By SHAWN BRADLEY
Special to The Chris Brockman Website
LOS ANGELES — Moving this year’s NFL Draft to May 8th has proved to be a disaster for pundits and fans alike. The torturous wait is almost over though and the First Round should provide fantastic theatre. This years class could prove to be the greatest of all-time and there’s a good chance we see multiple trades that will create seismic shifts to league landscape. However, predicting such deals is a useless exercise, so for Volume 2 of this Mock Draft we’ll pretend each team is pinned down to it’s original slot. To add a little more drama to this piece, we’re starting at the bottom, and like Drake said, soon well be here. I don’t know exactly where “here” is, but for these soon-to-be NFLers they hope it’s Radio City Music Hall this Thursday.
32.) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS — CODY LATIMER, WR, Indiana
Latimer has been rapidly climbing up draft boards after running a 4.38 forty during an stud pro day performance. Surrounded by sub-par talent at Indiana, Latimer battled through a foot injury to up impressive numbers (72 catches, 1,096 yards, 9 TDs) in 2013. His size (6-foot-2, 215 lbs), speed and strength (he led Combine WRs with 23 reps on the bench press) make him an ideal candidate to replace Golden Tate in Seattle.
31.) DENVER BRONCOS — RYAN SHAZIER, LB, Ohio St.
Following their offseason spending spree, the Broncos most glaring need is at inside linebacker. Shazier ran a blazing 4.38 forty a his pro day despite carrying 237 pounds, while also posting a 42 inch vertical leap, highest of any player at this years Combine. Athletically, Shazier is a rare breed and having him join DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller on the front seven should give Denver a defensive identity to go along with that record-setting offense.
30.) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS — KONY EALY, LB, Missouri
Ealy provides Aldon Smith insurance for a 49ers team that appears to be crumbling under the weight of past success. Physically, Ealy (6-foot-4, 273lbs) is almost identical to Smith (6’4, 265) and the very thought of having these two Missouri products rushing off opposite edges should give offensive coordinators fits. Ealy could also bulk up and move down to end whenever 35-year old Justin Smith decides to hang it up.
29.) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS — DEONE BUCANNON, S, Washington St.
In his on-going arms race with the Broncos, Bill Belichick keeps an eye on January by completing his renovation of New England’s secondary. A four-year starter who led the Pac-12 in tackles this past season, Bucannon flies to the football with abandon – he forced 7 fumbles to go with 15 interceptions during his career at Washington State. Deploying Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Devin McCourty and Bucannon gives Belichick a chance at stifling Peyton Manning Seahawks-style.
28.) CAROLINA PANTHERS — MOSES MORGAN, T, Virginia
Cam Newton’s lack of pass catchers has been well documented this offseason but his lack of pass protection should be an even bigger concern. Long-time left tackle Jordan Gross called it quits after 2013 and Moses (6-foot-6, 314lbs) would become his immediate – and long-term – successor. Ankle surgery currently has Newton in a walking boot so he’d surely enjoy having a long armed (35 3/8″) body guard like Morgan watching his back this season.
27.) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS — KELVIN BENJAMIN, WR, Florida St.
Lance Moore and Darren Sproles are gone, plus Marques Colston will be 31 when the season kicks off – time to find a new target for Drew Brees. Benjamin possesses imposing size at 6-foot-5, 240lbs and came out of nowhere to catch 15 TDs in 14 games for the Seminoles, averaging a score every 3.6 receptions. With Jimmy Graham, Colston and Benjamin all measuring in at 6’4 or taller, Brees should be unstoppable in the red zone.
26.) CLEVELAND BROWNS — JASON VERRETT, CB, TCU
Just like his old boss Rex Ryan, Mike Pettine needs high quality corners for his defense to thrive. Verrett’s speed (4.38) and swagger make his height (5-foot-9) irrelevant and the Browns currently have someone named Buster Skrine atop the depth chart across from All-Pro Joe Haden. When your division rivals have guys like A.J. Green and Antonio Brown the secondary becomes primary – Cleveland can wait 8 more picks to take a quarterback like Zach Mettenberger, Tom Savage or Aaron Murray.
25.) SAN DIEGO CHARGERS — KYLE FULLER, CB, Virginia Tech
After facing Peyton Manning three times last season the Chargers can’t pass on a corner like Fuller. Because of a hernia, Fuller played in just three games in 2013 – and he still picked off two passes and defended 10 others (4th in the ACC). Last year, San Diego GM Tom Telesco picked Keenan Allen, who was coming off a significant injury, so he can only hope Fuller is just as productive off the bat.
24.) CINCINNATI BENGALS — BRADLEY ROBY, CB, Ohio St.
Leon Hall is coming off a torn ACL while Dre Kirkpatrick can only be considered a bust at this point, so Cincinnati could certainly use an upgrade at corner. Even though he was burned repeatedly in 2013, Roby is so physically gifted that he has become one of the Draft’s late risers. Roby recently came close to driving over some kids after ingesting alcohol but since when have the Bengals been scared off by character concerns?
23.) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS — JOEL BITONIO, G, Nevada
For the second straight year, Andy Reid tries to bolster his offensive line by spending a first round pick on a left tackle. However Bitonio, who started 38 games on the blindside at Nevada, will move to right guard to fill a gaping hole for the Chiefs. Bitonio has a nasty streak, often finishing blocks beyond the whistle and he’s become a favorite of offensive line coaches around the league fallowing his Senior Bowl and Combine performances.
