Monday, February 27, 2012

Separated at Birth

Uber-agent Scott Boras and Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly

Thanks to TSB groupie BeccaND for the suggestion.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Thanks, Again

This was a pretty big week at TSB as we surpassed two pretty big milestones (at least in my mind).

First, we passed the 35,000 viewer mark. What now, Facebook?

Then, we had our 700th (!!!) user download the TSB app for iPhone. In truth, I would have been happy with 10% of that total so I really couldn't be more pumped.

Thanks again for your continued support. Keep spreading the word and the links.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

NFL Mock Draft with Swagstein (Part III)

Parts I and II can be found here and here, respectively.

1. (TSB) Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
2. (Swagstein) St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St.
3. (TSB) Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
4. (Swag) Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
5. (TSB) Tampa Bay Bucs: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
6. (Swag) Washington Redskins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
7. (TSB) Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
8. (Swag) Carolina Panthers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
9. (TSB) Miami Dolphins: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
10. (Swag) Buffalo Bills: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
11. (TSB) Kansas City Chiefs: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
12. (Swag) Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
13. (TSB) Arizona Cardinals: Michael Brockers, DL, LSU
14. (Swag) Dallas Cowboys: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
15. (TSB) Philadelphia Eagles: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
16. (Swag) New York Jets: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
17. (TSB) Cincinnati Bengals: Cordy Glenn, G,
18. (Swag) San Diego Chargers: Jonathon Martin, OT, Stanford
19. (TSB) Chicago Bears: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
20. (Swag) Tennessee Titans: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
21. (TSB) Cincinnati Bengals: Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina
22. (Swag) Cleveland Browns: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
23. (TSB) Detroit Lions: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
24. (Swag) Pittsburgh Steelers: Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

25. (TSB) Denver Broncos: Devon Still, DT, Penn State - For my money, Still is the second best defensive tackle in the draft behind Brockers. I’m loving the idea of pairing Still with last year’s first rounder Von Miller to form a nice duo up front. Mix in some Elvis Dumervil and this becomes a very good line.
Commentary (Swag): Brodrick Bunkley didn’t have a bad season in there as the primary run stuffer, so to mix in someone like Fletcher Cox or Jerel Worthy, two DT’s with better pass rushing skills, would be a more valuable selection IMO.

26. (Swag) Houston Texans: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers - Andre Johnson is a stud, but he’s aging and injuries are becoming more prevalent. Other than Johnson the Texans have no receiving threat on the field (Minus Arian Foster). Jacoby Jones has been extremely inconsistent, disappearing at times, and Kevin Walter can’t stay healthy. The Texans need another option opposite Johnson and someone primed to take the #1 spot when his time in Houston is done. Sanu was a monster at Rutgers, pulling in 115 catches in 2011. At Rutgers. He has great size at 6’2” 215 pounds and catching the ball in traffic is a strong point. He will be a valuable option opposite Johnson while he develops and learns from one of the games best.
Commentary (TSB): I would have taken Sanu here too. Not much to argue except maybe they could use help on the defensive side of the ball if Mario Williams is allowed to walk away.

27. (TSB) New England Patriots: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois - The Patriots have an aging front line in desperate need of a youth infusion. Andre Carter, a guy I would have bet the farm was older than 32 years old led the team with 10 sacks in 14 games. Mark Anderson also had 10 sacks, but the Pats gave up over 411 yards per game. Mercilus who led college football in sacks last season (16) while forcing nine fumbles would be the situational pass rusher needed to bolster the line.
Commentary (Swag): The Patriots have obvious holes in their defense. I agree they need to target someone who can come in and help. Either along the DL or in the secondary because they’re pretty set at LB with Mayo and Spikes. They could use an OLB type like Mercilus as an edge rusher or someone like Fletcher Cox at DT to compliment Vince Wilfork.

28. (Swag) Green Bay Packers: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama - Hard to believe he’s still on the board, but he’s a perfect fit in Green Bay’s 3-4 defense. They badly need a compliment to Clay Matthews who was swarmed by constant double and triple teams all season long. Upshaw has been compared to a more athletic Lamaar Woodley, sure the Packers would love for this dream scenario to work out.
Commentary (TSB): With a big Combine, Upshaw could work his way into the top 10. When we do our mock draft 2.0 a few weeks from now, I would be willing to bet he will not be available for Green Bay here. Still, in this scenario, he’s a nice fit. Lots of talent still on the board, though.

29. (TSB) Baltimore Ravens: Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama - Back to back members of the national champs go off the board late in Round 1. Ray Lewis won’t last forever. The guy has to slow down eventually, right? It seemed like he lost a step in 2010 but regained his form last year. Either way, he can groom Hightower to lead this defense when he does decide to hang up the spikes.  
Commentary (Swag): Great fit for Baltimore, they need to start planning for life without Lewis whenever that may be, but at least they won’t be caught with their pants down. I could also see them taking Vontaze Burfict. He’s got a real mean streak which gets him in trouble on the field, but with a mentor like Ray Lewis and a lot of veterans, they could tap into the upside he brings while negating any character issues he may present. Both would fit nicely here.

