Author Archives: mspivak88

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2013 NFL Mock Draft

1. Chiefs:  Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A & M

Before the scouting combine and the heart condition that forced Star Lotulelei to sit out and go for additional testing, I had him as the runaway top prospect and number 1 pick to KC.  Even though he has been cleared by doctors, it has still scared teams away enough to drop him down.  The Chiefs have a solid LT with Brandon Albert, so Joeckel would fit in as the RT for this year after releasing Eric Winston, but will be the starting LT either this year or next.  The Chiefs have been speaking to the Dolphins about trading Albert for a second round pick, who is playing on a franchise tender.  Joeckel will be the pick here.

2. Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon

In my opinion, the most dominant and disruptive defensive player available in this year’s draft, Jordan is an edge rusher at 6’6” 250 lbs who clocked a 4.60 40-time at the combine.  The Jaguars have a new coach who learned under Pete Carroll in Seattle that speed builds defenses (hence Bruce Irvin 15th overall last year).  Jordan can absolutely fly and is an impact player from day 1.

3. Raiders: Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida

Another dominant defensive player in this years draft, can play anywhere on the defensive line, 1 technique, 3 technique, and 5 technique.  Big body with speed, Floyd would fit in the Oakland defensive line immediately with the losses of Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly.  The Raiders need to generate a pass rush, and Floyd can fill that void for them.

4. Eagles: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

The Eagles cannot afford to NOT find an impact tackle in this draft, as their line is in shambles following the torn Achilles to Jason Peters, the release of Demetress Bell, and the loss of King Dunlap to San Diego.  There is talk that it is a coin-toss for Kansas City to take either Joeckel or Fisher, with many believing that Fisher has more upside, but either way one of the two will be here and the Eagles will sit back and take whichever falls to them, but I believe that the chips (no pun intended) will fall as such.

5. Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU

A freak athlete who is raw as he doesn’t have a lot of football experience on his body, he has drawn a lot of comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul, and if Ansah can match that productivity or increase on it, the Lions will be getting a true player.  He is high risk/high reward as Ansah does not have much football experience, but I think with proper coaching he can be a great player.

6. Browns: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

The first surprise of the draft drops right here!  As the draft nears, Eifert has continuously gained steam from many teams around the league, and I think this is the spot that looks good for him.  This may not be the team that takes him, but if its not Cleveland, it will be Atlanta trading up to snag him here.  Atlanta and Cleveland have a history of draft-day dealing (see: Julio Jones) and with Tony Gonzalez seemingly on his way out, Eifert would be an over-the-middle fearless Tight End for the next 15 years.  If not Atlanta, he would still be a great fit for Cleveland and give Weeden another target that he desperately needs.

7. Cardinals: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

This pick was a toss up between Lotulelei and Lane Johnson, but with many needs I believe Arizona takes the best player available, and I would have to assume that Lotulelei is higher on their big board than Johnson.  Lotulelei was the top prospect all season long coming into the draft until the medical snafu at the combine that caused him to be sent home for additional testing on his heart before being medically cleared.  His draft stock has not recovered and other players have leap-frogged him.  Lane Johnson caught steam because of his athleticism, but Lotulelei has to be the pick here.

8. Bills: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse

And the first quarterback off the board is Gen…wait what?  Ryan Nassib?  That’s right.  The 8th spot has been quarterbacks the past 2 years (2011 – Jake Locker, 2012 – Ryan Tannehill) and I believe the trend will continue here.  The Bills have a new head coach in Doug Marrone whose last job was manning the sidelines at Syracuse, and clearly the team is happy with him in this spot.  A competition in camp between Tavaris Jackson and Kevin Kolb also likely means that Nassib will be the starting quarterback for Buffalo in Week 1.

