Archive for November, 2010

>By Will Robinson

As my beloved Denver Broncos are venturing further down the spiral into the NFL laughingstock division, Josh McDaniels was caught up in what some called “Spygate II,” or my preference, “McSpygate,” when McDaniels’ video director and friend Steve Scarnecchia taped a portion of the 49ers walkthrough in London before their game on October 31.
 
McDaniels stated that he never looked at the tape, fired Scarnecchia, and apologized publically and privately to the 49ers; however, since McDaniels did not formally report the infraction the NFL, he and Scarnecchia were both fined $50,000 by the NFL. Even though McDaniels apparently did not order the taping and did not look at the tape, this stacks on to the questionable actions that have occurred since his appointment as head coach.
 
Just off the top of my head, here are a few moves McDaniels was a part of:
· The trading of Jay Cutler (Owner Pat Bowlen asked for a trade after he was unable to reach Cutler)
· The trading of Brandon Marshall
· The drafting of Knowshon Moreno over Brian Orakpo
· The trading of a 2010 first round draft pick to select Alphonso Smith in the 2009 second round then traded him after one year for a player who was selected in the 2009 seventh round.
· Trading up and down in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, eventually drafting WR Demaryius Thomas and QB Tim Tebow, skipping players in positions of need such as S Earl Thomas, or a superior player such as WR Dez Bryant. McDaniels, who needed to add quality players and depth to the defense, failed to select a defensive player until the fifth round.
· The injury of Elvis Dumervil (ok this one wasn’t his fault at all, but I miss the hell out of Dume this year)
· The trading of Peyton Hillis and two draft picks for BRADY QUINN! Probably his worst deal yet.
· Signing Jarvis Green to a multiyear deal, only to cut him a few months after.
· McSpygate
 
Needless to say, Josh McD has not always made the correct calls regarding his personnel. There are only two moves I can think that I really liked: signing Brandon Lloyd and trading J.J. Arrington for the heavy hitting Joe Mays. While the positive results have not been on the field (started 6-0, 5-16 since), I like McDaniels determination to do things his way and to change the culture of the locker room. I wish his stubbornness prevented some of his decisions (ostensibly firing Mike Nolan), and that he had a crafty personnel man, who was not a part of the organization before, as general manager (Atlanta’s hiring of Thomas Dimitroff, for example) as opposed to Brian Xanders. Xanders was assistant general manager under Mike Shanahan, a man who is known for making questionable player decisions (just look at some of the draft selections, particular defensive players, he made after Elway), has shown he possesses this quality.
 
The bright side about McDaniels is that he is adept at calling offensive plays and he is only 34 years old. Growing pains were expected, and anyone who thought before this season thought the Broncos were a competitor and were not in a rebuilding phase had illusions of grandeur. I fully expected Denver to be 6-10 this year, and right now, they are on pace for four wins this year. What I do not want is Denver to make a late run in the season; earning a record they have no business achieving.
 
 
Watching the Broncos games this year, most of them have had a common theme: a quick start, slow finish, and horrendous defense. They jumped out to quick leads against San Diego and St. Louis, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion (blowout/comeback falling short). I’m scared whenever Demaryius Thomas is in the game, because it appears that every game he’s in, he sustains an injury. The defense cannot rush the passer to save their lives with Dumervil out for the season. The only two teams I think the Broncos could beat are Arizona and Carolina. That is how bad they, specifically their defense, look. I will endure these last five games, but I absolutely cannot wait until this season is over. The pain that comes with watching this Broncos squad week to week is the worst in recent memory. This is the worst Broncos team I have ever watched.
 
So then, what is next for Joshy McD and co.? Bowlen has already come out and stated that McDaniels’ job is safe until next season, and will not be fired after this one. This could be because either A) Bowlen truly believes in McDaniels or B) Bowlen does not want to pay two coaches who don’t coach for his team. Either way, McDaniels will be around for another offseason. I hope that he and Bowlen realize that Xanders is not up for the job, and they go out and hire a more experienced individual until McDaniels knows what he is doing selecting players. In addition, the organization needs a better system to evaluate defensive players. This has been a constant weakness since the Shanahan era, and the franchise needs to be able to select a defensive player and not scuttle their tenure with the team a year later.
 