30. (Swag) San Francisco 49ers: Reuben Randle, WR, LSU - Now this can be looked at as a stretch, but I like Randle as my sleeper this year. Plus we won’t know a whole lot until after the combine. I’d buy this guy now before his stock rises. He’s 6’4” and lean at 208lbs. He played in an anemic offense without much talent at the QB position and was still on the verge of 1,000 yards. The 49ers are in desperate need of a playmaker outside of Vernon Davis and someone opposite of the inconsistent Michael Crabtree. Alex Smith should now have another red zone target and a vertical threat to stretch the defense.
Commentary (TSB): I don’t see this as being a huge reach here. The defense had eight Pro Bowlers in 2011. Yea, that’s a pretty decent percentage. The offense couldn’t score to save its life in the red zone so they’ll be targeting offense early and often. I would be interested in seeing them take another tight end to pair with Davis to try to make themselves into the Pats of the West.

31. (TSB) New England Patriots: Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina - Physical freak. This dude is going to put up ridiculous combine numbers. Like most guys that played at UNC over the last few seasons, the bark has been bigger than the bite. His skill set would lead many to expect that Brown would have been more productive on the field, but maybe Belichick can mold him into a dominant force. His speed will fit in nicely on this defensive unit.
Commentary (Swag): Taking another edge rusher here really changes the dynamic of New England’s defense within two picks. To get two top speed rushers in the first round is a gift, and I’m sure the Patriots will benefit greatly from the infusion of young pass rushers.

32. (Swag) New York Giants: Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson – The Super Bowl was great for the Giants, just not their tight ends. Not one, but TWO of their pass catching tight ends went down with torn ACL’s and will likely sit out most of 2012. Good news is they weren’t as significant as Eli Manning made them. Regardless it still leaves a hole and really hampers the Giants flexibility with this pick. Dwayne Allen is an actual weapon at tight end, not only does this fill a huge hole on the roster, but it will make the Giants passing attack one of the toughest to defend in the league.
Commentary (TSB): Analysis of this pick will come in a future post.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

NFL Mock Draft with Swagstein (Part II)

For those who missed Part I, it can be found here.

1. (TSB) Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
2. (Swagstein) St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St.
3. (TSB) Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
4. (Swag) Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
5. (TSB) Tampa Bay Bucs: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
6. (Swag) Washington Redskins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
7. (TSB) Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
8. (Swag) Carolina Panthers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
9. (TSB) Miami Dolphins: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
10. (Swag) Buffalo Bills: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
11. (TSB) Kansas City Chiefs: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
12. (Swag) Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

Note: Even though my 11th pick (Morris Claiborne) won’t be correct, I feel even better with the rationale now that the Chiefs have signed Stanford Routt.

13. (TSB) Arizona Cardinals: Michael Brockers, DL, LSU - Here’s another team in desperate need of a quarterback. Unfortunately, no one in this year’s class seems worthy of being selected this high so they should focus on either of their lines. At this spot, I think Brockers offers the best value. He’s a versatile defensive lineman that could be paired nicely with Darnell Dockett to clog the interior. If the Cardinals can re-sign free agent Calais Campbell, this becomes a strength for Arizona.
Commentary (Swag): I like Brockers, think he’s top 10 talent but think this is around where he should go. Defensive tackles have been going pretty high over the last couple years, most falling flat, this seems like a perfect spot for Brocker. And not only on the board but the team as well. If Arizona can control the line of scrimmage in the NFC West, there isn’t a passing offense to be scared of, could make them an immediate threat in the division, see: 2011, 49ers, San Francisco.

14. (Swag) Dallas Cowboys: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama - The Cowboys have options here, could go with the taller, more physical, and safer pick with Dre Kirkpatrick out of Alabama, but we’re talking about the Cowboys and Jerry Jones here, so they’ll obviously go with the flashier pick and the player with the most off the field issues. Jenkins was a standout corner at Florida and a lock top-10 pick, but even though he majored in Social and Behavioral Sciences, he couldn’t figure out how to behave in society. He was arrested three times while at Florida, twice for drug related matters. This makes this a great pick for the Cowboys. Seriously though, they are in dire need of help in the secondary which has been getting shredded for a couple years now. Terrence Newman gave up almost 10 yards per attempt last season, and after getting absolutely embarrassed by Victor Cruz in the Cowboys finale last season, it’s obvious he is no longer a starter in the NFL. And since he is inexplicably signed through 2014 it is all but assured he’ll be released. The Cowboys need someone that can come in and challenge Orlando Scandrick for the starting CB spot opposite Mike Jenkins.
Commentary (TSB): Bold pick. I like the research into Jenkins’ major too. Corner is the obvious need here. Hard to argue the talent, but like you mentioned this dude has plenty of off-the-field issues. Approved.

15. (TSB) Philadelphia Eagles: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama - This guy is just too good to pass up here. Asante Samuel has had one foot out the door for about the last three years. Nnamdi (Nigerian for “overrated”) Asomugha has not lived up to the billing, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been a bit of a bust as well. In this division, teams need to stop the passing game, and Kirkpatrick would help do just that.  The Eagles also need some linebacking help, but with Kuechly off the board I’m not convinced the gap between someone they could get here with the 15th pick and someone they could get a round or two later is that large.
Commentary (Swag): Like was mentioned by TSB, LB is the need here, but value-wise that will have to be targeted in the second round. I agree with the sense a CB makes, but with the money they’ve invested in that area I can’t see them also burning a first rounder on it. It’s like admitting they made a huge mistake, and if they haven’t fired Juan Castillo on the more glaring mistake of making him DC, they won’t use this pick on a CB. I think besides LB, an area of need would be DT. For a team running a 3-4, this position is almost as important as QB, you need to find a nose tackle that you can plug in and rely on for years (ex: Haloti Ngata, Vince Wilfork, Casey Hampton), and I think a player like Dontari Poe out of Memphis is exactly that. A 6’4” 350 pounder that will anchor that line and eat up blockers. It will shore up a defense that is perennially poor in short yardage situations.

