Friday, March 26, 2010

Prediction: Michigan State vs. Northern Iowa

...I'm starting to think that Michigan State is totally screwed

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Post-Combine NFL Mock Draft

Now that we are past the NFL Combine and the first wave of free agency, it is time for my Post-NFL Combine Mock Draft. I will informally update these picks until I post my Final Mock on the day of the NFL Draft.

Unlike most NFL mock drafts, my philosophy does not involve substituting my own judgment and trying play general manager for each of the 32 NFL teams. Instead, I do my best to research what particular players or positions each team may be targeting by searching the internet, listening to Sirius NFL Radio, and watching shows like NFL Total Access/NFL Live for reliable tips from NFL beat writers and insiders. In order to support my analysis as to why I think a particular player may end up going to the team that I have him slotted to, I do my best to provide a supporting link whenever possible.

At this stage in the pre-draft process the particular players and positions that teams may be targeting in the draft are starting to become clearer. The tricky part is reading between the lines and figuring out what reports are accurate, and what information has been intentionally leaked by various front offices as misinformation. Over the course of doing this for the past ten or so years I feel as if I have a pretty good read on what insider information can be considered credible, and what reporters are being used by teams as pawns for their “smokescreens.”

My mock has been linked by The Football Fan Spot in their NFL Mock Draft Database as one of their "premium mock drafts;" at DC Pro Sports Report in their NFL Mock Draft Database as a "top shelf" mock; at Sports Jabber in their Mock Draft Database; and a variation has been published at It's Just Sports on I'd like to thank them all for their support, so click the hyperlinks to check out their draft and sports related content.

1. St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma: Financial considerations make taking a quarterback with the No. 1 selection in the draft a better investment than taking a defensive tackle, and the Rams off-season moves suggest that they have adopted that reasoning. The Rams have signed quarterback A.J. Feeley in what appears to be a move to bridge the gap for an eventual successor. They have also signed free agent defensive tackle Fred Robbins, which reduces the likelihood that they will draft Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy. Unless current defensive tackle Adam Carriker is packaged in a trade, all indications to date point to the Rams taking Bradford at No. 1 and looking for a defensive tackle like Jared Odrick or Brian Price at the top of round two.

2. Detroit Lions – Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska: If Ndamukong Suh falls to No. 2 the Lions will have the opportunity to draft the top defensive tackle coming out of college in recent memory or trading that pick to a team that covets quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Adding Suh in addition to off-season acquisitions like Kyle Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams would transform the Lions defensive line from a liability to an asset.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma: Tampa Bay would love to see St. Louis draft a quarterback so one of the defensive tackles falls to them. If not, the pick could be defensive end Derrick Morgan instead of Eric Berry now that they have signed free agent safety Sean Jones.

4. Washington Pigskins – Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State: Ideally Washington would like to take quarterback Sam Bradford. The Redskins have not expressed much public interest in Jimmy Clausen, and a left tackle like Russell Okung would be a logical fit given their chronic problems on the offensive line.

5. Kansas City Chiefs – Eric Berry, S, Tennessee: The Chiefs have been solidifying their offensive line through free agency, bringing back center Casey Wiegmann after a stint in Denver and signing guard Ryan Lilja from the Colts. Eric Berry appears poised to become the next superstar at safety in the NFL, and the Kansas City defense would love to add a playmaker in the secondary.

6. Seattle Seahawks – Brian Bulaga, OT, Iowa: The Seahawks need a quarterback, an offensive tackle and an edge pass rusher. With three of the first thirty-eight picks in the draft, Seattle should be able to fill all of those needs. The only question is in what order? There is no guarantee that one of the top five tackles will still be available at when the Seahawks pick again at No. 14, and an NFL ready tackle like Brian Bulaga could step right in for Walter Jones at left tackle. Clemson running back C.J. Spiller could also factor into the mix if Seattle looks at best player available instead of need.

7. Cleveland Browns – Joe Haden, CB, Florida: The Browns have many needs, but a lockdown corner tops their list. Haden’s slow 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine caused some analysts to question whether he deserves to be drafted in the top ten. However, NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders pointed out that his slow time was likely due to an awkward position that he took in the starting blocks, and Haden improved on his 40 time at his Pro Day workout. Most experts agree that Haden’s film confirms that he is the best cover corner in the draft.

