The NFL where the rich get richer

To many an NFL fan the ongoing negotiations are simply rich guys (on both sides) trying to get richer. That may be so, but there are actually some issues on the table.  How to divide the league revenues tops the list. Currently, owners scoop a billion dollars off the top to offset some operational costs. In the new deal, they are seeking to double that number. The other main issue is the 18 game schedule.  The owners want the schedule to move from 16 regular season and four preseason games to 18  and two respectively. The players believe 16 may already be too many.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expires at 1159pm EST tonight, but there are rumors an extension is possible. Reportedly the league is willing to give the players more detailed financial information, which remains one of the sticking points. A similar extension led to resolution five years ago.

President Obama has weighed in, saying he “expects and hopes” the two sides will resolve the situation. If politicians stick their nose in, it will undoubtedly benefit the players.

If/when a lockout becomes a reality, who is impacted most negatively? Teams with new coaching staffs for certain.  Carolina, Cleveland, Denver and San Francisco will be even further behind. More than half of the league’s teams will be making some sort of front office/coaching change and their transition will be delayed.

Free agency was scheduled to begin tomorrow. Without a CBA, there is no free agency. How many players would possibly be affected? How about well over 400!  If the absence of a CBA extends through the NFL draft in late April, undrafted rookies will also be negatively impacted. No CBA, no free agency, not even for the rookies.

What’s next? The NFL announcing a lockout through a press release. The players are expected to decertify and file an injunction. What does that mean? The players would move away from union representation and into the courts and anti trust law.

After that, hurry up and wait.

Rating the NFL prospects

As college football elite show their stuff in Indianapolis at the NFL combine, club execs are faced with a tough task- reliable player evaluation.

As technology explodes, so does the amount of information gathered in advance of the April NFL draft.  ESPN and the NFL Network are the best in the business of grading and projecting college players transition from the college to the pro game.  Mel Kiper Jr carved a niche for himself  at ESPN in the 80’s when the draft was a mere blip on the radar.  Kiper’s persona is such,  he insists to have received interest from pro teams to run their player personnel departments, offers he claims to have rejected. The NFL Network’s superstar is former player Mike Mayock. Mayock gained notoriety by absolutely “owning”  the 2010 NFL draft coverage alongside analyst Jon Gruden. “Chucky” benefited from the magical Mayock performance to the extent of landing the Monday Night Football ‘gig”.

The information overload peaked with the NFL Network began carrying the combine “tryouts” Live. The Internet was the first big plaeteau in the NFL Combine’s rise to prominence on the annual calendar. Mock drafts are everywhere, sites are devoted entirely to the process leading up to the NFL draft, the Combine serving as the main course. What is the most important factor when choosing a young man and paying him, in some cases, tens of millions of dollars?

On field performance:  How an athlete performed during his career used to be the only real barometer when slotting talent for the draft. Is he a “good football player”? seems reasonable to me.  Further to the evaluation, what level of the competition did he perform against?

Measurables– This has had the biggest impact, especially since the meteoric rise of the NFL combine. How much can he lift? How fast can he run? How high can he  jump?How does he look in his underwear? Without a doubt, how a player performs at the combine is having a huge impact on where they land on draft day(s). Bruce Campbell is a perfect example. A year ago, Campbell performed like Adonis at the combine, blowing away the competition. Following a pedestrian  career at the University of Maryland, most figured he would be a free agent, bypassed in the draft. But wait!  following the herculean workouts at the combine,  “experts” and scouts (notice not one in the same)  had him possibly a 1st rounder! Cooler heads prevailed, he ended up right smack in the middle of the  draft, taken by the Oakland Raiders in the 4th round.

Off the field: Does the athlete have character issues? Again, is character good or bad? In NFL terms, a “character guy” is a guy with issues, a “high character guy” is a leader. Make sure you know your character or at least that of others. Interviews with coaches and in some case owners and upper management seem fair enough. But how about the Wonderlic test? Vince Young is well known for virtually failing it several years ago, while Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy (who can’t throw) nearly aced it this week. Who cares what kind of animal they would be anyway? (one of the questions sometimes asked)

Future is Now and Need: Do we have time to wait for kids to develop or are they took risky to take altogether?  George Allen, the legendary Redskins Head Coach of the 70’s believed “the future is now”.  Dan Snyder who at times runs the Skins like a fantasy team seems to share the future is now belief. The Redskins were also involved in the famous Ricky Williams trade where New Orleans Head Coach Mike Ditka traded his ENTIRE draft to Washington for  the opportunity to take the dread locked running back from Texas. What about need? Do we take a guy at a position where our  situation is a disaster? or do we simply take the best player available, every year- every pick.  In my opinion, New England displays the PERFECT patience in running a franchise. You need only look at the 2011 NFL draft, where you find the Patriots with an extra pick in each of the first four rounds.  Patience, trading back, and trading picks for next year, Bill Belichick knows how to coach and just as importantly how to stockpile talent. The Pats have gone  from old to  young in a couple of seasons without missing a beat, on the field.

