WINNING & MUSING…VOLUME 1.22

Our first edition of W&M in 2022 is football heavy as usual, but that’ll change in the not-too-distant future. For now it is time to bid farewell to goal posts & penalty flags and say so long to QB sacks & onside kicks. Enjoy. 

Kudos to the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams. As a Steelers fan I wasn’t about to cheer for the Cincinnati Bengals, and I’m beginning to get a little uncomfortable with the sports media’s blatant attempts to position Cincy QB Joe Burrow as Tom Brady 2.0. The kid seems a bit too big for his britches (shout out to my late Grandma P.), so perhaps it’s best he was brought down a peg or two. Also, after wasting over a decade with the hapless Detroit Lions one can’t help but be happy for Rams’ QB Matthew Stafford (I bet Calvin Johnson wishes he would’ve gotten an opportunity to play football somewhere other than Detroit). The game itself was rather prosaic, although thankfully it wasn’t a blowout. I have no opinion about any of the commercials because I had company who is literally unable to STOP TALKING for longer than ten seconds at a time (it’s exhausting). I’m not going to crown the halftime show featuring nearly every old school rapper that hasn’t been shot yet as “the best EVER”, but it was sufficiently entertaining. That kind of music was never my jam back in the 90s, but if it was yours then you probably enjoyed the show way more than me. 

After an atrocious 1-7 record for each of us in the final week of the season, our Pigskin Picks of Profundity ended with yours truly scoring the season victory at 57-69, while Zach was 49-77 on the year. Although I wish we were more skilled prognosticators, as always it was so much fun doing these picks with my nephew, an annual tradition I’ve come to really appreciate.

In the wake of an ultra exciting weekend of playoff football a few weeks ago fans were calling the Chiefs-Bills clash that KC won in overtime one of the best football games they’d ever seen while lamenting the lame NFL OT rules that essentially allow a coin toss to decide the outcome. I don’t necessarily disagree with those sentiments, but I also have an alternative view. If I were in charge of the NFL overtime would follow the general idea of the current college football OT rules (more on that below), but let’s focus on defense. Y’all remember defense right?? We used to believe that “defense wins championships”, but that no longer seems to be true. Buffalo was up by three points in that game with thirteen seconds remaining. 13 seconds!! Yet they allowed Kansas City to get into field goal range with just a couple of long passes, which gave the home team an opportunity to execute the game tying field goal. While it is undeniably fun to watch great skill players & elite QBs throw haymaker after haymaker like what transpired between the Buffalo Bills & Kansas City Chiefs, let’s not get it twisted. The “Bills Mafia” can blame stupid overtime rules all they want, but the fact is that all their team had to do was stop the opposition from going 44 yards in 13 seconds and they failed. 

Congratulations to newly minted MLB Hall-of-Famer David Ortiz, who will be enshrined in Cooperstown this summer. Big Papi won three World Series with the Boston Red Sox, was a ten time All-Star, and had a .286 career batting average with 541 home runs in 20 seasons. Sadly, Ortiz’s moment was overshadowed a bit by hand-wringing over Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens not being selected in their final year on the ballot. I find it interesting that so many will passionately defend known defrauders of the game like Bonds & Clemens, yet they’re perfectly fine with Curt Schilling being excluded from the Hall of Fame. Schilling’s alleged mediocrity…6 time All-Star, 3 time World Series Champion, 3000+ strikeouts…is a weak excuse since we all know the real reason the powers-that-be don’t like him is because of his very candid political opinions. 

Y’all, I didn’t even keep track of college football’s bowl season while it was happening, but I did go back & check the numbers. Zach edged me by a couple of games in our Bowl-a-Palooza picks, going 18-19 while I was 16-21. Five bowl games were canceled altogether, while two games were played with altered matchups so those results were tossed aside. Between COVID, the transfer portal, star players opting out to prepare for the NFL Draft, & the coaching carousel, bowl season didn’t seem like very much fun this year. When the playoff is expanded something is going to need to be done to make the other games matter for fans and apparently players & coaches.

Okay, so let’s talk overtime. The current college football OT rules allow each offense to have the ball starting on their opponent’s 25 yard line, meaning they’re essentially in field goal range already. No matter what Offense A does Offense B gets the ball (also on the opponent’s 25 yard line). The wildcard is what does Offense A do with the ball?? At worst they’ll have an opportunity to kick a 41 yard field goal (unless they turn the ball over). That’s not a chip shot, but it’s more than makable in most circumstances. At best they’ll score a touchdown & put the pressure on the opposing team’s offense. Now here’s where it gets weird. If both teams trade matching scores and there is a second overtime, any TD must be followed up with a 2 point conversion instead of an extra point. Then, if we make it to a third OT, the teams just alternate 2 point plays (that start on the three yard line), which is basically a football variation of penalty kicks in soccer. I despise the two point conversion rule for overtime. In contrast, the NFL does have a kickoff (after a coin toss, with the winner of that always choosing to receive…obviously), and if Offense A scores a touchdown the game is over. If they score a FG or don’t score at all Offense B gets an opportunity. If Offense B matches what Offense A did then it becomes sudden death, and if the teams are still tied at the end of 10 minutes the game ends in a tie. My proposal would be a hybrid of the two differing systems, and would ideally be implemented on both levels…college & pro. Give Offense A the ball on the 50 yard line. I’m not usually a proponent of minimizing special teams, but in this case I believe it works best. The offense isn’t already in field goal range and has some work to do, while the defense has a legit opportunity to do their job. No matter what happens Offense B will get a chance to possess the football. Unlike the current college system I would have a time clock, but, as opposed to current NFL rules, I’d bump the extra period back up to 15 minutes (I don’t like ties but can live with the theoretical yet unlikely possibility that it could happen). No team would ever be forced to attempt a two point conversion unless they choose to do so. 

I would be remiss not to mention the retirement of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Thankfully it wasn’t a surprise, and it was time. I don’t know if all the blame belongs with offensive coordinator Matt Canada, or if Big Ben just didn’t have an arm anymore, but the offense had become painful to watch. I enjoy an occasional screen pass, and realize “bubble screens” specifically have become part of football, but I just don’t believe throwing the ball five yards or less downfield constantly is productive, especially when defenses are expecting it. To be clear, I am aware that the Steelers’ offensive line was abysmal this past season & needs a major overhaul. I’m not completely sold on the receiving corps either: Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, & JuJu Schuster aren’t nearly as great as they believe themselves to be. Aside from those issues though, an aging quarterback with zero mobility & a weakening arm simply doesn’t bode well, especially when the AFC boasts young guns who can move like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, & Joe Burrow. Roethlisberger was never fast, but he always had tremendous escapability that allowed him to scramble & extend plays. That escapability had noticeably diminished, and when combined with a poor offensive line & questionable play calls the Steelers offense was doomed. So, as the Steelers & all the fans prepare to move forward, right now I want to give one last shoutout to Ben Roethlisberger. It has been a joy to watch you, from the moment I gathered with co-workers at a local sports bar on that spring day 18 years ago & watched my Steelers draft you with the eleventh pick, thru two Super Bowl victories, all the way to a bitterly decisive playoff defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs last month. More importantly, it has been delightful to see you evolve from an impetuous young man into a mature & responsible husband, father, leader, & adult. People still like to bring up the past & criticize you for mistakes made 15 years ago, but I’d tell those people to clean their own house first. None of us are perfect, and you’ve gone thru your battles very publicly. From a football perspective I wish you’d have gotten atleast a couple more opportunities in the Super Bowl, but so many factors play into that. You got us two Lombardis & provided many other great memories. I don’t know if coaching or ownership or anything football related is in your future, but as a fan I sincerely hope to have you as part of the Steelers organization in some capacity down the road.

Winning & Musing…Volume 3.17

For the past few weeks I’d been feeling really upbeat & blessed. Springtime. Sunshine. Birds chirping. Occasional use of the AC. But at the moment it is raining here in Appalachia and has been for a few days. There’s a November-esque chill in the air. I’ve had to wear a coat again and get the comforter out of the closet. I’m sniffling, sneezing, & taking antibiotics. I hate feeling this way. I hate this weather, especially since IT’S MAY!!!! Thankfully the sports calendar remains robust, and those hours of relaxation & delight ease the burden. Let’s unwind and have some fun.

 

 

 

 

NBA Playoffs Drinking Game: Do a shot or chug a beer (drinker’s choice) every time one of the announcers says “pick & roll”. You might pass out by halftime or possibly need to go to the ER to have your stomach pumped. Either way you probably won’t be around for the end of the game.

 

 

 

A few thoughts about the recent NFL Draft:

*I’m a traditionalist, so I wasn’t too sure about the NFL’s decision to move the draft away from New York to an outdoor venue in Philadelphia, but WOW…what a great idea it turned out to be!! The passionate fans in Philly showed up in droves…about 100k each of the three days…and really infused a ton of energy into the event. Kudos to those fans, and a tip of the cap to whomever decided to try something new after the draft had essentially been in the same comfort zone for a couple of decades.

*Speaking of stepping outside one’s comfort zone, I finally transitioned to the NFL Network as the home base for my draft coverage instead of ESPN, and it was a great choice. I found the talking heads on NFL Network to be much more focused & knowledgeable than their counterparts. Mike Mayock especially is multiple levels above ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. Whoever is running the NFL Network obviously knows what butters their bread and understands the kind of reporting fans truly desire. Perhaps they should ponder creating an all-sports network that actually concentrates on sports. Wouldn’t that be a novel idea??

*I’d give my Steelers a B+ on their 2017 draft. I love the first round choice of linebacker TJ Watt. If he’s anywhere near as talented as his brother JJ he’ll be an all-pro for the next dozen years, which would be nice. The Steelers did address concerns about the secondary with 3rd & 5th round picks of guys I’ve never heard of. I’d like to have faith in the braintrust in Pittsburgh, but my preference would have been to prioritize the position with potential starters rather than players that’ll probably need a couple of years to develop. I know a lot of Steeler fans are excited about second round choice JuJu Smith-Schuster, a wide receiver from USC, but I have an irrational disdain for people with hyphenated surnames, so I can’t seem to get psyched about the pick. I’m not knowledgeable enough to expertly criticize the choice of a long snapper in the sixth round, but it seems like a wasted pick to me. I really like 3rd round running back James Conner (even though he played for Pitt) and 4th round quarterback Josh Dobbs out of Tennessee. Conner should become an immediate contributor as a backup to Leveon Bell, and Dobbs can learn for a year or two or three from Ben Roethlisberger. Whether Dobbs settles in as a career backup, becomes a worthy successor to Big Ben someday, or is a complete bust, the pick itself is solid and could end up being much more.

*I’m really surprised that the New England Patriots didn’t trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a QB needy team. If I were Garoppolo I’d want out not only for an opportunity to start somewhere, but because it’s a bad idea to be the guy who replaces The Guy. When Tom Brady FINALLY retires the person replacing him will be faced with two options. Failure would further inflate (ha!) perception of Brady as “the greatest quarterback EVER!!” and pretty much stop the replacement’s career in its tracks. Conversely, if the Patriot train keeps on rolling even after Brady leaves then it would diminish his legacy while inflating (I just can’t help myself) the status of head coach Bill Belichick. Either way it’s an odd position to be in for Garoppolo.

*In my mock draft I opined that none of the available quarterbacks were first round worthy, yet three of them were taken. The Chicago Bears traded away two 3rd round picks & a 4th rounder to move up ONE spot for North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky. Seems a bit much to me, especially for such an unproven player. Kansas City traded a 3rd round pick and next year’s 1st rounder to move up for Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes. I like Mahomes better than Trubisky, especially since he’ll be able to sit for a couple of years and learn from Alex Smith, but it still struck me as an expensive trade. The Houston Texans traded away next year’s first round choice to go up & grab Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, and I think it might actually be looked upon as a wise transaction in a few years. Watson will probably be the rookie quarterback pressed into starting the quickest, but he also has the best team surrounding him. If Watson fulfills the potential I think he has the Texans could win a Lombardi Trophy in the not too distant future.

 

 

A melancholy Happy Trails to The Sports Reporters, which has been cancelled by ESPN after almost three decades on the air. Admittedly I was not a faithful viewer of the show because it was usually on while I was on the way to church, and for some reason I never recorded it like I’ve done so much stuff since the DVR became a thing. However, I always enjoyed the program when circumstances allowed me to catch it. Debate shows about sports are a dime a dozen now, but I assume The Sports Reporters was one of the prototypes, if not the founding father of the format. Unlike many of the current shows on the air, Reporters was a more tranquil & erudite conversation. Though I am sure most of the “journalists” that appeared over the years were your typical leftists, sociopolitical issues or “progressive” bias never seemed to be a part of Reporters’ DNA. The focus…as it should be…was on sports. The discussions were thoughtful and intelligent, not reactionary. Perhaps the emphasis on sports and lack of brash & colorful personalities is what led to the cancellation, which makes it even sadder. Google “misplaced priorities” and you’ll probably get directions to Bristol, CT.

 

 

 

 

Unlike many folks I am not all that broken up about the impending retirement of Dale Earnhardt Jr. I wish him well in his new marriage and future endeavors, which I assume will eventually include being a NASCAR team owner. However, let’s be honest…Dale Jr.’s popularity has never been about Dale Jr. It’s about his name. It’s about his legacy. It’s about the tragic death of his father. Many cheered for the elder Earnhardt, so they transferred that loyalty to his son. But when Dale Jr. sold out that heritage to join a super stable at Hendrick Motorsports that included Jeff Gordon & Jimmy Johnson it felt…atleast to me…like Larry Bird leaving the Celtics to join Magic Johnson’s Lakers, or Peyton Manning spending his last few years in the NFL with the New England Patriots as Tom Brady’s backup. It left a proverbial bad taste in my mouth, and became the first of multiple factors that eventually led to me putting my NASCAR fandom on the backburner. Your mileage may vary, and that’s okay, but I’m just being honest.

 

 

Speaking of ESPN…..

