In the end, the game comes down to one thing: man against man. May the best man win.
~ Sam Huff
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The Redskins' draft gets an "Incomplete". It's a reasonable way to look at it. Assigning grades to drafts immediately after the draft is worthless. The draftnicks that spend all year long preparing for 3 days of roulette-guessing are well within their rights to label with A's, B's, and C's but grading should wait at least a year but more like 2+.
Even when you hear a draftnick say "the Rams got great value, he had a 2nd-round grade and they got him in the 5th", it means little. There are 32 teams with 32 different draft boards. It wasn't always that way but sophisicated scouting has resulted in against-the-grain evaluation being the norm. Not everyone had the 5th-rounder as a projected 2nd, hence the reason the player wasn't picked until the 5th despite the draftnick's insistence that it was three rounds too late.
The "Incomplete" for the Redskins comes with a few notes.
1. They drafted highly productive defensive playmakers at the college level. Amerson, Thomas, Jenkins, and Rambo made plays. Amerson and Rambo finished 1 and 2 nationally in interceptions during the 2011 season, Thomas led the nation in 2012. The three combined for 8 touchdowns the last 2 years. Jenkins was 3rd nationally in sacks in 2010.
2. They took some chances. Rambo had multiple drug suspensions while Jenkins and Thompson were injured last year. However, as we've seen in recent years, when the Redskins take a shot on a checkered or injured past, they usually do it with the least amount of risk possible. A 5th or 6th rounder on a talented player with some baggage is worth it. A 2nd-rounder on Malcom Kelly isn't.
3. There is a roster trend developing. The Redskins really like guys that play with great feel and vision even if they aren't elite in the so-called important measurables. They believe that athletic vision and feel is more important than a tenth of second on a 40-time when it comes to getting hands on the football or making someone miss when you have it.
Just look at their last two drafts for examples. Kerrigan doesn't have elite speed but plays with great anticipation. How many times have we seen him knock down a pass with feel and timing or bait a quarterback into a dangerous throw. Royster and Morris have average straight-line speed but both have great vision and the ability to make tacklers miss. One of Richard Crawford's pre-draft write-ups included this line--"short-arms, average speed, but makes up for it with great vision and deceptive quick-feet".
This weekend's draft is totally reflective of a team that wanted vision, feel, and anticipation more than anything else. Shanahan on Thomas--"great job adjusting to the ball, played with good feel". Shanahan on Reed--"he's got a great ability to make people miss". Shanahan on Rambo--"former quarterback, just a guy that has a lot of intangibles, makes plays all over the football field." Shanahan on Thompson--"he's got great elusiveness".
4. RG3's health trumps everything. Free agency, draft, and everything else we've spent the last few weeks discussing is important but none of it matters as much as RG3's health. His health/readiness for next year is the runaway number 1 factor for next season's prospects. If he's healthy, the Redskins have a chance to be good and maybe very good. If he isn't, all bets are off.
5 Skins' draft thoughts.
1. When it comes to managing the roster (draft, free agency, trades, and contracts), we're back at DEFCON 5, the lowest state of nuclear readiness. Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen may not be the best at what they do, but they're better than most. The organization runs professionally now after years of being one of the biggest clown shows in the league.
2. David Amerson's long arms and height makes him the most physically imposing corner on the roster. Haslett liked Ced Griffin's size and length but they chose to let him go.
3. Jordan Reed "makes people miss" according to Mike Shanahan. For years the Redskins picked and signed players that ran the ball into people or caught the ball and fell down. The picks of Helu, Royster, Morris, and now Reed reflect how important athletic vision is to this coaching staff. Yards after catch and making would-be tacklers miss is much more important than straight-line speed. It's why a guy like Anthony Armstrong isn't on the team anymore. Ryan Kerrigan is another example of what they're looking for on the defensive side of the ball. Athletes that anticipate well are targets for this staff.
4. Will the Redskins take a safety today? Safety was supposed to be the deepest position in this draft and the Skins have a safety need. However, Mike Shanahan indicated last night that D'Angelo Hall is a possibility at safety this year. He barely played it last year and became comfortable and effective covering the slot.
5. I would like to see the Skins take a player today that can play the offensive role Brandon Banks tried to play last year. A bubble screen guy. A read-option pitch guy. Maybe ex-Michigan QB Dennard Robinson?
The NFL schedule will be released next week. Here's my annual "Skins' Mock Schedule".
Mock Redskins' 2013 Schedule
Did the Rams get the better of the deal? No, but it's certainly possible that it will work out just as well for them down the road as it already has for the Redskins.
There's been talk recently from Sam Bradford and others that St. Louis got the best of the trade that landed RG3 in Washington. It's usually impossible to evaluate a trade when half of the draft picks included in the deal haven't even been used yet but let's try anyway.
