Friday, February 29, 2008

The Absurd Nature of NFL Free Agency

As Steelers fans, we know the drill come the end of February. While other teams are wining and dining potential free agents, the Steelers stand idly by, content to sit it out and go bargain basement shopping after the first couple of weeks. I used to be frustrated by this. I used to look at the list of free agents and start thinking about how so-and-so could bolster our pass rush, or how this guy could really shore up our offensive line, allowing us more flexibility on draft day. I used to. Now, I’m seeing where the Steelers were coming from.

Free agency is becoming ridiculous. Period. The money being thrown around for mediocre players is unbelievable. And stupid. Unbelievably stupid. Jeff Faine, a good, solid player but one who struggles with big defensive tackles, is becoming the highest paid center in the game after signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Us Pittsburghers are familiar with the name Madieu Williams. He was a safety for the Cincinnati Bengals, until he signed this morning with the Minnesota Vikings. Williams made a couple of plays against us over the years, but also was responsible for just as many blown coverages that led to Steeler touchdowns. He’s an inconsistent player. And for that inconsistency, the Vikings lavished Williams with a 6-year, $34 million contract with most likely double-digit bonuses.

And then there is Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. I thought this was a guy the Steelers could go after in free agency. He had the necessary size and skills to transition to our defense and play end in the 3-4. Playing defensive tackle in the Raiders 4-3 defense, Kelly never set the world on fire. He had 13 career sacks. But still, he was a young player who I thought would make a nice addition to our defense. I also thought we could get him at a decent price, because he wasn’t one of those top-tier free agents and because he tore his ACL last season, resulting in him only playing 7 games.

On Thursday, hours before free agency was set to kick off, the Raiders re-signed Kelly to a 7-year, $50.5 million deal with $18 million guaranteed. I was shocked, and so were others. Profootballtalk.com said reaction to the deal around the league was one of “bewilderment and laughter.”

I can really no longer fault the Steelers sitting out the first week of free agency. The money has gotten out of hand. Unless you see a guy you absolutely need to have, a guy you see can be an impact player for your team for years and years, it’s best just to sit out the first week and then scoop up the better values. Yeah, sometimes you get Sean Mahan, but other times you get James Farrior. I don’t know who said it, but I heard it recently: “Free agency is the punishment for drafting poorly.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

End of Post

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bizarro World

No Colby Armstrong. Fleury making an appearance in net. Ruutu actually fighting, as opposed to agitating.

And then this too.

A strange night in the world of Penguins hockey. Nights like tonight make you say "Sidney can't come back fast enough". But Cups aren't won in February, and the Pens have time to answer some questions. Will Roberts come back? Will Sidney need time to regain form? Will Hossa produce? Who will be in goal?

Hopefully the answers to those questions turn out better than: Can Najeh carry the load? Will the defense return to form? Will Ben stop throwing nauseating interceptions?

I won't lie - this post was solely done because Myron's enthusiastic face was tearing me up each time I saw it. Still feels like Bizarro World without him.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Passing of a Legend

Myron Cope: dead at 79.

It is easy to forget how definitively "Pittsburgh" Myron Cope was before he became the lionized soundbox of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He graduated from Allderdice, then the University of Pittsburgh, and even worked his first job up north in Erie. It is also easy to forget that the man used to be able to put the pen to the page with surprising flare and efficiency, serving as a noted freelance writer for Sports Illustrated.
Yet pictures like these remind any Pittsburgher of Myron's most resonant trait: his undying enthusiasm for the Pittsburgh Steelers, an enthusiasm that found endless avenues of expression. He took our lingo and extrapolated it onto a national broadcasting canvas that had never heard such words before (and in many cases, neither had we). The only reason that the Terrible Towel has any cultural value is because of Myron - I will always believe this. Virtually every stadium in America now has white hankies or red wavers or some material item that is supposed to signify a united fan base. These items look silly because they possess no cultural currency. Fans grab them just before game time, wave them because they are told to by the jumbotron, and, generally speaking, look like dancing circus creatures. In most cases, the items are discarded after the game.
Before any of this commercialized and "unified" fandom began, one crazy man decided to try this whole business out. He talked funny. He had an undying love for Steelers football. And he loved waving his yellow towel.
Myron taught us that these types of passions, goofy as they may be, were alright. They were alright because unlike the piles of white pom-poms filling garbage cans after games in other cities, these towels rested on dinner tables and family mantles in homes across the country. These passions and habits are still alright today, because it is these quirkily unique expressions that make us, and Myron Cope, Pittsburghers.
RIP Myron Cope

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Various People React to the Hossa Trade



Every Female Penguin Fan: I want Army back!



Craig Patrick: I made this trade back in '91, only I acquired a Hall of Famer who was under contract past that season. I drafted this team. I made this team. And now Shero is tearing it apart.



Ed Rendell: Theres a hockey team in a city called Pittsburgh?



Yinzer at Jack's: We shoulda gahn and got Jarmir Jagr back from the Rangers. I heard someone saw Mario skatin' dahn at South Point.



