Tuesday, September 01, 2009

That Looked Good

All in all, a solid preseason effort. The Vikings improved to 3-0 (right, it doesn't matter, but I remember the 1998 Vikings going 4-0 in the preseason, so I'm going to pretend it's a good sign), the starters scored 17 points in a half, a vintage Purple Jesus run out of the gates (and to the right side!) and the defense looked pretty solid against what is likely to be one of the best offenses in the NFL. A few more thoughts:
  • The Vikings have racked up 36 penalties for 251 yards so far in the preseason. Now, obviously not all of those were from the starters, but considering they were called for 8 penalties for 60 yards in the first half (one of which was an offsetting unnecessary roughness penalty on Ray Edwards) it's not a good sign. Then again, the Vikings were only 17th overall in penalty yards and 16th in penalties, so it might not be that big of a deal.
  • Am I excited about having a competent right tackle? You bet. Purple Jesus probably doesn't go 75 yards to start the game with Ryan Cook there. With Phil Loadholt opening up the cutback lane? 75 yards to the House. (Though, it probably doesn't hurt that Peterson hit 23 miles per hour to leave the Texans in his dust. And yes, that's a ridiculous speed, especially when you consider he didn't even look like he was trying.)
  • I wasn't particularly impressed by the Wildcat plays. Now, I understand the Vikings aren't going to debut the entire package in the 3rd preseason game, but is it really necessary to line up Harvin in the shotgun so he can either hand the ball off to Peterson for a relatively nondescript 5 yard gain or fake the hand off and run off tackle where his 40 year old quarterback is going to fling himself (sometimes illegally!) into defenders and get hurt?
  • On QB#4's block: In theory, I like the fact that he's willing to block for his teammates (IN THEORY--Communism works IN THEORY). In reality, however, I don't like the fact that our brittle, about to be 40 year old quarterback is throwing himself into defenders, especially considering that he was telling the press about his self diagnosed cracked ribs earlier today. And I especially don't like the fact that he's flinging himself into defenders knees. And no, QB#4, it's not ok because ""... [you]'ll be 40 years old in October and was weeding 13 days ago." Please never, ever, ever use the fact that you skipped training camp as an excuse again. That was your decision.
  • The Purple ran a lot of screens last night. I like the idea of Adrian Peterson in space with lead blockers, and Chester Taylor has clearly shown that he can make things happen after he catches a pass (Something, I think, Eugene Wilson can attest to). I also like the fact that Childress is showing the screens in the preseason. If the Purple can establish themselves as a team that runs the screen well, it's going to really help QB#4 and the offensive line out, by forcing opponents' pass rush to slow down in order to account for the screen.
  • And, I hate to admit it, but QB#4 played well yesterday, aside from the illegal crack back and taking a bad sack on 3rd and 2. The Texans defense isn't the Steelers' (or Ravens' or Vikings'), but it was good to know that the fact he skipped training camp hasn't held him back that much. He averaged 6.5 yards per attempt without Bernard Berrian (and including the fact that Percy Harvin should have caught Favre's throw in the corner of the end zone). That's a full half yard more than the Vikings' 5.97 yards per pass attempt last year and would have placed the Vikings 12th in the NFL instead of 18th. It was just one game, but I think we all know that the thing keeping the Vikings from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender has been their passing game. I'm not going to get excited just yet (and remember, QB#4 doesn't do the Vikings' any good if he collapses in the final weeks of the season), but it's a good sign.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The "Schism" Is No Reason to Be Concerned...Yet

As you have probably heard, there seems to be a schism in the Vikings' locker room. And you know how much that matters at the moment? Not at all.

QB#4 is the starting quarterback. Are there some hard feelings about the way he joined the team? Most likely. Does most of the locker room want either Sage Rosenfels or the Tarvaris Revolution to be the starting quarterback right now? Probably.

But, as Matt Bowen at the National Football Post points out, that's what happens when special circumstances happen. And there will likely be some hard feelings about those special circumstances, but as the great football mind Brad Childress (heh) said, "Business is business". And football is a business. If the Vikings, and QB#4 are successful, none of this is going to matter. Honestly, if QB#4 comes out and plays well against the Texans, the controversy probably goes away--having a long track record of success tends to get you the benefit of the doubt that preseason success will lead to regular season success.

And even if he doesn't play all that well, he has some built in excuses that'll buy time until the regular season (you know, the whole "less than two weeks of practice time" excuse that he created for himself). Of course, if the Vikings and / or QB#4 stumble in the first four games of the regular season, well, then things could get ugly. Special treatment isn't a big deal if the team is successful, but if it isn't, it can lead to a whole lot of problems, many of which can lead to even more problems. But there's no chance of that ever happening, right?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More on the Uncapped Year

Football Outsiders has an article going into a little more detail on the implications of 2010 being an uncapped year, as Luft mentioned in the comments of my post on the Vikings quarterback roster issues. I assume the Vikings have a good idea of whether 2010 will be an uncapped year. If it's going to be (which seems to be likely), then it would be a huge mistake for them to cut or trade Tarvaris Jackson (unless, of course, someone blows them away with a trade offer).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Tarvaris Conundrum

Filling the third quarterback position rarely seems all that important. Most of the time, whichever quarterback a team has drafted in the mid to late rounds that year or the year before gets the slot. Usually, any debate about which QB should get the roster spot is largely academic, only mattering to the hard core fans, the players involved in the competition, the coaches, the dreamers and me.

This year, however, things are a little different. In a repeat of 2001, when third stringer Spergon Wynn started two games and played in three, there's a distinct possibility that the Vikings will need to call on their third string quarterback. When you consider that QB#4 is turning 40 years old this year and is playing with a partially torn rotator cuff (which, I'm glad to see, the Vikings are being very careful with) and that Sage Rosenfels has never started more than five games in a season (and thus has never shown the ability to handle more games without getting hurt), it's not unreasonable to want a quarterback that can step in and win games for the Vikings. This isn't 2001--the Vikings expect to make the playoffs this year and they should plan accordingly.

Of course, that would mean keeping Tarvaris around as the 3rd quarterback. While Tarvaris had some of the same issues on Friday as he did last year, he looked very good against the Chiefs second stringers and, apparently, he's starting to recognize the blitz and react accordingly. Is that enough to win him the starting job? Not even close, nor is it enough to win him the back up job, but the Vikings can win games with Tarvaris under center (maybe not playoff games, but regular season games, at least). The problem with keeping Tarvaris around, though, is twofold: first, he's still got supporters in the locker room and secondly, that he's an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The first problem probably isn't that much of a problem, assuming, of course, that QB#4 starts to play well. Winning solves a lot of problems, including quarterback controversies (even if they're only minor ones in the locker room).

The second problem is a little more troubling for the Vikings' long term. Tarvaris isn't going to be in Purple next year, whether or not you keep him on the roster this season. One assumes he'll try and get on a roster where he feels he has a chance to start (and let's be honest--there are franchises willing to give him a shot at the starting job), which he doesn't so long as Sage Rosenfels is in Purple. And with QB #4 being a one year solution (please) and Rosenfels only signed through next year (and the Vikings should not be offering him an extension unless he gets a significant amount of time starting this year), cutting Booty would leave the Vikings with one quarterback going into 2010 and no quarterbacks under contract in 2011. Booty is currently signed through 2012, but if you cut him, that really doesn't matter, does it?

And so the Vikings are left with a dilemma: do they make their roster decisions based on their needs this year or long term? Keeping Tarvaris and cutting Booty is the right decision for this year, but for 2010 and 2011, keeping Booty and cutting Tarvaris (or trading him) is the right choice.

