Thursday, April 28, 2011

2011 First Round NFL Mock Draft

There are a million Mock Drafts out there (take a look back at my 2010 Mock Draft), so I decided to do something a little different this year. Instead of trying to predict what teams are going to do, since I have no real inside information, I am going to serve as every team's general manager for their pick. I am not going to make trades despite the fact that I think a number of teams are going to trade, especially towards the end of the first round. Here is what I would do if I was in charge of each team when they pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft:

#1) Carolina Panthers: Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU) - This would mark the first time a cornerback was selected #1 overall. Peterson looks like the next Charles Woodson in the making that can contribute all over the defensive secondary and in the return game. I know they will probably take Cam Newton but since the Panthers have a ton of needs, I would take the best player in the draft if I was in charge.

#2) Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus (DT, Alabama) - It was hard to pass on linebacker Von Miller and defensive tackle Nick Fairley but Dareus had more consistent production in college, which gives Dareus a slight edge over Miller and Fairley.

#3) Buffalo Bills: Von Miller (LB, Texas A&M) - An impact defensive player is not as sexy as taking a flashy quarterback like Cam Netwon. With a feisty quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) already on the roster, its smarter for the Bills to target the next potential Clay Matthews as opposed to a potential franchise quarterback that has all the makings of being the next Vince Young.

#4) Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green (WR, Georgia) - Despite their unrest at quarterback with Carson Palmer saying he will retire instead of playing another down for the Bengals, A.J. Green is the last of my four "close to can't miss prospects" in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Bengals might be forced to trade back into the first round to get a quarterback but Green projects to be a much better player than the quarterbacks available.

#5) Arizona Cardinals: Blaine Gabbert (QB, Missouri) - There was a huge drop off from 2009 to 2010 following Kurt Warner's retirement. As a result, this is a need pick as opposed to taking the best player available (Julio Jones or Nick Fairley) so it makes sense to draft their next potential franchise quarterback.

#6) Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones (WR, Alabama) - With A.J. Green off the board, the Browns take the other stud receiver in the 2011 NFL Draft to help their second-year quarterback Colt McCoy.

#7) San Francisco 49ers: Nick Fairley (DT, Auburn) - Last year the 49ers added two offensive lineman (Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati) so this year they need to improve their defensive line. Part of the reason I took Fairley as opposed to Cam Newton is that I think rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh wants to wait for 2012 to take his former quarterback at Stanford Andrew Luck. Oh that and I think Newton is going to be a bust as an NFL quarterback.

#8) Tennessee Titans: Robert Quinn (DE, UNC) - Much like the 49ers, the Titans need a quarterback but I see too much Vince Young in Cam Newton. Despite being suspended for the 2010 college football season, Quinn is still one of the best players in the entire draft.

#9) Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith (T, USC) - Let me give you the understatement of the year, one way to keep franchise quarterback Tony Romo healthy is to add an offensive lineman that can block. Smith is a young, athletic offensive lineman that has a chance to be a once in a decade offensive lineman.

#10) Washington Redskins: Cam Newton (QB, Auburn) - Is Newton the next Josh Freeman or the next Vice Young? I am not a big Newton fan but I was also the same guy that didn't like Josh Freeman coming out of Kansas State. I see Newton turning out more like Freeman as opposed to Young. After screwing up the McNabb trade, there is no way owner Daniel Snyder could pass on Newton.

#11) Houston Texans: Prince Amukamara (CB, Nebraska) - Gary Kubiak is turning into the Mike D'Antoni of the NFL...puts up big numbers on offense but also yields a ton of points on defense. With new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in the fold, Amukamara gives them a corenerback they desperately need.

#12) Minnesota Vikings: Aldon Smith (DE/OLB, Missouri) - The day after the 2010 NFL Draft every draft expert had Washington QB Jake Locker as the #1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Unfortunately everyone got to see Locker play last year and his draft stock has plummeted. Smith is the smart pick but the Vikings have proven not to be the smartest organization over the last decade. Does that mean the Vikings "reach" for Locker?

