Thursday, April 29, 2010

49ers Draft Review

I know it's been a few days since the NFL draft ended, but I've had some terrible computer issues that have kept me from posting since my last post on Friday. There is plenty to talk about for both teams though, as both had what most NFL people considered solid overall drafts.

We already talked about what the Niners did with their first 3 picks of the draft in our last post here. They grabbed the two big offensive lineman, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati in the first, then went defense with their 2nd and 3rd rounders, getting a couple of potential first round guys in USC strong safety Taylor Mays (2nd round) and then lucked out when Penn State star linebacker Navarro Bowman fell to them in the 3rd round. Bowman was picked by many draft experts, including Mel Kuiper, to go in the first round, so any time a team can grab 4 guys who were projected out to be first rounders in a single draft, I'd say they definitely had a good all around weekend. The only real concern with Bowman and likely the reason why he fell to the third round are a few off-field issues that he ran into during his time at Penn State. Bowman and Mays both have some small on-field question marks coming with them though too. Mays has questions about his ball instincts, and Bowman needs to improve on his explosiveness and drive through in tackling ball-carriers as he's more of a chase down wrap-up guy at this point.

I'm not too familiar with the guys the Niners selected on day 3 of the draft, but I have read some positive feedback regarding the power running back they grabbed at the top of the 6th round, Anthony Dixon. The 235-pound back will enter camp with a chance to contribute on short yardage situations for the Niners. They also grabbed a respected blocking tight-end in Pitt's Nate Byham who tips the scales at around 275 and takes pride in his physicality. Still though, even if the guys they took late in the draft never set foot on the field at Candlestick Park, the first four players the Niners took are going to be what makes or breaks this draft for this club. Davis and Iupati are going to be thrown right into the fire as Coach Singletarry expects both guys to be on the Niners starting offensive line come kickoff 2010 in September. In adding the 2 lineman, the Niners have really made progress on their offseason needs. Just before the draft, they added Ted Ginn Jr. to alleviate their need to draft speed at the top of the draft and it allowed them to focus on on the o-line and defense. I'm still a little perplexed by the David Carr deal, but right now, things are looking up in Niner land heading into the summer.
Raiders Report coming next!!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Niners Go Big in First Round

It was no secret that the 49ers were likely going to take a offensive lineman with one of their two first round picks, but I think they kind of took most people by surprise when they ended up taking two big powerful lineman within the draft's top 20 selections.

The first guy the Niners took at 11 was Rutgers' talented right tackle Anthony Davis. With their second pick, number 17 overall, they selected Iowa guard Mike Iupoti. According to the National Football Post, the Niners ended up with the draft's 2nd best tackle and top guard and they have really taken a step in rebuilding their offensive line. I think that if Florida corner Joe Haden would have lasted until 17, the Niners would have taken him. They had a chance to get Kyle Wilson, but they obviously felt Iupati was a better value at pick 17. If you followed the Niners closely in 2009, you noticed how the O-Line struggled to consistently open holes for Frank Gore and were very spotty in pass protection as well. It seemed like every week the commentator doing the Niners' games mentioned how effective star running back Frank Gore would be if he had a solid O-Line in front of him, and it looks like we're finally going to get that answer. Coach Singletarry expects both Davis and Iupati to compete in camp for the starting right tackle and left guard spots, respectively.

Davis does come with some question marks though. He has arguably the most upside as any other tackle in the draft, including Russel Okung, but he's had commitment and conditioning issues and has a reputation as a bit of an under-achiever. The Niners have allowed an NFL-worst 150 sacks over the past 3 seasons, so some added talent up front will certainly help. One thing that I think it will do is give QB Alex Smith a sense of confidence, knowing that he has a better line in front of him and knowing that he probably won't have to rush things and can let plays and routes develop. Both Iupati and Davis are 6'6" and each are right around 330 pounds and will bring some girth as well as athleticism to the Niners front line. The only question I have regarding the Niners and their first day was why they felt they had to trade up in order to get Davis? They lost their 4th rounder because they felt the need to move up 2 spots to get Davis, but most people think he would have been there at 13 for them anyway as the two teams ahead of the Niners likely wouldn't have taken a lineman.

