Thank You, Central Time Zone: A Preview of the 2007 NFL Draft

I moved to Texas from the East Coast for a multitude of reasons. I don’t like to wear pants (this is cut-off country). I like my food to stand on the tongue and howl at the moon Texan-style, and I need to have the draft an hour earlier in the day than I did in Harlem. That’s right Central Time Zone, you had me at “11am.”

For me, the NFL draft is better than Christmas. For one thing, I don’t believe in God and can’t understand why people make a big stink out of a dead dude’s birthday via a jolly fat guy breaking and entering into a person's apartment. Also, Jesus was born on only one day, the draft gives birth for two. Take that, Savior!

This draft has only one player – Calvin Johnson – in the “can’t miss” league. That is something for me to write, as I have never scouted a player, not even Peyton Manning, thought to be 100% “Death Proof.” After Johnson, we have five nice looking lads, about 10 guys I would like to have play for the Colts, and then around 200 players that could be drafted in the late first round to late fifth round depending on a team's hopes, dreams, and desires. This means almost every single team will be looking to trade down to collect picks and save money (the higher the draft selection, the more a squad pays the kid). Personally, I think we shall have one of the most drama-packed drafts in recent history with rumors, slander, sex, drugs, character issues, and jobs on the line.

Here are my predictions for only round one. The prediction department is meant for fools and drunks, and I only fit one of those categories. As opposed to my predications for the 1998 draft (in which I nailed all but one of the selections in the first round), I have decided to go bold this year and risk probability in the name of fun and possibilities. I will give full-blown grades and a blow-by-blow diary chronicling what I do, what I eat, whom I talk with, and my reactions the Monday after the draft.

* My predictions for a trade.
+ A trade that has already transpired.

1) Oakland
JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU
I like what he did to the Irish last January. Al Davis finds pleasure in the long ball and Russell’s upside is flavorful.

*2) Atlanta (from Detroit)
Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
This trade is a long shot, but I will take it nonetheless. A new and honest weapon for fresh coach and stale QB in Atlanta. This trade is reliant on the co-operation of the Indy Colts (see picks eight and 32.)

3) Cleveland
Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma
This team is looking for power running to compliment the healthy passing assault. I’ve heard that Tampa Bay is so amazed by Peterson, they have spliced a highlight reel of this kid with runs by former SMU star Eric Dickerson. Too bad for Tampa Bay, this Sooner will suit-up for the Dawg Pound.

4) Tampa Bay
Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin
Thomas is going salmon fishing with his dad, instead of going to the draft in downtown Manhattan. I love this guy. You will also hear many rumors of the Bucs attempting to trade up. These are just rumors, and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

5) Arizona
Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson
Adams might be snatched by the four spot. He has nothing but speed and nasty, and will be a standout for any team that takes him.

6) Washington
Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville
The kid is fast, strong, and has the brains of a rocket scientist. Oh, and he is only 19 years old. Washington has merely two picks in this draft, and they must make this one. Don’t be surprised if Miami attempts to move into this slot to make certain they get their fins on Irish QB Brady Quinn.

7) Minnesota
LaRon Landry, DB, LSU
He might be the most complete player in the draft, he can erase defensive mistakes in a blink of an eye and hits harder than lightning.

*8) Detroit (from Atlanta via Houston)
Patrick Willis, LB, Mississippi
The Lions love this guy, and if they can team him with the rest of the youngsters on defense, the Motor City will have one striking front seven.

9) Miami
Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame
Now, this is where it all gets fascinating. Will the fish pull the trigger on a Trent Green trade, and if they do how long will Green last? The man is old enough to run for president, and has a history of brain damage. I am not sold on Quinn and neither are most teams, but new fins head coach Cam Cameron has hinted he fancies the kid.

10) Houston (from Atlanta)
Levi Brown, OT, Penn State
The Texans wish to move down. I have been very impressed with the fresh minds in Houston the past year, and these guys know offensive-line help is required to move forward.

11) San Francisco
Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas
The Razorback is one of the quickest climbers in the draft, and them 49ers are one or maybe two impact players away from making the playoffs. Hold on, I can hear Jim Mora now. ”Playoffs? Playoffs?” That is right, coach, I said play-offs for the ‘9ers.

12) Buffalo
Leon Hall, CB, Michigan
I have to pick someone here, but I ponder the Bills will pull some sort of “upset” pick. Perhaps a funky trade or draft a kid from a small school. But, if they select Hall the Bills will be in good hands. Hall is the best CB in the draft.

13) St. Louis
Alan Branch
, DT, Michigan
Branch was considered to be a Top-5 pick at one point, and the Rams will be glad if he drops this far. Branch is no pass-rush master; he just sits in the middle of the line and eats blockers like Pop-Tarts. However, this could all change if what the Charlotte Observer writes be the truth: the Rams may well trade for Panther DT Kris Jenkins.

At about this time in the draft I should be filled with Chinese food and joy, as mind games will be in full force around the NFL. Who will take who and where? Almost every report I have read indicates this will be an area all Hell breaks loose, teams will be made and destroyed, dogs and cats could kiss, and Kurt Vonnegut will probably become unstuck in time as I believe him to be right now. Most teams feel if though only 15 players are clear first-round choices, and from here on out it could be anybodies guess as to how it all works out. This is my best guess.

14) Carolina
Reggie Nelson
, FS, Florida
The Panthers have a glaring need at safety as Mike Minter has declared this his last season. Nelson has speed and hits like a train.

