The Risky Draft Declaration Debate… Reward Outweighs Risk

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

Last Saturday was the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft. As usual, the list contains names of future stars in the NFL. While some decided to chase fortune and glory immediately, others – notably Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck – chose to return to college. What makes things interesting this year is the extremely unstable NFL labor situation that is quickly arising, and it certainly has all of us fretting over what our fall Sundays would be like without football. Nonetheless, it is a very real possibility, and that possibility is at the core of our debate today. What are the chances (or likelihood) of a lockout making it risky for all the underclassmen to go ahead and declare? But, you know what? I say it’s worth the risk.

It does appear that no single player is going to get guaranteed money like players of recent drafts. The translation is for the high draft picks not to expect to get Sam Bradford or Matthew Stafford money, with signing bonuses approaching $50M in guaranteed money. For the record, I think that’s a good thing and certainly hope that is a part of the new collective bargaining agreement. Who knows what a so-called rookie pay scale will be (similar to what the NBA currently has in place), but we do know it’ll be much more than what you’d make by playing another year in college. [Insert Cecil Newton jokes here]. Many are saying that it’s too risky financially. Please tell me why.

The NFL still plans on holding its draft on April 28 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. That means we’ll still get to hear obnoxious Jets fans scream and yell when their team picks. These draft picks will eventually be able to sign their contracts. Underclassmen like Da’Quan Bowers and A.J. Green will be drafted and will eventually sign their rookie contracts. You can bet their agents will find a way to make sure they don’t go hungry, even through endorsements, autograph opportunities, or cash advances. These are all things that couldn’t be done if the kids were still lacing them up on Saturdays.

The same rookie pay scale that is likely going to be in place for the 2011 NFL season will be in place for next year’s crop of rookies also. So, the way I look at it is, this year’s guys are getting a head start. They are getting that rookie year out of the way, collecting that check, and perhaps more importantly, getting a year closer to that first free agent contract.

Then there’s always the risk that you either have an unproductive senior year or have an injury to curtail those NFL hopes and dreams. This time last year, it was almost a given that Jake Locker was going to be the top quarterback in this year’s draft, much the same way we are looking at Luck in regards to next year’s draft. Well, what happened? An up and down 2010 campaign for Locker cast serious doubt on his ability to play at the next level. Now he’s certain to be drafted behind underclassmen like Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Mallet. He essentially lost MILLIONS by returning to school and getting that degree.

It’s a cliché, but I am going to write it anyway. There’s risk in everything you do. But these guys have long had the dream of playing in the NFL and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Many of the guys come from urban areas where they didn’t have much growing up and felt like they couldn’t pass up the big pay day. Now, they have to believe that the NFL labor situation will be resolved soon and they will become professional football players with bigger bank accounts. The reward certainly outweighs the risk in this situation.

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The Most Overrated Sporting Event Debate… The NFL Draft is Much Ado About Nothing

May 28, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek .

My apologies to William Shakespeare, but not unlike a line from Macbeth, the NFL draft has become, “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The NFL Draft has morphed from a once unique and exciting experience to an overhyped, poorly executed spectacle. It has been dragged out into a grueling three day marathon which is pulled off with all the decorum and attention to detail of a fraternity keg party. All of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s efforts to escalate the importance and media coverage of the event have in turn created an overblown, overexposed monster. The NFL Draft has become the most overhyped sporting event around.

Once the top few quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers come off the board, the entertainment diminishes exponentially. Sure, some important players are selected in the later rounds, but are they worth the hours of repetitive commentary and faulty predictions? No.

Plus, all this coverage boarders on triggering an overexposure induced backlash. Fans are already inundated with pre-draft specials, combine breakdowns, and expert analysis weeks in advance. This excessive promotion establishes unreachable expectations. With each commercial prompting fans to believe they will miss out on the selection of the next Peyton Manning if they miss a minute of the draft comes increased pressure for the NFL Draft to be much more entertaining. And when the fans do tune in expecting a big payoff, they are instead provided with “expert” analysis with all the accuracy of radar-less weatherman.

I would like to make it clear that I take nothing away from the challenge Commissioner Goodell faces. While other sports are trying to find ways to keep up with or catch professional football, he must often blaze his own trail to find previously unexplored ways to make the NFL more profitable. Unfortunately for the Commish (does anyone else immediately think of Michael Chiklis?), I believe that the league’s tinkering, and the excessive promotion of the draft, has gone a bit too far.

