What Would Baseball Look Like Without Starting Rotations?

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners

So on Wednesday night, I had just gotten home from work and was having a few beers while my brother and I watched a replay of the Edge vs Mick Foley Wrestlemania 22 Hardcore match. You know, this one:

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After we got done watching that, I was scrolling through Twitter and noticed a user pointed out that on mlb.com’s depth chart page for the Tampa Bay Rays, Chris Archer is the only starting pitcher listed. I thought that was weird and sent it to a buddy who said “looks like Archer will be getting his innings in.”  I then went and watched the James Cameron movie “Aliens,” which was badass, but the Rays’ pitching situation wouldn’t leave me alone. So finally, when the movie was done, I got to thinking: what if ALL of baseball did away with pitching rotations?

A little background first on why Tampa’s depth chart probably looks the way it does. So at the start of the season, manager Kevin Cash announced that the Rays would go with a 4-man rotation and would make the 5th day an all-bullpen day. A pitcher that usually comes out of the bullpen will get the start, go as long as he could (typically no more than 4 innings) before other bullpen arms got in the mix. It led to the creation of the term “opener,” rather than “closer.” Tampa opened the year with a starting rotation of Chris Archer-Blake Snell-Jake Faria-Nathan Eovaldi (who didn’t debut until a little over a month later). Snell and Faria are currently on the DL while Eovaldi was just traded to the Boston Red Sox for pitching prospect Jalen Beeks. So right now, of those four, only Archer is currently standing. As for who the “openers” are, the Rays have sent out Ryne Stanek, Ryan Yarbrough, Matt Andriese, Johnny Venters, and Sergio Romo among others. All in all, 14 pitchers have made a start for the Rays.

So how well has it worked? Well the Rays currently sit in 3rd place in the AL East at 52-50 (this blog was written before the start of play on July 26), 18.5 games behind the Red Sox in the division and 9 games behind the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card spot. However that’s due in large part to the fact the Rays have struggled to score runs, as they’re 22nd in all of baseball in runs scored. Their pitching has put up very good numbers, though. Right now they’re currently 9th in pitching WAR at a combined 10.6 with the 7th best ERA at 3.70. That’s the main contributing factor for why a team as untalented on paper as the Rays has a winning record in late July. In fact, if the Rays were in the weak AL Central rather than having to face the Red Sox and Yankees a million times every year, it wouldn’t shock me at all to see them battling the Cleveland Indians for the top spot in the division (they currently trail Cleveland by just 3.5 games overall).

So how would Major League Baseball look if they took Tampa’s formula a step further and did away with starting rotations? Well, for one, there would be a lot more opportunities for managers to get creative. I’m going to use the Red Sox as my example team in order to simplify things for myself. The pitchers at manager Alex Cora’s disposal are, in alphabetical order: Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Eovaldi, Heath Hembree, Brian Johnson, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, David Price, Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, Hector Velazquez, and Brandon Workman (this is not accounting for the injured Eduardo Rodriguez, Carson Smith, and Steven Wright). Assuming each staff follows Tampa’s model, the Red Sox could send any one of these guys out to start and go up to four innings. Not only that, but they could appear in back-to-back games and pitch in more games overall over the course of a season. As if we couldn’t get enough Chris Sale already, now he could be pitching back-to-back days and 70 times in a season as opposed to now where he only pitches every 5 games and about 30 times in a season. We could also see David Price come in relief for Sale, meaning teams will have to face two Cy Young-caliber pitchers back-to-back. Which sounds pretty menacing to me. Or Hell, the Yankees could start the game with Aroldis Chapman, go to Luis Severino for the second-fifth inning, then send out Dellin Betances. The combinations managers would have at their disposal are endless. Plus, we won’t have to think of bullpens as having just 7 or 8 options available to choose from. When you add guys who normally start to the mix, that gives teams 11 or 12 guys to choose from.

New York Yankees vs New York Mets

We will also definitely see a rise in fastball velocity. The reason some of these starters aren’t hitting 100 mph on every fastball is due to the fact that they’re preserving some energy in case they need to go deep into the game, whereas relievers put everything they have behind every pitch because they know they’re probably only going the one inning. So take this into account: a few years ago, the Cincinnati Reds toyed with the idea of making their superstar closer Aroldis Chapman into a starting pitcher. They tried him out in the role in Spring Training. Chapman’s fastball in his career has topped out at an MLB record 105.1 mph. Chapman’s fastball as a starter never got over 94 mph. The 105.1 mph pitch is obviously an outlier, but Chapman’s fastball still is routinely clocked at around 101 mph. Now let’s take into account what some guys are throwing despite the knowledge that they’re going to have to go multiple innings. Luis Severino, Noah Syndergaard, Mike Foltynewicz, and Eovaldi’s fastballs all average about 97 mph. By the logic of Chapman’s dropped velocity as a starter of -7 mph (typical 101 to 94), we can imperfectly assume that these guys’ fastballs would rise by about 7 mph (the math that got me to that assumption is probably very wrong, but you get what I’m trying to say here), meaning we’d have four dudes averaging a 104 mph fastball. I’m not sure how teams would manage to hit that on a day-to-day basis, especially when you consider that guys who normally throw 91 are now throwing 98.

We would also see the absolute annihilation of the pitching wins stat. As if it wasn’t already useless enough in today’s game, now it will pretty much only favor the second pitcher to be used, since in order for a starter to qualify for a win, he has to go 5 innings and his lead can’t evaporate. If the first pitcher used only goes 4 innings with a 10-0 lead, whomever replaces him first will vulture his win even if he struck out all 12 batters he faced. However other stats would likely be significantly improved, such as the ERA and opponent batting average stat. Think of it this way. In seemingly every game where a pitcher is going deep into his outing, the broadcast shows a graphic that showcases how a pitcher does each time through the lineup. Usually, the hitters will have the pitcher figured out by their third time seeing him in the game. With this type of pitching staff, you deny hitters the opportunity to see a pitcher for a third time, thus relinquishing that late-inning value at their disposal, leading to potentially fewer runs being scored. Now, of course, bringing in a bunch of relievers makes it more likely that you’re going to bring someone in who is having an off-night, but I think overall the number of runs scored is going to drop substantially.

Seattle Mariners v Colorado Rockies

There will also be more talented pitchers take the next step and become studs than before. Consider the fact that Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Archie Bradley, Wade Davis, and Brandon Morrow all began their careers as starting pitchers but flamed out and failed to realize their great potentials. Then consider the fact that they became dominant bullpen arms upon their move to that role. Well now everybody will make that switch so we could see extremely talented guys such as Kevin Gausman, Lucas Giolito, or Tyler Glasnow be given the opportunity to reinvent themselves. David Price even looked like his Cy Young-winning self during his brief stint in the Red Sox bullpen to finish the 2017 season, as he didn’t give up a run in his 9 relief outings.

Sadly, though, the individual no hitter would cease to exist as any future no hitter would be of the combined variety. The most exciting outcome for a pitcher where nothing happens has been something that has always been a goal of mine to see from start to finish would be a thing of the past since the starter would likely be gone by the third or fourth inning. However I’m sure there are plenty of managers out there who don’t really care, as long as they got the win, which is ultimately what really matters.

There will be a few changes that will have to happen, though, in order for this change to work. For one, guys who are currently starting pitchers need to COMPLETELY overhaul their routine. Starting pitchers have routines they do on their off days to get ready for their next start, but without the certainty that comes with being a starting pitcher, that will change dramatically and will more than likely affect some guys for the worst. Another change will be MLB’s requirement of teams announcing who will start each game. If a manager is going to run with this type of pitching staff, they’re going to have to give a few days’ notice for each pitcher. If this type of staff were to be rolled out, I’d personally be more invested in a surprise starter for every game, keeping opposing teams on their toes. Though I guess managers typically fill out their batting orders based on who the opposing pitcher is so that would probably cause a problem. Damn, thought I was on to something or a moment.

