My Final Thoughts Before the Draft

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We’ve been talking about the draft for ages now and it’s finally here. Some teams have shuffled up and down the board, so I’m just going to give my last thoughts on what a few teams should do for this draft. These are the most-talked-about teams this offseason and they’ve done the most moving around the draft board. They all have some serious decisions to make because they’re all fringe teams that could decide if they’ll be good or not just from this draft.

Browns- Picks #1 and #4

I’ve been pretty consistant saying the Browns should take Sam Darnold at #1. I think Cleveland is the best fit for him being a big, durable quarterback. But I also think Saquon Barkley would be a nice fit here too. If the Browns want to get crazy, and why not?, let’s trade up with the Giants, give them a pick and take the first two picks in this draft locking up Darnold and Barkley. They really have nothing to lose. They’ve been losers forever. That would be a move that would get the fan base back in their corner and give people some hope for next season. The Giants are dying to drop a few spots so they don’t feel forced to take someone they don’t want to take. I think it would be a good move for both parties. The Browns have already blown it with countless quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz. It’s time for them to not suck anymore. Go for it.

Giants- Pick #2

As I just said, I feel the Giants are in a position where they have a much higher pick than they want and are looking to trade back so they can take someone like a Quenton Nelson or maybe even a defensive back. I just went through that Browns scenario which I think would be beneficial to both teams. Maybe the Giants can finagle some more picks out of the Browns and cash in with multiple picks down the road. If they wind up dropping in the draft, Quenton Nelson needs to be on their list. He’s probably the surest option of any player in this draft. He’s going to be an elite guard in this league for years. I think he would be great to take even at #2 because I think he’s worth it and he’ll be alongside Nate Solder, which could bolster the running game with any running back. Unfortunately, there’s some bigger fish out there that the Giants could be kicking themselves at if they don’t take. So if they stay at #2, I’d say take whoever the Browns don’t take between Darnold and Barkley. I think you win either way with those guys. With Barkley, you put yourself back in contention this upcoming year. With Darnold, you have your future set up and Eli won’t be weighing on your mind as much. But what they need to do is, whoever they take, they need to make sure they’re getting a franchise player because this isn’t a team that picks in the top five often. This is the year to take advantage and get your future star. That could also be Bradley Chubb, who’s flying under the radar now. He’s the best pass rusher in this draft and the Giants just dropped JPP. Could they possibly sit at #2 and take Chubb? I’d rather go offense with this particular team, but Chubb would definitely be a stud in New York. They have one pick this round and they can’t have everybody, so as long as they take either Darnold, Barkley, Nelson, or Chubb, they’ve done good.

Broncos- Pick #5

The Broncos could be playing spoiler for one of the teams around them. They’re sitting pretty right now at #5. They already have their quarterback in Case Keenum. They have a stacked defense. And they can wait back to draft some wide receivers in the second and third rounds. I think they’ll do something crazy and take someone and ruin another team’s draft. I think a huge power move would be taking Bradley Chubb if he falls because we know the Jets aren’t taking a quarterback and the Browns drafted their pass rusher last year. That just leaves the nervous Giants who are desperate for a later pick. And the Colts right behind them would be the most likely candidates to take Chubb. So I think Denver’s most boss move would be take Bradley Chubb and beef up that already elite defensive line. Or if they want to go conservative, they can just go with an O lineman like Quenton Nelson or Orlando Brown and ruin it for the middle round teams that need a lineman. Or they might just take a quarterback and have them and Case battle it out in the preseason. I really like where the Broncos are and there’s no pressure on them in my eyes.

