Thursday, April 28, 2011

The FTC 2011 NFL Mock Draft

You've read Kiper's. You've read McShay's. You've read Mayock's. So it probably stands to reason that we here at FTC have nothing of value to say on the matter. But that's never stopped us before.

1. Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
It is completely outside of my realm of understanding why NFL teams burn high draft picks on quarterbacks whom they aren't absolutely convinced can become elite professional talent. When you take a QB in the first round, you're putting five years, $40-$50 million, your job and all of your coaches' jobs on the line. I've come to think that one of the reasons we see this happen so much is that we commonly mistake athleticism for potential. Just because a college quarterback might be athletic does not mean he has potential. For all of the droning on about whether or not Cam Newton "wants to be great," I think a lot of people are missing the forest for the trees. If you have to question whether or not a guy has the maturity, the work ethic, the leadership skills or the intelligence to be your franchise quarterback, then he doesn't have those things. How are those not considered when evaluating potential? Vince Young has all the athletic talent in the world, but he's a head case whose teammates dislike him and he's dumb as a brick. Tim Tebow has all of the likability and leadership skills, but he's a mechanical mess and can't really pass. Year after year, poorly operated teams are tantalized by athletic freaks who play QB in college, rather than just find someone who's an accurate passer and a reasonably intelligent human, which is really all you need. Cam Newton will be a disaster as an NFL quarterback. He might not approach JaMarcus-level bust status, but make no mistake, this is going to be a hilarious farce.

One more thing to throw out there, and I'll say this now so that I can repeat it several more times: there is no legitimate reason for any team in the top ten to pass on Patrick Peterson.

2. Denver Broncos - Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
This draft is perversely deep on the defensive line, and the Broncos will be able to scoop up a lineman later on. Here, though, they go with the outside pass rusher who challenged the legality of the NFL Draft in federal court. The Broncos recently re-signed Champ Bailey, so it would stand to reason that they would not strongly consider drafting Patrick Peterson. This is, of course, a mistake.

3. Buffalo Bills - Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Buffalo might be just as happy to take Von Miller here in an attempt to make up for the disappointing Aaron Maybin, but Dareus is just as fine a choice. He'll be able to step in and play immediately, and the Bills' defense needs as many of those guys as it can possibly muster. Hey, you know who would be a great pick here? Patrick Peterson.

4. Cincinnati Bengals - A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
The most fun part of picking for the Bengals in a mock draft is getting to make a list of things that you speculate Mike Brown might be thinking:
  1. That boy Palmer ain't going nowhere, and if he keeps this up, I'm going to trigger his Carl Pickens Clause.
  2. Andre Smith will be healthy this year, so the offensive line is peaches 'n' cream!
  3. On defense, we have that guy with the hair, so we're find on defense.
  4. Palmer will quit being such a little turd if I get him a new toy.
  5. Wait, do we have a running back? Who is our running back? Is it still that fellow with the boat? What's his name again? How'd he do last year?
  6. That Mexican, Julio Jones, might be cheaper, but I don't employ no dadgumming illegals on this team. Father would never have allowed that.
5. Arizona Cardinals - Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
You don't seriously think they're going to go into next season with Max Hall and John Skelton, do you? Neither do I, but this team is in rapid descent, and Ken Whisenhunt needs to eventually hitch his wagon to some kind of quarterback. That said, they should consider developing the best cornerback tandem in the league by drafting Patrick Peterson.

6. Cleveland Browns - Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
This wouldn't be a terrible pick, but it wouldn't be the right one, either. The Browns need to develop a pass rush, and drafting a receiver does not accomplish that. But Mike Holmgren doesn't draft pass rushers. He drafts receivers. Even though Mohammad Massaquoiiisqisiissan and Brian Robiskie are passable, Colt McCoy could use a better target. The Browns should don't need a corner or a return specialist, so Patrick Peterson doesn't make much sense for them, despite his unparalleled awesomeness. However, if another team were looking to move up to get Peterson, the Browns would be the team to call. Cleveland can trade down out of this spot, pick up extra draft picks, and still address their most pressing needs (WR, DL) later in the first round.

