2017 NFL Mock Draft

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This year, I’ve decided I have to jump on the NFL Mock Draft train. I can never recall a year in which every Mock Draft is almost completely different, showing how talented this draft class is and how no one really knows what’s going to happen on draft day.

Take a look at my predictions (without trades, which I believe there will be 2-3 of in the first round):

1. Cleveland Browns

Myles Garrett, DE

This is the only no-brainer in this draft class. Garrett has unparalleled athleticism and can be considered more of a lock than DE Jadeveon Clowney was when he came into the league. By pairing Garrett on the D-Line with DT Danny Shelton, LB Jamie Collins at the next level, and CB Joe Haden in the secondary, the Browns would have the makings of a strong defensive unit.

 

2. San Francisco 49ers

Mitchell Trubisky, QB

There is only one quarterback in this draft that I deem worthy of a first round selection, and that is not Trubisky. However, new coach Kyle Shanahan will want to draft a signal caller he can develop and mold into the player he wants. Trubisky has very limited experience at the NCAA level, and would most likely sit for half the season behind veteran QB Brian Hoyer. And yes, I am assuming that QB Kirk Cousins stays in Washington.

 

3. Chicago Bears

Solomon Thomas, DE

Thomas is one of those players that I didn’t hear about too much during the season, but once the workouts and projections began, he flew up draft boards. Now, he’s a projected Top-5 pick. Bears’ coach John Fox loves to build a strong defense, and there is no better way than to start in the trenches.

 

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

Leonard Fournette, RB

Yes, the Jaguars will make a splash and take the first running back off the board at the NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Louisiana StateNo. 4 spot. Jacksonville hasn’t had a consistent rushing attack since Fred Taylor donned the uniform, and QB Blake Bortles is just a year removed from a Pro Bowl caliber season. By adding Fournette, the Jaguars gain an immediate starter and power running game that will set Bortles up to succeed in the passing game. While Fournette is not the best option through the air, he is still the best running back in this class.

 

5. Tennessee Titans

Malik Hooker, S

Hooker is one of the top defensive back prospects in the draft. Coming from Ohio State, Hooker has the experience and playmaking ability NFL teams need in the secondary. The Titans boasted one of the league’s worse defensive backfields last season, and recently just cut CB Jason McCourty. The team needs reinforcements in the worst way.

 

6. New York Jets

DeShaun Watson, QB

At the No. 6 spot, the Jets could end up walking away with the draft’s best quarterback. Watson has the most experience and playmaking ability of any of this year’s signal callers, and would be a Day One starter for NY. Pairing Watson with WR Eric Decker could make for some highlights in what should be yet another tough season for the Jets.

 

7. Los Angeles Chargers

Mike Williams, WR

QB Philip Rivers time is running short with the team, and he needs weapons on offense. Last year after WR Keenan Allen went down, Rivers was left with an aging TE Antonio Gates in an otherwise stagnant offense. Williams would provide the big target that Rivers has never had on the outside, and would open up the passing game with three legitimate threats down the field.

 

8. Carolina Panthers

Jonathan Allen, DL

If there’s one team that values the defensive line heavily, its the Carolina Panthers. At the No. 8 spot, the team can pick Allen, who was once projected to be one of the top two picks in the draft. Allen can immediately start at either a defensive tackle or defensive end, depending on where the team views him as the best fit.

 

9. Cincinnati Bengals

Reuben Foster, LB

Foster is the best linebacker in the draft, and the Bengals love to add dominant linebackers. Plus, the team recently released LB Rey Maulaluga, a mainstay in the middle of the defense. By adding Foster, the team would pair him with LB Vontaze Burfict, to give them a solid duo in the middle of the field for the next few seasons.

 

10. Buffalo Bills

Cam Robinson, T

If there were a team that I believe would trade down in this draft, it would be the Buffalo Bills. This team has a lot of holes, and by adding some picks later in the draft, they can fill them with young players. However, if they were to stay at 10, Robinson is a great choice to plug in as a Day One starter on the offensive line, to help protect QB Tyrod Taylor.

 

11. New Orleans Saints

Corey Davis, WR

I believe Davis is the best all-around wide receiver in this draft. Despite playing at a smaller school, Davis’s all around package of size, speed, and playmaking ability makes him an ideal fit for the NFL. QB Drew Brees only has a few years left in the league, so bringing in Davis gives them an immediate weapon while also providing a target for the QB of the future.

 

12. Cleveland Browns

O.J. Howard, TE

Assuming that the Browns don’t trade this pick, they will need to provide their signal caller some weapons in the passing game. My predictions have the Browns missing out on their QB of the future in the first round, but adding a young stud like Howard provides pieces for down the road. Howard is the unquestioned top tight end of this draft, and can be a Day One starter in the NFL. His size and athletic ability give Howard the potential to be a perennial Pro Bowler.

 

13. Arizona Cardinals

Derek Barnett, DE

The Cardinals defense has been a nasty, tough unit over the past few seasons. The team has relied on its defensive front getting pressure on the quarterback and stuffing the running game to gain the advantage on defense. Barnett fits right into the nasty, tough mold, and gives the Cardinals a much needed edge rush presence.

 

14. Philadelphia Eagles

Gareon Conley, CB

The Eagles biggest need is cornerbacks, so it should be no surprise that the team will 74715_hjump on the chance to select one with its first round pick. Conley has shown that he has everything necessary to be a solid starter in the NFL, and would be immediately thrown into the fire with this Philadelphia team.

 

15. Indianapolis Colts

Ryan Ramczyk, T

The Colts have struggled protecting QB Andrew Luck. In the past few seasons, Luck has been forced to miss time with injury. By adding Ramczyk to the O-Line, the team has the tackle positions covered, which should create some depth for the interior of the line.

 

16. Baltimore Ravens

Tre’Davious White, CB

The Ravens are lacking in the secondary. Outside of S Eric Weddle and CB Jimmy Smith, the Dirty Birds are rather pedestrian in the defensive backfield. White would immediately become a starter on the opposite side of Smith, and would form a formidable core for the future.

