2013 NFL Draft Big Board (Post Bowl Season)

1. Luke Joeckel-Offensive Tackle

Texas A&M-Junior Luke-Joeckel

6-6, 310 lbs.


Joeckel has spent his whole career as the Aggies starting left tackle. The 6’6 blindside protector of Johnny Manziel is not flustered by speed rushers nor power guys… and he even continues to block while his quarterback is scrambling around. Joeckel is not overly powerful but he uses his hands very well and gets good leverage; very similar to Jake Long when he came out. One key element to Joeckel’s game is the ability to keep defensive ends engaged while his QB is scrambling and not allowing them to make the play. Joeckel never gets blown back and doesn’t panic when more than one rusher is sent, he does a great job of getting back into his stance and picking up the blitzers.


2. Bjoern Werner-Defensive End

Florida State-Junior

6-4, 256 lbs.


The German-born Bjoern Werner was arguably the most disruptive front-seven player in the nation. Werner was familiar with playing on the opposite side of Brandon Jenkins who went down with an injury early and Cornelius “Tank” Carradine who also missed most of the season due to injury. With his counterparts both going down, Werner attracted countless double-teams and still made the offense pay. The Connecticut exchange student has good burst off of the snap and has the ability to push the pocket just with his pure strength, he also shows the ability to freeze his blocker and sniff out the ball carrier at the point of attack. Werner needs to fine-tune his mechanics and add more moves to his repertoire, but he’s pretty darn good for a kid who’s only been playing for five years.


3.Chance Warmack-Guard


6-2, 322 lbs.


Rarely do we see a guard as a top-10 lineman, but Warmack is that good. Warmack is powerful and is quick enough to takeout linebackers at the next level. Warmack’s strength is run blocking but he is so powerful and quick that he can just move defenders wherever he wants. Eddie Lacey’s best runs came from power-o runs to Warmack’s side.


4. Jarvis Jones-Outside Linebacker


6-2, 242 lbs.


Jarvis Jones is the most aggressive pass-rusher in the most dominant conference. Before the season, there were questions about Jones’ length and ability to stop the run but he showed that he can do that in his junior campaign. Jones freezes offensive tackles with his jab step and has a power-strafe that allows ˙him to sack the quarterback more than once a game. He is the best pass-rusher in a deep 2013 class but a health issue known as spinal stenosis (forced OT Marcus McNeil to retire) could drop him in the draft; Jones transferred from USC because they weren’t comfortable with playing him with his condition.


5. Jonathan Hankins-Defensive Tackle/Nose Tackle

Ohio State-Junior

6-3, 335 lbs.


Scouts wanted see more consistency from Hankins this year and that is exactly what he showed us. Hankins isn’t a huge stat guy but he has extremely quick hands and moves like a defensive end at 335 pounds. Hankins is the perfect size for a nose tackle and has the ability to move down the line and make tackles on the outside run; he’s extremely disruptive with high upside
6. Damontre Moore-Defensive End

Texas A&M-Junior

6-5, 250 lbs.


Joeckel’s opponent in practice has emerged as the top 4-3 pass-rushing end in this class. Moore had a career day against LSU when he tallied up 10 tackles and a sack against the Tigers. Moore spent last season playing OLB in a 3-4 defense; versatility isn’t a question. The junior does a great job of dipping low and getting under offensive lineman, resulting in TFLs (tackles for loss) and sacks.
7. Manti Te’o-Inside Linebacker

Notre Dame-Senior

6-2, 255 lbs.


Manti Te’o is the anchor to the nation’s top defense. Te’o has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time and shows all of the intangibles. The top inside linebacker is a sure-fire tackler who can make plays in backfield and makes clutch, game-saving plays. Te’o has might just have the lowest bust potential in his class but taking middle linebackers in the top-10 of a draft has been risky in the past. T’eo was the heart and soul of Notre Dame and well will become a leader at the next level as well.


8. Dion Jordan-Outside Linebaker/Defensive End


6-6, 243 lbs.


Dion Jordan is the definition of freak in the scouting world. At 6’6, Jordan has played DE, OLB and was even spotted covering the slot WR against USC. Jordan was originally recruited as a WR but then suffered a shoulder injury. Due to the time off, Jordan came back heavier and then started to practice at TE, now we see Jordan on the other side of the ball. Jordan is not just incredibly explosive, he also does a good job of using his hands to deny the engagement of blocks from OTs and he does a good job of ripping through the line. One area that could use improvement would be Jordan getting his hands up to deflect passes, then, he would be even more deadly.



9. Star Lotulelei-Defensive Tackle


6-3, 320 lbs.


Star is an absolutely disruptive player who relies on a great set of physical tools. Lotulelei is explosive coming off of the snap and has strong hands, which allow him to steer the offensive lineman into any direction he wants. With the Utah native’s blend of quickness and upper body strength, Star is able to get through gaps and stop the play before the QB even hands the ball off. At the next level, Star could fit into the 4-3 DT position, as well as playing the nose tackle in a 3-4 and even playing the 5-tech DE in a 3-4. The Polynesian DT carries a little more weight than he should and he needs to do a better job getting his hands up.


10. Ezekiel Ansah-Defensive End

Brigham Young-Senior dnews 0929fbccougars.spt   ja

6-5, 270 lbs.


At first glance you may think that Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah is raw, but he is actually just young. Ansah has only been playing football for a handful of years but he has the high motor and the instincts to makeup for lack of playing time. Aside from his gifted stature, Ansah shows dedication to the sport and has gotten better each game of his senior campaign (got his first career INT in the Poinsettia Bowl). Ansah has strong upper body strength as well as a strong base, which he uses to dig-in and stand his ground against the run. Ziggy makes remarkable plays week-in and week-out, one that comes to mind is against San Diego State when he was kicked out to the sideline and pushed to the ground, he didn’t give up on the play and after the HB made jukes and cuts, Ansah caught up to him and made the tackle 20 yards downfield. The pure talent from this kid is remarkable and he is gong to get a lot of recognition after the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.



11.DeMarcus “Dee” Milliner-Cornerback


6-1, 198 lbs.


As most SEC cornerbacks are, Dee Milliner is a strong CB who is very disciplined in coverage. The All-American corner exhibits great fluidity throughout his movements and opening his hips up when the QB goes to throw the balls. Milliner does a good job in recognizing the play quickly and coming up to help the run, with that being said he is an excellent tackler. His biggest weaknesses are lack of experience (only 1 season of starting) and top end speed; but he makes up for that with his terrific bump-and-run technique along with his tight coverage.


12. Eric Fisher-Offensive Tackle

Central Michigan-Senior

6’8, 305 lbs.


Eric Fisher absolutely obliterated the MAC and even dominated one of the Big 10’s premiere pas-rushers in William Gholston when Central Michigan faced Michigan State. Fisher has extremely long arms and has great bend for a 6’8 tackle. I had a chance to see Eric Fisher live at UMASS and he his quite the athlete. I saw several plays against UMASS where the DE didn’t even bother rushing on some plays. Fisher wears the defense down and he has great awareness of when to move to the second level. Fisher needs to improve on his run-blocking in short yardage situations, but his ability to make plays down the field is quite impressive. The senior tackle has a wide base, which helps him keep his balance and he does a good job of stepping out into a cup protection against speed-rushers. The Chippewa is a future franchise left tackle.


13. Barkevious Mingo-Outside Linebacker


6-5, 240 lbs.


Barkevious Mingo has been forever-growing throughout his collegiate career. After adding more weight in his last off-season, Mingo didn’t have quite the year scouts have expected but he is still one heck of a prospect. Unlike most of this year’s pass-rushing prospects, Mingo has refined technique and shows that he is an instinctual player on tape. The long-armed outside backer uses his frame to separate himself from the OT and then takes the corner and shows great closing speed on the QB. Mingo prefers to rip through his blocks, but he is also good at improvising and has shown that he can use the spin-move, bull rush and jab-step all effectively.


14. Taylor Lewan-Offensive Tackle


6-7, 310 lbs.


A year ago you would not have thought that Taylor Lewan would have been a top 20 pick but that just goes to show how much he has grown both as a player and as a leader. The junior blind-side protector does a good job of not over-extending and has great balance for a lineman of his size. Whether the QB was Denard Robinson or Devin Gardner, Lewan had a tough task in dealing with scrambling quarterbacks. Lewan sticks to his assignment and avoids costly penalties while showing the ability to adjust and create running lanes for his QB. Lewan still needs to learn to “reset” in pass-blocking when the defender rushes but technique is something that can be taught.


15. Geno Smith-Quarterback

West Virginia-Senior

6-3, 220 lbs.


This year’s QB class isn’t quite like the one we witnessed last year with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t guys who can start right away. Geno Smith led a high-octane offense but his best traits can’t be measured. Aside from pass-efficiency, the ability to throw his receivers open and ability to put touch on the ball, Geno Smith is a gamer. It’s not fair to compare players… especially of different sports, but Geno possesses a rare amount of confidence and desire to win, much like Kobe Bryant. Smith is never “down” and he thinks he’s going to score on every drive. The Miami native can throw to all-levels of the field but my main concern is that he sometimes puts too much air under his short passes which would result in interceptions at the next level. Smith has a smooth throwing motion and good footwork when moving in the pocket but he needs to make sure he sets his feet on every throw.


16. Sheldon Richardson-Defensive Tackle


6-3, 295 lbs.


Sheldon Richardson was a highly touted prospect before getting to Missouri and now he is a highly touted prospect entering the pros. The former 5-star recruit has quick hands and feet, allowing him to shed blocks and jump into the backfield to disrupt running plays. Richardson’s weight is evenly distributed throughout his body and he doesn’t get thrown off-balance often. Missouri wasn’t afraid to try different things with Richardson; he’s done stunts, bull rushes and has even dropped into coverage on zone-blitzes. Seeing Richardson pursuing the ball-carrier downfield and making the tackle says all you need to know about his athleticism. Richardson needs to get better at sacking the QB from the interior, but he’s going to test well at the combine and will fly up draft boards.


17. John Jenkins-Defensive Tackle/Nose Tackle


6-3, 358 lbs.


John Jenkins has been known to be inconsistent but when he does flash his talents he becomes a nightmare. It is very hard to stop Jenkins when he comes off of the snap with low pad-level, but he doesn’t always do that. Jenkins is the top nose tackle prospect and will be able to do a lot of things from that position in the NFL. At 358 pounds, Jenkins has long arms and the pure strength to blow his blockers back, even to the point where they disrupt their own quarterback. The JUCO-transfer gets sluggish when he is double-teamed and he will need to test well at the combine for scouts to overlook his motor and consistency.


18. Tyler Wilson-Quarterback


6-2, 218 lbs.


Tyler Wilson did not get nearly enough credit for what he had done at Arkansas. Tyler Wilson did to Arkansas, what Jay Cutler did to Vanderbilt… and that was cover up a lot of ugly. Wilson is a QB who is always fighting for his team and will do whatever it takes to win. Wilson spent his senior year with an interim coach, battling concussions and didn’t have his RB Knile Davis. Wilson is a gutsy QB who will step up in the pocket and deliver strikes despite taking hits; something that some QBs can never learn to do. Tyler Wilson has a quick delivery and above average arm strength along with all of the intangibles which will make a coach feel safe with starting him on opening day of next year.



19. Sam Montgomery-Defensive End


6-5, 260 lbs.


Sam Montgomery is just another defender from the bayou that will be taken in the first round. The 6’5 edge-rusher relies on his speed a whole lot. Montgomery does a good job of dipping his shoulders and getting around the corner but he needs to add more to his game. In the past, Montgomery has tried to bull-rush lineman but that didn’t work all to well. On the other hand, Montgomery is a very sound run-defender. Montgomery can shed his blocks at the point of attack and bring down the RB all in one motion.


20. Keenan Allen-Wide Receiver


Wide Receiver

6-3, 210 lbs.


Keenan Allen is a smooth receiver who has quintessential size. Allen lacks #1 WR acceleration but has great top-end speed on deep routes and long runs. Allen put up solid numbers at California (with a poor QB) and was able to show a natural set of tools. The stepbrother of QB Zach Maynard, catches the ball away from his body, snatches high throws out of the air and has a wide catching radius due to his length. Something you typically don’t see from WR right away is the ability to block, but Allen has shown that he is both willing and good at it. With the set of skills he has, lack of speed won’t hurt his draft stock.


21. Johnthan Banks-Cornerback

Mississippi State-Senior

6-1, 185 lbs.


Johnthan Banks is a long corner who has great physicality when in coverage. Banks lacks ideal speed but he’s very disciplined in man coverage and he does a good job of deflecting passes away from his receiver. Although he isn’t considered a ballhawk, Banks locates the ball, highpoints it and then when he does create turnovers, he’s able to get good yardage off of them.


22. Tavon Austin-Wide Receiver

West Virginia-SeniorTavon Austin

5-9, 172 lbs.


At his size, Tavon Austin is the ideal slot WR for the NFL. Austin was a part of one of the top WR duos in the nation and made a lot of plays for his QB Geno Smith.

Tavon Austin has world-class speed and he uses that after the catch to get up the sideline and score the touchdown. As a receiver, Austin is able to create a great amount of separation while the ball is in the air. As a returner, Austin has great vision and doesn’t shy away from the hits and he bounces off defenders if they fail to wrap up and this year, Austin added another element to his game by becoming a running back. When the speedster is in the backfield, defenses can’t load the box because of his ability to bounce the run outside as well as using lethal cutbacks. Austin won’t be the first WR selected because of his size, but teams are drooling over his ability.


23. Jonathan Cooper-Guard

North Carolina-Senior

6-3, 310 lbs.


Jonathan Cooper isn’t as strong as Chance Warmack but he is just as experienced. After starting 35 games throughout his career, Cooper has showed both consistency and versatility. Cooper is fluid on his pulls and becomes a wrecking ball once he gets to the second level. Cooper does a good job of staying in front of his RB and driving the defense back but he needs to cut down on his holding penalties (result of poor hand placement). Cooper is very comfortable in both pass-protection and blocking, his motor and effortlessness could make him the second guard selected in the first round.


24. Jesse Williams-Nose Tackle


Nose Tackle

6’3, 320 lbs.


Jesse Williams is a player who has been rising consistently throughout the course of this season. Williams may not be the heaviest nose tackle but he does have the prototypical size. The Australian native has a wide frame and plays very low to the ground, which denies the interior lineman to get leverage on him and blow him back. Williams is not very effective as a pass-rusher but he does require double-teams which frees up his defensive ends. Williams uses his hands nicely but they need to get quicker. Another part of Williams’ game was playing the part of the Crimson Tide’s short yardage fullback where he blew up defenders.


25. Matt Barkley-Quarterback

Southern California-Senior

6-2, 230 lbs.


Not many players have had a more disappointing senior year than Mr. Barkley. The USC Trojan came into the year with his team ranked #1 and he was the Heisman frontrunner, but, that all changed quickly. Barkley doesn’t have the strongest arm by any means, or the most accurate, but he does have all the intangibles that NFL teams are looking for in their QB and leader. Barkley is accurate from mid-range and is a gym-rat, with the proper coaching he could blossom into a really good pro. Barkley puts his team in position to win but needs to smoothen out his footwork. There are many times where he doesn’t set his feet and he throws off his back foot, resulting in passes sailing over his intended receiver. Barkley missed the second half of this season with a shoulder injury but he should be able to perform at his pro-day and the NFL Combine.


Just Missed:

Zach Ertz-Stanford-TE

Kevin Minter-LSU-ILB

Terrance Williams-Baylor-WR



Top Players of Each Conference: Pacific 12 Conference

The college football season is right around the corner. As the season approaches, I will be breaking down the best players of each conference. Each article a new conference will be unveiled and the order will be alphabetical. The players will be ranked 1-10 (1 being the best). Note: This is before the start of the 2012 season, therefore players may get hurt and some will get better or worse. This is simply analyzing the best players in each conference, not which players will get drafted the highest in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Pacific 12 Conference

1.Matt Barkley-Quarterback-Southern California

The senior quarterback is going into the 2012 season as the most hyped player in the nation. Matt Barkley is just as good off the field as he is on it; he is one of the best students and hardest workers in the college game today. Now that we are finally entering the season, scouts are trying to nitpick Barkley but they are struggling to criticize him. In 2011 Barkley threw for 39 touchdowns and only seven interceptions while totaling 3,528 yards. Barkley has all of the traits that people don’t normally think of that makes him great: he stays poised in the pocket, throws fantastically on the run and has a soft touch on fade routes, dropping it over the cornerbacks. This Heisman hopeful looks to lead the Trojans to a national title.

2.Star Lotulelei-Defensive Tackle-Utah
The Utes’ defensive tackle only has average stats but he plays like a superstar by sucking in double teams, bowling over interior lineman and disrupting the pass game. The 2011 Morris Trophy (best defensive lineman) recipient recorded 44 tackles last season and he also absorbs double teams, freeing up space so his teammates can get into the backfield and make plays. The 318-pounder is arguable the most valuable defensive player in the country, with his dominance up front, Utah could surprise people in the PAC-12.

3.Keith Price-Quarterback-Washington
Stepping into the shadow of Jake Locker last season, Keith Price is a bit of an unknown for most viewers, but this kid is a star. Although he is only 6’1 (which is short for a QB), Price dominates the passing game and has an amazing football IQ. In the Alamo Bowl against Baylor last year, Price scored for 7 touchdowns (3 rushing) and put Washington in a position to win if their defense had held up. Not only does Price just throw the ball, but he can make all of the throws, one of his best passes is the TE seam to phenom Austin-Sefarian Jenkins. Price threw for 33 touchdowns and 11 interceptions; that is more touchdowns than Jake Locker ever threw as a Husky. Keith Price is my dark horse for the Heisman, he will show everyone how great he is week 2 at LSU.

4.Marquess Wilson-Wide Receiver-Washington State
Just as Mike Leach comes to coach Washington State, the buzz around Marquess Wilson escalates. Blessed with freakish measurable (6’4, 185), Wilson exhibits tremendous body control and shows the ability to stretch the field at any given moment. Wilson makes ridiculous catches and can jump over any defensive back that he will face in college. 82 receptions for 1,388 yards and a dozen touchdowns in 2011, Mike Leach is going to abuse Marquess Wilson in 2012.

5.Kenjon Barner-Running Back-Oregon
After backing up LaMichael James for several years, Kenjon Barner is finally ready to step into the spotlight. Barner is a burner (would you expect anything else from Oregon) and it is going to be extremely hard to contain him. Barner has insanely quick feet and can bust a play open whenever he wants; if he turns the corner, good luck catching him. Like James, Barner is a great pass catcher and is not afraid to run between the tackles either; he fits this offense perfectly.

6.Keenan Allen-Wide Receiver-California
Allen made the All PAC-12 team last year and has a very good chance to repeat that feat this year. Allen is a great size at 6’3, 210 but runs like he only ways 170 pounds, easily QB Zac Maynard’s favorite target. Keenan Allen was two receptions shy of 100 and finished the season with 1,343 yards to go along with six touchdowns. With Marvin Jones going to the NFL, Allen becomes the true number one receiver and will showcase his talents against double-teams and number one corners. Whether it is end-arounds or short passes, Allen has the ability to go the distance against any defense.

7.Robert Woods-Wide Receiver-Southern California
Many scouts have Robert Woods ranked very high, but I feel that the 7th overall player in the conference is a safe bet. Woods typically runs short routes and does a lot of his damage after the catch. Barkley’s favorite target finished 5th in the nation with 111 receptions and ranked 13th with 1,292 receiving yards. Woods loses defenders with his footwork and veteran-like route running- at least once a game Woods will go uncovered on a “Sluggo route.” The Barkley-Woods connection is one of the top tandems in the nation.

8.T.J. McDonald-Free Safety-Southern California
T.J. McDonald is the most important defender on the USC team, he is the glue that holds the backfield together. As a coach, it is great to see your free safety step up and make tackles, McDonald tallied 69 in 2011 which included a game with 10 against UCLA. T-Mac has fluid hips and can cover the slot receiver if need-be, allowing the defense to keep more pass rushers on the field. McDonald never gets beat deep and is the top safety in this year’s class.

9.De’Anthony Thomas-Athlete-Oregon
On the depth chart, De’Athony Thomas is listed as a running back but he is what I like to call a hybrid player. Not only does he play out of the backfield but he also lines up at receiver and returns kicks.  Another Oregon speedster, Thomas has big-play potential and will have a lot more to offer in his sophomore season. Even though he is the backup running back, Thomas will play a huge part in the Duck’s offense, Chip Kelly lives for speedy playmakers.

10.Austin Seferian-Jenkins-Tight End-Washington 
When talking about NFL tight ends, most of them have basketball backgrounds and ASJ doesn’t break that mold. As a two-sport varsity athlete, Seferian-Jenkins has been a stud on the campus of Washington. At 6’6, 266 lbs., the Washington native uses his power forward footwork and speed to get open and create plays. Last year, as a freshman, ASJ caught 41 passes for 538 yards and six scores. The tight end position is evolving into a combo position involving blocking and stretching the field, with that being said, no linebacker in the nation can cover the Washington tight end. People normally don’t say this, but the sophomore tight end is going to be who teams center their defensive gameplan around.

Just Missed:
Jordan Poyer-Cornerback-Oregon State
Jeff Tuel-Quarterback-Washington State
Marquis Lee-Wide Receiver-Southern California
Marcus Trufant-Cornerback-Washington
Silas Redd-Running Back-Southern California
Joseph Fauria-Tight End-UCLA

Top Players of Each Conference: Mountain West Conference

The college football season is right around the corner. As the season approaches, I will be breaking down the best players of each conference. Each article a new conference will be unveiled and the order will be alphabetical. The players will be ranked 1-10 (1 being the best). Note: This is before the start of the 2012 season, therefore players may get hurt and some will get better or worse. This is simply analyzing the best players in each conference, not which players will get drafted the highest in the 2013 NFL Draft.

 Mountain West Conference

1.Robbie Rouse-Running Back-Fresno State
Senior running back, Robbie Rouse, may be small in stature, but he is an enormous playmaker. At only 5’7, 190, Rouse can both sneak through the line and blow by linebackers or he can catch the sweep and turn the corner in an instance. A year ago, the pint-sized back carried the ball 329 times accounting for 1,549 yards and 13 touchdowns. Rouse also had 32 receptions and averaged 7.1 yards per catch. There were six games in 2011 where Rouse totaled over 120 rushing yards, two games where against powerhouse teams (Nebraska and Ole Miss). Rouse is simply electric, and he accounts for many of the points that his team puts up.

2.Brett Smith-Quarterback-Wyoming
The freshman quarterback busted on to the scene last year, throwing for 2,622 yards and 20 touchdowns while only being intercepted 11 times. Brett Smith is a 6’3, dual threat quarterback who rushed for 710 yards and 10 touchdowns, raising his total touchdown count to 30. The country boy from Salem, Oregon is a special player; after dominating the MWC in his freshman year, his coach quickly learned that this player could make something out of nothing. He is truly a pleasure to watch and he will get scarier for defenses if he continues to grow.

3.Shaquil Barrett-Middle Linebacker-Colorado State
It’s very easy for a middle linebacker to rack up the tackles, but it is astounding to know that Shaquil Barrett averaged 8.2 tackles a game as a first-year starter for CSU (transferred from Nebraska-Omaha). The Nebraska-Omaha transfer went up against New Mexico in his first Division I matchup; he finished with 3 tackles and half of a sack. From that point on, Barrett only improved to get better. At 6’2, 250, Barrett is an absolute house and coming from a family of wrestlers really helps him on the field; he is a mauler. Barrett finished his sophomore season with 99 tackles and is continuing to grow; his relentlessness is what makes him such a good defensive leader.

4.Matt Miller-Wide Receiver Boise State
Being on the Pre-Season Mountain West All-Conference team in only his sophomore year, Matt Miller has some big shoes to fill. Not only does he have high expectations as a receiver but he also has to help Boise State stay dominant after losing Kellen Moore and awaiting their move to the Big East. As a freshman, the 6’3 receiver caught 62 balls for 679 yards and found the endzone nine times. Miller failed to have a 100+ yard game last season but he racked up the receptions and was a sure-handed target for the Broncos. Miller will need to become more of a deep ball threat this season, but he will be Joe Southwick’s favorite receiver because Miller is a good route runner and he can get open.

5.Leon McFadden-Cornerback-San Diego State
The corner out of Inglewood is the most valuable player on this Aztec team. At only 5’10, McFadden is scrappy and fantastic in man-to-man coverage. McFadden is a two-time Mountain West All-Conference Team member and is looking to make the team for a third time. When the feisty corner presses the WR they have virtually no chance to get by him and he is a savage in the run game.  McFadden also received honors of being the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 after ranking 12th in the nation with passes defended (17) and recording 46 tackles (35 solo).

6.Ryan Katz-Quarterback-San Diego State
It seems as if Ryan Katz has been in the NCAA forever.  After transferring from Oregon State, Katz will try to put the San Diego State Aztecs on the map in his senior season. The best asset that Katz has is in-game experience; not only has he been a starter before, but, he played in the PAC-12 which is a top conference. Katz also shows also displays the ability to make different throws and to move the pocket, which will be helpful behind a depleted Aztec line (lost 3 OL starters). At only 6’1, 210, Katz doesn’t have the strongest arm but he can make plays and could single-handedly win games for San Diego St. this year. One interesting matchup is Ryan Katz @ Boise State on November 3rd.

7.Derek Carr-Quarterback-Fresno State
Brother of David Carr, Derek is the second family member to take snaps at Fresno State. Although Carr does a lot of handing off to Robbie Rouse, the 6-foot-3 quarterback has a rapid release and is very quick through his progressions.  Carr can throw accurately on the run and he can make plays with his feet. Rouse takes a lot of pressure off of Carr but the man can still make plays.

8.Chris Nwoke-Running Back-Colorado State 
The Colorado native, Chris Nwoke is not only a power back, but also the Colorado State Rams work horse on offense. The 6’1, 215 pounder rushed for 1,130 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and scored nine times. Downhill runner is assumed when you talk about a back of Nwoke’s size but this back runs with a mean; stumbling over Air Force defenders for a total of 262 yards and two touchdowns in 2011. Colorado State needs help in the passing game, but once they get a lead, they won’t give it up with Nwoke running the rock.

9.Blair Burns-DB-Wyoming
Wyoming is a team on the rise with all of their young talent and their defense is going to hold its own, starting with their sophomore cornerback, Blair Burns. Burns is a cover corner who is electric once he gets the ball in his hands. In 2011, Burns picked the ball off four times and deflected a bunch of passes. Burns also stuck his nose in against the Utah State rushing attack and wrangled up 9 tackles.

