Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2011 Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training Preview

The 2011 Milwaukee Brewers enter spring training with at least 55 players in contention for 25 roster spots. Lots of things can change between now and when the Brewers open their 2011 campaign on Thursday, March 31, 2011 against the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ballpark. Absent injury, 20 roster spots are virtually locked down leaving five available roster spots. Below you will find a quick analysis of the Brewers’ spring training roster along with my spring training predictions of which players will make the opening day roster.

- Guaranteed: Jonathan Lucroy
- Borderline: George Kottaras and Wil Nieves
- Long-shot: Anderson De La Rosa, Martin Maldonado, Shawn Riggans, and Mike Rivera

Cheesehead Sports Nut's Prediction: Last year the Brewers entered camp with the carcass of Gregg Zaun as the starting catcher. Luckily this year the Brewers enter with Jonathan Lucroy as their starting catcher, a better younger catcher than Zaun. My prediction is that the Brewers keep Lucroy and Kottaras.

- Guaranteed: Yuniesky Betancourt (SS), Craig Counsell (INF), Prince Fielder (1B), Casey McGehee (3B), and Rickie Weeks (2B)
- Borderline: Erick Almonte (1B/SS), Luis Cruz (SS), and Mat Gamel (3B)
- Long-shot: Eric Farris (2B), Edwin Maysonet (2B/SS), and Zelous Wheeler (SS/3B)

Cheesehead Sports Nut's Prediction: Every year Mat Gamel enters spring training as the “next big thing” to graduate from the farm system. Every year less than a week into spring training Gamel takes those expectations and shoves them right down the toilet adjacent to the training room where he spends most of his time. I am not letting Gamel suck me in this year so my prediction is that the Brewers only keep five infielders: Betancourt, Counsell, Fielder, McGehee, and Weeks.

- Guaranteed: Ryan Braun (LF), Carlos Gomez (CF), Corey Hart (RF), and Mark Kotsay (1B/OF)
- Borderline: Brandon Boggs (CF/RF), Chris Dickerson (OF), and Jeremy Reed (CF)
- Long-shot: Caleb Gindl (OF) and Logan Schafer (CF)

Cheesehead Sports Nut's Prediction: The outfield looks set with Braun in left, Gomez in center, and Hart in right. Kotsay wouldn’t have signed without guarantees of making the roster so barring a calamity by Gomez or Kotsay, it looks like there is one spot up for grabs between Boggs, Dickerson, and Reed. My prediction is that the Brewers keep: Boggs, Braun, Gomez, Hart, and Kotsay.

Starting Pitching:
- Guaranteed: Yovani Gallardo (R), Zack Greinke (R), Shaun Marcum (R), Chris Narveson (L), and Randy Wolf (L)
- Borderline: Mark Rogers (R)
- Long-shot: Marco Estrada (R), Amaury Rivas (R), Cody Scarpetta (R)

Cheesehead Sports Nut's Prediction: What a difference a year makes? In 2010 the Brewers started spring training with a six horse race for five starting spots between: Dave Bush, Doug Davis, Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan, and Randy Wolf. In 2011, barring injury, the starting rotation will be: Gallardo, Greinke, Marcum, Narverson, and Wolf. As a result my prediction is that the Brewers will keep Gallardo, Greinke, Marcum, Narverson, and Wolf.

Relief Pitching:
- Guaranteed: John Axford (R), Zach Braddock (L), LaTroy Hawkins (R), Kameron Loe (R), and Takashi Saito (R)
- Borderline: Sean Green (R), Manny Parra (L), and Mitch Stetter (L)
- Long-shot: Mark DiFelice (R), Tim Dillard (R), Pat Egan (R), Robert Hinton (R), Justin James (R), Brandon Kintzler (R), Mike McClendon (R), Roque Mercedes (R), Dan Merklinger (L), Wily Peralta (R), and Zack Segovia (R)

Cheesehead Sports Nut's Prediction: With the money some guys are getting paid (Hawkins and Saito) they are guaranteed a bullpen spot if healthy. Besides that, the Brewers have three really young promising arms (Axford, Braddock, and Loe) that look to form the back end of their bullpen. The wildcards are Parra and Stetter because both have been so up and down. My prediction is that the Brewers keep eight relief pitchers: Axford, Braddock, Green, Hawkins, Loe, Parra, Saito, and Stetter.

Opening Day Lineup:
1. Rickie Weeks (2B)
2. Carlos Gomez (CF)
3. Ryan Braun (LF)
4. Prince Fielder (1B)
5. Casey McGehee (3B)
6. Corey Hart (RF)
7. Yuniesky Betancourt (SS)
8. Jonathan Lucroy (C)
9. Zack Greinke (R)

Starting Rotation:
1. Zack Greinke (R)
2. Yovani Gallardo (R)
3. Randy Wolf (L)
4. Shaun Marcum (R)
5. Chris Narveson (L)

1. John Axford (R)
2. LaTroy Hawkins (R)
3. Kameron Loe (R)

Check back for more Brewers coverage throughout spring training.

2011 NBA Trade Deadline Advice for John Hammond

I hope that you enjoyed the 2011 NBA All-Star Weekend where the only Milwaukee Bucks participant was point guard Brandon Jennings in the Rookie/Sophomore Game. As evidenced by the lack of Milwaukee Bucks representation in the 2011 NBA All-Star Weekend festivities, the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks' season is looking like a lost season. Will a John Salmons type trade jump-start the season? Probably not but like I said last year in my possible Milwaukee Bucks trade deadline deals post, Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond has shown that he is not afraid to make bold moves, which is why only three players remain from the roster that Hammond inherited in April of 2008: Andrew Bogut, Ersan Ilyasova, and Michael Redd.

