The Beginning of the Jackie Bradley, Jr. Legend

Tomorrow, the Boston Red Sox will open their 2013 season in the Bronx against their arch rival, the New York Yankees.   News bradley-4793.rbroke today 22 year old Jackie Bradley, Jr. made the Opening Day roster after an amazing Spring Training.  For the past two months there has been much debate on sports radio, in the newspapers, and all over the blogosphere about whether to promote Bradley, Jr. to the big show or start out the season in Pawtucket.  Because of the way Major League Baseball contracts are structured, Bradley, Jr. making the team is significant for the next 6 years.  Bradley, Jr. will need to spend at least 20 days in Pawtucket at some point during this season to ensure he is still under Red Sox control in 2018.

I am completely in favor of Bradley, Jr. making the Opening Day roster.  It is not because he gives the Red Sox the obvious public relations boost the organization sorely needs.  I am in favor of Bradley, Jr making the team because he was 1 of the best 25 guys in camp.  Bradley, Jr. deserved to make this roster.  If the Sox had of kept him in the minor leagues just to ensure they keep him under team control an extra year, it would send a terrible message to the players in the organization.  I don’t condone the idea of essentially punishing someone that busted their behind all spring by sending them to the minors.

Bradley, Jr. is expected to start in left field.  Jonny Gomes will be the team’s designated hitter until David Ortiz is ready to come off the disabled list.  Things will get rather interesting when Ortiz does come back.  Does Bradley, Jr. stay in Boston? That question will not be answered for a few weeks.  Until that time, we as Red Sox fans should enjoy the ride with Jackie Bradley, Jr.  He is going to energize the lineup.  Also, the outfield of Bradley, Jr., Ellsbury, and Victorino has to be the best defensive outfield in baseball.  The three of them will cover ground like no other trio in the history of baseball.

Jackie Bradley, Jr. has been compared to Derek Jeter when it comes to his character by Buster Olney.  As a Red Sox fan, I can’t help but be excited about this kid’s potential.  Over the past two seasons, I have been an extremely bitter Red Sox fan.  My disdain for Larry Luchhino knows no bounds.  The epic September collapse in 2011 coupled with the Bobby Valentine era has caused steam to burst out of my ears.  But now I actually come into 2013 with tempered optimism.  I do not expect the Red Sox to make the playoffs in 2013.  But I do think I will embrace watching a team that appears to enjoy playing the game of baseball.  I look forward to seeing the development of Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley, Jr.

Here’s to the 2013 Red Sox!

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

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2013 NFL Mock Draft Version 1.0 by: “The Better Looking Mel Kiper”

After much angst, anticipation, and pressure from Scottie, I am happy to bring to you my 2013 NFL Mock Draft.  Every year I take on the mission of educating the NTCF faithful about college prospects, team needs, and inevitably what is going to happen in the NFL Draft.  If you take a look back at my previous predictions and who I thought would fit for particular teams, I’m not very far off.  With that said, sit back and enjoy the ride…

DISCLAIMER #1: For the majority of teams picking at or near the top of the 2011 NFL Draft, they are there for a reason, their inability to make good decisions on draft day.  Even though my man CV is always pushing for me to “dumb it down” to try and better predict what these teams will do, I can only make myself so stupid.  Here’s to you Kansas City, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Buffalo, Oakland, etc, you have officially taken the crown as the stupidest bunch in the league.  Good luck!

DISCLAIMER #2: Contrary to popular belief, I can not see more than 11 days into the future.  Therefore, if 12 days from now it becomes very obvious that something will occur in the draft that I did not account for, don’t hold it against me…I’m only partially superhuman.

DISCLAIMER #3: All I can ask of you is to sit back, get comfortable wherever you are, have an open mind, read through the whole mock, realize that Mel Kiper and Todd McShay obviously read this and let my knowledge influence their mocks, and let me know if you have some input.  Let’s do it…

1. Kansas City (2-14) (Needs: DE, OT, ILB, OG, WR)

Kansas City is starting fresh.  They have a new GM, new coach, and have parted ways with Matt Cassel and decided that they will move forward with Alex Smith.  Is Smith the long-term solution?  Probably not.  Does he make the Chiefs better than 2-14?  Probably.  The Chiefs have already worked out a deal with Dwayne Bowe and placed the franchise tag on OT Brandon Albert.  KC could look at an OT here (i.e. Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher), however I think they need a game changer.  Star Lotulelei was widely considered the best player in the 2013 NFL Draft, and then it was discovered that he had an abnormally low ejection fraction at the combine.  Lotulelei’s heart issues seem to be resolving and he performed wonderfully at Utah’s pro-day last week (measures: 6’2” 311 lbs, 40: 4.65, bench” 38 reps, vertical: 30”, 3-cone: 7.76 seconds).

SELECTION: Star Lotulelei, DT Utah

2. Jacksonville (2-14) (Needs: QB, DE, CB, OT, OLB)

Jacksonville just never gets anything right.  Blaine Gabbert was a disaster waiting to happen, and they pick him.  Justin Blackmon looks like a good young receiver, but without anyone to get him the ball his productivity is limited.  The Jags need help all over the field, and taking Geno Smith would be tempting for the new coaching regime in Jacksonville.  However, Smith is flying up draft boards more due to the lack of QB talent in the draft and not necessarily because of his talent.  Suring up the offensive line for the next 5-7 years should be the move for the Jags.

