Twitter
Search
Wednesday
Apr272016

Mock Draft...Yes, Another One...

It comes down to simple math, really. There's two of us here at The Stain, so you get two mock drafts. For those of you who remember, Shaun nailed the first seven picks last year, after much trash talking by me. So this year, I'm doing it a little bit differently. Humbly, I... ah, who am I kidding. I'm still talking trash. The following is my first round mock for the 2016 NFL draft. Couple of disclaimers, I'm not projecting trades, though as Shaun and I agree, there could be many. And second, these picks are a combination of how I think the draft will play out, and my opinion of what should be done by the team. And without further ado.

1. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB, Cal. I'd take Wentz. And as a Rams fan, I didn't like the trade. But I get it. QB is an issue, the move to LA, gotta appeal to a new/old fanbase and make a splash. Wentz has the higher ceiling, but Goff the higher floor, and is therefore a safer pick. And though it might be the first time in nearly five years with Fisher as coach that the team does something that makes sense from a roster perspective, it kind of does.

2. Philadelphia Eagles: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, OSU. You moron, they didn't just trade up for the second pick to take a running back! Didn't they? I mean, all signs point to Wentz, but why would they spend a Brinks truck on Bradford and Chase Daniel, and then draft a quarterback? It just sounds too weird to me. 

3. San Diego Chargers: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss. Quietly, Phil Rivers is putting together a Hall of Fame career. And the Chargers are paying him as such, so it would behoove them to keep him protected. Tunsil could replace King Dunlap at left tackle immediately.

4. Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Ramsey, CB, FSU. If they're pissed about missing out on Elliott, they won't show it too much. Ramsey is a superstar at a position the 'Boys sorely need to shore up.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ronnie Stanley, OT, ND. This Jags offense is going to be pretty good, but they need to protect Blake Bortles better. This is a good way to start doing that.

6. Baltimore Ravens: Joey Bosa, DE, OSU. He was once projected to be the first overall pick. He seems to be a bit of a one trick pony, but he's certainly exceptional at it. 

7. San Francisco 49rs: DeForest Buckner. Here's where it gets really interesting. There's a quarterback still on the board who isn't a reach. But since Justin Smith retired and Aldon Smith went all criminal and stuff, pass rusher is a huge need. Like...yuuuuuge.

8. Cleveland Browns: Carson Wentz, QB, NDSU. If this happens, Cleveland wins the draft. I don't even care what they do with the rest of their picks. 

9. Tampa Bay Bucs: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville. I don't know if the scheme fits here, but the Bucs need defensive line help. They've got nearly everything else covered. They're not far away from being good.

10. New York Giants: Darron Lee, LB, OSU. My favorite player in the draft. You could argue he's smallish but he is one of the best players in the entire draft irrespective of position and will play at a Pro Bowl level from day one. 

11. Chicago Bears: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson. The Bears aren't just one player away, so if they can find a taker, they will probably trade down. If not, Lawson can fill one of the 48 holes they have on defense.

12. New Orleans Saints: Laquan Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss. What good is a transcendent quarterback if he has nobody to throw to? This could also be Doctson or Fuller... or if you really want to reach, Shepard. 

13. Miami Dolphins: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida. Cornerback isn't really a giant need, but he's a Florida kid and a plug and play starter. I'm surprised I didn't have him gone to someone else before this.

14. Oakland Raiders: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama. Again, the scheme might be conflicting but he could sort of be a poor man's Aaron Donald, and anyone who has seen the Rams play the last two seasons can tell you that is the highest of compliments. Some rating systems had him as ranked as high or higher than JJ Watt. 

15. Tennessee Titans: Jack Conklin, OT, MSU. Young stud quarterback. Newly acquired star running back. Blocking for them makes sense. 

16. Detroit Lions: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU. Knee jerk reaction? Hey, why not. Players like Calvin Johnson are irreplacable, but you have to start working toward filling the void in production his retirement created. 

17. Atlanta Falcons: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama. In the oversimplification of oversimplifications, a really good player on a really good defense makes sense to pick just about anywhere. But especially here. 

18. Indianapolis Colts: Taylor Decker, OT, OSU. If Andrew Luck's emulsified inner organs last season weren't the wake up call the Colts needed, then I don't know what will be. I don't know if it's Decker, or maybe Ryan Kelly or Cody Whitehair on the interior, but if they don't draft offensive line help here, I quit. Well, no I don't. But Colts fans should.

19. Buffalo Bills: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss. This is kind of a huge risk here, but think about who the coach is in Buffalo and tell me this doesn't at least make some sense to you. How far do you expect a kid to drop over a measly fall from a hotel window anyway?

20. New York Jets: Eli Apple, CB, OSU. Revis and Cromartie aren't getting any younger. Just sayin'...

21. Washington Redskins: Cory Coleman, WR, Baylor. The 'Skins receivers aren't exactly poster children for durability. And Coleman is a burner in the DeSean Jackson mold. 

22. Houston Texans: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama. Kelly can play anywhere on the interior line. The Texans' investment in Brock Osweiler is not as absurd as it seems on the surface, but it's still an investment worth protecting.

23. Minnesota Vikings: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia. This would be a huge value here for the Vikes. It's adding to a nice accumulation of riches already on defense, but I don't see any real offensive weapons to add here that won't have a reasonable facsimile available next round.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Artie Burns, CB, Miami. The Bengals got excellent play from Pacman Jones last season, but he's 32. There aren't a ton of holes on this very good team. You could maybe make a case for Sterling Shepard here, but I'm going DB.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers: William Jackson, CB, Houston. The Steelers got ruinously bad cornerback play last year, and only slightly better offensive line play. Take your pick, but one has to be addressed.

