Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Advice for John Hammond for Building 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks

Let's put the presumptive NBA lockout aside for the purposes of this post and assume that there will in fact be a 2011-12 NBA Season. Much like I did for Ted Thompson following Super Bowl XLV, here is my best advice for how general manger John Hammond should proceed going into the 2011-12 NBA Season:

Point Guard:
- Under Contract for 2011: Brandon Jennings and Keyon Dooling
- Restricted Free Agent: None
- Free Agent: Earl Boykins
- Advice: Despite my love for short guys because I am a card carrying member of the short guy club, let Boykins leave via free agency. After that, fortify the back-up point guard position with an upgrade over Dooling via trade, the draft, or free agency. I say an upgrade over Dooling because not only will an upgrade over Dooling give Jennings a breather but the Bucks need someone that will actually push Jennings to play better. During his rookie season Jennings had Luke Ridnour pushing him to play better but for his sophomore campaign he didn't really have a guy that pushed him. Finally if someone wants Dooling for a bag of balls, trade him. The only reason to hold onto Dooling is to include him in a trade deadline deal for salary cap purposes.


Shooting Guard:
- Under Contract for 2011: John Salmons
- Restricted Free Agent: Chris Douglas-Roberts
- Unrestricted Free Agent: Michael Redd
- Advice: Unfortunately Salmons looks like the presumptive starter heading into next season. After that, unless Michael Redd wants to pay to play for the Bucks next year, let him walk because a 30-something shooting guard that is coming off two massive knee surgeries the last two seasons is not an ideal back-up shooting guard. After that, tender CDR. Unfortunately it seems like the writing is on the wall that the Bucks want to move on without him but much like Dooling, CDR is worth being a salary cap consideration in a trade deadline deal.


Small Forward:
- Under Contract for 2011: Carlos Delfino and Corey Maggette
- Restricted Free Agent: None
- Unrestricted Free Agent: None
- Advice: If you can move Corey Maggette, do it as long as you don't take on more years or a more expensive contract. After that, decide what the long-term plan is for Carlos Delfino because he is in the last year of the three-year, $10.5 million deal that seems like highway robbery by NBA standards.


Power Forward:
- Under Contract for 2011: Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders, and Jon Brockman
- Restricted Free Agent: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
- Unrestricted Free Agent: None
- Advice: Tender The Prince (Luc Richard Mbah a Moute). That will allow the Bucks to match any offer that The Prince gets. In terms of how much money the Bucks should commit to The Prince, match any offer he gets as long as it is less than the mid-level exception because he is hands down the best defender on the current roster. Every time I have a chance to say it I will, Ilyasova a poor let me stress poor man's Dirk Nowitzki. As a result, Ilyasova deserves every chance possible to be on the court. After that, how many tall trees that aren't that good can the Bucks have? Brockman seems like nothing more than a practice player despite the fact that I love his motor, Sanders looks like a long-term project, and Gooden just needs to get healthy. Please don't draft a power forward in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft unless his name is Bismack Biyombo or Kenneth Faried.


Center:
- Under Contract for 2011: Andrew Bogut
- Restricted Free Agent: None
- Unrestricted Free Agent: None
- Advice: Clearly Bogut was not 100% last year after a freakish injury cut his 2009-10 season short. Unfortunately the Bucks continue to add tweener power forward/centers (Gooden and Sanders) that don't really give the Bucks a legitimate center option besides Bogut. At the very least the Bucks should take a flier on a big guy in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft to help out Bogut.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

English Premier League 2010-11 Season Review

As I said last week in my running diary of Manchester City's FA Cup win over Stoke City, I am a Man City fan so this will be a another soccer post in as many weeks. Don't worry though because this post involves at least one Cheesehead sports connection to justify posting it on my Cheesehead sports related blog.

For those of you that don't know, soccer has relegation and promotion. In England that means that every season three teams are relegated from the Premier League (top division in England) to the Championship (second division in England) while three teams from the from the Championship are promoted to the Premier League. Unlike almost all other professional sports, relegation and promotion means that the last day of the season in the Premier League is one of the most fascinating days on the entire sports calendar.

With that background on relegation and promotion out of the way, now for the Cheesehead sports connection to justify posting this on the blog. A few years ago a Cheesehead soccer player (grew up in Green Bay, WI) and United States Men's National Team player Jay DeMerit scored the first goal for Watford on a header to help Watford defeat Leeds United 3-0 and gain promotion from the Championship to the Premier League. Some media outlets claim that DeMerit scored a £30 million goal thanks to the television rights alone for playing in the Premier League as opposed to the Championship.

The conventional wisdom is that 40 points (teams get 3 points for a win and 1 point for a tie) out of 38 matches will keep you in the Premier League. That conventional wisdom held true for the 2010-11 Premier League season because the three Premier League clubs relegated: Birmingham (39 points), Blackpool (39 points), and West Ham United (33 points) amassed less than 40 points while the three clubs that narrowly avoided relegation: Blackburn Rovers (43 points), Wigan Athletic (42 points), and Wolverhampton Wanderers (40 points) all earned at least 40 points.

The other conventional wisdom in the Premier League is that 70 points will get you automatic qualification for the UEFA Champions League from the Premier League. The Premier League puts three automatic qualifiers in the UEFA Champions League with the fourth team having to go through the qualification process. The conventional wisdom held because Manchester United (80 points), Chelsea (71 points), and Manchester City (71 points) all earned at least 70 points and automatically qualified while Arsenal (68 points) has to qualify for the knock-out stages of the UEFA Champions League because they finished 4th in the Premier League.

