"And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold
But if you lose the devil gets your soul"
-Charlie Daniel's Band, The Devil Went Down to Georgia
Oh how sweet the allure of a golden ring can be. So sweet, that some sports franchises have in recent years ignored all salary implications in pursuit of that one elusive championship ring. See the Lakers at the end of Shaq's tenure, bringing in Karl Malone and Gary Payton. See the Colorado Avalanche in the past three years or so. See the Patriots this upcoming year. As Isaiah Thomas can surely tell you, such high priced pursuits do not always end in success. Sometimes however, they do, as was the case with the Heat last season, when bolstered by contributions from the aging and overpaid quartet of Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton, Antoine Walker, and Jason Williams the Heat were able to win the championship that Shaq had promised the city of Miami when he had arrived. While this victory still lingers in the air however, a different strain is beginning to be heard on South Beach, and it is starting to become clear that it is now time for the Heat to pay the piper for the roster choices that won them the championship.
If you saw any of the Heat's first round series against the Bulls, what I am about to say should be obvious. The Heat are a flawed team in their present incarnation. They are slow. They are old. They are completely reliant on Dwayne Wade. Now, the scary part is that these three problems do not look to be remedied anytime soon, and in fact look to get worse. For the reasoning behind that, take a look at what Sam Smith wrote today in the Chicago Tribune:
"Riley may not return despite previous comments to the contrary. Jones, Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning are expected to retire. The Heat likely won't sign Jason Kapono or James Posey, perhaps both. It will try to deal Jason Williams, entering his final contract season, and Antoine Walker."
If Smith's analysis is correct, it would seem that the Heat would barely be able to field a full team, much less improve on this season's lackluster result. To whit, this is what the Heat look like going into the off season, as far as players under contract for next season:
Yup, that is the long and short of it. 9 players, and if Smith's analysis is correct, only 6 will actually still be on the roster if Mourning retires and Williams and Walker are dealt. If that holds true, the Heat would be looking at fielding a starting lineup of Shaq, Udonis, Wright, Simien, and Wade. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
The roster noted above will certainly be expanded, but to what extent will be interesting to observe. The Heat will likely keep one or both of Jason Kapono or James Posey, but the price to re-sign Kapono will be significantly higher than his current deal. The Heat will be drafting at #20 in the first round, and even with the depth of this season's draft it is hard to believe they will be able to get a player that has more than a marginal impact next season. (Currently projected in that area of the draft are players like Alando Tucker, Aaron Afflalo, Aaron Gray, and Josh McRoberts) In terms of the salary cap, the 9 contracts the Heat already have for next season come in at roughly $64.5 million, already well over any projected cap for next year. The scariest thing for the Heat though, is that they are at risk of being left off of the next wave in the NBA. Teams are now moving to smaller and quicker teams that have the depth and versatility to throw out a variety of looks any given night. See Shawn Marion and Boris Diaw playing in the frontcourt for Phoenix. See Mikael Pietrus playing center for the Warriors. See the versatility the Raptors and Mavs have on their benches. And you don't even have to tell Miami about the Bulls. They saw first hand how the Bulls were able to use fast three guard lineups and combinations of Chris Duhon, Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, and Luol Deng to entirely out pace the Jurassic Park style Miami team.
So the Heat are already headed into next season over the cap, with a very significant number of holes to fill. It would seem that their best options would be to convince some veterans looking for a championship to take a pay cut, thinking that teaming with Shaq and D-Wade would be their best option to get a ring. We have already seen how that can play out though...
If you want a prediction for how the Heat are going to be next year, here it is. Shaq is going to have to show up for the entire season if this team is going to have a chance, but now that the big man is showing his age there is no guarantee that he will be able to lift the team even if the desire is there. They will desperately need D-Wade to come back at full strength from his off-season shoulder surgery, or they will be sunk. And they also need to get much younger and much faster in the summer, or they are going to be left in the dust as the ever maturing speed teams in the East (Toronto, Chicago, Washington, etc.) pass them by. Worst of all, I believe the Heat are probably going to be left behind by their own coach, as Riley seems very unlikely to stick around with a team that could look to fall from fourth in the East to something more along the lines of sixth or seventh next season. At least the Heat have a ring though. But at what cost is the question.
Monday, April 30, 2007
In advance of a more detailed analysis of the NFL Draft later this week, I want to point out a few things that stuck out to me from the draft this weekend.
The best trade is when you get your cake and eat it too: In three cases early in the draft teams were able to take advantage of a team desperate to trade up for a particular prospect, while still being able to draft their original target later on.
*The Jets traded with the Panthers to move from #25 to #14 in order to get CB Darrelle Revis, and the Panthers were able to still get LB Jon Beason at #25 while also getting the best center in the draft, Ryan Kalil, with the second round pick acquired in the deal.
*The Broncos traded with the Jags to move from #21 to #17 to get DE Jarvis Moss, and the Jags were still able to get the safety they had coveted all along in Reggie Nelson. The Jags also received a 2nd and a 5th round pick, and consequently shopped the 2nd round pick to Baltimore for a 5, a 6 and a 7. So in the end they got the guy they always wanted, for a little less money, plus four extra late rounders. Nice work.
*The Bills traded with the Lions to move from #43 to #34 and selected Paul Posluzny. The Lions were still able to get Michigan State QB Drew Stanton as well as an additional 2nd Rounder.
These are the types of trades that can turn an organization around, or keep a good one on top. You can never have enough picks.
I guess anyone can be a GM nowadays: There were a striking number of moments early in the draft where the only response a fan could have to their team's pick was a bat through the televison. There are bad value picks, but then there are bad value picks that are made when there is good value in a position of need still on the board. For example:
*The Dolphins selected Ted Ginn Jr. at #9 with Brady Quinn still on the board. Perhaps the Dolphins have a lot more faith in Culpepper than most, or maybe they see more in 2nd Rounder John Beck than others, but with the dissarray at the QB position it would seem asinine to pick a receiver projected by most to go in the middle of the 1st when a potential franchise QB is sitting in the green room.
*The Packers took DT Justin Harrell at #16 with a host of 1st Round caliber WRs available. Not only did they avoid plugging their biggest hole this side of RB, they also went with the second best DT still left, with Alan Branch still on the board.
*The Colts took Anthony Gonzalez at #32 with Alan Branch still sliding. I mean, did you watch a Colts game last year? They don't think they need a DT more than yet another WR?
When these trades are evaluated five years from now, just keep in mind what could have been. Especially you Miami, especially you.
The Broncos like the way the Redskins think: Mike Shanahan really really wanted Jarvis Moss and Marcus Thomas. To get the pick for Moss the Broncos gave up their 1st, a 2nd , and a 5th. For Thomas in the 4th Round they gave up a 6th, a 7th, and...A 3RD NEXT YEAR? Wow, the Broncos better hope these two guys turn out to be something special, because they had to sacrifice 6 picks to get em. I mean, getting rid of draft picks en masse has really worked out well for Washington...
