1. With the Vikings adding depth at WR, is Laquon Treadwell a preseason cut candidate?
Nate Leer: I hope the Vikings give Quon a legit shot to be the 3rd WR this year and do not consider cutting him even if it doesn’t go well. The guy was a 1st round pick because of his physical talent and reportedly is a hard worker even if that effort is misguided at times. Hopefully the coaching staff is able to convince Quon of the importance of practicing the seemingly little things such as route running, especially for a big WR. I always go back to HOFer Cris Carter calling out Megatron to work on his route running. I am sure it is much more enjoyable for these guys to train for speed and strength than to do the tedious work of improving their foot placement or watching extra film. However, as Megatron demonstrated, being the best pro you can means getting down to the nitty gritty of the job. Hopefully Quon takes that step this year.
Kras: I think they will give Treadwell one more season. The Vikes added WR Kendall Wright who will likely get his chance in the slot due to the departure of Jarius Wright. With that said, Treadwell should be on the roster as the 4th WR. Treadwell has done nothing to this point and has been a bust by all accounts. It would be nice to see him be a factor this season and help the team or this will be it. If the Vikes address the WR position in the draft at all, one has to believe that Treadwell will be out the door.
2. Considering D Ryan Suter’s broken leg, does GM Chuck Fletcher deserve a pass if the Wild are one and done in the playoffs again?
Nate Leer: Fletcher deserves credit for putting together another 100+ point team. However, unless this team makes a serious run this year, I do believe it is time to look for a new direction in the front office. The Suter injury hurts of course but that doesn’t change the results from the last few years. There may not be much a GM can do with the weight of the Parise and Suter contracts on the cap but Fletcher doesn’t seem to be creative enough to get the talent needed to take this team to the next level.
Kras: The Suter injury is definitely devastating and it will be hard to replace what he brings to the team. With that said, I don’t know if that is reason enough to say that Chuck Fletcher is off the hook if this team can’t escape round 1 of the playoffs. This team has not got any better under Fletcher’s watch and it likely won’t in the next 2-4 years. LW Zach Parise has been a pleasant surprise this season being able to return to form but he is getting longer in the tooth and there is no guarantee that his back holds up for an entire season when he is another year older. Suter will be in the same boat if and when he returns from his leg injury. C Eric Staal has been great posting a 40 goal season but he also is aging with no promise moving forward. I think Fletcher has done a serviceable job but I do think a fresh perspective may be in order for this team to change its path. Right now they are just stuck in the middle hoping.
3. Are the Twins players at risk for injuries having to play in cold weather and/or postpone games early in the season?
Kras: I do believe the injury risk has to increase some on the days where games are played at a colder temp. I have to believe that all players, especially the guys just standing still on the field, not moving are effected. Furthermore, one would think it would add more stress on relief pitchers who have sat for 6, 7, or 8 innings. I would think it would take more pitches to get loosened up before pitching in 32-degree weather than it would in 75-degree weather. With that said, the Twins are not the only team to have to deal with the cold outdoors to start the season. In order to eliminate the cold weather games, it would take a massive overhauling of the MLB schedule. I also think it is worth noting, if the Twins or any team playing in the northern climate for that matter, plan to play in a World Series, they may have to get used to the idea of cold weather baseball.
Nate Leer: Kras pretty much nails it with his take on the topic. MLB has a lot to consider regarding this issue but they should be looking at it now before major issues arise. The tough thing is that last April had mostly great weather for going to ball games in Minnesota. Obviously this year is very different across much of the U.S. I think there is a risk to players playing in the cold and/or having less off days later in the season due to making up missed games. MLB could schedule more split doubleheaders during the warmer months and/or cut out off days. Giving up early games may mean taking a hit on attendance but nobody shows up for wintery games in April anyway. Obviously having no built in days off could take a toll on players but maybe that means expanding rosters. I don’t think there is a perfect answer to this issue but MLB needs to give this some serious thought. Players and fans suffer when games are played in freezing temps and the game really suffers if and when that happens in the playoffs.
1. Were you surprised at how easily the Villanova Wildcats cruised to the National Championship? Is it all about shooting 3’s for them?
