Monday, April 30, 2012

City completes the double over United

Just a mere three weeks ago Manchester City trailed Manchester United by eight points so the league title look settled.  Unfortunately for United's sake, the month of April has not been kind them.  After United's shock loss away to potentially relegation bound Wigan earlier this month, United followed that up a few weeks later with a 4-4 tie at home to Everton despite leading by two goals with less than 10 minutes remaining.

That all meant instead of coasting to the league title, United only lead City by three points ahead of the most anticipated Manchester Derby of my lifetime.  Heading into the match, ESPN's soccer power index (SPI) claimed that City had a mere 27.7% chance of winning the league title.

Luckily I was able to watch the match live with my buddy Brian at Stocks & Blondes despite the weekday kickoff at 2 pm CST from the baby blue Etihad Stadium.

After a back and forth first half, David Silva's corner kick found Vincent Kompany's head thanks to poor marking by Chris Smalling for a powerful finish to put City up 1-0 in stoppage time of the first half.  City has a league leading 14 goals from corner kicks, which was quite a home slump buster for City against United since City hasn't scored a home goal against United in over four matches.

Besides the goal, the only other real noteworthy happenstance in the match followed Nigel de Jong aka Kung Fu Panda's slightly cynical challenge on Danny Welbeck.  United manager Sir Alex Ferguson got vocal with City manager Roberto Mancini.  City had a few other chances throughout the match but no real on-target scares.

The five minutes of stoppage time at the end of the second half felt like the longest fives minutes of my life, especially since I was having flashbacks of Michel Owen's winner in the 47th minute of second half stoppage time to give United a home win over City in the 2009-10 EPL season.

Luckily City hung on to complete the double over for United for only the second time in 40 years. Don't get too excited yet fellow City fans though because the last time City completed the double over United, unfortunately United won the league title that year.

All rooting interest aside, City was the better side than United.  City out shot United 15 to 5 and none of United's shots were even on goal.  That was due in large part to the fact that City was much more effective in the attacking third.  City completed roughly 70% (101 of 147) of their passes in the attacking third while United only completed 56.7% (59 of 104) in the the attacking third.

Don't get me wrong, this obviosuly was not the 6-1 beat down that City gave United at Old Trafford but it might be the most significant win for City in their 131 year rivalry.

City and United both have 83 points and two matches remaining.  The good news is that City would win the league if the season were to end today thanks to a +61 goal differential, eight better than United.

Unfortunately City has a much tougher slate of matches since they are away against Newcastle (currently 5th in the EPL) and home against Queens Park Rangers (currently 17th in the EPL) while United hosts Swansea City (currently 12th in the EPL) and away against Sunderland (currently 11th in the EPL).  Despite having a much tougher slate of matches, SPI now claims that City has a 65.8% of winning the EPL.

City has not won the top league in England since 1968 when they clinched the title with a 4-3 win over Newcastle.  Typical City would be wilting against Newcastle to give away the league title but winning a match like today over United marked a new era for City.  Don't get me wrong, City could still stumble against Newcastle and/or QPR but they control their own destiny.  That means for the first time in my lifetime, it is City's title to lose.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Funday - 2012 Green Bay Packer Draft Picks

Welcome to my third annual review of the Green Bay Packers draft (2010 and 2011). One of my only qualms with Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson is that he usually trades back instead of moving up in the draft.  The Packers had a number of defensive needs so fortunately this year Thompson bucked his trend of trading back and actually traded up in the draft.  Its obviously way too early to tell but the 2012 NFL Draft reminds me of the 2009 NFL Draft when Thompson traded up to add Claymaker.  This year Thompson traded up three times:

#1) Packers traded the 59th pick and the 123rd pick to the Eagles for the 51st pick.  The Packers used the 51st pick to draft Jerel Worthy (DT/DE, Michigan State) while Vinny Curry (DE, Marshall) went 59th and Brandon Boykin (CB, Georgia) went 123rd.  I like all three guys.  I would probably rather have Curry and Boykins than just Worthy but there is no way the Packers could predict that Boykins would still be available at the end of the 4th round.

#2) Packers traded the 90th pick and the 163rd pick to the Patriots for the 62nd pick.  The Packers used the 62nd pick to draft Casey Hayward (CB, Vanderbilt) while the Patriots drafted Jake Bequette (DE, Arkansas) with the 90th pick and traded 163rd pick back to the Packers.

#3) Packers traded the 197th, 224th, and 235th pick to the Patriots for the 163rd pick.  The Packers used the 163rd pick to draft Terrell Manning (LB, N.C. State) while the Patriots drafted Nate Ebner (S, Ohio State) with the 197th pick, Alfonzo Denard (CB, Nebraska) with the 224th pick, and Jeremy Ebert (WR, Northwestern) with the 235th pick.

Congratulations to the eight players drafted by Thompson in the 2012 NFL Draft, today is truly a Sunday Funday for all of them:

1st Round (28th Overall): Nick Perry, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
School: USC (Pac-12)
Height: 6'2¾"
Weight: 271 lbs
Arm Length: 33.0"
Hand Size: 9.4"
40-yard Dash: 4.64 seconds
3-Cone Drill: 7.25 seconds
20-yard Dash: 4.66 seconds
225-pound Bench Press: 35 reps
Vertical Leap: 38.5"
Broad Jump: 124.0"
Wonderlic: 29 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Harrison Smith (SS, Notre Dame), Courtney Upshaw (OLB, Alabama), or Derek Wolfe (DT/DE, Cincinnati)
Analysis: Still feels odd to write Pac-12 instead of Pac-10.  The 2011 Green Bay Packers gave up the most passing yards per game in NFL history.  The simple solution would be to add a cornerback but pressuring the quarterback has a positive waterfall effect on the entire defense.  That is a long way of saying I fully support adding Perry, one of my 2012 NFL Draft crushes, because I fully expect him to make the entire defense better because now Claymaker has a legitimate pass rushing threat at the other outside linebacker position for the for the first time in his career.

Second Round (51st Overall): Jerel Worthy, Defensive Lineman
School: Michigan State (Big Ten)
Height: 6'2⅜"
Weight: 309 lbs
Arm Length: 33.0"
Hand Size: 9.3"
40-yard Dash: 5.08 seconds
3-Cone Drill: 7.6 seconds
20-yard Dash: 4.56 seconds
225-pound Bench Press: 28 reps
Vertical Leap: 28.5"
Broad Jump: 107.0"
Wonderlic: 20 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Devon Still (DT/DE, Penn State), Pete Konz (C, Wisconsin), or Vinny Curry (DE, Marshall)
Analysis: Let the comparisons of Ryan Pickett and Worthy start.  Trust me, if Worthy is 75% as productive as Pickett the Packers hit a home run with this pick. When Kendall Reyes (DT, UConn) went 49th overall to the San Diego Chargers, the Packers sensed there might be a run on defensive lineman.  Thompson wisely traded up to take Worthy.  As I said in my preview of Day 1 of the NFL Draft for the Packers, although Worthy didn't put up huge numbers in college, he is an effective pass rusher that takes up ton of space.  That is exactly the type of player the Packers thought they were getting in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft in Mike Neal, which I guess is why they let versatile defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins leave before the 2011 season.  With Mike Neal continuing to look like Justin Harrell 2.0, the Packers desperately needed an impact defensive lineman like Worthy.

Second Round (62nd Overall): Casey Hayward, Cornerback
School: Vanderbilt (SEC)
Height: 5'11⅜"
Weight: 192 lbs
Arm Length: 30.2"
Hand Size: 9.0"
40-yard Dash: 4.57 seconds
3-Cone Drill: 6.70 seconds
20-yard Dash: 3.90 seconds
225-pound Bench Press: 19 reps
Vertical Leap: 34"
Broad Jump: 119.0"
Wonderlic: 16 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Trumaine Johnson (CB, Montana), Josh Robinson (UCF, CB), or Brandon Brooks (Miami of Ohio, G/T)
Analysis: The Packers took three defenders with their first three picks for the first time since 2004 when they took Ahmad Carroll, Joey Thomas, and Donnell Washington.  Let's hope 2012 is not a repeat of 2004, otherwise the rampant optimism for Perry, Worthy, and Hayward joining the Packers will quickly turn to disappointment.  Hayward is apparently a complete ball hawk, which means he will fit in well in Green Bay since they've had one of the opportunistic secondaries for the last five years. This pick was really a three horse race between Hayward, Johnson, and Robinson.  As I said in my preview of Day 2 of the NFL Draft for the Packers, I probably would have taken Johnson just because he is a few inches taller than Hayward or Robinson but for the mere fact that Thompson traded into the second round to get another defender, I am going to trust his judgment.

