NBA Off-Season Part 1: Playing Matchmaker – Top 20 Free Agents

When a player finds himself in Free Agency, he usually lies somewhere within three distinct categories.

Category A: The ‘Marquee’ Player, the Game-Changer, the Franchise savior.. I think you get the point.

Category B: The instant starter, who along with a few other pieces, can go a long way in transforming a franchise. This player could also have the potential to one day become a ‘Marquee’ guy. Also 6th men who would start on most teams in the league, think James Harden.

Category C: The Role Player. The player who puts a team ‘over the edge’. A player who is a nice piece to possess coming off the bench but isn’t necessarily going to transform your franchise, and should by no means be a starter, and thus should by no means be recieving a starter pay-cheque.

Whatever the Category, free agency is a time for teams to find solutions to needs that were not addressed in the draft. Free Agency is a time for teams to take that next step, be it from a lottery to a playoff team, or a playoff team to a Championship contender. They might  secure multiple pieces, or they may look to go after that marquee guy who is able to transform their franchise. Sometimes, teams won’t be active at all in free agency, they might already be content with the team they have or they may simply lack the finances or allure to attract high-calibre free agents.

Whatever the strategy, free agency will ultimately decide where the balance of power in the league will shift. It will indicate which teams have managed their salary cap effectively and which teams have been quite frankly, idiotic. Will parity be restored? Or will the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer? This years Free Agents class doesn’t possess many ‘game-changers’ but the next few weeks will go a long way in giving us a brief preview of the landscape of the NBA for the upcoming season. So lets preview this years free agency, and take a look at the Top 20 free agents for 2012. Who will become immediate title contenders? And who will become the next Charlotte Bobcats (Ok I slightly over-exaggerated)? Lets find out.

1. Deron Williams (UFA)

Category: A

Potential Destinations: Nets, Mavericks.

Best Fit: Mavericks

Summary: The top name in Free Agency this year, and if he had any sense, he would have already signed for the Mavericks by now. You know, that classy franchise that actually know what they are doing. Unfortunately it looks inevitable that he ends up staying in Brooklyn along with his buddy Dwight Howard (via trade).

2. Steve Nash (UFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Knicks

Summary: Possibly the most compelling storyline from Free Agency this year, as for the first time since joining the Suns, Steve Nash finally looks set to move on. The Heat, Knicks and Raptors are all possible destinations, all would make a ton of sense and all would be incredibly fun options. Steve Nash with Lebron and Wade? Fun. Steve Nash playing mentor to Jeremy Lin whilst trying to bring the Knicks back to relevancy? Fun. And Steve Nash returning to Canada? Very Very Fun. All fit, I said the best fit was the Knicks, but ultimately I see him taking his talents… to Toronto, who will wind up bidding the other teams out of the water.

3. Eric Gordon (RFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Hornets.

Summary: This would have been a lot more debatable if the Draft had not been fixed granted the Hornets the Number 1 pick, Anthony Davis. But unfortunately, the draft has been fixed granted the Hornets Number 1 pick, so New Orleans (just two years after Chris Paul’s departure) should be ready for another run with a solid foundation in Gordon, Rivers and Davis.

4. Roy Hibbert (RFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Pacers.

Summary: The man who has been attracting the most attention in Free Agency so far, with the Blazers and Pacers both offering Hibbert max deals. It is quite clear, the Pacers are not willing to let Hibbert go and with him being a restricted free agents, I see nothing preventing this from occuring.

5. Tim Duncan (UFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Spurs.

Summary: The only way Tim Duncan is not performing in a Spurs jersey next year, is if he has decided he’s done wearing jerseys.. I have now realised how bad this sounds.. Lets move on.

6. Brook Lopez (RFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Trade to the Orlando Magic.

Summary: Dwight Howard.

7. Kevin Garnett (UFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Celtics.

Summary: This has already been confirmed. Much like Tim Duncan, there was no way Kevin Garnett was going to be seen in any other Jersey, than a Celtics one (I think I phrased it better that time).

8. Lou Williams (UFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: 76ers

Summary: The fact Lou Williams a) opted-out of his contract and b) wants to be a starting Point Guard wherever he ends up, makes me think he doesn’t end up in Philadelphia at the start of the season. Lou Williams fits perfectly into Category B, he is a fantastic asset to possess, for a team looking to take that next step. He is first and foremost a scorer who can ignite an offense, be it coming off the bench or being a starter, and wherever he ends up, I see nothing preventing him from being very productive.

9. OJ Mayo (UFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Celtics.

Summary: Ray Allen looked all but gone when I started writing this. Who better to replace him than OJ Mayo, one of the best 6th men (Is that how you say it, or is it ‘6th Mans’?) in the league.

10. Goran Dragic (UFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Rockets.

Summary: Another player who replicates the scenario of Lou Williams. A young, talented scoring point guard who hustles, who will immediately improve any team he is on. Unlike Lou Williams however, I see the best fit actually coming to fruition. Why? Because the Rockets are going to make at least one trade before this season begins. It is simply, inevitable. Does that mean Dragic himself could wind up being traded? Maybe. But it’s just as plausible that Kyle Lowry gets traded, and Dragic gets the starting gig. I see him staying in Houston.

11. Ersan Ilyasova (UFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Nets.

Summary: I have already stated that I believe Dwight Howard will be a Brookyln Net this season. That almost certainly means Humphries and Lopez are gone, so who better to pair with Howard than Ilyasova? A guy who consistently averages a double double, hustles, crashes the board and is generally a nightmare. You put him in a starting lineup with D-Will, Gerald Wallace and Dwight Howard, and all of a sudden this team looks capable of competing in the East. I don’t see a scenario where this doesn’t happen. Double-negative aside, I have never been this confident making this many assumptions for one NBA team.. ever.

12. Ray Allen (UFA)

Category: C

Best Fit: Heat

Summary: Doesn’t this just make perfect sense? We saw it in the Finals, with the Lebron/Wade pick and roll, driving to the basket, the Heat relied heavily on perimiter shooting from guys like Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller. With Ray Allen, you get a guy, who gives you Miller’s Game 5 production, on a consistent basis. In Boston, Ray Allen had to work for his looks. In Miami, with Lebron and Wade, he will be shooting Wide Open looks almost all of the time. The Celtics have reportedly doubled the Heat’s offer, now it comes down to whether Allen wants the pay-cheque or the Championships.

13. Jeff Green (UFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Celtics

Summary: David Faulk, who coincedentally is Jeff Green’s agent, stated that Jeff Green was the 2nd best free agent on the market. Obviously that is not true, especially coming off Heart-surgery, but he is still a valuable nonetheless. I see him returning to the Celtics, who if healthy can add another component to a team whose lack of depth was evident in the post-season.

14. Brandon Bass (UFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Celtics

Summary: Brandon Bass was a revelation for the Celtics this past season. The combination in the front court, between him and Garnett should prosper again this season. As referred to in the Jeff Green summary, the Celtics severely lacked depth last season, so if they can ensure that Bass, Garnett, Allen and Green all return this season, they should be contending again.

15. Chris Kaman (UFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Heat

Summary: Can the Heat afford him? Maybe not, but there is no disputing that this is the best fit. Chris Kaman, contract aside, is severely underrated. Any guy that produces a double-double is valuable to a team, especially one that lacks a true center. This makes a ton of sense, unfortunately it is very unlikely that the Heat have the cap space to turn this into a reality.