 

17. Washington Redskins

John Ross, WR

After losing both WRs DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to free agency, the Redskins brought in WR Terrelle Pryor as a replacement. However, with just one year of receiving experience under his belt, and with WR Josh Doctson basically redshirting his rookie season, QB Kirk Cousins will need some targets. Adding Ross gives the Redskins a deep threat and dangerous slot option as that group of receivers could grow together over the next few seasons.

 

18. Tennessee Titans

Marshon Lattimore, S

This is my big drop prediction for the draft. Teams have concerns about Lattimore’s ability to stay healthy, but no one doubts his potential to become a solid defensive back. In this draft, with so many players that seem to be safe picks, you want to nail your first rounder. It’s all about finding a team willing to take a bet on Lattimore. After all the problems the Titans have had in the secondary, I’m sure they would be thrilled to get Lattimore near the bottom of the first round.

 

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dalvin Cook, RB

florida-state-dalvin-cook-1000Cook is a no-brainer to the Bucs. To me, it’s amazing that he would fall this far, but this is what many are projecting to happen on Draft Day, and I don’t see it being out of the realm of possibility. Of course, the team already has concerns at the position with RB Doug Martin facing a PED suspension, and Cook would give the team an all-around back with fresh legs in the league. Plus, Cook could reunite with QB Jameis Winston to keep the Florida State connection going.

 

20. Denver Broncos

Forrest Lamp, G

Lamp is coming from a smaller school in Western Kentucky, but has shown scouts what they need to believe he is one of the best interior lineman of this class. The Broncos need to bulk up on the line to protect whoever they have start at QB.

 

21. Detroit Lions

Haason Reddick, LB

The Lions have a hole at LB that has been there since Stephen Tulloch left and grew now that the team released DeAndre Levy this off season. Reddick can step in to start in the middle of the defense, and is athletic enough to make plays all over the field. This is a good fit for both sides.

 

22. Miami Dolphins

David Njoku, TE

The Dolphins are in need of a tight end to be QB Ryan Tannehill’s safety blanket. This would help the Fins’ offense, creating room for WR Jarvis Landry on the outside while opening up space for the running game.

 

23. New York Giants

Garett Bolles, T

The Giants need to add an offensive lineman, and I have Bolles as the best available left in the first round. It will be interesting to see where the G-Men would slot Bolles and T Ereck Flowers, but Bolles gives them a strong option along the line.

 

24. Oakland Raiders

Kevin King, CB

The Raiders’ defense is almost complete, and adding to the secondary is the best way to get there. King would be able to step in and start on the outside or at the nickelback position.

 

25. Houston Texans

Taco Charlton, DE

The Texans need to bulk up on the defensive line as DEs Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt are injury prone. Adding Charlton to the group creates some depth and a potentially dominate pass rush for Houston.

 

26. Seattle Seahawks

Malik McDowell, DT

The Seahawks are at there best when the defensive line is the primary source of a solid pass rush. Adding McDowell to the middle of a defensive front with ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett frees them up to get pressure on the outside and to the quarterback.

 

27. Kansas City Chiefs

Christian McCaffrey, RBChristian-McCaffrey

Many have McCaffrey higher on their draft boards, but not too long ago, he was slotted to go in the back of the first round. There are a few that compare McCaffrey to former Eagles’ RB Brian Westbrook, and Westbrook’s former coach leads the Chiefs. I’m one that believes McCaffrey is a part time back, but can still be a dynamic playmaker.

28. Dallas Cowboys

T.J. Watt, OLB

Another Watt to the state of Texas. The Cowboys need to add a pass rusher, and Watt would be able to play a little bit of end in 4-3 sets.

29. Green Bay Packers

Charles Harris, OLB

Harris has been flying up some draft boards, but I think he drops and fits in well with the Packers, who need to add pass rushers as well. With many concerns in the secondary, rushing the passer may be the best way to limit big plays for the Pack.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers

Jarrad Davis, LB

Another linebacker for the Steelers. Davis is a player could play well in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, and should fit in well next to MLB Ryan Shazier.

31. Atlanta Falcons

Takkarist McKinley, DE

The Falcons, like so many teams, need to add pass rushers. McKinley should slot in at an end spot, and provide a well-rounded game for Atlanta.

32. New Orleans Saints

Patrick Mahomes, QB

The Saints get their quarterback of the future in Mahomes. While he may have tools to be an NFL quarterback, he definitely needs development. Now, he can learn from QB Drew Brees and sit for quite possibly the next two full seasons behind him. That would give Mahomes time to develop (think Aaron Rodgers) before getting the chance to start.

On the bubble: Marlon Humphrey – CB, Jabrill Peppers – S, Jordan Willis – OLB, Adoree’ Jackson – CB

 

2016 MLB Postseason Predictions

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October baseball is less than five months away. Yeah, there is a lot of season left, and many story lines that are about to unfold. Yet, here I am, predicting how October will turn out, and who will be crowned the 2016 World Champions of Baseball. Take a look with me here:

In case you missed it, I predicted both the National and American League playoff pictures leading up to this.

AL Playoff Picture

WILD CARD GAME

Kansas City Royals v Baltimore Orioles

This is one of the toughest things to predict in baseball, as it is truly one game take all, a spectacle that is rarely seen in baseball.Baltimore would be the home team by virtue of better record in my predictions, but Kansas City will have the edge in starting pitching. I’m going to say that it’s time for a changing of the guard in the American League and have the Orioles’ bats carrying them to a victory in this game, and leading them to the ALDS.

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays

In what would be a very competitive series between division rivals, I’m going to give the

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Blue Jays P Marcus Stroman will lead Toronto’s pitching staff into the postseason.

edge to the Blue Jays. I believe Toronto will be the better team and take the division because of its superior starting pitching, and that’s exactly the reason they should be able to beat Baltimore in the postseason. I’d look for ace P Marcus Stroman to win the first and last game of this series to move to the ALCS.

