Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011 MLB Playoff and Leader Predictions

The clock till first pitch 2011 is ticking closer and closer, and we're less than 24 hours from reas baseball again! However, since the A's don't start until Friday, we figured we'd save their preview for tomorrow. So today here at the BASJ, we're going to post our pre-season predictions like we do every season with the MLB, NBA, NFL. So here we go!

American League Awards

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez, 3B, NY- He's looked terrific this spring and says he feels as healthy as ever. A .330/40/130/1.000 version of ARod is more of what I'm expecting. (Others To Watch: Adrian Gonzalez, Bos; Joe Mauer, Min)

AL CY YOUNG: Jon Lester, SP, Bos.- He's quietly been getting better and better as the season's go on, and he's still mighty young at 26. After his 19-9, 2.72 era, 222 K performance in '10, I expect another step in the positive direction. (Others to Watch: David Price, TB; Justin Verlander, Det)

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Jeremy Hellickson, SP, TB- I'm not the only one who's high on this youngster, who most people have as their favorite for rookie of the year. He's already 4-0 with a 3.47 big league era and has really impressed in his 4 big league starts. (Others to watch: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Min; Mike Moustakas, KC)

AL BATTING CHAMP: Joe Mauer, C, Min- With his protection (Justin Morneau) returning to full health, and guys developing around him, Mauer will see more pitches to hit this year than ever. (Others to Watch: Josh Hamilton, Tex; Robinson Cano, NY)

AL HOME RUN CHAMP: Adam Dunn, DH, Chi- The former NL home run beast makes his switch to the AL, a league much more suited to his style of play, and I'm expecting him to flourish. (Others to Watch: Adrian Gonzalez, Bos; Nelson Cruz, Tex)

MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Bob Geren, A's- I really think the A's are in for a nice season, and Geren should get a lot of credit as he's been instrumental in bringing these young players along. (Others to Watch: Ozzie Guillen, Chi; Ron Gardenhire, Min)

COMEBACK P.O.Y.: Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Bos- After an injury cut Ellsbury's season down to just 18 games, the 27 year-old looks primed for a breakout, comeback season. (Others to Watch: Grady Sizemore, Cle; Brian Roberts, Bal)

National League Awards

NL MVP: Ryan Braun, OF, Mil- Braun has had 4 really good seasons so far, and he's only 27 years old, so just think of what the next 4-8 years will bring? Great, 5-tooler I'm expecting .325/40/120 out of him!(Others to Watch: Buster Posey, SF; Carlos Gonzalez, Col)

NL CY YOUNG: Tim Lincecum, SP, SF- I'm trying not to be biased, though I'm sure it appears I am a little with this pick, but Timmy looks great right now, and looked very good in the postseason.... And maybe a lil biased, J/K. (Others to Watch: Roy Halladay, Phi; Josh Johnson, Fla)

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Brandon Belt, 1B, SF- I think it's going to be a tight battle between Belt and Atlanta's first-sacker, Freddie Freeman. (Others to Consider: Fred Freeman, Atl; Aroldis Chapman, Cin)

NL BATTING CHAMP: Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Col- This guy really is something else and I think he's going to win himself an MVP or 2 before his playing days are done. He can essentially do it all. Hits for power (36 HR) Avg. (.336) has speed (26 SB), picturesque all-around player. (Others to Watch: Joey Votto, Cin; Albert Pujols, Stl)

NL HOME RUN CHAMP: Albert Pujols, 1B, Stl- Speaking of triple crown candidates, outside of Gonzalez, this man is your best bet. He doesn't have quite as good of team surrounding him this year, but you can still bet he'll get his 40+ jacks and have his .300 avg at year's end. (Others to Watch: Ryan Howard, Phi; Prince Fielder, Mil)

: Dusty Baker, Reds- He really should have won it last year, talking a Reds team that had been in the dumps for the better part of the past 15 years, and made them a playoff team with a less than spectacular roster. (Others to Watch: Ron Roenicke, Mil; Fredi Gonzalez, Atl)

COMEBACK P.O.Y.: Edison Volzquez, SP, Cin
- There are a lot of different guys who could go here, but Bay had to be the most dissipointing in 2010, and I think he'll be much better in '11. (Others to Watch: Carlos Beltran, NY; Mark DeRosa, SF)

AL Playoff Bracket

Red Sox over Twins (in 5)
Yankees over A's (in 4)


Yankees over Red Sox

NL Playoff Bracket

Giants over Brewers (in 4)
Reds over Phillies (in 5)

Giants over Reds (in 6)


Giants over Yankees (7 games)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

BASJ NFL Mock Draft: Picks 11-20

Well, we started things off a few weeks back by providing our top-10 projected picks here, and today we're going to do the same for picks 11-20 as we get ready for the quickly approaching April draft.