16. Jeremy Lin (RFA)

Category: B 

Best Fit: Knicks

Summary: Linsanity was a great story last year, and there is no disputing his potential. Even without all of the conjecture from the media, Lin proved he was a top 15 point guard, worthy of a starting job. He should return to the team, that (sort of) helped establish himself. After all, who wouldn’t want to play with Carmelo and Amare? Now that they are all healthy.. ermm, I’m struggling to make anything of this, er… lets just move on.

17. George Hill (RFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Pacers

Summary: A combo guard who, much like Lou Williams, isn’t your typical point guard. He can play the 1 or 2, he can score and can consistently be the 3rd best scorer on a team. The Pacers have obviously been focusing most of their attention so far on trying to re-sign Hibbert, but they have also expressed an interest in Hill. He should end up re-signing.

18. Jason Terry (UFA)

Category: C

Best Fit: Mavericks

Summary: Jason Terry is the perfect, if you can’t get Ray Allen, option. He is a fantastic 6th man, who can explode at any point and re-energize a stagnant offence. If Allen ends up going back to Boston, then the scenario I just made reference to, could surface, but ultimately I see Allen in Miami, OJ Mayo in Boston and Terry returning to Dallas.

19. Brandon Roy  (UFA)

Category: Dammit, he ruined my category theory!

Best Fit: Timberwolves

Summary: Brandon Roy has had a tough time of it. A 3 time all star, forced to retire through injury. However, he claims his injury has been given the all-clear and he has returned to give it another shot. I repeat, this man is a 3-time all star, he isn’t some scrub. If he can come back half the player he once was then your happy. Minnesota with Ricky Rubio as the Point Guard, is the perfect fit for him and with it being a small-market team, can return without the pressure of say.. Chicago (who are also interested). This move makes almost too much sense.

20. JaVale McGee (RFA)

Category: B

Best Fit: Nuggets

Summary: Three words can summarise JaVale Mcgee’s career so far. Incredible talent, disruptive. Sure he entered the league early, but by now he shoud have matured. I see him returning to Denver, where at times he showed flashes of that incredible talent.

Let’s just put that into perspective. This Free Agent Class posesses just the 1 Marquee player, 16 Category B player, 2 Category C players and 1 “Dammit, he ruined my category theory”… category. In short, this Free Agent Class isn’t spectacular. We are not going to get anything that rivals The Decision, what we are getting are a lot of solid players who will make immediate contributions. It isn’t exciting, but a lot of teams, are all going to slightly improve, and if the NBA can replicate anything near to the NFL’s parity, then we can be satisfied going into this upcoming season. We are after all, getting another off-season of Dwight Howard telling people where he wants to go before he ends up staying in Orlando… Excited? Yeah, me too.

NBA Finals – Heat vs Thunder: 5 Keys to the Series

It’s not often in an NBA finals where the two greatest players in the world are playing on opposing teams let alone playing the same position, but that’s what we have been gifted with this years finals, as the Scoring machine Kevin Durant and his Thunder team match up with the ‘Freight train’ Lebron James and the Heat. It’s a salivating prospect, and with both of these teams stars, still very much in their prime, we could be getting treated to this series for the next decade. Here are the 5 keys to the remainder of the series.

1. Russell Westbrook’s decision making

Let me just make something abundantly clear, Russell Westbrook is a fantastic point guard. My criticism doesn’t occur because he’s a terrible player who needs to dramatically improve, this is just one aspect of his game that needs to be slightly improved to ensure that he can maximise his contribution for Oklahoma City.

Let me hit you with some stats. In game 1 Russell Westbrook went 10-24 for 27 points with 11 assists. In game 2 he went 10-26 for 27 points with 7 assists. Now if you were to analyse both of those stat-lines without any contextual knowledge, you would find very little disparity between the two games. And yet he only draws criticism from Game 2, the game in which his team was defeated, even though his performances were essentially identical apart from slightly fewer assists. Now this isn’t me defending Westbrook, this is me saying, that this has been a problem with Russell Westbrook for far too long now. So Why must it take a Thunder loss, to make people realise that, that is the case?

And that’s not even the worst part about this. In both games, Westbrook took more shots than Kevin Durant, who has only taken 20 shots per game, at a much higher field goal percentage. Kevin Durant, You know, that scoring machine who has been essentially unstoppable in the play-offs so far. Come on Russell, you are a very talented point guard who is at his best when you are using your athleticism to drive to the basket, not pulling up to take Jumpers. Drive to the basket, if the rim is being defended, kick it out to a Kevin Durant or whoever, on the wing. If he does that, the Thunder instantly get a significant increase in production from not only the point guard position but also their entire team.

2. Dwayne Wade’s continued Production

When Lebron James joined the Miami Heat, it was for one reason only, to win championships. He knew during the 08 Celtics series that he couldn’t carry a team on his own, he would need numerous pieces in place to help him achieve his main goal. So when he joined up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, that was exactly what he was expecting. Unfortunately, Chris Bosh has been injured for almost the entire playoffs and Dwayne Wade’s production has been rapidly declining, thus Leaving Lebron to carry a Heat team that he joined in the first place, to avoid that exact scenario.

But now Chris Bosh has returned and has almost instantaneously emerged as his All-Star self and Dwayne Wade finally had a big game, in Game 2. Guess what? The Heat won. Now it’s time for Dwayne Wade to continue that production level, because if that continues and Lebron continues to put up 30 points per night and SHANE BATTIER is shooting 70% from 3-point range, the Heat are almost unstoppable.

3. Lebron James vs Kevin Durant

THE story of Game 2, was Kevin Durant getting into foul trouble, and that was for one reason alone, Lebron James. A lot of people have been anticipating this finals series because of this very-matchup and if a theme has been established from the first two games, it’s that whoever gets the better of this matchup generally secures the victory for his team.

In Game 1, Durant blew Lebron out of the water in the 4th quarter, and in Game 2 Lebron returned the favour. In game 2, Lebron took it upon himself to guard Durant, and his incresed aggression ensured that Durant got into very early foul trouble. Did it ultimately affect the outcome of the game? Maybe not, as Durant was very sensible with the way in which he handled playing almost the entire 4th quarter with 5 fouls, but it must have been in the back of his mind.

And even the defining shot of the game with 10 seconds left on the clock was defined by this crucial match-up. Durant seemingly had the advantage over Lebron who seemingly fouled Durant, before Durant missed the easy shot. Yes it should have been a foul, but Durant still should have made the bucket. Then with 5 seconds left on the clock, Lebron hit two CLUTCH free-throws to secure the victory for his team. In Game 3, I expect another game that replicates the close nature of this one. Ultimately it is going to come down to which one of these two superstars gets the better of his rival. Everything so far has been pointing towards a series decided by a Game 7, and if we get to see these two go at it for four more games, then count me in.

4. The Battle of The Role Players

I feel like I am being highly disrespectful by referring to James Harden as a role player, but for the purpose of this point, I am going to go along with it. Usually when James Harden comes off the bench and ignites his offense, The Thunder win the game. In Game 2 James Harden put up 21 points, so you would expect the Thunder to win right? But they didn’t. And that’s because the Heat role players managed to match the performance of James Harden. Shane Battier continued his unbelievable resurgence with 17 points, shooting 5-7 from 3-point range, and the Heat won the game.

Shane Battier scored 17 points in Game 1 aswell, so Why did that not play a contributing factor to a Heat Win? Because the Thunder ‘bigs’ showed up in a major way. Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison combined for 23 rebounds and 8 offensive rebounds most of which came off the bench with Nick Collison having a massive impact. He had 5 of the offensive rebounds, and unsurprisingly the Thunder’s ability to crash the board was one of the main reasons why the Thunder came away with the victory.