Unfortunately for how well Hammond did wheeling-and-dealing through the end of last season, all of his moves since have been downright horrible. If you want digital evidence, I questioned each one of Hammond's off-season moves:
- Corey Maggette trade
- Drew Gooden and John Salmons signings
- Milwaukee Bucks' 2010 NBA Draft

As the 2011 NBA Trade Deadline (Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 2 pm CST) approaches, a quick look at the Milwaukee Bucks roster shows that they have very few assets to trade:

Virtually Untradeable:
- Corey Maggette (SF): Earns $9.6 million this year, $10.3 million next year, and $10.9 million in 2012-13. That is a ton of money to pay a bad chemistry guy.
- John Salmons (SG): Injuries claimed most of Salmons' season so far. The Bucks are on the hook for a ton of money to Salmons through at least the 2013-14 season. Hopefully Salmons can revert back to his 2009-10 form for the rest of his contract. Otherwise, the Bucks will have a ton of money committed to an injury prone shooting guard and the sad part is the last sentence was not even about Michael Redd.
- Drew Gooden (PF): Earns $5.76 million this year, $6.2 million next year, and $6.68 million a year for 2012-13 through 2014-15. Gooden has been injured all season so not even the worst general manager in the league (Minnesota's general manager David Kahn) would consider dealing for Gooden.

Expiring Contracts:
- Michael Redd (SG): Has torn multiple knee ligaments the last two seasons and will participate in his first practice of the season this week. If that is not bad enough, Redd is the 5th highest paid player in the NBA this year earning $18.3 million.
- Earl Boykins (PG): Signed a one-year, $1.35 million deal in the off-season. Boykins earns every cent on the court since he is usually six inches shorter than the guy he is guarding.

Favorable short-term deals:
- Jon Brockman (PF): Despite being a disappointment so far, Brockman is only owed $1 million a year through the 2012-13 season. With such a favorable contract, the Bucks would have to be offered a late first round or early second round pick to make it worth their while to trade Brockman.
- Keyon Dooling (PG): Earning only $2 million this year and $2.2 million next year makes Dooling the most valuable and realistic trade option on the roster.
- Ersan Ilyasova (SF/PF): Is in the second year of a three-year, $6.96 million contract. I stand by my poor man's Dirk Nowitzki comparison for Ilyasova so there is no reason to trade Ilyasova.
- Carlos Delfino (SG/SF): Is in the second year of a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the third year of the contract only a team option. Delfino has struggle with symptoms from his concussion. Although Delfino could be a sharp shooter for a playoff bound team, his contact is too favorable for Hammond to move.

Cheap Rookie Contracts:
- Larry Sanders (PF): Sending Sanders to the NBDL for "more playing time" hurt any trade value he had. With Sanders on his rookie contract through 2014-15 the Bucks have a cheap asset that they need to hold onto.
- Chris Douglas-Roberts (SG): Is earning $850,000 this year with a $1.1 million option for the 2011-12 season. At such a cheap price, the Bucks have no reason to move CDR until the next trade deadline at the earliest.
- Luc Mbah a Moute (SF/PF): Continues to be a lock down defender with limited offensive skills in the last year of his rookie contract. As long as the asking price isn't too high there will always be a place for a player like Mbah a Moute on a Scott Skiles coached team.

Virtually Untouchable:
- Andrew Bogut (C): The Bucks built their franchise around Bogut so unless they could get a quality young player plus some draft picks, there is no way the Bucks can even entertain offers for Bogut. With Bogut's injury history there is no way a team would be willing to part a with quality young player and drafts picks though so let's just move on.
- Brandon Jennings (PG): Injuries have put a damper on Jennings' sophomore NBA season but since the Bucks have Jennings on his rookie deal through the 2013-14 NBA season there is no way the Bucks part ways with Jennings anytime soon.

As you can see, the Bucks have very few legitimate trade assets. There is virtually no way the Bucks would trade Bogut, Brockman, Delfino, Douglas-Roberts, Ilyasova, Jennings, Mbah a Moute, or Sanders because they are either on cheap contracts (Brockman, Delfino, Douglas-Roberts, Ilyasova, Mbah a Moute, and Sanders) or are a potential franchise player (Bogut and Jennings). All the other guys on the roster save for Boykins and Dooling are signed to very expensive contracts.

Despite having few trade assets, I did my best to work ESPN's Trade Machine to try and realistically improve the Milwaukee Bucks. As we all know, the Milwaukee Bucks have a hard time enticing marquee free agents to sign in Milwaukee so they will most likely have to acquire them via trades. With a core of Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut for the next handful of years, players should be happier to play in Milwaukee than they have been in a long time. Here are my 5 trade deadline deals that the Milwaukee Bucks should at least consider:

#5) The Milwaukee Bucks trade Corey Maggette (SF) to the L.A. Lakers for Ron Artest (SF), Matt Barnes (SF), and a future first round pick. Call this the whack-job-swap. All three players involved are head cases that have very little trade value. Artest is a loose cannon that is signed for a year longer at a little bit less per year than Maggette. Barnes has a $1.9 million player option for next year that he would decline because he would have no interest in playing in Milwaukee any longer than he has to. Oddly enough since Artest has lost a step, acquiring Maggette would help the Lakers on the offensive end while being a neutral trade defensively. If Artest can't get along with Bogut and Jennings then he can't get along with anyone. Odds are 1,000,000 to 1 that this trade your telling me there's a chance?

#4) The Milwaukee Bucks trade Earl Boykins (PG) and a second round draft in the 2011 NBA Draft to the Atlanta Hawks for Jordan Crawford (SG). If you clicked on the trade you will see that the Bucks are projected to lose 6 more games after the trade while the Hawks' projected record does not change. This is one of the reasons that I don't completely buy into John Hollinger's player efficiency rating (PER). How can swapping a 3rd-string point guard for a 3rd-string shooting guard have such an impact on wins and losses? Oh and why would the Atlanta Hawks even consider the trade? Boykins is a legitimate backup point guard that could provide some quality veteran minutes for the Hawks in the playoffs. Odds are 1,000 to 1 that the Atlanta Hawks would even consider this trade but I have to continue to show my hypothetical general manager love for Jordan Crawford despite the fact that Crawford is having a sub par rookie season.

