Author Archives: pjwascher

Lions Draft 2014 Recap

by: P.J. Wascher

So how did the Lions do? Hard to say, I think they got some interesting pieces, but I feel a bit underwhelmed. Will this draft help the team turn the corner? I don’t see it. Mayhew says his goal is to draft 3 starters every year. Looking at this year’s draft, I see three starters for the 2014 season, but one of them is a kicker. The rest are projects. It’s been a while since the Lions have had much luck with development picks. This article will recap the picks and predictions made before the draft.

The Picks

First Round: Eric Ebron, North Carolina (TE)

Well I was surprised by this pick. I can’t hate the pick, but I don’t love it. Sammy Watkins appeared to be one of the targets Thursday night, but I think all Lions fans are relieved to see them step out of that bidding war with Buffalo. Giving up a first round pick is just not worth it, unless you think he’s the next Calvin Johnson. I do not think that. I think he could be a great compliment to Calvin, but I’m not sold he’s a feature receiver in the NFL. By the time the lions picked, most of the elite defensive talent was off the board. As discussed in my last piece, the Lions do not like drafting corners in the first round. Too much development work required to become an immediate contributor. So the options were pretty wide open at that point.  Drafting a TE with “elite” receiver skills makes a bit more sense when we’re reminded of the coaching change that took place in the offseason. The hope is Ebron can produce similar mismatches to Jimmy Graham. This could add a whole new dimension to the offense. My concern is how the Lions will attempt to use him. With Pettigrew resigned, I’m anticipating several two tight end sets. I personally prefer to spread the field out, putting less pressure on the O-Line during run plays. This can still be achieved if the Lions are willing to flex Ebron out wide, but it’s hard to anticipate what their plans are at the moment. New coaching staff with a new offensive scheme makes this pick hard to judge.

Second Round: Kyle Van Noy, BYU (OLB)

The Lions had an obvious hole at linebacker. New DC, Teryl Austin, has left hints he’s interested in using more 3-4. Kyle Van Noy looks ready to step in. Scouting reports describe Van Noy as a strong pass rush linebacker that can also drop back in coverage, giving him a lot of opportunities to be on the field. Been awhile sense the Lions made an impact draft pick at linebacker.

Third Round: Travis Swanson, Arkansas (C)

Finding a replacement for Raiola in this draft was predictable. Drafting that eventual replacement in the third round was a little surprising, especially with no secondary players drafted up to that point. The Swanson pick gives the Lions a decent backup at guard and center for the season. It sounds like they’ll have Swanson focusing on the guard position for the upcoming season, which could leave some possibility he could replace Rob Sims. I still think it’s more likely he slides into the center position for the 2015 season, but I won’t rule out either option. Swanson has been a durable four year starter at Arkansas. He’ll bring some much needed size to center at 6-5, 312 lbs, which will help give him flexibility to slide over to guard. It’s easy to define a role for Swanson, but the question remains if the Lions ignored greater needs for a future offensive line move. It’s hard to pick out a specific player they missed out on with this pick, but their underwhelming draft for the secondary makes this pick standout. I think the Swanson pick looks promising, but it’s not a win-now move.

Fourth Round: Nevin Lawson, Utah State (CB)

The Lions finally drafted somebody for their secondary. It’s hard to believe this was their number one target, but taking value into account, it’s the first time the Lions felt comfortable making an addition in this year’s draft. To be honest, it’s an underwhelming pick. Lawson, an undersized corner, has some clear flaws. He’s aggressive, but is prone to holding. This pick reminds me of the Jonte Green pick a few years ago. Expectations are low, but he’s aggressive and may get some opportunities thanks to his physical play. Most likely, he’s a special teams player, which is disappointing for a team that could use more playmakers at CB.

Fourth Round: Larry Webster, Bloomsburg (DE)

The Lions finished the fourth round with their second compensatory pick. Only two picks after the Lions selected Lawson. The Webster pick began the Lions move towards development players. Webster is a very raw, small school athlete that has only been playing football for two years. These picks are always intriguing. Tall and fast, Webster has the physical tools to be a special player. But turning these “diamond in the rough” players into real contributors is very difficult. The Lions have not had much luck with this strategy. It’s not easy for any team to pull off, but examples like Antonio Gates will keep teams testing this strategy out in the late rounds. Can’t blame them for making this move in the fourth round. The Lions could have use an extra defensive end and by the fourth round, teams can start making some gambles. Will be curious to see what kind of role the Lions give Webster this season, too raw to expect much in 2014.

Fifth Round: Caruan Reid, Princeton (DT)

The Lions continued their development draft pick phase with Caruan Reid. The strategy behind this pick is obvious. Reid projects as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, but scouting reports aren’t limiting him to a single defensive formation. For a team that is only “mixing” in the 3-4, Austin looks ready to play in both formations. Compared to Webster, I have a little more hope this pick can be productive. Webster’s extremely limited football background makes it a huge risk. Prefer the risk being taken with Reid.

Sixth Round: TJ Jones, Notre Dame (WR)

Now the Lions grab a WR.  At this point in the draft teams are just trying to find players that can make the roster. This pick gives the Lions a little more depth in the slot when Ebron is not there. Broyles and Ogletree will also be options here, but neither has stood out. I still like Broyles, but injuries have taken their toll. He is no longer a reliable option. TJ Jones had a solid senior year at Notre Dame and does the small things right. He has a shot to contribute.

Nate Freese, Boston College (K)

This was predictable. It’s not very popular for teams to draft special teams, but as long as they get it right I don’t mind. The Lions need a kicker. A weak kicker class did not leave me hopeful they could find a replacement for Hanson this season. Have not seen much tape on Freese, but scouting reports call him reliable, outdoors weather tested, but does not have great length. It would be nice to have that long distance option, but accuracy is king with this position. I can only tolerate this pick if the Lions promise to not do it again for at least five years.

 

How Did Those Predictions Go?

QB – Lions signed UDFA James Franklin, which was the predicted move. Sounds like they were looking for a late round QB in the draft, but the players were off the board when the Lions picked, a familiar trend in this year’s draft for the Lions.

RB – Did not expect any moves at RB, gave it my lowest “Possibility” number. That was correct. Lions have enough players to work with here.

WR – I expected the Lions to draft a WR high. I still think they looked at Watkins, but price was too steep. Thought they would then draft one in mid rounds. Drafting Ebron changed that.

TE – Did not understand why mock drafts had Ebron and the Lions as a possibility. I was wrong.

OT/G/C – Thought it was a possibility to draft someone on the line. Was hard to predict where the Lions would focus. Finding a Raiola replacement seemed the most likely. That was correct.

DE – Thought the Lions would grab another DE after letting Willie Young walk. Did not expect the pick to be this raw.

DT – Grabbing an insurance DT in the late rounds, check!

OLB – Thought they would consider drafting an OLB if Watkins was off board. Barr being off the board made that even tougher. Ended up waiting to the next round for Van Noy.

ILB – Did not rate this as a high possibility, but didn’t rule it out for the late rounds. Lions did not make a move here.

CB – Was surprised by this. Thought for sure the Lions would grab a corner in the first three rounds. I was wrong. Hope they still make an offseason trade here.

S – Weak Safety class did not give the Lions many options in the late rounds. Considered it a possibility for the first round, but the Lions had other ideas.

