Sunday, February 13, 2011
Posted: 6:43 p.m.
By Ray Didinger
There is only one certainty on the NFL horizon: we know the annual draft will be held as scheduled April 28-30.
Even if the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires, even if the owners go through with their threat to lockout the players and the NFL plunges into another labor bloodbath, the draft will be held.
It may not be the same because without a CBA, teams will not be able to make trades, which is a big part of draft weekend and teams wont be able to sign the players they draft (at least not for awhile) so it will be different. But it will still take place.
The draftniks will fill the balcony. The TV networks will be there. Commissioner Roger Goodell will walk to the microphone, index card in hand, and announce: With the first pick
So lets try to project what will happen
Carolina will have the first overall selection and it sounds like new head coach Ron Rivera will use that pick to begin rebuilding his defense. Rivera was the defensive coordinator in San Diego and he believes good defense is the key to winning in the NFL.
Were going to be an aggressive, physical football team, Rivera told Pro Football Weekly. I want it to be a physical, no-nonsense, get-the-job-done identity.
Last year, the Panthers lost defensive end Julius Peppers to Chicago via free agency so it would make sense for them to invest the No. 1 pick in a stud lineman. There are a lot of good ones in this draft.
The Panthers have some depth at end with Charles Johnson (11.5 sacks in 2010), Everette Brown and Greg Hardy. The greater need is at defensive tackle which means Rivera may be looking at either Nick Fairley (Auburn) or Marcell Dareus (Alabama) with the first pick.
This is a defense-heavy draft. On my board, defensive players outnumber offensive players at the top. Ends DaQuan Bowers (Clemson), J.J. Watt (Wisconsin) and Adrian Clayborn (Iowa) all look like top 15 picks. The same can be said for linebacker Von Miller (Texas A&M) and cornerbacks Patrick Peterson (LSU), Prince Amukamara (Nebraska) and Aaron Williams (Texas).
The Panthers would have been faced with an interesting decision if Andrew Luck had chosen to enter the draft. Luck is the best quarterback prospect to come along in years. Id say the best since Peyton Manning in terms of pro potential. Some scouts say he is the best since John Elway. Either way, he is in that once-in-a-generation class.
So if Luck had entered the draft, what would the Panthers have done? Last year, they invested a second round pick in Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame hoping he would be the quarterback of the future. But Clausen was 1-9 as a starter with the worst quarterback rating in the league (58.4). Of course, the whole team was disaster so how much was the fault of a rookie quarterback? Thats a fair question.
But would the Panthers have given up on Clausen after one year and taken Luck with the first pick? Or would they have passed on Luck and drafted for defense, hoping Clausen could be salvaged with better coaching and a better supporting cast?
A case could have been made either way, but now with Luck staying at Stanford, there is no debate. Look for Rivera -- who was the Eagles linebacker coach from 1999 through 2003 -- to start stocking up on defensive talent.
Speaking of defense
People are still buzzing over Andy Reids decision to make Juan Castillo his defensive coordinator. Most felt it was a curious move. It is asking a lot for a coach to move from offense to defense and at the same time step up from position coach to coordinator.
But if you look around the NFL, you will see defensive coordinators are hard to find. The position has one of the highest turnover rates in the league.
Fourteen defensive coordinator posts have changed hands just since the end of the 2010 season. John Clayton of ESPN.com noted that other than Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh, no defensive coordinator has been calling plays for his current franchise longer than three seasons.
Thats what happens when offenses are scoring touchdowns and piling up yards at a record pace (which they are) and when the league continues to change the rules to favor offense at the expense of defense. These are tough times to be a defensive coordinator and it just keeps getting tougher.
About those talks
Remember Commissioner Goodells statement at the Super Bowl that the only way to settle the CBA was to get the two sides together, lock them in a room and negotiate? It sounded good, right? So what happened?
The owners and players met Wednesday, but the meeting broke up when the players made their proposal. The meeting scheduled for Thursday was canceled because it was deemed pointless. The two sides, it was reported, are too far apart. No further talks are scheduled.
Hey, guys, the CBA expires at 12:01 a.m. on March 4.
There does not seem to be any sense of urgency on either side and there is an enormous amount of work to be done, so there is no reason to believe they will meet next months deadline.
The start of the 2011 regular season is still months away so the fans arent worried yet. But as more time passes and the rhetoric heats up, this will get worse before it gets better.
Ray Didinger and Glen Macnow, authors of The Ultimate Book of Sports Movies, will host a movie night Wednesday, February 16, at 6:30 P.M. at Boscovs Auditorium in the Granite Run Mall. There will be a Q&A discussion followed by a screening of the classic film Hoosiers. Admission is free but space is limited so tickets are required. Call Trish at 484-433-7767 or email@example.com E-mail Ray Didinger at firstname.lastname@example.org