Friday, May 2, 2014

Why the Sad Faces (Ladies)?

I literally don’t think I’ve ever even heard Jacoby Ellsbury speak. Maybe a couple of times? The former Boston Red Sox centerfielder, who helped the franchise win two World Series Championships in 2007 and 2013, is now a New York Yankee. Ellsbury inked a seven year $153 million contract with the Bronx Bombers December 3rd, 2013 to help them add speed and on base ability at the top of their line up with Brett Gardner, who will likely be moved to left field. I still don’t feel anything. I also don’t own a pink, bedazzled, tight at the hips Ellsbury jersey, so maybe that’s why.
First of all, did anyone actually expect Boston to re-sign this guy? Any knowledgeable baseball fan knows the 31 year old was not in the Red Sox future plans with Jackie Bradley Jr. on the come up, but I’ll get to him later. In addition, does anybody know who Scott Boras is? In case you don’t, he’s a superagent and will not rest until he gets maximum value for his clients. Remember that guy J.D. Drew who Boston signed back in 2007 for five years $70 million? Bless his soul for his “$70 million grand slam” in Game Six of the 2007 ALCS that led the Red Sox to a win tying the series 3-3 versus the Cleveland Indians, but… Yup yup the rest is history as Boston captured their second World Series Championship in four years, I know, and I appreciate Drew, but proceed to read.
Though Drew’s numbers as a Red Sox were eh, okay, on paper, the $14 million per is one of the worst contracts in Red Sox history, money wise. Some would say the gaudy figures tossed to Drew was the pioneer of bad contracts that have spring boarded the MLB to dishing them out like candy on a regular basis. After driving in 100 runs in 2006 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Drew’s RBI totals from 2007 on were 64, 64, 68, 68, and 22. That is $10 million production, not 14. The point is, Boras milks money out of his players and coaxes general managers into paying more for his clients than they are worth. Drew’s grand slam was huge in the ALCS, so one may say screw the money, he was worth the guap despite his proceeding, disappointing, injury-riddled years in Boston. Even still, the money given to the right fielder was far too much. In the end, five years $50 million would have been the appropriate contract for Drew.
Perhaps Boston shot themselves in the foot when they overvalued Carl Crawford’s market price and, in disgusting fashion, signed the left fielder to a seven year $142 million deal in 2010. Crawford played in 130 2011 games and hit .255 after hitting .307, .305 and .273 three years prior with the Tampa Bay Rays. Crawford only played in 31 2012 games and underwent wrist surgery, ending his season. During the 2012 Trade Deadline, Crawford was shipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto, shedding $261 million between the four players.
Undoubtedly, Ellsbury was looking to surpass the ludicrous top outfielders pay set by Boston when they splurged on Crawford. If Theo Epstein laid off his infatuation with base stealing contact hitters back in 2010 when Crawford was a free agent, conceivably, current Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington could have inked Ellsbury to a more respectable contract this off season. (Still love ya, Theo).
“Alas”, I still don’t get why people outside of the Ellsbury stalker fan club (he’s married by the way), have their panties in a bunch about the pretty boy leaving. More power to him. He helped bring the city two Championships and although he was somewhat of an introvert to the fans, he was a major cog in the lineup during those playoffs. In 2007, as a rookie, Ellsbury hit .360 in 25 at bats and this past post season, hit .344 in 64 at bats. That was my first time looking up his playoff numbers, damn he was consistent…
At the same time, as explained before, Crawford’s ridiculous contract set the market for Ellsbury’s 2013 lucrative free agency deal with New York. Ellsbury would be dumb to settle for less and leave $30-50 million on the table if the team who says they value you won’t compete with their rival. I know people say $15 million per season will put food on the table, but he wants his family’s family’s families to be set forever. Can’t fault him, or knock the hustle (no pun intended. Jay-Z song… get it…). It would have eased the soul to see Ellsbury sign with the Chicago Cubs or Seattle Mariners, but where are those teams going? The Yankees are always in the mix for a championship run so Ellsbury took the money and ran with it. Cry about it ladies, he’s wearing pin stripes now.
By the by, Boston has arguably the best outfielding prospect in the MLB on their roster. His name’s Jackie Bradley Jr. He’s 23 to Ellsbury’s 31. He also tore it up this past Spring Training, yes it was Spring Training, I know, but damn he looked like a stud with that .419 batting average. Better than Ellsbury’s, Pedroia’s, Ortiz’. JBJ got the start in left field after posting such incredible Spring Training numbers, but in 15 games hit just .097. Sure, regular season is a much different ball game than pre-season, but the talent with JBJ is there and the kid oozes confidence.
JBJ doesn’t boast the speed Ellsbury does on the base paths with his career high in steals at 16 during his 2012 season down at Single A Salem. He does have a much better arm than Ellsbury, and also plays a more natural, smoother center field than Ellsbury who relies on his speed to make up for his lack of ball off the bat instincts. Ellsbury is a fine centerfielder, but he makes plays look harder than they actually are. Bradley will be fluid and less choppy in center field while providing a threat to throw out third base runners at home, something Ellsbury was poor at.
As solid and clutch a hitter Ellsbury is, JBJ displays the potential to have more gap/extra base power than his predecessor. A hit is a hit, for sure, but Ellsbury constantly got on base by beating out infield choppers, which will certainly be missed, but JBJ could have greater RBI totals due to his quicker hands, according to scouts. Ellsbury is 6’1″ 195 lbs to JBJ’s 5’10″ 195, but many scouts say JBJ can add to his frame which will give him considerably more pop down the road. He may never hit 32 homeruns as Ellsbury did in 2011 (where did that power go…?), but JBJ has the potential to be a perennial Gold Glove winner and hit .300 with better power numbers than his pansy foregoer.
On a related note, just how successful is the philosophy of buying player after player, with hopes of winning championships? Peep this: since re-signing Alex Rodgriguez in 2007 to a 10 year $275 million contract, the Yankees have tied up eight years and $180 million to first baseman Mark Teixeira (2008), seven years 161 to starting pitcher CC Sabathia (2008), five years 82.5 to starting pitcher AJ Burnett (2008), five years 85 to catcher Brian McCann (November 23rd, 2013), and now seven years 153 to Ellsbury. A little less than a billy for six players? Hwat?
Sure, it may have got them a ship in 2009, but how efficient and sustainable are all of those deals with ARod going on 39 in July, Teixeira 34 in April (played in only 15 2013 games due to wrist surgery), Sabathia 34 in July (coming off by far worst year in career, 4.78 ERA in 32 starts), and McCann 30 in February (worst year in career, .256 57 RBIs, 102 games). I’ll give McCann a pass because he dealt with injuries all of 2013 and still put up respectable numbers.
Ellsbury is plain and simple a major risk for Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. In 2010, Ellsbury played in just 18 games, in 2012, 74, and this past season, 134. Ellsbury is fragile with a history of rib, shoulder and foot injuries on his resume. Ellsbury’s speed will inevitably decline with age and he relies on his speed to be a good center fielder. Also, laying out for pop flies and line drives won’t be in his best interest with his past rib and shoulder injuries in mind. Not to play the role of a voodoo doll maker, it’s just the potentialities.
When New York was dominating the MLB from 1996 to (2009), the club relied on home grown talent to bolster their roster and add to their historic legend. Future (some borderline) Hall of Famers Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, Bernie Burn Baby Burn Williams and Jorge Posada were essential, paramount, vital pieces to the Yankees winning their Titles in 1996, ’98, ’99, ’00, and to a lesser extent, 2009 (Mussina and Williams were retired, but other main pieces were still intact).
Currently, the Yankees farm system is not looking so hot. Especially with “Top Prospect” Gary Sanchez being a catcher, New York still appears to be confused on how to run their organization post-George Steinbrenner, as they just inked catcher Brian McCann for half a decade. Sanchez will be just 26 by the end of McCann’s contract, and McCann can always be future trade bait, but not exactly great for the psyche of a 21 year old who is assuming he will be inheriting the catcher position for the next decade. The Red Sox did the same thing by signing Stephen Drew this past off season to a one year deal when Jose Iglesias was more than ready to become Boston’s shortstop of the future. Iglesias was traded to the Detroit Tigers at the 2013 Trade Deadline for Jake Peavy, who got shelled in the playoffs, but that’s an argument for another day.
Chin up, Sox fans. Ellsbury was a pretty boy anyway. We’re still the champs. We still have a top 10 (some would argue top five) farm system in the MLB and the Yankees are still blowing money fast all while getting older. Let’s continue to win championships with our draftees, as we’ve done with the Pedroias, Youkilis’s, Lesters etc. And ladies, Ellsbury’s been married, fall back, you had no chance since he said I do a few years ago. Now espoused to the Yankees organization, I must say I wholeheartedly appreciate everything Ellsbury brought to the Boston Red Sox. Like it or not, Boston, we will all love and remember when he donned the number 2, slickly roamed center field and combusted the base paths. It’s the Jackie Bradley Jr. Era now, though. Peace out Jacoby.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Top 5 2014 NBA Draft Prospects

