Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Draft Commentary Roundup

Many analysts, though not all, thought as poorly of the Titans' draft as I did. Here's a summary:

Rick Gosselin: B (A+ - C range). Good words for Hawkins, Hayes, and Keglar in the 4th round. Johnson provides offensive speed. I, well, disagree, but YMMV.

Michal David Smith: D+ (A - F range). Johnson a bad pick, though not a bad player. Ignored biggest need, WR, until 4th round.

Mel Kiper: C (A - C- range). "[T]he philosophy is skewed" basically sums up my view of things.

Jason Cole: D (A - D- range). Repeat RB-WR point.

Pro Football Weekly. No grades. Johnson "one of the major surprises of Round One" and "may never be more than a part-time player."

NBCSports.com: D+ (A - D+ range). "An odd draft." First four picks were all risks.

JJ Cooper: C- (range?). Johnson a part time player, waited too long to address WR, Stevens the best blocking TE on the team, Hayes a reach.

For more on turning a sow's ear into a silk purse, check out Mike Reinfeldt and Jeff Fisher before the media. See also the Tennesseean summary of draft grades. See also Paul Kuharsky analyzing the recent draft trends.

Go back to Mike Reinfeldt's comments before the Rotary Club, analyzed here. Query for Mike Reinfeldt: what player the Titans drafted could be one of their "10 or 12 special guys"? Sitting here, it sure doesn't look like any of them could be expected to be.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Titans 2008 Draft Recap

The 2008 NFL draft was this weekend. Somehow, the Titans' entire front office didn't go on a bender and miss the draft. Go on a bender, maybe... Let's take a look at the Titans' picks:

#1-24: Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina
For the third time in the past three seasons, the Titans spend a first or second round pick on a running back. Why the hell would you do that? Most running backs are about as good as the next running back; how much difference is there, really, between LenDale White and a street free agent? Johnson's a pure speed guy. Unfortunately, they drafted one of those last year in the second round, in Chris Henry. Maybe taking an upgraded version of a terrible draft pick will be a success, but I doubt it. A reach, and an absolutely moronic pick. This is the football equivalent of doubling down on a hard 14; it might pay off, but it's a really stupid thing to do.

#2-54: Jason Jones, DE, Eastern Michigan
A significantly less terrible pick than Johnson, Jones: (a) plays at a position of need, and (b) adds a quality the Titans don't have. He should immediately be part of the DE rotation with Kearse opposite KVB, and should be a decent run defender. Granted, they might have taken Jones 15 or 30 picks too early, but he should be a decent player.

#3-85: Craig Stevens, TE, Cal
With their 3rd round pick, the Titans took a blocking TE who's not much of a receiving threat. Let me just summarize the Titans' investment in their offense this draft:
1. 1st round pick on a running back largely duplicative to running back bust from last year's draft. Hates contact. 3rd down back, maybe, but not one who can stay in and do blitz pickup.
2. 3rd round pick on a tight end who doesn't present a receiving threat. Also, 3 TEs already on roster, 2 of whom expect to start.
It's not that I have anything against Stevens, really, but jeez o' pete, this is a waste of a draft pick. Jeff Fisher hates offense, and his running game enthusiasm is a horrible, blinding character flaw, and holds his team back. Days like this weekend are why I'm so, so, SO happy the Titans are now stuck with him for 5+ years.

#4-103: William Hayes, DE, Winston-Salem State
William Hayes will forever be the answer to a trivia question: who was the first guy not invited to the Combine drafted in the 2008 draft. That's not a recommendation. Read the linked-to Total Titans post, and you'll see everything I know. From what I've read, I haven't seen anything that makes me think Hayes shouldn't have been taken where guys who aren't invited to the Combine are normally taken: in the 6th or 7th round or not at all. Fisher claimed in an interview with NFL Network that several teams said they would have taken him shortly after the Titans did. You're free to believe that, if you want.