7. San Francisco 49ers - Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Convenient that San Fran needs a corner. They should also consider drafting Patrick Peterson.

8. Tennessee Titans - Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Who is running this team? Does anyone know? Is there even anyone left on this team besides Chris Johnson? Nick Fairley seems to be the consensus pick to go at this slot, and I'm just going to go along with that because he addresses Tennessee's primary need for living football players. The Titans could also go for a quarterback here. TCU's Andy Dalton is a possibility, which is such an outrageous misuse of a top-ten pick that if they're willing to make that kind of a reach, you might just as well see them draft Bill Stull.

9. Dallas Cowboys - Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
If it were anyone other than Jerry Jones making this pick, I'd bet on the Cowboys taking an offensive tackle because they're desperately in need of about three of them. But tackles aren't sexy. Jerry Jones likes his picks sexy. Cornerback? Now that's sexy! A cornerback named Prince? MEGASEXY. Jason Garrett needs to lock Jerry Jones in a bathroom so he can trade out of this pick and take a tackle later in the first.

10. Washington Redskins - Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Mike Shanahan loves toolsy quarterbacks (quarterbacks who are tools) with power arms, and Locker fits that mold. He's not worth the tenth overall pick, but Donovan McNabb wasn't worth second- and fourth-round picks and that didn't stop the Redskins from pulling the trigger. Also, the idea that any team would enter a season with Rex Grossman and nobody else is too hilarious to actually come to fruition. The Redskins will ignore their defensive needs and Shanahan will stake his tenure with Washington on Locker.

11. Houson Texans - Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC
Houston needs help at every defensive position not occupied by Mario Williams. If Quinn is off the board, J.J. Watt becomes a likely candidate. The Texans need to draft almost exclusively for defense this year.

12. Minnesota Vikings - Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Tyron Smith lasts this long because he's uncoachably stupid. The Vikings are going to need to convince Brett Favre that he'll be safer this year than he was last year if they're going to get him to come back, and that means adding a tackle. No, I'm not serious. They'll probably take Cameron Jordan or some shit.

13. Detroit Lions - Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College
Matthew Stafford isn't getting any less hurt. Taking a tackle would allow the Lions to move Jeff Backus to guard, and beef up their protection of Stafford's blind side.

14. St. Louis Rams - Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
The Rams' defense sucks.

15. Miami Dolphins - The Other Pouncey, C, Florida
The Steelers' dream of reuniting the Pounceys dies here, as a team makes one of three good picks that you'll see in this first round.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars - Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
Jacksonville's defense sucks, except for Rashean Mathis.

17. New England Patriots - J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
New England's defense sucks.

18. San Diego Chargers - Cameron Jordan, DE, California
San Diego's front seven suck.

19. New York Giants - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
With Costanzo off the board, the Giants take the best available tackle. Look for the Steelers to do nothing here.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
The concern over his knee is legitimate, but he's still an elite talent. This pick will prompt Skip Bayless to completely lose his shit and insinuate that Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan has only fallen this far because NFL teams are racist toward white people.

21. Kansas City Chiefs - Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Just to get Skip to shut the fuck up.

22. Indianapolis Colts - Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Keep Peyton Manning alive.

23. Philadelphia Eagles - Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Sources close to the Eagles have informed FTC that Andy Reid has already checked the box on the draft applet for "autopick" because he wants to get to bed as early as possible tonight before waking up at 5:45 to watch the Royal Wedding. Reid is particularly interested in seeing which of the vacant dukedoms the Queen will bestow upon Prince William. He has his money on Cambridge.

