Monday, February 13, 2017

Weekly Bag of Footballs - Feb 13

Yesterday was the first Sunday without football that we have had in a long time, and I will confess that it was less than ideal.  I will come to terms with life without football as I always do, but that doesn't mean that checking the TV listings at 2 in the afternoon on a Sunday gets any easier when you see that it is gone.  We will carry on.
Regardless, on Mondays during this spring, I will roll out a collection of my football thoughts from the week that was and sprinkle in some of your feedback to give you something to read and hopefully this will represent a little oasis for us both.

Drama in Washington

Maybe the most interesting thing that I have seen in the last week comes to us from Washington where there appears to be some level of discontent between their front office and GM Scot McCloughan.  Most across the NFL seemed very impressed that the Redskins were able to hire McCloughan and to allow him to overhaul the roster when he was hired about 24 months ago.  They immediately won the division in his first year and they finished the 2016 season with 36 of the 53 players on their roster being new players that he had put in place.  However, it appears that Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen are losing faith in McCloughan already and have not allowed him to visit with the media in the customary spots -- after the season ended at the Senior Bowl, etc.  Now, this might be nothing, except that we can all remember back in November with Kirk Cousins took a very odd approach to public emotion when he lit into McCloughan briefly on the sideline after they beat Green Bay on Sunday Night Football.  Cousins, of course, was still annoyed to play on the franchise tag and surely has been known to occasionally lose decorum in front of cameras.
Additionally, the 2016 draft class had mixed reviews with TCU WR Josh Doctson injured all year and no contributions of major substance from that group aside from the Su'a Cravens project.  The 2015 draft class certainly impressed, but you might not look much deeper than the QB situation as McCloughan seemed quite comfortable making Cousins earn a long-term deal and prove his value, while the QB tried to let the world know how insulting a 1-year deal at $19.9 million truly can be. 
There are truly a few things to keep an eye on here, with the QB situation front and center.  Let's not forget the Redskins' handling of their last QB situation helped the Shanahan family exit stage left from Washington over the health and happiness of Robert Griffin III. And remember that Bruce Allen, the last guy in charge of the Redskins' personnel department, appears to oversee the work of McCloughan. The Eagles showed us about 12 months ago how swimmingly things can go when dueling GMs are wandering through a front office.  Usually, the one with the ear of the emotional owner wins.  And that appears to still be Bruce Allen. And if I may be so bold, it also seems that the Snyder/Allen combo think more highly of Cousins than the acting GM.  Stay tuned, but if you like to see the Redskins struggle, then Snyder chasing McCloughan away in quick fashion would make you smile. 

A second look at Carl Lawson

-- Meanwhile, I was able to complete my first batch of pass rushers for the 2017 NFL draft class this past week.  I hope you got a chance to look at it, but here is the link with a breakdown of Michigan's Taco Charlton, Missouri's Charles Harris, Tennessee's Derek Barnett, UCLA's Takk McKinley, and Auburn's Carl Lawson.  They all appear to be studs, and if any of them fall to 28, they appear worthy of the Dallas Cowboys' first-round pick.
The one that gets a little sticky is Auburn's Lawson.  He has all sorts of edge ability and a few of the draft guys I really respect -- CBS' Dane Brugler, in particular has matched the Cowboys with Lawson. 
But, the film study and more importantly a conversation with a scout suggests to me that Lawson doesn't really match up with the Cowboys' personnel situation.  He appears to be the dreaded Sam LB/nickel pass rusher.  Now, if you need a pass rusher, you go get him, but the question will be if he has a home in the 4-3 on first and second down.  Lawson is a real freak player, so I am willing to be convinced otherwise, but of the five players I looked at, Lawson was the one that I didn't like as a traditional DE in run situations.  And, if he is just a Sam LB, we should know that the Cowboys don't spend much time playing those guys.  They have 2 LBs on the field (Mike, the middle LB, and Will, weakside) in about 70 percent of situations.  But, of course, if you are in nickel, maybe you are just worried about pass rushers.  On the other hand, if you are in nickel, isn't it even more important your four D-linemen up front can hold their water if a team wants to run at you out of 11 personnel all day? 
I need to spend more time on Lawson before we have to narrow it down in April.  There is no question that this draft process is about projections and sometimes that can leave plenty of gray area.  But my initial look and that scout conversation has me leery about him here, despite what Brugler and others are saying when they match him up with Dallas.  I really like him and his future in the NFL, although his health history gives everyone pause.  But you want to be careful about the size of your DEs and you also want to keep in mind that this roster is filling up with D-linemen, so you only want to take one that high if you are sure he fits better than anything you currently have.   My first look says he is a better fit as a 3-4 edge. 

