Friday, September 30, 2011

The 2011 Total NFL Draft (Round 4)

Special announcment: Wade Phillips will be taking over Casey's team.
In case you missed it, here are the previous rounds.

Round 1     Round 2     Round 3 
Local sports radio in Columbus, OH can be severely hit or miss, but there is one show that is an absolute MUST LISTEN every day. From 3-6pm, Monday-Friday, “Common Man and the Torg” grace my radio and carry me through the grueling end of my workday. If you’ve never listened to them, I strongly urge you to give it a shot…I’m sure you’ll love it. To get an idea of what their show is like, just imagine a typical podcast with me and Prince…only make it about five times angrier and more inappropriate. Oh yeah, and also they mostly know what they’re talking about and they have real guests on who don’t fall under the “idiot friends” category. So basically not like the podcast at all…moving on.

One bit they do every year, prior to the start of the football season, is pick one offensive player and one defensive player they would want to start a football team with. Keep in mind, this is a long-term team. They aren’t picking for just this year, they are picking for this year and subsequent years down the road. It’s such a simple idea, but it really is an awesome topic of debate for football fans.

With that in mind, and with fantasy football drafts fresh in my memory, I can’t think of a single reason not to run with this idea. Back in the spring, Prince and I conducted an excruciatingly long mock draft prior to the 2011 NFL Draft. Since we aren’t clever enough to come up with any of our own ideas, we’ve remained in Brett Favre-like retirement ever since -- without the text messages -- but now that we have a great idea to vulture, it’s time to make our glorious comeback…only to completely and utterly ruin it with a crushing interception that will result in a devastating loss in a game we completely dominated. Wait, I’m not describing our draft anymore, am I? Sorry Prince…(not really!)

But wait, there’s more! Prince and I decided that two idiots weren’t enough! So we added Boris Diaw Time! regulars Casey Richey and Nick Laney on board, thus forming the blogging equivalent of the 2008 Detroit Lions. Aren’t you excited? I know I am…

Here are the parameters: There are 22 rounds in the draft and each position must be filled. Each person may pick the base offense (3WR, 2TE, etc.) and base defense (3-4, 4-3, 46) of their choice, though it must be a legitimate NFL base offense or defense. We are drafting as if we are starting a brand new team and importance must be placed on the future viability of this team. A player’s value for this year is important, but his long-term value is perhaps even more important. And, of course, no touching of the hair or face…AND THAT’S IT!!!

Draft Order:     1. Casey Richey
                        2. Nick Laney
                        3. Jared Prince
                        4. Jon Landrum
Results through 3 Rounds
Team Casey

QB Aaron Rodgers (1st Round - #1 Overall)
LT Jake Long (2nd Round - #8 Overall)
DT Haloti Ngata (3rd Round - #9 Overall)

Team Laney

CB Darrelle Revis (1st Round - #2 Overall)
MLB Patrick Willis (2nd Round - #7 Overall)
OLB DeMarcus Ware (3rd Round - #10 Overall)

Team Prince

QB Philip Rivers (1st Round - #3 Overall)
OLB Clay Matthews (2nd Round - #6 Overall)
DT B.J. Raji (3rd Round - #11 Overall)

Team Landrum

QB Sam Bradford (1st Round - #4 Overall)
DT Ndamukong Suh (2nd Round - #5 Overall)
LT Joe Thomas (3rd Round - #12 Overall)

4th Round

#13   Team Landrum – DE Jared Allen

This is where the draft got tough for me. I’ve landed young cornerstones at QB, LT, and DT. Thus far, I’m going very traditional in how I build a team. Successful franchises start in the trenches, and I’m not straying from that strategy. Maintaining a devastating pass rush is increasingly important in the NFL, and nobody is better at mauling the QB than Jared Allen. At 29, Allen is a bit older than I wanted to go, but there is a lack of dominant, young pass rushers. Overall, I think we’ve burned through most of the young franchise players, so getting a guy near 30 doesn’t faze me. Also, I think Allen’s game will age well. He isn’t a traditional speed rusher, so a loss in athleticism isn’t going to nullify his talents. He’s been extremely durable over his career, and he should be All-Pro level for the next 4 or 5 seasons. I’m sure one of you wise guys will point out that Allen had his worst year last season. True, but he still posted 11 sacks, an impressive 10 AV, finished 4th in stop rate, and warranted a double team (or more) on every play. Simply put, he’s the most feared pass rusher at his position. Combined with Suh on the inside, my team is going to be hurting some QB’s!

