Monthly Archives: February 2013

Dinner: Combine Wrap-Up…Who’s Hot, Who’s Not

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, the path to the NFL draft is officially upon us.

The scouting combine in Indianapolis that we here at The Orange Wedge have been covering every step of the combine, previewing who the top players and who to look out for as a potential surprise.  Now that the combine has come to a finish, the next steps are individual pro days and the draft itself.  The combine truly is the biggest test leading up to the draft and after this past weekend it is clear which players are on the rise and which players are on the fall heading towards April.

Players on the rise:

Tavon Austin's blazing 40 (Ben Liebenberg/AP)

Tavon Austin’s blazing 40 (Ben Liebenberg/AP)

Tavon Austin, WR West Virginia

Blazing speed, great hands, and a productive season have catapulted this diminutive wide out to potentially the top half of the first round of the draft.  Austin turned heads with his official 4.34 40 time and impressed the scouts with his ability to catch the ball away from his body.  Look for a rise much like Kendall Wright from Baylor who had a second or third round grade going into the combine and ended up as the 20th overall selection by the Tennessee Titans after a strong showing in the combine.  Teams are looking at Austin as a potential number 2 or slot receiver threat, and a dangerous option in the return game.  Look for his name to be called early on day 1.

Dion Jordan (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Dion Jordan (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Dion Jordan, DE/OLB Oregon

When people talk about tough, Dion Jordan’s name and face should come to mind.  The Oregon defensive end who turned heads in Indy showed great speed, running a 4.60 40, and athletic ability while standing up, something that he should get used to as he will most likely be playing rush linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme.  Prior to the draft Jordan looked like he was slotted in between picks 7 and 15 but now I believe he shot himself way up to pick #1 or #2 consideration (most likely second, though).  As far as his toughness goes, he did all of this with a shoulder injury that will force him to get surgery next week and will knock him out for 3-4 months.

Terron Armstead (AP)

Terron Armstead (AP)

Terron Armstead, OT Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Raise your hand if you have ever heard of Arkansas-Pine Bluff before this.  No seriously, I’ll wait.  I expect all arms to be down and in the locked position next to your sides because as Lebron James would say:

GET THAT S*** OUTTA HERE!

Armstead took the field by storm running a 4.71 40, an all time high for an offensive tackle and made what I believe will be the greatest jump, moving from fringe 5th round consideration all the way up to a solid 2nd round pick, potentially a first rounder if a team truly falls in love with his athletic ability.  He had a great senior bowl prior to this weekend and looks to be telling teams “Don’t be scared of the small school, heck where did Jerry Rice go to college?”  Exactly.  This kid’s a baller.

 

Players on the decline:

Star Lotulelei (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Star Lotulelei (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Star Lotulelei, DT Utah

You really have to feel bad for this kid here as this knock has nothing to do whatsoever with talent, athletic ability, or how he performed at the combine.  The night before the defensive line workouts Lotulelei was diagnosed with a serious heart condition that kept him out of working out at the combine and led to further testing.  This drops him to middle of the first round to possibly out completely depending on the results from his medical visit.  I am really hoping that the news is not terribly serious as he is a great talent and I would love to see him strap it up on Sundays and not have his career derailed because of medical reasons.

Damontre Moore (USA Today)

Damontre Moore (USA Today)

Damontre Moore, OLB Texas A&M

Damontre Moore all season long looked to be and played at the level of a top OLB , another rush linebacker from A&M much in the mold of a Von Miller, and his senior bowl performance only added to his acclaim.  His performance in Indy, though, left a lot to be desired and he looks to have dropped himself to the middle or end of the first round, running his way out of a potential $3 million clocking in at 4.95 and only posting 12 reps on the bench.  He really needs to impress at his pro day and believe me teams will be taking notice.  With a strong pro day he can push his stock back up towards the top, but he has clearly been surpassed by other players who put in strong showings in Indy.

Manti Te'o (USA Today)

Manti Te’o (USA Today)

Manti Te’o

You didn’t think we would be talking combine and not talking about Te’o did you?  Wheres Katie Couric when you need her?  Te’o was the talk of the weekend after his Catfish incident and teams put a target on his back in the hope that he would not only interview well but would also test well.  Prior to his on field workouts, it was reported that teams were elated with his interviews and that he really created a positive buzz, but all of that was erased when he laced it up and hit the track.  Te’o as an inside linebacker needed to run below or at a 4.7 4o time in order to keep his arrow pointing upwards, but his 4.85 stinker dropped him solidly out of the first round, and with the media hype surrounding him, teams may be wary of spending even a second round pick on him, instead looking for a player with equal or greater talent that won’t  be surrounded by the media circus.  It is obvious then, that the Jets will be selecting Te’o.  Could you imagine the Tebow/Te’o show?  I can just picture it now, one won’t get laid cause of Jesus, while the other made it up the whole time.  Classic!  Seriously, though, I could see  Te’o sliding into the 3rd round unless he shows tremendous improvement at his pro day.

