Thursday, April 30, 2009

I am smarter than Mel Kiper *

* Mel Kiper of nearly three weeks ago, that is.

I posted a pseudo-contest last week to let people post their own mock drafts and see how close they got to each other and to a few of the "pros." Three people (myself included) posted their mock drafts and I scanned around a bit to other people's blogs to get a few more, along with five professional mock drafts (sort of) in a "Pros vs. Joes"-style competition.

The good news: We won!

The bad news: We kinda cheated. See below.

I won't repeat scoring details here (just remember the lower, the better), so here are the overall results:

Jason Winter
Score: 149
Perfect picks: 9

Score: 150
Perfect picks: 2

Score: 177
Perfect picks: 7

Score: 195
Perfect picks: 1

Score: 160
Perfect picks: 160

Amateurs' average
Score: 166.2
Perfect picks: 5.4

And now, the pros:

Mel Kiper (ESPN)
Score: 165
Perfect picks: 6

Todd McShay (ESPN)
Score: 166
Perfect picks: 5

Sporting News
Score: 207
Perfect picks: 2

MJD (Yahoo)
Score: 175
Perfect picks: 4

Peter King (SI)
Score: 133
Perfect picks: 6

Pros' average
Score: 169.2
Perfect picks: 4.6

And now, the caveats:

* McShay's and Kiper's picks come from two weeks before, as supplied by bartolis. So they were made about one week before my picks on last Tuesday. Still, the only major development in that time, I feel, was the trade of Tony Gonzalez to the Falcons, which ruined my Brandon Pettigrew-to-the-Falcons pick. (Kiper and McShay also had the Falcons taking Pettigrew.) If anyone's got access to McShay's/Kiper's last-minute picks, I'd love to see them.

* The MJD draft, as I alluded to on Thursday, was actually a conglomerate draft from a bunch of (apparently poorly informed) people. So it only sorta fits in the "pro" section, but hey, if a major web site wants to run it, I'm a-gonna count it.

* On the other hand, there's no excuse for that Sporting News draft. Andre Smith at #21? Really?

* And there's even less excuse for Peter King, whose mock draft appears to have been posted Friday afternoon, about 24 hours before the start of the draft. Oh wait, he doesn't need an excuse. He mopped up.

A few other cheers and jeers about the 10 mock drafts:

* Cheers to bartolis and 3rdStone, who were the only ones crazy enough to get inside Crazy Al Davis' head and put Darrius Heyward-Bey at #7 on their drafts. I just have to remember that, for next year, assume the Raiders will take the fastest player available, regardless of anything else.

* spidey_2k and the MJD drafts were the only ones not to put Matthew Stafford at #1 overall (each picking Aaron Curry). bartolis and mantlerose were the only ones to not put Jason Smith in the #2 slot.

* As a result, Stafford and Curry led with 8 correct predictions. 5 people picked B.J. "Sore Eagles" Raji at #9 to the Packers, while 3 people each correctly selected the draft positions of Andre Smith, Aaron Maybin, Malcolm Jenkins, Brian Cushing, and Hakeem Nicks.

* What the heck happened to Everette Brown? Everyone except Peter King had him going in their top 20 picks (average of 12.8), but he wasn't selected until the 11th pick of the second round -- #43 overall. Similarly, Michael Johnson was touted as a late-round draft pick by three of us bloggers, and he didn't go until the sixth pick of the third round.

* Apart from those, the worst in-round draft gaffe has to go to the MJD draft, which picked Tyson Jackson to go at #30. He went #3 overall. Good thing I had a limit of 10 "points" per selection.

* mantlerose was the only blogger to put Larry English in his mock draft (at #13), and the linebacker went #16 overall to the Chargers.

* Nobody -- neither amateur nor pro -- had Percy Harvin going to the Vikings, and only three of the 10 mock drafts had the Vikings taking a wide receiver. (Five picked an offensive lineman.) Can one of us replace Brad Childress in the Vikings' war room next year?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Oh mercy, we got Percy

I had my heart set on an offensive lineman.

When Detroit passed on taking an offensive lineman with their #20 pick, I rejoiced. I didn't know exactly what Cleveland's needs were, but I was hopeful that they would pass on tackle Michael Oher. I was even hoping that, with their sudden receiver needs, that they'd take Percy Harvin, preventing the Vikings from doing so (which I knew they'd be tempted to do) and landing Oher, who was projected as going about 8-10 picks earlier.

Cleveland took Alex Mack, another potential target for the Vikings, but Oher was still on the board. ESPN highlighted Oher, who was in New York, waiting to be drafted. All the signs pointed to Oher. I thought positive...Oher, Oher, Oher...

"The Minnesota Vikings select Percy Harvin, wide receiver, Florida."

I nearly threw my phone into the TV.

I know what I said about not evaluating the draft too early and giving guys a chance to develop. But this is the worst possible situation for Harvin and the Vikings and has a strong possibility of developing into the biggest bust of the first round.

