Posts Tagged “2012”




After yesterday’s NFL Draft we asked a panel of our experts to break down the draft and give their two cents about how the draft unfolded.

Biggest Winner?

Daniel Ornelas – Believe it or not, I have to say that the Rams came away the biggest winner in this draft because they did something that is very necessary for them: get more picks to fill the holes they have in their team. They may have made fans a bit disappointed, trading out of the No. 2 and 6 picks, but I think receiving all of those Washington draft picks was a huge win for them in the first place. Then they went and traded the 6th pick to move back, got more picks in the process, and still wound up with a solid player in Michael Brockers.

Kyle Williams – I really like what the Patriots did getting Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower.  The Patriots desperately needed some athleticism in their front 7 and Jones and Hightower should fit in very well in their system.  I’d also look at the Chargers who got a nice value in Melvin Ingram.  Ingram will give the Chargers some much needed pass rush ability and will be ability to play multiple positions in the 3-4.  David DeCastro was also a great value pick for a Steelers line that has had major struggles the last few years.

Dave Vinluan – New England Patriots. Bill Belichick moved up twice in the draft and picked up two defensive players that can bring the ruckus in DE Chandler Jones and LB Dont’a Hightower.

Jeff Morgan – There are a lot to choose from here.  But you gotta love what the Patriots did here.  They traded up TWICE and grabbed two playmakers on the defensive side of things.  Both LB Dont’a Hightower and DE Chandler Jones will make an immediate impact this season, and help a defense that was one of the worst in the league last season.  Don’t forget, the Patriots are coming off a Super Bowl appearance last season too!  Patriots prove once again that they’re the best-run organization in the NFL.

 

Biggest Loser?

Daniel Ornelas – The loser in this draft has to be the Kansas City Chiefs. They used the 11th overall pick on somebody that has had issues with motivation and pure desire. We are talking about a guy who came out of nowhere and dominated the combine test sheet, not the stat sheet, much like Stephen Hill (teams have been passing on him after he has been so hyped up). This pick reminds me of the Taylor Mays (Safety from USC) pick in 2010 where defensive-minded head coach Mike Singletary just had to have his physical guy. The 49ers and Singletary gambled and reached for Mays, and now the Chiefs and Romeo Crennel reached for Poe. Didn’t work out for the 49ers, let’s see how it plays for KC.

Kyle Williams – A lot of people will talk about the Seahawks here, but I’m going to go with the Bucs picking Mark Barron at #7.  In my eyes, for a saftey to warrent a top 10 selection they need to be an absolute stud of a prospect (i.e. Sean Taylor, LaRon Landry, and Roy Williams).  Barron is a very good player, but is not nearly the prospect that other top 10 safties were.  In my eyes his draft position was the result of a very weak saftey class.

Dave Vinluan – St. Louis Rams. They waited patiently in hopes of landing big play WR Justin Blackmon, just to get leap frogged by the Jacksonville Jaguars. There is great potential with Michael Brockers, but he can’t help their abysmal offense score any touchdowns.

Jeff Morgan – I’m going with the Broncos here.  I realize they didn’t even make a pick, but that’s the whole point.  They traded down twice out of the 1st round, and while they grabbed a few more picks, they needed to make a selection here.  They were plenty of OT’s available, or even pass rushers to help the Broncos next season.  Peyton Manning isn’t getting any younger, and a solid 1st round pick would go a long way into helping the Broncos chances.


Biggest Surprise?

Daniel Ornelas – I was most surprised by the fact that AJ Jenkins was picked ahead of Stephen Hill. As a 49ers fan, I expected to see a guard taken considering Cordy Glenn was still there. If Glenn wasn’t selected, I was thinking some other guard, TE Coby Fleener (once coached by Harbaugh), Stephen Hill, or some cornerback. When I heard Jenkins, I immediately thought Janoris Jenkins of Northern Alabama. Boy was I surprised when they said AJ.

Kyle Williams – It’s pretty hard not to go with Bruce Irvin here.  There is no doubt that Irvin is a prolific pass rusher, arguably the best in this year’s draft, but I figured Irvin’s one-dimensional game and major character concerns would push him down draft boards.

