The Grand National Championships

March 31, 2009

I say this to you tonight.

It’s all about to change. Hope and faith will come to the degenerates and philistines. The worst local sports talk show will flip and decide they loved this player the whole time. Age 26 with experience? Hell yeah.

Post hype sleeper?

Shit, the shine was gone when Mark Foley jokes became topical.

But you know what? It’s time for Rickie Weeks to break out.

Okay, those of you who know me as a Brewer fan know that I’m one of the more optimistic of the Brewers fans. And you know he’s been eternally on somebody’s breakout list since Mark Foley jokes have been topical.

But the fact is? He is just too skilled not to be denied. The upside of .260/20/75/30/100? It’s very real. And there are reasons why he can do this.

1) His second half was actually pretty good.

His OPS was on the borderline of hitting 800. For a middle infielder? That’s pretty good. His line-drive and fly-ball rates were stronger. He may never get that batting average up to par, but he had a second half that he can build on.

2) The skill set.

His power is legitimate. His speed is coupled with a judgement on how to use it. He has a great ability to take walks. And his defense has become passable as well. He doesn’t need much from his contact rate to become a top 5 second baseman. And he can get this done.

3) Toughness.

Yeah, Rickie Weeks has been someone who has been laid up. I get that. But that’s not why he’s got a chance. He will play through pain. Above and beyond seeming logic. The wrist problems he suffered through in ’06 and ’07 were compounded by him attempting to play through it. It means that when he’s healthy? He won’t sweat the small stuff.

The one reason why I may be an idiot dovetails from this. Staying healthy is a skill. He hasn’t shown that in the bigs. Not to say he can’t. But Milwaukee is a land of beer and nagging injuries.

I’m willing to put myself on the line and say it. It’s gonna happen. Weeks and weeks of Rickie Weeks.

March 30, 2009

THE GNC DAY 1 BREAKDOWN: CENTERS…

Filed under: Dollar Tree Superstars,Draft Nerd,El Centro,Fuhbawls — by Andrew @ 8:37 pm

I have to say something. If you need an interior lineman. You may have to go into Round 2 to get one. I may not believe Eric Wood is a worthy Day 1 draft choice, but that being said? Eric Wood is a smart scrapper. Some team would not be indefensible to fall in love with him. I just don’t trust an offensive lineman that struggles with knee bend. So that leaves two.

1. Alex Mack Cal
6’4″ 307 5.17

You want what’s potentially the safest pick between 25-40? Go forth to the secret world of Alex Mack. Why? Because this Larisa Oleynik is the prototypical run blocker as an interior lineman. Leverage? Hands? Drive blocking? Pulling? He has it all and he has it all in spades.

But he is not perfect. His pass protection needs some work. A big d-tackle can generate a bit of a bullrush. He loses the leverage and hands as he goes after linebackers. But he’s going from great to merely average.

In the future? You could look at Alex Mack and see another decade, decade and a half of a Kevin Mawae-esque run of dominance at center. Right now? He’s not going to be Kevin Mawae. But he has the work ethic and desire to take it to the next level and become truly great.

2. Max Unger (Oregon)
6’5″ 309 5.26

Agility wise? Max Unger is the best center out there. He can be an emergency left tackle. He’s solid in pass protection. And he’s a good player in the traps and pulling game. All in all? Max Unger is a solid fathlete.

His only problem? He does have functional strength. But his football strength is lacking. He’s not a blow you off the ball center like Alex Mack or even an Edwin Williams. It’s not a suicidal flaw, a good strength program can handle that. But it’s the difference between Unger and Mack. Despite the fact he’s also weak in space.

But at present? Anybody dreaming of Kevin Mawae has been camped out at his doorstep. He does have some real upside to his game. You may be able to find a long-snapper, and a backup tackle and guard for the price of a starting center and a mid 2nd round pick.

Yay! Good dranalysis!

Okay, let’s try this again shall we?

So I got one right? It was to be expected. All that research, and it was worth roughly 10 games. I feel bad about that. I had my moment of brilliance and many deaths in the second weekend.

And here’s what I’m going to say. I’m going to analyze the strengths of each team. I will look for one major weakness? And

UConn

+ Height. It’s not just Hasheem Thabeet that’s a tall dude. They have size to break it down.
+ Shotblocking. A nautral extension of being tall.
+ Field Goal Defense. Forcing bad shots isn’t exclusive to being tall, the perimeter defense is excellent as well.
+ Turnovers. They will likely win the turnover battle. Michigan State can lose the ball if they aren’t careful.