Expect the same to happen for the rest of the series. Both team’s role players are going to have to step up because whoever gains the advantage, is more than likely going to contribute to a victory for their team.

5. The Coaches

This has been a very well-coached series so far. BUT CHRIS, ERIC SPOELSTRA IS COACHING, YOU HATE THAT GUY!!” I have admittedly, been very harsh on Spoelstra throughout his time as the Heat coach, but it was for good reason. But in Game 2, he finally did something that he hadn’t done for his entire time as the Heat Coach, he made fantastic adjustments.

He finally decided to start Chris Bosh which was a good decision albeit way too late, thus spreading the floor for players like Dwayne Wade and Lebron James to drive to the rim. And what do you know.. Dwayne Wade had one of his best performances of the playoffs so far. But that’s not where it ended, as the entire complexion of the heat’s half-court offense adapted, with multiple pick and rolls being run through Lebron James and Dwayne Wade. This also links in with the Chris Bosh move, as by having a big that can shoot jumpers or drive to the basket, you immediately make it easier for those pick-and rolls to work efficiently. And with those changes, the Heat secured a victory. Now Spoelstra has to continue to make those adjustments, if he wants his Heat team to secure victory.

A guy that hasn’t drawn as much criticism for his coaching is Scott Brooks, who has done a fantastic job in Oklahoma City. And it was once again a major contributing factor in why his team won Game 1, and also came very close to making a comeback in Game 2. With Game 1, he recognized that James Harden was having an off-night and that his bigs (plus Thabo Sefolosha) were having massive games. So instead of reverting back to his usual ‘small ball’ in the fourth quarter, he played his defensive lineup. This allowed Sefolosha to continue to contain Lebron James, where on numerous occasions he was able to give Lebron very difficult looks and it also allowed his team to continue to dominate the glass, resulting in a major turn-around as the Thunder continued to put up big points (thanks to Kevin Durant) whilst his team still managed to restrict the Heat’s offense very effectively.

Even in defeat, Brooks did a fantastic job considering the start his team made. In the fourth quarter, down by double-figures, the Thunder’s star was on 5 fouls. But instead of subbing him out of the game, Brooks recognised that his team wasn’t going to get back in the game, with his star on the bench for the majority of the quarter, so he decided to put his trust in Kevin Durant, and played him for the entire fourth quarter. The end result? Kevin Durant went off, reducing the lead to as little as 2 points before a bit of unfortunate luck on a foul call ultimately resulted in defeat. In game 3, Brooks is going to have to keep adapting, to ensure his team has the best possible chance to succeed.

So if you have learnt anything from this article, I think we can all agree… This series is going to be fantastic. That is all.

E3 2012 Review Part 1 – Grading The Press Conferences

The Electronic Entertainment Expo was certainly slightly more subdued than previous iterations, a lack of surprises assured us of that. But there was still a ton of high quality games on show, most of which have either been pushed back to Q1 of 2013, or Q1 of 2013 was in facttheir original release date, meaning 2013 already looks stacked. So for the big five press conferences to deliver a great presentation, it would ultimately be the software that defined their success.

Microsoft

I actually left this press conference slightly more hopeful than last years disasters, however that is still not an awful lot of praise because well… last years was a disaster. But at least this year Microsoft moved away from feeding dozens of awful Kinect games down our  throats. We may still have been provided with half an hour of ‘entertainment’ packages and social experiences with announcements such as smart glass which albeit did look very impressive, but for the most part, the distinct focus was on games.

Now the only reason I still did not come away impressed with this press conference, was because of the games that we were shown. I don’t need to see another Forza, at this point I don’t even want another Gears of War. A re-occurring feature throughout the entire software announcements from the Microsoft press conference were the announcement of sequels. Despite the fact that bungie said they would not be developing any more Halo Games, microsoft still found a way to release a Halo 4. Luckily for Microsoft, the third party titles saved them. Tomb Raider, as expected, looked fantastic and they can always rely on Call of Duty to give them a spark. I like the direction that this new Call of Duty is taking, unfortunately, Treyarch neglected to show us that new direction with the strike force missions, choosing instead to go with the ‘same-old’ alternative, in your typical, linear Call of Duty Mission.

I admit that the new Halo looked great, as did the new Splinter Cell but if there is one thing that this press conference emphasised, its that Microsoft (at least for this console cycle) has abandoned the first party titles. Choosing instead to release the tried and tested formula of succesful franchises such as Halo and Gears, hoping that they can produce similar success to previous iterations. It’s not great for us gamers, but Microsoft know what they are doing and it is probably a strategy that works most effectively for them. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to be taken account in their grade.

Grade: C-

Electronic Arts

Unfortunately, EA suffered the same fate as Microsoft. Choosing to announce new sequels rather than new IP’s, and those new sequels did not look all that impressive. Dead Space 3 has seemingly taken a completely different direction, a direction I am not sure fits the franchise. I don’t think we need co-op in Dead Space, but we are getting it. It also seems that Dead Space is going to take the Resident Evil route, choosing to focus more on the action genre rather than the horror, and we know how well that worked out for Capcom.

Now the Sports Titles, which are lets face it, a prominent feature of Electronic Arts, did seem to breed new life. Madden announced a new physics engine which promises to be one of the most revolutionary gameplay features in all of the sports titles. But unfortunately, they decided to focus more on Madden ‘Social’, and didn’t focus at all on titles such as the critically acclaimed NHL series which has been a great success for EA.

Grade: D-

Ubisoft

I will repeat what I said earlier, GAMES is what was going to win E3 this year. And whilst EA and Microsoft took a different direction, GAMES is what we got with Ubisoft. Yes, our enjoyment was slightly hampered by those painful Hosts, but overall, the content was most definitely there. We have to start with what appears to be the shock of E3 in ‘Watch Dogs’. A completely new IP that has you take control of a hacker who has control over all electronics in the city. A new IP this late in the console cycle even had some people questioning whether this was a next gen title, that’s how good this game looks.

Then we had Assassins Creed 3, which despite being a sequel, looks completely stunning. Before E3 we had only been granted a trailer of Ubisoft’s latest title, but with a solid 10minutes of gameplay footage, we certainly know what this game is about now. Yuy play as Connor Kenway a man drawn into the fight after his home is attacked by colonists. Throughout the duration of the 30 year time span of the game, Connor will encounter various historical figures including George Washington and Benjamin franklin, but the intentions and reasoning for these encounters is unclear at this point. So there is two games that look fantastic.

Combine those two marquee titles, with Far Cry 3, which looked stunning as it opened the conference and wii u titles rayman and Zombiu ensured that the content of Ubisoft’s conference was stacked full of games. The only downside really was the ten minutes designated to an esports title, and the poor hosting but overall, a very strong showing from Ubisoft, who in the past have been the embarrassment of E3.

Grade: A

Sony

Unlike Microsoft, Sony showed that they were still all about the gamer. The show opened with a new IP, as Quantic Dream unveiled their latest Project Beyond, which looked visually stunning however with the four minutes of footage that we were shown, there was no real indication as to how the gameplay mechanics will fit in, into the new title. And Sony also closed with a new IP, as we were provided with our first glimpse of gameplay from Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Let me just make something perfectly clear, this is completely different from Uncharted. Sure it might ultimately utilise similar gameplay mechanics, the tone, visuals and story are completely different. The game is brutal, you will see Joel kill someone from repeated blows with the but of gun, it is after all necessary when you only have 6 bullets in your gun. And that limited ammo also enhances the experience, as it ensures that every bullet you use HAS to matter. Trust me, it is very unlikely you will be spraying bullets with an AK-47 in this title. Everything you do feels like it has consequences, and even with this early look at the game, it has game of the year written all over it.