Dave Vinluan – Seattle Seahawks selecting DE/OLB Bruce Irvin. Although he shows great flashes of being a premier pass rusher, that’s all Irvin may be. At WVU he excelled on 3rd downs with his speed, but that might not be enough to get by at the next level.

Jeff Morgan – All the trades!  I knew there would be movement in this draft, but 8 first round trades is ridiculous.  Jags and Patriots traded UP, Vikings traded back and STILL got their guy in Kahlil.  Cowboys surprised everyone by grabbing Claiborne from LSU, a great pick for them.  And then there were the questionable picks of the Seahawks and the Bears who both picked positions and players that they didn’t really need and could have drafted a better player.  All in all, it was a draft full of surprises all across the board.

 

Who ends up with the best career in this years 1st round?

Daniel Ornelas – I could go with the consensus and say Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin, but I have to go with Morris Claiborne. I have no doubt that Luck and Griffin will be great players in the NFL, but in a passing league I think Claiborne has a chance to shine. When you think shutdown corner, you think Jets CB Darelle Revis. I think this will changed in the future with Claiborne’s name alongside Revis. He is an excellent corner and will be playing for “America’s Team” in the Cowboys and will have high expectations that I believe he can exceed. In a league with Johnsons, Fitzgeralds, and other dominant receivers on pass-heavy offenses, Claiborne will have a chance to show his stuff.

Kyle Williams – We all know QB’s get the headlines so Andrew Luck is a safe pick here, but I think Luke Kuechly will be absolute stud alongside Jon Beason in Carolina.  Kuechly should make a lot of pro bowls before his time is done.

Dave Vinluan – David DeCastro. He will be put into a great situation at Pittsburgh playing next to Maurkice Pouncey. DeCastro was one of the top rated linemen in the draft and he will fit right in the Steelers smash mouth offense.

Jeff Morgan – There’s a loaded question.  The easy answer is Luck or RGIII, but I can see greatness from Claiborne, Blackmon, and Richardson.  It’s a deep 1st round draft, but when all is said and done I think the best player out of this draft will be Matt Kahlil.  It’s not the sexiest pick, but he’s as sure a perennial pro-bowl left tackle as it gets.  He’s going to be a cornerstone the Vikings have desperately been missing, and could go a long way in the development of Christian Ponder.  He ends up with the most Pro-Bowl selections out of any player in this draft.  Count it.

 

When we look back at this year’s 1st round it will be most remembered for…?

Daniel Ornelas – The day the Luck-Griffin competition started. This draft was very surprising with all the trades that happened before and during the draft, but it will be known as the day someone made a huge mistake, or the day someone scored big. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are two top-notch quarterbacks and the fact that they were picked number 1 and 2, respectively, will draw critics toward always making comparisons between the two. The Redskins paid a high price in trading up to get Griffin so if he turns out to be a bust, they will look back on this draft as the day they gambled and it didn’t pay off. As for Luck, the Colts new GM’s biggest move was made today when he selected the new leader to fill the big shoes that Peyton Manning left Luck to fill in Indianapolis. I think both will be just fine and this draft will be looked at as one of the best drafts in recent history.

Kyle Williams – The trading frenzy in the top 10.  Every pick from 2-7 was taken by a team that was not initially slotted to draft in that spot.  I can’t remember a draft that has been this trade-happy at the top, but it certainly made this one exciting.

Dave Vinluan – The trades. Along with Melvin Ingram and Roger Goodell’s ball so hard handshake.

Jeff Morgan – Defining 4 franchises.  The Colts, Redskins, Dolphins, and Browns all selected who they think will be their franchise QB.  Very rarely do all QB’s drafted in the 1st round work out.  A few of these teams will look back at this draft and point to it as the beginning of something great, and a few will look back and remember where it all went wrong.


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The San Diego Chargers found themselves with the 16th best defense in 2011 but ranked dead last on 3rd downs.  A dimension the Chargers have lacked over the years has been a consistent pass rush and with Peyton Manning joining the division the emphasis of the 2012 draft is without a doubt defense. With glaring needs at Safety and Outside Linebacker look General Manager A.J. Smith to address these needs in the first half of the draft.

