Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NFL Draft Review

I loved the Eagles' draft.

Maclin was one of the two elite playmaking WRs in the draft, and should have been off the board by pick #10. Instant impact as a returner, and should see the field in a handful of personnel groups as a rookie. Finally the Eagles have a WR who can catch a slant and take it 80 yards - something that every decent West Coast offense has.

Shady McCoy was another great value in the second round, and he fills a glaring need. Considered by many scouts to have the best lateral quickness and short burst acceleration in the draft, these natural abilities combined with his receiving skills make him a perfect fit for this offense. He'll contribute as soon as he learns to block, which is not something he was asked to do often at Pitt.

Cornelius Ingram is a pass-catching TE from Florida who was on track to be a second-round pick before he blew out his knee. Possibly the most athletic TE in the draft, he should be healthy enough to participate in the team's first mini-camp. This was another need, and Ingram has a chance to be an impact player, not just a back-up.

The trade for Ellis Hobbs was low-risk/high-reward, and the front office should be commended for it. Two fifth-rounders are a miniscule price to pay for a starting CB, but New England didn't need him anymore after drafting a CB in round two. He's only got one year left on his contract, so the Patriots realized his value was only going to get lower if they held on to him. The Eagles get a proven player for a year, and some insurance against Sheldon Brown going in the tank.

I'm not going to pretend to know anything about the other 5th-7th round picks, because I don't. But the first three selections were great values at areas of need. All three have a chance to make an impact this year.

Not every team was so successful.

The Detroit Lions bought a $42 million lottery ticket at the top of the first round, selecting Georgia QB Matt Stafford, in spite of an 80% failure rate for junior QBs. The Jets then traded three players and three picks to Cleveland for the right to pay another junior QB tens of millions in signing bonus. Denver and the Raiders made a mess of their drafts as well, locking up another three seasons for the Chargers atop the AFC West. Basic decision-making skills were ignored by experts in their field who analyzed every available player for months, while the perenially good teams made solid decisions across the board.

Is it September yet?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jeremy Maclin

Beyond Crabtree and Maclin, there isn't a WR in this draft I'd waste a first-round pick on.
Unless someone of great value falls into their lap...

Well, that's exactly what happened. A player that should have gone in the top 10 dropped right into the Eagles' lap, and they jumped up to get him (for only a 6th-round pick.) With Ayers, Moreno, and English already gone, Maclin was easily the best player on the board and the best fit for the Eagles.

Still need a RB bad. Someone like Cedric Peerman in the 2nd? I can't imagine that either Brown, Wells, or McCoy will be available when they pick.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Reports are surfacing that the Cardinals have reduced their demands for Anquan Boldin to something in the neighborhood of a second-round pick. If these reports are true, Boldin goes from a "nice-to-have" to a no-brainer pick-up. Even more so because the Giants will snatch him if we don't, and I don't want to play the guy twice a year.

I start with a second, a fifth, and Reggie Brown. I'd go as high as a second and a fourth, and maybe I'd even do a second and a third. Imagine coming out of this weekend with Knowshon Moreno and Anquan Boldin...that's a good draft all by itself.

I give the Eagles a lot of rope, because they've demonstrated success with their personnel decisions in the past. But if they don't get this done, and the Giants get Boldin for anything less than two second-round picks, I won't be making any excuses. You really want to win a Super Bowl? Make this move now, Joe Banner. If you don't, you suck.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Eagles Draft Preview

So what will the Eagles do with their first-round pick on Saturday? Analysis on each of the options:

  • Trade it for Anquan Boldin - My guess here is that the package would include a 5th-rounder and Reggie Brown as well. I'd take this outcome happily, as Boldin is going to have a bigger immediate impact than anyone the Eagles could pick at 21, but I'm not wetting myself over the prospect. Playcalling and McNabb's accuracy are the two biggest problems with this offense, and a stud WR won't fix either one. Still, once the Giants trade for Braylon Edwards, there's going to be a lot of pressure for the Eagles to match them.
  • Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia - Easily the best RB in the draft. Not a game-changing talent, but a solid, complete back who can block and catch passes as well as run effectively. Could complement/replace Westbrook more capably than any other prospect. He's a top-15 talent who could very well be gone by the time they pick, but only a few teams above the Eagles need a RB bad enough to take one in the first round.
  • Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee - Another DE? Yes. The Eagles have a glut of 'pretty good' ends, but they could really use a great one to bookend with Trent Cole. Ayers has more potential to be that guy than anyone. Matured late, so there's not a lot of tape on him, but he was dominating at the Senior Bowl. Give him two years and he'll be the clear starter, with Pro Bowl possibilities. Another top-15 talent, but without huge sack production or mind-blowing measurables, he may slip to the Eagles. The number of teams switching to 3-4 defenses may help him slide as well.
  • Brandon Pettigrew, TE, OkSt - As the best TE prospect in the draft, he's receiving a lot of attention in mocks as a potential Eagle. Frankly, I don't see it. He had one - one - TD catch his senior year on a team that scored a billion points. I'm not taking a TE in the first round unless he dominated in college, and I don't think the Eagles will either.
  • Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut - As far as a fit with the Eagles' offense, he's the second-best back. Could probably trade down 5 slots and still get him, if there are any takers.
  • Larry English, DE, Northern Illinois - An absolutely dominant pass-rusher in college with strong measurables. At 274 lbs, he's got the size to play DE on first and second down and could possibly switch inside on third. Needs to spend some time in the weight room (only 24 reps) but that's easily fixed.
  • Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut - With DeSean Jackson assuming full-time #1WR duties, don't expect him to be returning kicks as often as he did last year. That would make Butler a possibility, who not only has the skills to become an elite corner, but would make an immediate impact in the return game as well. Sheldon's Brown insane rumblings (the guy is 30, never been to a Pro Bowl, has 14 career picks, and thinks someones going to pay him more than $5/year? dream on) only increase the chance of a high pick being used on a corner.