1. Joel Embiid, center, University of Kansas
7′ 250 lbs
2013 Stats: 11.2 PPG 8.1 RPG 2.6 BPG 63 FG% 69 FT%
The Kansas Jayhawks undoubtedly would have gone further than the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament had Embiid’s back not acted up in early March. The Cameroon native didn’t play in his team’s 80-69 win over #15 Eastern Kentucky, nor in its 60-57 loss to #10 Stanford. Embiid’s first sports were soccer and volleyball and has only been playing basketball since 2011, but he astonishes scouts with his natural instincts and feel for the game. A specimen of an athlete, Embiid has adapted to basketball swiftly and has an array of offensive moves that has drawn comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon. A nice mid-range J, baby hook, and even the ability to stretch out from 3. Embiid needs to perfect his 3 point stroke and back-to-basket post moves, but he continues to polish his game year after year which trends in the right direction for his future success. Defensively, Embiid has the length and weight to be a stalwart in the paint. The biggest knock on him is his intensity and ferocity on the court to put fear in his opponent. That will develop with time, but he is still raw and needs to focus on the other aspects of his game. The fiery attitude will follow. Maybe not 2014-15, but by 15-16, people will be saying, ” I didn’t know he was this good”, in a similar fashion of the present consensus of 2012 first overall pick Anthony Davis.
2. Jabari Parker, small forward, Duke University
6’8″ 240 lbs
2013: 19.1 PPG 8.7 RPG 47 FG% 36 3PT% 75 FT%
The first overall pick can go either way, Embiid or Parker. It depends on which position you deem most important in building a franchise. Parker may be the better scorer, but total package centers don’t come around too often, and having a legitimate 7 footer who can protect the rim and get easy shots is the most important piece of a team. Some will argue that a versatile scorer is the bread and butter of a franchise. That said, Parker has the handle, crossover, and J, everything you want in an All Star. He accelerates hard to the bucket finishing after contact, and still has a sweet 3 stroke. Parker isn’t your average small forward. Not many players currently in the NBA can bang down low and still step out deep or anywhere on the court for that matter. Parker’s near 7 foot wingspan should allow him to transition pretty smoothly when guarding 3s and some 4s, and his work ethic is strong. Will have trouble with quicker 3s such as Kevin Durant and Paul George, which is concerning. Did fracture his foot senior year in high school, and athleticism isn’t off the charts. Carmelo Anthony + Jared Sullinger.
3. Dante Exum, pointguard, Australia
6’6″ 200 lbs
2013: 18.2 PPG 3.8 APG
Exum is an incredible talent, but the questions about his play against low level competition make NBA executives unsure about his transition to big boy basketball. He dominated on the Australian National Team in competitions such as the Under 19 World Championships in Prague, but that playing field is no where near the NCAA. Still, Exum has the best handle in the Draft and runs like a gazelle in the open court. His lanky, yet calculated drives to basket make him tough to defend, especially with his long strides. Exum is unselfish, and creative in transition and half court. He’s pesky on defense and competes. Exum’s main flaw is his shooting. He has years to improve it and is already viewed as a better shooter than fellow foreign talent Ricky Rubio. Exum reminds me of Michael-Carter Williams, and watching MCW play against Rajon Rondo opened my eyes to how valuable a big pointguard is. MCW is the real deal and nearly impossible to stop on the break. Once Exum hones his shooting mechanics in the NBA he will fill up the stat sheet and be a tough player for opposing teams to control.
4. Andrew Wiggins, small forward, University of Kansas
6’8″ 200 lbs
2013: 17.1 PPG 5.9 RPG 45 FG% 34 3PT% 78 FT%
For all the hype Wiggins got going into the college basketball season, I was underwhelmed. Though there were flashes, I didn’t see a lot of domination from Wiggins throughout the year. Of course, it’s tough as an 18 year old to meet all of those expectations, especially while balancing being a team player and not too much of a ball hog. Wiggins is the raw total package. He can score from anywhere in whichever way, has a 7 foot wingspan, and is the most athletic player in the Draft. From what I’ve watched, his shooting isn’t pinpoint like Kevin Durant’s was coming out of Texas, which scares me. Wiggins also scored just 4 points on six shot attempts against Stanford in the second round of the Tourney. 39 FG% in losses. Has to put on weight, period. Sky is the limit for defensive ability due to elite lateral quickness.
5. Julius Randle, power forward, University of Kentucky
6’9″ 250 lbs
2013: 15 PPG 10.4 RPG 50 FG% 71 FT%
Randle has the potential to be a force in the paint. He could stand to pack on more mass, but handles his current weight well. Randle is a bully down low, utilizing smooth spin moves, and lightning quick first steps for a player his size. He catches passes with soft hands and isn’t turnover prone. Very polished offensively. Randle didn’t dominate as much as he could have. Sometimes shied away from asserting himself as Wildcats’ number one scoring option. Had just 10 points and 6 rebounds in National Championship. Promising catch and shoot J, needs to refine face up and fall away. A lefty, can get predictable with moves and isn’t great with right hand yet. Passing from paint needs work Not active on defense, that part of his game must change. Not a shot blocker. A more athletic Jared Sullinger (I’d take Sully if both were in same Draft).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Report: New England Patriots Want to Trade Up in First Round to Draft Wide Receiver