16. (Swag) New York Jets: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis – Because the Eagles let this big man stay on the board, the Jets scoop him up to fit right into their defensive scheme. Even though the Jets spent their first two picks of the 2011 draft on the D-line, guys this massive are rare, and when you have a chance to grab one you do it. The Jets once dominant defense has become pretty average. Since Rex Ryan took over, the Jets have never given up over 98 yards/game on the ground. They gave up over 110 yards/game on the ground in 2011. A presence like Poe in the middle can be a game changer, he’s still raw, but in the right system (IMO the Jets have it) and with the right coach (IMO the Jets have it), this guy can thrive and become a game changer. And with the dominant LB corps the Jets have, this kind of guy can make a huge difference. Jets could also look along the OL, either way they need help along the line of scrimmage.
Commentary (TSB): Analysis of this pick will come in a future post.

17. (TSB) Cincinnati Bengals: Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia - The Bengals need a running back badly to form a nice trifecta with last year’s top two picks, AJ Green and Andy Dalton. However, none is worthy of a pick this high. For reasons unbeknownst to me, this franchise refuses to trade up in the draft. If ever there was a year to do it, I think this would be it with the target being Trent Richardson. We aren’t forecasting trades though so I’m going conservative with Glenn, a guard that might be able to contribute from day one especially since Cincy is staring at a number of free agents along their o-line. Protect the QB.
Commentary (Swag): Again, I just can’t picture teams drafting guards in the first round, that’s just a personal thing. Like I know it’s been done before and all, I just can’t predict it, my mind won’t let me. If you’re in the bottom 5 of the first round and your rushing offense is THAT terrible, maybe…. But I don’t care how good you are as a guard, if you were that good you’d be a tackle, otherwise wait until the second round. That said, I think Cincinnati has two bigger holes, one is at CB where Leon Hall is coming back off injury and very likely won’t be ready by week 1. Nate Clements, 32 years old, and Pacman Jones are what’s left. With Kirkpatrick and Jenkins off the board, anyone else here would be a reach at this point, and they have another pick at 21. I can see them filling the other need with this pick, RB Lamar Miller from Miami. He just had shoulder surgery which has hurt his stock a little bit, but he’s a RB from the U and is an absolute homerun threat, something Cincinnati is lacking.

18. (Swag) San Diego Chargers: Jonathon Martin, OT, Stanford - Protect Philip Rivers. This is a top priority for SD, who (according to The San Diego Union-Tribune) will likely release LT Marcus McNeill to give them even more cap room. If they opt not to resign Jared Gaither they could take Martin here. If Martin can do it with all the pressure of protecting future #1 pick Andrew Luck, he’ll be ready to do it for Philip Rivers. I do think the Chargers need help at WR, but that’s pending on what happens with Vincent Jackson, we’ll know more in a couple of weeks.
Commentary (TSB): Another pick that makes sense here. Martin has been rumored to come off the board anywhere from third overall down into this area of the first round. Seems like a very good value pick to me.

19. (TSB) Chicago Bears: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor - This pick should take 0.004 seconds to happen. Perfect match between team need / player skill / draft value here. Jay Cutler would love this guy. If RGIII couldn’t overthrow this guy, no way Jay Cutler can. He’ll fit in nicely replacing Johnny Knox who got snapped in two late last season against the Seahawks (see below). Absolute no brainer.

Commentary (Swag): Can’t argue this pick, like you said it hit the trifecta. Just covers everything the Bears need right now. Some outlets are saying there are team execs that have this guy rated higher than Blackmon on their boards, so this is a tremendous value at #19.

20. (Swag) Tennessee Titans: Mark Barron, S, Alabama - I think their biggest need is the interior of the offensive line, but as I’ve made clear I hate wasting picks on that position in the first round, plus no one really fits here with the better prospects off the board already…. They do need help in their secondary, though. Aging veterans, lack of depth and free agent questions are all swirling. He’s by far the top safety in this draft and very good against the run with the size to do it (6’2”, 225 pounds). Fills a need and is a real good value at #20. Again, if I was Tennessee and could trade out of this pick I probably would. Wouldn’t mind some extra picks while targeting a CB or an interior lineman later in the round or even into the second round.
Commentary (TSB): I had my eye on Barron for the Lions pick at #23 so I think this is an appropriate range for this guy, but I’m not sold on the Titans actually needing a safety unless Michael Griffin bolts in free agency which seems unlikely at this point. Corner will be a need if Cortland Finnegan jets from Nashville, but this team was decimated by the run last year giving up almost 130 yards per game. I would have gone with one of the DT’s still on the board like Penn State’s Devon Still or Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy.

