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 Vikings draft

Today's pre-draft S.O.R.T.

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 28, 2011 - 4:15 PM

-Update: Mauer is supposed to talk shortly in the Twins' clubhouse. It's about time. 

My old friend Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News has five quarterbacks going in the first 12 picks, with the Vikings taking Andy Dalton.

The latest ESPN reports speculated that Blaine Gabbert, perhaps the best quarterback prospect in this draft, could fall to the Vikings at 12.

Other speculation includes the Vikings trading down to take Dalton later in the first round.

It’s easy to mock the mock drafts, because inevitably so many of the projected picks will be wrong.

Let me defend the wild prognostications: Whether we’re talking about Gosselin, Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper or Todd McShay, these people are well-connected, study tape and do their homework. Their mock drafts will wind up looking partially inaccurate not because of any failings on their part, but because they are predicting future events influenced by people who are good at keeping secrets.

Here’s my favorite scenario, the one that would most benefit the Vikings: They trade down from No. 12, take a quarterback later in the first round, and pick up an extra pick that will help rebuild an aging roster.

Of course, I’d also like to see Gabbert slide to them at No. 12. But if that doesn’t happen, I’d rather see them take a quarterback later, acknowledge that he’s going to need time to develop, and concede that this will be a rebuilding season.

-The Twins are pathetic right now. There are so many reasons to criticize them now.

Their unwillingness to take the field, or take questions, are two embarrassments for the franchise.

Delmon Young hamstrung his team by waiting so long to go on the disabled list, and he went on the disabled list after hitting prodigious batting practice home runs, then bailing out of Wednesday’s game. Pathetic.

At times during the last two years, I’ve advocated trading Francisco Liriano and Young. My thinking was that they were at maximum value but couldn’t be trusted to continue to excel. If they had traded Liriano for a good young pitcher and a power reliever, and Young for an ace, how would this team look now?

Also, it’s time for Joe Mauer to stand up and explain his situation. He’s a $23-million-a-year franchise player who is of interest to every sports fan in Minnesota, and he hides in the back room in the Twins’ clubhouse. Let me name a few players who understand that being a star, a franchise player, carries responsibilities like facing the media: Kirby Puckett. Torii Hunter. Johan Santana. Derek Jeter. Alex Rodriguez. Adrian Peterson. Kevin Love. Rich Gannon. Actually, the list is too long for even the internet to hold it.

-I think Roger Goodell will get booed in New York tonight, and I think he deserves it. The NFL has botched every step of its attempted lockout, and Goodell, a former lawyer, miscalculated this plan or failed to prevent others from implementing it. The NFL is getting embarrassed every day.

-As bad as the Twins are, they’ve been in far worse straits and still won the division. In 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2009 they were buried later in the season and rallied to win the division or force a playoff.

Being in a team slump is not the big problem for this team. The big problems are long-term health (this team won’t win without Mauer catching a significant number of games) and the bullpen (who do you trust right now in the ‘pen - Matt Capps and....?)

This bullpen was built with the idea that Joe Nathan, Jose Mijares and Capps would be the three key endgame relievers. Right now, the Twins don’t know what they’re going to get from Nathan and Mijares.

This team will eventually hit. It will eventually get healthier. It will, if history is an indication, patch together the middle infield. But the bullpen is an enduring concern.

-I’ll check in later. Right now I’m in the Vikings’ media room with Strib colleagues Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins, who have been providing blanket coverage of the draft.

My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

Which QB do you like?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 27, 2011 - 6:57 PM

I don't know if we've ever encountered a more intriguing class of quarterbacks in the NFL draft. If there has been one, my memory fails me. Of course, that's what memories do.

So as we parse and dissect Newton, Gabbert, Locker et al, what we should remember is what we often forget: That almost all quarterbacks are accused of having flaws as the draft approaches.

Peyton Manning might be the greatest quarterback who ever lived. He had a subpar senior season at Tennessee, and there was real debate among accomplished people whether he or Ryan Leaf would make the better pro. After all, Manning did not have exceptional arm strength and didn't exactly win a national championship.

Dan Marino had a poor senior season, was accused of being a pot-head, and became the most prolific passer the NFL had seen until Favre and Manning arrived.

Who among us thought that Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan would have immediate success? Who among us thought Tom Brady would become a great pro? Who among us thought David Carr would flop?

Conventional wisdom holds that Jake Locker is the most probable match for the Minnesota Vikings. He should be available at No. 12, and he's a big, strong kid who presents himself well.

I'm not sure Locker would be a great pick for a pure West Coast offense. He might be an intriguing fit for the new Vikings' offense, which I suspect will look a little like Joe Gibbs' power-running, deep-throwing offenses. The philosophy will be to pound the run with Peterson, soften up the defense, then throw it over the top. Locker might be able to function in that offense.

For what it's worth, watching Locker on ESPN's various specials over the last few weeks left me with these impressions:

-Locker comes from a strong family.

-He seems like a great kid.

-He had the self-discipline and school pride to return for his senior year even though he could have cashed in last spring.

