The STC Power Rankings Index College Football Top 10

This is about the very earliest in any college football season where you can legitimately start devising a set of rankings. Preseason polls are beyond nonsensical — they actually do more harm than good. We all read the polls in late August and we pay attention to the little number to the left of all the teams while we’re watching the games on TV. And we let that dictate in our minds who’s good, who’s better than who, and — ultimately — who can and can’t get into the playoff. But we’re five weeks into the season, so it’s fair to rank these teams based on what we’ve seen thus far. So here’s our first Sports Talk Center Power Rankings Index (STCPRI):

1. Oklahoma (4-0)

You could argue LSU has the best win (over Texas). You could say Clemson hasn’t lost and they’re the champs. You could say Tua is a machine and Alabama is at it again. To all that, I say Lincoln freaking Riley. He’s doing it again — Heisman trophy QB at OU. The Jalen Hurts story is incredible — and we have to believe it’s going to culminate with a reunion of sorts with Nick Saban and Alabama in the CFB Playoff. The Sooners are annihilating opponents by over 36 points per game on average. Moreover, they just pass the eye test — the offense flows, receivers are wide open, Hurts can throw and run, and teams can’t keep up.

2. Alabama(5-0)

While I like Oklahoma over ‘Bama right now, Tua gets my Heisman vote. After a seven touchdown effort on Saturday against Ole Miss, Tagavailoa has now accounted for 24 TDs on the season without a single turnover. The Tide will get tested in the tough SEC as the season goes on, including at Texas A&M this Saturday. Then, a battle with an LSU team that looks as strong as it has in a decade and the Iron Bowl at Auburn to round out the regular season.

3. LSU (4-0)

Don’t look now, but the LSU Tigers have a living, breathing quarterback in Joe Burrow. The Heisman candidate has the Baton Rouge faithful excited that 2019 might be different from past years, when the Tigers couldn’t count on a signal-caller to win them the big one. The Ohio State transfer has 17 TDs to 2 interceptions on the season and in the last three games, hasn’t thrown fewer than 373 yards. LSU has the win of the season with their week 2 shootout victory over Texas in Austin. LSU is scary this year — they aren’t predictable and they aren’t trying to slow games down. They want to throw and they can score with almost anyone.

4. Georgia(4-0)

The Bulldogs are just plugging along. Their early season schedule has been light to put it kindly. But they did handle a top-10 Notre Dame team in Athens a couple weeks ago. We’ll learn a lot about Georgia and quarterback Jake Fromm when the meat of their schedule arrives in November. They play Florida in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, travel to Auburn, and host Texas A&M.

5. Clemson (5-0)

Clemson is a perfect example of a team who benefited from preseason rankings. No one would have this team 1 or 2 in the polls through the first five weeks of play. The preseason Heisman hype surrounding sophomore QB Trevor Lawrence seems to have been premature, and as far as the eye test goes, the Tigers aren’t as impressive as the teams I have currently in front of them. And to be honest, Clemson isn’t likely to be tested until the playoff rolls around (the ACC is awful).

6. Ohio State (5-0)

After their primetime beatdown in Lincoln over the Cornhuskers, it seems everyone is ready to vault the Bucks way up the rankings. Impressive win? Yes. It was a statement. But OSU has also played the likes of Cincinnati, Miami (OH), Indiana, and Florida Atlantic, so forgive me if I’d prefer to wait for them to play a team with a pulse. As an aside, I’m not in love with Justin Fields — let’s see him in a big game against a good team. However, J.K. Dobbins ought to be getting a lot more touches. He’s a game changer at 7.1 yards per carry.

7. Texas (3-1)

Truth be told, I admit that I may be a little too enamored with the Longhorns. Maybe it’s the “Matthew McConaughy Effect”, maybe it’s Sam Ehlinger’s Heisman campaign, maybe I just want Texas to be back. In any event, Tom Herman’s group is solid and will score points. The question will be, “Can they stop anyone else from scoring points?” I’m going to recuse myself from answering that at the moment. Let me just enjoy Texas being back….for the time being. The upcoming October 12th Red River Shootout should tell us more. Until then, “Hook ’em!!”

8. Auburn (5-0)

Just as I’m a touch too high on Texas, I’m probably not giving Auburn their due. A comeback win over Oregon to open the year plus a nice win at College Station should have the Tigers looking sharp. But I can’t help but think they would have trouble keeping up with any offense ranked inside my top-7. Bo Nix is a nice story, but he’s got to be better than a 57% completion QB. The defense and running game are good enough. Can Bo Nix win a few games when called upon?

9. Wisconsin (4-0)

No team is better at what we all know they are than the Badgers. They are ground and pound and need Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor to get carries and collect yards. And if he does, Wisconsin will be in a ton of positive game scripts. Their dismantling of Michigan gives Wisconsin that bump they needed to throw them into the playoff conversation.

10. Oregon (3-1)

The loss in the final minute versus Auburn to start the year was tough — but if we have learned anything about college football, it’s that early losses can be forgotten. In addition, the Ducks should be favored in all their remaining PAC-12 games (minus maybe at U-W). If they cruise through that schedule, they can knock on the door of the top 4.


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 218 (“Week 4 Six-Pack with Mike: The Lions Impressed, Buffalo’s Defense is Solid, and Atlanta Continues to Disappoint”) right here:

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I Do Declare!!! (5 Bold Declarations Through 3 Weeks in the NFL)

Yes, the NFL season is a measly three weeks old. And yes, there is still plenty of football to be played. But why should that stop anyone from grabbing ahold of a position, not letting go, and shouting it from the rooftops — or in this case a blog?

So far, there are various storylines that are juicy and warrant some consideration for headlining this topic — “Dak will win MVP” or “Phillip Rivers is done” or my favorite “The Bears can win the Super Bowl despite Mitchell Trubisky”. All are fun and I’d listen to each with varying degrees of rationality. But I went with five other items that actually do feel pretty strongly about — almost to the point where I don’t, necessarily, view each of them as being outlandish.

1. New head coach Zach Taylor is the answer in Cincinnati.

What a difference from the Marvin Lewis regime to what the offense looks like now. Andy Dalton has been given the freedom to sling it around in Taylor’s offense — the Bengals throw at the third highest clip through three weeks. As a result, Dalton ranks second in yards passing, averaging 326 per game, behind only Patrick Mahomes. What maybe most impressive is that Dalton’s success is happening without any semblance of a living, breathing offensive line. He’s been sacked 11 times — a pace that would put him at nearly 60 for the season if this keeps up. That’s like David Carr, Deshaun Watson air. In addition, Cincy has not gotten the early season production from Joe Mixon out of the backfield, and A.J. Green hasn’t been on the field yet for a single snap due to a foot injury that may sideline him for up to another 4 weeks. And if you still aren’t sold that Taylor is the answer for this franchise, look no further than the resurrection of John Ross’s career in this offense. The “thought-to-be-bust” first round pick from a few years back has turned into the team’s most dependable and playmaking WR with 13 catches on 26 targets, 292 yards, and 3 touchdowns against defenses like Seattle and Buffalo in two of their first three games.

2. Indianapolis will unequivocally win the AFC South.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you about this. I can proudly say I was not one of those people who violently jumped off the Colts’ bandwagon when we were all blindsided by the news of Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement. I still thought they’d be a playoff team then, and now, I think they’re good enough to win that division. Why? Four simple reasons: One, Jacoby Brissett doesn’t stink. Through three weeks as the new starter, he’s top seven in completion percentage and passer rating and his touchdown to interception ratio is a solid 7 to 1. And doesn’t hurt he’s getting help from Marlon Mack out of the backfield. Second reason is that Frank Reich is a really smart head coach. In a league where coaching blunders happen by the minute on any given Sunday (ask Freddie Kitchens or Bruce Arians after week 3), Reich has moved close to the top of HCs that I’d want on my sideline. The third reason is this roster has been built the right way by GM Chris Ballard. After former general manager Ryan Grigson tried everything in his power to burn this franchise to the ground despite having a franchise QB, Ballard has put his stamp on this team by adding very good role players to the defense and re-building what was an atrocious offensive line. And lastly, look no further than the other teams in the AFC South: Tennessee’s QB options are Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill — enough said; as long as Bill O’Brien is running the Texans, I’m not a believer; and while I love Gardner Minshew and all that comes with him, I’m not sold on the Jaguars.

3. Kyle Allen can save Carolina and keep them alive in the playoff picture.

Ok, so truth be told — I picked Carolina to make the playoffs, and I even thought they had a somewhat realistic shot at making a Super Bowl run. So forgive me if I feel like I’ve been handed a new lease on life after what Kyle Allen was able to do in week 3 in his debut start of the season with Cam Newton sidelined because of a foot injury. (Message to Cam — take your time coming back, get healthy, shop for some new outfits.) The Texas A&M product was an efficient 19-26 throwing the ball with 261 yards and spread the looks around to seven different pass catchers. He tossed four TDs and gave hope to fans that in a year where Atlanta seems out of sync, Tampa Bay  can’t hold a lead at home against a rookie quarterback, and Drew Brees is hurt, the Carolina Panthers still have a shot at winning the division.