Crowd at Prudential Center: (Silence)



Bob Nutting: My baseball people tell me Chris Gomez was a better fit at shortstop than Marian Hossa



Dave Littlefield: Is Hossa left handed?



Neal Huntington: Hossa fits our goals of both building for the future and focusing on the present.



Ed Mann: With Hossa, they are a wondrous tapestry woven so skillfully by Ray Shero…They have been an emotional lift, an example of how much more each of us can achieve. As fluke slips into the darkness, from a new dawn comes the sound, of dynasty.



Ben Roethlisberger: So you're saying star players on Pittsburgh sports teams can get help without begging to the media?



Mike Tomlin: Can he score from 12 yards away?



Kordell Stewart: I hear he enjoys parks in the Pittsburgh area



Ed Olczyk: If Fleury wouldn't have been sent down, and we acquired Hossa, I would never have been fired.



Bill Cowher: Sidney's got an ankle, Gary Roberts is out with a leg, Jerome's got a thigh, so Hossa will have to step up.



Hill District Residents: (Rip up Hossa's contract demanding a better deal)



Isle of Capri: We're still screwed



Gary Roberts: I fathered Marian Hossa while leading the Slovak insurgency against the USSR back in 1979. He was one of 53 children that year.



Sidney Crosby: I lost a friend, but gained a scorer. Eh, I'll see Army during the offseason.

One Man's Trade Analysis

First off, congrats to Ray Shero. Everyone said the only thing the Pens were missing was a scoring winger and a big defenseman, and he goes out and gets Hossa and Hal Gill. You know the 6'7" Hal Gill pick up made Rick happy.

When Pat texted me to let me know the trade happened, the first thing I thought, as I'm sure many of you did, was "I can't believe Armstrong is gone." Then I thought about it more and more, slowly peeling back any emotional attachment to the players, and the genius of the trade started to sink in. We essentially traded 3 players with either upside or intangibles, for a proven guy who will fill the net. Kindof like every Pirates trade over the past 15 years, only exactly the opposite. Seven things I found interesting.

1.) Crosby wants to win more than anything, but taking away his best friend and roommate had to be something Shero considered. Did Crosby OK the deal?

2.) Esposito could turn out to be a superb center, but we have enough of those. Plus, we may be overvaluing him altogether, there may have been a reason he dropped so far in the draft. If we swapped picks with the Ducks and took Logan MacMillan, taken one spot ahead of Esposito, and included him in the deal there would be less regret simply from name recognition.

3.) Armstrong and Christensen are both RFAs next year, and will likely receive a pay raise. Their combined salary will end up in the 2.5-3 million dollar range. Would we have even wanted Christensen back next year anyway? We get two expiring contracts in Hossa and Dupuis, with Hossa being the only one we really want to bring back. Hossa is making 7 million this year, with only 6 being counted against the cap. Considering we'll be saving almost 3 million from losing Army and Christensen, we'll probably only be spending an extra 3-4 million a year to keep Hossa. That seems well within the range of Shero's offseason spending habits. It doesn't take into account the big deals that will inevitably go to Malkin and possibly Staal and MAF, but getting rid of two guys who will be expecting a pay increase makes resigning Hossa that much easier.

4.) The trade will be judged on two things after the season, did we win the cup and did we resign Hossa. Either one occuring will constitute a victory, anything less will leave plenty for the media members who are high on this trade now to be hypocritical about it later. I, personally, am just going to enjoy it. Really, when was the last time a Pittsburgh sports team acquired the most sought after piece during a trade deadline?

5.) Our top two lines are sick. Period. Its eerily reminiscent of the 00-01 campaign with the Straka-Lang-Kovy, Lemieux-Hrdina-Jagr lines, only we actually have two more lines that will deserve ice time. Which will be the first line? Who will the top defenders play against?

6.) Everyone knew Recchi was going to score that shootout goal against us this season. The hockey gods were clearly infuriated by our lack of faith, and we were punished. Hossa had a similar experience in Ottawa, only it dealt exclusively with inability to perform in the playoffs. If we end up playing the Senators, I know I'll be happy to have karma, and a very motivated high scoring winger, on our side.

7.) Don't expect guys like Thomas Vanek to be problems for the Penguins anymore. Hal Gill will serve as an excellent foil to power forwards, especially those who like setting up camp in front of the net on a power play. There is always skepicism surrounding bigger defensemen in the new NHL, but the ones who fail miserably are the ones who are asked to be the number 1 defensemen. We already have a fairly solid defensive core. All we're asking Hal Gill to do is play in the third pairing and keep Conklin's/MAF's crease clear. Shouldn't be too hard.

It will be interesting to see how the deal plays out. No matter what, we kept Hossa out of the hands of another conference rival like Montreal or Ottawa. We risked a lot, and Christensen could be the next Markus Naslund for all we know, but you have to take those chances to win the cup. Ask John Cullen and Craig Patrick.

WITH THE BRASS OF A RIVERBOAT GAMBLER...