10.Paipai Falemalu-Defensive End-Hawaii
At 6’3 and only 260, Falemalu is an undersized, nimble rusher coming off of the edge. The senior from Honolulu was tied for second on his team with 4.5 sacks but he also hurried the quarterback seven times. Running with a high motor, Falemalu stays low to the ground, denying the offensive lineman of being able to generate leverage.

Just Missed:
Chris McNeill-Wide Receiver-Wyoming
Tyler Gaston-Defensive Tackle-UNLV
Alex Means-Middle Linebacker-Air Force
Joe Kellog-Offensive Guard-Boise State
Joe Southwick-Quarterback-Boise State

Which Wide Receivers Should the Miami Dolphins Target in the 2013 NFL Draft?

Miami Dolphins Draft: Who Can Have An Immediate Impact At Wide Receiver?

In the 2012 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall selection. Tannehill was reunited with his coach from Texas A&M, Mike Sherman, who is now the offensive coordinator in Miami.  Early on in camp, Tannehill has impressed the coaches with his: arm strength, ability to make difficult throws and poise. Tannehill has been deemed the starter for the Miami Dolphins but going forward, he will need some help at the wide receiver position. Miami currently has no wide receiver that has every caught for 1,000 yards in a season and there is no true number one receiver after the release of Chad Johnson. 2007 was the last year that the Dolphins used a pick within the first three rounds on a wide receiver, and that was on Ted Ginn Jr-who didn’t end up being the receiver they thought he was., Miami desperately need to go get some weapons for Tannehill.

Which WR Should The Dolphins Target?

1. Justin Hunter-Tennessee

The Dolphins need a tall, go-to target; Justin Hunter could be there for the taking by the time Miami makes a selection in the 2013 Draft. At 6’4, Hunter is a flashy receiver who can make difficult catches and has the speed to take the top off of the defense, resulting in big plays. The Justin Hunter buzz is quiet right now but it is sure to go through the roof by the time the NFL Combine rolls around. Due to an ACL tear, Hunter only played in two full games last season; he still recorded 314 yards on 17 catches (18.5 average) and scored twice. Hunter loses corners with his jab-step and he is always finding different ways to create separation; he has potential to be a game-changer at the next level. Reports from the University of Tennessee have said that Justin Hunter is looking really well coming off of surgery and he will prove how good he is against the best of the SEC in 2012.

2.Aaron Dobson-Marshall

Aaron Dobson of the Marshall Thundering Herd has consistently gotten better throughout his career. As a freshman in 2009, Dobson caught only 15 passes but averaged 24.1 yards a catch and scored four touchdowns. In his sophomore season he played a more pivotal role; catching three times as many balls for 689 yards and five touchdowns. Then you have last year, where Dobson caught 49 balls and 12 touchdown passes in his junior campaign. The West Virginia native displays an uncanny ability to get open, using fluid movements similar to WR Stevie Johnson of the Buffalo Bills. Dobson made his name known on November 26th of the 2011 season when he jumped up over an ECU cornerback and made a one-handed, backhanded catch for a touchdown; it was easily the top touchdown catch of the season. At 6’3, 204 lbs., Dobson is a solid size and is polished enough as a route runner to immediately help the Miami Dolphins and could work his way into the number one spot. As of right now it is looking like Dobson will be a mid-second round pick but he fits with Miami perfectly; Dobson is a young quarterbacks favorite target, he put up his best numbers with freshman QB Rakeem Cato and could become a favorite of Ryan Tannehill in Miami.

3.Ryan Swope-Texas A&M

Senior receiver Ryan Swope isn’t the biggest target (6’0, 206) and he certainly isn’t the fastest, but he just understands the game of football. All signs point to Miami being a serious draft suitor for the Texas A&M prospect; Mike Sherman was the coach at A&M and is now offensive coordinator in Miami, Ryan Tannehill played with Swope at Texas A&M and most importantly, Miami needs wide receivers that can get the job done. There is one trait that makes Swope an incredibly interesting player; he was recruited as quarterback and played quarterback in high school. That knowledge of playing both the quarterback and wide receiver positions could help form even more chemistry with Tannehill at the next level (Tannehill played WR then switched to QB at A&M). Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has made it known that he likes his group of receivers a lot, but one thing that all of these receivers lack is reliability. Swope caught 89 passes for 1,207 and 12 touchdowns in his junior season, that’s nearly seven catches a game. In the 2012 offseason, Indianapolis started to assemble “Team Luck” by drafting his college teammate Coby Fleener and signing undrafted free agent Griff Whalen- who was Luck’s most thrown-to receiver on third down at Stanford. I am not saying that Ryan Tannehill is Andrew Luck, but the Dolphins do already have Tannehill’s coach Mike Sherman on board and they signed his receiver Jeff Fuller from Texas A&M, if all of these players grow together they could be something special; Swope makes perfect sense as a third/fourth round pick.

Top Players of Each Conference: Mid-American Conference

The college football season is right around the corner. As the season approaches, I will be breaking down the best players of each conference. Each article a new conference will be unveiled and the order will be alphabetical. The players will be ranked 1-10 (1 being the best). Note: This is before the start of the 2012 season, therefore players may get hurt and some will get better or worse. This is simply analyzing the best players in each conference, not which players will get drafted the highest in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Mid-American Conference

1.Alex Carder-Quarterback-Western Michigan
The gun slinging Bronco of Western Michigan has already been named to numerous preseason award “watch lists (All-MAC, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm, Walter Camp & Davey O’Brien).” In 2011, Carder heaved the ball for 3,873 yards and was only picked off 14 times; which isn’t bad when you see that he put up 31 touchdowns. After only receiving one scholarship in high school, Carder didn’t necessarily play with a chip on his shoulder, but he has proven what other institutions are missing out on. Carder is a mentor and a leader on the field; he puts his team in position to win, just like all great players.

2.Zac Dysert-Quarterback-Miami (OH)
The Ben Roethlisberger clone, Zac Dysert (6’4, 228), is a crafty quarterback who can flat out make plays. He doesn’t have the most accurate arm, or throw the tightest spiral but he finds the end zone and has that “it” factor. In 2011, Dysert threw for 3,513 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Growth is a huge part of a quarterback’s game; Dysert’s interception total has dwindled down from 16 as a freshman, 12 as a sophomore and 11 as a junior, something to watch for in 2012.

3.Branden Oliver-Running Back-Buffalo
The 5’8 running back out of Miami is one of the biggest game-changers in the MAC. In 2011, Oliver rushed for nearly 1,400 yards including an eye-popping 13 touchdowns. The Bulls’ back is refreshing to watch, he doesn’t dance around, he is a one cut and then go downhill back.  Last season, Oliver rushed for over 100 yards in 9 games, including a game where he recorded 235 yards and two touchdowns against Akron. Not only is Oliver a player to game plan for in the run game, but he can also beat you through the air; in 2011 the sophomore back caught 38 passes for 365 yards (9.6 ypc).

4.Travis Freeman-Inside Linebacker-Ball State
Although not many people have heard of Travis Freeman right now, they sure will by the end of this season. The 6’0, 238 pound inside backer looks like a safety when you see him in game, but he does everything that middle linebackers do. Quick, decisive and instinctive are all parts of Freeman’s playing style. Freeman finished the season with 119 tackles (averaged 10 tackles per game), and had some games where he just couldn’t be blocked (16 vs. Temple & 18 @ Northern Illinois). Freeman also has shown the ability to contain and get to the quarterback; blockers are almost nonexistent when Freeman is on the field. Ball St. has a tough schedule, but it will be interesting to see how Freeman stacks up.

5.Terrance Owens-Quarterback-Toledo 

Owens wasn’t dubbed a “two-sport” athlete before college or even in college but he was drafted as a pitching prospect in the last round of the MLB draft by the San Diego Padres in 2012. Owens hasn’t played baseball since high school but this just shows you how special this kid really is. The 6’4 quarterback doesn’t wow people with his statistics but he is a fun player to watch and he never puts his team in a bad position. As a sophomore, Owens only threw for 2,022 yards but he completed 72% of his passes and yielded an 18-3 touchdown/interception ration. Owens is not just a growing quarterback, but one exciting playmaker.

6.Roosevelt Nix-Defensive Tackle-Kent State
Calling the Kent State defensive tackle productive would be a disrespectful understatement. Roosevelt Nix has started DT for his first two seasons and he is already ranked 6th all-time for the Kent State career sack record with 14.5. Nix also has 37 tackles for loss in only two seasons of play (20 in 2010); where he was later recognized and given the honor of being the only freshman ever to win the MAC defensive player of the year. Nix really broke out in the opening game of last season where he recorded 2 tackles for loss and six tackles against Alabama.

7.Anthon Samuel-Running Back-Bowling Green
Going into his sophomore year this season, Samuel has a lot of hype to live up to. The pocket-sized H-back rushed for 844 yards in only 9 games while averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Samuel really had his coming out party when the Falcons went up against Miami (OH); he rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown and put the game away with a 96 yard TD run in the fourth quarter. However, the 5’11, 190 pound back did not play in the toughest matchup of the season (West Virginia), he will need to play in the key games in order to get noticed in 2012 (@ Florida week 1, @ Virginia Tech week 4).

8.Travis Carrie-Cornerback-Ohio 
Travis Carrie, the Ohio Bobcats defensive captain, led the MAC in interceptions last year (4). Carrie also finished up the season with 13 pass breakups and was the sole leader of the Ohio defense. Carrie is a solid 5’10, 212, and exhibits great skills like going up and getting the ball and reading the quarterback. Carrie will need to be on his A-game if Ohio wants to win the MAC.

9.Chris Jones-Defensive Tackle-Bowling Green 
No defensive player in the Mid-American Conference has more pressure on him than Chris Jones of the Bowling Green Falcons. Chris Jones is a pivotal part of the Falcon pass rush as well as run-stop and he will need to anchor that defense if Bowling Green wants to get out of the gutter. Jones is a productive defensive tackle who shows a unique ability to get to the quarterback. Against Temple last season, Jones had three sacks… Temple only tried throwing the ball 13 times.

10.Tremayne Scott-Defensive End-Ohio
Scott is a 6’4 lanky pass-rushing defensive end for the Ohio Bobcats. Three sacks may not be a lot for a defensive end, but when you show that next to his 63 tackles as a DE it looks very good and promising. In 2011, Scott also had two forced fumbles. Without jaw dropping numbers or booming hits; Scott is an efficient player, and a quiet game-changer.

Just Missed:
Brian Winters-Left Tackle-Kent State
Sean Progar-Defensive End-Northern Illinois
Alex Gillett-Quarterback-Eastern Michigan
Martel Moore-Wide Receiver-Northern Illinois
Alex Zordich-Quarterback-Buffalo

Top Player of Each Conference: Independents

The college football season is right around the corner. As the season approaches, I will be breaking down the best players of each conference. Each article a new conference will be unveiled and the order will be alphabetical. The players will be ranked 1-10 (1 being the best). Note: This is before the start of the 2012 season, therefore players may get hurt and some will get better or worse. This is simply analyzing the best players in each conference, not which players will get drafted the highest in the 2013 NFL Draft.


1.Manti Te’o-Inside Linebacker-Notre Dame 
It isn’t normal to see two middle linebackers selected within the first 15 picks of the NFL draft, but if Manti Te’o would have entered, this would’ve been the case; instead Te’o wanted to get his degree and finish out his four years at Notre Dame. The Hawaiian linebacker is not only a tackling machine, but he is more valuable to his defense than any other player is valuable to theirs in the nation. Te’o covers a ton of territory and his high football IQ allows him to read and react at an abnormal speed. The past two season, Te’o has led the Irish in tackles (128 in 2011, 133 in 2010) and in 2011 he also recorded 15.5 tackles for loss. Look for the top linebacker prospect to once again lead the fighting Irish in 2012.

2.Tyler Eifert-Tight End-Notre Dame
The 6’5 tight end for the Fighting Irish is one of the most productive in the nation. Despite only catching five touchdown passes, Tyler Eifert still hauled in 63 catches for 803 yards and he was the security blanket for all of the quarterbacks that played for the Irish in 2011. Eifert moves exceptionally well for a man of his stature; he can also turn bad throws into great catches. At 251 pounds, look for him to get an even bigger workload in 2012.

3.Cierre Wood-Running Back-Notre Dame
Yes, Notre Dame holds the top three spots on this list, but with good reason. To cap off the top 3 is running back Cierre Wood. The junior tailback is an extremely patient runner who anticipates what defenders are going to do, he also has a low center of gravity and a burst of speed when hitting the hole. Last season Cierre Wood rushed for 1,102 yards and 9 touchdowns, this year he will have to fight off the two other running backs trying to earn playing time.

4.Cody Hoffman-Wide Receiver-Brigham Young 
Finally mixing things up a bit, now we finally have someone other than a Notre Dame player on this list. Junior receiver Cody Hoffman was a key component in BYU’s late season run; in the last four games of the season (all wins), Hoffman averaged 96 yards per game and caught three touchdowns against Tulsa in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. The 6’3 receiver started out slow in camp this year but has now begun to pick it up according to the head coach. “He is a man among boys.” Look for Hoffman to be a huge part in the Cougar offense as they try to build off of a 10-3 season.

5.Matt Warrick-Middle Linebacker-Navy
Navy Midshipmen’s Matt Warrick is the epitome of the heart & soul of a defense. In 2011 alone, Warrick had 4 games where he had at least 10 tackles (three games with 12). Warrick is a solid 229 but moves fluidly and flies to the ball and can take down any offensive player by himself. Look for Warrick to become an even better all-around linebacker in 2012, and anything short of 100 tackles will be a disappointment.

6.Zack Martin-Offensive Tackle-Notre Dame
Notre Dame makes it back onto the list at number six with junior left tackle Zack Martin. The Indianapolis native stands in at 6’4, 305 and has been a bright spot along Notre Dame’s abysmal line. Martin is not overly powerful but has a great center of gravity and can get leverage over opposing pass-rushers. The Irish allowed only one sack every 27 pass attempts, not only did Martin play a huge part in that but he also was part of an offensive line that helped Cierre Wood rush for over 1,200 yards.

7.Louis Nix-Nose Tackle-Notre Dame
It’s not often that you see a freshman nose tackle have an immediate impact on a Division I team. As a freshman, Nix had 45 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and a half sack; he truly has talent.  For a guy that is 328 pounds soaking wet, Nix has an incredible motor and a remarkable skill set.  Going into his sophomore season, look for Nix to see a lot of double team but also pay attention to how often he wreaks havoc in the backfield.

8.Raymond Maples-Running Back-Army
Going into his junior season, Raymond Maples will be looking to rush for 1,000+ yards for the second consecutive season. Maples is 6’1 but runs low to the ground and is very efficient, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. The Philly native never fumbles and he is used to rushing for over 100 yards in a game (season high 159 yards on 10 carries against Fordham).

9.Riley Nelson-Quarterback-Brigham Young
Utah native, Riley Nelson, was responsible for leading the Cougars to yet another 10 win season in 2011. The gunslinger threw the ball for 1,717 while posting a 19-7 touchdown/interception ratio. With wins over teams like Ole Miss and Oregon State in 2011, Nelson is a testament to how good Brigham Young has become. If there aren’t any receivers open, Nelson isn’t afraid to run it either, he had two games where he rushed for 80  + yards (Oregon St. & TCU).

10.Tra’ves Bush-Safety/Outside Linebacker-Navy
Matt Warrick isn’t the only tackling machine on the Midshipmen defense. Tra’ves Bush is a great compliment to Warrick and completes one of the most underrated linebacker corps in the country. Finishing the season with 96 tackles, Bush also had four double-digit tackle games. Bush is such a versatile player, when opponents go five wide, Bush can drop to safety, or when they are in the red zone, Bush can line up as an OLB and help stop the run. Bush is simply a joy to watch, look for this Navy defense to surprise people in 2012.

Just Missed:
Tommy Rees-Quarterback-Notre Dame
Marcus Jackson-Cornerback/Kick Returner-Army
Andrew Hendrix-Quarterback-Notre Dame
Eathyn Manumaleuna-Defensive End-Brigham Young

Top Players of Each Conference: Conference-USA

The college football season is right around the corner. As the season approaches, I will be breaking down the best players of each conference. Each article a new conference will be unveiled and the order will be alphabetical. The players will be ranked 1-10 (1 being the best). Note: This is before the start of the 2012 season, therefore players may get hurt and some will get better or worse. This is simply analyzing the best players in each conference, not which players will get drafted the highest in the 2013 NFL Draft.


1.Margus Hunt-Defensive End-Southern Methodist 
A 6 foot 7 inches and 295 pounds, Margus Hunt is the type of guy that gives quarterbacks nightmares.  All across the board this behemoth of an end is a winner; he has leadership qualities, has the ability to take over a game from the defensive side of the ball and he is a great guy to be around. In 2011, Hunt racked up 28 tackles, four blocked kicks and he also recorded three sacks in the BBVA Compass Bowl against Pittsburgh. Raw but strong and dominant, Hunt can: deflect passes, get to the QB, stop the run and can even be dominant in the special teams games, he will have a breakout season and could be will be the biggest force in the Conference-USA.

2.Aaron Dobson-Wide Receiver-Marshall
The Thundering Herd’s Aaron Dobson has the ability to get open and has a fantastic pair of hands. Most college football fans know Dobson by the ridiculous circus catch he made against ECU on November 26, 2011 (jumped over defender, mad a one-handed-back handed catch for a touchdown). Dobson doesn’t have elite size (6’3,  204 lbs.) or blazing speed but he is a consistently good route runner and he finds ways to create separation between him and the cornerbacks. In his junior season, Dobson caught 49 balls for 668 yards and 12 touchdowns, becoming freshman QB Rakeem Cato’s favorite and most reliable target. Dobson is incredibly tough to defend, making him one of the biggest game changers in his conference.

3.David Piland-Quarterback-Houston
The Houston Cougars may have lost one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all-time in 2011 (Case Keenum), but they have yet another QB that can spin it stepping into the shadows. As a freshman, David Piland only played in the fourth quarter when Houston was embarrassing opponent but he still managed to throw for 2,641 yards in only 201 attempts. The Houston air-raid offense might be the reasons quarterbacks succeed so frequently but Piland is going to do damage in 2012. The baby-faced quarterback has a sidearm release but leads his receivers perfectly, look for Houston to run up the score on opponents again in 2012.

4.Zach Line-Running Back-Southern Methodist
Halfback Zach Line is a true warrior on the gridiron. No player in the country plays with more passion and no player is more eager to get to game day than this SMU Mustang. Line is a player who has battled through injuries but has still remained the biggest constant on the SMU roster. As the starting RB, Line has rushed for over 1,200 yards in each of the past two seasons (missed last three games in 2011 due to foot surgery). At 6’1, 230 Line looks to be more like an NFL fullback, but for now he will just bulldoze over opposing defenders from 8 yards deep in the backfield. Line has tremendous hands for a big guy and never gets tackles for a loss (5.9 yards per carry). Once SMU gets a lead, they just hand it off to Line and there is no chance for the other team to come back.

5.Rakeem Cato-Quarterback-Marshall
As a freshman, the spunky Marshall quarterback took matters into his own hands and started to turn the program around. While having a very thin WR corps (with the exception of Aaron Dobson), Cato found ways to put points on the board for the Thundering Herd.  When the Miami native takes the field, there is a certain swagger, an indescribable confidence that is shown; Cato feels like no one can beat him, and for a freshman, it looked like no one could. As an analytic viewer, Cato doesn’t have great mechanics and he doesn’t even read defenses all too well, but he finds ways to get the ball to his playmakers, whether it be Aaron Dobson, or, Tron Martinez. In 2011, Cato passed for 2,059 yards, 15 TD and 11 int. His most remarkable game was against Eastern Carolina where he threw for 371 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

6.Darius Johnson-Wide Receiver-Southern Methodist
5’10 isn’t an ideal height for a no. 1 wide receiver but there are always exceptions to the rules and Darius Johnson is just that. The SMU Mustang is a speedy receiver with big play potential and can break open a game at any moment. For example, on the second drive of the 2011 BBVA Compass Bowl, Johnson broke the game open by burning defenders and scoring on a 50-yard touchdown game. Another thing that makes the All Conference-USA receiver special is that he performs his best when the lights are brightest; in back-to-back bowl games Johnson has been the game’s MVP and lead his team to victory with a combined 16 catches for 272 yards and 3 touchdowns.

7.Charles Sims-Running Back-Houston
Yes the Houston Cougars throw the ball 90% of the time but that doesn’t mean running back Charles Sims doesn’t get any touches. In 2011, Sims got his hands on the ball 151 times and was close to reaching 1,500 all-purpose yards out of the backfield. With Case Keenum, Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards all graduating, Charles Sims will be one of the few veterans going into the 2012 season. With the ability to both rush the ball and catch out of the backfield, defenses have trouble matching up because you don’t want to lineup a safety over the HB but Sims has the ability to outrun linebackers.

8.Sam McGuffie-Running Back-Rice 
Although the master of the hurdle hasn’t gotten a ton of playing time at the college level (transfer from Michigan), I still feel confident in saying that he will be a game-changer for the Rice Owls.  McGuffie was a terrific running back in high school (Cy-Fair HS; Cypress, Texas), and he still has his explosiveness, which is needed at the college level. Yes the Owls have a sub-par offensive line but McGuffie can do damage as an all-purpose back if given the chance. Great hands, good moves, quick bursts of speed are all components of the senior running back’s game.

9.Dexter McCoil-Cornerback-Tulsa
The Tulsa Golden Hurricanes have one of the most intimidating cornerbacks in the country on atop their depth chart.  At a towering 6’4 and a solid 222, McCoil won’t be barreled over by any WR in the 2012 season. When you think of cornerback, you initially think of the diva of the defense and creating turnovers by intercepting the ball, but McCoil is an old school corner. In 2011, Mccoil had some outstanding individual games (11 tackles @ Oklahoma St., 9 tackles @ Boise St. and 2 interceptions + 9 tackles against BYU in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl). McCoil is very physical at the line of scrimmage and C-USA WR will have a hard time taking him deep.

10.Trent Mackey-Middle Linebacker-Tulane
Returning for his senior season, Trent Mackey has some more stats to rack up for the Tulane Green Wave. Mackey transferred from Duke after his freshman season and has started the last two seasons for Tulane. In 2011, Mackey started all 12 games and earned a spot on the All-Conference Defensive Team. Mackey is a special player because he gravitates to the football, last season, the Louisiana born backer tallied 145 tackles (96 solo) and had 14 tackles for loss while pouncing on 4 fumbles. Tulane is fortunate to have such a complete player on their defense, he is one of the most underrated linebackers in the country.

Just Missed:
Garrett Gilbert-Quarterback-Southern Methodist
Jamie Collins-Defensive End-Southern Miss.
Jeremy Grove-Linebacker-Eastern Carolina
Taylor Reed-Linebacker-Southern Methodist

Top Ten Players of Each Conference: Big Ten

The college football season is right around the corner. As the season approaches, I will be breaking down the best players of each conference. Each article a new conference will be unveiled and the order will be alphabetical. The players will be ranked 1-10 (1 being the best). Note: This is before the start of the 2012 season, therefore players may get hurt and some will get better or worse. This is simply analyzing the best players in each conference, not which players will get drafted the highest in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Big Ten Conference

1.Denard Robinson-Michigan-Quarterback/Athlete 
Arguably the most versatile athlete in all of college sports, Denard “Shoelace” Robinson has been the face of Michigan since he first stepped on the field in 2009.  Robinson is being talked about as an NFL wide receiver prospect and coach Brady Hoke said there will be many packages this season where D-Rob will in fact be playing WR. Denard Robinson plays his best when he is allowed to play in a backyard football style of offense. Shoelace has the speed of a wide receiver, the elusiveness of a punt returner and the heart of a champion. In 2011, Robinson racked up 2,173 passing yard (1,176 rushing) and  36 total touchdowns. Look for those numbers to improve even more as Robinson becomes a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 2012

2.Montee Ball-Wisconsin-Running Back
Many NFL scouts will tell you that Montee Ball is the product of a great offensive line that they have in Wisconsin. While that may be true, there is no denying that he is one of the most efficient running backs in the nation. Averaging nearly six and a half yards per carry, Ball scored a total of 39 touchdowns (33 rushing) placing second on the all-time list behind Barry Sanders. Ball is a patient runner who hides behind his blockers until a hole opens up and he is not easy to bring down either; he’s a scoring machine.

3.Kawann Short-Purdue-Defensive Tackle
Kawann Short might be the #2 Big 10 defensive tackle prospect for the draft but he is the best tackle right now. In 2011, Short corralled 17 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks while finishing the year with 54 total tackles. Listed at 6’3, 310, Short is explosive off of the line and his motor never stops. The Boilermaker is very well conditioned and he benches in the mid-400’s while squatting 600 pounds. The combination of speed, smarts and strength are what makes Short most effective. Purdue isn’t going to be great, but they won’t allow any rushing yards up the middle thanks to the junior defensive tackle.

4.Johnathon Hankins-Ohio State-Defensive Tackle
The Ohio St. Buckeyes have a gem along the defensive line and his name is Johnathon Hankins. At 6’3, 335 Hankins can play all along the defensive line. He is ideally a 3-4 NT but with his strength and repertoire of moves he is versatile. Hankins has incredibly strong hands and gets under the pads of the offensive lineman, allowing him to push/pull them out of the way and get to the quarterback. Although the junior defensive tackle doesn’t fill the stat sheet per say (32 tackles in ’11) he is an obvious force on the field.

5.Le’Veon Bell-Michigan State-Running Back
At 6’2, 238 lbs., Bell is one of the biggest running backs in the whole country. 2012 will be the first year Bell will be a starter but he has done enough damage in the past to make opposing defenses recognize his skillset. At his size, you would think Bell is a power back but he has so many different skills that he can beat you in a variety of ways. The Ohio native is shifty and elusive but will run over defenders if they are in his path. Edwin Baker’s successor is not just great in the run game but he is a wonderful receiving target and will help first year starter Andrew Maxwell in the passing game. Last season Bell hauled in 35 receptions for 267 yards and rushed for 948 yards. Don’t be surprised if Bell racks up over 1,400 total yards in 2012, he is a player to account for when going against Michigan St.

6.Ricky Wagner-Wisconsin-Offensive Tackle 
Offensive tackle Ricky Wagner is one of the main reasons that Montee Ball is ranked number two on this list. Wagner is a monstrous lineman who gets great leverage on opposing defensive pass-rushers. At 6’6, 320, the Wisconsin Badger doesn’t face many defensive players that are big enough to matchup with him. Wagner followed behind Joe Thomas and Gabe Carimi and he hasn’t disappointed. The former walk-on tight end recruit is now a bruising offensive tackle who every quarterback wants on their team.