4th Round (132 Overall): Mike Daniels, Defensive Tackle
School: Iowa (Big Ten)
Height: 6'0½"
Weight: 291 lbs
Arm Length: 32.4"
Hand Size: 9.1"
40-yard Dash: 4.86 seconds
3-Cone Drill: N/A
20-yard Dash: N/A
225-pound Bench Press: 27 reps
Vertical Leap: 36.5"
Broad Jump: 124.0"
Wonderlic: 28 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Josh Chapman (DT, Alabama), Malik Jackson (DE, Tennessee), or Zebrie Sanders (OT, Florida State)
Analysis: Not often do teams have two picks in a row.  Daniels was the first of two consecutive picks and the Packers took their sweet time getting their names submitted because "the pick is in" flashed on the bottom of the screen for what felt like 15 minutes.  Leaving all that aside, watch out C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn, it looks like a three-horse race between you guys and Daniels for the last defensive lineman roster spot.

4th Round (133rd Overall): Jerron Mcmillian, Safety
School: Maine (CAA)
Height: 5'11⅛"
Weight: 203 lbs
Arm Length: 30.5"
Hand Size: 9.3"
40-yard Dash: 4.56 seconds
3-Cone Drill: 6.69 seconds
20-yard Dash: 4.22 seconds
225-pound Bench Press: 17 reps
Vertical Leap: 36.5"
Broad Jump: 120.0"
Wonderlic: 15 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Robert Blanton (S, Notre Dame), Josh Norman (CB, Costal Carolina), or Bradie Ewing (FB, Wisconsin)
Analysis: Opinions are all over the board on Mcmilliam.  Todd McShay had Mcmillian rated as a non-drafted free agent while Mel Kiper Jr. claims that he had a 4th or 5th round grade on him.  The one thing we do know is that Mcmillian was a good tackler in college so if he can continue that in the NFL, Morgan Burnett might be able to turn into the ball-hawk at safety with Mcmillian doing the dirty work on the back end.  People are trying to make Nick Collins comparisons because Mcmillian is an athletic tackler from a small college.  Let's not forget that Collins was a second round pick and is undoubtedly one of the best safeties in franchise history so let's see Mcmillian make the team before we start comparing him to former safety Nick Collins.

6th Round (163rd Overall): Terrell Manning, outside linebacker
School: N.C. State (ACC)
Height: 6'2⅛"
Weight: 237 lbs
Arm Length: 32.2"
Hand Size: 9.2"
40-yard Dash: 4.79 seconds
3-Cone Drill: 7.18 seconds
20-yard Dash: 4.43 seconds
225-pound Bench Press: 22 reps
Vertical Leap: 32.5"
Broad Jump: 114.0"
Wonderlic: 23 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: George Iloka (S, Boise State), Emmanuel Acho (MLB, Texas), or Billy Winn (DT, Boise State)
Analysis: Seems like a versatile linebacker that can play any of the four linebacker spots in the 3-4.  A new-school Brandon Chillar if you will.  Although take my comparisons with a grain of salt because last year I claimed that Ricky Elmore would be Aaron Kampman 2.0, clearly I was wrong so I don't want to get to overexcited about Terrell Manning.  In fact I would be more excited about Manning if it didn't come at the expense of my Boise State draft crushes George Iloka (S, Boise State) and Billy Winn (DT, Boise State).  Finally A.J. Hawk better hold make sure he still has the compromising pictures of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy because the Packers have a ton of young, cheaper inside linebacker options in D.J. Smith, Robert Francois, and Terrell Manning.

7th Round (241st Overall): Andrew Datko, Offensive Tackle
School: Florida State (ACC)
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 315 lbs
Arm Length: 33.7"
Hand Size: 10.0"
40-yard Dash: 5.32 seconds
3-Cone Drill: 7.71 seconds
20-yard Dash: 4.54 seconds
225-pound Bench Press: 20 reps
Vertical Leap: 29.5"
Broad Jump: 100.0"
Wonderlic: 25 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Mike Harris (OT, UCLA), Josh Ogelsby (OT, Wisconsin), or James Brown (G/T, Troy)
Analysis: Is this Neckbeard 2.0 (Mark Tauscher) for the Packers?  Luckily the Packers have been investing high picks in offensive tackles the two years because after cutting Chad Clifton earlier this week, there will be a new full-time starting left tackle in Green Bay for the first time in over a decade.  I am sure the Packers will be working the phones to make sure a few "priority" non-drafted free agents come into camp to compete for backup lineman spots but they have a ton of quality depth at offensive tackle already so adding Datko feels like gravy or at the very least insurance in 2012 on Derek Sherrod's broken leg. On the plus side, the Packers got a guy that played a ton of games at left tackle for a big time program and fits well in the zone blocking scheme that the Packers use.  The only reason Datko fell to the 7th round was the injury issues. If Datko can get healthy, this pick will be the steal of the draft.

7th Round (243rd Overall): B.J. Coleman, Quarterback
School: Chattanooga (Southern)
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 233 lbs
Arm Length: 31.5"
Hand Size: 10.3"
40-yard Dash: 4.95 seconds
3-Cone Drill: 7.07 seconds
20-yard Dash: 4.38 seconds
225-pound Bench Press: N/A
Vertical Leap: 29.5"
Broad Jump: 109.0"
Wonderlic: 25 out of 50
Other Possible Picks: Chandler Harnish (QB, Northern Illinois), Kellan Moore (QB, Boise State), or Case Keenum (QB, Houston)
Analysis: I like Thompson following the Ron Wolf model of taking developmental quarterbacks late in the draft.  Best case scenario the Packers develop Coleman into a serviceable back-up.  Worst case scenario they threw away the 243rd pick.  I am sure there will be one or two Matt Flynn comparisons since the 7th round is the same round the Packers drafted Flynn.  Let's not forget that Flynn won a national championship in college, while Coleman could barely stay healthy long enough to get on the field.  One other footnote to Coleman, he might help lay the ground work for having Favre return to Green Bay for a proper retirement ceremony sooner rather than later because they share the same agent (Bus Cook).  Not only that, Favre has done extensive one-on-one work with Coleman leading up to the draft.  Heck if this pick was merely Ted Thompson's way of extending an olive branch to Favre it will go down as one of his better picks of the 2012 NFL Draft.

As we we all know, the 2011 the Packers went 15-1 in the regular season but lost at home in the Divisional Round to the New York Giants because of their porous defense.  Normally the Packers don't draft for need but clearly the Packers needed to add a number of defenders.  If even two or three of the defenders above turn into NFL starters then the 2012 NFL Draft will go down as the greatest defensive drafts in franchise history.

Related Posts:
- Quick Thoughts - 2012 NFL Draft Day 2 Packers Preview
- Quick Thoughts - 2012 NFL Draft Day 1 Packers Preview
- Cheesehead Sports Nut's 2012 First Round NFL Mock Draft
- Sunday Funday - 2011 Green Bay Packer Draft Picks
- Sunday Funday - 2010 Green Bay Packer Draft Picks

Friday, April 27, 2012

2012 NFL Draft Day 2 Packers Preview

It took a ton of patience to wait until the end of the first round for the Packers to finally make a pick but it was well worth the wait since the Packers added USC outside linebacker Nick Perry.  As I said in my mock draft, Perry is one of my draft crushes from the 2012 NFL Draft.  Although I targeted Perry as one of the guys I wanted the Packers to draft, I thought he would have been off the board by 28. The only real knock on Perry is that he occasionally takes plays off but as all the draft pundits said, do you think Claymaker will let Perry take plays off?

With the first round in the books it's time to turn our sights to the second and third rounds.  There are some guys leftover from the first round that I had my eye on for the Packers so it goes without saying that I would fully support the Packers taking Courtney Upshaw (OLB, Alabama), Jerel Worthy (DL, Michigan State), Vinny Curry (DL, Marshall), Andre Branch (DL/LB, Clemson), Devon Still (DL, Penn State), and Kendall Reyes (DL, UConn) in the second round.  Besides the guys just mentioned, here are five other targets for the Packers in the second round: 

Peter Konz (C, Wisconsin, 6'5", 315 lbs): The only way the Packers get Konz is if they trade up in the second round.  Since the Packers have 11 picks left in the 2012 NFL Draft, they have plenty of ammunition.  A few picks later in the draft seems like a small price to pay to move up and get Konz as their versatile center/guard of the future. 

Linebacker that falls: Despite taking Perry in the first round, I would actually support the Packers taking a versatile linebacker at the end of the second round if another one falls to them.  So yes, I am fine with the Packers taking Zach Brown (OLB, UNC, 6'1", 244 lbs), Ronnell Lewis (OLB, Oklahoma, 6'1", 253 lbs), or Lavonte David (LB, Nebraska, 6'0, 233 lbs) in the second round despite the fact that they took outside linebacker Nick Perry in the first round.  All three guys just mentioned seem like situational pass rusher but as Mike Mayock and Michael Lombardi pointed out as they dissected the Bruce Irivin overdraft by the Seattle Seahawks, the NFL is a passing league so situational pass rushers will be on the field even more than in years past. 