We say it all the time. No one outside the New England Patriots organization knows what position Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio will go after, in any Draft. However, team officials have reportedly told Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman that Belichick is targetting a big time, play-making threat at wide receiver and that it’s one of the Patriots “main missing ingredients”. Freeman claims the team is looking to move up from pick 29 in the first round to snag a top-tier wide out.
It’s tough to bank on he said she said reports with regards to the Draft. Politics are involved so much that team officials are often used as media puppets to stir up rumors and, in this case, get other teams to draft wide receivers early, so Belichick and Caserio could have, say, a defensive tackle fall in their laps due to teams wanting to keep weapons away from New England.
Of course, teams need to satisfy their own agendas first and foremost, but an example of this cat and mouse game occurred when Rex Ryan drafted former Ohio State muscle man Vernon Gholston sixth overall in 2008 after rumors were flying around that Belichick coveted the workout warrior. Gholston is now known as one of the biggest defensive Draft busts in history, and the Patriots have a Pro Bowl linebacker in Jerod Mayo, who they grabbed tenth overall.
Still, these reports are intriguing, as New England doesn’t boast a very frightening pass attack at the moment. Since Randy Moss left in 2009, the Patriots have lacked a fast or physical receiver who can straight up make plays. The 2014 Patriots currently lack a reliable downfield speedster and a physical presence at the wide receiver position. Championship teams need one or the other, a la DeSean Jackson for the blur who creates natural separation, or Anquan Boldin, who uses strength off the line of scrimmage and body positioning to win battles.
Right now, New England’s wide receiver depth chart looks like this:
Y (slot): Danny Amendola (Tore groin Week 1, didn’t require surgery, will this injury linger?)… Josh Boyce (Injured reserve for ankle, five total games played)
X: Aaron Dobson (Foot stress fracture Week 12, missed five games including first playoff game vs. Indianapolis Colts, had surgery in March)
Z: Kenbrell Thompkins (Hip injury Week 13 and concussion in playoffs vs. Colts, missed five total games)
Julian Edelman played every wide receiver position in 2013, leading to his remarkable 105 REC 1056 YD season. It is also unclear where Brandon LaFell will play. Though the Z is likely his spot, LaFell’s former head coach, Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers, says he played everywhere for him, including tight end.
An intriguing option the Patriots have that many casual fans don’t know about is 2013 rookie free agent Mark Harrison. The 6’3″ 240 lber out of Rutgers was viewed as a 2nd-4th round pick in 2013, but went undrafted due to character concerns. Harrison ran a 4.47 40 Yard Dash and posted other impressive measurables, but allegedly trashed his Crowne Plaza Hotel room in Indianapolis, where the Scouting Combine was being held, to the point where it was strewn with mass amounts of garbage and bodily fluids.
During his time at Rutgers, Harrison totaled 107 catches for 1769 yards and 18 touchdowns. He didn’t play a single snap in 2013 due a foot injury, and was put on the physically unable to perform list. Harrison could be the physical receiver New England has coveted for years, while others speculate he may see reps at tight end. A serious talent to keep an eye on.
The Patriots did not come out of 2013 knowing they have a downfield burner or a physical weapon.
Edelman was Tom Brady’s only option in the AFC Championship vs. the Denver Broncos.
Amendola can be explosive when healthy, but his health is a massive if.
Dobson showed flashes of being a downfield, bomb-catching threat, but he is a soft 6-3 200 lbs and had his troubles hanging on to the ball. A bit of an in-betweener with regards to prototypical speed and physicality, not one or the other. Coming off foot surgery.
Thompkins was impressive at times as well, but wasn’t always on the same page with Brady and had his share of nagging injuries. He has the the body type to be physical at a stout 6’1″ 200 lbs, but, like Dobson, just doesn’t seem to have the will or durability to go over the middle and take contact consistently.
Boyce was electrifying returning the ball and scampering for yards after the catch, but his ankle injury retarded his progress significantly.
I hope I’m wrong, but Dobson and Thompkins seem to have a bit of Brandon Lloyd in them. The talent and hands are there, but the toughness and physicality could be lacking to some extent. In addition, Boyce included, all three rookie receivers suffered lower body injuries, which obviously isn’t a great sign. I’d be absolutely content to go into 2014 with no new starting receivers (outside LaFell) and see how these kids respond to their respective adversities. They have it in them to flourish and make the second year leap, all three displayed big time talent when they were healthy and if 100% for the playoffs, we may have seen a different outcome in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl.
But I love competition. When I read the Bleacher Report… report, I was ecstatic, knowing Belichick isn’t going to hand these kids jobs and could potentially grab a wide out that isn’t a 2nd, 4th or undrafted talent, as Dobson, Boyce, and Thompkins respectively are. Especially with their injuries considered, it makes all the sense in the world to trade up for a top 20 receiver who may be more physically gifted than all three and can take those NFL hits or has that elite top flight speed.
Or, as explained earlier, the whole team official leak could be a smokescreen for other teams to grab wide outs in the first round before the rich gets richer.
I’m fine with drafting any position in the first round, but snatching a big name wide out, in the first round for once, who could legitimately be a future Pro Bowler and consistent weapon for the 37 year old American legend, would certainly be a power move for the suddenly balanced Patriots.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Aldon Smith: Talented, Troubled