SELECTION: Luke Joeckel, OT Texas A&M

3. Oakland (4-12) (Needs: DT, CB, LB, DE, OT)

Mark the Oakland Raiders down for a questionable selection based almost solely on combine numbers and physical appearance.  The Raiders have arguably more need than any team in the draft, but can obviously only grab one player here.  Word from Oakland is that Tommy Kelly’s time is coming to a close (and Seymour already departed) so the Raiders need help on their defensive line.  Sharrif Floyd is a physical specimen that is shooting up draft boards.  He produced in college, and he has the physical tools that the Raiders look for.

SELECTION: Sharrif Floyd, DT Florida

4. Philadelphia (4-12) (Needs: DT, OT, CB, S, LB)

Word on the street is that the Eagles have some very serious interest in Geno Smith, as he would be a better fit for Chip Kelly’s offense than Nick Foles.  I personally just don’t see it.  I’m not sold on the fact that Kelly would so strategically make his way into the NFL (by essentially picking which team he wanted to coach, which GM he would work with, etc.) and then hitch his wagon to Geno Smith.  If there is a better quarterback to run Kelly’s offense than Mike Vick, I haven’t seen them.  I look for the Eagles to go through 2013 with Vick under center, draft a more suitable QB in 2014 (i.e. Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Football, Tajh Boyd, etc.), and move forward from there.  With the 4th pick in the 2013 draft the Eagles address a huge need and find someone to cover an opposing receiver in their secondary.

SELECTION: Dee Millner, CB Alabama

5. Detroit (4-12) (Needs: DE, OT, S, CB, OLB)

The Detroit Lions are back to rebuilding what developed into a playoff team just 2 years ago.  They have their franchise quarterback in Stafford, franchise receiver in Megatron, and I really like what Mikel Leshoure did last season.  Aside from those players, the Detroit Lions are a mess.  LT Jeff Backus retired, Kyle Vanden Bosch was cut, and Cliff Avril is not a Seattle Seahawk.  The Lions get lucky here, as Eric Fisher (considered by some to be the best OT in the draft) has fallen to them at number 5.

SELECTION: Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan

6. Cleveland (5-11) (Needs: QB, OLB, WR, CB, OG)

One year after selecting a nearly 30 year old quarterback in the first round, it seems as though the Browns are in complete rebuild mode once again.  Trent Richardson is a stud, Joe Haden is very good on the outside, and Joe Thomas is arguably the left tackle in the game.  Paul Kruger was a good addition for Cleveland this offseason, but I think he got paid a bit too much.  Cleveland could use a quarterback, but I doubt they make that decision two years in a row.  The Browns could also use a wide receiver, but I think that there is too much “bust” potential taking a receiver in this draft that high.  Even after the addition of Kruger, taking a stud pass rusher in the draft could immediately boost their defense to one of the best units in the league.  The Browns could move down here and stockpile picks, especially is a team wants to move up and grab Geno Smith, however if not I think that they select…

SELECTION: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB Oregon

7. Arizona (5-11) (Needs: QB, OT, OLB, RB, ILB)

New head coach Bruce Arians will do his best to identify the Cardinals quarterback of the future in the 2013 NFL Draft.  The problem is that many football “insiders” are saying that the Cardinals are not taking a quarterback with the 7th overall pick in 2013.  That surprises me, considering the need, but I can understand Arians reluctance to hitch his career onto Geno Smith.  With that being said, the Cardinals can look to address other needs, either OT or OLB.  This draft is deep at both spots, but with Joeckel and Smith already off of the board, I think the physical specimen otherwise known as Ezekiel Ansah will be the selection.  Ansah has Jason Pierre-Paul-like athleticism, however his bust potential is huge considering he only became a starter in BYU’s 5th game last season.

SELECTION: Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB BYU

8. Buffalo (6-10) (Needs: QB, WR, ILB, DE, S)

The Buffalo Bills’ biggest need by far is at quarterback.  Luckily for them, in my mock draft, Geno Smith has fallen right into their lap.  As we always see in the NFL Draft, as the time before the draft dwindles, quarterbacks shoot up the draft board because teams are always looking for the next new thing.  This year, it seems that Geno Smith is the guy flying up draft boards.  Smith was productive in college, had a decent showing at the combine, and has many of the attributed needed to be an NFL quarterback.  My questions with Smith surround his mental make-up and consistency.  Sadly, no one takes my opinion into account when these decisions are made.

SELECTION: Geno Smith, QB West Virginia

9. New York Jets (6-10) (Needs: QB, OT, OLB, S, RB)

The New York Jets are turning into the Oakland Raiders.  Constantly picking athletic freaks that aren’t necessarily turning into good football players (i.e. Quentin Coples, Stephen Hill, Vernon Gholston, etc.).  2011’s first round pick, Muhammad Wilkerson, is turning into a very good football player, but aside from him their defensive talent in dwindeling.  I think that the Jets will look long and hard at taking a game changing wide receiver to give Mark Sanchez some help in 2013, but I don’t believe that they can ignore their need at OLB (although it wouldn’t surprise me if they sign James Harrison).  Jarvis Jones is a bit undersized for a 3-4 defense (6’2”, 245 lbs) and his spinal issue presents some medical question marks.  However, the Jets cannot ignore his athleticism and pass rushing ability.