In short, I think that taking the Rays’ formula for a pitching staff a step further and doing away with starting rotations could potentially be a very innovative way to go about pitching and re-think the way teams construct their staffs. Did I just break baseball? Or did I have way too much to drink and this idea is stupid? Let me know what you think of the idea of no pitching rotations in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

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.

NBA Draft Reaction

So the NBA Draft came and went. Unlike the NFL Draft, which is a 3-day event, the NBA Draft lasts a single night and is only 2 rounds long. 60 young men saw their dreams realized and will take the first step towards what we all hope will be long NBA careers. And to those players who didn’t get drafted, here’s a list of players you’ll be joining:

Ben Wallace

Udonis Haslem

Bruce Bowen

Jeremy Lin

Raja Bell

Jose Calderon

Fred Van Fleet

Robert Covington

Kent Bazemore

Wesley Matthews

Aron Baynes

Timofey Mozgov

JJ Barea

All of these guys became good players in the NBA and heavily contributed to their teams’ success. Keep your heads up, your journey isn’t over.

With that being said, as I mentioned yesterday, I was working during most of the first round of the NBA Draft (I got home as the Celtics’ pick was being announced). So I couldn’t go pick-by-pick to chart my reactions. So instead, I’m going to do some winners and losers of the Draft.

Winner: Phoenix Suns

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When you’re picking first overall, you’d better nail your picks. The Suns finished with the worst record in the NBA last season, which included a game where Warriors head coach Steve Kerr took a game off and the Warriors still beat them by 40. They had to have a good draft and, on paper, they freaking nailed it. First they land DeAndre Ayton of Arizona #1 overall, the consensus top prospect and safest player in the Draft. That one was a no-brainer. Then they trade the 16th overall pick in Zhaire Smith of Texas Tech plus a first rounder next year (which originally belonged to the Miami Heat so the pick is based on how they do rather than how the Suns do) to the 76ers for Mikal Bridges of Villanova, one of the best prospects in this class. So the Suns load up on two top-10 prospects at areas of need and all it really cost them was a draft pick that’s probably going to end up being outside of the lottery next year anyway. Fantastic draft for Phoenix.

Loser: Michael Porter Jr

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I don’t know if anyone has had a worse draft process than Porter. Porter was so hyped coming out of high school that one analyst said that he would’ve been the top overall pick had he been eligible in last year’s draft. Porter originally committed to Washington until they fired their head coach, causing him to flip his commitment to Missouri. However, he suffered a season-ending back injury after just 3 career college games and 1 start, scoring a grand total of 10 points. This back injury caused him to go from potentially being the #1 overall pick to barely staying within the lottery. However, if you’re the Denver Nuggets, the team that got Porter, you have to be thrilled that he fell into your laps at pick #14. He’s a potentially franchise-altering talent that you didn’t even have to trade up in order to land.

Winner: Boston Celtics

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There were a million rumors surrounding what the Celtics wanted to do for this draft. There were some saying they wanted to trade into the top 5 to land Mo Bamba out of Texas (he ended up with the Orlando Magic). Instead, they land the next best thing: Texas A&M center Robert Williams with the 27th pick. Williams was a guy that was considered a lottery-talent (I had him as a lottery pick in my first mock and just outside the lottery in yesterday’s mock). He’s basically the same type of player as Bamba, minus the 7’10 wingspan. While his offense needs a lot of refinement, his defense is arguably the best in the class and there isn’t a better center to learn from than Al Horford, whom Williams will have 2 years to learn behind.

Loser: Mo Bamba

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As I mentioned above, the Orlando Magic landed Mo Bamba out of Texas, a genetic freak but raw as Hell. He has no idea just how good he can be, but the Orlando Magic are one of the worst teams in the league at developing talent. It took Victor Oladipo leaving Orlando for him to become the star he was supposed to be. Plus the Magic have a long track record of missed picks. Here’s each of their first rounders since they lost the NBA Finals in 2009:

2009: No Picks

2010: Daniel Orton-Kentucky (29th overall)

2012: Andrew Nicholson-St. Bonaventure (19th overall)

2013: Victor Oladipo-Indiana (2nd overall)

2014: Aaron Gordon-Arizona (4th overall), Dario Saric-Croatia (12th overall, traded to the 76ers)

2015: Mario Hezonja-Spain (5th overall)

2016: Domantas Sabonis-Gonzaga (11th overall, traded to the Thunder)

2017: Jonathan Isaac-Florida State (6th overall, Anzejs Pasecniks-Latvia (25th overall)

See what I mean? I’ve never even heard of Orton or Nicholson and Isaac basically did nothing despite having some impressive dimensions. I mean for god’s sake the man is 6’10 and he shot 38% from the floor in just 27 games! You’re standing right under the hoop all game! Hezonja basically doesn’t exist right now and the only reason Gordon has any relevance whatsoever is from a great performance at the Slam Dunk Contest a couple years ago. I’d have a little more confidence for Bamba if he had an established stud to learn behind but he doesn’t. Best of luck to you, kid, you’re going to need it.

Winner: Chicago Bulls

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I love Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr and I think the Bulls made a great pick selecting him here. As I’ve mentioned on several occasions, I love the way that he’s strong enough to just bully people down low and he will be a real presence for them down in the paint, which will allow Lauri Markkanen to stretch the floor a little better. Not much more to say about this pick that I haven’t already said in other blogs. They also landed Boise State swingman Chandler Hutchison, a more raw player but can do a lot with the basketball and could be a potentially exciting option off the bench.

Loser: My Data Bill

I may or may not have streamed the draft on my phone at work, killing a large portion of data on my plan. I’m just going to have to be careful the rest of the month. But it was totally worth it, work was pretty dead and the draft kept things a little livelier than they would’ve been otherwise.

Looking at these pictures, it’s got me thinking: exactly how freaking tall is Adam Silver that he’s at a reasonable height with all of these centers??? A quick google search says he’s 6’3, which kind of caught me off guard. I always pictured Silver as some tiny dorky-looking dude but I guess he’s got half a foot on me (I’m 5’9). Who’s the tiny dorky-looking dude now? That’s going to do it for this NBA Draft recap, let me know what you thought of it in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

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.

JR Smith

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I didn’t watch a second of NBA Finals Game 1 basically out of protest for seeing the same matchup every year. I was playing a Sporcle quiz on my computer where I had to name every pick of the 2018 NFL Draft (like the normal person I am). All of a sudden I get a text from a buddy asking if I’m watching the game. I told him “no, why?” He gave me the situation. But it can all be summed up by just saying “JR Smith.” Here are some of the seemingly hundreds of Tweets I saw in my newsfeed.

I guess you probably want to know what happened, huh? Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might have seen that George Hill was at the free throw line shooting free throws with the Cavs down 1 with about 5 seconds left. He makes the first free throw to tie the game. He missed the second, though, and it gets rebounded by JR Smith. Smith, not realizing the game was tied and the Cavs did not, in fact, have the lead, tried to dribble out the remainder of the clock (about 5 seconds). He realized his mistake too late and the Cavaliers were unable to get a legitimate shot off before time expired, sending the game into OT. Here’s the play in question.

All this could’ve been avoided had George Hill just hit the free throw. Alas, JR Smith’s blunder will likely live on in infamy as the Cavs ended up losing the game 124-114 in OT despite LeBron James dropping 51 points. And quite frankly, if you were to tell me that a mental lapse by JR would cost the Cavs an NBA Finals game, I would’ve totally believed you. The man is very well known for being one of the more interesting personalities in the game of basketball and that’s not necessarily a compliment.

Instead of being up 1-0, the Cavs find themselves down 0-1 to the best team in the NBA all thanks to a lapse in judgment. Who’s to say the Cavs would’ve hit the shot at the end of regulation? For all we know, they could’ve missed it and it would’ve been the same outcome as Smith running out the clock. But in Smith’s case, they never got an opportunity for a shot, which is where all the “what-if’s” will be coming from.

