Monday, April 28, 2008

NY Giants 2008 Draft: Breaking Down the Picks

The Giants came into the 2008 NFL Draft with a game plan: Select players according to the grades on their meticulously-arranged draft board.

“We are conscious of what our need is,” General Manager Jerry Reese said. “But we are trying to find players first. That is first and foremost. We are trying to find good football players. And in the draft we look for value and need. I think most of these players give us both value and need."

With the 31st selection of the first round, the Giants drafted S Kenny Phillips from the University of Miami.

“We got nice value and we got a need position as well,” General Manager Jerry Reese said. “That’s what we like to do in the draft. We don’t want to reach for guys. We got what we wanted. We got need and value with this pick.”

The Giants then took Southern California corner back Terrell Thomas in the second round with the 63rd overall pick. In the third round the Giants drafted Michigan wide receiver Mario Manningham. Next came a pair of linebackers, Bryan Kehl of Brigham Young and Jonathan Goff of Vanderbilt. The Giants relinquished the first of their three sixth-round selections to move up seven spots in the fourth round to take Kehl. In the sixth round the Giants selected quarterback Andre’ Woodson of Kentucky and defensive end Robert Henderson of Southern Mississippi.

Here's a scouting report of the seven newest Giants:

Kenny Phillips, S, University of Miami (FL)
1st Round (31st overall), 6'2, 212 lbs

Strengths
Very good size and a solid frame. Excellent athleticism. Great timed speed (4.55) with a burst to close. Instincts and awareness are outstanding. Has fantastic range. Terrific hands and ball skills. Very physical and aggresssive. Solid tackler who will deliver the big hit. Does a very nice job in run support. Good leaping ability. He excels in both man and zone coverage. Team leader. Great program pedigree.
Weaknesses
Tends to over-pursue and bites on fakes. Still needs to work on his technique and footwork. Plays too high. Has trouble shedding blocks. Tries to evade contact at times. Has minor durability concerns. Did not have a great Junior season.
Final Verdict
Phillips is the next in a long line of great Hurricane safeties. He stepped into Miami's starting lineup as a true freshman and has been one of the top safeties in the nation ever since. He is a marvelous all-around player who has everything you look for in terms of both physical tools and intangibles. He should step right into the Giants starting lineup after the departure of Gibril Wilson. Phillips could easily be a top 10 safety relatively early in his NFL career.


Terrell Thomas, CB, University of Southern California
2nd Round (63rd overall), 6'1, 202 lbs

Strengths
Very good size with bulk and long arms. smooth and decent natural athlete. Is strong and physical. Nice hands and ball skills. Smart with excellent instincts and awareness. Comes up to support the run. Can blitz off the edge. Is a hard worker. Can play safety because of size.
Weaknesses
Timed speed is just average (4.49) and he lacks a burst. Isn't real fluid. Too aggressive at times and will bite on play fakes. Has a tough time matching up in man coverage. Has somewhat stiff hips. A marginal tackler. A bit of a tweener. Major durability issues.
Final Verdict
Thomas has great size and can be a potential safety as he started his USC career there. Has had 3 major surgeries (2 on shoulders) causing him to redshirt in '03 and miss all of the '05 season.
Will fit into Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnoulo's scheme as he can blitz off the edge and get after the quarterback. His best fit will likely come in the zone scheme.


Mario Manningham, WR, University of Michigan
3rd Round (95th overall), 5'11, 181 lbs

Strengths
Excellent speed with a burst. Very elusive in the open field. Great route runner who creates good separation. Excellent hand-eye coordination. Terrific body control and ball skills. Excellent leaping ability. True deep threat who can stretch the field vertically. Quick and agile. Very productive and consistent in college. Has a history of making a play when it matters. Offers some value as a return specialist.
Weaknesses
Undersized and lacks ideal bulk for a WR. Durability is a concern. Not very physical and needs to get stronger. Not real tough and doesn't work the middle of the field. Has trouble with being jammed at the line. Not much of a blocker. Has character issues (admitted smoking marijuana and was caught with a controlled substance as a Freshman).
Final Verdict
A smooth, polished wideout who has everything you look for except ideal size. A dynamic offensive weapon who should be an excellent pro as long as he can stay healthy and keep his head on straight. Will fit into the Giants offense as the 4th wideout and give Manning a legit vertical threat. Could potentially be the best route runner on the roster.


Bryan Kehl, OLB, Brigham Young University
4th Round (123rd overall), 6'2, 242 lbs

Strengths
Adequate size and bulk. Decent athleticism and good timed speed (4.68). Is active with nice range. Excellent instincts and awareness. Has a great motor and plays with a lot of energy. Does a nice job in space. Can hold his own in coverage. Hard worker. Capable of delivering a big hit. Smart and mature with premier intangibles.
Weaknesses
Has trouble shedding blocks. Just an average tackler. Can be too aggressive at times. Marginal pass rusher. He doesn't play with a nasty demeanor. A little over aged. May not have a lot of upside.
Final Verdict
Kehl is a decent all around player whose physical tools are passable and gets pushed over the top by doing all of the little things. He is probably not starting material but has a good shot to make the Giants roster as a backup or special teamer. He was drafted to replace the departed backup OLB Reggie Torbor.


