The Senior Bowl has done its annual job of shaking up the draft order. It's provided us with some high rising names, like Manny Lawson, Kamerion Wimbley and perhaps, Gabe Watson.
The most significant change may be at the top of the draft board, where Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler threatens to crash Matt Leinart's and Vince Young's exclusive QB party . ESPN's Chris Mortensen started the push with an article quoting scouts saying they considered Cutler the best QB in this year's crop and might try to poor mouth him in the hope that he would fall to their team. (subscription only)
Word on Cutler has definitely spread; today come stories that the Titans and Jets who pick third and fourth respectively, are strongly considering the Vanderbilt QB.
The Titans rumors make some sense. They are in the market for a young QB, with veteran Steve McNair nearing the end of his career. Even with the respected backup Billy Volek on their roster, the Titans were considered strong candiates to draft Leinart, whom Titans' OC Norm Chow coached at USC or Young, whom McNair mentors. Tennessee got an added scouting edge because their coaches run the North squad, so Chow has gotten a week to oversee Cutler. He can now make a personal comparison of him with Leinart, at the very least.
The Jets interest is based on Chad Pennington's injured shoulder. He's coming off his second shoulder surgery in two seasons and his future remains in doubt. The article linked claims the Jets might consider Cutler if they trade down, possibly into the 10-15 range, but that's wishful thinking in my book. The Cardinals sit at 10 and need a QB. Several rumors have Dennis Green inquiring about his old QB Duante Culpepper. He's got an aging Kurt Warner and would jump at the chance to improve the position.
Then, there are the Dolphins. They've been linked with Cutler in most mock drafts, but the idea that Cutler would slide to 16 seems less likely by the day. If Miami really wants him, they'll have to strongly consider trading up.
Which means the Jets might have stand pat and pick a QB at four if they want to be assured of getting one. Two years ago, Philip Rivers was the golden boy of Senior Bowl week. Scouts were divided on his prospects, with some rating him a top five prospect and others rating him a top 25 pick at best. His buzz rocketed him from the 20-25 range to the top of the draft, where he became part of the Eli Manning bungle. In the meantime Oakland, Arizona, Washington and Cleveland, four teams who either drafted a QB in '05, or signed an expensive free agent in the '04/'05 period, passed on Ben Roethlisberger. While his college coach told anybody who would listen he was the best prepared QB in the draft, he was not picked until Pittsburgh gleefull scooped him up at pick 11.
Cutler appears ready to make the next Rivers-like leap. With three teams needing QBs at spots two through four and with Houston's new HC Gary Kubiak declaring his faith in David Carr the top four spots seem set, at least to me.
We'll see Reggie Bush holding a Texans jersey on draft day. The Saints, Titans and Jets will then take the Leinart, Young, Cutler trio in some order. (Imagine the marketing prospects for "Broadway Vince.") The Packers, picking fifth, might waffle a little, but will probably go with A.J. Hawk, the guy they've been linked to for a while. OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson and DE Mario Williams will go to the 49ers and Raiders at six and seven, especially if the 49ers win the coin flip between those two teams for the right to pick sixth. If the Packers go for a rusher and pick Williams, the LB-poor Raiders will gladly accept Hawk. The order might differ slightly, but those three should form the next tier of round one.
The intrigue will begin with the Bills at pick eight.
In other offseason news:
-- Rumors continue to waft out of Miami that the Dolphins will pursue Terrell Owens. If this is the case, then we should also expect Miami to accelerate their attempts to move RB Ricky Williams. A team with Ricky and T.O. on it would self-combust.
J.J. Taylor's excellent Senior Bowl blog continues to pump out the crumbs. Among them:
-- Dallas spoke briefly to Texas OT Jonathan Scott;
-- LT Flozell Adams has been offering advice to Scott, according to the collegian's father;
-- Andre Gurode's agents says he will talk to Dallas but also test the market.
Read the whole thing.
-- You think the Parcells/Belichick folks aren't tight-knit? New Jets coach Eric Mangini a former Belichick assistant, is prepared to hire former Parcells guys Richie Anderson and Bryan Cox to serve as his running backs and linebackers coaches.