Coming off their Super Bowl 48 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, a couple of San Francisco 49ers superstars haven’t put their team in the best light this past week. On April 10th, Los Angeles-based paparazzi firm Thirty-Mile Zone reported quarterback Colin Kaepernick was being investigated by Miami Beach Police for sexual assault on April 1st.
Here are TMZ’s latest words regarding the matter: “Officials say they are still awaiting toxicology results from the woman who claims she was hanging out with Colin and two other NFL players on April 1 before winding up in the hospital. As we first reported, a rape kit was administered on the woman at the hospital, where she met with police. So far, officials have not revealed the results.”
On Saturday April 12th, Kaepernick was seen shopping for sunglasses on Robertson Boulevard in downtown L.A.; clearly brushing the very serious incident off his shoulder. Stay tuned.
Then there’s Aldon Smith.
San Francisco’s seventh overall selection in the 2011 Draft from University of Missouri has blossomed into one of the NFL’s most complete outside linebackers. Smith, now 24, is the fastest player to reach 30 sacks (27 games) tallying 14 his rookie year, 19.5 in 2012, and 8.5 in just 11 2013 games. He had 5.5 sacks in a 2012 Monday Night Football match up against the Chicago Bears, a record for MNF programming. In addition, Smith won the NFC Defensive Player of the Year. Many considered Smith, if he kept his head on straight, to one day be known as the best pass rusher of all time. The elite strength, tenacity, speed, length. Smith has all the tangibles.
It’s his history with breaking the law that has retarded the Greenwood, Missouri native’s growth, now entering his fourth year as a professional.
On January 28, 2012, Aldon Smith was arrested for DUI in Miami Beach, Florida… I see this incident as many others do, an initial mistake. Tons of well-respected professionals have DUIs on their records. What always ticks people off about DUIs with rich people is that they can more than afford a cab to drive them home. Alas, a mistake from a 22 year old.
On June 30, 2012, Smith suffered stab wounds when attempting to break up a fight at a party at his home in San Jose, California… This altercation, though incredibly serious to even be involved in, still doesn’t resonate with me as a criminal act. He tried to break up a fight and got hurt in the process.
September 20, 2013, Smith was involved in a single vehicle accident in San Jose, California. He was subsequently arrested on suspicion of DUI and possession of marijuana. After the Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, he voluntarily entered a rehab facility, to be put onto the non-football injury list with an indefinite leave of absence. As a result, Smith missed the 49ers 9/26 Thursday Night game at St. Louis, 10/6 v. Houston, 10/13 v. Arizona, 10/20 at Tennessee, and 10/27 at Jacksonville… No one wants to hit rock bottom and go into rehab. To this point, the most idiotic act he has committed.
On October 9, 2013, Smith was charged with “three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon” relating to the 2012 stabbing incident… Having illegal Bushmasters and Armalites is something I cannot bring myself to condemn, but to play devil’s advocate once again, tons of professional athletes illegally own guns. Smith obviously should have got them registered. Still, athletes need to protect themselves, and many would be surprised at the amount that own unregistered guns. It’s inevitable with how much urban influence there is in sports. As for the shots fired, I envision the scene as Smith firing into the air to stop the fight. There were no gunshot wounds reported.
Most recently on April 13, 2014, eyewitness accounts indicate that Smith was detained and arrested following an incident in LAX airport in which Smith was alleged to mention a bomb to TSA officers. He faces up to one year in prison if convicted.
Here is the police report:
“At approximately 1400 hrs, a 25-year-old male resident of San Jose, California, was going through Terminal 1 screening and was randomly selected for a secondary screening. The suspect then became belligerent and uncooperative with the process and with the TSA agent, making a comment indicating that he was in possession of a bomb before proceeding towards the gate area. Los Angeles Airport Police made contact with him at the gate and he was positively identified as the person in question. Once again the male subject became uncooperative and he was detained and taken into custody by Airport Police and is currently being transported to LAPD for booking.”
My first reaction was how can someone be so moronic? Then, I heard on SportsCenter that witnesses heard Smith say “I didn’t do anything wrong”, and “You will be embarrassed” referring to the TSA officials. To this point, the details are blurry and completely confidential. The way I see it, Smith could have been confused as to why he was being selected for secondary screening, perhaps not knowing it was random. This is where semantics kick in. Who’s to say Smith’s I didn’t do anything wrong sounded like a bomb reference? Or, maybe he said, jokingly, I don’t have a bomb or anything, and TSA’s ears perked up like German Shepherd’s, immediately reacting to the word bomb, detaining him. In this situation, his tonality obviously wasn’t the clearest, and didn’t articulate his thoughts well enough to TSA. Again, the specifics of the incident are vague.
When I was in 8th grade, I watched the film 12 Angry Men in English class. It spoke to me. Juries have such an important duty to be objective and not take scenarios at face value. People who have been quick to accuse have landed innocent individuals in jail, ruining lives due to their incompetent judgment.
Smith doesn’t come across to me as a bad guy, as outlandish as that sounds. On December 13, 2012, Smith announced that he would be making a charitable donation of $5099 per each of sacks during his sack record-pace 2012 NFL regular season. The total would be split between the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco (Willy Mays Clubhouse at Hunters Point) and Boys & Girls Clubs of The Peninsula (East Palo Alto Clubhouse). The donations amounted to a grand total of $99,430.
Aldon Smith could have serious mental problems that are unsuitable to maintain as a famous professional athlete. He could also be someone who hasn’t fully matured yet and hasn’t been kicked in the ass hard enough by a mentor to get through to him. I simply can’t fathom someone faking a bomb threat, especially with his history. Therefore, I’m holding reasonable doubt that it could have been a misunderstanding, until further information emerges and Smith speaks on the matter himself, representing his constitutional rights. Everyone in America is innocent until proven guilty.
If Smith is in fact a bafoon and did utter a fake bomb threat, he is on the path to becoming All-Done Smith, and relinquishing his legitimate potentiality as a future NFL Hall of Famer.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

New England Patriots 2014 Offseason: Defensive Draft Targets Pt. 2

1. Defensive Line
Ra’Shede Hageman, University of Minnesota
6’6″ 310 lbs
5.02 40 Yard Dash
Strengths: Proportional weight, long arms, explosiveness, MASSIVE upside
Weaknesses: Converted tight end, 1990, motor, unrefined
2013: 38 tackles, 13 for loss, 2 sacks, 8 passes defended
Hageman is a raw prospect who, with the right coaching, could be spectacular. He is not the ideal player to step in and produce right away on a team’s defensive line, as he is still somewhat of an amateur student of the game. If the Patriots love Hageman’s potential, he could very well be available at pick 29 and be coached up to his full potential by defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and defensive line coach Patrick Graham. The defensive coaching staff got the most out of rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones, undrafted, and a sixth round pick, respectively, so they could work wonders with the thoroughbred athletic specimen that is Hageman. I could see the Seattle Seahawks drafting Hageman, if he is available at pick 32, to further bolster their line that has a hole in it with the departure of Red Bryant to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Hageman would, in the best case scenario, be an upgrade to Tony McDaniels, Seattle’s right defensive tackle who shares physical similarities with the 2013 Big 10 First Teamer. Knowing the Jamie Collins’ project was a massive success, as the former Southern Mississippi pass rusher turned into the Patriots best defensive player down the stretch, look for New England to grab Hageman, a comparable athletic freak, who would be tutored by Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. However, if my other #29 potentiality, Aaron Donald out of University of Pittsburgh, is still around, the pick should hands down be Donald. Ceiling of JJ Watt.
2. Defensive End
Kony Ealy, University of Missouri
6’5″ 275 lbs
40: 4.92
Strengths: Length, can be put anywhere on line in a pinch and hold his own, technique, burst, motor
Weaknesses: Struggles against run, pass coverage
2013: 42 tackles, 14 for loss, 9 sacks, 6 passes defended, 1 interception (for TD)
Ealy could easily be gone in the top 15, but scouts are torn on his ability against the run. As seen by the numbers, Ealy fills up the stat sheet and has prototypical size. He is a loose athlete, similar to Jamie Collins, in defensive end form. Ealy has to work on his balance and hand work, as he tends to get manhandled on double teams. Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones barely got to the passer all of 2013. This could very well be due to both tallying the most defensive snaps in the NFL, but Ninkovich, in particular, is an over-achiever, now sitting at age 30. Ealy would be the perfect understudy to Ninkovich, who excels against the run, the part of Ealy’s game that needs refinement. New England desperately needs a third defensive end, and Ealy would be an absolute steal at 29, if the trend of his draft stock slightly falling is holds true. Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith.
Inside Linebacker:
CJ Mosley, University of Alabama
6’2″ 235 lbs
40: 4.63
2013: 108 tackles, 9 for loss, 5 passes defended; 2012: 107 tackles, 8 for loss, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions (1 for TD); 2 pick 6′s, 12 passes defended as freshman
Strengths: High football IQ, instincts, speed, coverage, blitzing
Weaknesses: Strength
Mosley is by far the best player at his position. There is no other player in the 2014 Draft that is in a league of his own compared to his counterparts. Mosley is hands down the best inside linebacker in the draft. He is the total package and is a better prospect than Dont’a Hightower was coming out of Tuscaloosa. That said, with Brandon Spikes now a Buffalo Bill, Mosley would be an ideal fourth linebacker to pick the brain of Hightower as a rookie. Hightower came on strong down the stretch in 2013, but the jury is still out on his ceiling and if he has the smarts to diagnose plays regularly and cover tight ends. Mosley is stellar in coverage, is a prime blitzer, and has excellent ball seeking instincts. He isn’t a wrecking ball like Spikes, but is much smarter and locates where the ball is headed as opposed to just wanting to crack the center or a guard. Mosley could give Hightower a run for his money as a rookie for the starting job, but even if he didn’t, it would be nice to see the Patriots employ a long term plan at inside linebacker if they choose to part ways with the (potential) bust of first round pick. Lavonte David.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New England Patriots 2014 Offseason: Offensive Draft Targets Pt. 2

