Monday, April 30, 2012

49ers Sign Intriguing Undrafted Free Agent

Every single college player that declares for the NFL draft hopes that they hear their name called at some point during the 3-day extravaganza, but those that don't are left scrambling to find jobs in free agency, just as any other player would, and the 49ers got themselves one potentially diamond in the rough.

Chris Owusu's 4.3 Speed
The 49ers wasted no time in assessing which un-drafted players they wanted, as they composed a name of about 13-15 players they tendered contracts to, but not every player signed with them. The one player that did except their offer to be re-united with his former College coach at Stanford was star wideout Chris Owusu. This guy has been by far the best collegiate receiver in the Bay Area over the last few years, but has been limited due to the fact he suffered 3 severe concussions within 13 months. It made teams shy away from using a pick on him, though plenty of teams inquired about signing him, he thought it best to reunite with coach Harbough. I think really has a chance to make some noise, and that is Stanford's fast, 6'2" 200 pound WR, Chris Owusu. The talented Owusu was QB Andrew Luck's prime target when he was on the field, but the problem for Owusu has been multiple concussions which wilted his draft status and kept him on the sidelines for just about as much time as he was on the field. The big sign to me that his upside is unlimited, is the fact he had 692 yards and 5 TD's as a Sophomore, the year in which Andrew Luck really broke out. That was also the only season in which he played in every game for the Cardinal, as the concussions begin to hamper him at the start of his Junior year. He played just 6 games that year (2010), but did manage to put up a huge 9-catch, 165 yard performance vs. AZ. He showed 4.3 speed at the combine and is medically cleared for full contact. The risk with him, and the reason he went un-drafted, is that he's another head-shot or bad concussion away from being knocked out of football for good. His big play ability, and size, could spell end of the road to Kyle Williams. Owusu, if healthy and not held back by concussion symptoms, he's got the upside to be as good as other 49ers first round receivers, Michael Crabtree and A.J. Jenkins.


Speaking of Crabtree and the 49ers receiving corps, the Niners held a mini-camp workout Monday, and got the pleasure of seeing Randy Moss dawn his #84 in the 49ers colors for the first time. I just saw photos from the workout, but from what I saw and am hearing, Moss looks to be in tremendous shape and appears quite motivated to be that big play wideout the 49ers lacked last season. What a difference Alex Smith will now have heading into 2012, with the assortment of weapons at his disposal. Along with Moss, free agent signee Mario Manningham is also set to take on a large role in this teams passing attack, then there's Crabtree
Moss Looks Strong
and Ginn as holdovers. However, A.J. Jenkins, as Harbough eluded to in his press conference, will be thrown right into the fire to compete for a starting job himself. The 49ers should have a good healthy competition going at WR now, especially with Owusu in the mix as they have 7-8 realistic options for only 5-6 spaces. The 49ers also added Stanford UDFA's, D-End Matt Masifulu and strong safety Michael Taylor. The 49ers are still in the midst of finalizing a lot of their undrafted FA's, so they haven't released the official list yet, but unfortunately it won't contain the names of guys I was hoping like LB Vontaze Burfict, CB's Chase Minnfield or Coryell Judie, G Lucas Nix and perhaps best of all, UNC WR Dwight Jones. The 6'4", 225 pound Jones almost mirrored A.J. Jenkins' numbers last year (85/1,196/11) but did not have the best of combine workouts or 40-times. Still, he's exactly what the 49ers don't have, unless Mr. Moss reverts back to his 10+ TD per season ways, which is a wideout that can go up and grab the jump ball in the end-zone or rune the fade route. As much as I like Owusu, I would have taken Jones if given a choice, but see no reason they couldn't get both, considering they signed a few other no-name wideouts.


Anyway, what a weekend, starting with a surprise first round choice of A.J. Jenkins, then culminating with the mini-camp workout Monday in which most of the team's newly acquire talent showed up for. All in all, I'd have loved to have seen Chase Minnifield, Lucas Nix, Dwight Jones and Owusu all sign with San Francisco, but obviously Trent Baalke and Jim Harbough have a much different idea as to this teams needs than us bloggers and fans and after the success they had with a similar formula last season, who am I to question their choices at this point!

2012 49ers Draft Review

I hope you guys are ready for heaping amounts of football talk, cause that's what we're going to be doing here over the next week or so, with the dust settling on the draft, UDFA's finding homes and mini-camps starting up around the league. Even with the NBA Playoffs underway, the NFL is still dominating sports airways and message boards right now, and likely will all week long. We'll start with a double-post reviewing and grading the 49ers draft, but we do intend on grading the Raiders draft, and UDFA's, even if there wasn't much to go off of.

A.J. Jenkins: Speed w/great Hands
On day one, a lot of 49ers were taken aback by their selection, with a plethora of offensive lineman still on the board and uber-talented CB Janoris Jenkins (who had he avoided off-field problems, would have easily been a top-10 pick). The 49ers, however, went with the fastest, most accomplished wideout in the draft, nabbing A.J. Jenkins in a similar move to last years pick of Aldon Smith. The similarities are that both players projected to be 2nd or 3rd round choices, and in Aldon's case, maybe a late-draft choice, but the 49ers obviously saw a similar trait in both players that made these guys more appealing to them than to most so called "draft experts". Stephen Hill was the one guy I thought may get his name called there if they were going to go receiver, but I see the logic in going with Jenkins over Hill. Jenkins was a 3-year starter at Illinois, and last season had one of the best receiving seasons in the NCAA, hauling in 90 catches for 1,200 yards and 9 TD's. The part that doesn't get noted in his stats, is that he had a very un-predictable QB situation at Illinois and never really had a top QB throwing to him, and he was still able to put up those gaudy numbers. The only knock on Jenkins really, is his slight frame and the fact that he's just 6-feet tall, not exactly the big red-zone target the 49ers were seeking. That said, he plays similarly to Greg Jennings and Mike Wallace, who are both successful 6-foot receivers, cut from exactly the same mold as Jenkins. I think that's the upside the 49ers saw in this choice, and although it stunned me at first, I've come around and I've grown fond of this choice. Of course, we'll have to wait and see how he does in pre-season and training camp, but I think Jenkins has a real shot at entering the year no lower than 3rd on the WR depth chart.



The 49ers continued their seeking of home-run threats on offense in round 2 and took LaMichael James, another guy that some scouts believe may have lasted until the mid-rounds, and looking back at the lack of RB's drafted, the 49ers may have done this one over if given the chance. That said, I loved James at Oregon, he's a small back, no question about it, but as I eluded to after the selection, so were guys like Brian Westbrook, Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles coming into the league, and all have turned into/were premiere runners. I just think that even with the 5'9", 195 pound frame, he's tough enough to go between
L. James had 300 carries in '10
the tackles (dude toted the rock over 300 times last season) and take that pounding inside. He also, obviously, has immense speed to the corners as well. The only part of his game which is a bit questionable, is his pass-catching abilities, as he's a guy the 49ers would like to get the ball in the hands of, whether it's on screens, kick returns or what not, he hasn't shown those good hands that normally come with small-speedy backs. Still, it's not a big issue, and an area that should be able to be improved upon, especially considering the 49ers will be designing plays specifically to get the ball in his hands... To complement the James pick, with their third selection and 5th round choice, they finally went O-line, grabbing  Wake Forest's Joe Looney. I liked the pick, as it fits a need, and after learning more about Looney, he seems like a 49ers O-lineman indeed. He's got the Mike Iuipati style long hair going, and plays similarly to the 49ers 2011 first rounder. He's tough, an experienced starter and is a load at 315, but an agile 315 that can break up-field on sweeps and screens. Here's his Scouting video, as you see, a potential 3rd rounder before getting injured in the senior bowl. He's likely not going to do much to start the year off, but could be a 2nd half contributor and end up being a steal if he heals up fully and regains form.

Robinson's a big play FS
The 49ers, with their final four selections, made more depth picks, adding to their defensive backfield by drafting one of the drafts top-5 safety's in Michigan State's Trenton Robinson. Here's his highlight video. He's a tad small at 5'10, 195, but he's a true all-around safety, with the ability to help with the run, play center field or come up and cover in man. Had he been 6'2", he probably goes in round 2-3. The 49ers only have 3 safeties on their roster right now, and Robinson will be on the roster as that 4th safety and the 49ers will be confident in using him. Now, I don't know much about C Joe Slowey who they drafted in the fifth but I really liked the pick of Notre Dame's OLB Darius Flemming, another value pick. He's another pass-rush specialist who looks like he can be a special teams monster. Cam Johnson, their last pick of the draft, is another guy like Flemming, who  many  projected to be a mid-round guy, but the 49ers got another potential steal in the 7th with this guy. Johnson was a guy I had listed as guys I'd target in round 3&4 in this post here, so getting him in the 7th is a huge coupe... In the next post above, we have the list of the un-drafted free agents the 49ers added, and brief notes about each player that I'm aware of and know anything about. However, it's grading time, and after the dust has settled, I've re-searched the 49ers draft picks, and look at some of the talent they by-passed in the mid-rounds, I have trouble grading them any higher than the C+/B- area. I mean, I like the Jenkins pick, loved the James pick and believe they got some value at the end of the draft, but they also passed up guys with huge upside like Jared Crick, Brandon Washington, Chase Minnifield and Vontaze Burfict. Of course though, as with any draft, we won't really know anything until these guys start playing as the 49ers Mini-Camp opened up today. More on that in the post above.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

NFL Draft Day 3, 49ers Trade Down Again

Well, the 49ers were apparently so enamored with their first two selections, that they felt as if they didn't need a third rounder in this year's draft. After taking A.J. Jenkins in the first round, and LaMichael James in the 2nd, the 49ers traded down into the 4th round to finally choose their first offensive guard, Joe Looney out of Wake Forest.

