Sunday, December 16, 2012

Luck vs Griffin?

     Andrew Luck & RGIII after their match-up in the Pre-Season

    The NFL Rookie of The Year has been one of the hottest topics for debate during this NFL Season. There are four clear-cut favorites for the award: Doug Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins, Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts, and Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins. Doug Martin (5-9, 215) has 1647 total yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns. Alfred Morris (5-9, 218) has 1370 total yards from scrimmage and 9 touchdowns. Even though these players have remarkable stats, the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and this race will undoubtedly come down to the outstanding rookie passers.
     Andrew Luck (6-4, 234) has lead the Colts to a 9-5 record while throwing for over 3900 yards and scored 25 total touchdowns. Robert Griffin III (6-2, 217), despite his injuries, leads the NFL in Passer Rating (104.2) has thrown for nearly 3000 yards, ran for more than 700 yards, and scored 24 combined touchdowns. However, there is another player that has sneaked himself into the race, Seattle Seahawk Quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson (5-11, 206) has led his team to a 9-5 record, thrown for over 2500 yards, and scored 24 total touchdowns.

     The Case for Andrew Luck
     The Indianapolis Colts started the 2011-12 season 0-13, and finished with a grand total of 2 wins for the entire year. They drafted Andrew Luck 1st overall out Stanford University, and he immediately changed the persona of the team. Although he has the lowest passer rating of any QB on the list, he has, by far, the most passing yards and does the most for his team individually. The other QBs on this list have had outstanding performances by their running backs, while Luck's best option out of the backfield is Vick Ballard. The only thing going against Luck are his 18 interceptions, enough to tie him for the most thrown this season. 

The Case for Robert Griffin III
     There has no doubt been an RGIII frenzy in the DC-Metro ever since the Redskins traded up for the second pick in the draft this year. Local fans have dubbed him "RGesus", the savior of the Washington Redskins Franchise. Besides being the most marketable rookie, he is also the most efficient. His 4.5:1 TD:Int ratio is good for 2nd in the league among qualifying players. Unfortunately, his upside has become his downfall, as a concussion and an LCL sprain have deterred his growth and progress as an NFL player this season.

The Case for Russell Wilson
     Russell Wilson was underrated from the start. The Seahawks brought in Matt Flynn and paid him $50 million before he was even drafted. However, a combination of injuries and preseason performances propelled him into the starting line-up for the first game of the season. From the start of the season, Wilson was seen to many as a game manager, because of he was already coming into a reasonable situation and Marshawn Lynch was dominating the league. Two things have made the difference in my perception of him this season: The controversial game-winning touchdown vs the Green-Bay Packers on Monday Night Football, and his 4 touchdown explosion in the first half of today's game vs the Buffalo Bills. 

Final Prediction
     It is largely dependent on what happen's the last couple weeks of the season, but right now I believe that the front runner is Andrew Luck. He has put the team on his back and done wonders with them. This team went from being a joke around the league to being a playoff contender by selecting a single player. He has thread the needle, sacrificed his body for the sake of the team, and made game-winning plays. Andrew Luck is your 2012-13 NFL Rookie of the Year.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Around the NFL

     Robert Griffin III vs. Andrew Luck: No, these two did not face off this week, but they will always be compared, because they were taken #1 and #2 in the draft this past spring. In their NFL debuts, RGIII outperformed Luck by a mile. Under the lights in the Superdome, Griffin had the highest passer rating in the NFL this past week in a 40-32 win. Luck, however, struggled against the Bears with 3 interceptions in a 20 point loss.

     Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Carolina Panthers were a popular pick to take over the NFC South last year after their upstart season in 2011, but the Buc's defense put on a show vs Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. A team that was third in the league in rushing yards this past season went for a whopping 10 yards on the ground against Schiano's new and improved defense. Ronde Barber played with renewed energy, adding to his career sack & interception totals that are approaching record levels. Wins like this only add to the notion that the Buccaneers' quit on Raheem Morris last year. 

     Peyton Manning: The Hall of Famer came out of the gates full throttle with the Broncos on Sunday Night, throwing for over 250 yards and 2 TDs in a win over the Steelers. Any prior questions about Peyton's abilities have been answered now, and the rest of the league better be watching out for the comeback player of the year.

     Stat of the Week
     Trent Richardson: 19 carries for 39 yards. The revolutionary workout warrior, 5-9 230 lb beast averaged 2.1 yards per carry in his debut last week. This baffles em, because Alfred Morris, rookie 6th round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic, had 96 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. I know it is all subjective, but it makes you wonder when a guy that had average stats in college does so well in his pro debut. 

Notable Injuries
     A number of injuries occurred during the games last week, including an ankle sprain for Cardinals QB John Skelton, a non-throwing shoulder injury for Titans' QB Jake Locker, a mild concussion for Jets CB Darrelle Revis, and a strained hamstring for Ravens FS Ed Reed. Each of these players are critical to their team's success (or lack thereof), so fans should keep watch for the Thursday practices and the game time decisions.

Literally Sports Game of the Week
     Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers: Easy pick for game of the week, as this is not only one of the biggest rivalries in the NFL, but it has playoff implications, and could quite possibly give the 15-1 Packers an 0-2 start to this season. Cutler, with Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, and Alshon Jeffrey, is now equipped to battle Rodgers, whose receiving core features Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and Jermichael Finley. Think back to last year: before Caleb Hanie came in at QB and ruined the season, the Bears were 7-3 and riding a 5-game win streak. Look out Cheeseheads, Da Bears are on their way. My pick: Chicago wins, 31-27.

Plays of the Week
  1. RGIII's first touchdown
  2. Tracy Porter's interception, similar to this interception that happened against Peyton Manning.
  3. Peyton Manning's 400th career touchdown pass, another one reminiscent of a past game
  4. David Akers showing off the huge leg.
  5. Randy Moss, its comeback season, and he's back.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

2012-13 NFL Season Preview

     This season looks like it will be more of the same. Patriots, Packers Ravens, 49ers, Saints, Texans, Lions, Steelers, and Broncos. I expect all of those playoff teams to be playing in January once again. There are a few teams that have a chance to improve big time: the Panthers, the Bears, the Chiefs, and the Eagles. For the past few years, the NFL has been promoting "The Year of the Quarterback," and this year expects to feature even more passing than last year. Adrian Peterson is a game-time decision for the week as he continues to recover from knee surgery, Trent Richardson had arthoscopic surgery a few weeks ago, MJD just finished up a holdout situation, and Arian Foster has gone vegan. Meanwhile, the quarterback crops are only getting stronger. Roethlisberger has gotten healthy, Peyton is healthy again, Schaub is back in the Texan's line-up, and another great group of QBs were in the draft this year, headlined by Andrew Luck & Robert Griffin III.