8. Oakland Raiders – Bruce Campbell, OT, Rutgers: NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock successfully predicted that the Raiders would reach for Darrius Heyward-Bey in last year’s draft. This year Mayock suggests that Oakland could take offensive tackle Bruce Campbell based upon his amazing workout at the NFL Combine. Nobody knows what Al Davis is going to do in the draft, so I’m willing to ride whatever insight Mayock has given his success in predicting what the Raiders would do last year. The question is whether Campbell, who did not even garner any votes for the All-ACC team, is one of the players at the Combine who “looks like Tarzan but plays like Jane.” Physical freak of nature Taylor Mays could also garner some consideration at safety given Al Davis’ propensity to draft for speed.

9. Buffalo Bills – Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma: Buffalo desperately needs a left tackle. Trent Williams not only performed well at the NFL Combine, but he performed well on the big stage at Oklahoma. Williams is a natural right tackle, but is athletic enough to protect his quarterback’s blindside at the next level.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars – Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech: The Jaguars defense only recorded 14 quarterback sacks last season. Even with the free agent signing of defensive end Aaron Kampman, the Jags could still look to add another pass rush threat at defensive end or at outside linebacker. Cornerback Joe Haden is a consideration if Cleveland decides to pass on him.

11. Denver Broncos, Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech: With Brandon Marshall on his way out of Denver, the Broncos need to trade him for a high pick and draft his replacement. Dez Bryant is falling big time after following up his lies to the NCAA with abrasive interviews with team executives at the NFL Combine, while Thomas' size and speed are reminding teams of Calvin Johnson.

12. Miami Dolphins – Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee: Miami is in need of a true nose tackle, and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah seems to think that Williams is going to go to Miami. With the Dolphins having signed middle linebacker Karlos Dansby in free agency, they can look to fill their need at defensive tackle with Williams or a defensive end/linebacker like Sergio Kindle.

13. San Francisco 49’ers – Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers: San Francisco needs a right tackle. With an early run projected on the tackles available in this year’s draft, the 49’ers probably don’t want to wait until their second first round pick at No. 17 to stabilize a position of need.

14. Seattle Seahawks (From Denver) – Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida: If the Seahawks draft a tackle and defensive end with their two first round picks, they would still need a quarterback. With the Seahawks having traded for veteran free agent Charlie Whitehurst, it would appear as if they are looking for a developmental quarterback later in the draft instead of a franchise quarterback in round one. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is not only an athletic freak of nature, but he represents an outstanding value at No. 14.

15. New York Giants – Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama: Assuming that the Giants don’t sign restricted free agent middle linebacker Kirk Morrison from the Oakland Raiders, Rolando McClain could be a tempting replacement for Antonio Pierce. The Giants could also use a third down back, and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. is convinced that they would take Clemson running back C.J. Spiller if he is still available at No. 15. Still, the Giants have bigger needs than at running back, especially if Brandon Jacobs is healthy this season.

16. Tennessee Titans – Sergio Kindle, OLB/DE, Texas: Kindle would serve as a replacement for Kyle Vanden Bosch, whom the Titans let go in free agency. With the Titans lacking a pick in the second round they would love to trade back and acquire additional draft choices. If they trade down later in the first round they could still be in the mix for a defensive end/outside linebacker like Brandon Graham.

17. San Francisco 49’ers (From Carolina) – C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson: San Francisco 49’er insider Matt Maiocco says that the team would not likely be interested in drafting running back C.J. Spiller with their first pick at No. 13, but would entertain the thought of drafting him as a home run threat/kick return specialist with their second pick in the first round should he fall to No. 17. San Francisco could also look at a cornerback or help on the defensive line with this pick, but neither position appears to be a value at this point in the draft.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Iupati, G/T, Idaho: Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh running game would both benefit with an improved offensive line. Iupati made waves at the Senior Bowl with his physical ability and versatility. He is one of the rare guards who could go as high as the top 15. As a down side, I’ve also heard several scouts/insiders on Sirius NFL Radio comment on how Iupati’s film shows that he could have been called for holding on nearly every single play in college. Accordingly, expect a year of growing pains before he becomes acclimated to the NFL. Pittsburgh could also consider Jared Odrick to some depth at nose tackle and serve as an eventual successor to Casey Hampton, but he would probably be a reach at No. 18.