Short cornerbacks: Janoris Jenkins (CB, Northern Alabama, 5'10", 193 lbs) has four kids with three moms so that is scaring teams but Green Bay would be the perfect small town to ground Jenkins.  Although Jenkins is more physically gifted (not talking about his tallywacker) than Josh Robinson (CB, Central Florida, 5'10", 199 lbs), I look at Robinson as Jenkins sans baggage. 

Tall cornerbacks: The Packers will face big wide receivers like Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall in the NFC North so all things being equal I would rather the Packers take Josh Norman (CB, Costal Carolina, 6'2", 190 lbs) or Trumaine Johnson (CB, Montana, 6'2", 204 lbs) than Jenkins or Robinson simply because you can't teach height. 

Defensive Tackle: With Mike Neal looking like Justin Harrell reincarnated, Derek Wolfe (DL, Cincinnati, 6'5", 300 lbs), Alameda Ta'Amu (DL, Washington, 6'2", 348 lbs), or Brandon Thompson (DL, Clemson, 6'2", 314 lbs) are perfect 3-4 defensive lineman but odds are that none will be available at the end of the second round unless the Packers trade up.

Much like I said about the guys that I targeted in the first round for the Packers, it goes without saying that any of the guys mentioned above would be great picks for the Packers in the third round.  Here are some other guys that I hope the Packers target in the third round: 

Cam Johnson (DE, UVA, 6'3", 268 lbs): Unfortunately you don't get Cam Jordan when you draft Cam Johnson but adding a guy like Johnson at the end of the 3rd round feels like a quality pick for the Packers. 

Jared Crick (DE/DT, Nebraska, 6'4", 279 lbs): At one point he was a first round prospect but lack of strength and injuries hurt Crick's draft stock.  Crick may be weak, damaged goods but he has a huge upside as well so it seems worth the risk in the 3rd round. 

Boise State Defensive Lineman: Boise State had a huge first day of the draft with Shea McClellin and Doug Martin getting drafted in the first round.  Whether it be Billy Winn (DL, Boise State, 6'3", 294 lbs) or Tyrone Crawford (DL, Boise State, 6'4", 275 lbs), the Packers should keep the Boise State training rolling.

Mike Martin (DT, Michigan, 6'1" 306 lbs): The Packers love effort guys that max out their talent and Martin is the personification of that type of player. 

Brandon Boykin (CB, Georgia, 5'9", 182 lbs): Watch out Sam Shields because Boykin played in the SEC, which prepared him to step in and play meaningful snaps as a nickel cornerback right away for the Packers in 2012. 

Alfonzo Dennard (CB, Nebraska, 5'10" 204 lbs): Much like his teammate Crick, Dennard was a potential first round pick earlier in the season so getting him in the third round feels like a steal. 

Casey Hayward (CB, Vanderbilt, 5'11", 192 lbs): Odd are that Hayward will be long gone by now but a man can dream. 

George Iloka (S, Boise State, 6'3", 225 lbs): I talked about Boise State defensive lineman above but my favorite Boise State player not named Shea McClellin is George Iloka mostly because there are very few, if any, safeties so tall and agile.

Brandon Brooks (G, Miami of Ohio, 6'5", 343 lbs): Speaking of tall and agile, I would be shocked if the former Cheesehead resident was still on the board at the end of the third round.  If Brooks is still available at that point take him, especially with T.J. Lang set to become a free agent after 2012.  Mark my words, you can plug Brooks in at left guard in 2013 at worst and he might even push Lang to start there in 2012. 

Russell Wilson (QB, Wisconsin, 5'10", 204 lbs): Why not finish the list with my favorite one-year-wonder in Cheesehead sports history.  I included Wilson mostly because I am not ready for him to leave Cheesehead country.  This would obviosuly be a complete luxury pick.  Wilson feels like the new school Aaron Brooks at worst.

I am attending an event tonight with Cheesehead Chick so I will not preview Day 3 of the 2012 NFL Draft for the Green Bay Packers but I will try to give my thought on Twitter, follow me @CheeseheadSN.  Also check back Sunday for my annual review of each pick Ted Thompson made in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Related Posts:
- Quick Thoughts - 2012 NFL Draft Day 1 Packers Preview
- Cheesehead Sports Nut's 2012 First Round NFL Mock Draft

Thursday, April 26, 2012

2012 NFL Draft Day 1 Packers Preview

Happy NFL Draft Day!  The first round of the NFL Draft is one of my ten favorite days of the year.  As a result, you can only imagine that I did a mock draft.  In case you missed it, my mock draft was what GM's should do in the first round if every team just kept their current pick (or picks).

As we all know by now, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson needs to draft defensive players, defensive players, and more defensive players.  Before I preview the players that I am targeting for the Packers with the 28th pick, keep in mind these guys will most likely be off the board:

QB: Andrew Luck (Stanford), Robert Griffin III (Baylor), and Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M)

RB: Trent Richardson (Alabama)

WR: Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State) and Michael Floyd (Notre Dame)

OT: Matt Kalil (USC) and Riley Reiff (Iowa)

OG: David DeCastro (Stanford) and Cordy Glenn (Georgia)

DE: Quinton Coples (UNC) and Chandler Jones (Syracuse)

DT: Fletcher Cox (Mississippi), Michael Brockers (LSU), and Dontari Poe (Memphis)

MLB: Luke Kuechly (Boston College)

OLB: Melvin Ingram (South Carolina) and Courtney Upshaw (Alabama)

CB: Morris Claiborne (LSU), Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina), and Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama)

S: Mark Barron (Alabama)

Of the group above, my biggest draft crushes for the Packers are: Kalil, Jones, Cox, and Barron.  Since there is basically no chance any of those guys will be available unless Thompson trades up, here are some guys that I would realistically like to see Thompson draft with the 28th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft:

Whitney Mercilus (DE/LB, Illinois, 6'3", 254 lbs): I am almost positive Mercilus will be off the board at 28.  If not, hand in the card TT because he might be the steal of the draft at 28.

Nick Perry (DE/LB, USC, 6'2", 271 lbs): Let's just call him Claymaker light.

Shea McClellin (LB, Boise State, 6'3", 260 lbs): If the Patriots keep the 27th pick, I fully expect them to take the Swiss Army Knife of the 2012 NFL Draft because he fits exactly what they need.  Hopefully the Patriots trade out of that spot so McClellin is still available.

Harrison Smith (S, Notre Dame, 6'2, 213 lbs): Might be a slight overdraft for the Packers but since the Packers recently cut Nick Collins, safety shot up to the top of their list of needs.

Jerel Worthy (DT/DE, Michigan State, 6'2", 308 lbs): Did not put up the greatest numbers in college but let's not forget that Worthy faces some of the best offesnive lineman in the country since he played in the Big Ten.  Hopefully Worthy will be able to build on the experience to become a real pass rushing threat in the NFL.

Vinny Curry (DE/LB, Marshall, 6'3", 266 lbs): For a while it looked like the Packers could get Curry in the second round but his stock continues to rise so if the Packers want Curry, they will need to snap him up in the first round because I would be shocked if he was still there at the end of the second round.

Dont'a Hightower (LB, Alabama, 6'2", 265 lbs): I can already hear Jon Gruden say "when you talk about Hightower, you are talking about one heck of a football player".  What Gruden should really say is that Hightower, much like McClellin, provides great scheme versatility because he projects as a three-down linebacker.

Andre Branch (DE/LB, Clemson, 6'4", 259 lbs): See a trend in who I am targeting. The Packers clearly need a rush outside linebacker opposite Claymaker.  With the influx of NFL teams switching to the 3-4 defense there are a ton of guys that project as 3-4 rush linebackers but it's hard to sort out which one can truly make the transition in the NFL.  Some other names that feel like a reach at 28 but I still support are Zach Brown, Ronnell Lewis, Bruce Irvin, and Lavonte David.

Devon Still (DT/DE, PSU, 6'5", 303 lbs): Early on in the draft process Still looked like a lock for the Top-15.  As the process went on, Still's stock started to fall.  The one thing that remained the same between the start of the process and draft day is Still's imposing body.  For that reason alone, Still is worthy of being picked at the end of the first round.

Kendall Reyes (DT/DE, UConn, 6'4", 299 lbs): Since Reyes played at UConn it is hard to compare him to the rest of the group already mentioned merely because UConn plays inferior competition.  Although it might be a slight overdraft, the Packers desperately need offensive lineman so if that means they overdraft to get them, so be it.