26. Seattle Seahawks: Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A & M. Few picks make as much sense as Ifedi to the Seahawks here. There's a chance he's not on the board, but they've got to go tackle here. 

27. Green Bay Packers: Su'a Cravens, LB, USC. I don't really know what position Cravens profiles at in the pros. But he's a solid playmaker and there's some USC pedigree at Lambeau already.

28. Kansas City Chiefs: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame. The receiving problems are real, people. The receiving problems are real. I mean, Jeremy Maclin helped but...

29. Arizona Cardinals: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis. Ok, I'm just gonna be honest. I have to put him somewhere. And Carson Palmer can't play forever. And I don't think they see Drew Stanton as a long term heir. 

30. Carolina Panthers: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia. Pretty deep team gets a chance to fill one of its very few holes. Kinda makes sense. They could try to replace a certain cornerback who bolted to D.C. too, but I don't see one that slots in at 30.

31. Denver Broncos: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor. Superbowl team loses Malik Jackson to free agency. Good player is available in draft. Superbowl team picks good player to replace departed good player. If only teams thought as logically as I do, this pick would happen.

32. New England Patriots: The Patriots do not have a first round pick as punishment for cheating. Again. At least they were creative about it.

Shaun did a really nice job going into detail on some additional players and where he thinks they're going to go. I'm going to focus on just a couple. Rarely do you have two guys who could stake legit claims to being top five picks not being taken in the first round. This year, you do in Jaylon Smith and Myles Jack, the outstanding linebackers from Notre Dame and UCLA respectively.

Both young men have some serious concerns with their knees. Smith's is more serious as some talent evaluators are saying they don't even think he sees the field in 2016. People aren't quite as paranoid about Jack's knee, but I can't see anyone risking a first rounder on him either until some reputable medical source clears him at 100%, and it ain't gonna go down like that. The fourth round is when you can probably start picturing teams becoming willing to part with a pick to redshirt Smith for year, and I don't see Jack falling past the Giants twice, if he even does once, so he won't drop out of the second. What's my point? I don't really have one. Something just makes me a little wistful when great players drop in the draft due to injuries.

Anyway, come at me bros. Hit us up on twitter @thestainsports to let us know if you agree or disagree with our picks.  

Wednesday
Apr272016

NFL Mock Draft: First Round & More

This is not a mock draft trying to predict who is going where as that is pretty close to impossible, especially this year, but instead a mock draft as to who I would pick if I were in the given team’s shoes. I will not predict any trades, although I would not be shocked to see any, if not all, the picks from 3-5 move after one and two have already been dealt, and who knows what happens from there. So, with all that said, here is who I would select for each team.

1) Los Angeles Rams – Carson Wentz – QB – North Dakota State – Long term he will be the better quarterback than Goff and he fits what the Rams want to do better. The Rams will run their offense through Todd Gurley, and Wentz has experience turning his back to the defense to run play action and getting his eyes up the field quickly, something Goff does not have experience with.

2) Philadelphia Eagles – Jared Goff – QB – Cal – There is a part of me that really wants to put Ezekiel Elliot here, in fact I am going away from my intro paragraph as if I were the Eagles that is exactly who I would pick, but you give up what they traded for a running back. So the pick has to be the best available QB, which is Goff.

3) San Diego Chargers – Jalen Ramsey – CB/S – Florida State – In my initial version of this I had them selecting Laremy Tunsil, but they have solid tackles in King Dunlap and Joe Barksdale while their secondary needs more help. Ramsey is a difference maker and his positional questions could also make him position versatile, which is a huge plus in today’s NFL.

4) Dallas Cowboys – Joey Bosa – DE – Ohio State – Chances are they go Elliot here, and I will yell at my TV more than Torsten when the Rams take Goff, but the Cowboys need help on the defensive line, especially when it comes to getting at the QB. They must be passing the joint around in every D-line meeting as half the depth chart there is facing drug suspensions, so adding a difference maker is desperately needed.

5) Jacksonville Jaguars – Myles Jack – OLB – UCLA – I don’t have access to his medical records, obviously, so I don’t truly know what kind of risk this is, especially after their first round pick last year missed the whole season due to injury, but Jack could be a huge impact guy for them. Adding him and a healthy Fowler to the Jags defense to go with an offense that is already solid just might be enough to make them real playoff contenders.

6) Baltimore Ravens – DeForest Buckner – DE – Oregon – The Ravens would love to see Ramsey and/or Bosa get to them, but instead here they are left debating between Tunsil and Buckner. In the end, defensive line is a much bigger need and, despite the depth at the position in this draft, Buckner is a better fit. He is a physical specimen who will be able to really disrupt the passing lanes in a really competitive division, Cleveland not included.

7) San Francisco 49ers – Reggie Ragland – MLB – Alabama – This is a spot the draft could go a little nuts if they decide to reach for a QB like Paxton Lynch, but it is time the 49ers get back to what they were when they were successful recently, and that is a very good defensive team. They have been absolutely decimated at linebacker due to retirements, and Ragland can sit in the middle and command the D.

8) Cleveland Browns – Laremy Tunsil – OT – Ole Miss – One thing is certain, the Browns will not make this pick because it might actually turn out well. They have the makings of a decent offensive line, but they need someone to play right tackle this year and take the reigns from Joe Thomas when he finally gets the chance to get out of town. Tunsil is arguably the best player in the draft, and the Browns would have traded back and still got him in this scenario, which is a scenario we all know the Browns will find a way to screw up and redraft Manziel or take Noah Spence or Nkemdiche.

