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Monday, March 21, 2011

March Madness: Thoughts after the third round

Well, it's time for the Sweet Sixteen, and the tournament has been it's normal, crazy self.  I have a few thoughts and questions to share, other than the yearly reminder that I am absolutely brutal at picking a bracket.

Well, here we go.

1. I don't care how good a conference is, or looks like it is, having any conference get more than half it's members into the Big Dance is rediculous, wrong, unfair, and in this case....undeserved. 

The big East had had 23.5% of the teams in the tournament.

They have 12.5% of the Sweet Sixteen, and which teams are they?  Their tournament champ, and Marquette who only got in by having the good luck to play another Big East team.  I say luck because any underdog is going to have a better chance by playing a team that they know.

Yes, the Big East is a good conference, it was the deepest this year, and there was not all that much separation between the teams.  That said, that is the case all over, and the top of their conference was not better than the top of the others.  It was in fact, worse, as has been shown in the tournament.  Most of the Big East teams do not play great defense this year.  They have been exposed in the tournament.

2. How many times do we have to see the teams who come out of the high mid-major conferences beat teams from the "Power" conferences, before those leagues start to get more love.  For example, let's look at the Colonial and the Missouri Valley which have a history of making noise in the tournament.  We will have to stretch this to the NIT as the top 2 teams in the Valley did not get invites.

George Mason: Round of 32
VCU: Sweet 16 and still playing
Old Dominion: Round of 64
Indiana State: Round of 64
Wichita State: Beat Nebraska by 20+ and won at Va. Tech.
Missouri State: Beat Murray State, play Miami (FL) tonight

If you exclude Indiana State which upset Missouri State in the MVC tournament to get their league's automatic bid, this looks even better.  Regardless 4 of 6 teams winning is impressive, including 5 wins over "Power" conference teams combined.  These should not be 1 bid conferences.  Yes, the worst team in a power conferenc team is probably better than the worst team in these, but the top of the leagues are much closer to equal than people like to admit.  It shows every year in the tournament.  These are leagues where players are developed and the teams at the top of the conference tend to cycle, but their athletes are just as good, their coaches are just as good, and they should get more bids. 

Proof, you want proof?

George Mason over Villanova
VCU over Purdue
VCU over Georgetown
Wichita State over Va. Tech at Va. Tech

and that's just this year, and just these 2 leagues.  Then, if you consider the Horizon League with Butler to lead it and the West Coast Conference with Gonzaga and Saint Mary's and soon to be BYU.  These are not the Sister's of the poor.  These boys can play ball.

3. Coaching and experience, especially at guard, are more important than raw talent.  It is not an accident that you see 2 common threads in the teams that succeed in this tournament.

X-Coaches who you see regularly succeed in tournaments.  They are not a fluke.  Some coaches are smarter than other coaches, and some styles of play lend themselves to tournmanet success. 

There are a number of systems that do this, but you can see them every year.  Deep, well conditiioned, Benches like what John Calipari and Billy Donovan like to do.  Pace control like what Bobby Knight did and John Calhoun still does will also work.  Or even, the rare and unique one, that like Boeheim's use of the Zone defense.  The Zone has it's weaknesses, but it does preserve energy on the defensive end, and keep players out of foul trouble.  The coaches who can find a way to have their players fresher, longer, are probably going to win.

O-Veteran players, especially point guards, make a huge difference.  An example of this is VCU.  Joey Rodriguez has been through wars and will not be surprised by anything he sees.  He has made the game so easy on the offensive end by slicing up opposing defenses. 





Ok, well thanks for taking the time to listen to my theories, back rooting for the underdogs.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft Version 1

FIRST ROUND

Pick 1: Panthers
Da'Quan Bowers: The Panthers only areas of relative strength is running back.  Every other position could stand to have an upgrade.  To be fair, that is largely because many of the positions are in pairs. That said, they would be best served by taking the best available all through the draft.  The top player on my board is Da'Quan Bowers.  There are some that are concerned that he didn't dominate early like he was expected to do, but he looks to have matured and was the best pass rusher in the country this year.  He has the size and athletic ability to play in any style of defensive front and has a chance to replace some of what the panthers lost when Julius Peppers moved north.

Pick 2: Broncos
Marcell Dareus: There are a lot of unknowns in Denver.  They were in the middle of a rebuild and get to start over with John Fox coming to town.  One of the unknowns is what defense they will be running.  It is expected that they will switch to a 4-3, and this is a great draft to do that.  Marcell is the top 4-3 Defensive Tackle in this draft and has the potential to be a star.  He will be an immediate upgrade and should be able to pair well with the outside rushers that Denver already has in place.  Solidifying their front on defense would go along way to bringing them back to the accustomed spot near the top of the AFC.