     As far as this season's outcome, I have a hard time believing that this season will not be all about the Patriots and Packers. They were, on paper, the two best teams in the NFL last year, and they improved their defenses in the offseason. I am a firm believer that Tom Brady will retire from this league as the greatest to ever take the field, but the Super Bowl jinx is no myth, and the Patriots' fans can expect another dissapointing ending to their season. The Packers, behind the arm of Aaron Rodgers, are primed for another run at the title, but the Lions and Bears will have a lot to say about that. The teams at the bottom of the league do not look to have enough firepower to overcome the perennial winners, but the other playoff teams certainly do.

     Now, for the playoff predictions. NFC North: Packers. NFC East: Eagles. NFC West: 49ers. NFC South: Saints. Wildcard: Bears and Lions. AFC North: Steelers. AFC East: Patriots. AFC West: Broncos. AFC South: Texans. Wildcard: Ravens and Jets. NFC Championship: Eagles vs. Bears . AFC Championship: Texans vs. Steelers. Super Bowl: Steelers vs. Eagles. Champion: Philadelphia Eagles. Michael Vick, after years filled with injury, jail time, and scrutiny, will carry the Philadelphia Eagles to their first ever Super Bowl win. Expect Vick to find a way to survive this season, and the "dream team" to make alot more big plays on offense.

     This NFL Season is definitely shaping up to be a wild one. Randy Moss is back, Vick is healthy, the Saints JUST got their players back, and Tebow Mania has moved its way up to the most populated city in the USA. Good luck football fans, the NFL Season is officially here. ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Is There a Racial Element Involved in Sports?

     Race has been an issue since the beginning of history. In America, it began with the Triangular Trade & enslavement of Africans & Native Americans. Although there has been an infinite amount of progress over the past 400 years, it is still a topic that is debated upon day in and day out. Whether we are talking about politics: with our Commander in Chief, music: with the dynamic between artists singing Country, Pop, R&B, and Rap, or sports: with the growing amount of diversity in competitive athletics worldwide, race is always a topic that is brought up. Earlier this week on ESPN First Take with Steven A. Smith and Skip Bayless, the panelists implied that Redskins' coach Mike Shanahan drafted Kirk Cousins in the Fourth Round of the 2012 NFL Draft to sabotage the career of RGIII, because he does not believe an African-American can be successful playing the Quarterback position. Is it possible that, in the world we live in today, this is still a serious problem?

Italian Soccer Star Mario Balotelli
     In my opinion, American sports have much less problems with racism than those of other countries. In actuality, that state of mind is racist, or at least egocentric. Balotelli, a black Italian, was the top soccer player in a predominately Hispanic and Latino soccer world this summer. A basketball player from Tunisia asked Kobe Bryant for an autograph, the ultimate symbol of respect from a competitor. Players of nearly every sport from all over the world worked well in the Olympics, but not without some controversy. Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was kicked off the Olympic team for mocking African immigrants. Swiss soccer player Morganella Michel described Koreans as retards after losing to them in a group-stage match. The world still has a long way to go before everyone sees each other as equals, but what can be done to prevent racism and stereotypes from showing themselves in athletics?

Argentina, led by Manu Ginobili, won the Gold Medal for Men's Olympic Basketball in 2004

     International competition is growing. At one point, the USA completely dominated the rest of the world in almost every sport, and it showed in the Olympics. According to numerous compilations made by websites, including Stat Silk, the US has more than double the amount of Gold Medals of any other country in the world. In recent years, however, China, Russia, and Great Brittain have been competing much better, and the sports are becoming much more even. In fact, although America did win this summer, China had the most gold medals in 2008, and Canada had the most gold medals in the 2010 Winter Games. I believe that the way to eliminate racism in athletics is for parity to occur at the national level. There have been some anomalies throughout history, but for the most part the US dominates in basketball, China dominates in diving, Kenya & Ethiopia dominate long-distance running, and Jamaica has recently taken over short-distance running. In the near future, athletes to need to start breaking the mold, going against the odds, and doing things in a different way.

     The world of today is about creation, innovation, and opportunity. People are born to create opportunities for themselves through innovation. A game changer is a person who is a visionary. Magic Johnson was known as the first of his kind, a point forward. LeBron James is changing the way the game of basketball is played, and he has allegedly invented the power guard position. Michael Vick's dynamic play at the Quarterback position paved the way for an age of athletic, running QB's. On a more negative note, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, & Mark Mcguire changed the game of baseball by starting the Steroid Era. Now, it is time for athletics on a larger scale to see a change. European basketball teams need to find a to start competing. USA Men's Soccer needs to find there way back into the mix of things. The NBA is already talking about starting a World Cup of Basketball in order to make way for a younger wave of Olympians, and Roger Goodell has stated on numerous occasions that he wants to have an NFL team in Canada, and an NFL game in China. The world continues to become a better place, and it is time for our role models in the athletics to join the push to make a difference. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Reviewing & Previewing The Summer Olympiad

     Alot of memories were made at the XXX Summer Olympiad. As for the United States, many things went right and a few things went wrong out in London.  The Women's Gymnastics team did amazingly well, we won 3 Gold Medals in Tennis, and our Decathletes won Gold and Silver. However, our flag bearer, Mariel Zagunis, failed to medal, Ryan Lochte proved to be a bust as the best swimmer in the world, and neither men's volleyball team was able to earn a medal. Overall, the 2012 Olympics were a success, but the question we are left with now is: Who will be America's #1 Star heading into Rio de Janeiro?

     In this year's olympics, Lochte vs. Phelps was the #1 American storyline, along with the 1992 Dream Team vs. 2012 Olympic Basketball Team debate. By 2016, Phelps will have been retired from swimming, Lochte will be washed up, and the Basketball Team will have a new coach and a host of new players. Advertising and Marketing companies will need to find some new stars to promote the games in Brazil, and America's continued success has provided a number of promising candidates.

     Based on the results of this year's games, there are a few leading options to be future superstars: Missy Franklin, the 17 year old swimmer that ended up with 4 gold medals and 2 world records, Ashton Eaton, the 24 year old decathlete who has claimed the title of "Best Athlete in the World" for the next 4 years, and Alex Morgan, the 23 year old striker for the gold medal-winning US soccer team. Each player has their own advantage: Missy will undoubtedly get the most medals, Morgan will be playing the world's #1 sport, and Ashton Eaton will participate in the most events.

