Archive for the ‘sports’ Category

Cleveland Browns 2001 Redraft Revisited

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

In the ten years of their return to the NFL, the Cleveland Browns have been nothing short of disappointing. The vast majority, if not all, of the blame rests with the front office for poor hirings of head coaches and pitiful drafting. Awhile ago a played retroactive fantasy General Manager and redid the first five years drafts of the returning Cleveland Browns (1999-2003). Now that the 2010 NFL draft is over (and the look of real promise for the first time for the Browns 2.0 version), I got the itch to revisit my redrafts. I decided to start at 2001 this time, thinking that’s when their first head coach, Chris Palmer, was fired after two years on the job and Butch Davis was hired to replace him.

Hiring Davis fit into a long line of mistakes of the Carmen Policy-Dwight Clark regime in Cleveland, and eventually led to Clark’s resignation. Before I even tackle the draft, the head coach situation needs to be addressed first. Back when I redid the 1999 draft, I suggested a list of candidates for the head coaching job over eventual hire Chris Palmer. I think revisiting that list has merit.

Two coaches from my list, Andy Reid and Jim Haslett, are NFL head coaches by 2001. The others, Marvin Lewis, Russ Grimm and Gary Kubiak, are still NFL assistants, and still the top candidates, in my opinion, for the head coaching position for the Browns. In fact, unless he would turn the job down, I would give it to Lewis, hands down.

With a head coach in place, the next step is to look at the roster. Quite frankly, after two years of high multiple draft picks, the Browns only picked one one quality player, wide receiver Kevin Johnson. The only thing Clark did well in two years was bring in some decent free agents early on (Jamir Miller, Corey Fuller, Chris Gardocki, and Phil Dawson). The rest have been a complete waste of roster space. With that in mind, this team is in need of help in just about every key position. Fortunately, there are a handful of quality free agents that will come at a fair price and make an immediate impact. Here’s the three I would go after:

QB Brad Johnson. Johnson spent two years as the Redskins starter after seven years in Minnesota. After a Pro Bowl season in 1999, Johnson’s production dropped off and Washington let him go in lieu of signing Jeff George. Johnson signed with Tampa Bay, where he led them to a Super Bowl victory in 2002.

RB Priest Holmes. Signed by the Ravens after being undrafted in 1997, Holmes lost his starting job to Jamal Lewis in 2000, making him expendable. He signed a modest contract with Kansas City for the 2001 season, and put together three Pro Bowl seasons. A series of injures the next couple of years eventually ended his career.

DE Simeon Rice. Drafted in 1996 by the Arizona Cardinals, Rice never lived up to expectations. He signed with Tampa Bay and produced five straight years of 11-plus sacks, and was a member of the 2002 Super Bowl team. He was a teammate of LB Jamir Miller in Arizona as well.

OLB Mike Vrabel. Vrabel had a decent four-year career with the Steelers, the team that drafted him in 1997. However, he couldn’t crack the starting lineup and signed with New England, where he not only became a key starter, but also won three Super Bowls. Being from Akron, OH and playing at Ohio State, Vrabel would jump at the chance to play for the Browns.

With those four free agents in place, some major holes are filled. There are also a couple of players I would make an attempt to trade for, assuming I would be able to trade existing players and/or low draft picks in exchange for them instead of high draft picks. The two players I think I would have the best shot of gaining are defensive tackle Pat Williams of Buffalo and quarterback Tom Brady of New England. To obtain Brady, I would also offer a swapping of first round picks with the Patriots, allowing them to move up from the sixth spot to the third. This now sets me up for the draft:

2001 Draft

I’m not going to review the actual 2001 picks of the Browns. You can read about that at my previous redraft. What I’m going to focus on is who I would take and when in this draft to rebuild the Browns into a competitive team. My draft-day trades are based on actual 2001 draft trades that were similar, or inferior to what I propose.

Cleveland had eight picks in 2001, one in each of the first six rounds and two in the seventh. The 2001 draft class ended up being a very talented crop of players, so my goal is to amass some additional picks. We’ll break this down round-by-round:

Round 1: Pick 3

If I’m going to gain additional picks this draft, it will have to come about by either trading additional players or by moving down. Not knowing the trade value of the roster at the time, let’s go down the path of sliding back in the draft. Depending if the trade with New England happened, I would slide down from third to sixth in the first round, and also gain my quarterback of the future in Tom Brady.