Phil Savage is no dummy: The Browns had a sensational draft. Say what you will about what they had to pay to trade up for Quinn, but in Quinn, Joe Thomas, and Eric Wright (a top 15 talent with background issues) the Browns were able to draft potential 10 year starters at arguably the three most important positions in the NFL: Starting QB, Blindside Tackle, and Shut Down Corner. If you can think of a team that has filled those three positions all in one draft, let me know. I would love to see it.
The going rate for a WR is a 4th Rounder: A 4th Round choice seemed to be all that was needed for teams to get veteran pass catchers, as the Pats were able to get Randy Moss and the 49ers were able to get Darell Jackson for the same price. In addition, the Raiders were able to get Josh McCown and Mike Williams for just one fourth rounder, perhaps showing just how badly the Lions wanted to get rid of #2 of Matt Millen's draft disasters.
Alright, those are my first round of impressions. Later in the week we will roll out a more detailed draft evaluation for each division.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Alright boys and girls, settle in for the best day of the NFL offseason. We'll be here with you all day, giving you our thoughts on the proceedings.
11:41 AM- ESPN and other media outlets are reporting that the Raiders have indeed centered in on drafting JaMarcus. Ugh. Utterly uninspired. Word is that Al Davis was in love with Russell, Kiffin wanted Brady Quinn, and the Raider's scouts were ripping their hair out in a corner screaming "CALVIN!!! Have you seen this man!?!?!? AHHHH!!!!"
12:07 PM- I think I have already had my fill of Mel Kiper for Day 1. I mean, I am already aware that JaMarcus Russell is large and throws far. Gotcha. I think Kiper used to be extremely useful when the Draft was not such the media event it is now, with mock drafts coming down the pipes for months now. Fans know the first round picks by heart by the time the actual draft starts. Kiper is much more of a service on Day 2, when I really would be curious who the heck the LB from Hofstra is that my team just picked. On an unrelated note, was that Troy Smith in that last video montage? They let second day picks on those now?
12:20 PM-#1 Raiders- JaMarcus Russell: The Raiders tab Russell with the first pick, and even though I am not high on Russell you can't deny that the Raiders needed a QB. I do not however see him being a great top 5 QB or anything though, especially since he is going to get David Carr'ed next year at Oakland. Chris Mortinson just said he should sit for a year....not going to happen. Russell will be under center from opening day.
Alright, now get ready to the most intriguing and important 15 minutes of the draft. Who gets #2? Lions? Bucs? Skins? Falcons?
12:30 PM-#2 Lions- Calvin Johnson: The Lions take Johnson, and now the big question is whether or not they are going to keep him. ESPN reported that the Lions want both of the Bucs 2nd Round picks in exchange, and evidently the Bucs are reluctant to pay that price. I think the Falcons might be willing to trade their two 2nd Rounders...
12:43 PM-#3- Browns- Joe Thomas: Wow. I am shocked. Evidently the Browns are happy with Jamal Lewis and Charlie Frye. My guess is that not taking Quinn points to the Browns being high on one of the 2nd Round QBs, Drew Stanton or Trent Edwards. Now the question is how far does Quinn drop? #7 perhaps?
12:54 PM-#4- Bucs- Gaines Adams: Now, I hate to see Adams go off the board before the Skins pick, but this is a good pick. The Bucs need defensive help, and they certainly do not need a QB or RB. It will be interesting to see if this pick is dealt to the Lions for Johnson. The Brady Quinn and Adrian Peterson is in full effect, one of those strange things that happens every year when teams suddenly decide "Nah, no thanks, I would rather NOT have one of the best players in the draft."
1:04 PM-#5- Cardinals- Levi Brown: This pick is a perfect example of the conflict between need and value. The Cardinals had no kind of offensive line last year, and they also lost Leonard Davis. Brown however, had been projected more in the 8-12 range. So are the Cardinals going to regret getting Brown? I don't think so, unless he ends up being a complete stiff. If you get a franchise QB one year, it makes sense to either get him a franchise receiver or a franchise left tackle. The Cardinals already have two franchise caliber WRs, so this was a bit of a no brainer.
Now the Redskins are in great trading position. Miami is interested in Quinn, and perhaps Houston or Buffalo might want to move up for Peterson. The Skins could also stay pat and take Okoye or Jamal Anderson. Stay tuned.
1:14 PM- LaRon Landry is celebrating. NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
1:16 PM-#6- Redskins- LaRon Landry: I am not happy about this. Not one stinking bit. Let me just put it this way. The Redskins had the fewest sacks last season in NFL history. EVER. They needed D-Line help, plain and simple. Landry is good and all, but I think the best value for the Skins would have been trading down and taking either Okoye, Anderson, or Alan Branch. Oi. Upsetting.
1:20 PM- By the way, with Brown, Landry, and Thomas going where they went we have already seen every single mock draft done by a media "expert" go up in flames. Can we all just agree not to do those next year? Nobody can ever account for a team's unpredictabilty.
1:27 PM-#7-Vikings- Adrian Peterson: Peterson is a great back, I would say better than Cadillac and Ronnie Brown when they came out two years ago. This pick again signals the shift in the NFL towards a two back system, with the Vikings already having a solid young starter at RB in Chester Taylor. Now, this pick also tells me that the Vikings still have faith in Tavaris Jackson, since they left Quinn on the board. It would be nice if anyone else in the NFL felt the same way about Jackson...
1:38 PM-#8- Falcons- Jamaal Anderson: The Falcons take a player at a position of need, perhaps a little bit higher than many people had expected Anderson to go. Anderson is a strong DE, and is very athletic. What this pick really show though, is that teams are scared out of their mind to trade up right now, as both the Falcons and Redskins presumably wanted to trade down from their positions. Teams are more reluctant than ever to give up their 2nd Rounders, especially with the huge difference in contract money between the 1st and 2nd round.
Now the Dolphins are on the clock, and they are poised to take Quinn, and that pick just feels perfect. The Dolphins have been searching forever for a replacement for Marino, and Quinn looks like the total package for them. Now, about those tens of millions they owe Daunte Culpepper...
1:50 PM-#9- Dolphins- Ted Ginn Jr: This is what I wrote about this pick before it happened when it looked like they were going to take Quinn: "I think this pick might end up getting the Double Checkmark Award, for being the best combination of value and need in the entire draft. I mean, how often does a guy that was projected 1 or 2 all season long fall to #9? And how often is the team sitting at #9 in need of that player's position. A perfect marriage." That is all I have to say about this pick.
1:56 PM- How dumb do the Texans feel right now for trading for Schaub?
2:05 PM-#10- Texans- Amobi Okoye: The Texans continue to remodel their defensive line with the selection of Okoye. Say what you will about Mario Williams, but the combination of the two gives the Texans one of the better young D-lines in the league.
The Aaron Rodgers Redux watch continues. Rumors are circulating that the Browns might be trading a 2nd and 3rd Rounder to trade back up for Quinn. Now THAT would be interesting.
