Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 NFL Projections: AFC Edition

This is my 17th season projecting NFL regular season and playoff results.  As per my tradition, I select the two teams I expect to win each division and conference.  Only two times (Super Bowl 34 and Super Bowl 38) was I unable to project at least one of the teams that end up in the Super Bowl.  But on the flip side, the last eleven straight seasons has a team in gone from Worst to First to make the playoffs in the NFL; I only projected 3 of those 11.  So my formula is flawed but oh well, no one is perfect.

Quick cheat sheet to my system

*“Projections” – My resulting win/loss record after going through the full team’s schedule

*“Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential” – The “plus” is how many more wins they could get, minus being how many fewer wins they could get.  These are based on what I label as “swing” games that could go either way.

So first here are my AFC projections and notes for each AFC team, division, followed by playoff projections and conference winner.


AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Projected Record: 4-12

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential: +2 and -2

Swing Game(s): Sept 14th at home vs Miami; Oct 19th at home vs Minnesota; Nov 9 at home vs Kansas City; Dec 21 at Oakland

Notes: Overall the Bills have a tough schedule, playing road games at Chicago, at Detroit, and at Denver.  Also expect  interdivision matchups with the Patriots, Dolphins, and Jets to be hard fought but seeing the Bills finish the season with a losing interdivision record.  A lot of young talent that still needs time to gain experience and chemistry is what the roster is filled with.


Miami Dolphins

Projected Record: 7-9

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential:  +3 and -2

Swing Game(s): Sept 14th at Buffalo; Oct 12th at home vs Green Bay; Nov 2 at home vs San Diego; Dec 7th at home vs Baltimore

Notes: Expect Ryan Tannehill to make positive strides in his third season as the Dolphins starting Quarterback with the arrival of Knoeshawn Moreno, a major upgrade at the running back position.  Last season Miami had the 26th ranked rushing offense; with Moreno and a more cohesive offensive line unit that should improve. The biggest stumbling block for Miami is their bye week comes early in the season (Week 5) and immediately following that five of their next eight games scheduled are road games.  Not an easy task, especially at Denver, at Detroit, at Chicago and at the Jets in December.


New England Patriots

Projected Record: 12-4

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential:  +2 and -4

Swing Game(s): Sept 29th at Kansas City; Oct 26 at home vs Chicago; Nov 2nd at home vs Denver; Dec 7th at San Diego

Notes: The Patriots have a rollercoaster schedule in 2014.  Four of their six games to start the season are on the road then after their Bye Week (Week 10) the play four straight games against teams with Pro Bowl Quarterbacks (Colts, Lions, Packers, Chargers).  Although I think the Patriots will have a good overall season they will be battle tested playing against all four NFC North teams. 


New York Jets

Projected Record: 6-10

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential: +3 and -2

Swing Games: Sept 22nd at home vs Chicago; Sept 28th at home vs Detroit; Nov 23rd at Buffalo; Dec 7th at Minnesota; Dec 14th at Tennessee

Notes: The Jets have two major question marks coming into the 2014 season: Will they have quality Quarterback play and the health/depth at the Cornerback position.  From September 14th through October 16th they face off against six of the top ten passing offenses from 2013; a dubious task for a team with little depth at cornerback.  Furthermore, can the Jets offense keep up with these high powered offenses?  How long will Gino Smith stay the starting Quarterback if he commits too many turnovers? Can the Jets pass defense force any turnovers without any ball-hawk cornerbacks? 


Projected AFC East Winner: New England Patriots


AFC South

Houston Texans

Projected Record: 8-8

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential:  +3 and -3

Swing Games: Sept 14th at Oakland; Sept 21st at the Giants; Oct 5th at Dallas; Nov 16th at Cleveland; Nov 23rd at home vs Cincinnati

 Notes: The Texans are a talented team but are underwhelming at the Quarterback position.  Having to play four games against the AFC North will definitely test their offense’s ability to score consistently enough to win games.  They only play four high powered offensive teams on their schedules so they are fortunate that they will not be subjected to many potential shootouts.  Expect the Texans to win half of their games thanks to the defense’s ferocity. 


Indianapolis Colts

Projected Record: 10-6

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential: +2 and -3

Swing Games: Sept 15th at home vs Philadelphia; Sept 21st at Jacksonville; Oct 9th at Houston; Nov 16th at home vs New England; Dec 21st at Dallas

Notes: Let’s be realistic, without Andrew Luck this team is potentially 3-13 in 2014 considering the teams they have to play.  Their first two games are against two of the top offenses in the NFL, then their two games before the bye week they are on the road to play two teams with Super Bowl winning Quarterbacks.  But wait, it gets better; after the Bye Week (Week 10) they get to play the Patriots and Week 16 they get to go to Dallas.  The only “good news” for the Colts season is that the teams they have to play on the road have a combined losing record in 2013.  So maybe they are “Lucky”.


Jacksonville Jaguars

Projected Record: 6-10

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential:  +2 and -3

Swing Games: Sept 21 at home vs Indianapolis; Oct 12th at Tennessee; Oct 26th at home vs Miami; Nov 9th at home vs Dallas; Dec 18th at home vs Tennessee

Notes: The Jaguars are better team then last year, that’s the good news.  The bad news is they have to play many other teams that have upgraded their rosters as well.  The Jaguars will play every team tough, although they do not have the offensive firepower of their opponents, their defense is better than last season’s statistics show.  Head Coach Gus Bradley is building a competitive team that in a couple years could develop into a contender.


Tennessee Titans

Projected Record: 5-11

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential: +2 and -2

Swing Games: Sept 14th at home vs Dallas; Oct 12th at home vs Jacksonville; Oct 26th at home vs Houston; Dec 7th at home vs the NY Giants

Notes: When you look over the Titans roster you see a good mix of young and veteran talent.  But when you look at their schedule they could potentially start the season 0-4 and then potentially lose five straight games after their Bye Week (Week 9).  I am unsure how their offense is going to keep up against teams like the Eagles, Redskins, and Cowboys or how they are going to fair against tough defenses like the Steelers, Ravens, Bengals and even the Browns defense could be a matchup problem for the Titans.


Projected AFC South Winner: Indianapolis Colts


AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

Projected Record: 9-7

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential:  +2 and -3

Swing Games:  Sept 11 at home vs Pittsburgh; Oct 5th at Indianapolis; Nov 2nd at Pittsburgh; Dec 7th at Miami; Dec 21st at Houston

Notes:  The Ravens improved their defense this past offseason but their offense’s ability to be productive and consistent is the big question.  They open the season with three straight games against division rivals followed by four of the next six games on the road.   After their Bye Week (Week 11) the Ravens have to two of the top ten offenses from 2013 (At New Orleans then home versus the Chargers).  This may be another season where Baltimore have to lean on its defense to bail them out if they want to make the playoffs.


Cincinnati Bengals

Projected Record: 8-8

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential:  +3 and -3

Swing Games: Oct 5th at New England; Oct 19th at Indianapolis; Nov 30th at Tampa Bay; Dec 7th at home vs Pittsburgh

Notes:  The Bengals have one of the most difficult schedules of the 2014 NFL season.  Their Bye Week is early in the season (Week 4) and come out of that Bye Week playing three straight 2013 playoff teams (At the Patriots, Home versus Carolina, At the Colts).  Meanwhile, five of their last seven games are on the road but one of those home games is against the Denver Broncos.  Time will tell if the Bengals new offensive and defensive coordinators are up to the challenge or if they will come up short compared to their predecessors who are now Head Coaches in the NFL.


