By DJ Gallo
Special to Page 2

Before we start previewing the 2007 NFL draft -- I have Brian Leonard of Rutgers going to the Giants in the fourth round, unless they trade that pick to the Jaguars -- let's hand out some grades for this year's affair.

A-plus: Platonic love

Matt Leinart
Wireimage.com
Were you getting a little nervous there, Matt?

Sure, by staying in school for his senior season, Matt Leinart may have come up short of the national title, failed to win back-to-back Heisman's, dropped from a sure No. 1 overall draft pick to 10th and, in doing so, lost out on upward of $40 million. On paper it looks like a terrible decision. But none of those supposed negatives factor in matters of the heart, and in returning to school Leinart developed a strong and lasting friendship with Nick Lachey. And that is something no amount of money can replace.

A: Quarterbacks drafted in the second round or later
Apparently all of them very easily could become the next Tom Brady simply because no one thinks they are good enough to go in the first round. It seems to be the required way to analyze later-round quarterback selections now. "_____ is blind in one eye, can't throw farther than 15 yards, has warrants out for his arrest in seven states, is narcoleptic and has a club foot … but they said a lot of those things about Tom Brady, too, and look where he ended up!"

B-minus: N.C. State's defensive coaches
Somehow three N.C. State defensive linemen -- Mario Williams, Manny Lawson and John McCargo -- went in the first 26 picks of the draft. Obviously N.C. State's coaches do a heck of a job developing NFL-ready linemen. Now they just need to work on developing college-ready linemen in hopes of making Wolfpack football a tad less mediocre.

C: Jets fans
On one hand, it's great that they actually cheered for D'Brickashaw Ferguson when the Jets picked him at No. 4. But on the other, failing to boo him could kill the reputation Jets fans have worked so hard for years to develop. So the question is this: Do Jets fans want to be thought of as exactly the same as fans who root for all the other awful NFL franchises -- the faceless masses who suffer through season after season of watching the Cardinals, Saints and Texans -- or do they want to continue to stand out by being unbearably obnoxious? Both paths are paved with misery, but at least the latter lets the world know you actually exist.

D-plus: Schottenheimer's sales skills
Understandably, many Chargers fans are uneasy about Philip Rivers taking over at quarterback for Drew Brees this season. On Saturday, during ESPN's coverage of the draft, Marty Schottenheimer had this to say about Rivers in an interview: "The parallel here might be Bernie Kosar because they are similar intellectually and from the standpoint of their ability to throw the football effectively." So there you have it, Chargers fans -- Philip Rivers is the second coming of Bernie Kosar. No need to worry.

D: Green Bay public schools
After the Packers took A.J. Hawk with the fifth pick in the draft, ESPN cut to a live shot of Green Bay fans celebrating at Lambeau Field. One fan, directly in front of the camera, was showing off a No. 84 Javon Walker jersey. But over "Walker" on the back of the jersey he had taped a piece of paper on which he had written "Trader." Sadly, he -- and several of his friends -- were quite proud of this misspelling. (Assuming, of course, that it was a misspelling of "traitor," and not a reference to Walker trading furs with French trappers and Native Americans during his time in Wisconsin. If fur trading is, in fact, a hobby Walker picked up while he was in the upper Midwest, I apologize for my ignorance and for implying that Green Bay's schools are churning out illiterate students.)

D-minus: Mr. Irrelevant
This year's final pick of the draft was Maine wide receiver Kevin McMahan. But to really rub in his irrelevance, he was selected by the Raiders. Kind of seems like overkill to me.

F: People who grade teams' drafts
Come on now. There's no way anyone can judge how a team performed on draft day until at least two years down the road. But it's definitely impossible before any of the drafted players even step foot on an NFL practice field. So let's put an end to this practice. (After this next one.)

F-minus: Houston Texans
Picking Mario Williams over Reggie Bush? Wow, wow, wow. Unbelievably awful.

Headlines ...

NFL draft begins in 8,687:23:29:47, 46, 45 ...

Mario Williams consulting with Sam Bowie for advice on how to deal with being a historic bust

Report: Matt Leinart already done bedding all the women in the Phoenix area; now moving on to Tempe

Kings go on 102-82 run, top Spurs 102-84

Royals looking to put poor April, decade behind them

Three Things I Thought I Thought While Smuggling an Octopus in My Pants ...

1. Kobe Bryant's performance at the end of the fourth quarter and in overtime Sunday was one of those times when you're watching it you know it's something you'll always remember. I can almost see myself 60 years from now sitting in a retirement home telling my grandson about the time I watched Kobe Bryant hit that game-winning jumper over Steve Kerr to beat the Yankees. And he'll smile knowingly and call in a nurse to change my diaper.

2. Shaquille O'Neal's pre-playoff weight loss is going to be a huge benefit to the Heat in the coming week as they'll need him to be in top form if they're going to beat the Bulls in what will be a long series. And if Shaq wants to shed five or 10 additional pounds, all he needs to do is watch film of Miami's play in Chicago. A few minutes of that and he'll be vomiting for the rest of the day. (And then, for added fun, he can watch Dwyane Wade and Gary Payton argue over who has to clean it up.)

3. It sure was great to hear Curt Schilling sound off on steroids in baseball last night on SportsCenter's "Sunday Conversation." It's just a shame Mr. Schilling has never had the opportunity to be so forthcoming on steroids on a bigger stage -- like, say, in front of Congress or something like that. I bet if you put Schilling before Congress he would tell it like it is without pulling any punches. In fact, I guarantee it. That's just the kind of straight-shooting, non-hypocritical guy he is.

DJ Gallo is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine as well as the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He also contributes headlines to The Onion.




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MAKING THE GRADE