Rookie QBs may have to sit, learn
Mailbag: Did the Pats (gasp!) make a mistake by trading Richard Seymour to Oakland?
Judge Susan Richard Nelson could rule Monday on the Tom Brady lawsuit, and, by doing so, she'll give some direction as to how the next few months will go in the NFL.
Her ruling will have an impact on those teams considering the seven or eight top quarterbacks in this draft. If, for example, Judge Nelson lifts the lockout but allows the case to go on appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court, the lockout could stay in place at least through mid-June, which affects the ability of those rookie quarterbacks to prepare for the 2011 season.
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But Newton isn't the only rookie affected. None of the draft choices will get a chance to work out with coaching instruction, making it tougher for them to make first-year impacts.
The concern about this draft class is that most -- if not all -- of these quarterbacks need a season of coaching before they have a chance to be successful.
Even with that in mind, I do think seven quarterbacks will be selected in the first 48 selections.
By Monday, teams will get some feel how long this labor problem is going to continue.
From the inbox
To Tyler in Pittsburgh, as much as the Steelers show a need for a cornerback, I don't know if the right one will be there for them at the 31st pick in the first round. If that is the case, they should draft an offensive or defensive lineman and get a cornerback in the second or third round. Cornerback is a primary need, but it would be a mistake for the Steelers to reach for a player in the first round if he isn't there. Also, I don't see them trading up for anyone. Greg in Woodhull, Ill., believes the Cardinals will take linebacker Von Miller and I totally agree. But what if he's gone? The Cardinals aren't taking a quarterback at No. 5. I can see them taking Patrick Peterson, but it might not be a bad thought to trade down with Houston and let the Texans take Peterson. Houston would be interested in trading up. Daniel in Indianapolis wants to know my thoughts about guaranteed contracts. He doesn't think they should be allowed because it's a privilege to play in the NFL. But Daniel, it's also a business -- a very dangerous business in which a player risks his body. If a player has the leverage to get good guarantees, he should get them. If he doesn't have that leverage, he has to work harder to keep his salary. Matt in Pittsburgh, the simple explanation for the de-emphasis of the fullback is that the league continues to evolve into more of a passing league. Teams are designing running plays only 41 percent of the time. Second, colleges basically don't have the fullback position because of the expansion of the spread offense, so NFL teams have to project players at other positions to become fullbacks. Bill in Waterbury, Conn., the Bills are seriously thinking about taking a quarterback in the first round of the draft. If Cam Newton is there, it's a slam dunk. Over the weekend, they were debating whether to take Blaine Gabbert or go with Miller. To Tom in Cincinnati, the Bengals are serious about going back to a run-first offense, but the idea of drafting a right tackle can't trump the need of getting a new quarterback or getting A.J. Green at wide receiver. The Bengals gambled on taking a right tackle with Andre Smith, and that didn't work out. If they let history repeat by taking a tackle in the first round, they would be making a huge mistake. Drew in Novato, Calif., there is no way the Cowboys would trade into the top five of the draft to get Peterson. I still don't believe they are totally in the market for a corner because they still believe in Terence Newman, Michael Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. Jason in Valdosta, Ga., thinks the Atlanta Falcons should draft a pass-rusher in the first round and I agree. Every team in the NFC South needs upgrades on the pass rush. Back to the Cowboys, Nowlin in Navarre, Fla., wants to know if the Cowboys will draft an offensive lineman in the first round. I say they'd better. They will have the opportunity to get the top offensive lineman in this draft.
Paul in Franklin, Ind.
A: Like the Eagles, the Patriots try to stay young and are willing to let older, highly paid starters go a little early. Although you make a good point that some of their picks haven't equaled the play of some of the departed starters -- Seymour and Asante Samuel -- the Pats are building a good, young core group of players that fit within the budget. A 14-2 season can't be considered a disaster even though they lost that opening playoff game to the Jets last season. Most of the league made a mistake by passing on Matthews, and the Patriots would clearly like to have Matthews as their main pass-rusher. As for the Raiders' pick, that was a calculated gamble and it could still become a good one if the Patriots get the right pass-rusher with that pick or their own pick in the first round.