Monday, August 24, 2009

20 Days Till The Season

Since the Vikings are taking the day off (because, you know, they've all had more then enough time to practice), I thought everyone would appreciate the latest Viking related Youtube sensation:




AHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA


I hate this season already.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thoughts on QB #4's Debut (and the Vikings)

I watched the NFL Network replay of the first half of the DEBUT OF QB #4 (I've decided, for my own sanity, to only refer to him as QB #4, kind of like how NCAA video games work, or how NBA video games never had Michael Jordan, but always had #23 on the Bulls). I do have to say, it got me excited for the season. And not because QB #4 looked like a guy whose first NFL workout (and practice) was on Tuesday. Luckily, he has lots of time before the season starts (Oh wait). A few other thoughts:

  • The pass rush looked dominant today. Which is especially amazing because neither Pat Williams or Jared Allen suited up. Fred Evans had a couple of plays where he just pushed the Chiefs center into Cassel, and Robison and Edwards both did a good job on the edge. Defensive line depth is a huge part of a successful defense, and it looks like the Vikings are deep in the front four. Sweet.
  • E.J. Henderson looks like the stud I remember and Chad Greenway matched him play for play. They paired up to force a field goal in the first quarter with two great plays in the first quarter. On 1st Down, the Chiefs handed off to Larry Johnson going off tackle. E.J. shed a block in the middle of the field and closed (and when I say "closed", I mean he he beat LJ to the spot he was going) to meet Johnson at the line of scrimmage for no gain. After a 9 yard gain on a pass play, Greenway slipped through the line (and I rewound the play three times and still didn't see the line in the hole he got through) and stuffed LJ for no gain on 3rd and 1, forcing the Chiefs to kick a field goal. Let's see here. Stud defensive linemen. Quality depth behind the studs. And Stud Linebackers? The Vikings are going to be fun to watch on defensive this year.
  • Percy Harvin looks like he's going to be dangerous. I'm not sure if he's going to be, but he really looks like he can be. Harvin is Purple Jesus fast. And he had a nice catch with two Chiefs draped all over him for QB #4's only completion. If Harvin turns out to be as dangerous as he looks, the offense could be one of the best in the NFL, assuming the quarterback play is up to par.
  • Tarvaris Jackson had good stats, but most of them came after the Chiefs' first teamers came out. He threw off his back foot under pressure, made a horrible decision to throw a pass 4 yards past the line of scrimmage despite having lots of room to run and generally looked a lot like the Tarvaris Jackson from last year--good enough to allow the Vikings to win games, but not in the playoffs.
  • Naufahu Tahi is awful. He can't block (he missed a block on the Chief that tackled Peterson on 4th and 1 on the Vikings' first drive), he can't run routes (it was as much his fault as QB #4's that the Vikings' first pass play was an incompletion) and even if he does catch the ball, he's not going to get any yards after the catch. I can't believe the Vikings can't find a better fullback then him, because he's not an NFL caliber player.

Friday, August 21, 2009

This Thing Still On?

What? Brett Favre skipped off season workouts and Training Camp and everyone welcomed him with open arms (well...not everyone, but you know what I'm saying).

So it's been a while. Since May apparently. One of the biggest keys to running a blog is definitely to continue to write. You lose your posting groove and suddenly it's August 21st and you haven't posted since May. And, yes, I blame my lack of motivation on Brett Favre. (In fact, if I were you, I'd be prepared to read a lot of posts that blame Brett Favre this year--that man is going to get no mercy from me. I might be willing to give him credit where credit is due, but he will receive no quarter and no mercy when he plays poorly.)

Big Daddy Drew puts the way I feel the best. This season isn't going to be very fun. Success will be Favre's (and I hate Favre. Hate. Hate. Hate. Doesn't matter that he's in Purple. Even if I'm rooting for laundry, I'm not going to root for the laundry he's wearing.) and failure (which, since the Purple sold their soul to get Favre, is anything that doesn't involve a Super Bowl trophy) will be the Vikings'. So yeah. Good times.

The thing is, I was just starting to talk myself into Sage Rosenfels (or as I like to call him, Trent Dilfer Jr.). His stats looked good against Indianapolis (You be quiet with your "they weren't playing their starters"--if I wanted to be reasonable, I wouldn't have been talking myself into Rosenfels). And even more importantly, I was excited for the Vikings' defense to be at full strength. Remember how good the Purple's defense was last year (Football Outsiders had them as the 4th best defense in the NFL)? Remember how they were that good despite missing their Pro Bowl middle linebacker for the entire season? Remember how their starting safety missed the first seven games and their Pro Bowl nose tackle missed the last two games and the playoff game? And remember how none of those players are hurt at the moment (barring the resolution to the Williams' Suspension Trials). The Vikings defense is going to be ridiculous this year. They're going to chew offenses up and spit them out. I don't have the skills to properly describe what they're capable of doing, but if I did, it'd be roughly equivalent to multiplying the destructive force of the Mega Bear and the Mega Lion.

And then, of course, there's the offense, which, not including Brett Favre, should be ridiculously fun. Can you say offensive weapons? Because I can, and I'm pronouncing it "Purple Jesus, Chester Taylor, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian and Visanthe Shiancoe". Really, the big question marks are where they were last year--under center and everyone to the right of Steve Hutchinson. Except that, unlike last year, the Vikings were actually proactive, drafting Phil Loadholt and acquiring two new quarterbacks (ahem).

Honestly, if it weren't for the whole Brett Favre thing, I'd be ridiculously excited for the upcoming season. So, I'm mainly planning on pretending that's not Favre under center (it'll be hard, I know) and focusing my rube excitment on the Purple People Eaters v. 2 and the weapons surrounding QB #4. And if John Sullivan or Phil Loadholt blow an assignment and Favre gets knocked out for the season, well, those things happen, you know?


Saturday, May 09, 2009

Reusse Gets It Right

Reusse's column today perfectly expresses my expectations for how the Vikings' flirtation with Favre will play out and why.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Let's Drag This Out A Bit

So, apparently Childress did not go to Mississippi yesterday. Which is good, because I much prefer this drag out as long as possible. Making a decision is for people that don’t enjoy the game as much Favre does.

A couple more thoughts:

• If I believed Favre would be willing to step into the “game manager” role as quarterback, I might be a little more ok with this. But I don't. Favre doesn't just want to win--he wants to be the reason for the victory. Favre averaged 32.6 passes a game last year, and he’s only had one year where he averaged less than 31 attempts a game. He’s also notorious for being a “gun slinger” that tries to “make plays”. And he threw a league leading 22 interceptions last year. You do the math.

• One positive thing that would happen if Favre signs and Childress shifts the focus of the offense to the passing game—less wear and tear on Adrian Peterson. Peterson had 383 attempts last year (including the playoff game), and, as we all know, running backs break if you use them too much. Favre 32.6 passes a game came despite having Thomas Jones in the backfield with him. Jones was one of the most effective backs in the league last year, rushing for 1312 yards on only 290 carries while racking up the 5th most DYAR among running backs and the 7th best DVOA. His DYAR and DVOA were both better than Peterson's.

• I can’t believe that people are actually worried that Favre’s decision to play is motivated by revenge instead of his “love of the game”. I’m really going to hate this season.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Killing Time: Please Don't Let This Happen

So Brad Childress is well on his way to Mississippi to meet with Favre. Blerckkkk

I still have hope though (which, if you combined with 3 parts cynicism and 2 parts bitterness gives you exactly what you need to root for the Vikings). They're going to make demands of the Ol' Gunslinger. Unreasonable ones at that. And by unreasonable, I mean, demands that any other human being would find perfectly reasonable, like the requirement that he get in shape, come to voluntary team activities to learn the offense and generally act like a member of the team. So maybe Favre will turn down Childress. I mean, if anyone can out stubborn Favre, it's got to be Childress, right? Right?? Please???

More on Favre:
  • Big Daddy Drew perfectly sums up every Vikings fan's feelings on what's about to happen.
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts points out the statistical reasons for Favre to play one more year (That's right folks--he could break Jim Marshall's consecutive start streak this year, while wearing a Vikings' jersey. If this happens, I will no longer care if the Vikings move to L.A.)
  • Michael Lombardi doesn't understand why the Vikings are willing to put up with Favre's attitude when they weren't willing to put up with Jay Cutler's (excuse me while I slam my head into a door to dull the pain).

