What NBA Free Agency Can Teach Us about the International System & Political Signaling

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By James Neary

The intersectionality of politics and sports is an ever-present fissure in the harsh divisions of America today. You can yell back and forth across the dinner table about why players should or should not kneel, wear black hoodies, or lambast the president. But you can’t argue this: sports ​are politics. Power dynamics, economics, and public relations are obvious driving forces behind both the Warriors and the White House. While this article largely focuses on the context of the NBA and the boisterous atmosphere surrounding free agency headed into this weekend, the concepts mentioned here will be largely applicable to other leagues as well. While to most political scholars the metaphor is apparent, the sports fan less versed in the traditions of Capitol Hill stands to gain a lot from this discussion.

Although the metaphor isn’t perfect, the NBA today can be seen as an international system similar to the one every human on earth calls their own, except for maybe Marxists. Political scholars usually refer to our syste​m as ​anarchy ,which you know the meaning of. Despite the UN and other international organizations’ best effort to instill some rule of law on a global level, realist theory in political science argues that doesn’t mean much. How the NBA functions similarly to this follows: Each team acting as a nation, or ‘black box,’ in which you can hardly see the inner policy, practices, and traditions of the institution itself, but are left instead with the resulting implications of the choices made through their internal processes. There are institutions such as the NBA itself, the NBPA, the television and internet service providers, etc. that do impose rules over combat (games), economics (salary caps), diplomacy (trades), and ethics (dress code). Politically, either from a realist or liberal (not like that, idiots) perspective, the argument can be made both that these institutions do and do not play a leading role in the decisions made by teams.

Now that the overall framework and political theory is established, it’s time to take a look at this year’s NBA free agency circus and see how it corresponds to our political conditions. To be completely forthcoming, I’m a diehard Celtics fan, but I also appreciate the unprecedented grandeur of (IMHO) the greatest player of ever, Lebron. In our metaphor, the games these teams play against each other are representative of actual battle between states. This can be thought of as either military or economic competition, as the former seems to be traded for the latter in recent politics. If you are going with the most basic metaphor, games as battles, then in that context Lebron is equal to the largest concentrated nuclear payload on Earth. Golden State has the most combined nukes, and maybe even the second largest single concentration in KD or Steph. Draymond is kind of like a predator missile: easy to deploy and very destructive, but can cause a lot of unwanted damage. Teams, just like states, are in a constant struggle with others to secure these assets and deploy them effectively on the battlefield to maximize their returns.

As stated above, the metaphor isn’t perfect, but it’s obvious the teams in the NBA (and the WNBA, NFL, CFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, LLWS… maybe not that last one) function according to a framework of power dynamics similar to that of our international system. What prompted this discussion, however, is the ​seemingly exaggerated media circus leading up to Lebron, Kawhi, and PG’s decision to stay or leave their respective teams this year. Sorry to burst the bubble, but I’m of the school of thought that this is not out of the ordinary in any way. It’s the very nature of our political institutions and their derivative economy to systematically bombard us with information every hour of the day, every day of the year. This might be a phenomenon that has developed recently, seeing as the most unrelenting place it manifests itself, in both the political and athletic arenas, is my push notifications. The logic stands though, the NBA or any other sports organization has nothing to gain in a quiet offseason. They lose money, they lose ratings, and they lose traction. Michelle Beadle and Mike Greenberg, on GetUp! On ESPN following the NBA awards, pointed out the balance of awkwardness for having the show so long after the regular season (when the votes were cast) and of politics for having so much invested in such an ambitious event. So there it is, whether through free agency, championship parades, fallings out between superstars, or fashion shows, the NBA will always give you as much to talk about in the offseason as it can.

 

That being said, what was about this offseason in particular that prompted such a discussion on the intersectionality of sports and politics? To be honest, I think the average basketball fan is becoming increasingly aware of this connection due to the rate at and ease with which we see these developments. What has been particularly noticeable this offseason is the amount of political signaling going on between teams and parties. Magic Johnson, proving to be a very skilled statesmen, has executed some of the better attempts at this so far. Signaling to fans his resolve, he recently committed to stepping down as President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers if he were unable to land some big free agents this offseason or next. Signaling resolve is often used by leaders during international combat, but can be utilized in economic and diplomatic relations as well. Perhaps most similar to Magic’s case in a relevant American context, Republican Senate Candidate for Missouri Austin Petersen challenged grassroots Republican primary adversary Tony Monetti to a high stakes unofficial ballot in which the loser would resign. Both candidates initially agreed, but Monetti backed out, signaling weak resolve to his voting base while Petersen signaled strong. US Rep Maxine Waters’ call for private discrimination against members of the Trump administration and Senator Chuck Schumer’s condemnation of her remarks are also signals of resolve relevant to their respective voting bases. Magic Johnson’s recent strategic move, however, is also indicative another political phenomenon we’ve seen play out on the international stage recently. What Magic did was essentially ‘draw a line in the sand,’ as President Obama did in 2012 with his denunciation of the Assad regime in Syria. What weight these red lines actually hold in practice however, is up for debate.

Besides just the words of Magic Johnson, there have been numerous occurrences of political signaling in recent days of the NBA offseason. Perhaps the most obnoxious form of signaling is coming from Lavar Ball. When looking at the dynamics of the Kawhi Leonard situation, Lavar’s endless media stunts, self-promotion, and cold takes make perfect sense. The Spurs, a franchise notorious for flying under the radar and giving the media as limited access as possible, see Lavar as significant cost to obtaining Lonzo from the Lakers. The fact that it’s the Spurs makes that cost significantly higher than it would be for any other team as well. Knowing that the Lakers will probably have to deal Zo or Kuzma to San Antonio to grab Kawhi, Lavar is making it exponentially more difficult for that deal to happen with his son. Therefore, Lavar is setting up Lonzo, a pass-first and lanky rebounding point guard, to play with two of the greatest two-way wings of all time. A pretty brilliant move in my opinion, and one that echos Israel’s attempts to leverage as much power as they possibly can to shift the international relation strategies of the United States more in their favor.

 

The metaphors and political connections in this scenario between the Lakers, Spurs, and Lebron do not stop there obviously. You have virtue signaling, like in that horrible poem that Lakers intern wrote for softy Paul George. Commitment signaling, like in how Kyrie was absent from the Celtics bench in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals this year. I think it could even be reasonably argued that Lonzo’s diss track to Kuzma was a signal to Lebron that he was willing to part ways with his good friend to make space for him. The Lakers, evidently thought this was poorly executed, as they reprimanded the two rising sophomores for their antics, thus signaling to Lebron their capabilities. Lebron has even engaged in this signaling himself, most probably by orchestrating leaks from his camp that he doesn’t want to hear any pitches, most absurdly by wearing a hat during the finals saying “There is no magic pill.” It seems that every year, every summer, there has developed this atmosphere of circus surrounding NBA free agency. I hope that I’ve established this atmosphere is far from unprecedented or unreasonable. Applying frameworks of political science, including organizations of international systems, political signaling, and power dynamics is useful for understanding the neverending onslaught of Joel Embiid’s tweets and Stephen A.’s rants involving the NBA.

2018 Full NBA Mock Draft

So the NBA Draft is today and for you basketball fans out there, I apologize for not going nearly as in depth about this as I did with the NFL Draft but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’m not nearly as good with basketball as football. Also, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t do nearly as much research before doing this as I should have. I’ve been VERY busy with some things that may or may not be in the works right now as well as being a cashier at a liquor store. So if you’ve been following this draft and my analysis is just flat out wrong, that’s why. But I’m going to do my best with this one and I’m going to do the entire 2-round NBA mock. I’m only doing explanations for the lottery picks (1-14) because really those are the only picks anyone cares about. So with that, let’s get to the mock.

Round 1

1. Phoenix Suns-DeAndre Ayton-C-Arizona

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This is pretty much the only guarantee I can make with this draft because it’s basically a foregone conclusion that Ayton is going to be the top pick to the Suns. He’s the best prospect and probably the safest, too. I liken him to DeMarcus Cousins minus the mean streak (that we know of) and I think at worst he’s going to be a quality starter.

2. Sacramento Kings-Marvin Bagley-F-Duke

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Marvin Bagley was the preseason pick to be the top selection in the draft but with the rise of Ayton and Bagley not being as amazing as everybody thought (he was still really good, though). But Bagley’s potential is too high to pass on so I think the Kings will take their shot here.

3. Atlanta Hawks-Jaren Jackson-F-Michigan State

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The Hawks have nothing right now and Jaren Jackson is among the best prospects in this draft. Jackson needs to put on some muscle but his basketball skills are top-notch. He might get bullied in the paint a little bit at first but if he can fill out, there may not be a bigger threat in the post.

4. Memphis Grizzlies-Luka Doncic-G/F-Slovenia

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This is the biggest question mark of the draft. Yeah, Doncic is 6’8 with really good handles, but his competition is trash. Also I guess he’s getting fat? I don’t know, like I said at the outset, I haven’t done as much due diligence as I probably should have. But from what I understand, Doncic could be another Ben Simmons, but he could also be another Andrea Bargnani.

5. Dallas Mavericks-Mo Bamba-C-Texas

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Bamba’s potential is off the charts but he’s raw as all Hell. He’s going to need a year or two before he’s really ready for the big time. But he’s a 7-footer with a 7’9 wingspan, which at worst he’s just going to block every single shot. Dirk Nowitzki’s not getting any younger and there’s nobody better for Bamba to try and model his game after.

6. Orlando Magic-Michael Porter-F-Missouri

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We really don’t know anything about Porter since he missed basically his entire season at Missouri with a back injury. He was the number 1 recruit last year, though, and that doesn’t just get handed out for nothing so I think the Magic, who really have no marketable talent right now, should take a chance on him.

