While talking with people connected with the NFL, I heard that there was already some resentment brewing in NFL locker rooms regarding "Tebow-mania" that would make it a bit tougher for the former Florida Gators quarterback to gain acceptance from his new teammates--no matter where he ended up playing. And while it's often a challenge for even the typical NFL rookie to gain the acceptance of some NFL veterans, imagine the disdain that some of the Broncos players will likely have for the distractions and media circus that Tebow's charismatic presence causes every time he appears in public.
To make matters worse, Denver's going to have to pony up some big-time bucks for the spirited quarterback since they picked him in the first round--even though it may take two to three years (at least) before he's ready to be an NFL starter.
So picture this. The season progresses and Broncos veterans are banging heads with opponents. getting muddy and bloodied in the process. Do you think they might become increasingly disgruntled when they glance over at the Golden Boy in the baseball cap and clean uniform on the sidelines who's paycheck has more zeroes on the end of it than the ones that they're cashing? And even though starting quarterback Kyle Orton is playing under a one-year, $2.6 million dollar deal this year, he'll likely feel like he got the team's loose change from under the sofa cushion after he sees the first-round, multi-year deal that Tebow receives.
Then there's Brady Quinn, who undoubtedly believed that he would have a legitimate shot at becoming the Broncos' starter by next year when Orton's contract expired. After finally making a clean escape from Cleveland to what appeared to be greener pastures in Denver, Quinn may now be looking at his new situation with a certain level of incredulity and disgust, despite what he may say publicly. And that's not going to be good for the team's chemistry either.
"Now we have a deep group of quarterbacks and we expect the competition to be incredible," McDaniels told the media after the Tebow selection was made.
The Broncos head coach also made it clear that he believes Tebow can, at minimum, be a role-player during his rookie season.
"There's no mystery about the Wildcat becoming more in vogue, and having a player who may be able to both run and pass the ball gives you another option," he said. "I won't deny that he doesn't give you an opportunity to create some un-game-planned production--similar to Ben Roethlisberger or a Donovan McNabb or someone like that--where you draw the play up there on the board and all of a sudden it doesn't necessarily look as pretty as I thought it would, but then he makes it work some other way. There is an element to his game like that."
While I admire the bold direction that McDaniels has taken with his team, clearing out attitude problems and replacing them with hard-working, talented players, he'll have to be careful that his fascination with Tebow doesn't create even more discord in his locker room than the first-round slotting of the quarterback may have already done.
As for Tebow, it's unlikely that he'll let any peripheral drama distract him from trying to prove to his critics that he can play quarterback in the NFL.
"I'm a very self-motivated person, but a little fuel on the fire never hurt," he said. "I love a challenge and I love it when someone tells me that I can't, because it just pushes me that much more to accomplish that goal."
Point No. 2: The Buccaneers made a huge statement during this draft.
After finishing with a league-worst defensive ranking against the run in 2009, Tampa Bay made it clear that they weren't going to repeat that dismal result in 2010.
DT Gerald McCoy
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
With the third pick overall in the first round, the Buccaneers selected Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, an athletic lineman who relies on his acceleration and excellent technique to establish squatter's rights in his opponent's backfield. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound held ball carriers to no gain or dropped them for a loss nearly half the time he made a tackle last year, and he registered six sacks and a dozen quarterback pressures to boot. McCoy closed out his career with Oklahoma as the school's all-time record holder for defensive linemen with 40 consecutive starts.
With their second-round pick, the team grabbed UCLA's Brian Price, who's also known as "The Quiet Storm". Unlike his new teammate, Price uses a dangerous combination of brute strength and leverage to force his way past blockers. He showcased that strength at the NFL Combine, hoisting 34 reps in the 225-pound bench press (compared to just 23 by McCoy). In 2009, the 6-foot-1, 303-pound defender finished third nationally with 23.5 tackles for a loss, logged seven sacks and a total of 48 tackles. During his three seasons at UCLA--two of them as a full-time starter--Price never missed a game and rolled up a staggering 44.5 tackles for a loss and forced five fumbles.
"You've got to hold the point of attack," he told me during an interview back in March. "If you don't have leverage, the offensive line will drive you back, creating a lane for the runner."
With the selection of McCoy and Price, Tampa Bay has added a pair of potentially dominating defensive tackles who rarely miss a snap--and who are going to make opposing offensive linemen very nervous with their explosive quickness.
Point No. 3: When it comes to the NFL Draft, there's no such thing as a "can't miss" first-round pick. But here are mine.
You don't have to think too hard to find examples of highly-respected first-round picks who were expected to flourish in the NFL, but then struggled or failed miserably while making the leap. Just a few of the current NFL players who are floundering, even though they came into the league as first-round picks, are Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell, Jets defensive end Vernon Gholston, Packers defensive tackle Justin Harrell, and Broncos defensive end Jarvis Moss.