Harvin is like Reggie Bush, Jr. Meaning that he'll wow you here and there but won't be the kind of consistent performer you look for in a first-round pick. Bush is more flashy than he is great, averaging 3.7 yards per rush for his career and 7.5 per reception -- mediocre numbers for a running back, much less the #2 overall pick.

Harvin isn't Bush, per se, and though he's listed as a wide receiver, he actually had more rushes in college than receptions. That's probably due to his usage in Urban Meyer's spread offense, which has produced such NFL notables as Deshawn Wynn, Chad Jackson, Dallas Baker, Chris Leak, and Alex Smith. Yeah. Good luck to the team that drafts Tim Tebow next year -- you're going to need it.

Still, you look at the way Sean Payton utilizes Bush in New Orleans and figure that there might be a way for an inventive coach and innovative offensive coordinator to use Harvin in a way that would contribute to a high-powered, attack-oriented offense.

If only we had any of those.

Harvin's also got the fabled "character issues"; he failed a drug test at the combine, when you know you're going to be tested (ESPN said that he was either "stupid" or "had a real problem," neither of which are desirable). Brad Childress apparently sat down with him earlier this week and was convinced that's all behind him. And hey, we all trust Brad Childress's judgment, right?

The Vikings did address their offensive line issues in round two, taking mammoth (6'7 3/4". 332 lbs.) tackle Phil Loadholt out of Oklahoma, who looks to be an awesome road-grader as a run blocker but could have trouble dealing with speedy defensive ends while protecting the pass.

Still, the success of this draft for the Vikings will undoubtedly ride on the success of Harvin in a purple uniform. With Oher taken one pick later by the Ravens, a lot of people (including me) will be comparing the career paths of the two and grading them against each other. In the shorter term, if Harvin even smells like a bust in 2009...well, maybe our next head coach will know what to do with him.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The best 2009 NFL Draft grade goes to...

Minnesota. Or Jacksonville. Or Tampa Bay. Or maybe Buffalo. Dallas, perhaps?

Because predicting who'll get the most out of their draft class a day before the event is about as reliable as predicting it the day after the draft.

Consider this article, from ESPN's 2005 draft archive, titled "Solid drafts move Cardinals, Vikings forward," which provides us with the following excerpt:

The Vikings got playmakers on both sides of the ball in the first round, surprising some pundits by choosing wide receiver Troy Williamson over Mike Williams and adding to a fast-improving, young defensive front with pass-rush end Erasmus James. But the Vikes not only started fast, they finished nicely as well, adding "value board" prospects such as offensive lineman Marcus Johnson (who could replace right guard David Dixon), corner Dustin Fox (a potential "nickel" contributor as a rookie) and tailback Ciatrick Fason. If coach Mike Tice is as serious as he claims to be about returning to the power run game that Minnesota abandoned in 2004, Fason could be a factor.

Ciatrick Fason wasn't a factor anywhere except maybe in the unemployment line. Dustin Fox I barely remember; Troy Williamson and Erasmus James I want to forget. And Marcus Johnson just signed with the Raiders a month ago.

Didn't know that? Neither did I, until I read this article, titled "Vikings aim to flip lesson of '05 flops."

Seven players were taken by the Vikings that spring, and four years later, as the team prepares for another draft, none remain.


Obviously, the Vikings have done a much better job of improving their team via free agency the last few years than through the draft. Jared Allen was our pseudo-#1 pick last year and played better than any rookie would have and, Fred Smoot aside, our big-name free-agent or trade targets have panned out reasonably well or better. The draft is important (and finding Adrian Peterson helps), but it's not the only way to build, and, with the salaries commanded by top-of-the-draft, unproven rookies, its arguably not even cheaper any more.

(Meanwhile, what about the Cardinals' 2005 draft? Antrel Rolle looks like the only truly useful player in that bunch. The ESPN article goes on to question Seattle's "reach" for Lofa Tatupu and Denver's pick of Darrent Williams, who looked good in his two years in the league before being shot and killed in 2007.)

So, just keep in mind when you see "Draft grades" and other immediate post-draft coverage that the "experts" have about as good an idea as how a team's draft picks will pan out as you do. Of course, that won't stop me (and everyone else) from giving our views on the best and worst picks, especially for our chosen teams, next week. But as long as you acknowledge it's more fun than serious, you'll be all right.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

And while we're talking about Mock Drafts...

Here's a great one.

He doesn't think the Lions will draft Matthew Stafford #1 overall. OK, I can believe that's a possibility. So Stafford goes to the Seahawks at #4. Again, acceptable.

So, where does Mark Sanchez go? Not to the Seahawks, obviously. Nor to the Jaguars at #8. Nor the 49ers at #10. Redskins at #13? Nope. Surely the Jets (#17) or Bucs (#19), both of whom seem to be lining up for Josh Freeman, will take him, right? Nope, and nope. Well, what about the Lions at #20? If they pass on Stafford, then -- no, no, not the Lions either.

And look at that. The Vikings, at pick #22, select Mark Sanchez.