Cleveland Indians v Houston Astros

I expect that this series would be highly competitive, as both teams boast great pitching. However, I’m going to give the edge to the Astros, as they have more postseason experience than the Indians, and are led by SS Carlos Correa who will no doubt have some postseason heroics ready for October 2016.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Houston Astros v Toronto Blue Jays

I believe this series would go 7 games. The Blue Jays boast the better offense, while the ‘Stros have the deeper pitching staff. However, I feel as if the Blue Jays are a team of destiny this season, with everything seeming to click for them at the right time. I think reigning AL MVP 3B Josh Donaldson and OF Jose Bautista will have some heroics that will carry the Jays to the World Series for the first time since 1993.

NL Playoff Picture

WILD CARD GAME

Pittsburgh Pirates v St. Louis Cardinals

Division rivals facing off once again in the Wild Card Game. The Cardinals will have the home field advantage, but I predict that the Pirates will come out with P Gerrit Cole and jump on the Cardinals starter early to clinch their spot in the next round of the playoffs.

NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES

Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs

The Pirates will be faced with another division rival in the playoffs. Obviously these rosters will change from present day, but the Cubs are simply deeper than the Pirates and are built for the playoffs. In a full 5 game series, I expect the Cubs to pull it out at Wrigley to move on to the NLCS.

San Francisco Giants v New York Mets

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San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Madison Bumgarner has been a consistent postseason performer.

While the Mets are the reigning NL Champs and have one of the best rotations in baseball, I’m giving the edge to the Giants in this series. San Francisco’s lineup is loaded with players who have past postseason heroics under their belt, and the best rotation that this team has taken into the playoffs in years. In 5 games, I think the Giants take the series at the Mets’ Citi Field behind P Madison Bumgarner.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

San Francisco Giants v Chicago Cubs

I’m taking the Giants to take the NL Crown. The Cubs are a youthful but inexperienced team. I believe that is where the Giants will benefit under this spotlight, and ride their starting pitching to their fourth World Series appearance in the last six years. I expect C Buster Posey to have one of his best postseason series of his young career.

WORLD SERIES

San Francisco Giants v Toronto Blue Jays

Obviously, home field advantage is decided by the 2016 All-Star Game, but I think it’s a safe bet to take the AL in that game. This match up truly puts the game’s best hitting team against the game’s best pitching team in Toronto and San Francisco respectively. In a full 7 game series, I’m taking the Giants to come through with more postseason heroics and take their fourth World Series Crown in six years. The team’s rotation has a lot of playoff experience, and Ps Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija have pitched against the Blue Jays in the past year. Overall, I believe this match up favors the Giants, who will continue their dynasty towards the future.

Let me know what you think of my predictions, and enjoy what should be a very entertaining 2016 MLB Season!

2016 American League Preview & Predictions

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The first week of the regular season is in the books, but it’s still not too late to throw out some previews and predictions, right? Well, that’s exactly what I’m going to do, breaking down the highly-competitive American League team by team.

AL East

1. Toronto Blue Jays (96-66)

The Blue Jays are very well good enough to win 100 games, but the division they play in is

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Jose Bautista (above) looks to lead a high-powered offense into the postseason for the Jays.

the best in baseball. I have to assume that the AL East teams are going to beat up on each other, not allowing any to break away too far from the pack. The Blue Jays’ offense is loaded, and now gets a full season with SS Troy Tulowitzki in the lineup. Ace P Marcus Stroman returns after missing almost all of the 2015 season, and he is the leader of the pitching staff. If there is a weakness on this Jays’ team it is the starting pitching, but with a powerhouse offense and a solid bullpen, it’s nothing that a Trade Deadline move for another starting pitcher can’t fix.

2. Baltimore Orioles (94-68)

Picking the second team in this division was more difficult for me than the winner, as each of the teams in the AL East could make a run. However, the Orioles are constructed very similarly to the Blue Jays, in that they have a powerhouse offense. In fact, the Orioles offense may be even BETTER than the Jays, and has the potential to break the MLB record for home runs in a season. However, the Orioles starting pitching pales in comparison to its counterparts, and the team is depending on big seasons from Ps Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez. The O’s will be another team that could use a starting pitching addition at the Trade Deadline to make a run at the postseason.

3. Tampa Bay Rays (90-72)

It’s sad that the Rays have the potential to win 90 games and still miss the postseason. Led by true ace P Chris Archer, the Rays are hoping that their starting rotation can recover from injuries to hold up for one of its best offensive teams it has had in years. The Rays added OF Corey Dickerson, 1B/DH Logan Morrison and utility man Steve Pearce to add some punch and protection to 3B Evan Longoria. However, I still believe the Rays are a big bat and a few bullpen additions away from being AL East champions again.

4. Boston Red Sox (87-75)

For a fourth place team to have 87 wins is ludicrous, but that’s exactly how I believe the AL East will pan out this season. The Red Sox made some big additions in the off season, bringing in P David Price in free agency and closer Craig Kimbrel via trade. With DH David Ortiz in his final season, he surely can be expected for a large offensive output, but I believe it is the supporting cast that will let him down. OF Mookie Betts is expected to be one of MLB’s best outfielders this year, but I am not one that believes that. While Betts is a solid player, I believe he will need more time to develop before being considered a top player. 1B Hanley Ramirez should rebound with a nice season, but 3B Pablo Sandoval is doing nothing but holding the Sox back. They are a couple bats short in this offensive powerhouse of a division. Outside of Price, the Red Sox rotation has a lot of question marks, whether it be health or production. The team will be counting on young Ps Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens to produce, and it will be hard for them to succeed in this division.

