Teams with Success During the 2015 Draft,

4 Winners: New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams

New York Jets

williams

What to do you do when you have a dominating defensive line? The Jets draft what some consider the best defensive player in the draft in DT Leonard Williams. The Jets are building one of the best defensive units because of their strong D-line. Williams brings exceptional power and athleticism. He should end his career with several Pro Bowl selections and should follow in the same footsteps as Kevin Williams or teammate Sheldon Richardson. The Jets were also able to add weapons for quarterback Geno Smith when Ohio State wide out Devin Smith came off the board.  Smith’s ability to track the deep ball while it is in the air is outstanding. He has a 4.4 forty time so he will be able to take the top off the defense. The addition of Smith can help relieve the pressure on Eric Decker. The Jets have to hope Decker’s production can increase and meet the monetary value on his contract. As long as the Jets are able to keep quarterback Bryce Petty on the bench for the near future, he will be able to develop and be a success for being drafted in the fourth round.

Cincinnati Bengals

paul dawson

The Bengals saw a crucial need for lineman and were able to address this with two athletic tackles. First is tackle Cedric Oghuehi from Texas A&M who was selected 21st overall. Fellow tackle Jake Fisher will be able to use his exceptional quickness to keep faster edge rushers from hurrying Andy Dalton. Speaking of Andy Dalton, he now has the protect and he has the offensive pieces to finally break out. If he can’t this season, Dalton will prove he is unable to lead a team deep in the playoffs. My favorite pick for the Bengals was Paul Dawson. This headache of a player causes the brain to hurt of his opponents with crushing hits and his coaches for constantly showing up late for meeting or busses. The last name to remember is Jermaine Gresham’s replacement at tight end. TE Tyler Kroft has drawn comparisons to Travis Kelce because of the way he attacks the ball in the air.

Chicago Bears

General manager Ryan Pace fell in love with Kevin White because of his size and speed. White is great at high pointing the ball which makes him a valuable option in the red zone across from Alshon Jeffery.  While he lacks the polish that Amari Cooper has, White has exceptional speed that he showed while running a 4.35 forty at the combine. The Bears were also able to solidify a strong defensive tackle in the second round by selecting NT Eddie Goldman. This was a massive need for the Bears because they have not been able to stop the run up the middle. A common concern surrounding the Bears is the need for a replacement for Matt Forte. When the Bears selected Jeremy Langford from Indiana they knew they solidified a backup running back for 2015. Langford is similar to Forte with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

St. Louis Rams

ToddGurley

While I may be one of the few with the Rams as major winners in the draft I stand strongly by this opinion. The Rams were able to walk away from the draft with a smile because they selected their number one prospect in running back Todd Gurley. The Georgia back gives the Rams something Jeff Fisher has been searching for since he arrived in 2012. He is elusive and powerful with every step he takes. The only problem is he can only step with one foot right now because he tore his ACL on November 15th. The stat that stands out most when looking over Gurley’s numbers from Georgia is that he averaged 7.4 yards per carry. Having Gurley as the featured back helps newly acquired Nick Foles by allowing the offense to be run heavy while Foles becomes comfortable with the offense.  Furthermore, to ensure the running game will be dominant, Fisher found himself a major mauler in offensive tackle Rob Havenstein from Wisconsin. Havenstein stands in at 6’7″ 320 pounds. Although the main reason I love the pick is because he can dominate in the running game, he also posses the leadership the offensive line will need because they have such little game experience. The Rams addressed the offensive line with 4 selections out of 9. Jeff Fisher took a gamble by selecting quarterback Sean Mannion with the 89th pick overall. The signal caller from Oregon State wowed scouts during the workouts before the draft. Several scouts said he threw better than Marcus Mariota when they made their way through Oregon. While I am not in any way saying Mannion is better than Mariota but he has gained confidence late in his career. He will have time to develop behind Foles. The Rams must rely on their coaching to help ensure the offensive line can create a pocket for Foles on a consistent basis.

Spencer Montgomery

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Chiefs Second and Third Round Selections

FILL NEEDS.

This was clearly a must for the Chiefs on the second day of the draft. Andy Reid saw glaring holes on the offensive line and at wideout. With the 49th pick the Chiefs selected offensive tackle Mitch Morse from Missouri. Morse stands at a tall 6’5″ 305 pounds. He can play several positions across the line. He has the ability to play center, guard, or tackle. All three positions are spots of need for the Chiefs. Morse is a smart, savvy, nasty blocker who projects best inside due to his short arms. He stood out at LT, RT and center vs. the SEC. The Chiefs will ask Morse to move to guard in hopes he can be ready to start in 2015.

micth morse Chiefs

Morse relied on timing, instincts and angles to get guys blocked as a tackle at the college level but does lack the arm length and functional athleticism to play tackle in the pros. If he moves inside to guard, his toughness will serve him well. Morse is not a mauler type of blocker because he does not have the strength. He is not a power player and must prove that he can sustain his block and positioning to be an effective run blocker. Teams were heating up on Morse the closer it got to draft day and some see him as one of the top transitional center prospects in the draft because of his intelligence.

