Monthly Archives: March 2009

On the Clock: Cleveland Browns (#5 Overall)

Needs: DE, DT, LB, S, CB

   After a season where they registered only 17 sacks and gave up 350 points (nearly 22 points a game!), look for Cleveland to spend their number 5 overall pick on a playmaker on defense. Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who led the league in tackles, is the focal point of a defense that ranked near the bottom of the league in rushing defense and overall defense. You can’t win games in the National Football League if you can’t stop the run.

Choice #1: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas

   The Browns run a 3-4 defense, which requires fast linebackers and talented lineman to still penetrate. They got no penetration last season. Orakpo is a great fit for this defense because he can put his hand on the ground and play end or stand up and play linebacker. His versatility was a weapon that made him effective at Texas. In 2008, Orakpo notched 19 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks. This man-beast can get in the backfield. By the looks of it, no one else on the Browns can.

Choice #2: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College / Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State

   Either way, look for the Browns to beef up their d-line. A big DT is a must for any 3-4 defense. The Browns currently have Shaun Rogers, but he isn’t getting any younger. Raji is young and has the frame for an outstanding DT at 6 foot 1, 337 pounds. He will engulf blockers for the Browns linebackers to penetrate and run wild. As for Aaron Maybin, he is very similar to Orakpo in his versatility and talent. Orakpo has more upside, though. At the end of the day, it may come to preference as to which player the Browns like better: Maybin or Orakpo.

Pierce’s Current Mock Draft:

1. Lions – Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia

2. Rams – Jason Smith, OL, Baylor

3. Chiefs – Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest

4. Seahawks – Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech

5. Browns – Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas 

Final Four Prediction

Michigan State vs. UConn

   Both State and UConn have had impressive runs to the Final Four. State topped number one overall seed Louisville to advance to the Final Four and gain home state advantage (the Final Four is in Detroit.) UConn handidly beat Purdue and Mizzou on their way to the Great Lakes State. The reason why State beat Louisville is because they changed Louisville’s style of play to a slower, half-court Big Ten style. That disrupted Louisville’s offense, but the effect will not be the same on UConn.

   UConn is exceptional in the half-court defense and offense because they can utilize big men Hasheem Thabeet (7 foot 3 inches) and Jeff Adrien (6 foot 7 inches.) MSU does not have the size to match-up with Thabeet, Goran Suton is 6 foot 10. However, Suton has the ability to hit shots from the outside, which would draw Thabeet out for State’s Raymar Morgan and Kalin Lucas to slash to the basket for an easy 2 points. Moreover, is the State can get Thabeet in foul trouble, State has an advantage because their guards can match-up very well against UConn’s A.J. Price and Kemba Walker. This is going to be a defensive slug-fest that’s going to come down to the last basket. UConn’s outstanding free throw shooting (81% against Mizzou) could be a difference maker as well.

   I like UConn. They have a deeper bench and more dynamic big men. Also, in the half court play, I give the advantage to UConn and Thabeet. The X factor for UConn is freshman Kemba Walker. If he can get hot he will take the pressure of A.J. Price and Thabeet. For Michigan State, the X factor is Goran Suton. He played outstanding against Louisville and if he can get Thabeet into foul trouble, it’s going to give State the best chance to win. I look for UConn to edge out State, but don’t sleep on the Spartans! East Lansing is only an hour and a half away. That’s practically home court.

UConn: 62 Michigan State: 59

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North Carolina vs. Villanova

   Nova, after struggling with no. 15 seed American University in the first round, has stormed back and beat perennial powerhouse Duke in the Sweet Sixteen and no. 1 see Pittsburgh in the Elite Eight. UNC is a perennial powerhouse themselves and has laid a beat down on Gonzaga and Oklahoma the past two games.

   I like UNC in this game. They have so much talent at every position. From former Naismith winner Tyler Hansbrough to Iron Man Ty Lawson to jack of all trades Danny Green. Villanova can’t really match-up with them. Villanova does have an outstanding guard in Scottie Reynolds and a good swingman in Dante Cunningham. However, UNC has too much talent for Villanova. Also, I wonder how Villanova head coach Jay Wright will respond to coaching in his first ever Final Four. He has the tall task of coaching against future hall of famer in Roy Williams.

   Villanova’s only hope is if Scottie Reynolds heats up. If he scores 30, the Wildcats have a better chance. Pair that with getting the heart and soul of the Tar Heels, Hansbrough, in foul trouble and the Wildcats can have a very good chance. But, that won’t happen. Ty Lawson will take care of the ball, Hansbrough will dominate the paint, and Danny Green and Wayne Ellington will hit lay-ups and jump shots. Sorry, Jay, your run ends now.