5. New York Yankees (83-79)

Yes, I’m picking all 5 teams to finish above .500 in the AL East. I have no idea if the math would even allow such a thing, but it is a likely scenario to me. The Yankees are by no means a bad team, but simply not the best in this division. P C.C. Sabathia is not the same pitcher he once was, and P Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow is hanging on by a thread. Outside of those two, the Yanks’ rotation is mediocre at best. On offense, New York is plagued by aging veterans on bloated contracts and little versatility. DH Alex Rodriguez will still be productive, but is no longer an option in the field. 1B Mark Teixiera is still handy with the glove, but at this point he is always a liability to be injured. OF Carlos Beltran is still a solid hitter, but his skills are rapidly declining. The Yanks will very much benefit from these players’ contracts expiring, and being able to reallocate money throughout the team. However, the bullpen has a chance to be the best in this division, and SS Starlin Castro may revive his career under the New York spotlight. There is a future coming for NYY, but I expect them to miss the postseason in 2016.

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians (93-69)

Yes, I’m going to be one of those fools that picks against the Royals, AGAIN. To me, the Indians are a playoff run waiting to happen. The team’s rotation is stacked, led by former

Terry Francona

It’s up to Indians’ manager Terry Francona (above) to push the right buttons to get his team to go.

CY Young Award winner P Corey Kluber. If the team’s starting pitching can remain consistent, the Indians’ rotation could rival the Mets for the best in baseball. Offense is where the majority of the question lies with this team. OF Michael Brantley is still recovering from a shoulder injury, and is unquestionably the team’s best hitter. C/1B Carlos Santana is highly inconsistent, and the team hopes that SS Francisco Lindor can carry the load in his first full season. However, the team is led by manager Terry Francona, who has a knack for getting the most out of his players. With a couple Trade Deadline additions, such as an impact reliever and a hitter, I believe the Tribe can return to the postseason.

2. Kansas City Royals (91-71)

Look, its hard for me to pick against them, okay? Yet, this may be the year that the Royals show some chinks in their armor. OF Lorenzo Cain is already injured, and playing deep into the postseason for a couple of straight years can be taxing for any team. KC still sports one of the best bullpens in baseball, and now has P Edinson Volquez for a full season. However, every team in baseball will be gunning for them, so I expect the team to fall a few wins short of the division crown.

3. Detroit Tigers (85-77)

The Tigers are built to hit. After adding OF Justin Upton via free agency, the team sports one of the deadliest 3-4-5s in baseball. However, where the Tigers lack is pitching, as the team is relying heavily upon P Justin Verlander and free agent addition P Jordan Zimmerman to carry the load. P Anibal Sanchez had a bad season for the first time in his career in 2015, but should be able to rebound. Outside of those three, the team lacks options in both the rotation and bullpen and most certainly will be seeking arms come Trade Deadline time. In an offensive-minded American League, a team devoid of pitching is a team that will not win, a la the Tigers’ predicted third place finish.

4. Chicago White Sox (77-85)

The White Sox were expected to be better this season, but with a lack of quality pitching behind ace P Chris Sale, I expect the team to falter. P Carlos Rodon is still young, but appears that he could become a solid No. 2 behind Sale. Yet, the team is still depending on P John Danks for a bounce-back season, and has an offense that is highly dependent on 1B Jose Abreu and 3B Todd Frazier. The White Sox could stand to add arms to both the bullpen and rotation, and is missing a couple impact bats that its rivals will benefit from in 2016.

5. Minnesota Twins (63-99)

The Twins have the unfortunate privilege of being the worst team in the American League in 2016. With young stars OF Byron Buxton and 3B Miguel Sano getting their first year of big league experience under their belts, the future will be bright for Minnesota. Just not in 2016. The team’s pitching staff leaves much to be desired, as they are highly dependent on overpaid veterans that have struggled in the past few seasons, such as Ps Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco. As the season progresses, the Twins will be able to offload some of their productive players for much-needed prospects while letting their top young players make their MLB debuts and begin gaining experience as they build their next core.

AL WEST

1. Houston Astros (94-68)

The Astros roared their way back onto the scene in 2015, and I wouldn’t expect that to stop

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Astros’ SS Carlos Correa (above) could win the AL MVP this season.

anytime soon. Now, the team benefits from SS Carlos Correa being in the big leagues for a full season, and the kid has MVP potential. I compare him to a more athletic A-Rod of yesteryear. With a multitude of top prospects on the way, and solid hitters around him, the ‘Stros offense should roll again this season. Of course, the team sports reigning AL CY Young award winner Dallas Keuchel, who should be able to remain a top performer for years to come. The team’s rotation is solid behind him, but a Trade Deadline addition of another starter could really put this team over the top. Houston’s bullpen is strong, and they have a multitude of closing options after acquiring former Phillies’ closer Ken Giles in the off season. For now, P Luke Gregerson will remain in the role, leaving the ‘Stros with a strong 1-2 punch to close out ball games.

2. Texas Rangers (90-72)

It is hard for me to have the Rangers missing the playoffs, as I believe they are one of the best teams in baseball. P Cole Hamels will headline the rotation, but reinforcements in the way of P Yu Darvish are not far behind, giving the Rangers’ one of the best 1-2 combos at the top of a rotation in baseball. If Ps Derek Holland and Martin Perez can remain healthy, the Rangers will have a very solid rotation. The bullpen is anchored by closer Shawn Tolleson, and could still use another impact arm to bridge the gap at the end of the games. On offense, the Rangers are stacked, led by 1B Prince Fielder, who showed that he was fully healthy in 2015. Now, the team has added SS/OF Ian Desmond to the fold, and will benefit from the promotions of top prospects OF Nomar Mazara and 1B/3B/OF Joey Gallo. Mazara is a complete hitter with developing power, while Gallo is a homer-happy player in the mold of former 1B/OF Adam Dunn (so home run or strikeout). If the team can get any contribution from OF/DH Josh Hamilton this season, it will be gravy for a team that is very balanced. Even if the team misses the playoffs this year, they will surely be favorites coming into next year, as they will battle the ‘Stros down to the wire for the division.