9. Jets: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU

Rex Ryan as of now is still the head coach of the New York Jets, and while a divorce appears imminent between the two, he still has some say on personnel and he gets his player, a speed rusher on the outside of the defense.  Before the combine, I would have flipped Mingo and Dion Jordan (and believe me if that were still the case I would be shooting off fireworks in celebration) but Mingo has fallen a bit based on questions in production his last season (4.5 sacks in the SEC) and the lack of production against top teams, there is a bust factor written all over Mingo, but he has the upside that the Jets appear to see.  He has earned comparisons to DeMarcus Ware and Bruce Irvin, and while I believe the latter is a fairer comparison, it would be a positive if Mingo can reach the productivity of either.

10. Titans: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

The Titans round out the top 10 grabbing a player that many appear to be drooling over, but if teams are as smart as me (and sometimes I tend to wonder if they are not) he will not be drafted any higher than this.  He will also not drop past this point at all because he is a number 1 corner in the league right now, but is not the sideline to sideline disruptive corner that many people believe he is.  He only registered 6 INTs in 3 years at Alabama, a number that is concerning to many.  He also does not bring that added return man element to a team, so he will have to prove his worth as a top corner.

11. Chargers: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

The man the Chargers covet falls to them as offensive line is one of the top needs for San Diego, and Lane Johnson fills a need for them.  Johnson is an athletic tackle that, in JUCO prior to Oklahoma, played Quarterback and Tight End.  The Chargers need to find protection for Philip Rivers because he got smacked around a bit last year, and don’t be surprised if the Chargers take a top guard in the second or third round and come out of this draft with a completely revamped offensive line.

12. Dolphins: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama

The Dolphins have a lot of holes to fill on the line and if they don’t pull off the proposed deal for Brandon Albert, I wouldn’t be shocked if they try to move up a spot or two to secure Lane Johnson to take over for the loss of Jake Long, but if they are stuck here and the board looks the way it does, Warmack has to be the pick.  Far and away the best guard available, I wouldn’t be shocked if he went as high as number 7 to Arizona.  His size, athleticism, and road-grader mentality is a perfect fit in Miami and he would represent an immediate upgrade over John Jerry on the line.

13. Jets: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

The player that will forever be synonymous with “the trade for Revis” has a lot to live up to, and the Jets especially have to make sure that they are not taking a Vernon Gholston with this pick.  They traded arguably the best player in franchise history and one of if not the best cornerback to ever play the game for essentially only this pick (if they let him walk as a free agent when his contract ran out they would have received a 3rd round pick anyway).  Tavon Austin is one of those freakish athletes that represent a high risk/high reward as they can be utilized all over the field and with a creative enough OC and a quarterback who is not completely useless (ummmm…).  Austin has drawn comparisons to Percy Harvin and I believe that is a very accurate comparison, and I would argue that Austin is more athletic than Harvin.  The Jets have many needs and creativity on offense would be one of them.  He would immediately help in the return game and would have the potential to make Sanchez look not completely hopeless in what is his last year as a New York Jet.  NOTE: The saddest organization in the sport could also consider Geno Smith at this spot.

14. Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

I am writing this pick in here because I believe this will be the spot for Richardson whether or not the Panthers remain here, but I am highlighting this as a potential trade spot.  Richardson is a gap rusher who is strong enough to rush through blockers and who has a motor that doesn’t stop.  If the Panthers sit here, they will take him, but I am highlighting a potential trade here with the 49ers who also covet Richardson, and if they pull that off, the rich get richer.

15. Saints: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

The best safety in the draft and potential dominant secondary player, the Saints have a lot of holes to fill and could go many different ways, and they will have their choice between Vaccaro and Xavier Rhodes, but in the end I believe the Texas product is who the Saints will select to be their Ed Reed.

16. Rams: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

The Rams are another team that could go in many directions here, and also don’t be surprised if another trade is in the works here or the previous pick, as the Cowboys and Jerry Jones love to move up and maneuver themselves to get the players they want.  If the Rams stay put here, I believe they will have their choice between many players, but two that stand out are Ogletree and Jonathan Cooper.  Ogletree has to be the pick as the Rams need some depth and added talent at MLB.  His DUI shouldn’t scare teams off too much, the kid is a player whose talent will outshine any red flags.