7. Chicago Bulls-Trae Young-G-Oklahoma

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Young was the story of the college basketball world last year as his shooting numbers were just stupid. However he faded down the stretch and people are really wondering whether he’s another Jimmer Fredette. Quite frankly, I think he’s going to be another Monta Ellis but better passer (Young’s a better passer than people give him credit for).

8. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Boston Celtics through Brooklyn Nets)-Mikal Bridges-F-Villanova

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Despite Jalen Brunson garnering all the attention, Bridges is the better prospect. With Cleveland expecting to lose LeBron James, they need to nail this pick in order to remain relevant. Bridges, of course, is far from being LeBron James, but he’s a similar style of player and has the potential to be a star in this league.

9. New York Knicks-Wendell Carter-C-Duke

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I mentioned this the last time I did a mock, but when Duke came to Indiana last year, I actually came away more impressed by Carter than I was by Bagley and I think he has the potential to be the steal of this draft. Aside from Kristaps Porzingis, who may not even want to be there much longer, the Knicks don’t have shit from a talent standpoint so adding a bruiser like Carter could give them a very dominant duo down low.

10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Los Angeles Lakers)-Collin Sexton-G-Alabama

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Full disclosure, I actually like Collin Sexton a bit more than Trae Young, mainly because I think I trust Sexton a little more. I think he’s the safest of the two and he’s a better passer. He doesn’t have Young’s shooting ability, which is why I think Young will go higher, but Sexton is more of a traditional point guard that could be a real asset to the 76ers, especially if Markelle Fultz is as broken as everyone says he is.

11. Charlotte Hornets-Kevin Knox-F-Kentucky

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Knox was a high-ranking recruit but he didn’t do as much at Kentucky as everyone expected. He’s a bit raw right now and pretty much everything we have on him is projection at this point. But there’s no doubting his talent and if developed properly, he could be the perfect sidekick for Kemba Walker in Charlotte.

12. Los Angeles Clippers (from Detroit Pistons)-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-G-Kentucky

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This is a guy whose draft stock is rising a lot lately. In fact, there are rumors that the Raptors are so enamored with Gilgeous-Alexander that they are trying to trade into the top 10 to land him (the Raptors do not have a pick in this year’s draft). Since they don’t have a pick, a trade to land this guy would likely cost a star player such as Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan. If a team is that in love with a guy, there’s definitely more worth delving into.

13. Los Angeles Clippers-Miles Bridges-F-Michigan State

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Miles Bridges was my favorite player in college basketball, but as far as NBA talents go, he’s a little raw. There is definitely something to work with, though, as he took over plenty of games while in East Lansing. If he can translate that over to the NBA, the Clippers could find themselves with a Hell of a player.

14. Denver Nuggets-Lonnie Walker-G-Miami (FL)

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Full disclosure, I know nothing about this guy, but that hair is so absurd that he has to be a lottery pick. Not as nuts as Elfrid Payton’s, but it’s pretty damn close But he’s rated pretty highly on all draft boards so he’s probably a guy who could help the Nuggets in the short and long term.

15. Washington Wizards-De’Anthony Melton-G-USC

16. Phoenix Suns (from Miami Heat)-Zhaire Smith-G-Texas Tech

17. Milwaukee Bucks-Robert Williams-C-Texas A&M

18. San Antonio Spurs-Kevin Huerter-F-Maryland

19. Atlanta Hawks (from Minnesota Timberwolves)-Troy Brown-F-Oregon

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Oklahoma City Thunder)-Elie Okobo-G-France

21. Utah Jazz-Jacob Evans-F-Cincinnati

22. Chicago Bulls (from New Orleans Pelicans)-Mitchell Robinson-F-N/A

23. Indiana Pacers-Keita Bates-Diop-F-Ohio State

24. Portland Trail Blazers-Melvin Frazier-G-Tulane

25. Los Angeles Lakers (from Cleveland Cavaliers)-Khyri Thomas-G-Creighton

26. Philadelphia 76ers-Shake Milton-G-SMU

27. Boston Celtics-Grayson Allen-G-Duke

28. Golden State Warriors-Donte Divincenzo-G-Villanova

29. Brooklyn Nets-Dzanan Musa-F-Bosnia and Herzegovina

30. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston Rockets)-Jerome Robinson-G-Boston College

Round 2

31. Phoenix Suns-Jalen Brunson-G-Villanova

32. Memphis Grizzlies-Devonte Graham-G-Kansas

33. Atlanta Hawks-Chandler Hutchison-F-Boise State

34. Dallas Mavericks-Aaron Holiday-G-UCLA

35. Orlando Magic-Anfernee Simons-G-IMG

36. Sacramento Kings-Landry Shamet-G-Wichita State

37. New York Knicks (from Chicago Bulls)-Mo Wagner-F-Michigan

38. Philadelphia 76ers (from Brooklyn Nets)-Bruce Brown-F-Miami (FL)

39. Philadelphia 76ers (from New York Knicks)-Gary Trent Jr-G-Duke

40. Brooklyn Nets (from Los Angeles Lakers)-Jarred Vanderbilt-F-Kentucky

41. Orlando Magic (from Charlotte Hornets)-Rodions Kurucs-F-Latvia

42. Detroit Pistons-Gary Clark-F-Cincinnati

43. Denver Nuggets (from Los Angeles Clippers)-Josh Okogie-F-Georgia Tech

44. Washington Wizards-Trevon Duval-G-Duke

45. Brooklyn Nets (from Milwaukee Bucks)-Omari Spellman-C-Villanova

46. Houston Rockets (from Miami Heat)-Kenrich Williams-F-TCU

47. Los Angeles Lakers (from Denver Nuggets)-Hamidou Diallo-F-Kentucky

48. Minnesota Timberwolves-Justin Jackson-F-Maryland

49. San Antonio Spurs-Rawle Alkins-G-Arizona

50. Indiana Pacers-Ray Spalding-C-Louisville

51. New Orleans Pelicans-Tony Carr-G-Penn State

52. Utah Jazz-Malik Newman-G-Kansas

53. Oklahoma City Thunder-Vince Edwards-F-Purdue

54. Dallas Mavericks (from Portland Trail Blazers)-Isaac Bonga-F-Germany

55. Charlotte Hornets (from Cleveland Cavaliers)-Chimezie Metu-C-USC

56. Philadelphia 76ers-Devon Hall-G-Virginia

57. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Boston Celtics)-Svi Mykhailiuk-F-Kansas

58. Denver Nuggets (from Golden State Warriors)-Alize Johnson-F-Missouri State

59. Phoenix Suns (from Toronto Raptors)-Jevon Carter-G-West Virginia

60. Philadelphia 76ers (from Houston Rockets)-Kevin Hervey-F-UT Arlington

That’s going to do it for this NBA Mock Draft. I’ll try and get a recap out after the actual event is over, but I can’t promise anything since I’ll be working during it (I’m going to try and stream it on my phone but I won’t be able to get instant reactions onto paper like I did for the NFL Draft). Let me know how you think this draft is going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

A Wild Day in Baseball

Normally I would call this segment “General Sports” but it’s all baseball today so I felt the title change was appropriate. Plus it was an absolute DOOZY of a day for baseball so I felt it was justified. Let’s get to it.

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-Mariners ace (yes, I’m calling him their “ace” now) James Paxton threw the third no hitter in baseball this season and second in the last 4 days. On the day, he of course gave up no hits, no runs, struck out 7, and walked 3 and was still hitting 100 mph on his pitches with one out left to go in the no-no. He did it against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto, becoming the first ever Canadian-born pitcher to actually throw a no hitter in Canada. Though he did get some help.

Every time there’s a no hitter thrown, there always seems to be an unbelievable play to save it at some point in the game. But this type of dominance isn’t something new, Paxton has been doing this all season. In fact, I watched his performance against Oakland last week and he went 7 innings, gave up no runs, and struck out 16 batters. However the Mariners’ bullpen blew it and he ended up with the no decision and the Mariners ended up losing the game 3-2. He became what I think is the third pitcher in the modern era to strike out 16 batters in 7 or fewer innings while giving up no runs in a game his team lost. I’ll have to double check on the specifics of that because I can’t seem to find the tweet I read that on. But whatever, James Paxton is really freaking good and I think this is the perfect time for uninformed baseball fans to realize this.

-I wrote a little while ago about Matt Harvey getting DFA’d by the Mets. Well, they finally reached a conclusion to this saga, as they traded him to the Cincinnati Reds for catcher Devin Mesoraco. Mesoraco is a former All Star but has struggled with injuries these last couple years. He’s a talented catcher and seems like a solid return for a guy the Mets were desperate to get rid of. As for the Reds, they get a pitcher they sorely needed as well as dumping some of Mesoraco’s salary (about $13M as opposed to Harvey’s $5.6, though they will send the Mets some cash to offset this somewhat). He’ll probably slot into the rotation as even with his recent run of poor play he’s probably better than half the guys on the Reds’ staff. Harvey and Mesoraco won’t have to travel very far, though, as the Mets are currently playing in Cincinnati at the moment. Hell, Mesoraco appeared in a game for the Mets literally hours after the deal was struck. Hopefully a fresh start in a much smaller market is just what Harvey needs to revive his career.

-Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna has been placed on Administrative Leave after being charged with domestic assault of his girlfriend. Basically “Administrative Leave” is a 7-day suspension with pay while the league investigates the matter, though Osuna can appeal this if he so chooses. As of right now we have very little in terms of details on the situation so it’s unknown what transpired. But if the 23 year-old is found guilty, this could be disastrous for a Blue Jays team that is playing above their talent level at the moment. Osuna has been very good in the closer’s role this season, carrying a 2.93 ERA (2.06 FIP) with a minuscule 0.59 walks per 9 rate and he has yet to give up a home run this season. Typically the punishment for domestic assault in MLB is about half the season, which would be a crushing blow for the Jays. We’ll have to keep an eye on this one.