22.) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — MARQISE LEE, WR, USC
While at still at Oregon, Chip Kelly sat front row while Lee piled up 20 catches for 344 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2 games against the Ducks. Lee owns or shares an astounding 22 USC records despite the fact that he left school early following a disappointing junior season. It’ll be an interesting story line to watch as Lee endures season long comparisons to DeSean Jackson in Philly.
21.) GREEN BAY PACKERS — CJ MOSLEY, LB, Alabama
After winning the Butkus Award in the middle of Nick Saban’s 3-4 defense, Mosley is a perfect schematic fit for Dom Capers. The Packers allowed almost 27 points per game last season, so a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine like Mosley would be a welcome addition. With Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews attacking off the edge – plus Mosley patrolling the middle, Green Bay could be headed for a defensive resurgence in 2014.
20.) ARIZONA CARDINALS — CALVIN PRYOR, S, Louisville
Amazingly Teddy Bridgewater won’t be the first Louisville Cardinal to be selected in 2014. Pryor plays with violence and is constantly around the ball wreaking havoc. Adding a sledgehammer safety like Pryor to go along with Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie and a healthy Tyrann Mathieu gives Arizona perhaps the NFL’s most talented secondary.
19.) MIAMI DOLPHINS — XAVIER SU’A FILO, T, UCLA
With all the top-tier tackles off the board, Miami fills its hole at right guard with the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Samoan from UCLA. Su’a Filo was a captain and even got voted the Bruin’s offensive MVP in 2013. After becoming the first true freshman in school history to start as a freshman, Su’a Filo spent two years on a Mormon mission and he should bring a level of maturity that the Dolphins offensive line has been missing recently.
18.) NEW YORK JETS — BRANDIN COOKS, WR, Oregon St.
Steadily improving its anemic offense, here the Jets add the speedy Cooks to free agent acquisitions Eric Decker, Michael Vick and Chris Johnson. Cooks put up eye-popping numbers (128 catches, 1,730 yards, 16 TDs) on his way to winning the Biletnikoff award before scorching a 4.33 forty at the Combine. Former Eagles and current Jets OC Marty Mornhingweg, who attended Cooks’ pro day at Oregon State, might be envisioning a DeSean Jackson type role for the diminutive receiver.
17.) BALTIMORE RAVENS — ODELL BECKHAM, JR., WR, LSU
Even with a $100-million quarterback, Baltimore averaged just 6.3 yards per pass attempt – same as the Jaguars. New Ravens receiver Steve Smith should serve as the perfect mentor for Beckham, Jr., who just like Smith, plays much bigger than his size (5-foot-11, 198lbs). Beckham, Jr. is also explosive in the return game, bringing back two punts for touchdowns during his final season in Baton Rouge.
16.) DALLAS COWBOYS — HA HA CLINTON-DIX, CB, Alabama
You get the feeling that Jerrah is jonesing to make a splash with a dramatic deal but nabbing the Draft’s best safety at 16 would be a nice consolation prize. Clinton-Dix is a rangy ball hawk who collected 7 interceptions in his brief Alabama career and he should be a huge upgrade for the worst defense in Cowboy’s history. Dallas currently boasts Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox atop their depth chart at safety; enough said.
15.) PITTSBURGH STEELERS — DARQUEZE DENNARD, CB, Michigan St.
Pittsburgh’s secondary has been decaying for years and Dennard’s physicality makes him a good fit for Dick LeBeau’s defense. The Steelers intercepted just 10 passes last season, a number which should improve if the 2013 Thorpe Award winner ends up wearing Black and Gold. Having to go up against Josh Gordon and A.J. Green four games a year makes this an easy pick for Mike Tomlin.
14.) CHICAGO BEARS — AARON DONALD, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald would join Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen as the Bears rebuild a unit that gave up a league worst 161.4 rushing yards a game. Posting 11 sacks in 2013, Donald displays rare pass rushing ability for an interior lineman and that’s more good news for a Chicago defense that tied for last with just 31 QB takedowns. Being relatively undersized is the only thing keeping the ACC Defensive Player of the Year out of the top 10.
13.) ST. LOUIS RAMS — JUSTIN GILBERT, CB, Oklahoma
The top tier tackles are off the board in this scenario – but the Rams have another glaring weakness in the secondary. Gilbert had seven picks this past season, returning two for touchdowns and he’ll be the #1 corner right away for a defense that gave up an embarrassing 8.1 yards per pass attempt in 2013. Gilbert also has value as a return man, using his 4.37 speed to return six kickoffs for touchdowns during his four years at Oklahoma State.
12.) NEW YORK GIANTS — ZACK MARTIN, G, Notre Dame
Big Blue struggled to block anyone last season allowing Eli Manning to be sacked a career-high 39 times in 2013. A two-time captain who started every game of his Notre Dame career, Martin’s tenacity more than makes up for the fact that he lacks ideal size (6-foot-4, 308lbs) and length. Versatile enough to play anywhere along the line, Martin will help a Giants team that has serious concerns at both left tackle and right guard.
11.) TENNESSEE TITANS — ANTHONY BARR, LB, UCLA
Ken Whisenhunt will wait until round 2 for a quarterback and take a chance on Barr, who appears to be a classic boom-or-bust pick. Barr played only 2 seasons at linebacker after converting from running back, but in those two years he accumulated 23.5 sacks. At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Barr looks like an ideal fit for the attacking 3-4 defense new defensive coordinator Ray Horton brings to Tennessee.