K – Yes, the Lions drafted a kicker, yes I said they might do that. Weak kicker class kept me a little cool on the idea though.

 

Final Thoughts

The draft is a time for optimism. New pieces that can transform the way a team plays in a single season.  I like to think I’m a positive evaluator for the draft, but I try my best to realistic. This season, I’m coming away a little less excited than usual. I do not see any major changes in store. Just lots of role players. Ebron should help diversify this offense, but he’s not a game changer like Watkins. Barr and Gilbert could have added elite talent to the defense, but were picked right before ten. That’s how most of the draft felt this season. It just didn’t break the Lions way. The Lions did the best they could, but it will require the core group of players to rise to the next level for any real change to occur. I still do not see a complete roster yet and anticipate the Lions will make more moves before the end of August. That secondary really needs some help.

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Lions Draft 2014 (Class Overview)

by: P.J. Wascher

The NFL Draft finally starts tomorrow. Despite the extra two weeks, first round mock drafts have been all over the board this season. It’s a really tough year to anticipate any pick a team will make thanks to the strong possibility of a top 10 pick being traded. Scouts can’t even agree who the top talent in the draft is this season. So it does not make a ton of sense to predict what the Lions will do this season. The fact is they could go in several directions. Despite the pessimism, I’ll be making my best attempt at predictions. I’ll be keeping to a similar format from the past and do a rundown on each position and the draft likelihood for the Lions. The Lions have become a tough team to project in the draft thanks to their “best player available” strategy, but if you look at past drafts by Mayhew, you can start to put clues together. Let’s rundown the board:

Position: QB

Possibility: (1 Low – 10 High) (3) I can’t rule out this possibility in the late rounds. I think they’ll avoid it though. Sends mixed messages to Stafford even if it’s a late round pick. The Lions signed Orlovsky to replace Shaun Hill. I could see them going the undrafted route again to develop a backup for the future. I don’t think the Lions are sold on Kellen Moore. Arm strength is not there. If they go the UDFA route, names I’m looking at include Tommy Rees, Notre Dame and Garret Gilbert, SMU.

Position: RB

Possibility: (1) Joique Bell and Reggie Bush are locked in as the Lions running back combo. They even have Riddick and Leshoure sitting on the bench for good measure. Picking a RB in the late rounds just does not make sense unless somebody caught the scouting team’s eye. Even then it really doesn’t make sense.

Position: WR

Possibility: (9) This is where it gets interesting. The Lions are strongly linked to Sammy Watkins, but that will probably require a trade. This is a big debate in Detroit. I know I’m in the minority here, but I’m not completely against the move, depending on the price. The Lions need a clear number two receiver. Golden Tate was signed to fill the slot in my opinion.  Sammy Watkins is the top WR in this draft by a good margin, but he’s not Calvin Johnson. He’s slower and not as tall. It’s a tough call what do here, but this would be consistent with the Lions win now message. Watkins would be expected to jump in and start contributing. Mike Evans has also been discussed, personally not a fan of that move. He’s a tall receiver, but very raw. Too much development required to take in the top 10. If the Lions don’t take a WR in the first round, I could still see them taking a WR in the first 3 rounds. Allen Robinson, Penn State, and Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt, would be two names I’d look out for in that scenario.

Position: TE

Possibility: (4) I’ve been surprised how much talk there’s been about the Lions taking a TE in this year’s draft. Doesn’t really add up, in my opinion, after resigning Pettigrew. I do not agree with some mock drafts that have the Lions taking top TE, Eric Ebron, with their first round pick. If they were going to take a TE, I think they’ll look in the later rounds for someone to compliment Pettigrew. Name to watch for in that scenario: C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa.

Position: Offensive Tackle

Possibility: (5) You can never rule out a pick for the offensive line. It’s a conservative move that can help secure the foundation of a team. There’s some elite talent at the top of the draft, but most of those tackles will be off the board by the time the Lions pick. The Lions appear to be happy with a Reiff + Waddle/Hilliard combo. Most likely scenario, the Lions look around the 5th round for a tackle. Similar to what they did with Jason Fox a few years ago. A player to develop that could play in an emergency. A little more depth is required after Fox’s departure.

Position: Offensive Guard

Possibility: (5) The Lions hit the jackpot last year with their 3rd round pick, Larry Warford. Maybe the Lions will use that strategy again to add depth. They finally have a decent combo of guards, but Sims is starting to get up there in age. Looking for a potential replacement in the middle rounds could make sense.  Trai Turner, LSU, in the fourth round could make sense.

Position: Center

Possibility: (6) It’s hard for many Lions fans to accept, but Dominic Raiola had a very good 2013 season. He’s getting up there in the age, but it makes no sense to draft a replacement in the first two rounds as some have suggested. Drafting a middle round replacement for the future would make more sense in my opinion. Looking at Marcus Martin, USC, third round.

Position: Defensive End

Possibility: (7) The Lions have some options at this position, but nothing elite to pair up with Ansah. Jones will be coming off an injury and Taylor is still a raw prospect. Love Clowney, but not much else within the Top 10. Would like to see them address this position with one more player. Will probably happen after the first round. Looking at Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State, in the fourth or fifth round.

Position: Defensive Tackle

Possibility: (7) The Lions are in a tough spot with this position. With lots of investment that could come to an end very soon, it’s tough to know what their future plans are for Suh and Fairley. Both contracts are potentially (Suh has a 2015 player option) up next season. They may want some insurance. In a “win now” mode, how high are they willing to make that kind of insurance move? If they’re investing a late round pick, I’d look at Jay Bromley, Syracuse, 6th or 7th round.

Position: Outside Linebacker

Possibility: (8) With a new regime in town, one of the first moves I think they’ll strongly consider making is an upgrade at OLB. Ashlee Palmer is a solid player, but not a playmaker. The Lions need to create more pressure from this position. I think this is the second most likely position for the Lions to draft in the first round (WR most likely). Anthony Barr, UCLA, and Khalil Mack, Buffalo are the two top names in the draft at OLB. Lions would have to make a move to get Mack.

Position: Inside Linebacker

Possibility: (3) Tulloch did not have his best season in 2013, but he’s still a reliable player the Lions are invested in. Would be surprised to see the Lions do anything more than look at a later round pick for depth. Max Bullough, MSU, would be an interesting option if he drops into the later rounds.

Position: Cornerback

Possibility: (10) I think the Lions will draft a corner, but not in the first round! Mayhew has addressed his thoughts on secondary players many times. It’s the most injury prone position in the league. To avoid that issue, he prefers bigger corners he can get later in the draft. Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard could be reasonable picks in the first round, but it’s hard to expect much from any first round cornerback their rookie season. History has shown this position requires some development time. Trying to win now, I think the Lions would prefer to draft a player like Stanley Jean Baptiste, Nebraska, in the second round and keep developing their last set of picks. Lions have already invested lots of draft picks in the secondary. Time for Slay, Bentley and Greenwood to contribute.

Position: Safety

Possibility: (5) The Lions dropped Delmas in the offseason, but appear to have signed his replacement, Ihedigbo. The Lions could use a playmaker at the position, but I’d be surprised if they drafted one in the first round with two starters already signed. Overall scouts are pretty down on this class. Not against the Lions taking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama, but it seems like a reach. Not sure he’s a playmaker worthy of the number 10 pick.

