CFP Championship Recap

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Alabama defeats Georgia 26-23 in overtime for their second CFP title, Nick Saban’s 6th championship, 5th at Alabama. Saban’s 6 titles ties Bear Bryant for most by a head coach all time and is more than all active coaches in the FBS combined. Let’s get into some quick thoughts.

-To be honest, I missed a large chunk of this game. I had an “Intro to Games” class from 7-10 (game started at 8). Now normally I would’ve skipped this class, but it’s a class that only meets once a week and there wouldn’t be a class next week since it will be Martin Luther King Jr Day, so I kinda felt obligated to attend. I tried streaming the game on first my phone then my laptop, but the connection wasn’t even close to being satisfactory. Then we had to play a board game called “Ogre” and I couldn’t dedicate my attention to the game. Ogre kinda sucks. It’s a needlessly complicated version of Stratego, which is already kinda needlessly complicated. I didn’t get a chance to REALLY sit down and watch the game until about 10:51 left in the third quarter, so you can imagine my shock when I saw someone else in at QB for Alabama.

-If you picked Tua Tagovailoa (that’s the only time I’m writing out his last name. If I have to do it every single time I mention him I’m going to go insane) to be MVP of this game, I’d like your opinion on some stocks, though I would settle for picking my football games for me. He was totally unknown until he replaced Jalen Hurts at quarterback to start the second half. This decision by Saban apparently was originally supposed to be a rotation, with Tua and Hurts alternating drives. Well Tua led Alabama down the field and threw a touchdown on his first drive and it appears the decision was made. It was a good one too, because after Tua was inserted into the lineup, Alabama outscored Georgia 26-10 after trailing 13-0 at halftime.

-Occasionally, Tua’s inexperience showed through. Look at this interception he threw.

I’m not so sure that play was designed to be a pass. Look at how not a single Alabama receiver is looking in Tua’s direction.

-Speaking of true freshmen, this game was dominated by them. From Jake Fromm to Tua to Najee Harris to DeVonta Smith, this game was all about the 18-19 year olds.

-I’ve gone through four bullet points and haven’t even shown the walkoff touchdown throw by Tua to fellow true freshman DeVonta Smith. Here it is.

If you’re wondering what the caption is all about, Tua got sacked for a loss of 16 on the play immediately preceding this one by Davin Bellamy (who famously mocked Baker Mayfield after the Rose Bowl to “humble himself”). Not to take anything away from Tua or Smith, but where the Hell was Georgia safety Dominick Sanders on this play? I think cornerback Malkom Parrish thought he had help over the top, which would explain why Smith was so open. Maybe Sanders was paying more attention to tight end Hale Hentges (#84) underneath? I mean, the guy did have a whopping 1 catch for 2 yards on the day.

-Nobody is happier than Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos after Smith made that catch. At the end of regulation, he lined up for this 36-yarder.

I’m actually kind of glad Alabama won after a moment like that. We have enough Scott Norwoods in the world.

-Jake Fromm looked like a true freshman with the game on the line. He had some good moments throughout the game, like this throw to MeCole Hardman.

But when the Bulldogs needed him to be great, he wasn’t. After Alabama tied the game up, the Bulldogs ran twice, then Fromm missed an open receiver running a crossing route. Then, in OT, he took a bad sack that nearly knocked them out of field goal range. Luckily for him, Rodrigo Blankenship nailed a 51-yarder to give the Bulldogs the 23-20 lead. He’s got plenty of growth left in him.

-Probably the guys who helped their draft stock the most this game was the defensive linemen. Da’Ron Payne dominated the point of attack and Raekwon Davis was all over the place, including this odd interception.

I don’t think Davis is draft eligible yet, but he’s going to be another guy to look out for when 2019 rolls around. But the guy that really elevated his stock to me was Georgia interior lineman Trenton Thompson. He was all over the place for the Bulldogs and really gave the Alabama offensive line fits all game. He also delivered probably my favorite hit of the game.

I’ll have to go back and take a closer look at this guy because he was catching my attention seemingly every play in this game. Could be a potential sleeper for a defensive line-needy team *cough* Patriots *cough*.

-Take a good look because this is the one time the “WildDog” formation worked all night.

Georgia tried running it several more times throughout the night, and notably in key situations I might add. They got stuffed on seemingly all of them.

-Tua wasn’t perfect throughout the night, in fact there were times where I thought he downright sucked. But his touchdown passes were absolute things of beauties. Here’s the one that tied the game to Calvin Ridley, who had been shut down for most of the game by DeAndre Baker.

He did a similar thing on the first touchdown to Ruggs. Neither he nor Ridley were open when Tua threw the pass, however the pass was thrown in the exact perfect spot. This is the exact definition of “throwing your man open.” Tua also displayed some surprisingly solid arm strength. I was caught a little off guard by how well he can sling it. Probably just because I’m not used to lefty quarterbacks.

-Mekhi Brown is VERY fortunate he didn’t get sent to the locker room for this.

A lot of coaching staffs would’ve sent him packing for trying to fight a coach in the middle of a national championship game after he just got called for a personal foul for seemingly throwing a punch (which the refs should’ve ejected him for anyway). He kind of made amends later, as he made a nice one-armed tackle on kick coverage. It was the exact opposite of form tackling, but it looked cool.

How he managed to not grab any facemask on that is beyond me.

-Jalen Hurts was the definition of class during the postgame interview after getting benched in the biggest game of his life. ESPN had been running the story of how the background on his phone was his defeat in last year’s championship game against Clemson to try and motivate him. This was his opportunity to exorcise those demons and a lot of guys would’ve viewed this benching as their coach taking that away from them. But during his postgame interview, I got the sense that Hurts didn’t care about what kind of impact he had as long as his team won the game. Really classy guy right there and the definition of a team player at that.

