Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A tale of two halves

I’m just as sick as anyone that the Cards, who are a top 5 team, aren’t likely to make the playoffs. And yes, I think tons of things happened outside our control to put us in this situation, including the Philly game.

But if we put the onus of control back on us, I think there is a pattern to our season that we had full control over.

Split the season into two halves: the first 7 ending at the home Seattle game and the last 8 beginning with the Atlanta game. One caveat stat is that the teams in the first half were a lot stronger than in the second, so that should temper the stats a bit.
(Percentage of opponents who won 7 or more games: 1st half: 86% 2nd half: 50% )

But the rest of the stats give us an insight to the changes BA made from the 1st half of the season to the 2nd.

What was our winning percentage?
1st half: 43%
2nd half: 86%

How many times did we rush the ball over 90 yards?
1st half: 2
2nd half: 7

What was our percentage of run plays?
1st half: 37%
2nd half: 49%

What was our time of possession?
1st half: 28 minutes per game
2nd half: 32 minutes per game

How many interceptions did CP throw?
1st half: 13
2nd half: 8

What was CPs average QB rating?
1st half: 69
2nd half: 99

After 3 years of watching Ken avoid running the ball I was mortified to watch BA do the same thing in the first 7 games. My stomach hurt as I thought, “here we go again”.

And then came the Atlanta game. It’s quite obvious that was our turning point of the season. It was the first time we actually committed to running the ball early in the game and continued throughout. From that game on we ran the ball almost half the time, which in this age of the game is remarkable. We started to watch CP carry much less of the burden and therefore become more efficient with his passes. We saw Ellington find an increased role while continuing to pound Mendy between the Ts. We watched our scrubby Oline find life with a dramatic increase in run blocking (something all Oline guys preach about). As a result we saw our D get less and less time on the field. And we saw us win 7 of 8.

I have no doubt that our great 2nd half is primarily due to BA balancing our offense out. However, he deserves as much credit for the positives of the 2nd half as he does blame for the negatives of the 1st. Of course, the controversial question would be, “What if he had made those changes week 1 and not week 8?” I certainly don’t know the answer to that, but I’d bet we’d have one more win. That being said I, for one, am just happy to have a HC who isn’t so arrogant he won’t adjust. I wish it had been sooner, but better late than never.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I'm still pining for running the ball

The Jets pounded out ANOTHER victory today with their rookie QB against a Patriot powerhouse.  The same rookie some of us wanted in the 2nd round over Minter.  He wasn’t brilliant, mind you, but he got the job done.  I was more impressed with Rex Ryan who gave the ball to Chris Ivory for 34 carries.  Geno only got 33 attempts.  All in all, the Jets ran the ball 52 times out of 85 plays for 61% of the time.  And the RBs combined for only 3.0 yards per carry.  It sure seems to me like Rex is trying to protect his QB at the same time as trying to win games.  Reminds me of what Belichick did for a young Tom Brady.

I wish the Cards would follow suit.  A simple plan might be:
1. Design whatever run strategy they want to be known for. (ZBS, w/e)
2. Get the best players they can to fit that strategy. (Even if it means current FAs)
3. Run that strategy over and over and over…
4. Continue to commit to the run until we get a QBoF. (next year)
5. Let him get acclimated to the O while we continue to run the ball.
6. If he shows promise let him handle more of the O.

I watched Seattle do that with Tarvaris Jackson at the helm.  I don’t think anyone’s questioning that decision now.  Russell Wilson was handed an offense that is dominant on the run.  And on Thursday they ran over the Cards without their two starting Ts.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

#45 Kevin Minter

#45  Kevin Minter: ILB, LSU -  There are two takes on this pick: first the trade, then the player.

I’m against the trade.  Sitting at #38, we had a tremendous opportunity to land unarguably the best QB in the draft.  No matter what Buffalo thinks, Geno has more tools than anyone else to be successful: arm, accuracy, mind, strength, and via all observations the kid has heart.  However, he needed to go to a place that could let him sit for a couple of years.  AZ would have been perfect.  He could have picked up the offense from CP and pushed for the starting job in a couple of years.  This trade was a mistake.  QB is too valuable a commodity to pass up, especially one as good as Geno at pick #38.  This trade will always be under the microscopic inspection of how the value of Geno Smith compares to Kevin Minter, Earl Watford, and Andre Ellington (all the byproducts of the trade).  I’d give the trade grade a C, only because of the value a QB brings to a team.  I actually like the three guys we drafted instead of him though.

I love the Minter pick.  At #45 there wasn’t anyone better or filled a bigger need than he does at SILB.  He can get all over the field, is a good tackler, and will be a guy we can start from day one and keep for the remainder of his career.  Next to DWash, this might be the most athletic interior LB corps in the NFL.