-Major League Baseball officially announced that the Red Sox and Yankees would play a 2-game series in London on June 29-30 in an effort for global expansion. The press conference happened a little over a week after the news broke and I’ve got to say, despite the fact that one of my teams is playing this game, I don’t know if I could care any less about having games in London. Now yes, this is definitely better than what the NFL is doing, which is putting a couple mediocre teams out there a few times a year (the Red Sox and Yankees currently have the best record in baseball and a suddenly reinvigorated rivalry). But I don’t see any expansion happening anytime soon. I’d much sooner see a team in Mexico than in London. Hell, we have far more Mexican-born players in the Major Leagues and it’s right south of the border in a similar situation to Toronto. Now granted, there may be some issues, as Mexico typically has a higher altitude than most of the United States (putting a team in Monterrey would give that team the second-highest altitude in the Majors behind Colorado) so pitching would likely suffer there. But it wouldn’t be a whole lot different than having a team in Toronto. Plus, putting a team in London would be disastrous for travel, as you would have to give teams a few off days in between traveling to London to account for the time zone changes (not to mention how much mileage the London-based team would accumulate). Chill with the London stuff guys, get teams in our neighboring countries first.

-Speaking of the Red Sox, David Price has been scratched from his next start after feeling numbness in his finger tips again. Since this issue first rose a month ago, Price has gone from dominant to poor for this Red Sox rotation. He looked awesome in his first two starts, as he didn’t surrender a single run in either outing. However the numbness started happening and he’s been getting shelled and his ERA has ballooned to 5.11. Quite frankly, I would just put him on the DL if I were the Red Sox brass. This doesn’t sound like something to mess around with, plus Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez have shown that they’re more than capable of putting in quality spot start duties which should tide things over nicely while the Sox let Price recover. I know there’s this concern over the fact that you’ve got so much money invested in him and it’s another DL stint for him, but if a guy’s injured, he’s injured. You can’t keep sending him out there and setting him up for failure and potentially damaging him beyond repair. It’s not worth it.

-So the Orioles currently have the worst record in baseball and then they faced the Kansas City Royals. The Royals dropped a freaking 10 spot in the top of the FIRST INNING, hitting 4 home runs off Dylan Bundy before Bundy could record an out, the first time that’s happened in the modern era. He ended up allowing 7 runs to score and it was the nail in the coffin for Baltimore as they got trounced by Kansas City, who ended up with a 15-7 victory while also collecting 20 hits. And it’s not like the Royals are some juggernaut, either. They entered the game with an 11-23 record and were scoring the 4th fewest runs in the Majors entering that game. Though, to the O’s’ credit, they didn’t completely lie down after that first inning shelling. They did manage to score 7 runs (6 of them after the 7th inning) and collect 14 hits. But the Manny Machado trade speculation is going to be running absolutely RAMPANT after this game.

That’s going to do it for this baseball update. Let me know what you thought of everything in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Blind Resumes. NFL Draft Edition

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Before I get into today’s blog, I just wanted to say that I noticed something. I haven’t had a single blog posted for Monday all month. Not one. I was going to try and write one Sunday night but there was just nothing there worth writing about. That’s when I noticed the “Wyman’s Time Machine,” which is the calendar on the side of the screen that tells you what blog I posted on what day so if you have one you particularly liked you can go back and check it out. Well it links the days that had blogs posted. Not a single Monday has a linked date. Just something I noticed.

Now onto the actual blog itself, ESPN posted an interesting little thing on their website that I had a good time with and I thought I’d get into myself. Here’s the link to it. Basically what it is is it gives you two quarterbacks. You don’t know who they are but what you have available is their college stats. You have to guess based on the stats who was the better pro. It gets pretty fun especially when you see a guy who sucked in the NFL put up better numbers than a future Hall of Famer. It randomizes each time you play so you can go at it a bunch. It also gives a quarterback prospect from this year’s class that compares to both players.

I’m going to do something a little similar, but I’m going to go with not only quarterbacks, but runningbacks, and wide receivers. Offensive linemen and defensive players won’t get included just because their stats tend to be all over the place and are often unreliable, particularly the tackles stat. It would just be a nightmare to try and sift through them. The point of this blog is to determine whether college stats actually matter when it comes to scouting players. Mel Kiper Jr made headlines a few weeks ago by saying he doesn’t care about Josh Allen’s completion percentage, yet earlier he had made remarks about Lamar Jackson saying he wished his completion percentage was higher. So let’s get to some blind resumes. We’re going to do 4 players for each position. Two were successful in the NFL, two were not. Let’s see if you can guess who is who.

Quarterbacks

QB1: QB1 absolutely lit up the stat sheets in college. He was a 3-year starter in college and never threw below 4300 yards in a season. His junior season was particularly incredible as he threw for over 5500 yards and 58 touchdowns, which is an FBS record. He finished third for the Heisman that year, however the fact he played at a smaller school hurt his candidacy. In his senior season, he led his team to a 12-0 record and an appearance in a New Year’s 6 bowl where they lost big to a major school.

QB2: QB2 struggled in college. While he was a part of a national championship winning team as a sophomore, he was stuck behind a guy on the depth chart who ended up playing baseball. When he finally did earn the starting job, he struggled a bit. He never threw for more than 2427 yards in a season and his TD-INT ratio for his career was 30-17. His teams were winning, though, as his school won 10 games in both of his seasons as a starter. However, scouts liked him just as much as QB1, as both were drafted in the same round (different drafts).

QB3: QB3 had a pretty successful college career. He was a four-year starter for a major college program, including winning a national championship and being the runner-up for the Heisman trophy his senior season. His passing yards totals increased every season, peaking at 3819 as a senior where he also threw a career-high 36 touchdowns, however his completion percentage was the lowest of his collegiate career that season at 60.2%.

QB4: QB4 had a very decorated career. He won a Heisman Trophy his third season, where he threw for 4699 yards and 46 touchdowns. He even won the Heisman despite the fact that he didn’t play for one of the premiere programs in college football. He put his own school on the map, though, and nowadays this school is considered one of the top mid-major schools in the country.

So. Who was good in the NFL and who wasn’t? Time to reveal the identities of each player.

QB1 is Colt Brennan. Brennan took Hawaii of all schools to the Sugar Bowl and was a 6th round pick by the Washington Redskins in 2008, however he never appeared in an NFL game.

QB2 is Tom Brady. Brady was a 6th round pick out of Michigan in 2000 and struggled to beat out Drew Henson for the starting job. He is a 5-time Super Bowl champion and shows no signs of slowing down despite being 40 years old.

QB3 is Peyton Manning. Manning was the first overall pick in 1998 and holds basically every statistical record in the NFL for a quarterback and is a 2-time Super Bowl champion as well as being the only starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl with 2 teams.

QB4 is Andre Ware. Ware was a first round pick out of Houston in 1990 by the Lions and started just 6 career games in 4 NFL seasons before he was out of the league.

So now that you see how the game works, let’s get to the next position group.

Runningbacks

RB1: RB1 had a very unimpressive first two years before exploding onto the scene in his third season. He entered his third year with just 900 career rushing yards before winning a Heisman trophy in that magical season. Many of people consider that year to be the greatest season ever by a collegiate runningback however there were concerns that he was just a one-hit wonder.

RB2: RB2 had a successful college career, particularly in his sophomore and junior seasons. He was not only a successful runner, but a successful receiver as well, as he had over 4000 yards from scrimmage in his career while also scoring 21 TD’s his junior season. He was the top runningback selected in his class.

RB3: RB3 started his career playing at an FCS school before transferring to a Power-5 school his sophomore season. He never rushed for more than 824 yards in a season and at no point did he eclipse 1000 yards from scrimmage in a season despite being a pretty good receiver, particularly in his senior season. In fact, in his senior season, he lost a lot of carries to a player who would become better known as a wide receiver at the next level. He was a late-round pick and ended up having a relatively short NFL career.

RB4: RB4 was a Heisman Trophy winner and parlayed that success to becoming a first round pick. He posted one of the best all-around seasons in college football history in his Heisman-winning season, rushing for over 2000 yards and had over 300 receiving yards.

So, who is who?

RB1 is Barry Sanders. Sanders holds the NCAA record for rushing yards in a season, a feat he accomplished in 1988 at Oklahoma State and was the 3rd overall pick of the 1989 Draft by the Detroit Lions. He is the NFL’s third all-time leading rusher and probably could have been the record-holder had he not abruptly retired while he was in his prime. In my personal opinion, I consider Sanders to be the greatest runningback of all time mainly because he was setting all these records despite playing behind an awful offensive line throughout his Lions’ career.

RB2 is Bishop Sankey. Sankey was a second round pick by the Tennessee Titans out of Washington in the 2014 NFL Draft and was the first runningback taken. Sankey lasted just 2 NFL seasons and struggled to see the field, resulting in just over 700 career rushing yards.

RB3 is Terrell Davis. Davis started his collegiate career at Long Beach State before transferring to Georgia. The runningback-turned-wide-receiver in question that Davis lost carries to is actually Hines Ward, who is the Steelers’ all-time leading receiver who had almost as many rushing yards as TD in his final season at Georgia. Davis was taken by the Broncos in the 6th round of the 1995 NFL Draft and he rushed for over 1000 yards in each of his first four seasons, including 2008 yards in 1998. He was a 2-time Super Bowl Champion, including Super Bowl MVP in Super Bowl XXXII. He was NFL MVP in 1998 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame this past season despite playing just 7 seasons.

RB4 is Rashaan Salaam. While Salaam did win the Heisman and ran for over 1000 yards as a rookie with the Bears, his yards per carry was an unimpressive 3.6 and that came back to bite him in ensuing seasons, as his yardage total was more than halved in each season until his career ended after the 1999 season. Injuries played a big factor in that, however one must wonder what could’ve been with the recently deceased Salaam (may he rest in peace).

Wide Receiver

WR1: WR1 set the college football world on fire. Despite playing for a smaller school in the late 1990’s, this receiver set the college football record for receiving yards in a season. He had at least 1000 receiving yards in 3 of his 4 collegiate seasons, the lone exception being his freshman year when he had over 500 yards receiving.