I’m still liking my Part 1 selections as legitimate potentialities for the Patriots at pick 29 overall in the May 8th-10th NFL Draft. In case you missed that article, scroll down until you reach New England Patriots 2014 Offseason Draft Targets Pt. 1, where I wrote about the top talents at positions the Patriots need help at, and the realistic, available talent at those positions come pick 29.
Tight end, center, and wide out were the positions I highlighted that are of New England’s most substantial needs. As the cards of the offseason are falling in place, the Patriots have made a couple of moves that don’t rule my hypothetical first round player options out, but make them a little less likely, as well as they would fit with the club.
For example, New England re-signed center Ryan Wendell to a two year deal. With the bulk of the Patriots protection issues coming in the interior offensive line, I thought they could address it with a moose in the first round to replace the former undrafted Wendell. New England very well could draft a thoroughbred in the second or third round, but who knows if my top center, Travis Swanson out of University of Arkansas, will be available. Teams may neglect offensive line for skill talent in the first, so it’s a possibility Swanson is on the board in the late second round. Still, with the signing of Wendell, drafting a center in the first round can be all but ruled out, unless Belichick signed him for depth and plans on bringing in high level first round-caliber competition.
In the case of my former top ranked guard, Cyril Richardson, the Baylor University stalwart could easily be on the board at 29 and be a talent to compete with Dan Connolly and the aging, injury-riddled Logan Mankins. Like with Wendell and Swanson, Belichick and co. could look to amp up the guard and center competition, knowing Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder are manning right and left tackle for the foreseeable future. However, other guards are shooting up the Draft boards after impressive combines.
The Patriots also signed former Carolina Panthers wide out Brandon LaFell to a three year $9 million contract in mid March. LaFell isn’t a blazer or a number one option, but he is as solid as solid gets for a number 2. I thought New England could trade up for a guy of Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans’ incredible skills, but it seems unlikely with the signing of LaFell, who is versatile and can play every wide receiver position, including a little tight end, according to Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. Still, a splash such as Watkins or Evans in the top 10 would would give Tom Brady a big time electric play maker, which he hasn’t had since Randy Moss. It’s impossible to predict trades, but as I noted in my first offensive Draft article, Watkins or Evans would be well worth trading a future first round pick for.
Staying with the wide receivers, if Belichick doesn’t want to unload Draft picks to nab Watkins or Evans, Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin could still be around at 29, and he held a private workout with New England in late March after the NFL Combine. Benjamin is a specimen at 6’5″ 240 lbs and would be a physical deep threat to push Aaron Dobson’s development, or take his job, as Dobson is currently rehabbing from foot surgery.
1. Tight End
CJ Fiedorowicz, University of Iowa
6’7″ 270 lbs
4.76 40 Yard Dash
Strengths: Size, balance, route-running, durability
Weaknesses: Speed, elusiveness
2013: 30 REC 299 YDS 6 TD
With North Carolina’s Eric Ebron at the top of the tight end class, Fiedorowicz is a guy who is projected to go in the third round. I can’t seem to figure out why he grades out so low, though. In my eyes, CJF is a poor man’s Gronk, which is great by all accounts. I love his clean bill of health, as well as his demeaning stature that reminds me of Jake Ballard (before injury, of course) and fellow Iowa alumnee, Scott Chandler. The Patriots don’t need another Aaron Hernandez. They need an inline tight end who has Gronk’s skill set: blocks like a beast, catches over the middle, and is an end zone threat. It’s easier said than done to find Gronk Jr., but CJF does all of that, without the elite speed and athleticism. Besides, all of these “athletic” tight ends such as Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham go ghost against physical defenses. CJF is along the lines of a Heath Miller (and poor man’s Gronk), as he fearlessly goes deep over the middle, takes contact, is a fantastic blocker, and puts his body on the line in the red zone.
The knock on CJF is his productivity at Iowa. He didn’t kill it like Ebron or Jace Amaro statistically, but his quarterback, Jake Rudock, threw just 18 TDs to go along with 13 picks, 2383 yards and a 59 completion percentage. As an inline tight end, with an accurate quarterback, CJF will excel at the next level with his massive frame and smooth ability, especially if he has three to four established options ahead of him.
2. Runningback
Carlos Hyde, Ohio State University
6′ 240 lbs
2013: 1521 YDS 7.3 AVG 15 TD
Though Hyde is the top back on many people’s boards, we’ve seen Belichick go after one in the first round before. If he believes Hyde is the best player left on the board at 29, he will take him. In all honesty, it wouldn’t be a stupid move. The Patriots lost their bruiser in LeGarrette Blount to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but after carrying the ball just five times for six yards, he wasn’t worth the $3.85 million over two years that Pittsburgh rewarded him. In addition, it is quietly a do or die year for Stevan Ridley. A free agent after the 2014-2015 season, Ridley must fix his fumble problems or New England will move on in free agency, or the 2015 Draft. If Hyde is sitting on the board at 29 and there is still defensive value in the later rounds, why not grab the best back in the Draft, who also has solid hands, catching 16 passes for 147 yards and 3 TDs in 2013.
3. Guard
Xavier Su’a-Filo, University of California Los Angeles
6’4″ 310 lbs
2013: Second Team All American, First Team All Pac-12
“X”, as his teammates call him, is a monster. Being of Samoan descent, X is looking to succeed in the path paved by fellow Samoan, Mike Iupati, starting guard for the San Francisco 49ers and 2012 All Pro. I find all Samoans to be beastly football players with (good) psycho attitudes and mean streaks. X has no injury history and is a great all around blocker, not just a tank that is an effective straight ahead, and trap blocker. He is athletic in pass blocking and has great footwork. X tends to get confused by complex defensive schemes, and with offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia gone, he would need extra help diagnosing switches and stunts. Bottom line, he is more athletic than Dan Connolly, and has played tackle as well. Would be a fantastic pick at 29 as the heir to Logan Mankins or replacement for Connolly. Gotta protect the franchise.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dub or Twerk?

