Monday, April 28, 2008

Draft Recap

For the second year in a row, the Eagles traded out of the first round. At least they didn't take a QB this time.

Overall, I liked the draft. I would have been happy if they just stayed at 19 and picked Otah or Talib, but they got excellent value from Carolina in the trade. The Eagles drafted 10 players, traded for Lorenzo Booker, and collected two picks (1st and 5th rounds) for next year.

In spite of the 8-8 record last season, the Eagles have a solid, talented roster, and there wasn't a single player available at 19 that could have started for them. The 11 new additions will face still competition to make the team. As a result, the Eagles selected a few role-players and then made some risky boom-or-bust picks.

  • Trevor Laws, DT ND - He was the best player on a horribly disappointing team that continued to work his tail off in blowout after blowout. Good (but not great) strength and good (but not great) quickness to go along with a relentless work ethic. Intelligent and coachable, I expect Laws to work into the DT rotation as a rookie, play well, and have a solid NFL career.
  • DeSean Jackson, WR Cal - With sub-4.35 speed, he was the fastest WR at the combine this year. Returned 6 punts for TD in college. Short and slight, so he'll never be a starter, but could line up in multiple-WR sets as a rookie, and should make an instant impact as a returner. Fills a need spectacularly.
  • Bryan Smith, DE McNeese St - This is a weird pick. He needs to add at least 15 pounds, and probably more like 25, to play DE (he's only 230) but he started school late, so he's already 25 years old with a fully-developed physique. The Eagles, of course, think he's another Trent Cole, but they think every undersized DE is another Trent Cole. At best, he's hoping to make the team as the fifth DE and play some special teams.
  • Mike McGlynn, OT Pitt - I like McGlynn. I think he can play right tackle, although some scouts think he'd be a better guard in the NFL. The Eagles OL is going to be experience a major overhaul next season, and McGlynn will fill a spot somewhere.
  • Quintin Demps, S UTEP - I love this pick. Demps was a 4-year starter at UTEP who finished with 275 tackles, 41 passes defensed, and 17 INTs. He also returned kicks and runs a blazing 4.39 in the 40. Should be a valuable special teams/dime pacakge player immediately, with a chance to develop into a starter eventually. Sets up an interesting picture at safety this year, as Demps is competing against four players who have all started and played well at some point (Dawkins, Considine, Mikell, Reid) and the Eagles don't usually keep five.
  • Jack Ikegwuonu, CB Wis - Graded as a second-rounder before he tore up his knee in pre-draft workouts. Will be placed on IR and given a chance to rehab and then compete for a spot next year. Since he was the only CB taken by the Eagles, it's fairly clear they expect to keep Lito at least for this season. This is a good pick for a team that doesn't have enough open roster spots for rookies.
  • Lorenzo Booker, RB FSU (from Miami) - He wasn't a draft pick, but the Eagles traded a fourth-rounder for him, so I'll include him as part of the class. Another small and speedy back who catches well and returns kicks (the Eagles added three players today with blazing speed and return experience. Think they recognized that as a need?) He'll be a guy who lines up in the slot and catches some passes out of the backfield, and may spell Westbrook for a play here or there. And yes, in case you were wondering, this does mean the end of the Ryan Moats era in Philadelphia. If the Eagles decide to keep only three HBs, as they did at the start of last season (although it quickly expanded to four when they re-signed Mahe in week 2), it also means the end of either Buckhalter or Tony Hunt.
  • Michael Gibson, OG Cal - I don't know a thing about him, but he'll have to show a lot to make the team.
  • Joe Mays, ILB North Dakota State - Has an interesting scouting report which mentions that he might be 'too strong' at least three times. Apparently, he's such a weight-room freak that he has a tendency to get too stiff, like a bodybuilder. I don't recall ever reading that about a college player before. But he's got a chance to stick as a reserve Mike/special teams LB. The Eagles only have 4 LBs that are guaranteed to make the team, so there's at least one, maybe two open spots he'll be competing for.
  • Andrew Studebaker, DE Wheaton - Another guy that lacks the size to play DE and the athleticism to play LB. No chance to make the roster, has to hope he shows enough in the preseason that another team signs him.
  • King Dunlap, OT Auburn - An interesting story, if nothing else. A mountain of a man (6'9", 315) with the athleticism to play LT in the NFL. Would have been a second-round pick if he came out after his junior year, but stayed in school and had one of the most mind-bogglingly bad senior years imaginable. A combination of injuries, awful play, and a complete lack of motivation led to multiple benchings and the eventual loss of his starter's spot to a freshman. This guy's either going to turn his life around and become a storied diamond-in-the-rough example, or he's going to be bagging groceries by September. Classic risk/reward pick for the seventh round.