     My best guess is that there will be no clear-cut #1 draw. Either way, Usain Bolt will find a way to steal the show from all of them anyway. The technology of today and tomorrow will allow us to watch each athlete as they compete, especially since Brazil is only one hour ahead of the Eastern Time Zone, compared to being 5 hours ahead in London. I expect nothing but the best from the United States, and if I am lucky I will be blogging from Rio when August 2016 rolls around.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Training Camp: Things to Watch

     Training Camp is the official start to the new NFL Season. Forget about Kyle Williams' inability to return punts in the NFC Championship, Wes Welkers' "Super Blunder", and Lee Evans' catch that wasn't in the AFC Championship. Each team will start this season with a record of 0-0. However, although this season will be very different from last year's, there will be many similarities as well.

     While the players and coaches were able to get full offseasons, there is still a lockout issue, this time with the referees. There is a young, rising star at quarterback in the NFC South, but it is no longer Josh Freeman of the Buccaneers, it is Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers. Tim Tebow still comes into the season as the backup QB, but he is playing for the Jets instead of the Broncos.

     Nowadays when people say that Drew Brees runs the Saints' offense they are almost speaking literally, as their head coach is suspended for the entire 2012-13 season, and their offensive coordinator is suspended for half of the season. Peyton Manning is back in the NFL, but he is no longer an Indianapolis Colt.

New Head Coaches
     New Orleans Saints: Joe Vitt
     Oakland Raiders: Dennis Allen
     Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Mularkey
     Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Schiano
     St. Louis Rams: Jeff Fisher
     Kansas City Chiefs: Romeo Crennel
     Miami Dolphins: Joe Philbin
     Indianapolis Colts: Chuck Pagano

1st Round Picks at QB
     Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck
     Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III
     Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill
     Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden

The biggest thing about training camp, however, is the position battles. Competition is the best way to force your players to improve. NFL Head Coaches know this, and therefore do not declare starters for many of their positions until the preseason is over.
Top Position Battles
     Seattle Seahawks Starting QB: Tavaris Jackson vs. Matt Flynn vs. Russell Wilson
            Projected Starter: Matt Flynn, he started one game last year and threw for more TD's than any other QB in Packer history for a single game.
     Tampa Bay Buccaneers Starting RB: LeGarrette Blount vs. Doug Martin
          Projected Starter: Doug Martin, Blount fumbles too much for Coach Schiano's liking, and Martin is reminiscent of Schiano's former player Ray Rice.
    New York Jets Starting QB: Mark Sanchez vs. Tim Tebow
          Projected Starter: Mark Sanchez, this is not much of a battle, but the fans will play it up to be one. In the first couple days of training camp, Tebow has been an embarassment as fans have reportedly been heckling him during practice.
     Cleveland Browns Starting QB: Brandon Weeden vs. Colt Mccoy
         Projected Starter: Brandon Weeden, The Cleveland Browns' organization essentially gave up on McCoy after his father complained about a concussion his son received against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
     Arizona Cardinals Starting QB: John Skelton vs. Kevin Kolb
          Projected Starter: John Skelton, Cardinals' coach Ken Whisenhunt does not have times to play mind games with his team. Kolb might be making alot of money, but Skelton has proven to work better in this offensive system, and this coach needs to win games.

 Taking into account all of these changes around the league this season, my real question is: Who is going to make the biggest splash this season?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dream Team vs Redeem Team

     Every 4 years, the US Men's Basketball Olympic Team is compared to the 1992 "Dream Team". Because of some recent comments by USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo, that debate has new life in the world of sports. All I have heard on ESPN Radio and 106.7 The Fan the past couple days is the idea that nobody will ever be better than the Dream Team. However, this is the exact reason why they are at fault. Claiming that no team will ever rival them in talent tells me that they have neglected to do their research. Implying that things have not gotten better over time in an age of Tweets, iPhones, and Snuggies is utter stupidity.

     For argument's sake, I will take into account the fact that Colangelo was referring to an injury-free 2012 team, known in 2008 as the 'Redeem Team', and I can only detail the matchups between the starting line-ups.

  Dream Team                                Swag Team
Earvin Johnson (6-8, 215)                 LeBron James (6-8, 250)
Michael Jordan (6-6, 195)                 Kobe Bryant (6-6, 200)
Larry Bird (6-9, 220)                         Kevin Durant (6-9, 235)
Charles Barkley (6-6, 252)                Dwyane Wade (6-4, 220)
David Robinson (7-1, 235)                 Dwight Howard (6-11, 265)

     LeBron "King" James vs. Earvin "Magic" Johnson
     Easiest match-up to judge in my opinion, because in 1992 Magic was 32, 1 year removed from the NBA, and had already contracted HIV. Clyde Drexler went as far as to say that people felt sorry for him. LeBron James, on the other hand, is 27, the reigning league MVP, the reigning Finals MVP, and would bring a sort of athleticism and lack of regard for human life that Magic would not be able to handle at this stage in his career. Advantage: Redeem Team, it doesn't get any better than LeBron right now.

Kobe Bryant "The Black Mamba" vs. Michael Jordan "His Airness"
     In a word: Jordan. Kobe has not shown his age as of yet, but I am confident that Michael would find a way to bring it out of him. At this stage, Michael would have had the advantage on Kobe in every way: athletically, fundamentally, and internally. Kobe's best attributes are his heart and determination, but that would make no difference against Jordan. Advantage: Dream Team, 'His Airness' is the greatest there ever was.

Kevin Durant "The Durantula"  vs. Larry Bird "The Hick from French Lick"
     Larry Bird was 35 years old when he played on the Dream Team. There is no way that he could have handled Kevin Durant at that stage of his career based on athletic ability alone. However, Durant has a tendency to be soft on the boards, so he could become a victim at times. Both players have tremendous outside shots, but KD is coming off 3 straight scoring titles. These players are pretty similar in a number of ways, but the old man is no match for the kid. Advantage: Redeem Team, Durantula is a superstar on the rise.

Dwyane Wade "Flash" vs. Charles Barkley "The Round Mound of Rebound"
     It seems unconventional to put Wade up against a power forward, but other than LeBron he is the only player with the versatility to defend a player with Chuck's offensive skill set. Both players are around the same age, and Barkley's overt physicality would look to cancel out Wade's extreme quickness. This would probably be the most intriguing matchup, as both players are known to have quick tempers, and in a 7 game series a fight is bound to happen. Advantage: Dream Team, I firmly believe in Dwyane Wade as the most creative talent in the league. Although he has a disadvantage with his size, he has always found a way to be efficient and effective. However, Sir Charles is simply too strong to allow Wade to get in the paint or be stopped inside the paint.