WR2: WR2 played in an offense that didn’t utilize his skills, yet despite this, he put up some impressive numbers. His offense was very run-heavy, but that didn’t stop him from recording at least 800 receiving yards in all 3 of his college seasons. He had a terrific scouting combine and he was taken extremely highly in the NFL Draft based mostly on potential.

WR3: WR3 played just 2 seasons of college football, yet they were tremendous. In both seasons, he recorded very similar stat lines. In his sophomore season, he caught 67 passes for 1470 yards and 14 TD’s. In his junior season, he caught 68 passes for 1351 yards and 13 TD’s. This was all done in a Power 5 conference that is known for good defense and running the football so his dominance was intensified and as a result, he was taken just as highly as WR2. In fact, both were drafted by the same organization.

WR4: WR4 actually played quarterback for a mid-major school and caught just one pass in his collegiate career, yet was drafted as a wide receiver in the 7th round. As a quarterback, he was better known as a running quarterback, since his completion percentage was never above 55.6% and he ran for over 1200 yards in that season.

So let’s see who was who.

WR1 is Trevor Insley. Insley was a receiver at Nevada and actually holds the single-season receiving yards record at 2060 in 1999. He is the only receiver in FBS or pro football history to have a 2000-yard receiving season. However he went undrafted and played just one NFL season with the Colts in 2001, where he had just 14 catches for 165 yards and one touchdown.

WR2 is Calvin Johnson. Megatron played at Georgia Tech, which is notorious for its wishbone offense that typically just has one wide receiver on the field at all times and they run the ball nearly every play. However, the 6’5 Johnson ran a 4.3 40 at the NFL Combine and was the 2nd overall pick by the Lions in the 2007 NFL Draft. He set the single-season NFL record for receiving in 2012 with 1954 yards and nearly broke the single-game record in 2013 against the Cowboys with 329 yards.

WR3 is Charles Rogers. At Michigan State, Rogers was a beast, however he was a disaster in the NFL with the Lions. He was the 2nd overall pick with the Lions in 2003 yet managed just 440 receiving yards in 3 NFL seasons before he was out of the league entirely.

WR4 is Julian Edelman. Edelman played quarterback at Kent State but was drafted by the Patriots to play wide receiver in 2009. Since 2013, after the departure of Wes Welker, he has been Tom Brady’s most reliable weapon. His absence due to a torn ACL in the 2017 preseason was very noticeable, especially early on in the season.

So do stats really matter in college? I made sure to include some guys who had big numbers in college and the pros to try and give some balance to the argument. However, my conclusion is this: stats don’t necessarily mean everything when it comes to predicting NFL success. The guy with the best single-season receiving performance in college went undrafted and didn’t really do anything in the pros. In fact, I had never even heard of him even though he held the record. Just goes to show that stats might matter, but don’t put too much stock in them. Let me know what you think of using stats to project future success in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Each Team’s Biggest Draft Bust in the 21st Century

We rave about these prospects as “can’t miss” or “once in a lifetime” type players come Draft season. But every year, without fail, somebody taken in the first round fails to live up to expectations. I’m going to take a look at each team’s biggest blunder since 2000 to remind everyone to humble themselves when it comes to getting excited about your team’s first round pick. Some things to take note of when it comes to my rules for this list: First rounders only, the 2017 draft class is excluded since we really don’t know shit about them yet (Hell, Jared Goff was looking like a colossal bust after his first season. Look what happened there), and we are only considering a player’s success with the team that drafted them. So for example, Cedric Benson is a bust candidate even though he had a successful stint with the Bengals. He was drafted by the Bears, where he was awful. Draft position also matters here. The first overall pick’s bust status is going to weigh more than the 32nd overall pick’s status, even if the 32nd pick was a way worse player. I’ll also be noting some players that played the same position as the bust in question that were taken later who had much more successful careers to add salt to the wound.

Cleveland Browns-Courtney Brown-EDGE-Penn State (1st Overall in 2000)

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The first pick of the millennium, Brown was a freak of nature athlete and, to be fair to the Browns, judging by the body of work at Penn State and his physical traits, it’s really hard to blame them for taking Brown. He was basically Myles Garrett before Myles Garrett. While Garrett looks like a budding star if he can stay healthy, Brown notched just 17 sacks in his 5 years with the Browns, never eclipsing 4.5 in a season. There were definitely worse players the Browns have taken (probably the most misses in the NFL since their revival in 1999), but Brown was the only one that went first overall.

Who they could’ve had: John Abraham-South Carolina, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila-San Diego State

New York Giants-Ereck Flowers-OT-Miami (FL) (9th Overall in 2015)

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Flowers’ huge frame made him enticing to the Giants, however he’s been one of the worst tackles in the game, as he was rushed into the starting role before he was ready and it showed. Every Giants fan I know consistently calls for his head and it doesn’t help him that the Giants just signed Nate Solder to a huge contract.

Who they could’ve had: Andrus Peat-Stanford, DJ Humphries-Florida

New York Jets-Vernon Gholston-EDGE-Ohio State (6th Overall in 2008)

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Gholston was a genetic freak but that didn’t translate whatsoever to the NFL, as he recorded as many sacks as I did in the NFL: Zero (I had 2 sacks in high school but I guess that doesn’t count). Anytime I see a rookie get their first NFL sack, I think to myself “better pick than Gholston.”

Who they could’ve had: Calais Campbell-Miami (FL), William Hayes-Winston-Salem State, Erik Walden-Middle Tennessee State, Cliff Avril-Purdue

Houston Texans-Travis Johnson-DL-Florida State (16th Overall in 2005)

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A lot of people will want to say David Carr for this pick, but to be fair to the guy, he played behind what was statistically the worst offensive line of all time. Carr got sacked an NFL record 76 times as a rookie and that destroyed his confidence and he never recovered. Travis Johnson was an okay player for the Texans, but he wasn’t worth the 16th overall pick. He was out of the league by 2011. There really aren’t that many busts in the Texans’ short history (since 2002).

Who they could’ve had: Jonathan Babineaux-Iowa

Denver Broncos-Paxton Lynch-QB-Memphis (26th Overall in 2016)

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You know it’s bad when you can’t beat out the 7th rounder your team took the year before for the starting job. We knew Lynch would need time to develop, but even now that he has an opportunity, the Broncos are already looking to move on. He’s only made 4 starts in his NFL career and has thrown just 4 TD’s.

Who they could’ve had: Jacoby Brissett-North Carolina State, Dak Prescott-Mississippi State

Indianapolis Colts-Bjoern Werner-EDGE-Florida State (24th Overall in 2013)

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Werner was this big European guy that everybody was foaming at the mouth over with his potential. However he lasted just 3 NFL seasons and recorded just 6.5 sacks in only 16 starts before getting cut by the Colts. He was not picked up elsewhere.

Who they could’ve had: Alex Okafor-Texas, William Gholston-Michigan State

Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Mark Barron-S-Alabama (7th Overall in 2012)

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Barron was a nightmare in coverage with the Buccaneers and lasted just 2 and a half seasons in Tampa before being shipped to the Rams. Since joining the Rams, though, they moved him to linebacker and he has been decent in his new role. At bare minimum he starts for one of the deadliest defenses in the league.

Who they could’ve had: Harrison Smith-Notre Dame, Coty Sensabaugh-Clemson, Robert Blanton-Notre Dame, George Iloka-Boise State

Chicago Bears-Kevin White-WR-West Virginia (7th Overall in 2015)

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I hate calling guys who can’t stay healthy “busts” because it’s not always their fault, but White has played just 5 games since being the 7th overall pick in 2015. It’s just one serious injury after another with this guy. It’s hard to overlook.

Who they could’ve had: DeVante Parker-Louisville, Nelson Agholor-USC, Devin Funchess-Michigan, Tyler Lockett-Kansas State, Jamison Crowder-Duke, Stefon Diggs-Maryland

San Francisco 49ers-AJ Jenkins-WR-Illinois (30th Overall in 2012)

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I was scratching my head when the 49ers made this pick (I had Jenkins as a 4th rounder) and he did nothing to dispel my confusions. Jenkins lasted just 1 year with the 49ers before being traded to the Chiefs. He was out of the league by 2015 with just 17 catches and 223 career receiving yards to his name.

Who they could’ve had: Alshon Jeffery-South Carolina, Mohamed Sanu-Rutgers, TY Hilton-FIU, Travis Benjamin-Miami (FL), Marvin Jones-California, Rishard Matthews-Nevada

Oakland Raiders-Jamarcus Russell-QB-LSU (1st Overall in 2007)

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Russell was a can’t miss quarterback prospect. Then he held out almost his entire rookie season because he wanted a bigger contract, went 7-18 as a starter, ballooned to 300 pounds, and was out of the league by 2010. He’s considered one of the biggest draft busts of all time, certainly the biggest of this millennium.

Who they could’ve had: Drew Stanton-Michigan State, Trent Edwards-Stanford (2007 was a REALLY bad year to pick a quarterback)

Miami Dolphins-Dion Jordan-EDGE-Oregon (3rd Overall in 2013)

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Issues with drugs caused Jordan to miss two entire seasons due to suspension. He only played 2 years with the Dolphins and has 1 career start. Currently a member of the Seahawks, he registered 4 sacks in 5 games last season so perhaps he’s turning a corner. But after the Dolphins traded up 9 spots to get him, they have to be fuming with the results they got.

Who they could’ve had: Ziggy Ansah-BYU, see Bjoern Werner’s section

Buffalo Bills-Aaron Maybin-EDGE-Penn State (11th Overall in 2009)

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Maybin had 6 career sacks and they were all for the division rival Jets in 2011. Maybin lasted just 2 years in Buffalo and was out of the league by 2013.