And one last thing, I’m normally all for people giving a guy shit for a major screw up. But Smith screwed up on the biggest stage in basketball. He knows he screwed up. Don’t go pestering the man about it. He’s going to live with that the rest of his life and it may end up defining his NBA career unless he does something in this series to redeem himself. And honestly, I do feel kind of bad for the guy. I do hope he gets a chance at redemption.

2018 NBA Finals Preview

*Sigh.* Here we go again. As I, and literally everybody else, predicted, it’s Warriors-Cavaliers for the fourth consecutive season in the NBA Finals. I already bitched about this yesterday so I’m not going to do that here. I’m just going to do what I always do when I prepare for championship games: go position-by-position and give advantages where I see fit. So without further ado, let’s do it.

Point Guard

Warriors: Stephen Curry

Cavaliers: George Hill

Advantage: Warriors

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Duh. Even if Curry isn’t 100%, he’s still the most impactful point guard in the game today. He’s one of the greatest shooters of all time and people don’t talk about his handles enough. Hill’s not a bad player, don’t get me wrong, he’s actually pretty good. But he can’t hold a candle to Steph.

Shooting Guard

Warriors: Klay Thompson

Cavaliers: Rodney Hood

Advantage: Warriors

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Another pretty easy one and it’s basically the same explanation as point guard: Thompson is one of the best shooters of all time and while Hood isn’t a bad player, he can’t hold a candle to Thompson. I know it’s copy-paste, but that’s been the NBA Finals the last four years, hasn’t it?

Small Forward

Warriors: Kevin Durant

Cavaliers: LeBron James

Advantage: Cavaliers

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This is probably the closest matchup in these comparisons. Kevin Durant has been doing most of the dirty work for the Warriors while Steph Curry has been dealing with an injury. But LeBron James is the best player on the planet, perhaps all time (I’m not getting suckered into the LeBron-Jordan debate. I won’t do it). He has to win out here. But that being said, KD can do things with a basketball that nobody else can and he will have a huge impact on this series.

Power Forward

Warriors: Draymond Green

Cavaliers: Kevin Love

Advantage: Warriors

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This was another close one but I’m going to give the edge to the Warriors mainly because I have a soft spot for guys that stuff the stat sheet. Green may be a bit undersized for his position and style of play, but you can’t deny the guy gets numbers and plays great defense. Love has a tendency to disappear at times from games but he can also put on an absolute show if he can get into a rhythm. But Green is more consistent, so he wins out.

Center

Warriors: JaVale McGee

Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson

Advantage: Cavaliers

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JaVale McGee is easily the weakest link in the Warriors’ starting 5 but the other members are so good that he can get away with just being in the background. Tristan Thompson is a rebounding machine and really turned it on late in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics. He’s going to need to dominate the glass if the Cavaliers are going to have any shot of upsetting the Warriors in this series.

Bench

Warriors: Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Nick Young, David West, Kevon Looney, Zaza Pachulia, Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell, Damian Jones, Quinn Cook

Cavaliers: JR Smith, Jeff Green, Kyle Korver, Larry Nance Jr, Jordan Clarkson, Jose Calderon, Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman, Kendrick Perkins, Okaro White

Advantage: Cavaliers

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This might be a slight upset but my reasoning for putting the Cavs over the Warriors in this regard is that Andre Iguodala is not healthy. A healthy Iggy and the Warriors win this category no problem. But aside from him and Shaun Livingston, the Warriors bench doesn’t do a whole lot for the team. With the Cavs, a lot of their bench guys have had plenty of time in the starting lineup and can explode at any second (Smith, Green, and Korver in particular). So I’m going with the Cavs for bench.

Head Coach

Warriors: Steve Kerr

Cavaliers: Tyronn Lue

Advantage: Warriors

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Tyronn Lue may be the worst coach to ever win the NBA Finals. Granted, he was technically an interim head coach when the Cavs won in 2016, having fired David Blatt midway through the season, but Lue is basically just a guy who chills at the head coaching chair on the bench while LeBron runs this team. As for Kerr, I honestly have no idea if he’s good or not because his team is so goddamn good. I mean, Hell, he took a game off and his team still won by 40. But I do know for certain that he’s better than Lue so the Warriors win this category.

Final Score: Warriors: 4 Cavaliers: 3

I do believe that the Warriors will win this series in 5 games. Now yes, they only won my categories by 1 spot, however the gap for the Warriors’ wins was significant while the gap for the Cavs’ wins was minuscule. So I stand by my prediction from yesterday that the series will go 5 games. As for MVP? I think Durant repeats as Finals MVP. That’s going to do it for my NBA Finals predictions, let me know how you think the series is going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: May 3

at Fenway Park on May 2, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts.

-Mookie Betts is on a freaking tear. While he did miss some time with a leg injury (his absence was more precautionary than anything since it was determined to just be a bruise), he has been a monster for the Red Sox in the first month of the season, culminating with his 4th career 3-home run game, the most in franchise history. The Major League record is 6 by Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa. Oh and he’s still just 25 years old. Mookie is currently hitting .365 with a Major League-leading 11 home runs and 21 RBI and along with the hot-hitting Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts, and JD Martinez, the Red Sox boast one of the deadliest lineups in baseball to go along with a stellar pitching rotation. This team is scary. 

-Not to be outdone, Indians DH Edwin Encarnacion also hit 3 home runs in a game, this one against the Rangers. As of right now, I have no idea if there has ever been 2 3-home run games on the same day in Major League history, but it sounds like one of those oddities that could be the case. Encarnacion really needed a game like this because heading into it, he was slashing .171/.250/.352, which are abysmal numbers for the notorious slow-starter. However once he gets going, there isn’t a deadlier right-handed bat in the Majors. As I mentioned, Encarnacion always gets off to a slow start to the season and by the end of it, he’s usually his typically dangerous self. He is 35, though, so perhaps a downward trend is on the horizon.

-Glenn Jacobs won the Republican nomination in the Knox County, Tennessee mayoral race. Since he is a Republican in Tennessee, that pretty much all but guarantees that he’s going to become Knox County’s next mayor. In fact, he won the Republican nomination by just 17 votes! Now, you might be wondering why I give a shit about this when I’ve made it known I hate politics and this is seemingly the most unimportant mayoral race ever. Well the fact of the matter is that I love Glenn Jacobs and he had a profound impact on my childhood and even now currently in my adulthood. Never heard of him? Well, that’s because he is better known to the public by a different name. HE’S FUCKING KANE FROM WWE!!! That’s right, the Big Red Machine, the Undertaker’s brother, the guy who had some very problematic storylines in the WWE (including an angle where he rapes a female wrestler, impregnates her, then another wrestler causes her to miscarry) is the favorite to become the mayor of a county in Tennessee. When I was a kid, my brothers and I used to perform wrestling moves on each other like any other kids. There were a few moves that we liked to do. The one we probably did the most was Chris Jericho’s “Walls of Jericho” mainly because it was a pretty easy move as well as John Cena’s “Attitude Adjustment” (which back then was called “The FU”). But Kane’s “Chokeslam” was one of our favorites to do. So I’m pretty excited for the Devil’s Favorite Demon to hit that Chokeslam on some ne’er-do-wells in Knox County, Tennessee and have Hellfire lining the sidewalks. Here are some Gifs to showcase just how great a mayor Kane is going to make.

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tenor

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Don’t you just love America? Also, Kane’s first name is “Glenn.” If that doesn’t destroy a man’s aura then I don’t know what does.

-Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer thinks that Astros pitchers may be doctoring the baseballs. In a Twitter thread, Bauer basically stated that the balls feel stickier there and that he feels that it’s very suspicious that Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have become absolute monsters since joining the Astros and went into a rant about gum and stuff like that. While I am a fan of Bauer and his lack of filter, I think this is a bit farfetched and just begging for somebody to get targeted when the Indians and Astros square off. First of all, yes, Verlander and Cole have seen significant upticks in production since joining the Astros. However these are also two of the most talented pitchers in baseball who needed a change in scenery and got that in Houston. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that Verlander and Cole would be #1 and #2, respectively, in the AL in strikeouts, which is where they currently rank. These guys have always been strikeout pitchers and now they seem to be invigorated. I think it’s more likely that Astros pitching coach Brent Strom is doing a Hell of a job. I mean have you seen Charlie Morton lately? A 34 year-old hitting 99 mph has nothing to do with doctoring baseballs. Strom is just killing it with these guys right now.

