Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Joel Klatt is a straight up sports day pimp.

I am a big NFL draft follower.  I watch a lot of prospect videos (I won't say "film", because unless you are watching a player on every play of a game, you aren't watching film.).  I get a pretty good feel from watching some players and when you do that you get a pretty good feel for which reporters to read.

Check out this prospect ranking.

I love the fact that he points out exactly what he likes and doesn't on each guy and on the prospects I know it matches my opinions for the most part. While I do suspect his knowledge of the QB position is not maybe up to the level of his work on other positions, I will be adding this guy to my list of regular reads.  He is very good.

I love the idea of Zack Zenner to the Cowboys

I have no idea if they are looking at him, but I can't help but look at his play and think, "Man...he would be a perfect backup in Dallas.  I think he would totally be able to handle all the responsibilities of the starting job for 6 games a year for the next 7 years."

Unlike Cobb who under further review I see a lot of bad tape (While he looks good at times, he seems slow to the line fairly consistently and lacks any breakaway speed  --- that combo kills you in the NFL), I am consistently impressed with Zenner's film.

Here is Zenner in the snow vs. Montana State in the FCS playoffs.  This is especially good video because we have had trouble in cold weather games the past few years.  I love the way he has a sense for how good a footing he has.  You see him freeze defenders and blow by them repeatedly in this video.

It also shows him blocking --- pretty solid job although once he just nicks his guy and his man get to the QB (who holds the ball too long).  I am not too concerned about that as the block would have been sufficient for Romo.

Here is Zenner on solid ground where you get a real feel for his speed.  I like that he has explosion. you see him break some tackles and you see him explode into his top gear.  He times at 4.6 but you see him on game film running away from people utilizing a burst of what looks like something between 4.45 to 4.5 to me.  He is definitely an example of a player with "game speed".

He beat up two bad FBS defenses in Nebraska and Kansas, but he also did quite well vs. SEC east powerhouse Missouri's defense.

Zack Kruse has joined me on the Zenner bandwagon. He notes in his fine article that

"...when given a chance to face the big boys, Zenner always rose to the occasion. 

He opened up a breakout 2012 campaign with 183 rushing yards and a 99-yard first-quarter touchdown against Kansas. One year later, Zenner took the field at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium and busted off 202 rushing yards and two scores. He completed his trifecta of big-school domination last season, when he rushed for 103 yards—including a 75-yard touchdown—against Missouri. 

Over his final 41 collegiate games, Zenner averaged 148.2 rushing yards and 6.2 yards per carry. In his three chances to face top-level competition, he averaged 162.7 and 8.0. The opposition knock just doesn't hold water for the former Minnesota prep star. "

He goes on to note that Zenner rushed for 6078 yards and 58 TDs the last three years and that his measurable are VERY similar to the  third tier of RBs in this draft --- Boise State's J. Ajayi and Alabama's T.J. Yeldon --- if not better.

and he's not the only one to join me on the Zenner bandwagon including ESPN talent.  Gil Brandt likes him too.

I think Zenner won't hit on a lot of teams, but on a team like Dallas, where the hole is where it is supposed to be, Zenner would be a nice add.

And Zenner is no knucklehead.  No, Zenner is pre-med.  Dallas, if you are looking for the right kind of guy, look no further....

Mavs update

I blasted Rick Carlisle a few weeks ago for alienating Rajon Rondo, so let me give some credit where credit is due. Carlisle backed the hell off and gave Rondo some freedom and the results have been markedly better since then.  Rondo is still hit or miss, but he is a definite factor a lot if not most nights now.

I still don't love Carlisle for the previously mentioned reason, but I am glad to see him trying to work with a guy who isn't one of his guys for once.

Will that mean a series victory for the Mavs?  I can't say.  In Corey Brewer, Jet Terry, Dwight Howard, and James Harden, the Rockets have a lot of guys who can swing games.  Dallas has Dirk, Rondo, and Tyson...will that be enough?

I wish we still had Brewer and Shawn Marion.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Eric Dickerson/Adrian Peterson (a.k.a. Todd Gurley) blows minds with his football IQ. Plus draft talk.

Beyond the fact that a healthy Eric Dickerson/Adrian Peterson (a.k.a. Todd Gurley) is the best running back since his namesake Adrian Peterson came out, I loved the fact that he is a good pass blocker.  I was totally blown away with how polished he was in that regard though.

Draft Academy covered EDAP's knowledge of the game.  His post season coach Fred McCrary said he was the most knowledgeable running back about coverage responsibilities he had worked with since DeMarco Murray.