They just do not shoot threes. All of their losses have been of the variety where they get bombed out of the arena in a rapid fashion. Outside of A.J. Price? They have nobody who can score by the magic number.

Michigan State

+ Luck. Ken Pomeroy has them as the 8th most lucky team in D-1. For whatever that’s worth.
+ Home State Advantage. Those who can afford it are going to roll out to Ford Field.
+ Rebounding. UConn is a solid team at generating second chances, but you know what? The Spartans are stronger.
+ Tom Izzo. Say what you will. He’s a great coach. Someone who has made as many final fours as Izzo is worth a posession or two. Especially with Jim Calhoun busy texting.
+ Depth. They have a much deeper rotation than UConn.

– Turnovers. Kalin Lucas is a good distributor, but the reason why they lost a couple in the Breslin Center they shouldn’t have is because the rebounds don’t overcome the turnovers. And with a team like UConn?

Villanova

+ Balance. They have little that they’re basketball leading dominant, but they have a salad bar of the skills that they bring to the table.
+ The Line. They can generate baskets by drawing fouls. And when they get to the free throw line? They sink the baskets.
+ Second chance baskets. If they can keep a team up off the boards? They will win the rebounding battle.
+ Dante Cunningham. He is the most underrated player left in the Tournament.
+ Simmons bunching theory. Philadelphia is in position for a good run as a sports city.

– They foul. If you want to be snarky. It is what could cost them the game. In a bang bang play between Cunningham and Hansborough? Does overrated white guy or underrated salad bar get the call?

North Carolina

+ The most efficient offense in sports entertainment.
+ Fouls and Turnovers. They do not commit them.
+ They shoot sharply. Beyond the arc? Inside? They can handle themselves.
+ They generate second chances. They get their misses.
+ Six starters. Anybody in the country would take them.

– A good day from the backcourt can beat them. Scottie Reynolds is a shining star right now. Corey Stokes is a legitmate three-point shooter. One of them gets hot? And they contend.

So what does it all mean? It means I expect UConn and UNC to play each other. And Jim Calhoun takes one for evil. If you’re betting game by game.

But if you’re taking odds? Go for Villanova.

March 29, 2009

There are two quarterbacks that teams have…

That should belie them needing a first round quarterback.

Now, it looks as if the New York Jets aren’t going to go after a quarterback in round one. So, if you are a member of the Brett Ratliff nation? You should feel okay in thinking that he can change the world.

But here’s something that I can’t understand, why has everybody jumped off of the Josh Johnson bandwagon? I mean, Football Outsiders compared him to Randall Cunningham. Now they’re expecting a pretender like Josh Freeman to come in. That’s Mel Kiper talk. You cannot take that.

Josh Johnson is going to be a great pro quarterback. He doesn’t have the completion percentage issues of a Josh Freeman. He uses his legs as a weapon, not as a crutch. And he also has a smooth throwing motion. He has all the tools. And he’s had a year to adjust.

I know he’s not the new regimes guy. But he really should be. If I’m anybody else? I make an offer so they can have Josh Freeman.

You Know What?

Filed under: Basketball is played by tall guys,Bracketological — by Andrew @ 9:34 am

I’m an idiot.

I know, big shock there.

But let’s be honest. I should have known Pittsburgh was going to lose. Pittsburgh has strengths. Plenty of them. They underperformed as a #1 seed, but they’ve had opponents who refuse to go out like that. But here’s the thing.

Villanova has no weaknesses. They are an experienced team with an excellent balance. Threes? Nova can do it. Rebounding? Nova can do it. Coaching? Jay Wright’s got a fearless swagger.

And Jaime Dixon? He always has good teams. He just hasn’t been able to take the next step. He’s like Bob Huggins, but with charm.

Alas. I bet against a team with experience and balance for a team with a coach who isn’t there yet.

Ah well, if you read the blog, you know my bracket was dead anyway.

March 27, 2009

Day 1 Draft Breakdown! Guards!

Filed under: Analysis,Dollar Tree Superstars,Draft Nerd,Fuhbawls — by Andrew @ 9:15 pm

I figure something. If I can hammer out the smaller details of the interior offensive linemen and middle linebackers, I can get back to a pace of one point five draftological posts per week. So, after the crazy good analysis of the middle linebackers? It is time for guardplay.