-I finished All or Nothing’s Dallas Cowboys edition a few days ago but kept forgetting to give my thoughts on it like I did with their Michigan edition. Here’s a few things I noticed:

Michigan definitely employed a no-swearing policy because the Cowboys had some of the biggest potty-mouths in the league (Dez Bryant being a particularly big offender). I was also a little surprised by head coach Jason Garrett’s potty mouth. He strikes me as the kind of guy who says “flipping” when he means “fucking.” But nope. No he says “fucking” like a normal person.

Cowboys runningbacks coach Gary Brown was the breakout star of this show. His relationship with the runningbacks was kind of a mixture of a father who will be your best friend but will also impart his wisdom upon you. This was very apparent when he had the backs over his house for dinner with his family and you could just tell everybody loved each other. Darren McFadden showing up dressed like Brown and talking like he does was also pretty amusing. I actually had no idea McFadden actually retired during the season until All or Nothing talked about it. Shame, too. McFadden was a big “what if” in the NFL because he was extremely talented but was held back by injuries.

Dez Bryant and Jourdan Lewis talking trash to each other was my favorite part of the series. It was only a one-part segment but these guys were jawing at each other during their STRETCHING. It was pretty funny how much tension you could sense, though I kind of got the vibe that Lewis was just trying to provoke Bryant and Bryant was taking the bait. They then went one-on-one with each other and had to get separated because Lewis got pissed because he thought Dez pushed off of him when he made the catch (he kind of did, but it was pretty bang-bang).

My one complaint was that I don’t think they emphasized Tyron Smith’s importance to the offense enough. Yes, when he went down, they made sure to highlight that his replacements, Chaz Green and Byron Bell, got absolutely DESTROYED by Adrian Clayborn to the tune of 6 sacks. But while they were in the starting roles there was little to no mention of Smith’s absence or recovery timetable. In fact, they didn’t even acknowledge his return. Smith is the best left tackle in football now that Joe Thomas is retired but you wouldn’t know it based on All or Nothing. In fact, I think the entire offensive line kind of got the shaft in favor of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Vote Kane.

 

NFL Draft: Day 3

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It’s done! It’s over! For 256 kids, their dreams came true. For hundreds of others, disappointment. But now they’ve all got to get to work because the hard part’s just beginning. Here are some thoughts from Day 3 of the Draft.

-The great story just gets better. Shaquem Griffin was drafted by the Seahawks 141st overall. You probably already know his story, he had to get his hand amputated after a birth defect. The pain in that hand was so bad that he tried to take a knife and cut off his deformed fingers in the middle of the night when he was just 4 years old. His mother was able to stop him before he could do it but it was at that moment she called the hospital to get it fully amputated. He had a twin Shaquill who would turn down scholarship offers because his brother wasn’t offered as well. Eventually UCF offered both and they both went and played well. Then Shaquill got drafted by the Seahawks in last year’s draft. Now his brother Shaquem joins him in Seattle. I was so impressed when I watched Shaquem’s tape that I went and put him on my Big Board even though I knew he’d be a Day 3 pick. That’s how good I felt he was. Just a tremendous story that my words can’t really do justice. I’ll be rooting for the kid at the next level.

-The Patriots had an interesting Day 3. They traded out of the 4th round twice to the point where I got so frustrated I said “make a fucking pick” out loud. They eventually did make a pick, and I was dismayed they took a Purdue linebacker in Ja’whaun Bentely. Nothing against Bentley, he’s a big dude who I think could be really valuable against the run. He just had the misfortune of being a Boilermaker. Some other notable players the Patriots took are Arizona State linebacker Christian Sam, who was reportedly very popular among a group of teams for the later rounds, Miami (FL) wide receiver Braxton Berrios (a 5’8 white guy who is a good route runner, shocker), and LSU quarterback Danny Etling (he won’t be Brady’s heir, this is more them drafting the heir’s backup). Etling is a former Purdue quarterback who transferred to LSU and he struggled mightily. I’m actually a little surprised he was drafted at all, but that’s what the Patriots do, take the guys that other people don’t value nearly as much. Etling is probably going to be a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback given Bill Belichick’s track record.

-Mr. Irrelevant was SMU wide receiver Trey Quinn by the Washington Redskins. Quinn’s also a baseball guy, as he threw a no hitter in the Little League World Series. Quinn was a teammate of new Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton’s and actually had better stats than Sutton, as he caught 114 balls for 1236 yards and 13 touchdowns. I actually thought he was a 5th round talent. Probably the best Mr. Irrelevant since Wake Forest kicker Ryan Succop, who is still kicking in the NFL.

-I’m going to be that guy. I hate the Eagles’ selection of Jordan Mailata 233rd overall. But Jim, you ask, why do you give a shit about the 233rd overall pick? Because Mailata never played a down of football in his life. He’s an Australian rugby player. When do those ever work out? My point is there are so many guys who have played football their whole lives for this moment then some rugby player gets to get picked in the Draft while they have to beg teams to put them on their roster. I just hate that. Yes Mailata is a monster of a human being but Simmie Cobbs of Indiana made the 4th overall pick Denzel Ward look like a Pee Wee player and he didn’t get selected. Plus, how do you tell players who were taken after him “you were valued less as a football player than a guy who has never played football before.” I could go on but I won’t.

-Former Washington State quarterback Luke Falk is reportedly obsessed with Tom Brady. He follows the TB12 method to a T, he gets upset when the Patriots lose (he got particularly harassed by teammates after the Super Bowl LII loss), and he basically worships Brady like a god. Guess where Falk got drafted. No he was not taken by the Patriots, he was taken by the Titans. However, Falk was drafted 199th overall, just like Brady was. Nothing else to say about that I just thought that was hilarious.

-The biggest steal of the draft has to be the Raiders taking former Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst 140th overall. Hurst was a first round talent and I had him as my #1 interior defensive lineman until he was diagnosed with a heart condition at the Combine. He has since been cleared by doctors but teams still took him off their boards. If Hurst is able to prove he is healthy, this pick is going to be a steal and a half.

-I talked about how I really liked Texas safety Deshon Elliott even though other teams might not have liked him so much. Well he was selected in the sixth round, 190th overall by the Ravens. He was the last player on my Big Board to be selected but I kind of figured that would happen. I still think he’s going to be a damn good player, though.

-A reminder to the players who weren’t drafted today, here’s a list of guys who were also undrafted:

Kurt Warner

Wes Welker

Chris Harris Jr

Drew Pearson

Brian Waters

Jason Peters

Priest Holmes

James Harrison

Rod Smith

Joe Jacoby

Antonio Gates

Tony Romo

John Randle

Emmitt Thomas

Willie Brown

Warren Moon

Dick “Night Train” Lane

I could go on but I think you get the picture. Just because you weren’t drafted doesn’t mean it’s over. In fact, a lot of guys who were drafted will never play an NFL game. Just keep your head up and use this as motivation to prove everybody wrong. That’s going to do it for today’s blog. I’ll have a full Draft recap tomorrow. Let me know what you thought of Day 3 of the Draft in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NFL Draft Recap: Round 1

The first round of the 2018 NFL Draft came and went and holy shit was it a doozy. Something to note at the beginning though. When announcing the players in attendance, the PA guy noticeably messed up. He went out of order a couple times (they announce the players alphabetically). He completely forgot Sam Darnold, who had to enter last. He then accidentally skipped Shaquem Griffin and went straight to Derrius Guice, which is why Guice was so late exiting the tunnel, he was probably confused because Griffin was supposed to be ahead of him. Josh Jackson was then announced but he didn’t come out, then the PA announcer finally got to Griffin, who came out, before going back to Jackson, who then came out. A little bit of pre-Draft entertainment. We’ve got 32 picks to sort through so let’s cut the intro short and get into it.