3. Seattle Mariners (84-78)

The Mariners are making progress, building a solid, balanced team. They just play in a great division and in a strong American League. 2B Robinson Cano looks poised to perform equivalent to his monstrous contract, and the team should finally see some production out of P Taijuan Walker. However, the team could still use an impact bat to pair with Cano and OF Nelson Cruz to make their lineup that much deeper. Seattle will also be seeking arms for the rotation and bullpen, as each unit could be solidified as the team is already facing injuries early in 2016.

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (78-84)

Let the blow up begin in LA. Simply put, this team is not constructed to win. The Angels are saddled by the huge contracts of 1B Albert Pujols, and Ps Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Pujols is still a solid player, but is showing signs of decline. Weaver is barely hitting 80 MPH with his fastball, and I fully expect this to be his last season in the big leagues. He has been on a decline for almost four years now. Wilson always deals with injury issues, and is no longer a viable option in the rotation. Outside of P Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney, the Angels lack options for the rotation, and it will prove to be their downfall this season. On offense, the team is still led by OF Mike Trout, but has done little to surround him with support. I fully expect the team’s offense to struggle around him, leading to owner Arte Moreno making a big change with manager Mike Scoscia taking the fall.

5. Oakland Athletics (70-92)

What can you do if you’re the A’s? You’re in a small market with limited ability to make big moves, and are forced to develop prospects in order to win. While the team is one of the best in baseball at producing young talent, that process takes a lot longer than adding key free agents to gear up for the long season, which is why the A’s will find themselves at the bottom of the division again. By only being able to add free agents like P Rich Hill, the team has to take fliers on veterans that might pan out. Yet in 2016, I don’t see the team’s normally savvy moves working out. I’d expect top P Sonny Gray to get moved at the Trade Deadline for a package of young, top prospects that may help propel the Athletics into being more competitive next season.

Watch out for my 2016 MLB Postseason & Awards Predictions coming soon!

2016 National League Preview & Predictions

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The Major League Baseball season is only four days away, so as Opening Day rosters get their final tweaks and additions, is there a better time than now to preview the season for the National League?

There is a lot of disparity between the American and National League this season, as almost every team in the American League is in position to attempt to compete for a playoff spot, while several National League teams are in rebuilding mode.

NL EAST

1. New York Mets (95-67)

The Mets are built to win now. They have one of the deepest, if not the deepest, starting rotations in baseball. It will only get boosted further when P Zack Wheeler returns mid

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Mets’ 3B David Wright will be a key player for the team this season.

season after recovering from Tommy John Surgery. The team added SS Asdrubal Cabrera in the off season, and he will prove to be a major upgrade both offensively and defensively. With OF Yoenis Cespedes returning and a full year of OF Michael Conforto in the outfield, the Mets’ offense should be improved. The X-Factor for the team will be if 3B David Wright can stay healthy and contribute at a competent level. It will be interesting to see if back injuries have sapped Wright of his power.

2. Washington Nationals (85-77)

I’m not as high on the Nationals as most are. First off, they are a perpetually injury plagued team. 1B Ryan Zimmerman will inevitably miss some time. OF Jayson Werth, P Stephen Strasburg, and 3B Anthony Rendon have shown themselves to be injury prone as well. Without P Jordan Zimmerman, the Nationals are down a No. 2 starter, putting a lot more pressure on Strasburg to perform in a contract year. With one of the game’s best pitching prospects, P Lucas Giolito, set to debut at some point in the summer, the Nats will receive some reinforcements, but I don’t believe it will be enough to make the playoffs.

3. Miami Marlins (81-81)

The Marlins are a work in progress. They are moving in the right direction, but it will take another off season of positive momentum to put this team in position for the playoffs. First, the Marlins must get OF Giancarlo Stanton and P Jose Fernandez through the season healthy. While I believe they will make it through 2016, I don’t see the back end of the Marlins’ starting rotation or bullpen holding its own through the year, limiting the team to a .500 record.

4. Philadelphia Phillies (73-89)

Fresh off a season as the worst team in baseball, the Phillies are primed for an improvement. It’s not a monumental improvement, but one nonetheless. This season is a critical one in the rebuilding process for the Phils, as many of their top prospects will debut one after another during the summer. If veteran players perform, like 1B Ryan Howard and Ps Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton, expect Philadelphia to be players at the Trade Deadline to add even more depth to an already deep farm system.

5. Atlanta Braves (62-100)

The Braves are built to lose. The goal for the season is to continue to build the farm system in hopes of building a semi-competitive team for the opening of a new ballpark in the coming seasons, in order to build a winner in the future. 1B Freddie Freeman and P Julio Teheran are the best pieces that the team has, and while they have repeatedly said that neither will be traded, if they receive an offer that blows them away, they will take it. I fully expect the Braves to be the worst team in baseball this season. Expect them to be players at the Trade Deadline, shipping any and every veteran with value away for prospects.

NL CENTRAL

1. Chicago Cubs (98-64)

I believe the Cubs will be the best team in the National League. They are too deep to not win. This is the best team that manager Joe Maddon has ever had, and he will be able to

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The Chicago Cubs are looking to build off of their success from 2015.

mix and match his way through the season. The team added OF Jason Heyward and P John Lackey from the rival Cardinals, and both moves will prove to be critical down the stretch. This team could be an offensive juggernaut that has just enough pitching to make a deep October run. I’d expect the team to add a relief arm or two around the Trade Deadline to solidify the end of games.

2. St. Louis Cardinals (95-67)

The Cards are in the middle of one of the best divisions in baseball. I believe they will come up just short of the Cubs for the division crown, but still have what it takes to take a Wild Card spot. In comparison to the Cubs, the Cardinals don’t have the same offensive firepower, but have great starting pitching depth. If P Adam Wainwright can make it through the season healthy, the Cardinals top four starters rival any other team’s foursome in the game today. That will be enough to carry them through most of the season, as Cardinals’ hitters are notoriously timely and clutch, with OF/1B Matt Holliday leading the way offensively.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates (93-69)

Another year, another spot in the Wild Card game for the Bucs. While this team doesn’t have the financial power that its rivals do, the Pirates may still manage to have the most balanced squad in this division. The pitching staff is led by P Gerrit Cole, who is looking to cement his ace status with another terrific performance this season. The team will receive a boost from top pitching prospects, Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon debuting at some point this summer, giving the Pirates the potential for a deep rotation. On offense, the team is led by OF Andrew McCutchen, but it is OFs Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte that are primed for big, breakout campaigns. Look for the Pirates’ outfield to be one of the best in baseball.