OVERALL Grade: B 

Reasoning… Again, filled a major need but I was hoping they would fill their need at receiver here once Jaelen Strong began to slip. Teams must have been scared off more than I realized about Strong’s wrist injury and how he handled it.

When the third round started the I was hoping to see Jaelen Strong or Tyler Lockett available for the Chiefs but both were selected before the Chiefs selected. When these two wide receivers were off the board, John Dorsey saw an opportunity to trade up to 76 to select Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley. The trade sent the Chiefs 80th pick and their 6th round pick to the Minnesota Vikings. In 2014 Conley had 36 receptions for 657 yards and 8 touchdowns.

A question that needs to be answered with Conley is if he is a sprinter or a football player. Corners have great success playing bump and cover defense against Conley because he struggles to get off the line cleanly. During the combine Conley was able to boost his stock with a great 40 yard dash, bench press, and board jump.While he struggles to get off the line, he dominates with a cushion off the line, and cornerbacks will demand help over the top when facing him in man coverage. He has long arms (33 ¾”) and uses his hands to get the ball out of the air. Unlike some receivers in this class, he is able to catch the ball consistently with his hands instead of letting it reach his body.

In the end I really wanted the Chiefs to go in a different direction to fill their need at receiver. I would have preferred Sammy Coates from Auburn or my favorite sleeper receiver Justin Hardy  from Eastern Carolina.

OVERALL GRADE: C- 

The selection of a wideout was the correct pick just not the right player in my opinion. Only time will tell with Conley but the Chiefs need someone to step in day one and I feel Coates and Hardy could have done that.

The Chiefs had a second pick in the third round when they selected cornerback Steven Nelson from Oregon State with the 98th pick. Nelson was a second team All-Pac 12 performer in 2015. The Chiefs want to stock pile their secondary this year because of how the NFL is being played. With the game moving closer and closer to a passing league, the Chiefs have focused on getting players that can get to the quarterback and corners that can create turnovers. I am very disappointed that the Chiefs did not fill their need at MLB with Paul Dawson. The TCU standout was selected by the Bengals the pick after the Chiefs. Kansas City needs a linebacker to play along with Derrick Johnson in the middle.

The Chiefs loved Nelson’s style of play because of the same reasons Andy Reid loved Marcus Peters. Both cornerbacks play with a competitive and confident edge. When on the field, Nelson views himself as the best player on every snap. It appears that Nelson is essentially a poor man’s Marcus Peters. Along with the same mentality, both players use their hands too much with receivers that draws too many penalties. Nelson does not have a second gear that is needed to cover faster receivers in the NFL. Also, at 5’10” offensive coordinators will target Nelson in the end zone with taller receivers.

NFL: Combine

 

OVERALL GRADE: B- 

It is hard to hit a home run in the later rounds but the Chiefs were still able to fill a need with another young corner that can cover exceptionally in man coverage. I would have given the Chiefs an A if they selected linebacker Phil Dawson or wideout Justin Hardy. Remember these two players as great late round selection for their teams.

Spencer Montgomery 

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Chiefs 2015 First Round Pick

Want an employee that has failed a drug test, had academic problems, shows up late to meetings, and being dismissed from his previous team? This is the off the field resume of Washington cornerback Marcus Peters. The Kansas City Chiefs drafted Peters with the 18th pick. The Chiefs hope this baggage does not come back to haunt them. Peters, who many would have considered a top 10 pick if not for these issues must have wowed head coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey during his interviews. Too be honest, I trust Andy Reid. The Chiefs definitely did their background checks and see Peters as someone that can be productive without causing problems. The alarming aspect to his rap sheet in my eyes is the problems he had with the coaching staff and other Washington teammates. These off the field antics had Peters completely removed from several teams draft board but all it takes is one team to see past his issues to make his dream of playing in the NFL come true.
In 34 games for UW, Peters had 11 interceptions and 129 tackles. The cornerback allowed just 38.1 percent of the passes against him to be completed. Peters was elected to the second-team All-Pac-12 in 2013.Peters has truly prototype size for the position. He competes hard during his battles in press-man coverage and tries to intimidate receivers with his physicality. He will be active and disruptive when ball is in the air and although this may draw penalties, the Chiefs want Peters to keep his competitive edge. He is at his best when contesting catches and often times comes away the winner on 50/50 throws. Unlike other corners in this years draft, Marcus is able to step up and make open field tackles against stronger running backs. The biggest weakness in his game is the fact that he gets grabs receivers off the line when he is beaten which will draw flags from officials in the NFL.