Reports are coming in via phone calls and http://www.thefourthperiod.com/ that the Penguins have acquired winger Marian Hossa. Ray Shero's deal looks like this, apparently:

PENS get:
Marian Hossa
Pascal Dupuis

THRASHERS get:
Armstrong
Christiansen
Angelo Esposito
1st round draft pick

Shero has a press conference scheduled at 4:30pm. I'm also hearing that we've acquired Defenseman Hal Gill from Toronto. The Pens made an 11th hour offer for Hossa that beat out offers from Montreal.

Hossa stats
Dupuis stats
Hal Gill stats

Much more analysis to follow once the trade is confirmed and the press conference is held.

UPDATE: It's official.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Taking Out the Trash: Steelers Release Kriewaldt, Tuman, and Rossum

The Steelers today released three veterans: ILB Clint Kriewaldt, TE Jerame Tuman, and KR Allen Rossum. None of this is really shocking. I'm not sure how much was saved, but these guys really had no use to the roster and the money can be better spent.

Kriewaldt's release is mildly interesting, since it pretty much only leaves us with three competent inside linebackers (Farrior, Foote, and Timmons). Expect an inside linebacker to be added either via free agency or the draft.

With the emergence of Matt Spaeth, there simply is no room for Tuman. 3rd tight ends are a dime a dozen, so his replacement can be found quite easily.

I think it's safe to say that the Rossum trade wasn't a good one. While he at least held onto the ball, his kick returns left a lot to be desired. We did only trade a 7th round pick, but I'd rather have an extra pick to gamble on a prospect with upside.

End of Post

No, But Seriously...

...when do WE start chanting Malkni's name or "M-V-P!" at Pens games? Maybe that has already happened at Pens games and I haven't been notified, but regardless, you all know the stats. 24 points in 10 games. First to reach 80 points. Getting the best-player-right-now-in-the-NHL nod from Barry Melrose. Evgeni Malkin, it would appear, has arrived.

Who knows if it will last, or if Malkin will be able to maintain his ethereal play when the bruising, battering style of playoff hockey comes calling. But for right now, watching him is simply a joy. I've heard from numerous people that is looks like he gallops when he skates, and I can't think of a better way to put it. His shoulders shrug up, his skates chop forward, and somehow his hands control the puck amongst all the physical madness. Every rush to the net feels possible. It's like a LeBron James drive to the hoop.

The numbers will change over the next few weeks, and numerous stats can be used to justify claims in many directions, but just take a quick glance at these stats...

Malkin: Points 79 (82 after tonight); Average Time on Ice 20:48; Shots 198
Ovechkin: Points 78; Average Time on Ice 23:05; Shots 328
Lecavlier: Points 77; Average Time on Ice 23:08; Shots 233

If there was a John Hollinger out there for the NHL (and there very well may be a stats cruncher like ESPN has with the Hollinger and the NBA), I'm pretty sure that these numers could be worked into an efficiency rating like Hollinger has for NBA players. Malkin is playing less, taking far fewer shots, and getting essentially the same production. Yes, other factors are at play, but you certainly can't say that he is palying with better players right now. Semin, Kozlov, and Backstrom are all playing well, and St. Louis is still better than anyone that Malkin plays with.

All MVP talk aside, a strange, bizarre, huge win for the Pens tonight. Montreal is going to be there down the stretch, just like pretty much everyone else in the Eastern Conference. Oh, and make sure to take a look at the Eastern Conference standings tomorrow. The Sans-Crosby Penguins...who woulda thought.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Steelers Place Transition Tag on Max Starks

In a bit of shocking news, the Steelers today placed the transition tag on free agent OT Max Starks. Essentially, it's a 1 year tender offer worth $6.875 million. However, this does not preclude Starks from shopping himself on the market. But unlike the franchise tag, the transition tag provides no compensation to the Steelers should Starks sign an offer sheet with another team.

Personally, I don't really like the move. It's time to move on and re-tool this offensive line. Starks played pretty well in the home stretch at LT in place of Marvel Smith, but the idea of shelling out $7 million for his services this season seems a little too expensive for my taste. In all likelihood, this is a precusor to ramp up efforts to ink him to a long-term deal, but I don't like that idea either. To me, he's just not worth it. Based on the amount of money Starks will receive (either through the tender or the long-term deal), one of two things will happen should Starks be on the roster this season:

1) He will take over at left tackle, and Marvel Smith will be released sometime this offseason to save some money.

2) Starks will take over at RT, and Colon will kick inside to guard.

As a whole, I don't like the way the front office has approached addressing the offensive line. It was quite clear help was needed last offseason, and the only significant addition was signing a scrub from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. No premium picks were invested along the O-line in the 2007 draft. I was in favor of not showering Alan Faneca with tons of cash, but on the flip side they signed Kendall Simmons to an extension that reeked of desperation. And now, it seems like they want to retain a guy who had a couple decent games towards the end of the season and lavish him with a nice fat contract. Look, the Steelers front office knows what they're doing, and they sure as hell know more than me. That said, it's fair to be critical of them at times, and in my opinion this is one of those times.

