1. Are you pleased with the Vikings 1st round draft pick CB Mike Hughes or would you rather have seen them go in a different direction?
Nate Leer: It was a solid pick considering the reality that virtually any team in this era of football can always use more good CBs. However, the player I wanted was still on the board when we picked. G Will Hernandez could have been a plug and play pick who would have blown open running lanes for the Vikes RBs. Hughes can help right away in the kick return game but they have 3 talented CBs ahead of him who are under contract for at least this year and next: stud Xavier Rhodes, #11 overall pick from a few years ago Trae Waynes who’s 5th year option for 2019 just got picked up and last year’s 2nd round pick Mackenzie Alexander. Plus the Vikes resigned veteran Terence Newman. That means there is a strong possibility Hughes plays little or none on D whereas Hernandez could have stepped right in at one of the G spots and been a difference maker, much like C Zach Elflein was last year. The Vikes did get an OL in round 2 and reportedly got a steal later in the draft at G so maybe it will all work out fine. The Purple fan in me sure hopes so!
Kras: This was a typical Mike Zimmer pick in my opinion but, much like Nate Leer, I think they could have done more to help the team this coming year. I have no doubt Hughes will have a good chance to be a solid player in the NFL with Zim’s tutelage. However, O-line would have been the position to attack early and often in the draft if I were involved in the decision making. After going out and spending $84 million to sign Kirk Cousins for 3 years, I would think keeping him upright in the pocket would be a top priority for this team. As Nate Leer says, hopefully it works out but it’s not a strong start up front for the Vikes.
2. After hearing Wild owner Craig Leipold’s comments about not rebuilding the Wild, who is more to blame, Leipold or dismissed GM Chuck Fletcher?
Nate Leer: As a novice hockey fan, it sure seems to me that the issues with this franchise go all the way back to the owner. Because I am not a hockey aficionado, my reference points are similar situations in other sports. The Wild play their home games in a rabid and extremely supportive hockey market. That has obvious pros but also some cons such as the fan base having little patience for rebuilding. Examples of teams in other sports with similar fan bases include the Yankees and Angels in MLB, the Cowboys in the NFL and the Knicks and Lakers in the NBA. Over the years these teams have resisted true rebuilds partly because they don’t want to disappoint their fans. In the salary cap era of modern sports, this insistence on constantly retooling is untenable. A couple of these teams have shown intestinal fortitude and taken the plunge into the rebuilding pool. So far it has worked well for the Yanks and the Lakers are still working through it. With all that said, Leopold is taking more of the Knicks’ approach of not taking the hit in the media and attendance associated with a rebuild and we see how well that has worked. Leopold basically contradicted himself at the press conference by saying he was interested in hearing perspectives from top executive candidates from around the league in the interview process but also saying he had no interest in hearing about how to rebuild. This not only limits the pool of candidates, it also obviously limits whoever the next GM is options. I have held for the last year or so that the Wild will never become a top contender without a complete rebuild. Obviously that is tough with a couple $98 million weights around their neck but the fact that the owner won’t even consider the option shows HE is the problem.
Kras: After hearing Leipold’s thoughts on the team I would have to disagree completely with the statement that this team does not need to rebuild. Furthermore, I think it is a very narrow minded approach for Leipold to say that he won’t hire someone with views that may differ from his. This is a nice team but they are not built to go beyond where they are now. Their 2 “superstars” are aging and arguably under the worst contracts in NHL history, if not all of sports. Chuck Fletcher took a lot of heat for his role over the years but this appears to ultimately be the owners doing. Regardless of who Leipold hires, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are still there eating all that money. I know bottoming out and being an awful team for the next 5 years is a tough pill to swallow for a lot of fans but I don’t think they will be any happier not making it past the 2nd round of the playoffs for those 5 years. Anything but a complete rebuild is foolish in my opinion and they should start right now. They should be willing to listen to any and all offers on any player. No one should be safe. With that said, there will be some GM candidate, with all the ego in the world, that thinks they can come in and get this Wild team to perform at a higher level. Good luck!
3. Were you satisfied with the Wolves playoff showing or do you believe they should have been a tougher out than they were?
Kras: I would like to think that they would have been tougher but that’s just not the reality. This was the 1st exposure to the playoffs for a lot of these players and it showed at times. The Houston Rockets did what they had to do to beat this Wolves team. They eventually got hot from 3-point range and that was a big factor. The Wolves couldn’t keep up in the scoring department and they weren’t good enough defensively to slow down the Rockets. I think this year was more about getting a taste of the playoffs and learning what it takes to be a real contender. The Wolves are in desperate need of some shooting and more D. Let’s hope they can build in those areas.