7.Micah Hyde-Iowa-Cornerback 
There are not many cornerbacks that can shutdown there opponents consistently over a span of 3 years but Micah Hyde is one of them. Hyde is a special corner because he is a press coverage corner who loves to get into the run game make tackles. In 2011, Hyde only had 3 picks but he did have 64 tackles including one game with 10 solo tackles to pair up with two interceptions against Pitt. Hyde is a good-sized corner at 6’1, 180 and quarterbacks stay away from him and blown coverages are a rarity in his game.

8.William Gholston-Michigan State-Defensive End
Back at number six I said that there weren’t many defensive lineman that could matchup with Ricky Wagner, well William Gholston is one of the few. At 6’6. 278, Gholston gets off the ball quick and has great speed to rush off of the edge. With active hands, Gholston can get through blocks and deflect passes but he needs to become more consistent. It is interesting that he is the cousin of Vernon Gholston (draft bust) but we cannot assume William will end up the same way. His tools are great and he shines at time, he should improve greatly in 2012.
9. Taylor Lewan-Michigan-Offensive Tackle
The starting left tackle for the Michigan Wolverines is a very interesting player. Not because of any personal reasons or any flaws in his game but because he has to do a job that no other tackles need to do in the nation; block for Denard Robinson. It is extremely hard for an offensive lineman to go into a play with the QB to his back and not knowing whether he will be pass-protecting or if the QB will take off and then it switches to running up-field and blocking in the run game. Lewan is enormous at 6’7, 302 but he can get up-field and help in the run game. One knock on his game is that he needs to get a bit stronger, but he is mobile for a lineman and can pick up pass rushers when they come off of the edge. Lewan is asked to do a lot, and he hasn’t failed yet.

10.Rex Burkhead-Nebraska-Running Back
Running back Rex Burkhead is a great receiving back for the University of Nebraska and he does a lot of the little things that great football players do. He is tremendous in pass protection which is a lost art in today’s game and he also catches really well out of the backfield. Last season Burkhead rushed for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is a stable part in the Nebraska offense, he and Taylor Martinez will run the show down in Lincoln. Going into 2012 Rex Burkhead is a Pre-Season All-Big Ten running back, look for his veteran type play to help him a ton against the defenses in the Big Ten.

Just Missed:
MarQuies Gray-Quarterback/Athlete-Minnesota
Michael Buchanan-Defensive End-Illinois
James Vandenberg-Quarterback-Iowa
Stephen Houston-Running Back-Indiana
Johnny Adams-Cornerback-Michigan St.

Top Ten Players of Each Conference: Big East

The college football season is right around the corner. As the season approaches, I will be breaking down the best players of each conference. Each Thursday a new conference will be unveiled and the order will be alphabetical. The players will be ranked 1-10 (1 being the best). Note: This is before the start of the 2012 season, therefore players may get hurt and some will get better or worse. This is simply analyzing the best players in each conference, not which players will get drafted the highest in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Big East Conference

(*Note- Former BC all-time leading rusher, Montel Harris, was dsmissed from the team and he is awaiting approval to join the Temple Owls. If he is to be accepted, he will be the number 4 player on this list (sliding everyone else down one spot).

1.Hakeem Smith-Louisville-Strong Safety 
The 2009 Big East Rookie of the year, Hakeem Smith, is one of the most versatile defensive players in college football. Smith has played high safety, strong safety as well as outside linebacker for the Louisville Cardinals. In 2011, Smith corralled 81 tackles (7 less than his rookie season’s total) and also had one interception. Smith is a great defender in coverage, especially for a safety, he is very good in his movements and he can swat the ball out of the wide receivers’ hands when they try to bring the ball in. Each year he has played, the Cardinals DB has improved and he will only continue to get better. Look for Smith to play a lot of safety in 2012 and when the Cardinals face ground and pound teams don’t be shocked if you see Smith at OLB. In 2011, Smith received All-Team Big East honors, look for him to do the same in 2012.

2.Ryan Nassib-Syracuse-Quarterback
The 6’2 quarterback out of Pennsylvania may just be one of the best pocket passers in college football today. Each season, Nassib’s passing yards, touchdowns and QB rating have all increased. With little help around him, the senior quarterback has had little help but has still managed to be efficient. Nassib has adequate arm strength but really flourishes when running play action fakes, he can make throws all over the field and he has great pocket presence. It is cliché, but Nassib makes everyone around him better and look for his numbers to improve even more after finishing his junior campaign with a 22-9 TD-INT ratio.

3.B.J. Daniels-South Florida-Quarterback
It seems like every year I keep saying B.J. Daniels is going to have a breakout year. 2012 is his last chance to really surprise people because it is his senior season. What is really encouraging about this playmaking quarterback is that 2012 was his best season yet; he racked up 2,604 yards while only getting sacked 14 times (career low). The 6-foot four-star recruit also rushed for 601 yards and seven scores. B.J. Daniels has a lot to prove in his final season of eligibility but he has a lot in his favor: he has grown each year as a passer, he is a dual-threat quarterback and he has a solid receiving corps this year. Look for Daniels to make a splash and have USF competing for the Big East Championship.

4.Logan Ryan-Rutgers-Cornerback
The junior cornerback out of Rutgers has emerged as one of the nation’s top cornerbacks. 6’0 Logan Ryan has become a shutdown corner in the Big East Conference and is respected by opposing quarterbacks. Despite having only two interceptions in 2011, the tight-coverage corner is very productive on the field. One of the most remarkable games of Ryan’s career was in the second game of the 2011 season against North Carolina, the former three-star recruit tallied 10 tackles (seven solo) which is just outstanding as a cornerback. Another thing to admire about Ryan is that when the pressure is on, he comes up big, for example, in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2011 against Iowa State Ryan gathered an interception as well three pass deflections. Although the interception numbers aren’t their, he is a known defender when teams go into New Jersey. Quarterbacks like to stay away from Ryan as much as possible and he will continue to shut receivers down, the other numbers will come eventually.

5.Teddy Bridgewater-Louisville-Quarterback
Early into last season, Bridgewater was creating early Heisman buzz but then slowly his play digressed. With one year under his belt, look for the Miami native to explode on the box score. The 6’3 quarterback is dual-threat quick but he also remembers that he is a quarterback and he can make eye-opening throws. A 12-9 TD-Int ratio is not bad for a freshman quarterback but look for his numbers to increase dramatically, now Bridgewater understands how the college game works and he will be able to become a leader in his sophomore season.  The Louisville schedule is not easy but look for Bridgewater to make game-winning plays week-in and week-out. Also having three ESPN broadcasted games will help the Bridgewater buzz grow, this kid is exciting.

6.Justin Pugh-Syracuse-Offensive Tackle 
The 6’6, 262 pound offensive lineman from Holland, PA is the most dominant force in the tranches in this conference. Pugh has fluid footwork and can push defenders back by utilizing his size. The 2011 All Big East honoree has never missed a game in his collegiate career. Being dominant in his first two years at Syracuse is great, but he still has at least one more season to go before he is eligible for the NFL draft. In 2012 look for Justin Pugh to fill out his frame, become stronger and be a part of another 1,000 + rushing season for the Orange starting running backs.

7.Ray Graham-Pittsburgh-Running Back

Going into his senior season, Ray Graham has yet to have a 1,000-yard season rushing. Although 1,000 yards is the milestone every RB shoots for, Graham has done damage in the Big East; averaging 5.8 yards a carry last season. The 5’9, 195 lbs. back is a “one-cut and go” type of player. He has fantastic vision along the line of scrimmage and is a patient runner who uses his blocks wisely. His small stature allows him to sneak through the line and he benefits most when going through the 0, and 1 holes (right behind the center).He doesn’t have blazing speed but he does have toughness and creativity, that is enough to get him into the end zone. Look for Pitt to use him a lot in 2012.

8.Sio Moore-Connecticut-Outside Linebacker
After getting dominated by Oklahoma in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, UCONN went into a bit of a rebuilding mode after losing various coaches. The biggest constant on the Huskie defense going into the 2012 season is outside backer Sio Moore. In 2011, Moore recorded 88 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. With most of his tackles being solo, the team is very dependent on Moore and he never lets them down. The versatile backer has a knack for getting to the ball-carrier and there are a small amount of people that can block Moore one-on-one. Look for the senior to be the heart and soul of the improving Huskie defense, it will be tough to put up a lot of points in Storrs, CT in 2012.

9.Brandon Coleman-Rutgers-Wide Receiver 
The top receiver for the Scarlet Knights is a very intriguing player. Brandon Coleman only pulled in 17 receptions last season but still scored 6 touchdowns and had 552 receiving yards (32.1 yards per catch). The 6’6 receiver had little impact as a freshman but look for him to be a lethal receiver in 2012. As most towering receivers, Coleman’s signature route is the back corner fade, but he has long strides and great straightaway speed to create separation and get open. Still learning the route tree, look for Coleman to grow a ton over the course of the 2012 season, he has the size and soft hands to help out the struggling Rutgers quarterbacks.

10.Dede Lattimore-South Florida-Outside Linebacker
This may be the year that Skip Holtz finally gets all of his players to play to their potential and win the Big East Title. But even if it isn’t, look for Dede Lattimore to be one of the biggest defensive impacts in the conference. Last year, in his sophomore campaign, Lattimore had 13 tackles for loss and 7 sacks, most on his team. Lattimore also led the Bulls with 94 tackles and he will be flirting with a triple digit tackle season next year. Chris Cosh is the new defensive coordinator at USF (coming over from Kansas State) and he tends to get a lot of production from his linebackers. Look for Lattimore to post big numbers.

Just Missed:
Levi Brown-Temple-Defensive Tackle
Khaseem Greene-Rutgers-Linebacker
Sterling Griffin-South Florida-Wide Receiver
Munchie Legeaux-Cincinnati-Quarterback

Top Ten Players of Each Conference: Big 12 Conference

The college football season is right around the corner. As the season approaches, I will be breaking down the best players of each conference. Each Thursday a new conference will be unveiled and the order will be alphabetical. The players will be ranked 1-10 (1 being the best). Note: This is before the start of the 2012 season, therefore players may get hurt and some will get better or worse. This is simply analyzing the best players in each conference, not which players will get drafted the highest in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Big 12 Conference

1. Jackson Jeffcoat-Texas-Defensive End 
The pipeline junior is a 6’5 end that lives in the backfield. Jackson Jeffcoat is part of a dangerous pass-rushing tandem in Texas and will takeover the spotlight in the 2012 season. Last year, in his sophomore season, he calculated 63 tackles, 21 of which were for loss and eight sacks. Many people believe Jeffcoat has not even scratched the surface yet, he still has much learning to do but his high motor and athleticism allows him to produce. At 265 lbs., Jeffcoat generates enough strength to blow offensive lineman back and he has the speed and moves to get to the opposing quarterback multiple times a game.

2.Tavon Austin-West Virginia-Wide Receiver
Last season, the Mountaineers thrived off of deep ball conversions. Tavon Austin is not the prototypical deep ball threat, reason being he is only 5’9, however, he has burner speed and can create separation on every play. Austin is a sure-handed receiver who moves like a scat-back. The transition from the non-competitive Big East to the slobber-knocking Big 12 will not be difficult with Tavon Austin lined up at receiver. Last season, Austin caught 101 balls for 1,186 yards (11.7 avg.). Austin is the ultimate playmaker because not only does he play WR, but he can also rush the ball and is a lethal returner (2 KR TD).  Going into his senior season look for Tavon Austin to leave it all on the field, with an inaugural Big 12 Title in reach, expect big things from him.

3.Casey Pachall-Texas Christian-Quarterback
Casey Pachall is the ultimate game-manager in college football. Measured in at an imposing 6’5, 216, Pachall commands the huddle and puts his team in position to win games. Like West Virginia, TCU will also be new to the Big 12 Conference and Pachall will have to adjust to the new defenses that he will encounter for the first time. Last season, the Andy Dalton replacement threw for 25 touchdowns while only being intercepted seven times. The Texas native stands tall in the pocket and has the ability to bring his team back from big deficits. The Big 12 defenses will have a hard time defending the junior because although he only has one top WR on his team, he tends to make everyone on his team great.

4.Geno Smith-West Virginia-Quarterback
Dana Holgorsen’s offense was like a well-oiled machine through the 2011 season, a lot of that should be credited to the biggest constant on that team, Geno Smith. Smith is a great play-action quarterback who can spin it. A gunslinger that will not shy away from the deep ball, Smith always finds a way to get the ball to his playmakers; whether it be Tavon Austin or Stedman Bailey. Smith is incredibly accurate on deep balls, which favors his receivers who have big play potential. In 2011, Smith threw for 4,385 yards with a 31-7 TD/INT ratio and averaged 8.34 yards-per-attempt. The WVU quarterback really started to open eyes at the Orange Bowl against Clemson. The Mountaineer blew out Sammy Watkins and company 70-33, with Geno Smith throwing for 407 yards and 6 touchdowns while also scoring a seventh touchdown rushing. Smith went on to win MVP honors and put his name in the record books multiple times (tied most passing TDs & most points scored in a bowl game). With the trio of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey all coming back to school look for them to have an offense that is just as good, if not, even better.

KSU QB Collin Klein is not afraid to lower the shoulder pads.

5.Collin Klein-Kansas State-Quarterback
The KSU quarterback jumped into the spotlight immediately in the 2011 season.  The quarterback from Colorado played a key part in many close games for the Wildcats. Kansas State played in 9 games that were decided by a touchdown or less and many of the ones where they had won had to do with Collin Klein stepping up and making plays.  In a four-overtime game against Texas A&M, Klein had a total of 6 touchdowns (5 rushing) and showed how important he was to his team. This is a player who is a little shaky as a pure-passer but is an amazing football player, he will do whatever it takes to win.

6.Alex Okafor-Texas-Defensive End
Heading into last season, Alex Okafor was looked at as the best pass-rusher on his team. Jackson Jeffcoat has emerged as the best defensive lineman in the conference but Alex Okafor is the second half of the best pass-rushing tandem in the Big 12. It is cliché to say that a guy gives it 100%, but Okafor gives it everything he’s got, and more. Coming off of the edge, Okafor can beat offensive tackles on pure speed. Okafor never takes a play off and when the play is to the opposite side of the field he will run downfield and make tackles. Assuming Jeffcoat will be double-teamed quite a bit in 2012, look for Okafor to consistently beat his blocker and force the pocket to collapse.

6.Landry Jones-Oklahoma-Quarterback
After his sophomore season at Oklahoma (2010), Landry Jones was looking like a top-10 pick; after his junior season he was looking like a mid-round pick. Many scouts say the reason for Jones’ digression was because he had lost both his main target and Ryan Broyles (torn ACL) and starting running back, Dominique Whaley (fractured ankle). Losing teammates is not an excuse for a quarterback underperforming but, after seeing what it was like to fail, look for Jones to have a huge season in 2012. Jones is extremely talented and he has all of the tools to be a great quarterback: tall, cannon arm, fearless and he is a leader. Whaley will be back this season and Kenny Stills has emerged as a great no. 1 receiver, look for Landry Jones to have a fantastic bounce-back year.

8.Terrance Williams-Baylor-Wide Receiver  
Senior Terrance Williams is going to be key in Baylor’s 2012 season. The 6’3 receiver was efficient in 2011 but will need to work even harder in 2012 without the arm of Robert Griffin III. In his junior season, he caught 53 passes, which resulted in 11 touchdowns and he dominated against one-on-one coverage. Williams is very fluent in and out of his cuts and manages to get open when the play breaks down.  Baylor’s offense will be dependent on Williams catching a lot of balls and he is capable to convert on 3rd and long.

9.Malcolm Brown-Texas-Running Back
Yet another Longhorn is making the list, this time on the offensive side of the ball. Running back Malcolm Brown was electric in his freshman year for Texas until he got hurt. Brown was on pace to rush for over 1,000 yards until he was diagnosed with turf toe.  The freshman sensation ended up finishing the season with 742 rushing yards in nine games for the Longhorns. Brown has great vision and balance when rushing; he knows when to make his cuts, which is a rarity for a freshman.

10.Josh Boyce-Texas Christian-Wide Receiver
The Horned Frog’s quarterback has already been listed as a top player in the Big 12 and here at no. 10 is his main weapon, Josh Boyce. The 5’11 receiver capped off his sophomore season with 5 receptions for 55 yards in a bowl win against Louisiana-Lafayette. For the regular season, Boyce had 66 catches and 998 yards with 9 scores. A thick receiver, Boyce is great at catching over the middle of the field and under tight pressure. Look for both Pachall and Boyce to grow together even more in their junior seasons, creating quite a duo.

Just Missed:

Jake Knott-Iowa State-Linebacker
Carrington Byndom-Texas-Cornerback
Stedman Bailey-West Virginia-Wide Receiver
Kenny Stills-Oklahoma-Wide Receiver

2012 NBA Mock Draft 2.0 (Final)

After Anthony Davis, this draft is a crapshoot. Teams will be scrambling up until their pick to pull of trades in order to get the player that they covet most. Dion Waiters, Austin Rivers and Andre Drummond will be players that teams will trade n enormous package for if they slip out of the top 7. Don’t be surprised to see blockbuster deals either, the Rockets are doing everything in their power to bring in Dwight Howard and the Thunder could be looking to deal James Harden because they might not be able to re-sign him next summer.

1.New Orleans Hornets-Anthony Davis-PF-Kentucky
Davis is the clear-cut number one player in this draft. A 6’11 athletic PF who is a natural shot-blocker and can play great help defense beat. Davis was a shooting guard growing up, hit a growth spurt and is now a forward, playing all positions helped him develop a great I.Q. He is fantastic on defense and can knock down shots from the elbow, only 19 and continuing to improve all he needs to do is add weight.

2.Charlotte Bobcats- Thomas Robinson-PF-Kansas
The Bobcats want to trade this pick badly, but the asking price is astronomical. I feel that Charlotte is stubborn and refuses to trade unless it receives two first round picks (which Cleveland might do). Michael Jordan’s team needs production from his players and he will get that with a double-double machine in Thomas Robinson. Robinson is a high energy player who is great on both ends of the court, Charlotte can’t possibly screw this up.

3.Washington Wizards-Bradley Beal-SG-Florida
After going out and getting Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, the biggest hole in the Washington depth chart is a shooting guard. Jordan Crawford has shown decency at times but has been inconsistent thus far in his career. The 19 year-old Beal is a pure shooter who loves to run the fast break. John Wall needs someone to pass to; Beal is a perfect fit.

4.Cleveland Cavaliers-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist-SF-Kentucky
Cleveland seems to be reluctant to trade up to the no. 2 pick but they will get a phenomenal player at no. 4.  MKG is defensively an athletically ready for the NBA and the NCAA champ is versatile. If the Cavalier’s cornerstone, Kyrie Irving, has any say in this and Bradley Beal is gone, he wants MKG. Irving and Kidd-Gilchrist played together on the same high-school team and won a state title. The 6;8 forward loves to run the floor and would be great in transition with last year’s Rookie of the Year.

5.Sacramento Kings- Harrison Barnes-SF-North Carolina
Harrison Barnes is a smooth small forward who has a certain swagger to his game. He can play one-on-one and can catch and shoot. It is looking like the no. 5 could be getting traded to Houston and then again to Orlando. No matter which of those teams end up with this pick, expect Barnes to be selected here. The Kings need a player who can slow the game down and they have a hole at SF with Tyreke Evans refusing to player there.

6.Portland Trailblazers-Damian Lillard-PG-Weber State
Watched him a lot in the 2011-2012 season, watched a lot of tape on him and he is one of my favorite players in the draft. Lillard is a fantastic scorer from the point guard position and that is just what the Blazers need. He has the speed to go coast-to-coast, a killer crossover and can get to the rim. Andre Drummond is a sexy pick here but Portland needs scoring, I don’t feel that Felton is the answer.

7.Golden State Warriors-Perry Jones III-PF-Baylor
Brandon Rush had an amazing year last year shooting the ball, delaying the Warriors need of going out and finding a replacement for Monta Ellis. Perry Jones III is a lanky, lock-down defender who can play all 3 positions along the front court if need be. PJ3 has been known to not “show up” for some games which scared some GMs away, otherwise he would have been a top 5 pick. Marc Jackson is easily one of the league’s most motivating coaches and he will find a philosophy to get the most out of Perry Jones III’s game.

8.Toronto Raptors-Austin Rivers-SG-Duke
The Raptors need three things: A player who can score, someone to bring in fans and a guy who can take over a game-Austin Rivers is all of that. Although I am not a huge Rivers fan, I do admit that he is a pretty darn good player given the circumstance that he is the go-to guy on a team. The Duke freshman showed he was cold-blooded late in games and that he could score against double teams and win games by himself. The Raptors roster would not look bad next year if they land Rivers: Calderon/Nash (rumored), Rivers, Derozan, Bargnani, Valanciunas (last year’s top pick).

9.Detroit Pistons-Dion Waiters-SG-Syracuse
After trading away Ben Gordon, Detroit has a gaping hole at shooting guard. Dion Waiters is a player who can come in, play defense, draw fouls and can get to the rim. Waiters is explosive, strong and extremely quick with his cuts; he needs to work on his jumpshot though. He is a bit over-hyped for me but a lot of teams like him. The former Syracuse star has drawn comparisons to Dwayne Wade and if he becomes a fraction of Wade it will make Brandon Knight happy.

10.New Orleans Hornets (from Minn)-Jeremy Lamb-SG-Connecticut
It doesn’t look like Eric Gordon is going to be re-signing with New Orleans leaving a need for a scorer. The Hornets will go to my favorite player in the draft. Jeremy Lamb. The sophomore out  of UCONN is a player who shares the rock, defends and can score in a variety of ways. If he would have stayed another year he would have been a top 3 pick without a doubt. Still developing, Lamb is terrific at shooting off the screen and also pull-up and shoot. Jeremy Lamb is the silent assassin and is the ultimate team player.

11.Portland Trailblazers-Andre Drummond-C-Connecticut
Andre Drummond is the real wild card of this year’s draft. He poses the biggest upside and the biggest bust as many big men from UCONN have in the past (Okafor & Thabeet). Since the collegiate season has ended, Drummond has lost 20 lbs. and now moves quicker than ever. With his premier shot-blocking abilities and amazing athleticism he could get picked as high as number 5. Lacking an offensive game hurts his stock a little bit but players can develop a shot, a center that can run the floor is what every team wants nowadays. Portland fills their top two needs with these picks and have the best draft of any team in the last 10 years if they get Lillard and Drummond.

12.Houston Rockets (from Mil)-Tyler Zeller-C-North Carolina
The Rockets are doing everything in their power to draft Dwight Howard. If that fails, they could be taking the second best center in the draft in Tyler Zeller. Zeller is a mature player (4 years at UNC) and is NBA ready. He is not as athletic as Drummond or Leonard but is certain a better all-around player who will contribute on both offense and defense. The Rockets need a big man, especially after trading away Dalembert.

13.Phoenix Suns-Terrence Ross-SG-Washington
The Suns’ front office should be working on their 2013 draft because they will be picking which will most likely be center Nerlens Noel. There are a ton of holes on this roster, therefore the Suns need to draft a player who can carry a team. Terrence Ross is a great shooter who dominated the Pac-12, averaging 16.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore. The 6’6 guard is a bit under the radar right now, but could do a lot for the Phoenix franchise.

14.Milwaukee Bucks (from Hou)-Meyers Leonard-C-Illinois
After trading away Andrew Bogut, the Bucks are in search of their next center. Coming out as a freshman, Leonard has a lot of question marks, but also a lot of buzz. There is no question that he is a great athlete and will fit with the Bucks nicely, but he is a high maintenance player who is a big project moving forward. At 7’1, Leonard shows great athleticism by being able to run up and down the court on fast breaks but he fails to be consistent on defense. The hype for Leonard is unreal, but he will need to prove himself by playing his heart out. Milwaukee fans will fall in love with Leonard immediately if drafted there.

15.Philadelphia 76ers-John Henson-PF-North Carolina
Henson is the player with the highest reward in the 2012 NBA Draft. The UNC power forward is 6’10 with the quickness of a shooting guard and smarts of a point guard. With a long wingspan, Henson is a great shot blocker and on offense he has a hook shot that is automatic. The Sixers could lose Elton Brand do to the amnesty clause. Henson is an upgrade on defense and is a great fit with the Sixers’ athleticism. I don’t think Henson will fall this far, but who knows with the possible reaches on all of the shooting guards.

16.Houston Rockets-Moe Harkless-SF-St. John’s
If Houston keeps any of their first round picks it will be used on the Big East’s Rookie of the Year. Moe Harkless showed great upside after posting great numbers in the Big East as a freshman. Harkless is a 6’9 small forward who shows power when driving but can also create his own shot. Great dribbling skills, getting to the rim, shooting over defenders and running the floor are all great features of his game. He has a lot of growing to do, especially on the defensive side, but at only 19 the potential is unreal.

17.Dallas Mavericks-Kendall Marshall-PG-North Carolina
Jason Kidd is a free agent and even if he goes back to Dallas it won’t be for long.  This year’s draft is short on point guards and Dallas can’t pass one up. Marshall is the best assist-man in the draft and his court vision is unbelievable. Dallas is a team that likes to shoot a lot and Marshall will keep everyone on the squad happy.

18.Houston Rockets (from Minn)-Arnett Moultrie-PF-Mississippi St.
Moultrie is an athlete who excelled at the combine and drew interest from a ton of teams. A great size at 6’11, 223, he is a great defender but needs to work on his offensive game. It would be nice to see him develop some low post moves but Moultrie is going in the first round for his defensive play.

19.Orlando Magic-Terrence Jones-PF-Kentucky
Orlando doesn’t really know what it wants to do right now between having an unhappy superstar center and a bunch of free agents (Jameer Nelson & Ryan Anderson). Terrence Jones has had a bit of an attitude problem in the past but has shown maturity after playing two years with Coach Calipari. At 6’10 Jones could play either small forward or power forward. Speed, power and grind are all adjectives that come up when talking about this kid. Once Jones gets in the zone there is no stopping him. The Magic need help rebounding if there is no Dwight and Jones is great on the offensive glass. I don’t see him sliding past 19.

20.Denver Nuggets-Tony Wroten Jr.-PG-Washington
An 18-year-old, 6’6 point guard whose athleticism is off the charts?- Sign me up. I saw a lot of Tony Wroten through recruiting and skills competitions and he is going to be something special. Not a great shooter…yet, but his ability to find open teammates is unreal. You instantly fall in love with him when you watch him play, the past couple years Denver has been drafting pure athletes; Wroten foots the bill. Not to mention, Andre Miller’s contract is expiring.