SELECTION: Jarvis Jones, OLB Georgia

10. Tennessee (6-10) (Needs: S, OG, CB, C, WR)

The Tennessee Titans have a glaring need, and it’s at offensive guard.  They signed former Bills guard Andy Levitre to play on the left side, but they still have a need at right guard.  The Titans have addressed some other needs this offseason, by signing SS Bernard Pollard, RB Shonn Greene, and TE Delanie Walker.  The Titans could use some more help at wide receiver to combat the production of Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright, but that is a need that can be addressed later in the draft.  Thankfully for Tennessee fans, drafting a guard at 10 isn’t much of a reach considering the caliber of player that Chance Warmack is.  At 6’2”, 320 lbs Warmack is a physical specimen that brings a mean streak with him on the field…sounds like just what Chris Johnson was hoping for.

SELECTION: Chance Warmack, OG Alabama

11. San Diego (7-9) (Needs: OT, OG, CB, OLB, ILB)

Philip Rivers was not the guy that we were used to seeing during the 2012 season, and that can be largely blamed on the poor play of the Chargers offensive line.  The top priority for the Chargers in the 2013 NFL draft should be finding some protection for Rivers.  As it stands now, Justin Gaither is in line to be the starting left tackle for San Diego, and that just isn’t going to get the Chargers enough wins to be successful in 2013.  Lane Johnson wowed at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine by posting what I believe is the fasted 40 time for an offensive lineman ever (4.72 seconds) at 6’6”, 303 lbs, and he followed that up by getting 28 reps on the bench.  Johnson was a former high school quarterback, college tight end, college defensive end, and current offensive tackle.  He has the athleticism to be very successful in the NFL.

SELECTION: Lane Johnson, OT Oklahoma

12. Miami (7-9) (Needs: OT, WR, CB, DT, TE)

It was a tough offseason for the Dolphins.  Free agency took a toll on Miami.  Jake Long, Reggie Bush, and Sean Smith were just a few key pieces that left the Dolphins in 2013.  They were able to add Mike Wallace and Darnell Ellerby to the team, but there are still a lot of holes that need to be filled.  In my opinion, especially in a division where you need to play the Patriots twice per season, the Dolphins’ most glaring need is at cornerback.  Dee Millner is by far the best corner in this draft, but since he’s off of the board the Dolphins need to grab the next best corner available.  Xavier Rhodes reminds me a little of Sean Smith.  He is a bigger corner (6’1”, 210 lbs), possesses good speed (4.43 corner), great explosiveness (40.5 inch vertical), and ideal strength (14 reps on the bench).

SELECTION: Xavier Rhodes, CB Florida St.

13. Tampa Bay (7-9) (Needs: CB, TE, DE, DT, LB)

Tampa doesn’t have as many needs as would be anticipated for a team that finished 7-9 in 2012.  Their two most glaring weaknesses are al CB and TE.  Tyler Eifert would fit well with Tampa, I just know that teams are reluctant to grab a tight end that high in the draft.  The Bucs never filled the vacant corner spot made when the traded Talib to the Pats, so they can address that here.  Desmond Trufant has a great pedigree, performed well at the combine (4.38 40 yard dash, 16 bench reps, 3.85 second 20-yard shuffle), and is watching his draft stock rise over the past couple of weeks.

SELECTION: Desmond Trufant, CB Washington

14. Carolina (7-9) (Needs: DT, CB, S, RT, RG)

The Carolina Panthers surged at the end of the 2012 season, giving them some renewed optimism for 2013 and placing them in the middle of the first round in the 2013 NFL Draft.  The Panthers need to address the defensive tackle position, considering they were one of the worst run defense teams in the NFL.  Putting a couple of hogs up front will help free Luke Kuechly to roam and make plays.  Sheldon Richardson has prototypical size (6’3”, 294 lbs) and ideal athleticism for an NFL defensive tackle.  Richardson would fit well in Carolina’s scheme.

SELECTION: Sheldon Richardson, DT Missouri

15. New Orleans (7-9) (Needs: OLB, S, OT, CB, NT)

The New Orleans Saints had a disappointing 2012 season, but with Sean Payton back roaming the sidelines they should have a better 2013.  Now that Steve Spagnuolo has been hired as the Saints defensive coordinator, the Saints are switching over to a 3-4 defense.  The Saints do not have the proper personnel to run that defense currently, so it needs to be addressed in this draft.  The first order of business is finding someone to play the 3-4 OLB spot.  Barkevious Mingo has decent size for a 3-4 OLB (6’4”, 241 lbs), good speed (4.58 40 yard dash), and great explosiveness (37.0 inch vertical).  Mingo could use to add a little bit of size, but that usually isn’t much of an issue in the NFL.

