Sunday, April 22, 2012

2012 NFL Draft - Mock 1.0

With the draft less than a week away, here is my first and likely only attempt at mocking the first 36 selections:

Round 1

1) Indianapolis Colts
This one’s been pretty set for a while now.  Andrew Luck is Indy’s attempt to make a quick return to glory in the post-Peyton era.
The pick – Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)

2) Washington Redskins
Just about as much of a lock as Andrew Luck to Indy; Shanahan gets his athletic passer.
The pick – Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)

3) Minnesota Vikings
There are reports/guesses that the Vikings pass on Matt Kalil here, but given their situation up front, they’d be fools to pass on the year’s lone elite blind side blocker.
The pick – Matt Kalil (T, USC)

4) Cleveland Browns
A few months ago I mentioned that my gut said Claiborne would be their guy.  Sure they have Joe Haden, but that doesn’t preclude you from drafting another lockdown corner, especially in this pass happy league and when you own 3 of the first 37 picks.  The Browns need a threat at receiver, but I don’t believe Justin Blackmon is worthy of the #4 pick.  Is the gap between him, Floyd, Wright, Randle, and Hill that wide?  All of those guys except Floyd have a good chance of being available when they pick again at #22.  Ok, so if you cross WR off the list, this comes down to the top two talents or the draft’s third best QB.  For me, if you don’t have a franchise QB, you should always be looking for one.  That doesn’t mean that you have to reach for a guy who’s more potential than production with the 4th pick in the draft though.  I don’t think they’re into Tannehill.  Claiborne or Richardson?  Richardson or Claiborne?  It’s a debate Bucs fans have had for months, and I truly believe it will be Cleveland’s debate as well.  You could argue that either one is the best available player at this point, and you wouldn’t be wrong.  Again, my gut says they’re going to value pairing an elite corner opposite Haden than they will a RB. 
The pick – Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)

5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Claiborne off the board, this selection is pretty automatic.  If the Browns do indeed take Richardson, I believe this pick is just as easily spent on Claiborne.  Richardson is exactly what the Bucs need in the backfield, and given their offseason attention to receiver and the offensive line, adding the (potentially) best back since Adrian Peterson is quite the cherry on top of this offseason upgrade.  Greg Schiano wants to control the game on the ground, and of the talent on the Bucs roster and the talent available in this year’s draft, Richardson gives him the best chance to do that. 
The pick – Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)

6) Saint Louis Rams
I’m not in love with this pick; not feeling terribly confident about it.  If the draft plays out this way and they don’t move up for Claiborne or Richardson, I’m guessing Justin Blackmon would be their top choice.  I believe in Sam Bradford, and they definitely need to upgrade his receivers if he’s going to have a chance of reaching his potential. 
The pick – Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)

7) Jacksonville Jaguars
I think this year’s first “what the *#@!” pick will again come from the Jags.  Michael Floyd and Quinton Coples are often mocked here, but Gene Smith doesn’t fool around with off field stuff.  Stephon Gilmore’s stock is soaring and is being mentioned as an option here, but I’m going even further off the radar.  I think this guy will go a lot higher than most project him to, but no one has him as a top 10 pick.  The Jags pull off a huge shocker.
The pick – Chandler Jones (DE, Syracuse)

8) Miami Dolphins
They may be able to hold tight and still get their guy.  That’s assuming Kansas City or Seattle doesn’t pull off a trade to leapfrog them. 
The pick – Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)

9) Carolina Panthers
Defensive line looks to be the way they’ll go with this one, and I’m guessing they take the stud interior guy over the local end with a questionable motor. 
The pick – Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State)

10) Buffalo Bills
Riley Reiff gets slotted here in most mocks, but I really don’t think they’ll take him.  The offense made strides last year, but it needs a better #1 receiving option.  If Floyd isn’t the pick, I think they’ll take Luke Kuechly.
The pick – Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)

11) Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs haven’t exactly drafted by the book in recent years, and I expect that to continue here.  This guy is regarded as the best at his position, but it’s a position that usually doesn’t see its first player picked until quite a bit later in the first round. 
The pick – David DeCastro (G, Stanford)

12) Seattle Seahawks
I fully expect this pick to be a front seven defensive player.  They signed Barrett Ruud but don’t have any long term linebacker prospects aside from KJ Wright.  Would the failure that was Aaron Curry make them gun shy of spending another early pick on a LB?  There are plenty of pass rushers to choose from at this point, but I think they’ll take they guy who looks like the surest thing on the board.
The pick – Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College)

13) Arizona Cardinals
They have interest in Floyd, but he’s off the board here.  In this scenario I think it’s an offensive lineman or pass rusher.  They’re sticking with Kevin Kolb at QB, and he recently revealed how he struggled with concussion symptoms weeks into the offseason.  They need to upgrade his protection if they want to get anything at all from their seemingly failed investment.  This is as high as I see this guy going, and if Arizona passes on him, he might stay on the board another 10 picks.
The pick – Riley Reiff (T, Iowa)

14) Dallas Cowboys
Dontari Poe is being connected to the Cowboys quite a lot, but that just doesn’t seem to be the kind of move Jerry Jones would make.  Poe is far from a sure thing in my opinion.  They added Brandon Carr at corner, but they’re still searching for a Roy Williams-like presence on the back end of the defense.  Reading through all the smoke, I think this is their guy.
The pick – Mark Barron (S, Alabama)

15) Philadelphia Eagles
Even though they traded for DeMeco Ryans, I’d make Kuechly their pick if he was still available.  Since he’s not, I’m thinking either defensive line or cornerback.  Asante Samuel is as good as gone, and DRC is a free agent after the season.  Gilmore makes a ton of sense here, but I think they go in a different direction. 
The pick – Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)

16) New York Jets
Getting a pass rusher tops their list of needs, and the guy they reportedly want is still on the board.  I know he routinely gets mocked higher than this, but a ‘slide’ to 16 shouldn’t shock anyone.
The pick – Melvin Ingram (DE/OLB, South Carolina)

17) Cincinnati Bengals
If he falls this far, I don’t see him lasting any longer.  I mentioned this guy as my #1 choice for the Bucs at #36 if they don’t get Claiborne, but he’s the highest riser in this draft class, deserved or not.
The pick – Stephon Gilmore (CB, South Carolina)

18) San Diego Chargers
The Chargers are still looking for a pass rusher, and I think they stay local in their pursuit. 
The pick – Nick Perry (DE/OLB, USC)

19) Chicago Bears
I think the Bears are focusing on a defensive lineman here and end up taking the top rated remaining tackle. 
The pick – Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)

20) Tennessee Titans
There’s a lot of talk of them taking a corner here with the loss of Cortland Finnegan, but I think they take a pass rusher, even with the addition of Kamerion Wimbley.    
The pick – Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)

21) Cincinnati Bengals
With their second pick of the first round, the Bengals address the interior of the offensive line.
The pick – Cordy Glenn (G, Georgia)

22) Cleveland Browns
After taking Claiborne with the #4 pick, I expect the Browns to take the top RB or WR on their board.  The only other option I see here would be Brandon Weeden, but I’m not convinced they can’t get him at #37.  I think this guy is going to go a lot higher than most expect. 
The pick – Rueben Randle (WR, LSU)

23) Detroit Lions
The need is great at corner, and they’re getting solid value here. 
The pick – Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)

24) Pittsburgh Steelers
If I’m a Steeler fan, I’ve got to love this pick.  James Farrior’s exit creates a hole at ILB, and this guy is an ideal fit.
The pick – Dont’a Hightower (LB, Alabama)

25) Denver Broncos
I’ve got this one being either a DT or RB, and while there’s been more urgency buzz around DT, I think we see another slight surprise here. 
The pick – Doug Martin (RB, Boise State)

26) Houston Texans
To me the Texans are the next team on the verge of big things.  Whoever they take here could help determine if/when they get to the next level.  I’m looking WR or best available defensive player.  That offense could really take off if they had a serious threat opposite Andre Johnson, and this guy has that potential.
The pick – Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)

