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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7 Burning Questions Heading into the Divisional Round in the NFL Playoffs

  1. Can Dallas do enough, offensively, to keep up with the Rams? This isn’t a trick question. But they might not need to. Yes, the Rams are flashy and fun and when they get rolling, it’s a fast-paced brand of offense that few teams in the NFL can keep up with. But there’s always an antidote for everything. The Cowboys have it — they can run the ball, eat clock, keep Sean McVay’s offense standing on the sideline, and force the Rams into playing frantically with limited possessions. It’s not a matter of Dallas keeping up offensively — rather, it’s whether or not Dallas can impose their own offensive style of play onto this Rams team.
  2. What did the Rams learn from losing to Chicago and from watching the game film of the Dallas win over New Orleans earlier in the season? This is mostly rhetorical because I don’t really have an answer. The Bears and Cowboys play differently on defense, but the overall gameplan is the same — slow the game down, don’t let Todd Gurley run, force Jared Goff into being uncomfortable and rushed, and control the pace of the game. The Rams will need to get on the scoreboard early and turn the tables on Dallas — force the Cowboys into feeling like they need to press and throw the ball more than running it with Ezekiel Elliott. This game is a battle of who can establish their preferred style of play first.
  3. Is Cooper Kupp’s injury going to derail the Rams versus the Cowboys? Since Kupp went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Rams offense has not been the same. More specifically, Jared Goff has not been the same. Through 10 weeks with Kupp in the slot, Goff completed 70% of his passes for 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. After Kupp went down, Goff’s numbers slipped — 59% completion rate with 16 TDs and 8 INTs (those were worse until he threw 5 TDs and 0 INTs in the season’s final two games against the Cardinals and 49ers). In addition, Kupp’s replacement has not nearly been as reliable. When targeting Josh Reynolds, Goff is on target 52% of the time with 3 TDs and 4 INTs. Kupp is a big piece to this offense and serves as very reliable safety valve for Goff. If he’s pressured, it’s worth watching how Goff answers and where he tries to go with the ball.
  4. Would anyone be stunned if three road teams won again this weekend? The argument could be made in the AFC that the two best teams remaining in the playoffs are the 5th and 6th seeds. The Chargers are a 12-win team with a top 4 MVP candidate, who just got unlucky that they played in the same division as Kansas City. The Chargers spent the better part of the season in most experts’ top-5 power rankings. And the Colts have won 10 of their last 11 and look as complete a team that’s left standing. Those two teams, without question, could come away with road wins this weekend. In the NFC, the Cowboys are practically playing a home game in L.A. against the Rams. That’s three. The Eagles winning in New Orleans is a much tougher sell.
  5. What looks will the Chargers defense throw at Tom Brady? The Cover-3 scheme has not been a defense that has stymied Tom Brady very much in past years. Against the Cover-3, Brady ate up the Seahawks and Falcons in the Patriots’ last two Super Bowl victories and did the sam in last year’s AFC title game against the Jaguars. Gus Bradley will try and be creative — you’d think rushing four (led by Joey Boss and Melvin Ingram) and dropping seven into coverage would be the plan of attack. The key will be if those pass rushers can throw Brady off his timing. If not, he’ll probably pick apart the defense.
  6. Are we all guilty of completely overreacting to the Colts? The Colts are 10-1 in their last 11 games, including in that time two wins over the Texans and a shut out win over the Cowboys. After their 1-5 start, Indianapolis has more than figured things out. Since mid-October, the Colts are better than the Chiefs. And the Colts don’t have that one glaring weakness, opposed to the Chiefs and their abhorrent defense. No disrespect to the Chiefs because that offense is beyond explosive and their speed might eventually extend plays too long for the Colts defenders to stop them. These are two good teams. The Colts are better, though.
  7. What is stopping the Saints from totally and unequivocally bum-rushing the Eagles like they did when they met earlier this season? Nothing. That’s the answer. The Eagles have improved in the last month — more consistent play out of the QB position and the defense has been much better. But the Saints have few holes and the Eagles are not equipped to exploit them. This might not be very close.

