Tag Archives: 2012 NFL Draft

2012 NFL Draft: Act Two

Day 2 of the NFL Draft proved just as active Day 1 with trades up and down the two rounds. And, the two local squads flipped their tactics from Day 1 to Day 2. The Packers made two trades to grab two guys they covet, while the Vikes sat back, relaxed, and let a good player fall to them. Let’s take a look at how the two local squads fared.

Green Bay Packers 

Entering the 2012 NFL Draft, the Packers needed players at all levels on defense. With their first three picks, the Packers added a quality player to all three levels on defense. After landing an uber-talented, athletic freak in Nick Perry, the Packers needed to add some DL and secondary help on day two. As we discussed, armed with too many draft picks, it was time for TT to make a move and jump up in the 2nd round to get a player that falls. As if he read the article (and why wouldn’t he have?), TT did exactly that, TWICE, in the second round.

Sitting with the 59th selection, TT moved up to the 51st selection to select the falling Jerel Worth, DT from Sparty. Worthy is a mammoth of an individual, standing at 6’2″ and 308 lbs., who also can run the 40-yard dash in 5.08 seconds. He has tremendous get-off, known for his ability to anticipate the snap and wreak havoc in the backfield. He’s strong, powerful, and quick. Basically, he’s exactly what the Packers need on the defensive line.

Of course, he wouldn’t have been a second-round pick with this background if there weren’t some red flags. Worthy, like many big defensive lineman, had a tendency to take plays off in college. He flashes some dominance and then disappears for stretches at a time. And the downside to his get-off is that he was often flagged for offsides last season. You can be sure opposing offenses will take note and work on Worthy with the hard-count. Despite these few red flags, Worthy was absolutely the right player to trade up and target. He cost only the Packers 4th round selection – which is not a huge loss considering the Packers have two compensatory picks in the 4th round still. TT’s decision to move up was also well-timed as two other defensive linemen followed the Worthy pick, including Devon Still, the other Big Ten DL that was linked to the Packers. Worthy was the best prospect of that group, and a coup for the Packers to get in the middle of round 2.

Not resting on his laurels, TT moved back into round 2 when he dealt the 3rd and 5th rd. picks to The Hoodie for the 62nd overall selection. TT plucked Casey Hayward, CB from Vanderbilt. Hayward is 5’11”, 185 lbs., and runs a 4.57 40-yard dash. Mike Mayock, NFL.com’s draft guru, calls Hayward an instinctive corner, and has the second-best hands in the draft for a corner, behind the no. 6 overall selection, Morris Claiborne, which is backed up by his 7 INT’s last season. One more encouraging stat is that opposing offenses completed only 19.5% of the passes thrown his way, which is even more impressive considering he played in the SEC. Hayward’s downside is that he is limited in his man-to-man coverage skills. His overall speed is only average, which will cause him to struggle keeping up with the speedy, twitchy type WR’s – think Percy Harvin. But, he plays well in zone coverage, reads the Quarterback well, and trusts his instincts. Again, TT anticipated what would happen well, and jumped up to get Hayward before a couple other CB’s were selected, including one by the Vikings.

Realizing the need to grab quality players at critical positions, TT broke away from his M.O. and traded up to get two players that filled major voids. Packers fans should be thrilled with what TT accomplished with these two picks to go along with Nick Perry. The defense should be vastly improved. As a result, don’t be surprised if you see Greg Jennings do this (go to the :18 mark) early in the season because with these three picks, TT may have re-established the Packers defense as a top-end defense that can get them back to the Super Bowl.

Minnesota Vikings

Well, if the first round of the 2012 NFL was an overwhelming success for Viking fans, then, the 2nd and 3rd rounds were a disappointing return to the norm. In previous drafts, like many other bewildered/clueless GMs, the Vikings brass have spoon fed the notion that they got the guy they wanted. In the third round of this year’s draft, that meant the selection of UCF cornerback, Josh Robinson.

