Saturday, May 29, 2010

NFC Draft In Review

For the NFC North in review, you can see my past blogs for the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Vikings.  Here's the rest of the NFC.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: Best Pick: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee.  Sleeper Pick: O'Brien Schofield, OLB, Wisconsin.  Nice draft here, filling what they lost in free agency almost with every pick.  Skelton is a very good project QB and could be a starter with plenty of work.  Daryl Washington will rush the passer well for them.

St. Louis Rams: Best Pick: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma.  Sleeper Pick: Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati.  The Rams got their QB and Oline help to out their first picks this year and last year.  Jerome Murphy is a good for depth, Gilyard should be a KR/PR threat and possible slot threat.  A good draft, but they need so much more at this point.

San Francisco 49ers: Best Pick: Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho.  Sleeper Pick: Anthony Dixon, RB Mississippi State.  Really good draft.  Davis and Iupati will set the foundation for the Oline for a long time.  Taylor Mays is really good value but needs work.  Bowman will play well if Singletary can get to him.  Dixon will bring another good running back to the depth chart.  Very solid.

Seattle Seahawks: Best Pick: Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State.  Sleeper Pick: EJ Wilson, DE, North Carolina.  The Seahawks did a great job, improving their secondary and getting their franchise LT.  Tate will give a spark to the offense with a new QB coming in.  Lots of good picks and good job by Pete Carroll.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints: Best Pick: Charles Brown, OT, USC.  Sleeper Pick: Jimmy Graham, TE, Miami.  First Rounder Patrick Robinson should be a solid starter someday, but with so many CBs taken early he could have been a reach.  Brown needs work, Graham is a project behind Shockey.  Sean Canfield will be a career backup in the NFL.

Carolina Panthers: Best Pick: Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame.  Sleeper Pick: Armanti Edwards, QB, Appalachian State.  Clausen is amazing value here, as some people think he is better than Bradford.  Edwards brings a slash guy, he can run the wildcat, trick plays, slot receiver.  I love guys like that.  LaFell could be a very good number 2 guy.  The rest of the picks are solid.  Not a bad draft at all.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Best Pick: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma.  Sleeper Pick: Mike Williams, WR, Syracuse.  McCoy is their new Warren Sapp with a better attitude.  Brian Price was great value and if he works hard he can make a nice 1-2 punch.  Benn and Williams also need to work but could improve the offense drastically.  The rest of the picks were defensive help and a starting punter.  Not bad.

Atlanta Falcons: Best Pick: Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri.  Sleeper Pick: Mike Johnson, OG, Alabama.  The Falcons found a really good OLB that will be a force in a few years.  I love Mike Johnson, who will be a backup for a few years could be a good starter.  Peters wasn't a great pick, and the rest of the draft isn't very good.  Solid, but not great.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: Best Pick: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State.  Sleeper Pick: Sam Young, OT, Notre Dame.  Bryant is a extremely talented receiver and makes the Cowboys offense, who will throw more this season, much more potent.  Sean Lee, if healthy, could be a starter at MLB.  Owusu-Ansah is a small college guy but could be good, in the short term as a returner.

Philadelphia Eagles: Best Pick: Brandon Graham, OLB, Michigan.  Sleeper Pick: Mike Kafka, QB, Northwestern.  Graham brings pass rushing, but is small for a DE.  Nate Allen is a good safety, but no Brian Dawkins.  Kafka needs a ton of work but could be solid down the road.  Riley Cooper could be a slot guy, and Charles Scott is a big running back to compliment McCoy.  Good draft, although a lot has to come through.

New York Giants: Best Pick: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida.  Sleeper Pick: Chad Jones, S, LSU.  Pierre-Paul is an athletic freak and total feast or famine pick.  Linval Joseph is a huge DT prospect.  Jones could start sooner than later.  They got their punter, Dodge, and some good depth.  A lot of this draft depends on Pierre-Paul.

