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Draft King Analysis
October 1, 2013
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.


It seemed interesting to me this past weekend how there weren't any displays of the #APU (All Players United) messages of player solidarity that were seen the previous weekend. You knew that was likely going to be snuffed out, with the authoritarian coaches and powerful athletic directors doing their part to maintain the status quo. There's a reason the whole initial effort was so cloak-and-dagger. If the mainstream had known ahead of time, it probably wouldn't have happened.

I have great respect for Northwestern QB Kain Colter, who was quite possibly the highest profile player (or second-highest behind Georgia Tech QB Vad Lee) to take part in the #APU movement. He certainly has been the most vocal of the bunch after the fact. Northwestern had a bye this past weekend, so it remains to be seen if he will be allowed to continue to show his support as far as on-the-field displays. It was interesting how Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, in prototype college coach bully style, abruptly rushed reporters who dared broach the subject with his senior quarterback. And Fitzgerald hardly has the bully rep that many of his peers do.

There is a constant balance in sports media, or the general media at that, between access and criticism. Want to get the exclusive interview with the star player or the head coach? You'd best keep your negative observations to a minimum. This makes the publication or broadcast of true evaluations difficult from the people who interact with the coaches and players the most.

It's also why the internet has revolutionized sports journalism, since unlike a newspaper beat reporter who needs to avoid alienating himself from a given athletic program, you can write whatever you want (within reason) in the analysis of a given situation. As far as I'm concerned with this site, I don't care about talking with the coaches or players or athletic directors. I don't want to owe favors to anyone. How could you trust my objectivity if you had to wonder who I'm buddy-buddy with in the sports world?

In short, the need for access is the enemy of honest analysis.

To be sure, there are some men and women who aren't afraid to bring their fastball while doing their job in close proximity to the key people involved, but it can come with consequences. A great example is what Deadspin reported two weeks ago about the angry, profane tirade by Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini in 2011, where he ranted and raved about one or more writers from the Omaha World-Herald, which not coincidentally had recently published an opinion column by Dirk Chatelain with his honest thoughts about Pelini, his starting QB, and the program overall.

The fortunate thing is that, here in the modern era, a treasure trove of information is available online, from raw stats to press conferences to game highlights. Moreover, with the ability for anyone to build his or her own website, putting your opinion and analysis out there as an independent endeavor is easy to do at a minimal cost. If it's on point and it resonates with an audience, you have as much of an opportunity as anyone to have your thoughts read or heard.

Was it vindication after death for Al Davis with the unceremonious firing of Lane Kiffin as USC head coach after Kiffin was pulled off a bus at LAX following Southern Cal's loss to Arizona State? If you missed it, this article by Pat Forde has the particulars, including some details I hadn't heard yet, such as Kiffin trying for 45 minutes to talk USC AD Pat Haden out of the decision. For my many friends back in my hometown of Nashville who are Tennessee Vols fans, the demise of Kiffin at Southern Cal made for some celebratory fodder on Twitter, particularly considering it came just hours after Tennessee avoided a potentially humiliating home loss to South Alabama. Not regular Alabama: they almost blew a 17 point second-half lead to South Alabama.

Ross Metheny
Ross Metheny and South Alabama nearly forced overtime against Tennessee in Knoxville.
(Randy Sartin - USA TODAY Sports)
When Kiffin abruptly left Knoxville for the Southern Cal job after Pete Carroll jumped to the NFL (just as the NCAA was about to punch the Trojans in the face and enact some revisionist history on them), what seemed to bother the Vols fans I know the most was how seemingly willing Kiffin was to walk away from the Tennessee head coaching job like it was no big deal. In January 1999, the Vols were hoisting the BCS National Championship trophy. Less than a dozen years later, their program was being treated, at least in their minds, as an afterthought. That more than anything is what caused them to bristle; Kiffin had disrespected their ceedo.

Other thoughts:

-Jacksonville has played only four games, but I sure feel good about having had them slotted in for the top pick for some time now. And as great as South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney is, with the wretched quarterback play that has waylaid the Jaguars, it's hard to fathom them not drafting a QB, be it Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater or perhaps another contender. Bridgewater to me is the gold standard at this point, but if he is eclipsed by another quarterback prospect (and there are several strong contenders who could be in the mix depending on who decides to turn pro), Jacksonville not going with a QB at #1 overall would really surprise me if they end up in fact picking in that spot.

And it's not as if the Jaguars are the only winless team out there; the Steelers and Giants and Buccaneers are all also 0-4. But when you consider that Jacksonville has given up more than four times as many points (129) as they've scored (31), with 17 of those points coming at Seattle only after the Seahawks were up 31-0, it's a discouraging situation. To be sure, the future doesn't exactly look bright for the Jags for the rest of 2013, even with WR Justin Blackmon returning to the lineup this week following a four-game suspension.

-Speaking of the Jaguars, their free beer promotion for this past Sunday's game against Indianapolis led to yet another reminder that MADD is a neo-prohibitionist organization. Maybe you agree with the group's stance, maybe you don't, but that's the reality of the situation and it has been for some time now. I give credit to the Jaguars for taking a creative approach to trying to boost attendance for a team whose recent on-the-field play hasn't motivated fans to buy tickets in sufficient volume to fill the seats at EverBank Field.

-Is there a bigger mystery among elite college prospects than what is going on with USF DE Aaron Lynch? He looked fantastic at Notre Dame as a true freshman in 2011, leading the team in sacks and earning Freshman All-American honors. He transferred to South Florida and had to sit out the 2012 season. It was expected that he would be a dominant force for the Bulls, but to this point 2013 has been a disaster for USF, and Lynch's production has been almost nil. Interestingly, he dropped from 260 to 245 pounds, though shedding those 15 pounds doesn't seem to have worked in his favor. When you look for info on him and find posts like this and this, it seems hard to project him as a 2014 first-round pick as of right now, no matter how good his potential appears to be.

-My post on Twitter associating the death of former University of Georgia and San Diego Charger DB Paul Oliver with CTE was labeled presumptuous by at least one person, which is a true assessment. Connecting the suicide of yet another seemingly well-adjusted 20-something year old former NFL player to CTE isn't necessarily accurate, and until testing is done it won't be known if he had it. Either way it's a tragedy for his friends and family. Sadly, this is not going to stop, not anytime soon anyway, regardless of whether Oliver had it. You could outright ban football tomorrow and you'd still have an untold number of former players out there suffering from CTE. The damage has already been done.

-I started to make a list of NFL-eligible quarterbacks who statistically are having strong seasons, but I quickly realized it's something worthy of its own column. There is always risk for non top-tier guys declaring early (e.g. Tyler Bray), but there are plenty of guys who fit the prototype range, or close to it, who are having some strong seasons. It surprises me to still see someone like San Jose State QB David Fales on first-round lists when there are plenty of other contenders having much stronger seasons, none of whom have had a -98 yard rushing performance like Fales did against Utah State last season. Fales had a strong 2012, but with a new head coach and a system that has seen him under center more, his productivity and accuracy have taken a pounding to this point in 2013.


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