David Robinson "The Admiral" vs. Dwight Howard "Superman"
      The Admiral is by far the better player in this match-up, but he's also on the lighter side. In 1992, Robinson weighed in at 30 pounds less than Howard despite being 2 inches taller. Superman's super athleticism is enough for most opponents, and despite his lack of basketball skills he would match-up well with Robinson because of his strength and leaping ability. Advantage: None, I truly believe that Howard's 30 pound advantage down low cancels out the 2-inch difference.

The Verdict
     Count that up as 2 wins for the Redeem Team, 2 wins for Dream Team, and 1 tie between the two. Make no mistake, these two starting fives would play each other extremely close, but the bench players of the Dream Team would undoubtedly make the difference. My only point, is to say that complete and utter dismissal of new school vs. old school is foolish. These athletes grew up with athletic trainers, get paid 8 figures per year, and are still changing the game. LeBron is the new age version of Magic: a bigger, stronger, faster guard that cannot be stopped. Kobe is the new version of Jordan: a fearless player with undeniable heart. There are endless other examples of 21st century counterparts. Teams in this day and age do not dominate international competition, because there are so many international players in the NBA. Players like Steve Nash (2-Time MVP), Dirk Nowitski (MVP & Finals MVP), and Tony Parker (Finals MVP) did not exist back in the 90s. Say what you want about the "Golden Age" of the NBA, you can give me LeBron James, D-Wade, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Dwight Howard against anybody and I will almost certainly choose them.

Monday, July 2, 2012

LeBron James: All Time Great?

     In any sport, the all-time greats are ultimately measured by their individual success, whether it be in Most Valuable Player Awards, Cy Youngs, World Championships, or Grand Slam titles. With his first NBA Championship, LeBron James moved into a class with some of the greatest players to ever pick up a basketball. From a historical perspective, he has not been as successful as the legends of old, but a modern approach to the subject sheds a much different light.
      LeBron James, in my opinion, is the greatest athlete of all time. Measurements of his size range anywhere from 6-8 250 to 6-9 270, his vertical leap is greater than 40 inches, and his speed is other worldly. He was a 2-time National Player of the Year in High School Basketball, 2 time All-State Wide Receiver in High School Football, and now he is having the same type of success in the NBA. He might not have the size of Bill Russell, the skills of Magic Johnson, or the heart of Michael Jordan, but his athletic ability is undeniable.

     The most fundamental skills in basketball are dribbling, passing, shooting, and defending.As far as dribbling, passing, and defending, LeBron is second to none in the NBA today. However, his shooting ability is what holds him back from dominating scoreboards on a consistent basis. Although James averages over 27 ppg for his career, it pales in comparison to Jordan's 10 scoring titles and career average above 30 ppg. The mid-range jumper, at times, is the most imporant shot, because you simply cannot get to the basket every single time. MJ and Kobe both developed go to moves that allow them to score efficiently. Olajuwan (The Dream Shake) and Jabaar (The Sky-Hook) used their post game to develop such moves as well. The "crab dribble" LeBron does to get to the basket, is an invention of the mind, and quite frankly, should be considered a traveling violation. Until LeBron develops a move he can do consistently to get open shots, his perimeter shooting will continue to struggle, and he will regret that in his later years.

     Intangibles are what define champions. Heart. Hardwork. Determination. The "it" factor. Swag. It has been called many things over the years, but the real question is: "How bad do you want it? " Michael Jordan wanted it so bad that he scored 38 points in the 'flu game' where he had to be carried off the court by Scottie Pippen. Magic Johnson wanted it so bad he played center in place of the injured Kareem in his rookie year in the closeout game of the NBA finals and scored 42 points to go along with 15 rebounds and 7 assists in the Laker victory. LeBron James folded twice in the Finals, but proved his toughness by fighting off cramps to hit the go-ahead 3 pointer in Game 4 of the NBA Finals this year.

     Overall, it is tough to judge players against each other that played in different eras. Russell's 11 Championships, Jordan's 10 scoring titles, and LeBron's 3 MVPs at the mid-point of his career are all outstanding feats, but they never played against one another, so they are tough to compare. The only thing that is universal is hardware, so I tend to use MVPs and Final MVPs as measuring tools. Only 8 players in the history of the NBA have at least 3 MVPs and at least 1 Finals MVP: Jordan, Russell, Wilt, Kareem, Magic, Bird, Moses Malone, and LeBron. In my opinion, that list is as close as there is to the best 8-man rotation of All-Time. The 8 greatest players in NBA History.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Coronation of King James

     LeBron James has been the best player in the NBA regular season since the 2004-05 season when he averaged 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. However, postseason failure has followed him year-in and year-out. After 9 years of pain and suffering, King James finally has an opportunity to claim his crown. LeBron has homecourt, momentum, and karma on his side, what more could he ask for?

LeBron & Wade after last year's Title loss

     Game 5 in Miami should be the final game of this series. The Miami Heat, as a whole, are better than the Oklahoma City Thunder. They proved it last Thursday, they proved it on Sunday, they proved it yesterday, and it will be confirmed tomorrow. Last year in the Finals, the Heat ran up against savvy veterans in Dirk Nowitski, Jason Kidd, and Jason Terry that had previous finals expirience. They know what it takes to win, and they are doing just that.

The Big Three's Introduction

     Once this series is over, the real fun will start. The reason the whole world hates LeBron is not, because he predicted 8 NBA Championships, but because that kind of success really is a possibility. Nobody would care if Metta World Peace had done that when he came to the Lakers, because they are not a threat to do so. Once Michael Jordan broke into the realm of champions, he did not stop winning until he retired for a second time at age 35. At age 27, LeBron James has 6-8 more seasons of dominance left in him. By 2020, LeBron James could be a 5-time MVP and 6-Time Champion just like MJ.

King James

    The World's worst nightmare is now here. LeBron has done everything that he needs to do, and now his team is in perfect position to win the NBA title. The Haters have prepared excuses: "What about that foul on Durant in Game 2?", or "LeBron was on the sideline at the end of Game 4", but in all honesty, none of that even matters. He has done great things against the Pacers, against the Celtics, and against the Thunder, all series' in which the Heat trailed at some point. In 10-15 years, when LeBron, D-Wade, and maybe even Chris Bosh are making Hall of Fame speeches, the only things that will be remembered are the facts. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Plight of Floyd Mayweather

Via Benjamin McKnight III

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Literally Sports.

