Sunday, April 25, 2010

Feeling a draft (with video!)

The draft has come and gone, and the Chargers once again managed to defy almost any an all expectations I had about which direction they might go. Even the picks which I did think might happen (Matthews and Thomas), happened far earlier and later than I would have expected.

Its a funny thing about the draft. Every year there are 252 players chosen, and many many more who are signed as UFDAs. Every year we look over these players, their numbers, their stats, game film, interviews and DNA sequencing, trying to figure out who will boom and who will bust. Every year we talk ourselves into how great it would be to have certain players, usually far, far more than your team could draft even with a dozen first round picks.

And then as soon as the draft is over and your team's picks are known, you immediate have to delude yourself into thinking that these players are the only ones who will pan out. Those other guys who you were drooling over last week? Busts, every last one of them. Too slow, too small, too soft, too lazy, too dumb, too many baby-mommas. Not like our new guys, who are all pro-bowl bound.

So lets take a look at the new Chargers and how they fit into our Super Bowl plans.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State

I've already made my feelings on Mathews known in a previous post. The general consensus seems to be that the Chargers gave up too much to go get Matthews, but in reality he never would have gotten down to 28. The Seahawks were rumored to want him at 14, so the move to 12 makes sense. Even though the trade seems extreme, when you actually look at the point values its not.

Let's look at the trade.

The Chargers get:

#12 – 1200 points
#110 – 74
#173 – 23.2

#28 – 660
#40 – 500
#126 – 46

And Tim Dobbins, who wasn't going to make the team anyway according to Kevin Acee. So in terms of draft picks, the Chargers actually came out ahead 90 points, which is the equivalent of a 4th round draft pick. So the real question is, whats the value of Tim Dobbins? He's a good special teamer but he's only ever been a backup for the Chargers, and even if he did make the team this year it would be his last because of his contract situation. What's more important, the Chargers got the player that they did want, one who potentially could do great things for them.

This is the exact same thing that happened with the Eric Weddle trade. Everyone looked at the number of picks, as opposed to the value of the picks, and so what was actually an even trade on the point scale gets criticized needlessly.

There are a lot of videos of Matthews and his highlights, but this one seems to be the most complete. Check out the acceleration, wiggle, and balance.

Donald Butler, ILB, Washington

I hadn't really looked at ILBs prior to the draft, but in hindsight I should have seen this coming. Dobbins was gone either way, and the remaining 3 ILBs are all in the last year of their current contracts. Cooper is 31, so his days as a Charger are likely numbered, and its impossible to back on both Burnett and Siler being retained.

Overall I like the pick. Butler seems like a good football player who is physical and has good instincts, though he does have limitations. He has neither top end speed nor size, but he should fit just fine in the middle of a 3-4. We'll have to wait and see, but I predict he'll be a quick contributor and eventual starter, next year if not this year.

I couldn't find a good video to embed, but here's a video from which tells you a little about our new linebacker.

Darrell Stuckey, Saftey, Kansas

Very similar to Butler, in that he has neither elite size nor speed, but he's a great all around player who will knock your ass to the ground. I hadn't really looked at safeties either since there were areas of bigger need, but I think this is another quality pick. He should be able to contribute on special teams both as a returned and a cover guy, and he might be an upgrade at safety over Kevin Ellison. Same type of player, but two steps faster.

He's also very dedicated, to both football and his education.

Cam Thomas, NT, North Carolina

"I'm country strong ... Lift hay, cut grass, pick up motors."

Yes indeed, he's all kinds of strong. Just take a look the film from the Senior bowl. He's number 95, with the light blue UNC helmet, and he makes his living shoving guards into the backfield.

Cam Thomas is a project with a lot of upside but a lot of risk as well. I'm glad the Chargers were able to get him so late in the draft, but whether or not he really is a steal will depend on how well it pans out. Honestly I don't love him as a player at this point. Were I building a defense from scratch I wouldn't start with him. However, the Charger's aren't in that situation. They have one huge need, and that's for a "country strong" space eater. Pretty much the only thing Cam Thomas does is eat space. Seems like a good fit. He's not going to be Warren Sapp, but at 30-35 snaps a game in run situations he can be a great value.

