By RICK SOLEM
Serge Ibaka is out. The Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves in the middle of the playoffs, shorthanded. Again. But it doesn’t necessarily spell doom this time.
Right away you may think that, going against Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs – the best ‘team’ in the NBA. But this isn’t the “pound it in the post” Spurs of the Duncan-David Robinson era.
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By RICK SOLEM
Sometimes it’s not simply about speed.
Ha Ha (Ha’Sean) Clinton-Dix wasn’t the fastest safety in the NFL draft.
And, of the 24 first-round safeties taken since 1998, the Green Bay Packers’ new safety was the third slowest.
Clinton-Dix was arguably the best safety in the draft. Louisville’s Calvin Pryor was the other thought to be the best in class.
And of those 24 first-rounders since 1998, Pryor was actually the slowest.
When it came time for Green Bay to pick at No. 21, the decision was already made - if it was going to draft a safety.
Defensive genius Rex Ryan of the Jets took Pryor at No. 18. What did Ryan see in Pryor that he didn’t in Clinton-Dix?
It certainly wasn't speed, which means the Packers may not be in that big of trouble, though according to one AFC scout, "(Clinton-Dix) is not the fastest guy in the world and he's not the best athlete,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
It isn’t the most raving review, but is speed absolutely necessary at safety? Corners, sure, but at safety, you want a player that knows where the ball is going to be – whether it’s headed to a receiver’s hands or cradled by a running back.
Clinton-Dix isn’t a speed demon, so hopefully he’s a ball hawk.
"(Alabama coach) Nick Saban puts a lot of pressure on his secondary, particularly the safeties," GB safeties coach Darren Perry told MJS. "You get challenged mentally. Physically, obviously you play at a program like that, you're going to get challenged.
“But we spent a great deal of time talking to him. … We feel really good about his football IQ and the training he's had coming from Alabama should help him at the next level.”
Some were disappointed when the Minnesota Vikings didn’t take Johnny Manziel with the eighth pick in the draft … and then they totally redeemed themselves.
After taking one of the Top 3-ranked linebackers off the board at No. 8 in 6-foot-5, 255-pound Anthony Barr, Minnesota traded with Seattle to take Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32.
And, with him, they may have gotten an absolute steal - all thanks to a glove or lack thereof. Coming out, Bridgewater was almost undoubtedly the No. 1 QB in the draft. He threw for nearly 10,000 yards and 72 TDs in college – all while wearing a glove. Then came “pro day” and he stunk in almost every facet - all while not wearing a glove.
“I’ve never seen a top-level quarterback in the last 10 years have a bad pro day, until Teddy Bridgewater,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock told the Star Tribune. “He had no accuracy, the ball came out funny, the arm strength wasn’t there, and it made me question everything I saw on tape because this was live.”
Was it the glove? Was it the fact that it’s pro day and not a game? Or is he a bust?
All it cost the Vikings was a fourth-round pick. Minnesota swapped picks with Seattle, which will pick eighth Friday in the second round now, and gave up its fourth-rounder, as well.
The Vikings were rumored to have tried to move up to get Manziel, according to the NFL Network’s Albert Breer.
Instead, the Browns traded to get the hype from Texas A&M at No. 22, and it may have been a blessing in disguise for Minnesota. We’ll see. Maybe this season, maybe the next or maybe when the Vikings open up their new stadium in July of 2016. Matt Cassel could be the starter this season.
Instead of trying to get better defensively – to stop the rest of the NFC North’s potent attacks - Detroit decided to simply try, again, to outscore the opposition.
For the sixth time in 12 years, Detroit took a receiver of sorts with its first pick.
This year, it was arguably the best receiving tight end in the draft in 6-4, 250-pound Eric Ebron out of North Carolina, who had 62 catches for 973 yards and four TDs last season.
Ebron could possibly pose a matchup nightmare for opponents, lining up alongside Calvin Johnson. Some have said he could be better than the Saints’ Jimmy Graham - if he can hang onto the ball.
The ESPN scout’s take on Ebron is he can’t block, drops too many passes and his effort is inconsistent. Sounds like the perfect fit for Detroit.
Unlike Detroit, the Bears played it safe or smart – or neither considering what their big needs were - and took one of the Top 3-ranked cornerbacks in Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller.
It wasn’t exactly a team need, as Chicago’s bringing back its two starters from last year, but they’re not the youngest corners in the league. Fuller has good size (6-1, 188), is fast and athletic. He should be a staple at corner for years.