End of Post

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Doubt About It Writer, Sam, Up To His Usual Recruiting Games


If you haven't heard already, Sam, Doubt About It founder and writer, is back to his usual Anti-Ohio State campaign. Fortunately enough the work of a Joe Paterno intern stands out in Buckeye Country. Willie Mobley, an incoming Ohio State recruit, has recently been receiving fake letters declaring that his scholarship to Ohio State had been revoked.

Mobley luckily knows his Tressel signatures, and knows that Big Ten schools will do anything to get their team to the top. Maybe this anti-recruiting technique was something Paterno first saw back in the 1800s, and maybe I am just ahead of the times, but... nice try Penn State.

(Sam...I just wanted to say that I know it's you, and that you should give it up. Next time just tell them that there are Eat'n Parks at Penn State, and not Ohio State)



Intriguingly enough, Sam might be doing quite the job getting players from the state of Ohio to Penn State. Out of the 4 Four-Star recruits that Penn State is bringing in for 2008, two of them reign from Ohio...

In other news, if Sam can pull off convincing Tyrelle Pryor to go to Penn State, then I'll give him props.

Recently this tidbit was featured in a Rivals.com article.

"Pryor admits he was set to sign with Ohio State the day before Feb. 6, but a conversation with his father, Craig (probably Sam in a costume), made him think twice. His father wanted him to take another look at Penn State and take an official visit."

If it happens, it'll be the infamous "Stickies Ala mode" that pulls Pryor. I'll admit, Ohio State just doesn't have it...


and I'm not talking about the shitty "Diner" Stickies...Sam admits it to me all the time, "Diner" stickies suck.


They suck...Get over yourselves "Diner" people. Go to Eat'n Park

NHL Economics

Seth over at Empty Netters, found this interesting article. Apparently, NHL Players are making more now than they were back in 03-04, before they took that 24 % roll back on all salaries.

What always kills me when people compare year to year spending is their complete neglect of inflation. Just because your grandfather regales you with stories of the fudgy wudgey man selling him ice cream for 5 cents back in 1938, does not mean inflation is only a long term effect. Especially this past year, when the dollar weakened significantly, there has to be some sort of conversion.

In the article, it is claimed that the total league wide payroll this year is $1.4 billion, compared to $1.34 billion in 03-04. Assuming 15 % inflation from 2003-2007, that $1.34 billion translates into $1.54 billion in present day terms. What it all means is that players are still getting paid 9.1 % less than their 03-04 counterparts. Its a lot less substantial than 24 %, but I'd also like to believe that the NHL is doing better financially.

Maybe I'm an idiot and they were actually talking in terms of the Canadian loon (it is a Canadian paper after all), but I'd like to think they try and keep some consistency when dealing with finances in sports. Regardless, the amount the players are making relative to total league revenues is what really matters, but I'm too lazy to try and find that out.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What We Learned This Weekend...

- Pitt basketball is...well, Pitt basketball. Really hard game to watch against Marquette. Painful enough that I would just like to move on and stop writing about it.

- The Dunk Contest was "saved" and "brought back" once again. Look, Dwight Howard is a physical freak, and the event itself was a fun way to kill an hour. But this was the 8th year in a row that Kenny Smith proclaimed "OHHHHH!!!! IT"S BACK! THE DUNK CONTEST IS BACK!" after an entertaining dunk. Seriously, it can't be "saved" that many times in a row. Why does the event have to take on this "back from the dead" feel every year? Later this afternoon I am going to go through YouTube clips and I guarantee you that I can find clips from 2000-2008 in which Kenny Smith declares that the event is back for good and that Vince Carter/Josh Smith/Jason Richardson/Nate Robinson/Gerald Green/Dwight Howard saved the dunk contest.

- Duke basketball is not invincible. If you see a skinny man wearing Duke blue in the Wake Forest student section during the highlights of last night's game, then you have been fortunate enough to spot 1) one of DAI's most loyal readers, codename BrittleBones and 2) one of the more unlucky men in America.

- This Pens season is even more improbably than last year's. As I sat in a bar watching the Pens lose in game 5 to the Senators last year with the Artist Formerly Known as Pirate in Search of Nuttings Chest, we both reflected on what a ridiculous season it was. Jordan Staal broke out like a 14 year old with acne, Sidney validated the hype, and Fleury came up big in the playoffs. What a wacky, unpredictable ride it was. Heading into this season, the concern around the Burgh was that we wouldn't be able to recapture last year's magic.

But after games like the one yesterday in Buffalo, you have to ask yourself: could any hockey season possibly be more ridiculous than this one? Ty Conklin is entering a special universe of Pittsburgh athletes. Just writing that sentence lets you know that something goofy is happening. But when you consider the play of Geno, the (for the most part) poor play of numerous players on the team throughout the season, and the endless list of injuries, it just seems too unbelievable a story to believe. Is it a story "that Walt Disney would find too improbable to tell"?* Only time will tell. But when a team gets outshot like they did yesterday and still wins 4-1, you know strange things are afoot.

