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29 May 2007

Four Downs: NFC North

by Ned Macey

Chicago Bears

Draft Review

The key for the Bears this season is the development of Rex Grossman, and they tried to help their young quarterback by nabbing top tight end Greg Olsen in the first round. The latest in a string of excellent University of Miami tight ends, Olsen's receiving skills are much more developed than his blocking ones. He is a bit of a workout warrior, as his production at Miami was not exactly awe-inspiring. He only caught one touchdown pass last season, showing that, unlike some tight ends, his value may come in between the twenties.

The Bears took defensive end Dan Bazuin in the second round, a pick that is more about the quality of the player than a specific team need. Bazuin was a playmaker at Central Michigan, and time will tell if that translates to higher competition. For now, this pick and the ascension of Mark Anderson into the starting lineup could spell the end of Alex Brown's tenure in Chicago. The third round netted another highly productive MAC product in running back Garrett Wolfe. The depth chart behind Cedric Benson is fluid, and Wolfe could see substantial playing time. Wolfe does not have a great deal of receiving experience, but he showed good potential in mini-camp. With the very next pick in the draft, the Bears took out Lance Briggs insurance in Michael Okwo, a speedy, undersized linebacker who should fit in well on the weak side.

The draft's second day brought two offensive linemen and three defensive backs. Fourth-round guard Josh Beekman from Boston College was the highest lineman picked by the Bears since Marc Colombo in the first round in 2002. Beekman could immediately compete with Ruben Brown and eventually replace center Olin Kreutz. Tackle Aaron Brant from Iowa State is athletic and could develop. The Bears re-scouted previously fruitful terrain for defensive backs, grabbing safety Kevin Payne from Louisiana-Monroe and Corey Graham from New Hampshire, the alma maters of Chris Harris and Jerry Azumah respectively. Payne has potential as an excellent run-stuffing safety. Graham, like Azumah, is an excellent return man, but with Devin Hester on board, he will be more important as a cornerback -- where he should be a natural for the Cover-2 system. Trumaine McBride, an undersized corner from Mississippi, rounded out the draft.

Remaining Needs

It is too easy to say quarterback here, but the Bears had no shot at finding a definite upgrade on Grossman and were probably wise to stay put at this point. More noticeable is the failure to draft a wide receiver. Muhsin Muhammad is 34 years old, and Mark Bradley has battled injuries since he was drafted in 2005. Olsen is a nice addition, but Grossman will not develop if Rashied Davis and Mike Hass are seeing extensive playing time. Depending on Tank Johnson's treatment by the authoritarian Roger Goodell, the Bears could also use more depth at defensive tackle.

Undrafted Free Agents

The Bears' undrafted free agents had bigger resumes than most of their draft picks. Chris Leak was quarterback of National Champion Florida and had a solid mini-camp. Time will tell if he's more successful than the last Gator quarterback to join the Bears. All-time Division I-AA touchdown leader David Ball, a wide receiver from New Hampshire, could certainly stick given the aforementioned lack of receiver depth. (Remember that the previous all-time Division I-AA touchdown leader was some guy named Jerry Rice.) Leak and Ball have the big names and fill in positions of need, but one of the less-touted players with intriguing upside is tight end Fontel Mines, who is undersized but could develop into a receiving threat. He would be even more interesting if he was Fontel Mines from the Colorado School of Mines, but he's actually from Virginia.

Detroit Lions

Draft Review

Matt Millen has received few plaudits in his career as a general manager, but remember that time in 2004 when he traded down one spot in the first round, picked up a second-round pick and still drafted Roy Williams? Millen waited for another sweetheart deal with the second pick this year. It turns out Mike Ditka is no longer running a team, so Millen stayed put and took Calvin Johnson. Johnson, Williams, and Mike Furrey could make up one of the top wide receiver corps in football and will certainly make life easier for Jon Kitna.

Millen got active in the second round, jumping up and down the round to get three second-round picks. First, the Lions selected their "quarterback of the future" in Michigan State product Drew Stanton. Second-round quarterbacks not named Drew Brees rarely turn out well, so the odds are against Stanton. Stanton is unlikely to emerge as merely competent, as he has the tools to be a star but lacks the consistency and accuracy to even start. If he develops into a starter, he could be outstanding, but he is a risky pick near the beginning of the second round. Defensive end Ikaika Alma-Francis from Hawaii fills arguably the Lions' top defensive need and is a talented pass rusher. Safety Gerald Alexander out of Boise State seems to be a bit of a reach.

The Lions shipped off Josh McCown and Mike Williams for a fourth-round pick and converted them into A.J. Davis, a cornerback from North Carolina. Davis joins a very shallow depth chart and could compete immediately for time as a nickel corner, which may be his future given his undersized frame. They also drafted guard Manuel Ramirez from Texas Tech, an enormous player who lacks great mobility and may not be able to deal with the athletic defensive linemen in the NFL. The draft closed with linebacker Johnny Baldwin from Alabama A&M and cornerback Ramzee Robinson from plain old Alabama. Baldwin is an intriguing prospect who may have the coverage skills to excel at middle linebacker in the Tampa-2. Robinson was Mr. Irrelevant and is the type of prospect that spot usually implies.

Remaining Needs

The Lions had major needs at linebacker, offensive line, and cornerback that were not addressed until the second day with players unlikely to contribute this season. Even after the selection of Baldwin, linebacker depth is a major problem. While not the highest priority on a team, the Lions' tight end depth chart is extremely skimpy, with Dan Campbell and Casey Fitzsimmons topping the depth chart.

Undrafted Free Agents

For the past several seasons, Calvin Johnson's talent has been stifled by the erratic play of quarterback Reggie Ball. Now, Ball joins Johnson as a wide receiver on the Lions. Ball only got an invite to rookie mini-camp, not a contract. He is not the athlete that either Matt Jones or Antwaan Randle El is and is a longshot to make the team. Tight end George Cooper makes it a Tech triumvirate, and he has a decent shot of making the team due to his blocking ability.

Green Bay Packers

Draft Review

Brett Favre was not happy with the draft. He did not get the "weapon" he so desperately wanted. The Patriots acquired Randy Moss for a measly fourth-round pick. The Packers' fourth-rounder was used on Allen Barbre, an offensive linemen from Missouri Southern State who is unlikely to contribute until Favre has happily retired in Mississippi. Of course, the fact that a team's biggest star did not like the draft does not mean it was a bad draft.

First-round defensive tackle Justin Harrell has amazing physical skills but battled injuries in his senior season. The Packers were widely considered to have "reached" for Harrell with the 16th selection, but Harrell also has been said to have "top ten" talent. Once running back Marshawn Lynch was off the board, no running back was worthy of a first-round pick. The Packers' next biggest need was arguably defensive tackle, and Harrell could contribute immediately.

With Lynch gone, the Packers targeted Brandon Jackson of Nebraska. They traded down in the second round to take him. Most draft prognosticators had multiple backs that Green Bay could have taken ranked higher. So, Jackson, even more than Harrell, becomes the key pick of this draft by Ted Thompson. If he is the best fit for the Packers' system -- and he ran in a similar zone-blocking scheme in college -- then this draft could be surprisingly productive. After an outstanding draft last season, Thompson should get the benefit of the doubt.

Favre finally got a receiver with third-round pick James Jones from San Jose State. He projects as more of a possession receiver due to average speed. Fifth-round receiver David Clowney from Virginia Tech may have more upside than Jones and is a deep threat. Third-round safety Aaron Rouse, also from Virginia Tech, is a former linebacker who may not have the speed to be a consistent safety but should provide good run support.

Besides Barbey and Clowney, the second day netted two linebackers, Korey Hall and Desmond Bishop; kicker Mason Crosby; running back DeShawn Wynn; and tight end Clark Harris. Hall and Bishop will be mostly special teamers behind an established linebacker corps. Crosby could make a run at Dave Rayner, who is not sufficiently accurate as a kicker. Wynn, the talented back from Florida, will have an uphill battle to make the team, but if he puts it together he will be a major bargain.

Remaining Needs

The Packers filled defensive tackle running back, and wide receiver needs with their first three picks, but they did nothing to address their glaring lack of depth at cornerback. Behind veterans Al Harris and Charles Woodson, the Packers have the underwhelming trio of Will Blackmon, Patrick Dendy and Frank Walker. The Packers also did not touch their thin tight end position until the selection of Harris in the seventh round.

Undrafted Free Agents

The Packers added a handful of undrafted free agents. Quarterback Jerry Babb broke several Jake Delhomme records at Louisiana-Lafayette. Babb will compete with Ingle Martin for the third quarterback position. The player with the best shot for the team may be Ryan Powdrell, a fullback from Southern California. Brandon Miree is the starter, but he is not a great player, and veteran William Henderson was released.

Minnesota Vikings

Draft Review

When Adrian Peterson fell to the seventh spot, the Vikings snatched up one of the draft's top talents. The status of his injured collarbone led to his fall and likely will determine whether or not this was a wise pick. The good news is that despite pre-draft reports to the contrary, Peterson will not need surgery before the season. Peterson has the potential to be one of those rare running backs who is not a product of his offensive line. Obviously, he also has a history of injuries and will be of little use on injured reserve. Unfortunately, Peterson will likely have only a minor impact this season, as he is only a moderate upgrade over Chester Taylor, and the lingering injuries could lead him to be broken in slowly.

Peterson was not a need pick, but the Vikings quickly turned to filling needs with their next four picks. The second round netted Sidney Rice, a speedy but unpolished receiver from South Carolina. The third round found Marcus McCauley, an excellent pick at cornerback, who will provide depth behind Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin. Rush defensive end Brian Robinson came in the fourth, a must-have given the Vikings poor pass rush. The Vikings added wide receiver Aundrae Allison in the fifth round. Allison, like Rice, is a burner who is unrefined. He has intriguing physical skills but is likely several years away from contributing.

The Vikings did finally add a quarterback to their current depth chart of Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger, but seventh rounder Tyler Thigpen out of Coastal Carolina is hardly likely to revolutionize the position. Thigpen had a very good senior year but is undersized and only has the one good season. The draft was rounded out with linebacker Rufus Alexander and another wide receiver, Chandler Williams. Alexander, at least, was highly productive in college.

Remaining Needs

The Vikings' primary need remains quarterback, but they obviously disagree with that assessment. The quantity-over-quality approach to wide receiver is also a unique strategy. The Vikings opted to fill their safety needs through free agency – signing Mike Doss and re-signing Tank Williams – rather than adding an impact player in the draft. The right side of the offensive end may depend on the development of Ryan Cook, a 2006 draftee. Overall, the offensive line is not the unit the Vikings hope it is, and it is a little surprising to see them completely ignore it in the draft.

Undrafted Free Agents

The Vikings signed 15 undrafted free agents. None are exactly big names that generate fan interest. Michigan State offensive lineman Kyle Cook is an interesting player who could add depth. Southern Illinois tight end Braden Jones has excellent physical skills but never produced until his last season. Safety Jeremy Burnett from South Florida has decent cover skills and could stick.

Well, that's it for Four Downs. Bring on the dead period of the NFL schedule! Seriously, now -- well, late this week, when the book is finished -- is an excellent time to submit a guest column, especially something fun or historical. E-mail your idea or rough draft to mailbag-at-footballoutsiders.com. We're also planning on putting together some articles over the next two months with bits and pieces of data from game charting that didn't make it into the book. -- Aaron Schatz

Posted by: Ned Macey on 29 May 2007

177 comments, Last at 07 Jun 2007, 6:56pm by zlionsfan

Comments

1
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 11:07am

Ned: with the Bears WRs, you did forget to mention Berrian, unless I missed something. I don't think that changes the fact that they really could use another WR, considering it usually takes a year or two for a rookie WR to develop anyway.

2
by Aundrae Allyson (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 11:19am

hey, just cos I'm so dumb that I can't spell my own name don't mean that the vikings didn't signifikantly upgrade the passing game when they pikked me. i was a 5th round steel, i tells ya.

3
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 11:26am

Does anyone else think that the Vikings are throwing away the best years of a playoff calibre defense with their horrendous Qb situation?

