Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What Should Happen - 2012 Green Bay Packers 1.0

The Green Bay Packers started the 2012 NFL Draft with 12 draft picks.  After general manager Ted Thompson traded up three times (you read that correctly), 8 new players were added to the roster.

Following the draft, the Packers signed a number of undrafted free agents* (roster sizes increased from 80 to 90 this off-season) and offered open tryouts as well**.  Although there is always a chance an undrafted free agent makes the opening day roster (think Sam Shields or Frank Zombo), we don't have enough information on those guys yet so I am not going to give them one of the coveted 53-man roster spots.  Here are my thoughts on the 53 guys that I would keep if I were Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson:

Cut: B.J. Coleman and Nick Hill
Keep: Aaron Rodgers and Graham Harrell
Analysis: It's hard to say how the Packers should proceed until all four quarterbacks go through McCarthy's vaunted quarterback camp.  Unfortunately last year Harrell was unable to participate in the quarterback camp because of the lockout but since Harrell spent all of the 2011 season with the Packers, he looks much more prepared to take meaningful snaps if Rodgers gets hurt as opposed to Hill or Coleman.

Running Back:
Cut: None
Keep: James Starks, Alex Green, and Brandon Saine
Analysis: News reports last week claimed the Detroit Lions were interested in signing Ryan Grant.  Not sure whether those reports are true or if Grant's agent was just trying to drum up interest in his client.  Either way the Packers do not run the ball very much so if Alex Green returns healthy from a torn ACL, they should be fine with the young three-headed monster of Starks, Green, and Saine.

Cut: Jon Hoese
Keep: John Kuhn
Analysis: Since the Packers kept five tight ends last year it would make sense that they would do something silly like keeping two fullbacks.  You've been warned.  All kidding aside, the Packers love Kuhn's versatility so his roster spot is guaranteed.

Tight End:
PUP: Andrew Quarless
Cut: None
Keep: Jermichael Finley, D.J. Williams, Ryan Taylor, and Tom Crabtree
Analysis: Quarless suffered a gruesome knee injury at the end of last season so I would be shocked if Quarless recovered enough to go full speed by the start of the 2012 season.  Fortunately the Packers have a ton of young depth at the position and with Finley locked down through at least 2013, the Packers should not miss a beat even if Quarless misses the first part of the season with an injury.

Wide Receiver:
Cut: Diondre Borel, Tori Gurley, and Shaky Smithson
Keep: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, James Jones, and Randall Cobb
Analysis: The Packers refuse to comment on whether DD will play for the team in 2012.  I get that DD may only have a few years left but he was the 3rd most reliable wide receiver (behind Jennings and Nelson but ahead of Jones and Cobb) on the team last year.  It would be a public relations nightmare if the Packers cut DD as callously as they cut Clifton and Collins last week, especially while DD is on Dancing with the Stars.  I devoted this much discussion to DD because he offered to take a pay cut so if I were in charge, DD would be playing for the Packers next year. May be on raw talent alone Borel, Gurley, and Smithson are superior to DD but for his veteran locker room presence alone the Packers should keep DD instead.

Cut: Chris Campbell and Herb Taylor
Keep: Bryan Bulaga, Marshall Newhouse, Derek Sherrod, and Andrew Datko
Analysis: Absent injuries the Packers have right tackle covered with Bulaga.  The big question is how the Packers will proceed at left tackle.  Chad Clifton was supposed to attend Packerpalooza 2012 at Will's Northwoods in Chicago but he was unceremoniously cut earlier in the week.  When you factor in salary and health, I can't blame Thompson for cutting Clifton but its never east to see your blind-side protector cut after such a successful decade plus in Green Bay.  I agree with the move, I just wonder whether Newhouse can make drastic improvements from 2011 to 2012 because although he logged a bunch of reps in place of Clifton, Newhouse was far from perfect.  Add in that the other guys I kept are either coming back from a serious injury (Sherrod - broken leg) or trying to prove they can stay healthy (Datko - smattering of injuries throughout college) and you can see that left tackle is far form settled.

Cut: None
Keep: Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, and Ray Dominguez
Analysis: I could see Lang playing any position besides left tackle next year thus Lang is turning into the Poor Man's Marshall Yanada, which gives the Packers a ton of versatility along the offensive line.  The real question is whether we will see the impressive 2010 version of Sitton or the disappointing/injured 2011 version of Sitton.  Obviously we are hoping for the 2010 version because if not, the entire line will suffer.