North Carolina: 75 Villanova: 65

On the Clock: Seattle Seahawks (#4 Overall)

Needs: QB, WR, S, CB, OL, DL

   Seattle had issues with injuries all last season, particularly at the receiver position. The Seahawks just need a jolt oncrabtree2 offense. The leading rusher? Julius Jones with 698 yards. Leading receiver? Someone named John Carlson with 627 yards. Worse yet, the leading passer was Seneca Wallace. Seneca Wallace should never be your leading passer. The ‘Hawks need someone exciting on offense.

Who They Will Draft: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech

   I HATE taking wide receivers this high, but the Seahawks need someone on offense, and Crabtree is the best skill position player available. Crabtree is electrifying, catching 41 touchdowns in his two year career at Texas Tech. He isn’t huge (6 foot 3, 214 pounds), but he is an outstanding route runner and has the best hands in the draft. But, taking a receiver this high you have to wonder: is Crabtree the next Jerry Rice? or the next Mike Williams?

Alternative Pick: Trade

   I would like to see the Seahawks trade this pick down. The Seahawks need a couple different skill players and drafting Crabtree won’t solve all of their problems. If the Seahawks traded their pick to a team in the middle of the first round like the Texans (#15) or the Redskins (#13.) If they could somehow pull that off, the Seahawks would get a later first round pick and a couple other picks in the draft. By trading down, the Seahawks could take a receiver like Percy Harvin out of Florida or Jeremy Maclin out of Missouri.

On the Clock: Kansas City Chiefs (#3 Overall)

Needs: OL, DE, LB, S, CB, QB, RB, TE

   The Chiefs are a team that use a little help everywhere, so they can take the best player available. If things go south with All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Larry Johnson, which it looks like they are, the Chiefs are going to need help at those positions too. I’m not big on current QB Tyler Thigpen, but there is no QB that I believe is worth taking this high. Look for the Chiefs to strengthen their depth at QB, RB, and TE all in the later rounds.aaron-curry 

Who They Will Draft: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest

   If their is a “safe” pick in the draft, it’s Curry. He is a physical specimen at nearly 6 foot 2 and just over 250 pounds. If the Chiefs selected Curry, they would have a the best linebacking corps in the division (the best corps, not best linebacker, though.) Curry is a player that you can center your defense around. Pair him with first round picks from a year ago, DT Glenn Dorsey and CB Brandon Flowers and the Chiefs will have the cornerstones of a great defense.

Who They Should Draft: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest

   I really like Curry. I also really like linebackers in the top ten. History is on my side, too. In the past three drafts, 5 linebackers have been taken in the top eleven. Only one of them (Keith Rivers, Cincinnati, 2008) has failed to notch a 100 tackle season. The other four are good company. In 2006: A.J. Hawk (Packers) and Ernie Sims (Lions), in 2007: Patrick Willis (49ers), and in 2008: Jerod Mayo (Pats.) All of which are anchors on their respected team’s defense.

On the Clock: St. Louis Rams (#2 Overall)

Needs: OL, CB, S, LB

   The Rams have needed a solid o-lineman since before Orlando Pace went down with an injury. They wanted to select Jake Long at last year’s draft, but he was gone so they selected DE Chris Long instead. Well, their situation went from bad to worse last season the Rams started what seems like a million different lineman. The Rams need another guy like Orlando Pace, someone that will anchor the line for years. In addition to that, the Rams are lifeless on defense and need an exciting player to jump start their defense.

Who They Will Draft: Jason Smith, OL, Baylor

   Here is the anchor that the Rams are looking for. Smith is athletic and has plenty of upside. The Rams have talented playmakers on offense, but they never get a chance to shine because defensive players always get into the backfield and disrupt the play. At 6 foot 5 and 309 pounds, Smith has the body size to play either tackle or guard, which could help the Rams even more.

Who I Think They Will Draft: Jason Smith, OL, Baylor

   Hopefully, the Rams won’t get that unlucky two years in a row, where the premier offensive lineman is selected before their pick. Smith is a no brainer at this pick. He is the best overall lineman and lineman is the position the Rams need the most. Draft him, St. Louis.

My NCAA Tourney First Weekend Awards

Most Impressive Team: UConn

   Even though I don’t see them getting to the Final Four, UConn dominated opponents in the first round. They spanked 16 seed Chattanooga by 56 and then beat a very good 8 seed, Texas A&M, by 26 points. Guard A.J Price is playing some of the best ball out there, averaging 23.5 ppg and 5.5 assists in the two tourney games. Hasheem Thabeet may be the most intimidating player in the dance next to Blake Griffin. With the way this team is playing, I almost want to put them in my Final Four (but, I won’t.)    