I like Manti’s intangibles more than Minter’s, but not his athleticism.  I’d probably be fine with either even though I had Manti graded slightly higher than Kevin.  And one more odd thing on Manti, the Cards just let go of a player, Kerry Rhodes, who is being accused of being gay.  I’m wondering if there’s a connection between cutting Rhodes and not drafting Manti.  Just curious.


BPA: There is no doubt Minter was the BPA at #45.  In fact, he’s the last of the 3rd tier of players, well, at least my 3rd tier.  I see him as a full two rounds better than Bostic who went 5 picks later.  There is no doubt we hit a homerun here.  BPA grade: A

Need:  Our run D was awful last year.  One of my favorite players, Paris Lenon, had hit the wall and was on his last leg.  This was our #1 need on D, and #2 OVL.  Need grade: A

Positional value:  SILB is not a sexy position.  It probably gets about as much love as the NT.  The reason why is that it focuses so much on run stoppage and containment that there aren’t a ton of stats to go with it.  Except tackles.  All 130 of them.  So he’s a solid producer for his position.  Plus, he should be able to play some WILB when needed.  However, SILB is easy to replace.  So grabbing one this early isn’t going to land a great grade.  Positional value: B

Depth value:  There were some good SILBs in this draft.  I liked Bostic for round 3 and Klein for round 4.  Bostic went in the 2nd and Klein in the 5th.  After them, I wasn’t overly impressed with the group.  And I wasn’t interested in drafting Ogletree.  Still, there were only four solid prospects at the position.  I think we nabbed the best one per what BA wants to do.  Depth value grade: A

Overall:  Minus the trade I love the pick.  I won’t count the trade in my grade.  This is a starter from day one at a key position of need.  Love it.  OVL grade A

#7 Jonathan Cooper

#7  Jonathan Cooper: Guard, UNC -  From the very beginning I wanted a starting LT or a trade back.  I also wanted Geno, but soured over the idea after we traded for Carson.  I couldn’t justify taking a player in the top ten that wasn’t going to start.  And trading up to get a Tackle just wasn’t a prudent idea.  This team needed depth as bad as it needed a LT, so staying put was sensible.  As to the trade back possibilities, I have to believe that the Jets wanted to move up.  It was only 2 spots but it would have landed them Tavon Austin, who they coveted.  We might have swung an extra mid round pick, ala Minnesota v. Cleveland last year.

A Guard hasn’t been chosen in the top ten in quite a while.  So initially I expected to land a Guard later in the first or second.  There was huge depth at the position and Guards usually slide back, like DDC did last year.  A trade back, with say Minnesota seemed wise because you could get added depth and still land a solid player at the position.  Turned out I was wrong.  Every Guard worth a darn was drafted in the top 20.  Unusual.  The well would have dried up well before #23.  Still, if we could have pried away both #23 and #25 from Minnesota, we might have ended up with two further trade back opportunities with Atlanta.  Hindsight being 20/20 I’m glad we didn’t go that route.

Cooper is an elite athlete.  He’s big, fast, and agile.  Rare qualities even in the NFL.  His physical attributes are off the chart as is his mental attributes.  He looks to be an elite Center for the next decade.  I love his ability to pull, to read, to adjust, to get down field.  He has everything you want for a quicker ZBS.  And he seems like a great locker room guy. 

It’s also apparent that BA is looking to go ZBS.  Passing on Warmack for Cooper should have sealed the deal on that debate.

I have to admit that I would have screwed this one up.  I probably would have gone after Star or Jarvis Jones.  Not that they were bad selections or anything, it’s just that I was under the false premise that a Guard would have fallen to #38.  I was 18 spots wrong on that one. I thought if we were lucky Cooper would have fallen, or at the very least Fluker, Pugh, or even Long.  Yeah, not so much.  Turns out we got the best player at the Guard/Center position in the draft for our system.


BPA: This draft was weird.  It was anemic at the top and heavy through the first 3 rounds.  So BPA at #7 was harder than in most years.  Cooper is right there with Star and a little ahead of Jarvis (due to medical).  I think both are special players.  BPA grade: A

Need:  Since there was no chance at landing a LT, that means Levi is probably still ours.  Scary.  So Right Guard immediately becomes the weak point on offense.  Center is a close 2nd.  And since offense is such a train wreck, they needed more attention than the Defense.  And since BA wants faster more athletic Guards and Centers, they got the best one in the draft at both positions.  NEED grade: A

Positional value:  Guard is the easiest position to fill.  Well, for everyone but Whiz who couldn’t tell the difference between a Right Guard and a stick of deodorant.  That being said, ZBS Guards are a bit harder to find.  That still doesn’t make them more important than a Center, but it closes the gap.  Oh, and since Cooper will probably play Center, it’s only fair to factor that into this grade.  This is the one year you get a pass on taking a Guard this early.  Positional value grade: B

