Monday, March 30, 2015

Kangaroo Court: The 2015 Linebackers

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I worked at a liquor store.  It was a rather wonderful experience, because it made my own my youthful adventures with amateur alcoholism seem rather pathetic and harmless, at least in comparison to the more dedicated lushes I would encounter there.  If the livers of those dedicated sots were still functional, I clearly had little reason to worry.  Being able to make flattering comparisons between myself and more damaged individuals is sort of how I get by in this world.

One of the interesting things about serious drunkards, was in the strange peculiarities of their drinking habits.  You'd think that a large 1.75 liter bottle of liquor would be the most efficient way to get the job done when you were consuming massive quantities on a daily basis, but this was rarely the case.  In fact, the "miniature" bottles, as they are called, are the real sign that you might have a problem (or a solution, depending on your point of view).  It's quite possible that you've never bought one of these tiny bottles, but that's just because you haven't fully committed yourself to a proper and sustained binge.  It's quite likely that you lack the discipline and dedication to pursue a mission of self-destruction, and need to step up your game.

Regardless, the beauty of the "miniature" is that it fits pretty much anywhere.  It's the derringer of the debauchee.  You can toss a few into your pocket.  They can be inconspicuously hidden in desk drawers.  Your average glove compartment can hold quite a nice arsenal of them as well.  They are made for the drunk on the go.  They fuel the man who has things he has to get done, even if he might not remember doing them later. 

Now, let me put this into perspective, just a little bit.  I also made daily alcohol deliveries to some of the residents of nearby nursing homes.  One older and somewhat decrepit gentleman, who so far as I could tell never left his reclining chair, would consume a half-gallon of the cheapest vodka that we were legally allowed to sell, every single day.  Over the course of a week, that works out to about 3.5 gallons of liver candy.  Some people might find that a bit disturbing.  Others might find that to be pretty damned impressive.  All I can say is that after a while, you came to admire this sort of drinker.  We really should have built a shrine to this man.  He was like an Olympian, and his disregard for his own well-being was both glorious and absurd.  There he is, sitting in his nursing home.  His children probably haven't visited him in months.  The clock is winding down, and he figures "Screw it.  I'm getting drunk, and I'm going to stay drunk".  I can respect that...umm...sort of.

When you dealt with Miniature Man, you got a very different vibe.  You knew he was sneaking something on the side.  Somewhere, there must be a wife snooping through his drawers, or a boss who was subtly sniffing his breath.  Miniature Man was still trying to appear functional, even if he was clearly somewhat haggard.  He was trying to keep a secret, even if the burst blood vessels in his nose kept squealing on him.  He just wasn't quite ready to baptize himself in booze, and fully dedicate himself to the cause.  It was a tad depressing, selling those tiny bottles to him, and it felt like you were watching somebody try to commit suicide by repeatedly shooting themselves with a BB gun, when you were perfectly willing to hand them a shotgun.

So, what does any of this have to do with linebackers?  Err....hmmm....gimme a second.  I'm sure I can spin some nonsensical connection here.

I suppose, much like we discussed with last year's list of linebackers,  that we are just expressing our preference for football players who approach the game with a lack of restraint, or concern for their own well-being.  I suspect that you kind of have to throw common sense out the window to truly excel as a linebacker, because anyone with an instinct for self-preservation would probably choose another profession.  Still, there are quite a few players who seem to tiptoe around the field, and that greatly diminishes the benefits of the "bread and circuses" distractions that the Lizard People are trying to provide for us.  Timid play diverts our attention from the spectacle before us, and makes us start to contemplate things like "Is the fluoridation of our tap water really an attempt to drug us, and control our minds?"  These are things we really shouldn't be thinking about, if we know what is good for us, and watching players recklessly assault one another helps to keep our mind at peace.

Sleep....sleeeeeeeeeep........sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeep......You want to buy a Ford F-150.....Coors Light is delicious and refreshing......sleeeeeeeep.......... Vote yes for funding a new $1.5 billion stadium in Los Angeles........sleeeep..........

Since the athletic traits of players in this category are measured against all defensive prospects who are under 275#, this skews their results when it comes to the Kangaroo Score, because they don't have the same mass as some of the larger outside pass rushers in this weight class.  Since the goal is to see how many standard deviations away from an average result that a player is, we have to make some mental adjustments here.  For these (generally) lighter prospects, a Kangaroo Score of -0.800, would be the approximate point at which we would find the 'average' player in this group.  Among these lighter prospects, you typically start to see Pro Bowl and All Pro players reaching a score of -0.400, or better.  Just like the Kangaroo Score, the Agility Score (which comes from the short shuttle and 3-cone drill), will also be given in the form of how many standard deviations away from the  average result that a player is.  While the Kangaroo Scores for these players tend to suffer by comparison to heavier players, these lighter prospects generally make up for this by having an advantage when it comes to how nimble they are.  So, we prefer to see Agility Scores that are at least 1.000 standard deviation above average.   Normally, I would expect a player with a higher Kangaroo Score to be a stronger hitter, and more productive on blitzes, while a player with a high Agility Score will probably be better in coverage.  Still, nothing is set in stone, and individuals do vary in how they perform.

This list will continue to be modified and updated, as new data and prospects come to my attention.  The list won't include every player. but instead, just the ones that I find interesting for one reason or another.  Last Updated: 4/26/2015

Eric Kendricks  ILB, UCLA
40 Time: 4.61    Kangaroo Score: -0.136   Agility Score:  0.777
As far as Kendricks's athletic ability is concerned, things seem to check out rather nicely.  He has perfectly acceptable speed.  His Kangaroo Score is significantly above average for a player in this weight class.  His Agility Score might be a bit lower than we would like, but that seems like the product of an irregularity with the results from his 3-cone drill.  Fortunately, this irregularity favors his short shuttle score, which is 1.236 standard deviations above average, and something we highly value in linebackers.  When it comes to his statistical production, he appears to have been a fairly dominant and consistent force over the course of several years, which we love to see.  In the handful of games we watched, he performed just as well as we would have hoped, based on his data.  He seemed rather versatile, and appeared to do well against the run and in coverage.  We really see no reason to object to him.  Among the players generally projected to be taken near the end of the 1st round, we think he is probably one of the better/safer options, and someone we could have some real interest in.  An added bonus is that he was born on February 29th, so his skills should erode at a quarter of the normal rate for an NFL player.

Shaq Thompson OLB/S, Washington
40 Time: 4.64    Kangaroo Score: -1.270   Agility Score:  1.232
He seems to be everyone's favorite 'jack of all trades, master of none' candidate.  As a linebacker prospect, I have my doubts about whether he has the size or power to avoid getting physically abused.  Honestly, we'd probably rule him out as a linebacker, though our opinion of him as a safety is quite a bit more positive.  That requires comparing his traits to a very different set of athletes, which results in very different scores..

Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
40 Time: 4.64    Kangaroo Score: -0.130   Agility Score:  1.182
Eli Harold  OLB, Virginia
40 Time: 4.53    Kangaroo Score:  0.137   Agility Score:  0.856
It's hard to say how Gregory or Harold would do as a LB in a 4-3 or as an ILB in a 3-4, but we just wanted to throw that option out there.  We weren't terribly impressed by either one of them as 3-4 OLB or DE prospects, but their measurable traits suggest that this sort of position switch might be beneficial.  In fact, they would be comparable to some fairly impressive NFL players at this position.  Unfortunately, this requires quite a bit of wild speculation, since what they did in college doesn't really give us a great glimpse of how they would do in this very different sort of role.  It's probably not something I would want to gamble on with a high pick, but if they end up struggling early on in their careers (assuming that they become 3-4 OLBs), a position switch could be interesting.  This possibility sort of makes us think about the similar situation that the Dolphins are in, as they are now contemplating a similar switch with Dion Jordan, whom we also disliked as a pass rushing prospect.

Bernardrick McKinney  OLB, Mississippi St.
40 Time: 4.66    Kangaroo Score:  0.730   Agility Score:  0.282
I have very mixed feelings about McKinney.  On the one hand, his Kangaroo Score suggests significantly above average lower body power and explosiveness.  For a player at his position, I would expect that to translate to being fairly stout against the run, and possibly making him a decent blitzer.  On the other hand, his Agility Score might suggest that he is a bit stiff, and could struggle in coverage.  It's like reading the future in chicken bones.  In the handful of games that I was able to watch, these expectations seemed to be rather accurate, though I also got the impression that he was just a fairly average tackler.  Now, if somebody wanted to use him as a thumping inside linebacker in a 3-4, who you might pull off the field in obvious passing situations, I guess I could see him doing a decent job in that role.  If he is going to be selected in the 2nd round, as many seem to suggest, I just think the value of a player like this might be a bit debatable for that sort of investment.

Stephone Anthony   ILB, Clemson
40 Time: 4.56    Kangaroo Score:  0.162   Agility Score:  1.216
It's hard to criticize Anthony's athletic ability.  He's pretty much an ideal physical specimen.  As far as his actual production goes, he's a bit more peculiar.  Compared to most MLBs, he had a rather high number of eye catching plays (TFLs, FFs, sacks, etc), but a surprisingly low tackle count.  The role that his Clemson teammates had in helping to inflate some of his stats is hard to judge, though it's also impossible to discount.  The defense did appear to be rather talented as a whole.  When we watched him play, we actually thought he looked rather good, though we sometimes questioned the decisions he made.  Compared to Eric Kendricks, Anthony seems like a potentially higher reward type of player, but also a potentially higher risk.  If he continues to be ranked as a 2nd round pick, we'd probably view that as an acceptable price for someone like him.

Hau'oli Kikaha   OLB, Washington
40 Time: 4.93    Kangaroo Score:  -0.462   Agility Score:  0.101
This was a player who we were very curious to learn about, but after his pro day we've lost a lot of interest.  He doesn't seem to quite fit the ideal mold for an outside pass rusher, but he also doesn't seem to be fast enough, or agile enough, to be exciting as a more conventional linebacker.  Since people seem to be projecting that he will be a selection in the 2nd or 3rd round, that would be significantly more costly than what we would consider to be reasonable.