The NFL is making mistakes in trying to outdo itself. The whole situation reminds me of the problem of movie sequels. Many times film makers get so caught up in attempting to go bigger than the first movie that they forget about the elements of the original that made their product popular in the first place. Red carpets and a snooty atmosphere seem to clash with the blue collar vibe of the jersey clad fans present in Radio City Music Hall, and the ones watching from their battle-worn easy chairs in living rooms around America.

It seems that the draft no longer caters to the demographics that helped make the event, and the NFL, successful in the first place. Jim Corbett of USA TODAY described the pomp and circumstance of the occasion as “Monday Night Football meets the Academy Awards.” Excuse me for not getting overly excited that a football event is being turned into a black tie gala. Next thing you know there will be a strict dress code for fans, and I don’t think the old lucky jersey and nacho stained sweatpants combo will make the cut.

The draft disappoints. While Mel Kiper, Jr.’s hair is always entertaining, his analysis is not. Watching him and John Gruden aimlessly argue over the potential of Tim Tebow seems like an exercise in futility, and it certainly does not distract from the fact that no blockbuster deals were being done. Similarly, watching Jimmy Clausen sit in the best available box while his draft stock plummets does not make up for the fact that picks seem to take forever. While the draft definitely has value, it could benefit from giving the hype machine a well deserved break. Too much of a mediocre thing is definitely enough.

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The Biggest QB Bust Debate Verdict

May 26, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

Wow, Ryan Leaf actually wins something.

I stated at the end of my intro that I had a feeling this could be very entertaining. Folks, I was right!

Before I even had a chance to delve into yesterday’s arguments my inbox was flooded with a back and forth commentary from Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless. Both debaters are very passionate

So, let’s take a look at Mr. Leaf and Mr. Russell, both of whom are busts. That much is quite obvious!

I had not ever seen the two dubious quarterback’s numbers side by side. They are equally awful. Bleacher Fan highlights the stats of both players. Babe Ruthless is humorously infatuated with Russell’s weight, both in the debate and in the email exchange. In fact, when submitting the debate for an editorial read by our editor, the subject read, “JaMarcus Russell is a fatty.” Maybe he really does need to be a contestant on the Biggest Loser.

This debate isn’t about reality shows, though, which is a good thing because no one would watch these two busts in a reality show. Also, the two arguments concentrated on whether or not off-the-field transgressions and attitude issues should come into play in evaluating the bust-factor of these two players. I actually believe that is an entirely separate issue. As humorous as Leaf’s rant was back in 1998, I decided to not let it, or any other “shenanigans,” enter into my decision-making.

Let’s simply take a look at the numbers, because they are ultimately why I decided that Ryan Leaf was the bigger bust, and Bleacher Fan is the winner.

In six fewer games, Leaf threw 13 MORE INTERCEPTIONS (36-23). A touchdown to interception ratio of 14-36 is a LOT worse than the 18-23 ratio that Russell currently has. Babe countered that Russell played in a pass-happy era. While that may be the case, the statistics show that Leaf only threw 25 fewer passes than Russell, yet 12 more interceptions. These numbers really don’t lie. It’s also important to note that Leaf won EXACTLY FOUR games as a starter! Four games! That is ridiculous!

When fans think of a player who is a bust, fairly or unfairly, they think of Ryan Leaf. I tend to think that’s a fair label just by his performance, or lack thereof, on the field. It really doesn’t matter that Leaf was the second player drafted, as opposed to Russell being chosen first. We are all old enough to remember that Leaf was highly regarded, even more regarded than Russell was when he was coming out of college. If it were any other year, I think we could have seen Leaf selected first. But, he was in the draft with Peyton Manning, and history is currently showing how good Manning is. And how bad Leaf was.

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The Biggest QB Bust Debate

May 25, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

Over the past 15 years there have been two high draft picks in the NFL that stand out above all others because they are very high profile busts. Maybe you’ve had this conversation with your friends. And maybe you can already tell which two players we are going to discuss today without me having to go any further.

Ryan Leaf was the second overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. You may recall that Peyton Manning was the first pick that year. Imagine how different the NFL landscape would be right now if the picks had been reversed. Actually, most experts felt there really wasn’t a whole lot of difference between the two at the time of the draft. Ha! All Manning has done is go on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history. And Leaf? Well… I’ll leave that analysis to Bleacher Fan.

JaMarcus Russell was the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. After racking up big numbers at LSU, he was drafted by the Raiders. Many experts thought his arm strength would carry him a long way in the NFL. They were wrong. After three years in the NFL, Russell is currently without a job after recently being cut by the Raiders.

So that leads us to today’s debatable issue: Who is the bigger bust, Ryan Leaf or JaMarcus Russell?

Bleacher Fan will argue that Leaf is the bigger bust while Babe Ruthless will argue that Russell is the bigger bust.

