7 Points: White to Denver, Raji to Detroit?

QB Pat White (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

The latest twist to the Jay Cutler-Denver Broncos drama ... did Detroit tip their hand that they'll draft defense instead of a QB with their first pick? ... draft prospect talk with WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, DE Larry English, and safety Mike Hamlin. It's all in Ed Thompson's latest edition of 7 Points.

Point No. 1
The Jay Cutler saga just got a little more interesting this past Wednesday.

OK, so by now you might be getting as bored with the Jay Cutler trade talk as you used to get every time you heard that Brett Favre was retiring. 

Ho-hum.

But when I learned earlier this week from one of my sources that the Broncos had lined up a private workout with West Virginia quarterback Pat White, just one day after the New England Patriots took a look at him, I found some renewed interest in the finger-pointing fiasco that's been playing-out in Denver.

I honestly think the Broncos are preparing for the worst—a messy-divorce with their young, talented quarterback. And with the various trade scenarios that are being rumored, one common theme is evident: the Denver Broncos won't have a quarterback as talented as Jay Cutler at the top of their depth chart when the dust settles.

So the interest in Pat White as a potential quarterback candidate for the team is a viable one, providing the team with a versatile athlete who could compete with Chris Simms and whatever other quarterback ends up in Denver prior to draft weekend.

While some NFL teams may only consider adding him to their roster as a wide receiver and return specialist, more teams have undoubtedly become intrigued by the athletic quarterback after watching him throw for 332 yards and three touchdowns in his final bowl game, witnessing his MVP performance at the Senior Bowl, and then calmly zipping accurate passes at the NFL Scouting Combine. 

If you're among the doubters that don't believe a 6-foot tall, mobile quarterback can be successful at the pro level, don't forget about a guy named Michael Vick. Before his off-the-field activities landed him in jail, that 6-foot tall quarterback was one of the most exciting players in the league to watch on any given Sunday.

In Vick's two years as a starter at Virginia Tech, he averaged roughly 1,500 yards passing and 600 yards rushing per season. As a four-year starter, White's also thrown for about 1,500 yards per year, but he rolled-up roughly 1,100 yards on the ground each season, setting an NCAA all-time record for rushing by a quarterback.

Wouldn't it be fun to see what he could do as a quarterback in the NFL? I hope the team that drafts him gives him that opportunity. And it could be Denver, 

Point No. 2
Draft prospect Larry English has the potential to follow in the successful footsteps of Falcons running back Michael Turner.

That may seem like an odd statement to those familiar with English, a 6-foot-2, 255-pound collegiate defensive end, and Turner, the powerful running back who provided Atlanta with plenty of excitement during the 2008 season. But both men attended Northern Illinois, a Mid-American Conference school, and English has the talent and the personal attributes to be the Huskies' next big-name player at the pro level. He's already stood out to pro scouts so prominently that he's a likely first-day selection while Turner had to wait until the fifth-round of the 2004 NFL Draft before he was picked up by San Diego.


Larry English at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

English earned his notoriety through his quickness off the edge and the amount of time he spent in his opponents' backfield. During his four-year career with the Huskies, he made 57 tackles for a loss, registered 32.5 sacks and forced eight fumbles. 

His dominating presence helped him achieve a feat that had never been accomplished before in MAC history when he became the first defensive player to win the conference MVP Award two consecutive years.

"The first time I won it, I was a little bit surprised since I was a defensive player on a team with a 2–10 record," English explained during a recent phone conversation. "Obviously, it was a great honor for me to win it two times in a row. It meant a lot to know that your opponents looked upon you in the way that they did."

English will likely make the switch to outside linebacker after he's drafted in April, but the NFL club that selects him will be getting much more than just a talented player. They'll be getting a man who is very poised, focused and who has the potential to be a great leader—just like he was at Northern Illinois.

Point No. 3
The Lions may have tipped their hand that they're going to select a defensive player with their first selection rather than a quarterback.

Even if Detroit doesn't land Jay Cutler through a trade and they enter draft weekend without a new quarterback, don't be surprised to see them trade down just a few slots--or possibly use the No. 1 pick overall--to grab Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji instead of Georgia's Matthew Stafford or USC's Mark Sanchez.

Why? Well, they just traded away defensive tackle Cory Redding to the Seahawks so that they could add Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson. So as of right now, the Lions have 13-year veteran Grady Jackson and Chuck Darby, a 9th-year player, penciled-in as their starters.

Neither player is a slouch by an means, but that pairing isn't going to cut it on a team led by new head coach Jim Schwartz.

Schwartz was previously the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. His defensive unit finished no worse than seventh-best in the league over the past two seasons. 

Meanwhile, the Lions had the worst defense in the league during that same two-year span. 