Robinson is an explosive athlete and, with the right coaching, could be a top end DB. The raw talent is definitely there. Unfortunately, this coaching staff does not have a great track record for coaching up the secondary. Plus, many draft experts have noted that Robinson was a great fit for a secondary that employs a scheme with an emphasis on man-t0-man defenses. This is the kind of guy to put on an island. His skill set (i.e. football smarts) might not transfer well to the Cover 2 that the Vikes try to run. This could be an issue. Instead of trying to trade up, Rick “The Schemin'” Spielman decided to stand pat and take the guy they wanted.

Unfortunately, this meant passing up on two or three guys who might have been  better fits for the Vikes. For instance, both Houston and the Hoodie were willing to trade out of the latter part of the second round. It likely would have only taken one of the fourth round picks that the Vikes had to move up and grab either Casey Hayward (that is right, THAT Casey Hayward), Rueben Randle (a WR with first round talent playing in a run-first system), or Trumaine Johnson (the guy STL took right before the Vikes). Hayward and Johnson were allegedly perfect fits for the Cover 2 scheme. Randle was exactly the kind of game-changing WR that could give a much needed boost to what could best be described as a one-man show. His skills, while unproven, were of the first round variety. And, he was only drafted a few positions before Robinson was taken. Yet, the Vikes laid back. Waiting for the guy they wanted.

Now, if there are talented, potential starters in the 4th round that the Vikings brass are targeting (think another offensive lineman and additional defensive backs), then maybe it was right to relax and wait for Robinson to come to them. However, if Robinson cannot be coached up, one of those guys who could not spell C-A-T if you spotted him the C and the A, or, if there are no hidden gems in the fourth round, then it will be a wasted opportunity to not repeat the successful strategy from round one, where the Vikes leveraged later round picks into higher picks in the current rounds.

In economics, there is a theory of evaluation simply known as the opportunity cost – the balance between scarcity and choice. For the Vikings, opportunity cost means weighing the scarcity of getting a guy like Rueben or Hayward, against the choice of keeping their 4th round picks. Ultimately, the maturation of Josh Robinson is going to determine whether the team made the right choice. Though, the opportunity cost that the Packers paid in the first round by not drafting Hightower or Upshaw might be exactly the same as the opportunity cost that could cost the Vikings a solid stater like Randle or Hayward.

Stay tuned for more on the final rounds on Saturday. That is, when things get really testy.

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2012 NFL Draft: Act One

The first round of the 2012 NFL Draft was wilder than a substance fueled Charlie Sheen all-nighter. The picks came in so hot they actually had to queue selections to allow the television coverage to catch-up – which may or may not have been the most annoying part of the show. (This was not.) There was a flurry of trades within the first round with multiple teams jockeying for guys they think can help their team win. This included some shrewd activity, both early and late, by one of the Border Rivals squads. While the other Border Rivals squad sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the High Life while he let the draft come to him.

The following is both a review of what happened during round one and what could happen in Friday’s sequel. To kick things off, let’s start with the surprisingly active half of the Border Rivals rivalry.

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings shrewdly swapped their 3rd overall pick for the Browns 4th overall and their 4th, 5th, and 7th round picks. This trade marked a departure for a Vikings management group that has never swung a deal like this, despite fans clamoring for it. As long as this author has been alive, the Vikes have never been the team to make the savvy, draft-day move. In fact, quite the opposite, this was the team that was late bringing its pick to the podium not once, but TWICE. And yet tonight, the Vikes made the perfect move, not once, but TWICE.

Trading down from #3 was perfect because they not only landed the player they wanted anyway, Matt Kalil, but they leveraged the Browns into coughing up three additional picks. Then, they used one of those picks, to finance a trade to get back into the first round and get the other player they really wanted, safety Harrison Smith.

Mount Kalil’s considerable skills have been detailed on this site’s pages here. His presence at left tackle actually improves the Vikes at two positions because now last year’s left tackle, Charlie Johnson, can move inside to guard. As for Smith, he is a solid safety who will consistently make the heady play. He may not be flashy, but, he will make the ordinary plays, extraordinarily well (shout out to John Gagliardi for that line). This kind of consistency will be a nice departure from the practice squad All-stars that manned the porous secondary last year.