4. Cincinnati Reds (70-92)

The Reds have the unfortunate task of rebuilding in one of the deepest divisions in baseball. The team’s pitching staff is young, but extremely inexperienced. This will hurt the team all season long. With aging veterans 2B Brandon Phillips and OF Jay Bruce occupying roster spots that are better suited for prospects needing to prove themselves, expect the Reds to move them at the Trade Deadline. 1B Joey Votto is still one of the best hitters in baseball, but will be plagued by having no help around him offensively.

5. Milwaukee Brewers (64-98)

Baseball won’t be fun to watch in Milwaukee this summer. Another team in rebuilding mode, the Brewers are even worse off than the Reds in this division. The Brewers have little to no starting pitching depth, and boast only OF Ryan Braun as the lone intimidating offensive threat. C Jonathan Lucroy is a valuable piece, but I fully expect the Brewers to move him before the Trade Deadline for a return of prospects. It will be a few seasons before the Brewers are in position to compete again.

NL WEST

1. San Francisco Giants (94-68)

It’s an even year, so the Giants are set to win the World Series, right? Well, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility, as the Giants have one of the best starting rotations in

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Giants’ OF Hunter Pence plays a vital role in energizing the team.

baseball. Led by P Madison Bumgarner, the Giants added Ps Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardizija to the mix. With P Matt Cain returning from injury and Jake Peavy as a holdover the Giants have the makings of a dominant rotation. On offense, the team is led by C Buster Posey and OF Hunter Pence. The team is depending on Pence remaining healthy through the summer, but also betting on repeat performances from SS Brandon Crawford and IF Matt Duffy. I like those odds, and believe the Giants will find their way into the playoffs.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers (89-73)

The Dodgers aren’t a bad team, but just not good enough to make the playoffs. Unable to make it out of Spring Training without a significant amount of injuries to its starting rotation, the Dodgers are already starting off the season in a deficit with a first-year manager. P Clayton Kershaw will still be a dominant force, and I expect P Kenta Maeda and SS Corey Seager to compete for Rookie of the Year honors, but pitching is what will ultimately keep LA out of the postseason.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks (83-79)

All of Arizona’s big, flashy moves in the off season have to work, right? Wrong. Yes, bringing in P Zack Greinke is a huge plus, and P Shelby Miller would’ve won 10 more games had he been in Arizona last season, but the team still plays its home games at Chase Field. That is not the easiest place for pitchers to succeed, and I believe their additions will find that it is a bit difficult to perform in that environment. On offense, 1B Paul Goldschmidt is still carrying the load, and I don’t believe that DBacks have added enough around him to make a truly elite offensive club. The team is hoping for 3B/OF Yasmany Tomas to have a big season, but I don’t think that will be enough in this pitching heavy division.

4. San Diego Padres (73-89)

The Padres are in a curious position. After GM A.J. Preller made moves like acquiring OF Matt Kemp and P James Shields last off season, the team appeared to be primed to compete. However, when those moves proved to be faulty, as Shields gave up far too many home runs, and Kemp showed that he may never truly regain his previous form from his heydays in LA. Now, I expect the Pads to try and move veterans, like Shields and Kemp, in an attempt to offload payroll and acquire prospects. This team is simply not good enough to compete in any facet of the game.

5. Colorado Rockies (68-94)

The Rockies are stuck in the cellar of the NL West. It isn’t necessarily their fault, as they are in the midst of a rebuild without much good pitching. The team is hoping for P Jon Gray to get healthy and on track to make good on his previous top prospect form. P Jeff Hoffman, acquired in last season’s Troy Tulowitzki trade, may very well debut this season, and outside of 3B Nolan Arenado, that is the most excitement that Rockies’ fans will have this season. Wait on those prospects, they’re coming.

Look out for my American League preview & predictions, which will be followed by my 2016 MLB Postseason Predictions.

Move Blake Griffin? It may be the best scenario for the Clips

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When you first hear the idea floated of a possible trade of Los Angeles Clippers’ power forward Blake Griffin, many are taken aback. Yes, he’s a perennial all-star and is a dominant force in the paint. Yes, he is a superstar by some standards. Yet, with Griffin sidelined by multiple injuries and suspension, the Clippers have gone 18-4 and turned its season around.

There are a few reasons for why the Clippers have been more successful. First and foremost, the offense is much more free-flowing without Griffin on the court. Often when Griffin gets the ball, it stays in his hands as he is in an isolation situation against his defender. This slows down the flow of the offense, as the ball stops in his hands. Without him on the floor, the Clippers have been forced to play a smaller lineup, often relying on

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Blake Griffin (above) may be on the trading block in the near future.

Fs Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson and Luc Mbah a Moute to play the 4. Of course, those players’ don’t have the same skill set as Griffin, as they are more reliable jump shooters and better passers and perimeter defenders. Therefore, the ball does not stop in their hands, and allows the offense to keep a rhythm going.

Next, with Griffin and C DeAndre Jordan on the floor, the Clippers have two players that dominate the paint. Often times in a situation like that, these players can essentially get in each other’s way, and clog the painted area of the floor. That makes it hard for either Griffin or Jordan to have space to operate offensively. With Griffin off the floor, Jordan has been able to dominate, both offensively and defensively. Jordan has been able to dominate the glass, and with the spacing the Clippers are currently using, his job is to rebound and make the easy baskets or pass the ball out to his shooters.

