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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: My mock

The NFL Draft is probably my favorite non-competition sporting event of the year and it begins this Thursday.  As you're probably aware the format changed two years ago when the league decided to break up the draft from a two day format to it's current three day format.  This new format has earned it's own spot on prime time and even spurned some creativity in the war room as trades are more prevalent now than ever.
The first round of the draft may now be second only to the playoffs in the interest it receives. It doesn't hurt that there's months of talk and speculation building up to this day (got to give the NFL credit for capitalizing on the marketing potential here).  So, in the months weeks leading up to the draft you're sure to come across someone talking about their mock draft. There are plenty of well known people who make them like Peter King, ESPN's Todd McShay and Mel Kiper, as well as thousands of unknowns at sites like and With all that as a preface, I'd like to take my first shot at creating a mock draft.  Please keep in mind that this draft will NOT be close to what actually happens. Correctly predicting the first five picks is hard but predicting picks from 15-32 is futile. Still, it's a lot of fun.  Here I go...
The Colts have made it clear Luck is going to be #1
  1. Indianapolis: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford - We know this is the pick.  Andrew Luck is the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning and some even say since John Elway.  He's the third quarterback I saw in college that convinced me there's no way he won't be an elite NFL player. I've already mentioned the first was Manning. The second? Matt Leinart.  Oof. Moving on...
  2. Washington: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor - The Heisman Trophy winner would go number one in any normal draft year.  He's got incredible mobility, is accurate, and just seems like a good guy. The Redskins are dying for a franchise QB and they paid a pretty penny to move up, but if he works out it's worth the cost.
  3. Vikings trade #3 overall to Rams for #6 overall and additional picks. St. Louis: Matt Kalil, OT, USC - I think the Vikings realize they can get a great player at 6 and will trade out of this spot and St. Louis now has picks to trade after getting extra firsts and a second from Washington. The Rams know Sam Bradford can't become a superstar playing behind this offensive line and will move up in order to get the best tackle in the draft.
  4. Cleveland: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama - It seems the Browns aren't quite sold on Tannehill and a deeper wide receiver class means there's value to be found later.  Former Colts GM Bill Polian is on record saying Richardson is the best player in the draft.  With the departure of RB Peyton Hillis, the Browns are on the lookout for a top runner and Richardson is not only that but he should be able to play every down.  
  5. Tampa Bay: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU - The Bucs need a long term answer at defensive back since Aquib Talib has legal issues and Ronde Barber is 53 years old. Morris Claiborne is a stud, no doubt about it. This pick will do wonders for the defense in a couple of years. 
  6. Minnesota: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame - Claiborne is probably their top rated player but he won't be available after the trade.  A lot of teams have Floyd rated as the #1 reciever in this class thanks to his speed and playmaking ability. Despite signing Jerome Simpson, the team is still looking at starting Michael Jenkins. Not good.  They'll have two second rounders after trading with St. Louis where they can look for a corner and another offensive lineman.
  7. Jaguars trade #7 overall to Chiefs for #11 overall and additional picks.  Kansas City: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M - The Chiefs move up to #7 in an effort to snag Tannehill ahead of Miami.  Tannehill is clearly the third best QB in the class but he's a good prospect nonetheless.  The majority of his flaws are correctable with coaching and experience.  Chiefs fans will be thankful to see there's only one more year of the Checkdown Cassel.
  8. Miami: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St. - The Tannehill trade takes them by surprise leaving the team to decided between an offensive player or a pass rusher.  Brandon Marshall is no longer around which makes Devon Bess the team's de facto #1 wideout. That adis the decision making process  allowing Miami to take the other receiver scouts say is the best in the class.
  9. Carlina: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi St. - The team's greatest weakness is in stopping the run. Cox is a perfect fit for the 4-3 and excels at making plays in the backfield.  While he's no Suh, he'll be an excellent player sooner than later.
  10. Buffalo: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina - Buffalo addressed the D-line in free agency and now they're fixing the secondary. Gilmore is a heck of an athlete at a position where the Bills are soon to be thin.  McKelvin and Florence are in the last year of their deals while the other CBs on the roster have more questions than answers. 
  11. Jacksonville: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina - The Jaguars are big winners here. They move down four spots and still grab the guy they wanted.  The team has whiffed on first round pass rushers in the past but Ingram seems too good to be true.
  12. Seattle trades #12 overall to Dallas for #14 overall and a third rounder. Dallas: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama - There's been a lot of momentum gathering for Barron so when Dallas sees him available at #12 they take no chances by trading up. Barron is a physical player who might remind Cowboy fans of Roy Williams with his big hits and presence in the run game. He very well may become a playmaker in the passing game also.  His skill set and potential to improve explain why he's rated so highly.
  13. Arizona: Cordy Glenn, OT/G, Georgia - The Cardinals are in a bit of a tough spot here.  It will be hard for them to trade down at this point and it's hard to diagnose how the draft will develop behind them.  Glenn is rated anywhere from the second to fifth best tackle in this draft but he showed marked improvement at the position as a senior after proving himself as an All-American candidate at guard. He's a solid if unspectacular choice.
