Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Leftover Wrap-Up

Ahh, that was refreshing. In the midsts of a couple boring first rounds from the NHL and NBA playoffs, the NFL delivered. Like any meal there are leftovers . . I'm here to address them.

Jimmy Clausen, I'm not a fan. That being said he's gone to heaven by falling out of the first round and right into the laps of the Carolina Panthers as the 48th overall pick.

Like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez, he could take the reigns with an excellent rushing attack behind him. Between Jonathan Stewart and De'Angelo Williams, the pressure for any Panther QB to step in and throw the ball around the lot is out the window. Both are capable of running for over 1,000 yards every season. Then comes the protection, Jeff Otah, Jordan Gross, the Panthers are protecting Claussen from taking David Carr like derailing hits. Jimmy Clausen has some weapons around him and the intangibles to succeed in the NFL. As much as I dislike him as a player, if he's going to be successful in any situation, the Panthers would be a good fit.

Make no bones about it, the New York Jets are going for broke.

For the first time in a long time the AFC East isn't as much of a cupcake as it once had been in recent memory. The Patriot Way is in jeopardy as Rex Ryan is shaking up the NFL one move at a time. His Jets got lucky last season, they know that and aren't sitting on their hands. Adding veteran players like Jason Taylor and LaDanian Tomlinson, locker room guys who still have something left in the tank. Adding big play caliber players Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie. Picking Kyle Wilson, an elite corner back in this draft. Joe McKnight an explosive player in his own right. The New York Jets are acquiring players to make this team balanced all the way around! If anyone thinks the the Jets aren't making a serious bid to win the Super Bowl, you haven't been doing your homework. Adding weapons to Mark Sanchez' offense, bolstering a rough and tumble defense, the Jets are making moves and plan on going for broke.

I feel for Jason Campbell, really I do.

To go from the Washington Redskins to the Oakland Raiders, ugh! Here's the problem, I actually like Jason Campbell as a quarterback and he got a raw deal in The District. Between 4 & 5 offensive coordinators with different offensive schemes have mismanaged Campbell's career while in Washington. I don't think he's Peyton Manning but even a cerebral quarterback such as Manning wouldn't have succeeded as quickly with that many different programs in his first six seasons in the league. Campbell needed out of Washington and with the McNabb trade it was bound to happen, just wish it had been to somewhere else. All that being said, he's got to have developed pretty tough skin at this point, even Al Davis can't break him down anymore. In Oakland, he'll have a mess of talented players around him, from explosive running backs to speed receivers, there is no shortage of raw talent developed in Raiderland. Unfortunately, he'll be in yet another offensive scheme, I feel for him.

No one is talking about them, but the Cardinals made some quality selections throughout the three days.

What many assumed was the best true nose tackle in this draft, slid from a top 15 pick all the way to the Cardinals in the first round at twenty-six. After losing Karlos Dansby, Anquan Boldin, and of course the retirement of Kurt Warner, the Cardinals made some great plays starting with Dan Williams from Tennessee. With the blessing of Monte Kiffin, the Cardinals are taking a player who can clog up the middle and allow the newer Cardinal linebackers to make the plays. Their second pick, Daryl Washington, the exciting 6'2" linebacker from TCU, a speed guy who is a monster inside backer. Washington is a big time player with a ton of ability. The Cardinals also added yet another insurance policy on Matt Leinart, whose really got to be feeling the pressure with the signing of Derek Anderson and now the drafting of Fordham quarterback John Skelton, a big player at 6'5", 243 lbs., whoa. With offensive whoas the Cardinals brass are defining the defense and preparing to stay in the thick of the wild, wild, west.

What about Tim? If everyone is slamming Josh McDaniels for drafting the Florida legend at #25, then I'm going to defend it, especially if it means I can rip former Irish quarterback Brady Quinn.

Think McDaniels is crazy? A bit. Tebow is literally the most criticized player to be drafted in the first round in recent memory. Next to the Jaguars selecting Tebow for ticket selling purposes, no one was justifying Tebow as a first rounder, no one. Then Josh McDaniels threw caution to the wind and made the move to secure "The Great Intangible." Not to mention McDaniels dumped Brandon Marshall to the Dolphins and quickly handed his number to Tebow, after drafting his replacement in Demaryius Thomas the 6'3" receiver from Georgia Tech. Today the Denver Broncos are offering up a new day that begins with Tebow. Under perhaps the games brightest young quarterbacks coach turned head coach, Tebow and the recently added Brady Quinn will compete for future reigns of this franchise. McDaniels made sure to explain that Tebow isn't a six snaps a game Wildcat quarterback, he'll be competing for the same job as the other three quarterbacks on the roster. We may not appreciate Tim Tebow, but if McDaniels believes he can turn water into wine, (And I'm sure Timmy will love that reference) then I'm all in. Brady Quinn and Kyle Orton aren't exactly certified stars in this league, so you better believe Broncos faithful will be holding McDaniels to the fire if this fails.

Quit crying Taylor Mays, you aren't even in the top three among safeties!

After the former USC safety was selected 49th overall by the San Francisco 49ers, a great team for him, Mays decided to sound off on former college coach turned Seahawk head coach Pete Carroll, for passing on him. Quit crying Taylor! With Eric Berry, the Tennessee phenom selected (5) by Kansas City, the Texas play maker Earl Thomas being drafted (14) by Carroll's Seahawks, and Philadelphia snagging South Florida's Nate Allen (37), then you came off the board! It wasn't just Pete who thought you weren't the player you think you are. Taylor, your going to San Francisco, with a team who can get the best out of everyone including Alex Smith and his small hands, just be happy your in the league!

Looking forward to next years crop? Here's a quick profile on the best two collegiate players about to make the jump. A Husky signal caller from the upper Northwest and a bone crushing Bayou Bengal. . . .

Jake Locker QB, Washington Huskies Haven't heard rumblings of his game yet, it won't be long. The early on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy is back for his senior campaign and second season under former USC offensive coordinator turned Washington head coach, Steve Sarkisian. In 2009 under Sarkisian's tutelage, Locker threw for nearly 3,000 yards and notched impressive wins against California and USC. As a 6'3", 230 lb. quarterback, Jake Locker can both stay in the pocket withstanding the rush and evade tacklers while throwing on the move. A number of NFL scouts believe that had Locker come out after his junior season it would have been a virtual toss up between he and eventual 2010 #1 selection, Sam Bradford. If Locker can continue his upward progress in the West Coast offense while staying healthy it'll be very hard for any team to pass on him.

Patrick Peterson CB, Louisiana State Tigers 31 Cornerbacks were drafted in the 75th NFL Draft including (5) five in the first round. I'll say it today, Patrick Peterson is quite possibly better than every single one of them. The 6'1" cornerback is entering his 3rd season on the vaunted LSU defense. He's a hard hitting ball hawk who has an amazing ability to close in on receivers and break up passes all over the field. When scouts ascend on The Bayou to get one look at Patrick Peterson, he'll become the most sought after cornerback since the Tennessee Titans selected Pacman Jones #6 overall in 2005. Take a look for yourself . . .

The NFL rolled the dice putting their draft selection show on prime time competing against both the NHL and NBA postseasons, and against your routine Thursday night programming, and the whipped 'em all. It may be for just a weekend in the early Spring, but the NFL takes center stage any time they speak up. I love THIS game and so do you.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Winners & Losers!

We're two days in and heading into the day for diehards. As I rip down my third cup of coffee and digest hour number two of draft coverage I couldn't be more excited. Clausen, McCoy, no longer waiting. Mocked first rounders, Everson Griffen DE, USC and Bruce Campbell OT, Maryland, on the board. Through two days, who are the . . . Winners & Losers.

