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 — 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.