Cleveland Browns

Projected Record: 3-13

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential: +3 and -1

Swing Games: Oct 5th at Tennessee; Nov 2nd at home vs Tampa; Dec 14th at home vs Cincinnati

Notes:  The Browns open the season against three potential playoff teams (Saints, Steelers, Ravens) then have an early Bye Week (Week 4) then five of their next nine games are on the road.  The only way the Browns can be competitive this season is with good defense and offensive ball control with the running game.  They will not be blown out in many games but their overall roster is lacking compared to many of their opponents in 2014.


Pittsburgh Steelers

Projected Record: 10-6

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential: +1 and -3

Swing Games: Sept 21st at Carolina; Oct 26th at home vs Colts; Nov 2nd at home vs Baltimore; Nov 30th at home vs Saints

Notes:  The Steelers have they least treacherous schedule of all of the AFC North teams in 2014.  They play only two games versus 2013 playoff teams (Carolina and Indianapolis) before their Bye Week (Week 12).  After their Bye Week they do have a difficult stretch to end the season against the Saints, Bengals twice, Falcons and Chiefs.  But if they gain enough positive momentum before this five game stretch it is reasonable to say they could come out of that with a winning record and seal a division win.  Also, expect Lance Moore to put up better numbers at Wide Receiver in 2014 with the Steelers than Emmanuel Sanders did in 2013.


Projected AFC North Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers


AFC West

Denver Broncos

Projected Record: 12-4

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential: +2 and -3

Swing Games: Oct 19th at home vs San Francisco; Oct 23rd at home vs San Diego; Nov 2nd at New England; Nov 16th at St. Louis; Dec 14th at San Diego

Notes:  The Broncos as a team maybe have a better roster than last season, especially on defense.  Time will tell if the early Bye Week (Week 4) will be a positive or negative for them.  After the Bye Week they play two of 2013’s top defenses (49ers and Cardinals) along with two of 2013’s top offense teams (Patriots and Chargers).  Don’t expect the Broncos to have an easy go of the 2014 season since they have to play the NFC West which is the home of four of the top ten NFL defenses in 2013.


Kansas City Chiefs

Projected Record: 6-10

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential: +3 and -1

Swing Games: Sept 21 at Miami; Sept 29th at home vs New England; Oct 26th at home vs St. Louis; Nov 9th at Buffalo; Dec 21st at Pittsburgh

Notes:  The Chiefs have a much more difficult schedule ahead of them in 2014 compared to last season.  Aside from having to play the four teams from the NFC West (all are 2013 Top Ten Defenses) but they also have to play well coached defensive teams like the Rams, Jets and Steelers.  The Chiefs have an efficient offense, not a high powered offense so if they get behind it will not be easy to make a comeback.   Also considering they play three of their first five games against 2013 Playoff teams, do not expect the Chiefs to start the season on a hot streak like last season.


Oakland Raiders

Projected Record: 5-11

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential: +3 and -2

Swing Games: Sept 14th at home vs Houston; Oct 12th at home vs San Diego; Oct 19th at home vs Arizona; Oct 26th at Cleveland; Nov 20th at home vs Kansas City

Notes:  The Raiders have more talent on their roster than many people would expect.  The problem for them is they play many teams that have well coached defenses (The Jets, Patriots, Cardinals, 49ers, Seahawks, and Rams) while the Raiders are starting a rookie Quarterback.  I think Derek Carr will be a better pro compared to his older brother, the Raiders will likely have a rollercoaster season in which they will be tested on both sides of the ball.


San Diego Chargers

Projected Record: 8-8

Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential:  +3 and -1

Swing Games: Sept 8th at Arizona; Sept 21st at Buffalo; Oct 19th at home vs Kansas City; Dec 7th at home vs New England; Dec 14th at home vs Denver

Notes:  San Diego has a good team but they face a tough lineup in 2014.  They open their season playing two of the top defenses in the NFL (Cardinals and Seahawks), play two straight road games before their Bye Week (At Denver and Miami; Bye Week is Week 10), and end their season playing four consecutive 2013 Playoff teams (Patriots, Broncos, 49ers and Chiefs).  Not an easy schedule but if they can get a few games to go their way, they could still make the playoffs with the talent they have on the roster.


AFC West Projected Winner: Denver Broncos


Projected AFC Playoff Picture

1. New England Patriots

2. Denver Broncos

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Indianapolis Colts

5. Baltimore Ravens

6. Houston Texans


Projected Playoff Results:

Wild Card Round - Ravens defeat Colts; Steelers defeat Texans

Divisional Round - Patriots defeat Ravens; Broncos defeat Steelers

AFC Championship - Patriots (home team) defeat Broncos

Friday, June 27, 2014

Reviewing The First Round of the 2014 NBA Draft

 Here is pick by pick analysis of then first round of the 2014 NBA Draft:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Andrew Wiggins (G/F, Univ of Kansas)
Potential Comparable to: Tracy McGrady
Pick Analysis: Wiggins is phenomenal athlete who is a high level defender and needs to work on developing his offensive game.  Wiggins will fit in well with Cavaliers as a compliment to Kyrie Irving on offense.  Wiggins can guard Point Guard, Shooting Guard and Small Forward positions.  How hard he works at improving his offensive game will determine how great he can be in NBA; he is explosive when attacking the basket.

2. Milwaukee Bucks - Jabari Parker (F, Duke Univ)
Potential Comparable to: Glenn Robinson
Pick Analysis: Parker is the most NBA ready player offensively in this year's draft class.  Parker is underrated as a rebounder and has shown the ability to box out on both ends of the court.  Parker can score in the post or from outside.  He needs to work on being consistent on the defensive side of the ball; when he gets screened he loses track of his man.  He has chance to be the 2014-2015 NBA Rookie of the Year because he can step into Bucks starting lineup and average 15-19 points per game day one.  Parker has high basketball IQ and can be productive within any offensive system.

3. Philadelphia 76ers - Joel Embiid (C, Univ of Kansas)
Potential Comparable to : Emeka Okafor
Pick Analysis: Embiid is coming off foot and back injuries and that is why he dropped to number three selection.  This selection shows that 76ers are confident in their Rookie of The Year PG Michael Carter-Williams and believe Embiid has the highest potential ceiling of available players.  Embiid has potential to be excellent rim protector with his athleticism and excellent footwork.  If he can stay healthy he has opportunity to average double digits in points and rebounds in his NBA career.  The 76ers for second straight year select big man coming off injuries (last year they selected Nerlens Noel).  Great prospect but I worry about his ability to stay healthy in the long run.  He needs to rehab in a way to build his body to be durable not just athletic.

4. Orlando Magic - Aaron Gordon (F, Univ of Arizona)
Potential Comparable to Shawn Marion
Pick Analysis: The best pure athlete in this year's draft class.  Gordon is an excellent defender, can guard shooting guard, small forward and many power forwards.  Great shot blocker and in college did a good job at not committing reach in fouls; does well at staying in front of his man on defense.  Gordon needs to work on his jump shot, lacks consistency with his release point.  He has the potential to be a perennial all-star if he can improve his jump shot and continues to play hard on defense.

5. Utah Jazz - Donte Exum (G, Australia)
Potential Comparable to: Brandon Roy
Pick Analysis: He is still developing as a basketball player but has very good instincts on offense.  Slashing scorer, can get to the rim and score easily.  Not a natural point guard but can handle the ball and pass very well.  Utah is a great landing spot for Exum with a Point Guard already in place with Trey Burke there.  Exum has the potential to be a fluid offensive scorer and with his ball handling skills can play either guard position.  Exum has a nice release on his jump shot but needs to work on his consistency with his mechanics.