Washington Redskins: Best Pick: Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma.  Sleeper Pick: Selvish Capers, OT, West Virginia.  Williams over Okung was a bit of a surprise.  If he works hard, he takes care of a gaping hole for the Redskins.  Perry Riley could be a solid starter, and Terrence Austin will be solid on KR/PR and join the team as the tenth slot receiver.  Capers has tons of upside.  Not bad for a team not too far away from competing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Stanley Cup Questions With Tek Jansen

My friend and hockey expert Tek Jansen at the blog Marching On The Red Cedar makes Barry Melrose look like a joke.  I sat down with him and asked him some questions on the upcoming Stanley Cup Final.

1. Does a 7 seed in Philadelphia in the Stanley Cup Finals show weakness in the NHL, or the salary cap is working?  What about the Eastern Conference playoffs as a whole?

A 7 seed in the Cup Finals shows partially that it takes a lot of luck, yet a lot of skill, to win the Cup.  You need to get hot at the right times.  Philadelphia was lucky in that they were a mere shootout goal by Ollie Jokinen from possibly not even being in the playoffs.  But how can we call them lucky?  They've had one of the biggest goaltending carousels in recent history; no goalie started more than 30 games for them.  There is a basic formula including a hot goalie, strong secondary scoring (in addition to big numbers by the stars), which is often created by winning battles and working harder, and at least 4 solid defensemen, but each year this formula is often overlooked to look square at how one-particular-team did it.  We've seen teams try to get tougher after Anaheim (Toronto, Philadelphia), more possessive after Detroit (San Jose, Washington, Chicago), more high-end talent after Pittsburgh (Boston?, Edmonton?, NY Islanders?).  Have any of those teams repeated?  No.  The Flyers have 5 expensive forwards, and 2 expensive defensemen, but have found cheap goaltending to work for them, which seems to have been this year's theme; but as stated, there are differing circumstances every year.  Big teams in the East choked, either by getting outworked or going cold, which may have paved the path for the odd pairing in the battle for the Prince of Wales Trophy.

2.  Who is the X factor for both teams in the series?

The "X-Factor" is a misnomer, say I.  Basically, the teams need to squeeze the last bits out of my formula from above.  Stars scoring, secondary players adding, defensemen being factors, and strong goaltending.  It's a team game for a reason.  But if I must individualize things, I'll argue that keeping Byfuglien to score timely goals (4 GWG, 8 overall) would keep pressure off of stars currently producing (Toews, Kane, Keith) and those not scoring (Hossa, Campbell).  Meanwhile, I'm going to give the tag to Chris Pronger of the Flyers, because he anchors a relatively younger group of defensemen trying to protect a goaltender with a scattered past.  The man plays over 30 minutes a game, and Michael Leighton said it best himself that Pronger's 4-minute penalty in the 3rd in Game 5 against Montreal was a blessing in disguise, as it merely rested him for the stretch run.

3.  Do you join a growing amount of Red Wings fans who greatly dislike the Blackhawks?

It comes down to the cities themselves.  Unfortunately, I don't.  I don't like Chicago fans (despite loving their city), but I despise Philadelphia fans (a cool city too), even though their serenade of the Habs with "Ole, Ole, Ole" was hilarious.  But Bobby Clarke and Eric Lindros have rubbed me the wrong way more than Ed Belfour and Jeremy Roenick have.  I'd love to see Hossa go down a 3rd time, but Philadelphia hadn't won anything for years until the Phillies, and I think the SportsGods did so for a reason.  Chicago has had losers too, but the Bulls weren't exactly the Cubs.  Philadelphia doesn't need any more success, even though a cup in Chicago would put the biggest pressure on my Toronto Maple Leafs.  Honestly, I hate a number of players on both teams, for a myriad of reasons.  But if nothing else, for as great as It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia is, Da Superfans was a better and funnier sketch on SNL.  Oh, and ya gotta support a toothless and fellow Spartan, Duncan Keith.