-To be perfectly honest, I felt kind of empty after this game ended. It was a crazy finish to an excellent game, but I felt nothing. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown bored of Alabama’s dominance in the national title picture? Perhaps I’m disgruntled that a team that didn’t even win its conference is champ? Couldn’t tell you, but I definitely felt a lot more when Clemson won with 1 second to go last year or even when Alabama was able to hold off Clemson’s comeback the year prior. This game just kind of left me in a weird place. It’s probably just the knowledge that the college football season is over. That usually puts me in a depressing mood. Oh well, time for draft season.

-A couple quick interesting facts about the playoff before I put a bow on the college football season. All 4 championships have been won by the lower-seeded team, or the team wearing their white uniforms. #4 Ohio State beat #2 Oregon, #2 Alabama beat #1 Clemson, #2 Clemson beat #1 Alabama, #4 Alabama beat #3 Georgia. Odd numbered seeds have also yet to win the title game, as only the 2’s and 4’s have won it all.

-I’m going to add one last thing before I end it: my year-end rankings, now that all is said and done.

1. Alabama

2. Central Florida

3. Ohio State

4. Georgia

5. Oklahoma

6. Clemson

7. Wisconsin

8. Penn State

9. Notre Dame

10. Michigan State

11. USC

12. Washington

13. Miami (FL)

14. TCU

15. Oklahoma State

16. Stanford

17. Northwestern

18. Auburn

19. Mississippi State

20. North Carolina State

21. LSU

22. South Florida

23. Wake Forest

24. Boise State

25. Virginia Tech

Welp, that’s gonna do it for this one. This was my 100th blog, by the way. When I started this thing up in late September, I honestly figured I would’ve given up on it by now but the positive responses I’ve been getting to this thing have kept me going so I just wanted to take time to thank all my readers for sticking with me throughout, particularly Heidi and Tom Wyman, my parents. Whenever I look at my site stats and only see 1 or 2 views on a blog, I can safely guess who it is. That’s going to do it for this college football season. Let me know your thoughts on the title game in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

CFP National Championship Preview

So it’s all come down to this, a bona fide SEC championship game between the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide to decide the best team in college football. Let’s see how all my picks did leading up to this moment.

Regular Season Record: 86-34

Conference Championship Record: 8-0

Army-Navy: 0-1

Bowl Record: 16-23

Yikes, I figured I wouldn’t be great for the bowl games, but I didn’t think I’d miss that many. I mean, I wrote a blog for two days to put up those numbers? Inexcusable. Goes to show you really can never guess what’s going to happen this time of year. Put all these games together and I went 110-58, which suggests theres a 65% chance I get this pick right, no big deal. For this I’m going to go position group by position group and compare each team. Let’s take a look at what both Georgia and Alabama bring to the table.

Quarterback:

Georgia: Jake Fromm

Alabama: Jalen Hurts

Advantage: Alabama

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This was difficult because it’s like comparing apples and oranges with these two quarterbacks. With Fromm, you get a traditional passer in the mold of Alex Smith, as he only threw 5 interceptions as opposed to 23 touchdowns while throwing for an acceptable 2383 yards. Hurts, on the other hand, is pretty much a pure running quarterback who will throw on occasion and most likely to Calvin Ridley. However the thing that puts Hurts over the top for me is his experience in this atmosphere. He was a true freshman when he nearly led Alabama to the National Championship against Clemson before Deshaun Watson’s heroics stole the day. He’s back with a year of maturing under his belt and I think he will be the better quarterback on the field in this game.

Runningback:

Georgia: Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, D’Andre Swift

Alabama: Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris, Najee Harris

Advantage: Georgia

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At the beginning of the season, I would’ve called this a very difficult decision. But after the play of the Georgia backfield, which practically kept pace with Baker Mayfield all by itself, and the decline in play of Bo Scarbrough, this was an easy decision. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are a dominant 1-2 punch by themselves but throw in D’Andre Swift, who is also a capable pass catcher, and it’s just downright domination by the Georgia backfield.

Pass Catchers:

Georgia: Javon Wims, Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta (TE)

Alabama: Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III

Advantage: Georgia

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Yes, the best receiver on the field is by far Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, however he’s the only receiver that poses any sort of threat on the Crimson Tide offense. He recorded 935 receiving yards on 59 catches. Next best? Jerry Jeudy, who had 244 yards on just 13 catches (averaging 1 catch per game). That’s really bad and basically screams to the opposing defense who’s getting the ball when Hurts drops back to pass. Georgia’s stable of receivers isn’t great, but each guy is pretty solid and they spread the ball out pretty well. Wims, Godwin, and Hardman all had at least 20 catches and 300 yards receiving, with Wims leading the way in both categories at 44 catches for 704 yards.

Offensive Line:

Georgia: Isaiah Wynn, Kendall Baker, Lamont Gaillard, Ben Cleveland, Andrew Thomas

Alabama: Jonah Williams, Ross Pierschbacher, Bradley Bozeman, Lester Cotton, Matt Womack

Advantage: Alabama

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This is a hard decision mainly due to the success of both ground games. However I’m giving the edge to Alabama as they have more NFL-caliber talent and it’s pretty hard to block, typically, when the defense can pretty much just decide between a run or a pass to Calvin Ridley on every play. For Georgia, Isaiah Wynn is the only real NFL talent on that offensive line at the moment whereas Alabama’s entire offensive line could find themselves on NFL rosters in the near future.