#13) Detroit Lions: Anthony Castonzo (OT, Boston College) - If Matt Millen were still in charge the pick would be Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin. Much like the Dallas Cowboys, the Lions need to keep their franchise quarterback healthy and that is why they are going to take the best tackle left.

#14) St. Louis Rams: Corey Liuget (DT, Illinois) - The biggest beneficiary of the time between the combine and the draft vaulted Liuget from a borderline first round pick to a mid first round pick. Liuget has the tools to be a good player at the next level. For a little more insight into Corey Liuget, check out my chat with him.

#15) Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey (C, Florida) - If Maurkice Pouncey had a mediocre year in the NFL last year for the Pittsburgh Steelers then Mike probably doesn't go till the end of the first round...what are brothers for?

#16) Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan (DE, Purdue) - A perfect complimentary player to Tyson Alualu and Aaron Kampman gives the Jaguars one of the best defensive lines on paper in the NFL. Thought about Washington quarterback Jake Locker but barring a trade, no team between 16 and 25 needs a quarterback, so the Jaguars (and other teams) could trade back into the first round to get a quarterback depending on how the rest of the first round plays out.

#17) New England Patriots: Cameron Jordan (DE, California) - This is the pick the New England Patriots got when they traded defensive end Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders. At the time the Patriots thought they would net a Top 5 pick for Seymour but only getting the 17th pick for Seymour looks like the Raiders actually got good value in trade. Jordan has a chance to be a good NFL defensive lineman but would be shocked if he ever approached being as good as Seymour.

#18) San Diego Chargers: J.J. Watt (DE, Wisconsin) - This would set-up the Jordan v. Watt debate. Watt will do everything physically possible to make it in the NFL. Watt may never turn out to be a flashy player but he will give maximum effort and make everyone around him better.

#19) New York Giants: Gabe Carimi (LT, Wisconsin) - Eli Manning had to get rid of the ball faster than he wanted to all last year. Carimi gives the Giants a quality offensive lineman that can start right away and perform.

#20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Da'Quan Bowers (DE, Clemson) - The Brandon Roy of the 2011 NFL Draft finally comes off the board. There are rumors that Bowers will need microfracture surgery, which is why he dropped out of the Top 5. The Buccaneers finished 30th in the NFL in sacks in 2010 so when a guy like Bowers is available at 20 you have to pick him. For a little more insight into Da'Quan Bowers, check out my chat with him.

#21) Kansas City Chiefs: Nate Solder (OT, Colorado) - I like Carimi more than Solder but the Chiefs have a need at offensive tackle that has to be addressed if they expect Matt Cassel to succeed so I took the best one left.

#22) Indianapolis Colts: Derek Sherrod (OT, Mississippi State) - Speaking of the best one left...every year there is a run on specific positions. The 2011 NFL Draft is going to go down as the year of the lineman.

#23) Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Smith (CB, Colorado) - A head case with the potential to be a shutdown cornerback. On talent alone Jimmy Smith is every bit as good as Patrick Peterson and probably more talented than Prince Amukamara. Unfortunately Smith's off the field issues caused him to drop 10 to 15 slots in the 2011 NFL Draft.

#24) New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram (RB, Alabama) - With all the injury trouble the Saints had at running back last year, Mark Ingram is the perfect guy for the Saints to add. The knock on Ingram is that he doesn't have top end speed but with the quality interior line that the Saints have Ingram will excel running up the middle for the Saints.

#25) Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker (QB, Washington) - Oh if it were only 2010. In a perfect world the Seahawks would undue their trade for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and take Locker 25th overall. Instead of dwelling on the negative, the Seahawks should snag the guy that all draft experts had as the #1 pick of the 2011 NFL Draft following the 2010 NFL Draft.