Colts- Pick #6

The Colts were a lock to get Bradley Chubb at #3, but they found a desperado in the jets and switched to the 6th pick, also locking up multiple picks down the road. If they somehow STILL wind up with Bradley Chubb, good on Chris Ballard. That is a win in the offseason if I’ve ever seen one. You trade back in the draft, locking up multiple picks and you still get the guy you were going to take at #3? That’s such a win. The only thing that could derail that is what I just talked about and the Broncos seeing this unfold and block that from happening by stealing Chubb. Or the Giants can panic and take a defensive lineman at #2. I’m very interested to see how this particular pick goes because if Chubb winds up with them, look out for the Colts next year because with all the turn over they’re going to have, a young core will develop in this organization and we could see the Colts back to winning form. If Chubb is gone, however, there’s some conversations to be had. Who do they take then? Well I’m not sure. They could panic and take themselves a quarterback and look to ease Andrew Luck out the door. Maybe they go linebacker because they’re short on them; maybe Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds. Maybe they go corner because they need those too and draft Denzel Ward. Or maybe they go offensive line and take a Quenton Nelson. They have so many options to consider if Chubb falls off the board and I can’t wait to see what happens here.

Jets- Pick #3

I really think the Jets could’ve gotten their guy at #6. I happen to think they’re taking Mayfield and if that’s the case, I know they could’ve gotten him at #6. I think they gave up way too much and gave the Colts a Christmas gift with all those picks they traded. All the Jets can hope for is that they made the right move and get their future franchise quarterback. The schedules just got released and they have arguably one of the easiest, so things are lining up for them already. Now they just need to not strike out on this pick. I think it has to be either Mayfield or Darnold for them. I wouldn’t consider any of the other quarterbacks worth losing all those picks for. Like I said, I think they could’ve gotten Baker at #6, but if they want to jump up to make sure they get him, fine. If they somehow have Sam Darnold fall into their lap, even better. But it has to be one of those two guys.

Cowboys- Pick #19

Well there isn’t much moving the Cowboys can do. We all know what they need- wide receivers. They just need to execute in this draft. I’m sure they’ll have the lot to choose from at 19. Maybe Calvin Ridley will be gone, but other than him, it’s open season on receivers. Christian Kirk would be a great take at #19. I also think a bigger receiver like James Washington or Courtland Sutton would fill the Dez void if they want to go that route. They just need to make their decision and get themselves some targets this offseason.

Bills- Picks #12 and #22

I have a sneaking suspicion the Bills are going to make a move and look to jump to a high pick to get their quarterback. I feel they could land on a couple of quarterbacks that make it through the initial scrum if they sit on #12, like maybe Lamar Jackson or whoever the Jets don’t take. So that could mean they have a selection of two of the trio of Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, and Josh Rosen. I seriously think at least ONE of those guys will fall right into the Bills’ laps at #12; maybe even two. But then again, the Giants are a major candidate to trade back, so maybe the Bills can make a swap and get that second pick; that way they have carte blanche on the quarterbacks. I’m certain they will be taking a quarterback with their first pick. I don’t think they have to trade up, but if they’re looking at one certain guy and not waiting to see who falls, they’ll move up.

 

 

 

 

 

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UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Lee

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Keita Nakamura over Tony Martin

  • Unanimous Decision

Aspen Ladd over Leslie Smith

  • Unanimous Decision

Corey Anderson over Patrick Cummins

  • Two tough wrestlers. Corey has more of a standup game than Cummins. I think their versatility in the ground game forces a standup battle and Corey out strikes Pat.
  • Split Decision

Siyar Bahadurzada over Luan Chagas

  • Two absolute killers nobody knows about. Both finish fights on the feet and the ground. Siyar does his damage on the feet where Chagas is more of a ground specialist.
  • I’ll say Siyar gets the better of the exchanges and wins a close decision.

Ryan LaFlare over Alex Garcia

  • LaFlare is a more technical fighter where Garcia is more of a brawler. I think LaFlare takes the fight into his comfort zone and neutralizes the big shots of Garcia.
  • I’ll say LaFlare gets a submission.

Dan Hooker over Jim Miller

  • This will be tit-for-tat, back-and-forth technical striking, potentially mixed with some ground work on Hooker’s part. If it goes down, I easily give it to Hooker. If it stays standing, I’ll still say Hooker scores more and earns a decision.

Brett Johns over Aljamain Sterling

  • Brett Johns is a highly-touted prospect. Sterling can hang with tough guys and dictate the ground game, but I’m giving this to Johns as a coming out party bursting onto the scene. He’s a technical striker and wizard in 2 different grappling sports in Judo and BJJ. More well-rounded; I’ll go with the newbie.