21. (TSB) Cincinnati Bengals: Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina - Four spots after they last picked, I still don’t see a running back on the board that is far superior to the rest. Lamar Miller has some pedigree, but I’m lukewarm on him as a player. If the Bengals add Jeffrey here, they could add someone like Boise State RB Doug Martin in the second round. With Jerome Simpson possibly going to Sam Hurd State Penitentiary for the foreseeable future, Jeffrey slots in nicely as the number two receiver behind AJG giving Dalton even more weapons. AJ Green, Jeffrey, Jermaine Gresham, Whiteboy Shipley, second round RB… fireworks in Ohio.
Commentary (Swag): If I had a real ratings system, Jeffrey wouldn’t be that high on it. Something about him screams “Mike Williams with the Lions”. He’s gained a good amount of weight and is playing heavy for a WR. It’s noticeable when you watch him, just no explosiveness, lack of acceleration and just slow in and out of breaks. Only balls you see him come down with seem to be jump balls, not him beating a defender or getting over the top of a defense. He just doesn’t fit for me in the first round. I also don’t see the pressing need for a WR right now, there’s more desperation in the backfield IMO. I do see your reasoning here if there was value that couldn’t be passed up, I just don’t see the need to reach for a WR over reaching for a more pressing need at RB. If Cincinnati is going to reach I’d also look at CB Alfonzo Dennard out of Nebraska who I think may be a better value pick here.

22. (Swag) Cleveland Browns: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami - Cleveland has a much bigger need area at WR, but with how this draft has transpired they’re going to have to wait to address that need. They still have a serious problem at RB, and with RG3 locked up it’s time to get him a weapon in the backfield. Miller was the first RB to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season since Willis McGahee in ’02, and he’s a burner. Wouldn’t shock me if he has the fastest time at the combine of any RB. He’s got Chris Johnson type of speed for a RB and can score from anywhere on the field. His ability to make plays in the passing game is still a question due to the small sample size, but if he can excel in that area he could be the steal of the draft.
Commentary (TSB): What about Peyton Hillis? I’m not sure why everyone is so sure he’s leaving town. He’s a year removed from a monster 1,177 yard / 11 TD season. It’s the year-after the Madden curse season. Why are the Browns so desperate for a running back when they have him as an internal option? Yes, he’s a free agent, but if they retain him they can give RGIII some more weapons, like one of the top tight ends in the draft. None has been taken so far so they can have their pick. Also, if Miller puts up Chris Johnson-type speed numbers at the Combine, I will be shocked.

23. (TSB) Detroit Lions: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State - We finally got to see what a healthy Matthew Stafford could do. The Lions need to do everything in their power to make sure he stays healthy, and that means keeping him upright. Adams ran into some off-the-field issues at Ohio State (selling memorabilia), but the reports I’ve been reading have all been positive in reference to his character. It’s not like he committed some crime. If he wasn’t a college athlete, and he sold some stuff on eBay, no one would have blinked. Plus, this year’s starting LT Jeff Backus is a free agent, and rumors have him fleeing for greener pastures. Wouldn’t be the worst thing to get younger at the position.
Commentary (Swag): The Lions need all the help they can get protecting Mr. Glass behind center. If they can keep him healthy they’re in every game, it’s just too bad most games are shootouts due to their horrendous secondary. I agree offensive line is their top priority, but wouldn’t be shocked if they considered taking Alfonzo Dennard here for some secondary help. Stafford needs all the help he can get to stay healthy, though.

24. (Swag) Pittsburgh Steelers: Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State - Torn ACL’s are the theme of the offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers: DT Casey Hampton, RB Rashard Mendenhall and OT Max Starks all went down with season ending ACL tears. The last two are the most significant as Mendenhall’s happened Week 17 and Starks blew his in the playoff loss to Denver. Barring miracle rehabs, neither will be ready by opening day. With depth at RB the Steelers aren’t desperate, but an aging and fragile offensive line before Starks’ injury makes this a serious need. Pittsburgh may not address it if they seek value over need with the pick, possibly opting for a versatile TE in Dwayne Allen out of Clemson, but investing in the protection of you oft-hit quarterback is never a bad move. If Dontari Poe falls to them here, he’d be the sure fit to replace Hampton at the nose, but the way this plays out this is the immediate need.
Commentary (TSB): I agree the Steelers need help on both their offensive and defensive lines, but Sanders doesn’t excite me at all as a prospect. I think the Steelers would be better off getting one of the top DT prospects (Still or Worthy) here and addressing the o-line later. 

Part III will be posted by Friday.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

NFL Combine Thoughts

With the NFL Combine happening next week (February 22-28), I figured I would share some thoughts on the event.

Note: This post has very little to do with actual football and more to do with me making fun of people with ridiculous names. If you are expecting a serious Combine preview, check out another site.

-Arkansas WR Joe Adams' real name is Adam. Yup, Adam Adams. 

-Oklahoma State DE Anton Blatnick goes by the name Jamie. Huge name downgrade.

-Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower's real first name: Qualin. Gotta say if I was going to change my name, there's a 99.97% chance my new first name would have an apostrophe in it.