The Winners

Seattle Seahawks Give Seahawks brass, GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll, a ton of credit here. In their first draft in Seattle they've hit three home runs with all of their picks through Day 2. The Seahawks were able to land a replacement for the looming retirement of 14-year veteran tackle Walter Jones. Added one of the most coveted players in the draft who instantly improves their 30th ranked pass defense. On Friday, the Seahawks added an offensive weapon to play opposite T.J. Houshmandzadeh and improve their 21st ranked kick return game. From their top pick (6) Russell Okung, a mauling offensive tackle that measures in over 6'5", 300 lbs, to their second selection (14) of Earl Thomas the former Texas ball hawk who is fast enough in coverage to play heads up on some of the games best, to lastly (60) Golden Tate, the Notre Dame playmaker who aside from his knack for making big time catches was one of the faster receivers in this draft, Seahawks fans should will smiling today.

San Francisco 49ers If the 49ers are anything, they're confident. Through four selections and three rounds, the San Francisco 49ers have picked up massive physical athletes with each player selected. (11) Anthony Davis, 6'5" 323 lbs. (17) Mike Iupati, 6'5" 331 lbs. (49) Taylor Mays, 6'3" 230 lbs. And (91) Navorro Bowman, 6'0" 242 lbs. That's a ton of size. Former top pick, 'Niners quarterback Alex Smith, is still smiling from Thursday night. San Francisco went out and drafted two bulking offensive lineman, who agreed both need work, but if all works out the 49ers rushing offense will instantly improve and give Alex Smith more time to find his big playmakers Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis. The pick of Taylor Mays is perfect for Mike Singletary, he's a massive safety with a big chip on his shoulder falling to the second round. If anyone is going to find the best way to use such a physical player as Mays, it's MIke Singletary. With their final pick yesterday, the 'Niners added Navorro Bowman who dominated in Happy Valley and led Penn State to a number of big wins throughout his time there. The 49ers are covering all their needs through the draft, expect big things very soon.

Baltimore Ravens I love what the Baltimore Ravens have done, it's why they are one of the most productive teams year in, year out. After trading out of the first round the Ravens have wasted no time. (43) Sergio Kindle LB/DE, Texas. The Longhorn pass rusher needs work and has injury questions but he's going to a team who can teach him how to play the position. Playing behind Terrell Suggs, Kindle will be able to work himself into the rotation. Why is this a great pick? Because the Ravens take the best guy available at that point, they know they can teach him how to play their position. Following the Kindle pick, (57) Terrence Cody DT, Alabama. Don't they already have Haloti Ngata? Yes. That's exactly why the Ravens go out and do this. The Ravens again take a defensive force who can be schooled in how to play the defensive tackle position in the NFL, who better to teach him than a top five defensive tackle in the league? Since then, the Ravens have added two tight ends to give Joe Flacco more weapons to work with. The Ravens are loading up all over their depth chart, and they didn't even need a first rounder to do it.

The Losers

New England Patriots I just don't like it. For every pick they've made, I've thought someone else was better at the same position. Oh, and they passed on selecting Dez Bryant, an impact wide receiver, which they needed. One would have to be the most star-crossed Patriot fan to call this a good weekend. (27) Devin McCourty CB, Rutgers. All due respect to McCourty a good player in his own right, but Kyle Wilson was still on the board, he was the consensus 2nd best corner in this draft. Then there is Jermaine Gresham the Oklahoma tight end, a very good college tight end, the best in this years crop. With the Broncos and Dolphins dying to move back in this draft, was there really no way the Patriots could have gave up a couple of their later round picks to get him? Instead they don't, they allow the Bengals to draft him and proceed to get a couple lesser tight ends. (42)Rob Gronkowski TE, Arizona & (113) Aaron Hernandez TE, Florida. Maybe Belichick is smarter than all of us, maybe he finds all the steals of the draft, but if your going to draft players in the same position, why not get the best players you can get? I like (62) Brandon Spikes LB, Florida but why not get a guy like Jerry Hughes or Sergio Kindle when you could have? They drafted Laurence Maroney ahead of DeAngelo Williams and Joseph Addai in 2006. I just think they get too cute in the draft and need to take quality players when they can. Bill, some 1st rounders are pretty good.

Jacksonville Jaguars It isn't about reaching and just selecting (10) Tyson Alualu DE, Cal, because you've heard that was a reach from everyone. It's about not having a plan, that's what it looks like. It looks like they had a player they were going to take, then the Bills took him and they hadn't prepared for that to happen. Alualu may be great in the NFL and the pick was worth it, but you probably could have taken him much later. The Jaguars haven't drafted anyone who can sell tickets, they haven't made any improvements to their offense. What have they done? Del Rio is going to be out of a job and this team is going to be picking in the top five in less than two seasons. I'm not saying I'd have taken Tebow at #10, that's ludicrous, but they needed somebody to sell some tickets and take the load of Maurice Jones-Drew, they don't have that yet.

Buffalo Bills I have many questions for the Bills. Whose playing quarterback being the only one that matters. The 30th ranked passing offense passed (no pun intended) on Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy. Look, even the Browns realized they need to to take a quarterback to give themselves a chance. The Bills? No thanks. They drafted a wide receiver, and still have no one to throw the ball to him. I don't understand these teams, including the Rams who seemed to have questions before drafting Sam Bradford, you need a quarterback to win in this league, period. Why did the Lions draft Matt Stafford? Why did the Falcons draft Matt Ryan? To get better in this league and get out of drafting in the top ten picks year after year, you've got to pick a quarterback and build from there. Good job Bills, you've successfully been unsuccessful yet again.

Heavily entrenched, rounds 5 and 6 are getting good!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Sitting less than an hour away from "WITH THE NUMBER ONE PICK . . " we're giving you our final thoughts and final picks . . . first some reader questions!

Get After It!

Would you actually deal the troubled Ben Roethlisberger for a Top 10 pick? -Sarah, Miami

No. This is the NFL, it's not pee wee football. You can't deal your franchise quarterback and expect to "be just fine" over night. No matter who the Steelers went forward with, a rookie, Leftwich, Charlie Batch, you name the person they'd be much, much worse off. Roethlisberger is a moron off the field, plain and simple. Remember, this is the same guy who bounced his head off a windshield while riding a motorcycle without a helmet, then claimed he'd do it again if he had to. The same guy who was accused of sexual assault not once but twice, he's not a fast learner that is for sure. All that being said, he's a tough as nails winning quarterback in this league where winning quarterbacks don't grow on trees.

Will New England really use a Top 25 selection on Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant? - Dan, Worcester

I don't buy it. He's by far the best receiver in this years crop, but the Patriots have more pressing needs. They play in a division which just added such offensive weapons as Brandon Marshall and Santonio Holmes, they need to get after the quarterback. Do we really buy this is Belichick's move? The man drafted one receiver I can remember, Chad Jackson, and that didn't turn out well. I'm of the belief that anyone other than an offensive tackle, quarterback, or pass rusher should have to wait till the second round, I'm guessing ole' Bill has picked up on that as well. Also, Dez Bryant isn't Corey Dillon or Randy Moss, he hasn't done squat in the league, as the other two had.

What jaw dropper to you think could happen on Thursday night? - Micky, Omaha

Read above. I believe Dez Bryant drops to day two. Look, teams have needs and the ones that would be interested in Bryant may want to wait till day two.

