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Chat: Michael David Smith

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday April 26, 2006 7:00 PM ET chat session with Michael David Smith.

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Michael David Smith is a writer for FootballOutsiders.com, a leading football analysis Web site affiliated with Baseball Prospectus. He's also co-author of the forthcoming Pro Football Prospectus 2006 annual book. He'll be taking your questions about this week's NFL Draft.

Michael David Smith: Greetings and thanks for joining me this evening. All of us at Pro Football Prospectus are proud of our affiliation with Baseball Prospectus, and I especially want to thank the BP folks for hosting this chat. Now on to your questions about the NFL draft.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Michael, First thing's first: Please predict the top 5 picks in the draft. Any chance the Jets end up with Reggie Bush or Mario Williams?

Michael David Smith: 1. Reggie Bush
2. Mario Williams
3. Vince Young
4. Matt Leinart
5. A.J. Hawk

I think it's extraordinarily unlikely that the Jets would end up with Bush. There's a slight chance that they land Williams if the Saints take D'Brickashaw Ferguson No. 2.

Eric (Chicago): How about them Lions? What is your read on their draft board?

Michael David Smith: Matt Millen loves players from big-time football schools, so I see Michael Huff of Texas and Winston Justice of USC as Detroit's most likely first-round selections. It would be interesting to know how much Millen is going to delegate to his new coaching staff. Florida State linebacker Ernie Sims looks like the kind of player who would fit perfectly into Rod Marinelli's defense.

zawk53 (Berkeley, CA): Will Vince Young fall to the Raiders, or will the Titans or someone else pick him?

Michael David Smith: I think the Titans will take him at No. 3. If they pass on him he'd probably still be on the board when the Raiders pick, but I think that's a pretty big "if."

Joe (Cleveland): If you're Phil Savage who do you want at the 12th pick?

Michael David Smith: I like the idea of the Browns picking up a big defensive tackle who can take over the nose in Romeo Crennel's defense. Oregon's Haloti Ngata would be an ideal pick.

Jake (S.F.): Do you think the 49ers decision to trade for an additional first round pick indicate that they have there eye on specific players or that they feel the quality of the draft diminishes that significantly after the first round?

Michael David Smith: I think they probably have a specific player in mind. Your guess is as good as mine as far as who that player is, though. The 49ers' decision to trade up before the draft reminds me of what the Redskins did last year, when they picked up a late first-round pick to draft Jason Campbell.

I thought the Broncos got the better of that trade. Players in the early second round and early third round are some of the best players in terms of value per dollar spent.

Jason (Long Beach): I like the Griese addition to the Bears, not to push or motivate Grossman (spare me), but more because he's a quality backup the Bears never had and he'll offer some valuable wisdom to the young'uns. On the other hand, that's a long contract. Do you think the deal was a good one for the Bears? And why do you think Griese agreed to such a long-term job supposedly as a backup? Is he banking on being able to outplay the #1 or him getting hurt?

Michael David Smith: I think Griese believes Chicago was his best chance to start because Rex Grossman is both unproven and injury-prone. Grossman will enter training camp as the No. 1, but there's a good chance that he'll either get hurt or play poorly and open the door for Griese. But I'm very intrigued by whom the Bears might draft. Aside from Griese, Ricky Manning is the only move of note they've made this off-season. I wouldn't necessarily assume that they're going to draft offense.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Michael, Should I be rooting for the Jets to trade down from the #4 overall pick?

Michael David Smith: Yes. Trading down is almost always a good idea for those teams with high picks simply because the production of the highest picks usually doesn't match the salaries that they command. I wrote more about this last year:
http://www.footballoutsiders.com/print/2530/

massie (carrollton, ky): Michael David, Loved the '05 Fball Prospectus, cant wait for the '06. The Bengals, we hear, are looking for a TE in the 2nd/3rd....who brings the biggest value/reward ratio between picks 50-85?

Michael David Smith: Anthony Fasano of Notre Dame would fit in well with the Bengals in the second round. He really blossomed last year in the Charlie Weis offense, and he's also a very good special teams player. I also like Tony Scheffler of Western Michigan, a 6-foot-5, 250-pounder who's a very good all-around athlete. I talked to him in Indianapolis at the combine and came away impressed.

Embarrassed Fan (In Exile): Has any team drafted WORSE than the Lions in the past 5 years? Does any team actually have WORSE long term future than Ford's Felines?

Michael David Smith: No and no. As long as Matt Millen is in charge, that franchise is in trouble, although I do like Rod Marinelli, Mike Martz and Donnie Henderson as the nucleus of a good coaching staff.

Josh (West Palm): Do the Texans trade their pick? Do they take Bush if they keep it? What's the right move?