27) New England Patriots
The Patriots own two of the next five picks, and I’m looking for them to focus on OL, DL, OLB, and secondary.  Tom Brady isn’t going anywhere, but his blockers up front are beginning to. 
The pick – Peter Konz (C, Wisconsin)

28) Green Bay Packers
They reportedly have a lot of love for this guy, and I think he’d make a great addition opposite Clay Matthews. 
The pick – Shea McClellin (LB, Boise State)

29) Baltimore Ravens
Ben Grubbs’ departure leaves a hole at LG that can’t be filled suitably by any player on their roster.  This guy is a bit of an unknown but may very well be a day one selection.
The pick – Amini Silatolu (G, Midwestern State)

30) San Francisco 49ers
If the draft plays out this way I’d expect the Niners to try and deal down.  Coby Fleener might be an option, even with Vernon Davis, but if they stay put, I think they go in a different direction.  An offensive or defensive lineman might seem to be the bigger need, but even with the additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, the receiver position is certainly not “fixed”. 
The pick – Stephen Hill (WR, Georgia Tech) 

31) New England Patriots
After going DL with their first pick, the Patriots address the secondary.  This guy might be a bit of a surprise to go day one, but Bill Belichick has pulled off bigger shockers.
The pick – Harrison Smith (S, Notre Dame)

32) New York Giants
They continue stockpiling defensive linemen and address interior depth with this selection. 
The pick – Devon Still (DT, Penn State)

Notable players not drafted in R1 –
Dontari Poe, Courtney Upshaw, Janoris Jenkins, Coby Fleener, Jerel Worthy, Jonathan Martin, Alshon Jeffery, and Mike Adams.

Round 2

33) Saint Louis Rams
If they stay here and make the first pick of day two, I think they’ll look into the remaining talent at DT.  This guy could easily go day one.
The pick – Jerel Worthy (DT, Michigan State)

34) Indianapolis Colts
If you’re going to build your franchise around Andrew Luck, why not provide him with his favorite collegiate target?
The pick – Coby Fleener (TE, Stanford)

35) Minnesota Vikings
I’ve got the Vikings choosing between two big question marks here.  Janoris Jenkins’ slide continues.
The pick – Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina)

36) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If the Bucs get Richardson at #4, that leaves CB and LB as the two positions needing the most urgent attention, and given how I see the draft playing out, the best value at CB is in R1 and R3.  Gilmore and Kirkpatrick will go in R1, and I can’t see the Bucs drafting Jenkins should he be there at #36.  Anyone else would be a big reach.  I’ve said that a R2 LB would be a reach as well, but given the sad state of affairs at the position, I think Tampa will target a LB or two and take one of them here if they can’t deal down.  That’s one reason I think it would be an even bigger get to nab Richardson at #4 – two large need areas knocked out with the first two picks.  Regardless of Claiborne or Richardson in R1, I think they’ll target a LB here.      

Seeing as how they’re apparently committed to Mason Foster as their MLB, I’d expect their focus to be on someone who can excel at WLB.  My three top early targets are Lavonte David (Nebraska), Mychal Kendricks (Cal), and Sean Spence (Miami), and only David really belongs in early R2 discussions. 

The pick – Lavonte David (LB, Nebraska
Hard worker, solid tackler, and capable in coverage; should be able to step in at WLB from day 1.

I see pick #36 as a great chance for the Bucs to recoup that lost R4 pick.  If it plays out similarly to what I’ve projected, there will be a few front seven defenders, offensive linemen, and running backs that teams might be eager to move up for.  The Bucs could drop down a handful of picks and still get either David or Kendricks. 

Round 3

After drafting Richardson and David, I’d expect the Bucs to zero in on a corner in R3. 
Alfonzo Dennard, Jamell Fleming, Brandon Boykin, and Trumaine Johnson are possibilities in that range, but Dennard’s recent (and horrifically stupid) arrest will likely cost him at least a round. 