9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Ronnie Stanley – OT – Notre Dame – You have your franchise QB in Jameis Winston, you resigned Doug Martin, you have the biggest group of pass catchers in football, protect them. Some have said Stanley is a better prospect than Tunsil, so take him here and focus the rest of the draft on improving the defense.

10) New York Giants – Leonard Floyd – OLB – Georgia – Quick, name a Giants starting linebacker, yeah, I couldn’t do it either. I went back and forth between Darron Lee and Floyd here, but I am hearing a ton about Floyd being a great fit for the Giants, so I will put him here.

11) Chicago Bears – Darron Lee – OLB – Ohio State – I think the Bears really want Floyd to fall to them, but if he goes to the Giants at ten, just pick the guy I was debating there. He has more strength and a thicker body, which will allow him to play at the end of the line when needed, and is a solid linebacker, a win-win for the Bears.

12) New Orleans Saints – Sheldon Rankins – DT – Louisville – I could see the Saints taking a big WR here like Laquon Treadwell and then going all defense the rest of the draft, or they could just focus completely on fixing that terrible defense. Rankins is a big body that can also disrupt the passing game from the interior, which can help the defense as a whole.

13) Miami Dolphins – Ezekiel Elliot – RB – Ohio State – If the Dolphins are able to stay at 13 and still get the guy they want/need, they will be doing backflips in the war room, and I say they get him. They lost Lamar Miller, Jay Ajayi is a good RB but not an every down back, Elliot can be a game changer for them. This is one of the easiest picks I had in the whole first round.

14) Oakland Raiders – William Jackson III – CB – Houston – The Raiders actually have a decent offense but do need a running back. Elliot is off the board and there are not any other first round options at the position, so the focus will shift to the defense. Their secondary needs help and Jackson is the second best player in the secondary in this draft. He is the biggest first round corner and should be able to handle the best receivers in the division.

15) Tennessee Titans – Jack Conklin – OT – Michigan State – While Tunsil and Stanley have the higher upside, many say Conklin is the offensive lineman most ready to step in day one and make a difference. The Titans collected a boat load of draft picks and still get their biggest need by sticking at 15, this is a win for them and now can take their plethora of second round picks to get back into the back end of the first round if a corner they really like slips.

16) Detroit Lions – Shaq Lawson – DE – Clemson – This is the toughest pick for me thus far as the Lions could go in several different directions. I was tempted to put Taylor Decker here, I was also debating between A’Shawn Robinson and Jarron Reed to line up next to Haloti Ngata and be his eventual replacement, but I like Lawson to line up opposite one of the most underrated pass rusher in the NFL, Ziggy Ansah. There will likely be a solid DT when they come up in the second round but there won’t be many pass rushers left, and that ultimately was the tie breaker for me.

17) Atlanta Falcons – Kamalei Correa – OLB/DE – Boise State – The industry seems to like Darron Lee here, but I have Lee going much earlier. This might be the pick I end up being furthest from true draft position on, but I really like Correa. I was tempted to put Kevin Dodd here, but I see a ton of bust potential there and I think the floor for Correa is higher. He can serve a pair of needs as the Falcons need help at linebacker and also need someone that can get to the QB no team had fewer sacks than them last year, Correa does both.

18) Indianapolis Colts – Taylor Decker – OT – Ohio State – Few teams allow hits on their quarterback with more frequency than the Colts. Few teams have a better young quarterback than the Colts. Therefore the Colts need upgrades at offensive line. Seriously, it is that straight forward.

19) Buffalo Bills – Kevin Dodd – DE – Clemson – The Bills defense was terrible, especially for a Rex Ryan team, and they released Mario Williams while signing nobody of note to replace him. I just recently said Dodd has bust potential, which he does, but he also has big sack number potential. He can start from day one and could make an impact, or he could be like the Bills defense from last year and be MIA, time will tell.

20) New York Jets – Corey Coleman – WR – Baylor – Here is a surprise pick that I unfortunately like for the Jets (I am still a Patriots fan after all). They have Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker on the outside, but the NFL is a three or more receiver set league, so an elite speed/slot guy is important. They signed Matt Forte in the offseason, so this would make the Jets one of the more feared offenses on the game, if they have a QB. Many people have Paxton Lynch here, and if he were more ready to produce I might as well, but I still believe they sign Ryan Fitzpatrick and Coleman would help give the Jets one of the most feared group of pass catchers in the league.

21) Washington Redskins – Jarran Reed – DT – Alabama – The Redskins could use a guy to handle the nose and Reed is arguably the best run stuffer in the draft. Karl Joseph would be an interesting pick, and he would be the best safety the team has had since Sean Taylor, and going at #21 would be a cool coincidence, but defensive tackle is the bigger need.

22) Houston Texans – Laquon Treadwell – WR – Ole Miss – The Texans would be thrilled to see this play out. Possibly the best receiver in the draft falling to them all the way at 22 to line up opposite DeAndre Hopkins and be another target for new QB Brock Osweiler. If Treadwell isn’t here in the draft, expect them to go best available WR, Josh Doctson would be a nice consolation prize, but here I have Treadwell falling to them.

23) Minnesota Vikings – Josh Doctson – WR – TCU – Another team in desperate need of a number two wide receiver, and Doctson just might be the guy best suited to have the best rookie year. He can win one-on-one matchups, even making Trevone Boykin look like a good passer at times in college. Stefon Diggs was an absolute steal of a find last year, but Jarius Wright is slated to be their number two receiver right now, and that is no way to help Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings open up a new building.