Finally, more Mike Mayock man love…. If you want to exponentially increase your knowledge of the X’s and O’s of football, watch what is left of the combine this week. Mayock is a wealth of knowledge and shares it in a very conversational fashion.

NFL Combine: A Fan’s Guide

While the NFL has an uncertain future, the NFL’s future is on display this week in Indianapolis.

Tight ends, kickers and other specialists got things started with the combine staggered by position with each group getting four days to show their stuff.

The first three days are uneventful for You The Fan.  Day one, athletes go through orientation and receive clearance from medical staff.  Day two filled with measurements, media time and interviews. Day three features meetings with the players association and more mental testing. Finally, on the fourth day the NFL network gets real involved and we get to see the athletes in action.

For your viewing pleasure, the 4th day is when we get to see the meat market.  Here’s a quick calendar to make sure you catch the position groups you seek!

Wednesday : Offensive lineman, tight ends, kickers, specialists (Saturday)

Thursday: Quarterbacks and wide receivers (Sunday)

Friday: Defensive lineman and linebackers (Monday)

Saturday: Defensive backs (Tuesday

Remember the visual stuff for us doesn’t come until the 4th day. (shown in paranthesis for each group)

What exactly will we see on Day 4?

-40 yard sprint

-2o yard shuttle

-3 cone drill

-60 yard shuttle

-standing long jump

-vertical jump

To wrap things up, players execute a half dozen drills specific to position. This is where we get the directly “football related” activities.

Who is participating? We have the full list for you: bine/participants

What’s new this year? Cablecam technology! No, not specifically for Cam Newton, but a cutting edge overhead angle which promises a unique and more intimate view of the workouts.

Best of the Best. If you don’t know Mike Mayock. You need to. The NFL Networks draft expert IS the best in the business.

With the NFL combine and April’s NFL draft continuing despite labor unrest, this may be NFL fans last taste of pro gridiron action for awhile. More than 300 athletes and more than 30 hours of LIVE NFL Network coverage, certainly enough to satisfy any football appetite.

NFL Combine: Character?

On the eve of the annual NFL Combine in Indianapolis, I keep hearing talking heads like ESPN’s Todd McShay referring to character. Several players consistently are mentioned when this topic comes up. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

Who is the judge of character? Do we all view its traits differently? Does McShay know these or any of the players?

Many NFL mock drafts have Newton and Fairley going among the top three picks in the first round. Why? Lets take a look at their play on the field. Newton carried Auburn to the BCS National Championship and won the Heisman Trophy. He did this playing the toughest schedule, enduring incredible scrutiny and put up arguably the greatest stats in the history of the game. Cam has confirmed that he is “All In” for the combine. He will throw, run, lift and answer the inevitable questions about “pay for play”. What about some of the other quarterbacks? McShay loves Blaine Gabbert who won’t throw at the combine. Why? If you were Gabbert’s agent, would you want him running, lifting and throwing next to Newton? Didn’t think so. Former NFL GM and current ESPN analyst Matt Millen questions Newton’s ability to face tough defenses and perform in front of “more than  100,000 fans”. Last time I checked, SEC had the toughest defenses in the country and many stadiums seating more than 100,000. Oh yeah, their is only one NFL stadium that tops 100k, and that’s Dallas with standing room (at the Super Bowl).

Recent “worries” about the “character” of Nick Fairley have also emerged. Where did these come from? Is it because of the late hit on the quarterback from Georgia? Or perhaps the phantom late hit on the Bama quarterback in the Iron Bowl? Despite that bogus call, Fairley was a play maker leading Auburn back from a 0-24 deficit at Bryant Denny Stadium. Do you think NFL GM’s want lineman that “pull up” when nearing the quarterback? Do you think that will get it done when trying to take down Big Ben? Clemson defensive end DaQuan Bowers, the other top lineman in the draft, will only lift weights at the combine. Is that hiding a valid concern?  Fairley’s season was a highlight reel, he won the Outland Trophy. The team that picks Fairley will have a very disruptive force on the field, not off.

As future NFL players go through the combine this week, other questions will emerge. Who will come up short in the 40, or fail in benching 225 or even struggle with the mental testing. One thing I do know, Newton and Fairley are being unnecessarily called out.

For the latest on the combine  and follow us on twitter @FantasySP.