Tag Archives: Tom Brady

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 Julio Jones Conundrum

2011 was a difficult year to be a Vikings fan.  But, like any rube cheering for the local squad, hope springs eternal and the upcoming NFL Draft is just the remedy that is needed to facilitate forgetting last season.  Whether it is the hope of that impact rookie being drafted or the wheeling and dealing that strengthens the draft of the future, the NFL Draft is one part lottery, one part shrewd evaluation, and all parts exciting.

Jones' considerable skills were nearly always on display while dominating SEC defenses.

This year’s NFL Draft poses an especially interesting conundrum for the Vikes’ management group.  Last year, the Cleveland Browns capitalized on the Atlanta Falcons’ desire to get an impact WR, trading their Top 10 pick, which was used to draft Julio Jones, for basically all of Atlanta’s draft.  This was actually one of those rare deals that seemed to work for both squads.  The Falcons got the game changing wideout to complement Pro Bowler Roddy White and the Browns got the mess of draft picks needed to continue rebuilding.

Fast forward to this year’s draft, the Vikes hold the valuable Number 3 pick overall.  Most analysts agree that future Hall-of-Famer Andrew Luck is going first.  From there, it gets really interesting, really quickly.  You see, the Number 2 pick on most boards is behemoth LT, Matt Kalil.  This guy’s pedigree is more pristine than that little footstool that won this year’s Westminster dog show.  His older brother is an All Pro C for the Cam-o-lina Panthers.  He was a consensus All-American at USC, the perennial hotbed for impact NFL rookies.

The St. Louis Rams hold the Number 2 pick and have drafted offensive linemen in two of the last three drafts.  It seems unlikely that the Rams would select another linemen as their fan base is desperate for a talented skill position player. Many think that OSU pass-Hoovering WR Justin Blackmon will go to St. Louis.  That scenario would put the Vikings in a very difficult spot.

Do they draft the “sure-thing” LT that could be the cornerstone of their offensive line and hope to improve the league’s worst secondary via free agency and the later rounds of the draft?  Or, do the Vikes adopt the Browns’ strategy and trade the Number 3 pick to the team that wants to ensure they can secure the talents of multi-tool QB, Robert Griffin III.   RG3 is a hot commodity right now.  There are multiple teams that are said to be interested in acquiring his services.  If the Vikes can acquire multiple pieces and fill multiple needs, aren’t they better off moving the pick?  This fan says no.

Todays game requires exceptional QB play.  Exceptional offensive line play is the first step in achieving that level of QB play, unless your QB has the last name Brees, Brady, Manning, or, [unfortunately] Rodgers.   The Vikings offensive line was offensive this year.  Nearly every player took a step back from the year before.

This guy's bloodlines would make the child of two Olympians blush.

As if that was not enough of a reason to draft Mount Kalil, the Vikes also happen to have a Hall of Fame RB who will be coming off knee surgery and would likely do much better with a road grader like Kalil plowing the road in front of him.  With Mount Kalil in purple, it is easy to see All Day bursting into the second level with only the wreckage from Kalil behind him.

While it may be tempting to off load their pick for a wealth of future picks, the Vikings should pass.  Do the right thing.  Secure their line of the future and take Mount Kalil.  If nothing else, we might finally get a chance to see what we have with our first round pick from last year, Christian Ponder.

After all, even though Rome was not built in a day, with Kalil acting as the muscle to the development, there is a really good chance the Purple return to prominence sooner than later.

The 1,567,438th Super Bowl XLVI Preview!!

I bet some of you are wondering, wait a minute, Border Rivals has Super Bowl preview??  I mean, sure, one of us is still creeping back off the ledge because his beloved Packers got Coughlin’d (again) a couple of weeks in the cathedral that used to be home-field advantage, Lambeau Field.  And of course, Border Rivals’ resident Vikings rube is still glowing over the fact there is no chance of having to watch Mr. State Farm do The Belt on the podium this Sunday with Dan Patrick and Roger Goodell.  However, even though we here at Border Rivals do not have stake in this year’s big game, we do not want our readers to be left out in the cold.  The following is our (non)-Super Bowl XLVI preview (yup, our resident Packer fan is still bitter).

The lead-up to this year’s game has been somewhat unique.  The older brother of one of the quarterbacks who is starting in the game – no, seriously, Eli is playing – has dominated the headlines all week long.  Instead of hearing about how Eli and his cast of fleet-footed and sure-handed wide receivers is going to make mince meat out of a very overrated Patriots secondary, we are instead being subjected to 1:00 a.m. tweets from Jim Irsay about that older brother.  Tweets like “Peyton has not gotten CLEARANCE from me”………(then 15 minutes later)……….”By that, I meant, Peyton has not received clearance from the Colts’ family doctors”……(to finally)…….”Peyton, do you want to come over for pizza and beer.”

