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
(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 — The annual abnormally giant human fashion and accessory show we call the NFL Draft gets underway tonight at Radio. City. Music. Hall. Where the flyest 21 and 22-year olds have their names called and then they awkwardly hug the Commissioner for an uncomfortably long period of time. Seems like we were just here, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s that time of year again where NFL teams load up on potential and What-Could-Be, and kids become instant millionaires before a single ball is snapped on Sunday. Who will be the Next Big Thing? Who will be the Next Big Bust? All speculative, all conjecture, all fun. That’s what the NFL Draft is and will be from here until the end of time. Let’s get started.
As always, I’m tuning into NFL Network for my coverage; not because I’m a company man but because it’s the best. Enjoy.
4:01pmPST – The draft is now an hour away and already a couple Radio. City. Music. Hall. calls from my man Rich Eisen (he’s joined by Marshall Faulk, Steve Mariucci, Michael Irvin and, of course, draft guru Mike Mayock). Gonna try and drop a few thoughts here before the real coverage begins at 8pmET… And look at this, show starts with old footage of the guys on the set in college. Marshall’s is of him getting drafted. So tiny and nice flat top with Paul Tagliabue
4:02 – WOW. Look at that mustache on Mooch. “National Champion Northern Michigan!” Mooch is a proud Yuper, indeed.
4:03 – Man, Irvin is so hood. That soundbite from his draft day was incredible. Referred to himself as “The Playmaker” even way back then. Guaranteed he could still catch 50 balls for 700 yards and a couple scores even today.
4:04 – MAYOCK JUST INTERCEPTED DAN MARINO. Didn’t see that in the “30 for 30.” “Did you hold that up?!” Marshall yells at him. Incredible. And love that Mayock finally ditched the Philly gangster pinstripe suit. Still 3-piece though. Always OG.
4:06 – Hot damn, now THAT’s a gangster suit from Alabama running back Eddie Lacy. Early front runner for best dressed.
4:08 – Geno Smith tells Melissa Stark and Deion on the Red Carpet that today his his mom’s birthday. That’s pretty awesome. Can’t beat getting drafted as a birthday gift.
4:18 – Feature on Pat Summerall and John Madden gave me instant goosebumps. Incredible piece. Sumerall was so smooth and told you so much by being so brief. Best of all time.
4:30 – A Django reference from Eisen talking about John Idzik, the Jets GM. Wonder if it’ll be the last? probably… what the hell is a “War Daddy?” We need a Mayock dictionary.
4:44 – Assignments that don’t suck: Hawaii. Alex Flanagan is the big winner of the Draft reporters tonight.
4:47 – Manti Te’o says he’s not angry. I’d be pretty pissed if I was him, though what ya gonna do. Everyone will forget about this soon enough. All that matters in the NFL is how he performs on the field. That’s it. If he can play, all this crapola about Catfishing and whatnot will go away.
4:59 – Shot of Geno Smith sitting at his Green Room Table and he’s rocking some Nike Flight lines in the side of his head. Very sick.
5:03 – HERE WE GO!! Mayock says Eric Fisher, followed by Luke Joeckel are the first two picks and then the intrigue begins with the Raiders at #3. Mayock loving Lane Johnson. Thinks someone will move up.
5:04 – Roger Goodell hits the stage to welcome the crowd to a chorus of boos. New York Fans are seriously the best… classy move remembering the people of West Texas and Boston as crowd chants U-S-A! Love America. Land of the free, home of the brave.
5:06 – Someone resembling Joe Namath just did some awkward chanting to put the New York Superbowl on the clock. I can’t tell if he’s your kooky drunk uncle or just plain kooky. His hair is so bizarre, too. It’s a terrible rug, that’s for sure. And just under 283 days and counting until Super Bowl LXVII… and Goodell puts the Chiefs on the clock.. and look at that Hawaiian shirt on Andy Reid. Thanks for dressing up, Andy.
5:09 – Whoa, Eric Fisher’s mom. What’s up.
5:11 – I know these two oafs are going 1-2, but I really wish Al Davis was still alive so the Raiders could screw everybody’s board and take West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin at #3. Now that would really be something.
5:16 – Here comes the Commish to more boos … “with the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select Eric Fisher, tackle, Central Michigan” … Alex Smith sleeps a little easier tonight.
5:17 – Jacksonville is on the clock. What are they waiting for? Immediately take Luke Joeckel. Come on! Blaine Gabbert is your franchise QB!!