Paul Dawson  ILB, TCU
40 Time: 4.75    Kangaroo Score:  -1.890*   Agility Score:  0.540*
We're not fans of the "He's a football player, not a track star" argument.  Why not say,"I'm not an athlete, but I play one in football games."  In an attempt to be generous, we're listing Dawson's results based on his pro day.  While people may point to a player like Vontaze Burfict, as an example of someone who tested poorly but seems to have done well in the NFL, we view that as a rather large exception to the rules.  Also, similar to Burfict, some people seem to be expressing concerns with Dawson's character.  At least when the Bengal's picked up Burfict as an UDFA, the balance of risk versus reward was strongly tilted in their favor.  They had nothing to lose.  We have to admit that we won't be watching any of Dawson's games, even though we do respect his statistical production, because it would just be a waste of our time.  Even if we thought he looked like a good player, this just isn't the sort of gamble we are looking to pursue.

Kwon Alexander   OLB, LSU
40 Time: 4.55    Kangaroo Score:  -0.792   Agility Score:  0.610
Well, if we can trust Rod Tidwell, then "it's all about the kwon".  So he has that going for him.  Honestly, we have minimal interest in Alexander as a linebacker prospect.  His athletic ability is just on the fringe of what we would consider.  His statistical production is passable, but not very interesting.  Seeing as he frequently seems to be listed as a 3rd round prospect, there is very little that would make us want to pay that price.  On the other hand, his physical traits and smaller size (about 6'0.5" and 227 pounds), do make him a fairly respectable fit for the strong safety position.  Overall, he didn't make much of a positive impression on us as a linebacker.

Denzel Perryman   ILB, Miami
40 Time: 4.78    Kangaroo Score:  -1.319   Agility Score:  ?
We're still waiting for data from Perryman's pro day, so we haven't completely made up our minds about him   Nonetheless, we already have some concerns about his somewhat mediocre speed, and below average lower body power.  It's causing us to lean strongly towards the idea that Perryman should only go to a 4-3 team, with a rather stout defensive line to protect him.  While we liked his statistical production, and thought he generally looked fairly respectable in the games we watched, we currently would have a hard time accepting the 2nd round grade that many people seem to have given to him. 

Ben Heeney   ILB, Kansas
40 Time: 4.59    Kangaroo Score:  -0.975   Agility Score:  2.050 
If you put him in a colander, he would probably come running out the other end.  At least that is the sort of fluidity that the computer feels Heeney has based on his Agility Score.  While we like his athletic ability, we still would have some concerns about his fairly mediocre Kangaroo Score.  This potential lack of power might require that he play behind a fairly solid defensive line.  Despite that concern, we thought he was one of the more enjoyable linebacker prospects that we have watched so far.  In many ways, both in terms of athletic ability on the field play, he reminded us of Paul Worrilow, and no, it's not just because they suffer from the same terrible birth defect.  While both players have exceptional agility, that we would normally associate with coverage linebackers, this doesn't seem to be the real area of strength for either player.  Instead, they both seem to be roving tackling machines, who do better against the run.  We would be rather interested in acquiring Heeney for Team Kangaroo if he is still be available in the 3rd or 4th round.

Jordan Hicks   OLB, Texas
40 Time: 4.68    Kangaroo Score:  0.061   Agility Score:  1.442 
At least on paper, this is a prospect I would normally get excited about.  Hicks has fairly ideal athletic traits for a linebacker.  His statistical production in college, at least in his senior year, also looks rather impressive.  Unfortunately, when we watched him play, the only description that popped into my head was 'bozo'.  That seems to happen a lot with players from Texas.  We also have to consider the fact that Hicks has missed a rather significant amount of playing time due to injuries.  In 2012, he missed time with a hip injury.  In 2013,  it was his achilles tendon.  Somebody clearly doesn't know how to "rub some dirt on it".  When I look around, I seem to see him projected as a mid round pick.  I guess that there are worse prospects, but the 5th or 6th round is about as high as I could see taking him, and even then I wouldn't be thrilled with doing so.

Mike Hull   OLB, Penn State
40 Time: 4.68    Kangaroo Score:  -1.636   Agility Score:  1.038
Well, the numbers would suggest that Hull is a reasonably nimble linebacker, with a possibly serious shortage of power.  As far as I can tell, based on watching him play, he seems to fit that description.  I wouldn't say that he looked bad, because he definitely had his positive moments, but I do think this guy is probably better suited to playing in a 4-3, or at least going to a team with a serious defensive line to protect him.  Even then I suspect I wouldn't want to see him become a starter, though he could be okay for depth.  One other drawback is that he will already be turning 24 in May, and has really only had one college season with significant production.  I probably wouldn't pursue him, but I could understand why someone might take him somewhere late in the draft.

Bryce Hager   ILB, Baylor
40 Time: 4.6    Kangaroo Score:  -0.802   Agility Score:  0.148 
I'm starting to wonder if the defensive players at Baylor have their statistical production inflated, in a similar manner to what we normally see with their offensive players.  Despite a fairly impressive stat sheet, I don't really see much here that would make me interested in pursuing Hager.  There are probably worse prospects than Hager, but I just don't get the sense that he possesses much upside.

Jake Ryan  OLB, Michigan
40 Time: 4.65    Kangaroo Score:  -0.493   Agility Score:  0.668 
Oh, I don't know.  Ryan seems like a fairly respectable and serviceable athlete.  I could even make an argument for boosting his Agility Score a tad, based on some irregularities in his results.  I sometimes questioned his decision making and range, but as a straight ahead hitter, and occasional blitzer, he seemed fairly good.  In what I suspect is a relatively mediocre draft class, I could see him as one of the more interesting late round linebackers, though I probably wouldn't bet on stardom.  People seem to be projecting that he will get selected somewhere around the 5th round, and that sounds about right to me.

Damien Wilson   ILB, Minnesota
40 Time: 4.77    Kangaroo Score:  0.091   Agility Score:  0.476 
In Damien Wilson's case, I have to admit that we are missing a fair amount of data that we would like to have.  We also weren't able to watch him play very much, so we sort of  have to base our hunches off of his numbers.  Athletically, he should be a fairly reasonable prospect.  His speed is a bit pedestrian, but acceptable.  He should have good lower body power and explosiveness.  As far as his agility is concerned, he wasn't amazing, though his short shuttle results were very promising.  He also appears to have been fairly productive in his final college season.  The main reason to be interested in Wilson is that he generally isn't projected to be drafted at all.  So, a team could probably bring him in as an UDFA.  If so, he has enough potential to be interesting, but a team wouldn't be taking any real risks.  That's not a bad situation to be in.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cedric Thompson: Shopping For A Wedding Ring

I don't see any likely reason to suspect that my family is going to stumble into great wealth in the near future.  We are a rather humble group, with no exceptional traits that are likely to steer a fortune in our direction.  It seems that we are far more likely to ride someone else's coattails to the easy life.  With that in mind, I'm trying to get my sister to consider marrying Minnesota safety Cedric Thompson, whom I've already heaped some praise upon.  I have to admit that I've grown a bit infatuated with him as a draft prospect, and I'm sure my sister will learn to love him as well.

Thompson seems like a rather ideal prospect for this ploy.  He's currently projected to be no more than a late round draft pick, though it's even possible that he won't be selected at all.  So, he's probably a fairly humble guy, and might be willing to settle for someone like my sister.  I mean, let's face it, she's not going to be attracting any 1st round picks.  We have to aim a bit lower, and catch a guy before he really knows that he can do much better.  With that said, I really see no reason to think that Thompson isn't a superior prospect to someone like Landon Collins, who essentially plays the same position and is generally expected to be taken somewhere at the top of the draft.  My sister would sort of have to play the long game here, possibly waiting for Thompson's second NFL contract, but I'm willing to be patient.

Despite some differences in their physical builds, Thompson generally matches or surpasses Collins in most of the areas that probably matter.  When it comes to speed, Collins ran a 4.53 40 time, compared to Thompson's 4.46 (though some have suggested that his times were significantly better).  Collins' Kangaroo Score (our measure of lower body power), was an impressive 1.650, but despite being a bit smaller Thompson put up an equally impressive 1.605.  Unreliable and superficial speculation about the benefits of a player's size seem to be a possible illusion in this case.   Then we come to the subject of their nimbly-toed gracefulness, where Collins produced a wretched -1.738 Agility Score, compared to Thompson's much improved -0.462 (which is within the range we like to see for a strong safety).  Thompson should, based on the numbers, be capable of outperforming Collins in coverage.  Really, I see no area in which Collins is a better physical specimen to attach my family's financial hopes and dreams to.

Still, there seems to be a surprising lack of interest in Thompson, and I have to worry about whether he will be given much of an opportunity.  My future of sipping margaritas by the side of the pool really hinges on the possibility that he will get a legitimate chance to compete.  Well, there's that, and hoping my sister doesn't start packing on the pounds, thereby ruining this solid business plan.  So, we have to ask, can Cedric Thompson actually play, or is he just a physically gifted athlete?  Well, let's take a quick look.

As far as potential suitors go, I really see little reason to worry here.  In the games I have watched, Thompson seemed much more consistent at delivering the 'Wow' factor that I am hoping to find in a future groom/drinking buddy.  Collins, on the other hand, seemed to specialize in making me say 'Mehh'.  I may not be a great brother, but even I won't pimp my sister out to a prospect as uninspiring as Collins.