If the Thompson actually makes a pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, check back for my quick thoughts on the pick as well as some guys that I hope Thompson targets in the second and third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Related Posts:
- Cheesehead Sports Nut's 2012 First Round NFL Mock Draft

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cheesehead Sports Nut's 2012 First Round NFL Mock Draft

Just like I said last year, there are a million mock drafts now so 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 in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

I am sure there will be a number of trades in the first round but I am not going to make any trades because it just complicates things. Here is what I would do if I was in charge of each team when they pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, along with some Twitter length thoughts about each pick:

#1) Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford) - You can't lose your job taking Luck with the 1st pick in the draft because if he turns out to be a bust, you will have a hard time finding even one talent evaluator that disagrees with the decision.

#2) Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor) - The same can't be said for RGIII.  In fact if Cam Netwon was a bust last year, there is no way RGIII goes 2nd overall.

#3) Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil (OT, USC) - Unfortunately for Vikings fans I see them taking someone sexier like Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon instead of doing the right thing and taking the best offensive lineman in the draft.  By the way Vikings management, picking sexy prospects instead of quality, non-sexier prospects is why you are picking 3rd overall this year.

#4) Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama) - Despite the NFL becoming almost a completely passing league, game changing running backs like Richardson are a once in a decade prospect so the Browns should choose talent over positional value.

#5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU) - Scoring just 4 out of 50 on the Wonderlic is much to do about nothing when you have the physical skills that Claiborne possesses.

#6) St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State) - Not often can you trade down from 2nd to 6th while adding a couple more first round picks and still get the guy you wanted to draft with the 2nd pick.  Blackmon doesn't possess near the physical talent of his former college teammate Dez Bryant but he still has enough talent to be a stud #2 receiver or a low-end #1 receiver.

#7) Jacksonville Jaguars: Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State) - Going into the combine it looked like Cox was a borderline first round pick so may be I am rating him a little high but I can't look past all the physical tools and different positions Cox can play along the defensive line.

#8) Miami Dolphins: Mark Barron (S, Alabama) - If Ryan Tannehill is still available in real life, I have a hard time seeing the Sherminator allowing his new team to pass on his former pupil.  Unfortunately for the Browns though, taking Tannehill this early would be a classic overdraft because Tannehill is a quarterback.  The Dolphins need to add talent, no matter the position, which means Barron should be the pick.

#9) Carolina Panthers: Michael Brockers (DT, LSU) - Has some boom-or-bust potential but much like Cox his physical talents are just too impressive to pass up.

#10) Buffalo Bills: Stephon Gilmore (CB, South Carolina) - The NFL is such a pass happy league that his physical talents (6'0" and 4.4 forty yard dash) are undeniable thus making Gilmore worth the risk.

#11) Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College) - NFL teams almost undervalue middle linebackers so the Chiefs have a chance to get the steal of the draft that is an absolute tackling machine outside the Top 10.

#12) Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram (DE/LB, South Carolina) - A combo rusher is exactly what a team like the Seahawks need.  It really comes down to whether the want a more known commodity like Ingram or a boom-or-bust guy like Chandler Jones.

#13) Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame) - Cheesehead Chick is an ND fan but even she jumped off the Floyd bandwagon after his latest DUI.  Fortunately for Floyd, franchise wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald openly lobbied for management to draft a wide receiver.  Well whatever Larry wants, Larry gets.

#14) Dallas Cowboys: David DeCastro (OG, Stanford) - I am sure it will absolutely pain Jerry Jones to take offensive lineman two years in a row but the right way to built a team is by adding as many quality offensive and defensive lineman as possible.  Plug your nose and do the right thing Jerry.

#15) Philadelphia Eagles: Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa) - While most teams are trying to trade down, the Eagles are one of the few teams that are actually trying to trade up.  No matter what the Eagles say, Jason Peters is on the wrong side of 30 and recently ruptured his Achilles tendon.  The Eagles need a left tackle of the future and that is exactly what they are getting in Reiff.

#16) New York Jets: Chandler Jones (DE/LB, Syracuse) - Every year I get a huge draft crush on a few guys, Jones is one of those guys this year.  I thought the Packers had a chance to get Jones at 28 a few weeks ago but unfortunately Jones is shooting up draft boards and potentially flirting with being a Top-10 pick.

#17) Cincinnati Bengals: Dontari Poe (DT, Memphis) - The workout warrior of the 2012 NFL Combine made himself a potential Top-10 pick following the combine.  Unfortunately the more tape that people watched on Poe, the more they realized he still takes plays off.  Fortunately for the Poe Family, this is where the slide finally stops because you can't teach people to be as big and explosive as Poe is when he actually applies himself.

#18) San Diego Chargers: Courtney Upshaw (DE/LB, Alabama) - So far Larry English has failed to developed into Shawne Merriman 2.0.  Don't get me wrong, the odds of Upshaw being a better rusher than Merriman are slim but he is a huge upgrade over English.

#19) Chicago Bears: Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina) - With Jerry Angelo no longer running the front office for the Bears teams, better watch out, because the Bears will be a shrewder team than in years past.  Plus picking a guy that could be the next Julius Pepper never hurts.

#20) Tennessee Titans: Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama) - After losing Cortland Finnegan to free agency the Titans are able to improve their secondary greatly at a much cheaper price.

#21) Cincinnati Bengals: Whitney Mercilus (DE/LB, Illinois) - Everyone is looking for the next Jason Pierre-Paul and Mercilus is a prime candidate.

#22) Cleveland Browns: Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M) - There is no way that Tannehill lasts till the 22nd pick and I even thought about passing (no pun intended) on Tannehill here because I am not convinced he will be a franchise quarterback.

#23) Detroit Lions: Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford) - This feels like a slight overdraft but the Lions desperately need younger offensive tackles.  They could go with Mike Adams (OT, Ohio State) instead but Adams has some maturity issues and that's the last thing the Lions need so the smart pick is to take a talented, high-character guy like Martin.

#24) Pittsburgh Steelers: Cordy Glenn (G/T, Georgia) - The Steelers are in desperate need of quality offensive lineman so they would be ecstatic if the best combo offensive lineman fell to them.  In fact the Steelers should be so excited about Glenn that even if another team wants to trade back into the first round to draft a quarterback they should turn down the offer and hand in the draft card with Glenn's name on it.

#25) Denver Broncos: Jerel Worthy (DT, Michigan State) - I hate to say it but I would be slightly surprised if Peyton Manning wins a playoff game for the Broncos.  Although Manning probably wants some new toys, adding a defensive lineman is priority #1 after locking up their "franchise" quarterback.

#26) Houston Texans: Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor) - Feels like a reach but the Texans sorely need a legitimate pass catching option at wide receiver besides Andre Johnson.

#27) New England Patriots: Nick Perry (DE/OLB, USC) - Much like Chandler Jones, Perry is another one of my draft crushes.  Perry doesn't have as high of a ceiling as Claymaker but Perry still brings a unique combination of size and speed at the outside linebacker position.

#28) Green Bay Packers: Shea McClellin (OLB, Boise State) - This is probably wishful thinking, especially with the Patriots picking one spot ahead of the Packers.  Ted Thompson better hope that the Patriots trade their 27th pick to a quarterback needy team so that McClellin, aka the Swiss Army Knife of the 2012 NFL Draft, can fall to the Packers.

#29) Baltimore Ravens: Coby Fleener (TE, Stanford) - Without Rob Gronkowski and Jermichael Finley there is no chance Fleener even makes it into the first round but the necessity to have an athletic hybrid tight end/wide receiver means that Fleener could actually go higher than 29th overall.

#30) San Francisco 49ers: - Peter Konz (C, Wisconsin) - The rest of the centers in the draft have fairly large holes in their game so luckily the 49ers can get the best center in the draft to add a signal caller to the young, impressive offensive line.

#31) New England Patriots: Dont'a Hightower (LB, Alabama) - I was tempted to pick Lavonte David (LB, Nebraska) but Hightower seems like more of a sure thing than David so I resisted the urge.

#32) New York Giants: Harrison Smith (S, Notre Dame) - The safety position is becoming more and more important in the NFL because linebackers are having a hard time covering the influx of athletic tight ends.  Thus a guy like Smith sneaks into the first round in 2012 while he probably would have been a second or third round pick just a few years ago.

