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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Minnesota Vikings' Best Draft Picks--Robert Smith

Robert Smith, the Vikings all-time leading rusher.

By Ted Glover

April 27, 2011


You guys knew it was a matter of time before I could somehow talk about an Ohio State grad here, didn't you? Some of the best players to ever wear a Vikings uniform were graduates of Ohio State, but the two best, Jim Marshall and Cris Carter, weren't draft picks of the team, making them ineligible for this sponsored post.

But Robert Smith was drafted by the Vikes, and he went to Ohio State, so BOOYA!
Let's talk about the Vikings all time leading rusher, shall we?

In 1993, the Vikings had a first round draft pick for the first time since 1988, all because of The Running Back Who Shall Not Be Named. They didn't really need a running back, because Terry Allen had just rushed for over 1,200 yards and scored 13 TD's in 1992, and seemed like a long term answer. And that made the Smith pick all the more surprising, seeing as how he had been viewed as, essentially, a brittle malcontent coming out of OSU. He had openly criticized the coaching staff for pressuring him to forego going to class and devote more time to football, but then he declared for the draft as a redshirt sophomore. Because of his injury history and perceived attitude, not a lot of people had Smith as a first round guy, but the Vikings took him with the 21st overall pick.

Smith had a hard time staying healthy at Ohio State which carried over to the NFL, and in his first few years in Minnesota, he seemed like he was on his way to bust status. He was constantly hurt, and when Allen tore his knee up and couldn't play in 1993, Smith hurt his knee and played sparingly. In 1994, a hip injury caused him to miss two games, in 1995 he missed half the season because of a bad ankle sprain. In 1996, it was an MCL tear that caused him to miss half the season, and the fans were ready to move on, despite some flashes of true brilliance when he was actually on the field.

Although Smith would only play 16 games once in his career, starting in 1997 he was able to stay relatively healthy, and his career took off, running for over 1,200 yards while averaging 5.5 yards a carry.

In 1998, the Vikings set the NFL on it's collective ear offensively, steamrolling through the NFL on their way to a 15-1 record. Smith was a key component of that team, earning his first Pro Bowl nod, while averaging just under 5 yards a carry and rushing for 1,187 yards. He also answered some durability questions by carrying the ball 249 times, while catching another 28 passes for nearly 300 yards, a career best. In the playoffs, he ran for 124 yards in the steamrolling of the Cardinals, and was a horse in what most of us thought was the game-clinching drive against Atlanta in the NFC championship game. Until, you know... Excuse me while I go outside and cuss.

There, much better.

Smith battled some injuries in 1999, but still had over 1,000 yards rushing and was a key guy in getting the Vikings back in to the playoffs. He set the Vikings single game playoff record when he shredded the Cowboys for 140 yards in the Wild Card round (his 124 against the Cardinals was the second best) and he is second best all time rushing in the playoffs for the team.

2000 was Smith's best year. He started all 16 games, set career bests in rushing and receiving (1,521 yards rushing, 348 receiving) and touchdowns for both rushing and receiving. It was also his career best in carries (295), and second best in yards per carry (5.2).

Smith abruptly retired after 2000, right when he was at the height of his career, and as a free agent he had a big payday coming due. After a rough start, he ended his career with 4 straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons, a team record (which has been tied by Adrian Peterson and will probably be broken in 2011), 6,818 yards rushing, also a team record, and was second in team history in playoff rushing yards while posting the two best rushing days in Vikings post season history.

Not too shabby for a guy that got off to a rough start, and earning his way onto our list.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Marshal Yanda recognized as a best pick, 2006-2010



Draft breakdown: Best and worst '06-'10

April 27, 2011

By Jamison Hensley

A look at the best and worst picks in the Ravens' drafts:

2006

Best: Haloti Ngata, DT, first round. The Ravens really got great value with safety Dawan Landry (fifth round) and punter Sam Koch (sixth). Still, getting Ngata with the 12th overall pick was a steal. Guessing Tennessee (took Vince Young with third overall) and Arizona (Matt Leinart with the 10th) are regretting their decisions.

Worst: David Pittman, CB, third round. The Ravens wanted Ohio State cornerback Ashton Youboty, who went earlier in the third. So, they settled with Pittman, who lasted two full seasons and will go down as one of the team’s biggest third-round busts.

2007

Best: Marshal Yanda, guard-tackle, third round. Yanda is the epitome of what the Ravens want out of an offensive line. He’s tough, mean and versatile. Put him in at guard or tackle and Yanda will perform at a high level.

Worst: Yamon Figurs, WR, third round. Just 15 picks before taking Yanda, the Ravens made the ill-advised move of taking a track runner instead of a football player. The frustrating part was when Figurs lost the courage to return kicks up the middle of the field.