The other thing to love is that he has a huge personality. I've heard him in interviews and Kevin Acee is correct, he's like a more hyper Marcus McNeil. If he sticks around, who knows, maybe there's a Thomas jersey in my future.

Jonathan Crompton, QB, Tennessee

Catfish Crompton. The Crompfish. Oh boy.

We did need a third QB, and I didn't really like our options in the later rounds. So I guess it could be worse. But my immediate reaction upon hearing the pick was to think back to this piece at EDSBS, written last year by a Vols fan in the midst of deep, Crompton caused depression. Yes, he turned it around later and had a pretty good end to his senior year, but he'll always be a catfish to me.

I'll have to defer to Norv on this. As much as we rip on him, there's on thing at which Norv has few equals in this world: developing NFL quarterbacks. If he saw something in this kid that can be molded into a decent backup then I'll trust him.

I'll give him this though, he seems to have a good arm.

However, I have to question using that pick to get him. More value could have been had at almost any other position. To me, this was the biggest wasted pick this year, considering that this is a guy who we all hope never sees the field.

My own personal theory is that AJ needs for the Bolts to have at least two hick QBs on the roster at all times, and since Charlie Whitehurst was gone he had to fill in our quota.

Dedrick Epps, TE, Miami

We needed another tight end, and he was about the only one still left on the board at the end of the 7th round. He seems to be an all around average player. Average size, average speed, average reciever, average blocker. But above average effort, which is always important. I have no expectations of him either way, but if he does turn out to be a decent player I'll be happy with that.

I did manage to find one tape of him making a pretty nice catch.

Other thoughts

We drafted no O-lineman, no receivers, and only one running back. The first two have been addressed with a couple of good UDFA pickups who may pan out, but the last one is still up in the air. We have 4 RBs who will make the roster (Mathews, Sproles, Tolbert and Hester). Who is the 5th? Mason, who we got off waivers? Can Curtis Brinkley come back from his unfortunate gunshot wound last year? Are we waiting for cuts in order to snatch someone up?

I was honestly hoping for and expecting more movement on the RB front. Even though Sproles and Mathews will carry the load during the season, someone needs to take over and handle all the carries during the preseason, and we could always used more competition and depth at a position like RB, where injuries are so common. I'm guessing this will be addressed between now and camp.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mocking the draft, part 3

Let's continue our look at possible new running backs for the Chargers. Again, these are in no particular order. We shift to the south.

Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech

His stock has apparently dropped a lot lately, mostly because his 40 time sucked. I could see him as a 3rd or later round pick for the Bolts, but I don't think he's first round material anymore.

On paper Dwyer seems like a solid prospect. Good size, Ok speed, great production. However, it gets really hard to judge that because of the triple option system he was it. How much do you discount for the skew that comes from playing in Paul Johnson's run first, run second, run always offensive set? In that context his production, while solid, has less of a shine. I'm also not sure he gives you much in the passing game, which is something that is vital for the Bolts. I wouldn't be totally shocked to see Dwyer get drafted by the Chargers, but I wouldn't bet on it either. Frankly I think they can get better players in the first two rounds, though he would be a good value in the third should he slip that far.

Ben Tate, Auburn

Tate heads a trio of SEC backs who are all similar in abilities and reputation going into the draft. As much as I hate to admit it, the SEC is a premier conference in terms of NFL quality talent, and any running back who can survive in that meat grinder deserves some draft consideration.

Of the three, I think Tate has the best chance to be a superstar in the NFL. He's a strong runner who still has some good speed and enough size and power to last in the NFL. Tate had strong though not amazing production, and he also contributes in the passing game. Overall I think he has a solid NFL career ahead of him, and I'd be happy to see the bolts take him.

Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State

Our next SEC entry comes in the form of big bad Bulldog Anthony Dixon. Dixon is the power back from the SEC group. Not a ton of speed or explosiveness. Nevertheless, he was very, very productive at Mississippi state. He's the Bulldogs all time leading rusher and won first team all-SEC last year, and he did all that on a team without very much talent surrounding him. I've seen him run and I like it. Hard to tackle, quick to cut and get into the gap, and he always falls forward. He won't turn a 4 yard gain into a 40 yard gain, but he will turn a 1 yard gain into a 4 yard gain. That has value too, and the Chargers could use it.