17. Steelers: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

When you meet the Georgia Bulldogs, you’re gonna feel the bulldogs bite!  We’re going Bulldog-Bulldog in this draft with Jones coming off the board next.  It seems like every year the Steelers sit back and take the players that fall in the draft because the teams up at the top don’t understand the draft.  Until just leading up to the combine, Jarvis Jones and Star Lotulelei were the top two players in the draft, and people had the Chiefs taking Jones first overall, but after some unimpressive workouts he has fallen.  Jones and the Steelers are a match made in heaven and the Steelers get their immediate replacement for James Harrison on their defense, and are better for it.

18. Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina

The Cowboys have a few needs that it can take care of in the first round, and as I previously stated, don’t be surprised if they are not picking here and move up to grab someone else, but if they do stay here, Cooper has to be their pick.  They need help up front protecting their new $100 million man Tony Romo (pause for chuckles).  Cooper is a dominant guard, many people slotting him ahead of Warmack, but I believe this is a good fit for both parties.

19. Giants: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State

The Giants have a few needs going into the draft and addressing RT is one of them.  Right now David Diehl is their guy, but with injury concerns and inconsistency, they need to address right tackle.  D.J. Fluker makes a lot of sense here as he is a road grader and a big body at the position, but he provides little upside.  Menelik Watson is one of those players that comes out of nowhere and is drafted high.  Watson is from England and was a relative unknown but had a great season and great workouts and I believe slots in as the RT from day 1 with the potential to eventually move over to LT.  There is not a lot of football on those knees, meaning he will be able to hold up for a long time.

20. Bears: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

This is the spot where Fluker goes and it is a good spot for him.  The Bears need the added protection for Jay Cutler and Fluker can provide that.  Big body on the right side of the line, he will be able to neutralize the good pass rushers in the NFC North, but his lack of athleticism can get the best of him at times.  Speed rushers are his worst nightmare, so because of this I see potential bust factor here.

21. Bengals: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International

It is no secret that the Bengals need help in their secondary, and while they really covet Kenny Vaccaro, he will be gone by this point.  There are three top safety prospects that deserve mention at the end of the first round: Cyrprien, Eric Reid, and Matt Elam, but I believe Cyprien represents the most upside of the bunch and could potentially be on par with Vaccaro.  Coming out of a smaller program, he hasn’t received the notoriety that he deserves, but he has the potential to give offenses a nightmare with his ability to play the pass as well as move up in the box and rush the quarterback and is a fierce tackler.

22. Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

I considered slotting Patterson to the Rams with their first pick in the first round, as they truly need a number 1 wide receiver.  They know much like me, though, that this draft is very deep with wide receivers and there is top WR talent reaching into the third round of the draft.  The Rams need a pass catcher and Patterson represents a top talent receiver who has the potential to be taken even in the top 10, but I believe that he will fall.

23. Vikings: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

Rhodes’ free fall ends here.  The Vikings have other more pressing needs to address, but corner is one of them and with the loss of Antoine Winfield, there is an opening on their defense.  Rhodes is one of the top CBs available who is tall and able to cover man to man and zone.  He should potentially go higher, but if he falls to the Vikings they have to pull the trigger and take him here.

24. Colts: Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State

The Colts let Dwight Freeney walk this offseason and with him they lost their best edge pass rusher.  Freeney wasn’t a typical pass rusher with his hand in the dirt in that he was far smaller than many of his other fellow defensive ends.  The Colts have an opening there and Carradine should slot in that opening nicely.  Before Carradine tore his ACL at FSU, he was considered one of the top pass rushers available and while that may scare some teams off, the Colts should do their due diligence and realize that he is healthy enough to come in and start.

25. Vikings: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

This would have been the Vikings’ first selection two picks ago, but with Rhodes on the board they had to take him knowing that Williams would still be here to take.  The Vikings need a defensive tackle to clog the middle of their line and Williams at 6’3” 315 lbs represents a big body in the middle and add to the Williams’ that the Vikings seem to be rotating at DT for the past decade.