-Coolest lineages:
  1. Darius Hanks, WR, Alabama, son of Merton
           (Huge gap)
  2. Davin Meggett, RB, Maryland, son of Dave

-Coolest football names:
  1. Uchechukwu Igwenago, RB, UMass
  2. Markus Kuhn, DT, NC State (Kuuuuuuuuu-hhhhhhnnnn)
  3. Rokevious Watkins, OT, South Carolina)
    Note: Bryan Anger (Cal) is ineligble because he's a punter

-Coolest first names:
  1. Xiangdre (Reliford, TE, Florida State)
  2. Rond'trique (Brooks, CB, LSU)
  3. Vontaze (Burfict, LB, Arizona State)

-The Andre Smith player most likely to go insane at this year's combine:
  1. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
  2. Chris Owusu, WR, Stanford (those concussions gotta catch up at some point)
  3. Eddie Pleasant, S, Oregon Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa

-Players most likely to sell their Combine gear:
  1(tie). Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
  1(tie). Devier Posey, WR, Ohio State
  1(tie), Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State

-I love the combine because of pictures like this every year:

Former Alabama DT Terrence Cody shows up to the 2010 NFL Combine in great shape
-I'm pulling for my boy Ryan Broyles to be healthy and have a great week. Would love for the Jets to get him. Dude catches everything. Also hoping Nebraska DL Jared Crick is back to near-full strength.

Friday, February 17, 2012

NFL Mock Draft with Swagstein (Part I)

Welcome to the second annual NFL mock draft featuring Swagstein and TheSportsBanter (TSB).  We got great feedback last year so we figured we would try it again.

A few things about this mock:
-We are predicting what we would do if we had each of these picks
-We are not projecting any trades
-We will be doing a more detailed mock at some point in April before the draft
-We will alternate picks and comment on each other’s selections

First Round

1. (TSB) Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford - This is the first time since 2003 (Carson Palmer) where there has been such little suspense over who the top pick will be. I think Luck will be a very good pro quarterback, but as I’ve mentioned about a dozen times, I am not buying the John Elway-type hype.  He still warrants the top pick, but I’m a little nervous that most of his college completions went to tight ends and running backs. That has to be a little bit of a red flag, no?  He also has huge shoes to fill in Indianapolis trying to replace the 6’ 5” rocket-armed quarterback. Tough spot for the kid but being the top pick means you have the weight of the city on your shoulders. Will Luck be able to handle it?
Commentary (Swagstein): Couldn’t have worded this better myself, I’m on the same page. He will go number one without much doubt as we countdown to March 8th to see if he’ll be mentored by Peyton Manning or not, otherwise he’s going to Indy. Personally I don’t see why he’s so supplanted as the number one pick (for two years in a row, as he would’ve gone 1 last year if he came out) when it seems like he’s already hit his ceiling. I don’t see major upside here compared to someone like Cam Newton, but should be a solid starter in the NFL, just don’t expect Peyton Manning 2.0 because he’s not it.
Fans in Indy hope this #1 pick is closer to Elway than David Carr

2. (Swagstein) St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St. - I don’t think I’ve ever seen a WR this gifted in a long time. That sentence seems to be written by someone every year, but I’d apply it to Blackmon. The guy has been unstoppable at the college level, looking straight up overpowering at times and very impressive after the catch. He looks as NFL ready as you can be, and that’s precisely what Sam Bradford needs. Bradford undoubtedly regressed in his sophomore campaign and a lot of that had to do with the limited number of weapons he has to distribute the ball to. With Brandon Lloyd more than likely leaving in free agency, Blackmon will add a reliable target to an offense that is in desperate for a weapon in the passing game.
Commentary (TSB): Love the idea of getting your young quarterback a solid WR to rely on. Seems like it almost makes too much sense. As guys like AJ Green and Julio Jones come in and dominate from day 1, maybe we can debunk this stupid myth that it takes three years for wide receivers to make an impact. Bottom line: if you are a stud, you can be a stud from the minute you step on the field in the NFL. Blackmon has been compared to Dez Bryant (size, college, skills) without the attitude. Sign me up for 8-10 years of that.

3. (TSB) Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC - The Vikings went all-in on Christian Ponder last year picking him 12th overall. I’ve gone on record as saying I am not a believer, but with solid protection and some more weapons at his disposal maybe he can prove me wrong. With Blackmon off the board in this scenario, there are no wide receivers worthy of a top-3 selection so we will upgrade the line for CP. Regardless of whom they choose here, Minnesota’s season hinges on one thing: the health of Adrian Peterson. If AP is shelved for half of 2012, they can start planning for another top-3 selection next year.
Commentary (Swagstein): Reasoning is perfect here, their season is and always has been dependant on AP – however, healthy or not I don’t see it making much of a difference for this team. I expect them in the top 10 of the draft again next year and although Vikings fans don’t want to hear that, they’ll be really excited for 2013. Take Kalil here, let him and Ponder get a full year of experience, add a weapon in next year’s draft and this team can flip to a contender very fast. Remember Ponder didn’t have a full offseason in 2011 due to the lockout, so I expect him to only get better this season…. Again, it won’t mean much for Minnesota in the short term. Plan for 2013.

