Friday, January 30, 2009

NFL Mock Draft - 1st Round

Coming into the 2008 Draft, there were five players considered to be head and shoulders above the rest - Jake Long, Chris Long, Matt Ryan, Glenn Dorsey, and Darren McFadden. It was clear by about February 15th that these five would be selected in some order with the top five picks.

In this respect, this year's draft could not be more different. There are at least eight players that warrant consideration for this year's top pick. If there was ever a good year to finish 0-16, this was not it. The Lions have their work cut out for them. On the bright side, Matt Millen will not be in the War Room this year. We call that addition by subtraction.

As you'll see throughout the mock, this draft does have a number of similarities to last year's draft in other areas.

Note, this mock draft represents what I think will happen, not what I would do.

Round One

1. Detroit: Matthew Stafford, Georgia, QB - The Lions need a franchise quarterback to build around as it has become clear Drew Stanton and Dan Orlovsky are not capable. Although Stafford reminds me more of Jeff George than John Elway, he probably has the most upside of any quarterback in the draft. Personally, I think Mark Sanchez will be the better pro, but I cannot fault the Lions if they go in this direction. Rookie Head Coach Jim Schwartz needs to decide which guy to entrust with his future.

2. St. Louis: Andre Smith, Alabama, OT - I'm sure rookie Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo would love to add a defensive end to couple with last year's first rounder, Chris Long, but none warrants consideration this high in the draft. Smith can be a solid bookend for the next twelve years.

3. Kansas City: Eugene Monroe, Virginia, OT - Rookie GM Scott Pioli has long been a believer in solidifying the O and D-lines before all else. Monroe would fit in nicely next to the Chiefs' 2008 first rounder, his college teammate, Branden Albert.

4. Seattle: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech, WR - For a team that has fallen victim to wide receiver plague for the last few years, Crabtree is the perfect remedy.

5. Cleveland: Michael Jenkins, Ohio State, CB - Mangini believes in building his teams around defense (see NY Jets Offseason - 2008). Jenkins has shutdown corner skills and would be a nice place to start.

6. Cincinnati: Aaron Curry, Wake Forest, LB - Curry and 2008 first rounder Keith Rivers would provide stability in the linebacking corps for years to come. Most importantly, there are no character issues with Curry.

7. Oakland: Jeremy Maclin, Missouri, WR - The Raiders lack a deep threat in the passing game. Maclin can fill that void.

8. Jacksonville: Michael Oher, Ole Miss, OT - The Jags lost two starters on their offensive line in Week 1 and never recovered. Oher would be their best lineman from Day 1 and figures to be a fixture in the league for many years.

9. Green Bay: B.J. Raji, Boston College, DT - After trading DT Corey Williams in the offseason, the Packers struggled mightily defending the run. Raji dominated the Senior Bowl and has seen his stock soar in recent weeks.

10. San Francisco: Mark Sanchez, USC, QB - A dream scenario for the Niners, they would snatch Sanchez in about 0.00002 seconds if he slips this far. He's a California native who starred at USC and would be the long-term answer at the quarterback position.

11. Buffalo: Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State, TE - Pettigrew is the most complete tight end in the class and would provide a nice target for emerging QB Trent Edwards.

12. Denver: Peria Jerry, Ole Miss, DT - The Broncos struggled to stop the run again last season. Stop me if you've heard this before.

13. Washington: Rey Maualuga, USC, LB - Owner Dan Snyder loves the big name, and London Fletcher can't play forever, can he?

14. New Orleans: Sean Smith, Utah, CB - Smith has great size, and the Saints figure to focus on the defensive secondary early and often on Draft Day. Smith had a great Sugar Bowl which was played in... (drum roll)... New Orleans.

15. Houston: Brian Orakpo, Texas, DE - The Texans would do back flips if the Texas product slid this far. He reminds me of Vernon Gholston (read: major bust possibilities), but he would be a great value here. Houston has taken a defensive lineman with three of their last four first round picks.

16. San Diego: Aaron Maybin, Penn State, DE/LB - The Chargers desperately missed DE / LB Shawne Merriman, and Maybin has a similar skill set.

17. New York Jets: Brian Cushing, USC, LB - Rookie head coach Rex Ryan wants to develop the most physical team in football. Cushing would be a nice addition to a defense that faded down the stretch.

18. Chicago: Percy Harvin, Florida, WR - Matt Forte led the Bears in receptions last season (63). Taking that kind of pounding year in and year out will lead to a short career. Harvin, ever the brittle superstar, has Devin Hester-esque game changing ability.

19. Tampa Bay: Everette Brown, Florida State, DE - The Bucs would be another team that would be ecstatic if this exact draft scenario unfolded. Brown, a local product, would work with 2007 first rounder, Gaines Adams.

20. Detroit (from Dallas): Jason Smith, Baylor, OT - Smith has top 10 talent but could slip because of team needs. Matt Stafford won't have to wait long for a new best friend - 19 picks to be exact.

21. Philadelphia: Alex Mack, California, C - Jamaal Jackson struggled at times this season, and Mack is clearly the cream of a solid center crop.

22. Minnesota: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland, WR - No matter who is playing quarterback, the Vikes need someone to pair with Bernard Berrian to help take the focus off Adrian Peterson.

23. New England: Jame Laurinaitis, Ohio State, LB - Is he Andy Katzenmoyer reincarnate? I don't think so, but the similarities certainly exist.