Thanks for sticking with me all the way through my first round mock GM draft.  Check back tomorrow for a list of guys that you can realistically expect to be on the board at #28 where absent a trade, the Green Bay Packers are slotted to make their first selection of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Related Posts:
- Cheesehead Sports Nut's 2011 First Round NFL Mock Draft
- Cheesehead Sports Nut's 2010 First Round NFL Mock Draft

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

First Look at 2012 Green Bay Packers Schedule

It would be easy for me to say that the 2012 Green Bay Packers should go 16-0, which they realistically could, but that would negate any reason to actually go through their schedule game-by-game. So let's assume just for a few minutes that the Packers actually lose a regulars season game or two, as you will see, there aren't many stumbling blocks on their schedule:

Sunday, September 9th (3:15 pm on FOX) v. 49ers: Midway through 2011 this looked like a possible NFC Championship preview, unfortunately the Packers couldn't hold up their end of the bargain. The Packers get a chance to take care of some unfinished business from 2011 to start 2012. After the 49ers unsuccessfully chased Peyton Manning they settled for re-signing Alex Smith, which has a chance to divide the locker room. I may be in the minority but I see the Packers winning this one comfortably.

Thursday, September 13th (7:20 pm on NFL Network) v. Bears: How ridiculous is it that the Packers and Bears open the season on Sunday but have to turn around and play a divisional game just four days later? The Bears play the Colts at home at noon while the Packers host the 49ers at 3:15. Despite playing later on Sunday, I like the Packers chances merely because they get to play at home following the short week.

Monday, September 24th (7:30 pm on ESPN) at Seattle: Mentor meets mentee times two in the Mentor/Mentee Bowl. Assuming both Rodgers and Flynn are healthy heading into this game, ESPN will run the Rodgers v. Flynn story line into the ground. I actually think the bigger mentor/mentee match-up is going on in the front office between the general mangers. Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson's former protege John Schneider is now the Seattle Seahawks general manager. Schneider likes to tinker with his roster ala Ron Wolf more than Thompson so he has already put his stamp on the Seahawks roster in just two short years. Despite the tinkering, Schneider doesn't have as much talent on his roster as Thompson does so I see Thompson and Rodgers beating Schneider and Flynn to win the Mentor/Mentee Bowl.

Sunday, September 30th (3:15 pm on FOX) v. Saints: Unfortunately the bounty talk will get drummed up again when the Saints travel to Green Bay for the second year in a row because the Packers wanted to hire two of the principles involved in the bounty scandal: suspended head coach Sean Payton and suspended former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Both Payton and Williams choose New Orleans instead of Green Bay. The Packers ended up with Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers instead. Since both teams have one Super Bowl ring under the current/suspended regimes, I would say the Packers lucked out getting McCarthy/Capers instead of Payton/Williams. I see the Packers keeping their record perfect against the Saints to improve to 4-0 hopefully in front of Cheesehead Chick, Mama Cheese, Papa Cheese, my in-laws, and me.

Sunday, October 7th (Noon on FOX) at Colts: As crazy as it was to see someone other than Brett Favre quarterbacking the Packers, the franchise was able to move from one hall of fame quarterback to another. Thanks to playing horrible sans Peyton Manning last year, Colts fans got used to seeing someone other than Manning play quarterback for the Colts. In fact the 2011 Indianapolis Colts played so bad that they "earned" the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Scouts claim that former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is about as sure of a things as Manning or Elway. If all the hype is true, much like the Packers, the Colts have a chance to move from one hall-of-fame quarterback to another. Luck may be good down the road but he does not bring enough to the table in 2012 to lead the Colts over the Packers so I see the Packers continuing their perfect start to the 2012 season.

Sunday, October 14th (7:20 om on NBC) at Texans: Despite losing all-world pass rusher Mario Williams, a player I vociferously advocated for the Packers to sign, the Texans still look like a legitimate playoff threat heading into 2012 so I see this as the first stumbling block for Packers.

Sunday, October 21st (Noon on FOX) at Rams: Last season I thought Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was poised for a breakout year but that never came to fruition. Unless Bradford makes the jump a year later than I expected, the Rams look like a perfect antidote for the Packers after suffering a loss the previous week to the Texans. Just on quarterback talent alone I see the Packers improving to 6-1.

Sunday, October 28th (Noon on CBS) v. Jaguars: New Jaguars owner Shad Khan actually seems committed to keeping the Jaguars in Jacksonville, in part, because this self-made billionaire made a good chunk of his money selling auto parts in Jacksonville. That's where to good news ends for the Jaguars. The Packers should win this one going away in their first home game in a little less than a month.

Sunday, November 4th (Noon on FOX) v. Cardinals: Cheesehead retirees are salty that the Packers are playing the Cardinals at home instead of on the road. Although the Cardinals finished 2011 strong, they look like a pretender as opposed to a contender in 2012. Hopefully the Packers stay focused and do not look ahead to their bye week because the Packers are a much better team on paper than the Cardinals. I see the Packers taking care of business so that means they will be 8-1 heading into their bye week.

Sunday, November 11th - Bye week: Worst weekend of the fall.

Sunday, November 18th (Noon on FOX) at Lions: After a ton of non-divisional games the Packers finally get back on the NFC North train. The Lions were a guaranteed win for most of my adult life but after finally dumping Matt Millen the Lions are suddenly a threat to win the NFC North. Despite coming off a bye, I actually see the Packers losing to the Lions.

Sunday, November 25th (7:20 pm on NBC) at Giants: I hate the Giants. The last two home Packer playoff games I attended (2007 NFC Championship Game with Fernando and the 2011 Divisional Round Game with Papa Cheese) ended in losses to the Giants so I want to see the Packers avenge those losses any way possible. Although winning a regular season road game in no way makes up for multiple post-season home losses, a win over the Giants would give the Packers a much better chance of hosting a playoff game against the Giants. Call this wishful thinking but I see the Packers beating the Giants to improve to 9-2 and possibly setting up a "3rd times a charm" home playoff game against the Giants.

Sunday, December 2nd (Noon on FOX) v. Vikings: It seems crazy to me that the Packers don't play their divisional "foe" at least once until December. My simple solution for the NFL is to make three divisional weeks at the beginning and end of the season. I am guessing this will never happen though because it makes too much sense. Leaving the schedule issues aside, I see the Packers steam rolling the Vikings at Lambeau Field to improve to 10-2.

Sunday, December 9th (7:20 pm on NBC) v. Lions: After losing to the Lions earlier in the season I see the Packers enacting revenge and winning their 22nd consecutive game over the Lions in Cheesehead country.

Sunday, December 16th (Noon on FOX) at Bears: Usually this game is played in the first few weeks of the season but the NFL flipped the script so now the Packers have to travel Chicago late in the season. Normally my uncles are nice enough to give me their tickets to this game. In fact I am almost positive that I've attended every Packers/Bears game in Chicago since the space ship landed at Soldier Field. I have a feeling the Bears and Packers will be fighting each other for the NFC North crown so unless I pick up tickets on Stubhub, I see my streak coming to an end. Unfortunately I also see the Packers losing this one to the Bears to fall to 11-3.

Sunday, December 23rd (Noon on CBS) v. Titans: This game sets up to be a potentially tough game at the end of the season. Much like not playing the Vikings until the beginning of December, it seems silly to me that the Packers play a non-conference team the second last week of the season. Fortunately if the Packers trip up, a non-conference loss is the best possible loss but losing at home this late in the season is never a good thing. As such, I see the Packers dismantling the Matt "We'll take the ball and score" Hasselbeck to improve to 12-3.

Sunday, December 30th (Noon on FOX) at Vikings: If the Packers have to close the season on the road against a divisional foe, I would much rather the Packers travel to the Humpty Dumpty Dome instead of Ford Field or Soldier Field. Plus we might have to relish these Packers/Vikings divisional games because if the state of Minnesota can't get a stadium deal sorted out the Minnesota Vikings might become the Los Angeles Vikings. Either way the Vikings will be in full tank mode at this point, the question is whether the Packers will be jockeying for playoff position or already have home field advantage locked up. If 2011 is our guide, hopefully the Packers play this game like it matters so they enter the playoffs on a roll like 2010 instead of a whimper like 2011.

Obviosuly I can't predict injuries but if Aaron Rodgers and Company stay healthy I see the 2012 Green Bay Packers going at least 13-3 and winning the NFC North for the second year in a row.

Check back over the next few weeks for my wall-to-wall coverage of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Related Posts:
- Sunday Funday - 2012 Free Agent Shopping Guide for Ted Thompson
- Wednesday What (Should) Happen - Advice for Ted Thompson

Monday, April 9, 2012

Brewers beat Cubs for their first road win of 2012

Luckily tonight I got to watch the first Brewers road game of 2012 with Cheesehead Chick, UP, and Sam.

I know it's a Monday night early in the season but attendance was sparse at Wrigley Field compared to years past. As I noted in a tweet, the Cubs fans that actually showed up to the game booed Ryan Braun and cheered former Cub third baseman Aramis Ramirez. I respect Cubs fans for giving Ramirez a warm reception and I actually don't blame fans for booing Braun after he pulled the Reverse Al Capone. Sadly I expect Braun to get booed on the road throughout 2012.