24) Cincinnati Bengals – Will Fuller – WR – Notre Dame – Say hello to your Wide Receiver run.  The Bengals would probably be disappointed if Fuller was the best receiver left when it is their turn to pick and would work the phones to see if anyone wants to come up for a QB so they can move back and get Fuller later, but there are no trades in this mock draft. Fuller is one of the fastest receivers in the draft and the number two and three receivers are guys who couldn’t succeed with Tom Brady as their QB (Brandon LaFell and Brandon Tate). See everything I said about the need opposite Hopkins and Diggs in the previous two picks, and just substitute A.J. Green’s name.

25) Pittsburgh Steelers – Karl Joseph – S – West Virginia – The biggest hitter from the secondary, if not in the draft all together, is Karl Joseph, and doesn’t that just fit the Steelers perfectly? They could really use help at corner and safety, and taking a guy like Vernon Hargreaves or Eli Apple could easily be the decision, but it is hart to pass up a guy like Joseph to a team like the Steelers.

26) Seattle Seahawks – Germain Ifedi – OT – Texas A&M – When it comes to guys that just fit a team’s persona, Robert Nkemdiche is a really tempting pick here, but in the end need comes before juiciness. Much like the Colts, the Seahawks have had trouble protecting their star QB, and they don’t have a stud at any spot on the line. Luckily Ifedi can play multiple positions, and is probably best suited for right tackle or guard, spots that need upgrading.

27) Green Bay Packers – A’Shawn Robinson – DT – With B.J. Raji “retired”, the Packers need someone new to show Aaron Rogers what he’s got along the offensive line (insert annoying “show me what you got Raji” jingle here). Robinson has the potential to go in the top 15, and this is a real need for the Packers all the way at 27, so a steal of a pick for the Pack.

28) Kansas City Chiefs – Eli Apple – CB – Ohio State – I have the corners really falling in this draft, as there are several who would probably see Apple, Hargreaves, and even Mackensie Alexander already gone here, but I am not most people. Marcus Peters had a fantastic year for the Chiefs last year, adding Apple to the other side would give them a dynamic duo of very young and talented corners that will make Justin Houston and Tamba Hali blitzing off the edge even better, if that is even possible. Paxton Lynch is also a guy I could see them going with as the future replacement to Alex Smith, but the corners falling is too tempting to pass up.

29) Arizona Cardinals – Vernon Hargreaves – CB – Florida – I was really tempted put Noah Spence here to team with Calais Campbell and Chandler Jones giving the Cards a truly scary pass rush, but adding Hargreaves to the secondary can be equally as scary. I have seen Hargreaves ranked in some outlets top ten players in the draft, so adding him opposite Patrick Peterson and giving the Honey Badger even more freedom to do what he does is a scary thought for teams facing an already excellent defense.

30) Carolina Panthers – Artie Burns – CB – Miami – The Panthers were likely going to go corner even before they let Josh Norman go, now they pretty much have to. They might be a candidate to move up to ensure they get the one they want, but have a lot of needs given they were just in the Super Bowl. Burns is a recent riser and a solid corner, but he isn’t a lock down guy. Luckily the Panthers are not a team that plays a ton of one-on-one coverage, so the other corner and safety they draft with their next two picks will certainly help.

31) Denver Broncos – Robert Nkemdiche – DT – Ole Miss – I have been tempted to put Cody Whitehair here to solidify their interior offensive line, and there is an obvious need at QB, but Nkemdiche is the guy for me. The Broncos have an excellent defense, especially on the ends, but they don’t have the guy to hold down the middle of the line, and if there is a team that has the flexibility to take a shot on a guy on that side of the ball it is the Broncos. Nkemdiche is one of the most athletic guys in the entire draft and represents a potential steal for the Broncos.

I am never satisfied with just doing a single round of a mock draft, but I also don’t want to bog this down with round after round of me just projecting guys, so I decided I will highlight some interesting picks I see, starting with the quarterbacks.

Paxton Lynch – QB – Memphis – Cleveland Brown – 32nd overall, 1st pick of the second round.

Christian Hackenberg – QB – Penn State – Chicago Bears – 41st overall, 10th pick of the second round.

Connor Cook – QB – Michigan State – Kansas City Chiefs – 59th overall, 28th pick of the second round.

Dak Prescott – QB – Mississippi State – Denver Broncos – 63rd overall, 32nd pick of the second round.

Brandon Allen – QB – Arkansas – Dallas Cowboys – 67th overall, 4th pick of the third round.

Cardale Jones – QB – Ohio State – San Francisco 49ers – 68th overall, 5th pick of the third round.

Kevin Hogan – QB – Stanford – Buffalo Bills – 117th overall, 19th pick of the fourth round.

Jacoby Brissett – QB – NC State – New York Jets – 118th overall, 20th pick of the fourth round.

Brandon Doughty – QB – Western Kentucky – Arizona Cardinals, 128th overall, 30th pick of the fourth round.

Vernon Adams – QB – Oregon – Seattle Seahawks – 171st overall, 34th pick of the fifth round.

Other position guys I liked where they fell (or at least found interesting in my projections):

Noah Spence – DE – Eastern Kentucky – Tennessee Titans – 33rd overall, 2nd pick of the second round.

Derrick Henry – RB – Alabama – Dallas Cowboys – 34th overall, 3rd pick of the second round.

Ryan Kelly – C – Alabama – Jacksonville Jaguars – 38th overall, 7th pick of the second round.

Emmanuel Ogbah – DE – Oklahoma State – 47th overall, 16th pick of the second round.