A.J. Jenkins Introduced
It was obvious heading into this offseason, when your fastest offensive player is your Tight End, you have to improve team speed. With their first two picks, the 49ers tackled that problem, and some. They added arguably the most explosive, quick backs in the draft, albeit an undersized commodity, and a WR that after doing my homework on, almost reminds me of a young Jerry Rice. Jenkins is a super smooth route-runner and has big-time speed. One draft site had him as his NFL upside being Greg Jennings, and that shows you exactly what type of player he should develop into. I've watched plenty of video on him and have been nothing but impressed with the game film. The dude always seems to get open, finds soft-spots in zone coverage and has no trouble beating DB's off the line with his 4.3 speed. And while watching some of that film, especially the dominant game vs. Northwestern, and watching this kid run routes and catch the ball and go, he really reminds me a lot of Jerry Rice. He's got a similar build, though a tad smaller than Rice, he is faster. He's got incredible hands that catch everything they touch and revealed his nickname of E.T. because of his long alien like fingers and huge paws. After being somewhat dumbfound after hearing his name called at 30 while guys like Stephon Hill, Ruben Randle and Janoris Jenkins were sitting there, I'm starting to really come around on this pick, and I've made no bones about my liking the choice of LaMichael James in round 2. I mean, even if James doesn't quite pan out, the 49ers are taking chances on guys that could be explosive football players. James' downside is that he becomes another Kendal Hunter-type C.O.P. back, but his upside is so much more than that, and I'm glad the 49ers saw that.

Raiders Pick Miles Burris in 4th
Across the Bay, the Raiders didn't get the luxury of having a top-2 round pick, as we all know where those went, but they did get a few nice pieces in round 3 and 4 that have some upside. We talked about Bergstrom yesterday, as he's a big tough, versatile O-lineman that does not shy away from any defender. With their 2nd pick of the draft, the Raiders went linebacker Miles Burris out of San Diego St. Burris is strong pass-rusher who collected 9.5 sacks last season, and is adept at bringing heat from the outside. He's also got flexibility to drop back into coverage and has a thick lower-body, which allows him to really drive into his tackles. I'm not sure he'll come right in and play a bunch on defense right off the bat, but he could provide some competition in camp and will surely be a contributor on special teams. The Raiders and the 49ers each still have a 5th round choice remaining, and we'll keep you posted with notes below as the picks come in throughout the day, with brief comments on each player. Of course, we'll review both teams drafts after the thing finishes up, but for know, I still see some quality prospects on the board, including CB Chase Minnifield and G Brandon Washington, who each were expected to go as high as round 2.

5th Round:

Raiders

Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State- Raiders take another edge defender and deepen their D-Line. Crawford has the ability to get to the QB, but is a tad undersized and needs to add some muscle to be a factor.

Juron Criner, WR, Arizona: I really like this choice for the Raiders at the end of round 5. Criner had a big senior year as Nick Foles prime target, catching 75 balls for 900 yards and 11 TD's vs. premium talent in the Pac-12. I think the Raiders were hoping Cal WR Marvin Jones would fall to them, but he went just 2 picks before they choose. Great value pick this deep in the draft though, as I think the 6'4", 215 pounder will be a nice target for Carson and could be the Raiders choice to make the most impact in year one.

49ers

Darius Flemming, OLB, Notre Dame: With talented CB Chase Minnifield still on the board, I thought the 49ers would add to their Defensive backfield here, but they choose Flemming, who's a ball-hawk, but a bit of a tweener and doesn't project out to be much more than a special teams contributor and backup linebacker. Again, very surprised they didn't go Minnifield here, especially seeing the success they've had with mid-round CB's in recent drafts (Tarrell Brown, Chris Culliver). They pick again in just 15 picks, so maybe he'll last till then. Also, G Brandon Washington, projected 2nd rounder, is still out there for the taking.

6th/7th Rounds

49ers

Trenton Robinson, FS, Michigan St.: Robinson was ranked by NFP as the third best Free Safety in this years class. He's a little bit small (5'10", 195) but plays bigger, is a 3-year starter and has produced at  He's adept in coverage and displayed ability to come up and help stop the run. He met a need to as the 49ers were currently sitting with just 3 safeties under contract. Not a bad pick but still wish they would have gotten the strong Virgina corner, Chase Minnifield or Miami guard Brandon Washington. They select again in later this round, so they could still end up with one of these guys, as they represent the best value for the 49ers IMO.

Jason Slowey, T, Western Oregon: Well, the 49ers choose to go O-line again, as the player taken immediately after Slowey was the guy I was hoping they'd choose under these circumstances, Miami's Brandon Washington. I also wonder what they would have done had Miami WR Tommy Streeter had fallen to them. He's a bigger, stronger wideout (6'5", 226 pounds) that is a prime red-zone guy, but they take another O-lineman I'm unfamiliar with. 

Cam Johnson, DE/OLB, Virgina: Now this is a guy I mentioned as a possibility as high as round 3-4, so on that basis alone, I love the pick. He's a bit of a tweener at 6'5" 270, but has the frame to easily add 25 pounds and be a down D-End at the NFL level. He's got plus-pass rush ability (11 sacks in 22 games in Jr./Sr. seasons as D-End), and I think the 49ers saw some shades of Aldon Smith, similar size and attributes, when watching his game film and had ecstatic he fell to them in the 7th.

Raiders

Christo Bilukidi, DT, Georgia State: Don't know anything about him, as he's the first player drafted from Georgia State into the NFL. Supposedly athletic and has good size at 6'3", 310 pounds.

Nathan Stupar, LB, Penn St.: With the Raiders final pick of the 2012 Draft, they choose little known LB Nathan Stupar, another guy I never heard of before hearing his name called today. Supposedly he was an over-looked talent in the mess that went through Penn St. last season, and could challenge for linebacking depth, but I think he's got special teams written all over him at slender, yet powerful and agile 6'1" and 230 pounds.
________________________________________________________________________

So concludes our pick-by-pick analysis of the 2012 NFL draft. Great way to end the draft for the 49ers with a nice prospect late, and there are still a number of top-100 prospects that didn't even go, so be ware of potential UDFA's over the next few days for both the Raiders and 49ers. We'll have a whole post dedicated to those guys tomorrow as the dust settles on the draft and we have some prospective.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Raiders Take Guard Tony Bergstrom at 92

Well they had to wait until the last pick of day 2 to make their first, but the Raiders finally got to chose a player in the 2012 draft, and the new regime went with with a re-enforcement for their offensive line in the form of Tony Bergstrom, a somewhat surprising pick judging by some of the other players that are still available and the Raiders needs on defense especially.

#70, Fits Raider Moto
I don't know a thing about Bergstrom, other than he played his college ball at Utah and is a pretty big load at 6'6" and 315, He played his high school ball in the Bay Area at Skyline High, and is coming home. However, this move caught a lot of Raiders fans by surprise that were hoping for a pass-rusher like Cam Johnson and Jared Crick or a potential shut-down corner like Chase Minnifield. They didn't go after a name, instead going after a guy Reggie McKenzie obviously had his eye on for a while as the Raiders didn't hesitate to choose the Utah guard when their number was called. This now leaves them entering tomorrow with a stict focus on defense, one would think, but with the way the first three rounds of this draft have played out, I really don't know what route they or any other team will go at this point. The one team that has improved themselves immensely by drafting two former collegiate Bay Area stars from Stanford are the Indianapolis Colts. I mean, they got themselves a sure-fire, number one QB for years to come in Luck, and while he may not be Peyton Manning 2.0, he's going to be one of the top-5 NFL QB's within a few years, just watch. Then they went out in round two and nabbed one of Luck's favorite targets and arguably the drafts most talented tight end in Coby Fleener. I mean, that's a squad that had their blue print down and they executed it perfectly. Speaking of tight-ends, I'm a little surprised the Raiders didn't go with talented TE Orson Charles out of Georgia. Their offense suffered last year in the wake of losing top pass-catcher Zack Miller, and they missed that strong presence at tight end. He's a name to keep an eye on for them in round 4 should he fall that far.


49ers Grab LaMichael James in Round 2

Well, the 49ers obviously had their plan of attack heading into this draft early, and that was getting as much speed as possible onto this team. And not only have they added speedy offensive players, but they've added speedy, polished offensive pieces.

