By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2

It's NFL draft week, and that means there are more mock drafts in circulation than Middle East peace plans. Of course, every single mock draft everywhere will be completely worthless in a couple of days -- hmm, again like Middle East peace plans. But Tuesday Morning Quarterback wonders, why don't mock drafts actually mock the draft? Here's one that does:

1. Houston Texans.
Heath Shuler, QB, Tennessee. The same CFL-style sidearm delivery, playing in the same kind of offense designed to run up stats on lesser opponents, the same optical illusion of seeming really tall but turning out not to be: When TMQ looks at David Carr, he sees Heath Shuler with a much better publicist. Consider this harmonic-convergence stat: Shuler, total passing 4,088 yards; Carr, 4,299 total passing yards. OK, so I'm comparing Shuler's entire college career to Carr's senior year, but these kinds of things just can't be coincidence. Shuler threw 25 TDs as a junior, Carr threw 23 TDs as a junior. Both finished their college daze by honking a bowl game, falling way behind, then piling up stats in the second half after the contest was out of reach. By the Hammer of Grabthar, Houston, you have been warned!

WHAT IS TMQ?
"The Web's most original and most irreverent sports column." That's what National Public Radio called Tuesday Morning Quarterback, which has run for the last two years on the e-zine Slate. Today this column debuts on ESPN.com. Beginning in August, as the NFL season ramps up, TMQ will appear every Tuesday morning through the Super Bowl. Ye gods!

Tuesday Morning Quarterback operates from the premise that pro football is an absurd artificial universe, and therefore takes nothing seriously. (Of course, there are entire NFL teams that treat pro football as an absurd artificial universe.) The column, subject of feature stories in the New York Times and USA Today, as well as on NPR, mixes hard football commentary with history, science, science fiction, politics and anything else that can be shoehorned in, regardless of relevancy.

TMQ is written by the super-respectable Gregg Easterbrook, who is a senior editor at the super-respectable New Republic, a contributing editor of the super-respectable Atlantic Monthly and a visiting fellow at the super-respectable Brookings Institution. Nothing about TMQ, however, is respectable. That's the best part.

2. Carolina Panthers.
Michael Jordan, G, North Carolina. He's shown that not even the greatest athlete of the postwar era can keep the dreadful Washington Wizards (102-193 since their canny decision to trade Chris Webber) from being dreadful. So now Michael has tried basketball, baseball and "basketball," which is what the Wizards play. Let him try football. Line him up at any position and see what happens -- fans will be grateful for any diversion from having to watch the Panthers. Ultimate crummy game: Carolina Panthers vs. Washington Wizards.

3. Detroit Lions.
Crown Prince Abdullah, regent, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Official Kingdom Motto: "Where It's Always the 14th Century"). The Lions are owned by the Ford family, and the Ford family is owned by Saudi Arabia. Same for General Motors and Chrysler. Hey, we don't have to do anything about SUV mileage, the cheap gas will go on forever. Right?

4. Minnesota Vikings.
(Projected trade: Minnesota sends its first-, fourth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks in the 2002 draft, plus a third-round pick in 2003, a seventh-round pick in 2004 and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2005 to Buffalo for the Bills' first-round selection plus 7B and 7C picks in 2002, a fourth-round pick in 2003 and a conditional swap of fifth-round picks in 2008. Also, the teams agree to exchange Harry & David fruit baskets.) Mr. Spock, science officer, Federation starship Enterprise, NCC-1701. Using the mind-meld, Spock might be able to figure out what is going on in Randy Moss's head.

5. San Diego Chargers.
Britney Spears, perpetual teen queen, Jive Records. She's tougher than a lot of current Bolts offensive linemen, plus in sun-drenched San Diego she could bare her tummy all the time.

Britney Spears
Britney Spears would be a force "in the middle" for the Chargers.

6. Dallas Cowboys.
Kenneth Lay, disgraced former CEO, Enron. The 'Boys tab this Texan of great personal integrity to fix the books and solve the team's running salary-cap problems. Lay immediately announces Dallas is $89 billion under the cap.

