The NFL Rank ‘Em Up: #24-21 QBs

June 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm (Sports) (, , , , , , )

When a quarterback (or any player for that matter) comes out of nowhere and starts playing the best ball of his life, it’s an extremely gratifying feeling.  Especially if that guy was on your team before the big turnaround.  This sort of thing happened last year when I correctly predicted that Arian Foster, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and LeGarrette Blount would all be huge, and I had all of them (one on three different teams).  One quarterback on this list made that jump last season.

Last year, Carson Palmer, my #24 quarterback, was the king of garbage time.  Some of his best games were in losing efforts.  Like in Week 4, when he went for 371 yards and had a passer rating of 121.4, but still lost to Cleveland.  Or in Week 7, when he threw for a season high 412 yards and an-almost season high three touchdowns in a loss to Atlanta.  If he can find a team that will employ him other than the Bengals, he may not lead them to wins, but he’ll light up the air.

At #23, we have David Garrard.  I actually feel a little bad for David Garrard.  He’s been a perfectly good quarterback for the majority of his career, but with Blaine Gabbert on the roster, the pressure has got to be on for Garrard.  However, I think that unless the Jags start to get really desperate to sell tickets, Garrard will be the starter for the entire season.  At least, that would be the smart approach.  Like I said in the Gabbert piece, the only reasons Blaine Gabbert should start this season would be if either Garrard gets injured, or Garrard plays the worst football of his life.

It’s too bad that most fantasy football leagues don’t award points for wins, because if they did, Mark Sanchez wouldn’t be 22nd.  He would probably be in the top 10, and maybe higher.  Half the time, it seems like the Jets win in spite of him, rather than because of him.  I’m not saying the Sanchez is a bust or anything like that.  But I think that this is going to be a make-or-break season for the Sanchise.  Yes, the Jets rely on an extremely conservative offense, but that may be because the Jets don’t want to rely of Sanchez.  If he continues to stagnate the way he has, the Jets will need to take a good long look at whether or not Sanchez is actually the quarterback of the future for the Jets.

Who saw Ryan Fitzpatrick coming?  Seriously, the first time I saw him in his rookie season for the Rams, he was one of the worst quarterbacks I’d ever seen.  And when he joined the Bills in ’09, I though their idea was that they were going to combine him, Trent Edwards and Brian Brohm into one halfway decent quarterback.  Then, after Trent Edwards failed to live up to the Bills’ meager quarterback expectations, Fitzpatrick came in, and all of a sudden, it just clicked.  And it really shouldn’t have, since they lost #2 receiver Roscoe Parrish.  But a revival of Lee Evans and the unexpected breakout of Stevie Johnson made the Harvard grad a star in the making.  He’s easily the best quarterback the Bills have had since Drew Bledsoe, and the first true long-term solution at quarterback since Jim Kelly left.  So, why is he only #21?  Well, he does tend to take games off, but as long as he keeps the Bills competitive enough for their defense to win some games, the Bills will be OK with him.

In the next article, we have two quarterbacks who are on the same team.  For now…

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The NFL Rank ‘Em Up: #28-25 QBs

June 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm (Sports) (, , , , , )

Some quarterbacks just don’t when to pack it in (I’m looking at you, old man Favre).  They have a great career, people love then.  But then, in the latter part of their career, they think that they can still play just because they could play awesomely five years ago, despite the fact that they’re facing people who are younger, faster, stronger, and meaner.  That applies big time for one of the names in this article.

At #28, Jason Campbell is a guy who I keep thinking will break out every year, but he does nothing but disappoint.  He’s a lot like Nicolas Cage, he’s either a star, or sucking hard, no middle ground.  He could be leading Oakland to a 59-14 win on one day, and then he could be getting outplayed by backup QB Bruce Gradkowski on the next.  I just don’t think that Oakland has done enough to its offense to think that Campbell will all of a sudden become a top-tier quarterback.  So, unless Louis Murphy or Darrius Heyward-Bey can become a star this year, Campbell will be relegated to the “meh” category.

In this shot, we have Andy Dalton wearing his Bengals helmet. Wait a minute...

I’m a huge fan of Andy Dalton, but I’m still a bit reluctant to put him higher than 27th.  He was a winner at TCU, but can he win in the pros?  I think it might be difficult to win right out of the gate, especially if they lose Chad Johnson (he’s changing his name back).  But, last year Carson Palmer was the garbage time king.  So, maybe if the Bengals fall behind, Dalton might be able to put together some Palmer-like garbage time numbers. Plus, the presence of A.J. Green probably won’t hurt him.

If Chad Henne was on the cover of Madden 11, it would've sold maybe 10 copies.