Picture from nfldraftlounge.com

Picture from nfldraftlounge.com

There have been several fitting comparisons for Marcus Peters such as Jason McCourty, but I feel he has the potential to have a similar, if not better career than Aqib Talib. Overall I would rate the Chiefs pick as a B. The reasoning behind this pick is because it filled a need with exceptional talent. I am scared away from calling it an A because of his past but the pick has the boom or bust feeling. During the next two rounds the Chiefs have to address their glaring issue at wide receiver. I hope John Dorsey has some type of plan to draft WR Jaelen Strong out of Arizona State because he fits perfectly with what the Chiefs try to do in the passing game. Strong would come in and be a younger and better Dwayne Bowe. NFL.com has Bowe as their NFL player comparison for Jaelen Strong because both guys use their body to shield the ball from the defender. Neither player creates great separation but both win 50-50 balls. If the Chiefs can not land Strong, I hope they aim to cover their holes of linebacker and center. For linebacker I desire Phil Dawson because of the tenacity he would bring to the Chiefs. Like Derrick Johnson, Dawson has a nose for the ball but can find himself being caught cheating in play action.

Spencer Montgomery

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Interview: Dominic Foos

A normal day for Dominic Foos is waking up and heading to the golf course. After that, he will play some more golf and later, more golf. Rough life, I know. Dominic is not your average high schooler, traveling around the globe to play in some of the best tournaments for teenage golfers. The feats he has accomplished at such a young age is surreal. I was able to ask Dominic a couple of questions about his career thus far.

dominicfoos.com

dominicfoos.com

You are 15 years old and have won numerous tournaments throughout the world. There are videos of you up at 5 a.m. or earlier on the range or playing. What is your motivation?
I am just always to get better and better. If I want to play professionally, I will have to earn it.

With your early success, you have drawn comparisons to other child prodigies, such as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. How do you cope with the pressure of such great comparisons?
I feel no pressure on that. Some people like to compare me to other players, and I have no problem with that. To me, I think of it as an honor to be mentioned with some of the greatest golfers today.

What does it mean to you to have such comparisons?
It shows me that I am heading in the right direction.

I saw you had a chance to play alongside Rory McIlroy in the Pro-Am in Turkey. What was it like playing with arguably the best golfer in the world? Today, what golfer do you look up to most?
Yes, I had a blast with Rory. Turkey was an awesome time. Tiger Woods is the player to whom I look up most. He has proved himself to be one of the best golfers ever and I hope to be in his position someday.

Foos alongside Rory McIlroy

Foos alongside Rory McIlroy

What was your experience like playing on the Junior Ryder Cup?
Playing in Chicago alongside Europe’s best junior golfers was a great experience for me. Afterward, I got to watch an incredible Ryder Cup at Medinah and most importantly, a European victory!

You were able to meet some of the European players at Medinah. What kind of advice did they give you?
They really just told me to keep up the hard work and to have fun with the game.

Since you were three years old, you have been golfing. Is there anyone specific you have looked up to? Who has influenced your game the most?
My Dad. He has had a major influence on my game and the progress I have made thus far.

Your website says you have been recruited by colleges throughout the United States. Some of the more notable golfers to leave Europe and attend schools in the U.S. are Graeme MacDowell and Luke Donald. Do you any desire to follow in their footsteps?
To play college golf is for sure an incredible achievement. Personally, I prefer to focus on my game in Europe and to play in more tournaments here. After that, I hope to make it to the next level and play professional golf.

What is your favorite golf course that you have played on and why?
Leopard Creek in South Africa, no doubt. Not only is it an impressive, challenging course, but the surrounding area is beautiful.

You were the first golfer to win the Audi Generation Award, you have been on the Junior Ryder Cup team, and the list continues. So far, what has been, in your mind, the greatest feat?
I am always giving my best on everything and I cherish the opportunities I have had. Every award is great, of course, but I am really looking forward to what the future holds.

Because you are such a great golfer, many forget you are just a 15 year old. When you are rarely not practicing or playing, what are some of your hobbies? Do you play any other sports?
Unfortunately, the time is limited, but I enjoy playing table tennis and basketball. Plus, I love going to see new movies.

Where is the coolest place you have ever been to? What made that destination so fun?
I have been able to go to so many places, but Miami, Florida, is a very cool place. I can play golf at incredible courses there and while being surrounded by nothing but entertainment.

What is the biggest goal you are looking to accomplish?
I will do anything and everything to get to the top of the world one day.

I would like to thank Dominic for his time. As he said earlier, he hopes to play professionally someday, and I would put my money on him accomplishing that dream. I wish him good luck and will be cheering for him in the future.

Drew Agnello

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NFL Fraternity

The NFL fraternity is one the most prestigious organizations in America. It could be argued as more exclusive than Harvard, even more exclusive than Yale’s secret society. Something about the name, better known by three letters to its biggest advocates. Its something about the tradition. Something about the names of former pledges such as Walter, Montana, Rice, Sanders, Taylor. Even now as the torch has been handed to the likes of Brady, Manning, Peterson, Revis. Though the fraternity ages, every year new pledges are allowed in, given the opportunity to put their stamp on the already tremendous legacy established by the previously mentioned and others. Unlike the fraternities scene on a nearby campus, the chances of a pledge being accepted into the NFL is not based on how little or how much money one has. Neither is it based off of a family legacy.