Monday, May 04, 2009

Ugh

Let's see here. Free agency wasn't exciting. The Vikings' draft class wasn't the type that puts a pep in your step (Do people actually say that, or did I just pull that out of nowhere?), mainly because I don't trust our coaching staff or quarterbacks to take advantage of the high risk/high reward players that were taken (not to mention the whole "hospitalization" thing that just happened to Percy Harvin). And now the Favre story is back.

Ugh.

Pacifist Viking thinks it's happening. Jason Winter shows why it's not a good idea. And I'm sitting here trying to decide which is less painful to think about--selling out to get a mediocre Favre in Purple (he's not the answer at QB this year anymore than Sage Rosenfels is) or the massive buzz kill that is the Twins bullpen (and the knowledge that the Twins' season is likely doomed for the same reason it was last year). At least it's not raining here in D.C.

Oh wait.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Let's See How Drafting for Need Works Out

I guess it was a mistake discounting all of the rumors about the Vikings drafting Percy Harvin. It wasn't a stupid mistake (he says, having made it), what with the Vikings over zealous efforts to play the misinformation game in previous years, the "culture of accountability" and Brad Childress' statements about not wanting to draft wide receivers in the first round, but it was a mistake.

But was it a mistake by the Vikings? That, I'm not sure about. Harvin has a lot of red flags. There's his positive test for marijuana at the Combine, which says a lot about his decision making, none of which is good. There's his issues in high school, where he was suspended for fighting. And there's his injury history. He's never had the kind of career changing injury that Daunte Culpepper or Willis McGahee had, but he's been constantly hurt through out his college career. He didn't miss a lot of games, so you can't say anything about his toughness, but when your injury history inspires posts like this one, its not a good sign, especially when you're 5'11, 195lbs and constantly handling the ball. Then again, drafting an "injury prone" running back with the 7th pick worked out well two years ago. Let's just hope the Vikings did their homework.



What you can't deny about Harvin is his game breaking speed and agility. He has all the upside (drink!) you could possibly ask for. If you get him the ball, he'll make things happen, just like he did at Florida. Of course, at Florida, he had an offensive genius running a system that isn't very compatible with NFL systems, featuring him as a running back and on a lot of short patterns at wide receiver. It wasn't exactly the West Coast offense, and he wasn't having to share the focus of the offense with Adrian Peterson and Bernard Berrian. And I'll let you make the comparison between Urban Meyer and Brad Childress. There's been a lot said about Childress' inability to use Chester Taylor properly, and he now has to figure out how to use a RB/WR hybrid as well. And make no mistake about it- Harvin's a hybrid (at least for now), another example of the effect of the spread on college football. Can he transition into the NFL as a wid eout, where his route running ability will be a much larger factor on his success than it did in college? Especially considering he's coming from the spread? Can he become what Devin Hester (he's probably the best comparison, both due to explosiveness and his raw offensive skills) is now?

And then there's the Vikings' Second round choice, Phil Loadholt, a massive tackle that will hopefully solve the Vikings problems at right tackle. And Loadholt should be a good one, starting two years at left tackle for Oklahoma, where he showed all of the skills needed to be a very good right tackle. At 6'8, 332, Loadholt is huge, he's strong and he can create huge holes for Adrian Peterson to run through. In his 822 snaps at OU, he had 94 knockdowns, eight down
field blocks and a league-high 16 touchdown-resulting blocks. He's a quality pass blocker as well and only allowed just one quarterback pressure and two sacks on 438 pass plays. Of course, there are questions about him as well. Some scouting reports question his intelligence, while others believe that along with his size come a pair of slow feet (there's a reason he wasn't seen as a first round left tackle) that could lead to a lot of holding calls once Loaderholt starts to face improved competition that is big and quick. He’s definitely not the prospect that Michael Oher was, but he looks to be good enough to step in and replace the mediocrity that is Ryan Cook.



The Vikings finished up their first three rounds by addressing their corner depth and return game (so, if anything, you have to give them credit for addressing their four biggest needs in the first three rounds) by drafting Antoine Winfield, I mean, Asher Allen from Georgia. Allen is Winfield, if Antoine Winfield had been drafted his junior year instead of his senior year and returned kicks and punts. He was a semi-finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as a junior (Winfield won the award as the best defensive back his senior year), he’s a sure tackler and while he may not have the ridiculous athleticism of some corners, he’s a solid cover corner and he’s tough, playing the last five games of the season with a fractured hand. And even more importantly, he has the ability to contribute in the return game, something the Vikings desperately need. Of course, like any other third round pick, there are some question marks (even aside from his height). He only had three interceptions in his three years at Georgia, one against Troy and two against Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl (not exactly elite competition, especially when you remember that Colt Brennan was getting knocked down every single play by Georgia’s pass rush in the Sugar Bowl). And he’s only returned 10 punts, meaning he’s likely not the punt returner the Vikings need even more than they need a kick returner.

Overall, this draft could be a good one for the Vikings. If the fears about Harvin are overblown and Childress can figure out how to get him the ball where he can make plays, he can be the offensive weapon the Purple need to compliment Peterson and Berrian. If Loadholt’s transition to the right side allows him to overcome or hide his problems with quicker pass rushers and he uses his bulk to create huge holes for Peterson, Taylor and Harvin, he could be answer to the Vikings’ right side issues. And Allen could develop into Antoine Winfield, Jr., providing amazing run support and solid coverage all while returning kicks and punts. It could also be a 2005 style disaster, with Harvin using the deadly combination of injuries and poor decision making to play himself out of the league, Loadholt’s slow feet forcing him to clutch and grab his way to holding penalties galore and Allen showing why there aren’t more good defensive backs Antoine Winfield’s size in the NFL.

Friday, April 24, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 32nd Pick

And so we come to the end, with the Super Bowl Champions making the final pick in this mock draft. Picking on behalf of former Vikings' Defensive Coordinator Mike Tomlin are the writers from Steelers Today.

With the 32nd pick in the Mock Draft Among Blogs, the Pittsburgh Steelers select:

Fili Moala, Defensive Tackle, USC

I had a hard time with this pick. Everyone knows that the Steelers need offensive line help. However, all of the offensive tackles that I was interested in are gone. William Beatty was borderline, but I ultimately decided that he didn't deserve a first round selection. The only interior lineman that I thought was worth a 1st round pick was Alex Mack, but he was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles (curse you!!!!).

I looked hard at defensive backs. I absolutely love Sean Smith, and he would have been my selection had I not taken Moala. The Steelers lost Bryant McFadden in free agency, so CB is a need. However, backup William Gay is ready to start, so that need isn't as pressing as it may seem. We definitely need depth at both CB and safety, but we can take care of that later in the draft.

I was ecstatic when the Arizona Cardinals took Beanie Wells with the 31st pick. Now I won't have to explain not taking him to Steelers fans who are dying for a "power back". Besides, we took Rashard Mendenhall last year. 2008 was essentially a redshirt year for him.

Ultimately, I couldn't overlook the fact that all of the Steelers' defensive line starters are over 30 years old. Aaron Smith will be 33 this season. His days are winding down, and Dick LeBeau's system is complex. Few players start on the Steelers' defense in their first year. We need to bring in Smith's replacement now to give him a year to learn, and prepare him to take over in 2010.

Fili Moala is a 6'4", 303 lbs. defensive tackle who has started 38 games in one of the best programs in the country (USC). I have Moala rated as the 3rd best defensive tackle in the draft. However, I have him rated right below Tyson Jackson as the 2nd best 3-4 defensive end in the draft. Moala's knock as a defensive tackle is that he is more of a run stopper than a pass rusher. He just doesn't get enough sacks. However, he is lauded for his rare strength, and his ability to collapse the pocket and make tackles despite fighting off double teams. Hmmmm, a 300 lb. run stopper who can handle double teams and collapse the pocket. Sounds like a 3-4 defensive end to me. Aaron Smith's successor has been found.