5:20 – “I’m so proud of myself” … big ups to you Eric Fisher for giving yourself props. Somewhere Freddie Mitchell is nodding in agreement.
5:24 – Goodell out with the Jags pick … Joeckel is it, on his iPhone5 as he shakes hands and hugs his peeps in the Green Room. How do we feel about their new uniforms? Helmets are kinda cool with the half matte, half gold… classy 3 piece gray suit for Luke .. and good to see we’re still hugging the Commish like crazy. This is by far the weirdest facet of Draft day to me.
5:24 – Hip snap! Mayock needs that pop-up video treatment explaining all his lingo.
5:28 – Rich explains this is the first Raiders First Round pick since 2010 when they took Rolando McClain and his flock of pistols. They have to trade down, right?
5:29 – Darren McFadden is the only Raiders First Round pick still on the team since 2003. Being a Raiders fan must literally be the worst.
5:31 – “We need a word better than rebuilding,” Irvin says about the Raiders… OK, clock has stopped, which means we have a TRADE!!! Yes!!!! It’s about to get hairy up in herrrre.
5:33 – Dolphins move up. WOW. Miami going for broke this offseason to compete in the AFC East … and here comes Roger with the call …
5:34 – DION JORDAN!!! and we have a round of “whooooaaaaaasss!!!” from the guys on set. Unbelievable. Turning to my resident Ducks fan Chelsea for some reaction: “HOLY SHIT!!!! and it’ll be really easy to get tix to see him play.”
5:35 – “This is all about going to get some pressure on Tom Brady” – says Marshall. He’s absolutely 100% right. Miami has to compete and to do that they have to stop the Patriots. Well here’s one way to do it. What a move. Love it. Love when crazy takes over the Draft.
5:36 – Amazing bow tie on Jordan and not for nothing, he’s a freakin’ giant…. “He’s breathtaking off the edge.” Mayock is swooning.
5:39 – If you’re scoring at home, and I know you are, that’s 4 Radio. City. Music. Halls. out 0f Eisen.
5:42 – First pick of the Chip Kelly era is Lane Johnson, the big tackle from Oklahoma. Mayock’s adoptive son. “Most athletic offensive tackle in the Draft” … ROCKY theme playing in the background. Hilarious.
5:45 – Lane Johnson just said something about buffets. I have no idea. Great southern accent. Good ole boy for sure. Said he was excited to protect Michael Vick. Wonder what Chip has to say about that?
5:49 – Joey Harrington jokes never get old. Love Mooch pretending not to listen to Eisen rib him.
5:50 – Barry Sanders, your new Madden cover boy, out to announce the Lions pick.. and it’s Ziggy Ansah. Never played football until a couple years ago after getting cut from BYU hoops team and track team. Amazing. What a story. Mayock explaining how Ziggy wasn’t on scouts radars in September until he started dominating and then blew up the Senior Bowl…
5:53 – Browns fan draft party and guy wearing a “Punters Are People Too” shirt in the front row jumping up and down. Very cool.
5:55 – Browns select Barkevous Mingo. the winner of the All-Name team today. Don’t even think about it. He’s the winner.
6:00 – The Cardinals pick is in and we’re waiting … great shot of Bruce Arians rocking the Kangol. Are they officially licensed team gear? The Arians Era is basically going to be like if Samuel L. Jackson coached an NFL team. Someone get HR on the phone …
6:01 – Jonathan Cooper picked by the Cards….zzzzzzzzz…. come on, Cardinals fans, you’re not happy about that?! You don’t even know who he is?! Mayock says the team got better by drafting him. Well then, what the hell do I know??
6:04 – Rams have traded up with Buffalo to the #8 slot and talk from former scout and guru Daniel Jeramiah is they’ll be taking Tavon Austin, whose stock has risen like Apple computers in 2001 in the last couple days… Also, love Jeramiah. He’s going to be a huge star very soon and a big media winner when this Draft is over.
6:08 – Mega trade with the Rams and Bills with St. Louis getting 2 picks (1st and 3rd) and Buffalo getting 4 in this year’s draft. Bills loading up and here’s the Commish with the pick … Tavon Austin … Sam Bradford sleeps a litlte easier tonight… and snap, look at that burgandy jacket. Looking sharp, son. West Virginia swag.
6:12 – Deion asks Austin if he always has this much confidence. Um, come on Deion, look at that suit, of course he does. Pretty sure he wakes up and pisses excellence …
6:16 – Jets on the clock here with the 9th pick… fans on the edge of their seats in Radio City. Oughta be realllly interesting here … and the Commish says : Dee Milliner from Alabama … Revis out and another corner in. No pressure, kid.