As the Niners enter day 2, they have a number of different ways they can go. They hold the 17th pick in the 2nd round (49th overall) and the 15th pick in the 3rd (76th overall), then they don't have any picks until the middle of round 6. So essentially, these next two picks for them are going to be very important, and I think they're going to go defense. There are some people still thinking that the Niners could pull the trigger on QB's Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy. There is still a bunch of value left on the board, so here are a few guys to keep an eye on for the Niners selections on Friday, I'd love for the Niners to get Taylor Mays, Chad Jones or Sergio Kindle if they're there when they pick in round 2:

QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
T Bruce Campbell, Maryland
S Chad Jones, LSU
WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame
LB Sergio Kindle, Texas
S Taylor Mays, USC
G Roger Saffold, Indiana
DT Brian Price, UCLA
DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida
2nd Round Update: With their second round pick (49 overall) the Niners selected Taylor Mays, the freakish safety out of USC (pictured above). I really like this pick, as Mays had high-first round potential, but has some questions about his instincts. Much, much more to come on this pick and the Niners third rounder coming!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2010 NFL Mock Draft

With the NFL draft set for this weekend in New York City, I wanted to give The Bay Area Sports Journal's Mock Draft. We'll only break down the first round, but we'll also provide a few names that may be available to the Niners and Raiders later on in the draft.

Mock NFL Draft Round 1:

1. St. Louis Rams: QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: The Rams need a new young quarterback to build around after Marc Bulger's fading the last few seasons. Bradford is the best QB of the class, but that's not saying a whole heck of a lot. The Rams are hoping for Matt Ryan type success, but I think it's going to take Bradford a few years to get things going.

2. Detroit Lions: DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska: Arguably the Most talented player in this years draft likely won't drop much further than Detroit at 2. The Lions seemingly always go offense with their first pick, but this guy is worth switching up for.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma: Another beast at DT, as this draft is very top heavy with both offensive and defensive tackles. McCoy could help get the Bucs defense back to it's early 2000's level.

4. Washington Redskins: LT Russel Okung, Oklahoma: The Skins' are going to want to beef up their O-Line in order to protect their new asset, Donovan McNabb and Okung is the top OT in this draft.

5. Kansas City Chiefs: S Eric Berry, Tennessee: The Chiefs were burned multiple times in '09, including a the memorable career day from Miles Austin (250+ receiving yards). Berry is the top DB in the draft and will provide some stability right away to KC's defensive backfield.

6. Seattle Seahawks: OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma: The Sooners' other star OT should be gone in the top-10 as well, and I think the Seahawks, who will likely be without Walter Jones in 2010, are a perfect fit.

7. Cleveland Browns: OL Bryan Bulaga, Iowa: The Browns definitely need some help on their offensive line, and and Bulaga could be the top guy available at that spot.

8. Oakland Raiders: OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers: Al Davis loves those guys with huge upside and big time talent, and Davis has top-3 pick type talent.

9. Buffalo Bills: QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame: Clausen really had his stock drop recently, and some have him falling to the Niners at 14 or 17, but I think the Bills won't let him pass by them.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Tim Tebow, Florida: Tebow should end up being good, or he could be really bad. I think the Jags gamble on him figuring it out at the next level.

11. Denver Broncos: WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma St.: The uber-talented wideout could very well end up being Brandon Marshall's following act in Denver.

12. Miami Dolphins: LB Rolando McClain, Alabama: The draft's top linebacker will be surprised to last this long, but I think he'll end up in Miami where they need defensive help.

13. San Francisco 49ers: CB Joe Haden, Florida: The best pure cornerback in this draft may not last this far, but if he does, the Niners will jump right on the opportunity to add him.

14. Seattle Seahawks: RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson: The talented Spiller will give new Seahawk coach Pete Carroll a back in the elk of Reggie Bush, but better at the pro level.

15. New York Giants: DT Brian Price, UCLA: Price would solidify the Giants front line and help them tremendously vs. the run.

16. Tennessee Titans: DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech: Morgan is the top D-End in the draft and could go higher, but he Titans need add to their defense, especially up front.

17. San Francisco 49ers: OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland: The Niners have made no secret their desire for a starting tackle, and Campbell could be the best available with that choice at 17.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers: OL Mike Iupati, Idaho: He could help deepen the Steelers front line.

19. Atlanta Falcons: DE Brandon Graham, Michigan: The Falcons should look to their defensive front with this pick.

20. Houston Texans: CB Kyle Smith, Boise State: Would fit an area of need for a rising Houston team.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: TE Aaron Hernandez, Florida: The Bengals haven't had an offensive threat at tight-end in years and Hernandez has top-10 talent.

22. New England Patriots: DT Dan Williams, Tennessee: The Pats need to build up their defense after not being able to hold teams off in 2009.

23. Green Bay Packers: C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida: The Pack are likely to go O-line with this pick, and Pouncey is a talent that will likely get drafter lower than he should.

