Winning & Musing…Farewell Football

You might think it is a bit weird that we are wrapping up the football season before The Super Bowl even kicks off, and perhaps it is, but that’s one of the things we’ll talk about, as well as tying up a few other loose ends in the inaugural 2019 edition of W&M. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

As a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan I feel obligated to chime in on this Antonio Brown brouhaha. A couple of years ago Brown went on Facebook live from the locker room during a playoff postgame speech by head coach Mike Tomlin, and that was the first indicator to me that there might be an issue with his ego & attitude. Then, several months ago, a friend of mine suggested I check out a show on Animal Planet called Tanked, on which AB was a guest who was having a custom fish tank made for him. During that program I got a little more exposure to his arrogance. No one seems to be talking about the details of Brown’s falling out with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and I was always taught that there are three sides to every story…one side, the other side, & somewhere in the middle is the truth. Big Ben probably isn’t blameless. He has his faults, as do we all. However, given the preponderance of the evidence and the fact that Brown essentially quit on his team in the midst of a must-win scenario before the final game of the season I will not be heartbroken if the Steelers pull the trigger on a trade. Having said that, I hope that they are smart enough not to give the guy away for anything less than a first round pick, and it would be smart to send him to an NFC team. The vindictive side of me would like to see him go to a terrible team like Arizona, Tampa Bay, or Detroit, but that might be asking for too much. I’d be remiss to ignore Tomlin’s part in all of this drama. It is my personal belief that the Steelers have severely underachieved with him at the helm. That may seem a bit harsh since he has led the team to two Super Bowls and one championship, but most Steelers fans agree that the team should have won two or three additional Lombardi Trophies in the past several years. The Antonio Brown controversy has reinforced the general impression that the team lacks discipline and that Tomlin doesn’t run a tight ship. However, those calling for him to be fired are wasting their energy because that’s just not how the Steelers do things. They haven’t fired a head coach in a half century.

 

 

Zach edged me out in our college football Bowl-a-Palooza picks. He went 25-13, while I was 22-13.  I limped to the finish in our Pigskin Picks of Profundity, going 1-4 in the final week to finish the season 51-56. Conversely, Zach ended on a strong note, going 4-1 in the final week to end the season 47-61.

 

 

Congratulations to the Clemson Tigers for winning their second national championship in three years. I must confess that I watched very little of the title game because the Alabama Crimson Tide began to bore me to tears quite awhile ago, so I’m not sad at all that Clemson beat the snot out of ‘Bama by four touchdowns.

 

 

I am cautiously optimistic about new West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown. After a few successful seasons at Troy (a 1-AA school that plays in the Sun Belt Conference) Brown comes to Morgantown after the sudden departure of former coach Dana Holgorsen. I can’t blame Holgorsen for bolting. Sure, Houston isn’t in a “Power 5” conference…but they will be, and probably sooner rather than later. Since the school is situated in the fourth largest city in America and the state of Texas is one of the top recruiting areas for elite athletes one must assume that the Cougars are a sleeping giant. There is also the fact that Holgorsen never seemed to feel totally comfortable in the Mountain State. He just never really fit in here, unlike beloved former coach Don Nehlen, who came to West Virginia in 1980 from Ohio and never left, even after he retired in 2000. Holgorsen will undoubtedly be happier in Houston and likely lead his team to great success. Meanwhile, Brown has made a good first impression and seems to quickly be fitting in just fine. Will that translate to winning on the field?? Who knows?? The truth is that no matter who the coach is the Mountaineers can probably expect to average 7 or 8 wins per season and play in a run-of-the-mill bowl game each December, but perhaps every once in awhile the stars will align, the dominos will all fall just right, and they could sneak into a Big 12 title game & maybe even the playoff. They’ve been that good maybe about a half dozen times in my 40+ years on the planet, so there’s always hope.

 

 

I’m not going to analyze my NFL Preview in detail. By now we all know I said a lot of crazy things that turned out to be completely wrong. In the NFC I only predicted 2 of the 6 playoff teams correctly, while I did a little better in the AFC, getting 4 out of 6 right. I placed way too much faith in my Steelers. Not only did they not get to The Super Bowl…they didn’t even make it to the playoffs. I nailed two of the Top 5 picks in this spring’s NFL Draft (Tampa & Arizona), and the 6-10 Denver Broncos & Cincinnati Bengals fell to 10th & 11th in the draft order only because so many other teams were even more inept, so I’m at peace with those choices. I had the Seattle Seahawks in that bottom five, but they actually went 10-6 and made the playoffs. I assume most pundits thought the San Francisco 49ers would be much better than 4-12 with the 2nd overall draft pick, but injuries destroyed their season. I really thought the Oakland Raiders & NY Jets would be rather decent this season, but they landed high draft choices as well.

 

 

As far as The Super Bowl goes, I just can’t get excited about it at all. I make no secret of my longstanding hatred of the New England Patriots, so cheering on the Los Angeles Rams would seem like a no-brainer. However, I’m not all that enthusiastic about the Rams because let’s be honest…they really shouldn’t be in the game. I don’t want to go off on a loquacious rant about officiating, but the blown call that cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to The Super Bowl was quite possibly one of the most egregious mistakes I’ve ever seen in any sport. It is inexcusable incompetence and the entire crew should be fired. The NFL needs to have some sort of mechanism in place to prevent or atleast correct such critical errors, even if it means almost total eradication of human judgment. Having said that, I suppose I will watch atleast some of “The Big Game” and pull for the Rams.

2018 NFL Preview & Prognostications

The old saying is that “hindsight is 20/20”, and sometimes hindsight can also be absolutely hilarious. There is a Facebook page called Freezing Cold Takes which posts old tweets & comments from talking heads about players, teams, games, & draft picks that turned out to be way wrong, which is great because I’ve always thought it terrible that no one holds those people accountable for some of the outrageous opinions that they spew in an effort to get attention and stir the pot. Here at The Manofesto I do reflect on stuff I’ve written in the past and often call myself out on things about which I’ve been off base, and in looking back at last year’s preview I just have to roll my eyes that I said “football is a uniter, not a divider”, since the NFL proceeded to spend the next few months dividing the nation with their idiotic anthem protests. I’d like to think that this season will be different, but between renewed debate about those protests in addition to new rules that turn what used to commonly be referred to as a tackle into a penalty, I’m not sure football fans will be any happier with the NFL in 2018. Atleast they loosened up and clarified exactly what a catch is, so I suppose that’s progress. And as far as hindsight goes, a year ago I did throw out a plea for someone to “give Jon Gruden a coaching job and get him off our TVs”, so a shout out to the Raiders for answering that prayer.  As always the team’s record from the previous year is in parentheses, with the predicted record for this season following it. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

North

Minnesota Vikings       (13-3)         11-5

Chicago Bears             (5-11)        8-8

Green Bay Packers     (7-9)           8-8

Detroit Lions                 (9-7)           6-10

 

The Vikings swapped out Case Keenum for Kirk Cousins at QB, which theoretically should be an upgrade. The defense was already stellar, and they’ve now added defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and drafted cornerback Mike Hughes in the first round, so I see no reason to expect a dropoff. Minnesota won’t take anyone by surprise this year, but I still think they’ll win the division easily. The biggest surprise might be the Bears. I really like quarterback Mitch Trubisky, Jordan Howard & Tarik Cohen make for a great running back tandem, & I think wide receiver Kevin White (formerly of my WVU Mountaineers) will finally stay healthy and prove why he was a first round pick in 2015. My concern is with Chicago’s defense, and with this being new head coach Matt Nagy’s first season I think the playoffs are a bit much to expect. I feel like the Packers are leaning on their reputation but in reality aren’t that good. QB Aaron Rodgers has spent most of the offseason gallivanting around with new girlfriend Danica Patrick, and it wouldn’t be the first time that an athlete’s personal life has distracted them from their job. The Lions have a new coach too…former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who was indicted for sexual assault back in his college days but not convicted, something he didn’t feel was important to mention to the powers-that-be in Detroit during the hiring process. I think Patricia will get the Lions over the hump someday…but not this year. The roster simply isn’t good enough and the division is too tough.

 

 

 

South

Carolina Panthers                 (11-5)         12-4

Atlanta Falcons                     (10-6)         7-9

New Orleans Saints              (11-5)         6-10

Tampa Bay Buccaneers      (5-11)         2-14

 

The NFC South has been one of the most compelling & competitive divisions in the league the past few years, but I don’t believe that’ll be the case in 2018. Cam Newton is in his eighth season under center for the Panthers, and it feels like the time for hype is over and he actually needs to lead his team back to the Super Bowl, a height they reached in 2015 before getting throttled by the Denver Broncos. I’m just not feeling good vibes about the Falcons or Saints, although I’d love to see 39 year old Drew Brees end his career on a high note in the next couple of seasons. I foresee sharp declines for Atlanta and New Orleans this year. I’ve never been a huge fan of Bucs QB Jameis Winston…not because he lacks talent since he is actually quite capable, but because he seems like kind of a jackass. Once again he is being accused of improper conduct, this time for allegedly groping an Uber driver a couple of years ago. The NFL found enough merit in the charge that they suspended Winston for the first few games of the season, and I don’t think things will get much better for the team once he returns.

 

 

 

East

Philadelphia Eagles              (13-3)         12-4

Washington Redskins                    (7-9)           9-7

Dallas Cowboys                              (9-7)           7-9

New York Giants                   (3-13)         6-10

 

A year ago I predicted that the Eagles would finish 5-11 and have the third overall pick in the NFL Draft. Instead they won 13 games & the division and went on to upset the Pats in the Super Bowl. Now starting QB Carson Wentz is returning from a torn ACL suffered late last season, and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is the backup, which seems unfair to the rest of the league. The Redskins lost Kirk Cousins but replaced him under center with Alex Smith, which feels like a lateral move. The Cowboys have Dak Prescott back as their quarterback, but I’m not sure he has anyone to thrown the ball to after the departure of Dez Bryant and the retirement of tight end Jason Witten. Sure they have RB Zeke Elliot, but what if defenses stack eight in the box and dare Prescott to beat them?? That won’t end well for Dallas. As much as some may disagree, I don’t believe the Giants are going to get back into the playoff hunt as long as Eli Manning is their quarterback. Eli has benefited from his family ties and a couple of really lucky Super Bowl wins, but in general I’ve always felt that he is overrated and now he is on the downside of his career. The Giants drafted running back Saquon Barkley second overall, and he will undoubtedly open up the offense allowing receiver Odell Beckham to catch his fair share of touchdowns, but I just don’t think it’ll be enough, especially if the defense doesn’t gel.

 

 

 

West

Los Angeles Rams               (11-5)         10-6

San Francisco 49ers            (6-10)         10-6

Seattle Seahawks                 (9-7)           5-11

Arizona Cardinals                  (8-8)           3-13

 

Seattle’s Legion of Boom has been relegated to the dust bin of history and their once imposing defense looks totally decimated. But hey, atleast they still have Russell Wilson at quarterback, right?? That’s the only reason I’m picking the Seahawks to win more games than the Cardinals, because Arizona is going into the season with fragile Sam Bradford as their signal caller…unless first rounder Josh Rosen steals the job in the pre-season. The 49ers seemed like a completely different team after they traded for QB Jimmy Garoppolo in the latter stages of last season, and I think he’s the real deal. I’m not all that confident in the weapons Jimmy G. has surrounding him, but if the defense is as good as it looks to be on paper then ‘Frisco could pull out their fair share of tight, low scoring games. Conversely, the Rams should put plenty of points on the board as young QB Jared Goff gets in sync with receivers Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Pharoah Cooper, & Brandin Cooks. Oh, and they have top flight running back Todd Gurley toting the rock. So if the defense is even slightly above average I think the Rams have to be the favorites by a nose over San Francisco.