In somewhat related news, my buddy Gaber's favorite team Arsenal finished 4th while my buddy Uncle Patty's team Newcastle finished 12th. Both Arsenal and Newcastle have to be relatively pleased with their position since Arsenal still has a chance to qualify for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League and Newcastle was just promoted back to the Premier League this season.

As you can see the magic numbers of 40 points and 70 points held for another year in the Premier League. All of that is great but selfishly the best part for me as a Man City fan is that they qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in club history. That means that Man City will continue to invest in big name players to try and improve on their best Premier League finish ever. The next goal for Man City is to win the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League for the first time in club history.

If there is one takeaway from the post, relegation and promotion is simultaneously the most nerve wracking and exhilarating thing in sports. There is no real feasible way to implement this in the the major professional sports in North America because most major professional teams own the rights to the players that make up the minor league teams (MLB, NBA, and NHL) or do not have any actual minor league teams besides a small practice squad (NFL). This should be the last soccer post for a while unless something Cheesehead soccer related happens. Please check back for more non-soccer related Cheesehead sports content on the blog.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Running Diary of Man City’s 2011 FA Cup Victory

This is going to be a different type of Sunday Funday post since it does not directly involve a Cheesehead sports team. I love football, baseball, and basketball but soccer is the sport I played most growing up so it is the sport that I understand the best. About six or seven years ago I decided that it was crazy I didn’t follow an English Premier League team so I started searching for an EPL team.

I would love to claim that I had an elaborate story for how I picked Manchester City but it was really two converging factors. First, Claudio Reyna, my favorite United States soccer player of all-time, played for Man City at the time I was picking a team to follow. Second, Man City reminded me of the Packers/Brewers/Bucks because they were the underdog in their own city to Manchester United much like Chicago tries to overshadow the Cheesehead sports. So with that as background, here is my running diary of Man City trying to hoist their first trophy in 35 years:

Pre-game: Apparently Fox Soccer Channel is going through a re-branding by changing their name to Fox Soccer. Here’s a hint, instead of worrying about the name of your channel, make sure you broadcast the channel in high definition. Watching a soccer match in square, standard definition feels like I am watching a sporting event on my grandpa’s couch in 1987. This is the FA Cup for god sake, come on Fox Whatever You Want to Call Yourself.

1st Minute: Here we go, the 130th FA Cup is underway between Man City and Stoke City. The easiest way to explain the FA Cup is if baseball had a tournament where every team from rookie ball to the big leagues teams could win the trophy. Obviously the comparison doesn’t work completely because minor league baseball teams are affiliated with major league teams but you get my point.

2nd minute: Stoke was founded in 1863 but has never played in an FA Cup Final or even won a trophy in the entire history of their club. The announcers remind us that Man City is going through quite a draught as well looking for their first trophy in 35 years. Man City is the New York Mets of the English Premier League (“EPL”) at this point while Stoke City are the Cleveland Cavaliers of the EPL. Talk about two clubs that could use a slump-buster even if it means going hogging.

3rd Minute: Cheesehead Chick is filing her nails on the couch next to me as I am trying to stop myself from biting my nails. My nail-biting problem is a nasty, almost 30-year habit that I blame on me being perpetually nervous thanks to living and dying with every game played by a Cheesehead sports teams. Rooting for Man City only hurt my nail biting even more.

5th Minute: A healthy Carlos Tevez, something we haven’t seen for over a month, takes his first shot of the match for Man City. For those of you that don’t know, Tevez is the Prince Fielder of Man City…a man that produces on a high level but already unfortunately has one foot out of the door.

7th Minute: The announcer questions why Man City manager Roberto Mancini started striker Mario Balotelli, a guy who makes Ron Artest look calm. Agreed, why start the hothead when there are tons of better options on the bench (i.e. Adam Johnson).

12th Minute: The first long throw of the match by Stoke’s Rory Delap. Anytime Stoke gets the ball in Man City’s half, Delap can throw the ball into the box. Dunlap’s throw-ins alone give Stoke a huge advantage. It perplexes me why more teams don’t identify or teach players the long throw-in.

14th Minute: The refs miss a red cardable offense by Stoke’s Robert Huth. Nasty play by Huth, not sure how both refs missed that one. I am not saying instant replay is necessary but it is weird that everyone else in the world is more plugged in than the referees overseeing the match on the pitch right?

24th Minute: Man City’s Yaya Toure pushes forward and finds Balotelli who is robbed of a goal by Stoke’s goalie Thomas Sorensen…I take back what I said Mancini…great decision to start Balotelli over Johnson.

26th Minute: The first appearance of the Poznan where the fans turn their backs to the match, put their arms around each other and jump up and down. Man City fans picked it up at an away match in the Europa League this season against Lech Poznan. I love the cheer and it makes sense following a goal but I still don’t get the point of doing it while the ball is in play.

30th Minute: A handball that probably should have been a penalty kick for Stoke by Man City defender Vincent Kompany leads to a rare goal attempt by Kompany on the other end…Man City sure dodged a bullet on that one. I take back what I said about instant replay, the referee doesn’t always have to be in the loop.

32nd Minute: Another long throw by Delap. Everyone knows its coming but it is still so hard for Man City to defend. In case you haven’t realized yet, I hate the long throw.