Depth value:  This draft was deep with Guards and Centers.  It sure looked like we could land one of them in the later rounds.  Turns out we could have landed some good ones in the 3rd but waited until the 4th to address it.  But this draft was weird.  The depth at Guard was a mirage compared to most years.  Guards went as fast as pass rushers in the first round.  Weird.  So again, depth value should be adjusted given the circumstances.  Depth Value grade: C

Overall:  Like I said, I would have traded back with the Jets.  They’re stupid and would have taken it.  But that’s a minor complaint.  We got the best Guard in the draft to fit our scheme.  We got him right about where he was projected to go.  And he seems to have all the intangibles to make our team better.  Oh, and way to stick it to the stubborn fool formerly known as Coach Whiz by taking an Olinemen early.  OVERALL grade: A-

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The day before the 2013 draft

With one day left I should probably stop neglecting my blog and at least list my possible scenarios.  Here are some I like without trade implications.

Scenario 1:

#7        Lane Johnson
#38      Matt Elam
#69      Barrett Jones
#103    A.J. Klein
#140    Marcus Lattimore
#174    Sean Renfree
#219    Theo Riddick

Lane Johnson seems like he’ll be an All-Pro caliber LT in a couple of years.  Due to his high demand there is little chance of getting him later.  Right now it’s a stretch that we’ll land him at #7.  He’d fill the #1 need on O and he’d be the BPA and there aren’t any other Ts and it just happens to be the 2nd most important position on O.

I love what Elam brings at FS.  He’s a relentless pursuer and a hard hitter.  He’s first round talent taken in the 2nd round.  He also happens to fill a top 5 need on D and be BPA.

Why wouldn’t you take the national Scrabble champion as your Center?  Plus, Barrett can play C or G and be a good fill in at T.  He’s a steal in round 3.  He fills need and BPA.

A.J. Klein plays the game the right way.  He’s got great instinct and technique, albeit he isn’t speedy.  But at the unsexiest position other than NT, he’d be a great fit at SILB.  He’ll start at our 1st biggest need on D.

At #140 Marcus Lattimore doesn’t pose any risk.  It’s a no brainer to take him here.  He might have a freakish injury thing, but he’s a great talent and character guy to take a “risk” on.  We need some late round RB help.

I love the idea of picking up Renfree late.  I think he has as much talent as some of the guys in the top 10 QBs.  He can sit and learn and heal behind CP and DS.

Riddick doesn’t quite fit the O, but as at #219 who cares.  He’s talented and maybe BA can find a fit for him.  I see him as a steal if he goes to the right scheme.  Like the  Houston Texans.

-         In this scenario we fill the #1, #2, and #3 needs on O.  And we fill the #1 and #3 needs on D.  Each player fits BPA and is selected at the appropriate position for optimum draft value.  I’m not saying we’ll land these guys there, but I was stunned to watch Massie inexplicably slide to the 4th last year so I’ll be watching with bated breath.

Scenario 2:

#7        Star Lotulelei
#38      EJ Manuel
#69      Kyle Long
#103    Dallas Thomas
#140    Dion Sims
#174    Lerentee McCray
#219    Brandon Magee

Star is probably the best player in the draft.  He is an absolute freak on the Dline.  I’d press hard to trade Dockett for a 3rd rounder in this scenario.  Star doesn’t fill a need, but he is a guy you’ll be happy with taking.

EJ Manuel is a very good QB.  He isn’t ready to play just yet, but with CP and DS he doesn’t need to be.  Maybe this is a bit early to pick a guy that will be #3 on your depth chart, but he is a remarkable talent.

Kyle Long is a project.  But he has good genes.  At the very worst you get a pretty good G.  If he can develop into a T, all the better.

Dallas Thomas is slipping because of a dumb injury scare.  I love his talent.  A total steal in Round 4.  To be clear, he’s not a T.  Not even close.  He’ll be a start G though.

Dion Sims has tremendous hands and immense size.  I’d love to see them land him as a blocking TE that can pick up 1st downs through the air.

McCray always caught my eye when I scouted Bostic and Elam.  He seemed to be in the right place often.  I don’t see him as an elite OLB, but he could develop into a very good one.  Plus, he’ll be a welcome addition to the ST.

Magee just can’t catch a break.  Amazing talent unrealized.  I think he’ll find a niche for someone and be a special player.  People worry about his size.  In the 7th round, who cares about size anymore?

- This scenario is less exciting to me, but would fill some much need holes with great talent at their given draft value.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Trade to the Vikings?

I just heard a rumor that the Vikings would be interested in trading their #23 and #25 for our #7 so they can get Tavon Austin.  Some people question if they’d even do it.  Well, any team dumb enough to draft Ponder at #12 will be dumb enough to think all they need is Austin at #7 to make life better for them. They'll make the trade with some good salesmanship from Keim.