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 127 (“Previewing the Divisional Round  of the NFL Playoffs”) right here:

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10 Biggest Questions Surrounding Wildcard Weekend in the NFL

  1. Can the Chargers fix the problems their defense encountered against the Ravens rushing attack when the two played three weeks ago? The stars are there in L.A. That’s not the question. Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Derwin James (and that secondary) are designed to disrupt the quarterback and make plays on the ball — they are not built to clog lanes and stop the run. Even if the Chargers know what they need to do to stop Lamar and the run game, the question becomes “do they have the personnel to actually do it?”.
  2. Is Phillip Rivers going to look more like the MVP candidate we all talked about for the first 15 weeks of the season or the guy we saw against the Ravens and Broncos the last two weeks? Melvin Gordon’s return should be helpful, and Rivers has played enough football over the course of his career to be able to make adjustments to a defense he saw just three weeks ago. But Baltimore’s defensive front embarrassed those pass blockers in Week 16.
  3. Who out-“ballsys” the other, Matt Nagy or Doug Pederson? Of course, we all watched in awe as Pederson went against the traditional grain in last year’s Super Bowl against the Patriots with his playcalling. Matt Nagy comes from the same Andy Reid tree and understands the importance of making bold decisions in this era of football. In a close game, I’d expect one (or maybe more one) decision to swing the outcome.
  4. Will Mitchell Trubisky be given the time he needs to pick apart the Eagles’ secondary? Philadelphia’s defense is predicated on its pass rush — and it has to be because that secondary has been through the ringer this season. Fletcher Cox, Tim Jurnigan, Derek Bennett, and Michael Bennett will have to make Mitchell Trubisky feel pressured and rushed. The Bears coaching staff has to understand if Trubisky isn’t given enough time to get the ball out, he can easily be forced into some big mistakes. However, if given time, the second-year QB should be able to move the ball down field.
  5. How big of an impact will Khalil Mack have going up against Lane Johnson and/Jason Peters? The versatile edge rusher is better than either of Philly’s two tackles, but Johnson and Peters only need to combine to outplay Mack on Sunday night. Bears’ DC Vic Fangio has moved Mack to the right, to the left, dropped him into coverage, and pretty much played him all over the field, and this has freed up other Bears’ defenders to make plays all year long. Mack doesn’t need a handful of sacks to have a meaningful impact on this game.
  6. Who do you trust more: Jason Garrett and Dad Prescott or Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson? Silly question, I know, but I had to ask it. This game might just be that simple.
  7. Can Seattle’s defense get off the field and limit Dallas’ T.O.P.? Seattle has a top-5 defense on stopping third-down conversions while the Dallas offense converted in those situations at over a 45% rate — top 10 in the NFL. Strength on strength. If Jason Garrett could have it his way, Dallas would grind this win out on the back of Ezekiel Elliott — and that’d be the smart way to go. But Seattle’s defense, you better believe, is going to ask Dak Prescott to make some big plays in the passing game or with his legs. Third down success rate will be a telling stat in the game.
  8. Is the Dallas defense good enough to stop the explosive plays from the Seahawks passing game? We talk about how the Seahawks have transformed their offense into a ground-and-pound attack on the ground, but yards on the ground do not necessarily translate into wins — red zone efficiency and chunks plays are two more predictive indicators of wins and losses. And it just so happens the Seahawks have a Super Bowl-winning QB, who can throw a magnificent deep ball, and has two exceptional weapons on the outside who can get open deep down the field.
  9. If not DeAndre Hopkins, then who? Ummm. I wish I had an answer here, but Houston doesn’t have much in the way of offensive weapons. You’d have to imagine Houston would like to establish the run game with Lamar Miller.
  10. Can the Texans generate an effective pass rush with just JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney? Disrupting Andrew Luck will be a key to Houston’s gameplan. And the Texans have the pass rushers, however of their 43 sacks only 18 have come from players not named Watt or Clowney. That’s about a sack a game. If Indy’s very much improved offensive line can limit Watt and Clowney, Houston might have a tough time getting to the QB.