35th Minute: Balotelli and midfielder David Silva combine on Tevez’s sublime through ball. Silva misses a sitter to put Man City ahead. With that miss Man City has five more shots than Stoke already but nothing to show for it.

38th Minute: Cheesehead Chick tops off my coffee and starts telling me about how her office doesn’t recycle. At any other time I would be interested but since Man City is playing in their first FA Cup Final since I was a zygote I am trying to pay attention to Cheesehead Chick but I am much more worried about the match than reducing global warming right now.

40th Minute: Huth finally goes in the book for a silly challenge. Huth should have already seen red and be watching the match from the locker room so a yellow is of little consolation at this point.

41st Minute: Man City defender Aleksandar Kolarov skies a free kick over the bar. Kolarov has shown flashes of being the modern day Roberto Carlos but unfortunately that was not his best effort. Just as Kolarov skies the free kick now Cheesehead Chick asks me about a parking ticket. There needs to be some type of sports rule implemented that gives guys a certain amount of time a week that doesn’t involve discussing household matters. Unfortunately with how many sporting events I watch, I would probably have to selectively use that time each week. If the NFL Lockout ever ends, I would be screwed because all-day Sunday and Monday night each week ends up being a ton of time.

Extra Time: Thanks to Tevez and Stoke’s Jermaine Pennant going down they play three minutes of extra time instead of the one minute of allotted extra time. Mark extra time down as one of the 10 million things that are considered normal outside the United States because it is exciting and bribe worthy but will never be fully embraced in the United States.

Halftime: Man City absolutely dominated the first half. City had more shots on goal (4 to 1), shots off target (7 to 1), and corner kicks (5 to 0) but the score is tied 0-0.

Commercial Break: Since there is no break in the action besides halftime we are about to get inundated with horrible commercials. Unfortunately the hometown favorite Miller Lite leads off with the worst beer commercial ever. A guy and a girl talk in total American soccer clich├ęs while buying beer. I support the hometown adult beverages on principle alone but who is Miller going after with that commercial? The commercial alienates actual soccer fans and does not draw in the casual fan…well done Miller Lite. Thankfully a WPS commercial follows…high comedy…no one outside of the Northwest supports the MLS but I am sure they will support the women’s version of the MLS. How is the WNBA doing by the way? The cherry on top of the crappy commercial sundae comes from a diabetes commercial that says you can eat cake, potato skins, and other crap…good thing to pitch to diabetics.

Halftime Show: Christian Miles and Warren Barton should catch us up on the first half but since Manchester United won the EPL with a tie on a questionable penalty kick we are forced to see Manchester United highlights instead. A few thoughts. First, Manchester Untied striker Wayne Rooney was already suspended this year for saying “F%&k Off” to the camera earlier this year. What did Rooney do after converting the penalty kick…you guessed it another “F%&k Off” to the camera…keep it classy Rooney. Second, United got more coverage during halftime than the actual match that we were watching…great production work. Third, why are league matches played on the same day as the FA Cup Final? Man City beat Man United to get into the FA Cup Final so if Man United beat Man City then the EPL fixture where Man United claimed the EPL title would have conflicted with the FA Cup Final. Common sense says give the FA Cup Final its own day on the calendar, especially since it is right at the end of the season but I guess that would make too much sense.

46th Minute: Right as the second half is about to kick-off Mama Cheese calls. I would love to talk to my mom but Man City is about to drive me into convulsions so I get off the phone as soon as possible.

47th Minute: Huth tries to convert Pennant’s cross but the play ends in a whimper. During that exchange the announcers explain that Stoke City are the 5th best second half team in the EPL. I assume they are using goal differential to determine that but it seems like one of those simultaneous compelling but useless stats that announcers trot out occasionally.

50th Minute: Delap has another long throw, probably only his 4th or 5th of the match but it feels like the 50th. The throw ends up in a dangerous spot but Stoke fail to do anything with it. Hey Man City defense, just so you know, there are only so many times that you can dodge this bullet.

51st Minute: An intentional handball probably should have been Huth’s second yellow but Huth escapes again. Based on my tally, Huth has earned two red cards but sits on only one yellow. Should we re-open the instant replay discussion?

53rd Minute: Stoke break and are awarded a phantom free kick as Pennant goes down in a heap. Pennant’s day should be over but somehow he continues to hobble all over the pitch. Current least favorite Stoke players: 1A is Huth and 1B is Delap with Pennant winning the bronze medal.

55th Minute: Balotelli summons his inner-Artest and shoves a Stoke player to set-up a free kick in a dangerous spot. Stoke scares the goal on the free kick but the Man City defense does well to avert the danger.

61st Minute: Stoke continues to mess with Balotelli hoping to have him lose his head. Please don’t throw a beer on him Stoke fans…we don’t need the FA Cup version of the Malice in the Palace.

62nd Minute: Stoke plays the ball long with striker Kenwyne Jones holding off Man City defender Joleon Lescott. Jones has a chance to score but Man City keeper Joe Hart saves a goal with his nut sack. That was Stoke’s best chance of the day with Hart’s hairy boys denying Stoke. Matthew Etherington is subbed out for Dean Whitehead. Stoke has the no-name bench with little firepower while every player on Man City’s bench would crack the staring 11 for Stoke. How is the match still 0-0?