Who they could’ve had: Brian Orakpo-Texas, Clay Matthews-USC, Connor Barwin-Cincinnati, Paul Kruger-Utah, Michael Johnson-Georgia Tech

Washington Redskins-Rod Gardner-WR-Clemson (15th Overall in 2001)

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This was almost Patrick Ramsey, but Ramsey was taken 32nd in 2002 while Gardner went 15th in 2001 so Gardner edges him out. Gardner got off to a decent start, posting a 1000 yard season his second year, but he never eclipsed 700 again and was out of the league by 2007.

Who they could’ve had: Santana Moss-Miami (FL), Reggie Wayne-Miami (FL), Chad Johnson-Oregon State, Chris Chambers-Wisconsin, Steve Smith-Utah, TJ Houshmandzadeh-Oregon State

Green Bay Packers-Jamal Reynolds-EDGE-Florida State (10th Overall in 2001)

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Reynolds played just 3 seasons and had a grand total of 3 sacks in his career. Really can’t say much about his career because there was hardly anything to speak of. Really bad look for the tenth pick in the draft.

Who they could’ve had: Kyle Vanden Bosch-Nebraska, Aaron Schobel-TCU, Derrick Burgess-Ole Miss, Reggie Hayward-Iowa State,

Arizona Cardinals-Matt Leinart-QB-USC (10th Overall in 2006)

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It was hard to choose between Leinart and Jonathan Cooper (when you miss on a guard at #7 overall, you know you messed up). But the Cardinals have been scared to take a quarterback in the first round ever since the former Heisman Trophy winner, so he’s going to get the nod.

Who they could’ve had: Jay Cutler-Vanderbilt, Kellen Clemens-Oregon, Tarvaris Jackson-Alabama State, Charlie Whitehurst-Clemson

Baltimore Ravens-Breshad Perriman-WR-Central Florida (26th Overall in 2015)

at Nissan Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Similar situation with Perriman as Kevin White with the Bears. He has a lot of talent and is very fast for his size, but health has been a major issue. Perriman’s only made 4 starts and has just 43 catches in his two years of actually playing (2016 and 2017, he missed his rookie year).

Who they could’ve had: see Kevin White

Los Angeles Chargers-Larry English-EDGE-Northern Illinois (16th Overall in 2009)

at Qualcomm Stadium on August 8, 2013 in San Diego, California.

12 career sacks in 7 NFL seasons will not get the job done. English never had more than 3 sacks in a season and never started more than 5 games.

Who they could’ve had: see Aaron Maybin

Seattle Seahawks-Aaron Curry-LB-Wake Forest (4th Overall in 2009)

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Curry was considered the safest prospect in the class, however he just couldn’t figure things out in the NFL. He has since become a college coach at Charlotte.

Who they could’ve had: Brian Cushing-USC, James Laurinaitis-Ohio State, Rey Maualuga-USC, DeAndre Levy-Wisconsin

Dallas Cowboys-Bobby Carpenter-LB-Ohio State (18th Overall in 2006)

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A solid special teamer, but you don’t take a special teamer in the first round. Carpenter never made more than 3 starts in a season.

Who they could’ve had: DeMeco Ryans-Alabama, D’Qwell Jackson-Maryland, Stephen Tulloch-North Carolina State

Detroit Lions-Charles Rogers-WR-Michigan State (2nd Overall in 2003)

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Arguably the biggest wide receiver bust of all time, Rogers lasted just 3 seasons in the NFL and had a grand total of 440 yards in 15 games played.

Who they could’ve had: Andre Johnson-Miami (FL), Anquan Boldin-Florida State, Nate Burleson-Nevada, Brandon Lloyd-Illinois

Kansas City Chiefs-Glenn Dorsey-DL-LSU (5th Overall in 2008)

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Not gonna’ lie, I liked Dorsey so much in college that I bought his Chiefs jersey before his first NFL game. But he never amounted to anything with the Chiefs. He became a pretty good nose tackle with the 49ers, though.

Who they could’ve had: Pat Sims-Auburn, Red Bryant-Texas A&M, Ahtyba Rubin-Iowa State

Cincinnati Bengals-Peter Warrick-WR-Florida State (4th Overall in 2000)

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Warrick never managed more than 819 yards in a season, which wouldn’t be awful if he weren’t the 4th overall pick. Had he been a 4th rounder, we’d be considering him a steal. However, that production just won’t cut it for the value.

Who they could’ve had: Plaxico Burress-Michigan State, Laveraneus Coles-Florida State, Darrell Jackson-Florida

Los Angeles Rams-Jason Smith-OT-Baylor (2nd Overall in 2009)

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This very easily could’ve been Greg Robinson, as the credentials (tackle that was the 2nd overall pick) are basically identical. But Smith’s going to get the nod on the basis that he got beat out by the tackle the Rams took in the second round of the same draft (Indiana’s Rodger Saffold, who is still with the team to this day as a guard).

Who they could’ve had: Andre Smith-Alabama, Eugene Monroe-Virginia, Michael Oher-Ole Miss, Sebastian Vollmer-Houston

Carolina Panthers-Jeff Otah-OT-Pittsburgh (19th Overall in 2008)

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Very few busts for the Panthers, giving Otah the nod. Otah was decent when healthy, however he played just 29 games in his 4-year career and was out of the league by 2012.

Who they could’ve had: Duane Brown-Virginia Tech, King Dunlap-Auburn, Geoff Schwartz-Oregon

Tennessee Titans-Jake Locker-QB-Washington (8th Overall in 2011)

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Locker got off to a promising start, as he was pretty good in his first game, but he never got better. It’s also worth mentioning that all 7 guys picked ahead of him made the Pro Bowl in what was an absolutely stacked 2011 class. Locker retired after 4 seasons.

Who they could’ve had: Andy Dalton-TCU, Colin Kaepernick-Nevada, Tyrod Taylor-Virginia Tech

Atlanta Falcons-Jamaal Anderson-EDGE-Arkansas (8th Overall in 2007)

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Anderson registered just 7.5 career sacks, never more than 3 in a season, and was out of the league by 2013.

Who they could’ve had: Anthony Spencer-Purdue, Lamarr Woodley-Michigan, Charles Johnson-Georgia, Brian Robison-Texas

New Orleans Saints-Johnathan Sullivan-DL-Georgia (6th Overall in 2003)

2003 New Orleans Saints Headshots

All Images Copyright Michael C. Hebert

Sullivan played just 4 years in the NFL, 3 with the Saints, started 12 games as a rookie but 4 the rest of his career. He was out of the league by 2007.

Who they could’ve had: Kevin Williams-Oklahoma State

Pittsburgh Steelers-Jarvis Jones-EDGE-Georgia (19th Overall in 2013)

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6 career sacks for a guy who at one point in the draft process was being slated as the #1 overall pick. He’s currently a member of the Arizona Cardinals but hasn’t played a snap for them.

Who they could’ve had: see Dion Jordan

Jacksonville Jaguars-Luke Joeckel-OT-Texas A&M (2nd Overall in 2013)

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There were a lot of guys that were really deserving but Joeckel is going to win out because he was taken 2nd overall. Joeckel has been a turnstyle on the offensive line and is currently a member of the Seattle Seahawks, starting 11 games at guard for arguably the NFL’s worst offensive line.

Who they could’ve had: Lane Johnson-Oklahoma, Justin Pugh-Syracuse, Terron Armstead-Arkansas-Pine Bluff, David Bakhtiari-Colorado, Ricky Wagner-Wisconsin

Minnesota Vikings-Troy Williamson-WR-South Carolina (7th Overall in 2005)

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Williamson was an absolute freak at the Combine, but those skills never translated to the NFL. He never had more than 455 yards in a season and was out of the league by 2010.

Who they could’ve had: Roddy White-UAB, Vincent Jackson-Northern Colorado

New England Patriots-Dominique Easley-DL-Florida (29th Overall in 2014)

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Easley’s tenure in New England lasted just 2 seasons before he was traded to the Rams after numerous injuries and what many considered to be a “cancerous” personality in the locker room. It didn’t help that he only started 3 games for the Patriots.

Who they could’ve had: Timmy Jernigan-Florida State, Beau Allen-Wisconsin

Philadelphia Eagles-Danny Watkins-OG-Baylor (23rd Overall in 2011)

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Watkins played just 2 seasons with the Eagles before he retired to become a firefighter. Never made a huge impact when he was on the field either.

Who they could’ve had: Clint Boling-Georgia, Daniel Kilgore-Appalachian State

There are going to be busts in every draft, however there are also steals, guys who slip through the cracks and outperform their draft slot. Tomorrow I’m going to do something similar and pick out each team’s best draft steal since 2000. Let me know what you think of these draft busts in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

The Wonderlic Test: Football’s Most Puzzling Test of Players

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The Wonderlic Test is something that the NFL has potential Draft prospects take in order to test their intelligence. We often hear about leaked scores and which players performed well and which didn’t. The test is 50 questions and you have 12 minutes to complete it. Well, I took a sample Wonderlic while I was taking a break from writing my papers and guess what?

I’m in the 97th percentile among NFL prospects. Put me in coach!

I got a 38 on the Wonderlic, which actually ranks pretty well. Only one prospect has ever scored a perfect 50 on it, that being former Harvard punter Pat McInally back in the 70’s. McInally was a 5th round pick by the Bengals in the 1975 NFL Draft and went on to be their punter for a decade. The worst was former LSU corner Morris Claiborne and former Iowa State running back Darren Davis, both of whom scored a 4. Davis went undrafted and ended up playing in the CFL while Claiborne was made the 6th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Claiborne was overall a bust with Dallas but he started showing some signs of being a solid corner upon joining the Jets. Here are some notable players who did really well on the Wonderlic.

Ryan Fitzpatrick-48

Ben Watson-48

Eric Decker-43

Blaine Gabbert-42

Calvin Johnson-41

Carson Wentz-40

Here are some guys who compared with me. Mind you, my score was a 38.