Which team do you think will walk away from Thursday night feeling the most satisfied? Rich, Tucson

If the Seahawks do as they should and draft a franchise offensive tackle then proceed to go after an offensive difference maker, then they should walk away feeling great. No joke, the Seahawks have to make an impact this season and hope some things fall their way tonight.

Tebow, thoughts? - Shawn, Springfield (MA)

Talk to me on Day 3.

2010 Final LynchyRightNow Mock Draft

(*) Denotes changes made to earlier picks, reasons explained below.

1. St. Louis Rams Sam Bradford QB, Oklahoma
2. Detroit Lions *Russell Okung OT, Oklahoma State
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ndamukong Suh DT, Nebraska
4. Washington Redskins *Gerald McCoy DT, Oklahoma
5. Kansas City Chiefs Bryan Bulaga OT, Iowa
6. Seattle Seahawks Trent Williams OT, Oklahoma
7. Cleveland Browns Eric Berry S, Tennessee
8. Oakland Raiders Jimmy Clausen QB, Notre Dame
9. Buffalo Bills Derrick Morgan DE, Georgia Tech
10. Jacksonville Jaguars *Joe Haden CB, Florida
11. Denver Broncos Rolando McClain LB, Alabama
12. Miami Dolphins Dan Williams DT, Tennessee
13. San Francisco 49ers Anthony Davis OT, Rutgers
14. Seattle Seahawks *C.J. Spiller RB, Clemson
15. New York Giants Sean Weatherspoon LB, Missouri
16. Tennessee Titans Jason Pierre-Paul DE, South Florida
17. San Francisco 49ers *Taylor Mays S, USC
18. Pittsburgh Steelers Kyle Wilson CB, Boise State
19. Atlanta Falcons Brandon Graham DE, Michigan
20. Houston Texans Earl Thomas S, Texas
21. Cincinnati Bengals *Brian Price DT, UCLA
22. New England Patriots Jerry Hughes DE, TCU
23. Green Bay Packers Charles Brown OT, USC
24. Philadelphia Eagles Mike Iupati G, Idaho
25. Baltimore Ravens *Jared Odrick DE, Penn State
26. Arizona Cardinals Patrick Robinson CB, Florida State
27. Dallas Cowboys Nate Allen S, South Florida
28. San Diego Chargers Ryan Mathews RB, Fresno State
29. New York Jets *Jahvid Best RB, California
30. Minnesota Vikings Maurkice Pouncey G, Florida
31. Indianapolis Colts *Rodger Saffold OT, Indiana
32. New Orleans Saints *Sergio Kindle LB, Texas

* The Detroit Lions need to make a commitment to protecting Matthew Stafford. As much as we're enamored with defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, the pick should be Russell Okung. The 300 lb. offensive tackle from Oklahoma State is the consensus #1 offensive tackle in the draft and would be the top choice to protect Stafford.

* The Jacksonville Jaguars should be taking aim at C.J. Spiller as I stated earlier this week, he can sell jerseys and tickets. However, as popular opinion may believe the best way to beat the Colts is to fight fire with fire, it's to play defense and knock the Colt receivers around. If you believe Joe Haden is the best corner in this draft and he can transition to this league, go draft him and fill your biggest need.

* The Seattle Seahawks need to walk away Thursday night with both a franchise offensive tackle and an impact offensive position player. If C.J. Spiller gets to the Seahawks at #14, it's a slam dunk. In both the return game and out of the backfield, C.J. Spiller gives any team versatility. Pete Carroll and the Seahawks brass would have addressed their protection issues and lack of explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball.

* The San Francisco 49ers will go into Friday having selected two players that are far from perfect if things progress the way I've "mocked" them. The similarities? Anthony Davis is a massive offensive tackle who has been called everything from unmotivated to just flat out lazy. Taylor Mays is an extremely impressive athlete with speed that you don't get from an athlete his size. Both players need to be reigned in and their flaws need to be corrected quick, Mike Singletary is the coach to do that and he connects with "these" players. (GM's have a hard time ignoring Mays physical nature, even if he's been exposed more than any player in this draft over the past season.)

* Brian Price DT, UCLA to the Cincinnati Bengals The PAC-10 Defensive Player Of The Year, Price is a fierce defensive player on the football field and playing his college career on the West Coast doesn't help him much. Price can make an impact on the Bengal defense right away and if more people had seen him play, they'd agree. I should have made this the Bengal pick from jump street, he's clearly an upgrade from any defensive tackle they have.

* Jared Odrick DE, Penn State to the Baltimore Ravens Odrick is a very good player and prospect for the NFL. I'd originally went with Jermaine Gresham giving Joe Flacco another young weapon along with the recent acquisition of Anquan Boldin. However on second thought, their defense is getting older and they need to transition, starting with Odrick.

* Jahvid Best RB, California to the New York Jets I think this is exactly the type of "out of the box" selection that can help the Jets. Sure he has a concussion history, but that's because of the way he plays the game. This may be a stretch but for a team who has added a ton through the offseason, they'll still miss some of the production from Thomas Jones, whatever Best can give them would be a huge bonus.

* The Indianapolis Colts & Rodger Saffold OT, Indiana The Colts always draft offense in the first round. Their dedication to Peyton Manning continues giving him a young offensive tackle who could be a big part in protecting Manning for the rest of his career. I like the pick, and teams who still need a tackle will be jumping to get back into the first round.

* The Defending Champions and replacing Scott Fujita with Sergio Kindle LB, Texas This is Gregg Williams pick, Sean Payton knows they need to replace Fujita who departed in free agency and he'll defer to Williams. A versatile pass rusher who can cover out of the backfield as well. Kindle is the best available option for the Saints.

Don't care if you hate it, we love the DRAFT!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Twenty-One through Thirty-Two: Mock It Up!

Finishing off round 1, it's 21-32 . . .

Get After It

21. Cincinnati Bengals - Taylor Mays S, USC In the footsteps of his fellow Trojans, Taylor Mays follows Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers to Cincinnati. While I agree a bit too high for a player who was exposed as much as Mays was in his final season in Southern California, he does have freakish NFL size. Remember, had he come out a year earlier he was a top ten selection. Turns out after returning to USC, it was the talent around him that proved to be the most impressive thing about Mays. Part of that talent is around him once more. Mike Zimmer can coach up Mays, the man is a 6'4", 225 lb. beast and that size and power hitting nature can't be ignored.

22. New England Patriots - Jerry Hughes OLB, TCU Talked into this pick. Here's the situation, New England would love to trade down and get a couple picks and draft Hughes closer to 27 or 30. Unfortunately, with the Packers in need of replacing Aaron Kampman there is no way Hughes would get to them several picks later. Moving up on everyones draft board, he's got to be circled high on New Englands. He's a pass rusher who has amazing big play ability and really gets after it. This is a versatile New England Patriot if there was ever one. Hughes' game is no secret at all, it is a strong possibility that he will no longer be around at this point. However if he is, he's a lock to New England. They'd overlook his size (only 6'2") in favor of knowing he'll be able to get past big tackles like Jake Long and D'Brickashaw Ferguson. I love this pick for New England and I'm sure Jerod Mayo wouldn't mind either.

23. Green Bay Packers - Charles Brown OT, USC Aaron Rodgers really came on this year. Career highs in passing yards, yards per pass, completions, attempts, and touchdowns. Now it's time the Packers start to protect him for the long haul. Brown is a quick offensive tackle who can protect Rodgers from spending time on his back this season. One look at Brown and you have to be in awe, slightly under 300 pounds, Brown's 6'5" frame is imposing on defensive lineman looking to get after it. If any top flight offensive tackles are remaining, and they include Charles Brown, the Packers have to pull the trigger and set the blind side of Rodgers for years to come.

