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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Grading the Chicago Bears 2012 NFL Draft

The 2012 NFL Draft has come and gone and now its time to break down each pick and examine the different picks that were made. With that said, I wanted to look at the different Bears draft picks and examine how these players will fit on their team on the roster.

Round 1: Shea McClellin: I feel Shea McClellin will become a terrific NFL player in the future, with that said, I’m not sure how Shea McClellin will fit into the Bears 4-3 defense. McClellin is a player that plays hard on every position and wants to get to the Quarterback each play. The main problem with McClellin is that he’s only 6’3 and 260 lbs. which will make it difficult on him to make the transition to becoming a Defensive End in Lovie Smith’s 4-3 defense. If McClellin was taken by a team that plays a 3-4 defense, then he would have been an outstanding pick for that team. As for the Bears,  I’m not sure how he’ll adjust to becoming a Defensive End in this style of defense. If McClellin can display that he’s capable of becoming a solid Defensive End in the future, then this was a great pick; if not, then McClellin would turn into a  player that would only work in a 3-4 defense.

Grade: B (In the Bears system, he can be an A or a D draft pick)

Round 2: Alshon JefferyJeffery has a ton of talent, potential, and the ability of becoming a great NFL Wide Receiver in the future. Alshon has idea Wide Receiver height (6’4″), but his weight has been questioned throughout the past few years (as low as 210 lbs. and as high as 240 lbs.) which has led some to become unsure of the type of player he would become in the future. Jeffery had a breakout Sophomore season (88 receptions, 1517 yards, and 9 touchdowns) for South Carolina but had a down Junior season (45 receptions, 614 yards, and 6 touchdowns) leading some to question what type of player he would be in the future: the sophomore or junior Alshon Jeffery. One thing that many people don’t realize is that during his junior year, Jeffery had to go through a Quarterback controversy which completely changed his junior season. As for his weight (the other problem people looked at), I feel Jeffery was never going to be the fastest wide-out (so weight’s not his biggest concern), but with his hands and his leaping ability, I feel Jeffery has the potential of becoming a quality number two Wide Receiver with Brandon Marshall. Many people fee that Alshon Jeffery has the possibility of becoming similar to Marques Colston.

Grade: A-

Round 3: Brandon Hardin: With the selection of Brandon Hardin, the Bears have now drafted a Safety in the third round of the previous three NFL Drafts (Major Wright, Chris Conte, and Hardin). Chicago now hope’s that Hardin will be able to fit in with the other two Safeties and in a year or two become the starting Bears Safety. In 2011, Hardin missed the entire football season while playing at Oregon State with a shoulder injury but should be able to comeback and become a productive player this year. If Hardin is able to recover from his previous injuries and show that he can stay healthy, the Bears might have finally found the Safety they’ve been looking for since Mike Brown was healthy.

Grade: B-

Round 4: Evan Rodriguez: The Bears needed another play-maker on their roster and Rodriguez should be able to become an additional option for Quarterback Jay Cutler to find down field. While playing at Temple, Rodriguez had a productive junior year (35 receptions and 479 yards) as it seems the Bears should be able to move him around the field and find a place for him on the offense. The one key problem with Rodriguez is that he’s an undersized Tight End (6’1″ and 242 lbs.) but should be able to line up at a number of places in the Bears offense (Fullback, Tight End, Wide Receiver) or become a key member on the Bears special teams.

Grade: C+

Round 6: Isaiah Frey: The Bears needed to add more depth at the Cornerback position; whether it was as a starting or backup Cornerback, this needed to be upgraded. He had a solid career at Nevada, caped off by recording five interceptions and 16 deflections on the season. Frey has good size for a Cornerback (6’0″/190 lbs.) to go along with being an athletic and fast Cornerback, which should allow for him to him become a quality special teams player.

Grade: C+:

Round 7: Greg McCoy: Once again, the Bears needed to add more depth at the Cornerback position and in McCoy they were able to obtain this. While playing at TCU, McCoy was able to become both a solid Cornerback (2 Interceptions and 30 tackles) along with being a solid Special Teams player (winning the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year in 2011). Even though McCoy’s a smaller Cornerback (5-10 / 181 lbs.), he has the capability of becoming a quality special teams player and will hopefully become a valued depth player in the future.

Grade: C

Recap: Chicago needed to address a few needs in the draft and I feel they were able to address a number of these holes during the draft. Chicago needed to add a pass rusher (McClellin), a Wide Receiver (Jeffery), secondary help (Hardin), to go along with adding additional special teams help (Rodriguez, Frey, and McCoy). As good as these players can be and will help the Bears both now and the future, I feel they forgot to address one key position: Left Tackle. Had the Bears addressed the Left Tackle position in the draft, I would have given the Bears an A, but because they once again didn’t address this position, I feel the Bears final grade should be lowered and reflect this.