68th Minute: The announced attendance at Wembley is 88,643. Wembley is currently the second largest stadium in Europe and their home tenant is the England men's national team. Essentially that means the stadium was built for big soccer matches. Can you imagine a basketball stadium being built in the Untied States solely for qualifying matches and an occasional all-star game? It will take soccer a long time to be big here but it just shows you how big soccer is around the rest of the world.

70th Minute: Man City midfielder and Dutch World Cup Final villain Nigel de Jong’s tackle leads to another Delap throw that results in Man City defender Micah Richards conceding a silly free kick to Pennant. Pennant continues to hobble around, how is he still out there?

73rd Minute: Mancini finally takes out holding midfielder Gareth Barry in favor of winger Adam Johnson. About time Mancini make a move. Barry plays a different position than Johnson for Man City but I am still confused as to how Barry belongs in the starting lineup ahead of Johnson.

74th Minute: The sub works as Balotelli and Silva combine to press forward. With the ball bounding around Stoke’s penalty area, Man City superhero Yaya Toure bangs home a goal to give City a 1-0 lead. Man City fans rightfully break out into the Poznan. The day after Toure’s 28th birthday he scored for Man City in his second connective FA Cup match (Toure notched the winner against Manchester Untied in the FA Cup Semifinal) to set the blue half of Manchester into a state of absolute euphoria.

76th Minute: Things start to get chippy as Silva fires the ball at a Stoke player as he picks up a yellow. Keep your head Man City, you are 15 minutes from you first trophy in 35 years.

77th Minute: The camera predictably flashes to Kolo Toure, the suspended Man City defender and brother of the goal scorer Yaya. Kolo is suspended for allegedly using his wife’s weight management pills while his brother is becoming one of the famous players in the club’s history. While we are on this tangent, Europe has a much more stringent testing policy than the Untied States. If you test positive in Europe you are suspended right away as they sort out the problems. That is not the case in the United States. The Williams Wall of the Minnesota Vikings tested positive in 1847 for performance enhancing drugs but they are still awaiting their appeal. There has to be some middle ground right?

79th Minute: I just grabbed Cheesehead Chick’s flat Hoegaarden from last night from the refrigerator to celebrate City possibly winning their first trophy since 1976. Come on City, only 10 more minutes. By the way, flat Hoegaarden has never tasted so good at 10:40 am.

80th Minute: Stoke take out Delap in favor of Carew and I couldn’t be happier. For the long throws alone it makes sense to leave Delap in there. That got me thinking, what moves should Mancini make. I say sub Balotelli for Meredith Viera, I mean Patrick Viera. I know it sounds crazy since I am not normally a fan of putting the carcass of Viera on the pitch but it makes sense in this spot because it gives Man City another defensive presence they sorely need at this point.

81st Minute: The announcers start talking about the last time Man City appeared in an FA Cup Final in 1981. Coincidentally Mama Cheese was pregnant with me at the time and in Russia on a delegation trying to simultaneously alienate both sets of my future grandparents at the same time.

83rd Minute: Man City wins another corner to take a 7-0 advantage for the match but when you factor in Delap’s throws Man City is actually behind 14-7 in terms of corner kicks. Man City takes the short corner to waste time. I hate that move, why give up a goal scoring opportunity for 15 seconds of wasting time? Take the corner kick normally and leave a few guys back so the other team doesn’t counter attack. Do anything besides sitting on the ball like that.

84th Minute: Stoke makes their final change, Danny Pugh comes on for former Man City player Glenn Whelan. Stoke’s subs were Whitehead, Carew, and Pugh while Man City has studs like James Milner and Edin Dzeko just watching the match. How is it only 1-0?

86th Minute: Great nutmeg by Balotelli…okay I am officially wrong on the Balotelli call…he deserved the call today. Carew counters but de Jong denies Carew. I know this going to drive the red half of Manchester mad but de Jong looks like a new school Roy Keane in the making. That’s right, I said it, the 2010 World Cup Finals villain is on the path to being the next Roy Keane in Manchester. Unfortunately for Man United, Nigel de Jong plays for the blue side of Manchester not the red side of Manchester.

88th Minute: The Argentinean swap of defender Pablo Zabaleta for Tevez. Check out the shiner on Zabaleta. Manny Pacquiao looked better after his last fight than Zabaleta looks right now. Now Man City is officially packing it in playing five across the back with Kolarov, Lescott, Kompany, Richards, and Zabaleta. Why am I nervous with City up 1-0 and a mere seconds left in the match?

90th Minute: Man City takes another corner. Outside of diving in soccer, (although I would argue it is currently worse in the NBA right now than in soccer actually) which I know is horrible, wasting time at the end of matches is such a bummer. I get why teams do it but I wish they just played the matches out. Three minutes of added time, I am officially starting to hyperventilate.

92nd Minute: Silva makes way for Meredith as Stoke press forward for their first official corner or their 87th corner if you count all of Delap’s throw-ins. The announcers are trying to be a buzz kill by saying: “never make a change when defending a corner...you know what happens.” Thanks, as if I needed to get any more anxious. By the way, this counts as an appearance for Viera. I wonder how many of these players get over a career. I feel like these should count as a quarter or half of an appearance not a full appearance.

93rd Minute: Stoke bring the keeper up 11th attacker style to no avail. The ref checks his watch one more time right as Cheesehead Chick walks in from a run and calls it...Man City wins the 2011 FA Cup 1-0 over Stoke City.

Man City dominated Stoke. Man City had more shots on goal (14-1), shots off target (9-7), fouls (14-9), and corners kicks (8-2). Long story short, the proper team won today.