Although the Eagles snagged quite a few players I like, and didn't have any obvious misses, the best move was clearly the one they didn't make: Lito is still on the team. Good work, guys. Is it September yet?

Friday, April 25, 2008

It's the most wonderful time...

Yes, the NFL Draft is here again.

This will be one of the more exciting drafts in recent memory. I can't recall a board that was so fluid, with so many teams having legitimate options to go in widely different directions.

As usual, I'm focused on the Eagles. With 11 picks total and their seeming determination to trade Lito Sheppard and make the team worse as a result, there's an excellent chance they'll be looking for opportunities to trade up for players they covet.

Here are some first-round possibilities for the Eagles:

G/T Branden Albert - No chance he'll still be on the board at 19, in spite of one expert opinion that he falls to the Steelers at 23. My guess is that the Eagles already have a deal set with Buffalo if he gets to 11. Lito Sheppard heads to lovely western New York and the Eagles swap first-rounders to take the versatile, athletic OL prospect that Andy Reid covets. Buffalo wants a WR anyway, so dropping to 19 still gives them a shot to draft the best WR on the board and they pick up a Pro Bowl CB in the process. Meanwhile, there's much teeth-gnashing in Denver at #12 as Albert is snatched away from them.

CB Leodis McKelvin - I have no idea if the Eagles like him as much as I do, but he's the best CB in the draft and another possible target if they move up. A real bonus with McKelvin is that he's a speedy, dangerous kick returner as well. If they do trade Sheppard, it only makes sense to draft his replacement.

OTs Chris Williams, Ryan Clady, or Jeff Otah - There's a good chance all three of these guys are gone if the Eagles stay at 19, but if not, expect them to draft one. I don't consider any of them worth trading up for, but any of them would be a decent pick at 19.

CB Aqib Talib - Talib has the size (6'1", 202) and the speed (4.44) to match up with big WRs like Burress and T.O. that tend to give the Eagles fits. He showed some poor technique in college, as well as a tendency to gamble too much, which isn't usually the kind of player the Eagles take a first-round chance on...but his combination of size and speed is rare and is exactly the kind of CB they need to match up with the WRs in their division.

DE Phillip Merling - Has good, but not great speed off the edge. Still, he's likely to be the best DE on the board for a team that never has enough DEs. If all the OL prospects are gone, I would not be shocked (or disappointed) to hear Merling's name called.

S Kenny Phillips - The Eagles need a safety, but this draft doesn't have any first-round safeties. If the Eagles trade down - very unlikely, but possible - it may be with the idea to target Phillips in the late first/early second round. Or they might just cross their fingers and hope to grab him at 49.

WR - no thanks

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Moment in the Sun

Pennsylvanians got their say yesterday, in a presidential primary that wasn't already decided (sort of) and we rejected the Liberal Messiah by a significant 10-point margin.

Of course, it's a longshot that the results will matter anyway...Obama's delegate lead is basically insurmountable, even with his comfortable margin of defeat.

So what was his downfall in the Keystone State? Was it his liberal voting record, in fact the most liberal of 2006? Was it his disappointing results among blue-collar voters? Was it the poor performance in the final debate? Or was it his characterization of small-town Pennsylvanians (elitist snobbery, perhaps, but does that make the statement wrong?)