Michael David Smith: I think they'll stay where they are and take Bush, although personally I'd strongly consider taking D'Brickashaw Ferguson first overall. I'd also consider trading down, but I don't sense that there are a lot of teams that want to trade into the first overall pick.

mike (DC): Baltimore Ravens: Rebuilding or taking one last shot in '06? What type of QB would succeed in Billick's system? Would any of the potential 1st rounders fit that description?

Michael David Smith: This looks like a rebuilding team to me. I think Jay Cutler would make a lot of sense for Baltimore if he's still on the board when they pick. At some point, though, you have to start wondering whether Brian Billick is the problem. He has consistently misread his quarterbacks (giving the starting job to Elvis Grbac and Kyle Boller) and his running backs (overusing Jamal Lewis and not appreciating the skills of Priest Holmes and Chester Taylor). I think Billick has a lot to prove this year.

Josh (West Palm): Please detail your best guess at whom my Bengals will be taking with the 24th overall pick, and how this player will help propel them to 10 straight Superbowl victories over the next decade?

Michael David Smith: Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter might be a good option for the Bengals there. Marvin Lewis also needs to get bigger and stronger defensive tackles like he had in Baltimore when Ray Lewis was at his best, so I'd like to see them take someone like Michigan's Gabe Watson -- 24th overall is probably a reach for Watson, but I would seriously consider it. It's great to hear a giddy Bengals fan speculating about future Super Bowls. Cincinnati has great football fans and they went too long without a decent team to cheer for.

jschmeagol (new york, ny): Any reaction to the Arrington deal? I happen to think it isnt' that bad for the Giants. No way to goes 7 years and Arringotn will have to play like an All-Pro for the deal to average $7 mil. Assuming health, I think that Arrington is comparable to Julian Peterson who got a bigger deal from Seattle.

Michael David Smith: I like the move for the Giants. Arrington's best year came when Marvin Lewis was the Redskins' defensive coordinator, and Marvin Lewis and Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis (no relation) both broke into the league in the 1990s as defensive assistants for the Steelers, where they learned a style of defense that gives linebackers the freedom to rely on their athleticism rather than follow a closely choreographed scheme. That should make Arrington an excellent addition to Tim Lewis's defense.

And you are of course correct that this isn't anything close to a seven-year, $49 million contract. It's probably more like a four-year, $20 million contract. It greatly annoys me that many members of the football media will repeat these silly contract numbers when we all know they're totally bogus. Put it this way: Arrington's last contract was advertised as an eight-year, $68 million deal. He stayed with the Redskins two more years and ended up paying them to get out of the deal.

shamah (DC): If the Texans take Leinart, do the Jets take Ferguson, or do they trade down?

Michael David Smith: I assume you mean if the Titans take Leinart, since I think the chances are approximately zero that the Texans will take Leinart. I think the Jets would like to trade down if there's a good offer there, but it would be more likely that they would stay put and take Ferguson.

russadams (St. Cloud, MN): What direction do the Vikings go? If Sims is off the board, what defensive back would appeal to them? Also, with the release today of Onterrio Smith, are they going to look at running back on day one?

Michael David Smith: Jimmy Williams of Virginia Tech would make sense if the Vikings decide to go for a defensive back. It would be a mistake for the Vikings to take a running back, because they have a good one-two punch with Chester Taylor and Mewelde Moore. But if they do take a back, DeAngelo Williams has the pass-catching skills that Brad Childress looks for.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Michael, I noticed twice in your FO article looking back on the 2000 draft that the Packers made some pretty bad first-day selections. How long does a bad draft take to catch up to a team?

Michael David Smith: As we saw last season, the Packers felt the effects of a bad draft five years later. I think the 2000 draft is one piece of evidence that Ron Wolf's actual picks don't live up to his reputation as a brilliant general manager. Trading for Brett Favre was a great move, of course, but Wolf had a lot of lousy first-round picks.

Windy City Fan (Chicago): Where do you think Marcus Vick (or should I say Roy Mexico)will be drafted?

Michael David Smith: I think he'll be a sixth-round pick, but if I were in charge of a draft board Vick wouldn't even be on it. When I watched Virginia Tech last year, I never thought Vick looked like an NFL quarterback, and that's without even considering the off-field problems.

mactbone (Indianapolis): How do the running backs in the draft this year compare to the ones from last year? I'm asking specifically about first rounders or RBs with percieved first round talent.

Michael David Smith: Reggie Bush has more talent than any of last year’s big three (Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson and Cadillac Williams). After Bush, though, there’s a big drop-off, and I think Brown and Williams are superior to this year’s other running backs (DeAngelo Williams, Laurence Maroney, LenDale White, etc.) I’m not real high on Cedric Benson, though. I’d take Williams, Maroney or White over Benson.