In the end, I have to suspect Thompson can make me my sister quite happy.  The only thing that confuses me, is why people believe that Landon Collins is some sort of special prospect, and Thompson is somebody that can be casually ignored.  If somebody wants to clarify this for me, I'm interested in hearing your arguments.  Then again, the possibility that the world is just ignorant of the brilliance of this 'get rich quick scheme' that I have concocted is the very reason why I may one day be living in the lap of luxury.  Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut about this, until we've got Thompson locked in as a future family member?  I guess I just have to convince my sister of the benefits of this plan, and maybe tart her up a bit.  Don't worry, I'll send wedding invitations to all of you, if this ingenious plot ends up working.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Kangaroo Court: The 2015 Defensive Backs

I'm generally a believer in the idea that the best way to convey a point is through hyperbole, and outright bullshit.  Making a well thought out, and rational argument generally doesn't elicit much interest or attention.  The best debates seem to start with one person making a truly idiotic statement.  So, please allow me to behave like a moron for a moment.

Defensive backs, for the most part, are parasites.  They are blood sucking leeches feeding on the strong healthy body of a defenses' front seven.  Interceptions are superficial flash, and relatively rare events that draw too much attention.  Cornerbacks are overpriced prancing gazelles and ninnies.

If J.J. Watt disrupts an offensive play (producing a sack, or a tackle for a loss, etc.), that's clearly a good thing, and people will probably agree that he beat his opponent.  What if he appears to accomplish nothing, but it took two offensive linemen to stop him?  Well, I think we could say that he still won.  He forced the opposing team to assign more of their resources towards dealing with him, and you can only do that to so many players before you simply lose the game.  Even if he appears to accomplish nothing, Watt has made the job of his fellow linemen that much easier.

Can a defensive back ever accomplish that sort of victory?  Probably not.  At best, they can only occupy the efforts and attention of the one receiver they are matched up against.  When they actually have to confront a truly superior receiver, say Calvin Johnson, it's quite likely they are gong to get significant help from a safety as well, even if they are one of the league's better corners.  The corner's value dwindles and become more debatable.

Of course, it's not just the allocation of on the field resources that can determine whether a play is won or lost, from an efficiency perspective.  Let's think about Byron Maxwell, the Eagles newly acquired cornerback.  For the moment, we'll ignore the possibility that he might have some physical shortcomings that could limit his ability to be significantly better than Cary Williams (who sucks!), whom he replaces at a higher annual cost.  Maxwell is scheduled to be paid approximately $10.5 million per season, for the next five years.  Despite being a 27 year old cornerback, who has only started a total of 17 games in his career, he is going to be paid more than every wide receiver in the NFC East, except for Dez Bryant, who is operating on a franchise tag.  In fact, at least as far as I can tell, there are only 7 wide receivers in the entire NFL, who have an average annual salary that is greater than what Byron Maxwell will receive.  The Eagles are spending more to prevent an outcome from occurring, than their opponents are spending to create an outcome.  If your wife was divorcing you (you had it coming), and threatened to take $7 million of your hard earned dollars (I'm assuming that you smuggle blood diamonds), would you pay a hit man $10 million to make her disappear?  Yes, I realize that this is a stupid comparison, but I still have to question the efficiency of certain types of spending.

Since I tend to write about football from the perspective of avoiding risks, I kind of have an ingrained defensive mind-set.  I'll also acknowledge that there are some truly exceptional defensive backs out there, though they are rare.  Despite being in a more reactive position, some of these players can tilt the outcomes of games more than you might normally expect.  Unfortunately, I suspect that in the nuclear arms race of football, the stockpile of serviceable but not spectacular cornerbacks makes disarmament seem like an appealing option.  Even with a player like Darrelle Revis, who I would agree is truly exceptional, the question of efficient team spending seems unavoidable.  At an average annual salary of $14 million, how often is he going to face an opponent who is actually worthy of his skills, let alone worthy of the financial investment the team has made in him?  Maybe twice a year? 

Okay, so maybe I only half believe this nonsense I've just spouted.  Still, it is something that rattles around in my brain from time to time.  It's not like I can really spend my entire day thinking about the Kentucky meat shower, the Aokigahara suicide forest, or the Hello Kitty murder (seriously, they made a movie based on this, which was titled There Is A Secret In My Soup).  A man can't live on deranged and possibly psychopathic interests alone.

Now, let's kick around some thoughts about this year's group of defensive back draft prospects, much as we did last year.

Besides the player's Agility Score, I will also list their 2nd Gear score, and their average number of passes defended in their last two years in college.  Like the hopefully discrete ladies at the massage parlor, I think a high quality DB should probably be grabbing balls with some frequency.  For safety prospects, my expectations for the Agility Score will go down a bit, but I hope to see an increase in their Kangaroo Score (our measure of lower body power), which is also given in the form of how many standard deviations that a player is away from the average result for someone in their position group.

Let the guessing continue...

This list will continue to be modified and updated as new data, and additional prospects, come to my attention.  Not every prospect will be included here, but instead, just the ones that I find interesting for one reason or another.  Updated: 4/22/15

Trae Waynes  CB, Michigan State  Ht:  6'  Wt.: 186
40 time: 4.32  2nd Gear:  0.21   Agility Score:  -1.141   Avg. PD:  9.5
People like to make fun of Al Davis' love of a great 40 time, but he isn't the only person suffering from this disease.  Because of that, I really don't have to worry about Trae Waynes.  I know that some team will select him, well before Team Kangaroo is on the clock.  While his Agility Score is worrisome, maybe we should consider what his result would be based on his pro day.  With that data, his result comes out to -0.455, which still isn't great, but at least isn't horrifically bad.  Maybe this lack of advanced nimble-osity has something to do with the way that Waynes is constantly grabbing at his opponents.  Personally, I didn't think Waynes looked terrible, but I think his upside is probably similar to someone like Johnathan Joesph, who he has a lot in common with.  Do I think Waynes' potential ceiling truly matches his projected draft status?  I'd have a hard time making that wager, so I'd probably abstain, and let someone else take the gamble.

Landon Collins  SS, Alabama   Ht:  6'  Wt.: 228
40 time: 4.53  2nd Gear:  0.04   Agility Score:  -1.738   Avg. PD:  9
At some point, I'm sure I'll get tired of expressing my doubts about players from Alabama...but not today.  With strong safety prospects, I am normally much less concerned with exceptional Agility Scores, though Collins' result would still make me worry quite a bit.  On the other hand, I do expect a strong safety to make up for this with exceptional power, which his 1.650 Kangaroo Score suggests he does possess.  As far as I can tell, based on the little I have seen of Collins, these numbers line up nicely with what he appears to be.  He seems to be an above average hitter, who probably has below average coverage skills.  To be fair to him, he does seem to play a fairly smart game, and not put himself into positions where his physical shortcomings are exploited as often as they could be.  His statistical production was generally above average, in most areas, so I guess that is one point in his favor.  While I don't find him terribly interesting as a safety prospect, I do wonder if converting him to the linebacker position might work.  He basically plays like one anyway, so it might be worth a shot.  It's highly frustrating to me that Collins will probably get on the field very early in his career, accumulate some stats and therefore some acclaim, and yet the player that I think may be this year's best strong safety prospect might not get drafted at all.

Kevin Johnson  CB, Wake Forest   Ht:  6'0.25"  Wt.: 188
40 time: 4.52  2nd Gear:  0.08   Agility Score:  1.251   Avg. PD:  11
Because of his excellent agility, the computer is sort of prodding us to take Johnson seriously.  Some of his other results also point towards Johnson having rather good lower body power and explosiveness, despite his Kate Moss-like frame.  We only had two fairly minor concerns.  He has fairly mediocre timed speed, though a safety can help with some of that.  He also has fairly small hands (8.375"), which might explain the high numbers of passes he broke up, relative to his number of interceptions.  We might have some minor quibbles and concerns about Johnson, but in the end we still like him.  Among the cornerbacks who are generally considered to be the top 3 prospects (Waynes, Johnson and Peters), he is likely the one that we feel most comfortable with, though he still might not be the best one in the draft.  The main concern we had, based on watching him play, is that he sometimes allowed more space to opposing receivers than we might want to see.  Whether this is a product of his potentially less than ideal speed, is difficult to say.  When he plays up on the line, I felt he looked vastly better.  If he was available in the 2nd round, we would definitely consider him, though it sounds like he will be taken before then.

Marcus Peters  CB, Washington   Ht:  5'11.5"  Wt.: 197
40 time: 4.53  2nd Gear:  0.07   Agility Score:  -0.128   Avg. PD:  12
We tend to be a bit forgiving of players who were supposedly idiots in college (people in glass houses), so we'll just ignore the fact that he was kicked off his team.  For the most part, there is little about Peters' physical traits which I can complain about.  He is basically the definition of an average athlete, compared to other corners.  That's neither a good nor a bad thing.  He's like oatmeal.  Bland, but perfectly capable of keeping you alive.  The only potentially alarming result he had was with his 10-yard splits, where he consistently failed to crack the 1.60 second barrier.  That does bother me a bit.  Outside of the league's larger or more powerful corners, who can get by with simply mauling their opponents, it is quite unusual to see a corner posting that sort of result, and might point to a lack of quickness.  I wouldn't be shocked if Peters turns out to be an okay corner, but I don't see any evidence to support the idea that he is exceptional.  While he makes some flashy plays due to his aggressiveness and willingness to gamble, I really have to wonder if his athleticism will allow him to consistently cover some of the league's better receivers.  Some reasonable expectation of an exceptional outcome from a potential 1st round pick doesn't strike me as an unreasonable demand, so I would have some serious concerns about picking Peters.

Shaq Thompson, S, Washington   Ht:  6"  Wt.: 228
40 time: 4.64  2nd Gear:  0.08   Agility Score:  0.097   Avg. PD:  5
Well, we've considered the possibility of Thompson playing linebacker, and decided that was something we didn't want to do.  As a safety, he strikes us as a much more interesting prospect.  His Kangaroo Score of 1.202 is within the range of what we want to see in a strong safety.  His Agility Score would put him into consideration for either safety position.  Thompson's relatively poor timed speed would probably bounce him out of serious consideration as a free safety.  His struggles with breaking the 1.70 second barrier in the 10-yard split, does cause us some concerns, as that is normally a fairly easy mark to hit for defensive backs.  Okay, so we're stuck with considering him as a strong safety.  Thompson's statistical production was relatively respectable, and he looked like a reasonable (but not awe inspiring) player in the games we watched.  Really, I would tend to suspect that he will turn out to be better than the more highly touted Landon Collins, though that might be damning him with faint praise.  Unfortunately, people seem to be projecting that Thompson could be selected in the late 1st to early 2nd round, which is a bit too rich for our blood.  I just don't value the strong safety position enough for that sort of investment.