4
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 11:27am

Drafting guys in the first rond, and to a lesser degree, the second round, who have not had well above-average productivity in college, seems to me to be the most consistently questionable strategy employed by teams.

Trying to determine which second day picks and which undrafted guys will end up being productive NFL players is like being a bad blackjack player; eventually you just get ground into dust.

5
by Balthier (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 11:27am

I don't get the obsession people had about the Vikings drafting a QB. They took Jackson last year in the 2nd round. He isn't a late round flyer or a long term project, he's a first day QB who they absolutely have to give a decent shot to unless he looks so bad that they're willing to write off that pick. He didn't set the world on fire last year, but I have it on authority from my Vikings-mad friends that he showed some promise as both a passer and a scrambler. So why add another rookie to the pool? That doesn't exactly scream "We believe in you, Tavaris".

What they maybe could have done with was a veteran (Brad Johnson was, sadly, too veteran) to back him up, rather than "Wee" Brooks Bollinger. But that's a free agency issue.

I liked their draft overall. It's not a safe class and there's a lot of bust potential, but if it comes together for them at all I think they'll look back on it as a great job.

6
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 11:28am

Re #1
I don't think he forgot to mention Berrian per se, but instead was mentioning prominent Bears WRs with issues that might have prompted them to address the WR position.

Good piece, Ned.

7
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 11:35am

They definitely might be, karl. I'll give Childress credit for this much, however; he has the courage of his convictions. The guy is willing to place all his NFL head coaching career chips on Tavaris Jackson, so he is either a superb qb evaluator, or has some rather large stones, regardless of his being right or wrong.

As bad as the offense was last year, I thought their wr production harmed them more than their qb production, which is really saying something. Of course, Jackson, only played a lot in two games, so things might definitely get worse. We'll see.

8
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 11:51am

Balthier, that's suggestive of some circular logic. Whether Jackson actually is a long-term project or not has nothing to do as to where he was drafted. Now, it likely is the case that Childress doesn't think he is a long term project, and like I said, I'll credit Childress with having some courage. I don't how many other folks, however, had a similar evaluation of Jackson. I guess we'll see who is correct.

9
by Ahmad Carrol\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s mom (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 12:03pm

Korey Hall is going to play FB for the Packers, not linebacker.

And the undrafted player most likely to make the Green Bay 53 at this early stage appears to be another FB, Corey White out of Alabama-Birmingham.

He made a great impression at the minicamps, and also took reps at HB. Obviously how many tight ends they keep will affect how many FBs they keep, but I could see them keeping 3 – Brandon Miree, Korey Hall and Corey White (as a swing HB/FB) if Deshaun Wynn doesn’t win a job in training camp.

10
by MCS (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 12:05pm

Nothing to add on the Pack. Their front office issues are disconcerting though.

I agree with Will on the Viking passing woes. Several times against the Packers, I found myself with bated breath as a pass goes to yet another open Viking reciever. I would sigh in relief as yet another pass was dropped.

11
by James C (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 12:08pm

I don't agree with the assessment that the Bears neeeded to draft a wideout, certainly not one outside of the first round. Berrian and Muhammed are going to be the starters this year with Bradley the number three (unless he can push out MM - not that I expect that to happen) and Davis playing the slot (and also playing special teams). The fifth receiver on the roster is going to be Devin Hester who the Bears have been trying to convince to switch to WR since the end of last season. It remains to be seen whether one of Ball or Hass can pick up special teams well enough to push Davis off the roster, it will be settled in camp. So basically the only way the Bears should have drafted a receiver is if he is definitely going to be a starter (ie a first rounder); once Meachem went this basically wasn't going to happen. If the team felt that Bradley will never pick his game up then you could have made a good case for taking Meachem or Bowe, but the Bears need a flanker not a split end. Olsen was the right pick.

People like to say you shouldn't draft for need, but you also shouldn't spend a pick on a guy who may well end up not making your roster.

12
by James C (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 12:20pm

Also I supect that the Bears knew that they were moving Hester to offense since the Superbowl, but why tell every other team in the league? The only WR in the draft with Hester-like physical skills was Ginn Jnr and he went number 9. Furthermore with Hester and Bradley the Bears have two second round pick WRs on the roster, they were never going to draft another.

13
by Marko (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 12:21pm

"Fourth-round guard Josh Beekman from Boston College was the highest lineman picked by the Bears since Marc Colombo in the first round in 2002."

Actually, he is the highest lineman picked by the Bears since Terrence Metcalf, who was a third-round pick in 2002.

14
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 12:32pm

4: I didn't mean to suggest that the Vikings should have drafted a quarterback but I do think that they could have made a move to bring in a veteran before the window of oportunity that their great defense gives them closes. Garcia, Plummer, Carr and Schaub were all available and to not even make any effort to fortify the position was probably a mistake. Will Allen is correct, Childress has put his career on Tavaris' back.

15
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 12:47pm

Well, I do think Garcia is unlikely to be better than Bollinger, and I doubt Plummer would have agreed to play in Minnesota. The price for Schaub was too high. It would probably have required overpaying Carr significantly to get him to forgo passing to Steve Smith. Signing significant free agents, and a guy competing to be the starting qb is significant, is easier said than done.

16
by Marko (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:06pm

Re 10 and 11: I completely agree with all of your points. There was no need to draft another WR, particularly since the Bears knew they would move Hester to offense. Jerry Angelo knows what he's doing.

As for the Vikings, they obviously have a lot riding on Tarvaris Jackson. From what I saw of him last year and in one of the college all-star games before he was drafted, he is miles away from being competent. The first sign that he is having any success may be when Vikings fans learn to spell his first name correctly, which doesn't seem to have happened yet. :>)

One thing about the Vikings' passing game worth mentioning is Troy Williamson. I read somewhere that his large number of drops may have been due to something wrong with his eyes, and he did something to correct that problem in the offseason. I can't recall whether it was new contact lenses, laser eye surgery, or something else. It will be worth keeping an eye on Williamson's progress this season.

17
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:16pm

Re 14:

They could be in the mix for Trent Green or have tried to get Joey Harrington, both of whom are better than Bollinger.

18
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:18pm

14: I was just throwing names out off the top of my head but I do think that Plummer or Garcia are a big upgrade over Bollinger. Warner maybe, he might have jumped at the chance for a starting job, Trent Green? (I also believe that David Carr is one of the most unfortunate qbs I have seen, getting sacked 50 times per year with only one receiver, no decent running game and no help from his defense.) With the Vikings' defense (who's pass rush will probably improve as Erasmus James returns and Udeze gets healthy) and two good running backs, all the Vikings need to be in playoff contention is a dependable quarterback who can hold onto the ball. (ie. not Bollinger or Jackson)

15: I can't remember where I read it but I have seen reports that Williamson is indeed catching the ball much better now that he can see it. He was always supposed to be a raw project when he was drafted so he should probably be given a little longer anyway. They could also sign Antonio Bryant (but that might not be the best idea with a young receiving corps).

19
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:20pm

OK that was supposed to refer to 15 not 14, I wasn't trying to argue with myself ;-)

20
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:25pm

Re: 15

I don't know if the Vikes would have been able to obtain vet QB insurance in FA or trade, but it doesn't look like they've even tried. You're obviously closer to it than I am, but I can't recall them hinting at any interest in a vet QB.

It seems to me they're making the same mistake the Ravens made during the early Boller years. Depending on your point of view they're either attempting to shield the guy from any legit competition or making sure he succeeds by not giving themselves any other options.

21
by Balthier (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:28pm

Will Allen: You're right, it doesn't really follow that a guy isn't a project just because he was drafted in the 2nd. My bad. But still, I think that drafting a QB in the 2nd one year and taking a QB in the 1st the next year - as many people would have had the Vikings do with Brady Quinn - is fairly illogical unless that 2nd round guy has given you reason, over the course of his rookie year, to believe that he isn't going to be the player you thought he would be when you drafted him. And I assume that when the Vikings took him in the 2nd round, they were confidently thinking "Starter" rather than "Clip-board holder" (am I assuming too much competence on the part of the Vikings management and coaching staff? I hope not).

I agree with you that saying "Let's sign a veteran QB who can compete" is a lot easier than actually going through with it. That's fair enough, and if they do get something done for Green then that's a nice move for them.

22
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:30pm

Marko, Williamson did advanced testing with Nike (I guess they have as much vested interest in athletic performance as any corporate entity), whereupon it was discovered that one eye was significantly weaker than the other, although it is unclear to me what "weaker" means in this context. In any case, he has since been doing specific exercises to strengthen the eye for a couple of hours per day, along with having caught close to 15,000 (yes, 15,000) passes so far this off-season. Work ethic will not be the problem, unlike the next wr drafted after Williamson in 2005.

Hey, if this works (and there is some precedent for it; Jake Reed saved his career by doing something similar in the early '90s), we might see this advanced eye testing become part of the Draft Combine. There is no doubt that Williamson can get open. If he just ends up being an average pass-catcher, he'll have a pretty productive NFL career.

Regarding Jackson (who by all reports also has an extraordinarily strong work ethic, even by NFL qb standards), I'm not in his fan club, but I wouldn't get too wrapped up in what he showed last year. Extraordinarily few NFL QBs don't look very bad in their first couple NFL starts, especially when playing on a roster devoid of receiver talent.

23
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:43pm

Karl, Plummer is definitely an upgrade, if he would play, but I think Garcia is really fooling people with that small number of games with the Eagles. I don't really think he actually has much left in the tank.

Green is definitely still an above-average qb, IF (and I do mean IF) the extremely severe concussion he suffered last year does not render him much more prone to further concussion problems. I'd be hesitant to throw a lot of money his way. I do think Harrington still has a chance to be a replacement level qb, and if this Vick thing gets as nasty as it might, we might just find out sooner than we thought. I don't know how hard it would have been for the Vikings to recruit him.

24
by Marko (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:46pm

"Extraordinarily few NFL QBs don’t look very bad in their first couple NFL starts, especially when playing on a roster devoid of receiver talent."

Yes, that's true. But I also was basing my opinion on what I saw of him in one of the college all-star games. He looked pathetic. His passes were wildly inaccurate. I would think that extraordinarily few successful NFL QBs looked that bad in a college all-star game.

Based on what I've seen, Jackson looks like a big-time project who is nowhere close to being a competent QB. Who knows, maybe he'll be good down the road. But I don't think he'll be good this year.

25
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:49pm

The reason for getting a starter in this year for the Vikings was very well stated by a writer describing the Raiders situation: the Vikings need to know that when they put Jackson in, everyone else knows the way the Vikings offense is supposed to work. I don't think they do - Brad Johnson clearly couldn't run it last year.

26
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:49pm

John Kitna is a pretty tough guy, but I'm guessing that with the Lions likely to go 3 WR as the base offense, he won't make it all year. Orlovsky would be next and I'm not sure how durable he'll be. Heck, Stanton may see more time this year than any QB other than Russell.

27
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:53pm

Well, Balthier, I am not nearly as high on Quinn as I was, say, Leinert, so I wasn't disappointed that they drafted Adrian Peterson, who, by all sccounts, and collarbone issues aside, was, along with Calvin Johnson, one of two absolutely physically domimant players in this draft. An All Pro level rb who is also a homerun threat every time he touches the ball will do wonders for a passing game.

On the other hand, if somebody like Leinert falls to a team at number 7, to say nothing of 11, where AZ was last year, a team is crazy to not draft him, because they drafted a guy at the end of the 2nd round the year previously, and he really didn't show much in his rookie year. Quinn ain't Leinert, though.

28
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:54pm

but I think Garcia is really fooling people with that small number of games with the Eagles.

Garcia's not as good as he looked last year with the Eagles, but he's not as bad as he looked the previous year with the Lions. Having an injury that limits mobility really hurts a QB like Garcia.

I have no idea why people think he was bad with Cleveland. He was roughly an average starting QB, which, with Cleveland's offense, is pretty impressive. Of all of the mistakes that Cleveland's made in the past few years, letting Garcia go was definitely a big one.

