Bang for the Buck

Da'Quan Bowers was drafted 51st overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Most people have experienced it. You go to the store only to buy something that you had no intention of getting but you couldn’t pass it up because it was such a great deal.

Three of this year’s shoppers in the NFL draft came across a product that they weren’t looking for and just couldn’t let them get away.

Talent over need is one of the toughest decisions when drafting players but when that talent comes at a greatly discounted price even Homer Simpson knows that it should be a no-brainer to take the talent.

The New England patriots are known for being smarter than everyone. No denying it. Savvy draft day trading, making the diamond in the roughs seem like an everyday occurrence and pretty much everything else in between.

With franchise quarterback Mr. Tom Bundchen-Brady locked up in New England for the next while, the Patriots still went out on day two of the draft and grabbed projected first round pick Ryan Mallett.

Talk about value.

Ryan Mallett has all the physical tools to one day become a franchise quarterback and at 74th overall the Patriots decided that this guy could become Tom Brady’s successor.

Why not?

This has all the makings of another steal by the New England Patriots. There may be as many questions as there are positives surrounding Mallett including inaccuracy, character and possible drug abuse. However, picking up a quarterback, who has the skills to be a franchise quarterback, in the middle of the 3rd round doesn’t come with much risk. It’s not as if the Patriots have to worry about draft picks anyways.

Considering five other quarterbacks were drafted ahead of Mallett, a player who some had as the third best quarterback in this year’s draft, he should be a steal at 74 no matter what situation he is placed in. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that the Patriots pulled off something that could make us bow down to the great Bill Belichick once again.

Almost every New York Giants fan at Radio City Music Hall was cheering when their team selected cornerback Prince Amukamara with the 19th overall pick.

A lot of mocks had an offensive tackle going to the Giants at 19 but when Amukamara slipped to them they couldn’t pass on him.

With a defence that finished ninth in the NFL last season, there was no desperation to find an impact defensive player. Protecting Eli Manning was supposed to be priority number one. In fact, probably the only guy who isn’t praising the pick is Eli Manning because this potential shut-down corner isn’t going to be protecting his blind side anytime soon.

Nevertheless, the New York Giants were right to not let the newly dubbed “Fresh Prince of New York” slip past them. Shut down corners don’t come around every day at the number 19 slot.

Needed or not, the teams in front of the Giants should regret their decision not to pick the Prince.

I think I would be writing this even if this next fellow was drafted late in the first round. Now, there is almost no doubt that at 51st overall, Da’Quan Bowers represents the best no-brainer value in the 2011 draft.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had already drafted a defensive end with their 20th overall pick in round one but when they sat at 51 with Bowers on the board they couldn’t say no. Once again, how can you blame them?

Bowers led the nation in sacks with 15 last year and fell mightily on every team’s draft board because of right knee issues. I still don’t understand why 32 teams passed on him at least once, some twice. In early mocks Bowers was projected as a potential number one overall pick yet knee surgery sets him back 50 picks.

I can’t comment nor do I have any knowledge on the extent of Da’Quan Bowers’ knee problems. That shouldn’t matter though when you can pick up a possibly dominating pass-rusher with a late first or early second round pick.

It doesn’t matter who you are drafting, there are no sure things. However, it is a sure thing that without the knee problem Bowers has the potential to become one of the league’s premier defensive ends.

It’s as hard as Aroldis Chapman’s fastball to be able to find a player in the second round that could have the type impact that Bowers might possess. For the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans to pass on Bowers in favour of alternative defensive ends in the second round is beyond me.

Tampa Bay might strike out on Bowers but at least they will do it swinging for the fences.

Like any draft there are bound to be disappointments. Mallett, Amukamara and Bowers may very well end up disappointing their respective teams but with the value that these three players offer there should be no reason to regret the choice to draft them.

Related: Naughty or Nice?