The content in the middle of those two IP’s wasn’t too bad either. We got some fantastic looking third-party titles with Far Cry 3 co-op and stunning new gameplay from Assassins Creed III as you play as the captain of a ship.

The only disappointment from the conference was the announcement of Wonderbooks. I wouldn’t even have minded it being in the conference, as I can appreciate that even though it doesn’t adhere to me, it does suit a certain demographic however, the fact that they dedicated a good 15 minutes on this title was completely unnecessary. That was more than any other game on show. But overall, a good showing by Sony who continued to focus on the games. The fact I almost completely forgot about the new God of War title, highlights just how many first-party title they had on show, even with it being this late in the console cycle.

Grade: B+

Nintendo

Oh boy, I’m just going to go out and say it, this was the worst conference of the lot, and it was also, conveniently, the most important press conference of the lot with Nintendo being the only conference where new hardware was to be the focus. Yes, if Nintendo wanted to have a successful conference, then the WiiU would have to impress. Unfortunately, it didn’t. It’s not even the software lineup that detracted from the conference. Pikmin looked fantastic, as did the new Luigi’s mansion title but the whole conference just felt wooden. The presentation was poor, and despite being promised 23 new titles by Reggie at the start of the conference, I can imagine that most of those were featured in the minute-long montages. There just wasn’t enough. Where was the new Zelda for the launch of a new console? Even a new metroid? Sorry Nintendo, you screwed this up. You didn’t even give us a release date or a price point that may atleast get us slightly optimistic.

Grade: F

10 Reasons Why Miami Are A fantastic Fit For Hard Knocks

Even before Coach Philbin and the Miami Dolphins announced that they would be the team in the spotlight of HBO’s reality television series ‘Hard Knocks’, the Dolphins had already become acclimated with its fair share of the media spotlight. Dating back almost a year ago, the Miami Dolphins head coaching search had been amidst with controversy, firstly missing on John Harbaugh whilst Coach Sporano was still under contract, then missing out on Jeff Fisher after a tireless pursuit, before finally deciding that Joe Philbin was their guy.

And that was not the only talking point from the Dolphins off-season this year. The Peyton Manning saga undoubtedly left a lot of franchises scarred, but maybe none more so than the Miami Dolphins. A team who in the past, have missed so many times in finding Dan Marino’s replacement. In total, 17 quarterbacks have been under center for the Dolphins since  Marino’s retirement. So when Peyton Manning decided to take his talents to Denver instead of South Beach, who most considered the early running favourites, Miami fans were left with that eerily similar feeling to that of when they missed out on Drew Brees years before. Ultimately, Ryan Tannehill was drafted by the Dolphins with the 8th overall pick, signifying the first time the Miami Dolphins have selected a quarterback in the first round, since Marino.

So why you ask, are the Dolphins and Coach Philbin even considering making their locker room susceptible to even further criticism? Some say Coach Philbin’s hand may have been forced by owner Stephen Ross, but when Joe Philbin came out during his daily press conference and announced that this was entirely his decision, it made me think, that maybe this is not as bad as we first thought. Here’s 10 reasons why Miami are a fantastic fit, not only for HBO, but also, for the Dolphins themselves.

10. Wide Receiver Battle

A lot of people were shocked that the Miami Dolphins did not address the Wide receiver position until the 6th Round in the 2012 NFL Draft, considering that just a couple of months prior, Jeff Ireland executed a trade that sent star receiver Brandon Marshall to Chicago for 2 3rd round Picks. But even before that there was uncertainty as many people questioned Brian Hartline as a no.2 reciever (and now it looks like he’s going into the season as the no.1 guy).

Joe Philbin has stated on numerous occasions that in his system, much like in Green Bay, there is not a true no.1 receiver, he likes to spread the ball about. But even without that security of a Brandon Marshall type receiver on your offense, the Dolphins only possess two certified locks at the wide reciever position to make the team. Clyde Gates, was highly touted after being drafted by Miami last year, but has yet to show up on game day, Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace have both shown flashes but injuries have stagnated their progressions and then there are the three rookies. Jeff Fuller, an unrestricted free agent, who just so happened to be Ryan Tannehill’s number one target in college, Rishad Matthews was a perceived 3rd round pick who fell to the Dolphins in the 7th round, and BJ Cunningham (taken in the 6th round), was the leader in Receptions and receiving yards in Michigan State history.

All of those receivers have a shot at making the roster. And with only Davone Bess and Brian Hartline as ‘locks’ to make the team, that alone would make for compelling tv, but throw in the fact that one of those ‘fringe’ players could end up starting, and the sheer breadth between success and failure, gets that bit bigger.

9. Lauren Tannehill

When the Miami Dolphins selected their Quarterback of the future with the 8th overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, there was a lot of Buzz about a person with the ‘Tannehill’ surname. No not, Ryan Tannehill (the guy they drafted) but his wife, Lauren Tannehill. Yep, she is definitely something, and when Hard Knocks airs its Premiere on August 7th, I fully expect her to be a large feature, as her fame spreads from Miami to the national audience. Expect some form of storyline focusing on the Tannehill’s getting acclimated to their surroundings. That’ll be the context, but really, HBO are doing it because she could potentially emerge as a star.

8. South Beach

There are not many glitzier, more glamorous cities than Miami, Florida. Celebrities will be out in abundance, the Miami Marlins and the Miami Heat get massive media attention. Could we potentially see people like Lebron James on the show? Maybe, but the amount of celebrity activity in the area is sure to provide HBO with great incentive to create some very compelling storylines.

7.  Celebrity Owners

Stephen Ross’ early years as owner of the Miami Dolphins have definitely not gone smoothly so far. Initial controversy incurred by Ross’ decision to give B-list celebrities such as Serena Williams minority stakes in the Dolphin’s ownership, and criticised for his involvement in the John Harbaugh affair, whilst Tony Sporano was still under contract, maintains that Mr Ross has definitely got his doubters within the Miami fan base. And that controversy should no doubt provide HBO with some fantastic storytelling opportunities, but it not only benefits HBO. Hard Knocks provides Stephen Ross with the chance to clear up his image. It could end disastrously, but then again, that would just further benefit HBO, and who are we to complain about controversy?

6. The Miami Dolphins Fanbase

This is very much in the category of why this is a great fit for the Dolphins organisation. Yes, it is a well-known fact that the Dolphins fan base has certainly deteriorated over the years, and what better way to bring the Dolphins some National media attention than through Hard Knocks? Many say this issue will be addressed when the Dolphins start winning games, but Hard Knock’s is a nationally televised television program. People will take notice, and if anything, this is certainly a step in the right direction.