 

 

Playoff Teams:   Minnesota, Carolina, Philadelphia, L.A. Rams, Washington, San Francisco

NFC Championship:   Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North

Pittsburgh Steelers               (13-3)         11-5

Baltimore Ravens                 (9-7)           8-8

Cleveland Browns                 (0-16)         6-10

Cincinnati Bengals                (7-9)           5-11

 

It is a testament to how little regard I (and most of the football viewing public) give the Browns that I didn’t even realize that they went 0-16 last season. I thought they’d won atleast one game, but that was in 2016. I’m not all that enamored with #1 overall pick Baker Mayfield not because he doesn’t have potential but because I think Cleveland could’ve made some deals, improved their team, and still snagged Mayfield later in the first round. Actually he kind of gives me a Brett Favre vibe, and if that’s true then he could turn out to be the answer they’ve been searching for in The Factory of Sadness for many years. But for now winning more games than they’ve won in total over the past couple of seasons would be cause for optimism. If that actually happens then it could mean a last place finish for the Bengals, which I’d have to assume would bring an end to Marvin Lewis’ decade & a half long reign as Cincy’s head coach. I’m not at all impressed with quarterback Andy Dalton or any of his weapons, with the exception of receiver AJ Green, who has to be pondering an escape to a contender after eight seasons with a team going nowhere. Their defense might keep Cincinnati competitive in quite a few games, but I think they’ll fall short more often than not. There is a quarterback controversy brewing in Baltimore, with fans & sports media desperately wanting rookie Lamar Jackson (a former Heisman Trophy winner) to prove himself good enough to supplant veteran Joe Flacco. The problem is that neither quarterback has anyone noteworthy to throw to, and the running game is a triple threat of mediocrity. The defense is always stout in Baltimore though, which might be good enough to snag a wild card. The division is my Steelers’ to lose. A year ago I pointed out that “the AFC North isn’t their true competition” and that “the only thing on anyone’s mind is overcoming the Patriots and getting to the Super Bowl”. That is truer than ever after losing home field advantage to the Patriots on one of those stupid “was it a catch or wasn’t it” decisions and then not really showing up against the Jags in the playoffs. Much of the offseason in Pittsburgh has been spent dealing with RB Le’veon Bell’s contract demands, and it’s all but a foregone conclusion that this will be his final season wearing Black & Gold. That combined with Ben Roethlisberger’s advanced age makes 2018 feel like a make or break, all or nothing, all chips in the center of the table season for the Steelers.

 

 

 

South

Houston Texans                  (4-12)         10-6

Jacksonville Jaguars           (10-6)         9-7

Tennessee Titans                 (9-7)           8-8

Indianapolis Colts                 (4-12)         7-9

 

I really like QB Deshaun Watson. He may have been on his way to being named NFL Rookie of the Year until a knee injury took him out midway thru the season. Assuming that he is healthy & ready to go I have to believe that the Texans are the team to beat in the South. Philanthropic defensive tackle JJ Watt also had his 2017 season torpedoed by injury, but he’ll be back on the field as well leading a stout defense. There is a lot to like about Houston. I suppose most “experts” will be picking Jacksonville to win the division again and maybe even make it to the Super Bowl…but I’m not convinced. Obviously their defense is quite impressive, but I am stunned that they stuck with Blake Bortles under center, and the rest of the offense is just as prosaic with the exception of RB Leonard Fournette, who is an injury waiting to happen. The Colts’ entire season rests on the health of QB Andrew Luck, and judging by the past two years that’s not at all comforting. If Luck is back then the question is can he live up to the Peyton Manning comparisons that were prevalent when he first entered the league, and I just don’t see that happening this season. I’ve got to see more from receiver TY Hilton, tight end Jack Doyle, & running back Marlon Mack…not to mention the offensive line, and I’m really not sure what to expect from the defense. First year head coach Frank Reich really has his work cut out for him in Indy. I feel like the Titans will be about the same as last year, perhaps a bit improved defensively. I like QB Marcus Mariota, and Corey Davis should emerge as a legit top flight receiver, but with Houston rebounding from a season that I believe was an anomaly it feels like Tennessee will be on the outside looking in.

 

 

 

East

New England Patriots           (13-3)         11-5

New York Jets                       (5-11)         7-9

Buffalo Bills                            (9-7)           6-10

Miami Dolphins                      (6-10)         5-11

 

Ugh. I hate this part. The Patriots are like a damn cockroach that no one can seem to destroy. Credit where credit is due though…they have been resilient in fending off the competition for over a decade. Whether you attribute that to skill, luck, cheating, or something else is a matter of opinion. At any rate, I won’t predict their demise until I actually see proof of impending doom, and though I’ve been looking & hoping for that for a few years now it hasn’t happened yet. Everybody else in the division is just there to provide the façade of competition. The Jets have yet another new quarterback, although it is possible that veteran journeyman Josh McCown will start ahead of rookie Sam Darnold for a few weeks. Buffalo had a decent season a year ago, but I think they’ll fall back a bit in 2018. AJ McCarron is penciled in to start ahead of first round draft pick Josh Allen under center, and I suppose it is possible that either could emerge as a pleasant surprise. On paper the Bills defense seems like it should be good, so we’ll see. Ryan Tannehill returns from injury to quarterback the Dolphins, while Jay Cutler has re-retired and is doing reality TV. God help us all. There are some decent weapons available to Tannehill, but the fact that Cutler only got Miami six wins a year ago and Tannehill isn’t as good as Cutler doesn’t bode well. The defense has potential, but I don’t think that’ll be enough to win very many games.

 

 

 

West

Los Angeles Chargers            (9-7)           9-7

Oakland Raiders                    (6-10)         8-8

Kansas City Chiefs               (10-6)         7-9

Denver Broncos                     (5-11)         2-14

 

Thanks again to the Raiders for bringing Gruden back to coach, which means that ESPN’s Monday Night Football crew will consist of Joe Tessitore, retired players Booger McFarland & Jason Witten, and Lisa Salters reporting from the field. Sounds good to me. I don’t believe that the Raiders will be back in the playoffs just yet, but they’ll improve slightly and Derek Carr might get back to being the talented quarterback he was a couple of years ago. Amari Cooper and Packers’ refugee Jordy Nelson make for an impressive receiving tandem, and Marshawn Lynch & former Buccaneer Doug Martin should solidify the ground game. The defense seems like it has some questions, which is why I’m hesitant to make Oakland more than a .500 team. I really sense a decline coming from Kansas City. Second year quarterback Patrick Mahomes takes over for the departed Alex Smith, and it might take some time for the young man to figure things out. He’s got some fantastic weapons at his disposal, so perhaps the learning curve won’t be as steep as I’m predicting. The Broncos feel like they’re on the edge of the cliff. Case Keenum is the new quarterback, and we’ll find out fairly fast if he’s the talented guy that won 11 out of 14 games with the Vikings last season or the pedestrian backup everyone always believed him to be. If Denver’s defense gets back to being as great as they were when winning the Super Bowl a few years ago that’ll help a lot, but I feel like they were pretty good last season and the team only won five games. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something is amiss in the Mile High City, and it might get worse before it gets better.

 

 

Playoff Teams:   Pittsburgh, Houston, New England, L.A. Chargers, Jacksonville, Baltimore

AFC Championship:    Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Houston Texans

 

 

 

 

 

 

17

 

 

 

 

13

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Picks in 2019 Draft:

1       Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2       Denver Broncos

3       Arizona Cardinals

4       Seattle Seahawks

5       Cincinnati Bengals

2017 NFL Preview & Prognostications

In light of all the absurdity happening in the world these days it’s good to know that it won’t be long until we can spend hours upon hours every weekend curled up on the couch watching football and forgetting about life for awhile. Football is a uniter, not a divider. Oh sure everyone has their favorite teams & players and fans will good-naturedly debate each other over such issues, but at the end of the day football fans on opposite ends of even the most longstanding rivalries usually have no problem sitting down with a cold beverage and some tasty snacks to watch the game together. There is so much common ground. Raider Nation, Cheeseheads, & Philly Boo Birds can all agree on certain things…the Browns suck, Tom Brady is a douche canoe, RedZone rocks, and for the love of God & all that’s holy will some lowly team PLEASE give Jon Gruden a coaching job and get him off our TVs. So in preparation for that upcoming glorious day please sit back, relax, & look into the gridiron crystal ball to see what might be in store for the NFL over the next few months. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

AFC

 

East

New England Patriots

(14-2) 13-3

Miami Dolphins

(10-6) 8-8

Buffalo Bills

(7-9) 5-11

New York Jets

(5-11) 3-13

Sports media has spent the offseason fellatiating the Patriots even more than usual, including shoving Tom Brady’s 40th birthday down our throats like it was some sort of religious holiday. Look, I’m not an unreasonable man. Despite repeated instances of cheating their way to success I will begrudgingly concede that any team that wins five Super Bowls in 15 years deserves kudos, but numerous outlets predicting an undefeated season is just silly. This is a weak division that New England will win easily, but I think they’ll stumble a few times along the way. The loss of QB Ryan Tannehill to injury and the subsequent signing of the suddenly unretired Jay Cutler doesn’t move the meter either way for the Dolphins in my opinion. They might be in the wildcard conversation early on but aren’t a threat to be taken seriously. The Jets are going to get worse before they get better, and the Bills are just treading water, with new head coach Sean McDermott being the latest guy that’ll lead the team nowhere before getting canned in a couple of years.

 

 

West

Oakland Raiders

(12-4) 13-3

Kansas City Chiefs

(12-4) 9-7

Denver Broncos

(9-7) 8-8

Los Angeles Chargers

(5-11) 7-9

The Raiders and Chiefs were neck & neck last season, but I think this is a year in which the future Vegas franchise establishes dominance while Kansas City takes a step backward. I really like Oakland QB Derek Carr, and with RB Marshawn Lynch coming out of retirement, WR Cordarrelle Patterson coming over from Minnesota looking for a fresh start, & Amari Cooper ready to emerge as one of the league’s premier receivers the offense will be difficult to stop. Khalil Mack & Bruce Irvin are a formidable pass rushing duo. The Chiefs feel like they’re in a transitional phase, with first round pick Patrick Mahomes biding his time until QB Alex Smith goes away, career backup Spencer Ware & third round pick Kareem Hunt vying to replace departed RB Jamaal Charles, and talented receivers Tyreek Hill & Chris Conley stepping up in the absence of the departed Jeremy Maclin. The defense will have to be the foundation for KC. Whether Trevor Semien or Paxton Lynch wins the quarterback battle in Denver their defense will also be the key to success. The Chargers have moved from San Diego to Los Angeles and will play in a stadium about the size of my apartment. I feel bad for QB Philip Rivers because I’m sure this isn’t how he’d prefer to see his career wind down. Anthony Lynn is an unproven head coach, although offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt & defensive coordinator Gus Bradley are former head coaches themselves. First round pick Mike Williams, a receiver out of Clemson, and second rounder Forrest Lamp, an offensive lineman from Western Kentucky, have already suffered injuries in training camp (Lamp is out for the season, Williams should return at some point), which isn’t a good omen.

 

 

North

Pittsburgh Steelers

(11-5) 10-6

Cincinnati Bengals

(6-9-1) 9-7

Baltimore Ravens

(8-8) 8-8

Cleveland Browns

(1-15) 3-13

I am normally very cautious when it comes to having high expectations for my Steelers, but I can’t deny the fact that they should clearly be the best team in the division. I’m sure everyone in Pittsburgh would deny it, but the truth is that the AFC North isn’t their true competition. The fact is that the only thing on anyone’s mind is overcoming the Patriots and getting to the Super Bowl. Having said that, this division is always a grind so I don’t expect the Steelers to run away with the crown. It’ll be a season long slog. I think the Bengals will be better than most expect, with AJ Green & first round pick John Ross forming an intimidating receiving duo and the much maligned Joe Mixon adding a dimension to the running game. Baltimore feels like they’re spinning their wheels. Perhaps they should crowd source their fans for solutions. The Browns are the Browns…a perpetual Factory of Sadness where talented players waste away valuable years of their career. They may show a small improvement this year, but really…who cares??

