Lion’s Den: Mailbag!

Vintage Mail 009Believe it or not, the Lion has actually gotten feedback on many of his posts, especially the series ranking the draft class. The questions have been so good that I felt the need to put them in a post for all to read.

Are there any players from smaller schools outside of the traditional power conferences that jump out at you? –Silverfox

All the Jerk League members know why Silverfox asked this question.  I love to make the Silverfox happy and so I will oblige him. The answer is of course yes. There are always lower level D-1 school and D-1AA school athletes who go on to be drafted high and have good careers. There are lots of reasons why this happens. Sometimes a guy is a late bloomer. Other times a guy transfers but doesn’t want to sit out a year so drops down a level, (Joe Flacco). Even last year Eric Fisher was from Central Michigan. These guys usually come on later on in the combine since we don’t see them against top competition all year long. I have already mentioned Derek Carr and Khalil Mack as guys I like. To keep the Fox happy, let’s throw out some names and quick analysis.

Blake Bortles QB UCF: We talked about him already but I just want to remind you to look at his girlfriend, Lindsay Duke.

Jordan Lynch, QB Northern Illinois: I feel as though I need to comment on Jordan because he is putting up video game numbers, (he ran for 315 yards last week). I don’t foresee him making an impact in the NFL considering he isn’t 6-1. I would advise him to try to play in the CFL believe it or not.

Brock Jenson, QB North Dakota State: He jumps out at me for three reasons. 1) He beat Kansas St. 2) He is 6’3 225 and 3)His name sounds like a QB.

Jimmy Garappolo, QB Eastern Illinois: He is a fast riser do to his video game like numbers and recent SI article. He is 6’3 about 225, and broke all of Sean Payton’s records at EIU. He is another guy who will have to show me something at the combine because I have not seen him play this year.

Two other guys who will get looked at by NFL scouts: Jeff Matthews, QB Cornell (big arm) this mention should make the Silverfox even more happy. Also defensive linemen Zach Kerr, 3-4 NT Delaware (MD transfer), and Jordan Tripp, LB Montana. If you are interested in FCS level football or are draftnik, check them out.

What should the Redskins change their name too? –Sliverfox (again)

Easy, the Washington Silverfoxes. No seriously, read our Commish’s think piece on the main page.  After reading that it makes me think a name change isn’t coming any time soon. If this media created story gets enough momentum to change the name, I propose something where they could keep what I consider the ugliest yet most recognizable old school color scheme in football. No not the Bravehearts. Real simple, the Warriors. While you would have to ditch the Indian Head helmet, you could still go with the spear one. Plus Washington Warriors has alliteration to it.  Really though, just leave it.


What are your thoughts on this season of Eastbound and Down? – Mufasa, Pride Rock

Ok, this is actually my own question. I just really want to tell all of you to watch this final season of Eastbound and Down. It is by far the best season since the first. The show really captures the awfulness of being a married suburban father in today’s world and taps into the urge that of all of us red blooded males battle with, the urge to just burn the whole thing to the ground. Or maybe that is just me and I have issues. Seriously though, it’s really funny.  The episode they go to a water park will blow your mind. The end is a little strange, but the whole season really hits on a lot of notes. Stevie Janikowski is one of the funniest sidekicks in the history of TV.

What’s with the rising popularity of English Premier League Soccer? – Anonymous

The easy answer is Hipsters, but I am going to play the role of the main stream media here and create an issue where there is none. The true answer is racism. There I said it. Keith Olberman is going to run with this. No, I’m just kidding. It’s a cultural/economic thing though. Do I think that part of why the EPL and its microbrew/import drinking in a downtown bar game watch atmosphere is getting more popular has to do with the fact that those beers cost 5 dollars a pop and the foie gras burger costs 15. Yes I do. Compare that with the complete opposite of the tailgating in a parking lot with your frozen burger patties and downing Soco shots and drinking Budweiser Tall boys with sorority chicks as per the average SEC game? It’s the difference between JCrew and Target folks.  I think also it’s because John Q. Uppermiddleclass has sons named Asher, Ethan, Aiden, or Logan who play soccer and lacrosse instead of Football because Mrs. John Q. is afraid they will get hurt.  Mr. John Q is beaten down by his wife and largely meaningless mid level corporate existence so he doesn’t argue with her.  He is also probably a good dad so he started coaching the soccer team. Now he watches the EPL on Saturday Mornings before his wife gets her act together and makes him take her to Bed Bath and Beyond.  Call me trashy, but I want to shotgun Bud Heavies in the parking lot and eat red meat off the grille.

What are your thoughts on the Jameis Winston? -Skillz

What are your thoughts on Richie Incognito –Everyone

Both of these topics will be addressed in the Jerk Roundtable Discussion column coming in the next few weeks. It will be worth the wait.

Why are there no white cornerbacks in the NFL?-Trombone.

