Tuesday, May 29, 2012

NBA Conference Finals Update

The NBA's version of the final four, better known as the Conference Championships, have begun and we're looking at some very intriguing match-ups. The Eastern-favorite Miami Heat have gotten off to a 1-0 start vs. the surging, veteran infused Boston Celtics, while in the West, the veteran-led Spurs have taken early control over the young and talented Thunder.

Parker and Ginobili Leading SA
After one game, even in a best of 7 series, it's really tough to tell how things are going to go, but I'm still sticking by the two teams I expected to meet in the Finals for pretty much the whole 2nd half of the season and those two teams are the Heat and Thunder. The Spurs did net the #1 seed in the West and have played extremely well in May, but I still think this series is the OKC's to lose. They barely missed pulling out a victory in game one as their star point guard continues to dictate the way things go for that team. Russel Westbrook was OK in Sunday's game, but his 7-21 shooting and 4 turnovers need to improve big time in order to take some pressure off Kevin Durrant. I mean, Durrant is a great talent and all, but the Spurs have obviously curtailed their game to ensure Durrant isn't the one to go crazy and beat them, so it's going to have to be Westbrook and Harden who take the pressure of #35. At the same time, you have to give some credit to San Antonio for continuing to barrel through opponents, and a big reason for that has been the play of Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. It's no accident the Spurs have had so much success the last decade plus, a lot of that was because of Tim Duncan, but this year especially, with the shortened season, the Spurs called upon younger guys and relied more heavily on Parker to lead while Duncan saw his minutes limited. As fun to watch and talented the Thunder are, the Spurs are equally intriguing to follow because of the different ways they can beat you and the fundamentally sound basketball they play. If any team is going to take down a Heat or Thunder-quality team, it'll most likely be the boys from San Antonio, much like the Mavs did in 2011.

LeBron's Heat Up 1-0 on Celtics
Over in the East, again, the Heat have put themselves in prime position to be the Eastern Conference reps at the NBA Finals in June, but I don't think they'll be able to roll over the Celtics like they did Monday night. Boston has been the team that got hot at the right time and it's taken them to the conference finals, despite the fact most people didn't expect to see them make it past the first round, much less the second. At the same time though, the Celtics had to go 6 games in the first round, then the full 7 in order to knock off the 76ers in the Semi's, so I'm not sure what kind of push the aging core has. The one player in particular who's really fell on hard times for Boston and was basically non-existent in game one is Ray Allen. He struggled so badly that Doc Rivers went public with his concern for his team's shooting guard spot and mentioned the possibility of removing Allen from the starting lineup. The only issue with that idea is the lack of options the Celtics have at the guard spot right now. My guess is they could sacrifice some offense for defense and throw former Warrior Michael Pietrus into the lineup and have him go up against LeBron. There are just too many things the Celtics would need to overcome in order to win this series, and despite their impressive run in the playoffs up till now, I think this is where it ends for Doc Rivers' bunch.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Giants, A's Notes

The Giants have had had some mixed results on their current road trip so far, with their ace continuing to struggle, but their offense staying surprisingly efficient. At the same time, the A's are going through much of the same, only their offense and their pitching have both hit the skids at the same time and they're in the midst of a decent losing streak.