Myles from reality

Any of us who cover the Cowboys and the draft are getting bombarded with Myles Garrett-to-Dallas emails.  He wants to play in his hometown for his favorite team, and the Cowboys want a game-breaking pass rusher.  So, he will be this year's version of the "Cowboys fan's pipe dream." 
Nobody is saying he doesn't want to be here.  Nobody is saying the Cowboys don't want him.  But, hopefully, everyone understands how insane this idea is.  To move up for the Julio Jones trade, the Falcons jumped from pick No. 27 to 6.  The Cowboys are at pick No. 28 and would need to get to 1.  The Falcons paid their first-, second- and fourth-rounders from that year and their first- and fourth-rounders from the next year.  So, for the Cowboys, you can assume it would take three first-rounders and all of their picks from this year to get close on the draft value chart. 
In other words, stop it.  It isn't happening.  And NO, tossing in Tony Romo as added value is not getting you there, either.  So, save your email.  It just has no chance whatsoever. 

Franchise ranking feedback

I received plenty of feedback on the NFL Franchise Rankings this past week.  I appreciate everyone reading and I love doing it.  In fact, if you want to spreadsheet the check my math or to look at on your own, email me and I will get it to you.  I received some email, like this one:
Bob, Not sure I understand how you compiled the points. You indicate a team receives two points for making the conference championship game yet you only show the Cowboys with eight "final 4" appearances.  They've been to 16 NFL/NFC championship games.
So, I thought maybe it's "eight" because they had to win the game and make it to the Super Bowl?  However, the chart shows the Patriots with only four "final 4" appearances and the 49ers with nine "final 4" appearances. What am I missing here? Craig
Well, Craig, thought I explained this.  Final 4's only are scored for when they lose there.  There are four playoff outcomes.  One point for just making it.  Three points if you LOSE in the championship game.  Five points if you LOSE the Super Bowl, 11 points if you WIN the Super Bowl.  So, if you have eight Final 4s, three Super Bowl Losses, and five Super Bowl wins, then yes, you have 16 trips to the NFC Championship Game.
I hope that makes sense.  
Always enjoy your Annual NFL Franchise Rankings. Suggestion I have is to award 2 pts for a Div Playoff appearance.  Otherwise the Lions get the same points for last season (1) as the Cowboys.  Just doesn't feel right. Team that gets in WC round & loses gets same value for their season as team w/home field that earned a bye into the Div Round? - Sam
Thanks, Sam.  I promise I have tried all sorts of point variations over the years.  I need to have it normalized for 51 years and all of the machinations of the playoffs that have happened, including the NFL going from four divisions to eight and going from four playoff teams to 12.  I cannot award points on seeding or good regular seasons.  The Cowboys had a major advantage over the Lions to get three points - simply win one home game to get to the NFC Championship Game.  The Lions had to win two road games.  Massive difference in difficulty, but of course, it only comes into play if you don't win the game. 
But, to his point, I have tried many different formulas to make this fair and account for the many changes in the NFL over 51 years.  This is the current one, but odds are I will adjust it again someday.  Hopefully, you enjoyed this one.
This week in the draft project, we will look at more edge rushers:  Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas, Tim Williams, DeMarcus Walker, and Dawuane Smoot.  

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