NFL DRAFT

This exclusive organization rarely allows in those who are not capable of taking on the enormous responsibility that comes along with wearing infamous stitching on ones jersey. Now there are those who make their way into the fraternity who were able to hide their flaws well during the interview process. They were able convince many the hype surrounding them was real. Names that come to mind such as Russell, Leaf, Bosworth, all the quarterbacks drafted before Tom Brady. Their true value to the organization was quickly seen, which resulted in the termination of the relationship. Others were questioned about whether they belonged in the exclusive group, but have proven themselves and have become intricate members to the society. Thursday on primetime television, nearly 250 of the applicants will be welcomed in. While the other 3500 draft eligible players either hang up their cleats or wait for a free agent contract. The NFL’s acceptance rate is about 7%. To gain a comparison, Columbia University has an acceptance rate of 7.4%, yeah pretty exclusive. Names such as Geno Smith, Teo, Millner, Lacy will be revealed along with others. Some will have high over bearing expectations, while others will simply be over looked. Many people look at the game of football as just that, a game. However, the NFL has given the chance of a lifetime for young men to play the game they love and also take care of those who have supported them throughout their long, hard fought journey. New faces will line the aged, old halls of the glorious frat house in Canton, Ohio but the game remains live and well.

Michael Rose

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The Real Heroes of 2012

The holidays. They can really be a blessing. On the other hand, they can be a painful reminder another year come to pass, a year of shortcomings, a year of tragedy.  As a 21 year old college student, I’ve found myself asking, “Were things really this bad 10 years ago, or was I just not old enough to notice?”

To be honest, I really could not tell you, but I do know that this year was one of the more tragic in recent memory. From the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy, to the bloody civil unrest occurring in Syrira, to the families suffering from the tragedies that occurred in the communities of Aurora and Newtown, this has been a year where hope seemed absent in the midst of great sorrow.

On this website you see us writing about our idols in sports, athletes who inspire and awe us as sports fans.  We call them heroes and give them all the adoration in the world. I decided this week to go in a different direction. There are heroes that inspire off the field. There are people with unimaginable courage and strength that we cannot begin to fathom.  There are everyday people who inspire and amaze us, and in a year with so much tragedy, they are the heroes this country and this world need most. Here are the Real Heroes of 2012.

Malala Yousafzi

Mala

In Pakistan, Malala Yousafzi has been fighting for the past 4 years for girl’s rights to education in her own country, and in doing so has brought education and women’s rights into the global spotlight. She began speaking out through anonymous blog posts published by the BBC and eventually grew into an open education activist worldwide. She has done all of this at the risk of her own life. On October 9th Malala was shot in the head in a Taliban assassination attempt on her life. Malala survived, and as a result of her bravery, former British Prime Minister and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a United Nations petition in her name, using the slogan “I am Malala” and demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015. Malala’s hard work and courage made her this year’s runner-up for the Time “Person of the Year”. Perhaps more significant, her work brought women’s rights and education to the forefront on a global scale and become a powerful symbol of resistance at the Taliban’s attempt to limit women’s rights. That is a lot to do in a lifetime, let alone do before your 16th birthday.

Peter Vadola

 Peter

Peter Vadola, a 28 year-old local truck driver and Staten Island resident, rescued nearly 200 of his fellow residents from flooding as a result of Hurricane Sandy. It all began when Vedola ventured out the morning following the storm to see that damage that had been done to his new home, the home he purchased to begin his new life with his pregnant wife. While checking out the damage he received a frantic call from his friend, Danny, who was trapped in his attic with his wife and three kids. He had called 911 and still no one had come for help. Vadola said he would do what he could to help them. As if by way of a miracle, a motorboat, which had been ripped loose from the storm, floated his way and Vadola sprung into action. After rescuing Danny and his family, Vadola continued to race through the streets of Staten Island picking up as many people as he could and taking them up to Lincoln Avenue where the fire department was providing warm blankets and care to the displaced families. Days after Vadola’s brilliant heroics on November 8th, his wife gave birth to his first child and son, Justin Peter Vadola.

“I’ll always remember Sandy as a time when the people of New York came together,” Vadola says. “I have never been thanked more times before in my life. One guy even wanted to give me money. I told him to put away his money before I tossed him overboard. Now I have a beautiful son to be thankful for. This is going to be the best Thanksgiving of my life.”

Dawn Hochsprung

Dawn-Hochsprung-300

One of the victims of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary shooting was their principal Dawn Hochsprung.  Hochsprung first heard the sound of gunfire then ran to protect her students by attempting to take down shooter Adam Lanza. As a result, Hochsprung lost her life, a life she devoted to students as an educator. Fellow family members, teachers, and friends hailed Hochsprung as a selfless educator, an educator that has now inspired many around the country and the world with her act of bravery. It’s clear the world needs more mothers, educators, friends and heroes like Dawn Hochsprung.

Jake Wood

jake wood

Jake Wood, a former US Marine and Iraq War veteran, first began reaching out to those in need after the massive earthquake that left Haiti devastated in 2010.  In just 3 weeks Wood was able to assemble over 60 volunteers, many of them veterans themselves, to aid in relief efforts in Haiti.  They called themselves Team Rubicon, in reference to the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” meaning passing the point of no return. The name proved appropriate, as Wood has not looked back since his time spent helping in Haiti and has continued to help around the world through his non-profit organization. In the past two years the organization has grown to almost 1,400 members, about 80% of them being military veterans. They have aided in relief efforts all over the world ranging from Chile to Joplin, Missouri. Wood believes that giving veterans a chance to give back is crucial, as it allows them to continue to serve after their duty term is up.