Lincecum's ERA: 6.46
After Thursday's blowout win in Miami, and the Giants taking an early lead in Friday's game as well, it's been all down hill. Lincecum started out the game pretty nicely, going into the 6th with a 3-1 lead, just what he needed to take some pressure off. However, like he has so often the last month, he came unraveled in the 6th inning, surrendering 5 earned runs, never to make it out of that horrendous 6th. It seems like it keeps on being one huge inning in which Timmy just losses everything, command to the zone and perhaps most importantly, confidence. You can read it in his body language that the dude is just not in sync out there right now. I mean, he was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Friday, looking brilliant through 5 innings, then out of nowhere just melting down. It was his 5th consecutive start in which he didn't earn the coveted "quality start" tag, and it seems like it's just getting worse for the right-hander, with his ERA now at a career low for this deep in a season at 6.46. His bad luck rubbed off on Madison Bumgarner Saturday, and the Giants star lefty has yet record a victory since May 5th. Now, Bumgarner is throwing a whole lot better than Lincecum currently is, but he typically thrives in games after tough Giants losses, and it was tough to watch him get lit up a bit by the fish. His ERA rose up over 3.00 for the first time since April 23rd, and his record is now 5-4 after starting the season 5-1. To Bumgarner's credit though, he's had some tough luck, most recently his last start in Milwaukee in which he was brilliant but didn't get any offensive or defensive support, and Timmy can't really say the same thing. Am I worried about him yet? Absolutely not! But I also don't think this team is a playoff contender with Lincecum throwing the way he is... On a positive note for the Giants though, their offense continues to thrive, especially their outfielders who are hitting a combined .337.

Reddick's 12th HR of Year
Across the bay in Oakland, the A's have come back down to Earth lately after playing a real nice stretch of baseball in late April/early May. They've lost 4 straight and have fallen 3 games below .500 and 7 games back of the West-leading Rangers. They're struggling both at the plate and on the mound, but the one guy who's been a diamond in the rough for this team and another brilliant find by Billy Beane has been rightfielder Josh Reddick. Despite the A's offensive struggles at the top of the lineup with Rickie Weeks, Reddick has put up some very impressive numbers, sporting a .272/12/26 line heading into action Sunday. Reddick leads the A's in all three categories, and has picked up the slack for a slumping Yeonis Cespedes who's been stuck on the DL for 20 days now and still doesn't have a clear return date. The A's pitching has stayed pretty steady, but without Cespedes and still without Manny Ramirez, this team's offense has really taken a hit. I mean, when your leading hitter is hitting .272 and your next best is at .250, they should be pretty grateful to be as close to .500 as they are. Tommy Millone has been a breakout star on the mound and Brandon McCarthy is looking like the ace the A's want him to become, but they have to hit to win games, especially in the AL.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Warriors Headed to SF in 2017?

In Part One of our Warriors Season review last week, we touched on most of the positives to come out of the 2011/2012 NBA season for Golden State. Today, before we presented the 2nd part of the season review, there's some pretty big news on the Warriors front to discuss.

 The NBA declared Monday that the Warriors would likely be moving back across the bay in time for the 2017 season. The Warriors recently brought back their "The City" jerseys, the ones they originally wore when they were in San Francisco, which started the pondering as to whether the Warriors will move our not. This is good news for Warriors fans, even if your an Oakland resident, as at least they're staying in the Bay Area, and won't be moving down south to San Jose or any other Silicon Valley destination. Just wanted to spread that piece of news as it hit wires Monday, now back to the on-court happenings of the recent season.

Biedrins Struggled
Things started out roughly for Golden State before the season even got going, as they were spurned by every free agent big man they were interested in, only managing to sign Kwame Brown. Their first choice was Tyson Chandler, but he choose to sign with a contender in New York and join Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. They couldn't even manage to get their backup plan to jump ship from the LA Clippers after offering DeAndre Jordan a massive deal only to be spurned, but that's now looking more like a blessing in disguise than anything else. The big problem for the Warriors, and one I think they'll regret until the day he leaves, is not amestying Andris Biedrins and his large remaining contract when they could have gotten that deal off their books and freed up some real cash heading into this summer. Instead though, they played it cautiously, knowing they were short of big men, and they decided to hand on to Biedrins. After that decision, they should have saved their amnesty. Instead, they used it to release Charlie Bell, a guard who had just a year remaining on his deal and wasn't very expensive. I never got that move, and after the deal for Andrew Bogut, the Warriors will have nearly $20M/year committed to these two centers over the next few seasons. So before the lockout-shortened 2011/12 season even got going for Golden State, they had a lot of fans scratching their heads in the Bay Area with their suspect use of the brief free agency period. The best move they made before opening their season on Christmas, was trading for Brandon Rush but they needed more than that.

