Friday, April 29, 2011

Some initial R1 ramblings

Yeah yeah, R2 will be started by the time this is posted. I was on an hour's sleep after taking the red-eye home, so I couldn't post last night, and worked today. With that out of the way, some initial thoughts on teams that didn't make no-brainers, or that I generally liked or hated...

1 - Cam Newton to the Panthers: The ultimate overreach. Here's the thing with me. Jaws apparently said that Newton ran around 30 pass plays which were of NFL caliber. That's an awfully low number for a guy that came off as not capable of recognizing NFL routes and players in the Gruden special. He's motivated, talented and hard working, so he probably won't be a massive, epic, Jamarcus type bust. But I do think he'll bust hard.

6 - Julio Jones / Falcons / Browns: Okay, I heard a great sound-byte today, that regardless of how stupid this move seems for the Falcons, Dimitroff has been performing great, and should be cut some slack till we have reason to doubt him. I don't doubt Jones' talent. I do doubt the merits of giving up FIVE picks to get him. The Browns made out great with this trade.

7 - Aldon Smith to the Niners: I have a Niners fan friend who hated this pick, but I like it. I think he's a great fit for the system, and like that they didn't reach for a QB. They've got a lot of holes, and this guy fills a big one, and I love his ability to get to the QB.

8 - Jake Locker to the Titans: IMO a stupid pick. He's the opposite of Vince Young...great attitude and work ethic, highly questionable talent.

10 - Blaine Gabbert / Jags / Redskins: I really like the Skins trading down to get more picks. They have a lot of holes to fill and need bodies. I'm not a huge Gabbert fan, but I fully admit that not only is it impossible for a non-professional to predict QB success (professionals can only do this with around 50/50 accuracy, what chance do we have?), but I also haven't watched him enough to form a strong opinion.

12 - Christian Ponder to the Vikes: I have made fun of this pick cause, let's face it, it's funny. But here's a guy who pretty much has questionable physical tools and strong everything else. I think if you gamble on a QB, that's the way to do it. But I'm not thrilled with doing it at #12, when you could probably have done it at #15, or #19, or #25 even...

13 - Nick Fairley to the Lions: Oh man is that going to be a fun DL to watch next year! I love what they're doing, rebuilding this team. I think whether Matt Stafford becomes solid and can stay healthy will be the determining factor for whether the Lions are a solid team or an elite team three years from now.

27 - Jimmy Smith to the Ravens: Ignore the fiasco, Chicago has said they screwed up. This is a huge risk huge reward play. Smith is arguably the most talented corner in the draft. Patrick said if he were a model citizen, he'd have been a top ten, maybe top five pick, and I agree with that. The joke I've been using is that five years from now, he'll either be headed to his prison cell, or to his fourth Pro Bowl. But his problems were pretty much two or more years ago, so I'm not terribly concerned with him.

28 - Mark Ingram to the Saints: Okay, I flat hate this pick. The rarely-understood-by-analysts idea is that it's all about the delta, the upgrade from one position to another. The cost of this pick was a 2012 first and 2011 second round pick. They just used two top picks to take a guy who is a moderate upgrade over the Ivory/Bush/Thomas combo. Even if they lose two of those guys, he's probably not a MASSIVE upgrade, which is what you need to get when you use two top picks on a guy.

31 - Cam Heyward to the Steelers: So happy Camiri didn't make it to them. The Steelers are one of the best teams in the NFL, and I think one of the reasons is because they don't hesitate to take the top guy on their board, regardless of their needs. Their front seven is stacked to the gills, and they still take a guy on the front seven. I don't question the pick at all, they've undoubtedly earned the benefit of the doubt.


An Actual Post: Quick Hit On The First Round

Because, you know. Why not?

Biggest Winners

Cleveland Browns. Got a huge haul from the Falcons and then pulled in one of the players from the deepest position in the draft. I don't know a lot about Taylor but he's a guy who would have gone in the teens a lot of years.