24. Atlanta: Shawn Nelson, Southern Mississippi, TE - The Falcons figure to add some offensive weapons to help QB Matt Ryan to develop. Nelson offers something the team lacked this season, a pass catching threat at the tight end position.

25. Miami: D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt, CB - Cornerbacks figure to go off the board...

26. Baltimore: Vontae Davis, Illinois, CB - ...with the next few picks...

27. Indianapolis: Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest, CB - ... but I have no idea what order it will happen.

28. Philadelphia (from Carolina): Chris Wells, Ohio State, RB - Wells would offer the bruising style to complement the home run hitting Brian Westbrook.

29. New York Giants: Clay Matthews, USC, LB - Pressure the QB.. Pressure the QB.. Pressure the QB...

30. Tennessee: Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina, WR - The defense was great. The running game was great. The passing game stunk. The Titans need to address this during the offseason.

31. Arizona: Knowshon Moreno, Georgia, RB - Moreno failed to live up to expectations this season and will slip further than he should. He could win the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award if this scenario unfolds.

32. Pittsburgh: Max Unger, Oregon, C - The Steelers were solid across the board. I'm nitpicking, but the line could use some bolstering.

Mock Notes

**I think the NFL should revisit the draft order creation process. Why should the Chargers, a team that made the playoffs, pick eight spots ahead of the Patriots?

**The Lions have three of the top 33 picks. If they can nab a defensive tackle like Sen'Derrick Marks at the top of round two along with Stafford and Smith in round one, the foundation upon which to build could be in place.

**The owners of the first five picks all have new head coaches. It will be interesting to see how much power each wields.

**LSU OG Herman Johnson weighed 15lbs, 14oz. at birth, a Louisiana state record. At the Senior Bowl, he stood 6"7' and weighed in at 382lbs. Let those numbers sink in for a second.

**Liberty RB Rashad Jennings tops the list of "Just Missed." I tried working him into the first round so it would be two years in a row that a player transferred from Pitt and got drafted in the first round (Joe Flacco), but it did not work out.

**Georgia Tech DE Michael Johnson did not make his way into the first round. He won't experience a Quentin Moses-esque (preseason top five overall; ended up being first pick of third round) fall from grace, but look out below.

**This will be the first time in 14 years that no member of the Miami Hurricanes will be picked in round one.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Cubs' Lineup

Banter-favorite, Buster Olney recently posed a question to his readers: How would you construct the Cubs' lineup?

Olney's Lineup

2B Mike Fontenot, L
1B Derrek Lee, R
RF Milton Bradley, S
3B Aramis Ramirez, R
CF Kosuke Fukudome, L
LF Alfonso Soriano, R
C Geovany Soto, RS
S Ryan Theriot, R

Banter's Lineup (vs. RHP / LHP)

The signing of Milton Bradley gives Lou Piniella the flexibility to do a number of different things. However, he would be best suited using these two lineups.

2B Fontenot / SS Theriot
3B Ramirez / LF Soriano
1B Lee
RF Bradley
LF Soriano / 3B Ramirez
C Soto
CF Fukudome
SS Theriot / 2B Fontenot


*If after all the money the Cubs have spent and all the deals they have made this offseason Kosuke Fukodome finds himself in a major RBI spot in the batting order, they will have accomplished nothing.

After July 31 (excluding playoffs), Fukodome's stats looked like this:

AB: 128
HR: 2
RBI: 18
R: 12
SB: 2

His post-All Star Break splits were .217/.314/.326 also known as Willie Bloomquist territory.

As bad as that was, his postseason was worse. He mustered only a single in ten at bats while whiffing four times.
*Sure, the lefty-righty alternation can be an advantage, but the Cubs right handed batters handle right handed pitching relatively well aside from Soriano.
Soto hit 18 of 23 home runs off righties.
*Why alternate Soriano and Ramirez in the 2 / 5 holes against? Check out the numbers:
Soriano's splits against LHP / RHP last season: 351; .404; .710 / .252; .319; .460.

Ramirez's splits against LHP / RHP last season: .239; .333; .388 / 305; .394; .560.

Someone Please Sign Adam Dunn Already...

... and let that someone's name rhyme with Nomar Shminaya.

The Basic Fact

As of this post, Adam Dunn remains a free agent.

The Good

*Adam Dunn, the Texas-bred "Big Donkey" stands 6 feet 6 inches tall. He is only 29-years old.

*His power cannot be questioned as he has five consecutive 40 home run seasons.

*His career Adjusted OPS is 130. Among players under 30, he ranks sixth behind Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Mark Teixeira and Jason Bay.

*He ranks third among active major leaguers under 30 in career on-base percentage behind Pujols and Wright.

*He has the fourth most home runs in the first eight years of a career. See below where he ranks with three all-time greats:

Rk Player HR-BB

1: Ralph Kiner 329-870

2: Albert Pujols 319-696

3: Eddie Matthews 299-726

4. Adam Dunn 278-797

*According to reports, he is considering taking a one-year offer so he can test the market again next season, making him a virtual risk-free investment.

The Awful

*Dunn's defense leaves a lot to be desired. Whether in left field or at first base, he's a statue and will cost his team approximately a dozen runs per season.

*He strikes out way too much.

*He has a laissez faire attitude. Last season, Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi questioned Dunn's passion for the game.

The Guess

Dunn has had the misfortune of playing in Pujols' shadow since the two were rookies in 2001. He does not measure up to Fat Albert in any regard. However, he will come at a steep discount and sometime in the near future, someone will realize the good outweighs the awful.