6. Boston Celtics - Marcus Smart (G, Oklahoma St)
Potential Comparable to: Russell Westbrook
Pick Analysis: Smart has great all-around basketball skills; he is a great defender, hard worker, and explosive scorer.  Smart is willing to put in the work to get better and win.  One of the toughest guys in this year's draft class, he can start immediately for Celtics with his skills on both sides of the ball.  He can play either guard positon.

7. Los Angeles Lakers - Julius Randle (F, Univ of Kentucky)
Potential Comparable to: Zack Randolph
Pick Analysis: The top rebounder in this draft class, got overlooked because he is not a flashy scorer; has potential to be an all star caliber player who averages a double-double for years.  Randle is great low post scorer and solid post defender.  One of a few players who has an NBA ready physique to handle the long season.  He is hard worker and competitor who wants to get better.  Great selection by the Lakers, Randle can start at Power Forward on day one for Los Angeles.

8. Sacramento Kings - Nik Stauskas (G/F, Univ of Michigan)
Potential Comparable to: Drazen Petrovic
Pick Analysis: Stauskas is a fluid scorer, very good passer, and great jump shot.  He is fearless taking the ball to the basket.  Stauskas needs to work on being more consistent defensively by improving his footwork and lateral movement on defense  He gets on hot streaks where his jump shot seems unstoppable and can carry a team for stretches.

9. Charlotte Hornets - Noah Vonleh (F, Univ of Indiana)
Potential Comparable to: Horace Grant
Pick Analysis: Voleh was a productive college player; very good athlete and great touch on the jump shot.  He is excellent mid range scorer but pump fakes too much; needs to be more decisive when he catches the ball on offense.  Noah has great footwork in the low post.  He needs to work on boxing out for rebounds; many of his rebounds in college were off of angles and using his athleticism.  He cannot get rebounds just because he is very good athlete in NBA.  Vonleh needs to improve on his post defensive skills; in college he did a lot of reaching in when he needed to stay in front of defender.  I worry about his ability to play defense in the low post against bigger body players like LaMarcus Aldridge, David West, Carlos Boozer, and Jared Sullinger.

10. Philadelphia 76ers (traded to Magic) - Elfrid Peyton (G, UL Layfayette)
Potential Comparable to: Rajon Rondo
Pick Analysis: Peyton is an excellent ball handler and passer, slashing scorer who is very athletic and quick.  He needs to work on jump shot and is not consistent offensively as a scorer.  Peyton is a very good defender who with his length and quickness can cause a lot of problems for opposing guards.  He needs to get stronger to be able to consistently get through a full NBA season.

11. Chicago Bulls (via trade with Denver Nuggets) - Doug McDermott (F, Creighton Univ)
Potential Comparable to: Paul Pierce
Pick Analysis: McDermott is one of the most talented scorers in this year’s draft.  He is a great ball handler and passer who can score either inside or outside the paint.  McDermott has a high basketball IQ and he is a competitor who wants to make his team better.  He can back down defenders and is excellent at finding open shooters from post position.  McDermott is also an underrated rebounder; going to the Bulls is a great situation where he will learn to be an effective NBA level defender.

12. Orlando Magic (traded to 76ers) - Dario Saric (F, Croatia)
Potential Comparable to: Boris Diaw
Pick Analysis: Saric will not be coming to NBA immediately, he will play in Europe and develop for a couple of years.  Saric has a very good handle on the ball and his passing skills are great.  He has to work on his over offensive scoring skills as his shooting touch and finishing ability at the basket are inconsistent.  Also, he needs to improve his defensive footwork.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves - Zach LaVine (G, UCLA)
Potential Comparable to: Damian Lillard
Pick Analysis: LaVine is a very good shooter who needs to improve his ball handling and defensive game.  LaVine is a top level athlete who needs more time to grow into his body, get stronger and develop his game.  He has great potential but is nowhere near his potential at this time.  We may not see what he is truly capable of for another 3-4 years but in the near future expect him to be a solid three point threat and explosive on the fast break.

14. Phoenix Suns - T.J. Warren (G/F, NC State)
Potential Comparable to: Danny Granger
Pick Analysis: Warren is an excellent scorer and competitor; he is a natural leader.  Warren can carry a team offensively and leaves his all on the court every game.  He is an average defender and underrated passer.  His work ethic will allow him to develop to become a better player than at least half the players drafted ahead of him.

15. Atlanta Hawks - Adreian Payne (F, Michigan State)
Potential Comparable to: LaMarcus Aldridge
Pick Analysis: Payne has really good all-around offensive skills and is a hard-nosed defender.  He is stylistically a finesse post player with good post moves who can step back and hit the mid-range jump shot.  Payne is a top tier competitor and will play through injuries; his toughness is second to none.  He needs to improve on his offensive rebounding as well as defensive consitency.

16. Denver Nuggets (via trade from Chicago Bulls) - Jusuf Nurkic (C, Bosnia-Herzegovina)
Potential Comparable to: Arvydas Sabonis
Pick Analysis: Nurkic is a very physical and athletic big man who has great footwork.  He will spend time in Europe developing before coming to NBA.  Nurkic needs to work on being a better off-ball defender and not be so "violent" with his shot block attempts; in some games he gets over aggressive with shot block attempts and has fouled players so hard the injuries knock them out of the game.  He has good touch on his jump shot, needs to improve his ability to score off the dribble.

17. Boston Celtics - James Young (G/F, Univ of Kentucky)
Potential Comparable to: Joe Johnson
Pick Analysis: Young is an explosive and streaky scorer with a great jump shot.  He is still learning the game on both sides of the ball but his basketball IQ allows him to assimilate into an offense quickly.  He needs to improve his dribbling skills so he can be more consistent at getting to the rim so defenses do not zone in on him just as a shooter.  Young is a good and willing defender, he shows great lateral quickness.

18. Phoenix Suns - Tyler Ennis (G, Univ of Syracuse)
Potential Comparable to: Tony Parker
Pick Analysis: Ennis is a natural point guard, very quick and smooth in transition.  Ennis is underrated as a shooter and defender; Ennis is a great passer and leader.  He can score in a variety of ways but wants to make his teammates better, very unselfish.  Defensively, Ennis needs to improve his footwork to stay in front of opposing guards.

19. Chicago Bulls (pick traded to Nuggets) - Gary Harris (G, Michigan State)
Potential Comparable to: Ray Allen
Pick Analysis: Harris is great shooter who can score from anywhere on the floor.  He is a tough and active defender who makes smart decisions.  Harris makes his teammates better and is a great competitor.  Harris is a good athlete but needs to get physically stronger to be more durable.

20. Toronto Raptors - Bruno Caboclo (F, Brazil)
Potential Comparable to: Vince Carter/Kevin Durant
Pick Analysis:  Caboclo is an excellent athlete but very raw with his basketball skills; he is still learning the game.  This is an investment for the future by Toronto in a guy who has excellent potential.  A scout told me he projects as a Vince Carter type athlete with Kevin Durant shooting touch.  Caboclo may not see an NBA court for 4-5 years though so lets not get too excited about him.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder - Mitch McGary (F, Univ of Michigan)
Potential Comparable to: Thiago Splitter
Pick Analysis: McGary is physical and athletic big man who is great rebounder and solid post defender.  He needs to improve on his offensive skills like shooting and passing.  He can be an energy guy off the bench in the NBA immediately.  McGary has some low post moves that allow him to not be an offensive liability.