4.  I would have personally made a “Jason Garrett” offer to Steve Yzerman to keep him in Hockeytown.  

What would have you done, and what do you think Yzerman will do in Tampa Bay?
I would have let him go, much as he did.  I think Yzerman put in his time, and was ready to move on.  Not to say that I don't think Yzerman added something to the front office, but the "Jason Garrett" of Detroit is Devellano, with a nod to Nill.  Yzerman trained in one of the best situations possible, and he needs to see for himself if he can handle the task.  Win or lose, he will always be a Red Wing and welcome in the organization.  I think he'll help Stamkos grow into an Yzerman-type (more than the other supposed next-ones, like Matt Duchene and Jonathan Toews...Yzerman would never do a stupid sideburns playoff beard) and hope that Hedman turns into a Swedish Pronger.  Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis are two great forwards, but I wonder if one of them with the #6 overall pick this year could turn into Taylor Hall/Tyler Seguin and something else.  I wish him the best, and hope that if he wants it, he'll consider a return to Detroit, possibly to succeed Holland.

5.  Who will win the Cup this year and why?

Both teams have impressive offensive pieces (Toews/Kane/Hossa/Sharp, Richards/Briere/Carter/Gagne), some depth scoring (Byfuglien/Versteeg, Giroux/Leino), and hot goalies (Niemi, Leighton).  Both teams play in two of the toughest road arenas.  Both teams have beaten at least two choker teams (Vancouver/San Jose, New Jersey/Boston) Philadelphia has won 8 of its last 9 games and has been defensively sound.  However, Chicago is the team to beat.  They look as smooth as Mike Babcock's hair, and have been on a mission for 49 years, focused 3 years ago, and intensely moving with the signing of good luck charm Marian Hossa.  I think the third time is the charm for him, and they do it in 5 games, hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup in the United Center.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

AFC Draft In Review Part 2

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: Best Pick: Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama. Sleeper Pick: Arthur Jones, Syracuse, DT.  Kindle is a first round talent but needs knee surgery and fell to the Ravens, who can redshirt him and work him into their system.  Cody fell because of his weight.  In the Ravens 3-4, he can be pretty fat and still be effective.  They got lots of talent later in the draft to help this defense get depth and youth.

Cleveland: Best Pick: Joe Haden, CB, Florida.  Sleeper: Montario Hardesty, RB, Tennessee.  McCoy falling to them (again and again) will be the biggest story, but the Browns made some weird picks.  I love Hardesty, Ward is too injury prone, and  the rest of the draft wasn't spectacular.  They need lots of talent, and fast.

Cincinnati Bengals: Best Pick: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida.  Sleeper: Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas.  Very impressive draft.  Gresham has all the talent in the world, but has injury problems.  Dunlap has all the talent in the world but behavior problems.  Shipley can play the slot, Ghee is a solid CB, and Geno Atkins is very good but needs motivation.  Even Briscoe is solid.  Good draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Best Pick: Maurkice Pouncey, OG, Florida.  Sleeper: Emmanuel Sanders, WR, SMU.  Pouncey addresses a big need and not reaching for a QB helps.  Gibson is a solid pick in the 4th, Brown will be a good returner.  Dwyer is a good pick, and can split carries while playing a pro style offense.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars: Best Pick: Tyson Aluala, DT, California.  Sleeper: Deji Karim, RB, Southern Illinois.  Head scratcher at number 1.  The Jags signed Aaron Kampman, and drafted two pass rushing DTs early in the draft.  Karim could be a really good 3rd down back.  The Jags could make us all look bad or be embarrassed in a few years with this one.

Tennessee Titans: Best Pick: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech.  Sleeper: Myron Rolle, S, Florida State.  The Titans got Morgan, the most NFL ready DE.  Williams is a solid WR to compliment Britt. Rolle and QB Rusty Smith both have a lot of upside and questions.  Nice draft, but nothing really stands out past Round 2.

Indianapolis Colts: Best Pick: Jerry Hughes, OLB, TCU.  Sleeper: Kevin Thomas, CB, USC.  Hughes will be a really good pass rusher and could be moved to DE.  Angerer will be a very good MLB and will start in a few years.  Thomas is a talented sleeper and CB.  Pretty solid draft, covering some needs.