I was kind of surprised when Miami didn’t draft a quarterback, because Chad Henne isn’t the answer, thus why he’s at #26.  He’s just so bland and cookie-cutter.  He’s only had one 350+ yard game in his entire career.  He just hasn’t had his “breakout” game yet, but after three years of this, I’m starting to wonder if that game will ever come.  And if he doesn’t break out this season, you can bet that Miami will look for a replacement.  Heck, Miami still might pursue one of the free agent quarterbacks this offseason.  I just don’t know how long Miami is willing to put up with his blandness.

When you see Donovan McNabb at #25, it’s kind of sad.  Especially considering that, two years ago, he was a top seven or eight quarterback.  But, years of injuries have finally caught up to McNabb.  His scrambling is nonexistant, he throws erratically, and he had easily his worst season where he was healthy enough to play in all of the games.  Mike Shanahan isn’t stupid, if he honestly thinks that Rex Grossman gives the Redskins a better chance to win, one of two things is going on.  Either Shanahan has an agenda against McNabb (doubtful, that’s Albert Haynesworth’s job), or McNabb is done.  Seriously, Donovan.  If you’re reading this (again, kind of doubt it), do yourself a favor, and retire.  You already have a Hall of Fame resume.  If coaches are trying to decide between you, Grossman, and John Beck, it’s over.  We’ll miss you, McNabb.

In the next part, we’ll have two quarterbacks who might be replaced soon, and two young up-and-comers with a lot of potential, that are essentially polar opposites of one another.

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The NFL Rank ‘Em Up: #32-29 QBs

June 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm (Sports) (, , , , , )

For my next trick, I’m going to try rank all of the offensive skill position players in the NFL.  This whole thing is based on the assumption that the NFL season will start up at some point before the second coming of Christ.  For the first one of these articles, we’re going to talk quarterbacks and since these rankings are going from bad to good, we’re starting with the worst of the worst, or at least the ones who haven’t had a chance to prove otherwise.

Without a wide receiver that can stay out of jail, Jake Locker will be hard press to not suck this season.

At the bottom of my list, occupying the #32 spot is Tennessee’s Jake Locker.  But, wait, I can already hear you say, “Jake Locker was your Rookie of the Year in literally the last article you wrote.  Why is he the cellar dweller here?  This was before Locker’s best receiver, Kenny Britt, decided to reenact his favorite scene from “World’s Wildest Police Videos”, and while he’s just barely famous enough to get off scott-free, this will probably be a distraction for the entire season, and besides, other than Britt, who is Locker going to throw the ball to?  Nate Washington?  Justin Gage?  Bo Scaife?  Sounds like things won’t end well for the former U of Washington alum.

Next on the list is Carolina’s Cam Newton.  It’s not a good sign when the #1 overall pick can’t even crack the top 30 quarterbacks.  Yes, he can get things done on his own.  But, unless he wants to meet an early retirement at age 24, he won’t run around as much as he did in his Auburn days.  There is only one person on the entire Carolina roster that I would even give the time of day to in the first one hundred picks, and that’s Jonathan Stewart.  Cam has nothing at wide receiver and I think his biggest receiver this season will be Jeremy Shockey.  Can’t see a lot coming from Newton, not until he gets a little bit of help.

Cracking the top 30 is Jacksonville QB Blaine Gabbert.  This is a risky pick, because there is a pretty good chance that Gabbert won’t start at all this season.  Unless something catastrophic happens to David Garrard, injury or suckage,  Gabbert will be wearing the headset this season.  But, if something does happen to the poster boy for Crohn’s disease, Gabbert could slip in, and put together some solid performances.  But, for right now, I think he’ll take the Aaron Rodgers approach, and wait his turn.

Colt McCoy has a similar problem to Jake Locker. The difference is McCoy doesn't have a good receiver, period.

The last quarterback in this article is Cleveland’s Colt McCoy, taking the 29 spot.  The Browns are getting better, but there not there yet, not even close.  There’s no receiver on the roster that I’d even want as a #2, if I were putting a team together from scratch.  Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs (aka James Harrison victims #297 and 298), Brian Robiskie, Benjamin Watson, and the newly drafted Greg Little will fight for receptions.  Normally, this is the part where I’d make some sarcastic remark about how I could be the leading receiver for the Browns, but I’m not gonna lie.  This looks pretty damn grim.  Good luck Coltan, you’ll need it.

Well, that went pretty well.  This could be one of my better series.  Next time, we talk about three QBs that are running on empty, and one of my favorite rookies.