Jonathan Goff, ILB, Vanderbilt University
5th Round (165th overall), 6'2, 245 lbs

Strengths
Has nice size and bulk. Good timed speed (4.63). Real tough and physical. Strong and powerful. Reliable tackler. Great instincts and awareness. Does a very good job of taking on and shedding blockers. He will hold his own in zone coverage. A hard worker and team leader with top notch intangibles. Extremely smart with a great football I.Q. Has a ton of experience against elite competition. Really productive.
Weaknesses
Not a top natural athlete. Looks stiff and doesn't necessarily play to his workout numbers. Has some trouble when trying to tackle in open space. Is not fluid in coverage and struggles if he has to match up man-to-man. Just an average pass rusher/blitzer. May just be a two down player in the NFL. Upside may be limited.
Final Verdict
Goff was an excellent college player. He has the potential to be a good two down linebacker but he could be potentially more. He will compete to fill the void of departed linebacker Kawika Mitchell.


Andre' Woodson, QB, University of Kentucky
6th Round (198th overall), 6'4, 227 lbs

Strengths
Has prototypical size and a solid frame. Has a very strong arm and can make all of the throws. Accurate passer. Good touch and timing. Makes good decisions for the most part and doesn't turn the ball over. Decent athlete who moves well in the pocket and can scramble. Is tough and durable. Will stand tall in the face of pressure. Excellent intangibles in terms of leadership and work ethic. Still improving and has considerable upside.
Weaknesses
May need to have the mechanics of his delivery refined. Will run hot and cold at times and needs to be more consistent. Can run a bit but won't be mistaken for Vince Young. Played out of the shotgun a lot. Has some issues when it comes to reading coverages. Has too much confidence in his arm strength. Puts too much air under some throws.
Final Verdict
Woodson has all of the physical tools you look for in a QB but is not close to being a finished product. He has the highest ceiling of any QB prospect but also a big basement. He was about the 5th best QB in the draft so the Giants got great value taking him late in the 6th round. He will immediately compete for a backup job with fellow Wildcat Jared Lorenzen, Anthony Wright, and David Carr.


Robert Henderson, DE, University of Southern Mississippi
6th Round (199th overall), 6'3, 278 lbs

Strengths
Very effective coming off the edge from the weakside. Decent speed for a player his size. Gets off the snap adequately. Has the balance and leg drive to hold firmly at the point of attack. Uses his rip and swim moves to split combo blocks. Long wingspan could pose problems for smaller qbs. Good lateral agility to make plays in pursuit.
Weaknesses
Struggles at times to defend vs. the run. Age (25) is a concern, along with his struggles retaining plays and digesting a playbook. Doesn't have quick accelaration for DE. Loses levarage at times because of his height. Can be easily fooled by misdirection. Doesn't play with much intensity and can disappear for long stretches.
Final Verdict
Henderson has decent size and speed and is also a good pass rusher. He dominated in an inferior conference (Conf-USA). Unfortunately he plays with an inconsistent motor and only has marginal football instincts.
Since this pick was in the last two rounds, it was worth a shot for the Giants. He could make the team in place of DE Dave Tollefson. Perhaps playing with guys like Strahan, Tuck and Umenyiora will have a positive impact on Henderson and teach him how to play the game the right way.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Matt’s 2008 NFL Mock Draft v2.0

Tomorrow and Sunday are two of my five favorite days of the year. I am like a kid at Christmas right now, waiting for the morning to come. The coffee is ready to brew, the cereal in the bowl (no milk yet) and the bag of chips at arms reach.

It is also a great time for speculation, trades and sports talk. Who will my team take? Whose career will the Raiders drive into the ground? Which ex-con will go to Cincinnati?

My contribution to this is another Mock Draft. I already did one (Matt’s 2008 NFL Mock Draft), but things have changed. I will not be averaging other’s work and then moving per need; no, this time it is based on my opinions on who needs what.

This is what I came up with.

#1 – Miami Dolphins
Jake Long – OT – Michigan
Last Time: Matt Ryan - QB - Boston College

This pick has been done. They have already signed him to a 5-year contract and now they hope to have someone to protect John Beck…er…whom ever is their QB now. This guy is mean and nasty, which can come in really handy in the trenches.


#2 – St. Louis Rams
Chris Long – DE - Virginia
Last Time: Chris Long - DE – Virginia

Chris is seen as the most surefire player in the draft and some think that Miami should have taken him. St. Louis will be more then thrilled to select him at #2 and have him and Carriker on the DL for years to come.


#3 – Atlanta Falcons
Glenn Dorsey - DT – LSU
Last Time: Glenn Dorsey - DT – LSU

Again, this is a great pick. You have a team whose defense has gotten older and they have a chance to bring in a playmaking DT that has been compared to Warren Sapp. Yes, they need a QB, but a DT is less of a long-shot. Plus, seeing the QBs in the draft…they need to take someone else. However, don’t be surprised if they trade down to get more picks and snatch Matt Ryan.


#4 – Oakland Raiders
Darren McFadden - RB – Arkansas
Last Time: Jake Long - OT – Michigan

They will take the best on the board. As much as they would love to get Chris Long with this pick, they will gladly take – as some think – the best overall player in the draft.