The new Cubs owners (Ricketts Family) were smart to hire wonder boy Theo Epstein. Worst case scenario the owners have their fall guy if the Cubs don't preform well in the next five years. Best case scenario Epstein makes the right moves and the Cubs win a World Series. If that happens that means in the last decade Epstein will have given both Red Soxs and Cubs fans something they couldn't have for almost 200 years combined.

Switching gears back to the Brewers since this is a Cheesehead sports blog not a Second City sports blog. A few quick Brewers observations from the game. As Weeks hair continues to grow he looks more and more like Manny Ramirez. Vargas was expected to be the 7th inning guy heading into the season but after a few games I am not sold. Finally not having Fielder batting clean-up left a huge hole in the middle of the order but I actually like their regular 2012 line-up (Weeks, Morgan/Gomez, Braun, Ramirez, Hart, Gamel, Gonzalez, and Lucroy) more than their regular 2011 line-up (Weeks, Morgan/Gomez, Braun, Fielder, McGehee, Hart, Betancourt, and Lucroy).

One game does not make a season but the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers look like an infinitely more complete team than the 2012 Chicago Cubs.

Please check back through the upcoming weeks as the 2012 NFL Draft approaches and the 2012 NBA regular season comes to a close for a ton of Cheesehead sports coverage.

Related Posts:
- Sunday Funday - Initial Rankings of the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers
- Quick Thoughts - Top 2012 Milwaukee Brewer Minor Leaguers
- Quick Thoughts - 16 Brewers made ESPN's Top 500 MLB Players
- Wednesday What Happened - Most Overpaid and Most Underpaid 2012 Milwaukee Brewers
- Quick Thoughts - 2012 Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster
- Quick Thoughts - Braun pulls the Reverse Al Capone
- Wednesday What (Should) Happen - 2012 Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training Preview

Sunday, April 8, 2012

2012 Milwaukee Brewers Initial Player Rankings

After winning the N.L. Central in 2011 most of the national media is picking the Brewers to finish no higher than 3rd in the N.L. Central in 2012 thanks in large part to losing Prince Fielder to the Detroit.

The 2012 Milwaukee Brewers have 162 chances to prove those national pundits wrong. If they do, it will be thanks in large part to the 25 guys that made the opening day roster for the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers. Just like I did last year, here are my initial rankings of the Milwaukee Brewers opening day roster:

#25) Travis Ishikawa (1B/OF): Tough to see utility man Brooks Conrad miss out on the final roster spot to Ishikawa, especially since Conrad is a switch hitter while Ishikawa is just another left-handed bat on the bench at this point.

#24) Cesar Izturis (SS): I don't usually put too much stock in spring training numbers but with how bad Izturis played in spring training it is clear that absent suffering a serious injury Izturis had a guaranteed roster spot at the start of spring training. That's a ton of faith to put in a guy in his early 30's that missed most of 2011 with various injuries.

#23) Tim Dillard (RHP): After getting the Carlos Villanueva treatment (being shuffled between the bullpen and starting rotation based on need) the last few years, Dillard looked like a lost pitcher. In 2010 the now departed pitching coach Rick Peterson suggested that Dillard try a sidearm delivery. That's the best advice Dillard ever got because just a few years later Dillard (out of minor league options) earned his roster spot using his sidearm approach (posted a sub-3 ERA in spring training).

#22) George Kottaras (C): Although I am an unabashed fan of Martin Maldando thanks mostly to his barber skills, it makes baseball sense to keep Kottaras instead of Maldanado as the back-up catcher.

#21) Kameron Loe (RHP): Hard to say whether Loe failed to live up to expectations or got Dusty Bakered the last few years by Macha and Roenicke. If you don't understand the Baker reference, read any article about Mark Prior's injury issues. The Brewers have their 7th (Veras), 8th (K-Rod), and 9th (Axford) inning options set heading into 2012 so Loe has a chance for a breakout year because the Brewers have a ton of quality relievers and expectations are low (no pun intended) for Loe in 2012.

#20) Manny Parra (LHP): Speaking of low expectations, after an injury riddled 2011 season the fact that Parra is out of minor league options basically forced the Brewers to keep Parra over fellow lefty reliever Zach Braddock because Braddock still has minor league options. Once the regular season starts Parra will have to actually perform well because his injury history, lack of minor league options, and shaky performances even when healthy makes Parra a prime candidate to get cut in 2012.

#19) Norichika Aoki (OF): The former member of the Yakult Swallows of Japan's Central League is a three time batting champ and six time Gold Glove winner over eight seasons. Aoki looked lost at the plate at the start of spring training but after what is now being deemed a magical meeting with manager Ron Roenicke, Aoki turned things around at the plate by the end of spring training. Aoki ended up hitting just below .300 in spring training to help the Brewers feel more comfortable about bidding $2.5 million for the right to sign Aoki to what ended up being a two-year, $2.25 million contract with a $1.5 million club option ($.25 million buyout) for 2014.

#18) Jose Veras (RHP): The Brewers acquired Veras from the Pittsburgh Pirates for the under achieving Casey McGehee. I know McGehee looked lost at the end of 2011 but I still would rather platoon McGehee with Green instead of signing Ramirez. Since the Brewers made the trade, let's deal with Veras. Most avid Brewers fans know that Hawkins and Saito were the 7th inning options for the Brewers last year. Since both guys are pitching elsewhere in 2012, the Brewers are looking for Veras to be the 7th inning guy this year.

#17) Carlos Gomez (CF): The guy that was essentially the centerpiece of what the Twins acquired from the Mets in the Johan Santana trade looks like just another guy with speeds. Luckily for Gomez the Brewers plan to be aggressive on the base-paths this year so Gomez's speed will be utilized to the fullest extent.

#16) Marco Estrada (RHP): Held up fairly well last year despite shifting between the starting rotation and long-relief. Since 3/5ths of the 2012 starting rotation (Greinke, Marcum, & Wolf) can be free agents after this season, Estrada looks like a prime candidate to move into the starting rotation in 2013.

#15) Mat Gamel (1B): Although Gamel struggled defensively at 3rd base it would be downright shocking if Gamel isn't a better defender at 1st base than Price Fielder. Keep in mind that Fielder lead the National League in errors with 15 last year. Plus Gamel will have much more range than the stout and short Fielder. Defensive improvements is the good news, the bad news is that Gamel is a shell of Fielder offensively. Fortunately if Gamel can play better defensively there might be a smaller drop-off at first than is currently expected.

#14) Shaun Marcum (RHP): The regular season road warrior of starting pitching last year (lead the league with a 2.21 ERA) absolutely collapsed in the playoffs. Marcum decided to tweak his delivery in the off-season and predictably struggled with injuries throughout spring training. I will see Marcum pitch in-person with Cheesehead Chick, UP, & Sam tomorrow night against the Cubs at Wrigley Field so hopefully Marcum picks up where he left off in the regular season as opposed to the post-season.

#13) Alex Gonzalez (SS): The Brewers had a .982 fielding percentage last year, which seems good, but they only finished 22nd out of 30 teams. Yuniesky Betancourt had the 3rd most errors at shortstop with 21 errors but much like Braun, Betancourt is so limited defensively that if he could get to more balls his error total would be even higher. The Brewers signed Gonzalez almost entirely for his glove but after he hit close to .500 in spring training, expectation are mounting for Gonzalez not only defensively but offensively as well.

#12) Chris Narveson (LHP): Performed great in 2011 and might be the best 5th starter of my lifetime following the Milwaukee Brewers. At least some of Narveson's success has to do with the fact that he faces mostly 5th starters though so its hard to tell whether Narveson could ever be a middle of the rotation guy.

#11) Francisco Rodriguez (RHP): Posted a 1.86 ERA in 31 games after joining the Brewers in a shock trade from the New York Mets. K-Rod thought that impressive performance for the Brewers last year would net him a closer job this off-season. Obviously it didn't so K-Rod came back to the Brewers as possibly the most expensive set-up guy in baseball despite voicing displeasure with that role towards the end of last season.

#10) Nyjer Morgan (CF): Other guys that remind me of Morgan are Milton Bradley, Stephen Jackson, and Metta World Peace. When things are going good guys like Bradley, Jackson, World Peace, and Morgan seem like great teammates. Once the losing streak hits though watch out, because all of the guys just mentioned turn into locker room cancers. Hopefully the Brewers challenge for the division title in 2012 but if they struggle, Morgan will turn into a locker room cancer.

#9) Randy Wolf (LHP): The rich-man's A.J. Hawk of the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers bears a striking resemblance to former Brewer Geoff Jenkins. This post is getting long so let's keep moving.