#3) The Milwaukee Bucks trade Michael Redd (SG) and their first round draft pick in the 2011 NBA Draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Antawn Jameson (PF) and Ramon Sessions (PG). I guess the Cavs could justify the trade by saying they are bringing in a former Ohio State star while saving some money down the road. The Bucks essentially get a mulligan on letting Sessions go by re-acquiring him and pairing Andrew Bogut with a versatile power forward for the next year and change. If you take the odds of the two aforementioned trades and multiple them together, that is how much of a chance this trade has of coming fruition before the trade deadline. Basically I had to include one Michael Redd trade so why not send him home to the King's former palace?

#2) The Milwaukee Bucks trade Corey Maggette (SF) to the Dallas Mavericks for Caron Butler (SF). This deal is 100% about Mark Cuban being the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Cuban loves to tinker with his roster similar to how I like to tinker with my Madden video game roster. The only difference is that one happens in the real world with real life consequences while the other happens at my buddy Sug's house merely for bragging rights amongst two video game nerds. I appreciate that Cuban would rather make a move and be wrong (i.e. signing Brendan Haywood to a silly extension) than sit on his hands. This might be the only way that the Bucks can move Corey Maggette before the 2012-13 season.

#1) The Milwaukee Bucks trade Keyon Dooling (PG) to ANY playoff-bound team for a 2nd round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. With all the labor uncertainty facing the NBA, the financial landscape of the NBA could dramatically change in the next six months. Although the 2011 NBA Draft is supposed to involve very little top end talent, there looks to be quality depth at each position so second round picks become very valuable.

If you read this far I want to thank you very much for spending all that time reading my random thoughts on the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks and the potential trades that will most likely never happen before the 2011 NBA Trade Deadline. Please feel free to leave a comment or email me ( your thoughts on these trades or any other trade ideas you might have as the 2011 NBA Trade Deadline approaches.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Advice for Ted Thompson for Building the 2011 Green Bay Packers

Unless the NFL Owners and NFL Players come to a new agreement, the Collective Bargaining Agreement between both sides is set to expire on Friday, March 3, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. EST. That means that the Green Bay Packers lose their exclusive negotiating rights with their "potential" free agents at that time. In a bit of an oddity, at the exact minute the players are set to become a free agents, each team’s ability to sign those players expires as well.

Depending on what type of agreement the owners and the players reach, some of the players below might not have enough accrued service time to become free agents (i.e. James Jones) but to make things as simple as possible, players will only be considered under contract for 2011 if they actually signed a deal with the Packers as of February 16, 2011 at 11:59 PM CST*.

Here is a blueprint for how Ted Thompson should proceed before the 2011 NFL season to help the Green Bay Packers win Super Bowl XLVI:

- Under Contract for 2011: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, and Graham Harrell
- Free Agent: None
- Advice: The Packers should have locked up back-up quarterback Matt Flynn to a four-year, front-end loaded long-term deal at the start of 2010 because it was an uncapped year. Even if the Packers decided to trade Flynn, having him under contract for a few years at a cap friendly amount would make him even more enticing to other NFL teams. After playing well against the New England Patriots with Rodgers out with a concussion, a number of NFL teams took notice and Flynn likely priced himself out of Green Bay. Since the Packers didn’t lock up Flynn long-term, they need to keep Graham Harrell on the roster to see if he is worthy of backing up Rodgers in 2012 when Flynn is set to become a free agent.

Running Back:
- Under Contract for 2011: Ryan Grant, James Starks, and Dimitri Nance
- Free Agent: Brandon Jackson
- Advice: Brandon Jackson never performed like a starting running back after starting running back Ryan Grant went down for the season Week #1 against the Eagles. As a result, let Jackson leave via free agency. The Packers should draft another young running back in the 2011 NFL Draft to create an open competition between Dimitri Nance and the running back taken in the draft for the 3rd running back spot.

- Under Contract for 2011: Quinn Johnson
- Free Agent: John Kuhn and Korey Hall
- Advice: Hall showed flashes of being a starting fullback but struggled with injuries throughout his Packer career so the Packers should let Hall leave via free agency. John Kuhn is the younger version of Craig Counsell (jack-of-all trades that plays a number of positions along the infield for the Brewers) in the backfield for the Packers so the Packers should sign Kuhn to a three-year contract extension. Finally, please do not draft another fullback.

Wide Receiver:
- Under Contract for 2011: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, Brett Swain, Antonio Robinson, and Chastin West
- Free Agent: James Jones
- Advice: The new wide receiver pecking order in terms of production is Jennings, Nelson, Jones, Driver then Swain. Jones is set to become a free agent and ironically his shaky hands give the Packers a chance to bring Jones back in 2011. With Nelson set to become a free agent after 2012 and Driver getting older, the Packers need a long-term plan at wide receiver. Start by offering Jones a respectable four-year contract extension. No matter what Jones does, draft a wide receiver early in the 2011 NFL Draft. Finally, start negotiations with Nelson about a long-term contract extension.

Tight End:
- Under Contract for 2011: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, Spencer Havner, and Donald Lee
- Free Agent: None
- Advice: Finley is the presumptive starter heading into 2011 despite missing most of the 2010 season with a knee injury chasing down a defender that scooped up a Donald Lee fumble. After Finley, everyone else will have to fight to earn a roster spot. Lee is getting paid too much money to be a back-up tight end so cut Lee. Take a wait and see approach with Quarless, Crabtree, and Havner. Although it is not a position of need, if the right tight end is available in the 2011 NFL Draft, take him because the Packers use tight ends all over the field.