26. Packers: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

This pick will be much discussed and I personally don’t think that Lacy may end up being the selection here, much like I don’t believe necessarily that the Packers will be selecting here.  If you have been following along, you will notice that Geno Smith is still available and while the Packers don’t represent a destination for him, this is the spot that teams will look to move up into from the second round if they want him.  Should the Packers hold on to this pick here, though, there is very little value for their selection here and will draft based on need.  What they truly need is a running back and Lacy is one of only about 3 backs in this draft that warrant top consideration.

 27. Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

The Texans don’t have many needs as they are a complete team, but wide receiver is a position that they could use additional help with in building for the future.  Andre Johnson is a legendary wide receiver, but they could use additional help on the other side of the field to strech the defenses for Matt Schaub.  Hopkins is a big speedy target who would give defenses nightmares opposite Johnson and Schaub would be very happy throwing the ball around.  Hopkins has a red flag as he was found to be one of the players responsible for trashing his hotel room at the Scouting Combine, but I believe that the team will do their homework and decide it is a non-issue in taking him.

28. Broncos: Bjoern Werner, DE/OLB, Florida State

The Broncos snafu with Elvis Dumervil really bit them in the behind, and they will pay the price for letting his agent influence the future of their organization in such a direct manner.  The Broncos need additional pass rushers to make up for the loss, and Werner represents that type of player.  At one point he was in the top 5 discussions but has fallen throughout the process (as I agree with) as I don’t see star written over Werner as some do.  He has a great jump off the ball but his strength and pass rush moves leave something to be desired, but he should fit in nicely in the Broncos front seven.

29. Patriots: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

The Patriots need help in the secondary as Aqib Talib signed a 1-year deal and Adrian Wilson is turning 34.  They don’t have many pressing needs as they are a team built to win now, but corner is a position they could use help with and Trufant represents an upgrade for the future.  He has family ties to the NFL and the position (see: Marcus and Isiah Trufant) and will be a great talent.

 30. Falcons: Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State

The Falcons are a team that is actually hurting in the secondary, specifically at cornerback with the losses of Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes.  Taylor is a great man-cover corner who has gained a lot of steam over the recent weeks, and could potentially go the previous pick to New England, but if that’s the case, Atlanta will take their pick between Taylor and Trufant.

31. 49ers: Datone Jones, DT/DE, UCLA

The 49ers don’t have many needs to fill, but they always love stocking up on the front seven, and Datone Jones is a talent that could have an immediate impact on their defense.  Justin Smith isn’t getting any younger and Jones could eventually replace him.

 32. Ravens: Eric Reid, S, LSU

For some reason, the popular selection is the Ravens shocking the world and taking Manti Te’o with the final selection of the first round on Thursday, and while I believe he would be a good fit on the Ravens defense, they have other pressing needs to take care of.  The loss of Ed Reed hurts them tremendously as he was their rock on their secondary, but they can replace him with another Reid (unfortunately not the same spelling).  Reid is a big body safety who can fly in the secondary and does not shy away from a big hit.  The Ravens defense in the wake of losing Reed and Ray Lewis should want another player who will come in and lay people out.

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: 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: Is Danica Patrick bad for women?

Danica Patrick before race (John Raoux/AP)

Danica Patrick before race (John Raoux/AP)

When I turned on the tv this morning for my morning dose of sports news I found that much of the conversation and reports were centered around the recent running of the Daytona 500 and myself personally not being a fan of NASCAR or racing in general, I found myself in a unique situation when reading about sports, that I am not very knowledgable about a particular sport.  Not to say that I don’t know nor have I ever heard of many of the participants in the sport, but that I don’t know much about the ins-and-outs of the sport, for example, I would not have known that the Daytona 500 had been ran this weekend had it not been reported.  Jimmie Johnson went on to win his second Daytona 500 in the 55th running of the race, but he was in the background of the story.  Instead, the focus solely fell on Danica Patrick, the most famous woman in racing and the focus of much of NASCAR’s attention outside of the racetracks and the die hard fans.  The reason for the attention on Danica was not because she came in second place and it was a hard-fought battle where her and Johnson were neck and neck up until the finish of the race.  No, the focus on her was that she is a woman, and she was in the lead for a little bit.  What?  The fact that at one point she was in front of everyone else, until she wasn’t?  Where are all the accolades and articles and reports about everyone else that took place in the race who was in the lead at one point during the race?  Other than Jimmie Johnson, there is none.