 

 

South

Tennessee Titans

(9-7) 11-5

Houston Texans

(9-7) 8-8

Indianapolis Colts

(8-8) 7-9

Jacksonville Jaguars

(3-13) 6-10

Much like the West, in which two teams that were even as they crossed the finish line last season seem to be headed on divergent paths, so it goes in the South, with Tennessee taking a leap forward and the Texans seeing their momentum stopped for now. I really like Titans’ QB Marcus Mariota, and he’s got some weapons…RBs DeMarco Murray & Derrick Henry, TE Jace Amaro, and WRs Eric Decker & first round pick Corey Davis. The offensive line looks good too. I’m not quite sure about their defense though. Houston will once again rely heavily on their stout defense while they sort out the quarterback situation. Tom Savage will probably begin the season as the starter, but I really like Deshaun Watson and think he’ll be one of the league’s best QBs in a couple of years. Colts’ signal caller Andrew Luck was supposed to be the next Peyton Manning, but things don’t seem to be working out that way, and I don’t expect Indy to improve. I had been under the impression in recent years that the Jags were up n’ comers, but they’ve gone backward. Unlike most people I’m not that psyched about first round pick Leonard Fournette, and QB Blake Bortles inspires zero confidence.

 

 

 

Playoff Teams:   New England, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Kansas City, Cincinnati

AFC Championship:    New England vs. Pittsburgh

 

  

 

NFC

 

East

New York Giants

(11-5) 11-5

Dallas Cowboys

(13-3) 10-6

Washington Redskins

(8-7-1) 8-8

Philadelphia Eagles

(7-9) 5-11

The suspension of RB Zeke Elliott isn’t a good beginning for the Cowboys. Whether he’s out six games or has the punishment reduced a bit I think Dallas loses atleast a couple contests that they otherwise may have won. That opens the door for the Giants, who enter season two of the Ben McAdoo era having done rather well last year and now switch out receiver Victor Cruz (now with the Bears) for Brandon Marshall (formerly of the Jets) & add first round pick Evan Engram at tight end. This is a tough division, but New York has to be the heavy favorite. The Redskins have spent the offseason in a pissing contest with quarterback Kirk Cousins, but also added free agent receiver Terrelle Pryor, defensive end & first round draft pick Jonathan Allen, and fourth round RB Samaje Perine. Still though, they feel like a team on the negative side of transformation until the likely departure of Cousins and the drafting of a new quarterback next year. I love Eagles’ QB Carson Wentz, but Philly is a team with too many moving parts & youngsters to really gel into anything good at this point. Maybe next year.

 

 

West

Seattle Seahawks

(10-5-1) 12-4

Arizona Cardinals

(7-8-1) 8-8

Los Angeles Rams

(4-12) 6-10

San Francisco 49ers

(2-14) 5-11

Seattle had, by their standards, a pretty mediocre season in 2016, lowlighted by a surprising loss to the lowly Rams in week two. However, they did make the playoffs before being beaten by the Atlanta Falcons. RB Eddie Lacy has moved to the northwest from Green Bay, and I expect him to be in shape & a significant contributor. The Cardinals are looking to rebound from a tough year and get back to the team they were in 2015 when they played in the NFC title game. It’s all about QB Carson Palmer. At 37 years old can he summon up one last great season, or will the oft injured signal caller just kind of fade away?? The Niners & Rams keep adding pieces in free agency & thru the draft, but it doesn’t seem like either team is closer to turning things around. This is the Seahawks’ division to lose, and I don’t think it’ll even be competitive.

 

 

North

Green Bay Packers

(10-6) 12-4

Minnesota Vikings

(8-8) 9-7

Chicago Bears

(3-13) 6-10

Detroit Lions

(9-7) 5-11

Much like Seattle the Packers just felt a bit off last season, even though they made it to the NFC title game. I think there was a lot of drama in the personal life of QB Aaron Rodgers that affected him negatively, though we’ll never really know for sure. At any rate, keep an eye on the backfield, where converted receiver Ty Montgomery will get some stiff competition from hardnosed runner Jamaal Williams, a 4th round draft choice from BYU. Otherwise I assume Rodgers will pass the ball a lot to an array of talented receivers and the defense will be overlooked & underrated. In Minnesota Adrian Peterson has taken his child beating ways down south to The Big Easy and it’ll be up to former Raider Latavius Murray and/or rookie RB Dalvin Cook to replace him. The receiving corps is…okay…but I expect QB Sam Bradford to be handing the ball off much of the time. Good ol’ smashmouth football for the Vikings. The defense will be alright, but might have to be better than that in some low scoring slugfests. The Bears will allegedly try to get thru the season with QBs Mike Glennon & Mark Sanchez, with first round pick Mitch Trubisky essentially redshirting his rookie season to learn the ropes. It’s a bold strategy…let’s see if it pays off for them (or even if they stick to that plan). There are some talented offensive weapons in Chicago…receivers Kevin White, Markus Wheaton, Victor Cruz, Kendall Wright, & Reuben Randle, RB Jordan Howard, rookie tight end & 2nd round draft pick Adam Shaheen…but none of that matters if the quarterback is subpar. The defense in the Windy City has potential but is, on paper, underwhelming. I am predicting that the Lions take a big step backward after a career year from QB Matthew Stafford in 2016. Their defense has been upgraded, but I don’t think Stafford can repeat last season’s success, and I’m not all that enamored with the weapons he has to work with. The Packers will win the North, and it won’t be close.

 

 

South

Atlanta Falcons

(11-5) 10-6

Carolina Panthers

(6-10) 10-6

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(9-7) 10-6

New Orleans Saints

(7-9) 9-7

All anyone will remember about the Falcons’ 2016 season is their epic collapse in the Super Bowl, which is a shame, but also can be used as motivation. They’ll be almost as good this year, but other teams will step up to compete. The Panthers’ putrid season was probably an anomaly, and I expect them to flip the script this year behind new offensive weapon Christian McCaffrey, who’ll line up in the backfield but can be a receiver as well. I like Tampa and believe we’ll see the continued maturation of QB Jameis Winston, especially since he now has a really good tight end in first round pick OJ Howard and a talented group of receivers, including free agent signee DeSean Jackson. The Bucs will be in the playoff hunt. I am rather sentimental, so I’d like to see QB Drew Brees lead the Saints back to the playoffs as he winds down his brilliant career, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Signing free agent RB Adrian Peterson won’t be a difference maker since he’s way past his prime. Actually it’ll probably be Mark Ingram & third round choice Alvin Kamara getting most of the work in the backfield by the mid-point of the season.

 

 

 

Playoff Teams:   NY Giants, Green Bay, Seattle, Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay

NFC Championship:   NY Giants vs. Green Bay

 

 

 

Pittsburgh Steelers      41  

Green Bay Packers 38

 

 

Top 5 Picks in 2018 Draft:

1       New York Jets

2       Cleveland Browns

3       Philadelphia Eagles

4       San Francisco 49ers

5       Detroit Lions

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.

2017 NFL Mock Draft

After doing my first ever mock draft(s) back in 2014 and then trying again the following season I took last year off. I was recovering from surgery and just had too much occupying my mind. But we’re back baby!! I’m doing something a little different this time, a decision that is contrary to what typically defines me as a fan. My fantasy football buddies know that I love to tinker. Wheelin’ & dealin’ is a huge part of the fun for me. However, in putting together this mock draft I’ve decided not to do any imaginary trades. The only trades reflected here are the ones that have already been made in reality. I expect that there will be some deals done during the actual draft, but eliminating such speculation here concurrently simplifies the process while challenging my inner nature. The pool of prospects is deep this time so we’re doing a three round mock. My methodology is a hybrid of what I believe is likely to happen mixed with my own take on what teams should actually do. As always I have no inside knowledge about salary cap issues, contract negotiations, & what players may or may not do or where they may go in the future. The NFL Draft is educated randomness, but I’ll be darned if it’s not a lot of fun.

 

 

 

Round 1

 

1       Cleveland Browns

Myles Garrett – DE – Texas A&M

No one believes that there’s a quarterback in this draft worth the #1 overall pick, and the Browns are understandably a little gun shy given their poor quarterback track record in the past couple of decades. Ideally they’d trade out of this spot, but usually the only teams looking to move up this far are looking for a franchise signal caller, and that’s not going to happen. So Cleveland is likely to utilize the “best player available” strategy, and Garrett is the clear cut best player in the draft, a guy I’ve seen compared to recently retired Broncos LB/DE Demarcus Ware. If Garrett really is that good he’s certainly worth the top choice.

 

2       San Francisco 49ers

Reuben Foster – LB – Alabama

Don’t be surprised if ‘Frisco trades down out of this spot. I think it’s still too early for a quarterback, and even if they do draft one at some point it’s likely that Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley will be starting most of the 2017 season. Better to address other needs with this choice, and Foster is a safe pick.

 

3       Chicago Bears

Malik Hooker – S – Ohio St.

Jay Cutler isn’t going to be behind center in Chicago this season. That job will be held by Mike Glennon, formerly of the Buccaneers. He’s probably not a long term solution, but he is good enough for the Bears not to reach for a quarterback with this selection. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey has bolted for Philadelphia, but with Eddie Royal, free agent arrivals Kendall Wright & Markus Wheaton, and 2015 first round pick Kevin White (finally healthy after two different leg injuries) receiver isn’t a need. Hooker is an immediate upgrade at safety.

 

4       Jacksonville Jaguars

Jonathan Allen – DT – Alabama

Calais Campbell was signed away from the Cardinals in free agency, and I think this addition would make the Jags’ defensive line quite formidable.

 

5       Tennessee Titans (from LA Rams)

Corey Davis – WR – Western Michigan

Tennessee has this pick as a result of a trade wherein the Rams moved up to the #1 overall slot to pick QB Jared Goff in 2016. Quarterback Marcus Mariota doesn’t have a top notch receiver to throw to on the current roster, so Davis seems like a logical choice.

 

6       New York Jets

Haason Reddick – LB – Temple

The Jets have whiffed on quarterbacks Geno Smith and…probably…Christian Hackenburg & Bryce Petty, although the jury is still out on those two. Josh McNown is the likely starter in 2017. The question is…is that okay?? Might they still sign a free agent signal caller or make a trade?? Either way, they should be about as hesitant as the Browns to roll the dice this early on a quarterback. Signing Morris Claiborne away from the Cowboys probably negates the need to choose a cornerback in this spot.  Reddick has been steadily moving up most draft boards, and he fulfills a need.

 

7       Los Angeles Chargers

Mike Williams – WR – Clemson

It still seems odd to say that…the LA Chargers. Although younger fans might not be aware that the Chargers originated in the old AFL in 1960 in Los Angeles before relocating to San Diego a year later. At any rate, this could be an interesting spot to take a quarterback and let him learn for a year or two behind Philip Rivers, who is 35 years old and known to not be a big fan of the move to Los Angeles. However, I don’t think they’ll pull the trigger just yet. Free agent Russell Okung moves down from Seattle to plug a massive hole at tackle, so there’s no need to reach for that position. Instead, Williams gives Rivers another weapon to go along with receiver Keenan Allen, RB Melvin Gordon, and tight ends Antonio Gates & Hunter Henry.

 

8       Carolina Panthers

Dalvin Cook – RB – Florida St.

Free agent Julius Peppers bolted Green Bay for the warmer climate of Carolina, so that fulfills a need on the defensive line. Matt Khalil has left Minnesota to join his brother Ryan on Carolina’s offensive line, which takes care of that issue. Are the Panthers comfortable with 30 year old Jonathan Stewart leading the rushing attack, backed up by Fozzy Whitaker & Cameron Payne?? Well, if necessary I am sure they’d live with it…but it’s not necessary. Cook is probably the most well-rounded running back in the draft, and I think he gets the nod.