21.Boston Celtics-Royce White-SF/PF-Iowa State
With the Big 3 (or what is left of it) aging and breaking down, the Celtics need playmakers for Rondo to dish to. Royce White is a point forward who loves to have the ball and can muscle his way to the basket. He doesn’t necessarily need to start right away with Jeff Green and Paul Pierce still in the lineup, which will allow White to figure out if he is a power forward or a small forward. He averaged 13.1 points per game 9.2 rebounds per game and 5.1 assists per game at Iowa State. This pick makes too much sense for the Celtics, especially if Lamb, Waiters and Rivers are all gone. 

22.Boston Celtics-Jared Sullinger-PF-Ohio State
Sullinger is by far the scariest player in the draft. I fear that the Celtics fall into this trap and end up selecting the injury prone question mark. Sullinger is 6’9 and plays too small to be a power forward but too slow to be a small forward. His play resembles Glen “Big Baby” Davis who the Celtics selected several years ago. I don’t think Sullinger will be in the league long between his back problems and his lack off skills but I could be wrong. Would have been a lottery pick a year ago, don’t be surprised if he slides to the second round.

23.Atlanta Hawks-Marquis Teague-PG-Kentucky
With all of the top big men off of the board the Hawks look to add depth to their back court. What better way of doing that is there than drafting your point guards little brother. Teague is only going in the first round via lack of PG play in the draft but he will add depth to the backcourt of the Hawks. Teague is speedy and has deceptively active hands on defense, could grow into a solid point guard.

24.Cleveland Cavaliers-Fab Melo-C-Syracuse
The Cleveland frontcourt is very thin and is filled with underperforming forwards. Anderson Varejao is potenatiallya 15 and 10 guy but they need to improve on defense. The controversial seven-footer out of Syracuse will help the Cavs right away. Fab Melo is a skilled shot blocker and would produce coming off of the bench.

25.Memphis Grizzlies-Evan Fournier-SG-France
O.J. Mayo is a free agent and Tony Allen is the offensive equivalent to a vocational high school player’s. Evan Fournier is a crafty shooting guard who can shoot the three ball consistently. Memphis is known for drafting foreign players and there is a risk they run with drafting a player that could possibly stay in France but they can’t pass up on the 6’7 shooting guard in my opinion.

26.Indiana Pacers-Will Barton-SG-Memphis
Will Barton is an athletic shooting guard who can score in a variety of ways. Averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds a game at Memphis, Barton would have a chance to take Paul George’s starting position. A lanky defender who can force turnovers is a great value this late in the first round.

27.Miami Heat-Festus Ezeli-C-Vanderbilt
The Miami heat are very old on the frontlines (Howard & Anthony) and have seen little growth in Dexter Pittman. The senior out of Vanderbilt makes perfect sense. Not only is the former Commodore a get defender but he does not need the ball on offense, allowing the big 3 to do their thing. Although this may not be a sexy pick for South Beach, it could be the right one.

28.Oklahoma City Thunder-Andrew Nicholson-PF-St. Bonaventure
Throughout the whole 2012 season the Thunder failed to get offense from big men. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka averaged 12 points per game…combined. Andrew Nicholson opened eyes when the Bonnies made it to the NCAA tournament. Nicholson is a versatile power forward who can shoot as well as finish around the hoop. The 6’10 forward has a smooth shot and plays with his heart all game long.

29.Chicago Bulls-John Jenkins-SG-Vanderbilt
What the Bulls really need is a healthy Derrick Rose. Other than that, they could use a guy who can stretch the floor and knock down threes. Rip Hamilton didn’t produce like the Bulls had hoped and Ronnie Brewer is not an offensive player. John Jenkins is the best shooter in this years draft and is lethal if left open. The sharpshooter averaged close to four three-pointers a game while shooting 44%.

30.Golden State Warriors (via San Antonio)-Draymond Green-F-Michigan St.
Green is one of the best players in college basketball history and he will be one of the best pleasant surprises in the NBA. With a similar build to Paul Pierce, Green is a fantastic rebounded and has the basketball I.Q. of most NBA coaches. Green is a stat stuffer and is a the type of player that Golden State needs….mature. He is not fast but his footwork gets him in the perfect position to make plays, the Warriors need to bulk up, and no better player to draft at this spot than the 2012 Big 10 Player of the Year. 

Notable 2nd Round Picks 

31.Charlotte Bobcats-Kim English-SG-Missouri

34.Cleveland Cavaliers-Doron LambSG Kentucky

37.Toronto Raptors-Tyshawn Taylor-Combo Guard-Kansas

46.New Orleans Hornets-Scott Machado-PG-Iona (biggest steal of draft)

47.Utah Jazz-Robbie Hummel-SF -Purdue

2012 NBA Mock Draft

The NBA draft is incredibly difficult to predict, not only because of the trade but because teams will draft players at positions that they don’t necessarily have a need and also because one player will get drafted very early on potential with no prior production. On June 28, expect there to be many trades, some blockbusters and others trading players just after drafting them. Tyreke Evans, Luol Deng and Dwight Howard have all been players talked about in trade talks, expect at least one of those players to be packing their bags.

1.New Orleans Hornets-Anthony Davis-Power Forward-Kentucky
Davis is the clear-cut number one player in this draft. A 6’11 athletic PF who is a natural shot-blocker and can play great help defense beat. Davis was a shooting guard growing up, hit a growth spurt and is now a forward, playing all positions helped him develop a great I.Q. He is fantastic on defense and can knock down shots from the elbow, only 19 and continuing to improve all he needs to do is add weight.

2.Charlotte Bobcats-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist-Kentucky
I do not think the Bobcats will be picking at this spot by the time the draft starts. They need to get more picks in order to increase the all-around talent. However if they end up with this pick, MKG is the player they need to take. He is a 6’8 small forward who is great on the fast break and is willing to rebound. Great ball-handling skills and can defend multiple positions. Charlotte got a scorer in the Ben Gordon trade who is only 29 years-old, they can find another shooter in free agency.

3.Washington Wizards-Bradley Beal-Shooting Guard-Florida
After going out and getting Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, the biggest hole in the Washington depth chart is a shooting guard. Jordan Crawford has shown decency at times but has been inconsistent thus far in his career. The 19 year-old Beal is a pure shooter who loves to run the fast break. John Wall needs someone to pass to; Beal is a perfect fit.

4.Cleveland Cavaliers-Harrison Barnes-Small Forward-North Carolina
Harrison Barnes is a smooth small forward who has a certain swagger to his game. He can play one-on-one and can catch and shoot, Cleveland needs to surround Kyrie Irving with talent. Dan Gilbert has talked about trading up to the #2 spot but the asking price is too high right now. If Cleveland gets desperate look for them to trade to #2 for Bradley Beal, but Harrison Barnes is a great pick as well.

5.Sacramento Kings-Thomas Robinson-Power Forward-Kansas
This is clearly a production pick. Thomas Robinson had insane numbers at Kansas and Sacramento needs bigs who are going to produce. Jason Thompson was drafted high several years ago and has shown bright spots but is not what they’d thought. The former Jayhawk has a veteran’s mentality and is a great guy off of the court. Many teams have been inquiring about Tyreke Evans and the #5 pick, if nothing changes, look for Robinson and Cousins to both average double-doubles next season.

6.Portland Trailblazers-Damian Lillard-Point Guard-Weber State
Watched him a lot in the 2011-2012 season, watched a lot of tape on him and he is easily my favorite player in the draft. Lillard is a fantastic scorer from the point guard position and that is just what the Blazers need. He has the speed to go coast-to-coast, a killer crossover and can get to the rim. Andre Drummond is a sexy pick here but Portland needs scoring, I don’t feel that Felton is the answer. 

7.Golden State Warriors-Perry Jones III-Power Forward-Baylor
Brandon Rush had an amazing year last year shooting the ball, delaying the Warriors need to go out and finding a replacement for Monta Ellis. Perry Jones III is a lanky, lock-down defender who can play all 3 positions along the front court if need be. PJ3 has been known to not “show up” for some games which scared some GMs away, otherwise he would have been a top 5 pick. Marc Jackson is easily one of the league’s most motivating coaches and he will find a philosophy to get the most out of Perry Jones III’s game.

8.Toronto Raptors-Andre Drummond-Center-Connecticut
Finally, the Toronto Raptors make an exceptional draft selection. Between Toronto and Portland both Drummond and Lillard will be gone, honestly, you can put either player on either team because whoever Portland doesn’t take Toronto will. Bargnani will be able to go out to the 4 (if he is ever healthy again) and Drummond will be the defensive stud they need. Many scouts are pegging Waiters to the Raptors because of a “promise”, I don’t buy that, this is a business. The Raptors have Derozan at the 2, they can find scorers other ways than a lottery pick.

9.Detroit Pistons-Dion Waiters-Shooting Guard-Syracuse
After trading away Ben Gordon, Detroit has a gaping hole at shooting guard. Dion Waiters is a player who can come in, play defense, draw fouls and can get to the rim. The former Syracuse star has drawn comparisons to Dwayne Wade and if he becomes a fraction of Wade it will make Brandon Knight happy. I personally like Waiters as a sixth-man; someone who I can bring in off the bench and expect high-energy defense and to fire his team up

10.New Orleans Hornets (via Minn)-Jeremy Lamb-Shooting Guard-Connecticut
It doesn’t look like Eric Gordon is going to be re-signing with New Orleans leaving a need for a scorer. After assessing their defensive issues with the first pick the Hornets need to find a player that will share the ball but also take over when it is time to. If Lamb would have stayed another year he would have been a top 3 pick without a doubt. Still developing, Lamb is terrific at shooting off the screen and also pull-up and shoot. He will be a better pro than Austin Rivers.

11.Portland Trailblazers-Tyler Zeller-Center-North Carolina
There are enough big men early on in the draft that allows Portland to take a guard with their first pick and still feel good about filling a hole at center. Zeller is not a pretty player but he gets the job done. A seven-footer that doesn’t foul and is the commander of the defense. The maturity level of Zeller is off the charts and he will pull down offensive rebounds for the Blazers.

12.Milwaukee Bucks-Meyers Leonard-Center-Illinois
A team that is searching for a center after trading away Bogut, the Bucks will be ecstatic if Meyers Leonard falls to them. He does need work, but he is 7’1 and gives it everything he’s got on the court. The fans will instantly fall in love with Leonard’s passion and willingness to learn.

13.Phoenix Suns-Austin Rivers-Shooting Guard-Duke
The Suns’ front office should be working on their 2013 draft because they will be picking which will most likely be center Nerlens Noel. In 2012 they need to select the best player available, which will be Austin Rivers. As a 6’5 freshman he proved he could hit the big shot and takeover a game while at Duke. Only 19 years-old with room to grow, Rivers can make players and score from anywhere on the court. This is a win-win for Phoenix because they are getting a guy who can score and a player that will sell tickets for them.

14.Houston Rockets-Terrence Ross-Shooting Guard-Washington
The Rockets are working on multiple blockbuster trades as we speak so don’t be shocked if they end up with zero first round picks by the time the NBA kicks off. They have been deep in trade talks with Orlando involving Dwight Howard but if somehow the Rockets end up keeping this pick they will take Terrence Ross. Ross is a scorer who can slash and draw double teams. Kevin Martin has said he doesn’t want to play for Houston so Ross would fit in immediately. He is a streaky shooter but he is very confident when he’s on offense, just what Houston needs.

15.Philadelphia 76ers-John Henson-Power Forward-North Carolina
Henson is the player with the highest reward in the 2012 NBA Draft. The UNC power forward is 6’10 with the quickness of a shooting guard and smarts of a point guard. With a long wingspan, Henson is a great shot blocker and on offense he has a hook shot that is automatic. The Sixers could lose Elton Brand do to the amnesty clause. Henson is an upgrade on defense and is a great fit with the Sixers’ athleticism. 

16.Houston Rockets-Arnett Moultrie-Power Forward-Mississippi State
Moultrie is an athlete who excelled at the combine and drew interest from a ton of teams. A great size at 6’11, 223, he is a great defender but needs to work on his offensive game. It would be nice to see him develop some low post moves but Moultrie is going in the first round for his defensive play.

17.Dallas Mavericks-Kendall Marshall-Point Guard-North Carolina
Jason Kidd is a free agent and even if he goes back to Dallas it won’t be for long.  This year’s draft is short on point guards and Dallas can’t pass one up. Marshall is the best assist-man in the draft and his court vision is unbelievable. Dallas is a team that likes to shoot a lot and Marshall will keep everyone on the squad happy.

18.Houston Rockets (from Minn) Moe Harkless-Small Forward-St. John’s
If Houston keeps any of their first round picks it will be used on the Big East’s Rookie of the Year. Moe Harkless showed great upside after posting great numbers in the Big East as a freshman. Harkless is a 6’9 small forward who shows power when driving but can also create his own shot. Great dribbling skills, getting to the rim, shooting over defenders and running the floor are all great features of his game. He has a lot of growing to do, especially on the defensive side, but at only 19 the potential is unreal.

19.Orlando Magic-Terrence Jones-Power Forward-Kentucky
Orlando doesn’t really know what it wants to do right now between having an unhappy superstar center and a bunch of free agents (Jameer Nelson & Ryan Anderson). Terrence Jones has had a bit of an attitude problem in the past but has shown maturity after playing two years with Coach Calipari. At 6’10 Jones could play either small forward or power forward. Speed, power and grind are all adjectives that come up when talking about this kid. Once Jones gets in the zone there is no stopping him. The Magic need help rebounding if there is no Dwight and Jones is great on the offensive glass. I don’t see him sliding past 19.

20.Denver Nuggets-Tony Wroten Jr.-Point Guard-Washington
An 18-year-old, 6’6 point guard whose athleticism is off the charts?- Sign me up. I saw a lot of Tony Wroten through recruiting and skills competitions and he is going to be something special. Not a great shooter…yet, but his ability to find open teammates is unreal. You instantly fall in love with him when you watch him play, the past couple years Denver has been drafting pure athletes; Wroten foots the bill. Not to mention, Andre Miller’s contract is expiring.

21.Boston Celtics-Royce White-Power Forward-Iowa State
With the Big 3 (or what is left of it) aging and breaking down, the Celtics need playmakers for Rondo to dish to. Royce White is a point forward who loves to have the ball and can muscle his way to the basket. He doesn’t necessarily need to start right away with Jeff Green and Paul Pierce still in the lineup, which will allow White to figure out if he is a power forward or a small forward. He averaged 13.1 points per game 9.2 rebounds per game and 5.1 assists per game at Iowa State. This pick makes too much sense for the Celtics, especially if Lamb, Waiters and Rivers are all gone.

22.Boston Celtics-Jared Sullinger-Power Forward-Ohio State
Sullinger is by far the scariest player in the draft. I fear that the Celtics fall into this trap and end up selecting the injury prone question mark. Sullinger is 6’9 and plays too small to be a power forward but too slow to be a small forward. His play resembles Glen “Big Baby” Davis who the Celtics selected several years ago. I don’t think Sullinger will be in the league long between his back problems and his lack off skills but I could be wrong. Would have been a lottery pick a year ago, don’t be surprised if he slides to the second round.

23.Atlanta Hawks-Marquis Teague-Point Guard-Kentucky
With all of the top big men off of the board the Hawks look to add depth to their back court. What better way of doing that is there than drafting your point guards little brother. Teague is only going in the first round via lack of PG play in the draft but he will add depth to the backcourt of the Hawks. Teague is speedy and has deceptively active hands on defense, could grow into a solid point guard.

24.Cleveland Cavaliers-Fab Melo-Center-Syracuse
The Cleveland frontcourt is very thin and is filled with underperforming forwards. Anderson Varejao is potenatiallya 15 and 10 guy but they need to improve on defense. The controversial seven-footer out of Syracuse will help the Cavs right away. Fab Melo is a skilled shot blocker and would produce coming off of the bench.

25.Memphis Grizzlies-Evan Fournier-France
O.J. Mayo is a free agent and Tony Allen is the offensive equivalent to a vocational high school player’s. Evan Fournier is a crafty shooting guard who can shoot the three ball consistently. Memphis is known for drafting foreign players and there is a risk they run with drafting a player that could possibly stay in France but they can’t pass up on the 6’7 shooting guard in my opinion.

26.Indiana Pacers-Will Barton-Shooting Guard-Memphis
Will Barton is an athletic shooting guard who can score in a variety of ways. Averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds a game at Memphis, Barton would have a chance to take Paul George’s starting position. A lanky defender who can force turnovers is a great value this late in the first round.

27.Miami Heat-Draymond Green-Small Forward-Michigan State
The Heat need players who won’t be dissatisfied sitting behind the big 3. Draymond Green is an incredibly intelligent player who knows what his role is. I like to compare him to Paul Pierce, although he does not shoot as well as him, he is a husky small forward who has mastered the up-fake and has great footwork. The 2012 Big Ten Player of the Year does whatever it takes to win and had a decorated career at MSU.

28.Oklahoma City Thunder-Andrew Nicholson-Power Forward-St. Bonaventure
Throughout the whole 2012 season the Thunder failed to get offense from big men. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka averaged 12 points per game…combined. Andrew Nicholson opened eyes when the Bonnies made it to the NCAA tournament. Nicholson is a versatile power forward who can shoot as well as finish around the hoop. The 6’10 forward has a smooth shot and plays with his heart all game long.

29.Chicago Bulls-John Jenkins-Shooting Guard-Vanderbilt
What the Bulls really need is a healthy Derrick Rose. Other than that, they could use a guy who can stretch the floor and knock down threes. Rip Hamilton didn’t produce like the Bulls had hoped and Ronnie Brewer is not an offensive player. John Jenkins is the best shooter in this years draft and is lethal if left open. The sharpshooter averaged close to four three-pointers a game while shooting 44%.

Golden State Warriors (via San Antonio)-Doron Lamb-Shooting Guard-Kentucky
The Warriors can’t put all their eggs into one basket and expect Brandon Rush to put up the same numbers he did last year. Doron Lamb is a sniper from beyond the arc and will provide athleticism as well as efficiency. The first round of the draft will end the way it started, with a Kentucky player getting selected.

Notable 2nd Round Picks

31.Charlotte Bobcats-Kim English-Shooting Guard-Missouri

34.Cleveland Cavaliers-Jae Crowder-Small Forward-Marquette

37. Toronto Raptors-Tyshawn Taylor-Combo Guard-Kansas

46.New Orleans Hornets-Scott Machado-Point Guard-Iona (Biggest steal of draft)

47.Utah Jazz-Robbie Hummel-Small Forward-Purdue

Top Ten Players of Each Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference

The college football season is right around the corner. As the season approaches, I will be breaking down the best players of each conference. Each Thursday a new conference will be unveiled and the order will be alphabetical. The players will be ranked 1-10 (1 being the best). Note: This is before the start of the 2012 season, therefore players may get hurt and some will get better or worse. This is simply analyzing the best players in each conference, not which players will get drafted the highest in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Atlantic Coast Conference

1. Logan Thomas-Virginia Tech-Quarterback 
According to Rivals.com, Logan Thomas was the #1 tight end recruit in 2009 but now he has become the number one quarterback in the ACC and very well could end up a top 10 NFL draft pick. Thomas is a towering 6’6  and weighs in at about 254 lbs, yes this is very Cam Newton-esque (who was also thought to have been more of a tight end than a quarterback until he reached the NFL). Thomas has a cannon for an arm and started to come into his own late in the season for the Hokies. Thomas is a dual threat who can keep defenders honest. His ability to avoid sacks makes him that much more dangerous, especially when it’s crunch time. Thomas chucked the ball over 3,000 yards in 2011 included a 300+ yard game against Miami (FL) while having a 19-10 TD-Int ratio. Thomas added 11 rushing touchdowns to his stat line to go along with his 469 rushing yards. As the Virginia native matures his interceptions will decrease and look for him to lead the Hokies to another double-digit win season.

2. Sammy Watkins-Clemson-Wide Receiver
Going into the 2011 season, freshman Sammy Watkins wasted no time in taking over the ACC and putting points on the board for Clemson. Watkins is 6’1 and can flat-out fly, making him lethal against weak secondaries. Over the course of his freshman year he managed to help lead the way to a 7-0 start while breaking 11 freshman records along the way. Although his route-running is sub-par as of right now, his quickness and explosiveness makes up for the raw skillset. He racked up 1,219 receiving yards on 82 catches and had 836 yards on only 33 kick returns. Watkins could be starting the 2012 season on the sidelines if he happens to get suspended due to possession of marijuana. Watkins absence would be pivotal in the season opener against Auburn; at that point fans might realize just how much he means to the team. Watkins is a top three wide receiver in the country and he is only  going to be a sophomore.

Freshman Records Broken By Watkins: 

Receptions (Single-game)
Reception Yards (Single–game)
Reception TDs (Single-game)
Total Tds (Single-game)
Total Points (Single-game)
All-Purpose Yards (Single-game)
Kickoff Return Yards (Single-game)
Reception Yards (Season)
150-Yards Receiving (Season)
100-Yards Receiving (Season)
Reception TDs (Season)

3. David Amerson-North Carolina State-Cornerback
A quiet player who puts up big numbers. The ACC is home to the nation’s top cornerback, David Amerson. The 6’3 corner had 13 interceptions in his sophomore campaign, but takeaways aren’t the only plus side to his game. Amerson tallied 59 tackles last season for the Wolfpack and he also showed up when the lights were the brightest: 2 picks and a touchdown against Louisville in the Belk Bowl. This guy is a corner who can be left on an island, cover the best WR in the country and can get you points on defense.

4.Xavier Rhodes-Florida State-Cornerback
Physicality seems to have become a lost art from the cornerback position, but Rhodes brings it. His lack of ball skills (1 interception in 2011) is made up by bumping WR’s and delaying their routes. Rhodes has fought through his share of injuries while at Florida St. but he is still respected by opposing quarterbacks. The tight defense he presents makes other teams shy away from him and he does not get burnt by his opposition. Xavier Rhodes hurt his knee in the Champs Sports Bowl but played through the injury and held Michael Floyd to only 41 yards. Rhodes is a one of a kind and is not afraid to get up in the face of the receivers.

5.Ray Ray Armstrong-Miami (FL)-Strong Safety
Four years ago, Ray Ray Armstrong was one of the top defensive recruits in the country and he has only scratched the surface of what he can do. Armstrong is big enough to make all of the tackles and is fast enough to cover all areas of the field. His versatility really helps the team defense because he can push up to help the run game or drop back into coverage. The Miami safety was suspended for the beginning of the 2011 season (like many of his teammates) but he still managed to get 34 tackles in only seven games played. Armstrong will be the leader of what should be a very good Hurricane defense.

6.Brandon Jenkins-Florida State-Defensive End
Jenkins is just another exciting player on the Seminole defense. There is a lot to like about this kid: his motor, balance, explosiveness and his versatility.  Jenkins lead the Noles in both tackles for loss and sacks in 2011 and plans to do it again in 2012. Jenkins can get to the quarterback quick and in a variety of ways. If his tackling skills are polished he could very well be one of the top pass-rushers in the country.

7.Jonathan Cooper-North Carolina-Guard 
The Tarheel’s Cooper is the first offensive lineman to reach the list.  Cooper is an experienced lineman (35 starts) who was an All-American his freshman year and continued to get better. Although he could improve his run-blocking, Cooper is still dominant in the trenches. Cooper has great technique and is very naturally when moving along the line; clean footwork and great pass protection makes up for lack of strength.

8. Tajh Boyd-Clemson-Quarterback
Built like a fullback but throws effortlessly, the Clemson quarterback threw the ball 499 times last year and accumulated 3,828 passing yards. Boyd and Sammy Watkins were a dynamic duo and were 7-0 right out of the gate. At many times the Clemson defense would let up points and Boyd was forced into shootouts with opposing teams. He always keeps his cool and manages to make the right decisions, between his throwing skills and ability to move around the pocket he was able to assemble some key drives throughout the season. Boyd completed 59% of his passes and look for that to improve with the maturation of his receiving corps. He is a bonafide baller and can get his team wins.

9. Oday Aboushi-Virginia-Offensive Tackle
Yet another big man is getting some love on the top ten list. This time Oday Aboushi will be getting recognized. The senior tackle stands in at a staggering 6’6, 310 and is downright mean. Aboushi is strong and blocks through the whistle but lacks some explosiveness. His long arms allow him to keep separation against pass rushers and he has a lot of range for a guy that is 310 lbs. He is a consistent starter and is a great collegiate LT, penalties are at a minimum when he is blocking.

10.  Kenny Tate-Maryland-Safety/Linebacker
Just what football coaches love…hybrid players. Kenny Tate will be returning to the University of Maryland for his 5th season. Early in his career, Tate was the starting safety for the Terrapins but is now the starting outside linebacker. Before a season-ending knee injury in 2011, Tate had 35 tackles I only four games played and also recorded two interceptions. His play matches the new Maryland uniforms, eye-popping. Tate makes plays all over the field and is a difficult guy to account for when facing him. The best feature about Tate is that he has the ability to lineup almost anywhere on the field, if he comes back 100% from his injury, he will be one of the best playmakers in the nation.

Just Missed:

Jeremiah Attaochu-Georgia Tech-OLB
Andre Ellington-Clemson-RB
E.J. Manuel-Florida State-QB
Bjoern Werner-Florida State-DE
Seantrei Henderson-Miami (FL)-OT

The Forgotten Dream Team Member

In light of the Dream Team documentary, we will take a closer look at the 12th spot on the squad, a player no one had talked about; Christian Laettner. Before the stars aligned for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, the summer games were about letting amateur athletes nd represent their country. After a controversial rivalry with the U.S.S.R., FIBA was encouraging countries to put their best athletes, whether it was professional or amateur on the Olympic roster. The United States assembled a team of legends but they left one spot on the team for an amateur, that man was Christian Laettner.

Duke’s Christian Laettner was coming off back-to-back national championships and was one of the best centers at the college level. He had a great balance of speed, size, poise, intelligence and  he could hit a jump shot. Laettner is remembered for his shot against Kentucky in the National Championship. It was a turnaround jumper with less that 2 seconds left to win the title. Laettner had little-to-no impact on the dream team and he is the forgotten one when this team was talked about. Laettner was great in college, don’t get me wrong, he was still deserving of the “amateur” spot on this team, but just think of who else could have been on it at this time…

Alonzo Mourning was arguably the best collegiate center from 1988-1992. ‘Zo was one of the first players to score 2,000 points and record 1,000 rebounds in college basketball while at Georgetown and he was the first player to tally 1,000 career blocks. Alonzo played like a vereran even though he was very young, he could post up and he was a polished free-throw shooter and later became one of the best defensive NBA players of all time. A lanky 6’10 player with his anticipation was lethal on the defensive end and he could have possible helped the United States hold their opponents to even fewer than what they did.