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 123 (“The Keys to the Wild Card Games “) right here:

Listen to EPISODE 124 (“Ranking the NFL Playoff Teams, Picking Wild Card Weekend Winners, and Predicting the Eight Head Coaches to Get Hired”) right here:

 

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NFL Playoff Predictions

In the spirit of the holidays, I want to open up by saying thank you to everyone who’s been keeping up and reading with these weekly picks — you’ve been witness to three of the finest weeks I’ve ever had in picking games over the last 12 years. Twice I went undefeated and last week I was 14-2 straight up. For the season, I went 148-75 straight up picking winners and losers; and against the spread, I won us money — 110-104-10.

Why am I talking in the past tense, like it’s all over? Well, let’s face it, it is. Unless you’re a complete degenerate, you’re not risky your well-earned money on Week 17 games that will likely feature myriad back-ups and coaches changing their gameplans on the fly as other scores and results become clearer. For instance, the Bears will likely bench players mid-game and turn their focus to keeping guys healthy for Wildcard Weekend, if they look up at the scoreboard and see that the Rams are burying the 49ers. Same with the Chargers, if the Chiefs appear to have wrapped up their game against the Raiders.

So why would I try and pick these games? It’s plenty hard enough when normal factors are at play, let alone all these wild implications from games that are happening in real time and at the same time. What I’d rather spend a few minutes doing would be predicting who’s in and who’s out of the playoffs in each conference.

AFC

  1. Kansas City (12-4) — A win at home over the Raiders is all that stands in between Chiefs and home filed throughout the playoffs. Not leaving Arrowhead gives the Chiefs as good a shot at making to the Super Bowl with Andy Reid as they’ll ever have. This one’s easy.
  2. New England (11-5) — A win at Foxboro over the Jets would clinch a much needed bye for the Pats, who’ve looked older and more “un-Patriot” like than in over a decade. The players know how important that bye is.
  3. Houston (11-5) — Yes, the Texans have definitely come back down to earth after reeling off 9 straight wins after an 0-3 start. But a loss in Week 17 to the Jaguars means Houston will wind up the 6th seed and having to go on the road in order to reach the Super Bowl. Talk about limping into the postseason.
  4. Pittsburgh (9-6-1) — If you listen to my podcast, you know how much this kills me. But listen, this is typical 2018 Steelers: inconsistent, unpredictable, and in the end, still pretty good. Honestly, this has more to do with the Ravens and their Week 17 opponent — the Steelers just happen to be the beneficiaries, assuming they roll the Bengals like they should.
  5. Los Angeles (11-5) — The Chargers have nothing to play for as long as the Chiefs beat the Raiders. I imagine head coach Anthony Lynn has a quick hook for his starters once he’s told the score at Arrowhead.
  6. Indianapolis (10-6) — This is the underrated story of the year. Andrew Luck has returned to the form we grew accustomed to seeing when he was healthy, and the Colts have a really good offensive line and defense to match. They’ll dispatch Blaine Gabbert (or Marcus Mariota) to get in. And once they’re in, they’re dangerous.
  7. Baltimore (9-7) — Last year’s Week 17 ending was a nightmare for John Harbaugh’s team, as they gave up a final minute touchdown bomb from Andy Dalton, as the Bengals — with nothing to play for themselves — enabled the Buffalo Bills to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 1999. The scenario this year is quite similar: a “win-and-you’re-in” game against the Browns, who’ve been eliminated from playoff contention. Each year a team in a situation like this inexplicably lays an egg. You can be sure Baker Mayfield will not be giving this game up easily — the Browns have a chance to finish with a winning record a year after going 0-16. Don’t tell this team this game is meaningless for them.