29
by jr (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 1:55pm

I think it's a little bit unfair to knock Greg Olsen for his lack of college production because for the last the couple of the seasons Miami's offense has just been awful. I don't follow the Hurricans closely enough to know whether the main culprit has been the line, QB play, playcalling or some mixture of the three but either way Olsen was stuck with a pretty lackluster unit. That's not to say that his draft stock didn't jump based on his Combine/workout performances.

I agree with all the points made about the Bears and WRs with the caveat that if Bradley or someone else doesn't emerge as a longer-term replacement for MM then next year WR is going to be a serious need. What irked me about the Bears' draft was their failure to address the aging O line sooner than the 4th round. I understand the best player available principle but they're already loaded at DE while this is almost certainly Ruben Brown's last year and Miller is in decline. Olin Kreutz and St. Clair aren't getting any younger either.

On a different note a couple of my favorite college players wound up in the NFC North. Desmond Bishop certainly isn't the strongest or fastest LB but he was a joy to watch as the heart and soul of Cal's defense. I'm also a big Alama-Francis fan; the fact that his dad was a back up for Bart Starr is kind of cool as well.

30
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 2:00pm

Yeah, like I said, marko, I'm not in the Tavaris Jackson Fan Club. We'll see if Childress is an above-average talent evaluator. I wouldn't have objected to the Vikings bringing in a veteran qb, but I think their options were greatly limited, unless they were willing to overpay by a pretty significant amount.

31
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 2:01pm

Re #28
The problem with Olsen is it didn't look like he got better his last two years at Miami. He had good company, though: almost nobody else on offense at Miami got better, either. Yes, this might be why Randy Shannon is now Miami's head coach, and Larry Coker is not.

32
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 2:05pm

Re: 28

2004 DVOA

Garcia -2.8%

Holcombe 15.7%

I think letting Garcia go was one of the smartest things Cleveland has done since their return. Even if you accept that Garcia can still play well in the right system, Cleveland wasn't running that system.

33
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 2:09pm

Yes, the biggest gamble the Bears are taking is with an o-line with plenty of guys well into their 30s. Things can go over the cliff in a hurry with a unit like that. Grossman, is, well, shall we say, not extactly a stand-out in terms of handling pressure well. If they have a Super Bowl loser drop-off this year, it'll likely be due to an o-line collapse.

34
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 2:10pm

#31: Holcomb's positive 2004 ranking is almost entirely based on his Cincinnati game, which isn't very representative. It was a pretty pedestrian showing versus Houston, and the others were too limited to draw any information from.

35
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 2:28pm

I also have to say that I thought the Packers would do more to get some offensive talent before the Aaron Rodgers era began, so I said the Packers were my pick to win the division in an upset. Now, maybe Harrell will be a terrific dt, in which case it was a smart pick for the future, but now I can't see them, absent the o-line collapse by the Bears mentioned above, threatening for the division title.

Hey, if Tavaris Jackson plays at replacement level, I think the Vikings could win the division, but I don't the chances of that happening are better than 25%, at best. I do think Martz is going to play his typical "let's kill our qb!" game in Detroit, except without Orlando Pace at tackle, so things could get ugly there, so I guess I'll stick with the Bears, even though I believe they have more than one significant weakness. This division sucks.

36
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 2:31pm

Re 32:

Only a 2 starters on the Bear's line are "well" into their 30s. Ruben Brown is the oldest at 38, and Fred Miller is 34. However the Bears have a lot of depth for Brown with Metcalf who was a starter for most of 2005, and now Beekman.

Their other starters only one is older than 30. Tait is 32, Kreutz won't be 30 till june, and 28.

It's not uncommon for a offensive lineman to play until he's mid 30s anyways.

37
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 2:35pm

Re: 34

Yeah, that Cincinnati game was crazy, but, in fairness, I have to point out Garcia's best game also came at the expense of the Bengals. The point being, I guess, that Holcomb (when healthy) was able to achieve as much with the Browns offense as Garcia did. As further support, if you factor in the previous two seasons (2002 +12.7% and 2003 -11.7%) to help build up the base size and reduce the impact of the huge game against Cincy, Holcomb's DVOA will stilll compare favorably to Garcia's Cleveland numbers.

38
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 2:42pm

When 40% of your starters are 34 or older, that's a lot of guys who are well into their 30s. Yes, it's not uncommon for o-linemen to play into their mid 30s, and when they decline, they tend to decline very rapidly. It is not uncommon for it to strike in the early 30s as well. Maybe the guys at #2 on the depth chart would be productive as full time starters, but, then again, maybe they are at #2 on the depth chart for a reason.

I'm not saying it is dead-pipe cinch. I am saying it would not be uncommon is the least for a unit with a 38 year old starter, a 34 year old starter, and a 32 year oid starter to experience a very sharp decline in performance.

39
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 2:48pm

Nice Article Ned. Just to let you and the other writers know, I enjoy reading the columns ya'll put together. Keep up the good work.

40
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 2:55pm

#29 - Where can I sign up for the Tavaris Jackson Fan Club? Can I transfer my membership over from the Brad Johnson Fan Club? Is there a secret handshake or a club song? That would be great.

41
by jr (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 3:04pm

30: That was pretty much my point. As I said I don't follow Miami very closely but everything seems to indicate that Larry Coker won a national championship with Butch Davis' players and then proceeded to run a powerhouse into the ground with his ineptitude. What I meant was that Olsen's lack of production in college isn't quite the red flag that it can be with players taken high in the draft.

35: The problem to me seems to be that the Bears are letting the O line collectively age without infusing it with young talent. Granted that as Will Allen noted the backups might come in and produce but I still would've liked to have seen more of a focus on replenishing the unit either through the draft or FA. The Bears were also very lucky last year to completely avoid any major injuries to O linemen, a circumstance which is very unikely to repeat itself this season.

42
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 3:07pm

Metcalf is better than your average #2. He would probably be starting somewhere, but he decided to stay with the Bears because he liked it there. He started all be the last game of the 2005 season, for decent offensive line (the stats show it as average, but they did have Orton back there which is going to make a line look much worse than it is). I doubt the Bears are counting on Ruben Brown to play every game this year. I'm not even sure he'll be starting on opening day.

43
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 3:21pm

I've seen a little bit of Tarvaris Jackson play, but not by any means an extensive amount. Can someone fill me in on how Tarvaris Jackson is different than Mike McMahon?

44
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 3:28pm

I’ve seen a little bit of Tarvaris Jackson play, but not by any means an extensive amount. Can someone fill me in on how Tarvaris Jackson is different than Mike McMahon?

Jackson is a second year player, and hasn't had the chance to suck nearly as much as McMahon has.

45
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 3:28pm

It's worth noting that the Vikes had all sorts of chances to get a solid veteran QB (I really wanted David Carr), but they made the conscious choice to go with Tarvaris Jackson. They may be completely wrong in that choice, but it's not like they just fell into it.

Troy Williamson is the big X-factor for the Vikes. Despite showing the speed and quickness to get open last year, his inability to catch the ball made him less than a non-factor. It may be that he is a zero or a negative again. However, IF his sincere efforts to improve at catching the ball pay off, he really could be a very good WR this year. But if Williamson is a non-factor, then either one of the rookies better surprise everybody, or the team will run the ball 500 times, or they're in a whole lot of trouble.

46
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 3:31pm

#39, I think two old-style phone booths were combined to obtain a meeting hall, and there is room still available!

Tom, they might be just fine. I'm just saying that is would not be unusual in the least for an o-line of this nature to fall off significantly, especially, as was noted by jr, their above average injury luck does not continue. I'm still picking the Bears to win the division, but I doubt they will perform as well as last year, absent dramatic improvement by Grossman.

They look like they are going to have a significant hold out by a very good linebacker, and Tank Johnson may well be suspended. Defensive performance is more variable from year to year anyways, so it would not be surprising if the defense was less dominant, although still good. Like I said, the division sucks, so they may be just fine as far as that goes. If they do win the division, they probably won't be as lucky as last year, when their first two playoff opponents had sub-standard defenses.

47
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 3:31pm

42. McMahon has a career completion percentage of 44.5%. Even as a raw rookie, Jackson completed 58% of his passes. I don't know if Tarvaris Jackson will be a good player, but I'll be shocked--SHOCKED--if he's anywhere as bad as Mike McMahon.

48
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 3:37pm

Pacifist, I don't know whether Childress truly had no interest in Carr, or if he spoke as if it were the case because he realized that since the Panthers wanted Carr, the Vikings couldn't sign him without wildly overpaying. The Vikings, with their receiver situation, were in terrible shape to sign a veteran QB.

49
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 4:35pm

I love that Vikings fans are arguing whether TJax will be able to get it done at QB while completely ignoring the fact that his top WR is Bobby Wade. Bobby. Wade. I almost feel sorry for them. Almost.

Also, remember Grossman is in the last year of his rookie contract. If he poops all over the field again, the Bears can just let him waltz into free agency.

50
by Alaska Jack (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 4:38pm

For what it's worth, Phil Simms really like Tarvaris Jackson. Click link for the article.

- AJ

51
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 4:46pm

Hey, I like TJax, too. I think he can play in the NFL. As a Bears fan, I am fully prepared to watch him throw beautiful spirals to a bunch of guys who will promptly drop the ball.

52
by PackerNation (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 4:49pm

A few observations from a long, longtime observer of the NFC Central/North:

1)This is a division without a quarterback. Packer fans hope Favre has magic, Bear fans hope Grossman settles down, Viking fans hope Jackson is the answer, and Lion fans hope that the talent around Kitna makes him look good. They will all be disappointed. Look at the quarterbacking in the rest of the NFC; this is the worst-quarterbacked division in football.

2)This is possibly the best defensive division in football. Bears, Vikings, Packers all finished top 6 in defense DVOA. Vikings had a historically good run defense.

3)The past history of Super Bowl losers does not bode well for the Bears, and neither do the defections they've had, or the age of Muhammad. This is a team that could decline this year unless Grossman turns it up.

4)The Bears won 10 more games than the Lions last year....that gap will definitely shrink this year.

5)I think the Bears had the worst draft of the bunch. Olson is not the stud that Petersen or Jackson is going to be and Garrett Wolfe is simply not going to have much of an impact as an RB in the NFL, IMO. I don't think they helped themselves nearly as much as the other teams in the division.

6)I think the Vikings should be the favorites to win the division, but their long and well-documented history of screwing up the unscrewable won't permit me to pick them. Instead, I'll go out on a (homer) limb and say that if the Packers run the ball 500 times this year they'll win the division.

53
by Marko (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 4:52pm

"I’ve seen a little bit of Tarvaris Jackson play, but not by any means an extensive amount. Can someone fill me in on how Tarvaris Jackson is different than Mike McMahon?"

Okay, I'll bite. McMahon is white, so you can't compare him to Jackson. Instead of comparing him to a mobile white quarterback who lacks accuracy, Jackson must be compared to a mobile black quarterback who lacks accuracy - someone like Kordell Stewart.

54
by AmbientDonkey (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 4:58pm

Have the Bears defections really been that crippling? Ian Scott is pretty good but not irreplaceable, Alfonso Boone is a 300 pound man, theoretically Thomas Jones replacement was on the roster before he left. Every other major contributor on the field is back. I don't really know what Rivera brought to the defense but I don't think his loss will be a problem, the loss of Wade Wilson(even though I know nothing about his replacement) has to be viewed as a positive.

55
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 5:15pm

Re 52:

Your point number 5 has so many fallacies about it, that it is making me angry. When I calm down. I'll attempt to refute it.

56
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 5:17pm

51: How is Jackson a stud running back? The Pack reached for him in the bottom of the second. The Packers had the chance to add Randy Moss and Michael Turner and missed on both. If the Packers run the ball 500 times then they'll either lose a lot of games, get Jackson killed or (most likely) a combination of the two.

What major defections have the Bears had? They'll get Tommie Harris and Mike Brown back, Briggs will whinge until the season starts and then report before he starts missing paychecks. The Bears were so much better than the rest of this division last year and the gulf in talent isn't going to go away when none of the other sides have had a good offseason. Additionally, the Bears (apart from on their offensive line and Muhammed) are one of the youngest sides in the game and can be expected to improve as their players reach their peaks.