22. Memphis Grizzles - Jordan Adams (G, UCLA)
Potential Comparable to: Mickael Pietrus
Pick Analysis: Adams is a natural scorer who does not need the offense to run through him to have an impact.  He is a baksetball Jack Of All Trades; Adams is excellent on the ball defender but needs to learn to have better off the ball defense decision making.  He needs to become more consistent with his jump shot.

23. Utah Jazz - Rodney Hood (F, Duke)
Potential Comparable to: Chris Mullen
Pick Analysis: Hood has great offensive skills and instincts; he is a very good shooter who is underrated as a passer.  Defensively Hood is solid because of his length and agility but needs to improve footwork. Hood is a solid all-around player who can make an impact day one in the NBA.

24. Charlotte Hornets (traded to Miami Heat) - Shabazz Napier (G, Univ of Conneticut)
Potential Comparable to: Jameer Nelson
Pick Analysis: Napier is a hard-nosed player, a great ball handler who can score.  He is great at setting up his teammates and putting them in position to be succesful.  He is underrated as a defender who competes against the opposing point guard on each possession.  Nappier is a winner and will do whatever it takes to help his team be sucessful.

25. Houston Rockets - Clint Capela (F, Switzerland)
Comparable to: Serge Ibaka
Pick Analysis: Capela has very good footwork and great range on defense.  He is still a raw player who has potential to be a rim protector and great rebounder in the NBA.  He will spend a few years in Europe refining his skills before coming to the NBA.

26. Miami Heat (selection traded to Charlotte) - P.J. Hairston (G, North Carolina)
Potential Comparable to: Jamal Crawford
Pick Analysis: Hairston is listed as a point guard but he is really a scorer who can shoot well and has a good handle.  He has the skills and potential to be an all star guard but needs to become more disciplined.  Hairston is a good passer but once the ball is out of his hands does not move well off the ball.  He needs to work on being a more consistent defender.  Hairston can offensively carry a team for stretches and is great at creating his own shot.

27. Phoenix Suns - Bogdan Bogdanovic (G, Serbia)
Potential Comparable to: Eddie Jones
Pick Analysis: My European basketball source says Bogdanovic has a high basketball IQ; he is very good scorer who is saavy defender.  He is an underrated shooter who can handle the ball if his team needs him to do so.  Bogdanovic biggest weakness is lack of overall strength.  He will likely spend more time in Europe before embarking on the NBA.

28. Los Angeles Clippers - C.J. Wilcox (G, Univ of Washington)
Potential Comparable to: Klay Thompson
Pick Analysis: Wilcox is an excellent shooter with a quick release.  He is an underrated defender and does very good work at staying in front of his man.  He also is good at passing on the move and is a great teammate.  Wilcox is average at taking the ball to the basket and lacks the skills to create his own shot.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder - Josh Huestis (F, Stanford)
Potential Comparable to: Bruce Bowen
Pick Analysis: Huestis is an excellent defender, one of the best defenders in all of college basketball this past season.  He is also a very good shooter and underrated athlete.  He will do whatever it takes to win and is willing to take on the other team's best offensive player.  Huestis can assimilate onto any team and has the potential of a long career with his skill set and work ethic.

30. San Antonio Spurs - Kyle Anderson (F, UCLA)
Comparable to: Rick Fox
Pick Analysis: Anderson has a high basketball IQ, excellent passer, team player who doesn't have a big ego.  He is a solid defender who can nail the open jump shot but is average at creating his own shot.  Anderson is not a great athlete but uses his length to help him be effective on offense and defense.  He needs to get stronger and improve his off the ball defense.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Interview with UFC Lightweight Contender Jim Miller

The following interview was originally broadcast on May 31, 2014 on WIBG 1020AM/101.3FM

Jim Miller will be apart of the Main Event of UFC Fight Night 45 on July 16th in Atlantic City.  The event will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.  Miller will be facing off with fellow Lightweight contender Donald Cerrone.

Jim Miller (24-4-1) is coming off back to back 1st round submissions.  His opponent, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (23-6-1) is entering the matchup on a 3 fight winning streak. Ironically, two of Cerrone’s most recent wins are against fighters also fighting on the July Card (Edson Barboza versus Evan Dunham). Miller vs. Cerrone is a matchup between two of the top 155 pound fighters in the world; both fighters have combined for 13 UFC fight bonuses in their careers so this fight is expected to be explosive.

Also scheduled for the July UFC Fight Night in AC is a matchup between two welterweights with wrestling background who have power in their hands: Rick “The Horror” Story (16-8) versus John “Doomsday” Howard (22-9). Both men are coming off closely contested losses by judges’ decision.

July will also be the first time Edson Barboza has fought in Atlantic City since 2010, when he won the Ring of Combat Lightweight Championship. Barboza is 7-2 in his UFC career.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

5 Things to Watch for this upcoming NBA offseason

With the NBA Finals starting on Thursday and the NBA Offseason just around the corner, I thought I would share my thoughts on what could happen this 2014 NBA Offseason.  For those who are unfamiliar, the offseason in the NBA begins with their annual Player Draft followed about a week or so later by the opening of Free Agency.  All my scenarios are based of information I have gathered from media reports and personal sources over the last few weeks.

1. Miami Heat Trade Chris Bosh, their 2014 first round pick (26th overall) & 2016 first round pick to Los Angeles Lakers for their 2014 first round pick (7th overall); Miami Heat draft Julius Randle.
Whether or not the Miami Heat win this year’s NBA Finals, they cannot sustain their winning ways with an aging and expensive roster. The Greg Oden “experient” was a bust; Ray Allen and Udonis Haslem are not getting any younger; Shane Battier is expected to retire after this season; and of course LeBron James could opt out of his deal. Either way, there are more questions than answers in the Heat’s future. Pat Riley has to make a move to change this team so they can continue winning. While everyone says Chris Bosh is part of the “Big Three” the reality is he is the third wheel to James and Dwayne Wade. Bosh looks disinterested at times and disappears during games.

 Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers need to replace Pau Gasol, since the expectation is Gasol will leave via free agency. The Lakers have the cap room to easily absorb Bosh’s contract and many project that University of Kentucky superstar Forward Julius Randle will be available at the 7th overall pick. Randle is better defender and rebounder compared to Bosh, two elements the Heat really need.

 By making this deal both franchises show their star players (Kobe Bryant and LeBron James) that they are serious about making the team better while also allowing for flexibility. Trading Bosh and drafting Randle opens up cap space down in Miami to upgrade the roster and still building for the future. On the flip side, the Lakers show Bryant that they want to win now and not make their aging superstar suffer through a rebuilding project.

2. Philadelphia 76ers trade their two 2014 first round picks (3rd and 10th overall) to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2014 number one overall pick; 76ers draft Andrew Wiggins
Currenty the Cleveland Cavaliers hold the number one overall pick but they do not have a specific direction to go in. They could draft the top big man prospect University of Kansas Center Joel Embid who has been compared to everyone from Tim Duncan to Hakeem Olajuwon. They could select the top perimeter player in this year’s draft, University of Kansas wing scorer Andrew Wiggins. But what the Cavaliers really need is an infusion of talent. Last year’s number one overall pick Anthony Bennett has been a disappointment thus far and aside from All-Star Kyrie Irving and Prospect Tristan Thompson, the Cavs depth of talent is thin compared to other teams.

 Meanwhile, the 76ers have talent but do not have a great player to play along side their Rookie star Michael Carter-Williams. Wiggins has a very high ceiling and is already a guy who has great ability to finish on offense while playing above average defense in comparison to most of the NBA.

 Wiggins would be a good fit for the 76ers and the deal would also give the Cavaliers the opportunity to stock up on talent in a deep draft class.  Of course, there is word circulating that the Knicks want most, if not all, of the 76ers five 2nd round draft picks and want to make a deal, so that would be an interesting twist as well.