Houston Texans:  Best Pick: Ben Tate, RB, Auburn.  Sleeper: Earl Mitchell, DT, Arizona.  Tate automatically makes the Texans incredible offense better.  Slaton can go to a more appropriate role.  Earl Mitchell improves the run defense.  Trindon Holliday will improve the run game if he can prove durable.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

You're Welcome!

1. DeMarcus Beasly:  In a surprise move, the old vet Beasly makes the final 23 for the US, after paying his dues in Scotland for the Rangers.  He joins a young team that could be the USA's best since 1994.  Beasly, who was so disappointing not too long ago, joins rising star Herculez Gomez as guys who were no way on the team a few months ago.  I really like this squad, they will make it out of group play.  Past that?  I can't say.

2. New York/New Jersey (and other cold NFL locations): The Giants and Jets got their Super Bowl, in 2014, the first in a cold location open stadium.  Minnesota has had 1 Super Bowl, Detroit has had 2 (one in Pontiac).  This opens the door for the rest of the cold area teams, who usually get snubbed this time of the year.  If this Super Bowl goes well, expect more cold area games, in Chicago, Green Bay, etc.  This is going to be fun.

3. Vladimir Guerrero:  After the worse season as an Angel, Vlad moved to Texas and is now rejuvenating his career.  He just had a 2 home run game against the Royals, to raise his total to 12 for the season.  He still hits anything thrown at him, cementing himself as the top bad ball hitter in MLB history.  If he continues this, the Rangers will make the playoffs and be one of the best stories in baseball this year.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

AFC Draft In Review Part 1

Today I will take a look at the AFC East and West draft in review.  The AFC North and South will be on Thursday, and The rest of the NFC soon.

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills: Best Pick: CJ Spiller, RB Clemson.  Sleeper: Alex Carrington, DE, Arkansas St. This was a solid draft, helping them transition to the 3-4 defense.  Spiller was a best available pick, and I am surprised they passed on Clausen.  Their QB situation is awful.  This is a multi-year rebuild.

Miami Dolphins: Best Pick: Koa Misi, OLB, Utah.  Sleeper: Nolan Carroll, CB, Maryland.  This draft was not flashy at all, but filled needs and provided depth.  The Marshall trade counts as the offensive side draft.  Passing on a RB could hurt.

New England Patriots: Best Pick: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona. Sleeper: Taylor Price, WR, Ohio.  The Pats obviously value TEs and filled a few spots they needed.  Lots of depth here, they stockpiled talent again.  Taking mostly 2nd rounders will catch up to them.

New York Jets: Best Pick: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State. Sleeper: Joe McKnight, RB, USC.  Another draft with not a lot of picks, the Jets addressed a need at OG.  They took a project with Ducasse and cut their starter Faneca.  Wilson at CB is taking a player at an extreme team strength.  Solid draft, but confusing.

AFC West:

Kansas City Chiefs: Best Pick: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee.  Sleeper: Jon Asamoah, OG, Illinois.  A very solid draft.  Berry is going to be great, McCluster is a versatile weapon, Arenas will at least be a good KR/PR.  They have a lot of needs but this will lay a solid foundation to build upon.

Oakland Raiders: Best Pick: Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama.  Sleeper: Jacoby Ford, WR, Clemson.  This was one of my favorite drafts this year.  McClain is solid and will contribute right away.  They improved their OL and DLs.  A few projects here and there will pay off with good coaching.  They didn't reach or make any stupid picks.  The Raiders will be a dark horse next year, and could be returning to respectability.

Denver Broncos: Best Pick: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech Sleeper: Zane Beadles, OG, Utah. Another confusing draft with Tebow going very high.  I like the WRs and OL help, but where do all these guys fit?  This is part 2 of 3 in the McDaniels project.

San Diego Chargers: Best Pick: Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State. Sleeper: Donald Butler, LB, Washington.  A good draft up top, but later on tailed off.  Crompton could be solid in a few years.  Mathews filled a huge hole.  Soon, the Chargers will see this depth pay off more when some starters leave.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Resurgent Cubs: Could They Compete?

