The following quotes are from NFL scouts, coaches and front-office personnel, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
• “The biggest problem with Cleveland right now is that they burned high picks on two quarterbacks and still don’t have one. (Brandon) Weeden is 28. By the time he cuts his teeth, he will be 32, so you have to start looking at another guy in the next year or two. That means they are going to spend another (early) pick on a quarterback when they could have gotten another difference maker instead. Who are their receivers? They don’t have anyone that scares me. That doesn’t make the job any easier.”
• “You want to know what is wrong with (ex-Panthers ORT) Jeff Otah? He never really played football. He does not know how to handle pain. He got hurt when he was at Pitt in one of the games I was at, and you would have thought his leg got amputated. He was screaming like a child, and it turned out to be a sprained knee or some mild injury. We had him in for a visit too, and he was staring off into space. … He needs it to be kept simple. Someone will pick him up because he is still young and tackles are so hard to find.”
• “I think Matt Ryan is a top-10 quarterback. You have the usual suspects — Eli (Manning), (Tom) Brady, Peyton (Manning), (Drew) Brees and (Aaron) Rodgers, but who is the next group? Cam (Newton) is on the rise. (Ben) Roethlisberger is legit. Ryan is as good as (Jay) Cutler and (Philip) Rivers. I am not a (Joe) Flacco fan — I think he’s a panic guy — but he is getting a little better and has become more confident with his game. The Jets don’t have a quarterback. They probably should have taken (Josh) Freeman when they took the boy from USC (Mark Sanchez). As soon as they put word out that he is the ‘Sanchize,’ he started to slide. That is why they got (Tim) Tebow in there — they don’t have a quarterback. The boy from Detroit (Matthew Stafford) is coming on, but I’d still take Ryan over him and a lot of other guys.”
• “Who do the Panthers have at receiver besides Steve Smith? He is on his way down. They need someone to open up the inside. Brandon LaFell is just a guy. Louis Murphy can run, but he cannot catch.”
• “What’s difficult for these rookie quarterbacks coming into the league now when they are being thrust into the lineup — rookies can’t be leaders. No one listens to them. Name a rookie who came in and was a certified leader. Unless you’re talking about (John) Elway or (Dan) Marino, halfway through the season when they can get the team to start believing, there are not many capable (of doing that). All the vets tell them — ‘shut up and play the game; you have not done anything yet.’ It’s hard to lead when you have not done anything.”
• “How many offensive linemen are legitimate leaders? Playmakers are not going to follow linemen. When you think about it, there are not many defensive linemen (who are leaders). It’s not often that a dynamic guy like Reggie White comes along. Mario Williams is not a leader like that. He’s not a talker. Even with the Giants — Jason Pierre-Paul is their best rusher and you don’t hear him talking — he is just slamming guys in the cold tub. Osi (Umenyiora) and (Justin) Tuck talk (but) I think it was forced upon them by (Michael) Strahan. Strahan was a leader. Even guys like Orlando Pace and Willie Roaf — two of the best (offensive tackles) ever — they led by example.”
• “If someone can play, they will get another chance. The reason people are interested in Chad Johnson is because they will tune in to see the train wreck. He has done himself more damage than good in football with his personality. If you sign him, you have the backlash from woman’s groups to deal with. He needs a stable coach with a successful team and strong locker room to take a chance, not a dysfunctional organization. You think a lot of teams would not have liked to have had Michael Vick? They did not want to deal with the negative press coverage, but once he threw a TD in Philly, the animal-rights activists started to fade.”