I know some Broncos fans are vocal about not wanting another under year under McDaniels, and I can understand that, but two years is no enough time to turn a team around. Yes, the offense could have been fine if they never explored in obtaining Matt Cassel and alienating Cutler, but McDaniels got the guys he thought could run his system the best. Also, firing McDaniels would almost certainly doom the prospects of Tebow on the Broncos. Not everyone was quite sold on Tebow, even though there were some positives about him, but no one thought he would be drafted in the first round ahead of Jimmy Clausen.
 
McDaniels needs to look at himself and try to improve of where he is doing wrong, even though he may not want to take the blame. The head coach is the head of a football team. Despite allegedly not being involved in the taping incident, he should have done more than throwing his guy under the bus. He still has quite a bit growing up as a coach, but I still have faith that he can be a great one. Rome wasn’t built in a day, fellas.

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>By Evan Ream
 
4:28 P.M.
On a Sunday.
Evan Ream: Ben Olsen to be named the head coach of D.C. United………..NICE!
Russell Jordan: No Shave November is now mandatory for D.C. United players.

This is the first of many offseason moves that I want to talk about. I know that I said that I was going to do a mock draft recap last Wednesday, so I’m sorry to disappoint our readers (once again, thanks Mom!), but let me explain. I started typing up an article on Wednesday, putting out a possible lineup for Portland with the players that they had. At forward, I had Arturo Alvarez and at center mid, I had Dax McCarty. I then proceeded to check the plethora of tweets that had occurred since I typed out the lineup, only to discover that both McCarty and Alvarez had been traded to other teams. I didn’t know if the wheeling and dealing was over (it still may not be) so I decided to wait for things to quiet down a bit before I collected my thoughts and transcribed them. Here are my thoughts on the significant moves that have happened since the offseason started (in no particular order):
 
Ben Olsen named Head Coach of D.C. United
D.C. United President Kevin Payne claims that he interviewed a “half dozen candidates” for the coaching job in which a more experienced candidate was expected to be hired. Olsen, just 33 years of age, was ruled out of the head coaching job just a few months ago by Payne, saying that (and I’m paraphrasing) Olsen was not experienced enough for the job and that he would one day be a good head coach, but it wasn’t his time yet. Apparently, Kevin Payne then realized that owner Will Chang doesn’t have the funds at this time to hire a big name coach AND D.C. still owes Curt Onalfo $300,000 this year and next year. After putting all of this into consideration, D.C. decided that the most fiscally responsible choice would be Olsen. What does this mean for D.C. as a club though?
 
Olsen has always been a fan favorite. Though he has limited coaching experience, and is now the youngest coach in league history, there is reason to believe that he can succeed. Olsen is a natural leader both on and off the field and has the pedigree of playing in the league for 12 years. Both young players and veterans will likely listen to Olsen who obviously knows how the league and D.C. works. Olsen may not be the best coach in terms of tactics, but neither did Jason Kreis four years ago when he became head coach of Real Salt Lake. All Kreis has done since then is lead RSL to three playoff berths, one MLS Cup, and becoming the first MLS team to win a CONCACAF Champions’ League group. Olsen clearly has an eye for talent (he was apparently the driving force behind the Dax McCarty trade, which I will talk about next). At the very least, D.C. can be no worse next year. They are not a complete team yet, but if they sign a few impact players such as a goal scoring forward, they could compete once again with Olsen at the helm. I like this move.
 
D.C. United trades Rodney Wallace and a Fourth Round Draft Pick to the Portland Timbers for Dax McCarty and allocation money

D.C. got a steal here. Rodney Wallace is a good player, but D.C. has so many left sided options that he is clearly expendable. Last year, D.C. had terrible central midfield play (Kurt Morsink is not the answer), in recording just 22 points in league play. Dax McCarty is one of MLS’ best central midfielders. A fringe USMNT player, McCarty is just 23 years old and still improving. McCarty will add much needed bite to the D.C. midfield. Despite his relatively small stature (actually very similar to Ben Olsen’s), McCarty is a great ball winner and a great distributer. With McCarty, D.C.’s midfield looks very strong entering next year with Clyde Simms, Chris Pontius, Andy Najar, Santino Quaranta, and the underperforming Branko Boskovic: all at least decent options to play. I think McCarty will flourish in this environment; he was clearly underappreciated before while in Dallas.
 