 

9       Cincinnati Bengals

Solomon Thomas – DE – Stanford

Many pundits have Thomas as the second best prospect in the draft, so if he’s available at this point the Bengals will sprint to the stage to make the pick. He has been compared to Rams’ end Aaron Donald, and if he lives up to that evaluation Cincinnati will be quite happy with the choice for the next decade.

 

10     Buffalo Bills

Marshon Lattimore – CB – Ohio St.

The Bills lost cornerback Stephon Gilmore in free agency, so why not replace him with this pick?? Lattimore might even be an upgrade.

 

11     New Orleans Saints

Ryan Ramczyk – OT – Wisconsin

The Saints might consider replacing receiver Brandin Cooks, who they traded to New England. I think they’ll do that…just not yet. It is entirely possible that the Saints try to trade down…or even trade up…because this is a tough spot. With Lattimore already off the board cornerback is a reach here. My philosophy?? When in doubt upgrade the offensive line.

 

12     Cleveland Browns

Deshaun Watson – QB – Clemson

The Browns improved the defense with the top pick, and now I think they have to grab a quarterback. None of the best prospects are ready to walk right onto an NFL field as a starter, but Cleveland is still rebuilding anyway so they can be patient. Of the choices that have been deemed first round worthy I like Watson the best. He’s a winner. From my limited fan perspective it seems like he’s got the intangibles that separate the wheat from the chaff at this level. If he’s a bust…well, it wouldn’t be Cleveland’s first rodeo, right?? But if he lives up to his potential the sky may be the limit.

 

13     Arizona Cardinals

Malik McDowell – DT – Michigan St.

This is another tough spot. Carson Palmer isn’t getting any younger and he’s battled injuries a lot, which have derailed the Cardinals’ momentum. They went from 13-3 in 2015 to just 7-8-1 last season. Defensive tackle Calais Campbell, safety Tony Jefferson, & linebacker Kevin Minter all left via free agency, although linebacker Karlos Dansby returns to Arizona after wandering in the football desert of Ohio the past few seasons, and Jarvis Jones, a former first round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, adds additional depth to that linebacker group. McDowell is a reach, but a replacement for Campbell is necessary. I think they can get a quarterback in the second round.

 

14     Philadelphia Eagles

Leonard Fournette – RB – LSU

Running back Wendell Smallwood from my West Virginia Mountaineers is on my dynasty league team, so this choice would sadden me a bit. However, my vibe is that Smallwood isn’t viewed as a top notch lead runner, while Fournette is a generational talent that some have compared to Adrian Peterson. Only his injury history has caused him to drop this far, otherwise he’d be a Top 5 pick.

 

15     Indianapolis Colts

Christian McCaffrey – RB – Stanford

No one would be more upset to see the Eagles take Fournette than the folks in Indy, where starting RB Frank Gore is 147 years old. They’ve done a lot to fix their defense in free agency, so I think offense is the priority here. I don’t believe there is a lineman worthy of this spot. That leaves McCaffrey, who I envision as a swiss army knife hybrid RB/WR who can be special in the right system. Hopefully head coach Chuck Pagano & offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski will know how to maximize his skills.

 

16     Baltimore Ravens

Jamal Adams – S – LSU

The Ravens will sprint to the podium with this selection. Adams can partner with free agent acquisition Tony Jefferson to make a formidable combo in the defensive backfield.

 

17     Washington Redskins

Derek Barnett – DE – Tennessee

Ideally the Redskins would trade out of this slot. Aside from that possibility, I have to think that upgrading the defense is a priority.

 

18     Tennessee Titans

Zach Cunningham – LB – Vanderbilt

With their first choice in this round Tennessee added a potent weapon on offense, so I think this pick has to be defense. They’ve added some pieces in free agency, but more needs to be done. One would assume that since Cunningham played college ball right there in Nashville the Titans are likely familiar with his work.

 

19     Tampa Bay Buccaneers

O.J. Howard –TE – Alabama

The Bucs added receiver DeSean Jackson in free agency, and along with Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, & running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims they provide QB Jameis Winston with a pretty good arsenal. The one thing missing?? An elite tight end. So I think it is a reasonable upgrade that’d make the Bucs’ offense quite intimidating.

 

20     Denver Broncos

Forrest Lamp – G – Western Kentucky

The quarterback competition in Denver looks to be between Paxton Lynch & Trevor Siemian. They’ll both be disappointed if Howard is already off the board, because a good tight end is a QB’s best friend. So, where is the value here?? They could still choose a tight end, but I think it is more likely that they’ll reach for a solid offensive lineman to protect whichever young signal caller wins the job.

 

21     Detroit Lions

Jabrill Peppers – S – Michigan

There are still plenty of great defenders available, so this pick just depends on who the powers-that-be in the Motor City prefer. I like Peppers in this spot. No one knows quite where he fits in the NFL. He’s too small to play linebacker, so safety is probably the best option. Can he be the second coming of Troy Polamalu?? I think it’s possible.

 

22     Miami Dolphins

Taco Charlton – DE – Michigan

The Dolphins are really building something with potential. This might be a good spot for a team to trade up to if they’re looking for a quarterback. If that doesn’t happen though Charlton could be a nice addition to the pass rush.

 

23     New York Giants

David Njoku – TE – Miami (FL)

The Giants have had an interesting off season, adding receiver Brandon Marshall to the offense and Geno Smith as the quarterback of the future. Okay, I’m kidding about that second part. Maybe. Who knows?? Anyway, since there isn’t good value at running back here (and I think Paul Perkins should be given a fair chance at succeeding) the focus might be on defense. Or will it?? The Giants have a solid history of good tight ends, from Mark Bavaro in the 80’s to Howard Cross in the 90’s to Jeremy Shockey a decade ago. Njoku would be a significant upgrade at the position and give an aging Eli Manning another weapon in the chase for a third Super Bowl ring.

 

24     Oakland Raiders

Marlon Humphrey – CB – Alabama

Will the Raiders sign running back Adrian Peterson?? And if they do, is that enough?? I’d hate to rely on a 32 year old tailback whose legs could abandon him at any minute. Can they trust DeAndre Washington with the job?? Those are all questions that don’t currently have an answer, and the point is moot anyway because I don’t think there’s another first round talent at running back. The Raiders will focus on improving an already stellar defense, and Humphrey should be a starter from Day 1. He’s the fourth Alabama alum off the board in this round, which shouldn’t really surprise anyone.

 

25     Houston Texans

Mitch Trubisky – QB – North Carolina

I was convinced that Tony Romo would be the quarterback for the Texans in 2017, but to the surprise of many that’s not happening, which is unfortunate because Houston is just a quarterback away from being a legit Super Bowl contender. I don’t know what they do for the immediate future, but with this pick they must think long term. Trubisky is a nice fit. It would have been advantageous for him to sit & learn for a year or two behind Romo…instead he might be warming the bench while Jay Cutler or Colin Kaepernick try to lead the team to The Promised Land.

 

26     Seattle Seahawks

Fabian Moreau – CB – UCLA

I like the fact that the Seahawks added former #2 overall pick Luke Joeckel to their offensive line and former Packer Eddie Lacy to a running back mix that also includes Thomas Rawls & CJ Prosise. Moreau is a piece that might actually re-legitimize the Legion of Boom.

 

27     Kansas City Chiefs

Caleb Brantley – DT – Florida

The Chiefs are the real deal, but they’re also in a really tough division. They lost defensive tackle Dontari Poe in free agency, so they’ll be looking for a replacement. Brantley might be somewhat of a reach, but he fills a need.

 

28     Dallas Cowboys

Obi Melifonwu – S – Connecticut

It seems like the Cowboys lost their entire defense in free agency. Defensive backs Barry Church, Morris Claiborne, & Brandon Carr all bolted Big D for greener pastures. Melifonwu impressed a lot of people at the combine, and he can probably step right into a starting role for a depleted Dallas defense.

 

29     Green Bay Packers

Alvin Kamara – RB – Tennessee

The Packers don’t really have many holes to fill, although I am not convinced that receiver turned running back Ty Montgomery is truly the answer in the backfield after the departure of Eddie Lacy. What about Christine Michael?? Ehhhh…I don’t know. Kamara is probably a reach at this point, but he might seize the job easily and make the choice look brilliant.

 

30     Pittsburgh Steelers

Raekwon McMillan – LB – Ohio St.

I know my Steelers well enough to know that, despite most fans wanting desperately for them to upgrade the secondary, they covet the linebacker position more than just about anything. With Jarvis Jones & Lawrence Timmons having moved on the position is a legit issue. Ryan Shazier is great and Bud Dupree has potential, but James Harrison can’t play forever and everyone else is unproven. Pittsburgh has had good luck drafting former Buckeyes, which gives McMillan the nod over a couple other possibilities.

 

31     Atlanta Falcons

Cordrea Tankersley – CB – Clemson

The Falcons’ defense got eaten alive by Tom Brady in the second half of the Super Bowl, so I have to believe that will be a point of emphasis going forward. Defensive tackle Dontari Poe defected to Atlanta from Kansas City in free agency, so that fills one huge need. There are a plethora of cornerbacks to choose from in this spot, but I’m going with Tankersley for no apparent reason.

 

32     New Orleans Saints (from New England Patriots)

John Ross – WR – Washington

This pick is obvious. The Saints traded away speedy wideout Brandin Cooks. They took an offensive tackle with the 11th pick. There are enough corners available they can be patient, especially if they also lure Malcolm Butler away from New England as expected. Ross is a solid replacement for Cooks.

 

 

 

 

 

Round 2

33     Cleveland Browns

TreDavious White – CB – LSU

In the first round the Browns got the best player in the draft in defensive end Myles Garrett and took their latest quarterback of the future. They need a corner to bookend with All-Pro Joe Haden, and White should fit the bill.

 

34     San Francisco 49ers

DeShone Kizer – QB – Notre Dame

The Niners added linebacker Reuben Foster in the first round. The top two field generals…Watson & Trubisky…are off the board, so ‘Frisco will roll the dice on Kizer to develop for a year or two while Brian Hoyer and/or Matt Barkley pretend to be pro quarterbacks.

 

35     Jacksonville Jaguars

Cam Robinson – OT – Alabama

The Jags made what is probably the safest choice in the draft with their first round selection of defensive tackle Jonathan Allen. Now they can solidify the offensive line with a massive addition.

 

36     Chicago Bears

Garett Bolles – OT – Utah

After signing Mike Glennon away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (and also picking up Mark Sanchez…lol) the need for a quarterback is diminished in the short term, which is good since the value isn’t there in this spot. The secondary was addressed in the first round. Improving the offensive line is always a solid choice.

 

37     Los Angeles Rams

Chidobe Awuzie – CB – Colorado

The Rams didn’t have a first round pick and didn’t make any major free agency moves. Wade Phillips is the defensive coordinator now, and in the past he has worked wonders for teams like the Texans & Broncos. They really need to address the secondary.

 

38     Los Angeles Chargers

Dan Feeney – G- Indiana

The Chargers added a premier wideout in the first round. I think it is still a bit early to take the quarterback of the future since Rivers is likely going to be around for a couple of years. It is more likely, especially with the departure of guard DJ Fluker, that they address the offensive line, even after signing tackle Russell Okung away from Seattle.

 

39     New York Jets

Pat Mahomes – QB – Texas Tech

The Jets played it smart in the first round…but they just can’t help themselves. They’ll add to their collection of quarterbacks and pray that one of them actually develops into something resembling a competent pro.

 

40     Carolina Panthers

Charles Harris – DE – Missouri

Let’s be honest. Julius Peppers, at age 37, is a temporary fix. The Panthers need a young end that can be mentored by the veteran.

