Sunday, April 30, 2006

Draft, day 2

The Eagles continued to trade up to grab the players they targeted. They traded away Hollis Thomas and Artis Hicks to move up. Both would have been squeezed out anyway due to the extensive drafting the Eagles have done on the offensive and defensive lines.

It was no surprise to see Thomas go. He is an 11-year veteran who would not have been resigned after his contract expired this year. He underachieved last season and has been unhappy with the money he's making. Hicks played ok in spots, can play guard or tackle, and is still fairly young, so it's a little shocking for him to be shipped out. But when the Eagles drafted the monster guard Max Jean-Gilles, someone had to go, and Hicks was the odd man out. Jean-Gilles is a 350lb mauler, who would have been a first- or second-round guard if he could stay away from McDonalds. Very althetic for his size, and can be a starting NFL guard even with his weight issues. Should he ever find some discipline and get into the 320 range, he'll be a potential Pro-Bowler. Great risk/reward pick in the 4th round.

The Eagles' second fourth-round pick was another good one - Jason Avant from Michigan. Has very similar physical skills to Derek Hagan that I've been crowing about, but is less polished and didn't produce as much in college. A developmental prospect who could develop into a solid #2 receiver in 3-4 years. Another good value.

The fifth round saw them take Jeremy Bloom from Colorado. At least he'll improve the Eagles' ski team. Seriously though, he fills a glaring need in the return game and has the ceiling as a WR of someone like Brandon Stokley. He's an interesting guy, who on film looks very fast (he outran both the FSU and Oklahoma defense for long scores) but timed a mediocre 4.60 in the 40.

With the Eagles drafting two receivers, it seems likely that Billy McMullen and Greg Lewis have seen their last game in green and silver...barring pre-season injuries of course. Fourth and fifth WRs need to help out on special teams, and neither McMullen nor Lewis has shown much capacity for returning kicks. Unless the Eagles have finally given up on Todd Pinkston, which would be fine with me (although he does have more upside than the others.)

Overall, I am glad to see the Eagles address both lines heavily in this draft. Yes, they have some other areas of need...namely a safety to take over for Brian Dawkins, a RB that weighs more than 180 lbs, and a LB that can run, but you can't go wrong by winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. And with this draft, the Eagles have basically solidified their OL for years to come. Within two years, you'll have Todd Herremans, Shaun Andrews, Jamaal Jackson, Max-Jean Gillis, and Winston Justice as a starting OL with Scott Young providing depth across the line. If 'C' is an average grade, I'd have to give the Eagles a B+ for this draft, only falling short of an A with that third-round mistake.

Update: With their last pick of the day, the Eagles grabbed Omar Gaither from Tennessee. I'd expect him to make the team as a special teams contributor, and he has the potential to develop into a serviceable sam LB down the road. Solid pick.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Third round disaster

Even though Derek Hagan was still available...even though Jon Alston was avialable...even though Maurice Stovall, Jason Spitz, and James Anderson were all still on the board, and all would have filled major needs, the Eagles chose instead to draft Chris Gocong.

No offense to Mr. Gocong, who could surely stuff me into my computer monitor for typing this, if he wanted to...but this was an awful pick. If the Eagles would have drafted him in the fifth round (and he still would have been available), I'd have called it a 'reach'. But instead they snapped up this "player" in the third round. He has the upside to maybe develop into a N.D. Kalu someday, which basically means he'll bounce around the league struggling to find work as a fourth DE for 5-6 years, then never be heard from again...and that's if he maxes out his potential.

I'm not sure what happened. My best guess is that the Eagles' football people were so pleased to find Winston Justice available in round two, that they started to do tequila shots in the draft room to celebrate, and the janitor's son was the only person who hadn't passed out before the third round. He was forced to make the pick. Since his a sister was dating a guy whose dad works for someone who graduated from Cal Poly, he decided to take the best player from this 1-AA football powerhouse, and thus...I give you the newest Philadelphia Eagle, Chris Gocong.

The Eagles' defensive ends played badly last year. They struggled to get pressure on the QB, and were complete non-factors against the run. Still, I can't think of a single one on the roster that could be replaced by someone as limited as Gocong. I'd say he's 50/50 to even make the team, let alone play...and that's only because Andy Reid might keep him on the roster for a year out of sheer embarrassment (Quentin Caver, where are you?)

