Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.

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Posts about NFL draft

Not a bad draft for Vikes

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 28, 2012 - 6:12 PM
Time to grade the Vikings’ first draft under the leadership of general manager Rick Spielman:
He gets an A, and a B.
He gets an A for doing about as well as could be expected given what he had to work with. He was wise to trade down one spot, pick up three extra picks from the Browns, and still get the guy he wanted in Matt Kalil.
He did well to trade up to get a much-needed safety in the first round. He bolstered the secondary and added players who make sense for Bill Musgrave’s offense, including two (?) intriguing Arkansas receivers.
He gets a B in terms of adding transformative players. When you have the third pick in the draft, you’d like to be able to get someone who produces touchdowns, turnovers or sacks.
Kalil was the right pick given the circumstances, but he’s hard to get excited about.
This was a draft that made sense for the Vikings, a draft that could set them up to contend for a playoff spot in a couple of years.
Spielman did well, and his work has just begun.

Blog

Time to grade the Vikings’ first draft under the leadership of general manager Rick Spielman:

He gets an A, and a B.

He gets an A for doing about as well as could be expected given what he had to work with. He was wise to trade down one spot, pick up three extra picks from the Browns, and still get the guy he wanted in Matt Kalil.

He did well to trade up to get a much-needed safety in the first round. He bolstered the secondary and added players who make sense for Bill Musgrave’s offense, including two (?) intriguing Arkansas receivers.

He gets a B in terms of adding transformative players. When you have the third pick in the draft, you’d like to be able to get someone who produces touchdowns, turnovers or sacks.

Kalil was the right pick given the circumstances, but he’s hard to get excited about.

This was a draft that made sense for the Vikings, a draft that could set them up to contend for a playoff spot in a couple of years.

Spielman did well, and his work has just begun.

I'll write more about the draft for the Sunday Star Tribune. Also on Sunday, I’ll be hosting The Ron Gardenhire Show from 9:30-10 and Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon with Tom Pelissero. We’ll be in the mobile press box outside Target Field. If you come by to visit, please bring fire.

I’m covering the Twins-Royals game for the Monday Star Tribune. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

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I write more about the draft for the Sunday Star Tribune. Also on Sunday, I’ll be hosting The Ron Gardenhire Show from 9:30-10 and Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon with Tom Pelissero. We’ll be in the mobile press box outside Target Field. If you come by to visit, please bring a bonfire.
I’m covering the Twins-Royals game for the Monday Star Tribune. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
 

Rare NFL draft that's better than expected

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 26, 2012 - 11:08 PM

Let me tell you a secret: Most sportswriters hate the NFL draft.

It requires months of work, much of which proves meaningless to the local team. It's often over-hyped and over-discussed and becomes fertile ground for bad rumors, like the funny one going around this afternoon about the Vikings really wanting Morris Claiborne or, funnier, Justin Blackmon.

Thursday was different. My Friday column explores Rick Spielman's first draft as Vikings' GM, but I'll get in a few quick hitters here:

-This was actually an interesting draft both nationally and locally.

Nationally, the NFL had two tremendously talented yet dissimilar quarterbacks go with the first two picks. Locally, we had the Vikings fooling a lot of national media people about their intentions, then trading down to get the fourth pick, and later trading back into the bottom of the first round, ending up with Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith, two players they had targeted all along.

-While many people have rightly obsessed about cornerback, I love the fact the Vikings took the best safety available. In the Tampa-2 scheme, you need a safety who can drop into the box and make tackles, and prevent big pass plays. And while you can game-plan around a good cornerback, you can't game-plan around a safety.

Think of the impact safeties on good teams in recent years: Troy Polamalu, Bob Sanders, LaRon Landry. They intercept passes and blow up running plays and generally make more impact plays per game than even great cornerbacks.

-I love both picks. Kalil, to me, was the safest pick in the draft, given the number of sure-thing quarterbacks who flame out. Before the draft started, I thought Smith would be ideal for the Vikings but didn't think he'd fall to them, or that they'd be able to trade up high enough to take him.

-Kalil sounded genuinely excited about playing for the Vikings. With Kalil, Christian Ponder, Percy Harvin, John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, the Vikings have an intriguing core of young offensive players. Their success will be dependent on Ponder's development, but he'll have a better chance to develop with a bunch of talented young players around him.

-I think Spielman had a very good day, and he left little doubt that he'll target receiver and cornerback during the rest of the draft. He admitted that the draft room worked much better with one person in charge. ``It went a lot smoother,'' he said.