All of the other top runners in this class are suspect in that regard --- not what you need with Tony Romo as your starting QB.  (For the record, I don't love the RBs, CBs, or the OLs in this draft.  Lots of busts there.  I do like the LBs and to a degree the WRs.)

My desire to see EDAP under a star helmet is pretty high right now.  I don't know if there is anyone else that really jazzes me as a great value.  My feeling is that both OL Brandon Scherff (a very solid looking pick) and NT Danny Shelton (a guy who has top talent but is a little more risky after a misleading signature season) will be gone in the early teens and Phillip Dorsett is way too risky in the 16-22 area in that he was not as productive as his skills suggest he should have been in college.

I am worried that the exposure EDAP is getting may push him out of Dallas's reach ---I consider that to be what the first, third, and fourth round picks will get the team --- maybe the 17-20th pick.

I think the team you have to get ahead of is Arizona. Getting to that late teen range would probably make moving up ahead of Dallas too cost prohibitive for the Cardinals.

There is an article suggesting EDAP may have climbed into the top 10.  He is an elite talent.  All it takes is one team to fall in love with him and it is done.  Elite talents usually have a few teams that fall for them.

If you can't land one of those top talent guys, I wouldn't mind WR Devin Smith at 27 for the next 5 years. He is fast but not Phillip Dorsett fast, but being a deep threat is a skill in itself and he has that skill in spades.  Additionally he looks very dangerous as a return man.  That would be a very good value for Dallas.

Bud Dupree is a guy Dallas brought in so he is on the list.  He would be a decent value there and I could totally see him getting taken at 27.  He doesn't finish as much as you'd hope, but he is disruptive. Dallas has long looked just as favorably on guys who are disruptive vs. guys who finish.  You would think with the Hardy signing they would be out on DEs, but Dallas's defensive staff runs a rush at all costs scheme.

Plus maybe they see something else there?

I wonder if they think he could play a little strong side LB for now and bring a rush.  Who knows.  Dallas's defensive staff loves the idea of bringing in a LB who can rush the passer out of a 4-3.  That's why they were ready to take Shazier last year.  Dupree clocked a pretty amazing 40 time for his size. Normally consistent multi-year production, decent size, and a borderline freakish 40 time goes around 10-15 in the draft.  In that, there seems to be some value there.  I don't love him as a prospect, but I could warm to him if he can fill in at SLB this year.

I think a solid strategy might be trading down to 31 or 32 or even the 2nd round.

I am worried about that current spot though as I could see Dallas "reaching" at least IMO for guys like RB Tevin Coleman or LB Bernardrick McKinney. Coleman is no doubt a burner capable of breaking long runs even in the NFL, but to me I don't see a great back there.  I think he will get stopped too frequently on short yardage runs and I don't trust him pass blocking.  He's a great RB for a 9 win team, but maybe not for a team that wants to win the superbowl.  I think he will be a guy good defenses control.

He is a second round back to me, but his speed has caught some teams' attention and he could go late first. (That isn't a bad spot to take a RB as you get 5 years on that contract.  Why get a RB in the 33-40 range when you can pick him at 31 or 32 at a trivial cost and get an extra year on his rookie contract?  NFL GMs weirdly haven't figured that out.) I just hope it isn't to Dallas that picks him.

I think we may have a similar player in Darren McFadden, but one who is a better blocker.

While I don't love the McKinney idea, I would be ok with that at 32.  He does look like a starter.  He would solve the vitally important MLB spot for the next 10 years with a guy who seems stable.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Give me Eric Dickerson/Adrian Peterson.

When you talk about RBs in this class, fans and scouts tend to get very silly.  They talk about this being the best class for RBs in years.

I seriously doubt it.

But there is one back in this class who I think is flat out dynamite, that Dallas actually has a legitimate chance of getting.

Todd Gurley is his name.  But don't call him that.

If you call him Todd Gurley, you will think of that guy with a knee injury.

Call him "Eric Dickerson/Adrian Peterson".  That's more accurate.

IF he doesn't turn out to be a chronic injury concern, he will be one of the two or three best players in this draft and in all likelihood, the best.

If he does happen to be a chronic injury player he will only be a faster, more focused version of DeMarco Murray. This guy is a very polished runner who set up his blockers.  He's a much better runner than DeMarco (and DeMarco is pretty good) and far, far faster.

You can find all kinds of videos of backs getting clean holes and running away from average defenders.  There are tons of videos of Gurley outrunning (overrated, but still respectable) SEC secondaries. This kind of video separates the real deal runners from the rest for me.

That is vs. a pretty good defense.

And unlike the vast majority of the rest of this draft class, he can block well enough to keep Tony Romo upright.

