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Sunday NFL Thoughts: Raiders 2010 Draft Report on TE Rob Gronkowski, Dolphins Getting Older, Tainted Meat

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We also come up with a divisional realignment that makes sense.

1. Redditor user Mattyuh had a successful shopping trip at a yard sale where he collected a few great binders from a former Raiders staff member. One of the binders covered the 2010 NFL Draft and we get a nice look at a Rob Gronkowski scouting report, as well as positional rankings for a few other draftees.

The Raiders were under the impression that the Patriots had their biggest needs at linebacker, running back, wide receiver, cornerback, and safety- which is all the more reason for head coach Bill Belichick to add cheap veterans in free agency so teams can't peg the Patriots need prior to the draft.

New England ended up with a tremendous draft haul of Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes, Taylor Price, and Aaron Hernandez. The Patriots also added Zac Robinson in the 7th round- and the Raiders had a 7th round grade on Robinson, as the 8th best quarterback in the draft.

Gronkowski was the Raiders top tight end in the draft, earning the grade of "Pro Bowl Player" and "Potential All Pro". He was lauded for his "good physical build" and the fact he "does not go down easy after the catch." The Raiders called him the "best all around player in the draft." They also said that he was an "average route runner" with "average hands."

It should also be noted that the Patriots traded up with the Raiders to take Gronkowski in the second round.

Aaron Hernandez received a 2-3 round grade, while there's a host of other Patriots tight ends. Dorin Dickerson earned a 3-4 round grade, Michael Hoomanawanui earned a 5th round grade, Clay Harbor earned a 6-7 round grade, and Steve Maneri was considered a free agent.

It's good to note that the Raiders also gave 3rd round bust Taylor Price a 3rd round grade, one rank behind Brandon LaFell.

2. The Miami Dolphins have signed defensive end Cameron Wake to a one-year extension, keeping him around through the 2017 season. Wake picked up a nice $10 million signing bonus, which is fantastic for a 34-year-old coming off a torn Achilles.

The Dolphins also signed 31-year-old Mario Williams to a 2-year contract this offseason, giving the Dolphins one of the oldest pass rushing duos in the entire league. Miami also added former Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch on a 1-year deal.

The Patriots should be the last time to laugh at the age of another team's pass rushers, with the 32-year-old Rob Ninkovich and the 31-year-old Chris Long, but there's a key difference. The trio of Ninkovich, Long, and Jabaal Sheard combine for roughly a $13.9 million cap hit. Prior to the extension for the still-recovering Wake, the Miami duo combined for roughly a $16.3 million cap hit.

Significant edge to the Patriots.

3. Turns out that players need to be careful about what they eat while on vacation in Mexico and China- the meat could be tainted with a substance called clenbuterol, which could lead to a positive drug test result and a possible suspension. That's wacky.

Apparently Texans offensive tackle Duane Brown was popped with a 10-game suspension after eating the contaminated meat, that was subsequently overturned after the appeals process. It would seem that the league office listens to science when the owners don't have a vendetta against the appealing party, like, say, the Patriots.

4. One of my favorite league-building scenarios to review is realignment options because there's no reason the Colts should be in the AFC South or for the Cowboys to be in the NFC East.

The big argument for keeping the Cowboys in the East is "rivalry" but the real reason is "television markets." The teams in the East get the primetime games because they're popular teams with national support, and they get national support because they're often in the primetime slots.

With the Rams moving to Los Angeles, here's how I would actually split up the league:

NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Carolina Panthers Chicago Bears Dallas Cowboys Arizona Cardinals
New York Giants Detroit Lions Houston Texans Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints San Francisco 49ers
Washington Minnesota Vikings Tennessee Titans Seattle Seahawks
AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Bills Baltimore Ravens Atlanta Falcons Denver Broncos
Indianapolis Colts Cincinnati Bengals Jacksonville Jaguars Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots Cleveland Browns Miami Dolphins Oakland Raiders
New York Jets Pittsburgh Steelers Tampa Bay Buccaneers San Diego Chargers

There are a few big changes worth noting:

4a. Cowboys and Panthers flip divisions. The Cowboys are in the south. The Panthers, while in the south, are a better fit for this Atlantic Coast style East division- and they're a far better fit for the east anyways. This will also create a natural Cowboys/Texans rivalry.

4b. Colts and Dolphins flip divisions. I considered a round-robin that would move the Ravens to the east and the Colts to the north, with the Dolphins heading south- and this makes far more geographic sense- but I thought we should retain the old divisions as much as possible. The Colts used to be in the east and their rivalry with the Patriots is certainly a welcome addition.

4c. Texans, Titans, Falcons, Buccaneers shake-up the south. Since the South divisions are the newest, that's where the bulk of the change happens. The Texans and Titans switch with the Falcons and Buccaneers so the AFC South will now host the three Florida teams, as well as the Georgia team, which will help with sparking divisional intrigue.

4c. There doesn't have to be really drastic changes in order to better align the divisions. The Falcons/Titans change closes the distance for the Florida teams- and I kind of like the idea of a Music City vs Mardi Gras rivalry. Perhaps the Cowboys move would force the television stations to air teams outside of the east in primetime games.

I would expect the Cowboys to be upset at first, and for the NFC East to push back because they benefit greatly from the national appeal of Dallas, but this would be a big first step towards creating divisions that make sense in today's NFL.

Remember that the Dolphins are only in the AFC East because the Bills were nostalgic about the Dan Marino-Jim Kelly rivalry during the 2002 realignment- and now that's a rivalry that has little national intrigue. Rivalries can and will change. The divisions should make more sense and the rivalries will follow.