As for the trade, I'd do it in heart beat.  I'd leverage the heck out of Miami, S.D., and N.O. for their pick. Of course that will only work if Johnson is still there at 7. Trading back with them would give us an abnormally valuable 2nd round pick or next year's first.

Then we'd have to see if Austin fell to us to lure in Minnesota. They probably would feel like he's top 10 talent, so they'd still give up the picks.

The absolutely crazy part about all this is that Cooper and Warmack will do what all Gs do come draft time: slide. There is a solid chance that one or both of them slide to the 20s. All those same teams passed on DDC last year too, don't think they won't do it again.

So if you tell me we could land, say, Cooper and Elam for the #7 pick, I'd wet myself with excitement. You have to consider that Cooper is a good idea at #7, but would be an absolute steal coupled with the other loaded talent in the 20s.

Even if Cooper or Warmack didn't slip we'd still be looking at comboing:

Most of those guys would start for us with the possible exception of the last two. And who knows, if Geno Smith gets past Tennessee at 10, that dude could slide all the way to Minnesota at 23.

And for those still smarting over the Pace/Johnson for Suggs thing. First of all, that was Graves. Thank goodness he's gone. Second of all, those were 2nd and 3rd round talents in a year where those rounds stunk grade wise. Third, that was during the dark years... you know, the 40 years of filth that Bill Bidwill produced. Fourth, I wouldn't give ONE of the guys in this draft the same grade value that Suggs deserved coming in. (Of course, I'm not high on any of the OLBs at #7, so I'm in the minority here). So I don't see it as passing up a "sure thing" for two "maybes". I see it as passing on a "maybe" for two "maybes".

If they draft any of the players mentioned above that is a heck of deal to pass up on.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fixing the Cardinals Oline

To fix the Oline you have to first look at what you have. 

In Levi Brown you have a powerful run blocker who can move forward but not laterally.  His pass protection is awful.  He is not a LT in BAs offense.  He’s not much of a RT either.  So you’re left with two options: cut him or move him to G.  Since this is a rebuilding year I’m 100% fine with experimenting with him at G.  Why not?  And for those that think he’d be too high priced, he’d be a lower high end G in the league and the #2 paid G on the team (Colledge)

Speaking of Colledge, he’s ridiculously overpaid.  But he’s an above average G.  I thought he was on the verge of becoming another one of Whiz’s decimation projects at the beginning of last year, but he recovered nicely when he wasn’t having to block both his and Batiste’s guy.  You keep him until his contract is more flexible to cut.  Gs should never get paid too high.  They just are too easy to replace.

Sendlein took major steps backwards last year and then got hurt.  I’m not saying his career is over, but I’d love to see an upgrade here at an affordable cost.  I’m looking at the 3rd or 4th round for his replacement.

Snyder is garbage.  Snyder is overpaid.  Snyder is single highhandedly handcuffing this team to mediocrity.  I wouldn’t start him.  He’s an adequate backup.  But we can’t really dump him until next year.  I’m not sure what to say about him at C.  If he can’t cut it at G I’m not sure why he’d be better there.  Kelemente is strong and solid, but really raw.  He missed some big assignments last year, and needs some maturing into his role.  It’s a good year for him to do just that. 

Massie showed he’s got potential at RT.  The question now is do you move him to LT?  I personally don’t see the footwork needed to dominate over there, but I loved how he proved everyone wrong last year. 

Potter is a good backup.  And a solid guy for pass protection.

Okay, so we have a massive gaping hole at LT.  We have Levi moving to RG.  We could use an upgrade at C.  LG and RT have the same starters who showed competence. 

It’s an easy fix.  Since BA wants to implement more double and down, he’s gonna want some aggressive athletic guys who get down field.  At LT, Fisher and Johnson could fill that role with pick #7. 

At C, I’m hoping that Barrett Jones somehow miraculously falls to us in the 3rd, or Cooper in the 2nd.  If not then nab a guy like Holmes in the 4th. 

That way next year looks like:

Johnson – Colledge – Jones – Brown – Massie


Fisher – Colledge – Cooper – Brown – Massie

Either way we would have:  1) a massive upgrade at 3 weak positions, 2) a younger line, 3) a heck of a lot more athleticism, 4) guys that can get down field, and 5) they’d be cost effective. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The "reach", the "steal", and the "on target": Draft Nerd Talk

(Obviously I'm using my own terms here.  None of this vocab should be taken too seriously.  Also, if you find all this draft nerd talk boring please ignore the following.)

There's the "reach": the guy that's taken ahead of his sensible draft value.
There's the "on target": the guy that's taken right around his sensible draft value.
There's the "steal": the guy that's taken behind his sensible draft value.

And all those are given grades on success rate.  That is, how does their overall career performance compare to others at their draft number:  Excelling, Above Average, Average, Below Average, and the Bust.  Quite obviously, we can only ascertain an accurate grade after they retire, but we can "guess" as to how they'll end up.  You end up with terminology like the “excelling steal” or the “busted reach”. 