Final Draft Grade: B

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NFL Draft: Picks 21-32

Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick: If this was what the draft board looked like this, then I feel the Bengals would have one of two players to choose from and both were teammates at Alabama last season in Dre Kirkpatrick and Courtney Upshaw. As much of an upgrade as Upshaw would be to their roster, I feel Kirkpatrick would give the Bengals a badly needed improvment at the second cornerback slot (with Leon Hall) and could someday create one of the best cornerback combinations in the NFL. Kirkpatrick is a taller cornerback (6’1″) has good speed from the cornerback position, and with his athletic ability should succeed in the Bengals defense.

Cleveland Browns: Kendall Wright: The Browns had one of the worst offense’s last year (finishing 29th in the NFL) and with their first draft choice, they drafted running back Trent Richardson. As for their second first round choice, I feel the Browns will continue to upgrade their offense by drafting wide receiver Kendall Wright out of Baylor with the 22 pick. In 2011, the Browns had a ton of problems at wide receiver position as they featured a lot of young wide receivers (Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Joshua Cribbs) but still need another solid young wide receiver to upgrade their core even more in the future. Wright (5’10” and 196 lbs.) is a smaller wide receiver but is great at finding a way to get open, getting up-field, and making defenders miss. The only other player I feel the Browns could look to draft with this choice is wide receiver Stephen Hill (6’4″, 196 lbs.) but I feel Wright is a better fit for the Browns at this time.

Detroit Lions: Courtney Upshaw: The Lions first choice is to draft a cornerback at this spot (but with the top 2 corner backs already off the board), I feel the Lions will have to go in another direction. With that said, I feel they will address another weak point on their roster and upgrade their linebacker core by drafting Courtney Upshaw. In Upshaw, Detroit would  upgrade their outside linebacker core and while already featuring the deepest defensive line depth in the NFL. Courtney Upshaw wouldn’t have to be a blitzing linebacker in Detroit and would become a side-to-side with their linebackers.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Cordy Glenn: Throughout the past few seasons, the Steelers have had a significant amount of injuries to their offensive line and because of this I feel they need to add another offensive tackle to their roster. With his size (6’5″ and 345 lbs.) the Steelers would have the option of moving Glenn inside and making him a guard, or keep him outside and making him the teams right tackle. With Glenn on their roster, the Steelers would have a fairly young offense that should be able to stay together for a few years.

Denver Broncos: Michael Brockers: What a crazy 2012 season for the Denver Broncos: first they won a playoff game in overtime, then they signed Peyton Manning, and finally they traded Tim Tebow to the New York Jets. As for the 2012 draft, the Broncos are still missing a good defensive tackle upfront and Michael Brockers would certainly fit that need as at (6’5″ and 322 lbs.) Brockers has shown that he’s potential of become a solid defensive tackle in the NFL. With the addition of Michael Brockers to their defense, they would feature a solid defensive line with Brockers playing alongside Robert Ayers, Ty Warren, and Elvis Dumervil.

Houston Texans: Jonathan Martin: In 2011,  the Houston Texans made the playoffs for the first time in the history of their franchise. However, as good as last year was for the Texans, they realized that they would have a lot of holes to fill with the losses of Eric Winston, Mario Williams, and Demeco Ryans this offseason. The Texans know that if they want to return to the playoffs next year, there going to have to fill these holes on their roster. Offensive Tackle Jonathan Martin would provide the Texans with a replacement for the loss of Eric Winston and would fit in nicely  on the right side of the Texans offense. At 6’5″ and 312 lbs., Martin has ideal size for an offensive lineman played in a pro style offense the past few years at Stanford.

New England Patriots: Andre Branch: The Patriots did a great job upgrading their roster during the offseason by signing Brandon Lloyd, Robert Gallery, and others. However, the Patriots still have two key holes  they have to address before the end of the draft: secondary and their defensive line. With the first of their two first round draft picks, I feel the Patriots will draft Andre Branch out of Clemson to add to their pass rush. Branch (6’4″ and 259 lbs.) should make a smooth transition into Bill Belichick’s 3-4 defense, and will give the Patriots a few options of where to have Branch line-up; at linebacker or defensive end.

Green Bay Packers: Shea McClellin: In 2011, the Packers pass rush struggled and led to a lot of problems on their defense. During the 2010 offseason, the Packers lost one of the teams best pass rusher’s (Cullen Jenkins) to free agency, and the loss of Jenkins showed up throughout the 2011 season. Throughout this draft, the Packers need to address a few positions which include defensive end, linebacker, and (with the loss of Nick Collins) safety. To help get more pass rush in their 3-4 defense, I feel the Packers will draft Shea McClellin, a defensive end out of Boise State. McClellin (6’3″ and 260 lbs.) ran good 40 time (4.63) at the combine, and has ideal size to become a productive outside linebacker in Dom Capers 3-4 defense.

Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz: During the offseason, the Ravens lost one of their best offensive lineman (Ben Grubbs) to free agency, and the teams current center, Matt Birk, is 35 years old and towards the end of his career. With this pick, I feel the Ravens could address a number of their offensive line problems, so I feel they will draft the highest ranked offensive lineman left on the board. Konz, (6’5″ and 314 lbs.) is the highest ranked center in the draft and could become a solid replacement for the Ravens when Matt Birk decides to retire. Learning under a good offensive lineman will only make Konz a better pro and in the future will allow him to eventually become one of the top centers in the NFL.