Ultimately though, the difference between this year’s draft being good and great is going to come down to whether the Vikings can replicate their mastery of the move in rounds two and three. Most draft “experts” agree that, barring a Tom Brady or Marques Colston suprise, this draft is about 100 players deep. That means the odds are in your favor for getting a decent NFL starter in the first three rounds. For that reason, the Vikes should use their bounty of picks in the later rounds to try and trade back into the second or third rounds. For a team with needs all over the field, two or three more decent NFL starters will make all the difference.

Green Bay Packers

Staying true to his M.O., TT patiently waited until his selection and (most likely) picked the best player available. Thankfully, TT’s best player available also happened to be the biggest need for the Packers – another OLB to rush the passer and compliment The Claymaker. Going back to the well, TT selected USC’s Nick Perry (OLB) with the 28th overall selection.

Perry started his career at USC playing the Elephant position (the same position The Claymaker made famous) and then converted to a DE force. In his final season (red-shirt junior year), Perry recorded 55 tackles and 9.5 sacks, good enough to lead the Pac-whatever-the-number-is-now in sacks. Perry is 6’3” and 270 lbs. He ran a 4.64 40-yard dash (third-best for an OLB at the Combine) and benched 225 lbs. 35 times (good for 5th best out of all defensive linemen). The experts report that Perry’s biggest strengths are his burst off the ball, his overall quickness, which is especially impressive considering his size, and his relentless pursuit. Clearly, TT found another stud in the first-round, right?

Not so fast. Perry’s biggest weakness gives me cause for concern. He played primarily DE in college and any highlight package you see of Perry shows him with his hand in the ground. He undoubtedly has superior athleticism, but that’s not enough to win in the NFL. Even Perry proclaimed at the Combine that he’d prefer sticking his hand in the ground in a 4-3 over playing OLB in a 3-4. He knows how to get to the QB. But, it’s a complete guess whether he can fully play the OLB position in a 3-4 – i.e. can he play standing up, guard TE’s in open space, and not get lost in zone coverage. I have full faith in our coaching staff, most importantly Kevin Greene, to coach this young man up and get him ready – after all, they worked wonders with Frank Zombo in making him competent enough to start on a Super Bowl winning team. Still, it’s going to require some major coaching and there will certainly be some growing pains along the way to get Perry comfortable in his new OLB position.

In addition to this primary concern, I’m also a bit frustrated TT didn’t make a move to trade up and get a player – namely, Dont’a Hightower, a beast ILB from Alabama. The Hoodie traded a 4th round pick to move up and grab Hightower. It’s a nominal price, particularly since the Packers have three 4th round selections this year. I coveted getting a thumper ILB to pair with Bishop. And even if Hightower wasn’t the selection, it would have been nice to see TT move up to get a player he coveted given the low cost and superfluous picks we have this year. Along these lines, it was somewhat surprising TT went with Perry over Courtney Upshaw, OLB from Alabama. Upshaw seems to be the more proven OLB commodity having played that position in a 3-4 in college and for the best defense in the country. My guess is Perry’s superior athleticism pushed him over Upshaw and TT has full confidence in his staff to teach Perry the position.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the 1st round for the Packers. A position of dire need was filled with an unquestionably talented player. Perry comes from an elite program and is an instant starter for us. That’s what you want out of an end-of-1st selection.

As for the 2nd-3rd rounds Friday night, I anticipate TT will continue to devote picks to the defense. The Packers own the 27th selection in both the 2nd (59th overall) and 3rd (90th) rounds. Stocked with three 4th round selections and 12 picks overall, I anticipate TT will not simply sit back and wait like he did in the 1st round. There is plenty of talent left on the board and believe TT could make a move up to grab a player he covets. He did this two years ago when he sniped Morgan Burnett, and it’s a model he should follow again this year. The Packers do not need 12 new players to add to the roster. Instead, the Packers need impact-players, ones that TT targets, and trades up to acquire.