#26) Baltimore Ravens: Muhammad Wilkerson (DL, Temple) - Much like Liuget, Wilkerson has benefited from having the time between the combine and draft. The versatility of Wilkerson fits the scheme the Ravens like to play with the 3-4. For a little more insight into Muhammad Wilkerson, check out my chat with him.

#27) Atlanta Falcons: Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa) - The Falcons are rumored to be trying to trade into the Top 10 to snag either wide receiver A.J. Green or Julio Jones. Assuming the Falcons keep the 27th pick, Clayborn provides the Falcons another pass rusher they desperately need. For a little more insight into Adrian Clayborn, check out my chat with him.

#28) New England Patriots: Danny Watkins (OG, Baylor) - With all the uncertainty surround guard Logan Mankins long-term in New England, the Patriots add a perfect pass protector to keep Tom Brady upright.

#29) Chicago Bears: Phil Taylor (DT, Baylor) - With all the good offensive lineman off the board, the Chicago Bears add a defensive tackle to pair with Julius Peppers to create pressure.

#30) New York Jets: Akeem Ayers (OLB, UCLA) - We all know that Ayers had a below average combine workout but as many draft experts say, the game tape never lies. Ayers is the perfect outside linebacker for the 3-4 defense and that makes Ayers the perfect player for the Jets.

#31) Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams (DB, Texas) - The secondary swiss army knife of the 2011 NFL Draft is the perfect player for the Steelers. Whether Williams plays safety or cornerback doesn't really matter since Dick LeBeau's defense allows defensive backs to move all over the field.

#32) Green Bay Packers: Cameron Heyward (DE, Ohio State) - With most of the guys that I thought the Packers would target off the board, I took the "safest" player left. With the uncertainty surrounding Cullen Jenkins returning to the Packers and 2010 second round pick Mike Neal returning from injury the Packers add quality depth along their defensive line by taking Heyward.

In case you missed my look at potential Day 1 picks in the 2011 NFL Draft for the Green Bay Packers, click here.

In case you missed my look at potential Day 2 picks in the 2011 NFL Draft for the Green Bay Packers, click here.

In case you missed my look at potential Day 3 picks in the 2011 NFL Draft for the Green Bay Packers, click here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Day 1 Preview for Ted Thompson

Barring a trade, which is a distinct possibility, Green Bay Packer general manager Ted Thompson is scheduled to make the last pick of the first round in the 2011 NFL Draft. The reason why I say that it is a distinct possibility that Thompson will trade back is that he has done it before and there are a number of team that have quarterback needs picking at the top of the second round that might want to jump back into the end of the first round so they can selected their quarterback of the future.

It is unrealistic to think studs like A.J. Green (WR, Georgia), Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU), or Nick Fairley (DT, Auburn) will get past the 10th pick in the draft. Even Cheesehead favorites defensive end J.J. Watt and offensive tackle Gabe Carimi will most likely be off the board by the 32nd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Based on absolutely no inside information, just pure speculation on my part, here are some players that Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson could draft with the 32nd pick of the 2011 NFL Draft:

Derek Sherrod (OT, Mississippi State): Don't grade Sherrod as high as Tyron Smith, Anthony Castonzo, Gabe Carimi, and Nate Solder. That said, getting Bulaga and Sherrod in consecutive drafts would give the Packers their bookend tackles for the next decade to protect Aaron Rodgers.

Mike Pouncey (C/G, Florida): Pouncey's versatility is attractive. Most likely a mid-first round pick thanks to having a brother that excelled in the pros as a rookie last year for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Danny Watkins (OG, Baylor): With Daryn Colledge's future uncertain, Watkins could start at left guard right away in 2011.

Phil Taylor (DT, Baylor): B.J. Raji was on the field for way too many downs last year. Taylor would give the Packers a young one-two punch at defensive tackle that would be almost impossible for teams to deal with.

Muhammad Wilkerson (DE/DT, Temple): Most likely gone by the time the Packers pick, Wilkerson has had a meteoric rise up draft board in the last few weeks because he provides nice versatility along the defensive line. Wilkerson was nice enough to answer one of my questions in a recent ESPN chat, a step in the right direction by Wilkerson if he wants to endear himself to the Green Bay Packer community.