Niners Nab James
After surprising with pick A.J. Jenkins in round 1 last night, going with the Greg Jennings-esque receiver, the 49ers switched their focus to the backfield. We all saw how Frank Gore started to run out of gas towards the end of last season, and it's really any ones guess as to ho much longer he'll continue to be a top, every-down back. James immediately becomes the 2nd back on the depth chart, jumping ahead of Kendal Hunter and Brandon Jacobs, and will provide the 49ers with another unique offensive weapon coming out of the backfield. Based on his college numbers alone, and the competition he did it against, you'd think he'd have gone in the top-10, yet his 5'10", 195 pound frame screams "change of pace" back with little ability to run between the tackles. The thing is, he did just that in college, and did it with success going against powerhouses in the Pac-12, and had a few ridiculous games in which he put up video game numbers. In all, he rushed for over 5,000 yards on the ground at Oregon, including a 1,731 yard/21 TD season in 2010 followed by a 1,807 yard/18 TD season in 2011. Can you say consistency? I know he's small and doesn't project out to be an every-down back, but comes to the league in very much the same mold as success stories such as Chris Johnson, Reggie Bush (and he's a better actual RB than Bush) and Jamaal Charles, all backs under 6' tall and around 200 pounds themselves, so it does happen. Even if he doesn't though, he gives the 49ers an explosive home run threat from any spot on the field and an excellent caddy to Frank Gore. This probably spells 4th string for Kendal Hunter, who did good things in 2011, but Hunter is nowhere near the talent that James is. The 49ers passed up opportunities to get a decent DT in Alamada Ta'amu, who I was expecting to hear called, but I think they'll start their focus on the lines in round 3.

Based on needs alone, the 49ers added two dynamic players to their offense that should play a heavy role for them in 2012. After watching some of the wideouts go early in round 2, I'm starting to believe Baalke's statement that Jenkins may not have been there at 29 Friday for the 49ers, as guys like Brian Quick and some kid named Broyles who I hadn't even heard of, each went ahead of the 49ers selection of James. The one player I did like though was another wideout, Mohamed Sanu, who's lasted a full round longer than expected, and even though the 49ers have stocked themselves with offense this offseason, I wouldn't hesitate to select him should he fall to them in the third. Otherwise, as I said, they'll likely go with a guard they like or a corner like Chase Minnifield or Jamel Flemming. We'll have their 3rd rounder as well as the Raiders first choice of the draft shortly when they're announced!

Update: After landing their two offensive speedsters, the 49ers figured they'd be fine without a third round choice, trading their 29th pick in the third to Indy for Indy's 3rd pick in the 4th and 5th rounds. This looks like a solid move for San Francisco as they obviously feel their targeted player at 29 will fall just 5 more spots to them next round tomorrow. It also gives the 49ers another high-pick in the 5th round as well, which in this draft, could end up being a tremendous value for the the position in the draft. Good move considering there are still a lot of good positional fits for them still out there and likely will remain so until they pick again with their 2 4th rounders. For some reason, I'm getting a strong Brandon Washington vibe, the big guard out of Miami, who was expected to go as high as late-first, early-second. He's a load a 340, and would probably have to shed 20 pounds, but he's about as dominant of O-lineman as there is remaining in this draft.

Niners Take Jenkins, but Not Janoris

If you followed our mock draft and most mock drafts from NFL sites, a lot of mocks had CB Janoris Jenkins going by pick 30 to the 49ers, including ours. And the 49ers did draft a Jenkins, but went with WR A.J. Jenkins out of Illinois, a projected 2nd-3rd round receiver, passing up sure-fire first rounders Stephen Hill and Reuben Randle.

A.J. Jenkins to 49ers
Now, this pick comes as a surprise on a number of levels. First off, the 49ers passed on the best remaining, and a guy a lot of scouts deem the most talented corner in this draft in Janoris Jenkins. I've watched video of Janoris the last few days hoping the 49ers would call his name, and have been nothing but impressed as he absolutely has his way with wideouts. Just YouTube "Jenkins vs. Alshon Jeffries", and you'll see what I'm talking about. The dude has shutdown corner written all over him, and despite off-field issues, apparently teams are rushing to move up in round two to get their hands on that talent. Unfortunately, it won't be the 49ers, as they took a very odd approach in this one. Many believe the 49ers could have traded down and gotten A.J. Jenkins Round 2 without a problem, but they apparently weren't joking when they said they had their eye on a specific player who they expected to last to pick 30. Now, I haven't said a word about A.J. yet, and I'll do so more as the draft carries on and we do our draft review, but obviously he's a talented wideout, and although I was thrown by the pick at first, I'm starting to warm up to it a little more. He had 1,200 receiving yards in 2011, granted 250 of those came in one game, and reminds some scouts of a Greg Jennings-type receiver. He can stretch the field with his 4.38 40-speed, and he's not tiny, standing at 6 foot, 195 pounds. He's the same size as Jennings and if you watch the video here, where he torched Northwestern for that 250-yard game. You'll notice he's got a knack for finding soft spots in zone coverage and can beat guys one-on-one. I like the player, but I don't think he was a first rounder and I believe the 49ers could have gotten him today in round 2 had they waited, and filled a real need with pick 30, like O-line, CB or more pass-rush (be it a D-End or another Smith-like OLB).

J. Jenkins Best Available?
Now, with day one in the books, the focus shifts to day 2, as the 49ers hold pick 29 in Round 2 and 3, assuming they don't trade. I'll list 10 guys still available that could fall to the 49ers in the 2nd, then a few in the 3rd, but I wanted to talk a little more about the new WR depth chart after this pick. After signing Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, re-signing Ted Ginn Jr. and already with Kyle Willaims and Michael Crabtree, now drafting Jenkins, somewhat clogs that wideout group a little bit. That said, the 49ers have been said to maybe taking offers for Crabtree, and it's quite possible they could deal him for an extra 2nd round pick if they found the right partner. I know Dallas loves him, and they didn't get a WR in round one, so they may be a team to look to, but this now gives the 49ers 4 wideouts (Crabtree, Moss, Manningham and Jenkins) who will want the ball, then there's Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker as well to think about, and the 49ers have gone from having limited offensive weapons to being over-loaded with them. Anyway, here are 10 names to keep an eye on as Round 2 kicks off this evening:


CB Janoris Jenkins- UNA (If the 49ers got a 2nd shot, they better take it, even if it means trading up!)
G Cordy Glenn- Georgia (There are still 1st round O-lineman left for round 2, he's one)
G Amini Silatolu- Midwestern St. (Another big talent, though a D-2 player)
G Brandon Washington- Miami (Same as other two guards, 49ers have a need here)
G Kelechi Osemele- Iowa State (See other guards, a potential starter at position of need)
CB Chase Minnifield- Virginia (Not as talented as Jenkins, but rarely challenged at UVA)
LB Courtney Upshaw- Alabama (49ers love linebackers who can get after the passer)
DE Jared Crick- Nebraska (A true down D-End, who can play in the 3-4)
DT Brandon Thompson- Clemson (Another talented big body for the D-line depth)
DT Alameda Ta'amu- Washington (NFP's 13th best prospect in draft, 340-pound, athletic DT)

We'll be back later to talk about who they actually do pick, as if Baalke and Harbough stick to script, will likely be a guy no body is expecting!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

2012 NFL Draft Day

2012 NFL Draft Updates
Well, after a long wait, it's finally here, as the Colts are just 3 hours away from going on the clock for pick one, although each of the first 3 teams should already know exactly who they're choosing. After that though, it should get interesting, so stick here as we have updates, surprise picks and, of course, the 49ers selection and thoughts on that choice when it happens, though they won't pick until later this evening. We'll do sort of a "bullet point" post as we periodically add notes here throughout the day, so be sure to check in for updates every hour once the draft starts at 5 PM

  • We have our first trade of the day, as the Cleveland Browns traded up a spot to most likely ensure they land their targeted running back, Trent Richardson. It's a little surprising, seeing that they dealt with the Vikings, who were certainly not going to take Richardson with Adrian Peterson on their roster, but the Browns likely did this deal so no other team seeking Richardson can move into that 3-spot. Draft time is still about 40 minutes away.      

Well, the draft is underway, and the first three picks are already in, to nobodies surprise, Luck goes 1 to Indy, Griffin to Washington and Trent Richardson to Cleveland. The Vikings now may trade back to get more picks as Tampa wants Morris Claiborne and may move up to get him. We're not going to be a draft tracker and bring every single pick, but we'll likely do so for the top-10. We'll see what the Vikes, Bucs and Rams do.                                           

The first round continues to be littered with trades left and right, as the Cowboys are the latest to move up, into the the 6th spot trading with St. Louis, and have just selected Cb Morris Claiborne. The 5th pick was no surprise, as Jacksonville Jaguars took a much needed WR, Justin Blackmon. Now that the top-6 picks have gone off the board, none of which were any surprises as these 6 were expected to go top-6 all along, but we may now start to see some surprises. The Bucs surprised with Mark Barron at 7, a guy expected to go mid-late first round, but he's the best safety in the draft and makes sense as far as a needs standpoint in Tampa. Now the Dolphins are locks to take Ryan Tannehill at 8, but after that, it's going to be guess work as I wouldn't have thought Barron would have made it to the top-10, so who knows how things will go the rest of the way.

  • Top ten are in and here are the notes on them below, again, not too many surprises, though I guess the two biggest in my opinion were Barron going 7 and Kuiechly 9. Best value in top-10 I think goes to Dallas as they got a difference making DB, who could single-handely improve their pass defense. Biggest reach IMP was Gillmore at 10.

1. Andrew Luck, QB- Colts: No surprise here.
2. RG III, QB- Redskins: No surprise here.
3. Trent Richardson, RB, Browns: They traded picks to move up 1 spot for Draft's top back.
4. Matt Kalil, T, Vikings: Kalil will open up holes for Peterson and provide protection for Ponder.
5. Justin Blackmon, WR- Jaguars: Again, not much of a surprise here as they need a #1 WR.
6. Morris Claiborne, CB- Cowboys: The 'Boys needed a DB, and traded up for the best in draft.
7. Mark Barron, S, Buccaneers: The Bucks loaded up on offense in FA, now shift focus to D.
8. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins: Could be Ryan Leaf 2.0 or Ben Roethlisber 2.0. Project pick.
9. Luke Kuecihly, LB, Panthers: The Panthers needed defensive help, and got a rock solid LB.
10.Stephon Gillmore, CB, Bills: The Bills needed defense too, though this could be a reach.