This style of play is similar to the Golden State Warriors, the NBA’s reigning champion. The Warriors are a shooter-dominated team, relying on one big man (C Andrew Bogut) to dominate the paint and collect rebounds, while allowing space for the other four players on the floor to operate. This is a trend that is picking up around the NBA, and currently, the Clippers are getting a taste of what their team could be in that style of play.

With all these factors adding up, it becomes more palatable to consider trading Griffin. I believe there are a few scenarios that the Clippers could cash in on Griffin right now, while acquiring wing players and future assets that would help them continue to be a contending team in the Western Conference. Using ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine, I have put together three possible trade proposals that I think would be good fits for both teams in a trade of Blake Griffin.

1. Clippers trade F Blake Griffin & F Wesley Johnson to the Minnesota Timberwolves for F Andrew Wiggins, G Zach LaVine, G Kevin Martin and a future first round pick

This scenario is what I believe would be the best fit for Griffin and the Clippers. On the Timberwolves’ end, the team acquires a superstar in Griffin and a serviceable wing player in Johnson. Pairing Griffin with rookie C Karl Anthony-Towns would create a dominate combination in the paint, and Towns is athletic enough to be able to play out of the paint, allowing space for both players to operate. This allows Wolves’ G Ricky Rubio to continue to be a pass-first guard, which is what he is best at. With two dominate big men, the Wolves would be formidable on both offense and defense, putting them in position to

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Andrew Wiggins (above) would be on the move for the second time in his career in my trade scenario.

compete in the Western Conference. Plus, adding Griffin would be a way to attract free agents to Minnesota, which has been difficult in the past.

For the Clippers, they would acquire a future star in Wiggins, who is a perfect wing player to place next to G Chris Paul in this new system of spacing. Wiggins has the ability to shoot and drive to the basket, making him a dual threat. Under coach Doc Rivers’ guidance, Wiggins would be able to become a star. LaVine is a high-flying guard that is currently best at driving, but has the potential to become a decent shooter in the future. Martin is a good spot up shooter at this point in his career, and would work well in a rotation with Gs Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick.

Overall, I think this would be a great outcome for each team in both the short and long term.

2. Clippers trade F Blake Griffin & F Wesley Johnson to the Toronto Raptors for G DeMar DeRozan, F Patrick Patterson, C Lucas Noguiera and two second round picks

Immediately upon acquiring Griffin, the Raptors become an instant threat to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, as they have no big man capable of covering the new Raptor. Toronto would lose its best player in DeRozan but you have to give something up to get something. Paired with G Kyle Lowry, Griffin would be able to be the top option in Toronto and become the dominant force in the paint. Wesley Johnson would move into a bench role in rotation with G Terrence Ross to replace DeRozan.

For the Clippers, DeRozan would step into a starting role at shooting guard, providing a player that can both drive and shoot from the wing. The key to this deal may be Patterson, as he is a big man that is capable of shooting the 3, while also being athletic enough to defend near the perimeter. Patterson is exactly the type of player the Clippers would need in playing a spaced-out system as previously described. Noguiera is a former first round pick that is still very young, and has shown potential in flashes. He would serve as a serviceable big man in rotation with Jordan and backup C Cole Aldrich.

3. Clippers trade F Blake Griffin & F Wesley Johnson to the Orlando Magic for F Tobias Harris, F Aaron Gordon and two first round picks

This scenario is the biggest stretch for me. While it still makes some sense for both teams, it is the scenario that I believe has the least chance of happening.

The Magic would acquire a superstar in Griffin, and immediately have the top scoring option they have sorely missed since C Dwight Howard left. Johnson would move into a bench role behind G Victor Oladipo, who would pair with Griffin to make a fun, high-flying team to watch. In the lowly Eastern Conference, the Magic would become instant competitors, albeit sacrificing future draft picks. I imagine the deal would be structured in a way that there would be a year in between each of the first round picks, as to not stunt the Magic’s development as a team.

For the Clippers, the team would acquire two wing players that are also capable of playing the stretch-4 position, acting as big men that are able to shoot the 3 while also defending the perimeter and the painted areas. Both Harris and Gordon would be useful to the Clippers’ style of play, but the key to the deal may be the draft picks. There simply isn’t enough value in Harris and Gordon alone to make this deal, but with the incentive of draft picks that can be used to add players or entice other teams in a trade, the deal makes sense.

All in all, those are three scenarios that I could envision the Clippers being enticed by in a trade proposal for F Blake Griffin. While I don’t believe the team will make a move before this year’s trade deadline, the idea of a Griffin deal could be revisited this summer, especially if the team falls in the Western Conference playoffs again.

Why A Johnny Manziel Trade To The Cowboys Is Best

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Less than two years removed from being selected with the 22nd overall pick in the NFL Draft, it appears QB Johnny Manziel‘s career with the Cleveland Browns is over. After a highly publicized up and down ride with the team that has resulted in benching and ultimately disapproval from

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Johnny Manziel (above) has had a less than successful tenure with the Cleveland Browns.

the coaching staff, it appears that the Browns are ready to move on from Manziel and his antics. Frankly, I think that is the best thing for Manziel and the Browns.

First off, I’m going to take the unpopular stance and defend Manziel. Obviously, he enjoys partying, but don’t many other professional athletes with millions of dollars at their disposal? In fact, I believe it is only publicized because Manziel is such a polarizing figure, and media outlets and companies know he’s a walking headline. I would be willing to bet that a Super Bowl winning quarterback has gone out with some teammates at some point this season, and not had it make national news.

Second, when Manziel has seen the field, he has been the best Browns’ quarterback in the past decade, and simply has not seen enough consistent playing time to build any sort of rhythm or overpowering results. Simply put, I believe the Browns have mishandled Manziel (and the team in general).

So, when you move passed all of the media headlines, I see a quarterback that is less than two years removed from being a first round pick that needs a fresh start and opportunity to learn a system, and get consistent playing time before being written off.