All of this could change in the coming weeks with the pro days, and the draft still is a while away.  Think of any other players you think are rising or falling?  Comment or send us a tweet @theorangewedge and let us know your thoughts!

Lunch: So Long, Mr. Smith

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

On March 12th, the 49ers and Chiefs will agree to a trade that will send Alex Smith to Kansas City in exchange for two picks, one of which being the 34th overall selection in April’s draft. Smith now joins a list of quarterbacks to go from the Bay Area to KC, and a slightly longer list of quarterbacks who were drafted number one overall and then later traded.

What do we make of Smith’s career thus far? He certainly didn’t match the hype or potential that comes with a first overall selection, but as it goes with most top picks, he went to a 49ers team in a transitional mode. The problem is that San Fran stayed in that transitional mode for the better part of the next decade. Smith-led teams finished 4-12, 7-9, 5-11, 7-9, 8-8, and 6-10 from 2005—10. During this time, Smith’s teams never made the playoffs, and Smith never threw for 20 touchdowns in a season. That being said, for each one of those years, Smith has had a different Offensive Coordinator.

Smith’s complete resume reeks of mediocrity, but the 2011 season is the reason KC pulled the trigger. San Fran finished 13-3 and Smith had a QB rating 90.3.

90.3

Can Alex Smith do any better than 90.3? In 2012 his rating was a whopping 104.1, but I’m not counting it because he didn’t finish the season. If your stats are so good you can brag about them, why were you replaced??

Alex Smith depends on a solid run game to be a productive quarterback. In his career, Smith has only 12 game-winning drives, which puts him on the all-time ranks amongst eh likes of Jim Zorn and Neil Lomax. Again, these are not knocks on Smith. Or are they?

The numbers show one thing: Alex Smith is average. He’s not great. He can a game, but no with it all on his shoulders. And the thing is, that might be exactly what Andy Reid is looking for.

Andy Reid, for his lack of Lombardis to his name, won a lot of regular season games. And he did so with a balanced attack that hinged on accurate passing. This style may be suited to Smith’s game, and Reid will love his experience starting with a new franchise. Smith flourished when the Niners were running the ball. In 2012, the Niners were ranked 4th, and the Chiefs were ranked 5th.

Nobody has been looking for a quarterback for longer than the Kansas City Chiefs. In fact, the last time a quarterback was drafted by the Chiefs and started was a man by the name of Todd Blackledge. The Chiefs have used free agency to find their QB for over two decades and Smith looks to be their best prospect yet.

Even if Smith doesn’t set the world on fire, the Chiefs are poised to at the very least improve on last season’s 2-14 finish. With a solid run game and a tenacious defense, Andy Reid should have no problem righting the ship. The Chiefs also play in the AFC North, which is one Peyton Manning away from being the worst division in football right now. Did I mention they also have the first overall pick?

This is just the first step in a number of moves in what should be a long tenure for Andy Reid in KC. Even if Smith does go the way of, Elvis Grbac, Warren Moon, Trent Green, Dave Krieg, and now Matt Cassel, the Chiefs are trying, and as of right now they are on the rise.

Tomorrow, we look at how this deal impacts the 49ers and the future of Colin Kaepernick.

Breakfast: The Rafa Benitez rant we’ve been waiting for!

Over the past several seasons at Chelsea, the club has seen its fair share of high profile managerial scrutiny. Between the likes of the menacing “Jabba the Hut” stature of Avram Grant, and the underachievement of current Spurs manager, Andre Villas-Boas, the Blues are no stranger to weariness at the helm.

However, what happened yesterday seems to have raised the club’s normal standard for crazy.

Following a 2-0 FA Cup victory against former EPL side Middlesbrough, current manager Rafa Benitez sat in front of the media in what was supposed to be your typical game analysis and agenda for the near future. Instead, to the media’s delight, the Spaniard decided to go OFF on his club’s supporters AND his billionaire boss, Roman Abramovich (full tirade below).