Thiago Santos over David Branch

  • This could be Fight of the Night. Both guys have such sound striking and control skills. I think Thiago is a little more lethal and capable of 1-punch or kick knockout power, so I’m giving it to him to finish late. But if Branch can keep his distance and work Thiago against the cage, we could have a close one on our hands. I’ll give it to Thiago because he’s a little more on the rise than Branch.

Justin Willis over Chase Sherman

  • Tossup here. Sherman has been knocked out a few times now in the UFC. Willis is undefeated in the UFC. I’ll take him to move to 3-0 in UFC fights

Frankie Edgar over Cub Swanson

  • I’m a little hesitant to pick Frankie in this one because he just got knocked out a  few weeks ago and we’ve seen what quick turnarounds can do to fighters. We saw Benson Henderson get beat coming back too early. We just saw Michael Bisping suffer the same fate. Frankie has already beaten Cub and Cub is a guy who learns from his losses. I just think Frankie is a different animal and he’ll be fine at the end of the day. I don’t think Cub has knockout power for Frankie to worry about and any ground situation Frankie finds himself in, he usually flourishes. I think you need to be elite to beat Frankie, and I don’t see Cub on that level. You have to be an Aldo or a Brian Ortega.

Kevin Lee over Edson Barboza

  • Barboza is the best kicker in the UFC and he can knock anyone’s lights out. I just see him as a guy who will be right at the top, but can’t quite reach the pinnacle because of his lack of ground skills. Khabib Nurmagomedov just pounded him out in their last fight, which set up Khabib’s title shot. Once the fight goes to the ground, that kicking game is neutralized and Barboza becomes a defensive ground fighter, which isn’t his strength. Yes, Kevin Lee missed weight for this fight, but it wasn’t too severe and Kevin has great ground skills. I think he’ll have Edson down a bunch in this fight. The control Khabib had won’t be there, but I still see Kevin finding a ton of success ground-n-pounding.

6 Current Division Leaders: Are They for Real?

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I’m going to briefly talk about the current six division leaders and how I think they’re doing so far. Are they contenders or pretenders? Let’s check it out:

Are the Red Sox for Real?

Yes.

This is a solid lineup that’s leading the league in runs and batting average. Mookie Betts is having an unbelievable year so far and is the current favorite to win the MVP. Their pitching has given up the 3rd fewest runs in the league and posts the 2nd lowest ERA. Chris Sale and David Price are unhittable this season. And they have one of the surest closer in the game in Craig Kimbrel. Are they for real in terms of making the playoffs? Yes. Are they contenders for the World Series? I’ve said this a bunch of times, but their pitching has proven to not be game for the playoffs, but it will be fun to see. These guys aren’t going away.

Are the Twins for Real?

Yes.

They’re not great in any one category, but they’re towards the top and they’re playing good teams tough. They just battled the Indians in that Puerto Rico series. The week before, they played the Astros very well. Jose Berrios is starting to come into his own and get the recognition he deserves. They had a little hiccup with Max Kepler hurting his knee, but this team still has a very game Joe Mauer hitting the ball well and a great combination of power and speed in the rest of the lineup. I picked the Twins in the preseason to win the Central and I’m feeling pretty good about that right now.

Are the Angels for Real?

Yes.

This is a power house team and the Astros better be careful they don’t give up the division to these guys because they’re banging on all cylinders. And not to jinx anything, but Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs are healthy and they haven’t been the past 2 years. Now add the phenom two-way player Otani in there with Mike Trout, Upton, Albert Pujols, and Zack Cozart. They got beat up a bit by the Red Sox, but this is for sure a dangerous team in this league. Solid lineup. Good starters. Bullpen is fluid. Top-level manager in Mike Scioscia. I don’t know how far they can go, but these guys are not fading.

Are the Mets for Real?

No.

I’m going to say no for now because they got out to  hot start, but I want to see them sustain it and stay healthy in their rotation. They also need to get better performances out of the back-end starters like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. They’ve played the Nationals very well so far, but that’s been without Daniel Murphy, the Met killer. Once he gets back, it’ll be a true test of where these Mets stand in the division. I think Washington catches them in a couple weeks, then it’s a matter of keeping pace and chasing them back down. I have to say no here, but I’m reserving my right to stay with this team because they have the tools.