3. Indiana Pacers trade Roy Hibbert to the New York Knicks in exchange for Tyson Chandler; Lance Stephenson joins the Chicago Bulls via Free Agency; Indiana Pacers sign Darren Collison via free agency.
 The Pacers looked stale and lost offensively at times during the 2014 NBA playoffs. The reality is setting in for the Pacers that Hibbert is not worth the money they paid him, Paul George is more like Scottie Pippen than Dwayne Wade, and George Hill is not the same player he was when he was playing for the San Antonio Spurs.

 Change needs to happen and it needs to be direct and purposeful. Hibbert and Chandler are both Centers in need of a fresh start and both are being paid about the same. The swap between the Knicks and Pacers would allow the Knicks a younger starting center who probably is in need of some Phil Jackson Zen-ology. Chandler could be the defensive force in the paint the Pacers need while also having a contract that is coming off the books soon so they are not “stuck” with him for the extended future if things do not work out.

 It appears Lance Stephenson is no longer wanted in Indiana despite he young age and exponential growth as an impact player on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Stephenson needs to go to a team with solid veteran leadership and a defensive minded head coach. The best fit would be the Chicago Bulls with defensive savant Head Coach Tom Thibideau being able to reign in Stephenson’s bizarre behavior while also allowing him to grow as a player. Although I would not be surprised to see Stephenson end up on the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, or even the Miami Heat (remember how Ray Allen was a thorn in the side when he played for the Celtics?).

 The Pacers also need a more efficient players on the offensive side of the ball. George Hill has been underwhelming since joining the Pacers. Darren Collison has been an underrated talent in the NBA for years. Collison is a better overall point guard than Hill and would open the opportunity for Hill to come off the bench (a place where he excelled in the past); Collison would also be an offensive upgrade at the position.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves trade Kevin Love and Kevin Martin to the Chicago Bulls for Carlos Boozer, Tony Snell and Ronnie Brewer
 The “word on the street” is that Kevin Love wants out of Minnesota. The All-Star Forward wants to play for “a winner”. No one can blame the guy, especially since the best player in the Timberwolves franchise history (Kevin Garnett) could never get the team very far in the playoffs.

 If the Timberwolves follow through with trading their best player, they will want good compensation for him. Teams like the Lakers and Nets would like to have Love but they don’t have the trade pieces that could appease Minnesota. The Mavericks and Knicks do not have the flexibility under their salary cap for him. The Pacers, Rockets, Spurs, Clippers and Warriors could be destinations but how many people are really sure that those teams would part with any of their current starters to acquire Love?

 This is where the Bulls come into the picture. Boozer is not the player he once was and his contract is not worth what he gives the Bulls each night. Meanwhile, Snell and Brewer are young, talented, and have enough potential to be valuable via trade. In order to balance out the money, the Timberwolves could throw in veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin and the Bulls would be fine with that since they thin at the shooting guard position.

 The best part of this deal for Love is that he would not be expected to do everything for his team. Joakim Noah is already a low post defensive and rebounding machine and the Bulls have a good number of three point shooters. All of this would allow Love to operate on both sides of the ball more freely. Also, Love’s skill set would be a good complement to both Noah and Derrick Rose (whenever he is able to return from his latest knee surgery).

5. Carmelo Anthony signs this offseason with the Chicago Bulls…or Indiana Pacers…or the Los Angeles Lakers…or re-signs with the New York Knicks?
 Carmelo Anthony is the big name free agent this coming offseason. While the New York Knicks will do everything they can (within reason, or atleast Phil Jackson’s version of reason) to keep him in town, the reality is that Anthony has options. Anthony has said on numerous occasions he wants “to win”, he has to question how long it will be until the Knicks are major contenders again.

 Anthony and the Chicago Bulls could be a good fit. The Bulls need a high level scorer who can create his own offense and take away double teams from Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. If the Bulls acquire Kevin Love, a starting lineup with Noah, Love, Anthony, and Rose would be one of the top teams in the NBA. But even if the Bulls bring in either Love or Anthony, both players would be upgrades for a team that at times struggles to put together consistent offense.

 My “dark horse” team to watch out for in the Carmelo Anthony Free Agency Sweepstakes is the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers need to shake up the roster and if they can free up cap space Anthony could team up with Paul George to create one of the top five one-two punches offensively in the NBA. Anthony would give Indiana the type of player they desperately: a player who is always a concern for the other team’s defense. Even in games where Anthony has a poor game for three quarters, he is always capable of getting hot in crunch time. Imagine the Pacers-Heat series if Anthony was in the starting lineup instead of Lance Stephenson?

 Of course, the Lakers are always out there as an option. They can offer Anthony a maximum contract while also giving him the allure of being a star on the NBA’s most star driven franchise and become the “heir apparent” to Kobe Bryant. Bryant and Anthony has talked privately and publicly about the idea of playing together, although I am unsure how that would work since both players want the offense to run through them. There was have to be an active choice by both superstars to work together to win a championship. But I am unsure if Kobe is willing to not be the guy when he signed that massive contract extension recently.

 In the end, the New York Knicks are still a major option. Anthony makes his home in the New York Metro region and went to college at University of Syracuse. Even if he never plays in the NBA Finals, if he can be an All-Star caliber player for another five years Knick fans will adore him and treat him like one of the greats. Only time will tell if Phil Jackson can fix the mess that is the New York Knicks roster. Anthony would have to take less money than he would get from Indiana, Chicago, or LA Lakers in order to stay in NYC while allowing the team to re-tool.

 Where ever Anthony lands while shift the balance of power one way or the other in the NBA. Staying in New York allows the Knicks to always be in the conversation. Going to the Bulls or Pacers would make those teams the major competition to the Lebron James led Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy. Landing in Los Angeles would allow the Lakers to become playoff contenders and give Anthony a chance at building his “legacy”.

Of course, all of this is conjecture, especially if the Dallas Mavericks clear up cap space and offer Anthony a max contract…but I digress.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

2014 NFL Draft: 1st Round Pick By Pick Analysis

Originally published May 8th, 2014

Analysis of the First Round of the NFL Draft, pick by pick, as the action happened tonight:

1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Considered to be the most explosive and talented defensive lineman coming out of college in 20 years. He spent his college career as a defensive end, now he will be playing a blitzing outside linebacker in the Texans 3-4 Defense. Houston’s Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennell has experience utilizing players with unique talents and putting them in position to be successful. Clowney will be as great as he wants to be, he has all the skills to be a great Blitzer in the NFL.

2. St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson (OT, Auburn)
Perfect selection by the Rams; Robinson was a physical and athletic presence in college. Robinson is a great athlete and he was part of the Auburn Tigers team that had the best rushing offense in college football last year. The Rams have made a major upgrade to their offensive line.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles (QB, Central Florida)
Bortles has the highest ceiling of any Quarterback available in this year’s draft class. He has all the intangibles to be a Pro Bowl level talent in the NFL. Bortles also is a quick learner and will adapt to the NFL game quickly. In the NFL you must have a good starting QB in order to be successful and Bortles is exactly what they needed.

4. Buffalo Bills (traded by the Cleveland Browns) – Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
Watkins is the most dynamic offensive player in this years draft. The Bills were in desperate need of explosive offensive receiver and Watkins is projected to be immediately a starter next season. Watkins is a multi-dimensional player who can run all the routes as a receiver and also can return kicks and punts. The Bills offense just got a major upgrade with Watkins.