#8) Aramis Ramirez (3B): When Casey McGehee was Ramirez's backup the Chicago Cubs tried to pass McGehee through waivers but the Brewers scooped up McGehee. As late as opening day last year I thought McGehee was the long-term answer at 3rd base but after an extended slump at the plate it became apparent that McGehee is a below average defender and a streaky hitter at best. Instead of simply promoting Taylor Green the Brewers woefully overpaid for Ramirez who is a below average defender (like McGehee) but is a much better contact hitter (unlike McGehee). Ian Stewart is currently playing 3rd base for the Cubs this year so if history is out guide he better get ready to start at 3rd base for the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers.

#7) Jonathan Lucroy (C): My buddy Sug's nephew is a huge Lucroy fan. In fact he likes Lucroy so much that he dislikes Wolf because Kottaras was Wolf's person catcher. Something tells me the Jonathan Lucroy Fan Club is fairly empty but after signing a very club friendly contract I am guessing Sug's nephew will have some competition for President of the Jonathan Lucroy Fan Club.

#6) Corey Hart (RF/1B): After plodding through a second consecutive injury riddle spring training the Brewers are taking a leap of faith that Hart can stay healthy and thrive in the 5th spot in the line-up hitting behind Ramirez instead of Fielder. It may sound overly simplistic but if Hart struggles in the five hole there will be a big negative waterfall effect felt throughout the entire line-up.

#5) John Axford (RHP): It's going to be hard for Axford to best his 2011 performance after converting 46 saves of his 48 save opportunities. Odds are that Axford regresses slightly but even if Axford converts 90% of his save opportunities he will give the Brewers a good chance to challenge for the N.L. Central title again.

#4) Rickie Weeks (2B): Even after missing a month and a half of the 2011 season Weeks tied for the most errors of any 2nd baseman in the National League. Normally Weeks covers up his defensive limitations with his offensive prowess but Weeks struggled at the plate when he returned from injury in 2011. Hopefully Weeks can return to the healthy version of himself in 2012.

#3) Yovani Gallardo (RHP): In 2011 Gallardo posted his third consecutive season with 200-strikeouts, which is for the first time any pitcher did that in franchise history. Thanks in large part to those strikeouts, Gallardo notched a career best 17 wins and 3.52 ERA in 2011. As crazy as it sounds, I expect Gallardo to improve in 2012. Although FIP (fielding independent pitching) is a much better indicator of performance, wins is still how most fans measure starting pitchers so to give a prediction everyone can appreciate, I expect Gallardo to post 20 wins in 2012 for the first time in his career.

#2) Zack Greinke (RHP): Although Gallardo was the opening day starter, Greinke (and his quirky personality) is the best starting pitcher on the roster according to almost any statistical measure.

#1) Ryan Braun (LF): After pulling the Reverse Al Capone, Braun still refuses to tell the whole story about his "failed" drug test. Unless Braun shares the whole story that unearths some nuggets that have not become public knowledge if I had to bet my life I would say Braun used some form of performance enhancing drugs last season.

I hope you enjoyed the wall-to-wall Milwaukee Brewers coverage throughout the last week. Check back tomorrow for my quick thoughts on seeing the Brewers in person at Wrigley Field. Check back throughout the upcoming weeks for other Cheesehead sports coverage.

Related Posts:
- Quick Thoughts - Top 2012 Milwaukee Brewer Minor Leaguers
- Quick Thoughts - 16 Brewers made ESPN's Top 500 MLB Players
- Wednesday What Happened - Most Overpaid and Most Underpaid 2012 Milwaukee Brewers
- Quick Thoughts - 2012 Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster
- Quick Thoughts - Braun pulls the Reverse Al Capone
- Wednesday What (Should) Happen - 2012 Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training Preview

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Top 2012 Milwaukee Brewer Minor Leaguers

If you are wondering about the potential up and coming guys in the minors that could be playing for the big league club sooner rather than later ESPN's Keith Law gave us his Top 10 Milwaukee Brewer Minor Leaguers (need ESPN Insider subscription):
#10) Nick Ramirez (1B, 22 years old, Injured)
#9) Caleb Gindl (OF, 23 years old, Nashville-AAA)
#8) Logan Schafer (CF, 25 years old, Nashville-AAA)
#7) Cody Scarpetta (RHP, 23 years old, Hunstville-AA)
#6) Scooter Gennett (2B, 21 years old, Hunstville-AA)
#5) Taylor Green (3B, 25 years old, Nashville-AAA)
#4) Tyler Thornburg (RHP, 23 years old, Hunstville-AA)
#3) Jed Bradley (LHP, 22 years old, Brevard County-High A)
#2) Taylor Jungmann (RHP, 22 years old, Brevard County-High A)
#1) Wily Peralta (RHP, 22 years old, Nashville-AAA)

Unfortunately Gindl and Schafer looked blocked by the glut of major league outfielders on the opening day roster while Gennett and Green looked blocked by Weeks and Ramriez respectively. Although Gennett, Gindl, and Schafer do not look quite ready for the big leagues; last season Green showed that he might actually be ready to contribute at the big league level right now.

As I said on recently I would much rather pay Green a couple million dollars over the next three years to play 3rd base than Aramis Ramirez $36 million dollars. Don't get me wrong, Ramirez gives the Brewers a much better option offensively in 2012 and 2013 but if Green gets some major league at-bats before 2014 he projects to be a much better offensive player than Ramirez in 2014 while giving the Brewers a better defensive option than Ramirez at 3rd base 2012 through 2014.

Luckily, according to Keith Law, the Brewers have a ton of potential major league arms that project as starters and relievers that could re-enforce the potential exodus of 3/5th (Greinke, Marcum, and Wolf) of the 2012 starting rotation in 2013.

A number of national pundits claim that the Brewers gutted their minor league system the last few years in the C.C. Sabathia, Zack Greinke, and Shaun Marcum trades but Keith Law's list shows that the Brewers still have some impressive depth at the minor league level.

Check back tomorrow for my initial player rankings of the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers opening day 25-man roster.

Related Posts:
- Quick Thoughts - 16 Brewers made ESPN's Top 500 MLB Players
- Wednesday What Happened - Most Overpaid and Most Underpaid 2012 Milwaukee Brewers
- Quick Thoughts - 2012 Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster
- Quick Thoughts - Braun pulls the Reverse Al Capone
- Wednesday What (Should) Happen - 2012 Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training Preview

Friday, April 6, 2012

16 players for 2012 Brewers made ESPN's Top 500 MLB Players

Much like ESPN did with their NFL Any Era Team, they recently announced the final members of their Top 500 Current MLB players that was cobbled together by a distinguished 34 person panel.

The 2012 Milwaukee Brewers have 16 of the 25 guys on their opening day roster on the list:

#461 - Mat Gamel (1B, 26 years old)
#458 - Carlos Gomez (CF, 26 years old)
#362 - Chris Narveson (LHP, 30 years old)
#331 - Nyjer Morgan (CF, 31 years old)
#330 - Jonathan Lucroy (C, 26 years old)
#320 - Alex Gonzalez (SS, 35 years old)
#232 - Randy Wolf (LHP, 35 years old)
#173 - Francisco Rodriguez (RHP, 30 years old)
#144 - Corey Hart (RF, 30 years old)
#133 - Aramis Ramirez (3B, 34 years old)
#130 - Shaun Marcum (RHP, 30 years old)
#90 - Rickie Weeks (2B, 29 years old)
#84 - John Axford (RHP, 29 years old)
#53 - Yovani Gallardo (RHP, 26 years old)
#42 - Zack Greinke (RHP, 29 years old)
#6 - Ryan Braun (LF, 28 years old)

I will have much more in-depth comments on each of the 25 guys that made the opening day roster but Marcum's rank felt a little high while Lucroy's ranking felt a little low.

Enjoy opening day and check back through the weekend for more Brewers coverage.

Related Posts:
- Wednesday What Happened - Most Overpaid and Most Underpaid 2012 Milwaukee Brewers
- Quick Thoughts - 2012 Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster
- Quick Thoughts - Braun pulls the Reverse Al Capone
- Wednesday What (Should) Happen - 2012 Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training Preview

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2012 Milwaukee Brewers - Most Overpaid and Most Underpaid

Welcome to you second annual overpaid/underpaid post. Milwaukee Brewers majority owner Mark Attanasio has consistently increased payroll since buying the team in 2005. In less than 10 years Attanasio has increased payroll from roughly $27 million in 2004 to over $100 million for the first time in franchise history in 2012. Keep in mind the Brewers will eclipse $100 million in payroll as Prince Fielder and his $15.5 million salary from 2011 comes off the books since Fielder signed a monster contract with the Detroit Tigers. As you can imagine, a fair amount of guys from 2011 made the list this season. Here is my take on the most overpaid and underpaid players on the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers opening day roster:

Honorable Mention: Shaun Marcum (RHP, $7.725 million) and Cesar Izturis (SS, $875,000)

#5) Aramis Ramirez (3B, $6 million): Last year Ramirez had an uptick in his performance at the plate hitting .306 with 26 home runs and 93 RBI (flawed stat) in a contract year so 2012 has regression written all over it. It's not so much the $6 million that Ramirez will earn in 2012, its the fact that the Brewers have a more than competent option in Triple-A in Taylor Green that would only cost them $500,000 in 2012. Add in that the Brewers signed Ramirez to a back-end loaded three-year, $36 million contract and unless Ramirez gets traded he will be on this list through 2014.