Notice the position conspicuous by its absence on this list - WR. Beyond Crabtree and Maclin, there isn't a WR in this draft I'd waste a first-round pick on. There are lots of top-of-the-second-round talents like Kenny Britt, Hakeem Nicks, and Percy Harvin that would be useful, but don't expect the Eagles to reach for any of them early. Unless someone of great value falls into their lap, expect them to take a mid-round WR who can contribute in the return game (Derrick Williams, maybe?)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Done Deal

So Peters' contract is 6 years, $60 million. More than I wanted to spend...more than Asante Samuel, who was the premier free agent last season (6 years/$55 million). But if the Eagles truly believe what they're saying, that Peters is the best left tackle in football, then it makes sense to pay him. This is a premier position, along with QB, DE, and CB...and you can clearly see how the Eagles target these premier positions with big contracts.

Next order of business will be signing McNabb to a long-term deal. I expect it to get done before training camp opens.

The Eagles had one of the best OLs in football last year, who tied a team record for sacks allowed, and broke the record for sacks/attempt. But now, once this unit learns to work together (probably 6-8 games) they can be a dominating group. A real weapon that can match up athletically with all the pass-rushing talent in the NFC East and neutralize them. And maybe, just maybe, Andy will take advantage of them by running the ball once in a while.

A guy can hope, right?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Eagles Make a Trade?

Sounds like the Bills have agreed to trade disgruntled LT Jason Peters to the Eagles for the 28th overall pick in the first round, plus another mid-round pick or two.

At first blush, my reaction is Fuck Yes! Peters is a young, dominating LT who has been to multiple Pro Bowls. Acquiring him essentially for a late first-round pick is a coup for the Eagles. With Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews as bookend tackles, the Eagles can be better on the OL than last year, even after the losses of Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. Both these tackles are athletic maulers who should be even more effective run blockers than the previous bookends. And they could play together for the next ten years, just like Thomas and Runyan did.

There are, of course, concerns. Peters looked out of shape and unmotivated last year as he fought with the Bills over his contract, and it's a crime he was voted to the Pro Bowl. It will also take some time for the new linemates to become acclimated to each other and develop the familiarity and chemistry that was so important to the success of previous OLs. Additionally, Peters is looking for something in the neighborhood of $11 million/year, to make him the highest-paid tackle in the NFL.

Still, you aren't going to get a tackle with the athleticism of Jason Peters at the 28 spot, so this is a smart risk. I wouldn't pay him more than $52 million over 6 years, but as long as he agreed to that, I'd make the trade all day long. (My guess is he'll take it, because otherwise he's going to be stuck on the Bills for two more years making $4 million per.) This isn't nearly as sexy as acquiring a WR like Boldin, but it's a better move.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Economic Conventional Wisdom

I was planning to wedge this into today's earlier post, but I couldn't think of a clever segue.

So I'm playing hockey this weekend, and an economic discussion starts up (more ubiquity.) Everyone there, conservative and liberal alike, agreed that a huge government spending stimulus package was necessary. The reasoning was straight out of the political/media handbook - you've got to spend money to create jobs, get the economy moving again, etc. And while you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees with this premise these days, publicly at least, I'm forced to ask...really?

We really need to spend $850 billion, money we don't even have, in order to start making money again? Why do I continually fail to see the logic in this?

Let's instead think about this: What if we reduced the capital gains tax rate to 0% to induce investment, and lowered the business tax rate to 15%? If more businesses were encouraged to open, if businesses had more money to re-invest in their own growth, and to hire more workers, wouldn't this "get the economy moving again" as well? And without the middleman of a corrupt and wasteful government, doling out money to friends and pet projects?

But alright, so you're not into the trickle-down thing. You're a demand-sider. So instead of lowering taxes on investment, let's lower income taxes for everyone...with more money to spend, would't that create greater demand for products, and thus create more jobs? Isn't either one of these solutions more intuitive and more efficient than borrowing huge sums to build more F22-A Raptors and bridges to nowhere?