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NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidates

May 7, 2011 at 6:31 pm (Sports) (, , , )

Everyone is looking for the next star in the NFL, and while winning Rookie of the Year doesn’t mean you’re lock to be the next big thing (ask Cadillac Williams), it is a step in the right direction, since 15 of the last 19 ROYs have been to the Pro Bowl, and Sam Bradford isn’t far from going there himself.  So let’s take a look at who was a good shot at winning it this season.

The Panthers have no talent on the offense outside Cam Newton, so if he can win, it'll be on him.

Cam Newton may be the odds-on favorite, since he was the #1 overall pick.  But, let’s look at the talent around him.  There is none.  DeAngelo Williams is all but gone.  Johnathan Stewart has become injury prone.  Steve Smith is getting older.  And Jimmy Clausen was… well, is Clausen-like a word?  Needlessly to say, he’s going to have to make a lot out of a bad situation to get the ROY.

A.J. Green has a good shot, at least if Andy Dalton is anything I’m hoping he is.  I personally think that these two’s careers will be intertwined.  If one succeeds, the other will.  But I’ll talk more about Dalton later.  For now, I like A.J.’s chances, but I won’t lock him down just yet.

Atlanta gave away a few too many draft picks for Julio Jones, but who knows. Maybe he'll come through.

The Julio Jones trade was one of the most publicized moments of the draft, with Atlanta trading away five draft picks, including two first-rounders.  Did Atlanta go overboard with their picks?  Yes.  Will Jones be worth two first round picks?  Probably not.  Will he make an immediate impact on the team.  Probably.  A case could be made that he has the best combination of personal talent and talent around him.  But, for the time being, he’s behind Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and maybe even Michael Jenkins early on, so he’ll very much be in a secondary role.

Jake Locker is my odds-on favorite to win this thing, but it's really hard to predict these things, some guy in the fourth round might end up winning it.

If Jake Locker can win Rookie of the Year, his path to the award is going to be eerily similar to Sam Bradford’s rookie season.  A high draft pick going to a struggling team with an excellent running back, and one (und precisely VON) wide receiver who could be a star if he could stay healthy.  But, if Locker can win this thing, people are going to make comparisons to Sam Bradford for years.

I could tell you about Blaine Gabbert’s chances to win, but it would be just as easy to copy-paste the last paragraph here.  I’ve noticed something, a good running game is becoming more of a luxury.  To win, you need to throw the ball.  Just look at all of the teams with great running backs that drafted potential quarterbacks of the future this season:  Tennessee, Minnesota, Jacksonville, San Francisco.  Four examples should do.

The surprise of the draft, but I think it will pay off for the Vikings. They may have just drafted their quarterback for the next thirteen years.

I think that a sleeper for the award could be Christian Ponder.  Because, he has talent all around him.  The only thing the Vikings need is a quarterback, and Christian Ponder is a damn good quarterback.  Plus, if Ponder (or Kyle Rudolph or Stephen Burton) win the Offensive ROY, he’ll be the third Viking to win it in the last five years. (Adrian Peterson in ’07 and Percy Harvin in ’09).

The next offensive skill player drafted was Kansas City’s Jonathan Baldwin, and I’m not a huge fan of him.  He seems more like a do-it-all player.  Good at everything, great at nothing, kind of like Brad Smith.  I don’t even think that he’ll do what he was brought in to do, which is to draw double teams off Dwayne Bowe.  I just don’t see him as a huge threat.

Mark Ingram will be stuck in New Orleans' committee system, so it might be difficult for him to stand out. But, he has the talent to do so.

Mark Ingram may have a chance, but it’s going to be a challenge, since he’ll be behind Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush (if he’s still there), and maybe even Chris Ivory.  That’s a lot of ground to cover, and odds are the Saints will stick with the committee system, so Ingram will have a hard time standing out.

Let me just say, I freakin’ love Andy Dalton.  Dalton wins pure and simple.  He’s a leader for any team he’s on, and if he can do to Cincy what he did to TCU, the Bengals are in great shape.  Plus, his red hair matches the Bengals’ helmet perfectly.  Focus, Nick, focus.  Anyway, Dalton is the one I hope wins it, but I won’t put money on him.

Who would you pick a career disappointment like Alex Smith, an unconsisent runner like Troy Smith, or a highly touted draft pick out of a quarterback friendly system like Colin Kaepernick. I'll take Kaepernick.

I was convinced that Jim Harbaugh was going to stick with Troy Smith as his starter.  But, thankfully, San Fran’s new head coach decided to not drive his team into the ground, and he drafted Colin Kaepernick.  He’s a big guy, who is still very much a project, but if you asked me who’d I rather have starting for my team right now, I’d still take Kaepernick.

As a fan of the Boise State Broncos, Titus Young intrigues me.  And he got drafted by an intriguing team.  Detroit is becoming a solid team, and even though they didn’t fix their problem in the back seven, everything else is getting good.  Young could be a contributing member of the team sooner rather than later.

