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Well, tonight is like Christmas night (or Rosh Hashanah for my Jewish friends) for many NFL fans and especially those of us Browns fans. The Browns had two first round picks in the NFL draft and a huge opportunity to improve the team which has struggled since coming back to Cleveland in 1999. So, with the picks of RB Trent Richardson from Alabama and QB Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State how did the Browns do improving their team?

First, let’s discuss the Browns trading up to take Trent Richardson at #3 instead of #4. When I first heard about the trade the first thing I heard was that they gave up three picks to move up one spot. When I heard that I squirmed for a minute but said “As long as it isn’t a 2nd or 3rd round pick I’m ok with it.” It ended up being the second of two 4th round picks, a 5th and a 7th. When I found that out I was ok because we were getting our guy for sure and weren’t going to let Tampa or St. Louis move up to snatch him away from us. Also, the next thing I looked at was what “value” did we give up to move up one spot. Using the Trade Value Chart moving from three to four should cost 400  additional points. The value of the picks we gave was only about 115 points so in theory we got a bargain! Plus, the Browns still have 10 picks in the draft – plenty of picks to improve the team.

Next, Richardson fills a HUGE hole on the Browns. Do Brandon Jackson, Montario Hardesty or Chris Ogbonnaya scare any defenses? Hell no. Does Richardson – absolutely. He’s going to be an immediate starter for the Browns and a top five or ten RB in his first season.

Now on to the much more controversial pick of Brandon Weeden at #22. First, let me say I like Weeden as a potential NFL QB. As a Minor League pitcher he threw in the upper 90’s so he has a great arm. He made tons of throws at Oklahoma State so has plenty of passes under his belt.  However, think about this…

Brandon Weeden is 28 and will be 29 during this season so any NFL team who would want to maximize his value would want him to play right away in the hopes of getting 8-10 years out of the guy. If you look at every team before the draft started how many teams fit the criteria of needing a starting QB for the 2012 season? The Dolphins could have been one of them but they took Ryan Tannehill at #8. The other team who was considered to be looking for a QB was Kansas City but they have a starter and wouldn’t have chosen until after the Browns in the 2nd round. Any other teams come to mind? No. So why would the Browns think they’d need to take him at #22? I’d almost argue that Weeden may have slipped to the 3rd round if the Browns didn’t take him in the 2nd round!!! Again, I like Weeden and will be rooting for him to be a success…sooner rather than later.

Had the Browns passed on Weeden they could have taken the second best tackle in the draft, Riley Reiff, the best guard in the draft, David DeCastro, or the best WR left on their board (who knows who this is but maybe Stephen Hill, Ruben Randle or even Alshon Jeffery). If the Browns can get Hill, Randle or Jeffery in Round 2 then I think the pick if Weeden looks a lot better. The other direction the Browns may look in the 2nd round may be RT with both Cordy Glenn and Jonathan Martin still on the board.

Overall, I’m happy with the 1st round of the draft for the Browns and am almost as excited for the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the draft tomorrow!

I’ve tried to keep my posts topical and have really tried to stay away from just discussing current events in sports. This is an exception…as many of you know, I’m a huge NFL fan and my favorite part of the season is the NFL Draft. This season’s draft will be upon us this Thursday and I’ve made my final mock draft of the year. You can check out my full two-round mock draft with insight on potential first round picks at www.neilstein.com or if you just want to see my first round projection I’ve listed it below. Enjoy and feel free to give me your feedback and tell me where I’m wrong in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

1. Colts – Andrew Luck – QB – Stanford
2. Redskins – Robert Griffin III – QB – Baylor
3. Minnesota – Matt Kalil – T – USC
4. Cleveland – Trent Richardson – RB – Alabama
5. Tampa Bay –  Morris Claiborne – CB – LSU
6. St. Louis – Justin Blackmon – WR – Oklahoma State
7. Jacksonville – Mark Barron – S – Alabama
8. Miami – Michael Floyd – WR – Notre Dame
9. Carolina – Fletcher Cox – DT – Mississippi State
10. Buffalo – Riley Reiff – T – Iowa
11. Kansas City – Ryan Tannehill – QB – Texas A&M
12. Seattle – Chandler Jones – DE – Syracuse
13. Arizona – Luke Kuechly – LB – Boston College
14. Dallas – David DeCastro – G – Stanford
15. Philadelphia – Dontari Poe – DT – Memphis
16. NY Jets – Michael Brockers – DT – LSU
17. Cincinnati – Stephon Gilmore – CB – South Carolina
18. San Diego – Melvin Ingram – DE/LB – South Carolina
19. Chicago – Quinton Coples – DE – North Carolina
20. Tennessee – Dont’a Hightower – LB – Alabama
21. Cincinnati – Kendall Reyes – DT – Connecticut
22. Cleveland – Stephen Hill – WR – Georgia Tech
23. Detroit – Dre Kirkpatrick – CB – Alabama
24. Pittsburgh – Courtney Upshaw – DE/LB – Alabama
25. Denver – Jerel Worthy – DT – Michigan State
26. Houston – Kendall Wright – WR – Baylor
27. New England – Harrison Smith – S – Notre Dame
28. Green Bay – Doug Martin – RB – Boise State
29. Baltimore – Shea McClellin – LB – Boise State
30. San Francisco – Janoris Jenkins – CB – N. Alabama
31. New England – Alameda Ta’amu – DT – Washington
32. NY Giants – David Wilson – RB – Virginia Tech