SELECTION: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB LSU

16. St. Louis (7-8-1) (Needs: OT, S, WR, LB, OG)

Jeff Fisher led a much improved Rams team through the 2012 season.  Sam Bradford is morphing into a top NFL quarterback (despite Scottie’s feelings) and their defense is formidable.  The next order of business for the Rams should be getting Sam Bradford some reliable receiving targets (in addition to signing Jared Cook), especially now that Danny Amendola is a New England Patriot.  Tavon Austin is shooting up draft boards and is now widely considered as the best WR available in this draft.  Austin will fit perfectly in the slot because of his size (5’8”, 174 lbs), speed (4.34 seconds in 40), strength (14 reps on bench), and quickness (4.01 second 20 yard shuffle).

SELECTION: Tavon Austin, WR West Virginia

17. Pittsburgh (8-8) (Needs: OLB, WR, S, OT, DE)

At this point in time, I have no idea what direction the Steelers will go in the 2013 NFL Draft.  Some experts believe it will be OLB, considering the loss of Harrison.  I think that the Steelers believe in Jason Worilds to play opposite of LaMarr Woodley.  Some believe it will be WR, however it is rare to see a team as disciplined as the Steelers spend such a high pick on a wide receiver.  If Desmond Trufant were still available, the Steelers would take a long like at infusing some youth into their secondary.  But he is gone so I think that the Steelers will look to take the best player available (which in this draft just so happens to be a wide receiver).

SELECTION: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Tennessee

18. Dallas (8-8) (Needs: OG, S, DE, DT, RT)

The Cowboys are transitioning to a 4-3 defense under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.  They have some pieces already in place (i.e. DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff, Sean Lee, Carr, Claiborne, etc.) so they look to be OK defensively.  However, offensively the Cowboys were not as good as their talent level indicated, and a lot of that blame can be placed on their offensive line.  I believe that Tyron Smith will be a good LT with a year or two more of seasoning.  Aside from him and Phil Costa at C, the ‘Boys need some offensive line help.

SELECTION: Jonathan Cooper, OG North Carolina

19. New York Giants (9-7) (Needs: OT, LB, CB, DE, OG)

The Giants seem to be content with Will Beatty at left tackle (they gave him a 5-year $38 million contract this offseason).  David Diehl is serviceable at RT.  The Giants could address their offensive line needs later in the draft.  In the 1st round, the Giants need to address some needs that they have on the defensive side of the ball.  The Giants signed Dan Connor to play middle linebacker this offseason.  They could use some help at OLB, as well as corner.  Defensive end is a need because they lost Osi to the Falcons, but not one that needs to be addressed in the 1st round.  Alec Ogletree (the former safety turned inside linebacker) is listed as in inside linebacker, however he has the athleticism and instincts to move to the outside.

SELECTION: Alec Ogletree, ILB Georgia

20. Chicago (10-6) (Needs: OT, OG, LB, TE, DT)

The Chicago Bears seem to be turning over a new leaf and trying to infuse a little bit of youth into their team.  Seeing Brian Urlacher play for a different team just isn’t going to look right, however all good things come to an end.  If Lane Johnson happens to slip down to 20, I think that the Bears would consider taking him.  If not, the Bears have big needs at left guard, linebacker, and defensive tackle.  What better way to move on from a team legend than implanting a first round pick in his position.

SELECTION: Manti Te’o, ILB Notre Dame

21. Cincinnati (10-6) (Needs: RB, LB, S, OT, DE)

The Cincinnati Bengals were known as terrible draft day performers for so many years.  Over the past couple of years however, the Bengals have been making some better decisions (i.e. AJ Green, Andy Dalton, Jermaine Gresham).  Former 1st round pick Andre Smith is a free agent, so the Bengals do have a need at offensive tackle, as well as running back (behind BJGE), linebacker, and safety.  This late in the draft, I don’t believe that the Bengals can find a difference maker at OT, and some other needs can be addressed later in the draft.  This is actually a decent draft in terms of safety depth, so 21 seems like the right spot for the 1st one to come off of the board.  Also, pairing a rookie with one of my all-time favorite players in Taylor Mays would be awesome.

SELECTION: Kenny Vaccaro, FS Texas

22. St. Louis (from Washington [10-6]) (Needs: OT, S, WR, LB, OG)

With 2 picks in the 1st round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams have an opportunity to make some big choices for their franchise, that will hopefully put them over the .500 mark and into the playoffs in 2013.  The Rams filled a big need with Tavon Austin at #16.  The Rams have some serious needs on the offensive line, even with the addition of Jake Long at LT.  They could look to address a need at offensive guard here, however I believe that they could get a serviceable guard later in the draft.  The Rams projected starting safeties as of today are Rodney McLeod and Darian Stewart.  Exactly, I’ve never heard of them either.  As mentioned in the previous pick, the 2013 draft is pretty deep with safeties.  From the film that I’ve watched, I think Matt Elam will emerge as the best safety of the 2013 class.  The guy can hit, has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and is an absolute ball hawk.  The Rams grade for round 1 = A+.