Su’a Cravens – OLB – USC – Atlanta Falcons – 50th overall, 19th pick of the second round.

Nick Martin – C – Notre Dame – Washington Redskins – 53rd overall, 20th pick of the second round.

Javon Hargrave – DT – South Carolina State – Cincinnati Bengals – 55th overall, 24th pick of the second round.

Jaylon Smith – OLB – Notre Dame – New England Patriots – 60th overall, 29th pick of the second round.

Kenneth Dixon – RB – Louisiana Tech – New England Patriots – 61st overall, 30th pick of the second round.

Braxton Miller – WR – Ohio State – Philadelphia Eagles – 79th overall, 16th pick of the third round.

Robert Aguayo – PK – Florida State – Buffalo Bills – 80th overall, 17th pick of the third round.

Scooby Wright – MLB – Arizona – Green Bay Packers – 163rd overall, 26th pick of the sixth round.

 

-Shaun Kernahan

Friday
Apr222016

Homer Corner: The Los Angeles Rams Trade

If you’re sports fan, you know by now that the Los Angeles Rams have traded up to get the number one overall pick from Tennessee in exchange for multiple premium picks this year and next. You’ve probably also noticed, that is if you care, that everyone and their mother basically fell all over themselves trying to be the first one out there with comprehensive analysis of what it means. Ultimately, it’s pretty much split down the middle between having overpaid for the pick, or gotten a good deal. It’s split down the middle whether they take Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. It’s split down the middle whether they needed to make a move like this. It’s split. Why? Because nobody has any idea what they’re talking about. Nobody. Nobody from respected football experts like Mel Kiper, to former players like Ross Tucker, to hack bloggers like us. Why? Because history hasn’t been written yet. Nobody will know whether this was the right thing to do until a couple of years from now when it can be objectively looked back on. Now, all that said, everyone has opinions. So do we. Here are two reasons from us why this trade can spectacularly implode on the Rams, or how it can be resounding success – because middle ground is no fun.

How it can fail:

#1: They draft Jared Goff, or anyone other than Carson Wentz. Let’s be honest here, this is Jeff Fisher we’re talking about so a Laquan Treadwell pick can’t be entirely discounted. But assuming it’s a quarterback, picking Goff would be calamitous. Why? Look, there’s not a ton wrong with the kid. He’s fairly safe, in terms of quarterback picks go. High floor. Smart. Got some talent. But you don’t mortgage your next two drafts to pick a kid who will be a serviceable pro. If you’re shoveling premium picks out the door to draft a quarterback first overall, you’re doing it to get a guy who can be transcendent. Otherwise, why not keep your own first rounder and both of your seconds, draft three starters with them, and ride Case Keenum into battle.

#2: They do the right thing and grab Wentz, but sharpie him in as the Week 1 starter. Even the most fervent Wentz supporter will tell you, he’s a project. He needs to sit and learn for a year or two. But again, this is Jeff Fisher we’re talking about. There are things that Fisher does well as a coach. He educates his rookies on financial responsibility and what it means to be a pro, he keeps his veterans fresh by giving them rest days, he… yeah, that about covers it. He’s beyond any doubt the most overrated coach in the history of professional football. If anyone can scupper the bright future of a talented quarterback, it’s Fisher.

How it can succeed:

#1: They take Wentz and he’s as good as everyone hopes. But it’s not that simple. He needs time. The step up from Division I AA to the NFL is huge, and while it’s not a prohibitive step, it’s not one that can be taken instantly. He’ll have to spend at least a year, if not two, learning to make NFL progressions, hot reads, a bunch other quarterback buzzwords, AND, he’ll have to adapt his running style. There is no doubting his supreme athletic ability, but it’s one thing to flatten a Division I AA linebacker on a designed run, it’s entirely another to try it on Bobby Wagner.

#2: They take Goff and he proves me terribly wrong. Instead of the league average, reasonably solid quarterback he projects to be, the switch flips and he becomes a monster. Let’s be honest, Russell Wilson, one of the best quarterbacks in the league right now, wasn’t a first round pick. Aaron Rodgers didn’t get picked until the end of the first round. So sure, it’s within the realm of possibility that the kid turns out to be an absolute stud. It’s just not likely. And I’m exceedingly rarely wrong on stuff like this. Not because I know everything, but because I keep my mouth shut about things I don’t know about. All my married friends can sympathize. But in any case, I’ll be the happiest guy this side of the Mississippi if I’m wrong now.

-Torsten Sporn

Sunday
Apr032016

Thoughts From the Throne 4: MLB 2016

It is time for baseball season and time to put together our season previews. On this version of Thoughts from the Throne, we will each tell you who will win each division, the Wild Card participants, and the major awards, so here we go. 

Who will be the AL division winners?

Shaun: Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros. The Blue Jays just have too much power and play in a division with a number of hitter’s parks. There are some injury concerns with Edwin Encarnacion coming into the season, and I would not project them to win a postseason series with the current rotation, but I think they have enough to win the division. The Royals have never not made the World Series when I have attended their camp, coincidence, I think not. They have a great clubhouse chemistry and a lights out bullpen (I am not worried about Wade Davis’ velocity right now). Raul Mondessi has looked fantastic this spring and will likely take the second base job from Omar Infante at some point. The Astros only real weakness right now is at first base, but they have one of the best power hitters in the minor leagues knocking on the door. Carlos Correa will compete for the MVP this year and they only have more special players on the way.