The Rams got four picks in exchange for their second overall pick but two of those four were future 2013 and 2014 first-rounders. They parlayed the Skins' 2012 picks into more picks. Eventually, the Rams may use one of those two future 1st-round picks to select a once-in-lifetime talent at the most important position but if they don't, there's no way they got the better of the deal. They may feel now and perhaps later little regret in making the deal, particularly considering that it's possible that they didn't have a need for a franchise quarterback (see Sam Bradford) but it's almost impossible to think that the Redskins will ever regret making the trade.
I thought the deal at the time from the Redskins' perspective was pricey but necessary. In retrospect, while there may be a reasonable price-limit for acquiring a potential top-5 quarterback, the price they paid in context was a good one.
First, it was the price they HAD to pay to top Cleveland's offer. If they offered less, RG3 would've been a Brown and Rex Grossman would've been in play as last year's starter.
Second, the draft is basically the only way to acquire a top-flight player at the most important position. Top quarterbacks aren't available in free agency or by trade. Add to that, "franchise" quarterbacks aren't always available to be drafted. Last year was unique. Two quarterbacks were evaluated by almost everyone as "can't-miss". The Redskins didn't have one so from their perspective, they couldn't miss on the opportunity to select a "can't miss".
Third, the Redskins knew giving up their 2013 first-rounder wasn't a huge risk. This year's draft is weak, especially at the top. Giving up this year's first-rounder to the Rams, especially considering that it turned out to be a lower-half first (#22 overall), was more like giving up another 2nd-rounder.
Fourth, the Redskins knew that the 2013 draft would be deep at only a few positions but those positions would likely be need positions for them. Many experts argue that this year's draft is deepest at Safety. Even without their first round pick, they should be able to get a potential starter at Safety in rounds 2-4.
From the Rams perspective, they parlayed the first-round pick they got from the Skins last year into more picks after a deals with Dallas and Chicago. When they finally picked at #15, they selected DT Michael Brockers who played well late in the year after being injured early in the season. They got a very good player (CB Janoris Jenkins) with the Skins' 2nd-round pick. Jenkins finished 2nd in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. Jenkins would've filled a huge need for the Skins at corner. But was it a bigger need than quarterback? They added running back Isiah Pead in the 2nd and G Rokevious Watkins in the 5th as a result of deals using the 2nd-round pick acquired from the Skins. Neither player produced much in their rookie seasons but Pead showed flashes. They have two picks left from the deal. This year's first is probably a bit lower (#22 overall) than they anticipated. I'm guessing the Rams didn't figure the Skins would be a 10-6 division winner. For the Rams to honestly start feeling really good about the deal, they need a very good player this year at #22.
The Rams went 7-8-1 and missed the playoffs last year while the Skins went 10-6 and won their division. The true value of the deal from the Rams' perspective won't be known for a few more years, maybe longer. It didn't take very long for the Redskins to get their answer. It became clear early in their season-opener at New Orleans that almost any price for RG3 was a good price.
Make no mistake; Florida Gulf Coast was the better team last night in Philadelphia. They were more athletic, extremely confident, and played the first 30 minutes of the game with more energy and swagger. The Hoyas fought back and got to within 4 late but start to finish, FGCU was clearly better.
In fact, the Hoyas were lucky it wasn't worse. Usually it takes a perfect game by a 15-seed to topple a 2-seed but FGCU was far from perfect. FGCU missed a ton of open shots in the first half including several free throws. Great free throw shooting is usually paramount in 15 over 2 upsets but the Eagles missed 14 for the game. Bottom line, the Hoyas drew a 15-seed that looked like a 7-seed which raises the question of did the committee screw this one up?
The other 2-seeds in the tournament won games yesterday by an average of 22 points. Duke handled an Albany team that played one good team (Ohio State) the entire season and got blown out. Miami crushed a Pacific squad that had one quality win over St. Mary's back in November. St. Mary's won the rematch by 30. Ohio State manhandled an Iona team that played one team (LaSalle) in this year's tournament and lost by 14.
Meantime, the Hoyas got a team that had already beaten a tournament 2-seed. Florida Gulf Coast blew out Miami in November. More on that in a moment. The Eagles also went into Cameron Indoor early in the year and led Duke late in the first half. They also played Iowa State out in Ames and trailed by 3 in the 2nd half before succumbing to a Cyclone 3-point barrage. Back to the Miami game and these three sentences from the AP game recap after their 12-point win over the 'Canes.
"Spurred by a 23-2 run, Florida Gulf Coast led 32-25 at halftime. Despite making just 1-of-11 3-pointers, Florida Gulf Coast won thanks to a 40-14 margin in points in the paint and 40-32 edge in rebounds. The Eagles had six dunks."