Position: Kicker

Possibility: (6) After last year’s Punter draft pick, the Lions have shown their willingness to draft special teams. The Lions need a kicker. If they see one worth taking, I they’ll be willing to use a sixth round pick on it once again. No kicker is jumping off the page this year though, my blind guess is Chris Boswell, Rice.

So what are the Lions doing in the first round?

The discussion around Sammy Watkins has been fascinating. I’m a fan of his and would be in favor of drafting him, but that’s before I consider the potential cost. Trading up to pick him does not make sense considering the likely cost.  The Lions could use all the picks they can get. Overall, this is considered a very strong WR class, they’re probably best served to wait on the WR pick, but it’s tempting to think about making a move similar to Atlanta. Finding a complement receiver to Calvin Johnson will provide this offense better balance, but making a move at the price Atlanta gave up to get Julio Jones is too much for a team like the Lions. Atlanta was trying to make a single move that could win a Super Bowl. The Lions need more than one move to make that leap forward. Looking elsewhere, I still see outside linebacker as the next most likely position for the Lions to draft in the first round. The Lions need to create more pressure on the QB from the linebacker position. The new coaching staff appears to be more willing to blitz. Anthony Barr could fill that role, but this pick would also have some risk to it. Barr is physically impressive and has been productive, but he’s raw and disappeared throughout the year too. Most great blitzing outside linebackers are playing in a 3-4 defense, the Lions are still running a 4-3. If they draft an OLB, it could lead to future discussions about a transition for this defense.

PJ’s Draft Board (First Round Predictions)

1. Sammy Watkins, WR (Clemson) Where there’s smoke there’s fire right? Or a really big distraction I guess.

2. Anthony Barr, OLB (UCLA) Still feels like a stretch for me at 10.

3. Dee Ford, DE (Auburn) Had a really good Senior Bowl, Lions certainly took that into consideration when they picked Ansah last year.

4. Justin Gilbert, CB (Oklahoma State) Can’t rule out the possibility they’ll take a corner in the first round, it’s just not likely in my opinion.

5. Mike Evans, WR (Texas A&M) I’m not a fan of this pick, too early to be picking a developmental WR. Personally think a player like Marqise Lee (USC) would make more sense, but injuries will probably scare Lions away.

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Music: 2013 In Review

by P.J. Wascher

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It’s never been easier to discover great music. Spotify has been my weapon of choice, but the Internet has created several portals for bands to reach new fans. Keeping with a personal tradition, I spent most of the year putting together this music list on post-it notes. While listening through all this music I kept saying to myself “2013 can’t beat the music year we just had (2012).” While I still kind of believe that, 2013 was a great year for music. Yes 2012 was special, I’m still digging up great music from that year, but 2013 was able to fill my hunger for new music and so much more. This list is part of my annual tradition. I love ranking music. It brings order to my crazy listening habits. My goal is to find something new everyday, as you can see with this SOTD list. Ranking music gives me something to go back to and reflect on what I really loved. At work I’ve blocked off a section of my desk to organize this list. Every album I love gets ranked in this Post-It Note list. After some last minute adjustments, Here are my official Top 10 Albums of 2013 and Song Of The Year:

Song Of The Year:

Wings by Haerts

The Moment I heard this song I knew I’d found my song of the year. The vocals are the first thing to notice. Long sustained notes make it hard to not get sucked right in. A flashback 80s synth sound followed by an electric guitar that makes me think of summer sets the theme. The easy to ignore detail is the drums, with great background fills and a shift to double time at the end. It hits all the right notes and even hides great details in the layers to enjoy over and over.

 

The Top 5

  1. Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend – I’ll admit right off the top, this feels strange. It doesn’t feel right putting a band, I quite frankly struggle with at the top of this list. I’ve never been a fan of their earlier work and their inability to match the richness of their studio-produced albums has always frustrated me. That has still not changed, but I think Vampire Weekend went with a different approach to that weakness. Instead of worrying about what it would sound like live, they went all in on the studio approach. The result is pretty incredible. The detail and emotion in these songs is great. It’s the only album this year that I was able to constantly press play and listen all the way through. I love albums like this. Every track is worth listening too. No throw aways. Having seen some live performances by them, it hasn’t gotten any better on that front, in my opinion, but their album production quality has taken a giant leap forward.

Top Tracks:

  • Obvious Bicycles
  • Unbelievers
  • Ya Hey

2. Wildewoman by Lucius

I went to their concert in late October. By the end I heard three different conversations say, “They’re going to be something special.” While I agree with the sentiment, I’d argue they already are something special. This album is fantastic. Every year I look for a new sound, this was it: a female singing combo with a folk/pop fusion. The vocals obviously lead the way with this group, but the drums/percussion supply the energy. Whenever I try to describe this to people, I always get a surprised look when I start playing their tracks. So either people are really skeptical about my music taste or I’m really terrible at describing music, so I think I’ll let the track below do the work.

Top Tracks:

  • Turn It Around
  • Hey, Doreen
  • Two of Us on the Run

3. AM by Arctic Monkeys

I’m an Olympics nut. Watching the 2012 London Olympic Opening Ceremony, I saw this band along side the likes of Paul McCartney representing the UK’s great music scene. I’d heard some of their stuff, but none of it had really jumped off the page for me. This album has completely changed that. I think we can thank The Black Keys for this great rock evolution. That sound has worked its way into several of the best rock albums of the year.

Top Tracks:

  • R U Mine?
  • Arabella
  • Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?

4. Bankrupt! by Phoenix

If you were allowed to judge your own music list, I’d call this my biggest surprise album on the list. When I originally listened through this album, I found it a bit too much of shift from their original sound. Adding a significant amount of synth to their sound, I was not ready for the move. After a several month hiatus, I randomly felt interested in giving this album another try. Cutting out the surprise, it finally started making sense to me. Different isn’t always bad, but certain expectations can make it tough to adjust. This album is fantastic and shows the group is still growing and evolving. I’m still not sure where they can go from here, but I like that this group is experimenting. It’s too easy to stand still with what works.

Top Tracks:

  • Entertainment
  • Trying to Be Cool
  • The Real Thing

5. All The Times We Had by Ivan & Alyosha

I’ve always liked the sound from this band. It hits all the right notes for me. After four years, they finally released a follow-up album and it’s become much more polished. Watching them live in November, I can give thumbs up approval for carrying their sound over to their concert performances. This album reminds me of The Temper Trap’s self-titled album, lots of great melodies and vocals. This group features a bit more of a folksy side and group vocals allow for build up in that area. The guitar melodies are fantastic.

Top Tracks:

  • Be Your Man
  • Fathers Be Kind
  • Running For Cover

The Next 5

New this year, thanks to a great 2013 for music, I’ve ranked beyond the Top 5. Here are 5 more albums worth your time:

6. The World From The Side Of The Moon by Phillip Phillips – Dave Mathews + Jason Mraz. I really didn’t expect to love this, but his live versions of these songs are fantastic.

Top Tracks:

  • Gone, Gone, Gone
  • Man On The Moon
  • Can’t Go Wrong

7. Be by Beady Eye – This was my “pallet cleanser” album for the year. When songs begin to blend together, this album always cleared my head. Great throwback rock sound.