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Wide Receiver Folly

A.J. Green will likely be the first receiver taken in the draft

Wide receivers are flamboyant. They make the highlight reel catch and do the dance that gets them a bill from Roger Goodell.

Picking a wide receiver in the draft isn’t all that different. The wide receiver is the sexy pick. Everyone loves to love the guy who catches the touchdown. They put six points on the board. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.

The high draft pick wide receiver may become an immediate fan favourite but would teams be wiser to spend those picks on a guy who could help make an impact on a less fan friendly part of the roster?

In short, yes.

The wide receiver is similar to the running back. Thanks to guys like Cadillac Williams and Reggie Bush, recently, the drafting of a franchise running back has fallen out of favour with front offices around the league. Heck, there might not even be one running back taken in the first round this year.

The surplus of talent at the running back position was seen around the league this year. I wrote about it briefly during the season, dubbing the running back the dime a dozen position.

Take a closer look, you’ll find out the wide receiver isn’t all that different.

In Sports Illustrated columnist Don Banks’ latest mock draft he has top receiving prospects A.J. Green and Julio Jones both going in the top ten at four and six respectively. Banks dubbed Green “that rare receiver worthy of a top-five investment.”

Green might be a special talent but recent evidence thwarts the thought that he is worthy of a top five choice. This is not to say that Green will be a bust in any way. However, finding potentially similar quality production at the wide receiver position in later rounds of the draft is much more plentiful than other positions like linebacker or defensive end.

In the last three seasons no less than seven receivers drafted outside of the first round worked themselves into the top fifteen in total receiving yards. In 2009 and 2010 there were at least 3 players in the top fifteen who were drafted in the seventh round or went undrafted.

Granted, special talents Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson are players that you consistently find at the top of the league and will most likely continue to hold those top spots for years to come.

Nevertheless, seeing such gifted players like Terrell Owens, Brandon Marshall and Hines Ward drafted in the 3rd round and later should start to give you second thoughts. There may not be too many wide receivers drafted in the top ten but the sizeable amount of top receivers in the league who were drafted in the middle rounds makes you think that that a top ten pick could be put to better use even if a possible special receiving talent is on the board.

Teams like the Bengals and Browns are in dire need of a big game receiving threat but there’s a reason those teams sit at fourth and sixth overall. Those picks can be utilized more effectively.

Obviously, this is not to say that you’re not finding impact players in the later rounds for other positions. But the fact of the matter is that finding your diamond in the rough, needle in the haystack, or whatever you want to call it, is no doubt harder in later rounds for some of those non-skill positions.

Wide receivers, like running backs, are sold at the dollar store. It’s the nature of the position. Tons of incredibly skilled receivers get overlooked.

Why then are teams using their early picks on wide receivers then?

Yes, it’s nice to have a franchise receiver that can catch 100 balls for over 1000 yards on a consistent basis but it isn’t like these guys can’t be found elsewhere. They may not quite be a dime a dozen like their colleague running backs but it’s pretty damned close to that.

Try giving Matt Millen a call because I’m sure he’d be glad to divulge his secrets of the wide receiver. I wonder if Charles Rogers will ring a bell?

In 2008, the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers decided on a couple of wide receivers, one just a bit better than the other. The Raiders went style over substance, which predictably hasn’t quite panned out for them and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

The 49ers have found a receiver in Crabtree who would probably be in the 1000 yard category if he had anyone decent to get the ball to him. That’s the problem though. At the time and to this day the 49ers are still not ready to win and are a team with holes to fill throughout the roster. Can’t the number one wide receiver slot on the depth chart wait?

A.J. Green seems to be a consensus star in the making but Julio Jones, alternatively, is far from it. Jones had serious issues with drops in his College days at Alabama, is an unpolished route runner, and is said to not play with full effort on every play.