Click here to go to my second round… 

This may be my first and last post about hockey, but I was watching a few minutes of the NHL playoffs the other day and started thinking about how many fights and penalties there are in hockey. It seems like every 10 minutes or so there’s a mini-fight because someone happened to skate a little too close to the goalie or because someone got checked into the boards too hard. I understand fighting has been a part of hockey forever, but in this day and age with all of the emphasis on stats and figures in MLB and even the NFL why hasn’t anyone taken a long hard look at the impact of these penalties on wins and losses in hockey?

I don’t have the time to dig intensely deep into the stats related to Power Plays and penalties in hockey but I did look up a handful of numbers to use as an example for people to start thinking about. Depending on the year, anywhere from about 20% to 30% of ALL goals scored in an NHL season come on Power Plays.  That’s anywhere from 1/5 to 1/3 of ALL goals scored because one team committed a penalty.

Consider those numbers relative to a sport like football which we all know and love. If an NFL team gave up 1/4 of their total points during the season because they did something like commit multiple holding penalties, or pass interference penalties or false starts I would go out on a limb and guess that the coaches would do everything in their power to eliminate or cut down on those penalties in the future. It’s a little something called statistical analysis – or as I tell my children “Learn from your Mistakes.”

I’m realistic enough to know that not ALL penalties in hockey can be eliminated as there are going to be tripping or high-sticking penalties during the normal course of play. However, if teams really wanted to cut down on their penalty minutes and creating Power Plays for their opponents they could easily do so by stopping their players from dropping their gloves and fighting every chance they get.

Initially there would be an adjustment period and everyone else in the NHL would look at that team and call them “soft”, but the same thing happened in MLB when the Oakland A’s began their transformation from traditional player analysis to statistical analysis. Not long after the wins started piling up for the A’s did many other teams jump on the same bandwagon.

The Lake County Captains will begin their 10th season of baseball in NE Ohio this Thursday, April 12 at 6:30 PM. The front-office staff has been gearing up for this day since last Labor Day and it’s nearly upon us. When explaining the process of getting ready f0r Opening Day for the Captains I tell people it’s like planning a wedding. There are hundreds of things that go into getting ready for another baseball season and, for the most par,t the only people who’ll know what we get done and what we don’t get done are the 14 full-time staff members of the Captains.

The most important thing we do to get ready for the season is sell. If the staff doesn’t sell tickets and advertising then nothing else matters. This week will consist of putting together any last minute touches on sponsorship agreements, finalizing a couple outstanding contracts, and double checking to make sure everything that has been sold will be in place by Thursday. On the ticket side of things we’ll all make sure our season ticket holders have their tickets and parking passes and if anyone needs anything last minute before Thursday we’ll take care of it.

The most important thing fans will see this week is the ballpark itself. In ten years a stadium sees quite a bit of wear and tear and the needs and wants of the fans from year one to year ten change as well. This week the ballpark will get a final deep cleaning (it’s been getting cleaned over the past two to three weeks) from the restrooms to the concession stands to the stadium seats. Also, a couple final touches and improvements for the 2012 season will be finished this week. These include a brand new high-top table seating area located behind home plate, new signage throughout the ballpark and concession stands and even brand new stadium banners commemorating the ten seasons of baseball at Classic Park. Plus, a brand new state-of-the-art camera for the video board will help fans enjoy their ballpark experience even more!

Lastly, the front office and part-time staff members need to mentally prepare for the season as well. This may not sound like a big deal, especially for those of us who’ve been around for a few seasons, but there are new things every season that we need to be reminded of so we can speak intelligently when fans ask us questions. From the new Moby Dick fish sandwich to the new seating area to a new location for the plaques commemorating Captains who have made the Majors there are plenty of things new at Classic Park in 2012.

Hopefully baseball fans, families and folks just looking for a good night out will all come to the ballpark to see what’s going on with the Captains this season. There’s something for everyone at the ballpark and we hope people will enjoy the changes we’ve made for the upcoming season. See you at the ballpark!