Are the Pirates for Real?

No.

This is hard no for me. I like their young pitching, but this is a team that gave up before the year even started by trading Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen. There’s way better teams in the Central like Chicago and Milwaukee who should catch on in a matter of time and eclipse these guys. I don’t think they have the offense that’s now banged up to compensate for when the young starters have off games. Plus, they’re looking to trade a bunch of guys like Josh Harrison and Ivan Nova, so I don’t see the Pirates keeping this pace come summer time.

Are the Diamondbacks for Real?

No.

This is a tough one because I like a lot about this team, but I said in my previews that they lacked the lineup power and they still do. Now they have Taijuan Walker on the shelf for the year with Tommy John surgery to go along with Shelby Miller on the shelf as well. Now they’re running low on starters so they’re brining up Matt Koch, a bullpen guy, to fill that gap. Jake Lamb is also on the DL, so that’s another power bat out of the lineup. Yes, the Dodgers started slow, but they’re picking it up. The Rockies have also kept pace so far. I don’t think this D-Backs team is deep enough right now to hold onto this division.

Are We Destined for Part IV, or is There Another Team that Will Make a Move This Year?

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With the NBA playoffs underway and the two favorites seemingly limping to the finish line, are we about to see someone other than the Cavs and Warriors in the Finals this year?

The West

The Warriors have been without Steph for some time now. Though they’re supposed to have him back healthy for the playoffs, it’s concerning how regular they’ve looked with just KD, Draymond, and Klay Thompson running the show. Arguably, the Rockets have been the best team in the league this year with they’re up-and-down style of play led by James Harden and Chris Paul. Buit let’s not forget what the superstars on this team are come playoff time. James Harden was a no-show in the 2012 Finals against the Heat as a member of the Thunder. Last year, he came up short again in his series against the Warriors. Chris Paul is another guy who’s struggled come playoff time. Though his stats don’t reflect it as much as Harden’s, Chris Paul-led teams haven’t gotten out of the second round of the playoffs throughout the duration of his career. Maybe things will change this year because of the coaching system Mike D’Antoni has put in place for the Rockets. But D’Antoni is ANOTHER guy who hasn’t had success in the playoffs. He was the man at the helm during those Suns days in Phoenix with Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, and Amar’e Stoudemire, where those teams always came up short when pit against the Spurs and Gregg Popovich and the Lakers and Phil Jackson. His defenses broke down in big games and, ultimately, led to those extremely-talented Sun teams to never achieve a title. Now, James Harden and Chris Paul, paired with the high-volume three-point shooting this Rockets team plays with is a polar opposite of those Suns teams. So can they all break through and finally shut the nay-sayers up? If the Warriors are still on an NBA Finals hangover, the West is wide open and this is a perfect year to do so. However, don’t sleep on Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. OKC is the 4 seed, possibly looking at Houston in the second round, and Westbrook has performed better in the playoffs. So could I see Russ pound through Houston and wind up against Golden State in a grudge match? Absolutely. But I picked Golden State to get back to the Finals. I’m sure they’ll get Steph back and they’ll be good to go. I still say the Warriors win the West.

The East

Let’s be honest, even though the Cavs struggled this year, we all know they’re still the odds-on favorites even at the 4 seed. Toronto shrivels up in fear at the sight of the Chosen One and Boston is decimated with injuries. But there’s one young team that was supposed to be a year away, but now have won 16-straight coming into these playoffs down in Philadelphia. Yes, the 76ers are a big threat to the Cavs and we could be seeing another KD situation if the 76ers wind up beating LeBron. Philly is a great team for LeBron to go to next year and have a cakewalk in the East, still. But for this year, the Sixers pose the biggest threat to LeBron and the Cavs. They have a 6’10” point guard in ben Simmons, who can’t shoot a lick, but can facilitate and get to the basket, where nobody other than LeBron can guard him on the Cavs. And they have the now, best center in basketball in Joel Embiid who can protect the rim if LeBron pounds the lane, and can also cause matchup problems if he plays offense on the wings. Those two guys, with all those shooters they have to dish it out to on lane drives, plus the fact that the Cavs could be in a Finals hangover of their own, is a dangerous factor in this Eastern Conference. I say LeBron ultimately pulls through and we get Part IV of Cavs/Warriors, but Philly will be close runners-up.