Marvin Austin (DE/DT, UNC): Many people projected that Austin would be a first round pick last year but he decided to go back to school. Unfortunately for Austin the NCAA found him guilty of taking improper benefits so Austin was suspended for the entire 2010 NCAA season. Despite the suspension, Austin could be an impact player all along the defensive line for the Packers in 2011.

Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa): Despite what Clayborn said to me in a recent chat, Clayborn looks like a perfect replacement for defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins who will most likely leave via free agency whenever that starts. Much like Austin, Clayborn would be another quality defensive lineman to add to the young Packer defensive line.

Cameron Heyward (DE, Ohio State): The son of Ironhead Hayward would continue the bloodline theme the Packers have with their draft philosophy. Heyward is not as sexy as a number of the other defensive lineman projected to go in the first round but Heyward's bust potential is also much smaller.

Justin Houston (DE/OLB, Georgia): If Justin Houston was entering the NFL in 2005 most draft experts would say he doesn't project to a specific position in the NFL and would most likely be a second or third round pick. Luckily for Houston it is 2011 and the proliferation of the 3-4 defense across the NFL has inflated the value of combo defensive end/outside linebackers.

Akeem Ayers (OLB, UCLA): After a mediocre combine workout, Ayers started to drop on most draft boards. Anyone that lines up opposite Claymaker is going to look better than they might look on another team...think Jones, Walden, and Ayers would fit nicely at outside linebacker for the Packers.

Brooks Reed (OLB, Arizona): Probably a reach at the end of the first round, but Reed sure looks like he should start opposite Claymaker. Reed has a similar motor to the Claymaker so teaming up Claymaker and Reed would drive offensive coordinators nuts.

In case you missed my look at potential Day 2 picks in the 2011 NFL Draft for the Green Bay Packers, click here.

In case you missed my look at potential Day 3 picks in the 2011 NFL Draft for the Green Bay Packers, click here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Day 2 Preview for Ted Thompson

Based on absolutely no inside information, just pure speculation on my part, here are some players that Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson could draft on Day 2 of the 2011 NFL Draft:

2nd Round:

Ryan Williams (RB, Virgina Tech): My sister-in-law Sarah taught him at Virgina Tech...good enough reason for the Packers to draft him. Oh yeah and he has a chance to be a game changing running back but that is a distant second.

Jon Baldwin (WR, Pittsburgh): Would have been a first round pick because he is big, strong, and fast but he is also a head case.

Titus Young (WR, Boise State): A nice game changer at wide receiver that could fill in well for James Jones.

Leonard Hankerson (WR, Miami): I don't see much of a difference between Baldwin, Young, and Hankerson on the might come down to off the field stuff.

Stefen Wisniewski (OG/C, Penn State): The Clay Matthews of offensive lineman could play right away at left guard or center.

Benjamin Ijalana (OT/OG, Villanova): Projects better at guard than tackle...hopefully he is not the next Daryn Colledge.

Stephen Paea (DT, Oregon State): An absolute physical freak that did 49 reps on the bench press at the combine, that kind of strength would fit well along the defensive line for the Packers.

Jabaal Sheard (DE/OLB, Pittsburgh): A rush end that reminds me a little bit of Aaron Kampman.

Mason Foster (OLB, Washington): A talented outside linebacker that gives the Packers a bookend outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews.

Curtis Marsh (CB, Utah State): Not really a position of need so it might be a bit of a luxury pick for the Packers.

3rd Round:

Randall Cobb (QB/WR, Kentucky): An athletic freak that is a potential rich man's Pat White.

Niles Paul (WR, Nebraska): Would fit well in the Packers' offensive system.

Tandon Doss (WR, Indiana): Injury issues have hurt his draft stock.

Kendall Hunter (RB, Oklahoma State): A potential game changer but more of a luxury pick than a need with Grant and Starks in the fold.

