Baltimore a nice landing spot for Smith
From Troy Smith's slide and eventual soft landing in Baltimore to some praise for Matt Millen, Len Pasquarelli offers some finals thoughts on the 2007 draft.
Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith probably went about a round later than most pundits anticipated, with his name not called until the final selection in the fifth round (pick No. 174 overall), when the Baltimore Ravens ended his free fall.
But the Ohio State quarterback, the fourth Heisman Trophy winner in the past 10 years to not be chosen in the first round, might actually have fallen into some good fortune.
With 12-year veteran Steve McNair closing in on the end of his career at age 34, and former first-rounder Kyle Boller deemed a bust by Baltimore officials as he enters the final season of his contract, Smith by default unofficially becomes the Ravens' quarterback of the future. And the future might be only another season or two off.
McNair isn't going to stick around much longer and Boller, who will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring, figures to get an offer that will be tempting enough for him to leave the Ravens after a mostly miserable tenure with the club. The only other quarterback on the roster is Drew Olsen, an undrafted free agent in 2006 and currently playing in NFL Europa.
"It's a great chance for me to learn from two veterans and we'll just have to see what happens," Smith said. "But I'm definitely looking forward to it."
Smith has a very strong arm; his accuracy is much better than people make it out to be; and he has made impressive strides the past couple of years. But his lack of size (6 feet, 225 pounds) isn't the best fit for the Baltimore offense as it is currently configured because he probably needs to operate more on the move than in the pocket, so some changes might need to be made. But he'll get solid tutoring from coach Brian Billick and coordinator Rick Neuheisel and will have a chance to develop into a starter.
Newsome, by the way, was one of several general managers trying to move up in the first round for a shot at Brady Quinn as the Notre Dame quarterback continued to tumble. He was not, though, willing to surrender his first-round choice in next year's draft as Cleveland general manager and former Ravens personnel director Phil Savage did.
• Mixed signals: There were only 11 quarterbacks taken in the two days, six on Saturday and five on Sunday, down from the quarterback class of 12 in 2006. The 11 quarterbacks is the fewest selected since 2001, when there were also 11 who went off the board, and less than the 13.6 the draft has averaged since 2000. Among the notable QBs who were not drafted and will have to go to camp as free agents: national champion Chris Leak of Florida, Jared Zabransky of Boise State, Wisconsin's John Stocco, Drew Tate of Iowa, Pitt's Tyler Palko and Tulane's Lester Ricard.
• Shanahan keeps gambling: Denver coach Mike Shanahan last week termed himself "a gambler" in the draft, and he certainly lived up to that reputation this weekend. Shanahan chose Florida defensive tackle Marcus Thomas, regarded by many teams as the most notable character risk in the entire draft pool and off some clubs' boards entirely, in Sunday's fourth round. In fact, so ardently did Shanahan want Thomas, projected to be a top-10 pick before he was booted off the Gators' squad for a variety of indiscretions, that he traded three picks just to get into position to take him. In the first round, Shanahan moved up the board to grab defensive end Jarvis Moss, another former Florida standout. Moss was suspended by coach Urban Meyer for one game, and published reports indicated the sanction came after he tested positive for marijuana. League scouts said that, to his credit, Moss responded candidly to all questions about any perceived character problems and did an excellent job rehabilitating his image with every team that visited with him.
• Market crash: So much for the plethora of trades involving veteran players many people predicted would take place over the weekend. Unless a deal went unannounced, there were just three deals involving veterans that were completed. They were: quarterback Josh McCown and wide receiver Mike Williams from Detroit to Oakland; wide receiver Randy Moss from Oakland to New England; and wide receiver Darrell Jackson to San Francisco from Seattle.
The anticipated trades of some high-profile veterans -- Kansas City quarterback Trent Green, San Diego tailback Michael Turner and defensive tackle Kris Jenkins -- never came close. The Chargers entertained at least one offer for Turner, but no one met the asking price of general manager A.J. Smith. Miami officials, loath to surrender the fourth-round choice Kansas City wants for Green, seem willing to call the bluff of Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson. Apparently, the Dolphins feel that, at some point, Peterson will have no choice but to release Green, who is scheduled to earn $7.2 million in 2007. Green has said that, if he departs the Chiefs, Miami is where he wants to land so he can be reunited with head coach Cam Cameron, his one-time quarterbacks coach in Washington.
• Millen got it right: He was criticized in a lot of quarters for not sliding down from his original perch in the first round and for choosing Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson with the second overall pick in the entire draft, but kudos to Detroit Lions president Matt Millen for not allowing himself to have history dictate his selection. Everyone knows Millen used three straight top-10 selections on wide receivers -- Charles Rogers (2003), Roy Williams (2004) and Mike Williams (2005). The failures of Rogers, who is out of the league, and Mike Williams, who was dealt to Oakland on Saturday night as a throw-in to the trade that sent backup quarterback Josh McCown to the Raiders, have been well-documented. But unless one of the several suitors for Johnson knocked Millen's socks off with a trade offer, and apparently none did, keeping the pick and taking the brilliant Yellow Jackets wideout was the way to go.