San Francisco 49ers: Kevin Zeitler: What a tremendous breakout year for the San Francisco 49ers as they went from a 6-10 team in 2010, to a 13-3 team that took the eventual Super Bowl Champions to overtime of the NFL Championship in 2011. Zeitler (a 6’5″ and 314 lbs. guard out of Wisconsin) will only improve a young, quality offensive line which will make the 49ers offense that much better next year. The Niners are built on running the ball first and with the addition of Zeitler to their roster, the 49ers will be able to commit to the Frank Gore, Brandon Jacobs, and Kendall Hunter even more so next year.

New England Patriots: Harrison Smith: With the Patriots having 2 first round picks, 2 second round picks, and no picks between rounds 4-7 round, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the Patriots trade out of this slot and acquire more picks in this draft. However, if the Patriots decide to draft someone at this spot, I feel they will address their safety situation with this selection. Unfortunately for New England, this isn’t a great draft for Safeties with only one elite safety (Mark Barron) and another good safety prospect (Harrison Smith) available. Ever since Rodney Harrison retired from the Patriots following the 2008 season, New England’s has struggled to find his replacement and still hasn’t been able to find it. The Patriots tried to address this problem in the draft, via free agency, and through trades and still haven’t been able to find the correct replacement. I feel Harrison Smith would finally be the replacement that the Patriots have been looking for all these years. Smith (6’2″ and 213 lbs. from Notre Dame), has excellent size and is said to be a very smart player. If Smith was to become a solid safety and solidify this position then I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Patriots back in the Super Bowl this season.

New York Giants: Coby Fleener: Last season, the Giants featured a great front four, good secondary, and a much improved passing game thanks to Eli Manning, Victor Curz, and Hakeem Nicks. As much as the Giants could use an upgrade on their offensive line, I feel they should look to draft a tight end to add another dimension to their offense. In 2011, the Giants received great blocking from the tight end position but could never truly depend on one of these players catching a ball from this position. Coby Fleener (who would be the 4th Stanford player taken in the 1st round of the draft), would address this problem and give Eli Manning another play maker to throw to. Fleener is the only elite tight end prospect in this draft and at 6’6″ and 247 pounds would give the Giants the red zone threat that they’ve been missing for the past few seasons. With Fleener, Nicks, and Cruz on there offense, the Giants would feature one of the best passing games in the NFL.

 
 

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NFL Draft: Picks 11-20

Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Kuechly: Quietly, Kansas City features one of the most talented teams in the NFL and should be an improved team in 2012 with Jamal Charles, Eric Berry, and Tony Moeak all returning from injuries that they suffered at the  beginning of last season. The Chiefs are already setup at wide receiver, running back, offensive line, defensive line, to go along with have a good cornerback, safety, and outside linebacker. This is why I feel Like Kuechly would fit in nicely onto their roster and transform them from a good defense into a great defense next year. Kuechly had a fantastic combine showing he doesn’t just have great speed (4.58) but also has great athletic ability (38 inches vertical jump) to go along with it. If the Cheifs are able to add Kuechly (who some are comparing to Brian Urlacher) to their line linebacking core, then I feel the Chiefs would become the team to beat in the AFC West.

Seattle Seahawks: Quenton Copels: The Seahawks can go in many different directions with this pick (Wide Receiver, Defensive End, and Cornerback) so I feel the Seahawks should draft the player that’s highest on the board with the 12 pick and at this spot, I feel that will be Quinton Copels. Copels has terrific size (6’6″ and 284 lbs.), speed (ran a 4.78 40 yard dash), and has a great amount of athletic ability. He has the potential to be like Jason Pierre Paul (6’5″ and 278lbs), and can really upgrade the Seahawks for both the present and the future.

Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro: The Cardinals need to upgrade their offensive line so that quarterback Kevin Kolb can make it through the entire season healthy. Arizona already features one of the best Wideouts in the NFL (Larry Fitzgerald), a good running back (Beanie Wells), and a solid defense but needs a lot of help with their offensive line. The Cardinals signed former top 5 pick Levi Brown to a 5 year deal and last offseason signed former Packers guard Daryn Colledge to a deal, but they still need more talent on their offensive line. At this spot in the draft, there are two ideal players to take here in David DeCastro (Guard from Stanford) or Jonathan Martin (Tackle from Stanford). DeCastro has great good size for an interior lineman (6’5″ and 316lbs.) and many feel he’s a tad better prospect than his former college teammate. Whatever Arizona decides to do here, they need to make sure they add another solid offensive lineman to their team to help Kevin Kolb stay upright so he can find Larry Fitzgerald down field.

Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron: There are two positions that the Cowboys need to address in the next few weeks: Safety and defensive lineman that can become a good defensive end in a 3-4 defense. If Mark Barron is still on the board at this spot, then there’s no doubt in my mind that the Cowboys would draft Barron at this spot. However, if Barron still isn’t on the board, then I feel they will draft defensive end Michael Brockers out of LSU (who was a defensive tackle at LSU and would become a good defensive end in a 3-4 defense). Barron had a great year for the National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide recording 68 tackles and 2 interceptions all while becoming one of the most reliable safeties in college football. Barron is a smart safety that would greatly improve Rob Ryan’s secondary for both next year and years to come.

Philadelphia Eagles: Dontari Poe: The Eagles need to make sure they improve their safety and linebacker cores (even after the addition of Demeco Ryans to play middle linebacker) but at this spot, I feel they should draft the defensive tackle out of Memphis (Dontari Poe). The Eagles already have a good line (Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, and Trent Cole) and need another quality defensive tackle upfront to make the Eagles one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Poe has a great deal of talent and speed from the defensive tackle position which can turn this Eagles defensive line into one of the best in the NFL. If Poe isn’t on the board, then the Eagles would look to draft a safety, linebacker (Upshaw), or another defensive lineman (Whitney Mercilus) with the 15th pick.

New York Jets: Melvin Ingram: The Jets have a few key holes they have to fill on their roster (wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker, safety) but I feel it’s another hole they first need to address with there first round pick: defensive end. Even with the Jets using their 2011 first round pick on a defensive lineman (Muhammad Wilkerson), I still feel they need to add another early pick to once again upgrade their pass-rush from the 3-4 position. With that said, this is why I feel Melvin Ingram would be a great fit for the Jets 3-4 defense and will bring a pass rush that the Jets were missing last year. With his height (6’1″ and 264 lbs.) and athletic ability, I feel the Jets will be able to line him up at a number of places (inside linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive end), so that he can pressure the quarterback from a number of places on their defense. This would be a perfect fit for both Ingram and the New York Jets defense.

Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Floyd: The Bengals have 2 first round picks in the 2011 draft (17 and 21) as they have the opportunity of going from a playoffs team last year into a team that can take the next step and go deep in the NFL playoffs. With these two picks, the Bengals need to see if they can fill 2 of 4 positions (wide receiver, outside linebacker, defensive end, and cornerback) with their first round picks and they should draft the highest player on the board (which is Michael Floyd). In his senior season at Notre Dame, Floyd showed that he was one of the best players in college football (100 catches) and has the potential to be one of the best wide receivers at the next level. Floyd has good size for a wide receiver (6’3″ and 220 lbs.) but its his leaping ability that make’s him such a great NFL prospect. With 2011 rookie Pro Bowl A.J. Green on one side and Michael Floyd on the other, the Bengals would then feature one of the best young receiving cores in the NFL.

San Diego Chargers: Nick Perry: The Chargers have two significant positions they have to replace in this draft (defensive end and offensive line) in this draft. With that said, I feel there are a few players they can choose from with this pick (Nick Perry, Michael Brockers, Whitney Mercilus, Chandler Jones, or Cordy Glenn). With all these choices, I feel the Chargers will eventually choose the defensive end out of USC (Nick Perry) to fill one of their defensive end positions. Perry would be able to play the right defensive end position on the opposite side of 2011 first round pick, Corey Liuget for next year and beyond. With the Chargers playing a 3-4 defense, he would  give them the option of playing at the linebacker or defensive end positions on their defense.

Chicago Bears: Whitney Mercilus: The Bears addressed a few positions during the 2012 off-season (trading for Brandon Marshall, signing Michael Bush, and adding more depth at the cornerback position). There were only two positions that they didn’t address this offseason which were at left tackle and defensive end. If the Bears were to take Whitney Mercilus with the 19th pick, it would address one of the Bears problems after he had a breakout season at Illinois (recording 16 sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss, and 9 forced fumbles on the season). Mercilus has good size for a 4-3 defense (6’3 and 261 lbs.) and with his speed he would add a lot more speed from the Bears front four. With one of the best defensive ends on one side of the ball, and Mercilus on the other side, then the Bears would create a much more opposing front four that would allow the Bears linebacker’s to not have to blitz as much next year.

Tennessee Titans: Chandler Jones: The Titans signed a pass rusher earlier this offseason (Kamerion Wimbley), but still need another pass rusher to play on the other side which is why I feel the Titans will draft Chandler Jones out of Syracuse. Jones has good height (6’5″) but needs to gain a little weight (247 lbs.) for a 4-3 defense, that should eventually give Titans a good pass rushing combo from their front four. Titans fans hope that Jones would have them remember the late 1990’s and 2000’s with Jevon Kearse.

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NFL Draft: Top 10 Picks

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck: The football world would be completely shocked if Andrew Luck wasn’t the number one overall pick on Thursday. The 6’4″ quarterback out of Stanford has been the projected 2012 number one overall pick since he decided to play an additional season of college football. Throughout the past few years, Luck has shown that he can do everything from escaping from the pocket, to having excellent accuracy. The Colts hope that they can have as good of success as they did the last time they held the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft (1998 Peyton Manning).