From here, the Mets and Omar Minaya seem like the perfect match.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Separated at Birth?

Former North Carolina State basketball coaches, Jim Valvano and Kay Yow.

Obviously, this has nothing to do with looks and everything to do with the legacies these two left behind.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Separated at birth?

LA Lakers' C Andrew Bynum and actor Tracy Morgan

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sports Pet Peeve and Some Links

--Sports Pet Peeve #38: The Big 10 calling itself the Big 10. Has anyone figured out why the Big 10 hasn't changed its name to the Big 11? There are 11 teams in the conference; the conference logo (see below) has the shadow of an "11." You promote yourselves as institutions of higher learning. Do the intelligent thing here.

--Great non-football related parody.

--Martin Havlat, you just made a lot of friends.

--Predictably, Ben Sheets and Oliver Perez are inching towards the Rangers and Mets, respectively.

--Pretty cool way to measure the level of dominance by pitchers.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Separated at Birth?

Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia and a bald eagle

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In the Eyes of the Mets: Lowe vs. Perez


Coming into the offseason, the New York Mets had a gaping hole in the bullpen and the middle of their rotation. GM Omar Minaya addressed the bullpen early by signing Fransisco Rodriguez away from the LA Angels and acquiring J.J. Putz from the Seattle Mariners. Incidentally, Minaya may have also improved his bullpen by trading away Aaron Heilman in the Putz deal, but we will save that topic for another day.

Rodriguez, as even casual fans know, set the Major League record for saves in a season (62) last year. Unfortunately for the Mets, Rodriguez was labeled as a Type A free agent meaning the team that signed him - in this case the Mets - would have to surrender its first round pick (assuming the signing team's first round pick fell outside the top 15 picks). In addition, the team "losing" the Type A free agent receives a supplemental first round pick. Because of this, the Mets' first pick will be (approximately) number 66 overall.

Lowe vs. Perez

After strengthening the 'pen, the Mets honed in on Type A free agent Derek Lowe of the LA Dodgers and their own Type A free agent, Oliver Perez. Who should the Mets have signed?

Assuming that the Mets could only afford either Lowe or Perez, it would seem to me that Lowe should have been the choice.

As mentioned above, by signing K-Rod, the Mets were forced to surrender their first round selection. So, if they would have signed another Type A free agent, they would have "only" sacrificed their second round choice. Let's assume this Type A free was Derek Lowe. The Dodgers would receive pick 66 and a supplemental first rounder from the league. Using logic from above, the Mets would not have been able to re-sign Perez.

The team signing Perez would then owe the Mets its first round pick (or second round pick if it picked outside the top 15). For argument's sake, let's assume the Atlanta Braves who actually signed Lowe decided to sign Perez with all their excess cash. The Mets would receive the Braves' second round pick (approximately number 50 overall) and a supplemental first round (approximately number 41).

Let's play a quick game of multiple choice. Which package would you rather have:

A) Oliver Perez and pick 66; or
B) Derek Lowe, pick 41 and pick 50 (with the possibility that this pick could end up being a late first rounder if a team picking outside the top 15 - possibly the Diamondbacks or Dodgers - signed Perez).

The Mets' farm system can be described as mediocre at best. (Keith Law ranked their system 17th best in the Majors, but that seems awfully kind.) Letting Perez sign elsewhere would have been an intelligent way to recoup some draft picks. Now, Omar Minaya's hand is somewhat forced. He will probably have to re-sign Perez, because without him, the rotation would be in shambles.

When trying to replenish a farm system that has been somewhat depleted by trades, it would have made more sense to pursue Lowe more aggresively rather than re-signing Perez.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rejoice, Rejoice!

As predicted, the NJIT Highlanders broke their 51-game losing streak against the Bryant Bulldogs. Good for them.

See the full story here or here.

Notes from the World's Most Famous Arena

I went to an Islander-Ranger game with my father a few weeks back at Madison Square Garden and was struck by four things:

  1. Ranger fans still chant "Potvin sucks" in reference to Denis Potvin, the hated Islander defenseman who retired 21(!) years ago. I think it's about time to rally around something else.

  2. There's no chance the Islanders lose the race for worst record in the NHL.

  3. The City of Philadelphia's Tourism Agency has put an enormous advertisement on the west side of the Garden (example 4,581 the US is in a Recession). How desperate can the Garden be for revenue that they allow the home of two despised rivals - 76ers and Flyers - to advertise on the outside of it?

  4. During each intermission, two kids were selected to ride on the zamboni. As cool as that must have been for those kids, it was equally uncool, and borderline pathetic, that they they were forced to wear helmets. Were these kids a threat to jump off the zamboni without notice? Have there been zamboni catastrophes before that I don't know about? Are kids in danger of having objects heaved at them? Are these kids' parents petrified their babies will be tossed off the zamboni during a hairpin turn? So then, why do these kids need helmets? This is another reason we, as a country, can be perceived as being weak. There is zero chance kids in Russia or any other badass country would make kids riding on zambonies wear helmets. And, what's next? Kids on playgrounds wearing helmets? Kids on Ferris Wheels? Where does it end? So many questions, no good answers.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Separated at Birth?

World's Most Jacked, Man Ronnie Coleman and the NFL's Most Jacked Player, Washington Redskin Andre Carter.