#5 – Kansas City Chiefs
Vernon Gholston - DE - Ohio St.
Last Time: Darren McFadden - RB – Arkansas

The Chiefs need some help on both lines and this is a pick that could help right away, especially with the trade of Jarred Allen. If he is gone expect them to go to the offensive line or trade down to pick up a DE.


#6 – New York Jets
Keith Rivers - OLB – USC
Last Time: Sedrick Ellis - DT - USC

The loss of Vilma is huge. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them trade down to go for a RB or QB. They have a lot of holes, so don’t hold your breath on anything here.


#7 – New England Patriots (From 49ers)
Leodis McKelvin - CB – Troy
Last Time: Vernon Gholston - DE - Ohio St.

McKelvin’s stock has risen over the last few months. The Pats need some help in the secondary with the loss of Samuel. Expect them to possibly trade to get a LB or something else. They are a hard team to figure out.

#8 – Baltimore Ravens
Matt Ryan – QB – Boston College
Last Time: Brian Brohm - QB – Louisville

What are the odds that Ryan gets here? Not good, the Jets could take him as well as the Chiefs or Falcons. Baltimore would be ecstatic to end up with Ryan in their laps.


#9 – Cincinnati Bengals
Sedrick Ellis - DT - USC
Last Time: Derrick Harvey - DE – Florida

Cincy can’t stop the run; this guy can. Cincy can’t keep guys out of prison; this guy has a clean record. Adds up to a pick.


#10 – New Orleans Saints
Mike Jenkins - CB - South Florida
Last Time: Mike Jenkins - CB - South Florida

I love it, this pick will be the same. The only way I see this changing is if McKelvin is still on the board. They NEED secondary help – right, Jason David?


#11 – Buffalo Bills
Malcolm Kelly - WR – Oklahoma
Last Time: Malcolm Kelly - WR – Oklahoma

No brainer. They need someone to compliment Lee Evans. If they don’t take a WR at this spot, they will be ruing next year. RUING!


#12 – Denver Broncos
Ryan Clady - OT - Boise State
Last Time: Ryan Clady - OT - Boise State

I am doing pretty well this second time - 3rd in a row that is the same. I don’t see this changing. They need some OL help with the loss of Lepsis, and Clady is the best OT in the draft.


#13 – Carolina Panthers
Derrick Harvey – DE – Florida

Last Time: DeSean Jackson - WR – Cal

They don’t need a WR now that they have Muhammad and Hackett. They do, however, need a replacement for the retired Mike Rucker. Harvey is that replacement.


#14 – Chicago Bears
Limas Sweed - WR – Texas
Last Time: Rashard Mendenhall - RB – Illinois

They lost Muhammad and they need a WR. They also need a QB, but they can get a good one in the 2nd round.


#15 – Detroit Lions
Rashard Mendenhall - RB – Illinois
Last Time: Leodis McKelvin - CB – Troy

Kevin Jones is gone and Tatum Bell is not a starter. Detroit will take Mendenhall in a heartbeat.


#16 – Arizona Cardinals
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - CB - Tenn. State
Last Time: Jonathan Stewart - RB – Oregon

This is a darn good pick for a team that has struggled against the pass. This guy is legit – he is fast, tall and is good at following the ball. He should be a top-10, but will fall.


#17 – Kansas City (From Minnesota)
Chris Williams - OT – Vanderbilt
Last Time: Phillip Merling - DE – Clemson

Kansas City needs line help, and Williams will help them. They watched as a massive drop in rushing yardage happened and they will want to fix that. Williams can be the OT of the future as well.


#18 – Houston Texans
Aqib Talib - CB – Kansas
Last Time: Aqib Talib - CB – Kansas

Worked out the same again. They have some young guys up front but need help in the secondary.


#19 – Philadelphia Eagles
James Hardy - WR - Indiana

Last Time: Chris Williams - OT – Vanderbilt

I still think they need to get the replacement for some of their aging tackles, but unless there is a premier draftee at the spot, they will be taking a WR. They need someone for McNabb to throw to.


#20 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Branden Albert – OG – Virginia
Last Time: Mario Manningham - WR – Michigan

This is a “best available pick”. They may go for a WR if there is a “top-tier” left, but it might be time to get someone who can open up some holes. They already have young guards so watch for a WR or a trade down as well.


#21 – Washington Redskins
Phillip Merling – DE – Clemson
Last Time: Calais Campbell - DE - Miami (Fla.)

The same position but a better player. Merling is big, strong and can upset the o-line.


#22 – Dallas Cowboys (From Cleveland)
Felix Jones – RB – Arkansas

Last Time: Jeff Otah - OT – Pittsburgh

Swap a Jones for a Jones. He has been compared to Julius and will be a very good change of pace to Marion Barber – which is what makes Barber his best.


#23 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Jeff Otah - OT – Pittsburgh
Last Time: Dan Connor - ILB - Penn State

Great lineman who will contribute almost immediately. He is a brawler which fits the Steeler’s method.


#24 – Tennessee Titans
Lawrence Jackson – DE – USC

Last Time: Kentwan Balmer - DT - North Carolina

They could take Balmer still, but they need a complimentary DE to Vanden Bosch. Jackson will make an impact on a side that has had a rotating door for the last few years.