On Thursday, April 12th I will be starting my 14th season working in Minor League Baseball and my fifth year with the Lake County Captains. Opening Day is always one of the highlights of the year even if the weather is cold and uncooperative most of the time! However, an equally exciting Opening Day for me is also approaching…my 5-year old son’s first T-ball game of the year. This year will be a little different as I’ve decided to coach his team this season.

This isn’t my first time coaching as I coached my daughter’s t-ball teams for two years and I’ve also coached the other end of the spectrum where I coached high school kids playing competitive fall baseball for two years. Coaching four and five-year old kids may not sound too difficult, but I can assure you it has as many, if not more, challenges as coaching high school kids.

The most important thing for these kids is that they have fun playing baseball. That is all too often forgotten by youth coaches. My son played t-ball last year too and not one time did his coach utter the word “fun” to the 10 kids on that team. I’m not saying the kids didn’t have any fun, but it clearly wasn’t the focus during the season. My goal heading in to the season is, first and foremost, that the kids have fun learning to play baseball and playing with their new friends. Next, if at the end of the year the kids have figured out how to swing the bat a little bit, throw with the correct hand, and know which way to run to first base then the season will be a huge success.

I’ll be writing more about this as the season approaches, but in the meantime if anyone has any suggestions on how to keep little boys from playing in the dirt and rocks at a baseball field please let me know!

In about a month the Browns will have two very large decisions to make with the #4 and #22 picks in the NFL Draft. They also have a high pick in the second round at #37 overall. The Browns won a whopping four games in 2011 so needless to say they need help in all areas of the team. However the offense was terrible in all facets of the game and needs to be addressed if the Browns are ever going to put a competitive team on the field.

Based upon what the Browns have (or haven’t) done in free agency I think they will target offense with at least two of their first three picks in the draft. Their biggest need on defense was finding a defensive end to play opposite of Jabaal Sheard and they found a serviceable player in Frostee Rucker. He’s not Mario Williams, but he is a decent short-term solution. With that signing they can focus on offense in the draft.

What I think the front office needs to consider with the first two picks are these two questions. “Do we want to come away from the draft with the hands-down best RB in the draft by a landslide, Trent Richardson from Alabama and the third or fourth best WR (Kendall Wright – Baylor, Stephen Hill – Georgia Tech) OR would we be better off with the top WR in the draft, Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State and the second, third or fourth best RB in the draft (Doug Martin – Boise St., Lamar Miller – Miami, David Wilson – Virginia Tech)?”

With the Browns lack of success from their WRs taken in the second round (Brian Robiskie, Mohamed Massaquoi, Andre Davis, Quincy Morgan, & Dennis Northcutt) they may decide it’s time to pull the trigger on one early.

To see what I’m predicting will happen, not what I would do personally, check out my mock draft by clicking the link below.

http://www.neilstein.com/march-25-mock-draft.html

For most young athletes their dream is to play professionally when they grow up. As a kid you always think you’re going to be that 0.1% that’s going to beat the odds and make it to college and then on to the pros. I was that kid. Many of you were that kid too. For nearly all of us, that dream never happens and we realize we’ll need to find another career path. For me I couldn’t, and never will, get sports out of my system so I ended up working in the front office of professional sports teams. Little did I know when I got into this career that it would end up being a lot more complicated and involved than just selling tickets or advertising for a baseball game and hopefully watching the game.

When you go to a sporting event you always want the best seats you can get closest to the field or court right? I know I do, but a majority of fans don’t actually think that way. They want aisle seats. They might want seats in the middle of the row so they don’t have to stand up when people walk past them. They want to sit on the home side of the field. The want handicapped row seats for more leg room. A fan wants the seats with the best view of the video board. They want seats on the side of the field with the most shade. Someone else wants seats in the sun. Fans want seats under an overhang in case it rains. HUH? Really? Yep, that’s why I chuckle when someone tells me to give them the best seats available.

Getting into this field I didn’t think I’d need to know the difference between Dibond, Max-Metal, Alumilite, Coroplast, Sintra and Polystyrene. What the hell are those you ask? Types of materials used to make outdoor signs. Want more? Too bad…vinyl, mesh banner, adhesive vinyl, backlit vinyl, and 3M reusable sticker material. More sign materials with different purposes.

Also, I could probably work for a printing company now too. Do you know the difference between a 80# uncoated text, 80# gloss text, 80# matte text or #80 cover when it comes to types of paper? I do. How does it help me sell more sponsorships, it doesn’t, but I know what kind of paper to use for different projects we do during the season.

There are a ton of examples of stuff like this that no class at Baldwin-Wallace College (soon to be Baldwin Wallace University) would have ever taught me or would have even thought about teaching when it comes to working in sports. Again, do these things make me a better salesman? No. But once I make a sale and need to make sure everything involved in that sale happens and turns out correctly it helps tremendously to be able to speak these second, third and fourth languages.

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