Torsten: Blue Jays, Tigers, Rangers. Hey, did you hear about that team where Troy Tulowitzki was their fourth best hitter? There's some question marks with Toronto's pitching, but with the rest of the AL East a jumble of mediocrity, the Jays should coast home comfortably. I also really like what the Tigers did. Need some more starting pitching? Heck, let's get Jordan Zimmerman. Little light on right handed pop? With Miggy and JD Martinez, not really, but what the hell? Let's sign the criminally underrated Justin Upton anyway. The bullpen is a worry, but they should be able to address that at the deadline. Did you happen to notice how Texas finished the season last year? In case you didn't, they were very strong down the stretch. And they will get Yu Darvish back soon to pair with Cole Hamels. That ain't bad. 

Who will be the NL division winners?

Shaun: Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants. Yes, I am going a bit contrarian here, but I believe in it. The Mets rotation is scary, but their defense is ugly. David Wright is hurt too often, Asdrubal Cabrera has never been great with the glove, Neil Walker is no Gold Glover, and Lucas Duda literally threw away a World Series game. Then in the outfield you have an aging Curtis Granderson, an ailing Michael Conforto, and Yoenis Cespedes in center who seems to give away inside the park home runs for every Matt Harvey start. It will likely be a frustrating year for the Mets given current expectations. The Cubs are great, but the Pirates have a chip on their shoulder. Everyone is talking about the Cubs taking the reigns from the Cardinals, but they have to leapfrog the NL Central 3-time runners up. They have arguably the best outfield in all of baseball, an underrated infield (other than first, they are just bad there) and a pitching staff that does not get enough credit. Add Taillon and Glasnow both knocking on the door and the powerful Josh Bell a first base option late in the year, and the Pirates will make a late push to take the Division. For the Giants, it is an even numbered year, so that should say it all, right? Need more, fine…the Giants have the best infield in baseball that you don’t know. Duffy-Crawford-Panik-Belt are all completely underrated and the argument could be made for each as top ten at their position in all of baseball. Add the speedy Denard Span and a big money rotation, and they should take the division.

Torsten: Mets, Pirates, Dodgers. Once Zach Wheeler comes back around June, the Mets will essentially be trotting out five aces in their rotation. You wonder if they can catch the ball well enough, which is why I don't think they'll go far in the post season, but it won't be easy to score on them. In the Steel City, I don't see a whole lot wrong with that Pirate's roster, aside from John Jaso's do. The Dodgers have a lot of injuries at the moment, but they are deep, and people are making way too much out of Arizona and San Francisco's pitching acquisitions. By the trade deadline, they Dodgers will be "acquiring" two good pitchers (Ryu and McCarthy) with a third (Anderson) soon after. It's hard to compete with that.

Who will face off in the AL Wild Card Game?  

Shaun: The Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers. The Red Sox have added an ace and a closer and still have one of the best farm systems in baseball to make moves for more (and Dave Dombrowski isn’t afraid to do just that). Hanley Ramirez is actually poised for a resurgent year and should play an above-average first base. Pablo Sandoval has looked poor, but Travis Shaw has looked great, so they will get solid production there. The outfield looks to be a pair of platoons, but it doesn’t matter how you get the production, so long as you get the production. The Rangers (again a team I spend a lot of time around) are just fun and Brian Bannister is the perfect coach for that team. Darvish will be returning this year and they get a full season of Cole Hamels. Ian Desmond is a really interesting addition in the outfield while Rougned Odor (not to be confused with his brother Rougned Odor) is going to be a breakout star this season at second  base. 

Torsten:  Astros and Royals. It really just now occurred to me how many teams could possibly be here. The AL (outside of the East where pretty much everyone but the Jays is critically flawed) has some great depth. But the Astros are legit (like someone predicted last year...not going to mention any names but it was me) and haven't lost anything important, and the Royals are the defending champs, and have lost pretty much only Cueto of consequence. 

Who will face off in the NL Wild Card Game?

Shaun:  Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. Yes, Torsten, this means the Dodgers miss out on the playoffs. The Cubs finished with 97 wins last season and placed third in their division. They are even better this year with the addition of Jason Heyward (from the Cardinals), Ben Zobrist, and natural progression of their incredible young talent. Their rotation could use an addition or two down the stretch though. Ruben Tejada being cut by the Mets is the best thing that could have happened for the Cardinals, who will be starting the year without Jhonny Peralta. They may also start the season without Yadier Molina, but he seems to be making great progress. The names to remember are Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. Both are fantastic ballplayers and will be key players for the club. 

Torsten: Nationals and Cubs. I really don't love either team's bullpen, and I think Jake Arrieta regresses big time in the wake of his questionably deserved Cy Young award. But that line up is deep. The Nats appear stacked on paper, but I don't buy Dusty Baker as a manager anymore. And you heard it here first, Bryce Harper will still be good, but a regression to mere mortal status is in order. (editor's note: When this section was first being written, the Diamondbacks were in serious consideration. However, you can't overcome the loss of AJ Pollock. He was quietly 9th in MLB in WAR for 2015, including 3rd among all outfielders - with harper nearly two full wins above the rest of the pack. Shame for the D Backs, and for Pollock, but that's how it goes sometimes.) 

Who will win the AL MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year?

Shaun: The MVP will be Mookie Betts. Call me a homer, but the kid can flat out play. He has more power than you would expect, he can steal bags, and plays great defense in the outfield for a converted second baseman. I think he will narrowly edge out Carlos Correa. Cole Hamels will walk away with the Cy Young. His home ballpark won’t help, but division foes like the Angels (terrible outside of Trout and Pujols), Mariners (overrated yet again this year), and A’s (huge ballpark and a weak lineup) will help. The Astros are a quality lineup in the division, but they have a ton of swing and miss potential. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hamels average 12 K/9 against Houston this year. The Rookie of the Year will be Byron Buxton. He will finally get the chance to shine in the big leagues and will show everyone why he has long been the top prospect in baseball. This would be the Twins second ROY in a row, setting them up for a strong run in the near future and may be a sneaky team that competes in the division.