Curry's Glass Ankles
Now, after the season got going, the team ran into another problem. They couldn't, for the life of them, keep everyone on the floor and healthy. They lost Curry early in January, and he was never really much of a factor after that, only returning for a few brief stints before being shut down for the year around mid-season. Monta Ellis played well in the first half and was the team's first half MVP before the trade, then David Lee picked up slack in absence of Ellis, Udoh, Curry and their new addition, Andrew Bogut. However, one guy who they were counting on mightily to carry the load offensively, Dorrell Wright, fell off badly from his breakout '10-'11 campaign and that caused another big hole in a starting lineup already missing their star point guard and center. As I said in the first part of the review, Klay Thompson stepped up huge in wake of dealing Ellis, and he was acknowledged last week ranking 6th in the NBA Rookie of the Year voting. Had it not been for the emergence of Thompson, this year could have been much worse. At the very least, the Warriors appear to be pretty set at the 2 guard, especially if they retain Brandon Rush this summer. The real problem for Golden State in 2012 were injuries, plain and simple. That said though, even if Curry stayed healthy, this team still lacked that solid man in the middle most playoff teams have and I doubt they would have done much better than they did. The Warriors got decent play from their point guard spot, especially after Nate Robinson came aboard, it was the lack of presence in the middle that kept them from competing with the big dogs, and that's why they felt it so necessary to deal the face of their organization in Monta in order to land a potential all-star center in Bogut. As long as both Curry and Bogut are healthy come October, and stay that way throughout the season, things should take a 180 for Golden State next season, especially if they play it smart in the draft.

All in all, with the way things were at mid-season, Warrior fans have to be pretty stoked that the Dubs appear to have a stronghold on their number 7 pick. At mid-season, it was looking like a lost cause, as they clearly weren't a playoff team, but not bad enough to make the top-7. But by the end of the season, the Warriors had more guys in suits on the bench they they did in actual uniform, and they were starting 3-4 rookies per night at many points in April. That both played well into their draft strategy as well as giving young players like Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Tyler some much needed experience.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Warriors Season Review: What Went Right

Since the regular season ended a few weeks ago, we haven't really done an assessment of the Warriors 2011-12 season here at The Rundown. We figured we'd go ahead and break it into two parts: The Good from from this past season, and the bad.

A Healthy Bogut Will Be Huge!
We'll go ahead and start off with the positives that came out of this season, and even in a year in which the Warriors were decimated by injuries, there were still some very good things to build off heading into 2012-13. The first thing that comes to mind for me is obviously the acquisition of Andrew Bogut, who will give the Warriors a talent at center they haven't had in decades, assuming he can stay on the floor. He'll be paired in the Warriors front court with our choice for their 2012 team MVP, David Lee, who performed much better in his 2nd season with Golden State (20 PPG/9.9 RPG). The Warriors did have to pay a steep price in order to get the Aussie big man, parting with their longest tenured player and one of the most talented guards in the NBA in Monta Ellis, as well as a rising defensive big man and 2010 first round pick, Ekpe Udoh. However, this trade helped the Warriors accomplish more than just adding a much needed presence in the middle. The deal also helped ensure the Warriors held onto their much needed top-7 draft choice, which they won in a coin toss after the season. They still have to go through the lottery, but they most likely will stick at 7, which is a big coupe considering they have very little cap space to work with. Another big deal this team made that could pay off was attaining both Richard Jefferson, who played well for the Warriors, and the Spurs first rounder in exchange for Stephen Jackson. Jefferson not only provides veteran leadership that this young team desperately needs, but he also could represent an upgrade at small forward in 2012-13 if the Warriors end up going with him over the one-dimensional Dorrell Wright. That extra first round choice could end up helping the Warriors if they want to move up in the draft, or if they just sit where they are, they'll should end up with two solid talents with two first round picks in a very deep draft. One thing the Warriors have successfully done in recent drafts, dating back to the selection of Monta Ellis, has been using their lower picks and 2nd round picks wisely. Even last years choosing of Jeremy Tyler and Charles Jenkins are looking like two solid value picks after the way each player ended the season.

