Time constraints present new challenges
The NFL shortened the amount of time between picks to create better TV. The change also could lead to fewer trades and some embarrassing blunders, writes John Clayton.
With no quarterback considered worthy of being the No. 1 overall pick, this year's draft isn't considered as sexy as in past years.
Still, this draft, which starts Saturday at New York's Radio City Music Hall, is considered a good one. It's strong on offensive tackles, pass-rushers and running backs. The receiving class might lack star power, but it's solid and deep. There are plenty of fast cornerbacks.
One change in terminology comes out of this draft. Only two rounds will be held on Saturday instead of three, changing the meaning of "first-day choice." We all will just have to adjust.
1. Picking up the pace: To make for better television, the NFL shortened the amount of time between picks. In the first round, teams will have 10 minutes to make their selections instead of 15. The second-round window will be seven minutes. Rounds 3 through 7 will be five minutes. General managers can't linger on the phones too long as they explore draft day trades and try to maximize offers. If a team doesn't submit its selection card before the allotted time has elapsed, the next team gets to jump in and make a pick. That would be embarrassing, but the shortened time period won't prevent trades. Remember, teams have had a year to prepare for this. They had better be ready to make quicker decisions.
Don't be surprised, though, if there are more veteran trades than normal. There isn't much available in free agency, so trading 2008 draft choices may be the last chance to get a potential starter. One player who could influence the first couple of rounds is Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey. The 27-year-old Shockey could end up with a team such as New Orleans, which might think he is better than a second- or third-round tight end.
3. Cornering the small-college market: Proving that scouts will find top players no matter where they are, the cornerback position is especially fascinating because the top three are from small colleges: Leodis McKelvin is from Troy, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie is from Tennessee State and Mike Jenkins is from South Florida. The small-college connections might make teams in the top 10 gun-shy, but clearly, McKelvin, Rogers-Cromartie and Jenkins will go in the first round. After the top 10, the cost of the picks isn't as risky.
4. The perfect draft to fill two-back rotations: Darren McFadden is considered the only true three-down running back in the draft, but the eight underclassmen backs -- including McFadden -- make this a special group of runners. Only three of the top 11 backs are seniors. Four underclassmen -- McFadden, Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Stewart and possibly Felix Jones -- could go in the first round. Just about every team is going to a two-back rotation, and these are perfect backs to augment any backfield.Jamaal Charles of Texas and Chris Johnson of East Carolina are fast, explosive backs with 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash. Chauncey Washington of USC is moving up draft boards with his recent 4.33 time in the 40. Steve Slaton of West Virginia, Ray Rice of Rutgers and Mike Hart of Michigan are good backs who will be available perhaps as late as the third or fourth round.
6. Abundance of pass-rushers: Normally, a draft offers maybe two or three potential pass-rushers. This year's draft has at least five who could go in the first round and there are two more who could develop into potential 10-sacks-per-season ends or pass-rushing linebackers. Chris Long of Virginia, Vernon Gholston of Ohio State, Derrick Harvey of Florida, Lawrence Jackson of USC and Calais Campbell of Miami each has had 10 or more sacks in a season in college. Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling and Quentin Groves of Auburn have 10-sack potential. All seven could go in the first round.
7. Weird year for wide receivers: At the combine, the receiving group reminded some scouts of the 2004 draft that featured Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams and Lee Evans, combinations of big bodies and good speed.But except for Devin Thomas of Michigan State, who could end up going to Buffalo with the No. 11 pick, receivers -- big and small -- could slip into the high teens or the 20s. Malcolm Kelly of Oklahoma, Limas Sweed of Texas, James Hardy of Indiana and DeSean Jackson of Cal could go in the first round. Four of the five are underclassmen, with Sweed being the only senior of the group. If Thomas does slip close to 20, don't worry about this draft's being considered down on wide receivers. In 2006, the only first-round receiver was Santonio Holmes, who went to the Steelers with the 25th pick. 8. Character: Teams are concerned about character, but there is enough interest in some of the top players with character questions that they shouldn't drop too far. Some wonder about the people who surround McFadden, but the Raiders are warming up to taking him with the fourth pick in the first round.
