Thursday, March 29, 2012

National Friday League: Rebuilding Blues

Rebuilding teams should never draft for immediate need.
(an expansion of a comment I made on DC's earlier post)

A 3-13 team like the Vikings that is looking to rebuild has a lot of needs. Some of those needs--defensive back, offensive line, wide receiver--are bigger than others. But there is really no position where the Vikings don't have some need.* They have the best pass rusher in the NFL at one DE--but does that mean they shouldn't draft another DE? Could they not use linebackers? Don't they need another serious DT?

But one thing a rebuilding team absolutely cannot do is draft a position for immediate need. If they draft a RB because he's a good RB, then good for them. If they draft a RB because they look at their roster and say "Holy shit, AP is recovering from an ACL injury and Toby Gerhart is a bruiser, we need a RB now!" then they are making a mistake.

Obviously they need to fill out a roster to try compete in 2012, and that means acquiring competent starters and reasonable depth at every position. But for the most part, they should not consider themselves desperate at any one position for the 2012 season. They are desperate at wide receiver, offensive line, and secondary because those units are bad, and look long-term bad, and they need to make moves to improve those units for the long-term. There is not one single free agent or draft pick that solves all those problems--thus, there's not much way to fix all those needs immediately. Those are long-term problems, long-term needs, and they require numerous solutions. If the Vikings select Matt Kalil, it is not because they need a left tackle for 2012: it is because they need to set their offensive line up to compete for a decade.

The Vikings were rebuilding going into 2011, and if it turns out they made a mistake drafting Christian Ponder (we'll see), it will be because they drafted out of immediate need: they had no clear QB for the season, no clear way to get a QB for the season, and they were desperate to get a young QB prospect for the future (paradoxically, they felt in immediate need of fixing the long-term QB problem).

So my hope is that as the Vikings prepare for a 2012 draft where they have a bunch of picks, that Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier give very little attention to immediate roster needs, and devote their attention to drafting the proverbial "best player available." They will be better in the immediate and long-term future if they do so.

*OK, as of now they don't need a QB, because they should roll into 2012 ready to test out the Ponder/Webb Experience for another season. And they are probably good at TE for a season, with Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson (a third or fourth TE can come from anywhere). There is no other position where the Vikings shouldn't just draft the best player available, and in later rounds they should probably draft the best player available even if he is a QB or TE.

Did you know: the Vikings have THREE linebacker coaches?
On many plays, the Vikings will have more linebacker coaches on the sideline than they have linebackers on the field. According to the Viking website's current list of coaches, they've got Jeff Imamura, "Defensive Assistant-Linebackers," Fred Pagac, "Linebackers," and Mike Singletary*, "Special Assistant to Head Coach/LBs coach." They could assign a coach for MLB, coach for weakside OLB, and coach for strongside OLB.

No wonder they're not worried about who actually plays linebacker: they've got plenty of people to coach them up!

*Last summer I saw Mike Singletary browsing in Barnes & Noble. These are the things you need to know.

Pierre Garcon!?!?
Evidently, the Vikings were trying to pursue Pierre Garcon, but Washington was willing to pay massive money so the Vikes missed out (PFT, Pioneer Press).

The Vikings got lucky: Pierre Garcon just may have made the Vikes wistful for Bernard Berrian.

In 2009 and 2010, playing with one of the best and most accurate quarterbacks ever to play, Garcon caught 52% and 56% of the passes thrown his way (Football Outsiders). You've seen Peyton Manning play. You've seen Peyton Manning's numbers. You saw how the Colts' offense worked under Manning. Do you think a good WR should be catching 56% or fewer of the passes thrown his way in such a situation? And though his overall numbers even with lousy quarterbacking were better in 2011, his catching problem was still there: you try find his name on this ranking (and see his catch rate back down to 52%).

I'm glad the Vikings did not end up with Garcon, and I'm mildly concerned the Vikes were targeting him at all. I've had my fill of speedy and seemingly talented wide receivers who have trouble doing that very thing a wide receiver is supposed to do, namely catch the ball.

Mark this as my prediction for another "#2 or #3 WR on a good offense signs on to be a #1 WR on a bad offense and becomes an infamous bust" signing.

Zack Bowman
The Vikings began their process of replacing the entire 2011 secondary by signing Zack Bowman (Star Tribune). I don't know if Zack Bowman is good, but I know in 2011 Zack Bowman was playing cornerback in the NFL for some team other than the Vikings, so I can only assume this is an upgrade.

Basketball Box
Kevin Love had a franchise single-game record 51 points last week, his 26.3 ppg puts him in good shape to set the team's single-season scoring average record, and he already has one rebounding title (his 15.1 per game last season is a franchise record as well). He's also only the second player in franchise history with two All-Star selections.

How soon do we consider Kevin Love the second best player in Timberwolves franchise history? Is he already the second best player in franchise history?

Love's last four games: 51-14, 30-21, 28-11, 40-19. More on Love's tear at Pro Basketball Talk.

Fantasy Box: the Ghost Players
My fantasy basketball team, featuring the likes of Parks and Recreation actor Roy Hibbert, has earned a #1 seed and a first round bye. But my players don't know it! When Paul Pierce goes for 36-10, should I feel nothing? Was it all an apparition? I've got Zombie Players like Kevin Love out there ripping it up just for laughs?

Kick Ass Links
There are a lot of websites I check daily to keep up with news and culture. But as I no longer get AMC, I am not watching the fifth season of Mad Men right now, even though everybody else seems to be. So while the fifth season is getting its run, I am avoiding a lot of those websites where I might learn things I don't want to know yet. I've discovered I'll mostly be fine if I avoid the web on Mondays, but I'll be wary every day. But I still want to bring you kick ass links.

How much do the Final Four teams spend on their basketball programs? (The New Yorker).

Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love (Yahoo!). The ladies are going to love you, T-Bone.

"Vanilla Ice and Kevin Garnett Visit Timberwolves on Friday" (City Pages). It's going to be a scene, man.

Left-handers have to stick together: it's the only way we can cope with all the ink on our hands. Lefty QBs, hurrah! (New York Times).

The Vikings have 7 of the first 138 picks in the draft (Pioneer Press). Which is good for a rebuilding team, and is also good because you'll be less bored during the draft. I don't get bored during the draft: I keep busy commenting on the clothing and hair choices of the drafted players and their girlfriends.


  1. I don't watch the draft anymore. I avoid all risky media until it's over, then find a site and scroll slowly - taking 20-30 seconds on each pick to ponder what it means for the team that picked him and for the Vikings, then I try to predict what the next pick will be, and scroll a bit more. It's a wonderful system.

    Your comments for future (as opposed to immediate) need during the drafts make me wonder if the Vikings might not be getting Luck this year with a better supporting cast because of different strategies in last year's draft. Would the Vikes have taken OL and CB with their first two picks instead of QB and TE? We'll NEVER know. (sigh)

    1. Peter:

      I will be watching the draft this year - at least the Friday night, primetime, first round portion of it. I will be live tweeting and everything. I've never done that before, and I may never do it again. My wife is probably going to kill me.