“There’s no limit to what veterans can do. … They’ve already proven that they want to serve … and when they come home, a lot of them still want to do it,” said Wood. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Pushpa Basnet

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Pushpa Basnet, a native of Nepal and CNN’s 2012 Hero of the year, is no ordinary 28 year old, at least not by Nepal’s standards.  Nepal is currently one of the world’s poorest countries with over 55% of the population living below the international poverty line. Basnet, however, was born under more fortunate circumstances, coming from a family with a successful business and steady flow of income while she was growing up. At 21 years old she discovered her calling while she was studying social work in college. She visited a women’s prison and was taken back by the poor living conditions and the fact there were children living in the prisons as well.

Because of Nepal’s high poverty rate, it lacks the type of social safety nets we enjoy here in the US and in other Western Nations. As a result, space is severely limited in the government run children’s homes. So when an individual is incarcerated and no other legal guardian is available, the parent has the choice to either bring their child to prison or let them fend for themselves on the streets of Nepal.  Basnet simply could not stand for this, and in 2005 she began to provide care for the children of incarcerated parents. She got friends to donate money and began renting out a building to house the children. Her care center has grown from housing 5 students to now housing over 40 and she has assisted over 100 children since she began 7 years ago. She also runs a daycare for children under 6 along with her residential program.  She ensures that the children maintain relationships with their imprisoned parents as well by planning trips to visit the prisons over holidays. Still, Basnet strives to do more as she is eager to find more ways to give these children a better future.

“This is what I want to do with my life,” Basnet said. “It makes me feel (good) when I see that they are happy, but it makes me want to work harder. … I want to fulfill all their dreams.”

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This is obviously just a short list of the amazing people doing inspiring things in the world today. The fact is people do wonderful and amazing things for one another everyday. Perhaps not on such a grand scale as the outstanding individuals, but still small acts today go a long way towards creating a better tomorrow.  A wise man once said, “I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.”

So amidst this despair and sorrow, we can find solace in believing that there is so much overwhelming goodness in the hearts of so many people in the world today. Let’s remember those who were lost to tragedy in 2012 and let’s make 2013 deserving of their memory. Happy New Year everyone.

Tommy Randolph 

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Let the Battle for Beltran Begin

Free-agent slugger Carlos Beltran is in Kansas City meeting with the Royals front office. The club is hoping for a big-bang reunion with Beltran, who began his career in Kansas City in 1998. He was traded to the Astros during the 2004 season. He batted .287 and compiled a .835 OPS for the Royals. Most impressively he produced four seasons of 100 runs and 100 RBI in a five-year span from 1999-2003. Beltran arrived in Kansas City on Monday and is staying through Tuesday to meet with club officials and listen to the Royals’ pitch to have a homecoming with the right fielder. The Royals most likely will need to be willing to go to three years to sign Beltran. The Mariners also have a big interest in adding a bat like Beltran’s and are expected to make a serious offer to Beltran to get him to be their designated hitter. ESPN reported Beltran has a three-year offer on the table for $48 million, though it did not specify which team made such an offer.

Bringing Back Beltran

Bringing Back Beltran

The leader in the Beltran sweepstakes is the Yankees because of their payroll and chances to make the playoffs. The main reason Beltran is still a major free agent at the ago of 36 is because he brings a clutch bat that can push these teams into the playoffs. The Royals have seen in first hand how important Beltran can be in a lineup. One thing they haven’t been able to see is what he can do with hitters around him such as Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. Signing Beltran will help Butler and Gordon’s RBI numbers because Beltran gives protection to the middle of the lineup. At some point fans and front office executives will have to worry about carrying two designated hitters on the same team in aging Beltran and Butler. The Royals may be able to play Beltran in right field for this season but in 2015 he will be most effective as a DH. I personally wanted the Royals to pull the trigger for Dexter Fowler for one of the relievers. This trade made sense because the Royals needed another outfielder and had a surplus of relievers. The Astros were able to jump on the low asking price the Rockies put out there on Fowler. The best-case scenario would be the Royals sign Beltran and in 2015 they decide to move Butler for a needed piece at that time. The only way this signing makes the Royals better is if both Butler and Beltran are in the lineup together for the first two years. In addition, if the Royals can’t make that work, the return for Butler should be high because of his consistency at the plate. While the Royals will lose their draft pick to the Cardinals for signing Beltran, they will gain a draft pick from who ever signs Ervin Santana. Lastly, The Royals lineup next year will look like this… LF Gordon, RF Beltran, 1B Hosmer, DH Butler, C Perez, CF Cain, 3B Moustakas, SS Escobar, 2B TBD. This lineup now puts fear in opposing pitching staffs.  If the Royals are able to sign Carlos Beltran it will most likely be their biggest free agent signing since David Cone. The cheers at opening day when Beltran takes the field will be the loudest I will hear at the K in my short life so far.