Post-game: The announce says, “money was spent, money buys happiness.” I love that every discussion about Man City has to center on them having a ton of money to spend on players. God forbid the announcer simply congratulated Man City on winning the FA Cup, nope bring up the money. Also for what its worth I have been pulling for Man City through three ownership regimes. The second owner of the team, Thaksin Shinawatra, was in England because of political exile in Thailand. Needless to say, it has been quite a ride in just a few short years pulling for Man City.

As Stoke get their second place medals it reminds me of one of my infinitely less important soccer triumphs. We (Mequon United) won the state championship for our age group over our rivals (Milwaukee Kickers) and as the opposing team got their medals they took them off and threw them. Talk about a bunch of spoiled little kids…yeah that was the Kickers for you. Anyhow luckily Stoke showed more class in defeat even staying on the field to watch Man City get their medals.

Despite being subbed out, Tevez throws the captain band back on to lead the team up to get their medals. Tevez grabs the FA Cup and actually drops the top. Barry picks it up. Okay so I can take it back, Barry did serve a purpose this season for City.

Now Man City plays Stoke again on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at home. So three days following their battle for a huge prize it feels like they are playing for nothing especially since Stoke secured a spot in the EPL for next season but Man City still has something to play for. Man City secured their EPL spot long ago and locked up a place in the Champions League. Now Man City has their match against Stoke and away against Bolton Wanders to try and secure the 3rd spot in the Champions League so that they are automatic qualifiers for the group stages of the Champions League instead of having to go through qualification matches in mid-July.

Just as I am basking in the glory on Man City winning Cheesehead Chick looks at me and says “so what did they win?” Good times, thanks for paying attention. For Cheesehead Chick and everyone else that is not as dialed in as I was, Man City won their 5th FA Cup. It is Man City’s first FA Cup win since 1969 and their first trophy since 1976.

Between Man City winning the 1976 League Cup and winning the 2011 FA Cup, Man United won: 13 League Championships, 8 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 2 Champions Leagues Titles, and 1 European Cup Winners’ Cup. Since Man United won the EPL earlier in the day, Man City can claim to be the last Manchester team to hoist a trophy. In the process, Man City is working to shed the New York Mets label to become one of the top clubs in the world. Enjoy the FA Cup win City, it looks to be the first of many trophies you will win in the next few years.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

2011 Green Bay Packers Roster 1.0

Since I am never shy about giving my thoughts on what Ted Thompson and company should do, I thought with the 2011 NFL Draft complete for the Green Bay Packers, I would give my thoughts on what the 53-man roster* and 8-man practice squad** should be for the 2011 Green Bay Packers:

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, and Graham Harrell
Analysis: With the lack of quality quarterbacks in the NFL the odds are that Harrell would not make it through waivers so the Packers could place him on the practice squad again. As a result I see the Packers keeping three quarterbacks.

Running Back: Ryan Grant, James Starks, and Alex Green
Analysis: Will the Packers keep three running backs or four running backs? Obviously I think they should keep three. That means that Alex Green will beat out Dimitri Nance based on draft position alone. How crazy is it that Brandon Jackson went from being the starting running back for the Green Bay Packers in Week #2 of the 2010 NFL season to being potentially unemployed in 2011?

Fullback: John Kuhn and Quinn Johnson
Analysis: The Packers would obviously need to sign Kuhn to a new contract but I am 95% sure he will be wearing the Green and Gold again in 2011. Besides that, sorry to see you leave Korey Hall but you just never stayed healthy enough to merit a second contract in Green Bay like Kuhn does.

Wide Receiver: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Brett Swain
Analysis: Jennings, Driver, and Nelson are no brainers. The only question for the aforementioned group is whether the Packers should start working on a contract extension with Nelson because he will most likely become a free agent following the 2011 season. Although James Jones is clearly more talented than Cobb and Swain today, the Packers should save some money by letting him leave via free agency unless he accepts a very cheap contract extension.

Tight End: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, and D.J. Williams
Analysis: If the Packers have a ton of quality depth at wide receiver, they have even more depth at tight end. The Packers are so stacked at tight end that when they drafted D.J. Williams (2010 John Mackey Award recipient given to the best collegiate tight end) in the 2011 NFL Draft, they took a player that isn't even guaranteed to make the 2011 opening day roster.

Tackle: Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod, and Marshall Newhouse
Analysis: Sorry Mark Tauscher it pains me not to keep you on the roster but with Bulaga, Sherrod, and Newhouse in the fold the Packers need to start their youth movement along the offensive line.

Guard: Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Nick McDonald, and Caleb Schlauderaff
Analysis: Odd are that Thompson will relent and give Colledge an extension but if I were in charge I would let Colledge leave via free agency and let the young guys compete for the starting left guard spot.

Center: Scott Wells
Analysis: Lang, McDonald, and Schlauderaff are going to have to wear multiple hats if they want to stay on the roster. Pick one or two of the aforementioned guys to groom as the back-up center for 2011 with the thought of them starting down the road.

Defensive End: Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal, Howard Green, C.J. Wilson, and Jarius Wynn
Analysis: Unfortunately after Pickett there are question marks surrounding the rest of the defensive ends: Neal (coming off an injury), Green (weight problems always just around the corner), and Wilson/Wynn (need to show that 2011 is the rule not the exception). That is a problem because defensive end is one of the most underrated position in the 3-4 defense because they act like the offensive tackles on defense with the linebackers and defensive backs acting like the running backs and wide receivers on defense. Much like letting Tauscher go, it pains me to let Cullen Jenkins leave via free agency but Jenkins will demand more money than the Packers are willing to commit to him.

