That's no illusion in the distance. The 2014 NFL Draft is finally, really, almost here! Let's bust out the mailbag and get to work.
As always, thanks to everybody who sent in questions.
Let's start with the in-house guy. Bruce Arians believes Carson Palmer can be an effective quarterback until he's 36 or 37. I'm more in the camp that Palmer's expiration date as The Answer is around 30, which is a problem seeing he's 34.
Point being, the Cardinals could do better at the quarterback position, and you wonder if the team is as sold on Palmer as they've publicly stated. Arians couldn't have been that impressed from what he saw last year, when Palmer had 30 turnovers and posted the same passer rating as Mike Glennon.
What Palmer does promise is some level of dependability. It's a middling dependability, but dependability nonetheless. Rookie quarterbacks are decidedly not dependable, and throwing one into the rugged NFC West is a recipe for disaster.
Now back to your question: Sure, any of those quarterbacks has the potential to take Arizona further than Palmer. I just don't see the team moving in a different direction at quarterback right now.
Three years from now? That's hard to say. For now, Mack appears to be the pick. NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock has Mack ahead of Barr in his latest positional rankings. Then there's NFL Films tape guru Greg Cosell, who told the "Around The League Podcast" last week that Mack was a more complete prospect than even Jadeveon Clowney.
"When I watch Khalil Mack, I see a really strong, explosive, multi-dimensional player who's a very good pass rusher who showed the ability to rush the quarterback in multiple ways," Cosell said, "from speed to power and bending the edge, which are two important qualities for a pass rusher."
Sounds like a guy you'd want on your team.
I think it would be a very bad idea for the Falcons to forget about defense. In fact, you can forget about the Falcons contending in the NFC South if they forget to improve a defense that ranked 27th in football last season.
That said, Watkins does fill a need. Roddy White will turn 33 in November and Tony Gonzalez is (probably) retired. A long-term pairing of Julio Jones and Sammy Watkins is nightmare fuel for opposing defensive coordinators.
#ATLmailbag How Did DeAnthony Thomas Slip Out The First Roundâ KarmaHatesMe (@TaiDollasss) April 30, 2014
I just had a brief panic attack believing I'd overslept and missed the draft. Here's my favorite thing about Oregon running back DeAnthony Thomas: He goes by The Black Mamba, and says the nickname pre-dates Kobe Bryant's use of it. Even better, it was Snoop Dogg who gave it to him during Thomas's youth football days in Los Angeles.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie did it last year (trading back from No. 3 to No. 12), so there's a precedent here. And this is certainly a team with holes on both sides of the ball -- even after a string of free-agent signings.
The fifth spot is tricky. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, linebacker Khalil Mack and offensive tackle Greg Robinson are probably the four top prospects in the draft, but it's possible they'll all be gone by the time the Raiders are up.
Then again, maybe we get a surprise and the Raiders get to claim one of the blue chippers. This is a team in desperate need of a young star it can build around. Is this the year he arrives?
Let's be honest, there's no way to capitalize on what must be a deeply uncomfortable situation. You just have to manage it, and try not to behave in a manner that will stay with you the rest of your career.
You think Aaron Rodgers enjoys the fact that his origin story forever includes footage of him looking glum and sporting a mid-aughts Chad Kroeger soul patch? And here's the thing: Rodgers played it about as well as possible. This wasn't Warren Sapp on stage at Radio City, looking like he wanted to cry into his creamsicle Bucs jersey.
The truth is, there's probably no right way to play this. Nobody gets out alive. It's reality television in CringeVision®. When you accept the invitation to New York, you accept the risk that comes with it.
@DanHanzus Q: Who's every team gonna take in every round?â Dave Dameshek (@Dameshek) April 29, 2014
Nordberg, that's a tall order. You're going to have to give me a couple days on that one.
ï¿½ï¿½.......... pic.twitter.com/GqumIFjCUhâ DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) May 1, 2014
What's better than sharing inside jokes about a movie almost no one else has seen? Nothing. There's nothing that's better. For the record, I badly want the Browns to draft Johnny Manziel. It's exactly the type of seismic move that organization needs.
On Wednesday's "Around The League Podcast," we played a new game in which we tried to determine the NFL's draft fibbers. (You should really listen, we've won awards.) A day after our podcast, Texans GM Rick Smith sat in front of reporters and said Houston was open for business if someone wants their No. 1 overall pick.
I don't buy it. I think the Texans are 97 percent certain Jadeveon Clowney will be on their team in six days. That remaining three percent is the off chance a team is stupid enough to mortgage their entire future for one player, i.e., to pull a Ditka. I just don't see it happening.
Do you even have to ask?
Think about it: Manziel slips to 16. The Dallas Cowboys are on the clock. Stephen Jones is ready to call the pick in: Calvin Pryor, safety, Louisville. A wise, safe selection. This is a decision rooted in logic. This makes sense.
But here comes Jerry Jones, moving like a man decades his junior, making a beeline straight for his progeny. Jerry knocks the phone out of Stephen's hand. The Cowboys' war room falls completely silent, all eyes on the owner, mouths agape.
From the back of the room, a terrified assistant rises to his feet and just barely gets the message out of his mouth: "Th-thirty seconds, sir." The tension is unbearable now. The owner stares into the deep distance -- it's like he's looking into the very future of the NFL itself. Fifteen seconds. Ten seconds. A smile starts to creep across his lips. There's a glint in his eye now.
Jerry bends down, picks the phone off the ground and wipes down the receiver with his handkerchief. He presses the phone to his ear and clears his throat.
"Johnny. F****** Football."