SELECTION: Matt Elam, FS Florida

23. Minnesota (10-6) (Needs: WR, LB, DT, OG, S)

The Minnesota Vikings made the playoffs in 2012 based on Percy Harvin’s early season production and Adrian Peterson’s MVP season.  In 2013, Harvin is no longer a Viking and Peterson is caught searching for who is going to shoulder the offensive load with him.  The Vikings went out and signed Greg Jennings, but they are still pretty thin at WR.  The Vikings also have needs at LB, DT, and S.  Based on where the Vikings fall, I think taking the best player available is the best strategy here.

SELECTION: Justin Hunter, WR Tennessee

24.Indianapolis (11-5) (Needs: OT, CB, NT, OLB, OG)

The Indianapolis Colts moved from the worst team in the NFL in 2011, to a playoff team in 2012.  Much of that was due to the play of Andrew Luck, but Chuck Pagano and the Colts defense deserve some credit for that as well.  In this draft the Colts will need to build on their success in last year’s draft to keep the momentum rolling.  The Colts addressed some of their offensive line needs via free agency by signing Gosder Cherilus to play RT and Donald Thomas to play LG.  The also addressed some defensive needs by signing NT Aubrayo Franklin, 3-4 DE Ricky Jean-Franciose. And SS Laron Landry.  The Colts could use to address a future need/buy some insurance following the loss of Dwight Freeney.  Robert Mathis is aging and Jerry Hughes hasn’t proven that he can produce in the NFL yet.

SELECTION: Tank Carradine, DE/OLB Florida St.

25. Minnesota (from Seattle [11-5]) (Needs: WR, LB, DT, OG, S)

Minnesota picked up a second 1st round pick from the Seahawks in the Percy Harvin trade.  Just two picks ago, Minnesota picked up Cordarrelle Patterson to solidify their second wide receiver spot.  Now, Minnesota can address an area of concern on the defensive side of the ball.  Letroy Guion is in line to start at defensive tackle alongside (aging) Kevin Williams.  The Vikings could use an upgrade at this position.

SELECTION: Johnathan Hankins, DT Ohio St.

26. Green Bay (11-5) (Needs: C, RB, WR, OLB, OT)

The Green Bay Packers are a very talented football team, and have few desperate needs heading into the 2013 NFL Draft.  Losing Greg Jennings hurts, but the emergence of Randall Cobb and James Jones softens that blow.  They could also use an OT for depth purposes considering it seems as though one of their current OTs is hurt every single game.  In my opinion, the Packers most glaring weakness is at running back (however they have faired very well without a great running back over the best several seasons).  The Packers do a great job of picking athletic guys and morphing them into football players.  Luckily for them, Eddie Lacy is as good of a football player that you could ask for at pick #26.

SELECTION: Eddie Lacy, RB Alabama

27. Houston (12-4) (Needs: WR, ILB, OT, OG, S)

The Houston Texans finally developed into the type of team that people were expecting to see over the past few seasons.  JJ Watt has emerged as one of the best defensive players in the league.  Houston has some other really good pieces on both sides of the ball (Brian Cushing, Brooks Reed, Kareem Jackson, obviously Arian Foster and Andre Johnson).  Houston fans have been calling for the Texans to draft a wide receiver to play opposite of Andre Johnson for years, and 2013 may finally be the year that they go in that direction.

SELECTION: Robert Woods, WR USC

28. Denver (13-3) (Needs: DT, ILB, S, RB, OT)

Damn those Broncos!  Scooping up Welker from the Pats.  I think that Danny Amendola will be a great addition to the Pats, however it’s tough to see a guy like Welker go.  Anyways, the Broncos needs are primarily on the defensive side of the ball.  They were able to pick up Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie this offseason, which fills a void at cornerback.  They still present needs at inside linebacker (after losing DJ Williams to the Bears) and at defensive tackle.  As is the theme, the Broncos should look to take the best available player that fits their needs this late in the draft.

SELECTION: Sylvester Williams, DT North Carolina

29. New England (12-4) (Needs: WR, CB, OT, DT, DE)

For a team drafting this low in the 1st round, it always seems that the Patriots have so many needs and so many directions that they could go in.  After the release of Brandon Lloyd, the Pats have a big need at wide receiver.  With Alfonzo Dennard’s unknown future, the Pats have a big need at cornerback.  Vollmer has been resigned, so their needs on the offensive line are diminished, but they could use some improved depth.  On the defensive line, they could use another rush guy on the outside (i.e. John Abraham) and another big body up the middle.  I’m projecting a wide receiver here for the Pats, but who the hell knows.  Their track record with selecting wideouts isn’t very good (i.e. Chad Jackson, Taylor Price, Brandon Tate).  DeAndre Hopkins is the best route runner and has the best hands of the remaining wideouts.  Sounds like a Pats guy to me…

SELECTION: DeAndre Hopkins, WR Clemson

30. Atlanta (13-3) (Needs: DE, LB, DT, OG, C)

First order of business for the Atlanta Falcons, bring back Matt Hansen.  Second order of business, find a cornerback, as I don’t think Robert McClain is going to get the job done.  Desmond Trufant is long off of the board, so the Falcons need to look in a different direction.

SELECTION: Johnthan Banks, CB Mississippi St.