Cut: Sampson Genus
Keep: Jeff Saturday and Even Dietrich-Smith
Analysis: I am not surprised that Thompson let Scott Wells leave via free agency but I am shocked that he turned to Saturday.  Not often do the Packers let a younger player leave in favor of an older player.  Saturday had a ton of success letting Peyton Manning fondle him but I question whether Saturday has anything left in the tank.  Plus the Packers do not have a legitimate back-up center, which is one of the only positions on the roster without an up-and-coming guy so the Packers are putting a ton of faith in Saturday despite the fact that he is a few years away from collecting social security checks.

Defensive End:
Suspended: Anthony Hargrove and Mike Neal
Cut: Lawrence Guy and Johnny Jones
Keep: Jerel Worthy, C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn
Analysis: After Saturday, the second most perplexing off-season signing is Hargrove.  There is no denying Hargrove's talent as a penetrating pass rush, which can neutralize offensive lineman, but the Packers knew he could be suspended because he was the NFL's informant for Bountygate.  Add in Mike Neal's suspension for using PEDs and the Packers were looking thin at defensive end heading into the 2012 NFL Draft.  Luckily the Packers were able to add Worthy in the draft so once he hits the rookie wall, Hargrove and Neal should be returning from their suspension.

Defensive Tackle:
Cut: None
Keep: B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Mike Daniels, and Daniel Muir
Analysis: It will be interesting to see how many of the second-tier defensive lineman (Wilson, Wynn, Daniels, and Muir) actually make the opening day roster.  Right now I have the Packers keeping all four guys but my guess is that  two, may be three at most actually make the opening day roster.  I would rather roll the dice with Daniels and Muir because I think we've seen the ceiling on Wilson and Wynn.

Outside Linebacker:
Cut: Erik Walden and Jamari Lattimore
Keep: Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Brad Jones, Vic So'oto, and Frank Zombo
Analysis: 2011 was supposed to be a breakout contract year for Walden but he ended up having arguably the worst 2011 of any Packer.  Right as Walden was accused of domestic abuse he started to struggle on the field, which totally eviscerated his free agent value so he signed a non-guaranteed one-year contract instead of a lucrative long-term contract.  That is a long way of saying that I don't see Walden beating out Jones, So'oto, or Zombo unless he has a radical transformation.  In fact I think Lattimore has a better chance of making the roster than Walden.  Claymaker and Perry have the only guaranteed roster spots so it will be interesting to see how the Packers actually fill out the rest of the roster at outside linebacker.

Middle Linebacker:
Cut: Robert Francois
Keep: Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, D.J. Smith, and Terrell Manning
Analysis: I know it seems crazy but I would totally support the Packers cutting the Business H.J. (A.J. Hawk) and letting Smith, Manning, and Francois fight for the other starting linebacker spot opposite Bishop.  Unfortunately I don't see that happening, which made it even tougher to cut Robert Francois after how well he played last year.  Manning looks like Brandon Chillar 2.0 so his versatility gives him a leg up over Francois.

Cut: Brandian Ross
Keep: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Davon House, Casey Hayward, and Jarrett Bush
Analysis: 2011 was not kind to Williams (injured shoulder), Shields (inconsistent play), and House (injured). With the addition of Hayward, the Packers looked stacked at cornerback but those guys will have to prove it on the field because they were sieve-like in 2011 when they yielded the most passing yards in NFL history.

Cut: Anthony Levine
Keep: Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah, Jerron McMillian, and M.D. Jennings
Analysis: People are clamoring for the Packers to move Woodson to safety.  Although that makes sense on paper, the Packers still need to develop safeties because I actually think Woodson's best position is to rove between cornerback and safety. With the Packers cutting Collins because they feared for his long-term health, they are essentially starting over at safety opposite Morgan Burnett.  McMillian is guaranteed a roster spot because he was a fourth round pick.  After that, it will be a totally open competition.

Cut: None
Keep: Mason Crosby (K), Tim Masthay (P), and Brett Goode (LS)
Analysis: Absent injury the Packers are set at kicker, punter, and long snapper for the next five years so let's warp this up since this post is getting rather lengthy.