1. Cleveland Browns-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma (My Big Board Rank: 13)

This started gaining a TON of steam the morning of the Draft. Mayfield’s a great story, he had to walk on twice, first at Texas Tech, then at Oklahoma. He won the Heisman Trophy last season and is now the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. I’m not in love with the Browns’ decision but I think Mayfield is a better passer than people might give him credit for. Sitting behind Tyrod Taylor will be helpful for him because he really needs it. Also, you gotta respect this effort.

Also, fun fact, this is the first time since I started doing mock drafts in 2008 that I got the #1 overall pick wrong.

2. New York Giants-Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State (1)

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Not a surprise here. Saquon Barkley is basically the perfect back and the Giants lack a running game. He’ll be a star in New York. The Giants still need some offensive line help but a guy like Barkley can help alleviate some of those pains. The Giants are able to land the best player in the draft and add another superstar to their roster.

3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts)-Sam Darnold-QB-USC (9)

Great pick here by the Jets. Darnold is the safest quarterback in the draft and even if he does need a year, the Jets brought back Josh McCown and signed Teddy Bridgewater to start over him. I have an issue with his throwing motion but other than that I think Darnold is a very quality quarterback. He did turn the ball over a lot but the talent around him was VERY subpar. The talent with the Jets isn’t great either so they’re going to need to get him some weapons very soon if he’s going to be successful.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State (4)

Denzel Ward comes as a bit of a surprise, but they need corners. Ward’s definitely the best corner in this draft and he’ll likely be the Browns’ #1 corner from Day 1. He doesn’t have to go very far, having come from Ohio State. Ward may have benefited from Marshon Lattimore’s tremendous season last year with the Saints. I think he has the chance to be a Hell of a corner in Cleveland.

5. Denver Broncos-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State (2)

A little surprising given the fact that two quarterbacks, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, were both still available. But damn does this create a terrifying pass rush duo in Denver with Chubb and Von Miller. Denver is starting to rebuild their defense and getting a great pass rush is the easiest way to do it. Getting pressure on the quarterback makes life easier for everyone behind you and now with this pass rush duo, the Broncos look to be in great shape.

6. Indianapolis Colts (from New York Jets)-Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame (5)

This pick was clearly made with protecting Andrew Luck in mind. Nelson’s as good a guard prospect as I’ve seen in a looooooong time. He’s basically a perfect run blocker. On pass blocking, I’ve seen him get confused by some complex blitz packages, but usually he’s excellent.

7. TRADE!!! Buffalo Bills (from Tampa Bay Buccaneers)-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming (16)

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Shocker, the Bills traded into the top 10 to get their quarterback. According to Adam Schefter, the Broncos and Bills had a deal in place but when Chubb fell the Broncos backed out. The Buccaneers receive the 12th pick and both of Buffalo’s second round picks. The Bills take Josh Allen, who fell as a result of some pretty tough tweets he sent out in high school, which included the word “faggot,” talking about how he was against gay marriage, saying “if it ain’t white it ain’t right,” and saying he loves “touching kids’ peeters.” Now a lot of the questionable tweets were movie quotes or song lyrics but they’re still pretty questionable. Obviously he was an idiot in high school and I’m sure he’s grown since then. From a talent standpoint, Allen is about as physically gifted as they come, but he’s raw as Hell. He needs to sit at least a year before he’s ready. AJ McCarron should start at first and then they work their way to Allen.

8. Chicago Bears-Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia (10)

When the Bears are good, they have imposing linebackers. From Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary to Brian Urlacher, a great middle linebacker is essential for the Bears. Roquan Smith needs to get tougher against blockers, but his instincts are second to none and his fundamentals are excellent. The Bears have some talent on the defensive line that can take on some blocks for him but they will need to shore it up a little bit in order to maximize his potential.

9. San Francisco 49ers-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame (21)

Jimmy Garoppolo faced a ton of pressure in his short period of time as the starter and this pick is meant to make sure he doesn’t have to rush his throws like he did. McGlinchey is probably better on the right side, but the value of a right tackle has been skyrocketing of late. I thought this was a bit of a reach but given that this is a poor tackle class, if you need a tackle you have to get the very best as soon as you can. You can’t risk your guy falling and then getting the next best guy later in this situation.

10. TRADE!!! Arizona Cardinals (from Oakland Raiders)-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA (8)

The Cardinals trade up with the Raiders, right ahead of the Dolphins who were rumored to be interested in drafting a quarterback. The Raiders get the 15th pick, a 3rd rounder, and a 5th rounder. Given how desperate the Cardinals reportedly were to take one, this doesn’t come as a surprise that they moved up to 10 from 15. Rosen was my number 1 quarterback but he’s the 4th taken in the top 10 (first time that’s ever happened). I think Rosen could start right away but he doesn’t have to with Sam Bradford in town. There are concerns with Rosen’s injury history and his commitment to football, but the tape is easily the best of any quarterback in this class.

11. Miami Dolphins-Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama (3)

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The Dolphins missed out on a quarterback thanks to the Cardinals jumping up ahead of them, but they do end up with the very talented Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is at his best roaming the deep middle of the field but he’s also very capable of playing outside and slot corner and I’ve even seen him wreak some havoc at the line of scrimmage. Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke can get really creative with this guy.

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Buffalo Bills via Cincinnati Bengals)-Vita Vea-DL-Washington (18)

I’m not sure how you’re going to run on the Buccaneers now. With linebackers like Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander now able to run free because Gerald McCoy and Vita Vea are taking up all the blockers? Forget it. Considering the Saints, Panthers, and Falcons all have pretty solid ground games, I can see why they went with the pick. Not the pick I would’ve made with Derwin James available, I felt a secondary player was the bigger need, but it makes a strength even stronger.

13. Washington Redskins-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama (17)

I had Payne ranked right above Vea and I think he’s a more well-rounded guy. He was great in the CFP and he will be reunited with former Alabama line-mate Jonathan Allen with the Redskins. The Redskins ranked last in the NFL against the run so beefing up the interior of their defensive line was a must.

14. TRADE!!! New Orleans Saints (from Green Bay Packers)-Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA (7)

The Saints trade up 13 spots to get Marcus Davenport. They’re sending Green Bay the 27th pick, a fifth rounder, and their first rounder next year to make the selection. This was an interesting decision. Davenport is a crazy athlete, but should they have traded up so high to get a guy as raw as he is? I’m not so sure because they essentially spent two first round picks to get this guy, given that Green Bay will be making their pick next year. I love Davenport, but I’m not in love with the selection by the Saints. Sure they don’t have a great pass rush outside of Cameron Jordan, but again, I thought they gave up too much for one.

15. Oakland Raiders (from Arizona Cardinals)-Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA (22)

I didn’t figure that offensive line was a need for the Raiders, but they go for a raw but extremely talented tackle prospect in Miller. I’m not going to lie, as a Patriots fan, I wanted Miller. I may or may not have cursed out loud when he was announced as the Raiders’ pick. Donald Penn is up there in age so perhaps they took Miller to groom behind Penn. The Raiders also traded the 3rd rounder they acquired to the Steelers for Martavis Bryant, meaning Jon Gruden is trying to build an elite offense in Oakland.

16. TRADE!!! Buffalo Bills (from Baltimore Ravens)-Tremaine Edmunds-LB-Virginia Tech (6)

The Bills acquired a fifth rounder and the 16th pick in exchange for the 22nd pick and a third rounder from the Ravens. The Bills get one of my favorite players in this class in Tremaine Edmunds. He doesn’t turn 20 for another week so he’s about as raw as you’re going to get. But at 6’5 250 pounds with 4.5 speed, you’re not going to find a better physical specimen at the linebacker position. He can play the edge or he can play up the middle and from a speed standpoint, he compares favorably to a lot of receivers in the league.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Derwin James-S-Florida State (12)

The Chargers have a pretty scary secondary now with the addition of Derwin James. At corner, they have Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett, now at safety they have James and the underrated Jahleel Addae. The Chargers had a pretty good defense already, now they may be looking at a powerhouse.