11.) Houston Texans:
DE Robert Quinn, North Carilona- Not exactly Julius Pepper Pt. 2., coming out of NC, but Quinn is very athletic in his own right and can get after the passer. The Texans have the offensive firepower, they just need to get some help on their defensive front, and Quinn should be the best available for them at 11. (Or: Prince Amukamara, CB)

12.) Minnesota Vikings: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska- The 6'2" corner has all the size and athleticism to compete in the NFL. Some are worried about bad showings vs. some of the NCAA's top wideouts, but still the 2nd best cover-man in the draft, something that the Viking defense could really use. (Or: Brandon Harris, CB)

13.) Detroit Lions: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami- The Lions just need to keep stockpiling talented players onto their roster, but they also need to make sure they're fits. Harris is the 3rd best CB in a top-heavy CB draft and would help out immediately on defense for the Lions. (Or: Aldon Smith, DE)

14.) St. Louis Rams: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri: One of the more athletic D-Lineman in the draft, could switch over to linebacker. Either way, the Rams could use his presence on defense. They also could go after a cornerback or an offensive player here too, but there aren't many good skill players in this draft. (Or: Gabe Carimi, T)

15.) Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: The drafts top back could fall all the way to the middle of the 1st round, and if he does, The Dolphins have to jump on it. They may lose both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, but if they got Ingram, they could bring Ricky back for 1 year and be in good shape. They could go QB here too. (Or: Jake Locker, QB)

16.) Jacksonville Jaguars: Jake Locker, QB, Washington: The athletic, 4-year starter at Washington looked like a future #1 pick at the end of '09, but didn't improve in '10. More importantly, his team didn't improve around him. Still, has as much talent as any QB in this draft, and the Jags could use one to prep for the post-Garrard era which is approaching quickly. (Or: DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa)

17.) New England Patriots: Gabe Carimi, T, Wisconsin- The Pats get the luxury of taking whatever the best player is at 17, as they don't have any glaring need. They could really use a RB, but they managed with the bunch they have last year, and there just aren't any first rounders in this draft outside of Ingram, who if lasts to 17, the Pats would take. (Or: Mark Ingram, RB)

18.) San Diego Chargers: T Anthony Castonzo, BC- The Chargers could use some help up front to give Ryan Matthews some holes to get through, and keep franchise arm Phillip Rivers on the field, Castanzo is another good Big East tackle who will be starting by the 2nd half of '11.(Or: Mike Pouncey, G)

19.) New York Giants: Tyron Smith, T, USC- The Pats get the luxury of taking whatever the best player is at 17, as they don't have any glaring need. They could really use a RB, but they managed with they bunch they have last year, and there just aren't any first rounders in this draft outside of Ingram, who probably won't last that long. (Or: Mark Ingram, RB)

20.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: The Bucs need to get back to that hard-nosed defense of the early 2000's when they were led by Gruden. Clayborn could be a big cog in that D if he can fall to them at 20, a lot of people have him as the 2nd and 3rd best DE in the draft! (Or: Mike Pouncey, G)

For Part 1 of the Mock Draft, click here. For Part 3, picks 21-32, we'll be back towards mid-April, when we really start to turn our focus from the opening of baseball season to the NFL draft. Also, we'll have our finalized version of our first round at that point, plus a Niners and Raiders draft preview, so stay tuned!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Niners looking into QB Marc Bulger

As all sports fans know, the NFL is in the middle of a lockout and until they come out of it, there won't be any action on the player movement front. However, the 49ers are still staying active in their search for a starting QB for the 2011 season.