New England probably should've picked up a pass rusher, but instead they went O-line, corner, and two running backs in their first four picks. Shane Vereen is one of the more highly tauted RBs this season, so Belichick probably has plans for Vereen.

You know how awesome the Patriots are?  They had a four running back committee at the start of last season (Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, Fred Taylor, and Sammy Morris), and they’ll probably have a completely different four running back committee this season (BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, and Stevan Ridley), and no one has noticed.  Change is immune to the Patriots.  They have become sentient.  They will take over the world soon, we’re all doomed.  OK, I need to calm down, where’s my coffee.  I think that Vereen will end up being a solid part of the running game, but I’m not as sure about Ridley.  He seems like he was a bit of a reach, but you never know with Belichick, he might just turn Ridley into the next NFL star.

Even though, the Lions didn't get a linebacker or a corner with a high draft pick, they did improve their running game with Mikel LeShoure.

Mikel LeShoure + Jahvid Best = sweet running game.  Honestly, we are going to see the Lions in the playoffs soon.  Oh my Jebus.  The NFC North is quickly becoming the best division in the NFL.  They have the Super Bowl champions in the Packers, the amazing defense (and luck) of the Bears, the rebuilt Lions, and the Vikings with a quarterback that isn’t in the AARP.  As a Bears fan, this is going to be a tough season.

The Browns chose a pick to fix their wide receiver blues, but since they waited until the second round, they had to settle on Greg Little.  Not sure if he’s going to be the answer that the Browns have been looking for, but there aren’t many people in front of him on the depth chart, so he’ll probably get enough playing time to make an impact.

On paper, the Dolphins have a great running game, but paper is a flimsy thing that becomes see-through if you put a little water on it.  (Now, where did I put my point.)  But, with both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown potentially leaving (and even if they don’t leave, I don’t think they’re good enough to start), Daniel Thomas has a good chance to start Day 1.  He may not be any good, but he could still start Day 1.

OK, so that’s all of the big prospects of the first two rounds.  My five projected finalists are A.J. Green, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Mark Ingram, and Andy Dalton.  And the winner will be Jake Locker.  Thanks for playing along.

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The Day After the Draft: Day #1

April 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

With the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers select Cam Newton, quarterback, Auburn.

Well, Day 1 of the NFL Draft is in the books.  There were surprises, reaches, drops, and trades.  It was a lot of fun, let’s talk about it.

I don’t think anyone was surprised that Cam Newton went #1 overall.  Sure there was some speculation about Marcell Dareus (#3 to Buffalo), Von Miller (#2 to Denver), or maybe even A.J. Green (#4 to Cincy).  But, we all knew, that was a bunch of malarkey.  It was always Cam Newton.  I’m not a huge fan of Newton, but in the win-now society we live in, I guess it was the pick that Carolina fans wanted the most.

Arizona got the best player in the draft in Patrick Peterson.  One problem: they didn’t need a corner.  Ken Whisenhunt’s strategy in the draft is to get the best available player, which I think will lead to his firing in a few seasons.  But Arizona got a great player, so yay for them.

Atlanta traded the farm, so they could get a big threat on the other side of Roddy White, in the form of Julio Jones.

Atlanta went a little crazy to try to pick up Julio Jones at #6 overall.  They gave up their 1st, 2nd, and 4th round pick from this year, and next year’s 1st and 4th round pick, just to get Julio Jones.  I don’t like Jones to begin with, so I think that Cleveland definitely got the better end of this deal, and they’ll be able to get a ton of players in exchange for one injury-prone, drop-heavy receiver.  A sucker is born every minute, I guess.

I thought for certain that Blaine Gabbert would go #7 to San Francisco, but they surprised us by possibly reaching on Aldon Smith.  Then, when Tennessee picked, I was very surprised to see Jake Locker, not Gabbert, taken #8 to Tennessee.  For most of the month leading up to the draft, I had Gabbert going #1 to Carolina, and I didn’t think he’d drop this much.

After that, it went safe pick, crazy pick for a little bit.  Dallas couldn’t get a deal before the buzzer, so they took the offensive tackle, Tyron Smith.  Then, Jacksonville traded up to nab Blaine Gabbert.  At first, I was harsh of this pick, but upon reflection, now Gabbert can Aaron Rodgers it, and sit behind the experienced quarterback for a few years, so I like this move.  Houston, disappointed they couldn’t move up for Patrick Peterson, had to “settle” for J.J. Watt, who I think will have a fantastic NFL career.  Then, things got weird.

Who predicted Christian Ponder going to Minnesota with the #12 overall pick. Anyone?