If there is one thing I hope Thompson takes away from the lengthy discussion above, its that DD's locker room presence alone will be a huge boost for the 2012 Green Bay Packers so don't you dare DD.  Despite going 15-1, the youth movement keeps on trucking...I just hope DD is not a casualty.

Related Posts:
- Sunday Funday - 2012 Green Bay Packer Draft Picks
- 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
- Wednesday What (Should) Happen - 2012 Green Bay Packers Schedule
- Sunday Funday - 2012 Free Agent Shopping Guide for Ted Thompson
- Wednesday What (Should) Happen - Advice for Ted Thompson

* = Don Barclay (G/T, West Virginia), Duane Bennett (RB, Minnesota), Jaymes Brooks (G, Virginia Tech), Nic Cooper (FB, Winston-Salem St.), Tommie Draheim (C, San Diego St.), Cameron Ford (TE, Wake Forest), Eric Lair (TE, Minnesota), Mike McCabe (T, Holy Cross), Dezman Moses (OLB, Tulane), Dale Moss (WR, South Dakota St.), Sean Richardson (S, Vanderbilt), Marcus Rivers (WR, Buffalo), Dion Turner (CB, Southern Utah), Mark Tyler (RB, USC), and Drew Vanderlin (DE, Michigan Tech).

** = Tyler Butzler (OT, Wisconsin-Stout), Casey Casper (LS, Wisconsin-Whitewater), Grant Cook (DL, Arkansas), ElToro Freeman (LB, Auburn), Andrew Lambert (OT, Indiana), Luke Lambert (LB, Missouri), Jaymar Latchison (DE, New Mexico), and Dave Nadeau (K, Minnesota-Duluth).

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sunday Funday - 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks Final Player Rankings

With the 2012 NFL Draft happening last weekend I decided to wait an extra week before doing my final rankings for the 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks.

Fortunately I waited because we just learned that general manger John Hammond and head coach Scott Skiles will return next season despite being a lottery team (missing the playoffs) three of the last four years together so they will both enter their "contract" year on a short leash.

If that was not newsworthy enough, Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl said that he is interested in contributing to a new all purpose arena.  Kohl purchased the Bucks in 1985 and the Bradley Center opened in 1988.  The Bradley Center was designed in part to lure a mythical hockey team to Milwaukee.  Unfortunately that mythical hockey team tuned out to be the Florida Panthers and the Bradley Center is now severely outdated.

Kohl is no stranger to paying for arenas, he generously donated $25 million (reportedly 30% of the total price) to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to build a new on-campus arena.  I will leave my extended thoughts on Bradley Center 2.0 for another day but needless to say it will cost Kohl much more than $25 million this time around.

Back to the 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks, after going 3-7 in their final 10 games the Bucks finished 31-35 (after finishing 35-47 in 2010-11) and were the last Eastern Conference team eliminated from playoff contention.  The Bucks feasted on the bad teams going 22-5 against teams that finished below .500.  Sadly the already discussed Bradley Center was not that friendly to the Bucks, they finished a mere 17-16 at home.  Although half of those home losses were by five or less, they were .500 nonetheless.

The only real quality wins the Bucks had this season were at home against the Lakers, Heat, and Spurs as well as on the road over the Heat.

Going into the season it looked Brandon Jennings, Stephen Jackson, and Andrew Bogut were going to be the new "Big Three" in Milwaukee.  As we all know now, that couldn't be further from the truth.  Only one of the three remains on the roster, the injured Bogut and a disinterested Jackson were shipped to the Warriors for Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, and Kwame Brown.

Jackson played for the Bucks less than a season, a lockout season nonetheless, but showed his true colors becoming a one-man team saboteur.  I don't get how people can still claim Jackson is a good teammate.

As for Bogut, it's sad to see him go but hopefully a change of scenery will help him stay healthy.  Bogut was named to the 3rd team All-NBA team in 2010 but besides that he has been hurt more than healthy. Picking Bogut over Chris Paul and Deron Williams will go down as one of the biggest "What If's" in Cheesehead sports history.

Since the collective interest in the Milwaukee Bucks is at an all-time low, let's end the foreplay and get to the actual final player rankings:

#15 (NR, NR) Kwame Brown
(#54, C, 6'11", 270 lbs, Glynn Academy, 10th NBA Season):
A salary inclusion in the Bogut & Jackson for Ellis, Udoh, & Brown trade never actually suited up for the Bucks so the only thing he really earned from the Bucks besides way too much money was the 15th spot out of 15 on my player rankings.  By the way, great move MJ taking Brown over Tyson Chandler and Pau Gasol.