*Quote from "One From the Heart" is paraphrased. Please comment if you remember the exact phrasing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Fall of the Belichick Dynasty

Take from it what you will: the Pats have been taping since 2000. Does it invalidate any championships? Who knows. Does it diminish any records? Eh, I'm still inclined to say that Tom Brady is pretty freaking good (as much as I hate him). But man, this sure beats the Clemens saga. More to come as this story unfolds.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hours and Hours of the Pot Calling the Kettle Off-White


We've said very little on this whole Clemens thing because it's kind of a non-issue, really. Baseball has obviously been influenced by steroids. Nothing can change that fact. Might as well move on, I say.
Yet 60 channels worth of ESPN disagreed with me today, in addition to a large panel of old white guys. What I found most interesting was the moral diatribe from Indiana Representative Dan Burton, who called the entire proceeding a circus , criticized the "trial by media" approach to the entire thing, and verbally abused Brian McNamee to no end.

Now, I was under the impression that the committee was on hand to find the truth, not wax (un)poetically about an individual's supposedly despicable moral fiber. I would love to see someone go through the panel's respective promises on the campaign trail and see how many of those promises came true. Jobs and better health care are easy to promise on the campaign trail; they're a little more difficult to pin down in the multi-interest flurry that is Congress.

The obvious difference here is that McNamee lied while under inspection and (I would assume) under oath, whereas politicians are only bound by a verbal contract with their constituents. But the way Rep. Burton spoke did not make such a distinction. He spoke with vitriolic passion about the damning effects of lying, one that appeared to apply for all forums of society. I'm not one to make blanket statements about the integrity of the government, but as far as moralistic preaching is concerned, save it for the churches and the schools, Rep. Burton.
Coming soon: the never-before-seen transcript of the Congressional hearing regarding Operation Shutdown.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Can The Stache Out-Project Mel Kiper?

Let me preface this post by saying that I am a football junkie. It’s the one sport I follow all season long, with my favorite part of the offseason being the NFL Draft. The reason for this is probably because I need something sports related to follow after the NFL season ends, and:

1) I enjoy watching the Penguins but for some reason can’t get passionate about hockey.

2) The Pirates don’t deserve my attention. I know by mid-April they’ll already be playing bad baseball, well on their way to another losing season in which they finish approximately 20 games under .500.

Therefore, I put my efforts into following the NFL, and that means keeping tabs on the Senior Bowl, the NFL Scouting Combine, and the NFL Draft. Somehow, one individual who has made this into a career, without having played any serious form of organized football, is Mel Kiper Jr. I don’t know exactly what Mel does during the months of May-January, but from February through April, Mel is all over ESPN and ESPN.com.

One of Mel’s most popular features is his first round projection, which is typically updated once a week. With that said, I thought it would be fun to see if the Stache could out-project the great Mel Kiper. The rules? We’ll use The Huddle Report’s scoring system: 2 points for players matched to the correct teams that pick them, 1 point for each player correctly placed in round one. This will allow me to compare myself to others, but I’m gunning for Kiper. The Stache is coming after you, Mel.

Now, I’m not pulling this projection out of my ass. As I said, I follow the NFL closely, so I have a pretty good sense of what each team needs. Additionally, I’ll keep tabs on key offseason events, which already included watching the Senior Bowl (and reading some Senior Bowl practice reports) and monitoring the results from the NFL Scouting Combine. This gives me a general idea of what round many players are projected to go in, and the hope is that by the time the draft rolls around in April I’ll have the necessary knowledge to project the first round better than Mel Kiper does. As I said, Kiper updates his projection once a week. I will update mine about once a month, probably once after the Combine ends in late February, once at the end of March after some free agents sign, and a final projection the day before or morning of the draft. Here is my initial first round projection, which also includes Kiper’s selection at each pick. The only projection that will count for scoring purposes, though, is my final projection right before the draft and Kiper’s final projection.

1. Miami- Chris Long, DE, Virginia (Kiper: Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU)

Howie Long’s son is the #1 pick, where he should fit in well at defensive end in the 3-4 defense that Parcells wants to implement in Miami.

2. St. Louis- Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU (Kiper: Chris Long, DE, Virginia)

Will team up with last year’s first round pick Adam Carriker in the middle of the Rams defense

3. Atlanta- Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas (Kiper: Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College)

Warrick Dunn doesn’t have any gas left in the tank, and Jerious Norwood is not a feature back. Enter McFadden, who’s too good to pass up at this point

4. Oakland- Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC (Kiper: Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas)

Was absolutely dominant all week at the Senior Bowl. No one could block him. And the Raiders coaching staff saw it first hand, as they were coaching the North team.

5. Kansas City- Jake Long, OT, Michigan (Kiper: Long)

Chiefs O-line is a mess. Long is the best tackle in this class.

6. New York Jets- Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio St. (Kiper: Gholston)

The 3-4 OLB the Jets need for their pass rush.