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 31st Pick

Two picks left, both of whom are on the Vikings' schedule this year. First up, the team that, outside of Detroit, is the least likely to make the playoffs this year (due to the Super Bowl Loser Curse). Picking on behalf of the Cardinals, the writers of Raising 'Zona.

With the 31st pick in the Mock Draft Among Blogs, the Arizona Cardinals select:

Chris Wells, RB, OSU


Why the Cardinals chose Wells as per DraftCountdown.com:

The Cardinals might be the only team in the league that counts running back as one of their top Draft Day priorities, but that could work out well for them as there should be some excellent options on the board here. There is certainly a chance that Knowshon Moreno will be long gone by this point but running backs do tend to slide a bit and unless a team goes against the grain and takes one even though it’s not a glaring need, a la Pittsburgh with Rashard Mendenhall last year, he could still be available late in round one.

There are some who feel Moreno is one of the ten best players in this entire draft and in some ways he is similar to Cadillac Williams in that he doesn’t have elite size or speed but makes up for it with outstanding instincts and vision. If Wells and Moreno are both gone Arizona could turn their attention to Donald Brown or LeSean McCoy. The Cardinals could also use an upgrade at center and after the way James Harrison abused Mike Gandy in the Super Bowl they have to at least consider bringing in a new left tackle as well. Keep an eye on outside linebacker here too because even though the Cards have some solid options like Travis LaBoy and Chike Okeafor they really don’t have that impact pass rusher at the position.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 30th Pick

Only three picks remaining and this one should allow Vikings' fans to gain some familiarity with another player that may end up holding up a Purple and Gold Jersey this weekend. Next up are the folks from the Music City Miracles selecting on behalf of the #1 seed Tennessee Titans.

With the 30th pick in the 2009 NFL draft the Tennessee Titans select....

D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt



The Titans are in desperate need for depth at the corner back position after losing 3 of their backups in free agency this offseason. Combine that with the fact that one of their starters, Nick Harper, is aging and missed a lot of games last season, and that one of the backup corners they lost in free agency, Chris Carr, was their kickoff and punt returner, Moore is the perfect pick for the Titans.

Moore did it all for the Commodores. He played corner at a very high level, returned punts and kicks, and even played some receiver. The Titans are still in desperate need for playmakers, and Moore is exactly that. He is slipping on a lot of draft boards because of his poor 40 times at the combine and at his Pro Day, but if you saw him play at all in his career at Vandy, you will have no doubts that he will be an excellent corner/returner on Sundays.


No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 29th Pick

We're finally starting to wrap things up here in the mock draft. I'll have a big, big Vikings' draft preview up either tomorrow or Saturday morning, but first we gotta get this mock draft done (and, like all good mock drafts, it gives you an idea of who some of the prospects the Vikings' might take are). So here's the writers from Big Blue 101 drafting for the Giants:

With the 29th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the New York Giants select -

Hakeem Nicks - WR, North Carolina


This is an ideal situation for the New York Giants, as the team is ready to win now, and needs a dangerous receiving threat. I feel that the 6'1 214lb Nicks is more ready to contribute right away than any receiver in this draft. He may not have as high of a ceiling as Darius Heyward-Bey, but his floor is also not as low and I think there is a relatively small chance Nicks is a bust.

Nicks ran a 4.50 40 yard dash at the combine and probably has the best hands and runs some of the best routes in this draft. He reminds me a lot of Anquan Boldin, because while he may not beat you deep, he will go up and get any ball and is great after the catch. He is also a very willing down field blocker and supposedly has great character. As a senior Nicks caught 68 passes for 1222 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. Anybody who saw Nicks catch eight passes for 217 yards and score three touchdowns in North Carolina's bowl game against West Virginia knows he can dominate a game.

I am not going to delve into the Plaxico Burress situation, because we all have heard it a million times this off season, but if you watched the team play at all this season you know how badly Eli Manning needs another target. Pairing Nicks with a impressive young reciving core including Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, Mario Manningham, Kevin Boss and Sinorice Moss will really help the Giants until Plaxico Burress is able to retun to the field and should make the run first Giants much more dangerous through the air in 2009.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 28th Pick

Next up is the Philadelphia Eagles, making their second selection of the first round and once again facing needs similar to those of the Vikings. Once again, the writers of the Iggles Blog will be making the selection, and their choice could well be a player that ends up holding up a Purple Jersey next weekend.

With the 28th pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select:

Alex Mack, OL, California



Man, I love this pick. The scouting reports on this kid are glowing. He's considered the best center prospect since (at least) Nick Mangold. I've heard him do a couple interviews since the Combine and have been impressed with him both times.

There's really nothing not to love about this guy. And the bottom line is that I'd much rather see the Eagles take a truly elite guy at the center position, rather than reach for the fifth-best dude at tackle.

As for how he fits in with the Eagles, there's a short answer and a long answer. The short version is right now the Eagles have four guys penciled in as starters for next year's offensive line. Mack will play center in this league some day, but just on raw talent and ability he can come in next year and start right away at guard, allowing one of the current guards to move out and play left tackle.

The long version is more complicated and -- let's face it -- a lot less interesting to people who aren't Eagles fans. But for the benefit of the folks on the blog, I'll dig in a bit.

Selecting Mack fixes the 2009 issue addressed above, but it's most interesting for what it does in 2010. Right now, there are a couple guys on this line who are never going to reach their full potential if they don't demonstrate a more significant commitment to controlling their weight. Fourth-year guard Max Jean-Gilles could be a dominating interior lineman, but he's not going to get there by following his workout program from the 2008 offseason. If he can get himself down to the 335 range, the sky is going to be the limit for what he can do.

At the center position, Jamaal Jackson has the same issue. Once MJG got hurt last year, the Eagles offensive line was four trim dudes and one big ol' chubs in the middle. You could argue that the added weight helps him anchor against the league's biggest nose tackles, but it's also true that for every other task he has on the field, losing ten pounds wouldn't hurt him.

Alex Mack is by all accounts a very bright guy, but I don't foresee the Eagles turning over the line calls to a rookie with the team in the place it's at right now. Add that to the fact that MJG is still coming back from his rather gruesome season-ending broken ankle injury from last year, and it's not easy to see how MJG is going to beat Jackson onto the field in 2009.

It's a wide open competition in 2010, however, and once that all shakes out, you're looking at one heck of a line for the next five years. (And one that should be able to block well for whichever back-up running back the Eagles select somewhere later in this draft after not taking one with this pick.)

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 27th Pick

And the mock draft keeps rolling. Don't be surprised to see some players taken here in the next few picks that the Vikings are going to be considering on draft day. The Colts are on the clock looking to shore up their defense (when are they NOT looking to shore up their defense) and to possibly supply Peyton Manning with some more weapons on offense. Making the pick are the writers of 18 to 88.

With the 27th pick, the Indianapolis Colts select:

Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi State


Bill Polian has an unblemished record of hitting on first round picks in Indianapolis. Every player he has taken has become a starter, if not an outright star. At the same time, many of his picks were roundly criticized at the time. Edge James wasn’t Ricky Williams. Dwight Freeney was too small and a reach. Reggie Wayne should have been passed over for a defender. The Colts do not draft for need, but always take the highest player available on the board. 2009 the rare exception where the Colts greatest need IS the highest player on the board. Polian has said publicly that he doubts the team will take a defensive tackle, primarily because history tells us that good DTs are off the board in the top 15 picks, and that the next ‘value slot’ is down around the 5th round. If Peria Jerry were to miraculously fall to 27, however, Polian would probably do a dance and happily select him. Jerry would be the perfect DT for the Colts system, as he is a disruptive tackle who makes plays in the backfield. His only negative is that he is slightly undersized (something the Colts simply do not worry about). Indy desperately needs a DT, but will not reach for a player just to fill a need. The results have been spectacular for the Colts this decade, and the selection of Jerry would cause widespread rejoicing among the Colt faithful.