Of all the talking heads that The Mothership recently canned, I must give a shout out to a special few. Baseball reporter Jayson Stark called in weekly to Mike & Mike, regularly stumping Greeny & Golic with difficult trivia questions. It was a fun & informative segment and I’ll miss it. Ed Werder added low-key gravitas to NFL coverage, while Andy Katz did the same for discussions about college basketball. I guess neither one is colorful or loud enough for ESPN now. NFL analyst Trent Dilfer & MLB analyst Doug Glanville are former players that got jobs in sports media, which of course isn’t unusual. Unfortunately it seems like they also were a little too cerebral in the eyes of whatever moron is making these decisions at ESPN. Anchors Jade McCarthy & Sara Walsh are both lovely ladies, but they’re both now unemployed. I first encountered Jay Crawford when he hosted Cold Pizza, which eventually morphed into First Take. He seems like a cool guy, but made the misstep of thinking that anchoring Sportscenter was the Holy Grail, which it no longer is. He should’ve stayed on First Take. Former Florida State quarterback & college football analyst Danny Kanell strikes me as kind of a tool, which makes his ouster rather odd since it seems like that’s what the network embraces now. Anchor John Buccigross had been around for a couple of decades and embodied the second generation of glib sarcasm popularized back in the Dan Patrick/Keith Olbermann days. Bucci seems like a good dude and I hope he lands a gig somewhere. The most popular target of fans upset by this bloodletting in Bristol has been Stephen A. Smith, as in “I can’t believe (insert fired person’s name here) is gone but Stephen A. still has a job!!”. That reaction was so vociferous & so ubiquitous that Smith actually felt compelled to speak up and defend his credentials. While he certainly isn’t my favorite personality I don’t necessarily take issue with Stephen A.’s continued employment. However, he does exemplify what ESPN is about now…ratings brought by outspoken personalities who aren’t afraid to let their sociopolitical agenda bleed into sports debate. It’s a bold strategy Cotton…let’s see if it pays off for them.

 

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 2.17

We made it sports fans!! We survived the post-Super Bowl darkness and spring has arrived with a plethora of awesomeness being spoon fed to us as we slumber on our couches or other favorite furniture. It’s always great to be a fan, but these last couple of weeks have been…as always…a high point on the calendar. Let’s discuss.

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to the North Carolina Tar Heels, winners of their 7th national championship, three of those coming under the leadership of current head coach Roy Williams. I can’t honestly say I watched a lot of the title game. It was Monday night…the night after Wrestlemania…and wrestling is a priority at The Bachelor Palace. I checked out emotionally after my WV Mountaineers were defeated by Gonzaga, which is also the reason why, despite almost always being a guy who cheers on the underdog, I was pulling for UNC.

 

 

 

I didn’t get to watch as much of The Masters as I’d prefer because my work schedule pretty much wrecks every weekend, but congratulations to Sergio Garcia for finally fulfilling his potential. I would have much rather seen my man Phil Mickelson or even Jordan Spieth in contention on Sunday, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

 

 

 

So I guess the NHL playoffs have begun. I suppose they do those things. Someone call me if/when the Pittsburgh Penguins make it back to the Stanley Cup finals. Until then I’ll be reading a book or watching Big Bang Theory reruns.

 

 

 

A melancholy farewell to Steelers owner Dan Rooney. Everybody fondly recalls his father Art, aka The Chief, but the truth is that Dan had been a guiding force for the team as far back as the late 1960’s. I’m not sure what the future holds for my Steelers. The Rooney family only owns about 30% of the team, and a large part of the family has walked away from football, choosing to make money in horse racing & gambling instead. I hope we don’t see the day that the primary ownership is not in Rooney hands, but that may very well happen in the future.

 

 

 

Is there a bigger tool in the universe than this clown Lamar Ball?? He’s made himself the story, which is sad for his kids. Even other helicopter parents are ashamed. His oldest son will be leaving UCLA early (we’ll see how that works out), and if I’m Bruins’ head coach Steve Alford I might consider pulling the scholarship offers for the two younger brothers. No amount of talent is worth the embarrassment & aggravation that the father brings to the table.

 

 

 

The NBA playoffs are about to begin, so I suppose now I’ll start paying attention. For now though, allow me to opine that a favorite debate amongst the talking heads…the subject of NBA teams “resting” players…is asinine. Both sides have their salient points, but I don’t ever remember this even being a topic of discussion until the last few years, so I assume it is a fairly new strategy. Should a grown man…a professional athlete…be in good enough condition to play each & every game unless he is injured?? Theoretically…yes. However, I despise the argument that these players & teams somehow owe the paying fans the pleasure of seeing them play. First of all, it’s a team sport. You should being cheering for the Cleveland Cavaliers…not LeBron James. Or the Golden State Warriors…not Steph Curry. Now I’m not naïve…I know that, in reality, it doesn’t work that way. The NBA has spent decades marketing individual stars…Magic, Bird, Dr. J, Jordan, Barkley, Kobe, Shaq…over teams. I’ve never liked it, and now I think it’s funny that the strategery is biting them in the ass. Secondly, while I am well aware of the business aspects of the situation, the bottom line is that the goal is to win a championship. If a coach believes that sitting some of his superstars for a few meaningless regular season games so that they’ll be healthier for the playoffs is a good idea then that is his right to do so, and Joe Sixpack in Milwaukee or Sacramento or Philadelphia or Orlando has nothing to do with it…nor should he. One thing the NBA could do is restructure the season. While I think ideas being tossed around about cutting the number of games in half are stupid, I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to scale back to 75 regular season games (from 82) and schedule back-to-back or even three game series (like baseball already does) during the season to minimize travel. I’d also revamp the post-season. Six teams from each conference make the playoffs (down from the current eight). Perhaps a first round bye for a couple of teams, or maybe even a second round bye for whichever of three teams wins their first series the quickest. Make first round series three games, and the other rounds five games. Only the NBA Finals would be seven games. I know that’s all crazy talk. The owners aren’t going to sacrifice revenue. I’m just thinking out loud.

 

 

 

I’m getting jazzed for the upcoming NFL Draft. It’s a source of much amusement to watch the weeks leading up to the draft, when all the suits & the talking heads go into paralysis by analysis mode and overthink everything. None of the available quarterbacks are worth a first round pick, but you can be sure that a few of them will get chosen in the first round. A guy like Deshaun Watson, who won a national championship, is being downplayed, while freakin’ Mitch Trubisky, who led his team to a loss in the Sun Bowl, is apparently the next John Elway. Dalvin Cook…the best running back in the draft…is “free falling down draft boards”. Leonard Fournette is either the next Adrian Peterson or the next Ki-Jana Carter, depending on who you believe. It’s all quite silly, but I can’t wait until the actual event. I hate that they’ve stretched it out to three days now, but it is what it is.

 

 

 

As of this moment my Pittsburgh Pirates are 3-6 and at the bottom of their division. I’ll give the season another couple of dozen games before I start to panic. I must admit that I haven’t watched even one pitch of a Pirates game thus far. The past few weeks have been rather busy in The Manoverse and more urgent matters have taken up my time, but I foresee a lull in the chaos after Easter, so I’ll be sure to check out my Buccos…or do I want to subject myself to the frustration?? Ehhh…who am I kidding?? The Pirates have been a source of exasperation for atleast half of my life. I’m a glutton for punishment.

2015 NFL Mock Draft

nfl-footballI’ve been debating on whether or not to even bother with a mock draft this year, but with just over 24 hours to go until the real deal I just can’t resist. I’m just doing a two round mock because after that we’d get into players I’ve never heard of and I really wouldn’t have any idea what I was talking about. The picks you’ll see here are based on a hybrid approach of what I would do, what I think teams need to do, & what I think is most likely to actually occur. I have no inside knowledge about salary cap issues, contract negotiations, or what players may or may not do or where they may go in the future. The truth is that the NFL Draft is somewhat of a crapshoot. Tim Tebow was a first round draft choice, while Tom Brady lasted until the sixth round. In the same year that Kurt Warner went undrafted Heath Shuler was selected 3rd overall. It may be random, but it’s fun randomness. I’ll watch. You’ll watch. It’ll be a good weekend. Enjoy.

 

 

 

Round 1

1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Jameis Winston (Florida St.)
If it were me I’d trade out of this spot for a boatload of picks. I’m just not a Jameis Winston Tampa_Bay_Buccaneers_Helmetfan. While I think it is too harsh to compare him to Jamarcus Russell, I do believe that Winston is more trouble than he is worth. Guys like him always have a posse, and I think it’d be beneficial for him to get as far away from his posse as possible. He’s too much of a celebrity in Florida and needs distance from any environment that may feed into his sense of entitlement. Unfortunately for all involved that’s not going to happen. No one is going to offer the Bucs enough for this pick, and the suits there will roll the dice. Hopefully the 275 miles between Tampa & Tallahassee will be enough for Winston to stay out of trouble.

 

 

2 Washington Redskins (via trade w/ Tennessee Titans)
LB/DE Dante Fowler (Florida)
It’s way too soon for the Titans to give up on 2014 sixth round pick Zach Mettenberger, who I Washington_Redskins_logothink can be a solid NFL quarterback. I’d trade this pick, and I think Tennessee will. The question is to who?? Philly is probably too far down at #20 to jump into this spot. Cleveland has the ammo to make the swap, but I think they are likely to play it safe this year after the botched pick of Johnny Football in 2014. The Jets?? Maybe. St. Louis?? It’s unlikely. There’s been a lot of talk about San Diego swapping Philip Rivers for this pick, but I’d be surprised if they actually pulled the trigger. At the end of the day I think it is extremely possible that a team jumps into this spot…but NOT for a quarterback.

 

 

3 Jacksonville Jaguars
LB/DE Vic Beasley (Clemson)
The Jags reportedly were set to take Fowler, but the trade messes up the detail. No worries Jacksonville_Jaguarsthough. Beasley is just as good…maybe better.

 

 

4 New York Giants (via trade w/ Oakland Raiders)
DT Leonard Williams (USC)
The Raiders are said to be willing to trade out of this spot, and so they shall. The GiantsGiants Logo braintrust will sprint to the podium to choose Williams.

 

 

5 Tennessee Titans (via trade w/ Washington Redskins)
DE Bud Dupree (Kentucky)
So the Titans traded down and Marcus Mariota is still on the board. What to do?? They could Tennessee_Titans_Helmettrade down again and amass even more draft picks, but let’s not get crazy. They’ve had their fun and now it’s time to get down to business. Dupree might be just a bit of a reach here, but I think the gamble just might pay off.

 

 

6 New York Jets
RB Todd Gurley (Georgia)
I predicted before he was even drafted that Geno Smith would be a bust and thus far that Jets-Pin-Prohas been the case. However, I think it is way too early to give up on him, especially when Mariota is far from a slam dunk choice. And while the receiving tandem of Brandon Marshall & Eric Decker hardly strikes fear in opposing defensive backs they are good enough that the Jets don’t have to spend a 1st round pick on a wideout. Conversely, a backfield of Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, & Stevan Ridley just ain’t gonna cut it, though they do provide quality depth that will enable the Jets to ease Gurley into action coming off an ACL tear during his junior season at Georgia.

 

 

7 Chicago Bears
WR Kevin White (West Virginia)
Jay Cutler is the most overrated quarterback in the NFL, and folks are starting to figure that chicago-bears-logo13out. Does that mean the Bears jump on Mariota here?? I don’t think so. The insufferable Cutler would be even more gloomy than usual if he had to train his replacement, and that wouldn’t be good for anybody. So I think the Bears make the safe choice and bolster their receiving corps.

 

 

8 Philadelphia Eagles (via trade w/ Atlanta Falcons)
QB Marcus Mariota (Oregon)
A few things are in play here. Both pass rushers that the Falcons coveted…Fowler & philadelphia_eagles-3715Beasley…are off the board. Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly is foaming at the mouth while simultaneously dancing a jig because Mariota is still on the board. #2 was too high for Philly to leap to, but #8 is more palatable. And the Browns are just a few picks away. So at this point Kelly practically has an orgasm as he lands the player he wanted all along.

 

 

9 Oakland Raiders (via trade w/ NY Giants)
WR Amari Cooper (Alabama)
The Bears made this an easy choice for Oakland.raiders

 

 

10 St. Louis Rams
OT Brandon Scherff (Iowa)
The best player available also happens to be a position of need for the Rams. You gotta love St_Louis_Ramsit when things work out like that.

 

 

11 Minnesota Vikings
OT Andrus Peat (USC)
The Vikings have a plethora of needs, so they can go in a lot of different directions. There’s vikingshelmet1probably no one worth a team trading up for, so it is unlikely that Minnesota can trade out and stockpile extra picks. My philosophy is, when in doubt take a lineman.

 

 

12 Cleveland Browns
NT Danny Shelton (Washington)
As mentioned, I believe it is likely that the Browns will take the low key, safe approach this Cleveland_Browns_Helmetyear. Football teams are built in the trenches, and Shelton address a need.

 

 

13 New Orleans Saints
WR Devante Parker (Louisville)
Yes quarterback Drew Brees is 36 years old, but I don’t think the Saints are going to find his New-Orleans-Saints-Logo-244x300successor this year, especially in the first round. The best thing New Orleans can do is give Brees another weapon. They traded away tight end Jimmie Graham. Marques Colston is a solid receiver but has lost a step or two. Brandin Cooks…all 5ft.10, 189 lbs. of him…is a good slot receiver, but not really a true top tier guy. I think the powers-that-be in The Big Easy would be thrilled to see Parker slide this far.

 

 

14 Miami Dolphins
CB Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest)
Word on the street was that the Dolphins really like Gurley, but he is off the board. So now Miami_Dolphins_Helmetwhat?? The top three receivers are gone as well, and there isn’t another one worthy of this choice. Johnson has been steadily climbing draft boards across the land, and he would certainly upgrade Miami’s defensive backfield.

 

 

15 San Francisco 49ers
CB Trae Waynes (Michigan St.)
It seems like ‘Frisco lost half their defense in the past several months. They have been to 3 49ersout of the last 4 NFC title games and narrowly lost the Super Bowl just three years ago, but the 49ers are now in rebuilding mode. This pick has to be defense, and the best player available is Waynes.

 

 

16 Houston Texans
LB Eli Harold (Virginia)
This is a little bit of a reach, but needs are needs. The Texans’ defensive success revolves houston texans logo2heavily around whether or not Ja’daveon Clowney lives up to the hype. Why not make his task a bit easier??