P.J. Williams  CB, Florida St.   Ht:  6"  Wt.: 194
40 time: 4.57  2nd Gear:  -0.02   Agility Score:  -0.814   Avg. PD:  10.5
Okey-dokey.  Unimpressive speed?  Check.  Woefully poor agility?  Check.  Failure to make much of a positive impression on us?  Yep, you can check that box as well.  What he does have going for him is some significantly above average power for a corner, with his 0.986 Kangaroo Score, and he seems rather willing to hit people.  I have no doubt that there are many receivers that Williams can pummel into submission, but I would worry about how he will deal with some of the better athletes he will face in the NFL.  He strikes me as someone who is probably better suited to playing safety, though Seattle seems infatuated with using this type of player as a corner.

Quinten Rollins  CB, Miami (Ohio)   Ht:  5'11"  Wt.: 195
40 time: 4.58  2nd Gear:  0.03   Agility Score:  -0.864   Avg. PD:  7*
Let's see here.  He only played one year of college football.  He has poor timed speed.  His results suggest rather sub-par agility.  I also see no real evidence of explosiveness or lower body power in his Kangaroo Score.  So, of course he is being projected as a 2nd round pick.  I think I should just go ahead and get drunk at this point, since that seems to be what everyone else is doing.  If he is selected before the 5th round, I would be shocked.

Jalen Collins  CB, LSU    Ht:  6'1.5"  Wt.: 203
40 time: 4.43  2nd Gear:  0.07   Agility Score:  -0.002   Avg. PD:  6
I really have to wonder if Collins' somewhat above average size is inflating his draft stock more than it really should.  These sorts of size/speed prospects often go a couple of rounds ahead of where they might deserve to be selected.  I suspect NFL scouts are also drawn to large breasted women (no judgments, I swear!).  While there are some inconsistencies hidden within his Agility Score, his overall results are acceptably average.  For a corner of his size, his Kangaroo Score of 0.527 is only moderately impressive, though he struck me as a tad disinclined to get physical with people.  This might be related to why he has been avoiding doing the bench press.  Finally, we have his somewhat below average statistical production.  There's nothing that is unforgivably terrible about Collins results, and I wouldn't be surprised by either a positive or negative outcome, but I just didn't find him to be a terribly interesting player.  If he ends up getting selected as high as some people suggest, he might be more of a roll of the dice than we feel comfortable with.

Byron Jones  CB/S, Connecticut    Ht:  6'1"  Wt.:199
40 time: ?  2nd Gear:  ?   Agility Score:  1.104   Avg. PD:  8.5
I'm going to need a bib for all of this drool.  It's entirely possible that I am an idiot who is getting swept up in the lunacy surrounding Jones' outrageous combine results.  Oh yes, it's a very distinct possibility.  The problem is that so far his data is allowing him to fit into a very rare category of athlete, that has produced players who became extremely unusual cornerbacks.  Comparisons to players like Champ Bailey and Darrelle Revis really aren't entirely unreasonable.  Okay, it's a little unreasonable.  Of course, things don't always work out that way.  A player like Carlos Rogers, as well as a small handful of other less accomplished players also fell into this group.  Still, the potential here is ridiculous.  Athletically, Jones could theoretically be well suited for any position in the secondary, as his insane 2.839 Kangaroo Score suggests some ridiculous lower body power.  Unfortunately, in the very small sample of his games that I was able to look at, he didn't seem inclined to be a physically punishing blunt instrument.  On the other hand, he did look surprisingly natural as a corner in 2014, and his enormous 10" hands made intercepting the ball appear to be effortless.  Still, I do have some concerns.  His level of competition was rather mediocre, and he faced very few quality receivers.  This might be somewhat counterbalanced by how poor Connecticut's pass rush was, which did him no favors.  He's also relatively inexperienced, so his impact may not be immediate, if it ever occurs at all.  It also seems like the potential for acquiring him cheaply has largely evaporated, as his projected draft position keeps rising.  If he was available in the 2nd round, I'd probably have to consider taking him, though I don't think his resume entirely merits it. 

Steven Nelson  CB, Oregon State   Ht:  5'10"  Wt.: 197
40 time: 4.49  2nd Gear:  0.08   Agility Score:  0.408   Avg. PD:  12
He doesn't strike me as a prospect who will terrify opponents, but I suppose he is serviceable.  He is a slightly above average athlete, and appears to have good hands, and a fair bit of scrappiness.  A team could probably do a lot worse, but I wouldn't say he is a rare commodity.  If he is taken somewhere in the middle of the draft, I guess that wouldn't be too bad.

D'Joun Smith  CB, Florida Atlantic   Ht:  5'10"  Wt.: 187
40 time: 4.46  2nd Gear:  0.10   Agility Score:  -0.444   Avg. PD:  14.5
I like to imagine that he is the heir to a large mustard empire.  That's just me though.  Maybe we can get people to start referring to him as Colonel Mustard.  I'd really enjoy that.  Regardless, does everybody else remember when Miami would routinely have players selected in the 1st round, and schools like Florida Atlantic and Central Florida were just afterthoughts?  Then, Miami decided to have standards about the sorts of idiots and criminals that they would allow into their school, and the quality of their team declined, and these other schools rose up from out of nowhere to become somewhat relevant.  Hmm, I wonder where all the idiots and criminals wound up?  Now, I'm not saying that Colonel Mustard is a dimwit or on any most wanted list, but I suspect he was surrounded by a lot of teammates who might fit that description.  It's just a theory.  Either way, D'joun is, for better or for worse, sort of like the majority of the corners in the league.  They might as well sell guys like this in six packs.

Damarious Randall  FS, Arizona St.   Ht:  5'10.75"  Wt.:196
40 time: 4.47  2nd Gear:  0.09   Agility Score:  0.533   Avg. PD:  7.5
He's not terribly big, and his Kangaroo Score of 0.158 isn't very impressive for a safety prospect.  Athletically, he hovers somewhere in between what I would expect to see in a free safety and a cornerback.  Still, he does have reasonably good speed, and his statistical production was above average.  In many ways, Randall reminds me of a less impressive version of last year's prospect Jimmy Ward, whom we also had some questions about where he fit best.  Maybe playing as a team's nickelback might be a good compromise?  Either way, we might like him a tad bit more than his numbers would suggest was wise, and might consider selecting him if he was still around in the 4th round, which is much lower than I generally see him projected to be taken.

Alex Carter  CB, Stanford    Ht:  6'  Wt.: 196
40 time: 4.52  2nd Gear:  0.08   Agility Score:  -0.018   Avg. PD:  9
Among the middle tier, somewhat less heralded cornerback prospects, I think Carter could be one of the more interesting players.  The only catch is, I wouldn't have him playing corner.  I'd move him to the free safety position.  Based upon his timed speed, his average agility, and his above average Kangaroo Score (which was 0.503, though it would be higher if we just looked at his results from the vertical jump), he should be a fairly ideal athlete for that position.  Considering the poor collection of actual free safety prospects that are in this draft class, I think the option of converting corners might be considered a bit more strongly than it normally is.

Josh Shaw  CB/S, USC    Ht:  6'0.5"  Wt.:201
40 time: 4.44  2nd Gear:  0.10   Agility Score:  -0.089   Avg. PD:  9.5
If you aren't discouraged by the possibility that Shaw is probably a moron, he could be a tolerable mid-round pick.  Just remember, at any moment he could injure himself by jumping out of a window, and later claim that he was trying to stop a terrorist attack.  He's got some Jack Bauer in him.  Then again, the NFL and MENSA don't have a lot of overlap in their memberships.  When it comes to his athletic ability, Shaw is a fairly ideal fit to continue playing either safety position.  Besides his speed, and moderate agility, his Kangaroo Score of 0.971 also suggests he has significant lower body power and explosiveness.  As a corner, I think he is significantly less uninteresting.  While he makes an occasional play that makes me say "Wow, the idiot did a good job there!", he also seemed to disappear for long stretches, or occasionally screw up.  Personally, I thought his former teammate T.J. McDonald was a much better and more consistent prospect.  If his reputation as an imbecile impacted his draft status enough to drop him to the 5th round, I might have some moderate interest in him.  It always pays to have a few morons around, just to boost your self esteem.

Jaquiski Tartt  S, Samford   Ht:  6'1.25"  Wt.:221
40 time: 4.54  2nd Gear:  0.08   Agility Score:  -0.723   Avg. PD:  6
We're still trying to wrap our heads around this guy.  It's a bit unusual for a player from his level of competition to become a talked about prospect, and based on the limited number of games we have seen we don't get the hype.  He seems to have the lower body power to be a strong safety, with a 1.563 Kangaroo Score, and his mediocre agility and speed would be adequate for that role.  He just didn't strike us as a very interesting player.  Considering the low level of competition he faced, we would have expected him to be much more dominant than he appeared top be.

Derron Smith  FS, Fresno St.    Ht:  5'10"  Wt.:200
40 time: ?  2nd Gear:  ?   Agility Score:  ?   Avg. PD:  10.5
Still waiting for data.

Gerod Holliman  FS, Louisville   Ht:  6'  Wt.:215
40 time: 4.62  2nd Gear:  -0.04   Agility Score:  -0.997   Avg. PD:  10
A lot of fuss is going to be made of his 14 interceptions in 2014, but outside of that possible statistical anomaly his results weren't terribly amazing.  Beyond his poor Agility Score, his -0.926 Kangaroo Score was also a rather horrific result for a safety.  Drafting Holliman seems like a very bad idea to me.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu  CB, Oregon   Ht:  5'9"  Wt.:192
40 time: ?  2nd Gear:  ?   Agility Score:  ?   Avg. PD:  10
Because of the knee injury he is dealing with, it seems unlikely that we will ever get the data that we crave.  Still, he is somebody that we're going to try to look into at some point.  