Real Salt Lake trade a Second Round Draft Pick to the Portland Timbers for Arturo Alvarez
This is actually my favorite move of the offseason so far. I have always wanted to see what Alvarez could do when surrounded by better players. I don’t think he really fit well at San Jose who were more workman-like, and that just isn’t Alvarez. Alvarez always needed a team that plays possession oriented soccer and takes risks in the final third and Salt Lake needed another midfielder/forward. Next year will be the year where Arturo finally realizes his full potential. With RSL’s style of play, I fully expect him to score at least 10 goals next season. That is how much I like this move.
 
Toronto FC trades their First Round Draft Pick (8th overall) to Vancouver Whitecaps FC for Nathan Sturgis

Toronto, this is why your fan base hates you. You trade away a comparable player (Sam Cronin) for absolutely nothing and then you give away your FIRST pick in the draft to get pretty much the same player back. Toronto have a history of dumb moves like this. I guess it’s a good move for them, but it really looks dumb after their move earlier this summer. If Toronto don’t make the playoffs in year five of their existence, they could really alienate a lot of their fans (especially if the Whitecaps do), though that is what they deserve for not signing any good, veteran, central defenders that were on the market perhaps after the World Cup. I’m talking about defenders that may or may not have played for a CONCACAF team, are around 31 years old and from Wisconsin. Toronto may in fact be the worst Canadian team next year, but I digress. I guess I like this move. I really don’t know.
 
Colorado Rapids trade an international roster spot for Sanna Nyassi
Sanna Nyassi > Wells Thompson, so yes, I like this move. The MLS Cup Champions got better on a day that they were supposed to get worse. I can’t wait for next year’s Rocky Mountain Cup.
 
Finally, I would just like to look at the two expansion team’s rosters. They both got a lot of criticism for trading away certain players, but I think we should reserve judgment until we see what kind of players they draft and international players they sign.
 
Portland Timbers:
Eric Brunner
Steve Cronin
Bright Dike
Jordan Graye
Jeremy Hall
David Horst
Eddie Johnson
Peter Lowry
Adam Moffat
Ryan Pore
Rodney Wallace
 
There are some solid players in here. They probably have more solid starters than Vancouver, but they are still missing a lot of players. Brunner, Cronin, Lowry, Moffat, and Wallace are all good starters who should play from day one, but the others are fringe players who still have to prove it. They have been talking a lot about the players they are going to sign so we must wait for that.
 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC:
Joe Cannon
Jay Nolly
Jay DeMerit
Wes Knight
Jonathan Leathers
Philippe Davies
Atiba Harris
Shea Salinas
John Thorrington
 
Jay DeMerit is the best player on either of these teams by far. Joe Cannon is the second best. Vancouver may not have too many players, but the ones they do have are all pretty good. Nolly is a solid backup keeper. Leathers can be a starting outside back in MLS, while Atiba Harris can play pretty much anywhere and be a decent player. John Thorrington is the one player that they got that convinced me that they are going to be winning now. At 31 years old, an often injured player isn’t the type you select unless you are going to try to win this season. Thorrington is a valuable and skillful player who could push Vancouver into the playoffs.
 
As of now, I like Vancouver’s roster slightly more, but once again, we must reserve judgment until their full rosters come out. So far the offseason has been filled with many exciting moves, here’s hoping for a few more. See you guys next week.

>By Russell Jordan

So the MLS Cup Champion was decided last Sunday, and apparently Dallas decided they didn’t need a trophy in their case when they subbed off Brek Shea with the game deadlocked at 1-1. But hey, it wasn’t all bad for Dallas, at least they didn’t blow the game on something stupid and heart breaking like an own goal… Oh, wait. I can’t imagine what it’s like to score an own goal to lose a championship, but I do share George John’s pain in having two first names. Nonetheless, I decided to create a top 5 list. So here it is:
Top Five Worst Ways to Lose a Championship/BIG Game
 
5. Comeback: To be up a significant amount and then let it slip away because you were already thinking about spraying your boys with champagne and getting that signing bonus you always wanted. The 2004 Yankees know something about this, but they still were paid.
 