7. New England- Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida (Kiper: Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas)

This is how the Patriots operate. They’ll likely lose Asante Samuel this offseason, and they’ll just plug his spot with one of the premier draft prospects at the cornerback position.

8. Baltimore- Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College (Kiper: Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC)

Troy Smith is not the long term answer, and neither is Kyle Boller. It’s time for the Ravens to try again at the QB position.

9. Cincinnati- Keith Rivers, LB, USC (Kiper: Philip Merling, DE, Clemson)

Bengals need athleticism in their front seven. They’ll get it with Rivers, who’s 6’2, 236 lbs and runs the 40 in about 4.6.

10. New Orleans- Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy (Kiper: Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina)

Another guy who had a huge Senior Bowl week. Comes from a small school, so he’s a little unknown.

11. Buffalo- Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma (Kiper: Kelly)

Top WR in this class, in my opinion. Tall, strong, fast. Gives the Bills another option at WR besides Lee Evans.

12. Denver- Ryan Clady, OT, Boise St. (Kiper: Clady)

Left tackle Mett Lepsis retired, leaving a gaping hole in the depth chart.

13. Carolina- Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh (Kiper: Otah)

Both their starting offensive tackles, Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton, are free agents. Likely won’t keep both, so Otah will take one of their spots.

14. Chicago- Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville (Kiper: Sam Baker, OT, USC)

Bears depth chart at QB includes Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, and Brian Griese. That means they have no QB’s worth a shit.

15. Detroit- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee St. (Kiper : Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy)

MVP of the Senior Bowl, causing his stock to soar. Unbelievably gifted (6’2, 183 lbs, 4.45 40-yard dash, great hands), but carries the small school tag. A ballhawk and playmaker, much like his cousin, Chargers CB Antonio Cromartie.

16. Arizona- Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon (Kiper: Stewart)

Edgerrin James is not getting any younger. Stewart is too good to pass up at this point. Remember, they almost drafted Adrian Peterson last year.

17. Minnesota- DeSean Jackson, WR, California (Kiper: Jackson)

Helps the Vikings anemic passing game, while at the same time bolstering their special teams. Very good receiver and one of the best kick returners in the college game.

18. Houston- Kenny Phillips, S, Miami (Fla.) (Kiper: Mike Jenkins, CB, S. Florida)

Texans have focused on the front seven in past drafts (Travis Johnson, Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans). Now it’s time to address the secondary.

19. Philadelphia- Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida (Kiper: Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt)

Eagles love to draft in the trenches. Kearse isn’t giving them much any more, so give them Harvey to bolster the pass rush.

20. Tampa Bay- Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina (Kiper: Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas)

Strong interior pass rusher, stock might be slipping a bit, though, after early departure from Senior Bowl week due to injury.

21. Washington- Calais Campbell, DE, Miami (Fla.) (Kiper: Campbell)

Redskins pass rush was their Achilles heel on defense last season.

22. Dallas- Mario Manningham, WR, Michigan (Kiper: Manningham)

Terrell Owens is getting older, Terry Glenn is done, and Patrick Crayton is a #2 at best. Manningham is a good fit for them.

23. Pittsburgh- Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt (Kiper: Chilo Rachal, OG, USC)

I specifically watched him during the Senior Bowl. Had a very solid game. Small arms are an issue (similar to Willie Colon in that respect), but he makes up for it with terrific footwork and technique.

24. Tennessee- James Hardy, WR, Indiana (Kiper: Limas Sweed, WR, Texas)

Tall target for Vince Young, provided Young can actually get the football to him.

25. Seattle- Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois (Kiper: Fred Davis, TE, USC)

Many Seahawks fans want Alexander out of Seattle. His game is declining rapidly. Mendenhall would eventually become the feature back in his second season.

26. Jacksonville- Lawrence Jackson, DE, USC (Kiper : Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida)

Pass rusher who can provide pressure on the outside while Stroud and Henderson wreak havoc on the inside.

27. San Diego- Reggie Smith, CB/S, Oklahoma (Kiper: Smith)

A team with no clear needs. Smith is a versatile defensive back who played both corner and safety at Oklahoma.

28. Dallas- Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas (Kiper: Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois)

Julius Jones is probably gone via free agency. Felix Jones will team with Marion Barber and become the Cowboys feature special teams returner.

29. San Francisco- Early Doucet, WR, LSU (Kiper: James Hardy, WR, Indiana)

Alex Smith has no chance for success without any wide receivers. Doucet gives him an option.

30. Green Bay- Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona (Kiper: Keith Rivers, LB, USC)

Another team with no clear needs, though they could use a #3 CB behind Al Harris and Charles Woodson.

31. New England- FORFEITED DUE TO SPYGATE

32. New York Giants- Dan Connor, LB, Penn St. (Kiper: Connor)

Giants could use the linebacking help.