Pick 3: Bills
Gabe Carimi: Two full seasons ago, the Bills lost Jason Peters to the Eagles, and they have yet to replace him.  They have made some nice moves along their offensive line, but you have to have quality tackles to survive, especially in a division full of 3-4 defenses predicated on pressuring the edge.  Gabe Carimi was the best Offensive Tackle in college football last year and should start from day one.  He may start on the right and transition, depending on the team he goes to, but would likely have his pick in Buffalo.

Pick 4: Bengals
Blaine Gabbert: Gabbert can thank Carson Palmer for this choice.  With Palmer demanding to get out of Cincy, they need to look at QB right now.  There are questions about how ready for the league Blaine Gabbert is, but he is accurate, athletic, and has a cannon of an arm.  The only concerns come from his running a unique version of the spread in college, that used a lot of odd formations and rarely had him under center.  The upside to the system is that it is not a "one-read" system like the one that Cam Newton is coming out of.  The Bengals have been loading up on talent that came from spread offenses at the skill positions, and Gabbert can distribute the ball.  He is neck and neck with Mallett for having the best arm in this draft.  Definitely a need pick for the Bengals, but there could be a lot of value if he can make the transition.

Pick 5: Cardinals
Patrick Peterson: Everyone knows that the cardinals need a QB, but I don't see them wanting to go with another rookie.  They have a team in place that can be a playoff contender right now if they can get a QB who can throw more TD's than interceptions.  I expect them to make a move for either Palmer or Kolb as soon as this CBA mess is figured out.  So, after QB, they need lineman on both sides, a pass rusher, and another corner.  Patrick Peterson, teams with DRC gives them a pair of big, athletic corners which would also make that pass rush look a little big better.  It's a value pick that happens to fill a void on their team.  There is a pretty big group of people who things that Peterson might be the best player in this draft, and getting him at 5 and setting up a potentially dynamic defensive backfield is too good to pass up.

Pick 6: Browns
Julio Jones: Colt McCoy showed himself to be an NFL ready player in his rookie year.  He is athletic, smart, and has a better arm than he was given credit for.  He has all that, a solid rushing attack behind him, and a winner's mentality.  What he does not have is a premium talent at an outside receiver position to throw the ball too.  Julio Jones passed AJ Green on my big board after running hurt at the combine and putting down a blister sub 4.4 time.  He is a beast who will block well for the Browns power rushing attack and will fight for the ball when it's his turn to show out.  He and McCoy could be the kind of QB/Receiver tandem that is rare in today's game in that they are coming into the league together and could be special.

Pick 7: 49ers
Prince Amukamura: The Niners have a great, young, front 7.  Yet, their defense got blistered last year.  Why?  Well, Shawntae Spencer and Nate Clements are not near a pair of premier corners.  Amukamura is the more polished of the two top corners in this draft and can start from day one.  If I am the Niners, the thought of Clements as my #2 corner is a happy thought with the pressure they will be able to bring up front.  Some will wonder why not a QB, but I expect for there to be a good QB option available in the second or third rounds which will what Harbaugh is going to want to do on offense.

Pick 8: Titans
Cam Newton: Tennessee ownership loves the dual-threat QB, and Newton is the best we have seen since.....well since the last dual-threat QB that the Titans drafted.  Let's not fool ourselves, the coaching staff is not in charge in Tennessee.  That aside, Newton is a nice value at this spot and running the ball with him and Chris Johnson in the same backfield could make this a very dynamic offense.  If he can be accurate with his deep throws, it could work very, very well.

Pick 9: Cowboys
Nate Solder: A need pick here, but everyone saw what happened last year when the Cowboys tried to go through the season with a journeyman at one of the tackle spots.  Solder is a polished pass blocker who is still getting stronger.  The Boys could plug him in opposite Doug Free and a lot of their offensive issues will be fixed.  He is being drafted above value here, but he is a nice player and it's a HUGE need.

Pick 10: Redskins
Stephen Paea:  WHO????, yeah, I know that's what you are all saying.  This kid set the record for the bench press at the combine, and is the best Nose Tackle in this draft.  With Fat Al getting himself booted out of DC, the Redskins need someone to fill the middle so their talented linebackers can run free.  Paea is the just what the doctor ordered.

Pick 11: Texans
Nick Fairley: The Texans just keep drafted for defense, but they keep missing along the line.  Fairley will give him the flexibility to change defensive fronts.  He is a nice 4-3 DT who is athletic enough to move outside in the 3-4.  He's not quite Marcell Dareus, but as everyone who saw the Auburn Tigers last year, that says more about Dareus than it does Fairley.  Putting him on a line with Mario Williams and Amebi Okoye will be too tempting to pass up.