Derek Hagan was taken by Miami, and within 2-3 years he'll be starting. Maurice Stovall should be a solid #3 WR in Tampa for many years. By the time these two are coming into their prime as NFL players, Chris Gocong won't even be an Eagle anymore. He may not even be in the NFL at all.

Great pick.

Eagles' second round

Wow. I'm not sure how it happened, but Winston Justice dropped all the way into the second round today, and the Eagles traded up to grab him. I know there were some concerns about his production, but his workout numbers were off the charts, and he was graded as a top 15 pick by almost every single expert going into the draft. So the Eagles end up with two players on my round one wish list, when I would have been happy with either one of them. They gave up a fourth-round pick to make the move.

Buffalo made idiots out of themselves again, trading up into the first round to grab a DT with a 2nd-round grade, after passing on the best two DTs in the draft at the #8 slot. The guys running the football program up there are amazing knuckleheads. Honestly, I could do a better job, just by watching ESPN a lot.

The Giants and Steelers made a trade that is great for both teams...Steelers trade up to grab Santonio Holmes, who is an instant upgrade vs. the overrated Antwan Randle-El, while the Giants pick up an extra 3rd and 4th-round selection. In the Steelers' spot, they still manage to grab one of the better DEs in the draft...not that they need a DE, but Kiwanuka is excellent value at the #32 slot. I'll be stunned if the Giants don't win the division this year. Their moves this offseason have been that good.

Eagles' first round

I'm pumped. Broderick Bunkley dropped to the Eagles at #14. Pretty much no one had him falling that far, so the Eagles got a real steal. They were reportedly in talks to trade up to #8 to select him, but instead remained patient and he dropped into their lap.

Buffalo really made this happen, by completely boning their pick...taking a mid- to late-round graded player at #8. I'm really glad I'm not a Buffalo fan...that team is moving in the wrong direction completely. Whitner is a very good player, but they could have traded down 10 spots and still selected him.

Detroit made a bit of a head-scratcher as well, selecting Ernie Sims all the way up at #9. They were in a tough spot, though, wanting a LB or DB and none on the board worthy of a #9 selection at that point. Would have been a good time to trade down, but they didn't, so they helped the Eagles.

By the time the Eagles selection rolled around, they had two players on my wish list to choose from, and they took nearly all of their alotted 15 minutes deciding which one they wanted. They took the right guy in the end.

Bunkley will make an immediate impact. He'll be one of the Eagles' strongest DTs against the run, and one of their most agile interior pass rushers as well. The Eagles defense is better than it was a few hours ago...Bunkley will make many big plays on Sunday this year.

I'm hoping they get either WR Derek Hagan, ASU, or LB Thomas Howard, UTEP, in the second round.

I never expected the Flyers to fight their way back into their series. But Forsberg has carried them to a tie in the seven game series. Statistically, the team that wins the fifth game in a seven-game series is the team that wins the whole thing. So tomorrow's game in Buffalo is huge. Go Flyers!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Don't spend it all in one place

I've been doing real well at the tables lately...playing two 45-man tournaments a night, and I've monied four straight nights in a row. I have a first place finish, two fourths, and a seventh.

Tonight I had a fourth, but I was heading for much better. With two pair, I put someone all-in and he called with nothing but a straight draw and one card left. He had a 9% chance of pulling it out, and of course he did. All I could think to say was: Don't spend all my chips in one place.

But truthfully, it's great that it works out sometimes for the chuckleheads, because the tables are full of them. He'll remember that huge hand for the rest of his poker playing days, forever risking his entire stack at stupid odds, and he'll pay me off 91% of the time. It is absolutely stunning how bad the poker is in these live games. People put real money at risk when the odds are vastly against them.

Anyway, even with my recent good run, I'm still down $250 since the start of my on-line poker experience. It's going to be a slow climb out, because I've scaled back the stakes I'm playing for quite a bit. Even if I win one of these 45-man tournaments, I'm only netting $65. But my game is improving every day, so I know it's only a matter of time.