Danica Patrick is a ground-breaking image in the NASCAR scene, as she is a woman in a sport surrounded by men.  She is a woman competing on a male-dominated stage, and she is not awful.  That’s not to say that she’s the best, though.  Ask any true NASCAR fan what they think about Danica Patrick and their answer would be “She’s awful!”  And looking at her overall career, it is because in the grand scheme of things, she is.  Her career includes 0 wins, 8 top ten finishes, and 2 poles, encompassing both Sprint Cup and Nationwide series.  Danica finished 8th in this weekends Daytona 500 race, the highest finish for a woman in the history of the race, but does she deserve all of these accolades solely because she happens to be a woman?

I couldn’t help but think that Danica to NASCAR is similar to Rosa Parks to the Civil Rights movement, as she is the ground-breaking figure that encompasses history, and is a martyr for their cause.  Most would say to this “Danica a martyr? If that is what martyrdom is, sign me up!”  Yes, she does happen to be famous worldwide and is one of the most recognizable figures in her entire sport, but her fame and fortune does not represent her talent.  Is there any pride in doing what she does?  If I were an athlete that worked hard everyday to be one of the best people in my sport, I would not want fame at the expense of my talent.  Yes, William Hung gained worldwide fame on American Idol, but was it because he was a phenomenal world-class singer, or was it because people saw him as a target for other purposes?  You be the judge:

I think that Danica’s fame and success is detrimental to women in sports as a whole.  With the way women’s rights have grown over time, I would be hard-pressed to find many self-respecting women who would want to have fame and success solely because they are women, because they are outliers in a field of conformity.  I think that the fact that she is the most famous NASCAR driver outside of NASCAR circles is detrimental to the sport, and I feel that notoriety should be based on success.  Who is the better basketball player? LeBron or Scalabrine?

Tell us what you think about this by commenting or tweeting @theorangewedge and please, be our friend!

Late Night Snack: Let the Girls Play!

Caroline Pla (2013/Associated Press)

Caroline Pla (2013/Associated Press)

Another night aimlessly clicking around has brought my attention to another story in the sports world that truly concerns me.  Caroline Pla, an 11-year old girl from Doylestown, PA has played the last two years in a Catholic Youth Organization league, but has recently been informed that she will no longer be allowed to participate in the league.  According to the article, the league which is run by the Catholic Church has cited many reasons for their restriction of her participation in the league, including safety reasons, the fact that football is a boys sport, and inappropriate touching.

Caroline Pla running the ball (Pla Family/Associated Press)

Caroline Pla running the ball (Pla Family/Associated Press)

Pla and her family are fighting the ban, gathering signatures to attempt to reverse the ban, and many people and organizations appear to be siding with the Pla family and against the ruling of the Catholic Church, claiming that a lot of good can come from co-ed sports at the youth level.

After reading this story it truly concerns me how old-fashioned and close-minded people still are today in 2013.  This is the United States of America, where every man, woman, and child is created equal and therefore deserves the same rights as one another.  At the same time that girls such as Sam Gordon, the 9 year old running back from Utah who took the internet and NFL by storm this past season, and whose highlights included a viral video, a Wheaties box cover, and an appearance at the Super Bowl, girls like Caroline Pla are being banned from their leagues solely because they are girls.  Let the girls play!  Like most kids growing up, I played in an organized town baseball league and while it included mostly boys, there was one girl who will remain unnamed who was the best player in the league, batting third in the lineup, starting at shortstop, and she parlayed those skills into a D1 college scholarship.  While baseball happens to be a far less physical sport than football, we are talking about a youth league where the kids are kept safe and are taught to play fundamentally, not physically with the intent to injure.  The issue here remains a religious issue, though, but where does the CYO get the right to ban this girl?  She is not breaking any church laws, she is not speaking out negatively about the religion.  For all I know, she prays regularly and adheres to and respects her religion.

