OU’s McCoy a better fit for Rams

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McCoy has been rated as the No. 2 defensive tackle by many analysts.
(Jerry Laizure/US Presswire)

INDIANAPOLIS – Because he has an exceptionally cool name – and some serious game – Ndamukong Suh would be an outstanding choice as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft.

But when Roger Goodell reveals the first pick to a primetime TV audience on April 22, my prediction is that the NFL commissioner will have a much easier name to pronounce. In all likelihood, he’ll be announcing that the St. Louis Rams have selected a different defensive tackle who terrorized the Big 12 conference: Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy.

There are logical reasons for this, many of which I will detail shortly. But the best and most succinct one was verbalized by an NFC general manager I talked to at Thursday’s NFL scouting combine: “McCoy is the better player.”

Obviously, this GM’s opinion isn’t absolute. Beauty is in the eye of the potentially creepy beholder, and a lot can happen in the two months between the NFL’s annual meat market and the most hyped employee-allocation meeting in modern American industry.

But in numerous conversations this week with people who know talent – several of whom are familiar with Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo’s mindset – I’ve gotten the unequivocal impression that the prospect of St. Louis taking McCoy is very real. For all the hype about Suh and McCoy’s Sooners teammate, former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Sam Bradford, it’s this big, explosive, high-effort inside pass-rushing threat who stands out as the probable top pick.

“Think about the situation [Spagnuolo’s] in,” one high-level front-office employee for an AFC team said Wednesday. “He went 1-15 in his first season, and now there’s a new owner coming in. The guy is coaching for his job, possibly his career. He needs to win now or they could all get fired.

“That means he has to take the player who’ll make the biggest impact right now. You think he’s gonna trust that a quarterback can come in and do that as a rookie? I don’t think so. What he knows is defense, and the scheme he knows is the 4-3. And of the two tackles, the guy who makes the most sense for that scheme is definitely McCoy.”

A 6-foot-4, 298-pound menace in the middle, McCoy has been said to resemble Kevin Williams(notes), the Minnesota Vikings’ perennial All-Pro defensive tackle. He’s a strong, relentless, athletic player who has a penchant for blasting through and past defenders and terrorizing quarterbacks. One scout I talked to thought the Williams comparison didn’t go far enough.

“Kevin Williams?” the scout scoffed. “To me, he’s Warren Sapp(notes), only bigger and stronger.” (Sapp’s response, via text message: “LMAO!”)

The skepticism is understandable: Sapp, a future Hall of Famer, was one of the best players of his generation, and exaggeration is rampant among talent evaluators this time of year.

Suh, too, has inspired some grandiose praise – it’s just that the former Nebraska player, buoyed by his jaw-dropping performance (4½ sacks) in the Big 12 championship game against Texas, has been anointed much more conspicuously to this point.

At 6-4, 302 pounds, Suh also has the size and strength that any team covets. He has great hands and explosiveness and is terrific at the point of attack. His upper-body strength is exceptional, and he’s a top-notch tackler.

Realistically, Suh is probably good enough to be a very good defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme. But many of the talent evaluators I’ve been talking to project Suh as a 3-4 defensive end.

“To me, he’s Richard Seymour(notes),” one AFC scouting director said. “He’s a guy who can stand there on the edge and put his arms up and own the gap, even if he’s double-teamed. Don’t get me wrong – he’s a good player. I just think that if you’re playing a 4-3, the other guy is a better fit.”

Added another NFC general manager: “I’m a McCoy guy. Suh is good, but I’m wary of guys who have one eye-catching game, and people go nuts over them and the momentum builds. In the end, when people break down these two, I think most of them will end up liking McCoy better.”

Obviously, there are many scenarios which could complicate this decision. The Rams, who have many needs, would surely be open to trading down. Realistically, so would each of the three teams (Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins) which pick immediately after them.

Suh was in high pursuit of Colt McCoy throughout the Big 12 championship.
(Amy Gutierrez/AP Photo)

Of those teams, Washington is most likely to take a quarterback. If new head coach Mike Shanahan decides he wants Bradford or Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, it’s possible Washington could attempt to trade up to ensure he can get his guy. Similarly, other teams in search of a young passer could try to move up to get one of those players, as the Jets did with Mark Sanchez(notes) last April.

