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National Football League
Draft King Analysis

March 2, 2008
Lou Pickney,

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Less than three days into free agency, and there have been a swarm of free agency moves. The reason for the frenzy is simple: teams have a limited amount of money to use on free agency, so the sooner a given free agent can cash in, the better. Likewise, there are a limited number of elite players available free agency, and there is always the risk of another team swooping in with a contract to trump another team's offer.

Randall Gay
Can Randall Gay solve New Orleans' cornerback problems? (Icon SMI)
The result? Players want to sign right away, and teams want to sign those players quickly as well. It certainly makes for an exciting few days, though it can be difficult to keep track of the moves of all of the various free agents and the 32 teams involved.

Free agency can have a major impact on mock drafts, but it also helps to narrow the options as far as likely selections via the draft. With Atlanta signing former Chargers RB Michael Turner to a six-year, $34.5 million deal ($15 million guaranteed), it would seem that the Falcons would be unlikely to draft Darren McFadden. Since the team has hinted toward taking a first round QB dating back to the tail-end of the 2007 regular season, it's not a surprising turn of events.

New Orleans is going to try again with a free agent cornerback, as the team signed former Patriot CB Randall Gay to a four-year, nearly $18 million dollar deal. Last year's acquisition of Indianapolis restricted free agent CB Jason David was a colossal bust, but Gay, who played his college ball at LSU, should be a better fit for the Saints.

The moves from the first three days have helped to provide a clearer feel for what we might see with the first four picks of the 2008 NFL Draft.

With Jason Taylor potentially on the outs with the Dolphins management and rumored to be contemplating retirement, Virginia DE Chris Long looks even more likely to go in the top spot of the draft to Miami. It's entirely possible that the Dolphins are contemplating a number of players for the top spot at this point, but I feel pretty confident that Chris Long is the odds-on favorite for that spot at this point.

St. Louis remains up in the air at the #2 spot, though Michigan OT Jake Long makes a great deal of sense. Orlando Pace is 32, and while the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Pace has regained 80% of his strength in his injured shoulder, the fact that injuries prematurely ended his past two seasons is troublesome. At the same time, the Rams could also opt to go with LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, though just last year the Rams used their first round pick on Nebraska defensive lineman Adam Carriker.

At this point, I feel the most confident in projecting Atlanta's pick at #3: Boston College QB Matt Ryan. With Michael Turner in the fold, the Falcons have themselves a franchise RB -- now it's time for a QB to match.

Daunte Culpepper
Daunte Culpepper is leaping to a new NFL team in 2008. (Icon SMI)
The Raiders at #4 are in an interesting position. My guess is that they are angling to draft Arkansas RB Darren McFadden, despite having signed RB Justin Fargas to a long-term contract to keep him from hitting free agency. With Oakland turning DT Tommy Kelly (who up to this point had been a DE) into the highest-paid defensive tackle in the league, it would seem unlikely that the Raiders would take a DT with a top five pick.

One team that has been very active in early free agency is San Francisco. The 49ers signed former Bengals DE Justin Smith to a six-year, $45 million contract that includes $20 million in guarantees. Add that to the signing of pending free agent DT Isaac Sopoaga to a five-year deal (good since 3-4 DTs can be hard to find) and former Panthers RB DeShaun Foster, and it's clear that the 49ers are working hard to stay in the mix.

The biggest free agent out there is Patriots WR Randy Moss. If Moss and the Patriots are really at an impasse, which some believe to be the case, it could be wide open for him. I strong doubt the Moss-to-Indianapolis talk, since the Colts don't have big money available, but you never know how things will play out.

Another interesting angle playing out is the idea that Moss and former Vikings QB and teammate Daunte Culpepper would look to reunite somewhere. It's hard to know what's real and what's a smokescreen at this time of the year, be it information from agents or teams or other sources. To point, look at the news that crossed today that the Tennessee Titans had signed former Falcons TE Alge Crumpler, only for that news to be disavowed by Crumpler's agent. My anticipation is that Crumpler will sign with Tennessee tomorrow, but until the contract is signed, it's still wide open.


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