NFC

  1. New Orleans (14-2) — The road the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through the Superdome. That’s already been determined.
  2. Los Angeles (12-4) — The 2-seed is their’s with a win over the 49ers. Sean McVay has a bit of a history of preferring to rest his players than play for playoff positioning — he rested Todd Gurley last week and rested everyone in Week 17 last season, which led to the Rams getting the 4-seed and not the 3. I think he knows the importance of earning the bye, though.
  3. Chicago (11-5) — Once the Rams have demonstrated that they want the 2-seed, it’d be logical to see Matt Nagy sit some starters, which would in turn give the Vikings the advantage and a great shot at securing the 6th seed — and a return trip to Soldier Field next weekend.
  4. Dallas (9-7) — The division has been locked up and Dallas is firmly entrenched in that 4-seed, no matter the result against the Giants.
  5. Seattle (10-6) — A loss could theoretically push Seattle down to the 6th seed. Fortunately for the Seahawks, they play the Cardinals, who you’d have to figure are in a rush for this season to come to an end.
  6. Minnesota (9-6-1) — I’m not picking Kirk Cousins to win a must-win game against the Bears. But considering the circumstances and what I mentioned above with the Rams, the bears probably let Cousins off the hook. If he can’t win then, we’ve got some major problems brewing in Minnesota.
  7. Philadelphia (9-7) — All the defending champs can do at this point is go out and try to win a game against the Redskins. Take care of their business and let the chips fall where they may. If the Bears decide they want to play all-out for a full 60 minutes, the Eagles will get in.

Thanks again to everyone for sticking around this year and humoring me by reading all my picks and predictions. It’s fun and I hope you found some levity in reading it. We’ll be back next week with predictions for Wildcard Weekend.


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 119 (“The Running Back Question, Wild Playoff Scenarios, and Top MVP Candidates “) right here:

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NFL Week 16 Picks

I’m going to keep my little intro brief this week. I have some advice here in Week 16. NFL games are hard enough to handicap in the middle of the season when you think you understand what every team is and all their strengths and weaknesses. Betting the last couple weeks, though — it’s almost impossible. There are a number of games this week where it comes down to which team is going to play hard — and that’s an extremely difficult thing to try and predict. For instance, Denver-Oakland will not be the matchup that we may have thought it would be if we looked ahead a few weeks ago. The Raiders have a roster full of veterans, who may not want to get hurt or have packed it in for the year, yet they have won two straight and will be home on Christmas Eve while the Broncos have just been eliminated from the playoff race, have to travel on the holiday, but are playing a bunch of young guys who may have something to prove to their coaches heading into the offseason. So who the heck do you pick??!!

Try and stay away from games like that — and there’s a bunch this week.

Last week, I went 9-7 straight up and 7-8-1 against the spread (ATS). For season, we’re looking at 134-73 straight up and 102-97-9 ATS. Let’s see what happens this week. Merry Christmas!

Santa Came!

Baltimore at Chargers (-4.5)

Baltimore runs the balls at 43. yards per attempt — and they run it more than any other team in the NFL. Conversely, the Chargers give up 4.3 yards per attempts to opponents on the ground. The Ravens will want to run all day long. The problem might be that the Chargers will play that “bend but don’t break” defense and give up yards to Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson; but at some point, they’re going to make Lamar throw it. And when he does, Joey Boss and Melvin Ingram and Derwin James will be coming for him. That too is too good to be beaten by this rookie, who hasn’t shown any remarkable ability to throw the ball. Chargers, 27-20

Kansas City at Seattle (+2.5)

Seattle’s going to run the ball and KC is going to get gashed. It’s almost best for Kansas City to just concede all those rushing yards and tighten up in the red zone and against any passing attack Russell Wilson comes at them with. Chunk plays will be the key in this one. The Chiefs and Pat Mahomes have mastered those, but don’t sleep on Seattle’s ability to make big plays happen out of the passing game. Seattle, 26-24

Cool Gifts. Thanks.

Houston at Philadelphia (-1)

Let me ask you something: Are you willing to bet against Nick Foles in a “do or die” December game in Doug Pederson’s offense? Philly’s pass rush will give Houston’s offensive line fits. Eagles, 24-20

Pittsburgh at New Orleans (-6)

So the Saints offense hasn’t looked right in a few weeks. If Drew Brees & Co. struggle against Pittsburgh’s defense, then maybe I’ll start to wonder if things are okay in the bayou. I don’t expect the Steelers to keep this close. And the Saints — at home — will not shoot themselves in the foot like New England did the previous week against Pittsburgh. Saints, 34-24

Socks and Underwear

Washington at Tennessee (-10)