You know what really scares me about Obama? I thought at first he was a true believer of his populist diatribe, that the policies he hopes to implement would make the country a better place. Yet the debate revealed a different motivator.

Obama plans to balance the budget by raising taxes, and one of the taxes he wants to raise is the capital gains tax. When confronted by the debate moderator with statistics showing that raising the capital gains tax rate actually reduces the amount of tax receipts instead of raising it (since the rich put their money in other investements, something the mutual-fund 401k middle-class crowd doesn't have the flexibility to do), Obama didn't stop and debate the statistics, like a true-believer Keynesian. No, he essentially let the statistics stand, and said only that he wanted to raise marginal tax rates on the rich because it was "fair".

I wasn't voting for him anyway, but that would have been the clincher if I was undecided. Obama, by his own words, isn't interested in fixing the economy. He's not interested in balancing the budget and expanding the pie for everyone. Nope, he's more interested in being Robin Hood, and wants to take more money from the rich just because they are rich, not because it solves any economic problems.

Obama's a hater. His comments about small town residents reveal it, and his economic policy reveals it. All his rhetoric about bringing America together is a thin veil over his true desire - to make everyone equal by tearing down the rich. He despises those who are less educated than himself, only slightly less than he despises those who are more successful. He's a communist, not out of delusion that it makes life better for everyone, but out of knowing malice.

Hillary's a self-serving politician. She may be fake and manipulative, but Obama's evil. Make no mistake about it, and cast your vote accordingly in November.

Newt and Me

Yesterday was a big day. The Pennsylvania primary, Earth Day, and a reason to celebrate for Flyers' fans. I'm planning to tackle it with two separate posts.

Slate hosted a bunch of Earth Day chats with various personalities, and most of it was the usual tripe, but I was tickled when I saw that Newt Gingrich was one of them.

Newt's a hyprocritical, comical, destructive character who wasted millions of taxpayer dollars trying to impeach the best president of my lifetime while complaining that the government spends too much money. At the same time he impugned Clinton for his philandering, he was fucking around on his wife. And he's named after a salamander!

So imagine my surprise when I found myself agreeing with most of Newt's positions on global warming. Here are some of the highlights:

    Newt Gingrich: For example, if you are really worried about carbon loading of the atmosphere...if the United States produced the same percentage of our electricity from nuclear power as the French, we would take 2 billion, 200 million tons of carbon out of the atmosphere a year, and that one step would be 15 percent better than the total Kyoto goal for the U.S.

Imagine that, promoting nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels. Please note the double irony: without excessive government regulation encouraged by environmentalists, the U.S. would be significantly greener today. The free market, if left to work, would have already surpassed the goals of Kyoto. The environmentalist answer to this problem? Why, more excessive government regulation, of course! No law will work faster and more efficiently to encourage environmentalism than $115/barrel oil, but instead of letting the market do its job, everyone insists on legislating a "solution".

    Newt Gingrich: You raise a good point, and as somebody that studies paleontology, I am well aware we have had much higher carbon levels (pre-historic time periods, probably caused by volcanoes) and much higher temperatures in the past. In addition, around 11,000 years ago, the Gulf Stream stopped for 600 years for reasons we don't understand. Europe went into an ice age. Then the Gulf Stream restarted for reasons we don't understand and the ice age disappeared.

    So a great deal of the "current science" is in fact politics.

    However, the word "conservative" includes "conservation" as its root. And conservatives should be cautious. Therefore, I am willing to look for methods of lowering carbon that do not destroy the economy or give the government increased power.

I had no idea that Newt's well-roundedness extended to paleontology. But there are two absolutely key points in this statement. First: So a great deal of the "current science" is in fact politics is exactly what I've been saying for the past two years. Second: in spite of that, Newt is willing to stipulate that continally pumping CO2 into the atmosphere isn't the best idea, and we should look for ways to prevent it that do not destroy the economy or give the government increased power.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Crime and Punishment

No, not another Dostoyevsky reprise.