Anyone who pays attention to boxing, or sports news outlet for that matter, is completely aware that Floyd Mayweather has been out of commission since June 1st, 2012. And for those who still aren't aware, here is what happened; back on December 21st, 2011, Floyd Joy Mayweather, Jr., was sentenced to 90 days in jail for domestic battery charges pressed by his ex-girlfriend. However, Mayweather didn't go to jail right away; his lawyers reached an agreement with the judge to postpone his term so that he could squeeze in one more boxing match. So, 27 days after beating Miguel Cotto in a split decision to win the WBA Super Light Middleweight title, Floyd began to serve his jail sentence.
     Now, just over two weeks after his time behind bars began, his lawyers are seeking for a change from the solitary confinement that he is currently in to house arrest, according to the Associated Press. Their reasoning; the lack of quality in living conditions, food, and no access to the prison’s workout facilities, as well as his deteriorating emotional state, is putting the rest of his career in jeopardy. Mayweather’s personal physician, Dr. Robert Voy, estimates that Floyd is taking in less than 800 calories per day, which is much less than the 3000-4000 he normally intakes. He also states that Mayweather isn’t drinking enough water, though that is by personal choice; the prison doesn’t give him access to bottled water, and he normally “doesn’t drink tap water.” It has even been claimed that his jail cell, which is 7x12 feet, is “barely enough floor space for pushups and sit-ups;” he can forget about roller skating to whatever part of the cell he needs to get to. The prosecutors have argued that his declining health is all by choice, because he apparently refuses to eat much of the food offered in the prison, in addition to his lack of preference for tap water. Talk about a drastic change in lifestyle.
     From a personal standpoint, I have never been of Floyd Mayweather. He is the type of athlete whose arrogance is far from entertaining, contrary to the likes of Muhammad Ali, and his oh so often ignorant statements, coupled with his reckless use of his money, makes him a living stereotype as a Black man. Regardless of anyone’s like, or lack thereof, for Mr. Mayweather, one thing should be unanimously agreed upon; he deserves the time he got for his offense. Any attack on another person is serious, especially one who is obviously weaker that the attacker, and deserves punishment. In a case like this, though, it doesn’t hurt to wonder how much more time Floyd would have received had he been an Average Joe with a nine-to-five job and a one-car garage. In the past, I have seen other athletes in the past get preferential treatment for a serious offense that would normally garner much more time if the offender wasn’t famous, such as the case of New England Patriots wide-receiver Donte Stallworth. I’ve had multiple adults tell me that “Status is everything,” and that statement always holds true when I read a new story on a celebrity getting in trouble with the law. Heck, even the famous people themselves acknowledge that such statements are true, just ask Oklahoma Raiders defensive lineman Christo Bilukidi.
          I honestly believe that Floyd Mayweather is just experiencing a big culture shock in jail. Thanks to his constant boasting of his posh living space (thank you, MTV Cribs), we all know that he isn’t used to the type of living conditions presented in a prison, much less in solitary confinement. Now he wants out, and his lawyers are fighting to “save his career.” Quite honestly, I think he needs to stay right where he is for the remaining 70-plus days of his sentence. He hasn’t even been in long enough to display “good behavior” and get out early. This has nothing to do with my distaste for Floyd, but everything to do with fairness in the justice system for everyone, from your lower class citizens to the global icons. Our justice system, in most cases, treats our celebrities as if they are above the law, which results in many of them doing things that you wouldn’t see a normal citizen do, like a highway death race. The only way to minimize the foul activity by America’s stars, and show that the American justice system can be fair more often than not, is to treat them like a normal citizen when they screw up. Obviously, those who are big fans of Mayweather want to see him released so they can watch him box again. Just look on Twitter, and you’ll find a large amount of “#FreeFloyd” tweets. But when fandom gets in the way of one’s vision of what’s right and wrong, then there’s a problem. If Floyd Mayweather were to hit my mother, best believe I’d have a big problem with him (that is, if my father didn’t get to him first). So, why in God’s name do I see people saying that Mayweather should be out of jail? He committed a crime, and now he’s serving the time as a result of it. This isn’t a case where there was a faulty argument or lack of evidence that would lead anybody to logically believe that he should be free. It was a clear cut, trial-verdict-sentence case that ended in him being guilty. If the man sitting next to me on the bus were to commit the same offense, I’d want to see him in punished by the law as well; no crime should ever go unpunished.
     At this point, I am very sure that Mayweather is having second thoughts on laying hands upon the mother of his children. Maybe this time behind bars will be a lesson learned for him and teach him not to make the same mistake. Nevertheless, he is not exempt from the punishment as a result of his action. Come August 30th, I’ll gladly watch Floyd Mayweather Jr., walk out of prison as a free man.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Baseball's Rising Stars

Bryce Harper & Stephen Strasburg

     Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are arguably the two brightest young stars in Major League Baseball, and they are playing on the same team, the Washington Nationals. The "Natinals" of years past are gone, and a new beginning has come. After two years of the worst record in baseball, they selected with the #1 overall pick two outstanding prospects in Strasburg & Harper. Both players have proven their potential as of late, and that has resulted in a 1 game division lead through 56 games. 

     Right-Handed Pitcher Stephen Strasburg (6'4, 220) was drafted number 1 overall in the 2009 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals. However, soon after his Major League debut a year later, his pitching style "The Inverted W" led to an injury that required Tommy-John Surgery. Now, in 2012, he is back in action and in rare form. As of June 9th, 2012, Strasburg leads the MLBs with 92 strikeouts, has a record of 7-1, and an astonishing 2.41 ERA.  In fact, his only loss on the season came in a game where an unfortunate incident with "Hot Stuff" ointment caused a poor pitching performance. Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, To the analytical eye, he throws his four-seam fastball up to 97 mph, the two-seamer 91-93 mph with late life, he has absolute confidence in the breaking ball, and a change-up." The statistics show that most players just cannot get a hit off of him. 

     Bryce Harper (6-3 205) is an amazing left-handed talent that could realistically play any and every position on the field. In High School, he was a pitcher with a 95 MPH fastball, and a strong-armed catcher that could throw out runners at  any time. He got his GED at the age of 17, enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada and in his only year broke the school record with a mind-boggling 31 home runs, vaporizing the previous record of 12. Harper was drafted number 1 overall in the 2010 MLB draft by the Washington Nationals. After spending a year in the minors, he was rushed to the majors a month early due to an injury to Nats star Ryan Zimmerman. So far, Harper is hitting .285 with 6 Home Runs and 17 RBI. To put this in perspective, he is ahead of where Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. were at this point in their careers.

     I believe that these two young players are well on their way to great careers. Strasburg should be voted to the All-Star game next month, and Bryce Harper has the potential to be voted Rookie of the Year. The Nationals may not have known just what they were getting themselves into when they drafted these guys, but they are already reaping the benefits. Look for alot more out of of both Harper & Strasburg in the future: Home Run Titles, Golden Gloves, Triple Crowns, Cy Youngs, MVPs, and World Series'.