Most Disappointing Team: Wake Forest

   You could argue that Pitt should be in this spot, but they have at least won a game. Wake is the only team that was ranked number 1 this season to lose in the tourney so far. Not only did they lose, they lost badly to Cleveland State 84-69. Naismith candidate Jeff Teague only mustered 10 points in the lost which was a larger part of why the team lost so badly.

Best Game: no. 12 Wisconsin beating no. 5 Florida State

   This overtime thriller in the first round was spectacular. Florida State stud Toney Douglas brought his A game and scored 26 points. However, it wasn’t enough to slow Wisconsin coming back from double digits at halftime. The game came down to the final possession when Wisconsin guard Trevon Hughes drove to the basket and threw up a prayer that went in and drew the foul. Florida States full court heave wasn’t enough as Wisconsin went on to the second round.

MVP: Blake Griffin, F, Oklahoma

   Griffin, like the whole season, has been unstoppable. Griffin has had a double-double in both games, going for 28 points and 13 bounds against Morgan State and 33 points and 17 rebounds against Michigan. Moreover, Griffin showed his toughness after a Morgan State player flipped Griffin over his shoulder in a dirty, unnecessary, wrestling move. Griffin is still my player of the year and carries Oklahoma on his back.

Has Some Work Left To Do: Pittsburgh

   Their first two rounds have been below par. Pitt needs to play better if they want to win their first ever national title in basketball. Forward Sam Young basically won the Oklahoma State game for his team with 32 points. The rest of the team needs to play on Young’s level. That means Dajaun Blair needs to rebound better, Levance Fields needs to involve the rest of the team more, and Jermaine Dixon needs to play better in general. They still have what it takes to win it all, they just need to remember that.17505523_z

Coolest Jerseys: Syracuse

   Those tight fitting jerseys that ‘Cuse, Ohio State, and Oklahoma State are wearing are sharp (Nike’s new jerseys.) But, Syracuse’s white jerseys that say “Orange” on the front are the best looking unis in the nation. 

The Next Big East Team: Western Kentucky

   Since the Big East seems to collect schools (16 and counting!) the next school inducted into the conference should be WKU. They beat Louisville earlier this season and in the past two tournaments they have advanced to at least the second round both times, despite being double digit seeds. In fact, in the past two seasons they have been more relavent then cross state juggernaut Kentucky. Yeah, I said it, Wildcats. I’m right too.

On the Clock: Detroit Lions (#1 Overall)

   As we countdown to my favorite weekend in April, the NFL draft, I am going to go team-by-team addressing each team needs. From their I will select a player that I believe the team will select in the draft and a player that I believe the team should select. So, starting at the first overall pick, the Detroit Lions are on the clock…

Needs: OL, DL, CB, S, TE

   The Lions, who went winless in ’08, are a team that needs help just about everywhere. They ranked last in the leaguedetroit-lions-logo in total defense, rushing defense, and 30th in the league in total offense. They could really use a playmaker on defense, but I don’t see a defensive player, other than Wake Forest’s LB Aaron Curry, worth taking at the number one overall spot. In addition to that, the Lions need a leader, especially at the quarterback position. The Lions got burned once by selecting a QB in the top 5 back in 2002, when they selected Joey Harrington. However, currently the Lions are juggling quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper, Jon Kitna, and Drew Stanton.

Who They Will Draft: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia

   The Lions need a face of the franchise and that is going to be Matthew Stafford from Georgia. Stafford has the size (6 foot 3 inches, 237 pounds) and the success (30 wins in his three years.) He is a quieter leader and he isn’t as flashy as the quarterbacks of the past years like Jamarcus Russell and even Matt Ryan. However, he is effective. Stafford is a typical dropback quarterback which the NFL prefers over spread quarterbacks. His stats won’t wow you (25 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 61.4% completion percentage last season) but his potential and his knowledge of the game will. Stafford is a work in progress like any college quarterback transitioning to the NFL, but he is a lot better off than raw talent like Jamarcus Russell.

Who They Should Select: Jason Smith, OL, Baylor

   I don’t trust quarterback’s selected first overall. The past two quarterbacks selected first overall? The Raider’s selected Jamarcus Russell in ’06 and the 49er’s selected Alex Smith in ’05. Obviously, some teams have had success (Both Manning brothers were selected first overall), but a much safer pick is that of an offensive lineman. The Lions need help at that position and Jason Smith has proved himself to be the superior pick at that position, earning himself a score of 96 by espn.com. The Dolphins, who were 1-15 in 2007, passed on QB Matt Ryan first overall last year and selected OL Jake Long. The went 11-5 last season and won their division. Success can come from an offensive lineman, it just isn’t as glamorous