The Cubs have battled back in the last few weeks to climb to 4.5 games behind the disappointing Cardinals and surprising Reds.  The Cubs have had a rough season so far, but with an injection of young talent, they could overtake the top of the Central before the All-Star break, if they catch some breaks.

The Wild Card comes to mind almost immediately.  The NL East might produce one, the Mets are better than believed, but still are an average ball club.  The Nationals are good now and will get Strasburg soon, but it won't be enough.  The Reds could challenge for a spot and they are getting Chapman sometime in July.  Can they keep it together, with all their young talent?  I doubt it.  The NL West can get a wild card team, because the Padres are playing very well, and the Giants are fairly talented (pitching is out of this world).  The Dodgers aren't going to make the playoffs.  The Cubs can beat out the NL East if they win more than 85 games.  With the Pirates and Astros (and Brewers) 85 seems fairly likely.  Same for the NL West.  Sure, the Rockies could come out of nowhere, but for me, 85 wins is the goal the Cubs needs to make.  I highly doubt they will catch the Cards, despite injuries they are too good.

The Cub's biggest problem is timely hitting.  How often do you watch Sportscenter and see the Cubs lost 3-2 with 2 men on base when the last out is recorded?  The starting pitching continues to be spectacular but the bullpen is less than stellar outside of Sean Marshall.  Marmol walks too many hitters.  Zambrano needs to come back to the rotation to have a shot at the playoffs.  He has so much talent, although we won't ever see it all at once.  Lilly is still making his way back.  Silva is an All-Star so far, such a welcome surprise because he was the guy thrown in for the Bradley trade (which we already won). The pitching will be there, but it needs to be so good for the Cubs to get over .500.

Lee and Ramirez are going to be on their downside soon.  Castro is too young to rely on game in and game out, but has been very good.  Byrd has been a nice addition.  Colvin has been pretty good.  Soriano is having his best season ever for the Cubs.  Ramirez will probably get a late season charge if given the opportunity. But all that hitting doesn't count if we can't score consistently. 

If the Cubs can hit better with runners on base, watch out.  They can pitch with the best of them and play good defense.  They have to play even smaller ball to squeeze out runs or just turn it on when the weather gets better.  I am starting to believe a little more in this team, and if the rookies pan out, next year could be big for the Cubs.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Conference Finals Disappointing For Both Leagues

As I waited for the two sport conference finals at the beginning of April, I was sure the NBA and NHL would deliver for another year.  The NHL had early round upsets and some 7 game series, but now we are paying the price with lower quality hockey in the Eastern Conference finals.  Even the Western Conference finals, who have the two best teams competing, has a 2-0 series lead for the (increasingly annoying) Blackhawks with 3 more games in Chicago.  I am just hoping the West winner doesn't completely embarrass the Eastern Conference champs.

The NBA is no better.  The Boston Celtics completely nuked the basketball world and ruined ESPN for 3 months by easily defeating the Cavs.  Then, to stay in character, the Celtics are fairly effortlessly dismantling the Magic, winning two at home and will wrap up the series sometimes withing the next 3 months because of the stupid NBA playoff schedule.

Not to be outdone, the LA Lakers are destroying the Suns.  The Suns don't play defense.  I've known that for a decade.  But Stoudemire and Nash really don't play defense.  Now, they are relying on Jared Dudley to guard Kobe Bryant after the Grant Hill fiasco.  Yeah, Jared Dudley.  He was number 2 after 37 year old Grant Hill.  Its such a mess that they will have to score 140 points in 4 games to win the series.  They have no answer for Gasol.  Lamar Odom looks like an All-Star, and I am doubtful I was right saying Lakers in 5.  I have a hard time seeing the Lakers losing.  Its like the NFL.  If you don't play defense, it will come back to haunt you in the playoffs.

What do these playoffs show us?  I think a few things.  For the NHL, their superstars had a bad year.  Ovie is having a bad career in the playoffs so far, and Crosby had a bad series, being distracted by my endorsement.  Also, the salary cap is working and teams who are smart can win in the playoffs.  Some teams totally collapse (Boston) and it shows it was just a weird year.  In the NBA, it shows only 4 or 5 teams were very good this year.  The Nuggets and Mavericks were eliminated early in the West, opening the door for a team like the Suns to go into a series with the mighty Lakers.  The East had the Cavs, who may or may not been distracted by LeBron's mothers actions (you know the story).  So many teams were just trying to get cap room to go after the elite free agents this year. 