-His numbers aren't all that dissimilar to Blaine Gabbert's, even though Gabbert played in a system more likely to artificially inflate a quarterback's statistics.

-He has a strong build, runs well and is willing to sacrifice his body. While he'll have to change that in the NFL, you like to see a quarterback with the willingness to gain the extra yard by taking punishment.

-Then there is this: Against Nebraska, he took a brutal hit and wound up twisted on the turf. He was wearing a mic, so you can hear him telling the training staff ``I can't see anything; everything's black,'' or something like that. The trainers took a good look at him and one said something along the lines of, ``Uh, Jake, your helmet is pulled down over your eyes, that's why you can't see.''

Beautiful.

-This isn't a fair way to evaluate someone, but most of his highlight plays seemed to be runs, scrambles and general-direction throws, not the kind of precise lasers than impress NFL scouts.

That's the thing: If a quarterback isn't accurate, all the workout stats and great intangibles in the world won't matter. Not in the NFL, where there are often inches separating touchdown passes and interceptions.

I keep hearing that the Vikings have to take a quarterback. That's a dangerous sentiment. Put it this way: If the Vikings have access to a quarterback they think can be a quality, long-term starter at No. 12, yes, they should take him. If they are choosing between a sure-thing Pro Bowler at another position or a quarterback they would admit internally they feel is a reach, then they shouldn't take that quarterback. Taking the wrong quarterback is a much worse decision than having to patch the position together for another year.

-Upcoming: I'll be at the Vikings' draft headquarters Thursday night with the Star Tribune team. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

No baseball today, no football ever.

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 26, 2011 - 1:32 PM

The Twinsjust a ' game is postponed tonight. That's good for them.

The NFL season remains in jeopardy. That's bad for pretty much everyone, but let's cut to the chase and blame the owners for being arrogant and stupid. At least, those are the kindest synonyms I can get into print.

First, the Twins. While rainouts this month could leave them with few days off later in the season, let's take a guess at what the roster will look like in, say, July, as opposed to today.

Joe Mauer figures to be healthy. Tsuyoshi Nishioka should be back, and while he has yet to impress, he has a better pedigree than anyone else in the Twins' middle infield. Kevin Slowey should be healthy enough to use or trade. Kyle Gibson should be at a point in his development where he can help the rotation, if needed. Justin Morneau should be further removed from illness and concussion concerns. And Francisco Liriano, like many Latin pitchers, may be much closer to optimal performance.

The Twins should have the starting pitching depth to weather a full schedule, and they have been adept at picking up key relievers during the season.

The rain can only do this team good.

-So NFL players show up for work - or at least a dip in the tub - and are told they aren't allowed in the building.

This is another example of the NFL taking its preeminence for granted, and botching the PR play.

What better symbol for the players than what happened today: They show up, eager for work, and the owners tell them to go away?

The NFL and its owners were making a killing in the system that they now say was unfair to them. Only the grotesquely rich and self-absorbed could come to that conclusion and risk their brand while seeking just a bit more.

-The NBA and NHL playoffs have been fabulous. Dramatic games, surprises, stunning individual performances, upsets - I could joke about the Wild and Wolves not qualifying for these long-running dramas, but it's not funny. It's just sad.

Nice of former Wolves draft pick Ty Lawson to score 27 points last night, just to remind us of what a real point guard looks like.

-If I were the Vikings, I'd try to trade up to take Blaine Gabbert, or take Jake Locker if he's available at No. 12. I heard Brian Billick on The Dan Patrick Show saying he believes there are only three true blue-chips in the draft - Patrick Peterson, Marcell Dareus and Von Miller. If the Vikings are going to be forced to take a non-blue chip, it might as well be someone at the most important position, and position of greatest need.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.

 

 

 

Tuesday's series of random thoughts

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 19, 2011 - 6:26 PM

-Isn't releasing the schedule for an NFL season threatened by a lockout like planning how you're going to spend your lottery winnings?

-Must be something wrong with the Vikes' schedule. Shows only one game in Detroit, no games on Tuesday and none at TCF Bank Stadium.

-Rick Adelman might not be the best possible coach for the Timberwolves, but he'd be an upgrade. Then again, so would Randy Wittman.

David Kahn will have a dozen good candidates to replace Kurt Rambis, including Adelman, Dwane Casey and Sam Mitchell. I'm sure he'll go for name recognition, though, and hire someone like....Kurt Rambis. Or Pee Wee Herman.

-Bunting in the first inning: I'm never in favor, even when it's Matt Tolbert in the 2-hole putting down the bunt. Play for the big inning early in the game. Please.

-Remove frustration from the analysis, and the Twins' slow start isn't that surprising. They had injuries in spring training, they rarely play well against the AL East, they aren't a particularly strong road team, and their home games were against a very good pitching staff (Oakland) and a team you'd rather play later in the season than early, when they still believe in themselves (KC).

-Today's NBA playoff prediction (I'll change this every day for a few months): Oklahoma City over Miami in the finals. (Yesterday, it was LA over Miami in the finals, but the Lakers looked lost in Game 1.)