Torsten: Robinson Cano, Sonny Gray, Byron Buxton. The MVP should just be called Best Player, since players from non-playoff teams frequently win. This is kind of a gut call, though he passes the eye test from Spring Training, but Cano is a man on a mission. And Seattle could be sneaky competitive. For my money, Sonny Gray is as good a right handed pitcher as there is in the game. David Ortiz, who knows a little about hitting, says Gray is one of the toughest pitchers he has ever faced. Good enough for me. Shaun and I agree on Buxton. He's got Mike Trout-like potential. If the injury bug doesn't bite him, who will compete with him?

Who will win the NL MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year?

Shaun: Bryce Harper will repeat as MVP. He is one of the best players in all of baseball, he showed it last year, and he will show it again this year. His teammate, Max Scherzer, will win the Cy Young. It seemed like Scherzer was a threat to throw a no hitter every time out last year, and this year should be no different. Zimmerman is no longer committing errors at third, Rendon can play a solid third base, but may move to second to move Daniel Murphy to the outfield when the Rookie of the Year gets called up. Yes, I am calling a trifecta of Nationals award winners. The only thing holding Trea Turner back from winning ROY is his manager, Dusty Baker. Baker has long been cautious with young position players, but Turner is special. I have seen him play, he can fly, he can hit, and he can play very good defense. I spoke with the San Antonio Missions broadcaster early in the season last year to find out how Turner was doing playing for a team he knew he was not a part of (he had been traded to the Nationals as a player to be named later but had to wait until June to move, a rule that has since been changed) and he raved about how well he handled the situation. Turner is the best player in the Wil Myers-Steven Souza deal, and the Nationals also got Joe Ross who will be better than his brother Tyson, not bad by the Nats.

Torsten: Andrew McCutcheon, Clayton Kershaw, and Kenta Maeda. Cutch pretty much does everything for Pittsburgh. He's the National League's Mike Trout. It's going to be a close race with Harper, but as I stated earlier, I think he takes a small step back. There isn't a better pitcher on the planet than Kershaw. Metrically, he's on a pace to become one of the best in history. If not for stupidly biased voting (Arrieta) and an otherworldly season from Zack Greinke, he'd have won last year. Lots of people are picking Cory Seager, but while I like him, Maeda makes more sense to me. I don't like it, because the Japanese top league has become good enough to produce MLB regulars pretty consistently, so those guys shouldn't have the same eligibility as a kid coming up from the minors. Alas, they do. And historically, it takes a year for hitters to adjust to a new pitcher coming over from Japan. Maeda could have a big year (15+ wins, sub 3 ERA).

Agree? Don't? Let us know on Twitter @thestainsports. Thank you for reading. 

Tuesday
Mar292016

Thoughts from the Throne 3 - NFL Free Agency

Hi again. Back onto our soap boxes we go with some of the most pressing topics of the NFL free agency period. (There was a decent time gap between Torsten and Shaun, so some of Torsten’s comments are dated, blame Shaun.)

 

What is the best NFL free agent signing so far?

 

Shaun: I think this is a combo platter for the Raiders. Bruce Irvin adds another pass rusher to work opposite Khalil Mack. He adds championship experience to a young team with a lot of talent. The other is Kelechi Osemele. Osemele is one of the best run blocking guards in all of football, and the Raiders need help there. Their biggest weakness is in the running game, and Osemele instantly improves that part of the game even before they add a dynamic back to the mix. He is not a bad pass blocker either, which will help Derek Carr, who is proving to be the real deal at quarterback.

 

Torsten: If you ask me, it’s one of the most recent. When the Patriots brought aboard Chris Long with a one-year deal, they once again demonstrated that they are just that much smarter than everyone else. Sure, it’s probably easier to recruit players to a team with a consistent track record of winning. But rewind the clock two years, Long is considered an excellent all-around defensive end, not unlike you might expect from a guy once taken with the second overall draft pick. Sure, the last two years have been injury struck for him, but a guy with his track record, even at age 31, could have gotten more money and years. Instead, the Pats get him on the cheap for one year. If he stays healthy and pays off, it’s the genius move of the off-season. If he gets hurt again or experiences a surprising drop off in his level of play, it’s no big deal because the Pats are fairly deep at the position and there’s no commitment beyond this year. It’s the perfect high reward, no risk move.

 

What is the worst NFL free agent signing so far?

 

Shaun: Here comes another duo. The New York Giants overpaid for Olivier Vernon and anything above the veteran’s minimum is overpaying for JPP. Vernon was solid as the number two pass rusher opposite Cameron Wake, but now he is opposite the man who went in for more surgery in Jason Pierre-Paul. The stupidity of a fireworks accident aside, JPP struggled all year trying to find a glove/club that worked for him and has had many surgeries and lost multiple fingers, so of course they re-sign him.

 

Torsten: I don’t have to go very far down the list. I don’t think Malik Jackson is a bad player by any stretch, but if you don’t think his 2015 level of play was inflated at all by being between Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, you probably have some reevaluating to do. I get it, you’re Jacksonville. The offensive core of Bortles, Robinson, Hurns and Yeldon has you oozing with optimism. You just need that defense to keep up. But for the circa 90 million used to sign Jackson, they could have signed two or three solid players. Add to that the expected return of Dante Fowler, and thing look rosy. But no. 90 million for Malik Jackson. Jeebus…

 

What was your reaction when Brock Osweiler signed with Houston?