I have made it no secret that my top choice for the 49ers QB for 2011 is Kevin Kolb from Philly, and if the Niners could get him without having to part with their first round pick, then I'd jump all over it. There just won't be many options on the FA market, once it does start up, and that reason alone will make Kolb a target for many teams other than San Fran though. California native Carson Palmer is also asking for a deal, though the Bengals probably won't oblige, and it's doubtful the 49ers would want the burden of his deal. I just hope that his availability takes some of the interest off of Kolb. Apparently, they have had some talks with free agent Marc Bulger, the former Ram pro-bowler who hasn't had a successful season since 2006. I don't really get the interest here, unless it would be as a backup QB, which is likely the case. Otherwise, if the Niners are intent on adding a veteran on a 1-2 year deal to start for them, I'd much rather get someone like Matt Hasselbech or Donovan McNabb, even Alex Smith over Vince Young. I just don't think Harbough is really sold on any of the QB's in this draft, and he would know them as well as anyone, having coached in the Pac-10 the last few years.

Outside of Blaine Gabbart, there really isn't a top-10 worth QB in this draft, and I'm not even 100% sold on Gabbart like I am some of the defensive players in this draft like Von Miller, Patrick Peterson or Da'Quan Bowers. Like Kolb is the first choice at QB, Peterson would be the optimum choice IMO to fall to the 49ers at 7, though Von Miller wouldn't be a bad 2nd option. Jake Locker is somewhat intriguing if the Niners were to trade back, or if he floats into the 2nd round, but he never fully lived up to his potential with the Huskies. With the QB-thin draft though, I don't think he'll last into the 2nd round, and there are just too many good defenders at the top of the board for the Niners to pass up. So unless they're blown away with a trade offer, I just don't see it happening. The 49ers don't need the extra picks right now, they need to get a top-10 player onto their roster, and they really should take the best player available at 7, which will not be a quarterback. I also doubt they take another wide receiver either, so that would likely rule out Julio Jones, though it would be interesting to see what they'd do if A.J. Green falls to them. Therefore, I see it more and more likely that the 49ers end up signing their starting quarterback. If that's the case, as far as the current scheduled FA's go, I'd line them up like this in regards to priorities.

1- Donovan McNabb (despite bad 2010 season, Niners would be a playoff team with him in tow with this offense)
2- Alex Smith (Young may be a little more athletic, but Smith knows this offense, could be something with Harbough)
3- Vince Young (done enough the past 2 seasons to earn starting gig with some strong running team)
4- Matt Hasselbeck (Would really be last resort, but better than the Bulger's and Pennington's)
5- It wouldn't really matter at this point...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

AL West Preview: Extended A's Edition

As we've done over the last few days here at the Bay Area Sports Journal, we'll continue our preparation for MLB's opening day by going division by division and taking a look at who's in position to make playoff runs. Since we're now to the division with the A's, we'll do a bit of an extended look at them.

1st Place - Oakland Athletics

RF David DeJesus
CF Cocoa Crisp
1B Daric Barton
DH Hideki Matsui
LF Josh Willingham
C Kurt Suzuki
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
2B Mark Ellis
SS Cliff Pennington

LHP Brett Anderson
RHP Trevor Cahill
LHP Gio Gonzalez
LHP Dallas Braden
RHP Brandon McCarthy
SU: Brian Fuentes
CL: Andrew Bailey

DL: Rich Harden (Out until April/May)

No, I'm not picking the A's because they're a Bay Area team. If you've followed us closely here, you know I have no allgiance to Oakland and am strictly a Giants guy. However, I also consider myself an intelligent baseball mind, and I'm picking Oakland strictly because of their pitching and defense (what's that old saying again?). They aren't going to out-slug many teams, but I think they have just enough offense to get by with that great pitching. The additions of Matsui, DeJesus and Willingham will help and I expect improvements out of Barton, Suzuki and Kouzmanoff. They essentially have 2 aces in Cahill and Anderson, and two solid #2's in Gonzalez and Braden. Even though Cahill won 21 last year, Anderson is the guy who has the most upside on the staff and should be a 20-game winner/200 K candidate if he starts 32 games. That's not even mentioning Rich Harden, who if can regain his health and contribute, they'll have enough arms to make a deal for another hitter.