24. New Orleans Saints - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
Positional need.

25. Seattle Seahawks - Anyone, Any Position, Any School
Will Seattle take tackle Derek Sherrod? Sure! Will they roll the dice on FSU quarterback Christian Ponder? You bet! How do they feel about Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling? They love him and want to pick him! The Seahawks are winners here, as long as they select any eligible, living football player.

26. Baltimore Ravens - Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Heyward indignantly quit football after Roger Goodell announces he attended college at "Ohio State" and not "The Ohio State University."

27. Atlanta Falcons - Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
I'm just going to follow Mayock on this one.

28. New England Patriots - Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Bill Belichick loves injury-prone running backs who can not contribute on every down.

29. Chicago Bears - Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pitt
The Bears need a receiver. Also, they need a guard. And a left tackle. And a guard. Two guards, actually. And a center. Also, a linebacker, and probably a quarterback and new coaching staff

30. New York Jets - Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
If you're Rex Ryan, once you've officially cut Vernon Gholston to the point where you're slamming him in your book, it's time to draft a new pass rushing linebacker who can actually play in the 3-4.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers - Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
The Steelers need help at defensive back more than any other position, and Williams is fine here. There's been a lot of buzz the last 24 hours about the Steelers wanting to trade up to take The Other Pouncey, but that would be so expensive that it wouldn't allow them to draft for the depth they need at other positions, like defensive tackle, left tackle, right tackle corner, safety, left guard, Brett Keisel, kicker, punter, offensive coordinator and third-down back.

32. Green Bay Packers - Danny Watkins, G, Baylor
By this point, you've probably tuned out.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Everyone loves a list!

Saw this thing on the webbernet.

Whatever. It's fine. Except for the part where they say Bradshaw was a better first round pick than Mean Joe.

Here's the FTC top 10 list of all time great Steelers' first rounders:

1. Joe Greene
2. Rod Woodson
3. Terry Bradshaw
4. Franco Harris
5. Alan Faneca
6. Troy Polamalu
7. Ben Roethlisberger
8. Casey Hampton
9. Lynn Swann
10. ........

This isn't set in stone, but it's pretty damn correct. Joe Greene was the beginning of everything good in this franchise's history; he was the most dominant defensive lineman of his era; he had a lot more to do with the punishing, smashmouth character that this team developed than anyone else. Rod Woodson is the greatest defensive back ever in history.

Bradshaw won 4 very important games and was very okay in an era when QBs were supposed to be sub-ok. But look: he was a backup to Jefferson Street Joe Gilliam for a season, he was a chronic chucker who gave up a ton of interceptions, and he won because his run game and defense were the best ever in history. I don't think my generation can adequately judge QBs of the past on account of the exponential evolution of offensive schemes and talent standards; however, we have no trouble looking at a guy like Joe Greene and saying "holy shit, if he played now, he'd still be the greatest." Ultimately, this game is really a measure of 1. production, 2. timelessness. Bradshaw did a hell of a lot for this franchise, no taking that away; but Woodson, Greene, maybe even Polamalu... they do a hell of a lot for the entire sport. That's greatness.

Here's hoping we can add Timmons and Pouncey to this list in the not-too-distant future. With #94 finally coming into his own at the old age of 24, and Pouncey being the leader of this team at age 22, all they need to do is not get injured.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Your 2008 Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011

Following up on a feature we did last year, here are the whereabouts and current numbers for the core of the last group of players, all of whom were gone by the beginning of last year.

