The question on everyone’s mind in Chicago for the upcoming NFL Draft at the end of April is, “How do we replace Brian Urlacher?” It’s a very astute observation. How do you go about replacing a middle linebacker/ starter/ team captain/ defensive player of the year/ probowler/ face of your team? Well, the facts are simple: this year, you can’t.
Not all questions can be answered by the draft. Some teams (desperately) need a QB. However, there are only two possibly going in the first round. This isn’t a class for starting quarterbacks, nor it one for starting middle linebackers.
Pictured above is Kevin Minter (LSU), probably the best ILB talent in the draft; And he’s barely good enough to scratch first round. His issue? Can’t shed blockers which is basically an occupational hazard for MLB’s in the NFL. Next up in Manti Te’o (Notre Dame). Yes we’ve all heard of him for one reason or another, but football-wise he struggles in big games. He’s stocky and built for an open-field pop or two, but straight line speed? Not a chance. Second rounder at best. Next up are Kiko Alonzo from Oregon and Jon Bostic from Florida. Alonzo has great straight line speed but plays with reckless abandon on and off the field (arrests for DUI, burglary, trespassing, and criminal mischief). Bostic is a 2-down linebacker. Instinctive and aggressive, but can’t shed a blocker to save his life. Those four guys? Only gents who have a glimmer of a chance at the top four rounds.
Don’t misunderstand, it’s hard to judge a guy until he suits up and gets on the field. AJ Hawk (OSU) of the Green Bay Packers has never lived up to the hype he received from his college years. However he has become a solid piece of their defense and been a challenge for offensive coordinators to stop for many seasons.
With only five picks this year (Rounds 1,2,4,5 & 6), linebacker is not the way to go. Hopefully a stud like Luke Joeckel (OT, Texas A&M) or Eric Fisher (OT, Central Michigan) will fall into their lap at 20.
Guess we’ll find out in 18 days. Good luck Phil Emery.
I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter lately about Michael Vick possibly winning MVP this year solely based his offensive out put. But what about his off the field out put? I have complete faith in Roger Goodell (current NFL commissioner) to not give him this (perhaps no longer) prestigious award. Goodell made his mark early in his term as commissioner by cracking down hard on league violators with restrictions and penalties. His current mantra of “Don’t fuck with me” has been keeping many more players in line than during the 16 year reign of Paul Tagliabue. It is in this spirit that Vick will not receive the MVP award for the 2010-2011 season.
In a letter to Vick in 2007, Goodell wrote, “While it is for the criminal justice system to determine your guilt or innocence, it is my responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League to determine whether your conduct, even if not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies, including the Personal Conduct Policy.” Such was the suspension that occurred after he reentered the NFL in 2009.
But I think this occurrence carried a heavier future burden that Vick maybe didn’t see coming. How would the league look if they gave an award to someone who was indicted due to his animal fighting ventures? Or even closer to home for Goodell, how would he, himself appear to fans and the media? I’m not saying people don’t deserve second chances; In fact, I believe in it greatly. But with social media outlet numbers at an all-time high, public perception is more important than ever. If Goodell allowed Vick to be MVP, would his job be in jeopardy, or maybe would his public perception change? How would the league fare? The 2011-2012 season has already found itself in turmoil, and possibly looking at cancellation, due to the end of the current collective bargaining agreement. Can the league really use another black eye from the mishandling of situations and bad press? Can Roger Goodell still be seen as an effective leader in the wake of such a decision? We’ll find out when the MVP recipient is announced after the divisional playoffs.