 

41     Cincinnati Bengals

Takkarist McKinley – LB – UCLA

The Bengals released linebacker Rey Maualuga and signed Kevin Minter away from Arizona. I think they’ll still look to solidify the position in the draft.

 

42     New Orleans Saints

Teez Tabor – CB – Florida

The Saints improved the offensive line and replenished the receiving corps in the first round. I think they go defense here, solidifying the secondary. They still might end up getting cornerback Malcolm Butler from the Patriots, but then again they might not. Either way adding some depth is never a bad thing.

 

43     Philadelphia Eagles

Jourdan Lewis – CB – Michigan

The Eagles have rebuilt their receiving corps this offseason with the additions of Torrey Smith & Alshon Jeffrey. They took a stud running back in the first round. Now it’s time to improve the secondary.

 

44     Buffalo Bills

Curtis Samuel – WR – Ohio St.

Other than Sammy Watkins the Bills have nothing impressive at receiver, and Watkins seems to have a hard time staying healthy. If they want any quarterback to succeed he’s got to have some weapons.

 

45     Arizona Cardinals

Davis Webb – QB – California

Any quarterback taken in this spot is a gamble. But with an injury prone & aging Carson Palmer backed up by Drew Stanton the situation warrants a roll of the dice. Webb has tremendous size, especially if he adds some muscle. Cal has produced guys like Aaron Rodgers, Steve Bartowski, Kyle Boller, & Jared Goff, so maybe Webb can evolve into a solid NFL quarterback.

 

46     Indianapolis Colts

Dion Dawkins – G – Temple

Indianapolis took Christian McCaffrey in the first round, and they did a lot to upgrade the defense in free agency. It seems like protecting quarterback Andrew Luck has been an issue every one of his five NFL seasons, so they’ll keep trying to improve.

 

47     Baltimore Ravens

Chris Godwin – WR – Penn St.

After solidifying the secondary in the first round and in free agency the Ravens have a couple of directions they can go in this spot. Steve Smith is retired and the jury is still out on 2015 first round pick Breshad Perriman, leaving only Mike Wallace as a reliable pass catcher, so I think Baltimore has to pull the trigger on a wideout.

 

48     Minnesota Vikings

Chris Wormley – DT – Michigan

The Vikings didn’t have a first round selection due to last year’s trade that brought them QB Sam Bradford from Philly. They’ve replaced the aging Adrian Peterson with running back Latavius Murray, formerly of the Raiders…a great move in my opinion. I think they’ll go defense here, choosing from among the best players available to add some depth.

 

49     Washington Redskins

Adoree’ Jackson – CB – USC

The Redskins lost two receivers…DeSean Jackson & Pierre Garcon…in free agency. Terrelle Pryor comes over from Cleveland to fill one of those spots, and Brian Quick, formerly of the Rams, takes care of the other. And of course they have last year’s top pick Josh Doctson, so the wideout spot is solid. They have a stable of young running backs and a good offensive line. The pass rush was enhanced in Round 1, so I think the back end gets some attention here, especially with DeAngelo Hall being 33 years old.

 

50     Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Budda Baker – S – Washington

The Bucs added a big tight end in the first round, so they can now turn their attention to defense. Baker adds to a secondary that already includes last year’s first round pick, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.

 

51     Denver Broncos

Taylor Moton – OT – Western Michigan

We know the Broncos have a great defense, but no one is too sure what to expect from the offense. They added an offensive lineman in Round 1, but don’t be surprised if they double up on that area of need.

 

52     Cleveland Browns (from Tennessee Titans)

Pat Elflein – C – Ohio St.

Cleveland has this pick as a result of a trade the Titans made last year so they could go up and get tackle Jack Conklin (a move that worked out well for Tennessee). The Browns have already addressed needs at quarterback & corner, as well as taking the best defensive end in the draft with the top overall selection. They might end up using this pick as an asset to trade up, but that’s an unknown. I think this is a good spot to solidify an offensive line that already has a lot of talent. Center Alex Mack moved on to Atlanta last season after seven years with the Browns (netting an appearance in the Super Bowl…not a bad exchange on his part), so maybe they find a talented replacement in this spot.

 

53     Detroit Lions

Tim Williams – LB – Alabama

After addressing issues on both lines in free agency and adding the athletic Jabrill Peppers in the first round it seems like Detroit should be focusing on the linebacker position with this pick. Apparently Williams had some off the field issues at ‘Bama, but he’s being compared to Raiders’ (and former WVU) pass rusher Bruce Irvin, so we know a team will be willing to roll the dice. Putting a guy with a history of marijuana & firearms arrests in Detroit…what could possibly go wrong??

 

54     Miami Dolphins

Gareon Conley – CB – Ohio St.

I really like Miami’s offensive. However, despite a line that includes Ndamukong Suh & Cameron Wake and the presence of linebackers Kiko Alonso & Lawrence Timmons I still think the defense needs some work.

 

55     New York Giants

T.J. Watt – LB – Wisconsin

The G-Men added their next great tight end in Round 1, so now I think they’ll tinker with the defense a bit. If TJ is even half as good as his brother JJ this will be a steal.

 

56     Oakland Raiders

Joe Mixon – RB – Oklahoma

The Raiders added a cornerback in Round 1, so I feel like this might be a good spot for a curveball. I’m sure DeAndre Washington will be given every opportunity to win the starting job, and IF Adrian Peterson is brought in that adds some depth, but Mixon is rising up many draft boards and he’s just the kind of controversial player the Raiders have always taken a chance on. Wow…Peterson & Mixon in the same backfield?? Wrap your head around that.

 

57     Houston Texans

Dorian Johnson – G – Pitt

Whomever ends up being the quarterback will need a deep & talented offensive line in front of them. 

 

58     Seattle Seahawks

Larry Ogunjobi – DT – Charlotte

What do you get a team that has everything?? In this case I think beefing up the interior of the defensive line is a smart move.

 

59     Kansas City Chiefs

Jarrad Davis – LB – Florida

The Chiefs didn’t do a whole lot in free agency besides signing CJ Spiller to replace the departed Jammal Charles at running back. I feel like they need to add some depth to the pass rush, especially with Tamba Hali being 33 years old.

 

60     Dallas Cowboys

Kevin King – CB – Washington

Dallas has to continue rebuilding their defense. Period.

 

61     Green Bay Packers

Dalvin Tomlinson – DT – Alabama

The Pack replaced departed running back Eddie Lacy in the first round, so now they can turn their attention to the defense. Tomlinson would be the sixth ‘Bama player taken in the first 61 picks…about 10% of the draft thus far. I don’t know if that’s any kind of record, but it sure is impressive.

 

62     Pittsburgh Steelers

Carl Lawson – DE – Auburn

In the first round my Steelers replenished a depleted linebacker corps. They added a couple of nice complementary pieces in free agency, and I’m sure they’ll take the best player available here. That might just be Lawson, who has drawn comparisons to Dwight Freeney. He’s battled injuries at the collegiate level, so where he lands will be largely dependent on medical evaluations.

 

63     Atlanta Falcons

Josh Jones – S – North Carolina St.

In Round 1 the Falcons addressed secondary issues that cost them the Super Bowl. They might want to consider doubling up just to be sure.

 

64     New England Patriots

Roderick Johnson – OT – Florida St.

The Super Bowl champs finally get to make a selection, although I really don’t know how they could improve, especially after trading for receiver Brandin Cooks, signing cornerback Stephon Gilmore away from Buffalo, & getting defensive end Kony Ealy from Carolina. I suppose refining the offensive line to protect the ageless Tom Brady wouldn’t be a bad move.

 

 

 

Round 3

 

65     Cleveland Browns

Desmond King – S- Iowa

 

66     San Francisco 49ers

Duke Riley – LB – LSU

 

67     Chicago Bears

Sidney Jones – CB – Washington

 

68     Jacksonville Jaguars

Jake Butt – TE – Michigan

 

69     Los Angeles Rams

JuJu Schuster – WR – USC

 

70     New York Jets

Quincy Wilson – CB – Florida

 

71     Los Angeles Chargers

Brad Kaaya – QB – Miami (FL)

 

72     New England Patriots (from Carolina Panthers)

Montravius Adams – DT – Auburn

 

73     Cincinnati Bengals

Tyler Orlosky – C – West Virginia

 

74     Baltimore Ravens (from Philadelphia Eagles)

Vincent Taylor – DT – Oklahoma St.

 

75     Buffalo Bills

Antonio Garcia – OT – Troy

 

76     New Orleans Saints

Nathan Peterman – QB – Pitt

 

77     Arizona Cardinals

Rasul Douglas – CB – West Virginia

 

78     Baltimore Ravens

Tarell Basham – DE – Ohio

 

79     Minnesota Vikings

Isaac Asiata – G – Utah

 

80     Indianapolis Colts

Marcus Williams – S – Utah

 

81     Washington Redskins

Eddie Jackson – S – Alabama

 

82     Denver Broncos

Evan Engram – TE – Mississippi

 

83     Tennessee Titans

Cooper Kupp – WR – Eastern Washington

 

84     Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Elijah Qualls – DT – Washington

 

85     Detroit Lions

Ahkello Witherspoon – CB – Colorado

 

86     Minnesota Vikings

Will Holden – OT – Vanderbilt

 

87     New York Giants

Jaleel Johnson – OT – Iowa

 

88     Oakland Raiders

Tyus Bowser – LB – Houston

 

89     Houston Texans

Ryan Anderson – LB – Alabama

 

90     Seattle Seahawks

Chad Wheeler – OT – USC

 

91     Kansas City Chiefs

Jalen Myrick – CB – Minnesota

 

92     Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcus Walker – DE – Florida St.

 

93     Green Bay Packers

Cameron Sutton – CB – Tennessee

 

94     Pittsburgh Steelers

Dede Westbrook – WR – Oklahoma

 

95     Atlanta Falcons

Carlos Watkins – DT – Clemson

 

96     New England Patriots

D’Onta Foreman – RB – Texas

 

*97    Miami Dolphins

Devonte Fields – DE – Louisville

 

*98    Carolina Panthers

Ryan Switzer – WR – North Carolina

 

*99    Philadelphia Eagles (from Baltimore Ravens)

Derek Rivers – DE – Youngstown St.

 

*100 Tennessee Titans (from LA Rams)

Danny Isidora – G – Miami (FL)

 

*101 Denver Broncos

Samaje Perine – RB – Oklahoma

 

*102 Seattle Seahawks

David Sharpe – OT – Florida

 

*103 New Orleans Saints (from Cleveland via New England)

Marlon Mack – RB – South Florida

 

*104 Kansas City Chiefs

Josh Dobbs – QB – Tennessee

 

*105  Pittsburgh Steelers

James Conner – RB – Pitt

 

*106 Seattle Seahawks

Brian Allen – CB – Utah     

 

*107 New York Jets

Isaiah Ford – WR – Virginia Tech

2014 NFL Preview & Prognostications

laces-football-grassAllow me to be bluntly honest. Not that I am usually dishonest, but I am rarely blunt. At any rate, I’m not as excited as usual to do goodevil-copythis preview. The NFL is becoming harder & harder to watch thanks to that moron Fidel Goodell. I look at professional football suits, including the league office and team front offices, kind of like I do the government. I believe they should interfere with the game as little as possible. Unfortunately nowadays, with Goodell’s “personal conduct policy” and the pathological need to make a violent collision sport “safe”, all the talking heads ever yap about (whenever they aren’t slobbering all over rookie defensive end Michael Sam, indulging Browns “backup” QB Johnny Manziel, or being offended by the Washington Redskins name) are penalties and suspensions. Defense used to win championships, but the NFL has neutered defenses to the point that they might as well not even take the field. I sincerely believe we are only a few years away from flag football. Goodell is a succubus that has almost singlehandedly ruined what was once the greatest sport and the best pro league in the world. Thanks a lot jackass. So anyway, I suppose I will move forward with this preview and I’ll watch the games. I might even enjoy myself on occasion. But it’s not the same. It never will be unless Goodell is run out office and is replaced by someone with the cahonas to reverse nearly every bad decision that has been made in the past 8 years.