2:19 PM-#11- 49ers- Patrick Willis: I like this pick a lot, Willis is about the only ILB prospect that is of first round quality. The 49ers look like they are turning the corner back towards respectabilty, making intelligent draft choices. Willis should make a big impact in his rookie season, and if none of the pass rushers are able to rack up big sack numbers he might be in line for the Defensive Rookie of the Year a la DeMeco Ryans last year.
The Aaron Rodgers Redux Watch: So is now the right time for the Bills to quit on JP Losman? When else are they going to be able to grab a QB the quality of Quinn this low ever again?
2:26 PM-#12-Bills- Marshawn Lynch: This might have been a bit of a reach value-wise for Lynch, but the need was huge for the Bills. They could not realistically go into the season with Anthony Thomas at RB. The second order effect of this pick is that the Packers can no longer depend on getting a first round RB. They are in a lot of trouble, and are going to have to start looking at the 2nd tier RBs such as Tony Hunt or Pittman.
The Aaron Rodgers Redux Watch: Marc Bulger is no spring chicken, and Quinn could use a couple of years as an understudy and then step into a talented offense.
2:37 PM-#13-Rams-Adam Carriker: Carriker is one of those prospects that slowly shoots up the draft chart during the spring. This is about where he was projected to go. Not an inspired pick, but not a bad one either.
The Aaron Rodgers Redux Watch: The Panthers have traded to the Jets, who look to take a corner. The drop continues.
*Panthers 1st and 6th for Jets 1st, 2nd, and 5th
2:53 PM-#14-Jets-Darrelle Revis: The Jets were headed into the season with Hank Poteat as their #2 CB. Suffice it to say, this was a good pick, though it can be debated whether Revis or Hall from Michigan is truly the top cover corner in the draft. It will be interesting to see what will come of the 2nd Round pick that the Jets had to sacrifice in order to get here.
The Aaron Rodgers Redux Watch: Now the Steelers are on the clock, so the slide will continue for at least one more pick. Is anyone willing to trade up? And does Quinn have a disease or something? Also Goodell made a great move by inviting Quinn to the back room to avoid the media. Good Commissioner this guy.
2:59 PM-#15-Steelers-Lawrence Timmons: The Steelers have two big needs on the defensive side of the ball, and they chose to fill the hole caused by Joey Porter's departure rather than going for a CB. Leon Hall would have been a better value at this position, but new coach Mike Tomlin wants to make a statement this season with his linebacking corps.
The Aaron Rodgers Redux Watch: Now this would be the irony of all ironies. Could the team that took the first Aaron Rodgers take the new Aaron Rodgers? How delicious.
3:08 PM- I really like Brady Quinn after watching his interview just now. Mature, well spoken, joking. "What are your plans?" "Maybe order some food or something. We don't know how long we are gonna be here." CLASSIC! His hair looks a lot messier than it was at the beggining too. Some team is going to get an absolute steal. Maybe Cleveland trading back up?
3:13 PM-#16-Packers-Justin Harrell: Harrell is a player that was rated a lot higher last year, and if not for an injury this season he may have been a top 10 pick. That being said, I don't see the sense in this pick for the Packers, especially with Alan Branch still on the board. Harrell is a reach here. There were so many receivers on the board, as well as Olsen at TE, how could they not take one of them to help Favre? Wow.
The Aaron Rodgers Redux Watch: The Jaguars have been waffling between Leftwich and Garrard, and if they do not take Quinn then the drop is really going to hit Rodgers range with the Bengals, Titans, Giants, Broncos, and Cowboys drafting next. This is really getting ugly. The Chiefs would poop themselves if he fell to #23.
3:23 PM- Trade: Jaguars #17 for the Broncos #21, 3rd Rounder, and 6th Rounder. Who do the Broncos have their eye on? Branch? Hall?
3:27 PM-#17-Broncos-Jarvis Moss: The Broncos must believe that some team between 18-20 was targeting Moss. Moss has the most speed of any DE in this draft not named Gaines Adams, although his stock had dropped a bit as teams questioned his ability to play the run. The Broncos have been looking for ways to generate a pass rush, and this pick is a good start.
The Aaron Rodgers Redux Watch: I feel as if the Jags got good value for their pick in the trade, and now could take Quinn at #21 or shop it to a team like Cleveland or Chicago as the Quinn position.
3:36 PM-#18-Bengals-Leon Hall: Best pick of the draft by far. The Bengals had an uncertain situation at corner with Deltha O'Neal likely to leave the team and Tory James already gone. So not only do they fill a big need on defense, they also get a top 10 caliber prospect at #18, and even more importantly for them a prospect with absolutely zero character issues. Fantastic pick. Might hold up as the best pick in the draft, depending on where Quinn ends up.
The Aaron Rodgers Redux Watch: Well, Tennessee is certainly not going to take Quinn. The landing point looks to be between 21 and 23.
3:47 PM-#19-Titans-Michael Griffin: I'm sure the Titans were salivating over the prospect of Hall falling to them, but missed out by one pick. Now here is the conspiracy theory for you. The Titans did not really need a safety that badly. They need a RB, CB, and WR much more. Do you know who needs a safety? The Chargers, who might be swapping with the Titans for Michael Turner.
The Aaron Rodgers Redux Watch: It is getting obvious at this point that unless someone pulls the trigger on a trade for Quinn in the next two picks that he is going to go to the Chiefs at #23.
3:58 PM-#20-Giants-Aaron Ross: This is a good pick for need, as the Giants do not have much depth at corner. They could have gone tackle here as well, but either way they would not have been able to get true value with this pick. I can't believe that they were not getting any decent offers for Quinn.
The Aaron Rodgers Redux Watch: This is the spot. Either a trade happens around here, or the Chiefs set a record for fastest pick ever at #23. Mark May is an idiot by the way, saying that he thinks Dallas is most likely to take him. Stick to college Mark.
4:04 PM-#21-Jaguars-Reggie Nelson: This pick lines up right behind the Bengal's pick as one of the best in the draft. Reggie Nelson is an extremely athletic safety with great coverage skills for the position, and the Jaguars probably would have taken Nelson at #17. So you get the player you wanted for less money, plus a 3rd and a 6th? Great job.
The Aaron Rodgers Redux Watch: Are the trade winds blowing here? Or is Jerry Jones crazy?
4:17 PM-#22-Browns-Brady Quinn: Wow. Just amazing. There is no way the Browns could have foreseen that taking Joe Thomas would result in the dominoes falling in just the right way for them to get Quinn as well. It will be interesting to see what they had to give up to get him.
4:21 PM- The Browns gave up the 36th pick in this draft plus next year's 1st rounder. They might have hoped to keep the 2nd rounder in exchange for a 3rd or 4th, but this is such a unique opportunity to grab a potential franchise QB at #22.
4:32 PM-#23-Chiefs-Dwayne Bowe: The Chiefs have had a perrenial problem at wide receiver, and Bowe is a good value here as he was projected to get a little bit higher than this slot. Getting another passing option was key with Tony Gonzalez and Eddie Kennison not getting any younger. The Chiefs did however, need some line help with two starters retiring in the past two seasons, so perhaps Joe Staley would have been a better pick in this spot as a left tackle.