There are several DE prospects still lingering – Jerel Worthy, Devon Still, Kendall Reyes, and Jared Crick. Additionally, Courtney Upshaw, Lavonte David, Zach Brown, Ronnell Lewis, Andre Branch, Vinny Curry, and Olivier Vernon are OLB prospects that are still on the board. Finally, both Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are CB’s that could interest the Packers. As you can tell, there’s a lot of talent for the taking in the second round. At least some of these players will start to fall. It’s time for TT to be aggressive and move up several spots to grab one of these players.

Prediction: I see TT going after the front 7 on defense again in the second round. If TT makes a move, he will go after Reyes or David. If he sits back and waits, the pick will be Crick or Lewis/Curry. In the 3rd round, he should try to get secondary help. One name to keep an eye out for is Casey Hayward from Vanderbilt. If he avoids the secondary, this may be the spot TT addresses the OL – either a guard (remember, T.J. Lang is a FA next year) or center.

For a change, both sides of the St. Croix should be pleased with the results from the 1st Rd. Friday night’s rounds 2 and 3 are just as important to both teams’ success. Enjoy the festivities and make sure to check back here for some reaction following the draft.

The Importance of the Draft

The 2012 NFL Draft is ready to take over our next weekend. Both local squads have either a lot or some holes to fill through the draft. The importance of the draft to next seasons success is vitally important to both squads. By now, we’ve all read the articles proclaiming who the Vikes and Pack should take. But, there’s been little discussion on the past success, or lack thereof, for the squads. This is what we, here at Border Rivals, have decided to analyze in order to offer a fresh take on the upcoming draft.

Dating back to 2005 – the first draft Ted Thompson presided over for the Packers – we’ve catalogued each selection made by the local squads. Each selection was given a rating of 0-6:

  • 0 – A complete bust. The player has contributed nothing or next to nothing in stats.
  • 1 – The player has played in some games and accumulated very little in stats.
  • 2 – A key backup that may occasionally start. This may also be used for a below-average starter.
  • 3 – An average starter – the definition of A.J. Hawk.
  • 4 – An above-average starter. This player starts every game and makes an impact in the game.
  • 5 – A player on verge of making a Pro Bowl. A difference-maker, but not quite to that elite level, yet.
  • 6 – Any player that has been selected to the Pro Bowl.

We then calculated the average rating for the players selected in each round over the years. This allowed us to determine the relative success each team has had in drafting players in each round. Finally, we determined the “hit rate” for the percentage of time each team has hit (any player rated 3 or above) on a player – no matter the round that player was selected.

Our goal in this analysis is to not only determine the average rate of success each team had from 2005 to 2010 (we did not rate players taken in the last draft because it’s too early to make determinations on many players), but then to also determine the success each team has had in each round – after all, each team should draft well in the first few rounds on a routine basis. We had hoped that by creating these objective standards for rating each player, our own subjectivity would be limited. Admittedly, some of the calls –  particularly on whether a player is a 1 or 2, or a 4 or 5 is subjective. Still, our analysis provides unique insight into showing the importance of the draft.

Green Bay Packers –

Since 2005, TT has unwaveringly relied upon the draft to build the Packers roster into the championship team it has become. Agonizing at times, this approach has clearly worked for TT. The roster is riddled with both early and late round selections that have developed into reliable starters.

Over the 58 selections in the 6 drafts between 2005 and 2010, TT has hit on 21 of those selections – good for a 36% clip. 6 of those 21 players have developed into Pro Bowlers, including one MVP and a second-place finish in the Defensive MVP vote: Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, Nick Collins, Greg Jennings, and Josh Sitton (although he’s never been selected to a Pro Bowl, Sitton was voted the Offensive Lineman of the Year by the 2010 NFL Alumni – which deserves a 6 rating in our book). 3 players are on the fringe of making the Pro Bowl (a 5 rating) – JerMichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, and Bryan Bulaga. And two became above-average starters – Desmond Bishop and Mason Crosby.

There is no debating the fact that TT’s first selection – Aaron Rodgers – was his best. Frankly, it was also the gutsiest. Remember, the Pack still had a mid-thirties Brett Favre that had given no indication that he was ready to retire (and unretire, retire, unretire, and retire again). To take a QB with the first pick, knowing full-well that doing so would irritate – to say the least – the franchise player is a move only made by a person confident in his abilities. But, this was not the only bold move made by TT in the first round over the years. In 2009, TT moved back into the first round – giving up a number of picks – to acquire Clay Matthews to go with B.J. Raji – the 9th pick in that draft. Add in Bryan Bulaga (while also subtracting the Justin Harrell pick), and TT’s success in the first round is impressive with a 4.5 average rating.