6:18 – Mayock had him number 2 on his defensive board … and states “essentially the Jets traded revis for Milliner and 3rd next year” … as we see Milliner at the combine dropping passes like he’s Terrell Owens.. that’s just brutal video. Welcome to the NFL, son.
6:21 – Nice watch, Dee. Hope that’s a rental.
6:23 – “At least his first game isn’t against Revis’s new team … oh wait, yes it is. … at least his first nationally-televised game isn’t on a short week against Tom Brady … oh wait, yes it is.” Love it when Rich does this.
6:24 – Army troops in Afghanistan says the Titans should take guard Chance Warmack so Chris Johnson can get back to doing this thing .. and the pick is in and the Titans war room is very happy …
6:25 – Pick #10 and the Titans take Chance Warmack from Alabama … Major Taylor picked it right! “I told you 6 fatties would go in the top 12.” Mike Mayock, everybody!!
6:30 – Rapoport reproing the Bills could still take Ryan Nassib at 16 … Chargers pick is in and it’s offensive lineman DJ Fluker … 3rd straight Alabama player taken … Nick Saban, if you need him… Roll Tide.
6:32 – First time since 2000 that a quarterback wasn’t selected in the first 10 picks (Chad Pennington) … some guy named Brady was taken with the 199th pick that year. Whatever happend to him?
6:33 – “I love his length.” Mayock doesn’t give an eff.
6:38 – From Chelsea: “I’d love for the Jets to draft Barkley. Not in the first round, but eventually. That ‘d make me so happy.” Um, that would make us all happy.
6:46 – And the Jets pick is in … wow, fans are gonna go nuts here … Geno? … nope, it’s Sheldon Richardson, some defensive tackle from Missouri … wow. Very Anticlimatic … “explosive, freakish athlete at 310 pounds .. and Jets fans aren’t that excited” … uum, ya think?
6:50 – Panthers take Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, a very good player who really shouldn’t have dropped that far. In that division you have to be able to stop offenses and this is one way to accomplish that. Also on the All-Name team for this Draft. He’s at home watching with his family. That’s the way to do it. Why come to New York when you can party with your family?
6:58 – Saints are on the clock and to say they need defensive back help would be an understatement. I threw for 378 yards and 4 scores last year against them… and here comes the Commish with a special guest from St. Jude’s hospital, whose favorite team is the Saints … Kenny Vaccaro is the pick … loving his suit, two-toned three piece .. very fly… can’t wait to hit up @fragglesrocks for the All-Swag team tomorrow.
7:00 – Mayock: “you never want to be limited in the box” … Addison chimes in: “you always want to be strong in the box.”
7:04 – Bills on the clock here at 16 and it’s QB time … will they do it? … EJ MANUEL from Florida St.!! WOW!!! The first quarterback taken!! unbelievable … Deion Sanders is going to have A LOT to talk about with him shortly … dang. Former Syracuse coach and new Bills HC Doug Maronne passes on our guy Ryan Nassib .. Kurt Warner loves that pick … I’m stunned.
7:06 – Just texted Owl, my resident Bills fan … we’ll see how angry of response he comes back with … “Love it. and I LOVE that they traded down.” Didn’t see that coming. Thought for sure he’d want Nassib.
7:08 – EJ emotional with Deion .. “I’m just so happy” .. good moment for him. his mom had breast cancer and beat it… you’ll be seeing this interview a lot in the next couple days.
7:12 – It’s getting fun now in here. The 49ers have traded up and have made a pick … swapped picks with the Cowboys … and we appear to be in a back log … Steelers up right now and take Jarvis Jones … WOW… Jantzen, our Georgia alum friend, is PUMPED RIGHT NOW!! unreal. still think he should’ve named his kid Jarvis.
7:14 – 49ers up and take Eric Reid, the defensive back from LSU, who’s in the green room holding his adorably cute daughter… “big physical safety” says Mayock … love former 9ers great Merton Hanks giving Reid his cap: “maybe he’ll make him do the chicken walk,” says Eisen … Reid walking out to meet the Commish with his daughter in his arms … very cool moment … maybe my favorite so far.
7:20 – G-Men on the clock with the 19th pick and the Commish is out… always curious to the crowd reaction … Justin Pugh … Syracuse Tackle … “I told you it wasn’t sexy, but I love the pick” … as some broad is dancing like crazy on screen … “she likes the pick” says Rich.