Houston, Detroit, St. Louis. With the weird run on quarterbacks in the top twelve, three of the most talented prospects dropped to these teams in the early teens. Rick Smith, Martin Mayhew, and Billy Devaney are thanking their respective spirits and deities right now.

Cam Newton. Just think, 8 months ago he hadn't taken an NCAA snap in two years and had attempted a total of 12 passes at that point. Now, depending on collective bargaining, he's worth somewhere between $50 - $80 million. And we still have no idea what kind of player he will ultimately be.

Biggest Losers

Atlanta Falcons. This may seem lame, but this really is a zero sum game to me. If Cleveland won, then Atlanta lost. They made a Ricky Williams-type deal for a player they don't really need. I love Julio Jones. I think he has as much potential as any receiver since Calvin Johnson. Thing is though, the Falcons already have Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner. It is hard to see what Jones will provide that is so much greater than what Michael Jenkins already provides. Sure, great prospect and he might be a great player for 15 years. But to give up that much you need to get that key guy at that key position. Jones doesn't really represent either.

I lurked through a Falcon board and the fans don't seem too happy, even the ones putting a brave face on this. They are consoling themselves with the dreams of compensatory picks next year.

Minnesota. Hard to say where they really had Ponder. Gosselin had him going #10OA to Washington. Still, I have to believe that they died piece-by-piece as Locker and then Gabbert slipped off the board. And then died a little more when they couldn't trade out of the pick. I have no idea what kind of NFL quarterback Ponder will be, but from a pure draft-value perspective this is a disaster for Minnesota.

Ryan Mallett. I coined the phrase 'pulled a Clausen' last night, shamelessly stolen from Kingpin. I coined it specifically for Mallett. To pull a Clausen is to leave school as a junior quarterback with a shitty attitude and puffed up expectation of ones worth. This dude is probably going to be the 7th QB off the board and maybe not til the third day. Way to go Ryan!

Biggest Gambles

Carolina. Cam Newton has star power coming out of his ears. Whether or not he can actually be a good quarterback, or great quarterback, or elite quarterback? Who knows. The Panthers are in disarray. The team is coming apart at the seams already. Steve Smith is old, their running back tandem has lost effectiveness, Julius Peppers is gone. It is hard to see that the infrastructure is there to support him. There is going to be a lot of pressure to get him on the field early and his learning curve is enormous.

Baltimore. Kind of hard to argue that a team drafting #26 is really gambling with a guy like Jimmy Smith, but Smith is a pretty bad dude. And by "bad" I mean bad, not good bad. He did enough drugs to get himself caught. He knocked up women and walked away. He stiffed his first agent out of $30 grand and then fired him when he couldn't get more. Last night I was listening to the pundits with their typical tired story, telling me how Ray Lewis would get/keep Smith straight. I really kind of wonder if Lewis still has that cache. Smith could really pay off. He could continue to be a bad dude and still pay off. Or he could be ruinously disruptive enough to wreck a Raven season or two.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is NBC betting on fans jumping to a new sport?

Can I raise a practical question, at this point? (No, not Stonehenge related...) Is NBC betting against the NFL?

NBC recently signed a big TV deal with the NHL. Reportedly much larger than their older deal, this looks to be worth $200MM per year vs. the $120MM they paid for the rights this year.

This gets into the post I put up the other day, noting that interest may be waning a bit. The question has to be, is NBC actually taking an $80MM bet that interest in the NFL waning could push sports fans over to watching more NHL?

I don't know the economics behind this, nor do I know how ratings have been for the NHL this year. I feel like it may have been growing over the last couple years. The Pitt/Detroit and Chicago/Philly Finals were very good for the sport thanks to those teams being high profile, the Crosby/Ovechkin rivalry has been very good and the Winter Classic has also been very good for their awareness. Hockey does seem to be gaining some traction.

But worthy of a 67% pay raise? I haven't seen anything that makes that look like it's worthy of numbers like those. Which leads me to question if this is more of a speculation play. It could make sense. If fans lose interest in the NFL, they'll move to other sports to fill the void. The NBA is about to face the same thing. Are NFL fans going to migrate toward the calm, cool, sophisticated golf/tennis crowd; or are they more likely to hop over to the violent, crushing, smashing hockey hooligans?