19. Atlanta Falcons – Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan: After solidifying their secondary by signing cornerback Dunta Robinson, the Falcons are hoping that Brandon Graham falls to them in order to improve their pass rush. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap of Florida could also fill that need, although there are questions surrounding his motor and character.

20. Houston Texans – Earl Thomas, S, Texas: NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock has called Earl Thomas of Texas the most instinctive player at the safety position. He even has him ranked above Eric Berry, who is projected to go in the top five picks of the draft. If Thomas is off the board by the time the Texans select, look for Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews to come in as a fit in Gary Kubiak’s “one cut” zone blocking system.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma: The Bengals biggest need following free agency is at tight end, which is a position that was a huge liability last season in regards to both blocking and receiving. With a decent 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine, John Gresham of Oklahoma may have erased doubts about a knee injury caused him to miss his entire junior season. If the Bengals can’t work out a trade with Chicago to obtain tight end Greg Olsen or fill their need at that position with a free agent, the Bengals could target USC safety Taylor Mays to serve as an apprentice to Roy Williams.

22. New England Patriots – Jared Odrick, DE/DT, Penn State: Jared Odrick has been described as one of the best defensive tackles in Penn State history. His ability to play tackle or end makes him the versatile player that New England looks for in their 3-4 defensive system. Keep an eye on running back Ryan Mathews, who played for former Bill Belichick assistant Pat Hill in college. Ricky Sapp could also be a consideration at defensive end/outside linebacker, although his injury history could lead him to fall to the second round where New England has three picks.

23. Green Bay Packers – Charles Brown, OT, USC: Green Bay has solidified their offensive line by resigning free agent tackles Chad Cliffton and Mark Tauscher. Both should be better this season after missing significant time in 2009 due to injury. Green Bay now has the luxury of drafting for talent instead of need, but finding a long term solution at left tackle will still be a priority in the early rounds.

24. Philadelphia Eagles – Taylor Mays, S, USC: Even with the free agent signing of cornerback/safety Marlin Jackson, Philadelphia could still target USC safety Taylor Mays, letting the versatile Jackson play his natural position at corner. Mays would fill the void that was left when safety Brian Dawkins signed with Denver as a free agent before last season. Otherwise, defensive ends like Carlos Dunlap of Florida or Everson Griffen of USC could provide some much needed help with the pass rush help on the front seven.

25. Baltimore Ravens – Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State: Baltimore's need at defensive end was taken care of when they signed Corey Redding, who is a perfect end in a 3-4 system. Cornerback and tight end still remain a need. With the draft being deep in tight ends the Ravens can focus on their philosophy of drafting the best player available. Cornerback Kyle Wilson would fit that philosophy and fill a major need. A tight end who can eventually replace Todd Heap can easily be found in the mid rounds of this draft.

26. Arizona Cardinals – Sean Weatherspoon, MLB, Missouri: With Karlos Dansby having signed with Miami in free agency the Cardinals have a huge hole at middle linebacker. Like Dansby, Weatherspoon is a three down linebacker who has the skill-set to play inside or outside, making him an ideal replacement.

27. Dallas Cowboys –Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State – Dallas needs an offensive tackle to replace aging Flozell Adams. However, with the top six tackles possibly off the board they could look at Jared Veldheer of Hillsdale College in round two as a developmental project, especially since the Cowboys could still get another year or two out of Adams. If DezBryant falls to No. 27 due to character concerns, Jerry Jones would be happy to grab him.

28. San Diego Chargers – Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State: With LaDainian Tomlinson having been released, the Chargers need a feature back. Mathews has been linked to the Chargers on Sirius NFL Radio. Mathews is a fast back with the ability to run between the tackles. Jared Odrick of Penn State or Brian Price of UCLA will also be considerations to replace Jamal Williams who signed with Denver as a free agent, but the Chargers should be able to target a quality nose tackle early in the second round with the pick that they obtained from Seattle in the Charlie Whitehurst trade.

