Thursday, April 28, 2011

NFL Draft Preview: If I Were the Redskins...

I tell ya, there’s nothing like the NFL draft. It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience, but it is a joyous thing to behold at the end of every April. I can even remember a time when I was in 8th grade when I had to do a report on a sporting event and convinced my teacher to let me do a report on the NFL draft. I believe it was the year the Patriots took Drew Bledsoe number one. As part of that report, I listed out every draft pick…no copy/paste back in those days! Sufficed to say, I enjoy the draft. Even as an adult, I think that if I were given the opportunity to sit in a draft war room I’d take it in a heartbeat.

As a Redskins fan though, it has been hard to watch over the years because the picks have been few and far between.

With no collective bargaining agreement in place NFL fans all over have had to wait a few extra weeks for their hope springs eternal moments, but with the draft just a few short days away, and the schedule release behind us, we’re all about to get a little more optimistic. NOTE: Since I first wrote this, the NFL lockout has been lifted and it is possible that we'll see some player trades at the draft.

This year, the Redskins pick 10, 41, 144, 155, 177, 213, 224, 253 respectively. They lost their 3rd rounder in a trade with the Saints for Jamaal Brown, who ended up being a tomato can, and lost their 4th round pick (and a 2nd last year) for Donovan McNabb, who also ended up being a bit of a tomato can.

With so many needs and only two picks in the top 100 going in, it’s going to be difficult for the Redskins to make marked progress just through this draft, but progress can be made. The identified needs (in no particular order) are: OL, DL, WR, QB, RB, CB, LB (sheesh, maybe I should put new team…the lockout scabs aren’t looking too bad right now.)

Because of the McNabb gaffe, many draft experts have speculated that the Redskins will take a QB. They’ve been linked to all of them in one way or another. Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert will be gone by the time the Redskins pick at 10, so any QB taken beyond those two in the top 10 would have to be considered a reach. The potential QB candidates at 10 are Jake Locker (Washington), Ryan Mallet (Arkansas), and Andy Dalton (TCU). Of the three remaining players at QB, Dalton is the safest pick and Locker probably has the most upside. IF, the Redskins picked a QB and Gabbert wasn’t there, I would take Andy Dalton. Whether he plays next season or three seasons from now, he won’t make very many mistakes and can be a guy that could manage the offense until he reached a point where you needed him to make plays and by that point (hopefully) you’ve added some weapons. Having said all of that, I don’t think QB should be the pick at 10 or 41. More on this later…

At 6-10 and with the current roster and no perspective on what free agents will be coming to town, I think the 2011 draft needs to be approached in total rebuilding mode. To me, that means you build from the inside out with the offensive and defensive lines , then linebackers or defensive backs, then the skill positions and hope that you manage to pull two full-time starters for the next 5-10 years at 10 and 41.

So, who does that leave for the Redskins to draft?

Let’s do a quick Mock and see who might be available:

1) CAR – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
2) DEN – Marcel Darius, DT, Alabama
3) BUF – Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
4) CIN – AJ Green, WR, Georgia
5) ARI – Bliane Gabbert, QB, Missouri
6) CLE – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
7) SF – Robert Quinn, LB UNC
8) TEN – Nick Fairly, DT Auburn
9) DAL – Tyron Smith, OT USC

I don’t necessarily think that the above players will go to the teams in this specific order, but I do think that this crop of players is the most likely to be off the board. So, given this group, here are some players that might be available for the Redskins to pick:

Jake Locker, QB Washington
Andy Dalton, QB TCU
Prince Amukamra, CB Nebraska
Julio Jones, WR Alabama
JJ Watt, DE Wisconsin
Da’Quan Bowers, DE Clemson
Cameron Jordan, DE CAL
Mike Pouncy, OT Florida

Of the listed options above, I’d go for Watt, Jordan, Amukamara, and Pouncy in that order. Either Watt or Jordan would give the Redskins a young 3-4 end that they desperately need and in Jordan’s case, he is fast rising up draft boards. Prince Amukamara would give them a young shutdown corner to play opposite DeAngelo Hall that would help mitigate the eventual loss of Carlos (board hands) Rogers. Pouncy would be a reach at 10, but if you cannot find a partner to trade down and you like a player enough, 10 is a spot where you could reach for a guy like Pouncy, who can play at either Guard or Center next season.

Bowers has a lot of upside but also has a dangerous injury history to be concerned about and Julio Jones is a luxury pick that the Redskins cannot afford to make right now. Build from the inside out, draft pass rushers, offensive lineman or corners, that’s going to help you compete in the NFC East.