18. TRADE!!! Green Bay Packers (from Seattle Seahawks)-Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville (31)

Green Bay is involved in a trade yet again, this time trading up with the Seattle Seahawks for the 18th overall pick in exchange for the 27th pick, a 3rd rounder and a 6th rounder in order to select Jaire Alexander. Alexander is probably the most athletic corner in the Draft after blowing up the Combine. He’s a little small, but his athleticism makes up for it. The Packers were in dire need of corners and Alexander’s not a bad choice here.

19. Dallas Cowboys-Leighton Vander Esch-LB-Boise State (27)

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I’m surprised this pick wasn’t a wide receiver. Vander Esch was a late riser and he’s got the thickest neck I’ve ever seen. He’s a big linebacker and he shores up a group in Dallas that seems to always be battling injuries. Sean Lee is always hurt and Jaylon Smith still isn’t all the way back from his ACL tear in college. There’s still a big need at wide receiver, though, after Dez Bryant’s release. As it stands, Terrance Williams is the #1 receiver. Every receiver was still available when the Cowboys made this pick so they must not be a huge fan of this class.

20. Detroit Lions-Frank Ragnow-C-Arkansas (N/A)

Ragnow is one of the best centers in the nation, though I felt that pass rusher was the biggest need for the Lions. The offensive line is still a big need, though, and Ragnow has the size to play every position on the offensive line and I think he could upgrade every spot for the Lions. Reportedly the Patriots were “all over” him so Matt Patricia may have stolen one from his former club. The Bengals were also reportedly going to take Ragnow 1 pick later so the Lions probably frustrated two teams by picking a center.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo Bills)-Billy Price-C-Ohio State (N/A)

Billy Price might not be quite as good as Ragnow as a center, but he can also play guard, which is another position on the offensive line that the Bengals need. So Marvin Lewis has a lot of options here with Price and will be able to fill whatever need he wants.

22. Tennessee Titans (from Baltimore Ravens via Buffalo Bills through Kansas City Chiefs)-Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama (23)

The Titans jump ahead of the Patriots and Panthers to take Rashaan Evans This pick has been held by 4(!) different teams but it ends up in Tennessee, who gave up a 4th rounder to move up. I figured the Titans would target this guy when they made the trade. The Patriots were reportedly interested in him and the Titans are in desperate need of a middle linebacker. Evans has had some injury problems but he’s a Nick Saban linebacker, which has proven to be pretty valuable lately, considering Reuben Foster, CJ Mosley, and Dont’a Hightower are the most recent of the bunch.

23. New England Patriots (from Los Angeles Rams)-Isaiah Wynn-OG-Georgia (28)

The Patriots needed a left tackle and that’s what Wynn played at Georgia, however I think he projects better as a guard since he’s a little on the smaller side for a tackle at about 6’2 302 pounds. Dante Scarnecchia is the best offensive line coach in the game, though and he’ll be able to do some good things with Wynn. We’ll have to see how he performs. Besides, if he doesn’t work out at tackle, he can slide into guard where I think he’s much better suited.

24. Carolina Panthers-DJ Moore-WR-Maryland (26)

First wideout off the board. I like Moore, but his film didn’t really wow me. The stats were really good and so were his workouts, but a lot of the routes he ran were tunnel screens. He’s a talented guy, though and a big need for the Panthers.

25. Baltimore Ravens (from Tennessee Titans)-Hayden Hurst-TE-South Carolina

Hayden Hurst is a guy I liked, but didn’t love. He’s 24 years old and will be 25 when the season starts. That late age is mainly because he played minor league baseball for a little bit before returning to school. He was my #3 tight end but there were a lot of analysts who had him as their best at the position. But he is one of the better athletes at the position who you can line up all over the field and is a very good blocker.

26. Atlanta Falcons-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama (11)

Wide receiver might not have been the biggest need for the Falcons (that being defensive tackle), but Ridley is my favorite receiver in this class and I think that he will be an absolute stud with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu also on the field. I would say he’s an upgrade over the departed Taylor Gabriel, for sure.

27. Seattle Seahawks (from Green Bay Packers via New Orleans Saints)-Rashaad Penny-RB-San Diego State (N/A)

Whoah…..uh, Seattle, I know you’re not usually accustomed to making first round picks, but this guy would’ve been there much later. Don’t get me wrong, I like Penny. He’s a bruiser and was the leading rusher in all of college football last season. But Derrius Guice, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, and Ronald Jones II are still there for runningbacks. Maybe the Seahawks know something about the kid that we don’t.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers-Terrell Edmunds-S-Virginia Tech (N/A)

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It was pretty cool seeing Ryan Shazier walking to make the pick. I was really impressed in the montage video that he was able to do pull-ups as well. He announced the choice of Terrell Edmunds, whose brother Tremaine was selected earlier in the night. It’s the first time ever that two brothers were taken in the first round of the same draft. I thought this was a BIG reach by the Steelers. He was my 9th-rated safety. Guys I had ahead of him who were still available are Justin Reid, Deshon Elliott, Jessie Bates, Jordan Whitehead, and Quin Blanding. But like with the Seahawks pick, maybe the Steelers know something we don’t. I thought Edmunds would be there in the third round, maybe the fourth.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars-Taven Bryan-DL-Florida (40)

The Jaguars bolster a strength of this team on their defensive line. Bryan does a good job of disrupting guys in the backfield and creates plays for other guys on the defense. Defensive line wasn’t a need by any means, as Malik Jackson, Calais Campbell, and Marcell Dareus are already there on the interior defensive line. Good luck getting playing time as a rookie, kid.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Mike Hughes-CB-Central Florida (33)

Hughes had a troubled past in college but is one of the best talents in the class. I figured the Vikings would go corner with Trae Waynes’ contract set to expire at the end of the 2018 season, though I had Josh Jackson and Isaiah Oliver rated ahead of Hughes. He can hit, he can cover, and he can return kicks, but again, the troubled past led me to lower him a bit in my rankings (got in a huge fight at a frat house at UNC, then was accused of rape at Kansas, though those charges were dropped). Given the quality of receivers in the NFC North, getting as many good corners as you can is going to be huge.

31. New England Patriots-Sony Michel-RB-Georgia (N/A)

I’m shocked the Patriots didn’t trade this pick. But they’re able to land Sony Michel, one of the more exciting running backs in college football. Michel is a similar player to Dion Lewis and I think he fits in nicely with the offense. He tore up the CFP running behind fellow Patriots first rounder Isaiah Wynn. My concern here is that is now a VERY crowded running back room with the newly-signed Jeremy Hill, Rex Burkhead, James White, and now Sony Michel, so I’m not so sure getting a running back in the first round was the best route to go. It should be interesting to see what New England has in mind for him.

32. TRADE!!! Baltimore Ravens (from Philadelphia Eagles)-Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

The Ravens gave up a couple second rounders, one this year and one next year, to trade back into the first round for the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner. Lamar Jackson will be sitting behind Joe Flacco for at least a year to develop, which is what he needs. Jackson has work to do as a passer, but the athleticism is off the charts. He has Michael Vick-like quickness. It’ll be interesting to see how the Ravens develop not only him, but their gameplan to accommodate him. He’s probably going to sit for a long time a la Aaron Rodgers, and we’ve all seen how that worked out.

