An offseason in the NFL? Not really; the final game of the 2011 season counted down to 0:00 with a pass just outside the fingertips of a soon to be shirtless Rob Gronkowski, but today’s NFL is now a 365 day season. This weekend’s NFL combine, free agency, and mock drafts push Pitchers and Catcher Report to page two in the minds of many sports fans. NBA, NHL, and college basketball regular seasons? For those that follow those sports intently, please forgive me, but based on the way their post seasons operate – up to what is it, six weeks and 28 playoff games for a league champion to be determined – it’s more and more difficult with each passing year to pay much attention to those teams until the playoffs begin.

 

 

Patriots Nation seems to be filled with angst over the fact that Wes Welker’s contract is due to expire on March 13. For whatever reason some seem to feel that since he is 31 he’ll be using a walker next season and his production will surely drop by at least a third … which would mean he would still have over 1,00 yard receiving, by the way. Welker has never held out or publicly demanded an extension. When the Pats traded for him they were quite generous with their contract, considering about the only thing he was known for in the NFL at that point in time was stepping in to replace an injured kicker in the middle of a game, taking over kickoff and field goal duties while he was with Miami. Why Will Brinson over at CBS Sports is convinced Welker will demand $14 or $15 million a year is a real head scratcher; this is Wes Welker, not Terrell Owens. Worse case scenario is that the two sides don’t reach an agreement by March 5th; in that case the Pats franchise him, giving them until July 16 to work out a multi year deal.

 

 

Oscar night predictions:
Best Picture: The Artist
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin
Best Actress: Viola Davis
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer
Best Director: Michael Hazanavicius

 

Back to Welker and the debate about how valuable various wide receivers are: check out this entry by ivanvamp at PatsFans.com; it’s a fascinating quantification of productivity and efficiency of all NFL receivers, taking into account the number of receptions, yards gained, touchdowns, first downs, receptions per number of targeted passes, fumbles, ratio of first downs to receptions, yards per catch and yards after catch. Besides a total ranking of all receivers there are also productivity, efficiency and big play capabilities. Of course two other things that cannot be overlooked in regards to Welker are (a) how important he is to the Pats offense, and (b) whether or not he would be as productive in another system. It makes sense for both sides for Welker to remain a Patriot rather than to go elsewhere.

 

 

One other thing I hear people say is that the Pats don’t know how to draft wide receivers, therefore they shouldn’t draft one and should instead get one (or two) veterans either in free agency or via a trade. The first thing that comes to mind is that based on that line of thinking, then the Patriots should not have drafted Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez due to their previous track record of drafting tight ends. The second thing that comes to mind is that Greg Lewis, Joey Galloway, Tory Holt, Doug Gabriel and Chad Johnson all say hello to remind you that signing a veteran is not automatically preferable. But the third point is perhaps most important, and most widely missed by fans: what exactly is the rate of ‘hits’ the team should be expected to have with their draft picks?

The logic behind this way of thinking is that the Pats have swung and missed on Taylor Price, Brandon Tate, Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson in recent years. There is no denying that is true; none of them worked out as well as it was hoped that they would. Jackson is forever held up as a prime example, primarily due to the success of the player chosen in his place by Green Bay, Greg Jennings, but let’s remember two things: first, he tore up his knee and was never the same after that. Second, at the time nobody was questioning the choice of Jackson over Jennings. In fact it should also be noted that the Packers chose another player, now-Arizona Cardinal T Daryn Colledge prior to drafting Jennings; it’s not as if they or anyone else knew Jennings would be as good as he has been. And let’s not forget that Jennings was not the next WR was selected in that draft; that would be another now out of the NFL player, Sinorice Moss.

So how hit or miss is the draft for every NFL team? Consider the wide receivers taken immediately after Jennings: Travis Wilson (NFL career: one season, four games, two receptions); Derek Hagan (career backup with eight starts in six years, averaging 203 yards per season); Brandon Williams (lasted two seasons in the NFL, with a career total of 245 yards); Maurice Stovall (another career backup, averaging 111 yards per season); and Willie Reed, whose two-year NFL career with the Steelers consisted of one reception for eleven yards.

And before you think I am comparing late round draft picks, think again; all of these players were selected no later than in the third round.

