I received many e-mails and tweets about my 2013 NFL Mock Draft and the upcoming NFL Draft in general. To share the answers to the questions publicly, I decided to start up a mailbag column. Pass along your NFL draft questions and comments. I'll put together a mailbag periodically that answers questions/comments sent via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @draftcampbell.
From Tom Ryan, St. Louis, Missouri
"I know you reported on Gruden's potential return to the NFL some time ago, and with black Moday having come and gone, I was wondering if there was any intrest from any team? I was thinking he'd be an ultra hot commodity. My gut was telling me the Eagles with thier vast amount of firepower?"
Thanks for the email. As I said back in November, Gruden would only come back for a perfect situation. If he didn't feel the team is perfect, he would remain with ESPN. I know that the Eagles were a team which he would have been interested in speaking with to see if the fit is there, but to my knowledge they didn't reach out to him. I believe that Philadelphia general manager Howie Roseman doesn't want a coach with the power, presence and control that Gruden would demand. Roseman just had that with Andy Reid and doesn't want it again. The Eagles want Roseman to drive their roster building rather than the head coach.
I think Gruden is a great coach and would be one of the top-10 coaches in the NFL right now, but I'm not confident that he and Roseman would work well together. To my knowledge, no team has shown serious interest in Gruden.
From Jim Murray, Lee's Summit, Missouri
"I would much rather the Chiefs trade that choice to San Fran for Alex Smith and have a proven starter without rolling the dice on a college player. We need help YESTERDAY?"
I hear you Jim, but if you look at the NFL in recent years, rookie quarterbacks can make a team a lot better immediately. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Andy Dalton all took their teams to the playoffs as rookies. Cam Newton had a lot of success as well. I think trading the No. 1 pick for Alex Smith would be a terrible move by the Chiefs. Smith isn't worthy of a pick in the first round, and it would go down as one of the worst trades in NFL history.
From Arpan, Livonia, Michigan
"Where do you think Aj McCarron's NFL stock is? He has a solid arm, and good pocket awareness, but he could just be a product of Saban's system. Also, I don't think that Geno Smith is worthy of the number one pick. He reminds me of Landry Jones, lacking the "it" factor that it takes to win. This class reminds me of 2007's. Even though JaMarcus went number one, he obviously didn't deserve to."
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I think McCarron has helped himself with how he played against LSU, Georgia and Notre Dame. At this point, I think McCarron will enter his senior season as a second-day prospect. It will be interesting to see how he plays after losing the majority of his offensive line along with Eddie Lacy.
From Tim Johnson, Clearwater, Florida
"Do you think that Michael Bennett deserves a big-money contract? I'm not convinced the Bucs should give him a huge contract."
I think Bennett has earned a big contract. Tampa Bay's front office deserves credit for signing the undrafted free agent, while his multiple defensive line coaches deserve credit for developing him into an end capable of recording nine sacks in a season like he did in 2013.
Tampa Bay hasn't had a double-digit sacker since Simeon Rice in 2005. The pass rush has been a real weakness for years, and the team can't afford to take a step backwards by losing Bennett.
Plus, Bennett still has upside. The first-year starter had nine sacks in 2012 and is only 27 years old. He could've had more sacks if Adrian Clayborn hadn't gotten hurt. There were numerous plays on which quarterbacks got away from from Bennett by rolling to the left because nobody was coming from that side. A 27-year-old end coming off a nine-sack season will land a good contract on the open market.
Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik has a tendency to overpay players, and I would expect that to continue with Bennett. It is somewhat understandable that the Buccaneers have to overpay for talent considering they haven't been relevant to the postseason in many years. If Tampa Bay don't reward Bennett, some team will pay him well in free agency.
From twitter @carsonhowell (S. Carson Howell)
"Do you think Jarvis Jones' condition, spinal stenosis, will/should affect his draft status?"
I do think that it could affect his draft status, but I don't believe it should. Jones dominated the SEC the past two years, and the spinal stenosis had no impact on his play whatsoever. He was one of the best and most consistent pass-rushers in the conference. Jones isn't a flawless prospect, but I don't think that medical issue should factor into the decision.
From twitter @ShawnClement1, Shawn Clement
"In the case of Jaguars, isn't O-line a great need than DE/OLB?"
I do think that Jacksonville's offensive line is a bigger need than defensive end or outside linebacker. That being said the Jaguars have the least talented roster in the NFL. They have to go with the best player available in the first round, regardless of position. Jacksonville needs elite talent and game-changers. If the best player available is a defensive end or an outside linebacker, the team should go with that play-maker.
From twitter @RSiegel81 Rick Siegel
"You hear a lot of different things, but just to be 100%, Johnny Manziel is eligible in 2014 right?."
Yes that is correct. Manziel will be draft eligible after the 2013 season and could decide to enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
From Sean McCartney, Manhattan, Kansas
"Why is all the mock drafts I'm reading saying the Steelers are going defense? Sure they may be older, but they are still top three in the league, but how can a top three defense not make the playoffs? They can get defensive players that they can groom in later rounds. Harrison and Pomulau may be winding down, but they are still on top of their games and can still go another year or two.
But that Offense, they need really badly: backup QB (if Ben keeps taking a pounding, he wont last as long as some of the older defense players), RB (I know theres not one worthy in first rd, but this yr, Mendenhall busted. Dwyer was good in spurts but at the end of the year, not so much. The other two are no more than ok backups), WR (Wallace and Brown regressed badly as did Sanders) and of course OL (is it early to label Adams and Decastro busts?? I know they had injuries, but when they played they were beaten badly).
The Steelers O toward the end of the season made me want to switch to the Jaguar game. They were awful! and all these mock drafts are showing is a replacement for Harrison (who has another yr or 2) and Hampton (who also has another yr or 2) and when your O is hurting, drafting backup D players in the first 2 rds is not the way to go.?"
The same reason why you question whether the Steelers would take defense applies to the offense. As you stated, there isn't a running back worth taking in the first round. It makes no sense to use a first-rounder on a backup quarterback. The first round wide receivers in this draft wouldn't start over Pittsburgh's current receivers.
The offensive line, on the other hand, would be a competition. Outside of a rookie tackle beating out Adams, I think a rookie interior lineman would only be a backup - unless the Steelers take Alabama guard Chance Warmack in the first round. I agree Pittsburgh's offense needs help, but that should come with addressing the ground game via a bell-cow running back like Alabama's Eddie Lacy.
Winning in the NFL and building through the draft is all about getting maximum value for draft picks. The Steelers would be better off in the long run by adding premium talent to their defense and finding a good running back on the second day. I also think you're being generous with Harrison and Hampton. In my opinion, either could suffer an injury any day now and be done in the NFL. Plus, many believe that Pittsburgh will move on from Harrison this offseason.