5. Oakland Raiders – Khalil Mack (LB, Buffalo)
Although he only began playing football his senior year of high school, Mack is a very talented and instinctive defensive player who plays with great intensity. The Raiders lost Lamar Houston to free agency but Mack has the potential to be a better player than Houston! He is a playmaker on defense and can make an immediate impact in 2014.

6. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews (OT, Texas A&M)
Matthews may not be a flashy talent like Greg Robinson but he has excellent blocking technique and footwork as an offensive tackle. He fills an important need for the Falcons as they look to protect their franchise Quarterback Matt Ryan. Matthews is the son of NFL Hall of Fame Offensive Lineman Bruce Matthews, pretty good bloodline.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Evans was the number one target of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel when they played together in college. Evans is a big play receiver with great hands and will be a great compliment to the Buccaneers star receiver Vincent Jackson.

8. Cleveland Browns (traded by Minnesota Vikings) – Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
“The rich get richer” in Cleveland as the two-time All-American Gilbert will join Pro Bowl Corner Joe Hayden creating one of the top cornerback duos in the AFC. Gilbert has great ball skills, in college there were many times Gilbert ran the route of the receiver better than his opponent. Gilbert is also a very good kick and punt return so he has value there also. The Browns defense got an upgrade with this selection.

9. Minnesota Vikings (traded by Cleveland Browns) – Anthony Barr (LB, UCLA)
Barr is an explosive football player who has great potential but he is still raw in the instincts department. He is athletic enough to play either outside linebacker or pass rushing defensive end in the NFL. New Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has a great defensive mind and he will find ways to get the best out of Barr so he can make an impact on defense.

10. Detroit Lions – Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Ebron has excellent hands and athleticism. He is an average pass blocker so don’t expect the Lions to use him often on running plays. Expect the Lions to use him paired with Christian Fauria in many two-tight end formations. Ebron also is a good route runner and can stretch the field or be a safety valve for Matthew Stafford in Detroit.

11. Tennessee Titans – Taylor Lewan (OT, Michigan)
Lewan is a very physical Offensive Tackle and fits well with what the Titans want to do offensively. His athleticism is underrated and he is the type of aggressive lineman Titans new Head Coach Ken Wisenhunt has been successful with as both an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL.

12. New York Giants – Odell Beckham (WR, LSU)
Beckham is a speed receiver who is a great route runner, a rare combination. Excellent pick by the Giants to give their QB Eli Manning a proven commodity to join this offensive. Beckham can line up in the slot or on the outside; his versatility will allow him to make an immediate impact for the Giants in 2014.

13. St. Louis Rams – Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
Another case of “the rich get richer”; Donald showed in college he has the ability to both rush the passer and stop the run. His strength and quickness make him a major problem for opposing offenses. Donald joins a defensive line with two super talented defensive ends (Long and Quinn) which makes the Rams defense even better. Donald might not put up gaudy stats in the NFL his first season but his impact will be felt.

14. Chicago Bears – Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Great fundamental cornerback who can play any corner position the defense needs him to. Fuller has good instincts and will fit in well with the system Chicago run while he will be mentored by two Pro Bowl corners: Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Shazier is a versatile linebacker who is instinctive and explosive at the point of attack. His closing burst on the ball carrier is second to none in this year’s draft class. The Steelers run a 3-4 defense so it is possible Shazier potentially could play all four linebacker positions for the Steelers. Great selection by Pittsburgh.

16. Dallas Cowboys – Zack Martin (OL, Notre Dame)
Martin has excellent fundamentals and has the footwork to be able to play any of the five offensive line positions. With the amount of money invested in starting QB Tony Romo the Cowboys know they need to protect their investment and Martin is a smart pick to allow them to do exactly that. Martin played Offensive Tackle in college but the Cowboys will probably have him play the Guard position, allowing Martin to maximize his great footwork and leverage.

17. Baltimore Ravens – C.J Mosely (ILB, Alabama)
Mosley is the top Inside Linebacker prospect in this year’s draft. He has excellent instincts in pass coverage and stopping the run. He is a natural leader who has great potential to be a Pro Bowl caliber player in the NFL. Mosley is also an excellent tackler and has shown great pursuit to the ball carrier.

18. New York Jets – Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
Pryor is a physical, hard-hitting Safety with great range and underrated pass defender. In college it seemed like he was not utilized correctly at certain times during his time at Louisville; that will not be an issue with the defensive savant, Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan. Pryor has the opportunity to make an immediate impact in 2014 for the Jets with the defensive scheme that Ryan runs.

19. Miami Dolphins – Ja’Wuan James (OT, Tennessee)
James was a very consistent Tackle in college and displayed excellent fundamentals during his collegiate career. The Dolphins biggest need on offense was to protect their starting QB Ryan Tannehill and James will help do that for Miami. James also has great footwork and does not get enough credit for his ability to seal the edge on running plays.

20. New Orleans Saints (traded by the Arizona Cardinals) – Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
Cooks fills a major need for the Saints; they need a guy who can go deep or make a play on the bubble screen play. Cooks has great instincts in space and has excellent quickness for a guy with his size. Cooks didn’t play in a “prolific offense” in college so his best football is still ahead of him and with superstar Quarterback like Drew Brees the sky is the limit for Cooks.

21. Green Bay Packers – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
Dix has great ball skills in pass coverage and is an underrated tackler. Dix has great instincts and he has the skills to be an impact player in the NFL. The Packers needed to upgrade their secondary to keep up with the high-powered offenses of their rivals in the NFC North division. Dix fills the need for the Packers and this is a great fit for both player and team.

22. Cleveland Browns (traded by Philadelphia Eagles) – Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
The Browns were expected to draft a Quarterback in this year’s draft after the past failures of previous regimes. Manziel will bring something that the Browns have never had at Quarterback: a playmaker. Manziel does not always make the best decision on every play but he will do whatever it takes to win. Manziel has the desire to learn and improve his craft as a QB and the Browns need a guy who can make an impact immediately for them on offense.

23. Kansas City Chiefs – Dee Ford (DE, Auburn)
Ford is an excellent pass rusher who is explosive to the ball. Not sure how the Chiefs plan on utilizing Ford since they already have 2 Pro Bowl Pass Rushers (Tamba Hali and Justin Houston). Usually teams build depth in the later rounds, not the first round. I have Ford ranked as one of my top defensive prospects in this draft I just hope he does not get “lost in the shuffle” in KC.

24. Cincinnati Bengals – Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
Dennard is more than a talented Cornerback, he is a great defensive football player. He is excellent at using angles to not allow receivers to make clean catches. He is a tough, hard-nosed player who can both play the run and the pass. He is a plug and play talent for the Bengals in 2014.

25. San Diego Chargers – Jason Verrett (CB, TCU)
Verrett is a tenacious defensive player who has good instincts and can play either the outside corner or nickle corner. He is versatile player who can play both man and zone defense easily. At TCU, Verrett played for a defensive minded coach who helped him maximize his skills. The Chargers got a solid player who will help their pass defense in 2014.

26. Philadelphia Eagles (traded by the Cleveland Browns) – Marcus Smith (LB, Louisville)
Smith is a great fit for the Eagles 3-4 Flex defensive scheme. Smith is a versatile linebacker who can be used as a three down player or situational. Smith is not a flashy star but he is solid, all around football player who good selection by the Eagles for what they need.

27. Arizona Cardinals (traded by New Orleans Saints) – Deone Bucannon (S, Washington State)
This selection is a great fit for the Cardinals. Arizona needs a Strong Safety who hits hard, tackles well, can play in pass coverage without being a liability. Bucannon has good ball skills and is great on closing on the ball carrier.