Word to the Wise: Get out and see these guys as soon as you can, because the tickets are selling out as soon as they are available, and the prices are rising as we speak. The Sports Junkies, a DC sports radio show, are already using Harper's name for a line of "Cised for Bryce" T-shirts.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Can The Heat Make It Without Bosh?

The Match-up
     Game 5 of the Pacers-Heat series is tomorrow, and the series is tied 2-2. Conventional wisdom says that the winner of Game 5 in a 2-2 series will win it 9 out of 10 times, so that makes this a pivotal game in the grand scheme of things. The Heat overwhelmed the Pacers in game 1. The Pacer's size dominated the Heat in game 2, and their scoring ability crippled the Heat in game 3. LeBron and D-Wade carried the Heat to victory in Game 4. Last year in the playoffs, the Heat won each of their first 3 series' in 5 games. That will not happen this year, but what will?

The Good
     In short, anything is possible. Two scenarios could play out the rest of the series: LeBron plays like the MVP and Wade plays like he did in the old days, or LeChoke's decision comes back to haunt him again, this video is played across the world to Mock the Heat, and Dwyane Wade continues shooting [see: Missing] jump shots. If LeBron and Wade both play well for 4 quarters, the Heat's potential is limitless. Think about it: A finals MVP and a league MVP playing together in the primes of their careers? Its scary to think of how they play at their best. Unfortunately, the on-court chemistry between them isn't anything special to watch for the most part. They have highlights like this, or that, or even this, but their lack of consistency will be the death of them.

The Bad
     On the other hand, if LeChoke shows up, and the team continues to look out of sync, BIG changes will be in store for them. So many questions: Will the 'big three' be split up? Will Spoelstra be fired? Is the experiment a failure? Can this group of guys ever win a championship? Although they have experienced success to a certain extent, this team was built with championship aspirations, and if they continue to lose those goals will never be achieved. 

The Verdict
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are both top 5 players in the NBA today. Without Chris Bosh, they have no other all-star level contributors on the team. However, true greatness is shown during adversity. The Miami Heat have to prove that they are truly a great team by winning despite the injuries.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Human Error: The Driving Force of Interest in Sports

     If it wasn't hard to make it in professional sports, every two-bit athlete would get their 15 minutes of fame. Although it is tougher in some sports than it is in others, consistency is hard to achieve in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA, and every other sports league out there. Personally, I believe that it is the most important factor in achieving greatness. However, human error effects our consistency, and creates parity within each respective league. The most insignificant changes,  can have a "butterfly effect" on players, coaches, and teams, and it shows most clearly when the competition is at its peak.

Parity within the Leagues
     In many of the professional leagues around the world, the hardest thing for players and teams to do is be consistent. This is most common in MLB, NHL, and PGA. Player and team statistics can vary greatly from game to game, tournament to tournament, and season to season. The Boston Red Sox are consistently one of the biggest spenders in the MLBs. Last year, they had a 9 game lead in the playoff race, but failed to make the playoffs after going 7-20 in their last 27 games. In the NHL, the Bruins are a great example. After winning the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011, they were unable to defeat the Washington Capitals in the first round of this year's playoffs. Rory McIlroy is ranked the #1 golfer in the world, but he failed to make the cut at the player's championship this past weekend. The margin of error for these players and teams is so small that they can miss out on championships and cause players to miss out on individual accolades.

 Injuries to top performers
     In basketball and football, there are less problems with consistency for the best in the game, but more with injuries. Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Peyton Manning, and Adrian Peterson are just a few of the All-Pro athletes that suffered major injuries and had to miss time during their respective seasons. Their teams took hits because of it, and they all face tough roads to recovery. With players taking shots at other players, anything can happen on the injury front. Players need protection, but to be honest, the unpredictable nature of the competition helps add to the excitement. If Gronkowski were healthy in the Superbowl, the Giants wouldn't have stood a chance against the Patriots offense. If the Red Sox weren't eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the dugout, they could have been good enough to win the World Series. If Tiger Wood's wife wouldn't have attacked him with a golf club, he may have broken Jack Nicholas' record by now. However, those events did happen, and had a major impact on the world of sports today.

The Funny Stuff
     In essence, human error is an intricate part of professional sports. The "holy roller", "wide right", and many other plays. In the '99 US open, all Jean Van De Velde had to do was double bogey the 18th hole to win: he triple bogeyed and later lost the tournament in a playoff. In the '06 Winter Olympics, Lindsey Jacobellis had ALMOST sealed the gold medal in the snowboarding finals, but a distasteful taunt led to a fall and a silver medal. In the '72 Summer Olympics, Rey Robinson and Eddie Hart were co-favorites to win the 100 meter dash: both runners missed the race due to a mix-up with the starting time for the race. Chris Webber called a timeout when his team had none left in a one possession game with less than 20 seconds to go in the '93 NCAA Tournament: his team lost. Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield. Floyd Mayweather vs Victor Ortiz. Vikings with 12 men on the field in the '10 NFC Championship. The Play. Steve Bartman interferes with a ball that would have gotten his team a critical out. Fred Brown passes the ball to James Worthy in the '82 NCAA Title.Tony Romo drops the hold in the '07 NFC Wildcard game. Bill Buckner lets the ball roll through his legs.These major gaffes go down in history as some of the biggest moments in sports history, and help build our love for the game.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What is the NFL's Formula?

     While watching the NFL Draft this past weekend, I took note of one of the New England Patriots' late round picks. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Unniversity of Nebraska was picked in the 7th round, pick 224.As a senior, he was 1st team all Big 12 and voted Defensive Back of the year. At the combine, he measured in at 5'10, 204, and ran a 4.55 in the 40 yard dash, along with posting a 37 inch vertical leap. Based on the numbers, I cannot find a reason why this athlete was not selected in one of the 1st 2 rounds of the draft. So, what is the NFL's formula for selecting players?

     Dennard's case is not an anomaly, as many of the best college players did not hear their names called this past weekend. In Dennard's case, he supposedly fell in the draft due to character concerns, but didn't Janoris Jenkins get drafted in the second round? There is no true rhyme or reason to the way players are selected by the NFL. The only way that I can explain it is media hype. Media hype won RGIII the Heisman Trophy and drove him up draft boards. It also hurts people like Case Keenum and Kellen Moore. In an article by Yahoo! Sports, I read that Brok Osweiler, 6'7 242 2nd round pick by the Denver Broncos, threw for 5082 yards in his career at Arizona State, while Keenum, 6'0 208 undrafted, had two individual seasons at Houston where he threw for more than 5082 yards. However, it does not stop there. Players are being overlooked at every position. WR/KR Eric Page was a first team All-American in 2010-11, he went undrafted. Levy Adcock is a 6-6 322 pound left tackle that was 2-time All Big 12, nobody called his phone this weekend. Derrick Shelby is a 6-3 271 defensive end that was 1st team all Pac 12, he is now an undrafted free agent. JK Schaffer is a 6-1 232 outside linebacker that was 1st team all Big East, but he wasn't even invited to the NFL combine.