31. San Francisco (11-4-1) (Needs: NT, DE, CB, OG, K)

The San Francisco 49ers were arguably the NFL’s most talented team in 2012, and have addressed some needs in free agency to bring in some more talent.  Guys by the names of Anquan Boldin, Glenn Dorsey, and Criag Dahl will try and help propel San Francisco to yet another super Bowl (and hopeful victory) in 2013.  However, the 49ers did lose some key pieces to free agency (i.e. Delanie Walker, Ricky Jean-Francois, Isaac Sopoaga, Dashon Goldson, etc.) and those positions need to be addressed in the draft.  At pick 31, the top tier of talent has been picked through, but there are certainly immediate starters left.  I look for the 49ers to look to upgrade their offensive line, while many experts believe Tyler Eifert may be the pick to give San Fran another offensive weapon.  After running a 4.9 40-yard dash at Alabama’s pro day (and banging out 30 reps on the bench at the combine), nose tackle Jesse Williams is making a case to be a 1st round pick.

SELECTION: Jesse Williams, NT Alabama

32. Baltimore (10-6) (Needs: ILB, S, C, OLB, WR)

Nearly 2 months after winning the Super Bowl the Baltimore Ravens look like a completely different team.  They’ve identified Joe Flacco as their franchise guy, lost seasoned veterans Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.  The Ravens were hit hard by free agency, losing guys like Reed, Bernard Pollard, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, and trading Anquan Boldin.  With that said, the Ravens made some good additions as well (Marcus Spears, Chris Canty, Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff).  There are two positions that Baltimore has a big time need at, ILB and WR.  With Alec Ogletree and Manti Te’o off of the board, the Ravens could look to address their needs at wideout.

SELECTION: Keenan Allen, WR California

NIT 2013 Quarterfinal – Baylor 79 – Providence 68

-Well, it was a matter of time before the surprisingly successful 2012-2013 Providence College Friars were no longer able to make a magical comeback and keep playing basketball.  The Baylor Bears, led by Pierre Jackson, were stoic down the stretch, unfazed by the Friars continuous attempts at a comeback, and making all of the plays necessary to move onto the 2013 NIT Semifinals as Madison Square Garden.

-Coach Cooley deserves an exceptional amount of credit for what he was able to do with this Friars team.  He had to work with more player combinations than possibly any other team in the country.  The Friars brought 6 scholarship players to the Puerto Rice Tip-Off at the start of the season.  Then, Cooley had to work Vincent Council, Kris Dunn, and Sidiki Johnson back into the lineup.  Then, the Friars lost Johnson and had to adapt again.  Then, they dealt with an injury to Bryce Cotton, a few stomach bugs for Kris Dunn, some disciplinary issues with Council, and a countless amount of other variables that led to Cooley receiving this praise from me.  Stand up Coach, you deserve a ton of recognition and appreciation!

-Pierre Jackson is ruthless.  He is the example of what I wish Vincent Council developed into.  Never fazed, always under control, and always making the best decision.

-With that being said, Council had a hell of a game (21 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists).  Vince, you will be remembered and I will miss your consistency through the years.  Your stats force you to be considered one of the greatest Friars of all time.  Had it not been for your injured hamstring to start the season, you’d be getting much more national respect.  You should get a shot in the league…

-Classic Henton: 0 points, 8 rebounds, 0-5 from the field, 0-2 from the free throw line, 4 personal fouls, and 2 shots that were blocked

-Classic Dunn: 4 points (2-4 from the field), 2 rebounds, 6 assists

-LaDontae Henton needs to become more consistent, or he’ll be coming off of the bench in the 2013-2014 season.

-Kadeem Batts finished the season just as he started it, putting up numbers and controlling the paint.  Batts amassed 20 points (9-17 shooting), grabbed 8 boards, and had 2 assists.  Kadeem Batts turned into a better player than I ever imagined he would become.  Cooley’s staff needs to be recognized for his development, but Kadeem deserves a lot of that credit too.  If Batts gets better heading into the 2013-2014 season, he will be drafted.

-Bryce Cotton led the Friars with 23 points, however he went dead cold in the last 10 minutes of the 2nd half (when they needed him the most).  As the NTCF faithful may know, my affinity for Bryce Cotton has decreased as of late and I’ve begun to criticize him for some selfish play and poor decision making.  I hope that Bryce continues to improve, but I think that the Friars will have more talented options next season.  Cotton will most likely get drafted (thanks Q), but Batts will be a better pro.

-Josh Fortune needs to improve defensively, offensively, with decision making, and his overall basketball IQ or his playing time will quickly diminish with guys like Brandon Austin and Ricky Ledo competing for playing time.

-You have to commend the Baylor Bears.  They played a hell of a game.  Jefferson was a beast down low and Jackson was a true conductor on the floor.

-However, I can’t complain.  The Friars were able to play 3 more games than anticipated and have some momentum to build on this offseason.

-Stay tuned to NTCF for my 2012-2013 season review and 2013-2014 season preview post.