Hard to disagree.

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I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Friday to discuss the draft. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

I was first in Vikings' press room...which was a mistake

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 26, 2012 - 4:09 PM

Checking in from the Vikings' press room, where it has been proven that myself, Tom Pelissero and Kevin Seifert don't have a lot going on in our lives.

We're here, waiting on what has become the most interesting pick in the draft: The Vikings' selection at No. 3.

Vikings' general manager Rick Spielman has succeeding in adding mystery to the pick. My early view on what could be an unpredictable night is this:

The Vikings really can't go wrong.

If they take USC left tackle Matt Kalil, they'll be getting a good player at a position of need.

The same could be said if they drafted LSU corner Morris Claiborne.

Or Oklahoma state receiver Justin Blackmon.

I wrote the other day that Kalil makes the most sense for the Vikings. The immediate future of the franchise depends on protecting and developing Christian Ponder, and Kalil can immediately help with that.

There has been a late wave of media support for Claiborne at No. 3, based on the premise that stopping excellent passing attacks in the NFC North is the Vikings' biggest area of need. That's hard to dispute. But the Vikings should get Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook back on the field next year, and the Vikings' defensive system doesn't place a premium on elite one-on-one coverage.

I can't really argue against Claiborne. I just slightly favor Kalil.

Blackmon is a fine prospect, but I would rank him as the third-best prospect of the three and the riskiest.

The Vikings will improve themselves with either Kalil or Claiborne. They would also improve themselves with the other possibility: A trade for the right price.

I have no idea which rumors to believe and which to dismiss, so I"m not going to break them down here. If I'm the Vikings, I trade down only if I think I can land one of the players they truly value - guessing Kalil, Claiborne and Blackmon - as well as additional picks.

All three scenarios - taking Kalil, taking Claiborne or trading down - could play out very well for the Vikings.

I'll be covering the draft tonight along with Dan Wiederer, Mark Craig and Chip Scoggins.

You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

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Wrote about Wolves' GM David Kahn the other day, and those who support him kept pointing out that the team improved this year and could have made the playoffs with better health.

You're missing the point. The point is that he's been the GM for three years and has brought in one quality starter, Ricky Rubio, who fell to him. He has yet to make one basketball decision that demonstrated professional insight. His best moves - drafting Rubio, hiring Rick Adelman and drafting Derrick Williams - were all easy, obvious, decisions.

We've got to have higher standards in this town. I had people arguing that he's fine because he isnt' that important in the organization because Adelman can make the personnel decisions.

Do you really want an older coach making personnel decisions? Isn't that how teams wind up mortgaging their future, by trying too desperately to win right away? Don't you want Adelman to at least have a smart counter-balance in the front office?

I do.

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Buckle up, people. There will be a showdown in Target Field this weekend.

The Royals beat Cleveland on Thursday and head to Minnesota with a record of 5-14, same as your Twins.

The tension will be...awkward?

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I'm saying it here and now, just as I've been saying for months: I think Andrew Luck will be a good NFL quarterback, and I think Robert Griffin III will be better than Luck.

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I'll check back later tonight when we have some news.

I'll be on KFGO in Fargo with Mike McFeely at 4:35 to talk the draft and Twins. I'll be on 1500espn at my usual time, 2:05, on Friday, and Pelissero and I will run a studio version of Sunday Sports Talk on Sunday from 10-noon, following the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30.

 

TK's moment and this week's LPR

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 27, 2012 - 4:23 PM

I was at the Twins Diamond Awards on Thursday night when emcee Dick Bremer and the team surprised Tom Kelly by announcing that his No. 10 will be retired on Sept. 8.

Kelly was so broken up by the news that he waved and stumbled off the stage, unable to speak. I caught up with him a little later, and he said the moment reminded him, strangely, of managing some of those lousy Twins teams in the '90s.

``Late in the game, if we were down, and we often were, I'd go up and down the dugout telling the boys, `Let's ambush somebody,' '' Kelly said. ``Well, I got ambushed tonight.''

The moment reminded me of a great TK moment. During Kirby Puckett's retirement press confererence, the two most eloquent people in the room were Puckett and Kelly. Puckett gave us the beautiful quote, ``Tomorrow is not promised to any of us.'' Kelly simply said: ``I got to see every one of Kirby Puckett's hits in the major leagues. How lucky am I.''