4:35 PM- The Patriots have two picks coming up at #24 and #28, so expect them to do something excellent, because they always do. By the way, has anyone else noticed that the Lions STILL have Calvin Johson? I guess they are going to stick with him. I was really sure that they were going to ship him to the Bucs for Gaines Adams and additional picks. This has certainly been a crazy draft thus far.
4:45 PM-#24-Patriots-Brandon Merriweather: This is a talented player, much more talented than this draft position, but this is the first big character guy to go in the draft. Considering that it is the Patriots taking him though, you have to believe that they know what they are doing with this guy and that they are convinced that he is not going to be the next Pac Man. They also do have a need at safety with the aging Rodney Hariss on the downside of his playing days.
4:55 PM-#25-Panthers-Jon Beason: Beason is a player that performs better on the field than in scouting tests, perhaps causing him to drop a bit in the draft. With Dan Morgan missing the entirety of last season the Panthers needed to make a move to add some insurance at the outside linebacker position. Again, not an overly inspired pick but a decent one in terms of value and need.
4:59 PM- A trade between Dallas and Philly? What? Dallas sends a 2, a 3, and a 5 for the first rounder. A good trade by the Boys followed by a bad one. So it goes.
5:07 PM-#26-Cowboys-Anthony Spencer: Spencer is the last of the elite pass rushers left, but to be honest I am not overly thrilled with this pick, if only because of the price tag that came with it to trade up. Greg Ellis is getting old and all, but I think that receiver would have been more of a need, and certainly I would not have envisioned the Cowboys trading three picks when they are picking again right around the corner at #36. The strangeness of this draft continues.
5:16 PM- By the way, Alan Branch is still on the board. Yet another curious fall by a player once considered a lock for a top ten selection.
5:20 PM-#27-Saints-Robert Meachem: The rich get richer on the Saints offense. The Saints now boast a lineup that could see Marques Colston and Reggie Bush split out with Meachem on the field as well. This is a good value pick, but Greg Olsen might have been a much better fit in terms of need while also giving the Saints a similar value.
5:34 PM-#28-49ers-Joe Staley: In the same vein as the Cardinals earlier pick of Levi Brown, the 49ers trade up to get a rising left tackle prospect to protect Alex Smith. Staley made a late surge up draft boards, and the 49ers may have gotten a steal selecting Staley at this position. Coupled with their earlier pick of Patrick Willis, the 49ers are having a very good draft thus far.
5:42 PM- You knew the Patriots were going to make a good move at some point. They picked up a 4th this year and a 1st next year for the #28 pick. This is a great move for the Patriots, as next year's draft is much deeper at all of the offensive skill positions and the 1st Rounder they will gain from the 49ers will certainly be higher than #28.
5:44 PM-#29-Ravens-Ben Grubbs: Well, I may have grown to hate this guy by this point if only because Mel Kiper will not shut up about him, but if he can indeed step in and start next year than this is an excellent pickup for the Ravens. And ladies and gentlemen, Alan Branch is still on the board, in case your team is looking for a DT.
5:57 PM-#30-Chargers-Craig Davis: Wow. This draft has been nothing if not unpredictable. A lot of people were saying that the Chargers were going to be looking for a WR here, but few thought that it was going to be Davis. The Chargers passed up the chance to take one of the two USC WRs from their own back yard.
6:12 PM-#31-Bears-Greg Olsen: I'm not so sure about this one. I mean, wasn't Desmond Clark a stud last year? Next up are the Colts, and Alan Branch would figure to be a great pick for a team with big problems with rush defense....but you would have thought the Dolphins would never have passed on Quinn either.
6:19 PM-#32-Colts-Anthony Gonzalez: Well, that was a fitting way to end the round. The Colts, with a shot at a top 15 talent at their biggest need....instead draft a mediocre WR that will be no better than #3. Mind-boggling.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Dice-K was able to get the win tonight against the Yankees, which oddly is not that much of an achievement nowadays. He did not look very impressive however, giving up four runs and failing to get a quality start for the second straight outing. So our guest this week is a pitcher from last season that was likewise inconsistent and won his share of cheap games...Dice-K is looking like...Vicente Padilla!
From time to time I find myself wasting my hours poring over stats. Baseball stats. Basketball stats. Football stats. 82 Games. DatabaseSports. Ken Pomeroy. I love this kind of stuff, and I spend tons of time making my own little charts and comparisons between players. Sometimes as I am toiling endlessly, looking at WHIP and ADJ FG% and the like, I come across a player that just makes me scratch my head. "Wow, how have I never heard of THIS guy?" So now when I come across these guys, I am going to let you know, so you can pick them up in fantasy or just watch and enjoy.
2006 Stats: 14-11, 4.74 ERA, 169 K
2007 Stats: 1-1, 2.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 100% QS%
Why You Should Care:
Snell led the Pirates in wins and K's last season, and has already been showing that 2007 is going to be his breakout season. And at only 25 years old, Snell is primed to be starting for the Pirates...for at least the next season and a half, when some large market team will swoop in and trade for the potential ace.
-Snell won the John J. Brady Athelete of the Year award in January. In case you were wondering, the award is given anually to the top athelete from the state of Delaware. How can you not root for a guy from Delaware?
-In a radio interview this past October Snell said that "I would never be caught living in Pittsburgh. It's not my type of city." So...about that trade...
Snell is starting tonight against the Reds.
Snell's line tonight: 7 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 4 K, 2 BB against the Reds, picking up his second win of the season.