#25 – Seattle Seahawks
Jonathan Stewart – RB – Oregon
Last Time: Felix Jones - RB – Arkansas

If Stewart falls here I will have a heart attack. I don’t think it will happen because someone will snatch him up, but if he slips then the Seahawks would be stupid to not take him. He can catch, run and block…something the Hawks haven’t seen in a long time.


#26 – Jacksonville Jaguars
Kentwan Balmer – DT - North Carolina

Last Time: Limas Sweed - WR – Texas

The loss of Marcus Stroud has caused a massive hole in the defense. Balmer could be the next Stroud and Jax would roll the dice in hopes of that.


#27 – San Diego Chargers
Devin Thomas – WR - Michigan State

Last Time: Kenny Phillips - S - Miami (Fla.)

If you can name their starting WR I will give you a dollar. Exactly…hence this pick.


#28 – Dallas Cowboys
Kenny Phillips – S - Miami
Last Time: Antoine Cason - CB - Arizona

You like Williams and Hamlin? They can hit and stop the run, but these to fools can’t pass defend to save their lives. The Cowboys need that if they want to get past the 1st round of playoffs this year.


#29 – San Fransisco 49ers
DeSean Jackson – WR – Cal
Last Time: Keith Rivers - OLB – USC

This pick would be even better if they had a QB they could count on. He is a solid WR, and though small, Jackson is a great return man as well; something that the 49ers would appreciate at the WR spot.


#30 – Green Bay Packers
Antoine Cason – CB - Arizona
Last Time: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - CB - Tenn. State

Again, their secondary isn’t getting younger. They may be the youngest team in the league, but comparatively the secondary is geriatric.


#31 – New England Patriots
Forfeited


#32 – New York Giants
Tyrell Johnson – S - Arkansas State

Last Time: Brandon Flowers - CB - Virginia Tech

We will see if they want a CB at this spot or if they take a safety. Either way…they need a freaking DB.

That’s that. Now, do I expect these to happen? No. But it could…right?

2008 NFL Mock Draft

Mel Kiper Jr. remembers when nearly everyone around the NFL mocked his mock drafts. They called him a kook, an oddball, an eccentric, and, worst of all, a draftnik.

That was 25 years ago.

It was then that he first starting publishing his mock drafts for ESPN. Now, there’s a mock draft everywhere you look. On Web sites, in magazines, in newspapers, and in daily installments on the Worldwide Leader.

Since the NFL Draft is less than 28 hours away, columnists, fans, and bloggers are scrambling to update their mock drafts with the latest scouting information and rumors on what the teams may do in the first round. It is only appropriate that I throw my two cents in on what may or may not happen in this year's NFL Draft.

1) Miami Dolphins - Jake Long, OT, Michigan
Needs: OT, CB, WR, QB, G
Its pretty hard to screw up this pick since Long has already agreed to a five year contract with Miami with $30 million guaranteed and worth up to $57.75 million.

2) St. Louis Rams - Chris Long, DE, Virginia
Needs: DE, DT, WR, C, OLB, OT
Rams coach Scott Linehan has been quoted as saying, "We'll take whichever Long falls to us." That so happens to be Howie's son Chris.

Scenario 2: Take DT Glenn DorseyScenario 3: Trade down with Atlanta since Atlanta is interested in Dorsey.

3) Atlanta Falcons - Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
Needs: QB, OT, CB, DT, TE
The coaching staff would like to start the new regime with a hot young quarterback in place. However, the Falcons scouting department loves Glen Dorsey. Who will out?

Scenario 2: If Dorsey is gone, Ryan is definately the pick. If they are both on the board Ryan is the pick.

4) Oakland Raiders - Glen Dorsey, DT, LSU

Needs: DE/DT, OT/G, SLB, WR, RB

Scenario 2: If C. Long is off the board and McFadden is still on the board, look for the Raiders to take the runstopper Dorsey to help rebuild a depleted defensive front since Sapp retired.

Scenario 3: If C. Long and McFadden are off the board, the Raiders would look to bolster the defensive front by taking either Dorsey or DT Sedrick Ellis.

5) Kansas City Chiefs - Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State
Needs: DE, OT, CB, DT, G, C, WR
Trading Jared Allen to the Vikings now moves DE to the forefront on the need list, and an offensive lineman will come later. Gholston's measurables are off the charts.

Scenario 2: If they want to go OT, they will take Ryan Clady or Branden Albert.
Scenario 3: Trade back and acquire more picks to better address a slew of needs.
Scenario 4: The Chiefs could also consider Ryan, Dorsey, Ellis, or Derrick Harvey.

6) New York Jets - Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
Needs: DE, WR, CB, FS, ILB, RB
Though running back isn't a top need, McFadden is the versatile and explosive weapon the Jets' offense has been missing for years.

Scenario 2: If KC passes on Gholston, and McFadden is gone, Gholston is the pick.
Scenario 3: Take Matt Ryan if McFadden and Gholston are gone.
Scenario 4: If McFadden, Gholston, and Ryan are gone the Jets may trade down if they can find a partner.

7) New England Patriots (from SF) - Keith Rivers, OLB, USC
Needs: ILB, OLB, CB, ROT, TE
The Patriots will trade out of this pick, down to get better value. If stuck at No. 7, the intelligent and versatile Rivers makes the most sense.