B.J. Raji tackles North Carolina State's Andre Brown.
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Schwartz had young defensive tackles like Albert Haynesworth, Tony Brown and Jason Jones in Tennessee. It's hard to imagine that he's going to be satisfied with relying on two solid, but aging veterans in the middle of his defensive line this year. Raji, the draft's top-rated defensive tackle, would give the new head coach of the Lions a dominating force in the middle who capably handled double-teams in college. 

And then maybe, just maybe, the Lions could then turn around and package some picks if Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford drops to a point in the first round where Detroit could buy their way back in—just like the Browns did with Brady Quinn after shocking everyone with their first-round selection of Joe Thomas a couple of years ago.

Crazier things have happened.

Point No. 4
NFL draft prospect Darrius Heyward-Bey is much more than just a really, really fast wide receiver.

Maryland's Heyward-Bey posted the best 40-time at the NFL Scouting Combine among wide receivers with a 4.30-second sprint. But he showed off his overall athleticism by finishing as one of the top performers in a total of six events, including both the vertical and broad jumps and the bench press.

Heyward-Bey clearly possesses one of the more intriguing combinations of size and speed among this year's draft-eligible wide receivers.

"I just wanted to show them that I was a complete athlete and a complete football player," told me during a recent phone interview. "I think they were impressed that I was able to run those times and jump like that at 6-foot-2, 210 (pounds)."

At Maryland's Pro Day, Heyward-Bey participated in the position drills so NFL coaches and scouts could evaluate his route-running and pass-catching skills.

"All the coaches said I did a great job, I looked natural out there, like a true football player," he said.

During the 2008 season, the Terps' leading receiver caught 42 passes for 609 yards and five scores, despite facing plenty of double-coverage due to Maryland's erratic offensive attack. But all that did was make the talented pass-catcher more determined, a trait that should serve him well at the next stage of his football career.

"Whatever team drafts me, they're going to get a hard-worker, somebody who's going to make plays for them and who, in every game, can change the momentum of the game for them," he said.

Point No. 5
There are a number of teams who should be calling quarterback Jeff Garcia
at the very least to see if he'll go into training camp as their No. 2 quarterback.


touchdown.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

If I'm the general manager of the Texans, Raiders, Jaguars, Jets, Bears, Lions, or Rams I'd have the phone number of Garcia's agent on speed-dial if I don't end up with more talented depth behind my starting quarterback after draft weekend. 

All of those teams have unproven or just steady talent behind their starters. Out of the seven, I think that Oakland, Houston, Chicago and the New York Jets have the most serious issues.

Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell could benefit from Garcia's presence and tutelage. And the ultra-competitive Garcia wouldn't readily yield the starter's role to Russell, ensuring that the youngster would stay focused on his development. Matt Schaub's backup in Houston is Dan Orlovsky, who struggled a bit during his seven starts for Detroit last year. Chicago's two backup quarterbacks have a combined experience level of 11 pass attempts in regular season games. And I'm not convinced the Jets even have a legitimate starting quarterback on their roster at this point.

Garcia still has plenty of spunk and the ability to move a team down the field. Is he as consistent as he once was? Nope. But his football intelligence, leadership skills and his raw football talent would still improve the depth of quarterback talent for any of the teams listed above.

Point No. 6
Clemson safety and NFL Draft prospect Mike Hamlin is a playmaker, but not just because of his athletic ability.

After picking off six passes and forcing two fumbles in 2008, the hard-hitting safety has drawn plenty of attention from NFL teams who are impressed by his knack for creating takeaways. And as you talk to the 6-foot-2, 214-pound defensive back, it's quickly evident that those big plays happen largely due to what's going on inside his head, not just due to his physical skills.

"I think I read the plays real well. If you watch film, every formation has a personality to it. You kind of get a feel for the possible play that they're going to run," he explained as we discussed his success against his opponents.  "I look forward to the games near the end of the season when we start trying to figure out break-points on receivers. Like in man-to-man coverage, on safety point, you can't come up and press, you have to catch them. So I try to sit in the zone, and when he breaks, I break with him."

Despite the fact that Hamlin's a very physical player at his position, he didn't miss a start during the last two seasons. And over his four-year career as a starter, he only missed three games due to injury.

Point No. 7
There's still some good free agent talent available at the linebacker and cornerback positions.

This wasn't a great year to be a free agent if you were a linebacker or a cornerback. There was a decent talent pool available, and it's become a buyers' market.

If your team needs a linebacker, they could still sign one of these talented players: Derrick Brooks, Freddy Keiaho, Marcus Washington, Cato June, Tyjuan Hagler.

In need of some cornerback help? Then take a look at Ken Lucas, Chris McAlister, Patrick Surtain, Samari Rolle or Dre' Bly.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter for NFL updates and insights. And you can contact him by email through this link.

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