NFL Pro-Bowl Fantasy Draft?

I wasn’t sure why it was happening, but it was.

I was extremely interested in a hockey story.  But it wasn’t a story about the Caps.  In fact, it wasn’t even about an actual great play or great game.  It was the fantasy draft selection for the 2011 NHL All-Star game.

Yes, the NHL decided to change up their All-Star game this year.  Tried to add some excitement, some new blood.  And I think they may have done just that.  Captains were picked and then they got to select the all-star squads, picking from the pool of players that were selected by the fans to the all-star team.  More on what the NHL did here.

But it got me thinking, what if other sports adopted the same strategy?  How cool would it be to see LeBron and Kobe at half-court of the all-star game picking their teams right before the game.  Who would Kobe take first?  While the general consensus was that the idea is best suited for basketball, because the Pro Bowl is today- I decided to get some help from my Ball Hogs co-host Bradley and give it a try. What could the Pro Bowl rosters potentially look like if the sides were drafted?

So two members of Ball Hogs Radio got together over Skype on Sunday and hashed out the details. We decided to each take one of the starting QB’s, I took Mike Vick and Bradley took Philip Rivers, and draft a team to compete in the Pro Bowl.  We did our best to have a strategy that we thought truly gave our side the best chance to win- the whole thing would have been pointless if we simply wanted to stack our rosters with the most exciting players regardless of position or scheme.

We decided we’d take turns picking guys to fill out a starting 11 on offense and defense. Bradley flipped a coin to see who’d go first and Team Vick won.  And the draft started out…tropically.

Rounds 1-5

Team Vick picks: Darrelle Revis, Adrian Peterson, Julius Peppers, Joe Thomas, Terrell Suggs

Rationale: I wanted the first round pick, and got it, and immediately went to Revis island.  I love knowing that half the field is spoken for on defense.  Peterson will be my workhorse, and Peppers and Thomas will be key players in the trenches.  A mistake I made, however, was not having a good plan on how I picked my defense (3-4 vs 4-3).  Peppers is obviously a 4-3 defensive end and Suggs is a 3-4 linebacker.  It only got messier for me from here…

Team Rivers picks: Chris Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Vince Wilfork, Ray Lewis, D’Brickashaw Ferguson

Rationale: Ignore CJ’s lack of production this past year (its hard to produce when you have guys like Rusty Smith at QB). He is still the most lethal/scary RB in the league in my opinion and he’s one year removed from being completely unstoppable.  Larry Fitz is another guy that you have to ignore his numbers from last year.  He’s the second most feared receiver in the league behind Andre Johnson- he’ll jump over, run by you, and has amazing hands.  Wilfork is the perfect nose tackle in the 3-4 and we all know about Ray Lewis- my defense will always be fired up and ready to go.  D’Brickashaw will anchor my O-line.

Rounds 6-10

Team Vick picks: Jamal Charles, Haloti Ngata, Roddy White, Jordan Gross, Kris Dielman

Rationale: I know Bradley loves Chris Johnson, but can you imagine a backfield of Vick, AP, and Charles?  Charles, who’s already used to being the change-of-pace back, will love feasting on a defense who’s been beat up by AP for 3 straight plays.  Ngata is my space eater in the middle of my d-line, but he’s clearly a 3-4 NT.  At this point, this jury is still out on if I choose to go 4-3 or 3-4.  Roddy White becomes my go-to receiver and I continue to beef up my line with Gross and Dielman (also stole Dielman away from his teammate Philip Rivers).

Team Rivers picks: DeMarcus Ware, Calvin Johnson, Cameron Wake, Jerod Mayo, Jay Ratliff

Rationale: DeMarcus Ware is as safe of a pick as they come.  Calvin Johnson is another huge, skilled receiver I can pair with Fitz.  That combo should be illegal.  Cameron Wake is lighting fast, something I’ll need in trying to defend Vick.  Mayo is a Ray Lewis mini-me, the two of them together will be scary good.  Ratliff is someone who I respect greatly even though I hate the Cowboys.  How good is my 3-4 defense starting to look?  A Ware, Wake, Ray Lewis and Jerod Mayo linebacking corp?  Yikes.

Rounds 11-15

Team Vick picks: Peyton Manning, Jason Witten, Jeff Saturday, Champ Bailey, DeAngelo Hall

Rationale: After seeing how nicely Bradley was setting up his defense, I had to go bold.  My thinking?  How hard would it be to gameplan for Mike Vick for two series, then Peyton Manning for two? Witten gives both quarterbacks a security blanket.  Saturday at center will keep both QB’s happy and calm.  After adding another lock-down corner (I know he didn’t have a great year, but I still trust him for one game), I took a flyer on D-Hall.  I actually want him out there trying to make plays.

Team Rivers picks: Matt Light, Eric Berry, Wes Welker, Brandon Meriweather, Logan Mankins

Rationale: Light gives me two bookend tackles, always important.  I was thinking of taking Eric Berry up to five rounds ago, he’s that good.  He’s everywhere on defense. Welker becomes the perfect slot complement to my stud receivers.  Meriweather is a nasty player with a mean streak.  Pairing him with Berry gives me flashbacks to what could have been in DC- a Landry (Meriweather) & Sean Taylor (Berry) pairing.  Logan Mankins joins Matt Light and won’t need to spend any time getting to know each other.

