What Jabari Parker Means to Milwaukee

Note: This post can also be seen in the July 1 edition of the Clintonville Chronicle and the July 2 edition of the Manawa Messenger.

Jabari. Parker. 

The Milwaukee Bucks took the Duke forward with the second overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft, and they could not have made a more perfect selection.

I was extraordinarily high on Australian point guard Dante Exum, who went fifth to the Utah Jazz. I still think Exum will be a perennial All-Star someday, but the Bucks franchise needed Jabari Parker the way human beings need oxygen. 

What makes the Parker selection even more perfect is that Parker wanted to come to Milwaukee as badly as Milwaukee wanted him here. The Bucks need a franchise player both on and off the court, and Parker is absolutely that. 

Parker wanted to go to a place where he was desired, and where he would be the focal point of the franchise moving forward. In almost every one of his interviews since Thursday night, when asked why he wanted to come to Milwaukee, he responded with some form of “they were all-in with me.” Jabari was channeling his inner Cheap Trick – he wanted to be wanted. As a Chicago native, he also wanted to play close to home.

Packers 2014 Draft Recap

Note: This post can also be seen in the May 13 edition of the Clintonville Chronicle as well as the May 14 edition of the Manawa Messenger.

Packers’ GM Ted Thompson continually explains to the media that team need does not play into the selections Green Bay makes in the draft.

But the Packers needed to fill spots at safety, wide receiver, linebacker, tight end, center and defensive line. Thompson drafted at least one player at each of those positions.

So either things just worked out perfectly for Thompson, or need is at least somewhat of a factor.

Regardless, it’s too early to know if any of the players in this class will work out; only time will tell. It’s not too early, though, to judge Thompson’s class on what kind of value he got, what risks he took and which of his picks could contribute this season.

Best Pick: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno St.

Thompson’s track record on second-round receivers is legendary at this point. Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb were all second-round picks. Now comes Adams, who led the country last year in catches with 131 and receiving touchdowns with 24. His 1,718 yards wasn’t too shabby, either. Over his two seasons as a Bulldog, he compiled 233 receptions for 3,030 yards and 38 touchdowns. He fits the mold of a Packer receiver – great hands and good after the catch. He should compete with Jarrett Boykin for the third receiver job in training camp.

Best Value: Corey Linsley, C, Ohio St

One of last year’s fourth-round picks, J.C. Tretter, who has never played a down in the NFL, was the best option at center this year for the Packers before this selection. Linsley started all 26 games for the Buckeyes at that position the past two seasons, earning All-Big Ten honors in 2013. He will show up on day one with more experience at center than anyone on the Packers’ roster. If Thompson got his starting center in the fifth round, that defines value.

Biggest Risk: Richard Rodgers, TE, Cal

This was a reach for the Packers. Rodgers is essentially a developmental prospect, which is fine at the tight end position, but not in the third round. He didn’t even play tight end last season for the Golden Bears. He has good hands and is a decent route runner, but he’s not fast or explosive by any means. He’s a similar prospect to former Packers’ tight end D.J. Williams, who never made an impact. This is a high-risk pick because if the Packers can’t develop Rodgers, it’s a wasted third-round selection.

Best Late-Round Selection: Carl Bradford, LB, Arizona State

The Packers have already said they’re going to play their fourth-round selection at outside linebacker and let him rush the passer, something he did well for the Sun Devils. Eventually, he could end up moving to inside linebacker, which is more of a need for Green Bay. He’s athletic enough to drop into coverage and is a good, strong tackler. The major knock on him is his size and arm length, which could cause him to struggle to get off blocks. More than anything, Bradford plays with an aggressiveness and a sense of urgency that fans are going to enjoy. He also has the determination and maturity that could allow him to succeed despite his size.