On most boards around the league, including the Detroit order, Johnson was the highest-rated prospect in the draft. If he flops the way Rogers and Mike Williams did, there will be a lot of shocked scouts around the league, and a lot who would have made the same mistake in choosing him. Millen still hasn't done nearly enough to reverse his team's fortunes, but selecting Johnson, rather than kowtowing to all the experts who suggested he couldn't take a wide receiver in the first round for the fourth time in five years, absolutely was the right move.
• Tough call: Perhaps even more ridiculed than Millen was agent Tom Condon of Creative Artists Agency. Condon caught a lot of heat for allowing Quinn to go to New York to attend the draft. This marked the second straight year in which a Condon quarterback client was forced to sit uncomfortably in the green room as he slid down the first-round order, with Matt Leinart having experienced a plummet to the No. 10 overall slot in 2006. But it's a tough call for Condon, particularly because just about everyone had Quinn pegged as a certain top-10 selection and the NFL invitation is tough to turn down. It might make for great television drama when such moments occur, but it's no fun if you happen to be the player sitting around waiting for the vigil to end. The league needs to do a much better job of determining which players it invites to the draft.
It was a terrific move, by the way, on the part of rookie commissioner Roger Goodell to invite Quinn and his family to adjourn to his private suite. About halfway through the first round, the family gained some solace from the TV cameras. "What a classy move," Condon said Sunday evening. "Roger had his own family in there for a while, his kids and all, and then he had them leave so that Brady and his family could have some privacy. He was very sensitive to what was going on, and there is a human quality to him that makes him able to connect well with players." At one point during his plummet, Quinn actually invited Suzy Kolber of ESPN into Goodell's suite so television viewers could see that he wasn't suffering an emotional meltdown. He definitely handled the brutal experience with more aplomb than Leinart exhibited a year go. As for Condon, well, no one need shed too many tears for him, given the CAA draft haul. Noted his CAA partner, Ben Dogra, as the two men exited Radio City Music Hall on Saturday evening: "We had five No. 1s and five No. 2s, and we're walking out of here pissed off. Go figure." In all, CAA had a dozen first-day picks.
• A word for Vick: Speaking of Goodell, he had about a 15-minute private session with Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick, who has been in the news too much lately for all the wrong reasons. It would be hyperbole to suggest Goodell issued a caution to Vick, but he did note that this is a key year for the Falcons' star and that he needs to get some off-field issues in order. Vick has conceded he might need to finally cut ties to some longtime friends.
• RBs a good value in fourth round: Not quite as mysterious as Quinn's fall, but still puzzling, was the unpredictable slide of Antonio Pittman. The former Ohio State star was assessed by many people as the No. 3 tailback in the talent pool, behind only Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch. But he didn't go off the board until the eighth pick of the fourth round, the 10th running back taken, when the New Orleans Saints tossed out a safety net for him. With Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush already on hand, New Orleans really doesn't need another tailback, but Pittman was too good to pass on at that point. Even then, though, Pittman might prove to be only the second-best tailback bargain in the fourth round. Oakland kicked off the second day of the lottery by grabbing Michael Bush, the former Louisville star who played in just one game in 2006 but was rated a first-round prospect before breaking his right tibia in the opening game of last season.
• Jets get aggressive: With only four choices over the two days, the result of some clever maneuvering in the first two rounds to land players they coveted, the New York Jets won't be accused of pulling in a draft bounty. But in just their second year together, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Eric Mangini demonstrated they know their way around the draft and know how to work the phones to get key prospects they have targeted. New York desperately needed a cover corner and jumped up 11 spots in the first round to snatch University of Pittsburgh star Darrelle Revis, maybe the top player at his position. In the second round, the Jets moved again, this time to select David Harris, the Michigan inside linebacker who will add size to a position where Jonathan Vilma was overpowered sometimes last season in the 3-4 front.
The Jets also got a pretty nice project-type player in the sixth round when they chose Nicholls State offensive tackle Jacob Bender. In the seventh round, the Jets took Chansi Stuckey from Clemson, who could develop into a No. 4 wide receiver.
• Kicking and screaming: For the second year in a row, teams did not invest a first-day choice on a kicker or a punter. Kicker Mason Crosby of Colorado was rated by most scouts as the top specialist in the pool, but he wasn't chosen until the sixth round, when Green Bay tabbed him with the 193rd overall pick. Four other specialists -- punter Adam Podlesh of Maryland (Jacksonville, fourth round), Baylor punter Daniel Sepulveda (Pittsburgh, fourth round), UCLA kicker Justin Medlock (Kansas City, fifth round) and kicker Nick Folk of Arizona (Dallas, sixth round) -- were chosen ahead of Crosby.
• The last word: "Everyone was saying that I was losing money. Well, I never had it to lose. In my wallet, I have, like, maybe a dollar in cash." -- Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn on the money his first-round slide cost him on his rookie contract
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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