 

 

17 San Diego Chargers
RB Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin)
The Chargers’ suits will look like Usain Bolt taking this card to the podium.San_Diego_Chargers_Helmet3

 

 

18 Kansas City Chiefs
OT Ereck Flowers (Miami, FL)
It’s not a sexy pick, but anytime a team can upgrade their offensive line I think it is a good kc-chiefs-logochoice.

 

 

19 Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo)
TE Maxx Williams (Minnesota)
The Browns addressed the defensive line with their first choice. Now I think they need to Cleveland_Browns_Helmetreplace Jordan Cameron, who they lost in free agency. Whomever ends up at quarterback for Cleveland is going to need weapons. The top tier receivers are gone, but we know how valuable a solid pass catching tight end can be in the NFL. This is a pick that the Browns received from the Bills last year so Buffalo could move up and select receiver Sammy Watkins.

 

 

20 Atlanta Falcons (via trade w/ Philadelphia Eagles)
LB/DE Shane Ray (Missouri)
The Falcons land in this position after trading with the Eagles so Chip Kelly could go get falconsMarcus Mariota. I assume any such deal would include several other draft choices as well. At any rate, it works out great for Atlanta in this scenario, as Ray, a player once thought to be a potential Top 10 pick, tumbles a bit due to a foot injury, an unimpressive pro day, & an arrest for marijuana possession.

 

 

21 Cincinnati Bengals
OT La’el Collins (LSU)
The Bengals would have loved Shelton, but their in-state division rivals stole him away. Plan Cincinnati_Bengals_HelmetB…as always…is to add the best offensive lineman available.

 

 

22 Tennessee Titans (via trade w/ Pittsburgh Steelers)
OT TJ Clemmings (Pitt)
The Steelers could go in one of two directions…linebacker or defensive back. I like a third Tennessee_Titans_Helmetoption…trading down to stockpile an additional pick or two. The Titans should have some extra ammo after trading out of the #2 position, and they use it here to trade back into the first round. With that pick they solidify their offensive line. Not bad for a day’s work.

 

 

23 Detroit Lions
DT Malcolm Brown (Texas)
The Lions lost both Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh in free agency. They also signed Hali Detroit_Lions_HelmetNgota away from Baltimore, but he’s a bit long in the tooth. More help is necessary, and this is it.

 

 

24 Arizona Cardinals
LB Eric Kendricks (UCLA)
The Cards would have loved to snag a running back, but with Gurley & Gordon both off the cardinals-helmetboard there isn’t another tailback worth a first round pick. Kendricks fills a need and adds some youth to a defense that is getting a bit creaky.

 

 

25 Carolina Panthers
OT DJ Humphries (Florida)
The top priority in Carolina is keeping quarterback Cam Newton healthy so he can do that CarolinaPanthersthing that he does. To that end it is necessary for the Panthers to upgrade their offensive line.

 

 

26 Baltimore Ravens
WR Breshad Perriman (UCF)
The Ravens lost receiver Torrey Smith in free agency and Steve Smith is practically collectingravens_preview_flat social security. Perriman will benefit from the leadership of a veteran team as he transitions into the NFL.

 

 

27 Dallas Cowboys
DT Eddie Goldman (Florida St.)
Quarterback Tony Romo seems convinced that the Cowboys have a legitimate shot to win the dallas-cowboys-dallas-cowboys-15496395-1280-1024Super Bowl. I personally don’t see it. Replacing running back Demarco Murray with Darren McFadden is like trading in a 2015 Audi for a 2010 Kia, but I don’t think there is a running back on the board that has value at this spot. It seems likely that Dallas will look at beefing up the defense here, and Goldman has been the subject of much positive chatter lately.

 

 

28 Denver Broncos
OT Eric Fisher (Oregon)
Much like the situation in Carolina, the Broncos need to focus on keeping their quarterback broncos-4759upright. This is probably Peyton Manning’s last chance to win another Super Bowl, and he’s got plenty of weapons. The defense was addressed last year, so now it’s time to add some youth to the offensive line.

 

 

29 Indianapolis Colts
S Landon Collins (Alabama)
All the talking heads seem to agree that the Colts’ biggest need is at safety. Who am I to Indianapolis_Colts_Helmetdisagree??

 

 

30 Green Bay Packers
CB Marcus Peters (Washington)
Linebacker Julius Peppers is 35 years old, but it would be a reach to choose his successor Green_Bay_Packers_Helmetwith this pick. Instead I think the Packers upgrade their defensive backfield. Peters has had some off the field issues, but I don’t think it’ll be a big deal in the long run, especially if he ends up with the right organization.

 

 

31 New Orleans Saints (from Seattle)
G Laken Tomlinson (Duke)
The Saints have this pick after trading All-Pro tight end Jimmie Graham to the Seahawks. With new_orleans_saints-logo-in-gold-background24their first choice I gave them a receiver to soften the blow of Graham’s departure. In this spot I think they need to upgrade the interior of their offensive line. It’s not the kind of choice that excites fans, but it is a solid building block essential to championship teams.

 

 

32 New England Patriots
WR Nelson Agholor (USC)
What do you get the team that has everything?? Well, the truth is that the Patriots have rarely New_England_Patriots_Helmethad top notch talent, especially at the skill positions. It is head coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady, & tight end Rob Gronkowski that makes this engine purr like a well fed cat. Is there a receiver or running back with good value in this spot?? Maybe. Rumors are that Belichick is enamored with Agholor. I think it is a little bit of a reach, but if anyone can afford to roll the dice it’s the Pats.

 

 

 

Round 2

33 Pittsburgh Steelers (via trade w/ Tennessee Titans)
CB Byron Jones (Connecticut)
The Steelers find themselves in a very interesting situation. This pick almost certainly needs to be a cornerback, and there are 3 or 4 still available that seem like a good fit. My preference is for Jones because of his size & versatility. He can play at corner or fill in at safety, and may even be a good candidate to eventually move to safety full time.

 
34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DE Randy Gregory (Nebraska)
The Bucs have their franchise quarterback, even if I’m not a huge proponent of the choice. Now they have other needs to address. Gregory was once touted as a Top 5 pick until it was discovered that he enjoys puffing the magic dragon a bit too much. In reality he probably won’t slide this far, but how ironic would it be if Tampa ended up with two problem children?? I’m not a militant anti-marijuana guy, but I believe it is an indicator of an attitude, the kind of person who doesn’t like rules and doesn’t believe they apply to him. Maybe it’s no big deal. Maybe Gregory ends up being a solid Pro Bowl player for a decade. But it’s also possible that his rebellious arrogance makes his stay in the NFL very short. Either way his talent makes him a steal in this round.

 

35 Oakland Raiders
S Damarious Randall (Arizona St.)
The Raiders added a top flight receiver in Round 1. I may be in the minority, but I am comfortable with Latavius Murray & Trent Richardson toting the rock, and I don’t think there is an offensive lineman with good value here. Randall has been the subject of increasing buzz, and the safety position is thin in this draft. Former Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson currently mans the position in Oakland, but he’s older than dirt.

 

36 Jacksonville Jaguars
RB Tevin Coleman (Indiana)
The Jags got a great pass rusher in the first round, so now they need to focus on the offense. Absolutely no one is sold on last year’s top pick, quarterback Blake Bortles, but he’s not going anywhere for now. Tight end is a position of strength, with both veteran Marcedes Lewis and newly signed free agent Julius Thomas in the fold. The receiving corps is young & talented. And then there is a ragtag group of running backs…Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson, Storm Johnson, Bernard Pierce. Yikes. Both of this year’s elite tailbacks are off the board, but the second tier might produce a star or two. Coleman has been compared to Demarco Murray, and if that is true he’ll be another steal.

 

37 New York Jets
DT Arik Armstead (Oregon)
With Todd Gurley as the new feature back I assume new head coach Todd Bowles, a former defensive coordinator, will shift his concentration to the defense.

 

38 Washington Redskins
OT Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M)
The Redskins traded up in the first round to get a talented pass rusher. Now they upgrade on the other side of the ball.

 

 

39 Chicago Bears
DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (UCLA)
The Bears have a new head coach in John Fox, and he’s a defensive guy. After getting a new elite receiver in Round 1 I think the focus will be on defense. Good luck pronouncing the name lol.

 

 

40 New York Giants
LB Shaq Thompson (Washington)
I love the Giants. They’re so damn unpredictable. One never knows whether they’ll finish bellow .500 or win the Super Bowl. That kind of randomness extends to the draft as well. They moved up in the first round for an elite defensive tackle, but I don’t think they’re done upgrading that side of the ball.

 

41 St. Louis Rams
C Cameron Erving (Florida St.)
The Rams have a variety needs and could go in a number of directions. Erving is a center but can also slide over to guard if needed. That kind of flexibility is quite valuable in the NFL. He’s the best player on the board at this point, and a tremendous value for St. Louis.

 

42 Atlanta Falcons
G AJ Cann (South Carolina)
The Falcons gambled in Round 1 and won big, getting a Top 5 player with the 20th pick. The pick here is a lot less stimulating, but it’s a necessary building block that’ll pay dividends for many years to come.

 

43 Cleveland Browns
QB Brett Hundley (UCLA)
The Browns played it safe with their two first round picks, helping the defense with a massive nose tackle and providing the offense with a talented tight end that’ll be valuable to whomever the quarterback may be. Now the question must be asked…who will that be?? I’m not a fan of Johnny Rehab as an NFL quarterback regardless of whether he’s able to become a better person off the field. He’s just too small and his style doesn’t fit the pro game. I don’t believe that there are any can’t miss signal callers in this draft…not even Winston or Mariota. Having said that, I think Cleveland has to venture out on a limb here. Hundley is intelligent, articulate, & mature. He probably won’t start as a rookie, but with some good coaching he could become the guy in a year or two.

 

44 New Orleans Saints
CB Jalen Collins (LSU)
The Saints had two first round picks and added a top flight receiver as well as depth to the offensive line. Now what?? Well, for a team that appears to be solid across the board despite a 7-9 record in 2014, I think the “best player available” approach is probably apropos. In this case that’s Collins, another guy who apparently likes the ganja. That issue knocks him into the second round, but at this point the value is undeniable.

 

45 Minnesota Vikings
CB Ronald Darby (Florida St.)
The Vikes have a decent defensive backfield, but cornerback Terence Newman is 36 years old. An opportunity to groom a successor cannot be passed up.

 

 

46 San Francisco 49ers
LB Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi St.)
The surprising retirements of both Patrick Willis & Chris Borland (after his rookie year!!) has depleted the 49ers linebacking corps. They need to replenish.

 

47 Miami Dolphins
WR Phillip Dorsett (Miami, FL)
Current Dolphins’ receivers include Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, & free agent signing Jordan Cameron at tight end. Not bad, but it wouldn’t hurt to add another guy to the mix, especially since the 31 year old Jennings is probably a short term solution at best.

 

 

48 San Diego Chargers
OT Donovan Smith (Penn St.)
The Chargers got their new franchise running back in Round 1, so now they can address other needs. There seems to be some questions regarding the offensive line. That new tailback will need some holes to run thru, right??

 

49 Kansas City Chiefs
WR Dorial Beckham (Oklahoma)
The Chiefs added Jeremy Maclin in free agency, but the rest of the receiving group consists of De’Anthony Thomas, Jason Avant, & Junior Hemingway. In 2014 Kansas City had zero…yes zero…touchdowns to wide receivers. Maclin helps, but it couldn’t hurt to add another weapon.

 

50 Buffalo Bills
LB Kwon Alexander (LSU)
Buffalo didn’t have a first round pick because of the 2014 trade with Cleveland that enabled them to move up for wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Rex Ryan is the new sheriff in town and he’s a defensive guy but there are a lot of holes to fill on this team before they can even dream of challenging the despicable Patriots for the division title. LeSean McCoy was an outstanding get in a trade with Philadelphia, and I really like newly signed tight end Charles Clay. Watkins & the enigmatic Percy Harvin are an interesting pair of receivers, but who will throw them the ball?? I think it is way too early to give up on quarterback EJ Manuel, but it might be beneficial for him to ride the pine for a year behind Matt Cassel. I’d be surprised if Ryan didn’t try to upgrade the defense with this pick, and pairing Alexander with defensive tackles Mario Williams & Marcell Dareus could be interesting.

 

51 Houston Texans
WR Jaelen Strong (Arizona St.)
Receiver Andre Johnson departed Houston in free agency. I have every confidence that DeAndre Hopkins can fill the void and become a great target, but there’s still a deficiency at the position. Strong is the best wideout on the board and fits the Texans’ needs just fine.

 

 

52 Philadelphia Eagles
CB Eric Rowe (Utah)
The Eagles signed cornerback Byron Maxwell, formerly of Seattle’s Legion of Boom, in free agency. They also have former Boomer Walter Thurmond, who spent the past couple of seasons with the NY Giants (although I’m not sure anyone really noticed). Despite all of that I still think Rowe is a good fit. He can move over to safety either situationally or in the long term, and that kind of versatility is more than beneficial in today’s NFL.

 

53 Cincinnati Bengals
NT Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma)
The Bengals grab an upgrade to eat space in the middle of their defense.

 

54 Detroit Lions
RB TJ Yeldon (Alabama)
I don’t believe for a second that Joique Bell & Theo Riddick are a good enough running back tandem. Yeldon would have a legit opportunity to step into the starting lineup from Day 1.

 

 

55 Arizona Cardinals
RB Jay Ajayi (Boise St.)
The Cardinals keep missing out on running backs!! They couldn’t get either Gurley or Gordon in the first round, and Yeldon would have been the perfect battering ram compliment to the smallish & oft injured Andre Ellington. That leaves Arizona in a tough position. But I just don’t think they can go thru another season with only the unreliable Ellington in the backfield.

