Friday, May 29, 2009

Is McGahee the Willis that Buffalo warned us about?


Willis McGahee approaches organized team activities (“OTA’s”) with the same enthusiasm that most of us over 40 approach a prostate exam. It’s not fun but it has to be done, although McGahee might think otherwise.

Now some might be quick to remind us that most of the OTA’s are voluntary. And while that is true voluntary participation does demonstrate a level of commitment to the team that sends a message to management, the coaches and a player’s teammates.

WHAT’S OUR NAME?

RAVENS!

Did you hear that Willis?

Apparently not – McGahee opted out of this week’s OTA’s.

While a player of Ray Lewis’ ilk participates in OTA’s McGahee chooses not to. Sure he had some sort of arthroscopic procedure to clean up either his knee or his ankle (McGahee denies it’s his ankle) and that is why he stood on the sidelines as a spectator during the mandatory mini-camp. Yet the timing of the procedure is a bit suspicious don’t you think? Why not get it done earlier so that he could be ready for these camps?

Maybe he just doesn’t want to be ready.

Maybe he wants an excuse to sit out.

Without question McGahee is an interesting character. It’s hard to label him a malcontent. He doesn’t appear bitter. If anything when approached he seems a bit sheepish and shy in a child-like way. He doesn’t bad mouth his coach or the organization yet he often appears uninspired, like his play during most of the 2008 season.

When Cam Cameron arrived on the scene, he boldly predicted that McGahee could be a 20+ touchdown player given his all-around game. Visions of Ladainian Tomlinson danced in Cameron’s head. Now visions of McGahee just give Cameron a headache.

How do the Ravens get to this guy?

Why can’t his mates from the “U” inspire him?

Is McGahee un-inspirable?

Dial the clock back to his horrific knee injury suffered in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Many thought he would never play again.

Just prior to that game, McGahee’s family took out a loan for $20,000 to buy an insurance premium that would protect the star running back in the event of injury in the Fiesta Bowl. Had McGahee never played again, the policy would have paid $2.5 million.

But McGahee showed grit, determination and heart while working through the injury and returning to the field. It was a character statement that most thought would help him become an outstanding professional.

Where is that Willis McGahee now?

Back in 2007 in Week 7, the Ravens took a 4-2 record into Buffalo to face the (1-4) Bills. The playing conditions were ideal for an October northwestern New York afternoon – sunny, 66 degrees with 16 mph winds.

The Ravens fell behind at halftime 9-0 but early in the second quarter, McGahee broke off a 46 yard run for a score to make it 9-7. But the Bills reeled off 10 unanswered points to take a 19-7 lead by the end of the third quarter.

Struggling by air the team needed McGahee to step up again.

Instead, McGahee stepped out.

The team’s leading rusher went into the locker room to get intravenous fluids to temper his dehydration. Keep in mind now the conditions were ideal and at that time McGahee had carried the ball only 17 times in the seventh game of the season.

McGahee’s replacement Mike Anderson racked up exactly zero yards in three carries while McGahee was administered the good stuff. Upon his return, the former Bill managed minus one yard on 2 carries.

Obviously too little and obviously too late.

The Ravens would drop to 4-3. The would go on to reel off nine straight losses and not win another game that season until the finale against the Steelers who had nothing to play for having secured their playoff seeding.

Rumors have swirled about McGahee’s off the field indulgences. Many suspected that he had been out partying the night before that game in Buffalo and that was the reason he was dehydrated despite perfect playing conditions.

Some still suspect that his affinity for the night life far exceeds his passion for football. Some wonder if there’s any passion for football at all.

This week McGahee doesn’t post for OTA’s while many of the team’s other stars do, some with much more decorated resumes than No. 23. Instead he flies out to Vegas with his recently scoped appendage-to-be- named-later and parties on at Ditch Fridays.

Maybe Willis just wants to ditch football.

And don’t think for a second the Ravens wouldn’t ditch Willis if they could. Underachievers like McGahee are a dime a dozen and they are the polar opposite of the type that Coach John Harbaugh embraces. Unfortunately for Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome the club has $11 million worth of dimes hanging around their collective neck like a gargantuan salary cap noose.

It would be nice if somehow McGahee had an epiphany of sorts, woke up and performed like the player that danced in Cameron’s head. But don’t hold your breath. Your hopes are better off being directed towards players like Ray Rice, Le’Ron McClain, Jalen Parmele and Cedric Peerman.