Thursday Night Football Recap

The San Francisco 49ers finally got back to what they do best last night - running the football and playing defense. Frank Gore had his first 100 yard game of the season and the team's defense got back to form, even without the services of Patrick Willis or Aldon Smith. Not surprisingly, after establishing the run first, Colin Kaepernick had his best day since the team's opening game against Green Bay, throwing for 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Kaepernick was able to find Anquan Boldin to the tune of 5 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, also Boldin's best game since week one; he had only hauled in three receptions in his last two games. Vernon Davis returned from injury as well to catch a touchdown, giving Kaepernick his two best options in the passing game, and it showed as Kaepernick looked infinitely more comfortable in the San Francisco offense. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman drew up a perfect game plan for the Niners, featuring their efficient power running game combined with play-action roll-outs to Kaepernick's right side.
This is the 49ers team that we have gotten used to in the past two seasons. They physically punish and out-man people on defense and run the ball with Gore on offense before putting Kaepernick in solid play-action situations where he can get out on the edge and use his athleticism and speed. In their last two losses, Kaepernick had completed less than 50% of his passes and thrown 4 interceptions, while the team ran for barely 100 yards in each game. That is not a coincidence. It's difficult to run play-action when a team can't run the ball. Last night, however, the team ran for 219 yards and Kaepernick was able to operate off of that play-action and use it to his advantage, because the offensive line was consistently opening gaping holes for Gore to run through.
The 49ers finally got back to what they do best and looked like the team that made a run all the way to the Super Bowl last year. If they stick to their game plan, they're obviously a tough team to beat. As a Packer fan, I unfortunately know all about it.

Andrew's Week 4 Picks

Here are a few quick thoughts on this week's games:

  • Home teams or away teams? I picked 10 away teams compared to only 5 home teams, something that makes me nervous. In close games I usually tend to go with a team playing at home, but not this week.
  • Lock of the week - Indianapolis over Jacksonville. Wouldn't this be true for anyone playing Jacksonville? What are the odds they go 0-16?b
  • Toughest game of the week - Seattle at Houston. If this game was in Seattle I would have little doubt about taking the Seahawks. On the road is a different story. If Matt Schaub and Arian Foster can control the time of possession and put up 7s instead of 3s, Seattle will have a tough time beating the Texans.
  • Upset of the week - Pittsburgh over Minnesota. I say the Steelers get their first win of the season in London. 

Mike's Week 4 Picks

Week 4 in the NFL should prove to be one of the season's more exciting ones when it's all said and done. Of course the more evenly matched teams provide more excitement for fans, but it also makes predicting the outcome that much more difficult. Needless to say that this week took me quite a bit longer than the first three and I blame that on one thing- road teams. Do I think Washington's best chance to get it's first win of the season is against Oakland? Absolutely. But do I think they can win on the road, with what is on pace to be the worst defense in league history? Or can they stop an improving Terrelle Pryor if he plays? That's where my confidence is shaken. And after I didn't bat an eye at putting 15 points on Minnesota over Cleveland last week (we play in a weighted picks league), Brian Hoyer and Jordan Cameron had Browns fans asking, "Trent who?", after stunning the Vikings in Minnesota 31-27. Be sure to keep an eye on what happens in Tampa Bay, as Josh Freeman has been benched and Mike Glennon -- the third QB picked in last year's draft -- will be the third rookie to start a game this season.

Who are you picking this week? Let me know on Twitter, tweet at FDS, or put your picks on our Facebook wall.

Top 10 - Quarterbacks

Peyton Manning has 12 touchdowns through the first three games of the 2013 season, which is, of course, a record. He also has zero interceptions, which is equally as amazing. He's a 99 overall playing the NFL on rookie. He has to be the MVP of the season to this point and he has the Broncos in position as the early Super Bowl favorites, although this is still his best highlight. In honor of Peyton's hot start, let's do something everybody loves. A good, old top 10 list. I'll rank the top 10 quarterbacks of 2013 through week 3, in my opinion, 10 to 1. By the way, this was much more difficult than I originally thought it would be.

Number 10 - Philip Rivers

There are a few guys who could take this spot right now. Michael Vick is playing well in Chip Kelly's new offense and Russell Wilson is as efficient as always. I like Rivers here, however, and the stats back me up. He's tied for second in the league in touchdown passes, ranks second in passer rating at 116.2, and he's third in the league with a 70% completion percentage. Rivers also led his team on a comeback, game-winning drive against Philadelphia in week 2.He is playing like a top 10 quarterback through the first three games of 2013.

Number 9 - Jay Cutler

The Cutlet's daddy looks like he's finally figured "it" out. He's thrown twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. He's in the top 10 in passer rating at 94.2 and has completed 67.3% of his passes, good for fifth in the league. He's led the Bears to two game winning drives already this year. He's been protected better than in the past (Cutler is second in sack percentage, a stat that measures how often a quarterback is sacked while attempting a pass) and clearly Marc Trestman has been a positive influence, but Cutler is just simply playing more efficient football.

Packers Need to Use Their Week Off Wisely

After an excruciatingly painful 34-30 loss to the Bengals in week 3 brought their record to 1-2, a bye week couldn't come at a better time for the Packers. After entering Cincinnati with key players out on both sides of the ball, Green Bay left Ohio with even bigger problems.