4. I know this is blasphemy, but…..Saquon will NOT be missed by the Giants.

Listen, I’m not going to make any apologies for this. I understand Saquon Barkley is seen by many as the second coming of Barry Sanders. But I can’t help that I view the running back as a very expendable position in the league. What example would you prefer I provide? How the Ravens rolled out Alex Collins a year ago to only switch over to Kenneth Dixon then to Buck Allen and then finally to Gus Edwards? All were productive while they had their respective shots. How about the 2018 Chiefs cutting Kareem Hunt and just plopping Damien Williams into the lineup, where he looked like he was an all-pro? And to continue with that example, Williams gets nicked up this year and Darrel Williams and LeSean McCoy are carrying the load. Or maybe you like 2018 second tier MVP candidate Todd Gurley basically sitting out the final few weeks in December and then disappearing in the playoffs only to have C.J. Anderson roll off the couch and rush for multiple 100-yard games in December and January. Pick one — and there are plenty more. However, I will say that the better the team, the less you miss a running back. And the G-men are not a good team so Saquon’s production, yes, will be sorely missed — the dude accounted for 2,028 yard from scrimmage in his rookie campaign a year ago, scored 15 times, and got 91 passes on 121 targets. I’m not blind — Saquon is awesome and that’s why he’s already been elevated to first name status. So to frame this more succinctly, the Giants are not making up Saquon’s production while he’s out because no running back on their roster can do what he does with that offensive line and the roster surrounding him. But long-term, as the Giants get better and turn into a respectable team again (assuming this happens), their roster will  that of a team that does not require someone of Saquon’s ability at that position. My point is the Giants aren’t dead because they are without their appointed savior — they ALREADY WERE dead!

5. The Seahawks are not good.

Let me walk through the first three games of the season for the Seahawks: hosted Cincinnati in the season opener and let Andy Dalton throw for a career-high 426 yards, defense got torched, and yet they escape 21-20; traveled to Heinz Field and sneaked out a 28-26 win over a Steelers team that looks bad and played the second half without Big Ben; and finally they hosted a Drew Brees-less Saints team outdoors and looked lifeless before making the score closer in the end than the actual game was. I’m concerned about this defense — Andy Dalton and Teddy Bridgewater, basically, had their way against that unit. And now the run game, which was expected to be their calling card, is in question because Chris Carson can’t hold onto the football and Rashaad Penny has some mysterious hamstring injury.


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 216 (“Revisiting Our NFL Predictions”) right here:

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NFL 2019 Season Preview Part 2: Ceilings and Floors for Last Year’s Non-playoff Teams in the AFC

Last week I got my NFC side of this story out. Now it’s time to examine the ten AFC teams that missed out on the postseason in 2018 and what they can do to make it into January this year.

Here’s my thoughts in Part 2 of the multi-part season preview piece.

Buufalo Bills

One thing I’m certain of with the Bills is that the defense will be nasty. I’m really high on rookie Ed Oliver and his ability to make an immediate in Sean McDermott’s defense. In order to take this team to the next level however, second year quarterback Josh Allen will need to improve his accuracy. Sub-60 is not going to do it.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 5 wins

New York Jets

Say what you will about new head coach Adam Gase’s strange behavior over the past few months, from his opening, “eye-popping” press conference to his inhalation of smelling salts on the sideline of the first preseason game, the guy gets the most out of his quarterbacks. In 2008 in Detroit, Gase guided Jon Kitna to career highs in both yards per attempt and completion percentage. Then in San Francisco, Gase got surprising production from the likes of J.T. O’Sullivan and Shaun Hill. In 2011, Tim Tebow struggled statistically in Denver, but under Gase’s tutelage Tebow still led the Broncos to an AFC West crown and playoff win. Even Peyton Manning enjoyed some of his best seasons under Gase in Denver, leading the league in completion percentage, net adjusted yards, and QBR. Manning had only led the NFL in those categories once before — in 2003. The list goes on: Jay Cutler had the best passer rating of his career with Gase in Chicago, and in Miami, Gase’s teams still managed to be competitive despite poor play at quarterback. All that to say that we should expect Gase to have a very positive impact on second year QB Sam Darnold — and if this marriage works, the Jets could surprise people.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 5 wins

Miami Dolphins

I can’t give you anything tangible here. Everything on that Dolphins roster screams 2 wins — and that’s entirely possible. But call me crazy — I believe in first year head coach Brian Flores. He’s a defensive-minded coach, who learned under Bill Belichick, and he values character guys and leadership. I think the Fins will play hard, and if they buy-in to Flores and what his vision is, the Dolphins could steal a few Ws this year.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 2 wins

Pittsburgh Steelers

Addition by subtraction is what I keep hearing. But I still need to see how Big Ben responds this year and if Mike Tomlin’s voice still resonates with this team. If the locker room is behind these two, the Steelers might not be dead quite yet.

Ceiling: 10 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland’s roster is chalk full of talented playmakers. There is no question that the talent is there. I’m interested in how first year head coach Freddie Kitchens keeps the egos in check while still making sure everyone is happy. One thing is for sure — Baker Mayfield is the right QB to lead this team.

Ceiling: 11 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals were already a team under fire before the injury bug hit them. Losses on the offensive line plus a foot injury to A.J. Green could solidify Cincy as a team in the running for the number 1 pick in the 2020 draft. If two things happen, maybe the Bengals avoid the NFL cellar this season: (1) Zach Taylor’s offense takes Andy Dalton to a whole new level; and (2) John Ross steps up big as a very good and reliable number 2 option while Green is sidelined.

Ceiling: 5 wins

Floor: 1 win

Tennessee Titans

You might have heard my thoughts on the Titans if you listened to Episode 206 of the Sports Talk Center podcast. This defense is very good, but the quarterback play must take a giant leap forward this year for Tennessee to compete for the playoffs. Sign me up as someone who has his doubts, though. Neither Ryan Tannehill nor Marcus Mariota fills me with a tremendous amount of confidence — not to mention the weapons in Tennessee aren’t striking fear into very many defenses.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 3 wins

Jacksonville Jaguars

With Andrew Luck’s retirement, the Jags may have become the team with the most to gain. This is still an awesome defense and now they upgrade the QB position with Nick Foles. My question — can Leonard Fournette stay on the field in 2019? If he can, he helps Foles, he helps ball control, he helps that defense.

Ceiling: 10 wins

Floor: 6 wins

Denver Broncos

Hiring Vic Fangio as head coach when the rest of the NFL was searching for their version of Sean McVay showed savviness on the part of John Elway. I want this to work. The problem could be that the quarterback problem might not be totally fixed. For the Broncos to be good, Joe Flacco has to take his game to a level it hasn’t been at since that remarkable playoff run that culminated in a Super Bowl title and MVP in 2012. If he plays the role of Trent Dilfer and allows the defense to be the star of the show in Fangio’s system, Denver could be the surprise team in the AFC.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 5 wins

Oakland Raiders

Everything in Oakland hinges on Derek Carr. And if we’re going to boil it down to one thing, it has to be whether Antonio Brown’s presence on the field can help to elevate Carr’s overall game. Yes, the offensive line needs to hold up and yes the defense needs to be better, but AB might just hold the key to unlocking his quarterback’s potential.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 4 wins


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 206 (“Andrew Luck’s Abrupt Retirement Plus Breaking Down the AFC and NFC South”) right here:

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NFL 2019 Preview Part 1: How Can Last Season’s Non-Playoff Teams Make a Jump This Year

Twenty NFL teams missed out on postseason play last year. What can these franchises do to make a run this year? Something? Anything? More importantly, can they simply improve upon 2018 and be better in 2019 — regardless of the playoffs or not. That said, it’s always real easy to sit back and say, “Well if Team X would just fix ‘blank’, they’d be better.” In reality, these teams usually need to remedy more than just one thing. But it’s a fun exercise to think if these non-playoff teams from a year ago could be better in just one area, they’d have a shot to reach their ceiling of wins. In other words for them to reach or exceed expectations in 2019, this one thing absolutely must must happen. And if it doesn’t…..well….

Here’s my thoughts on the NFC teams in Part 1 of a multi-part piece.