 

56 Pittsburgh Steelers
CB Alex Carter (Stanford)
My Steelers traded out of the first round but were still able to address a tremendous need at cornerback with the initial pick of this second round. They are on the clock again and the temptation to add even more depth to a depleted secondary is strong. However, they also need to upgrade their pass rush. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them trade down again, but I’ll be conservative here. A lot depends on if the team’s braintrust have confidence that defensive linemen like Cameron Heyward, Daniel McCullers, & Stephon Tuitt are capable of stepping up and fulfilling their potential. There are several possible replacements with good value in this spot. I’m going to have faith that those young guys will come thru and reach just a little bit to fill a need. Would the Steelers actually go back-to-back corners?? It’s possible. Carter is another guy with the size & skills to fill in at safety, and that could be quite an asset to this particular team.

 

 

57 Carolina Panthers
RB Duke Johnson (Miami, FL)
Running back DeAngelo Williams departed in free agency, leaving Jonathan Stewart as the primary runner. I have no doubt he can fulfill that role just fine, but Johnson would be a nice complement and make this new tandem an significant upgrade over the old one.

 

58 Baltimore Ravens
DE Preston Smith (Mississippi)
The once mighty Ravens defense has looked human the past couple of years. They don’t yet require a total rehaul, but they need to start getting some younger guys into the mix.

 

59 Denver Broncos
DT Michael Bennett (Ohio St.)
I really like the Broncos defense, but I think they’ll still try to add some youth.

 

60 Dallas Cowboys
RB Jeremy Langford (Michigan St.)
Now might be the spot to get a running mate for Darren McFadden.

 

 

61 Indianapolis Colts
DE Mario Edwards Jr. (Florida St.)
Colts’ defensive ends Robert Mathis & Trent Cole are both way past 30. It’s time to get younger on the defensive line.

 

62 Green Bay Packers
LB Denzel Perryman (Miami, FL)
The Packers have to get younger at linebacker.

 

 

63 Seattle Seahawks
WR Sammie Coates (Auburn)
Hey look…the Seahawks are finally on the clock. What they really need is a head coach & offensive coordinator who won’t make boneheaded goal line play calls that cost the team the Super Bowl. Unfortunately a team can’t draft that. Anyway, despite the addition of tight end Jimmie Graham this team still has an unimpressive, non-descript group of wide receivers. That can change right now.

 

 

64 New England Patriots
RB Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska)
LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, & James White are the current running backs for New England. I think they can do better.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 1.14

The sun is shining, birds are chirping, & lawns are being mowed throughout the land. It is springtime in America!! And one thing that means is a variety of sports stories about which I…as usual…have some thoughts. Sit a spell and join me…you know you want to.

 

 

 

 

A few post-NFL Draft contemplations:
• The NFL Network provides much better coverage than ESPN. I watched ESPN’s coverage of the first round because…well…it’s just been such a tradition for so long. Chris Berman & Mel Kiper Jr. are like the Jerry Lewis of football…you only see them once a year so you sure do look forward to that occasion (sadly of course Lewis’ MDA Telethon…once a Labor Day Weekend staple of Americana…has now quietly faded away). However, they have now introduced Jon Gruden, Todd McShay, & Ray Lewis into the mix (and apparently eased out Tom Jackson), and I found Gruden & “Shooter” Lewis to be rather grating. They love the sound of their own voices and seem far too pleased with their alleged expertise. By the 3rd round the guys on ESPN weren’t even paying attention to the announcement of the draft choices anymore, so I flipped over to NFL Network and found their coverage to be much more focused, cerebral, & low-key. Maybe next year I’ll cut the ESPN cord completely on draft weekend.
• The Cleveland Browns did the right thing by not taking QB Johnny Manziel at the #4 spot and instead grabbing him with the 22nd choice in the first round. I still think manzielit’s 50/50 as to whether he’ll be a superstar or a complete bust. He’s too small and I’m not a fan of his selfish & arrogant demeanor. I am not at all sure that he can withstand the pounding of NFL defenses. But if he does fail miserably atleast it’ll be in Cleveland, and I will laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh…lol.
• During the 2nd round of the draft Commissioner Fidel Goodell introduces legends/Hall-of-Famers from each franchise to announce their team’s draft pick: Marvin Harrison for the Colts, Chad Pennington for the Jets, Aeneas Williams for the Cardinals, Mike Singletary for the Bears, Herman Moore for the Lions, etc. were some of this year’s guests. Anyway, I have an idea. Next year they should let the biggest disappointment/embarrassment for each team make the pick: Jamarcus Russell for the Raiders, Rae Carruth (live from prison) for the Carolina Panthers, Ryan Leaf for the Chargers, Tony Mandarich for the Packers, former coach Bobby Petrino for the Falcons, Akili Smith & KiJana Carter together for the Bengals, Art Schlichter for the Colts (also from prison), Lawrence Phillips for the Rams (he’s in prison too!!). OJ Simpson (from prison…of course) could announce picks for both the Buffalo Bills & San Francisco 49ers. This would be a ratings bonanza. Make it happen NFL.
• After 41 years on this planet and nearly as long as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan I finally had an epiphany about The Steeler Way during the draft. Whereas most teams Steelers-Logoassign a particular value to individual players the Steelers focus on the value of each position, and obviously they believe that the most valuable position is linebacker. For the second year in a row the Steelers spent their 1st round draft pick on a linebacker. In 2013 it was Jarvis Jones from Georgia and this year it was Ryan Shazier from Ohio St. I don’t have a huge problem with the Shazier pick…I just didn’t think it was necessary with Jones, Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds, & a few other young guys in the mix already. The vast majority of Steeler fans were expecting them to choose a much needed cornerback in one of the first couple of rounds, but instead they waited until the 5th round to pick CB Shaquille Richardson from Arizona. What that tells me is that the suits in The ‘Burgh don’t think there is that big of a difference between a 1st round corner and a 5th round corner. A few years ago I would have just went along with that logic and assumed the powers-that-be knew what they were doing…but these days I’m not so sure.
• Some possible steals: QB Logan Thomas from Virginia Tech to the Arizona Cardinals in the 4th round, RB Lache Seastrunk from Baylor to the Washington Redskins in the 6th round, RB Ka’Deem Carey from Arizona to the Chicago Bears in the 4th round, QB AJ McCarron from Alabama to the Cincinnati Bengals in the 5th round, QB Zach Mettenberger from LSU to the Tennessee Titans in the 6th round, CB Keith McGill from Utah to the Oakland Raiders in the 4th round, & G David Yankey from Stanford to the Minnesota Vikings in the 5th round.

 

 
If there is one thing that we have learned from the Donald Sterling scandal it is that NBA owners do not really own their team. They are actually owners of 3.33% of the league, and if the other 96.67% of ownership decides to turn on a fellow owner it’s all over. I don’t necessarily have an issue with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banning Donald Sterling for life, and I won’t disagree when the rest of the owners vote to make him sell the team. It is what is best for business. In reality the man is 82 years old & obviously not well, so it was probably a matter of time before the Los Angeles Clippers ended up with new ownership anyway. And let us not shed a tear for Sterling or his family, all of whom will become even wealthier when the team purchased for $12 million sterlingin 1981 is sold for a half billion. Having said that, recent events do concern me just a little. Look…very few people would even try to defend the inane racist ramblings of a guy like Sterling. He’s an old kook who seems to have lost a few too many of his marbles. But imagine if the bank could come and repo your car or evict you from your house…not for being delinquent in your payments but because they disagree with your sociopolitical opinions. That’s not the America that I know & love…it’s fascism. I understand that a professional sports league is a unique entity. As an owner Donald Sterling, to a degree, represents the team, the league, & the city of Los Angeles. I understand that his belief system is not deemed appropriate by most anyone with a lick of sense. However it is also my understanding that Donald Sterling did not commit a crime. Actually the fact is that Sterling’s racist tendencies have been well known for many years and there have been instances in the past where he probably did commit crimes by way of housing discrimination and the NBA turned a blind eye. But now, when the actual crime committed was by the “girlfriend” who secretly taped Sterling’s conversations, the NBA decides to take drastic action to cover their rear ends in the midst of a public relations nightmare. As I said, hardly anyone would even attempt to support Donald Sterling’s idiocy, but what if losing everything you own because a person you trusted clandestinely recorded your deepest personal thoughts becomes commonplace?? What if just about everybody in the country was cheering your demise?? It is easy to revel in Donald Sterling’s implosion because he is just about the least sympathetic character imaginable…but what if it happened to you?? It’s a slippery slope…one that we must be aware of and concerned about in 21st century America.

 

 
I have watched only a couple Pittsburgh Pirates games in the past month. As I feared last season’s “breakthrough” and the end of two decades of losing pittsburghpirateswas just a mirage. This team isn’t there yet and I’m beginning to doubt whether they ever will be. They lack a killer instinct. They lack the will to win. The pitching isn’t nearly as dominant as it should be after concentrating on that aspect of the game with the draft & the farm system over the past several years. And there is very little offense. They are averaging 3.91 runs/game. The division leading Milwaukee Brewers are averaging 4.02 runs/game. The Detroit Tigers & San Francisco Giants…currently the two best teams in baseball…are scoring 4.85 and 4.18 runs/game respectively. These may seem like miniscule statistical differences, but baseball is a game of statistics. If Player A gets 150 hits in 500 at bats during a season that’s .93 hits/game and a .300 batting average, which probably means he’s an All-Star and over the course of an entire career possibly a Hall-of-Famer. Meanwhile, if Player B gets just 130 hits in 500 at bats it is .80 hits/game, a .260 batting average, and over the course of a career would be looked at as quite prosaic. Twenty hits less in the span of 162 games and look at the difference in perception. It’s the difference between winning two World Series in the past decade…like the Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, & St. Louis Cardinals have all done…and the Pirates.

 

 
I suppose I need to comment on this whole Michael Sam thing…..
Essentially what everything boils down to is that ESPN and others in the media deserve nearly all of the blame for any negativity that has landed at the feet sam1of Michael Sam. For those who may have been off the grid in the past week Sam was a defensive end for the Missouri Tigers. He was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year for 2013, but due to his small stature and other pedestrian measurables was deemed a fringe NFL prospect. In February he “came out” publically in an interview (not surprisingly on ESPN) because announcing to the whole world that you are gay has become a rite of passage for all level of celebrities in 21st century America, which is my main problem with the whole thing. I am physically disabled and have spent my entire life trying to just fit in. I don’t like calling attention to myself. I just want to be treated normally…like everyone else. That quest has been a defining aspect of everything I have ever done. The “LBGT community” will say that what they want is equality & fairness, but it seems like what they truly desire is to be celebrated and treated like trailblazing heroes. ESPN’s coverage of Michael Sam has been somewhat disconcerting. A lot of folks were kvetching about Sam kissing his boyfriend when he was drafted, but my question is why were there cameras there in the first place?? I watch the NFL Draft every year. By the 4th round talking heads like Mel Kiper Jr. & Todd McShay have completely lost interest in keeping up with sam2the picks as they are announced and are still yapping on & on about top guys like Johnny Manziel & Jadeveon Clowney. I can’t ever remember them having cameras on a 7th round draft choice as he receives the phone call from the team selecting him. So why does Michael Sam get that kind of coverage?? Because he is gay?? That’s not equality…that’s putting someone up on a pedestal they haven’t earned. And then people wonder why there is anger & frustration. It must be nice for Michael Sam to know that he is a virtual lock to make the St. Louis Rams, and make no mistake…he will be on the team when the season starts. The NFL, ESPN, and the entire leftist media have too much invested at this point for Sam to fail. Good for him. I wish him well. He is a good football player. Most of them are at that level. I just hope for his sake that someday his playing skills will be the center of attention and not his sexual preference…something that should have never become an issue in the first place.

2014 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

We are now only a few days away from the real deal…the 2014 NFL Annual Selection Meeting, aka The Draft. I knew when I did my initial mock draft back in February that a lot of things would change over the course of time. Free agency has significantly altered the landscape, as it tends to do each year. Several teams filled some holes, while others have new needs that we weren’t sure they’d have a couple of months ago. The Combine and various pro days have raised the profile of some players, while cooling the enthusiasm for others. We now have a much clearer picture of the direction many teams may or atleast should go. Once again let me remind you that this is a three round mock, and I do throw in a few trades. Real trades that are already in place will say “via/X Team” in parentheses, while trades that are purely my own creation will say “trade w/X Team”. So without any further ado let’s look into the ol’ crystal ball and see what we might expect from this year’s draft.

 

 

 

Round 1

1 Houston Texans
DE Jadeveon Clowney (Clemson)
At one point I was firmly convinced that the Texans would be able to trade out of this spot and amass a boatload of picks. However, as things have progressed that has houston-texans-mobile-wallpaperbecome a far less likely scenario. No one seems completely sold on this year’s crop of quarterbacks, so teams will be mostly content to stay where they are and let a signal caller fall to them. Clowney is a rare prospect who I believe will put the pedal to the medal when it counts. The combination of Clowney & JJ Watt instantly makes Houston’s defense one of the most feared in the NFL. They can snag a quarterback later.

 

2 St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)
LB Khalil Mack (Buffalo)
The Rams are in a tough position. They’d probably jump at the opportunity to trade down, but the lukewarm affection for the quarterbacks makes it St_Louis_Ramsdoubtful that anyone will offer much to move up to this spot. Mack has been getting a lot of love and has drawn comparisons to Denver Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller.

 

3 Jacksonville Jaguars
WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson)
Watkins is far & away the best skill player in this year’s draft. The Jags are losing receiver Justin Blackmon due to an indefinite suspension for substance abuse, and to Jacksonville_Jaguarsbe honest Blackmon had been a bit of a disappointment anyway. If he comes back and pans out…great. But if not Watkins is a fantastic replacement. Jacksonville too can get their quarterback later.

 

4 Baltimore Ravens (trade w/Cleveland Browns)
T Greg Robinson (Auburn)
What to do?? The Browns had their eye on Watkins but he is off the board. It is probably too early to pull the trigger on one of the quarterbacks in this spot. With MitchellBaltimore_Ravens2 Schwartz and All-Pro Joe Thomas manning the tackle spots there is no need for the Browns to spend this pick on that position. However, though no one is likely to trade up for a QB there may be a few suitors looking for a franchise tackle. The Ravens lost Michael Oher (you remember The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock, right??) in free agency but did re-sign Eugene Monroe. I don’t think it really matters who plays left and who plays right. With guys like Robinson & Monroe Baltimore’s offensive line once again looks formidable.