This is where the Cowboys come in. Owner Jerry Jones made comments to the media recently about being willing to acquire a quarterback to back up QB Tony Romo even if it took some “considerable risk.” Just a guess based

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Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones (above) has never been afraid to make headlines or bold moves.

on history (Jones is reported to have wanted to draft Manziel in 2014) but I figure that Jones is referencing Manziel. At this point, it probably wouldn’t cost the Cowboys more than a fifth round pick to acquire a player with high upside, which is definitely worth the risk.

All in all, I think a Manziel trade to the Cowboys would be a perfect scenario and environment for him to succeed (and trust me, it burns to say that for an Eagles’ fan). First, Manziel is rumored to be interested in going to Dallas, as he is from Texas and went to college at Texas A&M. This may be a better environment for him, as he would be able to be surrounded by family and friends. Although, that could be a double-edged sword, as it is possible that the same people Manziel surrounds himself with are also part of his off the field issues. However, I’d be willing to bet that Manziel would be gracious enough to have an opportunity to play at home that he would be an “outstanding” citizen of sorts, simply making less headlines and being known more for his play on the field.

Second, Manziel would be able to settle into a backup role and learn the system behind oft-injured QB Tony Romo. With an off season, training camp, and a few regular season games to sit, watch and become comfortable, I think Manziel would be ready to go when called upon.

Third, the Cowboys offense has transformed in the past couple of seasons to rely on the running game first behind a tenacious offensive line. If Dallas were to add a dynamic running back, the passing game would play second fiddle, and be able to become more explosive once the defense is drawn into the box to play the run. This would benefit not only Manziel but Romo, who had his best season in 2014 when RB DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing. Not to mention that Manziel provides a dual-threat at quarterback, and would add another dimension to the Dallas offense to cause opposing defenses headaches.

Finally, by shipping a low draft pick to Cleveland for Manziel, the Cowboys would be making a low risk, high reward move that could net them their quarterback of the future. If it didn’t work out for some reason, be it more off the field issues or simply lack of talent, the Cowboys would be able to move on and draft a quarterback better suited for them.

Overall, I believe this is a move that needs to happen, and could result in a dynamic offense in Dallas for years to come.

Top Choices for Eagles’ Head Coaching Search

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After what could only be described as a disastrous year run as head coach and final decision maker on player personnel, the Philadelphia Eagles and owner Jeffrey Lurie decided it was time to remove Chip Kelly from his post.

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Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie (above) decided the franchise needed to go in a different direction.

Kelly made a number of questionable roster moves in the off season prior to 2015, trading the franchise’s all-time leading rusher LaSean McCoy, allowing WR Jeremy Maclin to leave via free agency, and releasing Pro Bowl G Evan Mathis in the summer.

Overall, Kelly shipped out All-Star talent and was not able to replace it, and his demeanor and overbearing “control everything” style did not sit well with the players, or other members of the Eagles’ front office.

Now, the team embarks on a coaching search to find Kelly’s long term replacement, with a few key attributes in mind. The Eagles want the next coach to be a strong personality, someone who can represent the players and front office in the media, and not “turn off” so many people in the way that Kelly did.

Next, the coach must be a better communicator and have more of a cooperative style with his players, which is an area that Kelly really lacked a skill set in. Finally, the coach must be in it for the long haul, and have the belief of the team and staff that he can truly lead them to a Super Bowl victory.

While a number of names have been floated around in the past week, I believe there are only a few names that fit this criteria, and would make a good hire for the Eagles.

In order of preference, here are my choices for next head coach of the Eagles:

1. Sean Payton – current New Orleans Saints’ head coach

Until Payton has met with GM Mickey Loomis and owner Tom Benson, this

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Sean Payton (above) could be considered a top candidate for several coaching jobs if the Saints part ways with the coach,

is nothing more than a dream. However, if the trio meet and decide it is best to part ways, Payton would immediately become the top candidate. After reviving the Saints’ franchise and winning a Super Bowl title, Payton and the team have been hamstrung by large contracts, taking away their ability to acquire the proper talent to put a winner on the field. That being said, Payton’s track record and favor-ability with players speak for themselves. The icing on top of the cake is that Payton is already familiar with Philadelphia and the franchise, having coached here previously. Essentially, hiring Payton would be a complete 180 from Kelly, and instantly breathe new life into the franchise, as well as attract free agent players to a new and enticing landing spot.

2. Adam Gase – current Bears’ offensive coordinator

Gase is probably best known for his work with Broncos’ QB Peyton Manning, as the two teamed up to put up two of the most prolific seasons for an offense in the history of the NFL. Gase was a popular candidate last off season and interviewed with a few teams, and is already scheduled to speak with the Cleveland Browns. Overall, Gase would provide a much more traditional NFL-style offense, youth, and a breath of fresh air. He is the type of coach that could be the leader of a franchise for 10+ years, and continuity is important to Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie.

3. Steve Spagnuolo – current New York Giants’ defensive coordinator

Another assistant coach under Andy Reid, Spagnuolo has already had a head coaching job in the NFL, struggling through a couple seasons with the St. Louis Rams. After returning to a role as defensive coordinator, Spagnuolo has shown that he is still a valuable member of a staff in the NFL. Having a familiarity with the Eagles should give him a step up on his competition, but the fact that he is a defensive coach may also benefit him, as the Eagles may be looking to transition in that direction after experimenting with an offensive coach in Kelly.

4. Doug Pederson – current Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator

Pederson has direct ties to the Eagles, playing quarterback for the team in the late ’90s, and being a former coach under Reid. When Reid was axed and left for Kansas City, Pederson followed and gained a position as offensive coordinator, and has led a Chiefs’ offense without All-Pro RB Jamaal Charles to 10 straight victories and a postseason victory. Like some of these other candidates, Pederson’s familiarity with the team should benefit him, and his success this season is definitely something that will interest the Eagles.

After these candidates, it is difficult to imagine a higher that will truly make a large impact on the Eagles. Other rumored candidates, such as Pat Shurmur or even Mike Shanahan, both fizzled out as head coaches in their last positions, and are better left in coordinator roles or retired (as Shanahan had been).