     The productive players I could name are countless, but the ones that get drafted are picked based on their potential. College is seen by many outsiders as a feeder system to the NFL, but in all actuality, they are two very different entities. Many of the players that are successful in college will not be successful in the NFL, and some players that were not as productive in college (See: Tom Brady) will do better in the NFL. All men are wired differently. Some can't handle the college lifestyle, with studying and school work, others can't handle the grueling "13 month season" in the NFL. Some people are beneficiaries of college schemes, others work well in pro-style offenses. Some players take advantage of weak competition, others play their best against the most elite athletes in the world.

     Predicting what someone will do when they take their game to the next level is a hard thing to do. Because of this, their are combines, pro days, and interviews. Teams are looking at game tape, injury reports, police reports, medical records, and intelligence tests to find out which players would be good fits for their team, and they still are wrong nearly half the time. Sometimes the scouts make mistakes: Tom Brady was drafted in the 6th round, pick 199, after Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger, and Spergon Wynn. Tim Couch, David Carr, and Jamarcus Russell were all drafted number 1 overall, and none of them threw more touchdowns than interceptions during their NFL careers.

Bottom Line: An NFL Scouts' judgment may not seem to have any sort of viable logic to it, but that is only because they are forever adapting to the changing nature of the league.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Are you Excited for the Draft?

DJ Steve Porter's "NFL Draft Remix"

Get hyped NFL Fans! Its finally here. Who will your team pick? You can make as many mock drafts as you want, the only way to know what's happening is to tune in to ESPN tonight at 8pm, tomorrow at 7pm, and Saturday at noon. We know the top 2 picks, but what about the other 30 in the first round?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Literally Sports' Official NFL Mock Draft

     1. Indianapolis Colts - QB Andrew Luck, Stanford (6'4, 234, 4.67)
Colts fans have been waiting for this pick ever since last preseason. After an abysmal 2-14 season, Colts owner Jim Irsay confirmed suspicions by releasing Peyton Manning. A new era is beginning in the city of Indianapolis, one that will bring Luck to the whole state of Indiana.

     2. Washington Redskins - QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor (6'2, 223, 4.41)
Ever since the trade went through that gave the Redskins the number 2 overall pick, their fans have been clamoring for RGIII to come to town. It looks like their wish will be granted on Thursday, and all may soon be well in DC.

     3. Minnesota Vikings - OT Matt Kalil, Southern California (6'6, 306, 4.99)

Last year, the Vikings drafted Christian Ponder in the first round. A questionable pick, but nonetheless, that is who they have invested their money in, and that is who they are stuck with. What is the next logical decision? Draft a big guy to protect his blindside.

     4. Cleveland Browns - RB Trent Richardson, Alabama (5'9, 228, 4.45)

Peyton Hillis was the heart of the Cleveland Browns' offense during the 2010-11 season. In 2011-12, he was sidelined by the Madden Curse, and now he is off the team. They need to find a workhorse to replace him, and Trent Richardson is the right man for the job.

     5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - CB Morris Claiborne, Louisiana State (5'11, 188, 4.50)

There are a lot of problems in the Buccaneers' defensive backfield, most notable are Aqib Talib, who may or may not be going to jail later this summer, and Ronde Barber, who is so old that the only way to put his age into perspective is to tell you that his twin brother retired 6 years ago. They need corners, and Claiborne is a pretty good one.

     6. St. Louis Rams - WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (6'0, 207, 4.46)

Sam Bradford got pummeled last year, and it would make a lot of sense to draft an offensive lineman right here. Since there are no O-lineman worthy of this selection, there is a good chance that the Rams will trade down, but if they don't, Justin Blackmon would be the perfect fit at Wideout to stretch the field for a team that finished in the Top 5 of the league in dropped passes.

     7. Jacksonville Jaguars - DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina (6'1, 264, 4.79)

The Jaguars tried to fix their pass rush a couple years ago by drating Tyson Alualu. In two years, he has a grand total of 6 sacks. In fact, his 2011 production was even worse than his rookie year. He is not a long term starter at the position, and they will be looking to fill that need in the draft.

     8. Miami Dolphins - QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M (6'3, 221, 4.58)

Ryan Tannehill will not drop past the number 8 pick. If the Dolphins do not end up selecting him, so be it, but he will not fall farther than this pick, because quarterbacks are so highly valued in this league. Although I seriously doubt his potential, he does have all the tools to be a starter in the NFL.

     9. Carolina Panthers - DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State (6'4, 298, 4.79)

The Panthers would like to get some help for Cam Newton with this pick, but the bigger issue at this point is their defense. Quite a few teams were able to run all over the Panthers front 4, but a 3-technique DT like Fletcher Cox will be able to fill those holes quickly.

    10. Buffalo Bills - OT Riley Reiff, Iowa (6'5, 313, 5.23)

Ryan Fitzpatrick was signed to a big time deal last year, Fred Jackson had a career year at the running back position, and Stevie Johnson is proving himself to be a true number 1 wide out in the NFL, and allowed the least sacks in the NFL. However, last year's starting Left Tackle signed with the Eagles during the off season, so it is only natural that they will choose to find a replacement for him in this year's draft.

    11. Kansas City Chiefs - DT Dontari Poe, Memphis (6'3, 346, 4.98)

The Kansas City Chiefs are trying to become a defensive team. They selected defensive players in the Top 5 in two of the past three years. This year, the hole is at nose tackle, and Dontari Poe is the perfect run stopper in to do the job.

    12. Seattle Seahawks - LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College (6'3, 242, 4.58)
This pick was fairly simple. The Seahawks gave up on former Pro Bowl LB Lofa Tatupu, and now they need a new leader in the middle of their defense. Kuechly's size and speed make him a great prospect for any of the linebacker positions, and I think Seattle would gladly pick him at number 12.

    13. Arizona Cardinals - OG David DeCastro, Stanford (6'4, 316, 5.43)
The Cardinals running game has been suffering in recent years as a result of their struggling offensive line. Getting a 'big ugly' in the middle gives them exactly what they need: Size, Strength, and Toughness.