Nate McLouth: Atlanta's everyday center fielder. 76 plate appearances, .688 OPS, 0 HR
Jason Bay: starting left fielder for New York Mets. Saw his first action of the 2011 season this week after missing all the games due to concussion-like symptoms following concussion.
Adam LaRoche: Washington's starting first baseman. 68 PA, .211/.338/.316, 2 HR.
Xavier Nady: Riding the pine in Arizona. 20 PA in 10 games, .775 OPS
Ronny Paulino: Under contract with the Mets. Has not played this season due to 1) a 50-game suspension imposed after he tested positive for PEDs, and 2) having recently been diagnosed with anemia.
Jack Wilson: Seattle's second baseman on some days. 45 PA, .205/.279/.231. Reported to be fighting with the manager.
Freddy Sanchez: San Fran's starting second baseman. 80 PA, .329/.397/.514. Still refuses to walk.
Nyjer Morgan: Backup with Milwaukee. 27 PA, and a totally unsustainable .500 OBP/.455 BA
Jose Bautista: Toronto's everyday right fielder. 70 PA, .304/.443/.536. Nobody could have possibly seen last season coming, right? And there's no way he repeats it at age 30, right? Right?
Ian Snell: Retired.
Tom Gorzelanny: In Washington's starting rotation. 16.1 IP, 1.88 K:BB, 1.16 WHIP, 4.96 ERA
John Grabow: A fixture in the Cubs' bullpen. 6.2 IP in 9 games, 8.10 ERA, 2.40 WHIP. Walks everybody.
Sean Burnett: A back-end bullpen guy in Washington. Recently pitched in a few save situations and even he didn't seem to understand how that happened. 8.1 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.20 WHIP.
Damaso Marte: Under contract with the Yankees. Likely to miss all season after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery. Manager Joe Girardi optimistic the 54-year-old lefty could be playing catch after the All-Star Break.
Jesse Chavez: Pitching for Royals Triple-A affiliate Omaha, a team that bores children and writers to depression.
Matt Capps: Recently declared the lesser of two evils when stacked against Joe Nathan, now closing for the Twins. 11 IP, 4.09 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 5 K, 0 BB.

I can't really ignore the signs

The powers that be are telling me to blog again.

Last night, I traversed into Downtown Pittsburgh to catch the Decemberists concert at the Benedum Center. When I go down to the Cultural District, I almost always park in the garage at
Sixth Avenue and Fort Duquesne Boulevard. It's incredibly central to everything I like to do Downtown -- right across the bridge from the ballpark, right across the street from the Byham Theater, right down the street from Heinz Hall and Six Penn, and a few short blocks from
Market Square. It's a good parking garage. But I digress...

My friend and I parked in the garage, then caught the elevator down to the lobby. As we were walking through the lobby, we passed by a bulletin board -- the kind with a big glass door over it. Attached to this bulletin board were several pictures of Steelers that someone had obviously just printed off the Internet. And right in the center of this hack-job Steelers photo collage was this:
Right in the middle of this ridiculous little photo collage in the middle of a parking garage lobby in Downtown Pittsburgh is a photo of Willie Colon that two years ago next week, I found on the Internet and added an insulting caption to, then posted it to this very blog. And it was hanging there, totally un-ironically, complete with the caption. I made that, and now, two years later, someone has hung it in the lobby of a parking garage.

I guess what really blows my mind about this -- apart from that I'm now basically indistinguishable from Banksy -- is that someone I do not know who also isn't Jeff Pearlman seemingly reads this blog.

But then shit got weirder.

Again, I was attending a Decemberists concert. You know, indie-folk rock band, kinda old-tymey in their aesthetic, lyrically-driven ballads about love followed by death, everyone in the crowd has the same glasses as me, and we all pretty much look like this:

My friend and I took our seats in the first tier of the balcony. I don't think we were there for more than five minutes before I saw someone nobody would ever think they'd run into at an indie-folk concert.

Want to guess?

I'll give you a hint.

It was Bob Smizik.

Pittsburgh's favorite crotchety old sports columnist was at the Decemberists concert. And he paid the extra few bucks to sit in the Director's Circle seats.

This can mean only one of two things:
1) Seeing Bob Smizik at the concert, I was actually looking into my own future, and I will become a curmudgeonly old naysayer who complains about sports despite not having anything to say, but whose taste in music remains shockingly current.
2) I really need to blog again.

