Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Scott Wright, NFL Draft analyst and President of Draft Countdown. If you’re looking for an interview with someone who knows all there is to know on the NFL Draft, here it is. Here’s the transcript:
Adam: How do you feel the Redskins trading for Donovan McNabb will alter the first round? Who will be the big winners and losers out of that trade?
Scott: Well, overall, you’ve gotta say the big winners are the offensive tackles. McNabb to Washington all but guarantees that Russell Okung (Oklahoma State) will go in the top 5 picks, whether it be at two to Detroit, four to Washington, or five to Kansas City. Because of this, now the second or third offensive tackles, who will likely be Bryan Bulaga (Iowa) or Trent Williams (Oklahoma), will go higher than expected, and will probably be off the board in the top 10.
On the “loser” side, it has to be quarterback Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame). As early as Washington, the organization as a whole loved him. Now, he is likely to go to Buffalo at nine, but there’s still the possibility that we could witness another Aaron Rodgers-type slide down the first round. From the Redskins’ perspective, you have to love this deal. This makes them a much better football team. Going into this year, they would have had to have a sub-par quarterback or a rookie, whether it was Clausen, Colt McCoy (Texas), or Tim Tebow (Florida). Now, they acquired someone who still has a solid four years left in the tank, and all they had to trade was a second round pick? A great move in my book.
Adam: When it comes to Tim Tebow, there is no consensus: you either believe he should go in the top 5, or not waste a third round pick on him. Where do you think he should go, and where do you think he will ultimately go?
Scott: Well with Tim, he certainly is the definition of polarizing. I’ve said this for three years now; he will go down as one of the most controversial draft prospects ever. This being said, I find it doubtful that he will make it as an NFL quarterback. Personally, I think he should be drafted in the third round as a player who will be willing to try out other positions, such as H-Back, wildcat QB, and a goal-line fullback. Strictly, as a quarterback, he is a fourth or fifth round pick. You hear a lot about how he’s changed his throwing motion and what not, but when push comes to shove, he will revert to his old ways. This isn’t really his fault. His college and high school coaches should have tried to change it, but he’s stuck with it now. If you look at a David Carr, Byron Leftwich, or a Philip Rivers, they all had questionable motions coming out of college, and just how different are their motions now? He will never be a textbook passer, but he will be his best if he can learn to make his throwing motion work in the NFL.
Overall, I think he will go in the first round, but I would wait until the third round. On one hand, he could definitely go to a team that doesn’t need a QB that could groom him into a potential successor, such as Indianapolis or New England. On the other hand, when you look at Buffalo, they are certainly interested in him, but if they don’t get him at pick #9, would they be able to get him in the second round? It’s doubtful, as a team will fall in love with his intangibles. His intangibles are off the charts. I had a chance to talk to him at senior week, and he was just a great guy to be around. However, when you draft a quarterback, you aren’t looking for just that. Danny Wuerffel was a great guy, but he couldn’t play QB in the pros.
Adam: We all know that teams have different criteria for choosing players, such as the Raiders loving raw data and combine numbers. What method do you believe is most successful? And for our New York teams, what strategy will they go into the draft with?
Scott: It really is a cliché to say that teams want to draft the “best player available”. That’s a load of crap (laughing). 99 out of 100 times, teams look to draft someone who is not only talented, but someone who addresses a need. If you have pick #15, and you want to take your 20th best player, it isn’t too much of a reach, considering most picks around each other are interchangeable.
With the Giants, it’s no question that they need to draft quality over quantity. Last year, they had a great draft, but most of their players are just depth or backups. If I was the Giants, I would look to possibly package my third round pick with my first to ensure that Rolando McClain is a New York Giant. They need to make sure to get him on their roster. They need starters, not just backups and depth.
With the Jets, they have recently done a great job of addressing needs. They are another team who should look to move up and get a player that can contribute right away instead of be a backup. At defensive end, Mike Devito is not a starter. They could possibly try to trade up to get a Jared Odrick (Penn State) or a Taylor Mays (Southern Cal). Mays with Jim Leonard could create havoc in the secondary for years to come.
Adam: Every year there are some players who make it to the top of the draft based on a good year or combine, such as New York Jet Vernon Gholston going 6th in 2008. Which player do you feel has the potential of going too high for what you think his production will be?
Scott: With respect to the NFL Combine, you have to say Bruce Campbell from Maryland. On paper, he is the #1 overall pick. He is everything and more you look for physically from a left tackle… just a freakish physical specimen. but he only started 19 games and never earned All-Conference honors in the ACC. Sure, he isn’t going to get paid to run over people, but he plays the game too soft. Like a basketball player. He has the premier talent to grow into a great left tackle, but he will be drafted too high based strictly on his combine numbers.
From great senior seasons, the two players who stick out are Dan Williams (Tennessee) and Jason Pierre-Paul (South Florida). Both players were starters in their final years at college and their draft value skyrocketed. With Williams, he was viewed as a mid-round pick preseason, and now he is being floated around the first round. With Pierre-Paul, he is known for being a freak, one-dimensional athlete. Both players will be first rounders, but I’m not sure if their college careers stand up to that.
Adam: For the Giants, it seems like everyone has them set on grabbing Alabama’s Rolando McClain in the first round. What do you think they should do, if McClain is or isn’t there?
Scott: The Giants need to draft Rolando McClain. If he’s gone by #15, then it becomes a tricky situation. As I previously said, they don’t have many glaring needs, so they could take their best player available. Right now, I have them taking Anthony Davis, the left tackle out of Rutgers. Long term, he could be a starter with Will Beatty. From what I hear, they really like the aforementioned Jason Pierre-Paul. He had a great workout with them, and defensive end may be a need for the Giants. Osi Umenyiora could be gone after this year, and Mathias Kiwanuka is in the final year of his contract. You think about the 2007 Super Bowl, then right after, they draft Justin Tuck. They perform well with a multitude of pass-rushers, and Pierre-Paul is just that. C.J. Spiller could be another one, but it looks like he will be gone come the 15th pick. Another popular player for the Giants is Sean Weatherspoon out of Missouri. However, he doesn’t really fit their ILB needs as a pure OLB. Truly, I don’t think they will go Weatherspoon because he is classified as a reach at 15, and the Giants aren’t known for making reaches.
Adam: Finally, the Jets made a splash this week, trading for Pittsburgh WR Santonio Holmes. How do you think this will change what the Jets will do in the draft?
Scott: Trading for Santonio Holmes certainly eliminates wide receiver as their first round pick, at least for this year. With Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, they are both under one year deals. Whoever performs will likely stay and whoever doesn’t will likely be released. Another direction that they could go is defensive line or safety. It’s well believed that they need an outside linebacker, but they have too much money tied in there, with Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, and the final year of Vernon Gholston. The production wasn’t really there at OLB, but they simply can’t afford to pay more money to a potential bust.
Special thanks to Scott Wright of Draft Countdown to make this interview happen.