TT has had equal success in the second and third rounds – averaging 2.89 and 2.8 respectively. He’s added Nick Collins, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and JerMichael Finley in those two rounds. TT’s fourth round number is an inflated 2.1 average because of the Josh Sitton selection. He nabbed the starting left guard, T.J. Lang, also in the 2009 4th round. Interestingly enough, TT’s worst round over the years has been the fifth round, where he averages a meager 1. The only players of note in this round are from the 2010 draft – Andrew Quarles (a 2 rating) and Marshall Newhouse (a 3 – admittedly, this may be a reach, but I’m convinced he’s the starting LT of the future, good enough for a 3 in my book). TT’s seventh round average is 1.33, with his best pick being Matt Flynn.

I skipped the sixth round so I could highlight it. I have always maintained that TT has made his money the most in the late rounds and even undrafted free agent pool. TT’s sixth round average of 2.1 is a testament to this. He has found four starters, two of which are above average – Bishop, Crosby, Johnny Jolly, and James Starks. He’s also added two decent backups in Korey Hall (a pretty solid special-teams player when he played for the Pack) and Jarius Wynn.

As the numbers demonstrate, TT has success through all rounds of the draft. He finds key players, whether they are starters or not, that contribute to the team’s success. It is only because of this draft success that the Packers are poised to become a Super Bowl contender for the next several seasons.

Minnesota Vikings –

In sharp contrast, the Vikes have relied upon free agency to build the team. This strategy brought them one classic-Favre-heartbreak from a Super Bowl berth in 2010. But, this strategy, along with poor results in the draft, help explain why the Vikes have the 3rd overall selection on Thursday night.

Over the 39 selections between 2005 and 2010, the Vikes have hit on only 11 of those selections, good for a 28% clip. 1 of the 11 is a Pro Bowler, AP, and only 1 more is on the verge of a Pro Bowl berth, Percy Harvin. There are only 2 above-average starters: Chad Greenway and Ray Edwards. The remaining seven players are Cedric Griffin, T. Jax, Sidney Rice, Phil Loadholt, Brian Robison, John Sullivan, and Jamarca Sanford.

Both AP and Harvin were the offensive Rookies of the Year, which, frankly, masks the Vikes’ poor track record. Even with those two ROYs, the Vikes average rating in the first round is still only a 3.4. The same year TT selected Rodgers, the Vikes passed on him twice to select Troy Williamson and Erasmus James. Both players earned a 1-rating. (We know Williamson was technically a starter, and thus, maybe a 3; but this is where subjectivity dictates a 1-rating. If you think otherwise, you must be Williamson’s mother.)

Over nine picks in the second round, the Vikes average 2.4, grabbing all 2’s and 3’s in this round. Not one player developed into an above-average starter. No, Sidney Rice’s one-season with Brett Favre does not make him an above-average starter. Worse, the Vikes average 1.7 for the 3 selections in the third round: Dustin Fox, Marcus McCauley, and Asher Allen. Yuck.

A 2.5 average in the fourth-round is respectable. This average is based on two players: Ray Edwards (who is no longer on the team anymore) and Brian Robison, his replacement, who has started only one full season.

From here, it gets ugly for Vikings fans. The Vikes average 0.86, 1, and 0.8 in 5th, 6th, and 7th rounds, respectively. Out of the 18 selections in these three rounds, only two became starters – John Sullivan and Jamarca Sandford – and the rest are either a 1 or 0.

Overall, the Vikes have drafted a bust or near bust in 20 of the 39 selections, a clip of 51%. This number, along with the only 1 Pro Bowler selected in this time frame, helps explain why the Vikes have needed free agency over the years to be competitive.