A word of caution to Mr. Jerry: If selected he should immediately take out a large life insurance policy. The Colts are currently experiencing the “Curse of Corey Simon” when it comes to DTs. Indy has had a need for a top flight DT for 4 seasons now, but every time Polian addresses the need, something horrible happens to the player:

2005 Corey Simon is signed…one year later he is out of the league (chronic fatness)

2006 Montae Reagor is in a severe car accident and never plays for the Colts again

2007 Booger McFarland blows out a knee in training camp

2008 Ed Johnson is cut for refeer

2008 Quinn Pitcock decides to retire at the ripe old age of 23

2008 John McCargo fails a physical and is returned to Buffalo after a trade. He never plays with the Colts.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Schedule Released--Time for Speculation

The Vikings' schedule has been released and it looks relatively favorable. Of course, there's so much that can happen before the first game, let alone the seventh, tenth, or sixteenth, so really, any talk about how the schedule plays out is ridiculously premature. (Honestly, how the heck did ESPN get an hour long special out of it? And who watched that?)

The first five games set up for a fast start for the Purple, even with two road games against the Browns and Lions to open the season. After that, the Vikings return home for games against the 49ers and Packers before traveling to St. Louis. All five of those teams are drafting in the top ten next Saturday, and while the NFL is known for it turnarounds from season to season, it's still better to start against teams that are likely to be bad (especially with the possibility of the Williams having to sit out due to a suspension). The Vikings' goal should definitely be 4-1 through this stretch, as the schedule gets harder before their bye in Week 9.

For their three final games before the bye, the Purple face the two teams that faced off in the AFC Championship and their arch rival. They host Baltimore and then travel to Heinz Field to play the Steelers' imposing defense and try to deal with their awful turf. They then close out the first half of the season with a trip to Lambeau to face the Packers and, hopefully, take a shot at sweeping Green Bay. Realistically, the Vikings should hope to win 1 of these 3, and if they can pull off 2-1, that would be amazing.

So, hopefully, after the bye, the Vikings will be sitting at 5-3, and their schedule likely starts to get harder, but only after the Purple get to host Detroit and Seattle and hopefully push their record to 7-3. And then comes the stretch run, with Chicago and Jay Cutler coming to the Dome in Week 12, followed by a trip to Arizona to play the NFC Champions, a "break" against the Bengals at home (no team with Carson Palmer is a break) followed by trips to Carolina and then Chicago, which will likely decide the NFC North title. Finally, the Vikings once again face the Giants to close the season, hopefully with the same results.

As of right now, it looks a lot like the final five games will really be the deciding factor in whether the Vikings' get a bye, winning the division or even if they make the playoffs. The Vikings could just as easily finish the year 4-1 as they could 1-4. And it makes their start all the more important, because if they don't beat the bad teams, it won't be easy to get the wins they need to make the playoffs in the final weeks of the season.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 26th Pick

Like the Vikings, the Ravens are coming off a successful season, and like the Vikings, the Ravens' success was largely due to their defense. Unlike the Vikings, however, they don't need a quarterback and they lost some key defensive players to free agency. So which way will they go in the Draft? The folks from Ebony Bird are making the pick for the other Purple team.

With the 26th pick, the Baltimore Ravens select:

Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers



The Ravens have had their most active offseason in team history, re-signing Ray Lewis, signing CB Dominique Foxworth, CB Chris Carr, C Matt Birk and TE L.J. Smith, along with bringing in multiple new coaches and cutting veterans Samari Rolle and Chris McAllister. In re-signing Lewis, the linebackers corps remains strong, and the secondary should be helped by the new additions and the emergence of Fabian Washington. Therefore, the main need that the Purple and Black need have is at receiver. Derrick Mason is getting old, Mark Clayton is inconsistent and Demetrius Williams has never been healthy enough or productive enough to become a regular for the team. With Joe Flacco as the team's most successful quarterback since Trent Dilfer, Unibrow Boy needs a "toolsy" receiver to help him become a star. Britt has very good speed, and great hands, and his 6'3", 218 lb. frame makes him a big target. When you combine all of those, you get one of Rutgers' best receivers in school history. Seeing him in person 8 times in Piscataway, I can tell you from firsthand accounts how daunting of a task is to cover Mr. Britt. Picking Britt would bring the Ravens that much closer to the lofty status of Super Bowl champion.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 25th Pick

It's been awhile (and you can refresh your memory of the previous picks by following the links on the side), but its time to get back into the No Logo Needed Mock Draft (and really start diving into the draft, which is coming up a lot faster than I thought). We left off with the Dolphins, the surprise winners of the AFC East last year. Making the pick on behalf of the Tuna will be the writers at the Phinsider.

With the 25th pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select...

LB Larry English, Northern Illinois



There were two ways to go about this pick. I could have taken the player I like the most that is still on the board - which would have been either CB Darius Butler or CB Sean Smith. That would have also addressed Miami's most glaring hole. But this is a mock draft - and I'm going to select the player that I think the Dolphins would most likely draft if the actual draft played out this way.

Bill Parcells loves linebackers. That's no secret. And among Miami's top three needs is the outside linebacker position (right up there with CB and WR). Larry English has the size and strength that this regime loves. And while I worry a litle bit about English's ability to drop back into coverage due to his lack of fluidity in his hips, I do think that Larry's upside here is tremendous as a pass rusher and potential heir to Joey Porter. He's also tough, smart, and a "high-motor" player - all things that Bill Parcells demands from his linebackers.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Opening Day and Thoughts On Cutler

"There is no sports event like Opening Day of baseball, the sense of beating back the forces of darkness and the National Football League."-George Vescey
It's Opening Day. Thankfully. Because the events of the past week have made the upcoming NFL season look a little less exciting. The Bears have a franchise quarterback for the first time in my lifetime, and, while it looks like the Vikings did not have a chance to get Jay Cutler once Matt Cassel was traded to the Chiefs, it's still disappointing to see him end up in the NFC North.

And yes, I know that Cutler is a horrible human being (because their love for Brett Favre shows the media's ability to judge character) , that he doesn't have the intangibles to make the playoffs (last I checked, football is the ultimate team game and his defense was about as bad as the Lions' last year) and that no quarterback that has every demanded a trade could possibly lead a team to the Super Bowl (Eli Manning and John Elway say hello). Doesn't matter to me. Jay Cutler is really, really, really good, he's 25, he made the Pro Bowl last year and he's going to spend at least the next 10 years running the Bears offense and running it well. Really, the only difference between this trade and the Jared Allen trade is one more first round pick, which pays for the two extra years of Cutler's career that will be played with the Bears.

So are the Bears going to win the Super Bowl next year? Probably not. As others have pointed out, Chicago's team is a little too old on defense and a little too shy of play makers on offense (though you'll be surprised how much better their offense is with a real quarterback). But the trade means that not only are they're going to be in contention for the NFC North again this year, but they're probably the favorites to win it and that's mainly because when their offense trots out onto the field, the guy under center is a Pro Bowler, not Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why is Chris Carter Not in the HOF Again?

From Peter King's MMQB Tuesday edition:

If Cris Carter can't get in with 1,104 catches (and he's fallen short in his first years of eligibility), how will a man with 603 fewer receptions get in?

But I could easily make the argument that Branch, with three Super Bowl victories, was every bit the impact player (and maybe more so) as Lynn Swann, who was on four Steeler Super Bowl winners. Now I never voted for Swann, but he's in, and he has some eloquent and strong backers.

Swann averaged 2.9 catches and 47.5 receiving yards per game; Branch 2.7 and the identical 47.5. Swann: three Pro Bowls, one All-Pro team made. Branch: four Pro Bowls, three All-Pro teams. Branch averaged a gaudy 17.3 yards per catch, a yard more than Swann, and had 67 touchdowns to Swann's 51. The difference came in Super Bowl impact, with Swann and Branch both catch three touchdown passes in title games but Swann notching 161- and 124-yard games as a crucial element to the Steelers' success.