I’ve got a feeling this could be entertaining!

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The Most Surprising MLB Move in April Debate…The Brilliant or Desperate Zambrano Move

April 28, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

My oh my how the mighty have fallen.

Once a proud and emotional leader of the Chicago Cubs, the team’s supposed ace is now relegated to bullpen duty, making Carlos Zambrano the highest paid setup man in the history of baseball.

As a starter, Zambrano’s early season ERA was over eight, and manager Lou Piniella had quite enough. Who can blame him? Not only was Zambrano’s ERA out of control, his signature emotion was gone. In short, Sweet Lou did not believe that Zambrano CARED about his struggles. Of the long list of things that make Sweet Lou’s face twitch, apathy is near the top. While seemingly deserved, the most surprising move in April is Zambrano’s sudden move to the pen.

Zambrano has stunk this season, even after a couple of improved performances out of the pen. His ERA is still a ridiculous 6.85. After giving up ten home runs all of last season in 169.1 innings, Zambrano has already served up four dingers in just 22 innings. Yikes.

Aside from the rough start from the right hander, it is generally hard to blame Lou for the move. Zambrano has always had “the stuff” of an ace, but never the psyche. He is prone to intense emotional outbursts and to extreme pitching efficiency when he is on, using few pitches to set down the side in order. Since the Cubs have blown some leads early in the season, primarily because a young bullpen was unable to hold leads late in the game, the gaping hole in the late innings was obvious. Zambrano has the best pitches and mentality for the bullpen of any other player in the starting rotation.

Zambrano fits because the alternatives are not good. Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelanny, surprising Cubs starters for the 2010 campaign, are actually pitching well in the rotation right now. Randy Wells is probably the staff’s best pitcher, and Ryan Dempster its most consistent. The odd man out is clear, and Zambrano belongs in the pen.

The problem is that pesky – and enormous – contract. He is due $17.875M in 2010, $18M in 2011, and $19.25M. Obviously this is the salary of an ace, not a setup guy. But, he also has a full no trade clause. The Cubs are stuck with Zambrano, and they must get SOME value out of him. As a result, along with Zambrano’s lip service to “doing whatever is needed to help the ballclub,” the best way to make Zambrano valuable is to use him out of the pen.

The move is not just surprising for its clarity and swiftness, but also for its mismanagement. Of course it’s the right decision; of course something needed to be done quickly. But Zambrano somehow still maintains that this is a temporary move. For this to be effective either as a psychological ploy, or to strengthen a weak bullpen, Zambrano must be convinced of its seriousness. Failure to do so neuters the effectiveness of this move.

Cubs’ fans should hope that the move sticks, regardless of the weird contract situation. Zambrano makes more sense as a bullpen pitcher than a starter, even with a no hitter under his belt. The less time Zambrano has on the mound, the less time he has to get mad at his defense and frustrated with the catcher recommended pitches. It is good for his blood pressure – and for the fans’ blood pressure.

Winning has a way of making surprising moves look brilliant. Losing makes them look knee-jerk and desperate. I am curious to find out which type of move this is. My Sports Geek hunch tells me it’s brilliant.

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The Best 2010 NFL Draft Week Debate… Carroll Does Well in First Draft

April 26, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

The three-day marathon called the NFL Draft is finally over. I was skeptical at first, but I must admit, going against what I argued not too long ago… the three day format was a success. I was proven wrong. I probably watched more draft coverage this year than ever before. And apparently I am not alone, as ESPN had record ratings. However, today we are going to recap the draft and debate which team had the best overall draft. How did your team fare? Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan are making two good choices as Babe is now a big Jimmy Clausen fan, and Bleacher Fan will join millions of others with his man crush on Tim Tebow. I, however, am going in a different direction. I am headed out West where Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks had themselves a very good draft.

Sports Geek and I are long time readers of Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback. And this morning, he has a fascinating review of the draft and some of the behind the scenes chatter. He and I agree that the Seahawks did a lot to improve their team. With their first pick and the sixth overall, they drafted Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung. Now, I know the average fan can’t name the names of the offensive lineman, but this guy appears to be the real deal. He was a two-time All-American in Stillwater and is rather huge. He is 6-feet 5-inches and weighs 307 pounds. Longtime Seahawk tackle Walter Jones is expected to retire in the coming days, and Seattle expects Okung to just slide right into the tackle position manned by Jones for thirteen years.