7:25 – Oregon guard Kyle Long goes to Chicago amid rampant Manti Te’o speculation. Long is the brother of Chris Long from the Rams and son of Raiders great, Howie. Talk about NFL bloodlines. He’s going to no doubt be a success. And let’s be honest, Jay Cutler needs needs protection.
7:33 – Bengals up at #21 amid report that Falcons have traded up to 22 … Bengals take Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame, arguably the best tight end in the Draft, which perhaps foils the Falcons plans … Eisen points out Falcons knew Bengals were taking Eifert when they made the trade … still curious who they’re grabbing now despite.
7:40 – Falcons take Desmond Trufant, defensive back from Washington who fits in and will start right away with a depleted secondary down in ATL. He’ll be tested too with all the weapons in that division. NFC South shaping up to be a really competitive.
7:42 – Lots of good players still available including Sharrif Floyd, Mayock’s top-rated defensive player and his most explosve player on tape all year … Geno Smith .. Ryan Nassib … Vikings are about to make their pick as members of the military coming out on stage … awesome.
7:45 – Floyd goes to the Vikings … he dropped but he’s going to play right away and learn from Kevin Williams.. what a force they could be in the middle there … “this kid will be a heckuva player,” Mayock says.
7:48 – Mayock getting out of his seat talking about Floyd’s explosiveness … “right now there’s a chip on my shoulder … and I’m ready to get going” he says with Deion … nice simple Mad Men pink shirt black tie combo … “I’m here and I can stand here today and say I’m a better man than I was a year ago.” Redemption is always a nice element to any sport.
7:50 – Painful shot of Geno Smith in the Green Room … getting that Aaron Rodgers and Brady Quinn treatment right now.
7:51 – Bjoern Werner going to the Colts at 24 … “a taste of Germany going to Indianapolis” says Eisen … “guy that does everything really well but doesn’t have a spectacular trait,” adds Mayock … compares him to Paul Kruger … Werner wipes off his girlfriend’s kiss on his way up. Don’t let her see this tape, young fella.
7:53 – Aaron Rodgers tweets to Geno Smith to hang in there and said good things come to those who wait … awesome.
7:54 – Vikings back up with their second pick of the round … Xavier Rhodes from FSU … “whoa” from Mayock. Hey, someone has to cover Brandon Marshall and Randall Cobb, right? … Te’o still on the board.
7:59 – Packers on the clock and they need a Running Back … is it Eddie Lacy time? Also, and can’t believe I’m just noticing this; Irvin’s suit is very conservative for the second year in a row…wonder if he’s feeling OK these days.
8:01 – Datone Jones from UCLA to the Packers … hey, you can never have enough pass rushers, right?
8:03 – Rich starts talking about Geno and Manti and how the audience is probably sick of hearing about them by now … “some players on the desk might think that,” Mayock not happy with the repeated Te’o talk.
8:09 – Deandre Hopkins from Clemson, a wide receiver drafted by the Texans at 27 to go with Andre Johnson and those weapons … Irvin says he reminds him of Roddy White … high praise (Nic Cage voice).
8:14 – Broncos pick is in at 28 and the Patriots are on the clock … Mayock giving us three names – Damaontre Moore, Sylvester Williams or Manti Te’o for Denver … we’ll see … guessing it’ll be Moore with the loss of Elvis Dumervil and that fax fiasco earlier this offseason.
8:15 – Goodell out and it’s Sylvester williams … Mayock was right , shocker… “he can immediately come in and start at defensive tackle.” Oh, you don’t say?
8:17 – Apparently Williams worked at a radiator plant … “Do you know how many radiators you have to make to make the kind of money he’s gonna make” … Irvin references “Game Changers” (fantastic show) again to which Rich responds, “I haven’t even once said the P word!” Referring to the podcast … “I HAVE A PODCAST!!” he coudn’t make it anymore.. I knew it.
8:19 – Wow, the Vikings are back in the First Round trading with the Patriots and could take Te’o … unreal … Classic Bill Belichick move. Cant’ wait to see the particulars … damn! 4 picks to the Patriots: a 2, 3, 5 and 7. What must Tom Brady be thinking…
8:26 – Former Patriots lineman and Boston Marathon first responder Joe Andruzzi out to talk about marathon … unreal moment. That guy is a real man and Patriot.