24. Philadelphia Eagles - Mike Iupati G, Idaho Iupati is probably the worst kept secret of the later half of this round. Roughly eight teams have been mentioned selecting the punishing offensive lineman. Iupati brings all the tools to the NFL, size, quick off the ball, ability to shutout nose tackles, he's a player. Everyone knows Iupati's weaknesses and strengths and the Eagles have a need for offensive line help soon. Philadelphia classically out thinks themselves and while they have other pressing needs such as replacing Brian Dawkins from last offseason or finding someone to stop the Cowboys from rolling over them again in 2010, but with Iupait they'll feel good having taken a value player.

25. Baltimore Ravens - Jermaine Gresham TE, Oklahoma Todd Heap had his best season since 2006 this past year, but he's been in the league for 10 seasons and been healthy enough to play all 16 games six times. Gresham would be yet another weapon to add to the ever growing arsenal of Joe Flacco and the Ravens. Anquan Boldin, Ray Rice, and now adding Gresham would set up the Ravens offense for a few years that's for sure. Flacco would love to see a target like Gresham, a 6'6" monster with big hands who'd be a dream target inside the twenty yard line. Defenses in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh would really start to fear how far this offense could go, especially how young they are. Sense a shift in Baltimore? The defense won't carry this team much longer if they draft Gresham.

26. Arizona Cardinals - Patrick Robinson CB, Florida State The Cardinals have lost Kurt Warner to retirement, Karlos Dansby to Miami, and traded away Anquan Boldin. Now time to add someone. In their playoff victory against Green Bay, the cardinals gave up 423 yard through the air and let Aaron Rodgers cruise to completing 28 passes and 4 touchdowns. They need help in the secondary, (23rd ranked pass defense a season ago), Patrick Robinson can improve on their secondary immediately. Robinson is a good cover corner and has the ability to make big plays on the ball. Unfortunately, he leaves much desired in his ability to step up and make tackles on non-receivers. If Robinson gets to Arizona and can practice against Larry Fitzgerald, his game will instantly improve, and so will the Cardinal secondary.

27. Dallas Cowboys - Nate Allen S, South Florida You know I'm a Cowboys fan, and it is hard for me to get away from mocking a pick which I really want the Cowboys to make. Nate Allen is exactly the player I want Dallas to select. With Ken Hamlin's departure, the Cowboys have a need at safety, and they normally don't select offensive lineman in the first round, another thing helping his shot at heading to Dallas. Nate Allen started for three seasons at South Florida, in the same secondary that once included current Cowboy standout Mike Jenkins. For years now the Cowboys have gotten killed over the top, Nate Allen can hang with players like DeSean Jackson who have immense speed. While I realize this pick makes too much sense, I can't ignore that Dallas has made some quality picks lately. Jerry, draft Nate Allen, please!

28. San Diego Chargers - Ryan Mathews RB, Fresno State The Chargers will get their nose tackle / defensive tackle in the next round and fill the hole left by Tomlinson right now. Mathews is a pretty solid rusher and threatening inside the red zone. An offense with some versatility just got even more by drafting Ryan Mathews. Between Mathews and Sproles, the Chargers once again get back to having two rushers who punish the defense, similiar to when they had Tomlinson and Michael Turner. However, as a caution many teams ahead of San Diego may also feel that he's the best available running back and feel a need to take him earlier than 28. The former Fresno State running back replaces those touchdowns Tomlinson got last year and takes pressure of Philip Rivers right away.

29. New York Jets - Sergio Kindle OLB, Texas The Jets may have just added Jason Taylor but thats to add insurance with this pick. Kindle can rush the passer and cover as an outside linebacker but needs to become a tougher all around player, this Jets defense can help him with that. Kindle needs to put a charge into Vernon Gholston who is the biggest bust I can think of in recent years. The Jets have made some quality moves this off season adding Santonio Holmes and LT on offense, but need to make a couple steps to improve their defense by adding a youth pass rusher.

30. Minnesota Vikings - Maurkice Pouncey G, Florida Pouncey can help an aging Viking offensive line and hopefully see their rush game have a bounce back year. This kid has bounced throughout the first round and at this point, he's the best offensive lineman available, thats what Minnesota really needs. Most of these Florida players are built to work hard and overcome size issues, Pouncey is one of those guys and can benefit from being able to learn by rush blocking right away with a veteran line around him.

31. Indianapolis Colts - Jared Odrick DE, Penn State The Colts are a perfect defense for Odrick to be added to, he's got a load of talent that needs to be groomed. Athletic defensive lineman is what Indianapolis has known for acquiring on that side of the ball, Odrick adds to what they've done. I actually believe the Colts would be stunned to see Odrick still around at this point because of what he's done on the college level and the skills he displayed in pre-draft workouts.

32. New Orleans Saints - Everson Griffen DE, USC The defending champions need to linebacker help but should probably look to free agency to fill that void or a veteran with leader qualities much like Scott Fujita who they've just lost. Griffen has alot of questions but does give them a defensive end who can rush the pass, exactly what they need. All these USC players worry me, they are a great team but questionable on their own. The other thing, exactly what follows Griffen, is that many believe they are lazy and rely on their natural talent all too often. All that being said, Griffen is possibly the best defensive end remaining, or Florida's Carlos Dunlap, either would be good for the Saints

Monday, April 19, 2010

Eleven Through Twenty: Mock It Up!

We're kicking off draft week with my next slew of mocks. We'll be talking draft mostly this week so stay tuned for the remainder of round 1 tommorow and questions from the readers.

Get After It!

11. Denver Broncos Rolando McClain LB, Alabama I've thought McClain is extremely underrated as a prospect for quite a while. McClain's a phenomenally instinctive player who matured into a big time play making leader on the National Champion Crimson defense. If head coach Josh McDaniels has McClain morphing into a Mike Vrabel type leader on the defensive side of the ball, as he witnessed in New England, than you take the player with huge intangibles.

12. Miami Dolphins Dan Williams NT, Tennessee He comes with a stamp of approval from Monte Kiffin, the legendary defensive coordinator who coached Williams in his senior year at Tennessee. Parcells and Sparano want mature players who can step right in and make an impact. This offseason they've parted ways with Ted Ginn and Joey Porter while adding Brandon Marschall and Karlos Dansby, now they've go to address their defensive line with the twelfth pick. Williams impressed them at the Senior Bowl and will give the a huge run stuffing defensive lineman.

13. San Francisco 49ers Anthony Davis OT, Rutgers With three offensive tackles already off the big board, the possibility of more coming off looms, the 49ers only option is to address their line and hope for other things to pan out for them to select "their player" at 17. Davis is a project, he's 6'5", 330 lbs., yet that doesn't matter much. His downside is the issue. He's said to be lazy, immature, and unmotivated. However, those were the same issues surrounding current 49ers TE, Vernon Davis, and now look at him. If Mike Singletary can do the same with this Davis, the 49ers would finally have their cornerstone offensive tackle. Can they risk passing on his size? I doubt it.

14. Seattle Seahawks Dez Bryant WR, Oklahoma State The Seahawks wanted former Broncos standout Brandon Marshall, but they had more glaring needs and couldn't give up the picks to get him. If Dez Bryant is available here, the Seahawks will have added a big time offensive weapon and protection for their quarterback with their earlier pick. Easily, the Seahawks will have had the best first round of anyone at that point. If I was in charge in Seattle my eyes would be on 2011. Putting the pieces in place this season may increase Seattle's odds in winning the Jake Locker sweepstakes next season. Locker's a WA native, he's got a big body, big arm, someone Pete Carroll has a read on, he answers any question in Seattle. As for Dez Bryant, he works well with a head coach like Carroll, someone who loves young talent and works great with them.

