The Cleveland Cavaliers surprised everyone by winning the draft lottery for the third time in four years. They will be under intense pressure draft a player that can get the team into the playoffs and out of the gutter. Teams like Minnesota – tenth straight year with a lottery pick – and Sacramento – seventh straight year with a top seventh pick – need a good draft to help them escape the “basketball purgatory” they have been living in the past few seasons. While a team like the Philadelphia 76ers, which tied a NBA record with twenty-six straight loses, needs to add players just to field a team that resembles a NBA franchise. With a month left to go before draft night, a buzz of curiosity surrounds all those involved. This draft promises to have a lot of unexpected twists and turns, with no one knowing what exact to expect come June 26th. With that being said, here is my first mock draft for 2014.
With the Conference Finals already underway, the playoff picture has become clearer. Everyone is now placing their bets on who will make the Stanley Cup Finals, myself included. After an exciting first and second round of playoff hockey, I believe that the Blackhawks and the Rangers will be battling it out for hockey’s most precious prize. Here are a few reasons on why…
First we have the New York Rangers, who finished second in the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference. They have one of the best goalies in the NHL playoffs, Henrik Lundqvist, between the pipes. This postseason he has a 1.99 GAA and a .931 save percent. Those are good enough for second and tied for first among playoff goalies.The Rangers have also been stellar on special teams. During the Pittsburgh series, the Penguins were one for twenty on powerplays. Great defense and special teams are the recipe for any team trying to make a deep playoff run, but the Rangers also possess a very well balanced and potent offensive attack. The Rangers second line (Richards, St.Louis, and Hagelin) and third line (Brassard, Zuccarello, and Pouliot) have scored twenty-four and twenty-three points, respectively. That is great offensive production for a team playing such good defense. If they can shut down the Canadiens and P.K. Subban, who is playing like a man possessed, like they shut down the Penguins, then Rangers’ fans can start buying their finals tickets ASAP.
Then there are the Chicago Blackhawks. They finished third in the Central Divison in the Western Conference. If the Rangers have one of best goalies in the playoffs, then the Blawkhawks have the other. Corey Crawford has a .197 GAA and a .931 save percentage, which ranks first and tied for first among goalies still in the playoffs. But that’s not all – the Blackhawks lead the league with a +/- 6 and a 91.7 percent on the penalty kill in this years playoffs. The hawks are just as stingy as the Rangers when it comes to defense and special-teams. The Blackhawks are also great in close games, they have a 5-2 record in games decided by one goal. With grit, tough defense, and a potent offense attack lead by their first line and first defensive paring (46pts by Toews, Sharp, Hossa, Keith, and Seabrook) the Blackhawks have a chance to make their second straight trip to the Stanley Cup finals.
Both these teams excel in the facets of hockey that lead teams to the finals: Defense and Special Teams. They also have veteran players who have been there before. The Blackhawks are the reigning Stanley Cup champions and the Rangers have two players (Richards and St.Louis) that won with the Tampa Bay Lighting in 2003. With all these facts working for the Blackhawks and Rangers, how can you think they won’t make it to the Stanley Cup finals?
The 2014 NFL Draft is in the books, and the Bears – once again – had plenty of holes to fill. The Bears finished second in the NFC North with an 8-8 and just missed the playoffs for another year. With the twenty-fifth rated team defense last year and an aging roster, the Bears needed the draft to bring fresh legs and an influx of new talent to help propel the team back into the playoffs. Below are the teams picks along with my grades for each player.
Round 1, Pick 14: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech. The best zone corner in the draft. He fit a need for the team with the increasing age of Charles Tillman. A tough, physical corner, Fuller is a sure tackler and capable of playing the run. The corner position was very deep in this year’s draft and the prospects were far from a consensus. With Justin Gilbert off the board, I think this pick made a lot of sense. Fuller is not the flashiest corner, in fact, he may not even be the best corner in this draft. However, I like his ability in the zone, and his ball skills fit very well in the Bears defense. Grade: B+
Round 2, Pick 51: Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU. A big reach at this stop. Ferguson is a one-demential 1-technique with good upside, but he has very limited pass rushing skills. He is most effective when asked to stop the run. Ferguson could be a potential bust due to the spot he was taken at and the picks that were available after him (Ealy, Jean-Baptiste, Nix III). However, he does fill a position of need and with some coaching he could turn into a solid pro. Grade: C
Round 3, Pick 82: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State. Great pick. Sutton had a first round grade at the end of his junior year. Unfortunately, he gained too much weight his senior year, and that drastically altered his game. He is a pass-rushing 3-technique who is very disruptive at the line of scrimmage. He is very comparable to Aaron Donald, who was a first round pick. As long as Sutton can control his weight, he can be a protective player for the team. Grade: A+
Round 4, Pick 117: Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona. Good value pick at this spot in the draft. While not incredibly fast or quick, Carey is more of zone runningback. He is very similar to Ahmad Bradshaw, however he posseses slightly more upside than the Colts runningback. Great production in college, but he needs work on pass blocking which could be easily corrected. Grade A-
Round 4, Pick 131: Brock Vereen, S, Minnesota. A big sleeper pick with high upside. Vereen has great athleticism for the safety position and also possesses good vision and is great in space. He has the skills to be a great center fielder. Most of Vereen’s limitations come from his lack of measurables. Vereen is very light (199lbs) with short arms (30″) and small hands (8 1/4″). His size causes some concerns on his durability and his ability to match up with tight-ends. However, his upside is too high and he could possibly be the best draft pick in this Bears draft class. Grade A-
Round 6, Pick 183: David Fales, QB, San Jose State. Great West-Coast Quarterback with impressive accuracy in the short to intermediate routes. Fales has shown some struggles with the deep ball, has small measurables (6’1″, 212 lbs), and has below average athleticism. His style of play is very similiar to Josh McCown. Fales is a good developmental, back-up quaterback. Grade B+
Round 6, Pick 191: Pat O’Donnell, P, Miami. Huge measurables ( 6’4″, 225lbs), benched 225lbs 23 times, which is more than some 6 tight ends and 21 defensive lineman. O’Donnell possesses a big leg, with a career long punt of 76 yards. He was also a kick-off specialist in college. He must work on his directional kicking and pinning ability. O’Donnell is still a raw prospect, but he has all of the tools. Grade C+
Round 7, Pick 246: Charles Leno Jr., T, Boise State. Good pick to add organizational depth. Leno was a three year starter at Boise State. He has played both tackle spots and has the ability to play guard at the next level. While Leno is a great run blocker, he needs to work on his pass blocking and overall technique. He was a good late round pick with ability to make the roster as a back-up. Grade B-