NFL Draft: So many choices

Alabama Crimson Tide running back Trent Richardson holds the BCS trophy after defeating the LSU...

Alabama Crimson Tide running back Trent Richardson holds the BCS trophy after defeating the LSU Tigers during the BCS National Championship in January in New Orleans. (REUTERS)

Bill Lankhof, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 8:51 PM ET

A big-name free agent may get a club into the headlines, but solid drafting is more likely to get them into the win column.

While signing a free agent can plug a hole, a foundation can be built only via the draft. It’s where successful teams build the infrastructure that allows its superstars to blossom.

A quarterback without pass protection ends up turning Drew Brees into Jay Cutler.

Stick Aaron Rodgers behind centre in Cleveland and chances are he ends up looking less like a Super Bowl winner and more like, well, Colt McCoy.

According to Bill Polian, former Indianapolis general manager, now writing for ESPN, the most successful teams in the draft the past three years are the Packers, Giants, Lions and Ravens. Coincidentally they have also been among the most successful on the field.

So, for some of the league’s paupers, certain things have to happen on NFL draft day Thursday.

For instance, the Browns need to stop making lovey-dovey with Ryan Tannehill and give McCoy something with which to work. That could be receiver Justin Blackmon.

On the other hand, they could fix two holes in two picks with a little luck, and a little savvy. Picking Alabama running back Trent Richardson would help fix the ground game. If he’s as good as reported, Richardson could become to Cleveland what Adrian Peterson means to the Vikings. McCoy suddenly would have options other than dropping back and ducking.

Then, after picking Richardson No. 4, Baylor’s Kendall Wright is likely to be around at No. 22, giving McCoy a go-to receiver.

The Colts get Andrew Luck at No. 1. ‘Nuff said.

Ditto for the Skins and Robert Griffin III.

Which brings us to St. Louis, reportedly also interested in Richardson. The Browns can save the Rams from themselves by picking Richardson earlier. He’d be a luxury in St. Louis, which already has Steven Jackson. And St. Louis can’t afford luxuries.

What a team wants and what they need are sometimes two different things. The Rams could fix a loophole by selecting Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Jackson believes the team should target a deep threat to help quarterback Sam Bradford in the passing game.

The Dolphins are expected to pick Tannehill with the eighth pick. But they also released Phil Merling Monday and with Kendall Langford already gone in free agency one of the biggest priorities has to be a pass rusher to pair with Cameron Wake.

Good thing for Miami, this draft is deeper in potential pass rushers than the well Lassie rescued Timmy from; the best include Whitney Mercilus, Illinois, Courtney Upshaw, Alabama, Quinton Coples, North Carolina, whose athleticism has him compared to Julius Peppers, Shea McClellin, Boise State and USC’s Nick Perry.

Not all are expected to remain available when Miami makes the 42nd pick in the second round. McClellin has been linked to the Patriots who could use a playmaker off the edge. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock has compared him to former Patriots’ great Mike Vrabel. “Teams are starting to fall in love with him,” Mayock has stated. “He’s a guy who was off the radar, but has steadily moved up ever since the Senior Bowl.”

In Arizona, the Cardinals are expected to take Riley Reiff, the best offensive lineman available. Just don’t expect Cardinals’ receiver Larry Fitzgerald to cheer the pick.

Fitzgerald, according to SI.com badly wants the Cardinals to draft Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd. Teams currently blanket Fitzgerald with coverage and adding Floyd would give him room to work his magic.

So little time; so many choices.

BUG OFF?

ESPN reports the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Louisiana recently was told general manager Mickey Loomis had an electronic device in his Superdome suite that had been re-wired to enable him to eavesdrop on visiting coaching staffs.

The Saints deny the allegation, saying it’s “1,000% false.”

While ESPN is making a big deal of the story, it’s based on unnamed sources and — even if proven accurate — it allegedly happened almost a decade ago, during the 2002-’04 seasons.

It does conjure remembrances of the Patriots’ Spygate except that even if Loomis could listen to opposing coaches there’s no way he could’ve understood their terminology and relayed it to his own coaching staff in time for it to be useful on the field.

Perhaps Loomis was being a nosy parker. Although in football parlance, considering the pounding the Saints have taken lately, it all sounds a bit like piling on.

QUICK HITS

The Packers released tackle Chad Clifton, who had back surgery this of-season. Clifton started 160 games and was a key part of the Super Bowl championship team ... Receiver Mike Wallace has told Steelers’ management he isn’t signing his restricted free agent tender sheet “until he has to,” and that he’ll sit out off-season drills and the start of training camp. Wallace wants a long-term deal. He has until June 15 to sign the one-year $2.7 million tender or the Steelers can cut it to $577,500 ... Brian Dawkins, who missed the final five games and the Broncos playoff games after suffering a neck injury, announced his retirement Monday.

 


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