End of Post

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Malkin Making Case For MVP


The Pens finally got off the schnide against the Flyer's, defeating them 4-3 this afternoon. Malkin figured in on all 4 of the goals, all while his parent's were in attendance for the second game in a row. Malkin has 21 points in the 10 games since Sid has been out, for a Lemieux-esq 2.1 points/game. A couple thoughts from today:

-Talbot, after taking a double minor in the first, looked possessed the rest of the way. Along with Staal and Christensen, underperformers this season, the line looks like it has considerable chemistry.

-Speaking of good line combos, I can't see Therrien simply substituting Sid in for Malkin when he comes back. Malone-Malkin-Sykora has found more consistency and chemistry then any of the other 10 dozen line combinations Therrien has called for this season. I don't know who you put Sid with, but you can't break up that line.

-Bob Errey did not have a good day. Potash had a segment about Penguins' fantasy camp, where a bunch of 30 and 40 somethings got to play with Penguins' alumni. When Dan sent it up to the booth he asked "Where were you during all of this, Bob?" to which Errey replied rather seriously "I wasn't invited." After Potash apologized, there was around 3-4 seconds of awkward silence. Then, later in the game when the Flyers made it 4-3, according to Wannstache Errey meant to say "Hold your breath" but accidentally said "Hold your breasts." Anyone who Tivo'd the game, the youtubes are waiting for you.

-I don't mind Nathan Smith or Kris Beech, but there will be no tears when Sid comes back and replaces one of the two.

-As reported by Seth at Empty-Netters, Fleury was sent down to Wilkes-Barre for conditioning. About time.

Rick sent me another email about the need of another quality defenseman, which always seems to coincide with a Penguins' surge. Still, as you can tell from our lack of posting, I'm happy with content. I may not agree with it entirely, but its hard to completely disagree. Let him have it in the comments.

Rick's Rant

I'm a little sick of people telling me that I am wrong on the Penguins defense and that we'll be "ok" come playoff time.

So how's this for an example...

I have always liked Darryl Sydor, probably my favorite player in the NHL. One of the top 10 defenseman...

People wanted him traded, because he struggled early with a new system and had a +/- as low as -7. I said to hold on.

On December 27th, in a game against that Capitals, Darryl Sydor scored the winning goal. Since that time there have been 19 games, only 3 of which Sydor hasn't logged 18 minutes. The Pens are 13-3-3, amassing 29 pts.

The defenseman +/- has looked like this:
Sydor: +10
Whitney: +8
Letang: +4
Orpik: +2
Scuderi: +1
Gonchar: 0

I hope this validates I know defense. I will admit, I don't know much about offense, but you show me a team that has a better than avaerage +/- for its defensemen and that team will be ok.

What can we get from this? That Darryl Sydor is a leader, and Ryan Whitney one day will be worth his huge salary cut. Kris Letang is impressive for a rookie, and Brooks'numbers may be lower cause he plays with Letang at times. But is Brooks worth a Whitney like extension at the end of this year? Hell no. Is Scuderi a guy you want logging 20+ a game in the playoffs? Get real. And finally, is Gonchar a true "all-star"? Maybe in Mario's time, where the average score of a a game was 9-8. However, in today's NHL Sergei is living up to the scouting report that says he is physically intimidated and makes too many mistakes in his own end.

So as the trade deadline approaches, I encourage everyone to give up their Sundin/Hossa/Havlat wishes, because Shero knows this team needs a defenseman and he will get it.

Finally, my guys that should be worried about playing in other cities at the end of the month are: Staal, Christiansen, Kennedy, and Orpik. Other than that, I believe everyone else is safe.

--

Pitcher's and catchers report on Thursday. The swift arrival of spring training always reminds me that the Steelers' and Pirates' seasons are almost perfectly split to cover two halves of the year, with the football season ending right as spring training starts, and Pirates season effectively ending in late July as St. Vincent's opens once again.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Revenge Is Sweet

ESPN's featured comment of the day...



HA! I knew we'd get the Braves back for knocking us out of the NLCS twice, the last one being particularly painful, and then sending us into a 15 year downward spiral! Now that we've taken their ADD first baseman who still may not be aware that the season starts in April and not July, its all finally even.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sanchez and the Eve of a Monumental Collapse

-Dejan Kovacevik over at the Post-Gazette has reported that the Pirates signed fan favorite and Malibu Bay Breeze drinker Freddy Sanchez to a 2 year deal with an almost certain to happen club option for the 3rd year. The deal will range around 19 million in total, with the breakdown somewhere at 4.5 million the first year, 6 the next, and around 8-9 million for the third year club option. The third year becomes a guarantee if Freddy reaches some requirements in the first two years, which Kovacevik says likely will be plate appearances.

While the last time we made a significant investment in a singles hitter didn't turn out so well, the framework of this deal makes sense and gives the Pirates some flexibility in that third year if Freddy shows he can't stay healthy. Overall, a much more shrewd move than anything Littlefield ever did. Plus, it provides some kind of indication that the Pirates just might plan on having a higher payroll in the 2010 season and, coinciding with that, a competitive team. One can dream, right?

