Friday, April 23, 2010

(Re) Draft

Interesting story in today's Wall Street Journal about potential options for re-thinking the NFL draft.

(Why the NFL Draft Drives Economists Crazy, Reed Albergotti, Wall Street Journal)
For a league that does many things well, the first round of the NFL draft is a mess.

The league gives its worst teams first crack at incoming college talent in the name of parity, but instead of giving bad teams a leg up, it often forces them to draft players they don't really need at prices they can't afford. Many top picks hold out of training camp before they sign, only to end up with enormous contracts that have little to do with their true value to a football team.

What's more, as this page reported Wednesday, NFL teams have a 50% chance of blowing a first-round pick entirely—the sort of costly gaffe that can set a franchise back for years.


There's no shortage of potential draft fixes: Players and their agents would like a more free-market system, similar to European soccer, in which transfer fees in the hundreds of millions are handed out like drink coupons. "Why don't we just abolish the draft and have everyone become a free agent just like any other workaday world?" asks football agent Steven Feldman.
One thing that struck me about this article was that everyone was ignoring what the draft is really about. Yes, there's the fluff about 'stars of the future' and 'building your team for tomorrow' and all of the sappy stuff you see on ESPN and all of that is somewhat true. But the MAIN reason for the NFL draft is to fire up the fan base in the off-season and make a little money while doing it.

Move to an allocation or lottery system and there's not going to be near the run-up one sees to the first pick of Round One. There won't be any renting out of Radio City Music Hall, there won't be a draft-day party at Reliant Center, and their won't be well....much of anything really. Using computer algorithms for Doctors, an industry where a 'draft bust' could have life and death consequences, is one thing, taking away the potential for failure out of the NFL draft is another animal all-together.

Want proof? Take a look at the most talked-about pick last night: The Broncos trading up to pick NFL maybe-QB Tim Tebow. Do you really want to take away that element?

If the financials are a concern then I have a solution that everyone but the players and their agents are going to like. Have all rookies enter the league at a pre-determined entry salary. Not for long mind you, only for two years so that their play can be evaluated before teams are required to throw Millions of dollars their way. At the end of two years, the teams & the player can either come to terms on a new contract or the player becomes a free-agent with another team being forced to give up a compensatory draft pick to the team that did not sign the player. Alternatively, if the team decides to not pursue contract negotiations then the player is a free agent outright. I'm not suggesting this is a perfect system, but it would take away the element of gambling from the player evaluation process. You'd still have the potential that a team could blow it, (Cheap teams or teams with bad management being the most obvious) but at least that risk could be mitigated somewhat.

In professional sports as a whole, top draft picks now consider their Multi-Million dollar signing bonus to be a birthright, making pro-sports one of the few industries where employees can earn a Millionaire's salary with zero accomplishments. As I said, players and agents would hate this rule, because it would mean that they actually have to produce before getting paid.

Sort of like you and I right?

Defending the Texans Rd 1 Pick (OK, sorta)

Early returns, by Texans fans, for Rd. 1 Draft pick Kareem Jackson are not good. Why didn't they trade back and take him later? Where's the running back we were promised? What about Kyle Wilson?

These are legitimate questions, but not ones that serve to diminish one important fact: The Texans needed immediate help at the corner position, and Jackson can provide that.

Could they have traded back? Who knows? I was hoping, pre-draft, that they might (tweet here) I also was on record as favoring Kyle Wilson to fill the cornerback role. My thought behind that pick had everything to do with ceilings. Wilson's ceiling is higher than Jackson's.

On the other hand, Jackson's floor is much higher than Wilson's. Knowing the current Texans regime I should have made adjustments for their overly risk-averse attitude. When you consider that, and their pre-occupation with character, Jackson was the way they were going to go if Matthews was off the board. (FWIW: The only people who really seemed to think Matthews would still be there at 20 were ChronBlog's paid sportswriters. Odd that.)

On the one hand I do believe that Jackson will provide the starting cornerback that the defense desperately needs. I fully expect him to start, and play fairly well, this year. He's well coached and steady, if unspectacular. Kyle Wilson might not have been as good this year, but I still believe he will develop into a better cornerback over time.*

There's also this: As it stands now, the best cornerback who's rights are owned by the Texans currently is....Kareem Jackson. And that's by a large amount. He's never going to be the shut-down corner fans want, but few are. Welcome to Houston Mr. Jackson.

