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Combine Judgements: Reid will aim for talent, not need, with top pick

by | Senior NFL Columnist
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Kansas City's Andy Reid understands the value of a high draft choice. He had the second pick of the draft in 1999 when he took over the Philadelphia Eagles, and he turned it into Donovan McNabb ... who, in turn, helped turn the Eagles into a playoff team.

Reid has the first pick of this year's draft, and while there's no quarterback worth taking at that spot there is a blueprint Reid will follow.

"You don't want to force yourself into a position," he said. "You don't go for need. You go for who the best player is or who the best player is perceived to be. If the best player is a guard, you've got to take that guard. If you don't, that's where mistakes are made."

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By coincidence, there is a guard -- Alabama's Chance Warmack -- who's a possible top pick. Of course, so is left tackle Luke Joeckel, and what the Chiefs do with free-agent-to-be Brandon Albert could determine where they go with the first choice. Offensive linemen begin their workouts Friday, but, in the meantime, Joeckel remains the early favorite to go numero uno.

"It would be really cool, a dream come true," he said. "I am definitely striving to be the No. 1 pick, but my dream is to just play in the NFL."

2. There's a lot of speculation about what happens next to San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, and while the 49ers won't say anything other than they don't have to budge -- which they don't -- there's only one destination that makes sense if they're going to deal the guy, and that's Cleveland. The reason: Norv Turner. He's the offensive coordinator there, and he was the offensive coordinator in San Francisco for Smith's second pro season when he made substantial progress. He was never the same after Turner left -- not until the arrival of Jim Harbaugh in 2011, that is -- and if Smith isn't playing for Harbaugh he should play for Turner.

3. I'm not sure why Tennessee's Tyler Bray didn't wait another year to declare himself for the draft. He might've been the first quarterback chosen in 2014. Nevertheless, he's here, and he's hoping to prove "that I've grown up and learned from my mistakes." Tyler had off-the-field issues that, he said, he expects clubs to address, and he's prepared to answer them. "I'm not really worried about that," he said. If Bray looks bigger to clubs, he should. He checked in at 6-6, 232, after having added 24 pounds. "That was always my main issue," he said of his weight. "Seeing if I could take a hit. So I think I'm ready."

4. The Chicago Bears aren't sure what offensive lineman Gabe Carimi's next position is. It could be guard; it could be tackle. As GM Phil Emery said, Carimi had his "moments" at both positions, but that's not necessarily good. If you're playing multiple positions, you're a master of none. Nevertheless, Emery said the Bears probably won't know where Carimi fits in until training camp ... meaning (duh) the Bears are looking for offensive linemen in this draft.

5. Interesting comment by Bruce Arians, new coach of the Arizona Cardinals, on what he's looking for in quarterbacks in this year's draft class: "The two muscles you evaluate quarterbacks with are brain and your heart. There are a bunch of guys who I think will be playing for a long time in this class."

6. San Francisco GM Trent Baalke on what the 49ers want to see from last year's first-round pick A.J. Jenkins: "Production." How about time? The wide receiver played in three games last season and is still waiting on his first catch.

7. Central Michigan's Eric Fisher is regarded as the second-best tackle in the draft and a possible top-15 pick, but he needs to gain more strength to move up the board. Fisher thinks he can -- though his timetable is tighter than you might think. "My goal [at the combine] is to prove I am the No. 1 tackle in the nation," he said. Fisher might have help there. He's in constant communication with another Central Michigan alum, San Francisco's Joe Staley, who not only was a first-round draft pick but became a two-time All-Pro. Fisher checked in at 6-7, 306, but said he believes he "definitely has room for growth."

8. Not surprisingly, Chicago coach Marc Trestman divulged nothing new on the future of linebacker Brian Urlacher, saying the evaluation of him is "an on-going process."

9. Trestman spoke highly of quarterback Jay Cutler, and he should. He worked with the guy prior to the 2006 draft, and Cutler is the centerpiece of Trestman's offense. Twice Trestman said how "excited" he was to coach Cutler, adding that "we've got to work hard to provide him the resources to maximize his abilities."

10. Talk about the rich getting richer. The San Francisco 49ers have four of the top 93 draft picks and could have as many as 14 draft choices this year -- including three expected compensatory choices.

11. While he didn't have exact numbers, a league spokesman indicated there are more than 800 media credentials for this year's scouting combine, a record for the annual event. Ten years ago there were no more than 50-60 reporters who showed up.

12. I don't know what Miami does with its draft picks, but I do know they should be prepared. The Dolphins brought 55 persons here, or roughly the size of the national media contingent 10 years ago.

13. Philadelphia's Chip Kelly isn't into predicting who quarterbacks the Eagles. They have four under contract, but Trent Edwards isn't considered a factor. That leaves Michael Vick, Dennis Dixon and Nick Foles, though most think Foles isn't a fit for Kelly's system. "I want to coach Nick," said Kelly, "and I want to spend time with him and see him. I can't predict the future. Everybody's going to get a shot, and the best player is going to play."

14. Tim Tebow, start packing your bags. When Jets coach Rex Ryan was asked about his backup quarterback, he said, "Tim is under contract. We'll see how things go in the offseason, but Tim is under contract." This from the man who two years ago predicted the Jets would win the Super Bowl. Read the tea leaves, Tim.

15. The NFL took advantage of the crowd of media by having Adolpho Birch, its senior VP of law and labor policy, sit down with reporters to restate its case for HGH testing. The league and NFLPA agreed to it in their last contract negotiations but haven't ironed out a deal -- and the league is clearly frustrated. "The basis for decisions that they're making I don't know," said Birch. "We have had a history of 20-plus years of reaching agreements for the obvious betterment of athletes who want to compete fairly and cleanly and not have to worry about someone next to them potentially violating a policy in a way that gives them an unfair advantage. That system is something that should not just be thrown into chaos because there's a question of whether or not the commissioner should hear an appeal [of] a guy convicted of domestic violence. These are things important to the integrity of the game, and they need to take center stage with that level of importance again.”

Three quotes to remember

1. "It's been around 100 years. They must be doing something right." Former Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, now head coach of the Bears, on the CFL.

2. "We have no intent to trade Percy Harvin." -- Minnesota GM Rick Spielman.

3. "It's been a rather dominant topic." -- New York Jets' GM John Idzik on the Darrelle Revis speculation.

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