It’s fitting this game is being played at 4:30 on Saturday — if either team makes the playoffs that early Saturday time slot is the perfect home for them on Wildcard Weekend. The Titans defense should get after Josh Johnson and it won’t likely take much more than 17 points to win this game. Titans, 24-10

Tampa Bay at Dallas (-7)

Dallas’s offense should get back to moving the ball effectively after a disastrous game in Indy a week ago. Meanwhile, the Bucs offense can certainly be explosive but you worry about the turnovers. Jameis Winston has appeared to have fixed that problem — throwing only 3 interceptions in the last 5 games after tossing 10 in the 4 games prior. The Cowboys defense might goad him into reverting back to bad, reckless Jameis. Cowboys, 27-16

Minnesota at Detroit (+5.5)

This is a tough game to handicap because we still are trying to decipher if what we saw last week from the Vikings offense is going to be trend moving forward or if it was simply a one game blip due to the change at OC. The Lions run defense has been greatly improved since the addition of Snacks Harrison; and this is a in-division road game, where the Vikings don’t always dominate. Vikings, 24-20

Giants (+9.5) at Indianapolis

I get it — Indy is playing well on all sides of the ball. Andrew is a borderline MVP candidate, Marlon Mack has shown promising flashes as a runner, Eric Ebron is a Pro Bowler, the offensive line looks completely fixed, and the defense is coming a shutout of Dallas. But the Giants can score and in the dome, I think Eli and Saquon will be able to generate some points to keep it a game. Colts, 31-24

Cincinnati at Cleveland (-7)

Baker v. Hue, Part Two!! Cincy’s defense is not good and the young Browns know that all they can do is keep winning if they want to have any shot at the postseason. Browns, 27-17

Buffalo (+13.5) at New England

Without Josh Gordon, one wonders how this Patriots offense will look. More 2-back sets; more Chris Hogan-Philip Dorsett-Cordarrelle Patterson; more 2-TE sets? Hey, Tom Brady’s still there and he has weapons. Also, should be fun to see the very mobile Josh Allen in his debut at Foxboro against a suspect Pats’ rush defense. Patriots, 30-20

Chicago at San Francisco (+4)

Yes, on paper the Bears are much better than the 49ers. But three things make me nervous: (1) Bears just won the division by beating longtime nemesis Aaron Rodgers (and they celebrated like they won the Super Bowl); (2) long travel week with a road game on the West Coast; and (3) under Kyle Shanahan, the Niners are 7-1 straight up and 6-2 against the spread in December games. Oh, and the Bears haven’t been all that impressive in road games this year — lost in Miami, blew one week 1 in Green Bay, lost at the Giants, and escaped Arizona and Detroit by the skin of their teeth. Bears, 23-20

Rams (-14) at Arizona

Yep, tell me all about the Rams’ struggles on offense and defense lately. Tell me Jared Goff is the second-to-last QB in efficiency rating over the last 3 weeks. Yes, Todd Gurley may not be right. I understand that Cooper Kupp is, has been, and will be out. Yep, yes, I know. I also know that the Cardinals have an abysmal offense and Josh Rosen lives to throw pick-6s. This is the ultimate “get right” game for the Rams on both sides of the ball. Rams, 31-10

Coal in the Stocking

Denver at Oakland (+2.5)

The Raiders’, presumably, final game in Oakland and it could be interesting — not the game so much, but rather the Raider fans in the Black Hole. Neither team wants to play this game on Christmas Eve so give me the team that doesn’t have to travel. Raiders, 23-20

Green Bay at Jets (+3)

Sounds like Aaron Rodgers will play and that pretty much all I need to hear. The Jets are feisty, but in a game with nothing riding on it, give me the better quarterback with the better weapons. Packers, 24-23

Jacksonville at Miami (-4.5)

You can’t convince me that the Jaguars are interested in playing hard in weeks 16 and 17. On the other hand, Miami is not mathematically out of the playoffs yet, plus they are a different team when playing at home. Dolphins, 24-13

Atlanta (-3.5) at Carolina

No Cam Newton. No real motivation for the Panthers to be competitive. Falcons, 24-12


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 116 (“Week 16 Preview & QBs as Christmas Movies”) right here:

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