With the thirteenth pick safety Earl Thomas out of Texas was selected. Now, some of you Big XII fans should be familiar with Thomas. While he played safety in college, the Seahawks believe he can play some corner if needed, and that’s what separated him from the other safety candidates like former USC Trojan Taylor Mays. Carroll has been under fire from Mays for somehow causing his draft stock to fall. Mays was under the assumption that Carroll may draft him. But, Taylor, you aren’t in sunny California anymore… that’s not how it works outside the fantasy known as the University of Southern California. The training wheels are off!

I really like the second round pick, and 60th overall, of Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate. Sports Geek earlier this year wrote an argument about Tate. It’s hard to argue against some of the things he did in South Bend, and under major scrutiny at that. He’s a little on the small side, but I’ve just got a feeling he could do well in Seattle. I was actually a little surprised he fell all the way to 60.

It was a great first draft for Carroll in Seattle. He filled needs with the first three picks, but he also traded away picks in order to get running backs Leon Washington and LenDale White. If those two guys can stay healthy and focused, they should succeed in the northwest. The NFC West is up for grabs, and this draft will go a long way in helping Seattle compete in the West.

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The 2010 Biggest Pre-Draft Move Debate… Spring Cleaning in the Steel City

April 23, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Sports Geek.

There have been some big moves in the weeks leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft.

Included within those moves are face lifts for two teams that have traded away the very people who for the last decade, in the San Diego Chargers (who released LaDanian Tomlinson) and the Philadelphia Eagles (who traded away Donovan McNabb).

In terms of blockbuster deals, no trade has been bigger than that of Brandon Marshall, who was sent to the Miami Dolphins after a season in Denver where his on-field success was unfortunately overshadowed by several issues that have somewhat diminished the perception of what this dangerous receiver can consistently do.

But with all of those transactions, where teams have put forth the off-season efforts they hope will improve their organization, the team facing the biggest changes to their team is doing so as a RE-active, rather than PRO-active, measure. The biggest pre-draft moves of the NFL 2010 season were the penalty-induced suspensions and transaction of Santonio Holmes and Ben Roethlisberger.

First comes the story of Santonio Holmes, who has been in legal trouble, it seems, since entering the league in 2006. He has admitted to having sold drugs prior to seriously pursuing football, and since 2006 has been hit with assault charges, domestic violence charges, drug charges, and is once again facing a lawsuit for allegedly throwing a glass at a woman in a bar.

And then there is Ben Roethlisberger, who recently was under investigation for the second time with regard to sexual assault allegations.

You know – Really CLASSY actions!

As a result of their respective misdeeds, both Holmes and Roethlisberger are facing suspensions for the first four to six weeks of the upcoming regular season. This presented a very big problem for the Steelers, because both Holmes and Roethlisberger were integral parts of the Pittsburgh offense.

Holmes, a former first-round draft pick (and the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII) was coming off of one of the best seasons in his career as a Wide Receiver. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger had been developing into one of the most successful quarterbacks in the game today. In fact, the Steelers saw fit to reward Roethlisberger’s success back in 2008 with an eight-year, $102M contract, making him one of the highest paid players in the entire league.

Despite that success from two of the Steelers’ most promising offensive stars, patience with the oft scandalized tandem has finally run out, prompting the team to retool their offense.

Two weeks ago, the Steelers dumped Santonio Holmes and all of his baggage in a trade with the New York Jets, where all they received in return was a fifth-round pick in this weekend’s draft. Clearly, Holmes’ stock had drastically plummeted in the eyes of Pittsburgh and its fans. To value a player with Holmes’ on-field credentials as only being worth a fifth-rounder speaks volumes with regard to their opinion of his character.

Following the announcement of Roethlisberger’s suspension, the Steelers began talks in trying to trade him away as well. To this point, they have not been able to find a suitable partner, but there is a long way to go before the season begins, and a lot of negotiation can take place in the meantime. Don’t forget, also, that even IF Roethlisberger remains on the team, he will not be available to suit up until week SEVEN. That is a lifetime when you consider that the NFL season is only 16 weeks long!

So much for the Steelers’ original plans.

The Rooney family has been very vocal in their displeasure of the situation that Holmes and Roethlisberger put them in, and has taken measures to demonstrate that there is no room within the Steelers organization for thoughtless and reckless behavior, no matter how successful those players may have been on the field. As a Cleveland native you won’t hear me say this often, but I must applaud the Pittsburgh Steelers for having taken such a strong stance in these matters!

The message that the Roger Goodell (now with the support of at least one well-respected owner) is sending is a simple one – being a part of the NFL is a privilege, and must be taken seriously. When a player puts their career at risk by participating in these foolish (and possibly criminal) activities, they put the whole organization at risk. These moves by the Steelers (which may not be over yet) have clearly made the most impact, not only in Pittsburgh, but to the entire NFL.

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