15. New York Giants Sean Weatherspoon LB, Missouri The Giants would benefit most by adding a blitzing speed linebacker who can get up on NFC East tight ends. From Jason Witten in Dallas to Fred Davis in Washington and Brent Celek in Philadelphia, the Giants could use an upgrade. A veteran in the college game, Weatherspoon started three seasons at Missouri and could immediately pick up the Giant defense who seems to have lost some of their bite. Plenty of teams drafting behind them would be upset to see him come off the board hoping that he would have fallen slightly lower. Pssst, too high for Ryan Mathews from Fresno State, but if you believe your running game is missing something, then Mathews is your guy.

16. Tennessee Titans Jason Pierre-Paul DE, South Florida A 4.69 40-time has sold me. Jason Pierre-Paul is yet another speed guy from South Florida. The Titans have a massive need to get after the quarterback and that is exactly what Pierre-Paul can do. He's 6'6", 265 lbs. with explosive off the ball speed. Somewhat of a veteran defense, the Titans would have some work to do with Pierre-Paul he's only played organized football for less than five seasons. Such a young player, his skills are hard to ignore but I like the Titans taking on Pierre-Paul, the outcome could be as high as a Jason Taylor once was but it could also mean bust.

17. San Francisco 49ers Joe Haden CB, Florida In an ideal San Francisco scenario, Joe Haden is still available. The 49ers need to improve their secondary which isn't great, (21st ranked pass defense in 2009). I don't like this pick, I'd be more likely to take the best available player in the draft rather than pick Haden and hope his flaws don't become glaring at the next level. At Florida on a standout defense, Haden could take risks and jump routs, you can't do that at the next level. Haden isn't ready to square off against Larry Fitzgerald, I don't know if anyone is, but he's going to be forced to in San Francisco. It's possible Haden will be a hit, but to risky to gamble on a guy, who gambles. Not a fan, but the 49ers are and have a need. Haden will benefit from playing in a division with little to NO quarterbacks who scare anyone.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers Kyle Wilson CB, Boise State Wilson is a mature cornerback and a safe pick. The Boise State corner impressed alot in the weeks leading up to this point, he's got a load of talent at that position which is exactly what Pittsburgh needs. His toughness and aggressiveness is something the Steelers have to love and with Polamalu over the top, they can get by with Wilson's rookie mistakes. The Steelers haven't hit on a first round pick in a while, with Kyle Wilson, the Steelers can make a splash at filling a positional need.

19. Atlanta Falcons Brandon Graham DE, Michigan The Falcons have been very aggresive at addressing their big needs right away in the first round. General manager Thomas Dimitroff immediately went after filling quarterback and left tackle in his first season. The second season in Atlanta, they improved their defensive front drafting Peria Jerry. Now, Dimitroff must be really focusing on getting after the quarterback for the 2009 28th ranked pass defense. WIth Brandon Graham, they answer pursuit questions and get a player who can really get after the signal caller. I'd be stunned to see the Falcons go any other way if Graham is available.

20. Houston Texans Earl Thomas FS, Texas They got a courtside view of Earl Thomas in Austin for the past few years. Thomas is the type of player who can disrupt some things in the secondary. In a division where he's got to play against Peyton Manning twice a year, he'll have to develop quick. He's a safety who can cover sideline to sideline and if not for the great Eric Berry, he'd be the best safety in this years crop. He's not a bulking safety like Taylor Mays but he can hit, you worry about Earl Thomas being able to stand up in this league, Bob Sanders could do it, but is injured all the time. The Texans want this kid, they want to keep him in the Lone Star State.

. . . . Twenty-One - Thirty-Two Tommorow.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What Can Green Do For You?

Down 61-47 with just over seven minutes remaining in the third quarter of their first round playoff game, in the midst of a Dwyane Wade clinic, the Boston Celtics finally woke up. Maybe it was embarrassment, maybe it was old fashion pride, or maybe, just maybe, that final push was a statement.

From that seven minute mark onward the Boston Celtics got back to playing defense. The Celtic defense would hold Miami to just 15 points over the final 19 minutes of Game 1, a stretch that watched Boston outscore Miami 38-15. Know this, the trademark of the Celtic defense is holding opponents to under 90 points, a watermark they routinely touched en route to their 2008 NBA Championship. Final score of Game 1, Celtics 85 Heat 76, there is a reason why the Celtics have consistently been amongst the leagues best in team defense over this most recent run. The Heat turned the ball over 19 times on Saturday night, including 7 turnovers from Wade, Miami's lone difference maker. Boston finished with 11 steals including five off the bench from Glen Davis and Tony Allen, (more on them in a moment). If Boston can continue to play this type of defense on Miami and contain Wade as much as possible, the series will be a quick one, they can't afford to let it go on. Not with the Cavs on the horizon.

The bench surprised a few, they need to. The Celtics ,as currently constructed, aren't built for long enduring series play. However, if Tony Allen and Glen Davis can continue to put forth games like they did last night, then the Celtics can pump life into the postseason. Now normally I don't condone a night in which Tony Allen shoots more than Ray, but the Celtics don't have many options if Tony doesn't contribute on that second team. The spark off the bench, Tony Allen played in your face defense forcing three turnovers as already noted, but it doesn't stop there. While on the court, Tony Allen is listed as a +17, what that means is that the C's net points while Tony Allen is on the court is seventeen points better than while he's off, eye opening? As for Glen Davis, maybe he's just better in the postseason. In 24 minutes, Davis pulled down 7 defensive rebounds, killing Miami's second shot opportunities. Aside from Garnett, the Celtics don't have much when it comes to rebounding, making Glen Davis all the more important during this and every series. Let's not ignore that starting center Kendrick Perkins was useless in Game 1 logging only three rebounds in 25 minutes. Davis can get after it, something Perkins lacks. In Davis and Tony Allen, the Celtics have an answer off the bench, but they can't take nights off.

A fighter's chance, yes it's cliche. Paul Pierce is a bit of an actor, but we know that. Call that the bad, and call the '08 Finals MVP the good. So if Miami Heat guard Quentin Richardson wants to call Pierce out for his antics, he better be prepared for the backlash. There is a dozen or so players in this league who can put a game on their back and attack the other team, Paul Pierce is one of those players and Quentin Richardson is not. If Kevin Garnett is suspended for a game for his Game 1 antics, you can bet Paul Pierce will put this team on his back. Despite what anyone says, the Celtics are a team that is extremely talented and smart, they have alot to play for and can recover from a suspension or an injury, you saw that in their first round performance against Chicago last season, down Garnett. Looking back on Game 1, it was Pierce's second half that sparked the Celtics, the scuffle, the ejection, the game was already decided at that point, so it didn't propel Boston to anything. However, if this series is going to be decided by anyone, it'll be the Celtics and Pierce, a team looking to make a statement.

With rumours whirling about Doc Rivers departure at the end of the season, Allen's free agency looming, the Celtics last run is staring us right in the face. After watching Game 1, they aren't going out without a fight.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

One Through Ten: Mock It Up!

Less than a week and half away from the 2010 NFL Draft and we're putting out the Top 10 picks.

Get After It!

1. St. Louis Rams Sam Bradford QB, Oklahoma Sam Bradford is a tough kid who is very intelligent. Same as Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez, who've created the recipe. Bradford has already had to come back from injury and regain his top pick form, check. The Rams are in desperate need of the franchise quarterback type, Bradford is that guy. How many times can the Rams avoid selecting a quarterback? Passed on both Ryan and Sanchez in the last two seasons, don't even think about going any other way.