24. Philadelphia Eagles: RB Jahvid Best, Cal: This could be a stretch, as most have Best going in the 2nd round, but the Eagles could see him as a Westbrook replacement in very much the same mold.

25. Baltimore Ravens: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida: After adding Anquan Boldin this offseason, they can focus on strengthening their defense.

26. Arizona Cardinals: DT Jared Odrick, Penn State: The Cards need help on their O-line.

27. Dallas Cowboys: OT Charles Brown, USC: A solid tackle could help Dallas right away.

28. San Diego Chargers: NT Terrance Cody, Alabama: What better fit for SD than a Jamal Williams clone.

29. New York Jets: WR Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech: They could use all the weapons for Sanchez that they can get their hands on.

30. Minnesota Vikings: S Taylor Mays, USC: The Vikes need help in their defensive backfield.

31. Indianapolis Colts: WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame: The super speedster could be a star in the Colts offense with Garcon and White.

32. New Orleans Saints: LB Sergio Kindle, Texas: The guy can get after the QB and would definitely help the reigning champs.


2nd Round: OT Jason Fox, Miami
3rd Round: QB Colt McCoy, Texas
4th Round: DT Nate Collins, Virginia


2nd Round: WR Brandon LaFell, LSU
3rd Round: S Chad Jones, LSU
4th Round: DT Cam Thomas, UNC

*This is not taking into account possible trades or anything like that, so obviously things can and will likely change on draft day.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NFL Draft Right Around the Corner

With the NFL Draft quickly approaching, it's time to change gears a bit from baseball back to football, as we'll be pretty much be NFL draft exclusive for the next 2 weeks here at the Bay Area Sports Journal. Today I just wanted to discuss a few of the names that have been thrown around as far as possibly picks for the San Francisco 49ers as they have a pair of picks in the middle of the first round.

The general consensus coming out of 49er headquarters is that the team will look to improve their offensive line with at least one of their first round selections. The are of need of course with them is at the tackle position where there are a few nice prospects who the 49ers would like to get a shot at. The top tackles available in the draft are Oklahoma State's Russel Okung, Rutgers' Anthony Davis and Iowa's Bryan Baluga. Another guy that I like as a later first round, early second round option if they decide to deal one of their picks would be USC's Charles Brown. If I were a gambling man, I'd put my money on the Niners ending up with one of those guys, most likely Davis or Brown. Besides Offensive Tackle, another position the Niners may be entertaining using one of their top picks on would be a true cover cornerback. The one guy I really like in this draft that fits that bill is Florida's Joe Haden. The only thing there is that Haden is a projected top-10 pick and the 49ers would likely have to part with the #13 pick and either a 2nd or 3rd rounder in order to move up into the top-10. Haden would be worth it though, as he really was the best cover guy in the nation last year and could turn into a Nnamdi Asomugha clone.

The Niners have also taken looks at various offensive players as well. They had a long look at Oklahoma State's star wideout Dez Bryant. The 6'2", 220 pound college star reminds scouts a lot of Niners' first round pick from last year, Michael Crabtree. Having the chance to get another guy with the talent of a Crabtree would be hard to resist, but idealy, the Niners would find a reciever with a little bit more speed to compliment Crabtree and Josh Morgan. Bryant is quick, but he's not really a down-field burner, much like Crabtree, and the Niners offense could really use a guy who could stretch the field like that. If Bryant had that type of speed, then he'd be a perfect fit for San Francisco in the middle of the first round and would definitely be worth the risk. Another couple of speed receivers later in the draft the Niners could turn to if they don't find anyone in the top 2 rounds could be Cinci's Mardy Gilyard and Notre Dame's Golden Tate.

We'll be having much more on the NFL draft here between now and next weekend, including BASJ's mock-draft and much, much more. Be sure to check us out for your 49ers and Raiders draft coverage!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A's, Giants Off to Strong Starts

The 2010 Major League Baseball season isn't quite a week old yet, but there is plenty to be excited about if your a Bay Area baseball fan. Both the Giants and the A's are off to tremendous starts as the Giants site atop the NL West and sport the best record in baseball at 4-0 and the A's are atop the AL West with a record of 4-1.