Evidently the Eagles are going to wear these uniforms...in a real game...next season. When the Eagles play the Lions on Sept. 23 they will pay tribute to their original color scheme from 1933. To be honest my first reaction is that those are some pretty sweet colors for the 30's, but the more important thing is that these uniforms bear zero resemblance to the Eagles current uniforms whatsoever. I mean, they look like the step children of UCLA Football and Sweden's soccer team. Just plain strange. Now, if there was a team that would look cool in a throwback that looks nothing like their current duds...try the Rams. They wore red and black uniforms for just one season, in 1937. Now that would look cool. Sweden does not look cool.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Andrei Kirilenko has always been a bit of an odd case. He is 6-9 and Kate Moss thin, but has exhibited the ability over his career to be a good rebounder from the 4 spot as well as possessing elite level shot blocking ability. The problem obviously, is that Kirilenko has the size of a SF and the game of a PF. This did not really present much of a problem early in Kirilenko's Jazz tenure, as there was no threat to his playing time at the 4 spot. Times have changed in Salt Lake however, and the Jazz are suddenly full up on (healthy) PFs. Between Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, and Paul Milsap, Kirilenko would seem to have little shot to return the the 4 spot anytime soon for the Jazz. This puts the Jazz in the position of having their highest paid player (Yup, Kirilenko makes more than Boozer) playing out of position and experiencing an extreme decline in performance. As Kirilenko himself has said, this season has been "the worst season in my career, individually". To compare:
2005: MPG:32.9 PPG:15.6 RPG:6.2 AST:3.2 BLK:3.3 STL:1.6
2006: MPG:37.8 PPG:15.3 RPG:8.0 AST:4.3 BLK:3.2 STL:1.5
2007: MPG:29.3 PPG:8.3 RPG:4.7 AST:2.9 BLK:2.1 STL:1.1
Kirilenko is caught in a tough spot. The emergence of Boozer as a premier offensive threat combined with the increased tendency by Deron Williams to take his own shots just does not leave many shots left over for Kirilenko in Jerry Sloan's deliberate offense. I mean, imagine if Shawn Marion with his similar size and skill set were in the Jazz rotation. It probably would not be a much rosier picture. The alarming thing about the Kirilenko situation however, is that he seems to be growing increasingly unhappy with his situation in Utah. Compare his comments from an interview last week in the Salt Lake Tribune with a quote from last night:
"Right now, I'm kind of relaxed, and I made my point. . . . I've re-changed my mind a little bit, adjusted a little bit to different things right now. Especially, we've made the playoffs and right now we have tough stretch to get back [home-court advantage] and I don't like to be negative. I want to be positive." (4-15-07)
"I want to play 48 minutes,I want to play and I want to be on the court. All I can provide is effort, no matter how many minutes I'm going to play. . . . I wouldn't say I did great, but I did something. It's just hard to explain because it's been whole year." (4-22-07)
Kirilenko was primarily reacting to the quick hook he got from Jerry Sloan after he went 1-3 from the field and 0-2 from the foul line. Sloan's reaction to Kirilenko's comments was equally ominous:
"I know it's very uncomfortable for him. It's very uncomfortable for me, I'm not happy with it, but I don't know how to handle it. I'm not equipped."
Jerry Sloan is "not equipped" to handle this situation? Yikes. If you have a coach that has been around for 22 seasons saying he can't handle a situation, and your highest payed player is literally in tears after a playoff game, you are in what most people would call a bad situation. And the situation is not going to get any better for Kirilenko. The Jazz have Boozer and Okur under contract for the next three years and Milsap for the next two, and Matt Harpring who has been playing almost an equal amount of minutes at SF as Kirilenko is also signed for the next three years. Kirilenko is under contract for the next four years on a max deal that will be paying him $17,822,187 by the 2010-2011 season. Not many teams would want to pay a guy playing out of position and averaging 8-5-3 $17 million, so it seems that the Jazz are going to have to find something to do with AK-47. This past season has likely sent Kirilenko's stock through the floor, so finding a taker to absorb the four years left on his contract will most likely not be an easy task. The Jazz may well find themselves saddled with a $63 million salary cap albatross for the next four seasons.
Update: Kirilenko had another poor showing in Game 2 of the series tonight, only playing 18 minutes while being called for 5 fouls. Andrei's final stat line: 0 PTS, 0 AST, 3 REB, 0 STL, 2 BLK, 2 TO, 0-3 FGM-FGA
At this point it is pretty hard to ignore the fan interest that Dice-K has spawned across the nation thus far this season. All of his starts have generated large amounts of press coverage, as well as a great deal of analysis in their wake. In the end I think the general curiousity boils down to one thing, namely that fans are curious as to what exactly Boston has on their hands. I mean, the right to just talk to the guy cost $51 million, so he must be something special...right? So I thought it might be a little interesting to check in on Dice-K's performance throughout the season and find the pitchers from last season that he is resembling the most. So, for the first installment of "Dice-K is looking like" we would like to welcome our special guest....Chris Capuano!!!
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Remember Tim Duncan making the comment last week that he hoped that the Spurs would get "a fair shake" from the refs in the playoffs? Well, in the wake of the Spurs' Game 1 loss to the Nuggets, it would seem that the Spurs are going to get less of a fair shake and more of a pimp slap from the refs in the wake of the Joey Crawford incident. Consider:
-The Spurs averaged 24.1 FTA per game during the regular season.
-In Game 1, the Spurs shot only 10 FTs, including only 6 in the first 44 minutes of the contest
-The Spurs lowest number of FTAs during the regular season: 11
-The Spurs' opponents averaged 21.2 PFs during the regular season
-In Game 1, the Nuggets were called for 13 PFs
-In the two team's three regular season games the Spurs had 21,21, and 27 FTA respectively, and the Nuggets were called for 21,19, and 24 PFs respectively.
Now, this could be a one game abberation. That kind of thing happens. The playoffs are more physical than the regular season. Understood. I can't help but think there might just be a little something fishy though, when a team shoots fewer FTs than they did in any of the previous 82 games, in the wake of a high profile confrontation with a ref that might have resulted in that ref working his last NBA game. I'm just saying: beware the brotherhood of the whistle.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
So heading into the final night of the NBA regular season there is only one playoff ticket up for grabs, with the Warriors and the Clippers both still alive to get into the Western Conference playoff bracket. There is a lot more drama left however, as playoff seeding is up for grabs all across the league. Here is a quick look at what is at stake tonight:
-The Last Western Spot: This one is pretty simple. If the Warriors win against Portland, they are in. If the Clippers lose to the Hornets then the Warriors are in. The only way for the Clippers to get in is to win and hope the Warriors lose. Fin.
-Who is 8th?: Seemingly overlooked is the fact that although the Warriors have not clinched the 8th spot in the West yet, they are also still alive for the 7th spot in the West. The Warriors enter the night with the same record as the Lakers. The Lakers possess the tiebreaker if both teams win tonight, but if the Warriors win and the Lakers lose to Sacramento, then the Warriors would move into the 7 spot to make the most exciting first round matchup in recent NBA playoff history. What would you put the over under on points for a game between the Warriors and Suns? 240? 250?
- The Battle for #2 in the East: Cleveland and Chicago enter the night with identical 49-32 records, with Chicago holding the tie-breaker. The truly interesting angle of this battle is that whichever team loses out on the 2 seed will drop all the way to the 5th seed, since Toronto and Miami hold the 3 and 4 spots as division winners. Cleveland faces the Bucks at home, while the Bulls travel to New Jersey to face the Nets. Whichever team comes out in the 5th spot will face a resurgent Miami team getting D-Wade back, while the fate of the 2 seed is a bit murkier because.....
- The 6 spot in the East is up for grabs: The Nets and Wizards come into the final night of the season with 40-41 records, with the Nets sitting in 6th with the tiebreaker. Washington goes to Indiana tonight with the Nets facing the Bulls at home. God knows the Bulls/Cavs would much rather face the depleted Wizards in the 7 spot and not the Nets. (The Magic also have an outside shot at the 7 spot with Nets and Wizards losses combined with a Magic win)
The end result of who gets the 2 seed in the East will have a great implication on the Eastern playoff bracket as a whole, as the 2 seed would likely face the Wizards and Raptors on their path to the conference finals, whereas the 5 seed would face the Heat and Pistons. Point being: the 2 seed will go to the conference finals, the 5 seed will be lucky to get out of the first round.