  14. Seattle: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama - Pete Carroll has been pretty open about his desire to improve the pass rush. Upshaw can play both standing up and with his hand on the ground which is important in the Seahawks hybrid scheme. Coming from an elite college program only enhances his value in Carroll's eyes.
  15. Philadelphia: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College - Kuechly is probably one of the top 10 players in the draft but middle linebackers are known to slip. The Eagles' patience pays off as they nab a guy who makes their defense instantly better in a number of ways
  16. NY Jets: Quintin Coples, DE, North Carolina - Coples desire, or lack thereof, cause him to drop despite putting up good numbers.  The Jets are disappointed to not land Ingram or Upshaw but will be pleasantly surprised to land Coples. The pass rush stunk last year and Coples is the no-brainer pick to help fix it.
  17. Cincinnati: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: The Bengals are looking for another lockdown CB after losing Jonathan Joseph a year ago to free agency.  While Kirkpatrick hasn't proven to be much of a playmaker he can still lockdown guys and prevent them from getting open.
  18. San Diego: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford - I'm not good at grading offensive lineman but by all accounts DeCastro is a can't miss guy.  What drops him so low is his position; offensive guards and centers rarely go in the top half of the draft.  The Chargers are desperate for help on the interior line so this is a match made in heaven.
  19. Chicago: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa - The Bears have neglected their line in the draft far too often.  They're likely very disappointed DeCastro didn't make it one more spot but they can't afford to give up picks just to jump around in the draft.  Reiff is a mauler but drops because of concerns of having "short" arms. At worst he'll be an excellent right tackle.
  20. Tennessee: Devon Still, DT, Penn St. - Still says he can play anywhere on the line and is really quick off the line.  The Titans need depth at all defensive line spots so this is a value pick more than anything. Still will be a good player in the right system.
  21. Cincinnati: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU - The Bengals go best player available here. Brockers is an excellent fit for a team that wants to run the ball and stop the run. Brockers may be the best DT in the draft so falling here is quite a steal for the Bengals.
  22. Cleveland trades the #22 overall pick to Denver for #25 overall and an additional pick. Denver: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis - The selection of Brockers at #21 motivates Denver to move up and grab the last big name tackle - probably their biggest weakness right now. Last season the Broncos proved they can rush the passer with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil and the team upgraded the offense immensely by signing of Peyton Manning. Now they need to focus on stopping the run and creating pressure up the middle. 
  23. Detroit: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama - Despite character concerns, Jenkins is a first round talent and will be taken somewhere in the first round.  The loss of Eric Wright depletes an already questionable secondary making this pick somewhat justified. The Lions have a few players with off the field troubles already so this pick does carry some risk.
  24. Pittsburgh: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama - Hightower was the player that stood out the most on the Alabama defense last season. He's an excellent run defender and is likely to become a defensive captain. The Steelers have a knack for finding these guys.
  25. Cleveland: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse - With a deep receiving class Cleveland knows they can wait a bit longer before grabbing some talented players instead of reaching for someone here.  The Browns do not have a strong pass rush and Jones will be a nice addition to their 4-3 scheme.
  26. Houston: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor - Houston needs to get at least two receivers in this draft and so they take the highest rated one available here. Wright will complement Andre Johnson (who just turned 30) and could one day become a #1 himself. This is a team that needs an immediate impact player to be that one missing piece to a Super Bowl contender.
  27. New England: Nick Perry, OLB/DE, California - The Patriots have never shied away from taking players who rate high on their board despite how other teams view them.  Nick Perry seems a good fit in this case, as he can take the departed Mark Anderson's spot. He'll need to become better at defending the run though if he's to become a more complete player.
  28. Green Bay: Whitney Mercilius, DE, Illinois - Finding a bookend pass rusher to Clay Matthews seems to be the team's #1 priority in the draft. Taking Mercilus fits that need and probably spoils New England's next pick.
  29. Baltimore: Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin - A lot of people have mocked Peter Konz here but I don't think it's a good fit. Konz is a finesse blocker whereas Zeitler uses power (he led the nation with 142 knockdown blocks this season) which is perfect for the Ravens run oriented offense.
  30. San Francisco: Reuben Randle, WR, LSU - The 49ers could lose Michael Crabtree after this season and while he hasn't lived up to expectations, he is the teams' best receiver. Randle is a developmental talent who's freaky athletic and could turn into a solid player under Jim Harbaugh's tutelage. 
  31. New England: Shea McClelland, DE, Boise St. - McClellan is another player who will fit in nicely at linebacker in the Patriot system similar to Rob Ninkovich. Some may question his on field athleticism but that didn't stop the Patriots from taking Brandon Spikes either. The Pats are dying for pass rush so they'll use the first two picks to shore it up.
  32. What character concerns? At the ripe old age of 21 Jenkins already has
    four children and multiple marijuana arrests.  But he's a great dad!
  33. NY Giants: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin - When you're the defending champs there's a lot of different directions you can go with your first pick. The Giants need a good interior lineman and while Konz isn't necessarily a guard, he should be able to slide over and do quite well until it's time to become the Giants full time center. Running back was a consideration here as well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: Predictions

It's a little late but I've decided to publish my preseason predictions anyway.