I would try to slide down even further. San Francisco moved up from nine to seven inĀ  a trade with Seattle. I would offer to swap instead (either from the 3 or 6 spot), gaining a third round pick (number 82) in the process. Because of the big jump, I would also ask for a seventh round pick as well (number 205).

Tampa also moved up from 21 to 14 in a trade with Buffalo. I would swap instead, moving from 9 to 21, and gaining a second round pick in the process (number 51).

Finally, The Giants jumped from 30 to 22 and also giving up third (number 91) and sixth (number 193) round picks. I’ll swap, putting them one spot higher, and gaining third and sixth round picks.

That would put me in the next to last spot in the first round, while gaining five additional picks. Here’s where the trade with New England for Tom Brady plays out. If I do gain Brady, I select DT Kris Jenkins. If not, I pick QB Drew Brees.

Round 2: Picks 33 and 51 (from Tampa)

Round two is where things get complicated depending on what transpired with player trades before the draft. The defensive line is in serious need of help. Signing DE Rice is one part of it. Trading for DT Williams is another. Drafting Jenkins is a third. Where he gets drafted is the question. It all depends if I trade for Brady and select Jenkins with the 30th overall pick. Here are the two scenarios:

1. Trade for Brady and select Jenkins in the first round

This frees me up to move down even further in the second round and still get the players I want. First I trade the 33rd pick to Indianapolis for their 2nd round pick (number 52) and 3rd round pick (number 81). I would trade down further with Miami, giving them the 52nd pick I got from the Colts for the 56th pick in the second round and the 122th pick in the fourth round.

I would also trade down with Denver, giving them the 51th pick I obtained from Tampa for the Bronco’s second round pick (number 58) and fourth round pick (number 110).

With the 56th and 58th picks in the second round, I would select DE Derrick Burgess and SS Adrian Wilson.

2. Select Drew Brees in the first round

Brees solves my long-term quarterback problem the same way trading for Tom Brady would. However, to get Kris Jenkins, I need to use the 33rd pick to select him instead of trading down. That leaves me with only the 51st selection in the second, so I need to choose either Burgess or Wilson, or somehow acquire another second round pick. I would still make the trade with Denver as stated in option one, put I don’t gain the additional third and fourth round selections from the earlier trades with the 33rd pick.

I do, however, have three picks in the third round (76, 82, 91), with the latter two coming in trades from the first round. Detroit moved back into the second round by gaining the Giants pick (61) for their third (78) and fourth (114). I would beat them to the punch in giving up both additional third rounders (82 and 91) for the Giants pick at 61. Then with the 58th and 61st picks, I can still grab Burgess and Wilson.

Round 3: 65 (and possibly 82 and 91)

With the 65th pick, I would select WR Steve Smith.

If I still have the 82nd and 91st picks from the first scenario in round two, I use the 82nd pick on CB Anthony Henry and trade the 91st to the Patriots for their fourth (number 112) and fifth (number 139) round picks.

Round 4: 97 and 110 (from Denver)

Regardless of the two scenarios at the beginning of the draft, I would have at least two picks in the fourth. Those picks would go to rebuild an aging and fragile offensive line. With the 97th pick, I would take OT Ryan Diem, and with the 110th pick, OT/OG Floyd Womack.

If I also have the 112th and 122nd picks from scenario one, I would draft RB Correll Buckhalter and OG Russ Hochstein.

Round 5: 134

I would select OLB Jason Glenn. Simple.

Round 6: 165 and 193 (from San Francisco)

With the 165th pick, I would take WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and with the 193th, ILB/MLB Antonio Pierce.

Round 7: 203, 205 (from Tampa Bay), 235

With three picks in the seventh round, these would all go toward previously undrafted players: CB Nick Harper, OG Stephen Neal, and SS Ifeanyi Ohalete.

Summary

In comparing it to my original 2001 redraft, a lot of the same player show up (Jenkins, Burgess, Smith, Womack, Houshmandzadeh, Pierce, etc.). What is interestingly different is that I don’t stay put to select Tomlinson with the first pick like I did previously. The reason for this is that after the 1999 and 2000 drafts, I had some key pieces in place on the offensive line, quarterback, and defensive front seven. Those needed to be addressed in this draft, especially the offensive line. I was also able to deal with the running game issue by getting Priest Holmes in free agency, which I could likely do in my other draft scenario as well.