  • Now, since the top-10 picks are in, we'll slow up a little on the coverage and not note every single pick form here on out. There are still a ton of elite prospects available, including Chandler Jones, Michael Floyd, Riley Rieff, David DeCastro, Dre Kirkpatrick, Melvin Ingram and possibly the best available, Fletcher Cox (expected to go as high as top-7). I think the 49ers may be surprised at who ends up falling to them at this rate.

Picks 10-20 Update: Some of those expected top-10'ers are starting to come off the board left and right. Since our last update, Cox, Dontari Poe and Floyd have gone off the table. I think the Rams were a bit surprised, as I think they dealt back to 14 thinking they'd be able to land WR Michael Floyd. I think we're going to start seeing the premium offensive players drop off the board quick. 49ers divisional rivals, the Rams, went with DT Michael Brockers at 14, and at 15, Seattle went OLB pass-rusher Bruce Irvin (A guy the 49ers were supposedly eying at 30). So As get ready to hit round 2 and all the NFC west picks in besides San Francisco's, I think the 49ers are going to have their choice of some players they didn't think would fall to them at 30. We'll continue our tracker type follower like we did the top-10 once we get to pick 20, as the 49ers close in on their choice. So far, in the first 15 picks, best value is Claiborne at 6 and biggest reach is Irvin at 14 (though he also could be steal if he realizes his talent and avoids off-field troubles). At 16, one of my favorites, OLB-hybrid Quinton Coples went to the Jets, taking away one possible target for the 49ers. And in the spot the Raiders should have picked, had they not traded it to Cincinatti, the Bengals took Dre Kirkpatrick at 17, arguably the 2nd best corner in the draft behind Claiborne and another player I was hoping might stick around until SF picks at 30. There have been some very good value picks but non more so than Chargers' linebacker (pick 18) Melvin Ingram, expected to go as high as pick-7 in a lot of mocks.

  • Update: As the 49ers go on he clock, they have a plethora of choices to choose from: WR Stephen Hill, G Cordy Glenn, T Mike Adams, CB Janoris Jenkins, LB Courtney Upshaw and Stanford's T Jonathan Martin and TE Coby Fleener, would all fit and I'd be happy with any of the above. 
  • And the 2012 49ers First Round Draft Pick Goes to WR A.J. Jenkins?
20: Kendall Wright, WR, Titans: The speedy, dynamic Baylor WR should complement Kenny Britt well.
21: Chandler Jones, DE, Patriots: A potential top-10 pick will vastly improve a woeful D.
22. Brandon Weeden, QB, Browns: Cle. strategizing beautifully with first picks, need WR in Rd. 2?
23. Riley Rieff, T, Lions: Solid value pick here, should be key in protecting Stafford.
24: David DeCastro, G, Steelers: Great pick, I was hoping he'd go to SF as he's best G in draft.
25. Dont'a Hightower, LB, Patriots: Another defensive pick for NE, another explosive defensive piece.
26. Whitney Mercilus, DE, Texans: Odd pick here as they have a good D, but could have used help on O.
27. Kevin Zietler, G, Bengals: The Bengals add to their O-line and get a highly ranked one in Zietler.
28. Nick Perry, DE, Packers: As I mocked, they add to A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews with a great LB.
29. Harrison Barnes, S, Ravens: Solid defender adds to a solid
30. A.J. Jenkins, WR, 49ers: I'm not sure about this pick here? Would have went with Hill!

There you have it, the 49ers went with an expected 2nd-3rd round receiver in A.J. Jenkins, which makes little sense to me seeing that they could have gotten him in the 2nd round. He's supposedly polished and a smooth route runner, but with their adds at wideout in free agency, I don't know why they just didn't go guard or defense? Still on the fence on this pick, but after a 3 hour wait, I'm as surprised as any about this pick!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: What Will the 49ers Do?

Well folks, draft enthusiasts will likely not get a wink of sleep tonight, resembling a kid on Christmas Eve as the NFL Draft, the biggest draft of the three major sports, gets kicked off Thursday afternoon.

2012 NFL Draft's Eve
The three-day extravaganza will begin with rounds 1 and 2 going Thursday, and unless they can swing a deal to get into one of the first two rounds, the Raiders can pretty much sit back and watch Thursday and Friday. We all know about them giving up their first rounders this year and next to get Carson Palmer, and they'll also be without a 2nd rounder Friday unless Reggie McKenzie gets creative. It's a big reason why we've focused so much on the 49ers and their draft needs and prospects heading into this draft, the Raiders just don't have enough value picks to even talk about yet and unless they strike gold in round 3, they won't be improving via the draft this year. Now, when Saturday rolls around, they'll be doing their best to fill some of their many holes with mid-round picks. Therefore, most of the focus in the Bay Area Thursday and Friday at least, will be around the Red and Gold. However, due to the state of the team, their particular needs and who may be available to them at 30, there's been a lot of talk that the 49ers could be a team that either trades up in the first round or out of it all together. A team like the Browns, for instance, could be a team worth consulting, as they would love to get their hands on Brandon Weeden, and are not sure if he'll last until they pick in round 2. The 49ers would ideally like to get a play-making receiver, or a right guard they can pencil into their starting lineup, but they're in a unique situation that they haven't been in for years, as they really don't have a bunch of glaring holes that they need to fill with a bunch of draft picks. It's why they could package some picks together and maybe move up to get a stud guard like David DeCastro or burner WR like Stephen Hill, or, ideally, Michael Floyd.

We won't know exactly until tomorrow, but the 49ers have been saying they have their eye on a particular player they believe will be available when they pick at 30. Not exactly sure who that player is yet, but that piece of info alone leads me to believe they'll end up keeping pick 30 rather than moving up or down. We'll have full NFL Draft coverage here at The Bay Area Sports Journal all day Thursday, posting notes periodically throughout the evening, so be sure to check here first for all your 49ers and Raiders draft news, notes and analysis. We didn't really talk much about who the 49ers could go after in round 2 yet, and we'll discuss that much more tomorrow after Round 1 is in the books and we see the pool of players still available. A few names I like just off the top of my head who could quite possibly last that late though are Guards Amini Silatolu (Midwestern State) and Brandon Washington (Miami), WR Alshon Jeffery (Alabama), D-Ends Cam Johnson (Virginia) and Jared Crick (Nebraska) or DT's Almeda Ta'amu (Washington) and Brandon Thompson (Clemson). A dark-horse candidate could be talented Virginia corner, Chase Minnifield (projected to go anywhere from late-1st to late to the 4th round), especially if they don't get a CB in Round 1. Any of these guys I think would provide the Niners much needed depth to areas this team could use, and any would be fine by me in round 2 at pick 62, depending on who they take at 30.

Ahh, the NFL draft, perhaps the most "speculative" time in all of sports and a time in which every NFL team and fan get's a glimmer of hope that their team gets that game-changer, that play-maker with their top pick. That is, unless your a fan or member of the Raiders, of course, then you have to wait until day 3 for your excitement. And we wonder why this blog is so heavily tilted towards 49ers coverage?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

BASJ NFL Mock Draft 2012: Part 3 of 3

Well folks, the Colts are just 48 hours away from going on the clock for their first pick, which has already been assured to be Andrew Luck. Also, the Redskins traded up to pick 2 to ensure they get their QB of choice, Robert Griffin III, but after that, things could go a number of different ways, and today we'll pick the back half of the first round, picks 21-32. Without further ado, here are our projections:


Pick 21: Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: The Bengals are one of the teams that have the luxury of getting two selections in the first round in this draft, and they'd be wise to use it on improving their front on both sides of the ball. I think Adams will be one of the better, more versatile tackles available here, though Jonathan Martin and Kevin Zietler could make some sense as well. They really need a young running back, but there just aren't any worthy of being taken this high. Maybe in round two for them.

WR Stephen Hill
Pick 22: Cleveland Browns: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech: Now this would be the Browns second first round pick, and one they'd desperately need to cash in on, and I think Hill is the guy. Overlooked with guys like Blackmon and Floyd garnering most the attention, Hill had a great combine and played well at GT, despite playing in a run-heavy offense. He'd give the Browns another dependable target for McCoy, or whoever is behind center for them come September. Their is also speculation they could trade their 2nd and 3rd rounders to another team (New England?) to move into the first round for another pick and get Brandon Weeden, though I have a feeling he'll still be on the board when they pick again 4th in the second round.

Pick 23: Detroit Lions: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: Kirkpatrick isn't quite the specimen that Claiborne is, but he's a terrific cover corner with great size and good speed. He's exactly what the Lions defense was lacking in 2011, as they couldn't stop any one's passing attack. Had they even had a halfway decent secondary last year, with a healthy Stafford and Megatron, the Lions should have been a playoff juggernaut, but their defense was a laughing stock. Rarely do you find a corner with Kirkpatrick's ability and size this late in a draft, so if he makes it this far, the Lions would be fools to pass on him.