NIT 2013 Round 2: Providence 77 – Robert Morris 68

-I need to start by saying that what I watched on Monday night was one of the most poorly officiated games that I have ever seen. And it wasn’t that all bad calls were against Providence.  Bad calls were going in both directions.  I’m not sure which conference the officiating crew was from, but they should be fired.

-After the completion of the game last night, Ed Cooley grabbed the mic and addressed the crowd.  Man, I love Cooley.  Here was Cooley’s statement in a post-game interview about his address, “I thought about taking that microphone all day. I wanted to thank our crowd. We have had some really good crowds. I’d like to see every seat filled, but part of building your program is building your fan base back up.  I think this is a really tough place to play when the energy is like that. I think the last three and a half minutes of this game – that was actually fun. That was a lot of fun to hear the building shake like that. The players all feed off of that. And you know what? A team will crumble under those circumstances, and I thought that happened today.”

-From what Scottie told me (because I wasn’t at the game), Cooley said that if the crowd is loud every game, that will play a huge part in PC winning a National Championship.  After that statement, the crowd and the Friars went nuts!  Love the vision that Cooley has, he is developing a championship attitude with this team, and bringing in the talent to compete on a national level.

-Before this game, Cooley went on record saying that Kris Dunn had his best week of practice.  Sadly for the Friars, Dunn was battling a stomach bug on Monday and he looked somewhat sluggish.  With a healthy Dunn, his defensive energy would have gone a long way in limiting Robert Morris’ offensive effectiveness.  However, Dunn still found ways to produce (6 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists).

-LaDontae Henton played arguably his best game of the season, utilizing consistent mismatches to his advantage.  Henton tallied up 21 points and 6 rebounds on 6-7 shooting and 8-8 from the free throw line.

-Council’s offense was nowhere to be found, but 12 points and 10 assists were enough to get the Friars through to the next round.

-Lee Goldsbrough stepped up on a night where the Friars’ bigs were battling foul trouble.  Lee logged 21 minutes, grabbed 9 rebounds and 6 points.  Lee made a huge bucket as the game was winding down on a nice dish from Council.  Goldsbrough has inproved dramatically this season and I’m interested to see how much time he will get next season.

-Kadeem needs to be a more consistent focal point of the Friars offense.  Their tendency to feed Kadeem the ball is scarce, and when they do get him the ball down low it is often off of the block and he gets double teamed.  Every time Cotton gets the ball outside, Kadeem is in a great spot underneath (because offensive attention has switched to Cotton).  Cotton needs to become more alert and get Batts the ball more often.

-Kris Dunn makes some of the prettiest passes that I’ve seen in a long time.  On a fast break, Dunn threw a no-look bounce pass to Batts (who fumbled the pass) through two defenders.  That pass was awesome!

-Next up for the Friars are the Baylor Bears.  The Bears’ offense has been on fire thus far in the NIT, scoring 112 points in their 1st game (vs. Long Beach St.) and 89 points in their 2nd game (vs. Arizona St.).  The Bears average 74 points per game for the season (31st in the NCAA).  Their best player is senior point guard Pierre Jackson who averages 19 points per game on the season (and had 26 points and 16 assists against Arizona St.).  This should be an offensive showdown!

-NEXT GAME: Wednesday, March 27th @ Baylor, 9pm (ESPN2)

NIT 2013 Round 1: Providence 75 – Charlotte 66

-Kris Dunn, stand up!  Thank you.  Thank you for making the right play at the right time.  Thank you for hustling every single minute that you are on the floor.  Thank you for making a clutch steal when we needed it the most.  Thank you for attacking when you should attack.  Thank you for knowing when to slow it down and start the offense over.  Damn man, you’re getting better by the day!

-Classic Dunn stat line: 14 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals

-And it doesn’t hurt that Coach Cooley said Dunn played his best game in a Friar uniform.

-Bryce Cotton finally remembered that he can shoot and made a few three pointers.  Cotton still disrupts offensive flow because of his constant desire to shoot (as all shooters have) and his inability to react quickly and find the open man.  With that being said, Bryce scored 25 points against Charlotte and shot 4/8 from three.  If he keeps that up over the next few games, PC will be a tough out.

-For the second consecutive game Kadeem Batts was pounded on the block and couldn’t get into any sort of offensive rhythm.  Batts only managed to score 5 points and grab 5 boards.  Granted, the Friars didn’t need him much against Charlotte and he was battling foul trouble for much of the game.  With that being said, in order to make it deep into this tournament the Friars need the Kadeem Batts that we have become accustomed to seeing this season (i.e. the 15 points, 8 boards Kadeem).

-Vincent Council looked like a senior point guard that has never reached postseason play before and didn’t want to get bounced in the 1st round.  Council played one of his better games of the season, showing a little more offensive aggression than he has much of this season.  Council pulled his best Kris Dunn impression by filling up the stat line: 16 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks.

-The most important stat of the game: Providence turnovers = 5

-Ted Bancroft makes more meaningful plays in his 3 minutes of play than LaDontae Henton does in his 30 minutes of play.  Cooley knows what to expect when he puts Bancroft in the game (effort, heart, guts, and defense).  Last night, when Bancroft sailed over the top of Charlotte’s big man to grab a board and draw a foul, Cooley was 15 feet onto the court yelling in support of Bancroft.  Gotta love the walk on leaving it on the floor.  Gotta love Cooley’s love for the walk on.