At least they give a damn!

Monday, May 25, 2009

If Heap doesn't step up in '09 he'll step out in /10


Over the course of his eight seasons as a Raven, Todd Heap has played in all 16 regular season games five times including 2008. Prior to 2008 when suiting up every Sunday Heap averaged 68 catches, 787 yards and 6 TD’s despite playing in a below average offense with subpar quarterback play nearly every season.

Last season, a very pedestrian one at best for Heap, the then 28 year old tight end had 35 catches for 403 yards and 3 scores.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way – not in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s system.

Cameron’s offense features the tight end. He was instrumental in developing a raw talent, a former basketball player out of Kent State and shaping him into an All-Pro. Given his success with that raw talent named Antonio Gates, Cameron’s partnering with Heap seemed like a match made in tight end heaven.

Yet as we all witnessed, it didn’t shake out that way.

Heap apologists will point to his injuries as a culprit and remind us of his willingness to play through pain as evidenced by his participation in the Divisional Playoff against the Titans in January. They will point to the many vicious hits he has absorbed hauling in Kyle Boller passes that were too high or too far behind him enabling defenders to deliver vicious hits upon his exposed and defenseless body.
The same apologists will add that Heap was held in far too often to block in ’08 pointing to pass protection deficiencies on the right side of the offensive line.

Clearly the hits take their toll. It’s difficult to think of a player who has consistently absorbed the shots that Heap has taken. How many times have we seen a defensive back up end Heap at the ankles sending him head over heels? Is it the way he runs? Is it his body lean when carrying the football or is it the limited amount of space he or any Ravens’ receiver has to navigate within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage?

The Ravens offense has hardly been vertical for many seasons. They have been fairly predictable. Combine predictability with the inability to stretch the field and it represents an invitation for opposing defenses to compress the area around the line of scrimmage. The result is fewer yards after that catch and more bonecrushing hits. That in part is why the team during its recent history has been so unsuccessful throwing 6 yard passes on third and 10. Teams that can stretch the field will get those yards after the catch and the intended first down.

Not the Ravens. Instead they get battered and broken.

It takes a toll and one only needs to look at Heap for proof.

It doesn’t seem that long ago when Todd Heap was a spry rookie and Shannon Sharpe’s understudy. Today Heap plays like a veteran well into his 30’s. He’s slow off the line of scrimmage and he no longer possesses that above average speed for a man his size. He plods his way down the field. In better years linebackers had a difficult time staying with Heap and that forced safeties to support the backers in coverage. But that was then. Today his pedestrian receiving numbers have more to do with an inability to get open than simply his support in pass protection.

Was Willie Anderson really that much less effective on the right side than Adam Terry or Marshal Yanda or Tony Pashos or Orlando Brown? The right tackle position has never really been a strength or even remotely close to a strength of the offensive line. The truth be told, Heap’s declining productivity has less to do with blocking more and more to do with eroding skills.

In the NFL you must deliver value. If a player can’t justify his cap number, he will always be at risk.

If the Ravens release or trade Heap now, they would realize a cap savings of $1 million. Of course they would have to replace Heap particularly with the injury histories of backups L.J. Smith and Quinn Sypniewski. There’s a chance Sypniewski could end up on IR this season or even worse.

But can the Ravens find an adequate replacement at or near a cap number of $1 million? Maybe, maybe not but given Heap’s production in ’08 and his inability to get on the practice field during OTA’s it is at least possible that Heap could have already played his last down as a Raven. Let’s not forget that the Ravens were very interested in two tight ends early in the ’08 (Craig Stevens) and ’09 (Brandon Pettigrew) NFL Drafts.

Another factor weighing against Heap is that he doesn’t seem like a John Harbaugh kind of player. On a couple of occasions last season Harbaugh was seen chastising Heap on the sidelines for blown assignments. He also raised the ire of Cameron a few times.

It’s all about value and right now, Heap doesn’t deliver value – not with a $6.4 million cap number in ’09!

In 2010 assuming there is a salary cap, Heap is set to make $4 million in salary and has a Cap number of $6 million. If released he would only count $2.5 million against the Cap, so there would be a savings of $3.4 million. If the June 1 cap savings rule were to come back, they could release him and save $4 million against the Cap in 2010 (with dead money of $2 million), but would have to carry $568,000 in dead money against the 2011 cap.