The downside? Well, he is slow, no getting around that. Is he too slow to make a big impact in the NFL? I honestly don't know. If the bolts grabbed him in the 3rd round or later I'd be glad to risk it.

Montario Hardesty, Tennessee

The last of our SEC trio is probably the biggest question mark. He has an injury history, having his ACL repaired, but it was a few years ago so he seems recovered. Hardesty is a mystery because he wasn't really productive until his fifth and final college season. Part of that is the time he missed with his ACL, and part of it is that Tennessee was downright awful for part of his career. But it still begs the question, why was he a late bloomer who couldn't pass up Arian Foster for significant playing time? He played in a lot of games but almost always as a backup. I've watched some film on Hardesty and, while he doesn't knock me over, he does look like he'll be a solid if unspectacular NFL running back. Not as fast as Tate, not as powerful as Dixon, but he has enough of each that he can run it hard and move the chains. Given the choice between him and Tate, who had similar measurables and production, I'd take Tate, but its not a huge gap.

Realistically I would be happy with any of these three if the price is right. All three have shown they can run the ball with some authority, contribute in the passing game, and have proven themselves against top competition. They probably won't fully replace LT, but they can be good enough to help the Bolts be successful.

That pretty much wraps up the running backs who I suspect the Chargers might take in the first 3 rounds. There are few others who they might take a flyer on, so I'll quickly give my opinions on them.

LaGarrett Blount, Oregon

Boom or Bust. Obviously there are HUGE red flags here concerning his work ethic, attitude, and penchant for sucker puching opponents and getting suspended for most of the year. Upside? He's a human wrecking ball. Not super fast, but he'll run you over and leave his cleat marks all over your corpse (metaphorically, that is). Its a gamble to be sure, but possibly one worth taking in the 5th round or later.

Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss

The second coming of Sproles. Smaller than a kicker but fast as a jackrabbit, and for good reason since most NFL linebackers could probably pick him up with one arm. I think he's a fantastic football player who was very productive against a lot of top defenses in college. One can never predict how transitions like that will go, and even after marveling at Sproles in the NFL we are all aware of his limitations. I don't think McCluster will fall far enough for the Chargers to make a move for him as a possible Sproles replacement.

Lonyae Miller, Fresno State

Lost his staring job to Ryan Matthews, though I'm not sure why since I don't follow the Bulldogs that closely. Seems to have all the measurables (5-11, 220, 4.5) and was fairly productive before losing his job. If he happens to be around when the Chargers pick in the 7th round I wouldn't be shocked if they took a flyer on him as the possible 3rd tailback.

Mocking the draft, part 2

Ok, I've gotten my annual "don't draft a QB first" rant out of the way.

Now on to more pressing matters: the Chargers' new running back.

By the end of the draft, and possibly within 24 hours of this post, the Chargers will have a new RB on their roster. Putting aside the possibility of a trade, this new player will certainly be drafted, and most likely in the first 3 rounds. I actually suspect that more than one will be drafted, but such things are hard to figure either way. I'm doubtful on the prospect of AJ spending a first rounder on this new ball carrier. It certainly could happen, but this class is so deep in backs I suspect they could pass in the first and still get a great pick in the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th.

I've wasted a lot of my precious youth pouring over scouting reports and daydreaming about who this new back will be and how he'll take us to the Super Bowl next year and then we'll go steady and get married and live happily ever after. But who is the Mystery Date? Let's look at the possibilities, in no particular order:

First, it won't be CJ Spiller. He'll likely be long gone by pick 28. Too bad.

Jahvid Best, Cal

I think Jahvid is a luxury that the Chargers can't afford to spend a high pick on. He's fast. Oh boy, is he fast. Put the ball in his hands in space and its game freaking over. Assuming no defenders breathe too hard within a yard of him, in which case he's a serious injury risk.

As much as it would be cool to have him on the roster (and prevent other teams from having him), Jahvid looks like a slightly bigger version of Sproles to me. Fast on the corner, deadly in space, doesn't give you much between the tackles. And really, that's what we need. It would be great to have him if we can't sign Sproles after this year, or if we trade Sproles this weekend, but as long as we have Darren I just don't see the value in spending a high pick on Jahvid, unless you plan to also draft a mauling back in the later rounds.