Q: As both a New Yorker and a marketing major, I am very confused at the NFL's decision-making with regard to the Sept.11 games. Call me crazy, but wouldn't it have made the most sense to have Redskins vs. Eagles (or Steelers) at 4:15 p.m. and schedule Giants vs. Jets at 8:20 p.m.? All the places that were most affected by 9/11 (Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and New York) are represented and Giants-Jets could go down as the most watched regular-season game in history. Do you agree that this makes perfect sense from both an emotional and public relations standpoint?
Tim in Bronx, N.Y.
A: From the public relations standpoint, it makes great sense. From the football side, though, you can see where it might be a better option to go in a different direction. The Jets and Giants play their annual preseason game on Aug. 27, two weeks before the opening of the season. That's pretty soon to have the two teams playing again. As we now find out, the NFL built a contingency plan in case the regular season didn't start on time by scheduling bye weeks in such a way that those opening games can be played later in the season. It would be a public relations disaster if the NFL doesn't have games Sept. 11. It would be worse if it had to delay a Giants-Jets Sept. 11 game.
Q: If, hypothetically, the lockout continues through the beginning of the regular season, and, also hypothetically, it gets resolved before the regular season ends, will the players play the games scheduled for Week 1, or will they pick up where they left off? Also, how will division games pan out if the lockout goes through the regular season?
Ryan in Bethesda, Md.
A: I'm sure there will be a cutoff point for games. Commissioner Roger Goodell said he is prepared to push the Super Bowl back two weeks if necessary. That indicates he would be willing to delay Week 1 two or three weeks into the scheduled start of the season. But if it gets to the end of September, that is probably when the NFL would start cancelling games on a week-by-week basis. Let's hope it doesn't get to that point.
A: It would make some sense from the Eagles' standpoint, but I don't know if it would make sense from the Cardinals' standpoint. As much as the Cardinals would like to strengthen the quarterback position, they would be weakening a thin position to fix another. A lot would depend on how many teams are bidding for Kolb. I'm sure the Cardinals' preference would be to use a draft choice in 2012 for a QB rather than trade a starter in 2011.
Q: How do you expect the trade restrictions currently in place (picks can be traded but players can't, and trades involving future picks are at the teams' own risk) to affect this year's draft?
Victor in Kenner, La.
A: Even though some front-office executives believe there will be a lot of trades, I think there won't be as many as in past years. In the past few years, there has been only a handful of veterans traded during the draft, so not having veterans available for trades during the draft won't have much of an impact. Teams will be cautious dealing 2012 picks, so that could cut trades down by 20 percent. Teams also will be reluctant to shrink the number of picks they have in the draft because those picks may be their only additions to the roster for months.
Q: The Browns last season drafted Joe Haden, but with many drafts predicting the Bengals taking A.J. Green, what are the chances the Browns take another corner in Patrick Peterson with the sixth pick in the draft?
Chris in Sandusky, Ohio
A: This may sound strange, but they may have to "settle" for Peterson, a 219-pound cornerback with 4.34 speed. Mike Holmgren will want to draft offense, but I don't know if they would take Alabama receiver Julio Jones at No. 6. He's the next best offensive player. They aren't going to take an offensive lineman. They wouldn't take Alabama running back Mark Ingram at No. 6. Peterson might be the best option.
Brandon in Seattle
A: I do think it would be a mistake. As much as the Seahawks would like to get younger at quarterback, they are doing it in a very difficult year. The quarterbacks in this draft are more developmental than functional as first-year players. For one of those draftable quarterbacks to develop into a decent starter, the Seahawks would need a veteran quarterback to bridge the gap. Who better than Hasselbeck? The question is what should he be paid. Hasselbeck made $6.75 million last year. He doesn't deserve a pay cut at his age (35), so an offer of $7 million or better this year would be fair. If he asks for too much more than that, along with guarantees that would make it a tough two- or three-year contract, then the Seahawks might be making a calculated gamble in letting him hit the market. He still could come back, but if he doesn't, the Seahawks would be taking a short-term step backward.
Cory in Washington, D.C.
A: Young sealed his fate with the coaching staff when he challenged Jeff Fisher. It's time to move on for both sides. That makes finding a new quarterback a priority, but the Titans also need to improve the defense. The Titans are talented enough at wide receiver, so I don't see Jones helping the team as much as Nick Fairley or a defensive end would. If Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert falls to them, I think they should make that move. Better yet, if Gabbert drops below the fourth pick, the Titans should trade up for him.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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