Throughout my college years of going to parties, there are two clear genres that dominate the scene: dubstep, and hip hop twerk tunes. While dubstep and house music are certainly on the climb in the 21st century, twerk beats are just as hot, especially since Miley Cyrus did her thing at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Twerk beats take the cake for me. As a DJ, these beats simply have that club sound that actually allows you to DANCE. Though the lyrics can be profane, we live in an age where producers are dominating the game. The rappers and singers of the early 2000s 90s and 80s simply don't exist, at least in the mainstream, anymore. We hear Wiz Khalifa, Tyga, and Drake killing the clubs not with their voices, but through the producers they collaborate with. Sure, Whitney Houston and the Cover Girls were where it was at back in the day, but it's the new school now. Twerk hip hop has the best sounds, utilizing synthesizers, snares, and heavy 808s that get everyone dancing down and dirty.

I can't get into dubstep and house, it all sounds the same to me. Here and there, I'll hear a David Guetta or DJ Snake tune that breaks the norm, but listening to Sirius' Dance and Electric Station has me hearing redundancy over and over again for the most part. On top of the monotony, you can't really dance to these genres. It's more of ecstatic fist pumping and jumping up and down music... Don't get me wrong, some electric stuff, preferably from Europe, sounds really good and has that ominous "walking into the club" tone to it. Other dubstep and house is impossible to dance to. I respect the creativity, but am just not a huge fan of listening to it in the club, especially when everyone's trying to grind, not pump their fists.

So, this is why I always play hip hop, rap, and reggaetone when I DJ. It has the best melodies and timed bass to grind to and envelopes that dark club sound. Very interested to read your thoughts!!!

Best hip hop club tunes, in my opinion (excuse the french, but everyone's 18+ and people love it in the club, again, all about the beats these days): Loyal (Prod. NicNac) Wake Up in It (Prod. NicNac) Up Down (Prod. DJ Mustard)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hottest Club Music Out

In the 80s it was the Cover Girls. 90s was Madonna and Mariah Carey. The early 2000s saw 50 Cent, Lil Jon, and Rihanna take over the dance scene. Now? Well keep reading.

Tyga: Rack City, Hijack, Bang Out... Tyga has helped the "ratchet" music sound take over the club scene and hasn't looked back. His collaborations with DJ Mustard have kept the sound relevant and it shows no signs of fading out.

Rihanna: Only Girl in the World, We Found Love, Pour it Up... Rihanna was relevant since she came to the states in the mid 2000s, and her reign isn't stopping.

Sage the Gemini: Gas Pedal, Red Nose... Also taking advantage of the ratchet club sound by composing his own beats and collaborating with Mustard and production group League of Starz, Sage is as hot as anyone in the club right now, his music gets everyone grooving.

2014 NFL Combine Notes

February and March have taken us by storm and as spring is in the horizon, the window to the NFL Draft is steadily dwindling. With the Indianapolis Combine ending February 25th after starting on the 22nd, teams got a chance to examine college players’ athleticism more closely. There were multiple names who improved their stocks through fantastic showcases in front of scouts, general managers, and coaches. New England Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio and head coach Bill Belichick were in attendance and a handful of players undoubtedly caught their eyes.
WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Highlights: 2nd fastest 40 yard dash 4.33… fastest 20 yard shuttle… fastest 60 yard shuttle
Cooks won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best receiver. The 5’10″ 190 lber caught 128 passes for 1730 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013 after 67 catches, 1151 yards, and five scores in 2012. The knock on Cooks is his size. Still, most of these draft “gurus” are as reliable as your local weatherman. This kid has elite speed and balance to make up for his stature. Can be a legit slot weapon. Patriots need wide receiver depth and may not be sold on Josh Boyce. Though best suited for slot, Cooks could transition to a dangerous blazer who can make big plays downfield splitting coverages. Steve Smith.
TE Trey Burton, University of Florida
Highlights: 4th fastest TE dash 4.62… 2nd fastest TE three cone drill… 5th fastest 20 yard shuttle
The 6’3″ 230 lb Burton is small for a tight end, but plays the exact role Aaron Hernandez did at UF. While he is nowhere near the athlete Hernandez is, Burton could excel in the same tight end position New England utilized Hernandez in. He is versatile and played full back for the Gators a lot during his career, as well. Burton can be had in the 4th round, but he will be a serviceable NFL tight end or H-Back and has a high ceiling. Also ran the ball in 2010 75 times for 349 yards and 11 touchdowns. 38 catches, 445 yards, just one touchdown in 2013. Not overly physical, just four receiving touchdowns in four years, but solid blocker on passing downs. Good look for spread option team in late rounds… WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Highlights: 4.53 dash…
Evans didn’t post top performances at the combine, but he hung around the top five in most categories. While his speed isn’t spectacular for being 6’5″, he is massive at 230 lbs which slows him down. Evans also tends to have stiff hips, and basketball was his first passion. Even still, he could be the best wide receiver in the Draft. Teamed up with Johnny Manziel for 151 catches, 2499 yards and 17 TDs in two seasons. He is physical, has great hands, will go over the middle, and be force in the red zone. Though he didn’t wow anyone at the combine, Evans solidified his legitimacy earning positive marks from scouts. Should go top 10, could potentially slip. Pats could trade up for this stud or Clemson’s Sammy Watkins if Belichick and co. think one of the two are legit enough to be serious playmakers as rookies. Lil Wayne’s first client signed to Cash Money Sports… could scare teams away… Vincent Jackson.
DT Aaron Donald, University of Pittsburgh
Highlights: Fastest DT 40 4.68… most bench press reps for DT at 35… fastest DT 3 cone drill time
Donald is undersized at 6’1″ 285 lbs, but how has that stature worked out for Cincinnati Bengals stud 2 time All Pro Geno Atkins? The former University of Georgia standout slipped to the fourth round in 2010 due to his lack of prototypical size in the interior defensive line, even after being double and triple teamed every game as a Bulldog. With blob nosetackles becoming endangered species in the NFL, Donald could add to the trend of slimmer, quicker, more athletic defensive tackles anchoring defenses in the pass-happy league. Donald didn’t play against elite competition in the ACC, but man did he dominate. In 2013, Donald had 28.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, and 11 sacks. His senior season wasn’t a fluke. In 2012, Donald had 18.5 tackles for loss with 5.5 sacks, and, as a sophomore, racked up another 11 sacks. Even at his best, Vince Wilfork’s strong suit isn’t getting to the quarterback. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich need help on the edges (most defensive snaps in NFL) and a relentless interior pass rusher like Donald could put the two defensive ends in more one on one situations, or potential free looks at the QB. Teams may still be living in the old ages and draft (highly talented) mooses such as Timmy Jernigan or Louis Nix, but interior defensive tackles in the mold of Donald are the prototypes that teams are now looking for. Donald is highly unlikely to slip to 29, but the Patriots could always trade up and grab the Geno Atkins of 2014. FS Brock Vereen, University of Minnesota
Highlights: 2nd fastest 40 of FS 4.47… most bench reps for FS at 25… 2nd fastest 3 cone drill of FS
The younger brother of Patriots scat back Shane Vereen impressed a lot of scouts at the combine and earned himself a serious Day 2 look. Though the Patriots may look for a safety in the first or second round, or stand put with 2013 third round pick Duron Harmon at strong, it’s worth noting that Vereen has skyrocketed up draft boards due to his Combine performance, and he is a free safety, not strong. It wouldn’t be a cute move to draft Shane’s younger brother, it would be a potential insurance plan for 2014 free agent Devin McCourty. Vereen could be had on Day 3 in the fourth round and would be a nice value pick for New England, who was recently rewarded the 140th pick overall from the NFL compensation process. Vereen is scouted as being extremely smart. He takes precise, calculated angles, and has quick instincts in center field. His hands aren’t great, as seen by his career four interceptions, but picks aren’t everything. Vereen has big time football smarts and leadership intangibles that make Bill salivate.