57
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 5:19pm

I've done it again, that was supposed to be to 52.

58
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 5:23pm

Goodness, arguing over whether some various draft picks were better than other various draft picks is almost like arguing over who will win the Super Bowl in five years. Nobody has a freakin' clue, other than a strong suspicion that Millen screwed up, and even that is pretty uncertain this year.

59
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 5:26pm

karl, I wouldn't be shocked if Briggs held out until week 10. If I were him, I might adopt that strategy.

60
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 5:34pm

59: The thing is if Briggs did that then he'd have lost about $4 million, which would kind of cancel out the point of refusing to sign the contract the Bears offered him in the first place (I think this is the case anyway, perhaps someone with a better understanding of the new CBA could enlighten me). There's also the risk that the Bears, who can set him any physical they want will simply fail him and not allow him the year's accreditation. That would be the 'nuclear option' though (to borrow a phrase from american politics), he'd NEVER play for them ever again if they did that.

61
by AmbientDonkey (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 5:36pm

Lance Briggs made $455,000 last year, his weekly salary this year will be $450,000. By week 6 he'll have made more money then he has made in his entire career to date. If I was in that position I wouldn't holdout into the season. Also if he holds out until week 10 there is no guarantee he gets his starting job back. I would hold out until 2 weeks before the season starts and come back before anyone has the chance to take my job and ruin my earnings potential for next year.

62
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 5:40pm

There’s also the risk that the Bears, who can set him any physical they want will simply fail him and not allow him the year’s accreditation.

That's an easily disputed point for arbitration - there's no way it would work.

63
by Marko (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 5:42pm

"The thing is if Briggs did that then he’d have lost about $4 million, which would kind of cancel out the point of refusing to sign the contract the Bears offered him in the first place

Exactly. Which is why I doubt very much he'll do that.

As for the Bears draft, I trust Jerry Angelo. He knows what he's doing. He received a lot of criticism for last year's draft, and it turned out to be one of the most productive in the NFL, highlighted by Devin Hester and Danieal Manning in the second round and Mark Anderson in the fifth round. His drafts have been consistently good and played a huge part in laying the foundation for last year's NFC Champions. His track record alone is enough for me to believe this year's draft was a good one for the Bears. The same can hardly be said for the other teams in the NFC North.

64
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 5:45pm

karl, a doctor who deliberately failed Briggs' physical, purely for purpose of denying him a year's accredidation, would be running the risk of being in hock to Briggs for the rest of his professional life. I don't think the league would allow it either; why would Goodell allow the labor pool to be poisoned, just to help out Jerry Angelo and the McKaskey's?

Yeah, Briggs would lose some money short-term, but he would avoid ten games of injury risk, and given how the cap goes up each year, he might make up some of it later, if he can make things painful enough.

If I were a player, I would hate the franchise designation, and would do everything legally available to inflict as much pain on the team which franchished me as possible, even if it cost me a couple million. Yes, the cba allows it, but the cba also allows me to make things uncomfortable for the team which does that to me.

65
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 5:48pm

Marko, we have seen some players who have held out against the franchise designation. Why is it so unlikely that Briggs would not do the same?

66
by Marko (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 6:01pm

Will, while a few players have held out after being designated franchise players, it's still pretty rare. I don't think Briggs wants to give up the money, which would be gone for good, with no guarantee he'd make it up.

Plus, the Bears still hold all the cards. They could franchise him again next year and cost Briggs even more money. If he holds out this year until week 10, that makes it more likely that the Bears will play hardball and franchise him again next year. I think it's far more likely that the Bears will work something out with Briggs, whereby they promise not to franchise him next year if he reports as a happy camper and gives 100% this year, while the team remains in prime contention for the Super Bowl.

Other teams have worked out similar handshake agreements with franchised players. And the Bears did something similar with Thomas Jones last year, who (although not designated a franchise player) was unhappy with his contract. The Bears agreed that they would take care of him in 2007 (meaning either give him a new contract or trade him to a team that would) if Jones would give his all in 2006. Jones kept his end of the bargain, and so did the Bears.

67
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 6:11pm

Re 63:

You would hate the franchise designation that much?

I know I would jump at the chance to make 7 million dollars in one year. Before you give the whole "fair market value" spiel. 7 million is 7 million is 7 million. I could live in excessive luxury for the rest of my life with that much money.

68
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 6:14pm

Re #52
Hmm, what is the best quarterbacked division in football?
NFCE: McNabb, Eli, Campbell, Romo
NFCN: Grossman, Favre, Jackson, Kitna
NFCS: Brees, Delhomme, Vick, Simms/?
NFCW: Hasselbeck, Alex Smith, Leinart, Bulger
AFCE: Brady, Cleo Lemon/?, Losman, Pennington
AFCN: BenR, McNair, Palmer, Quinn
AFCS: Peyton, Leftwich/Garrard, Schaub, VY
AFCW: Cutler, Rivers, Russell, Damon Huard

Call me crazy...
1. NFC West
2. AFC South
3. AFC East
4. AFC North
5. NFC East
6. NFC South
7. AFC West
8. NFC North

I feel reasonably confident about 1 and 8, and could see 2-7 shake out in almost any order.

69
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 6:17pm

Yes, and there is no guarantee that Briggs wouldn't blow up his knee in week nine, and lose his leverage forever. My point is that the injury risk in the NFL is high enough to make holding out against the Franchise designation less irrational than it might appear on the surface, especially if the player is relatively young. If Briggs can earn over 6 million by playing weeks 10-17 for the next two years, knowing that the Bears will never franchise him three years in a row, and he is angry enough, it might make sense for him to do it, or at least make the Bears think that he will do it. Appearing to be extraordinarily angry can often be an effective negotiating tactic.

70
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 6:24pm

#67 - hard to tell, why don't you try averaging the DVOA (where available) of each division's QBs. That might give us a more sound metric of comparison instead of arbitrarily judging talent/skill. Still, individual DVOA is a reflection of an indeterminate number of factors...but we should be able to see who is making the best out of their respective situations and offensive systems.

71
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 6:25pm

Tom, if that is the case, then it makes perfect sense for you to take the first 9 weeks off, show up in week 10, and then dare the Bears to do it again. Frankly, I wouldn't blame a player for mysteriously "tweaking" a hamstring (a nortoriously diffcicult injury to catch via imaging technology) during the first proactice of week 10, and collecting paychecks while "rehabbing". A team that tried to lay off all injury risk on me, against my will, would become my enemy, and I'm not one to give my enemies any quarter whatsoever, even at considerable expense to myself. It's not a bad negotiating reputation to have. In fact, it's a very good one to have.

72
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 6:29pm

NtT, yes, the NFC West has good quarterbacking, indeed, and with Leinert's and Smith's youth, that division may rank highly for some time.

73
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 6:40pm

Yes, and there is no guarantee that Briggs wouldn’t blow up his knee in week nine, and lose his leverage forever.

Briggs, even with a blown up knee, would still be given a contract from some other team which, in conjunction with the money this year, would easily match whatever he would make in free agency this year (see Daunte Culpepper, for instance). It's not really about the money. It's about the fact that Briggs really really doesn't like the Bears.

74
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 6:42pm

67: If Quinn turns out to be the real deal then the AFC North could be very well quarterbacked.

Personally, I'd put the AFC South first because I think Leftwich is better than most people do.

75
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 6:45pm

72: Nick Saban's idiocy should not be presented as evidence of the state of the NFL as a whole, I really don't agree that a player would not lose value after blowing his knee. I also think that it IS allabout money, why would he not like the bears? Great ciy, good team, great defense, he's even getting recognition.

76
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 6:46pm

Pat, did Robert Edwards get another contract after his knee injury? Is it really your position that injury risk in the NFL has no financial implications for players who are looking to get their first large signing bonus?

I'd be hesitant to draw conclusions in general about teams based upon what they are willing to do for a qb.

77
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 7:01pm

#75: No. What I'm saying is that you have to assume the injury would've happened with the new team anyway, and figure out the relative money. Yes, there are extreme cases (career-ending injuries) but they're very, very few.

You can't assume that players would simply hold out because of the injury risk no matter how small it is, because if that were true, players would hold out all the time.

It's also important to realize that most NFL players have insurance to protect against career-ending injuries, so, again, it's not really about the money.

78
by James C (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 7:53pm

Personally I am not sure that Briggs will definitely not be resigned before the start of the season.

The Bears will try to resign Berrian, and then see how easy Tillman and Vasher. If those two want too much to return I think that the Bears may see if they can ship Alex Brown elsewhere and then resign Briggs, move Danielle Manning to corner and then draft a corner next year. Alternatively resign the corners and let the linebacker walk (remember Tommy Polley made the Pro Bowl playing for Lovie Smith).

79
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 8:04pm

I didn't use DVOA because I don't think it's particularly good measure of what I'm looking for, since it's so dependent on lots of other things other than QBs. Just for the record, here's DVOA per division, using 2006 numbers, with all 4 teams weighted equally and teams with multiple QBs rated based on DVOA and throws (all QBs listed on QBs page included).

1. NFC North, 9.88
2. AFC South, 8.75
3. AFC North, 6.92
4. AFC East, 4.89
5. NFC West, 1.36
6. AFC West, -0.54
7. NFC South, -3.80
8. NFC North, -5.65

Switching Peyton Manning and Jon Kitna leaves the NFC North 2nd and the AFC South last. The division with the best "worst QB" is the NFC East, where Eli brings up the rear. The worst "best QB" is Kitna, unsurprisingly. Oh, and I'm lazy, so I didn't take rushing stats into account.

80
by James C (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 8:19pm

erm, Newstotom

the NFC North are in first and eighth.

81
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 8:39pm

Er, oops, sorry. The division in first in the NFC East.

82
by James C (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 9:13pm

Will Allen

The only spot that concerns me in terms of age on the Bears' O-line is Fred Miller at RT. Tait is no spring chicken but he should be fine for a few years yet and played well last year. There is plenty of young depth inside which gives cover for the age of one of the starters (Brown). 80 per cent of the line should be OK, but I would be lying if I told you that I am not seriously concerned about the decline in Miller's play toward the end of last season. He looked seriously slow at times in December and January and while for the most part he was able to compensate with solid technique and the fact that he still has enough power, I am unsure that he will play well enough to avoid becoming a problem next year.

Depth at tackle is a bit of an issue, St Clair has started a few times over the last couple of years but anything more than a couple of games at a time and his limitations will start to hold back the blocking schemes in a big way. It seems as though the only other guy the Bears may have at tackle is Mark Levoir (yeah I know, who?) and the only thing I know about him is that the Bears gave him the second biggest contract for an offensive lineman on a practice squad ever in an attempt to stop him just jumping ship to the first team that offered him a contract to cover from injury. (the guy with the biggest practice squad contract was Ryan Callaghan for the Pats). I wouldn't be suprised if Levoir won the swing tackle job in camp, but it isn't exactly rock solid depth.

83
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 9:22pm

St. Clair can't play. Period. Like I said, they may be fine, but I wouldn't be the list bit shocked if they had major deficiencies.

84
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 9:24pm

I have no idea how "least" was transformed into "list".

85
by PackerNation (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 10:36pm

I misspoke when I said "Jackson". I meant, "Johnson", as in Calvin Johnson, the WR for Detroit. Both he and Adrian Petersen are going to be impact offensive players in a way that Greg Olson is not.

And 51 and others....I don't see how you can lose your defensive coordinator, your starting RB, possibly Lance Briggs, possibly a quality DL and not have it hurt you.

You may believe that the Bears are so far ahead of every one else in the division that it won't make any difference, but I believe that the margin of victory in the NFL is exceedingly thin.

86
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 11:24pm

Pat, those policies are useful, but they don't completely mitigate against the risk either, especially for a player worthy of the franchise tag. I never said that a player would hold out due to the injury risk, no matter how small. I said that the injury risk is substantial enough that holding out until week 10, in an effort to inflict as much cost on the team as possible, while still getting some money, is not necessarily a economically irrational thing to do, especially if there are other factors. If a team can be convinced that a player is willing to do it two years in a row, I think they are unlikely to go down that path. It really is a game in which appearing to be completely irrationally angry can be angry can be very rational, given the risk or injury.

