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Draft King Analysis

February 27, 2008
Lou Pickney,

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The website has a poll on its main page as of this writing that really agitates me. It asks: "Is Larry Fitzgerald greedy?" Astonishingly (at least to me), 54% chose the option of "Yes: He's hurting the team" to 46% with "No: He is that good".

Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald is in line to earn big money in '08 and '09. (Icon SMI)

Fitzgerald, a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, has hit escalators in his contract that will pay him $14.6 million dollars in 2008 and $17.4 million in 2009.

Sounds simple, right? Not so fast. He only gets that money if he's on the team. Arizona could cut him, and he wouldn't see a dime of it. It was the Arizona management that signed him to the incentive-laden deal, and now they're in a tight spot. Is that Larry Fitzgerald's problem? Hell no.

Granted, in the salary cap era, it is a sum-zero game when it comes to contracts. But Fitzgerald has performed above even what most experts anticipated he'd produce coming out of Pittsburgh, and a deal's a deal. If the Cardinals are so unhappy with it, then they should cut him.

Of course, there's no way that Arizona will cut an elite player like Fitzgerald. In short, he is worth the money to the team to retain him. How does that make him greedy. How?!? That is a concept that I find mind-boggling.

Professional sports usually are a pipe dream for most athletes. And even for those lucky few who make it, most end up playing for only a few years, with the exception of the truly elite, game-changing performers.

Every workout, every practice, and every game presents the risk of a career-ending injury. Just look at what happened to De'Cody Fagg at the combine on Sunday.

Unlike MLB and the NBA, almost none of the contracts in the NFL are guaranteed. Blame that on a weak players association, or on savvy maneuvering by the 32 owners, but that's the cold hard reality of the situation.

Yes, Fitzgerald's contract has placed the Cardinals in a tough spot, but they made their bed and now they have to lay in it. If he's worth the money (and Arizona says he is), then they have to keep him. If not, cut him and watch him tear up secondaries elsewhere.

I spent hours today reworking the 2008 NFL Mock Draft. It's more challenging than you might think, particularly when it comes to the explanations to go with it. I don't mind; it's part of the job, and it helps keep things fresh on here. Unfortunately, the high tide of free agency will roll in and knock over my sand castle, but that's okay. In this dead period for football (besides Arena Football), it keeps things interesting at the very least.

Chris Johnson
ECU RB Chris Johnson possesses incredible speed. (Icon SMI)

One more combine note is that East Carolina RB Chris Johnson posted the fastest 40 yard dash time of all running backs in Indianapolis, posting a remarkable 4.24. Johnson is 5'11" and 195 pounds, and he is further evidence of the depth at RB in this draft. On the flip side, Michigan RB Mike Hart ran a slow 4.65 and an even slower 4.75 in the 40 drills. With Hart being an undersized RB to begin with, his draft positioning appears to be on the decline.

One player who is right on the border at this point for the first round is Arkansas RB Felix Jones. Despite his tremendous skills, this is a stacked RB draft, and while Jones is very impressive, he may end up sliding into the second round. Atlanta and Oakland might luck out and have a chance to land him at the top of the second round, which would be a major steal.

In redoing the mock draft today, Andre Woodson fell out of the first round. It seems that it's becoming more and more likely that there will be only two QBs taken in the first round: Boston College QB Matt Ryan and Louisville QB Brian Brohm. I anticipate Woodson ending up as a second round pick, though he will be competing with the likes of Michigan QB Chad Henne and Delaware QB Joe Flacco for the #3 QB spot.

One position that I anticipate will be in high demand in round one is defensive end. While Miami DE Calais Campbell is seen by some as a sinking stone, his size and pass rush ability could easily keep him in the first round, particularly with so many teams needing the position. To point, I think the Redskins would be most likely to draft a defensive end (then again, I thought that last year as well and the Redskins went in another direction), but with many DEs off the board by the time the #21 slot came up, I ended up projecting Cal WR DeSean Jackson to Washington. Will it happen? Perhaps. But it will be interesting to see how it plays out, which is part of the fun of the whole NFL Draft projection process.

Tomorrow I'll have a long overdue mailbag on the eve of the start of the 2008 NFL free agency season.


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