The shocker of this draft so far, was Minnesota picking up Florida State QB Christian Ponder.  I had Ponder in the middle to late second round, and the sixth quarterback overall.  The Vikings must have some plans with Ponder, because if they’re willing to reach this far on Ponder, they must know something about him the rest of us mere mortals don’t.

Detroit kind of surprised us by stopping Nick Fairley’s free-fall.  I thought that defensive line was one of their strengths, and that they should’ve worried about their other problems.  But, then I thought.  Nick Fairley + Ndamukong Suh + Kyle Vanden Bosch + the Chicago Bears weak offensive line = Jay Cutler’s destruction.  Oh crap.

Was anyone else hoping that Nick Fairley would go up to accept his jersey, and just tackle Roger Goodell? Anyone?

The next pick that caught my attention (besides a slight reach for Nate Solder to New England at #17) was the New York Giants at #19 going with Prince Amukamara.  I thought for certain that this would be where either Mark Ingram or Anthony Costanzo would get picked up to sure up the Giants fumbly running game, but I guess you can never have enough corners.

Let's give a special mention to Chicago GM Jerry Angelo, who apparently has a drafting staff entirely consisting of monkeys.

After Cleveland moved up slightly to nab Phil Taylor (it’s not like they didn’t have plenty of picks to work with after the Julio Jones deal), and a perplexing pick on the part of Seattle (seriously, who the hell is James Carpenter?) Chicago did something kind of hilariously dumb.  You see, Baltimore originally had the 26th pick, but they had worked out a deal with the Bears to trade first round picks, so that Chicago could land Gabe Carimi, and Baltimore would also get a fourth round pick.  But, then Bears GM Jerry Angelo told two staff members to make the call to the NFL about the trade, and both staffers thought the other one did.  While all of this was going on, the 10 minutes allotted to the Ravens expired, and Kansas City was then officially on the clock.  By the time the Ravens actually got their pick in, Kansas City had already made their pick, and New England was already working on a trade of their own for the next pick that would give the Saints their pick, so that New Orleans could get Mark Ingram.  So, the Ravens just scrapped the trade.  Kansas City got Jon Baldwin.  Baltimore dropped one pick, but still got Jimmy Smith.  New Orleans got Ingram, and Chicago got Carimi.  Everyone involved left happy.

And that’s the first round.  My round two and three coverage will be up tomorrow, but unfortunately, it won’t go up until Day 3 picks have already begun.  Oh well.

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Feeling Drafty #32: Green Bay Packers

April 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Green Bay Team MVP Clay Matthews has 23.5 sacks in two seasons. Try to convince me that he's not one of the best linebackers in the NFL.

Well, this is it, the final Feeling Drafty article.  And it’s about the Green Bay Packers.  As a Bears fan, this article may upset me a little.  But I’ll try to fight through the tears, to write this thing.

Well, it looks like Green Bay made the right move for Aaron Rodgers.  He sat behind Brett Favre for a few years, and when his time came, he filled in for the old geezer seemlessly.  And within a few short years, he was in the running for MVP, and he brought the Lombardi trophy back to the home of the man it was named after.  One thing I didn’t understand was this:  when Aaron was given the Lombardi trophy, why did he also get the WWE World Heavyweight Championship?  That didn’t fit for me.

I have another question for the Green Bay coaching staff:  how is the running game going to be set up?  Will Ryan Grant be given the lead role after his season-stalling ankle injury?  Will James Starks be the leading rusher after his breakout in last season’s playoffs?  How will Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn factor into the conversatation?  What is the deal?  Actually, that’s five questions.  My bad.

Despite the fact, that Green Bay seems to have a lot of depth at receiver, they’re really fragile at the position.  I think that the guy who is the current #4 receiver, Jordy Nelson, is their best receiver.  Greg Jennings is electrifying, but it almost seems like he takes games off.  Donald Driver has been solid for years, but he could be slip this season.  James Jones looked like the heir apparent to Driver, but he drops passes like they talked about his momma.  Jermichael Finley looked like a future star, but time will tell if he can come back from his injury last season.  Nelson may just be the best all-around receiver on the team.

This defense is young, but they look promising.  Clay Matthews is a scary individual who broke out this season with 13.5 sacks.  Tramon Williams and Sam Shields (like so many others on this team) came alive in the playoffs.  B.J Raji and Cullen Jenkins played well on the defensive line.  So, this team is solid on almost all front.

The depth at offensive line is pretty deep this season. Derek Sherrod is the sixth or seventh best offensive linemen this season, and he'll still be a first round draft pick.

