mack again2

Out of nowhere the pass-rusher threw a right jab like a boxer. One second he’s running downhill and the next … BAM! He pinned the offensive tackle on his heels, with the blocker stumbling into his own backfield, waiting for someone — anyone —to help. The pass-rusher went through the tackle and turned the corner, pressuring the quarterback out of the pocket and forcing an incompletion.

That’s the norm for the 6’3″, 251-pound Khalil Mack, who is a specimen from the University of Buffalo. His abdomen is littered with a six pack of abs. His muscles pop off his arms like landmark sites formed from natural disasters. And his legs are thick throughout.

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adrian2

Lately I seem to be contemplating the end quite a bit. The football end, first with Tom Brady. I’m not sure what that says about my current worldview, and I’m also not sure I really want to know.

Even if it’s just briefly, somewhere late at night behind a closed door in an office cave every general manager spends time in April thinking about the end for a superstar who’s either aging, or consistently absorbing a lot of abuse. Or both.

For Rick Spielman in Minnesota, the subject of his own quiet contemplation is Adrian Peterson.

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Barr2

From his 6’5″ frame hang nearly 34-inch long arms, creating a towering pass-rusher that has off-the-charts potential. When his size blends with his athleticism and explosiveness, he becomes a rare prospect that’s arguably the most impressive in this May’s draft.

But there needs to be more to a prospect than size and athleticism. Technique and tools are necessary, such as powerful hands and disciplined pad level. That’s where questions start to arise with UCLA’s Anthony Barr, who can be one of two different players on any given Saturday.

He can be dominating or dominated.

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tebow2

Because nostalgia is fun and so is the pain of horribly failed decisions, over the next month we’re going to fire up the ol’ time machine and revisit drafts. Unofficially this great journey started Monday with a not-so distant trip to 2011, the year of the pass rusher.

At each stop we’ll remember the major storylines, the busts, the bargains, the trends, and some other things that start with “the”. Today, 2010 is under the microscope, and conveniently that’s a notorious draft year due to the presence of a righteous quarterback.

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brady hat2

“Old” can be a moving target in football, but it’s one we still generally have pinned down. Running backs are considered old at the age of 30, which is why, if they’ve been handling a steady workload throughout their career (hi there, Chris Johnson), we begin to talk about decay at the depressingly early age of 28.

Wide receivers last a little longer, but as we’ve seen with the likes of Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco/Johnson in recent years, their abilities decline steeply at around age 35.

Then there are the quarterbacks, those weird, timeless beings. The most talented among them can stay effective well into their late 30′s. If there’s an average offensive line in front of him, a good quarterback won’t get laid out too often and add a few years, too. But arm strength still fades, as does the mobility or foot speed required to avoid a rush.

So, every year, the few teams riding a true generational talent at QB wrestle with a key question as the draft nears, and selecting an heir to the throne with a high pick is an attractive option:

When is your really great old quarterback too damn old?

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chris johnson again2

As a fan of the National Football League you have the right to be selfish. Most commonly that right is exercised when you wish for the best outcome for your team, and you hope rivals find only the deepest pits of hell.

But I prefer an even simpler existence: I want to be entertained.

Chris Johnson is an entertainer. His services in the entertainment field are now up for grabs. As a selfish fan, let’s indulge our wildest football fantasies with one question: which team gives Johnson the best opportunity to deliver football smiles?

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jj watt2

During this driest of NFL dry seasons, the draft is torn down, reassembled, and deconstructed again (rinse and repeat), we’re reminded that each draft takes on its own unique characteristics and reflects the current league climate.

In 2005 three running backs were selected in the top five: Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, and Cadillac Williams. Nearly a decade later we recall that draft as a crushing failure and the beginning of the running back draft spiral. In the nine years since only three other backs were selected in the top five overall.

This year’s draft will almost certainly be driven by the passing game, just as it was three years ago but in a very different, and very defensive way. Let’s look back on 2011, and what’s already known as one of the great pass rusher drafts of all-time.

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