87
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/29/2007 - 11:26pm

I can't type worth a damn tonight.

88
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 12:53am

I said that the injury risk is substantial enough that holding out until week 10, in an effort to inflict as much cost on the team as possible, while still getting some money, is not necessarily a economically irrational thing to do, especially if there are other factors.

I can't really agree there. It is economically irrational - $7M plus a free agent contract next year will be more than he'd normally get.

The marginal cost, however, is small, and that's probably a price he's willing to pay to piss off the Bears.

89
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 1:12am

Is there a QB in recent NFL history with as many attempts as Mike McMahon (515) with as low a completion percentage (44.5%)?

I think that when we compare a QB to McMahon, we're close to saying he's like the worst QB in history. I'm not sure any QB as bad as McMahon got to stick around to throw the ball 515 times.

90
by Tom (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 1:36am

Not to mention McMahon played in Philly with Andy Reid, where every QB looks good. AJ Feeley looks like a first rounder, Garcia looks like a pro-bowler again. Yet, McMahon looks terrible.

This reminds me, in Madded 03, I started a Lions franchise. I traded Harrington, and made McMahon my starter, and I had him as a perennial probowler. It was awesome/hilarious.

91
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 2:54am

Pat, that assumes that the Bears will give a guarantee that they won't franchise him again.

92
by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 6:57am

Will Allen

Angelo offered to promise not to apply the tag next year so long as Briggs was an active participant in all the Bears team activities this year at the league meeting in Arizona. However looking at the way in which Angelo has operated in the past (Benson hold-out), I suspect that such an offer was a 'take it now or it'll be gone' kind of offer and it may not resurface. After the 'Lance Briggs & Drew Rosenhaus Show' at the league meeting I suspect it may have come off the table within 24 hours, I get the impression that Angelo was seriously pissed off. A fair few team GMs seem to have been pretty turned off by the whole debacle as well - it may have been a big mistake in judgement by Rosenhaus. Angelo has consistently refused to play the monkey to an agent's organ-grinder act (a stance which I think is to his credit) and I think he will continue to do so. I am still of the opinion that Angelo is treating the Briggs situation as a skirmish with Rosenhaus over the forthcoming battle to resign Tommie Harris.

Pat

I am a long way short of being convinced that Briggs is actually disgusted with the Bears and would never play for them again. It is not in his interest to seem to be a happy camper, so he makes derogatory statements in the media about the Bears (I am sure I am telling you nothing that you don't already know well). Whenever one of his teamates comments on his situation the statement always runs aong the lines of,

' Yeah I spoke to Lance. He just wants to get paid. He has earned his money. He wants either a new contract OR a trade.'
(my emphasis added)

Briggs hasn't fallen out with any teamates or coaches, he just wants a new contract. I am not saying that he wouldn't mind being traded, but I still think if the Bears offered him a deal he was happy with then he would sign it.

93
by Ahmad Carroll\'s mom (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 8:24am

Troy Williamson has caught 15,000 balls this offseason!?

How many did they throw him, 150,000?

That’s about 125 per day, every day. Impressive. But the guy worked hard all last season, extra practise with JUGS machines… I am expecting more improvement than Robert Ferguson had last year after laser eye surgery, but not all that much more…but yeah, if his catching was average he’d be a productive guy.

Just a thought about the Vikings D. Dominant as it has been against the run, I feel that DT is a position I would have addressed this offseason. They have two of the best starters in the league in the Williamses, but mediocre depth at best. Pat Williams is what, 34/35 and 350 plus?

At the very least they could use a guy to spell him on 3rd and long, because he isn’t much of a pass rusher anyway. If I were I Vikings fan I would want to have someone there who I could feel vaguely good about stepping in if either Williams goes down. I think the pick they spent on a project receiver like Allison would have been far better spent on a guy like Derek Landri, to provide decent depth and immediate help in situations.

In fact after QB and WR, I would have had pass rushing lineman as the Vikings biggest need. OK they got the DE Robison (by the way you spelled it incorrectly in the article, there is no ‘n’) in the 4th, I thought he was good value there too… but I would have made it a higher priority probably.

As for my Packers… I’m hoping they consider using the supplemental draft to pick up this Oliver guy to improve depth and get a quality young player at the CB position. Anyone here know much about him?

94
by fiddycentbeer (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 8:33am

Regarding Drew Stanton, or R2 QB in general. This link http://www.nfl.com/draft/history/positions/QB shows only 22 QB prospects were drafted R2 from 1982 thru 2006. Not many chances; however there were some good ones. Aside from Brees: Cunningham Esiason and Favre with Plummer and Stewart in there somewhere.

IMO, Adrian Peterson was a need pick. Last season, the Vikes wore Chester Taylor to a nub. Chances are, with 2006 R2 pick Travaris Jackson at the controls, they'll be running it this season. Or trying to do. Some teams have moved away from a 2-RB system; evidently MINN is moving in that direction.

95
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 8:49am

Re: 71

I think it's inaccurate to say that a team franchising a player has tried to 'lay off all injury risk' on the player. The franchise $ is guaranteed (once the player signs). In Briggs case the francise $ is about 1/3 of the guaranteed $ he would get as a FA. So while Briggs has the majority of the risk (which he could insure himself for as has been pointed out previously), it's considerably short of all the risk.

I'm with Pat on this one, I don't see how sitting out the first ten games (under the franchise tag) would ever be a rational economic decision. I know this has been discussed numerous times as a tactic, but has anyone ever really done this before? I can't even recall a player on his rookie contract (where it very well may be economically rational) ever doing this.

96
by John (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 10:20am

Re: 71. If he holds out until week 10, he could also run the risk of being rusty and not looking good, or the team simply not putting him on the field. The "tweaked hamstring" route also means he doesn't see the field, and be seen as someone only looking out for himself / not a team player / injury risk etc. Any of those scenarios could seriously harm his market value, and lead to him not getting the big contract he desires. I still think holding out through training camp and then playing through the season is the best route, and gives him a better chance of a big contract next season than holding out to week 10 does.

97
by AmbientDonkey (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 10:30am

re: 95
Joey Galloway did it. I can't say it worked out well for him. I don't recall anyone else holding out until week 10.

98
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 10:32am

Pat, that assumes that the Bears will give a guarantee that they won’t franchise him again.

If he gets franchised twice, he shouldn't be complaining. It'd be nearly $20M guaranteed, which would be basically what he'd receive in free agency - plus he'd hit free agency the next year (or get yet another huge franchise tag of probably ~$12M). The net money he'd earn through 2007-2010 would make Adalius Thomas's contract look like a joke.

#92: I think the "Drew Rosenhaus is a dick" angle is frequently overlooked, that I'll definitely agree with. But if Briggs isn't upset with the Bears, there's no way he'd hold out until Week 10.

99
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 10:38am

Well, there are promises, and then there are contracts. I prefer contracts. I have no regard for Rosenhaus, but why any GM would be angry about hostile behavior from a player or agent in a franchise situation is baffling. Hostility is the norm from people who are without a contract and are being prevented from offering their services elsewhere. I sometimes wonder if a team might gain an advantage in attracting free agents if they gained a reputation for not franchising players.

100
by AmbientDonkey (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 10:40am

I think holding out into the season would be a huge mistake for Briggs. If Williams or Okwo(sp?) is in his spot and playing well, especially after 10 weeks the Bears might not put him back in the lineup. I think that would hurt his market value more than an injury would. There are a fair amount of people that think Briggs only looks good because he plays next to Urlacher(I'm not one of them), if yet another mid-round pick comes in and plays the spot well it will only reinforce that position.

101
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 10:58am

Hostility is the norm from people who are without a contract and are being prevented from offering their services elsewhere.

He has a contract offer. In fact, in some sense, you could just consider it an extension of his original rookie contract, because that's what it is. His original rookie contract, like all contracts in the NFL, basically have "franchise option years" tacked onto the end.

I will say, though, if you really wanted to "fix" the franchise tag, it'd be simple. Each franchise tag comes with a 1-year insurance policy equal to the franchise tender value against a career-ending football injury. The team's charged the premium for it against the salary cap. Poof, problem solved.

I have no regard for Rosenhaus, but why any GM would be angry about hostile behavior from a player or agent in a franchise situation is baffling.

Hostile behavior during TC is one thing. Holding out through the season is entirely another. At that point, the player's shown a complete unwillingness to cooperate with the front office at all.

102
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 11:00am

Re: 98 - "I sometimes wonder if a team might gain an advantage in attracting free agents if they gained a reputation for not franchising players."

That rationale came up when the Ravens chose not to franchise Thomas, but I think it's weak. First, players getting franchised are almost always guys just off their rookie contracts. It's just not a consideration for vet Free Agents. The likelihood of them being franchised when their contract is up is almost none. Being nice to other employees is great, but if it doesn't affect me......

Second, not franchising a player means you are forfeiting the opportunity to get something of value in trade. The Bears could have had a high first round pick for Briggs. The Ravens presumably could have obtained something similar for Thomas.

103
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 11:04am

Pat, Briggs' number this year is a little over 7 million. Next year, what we know for sure is that the number would rise to the mid-eights, for a two year total of just short of 16 million. Adalius Thomas in that period is going to earn about 22 million, and given his age, he's not nearly as valuable a player.

If Briggs holds out to week 10 in both years, he avoids 18 games of injury risk, earns about 7.5 million, gets to be extremely disruptive, and inflict pain upon the people who are preventing him from selling his services freely. If he becomes a big enough problem, perhaps he gets to the free market in 2008, or if he really goes nuclear, perhaps this year still. It isn't so clear-cut that the player is better served by accepting the Franchise designation for two consecutive years, playing full seasons.

104
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 11:14am

As I said above, I wouldn't blame a player for showing up in week 10, onl to "tweak a hamstring" in the first practice, and then collect checks while staying off the field through week 17. If the team is going to ruthlessly pursue it's own interests, and prevent the player from maximizing value, the player is wise to ruthlessly pursue his own interests as well. I'm a little surprised we haven't seen more of this yet, and I think we may begin to.

105
by John (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 11:37am

Re 101: I think the reason we haven't seen more of it is that teams will simply be unwilling to pay top dollar for a player that "ruthless" as you put it. I mean, if Briggs sabotaged the bears for two years (meaning he's now two years older, all the while not proving himself on the field) who the heck would pay him big money?

106
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 11:44am

John, I used to lend credence to that, until what I saw T.O., well past thirty years old, sign with the Cowboys for big money, after his behavior while with the Eagles. If a guy is truly an elite player, especially a young elite player, a year or two of extremely obstinate behavior directed towards the team that franchised him isn't going to harm his market value, especially if he wasn't a problem prior to being franchised.

107
by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 11:48am

I think a risk for Briggs that is being overlooked would be if he sits for ten games, and in the meantime an unheralded player like Jamar Williams or Okwo play to a similar level and every talent evaluator summises that it is the system that makes Briggs and not the other way around. It seems that it is thinking along these lines that stopped the Bears from making him a blockbuster offer in the first place. He isn't a special athlete whose physical skills allow him to make plays other linebackers can't in the mold of a Petersen or an Urlacher, he just plays brilliantly within the system. As I wrote earlier so did Tommy Polley. I am not suggesting that Polley is as good as Briggs, just that maybe he isn't worth screwing up your cap over. And maybe sitting out half the year might flag it up to every GM in the league.

108
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 11:57am

James, if that is the case, and it may well be, then the Bears are foolish to not trade Briggs now, before his perceived value drops. That particular risk works in both directions.

109
by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 12:08pm

Will

I think the Bears were close to trading Briggs to the Skins, they probably would have traded him if they had been able to find a decent move down from the sixth pick. I also think Snyder had time to recover from the rush of blood to the head that happened at the league meeting and got talked down from his crazy little ledge.

110
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 12:09pm

103: I think that Owens would have receiverd more money from the Cowboys had he not have had to force his way out of an unfair contract in Philly (at least in Owens' mind it was unfair). There would have been more competition for his services and as a result, more cash.

111
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 12:18pm

Pat, 97: I cannot fathom where you get the $20 million guaranteed figure from, even if he doesn't sit out any games. Isn't the amount closer to $16 million?