Well, that’s one way to rally the troops. Just call out your fan base and announce you’re giving up at season’s end. Brilliant strategy, Rafa. I’m sure you haven’t given any more ammunition to your side’s supporters. They will definitely stop making banners and singing songs about your ultimate demise and departure from Stamford Bridge.

Regardless, I guess some sympathy may be warranted in this situation. The poor guy has to show up to matches, no matter home or away, and listen to songs about him being sacked and wanting Di Matteo back in charge.

However, this is nothing new for the London squad. Since his purchase of the club in the 03/04 season, Abramovich has been the most trigger-happy owner in England’s top flight hiring and firing 6 different managers in only 9 seasons.

As always, two sides of rumors have begun swirling following the press conference. On one end it has been noted that Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, will sack Benitez earlier than expected after his comments. Other speculations assume it is back to business and that Rafa will hold onto his managerial responsibilities until the end of the season.

This bumpy road for the Spanish manager just will not flatten out.

Check back for further updates on this story. @TheOrangeWedge has you covered.

Breakfast: Putting Perspective on Pacers-Warriors Pushing Party

First things First: Last night was not Malice at the Palace 2.0. This needs to be said. But in case in you missed it, there was a scrum in the 4th quarter of last night’s Pacers-Warriors contest. The Pacers won, 107-98, but not after an incident that began when Roy Hibbert got tangled up with David Lee. Check it:

The whole thing could have ended at the :10 mark. David Lee gives Hibbert the most unfriendly chest bump I’ve ever seen, talks his trash and then turns his back. It’s over. Defused.

We at TheOrangeWedge are huge fans of David Lee. Not just because he started as a Knick, but the way he plays the game. As for Hibbert, I doubt you’ll find a nicer 7 footer than Roy Hibbert. Check out this article, or this article. The dude is exactly who you want as the cornerstone for your franchise.

And yet, the Pacers can’t fill their seats. But we’ll get to that later. Back to the video.

If anyone deserves to get suspended here (besides Hibbert), why not Steph Curry? Curry throws himself at Hibbert not once, but twice! And both times he gets tossed by Hibby. By that time, Curry’s sheer momentum has carried the pile towards the first row and photographers, escalating the situation and probably the main cause for the suspensions. Sitting courtside is the single best way to view a professional sport, and the NBA has to protect that asset or they will be at risk of losing that privilege. Just ask NASCAR.

Why these two teams? It wasn’t unlikely when you break it down. Since Frank Vogel’s arrival in Indiana his has instilled a very blue-collar mentality to the locker room. The Pacers play tough, they play physical, and they play unselfish. Even with the 2nd best record in the East, they play like an underdog every night.

The Pacers methodology and mindset is exactly what Mark Jackson has been attempting to do in Oakland. Jackson took the role of Warriors head coach before last season, had a shortened training camp, and struggled with injuries; all while management made significant roster moves. But he has transformed the Warriors into his mold: athletic, scrappy, and unselfish. Much like the point guard who trails only John Stockton and Jason Kidd in the All-Time assists totals.

A quick backtrack: last night’s scuffle is terrible for the Pacers, who are already ranked 26th in league attendance. Why would the team that only trails the Heat in the East be struggling to fill seats? I have my points, and they are much in line with that of Colin Cowherd. But this isn’t about that issue. The point is, this incident won’t stop people from going, but it certainly won’t have a positive impact. People that haven’t been going will finger-point and call this another reason they won’t attend games. But this wasn’t violence. It was hunger. Hunger from two teams that are built to win, but are destined to fall short of their goals.

Neither of these teams have a legitimate shot at the title. They are playoff teams, they will be in the discussion, but deep down, they know they won’t be able to reach the Finals. So what if the Pacers are 2-0 against the Heat this year? So what if the Warriors beat the Spurs in OT last week?

Both of these teams know they are good, but not good enough to win a series. As we hit March and teams pick up the intensity, more players are going to get technical, and more skirmishes like this may break out. It’s unfortunate this had to happen in Indiana of all places, but the NBA is too competitive for emotions not to boil over at this point. I believe, however, that last nights, tussle was a very good sign of things to come.

 

Brace yourselves, this Playoffs is going to be one of the best in recent memory.

Dinner: Barcelona in free fall?

For the first time since the end of the 08/09 season, Barcelona has lost 2 straight games.

After dropping the first leg of the Champions League knockout stage to AC Milan, the Catalan squad were booted from the Copa Del Rey by league rivals, Real Madrid.