Their bullpen is the best in the AL too. There were some questions surrounding closer Andrew Bailey's health heading into the year, but that apparently is clearing up quite well. If he misses time though, they have 2-3 other solid options to fill the void, headed by 4-time all-star closer Brian Fuentes. They just missed out adding Adrian Beltre this winter which would have really helped them out on both sides of the game, but I still think they have enough, and have Billy Beane pulling the strings, so if they need some offensive help, Beane will do all he can to find it.

2nd Place - Los Angeles Angeles

Key Players/Pitchers:
DH Bob Abreu
1B Kendrys Morales
RF Torii Hunter
LF Vernon Wells
2B Howie Kendrick
SP Jered Weaver
SP Dan Haren
SP Ervin Santana
RP Fernando Rodney

The Angels have more thump than the A's and their front 3 in their rotation match up pretty well with Oakland's, but they're bullpen is really in shambles right now. Fernando Rodney is closer at the moment, but is very un-stable, and he's surrounded by question marks. Give them the A's bullpen and they'd be something, but I don't think they're a complete ballclub right now. Still, that said, they have more than enough talent to win the division, and if the A's suffer more injuries to their starting rotation, then the Angels would become the immediate favorites. They really have 2.5 aces on that team in Weaver, Haren and Santana, but all three had sub-par years in 2010 which needs to change if the Angels are going to runaway with this thing. Regardless, the AL West is another division I see decided in the season's final days.

3rd Place - Texas Rangers

Key Players:
2B Ian Kinsler
LF Josh Hamilton
RF Nelson Cruz
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Michael Young
SS Elvis Andrus
SP C.J. Wilson
SP Colby Lewis
RP Neftali Feliz

Then there are the reigning AL Champion Texas Rangers in the mix too. They still have that powerful lineup that carried them to the World Series last fall, but they lost the heart and sole of their pitching staff in Cliff Lee and failed to replace him. They have the offense to keep up with anyone in the league, and have a few young bright arms in Feliz, Holland and Wilson. Their front-6 of their batting order all have All-Star capabilities. Vladimer Guerrero high-tailed it for Baltimore, but they brought in Adrian Beltre to occupy his lineup spot which should improve the team all-around, especially defensively. They also have the rehabilitating Brandon Webb aiming for a May-June return and if he comes back strong, that will definitely help, but that's a big "if". Again, there really isn't a lot separating these top-3 teams, and a lucky break for one team or an injury could really swing the momentum of this division.
4th Place - Seattle Mariners

Key Players/Pitchers:
RF Ichiro Suzuki
3B Chone Figgins
1B Justin Smoak
2B Dustin Ackley
SP Felix Hernandez
SP Erik Bedard
RP David Aardsma

The Mariners are the lone team in the division who truly have no shot at making a playoff run. They had one of the worst offenses in baseball in 2010 and didn't add anything to it this winter. They also sport a pitching staff with a bunch of question marks. Outside of Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas, their other 3 starters combined for 6 total wins in 2010. Their bullpen isn't much better. They're toying with the idea of using Brandon League in the closer spot, but I think David Aardsma is clearly the best option for them and could give them a nice trade chip come July if he's pitching well (the Angels if Rodney struggles and Texas is they move Feliz to the rotation are two teams who could fit that bill). Ackley has looked like a stud this spring, and he and Justin Smoak could develop into a Ryan Howard/Chase Utley-type right-side infield partnership. Not in 2011 of course, but a year or two down the road possibly. One way to help that cause would be to trade Suzuki. It would be tough for Mariners fans, but with their budget, they have to get creative in order to get some talent in here, and Suzuki is one of the rare vets on the roster who could command something on the trade market.