#72 Duke Robinson   *OL* Pictures, Images and Photos

1. Duke Robinson (Oklahoma)
6’5″ 338 5.32

He’s straight mauler in the run game. You will love running blast plays to his side. He has a jolting punch and he comes with excellent leverage. He will not get engulfed in pass protection. Keep his actions simple and he’s a stud.

Second level is where you start getting some form of an issue. His quickness goes out the window when he has to make a move at a linebacker. He also struggles to lock on when he’s pulling. He also does have certain character questions in terms of personal fouls and practice habits.

For what he is? He is a safe pick. He is essentially ballast in a zone blocking scheme. But if you’re in the market for for a David Dixon site? I say go for it.

Herman Johnson Pictures, Images and Photos

2. Herman Johnson (LSU)
6’7″ 364 5.50

Any discussion of Herman Johnson has something to do with his essential freakish nature. He played at about 385 during the year and he played with a surprising agility as well. He has long arms as well as decent power. Add that to a solid set of instincts? And you have a whole lot of upside here.

But even though he’s lost 20 pounds since the Senior Bowl, he should lose about ten more pounds if he wants to be an effective professional. Because like Duke, he does have problems with his second level play. Also? When he wears down, he becomes a leaner, and a quick defensive tackle can eat him for lunch.

If he can get down to 340-350? He can turn himself into Stacy Andrews. Carrying a lot of weight as a collegian can shorten your career. You can get a right tackle out of him if you want. But it all comes down to weight. If he can manage it? He’s Andrews. If he cannot? Do you remember Max-Jean Gilles?

That’s okay. I don’t either.

The next draft preview will be center.

Day 1 Draft Breakdown! Guards!

Filed under: Analysis,Dollar Tree Superstars,Draft Nerd,Fuhbawls — by Andrew @ 9:15 pm

I figure something. If I can hammer out the smaller details of the interior offensive linemen and middle linebackers, I can get back to a pace of one point five draftological posts per week. So, after the crazy good analysis of the middle linebackers? It is time for guardplay.

1. Duke Robinson (Oklahoma)
6’5″ 338 5.32

He’s straight mauler in the run game. You will love running blast plays to his side. He has a jolting punch and he comes with excellent leverage. He will not get engulfed in pass protection. Keep his actions simple and he’s a stud.

Second level is where you start getting some form of an issue. His quickness goes out the window when he has to make a move at a linebacker. He also struggles to lock on when he’s pulling. He also does have certain character questions in terms of personal fouls and practice habits.

For what he is? He is a safe pick. He is essentially ballast in a zone blocking scheme. But if you’re in the market for for a David Dixon site? I say go for it.

2. Herman Johnson (LSU)
6’7″ 364 5.50

Any discussion of Herman Johnson has something to do with his essential freakish nature. He played at about 385 during the year and he played with a surprising agility as well. He has long arms as well as decent power. Add that to a solid set of instincts? And you have a whole lot of upside here.

But even though he’s lost 20 pounds since the Senior Bowl, he should lose about ten more pounds if he wants to be an effective professional. Because like Duke, he does have problems with his second level play. Also? When he wears down, he becomes a leaner, and a quick defensive tackle can eat him for lunch.

If he can get down to 340-350? He can turn himself into Stacy Andrews. Carrying a lot of weight as a collegian can shorten your career. You can get a right tackle out of him if you want. But it all comes down to weight. If he can manage it? He’s Andrews. If he cannot? Do you remember Max-Jean Gilles?

That’s okay. I don’t either.

The next draft preview will be center.

Day 1 Draft Breakdown: Inside Linebackers

Filed under: Defenstration,Draft Nerd,Oh what a rush — by Andrew @ 6:11 pm

I’ve decided that I was going to take on an easy draft report for Day 1 propsects here. I mean, Inside Linebackers are a position that is never deep in Day 1 prospects.

This year? There are two.

REY MAUALUGA #58

1. Rey Maualuga (USC)
6’2″ 248 4.80

What you have with Maualuga is a pure striker. When you get him going downhill? He can be a scary thought for a running back. He has the hand technique to shed blockers and he can hold on the point of attack. He also has good lateral agility and is in no form or fashion a liability if he has to go into coverage.