29. New York Jets - Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers: Even after their trade for Antonio Cromartie the Jets still need a nickel back. Devin McCourty would fill that role and be a contributor on special teams. A safety like Taylor Mays or an edge rusher like Everson Griffen could also fill needs for the Jets on defense.

30. Minnesota Vikings – Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State: A competent cornerback to play opposite of Antoine Winfield could make an outstanding Vikings defense ever better. Patrick Robinson of Florida State or Kyle Wilson of Boise State would each be a fit in Minnesota. The re-signing of defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy leaves their only other needs as safety and back-up running back, which are both positions that can be upgraded in free agency or in the later rounds of the draft.

31. Indianapolis Colts – Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida: The Colts are emphasizing rebuilding their offensive line this off-season. Florida C/G Maurkice Pouncey could replace Ryan Lilja at guard and learn the offense for a few seasons before ultimately taking over for Jeff Saturday at center. Pouncey has been linked to the Colts by Sirius NFL Radio.

32. New Orleans Saints – Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida: New Orleans needs a pass rushing defensive end, defensive tackle and an outside linebacker who can rush the passer. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap of Florida, defensive tackle Jared Odrick of Penn St. and outside linebacker Jerry Hughes of TCU would all be good values and fill needs for the Saints depending on who is still available when the Saints pick at No. 32.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Talking Points

Here is the link to my latest column for It's Just Sports on We love discussion in the It's Just Sports comment section, so create a user-ID for and let me know what you think.

Talking Points: Gary Bettman continues his plan to ruin the NHL and ESPN talking heads take on Rich Rod

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Oscar Predictions From a Guy Who Doesn't Watch Movies: Kathryn Bigelow - A New Hope

Before I get started on my second annual attempt at predicting the Oscar winners, let's start with some background. As I stated last year, I don’t watch or rent movies anymore. I pretty much stopped watching movies/DVD's when Hollywood studios began trying to out “special effect” each other in order to overcompensate for bad writing and a lack of original ideas, a/k/a "the George Lucas syndrome."

My formula for predicting Oscar winners is based upon a combination of word of mouth, watching trailers/reading movie posters, and my own personal analysis of how Hollywood works. Am I ready to give this another shot? Yo soy!

Best Picture:

The Academy created some controversy amongst the movie purists this year in electing to nominate 10 films for best picture instead of 5 in order to generate some extra ratings buzz. With a diluted field of nominees this year the Academy voters will be ranking their favorite films from 1-10 instead of voting for a single winner.

Fortunately, everyone involved in the voting process agrees that this was pretty much the best idea that the Academy has ever come up with. Now let's start out by eliminating some of the pretenders that are just happy to get an invite to the party.

1. The Blind Side: This is a feel good sports fluff piece, and the Academy hates feel good sports fluff pieces. The only sports flicks that the Academy likes are dark movies about boxing. Did you know that Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1976? Of course, Rocky II, III, IV & V are all reasons why the Academy is reluctant to ever give the Best Picture Oscar to a sports movie again. Million Dollar Baby is an exception because it fits the Academy's fish out of water formula, in that it had a beautiful girl playing a role where the lead character was using an unexpected medium in boxing to change the lives and perceptions of others.

2. District 9: District 9 is a science fiction film. You're about as likely to see the Academy give the Best Picture Oscar to a science fiction movie as you are to see Sarah Palin and Levi Johnston walking out of the Kwik-E-Mart with a bottle of tequila and a pack of condoms. Then again, there's always a chance.

3. Up: This movie seems to have been pretty well received on an artistic level. However, the fact that animated films have their own category gives the Academy a pretty easy bailout on this one.

4. and 5. Inglorious Basterds and Up in the Air: These nominations were just excuses for George Clooney and Co. to be a prominent features on the red carpet and at the after parties.

6. A Serious Man: An art house movie? Oooh. A black comedy? Ahhh. Directed by the Coen brothers? Thank you, come again.

7. An Education: I really don't know anything about this film, which is causing me serious doubts as to why I am eliminating it from contention.