Leave it to our biggest basketball and hip hop music fan to ask this question. The actual question he asked was much more thought out. Trombone pointed out that in recent years we have seen a fair growth of elite, or at least starting caliber, white wide receivers. They are either smaller guys of the slot variety like Welker and Amendola, or bigger more athletic downfield options like Jordy Nelson and the emerging Riley cooper. Decker is a kind of in between as he can line up outside and inside. So, Trombone asked, why hasn’t there also been any emergence in the corner position of a similar vein? Why can’t Nelson play CB? Well, I think this answer is complicated and simple. I placed it below the previous question for a reason. If you are a white guy, and you are super quick and about 5-10 180, you are probably not playing defensive back for your high school team. You are probably playing soccer and shortstop and maybe lacrosse. The logical follow up question to that then is why doesn’t a guy like Jordy Nelson play CB? Dazzle is of the opinion that it’s only a matter of time before an athlete on a Dez Bryant or Calvin Johnson level switches to defense and is the next Deion Sanders. While I don’t disagree in principal I do think that such a conclusion needs to be explored a little bit more in depth, particularly the process of how guys end up in the positions they are in, and the differences between a CB and a WR.

Most people start playing football at the middle school the Pop Warner level. At this age everybody wants to be a quarterback of course. Offenses are very rudimentary because it’s hard enough to get 10 year old kids to huddle up right, let alone run a complicated offense. What normally happens is the best athletes play quarterback and running back, and the chubby kids get to play OL. At this level, everybody plays both ways. Those great athletes who are playing QB and RB on O are playing MLB and S on D and just running to the ball. Sometimes these kids are just guys who matured earlier then everybody else, sometimes they are actually freak athletes. In High School, things get a little more organized and complicated. Depending on the offense the team runs, the best athletes still get placed at QB and RB. The best athletes on the team also continue to play both ways. It isn’t until college that you become specialized at one position, unless you play for a football factory high school like Don Boscoe Prep in NJ. So once you are at college, it’s the first time you have to choose what position you are going to play. Some schools may recruit you to play offense, some defense. Most people prefer getting the ball and scoring touchdowns so they choose offense. Additionally, while in the 90’s teams put their best athletes on defense, with the rise of the spread offense, teams started putting their best athletes on offense. As an athlete, you are going to ultimately play the position that gets you on the field. So that partially explains why a guy chooses to play DB instead of WR. So that still doesn’t answer the question why doesn’t a coach move his 6’4 WRs to DB? To answer that, one needs to examine the demands of the positions.

WR: This seems obvious, but to be a great WR, you need to do basically 4 things well: 1)be able to run a route well, 2)catch, 3)block , and 4)be able to position your body between you and a defender similar to a rebounder in basketball. Two of these 4 things (3 and 4) lend themselves to bigger bodied players.

CB: The four things a DB needs to do well are as follows: 1)cover a route runner, 2)react to the ball and change direction accordingly, 3)run to the ball, 4)tackle. Two of these 4 things (2 and 3) lend themselves to quicker players.

It goes without saying that a defensive back has to be quicker than a WR to keep up with him, because he doesn’t know where the WR is going. He has to react and catch up. While both positions require the skill of changing direction on the fly, CBs have to react and change. This is also where height is more valuable to a WR then a CB. When a QB decides to make a throw to an open WR, it’s almost always because the WR is between the ball and the CB. Since a CB cannot go through a WR to get to a ball, it follows that a bigger body is more of an asset to a WR than a CB. This subtle difference is really not so subtle when it comes to a skill set. Sure there is almost always a mismatched end zone fade to worry about, but the vast majority of plays a CB makes do not involve jump balls fades. Also, DBs have to tackle. I know Asante Samuel and Deion Sanders didn’t, but for the most part, you still have to tackle. Finally, notice you don’t have to be able to catch well to be a DB, (although it certainly helps). Perhaps the best analogy is to compare the NBA’s best defenders with the guys who are the leading scorers. Joe Dumars, Tony Allen, Gary Payton etc., are often smaller and quicker than the offensive guys they guard and might not necessarily have the skill set of those offensive players. Sure there are the Michael Jordan and Lebron’s that can do everything, but the same rule applies to WRs and DBs.

Looking at the totality of everything above, we can see why you don’t see the Jordy Nelsons or even the Dez Bryants and Calvin Johnsons of the world playing cornerback. If it’s a matter of choice, most guys would rather play offense. Also, teams would rather have an uber athlete that can play both positions play offense now. (Just to hammer this point home, think about how many DBs return kicks now in the NFL and College now compared to 10 years ago, when they were almost all DBs, that is evidence that the best athletes are being moved to WR). If you don’t have the right skill set, you get put in one position or the other. For example, if you can’t catch, you often get moved to DB. If you can’t tackle, maybe you get moved to WR. So while in theory it makes sense to have an uber athlete like Dez or Calvin play D, or even a guy like Jordy Nelson or Wes Welker, you need to see what skills he may be lacking to play on the defensive side of the ball, or what strengths they have that would lead them to playing offense before you just assume a guy should play either.