Early chances saw a Messi opportunity flash in front of the Madrid goal and further development of slight chances here and there, but its looking more and more like their precision tight passing can only do so much for them. While the game’s possession was clearly in favor of Barcelona, this statistic won’t cut it anymore for the Spanish side. Lacking a certain attacking mindset, the players and coaching staff seem to be content passing the ball around the 18-yard box and hoping to occasionally thread the needle towards net.

We’ve seen this act before. Barca’s similar effort against Milan last week showed similar results. Not to say that either Milan or Madrid “parked the bus” on either occasion; an understanding of the Barcelona blueprint for success has simply been examined and countered.

Missing signs are currently being hung up all over Barcelona for their former golden child, Lionel Messi (it could happen). Silenced in these past 2 matches, Messi has had little opportunity to create those 1 on 1 chances he tends to prefer. Without being able to run at defenders, he is limited to possessing the ball far from net and giving it up to others. Not ideal, but Barca have succeeded on this tactic before. But even those quick give and go’s that we as football fans have all come to enjoy watching have been minimized thanks to several stellar defensive performances. Hard to think Messi will be missing in action for much longer, but at this rate I wouldn’t rule anything out.

Here’s the credit you’re waiting for, not to worry.

Real Madrid’s counter-attack was unstoppable (take notes, Fergie). Any chance they had, Di Maria and Ronaldo could be seen sprinting up the wings with the help of a perfectly placed ball on behalf of either Ozil or Alonso. Quite the opposite from the Barcelona mentality. It was this sort of counter-attack and pace that sealed the W for Madrid.

Add the highlights of Ronaldo’s clinical finishing, Di Maria’s crossing-up of Puyol and Varane’s towering header and it would seem there’s a new sheriff in Spain.

(click image to see Di Maria shatter Puyol’s ankles)

Too bad they’re 16 points behind 1st in La Liga. Regardless, Real Madrid seemed to have found their form at just the right time. They will meet EPL leaders, Manchester United, in the 2nd leg of the Champions League knockout stage next Tuesday, March 5th.

As for Barcelona, things have certainly looked better. The once kings of Europe have never looked smaller and need to regroup quick if they are to reestablish their reign as the world’s most feared club.

Somewhere in Germany, Pep Guardiola is having a light chuckle to himself as he sips from a gold-plated, sangria-filled chalice.

Lunch: Combine Preview Day 4 (CB, S)

The whirlwind of the NFL Scouting Combine is almost completed, with one final day of workouts still in store before teams and players go their separate ways in preparation for individual pro days and ultimately the NFL Draft, which is exactly two months away to the day. Today the true speedsters of the combine hit the turf to show off their skills to the NFL brass, hoping to display speed, quickness, and a strong vertical leap. The cornerbacks and safeties will be put to the test today, and I am previewing top players and sleeper candidates to look out for today, as well as in the draft. Starting with the corners:

Cornerbacks:

Dee Milliner returns an interception. (AP photo by LM Otero)

Dee Milliner returns an interception. (AP photo by LM Otero)

Dee Milliner, CB Alabama

How strange to see another member of the National Champion Crimson Tide at the combine, with 10 members of Nick Saban’s squad demonstrating their skills. In my opinion, Dee Milliner is the best of the bunch and still managed to blend in with the wide array of talent around him and is truly a number 1 corner at the next level. Measuring in at 6’0″ 201 lbs. I believe that Milliner has the size and speed to be an impact corner at the next level and his 40 time could catapult him solidly into the top 10 in the draft. Most people believe him to run in the 4.46-4.5 range, but I would not be surprised to see him run in the 4.36-4.40 and should he do this, he should expect to see a rise in his stock. His best trait on the field is his toughness, able to wrap up on tackles and does not shy away from contact. Teams will be aware, though, that he is participating in the combine injured with a torn labrum and will have surgery to rectify it in March. I still believe that he will have a good showing in Indy and solidify his place at the top of the cornerback chart.

Xavier Rhodes, CB Florida State

Rhodes had a strong season at Florida State this season, but has still seen a drop in his stock from last season, and he now sits as a fringe first round player/second rounder. He is a big physical corner measuring in at 6’1″ 210 lbs., a bit down from his playing weight during the season. This hopefully should translate to added speed which could only help him as I don’t believe that he will run well at the combine, running in the 4.5-4.6 range. If he can run in the 4.4 range, he will strongly be in first round consideration, as he is very strong in press coverage and is physical enough to force wide receivers to the outside. It will be interesting to see how he runs, as his time will be a direct reflection on his draft selection. Still, regardless of the 4.4-4.5 time, he is an intriguing prospect and should he drop, a team will get a good bargain on him.