Defensive Line:

Georgia: Trenton Thompson, John Atkins, Jonathan Ledbetter

Alabama: Da’Shawn Hand, Da’Ron Payne, Raekwon Davis

Advantage: Alabama

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Alabama wins a nail-biter and the deciding factor was probably recency bias for me, as Da’Ron Payne and Raekwon Jones in particular were absolutely DOMINANT against Clemson while Georgia’s defensive line had problems against Oklahoma’s offensive line. This group is extremely hard to run on and will be critical to Alabama’s success, which I’ll delve into a bit more as to why that is in the linebacker position group.

Linebacker:

Georgia: Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, Reggie Carter

Alabama: Rashaan Evans, Anfernee Jennings, Mack Wilson, Jamey Mosley

Advantage: Georgia

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Georgia gets a major advantage in this category for one main reason: health. With everyone healthy, this would likely end up being a draw, as these may be the two absolute best linebacking corps in the nation. However, Alabama has lost Shaun Dion Hamilton and Dylan Moses for the season due to injuries and will have to count on the less talented Mack Wilson and Jamey Mosley. Rashaan Evans might be the most important player in this game, as much of the onus is on him to stop the Georgia ground attack, though a lot of pressure could be taken off if the defensive line gets a good push. As for Georgia, their linebackers struggled in the first half against Oklahoma, Roquan Smith in particular, but they really stepped up big in the second half, imposing their will on a previously dominant Oklahoma offense. They looked like their old selves and if they can do what they typically did all year against Alabama, then the Crimson Tide will have a hard time running the ball.

Defensive Back:

Georgia: Malkom Parrish, DeAndre Baker, Tyrique McGhee, Dominick Sanders, JR Reed

Alabama: Anthony Averett, Levi Wallace, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison

Advantage: Alabama

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No knock against Georgia’s secondary, as those guys are a part of one of the better units in the country. But they don’t hold a candle to Alabama’s secondary. They have three guys who could potentially be first round picks in the NFL Draft, Fitzpatrick, Harrison, and Averett, and you’ll basically need a dominant receiver to beat these guys, which Georgia lacks. I think this group is going to have a big game in this one.

Specialists:

Georgia: Rodrigo Blankenship, Cameron Nizeliak, Mecole Hardman, Terry Godwin

Alabama: Andy Pappanastos, JK Scott, Trevon Diggs, Xavien Marks

Advantage: Georgia

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The main deciding factor in this is Georgia’s kicker. First of all, just look at him in all his glory. The other reason is his name. Blankenship. There was an amazing TV show from the early 2000’s called Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC) where they showed footage of a Japanese game show but with English dubs and the dubs were hilarious. One of the commentators was named Kenny Blankenship in the dub and he would make lots of hilarious remarks, whether that be in regards to potentially critical injuries (“let’s hear the bones crack!”) or perverted analysis (using slow motion replay to look up a female competitor’s skirt). That show was so funny to me I just have to pick Georgia for this category thanks to Blankenship.

Head Coach:

Georgia: Kirby Smart

Alabama: Nick Saban

Advantage: Alabama

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

In my humblest of opinions, Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of all time. It’s harder to win now than it’s ever been and Saban’s Crimson Tide is consistently in the discussion for the nation’s best in every season. They’re the only team to make the playoff all 4 years of its existence and he will be coaching his third straight national championship game, 7th overall (he carries a 5-1 record in Natty’s, 4-1 as Alabama head coach). He has also never lost to a former assistant, which Georgia coach Kirby Smart is. Smart hasn’t been a head coach long enough to even be in the same discussion as Saban, but he’s on the right track if his first couple years are any indication.

Score: Alabama-5 Georgia-4

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Congratulations on your national championship, Alabama. Don’t worry about playing the game Monday Night, I’ve already made the decision. Let me know what you think of my championship game comparisons in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Wyman’s Sports College Football All Americans

My apologies for there not being a blog yesterday. I did have some material but I was absolutely exhausted. I had to fight to keep myself from passing out in the middle of my Inside Nazi Germany class. Just had a terrible night of sleep the night before. But I’m very well-rested now and college football awards are starting to roll in, such as the Heisman finalists having been released (that blog is coming tomorrow) and I thought it would be a good idea to get into who I thought the cream of the crop in college football was this season. I will be breaking this up into 3 teams and will encompass all of FBS college football.

First Team:

Quarterback: Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

Runningback: Bryce Love-Stanford

Runningback: Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

Wide Receiver: James Washington-Oklahoma State

Wide Receiver: Anthony Miller-Memphis

Tight End: Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

Tackle: Dalton Risner-Kansas State

Tackle: Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

Guard: Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

Guard: Will Hernandez-UTEP

Center: Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

Defensive End: Sutton Smith-Northern Illinois

Defensive End: Nick Bosa-Ohio State

Defensive Tackle: Maurice Hurst-Michigan

Defensive Tackle: Jalen Jelks-Oregon

Linebacker: Micah Kiser-Virginia

Linebacker: Roquan Smith-Georgia

Linebacker: TJ Edwards-Wisconsin

Cornerback: Joshua Jackson-Iowa

Cornerback: Denzel Ward-Ohio State

Safety: DeShon Elliott-Texas

Safety: Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

Kicker: Matt Gay-Utah

Punter: JK Scott-Alabama

All Purpose: Saquon Barkley-Penn State

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So for this team we have a few obvious names (Mayfield, Love, etc). One name that you might not recognize on here is Norther Illinois defensive end Sutton Smith. Well get to know that name, because he led the nation in sacks this season with 14 and added 28.5 tackles for loss. He was an absolute game wrecker for the Huskies. DeShon Elliott for Texas was a guy I picked up on when I was watching highlight tapes for his teammate Malik Jefferson. The guy was all over the field, always making plays and it showed, as he was amongst the nation’s leaders in interceptions with 6.