We've gotten into a bunch of Giants stuff over @ The Giants Baseball Blog so we're going to stick with mostly A's talk here but will sprinkle in a little Giants at the bottom of the post. There is plenty to talk about with the Green and Gold as they've gotten brilliant starting pitching and just enough offense through their first 5 ballgames. Daric Barton, Mark Ellis and Rajai Davis have stuck out on offense and really have carried the A's through the first week. Barton is leading the team with a .438 average and 7 RBI in just 17 at-bats. Ellis is hitting .400 with 6 runs scored and Davis is hitting .370 with a homer, 4 RBI and 6 runs scored as well. Young shortstop Cliff Pennington has been better than expected at the plate, as he's contributed one of the A's 3 total home runs, and is hitting .353. After that though, things drop off as most of the rest of the bunch isn't hitting so well. Kurt Suzuki's at .250 with a homer and 4 RBI, while Kevin Kouzmanoff and Eric Chavez are both below .250. It is only the first week of the season, so it's tough to really judge what the A's offense will do throughout the year, but it's pretty clear that they'll be getting strong pitching no matter what.

The A's starters have started off the year in impressive fashion. All five starters have had a start, and only Justin Duchsherer, who should be just fine once he gets going, failed to turn in a solid outing. Dallas Braden was perhaps the most impressive, going 7 strong vs. the Angels, allowing 1 run on 4 hits while striking out 10 batters. Brett Anderson was pretty stingy in his outing as well, throwing 6 innings of 3 hit, shutout baseball vs. Seattle. The most recent strong outing was Gio Gonzalez's performance on Friday night in Southern California, as the 24 year-old lefty went 6 innings, allowing 2 runs while striking out 6. The rotation turns back over Saturday night as Ben Sheets will try and improve upon his first outing as an Athletic and sets out for his first win of the season in Los Angeles. The Angels will counter with their ace, Jered Weaver, who beat the Twins on Opening Day. It should be a classic pitchers duel, and whatever team can get the lead first will probably win the game.

Speaking of strong pitching, over across the Bay, the Giants have gotten terrific starting pitching themselves, as well as solid relief work, as they've cruised to an undefeated 4-0 to start the year. Things looked a little iffy for them in the home opener Friday, but the Giants pulled off a come from behind victory to beat the Atlanta Braves. That win showed me that the Giants are going to be for real this year. Last season, I don't think they would have come back and won that game off a closer like Billy Wagner, but this year, they seem to have even more swagger and confidence. The lineup looks like it's sorting itself out, as Edgar Renteria has started off extremely hot to stabilize the top of the order, and John Bowker has established himself in right field and has had a few big hits at the bottom of the lineup. The Giants are doing this without their perennial all-star second basemen Freddy Sanchez too. I can't help but think of what this team will be capable of once they get him back and increase their depth even further.

Monday, April 5, 2010

2010 NL West Preview

With Major League Baseball's opening day upon us, and seeing that I've already done an A's preview here, I thought I'd go ahead and post our NL West Preview for 2010.

1st Place, Colorado Rockies

CF Dexter Fowler
LF Carlos Gonzalez
1B Todd Helton
SS Troy Tulowitzki
RF Brad Hawpe
C Chris Ianetta
3B Ian Stewart
2B Clint Barmes

RH Ubaldo Jimenez
LH Jeff Francis
RH Aaron Cook
LH Jorge De La Rosa
RH Jason Hammel
SU: Franklin Morales
CL: Huston Street (DL'd until May)

The Rockies are an overall young team who knows how to win. They were one of the best teams in baseball during the second half of last season, and they did that without one of their best starting pitchers (Jeff Francis). A big key to their success was young outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who came over from the A's in the Matt Holliday trade and immediately made an impact (.286, 13 hr, 29 RBI, 16 SB, .878 OPS in 276 at-bats) upon his arrival in Colorado in June. Gonzalez, Tulowitzki, Fowler, Hawpe and Stewart give the Rockies a young core of solid ballplayers who they can build around. They also have veteran first basemen Todd Helton, who continues to be a model of consistency and productivity for the Rocks. The pitching staff is always the area in question for the Rockies, but it looks like they may have finally answered those questions as all starters (besides the injured Francis) finished 2009 with winning records and all of them can pitch at Coors Field. The bullpen is a bit of a question though, where closer Huston Street is out indefinitely, and may not return until mid-season.