Hey, I'd be all for it. But there are at least half a dozen teams that are going to pick Sanchez (and maybe trade up for him) before the Vikings even sniff him.

Looking it over, it seems that the draft picks were by the individual bloggers of SB Nation, and not by the author of the article, Matthew J. Darnell, himself. Which probably explains why they're bloggers instead of running an actual football team.

Still, that means I'll be using this one as one of the "pro" boards in my un-contest. Question, though: Does anyone have ESPN Insider? I'd love to include Mel Kiper's or Todd McShay's drafts in the un-contest, but you can only view their first 16 picks without Insider status.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NFL Draft Un-contest

A few years ago, did a draft contest that I participated in (and did poorly at). Unfortunately, they haven't run it since, so I thought I'd take a shot at resurrecting it here.

The basic concept is simple: Post your first-round mock draft, by draft position, not team (so that even if, say, you list Matthew Stafford #1 and Detroit trades out of the #1 pick and some other team picks Stafford, you still get credit). Do this for all 32 picks in the first round in the comments (on either site). If you've posted your mock draft elsewhere, give me the link and I'll use that. I'll compile everyone's results and score them after the draft.

I'm going to do scoring a bit different (read: simpler) than how PFR did it, though. First, there will be no bonus for getting your pick in early, since we're only a few days out anyway. Second, each player can be named only once. As for scoring, you'll simply score one "point" for each spot you're off, to a maximum of 10. The lowest "score" wins. I'll also look up a few mock drafts from the "pros" and see how they score, to compare to us "amateurs."

So, if you pick Mark Sanchez to go in the #4 spot and he's picked at #10, you'd get 6 points. I'll track players into the second round, so if your #31 pick goes at #35, you'll get 4 points. The 10-point maximum is to keep one or two bad picks from ruining your entire entry. Think Aaron Rodgers or Brady Quinn. As with every other contest I've run on this site, there's no prize, just bragging rights.

Entries are due before the first pick of the draft; I'll post mine in the comments (as soon as I figure out what to pick). Make sure that players are listed unambiguously: "J. Smith," "Jason Smith," "Smith, Baylor" are all fine, but "OL Smith" is not, since I wouldn't know if you're referring to Jason Smith or Andre Smith. And please number your picks so it'll be easier to track.

Good luck!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Schedule day!

It's like Christmas in April! Only without the snow and scary Santas in malls.

First, the schedule itself:

Week 1: @ Cleveland
Week 2: @ Detroit
Week 3: San Francisco
Week 4: Green Bay (Mon.)
Week 5: @ St. Louis
Week 6: Baltimore
Week 7: @ Pittsburgh
Week 8: @ Green Bay
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: Detroit
Week 11: Seattle
Week 12: Chicago
Week 13: @ Arizona
Week 14: Cincinnati
Week 15: @ Carolina (Sun. Night)
Week 16: @ Chicago (Mon.)
Week 17: NY Giants

The Vikings start off on the road for their first two games and play three of their first five on the road, but there's certainly potential for a strong start, as none of the Vikings' first five opponents finished with a record better than .500 last year. In total, those five teams managed just a 19-61 combined record in 2008. And the two "best" teams in that bunch, 7-9 San Francisco and 6-10 Green Bay, will play in the Metrodome. 3-2 should be automatic, 4-1 clearly attainable, and 5-0 not out of the question.

Then come the defenses of Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The loss of Bart Scott could hurt the Ravens, and if Joe Flacco has to beat us -- and he will, considering the Vikings' run defense -- I like our chances at home. The only good thing about playing at Pittsburgh is that it'll be in October, so weather at least shouldn't be a factor. And speaking of weather, you gotta love going to Green Bay on the first of November!

Then the Vikings don't have to leave Minneapolis for a full month, with a bye week and three straight home games. It's not a bad stretch for the five post-bye games, with Arizona likely to come down significantly from last year, but the final three games could be brutal: road games against Carolina and Chicago and, like last year, a home finale against the Giants.

Finally, there's the weather issue. After the Green Bay game on Nov. 1, the Vikings have three road games. Arizona will be nice, but anything could go in that Chicago game -- freezing rain, snow, wind, anything. And don't be too optimistic about that Carolina game. I can say, from experience of living in Charlotte for four years, that it can get a little nippy in late December. Not Chicago or Green Bay nippy, but 40-degree temperatures at night are not uncommon. A cold snap could drop the weather down near freezing.

Still, it's overall a rather soft-looking schedule, at least on paper. Thanks to two games against the Lions and a run against the NFC West and AFC Central bottom-feeders Cleveland and Cincinnati, the Vikings boast one of the league's easiest schedules, based on last year's records. Fully half of the Vikings' opponents (8 of 16) come against teams that lost 10 or more games in 2008. Of course, the rest of the division gets a similar break, so it wouldn't be surprising to see two (or more) playoff teams come from the division. If Green Bay can get their 3-4 defense running smoothly and Jay Cutler's a hit in Chicago, the NFC North might just be the class of the league in 2009.

Assuming everyone forgets about Detroit.