Pick 12: Vikings
Rodney Hudson: A guard in the first round is getting to be a regular trend huh.  Well, Hudson is regarded as the best Offensive Lineman to ever play at Florida State.  Take some time and think about that.  There are NFL hall of fame tackles who played there.  The Vikings Offensive Line got old fast in the middle and if they are going to lean on Adrian Peterson, they need to fix that right now.  Hudson fixes that. 

Pick 13: Lions
Tyron Smith: The Lions made big strides last year with their second quality draft in a row.  What they have not addressed yet, however, is Matthew Stafford's blind side.  Tyron Smith should be able to start for them for a lot of years.  He was a top recruit to USC and played in a pro style offense with great success.  If the Lions can keep their QB's on the field throwing the Calvin Johnson, it's can't do anything but help right?

Pick 14: Rams
A.J. Green: Sam Bradford was everything that the Rams hoped he would be as a rookie.  The problem was that they could not keep their wide receivers on the field.  He ended up winning the division for them with journeymen catching the ball.  A.J. Green is an NFL ready receiver and will their best receiver by the end of his rookie year.  Much like the Brown, pairing an SEC receiver with a Big 12 Quarterback should prove to be great match.

Pick 15: Dolphins
Von Miller: This team is all about Bill Parcells, and that means they are going to build the best 3-4 defense that they can and come hard off the edge to get you with various combinations of coverage behind it.  That means they need a stud coming off the edge, and Von Miller is a freak of nature and a hell of a pass rusher.  He's not LT, but with hard work he could easily be a double digit sack guy for a good number of years.  For those who think the Dolphins should draft a running back, because they would have to resign Ricky and Ronnie, I ask this: Why would they let them both go?  Hell, why would they let either of them go.  Miller is the pick here

Pick 16: Jaguars
Adrian Clayborn: The Jaguars are a decent team, they have some very nice pieces.  One of the pieces they don't have is a great pass rusher.  Clayborn was not double-teamed on every passing down all season long for no reason.  He is a workhorse with ability and should fit perfect in Jacksonville.

Pick 17: Patriots
Marvin Austin: The Pats have been riding their studs on their D-Line for the better part of the last decade.  Now Seymour is gone, and the others are aging quickly.  Marvin Austin would have been a top 10 pick if he had stayed out of trouble, and is perfect for DE/outside DT in a 3-4.  He is strong at the point of attack and is a legitimate pass rushing threat.  I will be very upset if he is indeed a Patriot.  For those who are concerned about his off the field trouble, remember this, getting paid to play is legal in the NFL.

Pick 18: Chargers
Muhammed Wilkerson: There are not very many quality Nose Tackles in this draft, but Wilkerson is one.  There is a group out there who thinks he is the best of the bunch, but playing at Temple didn't get him a lot of match ups against top level talent, so it's difficult to judge how good he really is.  What we do know is how big and strong he is.  He has a chance to be an anchor for the Bolts for the next decade, which is huge for their 3-4.

Pick 19: Giants
Martrez Wilson: The Giants need linebackers.  At this point, Wilson is the best on the board.  He played inside in college and is the top overall MLB on my board.  On top of that, he is considered athletic enough to play on the outside if needed.  He would be a great get for the Giants, giving them a top talent at a need position.

Pick 20: Buccaneers
Michael Pouncey: The Bucs are a nice young team, the best young team in the league last  year.  The inside of their O-line is not young though and neither is their best corner. What it comes down to here, is the best available at those need positions, is Michael Pouncey.  He is better are guard, but has played center and may be able to progress there if needed.  That gives the team that drafts him the chance to upgrade at any of those 3 positions with a premium O-Line talent.

Pick 21: Chiefs
Greg Jones: Jones has been one of the most consistent players in College Football over the last few years.  He is a big hitter who knows who to play his position, and who played in one of the big conferences.  He is a leader and could step in beside Derrick Johnson from day one, giving the Chiefs a great pair of young ILB's for their version of the 3-4.

Pick 22: Colts
Derek Sherrod: The Colts line is starting to show it's age.  They need an influx up talent on that line right now so that the team will be able to help Peyton out a bit more.  Right now, it is his quick decision making that keeps them moving.  They can't run the ball, and they can't block premier rushers.  Just imagine what Peyton could do with a little more time.  Sherrod was a stud in the SEC, Peyton will be jumping for joy to have him in the huddle.

Pick 23: Eagles
Chimdi Chekwa: Chimdi has great speed and is very aggressive in pass coverage.  His style of pass coverage is exactly how the Eagles play their corners.  They gamble for the big play and it works because of the pressure up front.  Give them a second corner, one with sub 4.4 speed, and their defense will be a disruptive force again.