 

Shaun: There was nobody I was more sure of in the 2012 NFL draft than Brock Osweiler to the Broncos (outside of Andrew Luck at the top of the draft). They were coming off a year with Tim Tebow at QB, and John Elway had said they wanted a tall, strong armed, pocket passer, so Osweiler was the perfect fit. Even after they signed Peyton Manning I was pounding the table that it was inevitable Elway drafted Osweiler. Now, after winning the Super Bowl, Elway gets the chance to give the prototype he wanted the reigns to his team…and he gets away. When it finally happened, there was enough rumbling that it wasn’t a surprise, but leading up to it I was shocked that Elway let him get away.

 

Torsten: “Holy sh*t!” That’s it. That was my reaction. It wasn’t the fact that he signed with Houston – they were once again done in by ruinously bad quarterback play so it made sense they’d try to address the issue – it was the money, obviously. Upon closer inspection the money doesn’t appear to be quite as absurd as it did at first. But if we’re talking about initial reactions, “shock” would be a good way to describe mine.

 

Who should the Broncos get as their quarterback?

 

Shaun: With RG3 now in Cleveland, I actually think Josh McCown could be a really good fit. He and Sanchez could compete for the starting gig and draft a developmental QB at the back of the first or second round. Guys like Connor Cook, Dak Prescott, and Christian Hackenberg will almost certainly be there for their first pick, and one or two might be there at their second. Dak Prescott has been referred to as the right handed Tim Tebow, so that might be enough to squash his chances in Elway’s eyes, but a trio of Sanchez, McCown, and a developing rookie to go with their defense is enough to be a playoff team.

 

Torsten: Not Mark Sanchez! Kidding. But not really. Look, Sanchez is good enough and experienced enough to justify being employed as a back up quarterback in the NFL. But he’s a risk-taker, and with that amazing defense, the Broncos just need a quarterback who will protect the ball so they can win the field position battle. I think they could win with Ryan Fitzpatrick short term, but the perfect solution isn’t on the market this year. Here’s what I tell Kubiak and Elway if I’m their personnel advisor or something. “Offer Buffalo a conditional 7th rounder for EJ Manuel, tell him your vision for the position (don’t turn the @#$%ing ball over) and have him compete with Sanchez for the job.” I really don’t think they need the media circus that would come with bringing in RG 3, or worse, Manziel in to compete for the job.

 

Homer Corner: What do you think of your team’s free agency (including trades) activity so far this NFL off-season?

 

Shaun (Patriots): When I first saw all the moves the Patriots were making, I loved it, but have soured in it some. They have a history of selling a year or two early than too late, but Chandler Jones can really disrupt a game. They deal him for a draft pick and Jonathan Cooper, who is an outright bust thus far in his career. They also trade for Martellus Bennett, who I like but is more of a mini-Gronk than an Aaron Hernandez type (murderer not included) that so many have talked about. I do like Chris Long, but they are bringing in a guy who is already a couple years past his prime. The guy I really do like is Shea McClellin. I loved him at Boise State but he really struggled with the Bears. His skill set allows him to be versatile, so a Mike Vrabel comp might be thrown out there, and if he is ½ the player Vrabel was it will be a steal.

 

Torsten (Rams): I think the jury is still out. I often get accused of giving the Rams unfairly low grades because of my dislike for Jeff Fisher, though hindsight almost always proves me right. So far though, I’d have to say they get a C+, with an asterisk indicating it could climb to a B+ or fall to an F.

They’ve done some things right so far. Not paying Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod the crazy money that the Giants and Eagles did was smart. Both are good players but not close to worth that kind of cap-crippling money, especially when they have good depth in the secondary. The commonly agreed upon biggest hole they have is wide receiver, but nobody on the market was worth spending money on, and they haven’t, s that’s good. Keeping Will Hayes was critical – he’s quietly one of the best players in the NFL at his role (rotational defensive line). Keeping Mark Barron was a good move too, even if they overpaid slightly. Cutting Chris Long, James Laurinaitas and Jared Cook was understandable, but here’s where the question marks come up. You can make the argument that all three players had begun performing at a level not commensurate with their salary cap number. This is probably accurate, especially in Long’s case because of injury, but all three guys were still performing at a “useful” level. On a business level, cutting them makes sense so you can replace them with equal or higher performing players at a more cost-effective level. But that only really applies if you actually replace them. So far they haven’t. Here’s how their grade could go up. They use their number 15 overall pick to grab Ohio St. linebacker Darron Lee to fill the void left by Alec Ogletree who slides to the middle for Laurinaitas, and they package their two second rounders to move up and grab Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence to fill the void left by Long’s departure, and then sign a veteran pass-catching tight end like Owen Daniels on the cheap. Obviously these are hypotheticals and the names, especially Spence’s in a deeeeeeep DL draft, are interchangeable. But this kind of drafting would make the early moves of free agency make sense. Here’s how their grade could drop. They expect Hayes to become a full-time starter at 31, expect Barron to take over Ogletree’s outside linebacker spot (which he did admirably in 2015) instead of the hybrid backer/safety role he’s better suited (and built) for, and expect young guys like Bryce Hager and Ethan Westbrooks to take huge leaps forward that they’re not ready for. Lastly, and because Jeff Fisher IS an idiot when it comes to roster construction, you can’t rule out that he packages their first rounder and both of their seconds to move up to first or second overall and select Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, because the thought of a Gurley/Elliott backfield is too much for his aging prostate to take.