None of this would be tragic news for the Lions or the Bucs. Each team picked its presumed quarterback of the future last year – Matthew Stafford(notes) went No. 1 overall to Detroit before Josh Freeman(notes) went to Tampa Bay in the middle of the first round – and thus is not in the market for a passer.

“The more that teams get excited about these quarterbacks, the better news that is for the Lions,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said Thursday. “The more motivated teams are to move up, the more options we might have.”

When I asked Schwartz about McCoy and Suh, he sounded pretty content with the prospect of landing one of the two tackles. According to most mock drafts, McCoy is the guy who should be preparing for a future in Honolulu blue.

Based on what I’m hearing, I think Lions fans should start learning how to pronounce “En-dom-ah-ken Soo” and hope that Warren Sapp has good reason to laugh at the hyperbole about McCoy.

LIES, LIES, LIES

1. After his awkward appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Drew Brees(notes) got a sympathetic call from Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, who told the Saints quarterback: “Don’t worry, mate – she thought the scar on my forehead was a gob of Shepherd’s Pie.”

2. After being suspended by ESPN for lampooning SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm’s outfit, PTI host Tony Kornheiser angrily muttered: “And Josh Elliott’s robust head of hair is vastly overrated.”

3. When Scotty Lago “voluntarily” left the Olympics after risqué pictures of him and his bronze medal appeared on the Internet, the U.S. snowboarder was deeply disappointed.

OXYGEN-DEPRIVED THOUGHT FROM ABOVE

Does anyone else find it a bit bizarre that the NFL has concluded its investigation into the Tom Cable/Randy Hanson incident without having bothered to speak to the Raiders employee who ended up with a broken jaw? That’s right – even though Hanson still works for the team, no one from the NFL apparently sent him so much as an email inquiring about last summer’s trip to a Napa, Calif., hospital and the events preceding it before exonerating the guy Hanson claims threatened to kill him. It’s even stranger that the league closed its case on Cable the day after Hanson filed a civil suit against the Oakland coach for assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This makes league commissioner Roger Goodell look mighty inconsistent when it comes to disciplining players vs. coaches, and it evokes an image of an otherwise reasonable and intelligent man with his eyes closed and his fingers in his ears. I’m still waiting for a plausible explanation from someone as to how Hanson ended up with a broken jaw after that meeting with Cable and three other Oakland assistants. Perhaps the civil trial will provide some enlightenment.

LET’S DO SOME DON JULIO SILVER SHOTS FOR …

My kids’ former babysitter, the amazing Emily Azevedo, who teamed with Bree Schaff for a fifth-place finish Thursday in her first Winter Olympics. Judging by her rapid learning curve and clutch performance in Vancouver, it won’t be her last. And yes, that was me screaming for Azevedo’s competitors to biff while toasting glasses with various NFL luminaries at Shula’s No Name Bar at the Westin Indianapolis on Thursday night – and I’ll undoubtedly be screaming even louder if I ever take up Emily on her offer to stick me in a sled and take me on a practice run.

THIS WEEK’S PROOF THAT CAL IS THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE

Both Golden Bears basketball teams went into Thursday night on a mission and delivered – Mike Montgomery’s men on a quest for their first conference title in 50 years and Joanne Boyle’s women on a furious push for NCAA tourney consideration. The men manhandled Arizona at Haas Pavilion, 95-71, with point guard Jerome Randle (24 points) and power forward Jamal Boykin (20 points, 10 rebounds) leading the way. The Bears (11-5) hold a half-game lead over Arizona State (10-5) heading into Saturday’s showdown at Haas. The Cal women got 15 points and 14 boards from freshman forward Gennifer Brandon (15 points, 14 rebounds) in a 58-52 victory at Arizona to remain third in the Pac-10 Conference. The Bears will carry a five-game winning streak into Saturday’s huge game at ASU. Also, congratulations to the Cal men’s tennis team, which pulled out a dramatic, come-from-behind, 4-3 victory at No. 8 Stanford last Saturday to improve to 7-1.