    14. Dallas Cowboys - DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina (6'5, 284, 4.78)
Quinton Coples makes perfect sense here, because they are lacking play makers on their defensive line. Coples is a strong defensive end that can make plays in the running game & the passing game, something that will be needed in the ever-strong NFC East.

    15. Philadelphia Eagles - SS Mark Barron, Alabama (6'1, 213, 4.53)
Although the Eagles spent a lot of money on getting the top Defensive Back on the market last year, that did not translate into very many turnovers forced by their defense. At some point, if they are going to get over the hump, it will be with defense, because their offense is already set into stone. Barron will bring the aggressiveness this team needs.

    16. New York Jets - WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame (6'2, 220, 4.47)
The Jets have two starting quarterbacks and two starting running backs, but at the position where two players actually start at the same time, Wide Receiver, their number two guy is Chaz Schilens? Nuff said. If Floyd is available, he has to be the pick here, his production is undeniable.

    17. Cincinnati Bengals - CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina (6'0, 190, 4.40)
The Bengals are actively looking for a shutdown corner to fill the void in their defensive backfield, and Gilmore could be just that. His solid build and considerable speed are great for bump and run coverage, a staple of the Cincinnati defense.

    18. San Diego Chargers - CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama (6'1, 186, 4.51)

The Chargers are in need of some defensive backs. Quentin Jammer is getting older, and Antoine Cason isn't as good as upper management hoped he would be. Kirkpatrick is a big, physical corner a la Jammer, and will fit in perfectly with this defense.

    19. Chicago Bears - DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse (6'5, 266, 4.87)

The Chicago Bears are a tough, defensive team, but their defensive line is getting older, and Julius Peppers could use a younger player to take under his wing. A run stopper with pass rushing ability, Jones is suited for a left defensive end position.

    20. Tennessee Titans - DE Courtney Upshaw, Alabama (6'2, 279, 4.73)

The Titans need an impact pass rusher coming off the strong side. Derrick Morgan is more of a run stopper, and does not make the big plays that are going to keep fans in the stands. This move will add energy and explosiveness to a team that is lacking that special something.

    21. Cincinnati Bengals - WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech (6'4, 215, 4.36)

AJ Green does not have a legit starter to play opposite of him. Getting another big guy will be good for the young Andy Dalton, who will be trying to avoid the sophomore slump. This will add another dimension to their offense, and help build a perennial winner out in Cincinnati.

    22. Cleveland Browns - OT Cordy Glenn, Georgia (6'5, 345, 5.15)
Colt McCoy took some big hits last year, most notably the nasty one from James Harrison that gave him a mind-numbing concussion. He needs somebody to protect him, and Cordy Glenn is the man to do this. He's big enough to run block with the best of them, and quick enough on his feet to handle edge rushers.

    23. Detroit Lions - CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama (5'10, 193, 4.46)
The Detroit Lions have a HORRIBLE defense. In only his second ever start, Matt Flynn threw for six touchdowns on their weak defensive backfield. Adding to that, their top corner back signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the off-season. Jenkins may have some off the field concerns, as do some of the other Lions, but he is a good player and a play maker on defense.

    24. Pittsburgh Steelers - LB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama (6'2, 265, 4.68)

The Pittsburgh Steelers will soon be just as old as the Baltimore Ravens on defense. The leader, James Harrison, will be 34 when the upcoming season begins, and soon he will need a tough guy to replace him. Hightower has the size, speed, and mean streak to be a Steeler.

    25. Denver Broncos - DT Michael Brockers, Louisiana State (6'5, 322, 5.36)

The Broncos solidified their offense by making the biggest free agent signing in NFL History this off-season with the acquisition of Peyton Manning. Since that is settled, they will need to fix a defense that allowed the Patriots to score 35 points in the first half of the Divisional Round of the Playoffs this past year. It all starts up front: a rush up the middle disrupts a quarterback more than anything.

    26. Houston Texans - WR Kendall Wright, Baylor (5'10, 196, 4.42)

Andre Johnson has been playing Wide Receiver all by himself his whole NFL career. Kevin Walter is not a legitimate starting receiver on the other side of the field, and that will need to change if the Texans are going to continue to compete with the best teams in the league. Wright has the speed to stretch the field, draw coverage away from Andre Johnson, and open lanes for Arian Foster.

    27. New England Patriots - OLB Shea McClellin, Boise State (6'3, 260, 4.63)

In recent years, the Patriots have traded down with a lot of their early round selections. If they decide to go against that this year, the best position to draft would be Outside Linebacker. Let's face it, Rob Ninkovich
is no game-breaker on the edge, and that is what the Patriots need to create a formidable defense reminiscent of the old days.

    28. Green Bay Packers - DE Andre Branch, Clemson (6'4, 259, 4.70)
Defense is the reason the Green Bay Packers were unable to repeat as Super Bowl Champs. A defense that  ranked 5th in the NFL in yards allowed in 2010, slipped all the way to last in the league in 2011. The biggest defense between those two teams was their pass rush: 47 sacks in 2010 vs 29 sacks in 2011. The Packers need another edge rusher, and that is what Andre Branch will bring to their team.

    29. Baltimore Ravens - OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford (6'5, 312, 5.33)
Michael Oher, subject of the Hollywood film The Blind Side, just is not good enough to be a blindside blocker. Bryant McKinnie has the position for now, but he is 33 years old and his production is slipping. Jonathan Martin is a mature, smart player with a resume' that a team like the Ravens will not be able to ignore if he falls on draft day.

    30. San Francisco 49ers - DT Jerel Worthy, Michigan State (6'2, 308, 5.08)

On a defense that allowed just over 14 points per game, one possible area of improvement is the middle of their defensive line. Every other void on the team is filled and ready for a super bowl run, so if they can solidify that spot the only thing left to worry about is the ghost of Alex Smith's past.

    31. New England Patriots - DE Nick Perry, Southern California (6'2, 271, 4.64)

Once again, the New England Patriots have found a way to get multiple draft picks in the first round of a draft loaded with talent. In an effort to replace the hole left by the injured Andre Carter, they could look at taking the versatile Nick Perry with this pick. It is not known what will happen with Carter as of yet, but they need depth at the position either way.

    32. New York Giants - RB Doug Martin, Boise State (5'9, 223, 4.55)

The Giants have had the same 1-2 punch ever since their first Super Bowl run, but they let Ahmad Bradshaw slip off to the number one contender in the NFC. In that case, their top priority should be drafting a complimentary runner. The Giants were at their best when both of their backs were healthy, so they cannot afford to go into this season with Bradshaw as their every down back.