Defensive Tackle: B.J. Raji
Analysis: As I said above, quality defensive lineman eat up space and make the linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties look good in the 3-4 defense. Pickett and Green can slide over to defensive tackle but the Packers still need more quality depth at defensive tackle unless they want to run B.J. Raji into the ground.

Outside Linebacker: Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Frank Zombo, Erik Walden, and Ricky Elmore
Analysis: Aaron Rodgers makes wide receivers/tight ends look good with how well he throws the ball. The same thing applies to Clay Matthews, he makes the other outside linebackers look better than if they played for another team. The Packers have a ton of options to pair with Claymaker so health will probably be the determining factor of who emerges from the group of young and talented outside linebackers to start opposite Claymaker.

Middle Linebacker: Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett, and Brandon Chillar
Analysis: As crazy as it sounds the Packers will have back-ups (Barnett and Chillar) that would start for most teams at middle linebacker. As I said many times, the Packers only play the 3-4 defense on about 33% of their defensive snaps so they should get Matthews, Bishop, Hawk, and Barnett on the field at the same time as much as possible in 2011. The aforementioned group is schedule to make a ton of money in 2011 so they need to be on the field as much as possible to earn their hefty paychecks.

Cornerback: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Pat Lee, and Devon House
Analysis: Woodson, Williams, and Shields are the only locks to make the roster while House is a virtual lock since the Packers used a 4th round pick on him in the 2011 NFL Draft. After that it really comes does to Underwood or Lee. Since Lee was drafted in the second round and Underwood was an undrafted free agent you would assume that Lee will get the nod. That is too bad though because Underwood looks like a potential starter but the off the field issues continue to plague him so the Packers will most likely move on without Underwood.

Safety: Nick Collins, Charlie Peprah, Morgan Burnett, and Jarrett Bush
Analysis: In a little more than only one season Atari Bigby went from the starter opposite Nick Collins to just another guy fighting for an NFL roster spot. Part of that comes from Drew Rosenhaus giving Bigby bad advice about holding out for a contract extension and part of that comes down to Bigby's inability to stay healthy. As a result the Packers will most likely move on without Bigby and Anthony Smith. That leaves an open competition between Peprah and Burnett for the starting spot opposite Collins with Bush continuing to serve as the special teams maven.

Specialists: Mason Crosby (K), Tim Masthay (P), and Brett Goode (LS)
Analysis: Masthay and Goode look like the right guys for the job for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately the same can't be said with 100% confidence for Crosby. Since there aren't many better options the Packers need to sign Crosby to a four-year extension that allows them to cut Crosby without a ton of salary cap ramifications if Crosby struggles in 2011 or 2012.

Practice Squad: Chastin West (WR), Ryan Taylor (TE/FB), Chris Campbell (OT), Jay Ross (DT), Lawrence Guy (DE), D.J. Smith (OLB), Josh Gordy (CB), and Anthony Levine (S)
Analysis: With all of the quality, young talent the Packers have on their current 80-man roster they could fill two practice squads. That is what made it so hard to get rid of guys like Antonio Robinson (WR), Adrian Battles (G), Curtis Young (DE/OLB), Cardia Jackson (LB), and Michael Greco (S). The Packers have such a talented 53-man roster though that worrying about who should make the practice squad is less of an issue than having to get rid of quality veterans like Bigby, Colledge, Jenkins, Jones, Nance, Poppinga, Smith, and Spitz.

Hopefully there will actually be a 2011 NFL season so periodically I will update my predictions for who should make the 53-man roster once the lockout is resolved and players get back on the field.


Footnote:
* = I decided to keep 26 players on offense, 24 players on defense, and 3 specialists

** = Unless something changes with the new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the players, every team is allowed to place eight players on their practice squad.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

2011 Green Bay Packer Draft Picks

Congratulations to the ten players taken by Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson in the 2011 NFL Draft, today is truly a Sunday Funday for all of them.

1st Round (32nd Overall): Derek Sherrod, Offensive Tackle
School: Mississippi State (SEC)
Height: 6'5⅜"
Weight: 321 lbs
Arm Length: 35.29"
Hand Size: 11.0"
40-yard Dash: 5.18 seconds
Vertical Leap: 28"
Broad Jump: 8'1"
225-pound Bench Press: 23 reps
Wonderlic: 25 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Da'Quan Bowers (DE/OLB, Clemson), Marvin Austin (DE/DT, UNC) or Stephen Paea (DT, Oregon State)
Analysis: Another year, another tackle drafted in the first round. Last year Thompson drafted Bryan Bulaga and followed it up this year by taking Sherrod with the last pick of the first round. Sherrod has longer arms and bigger hands than Bulaga. Only time will tell whether that means that Sherrod is the left tackle of the future ahead of Bulaga. Sherrod is a smart guy, he graduated college in three years and even started on his masters. With how impressive Sherrod is in the classroom, he is even more impressive on the field. Sherrod started 37 games at left tackle, 47 starts total, and appeared in 49 games for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Sherrod's senior season was his best, he didn't allow a sack in 2010 despite playing in the SEC and facing some of the best best pass rushers in the country.