Spencer Montgomery

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The NBA Lottery 2013

After going back and watching last night’s draft in its entirety, I could only come up with one word to describe it: Awkward. From Anthony Bennett going number one overall to the Cavaliers, to the awkward exchange between Doc Rivers and Bill Simmons , it was a draft night that I want to forget. For starters, let’s never have Rece Davis and Jay Bilas work a draft night with Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons again. The commentary was all over the place and the two pairs clearly have a different style on covering the draft. The whole night was one big awkward mess.  It certainly did not get any better after the news of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce’s trade to Brooklyn either.  Next year’s broadcast just has to be better.  Based on the talent in this draft it is certainly a weak one, but by no means is it the worst in history. That award goes to the 2000 NBA Draft whose top three picks were Kenyon Martin, Stromile Swift (who reportedly hated basketball), and Darius Miles (who is probably best remembered for his cameo in Van Wilder). Nevertheless, here is my breakdown and grades of the lottery picks in 2013.

Cleveland Cavaliers, Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV

anthony Bennett

No one saw Anthony Bennett going number one.  And I mean no one. With the speculation and predictions about the 2013 Draft seemingly changing every minute since March, not one mock draft I saw had Bennett going number one, as tweeners (between the 3 and the 4 positions) rarely do. However, I’ve long believed that Bennett was one of the top 5 players in this draft and was one of the best bets in this draft as long as he could stay healthy. I think that Bennett’s size and versatility can really help Cleveland on the offensive end, especially if he can improve on his jump shot and keep the extra pounds off. Imagine Bennett and Kyrie Irving in a high screen pick and pop scenario. Bennett could 20 and 10 guy. Cleveland fans have reason to be excited.                   Draft grade: A-

Orlando Magic, Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana

Oladipo is a guy with a motor that’s always running and that is exactly what the Magic will need down the road. He appears to be one of the most NBA ready prospects and will make a difference on the defensive end from day 1. If the Magic want to truly get the most out of this pick they do have to be patient with the way his offensive game develops. Oladipo is one of the few players I could see becoming a legitimate superstar in this draft. I love Bill Simmons’ worst case scenario of Oladipo as a Tony Allen type player with a better offensive game.                    Draft grade: A

Washington Wizards, Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown

This seemed to be the only predictable pick of the entire night. Porter has immense upside and with his 6’9” frame, he can be plugged in right away at the 3 and help John Wall and Co. make a push for the playoffs. He’s a perfect fit for the Wizards from a basketball standpoint and from a personality standpoint. Look for Porter to have a long career in the capital.                   Draft grade: A+

Charlotte Bobcats, Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana

After the Bennett pick, this was my next biggest WTF moment of night. The Bobcats need help all over the floor and with potential All-Stars like McClemore, Noel and even Len still available, this move just left most scratching their head. Zeller will have to make the transition from the 5 to the 4 and will have to improve his toughness and motor if he wants be effective. Here are some other “notable” first round picks by the Bobcats: Sean May, Adam Morrison, DJ Augustin, and Bismack Biyombo. I think Zeller will soon join this list of misfits. The Bobcats miss the mark for yet another year. The Bobcats will continue to have the worst roster in basketball. All Charlotte fans can do now is cross their fingers for the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. P.S. Adam, wherever you are, I’m sorry.                   Draft grade: D

Phoenix Suns, Alex Len, C, Maryland

This is an OK pick for the Suns considering what was left on the board. Beyond the top 6-8 picks there were really no clear cut choices remaining, so Phoenix went with one of the few options they had and chose Len. However, once again, McClemore and Noel were still on the board. I can see Len becoming a future version of Brook Lopez, so long as he works on his positioning and moves with his back to the basket. He also needs to improve on his consistency. There were times last year for Maryland in which Len would disappear for game long stretches and be a non-factor. Phoenix can’t afford another poor draft pick if they intend on rebuilding in the near future.                   Draft grade: C+

nerlens-noel

New Orleans Pelicans (traded to Philadelphia) Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Kentucky

You always feel bad for the guys who slide. In this case, I felt like much of Nerlens Noel’s slide could have been avoided.  In a lot of pre-draft reports, it was said that Nerlens Noel and his camp had been difficult to get ahold of for pre-draft interviews and no one really knew who was representing Noel. That’s never a good sign. Those issues, combined with his injured knee, caused concern to grow and thus his slide to number 6. I think it was a stretch for Philadelphia to trade their young All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for a young, potentially damaged 7 footer, who apparently weighed in at 206 lbs at a pre-draft camp. Noel will have to add muscle to his wiry frame and an offensive game if he wants to validate his potential as a prospect.                                    Draft grade for PHI: B                   Trade grade for NO: A+

Sacramento Kings, Ben McClemore, SG, Kansas

By far the best value pick in the 1st round of the draft. McClemore, who had been projected as going as high as 1, fell right into the Kings lap at pick 7. While there are some concerns about McClemore’s desire and killer instinct, there is no denying his fantastic shooting stroke and superb athleticism. I think he has one of the highest ceilings of any player in the draft given those attributes. Hopefully McClemore can help the Kings franchise steer the ship in the right direction.                  Draft grade: A