Actually, I guess it could be both or neither of those things, but that's two Smizmas miracles in one evening, and that's good enough for me.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fridays with FRANCO: Opening Week edition

Going into the stadium yesterday, all I could think was "Well, the best part of this first week is that it's put us in a position to be at least .500 for another 48 hours."

Leaving the park, the thought had turned to "Well, only have to do that 80 more times in person."

Somewhere in between those two thoughts, I had a rush of total, sublime delight. There is nothing better than going out to a game on a beautiful day, and win or lose, this season should have enough interesting players to make each trip to the ballpark worth it.

Alright, let me tone that down a little. It's not win or lose-- it's definitely lose.

This first week has been fun, but it's not without some ominous statistical indicators. Namely, our batters striking out 64 times while only taking 20 walks, and slugging a mere .373. Here's the thing: we scored some exciting runs this past week, but we did it with a grandslam and some fielders' choices. The latter tells us that we're still good at making outs, even if it seems like we're good at scoring runs now; the former is an unsustainable way of scoring. Home runs are worth like 1.5-2.5 runs on average -- not 4, and so our "big hits with runners on" is the kind of clutch that regresses back to the fantasy that it is.

Meanwhile, our pitchers have a WHIP around 1.4, and an ERA below 3.00. That's goofy. We're not striking people out, we're still walking a ton... the only thing that hasn't caught up to us is our opponents ability to get the hits to drop when there's someone on, and to make those fly balls turn into home runs. The tide began to turn yesterday, as the Rockies got their hits worth, and Troy Tulowitzki blasted one. This will become a recurring theme, people.

Now for the good:

McCutchen is still the real deal.

Neil Walker isn't, but it's still fun to watch him play (especially when he sports those athletic goggles).

Pedro Alvarez is a struggling question mark, but the thing to remember there is that he was in college three years ago. He's been rushed through the system and he will catch up to the game (I hope).

Jose Tabata is living on base this year, which is great to see.

We have some power arms in our bullpen. Bold prediction: Evan Meek will be fine, and Joel Hanrahan won't lead the league in saves.

More to come on this later. Dollar dogs tonight; strap it on.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It's another MSM!

This from the AP.

To sum up the article: the prosecutors in the Bonds' case were kicking his juiced ass, right up until the other day, when they called a witness (Arthur Ting) who completely contradicted everything another witness said.

Ting was one of the last witnesses the government planned to call. Observers said prosecutors were making good headway with the jury until then.

“With any trial it’s always the last impression that is the most important,” Robert Mintz, a prominent Newark, N.J., defense attorney, said in a phone interview.

Like other experts, he reached for a sports analogy to make sense of the trial’s sudden and dramatic momentum shift.

Is it like a closer blowing a save?

“It was the sports equivalent off coughing up the ball on the 5-yard line,” said Mintz, a federal prosecutor before going into private practice. “Suddenly, the other team has a chance to win.”

Sure, he's not a broadcaster or sportswriter, but I think this still qualifies as a classic mixed sports metaphor. Kudos.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Friday night in the Smize Archives

Nils and I were talking during today's game and it went something like this:

FRANCO: Garrett Olson is really bad at baseball.
NILS: Yes.
FRANCO: He's the kind of guy Dave Littlefield was so good at drafting in the first round.
NILS: Sometimes with the first overall pick.
FRANCO: Hey... what was the deal with Littlefield's hard-on for Xavier Nady?
NILS: He wasn't alone. Bob Smizik also liked Nady.

Hat tip to Nils for inspiring me to find this ditty!

So why gamble on unproven starting pitching, which is all the Pirates are likely to obtain, and disrupt the one proven aspect of the team: its offense?

This is a point we've been over before, regarding Huntington's total gutting of the roster he inherited: they sucked in every way possible. Starting pitching, relief pitching, defense, and yes, offense. The notion that they were just about to find their groove at the plate is ridiculous. Even in 2008, when you have quality years out of Bay, Doumit, LaRoche, McLouth and Nady, the team still managed to finish 13th in the league in OPS. This was not murderer's row, people.