Arizona Cardinals

This is simple. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s fast-paced, high-flying offense has no chance of succeeding if that offensive line can’t keep Kyler Murray upright. There is a ton of optimism in the desert that Kyler, DJ, Christian Kirk, and their new skill position rookies could be exciting and fun to watch. But all that will stall out in a major way if that line, which surrendered 52 sacks and 109 hurries in 2018, cannot block.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 2 wins

San Francisco 49ers

This defensive line looks strong, their QB is back and healthy, they have an All-Pro tight end, and the running back position is deep. What’s left to do? Kyle Shanahan’s offense needs to turn second year wideout Dante Pettis into a star. Pettis has fewer than 30 career catches, but the talent is there and the ceiling is high.

Ceiling: 11 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Washington Redskins

The Washington defense is really good. With the firm of Allen, Payne, and Ioannidis up front pressuring the pocket, the Redskins should be a force on that side of the ball. That triple threat led the team to 46 sacks a year ago — 4th in the NFL; and now they’ve added Landon Collins at the backend. The defense is not the question here. This team’s success — and probably Jay Gruden’s future — rests in the hands of the offensive line. How effective that unit is will directly impact whoever is under center and the run game (which has some interesting pieces if healthy).

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 4 wins

New York Giants

I have very little faith in this team this season. The fastest way for this team to be anything close to good is that rookie QB Daniel Jones makes everyone, who scoffed at his selection in the draft, eat crow. And this includes his coaching staff — who need to see that he is a better option than Eli.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 4 wins

Detroit Lions

I’m having a hard time finding wins for the Lions. At least when the offense was playing uptempo and Matthew Stafford was slinging the rock all over the field, there was hope they’d just outscore opponents. Now, this sluggish offense with Darell Bevell calling plays lacks that fiery punch that we’ve seen with this team. A lot will depend on how well Kenny Golladay plays as the number one WR and how much Kerryon Johnson is trusted by the coaches to carry the load. So I guess it boils down to if Matt Stafford can indeed elevate the play of those around him, this team should better than they were a year ago. (A caveat would be that the coaches put players in positions to be successful — especially on offense.)

Ceiling: 8 wins

Floor: 5 wins

Minnesota Vikings

This team looks very similar to the team that entered 2018 as a Super Bowl contender. The offensive line was a constant thorn for this team a year ago, and by drafting NC State’s Garrett Bradbury in the first round of last Spring’s NFL Draft, the Vikings should be more stable up front. For me, their success hinges upon their quarterback’s ability to beat the good teams. The jokes are out there — Kirk Cousins beats the bad teams, but can’t beat t he good ones. For Minnesota to have a realistic shot at the playoffs (and beyond), Cousins must beat teams above .500. Simple, right? It is.

Ceiling: 11 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Green Bay Packers

If you’ve heard me talk on the Sports Talk Center podcast in the past couple months, you know how I feel about the Packers in 2019. New offense? New head coach? Doesn’t matter if this team’s young talent can gel together on both sides of the ball. From WRs Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison to running back Aaron Jones to second year cornerback Jaire Alexander, the talent is everywhere. If it all comes together, this is one dangerous football team that no one will want to play in January.

Ceiling: 13 wins

Floor: 9 wins

Carolina Panthers

Before Cam Newton got hurt and couldn’t throw a football straight, the Panthers were looking like a playoff team in 2018. If he’s healthy, there’s absolutely no reason to think they won’t be in the mix again this season.

Ceiling: 12 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Atlanta Falcons

This can’t be any simpler: the defense is good when healthy, the weapons on offense are super productive, and the quarterback is more than capable of being a top 5 QB by season’s end. The only question: can the offensive line do their job? If not, we’ve seen the Falcons go a little sideways. Two first round picks were spent in the last draft to bolster that unit.

Ceiling: 12 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Can Bruce Arians be a positive influence on Jameis Winston? Big Ben, Andrew Luck, and Carson Palmer all benefited under the tutelage of Arians. Can Jameis join that group? For the Bucs to be a good team, he is going to need to because 14 interceptions in 11 games last season isn’t the formula for success in what should be a very tough division.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 4 wins


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 204 (“What to Take from Preseason Week 2 in the NFL”) right here:

 

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NFL Mock Draft 3.0

We’re closing in on the NFL Draft and it’s officially misinformation season. Though, it’s funny — the lead-up to the draft is cyclical. It starts with the initial “this guy’s a can’t miss top 5 pick” and over the course of the combine and player pro days, it turns sour and that top-5 kid becomes a “mid- to lower first rounder.” Then a week or two out from actual draft night, we return to “this kid’s climbing the board” and he ends up right back where he started. (This year’s example — Ed Oliver.) So with that said, let’s have a look at the third installment of my mock draft.

1.  Cardinals

If you’ve read my previous mocks, you know I’ve been adamant that I feel like the Cardinals are putting on a show with this Kyler Murray stuff. However, it appears all signs point to Arizona taking Murray at 1. So I guess I’m on-board. Kind of.

The PICK: Kyler Murray, Oklahoma, QB


2. 49ers

I like Josh Allen more here, but what I like makes no difference to John Lynch. I’d be completely stunned if the pick isn’t Nick Bosa.

The PICK: nick bosa, ohio st., edge


3. Jets

Everyone will be expecting the Jets to trade out here or take the beast in the middle of Alabama’s defensive line, Quinnen Williams, in this spot. Do they have the guts (or the smarts) to take the best player in the draft in my opinion? That’s not a simple question to answer, but reports (believe them or not) are that maybe Williams is slipping a bit.

The PICK: Josh Allen, kentucky, edge/OLB


4. Raiders

I don’t think Mike Mayock wants a quarterback here, and I don’t think Jon Gruden, necessarily, wants to work with a rookie signal caller from this class. The best player on their board should be the pick, and based on other mocks, that guy is Quinnen Williams.

The PICK: Quinnen Williams, Alabama, DT


5. Buccanneers

Tampa Bay needs a lot of help of the defensive side. Todd Bowles’s system calls for a strong presence up the middle at linebacker and safety. Five is too high for safety, but it’s not too high for the draft’s best and rangiest inside linebacker.

The PICK: Devin White, LSU, ILB


6. Giants

“I’m convinced this won’t be a quarterback.” That was my quote a couple weeks ago. I think I still mostly believe that, but I’m not betting my house on it. My next question is about Montez Sweat’s heart. If a team’s medical staff is good with him, he’s definitely a top 10 pick without question. But if there’s concern, he could fall.

The PICK: Montez Sweat, Miss. St., EDGE


7. Jaguars

Nick Foles needs help — from the offensive line to the pass catchers. The Jags can’t go wrong adding to the line here with one of those top offensive linemen. But a big, athletic tight end, who can serve as a blocker on the line as well as a reliable pass catcher for Foles, might be too enticing to pass up.

The PICK: T.J. Hockenson, Iowa, TE


8. Lions

I mocked Devin Bush to the Lions at 8 on a podcast kind of on a whim. But the more I think about it and the more I read, it makes pretty good sense. I think Matt Patricia would prefer a middle linebacker or a cornerback over an edge rusher, if he follows the Belichick model. Trading down is a possibility if Bob Quinn can find any takers. In the event they can’t, I like a University of Michigan guy here.

The PICK: Devin Bush, Michigan, ILB


9. Bills

Buffalo needs offensive line help in a bad way. The question comes down to how much do they like Ed Oliver (if he falls here), and then do they believe they can find solid offensive line help in the later rounds. I get it — Oliver is a luxury pick here for the Bills. But he might be too good to pass up.

The PICK: Ed Oliver, Houston, DT


10. Broncos

I’m fully buying into the speculation that John Elway likes Drew Lock a whole lot. If it’s true, expect Elway to take another stab at finally fixing the quarterback conundrum he’s created in Denver.

The PICK: drew Lock, QB, Missouri


11. Bengals

Two theories of thought here: (1) new head coach usually means let him have the QB he wants; (2) the Bengals have holes all across that defense. So what do you commit to here? Does Zac Taylor fancy Dwayne Haskins in his system or will Andy Dalton suffice for one more season while the team builds up it’s many weakened spots on the other side of the ball? What the Bengals really need to do is dangle this pick out there in hopes that a QB-hungry team like Washington or New York trades up with them.

The PICK: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida


12. Packers

After free agency, this Packers team looks pretty solid. I’m not sure any team in the league did more with free agency than what Green Bay did. They now have afforded themselves the luxury of taking the best player available and adding depth, perhaps, at some already strong positions.

The PICK: Jonah Williams, Alabama, T/G


13. Dolphins

New head coach Brians Flores can begin putting his imprints on this roster right away. There are many holes here. If Flores follows the model he was a part of in New England, look for him to target either offensive of defensive line. Personally, I think Flores wants a leader, much like him, on the field.

The PICK: Christian Wilkins, Clemson, DT


14. Falcons

I’m very confident this pick is CB or defensive line. An athletic playmaker at either position would be welcomed by this team.

The PICK: Brian Burns, Florida St., Edge


15. Redskins

The quarterback position is obviously a mess in D.C. If Josh Rosen gets traded, this would be one spot that makes sense. If that happens, the Redskins would not be in the market for a QB here. But I’ll proceed like it hasn’t happened by draft day.