Jason Pinkston (OT, Pittsburgh): Another nice offensive line prospect that could help the Packers down the road.

Marcus Cannon (OT, TCU): Similar to Pinkston, more of a long-term prospect in the pros as opposed to a plug and play prospect.

Kenrick Ellis (DT, Hampton): A big, strong defensive lineman that would fit well all along the defensive line.

Bruce Carter (OLB, UNC): Another outside linebacker prospect that could take advantage of all the extra blockers that Clay Matthews draws.

In case you missed my look at potential Day 3 picks in the 2011 NFL Draft for the Green Bay Packers, click here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Day 3 Preview for Ted Thompson

Based on absolutely no inside information, just pure speculation on my part, here are some players that Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson could draft on Day 3 of the 2011 NFL Draft:

4th Round:

Jordan Todman (RB, UConn): Game changer at running back that could be a versatile option to go along with Grant and Starks.

Edmond Gates (WR, Abilene Christian): Is he the next Johnny Knox?

Cecil Shorts (WR, Mount Union): Small school standout with a chance to step in and play right away.

Jordan Cameron (TE, USC): Complete luxury pick but a freakish athlete cut out of the same cloth as Jermichael Finley.

DeMarcus Love (OG, Arkansas): A gifted athlete with some real health issues, one of the biggest risk/reward lineman picks of the draft.

John Moffitt (OG, Wisconsin): Ready to play at guard or center right away in the NFL.

Lee Ziemba (OG/OT, Auburn): Possibly a luxury pick but worth taking a look.

James Brewer (OT, Indiana): Similar to Ziemba, another possible luxury offensive line pick.

Marcus Gilbert (OT, Florida): Ditto...see above.

James Carpenter (OT, Alabama): I promise this is the last potential 4th round offensive lineman that I am going to highlight.

Dontay Moch (OLB, Nevada): A fast, small school guy that played defensive end that projects as an outside linebacker in the NFL. Are we looking at the next Frank Zombo?

5th Round:

Stephen Schilling (OG, Michigan): Is he the next Steve Hutchinson?

Orlando Franklin (OG/OT, Miami): With Colledge most likely on the way out, Franklin could be a more athletic version that projects to play guard.

Mark Herzlich (LB, Boston College): Cancer free and a great story to sell to the fans while the NFL is in the midst of a public relations nightmare with the lockout.

Ross Homan (LB, Ohio State): It seems like you can never have too many outside linebackers with all the injuries the Packers had at outside linebacker last year.

Rob Housler (TE, Florida Atlantic): Hard to tell the difference between a slot receiver and tight end split out in the Packers' offense so why not add another athletic tight end.

6th Round:

Dion Lewis (RB, Pittsburgh): Highly touted running back coming into college, might be a difference maker for the Packers in 2011.

DeMarco Murray (RB, Oklahoma): Ditto.

Kris O'Dowd (C, USC): Could be the perfect center prospect to groom behind Wells.

Jah Reid (OT, UCF): Another offensive line prospect that could be a starter down the road for the Packers.

Ugo Chinasa (DE, Oklahoma State): Big, fast guy that could play a number of positions for the Packers.

Cortez Allen (CB, The Citadel): Quality, disciplined player to add to the secondary.

Alex Henery (K, Nebraska): Not sure whether Crosby will be resigned, why not create a little camp competition even if the Packers bring Crosby back?

7th Round:

Scott Tolzien (QB, Wisconsin): Is Tolzien better than Harrell?

Courtney Smith (WR, South Alabama): Tall (6'4") and well built (220 pounds) wide receiver with a chance to become the next James Jones in Green Bay.

Josh Davis (OT, Georgia): Coming from the SEC, Davis has faced some of the best talent in college football.

David Mims (OT, Virgina Union): Tall (6'8") prospect that could be another nice developmental tackle along with Marshall Newhouse.

Bill Nagy (OG, Wisconsin): Barry Alvarez always said he gets his offensive lineman from Wisconsin so why can't the Packers do the same?