 

5 Oakland Raiders
T Jake Matthews (Texas A&M)
With Robinson off the board the Raiders are forced to go with option B. They don’t need a quarterback after signing Matt Schaub this offseason, and Matthews should raidersbe a solid franchise tackle for the next decade.

 

6 Atlanta Falcons
LB Anthony Barr (UCLA)
Barr is the best pass rusher available and might be a steal even at this spot. There could be some buzz about the Vikings & Bucs looking to movefalcons up to get the quarterback they want, but at the end of the day I think both will stand pat.

 

7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Blake Bortles (Central Florida)
There’s a new regime in Tampa. There will be a new quarterback because not even the old regime was completely sold on Mike Glennon. BortlesTampa_Bay_Buccaneers_Helmet has prototype size & measurables. The only knock against him is the fact that he played at a C-USA school instead of an SEC, Big 10, or Pac 12 school. It should also help that Bortles will be well known to the Tampa crowd since Central Florida is just down the road.
8 New York Giants (trade w/Minnesota Vikings)
WR Mike Evans (Texas A&M)
The Vikings need a quarterback as well, but it’s still too early. The Giants need a receiver to replace the departed Hakeem Nicks. It’s a win/win for both teams.Giants Logo

 

9 Buffalo Bills
T Taylor Lewan (Michigan)
The Bills won’t waste any time turning in their draft card when they see the only remaining tackle worthy of a Top 10 pick still on the board.Buffalo_Bills_Helmet

 

10 Detroit Lions
CB Darquez Dennard (Michigan St.)
The Lions defensive backfield was atrocious last season, and the Seattle Seahawks have proven how important a great Detroit_Lions_Helmetsecondary can be.

 

11 Tennessee Titans
DT Aaron Donald
Do the Titans need a quarterback?? Or will the Jake Locker era be given a one year reprieve?? EitherTennessee_Titans_Helmet way Tennessee passes on a signal caller here and goes for the highest rated defensive lineman on the board.

 

12 Minnesota Vikings (trade w/New York Giants)
QB Derek Carr (Fresno St.)
The Vikings get the quarterback of the future. Atleast until next year. Two strikes against Carr: small school, and the fact that his older brothervikingshelmet1 David is one of the more notable busts in recent memory. Fair?? Probably not. Only time will tell.

 

13 St. Louis Rams
S Hasean Clinton-Dix
With their second 1st round pick the Rams continue to upgrade a defense that ranked 15th in the league in 2013. Not bad…but not great either.St_Louis_Rams

 

14 Chicago Bears
CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma St.)
The Bears had their eye on Clinton-Dix, but have other needs as well. Gilbert is a significant upgrade for a defense that ranked 30th out of 32 chicago-bears-logo13teams last season.

 

15 Cleveland Browns (trade w/Pittsburgh Steelers)
QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
The Browns are spooked by rumors that the Cowboys may be interested in Manziel. The rumors are probably poppycock, Cleveland_Browns_Helmetbut then again Jerry Jones is nuttier than a damn fruitcake so who knows?? At any rate, Johnny Football is one of the most polarizing prospects I’ve ever seen. Is he more like Fran Tarkenton or Fran Drescher?? Is he Drew Brees or Drew Stanton?? Can he be tamed just enough to become a good NFL quarterback without losing the improv skills that make him special?? Is he sturdy enough to make it thru an NFL season?? Getting two people to agree on Manziel is like trying to find a bipartisan political candidate that everyone likes. Only time will tell, but in the meantime the Browns pretty much have to pull the trigger here.

 

16 Dallas Cowboys
LB Ryan Shazier (Ohio St.)
DeMarcus Ware signed with the Denver Broncos in the offseason so the Cowboys have to rebuild the defense. Shazier is smaller than Ware and is much more dallas-cowboys-dallas-cowboys-15496395-1280-1024comparable to guys like former NFL stars Sam Mills or Zach Thomas. He’s fast & can get to the quarterback, or he can drop back in coverage.

 

17 Pittsburgh Steelers (trade w/Baltimore Ravens & Cleveland Browns)
CB Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech)
The Steelers are disappointed that both Dennard & Gilbert are off the board, along with the top tackles. They could use a receiver to replace thediamond-steelers departed Emanuel Sanders & Jerricho Cotchery, but after signing Lance Moore & Darrius Heyward-Bey it’s not as big of an issue, especially with the top two wideouts off the board. The best player available that fits a need is Fuller, who can get his feet wet this season and then take over for Ike Taylor in 2015.

 

18 New York Jets
TE Eric Ebron (North Carolina)
The signing of free agent receiver Eric Decker doesn’t completely eliminate the need to draft a wideout, but it makes it less of a priority. The valueJets-Pin-Pro at this spot is tight end. In the past few years a big athletic tight end has become a huge weapon in the NFL…almost a necessity. And right now the Jets tight ends are Jeff Cumberand, Zach Sudfeld, & Chris Pantale, which sounds more like the accounting faculty at a junior college.

 

19 Miami Dolphins
G Zack Martin (Notre Dame)
The Dolphins solidify their offensive line with someone who hopefully won’t find themselves in the midst of an idiotic bullying scandal. Nearly everyMiami_Dolphins_Helmet mock draft I have seen has Martin going to the Dolphins, so who am I to rock the boat??

 

 

20 Carolina Panthers (trade w/Arizona Cardinals)
T Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama)
The Panthers need to replace the retired Jordan Gross on the offensive line. Yes wide receiver is also a priority, but they can carolina_panthers_logo-14336address that need in later rounds. A franchise left tackle is more important. It’s worth the price to move up.

 

 

21 Green Bay Packers
S Calvin Pryor (Louisville)
The Packers have long been considered one of the NFL’s best teams but the truth is that the offense…lead by QB Aaron Rogers and a plethora ofGreen_Bay_Packers_Helmet good receivers…has covered for some weaknesses on the defense. They can’t pass on a hard-nosed athletic safety that can play centerfield for the next decade.

 

22 Philadelphia Eagles
LB CJ Moseley (Alabama)
Head coach Chip Kelly is an offensive guru, but if he really wants to take his team to the top he needs to pay attention to the defense. Moseley is a well-rounded player philadelphia_eagles-3715with tremendous leadership skills.

 

23 Kansas City Chiefs
WR Marqise Lee (USC)
The Chiefs need another weapon for quarterback Alex Smith. With this move WR Dwayne Bowe will see less double teams and the Chiefs might not implode late in the kc-chiefs-logoseason like they did last year.

 

24 Cincinnati Bengals
DE Dee Ford (Auburn)
The Bengals are a solid playoff team so they can afford to reach just a bit for a pass rusher with a big upside. This pick might look like pure genius Cincinnati_Bengals_Helmetin 3 or 4 years.

 

25 San Diego Chargers
G Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA)
The Chargers flew under the radar in 2013 and right into the playoffs. Time may be running out for quarterback Philip Rivers to fulfill the potentialSan_Diego_Chargers_Helmet3 so many thought he had when drafted a decade ago. The best way to maximize his abilities is to keep him upright and give him time to find a receiver downfield.

 

26 Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts)
WR Brandin Cooks (Oregon St.)
The Browns have addressed the quarterback issue by drafting Johnny Football and also signing free agents Vince Young & Tyler Thigpen (and don’t forget Brian Hoyer Cleveland_Browns_Helmetis still around recovering from a torn ACL). They also signed free agent RB Ben Tate who is ready to be a feature back after backing up Arian Foster in Houston for the past few years. There are certainly opportunities to trade out of this spot, but instead the Browns get Manziel a speedy slot receiver.

 

27 Houston Texans (trade w/New Orleans Saints)
QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)
The Texans trade back into the first round due to concern that the Arizona Cardinals may be looking for a quarterback as well. Bridgewater was once considered a houston texans logo2potential #1 overall pick but questions have arisen…as they always do. Much like Manziel it is a 50/50 proposition as to whether Bridgewater will be a competent NFL quarterback or a complete bust, but with a QB depth chart that includes Case Keenum, TJ Yates, & Ryan Fitzpatrick Houston has to make this move.

 

28 Arizona Cardinals (trade w/Carolina Panthers)
S Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois)
The Cards will be mildly disappointed that the top tier quarterbacks are all gone, but not terribly so. They can get another year or two out of 34 year old Carson Palmer nflarizonacardinalsand still may be able to snag a pretty good signal caller in a later round that they can develop slowly. Ward joins a stellar defensive backfield that includes Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Petersen, & Antonio Cromartie.

 

29 New England Patriots
TE Jace Amaro (Texas Tech)
The Patriots need to move on from the Aaron Hernandez mess and of course we all know that Rob Gronkowski has become unreliable on a variety of levels. Tom BradyNew_England_Patriots_Helmet is just plain better when he has a big dependable target that can go up and get the ball.

 

30 San Francisco 49ers
CB Bradley Roby (Ohio St.)
The 49ers are still amongst the top teams in the NFL, but they must be vigilant in not letting the team get old. Roby should improve the secondary,San-Francisco-49ers and if the Seattle Seahawks proved anything it’s that an awesome secondary can be a key to a championship.

 

31 Denver Broncos
G Joel Bitonio (Nevada)
I have really been impressed with what the Broncos have done in the offseason. They let the ancient Champ Bailey move on to New Orleans and broncos-4759replaced him with Aqib Talib. They further upgraded the secondary with safety TJ Ward, who fled Cleveland like a Ukrainian refugee. They signed receiver Emmanuel Sanders away from the Steelers. Sanders isn’t a top flight wideout but he’s a reliable third or fourth option which is all Peyton Manning really needs and I think he can be every bit as productive as the departed Eric Decker. And DeMarcus Ware left the dysfunctional Cowboys and will now be sacking opposing quarterbacks for Denver. I think the focus now becomes protecting Manning. A team can never have enough solid offensive linemen.

 

32 Seattle Seahawks
T Morgan Moses (Virginia)
The defending Super Bowl Champions would be the odds on favorite to repeat without adding a single player to their roster. However, they did suffer some losses this seattle-seahawks1offseason. Offensive tackle Breno Giacomini is now with the NY Jets. Defensive end Red Bryant signed a free agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who also signed another Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons. Receiver Golden Tate departed to the Detroit Lions. Percy Harvin & Sidney Rice are both back and reportedly healthy, so I don’t think receiver is a top priority. The signing of Michael Bennett eases the pain of the loss of Clemons & Bryant. Moses solidifies an offensive line that absolutely must protect QB Russell Wilson and create holes for RB Marshawn Lynch for Seattle to have the same level of success in 2014 as they had last year.

 

 

Round 2

33 New Orleans Saints (trade w/Houston Texans)
CB Jason Verrett (TCU)
There are a few intriguing receivers on the board, but the secondary is a bigger need. Verrett can spend a year learning from 112 year old Champ Bailey and then take his starting spot next season when Bailey is at home yelling at kids to get off his damn lawn.

 

34 Washington Redskins
DT Rashede Hageman (Minnesota)
The Redskins didn’t have a first round choice after trading it away a couple years ago in the draft day deal that brought them quarterback RGIII. They still end up getting first round talent though, and improve their defense in the process.

 

35 Pittsburgh Steelers (trade w/Cleveland Browns)
DE Kony Ealy (Missouri)
The Steelers were a lot more active in free agency than usual, plugging holes at nose tackle (Cam Thomas, formerly of the Chargers), safety (Mike Mitchell, formerly of the Panthers), and wide receiver (Lance Moore, formerly of the Saints, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, formerly of the Colts). I think that’s more offseason additions than Pittsburgh has made in the previous 5 seasons combined. However, they are still a bit thin at defensive end even if former first round pick Cameron Heyward develops into what he needs to become.

 

36 Oakland Raiders
WR Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU)
After missing out on Sammy Watkins in Round 1 the Raiders will be pleased to see Beckham still on the board. He should immediately challenge Rod Streeter & Denarius Moore for a starting spot.

 

37 Atlanta Falcons
DE Demarcus Lawrence (Boise St.)
The Falcons continue to upgrade their pass rush. Tyson Jackson came over from the Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason but Jonathan Babineux is 32 years old. Lawrence can be added into the rotation gradually.

 

38 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
T JaWuan James (Tennessee)
Whether Bortles seizes the starting QB job immediately or Josh McCown mans the position for awhile it is vitally important to provide either guy with as much protection as possible. James would have an opportunity to compete for a starting job.

 

39 Jacksonville Jaguars
QB Tom Savage (Pitt)
Bortles, Manziel, Bridgewater, & Carr are all off the board, but the Jags have their pick of the second tier QBs, some of whom have been rising up draft boards and may end up being just as good or better as the first wave. Savage has been getting a lot of love in the past few weeks and has drawn comparisons to Drew Bledsoe. If absolutely necessary Jacksonville can start Chad Henne this season and let Savage develop.

 

40 Minnesota Vikings
LB Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech)
With Derek Carr in the fold the Vikings can now concentrate on other needs. Attaochu would likely become an immediate starter in Minnesota’s 3-4 scheme alongside veteran Chad Greenway.

 

41 Buffalo Bills
WR Kelvin Benjamin (Florida St.)
Buffalo’s receiving corps is solid but uninspiring. Reuniting quarterback EJ Manuel with former college teammate Benjamin would be a stroke of genius on the part of the Bills.
42 Tennessee Titans
CB Keith McGill (Utah)
The Titans once again pass on a quarterback (Jake Locker lives to see another day!!), not to mention a franchise running back to replace the departed Chris Johnson. Instead they choose to replace All-Pro corner Alterraun Verner, who is now plying his trade for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

43 Minnesota Vikings (trade w/New York Giants)
G Gabe Jackson (Mississippi St.)
The Vikings get an extra pick after moving down in the first round. They take the opportunity to address the offensive line and get a much needed upgrade on the inside.

 

44 St. Louis Rams
T Antonio Richardson (Tennessee)
Richardson is a massive tackle that should provide plenty of protection for QB Sam Bradford as well as open up holes for whoever totes the rock for St. Louis. Richardson, Jake Long, & Rodger Saffold would comprise a rather impressive line.

 

45 Detroit Lions
S Deone Bucannon (Washington St.)
The Lions continue to upgrade their secondary. Bucannon should step right into the starting lineup.