Another rookie, the W's first rounder and 11th overall choice in last June's draft, Klay Thompson, really made parting with Ellis a much easier pill to swallow. In fact, if you compare the two guards play over the last month and half of 2012, you'll see very similar stats, despite each being completely different players. In his 29 starts in place of Ellis, Thompson averaged 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal while shooting a sturdy 42% from beyond the arc for the year. In comparison, for Milwaukee in 21 games, Ellis averaged
K. Thompson: Breakout Rookie!
just 17 points and shoot 26% from 3-point range. Again though, each are two completely different players, but Thompson showed us this year that he's more than just a catch-and-shoot guy. While he's not at Ellis' level in terms of distributing the ball and going to the rim, he's a solid ball-handler with good passing smarts and should play extremely well with Steph Curry. Lee was the teams MVP, but Thompson was the teams breakout star. The Warriors also eliminated their small backcourt issue, and even though I made it quite clear here that I'd have much rather dealt Curry than Ellis (even before Curry's ankles became built of glass), they just weren't going to get as much value for Curry, with the ankle issue looming, than he'll provide them when he gets healthy (assuming that day comes). Also Curry is more of a pure point guard than Monta, and has much of the same skill-set but he's a better shooter than Monta too. With Jefferson, Curry, Thompson and the likely return of Brandon Rush, the Warriors have some guys who can snipe from beyond the arc and that element will be very fun to watch next year with Lee and Bogut inside kicking balls out to the shooters. I know a lot of the Warriors potential for next year and beyond is based on the health two players, Curry and Bogut, but I really like the direction this team is headed in, with all the draft choices and the young nucleus already in-tact. Again, I think they need to prioritize Brandon Rush over any of their other free agents, as he not only brings positional flexibility, but a ridiculous efficiency in both field goal and 3-point percentages.

I'd also like to see Nate Robinson retained after a strong year from him in absence of Curry and Ellis. He was the one guy who the Warriors could count on to bring the ball up the court and run the offense after the ladder two players became unavailable. In 51 games, he put up an average of 11 ppg, 2 rpg and 4.5 apg in only 23 minutes of play. He'd again provide some stability and a veteran backup to Curry, who will likely have his playing time limited to begin the season as he just underwent surgery that has an expected 3-month rehabilitation window before he can get back on the court. The season doesn't start until October, so that will give him some time to regain strength before training camp, but the Warriors will definitely take it easy on him. Same with Bogut, though Curry plays point guard and relies heavily on his cuts and drives for much of his offense and production. Still, with Bogut's historic injury issues, the Warriors certainly won't overwork him too much too soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Time is Now for Giants With Kemp out for LA

The Giants caught a lucky break this week, after losing their best hitter and starting 3rd basemen a few weeks ago, the division leading Dodgers suffered their first big blow of 2012, as Matt Kemp is expected to miss two week with a hamstring pull, opening a window of opportunity for the Giants to move up from 6 games back in standings.

Blanco Striving in Leadoff Spot
Now, the Giants have looked like a completely new team the last few games, and have won 3 straight with outstanding pitching and timely hitting. Their offense isn't performing nearly as badly as I was expecting without Sandoval, as others have stepped up, and if they continue to do so, they're just going to keep climbing in the standings. Losing Kemp, even for a couple of weeks, is a huge blow to LA, as he was by far the early season MVP in the NL and hitting a ridiculous rate. The dude had 12 HR and 28 RBI with a .359 average through mid-May. In comparison, despite being out most of May, Pablo Sandoval still leads the Giants in HR and RBI with 5 and 15, just to give you an idea of the year Kemp is having. Now with both he and Juan Rivera on the DL, the Dodgers are running out of outfielders, and the time for the Giants to be hitting their stride is now, and they look to be doing just that. It wasn't the prettiest win Monday night, but the Giants still beat Colorado to move up over .500 again, and has them riding a decent 3-game win streak.