#4) Corey Hart (RF, $9 million): The Brewers have a couple impressive minor league outfield prospects (Caleb Gindl and Logan Schafer) that are currently blocked at the major league level by Hart. I would much rather pay Gindl $500,000 than Hart $9 million but that doesn't sell tickets.

#3) Randy Wolf (LHP, $9.5 million): When you fail to draft quality starting pitchers you are forced to overpay for middle of the rotation starting pitchers in free agency like the Brewers did with Wolf. Thanks to some decent drafts the last few seasons the Brewers finally have a bunch of potential starting pitchers at all levels of their minor league system (Jed Bradley, Taylor Jungmann, Wily Peralta, Cody Scarpetta, and Tyler Thornburg) that project as potential major league starting pitchers. The Brewers hold a $10 million option on Wolf for 2013 with a $1.5 million buyout. The progress of some of their minor league pitchers will go a long way towards determining if the Brewers pick-up Wolf's option. Hopefully if those guys continue to develop the Brewers might not have to overpay for guys like Wolf in the future.

#2) Rickie Weeks (2B, $10 million): Injuries have derailed the two-time collegiate batting champ since he joined the Brewers. Injuries aside, Weeks is nothing more than a below average fielding 2nd baseman and an above average offensive player with speed. That previous sentence doesn't describe a guy worth $10 million. With Scooter Gennett scheduled to start at 2nd base in Double-A this year, the Brewers have a younger and cheaper option nipping at Weeks' injured riddled heels.

#1) K-Rod (RHP, $8 million): After a soft market for closers didn't get K-Rod a mega-closer-contract that his agent (Scott Boras) promised he accepted arbitration to earn $8 million in 2012, which is more money that the rest of bullpen is scheduled to earn combined (Kameron Loe owed $2.175 million, Jose Veras owed $2 million, Manny Parra owed $1.2 million, John Axford owed $525,000, Marco Estrada owed $486,000, and Tim Dillard owed $482,000). K-Rod better cash his checks and keep his mouth shut this year because last year K-Rod complained about being just a set-up guy as opposed to the closer despite the fact that closer John Axford put together arguably the best closer performance in franchise history.

Honorable Mention: Chris Narveson (LHP, $500,000) and Marco Estrada (RHP, $486,000)

#5) Jonathan Lucroy (C, $500,000): The Brewers and Lucroy recently agreed to a five-year (possibly six) contract worth a minimum of $11 million and a maximum of $18 million (if the Brewers exercise their $5.25 million option for 2017). The Brewers priced in a raise if Lucroy qualifies as a "Super Two" player following 2012 because that means that Lucroy would only have two seasons at league minimum instead of three before becoming arbitration eligible for the next four seasons. In order to qualify as "Super Two" Lucroy will have to finish in the top 22% of a complicated MLB algorithm, which he projects to do just barely. If Lucroy does not qualify for Super Two status he will earn much less in 2013 ($750,000 v. $1.9 million) otherwise the rest of the base salaries are similar. Here is the breakdown of what Lucroy will earn if he does NOT qualify for "Super Two" status in 2012: $750,00 in 2013, $2 million in 2014, $3 million in 2015, and $4 million in 2016. If Lucroy does qualify for "Super Two" status in 2012 he will earn: $1.9 million in 2013, $2.3 million in 2014, $3.3 million in 2015, and $4.25 million in 2016. "Super Two" status aside, I love the contract even if Lucroy has one or two below average seasons between now and 2017 for one simple reason, veteran backup catchers make at least $1 million a year so the Brewers are getting a younger starting catcher with a much bigger upside for about the same amount for at least the next five seasons.

#4) John Axford (RHP, $525,000): The Brewers are currently talking with Axford's representatives about a long-term contract extension. Despite everything I just said about Lucroy it makes no sense to do the same thing with Axford because of how unpredictable closer performances are year-to-year besides the super human Mariano Rivera. Axford is not even salary arbitration eligible till 2013 meaning he cannot become a free agent till after the 2016 season at the earliest. The Brewers should go year-to-year with Axford. If Axford performs well for the next few years, the Brewers will pay for it. If Axford struggles, the Brewers don't have to worry about a long-term financial commitment. I guess that's a long way of saying I think its worth paying long-term for catching as opposed to saves.

#3) Zack Greinke (RHP, $13.5 million): If the Brewers did not have the reigning N.L. MVP (Ryan Braun) and their opening day starter (Yovani Gallardo) earning less than Greinke combined, I would have Greinke #1 on this list despite being the highest paid player on the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers. Greinke is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2012 season and has been without an agent all off-season as the Brewers tried to sign him long-term. In the interim the San Francisco Giants signed right handed starting pitcher Matt Cain to a six-year, $127.5 million contract. While that is great financial news for the Cain and Greinke families, it's a big blow to the Brewers. If you look at Cain's numbers (69-73 with a 3.35 ERA in 204 games) v. Greinke's numbers (76-73 with a 3.82 ERA in 238 games), Greinke still has a better resume since he pitched in the American League for a good portion of those start en route to winning the CY Young in 2009. Cain is 11 months younger that Greinke, which makes age less of a factor. Now that Greinke re-hired his old agent Casey Close that moved from Creative Artists Agency to Excel Sports Management, the Brewers better get ready to pay Greinke at least $20 million a year if they want to keep him in Milwaukee.

#2) Yovani Gallardo (RHP, $5.5 million): Only a handful of teams can truly claim to have more than one "Ace" in their starting rotation. Salary aside I would much rather have Greinke and his quirky personality than Gallardo. When you factor in that Gallardo is scheduled to earn $8 million less than Greinke in 2012 then Gallardo becomes much more valuable to me than Greinke. Even if Greinke leaves after 2012, at least the Brewers have Gallardo signed through 2014.

#1) Ryan Braun (LF, $6 million): Thanks to Braun pulling the Reverse Al Capone the Brewers will get the reigning NL MVP's services for only $6 million...enough said.

A special thanks to Cot's Baseball Contracts for providing all the financial data used for this post.

Check back the rest of the week and throughout the weekend for a ton of Milwaukee Brewers coverage as the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers open the defense of their 2011 N.L. Central Title against their hated rival and 2011 World Series champs the St. Louis Cardinals.

Related Posts:
- Quick Thoughts - 2012 Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster
- Quick Thoughts - Braun pulls the Reverse Al Capone
- Wednesday What (Should) Happen - 2012 Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training Preview

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

2012 Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day 25-Man Roster

Here is the initial 25-man roster for the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers in alphabetical order by position:

Catchers (2): George Kottaras and Jonathan Lucroy

Infielders (6): Mat Gamel (1B), Alex Gonzalez (SS), Travis Ishikawa (1B), Cesar Izturis (SS), Aramis Ramirez (3B), and Rickie Weeks (2B)

Outfielders (5): Norichika Aoki (OF), Ryan Braun (LF), Carlos Gomez (CF), Corey Hart (RF/1B), and Nyjer Morgan (CF)

Starting Pitchers (5): Zack Greinke (R), Yovani Gallardo (R), Shaun Marcum (R), Chris Narveson (L), and Randy Wolf (L)

Relief Pitchers (7): John Axford (R), Tim Dillard (R), Marco Estrada (R), Kameron Loe (R), Manny Parra (L), Francisco Rodriguez (R), and Jose Veras (R)

In my spring training preview of the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers I went 23 for 25 in predicting who would make the opening day roster. I incorrectly predicted that Taylor Green (3B) and Brandon Kintzler (RHP) would make the opening day roster. Instead Travis Ishikawa (1B) and Tim Dillard (R) made the initial roster.

The 25th roster spot went to Travis Ishikawa (1B) instead of Brooks Conrad (UTL). If I were in charge, I would have kept Conrad instead of Ishikawa for roster flexibility alone.

I will have more extended thoughts on all the roster decisions over the next few days. Check back tomorrow for my annual "Most Overpaid and Most Underpaid" post and Sunday for my rankings (25 down to 1) of the opening day roster.

Related Posts:
- Quick Thoughts - Braun pulls the Reverse Al Capone
- Wednesday What (Should) Happen - 2012 Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training Preview