Sometimes, the playoffs stink.  It happens.  We can not always count on great games and performances.  But this year, we should expect more from the sports we love, and unless the finals are incredible, I'll be walking away unsatisfied.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You're Welcome!

1. Brennan Boesch:  This guy has been killer for the Tigers.  He has the snot of the ball, sporting a .387 average and giving the Tigers a legitimate left handed bat.  With the disappointment of Sizemore and the middle of the infield, having a rookie who came out of nowhere is something the Tigers needed to keep pace with the red hot Twinkies.  Will he continue this pace?  Of course not.  But to have extra offense on a pitching team is huge, and the Tigers are a starting pitching turnaround away from being the top team in the AL Central.

2. Rajon Rondo:  Is anybody else taking this guy seriously yet?  Hes putting up triple doubles and scoring big time (for himself) and hes still not getting love.  Hes playing on the same team as Los Tres Amigos (also a restaurant in East Lansing) but it will soon be his team.  Boston is playing better than anybody thought they would, and Rondo could be the catalyst to the team making the finals.

3. Lamar Odom:  The third most popular Laker is married to the third most popular Kardashian and is the luckiest man in the NBA dropping 19 points and 19 boards.  Amar'e Stoudamire says he got lucky on Monday because Stoudamire, the self proclaimed "best player in the NBA" was too busy guarding Gasol and Bynum.  That's funny, because he didn't play any defense against anybody.  With the zen master retiring and the Lakers smelling blood, the Suns just shot themselves in the foot with giving them more motivation.  Lakers in 5.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

NHL Is Cinderella Central

With the Habs beating the mighty Penguins last night, the NHL has really shown its balance in the last few  weeks.  The Canadiens, an 8 seed, beat the two best teams in the East, Washington and Pittsburgh.  Marc-Andre Fleury was awful and Crosby had 3 points.  I know, right when I stand up for the guy he chokes.  Is this the start of a STWWC Curse?  Lord, I hope so.

The other series, Philly and Boston is going to game 7 after the Bruins choked away a 3-0 series lead.  Philly got healthy, and now have a chance to force a 7 seed versus 8 seed Eastern Conference Finals (after losing starting goalie Brian "Bobby" Boucher in game 6).  Imagine in the NBA if the Eastern Finals was Chicago vs Charlotte?  ESPN would have a parade.  Sadly, we must all settle for Versus.

Can Montreal, Boston or Philadelphia win the Stanley Cup?  If they do, they must get past San Jose or Chicago, both hire seeds with "more" talent and with more expectations.  Sure, San Jose not choking is an upset in itself, but the Sharks added Dany Heatley and Chicago is one of the most talented teams in the NHL.  Canada has not won a Stanley Cup since 1993.  They haven't been to one since 2007 (thats an eternity for our neighbors to the north, with the Ottawa Senators (2006 saw the Edmonton Oilers, 2004 with Calgary, pre-lockout).  Montreal can if the ride Halak and get healthy.  Boston can if they play like they did in games 1-3, and the Flyers can if they just keep believing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

You're Welcome!

1. Boston Celtics: The Celtics are beating the LeBrons 3-2 in the series with another game at home.  LeBron and his elbow (which has a twitter) are really choking in the playoffs again.  The Lakers and Magic are setting themselves up for a rematch in the Finals.  The elbow, Cleveland, a poor supporting cast, all can be excuses for this implosion.  Or, we can look at the Celtics, with its core of players aging, trying to give it one more go.

2. Dallas Braden (and his Grandma):  The Oakland A's pitcher threw the 19th perfect game in MLB history, after talking a little trash to Alex Rodriguez.  Then his Grandma joined it, telling A-Rod to "stick it".  This is a fun story that we don't see much of in today's politically correct sports world.  Sure, its been resolved, but wouldn't it be fun to have a little more rivalry between ball players and their Grandma's?