4. Blowout: From the first tick of the clock, your team has NO BUSINESS being out there with the other squad. At halftime, you know it’s over, but still your team drags themselves out there only to be humiliated even more as the other team celebrates their victory long before the game is over. The 1992 Bills own this honor.
 
3. Out Foxed: This one is a heartbreaker. This when the opponent beats you by stealing home in the bottom of the ninth, or a trick play that throws your whole team to one end of the field while the guy with the ball jogs into the end zone un touched. The 2007 Oklahoma Sooners have felt this pain.
 
2. Bad Call: This is enough to drive a player, coach, and fan, nuts. The refs steal something from your team that it has worked so hard for. Weather it’s a mystery call on your guys, or a blatant miss call on the other team, the bad call can ruin YEARS of hard work. The 2002 Kings fell victim to this in their seven game series with the Lakers.
 
1. Blunder: Sorry, George John, but this is by far the worst way to lose a championship. Your team fights so hard, and is so close, but one player throws it all away with a mistake that costs his team victory. Bill Buckner is an expert on this topic, as is the aforementioned George John.
 
In NFL news, Michael Vick continued his dominance on and off the football field. The Eagles officially took over first in the NFC East with a close win over the Giants, and Vick still holds his large lead over dogs with a total count of 64 dogs killed, yet still not one dog has managed to kill Vick.
 
Richard Seymour was ejected for giving Ben Roethlisberger a powerful palm strike to the face on Sunday. Now Ben knows how it feels to have a big man put his hands where you don’t want them. But, he had the last laugh as the Steelers violated the Raiders 35-3.
 
Jason Garrett is now 2-0 (editor’s note: written before the Cowboys lost to the Saints, 30-27) as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, the only problem now is WHY DIDN’T THEY FIRE WADE SOONER???
 
The 49ers were shutout 21-0 by Josh Freeman and the Bucs, but I’m sure Mike Singletary has a very sane way of showing his displeasure with the team… rumor is the whole coaching staff with be without pants during this weeks practice.
 
Finally, the Patriots squeaked one out against the Colts last week, winning 31-28 with Payton Manning throwing an interception in field goal range with under a minute left. I think PMan needs more practice with the kids from the United Way.
 
In US Soccer news, 17-year-old striker Juan Agudelo scored a game winning goal last week for the USMNT against South Africa. Agudelo is being compared to other young players with lots of hype around them like Freddy Adu a few years ago. Honestly, I can see the similarities; the only difference being Juan Agudelo is a good soccer player.
 
Heading to the NBA now, Blake Griffin is emerging as the lead candidate in the Rookie of the Year vote as he continues to dominate, especially with his 44pt 17reb game last week, however rookie John Wall leads all rookies in Dancing For An Hour During Introductions.
 
Things aren’t going as planned for the Miami Heat, LeBron and Wade haven’t gelled yet, and Chris Bosh is playing… well like a Bosh.
 
A few quick notes on the MLS Expansion draft.
Best Pick: Portland – Dax McCarty, then he was traded to DC United. Congrats Evan, teams win with gingers.
 
Worst Pick: Portland – Jonathan Bornstein, Bornstein has confirmed he is leaving MLS to play in Mexico, making the obvious question. Portland, are you stupid?
 
Surprise Pick: Portland – Robbie Findley, Findley was rumored to leave MLS, but his agent was recently quoted as saying his “MLS days aren’t over yet”… if only his USMNT days were over.
 
Big Winner: DC United, they got DAXDAXDAXDAXDAXDAXDAXDAX! (Close second SJ for getting rid of Arturo Alvarez)
 
Big Loser: Dax McCarty, headed to the worst team in the league (Close second Jimmy Conrad for remaining a “Sporter”)
 
Best Name of a Draftee: DAXDAXDAXDAXDAXDAXDAX
 
Best Ginger Drafted: DAXDAXDAXDAXDAXDAXDAXDAX
 
 
NFL MVP Watch:
1. Drew Brees
2. Clay Matthews (would love to see a D player get it)
3. Michael Vick
 
NFL ROY Watch:
1. Sam Bradford
2. Ndomakong Suh
3. Dez Bryant
 
NBA MVP Watch:
1. Kobe Bryant
2. Kevin Durant
3. Blake Griffin
 
NBA ROY Watch:
1. Blake Griffin
2. Blake Griffin
3. Blake Griffin
 
My Thanksgiving thoughts: There are tons of things to be thankful for. Our freedoms, the troops overseas, family, friends, etc., but I’m gonna name some stuff that doesn’t get a lot of love on Thanksgiving.
 