2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III: Not such a bad consolation prize for the Redskins as some feel that RGIII will eventually be a great NFL, (and possibly even better than Luck). With Luck, its his great accuracy and pocket composure that makes him successful; on the other hand with RGIII, its his great ability to escape from pressure, make accurate throws on the run, and is a great competitor. Griffin is a great athlete and showed this by not only staring for Baylor (and winning the 2011 Heisman trophy), but was also a track star while at Baylor. The Redskins decided to trade 3 first round picks and a second round pick for hopefully their future franchise quarterback.

3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil: The best offensive lineman in this draft, Kalil would hopefully become the next great Vikings offensive lineman.  With Steve Hutchinson (signed with the Titans) and Bryant Mckinnie (signing with the Ravens before the 2011 season) gone, it seems like the Vikings need someone who can protect the blindside of their future franchise quarterback Christian Ponder. At 6’6″ and 306 lbs., it seems that Kalil has the ideal size and speed (also ran a 4.99 40 yard dash) to be a solid lineman in the future. The Vikings need to start rebuilding their line before they fix the other problems on their roster.

4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson: There are a lot of good running backs in this draft, but Richardson is the only “elite” running back. At 5’9″ and 228 lbs., Richardson would be a great running back for the Browns after they became the latest team to suffer through the so-called “Madden Curse” (with Peyton Hillis) last year. In 2011, Trent Richardson showed he could be counted on as the guy and would be able to deliver as the number one running back for a NFL team in the near future. Richardson’s become great at not just breaking tackles but is also great a turning short gains into long runs and touchdowns.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne: The Buccaneers had a lot of great signing’s this offseason (Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson), but still need another young cornerback to go alongside Ronde Barber (who might retire after this season), Aqib Talib (who has a lot of talent but has had some off the field problems), and Eric Wright (who will be a good 3rd cornerback for Tampa Bay). If Talib is able to stay on the field and play like he has in the past, then I feel the Buccaneers could create one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL for both now and the future and would be a sleeper team to make the playoffs with their core.

6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon: If the Rams were able to draft Justin Blackmon with the 6th overall pick, then everything would have fallen exactly into place for them. Its most likely that had the Rams held the second overall pick, that they still would have still drafted Blackmon as they would with the 6th overall pick. Sam Bradford needs a true number one wide receiver to go alongside Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson to stretch the field for Bradford and star running back Steven Jackson.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Riley Reiff: The Jaguars need another piece on offense, especially someone who can help 2011 first round pick Blaine Gabbert. With that said, I feel there are only two positions that would be able to answer this question with their draft pick: an offensive tackle or a wide receiver. The Jaguars currently have one of the best defenses (finishing 6th in 2011) and running backs (Maurice Jones-Drew) in the NFL and now need to fill the other holes on their roster as they could decide between Riley Reiff (Offensive Tackle) and Michael Floyd (Wide Receiver). In the end, I feel they’ll draft Riley Reiff because they just signed a wide receiver this offseason (Laurent Robinson) and still need someone who can protect Gabbert’s blindside (as they could then move Eugene Monore to the right side). Riley Reiff is seen solid NFL prospect and has good size (6’6″ 313lbs.) for a NFL left tackle.

8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill: First the Dolphins were going to sign Peyton Manning; he went to Denver, then they were going to sign Matt Flynn (who used to play under new Dolphins head coach and former Packers Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin); he signed with Seattle, and finally they were going to sign Alex Smith; he resigned with San Francisco. If the Dolphins don’t draft the quarterback out of Texas A&M then everyone would be completely shocked and have no idea which directions the Dolphins would be going in the future. Tannehill is a great athlete (played Wide Receiver at for a few years Texas A&M), is very good at getting out of the pocket, and has good size (6’4″ and 221 lbs.) for a quarterback. The Dolphins hope that Tannehill will become the franchise quarterback that they’ve been looking for since Hall-Of-Famer Dan Marino retired in 1999.

9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox: Carolina’s offense had a breakout season last year featuring one of the most exciting players in the NFL (Cam Newton), to go along with a solid offensive line and running game. However, as exciting as their offense proved to be, their defense was on the other side atrocious last year (finishing 28th last year) and needs a lot of work.  In 2011, The Panthers suffered through a lot of injuries on that side of the ball (Thomas Davis and Jon Beason both missed the majority of the season) and have a few other good players on that side of the ball (Charles Johnson, Chris Gamble, and James Anderson). With the Panthers featuring a solid linebacker core (if healthy) and good secondary, it seems that the Panthers will look to draft a defensive lineman to help them upfront. I feel Defensive Tackle Fletcher Cox would be an excellent addition to the panthers 4-3 defense and will greatly improve their defense in the future. At 6’4′ and 298 lbs., Cox has great size for a defensive lineman and should fit in nicely into Ron Rivera’s defense.