So the first term describes the relative career performance and the second term describes where he was drafted in comparison to where he should have been drafted.

So an “average on target” is a guy who had an average career compared to the other guys drafted around his draft number and was drafted around where he was expected to go.

Tommie Knight is a "busted reach".  The guy had a bad career and was drafted way too early.  Bryant Johnson is pretty close, although he's been around long enough to consider him a "below average reach".

Levi Brown was no doubt a reach.  He should have been taken in the late 1st - early 2nd.  But he isn't a bust.  He's had to good of a career to be considered that.  But since he hasn't come close to living up to his 5th overall selection he'd have to be an "average reach".  I'd say Calvin Pace was about the same. 

There are excelling reaches… I think.  Maybe I should say “theoretically” there are excelling reaches, because I can’t think of any.  I’m guessing Bruce Irvin might get close.  He was selected far too early, but should end up being a good player.  I guess you could argue “if he’s so good how could you select him too early?”  I’d only respond that the Hawks could have gotten him in the 2nd and still landed a great player in the 1st.  (That being said, they have a massive stud on their hands with Bobby Wagner drafted in that same 2nd round.  So maybe they have some master plan that defies common logic and I’m just a fool.  There’s a good chance of that.)

Bobbie Massie was a steal.  Right now he should be considered an “excelling steal” since he’s starting as a 4th round pick.  Dan Williams was a steal only because he was expected to go in the early 1st.  Right now I’d consider him an “average steal”. 

I'd argue that there are steals that don't pan out.  I know that sounds odd, but it is possible to get tremendous value for the draft pick only to see the guy fizzle out.  Going off my limited memory, Gabe Watson and Allan Branch are pretty close to that.  They slipped in the draft and the Cards took them.  However Gabe busted while Allan is probably below average.

I loved Andre Wadsworth coming out of college.  Injuries destroyed him.  But he went right where he was expected to go.  He’d be a “busted on target”.  Fitz is an example of an “excelling on target”. 

Of course there’s always an argument as to where a guy should go.  The question we all debate is “where would he have gone if we didn’t take him?”  That’s the balancing game the GMs have to play.  Good ones wait for the value to come to them, whereas poor ones panic and reach.  Poor scouting and limited savvy juice are usually the cause for the latter.

I will say this.  There is only one time that you should reach, but all the stars have to align. (in the negative).  1) No one will sensibly trade with you.  And 2) you have the next group of players (the size of the group is determined by the amount of picks between this and your next one) on your Big Board as having less Impact value than the guy you want.   If both of these are true then pick the guy you want.  Yes, you might get him in the next round, but maybe you have another guy that you’ll pick there so if you want both of them, you have to reach. (ala Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner?).

Other than that reaching is never good.  The Cards have traditionally found themselves in the reaching department.  I’m hoping Keim & Co. have the intelligence and determination to fix that.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pre draft thoughts

One month to go and I’m confident the Cards have found themselves in a great position to grab some great talent and fix some glaring holes.  Just some thoughts on each pick.

#7  It’s easy to have a Big Board here as there only needs to be 7 players on it.  Geno’s the only QB I’d look at with this pick.  He’s going to be a solid player at the most important position, which, of course, is one of our weakest.  (I love the Drew Stanton signing BTW.  Cheap contract, low risk/high reward.).  After Geno, it’s pointless to talk about another position other than LT.  Joeckel, Fisher, and Johnson are easily top 10 talent at this point and have to be 2, 3, and 4 on the Cards Big Board.  Any of those guys would fit in nicely and give us an instant starter at our 2nd weakest position on offense.  And yes, it happens to be the 2nd most important position on offense.

Now, let say the world falls in on itself and all four of them are gone… what to do? What to do?  The answer is simple, trade that baby into the late 1st!  I’d be fine if we trade Chicago their 1st and next year’s first plus some change and land anther guy that can help us long term.  You’d have your choice of Jones, Warmack (he’ll slide just like every other G in draft history), Ansah, Werner, or even Manti T’eo.  I’d argue that the next 20 or so players are almost equal in talent and carry about the same Impact rate for the Cards.  So why grab a guy at #7 when you have a great chance of landing him at #20?  You don’t.  You see if someone really wants to move up and take the trade. 

If no one wants to trade, then we’re screwed.  I can’t see taking a G that early in this flooded market, so Warmack and Cooper are out.  I also can’t see us taking a DT for our 3-4.  That eliminates Floyd, Star, etc.  Milliner is certainly talented.  But how big a deal is landing ANOTHER CB?  I don’t see the need for trying to fill a position that we’ve just invested in.  At this point, I’d focus on the 4 OLBs: Jones, Ansah, Jordan, and Mingo.  Jones is the sure talent, but has the injury history.  Ansah is so raw, but so athletic.  Mingo looks the part, but disappeared last year.  Jordan has the injury questions among others.  I’d go Jones, then Ansah, then Jordan, then Mingo.  They’re all top 15 talent and fit a massive need at WOLB for us.  But they come with a boatload of questions for a #7 pick.  Let’s just hope one of the original four are there.