Scenario 2: Take Ellis if Rivers and Dorsey are gone.
Scenario 3: Don't be surprised if the Patriots ignore need and take Ellis if he's still available. He would represent the best value.
Scenario 4: New England could upgrade at right tackle by selecting OT Brandon Albert if he's available.

8) Baltimore Ravens - Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
Needs: QB, CB, LOT, OLB/DE, ILB
If Ryan isn't on the board and the Ravens don't trade out of this slot, they will take the best available player.

Scenario 2: Might have to trade up to get Matt Ryan.
Scenario 3: Sit patiently and hope either Ryan or Ellis falls to them.
Scenario 4: If they can't get one of their top two players and are unable to trade out, the Ravens would then look at Gholston, Albert and CB Leodis McKelvin, in that order.

9) Cincinnati Bengals - Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC
Needs: NT, OT, DE, LB, WR, C
Ellis has a great burst off the ball. He'll make everyone better on what was a disappointing unit last year. The Bengals may even trade up a pick or two to get him.

Scenario 2: If Ellis isn't available, the Bengals will look to trade back because there would not be a player on the board representing great value at their positions of need.
Scenario 3: If Cincinnati is stuck here with Ellis off the board, the possibilities include OT Ryan Clady, OLB Rivers and DE Derrick Harvey.

10) New Orleans Saints - Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy
Needs: CB, DT, LB, TE, ROT, S
The top corner is available if the Saints want him. The decision will be between the explosive Mike Jenkins and Troy's kinetic Leodis McKelvin.

Scenario 2: Trade up to land Dorsey.
Scenario 3: Trade up to land Ellis.
Scenario 4: Hope Rivers is available.

11) Buffalo Bills - Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State
Needs: WR, TE, CB, DE, FS
Taking Thomas here is a substantial reach, but the Bills most pressing need is at receiver.

Scenario 2: Trade down and still take Thomas. If Thomas is gone they could select CBs Jenkins or McKelvin.
Scenario 3: While it doesn't seem like a pressing need, don't be surprised if the Bills end up pulling the trigger on Harvey if he is still on the board.

12) Denver Broncos - Branden Albert, OT, Boise State
Needs: OT, WR, DT, MLB, S
At 6-7, 315, he slides over to tackle (to replace the retired Matt Lepsis), with the power and athleticism to handle the move.

Scenario 2: If Albert is gone, Denver could take OT Chris Williams, OT Jeff Otah, or Ryan Clady.
Scenario 3: Opt for a RB and take Rashard Mendenhall.

13) Carolina Panthers - Ryan Clady, OT Boise State
Needs: OT, FS, DE, RB, TE
Since Wharton will be moved inside to left guard, the Panthers need a left tackle. They have coveted Ryan Clady all along.

Scenario 2: If Clady is gone, they could take Derrick Harvey.
Scenario 3: If both Harvey annd Clady are gone, OT Jeff Otah.

14) Chicago Bears - Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt
Needs: OT, QB, RB, WR, G, S
Well, one thing is for sure. This pick will be an offensive tackle as it looks to be a very offensive draft for the Bears.

Scenario 2: If Williams is off the board, take the best remaining OT out of Otah, Albert, and Clady.
Scenario 3: If Mendenhall is available, the Bears will have to consider taking him because the power back would be a great fit for their scheme. And if he slips to them and none of the top five offensive linemen are still on the board, Mendenhall becomes the obvious choice.

15) Detroit Lions - Jerod Mayo, ILB, Tennessee
Needs: RB, DE, OT, LB, DT
Jerod Meyo is my choice for Detroit because he would be a perfect fit for the Lions Tampa 2 scheme. Would this be a reach? Probably.

Scenario 2: Take Mendenahll if he is available.
Scenario 3: If Mendenhall and Meyo are gone, take Harvey if he is still available.

16) Arizona Cardinals - Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida
Needs: CB, FS, RB, LOT, WR, S
Arizona needs to bolster its defensive backfield, and the Cardinals can take the best available safety or corner because current DB Antrel Rolle can line up at either position.

Scenario 2: Take McKelvin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, or Aqib Talib if Jenkins is off the board.
Scenario 3: The Cardinals are looking for a back who can complement RB Edgerrin James, and because Arkansas' Felix Jones would be a reach and Oregon's Jonathan Stewart is coming off toe surgery, there is an outside chance Arizona would trade up in an effort to get Mendenhall.

17) Kansas City Chiefs (from Minnesota) - Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh
Needs: DE, QB, OT, CB, WR

After getting Long to replace Allen at defensive end, the Chiefs will look to address the offensive line here. Otah is a tough drive blocker capable of making an immediate impact on the right side.
Scenario 2: If Otah is off the board, KC takes the next best offensive tackle.
Scenario 3: Select a the best remaining cornerback.

18) Houston Texans - Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois
Needs: CB, LOT, DE, G/C, S
RB is not a pressing need but Mendenhall is great value this late in the first round. Look for the Texans to select a CB if Mendenhall is off the board.


Scenerio 2: If Mendenhall is gone, they could select RB Stewart.
Scenario 3: Take the next best available corner, probably Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie.
Scenario 4: Take Chris Williams if he is available because Ephraim Salaam is not a long term answer at left tackle.

19) Philadelphia Eagles - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State
Needs: S, WR, LB, OT/G, DE
The Eagles signed free agent Asante Samuel, but Lito Sheppard has asked to be traded and likely will be gone after the draft. Keeping that in mind, taking the No. 3 corner prospect here makes sense.