88: '$7m guaranteed plus a free agent contract' Isn't this simply as if you transposed one of the later salaries of a long term deal to the front at the expense of receiving the signing bonus a year later. Plus the risk of a career ending injury (or even paralysis) means that this is not a desirable situation for a player to be in.

112
by John (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 12:26pm

Will, I agree you have a point. I think to see that happen though you need a combination of a coach or gm/owner with a ego just as large as the player in question (and parcells and jerry jones both certainly fit that bill) a team that feels they are potentially one player away from a super bowl run (which I didn't think Dallas was, but I think they may have though they were) and a skill position player (linebackers aren't usually thought of as player to get you over the hump, although NE and Thomas does damage that theory).

113
by BB (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 12:26pm

85: If Peterson and Johnson aren't bigger impact players than Olsen, then talent evaluators really blew it, because guys picked in the top 10 obviously are supposed to be bigger impact players than a guy picked at 31. That isn't the Bears fault -- by docking their draft for it, you're just docking them for having made the Super Bowl last year.

Even with the losses, the Bears are still the class of the division. This of course assumes no major injuries -- an injury to key players like Harris, Urlacher, Benson, or one of the O-lineman could change things in a hurry. Such is the NFL these days.

114
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 12:27pm

That's probably true, karl, but then again, Owens was well past thirty and this was the second team he had blown up while under a signed contract. I rather doubt a young elite player would pay much of a price for going nuclear only when a team tried to franchise him. I think such a player's agent could credibly approach other teams, and essentially say that the player was never a problem prior to being franchised, and won't be to any team which avoids franchising him.

The Owens situation is really interesting many ways. The Eagles had to know they were dealing with an unstable personality, and what might result down the road from signing him to what for Owens was a bad contract. Yes, Owens is responsible for what he signs, but the Eagles were merely creating a nightmare of a migraine for themselves by signing Owens to such a contract. They may have better served by not doing so, but, then again, they came pretty close to winning the Super Bowl with him, although he missed two playoff games.

115
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 12:39pm

Oh, no doubt; elite linebackers tend to have less leverage than elite players at other positions outside of safeties. To go to the other end of the spectrum, there's a reason qbs don't get franchised; they have unique ability to inflict huge costs on a team via holding out.

In general, I think when a provision of a labor contract becomes a constant source of hostile feeling between highly skilled workers and management, it is likely a bad provision in the long run, no matter how it benefits management in the short run. As a fan, I think I am best served by having the best performances rewarded without artificial restraint on a player's ability to market himself. As such, I really would prefer to see a smaller amount of money allotted to to guys at the top of the first round, with a standard contract length of two years, or perhaps three years, with no ability to franchise a player.

116
by langsty (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 12:50pm

"IMO, Adrian Peterson was a need pick."

I agree. Adding any kind of explosiveness to an offense as gloomy as Minnesota's is a big step forward. I know the feature back is going out of fashion (obviously they'd be wise to have AP split some carries with Taylor), but if their QB situation remains in limbo for the next few years they'll at least have a genuinely great back that they can possibly run the offense through.

117
by Jim M (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 1:02pm

58. Will Allen - you state that no one has a clue who's draft will turn out better. I'm doubt that's true. I'm sure some talent evaluators in the NFL have a clue.

Beyond that David Lewin has clearly developed a system that seems to have some predictive ability. From that alone one could argue the Eagles may well have made a brilliant pick in the second round with Kolb.

I think productivity and age of the college prospect has huge predictive value. That's why I'm high on Sidney rice - he was very productive in top league at a young age.

I don't buy that predicting drafts is a crapshoot.

118
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 1:22pm

Jim, I should have referred specifically to draft picks made on the second day, and rookie free agent signings, where I do think the results are very random.

119
by Jim M (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 3:03pm

Will - One thing they found in baseball studies of prospect development is that before the age of 25 it is not uncommon for players to make huge gains in ability but it is certainly a minority. I suspect that many of the late round picks that develop would fall into that category ; which I agree would make late round selection success much more random.

I still think this is an area that a smart team can exploit. I wouldn't be surprised to find that many late round success stories provided clues to their future success through age/performance indicators in college.

I think Lewin's study is essentially leveraging the age/performance relationship because you aren't likely to get 30 starts if you don't become a starter at a very young age. But I think it's kind of odd to suggest that Quinn is a better prospect than Russell because he had more starts when Russell clearly outperformed him while he was a year younger.

The level of performance and the age at which that performance was achieved, seems to me the crucial predictor.

120
by John (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 3:29pm

Re: 115 Oh, I'd be all for that idea (three year contract and no franchise). There's definitely something wrong when the top 5 picks, who have proved nothing in the NFL, become some of the top paid players in the whole league. What would you think of some sort of NFL version of the larry bird exception? That might be a horrible idea though, I haven't really thought about it.

121
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 3:30pm

What's tough about football Jim is that for so many positions it is much harder to develop objective criteria with which to differentiate among prospects. I mean, a .500 slugging percentage is pretty much a .500 slugging percentage, after adjusting for things like high altitude or ballpark configuration. How the heck to do you come up with something similar for an offensive tackle?

122
by Marko (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 3:41pm

I just read an article that some people are planning to start up a new football league to compete with the NFL. Click on my name for a link.

It will be called the United Football League and plans to have its first preseason games in August 2008, so it obviously plans to go head to head with the NFL in the fall of 2008. It plans to put teams in Los Agneles, Las Vegas and Mexico City (and presumably other places as well).

Mark Cuban is lined up as an owner, once again trying to follow in the footsteps of Donald Trump. Trump failed with the USFL but succeeded (for a while) with "The Apprentice." Cuban failed with "The Benefactor." We'll see whether Cuban succeeds with this, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Maybe Lance Briggs can go play in the UFL in 2008.

123
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 3:44pm

John, I just think that any cba provision which increases the likelihood of hold-outs is bad for fans. I want to see good players on the field, no matter what jersey they are wearing, and I don't see how the franchise designation aids in that effort. Also, if there is going to be a salary cap, about which I am ambivalent, having a big chunk go to somebody who hasn't proven yet that he can excel on the NFL level doesn't serve fans either; guys who can't play stay on rosters longer than they would otherwise, or get on the field more than they would otherwise, because of the large rookie signing bonus they received.

Perhaps a three year contract, which cannot be re-done until after year two, with no franchise designation, would work well. Guys who exceeded expectations after two years could get some big money without having to endure three years of injury risk. Then again, perhaps the rookie contract should just be two years. Perhaps the first way would more salable to the owners, however.

124
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 3:48pm

What I found interesting, Marko, is that their model presumes that they will be able to sign college players who would otherwise get 2nd round money from the NFL.

125
by Marko (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 3:59pm

What I found interesting was this quote: "(Former NFL coach) Bill Walsh used to tell me that the last 20 players cut from every team were almost interchangeable with the last 20 players to make the team," Hambrecht says."

I found it interesting because it sounds like they are planning a league based on those "interchangeable" last 20 players. But if those "interchangeable" last 20 players are the "stars" in the UFL, that tells you all you need to know about how poor the quality of play will be in the UFL.

But if this league really does come into existence, it would give more leverage to free agents and draft picks. It also might force the NFL to rethink its plans (or lack of same) regarding expansion or franchise relocation to Los Angeles.

126
by Jim M (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 4:00pm

Will..No question football performance is much harder to decipher at a purely statistical level - probably impossible for offensive lineman. But WR, TE, RB and QB and even defensive positions have useful statistical info - granted not on the level of a slugging percentage.

127
by newfootballleaguejoe (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 4:10pm

New football league in the works. Mark Cuban. Some Google guy. United Football League. Click name to go to NY Slimes article. UFL to Arizona in '08. Buy tickets now.

128
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 4:15pm

Yeah, Marko, it would pretty much rule out having less money allocated to rookie contracts, and it may result in more money being allocated to 2nd rounders. I do think a Friday night pro league would have a chance at being financially successful in the fall.

129
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 4:24pm

Re: 124

Did you see that in a different report (I couldn't see anything like that in the linked one) or did you infer it from something else?

It actually makes sense given the NFL's rookie salary pool to target guys not drafted in round one.

130
by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 4:25pm

Wouldn't the 20 players who just miss an NFL roster be the guys who go to play in NFL Europa? The standard there is really hit and miss, and as a result it can be really boring.

How many players are they planning to have on the roster?

What then happens to arena league?

131
by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 4:28pm

120

The idea of a Larry Bird rule for football was given a pretty thorough airing in the extra point thread about Alan Faneca skipping minicamp.

132
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 4:30pm

Hey Marko, I read a similar article in the NY Slimes. Sounds like a familiar story. In reality, alternative outdoor football leagues have all failed (with the exception of the AFL), whether they decide to compete with the NFL directly (Sunday games in the fall) or indirectly (primetime weekday games in the Spring). I foresee very few Larry Csonkas who choose to jump leagues or Jim Kellys who sign as rookies. The player caliber will be at best third stringers in the NFL (read, Rod Smart).

Part of the reason for the high failure rate is that the financiers try to create a new league out of scratch. If you study the history of pro sports leagues in the US, they were all pretty much formed incrementally and over time. Additionally, this new league is pretty intent on dropping teams in the three metro areas you mentioned already. I think the interest in football in those locales is probably illusory, particularly Las Vegas and Mexico City. Just because you have several million people crammed in a tiny land area doesn't necessarily mean they'll pile into the stadium on Sunday for American style football. NFL Europe flopped in many congested European cities.

Whats more, many NFL teams from the early days were small market teams (Green Bay, Canton, Portsmouth, Hartford, etc.).

A year ago their was talk of a semi-pro league that would affiliate with major colleges and be a feeder league for the NFL. They would inherit the local fan bases and use the collegiate stadium. Don't know if that died, but it sounded more viable.

133
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 4:34pm

The anti-spam word for this comment was "doofus," which seems fitting for the idea of starting a league that would compete with the NFL. Fall weekends are ruled by the triumvirate of high school on Friday, college on Saturday, and the NFL on Sunday. Interfere with those at your peril. Indeed, the NFL realized this last fall, when it moved the GB-TEN preseason game to avoid the conflict with high school football. To 3 P.M. on a Friday.

One of the XFL's several problems, and one that caused me not to come back for a second week, is that, fundamentally, it was nothing more than bad football, featuring players who were chasing their NFL dream. A new league, particularly one made up of borderline NFL players, faces the same issue: why should I watch a bad product? The USFL avoided this problem by pulling out the checkbook for marquee names, as had the WFL before it, but it doesn't sound like that's where the UFL will be coming from. If you want to avoid that stigma, then you need to change the game to where it's some football-like substance, but different. That, and its more limited ambitions, are why Arena Football still exists.

134
by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 4:36pm

123, Will Allen

I think that the biggest problem with the franchise tag is that it isn't high enough. It might work better if it were about 50 percent more than it is now but could only be used for one year and if a new contract isn't negotiated during the year it is used the player can't resign with that team. Maybe you could count the tag money as part of any bonuses on the contract if one is reached.

Teams wouldn't want to use them willy nilly, but they could have spot applications. On the whole it would be a better league if the use of the franchise tag weren't a commonly used part of negotiation.

135
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 4:47pm

Mawbrew, I read somewhere today that Hambrecht said he envisioned having some players earning money on par with what 2nd rounders earn.

136
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 5:01pm

NewsToTom, the NFL avoids Friday nights not because they fear the appeal of high school football, but because they fear Congress. I don't know if a start-up league should have similar fears.

137
by Mac (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 5:45pm

"The quantity-over-quality approach to wide receiver is also a unique strategy."

What a polite way of saying "Dear God, how many mediocre alleged-wideouts can one franchise employ?"

138
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 9:08pm

#3: "Does anyone else think that the Vikings are throwing away the best years of a playoff calibre defense with their horrendous Qb situation? "

Yes, absolutely. If I were a Bears fan, I would be overjoyed that the Vikings are wasting their great defense's best years by playing a terrible quarterback.

Oh, wait...