- Under Contract for 2011: Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, T.J. Lang, Mark Tauscher, Marshall Newhouse, and Chris Campbell
- Free Agent: None
- Advice: If healthy, Chad Clifton deserves to be the starter at left tackle in 2011. If Clifton starts at left tackle, keep Bulaga at right tackle. After that, Newhouse and Lang are still playing under their rookie contracts so they deserve to be on the team in 2011 as developmental guards/tackles. Unfortunately the odd man out is the glorious neck beard of Mark Tauscher because he is coming off another season ending injury and is owed $4.5 million in 2011. The Packers should take a quality left tackle early in the 2011 NFL Draft because Clifton is probably playing his last season in Green bay in 2011.

- Under Contract for 2011: Josh Sitton, Nick McDonald, and Adrian Battles
- Free Agent: Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz
- Advice: Sign Sitton to a long-term extension now. Barring a catastrophic injury, Sitton's asking price is only going up the more games he plays. After an up and down 2009, Daryn Colledge rebounded to play well in 2010. Colledge expects to be one of the highest paid guards in the NFL so let him leave via free agency unless he accepts a cheap, short-term extension. Much like Colledge, unless Spitz accepts a cheap one-year deal, let him leave via free agency too. Finally the Packers should draft a guard in the 2011 NFL Draft to make-up for potentially losing Colledge and Spitz.

- Under Contract for 2011: Scott Wells and Evan Dietrich-Smith
- Free Agent: None
- Advice: Evan Dietrich-Smith is not a long-term answer at center for the Packers or they would have kept him at the end of training camp. With Wells entrenched as the starter at center, the Packers need to groom their successor at center. The most likely candidates are McDonald or a future draft pick.

Defensive End:
- Under Contract for 2011: Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal, Howard Green, C.J. Wilson, Jarius Wynn, Curtis Young, and Justin Harrell
- Free Agent: Cullen Jenkins
- Advice: Jenkins played with a broken hand for the first half of 2010 and missed part of the second half of the season with a calf injury because he was playing during garbage time. I know Jenkins is 30 and suffered a few injuries but Ted Thompson should have used the uncapped year to sign Jenkins to a four-year, front-end loaded extension. Since Jenkins did not sign an extension, let him leave via free agency. With Pickett, Neal, Green, Wilson, and Wynn in the fold the Packers should cut Justin Harrell. Packer fans feel bad for Harrell on a personal level but why keep him on the roster year-after-year just to put him on injured reserve?

Defensive Tackle:
- Under Contract for 2011: B.J. Raji and Jay Ross
- Free Agent: None
- Advice: Pickett and Green can play defensive tackle in a pinch but the Packers need to add younger depth at defensive tackle via free agency or the draft to allow B.J. Raji to play fewer snaps in 2011.

Outside Linebacker:
- Under Contract for 2011: Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Frank Zombo, Brady Poppinga, Erik Walden, Robert Francois, Diyral Brigs, and Cardia Jackson
- Free Agent: None
- Advice: Fans are clamoring for the Packers to use a high draft pick on an outside linebacker to pair with Clay Matthews for the next decade. I completely disagree, there are a number of good outside linebackers on the roster. Jones, Zombo, and Walden showed flashes last year but were injured too much to get a good gauge of who is the best of the three. If the right player is available in the draft, take him, but don’t use a high draft pick on an outside linebacker.

Middle Linebacker:
- Under Contract for 2011: Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar, and Matt Wilhelm
- Free Agent: None
- Advice: I like the four-year contract extension the Packers gave Desmond Bishop because it gives the Packers perfect roster flexibility at middle linebacker. Once Barnett went down in 2010, Hawk took over as the main signal caller and performed admirably. Barnett is owed $6.05 million in 2011 and $6.55 million in 2012. Chillar is owed $2.6 million in 2011, $3.3 million in 2012, and $3.6 million in 2013. Hawk is owed $10 million in 2011, which is the final year of his rookie contract. The Packers need to sign Hawk to a five-year extension so they can stagger their middle linebacker contracts to come off the books yearly from 2012 through 2015. One final note, the four best linebackers on roster are: Matthews, Hawk, Bishop, and Barnett. Unfortunately three of them play middle linebacker. Since the Packers only play a traditional 3-4 defense on about 1/3rd of their defensive snaps allow Hawk, Bishop, and Barnett to be on the field at the same time. I say open camp with Hawk and Bishop as the starting middle linebackers. Let Chillar play as the primary back up at middle linebacker. Barnett is coming off an injury so it might be tough, but see if Barnett can play a hybrid middle linebacker/outside linebacker.

- Under Contract for 2011: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Brandon Underwood, Pat Lee, Josh Gordy, and Josh Bell
- Free Agent: None
- Advice: The Packers know that their top three cornerbacks in 2011 will be Woodson, Williams, and Shields. After that the Packers have a bunch of guys that have failed to seize their opportunities. With Underwood getting in trouble off the field, Bell and Lee getting hurt all the time, and Gordy being raw the Packers need to draft a cornerback earlier rather than later in the 2011 NFL Draft. Hopefully competition for the 4th and 5th cornerback spot will bring out the best in the lower level cornerbacks on the roster.

- Under Contract for 2011: Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Jarrett Bush, Derrick Martin, Anthony Smith, Michael Greco, and Anthony Levine.
- Free Agent: Charlie Peprah and Atari Bigby
- Advice: Charlie Peprah played great in place of injured rookie Morgan Burnett during the regular season and elevated his play in the playoffs. The Packers need to resign Peprah to a two-year contract extension. After that, the Packers need to decide whether Smith, Bigby, or Martin is worth keeping as a 5th safety behind Collins, Burnett, Peprah, and Bush. I say keep Smith but get rid of Bigby and Martin.

- Under Contract for 2011: Tim Masthay (P) and Brett Goode (LS)
- Free Agent: Mason Crosby (K)
- Advice: With Masthay and Goode signed for 2011, the Packers need to resign Crosby. Instead of creating a training camp competition for Crosby, resign him and tell him that he is the starter heading into 2011. Crosby is past competition being a source of motivation to perform better. Plus if Crosby struggles in 2011 there is always a free agent kicker available.