Kras: I was a bit shocked that they were able to cruise to easy double wins throughout the NCAA tournament as well as the Big East Championship. They were on fire for most of the tournament and were able to shoot the lights out in there 1st Final Four game going 18 of 40 from 3-point range. In the championship game the Wildcats were able to pull away in the second half from a very solid Michigan team. As well as they were able to shoot the 3 at times, they were able to move the ball as well as any team in the tournament. They were able to move the ball extremely well which oftentimes created a lot of space on the floor, which led to easy layups. It’s hard to believe they won’t be back next year making a similar run.
Nate Leer: I was a bit surprised because I didn’t think they had enough O to get past multiple top teams in the tournament. That brings us right to the 2nd part of the question: Yes, it’s all about shooting the 3 for them. Nova played elite D all season and that was enough to make. Them a contender. However, getting the 3 ball going also made their O tough to stop. That was a lethal combination for their opponents. In the end, I don’t think the best team truly won although that is often the case in a one and done tournament. I think the NCAA needs to take a look at moving the 3 point line back to hopefully make games less about who gets hot with the jump shot and more about which team is better and more complete.
2. Are the Patriots smart to trade WR Brandin Cooks? Do you see them making a move up in the draft to grab their next franchise QB?
Kras: I think it was a slick move for the Pats to move Cooks. They got him last season giving up a 1st round pick. They got his service for a year and now get a #1 back from the Rams. The Pats will be able to move on without him as they should get the services of Julian Edelman back. That will help fill and void left by Cooks. As far as what the Pats might do with the picks they have accumulated, there is no guarantee that they take a QB or even draft in the 1st round. As it stands now, the Pats have 2 picks in each of the first 2 rounds. They could move out of the first round and look to next year or they could make a play to move up this year. What eve they do it will likely set them up for success in the future. The Pats seem the have the all the answers and this year should be no exception with the ammo they have in the draft.
Nate Leer: I do think this was a smart trade. Cooks is a good deep threat but doesn’t do much else. The Pats have other guys who can pick up some of that work so getting good value for Cooks made sense. I know there has been a lot of steam about the Pats moving up to draft a QB but I think that is unlikely. I don’t see them having the ammo to get one of the top QBs and spending a bunch of draft capital to get a guy in the next tier does not seem like a wise investment. I think it is more likely they wait to see if a decent QB prospect drops to 23 or 31 overall. I would like to see the Pats grab a good RB and some OL help early to complement QB Tom Brady. They have done well taking QBs in the 2nd-4th rounds in past years and I could see them going that route again. There may be better QB value there anyway as many teams will fill their holes at QB in the 1st round and the middle tier QBs may slip some. New England has a solid backup in Brian Hoyer so they can afford to grab a raw prospect with upside and bring him along relatively slowly.
3. What was the bigger story at the Masters, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler’s late round charge or Patrick Reed hanging on to win his first major?
Kras: It is hard to take anything away from a major winner, especially when it is their 1st one. Patrick Reed did what he had to do to hang on and win at Augusta but he did not play particularly well on Sunday en route to his Green Jacket. Meanwhile, Spieth and Fowler both played very well and came from several shots back to put themselves in the conversation. Reed has played well for stretches but I believe the Masters showed us that Spieth is back and Fowler might be ready to grab his 1st major at some point this year. Admittedly I was surprised that Reed hung on to win but that’s all he did was just hang on. On a day when people were moving up the leaderboard, Reed did what he could to stay afloat and that doesn’t bode well for long term success in Major events.
Nate Leer: We are caught in the winter that will never end here at FSL world headquarters in Minnesota so it was great to see green grass, hear birds sing and damn near feel the sun at Augusta this weekend. And the golf was also great! While the pressure Spieth and Fowler applied was unexpected and super fun to watch, the bigger story was Reed. Spieth and Fowler made some great, clutch shots on Sunday while Reed pretty much did just enough to win. The key point though is that he was able to hold on without having to try to do too much precisely he had built such a large lead on Saturday. Reed is arguably the best putter in the game and it was on display all weekend including at times on Sunday. On Saturday Reed put on a putting clinic the likes of which has rarely been seen ai the Masters or anywhere else. The adage “Drive for show, putt for dough” has never been more true.