— Check back soon for picks 10 through 1
LOS ANGELES — At age 20, I went to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the first time. It was March of 2001, and being in charge of the college basketball show at Syracuse University’s student television station had its perks. Such, I made the executive decision to cover the Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament, for which our Orangemen were a 3-seed. To say I was out of my element was an understatement, as this was the first event of this magnitude I had covered.
Rich Kiss, UUTV’s sports director, came with me, and he and I had three of the most fun days I can remember as a college student. That our Orangemen (we were still the Orangemen back then) won two games, and narrowly missed reaching the league championship by a single point in the third, was only icing on the cake of the experience. We took the train over from New Jersey into the World Trade Center, walked over to 34th and 8th with our camera equipment, picked up our credentials and felt like we belonged. I remember we grabbed every media guide and quote packet we could get our hands on in the press area, ate from the $5 donation buffet (Boston Globe hoops historian Bob Ryan took the last piece of cheesecake) and when some real reporter asked us if we were using the phone on our table we bewilderingly said no, as if who were we to even have phones. But we were somebodies covering the event; the names on our passes told us so.
We walked among the stars of this Broadway show even if we were barely understudies. I got a little journo-hero struck when we saw Bill Rhoden of the New York Times, and Dick Weiss of the Daily News, two basketball writing legends, but for the duration of this tournament we were all colleagues and it felt as such. In the locker room interviewing players, in the press room talking to coaches, high above the MSG floor in the media section as I called all of my friends from the working telephones; we we there. After one of the games, we even did our standups on the court. Like pros. At The Garden. Basketball Mecca.
The next year, our Orangemen weren’t very good but Rich and I returned; we lost the first game to Villanova and the three things I remember most are: a) that we basically called it on the train ride over, since like I said, we weren’t very good; b) saying if we somehow lost tonight we were going to head to Atlantic City the next day (we did); and c) The Scene. The Scene was unlike anything I’ve been around, not like the high school, college or pro games I attended growing up. There was a buzz as soon as you walked through The Garden doors or made your way up the steps from the subway. It made the hair on your arms stand up. The clapping and chanting. The team regalia. School cheerleaders lining the entrance. Vendors screaming out deals for programs, t-shirts and refreshments. Everyone talking hoops at every turn. Even the back pages of the Daily News and New York Post were smathered with Big East Tournament headlines.
And the basketball. Oh the basketball. Other conferences have high-flyers, run-and-gun offenses and the visual eye candy to attract those with less-than keen eyes for superior hardwood mastery. And that’s what the Big East was, the best hoops the nation had to offer, and it was on display night-in and night-out across the northeast. From Providence to South Orange, out to Syracuse, back to Storrs and everywhere in between; college basketball at its absolute pinnacle. Marquee coaches, superstar players and the most rabid fans. Those qualities and more were on full display in the latest 30-for-30: Requiem For The Big East, which documented the league’s creation in 1979 and ultimate demise in 2013.
It was a fantastic two hours of television that featured commentary about the Big East’s rise and fall from legendary coaches Jim Boeheim, John Thompson and Lou Carnesecca, writers who covered the league Michael Wilbon and Charlie Pierce, former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, and players Ed Pinckney (Villanova), Chris Mullin (St. John’s), and Patrick Ewing (Georgetown), among others.
The documentary touched on the seminal moments of the conference, from Georgetown ending Syracuse’s 57-game home winning streak to close out Manley Field House, to the recruitment of Ewing, who hailed from Jamaica through Boston, New York City’s Mullin and Pearl Washington, the league’s toughness, Big Monday, and everything Dave Gavitt went through to get the league off the ground and to the heights it reached by teaming up with ESPN for broadcast rights. It was a fantastic trip down memory lane.
One of the elements I found the most interesting was one of Gavitt’s initial reasons for wanting to create the Big East was to keep the best players from the northeast – including New York City – in the area. Gavitt watched Big Apple schoolboy legend Lew Alcindor leave the east coast for UCLA in the 1960s and knew something had to be done. And it worked, as the league’s top eastern players stayed at home and played in the new power conference. Always fighting for national respect, the Big East received validation when Georgetown reached the 1982 NCAA Championship, and then just three years later placed three teams in the Final Four.
Other thoughts: I loved hearing Pinckney and Mullin talk about playing pickup hoops at parks across New York City, starting in Harlem and working their way down. That’s the thing about city ball, if you can play, the color of your skin doesn’t matter, and Mullin was one of the best around. … I never knew Boeheim got his Bob Knight on with a heated chair throw in the press conference after the 1984 Big East title game. … Thompson told Ewing to block every shot in the 1985 title game, which resulted in five goaltending calls off the bat. Also, Ewing still hasn’t gotten over losing the game to Villanova, saying, “in my heart the best team did not win that night.” … Pierce saying capitalism ruined the Big East, while Wilbon blames “dumb and greedy presidents.” … The doc was voiced by “Breaking Bad” villain Giancarlo Esposito, aka Gus Fring.