Ryan Matthews, Fresno State

A classic test of the Wisdom of Crowds. I say that because roughly 90% of the mock drafts I have seen (and I've seen far too many) have the Chargers taking Matthews at 28. Its amazing really, the amount of group think demonstrated here and anyone who knows anything about AJ Smith knows that this all but assures that he will not pick Matthews. Personally, I'm skeptical that Matthews will still be around at 28th. But, assuming he is there, and assuming AJ bucks his trend of bucking the trend and picks him, what do I think of him?

I'm really mixed on Matthews. Let me start with the negatives. First, he's had some injury issues and missed time because of it. Nothing too major, but we have to consider it. I've also heard mixed things about his contribution to the passing game, both catching the ball and blocking, with more than one report saying that he's a liability. This is a vital part of the Charger offense, and if its true that Matthews can't contribute there then his value is greatly reduced. Again, I don't know if its true and I don't really have the film to find out.

Another knock on Matthews is that he possibly benefited from an dominant O-line which beat up lesser opponents. One scouting report I read called him an "uncharismatic runner", meaning he tests well in shorts but doesn't play as strong as his measurables might indicate. Now, Fresno State did play some really good teams, including Wisconsin, Cincinnati and Boise State, and he was super productive against all of them. The Boise game is really impressive, as he had over 200 yards and 3 TDs against the undefeated, Fiesta Bowl winning, Oregon and TCU thumping Broncos. But even looking at those highlights, his big runs did come as the result of big holes by the Bulldog O-line. They gave him space and he took it to the house. Impressive, to be sure, but how will that translate to the NFL, where even the best O-line's aren't super dominant and the Charger O-line is far from the best at running the rock? Will he be able to pound it between the tackles successfully in addition to his big play ability?

I guess my biggest concern about Ryan Matthews is the too good to be true factor. Why should we be so lucky that he would fall to 28? If he's so great, why won't he be snatched up earlier?

Although it may seem like I'm down on Matthews, I do have some positives. He gets the Lorenzo Neal seal of approval. Even discounting the blatant Fresno State homerism, that's still a strong endorsement. And I tend to think that AJ had a pretty good eye for running back talent and how it translates to the NFL, so if he does tap Matthews I'll trust his judgment.

But the biggest thing I like about Matthews is who he makes me think of. Watching his highlight tapes, with the big runs, sharp cuts, stiff arms, incredible balance, and overall strong production, I can't help but think that he reminds me of another great back: LT. That's how LT runs. That's how he deals with defenders. That's his quickness, his cutting, his balance. And I can't help but get a little excited when I think about the possibilities.

Toby Gerhart, Stanford

Robbed of the Heisman last year, Toby is an interesting prospect to replace LT. He has a significant injury history, including an ACL replacement in his past. He was a beast among men in college, running over, around and through helpless defenders. However, this ain't college anymore, and no one can do that in the NFL. My big concern is how his body can hold up crashing into NFL defenders 25+ times a game with his upright running style. I'm also not too sure what he gives you in the passing game, though I don't see why that should be a problem.

In a lot of ways I think that Gerhart is the anti-Jahvid, which is probably fitting given that they played for Stanford and Cal, respectively. I think that Toby will be a solid between the tackles runner who won't turn the corner too well or run away from people. There's a little bit of boom or bust here. Best case scenario, this is Jerome Bettis 2.0. Worst case, he's the new Jacob Hester, and frankly we are filled up on our quota of Jacob Hesters. That said, I like what he could potentially bring to San Diego, especially as a one-two punch with Sproles.

That's the end of the California Boys at the top of the list. This is getting a little long, so we'll move on to the Southern boys in another post.

Mocking the draft, part 1

I have a confession to make: I am a draftnik.

Yes, every winter and spring I waste far, far, far too much of my worthless time invested in the NFL draft. I'll be the first to admit that its a completely mystifying, frustrating and pointless endeavor. I have no control over who the Chargers or any other team picks.