Top Tracks

  • Flick Of The Finger
  • Shine A Light
  • Soul Love

8. Lanterns by Son Lux – I love what this artist can do in a studio. Almost took my song of the year.

Top Tracks:

  • Lost It To Trying
  • Alternate World
  • Easy

9. Repave by Volcano Choir – My longing for a new Bon Iver album has been slightly quelled by this release.

Top Tracks:

  • Tiderays
  • Byegone
  • Comrade

10. Life is Elsewhere by Little Comets – Afropop continues to go more and more mainstream thanks to Vampire Weekend, but they’ve moved a bit off of it. This group has picked the torch right back up.

Top Tracks

  • Worry
  • A Little Opus
  • Jennifer

Honorable Mentions

Native by One Republic – Big fan of this group, was guilty of overplaying this album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8punZbeuGg

Comedown Machine by The Strokes – Angles still my favorite album by this group. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxsPF4bsDmc

Spreading Rumors by Grouplove https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgF9knPeReo

Home by Rudimental https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oABEGc8Dus0

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts by Cold War Kids https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1F6gAN6MOII

Holy Fire by Foals https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAsGFnLl2u0

Give In by On An On https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkiXu4wavnM

Random Access Memories by Daft Punk – Wanted to love this album badly. It’s good but not great. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJhpOXnRILw

What Wonder Is This Universe! by The Soil And The Sun – Officially a 2012 album, or else it’d be in my Top 10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvsIY07-444

In Guards We Trust by Guards https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBLelbyitG0

Same Trailer Different Park by Kacey Musgraves – My Country Album of Year. This song linked is also my favorite song from that genre for the year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ8xqyoZXCc

Fever Forms by The Octopus Project – I found this music a perfect way to dust off the Monday blues. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKIQ0I1UXJE

Hearthrob by Teagan and Sara https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrvIzuMl8Ug

Rift into the Secrect of Things by Bonzie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76WR58zIcnU

Country Sleep by Night Beds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUANoVYf8tw

Reflektor by Arcade Fire – Still making up my mind on this album. Like it, not sure if I love it.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7E0fVfectDo

Dormarian by Telekinesis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcJ7gZYHMUI

Pythons by Surfer Blood https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hibl9YBdM7w

Cave Rave by Crystal Fighters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tZSY6RRGlw

Evil Friends by Portugal. The Man – Been a fan of this group for a while. Was excited to see them pairing with my favorite producer (Danger Mouse) for this album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daB9QRwVQH4

….Like Clockwork by Queens of Stone Age https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFca32_7YUU

More Than Just A Dream by Fitz and The Tantrums https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CyAruneYJI

A Color Map of the Sun by Pretty Lights https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a1_GVRtme0

When The Night by St. Lucia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-sKMiNqTjs

The Bones of What You Believe by CHVRCHES https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktoaj1IpTbw

Paradise Valley by John Mayer – Still waiting on the next Continuum, not sure it’s coming, but this is a step in the right direction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0zaNpics48

Yeezus by Kanye West – I’m a huge Kanye fan, but I feel very torn about this album. The lyrics make this a very uncomfortable listen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0QcxWPB59o

Interiors by Glasser https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOVY0KDEzqw

Matangi by M.I.A. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJ2lsG3I8IU

We Are Twin by We Are Twin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRAF9DxT1Os

Hemiplegia by Haerts https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jG97ziDTpQ

Overgrown by James Blake https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p6PcFFUm5I

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Movin’ On Up? (Michigan Football Preview 2013)

by: P.J. Wascher

Brady Hoke year 3. Optimism continues to grow off some great recruiting classes, but the product on the field continues to look like a transition. Denard Robinson will go down as a legend in this program’s history, but his graduation now means Michigan can finally begin to look like the product Hoke promised when he first arrived. Looking at the year ahead, Michigan is finally beginning to get some depth at several positions, but injuries and graduation have left several question marks. Making things even more difficult to predict, we just don’t know how life will be without Denard on offense or Kovacs on defense. Big Ten Championship is always the goal. Is it possible this year? Maybe. With a squad full of question marks, Michigan fans are left in the dark going into the season.

Offense

Michigan and the pro style offense is back! We think. Hard to figure out what this offense will really look like this season. Devin Gardner still brings a dangerous running option with him that will make it tempting to leave several spread offense plays in the book. Making things tougher to implement a true pro style offense, Michigan lacks a tall WR to target down the field. Jeremy Gallon will be the team’s number one target this year, but his size will always be his limiting factor. He will have a great season, but it will still limit the way Michigan can call plays. Gallon is dangerous in space and will always excel more in a spread offense. Helping this offense transition is an actual QB that can be considered a passing threat. Devin showed off his arm late last season. The Wolverines finally have a QB that can target receivers without resorting to a heave. Gardner was a promising 5 star recruit when he came to Ann Arbor, but looked like a QB with happy feet his first two seasons. A year at WR and lots of development later, he has settled down and looks ready to be a top QB in the Big Ten.

The offensive line could not run. Let’s be blunt here. It was ugly. The Wolverines were short handed on the interior line and were not ready to throw their highly rated true freshman out there. This left Michigan with no real running threat other than Denard and made their offense very predictable. Not a problem against the cupcakes, but it caught up with them in places like Columbus. This year, Michigan will finally be using those freshmen, now red-shirt freshman. Kalis should help big time at guard. Michigan has still struggled to fill that center spot, but it can’t be any worse than last year. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield at tackle should be a lock for best tackle combo in the Big Ten. We don’t yet know how this running game will look though; we just hope it’s better. Toussaint is the clear number one back this season, despite the gruesome season ending injury last season. All reports say he is healthy this season. It was a rough season for Toussaint last year, but it’s hard to blame him for much considering the offensive line struggles. If Toussaint is not healthy, Michigan will have several options under him. Derrick Green, true freshman, will probably be the true number two.

Running through the offense, it’s hard to not feel optimistic, but we just don’t know. How will Devin Gardner look as the full time QB. How will he adjust to the new offense? How will he deal with teams that are going to be scouting and adjusting to him? Small WR options make me nervous. An injury to his number two target, Amara Darboh, isn’t helping. If the running game can improve, this will help take pressure off Gardner’s passing game. This offense had its moments last season, but found itself predictable against the top teams when they could shutdown all running options other than Denard. They key to a Borges offense is the ability to run the ball. If defenses begin to respect RBs between the tackles, Gardner will be able to let it fly down the field.

Defense

It may not steal the headlines this season, but it’s the squad fans should feel more comfortable with. Going through the positions, only safety is leaving me concerned. Life without Kovacs is going to take some adjustment. Jarrod Wilson appears to be the starter until Avery is healthy. Neither will be the playmaker Kovacs has been. Many think Thomas Gordon will fill that role, but I just don’t see it. He’s a solid player, but has never shown that ability to play a LB type role in run support. When I stop worrying about the Safeties, it starts to look a little better. The Cornerbacks will get Blake Countess back from injury, who looks like a possible shut-down corner. Ramon Taylor on the other side will continue to develop along wil several decent options. Jake Ryan’s injury has left some nervous about the linebackers, but his return in October should ease those concerns. The schedule looks manageable till then. Prepare to hear James Ross a lot. This should be his year to shine. The defensive line still has a few question marks. The Wolverines are still looking for more QB pressure from this group. That will rest on Frank Clark this season. He’s a physical beast that just hasn’t shown it on the field yet. His ability to rush the QB will be even more important thanks to Jake Ryan’s injury. No pressure and the secondary will be left out to dry. This secondary is decent, but that can only get you so far at the college level. I trust Mattison to find different ways to put pressure on the QB. His blitz packages have been effective the last two years, but if he could avoid sending an extra guy his defense will really be ready to take off. Probably still a year away from that.