In 1992 Shaquille O’neal was still at LSU. In college, Shaq was electric and monstrous and easily would have created a matchup nightmare for any country in the U.S.A.’s path. The future legends still would have had the majority of the playing time but Shaq could have relieved Barkley, Malone and Ewing on the blocks and would have not only brought personality and swag but strength and power. It would have been great to see Stockton throw alley-oops to the Shaqtus or watching him dunk on a whole team of Angolans.

A player that developed the name Big Shot Rob is hard to pass up on the list of people that could have replaced Laettner. Horry was a four-year player at the University of Alabama and was a great shooter for a guy who stood in at 6 feet 10 inches. Horry could knock down shots from anywhere on the floor and performed best when the spotlight was on him. At his size he could have played virtually any position for the National Team and his defensive skills would have assured him playing time.

There is nothing we can to about the Dream Team now but it is absurd that we could even think about replacing someone on that team. 11 of these players would become Hall-of-Famers and Christian Laettner (not in HOF) still had one of the greatest careers in college basketball to this date. No story will ever come close to the one of the Dream Team and this is one of the greatest events in sports. Thank you to Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Chris Mullin, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing and Christian Laettner for the greatest team and ever assembled in sports.

What to Expect From the Washington Huskies

Over the past few years, the PAC-12 Conference has been improving and is now one of the top conferences in college football. Everyone knows how good the USC Trojans are and how unstoppable the offense of Oregon is, but no one seems to talk about the Washington Huskies.

Led by dual threat quarterback, Keith Price, Washington had a less than impressive season in 2011 despite finishing with a 7-6 record. The Huskies lost veteran leadership last season by RB Chris Polk and OL Senio Kelemete entering the draft but their offense will continue to be dominant. Washington opens up the 2012 season at home against San Diego State University and will be looking to put a ton of points on the board. 

Quarterback Keith Price came onto the scene back in 2010 when Jake Locker was sidelined in November due to broken ribs. Price looked like a small, scared quarterback but showed some signs of life when given game-time action. Since 2010, Price has developed confidence, stature, leadership and will to win. In the 2011 regular season Price threw for 3,063 yards with a 33-11 TD-INT ratio (first year as full-time starter).  The Compton competitor will only get better and he shows a similar skill set to 2012’s number two overall pick in Robert Griffin III. However, this season will not be a cakewalk for Keith Price; the Huskies leading rusher and top receiver both left the team via draft. Running back Chris Polk tallied nearly 1,500 yards last season, The purple & gold are going to have trouble replacing a running back that had all of the tools. For right now it looks like junior running back Jessie Callier will be getting the majority of the carries but Bishop Sankey and walk-on sophomore Willis Wilson could get into the mix. Losing veteran players hurts… a lot, but, it happens to every team in college football. Coach Sarkisian will be able to get production out of his other players. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a player to watch this season. He is a two sport athlete (football & basketball) who is very athletic and has the tools to become an elite tight end. Seferian-Jenkins finished his rookie football season with 41 receptions, 538 yards and half a dozen scores. His play style is like Antonio Gates but he is built like an athletic Algae Crumpler, with his fantastic catching skills and big play potential, don’t be surprised if he is the top TE in the PAC-12 and earns a spot as a John Mackey Award finalist alongside UCLA’s Joseph Fauria and Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert.

On the defensive side of the ball is where Washington had most of their problems. Justin Wilcox was brought in this year as the defensive coordinator and he plans to make an impact immediately. There will be seven defensive players returning to Seattle, Washington for their senior season; five of them being defensive backs. The most attractive name on the defensive depth chart is senior CB Desmond Trufant; younger brother of Huskie alum Marcus Trufant. With the departure of Alameda Ta’amu, Trufant will become the leader of the defense but it will need to be a team effort to stop the lethal offenses that the PAC-12 encompasses, most notable Oregon and USC. Trufant and co. will have to cover some of the best athletes in the country; WR Robert Woods-USC, WR-Keenan Allen-Cal. And the Huskie defense will have to try to contain Oregon’s Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas.  The same defense that struggled in 2011 has many returning faces which falls into Washington’s favor. Wilcox has come into spring practices with a great attitude and with a team that has chemistry and familiarity with each other from last season looks to dominate next season. Wilcox has emphasized tackling and that is what the Huskies have been working on in these spring practices and it has already been paying off. In the spring game (Offense vs. Defense), the defense not only slowed down, but stopped Keith Price’s offense 12 out of 15 drives. Defensive players were flying to the ball and everyone was making plays. Freshman LB Josh Shirley opened eyes at the spring game, he was ripping through blocks and making all kinds of plays.

Yes, we are only in spring practices but there is a lot to be excited about when mentioning the Huskies. The ultimate test will be in week two when Washington makes its way down to Baton Rouge to take on the Tigers of LSU. This game is the biggest game on Washington’s schedule and it very well could set the tone for the rest of the season. Other notable games are: at Oregon, home against USC, at California and they cap off the season away versus a very interesting Washington State team. Washington is going to be a ranked team throughout the season because of  their: veteran play, determination, and ability  to put an absurd amount of points on the board. Keith Price will be one of the stars of the 2012 NCAA season and anything less than an 8-4 record will be a disappointment.

Who Improved the Most Over NFL Draft Weekend?


This passed weekend was the NFL draft. The draft is where teams build dynasties and stock up on draft picks for years to come. You will not know which teams had a successful draft for a few years because the players selected need a big enough sample size to produce. All that we can do until then is predict which teams we think have improved the NFL Draft.

Cincinnati Bengals

Last year the Bengals showed that draft picks can carry your team right away by selecting A.J. Green and Andy Dalton then going on to make the playoffs. Cincinnati went into this draft knowing what they had to do and they drafted great football players and guys that fit their system. The Bengals ended up two first round selections and used one on each side of the ball. With the 17th overall pick the Bengals chose CB Dre Kirkpatrick out of Alabama. Kirkpatrick is a great zone corner who will step up and make tackles in the run game as well. Cincinnati has Leon Hall coming off injury and they brought in Terrence Newman but they need to get younger at that position and Kirkpatrick is a guy that can immediately step in and have an impact. With their second first round selection (27 overall) Cincy chose G Kevin Zeitler out of Wisconsin. Zeitler is a hard-nosed offensive lineman that is terrific in the run game and he can take on virtually any interior rusher. Zeitler is a great fit for Cincy because they lost G Shaun Livings in free agency and they managed to bring in smash-mouth running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. After making a splash in the first round, Cincinnati continued to have a successful draft. In the second round the Cardiac Cats selected DT Devon Still, he is an ideal NT in a 3-4 but they feel he can be a great DT in a 4-3 and he was one of the top players available. In the third round Mohamed Sanu was selected, a possession Wr out of Rutgers that will lineup opposite of A.J. Green. Sanu is not a speedster but he won’t have many drops and he is physical. The Bengals continued with this defense/offense draft pattern throughout this whole draft by selecting Brandon Thompson (DT-Clemson), Orson Charles (TE-Georgia), Shaun Prater (CB-Iowa), Marvin Jones (WR-Cal), George Iloka (S-Boise St.) and Dan “Boom” Herron (RB-Ohio St.). The Bengals had a ton of steals throughout this draft; Charles in the 4th and Iolka in the 5th are the two most notable. Orson Charles will not compete against Gresham for the starting TE spot but he is a gifted athlete that can come in on certain packages and stretch the defense. After cutting Chris Crocker, the Bengals created a whole at the safety position and managed to wait on George Iolka who many draft experts had him ranked as a top-3 safety. Iolka fits the Cincy defense by being able to go downfield and make plays but he can also step up in the run game and will make plays in the backfield. Even after the draft Mike Brown and the Bengals weren’t done. Right after the draft management went to work and signed ILB Vontaze Burfict (Arizona St.) who is one of the meanest guys in the game and WR Kashif Moore (Uconn). These are both guys that are very well capable of making the 53 man roster, Burfict has all the talent in the world, he just needs to get his head on straight. The Bengals went out and drafted a bunch of guys that are ready to start next year, this team is going to be scary a couple years down the road.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams were one of the worst teams last season but they used their #2 overall draft pick to their advantage and kept trading to create more picks. First the Rams traded out of their #2 spot with the Redskins receiving Washington’s first and second round picks for 2012 and first round picks for 2013 and 2014 as well. During the draft, St. Louis was sitting with the #6 pick and decided to trade back again; they ended up with the 14th pick and late round picks. When the Rams were finally on the clock, they selected DT Michael Brockers out of LSU; a guy that Jeff Fisher said they had contemplated taking at number six. Fisher is a defensive-minded coach and he wants to solidify that side of the ball just like he did in his tenure with Tennessee. Brockers is a young, raw DT that Fisher could turn into a pro-bowler. Brockers was their top pick but they were not done on defense. In the second round the Rams took UNA cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins is a top-10 talent in this year’s draft class but brings a ton of baggage to the team. Jeff Fisher has worked through these problems before but is Jenkins going to be a Cortland Finnegan or another Pacman Jones? In the third round the Rams went out and took another CB, Trumaine Johnson, Montana. It was surprising to see Johnson fall to the third round because there are a bunch of teams that were looking for CB’s. Getting Johnson 65th overall is a steal and Jeff Fisher already know how he plays not just form film but from his son; Fisher’s son played on the Montana team with Johnson. At 6’2 with great tackle skills, Johnson provides versatility to the Rams, they can choose to play him at CB or even move him back to FS. The Rams weren’t just making an impact on the defensive side of the ball though. With their second selection (33rd overall) they selected Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian St. Sam Bradford has potential to be a fantastic QB but he needs weapons; Quick is 6’4 with huge hands and is electric after the catch. Quick is that big, sure-handed target that Bradford has been looking for. After the Quick pick, the Rams went out and selected slot WR Chris Givens out of Wake Forest in the 4th round (96th overall), they also took: OG, Rakevious Watkins (South Carolina) in the 5th round (150th overall) and RB Isaiah Pead in the 2nd round (50th overall) out of Cincinnati. The Rams went out and drafted a bunch of playmakers on offense, Pead is the type of RB that Fisher likes (great hands & quick burst of speed), he will be great to compliment Steven Jackson. St. Louis finished out their draft by selecting Greg Zuerlein (K-Missouri Western), Aaron Brown (OLB-Hawaii) and Daryl Richardson (RB-Abilene Christian) all in the 7th round.  They still have holes on their roster, but they have selected players that fit their system and athletes that will give them a chance to compete right away.

Honorable Mention-Indianapolis Colts

The Colts were horrendous last year and losing Peyton Manning was insult to injury for the Indy fans. With the first overall pick in the 2012 draft the Colts selected Andrew Luck who should be able to fill the void for Peyton Manning one day. Drafting a young QB can be scary so you need to try to ease him into the role and surround him with weapons. Like they say in the NFL, a tight end is a QB’s best friend. In the second and third rounds the Colts went out and addressed their losses of Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme by taking Coby Fleener (Stanford) and Dwayne Allen (Clemson). Fleener was heavily used by Mr. Luck at Stanford and he has a great repertoire of tools to offer the Indy offense. Fleener is very similar to Greg Olson, he is tall, fast, can run any route and can make catches in traffic. Dwayne Allen was selected in the third round and he offers a different skill set. Allen will have an immediate impact in the blocking game (Fleener’s weakness) and he can also release and become a security-type receiver for Luck. With the Colts’ fourth selection (3rd round) they stayed on the offensive side of the ball and selected T.Y. Hilton (Florida International). Hilton is a slot receiver that can flat-out fly and create separation. Look for him to be used on bubble screens and a lot of crossing routes this year, he has big-play potential. The fifth round is where Ryan Grigson selected his first defensive player, Josh Chapman (DT/NT-Alabama). If Chapman had not missed the season due to a knee injury he could have gone in the first round. Chapman will help on the defensive line and take on blockers, allowing Mathis and Freeney to get to the quarterback.  In the fifth round Vick Ballard would become the newest Colt. Ballard is a tough RB out of Miss. St. who will provide diversity to a Colts offense. He can run between the tackles and he can also go out and make some catches; he should be a nice compliment to Donald Brown. The Colts also chose LaVon Brazill (WR-Ohio) in the 6th and had three 7th round picks: Jusin Anderson (G-Georgia), Tim Fugger (DE- Vanderbilt) and Chandler Harnish (QB-Northern Illinois). After the draft the Colts also scrambled to get some of the top undrafted free agents. They made two key signings in Griff Whalen (WR-Stanford) and Micah Pellerin (CB-Hampton). Griff Whalen is another guy who will make Luck comfortable because he is familiar with Whalen; this was Luck’s go-to-guy on third down in college. Micah Pellerin fills a need for the Colts and has great potential. Pellerin is 6’0 with fluent hips and plays tight coverage. The Colts will still be picking top 10 next year but they have a bright future.

Other Notable Draft Winners

Pittsburgh Steelers
1 (24)-David DeCastro-G-Stanford
2 (56)-Mike Adams-OT-Ohio State
3 (86)-Sean Spence-ILB-Miami
4 (109)-Alameda Ta’amu-NT-Washington
5 (159)-Chris Rainey-RB-Florida
7 (231) Toney Clemons-WR-Colorado
7 (240) David Paulson-TE-Oregon
7 (246)-Terrence Frederick-CB-Texas A&M
7 (248)-Kelvin Beachum-G-SMU

Philadelphia Eagles
1 (12)-Fletcher Cox-DT-Mississippi St.
2 (46)-Mychal Kendricks-ILB-Calfiornia
2 (59)-Vinny Curry-DE-Marshall
3 (88)-Nick Foles-QB-Arizona
4 (123)-Brandon Boykin-CB-Georgia
5 (153)-Dennis Kelly-OT-Purdue
6 (194)-Marvin McNutt-WR-Iowa
6 (200)-Brandon Washington-G-Miami
7 (229)-Bryce Brown-RB-Kansas St.

Biggest Winners After First Round of NFL Draft


St. Louis Rams

The St. Louis Rams are in my opinion, the biggest winners after the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The Rams traded out of their number six pick (which they got to by trading the #2 overall pick to Washington) and still ended up getting the guy they wanted; Michael Brockers at #14. Not only did they get their guy, but they set themselves up to have a great nucleus of young talent with Bradford on offense and Brockers on defense along with MLB James Laurinaitis. Going into round two the Rams have 3 picks in the first 13 and look to assess the rest of their team’s holes (WR, OT & OLB). There is still top-tier talent left on the draft board, the Rams must be pleased with what they were able to pull of today.

Projected 2nd round picks:
1.OG/OT-Cordy Glenn-Georgia
7.WR-Brian Quick-Appalachian St.
13.OLB-Lavonte David-Nebraska

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are huge winners because of what they were to do with stirring up the whole league. Days before the draft Minnesota came out and said they have Morris Claiborne as the top guy on their draft board. By saying this, many other teams went into panic either trying to trade up for Matt Kalil or to trade up for the second-best cornerback, Stephon Gilmore. With all of this commotion going on, the Vikings created a high-pressure scenario, which raised the value of trades. It seemed as if the Cleveland Browns got scared that someone would jump in front of them and take their guy (Trent Richardson) because the Vikings said the #3 pick was up for grabs. With fear of their pick being stolen, Cleveland took initiative and swapped picks with Minnesota in order to block any other team potentially getting the #3 pick. Minnesota also got the 118th & 139th picks in the 2012 draft and the 211th pick in 2013. After selecting a franchise LT in Matt Kalil at the #4 pick the Vikings showed they weren’t done yet. The Vikes traded up into the first round with the Baltimore Ravens; Minnesota received the 29th overall pick in 2012 and Baltimore got the 35th and 98th picks in 2012. With the 29th pick Harrison Smith was selected. Minnesota is desperate for a playmaking secondary but they might have been able to get Smith in the second round. This is a great draft for the Vikings so far because they got two guys they coveted very much and ended up acquiring more picks in the process.

No picks in second round.

New England Patriots

Bob Kraft has this franchise in order and the Patriots have become a regular on this list. Surprisingly this year New England traded up rather than down but they filled two key needs on the defensive side. The first trade sent the 27th and 93rd overall picks to Cincinnati in exchange for the 21st overall selection. With that pick the Patriots selected DE/OLB Chandler Jones-Syracuse. Jones will fit perfectly in the Belichick scheme, which will be a 3-4 for the most part next year. Jones will play mostly OLB and he will be the primary pass-rusher; at 6’5 he can create separation and can get to the quarterback in a variety of ways. The Patriots also traded their 31st and 126th overall picks to the Denver Broncos for the 25th overall pick in the draft. With the 25th pick the Patriots took Don’t’a Hightower-Alabama. Hightower will be lining up on the side of Brandon Spikes in their 3-4 scheme. Although Hightower is not great in pass coverage, he brings great leadership, instinct and work ethic. Belichick taps back into his Alabama pipeline and finds a hidden gem in this year’s draft.

Projected 2nd round pick
16.OG-Brandon Brooks-Miami (OH)

Mock Draft Version 4.0 (Final)

1.Indianapolis Colts-QB-Andrew Luck-Stanford
The Colts just lost their franchise quarterback but are lined up to take another one. There are almost no flaws to Luck’s game; he makes all of the right choices, he’s the first one in the gym and last one out, he makes his teammates better and he is a class act. Luck will be the face of the franchise for a long time.

2.Washington Redskins (From STL)-QB-Robert Griffin III-Baylor
Griffin is why the Redskins traded up in the draft, he is deadly accurate when throwing the deep ball and he can make plays with his legs. Not only is a freak on the field, but, he has a high football I.Q., unlimited potential and is a great leader.

3.Minnesota Vikings-OT-Matt Kalil-USC
The Vikings have many needs (OL, DB & WR). Matt Kalil is the top left tackle in this class and he can be a cornerstone for the franchise’s offense. Kalil and RT Phil Loadholt would become great bookends and solidify that line in the pass game a well as run game. This year’s CB and WR classes are deep enough to assess those needs later, they must improve their line in the first round.

4.Cleveland Browns-RB-Trent Richardson-Alabama
The Browns need a play-maker badly. They lost Peyton Hillis and love to run the ball. Richardson is the best running back coming out since Adrian Peterson and is good in all areas of his game. He can run up the middle, run outside, block and catch; he is a can’t miss pick for the Browns.

5.Tampa Bay Buccaneers-CB Morris Claiborne-LSU
After going out and getting Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson in free agency, the Bucs can focus their first round pick on defense. Morris Claiborne has fantastic ball skills, tremendous speed & can be left on an island. He is electrifying on defense and will be a part of a great corps with Aqib Talib and Eric Wright.

6.St. Louis Rams-WR-Justin Blackmon-Oklahoma St.
Coach Jeff Fisher loves to draft defensive lineman early as he showed in Tenn (6 first round picks on DL). The fact of the matter is that the Rams need to surround QB Sam Bradford with weapons. Blackmon can run any route and continues to make plays even after the catch.

7.Jacksonville Jaguars-CB-Stephon Gilmore-South Carolina
Gilmore has been quietly crawling up the draft boards and rightfully so. Gilmore is a complete corner who is great in both zone and man coverage, he can also tackle and create turnovers. I expect Jacksonville to trade out of this spot but if they are here, expect them to take Gilmore. He has drawn comparisons to Reshean Mathis and the Jags have 4 cornerbacks with expiring contracts this season.

8.Miami Dolphins-QB-Ryan Tannehill-Texas A&M
Although I don’t think it is the right move I think the Dolphins select Ryan Tannehill. Miami’s new OC, Mike Sherman, coached Tannehill at Texas A&M and he is pushing for him. The ideal situation will be for Tannehill to sit a year but the Dolphins might not be that patient. Tannehill is a project to say the least, but he has the tools to become a gem in the NFL.

9.Carolina Panthers-DE-Quinton Coples-North Carolina
Years ago the Panthers had a guy named Julius Peppers and he was the anchor to that defense. Carolina is desperate for a pass-rusher and Coples has all the talent in the world. Expect the Panthers to take a hard look at Kuechly, but I still feel Coples will hear his name called at number nine.

10.Buffalo Bills-OT-Riley Reiff-Iowa
The Bills need to find a guy that could potentially take the place of LT Demetress Bell whom they had lost in free agency. If both corner backs are off the board Reiff looks to be the pick. He is great with his hands and stands up defenders.

11.Kansas City Chiefs-OG-David DeCastro-Stanford
VP Scott Pioli has been high on DeCastro all year long. DeCastro is arguably the second best lineman in the draft. He can pass block and run block extremely well and he started a ton of games at Stanford.

12.Seattle Seahawks-ILB-Luke Kuechly-Boston College
After losing David Hawthorne, Seattle is looking for a new middle linebacker. They could reach on a pass rusher hear but if Kuechly is on the board they will consider it a steal. Kuechly is a tackling machine and has a great understanding of the game. He is one of those players that is always in the right place at the right time and he can become the leader of the Seahawks defense.

13.Arizona Cardinals-WR-Michael Floyd-Notre Dame
Michael Floyd is a gifted WR that will take some of the pressure off of Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona needs another option at WR and Floyd would be a huge upgrade. He is a great route-runner and has soft hands. Larry Fitzgerald has come out and said he wants Floyd draft so consider this one a lock.

14.Dallas Cowboys-SS-Mark Barron-Alabama
Safety is the top priority for the Cowboys going into the draft and Barron can become the top safety in the NFL. Finding a guy that is hard-hitting and cover is very rare. The Cowboys have publicly fallen in love with Barron and expect to make him the next Dallas star.

15. Philadelphia Eagles-DT-Fletcher Cox-Mississippi St.
Scheme is not a concern when talking about drafting Fletcher Cox. He can fit in both 4-3 and 3-4 and play all positions along the defensive line. Cox is explosive off the line and can burst through the protection to make plays in the backfield.

16.New York Jets-DE/OLB-Melvin Ingram-South Carolina
Rex Ryan wants a premier pass-rusher and Ingram would be a great fit at OLB in Jets defense. Ingram is not the most physically gifted but he can shed blockers and will provide immediate pass-rush help.

17.Cincinnati Bengals (From Oakland)-OL-Cordy Glenn-Georgia
Glenn is a guy that can fill a bunch of holes along the offensive line. He was a guard at Georgia but is big and strong enough to become a tackle and can become a force on the interior.

18.San Diego Chargers-OLB-Chandler Jones-Syracuse
Despite being raw, Jones is a long and unique pass-rusher. He can play both defensive end and outside backer which the Chargers could use to their advantage. Jones is tough to block because of his wingspan and could be a terror in the AFC West.

19.Chicago Bears-DE/OLB-Whitney Mercilus-Illinois
Love Smith and the Chicago front office have been adamant that they will be taking defense. Mercilus is the type of players that the Bears like and he could start out as a rotational end, spelling Idonje and Peppers. Mercilus is a bull rusher and has length, DC Rod Marinelli could work wonders with him.

20.Tennessee Titans-CB-Dre Kirkpatrick-Alabama
The Titans lost Cortland Finnegan who was a huge part of that defense. Dre Kirkpatrick has a low bust possibility and plays like a veteran. He is a huge corner at 6’2 and can tackle very well for a cornerback.

21.Cincinnati Bengals-WR-Kendall Wright-Baylor
The Bengals have already gone out and gotten a lineman, now the key is to add more weapons for Andy Dalton. A.J. Green had a tremendous rookie season and Jordan Shipley will be back in the early season but they lost Jerome Simpson. Wright is the ideal slot receiver who can help in the return game and has big play potential.

22.Cleveland Browns (From Atlanta)-OT-Jonathan Martin-Stanford
The Browns desperately need a right tackle and Martin can be the guy that fills a need. He is big, long and powerful; Joe Thomas would be a great mentor for Martin. They already drafted their running back, now they need to bolster up their line for him.

23.Detroit LionsOLB/DE-Courtney Upshaw-Alabama
The Lions are a team that draft the best player available. With the 23rd pick they kill two birds with one stone; they get the best player available and they fill a huge need in getting a pass-rusher. Upshaw can get to the QB and can disrupt the run game, he is a great player to have.

24.Pittsburgh Steelers-NT/DT-Dontari Poe-Memphis
Dontari Poe is a wild card in this year’s draft. He was a workout warrior at the combine and his pro-day but when you go back to the film does not show the same ability consistently. Poe is both quick and strong at 345 pounds but needs to show consistency; he will learn under Casey Hampton and eventually take over.

25.Denver Broncos-DT-Michael Brockers-LSU
Denver’s biggest need is a DT. Brockers is young but has an outstanding skill set. He was the anchor to that LSU defense and he busted through double teams a lot of the time. Brockers uses his strength as well as his active hands to shed blockers and he will only keep getting better.

26.Houston Texans-WR-Rueben Randle-LSU
The Texans are very thin at the WR position other than All-Pro wide-out Andre Johnson. Rueben Randle will sneak into the first round because of his skill set and he is a quiet player off the field. Randle is an extraordinary route-runner and at 6’3 212 he is dominant in the blocking game for a WR.

27.New England Patriots-DE/OLB-Shea McClellin-Boise State
Shea McClellin was one of the most efficient pass rushers in the nation last year. He is a versatile player that can get to the quarterback in more ways than one. The Patriots lacked a good consistent pass rush and Mcclellin will bring both intensity and the ability to play different position which Belichick loves.

28.Green Bay Packers-DE/OLB-Nick Perry-USC
The Packers are another team that are in dire need of a guy to generate pass rush. Clay Mathews was double-teamed virtually all of last season and without him Green Bay couldn’t get to the quarterback. Nick Perry is a hybrid (can play DE/OLB) that is still raw but is physically gifted and has a great combination of speed and power. He has potential to be one of the most rewarded players in the draft.

29.Baltimore Ravens-OG-Amini Silatolu-Midwestern State
Silatolu is a player that dominated at Midwestern State. He is a huge guard with freakish strength. The Ravens are trying to get younger and they need a guard. This is a win-win scenario.

30.San Francisco 49ers-TE-Coby Fleener-Stanford
Back at Stanford (where Harbaugh) coached, he loved to use sets that included multiple tight ends. Back in that Stanford offense Coby Fleener was a key cog in the offensive machine. Vernon Davis is still the guy in SF but Fleener is very versatile and has great receiving talent.

31.New England Patriots-ILB-Dont’a Hightower-Alabama
For this pick Bill Belichick will be utilizing his Alabama connections and getting quite the player in Hightower. The Patriot use a bunch of different defensive formations but they love the 4-3. Hightower would pair up with Spikes nicely and they would be able to leave Mayo at OLB. Hightower needs to improve his pass defense but he will blossom into a great pro.

32.New York Giants-OT-Mike Adams-Ohio St.
The Giants would love for Coby Fleener to fall to them but it is unlikely. With the last pick of the first round they will increase the offensive line with Mike Adams. Adams has all of the natural tools and was on a very good line at OSU.