Round 1 – Pick 18

Whitney Mercilus DE/OLB, Illinois –  Assuming the Chargers don’t trade up to grab Alabama safety Mark Barron or trade down for Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, I can see A.J. Smith giving another go at an outside pass rusher. Mercilus was the nation’s sack leader with 16, but may scare some teams due to his lack of productivity before his Junior year. This could hinder his chances of not being drafted higher than pick 18. He shows natural pass rush abilities, comes quick off the edge and knows how to work his way towards the QB. He will have to learn a few more pass rush moves as he won’t be able to rely strictly on speed. With the newly acquired Jarret Johnson, any OLB drafted in this spot would split time with the vet, easing his way into the starting spot over the years.

Other possible selections: LB Dont’a Hightower, S Mark Barron, S Harrison Smith

Round 2 – Pick 49

Bruce Irvin LB/DE, West Virginia – With the top 2 safeties off the board, the Chargers could be in a position to draft another highly touted sack artist, LB/DE Bruce Irvin. Much like Mercilus, Irvin comes off the edge very quick and shows natural pass rush abilities. He has a tall lengthy build, and can be a great situational rusher. He is very similar to Aldon Smith of the 49ers in the way he uses his speed and change of direction skill to get past blockers. The safety from Boise State, George Iloka, could be targeted here too. But a great pass rush can make a secondary look elite. I can’t imagine A.J. Smith being all that thrilled about being ranked dead last on 3rd down stops last season.  In order to change that, he will have to improve this unit by any means necessary.

Other possible selections: OLB Ronnell Lewis, OLB Bobby Wagner, S George Iloka

Round 3 – Pick 78

Alameda Ta’amu DT, Washington –  Antonio Garay has fit in well as the nose tackle in a rotational defensive line, but with this pick the Chargers could finally have the true NT they’ve been looking for since the release of Jamal Williams back in 2010. A mountain of a man at 6’3” and in the 320-350lbs. range, Ta’amu is the prototype nose tackle for a 3-4 defense. The majority of the time he takes up 2 blockers which frees up other rushers and it is rare to see him get pushed backwards. He has shown he can consistently take on double team blocks, and has the ability to break through them to make the tackle. He will never be a sack leader, but his strengths against the run and taking up space in the middle make him a great fit for the Chargers pass rush.

Other possible selections: S/CB Brandon Hardin, CB, Casey Hayward, RB Ronnie Hillman


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How good a coach is Calipari?

Jeff Morgan: Calipari is kind of like the Phil Jackson of NCAA basketball. He always seems to have all-star filled rosters, and success seems a foregone conclusion. However, people forget his success at UMass was largely with unknown players, and not until he got to Memphis did he start getting some of the top recruits in the country. So, is he the best coach in the NCAA…far from it, but the man does get the maximum effort out of his ridiculously talented players.

Dave Vinluan: With him claiming his first National Championship, Calipari is as good if not better than any elite level NCAA coach right now. His coaching style allows for his players to mesh well together. What’s so good about Calipari is his ability to have his players believing in his team first philosophy, and it doesn’t hurt that he is the master of one and done recruiting.

Kyle Williams: Great coach and an even better recruiter. There is no doubt Coach Cal is one of the great coaches in college basketball. While many focus on his recent success with top recruits at Memphis and Kentucky, this is the same coach who led UMass to 5 straight tournament bids including an Elite 8 and a Final Four trip. Calipari’s free-flowing, high-paced offense allows his athletes to get out and run and has been dominant at UMass (193-71), Memphis (252-69), and on the highest stage with Kentucky (102-14 and a recent championship). Coach Cal has been able to sell his free-flowing style to the elite high school prospects that are looking to play the way they want to play and win while doing so.

Did Calipari need this win to solidify his legacy?

Jeff Morgan: He keeps pushing this question aside like it doesn’t matter, but he absolutely needed to win a title in order to solidify his legacy. Now that he got the monkey off his back however, he’s going to have to win multiple championships to be considered in the same class of some of the best college coaches in the country. While this win was important, he still has a long way to go to become a legend on the hardwood.

Dave Vinluan: Yes. Calipari has reached the Final Four and National Championship previously with stacked line ups and lost both in heartbreaking fashion. Not to mention he has produced first round talent ranging from Derrick Rose to John Wall. This championship solidifies his status as one of the best ever.