Eli Manning-39

Matthew Stafford-38

Colin Kapernick-38

Andrew Luck-37 (Yes, I scored higher than the supposed “genius” Andrew Luck)

Josh Allen-37

Tony Romo-37

Joey Bosa-37

Jared Goff-37

Drew Bledsoe-36

Sam Bradford-36

Aaron Rodgers-35

Jonathan Ogden-35

Tom Brady-33

And here are some guys who did really poorly.

Morris Claiborne-4

Frank Gore-6

Vince Young-6

Kelvin Benjamin-7

Terrelle Pryor-7

Bobby Wagner-8

AJ Green-10

Darrelle Revis-10

Leonard Fournette-11

Keyshawn Johnson-11

Jamal Adams-11

The best Wonderlic score in this year’s Draft class that has been leaked is Josh Allen’s 37. Another thing for draft pundits to gush over. The worst? Lamar Jackson’s 13. Granted, hardly anybody in the recent classes have been leaked, so it’s probable that there are better and worse scores. But having taken the test myself and seen what others have scored, what do I think of the Wonderlic?

I think it’s a poor method of projecting success in the league. Typically quarterbacks do really well on it but even that can’t project who is going to be particularly good. Ryan Fitzpatrick got a 48 and he’s just a quality backup. Blaine Gabbert scored a 41 and he was awful as a starter. Donovan McNabb scored a 14 and he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks the Eagles have ever had and was one of the best of the 2000’s. Terry Bradshaw scored a 15 and he’s a 4-time Super Bowl champion and a Hall of Famer. Yet there are other quarterbacks who did pretty well at it, like Eli Manning’s 39 and Carson Wentz’s 40 that went on to have successful careers. A lot of the questions are word associations or recognizing patterns in sequences. Hell, I couldn’t even finish mine (my last two answers were not recorded because I ran out of time) because of the 12-minute time limit. There are also plenty of players who did poorly on the Wonderlic and had great careers. Frank Gore had one of the worst Wonderlics of all time (6) and he’s the 49ers all-time leading rusher and a future Hall of Famer. Bobby Wagner is arguably the best linebacker in the game today and he scored an 8. AJ Green is one of the best receivers in the game and he got a 10.

My point is, Draft analysts really shouldn’t take any stock into how a player does on the Wonderlic because it really doesn’t do a good job of projecting who’s going to be good. In fact, I’m not even sure why it’s even administered because none of the questions I answered had anything to do with football.

So I’m going to post two links. The first link is to the Wonderlic Test that I took. Granted it’s a sample but the questions are supposedly very similar to what the players have to take. There also may have been some improper coding done because a couple of questions I answered were repeats. The other link I’m posting is to a list of players and their Wonderlic scores so you can see how you did compared to some notable NFL players.

https://samplewonderlictest.com/

http://wonderlictestsample.com/nfl-wonderlic-scores/

So that’s going to do it for today’s blog. Let me know what you think of the Wonderlic in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Also be sure to let me know how you did!

 

2018 NFL Draft Positional Rankings

With the 2018 NFL Draft just a couple weeks away, I thought I’d do things a little different. The week of the Draft (more specifically, April 26) I will have my final Mock Draft published. The week before, I’ll have my final Big Board. This week, as you can see because you’re reading it, we’ve got my positional rankings. These rankings are based on my personal feelings about each prospect. I haven’t gotten to watch film on all of them so there are a bunch that will be there based on reports I’ve read and other rankings I’ve seen. These rankings also won’t be reflective about where I think they’ll go in the Draft, as team fits and needs will play a factor in that. However, they will somewhat reflect my Big Board. So without further ado, let’s get to the positional rankings.

Quarterback

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1. Josh Rosen-UCLA

2. Sam Darnold-USC

3. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

4. Josh Allen-Wyoming

5. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

6. Lamar Jackson-Louisville

7. Luke Falk-Washington State

8. Mike White-Western Kentucky

9. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond

10. Logan Woodside-Toledo

Runningback

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1. Saquon Barkley-Penn State

2. Derrius Guice-LSU

3. Ronald Jones II-USC

4. Sony Michel-Georgia

5. Nick Chubb-Georgia

6. Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

7. Nyheim Hines-North Carolina State

8. Bo Scarbrough-Alabama

9. Royce Freeman-Oregon

10. Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Wide Receiver

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

1. Calvin Ridley-Alabama

2. Christian Kirk-Texas A&M

3. DJ Moore-Maryland

4. Courtland Sutton-SMU

5. DJ Chark-LSU

6. Anthony Miller-Memphis

7. James Washington-Oklahoma State

8. Tre’Quan Smith-Central Florida

9. Jaleel Scott-New Mexico State

10. Dante Pettis-Washington

Tight End

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1. Dallas Goedert-South Dakota State

2. Mike Gesicki-Penn State

3. Hayden Hurst-South Carolina

4. Ian Thomas-Indiana

5. Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

6. Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

7. Durham Smythe-Notre Dame

8. Dalton Schultz-Stanford

9. Jaylen Samuels-North Carolina State

10. Tyler Conklin-Central Michigan

Offensive Tackle

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1. Connor Williams-Texas

2. Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

3. Kolton Miller-UCLA

4. Brian O’Neill-Pittsburgh

5. Tyrell Crosby-Oregon

6. Jamarco Jones-Ohio State

7. Geron Christian-Louisville

8. Martinas Rankin-Mississippi State

9. Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

10. Chukwuma Okorafor-Western Michigan

Offensive Guard

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1. Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

2. Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

3. Will Hernandez-UTEP

4. Braden Smith-Auburn

5. Wyatt Teller-Virginia Tech

6. Tyrone Crowder-Clemson

7. Sean Welsh-Iowa

8. Taylor Hearn-Clemson

9. Colby Gossett-Appalachian State

10. Sam Jones-Arizona State

Center

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1. James Daniels-Iowa

2. Billy Price-Ohio State

3. Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

4. Bradley Bozeman-Alabama

5. Mason Cole-Michigan

6. Will Clapp-LSU

7. Austin Corbett-Nevada

8. Brian Allen-Michigan State

9. Scott Quessenberry-UCLA

10. Coleman Shelton-Washington

Edge Rusher

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1. Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

2. Marcus Davenport-UTSA

3. Harold Landry-Boston College

4. Sam Hubbard-Ohio State

5. Uchenna Nwosu-USC

6. Lorenzo Carter-Georgia

7. Josh Sweat-Florida State

8. Arden Key-LSU

9. Dorance Armstrong Jr-Kansas

10. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo-Oklahoma

Defensive Line

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1. Da’Ron Payne-Alabama

2. Vita Vea-Washington

3. Maurice Hurst-Michigan

4. Taven Bryan-Florida

5. Harrison Phillips-Stanford

6. Rasheem Green-USC

7. BJ Hill-North Carolina State

8. Tim Settle-Virginia Tech

9. Derrick Nnadi-Florida State

10. Will Geary-Kansas State

Linebacker

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1. Tremaine Edmunds-Virginia Tech

2. Roquan Smith-Georgia

3. Rashaan Evans-Alabama

4. Leighton Vander Esch-Boise State

5. Malik Jefferson-Texas

6. Shaquem Griffin-Central Florida

7. Josey Jewell-Iowa

8. Jerome Baker-Ohio State

9. Tegray Scales-Indiana

10. Micah Kiser-Virginia

Cornerback

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1. Denzel Ward-Ohio State

2. Josh Jackson-Iowa

3. Isaiah Oliver-Colorado

4. Jaire Alexander-Louisville

5. Mike Hughes-Central Florida

6. Carlton Davis-Auburn

7. Donte Jackson-LSU

8. Duke Dawson-Florida

9. MJ Stewart-North Carolina

10. Anthony Averett-Alabama

Safety

Alabama at Vanderbilt

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

2. Derwin James-Florida State

3. Justin Reid-Stanford

4. Ronnie Harrison-Alabama

5. Deshon Elliott-Texas

6. Jessie Bates III-Wake Forest

7. Jordan Whitehead-Pittsburgh

8. Quin Blanding-Virginia

9. Terrell Edmunds-Virginia Tech

10. Marcus Allen-Penn State

Those are my positional rankings for the 2018 NFL Draft class. Let me know what you think of them in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Top 10 NFL Free Agents

A quick breather from 30 Clubs in 30 Days, I think we’ve all earned that. Let’s talk football. It’s going to be an interesting offseason as this is one of the more stacked free agent classes in recent memory. As I mentioned in the intro of this morning’s Milwaukee Brewers preview, the deadline for the Franchise Tag has passed and the potential free agents who will not be hitting the open market are Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry (who may get traded), Lions pass rusher Ziggy Ansah, Cowboys pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, Rams safety LaMarcus Joyner, and Steelers runningback Le’Veon Bell (Bell has stated his displeasure with getting tagged). So now that the guys getting tagged are off the market, let’s take a look at who the 10 best players available are. I’m not going to include Drew Brees on this list because let’s face it, he’s not going anywhere.

10. QB Teddy Bridgewater

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Just a tough go for Teddy Bridgewater. After being the 32nd overall pick in 2014, Bridgewater was looking pretty good and appeared to be the Vikings’ quarterback of the future. However, shortly before the 2016 season, he suffered a gruesome non-contact injury that resulted in a torn ACL, a dislocated knee, and other structural damage that was so bad people feared he may lose the leg. He seems to have made a full recovery, thankfully, though he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2015 NFC Wild Card Round (that game where Blair Walsh missed the chip shot field goal that would’ve sent the Vikings to the Divisional Round and eliminated the Seahawks). He says he wants to start and he’s more than capable of it, but the severity of his injury may scare some teams.

Projected Landing Spot: Miami Dolphins

9. DT Muhammad Wilkerson

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Muhammad Wilkerson’s departure from the Jets has seemingly been a foregone conclusion for years now, as the team has been on the fence between trading him, slapping the franchise tag on him, or giving him an extension. They ultimately released him this offseason and he’ll be hitting the open market. Wilkerson still has plenty left in the tank at 28 years of age though I doubt he’ll be getting much more than a 3-year deal.

