Yes, I know the obstacles. Russell Wilson is my height, standing at 5-10. I genuinely don’t care. Russell Wilson is out to prove he belongs in the NFL. With his incredible talent, unquestioned work ethic, natural leadership and winning ways, Wilson, against the odds, will carve out a career in the NFL.
Wilson started his career at NC State and oozed leadership the minute he walked on campus. He starred for the Wolfpack, showing off a rocket for an arm, a great knack for accuracy and big plays in big spots. Wilson left the program after being drafted by Major League Baseball. Realizing football was his sport and with a year of eligibility left, Wilson went back to college football to make an immediate impact for Wisconsin, shattering team records for touchdown passes, yards and completions in a season.
Wilson has the entire package of skills. He is an incredible athlete, with a cannon for an arm. He proved he can do it all.
If he was 6-3, we wouldn't be debating over which round he would be drafted in. Russell Wilson would be a first round pick.
But bright football people know what he brings to the game.
Future Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian told me on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he has Wilson rated as the No. 4 quarterback in the draft, and he would take him in the third round if he was a team that ran the West Coast offense.
One general manager told me via text, “At very worst, he’s Seneca Wallace. And Seneca Wallace was one of the best backups in the game and always gave you a chance to win as a starter.”
Talking to Wilson at length during a very impressive interview on the SiriusXM Blitz, he sounded energized about his prospects. He believes he excelled during the interview process, showing teams his “leadership, great attention to detail and what kind of competitor I am.”
Wilson scoffs at the notion that he can’t play in the NFL at his height. He cites the relatively diminutive Drew Brees as his role model and accurately mentions how his big hands and long arms should put NFL minds at ease. Wilson adds, “I’ve proven that height isn’t a factor. I’ve played in front of 90,000 people and made plays and won games. I’ve proven I have poise and leadership. I know the NFL values what I bring.”
I think Wilson could actually compete for playing time sooner rather than later if he was drafted in the third round by Cleveland or Miami, assuming they don’t pluck a quarterback earlier.
However, and I told this to Wilson, the ideal place for him at the beginning of his career is with the Green Bay Packers, who should draft another arm after Matt Flynn fled for the Seahawks this offseason. Green Bay runs the West Coast offense. Mike McCarthy’s quarterback school and quarterback teachings are legendary. Aaron Rodgers is a great mentor. And Rodgers and McCarthy value the quarterback room, craving players who have a natural thirst for competition and hard work. There’s a reason Flynn made it in Green Bay and Brian Brohm never did.
“Green Bay would be a great fit. I love, love football and would fit right in. I have a quest for knowledge. But I would also want to prove I could play,” Wilson said.
McCarthy would smile hearing that. And so should any coach looking for a true addition to the quarterback room.
Forget the height. Watch the games. Understand the work ethic and the pure skill.
Russell Wilson has a place in the NFL.
2. Boom, not bust
This 2012 draft is loaded with "boom or bust" prospects who will get scouts, executives and coaches fired.
Luke Kuechly is not one of these players.
Here's what one of the NFL's elite talent evaluators told me this past week:
"He's the second-best defensive player in the draft behind (Morris) Claiborne. I think he's (Brian) Urlacher. He's a tackling machine and a great athlete. He makes plays. He's a natural leader. He's tough, and nobody works harder. I'd love to draft him, but I won't get that chance."
Talking to Kuechly on the SiriusXM Blitz, he knows the foolish trend of inside linebackers falling in the draft. But it won't happen to him. Scott Pioli once traded up for Jerod Mayo when he ran the Patriots. The Chiefs general manager won't pass at the 11th pick. Seattle general manager John Schneider tells us he wants a team and a defense that can win a street fight. Kuechly defines Schneider’s vision. Heck, if I'm the Dolphins or Panthers, I'd pick Kuechly in the top 10. I’m also hearing Kuechly is high on the Bills board, and rightly so.
I think Kuechly is going to be a star NFL player.
3. Viking quest
Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman told us on Thursday that he has four options with the No. 4 overall pick. He could draft offensive tackle Matt Kalil, receiver Justin Blackmon, corner Morris Claiborne or trade the pick.
Spielman wondered aloud what was more important for his young quarterback, the franchise tackle or franchise receiver, citing the great receivers Rodgers has in Green Bay, juxtaposing it with the Packers' offensive line.
That’s a valid point.
However, the Vikings also have Adrian Peterson. If I draft an offensive player, Kalil is a 10-year-starter and a no-brainer. I would also endorse the selection of Claiborne, a player Spielman called, “a true shut-down corner with unique playmaking ability.”
4. Tannehill top 10?
My radio partner, former league MVP Rich Gannon, doesn’t think Tannehill is a top 10 pick. Neither does fellow SiriusXM NFL Radio host Jim Miller, a former quarterback. I think the quarterbacks drafted in the first two rounds last year will all have better careers, even the skittish Blaine Gabbert. So will Matt Barkley, who will be part of next year’s class. Tannehill started 19 games in college. While he told us that he doesn’t view that as a negative, I don’t think he's ready to beat out even the likes of Colt McCoy or Matt Moore.