NEXT GAME: Monday, March 25th vs. Robert Morris, 7pm

Big East Tournament Round 2: Cincinnati 61 – Providence 44

-That was a disappointing end to what turned out to be a surprisingly successful season (although the season really isn’t over).  Providence played very lackadaisically, lacked enthusiasm, and simply didn’t show up for their first Big East Tournament game against Cincinnati.

-Although I love what the new Big East is all about and why it was formed, it pains me to see the current Big East break up.  No matter the status of the Friars, every season all PC fans look at the schedule and circle the games against Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, etc.  I don’t like the fact that we won’t be facing those top 10 teams every couple of weeks…but the new Big East will be there soon.

-The story of the Cincinnati game: Inability to convert.

-1/16 from 3 (6%)

-18/64 from the floor (28%)

-You aren’t going to win any games in the Big East, or the A-10 for that matter, shooting that poorly from the floor.  Kadeem Batts was getting pounded on the block (and no fouls were being called), Bryce Cotton couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat (for the 6th consecutive game), LaDontae Henton looked over matched all game, and Josh Fortune was being his classic Charlie Burch-like self.

-Bryce Cotton kills the flow of the Friars offense, and if he doesn’t fix it they won’t make it far in the NIT.

-Kadeem Batts needs to demand the ball.  Batts constantly fights for position on the low post, but guys like Cotton on the outside aren’t feeding the big man and rewarding him for his hard work.  The only guys that constantly feed Batts are Council and Dunn.  That needs to change.

-Classic Dunn: 4 points, 7 boards, 3 assists.

-I’m not making excuses, but that was one of the most poorly officiated games I’ve seen in a long time.  I don’t watch a ton of college basketball outside of the Big East, but from what I have watched, the level of officiating in the Big East is inferior in comparison to other power conferences.  If the goal is to create the best basketball conference in the country, the new Big East needs to step it up.

-Cincinnati’s jerseys were the ugliest jerseys that I had ever seen.  Then, I turned on the Notre Dame game…

-Providence has drawn a #4 seed in the 2013 NIT.  They will be matched up against Charlotte in the first round.  The other teams in Providence’s part of the bracket are: 1) Kentucky 2) Baylor 3) Arizona St. 6) Detroit 7) Long Beach St. 8) Robert Morris.  If Providence is able to get passed Charlotte in the first round, they will be matched up against the defending NCAA Champs in Kentucky.

NEXT GAME: Wednesday, March 20th vs. Charlotte, 7:15pm (ESPN3)

 

Big East Game 18: Connecticut 63 – Providence 59

-Exceptionally tough way to end the 2013 Big East season.  After being on such an amazing run, Providence looked like they were so excited about the start of the Big East Tournament, that they forgot about playing UConn on Saturday.

-The Friars inability to put the Huskies away, after several opportunities, eventually led to an overtime loss against a depleted Connecticut squad.

-The Friars committed 14 turnovers in the game.  14 isn’t a terribly high number for this PC squad, but it seemed like every turnover PC made was very untimely and led to UConn buckets.  Conversely, PC only forced 8 UConn turnovers even with a banged up Napier playing 44 of 45 potential minutes.

-Kadeem Batts didn’t get enough touches in the low post.  Batts shot a poor 5-13 from the field, but his role in the offense led him to shoot many mid-range jumpers rather than taking the ball strong to the rack.  Batts still put up 14 points and 12 boards, but he could have had a much bigger game, considering UConn’s front line was depleted.

-Bryce Cotton was 1-8 from 3 point land, and 4-13 from the floor.  Cotton has been off over the last several games.  The offense is being forced to Cotton, and he isn’t making the best basketball decisions.  I’ll give you an example: In the middle of the second half, Cooley ran a play for Cotton who caught the ball at the 3 point line near the left hash mark.  Cotton’s man was draped all over him, but Batts had secured good position down low against a smaller defender.  Instead of finding Batts, Cotton used the dribble to try and get open, and then decided to kick the ball back out to Council.  Maybe I’m looking into this too much, but is Bryce Cotton becoming a selfish basketball player?

-Kris Dunn will be the best point guard in the country if he stays at Providence for 4 years.  Here is your usual Dunn stat line: 11 points, 1 rebound, 4 assists, 2 steals.

-To echo what Scottie said to me on Saturday, I hate Ryan Boatright.  Not sure why, he just rubs me the wrong way.

-With PC’s loss to UConn, their bubble is essentially popped.  If Providence has any hope of making it to the NCAA tournament, they need to win at least 2, maybe 3 games in the Big East Tournament.  Providence earned an 8 seed in the BET, but that is pretty much a nightmare situation.  PC will face the 9 seed Cincinnati on Wednesday.  A Cincinnati team that is looking to make a run in the BET to secure an NCAA Tournament spot.  If they happen to win that game, they’ll find themselves facing a potential #1 seed in the NCAA tournament in Georgetown. Awesome…

NEXT GAME: Wednesday, March 13th vs. Cincinnati, 12pm (ESPN)