Projected Landing Spot: Buffalo Bills

8. QB Sam Bradford

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Sam Bradford’s had kind of a weird career. He was a Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma, was the first overall pick by the Rams in 2010, won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year that same season, then injuries happened. It got so bad that Bradford’s fragility is a running joke amongst NFL fans. Though once he joined the Vikings after a year with the Eagles, he seemed to flip a switch. Bradford was excellent in 2016 as he completed 71.6% of his passes, threw for 3877 yards, and tossed 20 TDs vs only 5 picks. He got off to a good start in 2017 as well as he torched the Saints defense in Week 1 before hurting himself once again in practice. Only this time his replacement, Case Keenum, was terrific and Bradford never really got the job back. There’s certainly going to be a market for Bradford because he’s better than a lot of the guys other teams have been trotting out there as starters.

Projected Landing Spot: New York Jets

7. CB Trumaine Johnson

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Trumaine Johnson is one of the more underappreciated corners in the league. He doesn’t make the flashy plays but he always ends up covering the opposing team’s #1 receiver and he does a pretty good job at it, too. However the Rams are a bit strapped for cash and they knew they wouldn’t be able to bring Johnson back so they traded for Marcus Peters and slapped the franchise tag on LaMarcus Joyner. Whomever ends up signing Johnson will be getting a steal.

Projected Landing Spot: New England Patriots

6. QB Case Keenum

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The third former Vikings quarterback on this list, I was very surprised that the Vikings didn’t slap the franchise tag on Keenum after his performance in 2017, leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship game for the first time since the 2009 season, but there’s a reason for that which I’ll get into later because it involves another guy on this list. Keenum had a rough night against the Eagles in that conference title game but he was otherwise excellent for the Vikings and performed well beyond anybody’s expectations for him. There will be concern that it was a fluke and that the Eagles exposed his flaws, however I’m sure somebody will be willing to take a risk on him.

Projected Landing Spot: Arizona Cardinals

5. CB Malcolm Butler

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As a Patriots fan, it’s going to suck to see Malcolm Butler go. It was kind of a messy ending, given the inexplicable benching in Super Bowl LII, but it was such a wonderful beginning, as pictured above, that no matter what happens I’m going to remember him fondly. After recording arguably the greatest interception of all time, Butler became a really good corner, finishing in the top 10 of Pro Football Focus’ cornerback ratings for 2015 and 2016. 2017 wasn’t as great for Butler and he got picked apart in the playoffs. There’s no chance he returns to the Patriots after the way he was handled, though and that’s going to leave a big hole at corner opposite Stephon Gilmore in New England (which I hope gets filled by Trumaine Johnson, but that’s wishful thinking).

Projected Landing Spot: New Orleans Saints

4. WR Allen Robinson

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There’s never a good time to get injured but Allen Robinson may have picked the worst time to tear his ACL. He was an absolute stud in 2015, catching 80 passes for 1400 yards and a whopping 14 TD’s. He was a disappointment in 2016, though, as his yardage total was nearly cut in half and he struggled with drops. Entering a contract year in 2017, Robinson was out to prove that 2015 wasn’t a fluke. Then he tore his ACL in Week 1 against the Texans. So now not only has he not had a great season in 2 years, but he also hasn’t really played since 2016 thanks to his injury. I’m a little surprised the Jaguars didn’t elect to tag him and give him one more shot at a contract year, however they made the AFC Championship game without him and they probably feel comfortable with the guys they have. If Robinson can put forth a healthy 2018, though, he’s one of the most dangerous receivers in the league.

Projected Landing Spot: Chicago Bears

3. WR Sammy Watkins

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Sammy Watkins is one of the most talented receivers in the game but injuries and having to learn a new system on the fly have kept him from reaching his full potential. The fourth overall pick by the Bills in 2014 and the first receiver taken in that already legendary class, Watkins was traded during the 2017 preseason to the Rams and was forced to learn Sean McVay’s playbook at an accelerated pace and as a result, his play faltered. Despite playing 15 out of 16 games, Watkins only had 39 catches for 593 yards (though he did have 8 TD’s to go with that) in offensive guru McVay’s system. However if he can stay healthy and be given a full offseason to learn a new system, Watkins could become the dangerous threat the Bills thought he’d be when they took him in 2014.

Projected Landing Spot: Dallas Cowboys

2. DT Sheldon Richardson

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Sheldon Richardson is one of the best defensive tackles in the game however the only thing keeping him from being a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber player is himself. He’s had his issues off the field, the most appalling for me being that time he got in a high-speed chase with police with his 10-year old nephew in the passenger’s seat. Not good. However when he’s on the field he’s terrific and he was a big boost to the Seahawks’ defense as they were able to get creative with him and move him all over the line. If he gets into the right culture, he could be a huge impact on a team.

Projected Landing Spot: Returns to Seahawks

1. QB Kirk Cousins

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You had to know Kirk Cousins was going to be #1. I’m not going to get too deep into this one because I already did that when the Redskins traded for Alex Smith. However there are reports that the Vikings are ready to offer him a king’s ransom, somewhere along the lines of 3 years and $91M GUARANTEED. It was a weird saga for Cousins with the Redskins and I’m happy for him that he’s been able to leave that toxic situation and, from the looks of things, get seriously paid.

Projected Landing Spot: Minnesota Vikings

That’s going to do it for the top 10 free agents in the NFL. Let me know what you think of this free agent class in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Milwaukee Brewers

The deadline for the franchise tag has come and gone and here are the guys getting tagged: Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry, Lions edge rusher Ziggy Ansah, Cowboys edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, Rams safety LaMarcus Joyner, Steelers runningback Le’Veon Bell, and the Bears hit corner Kyle Fuller with the Transition Tag. Out of all of these guys, we know the Dolphins are going to shop Landry. Everyone else is unclear. But with that, let’s get to this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Milwaukee Brewers.

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2017 Results:

Record: 86-76, 6 games behind Chicago Cubs, 1 game behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: CF Lorenzo Cain, LF Christian Yelich, SS Nick Franklin, SP Wade Miley, SP Yovani Gallardo, RP Matt Albers, SP Jhoulys Chacin, RP JJ Hoover, RP Boone Logan

Notable Offseason Subtractions: CF Lewis Brinson, SP Matt Garza, 2B Neil Walker, RP Jared Hughes, RP Anthony Swarzak, SP Wily Peralta

Best Offensive Player: CF Lorenzo Cain

Best Pitcher: CP Corey Knebel

Depth Chart:

C-Stephen Vogt, Manny Pina

1B-Eric Thames, Jesus Aguilar

2B-Jonathan Villar, Eric Sogard

3B-Travis Shaw, Hernan Perez

SS-Orlando Arcia

LF-Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun

CF-Lorenzo Cain, Keon Broxton

RF-Domingo Santana

SP-Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Yovani Gallardo, Wade Miley, Jhoulys Chacin

Bullpen-Corey Knebel (CP), Junior Guerra, Oliver Drake, Matt Albers, Boone Logan, Jeremy Jeffress, Josh Hader, Jacob Barnes

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Craig Counsell (4th season with Brewers)

Hitting Coach-Darnell Coles

Pitching Coach-Derek Johnson

1st Base Coach-Carlos Subero

3rd Base Coach-Ed Sedar

Bench Coach-Pat Murphy

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The Brewers were SO close to returning to the postseason for the first time since 2011 when they lost the NLCS to the eventual champion St. Louis Cardinals. It would’ve been as a Wild Card team, sure, but the opportunity was there. They were arguably the biggest breakout team in 2017, as they led the NL Central at the All Star break and really kept the Cubs at bay for much of the season before Chicago got hot at the right time. However, the Brewers decided that they were ready for the next step as they signed Lorenzo Cain away from the Royals and acquired Christian Yelich from the Marlins on the same day to bolster their already impressive lineup. Here’s how they’re projected to look in 2018.

1. Lorenzo Cain/Keon Broxton-CF

2. Eric Thames/Jesus Aguilar-1B

3. Christian Yelich-LF

4. Travis Shaw/Hernan Perez-3B

5. Domingo Santana/Ryan Braun-RF

6. Stephen Vogt/Manny Pina-C

7. Orlando Arcia-SS

8. Jonathan Villar/Eric Sogard-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

You might notice that basically every position in this lineup has a second player that could get significant playing time at that spot. Well that’s because offensively the Brewers might have the best depth in all of baseball. There are simply too many mouths to feed, which is a good problem for manager Craig Counsell to have. If Cain needs a breather, you have Keon Broxton to replace him, a guy who hit 20 home runs last season. If Travis Shaw twists his ankle, Hernan Perez can take over the hot corner. I mean this lineup is so deep that they don’t even have a guaranteed spot in the order for 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun. Braun’s 2017 wasn’t great as he dealt with injuries, but people forget he hit .300 and hit 30 home runs in 2016 so there’s still pop for the Brewers’ franchise home run king. So many guys broke out for the Brewers at the plate last season, too. Eric Thames returned to the Majors from overseas and set the baseball world on fire for the first month of the season, hitting 11 home runs in April (8 of which were against the Cincinnati Reds) and finishing with 31 on the year. Travis Shaw was dumped by the Red Sox for a reliever that has yet to pitch an inning for them and he exploded with his power stroke, as he hit .273 with 31 home runs and 101 RBI. If it weren’t for Rafael Devers’ emergence, I’d be very depressed as a Red Sox fan watching Shaw rake for the Brewers. Top to bottom this is a strong lineup that shouldn’t have any problems scoring runs. The one major concern will be whether this lineup is full of one-hit wonders and if that’s the case, then this could be a disaster. But I saw enough improvements made by this group to feel comfortable in their ability to continue their progress.