Why is everyone in a rush for the Dolphins to pick Tannehill? Is it just because his old college coach Mike Sherman is now calling the plays? Did anyone watch Texas A&M last year and demand to have the Sherman / Tannehill combo on the next level?
Cleveland should draft running back Trent Richardson (who Polian calls one of “three sure things in the draft" with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III), and Miami should pick a defender or Michael Floyd.
I’m sure Tannehill will get drafted in the top 10 because of the overreaction to quarterbacks. I wouldn’t make that pick.
5. My favorite Martin
I’ve never thought that Broncos head coach John Fox was a real fan of Knowshon Moreno. Willis McGahee had a renaissance last year running the ball, but he’s getting long in the tooth. You could easily argue that Peyton Manning and the Broncos need a running back in this draft.
I love Doug Martin out of Boise State.
He is a thumper. He runs between the tackles as a classic north-south runner. As his college teammate Kellen Moore put it, “When a run is called on first-and-10, you know it is at least going to be second-and-6.
Martin has great hands and is a fantastic and willing blocker in pass protection, both necessities to play with Manning. When we talked to Martin on SiriusXM NFL Radio, he called the potential of playing with Manning “an honor."
I’d call it a perfect fit.
6. Giant among us
Polian told me that Giants general manager Jerry Reese is “one of the best — if not the best — general managers in the NFL.” The draft record, the wins and losses, the Super Bowl championships give this statement major credence. Reese always takes the highest rated player on his board, regardless of position. The Giants will do the same this year. New York needs a running back with Brandon Jacobs in San Francisco and Ahmad Bradshaw often injured. Martin makes sense. But Reese also likes athletes with high upside (see Jason Pierre-Paul). Miami’s Lamar Miller, who played tough for Al Golden, could fit the bill if the Giants go running back.
7. Vince Young is delusional
I’ve been a Vince Young critic. He didn’t work hard in Tennessee and quit on the Titans. He doesn’t add to a quarterback room. With that said, I enjoyed talking to him on the SiriusXM Blitz, in his first on-air interview this offseason. Young took responsibility for what happened in Tennessee when he said, “I own up. I made mistakes. There was a miscommunication.”
But sadly, Young is delusional.
Young actually came off the bench and beat the Giants on national television last year when he was in Philly. Yet, the Eagles passed on bringing him back and nobody has signed him, which isn’t much of a surprise with his questionable work ethic. Young actually said Andy Reid told him, “You don’t need to be a backup. Go somewhere where you can compete.” In truth, the Eagles chose the immortal Mike Kafka as their backup quarterback, a vital spot on the roster with oft-injured Mike Vick as the starter.
Young says he will wait until after the draft this weekend and then sign with a team where he can get a crack at the starting job. He mentioned Cleveland as a possibility. The entire Browns brass is connected to Reid. Wonder what Reid would tell them.
8. Flying Falcons?
I never included the Falcons in my original "Hard Knocks" report on FOXSports.com because I was told by multiple sources that it wasn’t going to happen. And it’s not. Tony Gonazlez told us on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he was happy the Falcons aren’t doing Hard Knocks. He was with the Chiefs when they were featured on the show and he thought it was a distraction for the younger players.
By the way, kudos to Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff for getting it right on SiriusXM NFL Radio when he told me last year that this year’s weak draft was a factor in making the Julio Jones trade. Atlanta, even sans a first rounder, should be able to add help on defense this year. And the Falcons need it.
With the 16th overall pick, I'd be very surprised if the Jets picked a risk / reward player in the mold of bust Vernon Gholston. Dontari Poe is a combine wonder. He didn't make plays in Conference USA. It doesn't make sense. North Carolina's Quinton Coples didn't show up in the first half of the season. That's a red flag.
The Jets need a pass rusher. Alabama's Courtney Upshaw is very high on the radar. I don't know what it means when gurus say he is falling. Upshaw was a stud for Nick Saban. So was teammate Mark Barron. The safety will likely go in the 13-16 range to the Cards, Eagles, Cowboys or Jets.
If Michael Floyd is there, and I don't think he will be, the receiver will be in the mix. One head of scouting told me that Floyd is, “the next Dwayne Bowe.” But another explained to me that he is concerned about Floyd’s issues at Notre Dame off the Field. Floyd could go to the Jags, Dolphins, Bills, or Cardinals before the Jets pick at 16.
Syracuse end Chandler Jones will also be in play. If Jones falls, don't be surprised if he is gobbled up by the Chargers or Patriots later in the first round. But Jones is a hot prospect. He told me on the SiriusXM Blitz that he feels comfortable playing end in both the 4-3 and 3-4 and would even be willing to move to outside linebacker in the 3-4 if a coach thought that was best. Jones starred at Syracuse last year after coming back from injury. If he stayed for his senior season, he could’ve been a surefire top 10 pick next year. Some teams have him ranked as a top 10 prospect now, and with his ability to stop the run, rush the passer, and his smarts, work ethic and incredible personality, it is easy to understand why.
The Ravens, Steelers and Pats could also be interested in Dont’a Hightower and Shea McClellin late in the first round.