15) Pittsburgh
Anthony Spencer
, DE/LB, Purdue
One of my favorite players in the draft, Steel Town is always looking for fresh front-seven force.

16) Green Bay
Robert Meacham
, WR, Tennessee
For my money, this is reaching. People are talking of Meacham rising on the draft boards, but why? He has grand potential, but the weak wide-receiver class must be pushing this kid north.

17) Jacksonville
Adam Carriker
, DE, Nebraska
Wounded and elderly at the defensive-end position, the Jags will never get past Indy if they don’t molest Peyton Manning.

18) Cincinnati
Darrelle Revis
, CB, Pitt
He has strength and skill and seems to spend most of his free time out of jail. How could the Bengals blow that?

19) Tennessee
Marshawn Lynch
, RB, California
Now, what is that Latin term for “Buyer beware"? Tennessee needs a player to help Vince Young, but Lynch has a past similar to Pacman Jones.

20) New York Giants
Lawrence Timmons
, LB, Florida State
New York Post, New York Daily News, and every blogger east of the Hudson River say the bone-breaking Timmons should start house shopping in Jersey. The Giants have made it perfectly clear the only player they’ve been partial to more in the past decade was Eli Manning.

21) Denver
Justin Harrell
, DT, Tennessee
Denver will try to move north in the round and gain a “can’t miss” defensive player like Gaines. But, I think they will stay here, as Harrell was just that, a year ago before bicep damage that is now no more.

22) Dallas
Brandon Merriweather
, S, Miami (Fla.)
Jerry Jones would never bring a player with character questions to Big D, right? Merriweather can play football. And, he has a reputation for playing with firearms. Regardless, the Boys need a safety in Wade Philip’s new defense, and Merriweather is solid.

23) Kansas City
Ben Grubbs
, OG, Auburn
This team holds the cards to the entire draft. The Raiders could make a move to snag Dolphins current QB, Dante Culpepper, but the Dolphins won’t make that swap without KC QB Trent Green in South Beach. If the Raiders do get Culpepper before the draft, they will select a wide out at the top spot. If not, they will take the QB I suggested earlier. All of this comes down to KC’s top dog Carl Petersen, who hates the Raiders. Watch him hold on to Green as long as he can to make the Raiders sweat, and potentially force them into sad choice-making. This idea is to keep a division rival weak and guessing. Then, with this pick, Carl Petersen will take Grubbs to replace the retired Will Shields.

+24) New England (from Seattle)
Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State
He can play inside or outside, exactly what evil likes in its linebackers.

25) New York Jets
Aaron Ross
, CB, Texas
The Thorpe Award winner will be the first Longhorn to come off the board, and we all know Ross is the complete package. He will have a solid career in the Big Apple.

26) Philadelphia
Chris Houston
, CB, Arkansas
The run on DB’s continue. I like this pick for Philly. Houston is raw, but has skills and can learn for a year before tapping the starting lineup.

27) New Orleans
Marcus McCauley
, CB Fresno State
4.39 40-yard dash makes him too sweet to pass by.

28) New England
Michael Griffith
, SS, Texas
Evil will continue to build its defense with an Austin boy. Damn you Bill Belichick, and your devilish ways!

29) Baltimore
Joe Staley
, OT, Central Michigan
The Ravens are one of the few teams in this majestic game who draft the best players, as opposed to needed positions. Write down Staley’s name. He will be a fixture for the next decade. If he attended a Big 10 school, he would be a Top 10 pick.

30) San Diego
Dwayne Bowe
I liken this guy to Hines Ward. Do I really need to write more than that?

31) Chicago
Aaron Sears
, OG, Tennessee
Three of Chicago’s starting OL lads are 33 or older. Picking Sears is just common sense.

*32) Detroit (from Atlanta via Indy)
Justin Blaylock, OG, Texas
Detroit allowed 63 sacks last season and was dead last in rushing.

… and for other teams.

Due to a trade with evil, the ‘Hawks first pick will be at the 55 slot in round number deuce. Look for them to take Zach Miller, TE, Arizona.

They have not traded out of the 32 slot, but I expect them to trade with Atlanta to get the 44th overall pick, which Dungy will use, on Steve Smith, WR, USC. Atlanta will take the 32nd pick and eighth pick to trade up to the Lions No. 2 selection.

Now, keep your peepers peeled for these players.

Jacoby Jones, WR, Lane
Speed can kill in this game. This man is a killer.

John Beck, QB, BYU
Will be the third QB taken, and for my money, could be the best. Without question the best passer in the draft.

David Ball, WR, New Hampshire
Great hands.

Ben Patrick, TE Delaware
I think he is the best TE in the draft.

Michael Cole, CB, Alabama St.
He was a starter for Arkansas, but transferred to play for his father. If he had stayed at Arkansas I would have the Saints taking Cole in the first round.

Rufus Alexander, LB, Oklahoma
Short, but in a Cover 2 Defense he could be star material.

Ikaika Alama-Francis, DE Hawaii
I question which will be more enjoyable, watching this kid eat QB’s, or hearing commentators chew his name.

The draft is a process. Teams will do what they must for the short- and long-term success of the franchise, and it is a great deal of fun to witness. So, do as I do, sit back, have some pizza (I endorse Home Slice on South Congress) or Chinese take-out (Java Garden on Riverside is nice) cheer for the new kid on your team, and throw vodka bottles at your television box when the Patriots abduct another poor soul and convert him to the dark side. The draft starts at 11am Texan time. Thank you, central time zone.

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