The pick – Jamell Fleming (CB, Oklahoma
Well rounded corner who doesn’t wilt in the box; lacks elite athleticism but has the skills and toughness to be a solid NFL starter.

If the Bucs get Claiborne instead of Richardson in R1, I’d love to see this pick spent on RB Isaiah Pead if he’s still available.

Remaining Rounds

If the Bucs can acquire a RB, LB, and CB with their first three picks, I’d like to see them finish it out by taking the best available talent with an eye towards the secondary, tight end, defensive line, and offensive tackle. 

Round 4

I realize the Bucs are without a 4th round pick due to their trading up in last year’s draft to acquire Luke Stocker, but by chance they make a move to acquire a selection in the round, here are my targets:

Omar Bolden (CB, Arizona State)
Ryan Broyles (WR, Oklahoma)
Brandon Taylor (S, LSU)
TY Hilton (WR, FIU)
Ronnie Hillman (RB, San Diego State)
Brandon Mosley (T, Auburn)
Keenan Robinson (LB, Texas)

The pick – Brandon Taylor (S, LSU)
An underrated prospect, Taylor was the enforcer at the back end of the Tigers very skilled secondary. 

Round 5

The targets:
Evan Rodriguez (FB/TE, Temple)
Asa Jackson (CB, Cal-Poly)
Josh Norman (CB, Coastal Carolina)
Ryan Steed (CB, Furman)
James Hanna (TE, Oklahoma)
Aaron Henry (FS, Wisconsin)
Ryan Lindley (QB, San Diego State)
Tom Compton (T, South Dakota)
Travis Lewis (LB, Oklahoma)

The pick – Ryan Steed (CB, Furman)
Small school, athletic corner with a good bit of potential for a projected late pick.

Rounds 6 & 7

The targets:
Mike Harris (CB, FSU)
Audie Cole (LB, NC State)
Micah Pellerin (CB, Hampton)
Scott Solomon (DE, Rice)
Neiko Thorpe (S, Auburn)
George Bryan (TE, NC State)
Jamie Blatnick (DE, Oklahoma State)
Chase Ford (TE, Miami)
Frank Alexander (DE, Oklahoma)
Akiem Hicks (DT, Regina)

The picks –
Audie Cole (LB, NC State)
Scott Solomon (DE, Rice)
Cole is a productive, position-versatile linebacker who strikes me as the type of talent Schiano would like as depth, and Solomon is a high motor end with some tackle flexibility.

In addition to the R6/R7 targets mentioned above, here are a few names I’d like the Bucs to consider as undrafted free agents should they go unselected:

Joe Martinek (FB, Rutgers)
Aaron Corp (QB, Richmond)
Corey White (S, Samford)
Quinton Richardson (S, Washington)

In Summary
After adding the draft’s best back to go with previously acquired Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks, the Bucs turn their focus towards upgrading a beleaguered defense. 

R1 – Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
R2 – Lavonte David (LB, Nebraska)
R3 – Jamell Fleming (CB, Oklahoma)
*R4 – Brandon Taylor (S, LSU)
R5 – Ryan Steed (CB, Furman)
R6 – Audie Cole (LB, NC State)
R7 – Scott Solomon (DE, Rice)

Go Bucs!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

2012 MLB Predictions

American League

1 – Rays
2 – Yankees
3 – Red Sox
4 – Blue Jays
5 – Orioles

The Yankees are the favorite to win the East, but I’m sticking with the pattern that’s developed in recent years. Since ’08 the Rays and Yanks have alternated years as division champs, and with the Yankees winning last year, guess whose turn it is this year? They may have the best pitching in baseball and get to trot out the dominating lefty Matt Moore as their 4th starter. Evan Longoria should bounce back in a big way, and Ben Zobrist is the glue that really holds that lineup together. I’m intrigued to see what Desmond Jennings can do in a full season. Robinson Cano is an elite player, but the Yankees will need more consistency from both Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez this year if they’re going to walk away with the division as many expect them to. Teixeira’s average has fallen off the map the last two years, and A-Rod’s overall numbers have dropped in each of the last four. Adding Michael Pineda behind CC Sabathia for Jesus Montero was a bold move, and he already dealing with a shoulder issue. They also won’t get another dominating season from Ivan Nova. Boston won’t turn it around quite yet, Toronto is in the wrong division, and the O’s are still awful.