10. Buffalo Bills: Stephon Gilmore: The Bills made their first major offseason move by signing star defensive end Mario Williams to a 6 year contract to be the face of the Bills. With Williams and 2011 first round pick Marcell Dareus (who showed the potential of becoming one of the top defensive tackles in the league), the Bills currently feature one of the best defensive line’s in the NFL. The Bills also have a few other solid players on the defensive side of the ball in safeties Jarius Byrd and George Wilson but still need to upgrade their linebacker’s and cornerback’s. With this pick, I feel the Bills will have two different players to choose from in cornerback Stephon Gilmore and linebacker Luke Kuechly. As good as I feel Kuechly will be, I feel the Bills have a bigger need at the cornerback position than they currently do at the middle linebacker spot. At 6’0″ 190 lbs., many feel that Gilmore has good coverage skills and is a great athlete that can help the Bills secondary.

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NBA Awards

Last week, I wrote an article on who I felt should be named the 2011-2012 NBA MVP (Kevin Durant) and I felt this would be a good opportunity for me to discuss who I feel should win the other NBA Awards (Most Improved, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Rookie of the Year).

Most Improved Player of the Year: Many people feel that Jeremy Lin should win this award, however, because he’s only played in 35 games this season (just over 1/2 the season), I feel he shouldn’t be considered for this award. Had Jeremy Lin played in at-least 45 games on the season, I would have put him number one or two on my list but because he didn’t play in the required number of games, I feel he shouldn’t be considered for this award.

3. Ryan Anderson: The Magic feature an offense that revolves around two things: Dwight Howard on the inside and a lot of three-point shooters on the outside. The Magic already had there starting point guard (Jameer Nelson), two guard (JJ Redick), small forward (Jason Richardson) and center (Dwight Howard) on their roster, but were missing a good four man to help Howard spread the floor even more. That’s where Ryan Anderson came in and picked up the slack as last year he was a solid bench player for a Magic team that averaged 10.6 points to go along with 5.5 rebounds while shooting 39.3% from beyond the arch. Before this season, the Magic decided to start Anderson  (playing in all but 4 games this season) and has rewarded them by averaging 15.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 39.8% from three and  shooting 87.1% from the free throw line. With the addition of Anderson to their lineup, the Magic can make three’s from four of their 5 starters.

2. James Harden: Last year, James Harden showed that he was a one of the best bench player in the league and this year he’s proven that he’s not just one of the elite bench players but that he’s one of the top 2-guards in the entire NBA. Last year, Harden averaged 12.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists, while shooting 34.9% from 3 and this year, he’s improved in each of these categories averaging 16.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, while shooting 38.1% from 3. The 22-year-old Harden has transformed his game from a good player off the bench in his first season to one of the best two guards in the entire NBA.

1. Andrew Bynum: Under former coach Phil Jackson, Andrew Bynum has shown the potential of being one of the best centers in the entire league but was never able to turn the corner and become an elite NBA Center. Since sitting out the first five games of the season because of a suspension during the 2011 NBA Playoffs, Bynum has been great and one of the focal points of the Lakers season. Under new coach Mike Brown, Bynum’s game has taken off averaging 18.6 points, 12.2 rebounds (third in the NBA), and is shooting 55.8% from the field. With Phil Jackson retiring, Lamar Odom being traded before the season, and Kobe Bryant suffering an injury (and missing the past few games) its been Bynum whose steeped up and saved the Lakers season.

Defensive Player of the Year: The last 3 defensive of the years Awards were given to Dwight Howard, however, as good as he’s been this year, I don’t feel he should win the award this year.

3. Serge Ibaka: The Thunder feature a solid defensive team, but its Ibaka that protects the rim and doesn’t allow anyone to get to the rim on the Thunder. Ibaka leads all players in blocks per game averaging 3.63 per game and the next closest is JaVale McGee with 2.31 per game. To go along with his great block totals on the season (actually had 10 blocks in a game to complete a triple-double), Ibaka’s still averaging 1/2 assists per game and 7.7 rebounds from the Power Forward position. With Ibaka downlow, it’s a difficult task to take the ball to the rim on the Thunder and Serge Ibaka.

2. Andre Iguodala: The 76ers have the second ranked defense in the NBA (behind only Boston) and its 2012 All-Star Andre Iguodala that’s taken the challenge of guarding the best Shooting Guards and Small Forwards day in and day out. In addition to guarding the teams best players, Iguodala’s averaging 1.6 steels, .5 blocks, while only committing 1.6 fouls per game. With the 76ers ranking in the top 2 in defense and Iguodala having to guard the teams best players, I feel he should be rewarded for the work he’s done this season.

1. Tyson Chandler: Led by new coach Mike Woodson and center Tyson Chandler, the Knicks quietly feature the 4th best defense in the entire NBA (allowing only 97.6 points per game). Defensively, Tyson Chandler has been everywhere on the court and is still averaging 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, almost 1 steel per game (.9), while transforming the Knicks into a solid defensive team. Had Chandler not been on the Knicks, I feel their defense would be in disarray and would give up more than 100 points per game.

Coach of the Year:

3. Doc Rivers: The Celtics started off the season with a record of 5-9 and then in the middle of February lost 7 of 8 games. However, head coach Doc Rivers refused to panic and because of this, the Celtics are in position to not just make the playoffs, but in fact win their division. Boston suffered through a ton of injuries highlighted by Jeff Green missing the entire season, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen missing a few games, along with others. The key for the Celtics turn around this season was having Kevin Garnett play Center (and not Power Forward) as with this change along with others, the Celtics should be able to make another run at a championship.