Caroline Pla is an example of an innocent person, and in this case, child, who is now facing martyrdom in the national media because of an issue that not only does not concern her, but one that she may not understand.  I say let the girls play, let them participate with the boys, let them smack them around, and let the kids be kids, because you are only young and innocent once, and it is almost criminal when adults can take that away from them.

For more information on the matter, click here.

What do you think about this situation, or other similar situations?  Tweet your thoughts to @theorangewedge or comment below and tell us what you think!  Just some late night food for thought.

Lunch: Combine Preview Day 2 (QB, RB, WR)

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For those of you who live and breathe the NFL Scouting Combine, the day you have been waiting for is here!  Today is the day that the game changers, the exciting prospects hit the turf to vie for the top spots in the NFL draft, and the Orange Wedge is back to break down all that you need to know about the skill position players on the offensive side of the ball.  These are the prom kings in high school, the ones that got the front page spreads in the newspapers, and the ones that you, the fans, will be most excited about come draft time.  Breaking down the top players available up to this point, as well as some sleeper picks:

Quarterbacks:

Geno Smith (2012/Associated Press)

Geno Smith (2012/Associated Press)

 

Geno Smith, QB West Virginia

In this years overall weak quarterback class, Geno Smith sits atop the mountain of mediocrity as he has separated himself from the pack of quarterback prospects, and currently represents not only the top QB, but most likely number 1 overall pick to the Chiefs (Donovan McNabb 2.0?)  Smith measured in at 6’2″ 218 lbs., who has a strong arm and good speed.  For most of his career at WVU, he played out of the shotgun and made good timing reads in his routes, but did not take snaps under center and make reads while dropping back, including the use of proper footwork.  He had a great 2012 season statistically, throwing for 4,205 yds. 42 TDs and 6 INTS. I believe he will run and work out well, and scouts will be salivating over his workout numbers, including the 40, shuttle, and even bench press, but I think that scouts should instead be focusing on his field workouts.  Unlike most top quarterbacks at the combine, he actually is throwing and while he is throwing to unfamiliar targets, it should still be noted how his reads and accuracy are.  Overall, I don’t think that anything should happen here that drops him down from the spot he is currently at.  Even if he should struggle, I believe he will make it up at his pro day and be the top quarterback off the board come April.

Matt Barkley, QB Southern California

Rewind to a year ago, and we are discussing Matt Barkley going first overall to the Indianapolis Colts.  Instead he returned to school for one final year, and did nothing to impress scouts, so much so that it would appear he has thrown himself out of the first round of the draft altogether.  Barkley will be working out at the combine, but will not be participating in throwing drills, instead waiting for his pro day to throw and try to impress the scouts.  He measured in at 6’2″ 227 lbs. and it should be noted that his hand size measured at 10 1/8″, big hands and something that scouts will take notice of for gripping the ball in wet conditions.  His 2012 season included 3,273 yds. 36 TD and 15 INTS, not a great ratio for a big-time QB coming out of a big-time college program.  He most likely won’t run well, not impressing scouts with his speed and workouts, and unfortunately that is all the scouts and fans will have to go on after this weekend until the USC pro day comes around.  I believe that Barkley not throwing today will hurt him and drop his draft spot.