-BOLD indicates Team's MVP
BASJ NOTE: We cover both the A's and Giants here at the BASJ, but since we have a blog specificly devoted to the San Francisco Giants, we tend to do most of our in-depth Giants stuff over there. We certainly will talk Giants at this site, don't get me wrong, but for the NL set of our previews, we're going to transfer on over to The Giants Baseball Blog. We'll still be talking plenty of baseball between now and the March 31st opener here, but we also need to mix in some College Hoops talk, as well as more NFL draft stuff, so next post will be void of any baseball stuff (barring any breaking news). Again though, our NL Division-by-Division previews are already running up at The Giants Baseball Blog so surf on over and check it out, and stay tuned for some March Madness and NFL Draft/Free agency talk next post!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

AL Central Preview

1st Place - Minnesota Twins

Key Players:
1B Justin Morneau
OF Delmon Young
C Joe Mauer
DH Jason Kubel
SP Francisco Liriano
SP Carl Pavano
RP Joe Nathan
RP Matt Capps

The Twins have a better overall pitching staff than the Sox do, will play better defense and I think they have a better all-around ballclub. The Japanese import Nishioka looks very good, and Mauer and Morneau both should be healthy by opening day, and that always means the Twins offense is in good shape. If Liriano returns to Cy Young candidate form (he made great strides last year) and Joe Nathan regains his pre-injury form, the Twins will compete for the AL Pennant. I'm picking the Twins, but it also wouldn't surprise me to see this division come down to the final few games and I certainly wouldn't bet on any team in this bunch.

2nd Place - Chicago White Sox

Key Players:
DH Adam Dunn
1B Paul Konerko
OF Alex Rios
OF Carlos Quentin
SS Alexi Ramirez
SP Mark Buehrle
SP Jake Peavy
RP Matt Thornton

This is one of the tougher divisions to pick in all of baseball due to the fact that 3 of the 5 teams are so darn evenly matched. I think the ChiSox have a slight edge offensively over everyone else, but I think the Twins are stronger overall. If Chicago gets 25-30 starts out of Jake Peavy then that will drastically help their chances. Not only can this lineup take you deep, but they have speed as well. A little thin in the bullpen though, where first-time closer Matt Thornton leads the charge.

3rd Place - Detroit Tigers

Key Players:
DH Victor Martinez
RF Maglio Ordonez
1B Miguel Cabrera
CF Austin Jackson
SP Justin Verlander
SP Edwin Jackson
RP Jose Valverde

The Tigers didn't do a darn thing to improve their team this winter and are returning the same bunch that disappointed in 2010. Miguel Cabrera is great, no doubt about that, but he's going through some personal issues and outside of him and Vic Martinez, that lineup is paper thin and will struggle to score runs. They have some nice young arms in Scherzer and Porcello and a strong ace with Verlander, but aren't deep enough to compete with the Twins or ChiSox.

4th Place - Cleveland Indians

Key Players:
RF Shin-Soo Choo
CF Grady Sizemore
1B Matt LaPorta
C Carlos Santana
SP Fausto Carmona
RP Chris Perez

The Indians have a few nice young bats in the lineup, but their pitching staff is unproven. They don't have a particularly strong bullpen either, but young closer Chris Perez certainly sticks out in the group. Sizemore, LaPorta, Choo and Santana are all keepers, but everyone else in that lineup would be bench players on solid clubs.

5th Place - Kansas City Royals

Key Players:
DH Billy Butler
RF Jeff Francoeur
SS Alcides Escobar
SP Jeff Francis
SP Bruce Chen
RP Joakim Soria

It really seems like the Royals are getting worse each year. This offseason they lost one of their best hitters, possibly their best, in David DeJesus. Then they dealt away Zack Grienke, their franchise player and ace of their staff. It could pay off in the next few years, but right now, they look like a glorified AAA team. There are 2 players on the roster I listed above who I'd entertain taking and those two are Billy Butler and Joakim Soria. Young shortstop Alcides Escobar and outfielder Alex Gordon could still turn out to be decent, but neither have shown it yet.

Bold- indicates team's most valuable player

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Glimpse at the AL East Preview

With Baseball Season just 2 weeks away from starting, we'll be dedicating the next few posts here at the Bay Area Sports Journal to our 2011 MLB Previews. We'll start with the AL East and end in the NL West, much like we do over at our Giants Baseball Blog, just with a different twist, so here we go:

1st Place, Boston Red Sox

Key Players/Pitchers
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
LF Carl Crawford
3B Kevin Youkilis
1B Adrian Gonzalez
DH David Ortiz
2B Dustin Pedroia
LHP Jon Lester
RHP Josh Beckett
RHP John Lackey
RHP Clay Bucholtz
CL: Jonathon Papelbon

It's going to be another neck and neck battle all year long between the Sox and the Yanks, but after the addition of Crawford and Gonzalez, the Red Sox really revamped their offense. All they need is health in their starting rotation (mainly Matsuzaka and Beckett), and they'll be a tough train to stop. Still sport one of the best closers in the game in Jon Papelbon.