2. Gregg Popovich: The 2010-2011 Spurs ended their season on a sour note by losing in the first round of the NBA Playoffs to the 8th seeded Memphis Grizzlies. Many felt that with the age of the Spurs star players (Duncan 35, and Ginóbili 34) that they wouldn’t be able to survive such a condensed schedule when in fact its been the exact opposite. Popovich has been great at allowing his star players to take a few games off and at the same time still have his reserves prepared to step up no matter the situation. With the Spurs featuring the second best record in the Western Conference, they once again should be a team that needs to be taken seriously and are a good sleeper team to win the NBA Title.

1. Tom Thibodeau: No coach has ever won back-to-back coach of the year awards and I feel this season this should change. The Bulls were without the reigning MVP for almost 1/3 of the season and Rip Hamilton for just about half of the season and yet the Bulls still feature the best record in the NBA. If other teams were to lose their entire back court for over 1/3 of their season (not to mention the MVP of the league from their team) they’d  be happy to finish the season around the .500 mark. In addition to Rose and Hamilton going down with long-term injuries, Luol Deng suffered a broken wrist that made him missing 9 games and other players have missed a few games throughout the season. With the Bulls featuring the best record in the NBA and defeating the Heat twice (once without Rose and the other time with an ineffective Rose), the Celtics 3 times (twice without Rose), and the Spurs, Coach Tom Thibodeau has earned the right to become the first person to be named Coach of the Year in back-to-back seasons.

Rookie of the Year: Just like I said above with Lin, I believe a player needs to play at least 45 of the 66 games to be eligible for an Award. With Rubio tearing his ACL and playing in only 41 games, I didn’t believe he should be eligible for this award, however, Kyrie Irving has played in just enough games to be eligible for this award (46 and counting).

3. Iman Shumpert: Shumpert has turned himself into a very solid NBA player that the Knicks should be able to count on in the future. Shumpert is averaging 9.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists on the season while becoming one of the best young 2-guard defenders.

2. Isaiah Thomas: In two of the past three drafts, the Kings have drafted a point guard with their first round  pick (Tyreke Evans in 2009 and Jimmer Fredette in 2011) and both players have shown that they can’t play the point guard position. 2011 second round pick Isaiah Thomas on the other hand is averaging 11.4 points and 3.9 assists this season while helping solidify the Sacramento Kings point guard position. With Thomas playing the point, the Kings are able to play a smaller lineup which includes Fredette at the 2-guard and Evans at the small forward position which has created a lot of mismatches on the offensive side of the ball. Thomas has been great for the Kings and its seems that the Kings finally found their starting point guard for the future and beyond.

1. Kyrie Irving: I know that Kyrie Irving’s only played in 49 games (and the Cavs have 21 wins) this season, but I still feel that Irving has been the best rookie all year-long. Kyrie’s averaging 18.7 points per game to go along with 5.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds on the season and only a few weeks ago had the Cavs in contention for a playoff spot. When I give out an Award, I also like to look at how a team has done with and without their star player and with Irving out the Cavs have struggled (without Kyrie Irving, the Cavs are 4-10 on the season and when he struggles so do the Cavaliers). In the end, I feel Kyrie has most definitely earned the Rookie of the Year Award and if the Cavs are able to put another good young player with Irving in Cleveland, then the Cavaliers would feature one of the best young cores in the NBA.

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Top 5 NBA Centers

There are only a limited number of good centers left in the NBA as the center position has become a very difficult position to fill. If your franchise is able to have one of these centers listed below on your roster, then your team should have a good chance of going far in the NBA Playoffs (all of these players will most likely be playing in the playoffs this year and all made the playoffs last year).

5. Joakim Noah: Noah’s had a very inconsistent 2012 season as at times he’s looked like he’s one of the best defenders and rebounders and other times he’s struggled. Noah started the season off slowly (only having 3 double-doubles in his first 17 games) but since then has been playing much better basketball. Even though Noah’s statistically having his worst season since the 2008-2009 season (10.1 points and 9.7 rebounds this season), I still feel he’s put together a pretty solid year while only missing 2 games. Only a few players can play Power Forwards or Center down low, switch onto Guards on the perimeter, and still shot over 70% (74.4%) from the free throw line.

4. Marc Gasol: The Memphis Grizzlies got off to a really bad start highlighted by the loss of star Power Forward Zach Randolph to a partial MCL Tear in early January. The Grizzlies needed a few other players to step-up during his absence and fortunately they had two players step up and become All-Star caliber players during this time in Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay. With the way these two players played in Randolph’s absence and also helping save Memphis season, they both deserved to be All-Stars this year and showed why Memphis features a very good team. Gasol’s having a career year; averaging 15 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 3.2 assists while shooting 74.5% from the free throw line on the season.