4. (Swag) Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor - I know everyone is pretty much sugar coating this, but it’s extremely obvious the Colt McCoy project has crashed and burned. He never was an NFL caliber quarterback, but he got a shot due to his success in college, but his size and arm strength just can’t get it done in the NFL. RG3 doesn’t have that problem, he may lack ideal height but very much like Michael Vick he can make up for it in a lot of other areas. The ability to stretch the field with his arm strength and pull the ball down and run with it present matchup nightmares for defenses. I think this is a lot like Cam Newton’s situation last year, amazing athlete but questions about his actual QB skills. Cam Newton’s 2011 season puts a lot of anxiety to rest and I don’t see the Browns passing up on RG3’s tremendous upside. I can actually see a Browns WR leading the team in receiving yards in 2012.
Commentary (TSB): I missed that memo that Colt McCoy’s head got reattached after James Harrison decapitated him. Even with McCoy put back together, the talent disparity between RGIII and Colt is laughable. Last year the Browns revamped their D. It’s time to revamp the O in 2012. Crazy prediction: Cleveland will win the AFC North this season. Pittsburgh is aging quickly, Baltimore will be suffering a Cundiff hangover, and Cincy has too many holes. Love this pick.


Is RGIII the next Michael Vick (minus the stint in jail)?

5. (TSB) Tampa Bay Bucs: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama - New coach Greg Schiano turned around Rutgers thanks to an elite running back (Ray Rice). I’m thinking he tries the same thing with this sinking ship in Tampa Bay. In a very Mark Sanchez-like way, QB Josh Freeman regressed badly last year after a promising sophomore season in 2010. Get him a weapon in the backfield and maybe we chalk 2011 up to being the exception as opposed to the rule. Two interesting facts about the 21-year old Richardson: he’s an elite-power lifter (Alabama strength coaches put a cap on how much he could bench), and he fathered two children while he was in high school.  Tough, strong, skilled, motivated dudes are exactly the kind you want to build around.
Commentary (Swag): Great summary right here. Love the pick, at the very least it alleviates Legarrette Blount from shouldering all the carries, he has a big body but can only take so many hits. Richardson would be a great compliment (Think an in his prime Brandon Jacobs and a more athletic and talented and non-prosthetic ankle’d Ahmad Bradshaw). I’ve never been on the Josh Freeman bandwagon, actually thought his 2010 season was a fluke, but if Mike Williams can stay healthy and the running game staying a big part of the offense, he has a chance to get better this season. The Bucs put together a solid draft for their defensive front last year (Remember Da’quan Bowers? He was their second DL selection), time to start building up weapons on the offense. Richardson should be an absolute stud in the NFL.

6. (Swag) Washington Redskins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa - The Redskins have glaring holes all over the offensive side of the football, but at this spot in the draft (and with no ability in our mock to trade up), they have to take what they can get. Reiff is someone that can make an immediate impact assuming the Redskins can grab a QB in free agency. The teams current right tackle Jammal Brown may not be back according to Mike Shanahan, who has been quoted as saying his future depends on his health… And Brown has been unable to stay healthy. With his contract offering no more guaranteed money, odds are he’s gone. With Trent Williams anchoring the left side of the line, Reiff can use his run blocking skills on the right to solidify a line that was anything but that for the past couple seasons. I think the Redskins are in desperate need of a playmaker and WR, but at this point in the draft there’s nothing available. In reality I see them either trading up or trading back unless RG3 falls in their lap.
Commentary (TSB): Full disclosure: I know very little about scouting offensive linemen. However, I watched Iowa play about three times on ESPN2 this year (which was three times too many)and again in their bowl game, and I don’t remember this dude sticking out. It could have been the fact that Big 10 football is painful to watch, but I’m not crazy about this pick. I agree the Skins need a playmaker (and a quarterback), but they could also use a cornerback. They have to face the Giants (Nicks-Cruz), Eagles (Desean-Maclin), and Cowboys (Dez-Austin) six times each season. I would have gone with LSU CB Morris Claiborne here.

7. (TSB) Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame  - The Jags are another team that butchered the 2011 draft when they took QB Blaine “Pretty Boy” Gabbert instead of an actual difference maker. Jacksonville has exactly one offensive player that would start on more than half the teams in the NFL: MJD. After that, they got nothing. Floyd is probably a reach here so I would like to see them trade down even if it meant losing Floyd and grabbing someone like Baylor WR Kendall Wright or South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffrey. But, if they are going to give Gabbert a chance to be fairly evaluated, they need to get him someone to throw the ball to. Floyd is a great athlete who has a chance to be a legit #1 receiver for this franchise.
Commentary (Swag): Very hard to argue with this selection. The Jaguars ranked 6th in total defense last year, that will usually produce a decent record with a mediocre offense…. Problem is that Jacksonville didn’t have a mediocre offense, they had an absolutely terrible offense. They ranked dead last in yards per game. A closer look shows a 12th ranked rushing offense… A rushing offense in the top half of the NFL yet a total offense that’s dead last? What was their passing offense 48th in the league? Might as well have been with Blaine Gabbert at the controls. Well they were in fact dead last in the NFL in passing offense, even behind Tim Tebow and the Broncos, averaging a shade over 136 per game. With Gabbert behind center I don’t see a WR, even as one as gifted as Floyd, making a difference. Unfortunately for Jaguar fans, this is your quarterback, and nothing in the draft is going to help with that. Better hope a full offseason can bring out whatever it is the front office saw in him that made them pick him 10th overall in 2011.