I first wrote my world famous “Tips For Enjoying March Madness” column for the Journal Tribune way back in 2006 – the 2009 version won me a Maine Press Association award. A lot has happened since then and most of it hasn’t been great for my bracket in 2014. Speaking of, how’s yours looking? Did you call North Dakota St. or Stephen F. Austin? What about Dayton? Mercer is in Macon, Georgia if you still haven’t figured that out yet. These first 48 games were some of the best basketball of the year, with perhaps the most exciting game of the first two rounds being #8 Kentucky/#1 Wichita St., which made the worst #11 Dayton’s upset win over #3 Syracuse.
Seriously, the last month of basketball being played in the 315 has been downright atrocious. (rant alert) Forget that we lost to a six-win Boston College team AT HOME, but also to Georgia Tech and N.C. State to end the season, losses happen, I’ve played sports my entire life, even when you’re better than your opponent you’re not always going to win. It just happens. Fine. But your effort in those losses is something you CAN control. Your shot selection. Your aggressiveness. Your rebounding. All within the realm of things you can have a direct outcome of. And where has it been the last month? Very good question. Bottom line, Syracuse didn’t deserve a 3-seed in this year’s tournament and it didn’t deserve to reach the Sweet 16. Obviously, I’m not over the loss yet and probably won’t be until Opening Day at Fenway next month. When you start the season 25-0 you expect a more satisfying ending than losing to Dayton two hours from your campus. What a frustrating end to what should have been a joyous season. And that’s the other thing, I didn’t have that much fun watching this team play. Every possession was a struggle. Every shot was spent praying it went in. Nothing was automatic. When we got a big lead, we quickly surrendered it. We played down to the level of our competition. We scored 47 points! To Dayton! For the game! Oregon nearly had that at the half against BYU. Did the season turn when Boeheim got tossed late in the game against Duke? Is someone really going to make that moment when it all went to crap? Did I just do it? I just hope Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant come back next year. Neither are ready for the pros and I think this tournament confirmed that.
[exhale] On to next year.
Here’s what else caught my eye after the most amazing four days of college basketball I can remember (it was a 48-game blur, so forgive specifics):
– These kids are terrible shooters; most but not all of them. Doug McDermott had a great first game against Lousianna-Lafayette going 12-for-23 and 30 points, but then not so much against Baylor (15 points). Meanwhile, Wichita St.’s Cleanthony Early couldn’t miss Sunday against Kentucky, going 12-for-17 and 31 points. It’s too bad both couldn’t make it out of the first weekend.
– Hard to tell which team is playing the best right now. After the first round I would’ve said Wichita St. and Syracuse, and then both lost in Round 2. Now, I might say Kentucky, Baylor, Arizona, Florida, Virginia and UConn are leading the field, so who knows what their fates hold in the Sweet 16.
– Player I want taking the game-winning shot on the final possession: UConn’s Shabazz Napier; dude is fearless.
– Got to explain what a backdoor lob was this weekend, which was pretty hilarious in between the 13-year old giggles. I even used two glasses of water and a dipping container of ketchup to visually illustrate. Coach Norman Dale would’ve been proud.
– Baylor’s hunting uniforms need to join the NBA’s sleeve jerseys and take a long walk off a short pier. Not a good look for anyone.
– I participate in an NCAA Tournament individual scoring fantasy league each year and I felt really good about my squad after the draft, especially after I missed out on the championship last year by a measly 7 points (thanks a lot, Georgetown). However, after the opening weekend I’m down to only four players remaining and I have about a good a shot at a title as Dayton, which is a long one. Seriously, I can’t believe Oklahoma AND Creighton both went down. Those two losses cost me at least another 75 points. Just so long as I don’t come in last.
– Speaking of, did any of these potential top NBA Draft picks (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, etc.) have good games or do anything noteworthy? And who is this year’s Harold Arceneaux? He’s yet to reveal himself.
– Anyone else really sick of that Buffalo Wild Wings old man in the hat? We get it, the game is on, we’re probably already in our seats. Stop yelling at us.
– My original Final Four was Florida, Virginia, Creighton and Louisville. Revamped Final Four: Florida, Virginia, Baylor and Louisville. Sticking with my Louisville championship pick as well, although that may change at halftime of Friday’s Kentucky game; stay tuned and happy madness!
(from the editor: The NFL Draft is a big deal. Perhaps you’ve heard. So for the first time, we here at The Chris Brockman Website will be publishing a 1st Round Mock Draft leading up to May 8th’s start to the 2014 NFL Draft. We expect this list to change more than Joan Rivers’ face in the coming months and maybe inspire healthy debate. Enjoy.)
By Shawn Bradley
Special to The Chris Brockman Website
LOS ANGELES — We’ve finally made it through our first football-free week since August – but the ache is deep. Trying to substitute college basketball for the NFL on Sunday felt weaker than Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club” or a white guy dunk attempt. Luckily, we can all start looking forward to the NFL Scouting Combine later this month in Indianapolis. So before Mike Mayock starts drooling over who has “non-stop motors” and “freakish athletic ability,” lets take a look at our first Mock Draft of the NFL Non-Playing Season – which we’ll certainly be saving for ridicule in the early, drunken hours of May 9th.
1.) Houston Texans — Jadeveon Clowney, Jr., DE, South Carolina
Despite all of his on- and off-the-field BS, Clowney’s appetite for destruction makes him the safest pick in this draft. Teaming him with J.J. Watt should be terrifying for years to come and first-year head coach Bill O’Brien knows the fastest way to end his Houston honeymoon is to whiff on a quarterback here only to then watch Clowney wreck the league in a different jersey.