Chris Carter averaged 4.71 catches and 59.4 yards per game (putting aside how stupid those particular stats might be), averaged 12.3 yards per catch, caught 130 touchdowns, made 8 Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team. Carter made as many Pro Bowls as years Swann played in the NFL.

Honestly, I really don't get the NFL Hall of Fame.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Turning Down Cutler, but not Tahi

Cutler Rumors
If it's true that the Vikings killed a trade that would have brought them Jay Cutler and the Broncos Matt Cassell, because "some elements in the Minnesota coaching staff weren’t entirely sold on Cutler", then I think we've seen the dumbest personnel decision made by the Vikings' since the Herschel Walker trade. And Brad Childress should get fired for it unless combination of Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl. Childress may not have been the member of the staff that wasn't sold on Cutler, but the buck stops with him when it comes to the staff weighing in on personnel decisions, so it shouldn't have mattered if Darrell Bevell or Kevin Rogers had a problem with Cutler. And if it was him that killed the deal, well, then I really hope he gets fired, because he has no idea what a quarterback good enough to win the Super Bowl looks like.

Vikings Re-sign Tahi
Apparently they thought it was necessary after Leonard Weaver signed with the Eagles. Weaver would have been a big upgrade on the awful Tahi. Tahi, well, he's not an upgrade, he's a horrible option as receiver and his blocking wasn't all that great from what I could tell. He's not good, but at least it was only a one year deal, which means the Purple can try and upgrade again last year. Really, it wouldn't be a problem if Adrian Peterson got to play more in passing situations, because then the quarterbacks could use him as an outlet, instead of Tahi, who doesn't quite have Peterson's speed, quickness or game changing ability. But we'll leave that one for another day (though I think you can probably tie it back into my point about how Childress should definitely be fired if the Vikings' don't go to the Super Bowl this year).

Friday, March 27, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 24th Pick

More on the Childress Killing the Cutler trade rumor later today, but I've gotta get some more work done and flesh out my thoughts a bit more. So while you're waiting, why not continue following along the draft as the writers of the Falcoholic make their selection in the No Logo Needed Mock Draft.

With the 24th pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons select....

LB Clint Sintim, Virginia



Some may consider this pick a slight reach, but Sintim fills the absolute number one need for the Falcons. I would trade my first born son and the draft rights to my third born for a living, breathing pass rush in Atlanta, and Sintim goes a long way toward helping that.

Despite their magical, pixie-dust sprinkled season in 2008, Falcons not named John Abraham proved remarkably terrible at getting to the quarterback. Sintim could immediately contribute because he knows how to make his way into the backfield and has the speed and tackling potency to be one of the better pass-rushing linebackers in the league. He's also no slouch against the run, making him--in my addled brain, at least--a legitimate first round talent.

The Falcons do have a host of needs here, including holes at safety, potentially at cornerback and a real need for a dual threat type of tight end. The first need is the pass rush, though, and Sintim represents a big piece of the puzzle.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 23rd Pick

If you'd like to debate my choice for the Vikings' pick, go right ahead. But the draft stops for no man, which means we're on to the Patriots and the 23rd pick. Selecting for the most feared coach in the business are the folks from Patriots Daily.

With the 23rd Pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select…..

Before I get to that, let me just say that I am going to get killed for this. And it’s not my fault, honest. I mean, you see how this pretend draft has gone for me, the pretend GM of the pretend Pats. Let’s just say Rey Maualugua wasn’t going to be sliding in this particular selection process. Neither was Clay Matthews or Brian Cushing, the other USC linebackers we also liked, or even Eben Britton, the versatile Arizona tackle who would have been a nice building block for the future of the Pats offensive line.

So what do I do now? I’m too slow witted to try a trade with the very same people who suckered me into this draft in the first place, so that’s out. Do I go BPA (best player available) regardless of position, or CYA with a ‘need’ pick?

Here’s how I figured it. If I’m going to be pretend paying someone pretend first round money for a pretend four years, I’m going to give it to the best football player I can find, and not some linebacker I don’t really like, some DE-OLB tweener that I’m not sure about, or some defensive back I can probably get eleven pretend pay slots later.

So, with the 23rd Pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select…..

RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia



Yeah, I know. The Patriots don’t need a running back at the moment, not with a full rotation in place for 2009. Not with Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor and Laurence Maroney tied up through 2010. Not with other needs – in the secondary or the front seven, for example – that will more immediately impact their ability to compete this fall.

I don’t care. Moreno is, by most measurements, a top 15 player in this draft. I’m supposed to ignore that? Did I mention that this draft couldn’t have gone any worse for me?

The strange thing is that this could end up working. Kevin Faulk, the Pats utility knife who is about to turn 33, is entering the final year of his contract. Maroney is teetering on the edge of full-on bust status after a disappointing 2008 season that was marred by injury and ineffectiveness. As great as he’s been in New England, Morris is 32, and if the Pats advance deep into next year’s playoffs, they’ll probably have cake in the break room one afternoon to celebrate Taylor’s 34th birthday.

Best of all, by all accounts, Moreno is a well rounded, consistently productive player. He’s not a burner, but a quick, elusive and tough runner who is well suited to be a focal point, yet does the little things (like blitz pickup) right. He’s a smooth receiver who can get down the field from the backfield, or split wide. He’s got the right classroom and weight room make-up. He’s probably the most Patriot-like running back in the draft.

So despite the fact that I’ll get killed for this, he’s my pick. The Atlanta Falcons are now on the clock. Hopefully, I’ll find out later that they wanted Moreno. Because after all, misery loves company.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 22nd Pick, Minnesota Vikings

The pick you've been waiting for:

With the 22nd Pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings select:

Mark Sanchez, QB, USC



Going into this mock draft, I expected to have to justify why I chose not to draft Josh Freeman, who is generally considered the third best quarterback available. By my count, there were about 9 teams that could reasonably take Mark Sanchez due to the age of their “franchise” QB or due to their lack of a franchise QB (Detroit, St. Louis, Seattle, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Denver, New York Jets, Chicago, Tampa Bay) before the Vikings picked. Instead, it looks like I’m going to have decide whether Mark Sanchez is the answer to the Vikings’ long standing quarterback issue (or is juicy enough to tempt the Broncos to trade Jay Cutler for him) or whether the Vikings should address their needs at cornerback or offensive line. And after thinking back to the last two years, the answer is clear—if Mark Sanchez is available, the Vikings should draft him.

First off, it’s quite clear that the Vikings need a real franchise quarterback. Tarvaris Jackson is never going to be that good and Sage Rosenfels is already 31 years old. Secondly, I believe that Mark Sanchez is the best quarterback available in the draft because he’s got enough arm strength for the pros, he’s more accurate than Matt Stafford and he’s shown the ability to read coverages that Freeman never had to in Kansas State’s spread offense.

Sanchez has the arm strength and the accuracy to succeed in the NFL and he has the background in a Pro-Style offense that will allow him to quickly adapt to the pros. He completed 64.27% of his passes in his 16 games at USC, more than any other first round quarterback. He can throw the ball deep accurately (forcing defenses to only put eight in the box to stop Adrian Peterson) and he has the touch needed for the short throws as well, a necessity in Brad Childress’ West Coast Offense. Also, Sanchez has all the intangibles you’d want in your quarterback, which he showed by getting elected captain last year and when he stuck it out at USC despite getting beat out by John David Booty for the starting position in 2006.

I know there are some doubts about Sanchez due to his lack of starting experience, the talent surrounding him, his height and the fact he was somewhat turnover prone, throwing ten interceptions and fumbling seven times. The doubts are enough for me to hope that he’s taken before the Vikings’ pick, but they aren’t enough to let me pass on him for another player (especially with 5 offensive tackles already off the board). So the Vikings’ finally have their franchise quarterback. Hopefully.

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 21st Pick

One last pick before the Vikings are on the clock. Check back later today to find out who I'm selecting for the Vikings, but first, check out the Eagles choice, made by the folks of the Iggles Blog.