 

46 Pittsburgh Steelers
T Billy Turner (North Dakota St.)
There’s a lot of value left on the board at this spot. After addressing some key needs in free agency the Steelers decide to use this pick to add depth to the offensive line, where injuries have been an issue the past couple of seasons.

 

47 Cleveland Browns (trade w/Baltimore Ravens)
CB Lamarcus Joyner (Florida St.)
The Browns have their quarterback and also added an outstanding receiver that should be comfortable in the slot. Now they add a cornerback that will be a nice bookend with All-Pro Joe Haden.

 

48 Dallas Cowboys
S Terrence Brooks (Florida St.)
The secondary has been a significant issue for Dallas for awhile. Brooks should immediately crack the starting lineup.

 

49 New York Jets
NT Louis Nix III
Jets head coach Rex Ryan just might wet himself when he sees Nix available in this spot. Nix plugging the middle with Sheldon Richardson & Muhammed Wilkerson on either side would certainly make a formidable defensive line.

 

50 Miami Dolphins
G Dakota Dozier (Furman)
First round selection Zack Martin can actually slide over to the tackle position opposite free agent signee Branden Albert and Dozier can step into a starting guard slot. Add in starting center Mike Pouncey and all the sudden the Dolphins’ offensive line woes begin to look a bit smaller in the rear view mirror.

 

51 Chicago Bears
DT Timmy Jernigan (Florida St.)
The Bears added free agents Lamarr Houston & Jared Allen on the defensive line, which certainly helps make up for the loss of Julius Peppers & Henry Melton. But adding another piece…especially since Allen is 32 years old…isn’t the worst idea in the world. Jernigan is a first round talent that falls simply because a lot of teams had more pressing needs. He is a steal here.

 

52 Arizona Cardinals
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois)
Garoppolo got peoples’ attention in post-season collegiate all-star games. He has the least amount of pressure of any of the quarterbacks chosen thus far because there is no chance he’ll be the starter in Arizona in 2014 or maybe even the following season. He can spend his first couple of seasons learning from Carson Palmer before taking command when Palmer decides to hang ‘em up.

 

53 Green Bay Packers
TE Austin Jenkins (Washington)
The Packers need to replace Jermichael Finley. Jenkins isn’t quite the freakish athlete that other tight ends like New Orleans’ Jimmie Graham or San Diego’s Antonio Gates are, but at 6ft.6 and 252 lbs. he is an imposing red zone target.

 

54 Philadelphia Eagles
WR Allen Robinson (Penn St.)
DeSean Jackson was released by the Eagles and is now catching balls for the Washington Redskins. The Eagles need a replacement. Robinson has tremendous value at this spot.

 

55 Cincinnati Bengals
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska)
The Bengals need some youth at the corner position. It doesn’t hurt that the young man is 6ft3.

 

56 San Francisco 49ers (via Kansas City Chiefs)
C Weston Richburg (Colorado St.)
‘Frisco has an outstanding offensive line, but they won’t pass up an opportunity to make it even better.

 

57 San Diego Chargers
CB Marcus Roberson (Florida)
The Chargers have depth at corner but not a lot of big time talent. Roberson should be able to secure a lot of playing time as a rookie and maybe even grab a starting spot.

 

58 New Orleans Saints
WR Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss)
Lance Moore left via free agency and is now a Pittsburgh Steeler. Marques Colston & Robert Meacham are both around 30-ish. Not old by any means, but probably old enough that adding a fresh talent to the mix isn’t a bad idea.

 

59 Indianapolis Colts
WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)
The Colts didn’t have a first round pick so this choice has to have some impact. While it is true that they signed Hakeem Nicks in free agency and have TY Hilton, it is also true that perennial Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne is 35 years old. Matthews is too good to pass up at this spot.

 

60 Arizona Cardinals (trade w/Carolina Panthers)
LB Carl Bradford (Arizona St.)
I’ve been calling the Cardinals the Pittsburgh Steelers of the west for awhile. A lot of former Steelers seem to end up in Arizona. Former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt (now the head coach for the Tennessee Titans) was a former Steelers offensive coordinator. Current Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is a former Steelers offensive coordinator. Cardinals assistant head coach Tom Moore is a former Steelers offensive coordinator. Former Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein is now an assistant line coach in Arizona. Former Steelers defensive tackle Brenston Bucker is now the Cardinals defensive line coach. If you want to go back in time a bit Steelers Hall of Famer Mean Joe Greene spent a season coaching the Cardinals defensive line in 2003. It seems as if The Steeler Way has kind of been transmitted to Arizona thru osmosis, with one of those philosophies being fast athletic linebackers who can get to the quarterback. John Abraham is 36 years old and it is time to fine his successor.
61 San Francisco 49ers
WR Martavis Bryant (Clemson)
The 49ers are up again and this time choose to add to their deep yet prosaic receiving corps. Anquan Boldin is 33 years old and there’s really no one behind him that’d scare defenses at all.

 

62 New England Patriots
DT Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)
Vince Wilfork is 32 years old. Here is his replacement in a year or two.

 

63 Denver Broncos
WR Jarvis Landry (LSU)
Peyton Manning still has Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, & tight end Julius Thomas to throw to, as well as free agent signee Emmanuel Sanders. But Welker is 33 years old so adding some depth at the position is probably a good call.

 

64 Seattle Seahawks
WR Davante Adams (Fresno St.)
Percy Harvin & Sidney Rice are back for the defending Super Bowl Champions, but there is little else at the position after the departure of Golden Tate. Adams is a suitable replacement for Tate.

 

 

 

Round 3

65 New Orleans Saints (trade w/Houston Texans)
T Jack Mewhort (Ohio St.)
The Saints have to upgrade their offensive line.

 

66 Washington Redskins
S Dion Bailey (USC)
Washington’s secondary is led by DeAngelo Hall, Brandon Meriweather, & free agent signee Ryan Clark, who are all north of 30. A youth movement is in order.

 

67 Oakland Raiders
QB Zach Mettenberger
This might be the biggest steal of the draft. Sure the Raiders have Matt Schaub. But let us not forget that Matt Schaub was about as good a quarterback last season as the one-armed man from The Fugitive. It’d be amazing if Mettenberger dropped this far. At 6ft5 and 224lbs. he has prototypical size. The fact that he is coming off of a torn ACL likely explains his second tier status amongst the quarterbacks.

 

68 Atlanta Falcons
TE Troy Niklas (Notre Dame)
14 time Pro Bowler and surefire future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gonzalez has retired. It’ll be difficult to replace him, but someone has to try.

 

69 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
G David Yankey (Stanford)
Don’t be surprised if the Bucs double down on offensive line depth.

 

70 Jacksonville Jaguars
T Cameron Fleming (Stanford)
Back-to-back Stanford linemen find NFL homes. Fleming and 2013 first round pick Luke Joeckel would form quite the impressive tandem on the Jags offensive line.

 

71 Cleveland Browns
G Cyril Richardson (Baylor)
Richardson is a massive guard that takes the interior of the Browns line from impressive to potentially magnificent.

 

72 Minnesota Vikings
CB Jaylen Watkins (Florida)
Depth in the secondary is important, especially when the Vikings face the Detroit Lions and All Pro Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson twice a year.

 

73 San Francisco 49ers (trade w/Buffalo Bills)
DE Scott Crichton (Oregon St.)
Justin Smith is 34 years old. It’s time to find his successor and the 49ers have enough ammunition to move up and get a who has dropped a bit lower than he had been projected.

 

74 New York Giants
RB Carlos Hyde (Ohio St.)
Is it too soon to give up on 2012 first round pick David Wilson?? Probably. But he just underwent surgery for spinal stenosis so his future is cloudy at best.

 

75 St. Louis Rams
T James Hurst (North Carolina)
Hurst has seen his draft stock plummet after breaking his leg in the 2013 Belk Bowl. However, the Rams can afford to roll the dice even if they have to stash the young man on the PUP list for awhile. He can work his way into a starting spot in a year or two.

 

76 Detroit Lions
C Travis Swanson (Arkansas)
When you have a star quarterback like Matthew Stafford it makes sense to invest in protection for him. Dominic Raiola is 35 years old. The youngster can learn his craft for a year before taking over in 2015.

 

77 Buffalo Bills (trade w/San Francisco 49ers via Tennessee Titans)
LB Telvin Smith (Florida St.)
The Bills don’t necessarily need a linebacker, but the value here is too good to pass up.

 

78 Baltimore Ravens
S Brock Vereen (Minnesota)
Vereen probably has a good chance at cracking the starting lineup and pairing up with safety and 2013 first round pick Matt Elam.

 

79 Dallas Cowboys
DE Marcus Smith (Louisville)
The Cowboys would be thrilled to find Smith still available at this spot. All the sudden the loss of DeMarcus Ware doesn’t seem all that horrible.

 

80 New York Jets
WR Cody Latimer (Indiana)
I don’t know a whole lot about Latimer, but draftniks like Kiper & McShay seem high on him so that’s good enough for me. The Jets need weapons for whomever wins the quarterback battle between Geno Smith & Michael Vick.

 

81 Miami Dolphins
RB Jeremy Hill (LSU)
With their offensive line woes alleviated the Dolphins can now move forward with other pressing concerns. They don’t seem to be enamored with any of Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, or Mike Gillislee. They signed Knowshon Moreno in free agency, but he’s just about as pedestrian as those other guys. Hill has been getting a lot of love from the talking heads and could form a decent 1-2 punch with Moreno.

 

82 Chicago Bears
LB Kyle Van Noy (BYU)
Lance Briggs & DJ Williams are both north of 30. It can’t hurt to add some youth to the linebacking corps.

 

83 Cleveland Browns (via Pittsburgh Steelers)
RB D’Anthony Thomas (Oregon)
Ben Tate will be the every down back in Cleveland, but Thomas adds a dimension to the offense that the Browns have been lacking since…well…always. Imagine being a defensive coordinator and having to prepare for Johnny Manziel AND D’Anthony Thomas.

 

84 Arizona Cardinals
DT Dominique Easley (Florida)
Darnell Dockett is 32 years old. Easley can learn from him before eventually taking his place.

 

85 Green Bay Packers
WR Paul Richardson (Colorado)
James Jones left Green Bay in free agency and is now an Oakland Raider. The Packers won’t miss a beat with this rookie replacement playing alongside mainstays Jordy Nelson & Randall Cobb.

 

86 Philadelphia Eagles
S Ed Reynolds (Stanford)
The Eagles have a need at safety. Problem solved.

 

87 Kansas City Chiefs
QB AJ McCarron (Alabama)
Rumors have been circulating that the Chefs may be in the market for a quarterback. Many believe that Alex Smith played way beyond his talent level in 2013 and are just waiting for him to come crashing to Earth. That may happen. Or he could be a solid starter for the next couple of years and then fade away after a decent decade long career. Either way McCarron is an intriguing addition. He is probably best served by being a reliable backup for 2 or 3 years before being handed the reins.

 

88 Cincinnati Bengals
WR Dri Archer (Kent St.)
The Bengals receiving corps looks rather prosaic when you get past AJ Green. This pick could add a little excitement.

 

89 San Diego Chargers
QB Aaron Murray (Georgia)
The Chargers jump on the quarterback train and get themselves what they hope will be Phillip Rivers’ successor in a few years.

 

90 Indianapolis Colts
C Marcus Martin (USC)
With a valuable commodity like Andrew Luck offensive line depth is an enormous consideration.

 

91 New Orleans Saints
LB Chris Borland (Wisconsin)
The talking heads have been giving some love to Borland. I’ve heard him compared to Zach Thomas & Chris Spielman, which in my mind means that what he may lack in natural athleticism he makes up for with solid work ethic, and it’s never a bad thing to have a guy like that on your team.

 

92 Carolina Panthers
WR Devin Street (Pitt)
Right now Jerricho Cotchery & Jason Avant are the starting wideouts for the Panthers. That may get you thru the season, but adding another receiver is essential. Street is probably a bit of a reach at this spot but Carolina has no choice.

 

93 New England Patriots
T Michael Schofield (Michigan)
Tom Brady might have 3 or 4 more years left to grab one more Lombardi Trophy, but if that is to happen offensive line depth is of the utmost importance.

 

94 Buffalo Bills (trade w/San Francisco 49ers)
TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa)
Personally I am a big fan of Bills tight end Scott Chandler, another Iowa Hawkeye. I think he’s a decent red zone target. However, he only caught 2 touchdowns in 2013, which was down from 6 in 2012 and why a lot of folks seem to think that the Bills need an upgrade. A two tight end package could become an effective weapon for Buffalo.
95 Denver Broncos
CB Pierre Desir (Lindenwood)
For anyone that may be curious Lindenwood is a Division II school in Missouri. The Broncos need to some depth in the secondary and I like cornerbacks that are 6 foot +.

 

96 Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks)
RB Charles Sims (West Virginia)
A few things. First of all backup running back Toby Gerhart fled Minnesota and grabbed the opportunity to become the feature back in Jacksonville. One can hardly blame him. Secondly All-Universe RB Adrian Peterson is 29 years old and has an injury history. Having a solid backup is crucial for the Vikings. And while Peterson is pretty much a straight ahead bulldozer Sims specializes in catching the ball out of the backfield, which will be a nice option for whomever is behind center in Minnesota.

 

97 Pittsburgh Steelers (compensatory pick)
WR Brandon Coleman (Rutgers)
The Steelers offset losses to the receiving corps with a couple of free agent signings, but that doesn’t mean they won’t add another piece in the draft. Coleman is the type of big body that Ben Roethlisberger has coveted for years. He’s raw and may need a year or two to develop, but the upside is there.

 

98 Green Bay Packers (compensatory pick)
LB Christian Jones (Florida St.)
Newly signed linebacker Julius Peppers is 34 years old, so even with the presence of AJ Hawk & Clay Matthews it wouldn’t hurt to have one eye on the future and add some depth.

 

99 Baltimore Ravens (compensatory pick)
WR L’Damian Washington (Missouri)
Steve Smith came to Baltimore from the Carolina Panthers this offseason, but he is 35 years old. The Ravens need to add a big body to complement speedster Torrey Smith. Joe Flacco seemed like a lot better quarterback a couple of years ago when he had Anquan Boldin as a security blanket.