2nd Place, New York Yankees - AL Wild Card winner

Key Players/Pitchers
SS Derek Jeter
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nick Swisher
C Russell Martin
LHP C.C. Sabathia
RHP A.J. Burnett
RHP Phil Hughes
CL: Mariano Rivera

The Yankees didn't add a whole lot to their squad that disappointed last year by losing to the Rangers in the ALCS. Still though, in any other division in this league, they're the clear favorites. Their core (Jeter, ARod, Mo and Posada) is getting a bit older though, and they need those young guys like Gardener, Granderson and Cano to really step it up. They also have some questions in their starting rotation, where they could really use Andy Pettite to pull a "Brett Favre" and return from retirement.

3rd Place, Tampa Bay Rays

LF Johnny Damon
CF B.J. Upton
3B Evan Longoria
DH Manny Ramirez
RF Ben Zobrist
LHP David Price
RHP James Shields
CL: Kyle Farnsworth

The Rays have lost a lot over the last 2 years and are now just a shadow of the that magical '08 squad. They still have Upton and Longoria, and have added a few productive vets in Ramirez and Damon, but their lineup after the first 5 is pretty abysmal. I think they're going to miss Carl Crawford and Jason Bartlett a lot more than they expected too. Especially Crawford, who was an iron man for that team.

4th Place, Baltimore Orioles

Key Players/Pitchers
2B Brian Roberts
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
1B Derek Lee
3B Mark Reynolds
C Matt Wieters
RHP Jeremy Guthrie
LHP Brian Matusz
RHP Jake Arrieta

The Orioles have a lineup that can compete with anybody in the AL. They have speed, power, youth, experience and everybody from 1-9 has power. They also are finally putting together a young pitching staff that could turn out to be a solid one. Matusz, Arrieta and Bergesen are all 26 years old or younger and they have some nice mentors in Guthrie and Duchsherer. If they keep developing and JD can give them 30 starts, they could be a .500 ballclub on the rise.

5th Place, Toronto Blue Jays

Key Players/Pitchers:

2B Aaron Hill
3B Jose Bautista
1B Adam Lind
LF Juan Rivera
RF Travis Snider
LHP Rickey Romero
RHP Brandon Morrow
LHP Brett Cecil
CL: Octavio Dotel

The Jays are putting together a nice young staff. All of their starters are under 28 years of age and all of them appear to have bright futures in this league. Their lineup, however, is a little thin, and doesn't match up with the rest in this division. I'm curious to see how Bautista does coming off his 50-home run year, cause I don't see that happening again. I do think Travis Snider breaks out this year and hits 25-30 homers, but that won't be enough to carry this team in a tough AL East.

BOLD represents team's most irreplaceable player.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Giants Interview With RazzBall

Recently, our Giants Baseball Blog was approached by a very popular Sports site,, and was asked to do a short, season preview interview. We gladly obliged and here is just a brief sample from the interview. For the full thing, click here:1. For Tim Lincecum, last year the percentage of pitches a batter hit outside the strike zone was 56%, compared to 48.8% the year before. He also lost a mile on his fastball, threw his slider a lot more and his curveball a lot less. Are these causes for concern? Blips on the radar?