Clearly Heap needs to step it up in ’09 assuming he’s still here. And if he doesn’t it will be his last season as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

And unfortunately even for a fan favorite like Heap that is the cold hard reality of life in the NFL.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

CAMP NOTES: May 19 Passing Camp


The mood was spirited in Owings Mills today as the Ravens participated in their second day of passing camp and the first open to the media. The scare of the day took place late in the practice when the first team offense took on the first team defense. Joe Flacco was flushed out of the pocket and dashed towards the left sideline with Tavares Gooden in hot pursuit and gaining ground. After a gain of 10+ yards Flacco fell hard to the ground as he neared the far sideline, rolled and then popped up on his feet as if nothing happened. At the time it was unclear if Gooden’s feet became entangled with Flacco’s or if Flacco was tripped up by another player or fell on his own. The fall triggered a boisterous reaction from most of the players watching. Flacco continued with no ill effects from the fall.

(Since the initial posting of these camp notes it has been learned that a light collision between Flacco and Brendon Ayanbadejo caused Flacco's fall. 3:56PM)

It is clear that Flacco is in command and that will undoubtedly help him during the ’09 season. In the past so much of the focus has been on the play of the quarterbacks during OTA’s. This season there will be no open competition and consequently the team seems more galvanized.

Flacco had a decent day overall but he wasn’t helped by TD drops from Justin Harper and Yamon Figurs. Harper beat his man down the right sideline and Flacco dropped in a beauty 7 yards deep in the end zone with the line of scrimmage set at the defense’s 45 yard line. Later from the 25 yard line Flacco delivered a strike to Figurs about 5 yards in the end zone. Running a skinny post on the play, the shaky receiver seemed a bit distracted by the safety closing in on the play. On the very next snap Flacco hit Kelley Washington who ran a nice stop and go against CB Anwar Phillips for a 25 yard score. Flacco also tried a couple of other deep throws on the day, one to Mark Clayton and another to Justin Harper. Derrick Martin intercepted the pass intended for Clayton. He had tight coverage on the play and made a nice over the shoulder catch. Clayton could’ve been a better defender on the slightly underthrown pass. The toss to Harper was overthrown and well covered by Frank Walker.

Just prior to the Martin interception the offense practice a 9 second drill, the goal of which was to effectively use the team’s only remaining time out and get the field goal unit in on the field before time expired. Flacco hit Clayton on a bubble screen, a bit of a surprising call with only 9 ticks on the clock but Clayton helped the cause with a heads up play, sliding on his own after the catch and a short run and calling a timeout. He could have advanced the ball farther but time would have expired. Two seconds remained after the stoppage and the heads-up play brought enthusiastic praise from Cam Cameron.

Backup quarterback Troy Smith looked sharp early on throwing darts to Edgar Jones on a deep crossing route from the right hash to the left sideline. The throw was perfectly placed and Jones showed nice hands and footwork along the sideline before getting out of bounds. On the next play Smith hit Figurs streaking down the right sideline for a 48 yard score. Figurs adjusted well to the slightly underthrown pass and beat Phillips on the play.

Of the three quarterbacks, John Beck was the most inconsistent. He threw an interception to Tavares Gooden outside the left hash mark. The second year backer showed a great burst to the ball and from this writer’s perspective he’s the fastest linebacker the Ravens have ever had – at least on the practice field. Beck while inconsistent did deliver a few darts of his own during the practice. One of those throws was from the 5 yard line when he split two defenders to hit Washington for the score. Washington playfully imitated Ray Lewis’ dance and the two players shared a laugh afterwards.

OTHER NOTES & OBSERVATIONS

OFFENSE: Jalen Parmale is a player who joined the team mid-season in ’08 and didn’t have the benefit of familiarity. That changes this season and that could change the team’s usage of the second year back from Toledo. Parmale has shown a nice burst during the OTA’s thus far. During his senior season as a Rocket Parmale had 276 carries for 1,511 yards and 14 TD’s…Hopeful OT Joe Reitz was schooled by Jarret Johnson and Paul Kruger on successive plays. A bullfighter's Ole comes to mind…UDFA WR Edward Williams snagged a couple of passes, one a 25 yard heater from Smith. The Lane College product is 6’4” and 215 pounds…Kelley Washington was the most consistent performer among the receivers and scored three times during the session…the Ravens seemed to emphasize a power pitch to a single back set up to the left or the right of the QB in shotgun formation…Demetrius Williams made a nice catch on a comeback route between the sideline and left hash while going up against Domonique Foxworth. After the catch Williams quickly pivoted to his right to extend the play with YAC…those wondering what UDFA WR Eron Riley looks like in practice, let’s just say you saw as much from him at your office today as those of us watching practice.