5. Joe Philbin

Never before on Hard Knocks has a rookie head coach been a part of the show. That all changes this year, when Joe Philbin, who is not only in his first year with the Miami Dolphins but also as a head coach, takes center stage under the spotlight. Many of the Miami media have been impressed with his attention to detail (he does after all come from Green Bay), capped off with his dry humour, and he has certainly to some extent, re-energised the fan base. It may not have been the glamour hire that Stephen Ross was hoping for, but it could turn out to be a very shrewd bit of business. Joe Philbin could definitely emerge as a star from the show. Sure, it could certainly end disastrously, as a rookie head coach, there are all sorts of new acclimatization’s that need to be made, and the added distraction of having 24 NFL Films cameras constantly over-looking you, could certainly pose a problem. But something makes me feel that, that might not be the case with Coach Philbin. He has an aura about him that emphasises that this extra media attention is unlikely to phase him. He may make quips like stating he’s “more of a radio guy” but he is certainly popular with the Miami Media. Could that translate to the national media? I can’t see why not.

4. Reggie Bush

Miami is most definitely a glamorous city, but the Miami Dolphins organisation doesn’t really pertain to that philosophy. Most people would struggle to reel off the starting depth chart for the Miami Dolphins because they simply lack the ‘big-names’. But when the Dolphins acquired Reggie Bush in a trade with the New Orleans Saints, and he produced his best season in the NFL yet as he rushed for over 1000 yards, that all changed. Yes there aren’t many more famous individuals in the NFL. He’s hosted Live! With Kelly and he was certainly in the spotlight through his tumultuous relationship with Kim Kardashian.

In previous iterations of Hard Knocks there has always been a ‘star’. Rex Ryan was the star of the New York Jets Hard Knocks, the Bengals had Ochocinco and the Cowboys had TO. Could Reggie Bush find himself on that ‘PRESTIGIOUS’ list? Maybe, I can’t wait to find out.

3. Ryan Tannehill

I mentioned his wife earlier, but now it is time for Ryan, to take the spotlight. Quite shockingly, there has never been a rookie quarterback on Hard Knocks, Ryan Tannehill signifies the first time, and that is sure to make for compelling television. How will Ryan Tannehill deal with the expectations of the fan base? How will Ryan Tannehill deal with the ‘ghost’ of Dan Marino? How will Ryan Tannehill acclimatize to the NFL? Will Ryan Tannehill impress in Training Camp? There are tons of questions surrounding this kid, and I only named four. HBO must be licking their lips, because this is a fascinating storyline.

2. 3 Way Quarterback Competition

And if that previous point wasn’t enough, the Rookie Quarterback has been thrown into a 3-way Quarterback OPEN competition for the starters job. Matt Moore impressed down the stretch last season, David Garrard’s whose time as of late has been marred by injuries was brought in to provide competition, and then there’s the franchise ‘saviour’ rookie quarterback, who some say is not ready to start week 1. It’s a fascinating competition and fits perfectly with everything that defines the Hard Knocks television series. Even Stephen Ross has shared his thoughts, stating that he expects Matt Moore to be the starter week 1. Now whilst your perception may be that he is trying to force the issue, he was saying that as a fan. As a fan that’s what he thinks, and that is also a great sign for the Dolphins who were worried by the rumors that Stephen Ross was forcing Jeff Ireland and Coach Philbin’s hand to start Ryan Tannehill right away. It’s an interesting dynamic and is one of many branching storylines that HBO can take with this issue.

Great stuff. And if all of that wasn’t enough, Joe Philbin has promised that a starter will be named by week 3 of the pre-season, which just so happens to be slap-bang in the middle of the Hard Knocks programming. This really has the potential to be great.

1. A Chance for the Dolphins to Clear Up Their Image

Yes, this one is most definitely concerned with why it is a fantastic fit for the Dolphins organisation, because let’s face it, bar the saints there is not a more screwed up organisation in the league. With Joe Philbin’s arrival, the franchise promised a more transparent organisation.Yes there has been controversy, and that controversy is one of the many reasons why this is a fantastic fit for HBO, but by agreeing to this, Hard Knocks marks the next step on the road to transparency for the Dolphins. Jeff Ireland has had his critics, over things such as the Dez Bryant controversy and Stephen Ross certainly has tarnished his image. By agreeing to Hard Knocks, all of that can change. The Dolphins have a chance to address that negative perception. Jeff Ireland may have poor management skills, which could be disastrous when it comes round to showing the front-office making their cuts, but he has shown that he has impeccable football knowledge. This is a smart man, now here’s a chance for him to show that off to the world.

You may not be watching the show to see this being enacted, but it is without doubt the most important factor in why the Miami Dolphins are a fantastic fit for Hard Knocks.

The tide may be shifting in Miami. With the hiring of Joe Philbin and the drafting of potential franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a new feeling of prosperity has descended upon the Miami fan base, Hard Knocks is simply the next phase in that progression. So let’s sit back and enjoy the ride, times are changing down in South Beach, and Hard Knocks allows you the fan, to embrace that change.

 

NFL Draft Winners and Losers

Drafts shouldn’t be graded until at least three or four years into the future but that doesn’t mean we can’t grade value. An A+ draft grade does not mean Team X are going to win a super bowl because of how many awesome players they have drafted, it means they’ve assembled a group of rookies with the most potential and value at that particular point in the draft.

So what does ‘value’ in a draft exactly mean? Now we could delve into an entirely different and incredibly tiresome argument which goes something along the lines of.. “but 7th round picks are just as likely to have a productive career as a 1st round pick, JUST LOOK AT TOM BRADY!” But to avoid that entirely different and incredibly tiresome argument.. I have one thing to say, there have been thousands of 6th round picks, only once have we been graced with a Tom Brady. 1st round picks have a higher success rate, it isn’t guaranteed but they’re more likely, that is a fact, if you want to dispute that, then you’re disputing the integrity of NFL scouting departments. So when you accrue multiple players with 1st or 2nd round draft grades, in the later rounds of the draft, then that presents good ‘value’.

So starting off with the 2012 NFL Draft’s worst, now typically what happens is that the teams with the ‘worst’ drafts happen to stumble across a few late round ‘gems’ and basically shit on all draft analysts across the country.. So you should still feel pretty confident Denver fans! (The reason I didn’t use Seattle is because I’m pretty sure they are screwed with this draft).

4. (The ‘not as terrible as the other three’ spot.’) San Francisco 49ers

AJ Jenkins at number 30, just doesn’t make sense to me. Most analysts struggled to place him in their Top 100 overall prospects, so to draft him in the 1st round when receiving options like Coby Fleener and Stephen Hill are still on the board doesn’t present good value. The only thing that makes up for this selection, is the selection of Cam Johnson in the 7th round. Mike Mayock had him in his top 50 prospects, so  a 2nd round prospect falling to the 7th round undoubtedly presents good value, but you have to question why he fell that far. Grade C

3. Kansas City Chiefs

It doesn’t surprise me that he went so high, but I just really don’t like Dontari Poe. This guy had 5.5 sacks for his entire career in the C-USA conference, how is that going to translate into the NFL?!!?? Yeah his combine numbers were freakish, but you take developmental prospects like that in the 2nd or 3rd round, not with the 11th pick in the draft. I like Jeff Allen as a prospect, but ahead of Peter Konz who was also available at 44? I dont think so. No value in the early rounds, combined with a late-rounds in which I liked very few of the picks makes for a very poor draft. Grade C-

2. Denver Broncos

So Denver signed that Peyton Manning fella’ didn’t they? And he’s supposed to be pretty good right? So why on earth did Denver not do anything to surround that pretty good player with some weapons to make a super bowl run in the two or three seasons he has left in the league? Instead they drafted a defensive tackle who whilst filling a need was a slight reach, a developmental Quarterback far too early in the draft and the only semblance of an offensive weapon that Peyton was provided with, was Ronnie Hillman in the 3rd round who is still a reach himself.. Especially when Lamar Miller is still on the board. Grade D

1. Seattle Seahawks

I think everyone saw this one coming after my rant regarding the Seahawks 1st round selection. I think the thing that offends me the most is that Bruce Irvin was the first pass rusher taken in the draft. A guy whose sole ability is to rush the passer, he’s incapable in run support and that in itself make him a 2nd-3rd round pick but when he gets arrested pre-draft aswell? Well then he goes into the 5th-6th round ‘worth a chance’ range. So to take him at 14? Quite simply, the worst draft pick ever (most people actually thought Jamarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf would be great), and you can hold me to that even if he turns out to be an average 3rd down pass rusher.