8. (Swag) Carolina Panthers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina - This is a fun pick because Carolina shored up a lot of problems on offense by hitting a home run with their #1 overall pick last year in Cam Newton. The running game opened up for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart half way through the season as teams had to respect the pass as well as Newton’s legs. When you look to the other side of the ball you notice the Panthers at the bottom of the league in nearly every defensive category. Ask the NY Giants what gets you the most bang for your buck when needing to cover up a myriad of problems on defense – pressure. Coples is a beast at 6’6” and has the athleticism and length to play the edge in Carolina’s 4-3. Him opposite Charles Johnson (and his ridiculous contract) should make a nice DE combination. He’s rated as the #1 DE in the draft, and if he makes it to Carolina at #8 they should sprint up to Roger Goodell with the pick. Hometown product, should fit right in.
Commentary (TSB): Hard to argue with the pick. Coples has some off the field issues and has a reputation for taking plays off, but hopefully at the NFL level and being surrounded by the right people, he will get his act together.

9.    (TSB) Miami Dolphins: David DeCastro, G, Stanford - Quarterback might be the biggest need here, but taking a guy like Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill would be a reach since he was playing wide receiver two years ago. This team wants to win now which is why they will likely acquire their next starting quarterback via free agency, either Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning. If it is Peyton under center, Miami better protect him as one hit could end his career. Guard isn’t a sexy position to spend a top-10 pick on, but if you are going to be spending beaucoup dollars on a QB, you better invest in a line.
Commentary (Swag): Understand the logic here, but I can’t see a guard going in the top 10, just can’t see it. It’s a position that can be filled by a FA or an average player, especially if the team is trying to win NOW. No time for a rookie to get acclimated in a couple months to make any kind of significant impact, especially if he has to learn NFL terminology on top of Peyton Manning’s line of scrimmage language. Miami used their first rounder on a C/G in Mike Pouncey, I’ll say they go value here and get themselves a 3-4 OLB in Courteny Upshaw out of Alabama.

10. (Swag) Buffalo Bills: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College - 191 tackles. One hundred and ninety one tackles. Guy can flat out tackle. Was awarded the Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in 2011. Seems like the only thing he didn’t win was the Heisman. He was three tackles shy of breaking the FBS record for tackles in a single season, 13 tackles shy of breaking the FBS record for career tackles. Safe to say he broke the Boston College and ACC tackle record. That’s an impressive resume worthy of a top 10 pick, and the Bills are in need of a LB like this after seeing their own tackling machine Paul Posluszny escape in free agency after the 2010 season. Kuechly could stand to put a little more weight on his 6’3” frame to handle the middle in the NFL, but outside of that he has everything it takes to be the captain of a defense that ranked near the very bottom at stopping the run.
Commentary (TSB): That is impressive production out of a linebacker, and this defense was abysmal in just about every category so adding a guy like Kuechly will definitely help. They could also use a defensive end since they finished with the third-fewest sacks in the NFL last season, but I’m good with this pick.

11. (TSB) Kansas City Chiefs: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU - The Chiefs might lose CB Brandon Carr via free agency, and I think Claiborne would be a nice value pick here at #11. Kansas City’s pass defense was solid to begin with last season but adding MC and getting Eric Berry back might vault them to being the best in the league.   I was tempted to go with a defensive lineman here, but this franchise has spent too many high picks on that area (Glenn Dorsey, Tamba Hali, Tyson Jackson) that I don’t think they can stomach another one.
Commentary (Swag): Because the defense was solid even without Eric Berry, and to play devil’s advocate, I’ll look at the offensive side of the ball and say they’re in dire need of a vertical threat. Dwayne Bowe (if he returns) isn’t much of a vertical threat as it is, leaving an inconsistent (on and off the field) Jonathon Baldwin and a possession receiver in Steve Breaston. Wouldn’t be shocked if they looked to draft Kendall Wright out of Baylor to stretch defenses over the top. This will soften up the defense and should benefit a returning Jamaal Charles. If Claiborne is available at #11, that’s a steal.

12. (Swag) Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina - I think the Seahawks are desperate for a QB, but this is a hopeless spot in the draft for that. What I do see is a spot to get a pass rusher, which are shockingly scarce in this draft class. Chris Clemons has piled up 22 sacks the past two seasons, but where’s the help? Seattle had to use a 320-pound defensive tackle at DE last season in Red Bryant, along with two other DT’s on the field it created an impenetrable front – one of the best run defenses in the league… But that came at the expense of a pass rush. Ingram can help on the opposite side of Clemons and mix in and out with Raheem Brock, giving them a nice rotation of talent on the ends to keep them fresh on passing downs. In reality I’d imagine Seattle trying to move out of this spot and possibly drop back in the draft for a QB and a couple more picks. Wouldn’t be shocked if they looked for help at WR, possibly Ingram’s teammate Alshon Jeffery or Baylor’s Kendall Wright. I think Ingram presents much better value at this spot, though.
Commentary: Like you mentioned, this is a pretty strange spot in this draft. I won’t nitpick here because I think Ingram would help. He just doesn’t excite me although he is a pretty top-notch athlete as witnessed by this play:

Part II will be published on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Quick Super Bowl Recap

-I was four points off in my predicted score (23-19 vs actual score of 21-17) yet somehow managed to lose money on the game. Par for the course right now.