* = General manager Ted Thompson signed everyone that finished the season on the practice squad (Adrian Battles, Chris Campbell, Michael Greco, Cardia Jackson, Anthony Levine, Antonio Robinson, Jay Ross, Chastin West, and Curtis Young) to "futures" contracts. That basically means the Packers signed those players to their 80-man roster for the off-season and gives them a chance to make the 53-man roster.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Final Rankings of the 2010 Green Bay Packers...Super Bowl XLV Champions

The Green Bay Packers suffered a ton of season ending injuries on their way to Super Bowl XLV. Just to put in perspective how many good players the Packers lost and still won Super Bowl XLV, I ranked the 16 players the Packers placed on injured reserve through the 2010 season.

If you look at my initial rankings of the initial 53-man roster I was clearly was wrong on: C.J. Wilson, Jarrett Bush, Charlie Peprah, Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, and Tramon Williams.

If you look at my midseason rankings of the 53-man roster I was clearly wrong on: James Starks and Erik Walden.

Here are my final rankings of the 53-man roster that won Super Bowl XLV with my midseason and initial rankings in parenthesis (NR means they were not on the roster at the time of the rankings):

#53 (53, 53) - Nick McDonald (G):
With Colledge, Spitz, and Lang ahead of McDonald on the depth chart for the entire season the Packers must view McDonald as a starter at guard or center sooner rather than later or they would have cut McDonald and signed him to the practice squad. That or McDonald has pictures of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy open lip kissing.

#52 (NR, NR) - Evan Dietrich-Smith (G/C):
Thanks to 10,000 season ending injuries, Evan Dietrich-Smith became the lucky recipient of a Super Bowl ring despite being cut by the Packers earlier in the year, playing most of the 2010 season with the Seattle Seahawks then getting resigned by the Packers on New Years Eve.

#51 (50, NR) - Diyral Briggs (OLB):
With all the injuries the Packers suffered at outside linebacker, Briggs still never took any meaningful snaps for the Packers. Barring injury, Clay Matthews will be one of the starting outside linebackers for the next decade in Green Bay. Who will fill the other spot? Not Briggs because he is buried on the depth chart behind Francois, Jones, Poppinga, Walden, and Zombo.

#50 (NR, NR) - Graham Harrell (QB):
After throwing for what felt like 100,000 yards and 1,000 touchdowns in college, it is hard to tell whether Harrell is an NFL caliber quarterback because he has never taken a meaningful NFL snap.

#49 (NR, NR) - Josh Gordy (CB):
The first three cornerback spots are settler, after that, it is wide-open competition at cornerback. Gordy did enough at the end of 2010 to get a look in 2011.

#48 (NR, NR) - Robert Francois (OLB):
Having been cut and resigned more than any other player in 2010, Francois served as the emergency outside linebacker for the Packers thanks to all the injuries they suffered opposite Claymaker. Francois didn’t do anything to distinguish himself from the rest of the group though, so the chances of him playing for the Packers in 2011 team are slim.

#47 (48, NR) - Matt Wilhelm (MLB):
Congrats on getting a ring because with the bloated number of linebackers on the roster (see Briggs and Francois discussion above), your days are numbered in Green Bay.

#46 (33, 40) - Donald Lee (TE):
The poor man’s Bubba Franks had horrible hands all season and provided little in the way of blocking. According to all news reports Lee is the nicest guy in the world, which can be the only basis for why Lee wasn't cut during the 2010 season.

#45 (45, NR) - Atari Bigby (S):
A-hole-agent Drew Rosenhaus reportedly gets clients by only taking money on their second contract. That might be part of the reason that Bigby held out for an extension before the 2010 season. When Bigby returned to the field he re-injured his ankle and was never fully healthy.

#44 (42, NR) - Dimitri Nance (RB):
Never seized the opportunities given. Despite Brandon Jackson probably leaving via free agency, Nance is still behind Grant, Starks, and Kuhn (assuming he is resigned) even before the 2011 NFL Draft where the Packers will most likely draft a running back.

#43 (41, 37) - Brandon Underwood (CB):
Despite being given every chance to hold down the nickel cornerback job, Underwood never recovered from his alleged late night escapades before the start of the 2011 season.

#42 (38, 47) - Tom Crabtree (TE):
Move over Mark Chmura because there is a new white tight end with a Super Bowl ring in town. Crabtree is not a lock to make the team in 2011 so I advise against following Chmura’s footsteps by attending a prom party.

#41 (40, 48) - Pat Lee (CB):
Quickly turning into the second round version of Ahmad Carroll.

#40 (35, 35) - Jason Spitz (G/C):
At some point Spitz has to stay healthy. The guy doesn’t even play in games but continues to get injured. If Spitz was healthy there is chance Wells is playing center for another team but it looks like Spitz’s inability to stay healthy for any extended period of time means he will be hanging out in another NFL team’s training room next year.

#39 (34, 31) - T.J. Lang (G):
Looked like a starter at right tackle or left guard heading into 2010 but a wrist injury held Lang back. Lang has a small window to get healthy unless he wants to become the new school Jason Spitz.

#38 (29, 38) - Korey Hall (FB):
Not a good year for Hall to be a free agent with all the talent the Packers have on the roster. Hall struggled to stay healthy in 2010 so he will most likely move to another team in 2011.

#37 (43, 51) - Brett Swain (WR):
The Fifth Wheel of the impressive wide receiver group. Swain is a valuable contributor on special teams but that probably won’t be enough for him to make the roster in 2011. The only way Swain makes the 2011 roster is if Jones leaves via free agency and the Packers don’t draft another wide receiver in the 2011 NFL Draft.

#36 (23, 39) - Frank Zombo (OLB):
The converted defensive end played well at outside linebacker, when healthy, in 2010. If Zombo can complete the transformation he looks poised for a breakout year in 2011.