Scenario 2: If DR-C is gone, they could select Talib or Jenkins.
Scenario 3: Select the best remaining OT since Tra Thomas and John Runyan are getting older, probably Jeff Otah.
Scenario 4: Take Phillip Merling to give Trent Cole help on the defensive front.

20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas
Needs: WR, LOT, CB, QB, DT
WR is more of a need however Talib has more value here.

Scenario 2: If Devin Thomas is gone, as is the case in this scenario, the Bucs could take the next-best receiver on their board, perhaps DeSean Jackson or James Hardy.
Scenario 3: Cornerback is a secondary need, and Talib would be a good value at this late point in the first round.

21) Washington Redskins - Phillip Merling, DE, Clemson
Needs: WR, S, DE, OL, CB
Washington is clearly in the market for a No. 1 receiver, as it already has tried to get disgruntled Cincinnati WR Chad Johnson in a trade. So the Redskins would like Thomas here, but it's highly unlikely. If they can't get Thomas, Merling is a good value here, and taking him would help them address one of their most pressing needs.




Scenario 2: Take the best available WR since Thomas will be gone. Could choose from Sweed, Jackson, Hardy, and Malcolm Kelly.

22) Dallas Cowboys (from Cleveland) - Felix Jones RB, Arkansas
Needs: CB, WR, RB, OT, S
With Dallas not expected to make a blockbuster trade to acquire McFadden, it could fill the need at running back with Felix Jones, who would complement Marion Barber well.

Scenario 2: Dallas could also select the best available receiver here or wait till 28 to take a receiver.


23) Pittsburgh Steelers - Limas Sweed, WR, Texas
Needs: DE (3-4), OT, WR, G, FS
Jonathan Stewart is a possibility here, but a possesion receiver is what the Steelers need.

Scenario 2: After defensive end, offensive tackle is Pittsburgh's greatest need, so Boston College's Gosder Cherilus is another option, though he would be a reach here.
Scenario 3: Pittsburgh could also select the best available receiver here and take Hardy or Jackson.

Scenario 4: Take Jonathan Stewart to compliment Willie Parker even though RB is not a pressing need.

24) Tennessee Titans - Malcolm Kelly, WR, Indiana
Needs: WR, DE, DT, CB, OLB
DT Kentwan Balmer is a possibility here, but wide receiver is the more pressing need, and Hardy would be the best available in this scenario.

Scenario 2: The Titans have an abundance of size at receiver but lack ideal explosiveness and have some problems separating from coverage when running routes underneath. In addition, getting him would give an average punt return unit a boost.
Scenario 3: Merling is another possibility, as Tennessee will probably look to address the defensive end spot in the first three rounds.

25) Seattle Seahawks - Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina
Needs: TE, WR, DT, S, OL
While tight end and receiver are arguably more pressing needs, the Seahawks should be able to get help at those positions after the first round. Meanwhile, Balmer ranks third in what is a shallow defensive tackle pool, so taking him here makes the most sense for the Seahawks.


Scenario 2: Could opt to take the best available player left.

Scenario 3: Take a TE such as Fred Davis or Dustin Keller even though they are reaches.


26) Jacksonville Jaguars - Jason Jones, DE, Eastern Michigan
Needs: DE, DT, SS, OT, WR
The Jaguars need help along the defensive front, so they should take the best available defensive lineman. With DE Calais Campbell sliding down draft boards, that would be Jones.

27) San Diego Chargers - Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon
Needs: ROT, S, RB, NT, CB
Rumor has it that San Diego is another team interested in Stewart's services, but it doesn't appear that he will last this long. In addition, the Chargers clearly need a right tackle, and Cherilus would be a good fit.

Scenario 2: Take Gosder Cherilus if Stewart is off the board.

28) Dallas Cowboys - DeSean Jackson, WR, California
Needs: WR, CB, RB, G/C, QB, NT
With running back being addressed at No. 22 and no real value at corner here, look for the Cowboys to take a receiver. Jackson has the burst to make an immediate impact working out of the slot, and he also would give Dallas' punt return unit a boost.

29) San Francisco 49ers (from Colts) - Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College
Needs: ROT, OLB, WR, G/C, QB
The 49ers need multiple weapons to put around Alex Smith and may select the best WR availaible.

Scenario 2: San Francisco did well to get Joe Staley in the first round last year, but Jonas Jennings has had problems staying healthy and doesn't appear to be the answer at left tackle. The 49ers can move Staley and his quick feet to the left side and then plug Cherilus in on the right, where he has the size and quickness to make an immediate impact.

30) Green Bay Packers - Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech
Needs: CB, S, OT, TE, QB, RB
Charles Woodson and Al Harris are both on the downsides of their careers and there's no heir apparent behind either of them, so Green Bay needs to inject youth and talent at corner. Flowers is a bit of a reach here, but his smarts and toughness would make him a good fit for the Packers' scheme.

Scenario 2: Safety is also a pressing need, so don't be surprised to see Green Bay take Kenny Phillips if Flowers comes off the board earlier than expected.
Scenario 3: If Flowers is off the board, take Arizona CB Antione Cason.