Monday, April 16, 2007
If there is one thing that has been ticking me off more than anything in the days leading up to the NFL draft it has been this general sentiment: The Raiders should take JaMarcus Russell, because Calvin Johnson would be useless if the Raiders do not have a QB to get him the ball. The same people who espouse this opinion are then quick to point out that the Raiders have Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, and Ronald Curry to throw the ball to. While this reasoning is not without merit, it is the same type of thinking that led to the Texan's selection of Mario Williams last year. To wit, the Texans had a decent QB in David Carr that they had just signed to an extension, so it was illogical to select Vince Young. Likewise, the team had a, at the time, slightly above average back in Domanick (Davis) Williams, therefore lessening the need for selecting Reggie Bush. So obviously the correct choice was to select a prospect in Mario Williams that had less game breaking talent than either Young or Bush, but that had performed exceedingly well in pre draft tests and played a position of more perceived need for the Texans. So...the Raiders are poised to follow in that same vein, selecting a player that EVERY general manager in the league would say is less talented than Johnson, that has wowed scouts in pre draft tests and plays a position of more perceived need. And this makes sense?
The debate between whether the Raiders should select Russell or Johnson rests upon a fundamental divide in the NFL in terms of draft philosophy, the divide between need and value. Russell would indeed be the correct need pick. Johnson would be the correct value pick. The question remains then, which of the two approaches to the draft is correct in this situation? To answer, lets examine what the future might hold for the Raiders in each scenario, Russell or Johnson.
The Raiders were starting Andrew Walter at QB last season. Let that sink in for just a moment. Walter would be a third stringer at best for most any other NFL team. Go ahead, play a little game with it, name the backup QBs in the league that you would not put in before Andrew Walter. Done? So, QB is obviously a tremendous position of need for the Raiders, to the point where I would not pick them to win more than 3 games this season if they go into it with Walter at QB. The Raiders are thus presented with three options in fixing their QB situation, whether that be by the draft, trade, or the remaining free agent pool. The obvious free agent solutions are gone, as Jeff Garcia, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey, and Brad Johnson have all already signed elsewhere. This leaves the remaining QB crop to consist of...Tim Rattay? Ewwww. To put it bluntly, the Raiders missed the boat in free agency this year. Even if they have been determined all spring to take a QB with the first pick, their lack of activity has put them in a position to throw that QB to the wolves behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. We've seen how that has worked out for David Carr. And Joey Harrington. And Eli Manning for that matter. Whoever the Raiders put behind center this year is going to get rocked. Period. The Raiders have done nothing substantive to improve an offensive line that surrendered 72 sacks last season. So you want to throw a rookie QB behind that line? A rookie that at his most recent workout showed the ability to throw the ball a million yards from off his butt, while also showcasing an alarming inability to consistently throw an accurate 12 yard out pattern? A QB that nearly lost his starting job at LSU to Ryan Perrilloux before this season? Come on, you have to be kidding me. If Russell goes to the Raiders, he is going to get the same shell shock welcome to the NFL that Carr received in Houston. Except it will be worse, because Russell is not as good of a QB as Carr. Yup, I said it. I am extremely wary of Russell, especially since his agent is trying to pub him using the same sort of stupid human tricks with arm strength that fooled the Ravens into blowing a first round pick on Kyle Boller. While Russell, Mike Vick, and heck, even Michael Bishop have the ability to throw a football 50,60, or 70 yards off of one foot, while on the run, juggling stuffed teddy bears, eating a moon pie, how many times is that kind of throw going to be required in an average NFL game? Now ask yourself, how many times is a 12 yard out going to need to be thrown? In my view the Raiders should solve their QB problem in one of two ways. There are still a number of decent QBs available on the trade market for the right price, the likes of Trent Green, Josh McCown, and Seneca Walace, QBs who have seen NFL defenses before and would be better suited to step in as the Raider's starter for a season or two. Russell is a raw QB that needs time to adapt to the speed of the NFL game and polish his accuracy on medium passes and throws to the sidelines. Letting him sit for a year or two, which is what he needs, is not an option the Raiders would be able to afford him, which is why they should look elsewhere and let Russell go. Make a trade for one of the above players, and then maybe take Trent Edwards, Drew Stanton, Kevin Kolb, or Troy Smith to develop with a 2nd-4th round selection.
Here is the rub. Russell is not the best QB prospect to come along in a long time. Coming out of college, I would say that in recent years Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, and grief, Brady Quinn were all better and more pro ready prospects than Russell. Now, name a WR in recent drafts that was anywhere near Calvin Johnson coming into the pros. Done thinking? The last prospect that came into the league with Johnson's combination of size, speed, hands, and route running ability was in 1998, when Randy Moss hit the league. The difference being, Johnson does not have any of the character questions that Moss did coming out of Marshall. Johnson is a once in a decade type of talent at the WR position. Russell is a flavor of the month that nobody had on their draft radar before this past season. Johnson was ripping through the ACC last fall, stringing together 100 yard games while getting the rock from....Reggie Ball? If any of you watched a Georgia Tech game last year you would understand how unearthly bad Reggie Ball is, while at the same time realizing how insanely good Calvin Johnson is. To put it in perspective, Reggie Ball threw over 300 passes in all four of his seasons at GT. In all three seasons that he had Calvin Johnson with him, he completed less than 50% of his passes. So you are trying to tell me that Calvin Johnson can't impact a game while playing with a bad QB? That he could not make an impact with the Raiders while getting the ball from a QB the likes of Trent Green or Josh McCown? Come on.
The real trick of this situation is that the Raiders are going to be bad this year no mater what they do. The offense is going to remain bad next season no matter what the Raiders do in the draft, because the Raiders do not have a good line, have no real feature RB, and have an aging pair of WRs in Moss and Porter. So the Raiders are going to find themselves back in the top 10 of the draft next year. That is a lock. Write it down, take it to the bank, spit on my face if it does not end up being true. So the Raiders need to avoid putting themselves in the situation where the Vikings, Redskins, and Lions find themselves this season, where past draft mistakes are hindering them from making the best pick. How so? The Vikings traded up last year for Tarvaris Jackson, and therefore are not going to take Brady Quinn, even if he is sitting there at the 7 pick. Likewise, the Redskins would also pass on Quinn because of their reach on Jason Campbell. And the Lions of course are scared out of their minds of taking Calvin Johnson, since they are already millions in the hole on draft mistakes Charles Rogers and Mike Williams. So lets look ahead to next season. At the top of the QB draft chart are prospects such as Brian Brohm, Chad Henne and John David Booty. So if the Raiders just hold out for a season, they can have Calvin Johnson, plus perhaps Brohm (who is better than Russell), Henne (also better than Russell), or Booty to throw the ball to him, or even a free agent QB. The other option is to have Russell plus....Limas Sweed? Point being, taking Russell ties him to the team like an anchor for the next 5 years. If I were piloting that ship, I would much rather tie my hopes to Calvin Johnson.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
As you may have heard Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy has proposed recently that the NBA lottery be changed so that every single team has an equal chance to win the top pick. His reasoning is that the current format encourages teams to tank at the end of the season in order to acquire more precious ping pong ball combinations, and by allowing all teams into the lottery the level of play at the end of the season would be improved. While this is a valid point, it would seem to be counterintuitive to the general concept behind a draft in a professional sports league, namely that the worst teams should be able to get the best new players in order to level the playing field and create a more competitive and entertaining product night in and night out. That being said, the current system does not necessarily guarantee that either, as for some odd reason the NBA has decided that the best way to decide who picks in the first three positions is by jumbling around 14 ping pong balls. The NBA draft has come a long way since its inception however, so lets look at how this thing has morphed over the years, and how the modern draft would change based upon the old rules.