Jones’ speed and size are big pluses but to me it sounds like he’s not worth a top ten selection. Certainly, the Browns could use a real threat like Jones that would allow Colt McCoy to fully develop. In spite of this, it would be silly to use a number six pick on a guy who is far from a sure thing. At some point in the future management should be able to find a guy that can establish himself as a receiving threat in the NFL without burning that highly coveted top ten pick.

The Marques Colston’s, Wes Welker’s and Miles Austin’s of the world are out there and waiting to be given a chance. With needs in so many other places, lottery teams have to start moving away from the idea of wide receivers. Like the running back, you can find your wide receiver gem, it just might take some patience.

Related: Is the NFL Combine Overrated?

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Luongo Benching Changes the Big Picture

Roberto Luongo will look to the Heavens for a win in Game 7

Alain Vigneault decided to sit Roberto Luongo Sunday night amid speculation that the decision was perhaps “influenced” by GM Mike Gillis. Maybe the Vancouver Canucks brass needs a few pair of glasses because, right or wrong, the choice to bench Roberto Luongo was incredibly short-sighted.

This was a decision no doubt spurred by desperation. A choice that is at best questionable in the short-term. This is a poorly thought out knee-jerk reaction that entails more problems than which goalie is the right man to start Game 7 (Roberto Luongo is starting FYI).

A Canuck future that was as bright as could be hardly a week ago has suddenly turned as bleak as a Hurricane Katrina. There is panic in Vancouver but the panic is not directed where it should be. They’re on the right track though.

The sudden questions concerning Roberto Luongo’s ridiculous contract are almost amusing. Seriously, are people just figuring this out now? Mike Brophy of Sportsnet addresses the issue of Luongo’s contract and what goes through the mind of a GM in crippling his team with an absurd contract in his latest column. It’s too bad there wasn’t this concern from the media when Luongo signed his contract or better yet prior to him signing the contract. However, when things go wrong we see people speak like they knew it all along. Come on now.

Related: Note to NHL GM’s – This is Getting out of Hand

Regardless, it is all in the past and the fact of the matter is that the Vancouver Canucks have to deal with a terrible contract. By starting Cory Schneider in game 6 the franchise made the worst move possible for the future of the club. No, they didn’t make a trade or give out another bad contract.

What they did was possibly ruin the psyche of an already emotionally fragile goaltender.

Mike Gillis calls himself a calculated person. Well if he was the one who handed down the fateful decision he sure made a major miscalculation. In an attempt to save the season of the team he assembled, his work that he indirectly praised, and the embarrassment of having to explain what happened to his supposedly even keel team, he looks to have made the decision that obliterated the confidence of his franchise goaltender.

The Canucks may go onto win game 7, but what if Luongo goes onto have another stinker or two. You might feel inclined to ride Cory Schneider. Sure, that’s all peaches and roses now but Schneider isn’t going to be around much longer. The guy is too good to be a backup and if the Canucks don’t trade him Schneider will be out the door faster than the Canuck fans jumping off the bandwagon once his contract is up.

What will happen in 2 or 3 years when the Canucks are in the playoffs and there is no Cory Schneider to fall back on. There has been an immeasurable amount doubt placed in the already uncertain Luongo. It is firmly entrenched in his brain that he can’t win the big game. The Olympics don’t count. Luongo played a mediocre tournament for a stacked Canadian roster

Roberto Luongo has already had trouble mentally in the tough times but having lost the vote of confidence from the people who had faith in 12 more years is a killer. Luongo already has problems handling the heat of playoff scrutiny and being told that he can’t win the big game doesn’t bode well for the future. How is the man supposed to have any confidence in himself?

Adversity is given in a Stanley Cup run. Look through your crystal ball. Do any of you see Luongo being able to handle the hardships after this incident?

Didn’t think so.

Luongo was forced to come into game 6 after Cory Schneider cramped up. Luongo was fighting the puck every time he touched it. He looked as though his more than nervous. If you combine every synonym to nervous that would probably define what Luongo was feeling when he was thrust into action during game 6.