#14 (13, 14) Jon Brockman
(#40, PF/C, 6'7", 255 lbs, Washington, 3rd NBA Season):
Only played 35 games this year despite being the high energy guy on the roster.  Much like Hammond and Skiles, Brockman is in a contract year next year so hopefully he gets more opportunities next year or Europe will be his likely destination for the 2013-14 instead of the NBA.

#13 (8, 9) Shaun Livingston (#9, PG/SG, 6'7", 175 lbs, Peoria Central High School, 7th NBA Season):
Once upon a time a healthy season was a successful season for Livingston.  Now that Livingston put together two healthy seasons in a row, it's time for him to be a regular member of the rotation.  Although Livingston has a slight build, his length allows him to play anywhere from point guard to small forward.  Livingston better hope Delfino signs elsewhere in the off-season or best case scenario his minutes will be diminished next year while worst case scenario the Bucks will decline their $3.5 million team option for him for the 2012-13 season.

#12 (11, 13) Tobias Harris (#15, SF/PF, 6'8", 226 lbs, Tennessee, Rookie):
After just one season, Faried proved he should have been the pick instead of Harris.  Great move Hammond.

#11 (9, 7) Beno Udrih (#19, PG/SG, 6'3", 203 lbs, Slovenia, 7th NBA Season):
It will not make-up for Harris over Faried but if Hammond can talk Udrih into declining his $7.8 million player option for the 2012-13 season, the Bucks will actually have salary cap space for the first time in over a decade (thanks Ernie Grunfeld and Larry Harris).

#10 (7, 6) Jon Leuer (#30, PF/C, 6'10", 228 lbs, Wisconsin, Rookie):
While most players sat on their butt and played video games during the lockout, Leuer played professionally in Germany so that he could hit the ground running when the season started.  Not sure whether Leuer ran into Kobe or A-Rod as they went to Germany for "therapy" that is not technically legal according to the FDA but Leuer burst on the NBA scene like a comet and quickly faded as the season progressed.  Leuer and Harris will benefit next year from actually having an off-season with the team so look for a dramatic improve from both players next year.

#9 (5, 3) Carlos Delfino (#10, SG/SF, 6'6", 230 lbs, Argentina, 7th NBA Season):
Unfortunately for Delfino but fortunately for the Bucks and Livingston, Delfino didn't have a great contract year performance.  If the Bucks can re-sign Delfino on cheap, great.  If not, let him walk because he is a borderline NBA starter when healthy.

#8 (10, 12) Larry Sanders (#8, PF/C, 6'11", 235 lbs, Virginia Commonwealth, 2nd NBA Season):
Some people take issue with Sanders getting tossed from two games in the last month of the season.  May be I am drinking the Hey Now Kool-Aid but I chalk that up to Sanders being unable to control his passion for the game...okay maybe I am drinking the Kool-Aid.  The most the Bucks can hope for is that Sanders turns into the Poor Man's Ben Wallace.  Anything less and Sanders could see his minutes taken by Udoh, Leuer, and tweener power forward/center fill-in-the-blank that the Bucks draft in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft.

#7 (4, 4) Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (#12, SF/PF, 6'8", 230 lbs, UCLA, 4th NBA Season):
The highlight of the year for The Prince is that the Bucks matched the four-year, $19 million offer sheet that he signed with the Denver Nuggets as a restricted free agent heading into the 2011-12 season.  The Prince is a defensive stopper that is starting to improve on the offensive end of the court.  Unfortunately The Prince suffered through an injury riddled season so hopefully he will bounce back healthy next year or $5 million a year for a defensive stopper feels a little rich.  Add in that The Prince is not a candidate for the amnesty clause since the Bucks signed him after the ink dried on the new CBA and next year will be a big year for The Prince.

#6 (NR, NR) Ekpe Udoh (#13, PF/C, 6'10", 245 lbs, Baylor, 2nd NBA Season):
Apparently the Bucks held out for Udoh before they would make the Bogut & Jackson for Ellis, Udoh, & Brown Trade.  That is looking like a very wise move because there is a good chance Bogut is never healthy again so the Bucks could end up with the two best players (Ellis and Udoh) in the entire trade.  One quick reality check before we move though, Udoh doesn't look like he has the NBA rebounding gene. Fortunately Udoh protects the rim enough defensively so I see him turning into a Very Rich Man's Larry Sanders.