Pick 24: Pittsburgh Steelers: Kevin Zietler, G, Wisconsin: The Steelers battled injuries all over last season, but no area was more exposed than their O-line. I remember watching the 49ers play the Steelers in December and Big Ben must have taken at least 15 hits. They have to get that guy protected so he can get back to his 30+TD form and the Steelers can be a true, power-running team as they've always been. Zietler may not have the talent as some of the other O-lineman in this draft, but his physical and nasty, exactly the type of player Pittsburgh targets!

Pick 25: Denver Broncos: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU: The Broncos just gave Peyton Manning $90M to be their long-term answer at QB (or as long as he'll hold up). He's 36 years old, but could easily play into his 40's as long as he stays healthy and that neck problem of his doesn't resurface. Now Denver has to surround him with some talent to throw to, and Randle could be a steal. His 6'4" frame, leaping ability and athleticism have drawn comparisons to Calvin Johnson. Denver could also go after some free agent WR's like Reggie Wayne, but I think they need a young number-one type that they can groom. We all have seen the way Manning can make ordinary recievers look great, and great ones unstoppable.

Pick 26: Houston Texans: Jonathan Martin, T, Stanford: Houston will try and do everything in it's power to move up to ensure they get one of the draft's "elite-5" wideouts (Blackmon, Floyd, Randle, Hill and Wright). Mohamed Sanu is a decent player, but he's a fall-off talnt wise from the latter-5. However, I think the rest of the league knows this as well, and unfortunately for Houston, there won't be any of the projected 1st round wideouts left at 26. Thus, unless they get lucky and one does fall, they move up or take Mohammed Sanu (an underrated talent at WR), they should shift focus to their O-Line, which was vastly outmatched in January against Baltimore's front-7. A smart, talented tackle who could come right in and start right away for them is Martin.

Pick 27: New England Patriots: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama: The Pats need to do big work on their defense, which was sadly exposed in the Super Bowl, and they really had no business even being in that game with that wretched offense. They had a wide receiver (Julian Edleman) out there playing defensive back and linebacker at times, that's how thin they are. Hightower would provide a nice anchor in the center of that defense, and give them a play-making linebacker that could go as high as the middle of the round. If he falls here though, New England can't pass him up.

Doug Martin Explodes
Pick 28: Green Bay Packers: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: Martin reminds me of MJD's body-type and run style, also his college success. He's had a helluva college career, he's a tad short, but has the bulk, size and speed to be able to be a lead-back in the NFL. He's explosive, can catch the ball and would give Green Bay a true, starting every-down back so they're not switching from Grant, to Starks to Kuhn and back. They need a true #1 back and Martin has the 2nd best shot at being one in this draft. However, Martin, like the rest of the RB's not named Richardson, is considered to be more of a "2nd-round" talent, and the Pack could just as easily go defense (secondary especially) here, where they were badly exposed in the playoffs.

Pick 29: Baltimore Ravens: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College: The Ravens feel good about the offensive side of the ball, and likely won't view any offensive players worth taking at this spot unless maybe Coby Fleener or one of the wideouts managed to make it down this far. They will likely look to keep inserting some youth into that defense to help some of their aging stars. Kuechely looks like a sure-fire NFL starting linebacker, and whether or not he starts for the Ravens out of the gate would be irrelevant, as they need depth there for their 3-4 system.They could also go secondary with a guy like Janoris Jenkins or Harrison Smith.

Janoris Jenkins
Pick 30: San Francisco 49ers: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: I think that if either Stephen Hill or Coby Fleener fell to 30, the 49ers would take them without hesitation. Harbough worked with Fleener for 4 years in Palo Alto and loves the kid, and we all know how impressed everyone was with Hill's combine showing, athleticism and size. However, I think the 49ers will be relegated to taking the best available player that fits one of their needs, and in my mock, I have it being Janoris Jenkins. He's as good a cover corner as Kirkpatrick, but isn't near his size at just 5'10", 185 pounds and has had all kinds of off-field issues, causing him to tranfer from Florida to North Alabama for his Senior year. Still, he'd be a premium nickle back, or more realistically the starter opposite of Carlos Rogers. The 49ers could also go after another pass-rusher if someone stands out at them, especially after having success with Aldon Smith last year. They are said to have their eye on a particular player, which makes me think they're confident he'll be there at pick 30, which, in turn, tells me it could be a player that hasn't even been mentioned yet. Nick Perry, for instance, could be a guy they look at if they want to more pass-rush. Then, they could even go right-guard, as that's their one positional need, but unless Glenn or even Zietler fell to them (DeCastro won't!), I think they feel this draft is deep enough with decent guards to find one in the 2nd round.

Pick 31: New England Patriots: Stephen Gillmore, CB, South Carolina: The Pats, with their two picks in the first, have a real shot at turning around that defense, and for a team that was in the Super Bowl a few months ago, having two first rounders is like icing on the cake. Gillmore is another combine-killer, who really improved his stock with a nice showing in March. He's had some hype for a few years now though, and as I said earlier, the Pats had WR's covering people in the playoffs last year, and that has to change for them to be a complete team.

Pick 32: New York Giants: Nick Perry, OLB, USC: The Giants won the Super Bowl last year despite having just a 9-7 regular season record. A big reason for that mediocre record was the fact they were running with practice squad linebackers for much of the season. Micheal Foley is a stud, but they need some players around him, and Nick Perry could be an ideal fit. He's more a pass-rush specialist, but can also play the run, and could help give the Giants one of the meaner front-7's in all of football. They could also go O-Line here, but in terms of value, Perry's the guy to pick, especially after witnessing what other USC linebackers have done in recent years.

Monday, April 23, 2012

BASJ NFL Mock Draft 2012: Part 2 of 3

The NFL draft is just 3 short days away, and, as the hype keeps growing, we'll continue our mocking of the first round, picking who we expect each team to take (not taking into account any trades that haven't happened yet, of course). So here we go for picks 11-20:


Pick 11: Kansas City Chiefs: Melvin Ingram, LB/DE South Carolina: The Chiefs need a lot of pieces as they attempt to rebound from a lost year in which both their starting QB and RB each went down for the year with injury pretty early on. After a big 27 TD season, Matt Cassell was limited to just 9 games in 2011 and star running back Jamaal Charles went down after tearing his ACL in week 1. The Chiefs can expect rebounds from those two guys, and they also brought in power back Peyton Hillis from Cleveland. They really need to focus on their defense, especially their front-7, as they appear pretty set at DB. They could go Mark Barron to pair up with Eric Wright at Safety, but I think they go for the ball-hawk Ingram, who had 20 TFL's in 2011.

DeCastro Top Guard
Pick 12: Seattle Seahawks: David DeCastro, G, Stanford: The Seahawks have an imposing defense, just signed the guy they hope to be their long-term answer behind center in Matt Flynn, and have a helluva a back in Marshawn Lynch, who ran for over 1100 yards after gaining just over 300 in the first half of the season. The O-Line got a little better, but Lynch is the guy who deserves credit for those yards as Seattle had about as "patch-work" O-line as any team in the league. A talented, smart athlete like DeCastro could really help that bunch, give Lynch a steady guy to run behind and really be an anchor for new QB Flynn. They have good young skill guys, they just lack those tough "trench" players, especially offensively.

Pick 13: Arizona Cardinals: Cordy Glenn, G/T, Georgia Tech: Now, AZ has a lot of needs so they could go a number of different routes here, or trade back. They also could look into Matt Barron to help their wretched secondary, or a pass-rusher like Courtney Upshaw or Quninton Couples. I think they want to make that offense a force again like it was in the Kurt Warner days, and they have good young backs and receivers. The jury's still out on Kevin Kolb, but after the money and the package AZ had to part with to get him, they aren't just going to give up on him after one injury riddled season.

Pick 14: Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, S, Alabama: The Cowboys have publicly expressed their interest in Mark Baron, an extremely talented strong safety who can come up to the line and play the run or drop back in coverage like a DB without missing a beat. He can do it all, and with that long hair, reminds some people of a bigger Troy Polomalu with the way he plays and the results he gets. Super talented athlete who plays a premium position at a high level. The 'Boys will be lucky if he isn't snatched up by this pick, otherwise they to could go with Upshaw or Couples.

Pick 15: Philadelphia Eagles: Quinton Couples, DE, North Carolina: Couples is a more pure DE, and will really improve the Eagles up front, where they were so vulnerable in 2011. It wasn't their O-line, their run game, their passing game or their defensive backs, it was the fact they couldn't stop a high school running back if he were running behind a halfway decent line.Couples can play both the run and the pass pretty equally, and although he still has some inconsistencies in his game, he's got the talent to be an Aldon Smith type talent.

Pick 16: New York Jets: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: The Jets want winners, and they need an anchor in the middle of their D-line. Many football people believe Brockers is the best pure DT in the draft, though there are also those that believe he was a bit of a byproduct of a great defensive scheme. They could go with the combine-hyped Dontari Poe, but I think they'd rather have the LSU 6'5", 322 pound beast to help clog up the middle for opposing backs.


Pick 17: Cincinnati Bengals: Courtney Upshaw, DE/LB, Alabama: The talented Upshaw could last this long just based on what teams need ahead of the Bengals, and they could wind up with another guy, as I mentioned earlier, who could be an "Aldon Smith" type talent. He's a little more versatile that Smith, as he's more experienced at dropping into coverage as well as rushing the passer, but will need to add some moves to his arsenal to be a premium rusher at the NFL level like Mr. Smith has. He's got good instincts, and is serviceable as is, but has the room to grow, and that's what makes him such a low-risk, potentially highly rewarding pick.
K. Wright TD Catch

Pick 18: San Diego Chargers: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: The Chargers lost a huge piece of their offensive puzzle in Vincent Jackson, and may look to their next number one wideout in the form of the former Baylor star. Wright doesn't have Jackson's size, at just 5'11", 195 pounds (only reason he's not a top-10 pick), but is an athletic specimen, and was one of the best in the NCAA at catching the ball last year with 108 receptions and 1,663 yards in only 13 games.