Round 2

33.St. Louis Rams-DT-Jerel Worthy-Michigan St.
-Worthy is a big DT that fits the defense Jeff Fisher wants to run. The Rams need guys that will perform immediately.

34.Indianapolis Colts-C-Peter Konz-Wisconsin
-Luck is the new Manning and Konz is the new Saturday. The Colts have needs at a bunch of positions but they need to protect their QB first.

35.Minnesota Vikings-S-Harrison Smith-Notre Dame
-Harrison Smith will go early because of the lack of safeties. Vikings need a center fielder that can create turnovers and lead a defense.

36.Tampa Bay Buccaneers-RB-Doug Martin-Boise State
-A running back that can do it all. Tampa Bay loves the play action and Martin is excellent at both blocking and receiving. A great compliment for Blount.

37.Cleveland Browns-WR-Alshon Jeffery-South Carolina
-Has potential to be the best WR in the draft with his given skill set. Cleveland needs a big receiver that can go up and get it. This would be a steal.

38.Jacksonville Jaguars-DT-Kendall Reyes-Connecticut
-Terrance Knighton is entering a contract year and will most likely miss the season due to eye surgery. Kendall Reyes has versatility and great upside.

39.St. Louis Rams (From Washington)-RB-Lamar Miller-Miami
-Jeff Fisher loves running backs and Lamar Miller is a speedster with the ability to catch the ball. Opens windows for the Rams offense.

40.Carolina Panthers-CB-Janoris Jenkins-Northern Alabama
-With all baggage aside, Jenkins is a top 10 talent in this draft. The Panthers will take a chance on him because they desperately need a CB.

41.Buffalo Bills-WR-Stephen Hill-Georgia Tech
-The Bills need a guy to lineup opposite of Stevie Johnson. Hill is a developing WR who can flat out fly.

42.Miami Dolphins-DE-Andre Branch-Clemson
-Miami is moving to a 4-3 defense. Branch is a powerful end that can stop the run as well as sack the QB.

43.Seattle Seahawks-DE/OLB-Vinny Curry-Marshall
-Seahawks need pass rushers and Curry provides versatility. Pete Carroll will have fun coaching him up.

44.Kansas City Chiefs-NT/DT-Devon Still-Penn St.
-Kelly Gregg is 35 and Devon Still is a first round talent. There are not many true nose tackles in this draft but Still is a guy that has unique talent.

45.Dallas Cowboys-Kevin Zeitler-Wisconsin
-Zeitler is a steal this late in the draft. Dallas signed two guards in the off-season but Zeitler is still an upgrade.

46.Philadelphia Eagles-OLB-Lavonte David-Nebraska
-As of right now it looks like the Eagles swung and missed on Casey Matthews. They are still thin at the linebacker position. David is undersized but wreaks havoc.

47.New York Jets-OT-Bobby Massie-Mississippi
-The Jets aren’t confident in Vladimir Ducasse and the RT position is a question mark. Bobby Massie is massive and can stop pass-rushers at will.

48.New England (From Oakland)-CB-Trumaine Johnson-Montana
-The Patriots love this guy. They usually have success when they get smaller school players. Trumaine Johnson was lights out at Montana and will develop nicely under the Pats.

49.San Diego Chargers-OG-Brandon Washington-Miami
-The Chargers have had bad luck recently with lineman through injury and failure. Washington is a guy who played a ton of snaps at Miami while committing few penalties.

50.Chicago Bears-DT-Derek Wolfe-Cincinnati
-Can’t say enough that the Bears love defense. Wolfe is a 4-3 DT that fits their style of play and can thrive on that team.

51.Philadelphia Eagles (From Cardinals)-TE-Dwayne Allen-Clemson
-Philly could take a running back at this spot but Allen would be hard for them to pass up. Helps out the pass game and run game, makes sense with no backup TE.

52.Tennessee Titans-DE-Tyrone Crawford-Boise St.
-They brought in Kameron Wimbley but still need to get to the quarterback, Crawford has been quiet in draft talks but he is a very sound player.

53.Cincinnati Bengals-S-Brandon Taylor-LSU
-The release of Chris Crocker leaves a huge hole at safety. Taylor is a men safety who was on an elite defense.

54.Detroit Lions-CB-Josh Robinson-UCF
-Robinson can fly and is ready to start in the NFL right now. Fluent hips and great ball skills.

55.Atlanta Falcons-OT-Jeff Allen-Illinois
-Atlanta needs lineman that won’t step on Matt Ryan’s feet. Allen is a big tackle that stays square and has great extension.

56.Pittsburgh Steelers-OT-Kelechi Osemele-Iowa St.
-Osemele is raw but versatile. Will most likely develop into a starting tackle but can fill in for empty spots right now on the stealers.

57.Denver Broncos-RB-LaMichael James-Oregon
-Many people forget how much Peyton Manning uses their running backs. Knowshon Moreno is a bust and McGahee is old. James improves pass game and special teams.

58.Houston Texans-DT-Mike Martin-Michigan
-Ever since they drafted Mario Williams the Texans have been all about building a defense. They try to finish that this year with drafting a bull-rushing DT in Martin.

Saints Forfeit

59.Green Bay Packers-RB-David Wilson-Virginia Tech
-David Wilson can run between the tackles and catch exceptionally well. Wilson could have been a first rounder if he didn’t fumble at VT. He will be a great replacement for Ryan Grant.

60.Baltimore Ravens-OLB-Bobby Wagner-Utah St.
-Once again, trying to get younger. Wagner has been under-the-radar but is a bright spot in this class. Hard-hitting, smart and he is a playmaker.

61.San Francisco 49ers-C-Ben Jones-Georgia
-Ben Jones is a mashing center that plays to the style of the 49ers. He will improve the run game even more.

62.New England Patriots-OG-Brandon Brooks-Miami (OH)
-The Patriots line has been aging and injury prone for quite some time. Belichick will never say no to drafting a lineman. This is similar to their Sebastian Volmer pick a few years back. Brooks will learn under Waters.

63.New York Giants-RB-Chris Polk-Washington
-Polk is a sleeper in this draft; he has all of the tools and intangibles. He is great in play action and isn’t afraid to run between the tackles. Extremely shifty and quick with cuts.

Round 3

64.Colts-CB-Jamell Fleming-Oklahoma
-As much as Indy needs offense they need to asses the back seven on defense. Fleming is a great tackler and can help in the run game as well as the pass.

65.Rams-OLB-Zach Brown-North Carolina
-Brown can rush the passer and also has the ability to cover in the zone. All around great skill-set.

66.Vikings-WR-Mohamed Sanu-Rutgers
-Now they start getting weapons for Ponder. Sanu is a possession receiver that is hard to bring down.

67.Browns-QB-Brandon Weeden-Oklahoma St.
-Weeden is NFL ready and will bring great QB competition to Cleveland. They need an answer if Colt McCoy isn’t able to perform.

68.Buccaneers-ILB-James Michael-Johnson-Nevada
-Last year the Buc took Mason Foster in this round but James Michael-Johnson increases depth and is more fundamentally sound. Great tackler and he will learn the NFL quickly.

69.Redskins-OG-James Brown-Troy
-Depth is needed on the offensive line. James Brown has not been talked about much but Washington loves big offensive lineman who will need some time to develop.

70.Jaguars-WR-Brian Quick-Appalachian St.
-Brian Quick falling this far may be a dream come true for the Jaguars. Quick is 6’4 with strong hands and is fantastic after the catch. Surround Gabbert with as many weapons as possible.

71.Bills-QB-Brock Osweiler-Arizona St.
-Probably won’t start for 2-3 years but fits the Chan Gailey offense. Osweiler is crazy athletic at 6’7 and throws darts. He has the most upside in this year’s draft.

72.Dolphins-WR-Juron Criner-Arizona
-Losing Brandon Marshall plays a big part in the middle rounds for the Dolphins. They need a receiver that can turn into a #1 guy. Criner is 6’3 and has big-lay potential.

73.Dolphins (From Chi)-TE-Ladarius Green-Lousiana-Lafayette
-Anthony Fasano is an underrated tight end but many teams are beginning to use two TE’s. Green is a “new era” tight end as I like to call them; very fast, soft hands and big.

74.Chiefs-ILB-Mychal Kendricks-California
-Derrick Johnson isn’t getting any younger. Mychal Kendricks could start immediately as the guy on the side of Johnson.

Ron Brooks is a vicious defender and a pure playmaker.

75.Seahawks-RB-Isaiah Pead-Cincinatti
-The Seahawks need another RB that provides versatility, mostly receiving. Pead is small but holds his own and he has a nose for the end zone.

76.Texans-CB-Ron Brooks-LSU
-The best-kept secret in this year’s draft. He was overshadowed by Claiborne but is a big-time player. Hard-hitting corner that will become a number 1 in the future.

77.Jets-WR-Marvin McNutt-Iowa
-The Jets have turned into a passing offense, however, they need more weapons. McNutt is a tall receiver that can make all of the catches and improve the offense.

78.Chargers-TE-Michael Egnew-Missouri
-With Anontio Gates health being questionable week-in and week-out, Egnew is a safe pick here. He has the best hands out of all the tight ends and could be a part of a deadly combo when Gates plays.

79.Bears-S-George Iolka-Boise St.
-Still drafting defense. Iolka is a safety that can ball-hawk as well as step up in the run game. The Bears need a safety.

80.Cardinals-OLB-Bruce Irvin-West Virgnia
-Irvin is solely a blitzer but that does not hurt his draft stock. When he lines up he locks on to the QB and never loses sight. Arizona failed to get to the QB last year.

81.Cowboys-WR-Ryan Broyles-Alabama
-After seeing the production out of their 3rd WR last year (Laurent Robinson-Jax) they now look to get another WR. Broyles is your prototypical slot guy that can make defenders miss and he can stretch the field.

82.Titans-WR-A.J. Jenkins-Illinois
-Last year the Titans realized how much they relied on Kenny Britt. Jenkins is a guy that could play the #2 spot, leaving Nate Washington in the slot. He has big hands and creates separation.

83.Bengals-CB-Dwight Bentley-Louisiana-Lafayette
-Bentley is a burner. The Bengals went out and got Terrance Newman in the off-season but they still need to get younger and deeper. Bentler can cover the slot right away.

84.Falcons-OLB-Ronell Lewis-Oklahoma
– The Falcons need a pass rusher, especially when you are facing Newton, Brees and Freeman 2 times each season. Lewis is a powerful backer who can dismantle a QB when he gets there.

85.Lions-OT-Donald Stephenson-Oklahoma
-Jeff Backus is going to retire soon and this is their primary need in the third round. Stephenson is a disciplined tackle who will become a starter for a long time.

86.Steelers-ILB-Vontaze Burfict-Arizona St.
-This is my surprise pick of the draft. At the start of the mock draft season, Burfict was being looked at as a first round pick. Then it looked like he wouldn’t even get drafted because of anger issues and personality. I feel this is a great project for Mike Tomlin; he will set Burfict straight.

87.Broncos-QB-Kirk Cousins-Michigan St.
-The Broncos need to find a guy that can learn under Manning. Cousins is a natural winner who has a great work ethic. Great things can come from this.

88.Eagles-S-Antonio Allen-South Carolina
-The Eagles need to get some kind of production from the safety strong safety position. Nate Allen has been terrific at free safety but now they finish off the back seven with this draft pick.

89.Saints-CB-Casey Hayward-Vanderbilt
-Similar play style to Tracy Porter (who they lost). Hayward can press extremely well and is great at jumping routes.

90.Packers-OG-Senio Kelemete-Washington
-Senio Kelemete looks like a Packer player when you first take a gander, much like Bulaga did two years ago. He fills a need and will provide versatility for a banged up line.

91.Ravens-RB-Robert Turbin-Utah St.
-In my opinion he is the biggest sleeper of the draft and can be an elite back. The Ravens lost Ricky Williams (retirement) and need a downhill runner to match-up with Rice. Turbin is all that and a bag of chips.

92.49ers-DL-Jared Crick-Nebraska
-Jared Crick is a brute on the defensive line and can collapse the pocket. He is all strength and no finesse. Not only is he the best player available but he could be the second coming of Justin Smith.

93.Patriots-FS-Markelle Martin-Oklahoma St.
-I don’t think the Patriot will end up moving Devin McCourty to free safety, leaving this position as a need. Markelle Martin is a center fielder and is a very coachable player.

94.Giants-TE-Orson Charles-Georgia
-Perhaps the most gifted TE in this draft. Charles is a fantastic blocker, shows great speed/acceleration and can catch the ball. The Giants need a tight end; as of right now they have Ballard and Beckum who are out for season already and an unproven Martellus Bennett.

95.Raiders (Compensatory)-OT-Zebrie Sanders-Florida St.
-The Raiders have a lot of holes in their depth chart and don’t help their cause with not having a pick till the third round. Zebrie Sanders is a huge tackle who is strong like an ox. He has some minor concerns like motor, but he is a great value at 95.

On the Verge of Sliding into Top Three Rounds

CB-Jayron Hosley-Virginia Tech
NT-Alameda Ta’amu-Washington
OLB-Jonathan Massaquoi-Troy
CB-Micah Pellerin-Hampton
WR-Tommy Streeter-Miami
QB-Nick Foles-Arizona

Best Late-Round Value for NFL Draft


Championship teams are built through the NFL draft. There aren’t many instances where a free agent signing or a trade will instantly create a Super Bowl winner. Franchises like the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have thrived off of the draft whereas teams who try to get better through free agency like the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys always seem to come up short. There are no easy picks to make in the NFL draft but the early rounds (1,2 & 3) are straight forward for the most part, but, the later rounds (6 &7) are where these storied franchises do damage. The Buffalo Bills were a team that started out strong last year and they hate spectacular play from guys chosen late in the draft; Stevie Johnson (2008) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (2005) were both seventh round selections. Future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady was selected 199th overall by the New England Patriots and has won three rings for the team. This year’s draft has a ton of talent, but the teams that can get the best value late in the draft will be the ones to succeed.

RB-Brandon Bolden-Ole Miss (Proj. 7th rd)
Bolden is a booming back out of the SEC, weighing in at 224 pounds he is one of the bigger backs in the draft but is very elusive. After spending four years at Ole Miss, Bolden showed a great balance between catching, running inside as well as running outside of the tackles. The running back position is where teams like to take chances late in the draft [James Starks (188), Peyton Hillis (227) & Ahmad Bradshaw (250)] Although Brandon Bolden has potential to be a successful back in the NFL there is downfall to his game. At times he shows a bit of uncertainty when running; instead of getting the three yards for the first down, he goes for the 40-yard touchdown. On the plus side, he has great hands and has tremendous balance when running; defenders struggle to bring him down and he keeps his feet moving.

WR-Jeff Fuller-Texas A & M (Proj. 6th rd)
Going into the NCAA Football season I had WR Jeff Fuller ranked pretty high on my WR list. There is a lot to like about him, he is 6’4/223 and a physical receiver. His father, Jeff Fuller Sr., was an NFL receiver and won two Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. Just physical stature alone will get this Aggie drafted; his senior year at Texas A & M was not what we had all expected. In 2011 he caught 70 balls for 828 yards and six touchdowns while averaging a career-low 11.8 yards-per-catch. Fuller has strong hands and is great with his cuts, however, he needs to improve on creating separation. He will be an intriguing player in this draft because he could shoot up the boards because of his athleticism and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Miami Dolphins select Fuller for three reasons: (1) Offensive Coordinator Mike Sherman coached Fuller at A & M (2) If they select Ryan Tannehill in the first round; Fuller and Tannehill played WR together for 2 seasons then Tannehill played QB as Fuller played WR in 2011 (3) Dolphins need to add depth at WR after dealing Brandon Marshall.

OG-Rishaw Johnson-California (PA) (Proj. 7th rd)
Rishaw Johnson is a very intriguing prospect going into this draft. Johnson finished at a small school but played three seasons at Ole Miss; he was dismissed for violating team rules. Johnson went on to dominate football at the Division II level; the offensive line for California (PA) only allowed 17 sacks throughout the whole season and was voted captain started 12 games in his first year. Johnson is thick (313 lbs) but maintains great balance and blocks till the whistle. Teams might pass on him because of off-field issues but with a little bit of coaching he very well could become a starting RG in the NFL.

DE-Cordarro Law- Southern Miss (Proj. 7th rd-undrafted)
2011 was a huge year for defensive end Cordarro Law; he recorded 17.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and earned All-Conference USA First Team honors. Although Law is not physically gifted per say, he shows that he is willing to learn and that he is determined. On his pro-day, Law went through drills as a defensive end and a outside linebacker; hoping to show scouts that he can be a great pass-rusher. Law is quick off the line but needs to add moves to his pass-rush repertoire. There are two things working in Law’s favor: (1) He will perform in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 defensive scheme. (2) You can never have too many pass rushers as NFL coaches will say.

CB-Cliff Harris-Oregon (Projected 7th rd)
Cornerback Cliff Harris has been somewhat forgotten in the college football world. He has been out of commission since the 2011 season where Head Coach Chip Kelly dismissed Harris because he was getting into too much trouble with both the police and the team. In  2011, Harris recorded the most passes defended in the country (23), lead the Pac-10 with six picks and had three punt return touchdowns. Harris is undersized (5’11/180) but there is no question that he can flat out play. On the field he is a star but off the field he is a problem. Chances are a team will take a chance on him, but other teams might stay away because they don’t want to end up with another Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones.

Mock Draft Version 3.0

Round 1

1. Indianapolis Colts- QB- Andrew Luck-Stanford
It is a clear consensus that Andrew Luck will be the number one pick of this year’s draft. Robert Griffin III refused to have a private workout with the Colts making this pick look even more assuring. Andrew Luck is the most NFL ready player in this draft and has few flaws. He can make all of the throws, read all the coverages and be the face of a hurting franchise.

2.Washington Redskins (From St. Louis)-QB-Robert Griffin III-Baylor
Washington gave up a lot of picks to set them up to take RG3 and rightfully so. Griffin will have quite an impact right away in the NFL; he is dual-threat (throw & run) and he can throw the deep ball very accurately. Washington went out and got Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to make Griffin’s transition to the NFL “easier.”

3.Minnesota Vikings-OT-Matt Kalil-USC
Matt Kalil is as close as you will get to a sure thing for lineman in this draft, he is the ideal size for a franchise tackle. Kalil exhibited both production and a fantastic work ethic at Southern Cal. The Vikings need to protect Ponder and no better way to do that by assessing the problem with the third overall pick.

4.Cleveland Browns-RB-Trent Richardson-Alabama
Cleveland has been desperate for a playmaker. With the way NFL offenses are constructed today, a RB would not be taken in the first 20 picks but Richardson is an exception. He is 228 pounds of solid muscle and can catch the ball very well out of the backfield. Has a tremendous balance between speed and power; he is a francihse back.

5.Tampa Bay Buccaneers-CB-Morris Claiborne- LSU
Yes, Claiborne scored an abysmal 4 on the Wonderlic Test but put him on a football field and his I.Q. shoots up exponentially. Not only does he have great instincts but he can keep up with the fastest WR and can play bump and run. Claiborne is the total package at corner; can tackle, great ball skills and won’t get beat. Look for him and Talib to tally up a bunch of interceptions.

6.St. Louis Rams-WR-Justin Blackmon-Oklahoma State
The Rams traded back to the number six pick and they very well could trade back again. The safe pick here is to take Justin Blackmon. He the best WR in the class and Sam Bradford needs a weapon. Bradford can throw Blackmon anything from screens to streaks and he will produce.

7.Jacksonville Jaguars-DE/OLB-Melvin Ingram-South Carolina
After the South Carolina Pro-Day Melvin Ingram became the top DE in this year’s draft class. He played DT, DE and OLB at South Carolina and can get to the QB in a variety of ways. Jacksonville desperately needs someone to generate pass rush, Ingram will have an immediate impact.

8.Miami Dolphins-WR-Michael Floyd-Notre Dame
This is a bit of a surprise pick at number 8 but with the departure of Brandon Marshall (traded to Denver), Miami needs a #1 receiver. It makes all the sense in the world for them to take Tannehill (West Coast Offense, MIA OC was Tannehill’s coach at A&M) but taking him at #9 nine is very risky. The Dolphins did well with Matt Moore playing QB and they signed David Garrard, get weapons for the QBs you have now. Floyd will become the #1 receiver on that team instantly.

9.Carolina Panthers-DE-Quinton Coples-North Carolina
The Panthers can do a bunch of different things at this pick. They could take a chance on Dontari Poe or local Stephon Gilmore who are both top-10 talents. Quinton Coples presents the lowest risk and highest reward for the Panthers. He has been compared to Julius Peppers (tall, long and fast). Coples has a fantastic spin move to create separation with the offensive lineman and can get to the QB quickly.

10.Buffalo Bills-OT-Riley Reiff-Iowa
The Bills assessed their pass-rushing need through free agency by singing Mario Williams, but they also lost LT Demetress Bell via free agency. C.J. Spiller has shown he can do damage and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick needs more protection. Riley Reiff was well coached at Iowa and is ready to start immediately. Reiff is excellent at pass-blocking and just as good in run-blocking, he will only keep getting better.

11.Kansas City Chiefs-QB Ryan Tannehill-Texas A&M
The Chiefs are one of the most talented teams in the National Football League, but, they need a better QB. A team might trade up for Tannehill because of the physical tools and potential shown. Last season was Tannehill’s first year playing quarterback and he showed great leadership and a will to win. He will be a project, but he can become a very good NFL quarterback.

12. Seattle Seahawks-LB-Luke Kuechly-Boston College
The Seahawks lost a quality linebacker in David Hawthorne in free agency this off-season. Kuechly is deemed to be one of the most solid linebackers coming out of the draft in recent time. Boston College has a history of producing great linebackers and Kuechly is one of the best. He has outstanding instincts and has a nose for the football. Fills a big need for Seattle.

13.Arizona Cardinals-DT-Dontari Poe-Memphis
The Cardinals front office has become accustomed to taking the best player off the board with their selections. With Reiff and Floyd both off the board Arizona can fill a big run stopping need with Poe. He can be the anchor of that 3-4 defense and he can make tackles in the backfield. Poe is the biggest risk in the draft but he also could be one of the biggest rewards; could be one of the best picks of the draft in the long run.

14.Dallas Cowboys-S-Mark Barron-Alabama
The Cowboys assessed their offensive line in the off-season and can take quality lineman later in this draft. At times last year the Cowboys defense collapsed and gave up big leads. Bringing in CB Brandon Carr is great but they need better play at the safety position and Barron is a huge upgrade. Mark Barron is a smart, physical defensive leader who gives it his all on every play. Nick Saban creates great defensive players at Alabama, Barron is another testament to that.

15.Philadelphia Eagles-DT-Fletcher Cox-Mississippi State
Cox is a great 4-3 devensive lineman; he is explosive and wreaks havoc on the interior. This former Bulldog is quick off the snap and plays hard until the whistle. Cox is 6’4, 298 and is still growing; he is going to be a problem for NFL lineman.

16.New York Jets-OLB-Courtney Upshaw-Alabama
Upshaw is a pure pass-rusher. He is one of the players that always seems to be in the right place at the right time and plays his best when the lights are brightest. Upshaw would be the blitzing linebacker that Rex Ryan is looking for; he is brutal and won’t stop until he gets to the QB.

17.Cincinnati Bengals (From Oakland)-OG-David Decastro
Fundamentally sound and a great run blocker, Decastro would be of great value at the 17th pick. The Bengals need to keep Andy Dalton healthy and provide run-blocking for Green-Ellis. David Decastro immediately adds to the rushing attack and is great both on and off the field.

18.San Diego Chargers-DE/OLB-Chandler Jones-Syracuse
Chandler Jones has been flying up the draft boards lately and his versatility is one of the main reasons. He is listed as a DE but could easily move to OLB in a pass-rushing role. He has the bloodlines; brother of MMA fighter Jon “Bones” Jones and Arthur of the Baltimore Ravens. High motor plus willingness to learn plus raw talent equals a pro-bowler, and that’s what he can very well become.

19.Chicago Bears-DE-Whitney Mercilus-Illinois
Lovie Smith has come out and said he wants to improve the defense through the draft and Whitney Mercilus is a player that will fit right in with the Bears. You can never have too many pass-rushers, he could learn a lot from Julius Peppers. Mercilus is long and plays with great anticipation.

20.Tennessee Titans-CB-Dre Kirkpatrick-Alabama
Cortland Finnegan was a huge loss for the Titans. They can make up for it by selecting Dre Kirkpatrick, he is 6’4 and is not afraid to tackle. Kirkpatrick can be left on an island against tall WR and shut them down.

21.Cincinnati Bengals-CB-Stephon Gilmore-South Carolina
Gilmore is a top 10 talent but will fall because he doesn’t have blazing speed or other jaw dropping qualities. He is an amazing cover corner and understands the game of football to a T. Gilmore can press and doesn’t have many flaws.

22.Cleveland Browns (From Atlanta)-OG-Cordy Glenn-Georgia
Between drafting a running back in the top five and having a QB that got sacked a lot, improving the line is a must. Glenn is naturally a guard but is big enough to play the tackle position if need be. He is a tough player and should make this line stronger as a whole; they will be running a lot next year.

23. Detroit Lions-OT-Jonathan Martin-Stanford
The Lions have very good skills players but need to strengthen up their line. Martin is a diamond in the rough; he protected Andrew Luck at Stanford and doesn’t commit penalties. Jeff Backus is very old and Martin is still learning while being very good. Drafting an offensive lineman is the main need of this team.

24.Pittsburgh Steelers-LB-Don’t’a Hightower-Alabama
Hightower would be a natural fit in the Steeler defense and this pick makes even more sense with the release of James Farrior. Hightower is of good stature and very athletic, he will cause problems for opposing offenses.

25.Denver Broncos-DT-Michael Brockers-LSU
Brockers has been falling down the draft boards as of late but is still a great pick for the Broncos. They desperately need an interior D-lineman; he is a brute and has active hands. When you watch LSU tape you don’t notice him right away but when you watch replays he is always the one that started to disrupt the play.

26.Houston Texans-WR-Kendall Wright-Baylor
The Texans need another option than Andre Johnson at the wide receiver position. Kendall Wright is not big but he is a straight burner. He has a tendency to slip by the defense and just get open, similar to Brandon Lloyd. He can run all different routes and does damage after the catch.

27.New England Patriots (From New Orleans)-DT-Kendall Reyes-Connecticut
Reyes might be this draft’s best-kept secret. He is raw but very skilled. Reyes made a name for himself at the Senior Bowl where he was beating the country’s best OL repeatedly.

28.Green Bay Packers-DE/OLB-Nick Perry-USC
The Packers need another pass-rusher, they struggled to get to the quarteback all season long. Not only does Perry offer great versatility but he has an enormous skill set and isn’t even close to reaching his potential. If he builds more muscle he could be even more lethal; Perry is a star in the making.