2.) St. Louis Rams — Jake Matthews, Sr., T, Texas A&M
Knowing he has to face two of the NFL’s nastiest defenses four times a year, Jeff Fisher chooses to protect Sam Bradford instead of replacing him. After Jake Long tore up both his MCL and ACL in Week 16, the Rams are in need of an immediate starter at tackle. General Manager Les Snead will most likely trade down with a QB-hungry team and still land Matthews later in the top 10.
3.) Jacksonville Jaguars — Blake Bortles, Jr., QB, Central Florida
After not giving hometown hero Tim Tebow a shot to resurrect his career, the Jaguars take a different beefcake signal caller from their own backyard. Bortles showed some of that Ben Roethlisberger game during the Fiesta Bowl and should only become more attractive during the pre-Draft process, especially if he brings this along with him.
4.) Cleveland Browns — Johnny Manziel, So., QB, Texas A&M
In what will be the ultimate test of his legend, Johnny must extinguish the dumpster fire that is the Browns. Mike Pettine, coaching for a job he just got, must pray that new Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan can help Johnny produce an RGIII-style Rookie of the Year campaign. Having All-Pro receiver Josh Gordon and Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron around should give Johnny a chance at becoming a Cleveland icon, just like his mentor was.
5.) Oakland Raiders — Teddy Bridgewater, Jr., QB, Louisville
Poor Teddy falls face first into the Black Hole where 1st Round picks get lost faster than inner city virginities. Bridgewater appears to have everything except ideal height but he won’t have any time to develop in Oakland and the Raiders should be picking in the top 5 again next year with a new coach and a new GM.
6.) Atlanta Falcons — Anthony Barr, Sr., LB, UCLA
Injuries ravaged the Falcons in 2013 but their defense would have likely been quite poor anyway. Barr repeatedly shows the type of edge-rushing ability in the tape below that makes you think he could have double-digit sacks in his rookie NFL year. After converting from running back, Barr racked up 23 sacks in just 2 defensive seasons with the Bruins.
7.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Sammy Watkins, Jr., WR, Clemson
New Bucs head coach Lovie Smith is fortunate if the most explosive receiver on the board falls to him at No. 6. Watkins solidified his top 10 status with a record-setting Orange Bowl and his versatility should help Tampa Bay’s offense instantly. If Smith has him return kicks, Watkins could have a Cordarrelle Patterson-type of impact in his rookie year.
8.) Minnesota Vikings — Derek Carr, Sr., QB, Fresno St.
Guessing Adrian Peterson stops whatever he’s doing on the night of May 8th so he can call his agent and demand a trade. Mike Zimmer would be trusting Norv Turner and a Fresno State product with the franchise’s immediate future. I’d would rather trust Woody Allen to … hold that thought… My guess is the Vikings have a new coach and quarterback by the time they open up that new stadium in two years.
9.) Buffalo Bills — Mike Evans, So., WR, Texas A&M
The Bills aren’t completely desperate at receiver but they can’t pass up a true No. 1 wideout to pair with E.J. Manuel. Evans was a consistently dominant for two straight seasons at Texas A&M and he put on a show for NFL scouts when he torched Alabama for 279 yards in Week 3. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Evans is a physical specimen who knows how to use his size downfield.
10.) Detroit Lions — Darqueze Dennard, Sr., CB, Michigan St.
When Rashean Mathis is at the top of your depth chart, it’s time to upgrade the position. The Lions stay local here and take the Spartans’ Dennard, the consensus top corner in the draft. The 2013 Jim Thorpe Award winner appears to have shut down ability on tape but his 40 time will likely help decide if he goes this high on draft night.
11.) Tennessee Titans — C.J. Mosley, Sr., LB, Alabama
With all the quarterback’s off the board, Ken Whisenhunt safely selects the best defensive player available. Mosley’s sideline-to-sideline speed has some scouts throwing around Luke Kuechly comparisons, which is high praise. Expect new defensive coordinator Ray Horton to push for this pick as the Titans will be switching to a 3-4, which Mosley has been playing in for years.
12.) New York Giants — Taylor Lewan, Sr., T, Michigan
Lack of protection, and Hakeem Nicks’ overall disinterest, are the two best explanations for Eli Manning’s horrifying 2013 season. The Giants address one of those issues by using their 1st Round pick on a tackle for the second straight year. Lewan, a four-year starter at Michigan, was projected to go top 5 just over a year ago before he opted to return for his senior season.
13.) St. Louis Rams — Justin Gilbert, Sr., CB, Oklahoma St.
After a rough season, and due to earn $9 million in 2014, Cortland Finnegan’s future in St. Louis is in doubt. The Rams gave up a league worst 8.1 yards per pass attempt in 2013, so improving their secondary is a must. Gilbert showed strong man coverage ability in the pass happy Big 12 and he might end up being the Rams top corner by opening day.
14.) Chicago Bears — Timmy Jernigan, Jr., DT, Florida St.
With most of Chicago’s defensive line ready to hit free agency, this pick makes too much sense for GM Phil Emery. Plus, when you’re in a division with Adrain Peterson, Eddie Lacy and Reggie Bush, you need to figure out how to stop getting run over. The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Jernigan made his presence felt in the BCS Championship and he should be a good fit for the Bears defensive scheme.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers — Greg Robinson, So., T, Auburn
The Steelers have some glaring defensive needs but here they can turn a perpetual weakness into a strength. Robinson could easily be gone by now but putting him with a healthy Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro would give Pittsburgh a formidable offensive line for years to come. Robinson was outstanding during Auburn’s miraculous 2013 run and he should instantly be able to step in and protect Big Ben’s bathroom breaks.