Schedule/Predictions

Central Michigan – W – Nice easy opener

Notre Dame – L – Rees gets the last laugh smh

Akron – W – Cupcake game

Connecticut – W – They lost to Towson!

Minnesota – W – Same old Minnesota, the Jug should be safe

Penn State – W – QB still unsettled, Will those scholarship reductions finally hurt?

Indiana – W – Good offense, bad defense

Michigan State – W – Tough game like usual

Nebraska – W – They were lucky to win last year

Northwestern – W – Toss-up game

Iowa – W – Kirk Ferentz is still in rebuilding mode…

Ohio State – L – I really hate Urban Meyer

Overall 10-2

It’s an optimistic prediction, but you can make a case for every position being better this year, other than Safety. Lots of questions about the offense Borges will run this season, but he should have lots of options, which is never a bad thing. This is still a tough schedule, 5 toss up games (Notre Dame, MSU, Nebraska, Northwestern and OSU). With that many games up in the air, my prediction could look pretty foolish. In Hoke I trust. As the system moves closer to his personnel, this team should continue to win more of those toss-up games. Big Ten Championship is in reach this season, but it will take a little magic.

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Keep The Momentum? (2013 Syracuse Football Preview)

by: P.J. Wascher

It’s hard to admit to optimism with a football program like Syracuse. Expectations have been limited for over 20 years and it recently witnessed one of the ugliest coaching tenures in program history with Greg Robinson. But a win at the Pinstripe Bowl against West Virginia, a four game winning streak to close out the season and things looked like they were finally turning around. It’s funny how quickly that optimism can die though. Doug Marrone bolts for the NFL and Syracuse is now left trying to hold onto a dream that looked ready to take flight just a few months earlier. I’ll never understand fans that forgive Marrone for giving up his “dream job,” but I do understand the Scott Shafer hire. This team feels like it’s finally on the right track and Shafer comes off as a genuine hard-nosed coach. It’s going to be up to him to keep this school’s dream alive.

Offense

Switching to a no huddle spread offense did wonders for this team last year. When the team finally made the move, the light switch went on and the team began to roll. This season, with heavy personnel turnover and coaching turnover, the goal is to match the product they put out there last year. Losing Nathaniel Hackett to the Bills, Syracuse has promised to keep a similar system that fans are now attached to, but they must do this while losing their QB, Left Tackle and top two WR targets. So change is unfortunately expected. What Syracuse still has is running backs. Jerome Smith and Prince Tyson Gulley proved a formidable duo last season. This offense will need them even more this season. The QB starter situation has been cloudy all offseason. Syracuse lost it’s top recruit in Zach Allen. He was always unlikely to start, but may have competed with the two options left: Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen and Terrel Hunt. My gut says Drew Allen will start, but I won’t be surprised either way. Hunt would provide more of a running option, but he’s inexperienced as a true sophomore. Either option will be a downgrade to Nassib. At WR, Syracuse will have some work to do replacing it’s top two options. Jarrod West should be the clear number one option this season, targeted third most on the team last year. Since Shafer is a converted defensive coordinator, this is the side of the ball fans will be more concerned with. Promises have been made to keep an up temp offense, but with so many pieces missing it will take some magic from Syracuse’s new offensive coordinator, George McDonald.

Defense

Defense will need to be the calling card of this team if it wants to keep the momentum. Having your head coach promoted from defensive coordinator, one would think he’d have strong network to find strong coaching candidates for that side of the ball. Defensive Coordinator Chuck Bullough will have some pieces to work with on this end. Starting with a strong linebacker duo in Marquis Spruill and Dyshawn Davis. The Orange will also have some promising pieces in the secondary. The biggest hole will be in safety. Losing Shamrko Thomas will take some adjustment. He lead the team in tackles last season, and was defense’s motor with all or nothing tackling form. This defense has never been a shutdown squad. But it will need to make some stands if this team is going to compete in the ACC.

Schedule/Predictions

Penn State – L – Stability with Bill O’Brien and Cuse’s bad luck in the Big Ten = loss

Northwestern – L – Solid Big Ten, not going to happen

Wagner – W – Cupcake Team

Tulane – W – Friendly non-conference game

Clemson – L – Buckle up, top ACC team

NC State – L – Welcome to the ACC, we have depth in this conference

Georgia Tech – L – Triple option will take some getting used to

Wake Forest – W – Welcome to the bottom half of the ACC

Maryland – W – Soon-to-be Big Ten bottom feeder

Florida State – L – This could be ugly

Pittsburgh – W – Big East rematch

Boston College – W – Toss-up game, should win this one

Overall 6 – 6

New coach, new conference, It’s hard to expect too much. Marrone knew it would be tough to improve his resume at this point. The team has experienced large turnover on offense and this new conference will make it even tougher to become bowl eligible. Shafer will have his work cut out for him. Fair expectations will be 500 for this team.  Anything above and the team has transitioned well, anything below and it may be a tough road ahead. Shafer has waited a while for this opportunity. It wasn’t easy getting and it won’t be easy succeeding in it.

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Room For Improvement (2013 Michigan State Football Preview)

by: P.J. Wascher

Last season was a classic example of why hype can be dangerous. As I’ve discussed on this blog before, expectations set the bar for when things can start being fun with a team. When your expectation is a conference championship a 7-6 season and an even uglier 3-5 in the Big Ten is going to create lots of frustration and anger.  Despite these results last year, the expectations remain the same. With limited turnover on defense and a new offensive coordinator(s), MSU fans are feeling positive again. While the team looks ready to compete, what may really be creating those good vibrations among the Spartan faithful is a look at their 2013 schedule. No Ohio State, no Wisconsin, and a friendly non-conference schedule. The dream of a Rose Bowl is alive. Let’s take a look at the upcoming season before tonight’s kickoff:

Offense:

Rejoice! Dan Roushar is gone! Celebration was short lived though when MSU pulled Jim Bollman out of obscurity to be co-offensive coordinator with Dave Warner. It’s clear Dantonio has no interest in changing the scheme. MSU will continue to be a conservative offense that will try to ground and pound. This style of football is not dead in college football, but it’s certainly taken a back seat to the spread offense. Making things more difficult for the offense will be the lack of a featured running back.  Le’Veon Bell made the wise decision to forgo his senior season to play in the NFL. Freshman (linebacker) Riley Bullough, the new starting running back, does not bring with him nearly the same pedigree as Bell. While there has been some optimism around him, there is going to be some expected fall back in the run game unless an underperforming offensive line steps up to create some consistent running lanes. There’s a chance this happens, injuries last year and another year of development for the remaining pieces should give this line a chance to grow and improve.

The real questions come in the passing game. The numbers by Andrew Maxwell were not impressive last season, but it’s hard to tell how much of that should be placed on him or his receiving corps. This group of WRs had a rough season last year and does not have an influx of talent coming in to change that. A year of development might help, but there appears to be only one sure thing in this group at the start of the year, Aaron Burbridge. Making things more interesting for this offense is the QB situation. While Maxwell will get the first start, it remains to be seen who will start the last game. Connor Cook, was very impressive in last year’s bowl game and appeared to be a spark plug with his ability run the ball and throw aggressive down the field. I really thought they might make the change going into the new year, but Maxwell’s pedigree continues to make coaches believe he should get another opportunity at the helm. Lots of question marks for this offense, but an improved offensive line should definitely help. The questions come big time at running back and wide receiver. If neither position can develop, this will once again be the weakness of the team.