This guy is like a stronger, faster version of Marshawn Lynch.  Where Lynch wiggles and twist out of tackles and falls forwards to pick up an additional two yards, this guy powers through arm tackles and explodes forwards for TDs.

He looks like a hybrid of Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson to me.  He has speed like Dickerson and a game that doesn't pale next to Adrian Peterson's.

Don't tell me about giving up the first round pick for Adrian Peterson.  Tell me about trading 1,3,&4 to get into 18-23 range and pick this guy ahead of Arizona.

Don't give me 2-3 years of greatness.  Give me 10.

A bad moment for Bob Sturm

Generally, I have a ton of love for Bob Sturm.  I don't listen to his show most of the time, but that isn't his fault. At some point years ago they partnered him with Dan McDowell, a guy who is the equivalent of the plucky annoying comic relief sidekick.  I don't want to dwell on him too much, but I think I can sum him up using a familiar media comparison, McDowell is the sports radio equivalent of Jar Jar Binks --- not ever funny and everything that comes out of him is either self-referential and reflects a shocking lack of personal insight or a disturbingly poorly thought out sports point. 

He is kind of the voice of the loud mouth idiot sports fan.

I generally do not listen to their show for the same reason I haven't gone back to watch the Star Wars prequel --- it is mostly a train wreck needing some characters to be ruthlessly edited out.

But Sturm is generally on point in his analyses.

Yesterday, for a brief moment their show featured the most interesting subject of Dallas's three sports radio shows.  (One station was covering a baseball game and the other was doing their hijinks segment.)  I tuned in thinking, "Well at least Bob Sturm is there. And Donovan Lewis doesn't suck."

Wow. I have never been more disappointed in Bob Sturm.

The subject was the NBA having a one year limit set on incoming players.  This forces players coming out of high school to play a year of college (or something) before entering the draft.

Sturm joined McDowell on the poorly thought out side with such simplistic arguments as " doesn't do that."  Even when some of the more meaningful arguments came up (The NBA doesn't have a good farm system.  The NBA would have to invest heavily to make a farm system like the minor league.  College basketball is a free farm system.  High school knuckleheads will reveal themselves if they have to play college basketball...), they ideas were downplayed because they worked against Sturm and McDowell's internal baggage --- a fairly flag-waving American belief that 18 year olds shouldn't be prevented from making a living.

Finally, to top it all off, Sturm threw out that the NBA Players Association's new head is preparing for the next labor fight and will absolutely get rid of the 1 year rule, restoring the rights of high school players to jump to the NBA.

Oy.  Where to begin?

The NBA Players' Association protects the rights of players IN THE NBA.  Why do you think they sold out high school players last time?  Because every spot on the bench not occupied by an unprepared 18 year old will be filled by a veteran member of their association!

The reality is that there are no natural advocates of the straight to the NBA player.  NBA owners do not want to be forced to pay immature brats millions while they get no production from their draft slots and NBA vets do not want to give up a year or two on a roster.

When you apply Occum's Razor it seems MUCH, MUCH more likely that all the tough talk from the NBPA about restoring high school players' "rights"  "on principle" is a bunch of smoke designed to make surrendering those rights in the negotiations a valuable chip to throw in next time in getting something the Players' Association really wants ---like say a 3% increase in their share of the income.

One move makes the players in the NBAPA money; One doesn't.

A thought like this should be fairly apparent to a smart sports guy like Sturm.  National weekend guy Bill "Huge" Simonson --- another sports egghead, but this one focused on the business of sports --- caught the likely subtext on this and commented on it on his show weeks ago.

I am very disappointed that Sturm totally missed it.  This is the equivalent of listening to the Big Ten commissioner say they aren't expanding right before Rutgers and Maryland are offered slots.  Sometimes you have to look at the most likely motivations for something to be said.

And that is just the basic job of a sports commentator.  That is to say nothing of having a basic understanding of why and how players not going to college has wrecked the NBA product.

Where did the bigs go?

Remember the era of great centers in the 1980s?  Where are the great centers today?  Hell where are the average centers today?

In the 1980's a very common belief among NBA scouts was that unless you were picking a top 5 center like Mutumbo, Olajuwon, Sampson, Robinson, Ewing, etc. you were looking at drafting a center who it would take you about 4-5 years to develop into a center.

That is 4 years of fundamental work in college and another 4 years of work with NBA position coaches to be able to be a middle of the pack NBA center.

Once the college rules fell away, the freshman 7 footer became a mid to late lottery pick.  Very few NBA teams are willing to wait 8 years to develop a Tyson Chandler. 

Very few raw 7 footers have proven capable of developing with very limited playing time and minimal one-on-one development.  There are precious few moments where a raw big can enter an NBA game and dominate like they could in college.  Without these confidence building moments, a good chunk of those guys never develop.