16.) Dallas Cowboys — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, So., DB, Alabama
Jerrah Jones is out to fix the worst daggum defense in Cowboys history, and since the 32nd ranked unit was such a joke last season, it’s fitting that they pick a kid named Ha Ha. Clinton-Dix is a rangy center fielder and the best of a bad safety crop. The Alabama prospect is overvalued here by a desperate team and I smell another bust in the secondary for Dallas.
17.) Baltimore Ravens — Marqise Lee, Jr., WR, Southern Cal
Following his monstrous sophomore season in 2012, no one thought Lee would be here for the Ravens. Injuries and overall program dysfunction led to a steep drop in production but Lee looked liked himself in the Sun Bowl catching a pair of touchdowns. Also, let’s not forget about the time he put up 345 yards on 16 catches against Arizona.
18.) New York Jets — Eric Ebron, Jr., TE, North Carolina
Absolutely vomit-inducing on offense for long stretches last season, look for the Jets to pick up a new option for Geno Smith. GM John Idzik will likely add receivers through both free agency and the Draft but in this spot he should select a three-down tight end who appears to be a major matchup problem – check out the one-handed catch in the video below.
19.) Miami Dolphins — Zack Martin, Sr., T, Notre Dame
Considering who he replaced, new general manager Dennis Hickey is probably looking for high character guys. With a pair of starters involved in the scandal of the 2013 season and another starter involved in the scandal of the 2013 offseason, it’s a fair assumption that Miami will look for O-line help. With the Buccaneers, Hickey scouted the Midwest for over a decade and he should fall in love with this mauler from Notre Dame.
20.) Arizona Cardinals — Cyrus Kouandjio, Jr., T, Alabama
After spending a Top 10 pick on a guard who never played last season, the Cardinals still proved to be a playoff caliber team in 2013. Kouandijo is just 20-years old and those who have scouted Alabama say he’s already better than Chargers standout D.J. Fluker (11th overall in 2013). This native of Cameroon would be plug-and-play at left tackle for an Arizona team hoping to take the next step in the NFL’s best division.
21.) Green Bay Packers — Trent Murphy, Sr., LB, Stanford
The Packers lack of depth at linebacker was painfully apparent after Clay Matthews and Nick Perry went down. Murphy is an absolute warrior goon who stands 6-foot-6 and recorded 10 sacks last season in Palo Alto. Murphy had a subpar Senior Bowl week because the Falcons staff had him playing end but he should be a perfect fit in Green Bay as an outside rush linebacker.
22.) Philadelphia Eagles — Khalil Mack, Sr., LB, Buffalo
Most Mock Drafts have Mack going in the top 10 and while he did have a record-setting career, it happened at Buffalo. Mack’s Scouting Combine performance will go a long way towards determining where he ends up, but the Eagles would be a good match. Chip Kelly’s defense needs a major pass rushing upgrade after finishing 20th in sacks and last in the league in passing yards allowed in 2013. Plus, this is likely Trent Cole’s last season in Philly.
23.) Kansas City Chiefs — Kelvin Benjamin, So., WR, Florida St.
The Chiefs gave Dwayne Bowe 5 years and $56 million only to see his numbers drop while he got high. By drafting Benjamin, an absolute pterodactyl at 6-foot-5, Andy Reid would be giving Alex Smith a pair of big-bodied receivers while also hopefully freeing up Bowe to find his 2011 form. Benjamin caught 15 touchdowns in 14 games this season including the game-winner in the BCS Championship game and should be an immediate red zone threat.
24.) Cincinnati Bengals — Kony Ealy, Jr., DE, Missouri
I can’t see penny-pinching Mike Brown keeping free agent Michael Johnson, so the Bengals will be thrilled if Ealy is still available. At 6-foot-5 275 pounds, Ealy is lightning quick off the snap and has shown a variety of pass rushing moves even though he played just two seasons for the Tigers. After totaling 9.5 sacks in 2013, Ealy appears primed to fallow former Missouri standouts Aldon Smith and Sheldon Richardson into NFL stardom.
25.) San Diego Chargers — Jace Amaro, Jr., TE, Texas Tech
Yes, the Chargers have Ledarious Green and Antonio Gates, but Amaro is too good to pass on. He often ilned up in the slot for Texas Tech and was a YAC machine last year while setting the single season FBS record for receiving yards by a tight end. Having the 6-foot-5 Amaro running down the seam with Keenan Allen on the outside should make it easy for Philip Rivers to build off his career year in 2013.
26.) Cleveland Browns — David Yankey, Sr., G, Stanford
The Browns have their new franchise quarterback, now protecting JFF becomes the next order of business. Yankey is a versatile lineman who can play tackle but his best position is guard. That’s good news for Cleveland, which suffered through atrocious guard play in 2013. Coming from Stanford, a program that has become synonymous with physical play in recent years, Yankey is a road grater who should be a 10-year NFL starter.
27.) New Orleans Saints — Kyle Van Noy, Sr., LB, BYU
With Victor Butler coming off ACL surgery, the Saints would love to have another option to rush the passer. Van Noy had an explosive year playing alongside Ziggy Ansah in 2012, notching 13 sacks and 22 tackles for loss. In 2013, he was exposed to constant double teams but still managed 17 TFL. Van Noy would certainly be a perfect fit at outside linebacker in Rob Ryan’s improving defense.