1 – Tigers
2 – Royals
3 – Indians
4 – White Sox
5 – Twins

Detroit could win this thing with last year’s lineup, but adding Prince Fielder is almost unfair. The Tigers are one of the preseason favorites to win it all, and it would take a huge upset for them not to finish first. I look for a big season from Brennan Boesch hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera and Fielder. Justin Verlander may not repeat as MVP, but he’ll be a front runner for Cy Young. That guys gets scary dominant at times; 97 in the 9th?! I do worry about the rest of their pitching and think, barring an in-season acquisition, that will be their weakness in the postseason. If a team is to challenge the Tigers, I think it’s the Royals. I love Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas looks like he’s destined for big things. I think Alex Gordon can repeat his big year, and I expect Lorenzo Cain to make a few highlights. On the other hand, there’s still not enough pitching and Joakim Soria needs Tommy John. Cleveland will finish around .500 while Chicago and Minnesota fight it out for the cellar.

1 – Angels
2 – Rangers
3 – Mariners
4 – A’s

I’ll see your Fielder and raise you a Pujols. The Angels’ acquisition of El Hombre (a nickname Pujols doesn’t like out of respect for Stan Musial) is enough to reclaim ownership of the West. Despite the league change and elderly age of 32 I expect a solid rebound from last year’s “down season”. I think Howie Kendrick really benefits from the addition of Pujols, and if they can successfully turn Mark Trumbo into an everyday third basemen, you’re looking at a lineup with Pujols, Kendrick, Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, a healthy Kendrys Morales, and eventually, super prospect Mike Trout. If that wasn’t impressive enough, look at the pitching. They stole CJ Wilson from Texas’ (their best starter) and slot him in behind two aces in Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. If that wasn’t enough, there’s Ervin Santana; one of the game’s best 4th starters and a guy with a no-no in his pocket. For the Rangers I’m expecting a down year from Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, and as a result, a pitching staff minus Wilson should struggle. I’m anxious to see what Yu Darvish has, and I think Nelson Cruz will be the team’s MVP. I just don’t think it will be enough and that this race doesn’t play out terribly close over the course of the entire season. Seattle and Oakland are really bad.

National League

1 – Phillies
2 – Braves
3 – Nationals
4 – Marlins
5 – Mets

I’m projecting a Phillie first place finish, but who isn’t? Not having Ryan Howard or Chase Utley to start the year will hurt, but damn that pitching is awesome. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hammels would be #1s on most teams in the league, and Jonathan Papelbon should bring more stability to the closer role. I look for Hunter Pence to pace the offense and make a strong push for league MVP. Jimmy Rollins looks like he’s still got plenty left, and the versatile Ty Wigginton should help plug some holes, at least in the short term. I don’t see any team other than the Braves getting close to the Phillies, and I do like their chances to make things interesting. I’m a Freddie Freeman fan and would like to see Dan Uggla show up for the first half of the season this year. I believe he will. I think their biggest question will be the pitching, specifically Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens, two starters who struggled with injuries down the stretch. I expect Hanson performs as a #1 but Jurrjens experiences quite the regression from last year’s performance. I’m guessing the Marlins don’t quite live up to the hype and finish one game behind the Nationals. The Mets firmly grasp the fifth spot.