Casey: But Jon, Jared Allen had his worst year last season!!! Okay, so I had to be the first to say that… but seriously, that does have to heighten the risk level at least some in this decision, since he is getting close to 30. Having said that though, this dude is a beast, and I agree that he will probably be fine. Somehow, I’m just going to assume that Websonvre (my poorly constructed nickname for the three-headed disaster that ran the Vikings’ offense last year) had something to do with his struggles last year.

Prince: As many of you could have guessed, I love Jared Allen. Ever since he joined the Vikings, I’ve watched about every game he has played, and he should still be an All-Pro talent for a few more years. He doesn’t have a “go to move” for his pass rush, but that’s really because he can dominate with a variety of styles. doesn’t matter, he can get past you. One of the reasons that Allen would have so many sacks is that the Vikings would actually be winning games, which would force the other team to throw more, allowing him to rush the QB every play (I think that’s what Casey was suggesting about the horrible trio of QBs the Vikings had last year), so I have to hope that’s the reason for his dip in production. I honestly think it was. Great pick. 

Laney: I would very much like to list the same reasons you gave me against picking DeMarcus Ware, but alas, my hands are tied. DE is so very thin in today’s National Football League. There simply isn't great young talent at the position, so you cannot be faulted for picking Allen, as he is the best in his position by a decent margin. The next best young player is a country mile off in skill level. I feel like you should take Adrian Peterson next. Make Prince take a real hard look at this draft…you'll not only have Suh, but also 2 Vikings, while he has 2 Packers (and a likely A.J. Hawk pick upcoming!)!!!!

Landrum: Laney, I was afraid you were going to rip on me because of my DeMarcus Ware comments. I had prepared a statement for just that situation, so I’m honestly a little thrown off by your supportive words. Actually, all three of you said “Great pick” to me. What am I supposed to comment on? Is this some sort of ruse? Am I actually making dumb picks? Who knows. Before I finish, I’d like to point out what a great pick Flozell Adams would be at RT. Last year, playing RT for a Steelers team that allowed only 43 sacks, Adams was a guy. If that isn’t high enough praise, here’s this! Adams, at 35, finally took the next step forward in his development, dropping his penalty total to a miniscule 9! That’s far less than the nearly 1 penalty per game average he posted in the previous 2 seasons! WOW! He’d be a great fit on your line, Casey…just saying…

#14   Team Prince – LT Ryan Clady

 I really need to get the next LT before Laney has a chance to pick again, so I’m going with Clady. Two seasons ago, Clady was named to the All-Pro Team (which is very different than being named to the Pro Bowl), but then suffered a bad knee injury in the offseason. While he didn’t miss any games last season, his play did suffer (obviously he fits in well with my philosophy of playing while you’re injured), but I’m confident that he can get back to that All-Pro level of play. Since he just turned 25 this week, I really don’t think there will be a problem with him getting back to normal and dominating this league for a long time.

Laney: Initially, when he came into the league, Clady seemed a world beater. Not allowing one sack his rookie season tipped him for a very bright future. My big concern with him is consistency. After the initial burst of top shelf play, he fell into playing at a sub-potential level. A couple of factors go into his favor though. As Prince said, he was recovering from an injury (knee injuries do scare me on OL though) and many maintain he suffered from the loss of Jay Cutler. With Cutler, Clady was credited with fewer sacks & more pressures. While he is an incredible pass protector, his run blocking needs work. I think that, and staying healthy, are the only things standing in his way of the "Elite LT" title. Being the youngest of the bunch, he'll certainly have time to do that.

Casey: Well, let’s see here… I’ve never watched Clady play a single game before. So obviously, I have nothing even remotely intelligent-sounding to say about this. But in other news, I am watching some video footage of Flozell Adams right now. Maybe he is underrated. I mean, he did play in a Super Bowl! That has to count for something…… right?