Well that was a Hell of a first round. My mock did pretty poorly, but I kind of expected that considering it was such an unpredictable draft that we didn’t even know who the first overall pick was going to be until it was made. The only picks I nailed were Saquon Barkley at 2, Sam Darnold at 3, and Rashaan Evans at 22 (even though I got the team wrong). Here’s a list of my best players available for Day 2, ordered by their ranking on my Big Board:

14. Connor Williams-OT-Texas

15. Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

19. Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

20. Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

24. Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

25. Justin Reid-S-Stanford

29. Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

30. Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

So still plenty of talent still available for Day 2. I won’t get to watch the first half of it since I will be broadcasting a softball game between Indiana and Michigan at 6. So if you’re sick of the Draft, you can turn that on and hear my seductive voice. But that’s going to do it for the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Let me know what you thought of the picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

Final Mock Draft

We made it, folks. It’s Draft Day! Round 1 starts tonight at 8 and the Cleveland Browns stated that they received no acceptable offers for the top pick, so it looks like they’re going to make the selection, not that there was a ton of doubt about it. As promised, here is my final mock draft of the year and my official guesses at what’s going to happen. The Draft is always damn near impossible to project. The best my mocks have ever done was 10 out of 32 correct picks in 2012. The worst was 3 the following year (that one got published in my high school’s newspaper). Last year I got 5, which is typically what I’m around. I’m going to do things a little differently with this mock than what I typically do with my mock drafts. I’m going to predict what I think will actually happen rather than what I would do if I were making the picks. Since I’m going to be predicting what I think will happen, I’m going to break one of my cardinal rules for mocks: I’m going to project trades. That’s where I’m probably going to get in trouble with the picks so at the end of the blog I’m going to link to the mock draft I made on NFL.com’s Predict the Pick with my picks on what I would do, which does not project trades so that you get both. As for the mock itself, these decisions are going to be based on not only what I think the team is going to do, but also based on what I’m hearing. The picks also may not necessarily reflect my rankings, either, since each team has rankings of their own. So with that, let’s get to the mock.

1. Cleveland Browns-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

during the first half of a game on December 21, 2016 in San Diego, California.

Not what I would do by any means, but I am hearing that the Browns have narrowed the top pick down to Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. Since Mayfield has been compared to Johnny Manziel, I think there’s a fear in the front office about repeating their mistake from 4 years ago and they go with Allen. With Tyrod Taylor in place, Allen won’t have to start right away and can sit and develop for a year, which is what he needs. Allen is as talented as they come but the tape and stats have me a bit nervous.

2. New York Giants-Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State

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The Giants could choose to select a future franchise quarterback, but I think they go with the best player in the Draft. The Giants don’t have any runningbacks that make teams nervous and having a guy like Barkley around would force defenses to pay more attention to him, which can lead to more opportunities for ODell Beckham Jr to get open (as if he needed them). I think Eli Manning has another year or two left so they can draft his replacement in a later round or next year.

3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts)-Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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I’ve heard the Jets are considering between Darnold and Mayfield and since the Jets have a poor track record of developing quarterbacks (see: Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg), I think they go with the guy who probably needs the least development in this class in Darnold. Darnold will have an opportunity to start right out of the gate but I don’t think it would hurt to have Josh McCown or Teddy Bridgewater start and have Darnold develop behind him.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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I think Minkah Fitzpatrick would be the better selection for the Browns here, but this is what I’m hearing they want to do. If they do pull the trigger on Bradley Chubb, they could have one of the most dominant defensive lines in the NFL. With Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah already looking like stud pass rushers, adding Chubb would give opposing offensive lines nightmares.

5. PROJECTED TRADE: Miami Dolphins (from Denver Broncos)-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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First big trade projection here. I think the Dolphins give the 11th overall pick and their 2019 first rounder to the Broncos to go up and take the guy they’ve reportedly been in love with for some time. I don’t think quarterback is the biggest need for the Dolphins, but Ryan Tannehill’s contract is up after this season and I doubt the Dolphins are going to want to give him the big contract he’s probably going to command, making quarterback an eventual need. Because Tannehill will still be on the roster, Mayfield can sit and develop, which is exactly what he needs.

6. PROJECTED TRADE: Buffalo Bills (from Indianapolis Colts via New York Jets)-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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Another big trade, this time I think the Bills give up both of their first rounders to the Colts to move up. The Cardinals are trying to move up as well and I think the Colts will use that as leverage because the Bills are reportedly “desperate” to draft a quarterback in the first round. In this scenario, I have them taking Josh Rosen, who I think is the best quarterback in this class. He can start right away and there isn’t a huge financial commitment to AJ McCarron so there isn’t any pressure to have the former Bengals quarterback start over Rosen like there was with Mike Glennon over Mitchell Trubisky last season for the Bears.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Derwin James-S-Florida State

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Again, not the pick I would make but I’m hearing that the Buccaneers are “in love” with Derwin James and I think he would instantly become the enforcer on this defense. When the Buccaneers were wreaking havoc on the NFL in the late-90’s early-2000’s, they did it with a star defensive lineman (Warren Sapp), a star linebacker (Derrick Brooks), and a star safety (John Lynch). On their current roster, they’ve got their star defensive lineman (Gerald McCoy) and two star linebackers (Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David). They just don’t have that safety. Enter James, who would become the enforcer type that Lynch was.

8. Chicago Bears-Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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The Bears need to aid Trubisky in any way they can. They already accomplished some of that in free agency by getting him some receivers to throw to in Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, now they need to shore up the offensive line and there isn’t a better offensive line prospect in this year’s class than Quenton Nelson. Nelson’s a dominant run blocker and a very good pass blocker and I think he’ll make life a lot easier for both Trubisky and Jordan Howard.

9. San Francisco 49ers-Tremaine Edmunds-LB-Virginia Tech

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With the uncertainty surrounding Reuben Foster’s future, middle linebacker all of a sudden becomes a need for the 49ers. Tremaine Edmunds is probably the most physically gifted middle linebacker we’ve seen this generation, as he’s 6’5 250 pounds and runs a 4.5 40 yard dash so I think he could be the guy for them. And if Foster does manage to get cleared, Edmunds can play outside linebacker and rush off the edge as well.

10. Oakland Raiders-Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia

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Everybody seems to single this out as a “Jon Gruden pick.” Roquan Smith is about as instinctive a linebacker as you’re going to find and he would be a leader on this Raiders’ defense. He doesn’t shed blocks very well so the defensive linemen may need to step it up a bit, but if he can go unblocked, your play is done.

11. PROJECTED TRADE: Denver Broncos (from Miami Dolphins)-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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The Broncos trade down, get an extra first rounder next year, and still get the guy they probably would’ve taken at 5 anyway in Denzel Ward. After losing Aqib Talib in the offseason, the Broncos have a need at corner opposite Chris Harris. Bradley Roby is a capable replacement, but he’s proven to be very useful at nickel and I don’t think tampering with that would be in Denver’s best interest. Ward is the best in a pretty good corner class and I think he will be a step in the right direction towards rebuilding this defense.

12. PROJECTED TRADE: Indianapolis Colts (from Buffalo Bills via Cincinnati Bengals)-Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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This isn’t the best fit in the world, as I think Fitzpatrick is best suited to be a centerfielding safety, which the Colts already have in Malik Hooker. However I think the Colts go “best player available” and find a way to get Fitzpatrick on the field any way they can. Fitzpatrick can play anywhere in the secondary so there won’t be a lack of options for him on a very thin Colts defense.

13. Washington Redskins-Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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I’ve already stated before I’m not in love with Vita Vea, but you can’t deny he’s a space clogger. The Redskins’ run defense was poor last season but adding a guy with Vea’s size could alleviate a lot of those pains. Pair him with a healthy Jonathan Allen and the Redskins could see a huge shift in the right direction in their run defense.

14. Green Bay Packers-Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

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The Packers NEED secondary help and it wouldn’t shock me to see them try and move up ahead of the Broncos to try and land Denzel Ward or Minkah Fitzpatrick. But I don’t think they’ll be successful and I think they’ll settle for Josh Jackson, whose instincts and ballhawking skills will make him a very valuable asset in Green Bay’s secondary.