1 – Reds
2 – Cardinals
3 – Brewers
4 – Cubs
5 – Pirates
6 – Astros

This one figures to be a really tight race, at least with the top three teams. I’m counting on the Reds to end up on top despite losing newly acquired closer Ryan Madson for the year this spring. I like Joey Votto, and apparently the Reds do too judging by that $225 million deal he just signed. Jay Bruce has yet to hit his ceiling as a hitter, and that’s scary if you look at his yearly progressions. Brandon Phillips is a great leader and one of the best second basement in the game. Mat Latos joins Johnny Cueto atop the rotation to give them a pretty solid 1-2 punch in a division with some solid hurlers. For St. Louis the loss of Albert Pujols will be great, but bringing in Carlos Beltran will help. He and Pujols’ replacement, Lance Berkman, had nice bounce back seasons in ’11. They’ll both need repeats as well as another typical solid season from Matt Holliday if they’re going to have a chance of defend their title in the postseason. Losing ace Chris Carpenter for any substantial period certainly won’t help. Ryan Braun keeps his MVP and won’t face suspension, but I’m not sure Aramis Ramirez is enough of a replacement for Fielder. What will Mat Gamel bring? Milwaukee will go as far as their pitching takes them, and with that staff, it won’t be too hard for them to put together some decent win stretches. The Cubs aren’t jinxed. They’re just never any good. Pittsburgh regresses, and Houston again brings up the rear.

1 – Diamondbacks
2 – Dodgers
3 – Giants
4 – Rockies
5 – Padres

Arizona had a return to glory kind of season last year, running away with the West and setting high hopes for ’12. I’m really big on this team and believe they’ve got the talent and moxie to remain atop a very winnable division. Justin Upton is one of the game’s elite young talents and a future MVP. Paul Goldschmidt has big time potential, and I’d love to see Chris Young have one really solid season. Love the pitching. Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson are studs, and I like the Trevor Cahill addition as a third starter. Finally, the McCourt days are behind my Dodgers, and the Magic man has taken over. This will be a year of evaluation with eyes on big changes in ’13. Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, and Brandon Phillips would look great in Dodger Blue. Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw were the league’s best hitter and pitcher last year, and with little done to upgrade the rest of the roster, they’ll need to do it again this year for the Dodgers to meet my second place projection. I think Andre Ethier will bounce back, but James Loney’s blah bat at first base is really limiting them offensively. Getting Buster Posey back is great, but I don’t think the Giants pitching will allow them to win as many 2-1 or 3-2 ballgames this year. Colorado has two studs in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, but the pitching is putrid. San Diego is worse.


Here’s how I see the postseason playing out:

Wild Cards
AL – Rangers and Yankees
NL – Cardinals and Braves

Division Round
Angels beat Yankees
Rays beat Tigers
Diamondbacks beat Braves
Reds beat Phillies

League Championships
Angels beat Rays
Diamondbacks beat Reds

World Series
Diamondbacks beat Angels

Award Winners

Here are my predicted final vote tallies for year end awards:
Manager of the Year
AL –
1 – Mike Scioscia
2 – Joe Maddon
3 – John Farrell
4 – Jim Leyland
5 – Ned Yost
NL –
1 – Kirk Gibson
2 – Dusty Baker
3 – Fredi Gonzalez
4 – Charlie Manuel
5 – Don Mattingly
Rookie of the Year
AL –
1 – Matt Moore
2 – Yu Darvish
3 – Jesus Montero
4 – Mike Trout
5 – Jacob Turner
NL –
1 – Bryce Harper
2 – Drew Pomeranz
3 – Yonder Alonso
4 – Anthony Rizzo
5 – Zack Cozart
Cy Young
AL –
1 – Justin Verlander
2 – Jered Weaver
3 – Felix Hernandez
4 – James Shields
5 – Ricky Romero

NL –
1 – Cole Hamels
2 – Clayton Kershaw
3 – Ian Kennedy
4 – Roy Halladay
5 – Zack Greinke

AL –
1 – Albert Pujols
2 – Evan Longoria
3 – Robinson Cano
4 – Miguel Cabrera
5 – Nelson Cruz

NL –
1 – Matt Kemp
2 – Justin Upton
3 – Troy Tulowitzki
4 – Joey Votto
5 – Ryan Braun