Nate Leer: Kras is right on all points. Of course we all would have liked to see the team out up a better fight but this year has to be looked at as another step in the process of becoming a true contender. The Wolves young players need to get more physical and consistent and management needs to take a long look at how they can improve the team’s shooting and D. Many of us thought that Jeff Teague was not the right fit at PG and that seemed more evident than ever in the playoffs losses. I don’t know if it is doable but I would gladly trade him for a 3 and D wing with a similarly bad contract (Nick Batum?) then bring back Derrick Rose. We will see if Thibs agrees with that approach this offseason but at least we got back to the playoffs and didn’t get swept.
1. With the WNBA season about to tip off, do you think the Lynx will get the elusive repeat championship they have missed out on during this dynasty? If they do, will that be the last we see of PG Lindsay Whalen as a pro player?
Kras: It may be wishful thinking but I think they will repeat this season as WNBA Champions. To go along with that, I think it will be Whalen’s last season as well. To be fair, I think Whalen will be done after this season regardless of whether they win it all. If the Lynx don’t win the championship this season Whalen would be looking at a minimum of 2 more season to try and the back to back championships and I don’t see that happening. With her new duties at the University of Minnesota, Whalen will have more than enough on her plate. It would be a storybook ending to a brilliant career for the Minnesota native if the Lynx were to pull it off. Let’s hope it works out way.
Nate Leer: Maybe I am seeing this through blue tinted glasses but I think they will get the repeat championship this year. Unfortunately that likely will be the final accomplishment Whalen needs before riding off into the sunset. The Lynx found a potential quality backup for Whalen in Danielle Robinson and added additional depth with veteran Tanisha Wright. Robinson’s skill set varies from Whalen’s which could be beneficial if she can translate those skills into production. If the Lynx do get that championship, the next question might be whether GM/head coach Cheryl Reeve becomes the next coach of the Wolves!
2. What grade do you give the Cleveland Browns draft? Where do you think they could have done better?
Kras: I would give the Browns a B for the draft. They needed a QB, LT, and help on D. All areas the Browns filled with 3 of their first 4 picks. With QB Baker Mayfield being the 1st overall pick, the Browns scooped up Nevada T Austin Corbett with their 1st pick in round 2 to protect Mayfield. A much needed pick after the retirement of All-pro Joe Thomas. The one pick that I was a bit confused on was RB Nick Chubb. I understand the need for a long term RB but I thought that’s why they brought in Carlos Hyde. Granted, Hyde’s contract is front end loaded which makes means he can be cut after 1 or 2 years and then Chubb is the man. I feel they could have added another piece on D or the O-line and kicked the RB draft can down the road a few more years while getting by on Hyde’s talents.
Nate Leer: I give them a C based largely on them passing on Saquon Barkley in order to take Mayfield. I felt Mayfield was at best the #3 QB prospect and a couple other options have more upside. Cleveland could have taken Barkley then addressed QB at #4. Maybe they could have even traded up to #2 and had both. There were also a couple prospects I feel they should have taken over DB Denzel Ward, particularly DE Bradley Chubb. Unlike Kras, I do like the selection of Nick Chubb in the 2nd along with G Austin Corbett as well as Cleveland’s overall strategy of amassing draft picks to stock up on talent. The truth is that none of us know how these young players will develop. If Mayfield is a star, Cleveland did well. If not, the talent they passed on early makes this another bad draft in The ‘Land.
3. Which team made the biggest improvements to their roster through the 2018 NFL Draft?
Kras: I think the New York Giants were one of the big winners of this draft. With the #2 pick overall they took RB Saquon Barkley who should help that O immediately. To back up the Barkley pick and clear the path for him the Giants selected G Willie Hernandez. Hernandez was viewed as one of the better lineman in the draft and he too will be able to step in right away and provide some stability. Beyond rounds 1 and 2, the Giants did a good job trying to replace a couple of defensive losses by adding LB Lorenzo Carter and DT B.J. Hill. The Giants were an absolute mess last season and the picks they made should be able to get the ship righted. That said, they are in a division with the defending Super Bowl champs, the Eagles, so it won’t be easy.
Nate Leer: Kras definitely identified the team in my mind that had the best draft. The Giants O could be very, very good with Barkley running behind a hugely improved O line. That improved O line and a dominant run game would allow QB Eli Manning to set up shots downfield to his super athletic receivers without much pass rush threat.The G men even managed to get a developmental QB as well as help for their D. They had one hell of a draft and could be real fun to watch. Another team I think did extremely well is the Broncos. Denver got a potential #1 pick overall talent in Bradley Chubb at #5. They then got a WR with as much upside as any in the draft in 2nd round pick Courtland Sutton. In the 3rd round they added another needed upside piece to their O in RB Royce Freeman. Here again we never know how these guys will pan out but Denver got guys who can help them right now and be building blocks for the future. If Case Keenum and/or Paxton Lynch can provide just decent QB play Denver will bounce back in a big way.