The PICK: dwayne haskins, ohio st., QB


16. Panthers

Carolina needs help on the offensive line. Despite re-signing tackle Daryl Williams, the team released left tackle Matt Kalil. It also makes sense for the Panthers to go and get a stud pass rusher. Both are areas of need.

The PICK: Andre Dillard, Wash. St., OT


17. Giants

I expect the Giants will indeed select Eli Manning’s replacement in this draft — and this seems like the logical spot. Dave Gettleman has referenced using the “Kansas City” model for getting a QB so it’ll be interesting what exactly that meant. Does he plan on moving up on draft night to ensure he gets his guy? Or does it just mean he’ll draft one and let him learn behind Eli for a year? We’ll find out soon enough. For the sake of this mock, I’ve got them staying put at 17 and still getting the QB I think they like.

The PICK: daniel jones, duke, QB


18. Vikings

Yes, the Vikings could use major upgrades at guard and tackle. And they very well may like the options that are available to them at 18. But Mike Zimmer also loves players in the secondary. The team seemed to be shopping Xavier Rhodes not too long ago, and after him, they aren’t all that deep at CB.

The PICK: Byron Murphy, Washington, CB


19. Titans

The draft hosts this year went defense with their top two picks a year ago, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another defender come off the board here. Maybe wide receiver, or even tight end, could be in play too. But Mike Vrabel likes guys that he can see himself in. Tough, versatile, sound defenders. If this comes down to Rashan Gary or Clelin Ferrell, the choice is obvious.

The PICK: Clelin Ferrell, Clemson, EDGE


20. Steelers

Pittsburgh has the cache to pick whomever is at the top of their draft board. But it’s got to be defense here, right? This is not your father’s Steel Curtain D. Linebacker would be beautiful, but cornerback might be best available. And this kid from Temple seems to be universally loved in NFL scouting circles. He can hit, he’s aggressive, he’s a ball hawk. A little raw, but the Steelers won’t mind that.

The PICK: Rock Ya-Sin , Temple, CB


21. Seahawks

Seattle absolutely needs to trade out here. They currently hold only four selections in this year’s draft. I’m sure a team like New England wouldn’t mind coming up if they have a player in mind — plus the Pats have 12 picks. Twelve!! If Seattle stays, they oughta add to the offensive line that needs a little replenishing.

The PICK: chris Lindstrom, Boston Coll., G


22. Ravens

I’m very torn here. You listen to one group of NFL people and they say with confidence that Baltimore will fill in the holes left on their defense by the departures of Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, and C.J. Mosely. Then you listen to another group and they are certain the Ravens will give Lamar Jackson every weapon they can find to help his growth. Ugh. Can I agree with both sides?

The PICK: M. Brown, Oklahoma, WR


23. Texans

The easiest pick in this round may very well be Houston’s selection. They need a left tackle in the worst way possible. The problem may be that a real good one isn’t available at 23 and the value of taking another position is too great. So don’t be surprised if the Texans are in the market to trade up. But I’m not going to over-think this right now.

The PICK: Cody Ford, Oklahoma, t/G


24. Raiders

Oakland can come away from this first round having filled some key areas of need with really good football players. Someone to replace Khalil Mack would be a much-needed addition in the first round.

The PICK: Rashan Gary, Michigan, Edge


25. Eagles

Philly will make a smart pick — that much I can tell you. WR and RB are needs, but the value isn’t here — those positions can be very easily filled starting in the second round. Injuries riddled this secondary last season so go get the most NFL-ready cornerback in the draft in my opinion.

The PICK: Deandre Baker, Georgia, cB


26. Colts

Indy could go WR here. But Chris Ballard seems to understand the idea of roster-building. Like the Eagles, this will be a smart pick.

The PICK: Dexter Lawrence, Clemson, DT


27. Raiders

If the Raiders are able to add to their defense with their two earlier first round selections, I could see Jon Gruden getting a fun toy at pick 27. They don’t need WR so maybe they are the first team to grab a running back.

.The PICK: Josh Jacobs, Alabama, RB


28. Chargers

The Chargers could use some depth in the secondary, but the o-line fell apart at the end of last season. Getting a nasty, versatile interior lineman would be a boring, but tremendously necessary pick

The PICK: erik mccoy, Texas A&M, G/C


29. Chiefs

If you’ve listened to my podcast, you already know how I feel about the Chiefs gutting their pass rush this offseason. Fine. Here’s a chance to replace what they got rid of. I’ve read reports that the Chiefs love Jaylon Ferguson.

The PICK: Jaylon Ferguson, LA Tech, Edge


30. Packers

Green Bay did themselves a lot of favors by adding so much on defense in free agency. That decision should please Aaron Rodgers during the draft. If the front office can get Rodgers a weapon who can get down the middle of the field, that’d be a nice addition

The PICK: Noah Fant, Notre Dame, DT


31. Rams

Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters were not without their missteps in 2018 so adding to the secondary is in play here. We also heard all season about the need for edge rush out of this Rams defense. I could see them going in either direction here.

The PICK: Greedy WIlliams, LSU, CB


32. Patriots

I have no idea what Bill Belichick will do here. Does he package a couple of his 6 picks from the top 100 here and go up to get someone — a tight end, a wide receiver, a pass rusher? If he stays put, I think WR is not happening and no edge rusher stands out here. The offensive line could use some depth, but having Dante Scarnecchia as your position coach there gives you some freedom to find those players later. So that leaves interior defensive line — which Belichick covets — and the tight end spot.

The PICK: Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame, DT


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 165 (“Let’s Play GM: What NFL Teams Should Do in the Draft”) right here:

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NBA Playoffs: Prepare for a More Exciting First Round Than Usual

Is it because we all sense that Kevin Durant is on his way to the bright lights of New York City? Is it because the Draymond-KD feud seems real? Is it because James Harden just put together one of the top-7 offensive seasons in NBA history? Is it because for the first time since his second season in the league, we have a LeBron-less postseason? Whatever it is, the 2019 version of the NBA Playoffs seem different — like we need to be paying closer attention to things we typically would gloss past. We can’t — and shouldn’t — just swipe right and try to move to the conference finals. Not this year, anyway. In the East, there’s no LeBron James so the door is open for any of the top 4 seeds; each of them can make a convincing case for advancing past the first two rounds. Out West, it’s fact — Denver, Portland, Oklahoma City, or San Antonio will be in the conference finals, playing for a shot at the NBA Finals.

It’s already shaping up to be a thrilling playoff ride. And we’re just getting started.

Western Conference

(1) Golden State v. (8) Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers might have the brighter future (AND brighter present) than their L.A. counterparts, the Lakers. But make no mistake, this series goes as long as the Warriors want it to go. Doc Rivers has done a masterful job this season and should get major Coach of the Year consideration; but his Clippers can’t hang with the Warriors, even if they choose to sleep-walk a game or two. Warriors in 4.

(2) Denver v. (7) San Antonio

The young Nuggets are super fun to root for. The problem is that they have no surefire scorer other than big man and top-4 MVP candidate Nikola Jokic — who actually prefers to pass than score. Yes, maybe Jamal Murray emerges as the go-to-guy when Denver needs a bucket late. Or maybe Paul Milsapp. Or maybe Gary Harris. Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. The uncertainty surrounding how the Nuggets are going to get their offense in a seven game series against the best head coach of his generation (and maybe of all-time) cannot be overlooked. I don’t love the Spurs, but at least I know what Pop can do. I think LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan can do enough and will be put in opportunistic situations this series to get the job done. Spurs in 7.

(3) Portland v. (6) Oklahoma City

This is the great “Who Can Exorcise Their Postseason Demons?” series. Russell Westbrook has won 2 playoff games since Durant bolted for the Bay Area while the Blazers are looking to put last year’s embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Pelicans in the rearview mirror. Damian Lillard has had a top-6 MVP season in my estimation, and he’ll need to carry that over into the playoffs if Portland plans on advancing. Yes, OKC dropped in the standings over the final month and rumors swirling about Paul George’s shoulder only get worse by the week, but in the end the Thunder can throw so much more at the Blazers. Thunder in 6.

(4) Houston v. (5) Utah

I hear a lot of NBA insiders saying how this series is nearly a coin flip and that the Jazz could seriously threaten the Rockets. Listen, count me as one who fully believes in Quin Snyder and Rudy Gobert (and in Donovan Mitchell to an extent). But these Rockets won’t be slowed on offense — more specifically, James Harden won’t be slowed. Utah will bring the defensive intensity without question, but I have to ask: where are they getting enough offense to outscore Houston? Rockets in 5.