Even Jimmy's buddy George knows it is not sound stratergy to schwiel and Tweet!!

Seriously, this guy is a millionaire a hundred times over and he does not have a handler who’s only job is to stop him from tweeting like a drunk, scorned college hook-up???  Jimmy, no joke, for $65K a year and tickets to every Super Bowl from here on out, we here at Border Rivals will agree to take responsibility for your Twitter account.  I mean, hell, there is no way we screw it up any worse than he already has. But, we digress.

There are some well-paid individuals who are going to play a football game on Sunday.  Even though the easy comparison for Sunday’s game is the previous match-up from 2008,  where the Giants escaped with a most surprising upset victory, we think the more accurate comparison is to the Super Bowl that we watched a scant 363 days ago.

Super Bowl XLV featured a red-hot Packers team up against the “class” of the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Prior to the game, people not drinking Spotted Cow and sporting cheese on their head had a difficult time deciding who to favor.  The Packers gelled at just the right time, overcoming a rash of injuries, and ripped off eight wins coming into the game.  The Packers were a juggernaut.  The Steelers held serve with home wins against a tough Baltimore squad and an experienced Jets team that had beaten them only five weeks earlier.  Ultimately, the public seemed to be favoring the “hot” team and the Packers entered the game a three point favorite.

The game itself was rather enjoyable, even for our resident Vikings rube.  There was a lot of back and forth scoring.  Ultimately, the Packers prevailed because their opportunistic defense forced three turnovers, which were promptly turned into three touchdowns. Mr. State Farm, still in Madden-mode, sealed the game by converting crucial third-downs in the 4th Quarter to sustain the last drive, none bigger than the bullet to Jennings over the middle. It should also be noted that the Steelers helped the Packers’ cause by inexplicably abandoning the running game that had absolutely dominated in the third quarter.

The similarities to this year’s game are startling.  The Giants are this year’s “hot” team, winning two must-win regular season games to get in the playoffs and then continuing their hot streak in the playoffs, crushing the Matty “Ice” led Falcons (without a doubt, this is the least appropriate nickname in all of sports. Email us with worse, if possible) , Coughlin’g the Packers (again), and then ensuring that BOTH the Harbough brothers would get to watch the game with pops.

The Patriots, on the other hand, are the “class” of the AFC.  They took care of business all season, beating every team that they should, though, they never beat a team with a winning record.  In the playoffs, they held serve at home and beat a Broncos team that out-kicked its coverage worse than a Dungeons & Dragons Grandmaster (or whatever) bagging a Playboy Bunny.  Next up, a Ravens team that decided to not to feed the rock to its all-world tailback, Ray Rice, and were ultimately undone by Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff doing their best Kyle Stanley (or Jean Van de Velde for those not up-to-date) impersonations. The Pats coasted into the Super Bowl.

We expect that Super Bowl XLVI will play out in a manner similar to last year’s game.  Back and forth scoring with the team that makes those crucial two or three crucial plays in the second half providing the difference.

Giant fans are hoping that Mr. Bundchen suffers the same fate as Mr. State Farm.

The two caveats to this semi-generic prognostication are the Giants ability to run the ball on offense and to rush the passer on defense.  If the Giants can establish their dual-wield running attack of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, thereby keeping Mr. Bundchen off the field, the advantage definitely swings their way.  That advantage increases even more if their extremely pesky defensive line can give Mr. Bundchen the same happy-feet disease that it did to Mr. State Farm. Of course, these two advantages are semi-related – if the Giants can control the clock and run the ball, it puts even more pressure on Mr. Bundchen to perform when he has the ball.  However, if no pressure is brought, that see-saw affair is almost sure to happen.

Lost in the love affair with the Pats is that Mr. Bundchen has been rather pedestrian in the playoffs since 2005. Of course, its blasphemy to say anything negative about Mr. Bundchen. But, the following is Mr. Bundchen’s track record in the last eleven playoff games: 25-16 TD-INT ratio (including the 6 TD outburst against the JV-squad Broncos), 7 lost fumbles, and 0-1 in the Super Bowl.

Ultimately, we think the running game gets going, and Tuck, Osi, and Prime Minister Kiwanuka dispel the prayers of Patriots nation and put Mr. Bundchen on his can, early and often. Either way, it should be fun – assuming one of us can enjoy the game between his tears and Spotted Cows.

Giants 31 Patriots 21