Second Team:

Quarterback: Lamar Jackson-Louisville

Runningback: Jonathan Taylor-Wisconsin

Runningback: Josh Adams-Notre Dame

Wide Receiver: Anthony Johnson-Buffalo

Wide Receiver: Michael Gallup-Colorado State

Tight End: Adam Breneman-UMass

Tackle: Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

Tackle: Will Richardson-North Carolina State

Guard: Kyle Bosch-West Virginia

Guard: Cody O’Connell-Washington State

Center: Billy Price-Ohio State

Defensive End: Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

Defensive End: Anthony Winbush-Ball State

Defensive Tackle: Ed Oliver-Houston

Defensive Tackle: Dexter Lawrence-Clemson

Linebacker: Joe Giles-Harris-Duke

Linebacker: Garrett Dooley-Wisconsin

Linebacker: Uchenna Nwosu-USC

Cornerback: Darious Williams-UAB

Cornerback: Jalen Davis-Utah State

Safety: Derwin James-Florida State

Safety: Lukas Denis-Boston College

Kicker: Eddie Pineiro-Florida

Punter: Michael Dickson-Texas

All Purpose: Ronald Jones II-USC

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You might find it weird to see a UMass player on this list. Well Adam Breneman is about as good a tight end as they come. He had the most targets in the nation at any position without registering a single drop. Get to know him as well, as he is on a lot of NFL radars. The defensive tackles on this team are two of the best football players in the country, Ed Oliver and Dexter Lawrence. If both were eligible, they’d likely be in the discussion for top 10 draft picks. But alas, we will have to wait for 2019, when the defensive line class will be STACKED (Oliver, Lawrence, Bosa, and Michigan’s Rashan Gary will all be in the running for top 10 picks).

Third Team:

Quarterback: Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

Runningback: Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Runningback: David Montgomery-Iowa State

Wide Receiver: Steve Ishmael-Syracuse

Wide Receiver: Trey Quinn-SMU

Tight End: Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

Tackle: KC McDermott-Miami (FL)

Tackle: Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

Guard: Hjalte Froholdt-Arkansas

Guard: Jacob Alsadek-Arizona

Center: Brian Allen-Michigan State

Defensive End: Mat Boesen-TCU

Defensive End: Hercules Mata’afa-Washington State

Defensive Tackle: Will Geary-Kansas State

Defensive Tackle: Taven Bryan-Florida

Linebacker: Ja’Whaun Bentley-Purdue

Linebacker: Josey Jewell-Iowa

Linebacker: Malik Jefferson-Texas

Cornerback: Brian Peavy-Iowa State

Cornerback: DJ Reed-Kansas State

Safety: Tarvarious Moore-Southern Miss

Safety: Armani Watts-Texas A&M

Kicker: Griffin Oakes-Indiana

Punter: Johnny Townsend-Florida

All Purpose: Marcell Ateman-Oklahoma State

<> on November 7, 2015 in Pullman, Washington.

We have one of the most intimidating names on this list, Hercules Mata’afa, and one of the least intimidating names, Josey Jewell. A name like “Hercules Mata’afa” just screams “power” and that was exactly what you got out of him, as he registered 10 sacks this season while facing a lot of double teams. Don’t be fooled by his girly name, Josey Jewell is one of the best linebackers in the country, in fact he won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in a conference with the likes of Nick Bosa, TJ Edwards, and Maurice Hurst to compete with. That should tell you something right there.

So those are my All Americans for the 2017 college football season. It was an entertaining season and there is a lot of talented kids out there, so it is more probable than not that some deserving players got left off. Agree with my teams? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

MLB Free Agent Power Rankings

Before I get into the power rankings, I want to just say Rest in Peace to Roy Halladay, who died in a plane crash on Tuesday. He was 40 years old. Halladay was a husband and father of two and was widely considered to be one of the best human beings in baseball, as he was very involved in the community, from charity work to coaching little league. He was also a phenomenal pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, winning the Cy Young Award in 2003 and 2010, an 8-time All Star, and the embodiment of a workhorse. Since 1998, when Halladay made his Major League debut, no pitcher has thrown more complete games than Halladay’s 67. He retired in 2013 and that number since 1998 still hasn’t been caught. For a while, it was pretty safe to say that Halladay was the best pitcher in baseball, as his stretch between 2008-2011 was some of the most dominant years of pitching I’ve ever seen. His 2010 season was particularly special, as it included a perfect game against the Marlins and a no hitter in his postseason debut (second in postseason history) against the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS. Rest in Peace, Roy Halladay (1977-2017), you will be missed by all.

On a happier note, free agency has officially kicked off in Major League Baseball and speculation as to who’s headed where and who is due for a big contract will be the talk of the next four months or so. This year’s class is essentially the warmup to the Bryce Harper/Manny Machado class of 2018 that will be sure to shake the foundation of baseball to its core, but it is still loaded with plenty of star power. So without further ado, let’s get into the rankings.

#10. Zack Cozart-Shortstop

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photo credit: FirstAndMonday

Zack Cozart has been the shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds for a few years now but has battled injuries and hasn’t played a full season since 2014. However when he has been healthy, he’s been very effective, especially in the last two seasons, 2017 being his best. He hit .297 this season in 122 games with 24 home runs and 63 RBI while also playing some solid defense, which accumulated to a WAR of 5.0. He also earned his first All Star nod, and in turn, won a donkey from Joey Votto. You read that correctly. Here’s the story. Cozart may not be a household name, but he’s been playing the best baseball of his career and whichever team signs him will have themselves a heck of a player, provided he can stay healthy.