2nd Round (64th Overall): Randall Cobb, Wide Receiver
School: Kentucky (SEC)
Height: 5'10¼"
Weight: 191 lbs
Arm Length: 31.0"
Hand Size: 9.3"
40-yard Dash: 4.47 seconds
Vertical Leap: 33.5"
Broad Jump: 9'7"
225-pound Bench Press: 16 reps
Wonderlic: 25 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Dontay Moch (OLB, Nevada), John Moffitt (OG, Wisconsin) or Leonard Hankerson (WR, Miami)
Analysis: Thompson has gone 2 for 3 drafting wide receiver in the second round hitting a homerun with Greg Jennings, a double with Jordy Nelson, and got plunked in the head with Terrence Murphy. Cobb will line up in the slot, at running back, at quarterback in the wildcat, as a return man, and he might even serve as the holder...something that I have long advocated the Packers should do with their backup quarterback. Cobb reminds me of a rich man's Antwaan Randle El or a poor man's Percy Harvin. Cobb set an SEC record with 2,396 all-purpose yards in 2010, check out the breakdown:
- caught 84 balls for 1,017 yards and 7 touchdowns
- rushed 55 times for 424 yards and 5 touchdowns
- went 5 for 10 throwing for 58 yards and 3 touchdowns out of the Wildcat
- averaged 7.82 yards per punt return
- averaged 23.74 yards per kickoff return
With the decline of Driver in 2010 and the potential loss of Jones via free agency before the 2011 season, the Packers added another stud receiver to an already impressive group of wide receiver.


3rd Round (96th Overall): Alexander Green, Running Back
School: Hawaii (WAC)
Height: 6'0¼"
Weight: 225 lbs
Arm Length: 32.0"
Hand Size: 9.1"
40-yard Dash: 4.52 seconds
Vertical Leap: 34"
Broad Jump: 9'6"
225-pound Bench Press: 20 reps
Wonderlic: 15 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Jordan Cameron (TE, USC), Sam Acho (DE/OLB, Texas) or Christian Ballard (DT, Iowa)
Analysis: Talking about the rich getting richer. By picking Alex Green the Packers selected three offensive players with their first three picks for the first time since 1996. Green is only the fourth running back Thompson has drafted while in charge of the Packers. The highest pick that Thompson used on a running back was a second round pick in 2007 on Brandon Jackson. Oddly enough, Green will most likely replace Jackson as the 3rd down back for the Packers in 2011. That means barring a change in events, Green is going to claim Jackson's roster spot. Before we go any further, let's get the Butte Community College reference out there. Yes, both Green and Rodgers played at Butte Community College. In fact, Green played with Aaron's younger brother Jordan. Green played at Butte for two years, leading them to the 2008 Junior College National Championship finishing 12-0 for the season. Green moved on to play at Hawaii where he averaged 9 yards per touch last year amassing 1,562 all-purpose yards (1,199 rushing yards and 363 receiving yards) and 19 touchdowns. Green played in the spread offense at Hawaii so it will be interesting to see how Green performs in a more traditional offense. The system is not the only change that Green is going to have to get used to in 2011. Green played college football in California and Hawaii, now he can look forward to playing in bitter cold winters in Green Bay. The only knock on Green is that he is a bit of a fumbler (8 fumbles in 271 touches) but that is fitting since another Packer running back named Green, Ahman Green, had fumbling issues.


4th Round (131st Overall): Devon House, Cornerback
School: New Mexico State (WAC)
Height: 6'0½"
Weight: 200 lbs
Arm Length: 31.7"
Hand Size: 9.399"
40-yard Dash: 4.41 seconds
Vertical Leap: 33.5"
Broad Jump: 9'1"
225-pound Bench Press: 14 reps
Wonderlic: 15 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Buster Skrine (CB, Chattanooga), Marcus Cannon (OT, TCU) or Brandon Burton (CB, Utah)
Analysis: House is the second highest cornerback Thompson drafted while in charge of the Packers. Perpetually injured former Auburn cornerback Pat Lee was the highest cornerback drafted during the Thompson regime. Much like Green taking Jackson's roster spot, it looks like House will claim Lee's roster spot. House started started 6 of last 7 games in 2007 and was a full-time starter from 2008-10. That means that House started 43 of 49 games at New Mexico State, so at the very least House got a ton of experience in college, which should help him make a smooth transition to the NFL.


5th Round (141st Overall): D.J. Williams, Tight End
School: Arkansas (SEC)
Height: 6'2⅛"
Weight: 245 lbs
Arm Length: 31.4"
Hand Size: 10.3"
40-yard Dash: 4.61 seconds
Vertical Leap: 33.5"
Broad Jump: 9'3"
225-pound Bench Press: 26 reps
Wonderlic: 26 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Karl Klug (DE, Iowa), Dion Lewis (RB, Pittsburgh) or Christopher Carter (OLB, Fresno State)
Analysis: Williams had a tough childhood, his father suffered from mental health issues and beat his mother so Williams was forced to move to Arkansas to get away from his father. On a more positive note, Williams was the 2010 John Mackey Award recipient (best collegiate tight end) thanks in large part to a pretty impressive career at Arkansas. As a two-year starter Williams had 152 receptions for 1,855 yards and 10 touchdowns. One final note, the Denver Broncos traded up 12 spots with the Green Bay Packers to select Julius Thomas (TE, Portland State) instead of Williams. Check back in five years to see if Denver should have taken Williams instead of Thomas.