Landrum: Expert analysis, as always, from Casey Richey. Hey Casey, I have a great idea for you! For the remainder of this draft, you should develop an alternate, ESPN inspired personality. When you’re totally unfamiliar with a player, like Clady, you can just prepend your comment with a call sign to let us know you are using the ESPN personality, and then you can make up some totally unsubstantiated analysis about that players’ “toughness,” “determination,” “leadership,” and “intangibles.” For example, this could be your comment about Clady – “Ryan Clady is an absolutely fantastic choice here and a great value in the fourth round. What he doesn’t have in skill, he makes up for in toughness and determination. Nobody plays harder from down to down, and it’s that type of grit you’re looking for in a left tackle. His physical style of play sets the tone for the other linemen, and his intangibles grade out very well. At the end of the day, you know Ryan Clady will always play hard. You could do a lot worse than starting your line with him!” See how that works, Casey?  See how I used way too many words to not actually say anything? Once you’re done with your Flozell Adams game tapes, I suggest you check out a few Ron Jaworski audio clips to get a better idea of how this works.

Prince: Doesn’t the podcast revolve around all of us using way too many words without actually saying anything? Honestly, Casey, if you don’t know anything about a player, you should just call him fat and stupid, and say whoever made the pick is an idiot. That fits in much better. Landrum, have you been working hard to become more like your hero Jaws? I bet he has actually said that exact statement about a few different players, only replacing “Ryan Clady” with whomever he was talking about. Too bad they would never hire you over at ESPN because you call out players and teams who do dumb things.

#15   Team Laney – DE Justin Tuck

When Jon said the DE position was thin, he wasn't lying. That led me to make Justin Tuck my next selection. What really stands out with Tuck is his versatility. I plan on playing a 3-4, so his adaptability makes him a great selection. He's spent some time as a situational DT, opening up the possibility of sliding him over next to my NT and bringing in DeMarcus Ware as a down lineman to give offenses another formation to worry about. He had an absolutely phenomenal season in 2008, being named to the All-Pro team as well as posting an incredible 18 AV. Last season was more of the same with 11.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and an AV of 15. 2009 was a bit of a down year (possibly due to the introduction of a new DC?), but the important thing is he clearly put that behind him in 2010. At a legitimate 28 (this time!), he should be able to anchor my D-Line for quite some time.

Casey: Well Laney, no doubt we are all thrilled about what your new DE did in 2008! Unfortunately though, in this decade, conditions tend to favor players that are not china dolls. I don’t know if you’re aware, but Tuck suffered a neck injury in a preseason game a couple weeks ago. He sat out of yesterday’s season-opener against the Redskins because, describing his neck injury in his own words, “It just hasn’t responded as well as I’d like.” Sound familiar to anyone? Anyone else in the NFL experiencing similar problems right now? I hate to be so bleak Laney, but if recent (and I mean VERY recent) history has any say here, I’m pretty sure Tuck’s career just ended. Sorry, buddy!

Landrum: Casey, I know you’re on the ledge after spending nearly $30 for Peyton Manning in our fantasy league (and subsequently getting blasted by me in Week 1!), but you need to chill out for a second. There’s a huge difference between a 35 year old QB who’s started every game since 1998 and is coming off multiple surgeries and a 28 year old DE who has some muscular discomfort after a minor stinger. HUGE difference! Fact is, Tuck was listed as questionable going into Sunday’s game and was essentially a game time decision. After missing the game, Tuck has missed exactly 1 game since becoming a regular on the Giants line in 2007. China doll, not so much. Now, I know Laney’s probably gonna be shocked to hear this from me (considering I’ve crushed all his picks so far), but I love this selection. I picked Jared Allen a couple spots earlier because I felt a good pass rusher is so important in the NFL, and Tuck is one of the best. At just 28, he’s also one of the few studs under 30. Great pick, Laney.

Prince: I might be wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure Tuck hasn’t had three neck surgeries recently. If he had, then I would be much more worried, but players miss games all the time and I don’t see this as a big deal. Even if Tuck misses a few games, Laney should still have a great player for years. I really like that Tuck can play multiple positions, and in my mind that gives him a decent boost in value. So far, Laney has three guys who can get double digit sacks. I guess that means the rest of us need to get really good O-lines. I might even have to draft a full back just so that he can block on passing plays.