DEFENSE: Derrick Martin had a nice interception (see above) to go with a couple of passes defended (PD). On one crossing route Martin cleanly batted the ball away from Marcus Smith after trailing slightly behind…Domonique Foxworth showed good closing skills while intercepting one pass and later batting another down…Paul Kruger is menacing during OTA’s. It will be interesting to watch him in camp and then later during the preseason to see if his prowess without pads translates well to full combat duties.

SITTING OUT: A number of players wore red jerseys and participated in a very limited way today or they sat out completely: (Limited) Samari Rolle; Todd Heap; Jason Phillips; Oniel Cousins; Adam Terry; Demetrius Williams. (Out) Willis McGahee; Chris Carr; Fabian Washington; L.J. Smith; Quinn Sypniewski…Some players wore read but still participated (signifying no contact) such as: Ed Reed; Frank Walker; Antwan Barnes; Kelly Talavou.

By featuring the Bengals Hard Knocks morphs from reality to comedy


AFC North rivals the Cincinnati Bengals will be the featured team this season on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” ESPN’s James Walker points out in his AFC North blog that featured teams have felt the wrath of the Hard Knocks curse:

In 2002, the Dallas Cowboys made their first of two appearances on "Hard Knocks." A case can be made that they invented the curse, not the Ravens. Dallas went 5-11 the first go around and became the first non-playoff team on Hard Knocks. Head coach Dave Campo was fired after the season.

After a five-year hiatus (the Jaguars participated in a similar program in 2004 but not under the "Hard Knocks" brand) the Chiefs were the third team on the program. Former coach Herm Edwards' group was coming off a playoff run but finished an abysmal 4-12 in 2007.

The Cowboys also became the most recent team on "Hard Knocks" last season. Dallas was widely considered the most talented team in the NFL. But the Cowboys finished 9-7and out of the postseason, making them one of the biggest disappointments of 2008.

The curse hit the Cowboys twice in six years.

Walker then wonders aloud if the Bengals can end the curse.

Well yeah…can the Bengals possibly be any worse?

What might be considered a curse reversal, only one player incarcerated in ’09?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ravens fortunate that Joe Staley wasn't available on draft day '07


A player who falls off the radar screen for most observers of the Ravens is offensive tackle Joe Reitz. Reitz is a solid athlete and an accomplished basketball player. He was offered scholarships to play football by a number of MAC Conference schools and Indiana University but he opted instead to play hoops at Western Michigan where he averaged 15 points and 7.9 rebounds per game as a senior. Reitz stands at 6’7” and is clearly a project but from what we hear, he’s a worthy project in the eyes of Cam Cameron and has been referred to as a poor man’s Joe Staley. Reitz will be an interesting player to watch throughout camp.

Back to Joe Staley, Ravens officials are now said to be please that the 49ers jumped in front of them during the 2007 NFL Draft to select Staley with the No. 28 overall pick. With the 29th pick the Ravens looked to Ben Grubbs. Staley has been a huge disappointment so far for the Niners and had he still been on the board, the Ravens may have chosen him. Grubbs hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in his two seasons but there is far more optimism about his future than that of Staley.

But the real story within the story as it relates to Staley and Grubbs is this...If Staley had been the Ravens’ choice in ’07 they probably don’t go to the supplemental draft to nab Jared Gaither in the fifth round. And so far of the three, Gaither has performed the best – and it isn’t even close!

Ravens need another tight end?


Don’t be surprised if the Ravens are in the market for a veteran tight end. The Ravens have Todd Heap and L.J. Smith as proven options to go with Quinn Sypniewski and rookie Davon Drew. Neither Heap nor Smith has been a beacon of health during their careers and Drew is raw. His skills are more refined as a receiver than a blocker which then leaves Sypniewski. The fourth year player from Colorado is recovering from major knee surgery and from what we hear he isn’t exactly a lock to be ready in time for training camp. Sypniewski is an Ozzie Newsome favorite and he will get every opportunity to prove he’s ready to go. It will not be a shock however if Sypniewski is once again on the injured reserve list when the season starts.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Kruger in, Suggs Out?


