Dispelling the “sugar and spice” myths one blog at a time: The Draftsmas edition

Welcome to my brand spanking new blog.  Today is the day the stars align to bring you one of the most interesting day in professional sports.  NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, MLB regular season all coexist in April.  And most importantly, the NFL Draft starts tonight, bringing together the big 4 in professional sports for one glorious moment.  

My home football team, the Washington Redskins, have the #4 pick tonight.  There isn’t any indication right now that the Skins are going to trade that away, or move down at all for additional picks (more about that later).  All signs point to the Skins drafting Russell Okung, an offensive tackle from Oklahoma State, who as a senior, only allowed one quarterback sack.  This would be a much needed improvement to the Skins lineup, and also became a completely vital addition as soon as the Redskins made the decision a few weeks ago to make the trade with the Eagles and accept Donovan McNabb as their new franchise QB.  In the Brett Farve era, it is hard for me to say that McNabb, at 33, is old or nearing retirement.  He has the potential to play for the next 6 years.  However, it is more likely that he has two or three good years in him before he starts to become entirely useless in that position.  But at 33, you cannot get sacked and get right back up, injury free and clear headed like you can when you’re….28 (Jason Campbell’s age).  And Campbell got sacked a lot.  You almost had to wince every time you see the O-line look like swiss cheese at the snap and see the defensive line just charge at Campbell, frantically looking for any eligible receiver (there aren’t any), and get sacked, head banging against the ground, body crumbling into a pile of shoulder pads and 3rd downs.  So protection is what the Skins need in order for McNabb to be the least bit effective, and the trade, the least bit valuable.  But can the Skins get the protection they need at a lower pick?  Would it be worth it to trade down, hoping that Okung or Trent Williams or Bryan Bulaga would still be there in the later first round?  The Skins then would get additional picks in later rounds (which they traded away initially to Philadelphia in the McNabb trade).  That’s a possibility, but only a reality if Haynesworth or Campbell don’t get traded on Draft Day for later picks.  

There’s some argument that Haynesworth shouldn’t be traded for anything less than a late first round pick.  I can see that point.  The Redskins have already paid Haynesworth the bulk of his guaranteed salary, so he’s a “cheap” buy.  He is an effective pro-bowler, when he wants to.  But being a Redskins fan, I can tell you that I’m less than impressed with both Haynesworth’s performance and attitude last year.  The guy wants breaks all the time, breathers if you will.  He isn’t a hard worker, and he’s not a team player.  And most importantly, with leadership changing at the end of last season, Haynesworth no longer fits into Shanahan’s work profile or his desired 3-4 defense.  Haynesworth doesn’t want to play in a 3-4, and he certainly doesn’t want to work as hard as Shanahan expects him to.  This relationship won’t last long, and it would be best for the Redskins to get rid of him while they can still draft a decent replacement.  So I disagree, with the media publicizing Haynesworth’s expectation to leave the Skins organization, and Shanahan’s attempts to trade him in the McNabb trade (Portis was also rumored to have been included in trade talks for McNabb), his value has decreased significantly.  No team will give up a first round pick for Haynesworth (who has limited options anyways because of his inability to remain flexible when it comes to changing defenses) when they know that the Redskins would take a second or third round pick just to get rid of him.  

Same for Campbell, but slightly different.  Campbell isn’t valued nearly as high as Haynesworth, and people wonder, at 28, whether Campbell has reached his peak as a quarterback.  If this is as good as he gets.  We’re looking more at a late 3rd round or early 4th round pick for him.  But this is my case for Campbell.  At 6-5 and 230, he has the perfect physique for a premier quarterback.  He also has the right attitude.  He works hard and takes hits and accepts undeserved criticism and blame for an organization that had much worse deficiencies than a less than average quarterback.  The quarterback’s value is often determined by the O-line and receivers.  Those were Washington’s two biggest weaknesses.  The offensive line rarely gave Campbell enough time to get rid of the ball.  Don’t get me wrong, Campbell wasn’t the quickest QB out there when it came to catch and release, but there would have been very few QBs who would have been successful with that consistent lack of protection.  He took criticism about keeping his eyes down the field.  The guy gets hit every other play, so it has been a built in response to play with caution, which is no way to play.  And when Campbell would get rid of the ball, there was rarely anyone of quality to catch them.  Now, I also saw Campbell make poor decisions and bad throws (and his arm, I would say, is average), which never helps matters.  Bottom line is, in order for there to be protection, a good throw and an effective catch (and even yards after the catch…gasp!), the stars would have to be aligned perfectly.  And that didn’t happen very often, hence the Redskins’ laughable 4-12 record for 2009.  So that’s my case for Campbell, that it isn’t all his fault, but he’s also not all that great.  You would need the best receivers and the best offensive line out there in order for him to play to his potential, and no team with those weapons would risk their season on Jason Campbell.  So he might make his way to Buffalo, or somewhere that might appreciate him, or he might get completely rejected, and play as a second string for McNabb (which actually would be the best case scenario in the long term for him, but is the least likely of all the scenarios)