Eastern Conference

(1) Milwaukee v. (8) Detroit

The Pistons limped into the playoffs, and the Bucks have been the most consistent team in the entire NBA from start to finish. If the Pistons can steal one, the playoffs will have been a success. But don’t count on it. Bucks in 4

(2) Toronto v. (7) Orlando

I kind of like seeing the Magic back in the postseason. I don’t know if it’s the uniforms or the floor or the aerial views of Orlando and Epcot and Disney. I better not blink, though — it’s going to be over quickly. Raptors in 4.

(3) Philadelphia v. (6) Brooklyn

I’m not sold on the Nets giving the 76ers a huge scare. But it’s worth keeping an eye on Joel Embiid and his injury, as well as how Philly’s big 4 play together in postseason games. Brooklyn will play loose and fun and will challenge the Sixers. But in the end, I’m more interested how Philly looks entering round 2. They need to make quick work of the Nets. 76ers in 6.

(4) Boston v. (5) Indiana

The Celtics might have actually caught a break with the Marcus Smart injury. As strange as that sounds, at least now Brad Stevens can properly allot minutes to Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier. The key to this series — and the entirety of the postseason for the Cs — is Hayward’s ability to score and score efficiently. Boston was 21-4 when he went for 14 or more points, and they were 25-3 when he shot better than 50% from the field. The increased minutes should help him see an increase in production. Celtics in 6.


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 164 (“Seven Questions Heading into the NBA Postseason”) right here: 

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NFL Mock Draft 2.0

It’s April and that means — not Spring, not sunnier days, not that Summer is that much closer — it means it’s NFL Draft month!! The league is full-blown smokescreens and conjecture right now so good luck deciphering what any team truly plans on doing on Draft Night in Nashville. As I made a point of saying in my previous mock, I go with my gut and I try to make sense of what different experts are reporting. Sometimes I look smart, and most of the time I look like I don’t even know what the game of football is. So without further ado — on to the ramblings of an idiot. Enjoy.

1.  **TRADE** Raiders (from Cardinals)

I’m going to keep saying this until I feel otherwise — Arizona is being too “open” with their phony commitment to Josh Rosen. The “he’s our quarterback….for now” quote seems like something you’d say to get other teams talking. So, then, the question becomes  “Is another team infatuated with Kyler Murray to the point they will trade up to 1?”.  Jon Gruden did not like the roster Reggie MacKenzie left him. Get the QB you want and ship Derek Carr out for more picks in another deal.

The PICK: Kyler Murray, Oklahoma, QB


2. 49ers

Adding a pass rusher to all those interior DLs they have stockpiled in San Fran would be a smart move. So the question is — Nick Bosa or Josh Allen? Both should be awesome, but I’d argue the Niners are taking the wrong guy.

The PICK: nick bosa, ohio st., edge


3. Jets

Everyone will be expecting the Jets to trade out here or take the beast in the middle of Alabama’s defensive line, Quinnen Williams, in this spot. Do they have the guts (or the smarts) to take the best player in the draft in my opinion? It’s the Jets — so that should answer that question.

The PICK: Quinnen Williams, Alabama, DT


4. **TRADE** Cardinals (from Raiders)

The Cardinals have a gazillion needs so take your pick here. I am fully in love with Josh Allen, and I believe he’s the most explosive player at the edge position. I like his leadership and the competition he faced in the SEC. But the Cardinals are like the Jets — they don’t exactly instill confidence in their fans with their front office decisions.

The PICK: jawaan Taylor, Florida, OT


5. Buccanneers

Tampa Bay needs a lot of help of the defensive side. It comes down to which player best fits what DC Todd Bowles wants to establish. If the draft falls this way, Bowles will be salivating.

The PICK: Josh Allen, Kentucky, EDGE/OLB


6. Giants

I’m convinced this won’t be a quarterback. Maybe at 17, but not here — nor will Dave Gettleman trade up into the top 3 for one. What I do know about Gettleman is he likes his linemen, but he also knows the importance of having a linebacker who can head up your defense. He had Luke Kuechly in Carolina. Maybe he tries re-creating that with this selection.

The PICK: Devin White, LSU, LB


7. Jaguars

This team was constructed the right way when they were eight minutes from beating the Patriots and going to the Super Bowl a year ago. Add to the lines and get playmakers on defense. I’ve heard Rashan Gary is like Myles Jack. This pick fits.

The PICK: Rashan Gary, michigan, edge


8. Lions

Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia should have some nice options available to them at 8. A tight end for Matt Stafford, another lineman up front to bolster an offensive line that might be slipping? Or maybe an edge guy to put opposite of Trey Flowers — something they never could do when they had Ziggy Ansah.

The PICK: montez sweat, miss. state, edge


9. Bills

Buffalo needs weapons for second year signal caller Josh Allen. Former Patriots’ tight ends coach Brian Daboll is the OC. I think he’d love to get this draft’s version of Gronk. At the same time, this team gutted its offensive line an offseason ago and has not replenished it. They might try protecting their QB.

The PICK: jonah williams, Alabama, OT


10. Broncos

If John Elway likes a QB here (and the rumors swirling say he like Drew Lock), he needs to take him. But I get this feeling that he is perfectly content to go with Flacco for this year (and beyond). But that shouldn’t matter. To make sure you do have your guy, you’ve got to over-invest. That’s the formula. It’s no secret.

The PICK: drew Lock, QB, Missouri


11. Bengals

This defense was atrocious last year so whatever moves can be made to fix it would be wise. Linebacker is a position of need — they’d fall over themselves to land Devin White. The Bengals also need major help along their o-line. I’d say QB, but ownership says they want to give Andy Dalton a year to see what he does in new head coach Zac Taylor’s offense. If so, why not protect him?

The PICK: Andre Dillard, OT, Wash. St.


12. Packers

No team filled their holes in free agency as well and as comprehensively as Green Bay. If T.J. Hockenson falls here, I like that pick for a team that could get younger at the position. If he’s off the board, I could see them adding to their linebacking corps or offensive line.

The PICK: T.J. Hockenson, iowa, TE


13. Dolphins

Miami needs a quarterback in a bad way. But they also don’t seem all that interested in being uber-competitive in 2019. If they like one, they’ll be able to pick one here. If not, new head coach Brians Flores can begin putting his imprints on this roster.

The PICK: brian burns, Florida st., EDGE


14. Falcons

I’m very confident this pick is CB or defensive line. Fourteen might be a bit early for any of these corners, though.

The PICK: ed oliver, houston, dt


15. Redskins

Alex Smith may never play football again, Colt McCoy is not a starter in the NFL, and Case Keenum is not any sort of a long-term solution. If Washington does not go QB here, I’d be stunned. Don’t even count Dan Snyder out of trading up to make sure he gets the QB he wants.

The PICK: dwayne haskins, ohio st., QB


16. Panthers

Carolina needs help on the offensive line. Despite re-signing tackle Daryl Williams, the team released left tackle Matt Kalil. Now, they could certainly go after a pass rusher — that’s another major need area. But after Cam Newton played the second half of last year hurt, it’s a priority to keep him upright and untouched. They’ll have to figure out if waiting on an offensive lineman until the second round is the wise choice. I think it is.

The PICK: Clelin Ferrell, clemson, edge


17. Giants

This seems like the perfect spot for the Giants to pull the trigger on a QB. Daniel Jones likely is not going top-10 so Gettleman can employ the Kansas City strategy here that he referred to earlier this offseason. Why Jones? Don’t overlook the Manning-David Cutcliffe connection. If they don’t love Jones, they’re definitely a candidate to move up somewhere in this round to get Haskins or Lock.

The PICK: daniel jones, duke, QB


18. Vikings

Yes, the Vikings could use major upgrades at guard and tackle. And they very well may like the options that are available to them at 18. If they fail to fix that line, Kirk Cousins will face another year being under fire on and off the field.

The PICK: cody ford, Oklahoma, Ot/G


19. Titans

The Marcus Mariota era in Music City might be coming to an end sooner rather than later. The QB has backed himself into a corner and if he doesn’t prove himself to be the guy who can elevate the Titans to the next level, look for HC Mike Vrabel to start eyeing a replacement. In all fairness, it’s not all Mariota’s fault, but the fact is the team is going to have to decide whether or not they want to invest significant money into the former Oregon Duck or move on to a cheaper option with upside. That said, you’ve got to give him as many pieces to play with as possible. Expect a WR to be the pick here, even if they are better players at valuable positions.

The PICK: marquise Brown, oklahoma, wr


20. Steelers

Pittsburgh needs to get back to building a defense that teams are afraid to play against. The secondary stinks and the linebacking crew is weak. Just about any addition on that side of the ball will be viewed as an upgrade. They haven’t replaced Ryan Shazier — another Big 10 linebacker might be the choice to fill those shoes.