You don't have to be a poker genius to be the best player at the table in these low-stakes games. You just need a firm understanding of odds. I don't bluff (except when the odds favor a bluff) and I don't go out of my way to disguise my good hands. I pretty much just bet when I have something and fold when I don't. The competition doesn't seem to grasp the important difference between a "good" hand and the "best" hand. Good hands don't win the chips at the end, only the best hand, and you really have to work hard to make these guys fold a good hand. I just wait til the odds are hugely in my favor, I bet big, and there's always someone anxious to pay me off.

Don't take any of this as a brag...there's no one in this audience that I'm trying to impress with my prowess (not that being down $250 is impressive at all). But I thought it would be amusing to record these observations and perhaps look back on them someday when I'm either 1) regularly winning high-stakes games, or 2) broke and destitute from my addiction.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nice try, W

Looks like the Pres is up to his old tricks again. He's going to halt rising gas prices for his faithful constituents. His plan includes sending a letter to each state, encouraging them to be on the watch for price gouging. Thanks a lot, W, that's just what we needed.

What he forgot to mention, or perhaps has never been aware of, is that the rising gas prices have been directly caused by his own legislation, never mind his invasion of oil-producing countries.

The Democrats, given a golden opportunity to roast Bush for his own failing policies, instead sunk into their usual morass of attacking oil companies:

Democrats said Republicans would be held accountable for "turning a blind eye" to soaring gasoline costs and for failing to support legislation to give the FTC more authority to go after oil companies for price gouging.

Is the truth too difficult to swallow for the Americal public? Big Business Is Out To Screw The Little Guy may be rhetoric simple enough to resonate with Joe Sixpack, but I'm a bit disappointed that Democrats have resorted to this parlor trick before even attempting to propagate the truth. It's insulting, it smacks of desperation, and it's anti-intellectual.

As with every situation in life, this one can be summed up by a Simpsons quote. Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos. Their ubiquity can be breathtaking.

Update: Bush announced a second part to his plan, limiting deposits to the strategic oil reserve. This is slightly better than his original letter-sending campaign. It should alleviate a small amount of demand for oil, which may cause the price to come down slightly. However, it does nothing to abate the fears in the market that he's going to nuke Iran tomorrow, and it does nothing to fix the artificial constraints on gasoline supply that was created by his own energy legislation.

Check out the new song on the right. It's a great driving song for the summer, and it's currently a free iTunes download. Just, whatever you do, do not watch the video. Once you see what a bunch of dorks the band looks like, and what a lame attempt at a video they created, you're enjoyment of the song will be permanently ruined. I turned off the video 30 seconds into it, but it still had a frightening impact on me.

Monday, April 24, 2006

NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is fast approaching. Although I'll miss most of the draft coverage this year between a BBQ and an Ironman hockey tournament, I'm still excited to see how it all plays out.

I've been watching the Eagles draft tendencies for years under the Andy Reid/Joe Banner regime, so I have a pretty good idea what they're going to do in the first round. Of course, I'll probably be wrong, but I'll go out on a limb and put my predictions on the record anyway.

If the Eagles move up:
And they should, if one of these players is on the board at #11, and they can jump three spots for a 3rd-round pick:

Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon - A mammoth defensive tackle with very unusual athletic ability for his size. Would instantly be a run-stopping presence in the middle of the Eagles' defense and free up Trotter to make plays. This is really an ideal fit, in spite of the fact that many 4-3 teams have downgraded him because of his size. He'd come off the field on third downs when newly acquired Darren Howard moves inside. He could go as early as #5 to Green Bay, or drop all the way to #12 for Cleveland, but he'll definitely not be around when the Eagles pick, unless they move up.

Brodrick Bunkley, DT, Florida State - A smaller, standard sized 4-3 DT with great interior quickness. I like him a lot for the Eagles. He'd become an interior playmaker who creates havoc behind the line of scrimmage. He won't free up Trotter the way that Ngata would, but he'll make a few plays on his own. Could go as high at #8 to Buffalo or #11 to St. Louis.

Winston Justice, OT, USC - I'm a bit tentative about Justice because his measurables are eye-popping, but his college production was mediocre. A young athletic tackle is a real need, however, with Jon Runyan aging and Tra Thomas suffering through chronic back problems. The Eagles jumped up in the draft once before for a lineman (Shaun Andrews) so if they have a high enough grade on this guy, they'll make the move. He could be picked between #10 and #13. I'd be shocked if he fell to the Eagles.