2. Detroit Lions Ndamukong Suh DT, Nebraska Jim Schwartz can't help himself. Suh is a monster defensive tackle and the former Titan defensive coordinator, turned Lion head coach, knows how to coach up a defensive tackles turning Albert Haynesworth into the best in the game two seasons ago. Schwartz really wants to go defense this year, especially with a talent like Suh who has shown his ability to dominate the competition. I agree the Lions need to protect Stafford who got knocked around a bit this season, but Ndamukong Suh really impressed everyone on the field this season, everyone.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Gerald McCoy DT, Oklahoma The Bucs need to get back to playing the defense they used to. A flourishing Falcon offense, the Panthers dominating rushing attack, and of course the defending champion Saints, defense is more important now than it has ever been in the NFC South. Starting with Gerald McCoy, a fierce pass rusher with amazing athletic ability, the Buccaneers defense suddenly has bite. How good is McCoy? Put it this way, he's got the best motor in the draft and shows a knack for getting after the quarterback.

4. Washington Redskins Russell Okung OT, Oklahoma State Nothing shows your hand quite like trading for a veteran quarterback just weeks before the draft. With Chris Samuels retiring this season, an 11-year veteran who anchored the Redskin offensive line for years, the biggest need for the new GM and head coach is replacing him. The Oklahoma State left tackle, Russell Okung, is referred to by many as a franchise player. With the newly acquired Donovan McNabb needing to stay injury-free, Okung is the answer to do that. When McNabb stays healthy he's a proven winner, he makes the Redskins a contender.

5. Kansas City Chiefs Bryan Bulaga OT, Iowa Bulaga is a bruising offensive tackle and would go a long way to protecting their overpaid, over hyped quarterback, $63 million dollar Matt Cassel. Unlike some offensive tackles chosen in recent years, including 3rd-year Chiefs tackle Branden Albert (who most likely moves inside), Bulaga is ready to play immediately, much like Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, another Big 10 sensation. Bulaga is a perfect fit for Pioli and the Chiefs.

6. Seattle Seahawks Trent Williams OT, Oklahoma After spending a second round draft pick on former San Diego backup Charlie Whitehurst, it's clear the Seahawks have their quarterback in place. Watching Matt Hasselbeck miss 11 games over the past two seasons due to injury, it's about protecting their investment. Trent Williams is the best available tackle at this point and offensive line is the biggest need for Seattle. A 6'5", 310 lb. left tackle, that'll due just fine for the first of two picks in the top twenty.

7. Cleveland Browns Eric Berry S, Tennessee The Browns have to compete in a division with both the Raven defense and the Steeler defense, it's about time they step up. Selecting a ball hawking, big hitting safety who draws comparisons to future Hall Of Famer Ed Reed, goes a long way in doing so. Berry is potentially the best defensive player in this draft class.

8. Oakland Raiders Jimmy Clausen QB, Notre Dame Don't be surprised to see Al Davis draft another quarterback just three drafts removed from selecting JaMarcus Russell number one overall. Clausen is a big name, has a big arm (which we know Davis loves), and Davis has seen the success of Ryan, Sanchez, and Flacco first hand, all young quarterbacks who've beaten the Raiders in the last two seasons.

9. Buffalo Bills Derrick Morgan DE, Georgia Tech If no franchise quarterbacks are available, new head coach Chan Gailey would be ecstatic to draft Morgan. The Yellow Jacket end was recruited by Gailey while he was at Tech, giving Gailey a level of comfort with the explosive defensive end. This move instantly improves last seasons 19th ranked defense overall.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars C.J. Spiller RB, Clemson The most versatile player in the draft, Spiller would be an explosive addition to the Jaguars offense and their return game. This isn't a pick of necessity for Jacksonville, but do they want to pass on a player of his caliber? Spiller & Maurice Jones-Drew becomes one of the top backfields in the league.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I moved all in . . .

College hoops, over. Sox v. Yanks duel to open, over. With the NFL draft still weeks away, April 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th was left to showcase just one small thing the sports world refers to as The Masters, a tradition like no other. As the sports universe descends on Augusta this weekend, with the 2010 edition adding a slightly more intriguing story line, both golf loyalists and the general public have caught links fever. For me, excused from my paying job early on Thursday and an impromptu day off on Friday, I've moved all in on this weekend. If you weren't glued to your television this Saturday and this afternoon , don't be surprised if your left in the dark on Monday morning.

These are my Masters(ful) reactions through 3 days . . .

1. Phil Mickelson is becoming the people's champion. Before your eyes, in full benefit of the Tiger backlash, Phil Mickelson is becoming America's favorite, from the punchline to the headline. A wife stricken with cancer, a family man in every sense, when 'Lefty' sunk two straight eagles followed by a near third, I noticed it. America has replaced Tiger Woods in the blink of an eye, Phil Mickelson is not only who your wife will begin to root for, he is becoming who you will root for, if your not already. If Phil completes his fantastic four day stretch at Augusta and earns his third Green Jacket he'll also take a ton of new fans along the way.

2. Love the golf fans, Love 'em. They don't need chants to keep them occupied. They don't play favorites. They have short memories. All in all, they just love good golf! Rarely are you going to get the bonehead in front of you making himself the attraction. Not going to hear cowbells, horns, booing, none of that. You will hear massive applause for every good shot, you will hear the crowd come together and roar along the athletes, they can become part of the atmosphere in a positive way. As you watch champions move toward the final holes, they surround the player and carry them above course. You know what? I'm positive I wouldn't have a problem being considered a golf fan, not at all.

3. Don't need Tiger to lose his fire on the course, nope. Do you think it's easy recovering from 5 bogeys while you hear the crowd roaring to the tune of Phil Mickelson's near three straight eagles? Do you think it's easy to sink 7 birdie's to give yourself a chance in response? Last question, do you think any of that is possible without demanding perfection, any way you can, from yourself? Sure, you may not need to lace up your self deprecating rants with curse words, but if you want to build a fire inside you which allows you to storm back and win Major Championships, go right ahead, I'm all for it. It's that same fire which has pushed Woods toward record holders like Nicklaus and Palmer. It's the same fire which has given us fist pumping celebrations and one-legged tournament victories. So Tiger, we don't need the cursing, but if you can't be you without it, go right the f*ck ahead.

4. Are we going to want Lee Westwood to win this thing? Yes, Americans play favorites with their athletes. Especially when it's on their own soil. Not to many American golf fans are going to be pulling for Lee Westwood, an Englishman, on Sunday afternoon, it just won't happen. I can't blame them, I'm one of them. Mickelson or Woods, that's what we want, Lee Westwood can provide us with a villain of sorts on Sunday afternoon, that's all. His three magnificent days at Augusta have been filled with highs for this 36-year old 4th ranked golfer in the world. Three rounds of under 70 play, (67, 69, 68) and still not many think Westwood will win his first major this afternoon. With the two of the world's top three ranked golfers within striking distance, Westwood will have to play the best round of his life to lock down a Green Jacket. Not many at Augusta will be pulling for him, making it all the more special if he does.