Eric Rowe CB/S, Utah    Ht:  6'0.5"  Wt.:205
40 time: 4.45  2nd Gear:  0.11   Agility Score:  1.202   Avg. PD:  10.5
On paper, Eric Rowe is probably one of the most ideal cornerback prospects in the entire draft, at least based on his athletic ability.  He has size, speed, agility and even power (a 1.164 Kangaroo Score).  Still, for some reason, my nipples only seem to get lukewarm when I watch him play.  Maybe it is his inconsistent backpedal, but he still looks like a safety who is being forced to play cornerback.  Of course, he used to be a safety, so that shouldn't be surprising, and his athletic traits suggest he could be an excellent fit for that position as well.  I'm also annoyed at the relatively low number of turnovers that he was responsible for, though I guess I can live with that.  On the other hand, Rowe seems like a fairly physical player, and his positional versatility has to be seen as a bonus.  If he was still available in the 3rd round, I think I'd be obligated to pick him.  I wouldn't be surprised if some team chose him in the 2nd round though, because of his somewhat rare physical potential.  I'd probably have a hard time feeling comfortable with that sort of a decision, though I might end up needing to consider it.

Ibraheim Campbell, SS, Northwesterm
40 time: 4.52  2nd Gear:  0.08   Agility Score:  0.156   Avg. PD:  7.5
While we generally see him listed as a strong safety, and he plays like a strong safety, I wonder if he would be better suited to becoming a free safety.  His agility seems ideal for this, and he appears to possess good hands for making the interception.  Oddly, his 0.019 Kangaroo Score is well below what I would normally expect to see in a strong safety.  He's a bit of an odd duck.  He didn't blow my mind, but he looked like a smart and solid player.

Clayton Geathers SS, UCF   Ht:  6'1.5"  Wt.:215
40 time: 4.55  2nd Gear:  0.03   Agility Score:  -1.106   Avg. PD:  11
Kurtis Drummond SS, Michiigan St.   Ht:  6'0.5"  Wt.:208
40 time: 4.65  2nd Gear:  -0.01   Agility Score:  -1.010   Avg. PD:  12.5
I thought I would just lump these two guys together, since I feel they have a lot in common.  Really, we're just including these players as a point of comparison to the much more costly acquisition of Landon Collins.  Geathers and Clayton have very similar Agility Score, both of which are superior to Collins' result.  Both have at least acceptable speed for a safety, similar to Collins.  Both have good lower body power, with Kangaroo Scores of 1.370 for Geathers, and 1.078 for Drummond, which are slightly lower than Collins, but still ideal results for a strong safety.  When it comes to statistical production, they both turned in good results, though there were some noticeable difference.  While Drummond created more turnovers, Geathers was more of a tackling machine.  In general, I'd say their stats reflected what I saw in the few games that I watched for each player.  Drummond seemed like more of a gambler, while Geathers seemed like more of a conservative and responsible 'man his position' type of guy.  It could come down to a matter of personal preference as to which player suits your tastes.  Either way, I'm not sure that their is a huge gulf between them.  The interesting question to me, is what happens if you watch both of these players, who are generally projected to be late round picks, and then compare them to Landon Collins.  I have a hard time seeing how the more highly rated Collins has any clear edge over either Drummond or Geathers.  Personally, I wouldn't be shocked if both players are better than Collins is.  I wouldn't go so far as to predict stardom for Drummond or Geathers, but I wouldn't be surprised if they turn out to be at least serviceable strong safeties, which wouldn't be a terrible outcome for players generally expected to be selected in the 4th or 5th round.  We still haven't gotten to my favorite safety prospect though (the tension builds!).

JaCorey Shepherd  CB, Kansas   Ht:  5'11"  Wt.:199
40 time: ?  2nd Gear:  ?   Agility Score:  ?   Avg. PD:  17
Still waiting for data.

Adrian Amos  S, Penn State   Ht:  6'0.5"  Wt.: 218
40 time: 4.56  2nd Gear:  0.04   Agility Score:  0.018   Avg. PD:  8
Athletically, he seems like someone who should probably be able to play either safety position.  He has at least adequate agility to play free safety, and the lower body power of a strong safety (1.253 Kangaroo Score).  Based on his statistical production, and the little bit I have seen of him, nothing truly exceptional leapt out at me.  Still, he is a moderately interesting prospect.  I should probably ignore what my lying eyes have to say, and maybe take a shot at him if he is available later in the draft.

Craig Mager  CB, Texas St.   Ht:  5'11.5"  Wt.: 201
40 time: 4.44  2nd Gear:  0.10   Agility Score:  0.533   Avg. PD:  11
Mager strikes me as a very interesting player, at least from the perspective of value.  Does he fit the ideal athletic mold for a corner?  Not exactly, but he's still quite respectable athletically, and much better than many of the bozos who will undoubtedly be selected ahead of him.  The computer also suggests that he has surprising lower body power for a corner, with a 1.045 Kangaroo Score.  As far as I can tell, he's perfectly willing to use that power too.  Mager seems quite willing to lay a m*th*rf*ck*r out.  He actually could be a very interesting safety, though I wouldn't rush to bump him out of the corner position.  Yes, he sometimes makes stupid mistakes.  Yes, his level of competition wasn't so great.  But he is cheap.  Oh, and he's also cheap.  If that doesn't sway you, then I should mention that he will be cheap.  To some extent I think people vastly underestimate how bad most of the league's corners probably are.  All I ask of Mager is that he perform at a reasonably competent level, and I will be quite happy.  Hell, if he gets drafted in the 6th round, as some seem to expect, you could have 20 Mager's for the price of one Byron Maxwell.  I'll take that deal any day of the week.

Justin Coleman  CB, Tennessee   Ht:  5'11"  Wt.: 185
40 time: 4.53  2nd Gear:  0.01   Agility Score:  1.394   Avg. PD:  8.5
Coleman probably has some limitations because of his size and speed, but he still strikes me as one of the better bargains in this draft class.  He may not be a physically overpowering monster, but he does seem to have a fair bit of scrappiness to him.  It's hard for me to imagine that he wouldn't be able to hold on as a team's 3rd or 4th cornerback, at the very least.  Since it's generally expected that he won't be taken until the end of the draft, I'd say there is good value here, and might start to look at him somewhere around the 5th round.

Cedric Thompson SS, Minnesota   Ht:  5'11.5"  Wt.: 211 
40 time: 4.46  2nd Gear:  0.10   Agility Score:  -0.462   Avg. PD:  2.5
Okay, we've now arrived at the player who may be my favorite safety prospect in the entire draft.  While he is sometimes listed as a free safety, I really think it's pretty obvious he is really more of a strong safety.  While his Agility Score, might not appear to be exceptional, it is almost precisely where I start to take strong safety prospects very seriously.  For a free safety, it would be a bit mehhh.  Fortunately, his excellent 1.605 Kangaroo Score, suggests that Thompson does have the sort of lower body power play this role as the hitter of a team's secondary.  When I went to watch clips of Thompson, I have to say I was a bit stunned.  Every now and then, a player will just pop out at me, and set my nipples ablaze.  While I would only describe Thompson's coverage skills as maybe average to fairly good (which is fitting, considering his Agility Score), that's not a huge concern to me.  Remember now, we're talking about a strong safety.  As a hitter and tackler, however, I thought this guy was simply electrifying.  There was just a real explosiveness to how he played, and if he got his hands on an opponent, they were going down.  In the past two years, he either led, or came in second, for team tackles on the Minnesota defense, and I have to strongly suspect he was the best player they had.  Yet, despite that, most places seem to list him as someone who could go undrafted.  I honestly think I could make an argument for this guy going in the 2nd round, but if I can acquire him for significantly less than that, so be it.  I have to admit, I am somewhat smitten.

Darryl Roberts CB, Marshall   Ht:  5'10.5"  Wt.: 177 
40 time: 4.38  2nd Gear:  0.10   Agility Score:  0.994   Avg. PD:  13.5
If you aren't worried about his lack of mass, and the possible injury concerns that go with this, Roberts is a very interesting cornerback prospect.  We haven't been able to watch him play very much, but with his speed, explosiveness, and agility it would seem unlikely that he couldn't compete for a team's nickel corner job, at the very least.  While he's gotten his hands on a lot of passes, he probably hasn't turned as many of them into interceptions as we might like, but that's being a bit nit-picky.  I generally see people listing him as a player who won't be taken before the very end of the draft, so there could be good value here, for very little investment.

Cameron Ontko SS/FS, Cal Poly  Ht:  5'10.5"  Wt.: 222
40 time: 4.48  2nd Gear:  0.11   Agility Score:  0.475   Avg. PD:  2
Reilly and I ran across Ontko very late in our search for prospects, but we really need to add him to the list.  Ontko is a very weird prospect.  He has only played at Cal Poly for the last 2 seasons, and prior to that was at Wisconsin where he got almost no playing time.  While he is listed as a linebacker, his size would probably make him a better fit as a safety.  His agility and speed are a perfectly fine fit for the free safety position, but his ridiculous Kangaroo Score of 2.172 could also make him very interesting as a strong safety, which is somewhat closer to the role he appeared to play for Cal Poly.  In his final season he had 108 tackle, 6.5 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 3 passes broken up and 1 interception.  He's a very interesting prospect, unfortunately there seem to be some unpleasant rumors about why he left Wisconsin.