If the Eagles stand pat:
And they should, if the price to move up is higher than a 3rd-round pick:

Ernie Sims, OLB, Florida State - The Eagles have not once drafted a LB in the first round under Andy Reid, and I know they do not value the position highly. That makes this pick somewhat sketchy, but there's a lack of good options at #14. Sims would be a great will LB though, with his speed, and I'm hoping that Jim Johnson can talk them into snagging him here. Shawn Barber was signed to a 1-year contract to play the weak side, so the Eagles need a long-term solution, and Sims has that kind of ability. He'd get on the field as soon as he could pick up the defensive scheme.

If the Eagles trade down:
And they should, if none of those four players are on the board at #14:

Nick Mangold, C, Ohio State - The Eagles wanted LaCharles Bentley badly, so they are looking to upgrade at center. Widely considered the second-best OL in the draft, Mangold suffers a bit from the history of his position - only a handful of centers have been selected in the first round. They could drop down six spots and still safely pick Mangold.

Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State - A sexy pick in many of the mock drafts, I just can't see the Eagles going in this direction. They've picked a WR once in the first round during Reid's tenure, and that turned out to be a disaster. Reggie Brown looks like he could develop into a stud, and he was picked in round two. They need to use their first-round pick on someone that will contribute this year, and it's very unusual for rookie WRs to contribute, especially in the West Coast offense. It's much more likely that they'll grab a lower-graded prospect like Sinorice Moss, Brandon Stovall, or Jason Avant in rounds two or three.

Eric Winston, OT, Miami - The third-best tackle in the draft, but still a solid player. There's a huge dropoff after him, so if the Eagles want a tackle for the next ten years, they can't reach any deeper than Winston. Could be available all the way down to #25.

Spring fever

My two-week vacation is over. After a veritable orgy of golf and poker, I'm now a working stiff again. Since I'm finally working again, I'll have time to surf and find things to blog about.

On-line poker started to kick my ass regularly...I finally quit playing limit and I'm sticking to tournaments now. My game has a long way to go, but I feel like I'm making progress. Over the weekend, I won a two-table tournament and finished third in a three-table tournament. Played in an 18-person live tourney and came in second.

Anyway, check out my new music selection on the right. Great song for driving with the windows down and the volume cranked. But whatever you do, don't watch the video. The band looks like such dorks and the video is so lame that it'll ruin the experience of listening to the music.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Avian intelligence

I came back from golf yesterday (yeah, I'm on vacation) and I heard a strange tapping at my window. I discovered a robin, repeatedly flying beak-first into the glass. He'd sit on a nearby branch, glance over at the window, then fly in for the kill.

Now I'm not sure if this bird was drunk on fermented berries, or fighting his reflection, but in either case he continued running face-first into my window for over four hours. I was initially fascinated but then just plain annoyed. It made me want to buy a .22 rifle and vote Republican. Actually, I'll vote Republican in 2008 if McCain runs, but plenty of time to blog about that later.

This morning, at 7am, my son comes running into the room...

Dad, the Knocking Bird is back again!

Apparently one long day of head bashing wasn't enough. Thankfully, he's found something else to do at the moment. Or maybe he's lying dead under the window, I haven't looked. I'm just enjoying the quiet.

Poker continues...I went down over $100, but I've clawed my way back into the black. With the $95 bonus, I'm up $160 now. I've so far had much better luck in tournaments than the 2/4 limit games. I won a 6-seat tournament and a 20-seater yesterday, and finished up second in a 10-seater. Time to cash out and move on to a new poker site.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A new addiction

Well, the time has finally come for me to hang up my sword and retire from EQ. I haven't played in three weeks, so today I cancelled the billing on my account. After five years, and some 250+ days of actual playtime, I think I'm finally done. I won't even comment on how sad that sounds in retrospect...I'll let my readership hit that pitch out of the park.

After three weeks of actually sleeping, I asked my wife today if she thought I was losing any weight. I know that sleep deprivation can cause you to get fat, so I'm kinda hoping that my newfound rest will have some positive effects. My wife came through with that loving spousal support most of us can only aspire to:

Jenn: I don't know, did you step on a scale? We don't even have a scale. Do you want me to buy a scale? thanks, honey. I was just wondering if you noticed anything.