Monday, March 10, 2014

2014 NFL Combine Notes: Offense

February took us by storm and as spring is in the horizon, the window to the NFL Draft is steadily dwindling. With the Indianapolis Combine ending the 25th after starting on the 22nd, teams got a chance to examine college players' athleticism more closely. There were multiple names who improved their stocks through fantastic showcases in front of scouts, general managers, and coaches. New England Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio and head coach Bill Belichick were in attendance and a handful of players undoubtedly caught their eyes.
WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Highlights: 2nd fastest 40 yard dash: 4.33... fastest 20 yard shuttle... fastest 60 yard shuttle
Cooks won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's best receiver. The 5'10" 190 lber caught 128 passes for 1730 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013 after 67 catches, 1151 yards, and five scores in 2012. The knock on Cooks is his size. Still, most of these draft "gurus" are as reliable as your local weatherman. This kid has elite speed and balance to make up for his stature. Can be a legit slot weapon. Patriots need a wide receiver and may not be sold on Josh Boyce. Though best suited for slot, Cooks could transition to a dangerous blazer who can make big plays downfield splitting coverages. Steve Smith.
TE Trey Burton, University of Florida
Highlights: 4th fastest TE dash: 4.62... 2nd fastest TE three cone drill... 5th fastest 20 yard shuttle
The 6'3" 230 lb Burton is small for a tight end, but plays the exact role Aaron Hernandez did at UF. While he is nowhere near the athlete Hernandez is, Burton could excel in the same tight end position New England utilized Hernandez in. He is versatile and played full back for the Gators a lot during his career. Burton can be had in the 4th round, but he will be a serviceable NFL tight end or H-Back and has a high ceiling. Also ran the ball in 2010 75 times for 349 yards and 11 touchdowns. 38 catches, 445 yards, just one touchdown in 2013. Not overly physical, just four receiving touchdowns in four years, but solid blocker on passing downs. Good look for spread option team in late rounds...
WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Highlights: 4.53 dash...
Evans didn't post top performances at the combine, but he hung around the top five in most categories. While his speed isn't spectacular for being 6'5", he is massive at 230 lbs which slows him down. Evans also tends to have stiff hips, and basketball was his first passion. Bottom line is, he could be the best wide receiver in the Draft. Teamed up with Johnny Manziel for 151 catches, 2499 yards and 17 TDs in two seasons. He is physical, has great hands, will go over the middle, and be force in the red zone. Though he didn't wow anyone at the combine, Evans solidified his legitimacy earning positive marks from scouts. Should go top 10, could potentially slip. Pats could trade up for this stud or Clemson's Sammy Watkins if Belichick and co. think one of the two are legit enough to be serious playmakers as rookies. Vincent Jackson.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014 New England Patriots Draft: Defensive Targets Pt. 1