Except for on the offensive line.  Aaron Rodgers was mobile enough to make it not as apparent, but let’s not confuse the issue:  this offensive line was bad.  So I think they should go for the last of the Big 5 OTs, Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod.  He’s very agile for a man his size, but he also has good fundamentals.  He’ll probably either start at RT and Bryan Bulaga will move to the left side, or he’ll wait behind Chad Clifton and learn from him, since Clifton will probably retire soon.

That does it.  We’re done here.  The Feeling Drafty Series is over.  Tomorrow, I’ll try to write a follow-up article about the first round, and maybe ones after Days 2 and 3 of the Draft.

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Feeling Drafty #31: Pittsburgh Steelers

April 27, 2011 at 6:00 pm (Sports) (, , , , , , , , )

In the last two seasons, Pittsburgh is 15-4 with Troy Polamalu, and 6-7 without him. He's an easy choice for Pittsburgh Team MVP.

OK, we only have two of these things left.  So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to speed through this, and get ready for the big finale.  Here we go.  Big Ben, bad touch.  James Harrison, stop trying to kill people.  Troy Polamalu, owes his awesome hair to Head and Shoulders.  Made it to the Super Bowl, but lost.  Mike Pouncey, best interior lineman in the draft, playing with his brother.  There, happy?  No, fine.

OK, so everyone was ready to throw Ben Roethlisberger into the fire for the sexual assault allegations against him.  I thought the Steelers would be screwed with Roethlisberger out for the first four games.  But, apparently, Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon, and Charlie Batch combined into one semi-competent quarterback that went 3-1.  Roethlisberger came back in, and stayed the course to finish the season with a 12-4 record.  He threw (in just 12 games) for 3,200 yards, 17 touchdowns, five interceptions, and a 97.0 passer rating.

Rashard Mendenhall is quickly becoming one of the best running backs in the NFL.  Last season, he ran for career highs in attempts (324), yards (1,273), and touchdowns (13).  He should eaily be a mid-to-late first round pick in fantasy drafts.  And don’t ignore Isaac Redman, he’s been getting more and more carries toward the end of the season, and coach Mike Tomlin has said that he wants to use Redman as a goal-line back.  He could see an increase in carries next season, so if you’re in a deep league, you should look at Redman in one of the later rounds.

Who saw Mike Wallace becoming as big as he was?  He was third in the AFC with 1,257 receiving yards, and he led the AFC in yards per catch (21.0 yards/catch).  He’s another one that you should keep your eyes on.  He’ll be an elite receiver within a few years or less.  Unfortunately, Hines Ward is probably on the dropturn.  He’s had his worst season since 2000, with only 59 catches, 755 yards, and five touchdowns.  Ward has been a staple in the Steelers’ offense for years, but don’t be surprised if Hines doesn’t stay in the NFL for too much longer.

You can’t talk about the Steelers without mentioning their amazing defense (seems to be a common theme in the latter articles of this series).  Troy Polamalu is still unquestionably one of the best safeties in the NFL.  He’s still a ball hawk who can talk it to the house every time he gets his hands on the ball, which happened seven times last season with one going back against the Bengals.  James Harrison is another one of the best players at his position.  But after last season, he was (rightly) tagged with the “headhunter” label, after concussion-causing injuries to Josh Cribbs and Mohammed Massaquoi within just a few minutes of each other.  He may be one of the best linebackers in the league, but he’s also the dirtiest.

A little bit of help on the offensive line won't hurt the Steelers, so don't be shocked if the Steelers try to pick up Florida G Mike Pouncey.

Pittsburgh is one of those teams that really has no desperate needs.  More like positions they need to sure up.  If Florida G Mike Pouncey falls this far, expect the Steelers to pounce (no pun intended).  He is, without a doubt, the best interior lineman in this season’s draft.  He’s more of a run-blocker than a pass-blocker, which means even better news for Rashard Mendenhall.  I know that a set of brothers have played on the same team at the same time (the Palmer in Cincy), but has a set of twins ever played on the same team at the same time.

OK, time for the finale.  Green Bay is tomorrow, and I have to praise them for winning the Super Bowl.  Crap.

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Feeling Drafty #30: New York Jets

April 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm (Sports) (, , , , , , , , )

New York utility player Brad Smith won New York Team MVP. Oh, I'm sorry, were you expecting someone else, like LT or Darrelle Rivas? What gave you that crazy idea?

You can call the New York Jets what you want:  overrated, overpaid, clowns, spectacles.  But, you can’t call them boring.  This team subscribed to so many football movie stereotypes last season, you’d think someone pulled the Jets out of a “Friday Night Lights” knockoff.