Without the luxury of having two solid drafts to build on, this time I’m basically starting with the cupboard bare. I am able to address on offense the quarterback situation, both short-term (Johnson) and long-term (Brady or Brees), the running game (Holmes), receivers (Smith and Houshmandzadeh), and offensive line (Diem, Womack, Neal and possibly Hochstein). That’s a major makeover (and major improvement) to the offense that the Browns fielded in 2001.

One defense, I turned every area from a weakness to a strength. The front line now has Jenkins, Rice and Burgess, and possibly Williams. The linebacking corp gains Vrabel and Pierce, and the secondary gains Wilson and Harper, with some help from Ohalete and possibly Henry.

Its amazing how one draft can completely remake a team from a joke to a potential contender.

Logo review: Detroit Lions redesign

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Detroit Lions new logo and wordmark for the 2009 NFL seasonThe Detroit Lions unveiled their modified logo and uniforms for the 2009 NFL season. Paul Lukas of Uniwatch fame recently gave his opinion of the redesign. Paul, for the most part, really didn’t care for the changes, mainly due to the black accent the Lions adopted this century. I usually agree with Paul’s views of uniforms, but in this case I differ quite a bit.

Personally, I don’t mind the black accent. Teams have been setting a trend the last decade or so in adding a third accent color — mainly to develop new uniforms to sell more of the stuff to the public. Black has become the most common accent teams have added. Its a smart move since black works with almost any combination, if done intelligently. For Detroit, there’s not many other options to go with their Honolulu blue and silver staples. A navy blue or indigo would probably work, but not much else. The major mistake the Lions made was the black alternate jersey, which was absolutely hideous. Other than that, it works in my opinion. Here’s my thoughts on the areas Paul broke down in his blog post:

Colors: I’m fine with the black accent as long as its not overdone. Paul completely hates it.

Logo: I think its an improvement, not that I thought the old one was that bad. It definitely has a more ferocious look, and I like the added detail that the old logo didn’t have. Again, I don’t mind the black accent.

Wordmark: I don’t think the new workmark is as bad as Paul feels. It is a little soft, but I’ll give points in trying to come up with something unique. I do agree with Paul that the logo and workmark should be consistent with the black accent (or in Paul’s opinion, not have one at all).

Helmet, shirt and pants stripes: I grouped these all together because its virtually the same change — the stripes. I like the new stripes because the old with the black accents just didn’t work.

Jersey color and chest wordmark: A definite improvement. I’m glad they used the silver in there instead of the older blue/black look.

Uni numbers: This is the one thing I thing is an utter failure. The wave cut looks horrible and makes the numbers difficult to read. They should have stopped and rounding the corners and been done with it. This is a case of overdesigning that backfired.

Socks: I don’t like them. I personally miss the old striped socks that every team had. It tied the uniforms together by mimicking the shirt and pants striping. I have no idea why everyone went to solid socks, but this was a real missed opportunity.

Overall, I think the new logo and uniforms are an improvement. I really hope they burn the old black alternates, but I have a feeling those damn things will taint the field again. Its definitely a better modification than what we’ve seen from the NFL in recent seasons. I expected much worse.

Update: Speaking of much worse, the Jacksonville Jaguars unveiled new uniforms as well. Complete disaster. I am in complete agreement with Paul’s review. In fact, I hate it more than he does. This fits right in with the garbage uniforms that the NFL has puked out in recent years (Minnesota, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Seattle … need I go on).

Cleveland Browns Redraft:2003

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

After redrafting the Browns from 1999 to 2002, we have a powerhouse club set, in theory, to win multiple championships. We have Pro Bowlers at almost every position, and a good amount of talented depth. Now, our goal is to maintain that level of talent as we continue to reexamine the drafts, while also facing the challenges of salary caps, free agency, and risk of injuries. Here’s what out team looks like at this point (1999 free agent signings in italics, number of Pro Bowl selections for players indicated by number after name):