Tyler Wilson, QB Arkansas

A quarterback who may be a bit more under the radar than the other two top prospects, Wilson up until this point looks to be vying for the spot of second QB taken in the draft.  The thrower who grew up in Razorback nation had a very successful season leading Arkansas to success this season.  That doesn’t mean, though, that he will stick around as the next best option off the board. He measured into Indy at 6’2″ 215 lbs. but will take a huge knock with his hand size, a measly 8 3/4″, much like this familiar figure:

His 2012 season was successful, throwing for 3,387 yds. 21 TDs and 13 INTs, not great numbers for a top QB.  His workouts will say a lot about his today, as he will not show great speed, but will display great quickness, a trait that represents his good pocket presence.  I believe that his choosing to throw can only help him as he will show decent accuracy, but strong arm strength, something that can’t be taught.  Overall though, I believe he will fall behind other QB’s after today.

Other Top Names:

  • Mike Glennon, QB NC State
  • Ryan Nassib, QB Syracuse

Under the Radar:

  • Zac Dysert, QB Miami (OH)
  • E.J. Manuel, QB Florida State
  • Tyler Bray, QB Tennessee

Running Backs:

This years running back class, while not top heavy with the can’t-miss players, it does happen to be a deep class, with most of the running backs slated in the end of the first round and on.  That can change drastically depending on how some of these players run and work out in Indy today, with one good 40 time possibly being the difference between a second round selection and a selection in the top of the first round (see: Chris Johnson 2008).  Many of these running backs are very high quality with a lot of NFL upside, but may be missing one or two qualities according to scouts who followed them all season long. Highlighting the running backs are:

Giovani Bernard (2012/Erin Hull/Daily Tar Heel)

Giovani Bernard (2012/Erin Hull/Daily Tar Heel)

Giovani Bernard, RB North Carolina

This running back from the ACC displays a ton of upside and could be the running back that everyone is talking about following this year’s scouting combine.  Built a lot like Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, Bernard measured in at the comine at 5’8″ 202 lbs. but is built like a racehorse.  He had a good 2012 season rushing for 1,228 yards and 12 TDs in a pass-heavy North Carolina offense, and I am predicting that Bernard will run the fastest 40 time for the running backs this year.  The knock against him (as I said there is a knock against most of these prospects) is the torn ACL he suffered in 2010 combined with his short, quick running style including multiple cuts and quick change of direction.  When teams ask him about this, all he needs to say is: “Exhibit A: Adrian Peterson.”  I believe Bernard will answer all the questions about him and more in Indy, running well, showing good quickness and burst, and even catching the ball well enough to warrant a top 20 pick in the first round of the draft.  He will be the talk of the backs this year.

Eddie Lacy, RB Alabama

It seems like Alabama running backs are a dime a dozen, with the National Champs churning them out like butter in the old country.  A huge work-horse type back, Lacy measured in at 5’11” 231 lbs., 10 lbs. up from his playing weight during the season.  This is a red flag to scouts, and teams will keep a close eye on how Lacy added this weight, whether he looks more muscular and stronger, or whether he still has yet to stop celebrating after the victory parade.  Either way, Lacy had a strong season for the Crimson Tide, running for 1,322 yards and 17 TDs.  The strengths of his game unfortunately will not show up at the combine, unless he runs a fast 40 time, as his style revolves around his ability to put his head and shoulders down and run you over.  Decent in the passing game, better blocker than receiver, I don’t see him taking the necessary step forward to sneak into first-round conversations.

Other Top Names:

  • Joseph Randle, RB Oklahoma State
  • Andre Ellington, RB Clemson

Under the Radar:

  • Montee Ball, RB Wisconsin
  • Jawan Jamison, RB Rutgers
  • Miguel Maysonet, RB Stony Brook

Wide Receivers:

I think that the talk of the draft this year will be the entire wide receiver class, as the pass-catchers will blow the combine away, and we will see a lot of names sneak into the first round or first round discussions after this weekend.  It is always debated whether it is worth taking a wide receiver early in the draft as their impact on a game solely depends on other pieces working around them, but I truly believe that this year’s class will be one of the top overall WR classes in recent memory.  Starting off:

Cordarrelle Patterson (2012/Associated Press)

Cordarrelle Patterson (2012/Associated Press)