8. Precious: I'm cutting Precious for no other reason than it comes to the Academy Awards as a Hollywood outsider. If Precious were a real person the Academy would fly her in and talk about how wonderful she was to make themselves look good in public, and then make fun of her by saying how tacky her outfit was the first time that she left the room to take a poop.

That limits the Best Picture field down to our two finalists, Avatar and The Hurt Locker. As a side story that the Academy could only have dreamed of, Avatar was directed by Hollywood mogul James Cameron, who is the ex-husband of The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow. I've heard their rivalry described as "friendly," but trust me, there is no such thing as a friendly rivalry when it comes to ex-wives.

In order to determine the Best Picture winner, I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy of the Academy's official scoring ballot. Let's walk through that card and figure out who our winner is going to be:

1. Does the film utilize Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI)? If yes, subtract 10 points. (If the film used CGI and you are voting for the Golden Globes, then add 10 points).
-Avatar minus 10, The Hurt Locker 0.

2. Does the film employ a groundbreaking form of technology? If yes, add 5 points.
-Avatar minus 5, The Hurt Locker 0.

3. Was the film recognized for its artistic medium? If yes, add 10 points.
-Avatar minus 5, The Hurt Locker 0.

4. Was the film one of the highest grossing movies in the history of Hollywood? If yes, subtract 3 points.
-Avatar minus 8, The Hurt Locker 0.

5. If film's director has an ex-spouse who directed some of the highest grossing films in the history of Hollywood, then add 5 points.
-Avatar minus 8, The Hurt Locker 5.

6. Was the film critically acclaimed, yet a failure at the box office? If yes, add 5 points.
-Avatar minus 8, The Hurt Locker 10.

7. Was the film independently produced? If yes, add 3 points.
-Avatar minus 10, The Hurt Locker 13.

8. Did the film advance a liberal political message? If yes, add 5 points.
-Avatar minus 5, The Hurt Locker 18.

9. Did the film have a lead character who was gay (but only if portrayed by a straight actor) or mentally challenged? If yes, add 10 points.
-Avatar minus 5, The Hurt Locker 18.

10. Was the film's director Woody Allen? If yes, write the name of his film on your card and seal it in the envelope. If the film's director was James Cameron, add 3 points.
-Avatar minus 2, The Hurt Locker 18.

11. Was there a romance in the film that was or could have been socially frowned upon? If yes, add 10 points.
-Avatar 8, The Hurt Locker 18.

12. Did the story involve a role where the lead character was a "fish out of water?" If yes, add 5 points.
-Avatar 13, The Hurt Locker 23.

And in a surprising landslide win, the Oscar for Best Picture goes to The Hurt Locker!

Best Actor:

Wow, talk about a turd with a new coat of paint! It sounds as if Jeff Bridges is the runaway choice to win best actor for his role in Crazy Heart, which one article that I read described as a reprise of "Dude" from The Big Lebowski - only with country music.

Leading candidate or not, I can't roll with that, nor does it fit the Academy's profile. George Clooney is not going to win the Oscar until he takes a roll outside of his image and comfort zone and blows us all away. Morgan Freeman has been there and done that, so I don't see him winning either.

I can't see The Hurt Locker taking home Oscars in two of the major categories, so I'm throwing Jeremy Renner out as well. Therefore, by process of elimination, the Oscar for Best Actor goes to Colin Firth for his role in A Single Man.

Best Actress:

Sandra Bullock is supposed to be a favorite for her roll in The Blind Side, but like the favorite in the category for Best Actor I'm not buying it. I've watched the trailers for this movie and all I see is bubble gum and overacting. Hell, I write for a sports blog and I didn't even have any desire to see this movie.

As always, Meryl Streep will garner consideration for her role in Julie and Julia, which would probably be the one movie I'd want to watch of any of the Oscar nominated films. Unfortunately, I'm more interested in Amy Adams's role than I am in Streep's portrayal of Julia Childs.

So when it comes down to it, I think the Best Actress Oscar goes to Gabourey Sidibe as Precious, but only so George Clooney can walk her on stage under false pretenses to give an unsuspecting Sidibe a "Carrie" like moment as the audience watches in horror, and the Academy slyly exits stage left having delivered their message loud and clear to any and all Hollywood outsiders.