What This Conor McGregor Situation Tells Me

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If you haven’t heard the story by now, UFC 223 was marred by a series of pre-fight injuries at the top of the card and unfortunate incidents that led to even more fighters having to pull out of their fights because of injuries suffered just a day before the event. Supposedly, a video was released of Conor McGregor’s teammate, Artem Lobov, who was on the 223 card getting into an altercation with now Lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. When this incident was made aware of, Conor showed up on the day of the weigh-ins and tracked down the bus carrying all of the red corner fighters (including Khabib) for the card, where he subsequently threw objects at the bus, breaking glass and cutting some fighters who had to then pull out of their fights.

I have two takes on this. One is good. One is unfortunate.

The Good

Conor McGregor has a lot of guts. This shows, even though he got arrested and practically ruined the event, that he will back up his teammates through thick and thin. He’s also a guy that means what he says and backs up what he says, so he’s not a poser. A lot of guys in the UFC talk trash when it’s convenient (I can think of a couple right off the top of my head), others like Conor, talk the talk and walk the walk.

Now the Bad

I’ve been seeing this coming for a bit now, but with Conor not fighting since he won the lightweight belt over Eddie Alvarez, and then is money grab boxing match against Floyd Mayweather, guys like Khabib and Tony Ferguson have climbed the rankings and are in no mans land waiting for the champ to come back. Now that Conor’s belt is gone, so is the traffic jam, and Khabib was able to capture the lightweight title at UFC 223. The problem is now that Conor has made the big money with the Mayweather fight, can you give him less money from here on out? Why would he fight for anything less than what he got for fighting Floyd? I think Conor made such a fast rise to the top, that there’s nowhere else to go. Anything from here on out would be considered a downgrade for him. Now add that to the fact that I don’t think he can beat Khabib……..or even Tony Ferguson for that matter. Khabib is a ground wizard that holds you down and beats you to death…..or until the round ends. Conor’s weakness is his ground game. Tony would give him the same problems, as well as a tough standing fight. Conor has become famous for his precision in his punches that knock guys out with one punch, but we saw that power diminish the bigger the opponent. He couldn’t knock out Nate Diaz, how is he going to get these other bigger guys in Khabib and Tony? His power is more suited for featherweights and smaller lightweights, where these guys I’m talking about could very well be 170 pounders regularly.

This is a crummy thing to say, but I think this incident was in part a defense of a teammate, but also a sign of a worried fighter of the changing tides. The only thing for Conor to do is come back and fight Khabib. This should’ve happened years ago. I want Conor to come back and deal with these lightweight challengers; they’ve been there forever now. But he hasn’t fought any of them and I’m worried his meteoric rise to the top, in the grand scheme of things, will turn out to only be a flash in the pan.

 

UFC on Fox: Poirier vs. Gaethje (Just the Picks)

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Luke Sanders over Patrick Williams

  • TKO

Alejandro Perez over Matthew Lopez

  • Unanimous Decision

Yushin Okami over Dhiego Lima

  • Knockout

Brad Tavares over Krzysztof Jotko

  • Split Decision

John Moraga over Wilson Reis

  • Split Decision

Antonio Carlos Junior over Tim Boetsch

  • Unanimous Decision

Michelle Waterson over Cortney Casey

  • Unanimous Decision

Israel Adesanya over Marvin Vettori

  • TKO

Alex Oliveira over Carlos Condit

  • Knockout

Dustin Poirier over Justin Gaethje

Dustin has been great at lightweight. Gaethje is coming off that knockout loss to Eddie Alvarez. Dustin doesn’t have a good chin and Justin hits hard, but I’ve seen enough improvement in Dustin’s game where he fights smarter and picks his shots, that I like him in this fight. I think we’ll see Dustin take this to the ground and keep Justin away from his bread and butter. If Dustin can take this fight down and stay off the feet, I see him beating up on Justin the whole fight. I see Dustin Poirier grinding out a smooth decision and keeping away from the big shots Justin throws.

