Saturday, May 5, 2012

A college football playoff? Say it ain't so!

If you have not yet read my College Sports Madness colleague Dan Levine’s piece on this topic, check it out here. He describes the feelings held by most…well, most people with a heartbeat.

Unfortunately for him and for all of you who agree, he is wrong. It happens to the best of us. There is no shame in being wrong. It happened to me once, back in the 90’s. I think it was a Tuesday. Anyways, the College football powers that be making a playoff imminent seems like a fool’s errand. They are destroying the one advantage they have over every other major American sport going.

All you average sports fans, real quick, a quiz for you: who won the Big 12 basketball regular season title this past season? It happened literally within the past few months. You are thinking to yourself it was probably Kansas but it might have been Missouri…or did Baylor pull it out? You want to know the answer? The answer is: it doesn’t matter. It never matters. Nothing in the regular season of college basketball ever matters. The same goes for Major League Baseball, the NBA and don’t even get me started on hockey. Could the regular season possibly mean LESS than it does in the NHL? It’s almost a secretly, well concocted joke at this point.

It is debatable whether the NFL regular season is important. It matters because you have to make the playoffs but ask the New York Giants if they felt like they were the best team during this past year’s regular season. College football has a monopoly on the Regular Season and that should mean something.

As amateur football currently stands in division one, every game means the world from week one through December. If you want to get serious for a minute and think about it, with the exception of the teams in the literal National Championship game in January, every other team’s LEAST important game is actually their bowl game. It means squat.

So instead of banking on this week after week excitement, college football wants to turn to a playoff system, relegating the regular season to something between what the NFL currently offers us and what the NHL drags out claiming to be professional hockey. No longer will that awesome November weekend game between top teams matter as much. A team eliminating itself from title contention with a single loss will be a thing of the past. The pressure and subsequently the will of the best players to perform at their peak execution game after game will dissipate. College football will become…normal. And I for one would hate to see that happen.

2012 NFL Draft Grades

1) Indianapolis Colts
Grade: A-
            Andrew Luck as their first pick was a no-brainer. This does not diminish their selection though. He is indeed the best quarterback prospect since John Elway. Adding two tight end weapons later on, both with first round talent, is a bonus. Their best value pick came in round five in the form of Josh Chapman, a player once thought of as a first day possibility.

2) Washington Redskins
Grade: B-
            Robert Griffin III is the guy Washington wanted. However, they gave up an awful lot to get him and he is not nearly the sure thing Andrew Luck is deemed to be. Pretty much their entire draft rests on RGIII’s success: a worrisome outcome for a team that has been without a quarterback for so long.

3) Cleveland Browns
Grade: C-
            Two first round selections hardly buoyed their draft grade when they make the picks they did. Giving up three additional late round picks for the right to draft Trent Richardson third seems silly when he would most assuredly have been available at their original slot if Minnesota kept their pick. Brandon Weeden later in round one was even more questionable as he seems hardly better than Colt McCoy is, and years older than McCoy, who already has years of NFL experience.

4) Minnesota Vikings
Grade: B
            Trading back in round three, picking up three additional picks and still getting their man Matt Kalil is a move to be admired. Their second pick of day one was a little more questionable as safety Harrison Smith seems to have a low ceiling in the minds of scouts.

5) Jacksonville Jaguars
Grade: B-
Trading up to select Justin Blackmon makes sense but the many holes elsewhere on the Jags’ roster were not necessarily filled. With only six total picks made and one being a punter in round three, Jacksonville left some talent on the board. Andre Branch in round two was a nice selection though.

6) Dallas Cowboys
Grade: B
            Giving up their second round pick to trade up and get Morris Claiborne is the kind of big draft day move fans usually like from their teams. It certainly addresses a major team need and he was the best cornerback in the draft but his Wonderlic test and the fact that Dallas never interviewed him send up some red flags. Their best pick was Danny Coale, a wide receiver taken in round five. He is tremendously reliable and should fit in well as a possession receiver.

7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Grade: B
Tampa Bay took the best safety in the draft and the second best running back with their two first round picks. It filled two major team needs. They also selected Lavonte David in round two, a player many people felt might go in round one.

8) Miami Dolphins
Grade: C+
Two great picks cannot fully be offset by Miami’s first selection. Taking Jonathan Martin in round two and Lamar Miller in round four are both tremendous. However, Ryan Tannehill is who this draft will be made or broken with and not only is he a huge question mark; it remains to be seen whether he can actually play better than Miami’s current quarterback option: Matt Moore.

9) Carolina Panthers
Grade: B
Luke Kuechly is a solid first round selection. Joe Adams could be a difference maker as a return man in round four. However, Carolina missed on a number of team needs including defensive tackle and outside linebacker.

10) Buffalo Bills
Grade: B+
Although they added no quarterback depth and will rely fully on Ryan Fitzpatrick for the foreseeable future, Stephon Gilmore and Cordy Glenn make up one of the best two round combinations of players any team made.

11) Kansas City Chiefs
Grade: C+
Dontari Poe is a very risky pick, especially in round one. Adding offensive line help and skill position players later could not offset the uncertainty created by Poe as their draft anchor.

12) Philadelphia Eagles
Grade: B-
Giving up two mid-round picks for Fletcher Cox seems fair. Nick Foles is also a nice backup quarterback possibility with what Philadelphia was forced to trot out on the field last year when Michael Vick went down.

13) Arizona Cardinals
Grade: B
Michael Floyd is a nice weapon to place opposite Larry Fitzgerald in the Arizona offense. He should open up the middle of the field for Fitzgerald on crossing routes as well as for backs and tight ends running shorter routes. Their best value pick was Bobby Massie in round four.