Kyle Williams: Absolutely. While Calipari has made numerous deep tournament runs with every program he’s been with, no one can deny the power of championship. Amongst the swirling controversy over the one-and-done rule, along with Calipari’s recent exploitation of that rule, this year’s title possessed significant clout for Calipari. Not only does it add a championship to his resume, but it also silences the critics who said his teams stacked with freshman stars didn’t have the experience to win it all.

Does the 1 and done rule help or hurt high school prospects?

Jeff Morgan: I suppose 1 year of college basketball can help refine a high school player’s game, but I think the impact is minimal. Kids going into the NBA with 1 year of college under their belt are hardly as polished as a 4-year college player. This rule was put in place to make sure that kids weren’t drafted before they were ready to play in the NBA. In that sense, the 1 and done rule hasn’t really done much to change that perception. Hell, even Anthony Davis, the consensus #1 pick in the draft is a project. There are no guarantees he’ll be an all-star player in the NBA.

Dave Vinluan: I think it hurts high school prospects that have no interest in pursuing a college education. Coming out of high school most of these athletes are convinced they want to make Basketball a career. Playing one year in college and having an injury filled year or just not performing well would hinder the chances of them getting to the NBA greatly.

Kyle Williams: The one-and-done rule hasn’t so much impacted high school prospects as it has the college game as a whole. In terms of high school prospects, the rule has generally been helpful in that we no longer see high school players, who have no business being in the league, entering the draft. When looking at college basketball, the negative impact of the one-and-done rule can be seen. College teams are put in a difficult recruiting situation where they have to decide whether or not to focus on top recruits who may spurn the program after just a single year of play. If there is a side that pushes hardest to increase the rule to more than one year, that push should come from the NCAA.

Can other programs compete with the recruiting style of Calipari?

Jeff Morgan: If this 1 and done recruiting strategy continues to breed success and championships, it’s going to be extremely hard for other schools to compete from a pure talent standpoint. The allure of a full college experience is starting to lose ground in favor of a quick 1-year path to the NBA. You watch, if Calipari starts reeling off championships, all the major college basketball programs will adjust their recruiting efforts to entice players to come play for them instead, even if it’s only for a year.

Dave Vinluan: Not now, with the majority of the Kentucky roster expected to enter the NBA draft, that’s an open invitation to become a starter for the Wildcats. It’s hard to compete with his style because of what he has done for his players. Taking them far in the tournament and producing first round talent.

Kyle Williams: Some programs may try, but Calipari is clearly in the best spot to capitalize on one-and-done recruiting. The things he has going for him: coaching at a top program, coaching a system that top players want to play in, and a recent championship to stand for it. While the UCLA’s and Duke’s of the world have similar programs in terms of tradition and success, they both have coaches that bring strict, structured, defensive-minded systems to the table. The program that has the best chance to compete is UNC, with some of college basketball best tradition, Roy Williams’ high-paced style, and Jordan’s legacy hanging over the Dean Dome.

Does Calipari win it all again next year?

Jeff Morgan: Who knows. How can you even speculate on Kentucky’s chances next year when their starting 5 players are going to be completely different? Even if Calipari gets 6 more McDonalds All-American’s to fill out his roster, he still has to basically start from scratch with a whole new group of players. Calipari has had loaded rosters in the past and failed to win it all. If he can’t get his players to work together for a common goal, they could easily have an early exit in next year’s tourney. So for now, I’ll take the field over Kentucky.

Dave Vinluan: As long as he’s got the pulse on the next Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, then absolutely yes.

Kyle Williams: That’s tough to say, as there are so many moving parts for Calipari next season that are yet to settle. While it seems to be a lock that Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist jump to the league, we will have to see if see if Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague decide to follow them or stick around for another year. Calipari already has 5 star recruits Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress committed as well as 7-foot center Willie Cauley. Undoubtedly the biggest factor will be the decision of unanimous #1 recruit Shabazz Muhammad, who is still deciding between Kentucky, Duke, and UCLA. If Coach Cal lands Muhammad and keeps a player or two from this year’s squad, I like his chances. If not, I see Calipari’s squad as another one of his highly talented young teams that just doesn’t have quite enough to cut down the nets in 2013.