A true 15-seed doesn't physically beat up one of the best teams in the country no matter what time of the year the game is played. An honest to goodness 15-seed doesn't shoot 1-11 from beyond the arc and win. A legit 15-seed doesn't pound a big, strong, top-5 team like Miami into submission. The selection committee blew it on Florida Gulf Coast. It's bad enough that this committee picked sorry teams like Middle Tennessee State and Boise State over quality teams like Virginia and Alabama but those on that committee that actually watched Florida Gulf Coast and deemed that team to be a 15-seed have outrageously low basketball IQs. Anyone that knows the difference between a hoop and goal post would've figured out with a little due diligence that FGCU was no 15-seed. No matter what FGCU does tomorrow against San Diego State, their seeding was wrong and it ended Georgetown's season too early.
Now, about Georgetown's season ending too early....again. This is the 5th consecutive "too early" loss for the Hoyas in the tournament. They've lost 5 straight to double-digit seeds and three of the losses weren't close. JT3 said he didn't have an answer for why they've gone out early. I'm not sure there's an easy one. You can talk all you want about their so-called "Princeton" offense which they really don't run that much or their pace of play that tends to keep lesser teams close while also keeping GT close to better teams but all of that is overrated.
Here's something closer to the answer. They've lost to good teams playing great. In '08, they lost to a very good Davidson team led by Steph Curry. Davidson got to the Elite 8 and was one shot away from the Final 4. In '11, they got beat by VCU, an eventual Final 4 team. Last year, it was an N.C. State team on a roll. The Wolfpack may have been an 11-seed but they were the 4th-placed team in the ACC. Losing to them was far from a bad loss. The only loss that lacks a reasonable explanation was the blowout loss to Ohio in '10. That Ohio team finished below .500 in their league but got hot and won their conference tournament. Still, of the five "too early" losses, that's the lone head scratcher.
Two more things. First. Georgetown isn't the only Big East team that taps out early. Notre Dame hasn't been beyond the first weekend in their last six tournament trips. Mike Brey's teams have lost four of those in their first game to lower-seeded teams. Pitt has consistently underperformed in the tournament also. The wear and tear of 2+ months of big conference ball takes its toll on teams, especially those with flaws. Pitt has always struggled to score. Notre Dame has never defended that well. Georgetown? Maybe it's been matchups, maybe it's been something else.
That leads me to one more thing. No matter how legitimate the answers are for winning just two tournament games in their last five trips, bottom line, they've underperformed when it's mattered most. Like their Verizon Center hockey bunkmates, it makes future postseasons more about what you haven't done than what you might do. That burden won't end until winning in mid-March starts.
Five thoughts after Maryland's 83-81 win over Duke last night at Comcast.
1. Mason Plumlee was awful. The reason cited by Coach K after the game was fatigue and that may be true but even a tired National Player of the Year candidate should produce more than 4 points and 3 rebounds.
2. Maryland attempted 18 fewer shots than Duke and still won. That's an amazing differential and it's all because of 26 Terp turnovers. That's a lot of possessions without a chance to score. If they had turned it over a poor 16 times instead of a horrific 26, they would've won going away.
3. Maryland's NCAA Tournament chances are back in play after adding a huge win to their resume. They have 6 games left and they could be favored in 5 of them. They'll need to win at least 5 to feel good about things heading into the ACC tournament.
4. Mark Turgeon said afterwards that it was a tough week on his family and that his son had to leave during the Virginia game because the fans were rough on his Dad. I've been reading a lot of the criticism on message boards, etc., and it's ridiculous. He hasn't even been here two years yet. Can we give him more than a minute to figure things out before we rush to judgement? For starters, he's doing the thing most of the fans wanted more than anything else....he's recruiting his ass off. He's everywhere watching players. I personally saw him and his staff at a premier 7th/8th grade tournament a few weeks back. 7th and 8th graders! Any spare moment he has he's out recruiting which was the chief complaint about Gary in his last few years. Additionally, he's got a very young team that's still missing a piece or two. The lack of a true point guard is the difference between 6th in the ACC right now instead of 2nd or 3rd. Pe'Shon Howard isn't what he was pre-injury. Sam Cassell Jr. didn't qualify. Both could've been the answer at the point and it would've made a huge difference. In his 2nd year, Turgeon's got them at 17-7/6-6 with a chance to make the tournament with a decent run down the stretch. Give him some time.
5. If that was the last Duke game in College Park...not a bad way to end it. The place was electric per usual and the game was a thriller. Like many Maryland fans, being a part of the ACC has been part of my fan identity. The Duke games have been great but I can think of just as many games against Carolina, State, Wake, Clemson, and Virginia that have been just as memorable. Coach K said after the game "if Maryland thinks this is a rivalry, why are they going to the Big 10?" The answer I guess is that money trumps loyalty. Sad.
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