American League
New York 96 66 Have a solid rotation to match formidable offense
Tampa Bay 92 70 Maybe the best rotation in baseball
Boston 87 75 Lack of depth will cost them
Toronto 85 77 Still building but no playoffs in this division
Baltimore 68 94 Future is bright but rotation is worst in AL
Detroit 91 71 Will lead the league in runs scored, errors
Cleveland 80 82 Need one more starter to be a factor
Chicago 77 85 Rios, Dunn rebound but Peavy, bullpen falter
Kansas City 76 86 Still waiting on young pitching to make impact
Minnesota 62 100 Questions about Mauer, Morneau, Baker linger
Texas 95 67 Most well rounded team in AL
LAA 89 73 Still have problems at LF, 3B, C
Seattle 73 89 Back end of rotation no match for AL offenses
Oakland 70 92 Cespedes and Weeks are good but not enough
National League
Atlanta 87 75 Heyward bounceback, trade of Lowe is enough
Philadelphia 86 76 Injuries to Howard, Utley hold team back
Miami 84 78 Poor outfield defense really hurts in new park
Washington 82 80 Too many questions on offense
New York 75 87 Not as bad as many expected
Milwaukee 88 74 Greinke, Gallardo, Marcum combine for 54 wins
Cincinnati 87 75 Votto, Bruce lead league in teammate HR
St. Louis 84 78 Berkman, Beltran not as good as 2011
Pittsburgh 76 86 Deadline deals prevent team from reaching .500
Chicago 69 93 Theo's first year will be his worst
Houston 50 112 Have questions everywhere except 2B, LF
San Francisco 91 71 Great pitching and good offense takes division
Arizona 90 72 Upton, Young become top NL outfield duo
Colorado 78 84 Tulo accumulates more WAR than any 2 'mates
Los Angeles 77 85 Disgruntled Ethier, Kemp regression hurt team 
San Diego 75 87 Hang tough thanks to home field advantage

Sunday, April 8, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: NL Central

The final division I'm previewing is the National League Central.  This division has seen four different winners in the past four seasons and the last team to repeat as division winner was Chicago who did it in 2007 and 2008.  Three teams haven't finished with a winning record in the same season since 2008 when four teams did it (Cubs, Mil, Hou, Cards).  At first glance this season seems to have three good teams and three not so good teams.  The Cardinals are fresh off a World Series Championship and though they lost the best player in baseball, still have great pitching and a talented offense.  The Brewers lost a star of their own but look to get bounce back years from several players to go along with their own three-headed monster in the rotation.  Cincinnati has the best player in the division and seems poised to make a jump back into the playoffs.  The bottom three teams are a different story. The Pirates flirted with .500 for three and a half months last year before falling apart.  The Cubs are rebuilding and don't expect to contend but are still better than Houston.  Houston had their worst season in franchise history last year and sadly things don't look any better.  With six teams this division is unique; the division won't necessarily be won by who has the best record against the contenders but instead by who has the most success against the Pirates and Cubs.