#5 (6, 11) Mike Dunleavy Jr. (#17, SG/SF, 6'9", 230 lbs, Duke, 10th NBA Season):
Like the late great Jerry Orbach said in Dirty Dancing, when I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong.  Dunleavy ended up being the guy that I thought Udrih would be for the Bucks.  Even if Dunleavy regresses next year, he will enter the discussion for one of Hammond's shrewdest free agent signings just based on how well he played for the Bucks during the 2011-12 season.

#4 (2, 10) Drew Gooden (#0, PF/C, 6'10", 236 lbs, Kansas, 10th NBA Season):
Before the 2010-11 season the Bucks signed Gooden to the mid-level exception that turned out to be a five-year, $35 million contract.  Year 1 was a total disaster since Gooden did his best Bogut impression (he struggled with injuries for those that don't get the reference).  Gooden was so horrible in the 2010-11 season that he looked like a strong candidate for the amnesty clause.  Fortunately Gooden was healthy in Year 2 and much more productive.  In fact after the Bucks lost Bogut for the season, Gooden filled in admirably at center despite power forward being his natural position.

#3 (3, 8) Ersan Ilyasova (#7, SF/PF, 6'10", 235 lbs, Turkey, 4th NBA Season):
Well my Poor Man's Dirk characterization at the start of the season is looking pretty astute right now.  For how horrible Delfino performed in a contract year, Ilyasova guaranteed that he will definitely get paid and most likely overpaid this off-season.  Ilyasova lead the Bucks in rebounds despite being one of the least muscular players on the team, which proves that rebounding is in your DNA (old-school think Dennis Rodman and new-school think Kevin Love or Kenneth Faried).  Add in that Ilyasova finished second in three point shooting percentage for the entire NBA behind former Warrior Steve Novak and things are looking up for the Poor Man's Dirk.  Keep in mind that Ilyasova is only 24-years old (turns 25 on May 15th) so it might be in the Bucks best interest to break the bank for Ilyasova, even if that means overpaying him.

#2 (NR, NR) Monta Ellis (#11, SG, 6'3", 185 lbs, Lanier High School, 6th NBA Season):
Looks like the perfect irrational confidence guy for a playoff team.  There is no way that the Miami Heat could afford to fit Ellis under the cap but he would be the absolute perfect fourth banana.  Who am I kidding, he would be the third and a half banana since the Heat have the Big Two and a Half.  Ellis is under contract for next season but holds a player option for the following season so next season will be a huge season for Ellis and the Bucks.

#1 (1, 2) Brandon Jennings (#3, PG, 6'1", 169 lbs, Oak Hill Academy, 3rd NBA Season):
Despite ruffling a few Cheesehead feathers earlier in the year when he talked about wanting to play in a bigger market, Jennings was the most consistent player for the Bucks this season because he continues to improve on both ends of the court.  Only time will tell whether the Jennings/Ellis combo meal will work in Milwaukee.  They have one season to figure it out before Ellis gets to decide whether to opt-out and Jennings decides whether he wants to sign an extension.

The Bucks are headed back to the lottery again for the 5th time in 6 seasons and have a 0.7% chance of winning the 1st pick in the draft for the right to take Unibrow. We all know the Angel of Stern will not let a small market team besides the MJ owned Bobcats win the lottery so don't dream about Unibrow too long.  If the ping-pong balls bounce as expected, the Bucks should pick 12th in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Feel free to call be captain obvious for the next sentence but every move the Bucks make this off-season will be with an eye towards the 2013-14 season when roughly $16 million comes off the books (Udrih = $7.8 million, Dunleavy = $3.75 million, Livingston = $3.5 million, and Brockman = $1 million).

Check back after the 2012 NBA Playoffs for my annual advice for John Hammond.

Related Posts:
- Wednesday What Happened - Bucks trade Bogut and Jackson to Warriors for Ellis
- Wednesday What (Should) Happen - 2012 NBA Trade Deadline Advice for John Hammond
- Sunday Funday - 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks Midseason Player Ratings
- Sunday Funday - 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks Initial Player Ratings