28. Carolina Panthers – Kelvin Benjamin (WR, FSU)
Benjamin is a raw talent who has a high ceiling. He has great hands, can change direction quickly for a man his size. He needs to work on his route running but he has all the skills and potential to be a number one receiver/target for his team. Benjamin has shown the willingness to put in the time and work to get better.

29. New England Patriots – Dominique Easley (DL, Florida)
Easley is an explosive defensive lineman who is coming off an injury so there was very little hype around him. If not for an injury he could have been a top ten pick. The Patriots get a player who has great strength and quickness, can throw offensive lineman around on his way to the opposing quarterback. Easley will not be expected to start immediately so he has time to get back into football shape and learn from the veterans. Teams in the AFC East should be nervous about the future with Easley and Chandler Jones coming after their quarterbacks.

30. San Francisco 49ers – Jimmy Ward (S, Northern Illinois)
Ward is a Free Safety who has great coverage skills and hands. He has instincts that cannot be taught; he has great ability with his speed and quickness to close distance quickly. Ward has the opportunity to not be forced to start immediately, allowing him to put on some more size to his slender frame and he can learn from great veteran defenders.

31. Denver Broncos – Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Excellent coverage skills and tackling ability. Roby has high level talent but needs to be more consistent. He uses his great speed and leaping ability to make up for his lapses in coverage. Roby has a high ceiling and has the chance to learn from a Pro Bowl CB Aqib Talib to become a more consistent defender.

32. Minnesota Vikings (traded by the Seattle Seahawks) – Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
Bridgewater is a very talented Quarterback who has great pocket presence and very accurate thrower. He is one of the most NFL ready Quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. The Vikings needed a starting quarterback who can step into a high level NFL offense and not be overwhelmed. Bridgewater has the maturity, composure, and work ethic to be successful in the NFL.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

2014 NFL Draft: Top 10 Quarterback prospects

With all of the talking heads debating about who should be drafted where, I want to give you “the reader” an objective, no hype, no drama analysis of the players I consider the top ten quarterback prospects and why I have them ranked where they are.  These rankings are based on my scouting notes for each player:

1.  Blake Bortles (University of Central Florida) 6’5” 232 Lbs.

Analysis: Has best upside of any of the Quarterbacks in this years draft; absorbed instruction and playbook like a sponge.  Very good decision maker in the pocket, whiling to hang in and take a hit from the defender in order to make the right play down field.  Good accuracy on deep ball, great leader.

Comparable to: Bortles is a combination of Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Tannehill.  He is sturdy and moves well in the pocket like Big Ben; is athletic and quick learner like Tannehill; also similar arm strength to Tannehill, has Roethlisberger’s accuracy.


2. Derek Carr (Fresno State University) 6’2” 214 Lbs.

Analysis: Has the highest Football IQ of the Quarterbacks in this year’s draft; he called many of his own plays in college and orchestrated an offense with multiple formations.  Great leader and communicator with teammates; excellent mechanics and arm strength.

Comparable to: Carr is a combination between Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco.  He has mechanics similar to Matt Ryan but arm strength and deep ball touch comparable to Flacco.  Carr is tough like both Ryan and Flacco; Carr also brings out the best in his teammates like Ryan does.


3. Zach Mettenberger (Louisiana State University) 6’4” 224 Lbs.

Analysis: Big Arm, solid all-around Quarterback who can make all of the NFL throws.  In college he ran a Pro-style offense under the coaching of long time former NFL Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron.  Mettenberger has shown the willingness to learn and to grow with instruction.  Great footwork and solid mechanics.  Does not force the fall often, which limits his potential for turnovers.

Comparable to: Mettenberger is very similar to a young Carson Palmer.  Both guys stand tall in the pocket, doing a good job evaluating the defense pre and post-snap; both quarterbacks have underrated arm talent and can make all the throws.


4. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M University) 5’11” 207 Lbs.

Analysis: Good arm strength, can make all the NFL throws.  Doesn’t go through progressions post snap very well.  He is a playmaker so he does not always make the “safe” play, instead trying to make the big play down field or force it into the End Zone.  Excellent mobility in the pocket and great throwing on the run.  Manziel has show willingness to work on his craft which is a positive sign that he is teachable at the NFL level.

Comparable to: Manziel is comparable to Robert Griffin III; both players have similar arm strength, accuracy, mobility in the pocket and are playmakers.  Like Griffin, Manziel must learn to avoid taking big hits and avoid the zealous desire to “make the big play” and instead make the sure play.  Both Quarterbacks are intelligent and are willing to learn in order become better.


5. Teddy Bridgewater (University of Louisville) 6’2” 214 Lbs.

Analysis: Excellent pocket presence, does a good job at sensing the rush post-snap.  He is a great leader who is able to elevate the play of his teammates and put them in a position to be successful.  Good arm strength, very accurate short to intermediate routes but needs enough time in the pocket to make accurate deep throws.  He is good rolling to his right and throwing but as trouble rolling to his left and throwing across his body accurately.  Has a good football IQ and is willing to put in the work to become the best he can be at his position; very high ceiling/potential.

Comparable to: Bridgewater reminds me of a young Tom Brady.  Both players are natural leaders who elevate their teammates and bring out the best in them.  Both Quarterbacks have very good post-snap instincts and are fluid maneuvering the picket while under pressure.  But just like Brady, Bridgewater can be rattled by heavy, blind side blitzes that disrupt his timing.


6. Aaron Murray (University of Georgia) 6’0” 207 Lbs.

Analysis: Great pocket presence and delivery on all throws.  Mentally and Physically tough Quarterback who has underrated arm talent and athleticism.  Can run multiple offenses and has the intellect to be able to adapt based on coaching demands and skill of players around him.  In college was not always put in the best position to succeed and he at times tried to do “too much” instead of staying within himself.  Hard worker, very driven, prototypical “first guy to arrive, last guy to leave” player that coaches love.
Comparable to: Murray is comparable to Russell Wilson.  Both Quarterbacks are natural leaders who adapt to the talent around them.  Both guys have underrated arm strength, accuracy and mechanics.  Both players are considered “undersized” but play tall in the pocket.


7. AJ McCarron (University of Alabama) 6’3” 220 Lbs.

Analysis: Excellent pocket presence, good but not great arm strength yet is able to make all the NFL throws.  High football IQ and is a true leader.  He is driven to win and is not interested in putting up “great stats”.  Very saavy pre and post snap, seeing progressions very well.  Great decision maker, does not force anything, not prone to make turnovers.

Comparable to: McCarron is very similar to Alex Smith.  Both players have good arms, great accuracy and a surprising deep ball.  Both guys work well within the system and because they have high football IQ are very adaptable to their situation.  Both Quarterbacks are not flashy so their skill sets tend to get overlooked.  McCarron is not as athletic as Smith but has better pocket presence.


8. Stephen Morris (University of Miami) 6’1” 213 Lbs.

Analysis: Talented Quarterback with a very good arm and can make every NFL throw no matter what the defense is throwing at him.  There are durability concerns with Morris but he has great potential and is an underrated passer.  His athleticism and down field vision allow him to be a playmaker if the situation calls for it but Morris is not a flashy player.  Performs under pressure well and a great competitor.

Comparable to: Morris is comparable to EJ Manuel.  If you go back and compare game tape of Manuel and Morris when they were in college you see many similarities it their pocket presence, arm strength, ability to make throws under pressure, and competitive nature.  Both players do a good job at going through progressions while avoid pressure on third down.