More on the NFL Draft, Jimmy Clausen (the “pickle”).  Every once in a while, you draft a young QB, let them stew and mature for a couple years and they emerge from their cocoon, a butterfly of beautiful laser-precise passes, quick feet and a smart leadership mentality.  Then sometimes they just fall flat.  Sometimes you put them out there too soon.  Sometimes, they’re never ready.  It happens all the time, and it’s a gamble.  Which is why the QB Draft is probably the most interesting topic for most people.  Jimmy Clausen opted out of his senior year at Notre Dame (for once I agree with this decision, just looking at the decaying state of the Fighting Irish football program….very excited that the Terps are playing them this year) to enter the 2010 Draft, and quickly became the #1 QB pick.  Then Sam Bradford shocked everyone by showing his post-injury skills, which were better than his pre-injury skills.  He was the 2008 Heisman trophy winner, but was terrible last year (mostly because of injuries), but you have to wonder about his miserable 2009 stats.  

Apparently, there is no doubt that Sam Bradford will be the first QB pick and likely the #1 pick in the draft, for the Rams.  Suh will likely be the second (hard not to mention this guy in the Draft blog…one of the most impressive defensive linemen I have ever seen, which is not usually a position that gets a whole lot of attention in college sports and he got a well deserved Heisman nomination this year).  

Now there’s Clausen.  Where will he go?  Some people thought (and still think), the Redskins.  That will only happen if the Skins trade down and get a late first round or second round pick after they draft an OT.  But it might not be a bad idea for the Skins to draft a young QB (the Skins are an aging team as it is).  I’m a little queasy thinking about a Notre Dame QB coming to the Skins (given the eventual outcome of the last Notre Dame QB product, Brady Quinn), but I’m not opposed to a QB getting drafted by the Skins this year.  I’m not opposed to it, but I’m not in love with any of the eligible QBs.  Even at 28, I would take Campbell over any of the top 4 in this year’s draft.  Sad but true.

So we wait.  4 hours to go, to watch what happens at #4.  

On an unrelated note: Roethlisberger.  Egregious accusations and a 6 game suspension.  I am not sure if I agree with the deservedness of the 6 game suspension for Big Ben.  Seems like a lot to me, I probably would have been happy at 4.  I’m in no way condoning this sort of behavior, but the fact is, he was never charged, and you’re pretty much punishing him on accusations alone.  I am not sure if this has ever been done in the NFL.  I think that the punishment didn’t fit the “crime” but I do agree with the Steelers and NFL’s seemingly zero tolerance policy towards off-season/off-field bad behavior.  I LOVE that Big Ben is going to go through a psych evaluation.  But I think that they will find that he’s just a little dense and a lot irresponsible.  As for the trade talks, I think they are just posturing and trying to send a message to Big Ben.  They already got rid of Holmes, they’re going to be left with no players (or just Tim Tebow) if you base your team on some kind of morality scale.  Ben is probably the NFL’s most recent (and most high profile) limbo king of morality, but the NFL is just infected with this sort of behavior.  So unless the NFL is prepared to pass suspensions out every other week, they better just admit that they are making an example out of Ben for his repeatedly repulsive behavior that gives the NFL and the Steeler organization a bad name.

So where will I be watching the Draft this year?  Likely my “local” bar, the Kingfish in Oakland, or my house.  Where is my boyfriend you ask?  He is in South Bend, Indiana with 14 of his closest guy friends for an annual event entitled “Draftsmas”.  They have prop bets and make funny tee shirts and choreograph a weekend of debauchery, most nights ending at the Backer, the only real bar in South Bend.  I love those guys, don’t get me wrong, but I also am a little bit in awe of the dynamic.  Most of these people have nothing in common except for a love of sports and the fact that most of them went to UCSD for undergrad, which means the core group has been pretty tight for a good 10-15 years.  There were a few new additions and late arrivals, but they have fallen right into place.  They call themselves “The Jungle”, which I still don’t completely understand, but I just go with it.  My boyfriend’s nickname is Highmay or Boolin.  Boolin is often used as a last name nickname, and we were dubbed, “the Boolins” during last summer’s wedding circuit.  Oh, there will be more about the wedding circuit.  I’m definitely happy that my boyfriend has a good core group of friends that I like and (mostly) trust.  

However, there is a secondary effect of this dynamic, which is the recently dubbed “Lipstick Jungle”, made up of all the wives and girlfriends of the guys of the Jungle (that nickname didnt catch on and was rejected by the guys).  These women, for the most part are smarter and more attractive than their counterparts.  They are professionals, independent, athletic, and pretty much first round draft picks (pardon the analogy).  It sort of surprised me the very first time I saw the match-ups.  But I think it made me like all the guys even better, because there has to be something great about all these guys in order to get this caliber of great women.  Some of these women are professionals in the sports industry, mostly for public or media relations.  I’ll have to test the waters to see if their interest in sports goes any deeper…

So right now, I’m sitting at home, with my dog Henry, watching Sportscenter, writing this blog, looking outside (the sun is finally breaking through the clouds), and thinking that I should shower and take my Henry monster out for a run.  And yes, if Henry was a football player, he would probably be a running back.  He’s not very big, but I’ve seen him weave around with such ease, ala Darren Sproles (my favorite mini running back, and starter on my winning fantasy league last year)

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