-60 Minutes did a great piece on Blazers and Seahawks owner Paul Allen, who ripped into Bill Gates in his new book. Allen owns the guitar Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock, a massive yacht with its own submarine, and still has dozens of billions in the bank.

And guess what Allen said in the interview: He's still hopeful of meeting someone with whom he can start a family. All those billions, and yet at that moment I felt sorry for him.

-First, my 1500espn radio partner Tom Pelissero said he believes the Vikings are targeting Jake Locker. Now Peter King is agreeing with his mock draft. I don't believe a lot of what I hear about the draft this time of year, but I am starting to believe that Jake Locker will be wearing purple this fall.

Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 Wednesday. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.

Big(?) Game Tonight at The Barn

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 10, 2011 - 4:57 PM

Here's what I hope happens tonight at the Barn:

I hope the Gophers play hard. All of them, not just Blake Hoffarber and Chip Armelin.

I hope Armelin starts at point guard, although I don't think Tubby Smith agrees with me. His loss.

I hope Trevor Mbakwe makes more contact with the Illinois front line than he has with ex-girlfriends who have restraining orders against him.

I hope Ralph Sampson steps foot in the paint.

I hope Rodney Williams offers evidence that he's in the arena.

I hope Tubby Smith does not again link his players' softness with the hardship of having to walk across the street  - in the cold! - to lift weights. I'm sure Bud Grant would emphathize.

I hope the Gophers don't completely collapse, and miss the NCAA Tournament. (I like going to the NCAA Tournament.)

I hope this team has more than false hope to offer the rest of the way.

----------------

Should the Twins trade Francisco Liriano? Yes and no.

No, they shouldn't trade him just to trade him. He's their best pitcher, and by some statistical measures he was an elite pitcher in the American League last year. No contender should trade its best pitcher unless it receives equal value, and receiving equal value for Liriano would be difficult right now.

That's the way a fan, or a writer invested in this season, would think.

Here's the way the Twins are thinking:

Liriano is valuable. He's more valuable today than he has been since 2006. By next season, if he pitches decently this year, he will be expensive. By next season, when he is a year away from free agency, he may be difficult to trade for value. Most important, he is a constant injury risk.

So while anyone focused on this season would not want to see Liriano traded, anyone worried about the long-term health of the franchise might want to move Liriano, for value, before he flops or gets hurt again or fails in more big games, damaging his value to the teams that might be interested in trading for him.

It's a tough call, which means the Twins won't trade him just to trade him, but might be willing to trade him if they receive excellent value - say, a power arm for the bullpen and a top pitching prospect.

As with any trade rumor/speculation/report, what really matters is what they would get in return. I wouldn't call for the Twins to trade Joe Mauer, but if the deal happened to be Mauer for Roy Halladay and Chase Utley, I'd be all for it.

Last year, I called for the Twins to trade Delmon Young for an ace. I was accused of being mean to Young. Not at all. I was paying him quite a compliment: That he had improved his value to the point where he could be exchanged for an ace like Zack Greinke. Trades are only insults if you trade someone just to be rid of them.

Trading Liriano just to be rid of him would be foolish. Trading him for good value would just be sound management.

Looking back on the Johan Santana scenario, the Twins wound up making the worst possible decision - they traded Santana for detritus and lost his services for the '98 season.

We now know that they should have either traded him a year earlier, when he would have had more value, or carried him into the season, knowing they could move him at the deadline - or allow him to help them win the division, enjoy having him pitch in Game 1 of the playoffs, and then collect the draft picks.

Investigating deals for Liriano is only logical. The Twins have six starters, plus Kyle Gibson on the cusp of the big leagues.

It all depends on what they would get in return.

------------------

The Wild is becoming a fun team to watch. Which is strange for me to say, because generally I prefer hockey teams with star power and spectacular scoring.

The Wild, though, is becoming one of those teams that is easy to like because of its grit, depth and teamwork.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has told me he believes this team will make the playoffs because while it lacks star power, it can offer four solid lines and good goaltending. And teamwork.

This team has surged because it is playing better than the sum of its parts. Fletcher says Mikko Koivu remains his best player, but Brent Burns might be his most talented player, and Cal Clutterbuck might be his most emblematic - a gritty, hard-hitting player who contributes scoring.

This team has already exceeded my expectations. And, as Fletcher says, if this team gets into the playoffs and Backstrom is hot, it could give any team trouble.

--------------

Upcoming: I'm on 1500espn from noon-2 on Friday, with Strib hockey writer Michael Russo as my co-host. We'll have on Strib writer Phil Miller to talk Gophers football and Jerry Sloan's retirement - Phil covered Jerry for years on the Jazz beat before repairing to Minnesota.

Michael is also lining up a hockey guest - I believe Matt Cullen. We'll also take calls.

Sunday, Brad Lane and I will run our last Sunday Sports Talk together. With Brad shifting to program director of the station, Tom Pelissero will be my co-host starting on Feb. 20, when we'll broadcast from Twins spring training in Fort Myers.

My Twitter name is Souhanstrib. You should follow me. It's very entertaining, since I really don't know what I'm doing.

 

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