My personal belief is that their best option is to trade down from 10. An ideal partner would be New England because they have picks to spare, but they didn’t acquire three extra picks in the top 100 by making bad trades, so it would be interesting to see what kind of offer New England came with, if any. If the Redskins let it be known that they were out of the QB business, a team like Miami or Minnesota could move up. If Julio Jones was still there, St. Louis or Atlanta could move up with Washington. Finally, if Prince Amukamara is still there and the Redskins aren’t enamored with him, there are plenty of teams that are and could make a play for him, Detroit at 13 being one of them. I hope that they move down, but if they are forced to pick, one of the four aforementioned players would be the smart way to go as they try to truly rebuild this team and not put band aids on fractures.
At 41 you can again move down and acquire picks, or, stay where you are and take the best player available, which could be an OL or DL that was a projected first round pick like Phil Taylor from Baylor or a LB like Akeem Ayers from UCLA. Go get a starter, you don’t *need* a QB!

Do I think that Rex Grossman or John Beck will be the answer at QB here in Washington? No, not necessarily, but what I do believe is that if you’re the Redskins, you have to do what you failed to do last year…you have to either say “we’re rebuilding,” or, you have to say “we want to win right now!” Last year was a mixed signal. This year, they cannot afford to make that same mistake.
So here are my predictions:

If they stay at 10: Pick I would like to see: JJ Watt or Cameron Jordan

If they stay at 10: Pick I think we will see Julio Jones, Jake Locker, or Andy Dalton

Best case scenario: Trading down with New England and acquiring the 17th pick and some combo of picks in the 2nd and 3rd round.

Should be fun!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cinderella, Kindly Return Your Slipper

“If the glass slipper don’t fit, it means Butler played like Sh…(hey now, this is a family blog!)

Well, the magical run of the Butler Bulldogs came to an end on Monday night in Houston. In what was one of the worst if not the worst national championship games ever played in the history of college basketball, Butler fell to the somewhat mighty UCONN Huskies. Anyone expecting Jimmy Chitwood of Hoosiers fame to come out and lead the small school team from Indiana to a victory over one of the big boys didn’t get to witness that, and really did not get to witness a good basketball game at all. And so, with the Connecticut win, my bracket sailed off into the sunset (trashcan) leaving me just a few points shy of a good-sized pay day.

I can definitely empathize with what Butler is going through. Like getting back to the national title game, getting back to first place in a bracket challenge is extremely difficult…particularly when the pool doubles in size and some folks enter more than one bracket. And yet there I was on Monday night looking to be a back-to-back bracket champion and to once again experience my one shining moment…but it was not to be. Throw out any Cinderella cliché you can think of here…the glass slipper did not fit, the carriage turned into a pumpkin, the clock struck midnight…really, any of those will work. Another good one I heard a while back is comparing it to the Jedi in Star Wars waiting for Obi-Won Kanobe to show up and save the day and when he gets there he’s drunk or hung over, stumbles around, robe flies open and he’s got nothing on underneath…you know a real disappointing finish when the expectations are so high.

When it was all over, I tried to console myself by saying “well, the money was never mine to begin with.” But darned if there wasn’t some iPad2 in some factory somewhere waiting for me to bring it home and give it a family with hours and hours of angry-bird play. Now I might have to spend my own money on one, which certainly does not warm the heart!
Back to basketball…

Watching Butler completely fall apart has made me wonder if the glass slipper will ever truly fit on a Cinderella team. Year after year we see teams make a run to the final four only to lose to a big and powerful school. We’ve seen it now with George Mason, Northern Iowa, VCU, and countless others. They’re good enough to win a few games, but fall short when it really counts. Do I think Connecticut was so vastly superior to Butler? No, I don’t. In fact, the Huskies were completely gassed at the end of the Kentucky game and had Kentucky not taken a series of bone-headed shots, we may have seen an entirely different outcome. But the point remains, year after year the big dogs fall and the little man rises up and year after year when it comes right down to it, David’s sling shot doesn’t come close to hitting Goliath and more often than not, Goliath walks out steps on David and goes about his business. It makes for an exciting few weeks of college basketball, but when you get right down to the final four, coaching and talent takeover and the big name teams almost always prevail. Even as I think back to the incredible run Utah made to the title game in 1998, taking a 12 point lead over Kentucky into the half and having a few eventual NBA players on its roster, the Utes just could not get it done.

The interesting thing here is that I think that years like this will be the rule, not the exception. In a one and done format, you’re more likely to see a team get hot like VCU did or ride a superstar like Kemba Walker (though he was not the best on his team during the title game and might have not been the second best either) carry a team all the way. The fact that all four number 1 seeds have made it to the final four just once is very telling.

And so ends another college basketball season. College basketball is funny because when it starts you don’t realize it until sometime in January usually and when it is over you feel kind of like “hey, I was just getting into this…!” And so we wait until next year when the brackets are printed and a whole new cast of characters creates their own shining moments, leaving us to rip our brackets into shreds once again.