28.) Carolina Panthers — Davante Adams, So., WR, Fresno St.
The Panthers receiving corps isn’t scaring anyone and Cam Newton’s lack of options of blatantly obvious during the Divisional Round loss to San Francisco. Enter Adams, who displays Dez Bryant-ish physicality at times, albeit against inferior competition. But no matter who he was playing against, the dude still caught an eye-popping 24 touchdowns last season.
29.) New England Patriots — Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jr., TE, Washington
Would The Hoodie dare roll the dice again on a talented tight end who’s draped in red flags? I’m guessing Bill Belichick says “eff it, Tommy needs a new toy.” Seferian-Jenkins is a twoering 6-foot-7, 270-pound seam-splitting nightmare and when he wasn’t drunkenly smashing into trees on U-Dubb’s campus, he was breaking every major Huskies tight end receiving record.
30.) San Francisco 49ers — Stephon Tuitt, Jr., DE, Notre Dame
Slowed by preseason sports hernia surgery, Tuitt struggled to replicate his stellar 12-sack sophomore season in 2013. When healthy though, he is shockingly agile for being a 6-foot-7, 322-pound beast and he’ll surely benefit learning from Justin Smith, one of football’s premiere 3-4 defensive ends. Expect this hulking human mover to light up the Scouting Combine and cement himself as a 1st Round-worthy prospect.
31.) Denver Broncos — Jason Verrett, Sr., CB, TCU
Even if the Broncos bring back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, corner is still a sore spot for the AFC champs. The Super Bowl bummer will certainly force Denver to toughen up on D, and Verrett is exactly the kind of physical corner that would fit with the Seahawks secondary. Over the last two seasons, no FBS player had more passes defended than Verrett, who had almost as many breakups as Taylor Swift.
32.) Seattle Seahawks — Jordan Matthews, Sr., WR, Vanderbilt
Matthews is the perfect Seahawks receiver: underrated with a chip on his shoulder. Despite putting up record numbers in the NFL’s AAA affiliate, Matthews is garnering little 1st Round buzz. At 6-foot-3, he possesses desired size but his speed is being called into question. Still, anyone who averages 19 ypc in the SEC must be able to get down field quick enough.
LOS ANGELES — Back in my sports writing days, my favorite column to write each year was my “Guide to March Madness.” In it, I always gave my Maine readers tips for optimally enjoying their NCAA Tournament experience, whether it was ideas for party food or face painting, and I even threw in some sleeper choices for their brackets. It’s been four long years since I’ve put this piece from my brain to computer screen, and guess what?
That’s right, without further delaying you reading my genius, here’s the 2013 edition of “Your Guide to March Madness.”
1.) Get your viewing situation in order — Obviously, this is the most important element to March Madness. You need to figure out how you’re going to watch the games. There are 67 of them over the course of 3-plus weeks. That’s a lot (though a slow month for @Farbaro picking up chicks on Match.com), so you have to make sure you’re setup is ideal. If you’re going multiple TVs, I recommend a 3-box, that way you can have the best game of the session going in the middle and then your sub games on the side. You can also fire up a laptop, as all the games will once again be streaming online live at MarchMadness.com. Also, you’ll want to make sure you know where to quickly find TruTV, TBS and TNT on your cable provider (if you can’t find CBS, then you’re pretty much beyond help at this point). I don’t know about you, but I literally only watch TruTV during these couple weeks, and couldn’t even find it on DirecTV if you paid me right now. I’ll be following my own advice on this one. If you’re going to a bar, make sure you get there early, as it’ll probably be packed with morons who clearly don’t know as much about college hoops as you do. Speaking of…
2.) Don’t be the obnoxious guy at the bar — We all want our teams to win, that’s a given, but there’s a fine line between rooting and being that freakin’ annoying-ass poser we all hoped would get eaten by Bigfoot on the school camping trip. If you’re going to physically be at the game, it’s OK to paint your face, but not at the bar. I don’t need your Jayhawk blueface dripping into my buffalo wings. Leave the pom-poms at home, too, before you knock over my milkshake. If you have to bring items with you, then you didn’t need them in the first place. Your cheers and loud claps are enough. It is appropriate to wear a shirt or jersey, team hat or headband and even break out some appropriate knee socks but don’t get carried away. There’s no need for themed sunglasses (hello, you’re indoors), foam fingers (how are you supposed to eat loaded nachos with one hand?) or signs. And when your best player knocks down a big 3 in the first half, go easy on the chanting. No one cares that you remember your fight song. In fact, unless you’re at an official sponsored event your college is throwing, no singing or chanting whatsoever is appropriate.
3.) Only fill out one bracket — This is a change from my previous years columns, where I used to tell everyone to fill out as many as you could get your hands on, and make sure you had your highliters and abacuses and charts handy to know how you’re doing. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that one bracket is the way to go, no matter how many different “office pools” you’re in. With one bracket you don’t have to worry about rooting for Butler AND Bucknell to win. You’ll be happy when you take Ole Miss to upset Wisconsin and they do just that when Marshall Henderson goes nuts from beyond the arc. It just simplifies your life, which is really what enjoying March Madness is all about. The less time you have to spend worrying about who’ve selected to survive and advance, the more time you can focus on devouring one more slice of pizza. Ya know, the important stuff.