3. Phoenix Suns:  Steve Nash, beat up again with stitches near his eye, led Los Suns to a sweep of the rival Spurs and a trip to the Western Conference finals versus defending champs Los Angeles.  The Suns, who held onto Stoudamire to make another run at a title.  Grant Hill has played well, Goran Dragic had a career night in Game 3 and Richardson has improved his game.  Robin Lopez could be back after the week off, and Nash will be 100%.  Will they beat the Lakers, probably not.  Can they?  We'll see how many more wins they can pull off this season.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Green Bay Packers Draft In Review

The Packers started off the draft great with Brian Bulaga.  Resisting some of the other top flight talent was pretty tough, but Ted Thompson has done it before to fill a need (BJ Raji over Michael Crabtree last year).  Later on they took some good picks with upside, largely ignoring injury problems.  Solid draft that should help a team on the rise fill more holes.  Draft Grade: B.

First Round, 23rd Overall, Brian Bulaga OT, Iowa:  Big tackle that comes from a system that produces a lot of lineman.  Smart and tough, and like everyone covering the draft said, he looks like a Packer.  Fills a big need, but will be asked to play LT with T.J. Lang handling RT.  There will be a learning curve.  Will have some time to learn with Tauscher coming back.   Good pick, but needs to get better at LT.  Grade: A-

Second Round, 56th Overall, Michael Neal DT, Purdue:  A big reach by the Packers, but maybe they see something because I don't really.  Injury prone, Neal played DT in college but will probably play DE in the Packer's 3-4.  Good pass rusher, and has some speed.  Not terrible, but not great.  Still some talent on the board that could have helped the OL or CB, what GB really needs.  Grade: C-

Third Round, 71st Overall, Morgan Burnett S, Georgia Tech:  Sold pick here. I really like it.  Getting good value in the third for this player.  Gives them depth at safety and could be a starter someday.  Needs some polishing but will be a good player.  Grade: B

Fifth Round, 154th Overall, Andrew Quarless TE, Penn State:  I love all the Big Ten picks in this draft.  Quarless is a good upside player that could be a solid backup behind Finley.  Athletic and physical, a real Nittany Lion, he could be a really good pick for them.  Will fight for playing time.  Grade: B

Fifth Round, 169th Overall, Marshall Newhouse OG, TCU:  Comes from a good offense and school, but lacks some skills that will keep him from starting in the NFL.  Good depth guy for the Pack.  They must really love Matt Flynn because some good QBs were here for them to take.  Grade: C

Sixth Round, 193rd Overall, James Starks RB, Buffalo
:  Big and fast.  I got to see this guy play in person and I was impressed.  Injury prone, otherwise he would have went earlier.  If he can stay healthy he will be a very solid addition to the Packers backfield behind Ryan Grant.Grade: C+

Seventh Round, 230th Overall, C.J. Wilson DE, East Carolina: Will fill gaps in the 3-4 defense.  May get in some playing time as a rotation guy.  Smaller school guy who needs some work in the NFL.  Solid depth guy.  Grade: C+

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Minnesota Vikings Draft In Review

The Vikings had a below average draft with their biggest pick being Stanford Running Back Toby Gerhart.  Not getting a Quarterback could be their biggest downfall, as Favre and his ankle injury could have him seriously consider hanging up his cleats.  Many of the picks are projects and could be good in a few years.  Most everyone will be depth on this talented team.  Overall Grade: C+

Second Round, 34th Pick, CB Chris Cook, Virginia:  Obviously reaching to fill a need.  The Viking's corners are banged up and the need depth at this position.  Has good ball skills, but can he cover?  All the elite corners were off the board by the time this pick was made. Will have time to learn to play in the NFL.  Grade: C

Second Round, 51st Pick, RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford:  Is more of a downhill runner than Peterson, but does not bring the receiving or pass blocking Chester Taylor did.  He does combine to make the toughest running team in the NFL.  Doesn't have a lot of explosiveness, but is faster than you would think.  Not a bad pick here, solidifies their identity.  Grade: B