Chicago Cubs
2011 Record: 71-91
2012 Estimated Team Salary: $88.2 million
Highest Paid Player: Alfonso Soriano - $18 million
Best Player: Starlin Castro led the league with 207 hits last season. I don't think this will be the last time that happens.
Best Pitcher: Even though Dempster's had more success, Matt Garza is the best pitcher on the staff. Last season he struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings.  He could break out this year.
Say Hello To: David DeJesus OF, Chris Volstad SP, Anthony Rizzo 1B, Casey Weathers RP, Ian Stewart 3B, Andy Sonnanstine P, Joe Mather OF, Paul Maholm SP
Wave Goodbye: Carlos Zambrano SP (Mia), Carlos Pena 1B (TB), Aramis Ramirez 3B (Mil), John Grabow RP (LA), Ramon Ortiz RP (SF), Tyler Colvin OF (Col)
Biggest Questions:
1. Will Theo bring home a championship?  That's the goal, but it's not going to happen this year. The Cubs minor league system is exhausted preventing them from making improvements to the major league club and they're cutting back on payroll so no marquee free agents will be added. Let's talk again in two years.
2. Is Alfonso Soriano just dead weight? When the Cubs signed Soriano in 2007 he was coming off a 46 home run season.  Since then he's hit 30 homers just once and is averaging 26 homers per year as a Cub.  Never a walker, his OBP dipped to new lows last season (.289) meaning he's now a liability in the lineup. The Cubs will have to pay anyone to take him at this point.
3. Can Jeff Samardzija be successful as a starting pitcher?  Scouting reports indicate Jeff should stick to the pen but he wants to start and the Cubs aren't going anywhere this season so why not give him a try?  Velocity isn't Samardzija's issue, it's movement or rather, lack of movement. With a straight fastball and a flat breaking pitch, any time Samardzija's control isn't pinpoint he runs the risk of getting hit hard. 
Expectations: It's going to be a long year on the Northside.  The Cubs are lucky they're in the same division as Houston or they'd likely finish with the worst record in the National League.
With the loss of Aramis Ramirez and the steady decline of
Soriano, Marlon Byrd is now the second best Cub.
Probable Opening day lineup:
1. DeJesus RF
2. Barney 2B
3. Castro SS
4. Soriano LF
5. Stewart 3B
6. Baker 1B
7. Byrd CF
8. Soto C
Probable Rotation/Closer
1. Dempster
2. Garza
3. Samardzija
4. Volstad
5. Maholm
CL: Marmol

Thursday, April 5, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: AL Central

After emerging as the "mystery team" in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes, the Detroit Tigers now have their sights set on more than just repeating as division champs.  The core of their team already included one of the best positional players in Miguel Cabrera and last year's American League MVP Justin Verlander.  With Prince on board the team hopes they'll be contenders for the next several years. The rest of the division will be fighting for seconds as all of them have serious concerns.  Kansas City is a team on the rise but their young rotation isn't ready to lead them.  Chicago says it's rebuilding but is stuck with some albatross contracts that prevent them from going all-in at anything.  Cleveland is probably one pitcher short of being taken seriously making their performance in the first two months critical for their playoff chances. Minnesota has a little bit of everything from injury concerns to aging players that the team cannot or will not move.  If you like high scoring games with little regard for the team's overall record then this is the division for you.

Chicago White Sox
2011 Record: 79-83
2012 Estimated Team Salary: $98 million
Highest Paid Player: Jake Peavy - $17 million
Best Player: Paul Konerko just keeps on ticking.  He's second all time in franchise history in HR, RBI,  and will be second in total bases by May.
Best Pitcher: John Danks had a bit of a down year in 2011 but some of that may be attributed to injury, Ozzie Guillen, and bad luck.  His peripherals remained strong and he's an excellent bounce back candidate in 2012.
Say Hello To: Simon Castro RP, Delwyn Young UT, Dan Johnson 1B, Kosuke Fukudome OF
Wave Goodbye: Mark Buehrle SP (Mia), Juan Pierre OF (Phi), Omar Vizquel INF (Tor), Sergio Santos CL (Tor), Tony Pena RP (Bos), Jason Frasor RP (Tor), Carlos Quentin OF (SD)
Biggest Questions:
1. Is Adam Dunn done?  Dunn seemed like the perfect fit for the Cell since it's a great home run park, he's a home run hitter, and he can DH. Instead he had one of the worst seasons of all time and despite walking 75 times he managed only 11 home runs and a putrid .159 batting average.  He's looked good in spring training making me optimistic there's still some left but it's clear the Sox aren't getting what they paid for.
2. Who's the next guy to go?  Sox management traded a boatload of players and even manager Ozzie Guillen in the offseason.  Expecting them to continue to dismantle in an effort to rebuild the worst minor league system in baseball would be wise.  John Danks has been rumored to be available but the price remains too high as of now.  Danks, Floyd, and even Peavy if he's pitching well could be moved this summer.
3. How bad is the farm system?  It's really bad.  Baseball Prospectus ranked the top 100 prospects in the minor leagues and the Sox had zero on the list.  On the Up and In podcast, Kevin Goldstein says it's the worst he's ever seen and when he asked other scouts to name a top prospect none came to mind. It's bad but at least it can't get worse. 
Expectations: Realistically this team could finish anywhere from second to fifth.  If Dunn and Rios rebound then this offense can be pretty good.  The bullpen lacks depth and so does the rotation.  While Northsiders will be crying about how bad the Cubs are, at least Sox fans have the potential to be entertained by exciting - albeit not necessarily good - baseball.
Beckham is a great defensive player but
his offense is still lacking.
Probable Opening day lineup:
1. De Aza CF
2. Rios RF
3. Ramirez SS
4. Konerko 1B
5. Dunn DH
6. Fukudome LF
7. Pierzynski C
8. Morel 3B
9. Beckham 2B
Probable Rotation/Closer
1. Danks
2. Peavy
3. Floyd
4. Sale
5. Humber
CL: Thornton