Early on, Jermichael Finley took a scary shot to the head and left the game with a concussion that seemed to impact some of Mike McCarthy's play calling. Ryan Taylor and Andrew Quarless both had drops in the game, and while Packer fans may be used to more than a few from Finley, there's no doubt that he draws a more respect from the secondary than either of his replacements.

Surprisingly, it was big plays by Green Bay's defense that brought this game back into reach after Cincinnati marched down the field with relative ease on the opening drive, then recovered a botched kick by Jeremy Ross at the Green Bay 12. Cincinnati then punched it in on the next play to take a 14-0 lead in just 12 seconds (Ross was cut by Green Bay on Monday). Without Morgan Burnett at safety and both Jarrett Bush and Casey Hayward at cornerback, the entire defensive unit stepped up, forcing 4 turnovers in the span of just 9 snaps, allowing the Packers to climb back into the game. Unfortunately, both Clay Matthews and James Starks, who had been on pace for a second straight 100-yard game, went down with hamstring and knee injuries respectively, and neither played in the second half. This, combined with an uncharacteristically mediocre performance by Aaron Rodgers, ultimately led to a Bengals comeback and a heartbreaking loss in Cincinnati.

The Packers must use this time wisely, not only to get healthy, but to address some serious flaws that they have in all 3 phases of the game. An area of particular concern is one that is often overlooked - special teams. Before being cut Monday, Jeremy Ross had returned 6 kicks for a total of 75 yards and a long of just 21. For those of you too lazy to do the math at home, that's an average of just 12.5 yards per attempt - the lowest in the NFL of any kick returner with at least 1 return per team's games played. In fact, the second lowest average in the league is almost double that; 20.0 by Washington's Chris Thompson. Even a mediocre Rodgers can't consistently score from that far out. The offense needs better field position, but they need to do it without risking the health of their star receiver Randall Cobb.

Another area to watch closely will be the offensive backfield. After ending Green Bay's 45 game streak without a 100-yard rusher, James Starks did what he does best: got hurt. This made room for 4th round pick Johnathan Franklin to step in, and he did in a big way. Andrew speaks more to that in his One Takeaway column. It's not all bad news for the Packers, though. With Eddie Lacy likely to return in week 5 and the strong showing by Franklin, fans can be hopeful that the green and gold got the 1-2 punch they were looking for in April's Draft. It will be a nice change of pace if McCarthy can use the week off to develop a more balanced attack to support Rodgers and the rest of the offense heading into their week 5 contest in Detroit. After failing to lead the division so far this season and being two games behind 3-0 Chicago, the Packers need this divisional win. Let's just hope they're ready come October 6th.

One Takeaway - Despite His Late 4th Quarter Fumble, Johnathan Franklin Deserves More Carries

In FDS's return to the sports blogosphere, I'll be introducing a new weekly post that we'll be featuring every Monday entitled, "One Takeaway." Each week we'll outline what we see as the main takeaway from the previous day's Packer game. This week our takeaway is rookie running back Johnathan Franklin.

With Eddie Lacy sidelined with a concussion and John Kuhn out with a hamstring injury, Franklin was the only healthy back outside of injury-proned James Starks. And sure enough, Starks injured his knee late in the first half and Head Coach Mike McCarthy had nowhere to turn except to his rookie fourth round pick out of UCLA.

After not taking an offensive snap through the first two weeks, Franklin shined in the second half. He rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown, showing quickness, elusiveness and a burst that the other backs on the roster simply don't have. Granted, he fumbled on the fourth down play that probably cost the Packers the game, but he still looked every bit the part of a starting NFL running back.

The bottom line is that Franklin proved he deserves more carries in the Packers' offense. The team drafted Lacy in the second round and Franklin in the fourth with the hopes that both could share carries and turn into a solid one-two punch out of the backfield to supplement the team's high-powered passing attack. After Franklin's second half performance yesterday, it's beginning to look like those hopes could come to fruition sooner rather than later.

San Francisco at Atlanta, Championship Sunday Games

Julio Jones is a beast. Matt Ryan is playing like a man who's out to prove his doubters wrong. Let me remind those of you who don't remember, however, Atlanta had a 27 - 7 lead against Seattle at home last week and gave it up before they pulled it out of their you know whats at the end. And that first TD was huge for San Fran. Being down two scores rather than three allows them to use their ├╝ber-dangerous pistol offense and run the ball like they love to do as opposed to having to use the pass to get quick scores. It also keeps the play action game involved which is a major part of their offense.