Defense

The question marks left by the offense quickly disappear when you start looking at MSU’s defense.  Pat Narduzzi continues to dial up dangerous veteran filled squads that can put any game in the single digits. All conversations on this defense have to start with Max Bullough, MLB. The senior linebacker looks ready to be a potential first rounder, with great run support and lateral quickness. A dangerous secondary filled with all-conference players like Darqueze Denard will continue to also make passing an undesirable option as well. Some turnover on the line should not hold this group back. Some new talented options are ready to step in for some overhyped ones. The defense will continue to be the cornerstone of this team. If this group does not live up to the hype, all hope is lost with an offense that will still be trying to find its identity.

Schedule/Predictions

Western Michigan – W- Offense doesn’t need to shine yet

Univ. South Florida – W – New American Conference!…anyone excited? Ok no

Youngstown State – W – Cupcake game

Notre Dame – L – Not going to Natty Championship, but still a tough team

Iowa – W – Why is Kirk Ferentz still there? Oh right that contract

Indiana – W – Tricky game, that offense looks dangerous

Purdue – W – New coach needs some time there

Illinois – W – This team is in trouble, made a mistake hiring Tim Beckman

Michigan – L – Toss-up game, Offense will hold MSU back this game

Nebraska – W – Tough win, but MSU will be ready

Northwestern – L – Dark horse team in the Big Ten, will wreck a few seasons

Minnesota – W – Same old Minnesota, friendly closer for MSU

Overall 9 – 3

Three Things I Predict

1.    Running game will struggle until Connor Cook becomes the new starting QB

2.    An inconsistent offense will make at least one of these auto-win games a very close win

3.    Aaron Burbridge and Max Bullough will be fan favorites that live up to the hype

A friendly schedule will keep all options on the table, but if those offensive question marks give the wrong answers this will be a very big missed opportunity. Last season left plenty of room for improvement, with limited turnover this team has a chance to grow. My overall prediction is one win less than I had last year for this team. That one really burned me. Will be interesting to see how MSU handles a couple good spread offenses in Northwestern and Indiana. If this offense can settle in on a QB and the running game can help support the offense, this team will once again have a shot to win the division. Northwestern, Michigan and Nebraska will be their three most important games. Win 2/3 and they’ll have a shot at that Rose Bowl bid.

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NFL Draft 2013 (Class Overview)

by: P.J. Wascher

The draft is just a couple days a way. There’s no other way to put it, this draft is not looking good. One of the weakest I’ve seen since I started following the draft. Going into this draft, the Lions have a lot of positions they could draft for. This article is a chance to rank the positions and see how likely the Lions are to target it:

Position: QB

Draft Class Grade: (D+) It’s a very weak class. There’s no “sure thing” in this class, or even somebody with amazing potential. There are just a lot of question marks. Count me as no fan of Geno Smith, who never put it all together at West Virginia. His hot start last season quickly cooled off once the competition got stronger. Anybody expecting him to be the next RG3 needs to lower expectations. I’m a fan of Ryan Nassib. Personally think he’s the best QB in the class, but his physical tools do not separate him enough to justify a top ten pick. He will need development like the rest of this class. There may be a few QB’s out of this class that become solid starters in the NFL, it’s just hard to predict which ones.

Possibility: (1 Low – 10 High) (1) Can’t see the Lions even making a late round pick here. They have three QBs they’re comfortable with. If anything they’ll test one out that is undrafted.

Position: WR

Draft Class Grade: (C -) There’s a few interesting pieces at the top and like usual some good athletes available. The top end of this class is not great though and there is a smaller mid-level of talent than usual. The most intriguing prospect is Tavon Austin out of West Virginia. Comparisons to Percy Harvin seem fair. Just a little small to justify the top pick. Can’t be a #1 guy under 6 feet tall.

Possibility: (7) The Lions had Tavon Austin visit before the draft, but the only that pick will happen is if the Lions trade back. They need a new return man with Stefan Logan gone. They will also need some more insurance at receiver with both Broyles and Burleson injured. Lions will likely make a pick for this position, but I anticipate it coming beyond the second round.

Position: RB

Draft Class Grade: (C+) There’s no “star” running back in this class, but there are several solid prospects and quite a few underrated ones. Which is fine, running backs are a dying commodity in the draft. Teams are no longer interested in using top picks on them. A passing league has caused almost all of these player’s stocks to drop over the last decade.

Possibility: (3) Never say never here. Maybe there’s a prospect they fall in love with in the late round and go for it. But with the signing of Reggie Bush and LeShoure/Bell still on the roster, not much space available to make a move here.

Position: TE

Draft Class Grade: (B) TE’s tend to have at least one difference maker in the class. They have become important passing targets in the NFL offense. This year’s TE appears to be Eifert out of Notre Dame. Some other picks will certainly contribute. Dion Simms out Michigan State could be a nice mid round pick.

Possibility: (2) The Lions are not replacing Pettigrew and they have some solid backups at TE. Just don’t see them even taking a project TE this draft.

Position: OT

Draft Class Grade: (B-) This class is tough describe. Yes, there are some solid picks at the top end of the draft. No sure things, but players that look ready to succeed in the NFL, which is more than we can say for a lot of these draft classes. There is even some solid mid-first round prospects. It just doesn’t have that “sure thing” and even more disturbing is how quickly this position’s talent level drops off. If you are going to draft a tackle this season, make it early or prepare for a big project.

Possibility: (8) The Lions need another tackle. They have one spot filled by Reiff, but still have another side to replace unless they are really comfortable promoting backup Hilliard. If the Lions are going to make a move for a tackle it will be early, very early. This class doesn’t offer the depth to wait. They will need to make that selection with that 5th pick. Eric Fisher is the dream pick, but I think he may go number one. Fisher along with Joeckel are the two standouts, if one drops, Lions have to make a move. Would be very lucky if it’s Fisher, who has more physical tools to work with. Most likely tackle option will be Lane Johnson out of Oklahoma. After last year’s draft, it’s clear the Lions have been scouting that school hard. Not as polished as the top two, but if they don’t grab him, there will be no shot at drafting a day one starter for that line.

Position: OG

Draft Class Grade: (C+) Guards are rarely make or break for a team. It tends to be a position teams try to hide discounted players to help with the salary cap. Having said that, the Lions may have tried to do that a little too much. This class has a very strong top candidate and then a lot of average underneath. Warmack will be a first round pick, tough to see much else getting drafted till at least the second round.

Possibility: (8) The Lions got rid of Peterman. If they do not move Reiff or Fox there, they will need another guard. Warmack’s name has been tossed around, but that is a heck of an investment for guard. I think we’ll see one draft in the third round or later.

Position: C

Draft Class Grade: (C+) Center is the other line spot that often is ignored except for a few high-talent players. This class has couple centers in Frederick (Wisconsin) and Jones (Alabama) that are the clear top talents. Just hard to see centers getting taken much earlier than the late first round.

