Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tribune Discusses NFL Draft Strategy, Cornrich Comments

By Scott Brown

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had just given (gasp!) an actual opinion about a draft prospect, Pitt cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Kevin Colbert, the team's director of football operations, then was asked about another highly regarded local product, Penn State and Hopewell's Paul Posluszny, at what loosely qualified as a news conference Monday.

"You got your one," Colbert said, making the room break up in laughter.

The irony of the NFL Draft is that as much speculation as it generates -- mock drafts bloom like flowers at this time of year -- and as much of a media spectacle as it has become, it is still largely shrouded in secrecy.

Teams mask what they really intend to do in the draft, which is this weekend, by saying little -- just as the Steelers did earlier this week -- or by going in the opposite direction.

Consider what Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said recently when asked what the Buccaneers, who hold the fourth overall pick, might do in the first round.

Gruden called Adrian Peterson perhaps the best running back he has seen come out of college, talked about how mammoth offensive tackle Joe Thomas could help the running back (Cadillac Williams) the Buccaneers took with the fifth pick of the 2005 draft and said Tampa Bay would have to keep an eye on quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn.

"Then you've got the defensive side of the ball, with Gaines Adams and (Jamaal) Anderson," Gruden said at the NFL owners meetings in late March, "and my main man at Louisville, (Amobi) Okoye."

Miss anybody, Jon?

There is, in fact, so much information out there -- some of it is supplied by teams that are much more inclined to run reverses at this time of year than during the season -- that it can be downright dizzying to try to figure out how the draft will unfold.

Floyd Reese, who was the general manager of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans for 13 seasons before resigning in January, said he couldn't recall trying to intentionally mislead someone about his team's draft intentions.

But there is such a free flow of information in the weeks, even months, leading up to the draft that there is bound to be, well, a lot of static.

"I know that this time of year you get a lot of calls from agents or newspaper people trying to find out what you're doing," said Reese, now an NFL analyst for ESPN, "and I think if there is misinformation, that's probably the No. 1 source."

Neil Cornrich, a longtime agent who represents projected first-round pick Ted Ginn Jr., among others, said it is hard to get a feel for what teams want to do simply because they may not know until the day of draft.

And their draft isn't just shaped by their own needs and evaluations, but also by what other teams do.

"Clearly, there is occasionally some posturing," Cornrich said, "but most of the times I believe it's just teams going through the information gathering process and that they don't have to make a final decision until April 28th or April 29th."

But teams' draft strategies are so detailed, including contingency plans, that they at least have a pretty good idea of what they will do, particularly in the first round.

"The GMs that I know, there's no question in their mind (who they will take with their first pick) weeks before the draft," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. "All of this so-called fluidity that teams have ... they know."

And guessing what they are going to do ranges from fun to maddening.

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