That was exhausting, let’s move on to College Picks:

Best Bet:

Duke at Wake +5.5. Ok this is light on analysis but it’s real simple. Duke is officially in the driver’s seat to win its half of the ACC. Wake is competing with UVA and NC State for the worst team in the ACC.  Wake is missing its best player a WR Michael Campanaro who accounted for 30% of the team’s offense before he went down. The line has moved up a half a point this morning. I love the half a point difference. Duke wins by 6 or more. PICK DUKE

BYU at ND -1.  It’s ND’s senior day. They win. NOT SO FAST. The benefit of not having to do these picks till today is already paying off. Louis Nix announced this morning that he is having season ending surgery on his knee. Reading between the lines, his decision to have surgery now clearly foreshadows him omitting his senior year at ND to go to the draft, where he is expected to be a top 10 pick. I can’t say I blame him. I am no longer interested in picking this game at all considering Nix is ND’s best player. The line has moved to BYU -1. Stay away from it.

Bonus Best Bets

MSU at NW +7.5. Sparty is one win away from clinching its division in the Big Ten. It’s offense has gotten better every week and it’s Defense had an off game last week. NW is a team that was ranked in the top 20 and 4-0 going into that home night game hosting OSU. They haven’t one since. Talk about a drop off. I am riding the Sparty train as long as I can. I have said everything about them I want to say over the past few weeks. I hope they somehow upset OSU because that would drive everybody in the state of Ohio nuts. PICK SPARTY

Oregon at AZ +20.5. Oregon can thank USC for renewed life in the PAC 12. Stanford now has two losses and so Oregon is control of their own destiny to the Rose Bowl. I believe they will run it up this week against a Rich Rod team that doesn’t really play defense. PICK OREGON.

Favorite Dog:

Ark at MSU -2.5. Both of these programs are looking for some sort of light at the end of this 2013 tunnel. They’ve lost a combined 10 straight games and have one SEC win between them. MSU just came off their best effort of the season in the emotional, tough, physical loss to Bama. Much like FSU has done to the ACC, Bama often beats you twice. Meanwhile, the Hogs had last week to rest up. Arkansas will rev up that running game and could win this game outright. PICK ARK.

Bonus Dog:

Pitt at Cuse +1.5 This game is a complete tossup. Both are coming off losses, and both need one win for bowl eligibility. The problem for the Panthers is they have no real identity on offense. Syracuse does, and that is pounding the football. The Dome is a secretly tough place to play. Cuse almost always wins a game in November they have no business winning because the Carrier Dome advantage. Even though I do think Pitt is a better team, I am taking the points. PICK CUSE.


Minn at Wisc -15.5. I learned my lesson last week. Don’t jump off a go to cover team. Wisconsin has been one. They have no qualms about running up the score. As I have said before, when you score by running, it’s hard to call off the dogs. It’s not like you can start passing when you are up 30. The line has moved up to 17 since I looked at this yesterday. Yeah I am jumping back on the train. PICK WISC


ASU at UCLA +2.5. First thing you need to know about this spread is that UCLA is a dog at home. Why? Because ASU might be the most underrated cover team out there. They have an explosive offense and they roll people.  There Defense while not great, can force turnovers. Brett Hundley likes to cause turnovers. I like that for ASU. They embarrassed Kiffin to the point he got fired. This game is very important to the PAC 12 South division title. ASU can clinch the title with a win Saturday. I think they do. PICK ASU

Big 12 GOW

Baylor at OK St. +8.5. This is a huge game. It is for the BIG 12 title and a BCS berth. Baylor still has an outside shot at a title game, but it must win here convincingly. Baylor has not played anywhere close to as hostile as a sold-out Stillwater, with “College GameDay” in town. Especially against these Cowboys, who seem to be improving with every passing week. Their Defense keeps improving as well. I do think Baylor wins, but I don’t trust them to bet them here. If I had to pick this game, I would say OK State covers this spread. PICK OK ST.


A&M at LSU -5.5. This game will be fun to watch because neither team plays particularly good defense. It’s Johnny Football and his OL and his WR Adams, vs. LSU’s Mettenberg and his WRs of Landry and Beckham Jr. LSU was the only team to really contain Johnny Football last year, and well, this is the worst LSU D I have ever seen. LSU lost its super bowl two weeks ago to Bama, so it will be hard to get up again. Also, for the record, A&M played Bama better. Much better. Final stat. A&M has put up 50 in its last 3 games. Even if LSU wins, it will be a shoot out where it’s a 3 point game. The last team with the ball in this one will win. PICK A&M.


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