-According to ESPN, the NFL will be meeting with Matt Walsh, the videographer who claims he has new information on Spygate. The traditional media hasn't been downplaying it, but other than Gregg Easterbrook, who really has to feel quite proud of himself for never letting this go in the face of criticism, there has not been much talk about the repercussions of what everyone says Matt Walsh will be revealing; that the Patriots taped the Rams walkthrough before Superbowl XXVI. Just because the certified journalists won't speculate, doesn't mean we won't.

Assuming Walsh comes out with the info everyone expects, which seems to be almost a foregone conclusion at this point, the Patriots dynasty will always carry some doubt. Always. I don't care if Walsh has no evidence to back it up and, in the end, it can not be proved. Look what happened to Bonds, look what is happening to Clemens. Maybe its not fair, but the minute he comes out with this information is the minute the Patriots dynasty has the asterisk figuratively etched into each of their trophies by the collective conscience.

Will there ever be a greater fall in sports? You're on the cusp immortality, about to complete arguably the greatest accomplishment in the history of sport, and then not only are you rebuffed from that glorious moment, but everything else you've achieved in the years leading up to it becomes tarnished. I felt bad for Michael Vick. I felt like the speculation surrounding Bonds, since there was no hard evidence, was a tad bit unfair. But when Belichick falls, and it looks like he will, there will be no pity. Pete Rose, you may have company.

(If you're looking for a laugh, go and read the comments from I Want to Fight Tom Brady's self-titled post or the related article by Tec over at PSAMP. While the Pats fans there were talking about only the known tapes, its still quite enjoyable to listen to their defensive excuses in light of the present evidence.)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Perfect!

All my other fellow DAI contributors added their two cents to last night's stunning Giants victory in Super Bowl XLII, and like them my happiness cannot be understated.

While watching NFL Network after the game, I saw this commercial, which might be the greatest commercial ever. Just thinking how pissed off Patriots fans would be after seeing it put a huge smile on my face.

EDIT: Lord knows I've been wrong about a lot of things this season, but I can't pass up a chance to toot my own horn. In the Week 10 Picks post, I had this to say about the Giants:

"One thing the Giants can do is pressure the quarterback, and they can do it only with rushing four. That’s how good Umenyiora and Strahan are. They just might have the blueprint to beat New England. Get pressure with four to rattle Brady, but still be able to maintain your coverage against Moss, Stallworth, and Welker with seven covering."

End of Post

They're Sellin Like Hot Cakes...



I didn't have anything to show my passion for Patriot failure... so I improvised. To the beginning of Eli's very successful endorsement career...and for one night... Go Giants.

Eli wins Super Bowl and MVP...Ben Embarresses Steeler Nation

I echo Pat's thoughts below exactly. What a game, and a perfect ending. Along with the impending doom of the entire Patriot's dynasty crashing around them with this videographer Walsh coming out of nowhere, this day provides probably the greatest winners' high achievable without actually winning anything. The only thing that ruined it was that atrocious Big Ben commercial for American Idol. Did he really have to do that? I know it wasn't exactly Oreo licking...but c'mon.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

THERE IS A GOD

4th and 13.  If you are playing Madden, then sure, you go for it.  Why not.  Playing video games involves a certain type of careless arrogance that supports such a decision.  Maybe the decision Belichick made to go for it was a wise one - a conversion changes the game, the kicker is inexperienced, and a punt only moves the ball 30 yards or so.  


But the reaction was the same from everyone in the room watching the game: that arrogant prick, he really thinks they are good enough to convert a 4th and 13.  The freaking Patriots really think they are invincible.  They REALLY believe that they are so much better than everyone that they can go for it on 4th and 13.  

Belichick walking off the field in disgust...Tom Brady staring in disbelief throughout the whole game...the amazing, inexplicable escape and throw from Eli to Tyree.  This might have been the most satisfying non-Steelers game I have ever watched.  Change that - it is.  I have never rooted this much for a team other than the Steelers, and as many 'burghers said tonight, this game felt so much more important than any Steelers game.  

And in many ways, there were numerous Pittsburgh-related story lines.  Fourteen years after Junior Seau waved a terrible towel in Three Rivers Stadium, here he was sulking on the sidelines, still one game short of ever winning a title.  Tom Brady and The Hooded One are still one Super Bowl short of their historic Pittsburgh counterparts.  And Plaxico Burress, criticized to no end, hauled in the winning touchdown that likely produced an unfathomably loud and euphoric roar in Pittsburgh.  

A truly unbelievable game.  I am not kidding when I say congratulations to the Patriots - you had a ridiculously successful season.  And Wes Welker: you played like a meast tonight.  But your arrogance, your after-the-play dirtiness, your shroud of mysterious lens-induced advantage...it all caught up with you.  And as my dad said in a phone call to me earlier tonight, "Cheaters never prosper."

Lastly, congrats to my old roommate and one of my best friends, Frank Steinberg.  The Giants have truly been a maligned, torn, and tumultuous franchise, and you should feel damned good for sticking with them.

Cheers to the end of the Boston strangle-hold on sports.