Writing from Indianapolis, I assume you're wondering whether the Colts will take a running back in the first round. I think offensive line and linebacker are bigger needs for the Colts -- I'd address one of those positions, then targed Maurice Drew of UCLA in the second round.

Sarah (Riverside): Which players do you think the mock drafts are under-rating?

Michael David Smith: LenDale White. Yes, it's a risk taking him when he has never been timed in a 40, has a hamstring injury, and seems apathetic about conditioning. But he was productive in college. Most mock drafts have White going at No. 27 or lower. I think he'll be gone by No. 25.

Green Bay for Life (Yuba City Ca): Hey MDS!! How did you get roped into this gig? Hope you have fun the final few days before the Draft. now onto my question. I discoverd FO quite by accident last year and fell in love with it, so how are you going to be able to prospect the rookie coming into the league when they really do not have any kind of NFL stats to go by to help those of us that rely on the Prospectus for FF league?

Michael David Smith: You’re definitely right that we don't have the kind of high-level stats for college football that we have for the NFL. I do think Pro Football Prospectus does a fairly good job of projecting rookies based on the team they join and the role they're expected to play, but rookies' stats are certainly harder to project than veterans’ stats.

tschiera (Brooklyn): What do the Bills need to do to become contenders?

Michael David Smith: Acknowledge that J.P. Losman isn’t the answer at quarterback and move on, which I think they’re doing. Then get better on the offensive line. Drafting one of the top tackles, D’Brickashaw Ferguson of Virginia or Winston Justice of USC, would go a long way toward that goal. I like the group of receivers they’ve got in Buffalo – Lee Evans, Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish and Andre Davis. Now they need to get a quarterback who can throw them the ball, and an offensive line that can protect that quarterback.

Jivas (Oak Park, IL): Why on earth do NFL scouts prefer Chad Jackson to Santonio Holmes when Holmes was easily the better player in college and had similar workout numbers? Because Jackson is 2 inches taller and weighs 15 more pounds? Does this make any sense??

Michael David Smith: Jackson was the fastest player at the combine, which opened a lot of eyes. But when I watched the two of them play, Holmes always looked like more of a game-breaker while Jackson looked like more of a possession receiver. Holmes averaged 18.4 yards a catch last year; Jackson averaged 10.2. Bottom line, I agree with you that Holmes is the better prospect and scouts pay way too much attention to the size of receivers. I’ll be writing in Pro Football Prospectus 2006 about why some small receivers are particularly effective.

Jason (Long Beach): Schaub. To me, he has the tools and skills (decision making, arm strength, accuracy) to be an excellent QB for a long time. I think he's late-90s Warner with a much better sense of when to get rid of the ball and the ability to scramble. Rivers outperformed Schaub only marginally in the ACC, yet Rivers gets the lion's share of the hype. Do you Rivers is that much better? What type of success might you predict for each of their careers?

Michael David Smith: I like Schaub. If I were a general manager in need of a quarterback I would very strongly consider trading a first-round pick for him. I think Schaub might very well end up having a better career than Rivers, whom I was never high on when he was coming out of college.

Justin (Chapel Hill, NC): Fantasy Question: What are Larry Johnson's prospects for this season? Can he possibly keep up the insane production of his starts in the last two years?

Michael David Smith: It's probably unrealistic to think he can be as good as he was last year, when he was hands down the best running back in football. But he'll still be plenty good. The Chiefs' offense is aging, but the emergence of Johnson is the one thing that will keep it going for another couple of years.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Michael, Who does FO see as the most underrated and overrated players in the draft?

Michael David Smith: I can't speak for anyone else at FO, but I see several underrated prospects. First, keep an eye on two late-round quarterbacks, Paul Pinegar of Fresno State and Omar Jacobs of Bowling Green. If your favorite team takes one of those guys, you should be very happy. Pinegar is a four-year starter who played for Pat Hill, a Bill Belichick disciple. Jacobs reminds me of a taller Drew Brees. I also think Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka is underrated, as is Notre Dame receiver Maurice Stovall.

As for the overrated players, I'm not completely sold on Vernon Davis, who is a great athlete but not necessarily a great football player. I also don't feel convinced that Vince Young will ever be a solid NFL quarterback, although I can understand why a team would want to take a chance on all that talent.

Jason (Long Beach): How do you think Lovie Smith will handle Jones and Benson? Given RB attrition, I would love for the Bears to basically split carries 50/50 (well, Peterson should get some time, too). That way you get fresh legs throughout a game and the season and greater health long-term. Do you see many teams understanding this, that they many are destroying their commodities via abusive overuse?

Michael David Smith: All the research I've done makes me a big believer in a running back by committee approach. But I like Thomas Jones a lot better than Cedric Benson, and for that matter I like Adrian Peterson better than Benson. I'll be surprised if the Bears trade Jones, as has been rumored. Getting Jones would be a great addition for the Colts.