I don't do mock drafts, because they are impossible and meaningless and far too unfocused for my fanaticism. My concern is the San Diego Chargers, and its hard enough trying to figure out whats going on in AJ Smith's head. And this is a team which I know really well. God help me if I can try and figure out how the 31 other teams are go. I swear, its the most bogus thing to try to predict. In game theory, its hard enough to build and solve a game with only a few players, strategies, and payoffs. Now multiply each of those factors by about 1000 and you might get close to the complexity of predicting a draft. Not that it can't be fun, and that's what this is all about, but I just can't be bothered to try it myself. At least with a March Madness bracket I have some money riding on it and a few information shortcuts to help me with my wild guesses.

There's only two ways to go about a mock draft. The first way is to do a shit ton of research, watch a lot of film, pour over combine results and team rosters and then try to magically predict what 32 different teams will do with an infinite number of possibilities to choose from. The second way to do is to let a bunch of other people do all that, and then just copy their work. This is the way that 95% of mock drafts are done, and its how mine would have been done.

However, just because I'm too much of a lazy snob to do my own mock draft doesn't mean I don't have tons of useless, ill informed scouting data in my head which is just dying to come out. The ether needs my opinions, and I'm all to happy to oblige.

First, I'd like to say something to the Rams: Don't do it.

I said it last year to the Lions, and I've said it to a lot of other top pick teams who were goaded and pushed and bullied into doing it. Don't do it.

Don't pass on King-bloody-Kong in order to draft Sam Bradford.

I like Sam Bradford. Good athlete. Accurate. Leader. Winner. Yes, he's had some injuries, but this is football and that happens.

Don't draft him, St. Louis.

We all know what will happen. You draft this kid, pay him a ton of money, and he'll promptly get killed behind your shitty line and you'll be back to starting whatever journeyman you would have been stuck with anyway. Best case scenario, in 3 years he leads your team to a winning record. Best case, and I'm certainly not hanging my hat on that.

Even if he was a perfect QB prospect, which he isn't, this would be a bad move. As it stands Sam Bradford is a QB with the unfortunate history of having his throwing arm destroyed in painful ways. On top of that, he played for a dominant team with dominant talent in an offense which cranked out yards and points and raped and pillaged the poor, simple country defenses of the Big 12. Except, of course, for Texas, which beat him twice and gave him plenty of fits. And Florida, who had some speed and talent on that side of the ball. Basically, whenever he was pressured he came back to earth. I think he can maybe be a good QB in this league, but its no sure thing. Is this really want you want to spend the top pick and $75 million on?

Ndomukong Suh is a beast among men. His name means "House of Spears". He almost single handedly won the Big 12 Championship game despite the noticeable handicap of being a nose tackle and having no functional offense on his team. If there was any justice in the world he and Toby Gerhart would have been the first co-winners of the Heisman Trophy.

House of Spears.

Think about it, as if reflection is needed on that incredible fact.

When its on, its on

We all remember last year when a long rain delay forced the UConn and USF baseball teams to dance around for our amusement.

Apparently this is a thing now, and we have a new rain soaked throw down, this time between the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and Florida Atlantic Owls. It has a little bit of everything. Some comedy, some drama, and most importantly, a lot of awkward white people dancing.

Take it away boys:

Somehow I doubt this new phenomenon got mentioned in George Will's new edition of Men at Work.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Random thought: toast

Why is toast so much better than regular bread? Its not like the bread is raw and needs to be cooked, like meat or eggs. And its not even as big a transformation as when a vegetable goes from raw to cooked. It just gets heated up and crustier, yet its so much better. Why?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Double Devolution

KFC has just released a new product with much fanfare. Its called the "Double Down". Its gross.

To be totally fair, I haven't eaten one yet, and to be perfectly honest I never will unless high money stakes are involved. Hypocrite? Snob? Elitist? Guilty as charged, but screw you if you think I'm gonna debase my body and soul with that thing. Its not that I abhor fast food, fried food, or fatty food. Far from it. Every element in this mutant is something that I enjoy eating (except perhaps the "Colonel's Sauce", since I don't know what it is). But I can't ever see myself enjoying a "Double Down".

