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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Let's be honest. I don't know if Christian Ponder is going to be a star or a bust. You don't know, either. The Vikings' braintrust, which invested countless hours dissecting his film and background and interviewing him and his coaches, don't really know, either.
But if you stop worrying about where draft experts had him ranked, he has a lot going for him.
According to consensus and statistics, he's:
-Personable. (Personality matters for quarterbacks; they have to be leaders.)
-Accurate (he completed 69 percent of his passes as a junior, and 62 percent as a senior.)
The biggest knock on him seems to be durability, but the Vikings say they thought he displayed toughness in trying to play through his injuries.
My column, in the Friday paper, makes this point: We don't know how good this kid is, but if he can play, we are about to be treated to the best drama in sports: The nurturing of a young quarterback.
For now, I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier. I think Frazier knows what makes an NFL player tick, and Spielman is a tireless worker. I think they feel they landed a guy with great strengths and no glaring weaknesses.
I'll say this: I'm much more interested in this team today than I was yesterday.
-Congratulations to Michael Cuddyer for ripping into his teammates today. Somebody had to say it.
I think this will be Cuddyer's last season in Minnesota - he'll be a free agent and is not likely to want to take the kind of pay cut necessary to keep him here - and I'll miss him. He's honest, team-oriented, selfless and has a sense of humor. And he's responsible and accountable. A few of his teammates should take note.
-Joe Mauer wants to remain a catcher? Then he needs to prove he can recover from injuries and stay behind the plate. At some point, the Twins may have to remind him that he's the employee, not the employer.
-I know, I know, the Twins stink right now. They're a rather pathetic group.
Let me just remind you how lousy a team can look and still win something, though. In April of 2006, the Twins were swept by Cleveland early in the season by a combined 17-8. Then they were swept by Chicago by a combined 23-6. Then they were swept by Detroit by a combined 33-1.
That team, of course, won 96 games.
That's not a prediction of future success, merely a reminder that past failures haven't always been terrible omens.
-Ralph Sampson is declaring for the NBA draft?
Then I'm declaring that I'm about to win $1 billion dollars.
-While other NBA teams conduct their coaching searches, the Wolves...are...still...thinking...about...it...very...slowly...so...as...to...create...the...illusion...of...thoughful...ness.
-Upcoming: I'm outta here. Taking my first real adult vacation in a long, long time. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 tomorrow, then going on a cruise. Tom Pelissero will conduct the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk along with my Strib colleague Judd Zulgad. I'm guessing they might talk about the draft.
I'll be back the following Sunday.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. I may tweet from the beach; I may not, but this is a good time to thank y'all for reading, and listening.
-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.
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.''
-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.
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.
-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.
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