8:30 – Vikings take Cordarrelle Patterson, the explosive receiver from Tennessee. This is what frustrates Patriots fans. Remember a few years ago when Dez Bryant fell into their lap and they traded down to the Cowboys? Yeah, think Brady would like to have Dez right now? We’ll see how Patterson pans out.
8:37 – Rams up with another First Round pick and take Alec Ogletree from Georgia. “Les Snead played some poker tonight and won.” Guess Mayock likes the Rams draft.
8:38 – Two picks to go. Cowboys and Ravens. We’ll see what Jerry Jones has up his sleeve here. We know he always likes to make a splash.
8:42 – Travis Frederick, center from Wisconsin. HAHA. Wow. So that’s what we were waiting for, Jerry. Isn’t this guy not even the best lineman on his own college team and a 2nd day projected pick? Cowboys fans must be steaming right now. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of folk.
8:43 – OK, so one last pick for Manti Te’o. There were only a handful of teams who thought to be in his market – Bears, Vikings, Ravens – and let’s see what they do.
8:47 – WOW. So Te’o will have to wait until Day 2 to get drafted as the Ravens go with safety Matt Elam from Florida to replace Ed Reed. What a First Round.
8:48 – Thanks for tuning in, everyone. Had a lot of fun with this for the 4th year in a row now. It was low on celebrity but thank goodness the trades were plentiful to keep it interesting. No players from Southern Cal or Miami, 12 players from the SEC and only 1 from the Big Ten selected. Only one quarterback chosen, and not the one we expected, and no running backs for the first time ever. What will come on Days 2 and 3? No one knows, so be sure to check out all the action. I’ll have sporadic commentary on my Twitter feed: @ChrisBrockman.
LOS ANGLES — I don’t know what to think about this Manti Te’o situation, to be completely honest. I’m starting to write this at 4pm pacific time on Thursday and in the last 24 hours I’ve consumed about as much as humanly possible, talked about with friends and colleagues, seen the jokes and speculation on Twitter and I’m about as confused as I was when I first read the Deadspin story Wednesday afternoon. With what is known as of this moment, and all that I’ve read, I think he was 100% complicit and sold this narrative to the media to its fullest because he liked the attention and he wanted to win the Heisman. That’s just what I think. Maybe it started out as a joke and then when the national media got wind of it, it was too late and he got caught too deep in the lie to come clean; he was embarrassed and didn’t know what to do. Maybe. But there’s no chance he didn’t know. None.
There are other theories floating across the Twitterverse and blogosphere and talk radio and the like, and sure, those make some kind of sense to me too, but being in this business for nearly 10 years and being around high school, college and professional athletes of all ages, levels and backgrounds, I’ll believe the crazy and outlandish because I’ve heard tales of things I couldn’t possibly imagine could be true, but they were. One-hundred percent. Truth is stranger than fiction, just remember that, and sports is the ultimate reality show. In Te’o’s situation, we all missed. We were all caught up. We all wanted Notre Dame to be good again because they are the country’s university and when they are good and playing at an elite level College Football is more interesting. And this was a college football season for the ages.
The public and the media were the ones duped and we were duped by Manti Te’o and his cronies.
If and when the truth comes out and this is proven to be not the case, I’ll admit to being wrong, but I just don’t see how me and others are. The holes in his story and Notre Dame’s are too big. The timeline doesn’t add up. Pete Thamel’s notes and transcript is there to read and shows a guy not even knowing what he’s saying. It’s remarkable. Read the Deadspin story again. And then again. It’s incredible. And now we wait.
(update: so it’s Saturday afternoon now and Te’o has spoke to Jeremy Schaap on Friday and seemingly explained everything, that he was embarrassed and told a lie to his dad, which begat more lies, and he tailored his story to match what was going on. Sounds a lot like lying to me. Watching Schaap on SportsCenter late Friday night, it seemed to me like he believed Te’o, which I find fascinating. And apparently, Te’o didn’t really believe it was a hoax until a couple days ago when Ronaiah Tuisosopo confessed via Twitter to making it all up. But how does this explain him finding out on Dec. 6 and then not telling Notre Dame for 20 days and then him talking his girlfriend in the days leading up to the National Championship game. And then this whole she faked her death to avoid drug dealers story, and he believed that?! Is Te’o the biggest moron in the world? This is the strangest, most bizarre story I’ve ever seen. Who the hell knows what’s true.)