The guy who's really come out of his shell the last few games has been Gregor Blanco. With Sandoval sitting, the Giants had to re-arrange the lineup a bit, moving Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera down in the order and placing Blanco in the leadoff spot. Blanco's scored 5 runs in these last 3 games, and has really exploded with the bat raising his average up from .237 to .286 and even has a big fly, 4 RBI and 2 stolen bases during that stretch. He's done exactly what the Giants needed from him in the leadoff spot, now they just need him to keep it up. What's allowing Blanco to stay in the leadoff spot is the fact that Angel Pagan is still in the zone. Even after having his 20-game hit streak broken last week, he's since started a new one and keeps seeing that average creep up. He's still not getting on base nearly as much as the Giants would like (.306 OBP), a big reason why this team is dead last in OBP.

One guy who I've not been impressed by lately is Joaquin Arias. Sure, he's been decent at times for the Giants filling in at 2nd and at 3rd now in wake of Sandoval's injury, but I can't help but think there are better options in the organization suited for 3rd base. Arias has made some big errors over there, including one that almost cost the Giants the game on Monday, and his bat hasn't been anything special. Even Connor Gillaspie seemed better suited to play 3rd in Sandoval's absence, as at least you didn't need to hold your breath on every ball hit to him. I still think the best option on the roster is Brett Pill. If your going to sacrifice some
Belt Needs Regular AB's
defensively, you might as well get some power into the lineup. Pill has come through in big spots for the team early on and really does deserve to be getting more at-bats than he currently is. I know he doesn't embody the patience that this team needs in their order, but he'll at least hit the three-run homer for you and come up with the routine plays. I doubt Bochy will really tweak with much as the team has performed these last few games, but if there's one move I'd like to see be made, that would be it. That would also open up the door for more at-bats for Brandon Belt, who really needs a good 7-10 games straight where he plays everyday. I know I've been a little down on Belt here lately for his lack of production, but it is hard to sustain any kind of rhythm at the plate when you play him one day then rest him two, then play him again. He needs steady diet of at-bats so the Giants can determine whether or not he's ready to be a big leaguer and take first base from Huff once and for all.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Giants BlogCast: Team Sits at 15-15

We haven't talked a lot about the Giants lately here at the Bay Area Sports Journal, with the NBA Playoffs heating up and the NFL Draft having taken up the bulk of April, but we recently did a Giants BlogCast for The Giants Baseball Blog, and figured we'd share it here(Auto-Mute so click Speaker for sound):

Monday, May 7, 2012

Spurs, Thunder Dominate Round

Well, heading into the 2012 NBA Playoffs, the two consensus favorites to reach the finals, and the two teams we picked here at WRD, were the OKC Thunder and the Miami Heat. The Thunder rolled past the defending champion Dallas Mavericks with a 4-0 sweep, but the Heat failed to do so against their counterpart, the New York Knicks, as NY beat them in game four to keep hopes alive behind a valiant effort by Caremlo Anthony.