Possibility: (3) Never say never. The Lions restructured Raiola’s contract, he will start this year for the Lions. But maybe they find a late round prospect that will nudge Raiola out the door soon.

Position: DT

Draft Class Grade: (A-) Must be the age of defensive tackles. For a few years in row we’ve been seeing strong DT classes. This looks to be one of the strongest positions in a weaker draft class. Some solid depth in top-talent. Just wonder if this position takes a hit because we’ve had several strong classes from this position. Star Lotulelei is the clear leader in this position, will be a top three pick and should be.

Possibility: (4) A little higher than most expect, I know. Not saying it will happen early. But I could see the Lions consider one later on in the draft. Losing Sammie Hill to free agency they had a spot free up. Could go for a run stuffing DT project in the late rounds. Depends if one they like falls to them.

Position: DE

Draft Class Grade: (B-) This class has some talent, but very little polish. Take your pick and see if you can find something special. Even at the top of this, there are question marks. It’s just hard to tell how high teams are on these DE’s. The top two Bjoern Werner and Ezekiel Ansah have bounced all around the first and even second round. Both look like first round picks to me. Some solid talent after this, but will take some coaching to find what you’re looking for here.

Possibility (9) Hard to not see the Lions being aggressive here. They let both their DE’s go at the end of the season. They signed Jason Jones in free agency and have several lower round picks that have had limited contributions. I anticipate the Lions will make a move early here. Still think the Lions will go OT first round and DE second round. But if the OT’s they are interested get drafted, they may go after Ansah or Dion Jordan with that fifth pick.

Position: MLB

Draft Class Grade: (B+) This is a better than usual draft class at MLB. There are at least 5 players that will be considered in the first two rounds. Will be interesting to see where Teo ends up, would probably have been top of this position if not for some off the field issues.

Possibility: (2) With Tulloch locked up, can’t see the Lions making a move here unless they have a prospect they really like.

Position: OLB

Draft Class Grade: (C+) Another position that just doesn’t have as much depth as usual. The top two players in this position, Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo, are both tweeners with DE. Jarvis Jones was great at Georgia, but injury concerns will hurt him.

Possibility: (6) Lions have drafted at least one linebacker several years in row to mediocre results. For awhile Jarvis Jones was a hot name with the Lions. That has cooled. Could still see them searching for a playmaker pass rusher. But I also see them waiting till the later rounds. That doesn’t exactly line up in this draft, with limited talent later on. We’ll have to see if a player drops to them.

Position: CB

Draft Class Grade: (B) I’m not convinced Milner is a shutdown corner yet. He may develop into one, but I’m concerned there is a little bit too much hype around this player. Looking beyond the top spot there are several solid prospects that will get selected in the first two rounds. One that I am particularly interested in is Desmond Trufant out of Washington. Will probably go in the middle of the first.

Possibility: (7) It’s very likely the Lions will look for one more piece here, it’s just a question of which round. Mayhew is on record saying he doesn’t love drafting corners high. The fragility of the position makes it tough to invest a lot. Mayhew has in the past searched for larger more durable corners in later rounds hoping that a solid pass rush will cover up any inability to shutdown a receiver. He has several options from last year’s draft and with Houston resigned, can’t see them drafting a CB in the first round unless they trade back. Would expect to see a CB drafted in the third round or later.

Position: Safety

Draft Class Grade: (C) Free safety looks decent, strong safety not so much. Vaccaro looking like the only first round possibility in this draft class, but there are teams that are looking for some safety help. There may be a few stretches in this position. Teams are starting to need help in the back end of their pass game. Looking at teams like Denver after that last second loss to Baltimore.

Possibility: (6) The Lions resigned Delmas and also made a free agent signing in Glover Quin. They seem set here, but may make a late round pick to add depth. Delmas still fragile and Spievey injured they do not have many backup options.

PJ’s Draft Board (First Round Predictions)

  1. Lane Johnson, OT, Oaklahoma
  2. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
  3. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
  4. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
  5. Bjoern Wener, DE, Florida State
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Lions Draft Outlook 2013 (First Round)

by: P.J. Wascher

It’s back! My favorite offseason weekend in football is less than a week away. This is my first of hopefully many draft articles building up to the week and throughout the draft weekend. Adding a highly talented player to your team always feels like a game changer. Few sports have players that can be drafted and make contributions as quickly as they do in football. I find it fun looking through the scouting reports and picking out players of interest. Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong. That’s what the rest of the year is for, a chance to review your predictions and see what went right and wrong. I’ve been doing this routine for 9 years. I like to think I’m getting better.

Focusing on the first round, the Lions are in familiar territory.  After drafting late in first round last year for the first time in recent memory, the Lions 2013 season had its wheels fall off in a big way. It has fans believing 2012 was a fluke and this franchise is in more trouble than we realized. Several contract expirations and the retirement of Jeff Backus is setting this team up for substantial roster turnover. The Lions were more active then usual in free agency, giving them a chance to fill most of their remaining holes in the draft.

Making things difficult this year, the 2013 draft class looks particularly weak. No position is jumping off the page and this is shaping up to be one of the weakest QB classes I’ve seen since I started following the draft a decade ago. This weak class will make predicting next weeks draft very difficult, anticipating trades even more difficult. It’s hard to tell how teams are rating this year’s talent. Scouts appear to be split on a lot of this year’s talent. With no top QB’s to draft, it will make it difficult for the Lions trade out of the fifth spot in the draft. QBs tend to be the one position that can get teams to make aggressive trades to move up. There has been some talk of potential trades for the Lions, which would be preferred with a lack of elite talent at the top of this draft. But that lack of elite talent is why I consider this trade talk to be based more in hope than reality.

With the retirement of Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus leaving in free agency, the offensive line is having a major shakeup this offseason. Stephan Peterman being cut has forced the Lions to replace both tackles and a guard. The lions have re-signed backup tackle Corey Hillard to be a potential starter this season and no one is quite sure what the plans are for last year’s first round pick Riley Reiff. Lions can’t make up their mind if they’d like him at guard or tackle. Either way they are still one player short on next year’s line. Not typical to draft a guard in the top five picks of any draft, but the Lions have mentioned that as option. I’m going to believe it when I see it, but there is a decent guard prospect available, Chance Warmack, from Alabama. But once again, it’s a GUARD. Just doesn’t make sense to put that kind of investment there.

If the Lions do not draft an offensive lineman in the first round, most projections have the Lions drafting defense. While the secondary is what most Lions fans have been concentrated on, the defensive line is in more need of help. Seems strange to be drafting another defensive lineman, considering the amount of investment already there, but free agency has caused big changes there. Both Avril and Vanden Bosch are no longer with team. The Lions replaced one of those ends with Jason Jones signed in Free Agency, but they are still one starter short unless they are comfortable with Willie Young. I am predicting the Lions will draft a defensive end in the first two rounds. Looking at the secondary. The Lions still have several picks from last year that made limited contributions last season. If healthy, they will provide the Lions with several options, but Dee Milner out of Alabama would easily be an upgrade at this position. Would give the Lions two solid corners, but once again this may be at the expense of other positions more in need. There are a few interesting cornerbacks, like Desmond Trufant, that could also be an upgrade. But the Lions would need to trade back to consider these players.