But here are my top eight players out of this year's first-round selections who I'd tab as the "most-likely-to-succeed" in terms of high-impact success as a starter within their first three years in the league.
- Bills RB C.J. Spiller: Smart, proud, fast and versatile, the former Clemson star will hit the ground running and will leave plenty of defenders frustrated and weary.
- Lions DT Ndamukong Suh: He may not make as much noise as people anticipate during his rookie year, but the determined warrior will be a dominant player once he adds pro technique to his strength and instincts.
- Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon: A natural leader who has an unbridled enthusiasm for the game, Weatherspoon has the range and skill set to become a respected talent in this league.
- Dolphins DE Jared Odrick: The former Penn State DT has pro-level technique as a pass rusher, along with a professional demeanor that will serve him well.
- Steelers OL Maurkice Pouncey: His positive attitude off the field, nasty streak on it, and his consistent results as a run blocker and in pass protection will take him far.
- Eagles DE Brandon Graham: A man among boys in the college ranks, Graham's got the strength and speed to roll up the sacks in the NFL.
- Patriots CB Devin McCourty: A scrappy defender who should have the opportunity to shine in New England.
- Rams QB Sam Bradford: As long as he stays healthy, I like Bradford's chances of bringing the Rams offense back to a level of respectability.
Point No. 4: There's a new attitude in Buffalo. And I like it.
Team owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. acknowledged to the media this week that the Bills have been in disarray for quite some time, but that he's had enough of it.
"You know, the Buffalo Bills, for the last 10 years...We've been a dull team, really dull," Wilson said. "It's no fun to go out there. And I said to one of our coaches a few years ago, 'you know, there's no excitement and we just sit here.'"
But based on comments made by Wilson, new head coach Chan Gailey, and new general manager Buddy Nix, it's obvious that players in Buffalo better wake up and help them turn things around--or start packing their bags. Both Gailey and Nix were refreshingly candid about the state of their team and the moves they were making this week to get the team back on track.
After the team surprised many people with their selection of Clemson running back C.J. Spiller--despite a depth chart that includes Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch and a real talent deficit at other positions--both Nix and Gailey boldly stated their case for the selection.
"We need some excitement, somebody that can make a big play and create things on their own," Nix said. "I think what I just said, and we have said this all along, we are void of big playmakers."
RB C.J. Spiller
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Gailey acknowledged that the addition of a highly-talented back like Spiller would bring some changes to the Bills offensive playbook, and when asked how he'll try to make sure that everybody is still included in the offense, he said, "I don't worry about people's feelings. I worry about scoring points. We're going to do what's best to score points and for this team to win football games. If you get people that are selfish all of the time, that's eventually going to catch up to you as a football team."
And the comments from the Bills leadership team weren't just directed at players on the offensive side of the ball. After picking UCF defensive tackle Torrell Troup in the second round and Arkansas State defensive end Alex Carrington in the third round, Nix quipped, "We felt fortunate that we got some guys that will fit our defense, and hopefully we won't be knocked back four or five yards every time they (our opponents) run the ball."
The Buffalo G.M. made it clear that the team was looking for players who could step in quickly and add value to the team's results this year.
"If you take a guy who can't play, then you've compounded the problem, then you've got two who can't play," he said.
But how much progress can the Bills make this season? Probably not enough to make the playoffs, especially if they don't get better production out of their quarterback situation. Nix was realistic in his assessment that the nine picks they held in this one draft wouldn't plug all the gaps.
"In the draft, you can only take one (player) each pick, and we are in a position where they should give us about three--but they won't do that," he said.
With Nix, Gailey and Wilson fully recognizing the state of the team and being committed to making the changes necessary to bring excitement back to Buffalo, it won't be long before they're a contender again in the AFC East.
Point No. 5: Based strictly on the sheer volume of quality players that they picked, the Eagles, Browns, Texans, and Chiefs should feel very good about their draft results.
The Eagles upgraded their pass rush off the edge with the first-round selection of Brandon Graham, followed by Washington's Daniel Te'o Nesheim in the third round and Clemson's Ricky Sapp in the fifth. Playmaking safety Nate Allen will make Eagles fans forget that the team passed on Texas' Earl Thomas, and powerful running back Charles Scott out of LSU will be an asset--especially in tough, short-yardage situations. Meanwhile, quarterback Kevin Kolb will find athletic tight end Clay Harbor out of Missouri State and Florida wide receiver Riley Cooper to be reliable targets.