 

100 San Francisco 49ers (compensatory pick)
LB Shane Skov (Stanford)
We all witnessed the horrific knee injury to linebacker Navorro Bowman in the NFC Championship. I’m not sure where he stands in the recovery process, but I think it is unlikely that he’d be able to play at a high level in 2014…if at all. The Niners need to find a replacement.

My First Ever NFL Mock Draft (2014)

I have pondered the idea of doing a mock NFL draft for a few years now, but there have been some things stopping me. I am by no means an “expert” who pores over tape or scouting reports like a Mel Kiper Jr. or Mike Mayock. I’m not an “insider” with a plethora of contacts within the NFL like Chris Mortensen or John Clayton. I’m just a normal, average, run-of-the-mill fan who just happens to have an nfloutlet thru which I can pontificate about things that interest me. I don’t know who half of these players even are…I have gathered a lot of information from various sources and just have to trust their assessment. I do watch a lot of college football, but I learned long ago that there isn’t always as much crossover as one would assume there’d be between talented collegiate players and good pro prospects. There are always college football stars that are deemed to be too small, too slow, or unathletic enough for the NFL. Conversely, there are a lot of guys who make an impact in the NFL that few fans ever heard about in college. There are a numerous mock drafts available, so why add to the pile??

 

Despite these reservations I finally decided to forge ahead. The first thing I elected to do was make this a 3 round mock draft. Any yahoo can do a one round draft…I want a challenge!! The second thing I knew I wanted to do was throw in some trades. As my fantasy football pals know I love wheelin’ & dealin’. Sadly there isn’t enough of that that actually happens in the real draft. I do know football-introducing-the-science_1that they have a conversion chart that tells the suits what equals out to a fair exchange, but since I don’t have access to that and only have three rounds to work with I just do the best I can. If you see “via X Team” it indicates that is a real pre-existing trade. When you see “trade w/X Team” that means it is a trade that I am creating for this draft. It must be noted that we are almost three months away from the actual draft and a lot of things will occur in that time, especially when free agency begins next month. There will probably be a lot of opinions changed…one way or another…about certain prospects during the NFL Combine later this month. Some well-known names will become salary cap casualties. I may do a revised mock draft a week or two before the real thing, but I’m not making any promises. In the meantime, for those of you nerdy enough to enjoy this stuff as much as I do please peruse my selections and don’t hesitate to leave feedback.

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Round 1

1              Cleveland Browns (trade w/Houston Texans)Cleveland_Browns_Helmet

            QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)                            

The Browns move up to get the quarterback that they covet. The move makes sense.

2              Houston Texans (via Washington Redskins & trade w/St. Louis Rams)houston-texans-mobile-wallpaper

            QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)

In this scenario the Texans move down and then move back up, securing not only an extra pick but the player they really wanted all along anyway.

3              Atlanta Falcons (trade w/Jacksonville Jaguars)falcons

            DE Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina)

The Jags move down knowing they can get who they want a few picks later plus add another draft choice. The Falcons leapfrog a couple of other teams to make sure they get Clowney. It’s a win-win for both teams.

4              St. Louis Rams (trade w/Houston Texans)St_Louis_Rams

            WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson)

The Rams are tempted to take an offensive lineman, but this draft is deep at that position and there’s really no one that is transcendent at the top. However, Watkins does stand far & above any other receiver.

5              Minnesota Vikings (trade w/Oakland Raiders)vikingshelmet1

            QB Blake Bortles (Central Florida)

The Vikings are desperate for a quarterback. The Raiders figure they can find one in the second round plus add a couple of picks. Only time will tell who was smarter.

6              Jacksonville Jaguars (trade w/Atlanta Falcons)Jacksonville_Jaguars

            DE Kony Ealy (Missouri)

‘Tis a tough position for the Jags. They miss out on both Clowney and Bortles. There is a huge temptation to reach for a quarterback, but that’s not the smart move. A good pass rusher is always a decent fallback option.

7              Tampa Bay BuccaneersTampa_Bay_Buccaneers_Helmet

            OT Greg Robinson (Auburn)

The Bucs won’t walk…they’ll run to the podium to make this choice.

8              Oakland Raiders (trade w/Minnesota Vikings)raiders

            OT Jake Matthews (Texas A&M)

Yes the Raiders need a quarterback. But there’s no one in this spot that’d be a good value. Matthews being available at #8 would be a shocker and few teams will ever pass up a cornerstone left tackle.

9              Buffalo BillsBuffalo_Bills_Helmet

            LB Khalil Mack (Buffalo)

If Mack, who played collegiately for the Buffalo Bulls, was hoping to escape the frigid northeast for a warmer climate he’ll be disappointed…but he’ll be rich.

10           Detroit LionsDetroit_Lions_Helmet

           CB Darqueze Dennard (Michigan St.)

The Lions defensive backfield was atrocious last season, and the Seattle Seahawks have proven how important a great secondary can be.

11           Tennessee TitansTennessee_Titans_Helmet

         S Calvin Pryor (Louisville)

The Titans are very very tempted to snag a quarterback, but maybe the Jake Locker era isn’t over just yet. Instead they address another need area by upgrading their secondary.

12           New York GiantsGiants Logo

           LB Anthony Barr (UCLA)

Some early mock drafts had Barr as a Top 5 pick. The G-Men would be ecstatic to find such value at this spot.

13           St. Louis RamsSt_Louis_Rams

        OT Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama)

With their first pick the Rams added a top flight receiver. With their second 1st round choice they add some protection for quarterback Sam Bradford. Not a bad day’s work.

14           Chicago Bearschicago-bears-logo13

          S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama)

Ridiculous name aside, this is a pick that addresses an area of need for the Bears without reaching for an offensive lineman that wouldn’t be as good of a value here.

15           Pittsburgh Steelersdiamond-steelers

            CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma St.)

The Steelers’ secondary hasn’t been all that great for a few years in my opinion, and they’re getting old. This pick addresses a huge problem and injects some much needed youth into the defense.

16           Baltimore Ravens Baltimore_Ravens2

           WR Mike Evans (Texas A&M)

What was the difference between the Super Bowl Champion Ravens of 2012 and the non-playoff Ravens of 2013?? Some say one key change was the loss of receiver Anquan Boldin who was traded to the 49ers. Evans would solve the problem.

17           Dallas Cowboysdallas-cowboys-logo2

           DE Dee Ford (Auburn)

As much flack as quarterback Tony Romo and head coach Jason Garrett receive the fact is that the biggest reason the Cowboys continue to be a disappointment (besides their meddling owner Jerry Jones) is their porous defense. Ideally they’d trade out of this spot as the value at the secondary positions is later in this round or in the 2nd & 3rd rounds, but they have trouble finding a taker and therefore reach just a little for the best defensive end available.

18           New York JetsJets-Pin-Pro

           WR Kelvin Benjamin (Florida St.)

The Jets need offensive playmakers…plain & simple. Geno Smith can be an effective NFL quarterback, but he needs better options than what he had in 2013.

19           Miami Dolphins                Miami_Dolphins_Helmet

         OT Taylor Lewan (Michigan)

The Dolphins really need a workhorse running back, but since they seem to be devalued these days I doubt if they’d choose one with a mid-first round pick. Instead they solidify their offensive line with someone who hopefully won’t find themselves in the midst of an idiotic bullying scandal.

20           Arizona Cardinalsnflarizonacardinals

          OT Zack Martin (Notre Dame)

I think the Cards can squeeze another year or two out of Carson Palmer, so there’s no need to reach for a quarterback just yet.

21           Green Bay PackersGreen_Bay_Packers_Helmet

         TE Eric Ebron (North Carolina)

The Packers were a playoff team and I think they’ll be even better in 2014, so they don’t have any major needs. They could use an upgrade at cornerback but anyone taken here would be a reach, so instead they replace tight end Jermichael Finlay. Finlay’s 2013 season ended at the halfway point with an injury that required spinal fusion surgery. He’s only 26 years old, but he’s also a free agent so the prudent thing to do…especially since quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a plethora of weapons at his disposal anyway…is find a healthier & less expensive alternative.

22           Philadelphia Eagleseagles

           LB CJ Moseley (Alabama)

Head coach Chip Kelly is an offensive guru, but if he really wants to take his team to the top he needs to pay attention to the defense. Moseley is a well-rounded player with tremendous leadership skills.

23           Kansas City Chiefskc-chiefs-logo

         LB Ryan Shazier (Ohio St.)

The Chiefs were the NFL’s most improved team in 2013, but something was lacking. After starting the season 9-0 they finished 2-5 and lost a close one to the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs. The popular sentiment is that they’d like to add a big time receiver for quarterback Alex Smith to target, but I think that the Seattle Seahawks provided the blueprint for defeating the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl…defense, defense, & more defense.

24           Cincinnati BengalsCincinnati_Bengals_Helmet

         CB Jason Verrett (TCU)

The Bengals are a solid playoff team so they can afford to reach just a little to solidify their secondary.

25           San Diego ChargersSan_Diego_Chargers_Helmet3

         G David Yankey (Stanford)

The Chargers flew under the radar in 2013 and right into the playoffs. Time may be running out for quarterback Philip Rivers to fulfill the potential so many thought he had when drafted a decade ago. The best way to maximize his abilities is to keep him upright and give him time to find a receiver downfield.

26           Houston Texans (via Indianapolis Colts & trade w/Cleveland Browns)houston-texans-mobile-wallpaper

           OT Morgan Moses (Virginia)

The Texans get this pick for moving down in the first round and allowing the Browns to draft Johnny Football. Of course they then moved back up and got their quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. So now what?? Well, when you’ve got a big time signal caller the first thing you want to do is protect him.

27           New Orleans Saints10_new_orleans_saints

       OT Antonio Richardson (Tennessee)

The pickins’ are getting slim at the tackle position, but the Saints can afford to roll the dice in an effort to protect Drew Brees.

28           Carolina Pantherscarolina_panthers_logo-14336

         WR Marqise Lee (USC)

I believe that the Panthers are one of the favorites to get to the Super Bowl next season. They’ll have to get past the Seattle Seahawks at some point to get there, and a top flight receiver would help a lot. Steve Smith is 34 years old.

29           New England PatriotsNew_England_Patriots_Helmet

          TE Jace Amaro (Texas Tech)

The Patriots will be heartbroken to see all of the top receivers…Watkins, Evans, Benjamin, & Lee…off the board. But we know they have several options in the playbook for a solid tight end that can catch the ball.

30           San Francisco 49ersSan-Francisco-49ers

         DT Aaron Donald (Pitt)

Most folks seem convinced that ‘Frisco will be right back in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy in 2014. I’m not so sure. This is a team that is getting older at some key spots and they need to address the issue before it becomes a problem. Receiver Anquan Boldin is 33 years old, but I think that position can be dealt with later. For now the prudent idea might be to take the best defensive player on the board.

31           Denver Broncosbroncos-4759

         CB Marcus Roberson (Florida)

The Broncos looked old & slow in the Super Bowl. It was kind of sad. They need to get younger & faster really quickly if they want a chance to get Peyton Manning another ring.

32           Seattle Seahawks            seattle-seahawks1

         WR Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU)

What can you possibly get the team that seemingly has everything?? Well, I’m going to say another weapon for quarterback Russell Wilson.

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Round 2

 

33           St. Louis Rams (trade w/Houston Texans)

         G Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA)

The Rams get this pick after trading down with the Texans earlier. This is the third pick for them and they’ve already added a legit #1 receiver and a solid offensive tackle. Depth on the offensive line is always great to have though.

34           Washington Redskins

          DT Timmy Jernigan (Florida St.)

The Redskins didn’t have a first round pick due to the trade that snagged them quarterback RGIII a couple of years ago. They still end up getting first round talent though, and improve their defense in the process.

35           Cleveland Browns

          RB Ka’Deem Carey (Arizona)

Either Trent Richardson wasn’t the answer at running back or the Browns gave up on him too quickly. Either way they need a replacement, because if they go into 2014 with 32 year old Willis McGahee & Fozzy Whittaker as  their starters they are screwed.

36           Oakland Raiders

         QB Derek Carr (Fresno St.)

Patience pays off for Oakland. Truthfully Carr shouldn’t drop this far, but there is some trepidation since he is the younger brother of former #1 overall pick David Carr, who was a huge bust coming out of Fresno St. in 2002. Fair?? Probably not, but the comparisons are inevitable.

37           Jacksonville Jaguars (trade w/Atlanta Falcons)

           G Cyril Richardson (Baylor)

At this point one has to feel some semblance of sympathy for the Jags. They traded down in the first round but it seemed like they could snag Carr early in the second. Oops. Fortunately there are a few more decent quarterback prospects available…but not here. Instead they add depth to the offensive line.

38           Tampa Bay Buccaneers

           LB Vic Beasley (Clemson)

The Bucs addressed offensive line issues in the first round. This time they reach just a bit for a pass rusher.

39           Jacksonville Jaguars

           DT Louis Nix III (Notre Dame)

The Jags are up again?? They go defense again and get great value with a huge defensive tackle.

40           Minnesota Vikings

           WR Allen Robinson (Penn St.)

Minnesota got their quarterback in the first round, so now it is time to get him some weapons. Adrian Peterson can’t do it all.

41           Buffalo Bills

          TE Austin Jenkins (Washington)

Any quarterback…especially a young guy like EJ Manuel…benefits from a solid tight end that can catch the ball. Adding Jenkins with the already decent Scott Chandler could give the Bills a unique tandem that’d be the envy of the league.

42           Tennessee Titans

          WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)

Matthews provides an upgrade over aging Nate Washington and oft injured troublemaker Kenny Britt, who some team will likely overpay in free agency.

43           New York Giants

          S Terrence Brooks (Florida St.)

The Giants continue to upgrade their defense by adding some speed to the secondary. Brooks could play cornerback in a pinch as well, and that kind of flexibility is a good thing in the NFL.

44           St. Louis Rams

          DT RaShede Hageman (Minnesota)

The Rams have their fourth pick of the draft and add some depth on defense this time.

45           Detroit Lions

          CB Bradley Roby (Ohio St.)