-The Giants got hot at the right time and got some lucky breaks/bounces in the last month and a half of the season:

Week 15: Lost to the Washington Redskins for the second time this season.

After this game, tides turn.

Week 16: Victor Cruz breaks three tackles against the Jets and races 99 yards for a touchdown
Week 17: Cowboys fail to show up
Wild Card Round: Falcons fail on two quarterback sneaks on fourth and 1
Divisional Round: Packers wide receivers come down with a case of the drops
NFC Championship: Kyle Williams happens
Super Bowl: Wes Welker drops huge fourth quarter pass. So do Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez

Not taking anything away from the Giants at all because in sports you make your own breaks, but this was an impressive run.

-I can't put my finger on one memorable thing from this Super Bowl. Pretty boring from beginning to end. Even Eli seemed like a default choice for MVP.

-Eli is going to the Hall.

-Tom Coughlin might too.

-The Mario Manningham catch was pretty awesome, but if that doesn't happen in the Super Bowl, I have a hard time believing it makes a Top 50 list for best catches this season.

-In typical Bill Belichick fashion, he cuts a player the night before the game. Karma caught up to BB.

-Low class move by Belichick not to show for the post-game press conference too.

-I guess Gisele's email pleas for prayers didn't help Tommy Boy.

-Great stat from's Don Banks:

The last nine Super Bowls have all now featured seven-point games in the fourth quarter.

-Despite the Giants winning the Super Bowl, I have to say I'm glad this season wasn't ruined by the lockout.

_Best commercial for me:'s "Kid Peeing in the Pool"

-14 days until pitchers and catchers report. Seven months until more football (September 6th).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What Kind of World Am I Living In?

A few weeks, a rumor was floating around that had the Mets shipping 3B David Wright to the Angels for OF Peter Bourjos. At the time and still today, I was and am appalled.

Wright is the face of the New York franchise. Since being plunked in the dome by Matt Cain, he hasn't been the same player, but he is still a productive middle-of-the-order bat that has the unfortunate task of playing for a weak team in a hitter's nightmare ballpark. In the past, I have advocated for him to be traded, but not for this little of a return.

Bourjos is a defensive-minded outfielder whose offensive value comes from putting the ball on the ground and hoping to beat throws to first. He has very little power and has not shown an ability to get on base consistently at the Major League level (granted, not a huge sample size with only 750 plate appearances but his minor league numbers won't blow you away either).

Is PB the soon-to-be face of the franchise in New York or bottom of the order hitter in Washington's lineup?

Even more troubling for me was FanGraph's Dave Cameron - a baseball mind that I respect - thought the Angels were the team that shouldn't make this deal. This seems like a classic case of saberists overvaluing defense. Defense is nice, but offense wins championships. Just ask the 2010 Mariners how well building an all-defensive team worked out for them.

Today in his weekly Sunday Baseball Notes column, Nick Cafardo mentions a rumor that has the Nationals trading John Lannan to the Angels for Bourjos saying:

Lannan, 27, is a terrific option as an end-of-the rotation starter now that Washington has signed Edwin Jackson. There is a lot of speculation that the Nationals will deal him to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourjos, with Mike Trout on the way to play that position in Anaheim.

Using the transitive corollary, this would mean John Lannan and David Wright have the same trade value!?!?

What. Kind. Of. World. Am. I. Living. In.

Full disclosure: I played high school baseball with John Lannan. He was a great kid then and I have nothing against. Conversely, I have always rooted for him to have as much success as possible, and I hope he wins four Cy Young Awards.

But this trade stuff is full on crazy talk even if they are just rumors.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Complete Opposite of Super Bowl

I’m not going to bore you with how much my sports life sucks right now because that happened two weeks ago already. Hopefully, you took my advice and made some money betting the AFC and NFC title games two Sundays ago.

Who am I rooting for this Sunday? First and foremost, I’m rooting for a defensive struggle (you will see why in a minute) and a very sloppy game. I haven’t decided yet which team I will support but at this point I have to lean towards the Giants. Just can’t bring myself to cheer for Bill Belichick in any game, ever.

Things I’ll be rooting for:

Under 55: For reference, the over/under for the Saints/Lions game a few weeks ago was 54. Of course, anything can happen and both offenses are capapble of singlehandedly putting up 40+ points, but setting the number at 55 is borderline preposterous. The defenses are getting way too little respect for squads playing as well as they have been in recent weeks.

Longest touchdown of the game under 49.5 yards: I’m feeling a game that has more field goals made than touchdowns scored so the (hopefully) few touchdowns scored just need to be from inside opponent territory.

Over 8.5 punts in this game: I’m going all in on these defenses.

A tie score after 0-0: I think this will be a close game so I’m hoping at some point these teams will be tied. 3-3, ideally.

Longest punt by Zoltan Mesko over 53.5 yards & Longest punt by Steve Weatherford over 53.5 yards: I finally found someone in this game to root for - the punters.

First TD NOT to be a passing TD: At 2/1, this seems like a good gamble. Maybe Ahmad or Danny Woodhead will scamper in from the 2-yard line.

Patriots score exactly 19 points: I couldn’t find a spot that would let me parlay both teams’ final scores so I took the Pats scoring exactly 19 points at 55/1.

Final score prediction: Giants 23-19. I’ve had decent success predicting final scores (see sidebar of homepage) and hoping this run continues.