Monday, January 19, 2009

NFL Memos and Championship Game Observations


Attn: Kurt Warner

Please take the glove off your throwing hand. You play all your home games in 80 degree weather. Man up.


All NFL Fans



Attn: All Defensive Backs not named Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu

When returning an interception or fumble, rules permit you to protect the ball with two hands and/or to run out of bounds.


All NFL Fans



Attn: Coaching Staff of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Save yourselves the countless hours of video watching. If you want to stop the Cardinals offense and win the Super Bowl, triple team Larry Fitzgerald. It's not complicated.


NFL Fans with a gambling interest in the Super Bowl


Other Thoughts and Observations

--Kevin Curtis is incredibly underrated.

--Three bone-headed moves (among others) by Andy Reid during yesterday's NFC Championship Game that warrant mentioning:

  1. With 1:48 left in the first half and his Eagles facing 3rd and 14 from their own 36, Reid called timeout. Why? No sane individual can figure that out. The chance of converting from that distance on third down are slim (approximately 13%). What happened? The Eagles failed to convert on third down and were forced to punt. The Cardinals marched down the field and kicked a 49-yard field goal as time expired.

  2. After scoring a touchdown to cut their deficit to 24-12 with 4:08 left in the third quarter, the Cardinals committed two penalties on the extra point. The Eagles were well aware they would eventually need a two-point conversion. Why not send the offense back on the field to go for two from the 1-yard line instead of waiting for later in the game when they have to try from the 2-yard line?

  3. After cutting the lead to 24-19 with 0:49 left in the third quarter, Reid chose not to go for two. Why? Again, only Andy knows. To add insult to stupidity, David Akers missed the extra point. Obviously, Reid could not have possibly imagined a missed PAT, but it should never have gotten to that point.

--Andy Reid's Offseason Priorities

  1. Get a clue how to manage the clock paying special attention to the last two minutes of each half.

  2. Learn when to go for two.

  3. Talk to your kids. / Be a better parent.

  4. Eat less. / Exercise.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Don Cheadle

I'm not much of a pop culture guy but how far has Don Cheadle's career fallen? A few years ago he was nominated for Best Actor in Hotel Rwanada. Now, he's starring in Hotel for Dogs.

Who is Cheadle's athletic equivalent? I'd vote for Shaun Alexander.

Both peaked in 2005. Cheadle nominated for Best Actor. Alexander won NFL MVP.

Both seem like standup guys. Cheadle does charity work for the people of Darfur. Alexander has his own charity (The Shaun Alexander Foundation).

Both were put in situations to succeed but struggled when depended upon to perform without a supporting cast.

Both have completely fallen off the map (of relevancy) in 2009.

It's a shame.

Championship Weekend Picks

Cardinals +4: Arizona has been great at home this season (7-2), and I trust Kurt Warner more than Donovan McNabb at this point.

Ravens +6.5: Has a playoff game ever ended with a score of 2-0? The Steelers played the NFL's only 11-10 game. Maybe they can pull this one off as well.

Playoff Record: 5-3

Saturday, January 17, 2009

NFL Early Entries

Now that the deadline has passed for college players to declare for the NFL Draft, let's assess which players made the best and the worst decisions.

Best Decisions to Leave Early

Donald Brown, RB, UConn: Brown (aka UConn's entire offense) was abused this season as he carried the ball 367 times in 13 games. To put that into perspective, only one running back in the NFL had more carries (Michael Turner - 373). Had Brown stayed in school, he would have been asked to shoulder a similar load. The shelf life of a running back is only so long.

With a solid showing at the combine, Brown could be a second round pick.

Shonn Greene, RB, Iowa: Greene, who sat out the entire 2007 season, came out of nowhere to lead the Hawkeyes. He was the only player in the nation to rush for at least 100 yards in every game this season. His stock will never be higher.

Greene too could hear his name called in the second round.

Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois: Quite simply, Davis mailed it in this year; for much of the season, it looked like he was playing not to get hurt. He possesses the physical skills to be a shutdown corner at the next level. Can he stay motivated? Ironically, the same question was asked about his big brother, Vernon.

Davis should come off the board in the middle of the first round.

Sean Smith, CB, Utah: Smith has great size for a defensive back (6'3") and played the best game of his career in the Sugar Bowl. Like Greene, his stock cannot go much higher.

Smith could be selected late in round one.

Worst Decisions to Leave Early

Percy Harvin, WR, Florida: No one argues with the athletic ability, but Harvin needs to prove he can stay healthy. With all key starters returning next season, he would have had a chance to crack the top 10 next season.

Harvin will be drafted in the mid-late first round.

Jeremy Childs, WR, Boise State: Childs led the Broncos in receptions and receiving yards. He was clearly QB Kellen Moore's go-to target. Another year working with Moore would have done wonders for Childs.

Childs figures to be a fifth or sixth round selection.

P.J. Hill, RB, Wisconsin: Hill picked a terrible year to declare for the draft. There are at least ten better prospects at the position including six other underclassmen. His performance this season failed to live up to expectations.

Hill may not get picked until late on Day 2.

To Be Determined

Glen Coffee, RB, Alabama: Coffee's is a curious one. The Crimson Tide lost bookend OT Andre Smith, but figure to be a National Title contender from Opening Day (not the case this past season). It seems like there is more to this story than meets the eye.

Coffee should go early on Day 2.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Separated at Birth?