The PICK: devin bush, michigan, ilB


21. Seahawks

This will be an interesting pick. Seattle made the playoffs last season, but they have more holes to fill than people may think — offensive line, interior defensive line, playmaker in the secondary, and a WR who could ultimately push Doug Baldwin down to the two and Tyler Lockett to the three. For good or for bad, John Schneider and Pete Carroll have a history of thinking outside of the box in the draft.

The PICK: chauncey gardner-johnson, florida, CB/S


22. Ravens

It seems like every year Baltimore is searching for a big, fast, playmaking wideout. And every year they either go in a different direction or the selection doesn’t work out. But knowing Lamar Jackson’s limitations at QB, putting capable playmakers around him should be a priority. Don’t count out an edge rusher here, though, either. After letting Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith go in free agency, the Ravens could look to replace them at 22.

The PICK: N’Keal Harry, Arizona St., WR


23. Texans

DeShaun Watson got murdered last year. He was sacked 60-something times — and that cannot continue if Houston expects to have long-term success with their QB. If they don’t fill the left tackle need, don’t expect that offense to fully flourish. There’s a good chance there’s not a great lineman here. Giving Watson another playmaking pass catcher could prove beneficial as well.

The PICK: noah fant, iowa, te


24. **TRADE** Cardinals (from Raiders)

I’m sure Kliff Kingsbury could be talked into a playmaking WR here for his young QB. There are plenty of needs to fill on this Cardinals roster, though.

The PICK: D.K. Metcalf, Ole miss, WR


25. Eagles

Philly added Jordan Howard so my original mock of Josh Jacobs here is in need of an adjustment. And that’s good because the Eagles need to shore up that secondary that was depleted last year.

The PICK: byron murphy, washington, cB


26. Colts

Indy could go WR here. But Chris Ballard seems to understand the idea of roster-building. Adding a defensive lineman is the right move in this spot. And if Christian Wilkins is in fact available, that’s a huge get.

The PICK: Christian Wilkins, Clemson, DT


27. Raiders

The Raiders could use a playmaker on defense — edge rusher or shutdown corner comes to mind. Deandre Baker earned a reputation in the SEC as a CB that QBs didn’t want to throw on, and he can contribute immediately.

.The PICK: Deandre Baker, Georgia, CB


28. Chargers

The Chargers o-line struggled at the end of the season and in the playoffs. They’ll have some good options here. There’s an outside chance they select their QB of the future, if a guy they like is available.

The PICK: erik mccoy, Texas A&M, G/C


29. Chiefs

If you’ve listened to my podcast, you already know how I feel about the Chiefs gutting their pass rush this offseason. Fine. Here’s a chance to replace what they got rid of. I’ve read reports that the Chiefs love Jaylon Ferguson.

The PICK: Jaylon Ferguson, LA Tech, Edge


30. Packers

Green Bay did themselves a lot of favors by adding so much on defense in free agency. That decision should please Aaron Rodgers during the draft. While they could go WR here (out of character, perhaps, but this is a new regime in Green Bay) or maybe grab Brian Bulaga’s eventual replacement, they’ll fill the Mohammed Wilkerson spot on the defensive line with a mountain of a man.

The PICK: Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame, DT


31. Rams

Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters were not without their missteps in 2018. In fact, Marcus Peters was downright bad for stretches. A new athletic, playmaking corner could be in the cards here for Wade Phillips’s defense.

The PICK: Greedy Williams, LSU, CB


32. Patriots

I have no idea what Bill Belichick will do here. Does he package a couple of his 6 picks from the top 100 here and go up to get someone — a tight end, a wide receiver, a pass rusher? If he stays put, I think WR is not happening and no edge rusher stands out here. The offensive line could use some depth, but having Dante Scarnecchia as your position coach there gives you some freedom to find those players later. So that leaves interior defensive line — which Belichick covets — and the tight end spot. Give Tom Brady a weapon for crying out loud!!

The PICK: Irv SMith, Jr., Alabama, TE


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 158 (“NFL Draft Prospect Trade Value”) right here:

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2019 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

Happy Mock Draft Season!!! We’re about a month out from the NFL Draft so I figured I better get this going. Full disclosure: this is based on team needs, my gut, and the uncanny ability to cut through all the smokescreens that teams, GMs, PR staff, and owners are putting out there for us all to eat up. That said, bon a petit!!

1.  **TRADE** Raiders (from Cardinals)

This comes down to two things — and we have no idea what is true and what is not: (1) are the Cardinals really ready to move on from last year’s top-10 pick, Josh Rosen, and take Kyler Murray; and (2) is there interest from another team to trade up to select Murray? At this moment, I feel like Arizona is being too “open” with their fake commitment to Rosen. The “he’s our quarterback….for now” quote seems like something you’d say to get people and other teams talking. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury was hired for his ability to work with quarterbacks. If I’m in the Arizona front office, I’m telling him to figure out how to maximize the guy we took last year.  And the Raiders would probably jump all over this. Jon Gruden did not like the roster Reggie MacKenzie established so why stop with Derek Carr? Get the QB you want and ship Carr out for more picks in another deal.

The PICK: Kyler Murray, Oklahoma, QB


2. 49ers

A couple months ago we’d all have guaranteed that if Nick Bosa wasn’t off the board here, the Niners would grab him in a heartbeat. I feel less adamant about that now. It’s easy to make the case that Quinnen Williams is the best player in the draft — I don’t feel that way, but I also don’t feel like Bosa’s the best either. (That’s called a tease.)

The PICK: Quinnen WIlliams, Alabama, DT


3. Jets

If the Jets could trade this pick, it’d be ideal. They need to recoup as many of those lost picks from last year’s draft when they traded up for Sam Darnold. But in the event the keep the pick, Nick Bosa fills a huge need at edge rusher, and the Jets would be thrilled.

The PICK: nick bosa, ohio state, edge


4. **TRADE** Cardinals (from Raiders)

The Cardinals have a gazillion needs so take your pick here. I am fully in love with Josh Allen, and I believe he’s the most explosive player at the edge position. I like his leadership and the competition he faced in the SEC.

The PICK: josh allen, kentucky, Edge/OLB


5. Buccanneers

This is tough. A playmaking WR, who’s stolen the headlines this draft season, sits here in D.K. Metcalf. That’d be an enticing option to pair with Jameis Winston in Bruce Arians’s offense. And the options on defense at this spot don’t come without their warts.

The PICK: d.k. Metcalf, ole miss, wr


6. Giants

After all the things GM Dave Gettleman has done, your guess is as good as mine here. A quarterback seems logical, but he’s also gutted the team and made a financial commitment to Eli Manning. The o-line still stinks so you can’t go wrong there.

The PICK: jawaan Taylor, florida, ot


7. Jaguars

This team was constructed the right way when they were eight minutes from beating the Patriots and going to the Super Bowl a year ago. Add to the lines and get playmakers on defense.

The PICK: Rashan Gary, michigan, edge


8. Lions

Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia should have some nice options available to them at 8. A tight end for Matt Stafford, another lineman up front to bolster an offensive line that might be slipping? Or maybe an edge guy to put opposite of Trey Flowers — something they never could do when they had Ziggy Ansah.

The PICK: montez sweat, miss. state, edge


9. Bills

Buffalo needs weapons for second year signal caller Josh Allen. Former Patriots’ tight ends coach Brian Daboll is the OC. I think he’d love to get this draft’s version of Gronk.

The PICK: t.j. Hockenson, iowa, TE


10. Broncos

If John Elway likes a QB here, he needs to take him. But I get this feeling that he is perfectly content to go with Flacco for this year (and beyond). The defense is aging a bit and giving new HC Vic Fangio a toy to play with on that side of the ball would be useful. But holes exist on the line as well — and Flacco is a statue in the pocket.

The PICK: andre dillard, oT, wash. st.


11. Bengals

This defense was atrocious last year so whatever moves can be made to fix it would be wise. Linebacker is a position of need.

The PICK: Devin White, LSU, ILB


12. Packers

No team filled their holes in free agency as well and as comprehensively as Green Bay. If Hockenson falls here, I like that pick for a team that could get younger at the position. If he’s off the board, I could see them adding to their linebacking corps or offensive line.

The PICK: jonah williams, Alabama, OT


13. Dolphins

Miami needs a quarterback in a bad way. Do they like any of them enough to pull the trigger here (or trade up)? The thing is that they still have so many other needs to fill that a QB here doesn’t fix everything.

The PICK: Dwayne haskins, ohio st., QB


14. Falcons

I’m very confident this pick is CB or defensive line. Fourteen might be a bit early for any of these corners, though. An edge guy really helps this defense that struggled badly for most of last season.

The PICK: brian burns, fsu, edge


15. Redskins

Alex Smith may never play football again, Colt McCoy is not a starter in the NFL, and Case Keenum is not any sort of a long-term solution. If Washington does not go QB here, I’d be stunned.