Jenn: You have a really high caloric intake.

Now here's where it gets funny...and no, I'm not making this up...later the very same day, Jenn says:

You're looking thinner.


Now before my wife reads this and I end up on the couch, let me point out that this is good-natured ribbing, and she's a wonderful wife, and I'm easily ten times more insensitive than she is on her worst day.

Anyway, since three weeks of sleep haven't produced six-pack abs, I've decided to fuel a new addiction - online poker. I started tonight, and after six hours of wanting to vomit from the stress, I finished down $11. I'm more than halfway to a $95 bonus however, so chances are good I may still finish the black. Once I get the bonus, I'll empty that account and move on to the next site to get the bonus there.

I played against a huge collection of knuckleheads tonight...people who think nothing of throwing money at a 10% chance (or worse) to win...every table I sat down at, I was easily the best player. The problem is...when six people stay in the hand, chasing their 10% chance...the good player is suddenly a 60/40 dog. So you've got to overcome the knucklehead factor, and the house rake, to make any money. Bottom line: you've got to be really really good to win consistently at this game. I don't think I'm that good, but maybe I'll be disciplined enough to stick to low stakes games instead of mortgaging the kids' college funds. Don't expect to see me on ESPN anytime soon.

Hockey update: We lost our first playoff game, 6-4 (last goal was an empty net.) The other team played very well defensively, holding our leading scorer to no points, and that was the difference.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Natural selection at work

Completely off-topic, but disturbing. My head would look absolutely ridiculous on Sherry's body. I think it would, anyway, based on the time I tried on her clothes when she wasn't home. Her bras were way too tight.

Anyway, here's some evidence that ugly people shouldn't have kids. Attention ugly parents: please make sure at least some of your offspring make it to adulthood, because without you, there'd be no one to take my order at McDonald's.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

What was Joe Banner thinking?

I'm not sure why, but the Eagles really let one get away this week.

Eric Moulds signed with Houston. The only legit #1 receiver available this offseason, not including Terrell Owens, Moulds would have been an ideal fit for the Eagles.

McNabb needs a big, sure-handed target that knows how to get open on a 12-yard route on 3rd and 10. No one on the team currently fills this role, unless the Eagles are counting on second-year player Reggie Brown to suddenly bloom into a stud. This is Eric Moulds. On a dreadful team last year, he still managed 80 catches.

He went to Houston for a song - $14 million over 4 years (the Eagles are $30+ million under the salary cap) - and the Texans only gave up a 5th-rounder for him. The Eagles should have been jumping for joy to part with a 4th-round draft pick and $14 million (not all of which is guaranteed) for Eric Moulds. This is as much of a no-brainer as exists in sports.

Instead, the Eagles seem to be pinning their hopes on young, inconsistent, non-producers. They face the weakest WR draft class in years, and the spot of their first round selection - #14 - is too early to reach for a Santonio Holmes or Chad Jackson. They'd be better off trading down into the 20s, or selecting someone like Jason Avant in the 3rd round. But really, they blew it here...WR should have been sewn up with the addition of Moulds, and the draft could have focused on other areas of need.

Lots of action in my stock portfolio this week. Kissed goodbye to BHP Billiton and John Deere after seeing more than 10% gains in both. Sold half my position in King Hal. Picked up some Oakley, Movado, and Marchex. Pretty much everything in my portfolio is working right now except for Genentech, and that's biting me in the ass pretty hard. Overall, it's been a real good quarter though, and I'd be greedy if I didn't lock in some gains.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Hockey update

The regular season has ended for one of my teams - we finished 10-2-1, in first place. Playoffs start next week. Had a real nice win last night, 6-3, over the Angies, who beat us earlier in the season.

My other team is the exact opposite - we have a total of two wins. We had a nice showing against the first place team, but ended up losing 5-2 (goal and an assist for yours truly.) One more regular season game (loss) until that nightmare ends.

I have a real knack for annoying people while playing hockey. I had at least four people during my double-header last night that either whined to the refs about me, or tried to take me out themselves. I do play physically, but I've been an absolute angel. I haven't even been in the penalty box since my suspension.