5. This weekend, I admire Fred Couples even more. 50-year old Fred Couples shot a mind boggling 66 on Day 1 and rebounded from his Day 2 75 to complete a Day 3 68 round. Now sitting just 5 strokes off the lead hours before he tees off Fred Couples has become iconic at Augusta. The 1992 Masters Champion has done what most likely no other 50-year old could do, compete among the worlds elite and hang with them. A 36-year old Lee Westwood, a 39-year old Phil Mickelson, and a 34-year old Tiger Woods, all unable to pull away from Fred Couples a 50 year old man. His eagle on 15 kept Couples alive for Sunday, and some 18 years after he pulled on his Green Jacket, he could be in line to put on his second, an amazing feet for any golfer let alone one past his prime, wearing some of the oddest shoes to boot.

Prior to this weekend, I wasn't fully on board with any golf tournament, let alone one as stuffy as The Masters, but as the general public so often does, I joined with an interesting subplot. At the end of today we'll be assured to see something special one way or another, going forward I'm glad I moved all in for The Masters, and I'm sure I'll be back.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Shhh; It's Time To Keep It Real!

I needed a reason to bring back Keep It Real Friday. If you were giving it up to pay your catholic dues of Lent, Easter is over and Jesus has been resurrected, Tiger just shot a 68 on Day 1 at Augusta. Time to Keep It Real!

Are you kidding me?!? Miss the cut?!?!? As the immortal Tiger Woods returns (yes, I'm a tad over the top) to his proper seat, amongst golfers not the tabloids, I'm pulling for him. That's right housewives we don't care about your demographic. Watching Tiger literally plow through his best Day 1 score in his 16 trips to August, I'm all in. Let's get one thing straight, we (the general public) don't watch golf for the splendor, for the elegance, for the beautiful tee shots, we (the general public) are watching for Eldrick. We're either praying for a disaster or hoping we witness the "it" moment of 2010. Because believe you me, the disappointment of a SundayLESS Tiger, none of us want to see. Want him to get beat in a playoff hole? Want him to shred up the field? Want him to pump his fist at 18? Want him to slide on a green jacket with no one by his side? You still want him. For now, Tiger Woods is both the gift and the curse of sports. His star, big enough to draw monster numbers on Day 1, on a work day to boot, of a golf tournament? His star, big enough to sideline discussions about the best National Championship game college basketball has seen, which took place less than five days ago. Overshadow Sox v. Yanks? You bet. Keep It Real housewives, you want Tiger Woods as well.

To The Beltway?!?!? Has Philadelphia lost their mind? Not just the Eagles, the entire city? Between Philly brass dealing the best quarterback in their franchises history, Donovan McNabb, to their fans, throwing said quarterback to the curb like yesterdays trash, the entire city has lost their mind and needs to be set in place. Andy Reid, to whom I hold responsible for anything that happens in Philadelphia, in your own division? Five NFC title games, a Super Bowl appearance, a man you clearly know has no intentions on hanging it up, and you send him to a division rival? When you divorce your wife, you don't set her up with your nemesis. So why Andy Reid, would you set Donovan up with Washington? That's not all, oh not by a long shot. Your replacement, Kevin Kolb, isn't exactly a no-brainer. The Philadelphia fans who think your better off without Donovan, you have no idea where your headed with Kolb under center, it's a gamble. He's played in exactly 12 games on the NFL level, and before that his time at the University of Houston wasn't exactly getting him used to taking big league licks. Kolb has amassed just 4 touchdowns and 7 interceptions during his limited career. Your backup? Mike Vick. No pun intended, is literally chomping at the bit to get in the NFL picture before his window slams shut. Stop the Donovan bashing in Philadelphia because he was the best you've ever had, that's past tense. Keep It Real! (As for 'Skins fans, slow down your still down 10 positions on offense.)

Sox & Yank'ed out! After three games to open up the 2010 MLB season, I'm a little tired of the all hands on deck, guns fully loaded, earth rattling Red Sox v. Yankees regular season series. The two franchises, both baseball and professional sports royalty, are playing entirely to often, taking entirely too long, and after an explosive last six seasons, I'm spent. I've got some theories on this, after watching those ALCS battles in 2003 and 2004, can anything still compare? The Red Sox had a personality and the Yankees still had Bernie Williams. The walk off hits, the brawls, the Pedro Martinez type, these are the things missing from this rivalry, but would any of that make me want this more? Probably not. What is left to hype? The two teams spend more and spend more wisely than any franchise in baseball. Your home-grown talent, becomes their coveted free-agent. Their championship model, becomes yours, except with less resources. After watching 3 games of Sox v. Yankees, how are you supposed to then watch Braves v. Cubs? You won't see Beckett v. Sabathia, you won't see Papelbon leaning in against Jeter, you won't see Pedroia, Youkilis, or Granderson. Keep It Real! The Yankees v. Sox may be the best rivalry in sports, but in many little ways, it's slowly ruining baseball for the entire league,. and me!

Keep updated with us on the Podcast & follow me on Twitter, thank you for reading and as always. "Keep It Real!"

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bulldogs, Blue Devils, Get After It!

Good v. Evil; That's how we are dubbing the National Championship, aren't we? When the Duke Blue Devils tip off against the Butler Bulldogs on Monday night, they'll have a country against them, a nation cheering for the underdog. For Butler, they rest on the cups of a National Championship opportunity to put both the Butler basketball program on center stage and make a statement for mid-majors from coast to coast. For these two programs the road has not been easy, filled with potholes and or naysayers at every intersection. So just how did they get there?

For the Bulldogs of Butler . . . Beginning as many peoples (5) seed to get upset by a (12), the Butler Bulldogs would face a very hot UTEP team. Heading into the half of their first game, Butler was down six and making many look very smart. As they have several other times in this tournament, the Bulldogs would put 50 points on the board in the second en route to a 77-59 beatdown of the UTEP Miners, crushing my bracket and a few more. Shelvin Mack on our radar folks, his seven three's in the first round game woke me up. Next up, the Murray State Racers, the team coming off an upset first round win against Vanderbilt. Murray State won 31 games in 2009 and gave Butler almost all they could handle. Outrebounded 38-20, the Bulldogs punched their ticket to the Sweet 16 in about as tight of fashion as you could with a 54-52 nail biting victory. No more double-digit seeds for Butler, Syracuse up next, their regions top seed. The Bulldogs played man defense against Syracuse and took them out of their game from the opening tip. Becoming more legit by the minute, Butler would hold off Syracuse and their late run to advance to the round of eight. Forcing Syracuse into 18 turnovers, Butler made a statement with their victory, don't forget about a team that is consistently in the tournament and is in the midst of a 20+ game win streak dating back to before the New Year. Over the next two games, two wins of course, the Butler Bulldogs would lean on their sophomore guard slash forward, Gordon Hayward. Scoring a game high 22 points in their Final Four clinching game against Kansas State, Hayward would go onto pull down nine rebounds and lead his team to Indianapolis. Against Michigan State, in one of the most exciting games of the tournament, Hayward would pour in 19 points including three clutch three balls. Through some very well coached teams, and more athletic opponents, the Butler Bulldogs survived to continue to fight and they'll do so against Duke tomorrow night.

Why the Butler Bulldogs will win the National Championship: Because I picked them to lose in the first round to UTEP. Because they've already defeated Jim Boeheim and Tom Izzo. Because the name Gordon Hayward is now known from coast to coast. Because head coach Brad Stevens reached the Final Four the same season his predecessor Todd Lickliter was fired at Iowa, the school he left Butler for. Because Stevens looks the part of a Butler student, not their coach. Because they go to school less than ten miles from the building they'll play at for the National Championship on Monday night. For fate, for destiny, for the right place at the right time, but more importantly because they may just be the best team in the country, the Butler Bulldogs will cut down the nets in Indianapolis on Monday night.

