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Monday, April 28, 2008

Draft: Day 1

Day 1 came in and out with a bang - and with a quickness no one expected. Besides being a late start (3pm), many of the early picks were decided in advance.

Notably, Matt Ryan went at 3; whether the team had any inkling of trading up or not, Atlanta beat them to it. More surprisingly, they took him over DT Glenn Dorsey. Ryan's a solid passer, but nothing incredible in my opinion, so I don't see them having found some incredible franchise saviour.

At 7, the Pats traded down to let New Orleans have Sedrick Ellis; now we have to face yet another disruptive Saints defensive lineman, but it's not terribly concerning since their back 7 will continue to be charitable to all comers. In exchange, the Pats got little, and reached heavily for Jared Mayo at 10.

The trade-happy early draft continued with Jacksonville trading to get DE Derrick Harvey at 8, and the first serious contender for our pick went off the board. The second didn't come off until 12 (Denver - Ryan Clady) based on favorable picks for us that included Mayo and Rivers - no one figured that two LB would go off the board before 13.

So, at 13, we sat with only two OT off the board, three DE, and 2 DT. No DE or DT left to take of value, so the rational assumption: trade down and get one of the remaining OT (Chris Williams, Jeff Otah, or Gosder Cherilus.

And we take Jon Stewart (no, not the Daily Show guy). A pick I'd fought for months now, because of Deangelo Williams' expected burst into a starting role and the feeling that a later back would be just fine. But, with nothing I can do about it anyway, Stewart does make a lot of sense for this offense, and it's a fine pick. We have two great young backs, and there's not much in the league like it.

At the time of the pick, after we weren't able to trade down (or didn't intend to), I was worried we'd give too much up to trade back up. And, then, we followed through on that. I'm not often one to state premonitions or predictions as fact, but I felt the reach back toward the first round coming, and watched as Williams (14) and Cherilus (17) went. And then, 19. Then, we were on the clock, astonishingly.

The pick: Jeff Otah. And that was great. Intense, powerful pick. Then, the trade was announced - 43 pick and 109 pick, and 2009 1st rounder, for the 19. Ouch. Way too much.

But, in a matter of an hour, the Panthers had picked two of their highest rated guys, at 13 and 19, and dramatically changed their offense forever. A bold move that, in part, mortgages a future that may not see the men who made it, if the play to get a 330-lb right tackle and a 240 lb RB doesn't pay major dividends.

Stewart, The Motive Power
Jonathan Stewart looks to be as good a back as Deangelo Williams or better, with slightly less homerun speed and as much versatility. Coming from a pass-happy spread offense, Stewart has to readjust to pro blocking schemes, but has quickness, burst, vision, and a compact body with great control and footwork. Williams will probably start, as the veteran, but Stewart will do plenty with the offense and may take over some 3rd down roles.

Otah: Key To The Reformation
When Jeff Davidson and Dave Magazu inherited the 2007 offensive line, the buzzwords abounded of how they were going to stay with the light, athletic OL and run zone blocking around it. The pieces were in place, and they were going to use them.

A year later, the elders of that line (Mike Wahle, Justin Hartwig) are gone; promises of reform centered around Ryan Kalil and that Travelle Wharton (re-signed though most believed he wouldn't stay) and Jordan Gross (franchised and still without a long term contract) would play a part. The pieces that followed made less sense (guards Keydrick Vincent, Milford Brown, and Toniu Fonoti, all at around 330-340 lb).

Now, with Otah on board, the whole thing falls into place - Gross at LT, Wharton at LG, Kalil at C; the above guards fight for RG, and Otah goes to RT. Jeremy Bridges (assuming he stays) fights Evan Mathis for the backup RT, Geoff Hangartner backs Kalil, and the 3rd guy in the RG sweepstakes backs Wharton. The weakness, at this point, is a backup LT, but Wharton is insurance there.

As of now, all 5 projected starting linemen, including the incumbents, are at different positions.
So, suddenly packed with a 700 lb right side of the line, the new receiving TEs make more sense, and the line philosophy makes more sense. And holes on the right side of the line will again exist.
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