Steven Friday (OLB, Virgina Tech): Another healthy body to throw in the mix opposite Clay Matthews at outside linebacker.

DeMarcus Van Dyke (CB, Miami): Not saying he will ever turn out as good as Sam Shields but it worked last year so why not roll the dice?

Trick Play Prospects:

Tyrod Taylor (QB) from Virgina Tech: Love the versatility Taylor would provide the already potent Packers' offense.

Will Yeatman (TE/OT) from Maryland: May be a tackle, may be a tight, or a little bit from Column A and a little bit from Column B. Either way, Yeatman is an interesting prospect that could help the Packers in short yardage situations, which they were horrible at throughout their Super Bowl XLV run.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Initial Rankings of the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers

Despite a lackluster start to the 2011 campaign, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated put together some pretty compelling reasons for why the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers look like a playoff bound team (source).

According to Verducci, 15 of the last 16 years (the last five years in a row) a team with a losing record made the playoffs the follow year. All told a shocking 31 teams over the last 16 years made the playoffs after having a losing record the previous year. Those 31 teams made the playoffs thanks to improved pitching and defense*.

The only bad news it that those teams do not get back to the playoffs that often. Only 7 of the previous 30 teams made back-to-back playoff appearances with the Cincinnati Reds trying to become the 8th in 2011. Let's not put the cart before the horse though, the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers need to make the playoffs before we worry about the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers making their second straight playoff appearance.

With the Milwaukee Brewers adding starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers fit the profile of a losing team that improves pitching and defense to make the playoffs.

The 2011 Milwaukee Brewers have a fairly expensive disabled list so before I rank the 25-man opening day roster I thought I would rank the disabled list:

#5) Manny Parra (LHP): So much promise but very little payoff. Since Parra was only effective in spurts the Brewers shuttled Parra between the starting rotation and the bullpen in 2010. With a much better starting rotation in 2011, Parra has the opportunity to flourish as a left-handed reliever or look for a new team since Parra is out of minor league options.

#4) LaTroy Hawkins (RHP): Paying veterans to fill holes is always expensive but relief pitching seems especially expensive since relief pitchers can lose their mojo in no time. Hawkins was injured for most of 2010 and is picking up where he left off at the start of 2011.

#3) Corey Hart (RF): After slipping on wet grass, Hart missed most of spring training and looks set to miss the first month of the season. The Brewers do not want to rush Hart back but $6.5 million is a ton of money to pay a hurt right fielder.

#2) Jonathan Lucroy (C): The potential starting catcher for the next decade for the Brewers suffered a freakish broken pinky on his throwing hand during spring training. Luckily the injury does not look like a long-term problem. All of that is good news because the Brewers have been looking for a long-term solution at catcher since B.J Surhoff. Just to put into perspective how long that has been, when Surhoff caught for the Brewers they played their home games at County Stadium and were a member of the American League.

#1) Zack Greinke (RHP): Pretty amazing that a small market team like the Brewers pulled off blockbuster trades for C.C. Sabathia and Zack Greinke in the last few years. Unfortunately those trades have somewhat gutted the Brewers farm system. The window for major league baseball teams to win is small so I applaud general manager Doug Melvin for rolling the dice on the socially awkward Greinke.

Onto my rankings of the 25 guys that made the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers opening day roster:

#25) Erick Almonte (INF/OF): After having a cup of coffee in the majors in 2001 (4 at-bats over 8 games) and 2003 (100 at-bats over 31 games) for the New York Yankees, somehow Almonte is making another appearance in the majors after an eight year absence. Almonte making the opening day roster is less of an indictment on him and more of an indictment on the farm system.

#24) Sean Green (RHP): Older right-handed relief pitchers are a dime a dozen, which means Green’s days in Milwaukee are numbered once Hawkins is healthy.

#23) Jeremy Reed (OF): The poor man’s Scott Podsednik will meet the same fate as Green once Hart is healthy.