Josh Furman FS/SS, Oklahoma St.   Ht:  6'2.25"  Wt.: 210 
40 time: 4.48  2nd Gear:  0.10   Agility Score:  -0.051   Avg. PD:  4*
Here's a prospect who is a complete mystery to me.  As far as I can tell, this past season was the only time he was ever used as a starter, though this was only after he transferred from Michigan.  In this one season, he produced 14 tackles for a loss, and 7 sacks, along with 4 passes broken up, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble.  Beyond his very good speed, and agility that might make him a good fit at either safety position, he also has a Kangaroo Score of 1.272, which is very promising.  The problem is, I have no idea who this guy is, and I'm not thrilled by the fact that he will already be turning 24 in November.  Still, his physical potential is very interesting.  If someone wants to help fill in the blanks on this guy, feel free to offer me some sort of clue.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kangaroo Court: The 2015 DEs & 3-4 OLBs

We've had our ears planted firmly against the side of the computer, listening to it sputter, fart and whir, and we're still not entirely sure what to make of its rumblings.  Prior to entering the data for this year's outside pass rushers, it had hummed along in a  perfectly happy manner, cranking out the midget porn and Twilight fan fiction that sustains us.  Now, it appears to be having an epileptic fit.  Our Banana 6000 Data Thresher aims to please.  It knows that we want to find some sort of safe options at the top of the draft, but no matter how hard we shake it, our monitor keeps saying "concentrate and ask again".

Finding the right video cable can be tricky.

It's not entirely the computer's fault.  Compared to past years, this crop of pass rushers does appear to be a bit more murky than usual.  There are several players with great athletic potential.  There are others with proven performance.  Unfortunately, there seems to be relatively little overlap between these two groups, and that overlap is the sweet spot that we are normally seeking to find.  It's something we talked about when exploring the topic of Explosive Pass Rushers, and served as the basis for a little game where we pitted the computer's imaginary selections against those of some NFL GMs.  As things currently stand, we might be tempted to avoid a lot of the more highly touted pass rushing prospects that are available this year.

When we made our list of 3-4 OLB and DE prospects last year,we just felt there was a clearer divide between the players we would take a shot at, and the ones who were likely to disappoint.  This year, it feels like there is a lot more of a gray area, and a lot more risk.  Player's who we would normally find to be interesting mid-round selections, are being projected to go in the 1st round.  One year wonders, players with injury concerns, or unproven athletic potential, are getting pushed higher than we normally feel comfortable with accepting.  I keep hearing how this is supposedly a great draft for pass rushers, and though there are a few prospects we really like, we suspect this year could be a bloodbath for a lot of teams, that leaves many people feeling very dissatisfied.  Perhaps, worst of all, it just doesn't seem like a great year for finding a huge bargain or undiscovered gem in the later rounds.  As more pro day results roll in, our opinion on that might change.

As always, we will list the player's Kangaroo Score (which measures lower body power), and their Agility Score (which comes from the short shuttle drill and the 3-cone drill).  The scores are shown in the form of how many standard deviations that a player is above, or below, the average result for a player in their position group.  The ideal prospect, in our opinion, would have a Kangaroo Score that is at least one standard deviation above average, at least an average Agility Score, and be averaging about 15 tackles for a loss in his final two college seasons.  Of course, in the end, we often have to make some compromises here.

This list will continue to be modified/updated as new data and prospects come to my attention.  I don't plan to list every prospect here, but instead will just show the ones that I think are interesting for either good or bad reasons.  Last Updated: 4/20/2015

Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
Kangaroo Score:  -0.215   Agility Score: -0.222   Avg TFL:  12.75
While his results from the combine produced rather unexceptional scores, I can't entirely dismiss the possibility that he will succeed.  Players like Terrell Suggs and Tamba Hali were both fairly pedestrian athletes, and they have done well for themselves, so it is a possibility.  Unfortunately, Suggs and Hali both showed much greater statistical production in their college years, to hint at their potential upside.  For the most part, the computer saw nothing terribly interesting in Fowler's production, though there were some signs that he was gradually improving.  If he had returned to Florida for his senior year, it is possible that we might have a somewhat higher opinion of him.  As things stand, we feel that Fowler presents a high degree of risk, at least for someone who is generally projected to go in the 1st round, and even more so if he is taken in the first 10 picks of the draft.

Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
Kangaroo Score:  1.305   Agility Score: 1.192   Avg TFL:  22.25
Well, according to our typical methods for evaluating these things, Beasley does have the athletic traits and statistical production that would merit a 1st round pick.  Even when we attempt to factor in the potential benefits of playing alongside Stephone Anthony, Grady Jarrett, and Corey Crawford, his results still remain rather impressive.  I suppose that his relatively low number of tackles might raise some concerns, and make him appear to be a Freeney-esque type of player who only goes after the QB (a somewhat legitimate concern), but the positive side of this is that his tackle numbers were largely of the 'solo' variety, with very few assists.  Still, he probably isn't the most amazing tackler in the world, or a huge force against the run.  We think some of these minor problems might be alleviated by no longer playing DE, and switching to 3-4 OLB, or even as a 4-3 OLB.  Whether he can keep the added weight he has recently put on, would have a significant impact on which of these roles he is better suited to play.  While some people compare him to Von Miller, which may seem ridiculous, this is probably a more reasonable comparison than the one that some people make to Bruce Irvin, who I think Beasley is vastly superior to.  So, in the end, we'll stick with the 1st round grade that the computer gave him.

Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
Kangaroo Score:  -0.130   Agility Score: 1.182   Avg TFL:  14.5
I have to admit that I am a bit biased against players like Gregory, though I am trying to keep an open mind.  While we prefer pass rushers with greater lower body power, we wouldn't deny that high agility players like Gregory do sometimes produce rather good results.  The problem is that they tend to be more of a crap shoot, and their ceiling doesn't tend to be quite as high as their peers with higher Kangaroo Scores.  A player like Clay Matthews is sort of the ideal (but unlikely) outcome for a player like this.  There also seem to be issues with how to maximize the chances that a player like Gregory can succeed.  Like we said when discussing Jason Worilds and Jerry Hughes, giving these types of nimbly toed individuals some space to operate in, might be a requirement.  When players like this are asked to directly take on opposing offensive tackles, there's a good chance they are just going to get demolished.  While Gregory might do okay as a 3-4 OLB, we think that playing LB in a 4-3 might be even more advantageous.  When the computer weighs the athletic potential and statistical production of someone like Randy Gregory, the best we can do is to give him a 3rd round grade.  At that point in the draft, his odds of success line up a bit better with the cost of your investment.

Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
Kangaroo Score:  -0.215   Agility Score: -1.327   Avg TFL:  15.75
We're gradually developing a serious distrust of pass rushers from Missouri.  It's actually starting to rival our paranoia about prospects from Alabama.  In the past year, a total of 4 defensive ends have come out of Missouri (Ray, Golden, Sam, and Ealy), all of whom had rather excellent statistical production, and 2 who were even selected as the SEC defensive player of the year (Ray and Sam).  In pretty much every single case, they demonstrated athletic ability that made us wonder if they had just hobbled out of an emergency room.  Of these four prospects, Ealy was the only one we could make some argument for, and even then, the computer only thought he was worth a selection in the 4th-6th round range.  We're starting to wonder if team's should be looking at Missouri's defensive coordinator rather than the players that this school is cranking out.  There is definitely something odd going on here.  So, instead of asking whether Ray is worth a top 10 pick, we're going to suggest that he might not be worth drafting at all.  Good luck to whoever decides to take him.

Alvin Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky
Kangaroo Score:  3.155   Agility Score: -0.896   Avg TFL:  11
This is going to give me an ulcer.  I'm probably one of the last people who would want to downplay the importance of good combine results, but in Dupree's case, I think it might be warranted.  Look, there is no denying that Dupree has freakish explosiveness.  In many ways, he is the exact sort of physical specimen that normally causes me to start drooling, though the initial (and still unofficial) reports from his pro day suggest some potentially worrisome issues with his agility.  The problem is that these sorts of measurable traits are only supposed to be ways of gauging a player's potential.  Whether a player has the sort of physical advantages that will make the transition to a higher level of competition relatively effortless, is interesting.  At the same time, you really would like to see a player with this sort of potential display some evidence of their dominance while in college.  It's hard to say that Dupree really accomplished that mission.  While Dupree was the primary pass rushing threat at Kentucky, and shouldered his share of the load without much assistance, he never really seemed to have a statistical breakout, and become a terror.  On a per snap basis, he disrupted plays behind the line of scrimmage at a reasonable rate, but there was really nothing exceptional about it.  He just sort of cruised along for 3 years, being consistently good, but never great, with almost no signs of real statistical progress.  We might blame some of this on the poor talent that surrounded him, and the fact that his team frequently was playing from behind.  Still, when you are as physically gifted as Dupree appears to be, wouldn't you expect him to be a bit more unstoppable, regardless of his circumstances?  When Reilly and I sat down to watch a handful of his games, we came away feeling a bit underwhelmed.  While Dupree showed occasional flashes of his ability, it just wasn't enough to set our nipples on fire.  Even if we weighed him solely on his best two college seasons, the computer wouldn't let us give him a grade any higher than the 3rd round.  At this point, selecting Dupree in the 1st round feels like choosing your wife based solely on the size of her breasts, without ever finding out if she is also good at making sandwiches.  Hey, call me a crazy feminist, but it's important to weigh some of these less superficial factors.  Because of his freakish athletic abilities, I wouldn't be stunned if he outperforms our expectations, but I wouldn't want to gamble on that.  Based on the initial reports from his pro day, and what this might suggest about his agility, I would have to lean towards Dupree being used as a 4-3 DE.  Honestly though, I'm perfectly happy with the thought that Dupree will probably be selected well before Team Kangaroo is on the clock, just so I won't be tempted to do something potentially risky. 