#35 (49, NR) - Erik Walden (OLB):
A midseason pick-up that actually played meaningful snaps to help the Packers get to Super Bowl XLV. If Walden can stay healthy, he has a chance to unseat Brad Jones and Frank Zombo opposite Claymaker.

#34 (31, 49) - Andrew Quarless (TE):
Unfortunately Quarless looks more like a homeless man’s Jermichael Finley than even a poor man's. Unless Quarless can get a new set of hands before 2011 he will get to drop passes for another NFL team in the near future.

#33 (36, NR) - Jarius Wynn (DE):
After getting cut at the end of training camp, Wynn stayed in shape waiting for the call. Good move because Wynn looks like he will be a solid contributor along the defense line for the next few years.

#32 (21, 28) - Brandon Jackson (RB):
The second round of the draft has been boom (Collins, Jennings, and Nelson) or bust (Brohm, Jackson, and Lee) during the Thompson regime. After Grant went down for the season in Week 1, fantasy owners rushed to add Jackson hoping for 1,200 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Well 700 of the quietest rushing yards and 3 touchdowns later, Packers fans and fantasy owners hate Jackson.

#31 (37, 45) - Jarrett Bush (S):
At the start of the 2010 season I was President of the Cut Jarrett Bush Fan Club. Bush’s play throughout 2010, capped by an interception in Super Bowl XLV, guaranteed my resignation. Sorry to my fellow fan club members, I know this sounds like blasphemy but Bush’s special teams play and occasional help on defense makes him a valuable member of the team.

#30 (47, 50) - Quinn Johnson (FB):
Showed flashes of being the sledgehammer fullback that the Packers drafted out of LSU in the 5th Round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Johnson needs to be more consistent if he wants to hold off Kuhn be the full time starter at fullback.

#29 (32, 52) - C.J. Wilson (DE):
Showed the ability to play the run and the pass at defensive end in the 3-4 in 2010, a really underrated skill in the NFL. Wilson will compete with Mike Neal to start opposite Ryan Pickett in 2011.

#28 (52, NR) - James Starks (RB):
Starks would have been a first or second round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft if he was healthy his senior year in college in 2009. Starks looks like a younger version of Ryan Grant, which could give the Packers a formidable 1-2 punch at running back in 2011.

#27 (39, NR) - Howard Green (DT):
Despite how well Walden played in spurts, Green was the "under the radar midseason pickup of the year" by Thompson. Raji played almost every down even with Green on the roster so I can't imagine what the Packers would have done without Green.

#26 (28, 42) - Brett Goode (LS):
Steady and rarely heard from, a great thing for a long snapper.

#25 (25, 27) - Mason Crosby (K):
Crosby will almost certainly be resigned but the Packers need to think long and hard about whether they want to use a pick in the 2011 NFL Draft on a kicker.

#24 (22, 29) - John Kuhn (FB):
The poor man’s Peyton Hillis is scheduled to become a free agent. The Packers don’t want to break the bank for Kuhn but he was a valuable jack-of-all-trades in the backfield last year for the Packers and should be on the team in 2011.

#23 (30, 26) - Matt Flynn (QB):
Brett Favre had a handful of backups (Aaron Brooks, Mark Brunell, and Matt Hasselbeck) that turned into starting quarterbacks elsewhere in the NFL. Matt Flynn looks like the first one that will follow in the same footsteps instead of backing up Aaron Rodgers.

#22 (26, 34) - Tim Masthay (P):
The ghost of Craig Hentrich looks like it finally left Green Bay. For Masthay’s performance against the New York Jets alone he deserves the starting job in 2011.

#21 (10, 11) - Cullen Jenkins (DE):
One of the biggest contributors and personalities on the defensive line probably played his last snap for the Packers. Jenkins appeared in every game in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2009 but missed games in 2006, 2008, and 2010. Jenkins still has a few good seasons left in him but the Packers don’t usually like to invest in aging players especially with so many up and coming defensive lineman (Neal, Wilson, and Wynn) on the roster.

#20 (19, 21) - James Jones (WR):
The boom-bust star of the Packers last year. Every time Rodgers throws deep to Jones Mike McCarthy turns into Robert Loggia from Necessary Roughness screaming “don’t throw it to stone hands!!!!” For every amazing catch (playoffs against the Falcons) there are the brain farts (playoffs against the Eagles). Jones is set to break the bank as a free agent but is a little overvalued in my book because he played as the 3rd option on a potent offense, which is a far cry from being a consistent first or second option on a decent team.

#19 (17, 22) - Daryn Colledge (G):
Played well as the dead man walking of the offensive line. There is something to be said for continuity along the offensive line but there is going to be turnover with Clifton and Wells aging. It makes sense to insert a new guy at left guard next year because 2011 is most likely Clifton’s last year playing for the Packers, which will give the new left guard a year under his belt before someone takes over for Clifton.

#18 (13, 12) - Donald Driver (WR):
Driver is still one of the biggest leaders on the team despite being 4th on the depth chart in terms of production at wide receiver in 2010.

#17 (20, 41) - Charlie Peprah (S):
The surprise retread of the year was Peprah being an integral part of the secondary for the Packers. Peprah played so well that Morgan Burnett is going to have to work hard to unseat Peprah as the starter opposite Nick Collins at safety for the Packers in 2011.

#16 (16, 30) - Sam Shields (CB):
No doubt the biggest surprise of the year on defense outside of Peprah was Shields going from being an undrafted former wide receiver to the starting nickel cornerback on a Super Bowl champion in less than a year. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers was able to move Charles Woodson all over the secondary because of how much he trusted Shields to cover the opposition’s second best wide receiver.

#15 (24, 19) - Jordy Nelson (WR):
The rich man’s Bill Schroeder is making a case to take over for Donald Driver sooner rather than later as the #2 receiver behind Greg Jennings.