7. Cincinnati Bengals.
(Projected trade: Cinncy sends its first-, third- and seventh-round picks in 2002, an undisclosed pick in 2003 and sixth-round picks in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 to Buffalo for Minnesota's first- and sixth-round picks in 2002, Buffalo's projected free-agency compensatory pick in 2003 and Minnesota's conditional 2005 fifth pick. Also, the teams agree to sponsor each other's foreign exchange students.) Fred Woods, actual player, Massillon High School, Ohio. Cincinnati college picks always bust, and Massillon has a better long-term record than the Bengals. Check Massillon's "countdown to kickoff" meter here.

8. Kansas City Chiefs.
Ariel Sharon, leader, Likud Party. Brings an aggressive, attacking style. View minute-by-minute official-version dispatches from Israel operations in the West Bank via the Israeli Defense Force website. The Palestinian Authority site is temporarily off the air, owing to incoming ordnance. Its announcement, posted here, dryly notes that "The hard-working {Palestinian} technical staff maintaining webservers on the ground are dealing with shoot-to-kill curfews and other severe obstacles." Note to supporters of the Third Temple dream: It is not an auspicious sign that the Baltimore Ravens defense has a better human-rights record than Israel's prime minister.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jerramy Stevens
A clerical error could vault Washington tight end Jerramy Stevens into the first round.

This Florida club thinks it selected TE Jeremy Shockey of Miami, but the United States Supreme Court rules it actually chose TE Jerramy Stevens of Washington. Team officials protest that the league's butterfly-style draft ballots are too confusing.

10. Oakland Raiders.
(Projected trade: Oakland sends its first-, second- and seventh-round picks in 2002, its sixth-round pick in 2008, sixth-round pick in 2028 and computer-simulated sixth-round pick in 2145 to Buffalo for Minnesota's first-round pick in 2002, Cincinnati's sixth-round pick in 2006 and the right of first refusal on Buffalo's third-round pick in 2018. Also, teams agree that at the next league pot-luck dinner, the Bills will provide the main dishes and Raiders provide the salad and dessert.) Ted Koppel, anchor, "Nightline." His current team tried to trade him for a younger player, and he's really, really steamed about that -- a classic Raiders rehab project.

11. Indianapolis Colts.
Jared Jeffries, F, Indiana. Toothpick-slim soph hero of the Hoosiers' improbable run to the NCAA final declares jump to the NBA; Jeffries should be jumping to Dairy Queen for a milkshake. If significantly bulked up, he'd be muscular enough to be a punter.

12. Arizona (CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN FOOTBALL-LIKE SUBSTANCE) Cardinals.
It makes absolutely no difference whom the Cardinals draft, and it never will.

13. New Orleans Saints.
Karl Malone, F, Utah. Please move the Jazz back, so their name can make sense again. Lakers should return to Minnesota for same reason.

14. New Jersey Giants.
Mike Tyson
Iron Mike should fit right in with the dysfunctional Giants.

Mike Tyson, heavyweight, appearing in whatever state will take him. The G-Men fight amongst themselves so much that Tyson would be a calming influence.

15. Tennessee Flaming Thumbtacks.
Al Gore, deposed VP, Columbia University. Gore said he was going to "go back home and mend some fences," but continues to hang out in New York City and Europe. Bet he doesn't know the Thumbtacks moved to Nashville.

16. Atlanta Falcons.
Zell Miller, "Democrat," United States Senate. Ever since Republican Jim Jeffords left the party, swinging the Senate to the Democrats, Democrat Miller of Georgia has been expected to go Republican, swinging it back. Then, if the offer was right, he could change again. Miller could become the Chuck Bednarik of politics!

17. Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0).
Tom Petty, lead guitar, The Heartbreakers. TMQ thinks the Browns (Release 2.0) should merge with Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, producing the first singing football team. Stadium sound system would play wa-wa effects on visiting-team third downs.

18. Chesapeake Watershed Region Indigenous Persons.
Wes Chandler, WR, Florida. Steve Spurrier continues to stockpile former Gator receivers. (TMQ won't say "R*dsk*ns," and will explain why not in a future column.)