Alas, as we look back at the Patriots 2013 season, it pains me to know that when all was going well, New England's offense was under the microscope much more than the defense. With rookie wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins learning the playbook and Rob Gronkowski still on injured reserve from forearm surgery, Tom Brady wasn't firing on all cylinders as he had in year's past. Throw in losing Aaron Hernandez and building rapport with Danny Amendola in there as well.
The point is, the defense was looking good through Week 4 after what was thought to be the team's best win at the time, a 30-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome. Critics across the country didn't know what the Patriots would be after close wins at Buffalo and home vs. the New York Jets, as well as a beating of the bottom dwelling Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Though the perenially-hyped Atlanta proved to be fraudulent underachievers yet again, amassing a dismal 4-12 record, New England's defense held in check a high-flying offense led by 2008 third overall pick, Matt Ryan, and 2011 sixth overall pick, Julio Jones.
Sadly, the Patriots got news that Vince Wilfork tore his Achilles tendon against Atlanta and would be out for the rest of the season. New England fans might as well have set up camp for hibernation, because the despondency became overwhelming after that respected, hard earned Week 4 win.
Week 5-7?: Starting middle linebacker Brandon Spikes suffers a torn ligament in his knee that put him at much less than 100% all season. Did not play in playoffs.
Week 5 13-6 loss at Cincinnati Bengals: Starting defensive tackle Tommy Kelly injured reserve with right knee injury.
Week 6 30-27 win vs. New Orleans Saints: Starting (see the trend?) weak side linebacker and two time Pro Bowler Jerod Mayo injured reserve with torn pectoral muscle.
And that is just the defense... Danny Amendola (Kraft shoulda known): torn groin Week 1, Sebastian Vollmer: broken femur Week 8, Rob Gronkowski: torn ACL and MCL Week 14.
One couldn't help but get an ominous feeling about the season with the dark cloud over the Hernandez murder trial before the season even started. Luckily, New England won't have to deal with any distractions this year (we hope, Jesus Christ), and will start off on a clean slate for 2014.
The defensive line was toyed with all year. 2013 198th overall pick (Houston Texans), Chris Jones, had a solid year for a rookie, but needs to bulk up and work on his technique. Jones did show flashes, though, compiling 54 tackles and six sacks. The rookie out of Bowling Green State has a high motor and is just 23. Joe Vellano, undrafted out of University of Maryland, could be the odd man out this coming season. Vellano also made 54 tackles to go along with two sacks, but lost his job to Sealver Siliga down the stretch. Siliga is a raw, intriguing prospect, much like Jones. The undrafted 325 lber out of University of Utah was signed by the San Francisco 49ers after the Draft in 2011, but was eventually cut. Siliga had stints with the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks before landing on New England's practice squad on October 23rd, 2013. He was added to the active roster November 27th. In just five games, starting from his Week 13 debut at Houston, Siliga made 23 tackles and had one sack Week 15, 16, and 17. Siliga helped the Patriots sure up their run defense substantially in the playoffs, holding the Indianapolis Colts to just 63 yards on the ground and the Denver Broncos to 107, for a 3.8 average.
New England will never be as horrid defending the run as they were in 2013; they ranked 30th in the NFL allowing 134 yards/game, a stat that simply never reaches those lows with this team. The injuries were detrimental and the depth was inexperienced. Even still, Jones, Siliga and Vellano will provide nice depth for next year after being thrust into starting roles so abruptly. Somewhat of a blessing in disguise, at least depth-wise, for the Patriots.
New England also signed former USC standout, Armond Armstead, from the Canadian Football League over the 2013 offseason. The 6'5" 300 lb Armstead earned a myriad of high school accolades, including being named a Super Prep All-American, with 88 tackles and 11 sacks at Pleasant Grove High School in California. In 2010 with the Trojans, Armstead compiled 43 tackles and three sacks, despite constantly being double teamed. Armstead wasn't cleared to play in 2011 by team doctors due a heart problem that Armstead deemed minor. USC doctors gave Armstead painkillers, and Armstead later sued the doctor and a physician, claiming the injects of the drug called Toradol caused him to have a heart attack, and, in turn, affected his NFL Draft potentialities. Toradol does not list heart attacks as a side effect. Armstead redshirted that 2011 season, and went undrafted in 2012. He ended up playing for the Toronto Argonauts and was named a 2012 CFL All Star, with 43 tackles and six sacks. The Argonauts won the Grey Cup, the CFL version of the Super Bowl, that year. Armstead was originally projected as a first round pick going into 2011, so the Patriots signed him to a three year deal in the 2012 off season to give him a shot, especially coming off his impressive CFL stint that was injury-free. In late June, Armstead developed an undisclosed infection, though it likely stemmed from his heart attack treatment. Armstead was going to be counted on in 2013, but it is clear he can't be in 2014. That doesn't mean he can't reach his first round ceiling, but New England needs to stock up on some more mooses in the Draft.
Top Talent: Louis Nix, University of Notre Dame
6'3" 345 lbs
5.17 40 yard dash
2013: 27 tackles, two for loss. 2012: 52 tackles, 7.5 for loss, two sacks
Strengths: Elite size, athleticism, quickness, disruptive, total package
Weaknesses: Torn meniscus in early November, overweight...? Will he have same elite burst? Dedication, motor. All Draft gurus gawk at size and athleticism. Similar to Vernon Davis who is an atheltic freak, but has had off years and toughness issues (five catches for 54 yards in three 2013 playoff games). Vernon Gholston, the athetic "workout warrior" pass rusher from Ohio State was drafted sixth overall by the New York Jets in 2008, has had zero sacks in his three year NFL career. He hasn't played since 2010. Sometimes you can't trust these Draft guys who love imposing size and athleticism (especially the gurus that like prospects who can jump out of pools). Competition in the Independent Conference is a question with Nix as well.
I would stay away from him, but I do believe if the knee didn't get injured, my opinion would be much different. Nix has everything NFL scouts drool over.
Realistically at #29: Aaron Donald, University of Pittsburgh
6'1" 290 lbs
2013: 59 tackles, 28.5 for loss, four forced fumbles, 11 sacks
Strengths: Versatility, relentless burst, pass rushing
Weaknesses: Size, run stuffing
Absolutely love this kid. The Patriots went with the undersized, athletic Jamie Collins, and that worked out fine for them. Much is criticized about the team's secondary, but Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich didn't lay a finger on a quarterback after New England's Week 10 Bye. Collins had a beastly game against the Colts in the playoffs, and displayed, as he did all season, the flashes of his instinctive pass rushing ability (10 sacks in 2012 with Southern Mississippi). Donald could bulk up to 300+, and has incredible quickness at the point of attack. He is versatile enough to even play defensive end, and could turn into the heir to Rob Ninkovich at the end opposite Jones. It all depends on if the Patriots view him as a defensive end, or an interior defensive lineman. In any scheme, Donald could be a serious playmaker and X factor in the way Jamie Collins was this season. He will likely play interior D line, though.
Steven Gregory is not a starting strong safety. Period. To New England's credit, the team did attempt to squeeze some juice out of three time All Pro Adrian Wilson who was cut by the Arizona Cardinals, but the 34 year old suffered an Achilles injury during the preseason. Gregory was certainly the back up plan, but he is just 5'11" 200 lbs. Fans look at guys like Kam Chancellor of the Seahawks and Donte Whitner of the 49ers and drool over the game-changing ability they could bring to the Patriots secondary. Though Gregory was playing sound football until he broke his thumb Week 9 vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers, he is not a starter. I'd expect Gregory to hang around, though. He provides good depth on passing downs and almost never makes a glaring mistake, but he's simply not a game changer at 31 years old and never has been.
Rookie Duron Harmon showed flashes in Gregory's absence. The third round 91st overall pick out of Rutgers University made 31 tackles with two interceptions and four passes defended. Harmon displayed a good deal of physicality and instincts, making a career high 11 tackles vs. Denver Week 12. He hits hard and always is the second or third tackler on the ball carrier. The 6' 200 lber needs to bulk up in the offseason, but he is timely with his hits and plays bigger than he is. Though one interception was off a tip, Harmon has a nice nose for the ball as well. He could be the starting strong safety in 2014 if New England plans to keep chemistry going with former Scarlet Knights Devin McCourty and Logan Ryan starting in the secondary, but competition is needed and the Patriots could very well look to add a bigger, more athletic strong safety in the Draft.
Top talent: Calvin Pryor, University of Louisville
6'1" 210 lbs
2013: 75 tackles, three interceptions, four passes defended
Strengths: Total package, NFL ready
Weaknesses: Free or strong, competition
Realistically: Deone Bucannon, Washington State
6'1" 220 lbs
2013: 109 tackles, five interceptions, one pass defended
Strengths: Size, hitting, relentlessness
Weaknesses: Coverage
This kid will be a Pro Bowler, mark my words. Menacing size and delivers "bone-rattling" hits. He is all over the place on the field and has a knack for being around the ball in the air. Buchannon's pure coverage ability could use some work, as he tends to be flat footed at times, but he has the potential to be a game changer. I like the fact that he comes from Washington State, undoubtedly modeling his playing style after Kam Chancellor. Both Pryor and Buchannon can be had in the first round, but I like Buchannon in the second, unless the Patriots fall in love with him. Grab him before Seattle does, Bill.
Cornerback is a position that is suddenly pretty deep for New England. Logan Ryan was the best rookie cornerback in the NFL, 25 year old Alfonzo Dennard is competitive in man to man, and Aqib Talib, when healthy, is a top three cornerback in the league. Still, it is unknown at this point if Talib will be a Patriot for next season. Also, Kyle Arrington had his ups and downs and makes an incredible $4 million/year as a slot corner. He dealt with injuries in the playoffs, but had a terrible game vs. Denver in the AFC Championship. New England did rank 18th against the pass in 2013, a big improvement from being at the bottom in 2012. With the NFL clearly evolving into a passing league, a team can never have too many corners. The Seahawks have Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner (did not play in playoffs, six interceptions 23 passes defended in 2011... teams rarely threw to his side in 2012), Walter Thrumond, and Byron Maxwell, all very competitive defensive backs. Look for New England to potentially find Talib's understudy, as a (healthy!) shutdown cornerback is becoming so valued in the age of Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman.
Top talent: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State University
6' 200 lbs
2013: 40 tackles, six interceptions (one for a touchdown), six passes defended
Strengths: Size, bump and run, physical, speed, big plays, leaping ability, return skills
Weaknesses: Technique, agility
Realistically: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State University
5'11" 190 lbs
2013: 59 tackles, four interceptions, ten passes defended
Strengths: Stout, man to man, physicality, competitiveness, technique
Weaknesses: Speed, size
Darqueze is the younger brother of Alfonzo and the more talented of the two. If the Patriots want to keep Duron Harmon as the future strong safety with Rutgers alumni McCourty and Ryan, they may also be intrigued by the idea of having Dennard's younger brother on the roster as well. Though it is a toss up on who is the better prospect, Gilbert or Dennard, New England could really like what they see out of the latter and trade up to grab their man. The brothers would feed off of each other and it could be a match made in heaven for the Patriots.