139
by Gonzo (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 9:23pm

I still think it's great that everyone's on the "Tarvaris Jackson is terrible based on 2 NFL starts as a rookie" bandwagon. Frankly, Jackson's the only QB in the NFC North where nobody knows what they're getting. The other 3 starting QBs in the division are either washed up (Kitna), worthless (Grossman), or both (Favre). At least Jackson has potential.

All Jackson has to do is go out there and not suck like Brad Johnson did last season. How hard could that possibly be? The guy started 14 games and couldn't even get to double digits in passing touchdowns. Both the QB and WR positions in Minnesota have nowhere to go but upwards.

As far as Pat Williams goes. . .heck, if lard-ass Ted Washington can play at a relatively high level until he's nearly 80 years old, why not Phat Pat? Right now he's THE premiere run-stuffer in the NFL, even if he is in his mid-30s.

The Vikings are going to surprise a lot of people this year.

140
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 9:56pm

137: I'm not saying he's terrible quarterback based on two NFL starts. We've got a lot more evidence than that to show he's not a good quarterback.

He couldn't beat Matt Jones out for a starting job at Arkansas. Matt Jones easily won the job, because Jones was the far better quarterback. That's' not good, especially since Jones was clearly not an NFL-caliber passer. And it's not an age thing: Jackson is actually a day older than Jones.

Jackson transfered to a Division I-AA school where he could start. In Division I-AA, he started three years, which is pretty good, but he completed 54.7% of his passes, which is terrible.

David Lewin's research found a strong correlation between completion percentage and NFL success in 1st and 2nd round quarterbacks. And Jackson has one of the worst completion percentages of this decade in that group. Here's a list of all QBs since 1997 from rounds 1 or 2 who completed less than 57% of their passes:

Quincy Carter 56.6%
Akili Smith 56.6%
Michael Vick 56.5%
Cade McNown 55.5%
Shaun King 55.5%
Jake Plummer 55.4%
Joey Harrington 55.2%
Marques Tuisasopo 54.9%
Tarvaris Jackson 54.7%
Jim Druckenmiller 53.8%
Ryan Leaf 53.8%
Kyle Boller 47.8%

Jake Plummer is the best passer on the list. Who's the second best? Michael Vick? Joey Harrington? That list looks pretty damning, especially since those other guys at least put up their poor completion percentages in Division I-A.

I wouldn't be surprised if Tarvaris Jackson did go out and suck like Brad Johnson did last year.

141
by Gonzo (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 10:19pm

#138

He also completed 58% of his passes in limited action last year. He also got shoved into his first start last year with 3 whole days to prepare, and had 7 passes (out of 10 incompletions) dropped for him, including what would have been a sure TD on his first pass of the game.

There's really no possible way he can be worse than what we put up with at quarterback in 2006. Stephen Hawking would have been an acceptable alternative at QB to Brad Johnson, never mind someone that actually has full use of his limbs. I have the feeling that Jackson will feel compelled to actually throw the ball further than 2 yards on 3rd and 7. . .again, unlike Brad Johnson.

If the receivers can make some progress as far as catching the forward pass goes, he should be fine, what with what's going to be one of the best rushing attacks in football to keep the heat off of him.

When given the choice of "young with potential" or "proven worthless," I'll go with the former every time. And whether anyone here wants to admit it or not, Jackson has potential. . .something that we certainly can't say about the other NFC North quarterbacks.

142
by HawkingJoe (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 11:27pm

HAAWKING IS UNDEREESTIMATED BY FANS. HAAWKING CANNOT BE STOPPED. WIILL SHOW THAT AS CLOCCK RUUNS DOWN TIIME ISS MERELLY FUUNCTION OF SPACE ANND THAAT THE POSSITIION OF THE GOALINE IS RELATIVE. HAAWKIING GOING TOO GLEENDALLE IN 2008. BOOOK TIICKEETS NOOW. BEATS MANNIING LIIKE THIIEEVES IIN THE NIIGGHT.

(admittedly, joke in very, very poor taste)

143
by David Ferrier (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 3:49am

Re: 68
here's avg DPAR for the divisions:

1 AFCN: BenR, McNair, Palmer, Quinn avg DPAR = 62.6
2 AFCW: Cutler, Rivers, Russell, Damon Huard avg DPAR = 47.4
3 AFCS: Peyton, Leftwich/Garrard, Schaub, VY avg DPAR = 39.9
4 AFCE: Brady, Cleo Lemon/?, Losman, Pennington avg DPAR = 39.4
5 NFCW: Hasselbeck, Alex Smith, Leinart, Bulger avg DPAR = 38.9
6 NFCE: McNabb, Eli, Campbell, Romo avg DPAR = 37.8
7 NFCS: Brees, Delhomme, Vick, Simms/? avg DPAR = 27.3
8 NFCN: Grossman, Favre, Jackson, Kitna avg DPAR = 21.3
according to this AFC north is way ahead, and NFC north and NFC south are way below. But this is just DPAR from one year and doesn't take into account rookie projections. I just used the 2007 DPAR:
NFCE: McNabb, Eli, Campbell, Romo
57 28 14.8 51.3 avg. 37.8

NFCN: Grossman, Favre, Jackson, Kitna
4.1 46 -11.9 48.1 avg. 21.3

NFCS: Brees, Delhomme, Vick, Simms/?
106 22.5 -6.3 -13 avg. 27.3

NFCW: Hasselbeck, Alex Smith, Leinart, Bulger
7.3 1.5 - 108.8 avg. 38.9

AFCE: Brady, Cleo Lemon/?, Losman, Pennington
75.9 8.3 21.2 52.2 avg. 39.4

AFCN: BenR, McNair, Palmer, Quinn
42.6 47.9 97.2 - avg. 62.6

AFCS: Peyton, Leftwich/Garrard, Schaub, VY
175 3.7/8.1 4.8 7.7 avg. 39.86

AFCW: Cutler, Rivers, Russell, Damon Huard
3.6 85.1 - 53.4 avg. 47.4

144
by langsty (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 4:05am

if you add in Vick's rushing DPAR the NFCS average bumps up to 35.4 - still 7th, but by a closer margin. of course, you have to factor in every other QB's rushing DPAR and adjust accordingly to figure out where that number really fits in with the other 7 divisions (probably still 7th tho).

145
by Jim M (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 10:30am

138. Yaguar - you provide excellent comparisons. However, I still think Lewin's research ignores players who make a significant gain in performance. Baseball studies show that players gain make huge gains before the age of 25 and that those gains are simply new levels of expected performance. I'd be curious to see if any of the QB's on your list actually had a significantly better year than their average.

Jackson completed 62% in his final year in college and completed over 58% in his rookie year of the NFL.

By the way here's the first year completion pct of all the QB's you listed - only King was better than Jackson and most were far worse:

Carter 51
Smith 52.3
Vick 44.2
Mcnown 54
King 61
Plummer 53
Harrington 50
Tuisasopo 55
Druckenmiller 40
Leaf 45
Boller 52

I think there is good evidence that Jackson has set a new level of ability that is far beyond his Lewin rating.

146
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 11:57am

However, I still think Lewin’s research ignores players who make a significant gain in performance.

You're falling prey to exactly what causes the start correlation in the first place. It's only one year of data - only twelve games, really. It's not enough to draw a solid conclusion. And since there are more QBs worthy of late round picks than early round picks, it's more likely that Jackson is a statistical fluctuation of a late-round pick than an actual valid early round pick.

Said more simply: one season can't really be significant. Especially for college.

147
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 11:59am

"twelve" should be "twelve or less."

148
by Jim M (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 1:18pm

144. I don't see how one season can be construed as insignificant in that it represents between 25-33% of the total sample of date one would be working from. Beyond that the delta between the current level of performance and the previous performance could be very significant as well.

I looked at the list of QB's provided Yaguar - below is there final college comp pct and rookie nfl campaign...

carter 0.5 51.1
smith 0.59 52.3
vick 0.54 44.2
mcnown 0.56 54
king 0.68 61.1
harrington 0.58 50.1
Tuisasopo 0.52 55
Leaf 0.55 45
Boller 0.53 52

I couldn't find college stats for Plummer and Druckenmiller. Most of them predictably got worse. None of them made a significant jump.

I think that it is far more likely that Jackson's last season in college is better predictor than his total career. I think the data above lends some evidence to that fact.

z

149
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 1:20pm

I don’t see how one season can be construed as insignificant in that it represents between 25-33% of the total sample of date one would be working from.

Four is a whole lot more significant than one.

150
by Jim M (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 2:40pm

147 Pat. But not necessarily a better predictor of future performance. If the player has established a new level of ability the previous data isn't of much, if any use.

This seems like common sense to me. If a sprinter is running 10.8's as a junior but as a senior he's running 10.1's - what do you think he's likely to run in his upcoming races:

i) the average time over 4 years
ii) or 10.1

151
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 2:51pm

Jim M, what I don't get is why you seem to be impressed by Jackson's completion % last year. Okay, 58-59% isn't bad, but his DVOA on those 80 passes was -45%. Yikes!. In the NFL they usually let you complete the check down, especially in long yardage situations.

I'm not saying the guy can't get it done. He might be great and Childress certainly has better credentials than I do for evaluating him. But I just can't see much from last year's stats that would encourage me.

152
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 2:58pm

Jim, until you can establish, however, how likely it is that a qb with improvement in his senior season similar to Jackson's will maintain that level, it is a mistake to draw an analogy with a sprinter. Perhaps the analogy would prove accurate, but you really do need to see the data first. I suspect that Lewin did look at cases similar to Jackson's, and the reason he drew the conclusions he did was because the correlation just didn't exist between good NFL performance and a lower completion rate for an entire college career, but a higher rate for the senior season.

I'm not saying I know your hypotheses is wrong, just that I haven't seen anything that really supports it strongly.

153
by Jim M (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 3:06pm

149. Mawbrew - I'm not overly impressed with Jackson's performance. I do think it was decent given the supporting cast and my gut tells me the kid is better than his dvoa, but it's not really my point. My point is that his 62% completion pct in his final year is a far better indicator than his lack of starts and 54% career average.

I think the point is far more interesting in comparing Quinn and Russell as propects. According to Lewin it isn't even close - Quinn is a far better prospect. I think Russell's final year performance is far more predictive than his career starts. In my mind Russell is the superior prospect without question.

154
by Jim M (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 3:29pm

150. Will - agreed it's merely conjecture on my part. I think the challenge would clearly lie in establishing what is a different and clearly higher level of performance. Finding that sample group and analyzing the results.

It really does amaze me, given the millions invested in these athletes, how little study of this type is actually done.

155
by Jim M (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 3:30pm

Has anyone found a good source for career college statistics. I've had a really difficult time finding them.

156
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 5:01pm

Re #153
There is no good source for career college statistics. Some schools, Michigan in particular, have excellent websites with lots of detail, though even on UM's site, figuring out who started is next to impossible. You can also try the NCAA's stats website, and you may get lucky. Overall, though, finding college stats for lots of players is a very time-consuming process.

157
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 6:32pm

If the player has established a new level of ability the previous data isn’t of much, if any use.

Assume you're right. In that case, the current data set isn't large enough to say anything definitive, which means you don't know anything about him at all. Given that the vast majority of college QBs are bad NFL starters, he's most likely to be a bad NFL starter.

Assuming that the final year performance is indicative of future performance is wishful thinking. One year isn't enough to judge a player on - that's pretty much what the projection system is saying. Given that, it's perfectly fine to say "well, but he might turn out okay" - which is true, but the "might" there is pretty long odds.

158
by sanddog (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 7:17pm

137 - I think you accidentally switched the labels on Favre and Kitna.

159
by methdeez (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 7:44pm

I think that a year old, pre-draft Phil Simms piece on three QB's for NFL network is worth less than nothing. If that's possible.

160
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 05/31/2007 - 8:27pm

I think it is worthwhile to keep in mind that Jackson only made into the second round, and thus Lewin's analysis, by the thinnest of margins, when the Vikings traded up to get him with the last pick of that round. Absent that, he's just another third rounder, by definition a long-shot. We'll find out whether Childress is a contrarian of note, I guess.