#38  In some ways this pick might yield more excitement than at #7.  I could see one of the 2nd tier talents drop here and have the Cards giddy at the steal potential.  Manti comes to mind.  People are stupid if they think he can’t play.  He’d be a monster next to Washington at SILB, which happens to be a top 5 need.  Minter would be a heck of a consolation prize if he’s there instead of Manti.  Then you have the Center prospects of Cooper and Barrett Jones.  Either would be massive upgrades (+20).  I don’t see any WOLBs fitting the mold of the 3-4 this late. 

This is usually where you get great deals on Cs, SILBs and Gs.  The G market is flooded.  I’d be fine with Warmack, Cooper, Jones, Fluker, Pugh, Thomas, or Warford.  However, I’m convinced that if we get one of the 3 LTs at #7 then Levi moves to RG.  I see him dominating there.  With Colledge being adequate, I don’t see the pressing need to grab a G over a SILB or C.  And I’m not so enamored with anyone else in the 3rd tier that I’d choose another player at another position.   But if one of those 2nd tier guys falls I’d be all over it.  Demontre Moore would be a massive steal here.

I’d avoid any QB at this pick.  I just see there being too much value elsewhere as none of the QBs warrant this kind of value.  As much as I love EJ, I’d rather trade up from the 3rd and grab him mid 2nd than take him here.

Also, under the assumption that the Cards were to be lucky enough to nab Geno at #7, I’d be looking at one of the 2nd round LTs.  Long has the athleticism to play the part but has a full rounds length of rawness over Lane Johnson.  And the Armstead kid is far behind Long.  Still, both should be considered.  (Although I’d rather trade back for them).

#69:  If one of these QBs falls to us here we should steal em here:  Wilson, Manuel,   Nassib, or Dysert.  The only addition to that group is if Renfree gets more notice.  I’m hoping to grab him in the 5th otherwise.  He’s my diamond in the rough of this draft.  This of course, assumes we didn’t get Geno in the 1st. 

If we do get Geno, or if none of the QBs are there, I’d like to see us get some of the talent that slipped out of the 2nd round.  Maybe one of the LTs: Long or Armstead.  Or one of the Gs that slipped between the cracks.  Maybe one of the remaining SILBs like Bostic.  Or look at FS, like Reid (he’d be a massive slip at this point), or Rambo, or McDonald. (Don’t we have to draft the son of an all time great Card?)  There’s also a good group of Cs at this point.  I like Khaled Holmes, but he looks like he might be more of a value pick up in the 4th.  Still, there are a lot of great options here.

#103:  I’m almost positive there will be a bundle of RBs left here to choose from.  Take the best remaining in this order: Randle, Bell, Taylor, Ball, Lattimore, Gillislee, and my other late round gem Theo Riddick.  We can probably land him in the 5th.  I wouldn’t look at much more than RB here, unless they are all gone which I highly doubt.  This looks like the prime spot to nab your RB of the next 3 years.

Ideal draft: (per CBS Rankings)

#7 Geno Smith QB
#38 Manti T’eo SILB
#69 Bacarri Rambo FS
#103 Khaled Holmes C
#140 Marcus Lattimore RB
#174 Sean Renfree QB
#176 Theo Riddick RB

I think the first 5 guys could start after camp, although I’d protect Geno a bit by letting Stanton take the beatings until the line gelled.  However, I have no LT in this scenario.  That means I hope we signed a guy like Winston Justice.  We also would be missing a WOLB, but I kinda don’t see us landing a stud this year anyway, so let Acho or Scho battle for that spot again

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The closing of the Kolb era

So the Kolb “era” comes to a close with a 1000 people screaming “I told you so.”  The sad part is that he could’ve been good had he had a real coach who knew how to mold offenses around their talent. 

So here’s the quick summary of the Kolb era:

I watched D.A. & the Gang throw up nightmarishly large attempts per game in 2010.  No team that I remember threw more percentage of passes per play than the Cards.  So they blamed the QBs when it all went sour.  Whiz’s fault plain and simple.

So they engage in needless desperation as they sell the farm for Kolb by giving DRC and a 2nd round pick to Philly plus an undeserved massive contract to Kolb. All based on Andy Reid’s recommendation.  Once again Whiz played the part of a fool.

The short off season didn’t help him at all.  He started the year off well against Carolina, and then soured as Whiz slowly corrupted him.  Of course, then the injuries started to poor in, mostly due to the inept offense putting him in positions of danger.  You gotta love Whiz and his stubbordumbness… oh wait… no you don’t.