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Stephen Strasburg

Lance Berkman of the St. Louis Cardinals was the NL Comeback Player of the Year for 2011 as he had a near-MVP type of season for his new team. The Cards took an $8 million chance on a player who had a down year in 2010 and he proved worth the investment as he helped carry them to the World Series Title. So who’s up next?

This year is interesting because there are some players that are coming back from season-ending injuries in the National League. Players to watch for this year are Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, and Berkman’s teammate Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals. All three of these players suffered devastating injuries that kept them from playing for most of the 2011 season. However, each of these three will bounce back big in 2012.

Stephen Strasburg

Few pitchers taken in the MLB Draft have had as much hype as Stephen Strasburg, a San Diego State phenom, but this kid had huge expectations and lived up to them. In 2010, he got his first win in his MLB debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates throwing 7 innings, allowing 2 runs, and striking out 14 batters. Talk about baffling! He continued his success in the rest of his 11 starts as he finished his rookie season with 92 K’s and a 2.91 ERA. Unfortunately, in his last start of that season he tore a ligament in his throwing arm and needed Tommy John Surgery that shut him down for over a year. People were afraid he might lose his blazing fastball that he was known to hurl over 98mph. In 2011, he came back to prove them wrong with five strong starts to give fans a preview for what is to come in 2012. In his final start, he left all baseball fans hungry as he threw 6 innings, got greedy and gave up one hit, no runs, and racking up 10 K’s against the Florida Marlins.

He will be a player to watch closely and a player that can bring 40,000 fans to their feet, and he can dominate a lineup on any given day. With an overpowering fastball, nasty curve, and his injury a thing of the past, look for Strasburg to once again regain the magic that he had in his rookie season.

Buster Posey

It’s hard to believe that a team can rely so much on a rookie as the Nationals did with Strasburg. If you think they relied on a rookie so heavily, then Buster Posey was the MVP of the Giants last year. The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and were thought to be a strong playoff contender with the pitching staff they brought back for the 2011 season. In his rookie year, Posey took over as the Giants starting catcher as well as cleanup hitter in the batting order. He helped them win their 2010 WS Championship and they relied on his ability to handle the bat and more importantly handle their talented pitching staff. However, on May 25th of last year, the Giants suffered a knock-out blow. If you don’t believe me, ask Giants fans about Scott Cousins. Posey broke his ankle trying to block Cousins from scoring and ended up sitting out the entire season.  Without Posey, and a plethora of other injured players, the Giants offense was abysmal and their pitching staff was unable to carry the load as they missed the playoffs entirely.

The Giants are excited to have Posey back and I’m sure they would be happy if he does even half as well as when he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2010.  Watch out for the Giants to bounce back this season, with Posey leading the charge.

Adam Wainwright

After winning the World Series last season, The Cards suffered a huge blow this off-season.  Albert Pujols couldn’t play the “first-team” loyalty card as he left the Cardinals after getting his second World Series ring. He signed with the Angels and the Cardinals went out to sign Carlos Beltran to try and replace the huge hole that Pujols left in their offense. Their pitching staff is going to have a heavier load to handle if they want to have a chance at even making the playoffs again without Pujols in the lineup. Yes, they do have good players in their lineup with Berkman and Beltran back together; as well as Matt Holliday and rising star David Freese, but Adam Wainwright’s return is the most crucial in their quest to return to October baseball. Wainwright missed all of the 2011 season, as he needed reconstructive surgery for an elbow injury that he suffered while throwing batting practice in the 2011 off-season. Before that he was considered a Cy Young Award candidate, going 20-11 with 213 K’s and a 2.42 ERA in 2010.

If he returns to 2010 form, the Cardinals may have back-to-back NL Comeback Players of the Year in their roster as he can reinvigorate fans in St. Louis and help propel them into the playoffs again. Will Cards fans be asking ‘who needs Pujols anyway?’ Maybe, but one thing is certain, they will not miss him if they win another World Series soon and Wainwright could be a huge X Factor as he’s a lights out type of pitcher when he’s on his game.

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