So how many make it, living up to their fan’s expectations, and how many do not? Let’s take a look at the numbers, but first, take a look at this list of wide receivers drafted in the NFL over the last several years. As you can see the hits to misses ratio is less than 50:50; a look at the number of wide receivers drafted from 2006 to 2010, and what has since happened with them:

2010
21 are still with their original team
2 are with another NFL team
8 are either out of the NFL or on a practice squad

2009
19 are still with their original team
7 are with another NFL team
8 are either out of the NFL or on a practice squad

2008
15 are still with their original team (p.s.: that includes Matthew Slater)
5 are with another NFL team
15 are no longer in the NFL

2007
6 are still with their original team
9 are with another NFL team
19 are no longer in the NFL

2006
5 are still with their original team
8 are with another NFL team
17 are no longer in the NFL

It’s also interesting to note that of those thirteen players from the 2006 draft that are still in the NFL, four (i.e., over 30%) were drafted in the seventh round, which further underscores what a crapshoot the draft is.

 

When you look at those numbers as a whole, there should be no reason for surprise that a team has missed on the very small sample size of the last four players drafted at that position. You barely have a 50% chance of a guy sticking around for three years, and under 50% chance for four or more years.

 

 

I still can’t get over how superficial the pre-game analysis was leading up to the Super Bowl. It was really sad how little depth there was, with most instead focusing on whether or not somebody’s statement was a guarantee of a win and if that was disrespecting the opponent, a private email by the wife of a player having some hidden meaning, and – the biggest gaffe of all that not one single member of the media dared follow up on – the Julian Edelman will never be able to cover the Giants receiver non-story. Of course, why would the media want to admit they were completely wrong and that Edelman was fourth on the depth chart at corner, playing in the AFCCG due to a temporary injury to Kyle Arrington. The post-game analysis was no better, focusing on TMZ-ish stories about a post game party and the wife of a player responding in the heat of the moment to a heckler. I find it highly ironic that actual intelligent analysis, both pre-game and post-game, was far more readily available during the regular season than it was as the season progressed and eventually went forward into the playoffs. Instead of intelligent football discussion becoming more readily available as the stakes grew higher, just the opposite occurred; sports sites 86′d genuine football talk and let the editors from E! and People magazine take over. Frankly, it’s a real shame that this is what the coverage of football has devolved into.

 

One last thought while on the topic of sports coverage, and that is in regards to the network formerly known as Outdoor Life Network, OLN, Versus and now called NBC Sports. During the NFL season I really enjoyed their commentary. They stayed away from the ignorant scripted shows that espn shoves down the public’s throat like PTI and Around The Horn; instead we had some relatively decent insight from their crew. However, now that the NFL season is over they’re really giving football fans no reason to tune in. Example: last night they had 3 hours of bull riding, followed by a half hour of the very good Darren Rovell focusing strictly on the business side of sports (lots of NFL free agents discussion) – and then a repeat of that same bull riding show.

Sorry, but that just ain’t gonna’ cut it. Apparently the business plan is to not do anything that might promote a sport that espn holds broadcast right to; they have NHL shows and will broadcast college hockey, but no NBA, college basketball or NFL-based shows now. I understand the logic in not wanting to talk about a sport that another network has the rights to broadcast and you don’t (the NFL combine, NFL draft, major league baseball, NBA, college basketball), but I’m going to disagree with this tactic. You’re a new network; you’ve got to give me a reason to tune in. An hour long NFL Live-type show would be prefect somewhere between 10 pm and midnight; espn bodcasts their show at 4 pm (while most are still at work) and then again not until 1:30 am (after most have gone to sleep). Yes, I know most people have DVRs now, but there’s still something to be said for the convenience of going through the channels and watching something that interest you at that very moment. In my opinion they should do that, as well as nightly half hour shows devoted specifically to discussion about baseball, the NBA, college basketball, soccer and auto racing to help fill up their inventory of available time slots. The vast majority of sports fans want some combination of those sports, not bull riding and poker.

 

 

A musical blast from the past: I much prefer the studio version, but this is still an interesting listen. The band originally known as Chicago Transit Authority was actually really cool before Terry Kath ate a bullet and Peter Cetera sold out with wimpy top 40 ballads.

 

 

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