I covered Kelly for a long time. Because of his hard edge, few people realized just how emotional he was on a daily basis. I believe he spoke about his players staying on an even keel because he was so emotional himself.

Congratulations to Mr. Kelly. I think it's fitting that the Twins should honor the only manager or coach in the history of major sports in Minnesota who won two world titles.

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This week's highly-irrelevant and self-serving Local Power Rankings:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Love deal is fascinating. The fact that he was eligible for five years and was given four with an opt-out after three years could mean a lot of things. I think it says a lot about Glen Taylor's paranoia and David Kahn's ambivalence about Love.

Taylor probably fears another mega contract that could weigh him down, the way Kevin Garnett's did, and Joe Mauer's is killing the Twins. And you can't forget that Kahn is desperate to justify his existence as a personnel boss, and he can't take any credit for Love.

This could work out well, in that the three-year option will force Taylor and Kahn to build around Love and Rubio and not settle for having Love locked up. But it's also dangerous, because Love the second-best player in franchise history could destroy the team's plans in three years.

2. Gophers hockey

They've earned their ranking as one of the best teams in college hockey, but you'd like to see them sweep a good team every once in a while, and the Gophers have begun to resemble the underachievers of recent history. Does this team have a surge in it, or has it already played the best hockey of the year?

3. Gopher basketball

So many fans love to overreact to individual games, or even individual weeks. I'm still not sure we know much about this team.

The three-game winning streak wasn't all that impressive, given Indiana's collapse. And the loss to Michigan State was hardly surprising or damaging. The Gophers weren't going to win at Michigan State with Tom Izzo going for his 400th victory.

I think this is going to be a long, unpredictable Big Ten season. I wouldn't congratulate Tubby Smith, or write off his team, for quite a while.

4. Minnesota Wild

Two straight victories kept them in the playoff picture entering the All-Star break. Despite their collapse, that's still better than I expected from this team entering the season.

5. Minnseota Twins

I keep hearing that Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Denard Span all look primed for bounce-back seasons, but there's nothing cheaper than winter baseball talk. I want to see if Morneau and Span really look recovered from their concussions, and I don't think we'll know anything about Mauer until well into the regular season.

6. Minnesota Vikings

The Rick Spielman-Leslie Frazier duo is going to be tested in the next year. Spielman needs to dramatically upgrade the roster, and Frazier needs to prove that he can coach, and that he built a staff that can coach.

7. Gopher football

Three victories? Really?

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Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Sports Talk on 1500espn from the Metrodome, from 10-noon, with a bunch of Twins guests. On Sunday. Of course. I make an appearance every afternoon with Reusse and Mackey on 1500espn at 2:05 every weekday afternoon. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Friday morning LPR and picks

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 13, 2012 - 10:29 AM

Quick thoughts on the Wild loss and Gophers' win last night:

-It appears that hockey coaches have only one card to play. Last night, Wild coach Mike Yeo complained about his team's lack of effort in a lopsided loss to the Blackhawks.

I like Yeo. Even considering the Wild's slump, I think he's done a good job and is very promising. I see this season as evidence that he was able to get his players to overachieve for a span rather than as an indictment of his work of late.

But it's always the same with hockey coaches: Win, and your guys showed grit; lose and everyone's a dog.

It's just not true. The X-factors in hockey and basketball are shooting. If the Wild had the skill to finish more odd-man rushes with goals, they'd win more games and spend fewer postgame interview sessions complaining about effort. Last night, the Wild lost to a far superior team on the road. It's a game of skill.

In basketball, shooting fixes all kinds of problems. I remember having a conversation with Larry Johnson's high school coach in Dallas. He played Johnson at center and surrounded him with four shooting guards. I praised the concept once, and the coach, ol' J.D. Mayo, told me: ``You know what? When we make shots, I look really smart. When we miss shots, it looks like we've never been coached.''

Simple, but true. The Gophers beat Indiana last night because they made shots. They made three-pointers, and Austin Hollins, Joe Coleman and Rodney Williams finished their drives.

Credit Tubby Smith with having his team ready to play last night. Credit the players for performing well in a tough place. But if Tubby tries to complain about a lack of talent on his roster at any point this season, remember that the Gophers were the more athletic and gifted team last night. Rodney Williams was the best player and athlete on the floor, and the Gophers had more quickness and depth than the Hoosiers.

Win or lose, my position on Smith is that he should not be allowed to make excuses. He has enough talent to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten.