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme and San Francisco Giants SP Barry Zito.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

50 Straight Losses and Thought Provoking Links

A Date with Infamy

After losing last night to Loyola, the N.J.I.T. Highlanders have lost 50 consecutive men's college basketball games, no small feat. Ironically, before this impressive run, Loyola was the last team to suffer even 31 straight defeats. I least temporarily.

How long will the streak last? Well, N.J.I.T. figures to lose again on Saturday against UPenn which would run the streak to 51 straight losses. But then comes the big one. Their best chance of winning (perhaps this entire season) comes on Wednesday, January 21, when they host the Bryant Bulldogs (2-17). In fact, I so firmly believe the Highlanders will win that I will waste, err, spend $1.75 on a PATH train ticket to watch it live. Why? Great question. Aside from watching history (if you can call it that), I will go because I attended the game in which Loyola ended its aforementioned 31-game losing streak, and it was an unbelievable experience.

The stage was set. Perennial MAAC doormats, the Marist Red Foxes, came to Loyola sporting a 5-12 record. The Greyhounds who were without a victory in almost a full calendar year jumped to an early lead and held on in front of a packed house of about 1000. As the final whistle blew, those in attendance rushed the court as if the Greyhounds had just won the National Title. This was the first and last time I was part of a court-rushing session. And it was awesome.

I'm holding out hope that I can do it again on Wednesday.



--Was "the clear" legal? You decide.

--Is Randy Levine a criminal? You decide.

--At least Domino's offers CinnaStix. The Mets' new patch offers nothing.

--I would watch. Would you?

--Loyal reader Matt Scally and blog favorite Keith Law think Tim Raines belongs in the HOF. Do you?

--Sir Charles has been bounced by T-Mobile which is a shame because I actually don't mind those "Fave 5" commercials.

--Keep up with Brandon Jennings here. He won't be confused with a poet laureate any time soon, but there are some interesting entries.

--Unibrowed Joe Flacco, 23 going on 43?


Stat of the Day

--Each of the last four underclassmen that won the Heisman Trophy and then returned to school finished third in the voting the following year: Ty Detmer, Jason White, Matt Leinart and Tim Tebow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Separated at Birth?

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward and San Antiono Spurs SF Bruce Bowen.
**Note these are two of this blogger's least favorite professional athletes.

Much Appreciated, Sammy

If the rumors are true, Sam Bradford will have single-handedly ruined two of my blog predictions, here and here.

Nice knowing you, Sam.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Separated at Birth?

Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh and Former Major League 1B Tino Martinez.

NFL Playoff Picks

Coming off a 2-2 weekend, here are my picks for the this week's playoff action.

Ravens +3: I've flip-flopped eight times on this game, but in the end, I'll take the Ravens' defense.

Cardinals -9: No chance I bet against Kurt Warner in a high scoring affair.

Eagles +4: I believe in Philadelphia's resurgence.

Chargers +6: I believe in San Diego's resurgence.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Five Minute Guide to the BCS Championship Game


Advantage: Push. The Florida Gators (12-1) come in to tonight's BCS Championship Game riding a nine game winning streak. The Oklahoma Sooners (12-1) have rolled off seven consecutive victories.

Advantage: Oklahoma. The Sooners set an NCAA record for points scored this year. They scored at least 35 points in every game and at least 45 points in every game but two. OU comes in averaging over 62 points per game over their last six games.

Advantage: Florida. The Gators have only give up more than three touchdowns once all year. It happened in the only game they lost (Ole Miss 31-30).

Strength of Schedule
Advantage: Oklahoma. Florida played a weak schedule. On Opening Day, Florida's schedule looked daunting. Looking back, every team the Gators defeated except Alabama had a down year. Oklahoma's loss was a respectable one (neutral site against Texas). The Sooners beat three of the nation's top 15 teams.

Special Teams
Advantage: Florida. Florida's Brandon James is a game-changing return man. Oklahoma's best kick returner, Demarco Murray, will not play.

Coaching / Karma
Advantage: Oklahoma. Urban Meyer preposterously used three timeouts in the last minute of a game against Georgia earlier this season, a game Florida won 49-10. Those things come back to haunt you. Also, Stoops is due to win another big game.

Advantage: Florida. I'll take 90% of Percy Harvin over 0% of Demarco Murray.

Advantage: Push. These are arguably the two fastest teams in the nation.

Heisman Jinx

Advantage: Push. Both teams have Heisman-winning quarterbacks.

-Tim Tebow has completed 88% of the passes he has thrown to tight end Aaron Hernandez.
-Juaquin Iglesias is the best player you've never heard of.

The Pick
Oklahoma 36, Florida 32. I'm tempted to take the Sooners in a semi-rout (two touchdowns or more), but I think the Gators make a late run. I love what OU does on offense, and I think they can match up well enough to contain Florida's spread. Either way, I'm taking the +4.5.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

NFL Mock Draft (Part II)

Best of the Rest

Teams could do a lot worse than drafting one of these three:

Taylor Mays, S, USC - Hard hitter built like a tank.

Rey Maualuga, LB, USC - Sideline-to-sideline tackling machine.

James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State - An instinctive, productive force ready to anchor a linebacking corps.