Projected Team: Signs with New York Mets

#9. Carlos Santana-First Baseman/DH

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photo credit: Waiting for Next Year

Carlos Santana is an oddity mainly because he often batted leadoff for the Cleveland Indians despite being a first baseman that lacks speed. It’s mainly because he draws a LOT of walks thanks to having one of the best eyes for the plate in baseball. He’s been really consistent these last two seasons, as he batted .259 in both 2016 AND 2017, and his on base percentage was .366 in 2016 and .363 in 2017. His power numbers were down from 2016, he hit a career-high 34 in 2016 and 23 in 2017, but he is still a threat to go yard if a pitcher hangs one on him.

Projected Team: Returns to the Cleveland Indians

#8. Jay Bruce-Outfielder

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photo credit: Sporting News

Jay Bruce has spent the majority of his career with the Cincinnati Reds but since being traded to the Mets in 2016, he’s had some of his best success at the plate. He hit 33 home runs between the Reds and Mets in 2016, then hit 36 bombs and drove in 101 runs between the Mets and Indians in 2017. He has only hit fewer than 20 home runs in a season once (2014) and that was by far the worst year of his career. He also has one of the strongest outfield arms in the game and many teams are hesitant to run against him.

Projected Team: Signs with the Toronto Blue Jays

#7. Mike Moustakas-Third Baseman

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals

photo credit: MLB Trade Rumors

Moustakas had a MONSTROUS offensive breakout this season, hitting 38 home runs (his previous best was 22) and 85 RBI while hitting a solid .272. Moustakas was a key cog in the Royals’ 2015 championship run, and his defense has typically been a major positive at the hot corner (however it has been steadily trending downward since 2012). Moustakas is one of four players on this list from the 2015 champion Royals team (three of which were still with KC at the end of the 2017 season) and he will be a big factor for whomever signs him.

Projected Team: Signs with San Francisco Giants

#6. Wade Davis-Closing Pitcher

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photo credit: Bleed Cubbie Blue

Wade Davis is one of a plethora of pitchers with promise who flamed out as starters, but once they moved to the bullpen, they rescue their careers. Davis is probably the best example of this and has been absolutely dominant since he was named the closer of the Royals in 2015 and he was a big boost for the Cubs’ bullpen in 2017. Davis was Chicago’s only All Star in 2017 and had a 2.30 ERA, which was actually his WORST since he became a reliever in 2014. Just let that sink in.

Projected Team: Returns to Chicago Cubs

#5. Lorenzo Cain-Outfielder

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals

photo credit: Baseball Prospectus

Lorenzo Cain has been pretty consistent since 2014, his average typically hovering around the .300 mark with moderate power while playing some solid defense in centerfield. I wouldn’t say Cain is an elite player, but he’s a good one who will be an impact on any lineup, best part being you pretty much know what you’re going to get out of him. Health was an issue for him in 2016 but he was totally healthy in 2017, playing in 155 games.

Projected Team: Signs with New York Yankees

#4. Eric Hosmer-First Baseman

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photo credit; The Inquisitr

Eric Hosmer is the last of 4-straight members of the 2015 Royals on this list. While I did note in my luck blog that he was probably the luckiest hitter in baseball in 2017, he is still one of the better first basemen in the game. He’s coming off his best season as a pro, slashing .318/.385/.498, all career highs, and tied his career high of 25 home runs while playing in all 162 games. He’s a below-average defender at first base, but that’s probably the one position where I don’t care too much about defense, unless they are absolutely abysmal.

Projected Team: Signs with Boston Red Sox

#3. Jake Arrieta-Starting Pitcher

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photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

Jake Arrieta’s second half of 2015 was perhaps the most dominant stretch of pitching I have ever seen. It’s kind of been downhill since, though it is almost impossible to do much better. He’s still one of the game’s better pitchers, as he had an ERA of 3.53, his worst since joining the Cubs, but still better than what you get out of most pitchers. He was hurt, however, by the fact that opponents had a .279 BABIP against him, a career-worst, which may suggest that he just got unlucky last season.

Projected Team: Signs with Texas Rangers

#2. Yu Darvish-Starting Pitcher

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Yu Darvish had a terrible showing in the Dodgers’ World Series loss to the Astros but that shouldn’t put a damper on peoples’ opinions on his abilities as a pitcher. When healthy, Darvish is one of the most electrifying righties in baseball. He had a 3.86 ERA on the year, 3.38 since his trade to the Dodgers from the Rangers at the Trade Deadline, as he played his first full season since missing much of 2014, all of 2015, and much of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery. He’s never struck out fewer than 10 batters per 9 innings in his career and his control has gotten better each season, as he has cut down on his walks per 9 every year (technically it did go up by 0.02 from 2016-17, but that’s so minuscule that I think it’s fair to overlook).

Projected Team: Resigns with Los Angeles Dodgers

#1. JD Martinez-Outfielder

J.D.-Martinez

photo credit: Sports from the Basement

Holy shit did JD Martinez have a big year. Between the Tigers and Diamondbacks (where he was traded at the Trade Deadline), Martinez hit .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI, numbers that would easily have him in the MVP discussion had he not switched leagues. 29 of those 45 bombs came in his 2 months in Arizona, as he helped catapult the Diamondbacks to a playoff run. Martinez missed the first month of the season due to injury but upon his return he was unstoppable, and I think it’s fair to expect that he continue to thrive, as he only just turned 30 in August.