To recap the four positions the Lions are most likely to draft in the first round: Tackle, Guard, Defensive End, Cornerback. I will keep adjusting my draft predictions as we get closer and go into the deeper rounds. For now, here are my top targets for the Lions in the first round:

PJ’s Draft Board (First Round Predictions)

  1. Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
  2. Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
  3. Dee Milner, CB, Alabama
  4. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
  5. Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
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How Do The Pistons Get Better?

by: P.J. Wascher

Yes, I’m a little late to this Pistons trade. That’s life in the “I’m really tired after working” world. So everything that’s been needed to be said about that trade is pretty much done. In short, I like the trade. Gives us a lot more flexibility and this team finally has a point guard, one of the biggest glaring weaknesses on this team. But we all know this trade won’t fix the Pistons. We still have to look down the road to see where this is going. With this trade Pistons are on the verge of becoming buyers over sellers. Since the disastrous Ben Gordon/Charlie V signings, the Pistons have been handcuffed by their contracts and lack of talent. They’re full of pieces nobody wants, or contracts nobody will touch. After this trade the Pistons may finally have recovered since those awful signings. So what’s next how do we get better?

Listening to fans after this trade, there appears to be a lot of fear that Joe Dumars will make the same mistakes again. The Pistons have money to spend. The last time this happened, Joe went on a spending spree trying to find free agents the year before the big ones (Lebron, Wade etc.). Figuring people would save the big spending for the next year, Joe D. decided to make his move early, hopefully getting more bang for the buck. The fact is Detroit is never going to attract a Lebron or Wade to Detroit. So there is no point saving for that. So how do you get better when you can’t draw top free agents? Well there are two options:

1.)   What Joe D. did last time. Find some B-Level free agents that are on their way to becoming A-Level talent. The problem with any free agent signing is they never come cheap. Any sighting of talent gets overpaid in this league. That’s why players like Roy Hibbert have a max contract. This league doesn’t understand the concept of control. A player like Omer Asik, who started two games last season, is now making $5 million a year. If anything, it’s only gotten worse since Joe made the Charlie V/Ben Gordon signings. There is some hope here going into the next free agency. New cap rules make the luxury tax a lot less desirable. Not sure if teams have learned that lesson yet, so it might not make much of an impact yet. It also may not deter big teams unafraid to spend money.

2.)    Make Trades! Detroit is not able to convince top talent to sign with Detroit? Then force them to come to Detroit. Make trades with teams that are dumping contracts, common practice in the NBA. Lots of top talent is let go every year by teams trying to free themselves of these guaranteed contracts. That’s how the Raptors acquired Rudy Gay and the Pistons got Calderon. The tricky part with this option is that most of these players being dumped have very rough contracts. But if teams are desperate enough, you might be able to get the player plus a few perks. Ask Charlotte how that Pistons first round pick is doing after the Ben Gordon trade. The Pistons trade for Calderon is an example of the Pistons openness to use option 2. Calderon’s expiring contract gives the Pistons a ton more flexibility, but I won’t right him off yet. This trade may have acquired us a top-end point guard. Of course that depends on what his off season contract market looks like, but we have now had a chance to reduce risk by auditioning him in our system. We have also had more time to recruit him to stay. Tough to attract talent to Detroit that has never experienced it. Not as bad as it looks, but quick in and out visits does not this city enough time to show that.

I don’t think it’s fair to say Joe D will go into the offseason feeling like he needs to go option 1 again. Joe D has adjusted in his tenure as the GM of the Pistons. While he’s made several mistakes, they’ve been different every time. I’m hopeful he’ll look at his past mistakes and adjust. That doesn’t mean he’ll get it right. This league continues to change and there’s no blue print for a mid-market team to get better without sheer luck in the draft. But a combination of options 1 & 2 will probably be in order with Pistons draft position getting steadily worse.

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Keeping It Together (Syracuse Hires New Head Coach)

by: P.J. Wascher

As if carrying the momentum from last season wasn’t already tough enough for Syracuse. A coaching change was the last thing this team needed. Changing quarterbacks and more importantly conferences, obstacles keep mounting for this program to gain respectability. I have to admit I am frustrated at Coach Marrone’s decision to leave Syracuse at a crossroads point like this. When Marrone was hired, I thought he was just what Syracuse needed: a spokesman for the university that actually respected the program and would be invested in its success. As a fellow alumnus, he came in saying all the right things to get both the players and fans reinvested with the program. It was his “Dream Job,” not some stepping stone job for him to move up the ranks. But the NFL apparently was another “Dream” of his. Off to Buffalo along with Syracuse’s OC Nathaniel Hackett, Syracuse is left trying to keep the train on the tracks after winning six of their last seven games and earning a split of the Big East title.

The problem with losing a coach to the NFL is timing. Schools have missed the window to hire a coach. Most of the coaching shuffle happens between the last regular season game and the bowl game. This gives schools enough time to reconnect with their recruits and gives their new coach a fighting chance to hold on to a few of them. Starting a search this late puts a school on the hook to find a coach quick. Aware of these problems, Syracuse responded fast to their opening, but probably responded a little too fast. Hiring Scott Shafer this soon leads me to believe they never even bothered to interview outside candidates. They were so desperate to keep recruits, current players and fans convinced that this program was moving in the right direction they went straight to hiring from within. This did not give the program a chance to look around and see if any other candidates were on the rise and worth a look.

I am not thrilled with the Shafer hire, but I’m not ready to call it the wrong decision. Shafer has been a solid defensive coordinator. While he may not be a Syracuse alum familiar with its traditions, he is a passionate coach that players gravitate to. There are three concerns I have with Shafer being promoted to head coach:

  1. Can he recruit? – This is probably the least of my worries. It will probably be more attached to his results on the field. But I am curious if he can sell this program. Can he convince recruits that he has a system in place and that this school should be worth their time? He is now the face of the program. He needs a message, some way to pitch these recruits. Being a first time coach, we’ll have to wait and see how he does here.
  2. Can he lead? – I think it is always surprising how little a head coach often is involved with game operations. They are often not involved with lots of game day operations like play-calling. It’s gotten to the point where you have coaches like Brady Hoke who do not even where headsets. They are trying to keep an eye on the team as a whole. Shafer will need to delegate and establish some type of system with his coordinators.
  3. What about the offense? – Shafer is being promoted from defensive coordinator and has lost his offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. This will be a very important hire for him, since Shafer will be out of his element on this side of the ball. Syracuse has made a commitment to incoming recruits to keep a similar system in place, which is good since it was successful. Not sure if Shafer has a network to find an OC, I suspect he will find someone with Syracuse ties. After watching the offensive mastermind Rich Rodriguez struggle with his defense at Michigan, I have become nervous about a coaches ability to coach both sides of the ball.

As Shafer is introduced as Syracuse’s new head coach, prepare to hear the word “continuation” several times. It’s the theme of this hire, a coach that will keep this program moving in the right direction. Since there will be no major changes, I am prepared to give Shafer three years to prove that he can keep this program moving forward. That will not be an easy task. Switching conferences will be difficult, which is why I can’t dislike this coach selection. Less change may be better going into a season full of change. Syracuse has gone conservative with this hire, is it too conservative? Not sure. We know this program ended the season on a high note. Syracuse also has a promising recruiting class coming in, including QB recruit Zach Allen. In my opinion it’s probably worth trying to keep the momentum intact. Let’s just hope if Shafer finds success at Syracuse, he can remain a little more committed than his predecessor.

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