 

 

 

 

 

NFC

East
Philadelphia Eagles
(10-6) 14-2
Dallas Cowboys
(8-8) 7-9
NY Giants
(7-9) 6-10
Washington Redskins
(3-13) 6-10
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly didn’t have quite the growing pains in his rookie season that I expected, and I believe Philly will be even better this year. The rest of eaglesthis division is mediocre at best. The Cowboys defense isn’t any better than it was in 2013. The Tom Coughlin era in New York will likely end in the next couple of seasons with a whimper instead of a bang. And the Redskins backup quarterback may be better than their vastly overrated starter.

 

 

 

North
Green Bay Packers
(8-7-1) 13-3
Detroit Lions
(7-9) 8-8
Chicago Bears
(8-8) 7-9
Minnesota Vikings
(5-10-1) 7-9
Another mediocre division. The Packers, despite losing defensive tackle BJ Raji (to injury not free agency), should run away with the crown behind QB Aaron Green_Bay_Packers_HelmetRogers and RB Eddie Lacy. The Lions may show some improvement but aren’t ready to break thru just yet. Bears QB Jay Cutler is even more overrated that RGIII in Washington. And Minnesota won’t contend until they decide to let Teddy Bridgewater take the reigns as the franchise signal caller he was drafted to be and stop pussyfooting around with Matt Cassel.

 

 

 

South
New Orleans Saints
(11-5) 10-6
Carolina Panthers
(12-4) 10-6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(4-12) 9-7
Atlanta Falcons
(4-12) 7-9
Now we’re starting to have some fun. Until Drew Brees shows that he just can’t do it anymore he has to be considered one of the few elite quarterbacks in the 10_new_orleans_saintsleague. I’d feel a little bit better if the Saints had a franchise RB (no…Mark Ingram, Khiri Robinson, & Pierre Thomas don’t count), but as long as TE Jimmie Graham is around to catch touchdowns from Brees and the defense is atleast solid the Saints must be considered the favorites. Carolina probably takes a bit of a step back this year since their all new receiving corps consists of Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, & rookie Kelvin Benjamin and they lost cornerstone left tackle Jordan Gross. I look for Benjamin to grow into a big time receiver, but let’s not rush things. The brief Greg Schiano era is over in Tampa and Lovie Smith…inexplicably canned by the Chicago Bears a couple of years ago…takes over a team with a solid defense, a potentially very good receiving corps, and a decent running game. I understand why the Bucs are receiving a lot of buzz. But neither Josh McCown nor Mike Glennon inspire much confidence in the quarterback position, so until they remedy that issue Tampa can’t be considered serious contenders. I look for the Falcons to bounce back a little bit from an abysmal 2013, but this is such a tough division that I still think they draw the short straw.

 

 

 

West
Seattle Seahawks
(13-3) 10-6
San Francisco 49ers
(12-4) 10-6
Arizona Cardinals
(10-6) 9-7
St. Louis Rams
(7-9) 3-13
Super Bowl Champions oftentimes slip a little the following season. They have a huge target on their back, spend a little too much of the offseason in celebration seattle-seahawks1mode, and tend to lose a few players to free agency who are understandably cashing in on the team’s success. Seattle is no different. However, luckily for the Seahawks their main rivals…the 49ers…are having a rough offseason with the 9 game suspension of troubled defensive tackle Aldon Smith as well as not having the services of linebacker Navorro Bowman, who tore up his knee in the NFC championship game. I like the Cardinals a lot but I’m not ready to say they are better than Seattle & ‘Frisco just yet. I might regret not venturing out on that particular limb. The Rams’ season was probably going to be forgettable anyway, but with the loss QB Sam Bradford…again…to another knee injury they are likely looking at a top 5 pick in the 2015 draft (which they’ll probably use on a quarterback to replace the disappointing Bradford).

 

 

Playoff Teams: Philadelphia, Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle, Carolina, San Francisco
NFC Championship: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Green Bay Packers

AFC

East
New England Patriots
(12-4) 13-3
Buffalo Bills
(6-10) 8-8
NY Jets
(8-8) 8-8
Miami Dolphins
(8-8) 7-9
Good Lord when will the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era end?? Ateast the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl in awhile. But they shouldn’t have any problem winning New_England_Patriots_Helmetthis division. I think the Bills are headed in the right direction and we’ll find out this season if QB EJ Manuel is the real deal. The addition of rookie WR Sammy Watkins will help. Jets coach Rex Ryan did enough last year to keep his job, but I don’t believe we’ll see any improvement this year. I am sure the Geno Smith/Michael Vick battle at QB will be the dominant story all season in The Big Apple. The Dolphins are likely to remain insignificant. Don’t be surprised if head coach Joe Philbin finds himself on the hot seat by the end of the year.

 

 

 

North
Cincinnati Bengals
(11-5) 10-6
Baltimore Ravens
(8-8) 9-7
Pittsburgh Steelers
(8-8) 7-9
Cleveland Browns
(4-12) 6-10
As much as it breaks my heart I have to admit that I don’t have much confidence in my Pittsburgh Steelers. A quarter of their draft picks didn’t even make the team. Cincinnati_Bengals_HelmetClearly something is amiss in the Steelers front office. I don’t think the Bengals will get very far in the playoffs but they should win the division. The Ravens are no longer a serious Super Bowl contender but they’ll be competitive. The quarterback situation in Cleveland is murky at best and I’m not at all impressed with new head coach Mike Pettine who seems ill prepared for the job.

 

 

 

South
Indianapolis Colts
(11-5) 12-4
Jacksonville Jaguars
(4-12) 8-8
Tennessee Titans
(7-9) 8-8
Houston Texans
(2-14) 6-10
Is Andrew Luck just an above average quarterback or is he an elite transcendent talent on par with Manning (you know which one), Brady, & Brees?? I think we’ll beIndianapolis_Colts_Helmet better equipped to ponder that question after this season. I like the direction the Jags are headed, but they need to stop this Chad Henne silliness and make rookie Blake Bortles the starting QB. Sure he’ll make some mistakes, but he’ll also grow & learn and do some good things that Henne just doesn’t have the talent to achieve. Tennessee and Houston are treading water, although if the Texans make newly acquired QB Ryan Mallet the starter sooner rather than later they might have some potential.

 

 

 

West
Denver Broncos
(13-3) 11-5
San Diego Chargers
(9-7) 10-6
Kansas City Chiefs
(11-5) 9-7
Oakland Raiders
(4-12) 8-8
This is probably it for Peyton Manning. The window is closing fast. The Broncos upgraded their defense a lot this offseason and the offense should be as good or broncos-4759better than 2014, so anything less than a Lombardi Trophy would be a huge disappointment. The Chargers are sneaky good and could be a scary team to face in the playoffs. I think the Chiefs fall back a bit from their surprisingly successful season of last year. The Raiders will run like the wind with Maurice Jones-Drew but it won’t be enough. Look for rookie QB Derek Carr to emerge as the starter, but head coach Dennis Allen might be the first to lose his job this year.

 

 

Playoff Teams: New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Denver, Baltimore, San Diego
AFC Championship: Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts

Denver Broncos 31 sbGB Packers 28


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.

***************

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.

*********

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.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 6.13

Variety is the spice of life  and we’ve got it today ladies & gents. Football, baseball, AND basketball (kind of). I am aware that the NHL playoffs have begun, but as usual I just don’t care.

 

Overall I was rather pleased with my Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft class. First round selection Jarvis Jones has the potential to be the next great Steeler linebacker, following in the footsteps of guys like Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Kevin Greene, Robin Cole, Mike Merriweather, Greg Lloyd, Joey Porter, and James Harrison. Fourth round pick Landry Jones was at one time touted as a possible first rounder, but a rather steelpedestrian senior season at Oklahoma lowered expectations, which may turn out to be a blessing. Jones may or may not be the successor to Ben Roethlisberger down the road, but at the very least he should eventually become a solid backup. I don’t know much about third round WR Markus Wheaton from Oregon St. but I don’t think it’ll be too difficult to replace the departed Mike Wallace, who the Miami Dolphins overpaid in free agency. I know absolutely nothing about cornerback Terry Hawthorne or safety Shamarko Thomas, but I do know that the Steelers desperately need quality depth in the defensive backfield, so hopefully these guys will turn out to be the types of diamonds in the rough that Pittsburgh is famous for uncovering in the latter stages of drafts. 6th & 7th round choices Vince Williams (another linebacker), Justin Brown (a wide receiver), and Nick Williams (a defensive end) are likely long term investments that’ll be stashed away on the practice squad and given an opportunity to develop. And the pick I am really excited about is RB Le’veon Bell from Michigan St., taken in the second round. Bell is the kind of battering ram tailback…in the grand tradition of guys like Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, and former Steeler great Jerome “The Bus” Bettis…that I really like, and I don’t think it’ll be long into the season before he seizes the starting gig.

 

It might be a small thing, but I’m kind of pumped about NBC choosing Carrie cunderUnderwood to sing the theme song for Sunday Night Football. I have nothing against the very lovely Faith Hill, but Underwood is definitely an upgrade…like trading in a Volvo for a BMW.

 

Ok so here is what really bothered me about the whole “NBA player Jason Collins comes out of the closet” thing. First of all, yes, technically Jason Collins plays in the NBA. But before all this no one had ever heard of the dude. In a 12 year NBA career he has averaged less than 4 points and rebounds per game. Yet when this news hit the reaction was as if he was someone people should actually give a damn about. If a real superstar on the level of Lebron, Kobe, Tim Duncan, or Chris Paul would come out then maybe it’d be news. Jason Collins?? Who cares?? Secondly, ESPN spent two whole days yapping about the whole thing ad nauseum. At a certain point I just had to stop watching. It’s no secret to avid viewers that ESPN is very agenda driven, whether it is cuddling & caressing the SEC, trying to convince us that Tim Tebow is relevant, or propping certain big market pro teams. That’s all fine & dandy as long as it has some tangential relation to sports. But when my sports shows start promoting their liberal sociopolitical beliefs I reach for the remote control. That’s not what I watch sports for.soapbox Just give me scores, highlights, player & team news, and analysis of games. The hypocrisy of liberals is…well, I can’t say it’s shocking at this point because it’s really not. It’s just annoying. When the whole President Clinton-Monica Lewinsky deal was going on back around 1998 we were told “it’s just sex” and “it’s none of anyone’s business as long as he continues to effectively do his job”. Well…as long as Jason Collins continues to get his measly 4 points & rebounds per game then why should his sexual preference be news?? I even saw some folks throwing the word “hero” around which really ticked me off. The man is not a hero. He’s a very average professional basketball player that everyone seems to think deserves some kind of an award because he has made the choice to sleep with other men. Now I have my own faith based beliefs & opinions, but I also honestly respect another person’s right to freely live their life as they choose. However, I am a little sick & tired of Christians being accused of “shoving our beliefs down other peoples’ throats” while it is deemed perfectly acceptable for talking heads to pontificate adoringly about how awesome “alternative” (aka sinful) lifestyles are. Would ESPN have droned on for hours about an athlete who had been filled by the Holy Spirit and given his heart to Jesus Christ?? Of course not. If anything they would have chided that person mercilessly. As a matter of fact one employee of the Bristol mothership…NBA reporter Chris Broussard…did speak out about his Christian beliefs and was immediately branded a bigot & a homophobe. They name streets after liberals…One Way…and I’m pretty fed up with the double standard.

 

If I were the Commissioner of Baseball I believe I would really try to shorten themlb season a bit. 162 games is just too much. I think I’d have each team play everyone else in their division 12 times (four 3 game series) which would be 48 games and play the other two divisions 9 times (two four game series with a double header worked in there somewhere) which would equal 90 games. No interleague play (call me old fashioned I guess). That’s a 138 game season, which is plenty. They could wait to start the season in May and get The World Series over by the end of September. The “boys of summer” should never play in a snowstorm.