31) New England Patriots - Pick forfeited
Needs: ILB, CB, OLB, OL

32) New York Giants - Tyrell Johnson, S, Arkansas State
Needs: S, OLB, CB, WR, G/T, DT
The ideal situation is for Mayo to slide this far because he would be an excellent value this late in the first round. However, the Giants also need help at safety after losing Gibril Wilson to free agency, and Johnson has been moving up draft boards.

Scenario 2: The Giants may decide to opt for S Kenny Phillips instead of Johnson.
Scenario 3: Dan Connor would be a good choice as well because he would offer solid value at one of the Giants' positions of need.

Scenario 4: Take a CB such as Antoine Cason or Brandon Flowers is available to an aging secondary.

Monday, April 7, 2008

NY Rangers vs. NJ Devils Playoff Preview

(5) New York Rangers vs. (4) New Jersey Devils

1st Round Playoff Preview

For the second time in three seasons, the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils will match up in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. It wasn’t a pretty series for the Rangers in 2006 as they were swept by the Devils in four games. Henrik Lundqvist was relatively ineffective in the series, seeming tired after a great rookie season and awestruck in front of Martin Brodeur.

Times are different now. That Rangers team that took on the Devils did not have much of a lineup and were picked to finish dead last in the Eastern Conference. It was virtually a Cinderella team for the entirety of the season as they unexpectadly made the playoffs. The Rangers team that is taking on the Devils now is deep in talent, boasting several Stanley Cup Champions and clutch players, such as Brendan Shanahan, Chris Drury, and former Devil Scott Gomez. They have also owned the Devils throughout the season, going 7-0-1 against a younger, less deep Devils team. However, with this in mind, Martin Brodeur is still a top-3 goalie in the NHL, and when he is in the net, anything is possible.

Offensively, the Rangers have a decisive advantage. Even though goals have been hard to come by for the team, (they rank 25th in the NHL) they have countless options that can put the puck in the net. Drury, Jagr, Gomez, and Shanahan all have natural goal scoring abilities. Ranger fans also hope that Captain Clutch (Chris Drury) can use some of that playoff magic that ousted them in Buffalo in these playoffs to carry them to their first Stanley Cup since 1994. The Rangers are also a youthful team with players that treat each shift like their last. Brandon Dubinsky has made a name for himself playing along side Jagr, and will do whatever it takes to help the team win. He is reminiscent of a young Adam Graves, a player who will clean up in front of the net, fight, check, and do all of the little things. Nigel Dawes has turned into quite the sniper and shootout whiz, and Ryan Callahan is quick on his feet, and could turn into a phenomenal two-way player who finishes his checks and constantly beats opponents to the puck in the offensive zone. The Devils sport a sniper in Zach Parise, who seems to kill the Rangers every time they play. Parise had 8 game winning goals, tied with Patrick Elias for team lead. Elias, who has often seemed to be in Brent Sutter’s doghouse has done nothing against the Rangers in the season series. He will be important though because the Devils ranked 27th in goals scored this season. The Devils also sport two fantastic two way players in Jay Pandolfo and John Madden, who can score, and who play light’s out defense. Madden will be key for the Devils as he will be matched up against former teammate Scott Gomez, Madden had 42 points in the regular season, but if he can neutralize Gomez, then New York will be in big trouble.

The power play will be important for each club. Neither team possesses a particularly potent power play as the Rangers ranked 21st and the Devils 24th. However, the Rangers power play has come to life going 7-for-18 over their final 5 games after going 1-for-30 in their 9 previous games.

The Sean Avery factor will be key. Everyone remembers how he tormented the Thrashers last Spring in the Rangers 4-1 series victory over Atlanta, and then disappeared against the Buffalo Sabres. If Avery can keep his head on straight, and utilize the offensive skills that he possesses as a compliment to his agitating skills, then the Rangers will in good shape. This becomes key in Madison Square Garden when the crowd loves to rally behind Avery as he takes the opponents stars out of the game, mentally and physically.

Defensively, the teams are about equal. Need side has a true star on defense, but are comprised of several formidable anchors who fall into specific roles. Players such as Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are young, but seem like seasoned veterans in their play. Michael Rosival has been the Rangers’ best blue line option since he joined them in 2006, and Christian Backman has been a tremendous asset since coming over from St. Louis at the trading deadline. The Devils have a great offensive defenseman in Paul Martin, and several youthful players such as Johnny Oduya, Andy Greene, and Mike Mottau who play into coach Brent Sutter’s defensive schemes.

It’s Martin Brodeur versus Henrik Lundqvist in goal. Brodeur is a seasoned net minder who has won three Stanley Cups with the Devils throughout his illustrious 13-year career. He has a career 1.93 Goals Against Average and 94 career postseason wins. Lundqvist, on the other hand, has more playoff losses than wins (7 losses to 6 wins) and a 2.58 career GAA. What Lundqvist has going for him is he has been absolutely sensational over the past few weeks, stopping 190 of 203 shots (.936 SV%) over the past eight games while posting a 5-2-1 record. King Henrik also led the NHL in shutouts this season with 10.