19. Denver Broncos.
Julius Peppers
TMQ can only dream about "Orange Julius" landing in Denver.

Julius Peppers, DE, North Carolina. OK, he's not likely to slip this far, but TMQ hopes he does so that headlines can proclaim: Orange Julius. Tuesday Morning Quarterback is a major Orange Julius fan, though finds it unsettling that the franchise's FAQs page cryptically boasts its drinks contain an unspecified "Smoothy Booster" plus mysterious "Nutrifiers" intended to enhance "mind or mood." I've given up enhancing my mind, but my mood continues to need work.

20. Seattle Seahawks.
JDAM, smart bomb, Boeing. This GPS PGM was MVP of the Afghan air campaign. If only Matt Hasselbeck could throw as accurately as the JDAM falls.

21. New Orleans Saints.
(Projected trade: Mike Ditka temporarily resumes control of the Saints' front office and sends all the team's remaining picks in 2002, plus all New Orleans selections in the 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 drafts, to the Bills for Oakland's 1A pick in 2002. Buffalo agrees to pay shipping and handling costs for all these picks.) Ricky Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins.

22. New Jersey Jets.
Donna Karan, couturiére, Manhattan. Seriously, Jets, it's 2002. Do something about those unis.

23. Oakland Raiders.
Lawrence Tribe, JD, Harvard. Since Al Davis's hobby is filing lawsuits in an attempt to destroy the NFL, he might as well stockpile legal talent.

24. Baltimore Ravens.
Trent Dilfer, QB, Fresno State. Verily, the football gods hath punished this club for releasing Dilfer after he won 11 straight and brought home a ring. Verily, the punishment will grow worse in 2002.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers.
Kordell Stewart
By drafting Mephistopheles, the Steelers hope to get another solid season out of Kordell Stewart.

(Projected trade: Steelers send first- and third-round picks in 2002 plus future selections to be negotiated by Colin Powell to Buffalo for the Saints' 1B pick in 2002, Cincinnati's sixth-round in 2005, Oakland's sixth-round in 2028 and the entire New Orleans 2009 draft. Also, the Steelers agree not to break any chain letters.) Mephistopheles, D, University of Gehenna. Last season Kordell Stewart made a deal with the devil to become a mature, effective quarterback; he just messed up the expiration date, and the deal ran out at kickoff of the AFC Championship. Get Mephistopheles on the roster, give him a bonus prorated to eternity for salary-cap purposes and keep this from happening again.

26. Philadelphia Eagles.
Trammell Crow, developer, Dallas. Crow's company has poured as much concrete as any in the world, so maybe it has the skills to fix the Vet playing surface.

27. San Francisco 49ers.
Mike Pearson, OT, Florida. Actual potential pick thrown in for variety.

28. Green Bay Packers.
Joseph Berardino, disgraced former CEO, Arthur Andersen. As the league's only publicly owned team, the Packers need the very best in accounting. Andersen promptly certifies that Green Bay will show a $583 billion profit in the second quarter. (Financial quarter, not game clock.) Andersen further certifies that every player on the current Packers roster will be first-ballot Hall of Fame and that Jennifer Lopez really can sing.

29. Chicago Bears.
HAL, megalomaniacal AI core, imaginary factory in Urbana. The evil computer at the center of "2001: A Space Odyssey" was programmed at the University of Illinois, where the Bears will play this season as Soldier Field is torn down and then rebuilt in order to make it more expensive. TMQ suggests that one of those red HAL sensors be embedded in QB Jim Miller's helmet. It would signal plays by saying in the spooky HAL voice, "Jim. Run the shotgun, Jim. The shotgun, Jim." If Miller called the wrong play, HAL would cut off his oxygen and Gatorade. (Quick, readers -- what does the name HAL mean, and what song did this sinister computer learn to sing as it became self-aware?)

30. Buffalo Bills.
Exhausted and emotionally spent from trading down so many times, the Bills miss their 15 minutes on the clock as all personnel are out at Starbucks ordering double Rapazapafrapachinos. On the plus side, Buffalo has cornered the market on future sixth-round picks.