Projected Team: Resigns with Arizona Diamondbacks

Others that just missed the list: Todd Frazier-Third Baseman, Eduardo Nunez-Utility, Alex Cobb-Starting Pitcher, Carlos Gonzalez-Outfielder, Jonathan Lucroy-Catcher

Those are my free agency rankings for this season. Agree with my list? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA Top 10 Players by Position

This is the next in my NBA season preview. You can check out my playoffs and awards projections here. In this, like my MLB postseason review, I will be ranking the top 10 players by position. All players on active rosters are eligible to make these lists, except for rookies, since they have yet to really show if they can make it in this league, however they will, of course, be eligible for the postseason version of this list, which will likely come out in April. As for the Top 100 that is set to be released tomorrow, I have yet to decide if I should break that up into smaller articles. Probably should get on that. Without further ado, let’s see the lists.

Point Guard

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The reigning NBA MVP, Russell Westbrook consistently stuffs the stat sheet for OKC (photo credit: NBA.com)

1.Russell Westbrook-Oklahoma City Thunder

2.Stephen Curry-Golden State Warriors

3.Kyrie Irving-Boston Celtics

4.John Wall-Washington Wizards

5.Isaiah Thomas-Cleveland Cavaliers

6.Damian Lillard-Portland Trail Blazers

7.Chris Paul-Houston Rockets

8.Kyle Lowry-Toronto Raptors

9.Kemba Walker-Charlotte Hornets

10.Mike Conley-Memphis Grizzlies

I was torn between Westbrook and Curry. On the one hand you have Curry, who drains shots like it’s nobody’s business and has some elite moves to go with it. On the other, Westbrook literally does everything well, as evidenced by his being the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple double for an entire season. I gave the nod to Westbrook since I have a soft spot for statsheet stuffers. 3-6 was pretty tight, and I would probably have IT a little higher if not for the hip injury that he’s dealing with that could cost him significant time to open the season. Kemba Walker has a special place in my heart because it was his UConn Huskies team in 2011 where I picked my first champion in a March Madness bracket. I’ve only done it twice, the other being Anthony Davis’ Kentucky team the following year, but I don’t brag about that one because literally everybody picked Kentucky that season.

Shooting Guard

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Since joining the Rockets, James Harden has been a scoring machine (photo credit: Grantland)

1.James Harden-Houston Rockets

2.Klay Thompson-Golden State Warriors

3.DeMar DeRozan-Toronto Raptors

4.Bradley Beal-Washington Wizards

5.Andrew Wiggins-Minnesota Timberwolves

6.CJ McCollum-Portland Trail Blazers

7.Avery Bradley-Detroit Pistons

8.Victor Oladipo-Indiana Pacers

9.Nicolas Batum-Charlotte Hornets

10.Devin Booker-Phoenix Suns

James Harden was a pretty easy selection for number 1 here for me. Despite the fact that he plays less defense than the Mountain in the Trial by Combat with Oberyn, Harden scores enough where I’m willing to look the other way. Also, he has a delicious candy that a coworker of mine randomly found at a mini mart down the street from where I work.

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James Harden was actually delicious

Gummi beards, I guess they’re called. They look terrifying but are actually quite good. After the top 6, this list got pretty difficult. I went with Avery Bradley at 7 and I think he is one of the most underappreciated players in the NBA. He plays fantastic defense and is quietly a very good shooter as well. Plus he has the respect of his peers:

One voter did claim that he left Bradley off of his All-Defense team because of the 70-point game by Devin Booker. Bradley did not play in that game.
Small Forward

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics

LeBron James is the best athlete perhaps in all of sports today (photo credit: Fortune)

1.LeBron James-Cleveland Cavaliers

2.Kawhi Leonard-San Antonio Spurs

3.Kevin Durant-Golden State Warriors

4.Paul George-Oklahoma City Thunder

5.Jimmy Butler-Minnesota Timberwolves

6.Gordon Hayward-Boston Celtics

7.Khris Middleton-Milwaukee Bucks

8.Andre Iguodala-Golden State Warriors

9.Otto Porter-Washington Wizards

10.Robert Covington-Philadelphia 76ers

LeBron James is a guy a lot of people like to compare to Michael Jordan, with many saying he’s better than MJ. I’m going to have to disagree with that, in fact, I would put Kobe ahead of LeBron. However, I think once LeBron is done I’ll have him above Kobe, maybe even Jordan. But with the body of work right now, he’s not there yet. That being said, LeBron is still the best player in basketball today, maybe even the best athlete in sports, period. As I wrote in my awards predictions yesterday, I have Kawhi Leonard taking home MVP honors this season. He is one of the more special talents I’ve seen in a while. I cringed at putting Kevin Durant at number 3, it just didn’t feel right. But in my heart and mind I feel that I would rather have LeBron or Kawhi than KD. Robert Covington is probably the more surprising entries on this list and that’s a shame. Sure, he’s not a household name by any means, but he’s a better player than most people give him credit for and I think that his name will gain more recognition should the 76ers improve the way I expect them too. However he will still be overshadowed by Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz.

Power Forward

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Anthony Davis has been one of the most dominant forwards in the game since entering the league in 2012 (photo credit: SLAMonline)

1.Anthony Davis-New Orleans Pelicans

2.Giannis Antetokounmpo-Milwaukee Bucks

3.Draymond Green-Golden State Warriors

4.Kristaps Porzingis-New York Knicks

5.Blake Griffin-Los Angeles Clippers

6.LaMarcus Aldridge-San Antonio Spurs

7.Carmelo Anthony-Oklahoma City Thunder

8.Serge Ibaka-Toronto Raptors

9.Julius Randle-Los Angeles Lakers

10.Harrison Barnes-Dallas Mavericks

Anthony Davis’ unibrow is one of the most recognizable body features in all of sports, if not the most. Right up there with James Harden’s beard or Dennis Rodman’s…whatever it is he’s feeling like having on his body on a particular day. This may be because my brain is just geared towards sports, but anytime anyone mentions a unibrow (or monobrow, if you’re weird), I immediately think of the one living on Davis’ face. Davis is more than just a unibrow, though. He’s perhaps the most dominating forward in the game on both ends of the court. Giannis (please don’t make me write out his last name again) is one of the craziest athletes I’ve ever seen. He can make his body do things that just aren’t natural. I mean, look at this:

That’s just not right. Carmelo Anthony comes in here because he’s slated on the Thunder depth chart on RotoWorld as the team’s power forward despite playing small forward in Denver and New York. I’m still not totally convinced that Big 3 in OKC is going to work. Serge Ibaka’s a guy you can’t sleep on, especially since his 3-point shot has gotten better every season. He might not be as prolific as he was with the Thunder, but anytime you have a big that can defend the paint and pop threes, you’re going to have a good time.
Center

Utah Jazz v Minnesota Timberwolves

KAT has revolutionized the center position in the NBA (photo credit: Stack.com)

1.Karl-Anthony Towns-Minnesota Timberwolves

2.Rudy Gobert-Utah Jazz

3.DeAndre Jordan-Los Angeles Clippers

4.Hassan Whiteside-Miami Heat

5.Kevin Love-Cleveland Cavaliers

6.DeMarcus Cousins-New Orleans Pelicans

7.Joel Embiid-Philadelphia 76ers

8.Nikola Jokic-Denver Nuggets

9.Marc Gasol-Memphis Grizzlies

10.Al Horford-Boston Celtics

Karl-Anthony Towns, like Ibaka, is a sharpshooting big man who actually beat Isaiah Thomas in the NBA Skills Challenge a couple of years ago. Considering that IT is one of the fastest and quickest players in the game with great passing and shooting abilities, it’s no wonder Towns tops this list. Rudy Gobert is a guy I don’t think gets enough love, as I wrote yesterday in my awards predictions, and I think he got robbed for Defensive Player of the Year. Full disclosure, I totally forgot about Kevin Love while making this list at first, though to my credit, the Cavaliers plan on moving him to center and having Tristan Thompson come off the bench this year with the arrival of Jae Crowder in the IT-Kyrie trade (both Thompson and Crowder barely missed out on these lists). But Love is still one of the best big men in the game despite the fact that he’s kind of become the Chris Bosh of this Cavs team, being the big man that doesn’t get enough respect for what he brings to this team. Joel Embiid is a guy I just couldn’t leave off this list despite the fact that if he blinked wrong he’d be out for an unknown period of time. He’s just such a wonderful dude. How many guys can wear their own jersey to a night club and everybody still loves him for it?

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Where’s Joel? (photo credit: Twitter)

Guarantee you if any other player did that they would get crucified. But not Embiid. Nikola Jokic is another guy who is under the radar, but that tends to happen when you’re an eastern European with a difficult name to pronounce. The guy had a big season for the Nuggets last year and could be a sneaky contender in the Most Improved Player list.

Those are my top 10s. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA Season Preview

The NBA season opens on October 17 in a game between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, which couldn’t be more perfect considering these two teams pulled off a huge trade a month ago where they swapped superstar guards. I felt that just under a week left until the start of the regular season would be the perfect time to give my predictions on how this season will play out. This will be a 3-part series, much like my postseason MLB series, with top-10s by position coming tomorrow and a top-100 coming Friday. However that one I’m considering breaking up into multiple parts. Stay tuned for that. For this preview I will project awards, All-NBA teams, and the playoffs. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Awards:

NBA MVP: Kawhi Leonard-F-San Antonio Spurs

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Kawhi Leonard already has a Finals MVP on his resume, now he looks for League MVP (photo credit: Slam Online)

After flirting with the idea of Leonard as MVP for a few years now, I think this is the year he finally gets it. Leonard has been the best player on the Spurs for some time and that’s saying something, considering the team is typically littered with Hall of Famers and has the best coach in the game in Gregg Popovich. Leonard is a stud defender who also puts up over 20 points per game and will lead this Spurs team on another deep playoff run.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert-C-Utah Jazz

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Rudy Gobert has been a nightmare for anyone brave enough to enter the paint (photo credit: Salt City Hoops)

Truth be told, I thought Gobert should have won this award last year. His 8-foot wingspan along with his 7’1 height make it damn near impossible to score in the paint, as he consistently swats away any shot that has the audacity to approach his territory. I think he gets this award this time and gets the recognition he deserves after a few years of really strong defensive play.

Sixth Man of the Year: Andre Iguodala-F-Golden State Warriors

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Andre Iguodala looks to add another trophy to his mantle (photo credit: Sporting News)

This is always a hard award to predict and it feels like kind of a cop out to pick Iguodala here. The guy could not only start for most teams, but be their best player (looking at you, Nets). Yet on this stacked Warriors team, he comes off the bench and he does it as well as anybody. How many players can say they were Finals MVP while coming off the bench? Just Iggy.

Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr-G-Dallas Mavericks

Milwaukee Bucks v Dallas Mavericks

Dennis Smith Jr has looked really impressive in his small body of work with the Mavericks (photo credit: Sports Illustrated

I was really tempted to choose Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, or De’Aaron Fox for this spot, but I felt that Dennis Smith Jr would ultimately be the guy to go with. He’s locked down the starting point guard job for the Mavericks already, coming off a really strong summer league performance that reminded me of Damian Lillard’s quick ascension. I think Smith is in the best position to succeed early out of any rookie in the league (and I’m not counting Ben Simmons for this even though he technically still qualifies. He had his chance at a ROTY in my book and couldn’t stay healthy).