A lot of people are disturbed by this new product for very good reasons. This thing is a monstrosity in both a nutritional and culinary sense. Its obviously unhealthy for you, but you knew that going into a place called "Kentucky Fried Chicken". But what's even worse is that it just looks bad, something closer to what you would feed a zoo animal than a human being. Some have tried to defend it by comparing it to Chicken Cordon Bleu, which is like comparing bait to sushi. The basic elements may be the same, but the process is what's important.

There have been some very entertaining reviews of the "Double Down" by people braver and more clever than me. This one posted by The Onion AV club is my favorite. Most reviewers seem to agree: this thing is awful. Not just because its terrible for you and keeps cardiologists up nights, but because its just truly heinous and unpleasant to eat.

But my even more pretentious objection to this thing is based on what it represents: devolution.

The "Double Down" is a step backward, or at least a misstep, in the evolution of human food. As limited, simple and flawed as bread may be, it serves a great functional purpose: getting food to the mouth with the minimum of mess. The whole sandwich concept, along with its culinary cousins and offshoots, is based on this principle. As crazy as this sounds, the idea to use bread as a holder for filling was actually a major step forward in culinary development. It allowed the consumption of fillings and foods which are difficult to consume with a fork and knife, and it allowed a great deal of portability for the working person or hard gambling Earl. But most of all, it allowed for a much wider range of foods to be dreamed up, prepared, and consumed.

Carbs transport filling. Simple but effective. Pizza, dumplings, burritos, tacos, gyros, hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, hoagies, grinders, canopies, even cheese and crackers- they all build off this basic paradigm. And for those watching their carbs, substitutes like lettuce have emerged. Getting rid of the carb based carrying system while retaining finger food status is a dicey proposition. Sushi may transition into Sashimi just fine, but either way you're using chopsticks.

This devolution is certainly deliberate, possibly even a goal for KFC. The whole point of this is to tap into some untamed part of our very much tamed psyche. You're a man, you want meat and fat and salt, and damned if you're going to let some sissy crap like manners, forks or bread stand between your manly hands and the hot roast flesh you crave. Hang those who would decry excess or encourage nutritional eating. You're a manly free spirit, whose primal act of rebellion against the modern world comes from giving 6 dollars to a multinational corporation.

This thing isn't a sandwich. It's some meat and bad cheese slammed together in a bag. Its a sandwich without its skin, or maybe its fried chicken stripped of its dignity. That's fine if you want to eat it, but the idea that this is a sandwich is just wrong. The Double Down lies at the intersection of sandwich, finger food, and fork and knife fare, but unfortunately for it there doesn't appear to be a place for it in any of these spheres.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Random thought of the day

I saw a story about the 20th anniversary of the movie "Pretty Woman". Many love it, many hate it, and I'm not going to get into that. But what just struck me is a part of the popular narrative which has come to surround the film but seems off to me.

The quick summary of the movie most often used is that Julia Roberts's character Vivian is a "hooker with a 'heart of gold'".


I mean, she seems like a nice enough character, but why "heart of gold"? To me, that implies she's some kind of angel of mercy, giving charity to the less fortunate and comforting the dying. Does Vivian turn tricks in order to feed starving children? Does she read to senior citizens on her nights off?

Maybe she does, and maybe she really does have the aforementioned golden heart, but it doesn't really seem to show that in the movie. She seems like a good person who doesn't get off on the suffering of others and is reasonably compassionate, but as far as I can remember the film never really shows her as some model of charity or as an positive outlier of humanity. She lives pretty normally, and is even vindictive at times.

Maybe its in contrast to Richard Gere's character, who is portrayed at first as some kind of monster who would literally sell his own father for a buck. But really, he's not a bad guy, and his transformation at the end into a magnanimous capitalist is not that big a change from where he started.

The other thing I don't really get is the implication that a hooker who is also a decent human being is some kind of rare anomaly. I don't know any ladies of the night (that I am aware of), but somehow I have to think that some of them are probably pretty decent human beings when it comes down to it, same as any profession.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Badvertising: Tiger Stare

What the fuck was that?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Spaghetti Harvest

Leave it to the BBC to educate and entertain. And misappropriate public funds and trust for a quick laugh.

Happy Pagan New Year!