Pick 24: Saints
Kyle Rudolph: The Saints need weapons at all positions for their system to work.  With Jeremy Shockey leaving town, they will be happy to see Rudolph on the board.  The highest rated TE, this all-around talent might be an upgrade for the NOLA boys.

Pick 25: Seahawks
Ryan Mallett: Matt Hasselbeck has been doing it a long time.  He showed 3 things last year.  First, he can still do it when he is healthy.  Second, he can do it with the guys that Seattle has on hand.  Third, he is old and will very rarely be healthy.  That tells me that now is the time to bring in your next QB.  Let him learn from a QB who can still do it and who will likely naturally give some snaps as the next couple seasons go.  Ryan Mallett is the bet pure, Pro-Style, passer in this draft.  He should fit Pete Carroll's offense to a T coming out of Bobby Petrino's version of it.

Pick 26: Ravens
Brandon Harris: The Ravens need corners bad, and they love having hurricanes on the roster.  Brandon Harris was a bright spot on a bad team last year.  He is just what the doctor ordered in Baltimore, and will be an immediate upgrade on the edge.

Pick 27: Falcons
Robert Quinn: Quinn can play all for outside positions, regardless of the front that you are using.  He is a very athletic D-End, and with Abraham aging and approaching the end of his run, the Falcons need a guy like Quinn right now.

Pick 28: Patriots
Mark Ingram: The Patriots are in position to take the best player on the board here, and Ingram is it.  A Heisman trophy winner, and a winner overall, he's a team player who can do everything.  If that doesn't sound like a Patriot, I don't know what does.

Pick 29: Bears
Leonard Hankerson: Hankerson is the receiver that scared every team that Miami played.  His value was undersold by the poor play of his quarterbacks, but this is a guy with great hands, great routes, and sub 4.5 speed.  He could be a little bigger, but you don't nit pick on a guy who can get open whenever he wants to.  He is a true receiver, not a project, and the first of those that Da Bears have drafted in several years.

Pick 30: Jets
Aldon Smith: Smith exploded on the seen as one of the premier outside linebacker talents in the country last year.  He is a disruptive force who lived in the opponents backfield.  He is a plug and play piece for the Jets defense whether it is a 4-6 or a 3-4, or a 4-3.  He has the talent to play in all of them, and flexibility to do it too.

Pick 31: Steelers
Rahim Moore: Rahim Moore is a free safety with a great break and ball skills.  He emulates Ed Reed.  While there is not another Ed Reed, Moore does a fair imitation.  The Steelers got beat deep after Troy P. went down for awhile last year.  An upgrade at safety will give them great depth and protect against that.

Pick 32: Packers
Tim Barnes: This is not a sexy pick, but let's be real here.  How many needs can the SuperBowl champ have?  Well, the Packers have depth issue along their Offensive Line.  Barnes is the best pure center in this draft, and he played in a shotgun system which will allow him to transition easily to the Packers system.  Additionally, his size will allow him to help at both Guard spots as needed too.  This is an insurance pick.

 
SECOND ROUND

Pick 33: Patriots

Ahmad Black FS

Pick 34: Bills
Cameron Heyward DE

Pick 35: Bengals
Quinton Carter S

Pick 36: Broncos
D.J. Williams TE

Pick 37: Browns
Camerson Jordan: DE

Pick 38: Cardinals
Christian Ponder: QB

Pick 39: Titans
Corey Liuget: DT

Pick 40: Cowboys
Ras-I Dowling: CB

Pick 41: Redskins
Colin Kaepernick: QB

Pick 42:Texans
Jake Kirkpatrick: C

Pick 43: Vikings
Aaron Williams: CB

Pick 44: Lions
Stefen Wisniewski: G

Pick 45: 49ers
Jake Locker: QB

Pick 46: Broncos
Brandon Fusco: OL

Pick 47: Rams
Justin Houston: OLB

Pick 48: Raiders
Jon Baldwin: WR

Pick 49: Jaguars
Mikel LeShoure: RB

Pick 50: Chargers
Bruce Carter: LB

Pick 51: Buccaneers
Markus White: DE

Pick 52: Giants
Anthony Castonzo: OT

Pick 53: Seahawks
Lee Ziemba: OL

Pick 54: Packers
Nate Irving: ILB

Pick 55: Chiefs
Phillip Taylor: NT

Pick 56: Colts
Quan Studivant: LB

Pick 57: Eagles
Mason Foster: OLB

Pick 58: Saints
J.J. Watt: DE

Pick 59: Jets
Sam Acho: DE/OLB

Pick 60: Ravens
Daniel Thomas: RB

Pick 61: Bears
DeMarcus Love: OT

Pick 62: Steelers
James Carpenter: OT

Pick 63: Falcons
Jerrel Jernigan: WR

Pick 64: Patriots
John Moffitt: C