2008


Best: Ray Rice, RB, second round. The Ravens would have taken Rice with their original second-round pick (at No. 38). But they were able to trade back to No. 55 and still get Rice along with an additional third-round pick (for Tom Zbikowski). Seattle used that 38th overall pick on tight end John Carlson.

Worst: Tavares Gooden, LB, third round. He was touted as “Baby Ray,” another fast linebacker out of Miami. Over the past two seasons, Gooden has lost the starting job to two undrafted rookies, Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain. Durability is a big question mark.

2009

Best: Michael Oher, OT, first round. Considered a top-10 pick, Oher slid down the first round after San Francisco went with wide receiver Michael Crabtree instead. While Oher might not be the answer on “The Blind Side,” he still has the potential to be a Pro Bowl right tackle.

Worst: Paul Kruger, DE, second round. In two seasons, he’s had more changes in position (defensive end to linebacker to defensive end again) than sacks (one).

2010

Best: David Reed, WR, fifth round. He led the NFL with a 29.3-yard kickoff return average as a rookie. While he didn’t have a catch as a rookie, Reed should have an opportunity to compete for the No. 3 job this season.

Worst: Sergio Kindle, LB, second round. Despite the red flags, the Ravens decided to gamble and use their top pick in the 2010 draft on Kindle. He suffered a potential career-ending head injury when he fell down two flights of stairs before training camp and then got arrested for drunken driving. There are no guarantees he’ll ever suit up for the Ravens.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Finding gems buried in draft




By Tom Pedulla

April 25, 2011

Teams that enjoy success in the NFL draft are able to delve beyond obvious first-round selections to find overlooked talents in the middle rounds and later who can be developed into impact players. USA TODAY's Tom Pedulla joins them in a weekly search for Draft Gems leading to the April 28-30 selection process at New York's Radio City Music Hall:

K Alex Henery

• Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 175

• School: Nebraska

• Hometown: Omaha

• Key statistic: Converted all 14 of his postseason field goal attempts.

• College highlights: Set NCAA record by making 89.5% of his field goal tries (68 of 76). Also set NCAA mark for accuracy on extra points, missing once in 194 kicks. First-team All-American went 18-of-19 on field goals last season. Lone miss was a blocked 51-yarder. Walk-on closed career with three successive 100-point seasons and set school record with 397 points. Strong punter as well, averaging 43.2 yards per boot.

• Upside: Possesses length strength, accuracy and poise to be a money kicker and a difference-maker in big games.

• Downside: Did not handle kickoff duties at Nebraska, a hole in the resume that may concern some teams.

• Projected round: Sixth.

• Coach's quote: "He's very calm under pressure. He faced a lot of big moments for us, and he always came through." —Nebraska special teams coordinator John Papuchis

• Draft expert: "Henery is the top field goal kicker to come out of the college ranks in the last few years. His accuracy is outstanding." —Rob Rang, senior analyst, NFLDraftScout.com

NFL Players Show Irreparable Harm; Preliminary Injunction On Lockout Is Granted


Sports Agent Blog

April 26, 2011

The NFL Lockout is enjoined…for the moment.  But let’s live in the moment and take a look at the opinion handed down yesterday by Judge Susan Richard Nelson in the United States District Court District of Minnesota.

The dry and dirty: The motion for a preliminary injunction on the NFL Lockout was granted.
If you want a nice history lesson, start reading from the beginning of the opinion.  Otherwise, skip to page 13 and pay close attention to the following blurb:

A lockout occurs when an employer lays off or ‘locks out’ its unionized employees during a labor dispute to bring economic pressure in support of the employer’s bargaining position. See American Ship Bldg. Co. v.N.L.RB., 380 U.S. 300, 301-302 (1965) (permitting management lockouts as a collective bargaining negotiating tool, as a counterpart to a union’s right to strike).

From here on, you know what Judge Nelson is going to say.  Since the players were technically not unionized when the NFL decided to lock out the players, it was technically not a justifiable lockout.  Read on and you will understand that Judge Nelson did not believe the decertification of the NFLPA as a union to be any sort of sham.

To justify an injunction on the lockout, the Plaintiffs had to show irreparable harm had it stayed in place.  This is the type of harm which cannot be tied to a particular dollar amount.  The other three elements needed to be proven were: fair chance at success on the merits, the irreparable harm outweighs the harm an injunction would cause the NFL, and that the injunction was in the public interest.  Shout out to agents Frank Bauer, Tom Condon, Neil Cornrich, Tony Agnone, William Vann McElroy, Donald Yee, and Neil Schwartz for providing persuasive declarations to the Judge.  Even more persuasive were the cited cases with authority where the Court “recognized that the threat of harm shown by Plaintiffs here, including lost playing time, constitutes irreparable harm.”

The Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1935: The NFL wanted to use this Act to preclude injunctive relief, but failed in its effort.  It failed because Judge Nelson found that the Plaintiffs were no longer represented by a Union, which is something the NFL continues to dispute, stating that decertification was a sham and that the NFLPA is still practically the same unit as it was prior to its purported transition to a trade association.  Judge Nelson also did not buy the NFL’s argument that the question of whether decertification was a sham or not was a decision to be made exclusively by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to decide, and/or that she should hold off on granting an injunction until after the NLRB ruled on the NFL’s unfair labor practice charge (regarding the supposed sham decertification).’

Skip to the end of page 24 and Judge Nelson starts to attack some of the NFL’s arguments, finding different interpretations of the holdings in cases cites by the NFL in an effort to defend its position.

Page 32 in bold: The Minimal, If Any, Benefit That Might Be Derived From Seeking The NLRB’s Expertise Here Is Clearly Outweighed By The Delay Involved, Particularly Where The Players Are Incurring Ongoing Irreparable Harm.  And there is the money shot.  Even though the NLRB has expertise with regards to decertification, Judge Nelson did not believe that staying the action and referring it to the NLRB was worth the substantial delay and continuance of irreparable harm.  Further, Judge Nelson did not think that an expert was necessary to analyze the decertification.

Here is another money shot on page 35: But there is no legal support for any requirement that a disclaimer be permanent. Employees have the right not only to organize as a union but also to refrain from such representation and, as relevant here, to “de-unionize.” 29 U.S.C. § 157

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Aaron Kampman named one of the Top 10 Draft Steals of the 2000s


NFL Draft 2011: Tom Brady and the Top 10 Steals of the 2000s

By Robert Quinn

April 7, 2011

Each year, GM's, Scouts and football fans alike scour the NCAA for the best talent possible. However, there is always a hidden gem that slips through the cracks and becomes a star in the NFL. This slideshow will explore the previous drafts from this decade, and the biggest steals that came as a result.

2000: QB Tom Brady, Round Six, No. 199 Overall

Originally believed to be a competent backup for then-starter Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady is one of the biggest steals in NFL draft history. Brady has won three Super Bowls, passed for 34,744 yards, 261 touchdowns, and 91 interceptions.

2001: WR T.J. Houshmanzadeh, Round Seven, No. 204 Overall

Coming out of Oregon State University in 2001, T.J. Houshmanzadeh was a no name wide receiver who added little more than a body on the depth chart for the Cincinnati Bengals.

After three seasons with a total of only 60 receptions for a little over 600 yards, T.J posted six straight seasons recording at least 70 receptions and 900 yards, scoring 40 touchdowns, before a subpar 2010 season with the Baltimore Ravens.


2002: DE Aaron Kampman, Round Five, No. 156 Overall

Aaron Kampman was selected out of Iowa as an unheralded defensive end with little upside. Nine years later, Kampman has recorded over 300 tackles, 58 sacks, and 12 forced fumbles, in addition to being selected to multiple Pro Bowls.

Talk about bang for your buck!


2003: CB Asante Samuel, Round Four, No. 120 Overall

Coming out of the virtually unknown University of Central Florida in 2003, Samuel was pretty much viewed as a consensus special teamer. Now, he is a Super Bowl champion with almost 350 career tackles, 42 interceptions and is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

2004: DE Jared Allen, Round Four, No. 126 Overall

Jared Allen, leader of the Mullet Militia, is one of the most feared defensive ends in the entire NFL. In his short career, he already has 391 tackles and 83 sacks. He has batted away 39 passes as well.

2005: DE Trent Cole, Round Five, No. 146 Overall


When the Philadelphia Eagles selected Trent Cole, Cincinnati defensive end in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL Draft, no one knew how much of a steal the No. 146 overall selection would become.

In his seven professional seasons, Cole has wreaked havoc on opposing offensive linemen, recording 377 tackles and 57 sacks.

2006: WR Marques Colston, Round Seven, No. 252 Overall


When a player is selected in the seventh round, he is considered lucky to earn a position on special teams coverage or returns. In Marques Colston's case, it means multiple Pro Bowls and huge catches.

In his five professional seasons, Colston has caught at least 70 passes for 1,000 yards four times, scoring 40 touchdowns, and has been a potent weapon in the New Orleans Saints offense.