DE/OLB Paul Kruger ran with the first team this weekend in place of Terrell Suggs. Kruger should see time as a pure defensive end and as the strong-side (SAM) linebacker. The former Ute was very disruptive in the backfield this weekend and he has been compared often to Michael McCrary for his tenacity. But Kruger is a much bigger player than McCrary and team officials believe he has the frame to play at 280pounds. Skeptics have thrown out the name Dan Cody, also a second round draft pick who like Kruger was projected by some to be a first round choice. The Ravens believe that Kruger’s frame will enable him to carry the pre-requisite weight for the position that apparently Cody couldn’t given his long history of injuries. Kruger has been compared to a poor man’s Chris Long, the second overall pick in the ’08 draft.

Others players singled out by the club as top performers during the mini-camp include Tavares Gooden (speed, explosiveness) and Lardarius Webb (speed, hands on punt returns)…Nothing new on the Terrell Suggs front. Word is the Ravens have offered Suggs Jared Allen-type money (Allen’s deal included $31 million in guarantees) but there’s been no movement from Suggs’ camp. Don’t be surprised to see this linger until July 15, the deadline for a franchised player to sign a new deal. Suggs may want to avoid all of the OTA’s between now and then. If there is no agreement in place by July 15, Suggs will have to play the ’09 season as a franchised player. Keep in mind that if Suggs is franchised a third time, he will be paid the average of the top 5 salaries in the league regardless of position. That is probably not an option for the Ravens. If the two sides don’t come together by July 15, 2009 could be Suggs’ last in Baltimore.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ravens improve at wide receiver without draft


Ravens’ critics will argue that the team did little to improve at wide receiver but that argument assumes that the players currently on the depth chart have done little during the offseason to step up their game. Marcus Smith was the most consistently impressive receiver this past weekend according to one team official and that could be an indication that the former Lobo from New Mexico is shaping the raw skills that attracted Ravens’ scouts.

Demetrius Williams has added some muscle mass particularly in his shoulders and if healthy, he elevates the collective play of Coach Jim Hostler’s unit. Camp invitee Kelley Washington was clearly the most impressive of the trio of veteran receivers brought in for a look-see. Washington hustled, provided enthusiasm and made plays. Tab Perry did little to stand out while Jerry Porter stood out for how little he did. Porter was uninspired, unimpressive and judging from his movements not in very good shape.

The Ravens are said to be in negotiations with Washington’s agent. The Redskins had extended a veteran minimum offer to Washington but they have since signed WR’s Roydell Williams and Keith Eloi. Those Redskins’ signings might provide Ozzie Newsome with a little leverage at the bargaining table.
Photo by Sabina Moran

Bend it like Beck


A first year Raven who opened some eyes was newly acquired quarterback John Beck. Despite making a poor decision on Sunday resulting in an interception, Beck impressed with his quick release, accuracy and surprisingly strong arm. He is an extremely likable guy who brings leadership and a familiarity with Cam Cameron’s offense. The club is impressed with Beck’s redirecting of players as part of an effort to execute plays more efficiently. Beck offered encouragement and guidance on the field, something rarely seen from recently departed Kyle Boller.

One of the more interesting battles this summer will be the fight for No. 2 QB between Beck and Troy Smith. If Smith’s “Suggs Package” is going to remain part of the Ravens’ offense, the No. 2 position could be fluid throughout the season. It’s possible that Smith could be the No. 2 as long as Joe Flacco remains healthy with Beck being the emergency QB but if Flacco misses any time, Beck could get the call.
Photo by Sabina Moran.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ravens mini-camp notes and observations


Ray Lewis looks like he’s added even more muscle to his torso…For those hoping that Jerry Porter can return to form, don’t hold your breath. He didn’t resemble anyone looking to make an impression. Kelley Washington was the best of the three wide receiver non-roster invites, catching 25 yard scoring strikes from both Troy Smith and John Beck. Tab Perry made a very nice catch on a ball thrown well behind him by UDFA QB Drew Willy…Beck was very impressive and delivered balls on time and into small windows. Besides the strike to Washington, he also hit Justin Harper on a couple of scoring tosses in the red zone. Beck outplayed Smith today.