Pick 19: Chicago Bears: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford: The Bears are looking for ways to improve their aerial attack as much as possible, as they reunited Brandon Marshall with Jay Cutler already with a deal with Miami, now could look to Andrew Luck's top red-zone target at 19 if they don't get Kendall Wright, or take the chance on Stephen Hill. They could also go O-line here as both Jonathan Martin and Mike Adams could be logical choices.

Pick 20: Tennessee Titans:  Mercilus Whitney, DE, Illinois: Whitney had a breakout, 16-sack season in 2011, and it's going to earn him a first round pick. The Titans haven't had a disruptive force like he can be since Julius Peppers years ago, and they need a guy like that to help drive the defense. They have good corners, and safeties, but they need to be applying more pressure to opposing QB's. Another team that could take a look at Stephen Hill too though, as they could envision his 6'5" frame opposite of Kenny Britt's 6'4" frame as a potentially un-stopable force on the outsides.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

BASJ's NFL Mock Draft 2012: Part 1 of 3

With the NFL draft quickly approaching, we want to get to know as much about the expected first rounders as we can. I've been doing a bit of studying on them, and who might go when and where in next weeks draft. So, for the first time here at the Bay Area Sports Journal, we're going to do a mock-draft. We've broken it up into 3-parts with picks 1-10 going first, then 11-20, then 21-32. We aren't taking into account any potential trades, we're just going as the teams are currently scheduled to pick, though we will change things up if there is a deal before the draft.


Pick 1: Indianapolis Colts: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford: Luck has been penciled into this spot for over a year, and it looks like it will finally come to fruition Thursday, as Colts owner Jim Irsay has made it quite clear he's enamored with the Stanford slinger. There was some chatter as to whether or not RG3 could sneak ahead of Luck, but Luck reassured with a strong combine performance. I think this is as safe a pick as there is outside of this next one.

Pick 2: Washington Redskins: QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor: The Redskins moved up to ensure they land the explosive QB, who has similar skill-sets to that of Cam Newton, who dominated in every sense his rookie season. Griffin is a little bit smaller than Cam though, but he's just as mobile, and has a rocket of a right-arm. He's got so much talent that even the Colts had to take a look at him just to see what they'd be missing, knowing all along they were going to go with Luck. I don't think Griffin will have an immediate impact like Newton did, but I do like him, and I think he's going to develop into a fine QB. He'll probably be thrown right into the fire and start for Washington, a franchise in complete rebuild mode.


Pick 3: Minnesota Vikings: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State: Now this is where it gets a little uncertain, as there's no question as to who will be chosen 1 and 2. The Vikes could also roll with talented corner Morris Claiborne or USC tackle, Matt Kalil. However, I think they need that big, strong receiver opposite the smaller, deep threat in Harvin, they have their star running back and they just drafted a nice QB in last years first round, so a big target at wideout could really help turn this offense around and help make it no so one-dimensional.


Pick 4: Cleveland Browns: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama: The Browns need help not only at running back after losing Peyton Hillis, but they don't seem to thrilled with the future prospects of QB Colt McCoy either. That got me thinking they may take a run at Ryan Tannehill, but I think they're more enamored with the Alabama back, especially after witnessing what a tough runner he is in this years bowl game. Also, the Browns aren't expected to compete any time soon, so they could be back in the top-5 next year as well, when there are expected to be a plethora of QB's hitting the draft, lead by Matt Barkley, Ty Bray and Landry Jones.

Pick 5: Tampa Bay Bucs: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU: According to many football publications, including NFP, Claiborne is the drafts 2nd top prospect outside of Luck, but he had a weird combine outing highlighted with a ridiculously low score on his wonderlick test, which is basically a basic IQ test that is timed. Some players fold for some reason and some do well, but I don't think Claiborne's bad score will hold him back too much at all. He's by far and away the best DB in this class and could really help make that Bucs joke of a defense start their road to credibility again.

Pick 6: St. Louis Rams: LT Matt Kalil, USC: The USC tackle is the drafts best and could go as high as pick three. If he falls to the Rams though, one would think they'd be all over him. They've had a nightmarish O-line the last few years, causing QB Sam Bradford to constantly get knocked out of games, and rarely creating holes for Stephen Jackson. They need a big anchor like Kalil and would be quite thankful if he fell to them. They could also go Claiborne if Tampa decides on Kalil, or a receiver like Floyd, but Kalil is the best value here.

Pick 7: Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame: Now this one may come as a surprise to many, as Floyd is thought to be more of a mid-round guy. However, the Jags have absolutely no threat at the wideout position, and they desperately need help there. Their defense is stingy, and they seem to have found their QB of the future, plus they have a sturdy running situation. They just need to get a passing game, and Jenkins gives them a huge threat on the outside.

Pick 8: Miami Dolphins: QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M: The Dolphins have their eye on one guy and one guy only at pick eight, and that is Ryan Tannehill. The big-armed QB should be the next in line of QB's in south beach to hopefully get and take the starting job for years to come. Something this team hasn't had the luxury of having since drafting Dan Marino in the 80's. I like Tannehill, he's got a big arm and reminds me a bit of Ben Roethlisberger, but he's far less polished than the expected 1-2 picks, Luck and Griffin.

Pick 9: Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Fletcher Cox, LSU: This could be a few slots high for him, but Cox has big time ability on the end and could really help turn Jacksonville's defense around. They were rough against the run and pass last season, so Cox's 20 sacks/tackles for loss in 2011 would like mighty fine on that front line in Carolina.

Pick 10: Buffalo Bills: OT Riley Reiff, Iowa: The Bills made proactive moves early in the offseason to secure much needed help on the defensive end of the ball, especially their front-7, so they will likely be looking to a young offensive lineman to help anchor them and protect Ryan Fitzgerald. They have bright young wideouts, good strong backs and as I said, are working on the defense, so O-line makes a lot of sense for them at this spot, especially with the value they'd get in Iowa's Reiff, the 2nd best tackle in the draft outside of Kalil.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

49ers Appear Set on a Player at 30

As the NFL draft approaches next weekend, things have gotten a little more serious in Santa Clara at the 49ers Headquarters, as they determine what their plan of attack is for this upcoming draft. Unlike in years past, they don't need to go quantity vs. quality, as they're a pretty set team with very few holes, and apparently, Trent Baalke explained Wednesday that the 49ers have not plans to move from their current draft spot and have their eyes on one player in particular.

That player is widely to believed to be Stanford's explosive Tight End, and an outlet that helped make Andrew Luck the quarterback he was during his tenure in Palo Alto. That is Coby Fleener, the 6'6" dynamic pass catcher who caught 17 TD passes over the last two seasons at Stanford and would give Alex Smith another big red-zone target along with Moss and Vernon Davis. Fleener has been compared to and has a similar skill-set as New Orleans Saints' Jimmy Graham. I can certainly see why they'd be interested in him if that's indeed the player they're looking at as Jim Harbough is a huge fan of his tight-ends, and loves using different schemes that pits 2-3 TE's on the field at once quite often. The only question I have is what would become of Delanie Walker at that point? Walker got hurt at the end of the year last season and was a non-factor in the playoffs. Another guy who's been mentioned and linked with the 49ers since the combine is Georgia Tech's speedy Stephen Hill, a guy who could help stretch the defense, and give Smith yet another weapon at wideout, something they've focused heavily on early in the offseason. Then again, it could be a moot point, as both of those guys could be off the board by the time the 49ers pick. Hill's been projected to go as high as mid-first round, though Fleener is a guy who many think should fall to the late first/early second, further fueling that speculative fire.

Whoever they end up going with, I don't think 49er fans will be disappointed with the selection. The 49ers have the best football minds running their team now than they've had since the 1990's and I trust Baalke and Harbough's decision come selection time. They proved it last year by taking Aldon Smith above his projected slot, and it paid off, as if the 2011 draft were to be re-done with the stuff we know now, Smith's easily a top-3 selection after Newton and A.J. Green.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Brian Wilson Done for '12, Bumgarner Extended

We've been discussing it a lot over at our Giants Blog, as most bay area sports fans know Giants star closer Brian Wilson is done for the year and headed for another Tommy John Surgery. The Giants changed the vibe a bit though Monday, giving an extension to Madison Bumgarner that will keep the lefty in a Giants uni along with Matt Cain through 2017.

The deal is in the neighborhood of $35 million, so the 22 year-old lefty will stand to make an average of $7 million per season, starting next year, in a deal that should look very good in a couple of years as long as Madison keeps on the same path he's been on since 2010. For such a young arm, he's already so accomplished, dominating a World Series game, winning a ring and giving the Giants another horse in the rotation behind Cain and Lincecum. Needless to say, I'm a huge fan of this signing, and am completely behind it. It also gives the Giants financial certainty with yet another one of their core players for the next couple of seasons, as they map out a plan on whether or not they extend Tim Lincecum long-term or even give Posey a deal to buy him out of his arbitration years like they did Sandoval. Unfortunately, one guy I think this deal doesn't bode to well for, is Brian Wilson, as he's due to become a free agent after the season, and after undergoing Tommy John, could miss a good chunk of 2013 season as well. There's also no telling as to what kind of pitcher Wilson will be assuming he does heal up in a year and a half. This will already be Tommy John Surgery number 2 for the 29 year-old, and it's rare you see a guy who relies on hard stuff like Wilson does, successfully comeback from two of these types of surgeries in a matter of 8-9 years.