Before each draft since 2003, I have identified the two players I thought would have the best careers. Here's the list:

2003: Carson Palmer, QB, USC; Andre Johnson, WR, Miami
2004: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Pittsburgh; Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Miami (OH)
2005: David Pollack, DE, Georgia; Thomas Davis, LB, Georgia
2006: Ernie Sims, LB, Florida State; Chad Greenway, LB, Iowa
2007: Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech; Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma
2008: Keith Rivers, LB, USC; Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee
2009: Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State; Taylor Mays, S, USC


I have also tried to identify the sure-fire first rounder I thought had the most "bust" potential. Judge for yourself:

2003: Dewayne Robertson, DT, Kentucky
2004: Phillip Rivers, QB, NC State
2005: Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn
2006: Vince Young, QB, Texas
2007: Levi Brown, OT, Penn State
2008: Vernon Gholston, LB, Ohio State
2009: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia


I watched the High School All-America Game on Sunday night and came away disappointed, not with the talent but with the "me-first" attitudes. On all but a handful of plays, the ball carrier and/or the tackler celebrated much more than the situation called for. Then, the player would run to the sideline and scream nonsense into the camera.

Another player's family had shirts that read "The Truth" above a picture of the athlete.


My favorite players from the High School All-America Game: Craig Roh and Andre DeBose. We'll see how their careers turn out.

This blog was created to form a medium of exchange where sports fans can share ideas, beliefs, and opinions. The creator has written for a number of websites and has appeared on ESPN Radio as an NFL Draft, MLB Trade Deadline and Fantasy Sports Analyst. He can be reached at

Monday, January 5, 2009

NFL Mock Draft (Part I)

One man's best guess four months before the draft:

1. Detroit: Sam Bradford*, QB, Oklahoma - Where do we begin? Coming off an 0-16 season, the Lions can go in pretty much any direction here. If I were running the team, I would trade down to accumulate more picks. However, it's too soon to forecast trades so my guess is that Detroit will go after the best quarterback in the draft.

2. St. Louis: Andre Smith*, OT, Alabama - On Marc Bulger's behalf, I beg the Rams to take the bookend from Alabama. On irony's behalf, I beg the Rams to take him. It has been rumored that Smith was suspended for his team's bowl game because of inappropriate contact with an agent. Remember, this accusation was also made against the second overall pick in 2006, Reggie Bush.

3. Kansas City: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas - After trading Jared Allen prior to the 2008 season, the Chiefs struggled to generate any consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Orakpo showed this season that he was the best defensive end in all of college football.

4. Seattle: Michael Crabtree*, WR, Texas Tech - Seattle has been looking for a solid, dependable wide receiver for years. Crabtree will be the best thing to happen to the city of Seattle since Kevin Durant was drafted by the Sonics. Hopefully, things turn out better for Seahawk fans.

5. Cleveland: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest - The Browns' offense lacks consistency. The defense lacks almost everything. Curry, a playmaker, will help.

6. Cincinnati: Aaron Maybin*, DE, Penn State - Maybin was one of the most productive defensive linemen in the country. The Bengals can use the help.

7. Oakland: Jeremy Maclin*, WR, Missouri - Maclin, a player I discussed last week, is an explosive wideout who would provide a nice deep threat for JaMarcus Russell.

8. Jacksonville: Chris Wells*, RB, Ohio State - Wells would be a huge upgrade over Fred Taylor and in order to be dominant in the NFL, teams must have two backs. He would be the thunder to Maurice Jones Drew's lightning.

9. Green Bay: Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State - The Packers pass defense really struggled last year, and Jenkins solidified himself as the top corner in the nation with a great season.

10. San Francisco: Matthew Stafford*, QB, Georgia - If Stafford lasts until the 10th overall pick, the 49ers can thank Tyler Thigpen. Had Thigpen continued to struggle running Kansas City's offense, Stafford would be gone seven picks before this spot. Personally, I think the comparisons to John Elway are way off base. He never dominated the college game the way Mark Richt had hoped.

* = Underclassman, has not declared for draft thus far.

This blog was created to form a medium of exchange where sports fans can share ideas, beliefs, and opinions. The creator has written for a number of websites and has appeared on ESPN Radio as an NFL Draft, MLB Trade Deadline and Fantasy Sports Analyst. He can be reached at

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Nine Predictions for '09

1. Cleveland will stand atop the sports world in 2009 as the Cavaliers and Indians win the NBA Title and World Series, respectively.

2. The Tennessee Titans will win the Super Bowl (although my bank account wouldn't mind seeing the Chargers or Vikings prove me wrong); the Montreal Canadiens will take home the Stanley Cup.

3. College championships will be won by the following teams:
-Football: Oklahoma Sooners (preview to come this week)
-Basketball: Pittsburgh Panthers
-Baseball: Vanderbilt Commodores

4. After Jeff Moorad's offer for the San Diego Padres falls through, a consortium led by a no-name blogger from New York will swoop in to purchase the team.

5. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford will be selected first overall by the Detroit Lions in April's NFL Draft (first Mock Draft to follow this week). Bradford will lead the Lions to at least as many victories as the team had in 2008, zero.

6. Brett Favre will retire. For good.

7. Matt Holliday will be the hottest name at the MLB Trading Deadline but will not get dealt. He will then be the most coveted free agent at year end (article to follow in the coming days).

8. ESPN will finally come to its senses and fire Stephen A. Smith. The sports world will rejoice as one.

9. Much to the chagrin of loyal reader georgekaplan, Shawn Kemp's name will not appear again in this blog during 2009.

This blog was created to form a medium of exchange where sports fans can share ideas, beliefs, and opinions. The creator has written for a number of websites and has appeared on ESPN Radio as an NFL Draft, MLB Trade Deadline and Fantasy Sports Analyst. He can be reached at

Saturday, January 3, 2009

When Teammates Hate You; Pet Peeves; and Other Thoughts and Observations

When Teammates Hate You

While watching the Alamo Bowl on Monday night, I was struck by two things:

-Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin was a man among boys; and
-Jeremy Maclin's teammates must really dislike him.