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Pitching might be a little tricky for the Brewers this season. Their best starter from last season, Jimmy Nelson, underwent shoulder surgery in September and it’s unknown when he’ll return, if at all. In the meantime there’s a lot of question marks. New acquisitions Wade Miley, Jhoulys Chacin, and the returning Yovani Gallardo have been very inconsistent these last few years. Miley has not been very good since he finished runner-up to Bryce Harper for 2012 NL Rookie of the Year while Chacin was at one point the ace of the Colorado Rockies and was inconsistent as the ace of the San Diego Padres last season. Gallardo was once the ace of the Brewers however he hasn’t had an ERA under 5.4 since 2015 and it doesn’t appear he’s really improved on anything. Chase Anderson was quietly very good for the Brewers last season, though, as he went 12-4 with a 2.74 ERA and opponents only hit .220 against him. He may have to be the ace in Nelson’s absence. If the Brewers hope to contend for the postseason in 2018, this unit will need to step up.

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The Brewers did lose several good relievers in the offseason, such as Anthony Swarzak and Jared Hughes, however they replaced the departed with quality arms like Matt Albers and JJ Hoover. However the biggest story for the Brewers’ bullpen is Corey Knebel. Knebel was one of the best closers in the Majors last season as he saved 39 games while sporting a 1.78 ERA and struck out nearly 15 batters per 9 innings. I have to say that’s pretty good for a closer who had 2 career saves coming into last season. Setting him up might get a little tricky though. Albers was excellent with the Nationals last season but that came a year after posting an ERA over 6 so who knows what the Brewers are going to get with him. Josh Hader also burst onto the scene for the Brewers, posting a 2.08 ERA and struck out over 12 batters per 9 innings. But my favorite of the bunch is Oliver Drake, not for anything he does in particular, but because we went to the same high school (not at the same time, Drake’s about 8 years older than me). Yes, we’re both Northfield Mount Hermon Hoggers. He throws about 93 mph and he has a VICIOUS splitter, though his problem is that it seems like he has no idea where that pitch is going half the time. If he can gain some control, watch out.

Overall I think there’s a lot to like about the Brewers and I think they have a legitimate chance to reach the postseason. I don’t think they did enough to unseat the Cubs in the NL Central, but I do think they’re going to make them sweat. Last season the pitching was actually pretty good despite my criticism of them in this blog, as they posted the 9th best team ERA in the Majors at an even 4. However there’s a lot of uncertainty in their rotation especially with Jimmy Nelson’s injury status. Given how much pop there is in their lineup, though, I think finishing in the top half of the Majors in team ERA will be good enough to obtain a Wild Card berth.

Projected Record: 88-74, win 2nd Wild Card Spot, face Arizona Diamondbacks in Wild Card Round

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Minnesota Twins, who went from worst record in baseball in 2016 to a playoff team in 2017. Let me know what you think of the Brewers’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Atlanta Braves

The big story outside of baseball for me today is the fact that Dallas Mavericks owner and Indiana alumnus Mark Cuban got fined $600K by the NBA for openly admitting that it was in the Mavericks’ best interest to tank this season. I mean, he’s right and bad teams tanking is not some unknown phenomena going around, it’s pretty well established at this point. But you can’t openly say that’s what your team is doing, especially considering the league sees tanking as a big issue and is trying to take steps to prevent it. That being said, the $600K fine is ENORMOUS overkill. Let’s take it easy, here, Adam Silver. I know Cuban wipes his ass with $600K, but you’re setting a pretty rough precedent here. Tanking really isn’t THAT bad for the league, I actually think it’s good for eventual parity, as it ensures the top college prospects aren’t going to the teams that are already absolutely loaded already. Speaking of tanking, we are in Day 3 of my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series and today we’re focusing on the Atlanta Braves. Let’s take a look at how the Braves are projected to do in 2018.

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2017 Results:

Record: 72-90, 3rd in NL East, 25 games behind Washington Nationals, 15 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RP Peter Moylan, C Chris Stewart, RP Chase Whitley

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Jason Motte, RP Ian Krol, 1B Matt Adams, SP RA Dickey, 2B Jace Peterson, 3B Adonis Garcia, CP Jim Johnson

Best Position Player: 1B Freddie Freeman

Best Pitcher: Julio Teheran

Depth Chart

C-Tyler Flowers, Kurt Suzuki, Chris Stewart

1B-Freddie Freeman

2B-Ozzie Albies

3B-Johan Camargo, Rio Ruiz

SS-Dansby Swanson, Charlie Culberson

LF-Lane Adams, Preston Tucker

CF-Ender Inciarte

RF-Nick Markakis

SP-Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Sean Newcomb

Bullpen-Arodys Vizcaino (CP), Peter Moylan, Rex Brothers, Chase Whitley, Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman, Dan Winkler

Coaching Staff

Manager-Brian Snitker (2nd Season with Braves)

Hitting Coach-Kevin Seitzer

Pitching Coach-Chuck Hernandez

1st Base Coach-Eric Young

3rd Base Coach-Ron Washington

Bench Coach-Walt Weiss

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I’m not going to sugarcoat things, it’s going to be a long season for the Braves. The thing I would look forward to the most if I’m a Braves fan is the later part of the season, August-Septemberish, when they start making their September call-ups because their farm system is absolutely loaded and it’d be exciting to see what kind of young talent the team has for the future. Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies were the first in this talented group to really get their first taste of action but the Braves also feature Ronald Acuna (MLB.com’s #2 prospect), Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard, and Max Fried, all of whom could get their shot with the big club this season. Something worth noting, all those guys I just mentioned with the exception of Acuna are pitchers so perhaps the Braves may be in for a Mets-like rotation within the next couple of years. But offensively, Atlanta is going to struggle. Here’s how they’re projected to look to start the season.

1. Ender Inciarte-CF

2. Ozzie Albies-2B

3. Freddie Freeman-1B

4. Nick Markakis-RF

5. Tyler Flowers-C

6. Dansby Swanson-SS

7. Lane Adams-LF

8. Johan Camargo-3B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Not good. Not good at all. One thing I pride myself in is knowing who everybody in baseball is. I’m sorry to report that going into this blog I had no idea who Lane Adams and Johan Camargo were. It’s bad that you have one guy I’ve never heard in your starting lineup but these guys have two. Plus they’ll be featuring Nick Markakis near the top of their order, who hasn’t been worth more than 2 WAR since 2014. The only positives are Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman. Granted, they are HUGE positives for this lineup, but not enough to get them out of the bottom third of the league in runs scored like they were last season. But these two guys really are the only offensive threats the Braves have right now. Inciarte is one of the most underrated centerfielders in baseball both defensively and offensively. Last season, Inciarte hit .304 with 11 home runs, 57 RBI, 22 stolen bags, a DRS of 5 in centerfield, and a WAR of 3.0. Meanwhile Freeman continued to put himself in the discussion for best first basemen in the game as he hit .307 with 28 home runs, 71 RBI, slugged .586, and was worth 4.5 WAR despite battling injuries all season. But if the Braves are going to head in the direction they need, Dansby Swanson has to take the next step forward. The former #1 overall pick that the Braves traded Shelby Miller to the DBacks to acquire (a trade that would an all-timer of a steal if he can develop) struggled in his first full season of action, hitting just .232 with 6 home runs and 51 RBI with -7 DRS and only had a WAR of 0.1 in 144 games played. Not good at all. He is a very talented player but another season like that could be really damaging for the Braves’ rebuilding process.

during a game  at Marlins Park on September 28, 2017 in Miami, Florida.

Pitching is not a strong suit for the Braves either. Julio Teheran is easily the most talented pitcher on the roster but he’s also the most inconsistent. His seasons seem to always be good-bad-good-bad. Last year he had a career-worst ERA of 4.49 a year after making the NL All Star team in 2016 and finishing with an ERA of 3.21. Teheran also had an ERA of 2.89 in 2014 but followed that up with an ERA of 4.04 in 2015. Based on that trend, it appears that 2018 will be a strong season for Teheran but the rest of the Braves staff leaves much to be desired. Mike Foltynewicz (pronounced FOLT-in-EV-ich) is very talented but he hasn’t been able to put that talent together for a full season. You’ve also got over-the-hill starters like Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir who were basically the excess from the Dodgers’ pitching staff that they were trying to get rid of. Once upon a time both guys were quality starters (in Kazmir’s case, an ace), but nowadays they’re just drifting off towards the sunset.

There are some decent pieces in the Braves’ bullpen that I think could be assets for playoff-caliber teams. Arodys Vizcaino has some really dominant stuff and pitched well last season with a 2.83 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. Newly-signed Peter Moylan is an underrated middle relief guy who, despite being 39 years old, can still pitch well, as he had an ERA of 3.49 last year with the Royals. He’s one of those submarine pitchers, which I have noticed tends to add a couple of years to a pitcher’s career as long as they can remain productive. He could be a guy that can help the Braves out late in games. There’s also some young talent in that bullpen such as Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman, and Dan Winkler who could quietly have strong seasons for the Braves’ ‘pen.

Overall, I don’t expect much out of the Braves this season, but I’m sure they’re well aware of that. But their plethora of prospects is so loaded that I don’t think they’re going to suck for a whole lot longer provided their coaches can properly develop them (Swanson’s 2018 season will be a big barometer for whether or not these guys are up to the challenge). The only thing that’s really going to keep them out of the cellar of the NL East this season is a healthy Freddie Freeman because he’s such a good hitter that he can take over games if you’re not careful. Unfortunately, there is absolutely zero protection around him right now so if he’s on a hot stretch, opposing pitchers have literally no incentive to pitch to him. This season is basically an opportunity for the organization to see what the younger guys can do and plan for the future.

Projected Finish: 71-91, 4th in the NL East

That’s going to do it for Day 3 of the 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Join me tomorrow on my 22nd birthday where I will be previewing the Baltimore Orioles, who are kind of in no-man’s land at the moment, as the front office will have some HUGE decisions to make when July rolls around. Let me know what you think of the Braves’ chances this season in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.