Position Player Position Player
QB Kerry Collins (1), Jeff Garcia (4), Jake Delhomme (1), Tom Brady (4) DT Kelly Gregg, Rob Meier, Kris Jenkins (3)
FB Tony Richardson, Dan Kreider DE Jevon Kearse (3), Aaron Smith (1), Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (1), Adewale Ogunleye (1), Aaron Kampman (2)
RB Reuben Droughns, LaDainian Tomlinson (5), Dominic Rhodes, Brian Westbrook (2) ILB Eric Barton, Brian Urlacher (6), Antonio Pierce (1), Larry Foote, Bart Scott (1)
WR Marty Booker (1), Brian Finneran, Donald Driver (3), Laveranues Coles (1), Dante Hall (2), Steve Smith (3), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (1), David Givens OLB Jamir Miller (1), Joey Porter (4), Adalius Thomas (1), James Harrison (1)
TE Desmond Clark (1), Jermaine Wiggins CB Corey Fuller, Mike KcKenzie, Nate Clements (1), Nick Harper, Sheldon Brown
C Jeff Saturday (3), Todd McClure SS Mike Green, Ed Reed (5)
OG Adam Timmerman (1), Randy Thomas, Jamar Nesbit, Brian Walters (3), Floyd Womack, LeCharles Bentley (2) FS Mike Brown (1)
OT Jon Jansen, Chris Samuels (5) LS Mike Schneck (1)
K Phil Dawson P Chris Gardocki (1)

I’m assuming at this point we’re losing players. In reality, LB Jamir Miller retired following a serious Achilles injury in 2002, and offensive guard Randy Thomas left as a free agent following the 2002 season. CB Corey Fuller, TE Desmond Clark and OG Jamar Nesbit were either released or left their 2002 teams as free agents. I’ll assume all of those occured as well. That thins our roster a bit. Now let’s look at what picks I have going into the 2003 draft:

Round Player
1 C Jeff Faine (21)
2 LB Chaun Thompson (52)
3 DB Chris Crocker (84)
4 RB Lee Suggs (115)
5 C Ryan Pontbriand (142)
5 DB Michael Lehan (152)
6 DE Antonio Garay (195)

Cleveland’s draft that year was better than in year’s past, but average at best overall. I would be happy to keep things as they are, but I also have a number of players that are good trade material in positions that are loaded, and could net me some additional draft picks. Looking back at the actual 2003 draft, there was a lot of talent that came out, especially in rounds 2-4. One strong potential trade would be with the Dallas Cowboys, who had one of the worst passing attacks (31 of 32) in the NFL in 2002, still struggling with the retirements of Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. Dallas is also known to like to wheel-and-deal during the draft. I would offer QB Jeff Garcia and WR Laveranues Coles and my second fifth-round pick for Dallas’ third round pick (69) and sixth round pick (178).

I would also try to work out a deal with the Houston Texans. I would offer ILB Eric Barton, RB Reuben Droughns and WR Marty Booker for their second of three third round picks (75) and a possible conditional pick in 2004. Next, I would trade FB Cecil Martin and C Todd McClure and my last sixth-round pick to Atlanta for their fourth round pick (121) and their sizth-round pick in 2004. Lastly, I would trade WR Brian Finneran or WR Dante Hall and the third round pick from Houston to Arizona for their second round pick (54). That leaves my draft board looking like this:

Round Player
1 C Jeff Faine (21)
2 (from Arizona)
2 LB Chaun Thompson (52)
3 (from Dallas)
3 DB Chris Crocker (84)
4 (from Atlanta)
4 RB Lee Suggs (115)
5 C Ryan Pontbriand (142)
6 (from Dallas)

That leaves me with nine total picks. Let’s look at what we can (re)do with the 2003 draft:

2003 Redraft

Round Original Pick New Pick
1 C Jeff Faine FS Ken Hamlin

A second round pick, Hamlin made an impact immediately with Seattle, playing in every game during his rookie year and starting 14 games. With the exception of 2005, when he missed ten games due to injury, Hamlinhas played in every game, starting all but two during his rookie year. During his three full years with Seattle (2003, 2004, 2006), he recorded at least 80 tackles a season and and averaged over two picks a season. He signed with Dallas in 2007 and played in every game in his two seasons with the Cowboys, averaging 70 tackles and recording six INTs in those two years.

Round Original Pick New Pick
2 none WR Anquan Boldin

Wide receiver is a major strength of my new team, even after trading away a number of players in this position. But Boldin, the Cardinals second-round pick, is so talented, its hard not to take him. He caught 101 receptions his rookie year and was the only rookie elected to the Pro Bowl that year. A three-time Pro Bowl participant, Boldin has set numerous records during his brief career with Arizona. Despite missing 16 games during his career, Boldin has averaged 84 receptions for 1,083 yards and seven TDs. If you remove his 2004 stats, in which he only played in ten games, his averages jump to 89 receptions for 1,175 yards and eight TDs.