But he is not a sideline to sideline guy. As a pure Mike? That’s an issue. You also can fake him out. He overpuruses on defense. It’s a part of his knock you the fuck out mentality. It works against him on other levels as well. There’s a certain concern about him becoming a million dollar blogger with bad knees.

That being said? He’s still just 22, and maturity comes at different ages for most people. Flaky Maualuga has a lot to like and when he’s at his best? He’s a match-up nightmare. He’s a top-15 pick, and he may get a chip on his shoulder if a team like say Jacksonville decides to reach for him. I like him a lot. He can play on my team anytime.

James Laurinitas Pictures, Images and Photos

2. James Laurinitas (Ohio State)
6’2″ 244 4.76

If you’ve been paying attention to the Laurinitas trends, his stock has been falling. That just means some team may get a second instant starter in the early 30’s. There’s still a lot to like about son of Animal. He has great instincts and good athleticism. This means he’s a sideline to sideline linebacker who can cover as well as show heart in the run game. And if he gets to you? You will be tackled.

But while son of Animal has a good ability to disengage, it does come at a cost of losing ground at the point of attack. He is also not nearly as strong as Maualuga. And he has never been a game changer. Nothing with the killshot. Nothing with the turnover. Just sort of solid. Just sort of there. Even if he takes a bad angle or two.

Now, anybody worth their salt know that the short sellers attack a prospect or two of experience during their senior year. Often, it’s an outside linebacker from a Big 10 school. Usually they go to Penn State. But for a team like New England? A foray into Laurinitas-land would be good medicine.

There are some who would consider Darry Beckwith in this class. He isn’t. Frantz Joesph may find his way into a sleeper list. Otherwise? Dollhouse.

Day 1 Draft Breakdown: Inside Linebackers

Filed under: Defenstration,Draft Nerd,Oh what a rush — by Andrew @ 6:11 pm

I’ve decided that I was going to take on an easy draft report for Day 1 propsects here. I mean, Inside Linebackers are a position that is never deep in Day 1 prospects.

This year? There are two.

REY MAUALUGA #58

1. Rey Maualuga (USC)
6’2″ 248 4.80

What you have with Maualuga is a pure striker. When you get him going downhill? He can be a scary thought for a running back. He has the hand technique to shed blockers and he can hold on the point of attack. He also has good lateral agility and is in no form or fashion a liability if he has to go into coverage.

But he is not a sideline to sideline guy. As a pure Mike? That’s an issue. You also can fake him out. He overpuruses on defense. It’s a part of his knock you the fuck out mentality. It works against him on other levels as well. There’s a certain concern about him becoming a million dollar blogger with bad knees.

That being said? He’s still just 22, and maturity comes at different ages for most people. Flaky Maualuga has a lot to like and when he’s at his best? He’s a match-up nightmare. He’s a top-15 pick, and he may get a chip on his shoulder if a team like say Jacksonville decides to reach for him. I like him a lot. He can play on my team anytime.

2. James Laurinitas (Ohio State)
6’2″ 244 4.76

If you’ve been paying attention to the Laurinitas trends, his stock has been falling. That just means some team may get a second instant starter in the early 30’s. There’s still a lot to like about son of Animal. He has great instincts and good athleticism. This means he’s a sideline to sideline linebacker who can cover as well as show heart in the run game. And if he gets to you? You will be tackled.

But while son of Animal has a good ability to disengage, it does come at a cost of losing ground at the point of attack. He is also not nearly as strong as Maualuga. And he has never been a game changer. Nothing with the killshot. Nothing with the turnover. Just sort of solid. Just sort of there. Even if he takes a bad angle or two.

Now, anybody worth their salt know that the short sellers attack a prospect or two of experience during their senior year. Often, it’s an outside linebacker from a Big 10 school. Usually they go to Penn State. But for a team like New England? A foray into Laurinitas-land would be good medicine.

There are some who would consider Darry Beckwith in this class. He isn’t. Frantz Joesph may find his way into a sleeper list. Otherwise? Dollhouse.

Day 1 Breakdown: Defensive Tackles.

Filed under: Defenstration,Draft Nerd,Not Corey Raji,Ziggy — by Andrew @ 6:25 am

The NFL is of a cyclical nature. The 3-4 was a system left for dead not more than five years ago. And now? You are seeing a return of the 3-4 as a mack defense. And who’s leading the charge? Boston College.