The Internet
Satellite TV
Clay Matthews’ hair
Toilet Paper
Our Black President
Keanu Reeves movies
The TV show “The League”
That time Vince Carter dunked over the 7-foot guy
Ellis Lankster’s first post-game press conference
 
And remember kids, the pen is mightier than the sword, but Pooh spelled backwards is Hoop.

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By: Nick Gallaudet

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is notorious for being Bengie-Molina-fast in making changes. Steroids and replay are perfect examples of Selig’s inactivity, so why is he so eager to change the playoffs? If you haven’t heard, Selig said playoff expansion is something he wants to get done “as fast as we can.” My question is: “why?” Baseball has been taking a lot of criticism recently regarding the length of the playoffs. The Division and Championship Series are being juggled to allow for optimal TV coverage, but the result is unnecessary off days and excruciatingly long breaks between series. The World Series routinely ends in November now, and that’s not a good thing for a warm weather game. I love baseball, and even I, someone who considers the baseball playoffs the greatest time of the year, am upset with the way it is being run. I hate the unnecessary off days, unbearable waits between series, and the announcers (the last one isn’t really Selig’s fault). I’m not against change, after all, I did write an article in favor of replay, but this expansion cannot happen.

The proposed expansion to at least ten teams (five in each league) would create a big problem. Selig mentioned that there could be the addition of another wild card team, and that the wild card teams would face off against each other in a one or three game playoff to join the Division winners in the real tournament. This is absurd. The bye works in football, because it allows teams to heal, but baseball is the last sport in which a bye is beneficial. Baseball is a game of repetition. You play every day, you’re not meant to have long breaks between games, and you shouldn’t, especially when the championship is on the line. Baseball is about rhythm and timing and long breaks like that throw both of those things off for both pitchers and hitters. During the season, pitchers have very strict routines between starts, and when you start messing those patterns up, the result is noticeably worse for most of them. The perceived benefit of winning your Division would, in my opinion, really be a disadvantage. Aside from the time off for the Division winners, the two team playoff is a silly idea. The play-in game for the NCAA basketball tournament is widely disregarded, and not truly considered a part of the tournament, and I’m afraid this will be perceived similarly. This series will be seen as a novelty, and not really part of the playoffs.

Expanding the playoffs by one team in each league is a silly idea, and the only fair way to increase participation in the postseason is by adding more than one team to each league. That in itself creates a problem, though. Baseball is the last major American sport where you have to earn your playoff berth. With only eight of the 30 teams making the postseason, baseball has the lowest percentage of teams playing in the postseason. Football has 32 teams, 12 of which make the playoffs, and basketball has 30 teams, 16 of which make the playoffs. MLB teams have to earn their spot in the playoffs; something that I think is under appreciated. Rarely do teams sneak into the baseball playoffs with poor records, unlike the NFL and NBA where there are routinely teams hovering around the .500 mark making the playoffs. This lends meaning to the regular baseball season and adds honor to the title of playoff team. I think expanding the playoffs is a terrible idea and will really cheapen the baseball playoff experience.

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Current Year’s Record

Dylan: 86-58

Evan: 85-59

Nick: 88-56

Will: 81-63

  NE at DET NO at DAL CIN at NYJ GB at ATL PIT at BUF CAR at CLE JAX at NYG MIN at WAS
Dylan NE DAL NYJ ATL PIT CLE NYG MIN
Evan NE DAL NYJ GB PIT CLE NYG WAS
Nick NE NO NYJ ATL PIT CLE NYG MIN
Will NE NO NYJ GB PIT CAR NYG MIN
  TEN at HOU KC at SEA MIA at OAK STL at DEN PHI at CHI TB at BAL SD at IND SF at ARI
Dylan HOU SEA OAK DEN CHI TB IND SF
Evan HOU KC OAK DEN PHI BAL IND SF
Nick HOU SEA MIA DEN CHI BAL IND ARI
Will TEN KC OAK DEN PHI BAL IND SF