So, as one key piece of this Giants pitching staff could be headed for career ending surgery, and may wear a Giants uniform again out there, another has been assured that he's headed absolutely nowhere for the next 5 years. It's a bittersweet ending to a tumultuous weekend, one in which the Giants continued to play well, except for Sunday, despite the news of losing their 9th inning ace. Also, it's still uncertain who exactly Bruce Bochy will go to when the Giants face their first save situation coming up here. He's mentioned guys from Mota, Affeldt to Cassilla and Romo. It's rare you see a closer-by-committee approach work for a team with playoff aspirations, but that's how Boch could play it until he feels comfortable with a certain guy. My choice would be for either Romo or Affeldt. They could slide Cassilla into Romo's 8th inning slot and keep that back-end strong. Then again, they could do what they did last year, and go with Cassilla, keeping Romo as their primary set-up. As I said though, I expect Boch to play match-ups, as he so often likes to do with his relievers, and if there's a situation where there's 3 lefties scheduled to hit in the bottom of the 9th when the Giants need to preserve a lead, he'll likely go with Javier Lopez or Affeldt. After thinking about it further though, I think the Giants need to go after another closer, or bring up Heath Hembree. I just think their bullpen really works as is, and throwing someone else into the 9th inning, out of their normal role, could have a ripple effect on the whole pen.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bay Area Sports Notes: NFL Draft, MLB Talk

There's a lot going on in the world of sports right now. Major League Baseball is now in full swing, and the NFL draft is just a few short weeks away. And as the 49ers and Raiders go through the final stages of preparation, we're hearing all sorts of rumblings and rumors.

We'll start out with some baseball talk, as the A's and Giants haven't exactly gotten out to scorching starts. For a second straight start, Tim Lincecum was lit up pretty good, this time in Colorado by the Rockies. Not the start he was looking for after getting lit up for 5 runs in the five innings on Opening Day vs. Arizona last week, and if it weren't for Barry Zito's terrific outing and Madison Bumgarner's gem Thursday, this team could have been looking at coming home for Friday's opener at 0-6. Luckily for them, they took the Colorado series and are sitting at 2-4 and appear to be at least moving in the right direction. The A's have fared a little better, as their schedule has been a lot easier than the Giants early on here, but they're just 3-4 going into play Friday. However, opposite of San Francisco's start, Oakland has gotten terrific starting pitching but hardly any offensive support. The only exception to that has been young Yeonis Cespedes, who's really started out the year well with the bat. He's got 3 long balls and 7 RBI and leads everyday players with a .273 average. Johnny Gomes has also had a couple big home runs for the A's early on, but that's been about it, as he's 3 of 18 on the season. The real rough starts though have come from guys the A's were hoping would be offensive catalysts. Coco Crisp (.192) has not adjusted to hitting 3rd, and Kurt Suzuki (.200) has struggled out the gate once again, making everyone wonder if he'll ever return to that .275/15/80 guy he was in his 3rd season in the bigs in '09. Since then though, he's hit just .240, although he did drive in 74 runs in 2010.

Another big topic, outside of the beginning of the baseball season, has been the rising coverage of the NFL draft, which always go hand in hand. This is one of the most busy times of year to cover sports because of it and all the attention the draft gets, by far and away the biggest draft of all the major sports. The Raiders and 49ers each enter the 2012 draft in completely different modes. The Raiders, as we all remember, gave up this years 1st rounder and next years for QB Carson Palmer, a move that I'm sure their new GM is non to thrilled about. The 49ers will be the only Bay Area team with a first round pick in this draft, and the next one, barring any trades, and their could be. Matt Barrows was on KNBR Thursday to talk a bit about the draft and who the 49ers may target and a few different names he mentioned interested me. Supposedly, the 49ers have had Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd, an expected top-10 pick in for a workout, as well as LSU's Rueben Randle, another guy expected to go way before the 49ers select at pick 30. There's been plenty of talk about the 49ers possibly moving up in the draft to grab talented Stanford guard, David Decastro (pictured), who would be an ideal fit in Harbough's system. That's really the only spot the 49ers need to find another starter at, that right guard spot on the O-line and DeCastro is one of the best in this class. My guess is that the 49ers will stand pat and take the best available player on the board when they're number is called, whether it's a wide receiver, safety or a good young lineman, either defensive or offensive. I think if they had their choice, they'd get another corner or a good young D-lineman like DeCastro, but again, unless they trade up or down to target a specific player, I expect them to go after talent rather than positional needs with their first rounder.

Monday, April 9, 2012

2012 MLB Award/Playoff World Series Picks

OK, so obviously baseball has opened up all over the country, and we're a tad late to get our picks in for the awards and playoff picks, but after just 4 days of the season, absolutely nothing has changed from our Pre-Season expectations.

AL Awards

MVP: Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers: With the ultimate protector behind him know in Prince Fielder, he'll be seeing a lot more lefties late in ballgames, and much better pitches to hit than when he was being protected by Magglio Ordonez. Probably goes for .340/45/140/1.500 OPS. Runners Up: Albert Pujols, LAA; Josh Hamilton, Tex; Robinson Cano, NYY.

Cy Young: C.C. Sabathia, NY Yankees: The big lefty is in his third season in the Bronx, and they say the third is the charm. I foresee huge things not only for Sabathia, but the rest of the Yankees, as long as they keep their left-sided of their infield healthy. Sabathia could very well make it to 25 wins this year and always has the era around 3 or below and over a K-per-inning to verify his dominance. Runners Up: Jered Weaver, LAA; Justin Verlanded, Det; David Price, TB.

Home Run Champ: Jose Bautista, Toronto: The dude has been on an unbelievable streak since 2010 started, and I don't see it coming to an end any time too soon. AL pitchers just can't get the guy out as he's been compared to a right-handed version of Barry Bonds. With an improved Blue Jays Lineup, He may reach 55 this year, in a park that is equal to pitchers and hitters. If he played in a small yard like in Cinci, Houston or Texas, he'd probably hit 75. Runners Up: Prince Fielder, Det; Mark Teixiera, NYY; Evan Longoria, TB.

Batting Champion: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston: He plays in a hitters yard, in a good lineup and is one of the better selective power guys in the game. He's always around .330 and this year, his 3rd in the AL, should have him around .350. Runners Up: Migeul Cabrera, Det; Michael Young, Tex; Jacoby Ellsbury, Bos.

Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Dunn, Chicago: The Big lefty has hit some mammoth shots this spring, but again is hitting for a low batting average, but I have a hard time seeing him not improve upon his 11 HR and 44 RBI in 2011. He's never been a great average guy, but he should at least be around .240-.250, and will return to the 30 HR category, likely collecting 100 RBI's on the way. He's just to good (very selective) and strong (40 HR per-year in Cinci every year as starter) to have another down year without big production. Runners Up: Kendrys Morales, LAA, Chone Figgins, Sea.

Manager of the Year: Ned Yost, Kansas City: Yost has been a big part of the Royals big leap in the last two seasons, helping players like Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer become instant stars. This year, in a weaker Central division, the Royals look to stand out even more, so much so that an injury here, or a bad break there for Detroit could have them as the default favorites in the Central. Most impressive, perhaps, is that he makes this team competitive with Bruce Chen as it's ace. Runners Up: Mike Scioscia, LAA, Jim Leyland, Det; Bobby Valentine, Bos.

NL Awards

MVP: Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: Probably a year to late, as Kemp for all intent and purposes, should have won the award last season. This year, he's talking about his goal being a 50-50 season, which has never been done in baseball before, and I wouldn't put it past him. Maybe not 50-50, but I think another 45-40 year with a good .330 average will again be expected and reached by the 27 year-old center fielder. Don't forget he plays center field at a gold-glove caliber. Runners Up: Hanley Ramirez, Mia; Justin Upton, AZ; Joey Votto, Cin.

Cy Young: Josh Johnson, Miami Marlins: If this guy stays healthy for his full 30 starts, it's hard to find a better arm than Johnson. He's been dominant this spring, showing now ill-effects from the injury, and is throwing in the high-90's with ease and no pain. All this, with an improved Marlins team, could lead to 20 win season and if your looking for a possible sub-2 era, this guy may have the best shot. Runners Up: Clayton Kershaw, LAD; Tim Lincecum, SF; Adam Wainwright, Stl.

Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper, Was: This kid is going to be a monster when he arrives, and I look at the impact Posey had on the Giants upon his arrival, and see much of the same with Harper. He'll start in the minors, but Washington will want him sooner than later, and even in 400 at-bats, he's got 25-30 HR potential, with speed, good defense and a good average to boot. Runners Up: Yonder Alonso, SD; Drew Pomeranz, Col.

Home Run Champion: Jay Bruce, Cin; Bruce is coming into the year with some quiet hype behind him. He's got raw power and now has a couple of good years under his belt and could be ready to explode. I think 45 homers would be easily reachable in that yard for Bruce. Runners Up: Matt Kemp, LAD; Giancarlo Stanton, Fla; Ryan Braun, Mil.