Durrant Leads OKC
With all the Knicks injury issues, I didn't think they would have won a single game without a healthy Stoudemire and without their breakout point guard Jeremy Lin, but Carmelo Anthony prevailed over LeBron James in game 4, once again showing that James can disappear in crunch time. Melo outplayed the Miami star, scoring 41 points in the process to push NY to a 2-point victory to keep them alive. On the other side of the spectrum, the upset in the making thus far has the top-seeded Chicago Bulls down 3 games to 1 to the 8th seeded Philadelphia 76ers, who were reeling heading into postseason. However, the Bulls lost their star point guard Derrick Rose, as well as any Championship aspirations they had for 2012, and have failed to respond like winners, making the Heat now the clear-cut favorites in the East. They still do have to win another game vs. a New York team that gained a lot of momentum in that game 4 win, so there's still a slight chance they could get derailed, but unless injury strikes or they completely melt down, I don't see them having any problems going through a Knicks squad that has players dropping left and right (lost Baron Davis in game 4). Then the Indiana Pacers who look to be heading to the next round, assuming they beat out the Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic (Pacers have 3-1 lead in series). In perhaps the most interesting match-up in the Eastern Conference's round 1 though has been the aging Boston Celtics vs. the young gun Atlanta Hawks. I thought the Hawks, even without their star center Al Horford and Joe Johnson and Josh Smith each banged up, had enough talent to battle and possibly beat Boston, but the Celtics big-three have shown they can still turn it on when it counts. Boston's up 2-1 in the series and currently is leading by 20 points in the 2nd half of game 4. They to me look like the dark-horses in the East, and may be the one team that Miami fears. They have a pretty similar team to the Dallas Mavericks, with veteran grit, good defense and a smart point guard, and we all know how they fared vs. Dallas last June.

Over in the West, as I said, the Thunder are the only team that cleanly swept their opponent and are sitting there in round two waiting for the winner of the Lakers/Nuggets series. LA has the lead and should beat Denver, but it'll be the LA/OKC match-up that could determine which team represents the West in the finals. With respect to the Spurs, I think the Lakers and Thunder are the two best teams in the West this year, and one of them will reach the finals. The Spurs have been impressive in their series with Utah though, however the Jazz are one of the worst teams in this years bracket, with a 3-0 lead heading into game four on Monday night. The somewhat overlooked series, the Memphis/Clippers match-up has been an exciting one as well, with the Clippers holding a 2-1 lead, but Memphis could just as easily be in the drivers seat, losing game 3 by just a point. I think Memphis is the better overall team and I do think they'll battle back and beat the Clippers, but that is one of series I'm trying not to miss a minute of, and there aren't many of those in the first round. If your looking for a spot to do some Sports Betting on this years NBA Playoffs, I'd put my money on Miami. I said it at the beginning of the season and re-iterated all throughout, I just think they're too strong and determined to fail a 2nd time around with that squad.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Youngsters Keeping A's Relevant

If you would have told me in Spring Training that in May, the A's would have a better record than the Giants, I would have called you crazy, yet here we sit, 5 days into the month, and low and behold, the A's are playing better than their cross-bay rivals.

Best FA Deal of Offseason?
The reason why they aren't struggling the way people envisioned heading into the seasons is because Cuban star Yeonis Cespedes has had very little difficulty in translating his Cuban success into success in the Majors. He leads Oakland with 5 jacks and 20 RBI and has played a strong center field. Also, the guy who flanks him to his left, right-fielder Josh Reddick, has been all the A's could have hoped for as one of the main cogs of the Andrew Bailey-to-Boston deal. He's hitting .270 with 4 HR and a couple of steals and has come up with big hit after big hit early on for Oakland. At the same time, the A's have gotten nearly nothing out of leadoff man and expected offensive catalyst Rickie Weeks. The guy who was supposed to be this team's Ichiro has started off 2012 ridiculously slow (.184/2/5 5 SB's). The A's were hoping for a little average, a little power and a lot of steals from their young second basemen, but have only gotten a handful of steals. What's kept this team around .500 though, has been it's starting pitching, which is looking stronger by the day. Veterans Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy are leading the staff with ERA's of 2.53 and 2.96, respectively, and have given this team a chance to win nearly every time they've taken the ball. Also, some of the young arms the A's aquired in the by going through their fire-sale this winter, have started to perform as well. Tommy Millone, acquired in the Gio Gonzalez deal, has been in the rotation since opening day, and has been solid with a 3-2 record, 3.69 ERA and just a 1.01 WHIP. Also, Jarrod Parker, the prize of the Trevor Cahill trade, has made his big league debut and has done so in impressive fashion. Through 2 starts, the 23 year-old rightie has a 1-0 record to go with a 1.61 ERA. Granted, a small sample size, but you can sure get an idea of what these pitchers are capable of when you watch them throw.