You want to know why the NBA bigs have sucked for the last 20 years?  Because DeSagana Diop didn't spend 4 years developing his footwork and dominating at a school like Georgetown.  Because Robert Swift didn't spend 4 years destroying the Pac-10 and learning what he can and can't get away with on the court before staring his NBA career.  Because Hasheem Thabeet was able to come out in his junior year instead of staying in school, working on his offensive game, strength and footwork after being regularly destroyed by a moderate underclassman prospect in DeJaun Blair.  How much better would Kwame Brown have been with 4 years under a coach like Florida's Billy Donovan?  What if he developed a go to move in those 4 years?  How different would his NBA path have been?  If he didn't go in the draft he would have been slotted into a good starting lineup next to Udonis Haslem.

Darco Milicic was taken in the midst of some serious stars.  What if he had not been able to come over at 18?  What if he had spent another 4 years dominating oversees and developing his game and his body?  Milicic had an abundance of confidence and unique talents that could have amounted to a good high post 5 or even better a compliment to a low post destroyer at the 5 like a Shaq, but when you are undeveloped, coaches will use you where they damn well want to.  NBA coaches did a very poor job of recognizing what his skills were and utilizing him properly.

What if Stromile Swift spent 4 years in college developing his body and dominating the SEC before starting his NBA career?

What if Patrick O'Bryant had to return to Bradley and play two more years.  Would he have been a better pro?  Probably.  At worst the NBA would have had a clearer picture of who he is.

How much would a year more of development done to improve Andrea Bargnani?

How much more professional would Andrew Bynum have been after growing up with 4 years at UCONN?  He would probably still be one of the best centers in the league.

JaVale McGee had the potential to be a fairly good NBA 4 or 5, but left college after a marginally successful sophomore year.  How would has transition gone if he had developed into a top collegiate post first?

How much more confident would Spencer Haws be if he spent 4 years dominating the Pac-10 at Washington instead of just one?

Kosta Kofus only spent one year at Ohio State, but could have developed into a dominant player there.

How much better would Brook and Robin Lopez be if they stayed 4 years at Stanford instead of two?

Byron Mullens had a moment in the NBA.  Imagine if he had faced Kofus in practice every day in college for three years playing for a very good coach at Ohio State.  It is not hard to imagine him becoming a serviceable starting center with that background.

Imagine if Jordan Hill had come back for his senior year at Arizona playing in a conference against Spencer Haws and the Lopez brothers as upperclassmen.  How much better would he be today with another year of good coaching and productive experiences?

What if Derrick Favors played 4 years at Georgia Tech instead of just one moderately impressive one?  What if he actually developed his game instead of just giving scouts a taste of his potential.  I have to think he would be better than a solid starting 4 today.

Ekpe Udoh might have been an acceptable starting 4 if he had stayed at Baylor for his senior year.

Cole Aldrich left the great coaching at Kansas a year early.  One can't help but wonder if walking away from that coaching cost him the improvement in his offensive game that might make him a starting caliber NBA center.

Ed Davis is the same story.  He walked away from 2 years of good coaching at UNC and now finds his offensive game won't let him start in the NBA.

Tristan Thompson is a solid NBA defender and rebounder as a starting caliber 4, but one cannot help but wonder what he would be if he spent 4 years at Texas developing an offensive game rather than being a one and done.

Nikoloz Tskitishvili did nothing at all in the NBA but was the number two pick overall in his draft because he was a 7 footer who could shoot like Dirk.  If he spent 3 years dominating Europe instead of being glued to an NBA bench getting shot angry looks, maybe he plays to his talent level in the NBA.  At worst, NBA teams would have had a much clearer impression of who they were getting.

Yi Jianlian had a decent year in the NBA and showed some talent.  What if he had played a season or two in Europe before the NBA and had refined what his game was, giving NBA coaches a clear idea how to utilize him?

Even a guy like Greg Oden might have had a much better career with 4 years of college.  Perhaps with only 35 games a season for 4 years, Oden might have been able to develop a body more capable of lasting through an NBA season grind.  At worst if his collapse happened in college, Portland would have been able to turn their pick into some immediate help for their team.

What do almost all of these players have in common?  They weren't ready and they cost their NBA team someone who was.

Not good for the player or the team.

That is two generations of top NBA centers flushed down the toilet by this system.

For every Demarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, and DeAndre Jordan who blind luck places into a fairly good developmental position and they make it, there are 8-9 bigs who the early entrance option destroys their careers, costing them Millions upon Millions of dollars.

Why the hell would anyone who likes basketball support a system that encourages kids to flush their future earning potential down the toilet?