France is once again blazing a trail in government interference, in spite of the election of supposed conservative Sarkozy. Thanks to a new law, French citizens can be jailed or fined for promoting "excessive thinness or extreme dieting." For now, let's ignore how a law worded like that is open to all sorts of abusive interpretation, and just focus on why it exists at all. This is yet another example of laws that protect us from that why government exists?

I'm not downplaying the seriousness of eating disorders, and there's no good reason to promote anorexia on your blog or offer tricks for vomiting meals without getting caught. But are tax dollars the most efficient way of solving this problem? It's not like eating disorders are such a raging epidemic that they threaten national security. People who are sick need professional help, the support of friends, and the love of family to get better. You can't legislate a cure for mental illness, but you can tie up police and judges with nonsense cases against modelling agencies and teenage bloggers.

And while anorexia and bulimia are dangerous, isn't it also dangerous to weigh 400 pounds? What if I create a "I Love Fat Chicks" website with tips on how to gorge on ice cream? What about a website promoting the sexiness of cigarette smoking? Should the thought police kick my door in and haul me off for encouraging any type of destructive behavior? Slippery slope, my friends.

In other crime news, the Supreme Court confirmed the legality of lethal injection, ruling against two Kentucky death row inmates concerned about the "risk of severe pain." I'm not sure what's crazier - worrying about a "risk of severe pain" for a convicted murderer who displayed no such touching concern for his victim(s), or the fact that we're willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court, wasting millions of dollars and months of time, to quantify the risk of pain for someone whom we're going to kill anyway.

Next up for the Supes: a Louisiana law that permits the death penalty for child rapists (read halfway down to get to that part). I'm all for killing violent criminals, but I did read one interesting argument against this law: it will encourage rapists to kill their child victims, since the punishment's the same either way. I'm not sure I buy it, because I don't think of child rapists as calculating, analytical and logical. Still, it's enough to give me pause.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Quit reading my blog!

After the double failure of my hockey playoffs last night, forgive me for taking pleasure in such a minute victory. But it amused me today to read a national journalist's take on the NYT Death By Blogging article. He rails the Times for "inventing a trend" and "writing stories that have no apparent basis in fact." Sound familiar?

Yes, check the posting times, mine was published 8 hours earlier.

I should really get paid for this.

Monday, April 07, 2008

This won't be me

As you may have noticed, I don't put a lot of effort into this blog. More than some, certainly, but that's a low hurdle to stumble over.

Alas, not everyone can resist the siren call of self-destruction (through blogging) as easily as I can. The New York Times actually wrote about Death By Blogging.

Never mind that the article is a tiresome exercise in sensationalist journalism - they extrapolate a destructive trend from a sample size of five. (Guys who sit in front of their computers all day, not exercising, suffering heart attacks in their 50s and 60s. Yeah, clearly that a perfect cause-effect relationship between blogging and death.)

Still, I couldn't help but laugh at some of the stories.

“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.”

“This is not sustainable,” he said.

Here's an idea, Mikey: Stop blogging. Take the millions of dollars you've made, buy a gym membership and apply for a faculty position at the local community college. You can regale pretty young girls with stories of your success for the next 30 years and live a stress-free life. Or just die early, leaving behind a bloated bank account and an even more bloated corpse. The amazing accomplishments you're killing yourself for will be forgotten and replaced before the grass sprouts on your grave.

In other news, I finished reading The Born Queen this weekend. It was a poorly-paced conclusion to a promising series. The carefully constructed and varied characters were each possessed (lazy choice of words, but I'm not wasting the time to explain more) by mad, power-hungry creatures of the past. In the process, they lost their distinct personalities and I lost all connection to them as a reader.

Tonight is playoff time again in my hockey leagues. Let's hope we fare better than our recent trips to the playoffs, which have all been once-and-done. I might blog about the results tomorrow, but then again, I need to be careful I'm not overworking myself.