Thursday, 15 April 2010

Recent Patriots Drafts A Cause For Concern

As the NFL is heading full steam into the 2010 NFL Draft I thought I would take a look back at the past drafts of the New England Patriots, which are commonly accepted to be below-par. I must say I didn't think they were as bad as I've come to conclude.

2009

Too early to tell of course, but...

Chung (2nd) - could be good but 2009 didn't meet expectations of a high 2nd round pick
Brace (2nd) - 2009 was not good for him, still lots of time
Butler (2nd) - very encouraging, starting corner material
Vollmer (2nd) - extremely encouraging, probable starting LT for years to come
Tate (3rd) - injuries, IR
McKenzie (3rd) - IR
Ohrnberger (4th) - made the team, unknown at this point
Bussey (5th) - IR
Ingram (6th) - beat out longsnapper competition in camp, set for years
Pryor (6th) - pleasant surprise, already contributing
Edelman (7th) - big surprise, long term replacement for Welker, if not earlier
Richard (7th) - practice squad
Hoyer (UFA) - beat out competition in camp, could prove to be a solid backup at QB

This could (and it's still a "could" at this moment) become an excellent draft (a solid B+ at this point) but Brace and Chung need to improve, while there are several complete unknowns in the middle rounds. Edelman and Pryor were very nice finds.

2008

Hits:
Mayo (1st)
Busts: O'Connell (3rd)
Jury's out: Wheatley (2nd) (almost a bust, could get cut in camp) & Crable (3rd) (could also be cut, injury problems)
Others: Wilhite (4th) (could be a decent slot corner) & Slater (good on special teams)
Cut: Ruud (6th)
UFA: Guyton (great find, ideal high level backup and has performed well above expectation), Green-Ellis (very good production) & Wendell

Verdict: This class is hanging on by a thread to be average and is currently being saved by the UFAs. Wheatley and Crable need to get on the field in 2010 C-

2007

Hits:
Meriweather (1st) (just about!), Trading 4th round pick for Randy Moss, Trading 2nd & 7th for Welker
Busts: Draft class from 4th round down
Cut: Brown (4th), Oldenburg (5th), Rogers (6th), Richardson (6th), Hairston (6th), Hilliard (6th), Lua (7th), Elgin (7th)

Verdict: Meriweather is the entire draft class. Not a single other player taken is still with the team and nearly all of them were gone within a year. The trades vastly exceeded value for the picks, but concerned known commodities C+

2006

Hits: Gostkowski (4th)
Busts: Maroney (1st) (production nowhere near draft status), Jackson (2nd), Thomas (3rd) (gets traded for 7th)
Others: Smith (6th) (traded for 5th & 7th), Andrews 7th (cut for off field reasons)
Cut: Mills (4th), O'Callaghan (5th), Mincey (6th), Stevenson (6th)

Awful, awful draft. The best value of the draft goes to David Thomas who surprised many around the league in 2009, mostly those in the Patriots' front office as he'd been "ditched" to New Orleans D-


The last good or very good draft was 2005 which contained Logan Mankins, Ellis Hobbs, Nick Kazcur, James Sanders and Matt Cassel. 2006 was a complete wipeout and 2008 was poor. 2007 would be nowhere without the trades for Moss and Welker, but that has nothing to do with evaluating college prospects.

Essentially, the past four years have been a level below average with only 3 Pro Bowl calibre starters (one of whom is a kicker and another has tackling issues) and four or five exciting prospects. Probability would tell you it's more than possible (especially when you're talking about something as wild and variable as college evaluation/pro projection) that after some very good drafts at the beginning of the decade, there were bound to be a couple of bad apples and that that isn't necessarily a reflection on Bill Belichick's drafting skills (one plus is the team continually caches future draft picks) or the organization's ability to assess college players.

However, there's no getting away from it that recent drafts have been poor and this has contributed to the Patriots moving down a notch in 2009 in terms of being a Super Bowl contender.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

ChelseaFanCast.com going live soon!

So I haven't written anything in a while. Well, that's not strictly true, I've just had my content on www.footballfancast.com and haven't really had much time to add stuff here.

For those that don't know, I am a regular on the Chelsea FanCast (link opens up iTunes) which is a weekly podcast (mostly directly after games) on Chelsea Football Club. We review the games, rumours involving the club, sing a song from the songbook and answer questions and comments from our listeners on facebook.

But coming very soon is our own Chelsea Fancast website. In fact it's so close, I've already written a little something and since you can't read it there I'm putting it up here...


Be Patient With Carlo


So Chelsea are in a bit of a rot. Well, as much of a rot as a team topping the league, in the last 16 of the Champions League and last 8 of the FA Cup can be. But a comparative rot nonetheless. Ineffective away from home, essentially since the 3-0 drubbing of Arsenal last November and looking dithersome at home in defeat to Man City last weekend.

Things aren’t quite right and the blame can quite evenly be placed on the manager, players as individuals and the rotten luck with injuries. Since the diamond formation was probably rightfully ditched at the end of the year there have been square pegs in round holes, players out of form – namely Joe Cole, John Terry and Nicolas Anelka – along with others who haven’t shown a high level of quality – Mikel, Ballack – and then there has been the loss of Michael Essien and Ashley Cole, two of the best players in their positions in the world.

But as I opened with, Chelsea are top of the league. As bad as some of the performances and recent results have been (barring what I thought was a positive performance in the San Siro last week) Manchester United have been worse – albeit just – and Arsenal are clearly inferior at the top level, although have managed to see off the rest of the league in a more assured manner. Furthermore, the quality of the league has risen across the board. Tottenham managed to open the season in non-relegation form for the first time in living memory, Aston Villa and Everton have shown they’re a step up on the rest of the league and Man City have upgraded enough to be a big threat on their day.