Owamagbe "Supercalifragilistic" Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA
Kangaroo Score:  1.928   Agility Score: 0.214   Avg TFL:  8.75
Because of the way his results tilt rather strongly towards power over agility, I suspect Odighizuwa is probably better suited to playing defensive end in a 4-3, rather than making any attempt to use him as a 3-4 OLB.  It's not that playing 3-4 OLB is an impossibility, it just might not entirely play to his strengths.  In the handful of games where we were able to watch him, Reilly and I both found him to be a rather interesting and capable player, and our lying eyeballs probably preferred him to someone like Bud Dupree.  While he is a rather interesting athlete, the computer still has some enormous issues with him.  Even if we just graded him based on his 2014 performance, the one year when he was a regular starter, his results wouldn't allow us to give him a grade higher than the 4th round.  Some of his production issues prior to that point might be excused by missing a significant amount of playing time due to two hip surgeries, but I fail to see how that should make me feel any more comfortable.  While hip surgery might be an expected outcome for your grandmother or a German Shepherd, it isn't something we like to see in defensive ends.  It wouldn't shock us if Odighizuwa turns out to be a better pro player than he was at the college level, but the possibility that he will be selected in the first 2 rounds strikes me as an insanely unreasonable gamble to take based purely on potential.  We kind of see Odigizuwa as one of the bigger wild cards in this years draft.  Even if he turns out to be an exceptional player, which he might, that wouldn't change our opinion about the wisdom of taking such a risk.

Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
Kangaroo Score:  0.137   Agility Score: 0.856   Avg TFL:  14.75
When it comes to athletic ability, Harold has a lot in common with Randy Gregory, though he is perhaps a little bit less explosive.  He's fairly agile, but probably not very powerful.  Perhaps because of his rather mediocre Kangaroo Score, we seem to see him get easily overpowered by opposing offensive tackles much more than I would hope for, especially when lined up as a defensive end.  If he continues to be used primarily as a 3-4 OLB, where he would have a bit more space, he does have some reasonable potential.  Based on his athletic traits, and his fairly good statistical production, the computer wouldn't allow us to select him before the 3rd round, which is probably lower than where he will actually be taken.  When we eventually end up discussing the other linebacker positions, I think our opinion of him might improve somewhat.

Danielle Hunter, DE, LSU
Kangaroo Score:  0.989    Agility Score: 0.523   Avg TFL:  10.5
The widely varying opinions on where in the draft that Hunter will be selected is kind of comical.  Some people (idiots) are suggesting that he should be taken in the 1st round.  Others, suggest that he is just a project, and shouldn't be taken until the 5th round.  Now, based on his athletic ability, I have to say he is fairly interesting, but overlooking his extremely weak college production isn't something we are inclined to do.  While I hate to discuss "technique" because we aren't really qualified to delve into that particular brand of witchcraft, Hunter did convey a sort of 'chicken with his head cut off' vibe, when we watched him play.  He truly appeared to have no idea what he was supposed to be doing half of the time.  He has interesting athletic potential, but we just view him as a project.  Based on our normal criteria, we wouldn't take him until the 5th round.

Hau'oli Kikaha, OLB, Washington
Kangaroo Score:  -0.462   Agility Score: 0.101   Avg TFL:  16
When you consider Kikaha's history of torn ACLs, his forty time in the 4.93 second range, and the results listed above, he does become a very troubling prospect.  If a team actually selects him somewhere in the first 3 rounds, as people suggest may happen, and things don't work out, the GM who made this selection won't be able to claim that there weren't numerous warning signs.

Nate Orchard, DE, Utah
Kangaroo Score:  -0.664   Agility Score: -0.295   Avg TFL:  15
I have to admit that Nate Orchard somewhat annoys me.  I kind of liked him as a player, and there was some extremely encouraging data related to his statistical production that I felt was worth pursuing.  Unfortunately, his athletic traits would make it impossible for me to take a gamble on him, especially with a pick as high as the 2nd round, which is where he seems to be projected to be taken.  Hopefully he will defy the odds, but that's not the sort of bet we like to make.

Mario Edwards, DE/DT, Florida State
Kangaroo Score:  1.018   Agility Score: -0.936   Avg TFL:  10.25
The tricky thing with Edwards, is trying to guess what position he will end up playing.  At his current weight of 279 pounds, he could be used as a 4-3 defensive end, or a team could try to bulk him up and turn him into a defensive tackle.  For the moment, we're leaning towards the DT option.  The scores that we have listed above would be altered rather significantly, depending on this decision, because he has to be compared to a completely different group of athletes, with very different expectations.  Based on the little we have seen of him, he really didn't seem nearly as stiff as his Agility Score would have led us to expect.  At the same time, he didn't really do anything to blow us away, or make us want to take him in the 2nd-3rd round range, where we frequently see him projected to be selected.  He didn't strike us as a bad player, we just have some doubts about how much upside there is here.

Preston Smith, DE, Mississippi St.
Kangaroo Score:  1.005   Agility Score: 0.524   Avg TFL:  10.75
In one of our previous posts, we kicked around the possibility of force feeding Preston Smith cheeseburgers, and turning him into a 3-4 DE.  Because of his height (a hair short of 6'5") and arm length (about 34"), we still think that that is our preferred position for Smith.  When projected as a 4-3 DE, and compared to a different group of athletes, his results get almost completely flipped around.  While his athletic traits provide some fairly wide ranging possibilities as to what position he could play, this potential versatility is a good thing.  Unfortunately, when it comes to his statistical production, he was a bit of a late bloomer, and the data gives us some significant reasons to be concerned.  The degree to which his production was hindered by playing all along the defensive line, including quite a few snaps at DT, also makes things a bit tricky to judge.  Based on our normal criteria, the computer would only allow us to give Smith a 5th round grade.  Still, I kind of like Preston Smith, and I've been arguing with Reilly that we should bend the rules a bit because of the numerous ways in which he could be used.  I don't necessarily think Smith will become a star, but I suspect he could be a fairly solid player.  Personally, I could be tempted to select Smith in the 2nd or 3rd round, which is still later than many people project him to be taken.  Reilly, of course, says that I am being an idiot, and is threatening to stop talking to me if we choose Smith with that high of a pick.

Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas
Kangaroo Score:  1.142   Agility Score: -0.328   Avg TFL:  14.5
The more that we see of Flowers, the more we find ourselves liking him.  He just grows on us, like tentacles in Japanese erotica.  Based on his athletic ability and production, the computer gave Flowers a 2nd round grade.  That's where we run into a problem.  We're just not sure if we like him enough to take him that high in the draft.  His athletic results, point to him strictly being a 4-3 DE, not that this is a problem.  Flowers' sluggish 40-yard time of 4.93 seconds, with a 10-yard split of 1.73 seconds could both be seen as a bit worrisome, and does drop his value a bit for us.  In a number of ways, his results kind of remind us of his former teammate Chris Smith, who was drafted in the 5th round in 2013.  Compared to Smith, Flowers is probably a slightly better athlete, though their production was really quite similar, even if Smith converted more of his pressures into sacks.  To some extent, they are almost clones of each other, with Smith being perhaps a tad quicker and more explosive, and Flowers being a touch more nimble.  While Flowers seems to do a number of things rather well, we're not sure if we would say that he is truly amazing in any one area.  We're sort of leaning towards the idea that Flowers might become a good solid player, but probably not a star.  That's causing us to want to wait a bit.  If he fell to the 3rd round, we'd be rather tempted to select him.  In the 2nd round, we suspect there will be players at other positions, whose upside might be more tempting.

Za'Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky
Kangaroo Score:  -0.118   Agility Score: -1.202   Avg TFL:  7
We don't really see any reason to take Smith seriously, and have no idea why he is projected by some people to be a 3rd round prospect.  Still, Za'Darius is a fairly awesome name.  Maybe he is a wizard.

Markus Golden, DE, Missouri
Kangaroo Score:  -0.957   Agility Score: -0.890   Avg TFL:  16.5
Consider our previously expressed lack of interest in Shane Ray.  Now, lower your expectations even further.  That is where you will find Markus Golden.

Davis Tull, OLB, Chattanooga
Kangaroo Score:  1.623   Agility Score: ?   Avg TFL:  16.5
At this point in time, it seems we will never be able to get the data to calculate Tull's Agility Score, which is a bit frustrating.  Normally, I assume that players who avoid doing the short shuttle and 3-cone drill, because of a "pulled hamstring", are bullshitting us in order to avoid an area where they expect to test poorly.  Still, he does have that lovely Kangaroo Score to fall back on, and I find myself slightly aroused by the power and explosiveness that it suggests.  Now for the bad news.  He already has a titanium rod in his leg.  He had labrum surgery in March.  Then, we have those repeated hamstring injuries, which may or may not exist.  We're also just a tiny bit concerned about his stubby 31.25" arms.  When you combine all of that with his lower level of competition, you have some reasons to slow the hype train.  In the little we have seen of him, we honestly didn't find him to be nearly as terrifying as his numbers might suggest.  While Tull has some potential to become a 3-4 OLB, we somewhat wonder if he might fit better as a 4-3 OLB.  With the normal deduction we give to players who compete at a lower level, and without the agility data we would like to have, the computer would hesitantly give him a potential 3rd round grade.  In reality, we would hedge our bets a bit more.  If he was still around in the 5th round, we might be interested.

Kyle Emanuel, OLB, North Dakota St.
Kangaroo Score:  0.201   Agility Score: 0.549   Avg TFL:  21.25
There's really nothing terribly shocking about Emanuel's athletic ability.  In most areas he is just a tiny bit above average.  On the other hand, his statistical production is something we have to pay attention to.  Even though the bulk of his production came in his final year, at which point he was already 23 years old, and against a lower level of competition, you have to take somebody like this somewhat seriously.  While he may not possess the sort of athletic gifts that Davis Tull has, I have to admit that I still found him to be a more interesting player to watch.  I probably wouldn't pursue him, but he is a curiosity.

Zach Wagenmann  DE, Montana St.
Kangaroo Score:  -0.309   Agility Score: 0.579   Avg TFL:  19.5
If we adjusted for the rather enormous difference in the results of his vertical jump and his broad jump, we might be able to make an argument for raising his Kangaroo Score.  But we won't.  He would still just be a slightly above average athlete, which doesn't really interest us that much.  It's really his statistical production that makes people wonder if Wagenmann might be a bit of a sleeper prospect.  While those results are fairly impressive, even if they came against a lower level of competition. we just weren't terribly impressed when we watched him play. 