Ok enough of that negative stuff… Time for the best Drafts.

5. Miami Dolphins

Wow. Shocker. Starting with the 1st round selection, Ryan Tannehill.. I have absoloutely no problem with this selection. There is such a massive drop-off after the top 7 or 8 prospects in this draft that Tannehill at this pick really isn’t that much of a reach. He has the upside and as strange as this may sound, Tannehill couldn’t have found himself a better set of circumstances in Miami. When Joe Philbin was interviewed after the draft he stated that Tannehill had already learned the entire playbook, yes that seems entirely implausible but Tannehill’s former head coach at Texas A&M, Mike Sherman just so happens to be the Dolphins new offensive co-ordinator.

But there’s not really where the word ‘Value’ comes in. The dolphins essentially drafted three first round picks. In the 2nd round, the Dolphins selected Jonathan Martin who was considered a potential top 10 pick earlier in the off-season and Lamar Miller in the 4th round whilst not fitting a need, gave the Dolphins some more great value as he was considered by some to be  the 2nd best Running Back in the draft behind Trent Richardson. The only downside to this draft is the Wide reciever position being completely ignored before the 6th round, but when a team like the Dolphins is rebuilding, you can’t address every need in one draft. Grade A-

4. Detroit Lions

2 years ago the Packers drafted a guy with percieved ‘short arms’, named Bryan Bulaga. A guy expected to go in the top 10 who dropped for that exact reason into the 20s. This year the Lions drafted a guy named Riley Reiff, who was also expected by many to go in the top 10, but his ‘short arms’ once again made him slide to the Lions in the 20s. Now that short-armed Packers lineman turned out pretty well I’d say, and I’d also say that these two cases are pretty similar right? Great value – I see this one working out.

Then the lions managed to get value in the later rounds, Ronnell Lewis was a player that was a borderline 1st-2nd round talent. So I have no idea how he fell to the 4th round. The lions don’t particularly need a linebacker but this great..er whats that word… VALUE. Now Ryan Broyles is interesting, he got drafted in the 2nd round but was expected to go by many in the 3rd-4th round, so why do I like this pick? This kid tore his ACL last season, he had 1st round potential, so if the Lions are willing to take him in the 2nd round, that tells me this kid checks out medically.. and if this kid checks out medically, and displays that 1st round potential, dare I say that Lions offense is unstoppable? Grade A-

3. Indianapolis Colts

Out goes one hall of fame Quarterback and in comes, potentially, another one. I have never seen a College Quarterback who looks as comfortable and as in control of his offence as Andrew Luck. Whilst some may make the comparison to Peyton Manning, Luck is about as close a model to Aaron rodgers as you can get. He makes all of the throws, that’s a given, but his ability to read the defence and his athleticism enabling him escape the pocket when required (he had a 40 time that replicated that of Cam Newton) is what sets him apart.

So when you’ve got your Quarterback of the future, who is going to start Day 1, you have to find him some weapons right? So the Colts went out and drafted two tight ends. One of which was his former tight end at Stanford, Coby Fleener who most had going somewhere in the 1st round (VALUE) and Dwayne Allen who excels in run blocking whilst also being a viable receiving threat in the 3rd round (he was expected to go in the 2nd round, VALUE). The colts also managed to add potential starters in running back, Vick Ballard and Wide Reciever T.Y Hilton who should compliment Austin Collie and Reggie Wayne well in the slot.  One concern I do have is that the offensive line was pretty disastrous last year, now that Oline is without Jeff Saturday? Well, let’s just say the two rookie tackles Sherrod and Ilijana better perform this year, or Luck is going to have to use a lot less of that arm, and the receivers acquired by the Colts Front office, and a lot more of that athleticism.

The Colts did slightly abandon the defence, but they should at least be fun to watch.The colts are far too terrible to make a meteoric turn-around in one season, so expect to see a season replicating that of the Panthers from last season. Grade A-

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

You know what, at this point it’s becoming unfair how the best teams always end up with the best talent in the draft, I guess it’s a credit to their organization that year in year out they continue to add talent to a team that is already capable of winning playoff games. At this point the NFL should just say screw it and give the team that wins the super bowl the 1st overall pick, because let’s face it, they’re going to draft the best player in the draft anyway. Heck, just have all 32 teams draw players out of a shiny hat,  the Seahawks couldn’t do much worse than what they actually ended up doing.

But all joking aside, How do teams reach for players like Bruce Irvin at 15 overall, enabling players like David DeCastro who is a certified stud at guard in the nfl for the next 10-15 years, to fall to the steelers at 23? It’s just unfair dammit. We either need the NFL to restrict Pittsburgh’s scouting to the C-USA (hey they might find themselves a dominant defensive lineman like Dontari Poe) or we should just let Pittsburgh do every team’s scouting (Ok I guess not all joking aside). DeCastro combined with Mike Adams, who could have also gone in the 1st round, have ensured the steelers in two years have transformed their offensive line from one of the worst in the league, to potentailly the best? Seriously. Pouncey, DeCastro and Adams is scary, and I haven’t even brought up Alameda Ta’amu (nose tackle) who was once considered a 1st round prospect falling to the 4th round. Grade A

1. Cincinatti Bengals

And the only reason the Steelers aren’t number 1… Is because the Bengals have quite possibly had the best draft I have witnessed in my lifetime. That is no over-exaggeration, the amount of talent they have been able to compile with the later round picks is astonishing. They may not all turn out to be pros, but the sheer value they have been able to produce with a multitude of their picks is astonishing. And the scary thing? Their first round was pretty weak, it could have been even better.

So let’s ignore the 1st round for a minute. 53rd Overall, Devon Still, Value? Yep, could have easily gone in the first round. 83rd Overall, Mohammed Sanu, Value? Yup, was a consensus 2nd round pick and the fact that he was pranked into thinking he had been selected by the Bengals in the 1st round, makes this pick even more awesome. 93rd Overall, Brandon Thompson. Value? Definitely, could have possibly snuck into the 1st round in the eyes of many draft experts.  116th Overall, Orson Charles, a 2nd round talent with character concerns, with the amount of value they have found, they can afford to take the risk. And it keeps going, Marvin Jones who I was screaming for someone to take in the 2nd round, was drafted in the 6th and George Iloka who in my opinion is the 3rd best safety in the class, also went in the 6th. It’s ridiculous.

So how could it have been even better? They passed on David DeCastro.They had a need along the offensive line, and for the sake of picking up an extra 4th rounder, they sacrificed DeCastro and took Kevin Zeitler four spots later. Yes even the best draft in the nfl, managed to make the Steelers look like geniuses.  Grade A+

So yeah, now that my ‘Who got the most value’ article is done, I fully expect Bruce Irvin to emerge as the next Dwight Freeney whilst all of the Bengals draftees slowly pail to insigificance. It’s usually the way it goes, but for now, I’m content in saying that the Bengals had the best draft I’ve ever seen – in terms of value, and that is with all joking aside.