Young, unproven, cocky quarterback (Mark Sanchez), check.  Aging running back with one final push before retirement (LaDainian Tomlinson), check.  Another running back who really wasn’t prepared for the pros went he entered the league (Joe McKnight), check.  Fullback with the ridiculously awesome name (John Conner), check.  (OK, that last one may not be real, but I just wanted to bring that up.)  Wide receiver who comes to life in the playoffs (Santonio Holmes), check.  Another wide receiver who could be one of the best in the game, if he just didn’t drop so many damn passes (Braylon Edwards), check.  Yet another wide receiver who can do everything (Brad Smith), check.  Tight end who’s best friends with the quarterback (Dustin Keller), double check.  And that’s just the offense.

There’s also the defender getting ready for a career in television after football (Jason Taylor), the linebacker who scares the living *bleep* out of everybody (Calvin Pace), the high-energy, fun-loving  (Bart Scott), the cornerback who thinks that he the best in the game (Darrelle Rivas), and the corner with child support issues (Antonio Cromartie).  Did I miss any?

On a serious note, the Jets are a pretty good team who have a chance to live up to their head coach’s lofty expectations (insane head coach, check).  Sanchez looks like he’ll become a great quarterback, but if he doesn’t break out this season, it’s time to start raising some eyebrows.  It looks like the running back situation will become more balanced between Tomlinson, Shonn Greene, and McKnight.  So, if you want a deep sleeper, look for Joe McKnight around Round Nine or Ten of typical fantasy football drafts.

Their defense is one of the best in the NFL.  While I don’t think that Rivas is the best corner in the NFL (that honor goes to Nnamdi), he is one of the best corners in the NFL, and it’s a bad idea to throw the ball haphazardly to his side of the field.  David Harris is one of the most underrated linebackers in the NFL.  Calvin Pace still scares the living *bleep* out of me.  So, I’m liking this defense, a lot.

For the second time in this series, the Team MVP is at the same position as my draft pick. But, the Jets are going to need some new WRs, since most of them could be leaving. So, New York needs to get a good WR, like Torrey Smith.

However, I think they should go for the wide receiver in the draft.  Even though they do have depth at the position, but they could be gone by the time the season starts.  Edwards, Holmes, and Smith are all unrestricted free agents.  So, the first step to replace them is Maryland WR Torrey Smith.  He has plenty of speed to burn opposing CBs, and he’s athletic enough to win battles for the ball against those corners.

Now, if only the Jets could pick up someone who was on a reality show.  Wait, does Hard Knocks count?  It does?  Ok, check.

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Feeling Drafty #29: Chicago Bears

April 25, 2011 at 6:00 pm (Sports) (, , , , , , , , )

When I first heard that the Bears won the Julius Peppers lottery, I called BS, since it was announced on April 1st (which is one my list of things big businesses should never do), but Peppers was the real deal last season, winning Chicago Team MVP.

Ah, finally, my team.  The Chicago Bears.  Winner of the NFC North.  Runner-up in the NFC to the eventually champion.  This was a good season. 

But, the Bears has so much work to do.  Seriously, they shouldn’t have gotten this far, and looking back, luck may have had a thing or two to do with it.  There were at least four different times when the Bears faced teams starting backup or third-string quarterbacks.  And in the playoffs, they had the fortune of facing the first team to ever make the playoffs with a regular season losing record.  That probably won’t happen again next season.

But, let’s talk about what the Bears did right this season.  Their defense rocks.  Brian Urlacher made a good comeback after being gone for the entire 2009 season, with 125 tackles, four sacks, and two forced fumbles.  And Lance Briggs did pretty well as well, with 100 tackles, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions (playoffs included).  Chris Harris had five interceptions in his last nine games, and is known as someone who can force more than a few fumbles.  Charles Tillman had five picks, as well, along with three forced fumbles.  Israel Idonije has become one of the best kick blockers in the NFL, alongside with eight sacks, and three forced fumbles.  And there’s also Julius Peppers.  Nuff said.  So causing turnovers definitely isn’t a problem for the Bears.

But, the Bears do have problems on the offense.  Jay Cutler has the potential to be in the elite tier of quarterbacks, but he needs to improve his work ethic, and his willingness to play through pain (especially in the playoffs, when it really matters).  And the wide receiver situation is a bit of a mess (OK, a big mess).  Johnny Knox(ville?) emerged as the #1 receiver for the Bears going for 51 receptions, 960 yards, and five touchdowns, and emphatically putting his name into the “speedster” category of receivers.  But, the Bears could definitely use another wide receiver, since they’ve (wisely) decided to put Devin Hester back on return duty, and Earl Bennett fits better in the slot than as one of the guys on the side.

Gabe Carimi's nickname is "The Jewish Hammer". Awesome, we'll take him.