Laney: Don't you put that evil on me, Casey! As Jon said, he has been pretty much healthy throughout his time as a significant contributor on the Giants’ D-Line. Also, Peyton's body has taken a lot of abuse, whereas Tuck hasn't been exposed to the same sort of punishment. Pretty happy with the pick (how could I not be after the Landrum endorsement!) as there are no specific 3-4 DE’s to pick in a draft like this. Tuck's versatility should make him very successful in my set-up.

#16   Team Casey – DE/LB (??) Mario Williams

Speaking of versatility! I was initially shocked to hear that Wade Phillips wanted Williams to try out LB this year. Well, I watched a good chunk of the Colts game over the weekend, and me likey! Look, I know that’s kind of like saying I’m really good at tennis because I beat a guy in a wheelchair (no, not a true story!)… but still, it’s a good sign that Williams seems to have taken the transition well. Like many #1 overall picks, he took a lot of flak his first couple years, not performing at #1-overall level. But he continues to grow, and with several years of experience and still only 26 years of age, I like his value here at #16.

Landrum: Well, it appears as if I have started a run on DE. Honestly, I figured this would happen sooner rather than later, which is why I grabbed my guy early. I won’t lie, I considered Super Mario when making my selection. He’s probably the best under 28 DE in the league right now…except that now he doesn’t play DE. If you’re taking him as a DE, I think this is a great pick. If you’re taking him as a LB, I think you’re dumb. So, there’s that. Your analogy about beating a guy in a wheelchair is very appropriate, as the Colts OL has been one of the worst in the league for some time. Also, Kerry Collins is the new Drew Bledsoe. What really concerns me about Williams, however, isn’t that he’s switching positions. It’s that his production has steadily dropped over the last few years. You mentioned that he took a lot of flak his first couple seasons, but that actually is the opposite of the truth. Williams notched 14 sacks in his 2nd year (still a career high) and earned trips to the Pro Bowl in Years 3 and 4. He actually had a ton of early success! Unfortunately, his sack total has declined every year since his breakout 2nd season in 2007. Last year, Williams was credited with a horrific 5 AV! A lot of this “decline” has something to do with the lack of talent around him, but it’s concerning nonetheless. So, to recap, I like your pick, but I spent most of my time crushing it. Makes sense.

Prince: I really like Mario Williams as a DE, but one game against what could be the worst O-line in the league, and 100 year old Kerry Collins, doesn’t make me believe that he can be a great OLB. I watched football all day on Sunday, saw parts of about 10 games, and did not watch one second of the Colts/Texans game. I knew it would be horrible, Casey, and I actually feel bad that you had to watch a good chunk of it. Hopefully you aren’t taking him based solely on that game. I still do think that Williams has amazing talent and hopefully Wade Phillips doesn’t ruin him. Williams could end up being like DeMarcus Ware, or it could end up being a bad fit. I really don’t know yet. I do know that he can play DE, so if I were drafting him, that’s where I would play him.

Laney: As the others said, if you’re taking him at DE then it is a much better pick. That being said, his production has actually declined since his early success. The talent is there but the consistency is not. Whether that is of his own doing or just due to an incredibly poor supporting cast is another conversation. He makes me nervous at this spot, based solely on his inability to capitalize on his talent and be dominant.

Casey: Jon, you make a good point about years 2-4, and I guess what I was referring to was more year one. I didn’t realize he broke out as quickly as he did, and I guess all the #1-overall hype just stuck in my head from that first year. And I’m going to be honest, I only mentioned the Colts game so I could get my wheelchair analogy out!! Well worth it, if you ask me. Anyway, in case you guys were wondering, no, I was not picking a guy to start at LB for my team based on one game against a horrendous OL, but rather I was picking a DE who has recently demonstrated more versatility than I expected. Anyway, I’m actually glad that you guys mostly liked my pick (the exception maybe being Laney – and I can’t blame him after I’ve pretty much been a jerk to him this entire draft so far!).

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