#4-126: Lavelle Hawkins, WR, Cal
The Titans finally draft a WR. This is the Pacman pick, so you've turned an All-Pro-quality CB and returner into a system WR who's a questionable route-runner and doesn't do anything particularly well. Oh, and he was only really productive when the opposing team was really scared about the guy on the other side. The NFL isn't quite the NBA, where doing one thing superlatively well will get you a roster spot, and I have no reason to believe Hawkins will be noticeably worse than any other 4th round WR, but nor do I have any reason to think he'll be actually, y'know, decent, let alone good.

#4-134: Stanford Keglar, OLB, Purdue
Finally some OLB depth, and probably a useful special teams guy. I know I saw a decent bit of Purdue this year, living in B10 country, but I have nothing interesting to say about Keglar. I will say, though, that I don't enjoy typing "Keglar"; I don't spell it wrong every time like I do "monopoly," but it annoys me.

#7-229: Cary Williams, CB, Washburn
So, the Titans spend a flier 7th round pick on a fast CB who got kicked off of Fordham. At least one of the coaches like him enough to recommend him to Washburn.

Maybe I've been a little negative here, but I believe the Titans, for the third straight year, had a really bad draft, and what little optimism I had was dimmed by this weekend's events. I didn't burn my jersey yet, like I considered after the Johnson pick, but by far the best news of draft weekend is inking Michael Roos to a big extension.

UPDATE (4/29 2057 CT): Thanks to the News-Record sports blog for linking to me in their post "Here's Motivation for William Hayes". My pessimism above notwithstanding, I'm still a Titans fan and am rooting for him to succeed. If his success means hoisting me on my own petard, well, that's what you get for making judgments based on imperfect information. My thanks also for not putting a [sic] on my thing/think typo (now fixed).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Book Review: Total Access

After a couple of books on college football, I read a book on the NFL. Well, kind of. Rich Eisen's Total Access is the story of a first year as the lead anchor and main face of the fledgling NFL Network. Whether or not you enjoy this book probably depends in large part on how much you like Rich Eisen, because the book is centered on him. I thought Rich Eisen was a great choice, and does a fine job for the NFL Network. For me, then, this book was a tremendously fun trip through his 2006 NFL season. If you don't like Rich Eisen as an anchor, I doubt you'll enjoy the book. If you're ambivalent, you may not like the book, but I urge you to give it a try anyway. There's not a great amount of substance here, but I had an awful lot of fun reading this book. Not enough of substance for me to justify buying it, but a very worthwhile library rental.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Site News

I've updated the sidebar. Links to individual book reviews have been updated; I added the massively incomplete 2007 UFR archive link; and football links have been updated, including the addition of 53 Deep, who's doing some interesting work grading offensive linemen (see here, for example).

O-Line v San Diego

I have a new post up at Total Titans looking at the causes of the failures of the Titans' offensive line in their playoff loss to San Diego. It ain't UFR, but it is some tape work. I hope to have a tape work piece up on a weekly basis, though we'll see how long that resolution lasts.

Over here, I still have a couple book reviews to do, plus some general blogging that may or may not happen.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Book Review: Saturday Rules

Another week, another book review on college football. This time, it's Saturday Rules by Austin Murphy. Murphy, a long-time writer for Sports Illustrated on the college gridiron game, traces the path through the 2006 season. Saturday Rules is essentially a journalistic account of his experiences traveling around the country covering college football. It is by no means a definitive story of the 2006 season, though most of the major highlights are covered. If you're obsessed by the 2006 college football season, you'll love this book.

Unfortunately, if you don't fall into the probably quite small category, there's not much to recommend this book. There are no broader insights into the college game, no particular moments of brilliance. If an SI game story represents the apotheosis of sportswriting for you, Saturday Rules isn't too bad. But, now, there's no real reason to read this book. It's generally not-bad enough that it doesn't feel like a complete waste of time (not to say that it's perfect-LaRon Landry's name is "LeRon", for one, and he praises Charlie Weis for bad use of timeouts), but, really, I didn't get anything out of reading this book, and I'm not sure that anyone else would either.