Then add in tricky teams such as Fulham, Stoke and err, Liverpool and the week-in, week-out pressure is upped. While Chelsea should be beating these teams more often than they are at present there are fewer games to coast through and an increased demand for top-level, professional performances during the marathon that is a Premier League season.

Plus, there’s the squad as it currently stands, which is sorely missing a dynamic, creative attacking presence. Deco, as almost everyone could see before he signed, was never young or physically gifted enough to fulfil that role and Joe Cole, since coming back from his cruciate injury has suffered possibly the worst run of form since his arrival seven years ago. And the team is getting older too. From the middle of the park upwards, only Mikel, Essien Cole, Kalou and Sturridge aren’t either in or entering the final stages of their careers. As a consequence the team isn’t brimming with pace where it matters.

Sure, this team should be doing better and if Chelsea fail to win the league this year it will be a big chance missed. But this is Ancelotti’s first season in charge and in terms of personnel at his disposal it very much feels like a rusty version of Mourinho’s final squad. The players are still getting used to his style of play, he still has signings to make and the youngsters coming through aren’t quite ready yet.

For the present, Essien should be back soon (which will cure a few ills!) and for the future things are definitely not as grim as they seem to be on the pitch at the moment. Us fans would do well to be patient and realise we can’t have everything all at once.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Mooching off Meachem

When Drew Brees threw his only interception of the game in New Orleans’ amazing win over the Washington Redskins last Sunday little did he know that he was setting off a very unusual play that had massive repercussions in the fantasy world, not just for owners of Robert Meachem and the Saints defense in tight games, but also for commissioners and corporations in the way that they score fantasy games.

Here is a brief description of the play for those that somehow haven’t seen it: Drew Brees, the Saints quarterback, takes a snap in the shotgun formation, scrambles in the pocket and throws a pass intended for Jeremy Shockey which is intercepted by the Redskins safety Kareem Moore. Moore attempts to run the ball back but is tackled by Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem and stripped of the football. Meachem recovers the fumble and takes it to the end zone for the score.

At first glance on Sunday I myself thought it was an offensive fumble recovery touchdown (or OFRTD) since Robert Meachem as an offensive player on an offensive snap recovers a fumble and scores the touchdown. I was smiling to myself as I’d started him in two fantasy leagues. But then, as a Saints DST owner, also in two leagues, it crossed my mind that Meachem’s score was not at all an OFRTD. Essentially, the difference between an OFRTD and a defensive fumble recovery touchdown (DFRTD) is that the former comes from a player fumbling the football, resulting in a live ball which is then picked up by another - or indeed the same - offensive player and taken to the house for a touchdown (the clue is that there is no change of possession) and a DFRTD occurs when a defensive player returns a fumble for a touchdown.

This is because after a fumble, when the football is not possessed by either team it is live, but while it is live the definitions of offense and defense are retained until the ball is recovered by one team or another. This is exemplified by what happens when it goes out of bounds (is retained by the offense) or enters the end zone (reverts to the defense).

So, if Robert Meachem is an offensive player at the snap, how does he become a defensive player and therefore a representative of the New Orleans’ defense? It’s simple; the moment Kareem Moore secures the interception he becomes an offensive player because in running the football back towards the Saints’ end zone he is attempting to score a touchdown. The Saints’ offense is now attempting to “defend” this end zone and in a literal sense is now the defense. On a very basic level this is what football is about; two sets of eleven players who at all times are both attempting to score on the opposition and stop them from scoring themselves. Designations of player positions are immaterial and only relate to subsequent codification of the rules of the game.

I have read several arguments, including one written here with regards the NFL rulebook’s definition of offense and defense that I’ve butchered in the above paragraph that asks, if a player who has the football is always on offense how does a defensive player (or team) ever score a touchdown?

Well, that link had one major flaw, and that is that defenses do score points, off the back of interceptions and fumble recoveries and in fantasy football we score these. Had Kareem Moore scored a touchdown off of his interception it would be a defensive touchdown and in that regard, Meachem scores one off of the subsequent fumble - as an addendum, only defenders can tackle a ballcarrier. It is the link to how possession of the football was obtained that defines the type of score. Ironically enough, if the Saints wideout then goes on to fumble the football himself, pick it up and still score it becomes an OFRTD (more on this below).

In fantasy football, there are strict rules governing how points are scored and in spite of it seeming intuitive to give Meachem points for his magnificent play the fairest thing to do is to rule according to the various ways teams are given points (rushing touchdowns, passing touchdowns, receiving touchdowns, return touchdowns, etc, etc...). This is because every league has a set of rules which everyone agrees to when they play the game and Meachem cannot be given an OFRTD when he hasn't scored one.

Is this satisfactory? Well, no, not really. No one who drafted (all three people) or picked up the Saints DST had this sort of thing in mind and someone playing against the New Orleans unit probably wasn’t accounting for their offense to start getting their opponent points too. Nor does anyone disagree with the notion that Robert Meachem scored two touchdowns on the day, both while he was on the field during a non-DST snap.

The best solution I can think of is that in order for plays of this nature to be properly accounted for in future (ie; without debates every time it happens) is for the creation of the following scoring category: Offensive Player Touchdown (OPTD). All offensive scores self-evidently fall into this definition already (rushing, receiving – incl. laterals - and passing) and so does Meachem’s because these are defined as having resulted from an offensive snap as designated by down (1st thru 4th). This would then leave DTDs – and any other type of crazy play score on special teams - to the following kinds (punt, kickoff, interception and fumble returns).

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Community Shield Preview

Just posting up my first blog at thelondonpaper.com on this weekend's Community Shield between Chelsea and Manchester United.

The article is here and soon there will be a homepage for the column. Enjoy!