The PICK: drew lock, missouri, QB


16. Panthers

Carolina needs help on the offensive line. Despite re-signing tackle Daryl Williams, the team released left tackle Matt Kalil. Now, they could certainly go after a pass rusher — that’s another major need area. But after Cam Newton played the second half of last year hurt, it’s a priority to keep him upright and untouched.

The PICK: greg little, ole miss, OT


17. Giants

This seems like the perfect spot for the Giants to pull the trigger on a QB. Daniel Jones likely is not going top-10 so Gettleman can employ the Kansas City strategy here that he referred to earlier this offseason. Why Jones? Don’t overlook the Manning-David Cutcliffe connection. This path could be a way of softening the blow when they do choose to move on from Eli……in 2022.

The PICK: daniel jones, duke, QB


18. Vikings

Yes, the Vikings could use major upgrades at guard and tackle. And they very well may like the options that are available to them at 18. But if Ed Oliver is on the board here, his potential to be a disruptive force from the interior of the defensive line might be too much to pass up for defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer.

The PICK: ed oliver, houston, DT


19. Titans

The Marcus Mariota era in Music City might be coming to an end sooner rather than later. The QB has backed himself into a corner and if he doesn’t prove himself to be the guy who can elevate the Titans to the next level, look for HC Mike Vrabel to start eyeing a replacement. In all fairness, it’s not all Mariota’s fault, but the fact is the team is going to have to decide whether or not they want to invest significant money into the former Oregon Duck or move on to a cheaper option with upside. That said, you’ve got to give him as many pieces to play with as possible.

The PICK: marquise Brown, oklahoma, wr


20. Steelers

Pittsburgh needs to get back to building a defense that teams are afraid to play against. The secondary stinks and the linebacking crew is weak. Just about any addition on that side of the ball will be viewed as an upgrade.

The PICK: devin bush, michigan, ilB


21. Seahawks

This will be an interesting pick. Seattle made the playoffs last season, but they have more holes to fill than people may think — offensive line, interior defensive line, playmaker in the secondary, and a WR who could ultimately push Doug Baldwin down to the two and Tyler Lockett to the three. For good or for bad, John Schneider and Pete Carroll have a history of thinking outside of the box in the draft.

The PICK: clellin ferrell, clemson, DT


22. Ravens

It seems like every year Baltimore is searching for a big, fast, playmaking wideout. And every year they either go in a different direction or the selection doesn’t work out. Don’t count out an edge rusher here, though, either. After letting Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith go in free agency, the Ravens could look to replace them at 22. In this mock, I like Chauncey Gardner-Johnson — a versatile slot corner who can be a hybrid safety. His game seems to fit what the Ravens like on defense.

The PICK: chauncey gardner-johnson, florida, Cb/s


23. Texans

DeShaun Watson got murdered last year. He was sacked 60-something times — and that cannot continue if Houston expects to have long-term success with their QB. If they don’t fill the left tackle need, don’t expect that offense to fully flourish.

The PICK: cody ford, oklahoma, OT


24. **TRADE** Cardinals (from Raiders)

I’m sure Kliff Kingsbury could be talked into a playmaking WR here for his young QB, but if the board falls this way, they should be able to snag one at the top of the second round. Arizona has plenty of holes to fill.

The PICK: Greedy Williams, lsu, CB


25. Eagles

People have compared Josh Jacobs to Alvin Kamara in the sense that both split time in their respective backfields in college. If Jacobs turns out to be in the same boat as Kamara, this is a huge win — and fills a big need — for the Eagles.

The PICK: Josh Jacobs, alabama, rB


26. Colts

Adding an interior presence on the defensive line could be the smart play here for Chris Ballard. The Colts don’t have a ton of needs so adding to key positions will be the order of the day.

The PICK: Christian Wilkins, Clemson, DT


27. Raiders

The Raiders could use a playmaker on defense — edge rusher or shutdown corner comes to mind. Deandre Baker earned a reputation in the SEC as a CB that QBs didn’t want to throw on.

The PICK: Deandre Baker, Georgia, CB


28. Chargers

Offensive line play towards the end of 2018 and into the playoffs was not great for L.A. Their guards were getting manhandled. With Phil Rivers not getting any more mobile or younger, the Chargers need to invest n some help protecting him and creating space for Melvin Gordon.

The PICK: Chris Lindstrom, Boston Coll., G


29. Chiefs

If you’ve listened to my podcast, you already know how I feel about the Chiefs gutting their pass rush this offseason. Fine. Here’s a chance to replace what they got rid of.

The PICK: Jachai Polite, Florida, Edge


30. Packers

Sometimes the draft board just falls a certain way. In this situation, a guy I could have mocked to the Packers at 12  falls to them at 30.

The PICK: Noah Fant, Iowa, TE


31. Rams

Why sign and pay Ndamakong Such all that money when you can draft an interior defensive lineman and put him right next to Aaron Donald? Seems a wise way to go, but don’t rule out CB, edge, or even a running back.

The PICK: Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame, DT


32. Patriots

With a number of needs standing out — WR, edge, TE, OL — don’t be surprised if Bill Belichick goes after a space-eating defensive lineman to replace Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton. Remember he got Brown at this same spot 4 years ago.

The PICK: Dexter Lawrence, Clemson, DT


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 152 (“NFL Free Agency Frenzy and KylerMurray/Draft Buzz”) right here:

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Evaluating the Winners and Losers at the NBA Trade Deadline

Although nothing happened on the Anthony Davis-to-L.A. front, the NBA trade deadline last week was still exciting right up until the end. Which team made the most impactful move? Who’s the player who is capable of pushing a contender over the top? Who got better? Who got worse? What team is set up for the brightest future? And, of course, where do we go now with the Lakers, LeBron, and AD?

Best Long-Term Vision

Clippers. Everyone wants to talk about the Lakers being the ultimate free agent destination this summer — New York and Brooklyn even get mentions. But maybe the “other” L.A. team is where we ought to turn our attention. Do you realize what the Clippers did at the deadline? Jerry West and Larry Frank shipped out contracts to clear space; added multiple draft picks giving them two first rounders in 2020 and ’21 and two seconds in ’21 and ’23; plus by trading away Tobias Harris — who they weren’t keeping this summer anyway — they should bottom out nicely, allowing them to keep their first round pick this year (had it fallen in the lottery, it would have gone to Boston). Make the playoffs this year and get run in the first round? The Clips boldly said, “No thank you.” Now, you ready for this? Sit down. The Clippers have $59 million in space to sign TWO max free agents this summer. (You know Kawhi Leonard bought a house an hour out of L.A., right?) That’s not all. With the draft capital, Steve Balmer could package together a nice deal for another star player in a trade. Ummmm, hello Anthony Davis.

Best “Win Now” Mentality

Bucks. This is easy. While most are touting the Sixers and the big move Elton Brand made in bringing in Tobias Harris (as a rental mind you) and jettisoning former number-1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, I remind you that the Bucks are a top-2 team in the East and just added a 6-10 stretch forward who has playoff experience and can shoot the three (37%). The addition of Nikola Mirotic gives Milwaukee a third forward who is comfortable shooting behind the arc — he joins Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, who each shoot at a 38% clip from three. Mirotic was a also a key cog in the Pelicans rotation last year that got them into the second of the playoffs, despite losing DeMarcus Cousins. This move should really help spread the floor and open up even more lanes for Giannis to get to the bucket. Love this move. If I said the Bucks were the favorites in the East, I dare you to challenge me.

Worst “Win Now” Mentality

76ers. So I give Elton Brand credit for going for it. The problem is that Philly still isn’t any better than the other three teams in the East that they’re competing with for the top 4 spots. Plus, they still don’t play defense — who’s going to guard Kemba or Kyle Lowry or Eric Bledsoe or Kyrie in the playoffs? Oh, and we’re just supposed to assume Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris are going to re-sign? I’m not sold at all that even one will be back in 2019. Then what? The best outcome is that the Sixers get to the Finals and that’s enough to convince one of them to return and then they sign another free agent. But, shhhhhh — Jimmy isn’t re-signing in Philly.

Brightest Future

Mavericks. After last season, what if I said that by February the Mavs would get the best player in the 2018 draft and then fall into Kristaps Porzingis on his rookie deal? Seems nuts, but Dallas is in prime position to be fun and very competitive for at least the next few years — and much longer if you believe in Luka Doncic (and you should). Luka plus KP plus another star? Wow. Sign me up.

“Good for Them” Award

Kings. The Harrison Barnes deal gives this young group some veteran presence. And with the Clippers throwing the towel in this year and the Lakers flailing around in confusion, the Kings have an excellent shot at the playoffs. They have no reason to tank or try and get a better draft pick — they don’t own their’s this year. So win, Kings, win!! Go for it!