Territorial Picks: For the first 18 years of the draft teams were allowed to give up their first round pick in order to take a player from its local area. This rule was used by teams to select such greats as Paul Arizin, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Gail Goodrich, Oscar Robertson, and most notably Wilt Chamberlain. The rule was that a team could take any player within a 50 mile radius from them. Philadelphia alone used the rule 9 times in a ten year span, looting their local colleges. Sadly for the Cavs, Columbus and Greg Oden would be over 50 miles away. Kevin Durant would also likewise be just out of range for all three Texas teams. If this rule were still in effect, the probable result would be that college teams in the New York, LA, and San Antonio areas would be routinely stocked with elite talent hoping to be selected by one of the league's premier teams. Imagine a world where only colleges located next to NBA franchises would garner elite recruits. Suffice it to say, the elimination of this rule in the 60's prevented these sort of shenanigans from occurring.
Flip o' the Coin: After the territorial picks ended, the NBA went to a system where the last place finishers in each division would have a coin flip for the top pick, and then everyone else would pick according to their record. To be honest, this is the most sensible option the NBA has employed short of ordering teams by record. This would also be a lot more fun to watch on TV than the current draft lottery, with its stuffy suits and mysterious ping pong balls. I mean seriously, we never even get to see the actual combination that wins the lottery. I can envision a fantastic TV event, where the representatives of the bottom two teams could do a best 2 out of 3. First the coaches would go against each other, then GMs, and then the owners to close it out. I would watch this. Hell, ABC could even milk it for an extra commercial break before the climactic flip. It would be awesome. Just sayin.
The Early Lottery: For the first two years the lottery was in effect it was used to determine every lottery pick, and every lottery team had an equal chance. This of course led to the NBA rigging the lottery to give the Knicks Patrick Ewing in 1985. Or something like that. After a couple of years the NBA decided that only the top three picks would be chosen by the lottery, so the worst team would get no worse than the 4th overall pick. Until 1990 however, all the teams in the lottery still had an equal chance at those picks. Personally, I would love to see a fringe lottery team like Minnesota win the lottery and get Oden to help Garnett. It would certainly be much more tense in the lottery room if every team had an equal chance to snag one of the top picks. More tense = More awesome
The Current Lottery: The NBA has now decided that the best way to do the lottery is to divvy up the 1001 different combinations among the lottery teams, while giving more combinations to the worst teams. (Actually, they only give out 1000 of the 1001 combinations. For some reason they do not want to give out the combination 11-12-13-14. If it is ever drawn they just draw again. The NBA is so weird...) As it stands currently the best eight teams in the draft have less than a 5% chance each, and the bottom four have a less than 1% chance.
Now, the NBA draft has always had a funny way of producing....how should I put it...odd results when elite prospects are involved. Ewing going to the Knicks is commonly noted, but even odder was Orlando winning two lotteries in a row, even though they only had a 1.5% chance when they won the right to trade Chris Webber away for a toy doll and Penny Hardaway. San Antonio parlayed one down year out of a string of success into Tim Duncan. Cleveland got their hometown boy LeBron James. I am not saying the NBA rigs anything, but...it just seems a little too perfect sometimes. And it is also a little odd that they do not do the actual drawing on air. I think it would be great if they pulled out a bubble machine right there on TV and had the GMs play lottery bingo. They could have little markers and everything. Maybe they could even bring in their mothers to help.
Looking at the bottom of the standings as we approach the end of the season, Memphis, Boston, and Milwaukee rest in the pole positions for the bottom three spots, with Charlotte also standing to have a 12% chance to win the lottery. So for those conspiracy theorists out there....you know Boston is going to end up with either Oden or Durant, but that makes sense considering their record this season. The real team to watch out for to come miraculously flying into the top 2 however, a historically storied franchise on tough times, a team in a large TV market that just lost its top player,...yup, the 76ers. That would be the great conspiracy chance for this year, if they were able to pull out Oden or Durant. I mean....it could happen. And it would also probably make Jeff Van Gundy happy, since he evidently likes bad teams to stay bad.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
This off season has been full of changes at the running back position all across the NFL. Jamal Lewis going to Cleveland. Thomas Jones to the Jets. Willis McGahee to the Ravens. Tatum Bell to the Lions. Ahman Green to the Texans. Travis Henry to the Broncos. Dominic Rhodes to the Raiders. I think you get the picture. Somehow however, in the midst of all of this player movement in the backfields across the league, there are some teams that at present do not seem to have a legit starting RB on their roster. How did these teams let this happen, when other teams such as Washington, San Diego, New Orleans, Dallas, and Detroit have been able to stockpile multiple starting caliber backs? Let us examine the three teams left on the running back market, what is available for them in the draft, and what warm bodies are left on the free agent pile.
As this off season has shown, every action in the NFL has an equal and opposite reaction. Some teams however, have been a bit slow on the reaction bit of the equation. Green Bay lost their starter Ahman Green to the Texans early in free agency, and as of yet they have not made any moves in free agency to find a replacement. As it stands right now, the Packers RB corps going into the season looks to consist of Vernand Morency, Noah Herron, and Brandon Miree. All three backs only have two years in the league Morency was acquired in a trade with the Texans that sent Samkon Gado to Houston. At the time this deal made sense, since Morency's greater quickness and receiving ability made him a better compliment to Ahman Green than the tough and powerful Gado. In retrospect, that move signaled that the Packers believed they were going to be able to re-sign Green, and had positioned Morency as their backup and 3rd down back for the foreseeable future. It would seem that the Packers (nor the rest of the league for that matter) were prepared for the type of money that the Texans threw at Green. Who can blame them though? Matching the Texans offer would not have been financially responsible for the Pack. The loss of Green does put them in an awkward position however, as Gado would have been much better equipped to take a season's worth of pounding between the tackles than the 5-9 Morency.
Just as the Packers found themselves with their pants around their ankles after the free agency period began, the Titans saw their 1,200 yard rusher from last season Travis Henry bolt to the Broncos. (By the way, I am the only person that thinks Henry is going to absolutely BLOW UP in Denver? I mean, the man is only 28 and has three seasons in his career over 1,200 yards. I am going to snap him up in every one of my fantasy leagues and ride his 1,400 yards and 13 TDs all the way to the bank.) The loss of Henry and the team's inability to resign the disgruntled Chris Brown leave the Titans with only LenDale White and Ahmard Hall on their roster. Yes. The Titans are looking at going into the season with 260 lb slob LenDale White as their feature back. Ewwwwwww. If I was Jeff Fischer, I would start to be getting very worried right now. And not just that LenDale was going to mistake me for a cheeseburger. Fischer's job could be on the line if the Titans are not able to get a back to take the pressure off of Vince Young. As little as they seemed to value his services, Travis Henry's 270 carries last year were an essential part of the Titan's running game, one that is not easily replaced.