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By Dylan Davis

 

This Saturday, fellow Sack Lunch writer Will Robinson and I will travel to Berkeley, Calif. to take in the Cal football game vs. Washington (yes, this will produce the first non-soccer game report in TSL history.) Before the season when I was deciding which Cal home game looked the most appealing, a few jumped out at me right away. The last three home games of the season were visits from Oregon, Stanford, and Washington. It’s almost impossible to get tickets for The Big Game, so I crossed that off the list immediately. That brought it down to a choice between Oregon and Washington. That decision isn’t even close in hindsight: Oregon is the number 1 ranked team in the nation while Washington has struggled to a 4-6 record, but you know what they say about hindsight, and I didn’t want to miss a chance to see a potential future NFL legend when Jake Locker came to town with his Huskies.

 

jake-lockerWhen the season started, many were touting Jake Locker as the probable number one overall pick in the 2011 draft. He had the arm strength and mobility scouts dream of, and his teams had gotten steadily better since he had arrived on campus. Now that the teams talent level was starting to catch up to that of Locker’s, many pundits believed he would finally be able to show off his true talents. The big QB was on the Heisman short list of many even though the stats for his first three years combined were 5,374 yards passing, 36 touchdowns, and 26 interceptions with a 53% completion rate. If he had entered the NFL draft, everyone would have overlooked those numbers, and possibly even commended Locker for doing anything with the lack of talent surrounding him.

 

jake-lockerLocker went through a decision making process that hordes of 3rd year college players have gone through before him, should he stick it out in college one more year or should he jump to the pro level right away and be a top-five pick along with Sam Bradford? He decided to finish out his college career in the northwest and that decision may have irrevocably changed the course of his professional career. Starting with a mediocre performance against BYU in the opener to a shellacking at home against Nebraska in which he completed four passes, Locker’s stock has dropped further and further down draft boards to the point where some think he may not even get drafted in the first round. Looking back at his first few seasons in Seattle, it’s easy to see that Locker is nowhere near ready for the NFL, and he may never get there.

 

Why did Locker stay? What goes into players’ decisions to stay in college or jump at the possible riches of the NFL? Let’s look at a few reasons players stay.

 

1. They may really love college. Many times in interviews over the summer and into this season Locker stated that one of the main reasons he decided to finish his senior year was that he loved the college lifestyle and he would miss that. When a player is in college, especially if he is well known (and especially if he’s the quarterback) he is the big man on campus and he gets a ton of love from everyone around him. Usually high draft picks are tremendous athletes that are a great deal better than everyone else is. It’s fun to be the big man on campus and the best player on the field and once they go to the pros, that all changes. Locker knew that he could always go the NFL this year instead of last year, but he couldn’t replicate the same college experience if he wanted to go back later.

 

2. They may have unfinished business. Many players fall just short of the national championship or the Heisman trophy and come back for one more year to accomplish that goal. Last year we saw Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, and Colt McCoy all return to college after to failing to win the national title (Bradford), the Heisman (Tebow), or both (McCoy). Many times the players that do this would already have been drafted high, but they think they can either keep their status high or even raise it a bit. If Bradford had gone to the NFL after his Heisman season he likely would have been a top-ten pick, but the extra year in college elevated him to the number-one overall pick. Locker’s team had struggled horribly in his first couple of years and if he was a true competitor, it more than likely ate at him that he had not been able to win more games and compete in a bowl at seasons end.

 

3. They may know they’re not very good. This can go both ways, but a player may want to stay an extra year in college if he thinks he may be destroyed once he reaches the pro level and he wants one more year of glory before that happens. A lot of Texas Tech QB’s have waited until after their senior year to test the NFL waters and none of them are having success despite record setting performances while in school.

 

4. They want to graduate. I know this may seem far-fetched in the world of money-grabbing athletes who only look out for themselves, but some collegiate athletes actually want to graduate from college. Every once in a while you’ll hear a player asked at the draft why they stayed the extra year in college and they’ll say that they promised their mom or other family member that they would graduate college. Remember that although college sports are amazing to watch, during the week the players still go to class (some of the time).

