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Draft King Analysis
January 26, 2012
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

Reader feedback is always welcomed here on Draft King. Sound off with your thoughts on Twitter (@LouPickney) or via email at LouPickney@gmail.com.


Congratulations to my business partners at Fantasy Sports Ventures and Big League Sports on being acquired by Gannett. Draft King still belongs to me, but this move should open up a wide array of opportunities both with advertising and co-promotional projects.

The FSV/BLS crew have been great to work with, always professional, and I'm happy about the success they have achieved. The move was smart by Gannett, which now stakes its claim on what it describes as "the largest independent digital sports property in North America" in the press release. USA Today is a known national brand, and connecting old media (newspapers) with new media makes sense, leveraging the brand name of the former to build a base for the latter.

Don't worry, I'm not giving up any editorial control or intellectual property. I've actually worked with Gannett owned properties in the past, writing music reviews for The Tennessean (Nashville's largest newspaper) in high school and later in my TV news career as a news producer for WTSP Channel 10 in the Tampa Bay market.

It's interesting to me how a pair of NFL teams, the Colts and Raiders, each signed new head coaches with no NFL head coaching experience and only one year of experience as an NFL defensive coordinator. Chuck Pagano's Ravens defense was #4 against the pass and #2 against the run 2011, which I imagine was enticing to the Colts. Dennis Allen's Broncos defense sometimes gave up points in bunches, but he developed that front seven in Denver into a strong unit, particularly boosted by the breakout performance by rookie OLB Von Miller.

If Pagano wants to change the Colts to a 3-4 approach, it will be challenging from a personnel standpoint. They were built around the 4-3 "Cover 2" scheme, relying on pressure from the DEs (Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis), quick linebackers who might have slipped in the draft due to being undersized (like 6'0" 235 pound MLB Pat Angerer), and strong play from the safety position. If the Colts are going to hop on the 3-4 bandwagon, it will likely take some time.

It wouldn't be as tough for Allen to run a 3-4 defense in Oakland, which had a 3-4 defense last year and which has drafted and signed players who best fit that system. But the moves by both Indianapolis and Oakland show their preference for 2011 defensive success over experience, particularly with player safety rule changes which have made defending the pass much more difficult than before.

This isn't to say that all teams with head coaching vacancies wanted defensive coordinators to come on board, as evidenced by the Dolphins bringing in Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as their new head coach. But other examples exist, such as Kansas City promoting defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to head coach, where NFL teams are choosing to give head coaching opportunities to coaches who have shown an ability to contain opposing offenses.

The 2012 Pro Bowl takes place in Hawaii, once again happening before the Super Bowl. To me, holding the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl takes away from the event. But ratings were up for the Pro Bowl last year, which was held the weekend before the Super Bowl, just like this year. Ratings = cash = the new status quo. It's too bad since players on the losing teams from the conference championship games are considerably less likely to participate than they would have been otherwise, not to mention the Super Bowl players who for sure won't be participating in it.

Either way, the Pro Bowl has always struck me as a mediocre event, a glorified exhibition in many ways which doesn't play out like a typical football game, in part because certain formations and attacks are disallowed for both the offense and defense. I wouldn't want to see the game made more dangerous, but the casual feel of past Pro Bowls has, to me, been a stark contrast to the intensity of playoff football games. It wouldn't make me sad if they outright did away with it, though I don't think that will happen anytime soon.

The game to watch this weekend will be the Senior Bowl in Mobile. This isn't an event geared for the elite prospects, many of which couldn't participate anyway because they left school before exhausting their NCAA eligibility. It's called the Senior Bowl for a reason. But while the top-tier guys might not be there, it's a chance for players like Janoris Jenkins and Juron Criner and Brandon Weeden to prove that, yes, they have the talent to be successful in the NFL and that they deserve consideration among the top prospects at their respective positions.


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