Frank Clark DE, Michigan
Kangaroo Score:  1.498   Agility Score: 1.141   Avg TFL:  12.75
If I was willing to sell you a Ferrari 250 GT, for a quarter of its normal cost (gotta make room in the garage), would you still insist on asking about the bloodstains in the trunk?  If the car is cheap enough, maybe you can just tell yourself that those red flakes are rust.  Because of his arrest on domestic violence charges, Frank Clark was booted out of Michigan, and we face a similar question.  Do you care if he is an asshole, if you can acquire him cheaply?  Based on his athletic ability and statistical production, this is a prospect that the computer would typically give a late 3rd round grade to, which is significantly higher than the late round pick most people expect him to be.  When we watched him play, we also found him to be an interesting player.  He also struck me as a little bit soft in the old melon, so I'm not sure how much I would trust this bozo.  While beating women seems to be as fashionable as ever in the NFL, it does seem like the NFL is gradually becoming more wary of blatantly ignoring their employees' criminal tendencies.  If I was placing a bet, I'd say that Frank will go undrafted...though someone will quietly sign him eventually.  Hooray for having flexible principles!

Shaq Riddick DE, West Virginia
Kangaroo Score:  0.186   Agility Score: 1.294   Avg TFL:  15
Max suggested that we add Riddick to this list, and I thought that seemed like a good idea.  Since he is generally projected as just a late round pick, the balance of risk versus reward is rather favorable.  His TFL result sort of needs to be taken with a grain of salt, since the bulk of his production came in 2013, when he played at Gardner Webb.  Still, I would say that his results at WVU might have been hindered a bit by the way that the team used him.  If moved outside, and given a bit more space to operate in, I suspect he might do a pretty good job, so the 3-4 OLB position is probably calling his name.  At about 6'6" tall, and 244 pounds, he could stand to add some weight, but I don't really see any reason why he shouldn't be taken as seriously as some of the other high agility pass rushers like Randy Gregory, and I'd probably even commit to saying that I prefer Riddick.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cash Ruins Everything Around Me

We're really not opposed to pursuing interesting players in free agency.  Just because we focus the majority of our attention on the draft, doesn't mean we think that it is the only sensible way to acquire talent.  Still, we do tend to be bargain shoppers.  With NFL GMs making it rain this week, we thought we would poke at some of the more outrageous negotiations that we've witnessed so far.

Chip Kelly might be brain damaged

Let's ignore the fact that he traded LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso, who is coming off of an ACL injury.  I could make an argument for that move.  I really could.  Let's also ignore that he let Jeremy Maclin walk.  I can dig it.  Even though I rather like Maclin, his price was probably too high to keep him around.  We'll also ignore what happened with Trent Cole, because he wasn't exactly a spring chicken anymore.

The move that is causing many people to question whether Chip Kelly arrives at Lincoln Financial Field in a stubby yellow bus, has to be the trade he made with the Rams.  In exchange for Sam 'Ouch my knee!' Bradford, who's current salary is $13 million (though most of that probably goes towards gold plated wheelchairs), along with a smattering of mid-round draft picks, the Eagles gave up Nick Foles and this years 2nd round draft pick.

With the number of future draft picks involved in this trade, and where the order of a future draft being unknown, it is hard to precisely say who got the best end of the picks that were exchanged.   Currently, I'd say the Rams came out ahead, and profited by about the equivalent of a high 4th round pick.  That's not a bad pick up, but this still really comes down to the QBs that were exchanged.  One is an expensive cripple (Bradford) with a career QB rating of 79.3.  The other (Foles) had one of the best statistical seasons a QB ever had, even if it wasn't for a full 16 games, and costs less than a pack of bubble gum.

I could make excuses for this trade.  I could say how Bradford has been stuck in a crappy situation in St. Louis, with garbage receivers, and questionable pass protection.  I could point to how promising Bradford appeared to be when he was drafted #1 overall, back in 2010.  At some point, however, you have to say the argument still tilts in favor of the guy who actually has performed well, at least at one point in time, which would be Nick Foles..  Even if Kelly thought Bradford was better than Foles, the exchange rate should be based on the league-wide perception of value in these two players.  If Foles wasn't generally viewed as a more valuable commodity than Bradford, on the open market, then I would be stunned. 

Perhaps, it is all just a little bit too insane.

This whole trade appears to be so stupid, that people are furiously concocting many devious theories to explain it.  It's all part of a three team trade, but we just don't know who the third partner is yet (he's on the grassy knoll)!  This is all part of a crafty maneuver to gain ammunition, so that the Eagles can trade up for Marcus Mariota!  Umm, yeah, there is somebody picking in the top ten, who is willing to trade 1st round picks with the Eagles, if only Sam Bradford can be acquired to sweeten the pot.  Fascinating.  Or, and you'll have to stick with me on this one, because I know it is a bit convoluted and farfetched, Chip Kelly is simply a moron.

While I generally don't put much stock in the supposed brilliance of coaches, there is one trait that some of them possess, that I do greatly respect.  That trait is adaptability.  It's what I've always liked about Bill Belichick.  That man seems willing to alter his plans, based on the players he has at his disposal.  As the saying goes, he can make chicken salad out of chicken shit.  With Chip Kelly, I'm getting the disturbing feeling that he expects his environment to adapt to his plans. 

Packers sign Randall Cobb to $10 million/year contract

I don't have any huge problem with Randall Cobb.  The computer may not have viewed him as a great prospect when he was drafted back in 2011, but we're okay with the idea that players can exceed our expectations.  That's part of the game, and I wouldn't say that we were betting against him, so much as not wanting to bet on him.  He was a fairly odd prospect.

Regardless, the question of Cobb's current value isn't the issue.  It's the question of Cobb's value to the Packers that we have some serious doubts about.  This is a team that has rarely struggled to find receivers who were capable of getting the job done, almost certainly because they have regularly possessed QBs (Brett 'Dick Pic' Favre and Aaron 'La Cucaracha' Rodgers) who have been able to maximize the output of their receivers.  Let's do a brief rundown.  Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb...blah...blah...blah..

Do you lucky people in Green Bay have any idea what it is like in the rest of the world?  In the cursed lands I hail from, the best receiver we have drafted in a decade was probably Torrey Smith.  Our second best receiver will come to me eventually.  Either way, I think you get the point.  Wide receiver wasn't exactly a weak spot for your team, and you even had the young pup Davante Adams, who seemed to be making good strides, waiting in the wings.  So, why does your team need to devote these resources to a player like Cobb?

The weirdest part of this is reading the comments of Packers fans, who feel that Cobb took less money to stick with the team.  Cobb cares about winning rings, not getting paid!  Okey-dokey.  That seems like a strange view of things, considering the early reports which suggested that Cobb was seeking $9 million/year.  Doesn't that mean he actually got paid more money for staying with the home team?  Otherwise, I would have to assume that some mystery team was offering to pay $11 million per year, for a 5'10" wide receiver, who's production so far would probably be classified as very good, but not exceptional (at least in the context of a very WR friendly Packers' offense).  It's very curious.  With Cobb's current salary, you have to assume that the team's expectations for him will be increased.  I'm not sure if I would want to bet on Cobb's ability to justify this contract.

Seahawks sign Cary Williams

This is going to be a real test of Pete Carroll's ability to get a reasonable level of performance out of a cornerback lacking any discernible talent.  I have to admit, I've always been mystified as to how the Seahawks' secondary functions.  For the most part, their team seems to thrive on late round corners, which is strange enough on it's own.  That these players also tend to lack a lot of the physical traits we normally expect to see in a prototypical corner, such as exceptional measurable speed or agility, just makes it even more peculiar.  Whether they can pull of another miracle with Cary Williams will be quite interesting.

I've seen Cary Williams play, or at least occupy a space on the field, during his time in Baltimore.  He should I put this....horrific.  Oh sure, if the opposing receiver wants to run straight down the field, Cary seems to understand how to handle this.  Running in a straight line is his specialty.  If that opposing receiver should choose to change directions suddenly (that's cheating!), Cary will just keep running in a straight line, slowly recognize that something went terribly wrong with his plan, and gradually get his shit together after the receiver has run another 10 yards.  As far as I can tell, this pattern continued in his time in Philadelphia. 

Haloti Ngata traded to the Lions

I have very mixed feelings about the Ravens trading away Haloti Ngata.  As I said a few months ago, the team was clearly in a bad position, relative to the salary cap.  We also wouldn't dispute the fact that Ngata was being paid way too much, with a 2015 cap hit of $16 million.  It was obviously a problem, and there was no other potential cut that could have stabilized the Ravens cap situation more than unloading Haloti.

The problem is that Haloti can still actually play, and probably at a rather high level.  Sure, you can't always hold onto all of your team's stars.  Everybody knows that.  Still, when you are unloading a star player, and still eating $7.5 million in dead money, all so that you can make up for the bad contracts you have given to players like Ray Rice, Dennis Pitta, Lardarius Webb, and yes, Joe Flacco, then you might have a problem.

Half of those players, Rice and Pitta will be contributing nothing to the team in 2015.  Despite that, they will still count for about $15.7 million of the teams cap space this year.  While Flacco and Webb should at least get on the field, their combined cap hit (barring any upcoming restructuring) would be $26.55 million for the 2015 season.  In total, these four players are responsible for $42.25 million against the 2015 cap, or about 29.5% of the team's total cap space.  Do you consider any of these players to be amongst the best at their position?

Imagine if someone sold a pristine Porsche 356, for half its theoretical value, because they needed the cash to cover the maintenance work they were performing on a 2005 Ford Fusion.  I'm not saying that a Fusion can't be a useful and practical vehicle, but the economics of that decision would confuse me.  Yes, I suppose I am suggesting that Flacco and Webb are the metaphorical Ford Fusion in the situation.  It really strikes me as a fairly apt comparison.