 

500x305-draft2013-nfl-thumbOther thoughts about the NFL Draft:

·        I am not surprised that former WV Mountaineer QB Geno Smith fell to the 2nd round. I believe that where there is smoke there is fire, and Geno certainly seems to have some maturity & leadership issues. I have been saying for months that I thought he’d be a bust, and unfortunately for him landing with a trainwreck organization like the NY Jets was just about the worst thing that could have happened. The media in The Big Apple will eat him alive. On the flip side he stands a pretty decent chance of seizing the starting job since his competition is the unimpressive trio of Mark Sanchez, David Garrard, and Greg McElroy.

·        After signing free agent RB Rashard Mendenhall the Arizona Cardinals were able to fill other needs early in the draft, but later on the Cards took both Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor and Clemson’s Andre Ellington, both of whom will pass Mendenhall on the depth chart within a couple of years.

·        The Cardinals also rolled the dice on infamous LSU defensive back Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, which might work out really well for all involved since Mathieu’s good buddy, fellow corner, and former college teammate Patrick Peterson is also in Arizona.

·        Not sure what the Green Bay Packers were thinking when they drafted RBs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. If Lacy’s purported health issues are legit then the choice of Franklin will seem brilliant. However, if Lacy is as dominant in the NFL as he was at ‘Bama then a conundrum shall develop rather quickly, as Franklin is just too good to keep on the bench. I suppose it’s a nice problem to have for the Packer offensive braintrust, even if it is a huge pain in the rumpus for potential fantasy owners.

·        I was able to watch the NFL Network’s draft coverage for the first time this year and I must say I was impressed. The guys on ESPN seem to enjoy the sound of their own voices way too much and the viewer misses multiple picks after the first round. The NFL Network crew is much less obnoxious & intrusive.

·        LB Manti Te’o ending up with the San Diego Chargers seems appropriate. I see a lot of Junior Seau in Te’o. Plus…unlike Geno Smith…he lands in a place where the red hot spotlight won’t be so intense and he may get a fair opportunity to let his past issues fade into the mist.

·        The Chargers also picked up WR Keenan Allen in the 3rd round. In a lot of mock drafts Allen was penciled in as a first rounder but he fell because he is coming off a knee injury and didn’t perform well at The Combine. I think maybe NFL suits are a bit short-sighted at times. More often than not knee injuries heal and in this case San Diego may have gotten a real steal.

·        Did the Buffalo Bills reach for QB EJ Manuel?? Probably. They likely could have traded down a couple of times, stockpiled some picks, and still gotten their man. But I think it is very possible that in a few years Manuel will emerge as the best quarterback from this draft and the Bills front office will look like geniuses.

·        If Manuel doesn’t become the best QB from this draft the honor may well go to Matt Barkley someday. Less than a year ago many thought Barkley was a potential #1 overall pick. Instead he stayed for his senior season at USC, had his mojo stolen by other flavors of the month, and the Philadelphia Eagles ended up snagging him in the FOURTH round. Mark my words…Matt Barkley will be Philly’s starting quarterback by 2014 and he’ll be really good.

·        The Cincinnati Bengals choosing tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round is a real head scratcher since they already have Jermaine Gresham, who is only 24 years old. I know two tight end sets are increasingly popular in the NFL, but I’m not sure how wise it is to use a 1st round pick to fill that role.

·        The Minnesota Vikings did a nice job of maneuvering to end up with three 1st rounders, all of whom should be impact players.

·        I am a little surprised that QB Matt Scott wasn’t drafted, but he has signed a free agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars and I absolutely would not be surprised at all if he is starting within a year or two.

·        Kudos to the SF 49ers for rolling the dice on RB Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore may never overcome the injuries he suffered in college and if so ‘Frisco isn’t out all that much. But if…if…he does recover in a year or two and fulfills the potential he once had then the pick will look absolutely brilliant.

 

The Fruits of the Spirit – Faithfulness

“What makes an authentic disciple is not visions, ecstasies, biblical mastery of chapter & verse, or spectacular success in the ministry, but a capacity for faithfulness. Buffeted by the fickle winds of failure, battered by their own unruly emotions, and bruised by rejection & ridicule, authentic disciples may have stumbled and frequently fallen, endured lapses & relapses, gotten handcuffed to the fleshpots and wandered into a far county. Yet, they keep coming back to Jesus.” – Brennan Manning

 

 

 

fruitsThus far in our examination of The Fruits of the Spirit we have looked at love, joy, peace, longsuffering, and kindness/goodness/gentleness/meekness. And now we’ll take a closer look at what exactly God expects out of us in exhibiting the fruit of faithfulness. This one has been a long time coming and to be honest I’ve really struggled with writing what you are in the midst of reading. The words just haven’t come easily. I believe there is a reason for that. The other fruits we have discussed or will discuss (we will finish up with temperance…at some point) could…theoretically…be discussed on a purely human level. They are behaviors that deal with how we act toward ourselves & toward each other. Of course we know that from a Biblical perspective there is a deeper significance, but hypothetically we could be kind, patient, loving, etc. just because it’s the right way to treat people. However, being faithful is a whole new ball game. Why?? Because it deals with how we treat God. Faithfulness is authenticity, the power & motivation for Christian living. Faithfulness is the one fruit that we give to God, whereas the others are from the Spirit working in us. Faithfulness is both an attitude and an action shown toward God.

 

The word faithful means a variety of closely related things: loyal, full of trust, constant, steadfast, devoted, staunch, and firmly & resolutely sticking with a person, group, cause, belief, or idea without waver. These adjectives imply adhering devotedly to someone or something that elicits or demands one’s fidelity. Constant stresses uniformity and invariability. Steadfast implies fixed, unswerving loyalty. Staunch suggests unshakable attachment or allegiance. Biblically speaking faithfulness comes from the Greek word pistis, which at its root is about holding fast or steady. Pistis is considered one of God’s strongest personal characteristics. God is a covenant maker who is faithful to that covenant with us even when we don’t hold up our end of the bargain, which is all too often for most of us. Pistis was common Greek lingo for trustworthiness and is the characteristic of a person who is what we would call reliable. The Hebrew for faithfulness is emunah, which literally means firmness, figuratively means security, and morally means fidelity. Being faithful combines prioritizing what is important and being committed to those priorities. God wants to be the #1 priority in our lives and desires for us to remain committed to that priority. I don’t know about you, but in that regard I fail miserably.

 

I’ve never been to Yellowstone Park near the Teton Mountains of Wyoming. However, most Americans have heard of one of the park’s most famous features…the geyser known as Old Faithful. From what I have read about Old Faithful it isn’t the biggest or most powerful geyser, but it is the most reliable…the most faithful…erupting every hour or so. We tend to like our people as we like our geysers. Whether it is a friend, a spouse, an employee, or any other relationship humans engage in, we like to know who we can count on. One of the best abilities to possess is dependability. oldfaithfulTalented & smart are positive traits, but if a person isn’t dependable then those positives hold little value. Proverbs 25:19 says that “like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble.” I used to be a supervisor at a teleservices company and one of the biggest issues we faced was retaining dependable workers, because it didn’t matter how skillful folks were at their job if they didn’t show up for work half the time. Of course we seek exceptional skill & talent in almost everything, from sports, business, & entertainment to our personal relationships, but faithfulness…reliability, loyalty, and the ability to have priorities in their proper order…is a bedrock prerequisite that, at the end of the day, outshines everything else. Afterall, what good is marrying the prettiest gal in town if she’s just going to end up breaking your heart?? Obviously God understands that much better than any of us, because while we are oftentimes led astray by superficiality, glitz, false promises, & emotion, God doesn’t care about any of that silliness.

 

What God also doesn’t care about is our own shallow, worldly take on faithfulness. In the holiday classic A Christmas Story the narrator tells us that “Some men are Baptists, others Catholic. My father was an Oldsmobile man.” We all have a particular level of allegiance to certain things. My friend The Owl has knowledgeable opinions about who makes the best guitars and other assorted musical equipment. My friend Greg has manufacturers of photography equipment that he prefers. I have been a diehard fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers for almost four decades. All that is fine, but it must be understood that the kind of faith we are speaking of here goes much deeper and is far more FGN02medimportant. What we are dealing with is faithfulness to one thing and one thing only…God and His guiding principles. Without faith in God and faithfulness toward God nothing else matters. Even Confucius instructs to “hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.” So why then does it seem to be so darn difficult for us to manage this first principle?? Faithfulness is based on what we value as important and our commitment to those things. We must love Christ above all else. If we are not willing to put Him before earthly possessions & earthly friends and obey Him above e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g else (including our own carnal desires) then our attachment to Him is tenuous at best. Faithfulness is love hanging on. It is love saying, “I will not quit. There may be misunderstandings, there may be disappointments, there may be discouragements, but I will not quit.” Being faithful requires personal resolve not to wander away from commitments or promises and requires trust in God. Humans can show a powerful capacity to be faithful to what we believe to be important, be it a spouse, friendship, employer, school, athletic team, or a brand of particular products. Where we often fall short is in translating that level of commitment & loyalty to God. Doubt, distrust and misplaced anger are the opposite of faithfulness, and they cause us to lose our trust that God is in control. When we are not exercising our faith we will be consumed with doubt & distrust. We use God as a kind of vending machine to get what we want then lose our patience with Him when things don’t go our way, but we have it all backwards. Proverbs 28:20 tells us that “a faithful man will abound with blessings.” In other words, God doesn’t have to prove anything to us…we’re the ones that have to prove our faithfulness to Him.

 

Deuteronomy 7:9 says to “know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” Psalm 101:6 says that “My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me. He who walks in a perfect way, He shall serve me.” In Matthew 24:35 Jesus says that “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” Psalm 100:5 says “The Lord is good & His love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations.” 2nd Timothy 2:13 says that “If we are faithless He remains faithful. He cannot deny Himself.” Jesus told His disciples before He ascended to Heaven that “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.” Hebrews 13:8 instructs that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” So you see God is faithful to us…always. All He asks is that we return the favor. But how??

 

We are studying the Fruits of the Spirit, right?? As I’ve mentioned, if we are doing things right we will bear visible fruit much like one can clearly see apples or oranges on a tree. If we are being faithful to God & His way there should be some proof.

 

Faithfulness means being selfless. Contemporary culture goads us in to asking “What’s in it for me? What are my needs, my ambitions, my desires, my goals, my hurts, my values, my profit, my benefit?” God says faithfulness is proven by giving our life away, by looking at others rather than concentrating on our own self. How can a person be faithful to God when he loves himself more treethan God? How can a person be faithful to God when his own gratification means more to him than pleasing God? We live in a world in which selfishness is promoted as the way to go. Television, movies, & music promote instant gratification – why wait, why deny ourselves, why sacrifice, why not go along with everyone else??? The occasion to sin, the incentive to do so and thus sin’s frequency & intensity are at their highest levels since just before the Flood. In other words, the environment to commit sin more easily grows ever more amenable, and human nature takes advantage of it. We have been born into an environment in which it is exceedingly difficult to remain faithful. Hollywood sells adultery & fornication as acceptable as long as the people involved are attractive and somehow oppressed thus “deserving” of a “better” relationship. We constantly hear, “Indulge yourself because you deserve it.” This isn’t really all that surprising. The apostle Paul saw this coming hundreds of years ago when he wrote in 2nd Timothy that “in the last days perilous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” But 1 John 2:15 urges us to “not love the world or anything in the world” because “if anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” Romans 12:2 says that we should “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” So when the world tries to persuade us to be self-centered and have a Me First attitude we need to remember that faithfulness requires the direct opposite.