YAHOO! SEARCH WORDS OF THE WEEK

Westbrook ESPN captain

ROLLIN’ WITH THE ROYALS

The Reading Football Club’s rollicking ride through the FA Cup draw continued in dramatic fashion Wednesday as the Royals snatched a stunning, 3-2, extra-time victory from West Bromwich Albion to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in 83 years. Now Reading is putting Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner on blast: The Royals host Premier League side Aston Villa at Madejski Stadium on March 7 with a trip to the semifinals at stake. Before that, Reading faces Sheffield Wednesday (the name of the team, not the day of the week) at Madejski this Saturday (confusing, yes) in a Football League Championship match. The Royals, coming off a 2-0 defeat at Blackpool following a 3-1 triumph at Crystal Palace, are 20th in the Championship table, just two points clear of the relegation line. But enough about that. Let’s revel in the latest FA Cup achievement, in a game which came within a minute of ending in disappointment.

After giving up a goal to West Brom’s Robert Koren just six minutes into the match at The Hawthorns, Reading equalized three minutes later when Jimmy Kebe side-footed a rebound of a Glyfi Sigurdsson shot into the net. Koren scored again two minutes into the second half, and the Royals looked done as the game neared the fourth and final minute of injury time. Incredibly, Reading stayed alive, as Kebe made a run down the right wing and fed the ball to Brian Howard whose right-footed finish extended the contest. The Royals then scored the game-winner five minutes into extra time on Sigurdsson’s curling, 22-yarder into the corner of the net. “It’s up there as the best goal of my career,” the Icelandic midfielder told the team’s website. Um, Gylfi – you’re 20 years old.

LYRIC-ALTERED SONG DEDICATION OF THE WEEK

When the California Silver Bears took the Newell Court floor for Thursday’s victory over Arizona in Nike’s specially designed uniforms, most people were told it was a product of the shoe company’s marketing campaign to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Air Jordan. In my egocentric world, however, it was an homage to a Daily Californian sports editor from the mid-’80s who currently works for the No. 1 sports website and spices up Fridays by rewriting tunes popular and obscure. In this case, I give you Bad Company and singer Paul Rodgers, who surely must atone for the unfortunate fact that All Right Now, the song he helped make a hit for Free, has been co-opted as a fight song by the Bay Area’s second-most academically challenging university. To the basketball gods (with an assist from benevolent Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour), I ask the following: Killer seats for me and a certain Super Bowl-winning linebacker at Haas Pavilion for Saturday’s showdown with Arizona State; a stirring victory; and a chance to celebrate our first conference title in five decades. Oh, and give me silver, blue and gold.

In the beginning
I recoiled at the sight of the threads
Looked like Georgetown
Might as well wear red
But then Randle started draining
Threes from 30 feet, they were raining on down
I’m standing here wondering
Can we win a Pac-10 crown?

Give me silver, blue and gold
A quest that is five decades old
Our rainbow is overdue

In the beginning
Kevin Johnson brought hope to the Lair
Now I call my
old classmate ‘Da Mayor’
Oh the time that Jason Kidd took us past Coach K
Was a wonder to us
Now we’ve got a dude who is fiery and shrewd
In Monty we trust

Give me silver, blue and gold
A quest that is five decades old
Our rainbow is overdue

Don’t forsake us ‘cause we’re hungry
Don’t forsake us ‘cause we care

Give me silver, blue and gold
A quest that is five decades old
Our rainbow is overdue

Give me silver, blue and gold
And Top Dogs and fat beers so cold
Our rainbow is overdue

Now give me silver, blue and gold
Cause titles feel good, I’m told
Our rainbow is overdue, yeah

Oh don’t forsake us ‘cause we’re hungry
Don’t forsake us ‘cause we’re thirsty …

Michael Silver covers the NFL for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Mogotxt, Twitter and Facebook. Also check out ridewithsilver.com. Send Michael a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Friday, Feb 26, 2010