Detroit Pistons, Kentavious Caldwell Pope, SG, Georgia

Not many people saw Caldwell Pope in action last year at Georgia. While I thought that the Pistons might stretch and take McCollum with the 8th pick, this one makes sense too. The Pistons have been back and forth on where to slot Brandon Knight in the future and this pick all but solidifies his spot and the PG position. Caldwell Pope will provide a great shooter for the Pistons and will combine with Knight for one of the better young back courts in the league in the future.                  Draft grade: B

Minnesota Timberwolves (traded to Utah), Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

I think that this pick/trade worked out great for both sides. Minnesota got the guy they wanted in Shabazz Muhammed and Trey Burke found his ideal situation with Utah. The Jazz gives Burke the opportunity to start right away with a young and talented team. There will certainly be some growing pains along the way, but Burke, the best point guard in the draft will have no problems with the learning curve. He was arguably the fiercest competitor in the country last year and will continue to put that competitiveness into his game at the pro level. As a guy playing with a chip on his shoulder, Burke should be feared.                   Draft grade for MIN: B+                                    Draft grade for UTA: A+

Portland Trailblazers, CJ McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh

This pick left me scratching my head a bit. The Blazers currently have a very talented combo guard in Damian Lillard, who is very proficient on the offensive end. My feelings tell me that they just drafted the same guy in McCollum. Starting those two together gives the Blazers a pretty undersized backcourt and has virtually two PGs on the floor at the same time, given that McCollum starts right away. With issues at the center position, Steven Adams made more sense here. From a talent standpoint it’s a good pick, but from a needs standpoint, not so much.  Draft grade: B

Philadelphia 76ers, Michael Carter Williams, PG, Syracuse

After the trade sending Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans, this pick made the most sense for the 76ers. They are now clearly committed to a rebuilding effort around the young core of Noel, Turner and Carter Williams. Carter Williams will get big minutes right away, but will need to work on his scoring if he wants to join the ranks of the upper echelon of point guards in the NBA. I still think it was a stupid trade to give up a talent like Holiday especially for someone as unproven as Noel. We’ll just have to wait and see.                   Draft grade: B-

 Oklahoma City Thunder, Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh

Given what this pick was supposed to be, I’m not happy. The Thunder gave up Harden for this?! A raw 7 foot big man who is still clearly learning the game of basketball (see Bismack Biyombo)?! This must be what it’s like to be a Charlotte fan (again, sorry Adam). I’m not buying that trade nor will I ever. Now, time to be logical. At this point in the draft, with the talent remaining, I’m OK with this pick. I desperately wanted to see Sam Presti and the Thunder front office go out on a limb and take Jamaal Franklin, who will end up being the steal of this draft, but that was wishful thinking. Giving Adams some time in the D-League to get a better feel for the game will be beneficial and hopefully he develops enough to find a spot in the Thunder’s starting 5 (I’m still hoping the same about Jeremy Lamb).                   Draft grade: B-

James Harden trade: F—- (bitter much?)

Dallas Mavericks (traded to Boston), Kelly Olynyk, PF/C, Gonzaga

There’s not a whole lot to say about Olynyk. He’s a decent big man who can run the floor, face up in the high post and get to the basket. His game lacks in almost every other area. While it is the “sensible pick” at 14 and might have been the best available for the Celtics, I don’t see Olynyk making much of a splash in Boston or anywhere.  Picture Raef Lafrentz, but not as tough (if you can imagine that).

shabbazz muhhamad

Utah Jazz (traded to Minnesota), Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA

I think this is a decent fit for both parties. The combination of Rubio, Love and Pekovic will hopefully allow for Muhammad to feel less pressure on the offensive end and just do what comes naturally, something he was seldom allowed to do at UCLA, being the primary scoring option. He’s offensive rebounding prowess will also continue to bolster the Minnesota front court and add more size to their rotation. I think if Muhammad can grow up a little bit more, he may turn some heads in Minnesota.  Draft grade: B+

So that wraps my take on the lottery picks of the 1st round. Before I wrap up I figured I should give some credit where credit is due. Today, I applaud David Stern. Stern turned the NBA into the marketing monster it is today. While many were critical of his methods and approach to handling players, he grew the NBA more than arguably any other professional sport during his 30 year tenure. The NBA and its players owe him gratitude. Even more so, we, the fans, owe him thanks. Thank you, David Stern. How’s about you bring back that killer stash for retirement?