Did I mention that Detroit’s secondary was really bad last year?? Taking two corners with their first two picks might seem a bit out-of-the-box, but if it works then why not??

46           Pittsburgh Steelers

           G Gabe Jackson (Mississippi St.)

My Steelers addressed the secondary with their first pick, so now it is time to begin rebuilding the offensive line. The top echelon of tackles were all taken in the first round, but I like the idea of pairing Jackson with David DeCastro on the interior of the line with center Maurkice Pouncey in the middle.

47           Baltimore Ravens

          OT Jack Mewhort (Ohio St.)

The Ravens got the big wide receiver they needed in the first round, and now they will look to solidify the offensive line. They are likely to lose atleast one significant lineman in free agency, so a replacement is necessary.

48           Dallas Cowboys

          S Ed Reynolds (Stanford)

Dallas must redo their secondary. It’s just that simple.

49           New York Jets

          RB Tre Mason (Auburn)

Neither Bilal Powell nor Chris Ivory are feature back material. The powers-that-be in The Big Apple have a few good choices here, but I’m guessing they’ll fall in love with Mason’s speed & versatility.

50           Miami Dolphins

         RB Carlos Hyde (Ohio St.)

The Dolphins get their workhorse back. Adios Lamar Miller & Daniel Thomas!!

51           Chicago Bears

          S Deone Bucannon (Washington St.)

The Seattle Seahawks showed us the blueprint for success…a big, physical secondary. The Bears have been paying attention.

52           Arizona Cardinals

           LB Kyle Van Noy (BYU)

The defensive braintrust in Arizona loves linebackers who can get after the quarterback. With John Abraham turning 35 it is time to turn the page.

53           Green Bay Packers

           CB Lamarcus Joyner (Florida St.)

After finding a replacement for Jermichael Finlay in the first round the Packers will look to add secondary depth here.

54           Philadelphia Eagles

            CB Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech)

The Eagles continue to fortify the defense by adding a piece to the secondary.

55           Cincinnati Bengals

           S Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois)

Cincy adds more depth to the secondary. That’s where the value is in this draft.

56           San Francisco 49ers (via Kansas City Chiefs)

          WR Davante Adams (Fresno St.)

This pick belongs to the 49ers due to the trade that sent QB Alex Smith from ‘Frisco to KC last year. Adams can learn for a year under Anquan Boldin before taking his job.

57           San Diego Chargers

           LB Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech)

San Diego’s defense is young but that doesn’t mean the pass rush can’t be improved.

58           New Orleans Saints

          LB Trevor Reilly (Utah)

At this point the linebacker group starts to look a bit thin, so the Saints grab one while they can.

59           Indianapolis Colts

           OT Joel Bitonio (Nevada)

The Colts didn’t have a first round choice due to trading it to Cleveland for RB Trent Richardson. If that trade stands any chance of working out in the long run Indianapolis has to spend this pick on an offensive line upgrade.

60           Carolina Panthers

           DT Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)

The Panthers add depth on the defensive line.

61           San Francisco 49ers

           DT Trent Murphy (Stanford)

The 49ers have already addressed their defensive line and picked up some depth at receiver. They are in a unique position to take the best player available, which just so happens to add more depth on the defensive line as well.

62           New England Patriots

          DE Scott Crichton (Oregon St.)

The Pats add youth & athleticism to the defensive line.

63           Denver Broncos

          G Dakota Dozier (Furman)

Denver added a much needed younger piece to the defensive backfield in the first round…now they address the offense. Peyton Manning was never that fleet of foot, but at his advanced age protection becomes even more of a priority. Offensive line depth is crucial to another Super Bowl run. Dozier can play both guard & tackle, which makes him a versatile and valuable asset.

64           Seattle Seahawks

           DE Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas)

Do the Seahawks really need an upgrade on defense?? No, not really. But Jeffcoat is the best player available and Chris Clemons is 32 years old.

**********

Round 3

65           Houston Texans

            CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska)

The Texans give some attention to the defense by adding some size to the secondary.

66           Washington Redskins

           LB Christian Jones (Florida St.)

Brian Orakpo is a free agent and the ageless London Fletcher finally retiring…I think. Linebacker is a significant need.

67           Oakland Raiders

           WR Brandin Cooks (Oregon St.)

The diminutive Cooks might not be the #1 wideout the Raiders really covet, but he could be a tremendous slot receiver in the vein of a Wes Welker. That can be a valuable asset in today’s NFL.

68           Atlanta Falcons

          RB Charles Sims (West Virginia)

Steven Jackson will turn 31 this summer. His days as a #1 back are over. The Falcons must move forward.

69           Tampa Bay Buccaneers

          TE Troy Niklas (Notre Dame)

Mel Kiper & Adam Shefter will probably use the word “upside” a hundred times when talking about Niklas. He only started one year at Notre Dame, but at 6ft.7 270lbs. the former linebacker has size & athleticism and could find himself starting fairly early in his career.

70           Jacksonville Jaguars

           QB AJ McCarron (Alabama)

Don’t be surprised if the Jags also try to trade for a young veteran signal caller like Kirk Cousins or Ryan Mallet or sign a stop gap like Michael Vick, Josh Freeman, or Matt Cassel.

71           Cleveland Browns

          G Brandon Thomas (Clemson)

After taking care of major issues at QB & RB the Browns now move to solidify an offensive line that is already decent but could be better.

72           Oakland Raiders (trade w/Minnesota Vikings)

          S Dion Bailey (USC)

The Raiders have this pick after moving down in the first round, a trade which allowed the Vikings to snag quarterback Blake Bortles. Oakland has to get younger in their secondary. Former Heisman winner Charles Woodson is 37 years old.

73           Buffalo Bills

           OT Ju’Wuan James (Tennessee)

A team can never have enough offensive line depth.

74           New York Giants

         RB Bishop Sankey (Washington)

Is it too soon to give up on 2012 first round pick David Wilson?? Probably. But he just underwent surgery for spinal stenosis so his future is cloudy at best.

75           St. Louis Rams

          S Ty Zimmerman (Kansas St.)

The Rams have had a great draft thus far, adding a big time receiver and significant help on both lines. Now they add some depth to the secondary.

76           Detroit Lions

           C Travis Swanson (Arkansas)

Detroit just re-signed center Dominic Raiola for another year, but he is 35 years old and it’s time to look toward the future. Raiola can mentor Swanson for one season before passing the torch.

77           San Francisco 49ers (via Tennessee Titans)

           CB Loucheiz Purifoy (Florida)

The 49ers are likely to suffer some losses in the secondary via free agency, so they take the opportunity to replenish.

78           Baltimore Ravens

          C Marcus Martin (USC)

The Ravens offensive line was an issue last season. Upgrades are needed because when a team has a good running back like Ray Rice it is crucial to be able to take advantage of his talent by opening up holes for him to run thru.

79           Dallas Cowboys

          CB Terrance Mitchell (Oregon)

The Cowboys continue to look for answers to solve their defensive backfield issues.

80           New York Jets

          LB Shayne Skov (Stanford)

Starting linebacker Calvin Pace is 33 years old. The Jets need to find some youth at the position.

81           Miami Dolphins

         WR Paul Richardson (Colorado)

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill needs more weapons. Mike Wallace & Brian Hartline ain’t gonna cut it.

82           Chicago Bears

          DT Will Sutton (Arizona St.)

The Bears add some much needed depth on the defensive line.

83           Cleveland Browns (via Pittsburgh Steelers)

           CB Keith McGill (Utah)

Cleveland takes the opportunity to upgrade the corner opposite All-Pro Joe Haden.

84           Arizona Cardinals

          QB Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois)

The young signal caller from Eastern Illinois (alma mater of fellow quarterback Tony Romo) was impressive in a couple of post-season all-star games. This is a good situation for him as he can sit for a year or two and learn the ropes from Carson Palmer.

85           Green Bay Packers

          NT DaQuan Jones (Penn St.)

Free agent BJ Raji is likely headed out of Green Bay, so they need a replacement.

86           Philadelphia Eagles

           RB De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon)

Thomas is an interesting prospect. He’s not an every down running back and he’s not quite a wide receiver. He’s a situational player with blazing speed. Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly coached Thomas at Oregon and has to be salivating at the thought of being able to utilize his unique skillset in the NFL. If anyone should know how to best use Thomas it’s Coach Kelly.

87           Kansas City Chiefs

          WR Donte Moncrief (Mississippi)

Kansas City grabs an underrated prospect who can be a nice complement to Dwayne Bowe.

88           Cincinnati Bengals

         LB Telvin Smith (Florida St.)

James Harrison is 35 years old. He won’t last forever.

89           San Diego Chargers

          DT Dominique Easley (Florida)

Easley is coming off an ACL injury (his 2nd since 2010) and probably should have stayed for his senior year at Florida. The Chargers are very young along the defensive line and can afford to be patient.

90           Indianapolis Colts

           G Anthony Steen (Alabama)

The Colts continue to upgrade their offensive line. Quarterback Andrew Luck must be protected and a running game has to be established.

91           New Orleans Saints

           CB Jaylen Watkins (Florida)

N’awlins adds some depth to the secondary.

92           Carolina Panthers

         G Brandon Linder (Miami, FL)

This is probably a bit of a reach, but Carolina can afford to be a bit cheeky. Protecting Cam Newton is essential so it’s worth a gamble.

93           New England Patriots

           DE Will Clarke (West Virginia)

Clarke is another guy who really helped himself in post-season all-star games. This isn’t necessarily an area of need for New England, but Belichick will figure out how to fit Clarke into the rotation.

94           San Francisco 49ers

      C Weston Richburg (Colorado St.)

Starting center Jonathan Goodwin is 35 years old. Time to get some new blood to go with the rest of the young & talented offensive line.

95           Denver Broncos

          QB Zach Mettenberger (LSU)

I don’t think that Brock Osweiler or Zac Dysert are worthy candidates to eventually replace Peyton Manning. As much as the Broncos want to get Manning that second ring the fact is that the powers-that-be have to have one eye on the future and Mettenberger, who is currently recovering from a torn ACL, can “redshirt” for a year before possibly being in a position to gently push Manning into retirement.

96           Oakland Raiders (trade w/Minnesota Vikings via Seattle Seahawks)

           S Ahmad Dixon (Baylor)

Minnesota had this pick due to the trade that sent Percy Harvin to Seattle in 2013. They then gave it to the Raiders in order to jump up in the first round. The Raiders have added a QB, slot receiver, & cornerstone tackle already. They also added some young, fresh legs to the secondary and do so again here.

America’s Pastime??

Barry Bonds in action.

Barry Bonds

I had every intention of doing a full blown 2009 baseball preview. That obviously didn’t happen. Opening Day has come and gone and so it seems a rather pointless exercise.

I remember not that long ago when Opening Day was an event. Everyone, even the most fair weather baseball fans, knew when it was approaching. I suppose it’s still a big deal for a significant amount of baseball aficionados, but it certainly doesn’t seem to have the cachet that it once did. I didn’t even realize it was occurring until I heard it mentioned on the radio in my car about an hour before the first pitch was to be tossed. There didn’t seem to be much coverage of spring training this year, or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

There are probably a lot of reasons for the decline in popularity of baseball, atleast in relative terms when compared with our ever-increasing love affair with football. For me personally I’m a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, and they haven’t been anywhere close to competitive for about 17 years. We Pirates fans have no real reason for hope or anticipation and usually quit paying close attention before summer even officially begins. I’m sure this apathy spreads to fans of other teams like the Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals, and Cleveland Indians, whose teams are rarely that good. This can be traced to the lack of a salary cap, something football has and baseball sorely needs. There are also the constant scandals that have rocked the sport for the last couple of decades. I don’t believe it’s out of bounds to hypothesize that the beginning of the end for baseball started with the downfall of Pete Rose about 20 years ago. Then in 1994 there was a players’ strike that cut the season in half and forced the cancellation of the playoffs and World Series. Baseball has never fully recovered from that season and the wrath it instilled in loyal fans. It came very very close to a much desired reconciliation with its public in 1998 due to the excitement involving Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s chase of Roger Maris’ vaunted home run record. But during the past 4 or 5 years even that progress has been unraveled as we’ve learned that all those home runs were likely a mirage, the numbers skewed by illegal substance abuse. One by one mighty heroes of the diamond have fallen from grace, from Barry Bonds to Jose Canseco to McGwire to Alex Rodriguez. Even pitchers, chief among them the legendary Roger Clemens, apparently aren’t above cheating.

We also cannot ignore the changing landscape of our nation. We prefer fast and frenetic these days, as opposed to slow and easy. Football appeals to our more modern, chaotic sensibilities, while baseball seems nostalgic and bucolic. Baseball is a relic, a living monument to a bygone era we recall with a certain sense of wistful wonder. It’s a nice place to visit occasionally, but it’s not something we can really sink our teeth into for the long haul. And with its 162 game season plus playoffs and then a World Series baseball definitely encompasses a long haul. Transversely, football season seems much shorter, even though it really isn’t. Close examination reveals that baseball opens in April and concludes in October…..7 months. Football, if one takes into consideration both college and the NFL season which basically overlap, begins in late August and climaxes in early February…..7 months. Of course there is a significant difference when one factors in that each team in football plays once per week, while in baseball your favorite team likely plays 4 or 5 times. Youngsters today consider baseball slow and boring. They have so many other choices…..video games, the internet, DVDs, Ipods. Our culture is on sensory overload, and baseball easily gets lost in the shuffle.

Football has better PR as well. Does anyone think football players don’t use performance enhancing drugs? If you do, you’re more than naïve. But no one seems to make nearly as big a deal out of it. Also, when was the last time you watched or attended a college baseball game? College baseball has an extremely limited following, while college football is HUGE. We are able to follow our beloved football players every step of the way from their recruitment to the university of their choice, through their entire college career, to speculating who’ll choose them in the NFL Draft (does anyone actually watch the MLB Draft? Ummm…no), through their (hopefully) long NFL career. We’re invested in football every step of the way. Baseball…..not so much.

This examination is not meant as an insult to baseball. I’m still a fan. I just find it unfortunate that circumstances have converged in such a way that prevents me, and legions of others, from being a passionate fan. Calling baseball America’s Pastime is nothing more than a marketing tool. It is more a reflection of America’s past.