4.) Stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep — March Madness is a marathon, not a sprint, that’s important to remember when you’re stuffing your face with quesadillas and $3 pints at happy hour on Thursday and Friday. There’s 32 games played on those first two days and you want to make sure you’re well rested and properly hydrated so you can enjoy each one to his maximum. You don’t want to pass out or cramp up before the late games either day. And with another 16 games over the weekend, that’s a lot of basketball and too many opportunities for failure. Fortune favors the prepared. For every couple of beers, make sure you pound a water. During that lull between morning and evening sessions, grab a power nap. Don’t let Mother Nature be the reason you missed another Valparaiso miracle or UCLA coast-to-coast buzzer beater. You’d have only yourself to blame if Bucknell is again Cinderella and you were face down in tears like Adam Morrison.
OTHER MARCH MADNESS THOUGHTS
Stone Cold Locks: By now, you’ve spent Monday and probably the better part of Tuesday ignoring a 83% of your workload and trying to find as much “inside” information as you can on who to take. As most of you know, you can’t win your bracket in the First Round but you can definitely lose it. One thing you don’t wanna do is have a Final Four team fall on the first day (thanks a lot, 2011 West Virginia) or any of your Sweet 16ers. But you can be safe riding these teams: (EAST) Indiana, Marquette, Miami; the top three seeds have easy roads to the Elite 8 in this region. (SOUTH) Georgetown, Florida, VCU should all advance to the Sweet 16. (MIDWEST) Louisville, Michigan St., Saint Louis appear to have the best road in by far the toughest bracket. Be careful of Duke. It has the talent to win the whole thing or lose in the first round to Albany. (WEST) New Mexico and Ohio St. are the only two locks in this region. It’s a shame they’ll meet as early as they will in the Sweet 16.
Sleepers: A lot of little guys got into this year’s tournament, which hopefully will pave the way for a slew of upsets and busted brackets (not mine, of course). In order to ensure yours stays in tact you’ll want to take a hard look at these possible darkhorses: Oregon (12) and Cincinnati (10) in the Midwest, Minnesota (11) in the South, Bucknell (11) and Cal (12) in the East, and Ole Miss (12) in the West. I also like just one 9-seed and one 10-seed to win, it’s up to you to figure out who. And lastly, I know every year it seems like a 13 beats a 4, so I’ll give you one of those too; take South Dakota St. over Michigan (come on, you don’t think I’d actually tell you to take Montana over Syracuse, do you?).
Final Four Picks: When it’s all said and done, here’s who I like to meet in Atlanta on April 6: Louisville (1) vs. New Mexico (3), and Georgetown (2) vs. Miami (2).
Players who could be this year’s Harold Arceneaux: For those too young to remember the Weber State great, let me learn ya’. Arceneaux and the Wildcats won the Big Sky Conference in 1999 and faced third-seeded North Carolina in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. All that happened over the course of the next 40 minutes was the hotshot guard’s coming-out party. Weber State upset the Tar Heels, 76-74, as Arceneaux scored a game-high 36 points, 20 in the second half, including the game-winning steal in the closing moments. The image of the Wildcat players lifting their coach became part of CBS’s coverage year after year and Arceneaux vaulted into national spotlight. In the Second Round, Arceneaux scored 32 points as Weber State pushed Florida to overtime, but fell 82-74. He returned for his senior season in 1999-2000 and finished 5th in the nation in scoring, averaging 27.0 ppg in league play, but the Wildcats finished 18-10 and did not qualify for the tournament.
So, who could have a meteoric tournament and find themselves an overnight sensation? Well, I mentioned Henderson earlier, who is a prime candidate given his huge SEC Tournament. But don’t sleep on Valparaiso’s Ryan Broekhoff, San Diego St.’s Nate Wolters, Cal’s Allen Crabbe, Iowa St.’s Tyrus McGee, Belmont’s Ian Clark and Montana’s Kareem Jamar.
STREAKY SYRACUSE IN SAN JOSE, CALIF.
As I watched Selection Sunday and Greg Gumble rattle off each region, it became clear there was a solid chance Syracuse would be playing out west here in San Jose, which is only a 5-hour drive from Los Angeles. Quickly, I began thinking logistically and calculating financially what it would take to get me up there to watch our First Round matchup against Montana and it wasn’t as crazy as you’d think. While my decision to hope in the Joffrey and make the trip will be a game-time one, I don’t think it’s one I’d regret. One thing making this a simple no-brainer is the fact that in the last month the Orange has played some of the most inconsistent basketball I can remember as a fan. I tweeted out this was the most inconsistent team I could recall and was notified of the disaster Donte Greene year of 2007-’08 in which Syracuse went 21-14 and missed the NCAA Tournament. I did indeed black that year out.
To close this season, the Orange lost four of its last five games and I was telling anyone who would listen it was destined for an opening-round loss in this year’s Big Dance. Then Madison Square Garden happened and a run to the Big East Championship game that reminded the country why we rose to No. 1 for a week this season. The talent is there. The ability to put it all together for a string of games is there. Shots were consistently falling, defense was being played and we even made free throws. Then, of course, the second half of the Louisville game took place and I went back into panic mode, but that’s besides the point. Could Syracuse win it all? I’m going to go that far. A return trip to the Elite 8 would be be a very successful conclusion to this roller coaster season. And it all starts with Montana on Thursday.
Enjoy the Madness, everyone.