B.J. Raji

1. B.J. Raji (NT-Boston College)
6’2″ 337 5.12

There is only one word you need to know when you talk about B.J. Raji. Power. He has an explosive first step. He has the leverage and balance to be immovable on his best days. He is a top notch run-stuffer.

But he brings nothing to the table as a pass-rusher despite his 2008 sack total. It’s simply straight-line power. He is also a big dude, and the motor does wear itself down. And while the character questions seem to have been somewhat answered, someone who misses a year due to academics just might not be the plug and player that his Top-10 status belies.

But that being said? He was great in 2006 and did not miss a beat in 2008. He is a game changer for at least two downs. Mention any Williams surnamed defensive tackle? He will be just as good. Not #1 pick level, but a solid pick in the 6-10 range.

Peria Jerry Pictures, Images and Photos

2. Peria Jerry (DT-Ole Miss)
6’2″ 298 4.98

There’s a lot to like with Peria Jerry. As a one gap defensive tackle? He’s gold. He has a great motor and an excellent first step. He has good agility, and he is not easily fooled on the run-pass recognition. Those that call him a Top 15 pick have a strong case here.

There’s not much to dislike here. He’s not a two-gap defensive tackle. But people know that coming in. He’s also an overaged defensive tackle who can get dinged up with the minor injuries. Even if he plays with pain.

Now in a different world, Jerry would be the #1 defensive tackle available. He has a lot of strengths that he brings to the table. And I do declare that one of these years he could be a defensive tackle with 10 sacks. But we’re living in a 3-4 world, at least among those who could use a D-Tackle. So he may not make the top half of round 1. If he doesn’t? Someone’s going to be very happy.

Evander Hood Pictures, Images and Photos

3. Evander “Ziggy” Hood (DT-Missouri)
6’3″ 300 4.88

You actually have a good tweener set of skills here. Ziggy has a 10-yard dash time to rival a top prospect like Everette Brown, what does that mean? It means the man is quick. He also has good lateral agility. He also put up 225 35 times at his Pro Day. And you know what? He has the heart of a slow white guy. That means he’s gritty.

But why is he a tweener? He lacks power. He’s not the guy who can blow up a guard and shove him into the backfield. And the lateral agility is there. But it’s inconsistent. He has stiff hips and if he has to turn and run? He loses a step. It’s also why he has trouble getting through the line.

You don’t know exactly where Ziggy will fall this year. A 3-4 team likely can’t use him as a defensive end, so that limits his choices. He would not be a stupid move for the Colts or the Eagles (though the Eagles fan will boo him). But the fact is, he has the heart and motor that he can touch the tools and becomes something more. He’s an upside play at this point.

4. Ron Brace (NT-Boston College)
6’3″ 330 5.48

Now, everybody knows Raji. Raji is good. But there is a real case that he isn’t the top run-stuffer in the draft. Never mind his 40-time which was worse during the pro-day, his first step is great. And with his power? It’s enough for him to split a potential double team. If he can’t? He will not get moved.

But obviously, Ron Brace is a big dude. This means he will wear down. And considering his back issues? That has to be a concern if he goes Ted Washington. And his quickness is solely straight line. And laterally? He’s decent, but not spectacular.

For two downs? A 3-4 team has a chance to get a plug and play starter from the end of the second round on. He has definite cult hero potential of the Gilbert Brown variety. He will not have eye-popping numbers, but I would ask if he would be willing to promote local area fast food concerns. It could make him some good money.

Fili Moala Pictures, Images and Photos

5. Fili Moala (DT-USC)
6’4″ 305 5.07

If you get Moala? Keep him motion. He’s disruptive in slants and angles. He’s a solid one-gapper. He was a man who allowed the linebackers of USC to wreak havoc. And there’s a weakness that I will mention that he’s strong enough to blunt at present.

And that weakness? He plays upright way too often. He’s not an explosive player. He has good hands, but he does not disengage easily. But I’m not saying this as a bad thing. He’s a plugger. If you have good linebackers, he’s a solid assist man.

Not to say that he doesn’t have upside. He has a frame to get 25-30 pounds and not lose a step. He needs to learn more about leverage if he’s to become a superstar. If he does? He’s a great 2nd rounder. If he doesn’t? He’s overvalued. But he can be interesting.

That’s the defensive tackle list. Sen’Derrick Marks could be drafted in round 2, but I have to say that it would be a mistake. He doesn’t have the sum near in comparison to his parts.

Yeah. Moving on.

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