Anyway, if your an A's fan, after watching the success of the young arms they dealt for, despite losing two studs like Cahil and Gonzalez in the rotation and Bailey out of the pen, you have to be feeling much better about things than you were immediately after these deals were made. Cahill has been decent for AZ, as has Gonzalez for his new squad in DC, but Bailey's continued arm troubles have cost him the season in Boston, and the A's are looking like clear winners of that trade now. For a team that I thought would struggle to win 70 games, they've come out playing well, and A's fans have to be stoked their team is .500 and holding 2nd place in NL West. They aren't going to make the playoffs this season, and they weren't even with the guys they traded away, but this team is on the right path and its quite obvious. Also, I like the fact they finally are giving another one of their top minor leaguers a chance, as they re-called Michael Taylor, the slugging outfielder from Sacramento. The A's are hoping to have better success with him than they have with recent minor league studs like Chris Carter and Brandon Allen.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

2012 NFL Drafts Biggest Winners, Losers

Well, I don't fell like going through every single team's draft and grading out how I felt they did in the recent draft. We won't know how any of these players fair until they start playing anyway, so obviously, my winners and losers are the teams who I felt either picked the best prospects, or missed the best prospects, and unfortunately for the Silver and Black fans, they fall into the bad category in this one. This doesn't account for any un-drafted signings, just what each team did with it's draft selections.

Biggest Winners:

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals, In my opinion, dominated this draft by nabbing some of the best prospects at each position. They ended up getting 5 guys who projected into the first round in various mock drafts, from their first pick, Dre Kirkpatrick through guys like DT Devon Still, WR Mohammed Sanu, G Kevin Zietler and DT Brandon Washington. They also added a sound run blocking tight end in Orson Charles, who was a top-5 tight end on most boards. Just an all around good draft when you get a potential shut-down corner, starting wideout, guard and two stud DT's. They did well with their other selections as well.

Luck Goes #1 to Indy
Indianapolis Colts: They got their franchise QB, and got him two good tight-ends, as he's shown a knack for using them quite often. They even were able to get his buddy in from Stanford, Coby Fleener, with whom he connected for 10 TD's last season with. He'll take Dallas Clark's old spot, but provide more athleticism and speed to beat LB's and Safeties in coverage. They also got a good blocking TE in Dwayne Allen, a guy who can also catch the ball but makes it a priority to knock defenders down. For these picks alone, they have to be considered one of the top-5 winners of this years draft. They have a whole new makeup on offense now.

New Enlgand Patriots: Now, this hurts to admit cause this is not a team that needed to improve like they did in this draft. They took an ordinary, beatable defense and have really made it over. They took two front-7 players in Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones, that have the chance to wreck havoc on opposing QB's. They also helped out their thin secondary by adding a solid CB in the later rounds in Alfonzo Dennard, a guy I was hoping the Raiders or 49ers would select. It wouldn't surprise me if all three of these guys are starting for them come September and not only that, but producing!

St. Louis Rams: They didn't need RGIII, and it paid off dearly because of it. Instead, they turned that #2 into a whole bunch of picks, with which they landed a ton of value and potential. Michael Brockers should start immediately at DT for them, and could contribute 8-10 sacks as early as his rookie season, that's how good he is at penetrating the line from the DT spot. Then they got the uber-talented, built and fast Brian Quick, who has been gaining favorable comparisons to Terrell Owens. The pick that really sealed it though was grabbing Janoris Jenkins with one of those picks they got from Washington. They ended up with 3 first round talents with those guys. Isaih Pead is also highly thought of, so much so that some NFL people believe he'll start to take over RB duties for STL. and take time away from Stephen Jackson starting now. I don't know about all that talk, but at least he'll give them a nice C.O.P. back that will take the load of Jack and give the Rams a Ben Tate-type back to rotate with their pro-bowler. All around good draft for St. Louis as they seemed to get everything, they even got good value at corner (Trumaine Robinson) and LB (Aaron Brown) late in the draft.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are another team that had some gaping holes on their D that they addressed. They added the best pure D-lineman in the draft in Fletcher Cox, and then got stout ILB Michael Kyndricks and another D-lineman in end and pass-rush specialist Vinny Curry who was 6th in the nation in sacks last season. They also added a corner that's no slouch in Brandon Boykin and finally, they added potential heir apparent to Mike Vick in Arizona's Nick Foles. I almost forgot, they also got Miami G Brandon Washington, a big-time talent who just needs the right coaching to keep his motor running at all times. I think the Bengals were far and away the best in the AFC in terms of draft choices, and the Eagles have to get the NFC's honor.