Fourth Round, 100th Pick, DE Everson Griffen, USC: Very good player, when he wants to be.  Inconsistent underachiever.  If he was more consistent he would get a 1st or 2nd round grade.  Has all the physical tools and talent to be very good.  He won't start, and maybe Jared Allen and Company can get him into shape and get his motor going.  Could be boom or bust.  Grade: C+

Fifth Round, 161st Pick, OG Chris DeGeare, Wake Forest:  Has weight problems, needs work.  Is a project, but could be a starter someday.  Good Run blocker.  Not bad in the Fifth round, but I liked more prospects here.  Grade: C

Fifth Round, 167th Pick, ILB Nathan Triplett, Minnesota:  Good Big Ten run stopping Linebacker.  Good senior season for a less than average Golden Gopher team.  Adds depth to uncertain LB situation.  Can not play on passing downs yet.  Grade: C

Sixth Round, 199th Pick, QB/WR Joe Webb, UAB: Played QB in college, but will switch to WR in the NFL.  Will need a long time to learn such a different position.  Could he play at the Wildcat?  No team has run that offense in the NFC North with any consistency.  Definitely a project.  Grade: C+

Seventh Round, 214th Pick, TE Mickey Schuler, Penn State: Big TE in the mold of Pre-Antonio Gates TE era.  Can be a receiving threat near the goal line.  Needs to block well to make this team.  Grade: C

Seventh Round, 237th Pick, ILB Ryan D'Imperio, Rutgers:  Tough hard working player.  Could make the special teams.  If he blows a guy up on coverage he has the makings of fan favorite.  Grade: C+

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

You're Welcome!

1. Montreal Canadiens:  Down 3-1, with 2 more games on the road and facing the best team in the regular season, the Canadiens went 1970's on the Capitals and won the series.  In the biggest upset of the NHL playoffs, Halak led the Canadiens to two huge wins over Ovie and the Caps.  Now Ovechkin has to answer all summer on how he lost to a team that had almost no shot at coming back and beating his star studded team.

2. Austin Jackson:  The main part to the Curtis Granderson deal, Jackson was named AL Rookie of the Month for April.  Hes shown hes a solid offensive and defensive player, and has speed for the basepaths, when (if) the Tigers need to play small ball.  To essentially replace a good older player with a good younger player is one of the better moves Dombrowski has made the last few years.  Sure, Jackson will slump like a rookie, but hes already showing good value.

3. San Diego Padres:  At 16-10, the Padres have already exceeded expectations.  The Adrian Gonzales Trade watch is now put on hold and San Diego is in 1st place in the NL West.  The Padres finished the season 37-25 last year, showing promise for a young team, mostly doing this without All-Star players.  Can it last?  The Dodgers are in ownership issues, the D-Backs are still finding their groove, the Rockies will turn it on in the second half, and the Giants have elite pitching but lock firepower.  Look for San Diego to hold on to the lead for a while, but fade late in the year.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Howard, Red Wings Need To Rebound In San Jose

Every playoff game is a must win, just ask the Capitals.  Tonight is a little different but still critical in the Wings making a deeper run in the postseason. 

The defense needs to move the puck better, bottom line.  Its hard to generate an attack when you can't move it past the blue line with any regularity.  The turnovers are even worse.  Ericsson has regressed considerably since the end of the season, and Stuart can only hit people now.  Rafalski can't handle passes and Lidstrom is looking more and more like hes forty years old.  Howard hasn't played great, but hasn't played awful either.  Hes doing pretty darn well considering the bad spots hes been put in. 

Franzen really needs to turn it on and have an amazing game.  He has been solid, but he should be able to take over games at times.  Datsyuk seems to be heating up, and Zetterberg has been playing like a beast.  Holmstrom needs to get in front of the goalie and dominate.  Babcock may still have a line change or two up his sleeve.

San Jose can blow a series at any time.  They play the Wing's system and break down often.  Look at the last game, where they almost blew a three goal lead.  The Wings need to play more like the Wings, and less like an undisciplined team.