Now, the third team seemingly floating in the running back abyss did it to themselves. The Bills shipped Willis McGahee to the Ravens for two 3rd rounders and a 7th rounder. Honestly, the trade was understandable considering the Bills were not likely to resign Willis after his contract ran out after the season, and acted upon an opportunity to extract some value from him. The loss of McGahee has left the Bills perilously thin in the backfield however, only featuring Anthony Thomas and Shaud Williams in the RB rotation. While Thomas has been a feature back in the past, his best years are far behind him and he does not seem fit to be anything more than a pinch hitter in a running back rotation. The fact that the Bills willingly traded Willis would lead you to believe that they have a plan in mind to replace him. Wouldn't it?
Now on to the fun part of this game. How exactly are these three teams going to fix their running back problems before the start of the season? The options in front of them are clear: raid the remaining free agent corpses, trade for someone's backup, or put their hopes in the draft. First, lets take a gander at what remains of the free agent crop. There are some underachievers that have not lived up to early promise (Kevan Barlow, Derrick Blaylock, and Chris Brown), some vets without much tread left on the tire (Corey Dillon and Stephen Davis), and some young relative unknowns in terms of potential (Reno Mahe, Verron Hayes, and Tony Fisher). Of this group there does not seem to be anyone that could step in and be a feature back this season. Chris Brown would seem the most likely, but he has gotten a reputation recently of being a malcontent. Barlow and Dillon could be quality additions to a team as pieces of a larger rotation, but neither has shown themselves to be able to take the reins of a rushing attack in this stage of their careers. There is also the case of Domanick (Davis) Williams, who was released by the Texans at the same time that they released David Carr. Williams was an intriguing double threat for the Texans in his first three seasons, averaging 112 yards of total offense per game. Knee injuries have plagued him however, and he sat out the entirety of last season. If Williams were able to regain anything close to his pre-injury form he might be the only one of the available free agents that could step in and take over running back duties in a dynamic fashion. That however, is a big if. Nonetheless, taking a flyer on Williams would not be a bad move for any of the above teams.
Since the answer to the running back quandary does not seem to lie in the free agent pool, now it is time to examine what might be available to our desperate trio on the trade market. As stated previously, there are a number of teams in the league that have two running backs that are of starting caliber or potential. Few of those teams however, seem willing to part with their prized insurance policies. The Redskins have Ladell Betts locked up to a long term deal, and teams such as Atlanta and Jacksonville are not going to give up their young backups considering the age of their current starters. That leaves our terrible trio with very few options on the trade market...except for one golden calf, sitting on the California beach. The Chargers have tendered an offer to their backup Michael Turner that would cause any team attempting to sign him to give the Chargers 1st and 3rd round picks. As much potential as Turner has shown (Remember that 80 yard TD against the Colts?) any team would be extremely reticent to shell out that kind of compensation for a player that has not proven he can take a season's worth or carries up to this point. This does not mean that Turner is not an option. San Diego finds themselves in much the same position that the Bills found themselves with McGahee, namely that they know they are not going to be able to re-sign Turner after this season and it might be wisest to get something for him now. The Chargers still have the option of working a sign and trade deal for Turner, and considering the somewhat desperate state that the Packers, Titans, and Bills find themselves in, it would not be surprising if a deal was consummated for less than the 1st and 3rd compensation. (The Bills do have an extra 3rd rounder this year from the McGahee deal. Would that be enough?)
Thus far it would seem that the only solution available on the veteran market would be Turner, with perhaps Dillon in a platoon situation coming second. This of course, leads us into the great unknown, namely to the draft. For starters, there seems to only be one prospect that would no doubt be able to step in and start next year: Adrian Peterson. He is an absolute stud, possessing the kind of combination of size, speed, and instincts that any team would crave. Beyond Peterson only Marshawn Lynch has established himself as a sure first round pick. Lynch is a tough runner who could probably contribute in his rookie season if coupled with a complimentary back to share the rushing responsibilities. The wild card though, is Louisville product Michael Bush. Take away his broken leg from last season, and he is a lock for the top 15. Bush is a hulking back with good speed, and showed an ability to catch a few out of the backfield. He also has good football instincts, considering the fact that in his high school days he was considered the second best QUARTERBACK in the state of Kentucky next to Brian Brohm. Where he lands depends on team's perception of his leg injury, but Bush has the potential to be an eventual starter in the NFL, sooner rather than later. Now, looking at the three RBless teams, Buffalo has the 12th pick, Green Bay the 16th, and Tennessee the 19th. Ideally one of these teams would pick up Peterson and another would pick up Lynch, but that may well be out of their hands at this point. In fact, the entire solution to these three team's RB problem lies squarely in the hands of...Phil Savage. Who? The Browns GM, that is who. With the third pick in the draft the Browns have seemingly two options. Either they can take Brady Quinn to replace the ineffective Charlie Frye, or they can take Peterson since Jamal Lewis only seems to be a stopgap solution at RB this season. If Cleveland does not take Peterson he could go on a needs based nose dive much like Aaron Rodgers did two drafts ago. The teams drafting between Cleveland and Buffalo are Tampa (Cadillac), Arizona (Edge), Washington (Portis and Betts), Minnesota (Chester Taylor), Atlanta (Dunn and Norwood), Miami (Ronnie Brown), Houston (Ahman Green), and San Fran (Frank Gore). Every single one of those teams has a recently acquired back with a long term deal. Translation: They are most probably not going to touch Peterson with a 10 foot pole. Now, what this should mean for Cleveland is that if they really have their mind set on Peterson they should trade down to a team like the Redskins or Falcons that has expressed interest in Calvin Johnson, and then still grab Peterson plus additional picks. The Browns aren't that smart though, and to be honest I do not seem them passing on Quinn if he is available.
Assuming the Browns do not take Peterson, a number of things could happen. Green Bay could try to trade up ahead of Buffalo to get Peterson, leaving the Bills with Lynch, or the Packers could stand pat and take Lynch themselves at 16. Staying put would of course leave the Packers open to having the Titans jump ahead of them for Lynch. So how is this all going to play out? I think in the end the Packers are going to get Lynch and pair him with Morency to create a nice contrasting duo. The Bills will get Peterson, and give him the lion's share of the carries in his first season. Ahh yes, the Titans. I had almost forgotten about them in all of this. They seem most likely to acquire a vet (especially since drafting a back would be throwing last year's mistake on LenDale back in their face), either Dillon or Turner through a trade. I don't see San Diego blowing the opportunity to extract value out of Turner, so look for the Titans to make a sign and trade deal for him leading up to the draft. And there my friends, are how the final three horses on this carousel are going to be filled.