Coach of the Year: Brett Brown-Philadelphia 76ers

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Brett Brown looks to reward Philly fans’ patience with a playoff berth (photo credit: CSN Philadelphia)

I don’t know if Brown will do anything otherworldly, but if you check my playoff predictions below, you’ll know why I have him winning coach of the year. After years of Trusting the Process, it seems that the 76ers are primed and ready to be relevant again. I think they have the pieces in place to make a playoff run if they can stay healthy. And that’s a BIG “if.” But I think they will be healthy enough and capture the 8th seed in the East. And since Brown will be at the helm of this resurgence, he will get the honor of Coach of the Year.

Comeback Player of the Year: Chandler Parsons-F-Memphis Grizzlies

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The normally deadly sharpshooter didn’t look like himself in 2016-17 (photo credit: Sporting News)

Parsons struggled mightily in the first year of his big contract from the Grizzlies. His points per game was cut in half, his FG% dropped from 49.2% to 33.8% and his 3-point shooting, his best trait, was down from 41.4% to 26.9%. A shooter of his caliber should not have a lower 3-point percentage than DeMarcus Cousins (36.1%). I think he bounces back this season and gets recognized for his return to shooting prominence.

Most Improved Player: Myles Turner-C-Indiana Pacers

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Myles Turner looks to take a big step in his development (photo credit: NBA.com)

Myles Turner is a guy oozing with ability and I was praying he would fall to the Celtics at 16 in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Pacers took the Texas product at 11 and have reaped the benefits thus far, as he has averaged 12 points per game and 6 rebounds per game over his career. However when you watch him play, it is pretty clear that those numbers should be higher as he is seemingly always around the ball and the loss of Paul George for the Pacers will open up more opportunities for him to get big numbers this year.

All-NBA Teams

First Team

G-Stephen Curry-Golden State Warriors

G-James Harden-Houston Rockets

F-LeBron James-Cleveland Cavaliers

F-Kawhi Leonard-San Antonio Spurs

C-Anthony Davis-New Orleans Pelicans

Second Team

G-Russell Westbrook-Oklahoma City Thunder

G-Kyrie Irving-Boston Celtics

F-Kevin Durant-Golden State Warriors

F-Giannis Antetokounmpo-Milwaukee Bucks

C-Karl-Anthony Towns-Minnesota Timberwolves

Third Team

G-Damian Lillard-Portland Trail Blazers

G-John Wall-Washington Wizards

F-Paul George-Oklahoma City Thunder

F-Kristaps Porzingis-New York Knicks

C-Rudy Gobert-Utah Jazz

Projected Playoff teams with Seeds

Eastern Conference

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. Washington Wizards
  4. Toronto Raptors
  5. Milwaukee Bucks
  6. Charlotte Hornets
  7. Detroit Pistons
  8. Philadelphia 76ers

Western Conference

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. San Antonio Spurs
  3. Houston Rockets
  4. Minnesota Timberwolves
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder
  6. Portland Trail Blazers
  7. Los Angeles Clippers
  8. New Orleans Pelicans

Playoff Round-by-Round Predictions:

Eastern Conference:

(1)Cavaliers def. (8)76ers

(2)Celtics def. (7)Pistons

(3)Wizards def. (6)Hornets

(5)Bucks def. (4)Raptors

(1)Cavaliers def. (5)Bucks

(2)Celtics def. (3)Wizards

(1)Cavaliers def. (2)Celtics

This conference is really a 2-man race between the Cavaliers and Celtics. The Wizards and Raptors may make things interesting, but overall Cleveland and Boston are the teams to beat as they will duke it out for the Eastern Conference championship for the second straight year. I have the Cavs winning it over the Celtics for a second straight year and fourth straight overall as they are just too deep for the much-improved Celtics to compete with. It won’t be as lopsided a series as it was last year, but the Cavs will prevail.

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The Cavaliers and Celtics are the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference (photo credit: Newsday)

Eastern Conference Champions: Cleveland Cavaliers

Western Conference:

(1)Warriors def. (8)Pelicans

(2)Spurs def. (7)Clippers

(3)Rockets def. (6)Trail Blazers

(5)Thunder def. (4)Timberwolves

(1)Warriors def. (5)Thunder

(2)Spurs def. (3)Rockets

(1)Warriors def. (2)Spurs

Unlike the East, the West has 5 teams that I could envision winning it, however the Warriors will win once again because they are just that much better than everyone else. As long as Gregg Popovich coaches the Spurs, they will compete for a title but they aren’t quite as deep as they have been in years’ past. The addition of Chris Paul will be big for the Rockets as James Harden has a world-class distributor to feed him the ball. The Timberwolves had a fantastic offseason and they have the look of a team that is sick of losing. I think the Thunder will struggle out of the gate with their new Big 3, but I think they will put it together by the end of the year in time for a run. There are a lot of mouths to feed in OKC and that could lead to some on-court issues between Westbrook, George, and Carmelo Anthony. But again, the Warriors are just better than everyone else and they will win the West.

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs

The Warriors and the Spurs have been two of the elite teams in the West for the last few seasons (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Western Conference Champion: Golden State Warriors

NBA Finals:

(1)Warriors def. (1)Cavaliers

I’m getting pretty sick of this matchup but it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. I have the Warriors and Cavs meeting in the Finals for the fourth straight year, which has never happened before and will beg the question: is this a better inter-conference rivalry than Celtics-Lakers? I think the Warriors take it in 7 and Steph Curry wins Finals MVP. Fun fact, Curry didn’t win Finals MVP either time the Warriors won under his tutelage.

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Could we really get a fourth consecutive Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals? (photo credit: Sporting News)

NBA Champions: Golden State Warriors (MVP: Stephen Curry)

Those are my picks for this NBA season. I’ll revisit them at some point this year. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.