*Wilson really has a chance to be great now considering he will start off as the nickel corner playing along side Reavis and Cromartie. If you have the Jets on your schedule and are a passing team.....look out.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why "Draft Experts" usually aren't....

CJ Spiller falls to 20? Not very likely. As a matter of fact, the mock drafts from writers whose projections are based on (at least) some league sources have Spiller going in the top 15.

Now, were we living in an NFL alternate reality where Chris Johnson didn't exist? Spiller probably falls that far. My main hope is that he doesn't go to the Seahawks, because a runner with that type of speed and quickness would be murder on the 49er defense.

FWIW: I'm quite happy if San Fran drafts either Earl Thomas or Brian Bulaga. Won't be the sexiest picks, but they'll be solid. With their second pick in the first round I'm guessing Claussen is the pick. Smith was a bust of a pick and SF needs a QB. That ND to SF connection has worked before....

The Texans had better not fall into the Ryan Matthews trap or this will become another bust of a draft. I've already stated that Taylor Mays is my first choice, but it looks as if that's not going to happen. Second choice would be Kyle Wilson. If neither of those are available then they should look at best available that is NOT a running back. (At 20, you can think about an interior D-lineman for that matter, there will still be several good ones on the board) The Texans should think about Hardesty from Tennessee in the third or fourth round to fill their RB needs. In the 2nd round Parrish Cox would be a nice fit at CB.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

That's 4 for K

Duke wins, 99% of Nation angry.

Duke Basketball, Yankees baseball and New England Patriots football. Three teams that are perennial title contenders, that the rest of the sports world loves to hate.

The Yankees are easy. What with a bloated payroll, an unmatchable local revenue stream and a system that's got no interest in seeing their domination challenged, if you're not from New York hating the Yankees is a rite of baseball passage. Hell, Derek Jeter alone is enough right? I mean, does the guy REALLY need the entire Maxxim hot 100 to hang with? Couldn't he leave 1/2 of them to the rest of you single guys out there?

Then there's New England, with their star QB and a coach so disagreeable he refuses face time with himself in the mirror every morning, a team that's learned to play fast and loose with the rules, that cuts players with cold calculation, and who wins...every single year. Yup, hate away on New England. They deserve it.

That leaves us with Duke. A team whose vile reputation, in my opinion, lies not with the program or the players, but on one Richard J. "Dick" Vitale. That's right, Dickie V. ESPN's hyper basketball commentator who wakes up every morning, rolls over, and kisses a life-sized cardboard cut-out of coach V before asking his wife to go and get the paper. It's not enough that Duke is usually pretty good, but College basketball pundits such as Vitale and Jay Bilas (a former Duke player) pump them up as an unbeatable machine even in years when they obviously aren't. People hate that, they also hate success, seeking to tear it down.

The beauty about March Madness is that, unlike College Football, the champion at the end of the year is a true champion, having won the title on the court, against 64 of the best teams in the land (give or take a couple left out by the selection committee) in a single elimination format that creates the best event in sport, period. Before the Duke nay-sayers have a chance to try and diminish Duke's championship as some type of "gift" (which, when you think about it, is terribly unfair to the Butler team everyone was rooting for) it should be mentioned that both Syracuse and Kansas St. had a chance to knock-off the upstarts, and both failed. Duke did what the other #1 seeds could not do, they made it to the Final Four and won the championship. Congrats to them for that.

And congrats to Butler for making one hell of a run, and (for the record) being the prime mover in me having the winning bracket.

As for Duke, they'll go on being hated and won't give a damn what you think. They'll take their 4th NCAA title, have a party in Durham and will start planning for next year.

Maybe. Because the rumor is the New Jersey Nets are prepared to offer Coach K 5-years; $75 Million. So yeah, that's another reason folks will hate Duke. Their coach is loaded.

Opening day has come and gone....

...and the Astros, Royals & Nationals are officially eliminated from the playoff chase.

In Houston at least, the cheerleading continues unabated....

The lack of offense, bench depth and relief pitching are going to make for a long season.