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Insider Article on Winslow and Lions

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Old 04-16-2004, 04:27 PM   #1
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Insider Article on Winslow and Lions

The Detroit Lions hosted University of Miami Kellen Winslow Jr. Thursday, and it became apparent that he is the primary player the club is focusing on with the sixth pick in the draft. It makes sense, considering the Lions could desperately use an impact player on offense.

At least one scout has called him the best offensive player in the draft and Houston Texans General Manager Charley Casserly called the outspoken Winslow one of the best tight end prospects he has scouted in his 27 years in the league.

"He looks like the complete package," Casserly said at the combine. "He's big, strong, runs and catches the ball extremely well. He's improving as a blocker. I like his maturity as well. There just aren't any weaknesses that I can see."

Winslow has chosen Carl and Kevin Poston as his agents, who have a reputation as fierce negotiators. They have asked for a $27 million signing bonus for left tackle Orlando Pace and have accused the Washington Redskins of cheating LaVar Arrington out of $6.5 million by underhandedly deleting things from his contract.


Miami's Kellen Winslow would greatly help Joey Harrington develop as a quarterback.
That could work in Detroit's favor, because the Redskins pick immediately before them. New coach Joe Gibbs loves to use an H-back -- a part-fullback, part-tight end. Winlsow appears to be a natural fit, which led people to believe they wouldn't let him slip past them at No. 5. But the Redskins may balk because of Winslow's new representatives.

Washington will likely avoid picking a player they feel will be difficult to sign and given the recent history between the organization and the Poston's, Winslow fits that category. So he may be around at No. 6 and the Lions are poised to snatch him up.

The addition of Winslow would be a huge help in the development of quarterback Joey Harrington. The former first-round pick showed signs of improving last year in the most difficult of scenarios. Rookie Charles Rogers was his best receiver and he only played in five games. His second best wideout, Az-Zahir Hakim was trying to come back from a serious hip injury and for most of the season there was no dependable third receiver.

Still Harrington got better as the season progressed. In the first seven games, Harrington completed 52 percent of his passes for 1,230 yards, eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In his last nine games (four of which were Lions wins), his completion rate rose to 58.8 percent and he passed for 1,650 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

"I'm going to feel a lot better about Joey when we give him some more help," coach Steve Mariucci told the Detroit News earlier this month. "It was very hard for us to even evaluate him last year. His passing game was constantly interchangeable parts, and we didn't have a running game. We were 32nd in the league in rushing. We give him a runner. We give him a tight end and another receiver and Charles healthy and Tai Streets? I think he'll start coming into his own."

A great tight end can do wonders for an offense. Winslow is expected to have a Jeremy Shockey-type effect, and the New York Giants offense was transformed with his addition. Tailback Tiki Barber has had his two best seasons with Shockey in the lineup and wideout Amani Toomer had his best season during Shockey's rookie campaign. Quarterback Kerry Collins also benefited, having his preeminent season in 2002.

No one is predicting that Harrington will explode onto the scene as one of the better passers in the NFL, but with Winslow as an option big improvement would be expected. With teams worried about a player that would create a mismatch against just about any linebacker, other players benefit, and that should not only be good news for Harrington, but also Rogers and whoever lines up at running back.
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