With the 21st pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select:

Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois

Say what now? A cornerback? And one with character issues to boot?

Yes. Yes, indeed.

Davis is the perfect Andy Reid draft choice:

  1. He plays a high-value position in which first-round athleticism makes a huge difference.
  2. No one sees the pick coming.
  3. On its face, the pick is completely inexplicable.

But what about offensive line (you ask). Or tight end? Or running back? Or all the other places the Eagles have actual needs? Not cornerback, where we have a Pro Bowler, a solid starter, a very wealthy nickel man and a "first-round talent" prospect coming off a knee injury.

Let me explain. First of all, as a cornerback, Davis is very, very good. He's also -- for a cornerback -- very, very big. The brother of Vernon Davis is a physical freak. You don't find many 6-0, 200-pound guys who can turn and run with most wide receivers. Can I get a "Plaxico Burress" anyone?

Secondly, everyone remembers the story of how the Eagles drafted Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown even though they already had Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor locked in as starters. What most people don't realize is that Sheldon Brown is now older than Taylor was when his replacement was drafted (and only one year younger that Vincent was at the same time.)

Cornerbacks don't age well. You can never have enough guys around to keep pushing them.

Now, with that said, the other intriguing thing about Davis is that he may actually project to FS at the next level. He's a born hitter, loves contact, and his "tremendous athleticism" at the cornerback position would translate to "Hall of Fame caliber athleticism" at the safety position.

New SS Sean Jones is a one-year stopgap, we still don't know for sure what we have in Quintin Demps, and Quintin Mikell turns 29 later this year. Another safety prospect would not be a bad thing to have around.



Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 20th Pick

The Lions continue their rebuilding effort with the pick they received from the Cowboys for Roy Williams (you'll remember it occurred after they fired Matt Millen and not before). So where does Jim Schwartz (in this case, the Wayne Fontes Experience) go with this pick? Let's find out.

With the 20th pick of the 2009 Draft, the Detroit Lions (via the Dallas Cowboys) select:

Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State University


Though offensive tackle could be addressed at the 20 spot, at this point of the draft, the Lions absolutely have to draft for the defensive side of the ball (Plus there has been a run on OT's in this mock). To be blunt, they could draft a player at 20 who plays ANY defensive position, and it would fill a Detroit need. The Lions' defense was truly that bad in 2008. Legendarily, shockingly, regime killing bad.

Middle linebacker is a HUGE need, so tOSU's James Laurientus was heavily considered with this pick. But he could very likely be available with the first pick of the 2nd round, as Laurientus has been dropping on draft boards and mock drafts all across the NFL. I was hoping USC LB Rey Maualuga would be available at 20, but he surprisingly went in the top 5 of this mock.

The Lions also have big time needs on the defensive line, and I was even more surprised to see Aaron Maybin, the DE out of Penn State, still on the board. The Lions desperately need a pass rush, and Maybin is a pure speed rusher, though a bit raw. But he scouts out as a breakout type talent, the best player off the snap in this draft and the best pass rusher available, period.

The Lions have lacked a big time pass rushing end for over 2 decades (Finding an end "Who could block out the sun" was Wayne Fontes' obsession, his white whale, so to speak). The last Lions defensive end to honestly put fear in the the eyes of opposition quarterbacks was Al "Bubba" Baker back in the early-mid 80's. Yes, it's been that long...

Maybin is the sort of talent the Lions can build around. He could be head coach Jim Schwartz's Detroit version of "The Freak", Javon Kearse, whom terrorized offenses from defensive end during Schwartz's first 3 seasons as defensive coordinator (2001-03) in Tennessee. Maybin would also bookend nicely with one of the Lions' few legitimate NFL defenders, end Dewayne White. Add Cliff Averil to the mix, who showed signs of being a solid contributor in his rookie season with 5 sacks, and the Lions would actually have a defensive position which could be considered a strength.

Maybin may have the biggest upside (I know, it's a cliche, but true in his case) of any defensive player in this draft. My only concern is size, as Maybin is on the smallish side, and Schwartz is on record saying he wants a bigger and stronger defense under his watch. But Maybin's a born pass rusher, and is the sort of player who could be a true impact defender in a few years. Impact players have been far and few between in Detroit for quite some time.

The Lions would be THRILLED if a player with Maybin's natural talent is available with the 20th pick.

On Griffin and Holt

Cedric Griffin Extension
The Vikings signed Cedric Griffin to an extension over the weekend, locking him up through the 2015 season for $25 million, $10 million of which is guaranteed. I think it's likely a good deal, so long as the Vikings realize that Griffin has yet to show he can be the #1 cornerback on a good defense.

First off, the money isn't a big deal because most of it is probably going to count against this year's cap, a necessity since the Purple seem to be near the salary floor. Secondly, it assures that the Vikings have at least one of their two starting cornerbacks under contract after this year, which they couldn't have said before. And that means that when they aren't forced to throw money at cornerbacks next year (whether that be Winfield and Griffin or free agents) because they already have a solid one. Now they can choose to cut bait on Winfield if his production drops in the final year of his contract (like they did with Sharper) or they can re-sign him if they feel he's worth bringing back, but they don't have to make the decision while trying to retain or replace their other starting cornerback at the same time.

The only thing that worries me about this contract extension is that the Vikings might decide that Griffin is good enough to be their best cornerback. While Griffin played well at times last year, he wasn't consistently good enough last year to be counted on as the top corner on the roster (you might recall talk of benching him in favor of Charles Gordon before Gordon got hurt). He might take that next step this year, but he might not, which means the Purple have to continue to pursue corners in the draft and in free agency.

Glenn Holt
The Vikings continued to upgrade their special teams by signing Glenn Holt, the kick returner for the Cincinnati Bengals. Holt is a massive upgrade over Maurice Hicks (who isn't?). Unlike Hicks, who, in 185 kick returns prior to joining the Vikings, had returned exactly one kick for more than 60 yards (his career long was 64 yards) and only 8 for more than 40 yards, Holt has shown the ability to break a long one. He's returned one kick for a touchdown already, and has 8 of 122 returns for more than 40 yards and was tied for the 7th most kick returns for more than 40 yards last year.

Now, Holt's not exactly Devin Hester, but he's a solid returner with the ability to break one. He's also going to give the Vikings a better chance of starting with good field position. Last year, the Vikings returners (excluding Jimmy Kleinsasser and Naufahu Tahi) only returned 48% of kick offs (27 of 56) 20 yards or more. Of the 122 kicks that Holt has returned in his career, he's taken 78 of them 20 yards or more (64%). And last year, he returned 61% of the kicks he fielded 20 yards or more.

So while the Holt signing may not be all that sexy (like a Terry Holt signing would be), it definitely upgrades the Vikings' roster and provides a quality veteran kick returner to compete for the position with Darius Reynaud and Aundrae Allison. And upgrading the kick return game will help the Vikings' run first offense score more points (and help the defense prevent points) by giving the Vikings' good starting field position after kickoffs, something they couldn't count on last year.

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 19th Pick

The Vikings are almost on the clock (I should be posting my pick tomorrow afternoon), but first
new head coach Raheem Morris must make the first pick of his head coaching career. Tampa collapsed notably down the stretch, and they need some more positive news. Will they get it with their first pick? The Buccaneers blog, Buc 'Em, is making the pick.

With the 19th Pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select:

Percy Harvin, WR, Florida



The Tampa Bay Buccaneers find themselves with a number of question marks entering the season. Will the new coaching staff succeed? Why couldn't more be done with all that cap space? Are there too many holes in the roster? When it comes to the draft, the Bucs could go in a number of directions, but with this pick, they're going with the best available athlete.

Even during the Super Bowl Championship year, the Bucs offense wasn't explosive. Tampa Bay has had it's moments, but never had an offense that struck fear into the hearts of opponents. By selecting Percy Harvin, they hope that can change. Harvin is a hybrid sort of player, but will most likely fit in as more of a traditional receiver. Sure he'll get the occasional handoff or reverse, but don't think his touches will be split as much as they were at the University of Florida.