Onto the NFL and what should be two fantastic Championship Games this weekend in Atlanta and Foxborough:
It appears that I’m once again the lone wolf rolling with the Falcons, which suits me just fine. There has been A LOT of noise from the 49ers Hype Machine in the last week after Colin Kaepernick went video game on the Packers in the Divisional Round. And rightfully so. What he did was beyond spectacular. I wondered if it was as surprising as Michael Vick going into Lambeau to beat the Packers in the 2003 playoffs, because for me, I was just as shocked when I saw his final stat line, and because I thought the Packers were starting to peak and looked like a team primed for another Super Bowl run. But Kaepernick stole the show and is playing like seasoned playoff veteran, not a QB who’s only started half the year. There’s been a lot of Brady/Bledsoe comparisons lately and for me, they’re a little unwarranted. Brady isn’t nearly the athlete CK is, he started basically the entire year in 2001 after Mo Lewis knocked out Drew in Week 2 and the game itself so much different than it was 11 years ago. CK is a new-age quarterback. Athletic. Versatile. Mobile. Cannon for an arm. He can make all the throws and if your rush breaks down, he’s proven he can take off and go to the house.
When it comes to the Falcons, it begins and ends with Matt Ryan. He reminds me of a young Peyton Manning with how much he commands their offense, audibles at the line of scrimmage and isn’t afraid to take chances in order to make big plays. Ryan takes grief for throwing interceptions, but to me (and not having won a playoff game which is now moot), throwing interceptions is a combination of not being afraid to make mistakes and get the ball to your receivers in tight spots and misreading your coverage. Ryan takes those chances. No guts, no glory. Atlanta took chances deep against Seattle, had a couple pay off, and they’re going to have to do it again in order to stretch out the 49ers defense. It’ll be interesting if Jim Harbaugh chooses to take away Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez and try and let a Michael Turner/Jacquizz Rodgers run game try and wear them down. Atlanta’s defense can’t really stop anybody, so I’m expecting a shootout.
Prediction: Falcons 27, 49ers 24.
I can’t lie: as a Patriots fan, this Ravens team scares the beejezus out of me. They’ve just seemed to have the Patriots number, dating back to the 2009 Wild Card, when they flew into Foxborough and beat up Tom Brady and mopped up the turf en route to a 33,14 trouncing. That game was just two weeks after Wes Welker went down with a knee injury and Brady was terrible, throwing 3 interceptions and getting sacked 3 times. In 2010, Brady was the league’s MVP and the Patriots defeated Baltimore 23-20, and in 2011 New England was again victorious in last year’s memorable AFC title game by the same 23-20 margin. This year, in Week 3, the Ravens eeked out a 31-30 win when Justin Tucker’s field goal maybe sorta I guess went through the right upright as the clock hit zeroes. But these are different teams playing now than 16 weeks ago. The Patriots are better defensively and can run the football, but are without Rob Gronkowski, and the Ravens are riding this emotional Ray Lewis wave that has carried them to a pair of playoff wins thus far. This has turned into the NFL’s best rivalry (San Francisco and Seattle should be good for a long time), the two teams clearly don’t like each other and Joe Flacco has shown a knack for coming up big in the playoffs on the road. He now has 8 playoff wins in 5 seasons; just one win shy of Peyton Manning for his career. And, as he showed last week, he can throw the deep ball and that’s what scares me. He’s going to take chances with Torrey Smith, who torched the Patriots back in Week 3. If New England doesn’t give up an big plays and keeps Ray Rice in check, then it shouldn’t be a game. A very big if.
For the Patriots, it begins and ends with Tom Brady. A year ago, he was out played by Joe Flacco in the AFC Championship Game; in Week 3, the same. He’s arguably the greatest modern-era quarterback when it matters: the playoffs. He passed Joe Montana with his 17th win all-time last week. A win Sunday and he’d be the only QB in history to reach a 6th Super Bowl. Adding lines to his legacy is not what drives him, being the best is. The best play their best with the moment is the biggest. This is a pretty big moment in front of him. Not having Rob Gronkowski doesn’t worry me; the team has played a good portion of this season without and only scored one less point-per-game. For me, the Patriots have to have a balanced attack offensively. Hurry-up when necessary, but a solid running game will go a long way to building and preserving a lead. Defensively, gotta get pressure on Flacco and not give up the deep ball. All of New England will be holding its breath when No. 5 lets that ball fly on Sunday, because he will and often, and it won’t exhale until it falls down. Incomplete. Let’s hope this one doesn’t come down to a field goal. Again.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Ravens 21.