31. St. Louis Rams.
Zebtron 5/pi'Q, morph back, University of Cassiopeia at 47 Ursae Majoris. Leadership of Kurt Warner's homeworld is not happy about Super Bowl letdown; space-alien reinforcements clearly needed. Zebtron, an n-dimensional energy being who can run the 40 in minus-4.3 seconds by generating a muon inversion field, should fit right in with the Rams receiver corps.

32. New England Patriots.
Patrick Henry, patriot, Virginia House of Burgesses. They were the perfect team to take the Super Bowl at this point in history, and they got their rings the old-fashioned way, by earning them. Even if the P-Men never win another game their faithful can, as Page 2's Bill Simmons has written, die happy.

Mel Kiper Watch
TMQ has loved everything about Mel Kiper since the day ESPN lost its collective mind and put him on the air. He's wacky, he's entertaining, he's a fountain of useless information, and he was the first member of the Baby Boom generation to just come out and admit he is totally, utterly obsessed with the NFL draft. Kiper has been able to make a living by being obsessed with the NFL draft. Only in America!

Mel Kiper Jr.
Kiper

To truly appreciate Kiper's nuttiness, you must sign up for the ESPN.com Insider feature and fork over $24.95. One shudders to think what it says about the decline of Western civilization that Tuesday Morning Quarterback is given away free but vast numbers of people will pay $24.95 for Mel Kiper. Nevertheless, he's worth it.

You must pony up for ESPN.com Insider to truly appreciate Kiper's nuttiness, because this will allow you to behold the full glory of his ever-changing mock drafts. So far Kiper has issued four, and they're all delightfully mutually contradictory. Mel has Levi Jones going as high as ninth, or in the middle of the first round, or falling out of the first altogether. He's got Joey Harrington going to Bengals, Bills or Carolina. He's got the Falcons picking William Green, or Jabar Gafney, or Ashley Lelie. He has Charles Grant going early, going late and not going at all. He's got Tennessee DT John Henderson going before teammate DT Albert Haynesworth and also going after him. And he's still not finished mocking! Kiper also sells a $25.95 Draft Report featuring a mock draft that picks six rounds, more than 200 simulated selections. No one, under any circumstances, could accurately forecast a sixth-round selection. ("With the 210th pick of the 2002 draft, Chicago selects Michael Moosbrugger, guard, Wake Forest.") But it doesn't matter that Mel's six-round mock draft is pure galimatias. That's the fun of it!

There are so many overlapping and mutually contradictory picks in Kiper's multiple forecasts that at least some of them will have to turn out to be right, if only by random chance -- then Mel will claim to have predicted it. Sticklers for precision might therefore object. But TMQ considers this part of the entertainment and proof of Kiper's loony genius. Pay for Insider and follow this guy.

(Note: Tuesday Morning Quarterback plans to run regular items shamelessly heaping praise upon ESPN, its personnel, management and on-air bobbleheads. There should be no problem with this blatant self-serving behavior so long as it is disclosed to readers.)

Boldly to go where no man has gone before
TMQ will now rush in where even Mel Kiper fears to tread and forecast the seventh round of the draft. Here is the incredible Tuesday Morning Quarterback seventh-round projection:

Pick No. 212: Houston. Marlon Bush, DT, Alabama-Birmingham.

Pick No. 213: Carolina. Courtland Bullard, LB, Ohio State.

Pick No. 214: Detroit. Samir Al-Amin, DB, Baylor.

Pick No. 215: Buffalo. DeMarcus Faggins, CB, Kansas State.

Pick No. 216: San Diego. Ma'ake Kemoeatu, DT, Utah.

Pick No. 217: Atlanta. Matt Holmlund, WR, Augustana.

Pick No. 218: Minnesota. Tango McCauley, G, Alabama State.

Pick No. 219: Cincinnati. DeVeren Johnson, WR, Sacred Heart.

Pick No. 220: Indianapolis. Joaquin Gonzalez, T, Miami of Florida.

Pick No. 221: Kansas City. Thatcher Szalay, G, Montana.

Pick No. 222: Jacksonville. Wes Pate, QB, Stephen F. Austin.

Pick No. 223: Arizona. Mike Vilimek, RB, Simon Fraser.