#22) Brandon Kintzler (RHP): Looks like a nice young arm for the Brewers after appearing in a handful of games for the Brewers in 2010 during September call-ups.

#21) Mitch Stetter (LHP): Every bullpen needs the token lefty specialist. Stetter needs to perform better in 2011 if he wants to stick on the roster for the entire season.

#20) George Kottaras (C): Lucroy’s broken pinky means Kottaras has a chance to prove he should continue as the back-up catcher in 2011 instead of Wil Nieves.

#19) Sergio Mitre (RHP): The Brewers turned the carcass of Jim Edmonds into the carcass of Sergio Mitre via Chris Dickerson. The Dickerson/Mitre trade makes no sense, especially following the Hart injury. The Brewers continue to struggle to find quality bench guys not named Craig Counsell.

#18) Takashi Saito (RHP): Gotta love paying a 41-year old relief pitcher almost $2 million, luckily Saito is only signed for 2011.

#17) Nyjer Morgan (CF): The Brewers traded minor league infielder Cutter Dykstra and $50,000 to the Washington Nationals for centerfielder Nyjer Morgan. The much-maligned Morgan put up good numbers in Pittsburgh and Washington in 2009 but regressed in 2010. With the underachieving Carlos Gomez doing his best to play his way out of his starting spot in center field, the Brewers are going to have two potential starting center fielders that will probably never figure it out.

#16) Zach Braddock (LHP): After a great 2010 season, Braddock opens the season as the top left-handed option out of the bullpen for the Brewers.

#15) Wil Nieves (C): Witch Lucroy on the disabled list, Nieves will keep the starting spot warm until Lucroy returns. Rookie manager Ron Roenicke will have to decide whether to keep the old man (Nieves) or the young buck (Kottaras) as Lucroy’s backup. If I were in charge, I would go with the young buck.

#14) Carlos Gomez (CF): The centerpiece of the Johan Santana trade a few years back was subsequently traded to the Brewers in exchange for oft-injured shortstop J.J. Hardy. Gomez shows flashes of why the Twins traded for him a few years back but can never seem to do it over a full season. As I said earlier, Morgan and Gomez will probably platoon for most of the season leaving the Brewers without an actual starting center fielder.

#13) Yuniesky Betancourt (SS): As I said in my Most Overpaid and Most Underpaid 2011 Milwaukee Brewers Post, it is never a good sign when $1 million of your contract is being paid by the Seattle Mariners but that is not the last team you played for before the Brewers. Betancourt joined the Brewers as a part of the Greinke trade and the Brewers would replace Betancourt in a heartbeat if they had a better option.

#12) Kameron Loe (RHP): The primary set-up guy for closer John Axford had an impressive 2010. In fact Loe pitched so well in 2010 that the Brewers flirted with putting Loe in the starting rotation but after acquiring Greinke and Marcum in the off-season, the Brewers had more of a need for Loe in the bullpen than the starting rotation.

#11) Craig Counsell (INF): After a great 2009, Counsell regressed a little offensively in 2010. Fortunately the Brewers have Counsell on the roster for his versatility (plays 2nd, SS, and 3rd) and leadership. No matter how Counsell performs in 2011, he has earned the right to be one of the 25-guys on the roster for as long as he wants.

#10) Chris Narveson (LHP): A quality 5th starter on almost any team has consistently out-pitched the field to earn his spot in the Brewers rotation.

#9) Mark Kotsay (OF/1B): After flirting with retirement, Kotsay went from a spot starter to the opening day starter in right field thanks to Corey Hart’s injury. If Kotsay performs well, the Brewers might want to give Hart some reps in centerfielder to see whether an outfield of Braun, Hart, and Kotsay is their best option.

