April (snow) showers bring NFL Draft talk

BY foxsports • April 1, 2011

So the Reds won an easy one. And there's fresh snow for the Indians' opener. And it was a year ago today that I received a text telling me Shaun Rogers had been arrested for having a gun in Cleveland Airport.

My response? That's a really lame try at an April Fool's Joke. Oh.

1. Only the Browns, I guess. But in this very strange NFL offseason, I sense a quiet confidence coming from Berea. Maybe that's just quiet since the players aren't around, but in what seems like the most unpredictable draft in quite some time, the Browns seem comfortable going in a number of different directions. They need players, lots of them and fast, but i have faith in Tom Heckert and so do folks in the building. Though I was about 80 percent convinced two months ago that the Browns would be going defensive front seven with that first pick, I'm starting to hear that they value A.J. Green more than has been let on. Green still being there at six, of course, is the issue, but if teams reach for Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton -- and it seems likely both will go in the top five -- the Browns should get a shot at Green or Patrick Peterson. Either choice would satisfy  the fan base, upgrade the team speed and potentially provide star power. They'd still need to spend picks -- and, eventually, free agent money -- on the front seven, but they'll need to anyway. This isn't a one-year rebuild, especially after last year yielded little in the way of real answers and led to another startover. And if no players get arrested today, that's already a step in the right direction.

2. The Bengals are having a pretty quiet, stable, ho-hum offseason as well. Or not. I continue to have a hard time believing a team would trade a decent draft pick for Carson Palmer -- assuming Mike Brown would actually trade him -- but folks I've talked to around the league tell me there are several teams that would. It's a premium position, and Palmer's had plenty of years better than last one. He insists he won't play for the Bengals (he will), Chad Ochocinco's Clown Show continues and Marvin Lewis would rather cut ties (Mike Brown won't) and the Bengals have a plethora of needs to fill in the draft. Whatever happens with Palmer, the Bengals still need to draft a quarterback. And I continue to believe they already have a card filled out for Cam Newton. We'll see.

3. Don't believe too much of what you read in the current smear campaign involving Newton. No, Newton is not a perfect prospect in terms of quarterback mechanics or character. Yes, there are some real concerns about his ability to handle all the things that go along with being an NFL quarterback, including some basic things like leadership and responsibility. But the guy is a rare specimen and talent, and teams are doing their homework and picturing the next Ben Roethlisberger. Are some teams worried/turned off? I can absolutely see that. Are some team officials strategically emphasizing Newton's faults and concerns in hopes he'll drop to their team? Happens every year. And I don't know for sure, but it just might happen more in a year with so much uncertainty and the chance a potential blue-chipper could fall out of the top five.

4. One more draft note: Cam Heyward worked out at Ohio State earlier this week, and 28 different teams came to see him. He's healthy after elbow surgery -- though he's still not fully lifting -- and the couple scouts I got to chat with told me they see a healthy guy who's smart and tough enough to help almost anybody's run defense right away. Heyward is a darn good football player in a draft full of guys who might have one or two outstanding traits but also have just as many question marks. Heyward has the bloodlines -- both via his father and via Ohio State -- and has had his sights set on this for years. I'd be shocked if he wasn't a top 25 pick.

5. I'm back from Newark and frankly still a little surprised that I'm not in Houston covering Ohio State, but Kentucky picked the right time to really start playing like a team. The Wildcats will be a tough out this weekend, but I'm not sure anybody can beat Kemba Walker right now. I'm off to dive into another column involving Walker and Brandon Knight, but I have to offer  my Final Four predictions. I'll go with UConn 68, Kentucky 65 and VCU 68, Butler 67. Tough to pick against either vCU or Butler at this stage, but it's even tougher to pick against VCU.

Be back Monday in this space. Hope you enjoy the fancy new site.


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