Potentially Bleakest Future

Raptors. Give Toronto credit. They have played the role of LeBron’s punching bag for years; they’ve been saddled with the “they’re soft” tag; and they’re sick of it. SO they’re doing something about it. Be aggressive and get Kawhi. Loved that move for the statement it made, and with him playing at an MVP-level, it’s great for the Raptors. The questions remains, however: will he stay beyond this year? I think we all kinda know the answer. So now we ask, what would MAKE him stay? Adding Marc Gasol — does that do it? I have my doubts. If it doesn’t keep Kawhi from bolting for, say, the West Coast, then I ask this: where are the Raptors in 2019?

The “We-Won’t-Be-Bullied” Award

Pelicans. Sometimes being a little aloof is a positive. Reports were that Tom Benson’s widow, who is the owner, couldn’t get past trading their star player a year and a half before his contract was up. Sometimes just taking a step back can give you perspective. The Pelicans hold the cards and will get a great deal this summer.

Team Killer

LeBron, Klutch Sports, Rich Paul. Enough said.

Newest Villian

Anthony Davis. Now, New Orleans hates their greatest player of all-time. His teammates can’t be thrilled with him. The league as a whole (other than the Lakers) was rooting hard for him to not get what he wanted. Who’s on AD’s side at the moment?

The “What-Are-We-Doing?” Award

Lakers and Magic Johnson. Swing and miss and look utterly foolish at the deadline. From all reports, the Pelicans were totally messing with Magic and Co. But, ok, so you got done over by the Pels. Fine. You need to have a plan B, right? Nikola Vucevic would have been nice for Lonzo Ball and a couple picks, huh? No? Nothing? Well, that’s not true. They pulled Reggie Bullock.


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 139 (“Evaluating the NBA Trade Deadline Moves”) right here:

 

 

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NBA All-Stars: Who’s Joining the Starters?

The NBA All-Star starters were announced last week, and, for me, there weren’t any real surprises. Would I have included LeBron James over big men like Anthony Davis or Nikola Jokic? No, but it’s LeBron so who’s losing their minds over that. Plus, now Davis is a little dinged up and I don’t blame anyone for preferring James over Jokic in an exhibition game for the fans. I was pleasantly surprised Kemba Walker is representing the East at the second guard spot alongside Kyrie Irving. I had Walker penciled in — and if you listened to my podcast from Friday last week (“NBA All-Stars & MVP Power Rankings”-Ep. 132) — then you know I was practically talking myself into Bradley Beal over Walker with Ben Simmons a very close third. But I stuck with Walker, and I’m glad the voters did, too.

Now, on to the tough part. Fourteen reserve spots remain that the NBA will announce January 31. Be reminded these 14 spots are divided up between the two conferences — seven for the East, seven for the West. Yet, the new “Captains Draft” format isn’t based on conferences so we won’t see an East v. West game like in years past. So why we’re still selecting viable all-stars based a parameter like “which conference you play in” seems laughable. Think about it. Multiple players out West will get left off the roster simply because they play in the West. Conversely, a few lucky souls in the East will be all-stars and can include that on their career resumes all because they play on an Eastern Conference team. The NBA is usually as progressive and ahead of the curve as any professional sports league we have in this country. C’mon Adam Silver, let’s fix this.

Anyway, here’s my reserve selections for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game:

WEST

I had Anthony Davis starting in my top 5. Listen, he’s an MVP candidate and it doesn’t matter that his team isn’t that good. AD is doing things we’ve never seen another player do — ever. His 29/13 stat line is impressive on its own, but then go ahead and add in that he also goes for 4 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal per game. That overall line has never been done in NBA history. Speaking of things that have never been done, Nikola Jokic is changing what we think a big man can do with his court vision. His 19/10/7 doesn’t totally jump off the page — although it should because the last center to do that was Wilt Chamberlain. But I urge you to pay more attention to those 7 assists and the fact that the Nuggets’ big man leads the NBA in passes per game. That’s crazy. You could argue no player impacts his team more than the Joker.

Let’s stick with the bigs and talk about the anchor of the league’s 4th best defense. Utah’s Rudy Gobert is the NBA’s best rim protector, but his impact on the Jazz offense cannot be discounted. Gobert leads the league in screen assists, leading to a league-best 14.1 points per game. (Full discloure, if you listened to my podcast on my all-star picks, I left Gobert out. That was dumb.)

If it’s guard play you like, then you’re in for a treat because the West has a bunch. Damian Lillard might be the most underrated and under appreciated player in the NBA. Playing way up in Portland doesn’t help his marketability, but Dame is nearly on Steph Curry’s level when it comes to range. Plus, he’s averaging 1.1 points per possession off the pick and roll. The team that swept the Blazers in last year’s playoffs has two players making it for me. Jrue Holliday has put up some really nice numbers in New Orleans — 21 points per game and 8 assists. What’s more impressive is that when he and Davis are both on the floor, the Pelicans have an efficiency rating equal to that of a 60-win team. On the other hand, when one leaves the court, the rating plummets to that of a sub-30 win team. Yikes.

The Sacramento Kings got off the that fast start, and while they’ve slowed down, De’Aaron Fox has not. Along with Buddy Hield, the two comprise one of the youngest and fastest backcourts in the league. Fox should be an All-Star. And if we’re talking about youth, let’s not forget about the shot of adrenaline that Luka Doncic has injected into the Mavericks team. Luka’s the leader of that team already — he’s only 19. His numbers bear out all-star consideration — 20/6/5. Only eight rookies have gone for 19/6/4 and all eight were on the team.

EAST

The case could easily have been made for either Ben Simmons or Bradley Beal to get the starting nod over Kemba Walker. I love Walker and he’s single-handedly responsible for keeping the Hornets in the playoff picture. But Simmons’s court vision is beyond reproach and he’s got the numbers to back it up — 17/9.5/8. If he could only shoot. Then there’s Beal who has completely taken over in D.C. — 31.1 points and 7 assists per game — after John Wall went out with injury.

As for a couple more guards, JJ Redick is putting up some really special numbers, considering he’s the fourth option in Philly. He’s attempting a career high in 3s per game and his 18.5 points per game is the most of his career. And if someone said the Nets would be pushing for the 5th seed in the East before the season started, I would have called for them to be institutionalized. Instead, here we are and De’Angelo Russell has been really good — 19.2 points and 6 assists per game. In January alone, Russell is averaging 23.1 points and his shooting percentages are up across the board from the field (+6%), from 3 (4%), and from the line (8%).

The three remaining spots go to Nikola VucevicBlake Griffin, and Pascal Siakam. No one has been more surprising this year than the Orlando big man. Vuc’s 20 and 12 have kept the Magic in the mix — although they seem to be fluttering now. “Point Blake” is being used in a way that completely maximizes what Griffin does best now at this stage of his career. His 26/5/5 might be the quietest 26/5/5 I’ve ever seen. And Toronto has such a strong bench and one of the most soundly put together teams in the NBA, you’ve got to look at rewarding somebody besides just Kawhi Leonard. Enter Siakam’s 15 points and 7 rebounds per game along with his 57% shooting from the field. He’s consistent and he’s reliable — and he’s their second most important player. Crazy? Maybe.

Honorable Mentions

There were a number of deserving players left out — as there always is. And if you play in the West, you really feel left out because the players grabbing the last few spots in the East are not as worthy as the first few guys in the West that have to stay home, such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Karl Towns, Danilo Gallinari. If not Gallinari, Tobias Harris and his 21 points a game could easily be making the trip to Charlotte as the Clippers representative. Also, it seems weird to leave a player from the Spurs out, especially after they’ve overachieved when everyone declared them dead and the dynasty done. Aldridge or DeMar DeRozan could certainly be All-Stars this year.

A name you want me to mention is one that I have little problem keeping off the All-Star roster. Well, there might be two — one is Jimmy Butler and I’m not making any apologies for this. You forfeit All-Star recognition when you publicly act like he’s acted and attempt to ruin one franchise and now seem to be working on another (not to mention your past history in Chicago). The other is Russell Westbrook. I love Russ and watching him the All-Star Game is fun — truth be told, I’d have little issue if he ended up on the roster. His true shooting percentage is so awful that it makes you question if he’s the most important player on that Thunder team. I know he’s practically averaging a triple-double, but how meaningful is that when of 291 players who’ve attempted 20 shots a game, Russ’s field goal percentage ranks him 273? He’s more entertaining, but Mike Conley might be more worthy of an All-Star selection this season.

There aren’t a lot of snubs in the more watered down East in my opinion, but Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton could make a case. The Bucks are a top-2 team in the conference and, usually, teams that good get multiple selections to the game. Their numbers balance out quite evenly, but Bledsoe’s defense might give him a slight edge over his teammate.


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 132 (“NBA All-Stars & MVP Power Rankings”) right here:

Listen to EPISODE 134 (“What’s Next for AD and Potential Suitors? And SB53 Storylines “) right here:

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