Pick No. 224: New Orleans. Josh Ochua, TE, Colorado State.

Pick No. 225: Tennessee. Antoine Lacy, RB, Eastern New Mexico.

Pick No. 226: New Jersey Giants. Cameron Peterka, PK, North Dakota.

Pick No. 227: Cleveland. Walt DeLong, OT, Georgetown of Kentucky.

Pick No. 228: Denver. Tony Wraggle, G, New Mexico State.

Pick No. 229: Houston. Dimitrius Breedlove, WR, Evangel of Missouri.

Pick No. 230: Washington. Kojo Aidoo, FB, McMaster of Ontario.

Pick No. 231: Denver. Wayne Madkin, QB, Mississippi State.

Pick No. 232: Seattle. Billy-Dee Greenwood, S, North Carolina.

Pick No. 233: Tampa. Orlando McGruder, CB, Waynesburg of Pennsylvania.

Pick No. 234: New England. Monsanto Pope, DT, Virginia.

Pick No. 235: Oakland. Ashante Woodyard, CB, Purdue.

Pick No. 236: Baltimore. Jake Houseright, LB, Virginia Tech.

Pick No. 237: Dallas. Antwan Hughes-Kirk, C, Texas.

Pick No. 238: Philadelphia. Ryan Tolhurst, WR, Richmond.

Pick No. 239: San Francisco. Dougie Allen, WR, Kentucky.

Pick No. 240: Tennessee. Jake Frysinger, DE, Michigan.

Pick No. 241: Miami. Courtland Bullard, LB, Ohio State.

Pick No. 242: Pittsburgh. Marlon Moore-Moye, LB, Maryland.

Pick No. 243: St. Louis. Jake Schifino, WR, Akron.

Pick No. 244: New England. Zac Zedalis, C, Florida.

Pick No. 245: Atlanta. Andy Lawrence, OT, Linfield.

Pick No. 246: New Jersey Jets. Grant Irons, DE, Notre Dame.

Pick No. 247: Jax. Jamonte Robinson, LB, Missouri.

Pick No. 248: Jax. Bradford Raphlet, P, Abilene Christian.

Pick No. 249: San Francisco. Dans LaPoubelle, LB, Indiana of Pennsylvania.

Pick No. 250: Buffalo. DeRoderick Nash, DB, Albany of Georgia.

Pick No. 251: Tampa. Jeremy Hibbeln, QB, St. Francis of Indiana.

Pick No. 252: Buffalo. Dicenzo Miller, RB, Mississippi State.

Pick No. 253: Detroit. Marques Glaze, RB, Bloomsburg of Pennsylvania.

Pick No. 254: Tampa. Patrick Crummey, G, Youngstown State.

Pick No. 255: Tampa. Jon Oosterhuis, DE, New Hampshire.

Pick No. 256: San Francisco. Ryan Boozer, LB, Abilene Christian.

Pick No. 257: Washington. Jykine Bradley, CB, Middle Tennessee.

Pick No. 258: Carolina. Muskingum Barnes, DT, Louisiana State.

Pick No. 259: Detroit. Faaesea Mailo, G, UCLA.

Pick No. 260: Buffalo. Adam Wulfeck, P, Cincinnati.

Pick No. 261: Houston. Syniker Taylor, S, Mississippi.

No one has ever forecast the entire seventh round before, and no one ever will again! Of course, all my seventh-round predictions are certain to be wrong; this column's motto is, All Predictions Wrong or Your Money Back. Yet every name above is that of an actual potential late-round choice who has crash-landed on somebody's draft board. Every name, that is, except one.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback Challenge
Each TMQ will end with a Challenge -- it's not a contest, merely a challenge, and the final decision will be completely arbitrary. If you know which seventh-round name is phony, submit it here, append a clever comment and don't forget to include your e-mail address. The victor, chosen arbitrarily, may receive a stylish TMQ cap or some other priceless emolument.

Gregg Easterbrook is a senior editor of New Republic, a contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is believed to be the first Brookings scholar ever to write a pro football column. You can buy his football book, the incredibly cleverly titled "Tuesday Morning Quarterback," here.




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