14) St. Louis Rams
Grade: B+
Trading down and taking Michael Brockers is a nice move for a team needing help all over their defense. By taking Janoris Jenkins in round two, St. Louis makes the statement that they are willing to take risks in the hopes of adding talent to a depleted roster.

15) Seattle Seahawks
Grade: D
Adding two additional mid-round picks by trading down in round one does little to offset making the biggest reach of the draft. Taking Bruce Irvin, a part-time player with limited upside as their first selection would have been questionable even for a team with the luxury of taking a player with one specific skill. Seattle does not even have that luxury. Russell Wilson has the potential to carve out a spot for himself in this league but having already paid big money for Matt Flynn this offseason, Seattle again seems to be the wrong fit for this move.

16) New York Jets
Grade: B-
Stephen Hill is a great round two pick. The Jets also added depth at OLB and RB: two areas of need. Yet taking Quinton Coples in round one is too risky to warrant a higher grade. There were better, safer players still available who play the exact same position as Coples when the Jets made this selection.

17) Cincinnati Bengals
Grade: A
The overall quality and quantity of Cincinnati’s picks led to this grade. Dre Kirkpatrick fills a giant need as the team’s first selection. Kevin Zeitler might have been a bit of a reach as their next selection yet Wisconsin offensive linemen are as solid as they come. Devon Still in round two is a smart pick and the Bengals also managed to add weapons at receiver, tight end and running back, including Dan Herron, a possible contributor from the sixth round.

18) San Diego Chargers
Grade: A-
San Diego’s draft is oversimplified yet overshadowed by the first player they took. Melvin Ingram was thought of as a top ten possibility so not only was he great value at the Charger’s selection, he also addressed one of their biggest team needs.

19) Chicago Bears
Grade: C
Always worrisome is the player that flew up draft boards real late in the process, well after games were finished being played. Shea McClellin might turn into a good player but he shows evidence of being another combine-mover. Alshon Jeffery was also questionable coming off a bad year and coming into the draft process overweight. To make matters worse, Chicago didn’t address their need at defensive end or their biggest need on the offensive line.

20) Tennessee Titans
Grade: B-
Tennessee delivered a nice, solid draft. Kendall Wright is a weapon to pair with a returning Kenny Britt. Zach Brown is a nice selection as well. By addressing some team needs, the Titans neither disappointed nor blew anyone away with their weekend moves.

21) New England Patiots
Grade: B+
Normally fond of trading back, New England went in another direction by trading up twice on day one. Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower are both talented defensive players who can greatly help the Patriots pretty quickly. Their best pick might have been Alfonzo Dennard in round seven.

22) Detroit Lions
Grade: A-
Detroit’s franchise outlook seems to be shifting. Riley Reiff was great value late in round one. And going Oklahoma-heavy in the rest of the draft is an easy way to collect talent. Ryan Broyles’ production was historic in college. Coming off an injury was the only reason he dropped on draft day. Ronnell Lewis in round four and Travis Lewis in round seven were both good risks to take as well.

23) Pittsburgh Steelers
Grade: A-
Pittsburgh needed help along their offensive line in a major way. Taking David DeCastro, the best guard in the draft, and Mike Adams, a first round talent at OT in round two, is a great way to fill that void. Chris Rainey’s speed and versatility in round five was a bonus.

24) Houston Texans
Grade: B+
Grabbing the national leader in sacks and forced fumbles late in round one is solid reasoning. Whitney Mercilus will try to fill the void left by Mario Williams. DeVier Posey was a nice pick in round three but Houston’s best pick was Jared Crick in round four.

25) Green Bay Packers
Grade: B
A team like Green Bay has few roster holes. Rushing the passer was one of them. Their first two selections both addressed this. Nick Perry, the USC rush end and Jerel Worthy, the big tackle in round two, both should help a depleted defensive line.

26) Baltimore Ravens
Grade: B+
Trading away their first round pick and still being able to nab Courtney Upshaw in round two is great draft work. With their other second round pick, Baltimore took offensive guard Kelechi Osemele to help with depth.

27) San Francisco 49ers
Grade: C
Taking a downfield, speed wide receiver was a good option to complement Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. The problem was San Francisco didn’t take the best one available. In addition, LaMichael James seemed superfluous to a team already with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter in the backfield.

28) Denver Broncos
Grade: B-
Denver made a lot of moves which seemed to not get them very far. They addressed some team needs, swapped mid-round selections, added some additional picks and added a quarterback for the future. But for a team that just added Peyton Manning and might have been trying to make a splash for the current roster, Denver missed the boat.

29) New York Giants
Grade: B+
The Giants lost Brandon Jacobs and needed a replacement running back: check. They lost Mario Manningham and needed a replacement slot receiver: check. They added depth to their defensive backfield: one of the most banged up spots on their roster for the past few seasons. In addition to tight end depth and offensive line help, the Giants would have hit a home run if they were able to add any type of linebacker help but they were not.

30) Oakland Raiders
Grade: C
It is hard to make a huge improvement to a weak roster without high draft picks. Only the future will determine the real value of Oakland’s 2012 draft but after that horrendous Carson Palmer trade where they gave up all those high picks, it was going to be tough to make any kind of headway this draft.

31) Atlanta Falcons
Grade: B-
No first round pick set Atlanta up to add some defensive help late and a solid center, Peter Konz, in round two. Their big draft splash was Julio Jones last year and they took him knowing it would effect this year’s options.

32) New Orleans Saints
Grade: C+
New Orleans did the best they could with the situation they put themselves in. Without a first round pick from a prior deal with New England and having lost their second round pick because of the penalties from Gregg Williams’ bounties, the Saints were forced to fill holes with late rounders. Nick Toon was an impressive receiver in college and getting him in the fourth round is a nice pick.