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2012 NFL Draft Big Board – Top 100 Prospects (1-50)

Before I provide you with the list – I need to give you a bit of insight into how my grading system works. I don’t grade prospects based on where I expect them to go in this year’s draft. For example if a guy is expected to go in the top 10 but I view him as only a top 20 player, he’s getting a top 20 grade. Now breaking down the star system.

5 Stars – These guys are the “safe” picks, the “can’t miss” prospects, the “sure-things” whatever you want to call them, when you draft these guys your expecting elite production for the next 10+ years.

4 1/2 Stars – Elite prospects that have slight risks or potential downsides.

4 Stars – Top 10 Picks.

3 1/2 Stars – Solid 1st round prospect – Top 20 Pick.

3 Stars – Late 1st round – early 2nd round prospect.

2 1/2 Stars – 2nd Round Prospects.

2 Stars – Solid 3rd Round Prospects – Players with potential red flags but huge potential may fit in here.

1 1/2 Stars – 4th Round Prospects – Upside picks – talent, effort, motivation, health risks may come into play here.

1 Star – Developmental Prospects – Later round players that could contribute in the nfl with the correct development.

So here are my Top 100 prospects for the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft.

1. Andrew Luck – The best quarterback prospect since peyton manning, the safest pick in the draft, the most complete quarterback in over a decade – blah blah blah, yep this guy is good, he’s going to go Number 1 overall, and quite frankly I dont see a draft from the past 10 years where he wouldn’t have gone number 1 either.

2. Morris Claiborne – The best defensive player in the draft. A physical presence on the outside that is a potential shut down corner.

3. Matt Kalil – There is a reason Tyron Smith (the best left tackle prospect from last year’s draft) was only playing Right tackle for the trojans, Matt kalil is that reason. Throughout the season Barkley’s blindside was protected superbly and has been compared to names from previous drafts such as Joe Thomas and Jake Long.

4. Justin Blackmon – Any doubts or concerns about his speed were put to rest at his pro days. Even through illness Blackmon managed to dominate the fiesta bowl against Stanford. He provides great physicality at the line of scrimmage whilst also making a habit of gaining yards after the catch. The best wide reciever prospect since megatron and a sure-fire number 1 reciever.

5. Trent Richardson – These four prospects after Andrew Luck are completely inter-changeable. The only reason I don’t have Richardson as my number 2 prospect is because he’s a running back. Previous history has shown it’s a lot easier to just draft one with a late-round pick but don’t get me wrong, this guy is a beast, who doesn’t shy away from contact. Very few Running backs are taken in the top 10 these days, and the only way for General managers to justify doing just that, is if you have either elite speed or elite talent, Richardson fits into that second category.

6. Luke Kuechly – Linebackers don’t get taken in the top 10, but if you were to do just that, this would be the guy do it with. For the year, he collated 191 tackles, displaying great instincts and field vision, and can also sit in coverage with his tally of 3 interceptions emphasising this. A sure-thing that would go in the top 10 any other year, I’m unsure of his potential suitors however so he could slip providing someone doesn’t trade up for him.

7. David DeCastro – Guards are becoming more and more pivotal in today’s NFL. DeCastro is a better prospect than last year’s Mike Pouncey who went to Miami at number 15, so don’t be shocked if this guy goes as high as number 11 to the Chiefs.

8. Robert Griffin III – But this guy is going to go 2nd overall???!?? He’s the 2nd best prospect in the draft!!! Nope, he’s not. This guy has been unfairly compared to Cam Newton and Michael vick when in fact, he’s a gentle compromise between the two. He’s got a great arm, great accuracy, great athleticism he has all the intangibles to be a franchise quarterback. So what concerns me? His pocket vision is extremely limited. His offense pre-dominantly asks him to go to the 2nd read at most, and his athleticism sometimes overshadows his poor presence within the pocket. I personally think what the Redskins have done is incredibly risky, but he has the upside to replicate what Newton did last season so I can understand why they did it.

9. Quinton Coples – Supposed ‘motor’ concerns are completely ridiculous. Coples is the only ‘elite’ defensive end prospect in this years draft, his physical tools replicate that of Julius Peppers and whilst he may not amount to that sort of production over his career, I have no problem making the comparison. His college production is also something that comes into question when in fact what I see on tape is a guy that consistently pressures the quarterback despite consistent double teams. He’s not going to have to deal with that in the NFL and I fully expect him to prosper because of it.

10. Fletcher Cox – The best defensive tackle prospect in this year’s draft. Some people have him going as high as Number 6 to the rams in this years draft, I personally have him down to go to the Panthers at 9. Cox provides a disruptive presence at the heart of the defensive line with his great first step, technique and motor hopefully providing a team with the tools needed to develop a force in the middle of the defence.

11. Michael Floyd – Some have this kid higher than Blackmon on their boards but in my opinion he lacks the speed and quickness getting out of his cuts to be that. What he is, is a physical deep-ball threat who’s going to provide mis-matches for any defence in the nfl.

12. Stephen Gilmore – Oooohh shocker. Yep this guy is rising up draft boards, including mine. Gilmore has the perfect combination of height and speed, has great playmaking ability due to his athleticism in this all amounts to a kid that has tremendous upside. Could be a potential pick for the Jaguars at number 7.

13. Melvin Ingram – Ingram has tremendous speed and power at the line of the scrimmage. I myself am concerned about whether or not he can set the edge in the nfl, and his short arms are also a concern but his versatility is intriguing for nfl teams, and his ability to play both the 4-3 and the 3-4 should move him up draft boards.

14. Riley Reiff – Seem people are put off by his short arms and lack of power but he makes up for it with his athleticism and quick feet which allow him to deal with speed rushers incredibly efficiently.

15. Dre Kirkpatrick – At 6″3 192 pounds, Kirkpatrick is a very physical corner who isn’t afraid to make a tackle in the open field. He did a fantastic job in both crucial games against LSU, practically shutting down the highly-touted Reuben Randle. Any concerns regarding his marijuana problems were brought to an end when the charges were dropped so there really should be no concern when taking this guy with a top 20 pick.

After the top 15, there are a heck of a lot of players, predominantly pass rushers in the late 1st Round-2nd round range and this has led to a lot of players moving up draft boards, probably being higher than they should be, whilst some have been pushed into the 2nd round. Here is a breakdown of those players.

16. Michael Brockers

17. Kendall Wright

18. Coby Fleener

19. Jonathan Martin

20. Ryan Tannehill – Some people are saying Tannehill is a reach for Miami at 8, and whilst he certainly is, it’s not as dramatic as you would think. After the top 6-8 prospects, there is a massive drop-off, Miami are on the cusp of that limit. They need a quarterback, Tannehill has tremendous upside, and when you evaluate last years prospects, there is no reason why he can’t go that high when players like Christian ponder were off the board at number 12.

21. Dont’a Hightower

22. Nick Perry

23. Courtney Upshaw

24. Mark Barron – The guy is simply not the top 15 pick people are making him out to be. He has quite blatantly been moved up because of this weak safety class. He does have great physicality, but too often on tape I see lapses in coverage leading to big plays, so I just can’t justify him being that highly touted a prospect.