2nd Place, San Francisco Giants

CF Aaron Rowand
2B Freddy Sanchez*
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Aubrey Huff
LF Mark DeRosa
C Bengie Molina
RF John Bowker
SS Edgar Renteria

RH Tim Lincecum
RH Matt Cain
LH Barry Zito
LH Jonathan Sanchez
RH Todd Wellemeyer
LH Madison Bumgarner*
SU: Jeremy Affeldt
CL: Brian Wilson
*Bumgarner starts year in AAA
*Sanchez out until May

The Giants definitely improved their offense with the additions of DeRosa and Huff, but it's not like those guys are going to push them over the top. Overall, they have a better team entering 2010 than they had entering 2009, and that team managed to win 87 games, so this team should be right around that total too. The pitching staff is their strength, as Cain and Lincecum can match up with any duo in baseball, Sanchez is coming off a solid second half last year that started with a no-hitter in mid-July, and Barry Zito looks like he's finally hit his comfort zone in San Francisco. Their young, hard-throwing bullpen is led by closer Brian Wilson (2.74 era, 38 sv in '09), set-up man Jeremy Affeldt (1.73 era in '09) and a couple of youngsters who are nearly as effective as those two and they are lefty Dan Runzler and righty Sergio Romo. The Giants don't have much team speed, although they have smart base runners, and their defense isn't great, but I don't think those two areas will keep the Giants back. If Huff and DeRosa have good years and the Giants offense can average 4+ runs per night, then they'll be right in the thick of the playoff race.

3rd Place, Los Angeles Dodgers

SS Rafael Furcal
C Russell Martin
CF Matt Kemp
LF Manny Ramirez
RF Andre Eithier
3B Casey Blake
1B James Loney
2B Blake DeWitt

RH Vicente Padilla
LH Clayton Kershaw
RH Chad Billingsley
RH Hiroki Kuroda
RH Charlie Haeger
SU: George Sherrill
CL: Jonathan Broxton

The Dodgers went through a lot of turmoil with their front office and ownership situation this winter, and the didn't achieve very much during the offseason due largely to that. They had some holes in their starting rotation that didn't really get fixed. Billingsley and Kershaw are very good young arms, but besides those two, I don't like their rotation too much. The bullpen should be solid though, led by all-star closer Jonathan Broxton and another guy who's been a successful closer in recent years, George Sherrill. The lineup has some studs. Matt Kemp, Andre Eithier and Manny Ramirez make up the best offensive outfield in baseball, and I'm expecting rebound seasons out of Furcal and Martin. The Dodgers are just hoping Manny has another burst left in him to lead their offense. If Manny plays like he did after being sent to LA in '08 (.396, 17 hr, 53 RBI in just 187 ab's) then he'll win MVP and the Dodgers will win the West. If he plays like he did in '09 after coming back from his suspension, then the Dodgers will likely miss the playoffs for the first time in a few years.

4th Place, Arizona Diamondbacks

LF Connor Jackson
SS Stephen Drew
RF Justin Upton
1B Adam LaRoche
3B Mark Reynolds
C Miguel Montero
CF Chris Young
2B Kelly Johnson

RH Dan Haren
RH Edwin Jackson
RH Brandon Webb*
RH Ian Kennedy
RH Rodrigo Lopez
RH Billy Buckner
SU: Juan Guttierez
CL: Chad Qualls
*Webb will be out until at least June

The D-Backs have a young lineup that is ready to do their part to get AZ to the playoffs, but their pitching staff is another story. If only Brandon Webb were healthy, but he's not. He's probably going to be out until June, if not later, and the D-Backs will once again sorely miss him. They added Edwin Jackson which is a very nice add and Dan Haren is constantly in the mix for the CY Young award, so the top half of the rotation is still strong. The bullpen is OK, but they're relying on a lot of younger arms to get Chad Qualls the ball. Justin Upton is ready to start entering the MVP mix, and everybody else in that lineup (besides 1 year free agent add Adam LaRoche) is 28 or younger and all are primed for breakout seasons. If that happens, the D-Backs could be scary, because Webb will be back at some point, and that lineup has the ability to keep them in it until he does.

5th Place, San Diego Padres

CF Tony Gwynn Jr.
2B David Eckstein
1B Adrian Gonzalez
LF Kyle Blanks
3B Chase Headley
RF Will Venable
SS Everth Cabrera
C Yorvit Torrealba

RH Jon Garland
RH Chris Young
RH Kevin Corriea
LH Clayton Richard
RH Mat Latos
SU: Mike Adams
CL: Heath Bell

The Padres are the only team in the division that really have no shot at competing for a playoff spot. They do have some decent starters with Young, Corriea and youngsters Richard and Latos, but they don't really have an ace (as evident by Jon Garland getting the opening day nod). Their lineup has a few boppers in Gonzalez and Blanks, and a couple of possible future stars in Cabrera, Gwynn and Headley, but they just don't have enough offense right now to keep up with most other teams. Their bullpen is probably their strength, with closer Heath Bell (2.71 era, 42 sv in '09) and set-up man Mike Adams (0.73 era, 0.59 WHIP in '09).

Originally Posted @ The Giants Baseball Blog