I should write about the economy

But it's just so freaking depressing.

My stock portfolio just crawled back up over the -50% mark, and I'm about to be "on the bench" as a consultant for the first time in years. Car companies are offering to make your payments if you lose your job, and mentions of the bad economy are becoming ubiquitous in commercials, sitcoms, news articles, even mock NFL drafts!

These are good signs that we're at a bottom. Of course, my economic predictive abilities at are beyond worthless (note the -50% above), but I want to document these signs so I can learn from them later. The savings rate in this country is positive again, and unemployment is at record levels. This definitely isn't good news for people who aren't working, but it's surely a sign that we're on the rebound. A stock market that's moving forward, combined with high unemployment, is generally predictive of an upswing in business spending 6-9 months out.

Would it surprise me if there's another shoe to drop? No, I can't say much would surprise me at this point. But we might be in for a GM bankruptcy, which would be quickly followed by predictions of financial catastrophe, as major suppliers threaten to go under as well. As and gloomy as this might get, I have to believe this would be a truly cathartic washout moment...classic bottom behavior.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Gaming the system

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently announced a new defense budget in which he slashed several behemoth weapons programs in favor of expanded recruiting, training, medical care, and family benefits for soldiers. I'm over-simplifying a bit, but I stand by that (admittedly inexpert) opinion of the overall focus. It's more money for individual soldiers and the gear that affects their everyday battles, more money for life-saving drones, and less for the mega-budget superweapons that line the pockets of government contractors.

But the chances of this budget making it through Congress are slim. The military contractors are veterans of this game and know exactly how to stack the odds in their favor.

One of the prize pigs being slaughtered in this budget is the F-22A Raptor stealth fighter. This $350 million beast, of which we already own 187, is technologically incredible. It is "unmatched by any known or projected fighter aircraft." But in spite of the awesome "cool" factor, there's very little practical application for a weapon like this. We're not in an arms race against a superpower anymore, we're fighting small wars against a mobile enemy with an underwhelming techonological disadvantage. The extra 200 Raptors, demanded by the Air Force but slashed from this budget, will do nothing to change the outcome of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, or potential conflicts with Iran and Syria. Even if we were surprised by an unlikely attack by Russia or China, it is hard to imagine that more superweapons would contain the catastrophic damage of such a conflict. (Besides, we currently hold a decided sea/air/nuclear advantage over the rest of the world combined.)

Yet, you can bet your income tax refund that this project will be preserved by the politicians. Why? Because Lockheed Martin has spread out the subcontracting for this plane to key legislative districts in 46 different states! That's some brilliant manuevering. So 92 Senators would have to go back home and explain to constituents in their most influential districts why they voted to have their jobs taken away. Think that's going to happen?

Somehow, I believe we'll continue churning out $350 million toys on our way to $10 trillion in debt, as unemployment rises and government expands. I sure hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Book Review: Lamb

I wanted to like this book, I really did. But although it was clever and funny, I found myself disliking the author more as I turned each page.

Lamb is the story of Jesus' missing years: between birth and the age of 30, there is exactly one mention of Jesus in the Bible, when he's teaching in the temple at age 12. Lamb creates a narrative to fill in the gaps. It is told through his irreverant and loyal friend, Biff (Levi). Jesus and Biff travel the world to find the three wise men who arrived with gifts upon his birth. They end up studying with a Persian mage, a Buddist monk, and a Hindu ascetic.

There are lots of chuckle-inducing misadventures along the way, and the view of Jesus as a real person with human emotions and challenges is refreshing. But the author didn't do anything more with it. It's just funny characters and a goofy story that happens to be about one of the most influential people in all of history.

Millions have died in his name, and millions have been killed in his name. Christianity remains a powerful political and amoral force shaping our current world, and yet the author has nothing to say about it? His commentary, or insight (neither word is weak enough) about religion could not be more milquetoast. Everyone has a bit of divinity in them, all religions are worshipping that same divinity, so all of them are kind of right...please, I expect lame "revelations" like that from junior high intellectuals. If you were going to write a goofy, pointless story about funny characters, would you pick Hitler's childhood friend? Alexander the Great's childhood friend? Buddha? It's an utter waste of an important topic, and including Christ as a central figure in a story that has nothing to say about Christianity seems like a shallow attempt to gain recognition for the book.

In the Epilogue, the author says something like: (lazy, paraphrasing) "If you know the Bible well enough to recognize when I was quoting from it, you probably didn't read this far." First: I do and I did, and second: Lamb is not as controversial as you think it is, dork. Sure, prickly Christians can get offended by anything, and they could certainly take offense at your contention that Jesus learned the fishes-and-loaves trick from a Hindu teacher, but overall it's way too bland to be controversial.

Lamb is fine if you want a light, empty read. But if you're expecting anything more, I can't recommend it.