Joe Flacco was sharp at times while at other times, he and the many new receivers just weren’t on the same page. He hit Harper in the right front corner of the end zone on a comeback route, beating Evan Oglesby who actually had tight coverage. Flacco’s fastball was unbeatable on the play. Flacco also hit Yamon Figurs on a post at the back of the end zone while operating within the red zone. The throw and the fingertip catch were both picturesque.

Ray Rice looked very quick demonstrating excellent change of direction skills. New place kicker Graham Gano was very solid nailing 40+ yard field goals with plenty to spare, generally splitting the uprights. He once hit the camera tower center-positioned about 15 yards beyond the goal posts. Gano is wearing No. 7…Non-participants today included: Samari Rolle, Willis McGahee, Chris Carr, Fabian Washington, Terrell Suggs (franchise), Jason Phillips, Adam Terry, Willie Anderson, L.J. Smith, Derrick Mason, and Mark Clayton.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Beck may be a better long-term choice than Smith as No. 2 QB


The Ravens have signed quarterback John Beck, the Miami Dolphins second round selection (overall no. 40) in 2007. Prior to the 2007 draft the Ravens invited Beck in for a visit. Mix that in with Cam Cameron’s familiarity with Beck and his understanding of the Cameron offensive system and clearly the move makes sense for the Ravens.

Beck is said to be a heady, poised player with a team first attitude. He is accurate in short to intermediate spaces and possesses a quick release. The knock against Beck is that his delivery can often drop down to three-quarters and he doesn’t have prototypical NFL arm strength (although the video below might suggest otherwise). Beck will be 28 when the team takes the field on Opening Day.

So what does the Beck signing mean for Troy Smith? Smith isn’t generally viewed as a John Harbaugh kind of guy. His ego belies his productivity and Smith envisions himself as an NFL starter. After the 2009 season Smith will become a restricted free agent and he might want to move on to a team where he’ll have a chance to start. Beck on the surface seems more willing to accept a No. 2 role and given his reputation for preparedness and film study he could be better suited for a long-term backup role than Smith.

Mr. Irrelevant was nearly a Raven


One of the undrafted free agents that the Ravens signed is Graham Gano, kicker out of Florida State. Gano was the Lou Grouza Award recipient honoring the nation’s top collegiate placekicker. However, word is the Ravens were serious contenders for kicker Ryan Succop had he gone undrafted. Unfortunately the Ravens plans to bring in Succop came crashing down when the Kansas City Chiefs made the South Carolina kicker the 2009 NFL Draft’s Mr. Irrelevant. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Ravens unjustly criticized for not drafting a wide receiver


Many have criticized the Ravens for ignoring their needs at wide receiver on draft day. The way we hear it the Ravens coveted Michael Crabtree yet they didn’t foresee a scenario in which he would become a Raven given the costs to move up into the Top 10 of the draft. The other receiver that they may have given consideration to at No. 26 (had they stayed there) was Rutgers’ Kenny Britt. The team was never high on Darrius Heyward-Bey as a first round choice and the more time they spent with North Carolina’s Hakeem Nicks, the less they liked him.

The team had high second round grades on wide receivers Brian Robiskie from Ohio State and Mohamed Massaquoi out of Georgia but both were chosen by the Cleveland Browns at picks 36 and 50 respectively. Had either been available at no. 57 they likely would have been a Baltimore Raven.

Beyond that, the Ravens simply ranked players at other positions higher than the remaining draft eligible wide receivers and remained true to their draft board.

Ravens' Oher was nearly a top 10 pick


If the Ravens had their choice between Michael Oher and Brandon Pettigrew on draft day, word is the team’s war room may have been seriously divided. While the team is very pleased with the value pick of Oher at No. 23 sources indicate that the card turned in under this scenario would have described a coveted tight end out of Oklahoma State.

On draft day the league invites a handful of highly regarded NFL draft candidates to Radio City Music Hall for the festivities. Those invited are generally believed to be top 10 picks based on conversations with league executives. Michael Oher was on hand this year and word is the 49ers were set to select the Ole Miss tackle at No. 10but that was before Michael Crabtree unexpectedly fell into the lap of San Francisco.