Batting Champion: Ryan Braun, Mil: Plenty was made of Braun's overturned suspension, which I personally did not agree with, especially with the scrutiny coming with "steroid era". That aside though, Braun can hit. Losing Fielder will hurt a bit, but he's always around .330, so a boost could put him in the catbird seat for this crow. Another guy, like Kemp, who could compete for that triple crown. Runners Up: Matt Kemp, LA; Jose Reyes, Fla, Joey Votto, Cin.

Comeback Player of the Year: Buster Posey, SF; The Giants catcher has looked good and ready this spring and looks like he can't wait until he gets to play on a near daily basis when the season starts. He may take it easy behind to plate initially, maybe catching 3-4 games and playing a game at first with 2 off days per week, to start the year. But once he gets his legs back under him, probably by mid/late-April, look for the production to start piling up. The Giants need him, and I expect him, to put up something close to a .290/22/80 line and playing 135+ games. If he does play in 135+ games, he's going to produce and the Giants lineup will be better, period. Runner Up: Johan Santana, NY

Manager of the Year: Ozzie Guillen, Mia: I don't particularly care for the mouthy manager, but you can't argue with the success he had early with Chicago, and I can easily see that translating in Miami. They have a lot of Latino players on their team and Guillen should have those kids thriving, and despite his reputation as a hard-nosed guy, he really is more of a players manager then most people know. I think he was a perfect fit for Miami. Runners Up: Davey Johnson, Was; Dusty Baker, Cin.

____________________________________________

AL Playoff Results:

Wild Card Round:
Rangers over Red Sox

AL Divisional Round:
Yankees over Rangers
Angels over Tigers

ALCS:
Angels over Yankees (7 games)


NL Playoff Results

Wild Card Round:
D-Backs over Braves

Divisional Round:
Giants over Cardinals
D-Backs over Marlins

NLCS
D-Backs over Giants (7 games)

World Series

Angels over D-Backs (6 games)

Friday, April 6, 2012

2012 MLB Previews: NL West

NL West Prediction

1st Place, San Francisco Giants

Lineup:
CF Angel Pagan
LF Melky Cabrera
3B Pablo Sandoval
C Buster Posey
1B Huff/Belt
RF Schierholtz/Huff
2B Freddy Sanchez*
SS Brandon Crawford

* Sanchez may miss up to a month, Burris/Theriot replacing

Rotation/Bullpen
RHP Tim Lincecum
RHP Matt Cain
LHP Madison Bumgarner
RHP Ryan Vogelsong
LHP Barry Zito
SU: Sergio Romo
CL: Brian Wilson

If the Giants could just get Freddy Sanchez healthy and on the field, their offense wouldn't be in too bad of shape. However, Pagan has struggled, and may be moved to the bench with Huff to left and Belt, finally, to first. That would place Cabrera in the leadoff spot, but this is the way they'll probably start things (with Burris and Fontenot at 2nd until Freddy returns) and they're hoping Pagan turns it on in April so they have that dynamic duo at the top. Wherever he hits though, I expect another big year out of Melky Cabrera, as good or better than last, and that, coupled with the return of Buster and the likely improvement of Huff and Crawford, should have SF's offense on the upward trend. Their staff is again amongst the top-3 in baseball, from their starters through to their closer, all of their arms bring it, save for Barry Zito on most occasions. Lincecum and Cain should be their dominant selves as the Giants try and get Cain extended (FA after season). Also, Bumgarner should further establish himself as one of the NL's top-5 lefties, and it's a good group. Vogelsong may come back to earth a bit as he did in the 2nd half, but a good 13-15 wins, and a mid-3 ERA would be perfectly fine and acceptable. They boost one of the best set-up men in the game too in Romo, though he's had some elbow issues off and on. As long as they can get some more offense than they did a year ago (hard not to!), then this division should be theirs. Also, Sabean has shown he's not afraid to go out and make an add if he thinks it'll get them over the hump come mid-season.

2nd Place, Arizona Diamondbacks (Wild Card 2)

Lineup:
SS Willie Bloomquist
2B Aaron Hill
RF Justin Upton
C Miguel Montero
CF Chris Young
LF Jason Kubel
1B Paul Goldschmidt
3B Ryan Roberts

Rotation/Bullpen
RHP Ian Kennedy
RHP Danial Hudson
LHP Joe Saunders
RHP Trevor Cahil
RHP Josh Collmenter
SU: David Hernandez
CL: J.J. Putz

*SS Stephen Drew likely out till May/June

It's a real tough choice between Arizona and San Francisco this year, but with the Giants improving offense, and the continued health concerns of one of the D-Backs young cornerstones, leadoff hitter and shortstop, Stephen Drew, make the D-Backs tougher to back for this division. I like their rotation, though their top-3 doesn't sniff SF's, they do have a nice 1-5 overall, and a very good bullpen led by Putz and Hernandez (who was brilliant in Putz's absence last year). However, I don't expect Putz to post another sub-1.00 WHIP again and I expect Kennedy to come back to earth a bit after that 21-4, 2.41 ERA, 2011 season. That said, if that's just a taste of things to come for the young rightie, and youngsters Hudson, Cahill and Collmentar continue to ascend, the Giants better watch out. Even without Drew, the D-Backs have the upper-hand offensively, and if Drew's back by May 15th and 100%, then the D-Backs may again be the ones to beat. Juston Upton is vastly underrated, so much so that I think he's a true MVP-candidate this season. He's the guy I'd choose if I were starting a team from scratch and had the first pick. Maybe not Matt Kemp numbers yet, but not far off! The East with their depth, will get one WC, but the other will come out west, whether it's AZ or SF, barring catastrophic injury, both should be in the postseason. Like Sabes, GM Josh Byrnes is a dealer too and will look to upgrade at short if Drew is indeed down for months, or possibly get better at third.

3rd Place, Los Angeles Dodgers

Lineup
SS Dee Gordon
2B Mark Ellis
CF Matt Kemp
RF Andre Ethier
LF Juan Rivera
1B James Loney
3B Juan Uribe
C A.J. Ellis

Rotation/Bullpen
LHP Clayton Kershaw
RHP Chad Billingsley
LHP Ted Lilly
RHP Aaron Harang
LHP Chris Capuano
SU: Kenley Jansen
CL: Javy Guerra

Now, if Uribe plays like he did in '10, Ethier like it was '09 and Loney like '07, Juan Rivera like it was '06 and Chad Billingsley like he was anything before 2011, the Dodgers win the west. Odds of all those happening in synch though, are very unlikely. This team, will surprise people though, I think. A rebound for Eithier in his walk year is virtually inevitable, and I think Rivera is a great bargain for 20 HR/80 RBI in that lineup. Gordon is a true specimen at the top as he's hit for power this spring, to go along with mind blowing speed and tremendous defense. He looks like a young Rafael Furcal in a lot of ways. But their prizes are their center fielder Matt Kemp, who again will contend for the MVP, and 2011 Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw. They have an aging pitching staff though, led by two young arms but again, they need Billingsley's ERA back below 4 and him pitching like he can. Lilly should be solid, while Harang and Cap are pretty much your standard 4-5 guys, but still better than a lot of teams have. Their young bullpen is also on the rise, with closer Guerra and the impressive Kenley Jansen. Again, if the Dodgers get some rebound seasons from a few key players and Kemp and Kershaw repeat their 2011's, then they'll be right their with AZ and SF in September.

4th Place, Colorado Rockies

Lineup
CF Dexter Fowler
2B Marco Scutaro
SS Troy Tulowitzki
LF Carlos Gonzalez
RF Michael Cuddyer
1B Todd Helton
C Ramon Hernandez
3B Casey Blake

Rotation/Pen
RHP Jeremy Guthrie
RHP Jholys Chacin
RHP Juan Nicasio
LHP Drew Pomeranz
RHP Guillermo Moscoso
SU: Matt Belisle
CL: Rafael Betancourt

The Rockies, who notoriously field young teams, got quite a bit older this winter. They lost their 29 year-old closer, Huston Street, and replaced him with the 37 year-old, yet effective Betancourt. Also, Helton's another year older, and they added Hernandez (36) and Blake (37) to the starting lineup, two guys on the downside that they're hoping Coors Field will give a kick-start to. As long as "TuLo" and "CarGo" stay on the field though, this team will compete, even with their green-as-grass pitching staff. Their ace is a notorious loser, Jeremy Guthrie, and why they didn't get a better veteran to lead them this offseason, or aren't banging down Roy Oswalt's door, is quite surprising. I like Chacin and Nicasio though, as those two can be electric, but are still inconsistent. Pomeranz is supposed to be a stud, and Moscoso, from what I saw in Oakland, looks like a strong #5. They seem to have the makings there in Denver, but I think they need to finally say good-bye to Helton, ship him to a contender, and get Blake the heck out of the starting lineup. I don't see the upside in playing him whatsoever.

5th Place, San Diego Padres

Lineup
CF Cameron Maybin
2B Orlando Hudson
3B Chase Headley
LF Carlos Quentin*
1B Yonder Alonso
C Nick Hundley
RF Will Venable
SS Jason Bartlett

Rotation/Pen
RHP Tim Stauffer
LHP Cory Luebke
RHP Edison Volquez
LHP Clayton Richard
RHP Dustin Moseley
SU: Andrew Cashner
CL: Huston Street

*Quentin is out until late April/early May