We're suggesting that before the Pirates trade Nady -- and immediately decrease their chances of winning this season and next -- they consider keeping their offense together and gamble with the pitchers they have and may be able to pick up as bargain free agents or in lesser trades.

This is another, documented instance of Smizik speaking in the first person plural. Who the hell else is in the room, Bob?

Also: At the time Nady was traded the Pirates were 48-56. After that and the Jason Bay trade, they went 19-39. Yes, they became a worse team that season. No, they did not have a chance to be .500, even if they had kept those players.

Paul Maholm appears to be maturing into a good pitcher. Zach Duke has shown, after two bad seasons, that he may be of major-league caliber at the bottom of the rotation. It's entirely possible Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny will return to form.

Maholm kind of sucks. He's not flaming dogshit bad, but he's pretty darn mediocre. So no, he's not maturing into anything. He was just having a career year in 2008 to the tune of a sizzling 114 ERA+.

Zach Duke sucks. Now he's injuring himself with the Diamondbacks. Also: what kind of unreasonable thing is it to say "Our pitching might fix itself, just look, we have a guy who sucked recently, but it now looks like he might be a marginal fifth starter!"

Ian Snell did "return to form", going back to his pre-2007 habit of walking over 4 per 9 IP and getting hit like a piñata. Gorzo was just another weak-armed lefty, who doesn't have much on big league hitters.

The Pirates have had some success in the past with finding pitchers at a reasonable rate. Williams, the team's best closer since Kent Tekulve, and Todd Ritchie, who won 35 games in three years from 1999-2001, were picked up off the baseball scrap heap. A slow market enabled the Pirates to get Jeff Suppan for one season in 2003.

Ah yes, the Miracle Bucs of 2003. And who could forget Todd Ritchie? Maybe the Smize was right: what Neal Huntington needed in 2008 was a scrap heap pitcher of Ritchie's caliber.

Todd Ritchie: 43-54, 4.71 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 5.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9
Paul Maholm: 47-59, 4.48 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 5.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9

Oh. Right. Mediocre scrap-heap pitchers were our specialty already.

Okay... so this is pretty goofy of me, picking on a guy with three years of hindsight on my side. But what I'm now about to show you justifies us digging this baby back up.


The notion that prized prospect Andrew McCutcheon will make the departure of Nady bearable doesn't make a lot of sense. McCutcheon is going to be a good player, probably better than Nady, but it's doubtful he'll reach his peak in 2009 or even 2010. In Barry Bonds' first four seasons, his batting averages were .223, .261, .283 and .248. It's not like McCutcheon is tearing apart Class AAA. He's batting .282 with eight home runs in 352 at bats.

1) This man is a sports writer for a legitimate newspaper. How was he able to misspell McCutchen?

2) Was the departure of Xavier Nady really that unbearable for anyone? (Leave a comment below if it was, we'll send you a pierogi in the mail.)

3) It is very doubtful that Cutch has reached his peak, in fact, let's hope he keeps getting better. But here's the thing, in 2009 and 2010 alone, he's been worth 6.4 Wins Above Replacement level. Xavier Nady, in a nine-year career, has totaled a WAR of 2.1.

4) Barry Bonds' WAR in his first four seasons was 22.2. If given the choice of watching a young Barry Bonds steal a bunch of bases, play stellar defense, hit some home runs, take some walks and struggle with batting average, or a mid-career Xavier Nady go on a high BAbip spree, I'd probably take the former. Probably.

5) Fuck the heck?? How is any of this relevant? Because Barry Bonds didn't have a high batting average and because Andrew McCutchen was only hitting .280 something in AAA, we shouldn't have traded high on Nady while we had the chance??

Classic stuff. Happy opening day, everyone.