Kolb turned out to be exactly what we saw in Philly: a decently accurate QB with injury issues.  However, we paid for a Pro Bowler and we got nothing so the deal was a bust. Thanks again Whiz.

Cutting him made perfect sense.  He’s not the future here, he’s damaged goods, and his contract was bulging.  I hope he can turn it around somewhere else but Whiz David Carred him, so I don’t see that happening.

Probably the only thing I’ll remember about Kolb is this quote:

“I guarantee Kolb’s package is five times bigger than Newton’s” – Tim Ryan 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Keys to drafting well

There are 4 key elements to drafting well: BPA, NEED, Positional Depth, and Positional Value.

BPA is good in that it gets you the best graded player.  So there is little risk in the “bust” label.  Team’s have a hard time recovering from drafting a “bust”.  However, drafting exclusively BPA has problems.  What if you’re already loaded at that particular position?  Floyd is still a good prospect, but he made very little impact to the offense in 2012.  Do you draft another high rated WR this year?  What about drafting high graded Guards?  SILBs?  Punters?  What if there are tons of prospects at the same position?  There has to be more to it than just drafting the BPA. 

NEED is also an important factor.  If you don’t have a LT, and there is one available at your pick, then at the very least you have someone to play the position.  Filling holes on your team is key during the off season.  However NEED has glaring flaws too.  What if you grab a LT that has a way lower grade then, say a RB named A.P.?  You don’t pass on rare talent to fill a NEED.  “Reaches” occur often due to exclusively filling NEED.  Players never seem to shake the “reach” label and GMs hardly recover from that blunder.

Positional Depth in the draft is sorely underrated.  If the market is flooded with RBs, even if you want one you can always wait till later and get another one cheaper.  True, his grade might be lower, but you probably filled another position and get a higher rated player there.  For example, let’s say the draft is flooded with RBs and limited on LTs.  So which scenario is better?  Draft a 91 RB in the 1st and an 85 LT in the 2nd?  Or draft a 90 LT in the 1st and an 88 RB in the 2nd?  You average an 88 in the first scenario and an 89 in the second.  So the latter gives greater reward on the whole. 

Positional Depth is further complicated when there are entire tiers flooded with a position.  This year for example, there are a bunch of 80+ graded QBs.  They all seem to fall into the 2nd to 3rd round slots.  This creates a window of opportunity.  While some teams are lurching to pick one up, you can grab another position of need and still land a leftover one in the next round.  However, you can’t wait until the 4th because the window will have already closed.  You have to know the anticipated draft position the best you can. 

Positional Value is understood by most GMs, but not many fans.  There are just some positions that are far more important than others.  Which do you draft in the 2nd, an 85 rated QB or a 90 rated Punter?  A team would be ridiculed forever if they chose the latter.  Sure, that’s an extreme example, but it frames the argument.  Gs and SILBs also seem to fall into the categories of: easy to fill, easy to “coach up”.  In other words, the market is flooded with potential prospects.  So drafting Warmack early this year is going to make coaches sweat, because his position is the least important position on offense.  Yes, he’ll be good.  Let’s go so far as to say he’s a guaranteed HoF.  But let’s also say that Eric Fisher is a guaranteed HoF.  Who do you draft?  LT is far more important in today’s offense than G is.  Therefore, Positional Value must be accounted for. 

With the Oline it’s even more complicated because other guys can play multiple positions.  So you have a domino effect that can bump off the worst player.  Say you draft Fisher at LT.  Well, you aren’t going to sit Levi so he moves over to RG.  That bumps Snyder out of the starting rotation, praise the Lord.  So let’s say Fisher is a 95, Levi is a 70, and Snyder is a 40, you aren’t replacing a 70 with a 95.  You’re replacing a 40 with a 95.  Huge IMPACT.

If you account for all 4 then I think you have a more well rounded view of who to draft.  I call it IMPACT value.  By balancing BPA, NEED, Positional Depth, and Positional Value you should be able to determine which player is going to make the most IMPACT for your team at the best price. 

Last year is a great example of what NOT to do.  I’d say we had 4 other potential prospects to draft at #13: DDC, Reiff, Ingram, and Hightower.  For arguments sake let’s say they all graded out lower than Floyd (they didn’t, but w/e).  Floyd still is the worst pick.  Why?  First of all, because he was only going to replace an 80 graded WR in Roberts (which he didn’t anyway).  We got a minimal upgrade at WR2 (theoretically).  Secondly, there were plenty of WRs to be had later.  They could have filled another position of NEED and still landed a good WR2 in the 3rd. (Hilton?)  Third, and this is the most important, we had glaring deficiencies at LT, RG, SILB, and WOLB.  Since LT and WOLB are far greater positions of value, Reiff or Ingram should have been weighed against Floyd.  There is no way Floyd should have been considered to make a greater IMPACT than those two.  That was foolish.  Even then I’d argue that DDC or Hightower would have made a greater IMPACT than Floyd.  Just look at last year’s RG spot or our production against the run at SILB.  Pathetic.  (When you take a look at Roberts production the argument gets even more frustrating)