#14 (18, 36) - Desmond Bishop (MLB):
Bishop earned the right to be one of the two starting middle linebackers for the Packers in 2011 but Mr. August is going to have to prove he is Mr. Fullseason next year.

#13 (12, 15) - Scott Wells (C):
The Packers tried to replace Wells a number of times because he is not the biggest guy or the strongest guy on the team but Wells continued to perform well and held off the competition.

#12 (14, 25) - Bryan Bulaga (T):
The left tackle of the future turned out to be the starting right tackle of now in 2010. I know it might seem crazy but without Bulaga the Packers would not have been able to absorb the loss of right tackle Mark Tauscher and most likely would have missed the playoffs.

#11 (11, 8) - Ryan Pickett (DE):
Pickett’s days with the Packers looked numbered when the Packers moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense in 2009. Fortunately the versatility that Pickett brings to the table is the perfect compliment to all-world defensive tackle B.J. Raji. Much like Raji, Pickett’s impact on the defense can’t be measured through statistics alone. In fact, half of Claymaker’s sacks in 2010 should be spit between Raji and Pickett because of how many offensive linemen they occupied for Claymaker.

#10 (15, 32) - A.J. Hawk (MLB):
Performed well as the quarterback of the defense when Barnett was lost for the season. Hawk reminds me of a pitcher drafted to be a stud-starting pitcher but turned out to be an above average middle relief pitcher. On the positive side of the equation you have a dependable arm coming out of the bullpen, unfortunately you don’t have the starting pitcher you expected.

#9 (9, 14) - Chad Clifton (T):
Old-man-river made it through another season with a few bumps and bruises along the way. Despite being one of the oldest guys on the roster, Clifton played great in 2010 anchoring the left side of the offensive line. The 2011 season might be Clifton's farewell tour on his way to the Packers Hall of Fame.

#8 (7, 6) - Nick Collins (S):
Collins’s pick-six in Super Bowl XLV finally put him on the map for some of the more casual NFL fans and put him neck-and-neck with LeRoy Butler for the best Packers safety of the last 25 years.

#7 (6, 2) - Charles Woodson (CB):
Woodson was picked on more in 2010 than in years past in large part because of how well Tramon Williams played in 2010. Unfortunately an injury prevented Woodson from playing in the second half of Super Bowl XLV but that shouldn’t detract from how well Woodson played in 2010 en route to winning his first Super Bowl ring.

#6 (5, 10) - Josh Sitton (G):
Sitton was named offensive lineman of the year by the NFL alumni association and looks like the brightest star along the offensive line for the Packers for the next decade. With the influx of young, impressive defensive tackles like Ndamukong Suh, guards like Sitton are going to become just as important as having stud offensive tackle in the NFL for the next decade.

#5 (8, 3) - Greg Jennings (WR):
Jennings is the perfect wide receiver for the West Coast offense. The loss of Finley for the year allowed Rodgers to get on the same page as Jennings as his #1 target and Jennings took full advantage of the increased attention to put up huge numbers in 2010. If you forget how many big plays Rodgers and Jennings had in 2010, check out this video.

#4 (4, 16) - Tramon Williams (CB):
The Packers locked up Williams long-term in the middle of 2010 at what looked like a pretty expensive contract. With how well Williams played by the end of 2010, he quickly became one of the most underpaid as opposed to overpaid defensive backs in the NFL. Williams played so well that future hall of famer Charles Woodson was the second best cornerback on the roster behind Williams in 2010.

#3 (3, 13) - B.J. Raji (NT):
After a holdout at the start of 2009, Raji played most of the season injured and never fulfilled all the expectations that go along with being a top-10 pick. Good things come to those who wait because Raji played outstanding in 2010. Raji played so well in 2010 that of the 8 players taken before Raji (Matthew Stafford, Jason Smith, Tyson Jackson, Aaron Curry, Mark Sanchez, Andre Smith, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Eugene Monroe) the only player that would probably go ahead of Raji if they re-did the draft is Mark Sanchez.

#2 (1, 4) - Clay Matthews (OLB):
The Claymaker looks like a stud outside linebacker that could win multiple NFL defensive player of the year awards over the next decade. I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but let’s enjoy the ride while it lasts. Brian Cushing, Claymaker’s best friend in college, has been linked with the use of performance-enhancing drugs. My feeling is that Claymaker is smarter than that, especially because his father played in the NFL. Unfortunately everything questioned in 2010 because of the pervasive use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports over the last few decades.

#1 (2, 1) - Aaron Rodgers (QB):
The performance Rodgers had against the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs is required viewing for any player that wants to be a successful quarterback in the NFL. Despite suffering a few concussions in 2010, Rodgers put together one of the best seasons in the history of the franchise. With one Super Bowl under his Championship Belt, Rodgers is possibility the brightest star in the NFL right now.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ranking Injured Reserve List for 2010 Green Bay Packers

The 2010 Green Bay Packers suffered 16 season ending injuries on their way to Super Bowl XLV. With so many injuries, I thought it would be interesting to rank the 16 players on injured reserve as a little complimentary Super Bowl XLV coverage. Luckily the Packers suffered most of those injuries early in the season so their back-ups were able to get almost a full season under their belt. There are various accounts of how many games the 16 players on injured reserve missed but the prevailing numbers are that players missed 180 regular season games due to injury with 12 starters missing 86 regular season games. Here are my rankings for the players currently on injured reserve:

#16 - Justin Harrell (DE): Jamal Reynolds must love how much of a bust Harrell has become since it let's Reynolds off the hook. With Brian Brohm no longer on the roster, Harrell stands as general manager Ted Thompson's worst draft pick currently still associated with the Packers.

#15 - Josh Bell (CB): Gave up the touchdown to Mike Wallace as time expired to give the Steelers a 37-36 victory over the Packers the last time the two teams met in Pittsburgh in 2009. Bell didn't even make the opening day 53-man roster this year but the Packers saw enough in Bell to put him on injured reserve as opposed to reaching an injury settlement.