Fans need to stop playing the Chicago card. It’s getting a bit old. Luongo is not a big game player but it’s not Chicago. It just so happens that he faces Chicago in the majority of his minimal, but growing playoff experience. Correlation does not equal causation folks.

He played outstanding in the first 3 games of the series. Everyone seems to have forgotten that at this point. Other than the first goal in game 4 that he let slip past his glove hand there haven’t been any bad goals and anyone who knows me personally knows that I’m not one to defend the $10 million man.

Sitting him out against Chicago and then playing him in the next series doesn’t mean he will miraculously return to vintage Luongo simply because he is playing a team that’s not named the Chicago Blackhawks. It doesn’t work like that. Athletes don’t gain their confidence back with the snap of a finger.

This decision that the Vancouver Canucks made to bench Roberto Luongo in game 6 may not have immediate repercussions but if an early exit is in tea leaves, make no mistake; they will pay for it in the future. It might be easy to trade Luongo’s 12 year contract on your PS3 but trading virtually untradeable contracts isn’t as easy in real life as it is on NHL ’11.

The Vancouver Canucks are stuck with Roberto Luongo and in this thoughtless decision they seem to have overlooked that.

The season is not all lost but if Roberto Luongo continues his Lebron-like clutch play he will have the fans chanting Luchoke in Vancouver and when they do they can look back on the game 6 decision to start Cory Schneider.

Related: Roberto Luongo the Ex-Factor

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Something Needs to Change in New York. But What?

Mike D'Antoni is running out of answers

A dog getting castrated might not even compare to the pain that New York Knick fans had to go through on a much less than Good Friday.

Losing 113-96 in the first playoff game at Madison Square Garden since 2004 isn’t what was expected from a team that was a play or two away from taking a couple of games from the Celtics in Boston. There were a lot of problems for the Knicks on Friday. Carmelo couldn’t score, Amare wasn’t a hundred percent, Billups is out, and the bench still rivals the Heat’s for the worst among playoff teams.

Yeah, those are all problems but sadly there is one screaming problem, like the kid in a mall throwing a temper tantrum, demanding to be attended to.

It’s the defence. Not a revelation I know.

Something has to change and it has to come from off the court. The culture of the Knicks team has to change. It starts with the head coach.

I was never convinced that Mike D’Antoni was the right coach for the Knicks. Like his partner in crime Bryan Colangelo, it’s apparent that he’s nothing without Steve Nash. D’Antoni tried to remake the Knicks into a replicate of the Suns but it can’t be done. The Suns are Coca Cola and the Knicks are Diet Coke.

Even the original version couldn’t win an NBA championship. The old cliché lives on. Defence wins championships. Although, I’m still convinced that a break here or there would have given the Suns a real shot at a championship, but that’s a story for another day.

It is unclear whether or not D’Antoni tries to coach defence but it’s clear that the product put out on the floor needs some real direction.

The Knicks are still scoring at an incredibly high rate but it can’t compensate for the way they play on the defensive end. Especially in the playoffs.

Is there any way that D’Antoni can change his philosophy because there isn’t a miracle left on Earth that will let this Knick roster, coached the way it is, compete for an NBA title. Does Mike D’Antoni have another philosophy?

Granted, he has never had a real roster to work with prior to this year in New York. Still, he has shown nothing that would lead us to believe that any Knick fan should have anything more to believe in than false hope.

What’s worse is that Carmelo Anthony doesn’t fit into anything that Mike D’Antoni does. ‘Melo slows the game down, plays a lot of isolation and, well, I guess the defence fits right in. Expectedly, the Carmelo show hasn’t been as good as advertised, but it is still early. You won’t make a Knicks believer out of me but there are lots who do believe. I’m going to need to see it before I can believe it.

Related: Carmelo Anthony Dealt. Are the Knicks Finally Ready to Contend?

In my mind it all goes back to D’Antoni and the compass is pointing in a different direction.