Cornerback Aqib Talib of Kansas had some past issues with marijuana, but enough teams believe those issues are behind him. He has a first-round rating and should be selected that high.9. Underclassmen: You have to wonder whether this draft would be a disaster without the influx of underclassmen. As many as 28 underclassmen could go in the first two rounds. Offense was bolstered by six wide receivers and six running backs who could go in the first round. On defense, five ends and four cornerbacks could go in the first day of the draft. Expect 13 or 14 underclassmen to go in the first round. 10. Parity plus: The Giants' Super Bowl victory, combined with a 32-32 deadlock in interconference play, allowed the NFC to catch up to the AFC last season. For years, the AFC had the edge on the field over the NFC. Also, the NFC enters this draft with a little bit more clout. The 16 NFC teams have 129 draft picks -- six more than the AFC. The NFC East has the most with 36. After the Chiefs' trade with the Vikings for Jared Allen this week, Kansas City owns a league-leading 13 draft picks. but the Vikings had the draft-pick clout needed to pull off that deal. The Eagles and Bears have 11 apiece, and Philadelphia could end up with more if it trades cornerback Lito Sheppard.
John Clayton, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame writers' wing, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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2008 NFL DRAFT
The 2008 draft lasted 14 hours, 26 minutes. Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long (above), selected by Miami, was the No. 1 overall pick. This year's Mr. Irrelevant -- the last pick in the draft -- is David Vobora, a linebacker from Idaho selected by St. Louis with the 252nd pick.
Round-by-round, team-by-team picks• Round: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
• AFC East: Buffalo | Miami | N. England | NY Jets
• AFC North: Baltimore | Cinc. | Cleve. | Pitt.
• AFC South: Houston | Indy | Jax | Tennessee
• AFC West: Denver | K.C. | Oakland | San Diego
• NFC East: Dallas | NYG | Philadephia | Wash.
• NFC North: Chicago | Detroit | G.B. | Minnesota
• NFC South: Atlanta | Carolina | N.O. | Tampa
• NFC West: Arizona | S.F. | St. Louis | Seattle
Inside Radio City Music Hall• Panoramic views
Commentary/Features• Wickersham: Bears, Ravens take opposite turns
• Williamson: Remembering Heath Benedict
• Yasinskas: Falcons should be patient with Ryan
• Clayton: Six draft trends
• Chadiha: 10 great marriages
• Walker: NFC East draft review
• Sando: NFC West draft review
• Willamson: NFC North draft review
• Yasinskas: NFC South draft review
• Sando: AFC East draft review
• Williamson: AFC West draft review
• Walker: AFC North draft review
• Yasinskas: AFC South draft review
• Clayton: Day 1 winners and losers
• Williamson: Davis couldn't resist McFadden
• Walker: Ravens had to work for Flacco
• Sando: Long addresses Rams' D-line needs
• Chadiha: AFC East hustle continues on draft day
• Yasinskas: Ryan gives Falcons hope, identity
Mel Kiper• Kiper's team-by-team draft grades
• Day 1 good, bad moves: Questionable Titans
News• 2008 breaks previous trade record
• Jets sign NCAA career rushing leader Woodhead
• Lions pick Smith with first pick of second day
• Miami, Long make it official | NFL Local
Video• Green: First-round pick instant analysis
• Complete draft analysis
• One-on-one with Jake Long
• One-on-one with Chris Long
• One-on-one with Matt Ryan
• One-on-one with Darren McFadden
• One-on-one with Glenn Dorsey
• One-on-one with Vernon Gholston
• Ed Werder on Cowboys
• Norv Turner interview
• Fantasy Spin
Audio• Jake Long | Chris Long | Matt Ryan
• Darren McFadden | Vernon Gholston
• Glenn Dorsey | Keith Rivers | Chris Williams
• Lawrence Jackson
SportsNation• Vote: Best first-round pick? | Potential busts?
• Grades: How did your team fare?
Scouts Inc.• Analysis: Round 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
Cheat Sheets: RB | DL | DB | LB | OL | REC | QB
• McShay: Seven-round mock draft
• Revisiting the 2005 draft | 2005 re-draft