I feel that the Rangers finally are a superior team against the Devils in a postseason in what feels like forever. However, Brodeur may just channel his inner Patrick Roy, stand on his head, and make incredible save after incredible save. Brodeur may in fact carry the Devils game after game, however the Rangers win this series 4-3 taking game 7 at the Prudential Center in front of 17,625 stunned Devils fans.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

2008 BABPAPs: Baseball Awards Based on Probably Awful Predictions

It takes a truly retarded individual to not love baseball. And for those who don’t, I apologize and question your existence on earth. But for those who live and die with four seam fastballs, 6-4-3 double plays, backward K’s, and the late inning double switch, I offer up some advice: The baseball season has started (3 times) so strap in because this year is probably going to be perhaps more wild and maybe more unexpected than ever before. I think.

Almost certainly some things will go as predicted like the Tigers offense scoring close to 1000 runs as well as the Giants not being competitive all season. Other things will be a complete surprise like perhaps the Reds contending for the wild card. Wait, Dusty Baker picked Corey Patterson and Scott Hatteberg over Jay Bruce and Joey Votto? Never mind.

But expectations and possible surprises aside, its time to dish out the first annual BABPAPs: Baseball Awards Based on Probably Awful Predictions. As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future. Naturally, I will try to defy Yogi and make some of those predictions about the future.

(drum roll please)

Micky Mantle's Liver award for "most overused body part in baseball”:
Winner: Takashi Saito’s rotator cuff and/or elbow.
Have you seen the way Joe Torre abuses his relief pitchers? In 2006, Scott Proctor led all AL relievers in Innings Pitched with 102.1 (teammate Ron Villone was 6th), In 2004, Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon were 3rd and 4th respectively. In 2002, Ramiro Mendoza, Steve Karsay, and Mike Stanton were 2nd, 3rd, and 7th in innings pitched. Saito’s arm problems will lead him to the DL by July.

Philly Phanatic award for “best mascot”:
Winner: Al the Almond and Wally the Walnut from the Modesto Nuts. What other team has built in deez nuts jokes? You: Hey, wanna see my nuts? Date: Are you inviting me to look at your testicles? You: No, I'm talking about Al the Almond and Wally the Walnut! That is, unless you want to see my testicles...

Tim McCarver award for “most obvious on air quote during a game”:
Winner: Tim McCarver.
McCarver will extend his winning streak to 37 years in a row by capturing this award again in 2008. With quotes like “It’s better to have a fast runner on base than a slow one” and “If you lead off and play every game, you’re guaranteed to bat with the bases empty 162 times”, no one else even comes close to threatening McCarver in this category.

Rusty Kuntz award for “best name”:
1st Winner: Chien-Ming Wang. Why? Because it’s not polite to show your Chien-Ming Wang in public.
2nd Winner: Kosuke Fukodome. Why? Because this guy has special place for when he needs to use his Chien-Ming Wang.

Mike Hampton award for “best hitting pitcher”:
Winner: Micah Owings.
Owings hit .333/.349/.683 last season with 4 home runs. Arizona should find a spot in the everyday lineup for Owings. What, you’d rather have Mark Reynolds play every day?

New York Yankees From the Past Couple of Postseasons award for "futility in the playoffs":
Winner: Atlanta Braves
The Braves will get into the playoffs this year. But the Atlanta Braves should be banned from the playoffs because they never do anything once they’re in. (Okay they won the World Series ONCE but that was against the Cleveland Indians, so that barely counts.) There are many teams who, if invited to the playoffs would actually win. The Braves are like the really hot chick who keeps getting dates even though she never puts out.

Patrick Roy award for "name spelled one way but pronounced completely differently":
Winner: Chone Figgens.
Angels third baseman Chone Figgins' first name is actually pronounced "Shawn." And his last name is actually pronounced "Weinberg" (it's a silent "Figgins").

Armando Benitiz award for "yes, i have an above 90mph fastball and no it doesn't have any movement":
Winner: Eric Gagne
The Brewers are paying Gag-me $10 million dollars to throw 91mph letter high fastballs. If he doesn't come up with a dazzling change up or a ridiculous 12-6 curve ball then Bernie Brewer is going to get whip lash watching balls fly out of Miller Park.

Adam Dunn award for "striking out 24% of your at bats":
Winner: Jack Cust
Were you aware that Cust hit a HR, struck out, or coaxed a walk in 295 of his 507 plate appearances? That’s right, in 58.2% of all his at-bats last season, Cust produced one of those three outcomes. I'm no math genius but if Cust plays a full season, he is liable for 457 strikeouts. That is awesome.

Scott Spiezo Soul patch award for "worst use of the soul patch":
Winner: J.J. Putz
Seattle's flame throwing closer has his own promotional night this season. The first 20,000 fans entering Safeco Field on April 12 will receive a replica J.J. Putz soul patch. If only the Astros would have thought of this back when Jeff Bagwell had that 4 inch goatee sticking off his chin. Then all Astros fans could go home from Minute Maid Park looking like Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart.

George W. Bush award for "Worst coached team by someone who has no business being in charge":
Winner:Ozzie Guillen
This award would normally go to Herm Edwards, Norv Turner, and/or Art Shell but since this is a baseball column, the award goes to Guillen. Ozzie just can't help himself: If he sees a fielder dogging it or a pitcher backing away from a challenge, he is incapable of keeping it in the clubhouse; he simply must rip the guy a new orifice or three in the most public manner possible. Since Ozzie got a 4 year extension in the off season look for Ozzie to let the expletives fly this summer.