My prediction? I still think the 49ers will win, but it appears it'll be more difficult than I expected. As for the AFC Championship I'm rooting for the Ravens, but I think the Patriots offense is too much, and they'll out score Flacco and Co. I'm thinking 35 - 27. Agree or disagree?

The Season's Over. So Now What?

The Packers' season came to an end last night in San Francisco because they were physically dominated by a tougher team. That's all there is to it. To a man, they were just physically owned. They are a finesse team who ran into a power team, and in the NFL, power usually always wins. So that begs the question: What do they do in the offseason to address that problem? Do they do it through the draft or free agency? Maybe. I think they need to dig deeper than that though. I think they need a fundamental change in their team philosophy. Teams like the 49ers and Giants aren't going away, and if things stay the same, the Packers are going to keep getting dominated by much tougher and more physical teams.

In their last three playoff losses, the Packers have given up 51, 37, and 45 points. Things obviously need to change defensively. Do they fire defensive coordinator Dom Capers? Personally I say no, but that may be an option. More importantly, they need to develop an attitude and they need to be more physical. They need to come into a game with bad intentions, intentions of hitting people hard and hitting people often. Without that attitude, the scheme won't matter and things won't change.

Where does that attitude come from? It has to start at the top with the head coach. Mike McCarthy needs to get his team to develop a killer instinct and a mean streak. They need to attack with the same nastiness and confidence that the 49ers have. "We're tougher than you, stronger than you, and we're going to hit you in the mouth all day long until you quit." That's the attitude the great teams have, and they don't have it. That's why they lost last night, and until they get it, scheme changes or player changes aren't going to make a difference and these early playoff exits are going to be par for the course in Green Bay.

The Packers Lost, Not the Referees

As recently as yesterday afternoon, I used to think, "Man, I love these replacement refs. It's hilarious to watch them screw up call after call and look like idiots." I even researched Replacement Ref Fantasy Leagues I enjoyed watching them so much. It was more entertaining than some of the actual games they were officiating. But there was this part of my brain that kept saying, "It's not going to be funny at all when the time comes where they actually cost someone a game, because it will happen, and it could go against the Packers." I just think things like that will happen to my team because I have that kind of luck. I tried to ignore  it, thinking, "The chances of that happening in a Packer game when there are 15 other games a week for 17 weeks is slim to none, there's no way that will really happen." Now, I don't even know what to say.

The Packers didn't deserve to win that game last night because they played like crap. I have to say that. But they didn't deserve to lose it because of piss-poor officiating, either. The entire fourth quarter was the worst job of officiating I think I've ever seen. From Erik Walden's invisible roughing the passer call to Sam Shields getting raped and somehow being called for defensive pass interference to the offensive pass interference by Golden Tate on the last play or the ridiculous call on the catch. All these calls were just mind-blowingly bad. These replacement refs clearly have to go, it's an embarassment to the NFL. When they're arguing for less than $100,000 per team and the NFL makes hundreds of billions of dollars a year, why aren't we giving them the money? And don't blame Roger Goodell, either. He works for the owners of the 32 NFL teams (The Packers, ironically after what happened last night, are the only team without an owner). And the most pathetic part of all? Last night Wont. Change. A. Thing.

All that being said, the Packers offense didn't play well enough to win, and we can't forget about that. They just didn't. The offensive line couldn't block, Rodgers held onto the ball way too long, and we were too one dimensional. McCarthy refused to call a running play for the almost the entire first half. Literally. We had 3 called running plays in the entire first half. Three. What do you think is going to happen when you drop back in the shotgun with 4 or 5 wide receivers every single play? The defense is going to come after the quarterback, because they know there's no chance in hell you're going to run the football. McCarthy even admitted he should have made adjustments sooner. Hindsight's 20/20, huh Coach? It was the most terribly called offensive first half I've ever seen by a coach. In order to slow down a pass rush, you have to throw screen passes (which clearly weren't working, ask Randall Cobb) or run the ball. Then, in the second half, he finally did make adjustments and we ran the ball down their throats on that first drive. We were going for 4 or 5 yards a pop every single play. What does he do then? Goes back to throwing the ball like it never happened. For the life of me, I don't understand it. He can't help himself and it's costing us.

The refs screwed us over, no doubt. I just don't want Packer fans to sound like a bunch of babies all week, whining about how unfair it was that we didn't win. If we played better for the 59:52 before that final play, we would have. And what can we do, anyway? It sucks, but it happened and there's nothing any of us can do to fix it. Boycotting the NFL isn't going to change anything, and people aren't going to do it. As Packer fans, we need to stop pouting like a bunch of two year olds and go out an support our team. Make the G-Force even louder at the Saints game this Sunday. Make Lambeau rock even more than it usually does. Yell at Drew Brees as he's changing the play until your throat hurts. Be an even better fan than you were before last night, because you can bet the players are already thinking about how they can do the same thing.