Other Top Names:

  •  Jonathan Banks, CB Mississippi State
  • Desmond Trufant, CB Washington

Under the Radar:

  • Robert Alford, CB Southeastern Louisiana
  • Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB Connecticut
  • Tyrann Mathieu, CB Louisiana State

Safeties:

This years safety class looks to be strong up top with good depth and I think that a lot of unknown talent will step up and make themselves known after today. There is currently one player who looks like a solid first round pick up to this point, but I believe we could see 2 more after today that warrant themselves with a first round selection, regardless of whether they get picked there, I think that there is good talent at the top of the safety class. Starting off:

Kenny Vaccaro (Photo: US Presswire)

Kenny Vaccaro (Photo: US Presswire)

Kenny Vaccaro, SS Texas

Vaccaro is this years top safety who as of now could see a top-10 selection, but more than likely top-15, but I believe his workouts will translate well and he will demonstrate the necessary skill et to be a successful safety at the next level. He measured in well at 6’0″ 214 lbs. and has long arms, so his 15 reps on the bench will not be a knock against him. He had a strong final season at Texas racking up 92 tackles and shows that he is unafraid of contact. He looks to be athletic, so we should expect a good vertical leap and a good broad jump, and if he can run in the 4.5-4.6 range it should demonstrate that he can be a great centerfielder at the next level. Look for Vaccaro to work out very well.

Eric Reid, FS Louisiana State

A tackling machine who looks like a tremendous NFL-ready safety, Reid looks to show his talents to the NFL brass, and I believe he will impress in Indy, running and working out well enough to possibly slide into the first round. Reid measured in at 6’1″ 213 lbs. and racked up 91 tackles. He is comfortable playing the run and the pass, dropping back or playing up in the box and rushing the quarterback. He needs to run in the 4.4-4.5 range to solidify a first round grade, which I believe he will do. Look out for Reid and Vaccaro to be a toss up come draft time, with Reid possibly jumping ahead as the top safety.

Other Top Names:

  • John Cyprien, FS Florida International
  • Matt Elam, FS Florida

Under the Radar:

  • T.J. McDonald, FS USC
  • Phillip Thomas, SS Fresno St.

Check back in the next day or two for a follow-up of how the combine fared for many of these players, such as who helped their stock and who dropped. Send us a tweet @theorangewedge to give your thoughts!

Breakfast: We’re Having Trout

fattrout

If you can hear the rumblings, it’s not because of Mike Trout’s tummy.

We stand just 33 days away from Opening Day, still plenty of time to evaluate before you do any serious betting or fantasy drafting. But if you’re sitting on the first overall pick, Does 30 pounds make a difference?

You’ve probably seen them already. Tweets about late-night calzones, or stories about Trout eating ½ dozen burgers at a time at his fave spot, Jim’s Lunch. Mike Trout added somewhere around 30 pounds in the offseason, showing up to Spring Training with his gut peeking out from under his shirt.

Ok I made that last part up.

Let’s clear the air on this one. Mike Trout is still only 20 years old. It is not uncommon for a 20 year old male to eat his weight in cheeseburgers (Insider Info), especially at a legendary burger shack like Jim’s Lunch. Seriously, the place is a classic. Take the drive.

Let’s not forget that Trout has also been measured at nine percent body fat. The kid is in ridiculous shape to begin with, and if he wants a little stability to his frame I don’t think anyone would complain. You know who was a freak talent at 240 pounds with that kind of speed? Bo Jackson. Trout doesn’t “Go like Bo”, but he did have 49 steals last year, a huge factor in his outstanding run production.

He also caught a 550 pound grouper in the offseason. So you DEFINITELY don’t want to draft him.

No Gold Glove Necessary (Twitter @JessTara)

Truth is, Trout’s still a growing boy, and these changes are going to happen. He said he put on the weight because he was going to lose it in the spring anyway. But 30 pounds? 30 pounds in 30 days seems crazy even if you were working with Shaun T.

Trout was nearly the MVP last year, and now he’s Josh Hamilton with him in the lineup. It also means he’ll be moving to left field, where his weight matters even less. He’s going to be fine, he’s going to smack 30 homers, and this still won’t be the last article about his weight.

Draft Mike Trout. Eat a cheeseburger. Enjoy your life.