But, that’s not what the Bears will go with, because their offensive line was just that:  offensive (-ly bad?, OK, that was a stretch).  They need a new leader on the OL to replace Olin Kruetz who, even if he does make a comeback next season, doesn’t have long left in the NFL.  And besides, with Mike Tice serving as the offensive line coach, they might as well give him some supreme talent to work with.  Supreme talent, like Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi.  He’s a fierce, mean blocker.  Tough, strong, and tenacious with a motor that doesn’t stop.  His biggest downside, however, is the fact that he played at right tackle at Wisconsin, but he should be able to move to the left side soon enough.

Everybody hopes that their team will win the Super Bowl, and the Bears are close.  Even though they had a lot of luck on their side, don’t be shocked if the Bears make it back to the playoffs next season.

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Feeling Drafty #28: New England Patriots: Offense

April 24, 2011 at 6:00 pm (Sports) (, , , , , , , , , )

 
Tom Brady had one of the best seasons a quarterback ever had. Of course, he’s going to win New England Team MVP.

If Andy Reid and the Eagles wrote the book on getting the most out of their late round draft picks, then Bill Belichick owns the book, and has read it religiously.  Check out all of these players who are a big part of the Patriots offense who were drafted in later rounds:

  • Brandon Tate, 3rd round, 83rd pick
  • Aaron Hernandez, 4th round, 113th pick
  • Sammy Morris, 5th round, 156th pick (by Buffalo)
  • Tom Brady, 6th round, 199th pick
  • Julian Edelman, 7th round, 232nd pick
  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis, undrafted
  • Danny Woodhead, undrafted (by NY Jets)
  • Wes Welker, undrafted (by San Diego)

Only five major skill players on New England’s vast offense of playmakers were drafted in the first two rounds.  Everyone else, late round steals.  Great job by Belichick for recognizing talent and bringing them onboard, no matter how their college career went.

I’m pretty sure that everyone in America wishes they could be Tom Brady.  He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league right now, and possibly one of the best of all time.  He holds the record for most touchdowns in a single season.  His wife is SMOKIN’ HOT.  Face it, his life rocks.  And this season, he only cemented his awesomeness even further, by winning the MVP.  This season, he also set the all-time records for quickest quarterback to 100 wins, most consecutive regular season home wins, most consecutive two-touchdown, zero-interception games, most consecutive pass attempts without an interception, and best touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The running back situation was pretty interesting.  They started the season with four running backs, and ended the season with two running backs, but none of those six running backs were the same person.  After Laurence Maroney was traded to the Broncos, Kevin Faulk was put on injured reserve, Fred Taylor was hurt for most of the season, and Sammy Morris was converted to a fullback, that left the door open for BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead to come in and carry the load for the Patriots.  And carry it they did, BJGE went for over 1,000 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, while Woodhead went for 926 total yards and six total touchdowns.

When the Patriots got rid of Randy Moss, all of my friends said that the Patriots were stupid, and that Bill Belichick had lost it, especially when they essentially exchanged him for Deion Branch.  But, I reminded them, that Bill Belichick never does anything for nothing.  And, wouldn’t you know it, Moss dropped off the face of the earth, and Branch came back in a big way for the Pats, proving once again that I am right about everything football.  (OK, maybe not.)  Oh yeah, and Wes Welker came back from injury to go to his third straight Pro Bowl, and he went for 86 receptions, 848 yards, and seven touchdowns in just 11 starts.  Par for the course for Welker.

And what New England’s tight ends?  Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were drafted with New England’s second and fourth round draft picks, and when Randy Moss was deemed expendable, the two rookies became inexpendable.  Gronkowski had 42 catches for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Hernandez went for a 45-563-6 season.  And let’s give a nod to Alge Crumpler.  He didn’t have a great season, but he was in there, doing the dirty work, throwing blocks and making New England’s three tight end set work, all at age 32 or 33.  Well done, Mr. Crumpler.

Justin Houston has climbed up the draft board like none other. This time last season, he could've been a late third-round pick. Now, he projects to be a late first rounder.

But, after all of that, the Patriots, in my opinion, will go for a defensive player.  After all, when was the last time that the Patriots went for an offensive player with their first round pick?  (Answer: Laurence Maroney, 2006, and he’s not even on the team anymore)  So, they have a need at linebacker, so I’m going to say Georgia OLB/DE Justin Houston.  He’s in a good position to convert to linebacker, at 6’3″ and 258 pounds.  He had a great season, with 56 tackles and 10 sacks at defensive end.  He should be able to fill the hole that Junior Seau left when he retired.  (Or Seau could just un-retire.  Seriously, Seau is the defensive Brett Favre.)

Tomorrow, we’ll have the teams that made it to the conference championship games.  It’s time for the final four.  See you in Chicago.

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