Tommy Randolph

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Cardinals Recap

Over the past three weeks or so, the Cardinals have kept up their great style of play.  They have gone 13-7 in their last twenty games, with a big three game sweep of the Washington Nationals.  In addition to picking up key wins against the Nationals, the Cards have played solid, fundamental baseball against their division rivals.  In the last twelve NL Central games, the Cardinals are 8-4.  As I begin this recap, they have just completed their four game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.  They put up a ridiculous twenty-nine runs in those four games, while only giving up thirteen.  As play concluded on Sunday, the Cards held a two and a half game lead over the Reds for the lead in the NL Central.  St. Louis is on a six game winning streak, with good timing, too, because the Reds are on a three game streak of their own.

yadier-molina-cleats-shot

As the season is progressing, player statistics are becoming more realistic.  Unsurprisingly, Yadier Molina is the offensive MVP of the team so far.  Through thirty games played, Yadi is hitting an impressive .328, with two bombs and seventeen runs batted in.  Allen Craig is also proving himself as an everyday, middle of the lineup hitter.  Through twenty-nine games played, Craig is batting .291, with one home run and twenty-five RBI’s.  Once Craig gets the long ball going, watch out.

On the defensive side, the starting rotation has been nothing short of phenomenal.  Jake Westbrook is the only starter that doesn’t have at least four wins.  Wainwright, Miller, and Garcia each have four, while Lance Lynn of all people leads the team with five.  Lynn, also, has yet to lose a start.  The story of the rotation (again) is Mr. Adam Wainwright.  Since I last wrote about him, almost nothing has changed.  Through almost fifty innings of work, Wainwright has only three walks.  THREE! That’s unheard of!  Things tend to go well when you avoid walks and record an average of at least one strikeout per inning pitched.  That’s exactly what Wainwright does.

The Cards should have at least two more wins coming up in the next few days.  They have a two game series coming up against the Cubs, which unfortunately for me being from Chicago, should mean two easy wins against the Cubbies.  Other key upcoming series include the Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, and the surprisingly good Kansas City Royals.

Christian Biondi 

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AFC South Draft Grades

Tennessee Titans 
Tennessee Titans have been disappointed for awhile with the team a performance of late. Even the rushing stats took a hit under the first year head coach Mike Munchak. I think they addressed the odfensive line with big Chance Warmack from Alabama. Kid is massive and if anyone saw Manti Teo’s lowlights on ESPN, Warmack was the guy continuously climbing up on him every play. He moves well for his size and is accustomed to the zone rushing attack Tennessee will use with Chris Johnson. He has opened the way for guys like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Lacy. Warmack has the ability to be a consistent staple on the Titans line for years to come. They added former Volunteer wideout, Justin Hunter to a decent receiving core headed by Justin Britt. Hunter has the ability to go up and get the ball at its highest point and beat corners deep. They addressed needs at corner and linebacker with Blidi Breh-Wilson and Zavier Gooden, respectively. Brian Schwenke will help out the center position, while Lavar Edwards will be looked upon to add depth to the defensive line.
Overall Grade: B

Indianapolis Colts 
The Colts became firm that the Peyton Manning era was over, after they selected Luck with the second pick in last years draft. After a surprising playoff birth, the Colts looked to build upon last years success with a couple of intricate picks. Colts added German born Seminole, Bjoern Wergner. I was impressed with his athletic ability at Florida State and has real high motor. I believe he will add a decent pass rush to team that had a hard time getting to the quarterback in 2012. One of the biggest problems the colts had was not the ability to get to the quarterback, but to protect their own. They added depth with selections of Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton who both can play multiple positions on the line. Montorri Hughes can be a huge asset if he proves he has matured after being dismissed from Tennessee, which forced him into the FCS. If developed, can be a nice piece at a 4-3 nose tackle spot.

Overall Grade: C

luke-joeckel

Jacksonville Jaguars 
The Jaguars had one of my favorite drafts this year. They added a franchise building player with Joeckel, who I thought would go number one, and they added plenty of speed to one of the slowest rosters in the league. Hopefully with a stable left tackle, the Jags can develop Gabbert the way they want too. I’m still not sold on Gabbert and many looked for them to take a quarterback, which they kind of did when they drafted Dennard Robinson. He was announced as a runningback/returner but don’t be surprised if  he ales a couple of snaps at quarterback in the Pre-season. Remember, the Jags went through the same process with matt Jones who was a quarterback at Arkansas, before becoming a capable wideout for them. They also added dynamic returner Ace Sanders, who is guy I liked watching at South Carolina. Denfensively, they added plenty of secondary ep and tremendous ball hawker in FIU standout, Johnathan Cyprien. He can cover like a corner on slots, and play a the eighth man in the box. They drafted two corners, another safety to add depth. They are probably nowhere near contending for the AFC South crown, but this draft seems (for the moment) to be a promising start.
Overall Grade: B

Houston Texans 
The Texans finally broke last year and headed into this off season in a unfamiliar role, adding assets not rebuilding. They add DeAndre Hopkins to an already explosive offense. He will line up opposite of perennial All-Pro, Andre Johnson at receiver. Safety DJ Swearinger from South Carolina, is a hard hitter who will eventually replace Ed Reed but look for him to make an impact on all special teams. Texans also add a potential pass rusher with Sam Montgomery from LSU. great player, great athleticism but (along with Mingo) was listed by Les Miles as someone who does not always work hard. Trevardo Williams at linebackers gives them great value for the 124th pick as a linebacker. I also like Quessenberry from San Jose St. At the guard/tackle spot.
Overall Grade: B

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