Round Original Pick New Pick
2 LB Chaun Thompson OLB Lance Briggs

Like Boldin above, Briggs joins an already deep position on my new team, but is too talented to pass on. A third-round pick by Chicago, he is a four-time Pro Bowler (2005-2008), and has missed only two games in his six-year career with the Bears. Briggs averages 109 tackles, one sack and 1.5 interceptions a season.

Round Original Pick New Pick
3 none TE Jason Witten

Taken in the third round by Dallas, Witten caught 35 passes his rookie year, and became the starting tight end in his second year. Since then, he’s been elected to the Pro Bowl every year (five times so far) and averages 79 receptions with 918 yards and five TDs. In 2007, Witten became only the third tight end to catch at least 96 passes in a season. He’s become the favorite target of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

Round Original Pick New Pick
3 DB Chris Crocker CB Asante Samuel

A fourth round pick by the Patriots, Samuels worked his way into New England’s starting lineup during the 2004 season, and never gave it up. His best season was 2006 with 64 tackles and ten interceptions. He earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl the following year with 44 tackles and six INTs. Samuel signed with Philadelphia the following year as a free agent and earned his second straight Pro Bowl trip.

Round Original Pick New Pick
4 none DE Robert Mathis

The Colts fourth round pick, Mathis established himself as a pass rush specialist his rookie year, seeing action in all 16 regular season games and recording 20 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. During the last five seasons, he’s played in all but seven games and averages 47 tackles and ten sacks a season. Mathis was elected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2008.

Round Original Pick New Pick
4 RB Lee Suggs P Mike Scifres

Picked by the Chargers in the fifth round, Scifres became their primary punter in 2004. During the last five seasons, he’s averaged 44.1 yards per punt and 29 punts inside the 20 yard-line a season. He was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2006. In the Chargers’ 2009 Wild Card Playoff versus the Colts, Scifres kicked a 67-yard punt and averaged 51.7 yards with six punts. Also, all his punts during the game were inside the Colts’ 20-yard line, with 4 inside their 10-yard line.

Round Original Pick New Pick
5 C Ryan Pontbriand G Kris Dielman

Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Chargers, San Diego converted Dielman from a defensive tackle of offensive lineman. By 2005, he became their starting left guard and missed only two games since. He’s been elected to the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2008. Dielman’s teammates referred to him as their “enforcer” and “battering ram”.

Round Original Pick New Pick
6 none TE Antonio Gates

Another undrafted free agent signed by the Chargers, Gates has gone to five consecutive Pro Bowls (2004-2008). He’s played in all but three games for the Chargers, and started all but seven. Over the last five seasons, Gates has averaged 75 receptions for 935 yards and tex TDs.

2003 Redraft Summary

With the 2003 redraft, I addressed the last few weaknesses on my team at tight end (Witten and Gates) and depth at free safety (Hamlin), and also drafted a replacement for punter Chris Gardocki (Scifres), who left the Browns as a free agent following the 2003 season. I also added to already deep positions at outside linebacker (Briggs),wide receiver (Boldin), cornerback (Samuel), defensive end (Mathis), and offensive guard (Dielman). This helps me out over the long term with free agent defections and salary cap issues, enabling me to part with higher-paid players in those positions without losing quality. Overall, the team that I built over the last five years is incredibly talented and deep, and should be a dynasty if their level of play with my team matches what they’ve done in reality.

I think I’ll end my redrafts of the “new” Cleveland Browns here after five seasons (the same length as my ’90s redraft of Cleveland). I could go on through Davis’ last year, and reexamine the Savage/Crennel years, which just ended, but you get the point. Granted, anyone can go back and lament who their favorite team passed over and build almost the exact team I did during the same seasons. And there’s no guarantee that a team with all this talent will actually win a multiple Super Bowls, much less one. But my point is to show just how poorly the Browns have performed in the personnel department over their first five years upon reentering the league. Even if they took half, or even a quarter, of the players I did, the end results could have been much different over this past decade of football futility in northeast Ohio. One can only wish and dream.