#14 - Anthony Levine (S): There are too many able bodied safeties (Bigby, Burnett, Bush, Collins, Martin, Peprah, and Smith) on the roster for Levine to have a realistic shot of wearing the Green and Gold on Sundays anytime soon.

#13 - Spencer Havner (TE): According to various sources, Havner thought he was the best tight end on the roster in training camp. Havner was obviously wrong because the Packer kept four other tight ends (Crabtree, Finley, Lee, and Quarless) ahead of him. If healthy, Havner has a chance to make the roster in 2011 because he is good on special teams and can fill in at linebacker in a pinch.

#12 - Anthony Smith (S): It still perplexes me why Smith was cut in favor of Aaron Rouse at the end of the 2009 training camp. The only way Smith returns to the Packers in 2011 is if Bigby, Martin, and Peprah are not on the roster.

#11 - Brady Poppinga (OLB): Much like safety, the Packers have a ton of young outside linebackers on the roster (Briggs, Francois, Jones, Walden, and Zombo) so Poppinga's time in Green Bay has most likely come to an end. Furthermore, Poppinga looks better suited to play outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense as opposed to a 3-4 defense. If Poppinga is healthy in 2011 he will be playing somewhere else in a 4-3 defense.

#10 - Marshall Newhouse (G/T): The Packers see Newhouse as a developmental prospect with a chance to be their left tackle of the future. With how well Chad Clifton played in 2010, the only way Newhouse sees the field in 2011 is if the Packers suffer a number of injuries along the offensive line. That means 2012 looks like the year for Newhouse to break into the starting lineup.

#9 - Derrick Martin (S): Much like Jarrett Bush, Martin is a special teams ace that is worth a roster spot for that reason alone despite being a liability on defense. Martin has a chance to make the roster in 2011 but it might come down to whether the Packers want to keep Bigby or Martin. If I were in charge, Martin would get the roster spot over Bigby.

#8 - Brandon Chillar (MLB): When the Packers signed Chillar to a four-year extension that runs through the 2013 season he looked like a perfect combo linebacker and special teams contributor with a secure roster spot. Chillar struggled at outside linebacker in training camp so he can only contribute at middle linebacker and on special teams. With the emergence of Desmond Bishop at middle linebacker, Chillar will have to show ability at outside linebacker in 2011 or possibly look for a new home in 2011.

#7 - Mark Tauscher (RT): The Packers asked Tauscher to rehab in Green Bay and help mentor rookie offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga. Tauscher complied but might have helped Bulaga too much because Bulaga owns the right tackle spot no matter how healthy Tauscher is at the start of 2011. With a hefty base salary in 2011, Tauscher might be informally asked to retire so the Packers are not forced to cut him.

#6 - Morgan Burnett (S): The emergence of Charlie Peprah at safety made up for the loss of promising rookie Morgan Burnett. In 2011 Burnett has to prove that he can stay healthy before the Packers hand him the starting safety spot next to Nick Collins.

#5 - Michael Neal (DE): Showed flashes of being a beast along the defensive line but injuries claimed most of Neal's rookie season. Nose tackle B.J. Raji struggled with injuries in his rookie season and flourished this year in his second season in the NFL. Hopefully Neal can follow a similar path and become a force along the defensive line in 2011.

#4 - Brad Jones (OLB): The emergence of Erik Walden and Frank Zombo shows that whoever lines up at the other outside linebacker spot opposite of Clay Matthews will most likely thrive. When healthy, Jones is a better option than Walden or Zombo but all three players struggled with injuries in 2010. Unless the Packers use an early draft choice on an outside linebacker in the 2011 NFL Draft, whoever is healthiest in 2011 deserves a chance to start opposite Matthews.

#3 - Nick Barnett (MLB): Suffering a season ending injury for the second time in three years has called into question how Barnett fits in long-term in Green Bay. Barnett is signed through the 2012 season with high base salaries of $6 million in 2011 and $6.5 million in 2012. According to various talent evaluators, Barnett does not have the right body type to contribute at outside linebacker. That may be true but the Packers play more exotic defensive packages than the standard 3-4 defense. As a result, Barnett deserves the chance to make the 2011 opening day roster.

#2 - Ryan Grant (RB): The Packers lost Grant for the season in Week 1 in Philadelphia. The Packers’ inability to generate a rushing game in 2010 after they lost Grant for the season shows how valuable Grant is to the Packers' rushing offense. The zone blocking scheme the Packers use favors a running back that makes one cut and hits the hole. Ironically it wasn't till the Packers re-visited Philadelphia in the playoffs that they put together another impressive game on the ground when rookie running back James Starks set a Packer rookie playoff rushing record. The running back depth chart going into 2011 should be: Ryan Grant, James Starks, 2011 draft pick, and John Kuhn. That would leave Brandon Jackson off the roster. I know Jackson has improved his blocking which makes him a good 3rd down back but Jackson showed this season that he is not a starting NFL running back.

#1 - Jermichael Finley (TE): Too tall to cover with a defensive back and too fast to cover with a linebacker, Finley is a physical freak that has a chance to be a real NFL superstar. The Packers geared their 2010 offense around Finley so when he was lost for the season it took the Packers a few weeks to get back in rhythm. It will be interesting to see how the Packers re-integrate Finley in their offensive scheme in 2011.

With how well the back-ups played in place of the aforementioned players, only a handful of the players currently on injured reserve will be on the 2011 Green Bay Packers opening day roster. Here are my current guesses for how likely it is that the 16 players above make the 2011 opening day roster:

No Chance: Bell, Harrell, Levine, and Poppinga

Slight Chance: Havner, Martin, Smith, and Tauscher

Great Chance: Barnett, Chillar, and Newhouse

Lock: Burnett, Finley, Grant, Jones, and Neal

Check back throughout the week for more Super Bowl XLV coverage.