Cleveland bolstered their secondary with shutdown cornerback Joe Haden and hard-hitting safety T.J. Ward with their first two picks. On the offensive side of the ball, they provided shifty running back Jerome Harrison with a hard-nosed tandem partner when they added Montario Hardesty in the second round. Then the Browns patiently took advantage of quarterback Colt McCoy's slide into the third round to add their likely franchise quarterback of the future. In the same round, they added versatility and depth to their offensive line by picking up Shawn Lauvao. Later in the draft, they got a high-value pick in the sixth round when they added 6-foot-3, 215-pound wide receiver Carlton Mitchell, who uses his big body and 4.46 40-time speed to tack on yards after the catch. Don't be surprised to see him make a big splash during his rookie campaign.
Houston selected talented cornerback Kareem Jackson with their first pick, added depth in the middle of their defensive line with the pick of Arizona's Earl Mitchell, and then picked-up jarring tackler Darryl Sharpton out of Miami for linebacker depth and special teams help. On offense, they chose hard-charging running back Ben Tate in the second round, added reliable pass-catching tight end Garrett Graham, and then got a real steal in the seventh round with the selection of Dorin Dickerson, a versatile athlete who can line up at tight end, wide receiver or as an H-back. The Texans also added an intriguing returns specialist in Trindon Holliday, a 5-foot-5, 166-pound speedster out of LSU.
The Chiefs grabbed top-talent Eric Berry out of Tennessee with the No. 5 pick overall to shore-up their safety position and reduce the number of deep balls that sail over the secondary's heads. Cornerback Javier Arenas out of Alabama will not only compete for a nickel role right away, but could be an asset in the returns game as well. Multi-threat running back/wide receiver/returns specialist Dexter McCluster is going to force defenses to account for his presence on every play. And gritty offensive guard Jon Asamoah could win a starter's job at guard, while Iowa's Tony Moeaki should see some decent playing time on rushing downs since he's one of the top blocking tight ends in this draft class.
Point No. 6: It's not going to take long for Jared Odrick to make Miami fans forget about Jason Taylor.
There was a disgruntled undercurrent among Miami fans when the longtime veteran and fan favorite signed with the division-rival New York Jets this past week. But once they get a look at the Odrick in action and see what he's going to bring to the team's defensive line, they're going to be happy with the changing of the guard.
DT Jared Odrick
Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland explained to the media why the former Penn State star was worthy of the team's first-round pick, No. 28 overall.
"His motor, his production, played at a major college, been coached hard...The intangible make-up of the kid, the personality you desire for this football team is absolutely perfect," he said. "He's a professional. The game wasn't too big for him."
Although he played defensive tackle in the Nittany Lions' 4-3 scheme, Odrick will move to defensive end in the Dolphins' 3-4 defense. Ireland announced that veteran Randy Starks will move from defensive end to nose tackle as a result of Odrick's addition to the roster. And while the rookie has no preconceived notion about being immediately anointed as a starter, he's ready to bring his balanced and versatile skills to Miami to help his new team any way he can.
"I want to get after the quarterback every play that it's a pass. Sacks don't come every play, they come every so often. It makes you hungry to go get one, and that's why it's such an exciting play," Odrick said during a media conference call following his selection. "Defending the run, that's just being a man. That's just hunkering down and getting dirty."
During his final season at Penn State, the 6-foot-5, 302-pound lineman logged 70 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, five sacks and three blocked kicks.
Point No. 7: NFL rookies always provide some memorable or funny quotes right after they're drafted. And this year was no exception.
- "On the phone they told me, 'You're on TV, so try to smile for us."-- Cornerback Joe Haden, who cried "tears of joy" as Browns head coach Eric Mangini told him that the Browns were selecting him with the No. 7 pick overall in the first round.
- "Because of my dad and my games, you know, if the intensity wasn't there he made sure it was there. I mean, just in high school he came down on the field one time and told me to wake up by hitting me with his head. And you know, ever since then I was ready to go....once you're on that field you have to be ready to go..."-- Dolphins rookie OLB Koa Misi
- "Sam? Bradford? No. He's going to get killed."--Buccaneers rookie Gerald McCoy when jokingly asked if he'd take it easy on his former Oklahoma teammate when Tampa Bay plays the Rams.
- "You know, he's a Hall of Famer and he's a Pro Bowler. Whatever I can get from him--if he's tying his shoes a certain way, I'm going to pick it up and do the same thing he's doing."--First-round pick Russell Okung on the opportunity to learn from Seahawks offensive tackle Walter Jones
- "It was pretty boring...I wasn't even watching it."--Former Iowa LB Pat Angerer on the television broadcast of the NFL Draft. He was playing cards with his family when the Colts called to tell him he was their second-round pick.
- "I had hemorrhoids, that is the only thing."--Dolphins third-round pick John Jerry when asked if he had any injury issues in college.
- "I literally ran down the street and just laid in the middle of the road and started crying."--Bears rookie safety Major Wright, on his reaction to being selected in the second round by Chicago.
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