-Today's LPR - the Local Power Rankings that are a transparent device in which I can comment on the development on all the local teams:

1. Timberwolves

Crazy to rank a 3-7 team No. 1 locally?

Maybe, but I think sports are as much about entertainment and atmosphere as winning championships. Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love justify the purchase of a ticket, and the atmosphere at home games this year has been fun. That puts the Wolves way ahead of the pack in this market.

2. Gopher hockey

Lucia's boys are in a typical slump, failing to capitalize on their early promise. This weekend's games at North Dakota could tell us a lot about the state of this team and Lucia's program.

3. Wild

At this point I don't expect the Wild to make the playoffs. I would be more disappointed if I thought before the season that this team would make the playoffs, but I didn't. This slump may be a good thing in one way: It may allow the Wild brass to continue focusing on building for the future, instead of making a deal that might help this team.

Fletcher and Yeo need to recognize that this team isn't ready to make a playoff run, that they need more scorers to have any staying power. And I think Fletcher does.

4. Gopher basketball

Impressive win at Indiana. I think the Hoosiers are overrated, but give Smith credit for orchestrating a victory that keeps the season alive.

5. Minnesota Twins

I hasn't been an offseason filled with blockbusters, but the Twins have never made blockbuster signings, and making lopsided trades is harder today than it was when Terry Ryan was stealing from everyone in baseball in the late '90s and early 2000s. I think the Twins have had a reasonable, sane, rational offseason, and their fortunes will be decided by the health of their star players and the ability of their starting pitchers to provide quality innings.

I'm not particularly optimistic about either, but no flashy signing was going to change either of those realities.

6. Golden Gopher football

I'm surprised Jerry Kill hasn't gotten a contract extension for avoiding losses for the last two months.

7. Minnesota Vikings

I'm not impressed with the Vikings' search for a defensive coordinator. Rick Spielman is going to have to have a great draft to change this team's fortunes.

-NFL Picks:

49ers-Saints: The Saints don't perform as well on grass as on turf, but I think this is such a mismatch that secondary factors won't matter. The 49ers excelled because of a weak schedule and division this year, and won't be able to keep up with the Saints. My guess: Saints 30, 49ers 17.

Texans-Ravens: The Ravens' defense ain't what it used to be, but it's good enough to win at home against a third-string quarterback. This game, to me, points out just how weak the AFC is this year. (And I still can't believe a great defensive coordinator like Dick LeBeau would make life so easy for Tim Tebow in a playoff game.) My guess: Ravens 23, Texans 15.

Broncos-Patriots: The Patriots have been lousy in the playoff since their last Super Bowl win. The Patriots have a mediocre defense and running game. You can seize on either trend and pick against the Pats, but I wouldn't. Belichick will not make the same mistakes against Tebow that LeBeau did. Belichick will find a way to contain Tebow and force him to read zone coverages.Tom Brady, facing a superior defense, will nevertheless move the ball enough to outpace Tebow and the Broncos My guess: Patriots 27, Broncos 12.

Giants-Packers: As with Broncos-Patriots, there are plenty of good reasons for picking an upset, and I'm not buying into any of them. The Packers' flaws (offensive line, porous defense, may have peaked too early this season) indicate that the Giants could win another big playoff game at Lambeau. The Giants have the better running game and defense. But I'm going big-picture here: The Packers remain the best team in football, they should be healthy again following their bye week, and they're playing at home. I'm not picking against Aaron Rodgers here, or for the forseeable future. My guess: Packers 31, Giants 26.

If you want to know how confident I am in any of these picks, please consider that I never bet on sports.

-Spoke with former Gophers quarterback Adam Weber for today's column. I wasn't joking when I said I think he has a better NFL future than Tim Tebow.

Weber had horrible coaching and little support at the U of M, yet still was highly productive. With good coaching and a great work ethic, I'm sure he can complete more than 46.5 percent of his passes, which is what Tebow did this season.

I'd rather put my money on Weber than Tebow or Brady Quinn. And anyone who thinks that Tebow is somehow a better human than Weber is a religious fanatic. You don't have to quote scripture to be a good human being. I'll take Weber as a guy as well as a quarterback.

Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today with Reusse and Mackey and at 6:40 with Tom Pelissero. Tom and I will run an abbreviated Sunday Sports Talk on Sunday from 10-10:30 a.m. before making way for Gophers women's basketball. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

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