Remaining Rounds (not in order)

Team Vick picks: Ovie Mughelli, Reggie Wayne, Miles Austin, Brian Waters, Justin Tuck, Kyle Williams, Jonathan Vilma, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Adrian Wilson

Rationale: At this point, we’re both basically filling out our rosters with what’s left.  I took Wayne over Bowe in a tough decision because I think I can trust Wayne a little more in a big game.  Miles Austin becomes my slot receiver, Bradley’s version of Welker.  I ultimately decided on going with the 4-3 defense after grabbing another speedy pass-rushing end in Justin Tuck.  Ngata and Kyle Williams will be my defensive tackles.  I know Ngata is a 3-4 NT and I don’t know much about Kyle Williams out of Buffalo, but hopefully they can be coached up enough in one game that I’ll be okay.  I like having Peppers and Tuck coming hard and fast off the ends.  Jonathan Vilma and Jon Beason join Suggs while Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle look to get their Arizona Cardinal mojo back as my safeties.

Team Rivers picks: Devon McCourty, Drew Brees, Tony Gonzalez, Darnell Dockett, Vonta Leach, Ryan Kalil, Jahri Evans, Brent Grimes, Antoine Winfield, Steven Jackson

Rationale: Love Devin McCourty, I wanted him all along.  Brees and Rivers are good friends and should make for healthy competition (I read Brees’ book and in it he mentioned that their friendship is terrific).  Love Tony G’s experience at tight end- in blocking and receiving.  Have to like Darnell Dockett’s intensity at the DT position and fits well in my 3-4 scheme (not to mention he’s a local guy).  Steven Jackson becomes a big, bruising complement to Chris Johnson and I fill out my secondary with Brent Grimes and Antoine Winfield.

Final thoughts

Team Vick: I clearly put myself in a bad position by not even thinking about drafting for a 3-4 defense.  I’ll have a bunch of guys on my defense playing out of position, but I’m happy with my speedy d-ends.  Bradley drafted specifaclly for the 3-4 and his squad looks tough.  On offense, I’m banking on my running back and quarterback combos.  AP gutting it out and Charles breaking loose a few times should keep Bradley’s formidable defense on their toes.  Plus how is his defensive coordinator going to gameplan against Vick, the most dynamic player in the NFL, and the greatest gameplanning quarterback of our generation in Peyton Manning?

Bradley told me he’d rather be representing Rivers because Vick is injury prone and a bad leader.  Well one guy took his team to the playoffs and had a final go-ahead drive come up just short against a team who is now representing the conference in the Super Bowl while the other guy…watched it all from home.  Just saying.

Team Vick 35 Team Rivers 31

Team Rivers: All in all I am in love with my team. I have the ultimate vocal leaders on both sides of the ball with Rivers and Ray Lewis.  I have a long list of high character guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Drew Brees and Tony Gonzalez.  My team has the perfect balance between youth and experience on both sides of the ball.  On the defensive side, I have strong veterans with Lewis, Ware, Wilfork, Ratliff while being surrounded by talented, energetic youth like Mayo, Wake, McCourty, Berry, and Meriweather.

The strengths of my team far outweigh the potential weakness (comparably speaking).  Strengths:  WR’s (Fitz, CJ, Welker), Defensive Line (Wilfork, Ratliff, Dockett), LB’s (Ware, Wake, Lewis, Mayo), Safeties (Berry, Meriweather).  Potential weakness:  CB’s (Grimes, McCourty, Winfield)

Team Rivers 31 Team Vick 17

The idea behind this whole experiment was to see whether or not it could make the NFL Pro Bowl more interesting, more of an event.  Are the teams that much more exciting and enticing to watch than the current ones?  Maybe, maybe not.  But the process, with the strategy behind who would be picked when and for what reason, we believe clearly is.  The part we enjoyed most wasn’t necessarily who we picked, but why we picked them.  I would think if the whole selection was televised, precisely what the NHL did, it would add some much needed excitement to what should be a display of the best talent the NFL has to offer.  Now we all now that’s never the case, regardless of the team selection process.  Just this year, we came up with over 20 players who either declined invitations due to injury or playing in the Super Bowl.

Guys like Tom Brady, Brian Urlacher, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, Antonio Gates, Frank Gore, DeSean Jackson, Clay Matthews, Patrick Willis, Ndamukong Suh, James Harrison,  ALL would have been on our hand-selected rosters if they were available to us. And that’s not even the whole list.  If we put together the entire list, it would basically fill out a team of it’s own.  Could you imagine the NBA All-Star game without 13 players that would have been voted in?

We’re not saying changing to this style would ultimately fix what’s wrong with the Pro Bowl, but we can give kudos to the NHL for not only thinking of the idea, but going through with it as well.  The NFL has already tried moving it from the week after the Super Bowl to before and moving it from Hawaii to the site of the Super Bowl (and has since moved back to Hawaii).  Why not give it a shot?

Bud Selig has already said it’d be a good idea for baseball to try it.  The NBA is a no-brainer good idea. Guess you’re on the clock, Goodell.

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