If there is ever a clearer answer to why the Vikes have the 3rd pick in this draft, while the Pack have the 28th selection and are only one year removed from a Super Bowl victory, that answer is the relative success each team has had in the drafts. Not only have the Packers hit on a higher percentage of their picks, but the Packers have also selected better quality of players, shown by the 6-to-1 ratio in Pro Bowlers selected.

And, here is our work so you can scrutinize yourself: Local Squads. We recognize there will be some debate about our ratings and/or system. Please keep the comments coming so we can fine-tune it as we move forward.

Your Move Zygi

Well, if you believe the most recent “breaking” reports, the politicians of the Great State of Minnesota have decided to move forward with the construction of the latest and greatest multi-functional sports facility this side of Nicollet Avenue.  The expected cost of this facility has ranged between $900 million and $1 billion.  No small price tag considering the current state of the state’s financial statement.  But, that discussion is neither here nor…anywhere…oddly enough.

No, the following paragraphs are going to focus on what will happen next.  You see, of that roughly $1 billion price tag, the good people of the State of Minnesota are coughing up approximately $550 million.  Though, if you believe the Vikings website, that is a deal.  Evidently, residents in other NFL cities are picking 2/3 of the total tab.  WHAT A DEAL!!!  HOW LUCKY ARE WE!!!!

Zygi is all smiles after news of the stadium broke. Let's hope the people of Minnesota are also smiling after it is built.

Now that the congratulating is over (oh man, we are such good negotiators, we just agreed to build a billionaire a stadium) and the shovels are ready to be put into the ground, we did put ourselves in a position to do one thing: demand a quality product.

Gone should be the days of skimping on Free Agent signings or refraining from cutting loose on a bad signing and moving on to the next one.  Think the Vikings WR/DB situation for the past few years.  The people ponied up, the Vikings need to make a commitment to winning.  Now.

To that end, this year’s squad is in desperate need at three critical positions: WR, DB, and OL.  It appears as though Mount Kalil is going to be available at No. 3 in this year’s NFL Draft.  That covers a gaping OL hole.  But, the framework of this stadium deal should mean more than just trying to improve through the draft.

Ideally, it means locking down Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson, or one of the other marquee WRs.  Cheech Harvin is a dynamic WR, but, he needs a sidekick and either Bowe or VJax would be great.

To ensure those flankers get a workout in practice, the state’s splurge on the stadium also means locking down some Chris Cook insurance in the form of one of the following DBs: Cortland Finnigan, Terrell Thomas, or another decent options at DB.  And yes, that could even mean locking down dream-killer Tracy Porter.

Allen was looking for a sidekick all year last year. Super Mario could be just what the doctor ordered.

In an ideal world, Zygi and Co. make a push for Mario Williams.  He would be a great compliment to Ten Gallon Allen.  With the two of them coming off the edge, they would make even the most pedestrian DBs look like HOFers.    You could skip signing Finnegan or the other marquee DBs.  While playing in the Metrodome, getting the NFL’s version of Super Mario in purple was a pipe dream, but, now that we are moving next door to Mall America Field at Best Buy Stadium, signing Williams should definitely be in the cards.

In fact, while I am it, why stop there?  Rumors are swirling about how the Colts are going to release sure-fire HOFer, Peyton Manning.  If he is even back to 80%, the Vikes better be serious players in trying to land him.  That does not mean a courtesy dinner at Manny’s and a $500.00 gift to the MOA.  I want them to pull out all the stops.  Have AP wheel down to Manning’s pad in Nawleans and talk him into strapping it on for the purple.  Manning would be the perfect mentor to a young Christian Ponder.  The Vikes would be instant contenders, especially with the other free agent additions discussed above.

Now, before you all get on your email machines and tell me how impossible it would be to sign all of the  previously discussed free agents, save your time.  I get it.  There are financial considerations at play and not ALL of those candidates can be Vikings.  BUT,  these next few weeks are going to tell a lot about whether the people of Minnesota got duped or if the Vikes are serious about a quality product on the quality field that we are building them.  It is that commitment to seriously being involved in the conversation that we, as the bank, need to see.  Without that commitment, we are just like the other sports-hungry cities that got duped into paying for a new stadium.  Your move Wilf.