And that's what any team needs, IMPACT.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Justin Pugh

I like what I see.  He doesn’t come across as dominant, but he always is engaged in the play.  Maintains contact with his man throughout the play and sends him to the outer edge consistently.  Not fast laterally, but uses his hands to make up for loss of speed.  When the play is away from him, he still is involved with his block.  He plays through the play.  Will run down field to see if he can help his team further.  His balance is solid.  He has smallish size for LT at 6-5, 300. 

I like him in the 2nd round.  He’s surely not in the category of Johnson or Fisher, but he is the next best thing after them.  Long is still a project, but with booming potential.  Thomas is a G, and Aboushi is slow. 

At the very least he gives the Cards some flexibility with their 1st round pick.  They can take Manti or Minter or an OLB or a QB and still land a LT in the 2nd.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ranking the Cards needs this offseason

Count me as one who thinks landing the right GM and coaching staff are priorities #1 and #2. But looking ahead a bit, I was wondering what this team's greatest needs were and why. Considering the most sensible starting player and depth at the given position here's a crack at my offseason needs list.

  1. QB
  2. LT
  3. SILB
  4. WOLB
  5. C
  6. DE2
  7. RB
  8. FS
  9. SOLB
  10. G2

Some additional thoughts:
I truly believe that if the 1st five on this list are satisfied, then this team can be really good. (even without the star QB)
I have Levi moving to G1 next to Massie and thus "assumed" G1 was covered.
QB is always priority #1 when you don't have an elite one.
WOLB is arguably the most important position in a 3-4 D along with NT. I have limited confidence in the current personnel.
I don't see the depth behind Dockett (DE2), but I do see some behind Wilson. Carter?
RBs need drops every year because they can be found cheap.
I'm not sold on Williams at NT, but I'm not ready to give up on him

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

EJ Manuel

E.J. Manuel has the goods to not just make it in the NFL, but be a star.  He has all the qualities scouts love: size (6-5, 240), athleticism, arm strength, plus he wins.  But he has some other qualities that make you want to believe in this kid.

He has great poise in the pocket.  His pocket didn’t always hold up, but he made the most of it.  When it was good he made very accurate throws all over the field (68% completed passes).  When it broke down he effortlessly slid to the correct spot.  His footwork is fantastic.  If needed, he escaped and can make very good passes on the run; both left and right.  Smart runner.  He realizes that he needs to play another down and slides after making the most of his run.  An athletic slide: looks natural.  Doesn’t take needless hits.   Not a run-first QB.  Only runs when the play is called or when all other options break down.  Great poise under duress.  An absolutely great leader on the field.  Always knows the game situation and plays accordingly.  Doesn’t look flustered.  He does all the small things well: option pitch, dump passes, check down, play-action…etc.  A true student of the game.  He takes every aspect of the game seriously and it shows on the field.  Shows the same confidence and poise in his interviews as he does on the field.  Seems to have a good head on his shoulders.  He's by no means a finished product.  Needs a good QB coach and running game to be his best friends.  He could also use some time learning on the sidelines.  But the potential is there.

Can needlessly lob the ball when he should fire it in.  Also tends to lock into his target, however he tends to get it to that guy so there’s not much to complain about.  Exposed by elite D's that he might not be reading the Defenses as well as he should. 

Enter Florida.  He’s thankful that the Gators aren't a pro team.  They were his nemesis.  Looked absolutely awful early in the 2012 game.  Nervous and flustered.  Locked into targets and spoon fed the ball to the Defense.  However, as bad as he played in that 1st portion, he really showed great poise afterwards.  He kept his head up and made some great plays to gain the lead.  Getting his head crushed didn’t help in the 4th quarter either, but he stayed in there and showed promise.  He’s taking a good amount of heat for this game, but I see it more as an anomaly than the norm.

I underestimated this guy all year long.  I guess I just had a false impression stuck in my head and needed it dislodged.  Originally I had him pegged for the late 2nd to early 3rd.  Now I doubt he’ll get out of the 1st round.  And deservedly so.  Teams are going to love this guy.  The only knock will be the Florida game, which could scare off some teams.  After watching the game the 2nd time, I'm less concerned about it. 

The Cards probably shouldn’t take him with the 7th pick.  If E.J. stays under the radar, like Dalton and Wilson did, then I’d rather see them trade back and land more picks. That still gives them the option to draft him and get a LT.  Ideally they can pick up the LT in the 1st and nab him with the 2nd round pick.  They’ll be happy if they get him.  I’ll be ecstatic.