#8) Randy Wolf (LHP): After a bad start to 2010, Wolf settled down to put together a decent campaign. When Greinke gets healthy the Brewers have to decide where to slot Wolf in the starting rotation. Wolf is the 4th best starter behind Greinke, Gallardo, and Marcum but slotting Wolf 4th and Narveson 5th would have the Brewers starting three right-handed pitchers followed by two left-handed pitchers. Either way things are looking up for the Brewers because Wolf goes from the #2 starter in 2010 to the #4 starter in 2011.

#7) Shaun Marcum (RHP): Acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for Canadian minor league prospect Brett Lawrie. Although the Brewers gave up one of their best prospects, they got a middle of the rotation starter in return. Lawrie may turn out to be a great major league player or he may be another Mat Gamel. Either way the Brewers got a quality starting pitcher that is moving from the American League to the National League. Even if the Brewers didn’t make the big splash trading for Greinke, acquiring a starter like Marcum will go down as one of the best off-season moves in the last decade for the Brewers.

#6) John Axford (RHP): After Trevor Hoffman’s monumental collapse at the beginning of 2010, Axford came out of nowhere to give the Brewers a new school Rollie Fingers. Hopefully Axford can pitch in 2011 like he did in 2010.

#5) Casey McGehee (3B): Much like Counsell, McGehee regressed a little offensively in 2010 after a great 2009. McGehee still gives the Brewers some protection for Ryan Braun once Prince Fielder leaves after 2011 so expect McGehee to rebound well in 2011.

#4) Rickie Weeks (2B): It can’t be understated how high the expectations were for Rickie Weeks when the Brewers drafted him after leading college baseball in batting average for two years. After a number of freakish injuries early in his major league career, Weeks finally started to fulfill some of those expectations. As a result, Weeks signed a huge contract extension with the Brewers in the off-season. The four-year, $38.5 million contract** has an $11.5 million option for 2015 that is guaranteed if Weeks meets two conditions***. With all the injuries Weeks has suffered throughout his career, the Brewers are making a huge financial commitment to Weeks. Hopefully Weeks will stay healthy and justify the large investment.

#3) Prince Fielder (1B): The sawn song for Fielder is going to be very interesting to watch. If the Brewers struggle in 2011 they might feel compelled to trade Fielder at the trade deadline. Either way, Fielder has not showed a willingness to sign an extension despite the Brewers reportedly offering Fielder a five-year, $100 extension a few years ago. Since Fielder is represented but super-a-hole agent Scott Boras, Fielder is headed to free agency following 2011. An American League team is an ideal landing spot for Fielder because although he is decent in the field, Fielder looks like he will be a full-time DH during the second half of the mega extension he will presumably sign in the off-season. If I were in charge, no matter how the Brewers play in 2011 they should keep Fielder throughout the season and take the draft pick compensation if they can’t sign him to a contract extension.

#2) Yovani Gallardo (RHP): Gallardo is living up to his big contract extension. Once Greinke rejoins the rotation, the Brewers will have the best one-two punch in baseball outside of Philadelphia and San Francisco. If the Brewers are smart they will continue to market Gallardo and the Chorizo (#5 sausage in the sausage race) to the growing Hispanic population in Milwaukee.

#1) Ryan Braun (LF): With Fielder on the way out, Braun is the face of the franchise for the next decade. Starting pitchers like Greinke and Gallardo are great to have but they only pitch once or twice a week. Guys like Braun play everyday, which is what excites the average fan. Braun needs to continue to produce on a daily basis in 2011 and into 2012 or the Brewers will have a huge hole in the heart of their line-up.

* = 19 straight and 27 of the 31 teams allowed fewer runs the season they made the playoffs compared to the previous year.

** = $7.5 million in 2011, $10 million in 2012, $10 million in 2013, and $11 million in 2014.

*** = First, Weeks must have either 600 plate appearances in 2014 or 1,200 plate appearances between 2013 and 2014. Second, Weeks must end the 2014 season healthy. If Weeks does not meet either of those conditions if he has at least 400 plate appearances in 2014 the Brewers have to pay Weeks $1 million to void the $11.5 million option for 2015.