29.Baltimore Ravens-C-Peter Konz-Nebraska
Baltimore needs to improve the line just a tad if they want to keep Ray Rice happy. Peter Konz is of great value atht e 29th pick and the Ravens could use a center (Matt Birk isn’t getting any younger). Lineman that come out of Wisconsin are big, tough and really good in the NFL, the Ravens line has been injury prone and Konz is ready to take on the top DT in the league.

30.San Francisco 49ers-TE-Coby Fleener-Stanford
Back when he coached at Stanford, Harbaugh loved to utilize his tight ends. Yes, the niners have Vernon Davis but many teams are using two tight ends now (Gronk/Hernandez & Graham/Thomas). Fleener catches balls over the defenders and has soft hands while still being able to block in the run game.

31. New England Patriots-OLB-Shea McClellin-Boise State
He played the 5-technique at Boise State but he can become a standup pass rusher for the Patriots, which they lack. New England always seems to find great players that are under-the-radar and turn them into superstars. McClellin would thrive in the Belichick defensive scheme.

32. New York Giants-OT-Mike Adams-Ohio State
The Giants went out and won the Super Bowl with a banged up team but there is always room for improvement. Mike Adams is a big offensive tackle that can help a run game that is losing out on Brandon Jacobs. The NFC East has some of the best pass-rushers in the league, Giants need to draft people to stop the Wares, Orakpos and Babins of the league.


33. St. Louis Rams-Jerel Worthy-DT-Michigan State
-Worthy is a big DL that can stop the run, Rams need a lot of help on defense.

34. Indianapolis Colts-WR-Stephen Hill-Georgia Tech
-A nice new weapon for Andrew Luck, Stephen Hill is a burner and will great beside Reggie Wayne.

35. Minnesota Vikings-S-Harrison Smith-Notre Dame
-Will get picked early via lack of safeties this year but the Vikings desperately need a DB with a high football I.Q.

36. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-RB-Lamar Miller-Miami
-Could be the lightning to Blount’s thunder, great in the pass game and can bounce it outside, turn the corner and bring it for 6 on any play.

37. Cleveland Browns-WR-Alshon Jeffery-South Carolina
-A big receiver that can help a struggling Browns offense. First round talent, will make McCoy very happy.

Massie is a massive athlete. Very strong and can hold his own against the best pass-rushers.

38. Jacksonville Jaguars-OT-Bobby Massie-Ole Miss
-Cannot stress enough that you need to protect Blaine Gabbert. Big tackle that will help both MJD and the pass protection.

39. St. Louis Rams (From Washington)-OT-Zebrie Sanders-Florida State
-Keep Bradford off his back, Zebrie is big and powerful, potential LT.

40. Carolina Panthers-CB-Janoris Jenkins-Northern Alabama
-If off-field issues didn’t matter, he goes in the top 10. Ball hawk and can score on defense, very mean with the man coverage. Huge upgrade for the Panthers.

41. Buffalo Bills-WR-Brian Quick-Appalachian State
-Still developing but he is big and can bruise corners after the catch. Big hands, great guy to play on the other side of Stevie Johnson.

42. Miami Dolphins-QB-Brock Osweiler-Arizona State
-With Moore and Garrard under contract let Osweiler develop this season. There is no limit on potential with him, he’s a winner and has what it takes to succeed.

43. Seattle Seahawks-DE/OLB-Andre Branch-Clemson
-Seahawks need to improve pass rush, Branch is first-round talent and can play multiple positions.

44. Kansas City Chiefs-LB-Mychal Kendricks-California
-Can learn under and eventually takeover Derrick Johnson’s position. Incredibly athletic and makes plays all over the field.

45. Dallas Cowboys-OG-Kevin Zeitler-Wisconsin
-A big need for a lineman here, Zeitler is fundamentally sound and is a low risk selection.

46. Philadelphia Eagles-OLB-Lavonte David-Nebraska
-Can play weak-side linebacker opposite of Akeem Nicks. Could be one of the biggest steals of the draft; undersized but a natural talent.

47. New York Jets-WR-Rueben Randle-LSU
-No matter who the QB of this team is you need to get them more weapons. Randle has good size and is willing to block.

48. New England (From Oakland)-CB-Josh Robinson-Central Florida
-The fastest CB in this year’s class, Robinson is a project but has a to of upside. Pats took another UCF corner before (Asante Samuel), turned out pretty well.

49. San Diego Chargers-OG-Brandon Brooks-Miami (Ohio)
-Decimated on the offensive line, Brandon Brooks is a small-school player but a big-time talent. Could start all 16 games for SD.

50. Chicago Bears-S-George Iloka-Boise State
-Bears need better player from their safeties. Iloka can blitz and play coverage.

51. Philadelphia Eagles (From Arizona)-TE-Dwayne Allen-Clemson
-Would improve the pass game as well as the run game, Allen was seen as the top TE for most of the year.

52. Tennessee Titans-DT-Derek Wolfe-Cincinnati
-Great DT for a 4-3 defense and can get to the QB quick. Fills a hole in the Titan defense.

53. Cincinnati Bengals-S-Brandon Taylor-LSU
-Terrific safety on an all-star LSU defense. After losing Chris Crocker, Cincy needs to be looking for a safety. Great value pick at 53.

54. Detroit Lions-CB-Dwight Bentley-Louisiana Lafayette
-The Lions got torched, Bently is speedy and can play physical as well. Lions need to assess the secondary.

55. Atlanta Falcons-DE/OLB-Vinny Curry-Marshall
-Abraham is aging, Curry is very strong and deceivingly quick. Need to pressure the opposing QB (Brees, Freeman, Newton).

56. Pittsburgh Steelers-OT-Kelechi Osemele-Iowa State
-Steelers need to improve in a lot of place but with Big Ben getting hurt and losing your RB before the season starts to injury makes you want to improve the line even more. Raw, but strong like an Ox and great extension.

57. Denver Broncos-RB-LaMichael James-Oregon
-Could play a role similar to the one Joseph Addai played with Peyton Manning. Great situational back, great hands, has a knack for big plays.

58. Houston Texans-CB-Trumaine Johnson-Montana
-Dominated at Montana. Kareem Jackson may move to free safety opening up a starting CB spot. Johnson is an excellent corner.

New Orleans Forfeited Pick

59. Green Bay Packers-DL-Jared Crick-Nebraska
-Yes I have them taking Nick Perry but Crick can play both DT and DE. Old–school pass rusher; bull-rush and bowl over the OL.

60. Baltimore Ravens-OLB-Bobby Wagner-Utah State
-One of the hardest hitting men in the draft. Has great speed and instinct. Ravens get younger and fill a need that Jarrett Johnson left.

61. San Francisco 49ers-OG-Amini Silatolu-Midwestern
-Niners lost Adam Snyder but can get a really great guard here. Strong and great footwork.

62. New England Patriots-OG-Brandon Washington-Miami
-Belichick will never pass up on a lineman. Washington has top-notch talent but just needs to learn how to use it. Played over 1,300 snaps at Miami.

63. New York Giants-RB-David Wilson-Virginia Tech
-Need to find a replacement for Jacobs. Wilson is a downhill runner that can catch, block and make defenders miss.

Round 3

64. Colts-DT-Devon Still-Penn State
-Still seen as a first-round talent by some teams. Colts are moving to 3-4, Still is big and is a perfect fit.

65. Rams-CB-Alfonzo Dennard-Nebraska
-Jeff Fisher brough in Finnegan but will still need to build depth at CB.

66. Vikings-WR-Juron Criner-Arizona
-6’3 receiver that can make crazy catches. He stretches the field.

Weeden may be older than your typical prospect, but he can start in the NFL right now.

67. Browns-QB-Brandon Weeden-OK St.
-Browns need a QB to compete with McCoy, Weeden might be starting by week 3.

68. Buccaneers-OLB-Bruce Irvin-West Virginia
-Had an awesome combine but need to develop better technique, Bucs need pass rush.

69. Redskins-OG-James Brown-Troy
-The Redskins need to bulk up on the line, especially facing Ware, Babin and Pierre-Paul twice a year.

70. Jaguars-TE-Michael Egnew-Missouri
-Perhaps the best hands for a tight end in the draft. Maximize the amount of offensive weapons on this team.

71. Bills-QB-Kirk Cousins-Michigan State
-Very underrated, four year captain at MSU and they beat Michigan 4 times while he was there. Can make all the throws.

72. Dolphins-S-Antonio Allen-South Carolina
-Need to solidify the back half of that defense and Yeremiah Bell is no longer in town. Allen was greatly coached at SC and understands the game.

73. Dolphins (From Carolina)-TE-Ladarius Green-Louisiana Lafayette
-Very intriguing prospect, tremendous athlete. Great compliment to Anthony Fasano and he can out-run linebackers.

74. Chiefs-DT-Brandon Thompson-Illinois
-Kelly Gregg is ancient so you need to get a DT soon or later. Brandon Thompson is a big boy and fits into this scheme nicely.

75. Seahawks-RB-Doug Martin-Boise State
-A do-it-all back that will form a great rushing tandem in Seattle. Needs to improve blocking.

76. Texans (From Philly)-OT-Jeff Allen-Illinois
-Lost one of the best LT in the game and Allen might not start immediately, but he can be good.

77. Jets-RB-Isaiah Pead-Cincinnati

-Losing Tomlinson hurts but Pead is a touchdown machine. A smaller back but he can catch and run between the tackles.

Oakland Forfeited Pick

78. Chargers-RB-Bernard Pierce-Temple
-Pierce is under-the-radar but doesn’t fumble and keeps his feet moving. SD needs someone to play on 3rd downs, Mathews has not been an every down RB thus far.

79. Bears-CB-Jayron Hosley-Virginia Tech
-The Bears need to get younger and Hosley is a physical corner that makes all the right plays.

80. Cardinals-OT-Mitchell Schwartz-California
-Arizona brought back Levi Brown but they still need help on OL. Brother of Geoff Schwartz, Mitchell has been crawling up the boards as of late.

81. Cowboys-C-Ben Jones-Georgia
-Phil Costa did not have a good year last year and the Cowboys need to fill out their line. Jones was successful in the SEC (that’s saying a lot).

82. Titans-OG-Senio Kelemente-Washington
-They brought in Steve Hutchinson but they need guards that can move to protect a scrambling locker. Building for the future essentially.

83. Bengals-RB-Chris Polk-Washington
-The most underrated back in this draft. Excellent at catching out of the backfield, he breaks tackles and can block. The total package.

84. Falcons-C-Michael Brewster-Ohio State
-Falcons need to get better on the line, Brewster was the star of a great OSU line.

85. Lions-OLB-Zach Brown-North Carolina
-Lions need a pass-rusher. Great value pick at 85, Brown could have easily gone in the second round.

86. Steelers-NT/DE-Alameda Ta’amu-Washington
-Casey Hampton is 35 years old, Ta’amu can play NT and DE. Big-bodied and strong, he will make a home for himself in Dick Lebeau’s scheme defense.

87. Broncos-WR-A.J. Jenkins-Illinois
-Could go with a QB to develop under Manning or they could keep giving Manning weapons. A burner with big-play potential.

88. Eagles (From Houston)-WR-Mohamed Sanu-Rutgers
-Need a possession WR. Sanu is sure-handed and will block for Vick on the rollouts and QB keepers.

89. Saints-CB-Casey Hayward-Vanderbilt
-Losing Tracy Porter may hurt a little but Casey Hayward is a quality corner. Very athletic and doesn’t get burned. Tracy Porter skill level worst-case scenario.

90. Packers-OG-Josh LeRebeus-Southern Methodist
-A line that was killed with injury needs to gain depth. Big guard who will play his heart out.

91. Ravens-RB-Robert Turbin-Utah State
-The biggest sleeper of this whole draft. Has the ability to become a top RB in this league, similar player to Marshawn Lynch but is fantastic at catching out of backfield.

92. 49ers-CB-Brandon Boykin-Georgia
-SF brough back all of their defensive starters but need to gain depth at CB. Boykin is physical and solid in all areas of his game.

93. Patriots-FS-Markelle Martin-Oklahoma State
-Big safety that will bring toughness to a Patriots team while staying poised.

94. Giants-CB-Ron Brooks-LSU
-Yet another playmaker on the LSU defense. Not as gifted as Claiborne, but will be a starter for a long time.

95. Raiders (Compensatory)-TE-Orson Charles-Georgia
-Lost Kevin Boss in FA, need more playmakers on this team. Orson Charles was seen as a 1st rounder early on, great passing threat for Carson Palmer to utilize.

Was Tebow Merely a Marketing Tactic?

Once Peyton Manning signed with the Denver Broncos it was obvious that they would soon be looking to deal Tim Tebow. Since coming into the NFL, no player, past or present, has taken over the league quite like Tebowmania.

There were a bunch of teams inquiring about Mr. Tebow, but the New York Jets surprisingly worked out a deal. Back in 2009, the Jets traded up to the #5 pick in order to acquire the Sanchize (Mark Sanchez). Sanchez has not done “bad” as a Jet although he has been more of a game manager than a true quarterback. In Sanchez’s defense, he has not had many weapons at the wide receiver position and he has not always received the recognition or had a teammate “have his back” when the media would torch him. Instead, he has players like Santonio Holmes who demands the ball or will throw his quarterback under the bus.

Back in the beginning of March, Sanchez signed an extension with the Jets. After the signing, why would the Jets feel the need to get another QB, let alone Tim Tebow? Nothing against Tebow, but he’s not the ideal quarterback. He is a great football player, but not a starting NFL quarterback as of right now. Last year Tebow had a solid season as a whole, but not as a passer. We all know he has all of the intangibles like: the will to win, the charisma and the heart.

There are only three logical reasons behind the Jets acquiring Tebow

1. Revenue
2. They give up on Sanchez
3. They truly feel he makes the team better

When it comes down to it, the NFL is a business and the owners are always looking for a way to increase their: value, income and profit. Tim Tebow is the biggest marketing tool in the NFL right now because he conducts himself as a role model and he is a genuine, harmless guy. Bringing Tebow into the media capital of the world, he will sell an (expletive) ton of jerseys and he will fill the seats in the new stadium. The Jets are trying to win their city over, especially with the Giants winning two Super Bowls recently. It makes perfect sense for the Jets to bring in a player like Tebow in order to increase the fan base while increasing revenue simultaneously, but I fear for them because their plan could blow up in their face.

Final Thoughts: Going into training camp I feel Sanchez is still the starter, but Tebow might have already won over the locker room by then. If Rex Ryan’s team starts out 0-2 then Tebow will most likely get the job and start the rest of the season. This QB competition could get ugly and Tim Tebow better be ready to handle the New York media. Don’t throw out the idea of Mark Sanchez getting traded on draft day, I see a very strong possibility of the Browns making a run at him.

Decision Day is Finally Here; Nerlens Noel & Shabazz Muhammad

The country’s top two NCAA basketball recruits, (1) Nerlens Noel and (2) Shabazz Muhammad, are set to announce their collegiate destination for the 2013 season. Back in the middle of March, Noel and Muhammad both said they will publicly announce where they will play basketball next season. The day is finally here and the hype has been building up since the start of the recruiting season and you can watch them make their decisions on April 11, airing on ESPNU at 7:30.

Nerlens Noel

Nerlens Noel is ranked the #1 recruit on the ESPNU’s Top 100 High School player’s list.  There is a likely chance Noel will be the most dominant defensive presence at the college level in 2013. At 6’10 he is one of the most athletically gifted big men I have seen in a while. Scouts have said that he is the best big man out of the Boston area since Patrick Ewing, the sky is the limit for Noel. His combination of: strength, awareness, speed and most importantly, raw talent is sensational.

The downside of the top prospect’s play is his offensive capability. He is not very good at playing with his back to the basket and he cannot shoot the ball very well; most notably from the free throw line. Despite his lack of shooting ability, he has what most coaches want in a big man; the ability to run the floor. Not only can Noel run the floor and dunk over the defenders with ease, he is terrific on the offensive glass.

Noel has said this past weekend that he still has no idea on where he wants to go to school but he will still make his decision on Wednesday, April 11. The programs remaining on Noel’s list are Syracuse, Georgetown and Kentucky. Anthony Davis’ decision will have a huge impact on Noel because he wants to start right away and prepare himself for basketball at the professional level; no coach prepares players better than John Calipari in today’s game. Syracuse still has a fighting chance to land Noel because their center, Fab Melo just declared for the NBA draft which would make Noel an immediate starter.

Shabazz Muhammad

Shabazz Muhammad is the #2 recruit according to ESPNU and he as well will announce his commitment on April 11. Muhammad is a 6’6 small forward who can create his own shot and get to the rim at will. Being a lefty creates somewhat of an advantage because most defenders aren’t used to guarding them at the high school level, however, Muhammad doesn’t need an advantage in order to dominate.

Muhammad is as good on the defensive side as he is the offensive; he is a lock down defender and can keep up with the top recruits in the nation. The Las Vegas native played in the Nike Hoop Summit where he scored 35 points (most all-time in Summit Game) despite a loss.

Two things that he needs to work on are:  1, using his right hand and 2, becoming a more consistent three-point shooter. These are all “teachable” skills; Muhammad has all of the intangibles (size, speed and determination). He will make one program very happy, not only because he will become a leader instantaneously, but he will do what it takes to win. The schools remaining on his list are: UCLA, USC, Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and UNLV.

What to Expect

It seems rather odd that both of these highly recruited prospects are waiting to announce their collegiate plans on the same day.  Although multiple sources have been adamant that Muhammad will end up at UCLA, I whole-heartedly feel Noel and Muhammad go to school together, which would mean attending the University of Kentucky. Both of these players want to win and also want to get to the NBA quickly; John Calipari can fill both of those desires. Kentucky just won the National Title (with mostly freshman) and show a strong chance to repeat with Noel and Muhammad in the starting lineup.

Who is the Most Valuable Player in the NBA?

Every year, the fight for the Most Valuable Player award comes down to the final few games of the season. Most of the time the award goes to teams of a higher seed in the playoffs but how can that players be so valuable if the whole team is great? This year is no different; we have witnessed players like Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant single-handedly take over games in this shortened NBA season.There is less than a month left, now players are really rising to the occasion and playing at their best while their teams try to make the final push for the best possible playoff seed.

On The Outside Looking-in:

Dwight Howard- Orlando Magic
Notes: Howard posts phenomenal numbers and he is the games best big man. However, the Magic have had some bad losing streaks this year and the problems within the organization are far bigger than Dwight Howard’s play.

Rajon Rondo- Boston Celtics
Notes: Rondo has handled all of the trade talk like a pro and he has continued to play like an all-star despite the rumors. Rondo arguably has the toughest job in the world- feeding Allen, Pierce and Garnett while still keeping everyone happy. Rondo has been a triple-double machine and can defend any guard in the league, lack of scoring keeps him out of MVP talks.

LeBron James- Miami Heat
Notes: The king without a ring is the most gifted athlete in the National Basketball Association. With that being said, he needs to show that he can play in the fourth quarter, with his talent he should be averaging a triple-double. Crazy to think but he should be playing better than what he is showing.

The Top Three Candidates

3. Kobe Bryant- Los Angeles Lakers

Year-in and year-out Kobe Bryant is among the top of the charts in nearly every scoring category. I feel that some people do not understand how much work Kobe Bryant puts in and how determined he is to win. Kobe Bryant is the most dedicated athlete of my generation without a doubt. In this shortened season, Bryant is leading the NBA in scoring and has battled potential season-ending injuries (wrist, nose, etc.). Bryant has been a cornerstone for the Laker franchise for his whole career and he shows no signs of slowing down. With all that the Black Mamba has done this year, just think of how he has handled the problems within the Laker locker room: Bynum benchings, Coach Woodson’s woes and even Pau’s possibility of being traded. Kobe has dealt with everything professionally, he has stood up for his teammates and he goes out an plays at his highest level every night; within the next 3 years, Kobe will either be getting a ring, an MVP award or Steve Nash. Chances of all three happening are very high. Never count Kobe out.

2. Kevin Durant-Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Durant has been a part of team takeover ever since he stepped into the league.  The Oklahoma City Thunder are the front-runners to win it all according to several  NBA analysts. Durant in my opinion was very deserving of last year’s MVP award as well; he was last years scoring champion (2nd time winning the award) and he carried the Thunder to the playoffs. This year has been no different, he is 2nd in points scored with 27.9 (the almighty Kobe Bryant is at 28.1 ppg) and he has had three 40+ point games this season with a handful of game-winners. KD is a quiet guy but he leads by example and knows what to say and how to say it. Not only is he a great player from a marketable standpoint, he is also a player you want leading your team, when people criticize point guard Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant will always stand up for him. Speaking of Russell Westbrook, I feel his emergence could prevent Durant from the MVP honor. With Westbrook putting up the astronomical numbers as a point guard, how valuable does it make Durant look? When you boil it down, Durant is still on of the best players in the league, he is a class-act and a winner; he will earn his share of MVP awards sooner or later.

1. Kevin Love- Minnesota Timberwolves

It is tough to say that any player in the league is playing to a level higher than Kevin Love. This two-time all-star has been getting better each season he has been in the league and he is the perfect franchise guy. Not to knock on the Durants or Aldridges of the league, but, Kevin Love is the total package. Hardworking, dedicated, funny, selfless and charismatic, you instantly fall in Love (no pun intended) with him once you watch him play. With nearly four years completed in the NBA, K-Love is averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds and his stats keep increasing each season. His rookie season he averaged 11 points and 9 rebounds, now he is at a staggering 26.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. Love has taken the state of Minnesota and put it on his back; he has made this team better, mostly by himself and he has created a fun, competitive atmosphere. In my eyes Kevin Love is the MVP this year hands down if the T-wolves make the playoffs. I cannot stress enough that Kevin Love has done it all by himself, yes, he has role players like Ricky Rubio who is now hurt, rookie Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic but that doesn’t match-up with other MVP candidate’s teammates. (Durant has Westbrook, James has Wade and Kobe has Gasol).

College Basketball Programs on the Rise

Each and every season teams are forced to rebuild due to players entering the NBA draft, transferring and even graduation. There are very seldom instances in division one, where teams have the majority of their starters for a four-year stint. Nowadays teams are fighting for the top recruits and all that is on the recruits’ mind is which college will give them the best opportunity to showcase their skills for the next level. Kentucky has proven that you can go out and win with a bunch of freshman; you do not need four years to create chemistry, just unselfish players. Lower-tiered schools have gotten better at recruiting and the players are starting to go there because they stand out. While bettering their chances of getting drafted early go down by going to a mid-major, the overall competition of the NCAA throughout the country has increased, the division one platform has turned into a level playing field and smaller programs will be making a splash in the future.

Providence College Friars

The Friars have been the bottom-dwellers of the Big East Conference along with Depaul for some time now. Just as the Friars seem to get their act together the Big East starts to fall apart. With one of the top recruiting classes in the country and possibility of bringing in transfers, PC could be a fun team to watch. Ricardo Ledo, an ESPNU top 20 recruit, has signed with Providence as well as the #24 prospect Kris Dunn. Ledo is an explosive 2-guard who can score from anywhere on the floor; there is no stopping him once he starts heating up. Ledo has the ability to break the double team and can make shots in traffic… just what you need to win in the Big East. The Friars also have commitment from 6’5 swingman Josh Fortune who lead his AAU team to finish 5th in nationals. As for Kris Dunn, he is a highly touted point guard prospect, the second-best one in the nation behind UNC-commit, Marcus Paige. Dunn will be able to learn under veteran guard, Vincent Council, which will be better for the Friars in the long run. He is quick, confident and has the ability to make people around him better.

Vincent Council will be happy to finally get some offensive weapons.

Ledo and Dunn are recruited incomers, Providence is also being looked at as a transfer destination by Michigan forward, Evan Smotrycz and Wake Forest center, Carson Desrosiers.  Getting either of these two athletes would be a huge asset to a team that lacks size like Providence. Smotrycz is a guy that won’t do a whole lot on the stat sheet but he will make all the hustle plays and he has a great basketball I.Q. Carson Desrosiers is a 7-foot center who is a great interior defender and could help the Friars on the defensive end.

Final Thoughts: With Syracuse and Pittsburgh playing in the ACC and West Virginia moving to the Big 12 as early as next season, the Big East won’t pose the same competition as it used to. Providence should be a team that is playing in March Madness; UCONN is not eligible for post-season play, there will be a dogfight at the top of the Big East standings. After Louisville and Georgetown it is anyone’s game. Next year, PG Vincent Council will be a senior and he will lead this team. Last season he was fourth in the nation in assists and he will make all of the underclassmen better. Soon-to-be sophomores LaDontae Henton and Bryce Kofane will continue to get better and Ledo will be a great weapon for Council to utilize.

Memphis Tigers

The Memphis Tigers have been competing with the elite teams in the country since John Calipari and Derrick Rose were there back in 2007. The Tigers do not play in a power-6 conference but they have still be able to maintain a high level of play. The Memphis organization has begun to build consistency and a great recruiting resume, which will make them one of the top programs in years to come; not to mention they will need to be at their best since they are joining the Big East in 2013. Joe Pastner is one of the younger coaches in the nation and he gets his players to bring their A-game every night. Memphis will be losing their leading scorer, Will Barton, to the NBA Draft and also their leader in Wesely Witherspoon who was a senior this past season. Don’t write Memphis off just yet, they have commitments from power forward Shaq Goodwin (#31 recruit according to ESPNU Top 100) and small forward Damien Wilson, who is a 4-star recruit. Goodwin is a big-bodied athletic forward, which Memphis likes, who can run the floor and finish in traffic as a power forward.  Damien Wilson is a 6’6 slasher that can get to the hoop at will and can do a variety of things with the ball in his hand.

Shaq Goodwin was the #2 HS player in Georgia, behind Tony Parker.

Bringing in Goodwin and Wilson will immediately help Memphis make a successful transition to the Big East. These are two types of players that fit in the Big East style of play, rough, tough and with attitude. Goodwin and Wilson won’t have to completely rebuild the program, they will playing with Will Barton’s brother, Antonio and Tarik Black if he does not declare for the NBA draft.

Final Thoughts: The Memphis Tigers have a surplus of athlete and will be swarming with talent next season. Shaq Goodwin fills one of the Tiger’s biggest needs with his presence on the glass. One of their leading 3-point shooters in Antonio Barton will be returning and Tarik Black has matured as a leader. With all that is going for the program of Memphis with top recruits coming in and moving to the Big East there is a lot of positive energy in Memphis. Look for the Tigers to scratch and claw their way to March Madness and have an immediate impact in the big east.