Maclin scored two touchdowns on the night. After each touchdown, exactly one teammate / coach congratulated him. Think about that. On a team consisting of about 75 players, 10 coaches, and a few other staff members, only two people acknowledged the guy.

These weren't meaningless touchdowns, either. The first, an electrifying, momentum-changing 75-yard punt return, improbably tied the game at 10 after Northwestern had dominated the majority of the first half.

His second score was an overtime reception which put his team ahead for good.

Admittedly, I know very little about Maclin on a personal level, and I could be way off base here, but I would imagine Maclin is not a popular teammate.


Pet Peeves

Sports Pet Peeve #6: When trying to down a punt deep inside an opponent's territory, a player will wildly slide / jump / dive on top of a football forcing it into the end zone for a touchback. Failure to down the ball inside the 1-yard line has become an epidemic. I cannot count the times this has occurred recently.

Sports Pet Peeve #34: Soccer players wearing gloves. Really, soccer players? It's so cold that you need gloves to cover your delicate fingers? Man up. You don't use your hands anyway.
Note: This applies to cross-country runners as well, but no one pays them much bother anyway.


Other Thoughts and Observations

--I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how much I loved the camoflauge uniforms Army wore against Navy. They were awesome.

--Coaching football cannot be easy. However, the coaching in these bowl games has been especially appalling. This includes everything from wasted timeouts to complete disregard for time and game situations.

Perfect example: in Thursday's Rose Bowl, Penn State chose not to go for the two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown to cut their deficit to 31-13 with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter. USC's defense, regarded as one of the best of all time, must have been doing backflips when they saw kicker Kevin Kelly sprint onto the field after the score. A successful two-point conversion would have made it a two possession game. The odds would still have been long, but by not going for two, the chance of winning was completely eliminated.

--In a recent article, Peter Gammons shed some light on the salary cap issue in baseball:

Remember this: For all the talk of a salary cap, only twice in the past 30 years has a team won the World Series with a $100M-plus payroll -- the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox.

In those 30 years, 20 different teams have won World Series, and it likely would be 21 without the 1994 strike that cost the sport's best team that year -- the Montreal Expos -- a chance to win it all. In those 30 years, 14 different teams have won the Super Bowl, 13 have won the Stanley Cup and nine have won the NBA championship.

Pretty good stuff from the legend.

This blog was created to form a medium of exchange where sports fans can share ideas, beliefs, and opinions. The creator has written for a number of websites and has appeared on ESPN Radio as an NFL Draft, MLB Trade Deadline and Fantasy Sports Analyst. He can be reached at

Friday, January 2, 2009

NFL Awards and Wild Card Weekend Picks



1. Chad Pennington, QB, Miami: Pennington's stats won't blow you away (although he did league the NFL in completion percentage). However, his intangibles will. He led a team that went 1-15 last season to the playoffs despite signing with the team a few short weeks before Week 1. He changed the culture in Miami. The MVP Award would look great next to his second Comeback Player of the Year Award.

2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota: Every week, Peterson was the focus of the opponent's game plan. Despite this, he averaged 4.8 yards per carry and led the league in rushing.

3. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis: Manning is the unquestioned leader of a team that won eight games by seven points or less.


1. Tony Sparano, Miami: With Pennington's help, Sparano, a rookie head coach*, led one of the most impressive turnarounds of all time. He's a no-nonsense type guy. Want proof?

Dolphins lead the Jets 24-17 with five seconds left in their Week 17 tilt. With a win, the Dolphins clinch a playoff spot one year after going 1-15. The Jets have the ball at their own 7 yard line. Sparano has just been doused with Gatorade. Think he's content? No chance. He screams at his players to back off the sideline, typically a job assigned to an assistant coach, to ensure they don't get flagged for a "too many men" penalty. He does not smile until the clock shows 0:00. Just shows his attention to detail.

2. John Harbaugh, Baltimore: Rookie head coach* took over an underachieving 5-11 squad and led them to an 11-5 record.

3. Mike Smith, Atlanta: Rookie head coach* overcame the Vick fiasco in a big way.

*Take solace Jets, Browns, and Broncos fans; the right head coach can turn things around in a hurry. Lions fans, you are on your own.

Offensive Player of the Year

1. Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta: Turner finished second in the league in rushing and added 17 touchdowns, an impressive showing by a first-year starter.

2. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans: Brees finished sixteen yards short of setting the all-time single-season passing yards record. He also led the league with 34 passing touchdowns.

3. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston: Johnson led the league in receptions and receiving yards. He's the most dominant wideout in the league.

Defensive Player of the Year

1. James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh: Harrison led the league in forced fumbles, finished fourth in sacks, and quarterbacked the NFL's best defense.

2. Ed Reed, S, Baltimore: Reed, ever the ball hawk, recorded a league-leading nine interceptions and scored three defensive touchdowns.

3. DeMarcus Ware, LB, Dallas: Ware led the league in sacks and finished second in the league in forced fumbles.

Wild Card Weekend Picks

Amazingly, all four home teams are underdogs this weekend.