161
by Jim M (not verified) :: Fri, 06/01/2007 - 10:43am

155. Pat - One year of good stats is certainly all you could go on for Carson Palmer. One could certainly argue the same for Vince Young. Sorry I just don't buy that an entire year of college football isn't a useful sample, when in most cases you have just three years of stats. Even the guys who start 4 years are usually butt awful as a freshman.

My gut, and this is just my gut, is that the reason Lewin's system is showing good projections is that the 30+ starts is digging out the kids that were so good they started as freshman. They were always stars (Peyton Manning, etc). Combine that with good performance and you are highlighting the cream of the crop. Which is very useful, but do you want to leave it at that and not try to explain Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, etc?

162
by Jim M (not verified) :: Fri, 06/01/2007 - 10:57am

My mistake on Carson Palmer - He had over 30 starts in college.

163
by Craig (not verified) :: Fri, 06/01/2007 - 1:46pm

Comparing T Jackson to Matt Jones does not necessarily put T Jackson in a negative light. College QBs are rated differently and are at different levels in their development(see also Tom Brady). Arkansas as I best remember has been primarily a running school. Matt Jones in his second season at Arkansas had the following numbers: Jones set school season and career rushing records for quarterback, totaling 633 yards with eight touchdowns on 89 carries (7.1 average). He hit on 132 of 230 passes (57.4 percent) for 1,917 yards, 18 touchdowns and only seven interceptions while also catching a 12-yard pass(NFL.com).

164
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Fri, 06/01/2007 - 7:00pm

Re #159
Yes, and fundamentally what Lewin's projection system is saying is just that: if you're going to draft a QB in the first two rounds, draft a QB who was good in college. And good college QBs become good by playing, or play because they're good; for the purposes of the projection system, these are indistinguishable. What makes the projection system such a neat tool is not that it allows you to predict lightning (i.e., Tom Brady), but that it predicts where you should invest a major asset of your franchise.

165
by Alex (not verified) :: Mon, 06/04/2007 - 4:45am

#159: "155. Pat - One year of good stats is certainly all you could go on for Carson Palmer. One could certainly argue the same for Vince Young."

Not true. Both of them had more than 30 starts, and Vince Young had 2 good years, in addition to several starts as a freshman. And you're missing the point: it's not just how many good years of stats they had, it's how many starts they had, period, because more starts, even bad ones, give scouts more information to look at, and provide a clearer picture of the QB's abilities, strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, etc.

"but do you want to leave it at that and not try to explain Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, etc?"

Carson Palmer had more than 30 starts, and performed well enough overall for his completion percentage to be quite high, even with his less stellar early years added in. Additionally, scouts evaluated him highly, and had enough game film to be accurate in their assessment. So there's nothing to explain here.

The reason it's so difficult to predict Tom Brady being a star is that he only started 25 games in college. That simply isn't enough games for the scouts (or anyone else, really) to get a good read on him, so unless he has superhuman measureables, they probably won't draft him in the first two rounds. Since Tom Brady doesn't have a cannon arm, and isn't particularly fast, or anything like that, the scouts didn't pull the trigger on him. The reason he didn't get drafted sooner is that most of the players that have college careers similar to Brady's don't succeed in the NFL, and there just isn't enough information available from game films to separate him from the rest of the pack. So the system says that you shouldn't draft QBs like Brady in the first two rounds, because the risk is too high.

Now, this doesn't mean you shouldn't ever draft QBs that don't have lots of starts. It just means that you should only do that in the later rounds, so that you won't lose as much if it doesn't work. If a QB had a successful college career, but fewer than 30 starts, he might be great, but he's far more likely to be unsuccessful. If such a QB falls far in the draft, it's either because they simply aren't good enough, or because their talent is less easily recognized by NFL scouts. If it's the former, then you only lose a late round pick, and maybe get a decent backup QB, which isn't so bad. If it's the latter, you get a franchise QB on the cheap, which is fantastic.

This is precisely why most of the successful QBs that didn't have more than 30 starts in college are drafted late (Brady and Bulger in the 6th round, Montana in the third). The scouts didn't have enough game film to be sure that they were good enough, so they weren't highly drafted despite success in college.

Scouts are great at recognizing raw physical talent, and if they are given enough game film, they're also quite good at weeding out the QBs that don't have enough of the other skills to succeed, while upgrading some of the QBs that are good despite less raw talent. But they can't get that second part without more games to study. One season of starts just isn't enough. Two seasons isn't even enough. Two and a half is usually about enough. Three or four is better.

Most QBs that get drafted in the first two rounds despite having fewer than 30 starts are drafted there because they have some sort of amazing raw physical talent, i.e. a rocket arm (Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Mike Vick, Drew Bledsoe, Jamarcus Russell), mobility (Vick, Smith), etc. The problem is that these raw physical talents aren't a substitute for passing ability, so a lot of these players bust. And they aren't really any more likely to succeed than QBs taken later in the draft.

166
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Mon, 06/04/2007 - 9:46pm

I'm calling it now: the Packers win the division even as Favre throws more picks than TDs, thus convincing him to stay yet ANOTHER extra season. But only after intentionally creating more media melodrama then pretending to be tired/ignorant of it all yet again of course. Being completely serious here.

167
by Pete (not verified) :: Tue, 06/05/2007 - 9:35am

#163, Alex - something else that many of the less experienced QBs have: a tendency to fail when they are forced into a starting role. I suggest that no Rookie QB start more than 4-6 games (and only then if he has a solid line and the season is a bust). Rookie QBs who start early tend to learn bad habits, especially if they had less college experience.

However, many players with exciting talent are forced into position to help sell tickets.

Personally, I thought Chicago made a reach drafting Grossman in the first round and I thought the Vikings made a reach drafting Tarvaris in the 2nd round. If Grossman can settle down I think he will make a fine QB, but his erratic throwing is consistent with his college performance.

168
by Jim M (not verified) :: Tue, 06/05/2007 - 12:04pm

163. My mistake - both those guys did indeed have the 30 starts.

You make some excellent points about risk and early draft picks.

I'm quibbling about age/performance because my instincts tell me that it provides some real clues to future success. I think had Peyton Manning been allowed to enter the NFL after his freshman year in College that he would still have ended up being a huge star. Obviously if you wait 3 more years and get 3 more years of data on him you are more sure, but risk runs two ways. Missing out on a young superstar because you don't have enough data can be as costly as drafting a bust.

That's my point with Russell. My gut tells me not too many 21 year olds ever perform at that level. I may be wrong but I sure would like to see a list of comparable performances by 21 year olds at the NCAA division 1 level.

169
by Zac (not verified) :: Tue, 06/05/2007 - 5:46pm

RE: 89. The footballguys historical data dominator (click my name) lists a couple guys. Most played in the 60s. Most recent was Joe Reed who played from 1972 - 1979 with the 49ers and Lions. He finished his career 225 for 513, a 43.9% completion percentage. The next worse guys whose career started after 1990 and got at least 500 attempts were Craig Whelihan, Ryan Leaf, and Heath Shuler. When Ryan Leaf did better than you, that's when you know you're in trouble.

170
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 06/05/2007 - 5:54pm

"I think had Peyton Manning been allowed to enter the NFL after his freshman year in College that he would still have ended up being a huge star. "

I dont. I think he would have been unready to play, and been cut before he'd developed enough to be ready to lead an NFL team.

171
by Zac (not verified) :: Tue, 06/05/2007 - 6:15pm

Also, Pro Football Reference now has college stats (at least at the I-A level) from 2000 onward.

172
by Zac (not verified) :: Tue, 06/05/2007 - 6:17pm
173
by Alex (not verified) :: Tue, 06/05/2007 - 8:25pm

#165: "something else that many of the less experienced QBs have: a tendency to fail when they are forced into a starting role."

Not really. They have a tendency to fail, period. Less experienced QBs that sit on the bench don't end up being any better, on average. It's just that you never hear about the less experienced QBs that sit on the bench and end up playing badly, because they were drafted in the 6th round and nobody's ever heard of them, and they're quickly cut.

"I suggest that no Rookie QB start more than 4-6 games (and only then if he has a solid line and the season is a bust). Rookie QBs who start early tend to learn bad habits, especially if they had less college experience."

I don't know, Vince Young and Matt Leinart did ok last year. And Roethlisberger did fine his rookie year. And Peyton Manning. And Dan Marino. Point is, some guys are ready right away, some aren't, but if they are, go right ahead and put them in.

#166: "Missing out on a young superstar because you don’t have enough data can be as costly as drafting a bust."

That's what the second day of the draft is for: wild shots in the dark that look like they might be future superstars. You know when Terrell Davis was drafted? Sixth Round, partly because he didn't play much in college.

Look, I don't think Russell's going to bust. In fact, I think there's a very similar QB that just retired who was a #1 draft pick a long time ago, and he had a successful career: Drew Bledsoe. Both have cannon arms and good accuracy on deep throws. Bledsoe started 28 games in college, Russell started 29. And neither of them is very mobile, they don't have great pocket presence, and they both take too many risks throwing downfield into double coverage, but usually get away with it because of their ridiculous arm strength and accuracy. I know that's not the comparison most people are hoping for, but it could be far worse. If things go the way they did for Bledsoe, Russell will lose in the Super Bowl against Brett Favre and the Packers, and then later get injured and replaced with a 6th round QB. ;)

174
by Pete (not verified) :: Wed, 06/06/2007 - 12:12pm

#171 (Alex) - "I don’t know, Vince Young and Matt Leinart did ok last year. And Roethlisberger did fine his rookie year. And Peyton Manning. And Dan Marino. Point is, some guys are ready right away, some aren’t, but if they are, go right ahead and put them in."
I did not mean to suggest that a rookie QB would not be OK or even good. I believe that pretty much every Rookie QB would be better, in the long run, with an initial (most of a) year sitting on the bench.

Peyton Manning, probably the most NFL-ready QB ever, took a beating in his Rookie year. Fortunately, he was not badly injured and did not learn too many bad habits. I think Big Ben was placed into a near-ideal (short term) situation with Super Bowl-ready talent at pretty much every position and not much being asked of him. However, for long-term growth I believe he might have been better with more growth potential (showing last year).

Take a look at the Top 10 performers in passing (from 2006 or who have a positive DPAR for all years from 2004-2006). How many of those started more than 4 games in their Rookie years? (other than Peyton Manning, as I believe he is the exception to the rule - his senior year could also be considered as his Rookie year since he probably would have been drafted at or near the top of the draft the year before)

175
by Jim M (not verified) :: Wed, 06/06/2007 - 12:42pm

This debate about sit em or toss em in right away seems pointless to me. Both strategies have worked and failed. But in most cases the failures and successes were predictable based on their pedigree (eg. Lewin's projections). The flops almost invariably projected as flops. The successes projected as successes. The coaching strategy of sitting or throwing them in is in my mind of little consequence.

I haven't seen any proof anywhere that shows one strategy is better than the other. If someone does have some statistical evidence I'd love to see it.
Anyone can toss out anecdotal evidence to support or refute either strategy.

176
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 06/07/2007 - 5:06pm

I think it's clear that most QBs do significantly worse in their rookie years than they do in their sophomore years. Pretty much any QB who starts as a rookie is starting "before he's ready."

But from there, if he continues to suck, people say it's because he got thrown in there before he was ready. And if he becomes phenomenally good after a poor rookie year (Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Troy Aikman, Steve Young) people just forget about the poor rookie year.

Sitting a for a while sometimes means he'll step in straight away and look good (Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers) and it sometimes means he'll still look pretty lost out there. (JP Losman, Rex Grossman) It does avoid the rookie year, which shows the QB at his worst. But it doesn't really make them better in any way.

Basically, I think you look at your options when you've drafted a new QB, and if you have someone who can play better in the short term, (2003 Bengals) you can let him play your draftee's rookie year. But if your other QBs really suck (2006 Titans, 2007 Raiders) you should just start the new guy.

177
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Thu, 06/07/2007 - 6:56pm

If a sprinter went from 10.8s as a junior to 10.1s as a senior, I think I should like to know if he knows Trevor Graham.

The Lions will have plenty of opportunities to fill their remaining holes with the excellent draft picks they'll have next season.