2007: TE Kevin Boss, Round Five, No. 153 Overall

New York Giants' tight end Kevin Boss has been a consistent chain mover since being selected with the 153rd overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. In his four seasons in the National Football league, Boss has caught 119 passes for 1,600 yards, while scoring 18 times and gaining 77 first downs.

2008: RB Jamaal Charles, Round Three, No. 73 Overall

Eight running backs were selected before Jamaal Charles heard his name called in the 2008 NFL Draft, when the Kansas City Chiefs struck gold with their No. 73 overall selection in the third round.

Charles has averaged 6.0 yards per carry over his three year career in the NFL, and has rushed for 2,944 yards in his one-and-a-half seasons as a starter, scoring 12 touchdowns, adding another 112 receptions for 1,037 yards and five touchdowns out of the backfield.

2009: WR Mike Wallace, Round Three, No. 84 Overall


After two seasons in the National Football League, Pittsburgh Steelers' wide receiver, Mike Wallace, has already outplayed his status as a third round draft pick in 2009.

Averaging just over 20 yards per reception, Wallace has caught 99 passes for 2,013 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2009 and 2010. His speed is unmatched, and is a deep threat at any time in any game.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Ravens find "greatest success" running behind Yanda



Ravens Ran Left, But Gained More To Right

RAVENS’ FACTS AND FIGURES

By Joe Platania

March 30, 2011

A few statistical tidbits to help bide your time during the lockout:

- Despite Michael Oher’s struggles at left tackle, the Ravens ran the ball over left tackle a league-high 96 times last year. They also led the league in running over left guard, which they did 103 times over Pro Bowl alternate Ben Grubbs. But they had their greatest success going behind right tackle Marshal Yanda (4.81 yards per carry, seventh in the league).

- As far as opposing running games are concerned, they had their best gains against the Ravens when running over left tackle, gaining 4.34 yards per carry. But their worst numbers came behind left guard (3.13), as the Ravens’ huge defensive tackles came more into the picture.

- Even though the Ravens’ deep passing game was nonexistent for the most part, last year’s team was ninth in the league in average gain on passes to the deep left sideline (12.51 yards per attempt). Not only that, Joe Flacco’s 46.3% completion rate to that direction was fifth in the NFL.

- However, the deep left was also the Achilles heel for the Ravens’ pass defense, as it allowed 14.44 yards per completion (second-worst in the league) and 44.4% completions in that sector (seventh-worst).

- Most fans are aware that wideout Derrick Mason’s streak of 138 straight games played is second among NFL receivers to Reggie Wayne (150). But in a bit of a surprise, given how the quarterback position is perceived as being devoid of harm, Joe Flacco’s 48-game streak -- covering every possible regular-season game of his career -- is the fourth-longest active streak at that position. Peyton Manning leads at 208.

- Linebacker Jarret Johnson’s 113-game streak is the new franchise record, and it is also the longest among AFC players at his position. The only players ahead of him with active streaks are Washington’s London Fletcher (208), Dallas’ Keith Brooking (160) and the Cowboys’ Bradie James (126).

- Among centers, Matt Birk has played in 80 straight games, ironically tied for fifth with St. Louis Rams starter and former Raven draft pick Jason Brown. Kansas City’s Casey Wiegmann leads this category with a 159-game skein.

- The Ravens’ run-first identity may be fading. Last season, first down was the only down on which Baltimore ran more than it passed (266 runs, 185 passes). Not only that, the team averaged 6.5 yards per pass on first down and 3.7 yards per rush. An eye-opening stat: the Ravens ran the ball just 36 times on third down last year, averaging a paltry 2.17 yards per play.

- Baltimore’s 30:42 per-game possession time average marked the fifth time in the last six years and sixth time in the last eight seasons it had averaged more than 30 minutes in that category.

- The Ravens recovered only seven fumbles last year, tied with six other teams for the fourth-fewest in the league behind doormats such as Jacksonville (four), Houston (five) and Denver (six). Ray Lewis led the team with three.

- Flacco’s average pass length last year was 9.08 yards, making him one of five passers among the NFL’s ten top-rated quarterbacks to average over nine yards in this category. But his receivers gained just 4.93 yards after the catch, one of only two of the top ten quarterbacks to have that problem (Manning, 4.19).

- Among last year’s top ten NFL rushers, the Ravens’ Ray Rice was one of only three to have averaged under four yards per carry (3.97). The others were St. Louis’ Steven Jackson and Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall.

- Kicker Billy Cundiff led the Ravens in scoring last year with 117 points, the 14th season in the Ravens‘ 15-year history that a kicker had posted the most points. In 2009, running back Willis McGahee tallied a team-high 84, thanks to his 14 touchdowns.

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