C.A. (New York): Now that my beloved Packers signed Charles Woodson (to a vomit-inducing $10.5 million this year), do you think there might be more truth to the rumor they want to take Vernon Davis, the TE out of Maryland?

Michael David Smith: That's definitely possible. Everyone seems to have A.J. Hawk penciled into the Green Bay No. 5 spot, but I agree that Vernon Davis is a strong possibility. I'd take Hawk over Davis any day of the week, but the Packers aren't asking my opinion.

I don't blame you for wanting to vomit after seeing the Woodson signing. The last time he played up to his natural talent, he was wearing maize and blue.

singy111 (Miami, FL): Who do you see the Dolphins targeting in the first round...also, whats your take on my boy Devin Hester? I know he didnt show so much last year but whoever takes him in the 2nd(too high?) or 3rd round will be getting a steal and an immediate gamebreaking kick and punt returner who could develop into something more.

Michael David Smith: Ernie Sims would be a nice fit for Nick Saban's crew, although I'm not sure that he'll still be around when the Dolphins pick. A lot of mock drafts have Miami taking Santonio Holmes.

I watched Devin Hester closely early in the season and I wasn't impressed at all. He has the athleticism to be a great returner, but he doesn't seem to have a feel for when to call for a fair catch, when to let the ball go, and when to just drive forward for a few yards instead of backpedaling and risking a loss.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Michael, When you and FO consider draft prospects, how much credence do you give the Wonderlic test? Would you shed some light on the "Vince Young Low Score" story?

Michael David Smith: I don't think the Wonderlic means much, and I don't think the teams think the Wonderlic means much. It's one tool of many.

As for Vince Young, the way I feel about it is similar to the way I feel about LenDale White's lousy bench-press total. It's not that you have to be able to do well on an intelligence test to be a good quarterback, and it's not that you have to be able to bench press a lot to be a good running back. It's just that both Young and White showed up unprepared for what they had to do, which might indicate that they're not serious about becoming great football players.

birkem3 (Dayton, OH): Are Marvin Lewis's hints about a 3-4 defense a smokescreen or is he for real? He mentioned that the draft will decide what defense they will use. If the top players available fit the 3-4, they'll switch. Who are the players that would fit this change?

Michael David Smith: Manny Lawson, who played across the field from Mario Williams at North Carolina State, looks like he'd be a very good 3-4 outside linebacker. If the Bengals take him in the first round, that tells me they're planning to switch to the 3-4.

Jason (Long Beach): Steve Smith torched Tillman in the playoffs because of Tillman stunk or because the line got no pressure on Delhomme? I tend to think despite the declined play of the line in that game, Tillman still completely submarined the season single-handedly with his atrocious "coverage." This also begs the question, what's the Bears biggest need on D? Premier pass-rusher? Shutdown corner? Replace Hillenmeyer? Safety depth?

Michael David Smith: Lovie Smith was my choice for coach of the year last year, but he did a bad job of scheming for the Panthers in the playoffs. Everyone knew Steve Smith was the Panthers' first, second, and third option, and the Bears let him get open. Inexcusable.

The Bears thought they answered their cornerback questions when they gave up their third-round pick to get Ricky Manning from Carolina. But they lost some enthusiasm when Manning was arrested on a serious assault charge only a day later. They might draft a corner, but depth anywhere on the defense would help.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Michael, I noticed in your article at FO reviewing the 2000 draft that two college linebackers became excellent pro DEs (John Abraham and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila). Since, as you say, "the draft is a crapshoot," should teams consider this approach more frequently?

Michael David Smith: Yes. I'm a big fan of drafting a player and having him switch positions. Quarterbacks moving to receiver have gotten most of the publicity, but there's no reason that a lineman can't become a linebacker, or a linebacker can't become a safety, or a tight end can't become a fullback. If a player has talent and wants to work hard at learning a new position, it can pay off handsomely for the team that drafts him.

Speaking of quarterbacks moving to receiver, I'll have an essay on that very topic in Pro Football Prospectus 2006.

tschiera (Brooklyn): I am glad you brought this up earlier...I hate the Bills at QB, if you had Marv Levy's job, what would you do?

Michael David Smith: I would try to sign Kerry Collins or, if he becomes available, Steve McNair. But if I couldn't get either one of them, I would seriously consider drafting Jay Cutler. For that matter, it's also possible (though unlikely) that Matt Leinart will still be on the board when the Bills pick, and I think Marv Levy would think long and hard about taking him. Vince Young is the only quarterback I feel certain saying won't be on the board at No. 8, since I really can't imagine a scenario in which he gets past both the Titans and the Raiders.

Michael David Smith: With that, I'll say goodbye. Thanks for joining me and enjoy the draft this weekend.


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