The question answers itself. Whether it is or not, it's interesting to think about.


Monday, April 18, 2011

The Deafening Sounds of Silence

Shhh... Listen closely. Do you hear that? That's the sound of every major sports site not covering the NFL (at least, not on the front page), just a week and a half before the biggest off-season day of the year.

Okay, I'll grant a bit of time bias here. I'm managing to post this on the Monday after the first round of the NBA playoffs...a weekend which saw - in a league driven by chalk and often joked about for shady reffing to help ensure favorable match-ups in future rounds - game one upsets of a 1 and 2 seed on their home courts. My timing could have been better.

But let's come to grips with a few things here. First, how often over the last month or so have we seen a page-one cover of an NFL story NOT involving the lock-out? I honestly can't remember any. Second, float around the sites I linked. The top story is all basketball, but the second/third stories are including baseball and college football on some of those sites. College football! And not "How will losing XYZ player in the draft next week impact ABC team next season?" ... More like "How will XYZ recruits impact ABC team?"

The problem is, the NFL seems to be getting far less coverage than it has before. During a year when the NFL moved the opening round of the draft to prime time to increase the viewing audience, they're killing interest in it due to the ridiculous fight between the two sides. Sports talk shows are barely discussing the draft. Mock drafts aren't being featured on every site, they're being buried in the NFL links. The NFL is on the back burner for the first time in a long time.

It's safe to assume the interest from the average NFL fan is likely wavering here, as well. I'm not an "average NFL fan" in my opinion. My family owns some exceptional PSLs for the Ravens, and I drive 3.5 hours one way four or so times a year (leaving my wife and two young daughters for the day) to go to games. On the Sundays I spend at the house, I'm non-responsive in front of NFL Sunday Ticket anyway. I write, a lot, about it, and I'm in four to five FFL leagues annually. During the month prior to the draft I'm often reading endless mock drafts and sometimes preparing my own mock draft. (Side note, thank GOD my prediction on the Ravens pick didn't come true, though Oher hasn't exactly torn up the league himself.) Instead, I think I've read one of Don Banks' mocks, and that's pretty much it. I have the draft next week marked on my calendar, hoping that will make sure it reminds me that it's happening. If a guy like me is having trouble getting amped up for the draft, how is the "average NFL fan" - the one that catches a dozen or so of his team's games each year on TV, maybe buys a jersey every few years, might take his kid to a game every so often - going to feel?

I have no actual evidence to offer here. No stats showing how many front page stories were featured last year vs. this year. No polls showing fan interest is on the decline. The only thing I have is an email I received from the NFL, looking for fans to attend Day 2 and Day 3 of the NFL draft live, which is the first I've heard of their having problems selling the event out. Everything else is all anecdotal.

But the NFL, both teams AND players, should be taking note here. They seem to be acting as though no damage will be done until games are missed. They seem to believe that fans will simply come back after the new deal is struck, and the $9 billion machine will go back to printing money like it was last year.

But I don't buy it. I think damage is being done here. Damage that may not be able to be repaired, at least for a few years. The owners and players need to start discussing the possibility that they're not going to be splitting up a $9 billion pie, they might be splitting up a $6 billion or $7 billion pie. And that may still sound like a pretty big number, but sit back and think about whether or not you'd be willing to take a 20% - 30% pay cut simply because you were in an argument with your boss.

At this time of year, the silence the NFL is hearing across the media world about its sport's most hyped off-season event should be a giant red-flag. I just fear it's falling on deaf ears.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Good Riddance

The NFL Network is admitting their mistake in hiring Joe Theismann last year. And Matt Millen the year before.


Monday, April 11, 2011

I don't know why this is funny...


Ben Roethlisberger will marry a 26-year-old physician's assistant whom he said he met during training camp in 2005 and has been friends with ever since, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for a story in Thursday's editions.

Okay...yes I do.


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