The only way Mike D’Antoni should stick around is if he is willing to commit to a new vision. Defence needs to be a real priority in New York and I’m pretty sure that someone other than me will be saying that. Just a hunch though.

The Knicks franchise features an abundance of question marks but the most important one that needs to be answered is the path that Mike D’Antoni is taking them.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Memphis Still Needs Rudy

Rudy Gay nails a game winning shot right between the eyes of Lebron James

Despite the 93-87 loss in game 2 tonight against the Spurs, the good times should still be rolling in Memphis. Going back home with the series tied at one’s with arguably the league’s best regular season team should be quite an accomplishment for a team that has never won a playoff game in franchise history.

The Grizzlies hung tough once again with the Spurs last night. No one was surprised. In fact, people were picking this upset before the series started.

The casual fan must be wondering how anyone could fathom Memphis taking a game off the Spurs much less winning the series without their franchise player in Rudy Gay. They just signed him to that fat five-year $82 million contract this past off-season. How can you beat the Spurs without your best player?

The casual fan may be asking how they’re doing it without their star but Memphis fans and those who follow the NBA closely are now questioning Memphis’ need for Rudy Gay. Memphis went 15-10 down the stretch to secure a playoff spot without their star while playing some stiff competition. They even tanked the last two games to assure themselves a matchup with the Spurs.

It’s okay Grizzly fans, not to worry because you still need Rudy Gay and his flabby contract.

The numbers don’t always tell it all. I realize that Memphis’ winning percentage down the stretch without Rudy was .600, more than 50 points better than when Gay was in the line-up. Yes, Memphis was more efficient on the offensive end, outscoring their opponents by 3.6 points per 100 possessions as opposed to 2.0 per 100. Overall, they were better statistically without Rudy Gay.

Well you know what they say, don’t ya?

Stats are for losers.

Rudy Gay may have been playing the best ball of his career this season prior to his injury, averaging 19.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and shot almost 40 percent from beyond the arc. However, that’s not why the Grizzlies need him in order to take the next step as a team.

The Grizzlies need the scoring wing player who can give you your close, late game, isolation offence. They need it as badly as Ron Artest needs his psychiatrist and it couldn’t have been more apparent in game 2.

The recent recipient of a hefty contract extension, Zach Randolph is one of the toughest guys to guard in the league. Sports Illustrated Zach Lowe went as far to say that he is “one of the league’s truly unguardable offensive players.” Nevertheless, going to Z-Bo late in games is not the easiest offense when the defence collapses and the best guy spreading the floor for your team is Shane Battier.

Look at it this way. All the best teams have a go to scorer who can get their offence at will. Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Wade and Lebron, Kevin Durant, Manu Ginobli and the list can goes on. I guess I should throw in Michael Jordan just for kicks.

The Orlando Magic don’t have a scorer who can simply get his at will. It’s probably why the Magic won’t win building solely around Howard.

It would be a capital offence to put Rudy Gay in the same category as the guys mentioned above but at the same time he is not in another dimension as those players either.

Playoff defence is tight and when the best teams clamp down with five minutes left in the fourth quarter it is the weaker teams that have more trouble executing. It’s not a coincidence that only four number eight seeds have gotten out of the first round in NBA history. However, you run your late game offence through a dynamic player like Rudy Gay and suddenly things are looking a little brighter. Remember his game winner against the Heat earlier this year? If you’re not a Raptor or Grizzly fan you probably have no idea that he hit a virtually identical game winner in Toronto.

The current make-up of the Memphis Grizzlies presents a bright future but if you can sit there and tell me with a straight face that that roster has the ability to take the next step without Rudy Gay then you might also want to see Ron Artest’s psychiatrist.

Rudy Gay isn’t at the level that will take the Memphis Grizzlies to the Promised Land. At least not yet. The Grizzlies are growing as a team and Rudy Gay is growing as a player. If Memphis is ever going to make the jump from good to great they will need Rudy Gay to help get them there.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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