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Tennessee

The undisputed top wide out throughout this season, I guarantee you nothing will change after this weekend, and Patterson will solidify his place as the top pass-catcher this year, more than likely going in the top 10, potentially top 5.  Patterson measured in at Indy at 6’2″ 216 lbs. with 9″ hands and put on 10 pounds of muscle since the season ended, a perfect body type for a number 1 wide receiver. He has great straight-line speed and separation ability and catches the ball with his hands, something that will be on display in the gauntlet which separates the men from the boys.  As a wide receiver alone he did not have a record setting year statistically, hauling inn 46 receptions for 775 yds. an 5 TDs.  He has done a lot of damage in the return game, though, as he was used in multiple facets in the game at Tennessee, being used at RB, PR, and KR.  He set the school record for all-purpose yards in a season with 1,858, and I believe will continue this damage at the next level.

Keenan Allen, WR California

Keenan Allen is a player that has been turning many heads throughout the season, as he displays great in-game speed and has given defenses in the Pac-12 headaches all season long.  He came into Indy measuring in at 6’2″ 206 lbs, and measured up with 10″ hands! Scouts will absolutely take notice of that and will make sure that he can pluck the ball away from his body, which shouldn’t be much of a problem with those hulk hands.  Allen will display good speed, running in the 4.5-4.6 range, but will be on display in the 3-cone drills demonstrating quickness and change of direction.  I believe, though, that this receiver class is very strong and Allen has a chance to slide, not because of his own abilities, but because of the workouts of other players in Indy.  Like I said, this class is crazy strong.

Other Top Names:

  • DeAndre Hopkins, WR Clemson
  • Quinton Patton, WR Louisiana Tech
  • Tavon Austin, WR West Virginia

*UPDATE* Not surprising, but Austin just blazed the field running a crazy fast time of 4.25!  The undersized receiver who caught passes this year from Geno Smith measured in petite at 5’8″ 174 lbs. but teams will quickly forget about that when they begin designing plays around this PF Flyer.  I knew Austin would have a strong combine so this time does not surprise me, but with him being a fringe first/second rounder coming into this weekend, I believe that this catapulted him into the end of the first round, and potentially the second receiver off the board.

Under the Radar:

  • Terrence Williams, WR Baylor
  • Da’Rick Rodgers, WR Tennessee Tech
  • Marquice Goodwin, WR Texas

*UPDATE* Showdown city as Goodwin decided to say to Tavon Austin so what with his time, as Goodwin scooted another 4.25 40 time.  Al Davis just contacted Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen from beyond the grave and said “Take this kid in the first round!”

Late Night Snack: The Free Fall of a Former First Round Pick

Robert Swift (2008/Getty Images)

Robert Swift (2008/Getty Images)

The other day I was perusing the internet looking at various stories that sparked my interest and one story really caught my attention, a story about just how far a former first round pick in the NBA draft truly has fallen.  Robert Swift, the 12th overall selection in the 2004 NBA draft by the (then) Seattle Supersonics has now fallen completely out of grace with not only basketball, but with life itself.  Drafted directly out of high school as a wide-eyed 18 year old, he had tremendous upside on the court, a legitimate 7’1″ player with a strong post game, his career looked to be taking off.

Robert Swift (2004/Getty Images)

Robert Swift (2004/Getty Images)

Fast forward to today where it has become news that Swift is out of basketball, having last played in 2011 for the Tokyo Apache in Japan, and is now living in his suburban Seattle home, which technically does not belong to him any longer.  The house he is living in now has been foreclosed upon  and is in shambles, with beer cans strewn across the lawn, a bullet hole through the front window, and cars with no hoods and expired plates.

In reading this story it has been reported that Swift collected around $11.5 million of salary, and as of now is broke and a squatter.  How is it possible for athletes to fall so far in society with such promising careers in front of them?  Maybe Swift spent too much on tattoos?  Either way, it is shocking that someone’s life can be derailed so dramatically and so quickly, and teams need to monitor the spending habits of these young players so situations like this cannot happen again.  What other athletes can you think about this happening with?

Comment or tweet @theorangewedge to let us know!  Just some late night food for thought.