A few additional things that are getting lost in the outrage of this game:
  • If this game takes place in Green Bay, I'd bet a ridiculous sum of money that that call is an interception. The NFL will deny it, but the crowd has a ton to do with what these replacement refs are doing every week. That's not a touchdown if they're in Green Bay.
  • The Packer offense has looked downright bad in their last 4 games dating back to the Giants loss in the playoffs last year. The most points we've scored in that span? 23. Last year, we were averaging almost 40 points a game. Add in 7 turnovers, when one of our strengths has been the fact that we didn't turn the ball over. This year, we're only converting on 3rd down 40% of the time, as opposed to almost 50% last year. In the red zone, we're only scoring touchdowns 57% of the time, when last year we were above 65%. We're just not as good. Our receivers can't get separation and our offensive line can't block. A game plan has clearly developed to stop our offense: bump and run, man-to-man coverage with 2 deep safeties and get after Rodgers with the front four. I don't even know if defenses prepare for the run against us, anymore. And McCarthy, who's supposed to be some kind of offensive/play calling genius, can't seem to adjust to it. Like at all. RUN THE DAMN FOOTBALL.
  • Our worst offensive down and distance? 3rd or 4th and 1. It's supposed to be the easiest thing for an offense to do in football, but we can't gain one single, solitary yard when we need it. You can't win a Super Bowl like that, it's not going to happen. Granted, when your only 2 calls in that situation are run up the middle with Kuhn or line up in the shotgun with 5 wide receivers, you're making it ten times harder on yourself. Again, RUN THE DAMN FOOTBALL.
  • We're an overrated team at this point. Our offense isn't what it was, but we're still waiting for them somehow, magically snap out of it. That doesn't happen. We need to change what we're doing, because we're pounding our head against the wall over and over by running the same offense. Teams have changed their approach against us, so why aren't we changing ours in response?
These are the things we should be concerned about, not the referees.

Andrew's 2012 Fantasy Football Preview - Part 1: Defense/Special Teams

In anticipation of the upcoming 2012 Fantasy Football season, I'll be breaking down my Top 10 Players at each position. I'm skipping kickers because, well, frankly they don't matter. I don't pick one until the final round of my drafts and I just grab the kicker with the most explosive offense left on the board. So there's my advice for that one. As for this post, we'll be covering my Top 10 Defenses.

1. San Francisco 49ers
It would make sense that the best defense in the NFL would be the best fantasy defense as well. They don't give up a lot of points which will gain your team a lot of points.

2. Houston Texans
Even without Mario Williams, the Texans will continue their ascent into the elite group of NFL defenses. Wade Phillips knows what he's doing.

3. Chicago Bears
Even with aging superstars like Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers, the Bears D is still solid. Devin Hester helps quite a bit on special teams, as well. He's good for a few return TDs every season.

4. Baltimore Ravens
Ed Reed and Ray Lewis will get the rest of the guys on this defense ready to play this season, even without T-Sizzle, who still claims he'll be back at some point. The Ravens D is the model of consistency in the NFL.

5. New York Jets
I'm really not a huge fan of the Jets D, but at this point you could probably flip a coin between these next few teams. The Jets have Darrelle Revis and should still be stout against the run, so that's why I'm going with them here.

6. Green Bay Packers
Maybe I'm a homer here, but I think the Packers D is going to be vastly improved from last season. The likely loss of Desmond Bishop for the season will hurt a lot, but backup D.J. Smith is no slouch. The big change from last year will be the pass rush, which should be back to where it was during the Super Bowl run of 2010.

7. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles D wasn't where it was expected to be last season after the big splash they made in free agency. They still have a ton of talent, however, and another year together in the system should only make them better.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers
Another staple in the Top 10 every year. You should feel pretty comfortable taking the Pittsburgh defense in any draft during any year, especially if you're one of the last people to be selecting a D/ST as you would be if they were in this position.

9. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks were an underrated defense last year and they should only improve. Their secondary was good enough, but their ability to stop the run was where they really thrived.

10. New England Patriots
I think the Patriots had an amazing draft defensively, and couple that with Bill Belichick's scheming and this defense should be improved from last season. Their pass rush should be their best asset which can help mask the below-average secondary.

Look for my next post coming soon where I'll be giving you my Top 10 Tight Ends.