Players to Keep an Eye on This Baseball Season

Making the right free agent acquisitions in a fantasy baseball league can make the difference between winning a fantasy championship and missing the playoffs. This season, like any other, you will need to keep an eye on the free agents and create a “watch list” that will fill your teams holes.

Players to Watch

Ben Revere (CF, OF)- Minnesota Twins
Available in 95.4% of ESPN standard leagues.
Ben Revere may be one of the three Minnesota Twins players I would take on my team; other two being Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham. Ben Revere is not in the starting lineup as of opening day but he is still going to get at-bats and playing time. Revere is a straight steals guy and could be used quite a bit late in games. I like Revere a lot, he is the first guy in line to take a starting spot if an injury occurs; also, if Denard Span does not perform Revere could take the starting centerfield spot from him. I project Ben Revere to hit .283 with 42 steals and around 71 runs scored.

Jason Bourgeois (LF, CF, RF, OF, 2B)-Kansas City Royals
Available in 95.6% of ESPN standard leagues.
Bourgeois was traded to the Kansas City Royals mid-way through spring training. As of right now he is the fourth outfielder on the roster. However, Manager Ned Yost said that both Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francouer must perform in order to keep their spots. He later went on to say that Jason Bourgeois reminds him a lot of Bill Hall, who was a great guy to have because he was a fantastic pinch hitter and could do many things. With that being said, I expect Ned Yost to utilize Bourgeois at 2B (never started a game there before) because the Royals have not had anyone step up to the plate from that position. Bourgeois is another steals guy who could provide a better average than Revere. Last season, he stole 31 bags in only 283 at-bats. If you translate that to 400 at-bats, he will be a steal in your fantasy league… no pun intended.

Mat Gamel  (1B, 3B)-Milwaukee Brewers
Available in 21.1% of ESPN standard leagues.Mat Gamel will be the Brew Crew’s starting first baseman on opening day due to Prince Fielder’s departure. Most likely Gamel will not be providing a .320 average 40 home run season like Prince Fielder has done in the past, Gamel has some upside. Gamel is a power-hitter and will be batting behind Ryan Braun who had a .332 batting average and a .397 on-base percentage last season. I still expect the Brewers to score a lot of runs this year and Gamel will help provide some power in that lineup. He should hit 20+ long balls and roam somewhere around 90 RBI.

Jose Altuve (2B)-Houston Astros
Available in 71.3% of ESPN standard leagues.
There aren’t many bright spots for the Houston Astros… if any. But Jose Altuve is still available in many standard 12 team leagues. He does not provide much pop and won’t score many runs via hitting in a depleted lineup but there is much upside to Altuve. He is only 21 years old and is on the rise, a .301 batting average and 22+ steal season is very much attainable. The only major downfall to Altuve is that he is only eligible at 2B, but, second base may be the thinnest position fantasy-wise so he could be a great pick-up.

Felix Doubront (SP)-Boston Red Sox
Available in 98.1% of ESPN standard leagues.
Felix Doubront is not a household name by any means, but he has been deemed the number four starter in the Red Sox rotation. Doubront is a lefty that has the ability to pitch late into games. Pitching in Boston should get Doubront a good amount of wins given the fact that the offense provides. If you are in a league that categorizes quality starts Doubront has potential to be one of the upper-tier guys. He will not knock your sox off with the his strikeout numbers, but he should get somewhere around 12-14 wins and a reasonable ERA.

Must-Have Guy

Dexter Fowler (CF, OF)-Colorado Rockies
Available in 73.1% of ESPN standard leagues.
The Rockies starting centerfielder is a guy that I have been big on throughout his whole career. Once again, he is another steals guy so if you need steals I would go after Fowler before any other free agent. There is a lot to like about Fowler, he is batting second (in front of Carlos Gonzalez & Troy Tulowitzki) and this is his ultimate chance to have a breakout season. Last year, Fowler was sent down to Colorado Springs (AAA) in order to work on his mechanics. In the off-season Fowler fine-tuned his swing and added 7 lbs. of muscle; in a spring training interview, a reporter asked him how he felt. Fowler said he feels great and that the ball flies off his bat now. Fowler could be a 19 home run, 52 steal, 90+ runs scored player. If he is a free agent in your league, I advise you to pick him up.


Notable Mentions
SS-Sean Rodriguez-Tampa Bay Rays
Key Attribute: Versatility, a starter that is eligible at SS, 2B and 3B.

SP-Corey Luebke- San Diego Padres
Key Attribute: Quality pitcher that is in a friendly ballpark; should post a low WHIP.

1B-Byan LaHair-Chicago Cubs
Key Attribute: Power, could hit all the home runs that Anthony Rizzo was expected to hit.

Bold Predictions For All 30 Ball Clubs

At the beginning of the of the 2011 season, if you would have said that Curtis Granderson was going to hit 40+ home runs and Ian Kennedy would reach 20+ wins people would have called you crazy. But those uncanny things happen each year; those players finished with 41 home runs and 21 wins respectively.

This year is going to be a big year for the MLB, more teams are starting to assemble superstar squads while other teams are calling up prospects getting ready for the future.  There will be something that happens to each team that no one has thought of, these will be my bold predictions of the 2012 season.

AL West

Seattle MarinersIchiro clubs out a career-high 17 home runs. He has always had pop in his bat but never used it because he was a leadoff hitter. Now he is batting third and knocking some runs in. Also, Jesus Montero will start less than 20 games at the catcher position.

Los Angeles Angels– Mark Trumbo struggles to get implemented/ keep his spot in the lineup (1B, 3B, DH, OF). He won’t even hit 19 home runs and he won’t be able to keep his average above .240. On a positive note, Kendrys Morales will stay healthy for the most part and knock out 26 home runs while C.J. Wilson gets a team-high 24 wins.

Texas Rangers– Mike Napoli ends up getting moved, again, at the trade deadline. Neftali Feliz has an impressive 13-8 record as a starter. Joe Nathan gets hurt (not bold) and Alexei Ogando becomes the closer getting 33+ saves.

Oakland Athletics
– Yoenis Cespedes scorches 37 doubles and leads the team with 22 home runs and 89 RBI. Pitcher, Brandon McCarthy, makes the All-Star team and finished the season with 14 wins and a 2.96 ERA with a sub-1 WHIP. Manny Ramirez also takes the DH spot from Jonny Gomes after serving his 50-game suspension and he hits 13 dingers.

AL Central

Detroit Tigers– Alex Avila struggles on offense while the rest of the Tigers do not. Austin Jackson finally proves that the Tigers made the right choice in trading Curtis Granderson for him and company. Jackson steals 34 bases and hits a career-high .294.

Cleveland Indians– Josh Tomlin leads this team in wins with only 12.  Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore miss over a combined 210 games. Ubaldo Jimenez still can’t find his groove in Cleveland.

Minnesota Twins
– Bottom-dwellers of the AL Central and the league for that matter, which ends up being the worst division in the MLB.  Mauer does play, and hits .318, but it doesn’t help the team. Ben Revere ends up taking Denard Span’s CF spot and steals 51 bases.

Kansas City Royals
– Royals finish second in division with 88 wins. Eric Hosmer wins the AL MVP despite not making the playoffs. He bats: .330, 29 long-balls and 117 RBI. Mike Moustakas hits 26 home runs and Tim Collins makes the All-Star team as a setup man.

Chicago White Sox– Jake Peavy finally makes a comeback, dealing out a team-leading 14 wins. Matt Thornton finishes the season as the closer but not a good one and Konerko is the only player on the team to bat over .300.

AL East

Boston Red Sox (World Series Champs)– Mark Melancon was brought in to be a setup man but he ends up leading the club in saves (28).  Salty hits 23 home runs but Ryan Lavarnway will takeover as catcher by the end of July. Defensive prodigy Jose Iglesias gets called up and sent back down because he doesn’t know how to use a bad and Crawford is still irrelevant by the end of the season.

New York Yankees– Ivan Nova becomes the most consistent pitcher. Curtis “The Grandy Man” Granderson hits only 23 home runs while Jeter and A-rod combine for 26. Cano finishes third in MVP voting behind Hosmer and A. Gonzalez.

Toronto Blue Jays
Ricky Romero wins AL Cy Young Award, getting 227 K’s and 18 wins with 26 quality starts. Yunel Escobar hits .310 with 84 RBI and 22 steals. Kyle Drabek doesn’t make his way into the rotation either.

Tampa Bay Rays
– Ben Zobrist hits 24 home runs while snatching 26 bases and he will start  games at 2B, 1B, LF, RF and DH. Desmond Jennings hits a shocking 26 HR and B.J. Upton gets traded to Houston.

Baltimore Orioles
– Mark Reynolds moves to 1B, Brian Roberts comes back and Robert Andino plays most of the year at 3B. Jake Arietta wins only 9 games but has a 3.20 ERA. Adam Jones gets traded so Baltimore can stockpile on prospects… I don’t know why they want to though.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks (Lose in World Series)– Trevor Cahill shows he misses pitching at the Coliseum and gets rocked. Ian Kennedy doesn not have the same type of season as last year. Tyler Skaggs gets promoted early and leads the team in strikeouts and ERA. Justin Upton hits 34 HR and steals 28 bases.

San Francisco Giants
– Freddy Sanchez hits only .263, no one on the team hits over 23 home runs and Lincecum has a 3.49 ERA. Brian Wilson is lights out this year but he will have no save opportunities, only gets 31 saves.

Colorado Rockies
– Dexter Fowler becomes a superstar. Jamie Moyer gets 13 wins, Tulowitzki wins NL MVP and Jordan Pacheco hits 24 home runs from the hot corner. Helton and Giambi both announce they will retire at end of season, freeing up first base for 3B prospect Nolan Arenado who will move to 1B.

San Diego Padres– Carlos Quentin hits only 16 home runs. Cameron Maybin leads the team with 26 bombs and 38 steals. Edinson Volquez and Corey Luebke both tie with 15 wins but the Padres still struggle.

Los Angeles Dodgers
– Dee Gordon hits well over .300 but Andre Ethier becomes the team’s MVP. Ethier his .328 and knocks in 108 runs while Kemp struggles to hit 25 home runs and doesn’t even reach 100 RBI. Kershaw wins Cy Young by a landslide.

NL Central

Houston Astros– Jordan Lyles leads the team in wins with 13 and Jordan Schafer robs 23 bases. Unfortunately, a bunch of prospects get called up too early and end up having terrible numbers.

Chicago Cubs
– Anthony Rizzo is a disappointment, hitting less than five home runs. Marmol gets traded along with Matt Garza (separate deals), leaving Jeff Samardzija to have the best season as a Cubs pitcher in 2012.

Cincinnati Reds
– Aroldis Chapman eventually becomes the closer and strikes out over 100 as a reliever. Votto has a bad year after signing a monster contract, 20 HR and bats only .289. Chris Heisey leads the team as a platoon OF with 27 HR.

Milwaukee Brewers– Mat Gamel provides some pop with Prince Fielder gone. Braun has another 30/30 season, K-Rod gets traded and George Kottaras becomes everyday starting catcher.

Pittsburgh Pirates
– McCutchen becomes elite, hitting 31 home runs and getting 34 steals, he earns the highest WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Erik Bedard doesn’t even start 21 games and James McDonald gets 197 K’s.

St. Louis Cardinals
– Jon Jay has a breakout season and Wainwright gets 18 wins. David Freese loses his spot in the lineup and Matt Holliday only hits 18 homers. Jason Motte blows a bunch of saves and Fernando Salas takes over.

NL East

New York Mets– Jason Bay is back and hits 22 home runs.  David Wright knocks 19 out of the park before getting traded to the Chi-Sox in exchange for Gavin Floyd and Alexei Ramirez.

Atlanta Braves
– Michael Bourn hits an abysmal .268 but still steals 59 bases and scores 99 runs. Jason Heyward stays healthy all season and knocks out 38 home runs and wins the Home Run Derby.

Miami Marlins– Hanley Ramirez is runner-up for the NL MVP Award, hitting 33 home runs and knocking in 114. Ricky Nolasco rings up 132 batters and gets 16 wins. Miami Marlins win the division. Oh yeah, Giancarlo (formerly Mike) Stanton leads the MLB with home runs, dropping 48.

Philadelphia Phillies
– As Chase Utley comes back, Jimmy Rollins gets hurt, leaving Freddy Galvis in the lineup and moving him back to his natural shortstop position. Hunter Pence is the unsung hero and hits a quiet 30 home runs.

Washington Nationals
Bryce Harper is called up right after the All-Star break but is not successful in his first half-season. Ian Desmond gets traded and Strasburg gets shut down early for precautionary reasons. Washington finishes third in division.

The Kentucky Wildcats Won, Now What?

Calipari showed the country that young teams can win.

New Orleans was rocking on the evening of Monday, April 2. The most anticipated basketball game took place on this night and it was for the National Title, featuring the (1) Kentucky Wildcats and the (2) Kansas Jayhawks. The freshman clan of Kentucky not only won, but they overcame all the criticism of: being young, immature and also took on the hype of being the nation’s #1 team throughout the majority of the season. After assembling the best “team” in the nation, with a 67-59 win over Kansas, Coach John Calipari proved that he is amongst the country’s top coaches and that he is not just an NBA lottery pick generator.

Darius Miller, the lone senior, cuts down the net.

The Wildcats roster contained six freshmen, 3 of which were in the starting rotation (Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague); the additional two starters were sophomores (Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb). Not only was this team incredibly young, they did not get nearly enough credit for what they have accomplished this season. Yes, they are the best team, but they did it with young players who were used to being superstars in high school and on their AAU squads. John Calipari did a tremendous job getting these All-Americans to play as a team and to put their peers before themselves, something the Miami Heat, an NBA team can’t do.

One of the more notable growths on this Wildcat team was the maturity of sophomore forward, Terrence Jones. In his first year at Kentucky all people talked about was how he is potentially a #1 NBA draft pick and how elite he can be at the next level. Jones had some issues with not playing smart, holding the ball too much, and trying to takeover the game by himself. He and Calipari have had heated discussions resulting in benchings. Jones did not enter the draft and he went on to play another year under coach Cal. Calipari did not let up this year either; whenever Jones made a “bad” decision or wasn’t hustling, he would be sent to the bench. Terrence Jones started to come around this season and after he spent time on the bench, he became a man on a mission, exploding for crazy stat lines. Although being under an immense amount of scrutiny and getting benched and removed from games, Terrence Jones matured and came back strong; Calipari showed that he can get the best play out of his players and Terrence Jones proved that he could be a star.

The Wildcats will enjoy this win for the night, but Coach Cal has already said he will be recruiting on Friday. Assuming Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, Terrence Jones, MKG and Doron Lamb announce whether they will be staying at Kentucky or heading to the draft. As of right now it seems as if Anthony Davis will be the #1 pick and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could be lottery picks. Point guard Marquis Teague has a chance to get drafted as a late first round pick due to scarcity of point guards in this year’s draft and Doron Lamb will also be a late first/early second round pick.

I believe Kentucky has something up their sleeve and they will contend once again for a National Title in 2013 even though they will be losing players. It is virtually a given that Anthony Davis will be declaring for the draft within the next three days. I find it very odd that the top two high school recruits are both waiting until April 11 to announce where they will be attending.  Center, Nerlens Noel (1 on ESPNU’s 100) and Small Forward, Shabazz Muhammad (2) could very well be on their way to Lexington. With the likely departures of Terrence Jones and Davis, Noel and Muhhamad would be starting right away, not to mention Calipari is one of the best recruiters throughout college sports. Noel has made it known that he just wants to get ready to play in the NBA and with Calipari’s history of producing lottery picks (Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Demarcus Cousins and soon-to-be Anthony Davis) I see Noel going to play for Kentucky.

Whether all of the Wildcats stay for another year, or if Noel and Muhammad play for Kentucky, or if both happen, I feel very safe in saying the Kentucky Wildcats will repeat. They have all the components of a championship team. They recruit, they play as a team, they have a remarkable coach and they handle the hype extremely well. Although the players change, the caliber of play for Kentucky remains the same.

The Nation’s Top Recruit, Nerlens Noel… and a Handful of Question Marks

The nation’s top Center and ESPN’s #1 high school prospect, Nerlens Noel, has a lot in-store for his future. Before even graduating high school, he has had to overcome difficulties and has even got a taste of how dark the worlds of media and recruiting can become.

Noel comes from a storied background. Both of his parents, Yonel and Dorcina immigrated to the Boston area from Haiti in 1990. Noel is one of four children whom also have athletic backgrounds, but Nerlens is the sole basketball star. Jim and Rodman Noel both are football players at Boston College and North Carolina State respectively. Nerlens attended Everett High School (hometown) for his first two years then he transferred to Tilton Prep School (repeated Sophomore year due to broken plate in knee) thanks to Chris Driscoll; a former coach of Jim Noel and a figure who had persuaded other basketball players to transfer to Tilton, most recently Alex Oriakhi.

The Everett community was sad to see Noel leave but Tilton would turn him into an even better player than what he already is. Noel continued to elevate his level of play, making him the most sought out recruit in the country. This raw athlete stands at nearly 7 feet, 215 pounds and makes his presence known on defense.

Noel’s ceiling is through the roof but he needs to be careful. He is your typical 17 year-old, meaning, he will do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Noel has been offered scholarships from the likes of Syracuse, Georgetown and Kentucky as of right now,  he visited Louisville and Connecticut unofficially last summer.

Although he can play at any division one program, Noel has hurt himself since playing at Tilton. He still remains the top high school prospect but he hasn’t exactly improved on the basketball court. Noel is not solid with his back to the basket and he has been bringing the ball up the court like a point guard and ball-handling way too much. Yes, he has a tremendous skill set and is both speedy and great with the ball at his size, but he needs to work on a “big-man’s” skillset. With that being said, he is not good with his back to the basket, a poor free-throw shooter and is does not have a soft touch around the rim. Scouts have compared Noel to Shawn Kemp and Tyson Chandler but as of right now I see him as a more Hasheem Thabeet now and potentially being as good as Dikembe Mutumbo.

"I don’t really have specific playing style... I’m sure I’ll be able to adjust, as long as I fit in on the defensive end."- Nerlens Noel

Sunday, April 1, 2012, Noel stated via Twitter.com that he will make his decision on where he will play next year on April 11. Other than choosing a school, Noel needs to know who to trust in the recruiting and agency worlds says Pete Thamel of the New York Times in his article, “Everybody Wants a Piece of Nerlens Noel.”

There is a lot of upside with a player like Noel but there is also great doubt. With a player of this caliber, hype and demeanor he could potentially be a letdown. He could be another Lenny Cooke.
Noel could have it all, he has the swagger, signature high-top fade hair cut, size, athleticism and opportunities, or, he could have none of it. The road to the NBA can go whichever way, Nerlens Noel could stroll down either path. The best thing for Noel would be to go to a stable college program like a North Carolina or a Kansas.

With all negativity being put aside, if Noel stays on track, he could possibly be one of the great NBA centers of modern day. He has potential to have the biggest impact on the NCAA next year and he hasn’t even chosen a school yet. This man has the basketball world in his hands, time is on his side and time will tell all.

Final Four Bound

This season, only one number one seed will be entering the Final Four; The Kentucky Wildcats. (4)Louisville, (2)Ohio State and (2)Kansas will be joining UK in the semifinals. Rick Pitino’s Cardinals will be facing John Calipari’s freshman crew on March 31st at 6:09 ET. The Kansas Jayhawks vs. Ohio State Buckeyes game will air shortly after at 8:49 ET.

Kentucky vs. Louisville

The Louisville Cardinals has the veteran team, two of the three starting guards are upper classmen; Peyton Siva (Jr.) and Chris Smith (Sr.). Kentucky on the other hand has three freshmen in their starting lineup. With that being said, I wouldn’t exactly rule that as an advantage for Louisville because Calipari’s cats are very disciplined. Freshman sensation rarely gets in foul trouble and sophomore Terrence Jones has been playing at an unbelievable level in this tournament. There are two key matchups for this game; point guard play and interior defense. Rick Pitino (Louisville Coach) loves to run a full court press in order to get into the heads of the opponents. Freshman Marquis Teague of Kentucky will need to keep his composure and not get rattled by Peyton Siva. Siva is one of the best defending guards in the nation, his quickness and scrappiness allow him to create turnovers which leads to fast-break buckets.  Louisville has a tournament leading 29 steals and Kentucky turns it over more than it would like to, 11 turnovers per game throughout the regular season. Marquis Teague will need to play at an elite level in order to break the Louisville press.

Gorgui Dieng of Louisville has arguably been one of the best players throughout this whole tournament. He is a lanky center who came to play for Rick Pitino all the way from Senegal.  Deng has incredible instincts in the defensive paint and is a tremendous rebounder; he was the key player in the Cardinals win over Michigan State.  Dieng recorded 9 rebounds and a season-high 7 blocks against Sparty. In the elite eight match-up against Florida, Dieng did not play as big of a role. If Louisville wants a shot at winning, Dieng will have to have a presence in the paint and lock down Anthony Davis or else they can kiss their chances of a National Titles good-bye.

-I still think Kentucky wins this matchup, they are the number one seed for a reason. They have too many star players who can step their game up when someone isn’t performing. Kentucky outsizes Lousiville and I don’t think the Louisville press will bother Kentucky to the point where it costs them the game.

Ohio State vs. Kansas

It is tough to say that anyone in the tournament is playing better than Kansas. Right now, they are the epitome of “team basketball” and they are playing with a purpose. I don’t know what Coach Bill Self said to them before the tournament started but boy did it work. Everyone on this Jayhawk team is feeding off of each other; Thomas Robinson is a forced to be reckoned with, Tyshawn Taylor is playing like a lottery-pick, Elijah Johnson is shooting lights out and Jeff Whitney has turned into a shot-blocking machine. This team is clicking on all cylinders and they could very well steamroll their way into the finals.

Ohio State may have met their match. The X-factor for the Buckeyes is going to be big man DeShaun Thomas. Thomas is a crafty lefty who can put the ball on the court and has a pretty solid mid-ranger. Thomas Robinson will be locking down Jared Sullinger in an AP All-American matchu-up so Thomas will have to do the dirty work in the paint.  Aaron Craft will also need to step up big-time in this game. He is a great passer, makes his teammates better and a great on-ball defender, however, he will need to score in this game if Ohio State wants to win. You know William Buford is going to get his own, but it might not be enough to beat Kansas. Either way, this match-up should come down to the wire, both teams have been dominant all season and they will put on a show Saturday night.

– I’m taking Kansas in this one. The shooting barrage that Elijah Johnson, Tyshawn Taylor and Travis Relaford have put on display is simply impressive. Thomas Robinson has been outstanding and he will not allow Kansas to lose.  The Jayhawk roster has depth, and Ohio State lacks that. Buckeye players will all need to play the best games of their lives in order to come out of this slugfest with a W.

The “One and Dones” Need to Stop

The National Basketball Association Draft is a flawed system. Every year we have college underclassman whom get drafted then end up jobless by the All-Star break. Also, there are the international players that come in and take over the top 20 picks of the draft. There needs to be rules implemented in the NBA in order for the corporation to grow and improve. College basketball players are students first and athletes second; there should be a rule implemented that a student athlete must play at least 3 years before becoming draft eligible.

Considered the biggest draft bust in NBA history.

In last years draft alone there were 42 players that entered the draft. Of that 42, six freshmen were drafted, seven sophomores and 14 juniors… That does not add up to nearly 42. In the 2010 draft there were 12 freshmen selected. Nowadays the NBA Draft is based off of potential; that is not how it should be run. David Stern needs to create a stable environment and create rules where players who are ready for the NBA can play and athletes who are not ready stay in college develop. There are players like Kosta Koufos and Jerryd Bayless who enter the draft after their freshman season and now they barely see playing time 4 years later. Or you have Kyrie Irving who only played 8 collegiate games getting selected 1st overall, nothing against Mr. Irving, but why is David Stern allowing these teams to take chances on players that may never pan out (Kwame Brown-high school) instead of improving the all-around competition of the NBA with the best, experienced players.

Imagine how good these players would be if they played at least 3 seasons in college.

Gerald Wallace- 1 year, Alabama
Josh Smith- Oak Hill Academy (HS)
Brandon Jennings- Oak Hill Academy, 1 year-Italy
J.R. Smith- St. Benedicts Prep School (HS)
John Wall-1 year, Kentucky
DeMar Derozan-1 year, USC
Demarcus Cousins-1 year, Kentucky

The NBA implemented a rule a few years back where players must be at least one year removed from high school in order to enter the draft. Although this rule has been enforced, players still find loopholes; they go to a good collegiate basketball program, eat up scholarships that four year players deserve and then enter the draft or they go over seas to play for a season and then come back to enter the draft (Brandon Jennings).

Here are some underclassmen that have ALREADY declared for the NBA Draft.

Royce White
– Sophomore, Iowa State (Power Forward)
Thoughts: I believe Royce White is the most NBA-ready out of the prospects listed. He is in terrific shape, has a great ball-handling skill set for a big man (6’8, 270 lbs). White is also 3 years removed from high school, he committed to Minnesota but then sat out a season after he transferred to Iowa St. White will be a middle-to-late first round pick this year. I expect him to be a solid point-forward in the NBA. One thing he needs to get over is his fear of flying, NBA teams don’t want to hear about that and other off-the court issues.

Dion Waiters-Sophomore, Syracuse (Shooting Guard)
Thoughts: I do not blame Waiters for entering the NBA draft. He is projected as a late first round pick according to most scouts. Waiters will fit right in with NBA organizations because he will be playing the same role on their team as he did in college; the sixth man. Waiters is built like Dwayne Wade and was a key cog in the Syracuse offense. He can come off the bench and drop 20 points while snatching 4-5 steals whenever you need him to. This prospect will be a spark plug for on NBA franchise in the future and they will be glad they selected him.

Moe Harkless-Freshman, St. John’s (Power Forward)
Thoughts: Harkless was the sole bright spot for an atrocious St. John’s squad. Harkless is of good size and speed (6’8). He is very mobile and can get to the passing lanes quickly; his repertoire of offensive moves makes him an attractive prospect. He averaged 15 points, 8 rebounds and nearly 11/2 blocks a game, which is above-average in a tough Big East Conference. If Harkless stayed in school he could have worked on his low-post moves and his defensive skill set, he could have been a lottery pick in the future.

Austin Rivers-Freshman, Duke (Guard)
Thoughts: Austin Rivers was a top recruit coming out of high school, the kid has skill and can score at will. Staying at Duke for even one more season would help him out a ton. He is not a good defender by any stretch of the imagination and there is question as to if he will play shooting guard or point guard. One thing that Rivers benefits from is that his father (Doc) coaches the Celtics and there is a possibility they draft him or he could be taken late in the lottery based off of offensive potential.

Rivers showed poise against Duke's historic rival (UNC) by knocking down a buzzer-beater on the road.