At receiver, the Bucs already have their #1 guy - Antonio Bryant - and the player they hope can be their #2 - Michael Clayton. Harvin fits the role of game changer. He might not be an every down guy, but will create matchup problems for the defense and could be used as the motion receiver a lot.

Despite injury problems in college, Harvin was never truly seriously hurt. He didn't miss significant amounts of time and given the fact that he will be used in more of a complimentary role in the NFL, he could be a great pickup at this point in the first round. Based on talent alone, Harvin is one of the top players in this year's draft.

The Bucs offense needs someone that can take it the distance. And that is something Harvin can provide. With a power running game, a clear cut #1 receiver, and a young, but improving offensive line, Harvin will be a welcome change of pace that could keep opponents guessing.

Who knows if this is the route the Bucs will go on Draft Day, we had the opportunity to select QB Mark Sanchez, QB Josh Freeman, or DT Peria Jerry, but we stayed true to our word and went with the Buc ‘Em Community collective choice.



Monday, March 23, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 18th Pick

Up next is the third of the Vikings' three NFC North Rivals (that's the problem with winning the division--everybody else gets a better draft pick than you do). Da Bears just missed the playoffs last year, but they haven't been very active in the free agency market, which means they're going to need some quality draft picks in order to take that next step and win the Wild Card (what, you thought I'd say division? Ha!). Drafting on behalf of da Bears are the operators of Blog Down Chicago Bears.

With the 18th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select:

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland


Which one of these underwhelming receivers do Bears fans want the underwhelming Kyle Orton to throw to? Third-year receiver -- as in he has three years of experience playing the position -- Devin Hester? Rashied Davis? Earl Bennett? Brandon Rideau?

Exactly.

The Bears passed on T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Laveranues Coles, aren't calling the Cardinals about Anquan Boldin, and seem poised to give recently-released Torry Holt the same cold shoulder treatment.

Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey has seen his stock go through the roof after an eye-popping performance at the NFL Combine, including running a 4.30 40-yard dash, the fastest of all receivers. But he isn't just all speed, he has the height too -- 6'2, 210 -- to make him an imposing threat to secondaries everywhere.

All-in-all, Heyward-Bey probably has higher upside than any receiver in the draft, but I know he lacks experience and big-time production. If he denies the urge to go all Troy Williamson, he could finally be -- take a deep breath -- the No. 1 receiver the Bears have been looking for since the beginning of time.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 17th Pick

Brett Favre wasn't the savior the Jets hoped for, leading to a new regime with a new attitude. So which way are the Jets going to go with their first round pick? Fix an offense that fell apart as the season ended? Or strengthen a defense in an attempt to remake the team in the image of its new head coach? Well let's find out what the Jets fans at the Jets Blog think.

With the 17th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select:

Tyson Jackson, Defensive End, LSU



With spots to fill at WR, RB, QB and depth on both lines, it's a shame there's only one pick to be made. Jets fans have had their say on TJB , and it's clear they're conflicted. The folks in the TJB War Room were a little surprised how the ABMD has played out, what with some players like Mark Sanchez, Vontae Davis and Tyson Jackson still on the board.

The Jets have real need to find offensive playmakers and with the elite WRs already off the board, but Chris Wells and Sanchez still in the mix, they are tempting options. Still with a player like Tyson Jackson still on the board at 17, it is impossible to resist taking him here.

Although the Jets have invested heavily in a defense (by acquiring ILB Bart Scott, S Jim Leonhard & CB Lito Sheppard) already this offseason, taking Jackson at #17 isn't too much of a good thing. On offense the Jets are looking at depth players like WRs Chansi Stuckey & David Clowney along with QBs Kellen Clemens or Brett Ratliff to take the reigns. With a deep draft class at WR, I would imagine that the Jets will look to target a player like Brian Robiskie in the second round, and move around if necessary to get him.

By the start of the season, both of the Jets Defensive Ends (Kenyon Coleman & Shaun Ellis) will be over 30. Todd McShay called him the Draft's only "elite five technique in this draft." Jackson could play end on first and second downs, and transition to a tackle in passing situations for the team for the next 5-10 years. True, with solid veterans already on the roster, Jackson might have to fight to get playing time in 2009, but he's a pick that would benefit and energize the Jets defensive line for the long-term, something that new coach Rex Ryan would relish.

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 16th Pick

There's been quite a run on offensive tackles so far in the draft, with four going in the first 15 picks. Any chance the Vikings' might have of picking one up seems to be slowly slipping away. Thankfully, the Vikings have enough holes that they won't have to reach with their pick (thankfully might not be the right word). Selecting next, on behalf of the AFC West Champs are the writers of Bolt Hype.

With the 16th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers select:

Eben Britton, Offensive Tackle, University of Arizona



As draft day draws nearer and nearer, speculation as to what position the San Diego Chargers will address in the first round continues to grow. Some feel the Chargers would be best suited to draft a running back with their top pick. Others feel an upgrade at safety is needed, or help along the defensive line. But those who've followed the team closely know how much the Chargers want a top offensive tackle.

Last year, the Chargers were poised to select an offensive tackle with the 27th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Unfortunately for the Bolts, a record eight offensive tackles were selected in the first 26 picks. By the time the Chargers came on to the clock, all the tackles were gone.
This year, the Chargers are in a much better position to acquire an elite tackle.

Chargers GM AJ Smith has made it no secret that he is not happy about the way his team has struggled to run the football, and plans to address the issue:

"I just know we're not good enough. But I will say this, which I've said before: we need to have a solid, consistent running game. We have to."

While four offensive tackles have gone off the board at this point, there are still some options for the Chargers. The Chargers could take a defensive lineman like Tyson Jackson. Or they could draft Merriman's potential replacement, Larry English. And of course many people think the Chargers take a running back like Chris Wells or Knoshown Moreno here. But for the Chargers, who need help at right tackle, Britton could be an easy selection.

The Chargers love experienced players, and while Britton is only a junior, he has started 37 consecutive games in the PAC-10. Britton, a Southern California native, has ideal size, a massive wingspan, a nasty temperment, and leadership abilites. Britton would bring excellent drive blocking skills to the right tackle position and allow the team some flexibility when calling run plays. Britton is also a pretty solid athlete and has the speed to pull.

Overall, I think the Chargers head into the first round looking for an offensive tackle if the right one is there. I think they'd also consider help along the front seven defensively. But in this scenario, I think Britton is a solid selection he could very well end up being a San Diego Charger when it is all said and done.

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 15th Pick

We keep getting closer and closer to the Vikings' pick and things are starting to get interesting in a way that only (mock) drafts can. The folks from Houston Die Hards are making the pick on behalf of the Texans, and, coming in, it seemed clear the players they'd be targeting. But sometimes, things just fall into your lap.

With the 15th pick in the draft, the Houston Texans select:

Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss



Well, this is unexpected. The Texans picked their LT of the future in the first round last year, but with all the players I wanted off the board - and an elite talent like Oher slipping, I have no choice but to take him. Oher will be the LT, Duane Brown can move to RT, and current RT Eric
Winston can move inside, which would be a significant upgrade to an already drastically-improved offensive line.

Quick, nimble, and athletic, Oher weighs 309 and is a great fit for the zone blocking scheme that helped to make RB Steve Slaton a rookie of the year candidate last season.

Houston's two biggest positions of need are OLB and DT. However Oher is an ELITE talent, whereas the best players left at those positions may or may not slip to Houston's 2nd round pick.

This was a difficult choice to make because for weeks now I've been railing against mocks that have the Texans taking ANY offensive players, but since I'm a "build from front to back" guy, I can't help but jump all over a player of Oher's caliber.

If this scenario played out in the real world, the Texans would get a SWEET offer to trade down, and they'd take it... but since there are no trades in this draft, I'll take Oher with no regrets.