they have a solid read on Ballard.

A running back will do two things for the Ravens: 1) provide a fresh look to spell Ray Rice and; 2) allow them to cut ties with Willis McGahee who is set to earn $6 million this coming season. The saved money can be used when free agency opens up to sure up areas of need not addressed in this draft.

As for backup QB, I’m thinking Greg McElroy from Ozzie Newsome’s alma mater the University of Alabama. McElroy is a smart quarterback who could be a long-time backup for Joe Flacco without really pushing for the starting position. Think Frank Reich to Jim Kelly during the Bills’ heyday.

 

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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