Honorable Mention: Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers

Biggest Losers:

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks had a top-10 pick, and surprised the whole nation by selecting LB Bruce Irvin, a D-2 Linebacker who, granted dominated for his respective school, was a projected mid-round choice. They passed up more sure bets at spots they could have used help (O-line especially) than any other team. There other picks were even worse, as they took ILB Bobby Wagner and QB Russell Wilson way higher than they were thought to be going. Wilson really boggles my mind because the Seahawks need a QB of the future, and there were some nice ones out there when they chose the 5'11" Wilson in round 3! As solid and as good of value Cinci and Philly's drafts were, Seattle's was the complete opposite.

New Orleans Saints: Seattle's draft was bad, but nobody has been struggling like the New Orleans Saints of late, and it carried over into their drafting. They didn't have a first rounder, trading it last year to ensure they got the so far un-productive Mark Ingram, so they were behind the 8-ball to start with, sorta like the Raiders. I think the best player NO drafted was WR Nick Toon, who they got in the 3rd round, but their first pick of the draft was a reach in DT Akeim Hicks. He could end up being a hog, or he could end up being cut bu opening week, that's how up uncertain their 2nd rounder is. Toon, I expect, will thrive with Drew Brees throwing to him and should make in impact right off the bat, the only pick they can say that about.

6'8" Brock Osweiler
Denver Broncos: The Broncos didn't get one single player I think will ever be a good starter at the NFL level. Their draft is average at best, and that has them as a clear loser. Brock Osweiler is the only bright prospect that could turn into something special, because of his size and rocket right-arm, but Derek Wolfe is not a star player, he was good in college, but is too slow and small to dominate the NFL, and they passed up a lot of talent at pick 36 in order to pick him. I also think the QB would have been there for them just 10 picks later in the next round, and they could have gotten two studs in the 2nd like, for instance, Janoris Jenkins and WR Rueben Randle, a stud Corner and a stud WR that Peyton Manning could have turned into a pro-bowler. Had they gone that route, then gotten their QB in round 3, they would have gotten some real value in round 2. Instead, they have an average D-End and a project QB.

Oakland Raiders: Last But not least in our list of the Draft's losers is are our very own Oakland Raiders. Yes, it sucks to admit if your a Raider fan, but face it, they weren't in any great shape for this draft after the Carson Palmer deal. That was their draft, and unfortunately, much of next years as well. They ended up with a very ordinary lineman in Tony Bergstrom with the last pick in the third round, but I think they could have gotten more talent with that pick. I did like the Juron Criner selection, but the Raiders are already stock-piled with upside wideouts that just need work and Criner will be just another face in the crowd. Weak draft for them, you'd think they would have taken a chance on a QB or something and hoped to hit gold late in the draft, but they just went mostly with lineman and linebackers. Needless to say, they won't be getting much help from this years draft class.

That's really it as far as losers in my mind. Every other team got at least one player that I think can turn into an NFL superstar, or at least has to tools to do so. The Falcons were almost on the list, as they to were without a first rounder, but they came up with one a guy many thought to be a top-10 pick in Peter Konz in round 2, so you have to give them that.