15. Arizona Cardinals-Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

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Here’s a shocker that may shake the entire draft. The Cardinals are reportedly trying very hard to trade into the top 10 to land a quarterback but I don’t think they have the ammunition to do so. Therefore, I think they’ll stay put and take a chance on Lamar Jackson, one of the most exciting playmakers in the nation. The former Heisman trophy winner won’t have to start right away, as the Cardinals signed Sam Bradford to a 3 year deal in the offseason, so he can work on his passing mechanics in the meantime.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA

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Terrell Suggs will turn 36 during this NFL season so it’s high time the Ravens started grooming his replacement. Enter Davenport, who was one of the most entertaining film watches in recent memory. Granted, the talent he was going up against was subpar, but he was dominating like you’d expect a potential high draft choice to do. He’s still pretty raw, but pairing him with a great pass rusher like Suggs would be the perfect environment for him to take up the mantle as the Ravens’ pass rush extraordinaire.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Leighton Vander Esch-LB-Boise State

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This could easily be a right tackle like Mike McGlinchey, but I think the Chargers are going to go with Leighton Vander Esch here to shore up their defense. Vander Esch reportedly may go higher than a lot of people might expect and the Chargers make a lot of sense, as they need that physical run stopper in the middle of their defense.

18. Seattle Seahawks-Isaiah Wynn-OG-Georgia

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The Seahawks appear to be preparing for a rebuild after blowing up their defense and I think the most important thing for them to do is address their offensive line. Isaiah Wynn would be a godsend for Pete Carroll’s staff because the Seahawks need help all over their offensive line and Wynn can play anywhere on it, filling whichever need they so choose.

19. Dallas Cowboys-Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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The Cowboys recently met with Sutton and I think with the release of Dez Bryant, this makes him the likely pick here. While Sutton is my 4th rated receiver, I have him going to Dallas because of his similarities to Bryant and I think it’s the best fit not only for him, but for the Cowboys as well. He’s a big guy with a large catch radius and I think he and Dak Prescott could form a fun connection.

20. Detroit Lions-Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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The Lions managed to franchise tag Ziggy Ansah but even with him back for another year, pass rusher is still a major need as there’s nobody opposite him that teams need to worry about. Harold Landry has some work to do against the run but his pass rushing skills are so good that I think a pass rush-needy team like the Lions would be willing to overlook his flaws against the run.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo Bills)-James Daniels-C-Iowa

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After losing Russell Bodine in free agency, there’s a huge hole at center. Considering how thin the rest of the offensive line class is, center is actually pretty deep and Daniels is the best of the bunch. He’s easily the best athlete in this class of centers and could kick out to guard if need be. You can get a lot more creative with your blocking schemes with an athlete like Daniels, which I think could really be helpful to the development of Joe Mixon.

22. PROJECTED TRADE: Indianapolis Colts (from Buffalo Bills via Kansas City Chiefs)-Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama

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This is the other Bills pick that would be acquired for the 6th overall pick. The Colts have numerous needs so stocking up on picks would be huge. Rashaan Evans was a leader on one of the top defenses in the country and this would be the second Alabama stud the Colts would be adding to their defense if my mock draft comes true. He’s a good athlete with some injury concerns. Despite not being “the guy” last year with Alabama with Reuben Foster being around, Evans still found ways to make plays an impact the game and continued to do so when he was given the reigns as the team’s MIKE linebacker.

23. New England Patriots-Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA

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A lot of people think the Patriots made this pick to put themselves in a better position to draft Tom Brady’s successor. I don’t think they will in the first round. There’s too big a hole at left tackle that even a great coach like Dante Scarnecchia can’t fill. Kolton Miller is basically a carbon copy of the recently-departed Nate Solder and I think he can slide in Day 1 protecting Tom Brady’s blind side (and perhaps another quarterback in this draft class a few years down the road).

24. Carolina Panthers-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

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I think the fact that Calvin Ridley is 24 years old will cause him to slide. I think he’s the best receiver in this class but there are plenty of people who disagree with me and think that honor belongs to DJ Moore. But Ridley is an excellent athlete and a great route runner and the Panthers can use all the receiver help that they can get. Yes they added Torrey Smith but Smith hasn’t really been relevant for years now so I think the addition of Ridley will be really helpful for the Panthers offense.

25. Tennessee Titans-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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The Titans need a middle linebacker but there really isn’t one available here for them. This pick could be on the move, whether the Titans try and trade up for that middle linebacker or they trade back and add more draft capital. The Titans could also use some help on the defensive line to aid Jurrell Casey and Da’Ron Payne is a guy I think could be useful for them. This is a case of “best player available” as interior line wouldn’t be their biggest need, but beefing up a strength can pay dividends.

26. PROJECTED TRADE: Jacksonville Jaguars (from Atlanta Falcons)-Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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I’ve got the Jaguars sneaking up ahead of the Saints to take a tight end. Dallas Goedert is the only first round talent at the position and the Saints have shown some serious interest in tight ends after having been rumored to be trying to bring back Jimmy Graham before the Packers snatched him up. Jacksonville has none so I think they take the risk and trade up. Goedert can help round out their offense and the more help you can get Blake Bortles, the better.

27. PROJECTED TRADE: Cleveland Browns (from New Orleans Saints)-Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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With Goedert gone, I think the Saints try and build some draft capital. I think the Browns use their plethora of picks to trade back into the first round to have 3 first round picks for the second consecutive year. With Joe Thomas’ retirement, there’s a huge hole at left tackle and while there are people that think that Connor Williams should play guard, I think he’ll be fine as a left tackle and could be Thomas’ heir.

28. PROJECTED TRADE: New York Giants (from Pittsburgh Steelers)-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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The Steelers really don’t have a ton of needs so I think they listen to some trade offers. The Giants need offensive linemen and I think they’ll trade back into the first round to take Mike McGlinchey. McGlinchey is probably better suited to play right tackle but anything is better than Ereck Flowers on the left side right now so I think McGlinchey will start out there while a pretty solid Justin Pugh mans the right side.

29. PROJECTED TRADE: Atlanta Falcons (from Jacksonville Jaguars)-Taven Bryan-DL-Florida

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The only real hole for the Falcons right now is defensive tackle after the departure of Dontari Poe. Grady Jarrett doesn’t really have anyone to line up alongside him in a base 4-3 front. I have Michigan’s Maurice Hurst ranked above Taven Bryan, but the heart condition Hurst was diagnosed with at the combine has scared some teams so badly that they took him off their board entirely. Bryan isn’t too far behind Hurst from a talent standpoint though so I don’t think the Falcons will complain too much about settling for him.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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Trae Waynes’ contract is up soon and even so, he hasn’t been great for the Vikings. I think they try and draft his replacement in Isaiah Oliver, who might be a different style of player, but is perfect to cover bigger receivers in the division like Allen Robinson and Marvin Jones.

31. PROJECTED TRADE: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from New England Patriots)-Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

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The Patriots like to move their picks so I think they will listen to offers. The runningback position is currently a black hole for the Buccaneers and there will be several teams ahead of them in the second round who could jump ahead and take Derrius Guice so I think they’ll decide not to risk it and will jump ahead to take the talented back, who will almost certainly start right away for them.

32. Philadelphia Eagles-Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville

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Jaire Alexander is a really talented corner and after having to cut Daryl Worley shortly after acquiring him due to his recent arrest, corner is once again a need for the Super Bowl champs. Alexander had a big combine and his athleticism will make him popular in Philly.

Notable Players Still Available: DJ Moore-WR-Maryland, Justin Reid-S-Stanford, Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan, Sam Hubbard-EDGE-Ohio State, Mike Hughes-CB-UCF, Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

Also, as promised, here’s the link to my NFL.com Predict the Pick Draft that does not project trades and is based on what I would do given each team’s situation. I’m not sure if it will link to my actual draft or to a blank one for you to make your own. If it doesn’t link to my draft, let me know through your method of choice and I’ll send it to you. That’s going to do it for my final mock. Let me know what you think of the picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.