 

Faithfulness means living by the correct values and making sure our witness has integrity. A faithful person knows what’s important and what isn’t important in life. A faithful person can differentiate the significant from the trivial and considers what kind of testimony they have with unbelievers. It is more important to ponder what unbelievers think about you and how they see you than what fellow believers think. Christians should have an impeccable reputation of being dependable and keeping their word.

 

Faithfulness means good stewardship. How you handle your money is a test because the way thattithe you handle your worldly wealth affects what God is able to do in your life. We spend all our lives earning & accumulating money, saving it, and spending it. If we haven’t been faithful handling worldly wealth, who is going to trust us with true riches?? One should always ask “Do I pay my bills on time? Do I live within my budget? Am I consistent in tithing? How does my giving compare with my spending? How does my spending compare with my saving?” Luke 16:10 says that “he who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”

 

Faithfulness means developing & using our gifts and talents. If you are not using the spiritual gifts God has given you people are getting cheated. Just because we can’t do the spectacular doesn’t excuse us from doing nothing. Faithfulness is based on what we do with what we have. The old hymn Victory in Jesus says that “He sought me and he bought me with His redeeming blood”. God has made an investment in our lives and He expects a return on it.

 

bible11350Faithfulness means obeying God’s Word. God defines faithfulness as obedience to the commands of Christ. 1 Corinthians 4:1 says that “Men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.” A Christian is responsible to be a good custodian of the truths God reveals and to minister these truths in a reliable manner to those who will be taught. But how are you supposed to obey something you know nothing about?? You’re going to have to become familiar with the instruction manual. Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

 

Faithfulness requires us to look inward and ask some difficult questions. How do I exhibit faithfulness in my daily life? What can I do to develop a better attitude of faith? What hinders faithfulness from working and being exhibited in me? How can I make faithfulness function better, stronger and faster even in times of uncertainly and stress? We all have our stumbling blocks. We all face temptation. Holding true to the course God has laid before us is difficult amid this world’s many alluring distractions clamoring for our time and attention. Being faithful necessitates identifying our weaknesses and overcoming them. Jesus tells us in Luke that “no servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.” We must commit to God and make Him our priority. Easier said than done?? Perhaps. But an apple tree doesn’t stand out in the middle of an orchard prayer-end-of-the-age-intercessionsaying, “Now how do I develop apples?” An apple tree produces apples because that’s what apple trees do. And when we are Spirit-led Christians, when we are a branch attached to the vine who is Jesus Christ, then we produce fruit because it’s the natural thing to do. We don’t have to sit around & think about it & analyze it. We just have to be careful that our branch is never detached from the vine. 2 Timothy 1:13-14 implores us to “hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus, that good thing which was committed to you keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” Author Oswald Chambers said that “faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time”, and that is true. But the more we pray & study the more apt we are to understand. Actor & evangelist Kirk Cameron says that one should “Put your nose into the Bible every day. It is your spiritual food. And then share it. Make a vow not to be a lukewarm Christian.” We are pressured on every side to develop negative habits, tempted to be unfaithful in church attendance, in prayer, & in studying the Word of God. But if we prioritize and determine to serve God faithfully then people will be able to count on us. We’ll be consistent, trustworthy, & reliable. Hebrews tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We need to seek the Holy Spirit’s reinforcement in developing regular, positive, spiritual habits. We must cultivate these habits so that they become automatic. And when Satan tempts us, we can be prepared because we’ve grown the fruit of faithfulness.

 

 

 

 

Superfluous 7 – Ways To Fix The Pittsburgh Steelers

This weekend fans across the nation of teams like the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, and five others will sit down in front of their big ol’ flat screen TVs or gather with friends & fellow fans at a local watering hole or wings eatery and cheer on their favorites as they compete in the conference semifinals of the NFL playoffs. As a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers I steelwill pay casual attention to the games but spend the vast majority of my time reading a book or watching movies. This is unacceptable. However, since I am a solutions oriented type of guy I have decided to offer a fan’s perspective on what the folks in the Steelers front office need to do so that this time next year…okay, maybe the year after next if I am being perfectly honest…I may once again enjoy the playoffs and look forward to my Steelers making a legitimate run at a 7th Vince Lombardi Trophy. Therefore, it is with all due respect to an organization that has dominated the NFL for most of the past four decades and won more Super Bowls than anyone else that I humbly present…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Latrobe, PA…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Ways To Fix The Pittsburgh Steelers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7       A Legit #1 RB

When people talk about the Steelers the conversation traditionally goes in one of two directions…the awesome defense or the strong running game. The Steelers have always been primarily a running team until the past few years. Even when Swann & Stallworth were catching balls from Bradshaw in the late 70’s & early 80’s there was still the specter of Franco Harris & Rocky Bleier, who combined for 1500 yards or so for several years. More recently there was The Bus Jerome Bettis, who ran for over Franco-Harris-reinstated-as-charity-chariman-TMME7L9-x-large1000 yards annually from 1996 to 2001 until injuries and time share situations decreased his role. There have also been a whole host of guys that maybe didn’t make a long term impact but were pretty darn good for a short time…Bam Morris, Frank Pollard, Willie Parker, Merrill Hoge, Barry Foster. Does current starting RB Rashard Mendenhall measure up to Franco, Rocky, & The Bus?? Hell no. Is he as good as those second tier guys?? Maybe, which is why I am not ranking this as a primary need…yet. But since BettisMendenhall was a 1st round draft pick there is a heightened level of expectation. Since beginning his NFL career in 2008 Mendenhall has only exceeded 1000 yards twice, and in 2012 was hampered by injuries. Backup Isaac Redman is exactly that…a backup, and it became clear this past season that he cannot be counted on to carry the load. I do not think the Steelers should jump thru hoops or make any crazy trades to snag a back, but if the opportunity presents itself I would not be heartbroken to see Mendenhall shown the door and someone new be given the chance to tote the rock.

 

 

6       Backup QB

It is not unusual to see an NFL team floundering like water deprived fish on a warm sidewalk when roethlisberger-out-browns-jkjpg-7dab2c5a751ea52b1their starting quarterback goes down. But most teams have gotten the message that in the modern NFL a decent backup QB is essential. The Steelers brass is far from clueless and until now have had the situation covered, but it has become obvious that this has evolved into an area of need. 38 year old Charlie Batch is believed to be retiring, and Byron Leftwich is an injury waiting to happen. And the elephant in the room is the fact that Ben Roethlisberger is now 30 years old and, because of his freewheeling style of play and the fact that a porous & injury prone offensive line has left him hung out to dry far too much in the past few seasons, usually misses atleast a game or two every year due to injury. At the very least a reliable veteran backup is needed that might be able to lead the team to a couple of victories now & then, and it may not be a horrible idea to groom a youngster to take the helm in 3 or 4 years. Kirk Cousins anyone??

 

 

5       Faster Linebackers

Lawrence Timmons & Lamarr Woodley are both fairly young players, but the two had a total of just harrison-sack10 sacks between them in 2012. That has to improve. James Harrison & Larry Foote are both in their 30’s and have obviously lost a step, The jury is still out on Jason Worilds (although it doesn’t feel to me like he’ll ever become anything more than a complimentary player) as well as youngsters Stevenson Sylvester & Sean Spence. It seems likely that the team will need to add atleast one, maybe two linebackers. As a Steelers fan it is odd…and a little disconcerting…when a discussion of the best linebackers in the NFL includes names like Patrick Willis, Clay Matthews, Terrell Suggs, and DeMarcus Ware with nary a Steeler in sight. This must change. Would Jarvis Jones or Manti Te’o look good in black & gold?? Maybe.

 

 

4       Younger Defensive Line

Brett Keisel & Casey Hampton are in their mid-30’s and likely finished. Will Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward, & Steve McClendon step up and become a new Steel Curtain for the 21st century?? It is possible. However, it is likely that one or two additional pieces are needed. Alameda Ta’amu was 91506_feature_mediumsupposed to be Hampton’s replacement, but he was cut then re-signed to the practice squad in the wake of a felony arrest for drunk driving, aggravated assault, & fleeing law enforcement last autumn. I suppose Ta’amu could potentially still evolve into the second coming of William “Refrigerator” Perry, but one can fairly assume that he is on a v-e-r-y tight leash and will have to work extremely hard to cajole himself into the lineup. The Steelers front office has always had the knack for knowing when to cut veterans loose who had nothing left in the tank while simultaneously having their replacements ready & able to step into the spotlight, but one has gotten the feeling over the past couple of years that they may have held onto a couple of these guys a bit too long and haven’t been as prudent as usual in laying out a succession plan.

 

 

3       Depth on the O-Line

I must give proper credit where it is due. Last year the Steelers drafted guard David DeCastro in the 1st round and tackle Mike Adams in the 2nd, so it isn’t as if they have not addressed the problem. And it is no one’s fault that a pre-season knee injury derailed most of DeCastro’s rookie campaign. Steelers-offensive-linemenHowever, there is still work to be done. Various injuries plagued the offensive line throughout 2012, exposing a few players as either injury prone or just not worth the effort. Some tough decisions are going to have to be made about who to keep around and who to cut loose. Obviously salary cap issues will play a significant part in these decisions as well. Since I am far too indolent to do the necessary research about such mundane issues as salaries & contracts, I’ll just go with the eye test. I’d jettison guards Willie Colon & Ramon Foster, as well as tackle Max Starks. That means drafting atleast one or two offensive linemen again as well as signing a couple in free agency. It might make for a rough 2013, but since that is probably going to occur anyway they may as well look ahead to having a solid line ready for the following season.

 

 

2       Offensive Coordinator

It was clear from the very beginning that Todd Haley and QB Ben Roethlisberger weren’t on the same page. And even though head coach Mike Tomlin did a fine job of keeping egos in check most of the season that discord never completely disappeared. At this stage of his career I think Big Ben has earned a certain amount of influence in the direction of the offense. I didn’t have a problem with Haley’s ideas about getting back to traditional Steelers smashmouth football, but the fact is that when you have a quarterback with the unique skill set of Roethlisberger, a group of pedestrian & injury hi-res-6587156_crop_exactprone running backs, an average at best & also injury prone offensive line, and a fine receiving corps like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, & TE Heath Miller you dance with the one who got you to the soiree. It is my understanding that Haley is being interviewed for some of the various head coaching & offensive coordinator positions available throughout the NFL, and I wouldn’t be heartbroken if he took off for greener pastures. Maybe Norv Turner would like to recapture some of his offensive coordinator mojo by working for a fine organization like the Pittsburgh Steelers & with another future Hall of Fame QB like Roetlisberger. And even if Turner is a pipe dream I still think there’s got to be a better answer than Todd Haley. Heck, I’d even welcome Mike Mularkey back into the fold.

 

 

1       A Shutdown Corner

I’ve been saying this for it seems like forever. I must again give due credit though. Kudos to both Keenan Lewis & Cortez Allen for stepping up in 2012 and being decent enough corners. Between them and Ike Taylor things weren’t horrible this past season, but they can & should significantly improve. The Steelers only forced 1.3 turnovers/game, which ranks near the bottom of the league. Theyaaa intercepted 14 balls…far less than 19-21 range where the league leaders reside. The defense accounted for 37 sacks, which puts them in the middle of the rankings for that category, not near the top where they should be. This obviously has more to do with not getting enough pressure on the opposing QB, but I also think it means that the pass coverage needs to be better. Look, I know that some people might look at this and say “Dude…the Steelers statistically had the top defense in the league in 2012…what are you complaining about??”. I get that. But one thing that no one seems to ever account for is the fact that the Steelers offense always ranks near the top in time of possession, which means that the defense is on the field less. I believe that helps to mask certain issues. Is it a bad defense?? Of course not. Are these cornerbacks that atrocious?? Not really. But if the opportunity arises to draft Dee Milliner from the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, or sign a free agent like Leodis McKelvin or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie then I think it would behoove the suits in The ‘Burgh to do so.