25. Dontari Poe – Once again, a guy rated much higher than he should be but this time it’s simply because of his combine performance. His tape is far too inconsistent for me to even consider him going in the top 10, but the potential is there for him to be exactly that. I expect a team like the Chiefs with very few holes to take a chance on him.

26. Shea Mclelin

27. Peter Konz

28. Janoris Jenkins

29. Reuben Randle – Due to the Wide reciever class being so deep, a sure-fire 1st round pick in randle will probably be pushed to the start of the 1st.

30. Doug Martin

31. Brandon Weeden – Yep this guy is a legitimate first rounder. Discount his age and he’s a sure-fire top 10 pick. And if you get 7-8 years of quality production out of him, who is honestly going to be complaining that he is 36?

32. Stephen Hill – Like Poe, his combine performance has sky-rocketed his draft status. However I can’t comment on his route running ability because he simply wasn’t asked to at Georgia Tech. It’s what makes prospects like this so hard to evaluate, and he could well turn out to be like Demaryius Thomas who also came out of GT.

33. Chandler Jones

34. Mike Adams

35. Whitney Mercilus

36. Cordy Glenn

37. Jerel Worthy

38. Devon Still

39. Alshon Jeffrey

40. Lavonte David

41. Kendall Reyes

42. David Wilson

43. Ronnell Lewis

44. Bobbie Massie

45. Andre Branch

46. Zach Brown

47. Mohammed Sanu

48. Lamar Miller

49. Amini Silatolu

50. Dwayne Allen

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2012 NFL Mock Draft

I’m not a big fan of Mock Drafts, as there really is no way of predicting which teams are going to make trades, which teams are going to make a surprise pick and that was more evident than ever with last season’s quarterback rush in the first round. But what a mock draft does do, is provide a useful tool for me to provide some insight on all of the top prospects in the draft, and where I could conceivably see them ending up. The next few days, there are going to be a lot of Draft Preview articles, so this mock Draft will just be the beginning.. So here it is, my mock draft.

1. Colts – Andrew Luck QB
2. Redskins – Robert Griffin QB
Don’t Really need to explain these first two picks, the reports that RG III is being considered at Number 1 are ridiculous and is typical media trying to garner some excitement from a very predictable opening pick.

3. Vikings – Matt Kalil OT
I Don’t think this pick is as clear cut as most draft experts would have you believe, I honestly see Morris Claiborne being in play for the Vikings aswell. When you analyse the talent levels of both guys it’s fairly similar, so it comes down to what you percieve to be the bigger need. I read an interesting article about how if the QB is good enough, he can make a very poor oline look good.. but at this stage ponder isn’t at that sort of level, the vikings need to make him as comfortable as possible and giving him an elite left tackle will certainly do that. But I would definitley not be surprised if this pick turns out to be Claiborne.

4. Browns – Trent Richardson HB
Richardson gives this offense an identity that Blackmon cannot attain by himself, and provides some much needed relief for Colt Mccoy.

5. Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne CB
6. Rams – Justin Blackmon WR
The last 2 “elite prospects” available, will be gone by the Rams pick. The bucs have Vincent jackson and mike williams so don’t need a reciever, and Claiborne fits a big need for the Bucs. The rams take whichever elite prospect is left, in this scenario that is Blackmon.

7. Jaguars – Melvin Ingram DE
I feel bad for the Jaguars, there never bad enough to have a top 5 pick but are never good enough to make the playoffs.. seems familiar. But anyway, this pick signifies a large dropoff in talent, so if your the jags you ideally trade down here. I don’t particularly like Ingram as a prospect, and I personally think this pick has Derrick Harvey written all over it, but it fills a need and he is considered one of the better prospects available at this point in the draft.

8. Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill QB
This is probably a slight reach, but at this point Ireland has to address the quarterback position. The pick is Tannehill unless one of those elite prospects manages to fall or they fall in love with Coples.

9. Panthers – Fletcher Cox DT
They have there elite pass rusher in Johnson, and now they need that interior presence. Fletcher Cox is the best DT in the draft, so this pick makes sense.

10. Bills – Riley Reiff OT
The bills failed to re-sign Demetrius Bell so they need to address the tackle position, Reiff is the best tackle available.

11. Chiefs – Dontari Poe DT
I really am not as infatuated with this guy as a lot of draft experts are. His tape is far too inconsistent for me to simply overlook because he had a good workout at the combine. Heck if I was a scout, I wouldn’t even attend the combine. All it serves to do is distort your opinion on certain prospects based on how fast or how high they can jump. But the Chiefs really don’t have that many needs so they can afford to take a chance on Poe who could potentially be an unstoppable force and kelly gregg is also 35 so they need to replace him.

12. Seahawks – Luke Kuechly ILB
Simply the best player available, I have Kuechly as my 7th best player overall.
13. Cardinals – David DeCastro OG
Their Oline is simply awful, floyd could be the pick here but they can get by with just Fitzgerald at reciever, they need to address the oline.

14. Cowboys – Mark Barron S
The cowboys need to address the secondary in the first round this year.

15. Eagles – Michael Brockers DT
This team has so much talent and it appeared as if they finally started to click towards the end of the season, but the interior defense is still a problem.

16. Jets – Michael Floyd WR
I was torn on this pick. The bigger need is a pass rusher but I don’t see any value at this pick. Sanchez needs someone opposite from Holmes and Floyd is the BPA at this point.

17. Bengals- Dre Kirkpatrick CB
18. Chargers – Courtney Upshaw OLB
19. Bears – Jonathan Martin OT
20. Titans – Quinton Coples DE
21. Bengals – Cordy Glenn OG/C/T
22. Browns – Kendall Wright WR
23. Lions – Stephen Gilmore CB
24. Steelers – Dont’a Hightower ILB
25. Broncos – Jerel Worthy DT
26. Texans – Nick Perry OLB
27. Patriots – Whitney Mercilus OLB
28. Packers – Shea McClelin OLB
29. Ravens – Peter Konz C
30. 49ers – Stephen Hill WR
31. Patriots – Janoris Jenkins CB
32. Giants – Coby Fleener TE

Round 2

33. Rams – Devon Still DT
34. Colts – Mike Adams T
35. Vikings – Alshon Jeffrey WR
36. Buccaneers – Lavonte David OLB
37. Browns – Brandon Weeden QB
38. Jaguars – Mohammed Sanu WR
39. Rams – Zach Brown OLB
40. Panthers – Chandler Jones DE
41. Bills – Josh Robinson CB
42. Dolphins – Reuben Randle WR
43. Seahawks – Andre Branch DE
44. Chiefs – Kevin Zeitler G
45. Cowboys – Vinny Curry DE/OLB
46. Eagles – Harrison Smith S
47. Jets – Doug Martin HB
48. Patriots – Kendall Reyes DT
49. Chargers – Bobby Massie T
50. Bears – Jayron Hosley CB
51. Eagles – Ronnell Lewis OLB
52. Titans – Kelechi Osmele G
53. Bengals – David Wilson HB
54. Lions – Zebrie Sanders T
55. Falcons – Dwayne Allen TE
56. Steelers – Amini Silatolu G
57. Broncos – Brock Osweiler QB
58. Texans – Mychal Kendricks ILB
59. Packers – LaMichael James HB
60. Ravens – Lamar Miller HB
61. 49ers – Trumaine Johnson S
62. Patriots – Brandon Thompson DT
63. Giants – Isiah Pead HB

So there it is – expect to see a lot more draft previews coming soon. I will also be providing coverage of the NFL draft as it happens, with recaps after every day – so stay tuned.

 

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