A: I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bit alarming. Lincecum went through a real rough stretch in August last season, before really turning it on for the stretch run and the playoffs, and the big reason for that was because he was learning how to pitch without the 95 mph fastball for the first time in his career. The reason for the drop in velocity, in my opinion, has to do with his large workload over the last 3 seasons. However, he really alleviated that concern after watching his performances in October, and although Giants fans will be watching his velocity and control very closely this spring, they are all pretty confident in their ace. A big reason for the drop in curveball and slider ratio was because of his evolving change-up, which is a pitch that really helped him out of his funk.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

BASJ'S NFL Early Mock Draft: Picks #1-10

The NFL Combine has completed, and with just 7 weeks until the NFL Draft, every sports site and their mother's are starting to project how the first round will play out. I figured I'd do a Bay Area Sports Journal's version of the first round mock, as things stand on March 1, 2011. Now there's still plenty of time for things to change, and trades to happen, but here's how I see the chips falling on draft day in New York on April 28th, starting with the top-10, providing 10-picks per post spread out between now and April's draft, so here is Part 1:

1.) Carolina Panthers: Marcell Dareus, DE, Auburn: Right now, Carolina hopes they have their man in Claussen and receivers Steve Smith and David Gettis will rebound, cause they have a championship caliber run game. They need to rebuild that defense and Dareus could be a huge anchor in the middle of it. Though they could very well trade down. (Other Possibility: Da'Quan Bowers, DE)

2.) Denver Broncos: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: Arguably top D-lineman in draft, Fox (HC) and Xanders (GM) would be giddy. Denver has the trickery offense with all those receivers and Knowshon Moreno carrying the load and Tim Tebow competing with Kyle Orton at QB, so their pretty square offensively. They just need to work on that defensive front and Bowers would be a great add. (Or: Cameron Jordan, DE)

3.) Buffalo Bills: Cameron Jordan, DE, California: The other Cameron could end up in Buffalo, though I think Bill's fans would rather have Newton. It's too bad there's not a lights out back in this draft cause that's what they really need. And a QB, and a receiver and more but we'll stop there. They'll take the best front-end defender who at that point should be Cam Jordan. (Or: Patrick Peterson, CB)

4.) Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
: Arguably the drafts most talented offensive player, he could go higher, but I think the Bengals would love to get a new, coachable non-diva WR without their own reality TV Show, for Carson Palmer to throw to. I think Green could even go #1 if Carolina considers dealing Steve Smith, or even if they don't. (Or: Nick Farily, DT)

5.) Arizona Cardinals: Blaine Gabbart, Q: The Cards have need a new QB of the future now that Matt Lienhart was a bust and wasn't cutting it. They have to go QB this time whether it's the big armed Gabbert, or the suprise pick and athletic Cam Newton, one of them will be in DC. Barring any deals of course: (Or: Ryan Mallet, QB)

6.) Cleveland Browns: Von Miller, OLB, Tex. A&M: Cleveland needs to learn how to keep teams off the boards, and hope their youth-led offense can do it's thing. Miller is a beast and the best linebacker in the draft. He should provide an instant impact and a huge upgrade to that LB group, while helping improve the defense as a whole. Cleveland probably will want to go offense, which could very well happen if J. Jones or A. Green are still on the board. (Or: Julio Jones, WR)

7.) San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: A lot of scouts have him going top-5, as he's the best all-around corner in the draft, and since the Niners won't be getting their QB, they may as well focus on fine-tuning the defense. They'd be candidates to trade down too if Jim Harbough wants Jake Locker, so keep an eye out for that. Otherwise, I think it's a defensive player. (Or: Prince Amukamara, CB) *Jake Locker, QB if trade down.

8.) Tennessee Titans:
Ryan Mallet, QB, Arkansas: Biggest arm in draft and probably would go higher if not for small off-field issue. Has thrown 62 TD passes the last 2 seasons at Ark. and would be a huge change of pace from the weaker armed, more versatile Vince Young. (Or. Blaine Gabbert, QB)

9.) Washington Redskins: Julo Jones, WR, Alabama: The Skins could also use a QB here too, but I think they wouldn't pass on Jones' talent if he falls to them at 9 (a top-5 on a lot of teams boards). (Or: Jake Locker, QB)

10.) Dallas Cowboys: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: The 'Boys are pretty much stacked all around, they need health and they need their players to click. Watt would be a nice add to a defense that struggled big time in 2010. If they feel the need to upgrade at corner, they could go with "The Prince", but I think they stay defensive front: (Or: Aldon Smith, DE)

-Up Next In BASJ's Series of NFL Mocks: Picks 11-20 (set to post late March)-