6th Round (179th Overall): Caleb Schlauderaff, Offensive Guard
School: Utah (MWC)
Height: 6'4¼"
Weight: 305 lbs
Arm Length: 32.2"
Hand Size: 9.6"
40-yard Dash: 5.09 seconds
Vertical Leap: 28"
Broad Jump: 8'6"
225-pound Bench Press: ? reps
Wonderlic: 28 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Tyrod Taylor (QB, Virginia Tech), Jordan Todman (RB, Connecticut) or David Carter (DT, UCLA)
Analysis: Even with Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz as kinda a sorta free agents because of the labor unrest the Packers have a ton of guards on the roster (Sitton, McDonald, and Lang) so Schlauderaff looks like a pure luxury pick. Schlauderaff was a four-year starter at Utah but I would be surprised if he makes a start in the NFL before 2013. The Packers moved back twice (shocker) before taking Schlauderaff. The San Francisco 49ers selected Daniel Kilgore (G, Appalachian State) 16 picks earlier, another set to compare against down the road much like Williams and Thomas.


6th Round (186th Overall): D.J. Smith, Outside Linebacker
School: Appalachian State (Southern)
Height: 5'10¼"
Weight: 239 lbs
Arm Length: 32.0"
Hand Size: 9.6"
40-yard Dash: 4.74 seconds
Vertical Leap: 31"
Broad Jump: 8'8"
225-pound Bench Press: 20 reps
Wonderlic: 20 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Jason Kelce (OG/C, Cincinnati), Brian Rolle (OLB, Ohio State) or Markell Carter (DE/OLB, Central Arkansas)
Analysis: When Thompson drafted Smith I am sure most Packers fans thought it was about time Thompson got another outside linebacker. As I said a few months ago though, the Packers have a ton of talent at outside linebacker already on the roster even before the 2011 NFL Draft. Smith started every game from 2008-10 (32 at WLB and 8 at MLB). At least 15 potential 3-4 outside linebackers went before the undersized Smith so the odds that he becomes an actual NFL starter are slim.


6th Round (197th Overall): Rick Elmore, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
School: Arizona (Pac-10)
Height: 6'4½"
Weight: 255 lbs
Arm Length: 31.0"
Hand Size: 9.6"
40-yard Dash: 4.84 seconds
Vertical Leap: 34.5"
Broad Jump: 9'7"
225-pound Bench Press: 26 reps
Wonderlic: 20 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Jerrell Powe (DT, Mississippi), Ross Homan (OLB, Ohio State) or Steve Schilling (OG, Michigan)
Analysis: Elmore has shades of Frank Zombo shifting from defensive end to outside linebacker. Elmore actually had more production than his college teammate outside linebacker Brooks Reed (picked 42nd overall by the Houston Texans) that was often linked with the Packers. Elmore started 36 of 51 games at Arizona and was very productive for his career: 128 tackles (33.5 for loss) and 25.5 sacks. Elmore lead the Pac-10 in sacks in 2010 with 11. If you are not already in love with Elmore as much as I am, he worked with the Claymaker's dad to help him transition from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker in the pros. Mark my words, Elmore is Aaron Kampman 2.0 for the Packers.


7th Round (218th Overall): Ryan Taylor, Tight End
School: North Carolina (ACC)
Height: ?
Weight: ? lbs
Arm Length: ?
Hand Size: ?
40-yard Dash: 4.78 seconds
Vertical Leap: 34"
Broad Jump: 9'10"
225-pound Bench Press: 21 reps
Wonderlic: ?
Other Possible Picks: Anthony Gaitor (CB, Florida International), Greg Romeus (DE, Pittsburgh) or Frank Kearse (DT, Alabama A&M)
Analysis: After drafting a tight end earlier in the draft and already being the only team in the league to carry more tight ends/fullbacks than true wide receivers and running backs, Thompson added another tight end/fullback. Thompson has drafted more tight ends (5) than quarterbacks (4), running backs (4), centers (1), and defensive tackles (4). It might have been better for Taylor to go undrafted because he could have gone to a team with less depth at tight end. Either way, why not draft the feel good story of the draft Mark Herzlich? For those that don't know, Herzlich passed on entering the draft despite looking like a sure fire first round pick to return to Boston College. Soon after making that decision, Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately Herzlich beat cancer but his play suffered as a result of his illness. Herzlich's story has all the makings of a Donald Driveresque ending, why not add a guy like that instead of another backup tight end/fullback?


7th Round (233rd Overall): Lawrence Guy, Defensive Tackle/Defensive End
School: Arizona State (PAC-10)
Height: 6'4⅛"
Weight: 305 lbs
Arm Length: 32.59"
Hand Size: 10.6"
40-yard Dash: 4.99 seconds
Vertical Leap: 29"
Broad Jump: 8'8"
225-pound Bench Press: 28 reps
Wonderlic: 17 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Lee Ziemba (OT, Auburn), Bill Nagy (OG/C, Wisconsin) or Chris Neild (NT, West Virginia)
Analysis: A big body that can move will help add some depth along the defensive line for the Packers. For his career, Guy had 122 tackles (23 for loss) and 8 sacks. Some people are comparing Guy to the Packers' 7th round pick from the 2010 NFL Draft, C.J. Wilson (6'3", 300 pounds). Guy left college early and barely got drafted, will that put a chip on Guy's shoulder?

If you want to take a look back my thoughts on the 2010 Draft for the Green Bay Packer the day after the 2010 NFL Draft, click here.