For the Duke Blue Devils, their road . . No matter what happens tommorow night, many are going to point to Duke's region and say that was too easy. Winning your first three games of the tournament by an average of 19 points, that comes with the territory. However, to Duke's credit, they do get everyones best shot and beating a talented Purdue team without Robbie Hummel is still a tough task. Rolling through Arkansas-Pine Bluff and a soft PAC-10 Cal Team, the Blue Devils really hit their stride against Purdue. Big men Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek would do their jobs, combining for 19 rebounds and playing solid defense. Allowing Duke's big three to turn around and shoot the lights out. Between Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, and Jon Scheyer, the Blue Devils guards would go on to score 57 points, as many as the entire Purdue team did that night. Against a tough Baylor team who had cruised through the tournament, the Blue Devils would again lean on their shooting as they had all year long. Going 11-23 from beyond the three point line, the Blue Devils would shut down Baylor by playing tough defense and slipping into their game very easily, playing good defense and outrebounding your opponent. Then game the game that convinced me and most likely everyone. Their blowout win over the Big East Tournament champion West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday night. Center Brian Zoubek would pull down 10 rebounds, as they again outrebound their opponent. Smith, Scheyer, and Singler would each record three or more long balls on a night where they comebined for 63 points, six more than their opponents. With a team that forces you to play their way, they've left the likes of a Big 10 power, a Big 12 opponent, and of course a Big East team. You may agree that from top to bottom the ACC isn't impressive, but at the very top the Duke Blue Devils could be cut down the nets tommorow night, the same thing a top ACC program did a year ago.

Why the Duke Blue Devils will win the National Championship: Because both you and I are going to be rooting against them. Because while being one of the most hated programs in the country, they're on the cusp of their 4th National Championship. Because Mike Krzyzewski doesn't recruit "1 & Done's" and unlike John Calipari who does just that, he's still not given his proper due. Because if this ACC heavyweight wins a National Title on Monday night, the naysayers will still talk about how the tournament committee paved their way. Because while you say Wall, Turner, Cousins, and Favors, we continue to overlook Jon Scheyer, Duke's second team All-American senior guard who will play on Monday night. For themselves, when the Duke Blue Devils are crowned National Champions, it'll be just for them, because they're their own biggest fans, and maybe their only fans.

Whichever team comes up biggest tommorow night will cut down the nets and cap of a dream season. The Blue Devils adding a fourth championship to the rafters and building the legacy of Coach K even more. The Butler Bulldogs doing what we've never seen a mid-major do, win it.

My Prediction: Duke 68 Butler 54

Thursday, April 1, 2010

American League: First Pitch

American League Predictions: With the New York Yankees restoring order in the American League last season, winning their first World Series since 2000, things aren't as up for grabs as they used to be. (Excuse me while I throw up). Even still, the Minnesota Twins heading into a new ballpark with their franchise player under contract, the Tampa Bay Rays ushering out their newest crop of young talent, and of course the wild, wild, American League West is up for grabs. Get After It. . .

American League West Texas Rangers. The consensus is that the this is the season the Rangers put it all together and win the American League West, I'm part of that consensus. By adding Rich Harden this offseason, the Rangers are hoping to finally add starting pitching to their dominating offense. Pitching would be the key for Texas this year, and it looks as though they have it. From closer Frank Francisco to relievers Darren Oliver, C.J. Wilson and Dominican born Neftali Feliz their bullpen looks tough. To pair with Harden is 17-game winner Scott Feldman and a bevy of young arms beginning with 24-year old Matt Harrison looking to bounce back. As for that offense, they'll need Josh Hamilton to have a bounce back season after his injury plagued 2009, and I believe he will. After Hamilton it comes down to outfielder Nelson Cruz coming off his best season as a pro and of course Ian Kinsler who is having injury issues all Spring, hopefully his bat comes alive as it did a season ago in which he slugged 31 homeruns. Despite Ron Washington's off the field issues, this team plays tough for the Ranger manager, and tough enough to win the American League West.

American League Central Minnesota Twins. Closer Joe Nathan out for the season before we even get under way, I'm still all in. The Twins are moving into a new ballpark this season in Minnesota and have their franchise player, catcher Joe Mauer, signed, sealed, and delivered before he steps into the batters box, I love it. A reigning American League MVP in Joe Mauer and a former American League MVP in Justin Morneau, the Twins duo puts fear into opposing pitchers and they are as consistent as it gets. By adding both Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome in the offseason, the Twins are attempting to give themselves more depth to make a long run. While I decided on Minnesota prior to Joe Nathan going down, and I respect that "by committee" isn't the most efficient way to run the closer position, they'll have to make due, and that's what Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been doing his entire time in Minnesota. I'm hinging my bets to the return of a healthy Francisco Liriano to where he was supposed to be a couple years ago. Here's a team who lost Johan and still won, they can handle the injury to Joe Nathan.

American League East New York Yankees. It's the Yankees, the Yankees are back, as much as it pains me, they are. Departing with aging stars Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, the Yanks have added Curtis Granderson, a young star coming into his own. The former Detroit Tiger center fielder is a quality fielder who gets on base, steals bases, and even adds power to a lineup that isn't short of that. That'd be the rich, getting richer. If the Yankees pitching acquisition, standout Braves pitcher Javier Vazquez, can put his past Yankee struggles in the past, he'll be another arm in a standout staff. You know all that though. The Yankees are the Derek Jeters', Alex Rodriguez', and of course Mark Teixeira, however this year may just be the year hopeful Phil Hughes comes through. Designated to a 5th starter role, the 23-year old starter looks to add to his 2009 success. A season ago, Hughes had an earned run average just over three yet held opposing hitters to just a .217 batting average. If the Yankees don't come out and make a serious run at repeating, I'd be stunned and so would the rest of the baseball world. Year two in the new stadium is bound to bring some fireworks.

American League Wild Card Boston Red Sox. Yes, I'm a homer. But on the other hand, I'm crazy about putting a team on the field that defends better than anyone and marches out three aces named Beckett, Lackey, and Lester. Adding Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre, and Marco Scutaro signaled one sign, the Red Sox believe they have enough offense, it's
the defense that they are going to focus on and with these starters, you can bet things in Boston are going to look real good very quickly. This may be the Red Sox best opportunity to return to the World Series. With Lackey out to prove he's worth the monster contract the Red Sox gave him this off season, Josh Beckett looking to do the same in a contract season, and Jon Lester looking to bounce back and take his place among the American League elite pitching talents. With Victor Martinez behind the plate every day and filling in nicely in the middle of the Red Sox lineup, the Red Sox have done good by removing veteran Jason Varitek from the picture, now they've got to find a way to get him out of town. The Red Sox are going to win 90 games and while Tampa will give them a run, not much is going to get in the way of a Boston playoff appearance, and in a short series, watch out.

American League MVP Joe Mauer. Can he re-peat as the American League MVP? Of course. The Twins big money man is ready for the challenge, putting a franchise on his back and watching as the Twins usher both he and their fans into a brand new ballpark. Mauer's monster 2009 season both propelled him to this new contract, but it did more to create a legend of a ball player. Mauer slammed career highs in homers, average, OPS, and slugging percentage. Now it's time to get it done. Joe Mauer will repeat and watch the legend grow for this 26-year old phenom.

American League Cy Young Jon Lester. Till he wins this award, I'm predicting he will. Lester has flashed glimpses of brilliance throughout his time in Beantown, and if he puts it together for 162 games, he'll bring a Cy Young back to Boston. If Lester can play behind both Beckett and Lackey he'll stand out in just his third full season in the majors. If this 26-year old doesn't give AL pitchers a serious run, I'll be stunned.