3. Tyson Chandler: Chandler has turned himself into one of the best centers in the NBA and has helped save the Knicks season. Defensively, he’s as good as any player in the NBA and will be in the running for the Defensive Player of Award. Tyson’s averaging 10.2 points along with 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting a league best 68% from the field while being one of the most efficient centers in the league. He was also the anchor of a defense that won a NBA championship (Mavericks), and now has become the Knicks defensive stopper in addition to being one of the leader of this team. What a great transformation Tyson has made ever since he entered the league over a decade ago.

2. Andrew Bynum: What a great bounce back year by the center of the Los Angeles Lakers as he’s was voted to his first All-Star game and has become one of the few centers that dominant both side of the court. In addition to everything else Bynum does, he’s become the best offensive post player in the NBA while averaging 18.6 points, 12.20 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. Even though Bynum has been criticized because of a few questionable on the court decisions he’s made this season, he’s still one of the two best centers in the league and at only 24 years old, it seems (that if his knees will hold up) that he’ll become the next dominate Lakers center joining George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal.

1. Dwight Howard: He might not be sure of where he wants to play next year, however, he’s still the most dominant big man currently playing in the NBA. All season, Dwight Howard has been surrounded by controversy and problems which include: would Dwight be traded, would their coach finish the season, and the current back injury that might make Dwight Howard miss the remainder of the season. Howard is averaging 20.6 points, 14.50 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game this season and having another great season. Even though I feel Bynum features a much better post game than Howard’s, its Howard’s defense (the defending three-time defensive player of the year winner) that separates him from the other 5 centers and makes him the best center in the entire NBA.

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Top 5 NBA MVP Candidates

There have been a lot of great players this season and a few that have a good chance of bring home the MVP Award. Because of the lockout, this has been unlike any other season which has led to a chaotic shortened NBA season. Below are my top 5 2011-2012 NBA MVP choices.

5. Russell Westbrook: I know Westbrook has one of the top 5 players on his team (Durant), along with other great role players on his roster, however, because Russell’s had such a great year that I feel he has to be apart of this list. Westbrook has been loading up the stat sheet by averaging 24.2 points, 5.4 assists, 4.6 rebounds per game, and shooting 40% from the field (and 32.8% from three). The progression in Westbrook’s game has shown up as he’s improved in each of his first four season with him averaging a career high in a few categories while  making sure others in their lineup are still able to get their shots. With the improvements made in Westbrook’s game, its created one of the top duo’s in the NBA with him and Kevin Durant.

4. Tony Parker: What a year by the former NBA Finals MVP (2007) as he’s become the leader of the team with the third best record in the NBA (only behind Chicago and Oklahoma City). Parker has averaged 15.7 points on the season to go along with 18.7 points along and 7.7 assists while shooting 47.3% from the field. As good as the other players on the Spurs have been this year, its been Parker that’s been stepping up and setting up everything for the Spurs as when he’s out there, the Spurs offense runs at a better pace. Parker’s also had a great +/- this year (+285, which is 4th among all point guards) meaning that when’s he’s on the court the Spurs have outscored their opponents by 285 points.

3. Kobe Bryant: After the Lakers trade/no trade of Chris Paul and the eventual trade of Lamar Odom, the Lakers were seen as a team that’s supposed to be a team in transition. Kobe’s leading the league in scoring (28.1),while  averaging 5.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists. As good as their big men have been this year (Bynum’s averaging 18.4 points/12.2 rebounds and Gasol’s averaging 17.4 points/10.5 rebounds) Kobe’s still the reason why the Lakers have had such a great season. Earlier this year, Bryant shot 3 of 20 from the floor yet was able to hit a key shot down the stretch that allowed the Lakers to win the game. Only a few NBA players could be shooting 2-19 from the field and still have the courage to take and make the game winning shot.

2. LeBron James: Whether you’re a fan of LeBron James or not, he’s been one of the top 5 players in the NBA all season long. During the 2012 season, James he’s averaged 27 points, 6.4 assists, 7.9 rebounds, and has the best +/- in the NBA (+399) while still shooting 36.6% from beyond the arch. As good as LeBron’s been this year, I still don’t feel he’s the league MVP for a few reasons. For one, it seems that every last second shot is taken by his teammate (Dwyane Wade) and 3 of the other 4 members on this list would be the “go-to” player in the final seconds of a game. If LeBron was better in the final few minutes of a game, then I might make LeBron the league MVP, but because he doesn’t take the final shot and has struggled in many final shot opportunities, I feel he should be the runner-up for the MVP Award.

1. Kevin Durant: The back-to-back regular season scoring champion has been fantastic this year and I now feel its time for him to be rewarded with the MVP Award. Durant has averaged 27.5 points per game, 7.90 rebounds, 3.5 assists (as a small forward and having a great point guard already on his roster), and is shooting almost 38% from 3 and 50% from the floor. Durant, (whose played in every game this year) has been a great leader for the 7th youngest team in the NBA (25.8) and has hit all the big shots throughout the season. If the Thunder finish with the best record in the West and the Heat don’t finish with the best record in the East (as the two teams split their head-to-head matchups), then I feel KD should be named the league MVP.

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