Shooting the Breeze

NFL Draft analyst Chris Steuber answers questions about the Patriots' first-round pick in 2008, quarterback prospects for the Colts, defensive picks for the Bengals, wide receiver candidates for Tennessee and two of Louisville's top performers.

Kenny from Worcester, MA: You've got to love what the Patriots are doing on the field this season, and I know everyone hates the fact that we stole the 49ers' first-round pick next year. I saw your latest mock draft where the Pats are currently selecting fourth overall and you have us taking Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis. Is this really the year we add some youth to our linebacking core? 

Chris Steuber: For everyone who's wondering how the Patriots got the 49ers' first-round pick next season, here's the breakdown: The Niners traded a 2007 fourth-round pick (110th overall) and their 2008 first-round pick in exchange for the Patriots' 2007 first-round pick (28th overall). This has a chance to be one of the worst trades in draft history if the Patriots are able to draft a player such as Darren McFadden, Glenn Dorsey, James Laurinaitis or Jake Long. When I look at the Patriots, there are very few flaws on their team. Their offense is incredible, but they may look to upgrade their offensive line. The defense is solid, but aging in certain areas, especially at linebacker. Amazingly, after last weekend's game results, the Patriots now hold the third pick overall. When I conducted my mock draft last week, Laurinaitis fit a need, but possessing the third pick changes things in the respect that McFadden may be available. Drafting a linebacker makes sense, but the last first-round linebacker the Patriots selected was another Buckeye, Andy Katzenmoyer, who flamed-out due to a neck injury. Let's not confuse Laurinaitis for Katzenmoyer, but when you play a physical position such as linebacker, the risk of injury is much greater. With that being said, I believe drafting Laurinaitis, if he declares, is still the best move for the Patriots if McFadden is off the board.

Will from Nashville: Can we please get Vince Young some receivers who can catch the ball? He can only do so much for the Titans, and we have to surround him with some quality receivers that are reliable. What receivers will be available in the mid-to-late first round, and who's the best option?

Steuber:  Since 2000, the Titans have drafted 12 wide receivers, but none of them were selected in the first round and only one was selected in the second round. I think not using a high draft choice on a receiver has been the biggest problem with the Titans' front office. Granted, drafting a wide receiver in the first round doesn't always work out, but you have a better chance of success with a highly-touted receiver than a lower-rated receiver you're taking a chance on. The 2008 draft has the potential to be loaded with quality receivers who can make an immediate impact. A lot of the skilled receivers are underclassmen, so until they declare it's hard to judge how good the class will be. But out of the senior receivers, Texas' Limas Sweed, LSU's Early Doucet, and Oklahoma State's Adarius Bowman are possibilities between picks 15–31. Of those three, I think Doucet or Sweed are the best options for the Titans. Sweed and Young were teammates at Texas and are familiar with each other's game, while Doucet provides the Titans offense with a sure-handed receiver with a reliable nature who gives a quarterback confidence.

Andy from Terre Haute, IN:  I love Peyton Manning, and there are very few quarterbacks in the league I'd rather have running my team. But he's been a little inconsistent this season and seems to have lost some confidence. I know he's only 31 years old, but considering Jim Sorgi is our backup and the Colts don't have a first-round pick next year, do you think the Colts will draft a quarterback somewhere between rounds two through four?

Steuber: Since 1998, the year Manning was drafted, the Colts have only selected one quarterback: Wisconsin's Jim Sorgi. Sorgi was a sixth-round pick, and from the moment he was drafted, I don't think anyone thought he'd ever become a starting quarterback in Indianapolis. He's done a decent job as a backup, but an upgrade is necessary. Manning is the starter and will be until he retires. But selecting a quarterback high in the draft next April is a proposition the Colts should welcome. There will be a lot of talented quarterbacks available in the second- and third-rounds next year. Some of the senior quarterbacks who should be available in that range include Chad Henne, Erik Ainge, and John David Booty. But the player the Colts should select is Hawaii's Colt Brennan. Brennan plays in a shotgun, spread formation at Hawaii and will fit nicely in the Colts offense. The Colts like to spread the ball around to their receivers on quick reads and that's what Brennan does best — deliver the ball quickly with great accuracy. At the very least, Brennan provides Indianapolis with a great insurance policy in case Manning ever suffers an injury.

You mentioned that the Colts don't have a first-round pick next year, and that's correct. They traded that selection to the 49ers, along with their 2007 fourth-round pick, in exchange for the Niners' 2007 second-round pick that was used to select offensive tackle Tony Ugoh.

John from Cincinnati, OH: It's obvious that my Bengals have to upgrade their defense in the draft next year. Let's just say that they hold a top-ten pick in the draft. What players do you feel are strong possibilities for Cincy?

Steuber: Head coach Marvin Lewis is supposed to be a defensive-minded coach who's able to get the most out of his players on defense. But that hasn't happened during his tenure in Cincinnati. The front office has tried to fix the problems by using their last three first-round selections on defensive players: linebacker David Pollack (2005), cornerback Johnathan Joseph (2006), and cornerback Leon Hall (2007). As for next year's draft, the Bengals are currently picking sixth, so if the season ended today, they would have a great chance to land a quality defensive star. I think the biggest hole on the defense is at linebacker, but at number six the Bengals may look at defensive linemen as well. If Ohio State's Laurinaitis declares for the draft following his junior campaign and he's still on the board at that point, they grab him to immediately upgrade their linebacker corps. Others that should get consideration are defensive end Chris Long (Virginia), defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (USC), and defensive end Calais Campbell (junior from Miami).

Lou from Louisville, KY: I know that Louisville has struggled this season and they've been a major disappointment, but we still have some great players who'll be considered first-day picks. What are your thoughts on two of those players, quarterback Brian Brohm and wide receiver Harry Douglas?

Steuber:  Even though the Cardinals have a 5–6 record this season, Brohm is still a top-ten pick and Douglas will be selected on Day One. Brohm hasn't had the kind of success he envisioned when he decided to return to Louisville for his senior season, but he hasn't been as bad as their record indicates. He's still managed to throw 29 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions while completing over 65 percent of his passes for 3,787 yards. The most important fact for Brohm is that he's stayed healthy, and that's answered a lot of questions scouts have had regarding his professional future. Douglas, on the other hand, has been plagued by injuries this year.  That said, he has posted outstanding numbers — 70 receptions for 1,113 yards and seven touchdowns — despite missing two games due to an ankle injury. Last year, Douglas had 70 catches for 1,265 yards and six touchdowns. He's a small receiver at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds who's highly productive and will receive plenty of attention on draft day.

If you have a question that you want answered in the next edition of "Shooting the Breeze," email Chris Steuber through this link. Be sure to include your first name, city and state in your email.

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