Arizona +2: I can't bring myself to back a rookie quarterback on the road in his playoff debut no matter how poorly the Cardinals have played recently.

San Diego +1: The Colts have been the league's luckiest team winning nine games by 10 points or less. I think that luck runs out here against, arguably, the league's hottest team.

Miami +4: Although the Dolphins have a home field disadvantage (worst fans in football), I'll take the points in a game that figures to be low-scoring.

Minnesota +3: I trust Tarvaris Jackson and Brad Childress a little more than I trust Andy Reid. Why? Because Jackson and Childress can lean on Adrian Peterson and because I love Minnesota's rush defense.

For good measure, I'll take the Chargers (+1100) and the Vikings (+2800) to win the Super Bowl.

This blog was created to form a medium of exchange where sports fans can share ideas, beliefs, and opinions. The creator has written for a number of websites and has appeared on ESPN Radio as an NFL Draft, MLB Trade Deadline and Fantasy Sports Analyst. He can be reached at

Thursday, January 1, 2009

MLB's Remaining Free Agents

Perfect Landing Spots for the Nine Best Remaining Free Agents

Now that Brian Fuentes is off the market, I see a clear delineation between the top nine remaining free agents and everyone else.

1. Manny Ramirez, OF - Criticize Manny's attitude all you'd like but there's no questioning his production. Whichever team signs him will, hopefully for their sake, watch him chase the elusive 700 home run plateau.

There has been way too much posturing by both sides of the Dodgers-Boras negotiations that it's starting to remind me of a high school prom, but the Dodgers now have all the leverage.

Side note: Manny might not be an intelligent guy, but he is certainly smart enough not to sign with the Nationals no matter the dollars they throw his way.

Perfect Landing Spot: Angels
Will End Up: Dodgers

2. Adam Dunn, OF - I find it hard to believe he's having so much trouble finding work as he's a perennial lock for 40 home runs (five straight years) and a .380+ OBP (four of the past five years). Sure, he strikes out a lot (understatement of the week) and his defense is pitiful, but it can be argued that his recent offensive production has been better than that of Mark Teixeira.

Dunn might come at a 60% discount to Teixeira, too.

Perfect Landing Spot: Orioles
Will End Up: Angels

3. Derek Lowe, SP - Lowe, ever the dependable innings-eater, has made at least 32 starts and won at least 12 games in each of the past seven seasons. Like Leona Lewis, it seems Lowe is getting better in time (Editor's note: bad joke allotment has been reached). In 2008, he posted his lowest WHIP, ERA, and walk totals since his Cy-worthy performance in 2002. Lowe has to be considered the safest of the remaining free agent pitchers.

Perfect Landing Spot: Mets
Will End Up: Mets

4. Oliver Perez, SP - His agent, the incomparable Scott Boras, claims Perez is one of the top five left-handed pitchers in baseball. Having watched every one of his outings over the last two plus years, I can tell you this is absurd. However, part of Boras' brainwashing / negotiation ploy has always been to set expectations sky-high. Even if he gets Perez a deal equivalent to the tenth best LHP, he will have succeeded. Also, as much as Perez struggled in New York, he did resurrect his career here.

Perfect Landing Spot: Mets
Will End Up: Mets

5. Milton Bradley, OF - Bradley's '08 season was a sabrematrician's dream as he led the AL in Adjusted OPS, Adjusted Batting Runs, Batting Wins, and Offensive Win %. Like Manny, however, Bradley can be considered a "head case." Unlike Manny, Bradley has been plagued by injury throughout his career. He's a switch hitter who would look great in a Cub uniform next year (strictly platonic).

Perfect Landing Spot: Cubs
Will End Up: Cubs

6. Ben Sheets, SP - As discussed in a previous post, Sheets cannot be depended upon to anchor a staff. His upside, as witnessed by his NL-leading three complete game shutouts, is as high as anyone in the league when healthy. Unfortunately, he's only made 30 starts in one of the previous four seasons. He slots in perfectly as a number two starter but will probably earn an ace's paycheck.

Perfect Landing Spot: Rangers
Will End Up: Rangers

7. Orlando Hudson, 2B - Being a good "locker room guy" can only get a player so far (see: Millar, Kevin). However, despite posting somewhat pedestrian offensive numbers, O-Dog seems to be in rather high demand. Further, Hudson's defense has been declining steadily. By some metrics, namely Range Factor, Hudson ranked as the 18th best second baseman last season.

Perfect Landing Spot: White Sox
Will End Up: Braves

8. Pat Burrell, OF - 145 games, 30 home runs, 90 RBIs, 90, walks, .390 OBP, and .500 Slg. Book it... unless he plays all of his home games at Shea, err, Citi Field in which case double the home run and RBI totals.

Perfect Landing Spot: Indians
Will End Up: Rays

9. Bobby Abreu, OF - It has been rumored that no human being has ever seen Bobby Abreu dive head-first. This includes his time on the basepaths and in the outfield. In spite of this and his declining power (steroids?) and speed, Abreu has knocked in 100+ runs in each of the past six seasons and has played in at least 151 games in every season since he became a regular (11 straight years).

Perfect Landing Spot: A's
Will End Up: A's

This blog was created to form a medium of exchange where sports fans can share ideas, beliefs, and opinions. The creator has written for a number of websites and has appeared on ESPN Radio as an NFL Draft, MLB Trade Deadline and Fantasy Sports Analyst. He can be reached at