Some Early Thoughts

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Yankees

So far, so good for the Bombers. They split with the Blue Jays, but that team always gives them trouble. Then they absolutely scorched the Rays and their 2 best pitchers at the Stadium. Everybody has been hitting so far. Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Didi, and Stanton are all hitting home runs. Tyler Austin had that huge 2 home run game as he was filling in for the injured Greg Bird. Luis Severino has been brilliant in his 2 starts so far. I’m the first to admit I said he’d take a step back this year because he’s been wildly inconsistent in his career but he’s settled in so far. He was wild against Toronto early, but then Larry Rothschild came over and calmed him down. He’s been lights out ever since. Everybody is hitting the baseball, so they’re not yet dealing with hitting slumps and putting pressure on the pitching staff. Stanton hit his first home run at the Stadium off Blake Snell on Wednesday. The only things I see that could be worrisome are all the injuries happening in the outfield. Jacoby Ellsbury, Aaron Hicks, and Clint Frazier are all out. Even Billy McKinney got injured when he came up to replace those guys. Now they have to lean on Gardy a little more than they should. The plan was to get him some rest and keep him fresh all year, but now he’ll have to work a little overtime. Tyler Wade is also going to come into play because he’s one of those swing players who can play some outfield. Judge may get some time in center as well. They’ve made some signings like Cody Asche, who will help at the corner outfield spots once he gets up to the club. Brandon Drury can also be one of those corner outfield guys. They’ve lost a lot of guys so far, but they still have a bunch of options and their offense isn’t suffering yet. Their bullpen is the biggest problem right now and it’s all a matter of those guys performing well. Dellin Betances has reverted back to getting behind in counts and not holding runners. That Toronto outing was atrocious. David Robertson had some struggles as well in that series. This is where the Aaron Boone chants could be justified because he managed those bullpen situations very poorly. Those guys shouldn’t have been left in as long as they were. It’s something Boone is going to have to improve in because Jo Girardi’s bread and butter was bullpen management.

What’s up with Kershaw?

Clayton Kershaw has posted a 2.25 ERA in 2 starts this season with an 0-2 record and three home runs given up all to lefties (Joe Panik, Daniel Descalso, and David Peralta). This is not typical Kershaw in the slightest. I’m sure he’ll even it out as the season progresses, but can this be a bad omen for the Dodgers this year. they already look to be in a World Series hangover. Justin Turner is on the DL for a good portion of the schedule with a fractured wrist. Now their one saving grace, Kershaw, is struggling right out of the gate. This isn’t looking too goo for LA right now. They seem to have lost their mojo.

The Red Sox are very good

The Red Sox are 6-1 to start the season. You would think they’d be raking the ball, but they’ve actually been pretty average in the hitting department so far. They’re hitting .240 as a team, which is right in the middle of the league. The most home runs on the team is a 4-way tie for first with just 1 home run. They’ve only driven in 201 runs to this point and their run differential is +8, which is decent, but again, right in the middle. They’re getting it done in the pitching with the staff posting the league low 2.21 ERA with opponent batting average at .208, which is 4th in the league. Chris Sale and David Price were both fantastic in their 2 starts so far; virtually unhittable. This is a really good team. Can they beat the Yankees? Let’s not get jumpy. If they pitch like this the whole year, then maybe, but until we see some more of this kind of pitching, let’s dial back.

Shohei Otani

Otani had a miserable spring that almost landed him in Triple A. His first pitching start was against the A’s where he threw 6 innings, struck out 6, gave up 3 earned runs, but still got the win. Not the greatest performance ever, but good enough to suffice. He then went on to homer in 2 consecutive games against the Indians, one of which being off of Corey Kluber. So now we have to start paying attention to this guy. I smirked at the Josh Tomlin home run. Okay you hit an 88 mph fastball out at your home field. Cool. But then he took Kluber yard. Now I know he’s no bust. He’s got some game on both sides of the ball. He could be a crucial element for this Angels team moving forward looking for a playoff spot.