9. David Fales (San Jose State University) 6’1” 212 Lbs.

Analysis: Great arm, quickest release of all the Quarterbacks in the draft.  But he knows he has a great arm and tries to force the ball into spaces when he has other options available.  Good pocket presence, is not afraid to take a hit after the ball has been released.  Despite his gaudy college stats when he played high level defenses (for example, versus Stanford last season) he over thinks plays and doesn’t make a decision quick enough.  Needs to learn to trust his instincts the same way he trusts his arm.

Comparable to: Fales is a “Poor Man’s” Jay Cutler.  Both guys have great throwing arms, and they know it; which means they force throws sometimes.  But with maturity and the right coaching staff, these guys can really excel.  Fales has a quicker release than Cutler on his throws and has better touch on the deep ball. 


10. Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech University) 6’6” 248 Lbs.

Analysis: Still raw talent wise as a Quarterback.  Excellent arm, very strong and tough.  Footwork and mechanics need refining; takes too long to read defensive coverage sometimes.  His college statistics would be better if his receivers didn’t drop passes or run poor routes.  Wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line and will do whatever it takes to win.  Needs to improve pre and post snap blitz recognition.

Comparable to: Thomas has Ben Roethlisberger’s size and toughness while having Geno Smith’s potential and inconsistency.  Thomas needs to work on his mechanics and footwork just like Geno Smith was inconsistent in college.  But Thomas is tough and has a great arm like Roethlisberger.  If Thomas is drafted by the right team he could develop into a solid, productive starting NFL Quarterback.

2014 NFL Draft: Top 3 Things To Watch For

The first round of the NFL Draft will be here in just a couple days and I want to prepare you for what to watch for (without having to  watch twenty Pre-Draft specials on TV!).  Here are Three Things to Keep an Eye out for in the 2014 NFL Draft:


1. The Johnny Manziel Effect

This year’s class of Quarterbacks are not considered “Franchise Quarterbacks” but there is still many quality and talented signal callers.  Texas A&M Quarterback and Trendy Superstart Johnny Manziel is the domino that will affect all the other quarterbacks in this draft.  Projections are that Manziel could go as high as the 2nd overall pick all the way down to 26th overall!  Many teams are in need of a Quarterback: Jacksonville Jaquars, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals and the St Louis Rams are considering drafting a QB.  Now there are 3 players who are projected as potential 1st round selections: Manziel, Blake Bortles, and Teddy Bridgewater.  But there are a slew of guys who project as productive starting Quarterbacks in the NFL: AJ McCarron, Andy Murray, Derek Carr, Zack Mettenberger, Connor Shaw, and Jimmy Garoppolo.  So the reality is that there is depth at the Quarterback position in this draft and teams do not HAVE to take a QB in the 1st round, allowing for the potential for Manziel, Bortles and Bridgewater to be waiting around while teams load up on talent at other positions.


2. Excellent Depth at Multiple Positions

Extending what is discussed above is the fact that no matter what your favorite team needs, there are multiple players available that project to be successful in the NFL.  A team like the New York Giants needs help on the defensive line.  You look at the list of Defensive Tackle and Defensive End prospects, I count ten DT’s and fourteen DE’s that could become productive NFL players!  So do the Giants have to draft a Defensive Lineman in the first round?  No, they can be selective and pick who they think is the best fit for their team.  The Tennessee Titans need to draft the Running Back of the future with the departure of Chris Johnson.  Looking at the list of Running Back prospects, I see the potential of SEVENTEEN guys who could be productive NFL players.  So if your favorite team doesn’t draft a specific need in the first round, don’t freak out, there is depth of talent to go around this year.


3. Draft Position Movement

Every year in the NFL Draft there are teams that trade pick slots to move up and down.  This year will be exceptionally interesting because there is a handful of player that are coveted by teams.  You have teams like the Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins who have a dearth of picks so they may be open to moving down to accumulate picks in a very deep talent draft.  You also have those teams that make an extreme move up or down the draft all predicated on whether a specific prospect is available or was already drafted.  For example, when the Atlanta Falcons back in 2011 moved up to 6th overall to select Julio Jones the Falcons gave up a boat load of picks to move up.  But the Falcons believed that Jones was worth giving up all of those picks.  On the other side of that coin was the San Diego Chargers in 2001 when they traded away the 1st overall pick and with the picks they got in return, they drafted two future Hall of Famers: Drew Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Why I Love Sports: From "We Could Be King" to Donald Sterling

This weekend I was watching the film "WeCould Be King", a documentary that follows the difficult circumstances of Philadelphia High School students who are involved in the football program. In Philadelphia there was a "doomsday" budget approved that shut down public schools while hundreds of people lost their jobs. Meanwhile students from Germantown High were forced to go to their rivals' school: Martin Luther King Jr High School.

What was significant about this documentary is that it embodies why I value sports so much, especially for young people. "Student-Athletes", as they have been labeled, are working the equivalent of full-time jobs: 6-7 hours of school Monday through Friday, followed by 2 hours of practice, then on the weekends they have games and/or homework to work on also. In all levels of academics, students are prepared for the real world. You have to get to class on time, you learn to deal with good/bad supervisors; meanwhile you have responsibilities to yourself and your teammates to maintain a certain level of Grade Point Average AND perform on game day! You learn how to work with and without people, you are held to a higher standard than other students, all the while having to deal with whatever personal issues that may come up each day.

So this bogus idea that bureaucrats on the Philadelphia School Boards and in multiple levels of government where cutting back funding for sports, music and other extra circular activities is disgraceful. They would rather take away productive outlets for students time, keeping them out of trouble, than constructively balance a budget? The reality, as the documentary points out, that students who do not get involved in after school activities are 57 percent more likely to not graduate than those who are involved in sports, music and other clubs. Chew on that point for a minute: FIFTY-SEVEN PERCENT more likely to be drop outs!

The point I am getting to is not a political one, but about the merits of athletics. Sports amplifies and accentuates the realities of the world around us. In sports you learn the values of working hard, working with others, deadlines, structure, rules, finding one’s strengths and working on their weaknesses in order to be successful. We need all of these skills to survive in the real world of business and personal life. Is that coach or referee unfair? Well so is that boss you can’t stand at the job you need to pay the bills. Having to work with different types of people in order to be successful in the game? You have to deal with similar people everywhere in life. You have to compete to play for your team then you have to compete with your opponent. There is similar competition in the business world as well.

On the flip side of the sports world paradigm you have the Donald Sterling/Los Angeles Clippers fiasco in the NBA. We see how the adage "Money Talks" has great influence over that situation. It has been known for over a decade about Donald Sterling prejudice in his business operations as a landlord kicking out minorities living in his properties and the racial discrimination suit by former Clippers executive Elgin Baylor. So why is the NBA pushing him out now? Because big businesses are suspending their advertising dollars involving the LA Clippers and the NBA. We see this at many levels outside of sports; boycotts and protests along with lobbyists and campaigns influence public reactions and business decisions.

So in the end, if you "hate sports" or think "sports are stupid" then what you really dislike is reality. Sports is an in-your-face, grandiose display of the world around us absorbed into the live performance of athletics. Sports is a catalyst for social change, like Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Baseball, paving the way for the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. Sports forces us to question stereotypes, like 5’6" Doug Flutie winning the Heisman Trophy in the 1980’s and having a long professional football career. Sports puts a spotlight on medical and health issues, like the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Baseball or Concussions' long term effects on mental health in Football and Combat athletes. It was sports that helped many cope with the tragedies of 9/11 as people had a medium to channel their patriotism and national resolve. And last but not least, thanks to collegiate sports tens of thousands of young people get scholarships to go to college each year; many of those same youth cannot afford a college education and are given that opportunity thanks to athletics.

So here’s to the Sports World, affecting change in the lives of so many for over a century. This is why I love Sports.