 

Of course, more often than not, it seems like players jump to the NFL after only three years instead of finishing what they started. Let’s look at a few reasons for that.

 

1. They’re ready. Every once in a while, a player comes along who is ready to play in the pros the minute he graduates from high school. Adrian Peterson showed this a few years ago when he burst onto the scene as an 18-year old man-child freshman at Oklahoma but had to stay in college for t years because of the rules prohibiting early entry into the league. Maurice Clarrett and Mike Williams decided that they were ready for the pros before that, but the NFL decided they could wait their turn like everyone else and they ended up losing the remainder of their college eligibility and hurting their NFL careers. If a player is ready to join the NFL, he can go whenever he wants and be fine, but some choose to join earlier than others do.

 

2. They need the money. Even though players are given free ride scholarships to college, a lot of them come from extremely poor backgrounds and need money. When they can’t convince schools to pay them (Cam Newton (allegedly) and Reggie Bush-style) they have to find another way of making money fast, and jumping into their pro careers is a fast track to a lot of dough. Many players damage their future earnings by jumping too early and not getting enough experience at the college level first, but looking that far into the future is hard when you have the possibility of millions right now.

 

3. They’re in a bad situation. Maybe their coach just was fired or their team is going to be horrendous next year. Maybe they’re going to be found out for having taken money from their school or some other infraction and decided to get out before the fit hits the shan. IF a big name freshman is joining the school and may start eating into their time on the field, they may also decide to bolt. This usually leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth because of the bad situation at the players’ school after they leave.

 

4. They’re not good enough. If a player is not as good as everyone thinks, they may try to ditch their senior year so no one can figure out how terrible they really are. Maybe a quarterback lost his top receiver and is going to be exposed without him. It’s usually hard to spot these players until after they bomb in the pros but if Locker had gone early to the draft, we may have been able to count him in this group.

 

Of course, how early a player enters the draft affects more than just themselves. The NFL scouts usually need that extra year of tape to tell if a player is going to be a good pro, but an injury the senior year may throw everything off. Often, a player like Akili Smith (Who?) will have a monster senior season, only to be a complete bust at the pro level. Players have tough decisions to make, and they don’t always make the right ones.

 

 

This past week of college football was exciting, but it can’t hold a candle to the importance of this week, one of the most action packed we’ve seen in a few years.

 

Week 13 Preview

 

Best Games of the Week:

All of the games below are between two ranked teams that are still in position for conference titles or BCS bowls.

 

Auburn vs. Alabama: mark-ingramThis is the most important game in college football this year. The balance hangs in the Heisman race, the SEC race, the national title race, and the possibility of a non-AQ reaching the title. Auburn has relied on Cam Newton all year, but I see the Alabama defense doing just enough containing of the big quarterback to give themselves a chance to win. The Tigers defense has been mediocre at best all year and I see Mark Ingram returning to his Heisman ways and leading the Tide to a huge rivalry win. Pick: Alabama – 31 Auburn-28

 

Arizona vs. Oregon: This is Oregon’s last home game of the year, and the Wildcats team they will be facing has a defense that is very similar to Cal. The speed may finally be enough to stop the Quack Attack, but the Ducks have scored at least 50 points in every home game this year. I expect that to continue and Oregon to head into the Civil War with a spot in the national title at stake. Pick: Oregon – 56 Arizona – 38

 

Boise State vs. Nevada: Boise hasn’t been tested since its home tilt against Oregon State in week three, and haven’t had test away from home since their opening week squeaker against Virginia Tech. The Nevada offense is very difficult to prepare for, but Boise has a great defense and Kellen Moore will not allow them to lose. I think this wins vaults Boise ahead of TCU in the BCS. Pick: Boise – 35 Nevada – 31

 

Arkansas vs. LSU: Both of these teams are out of the SEC race, but both still have a realistic shot at an at-large BCS berth. I think a truly talented offense led by Ryan Mallett will finally expose LSU. Pick: Arkansas – 34 LSU – 28

 

Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma: If the Cowboys can finally topple their rivals from Norman and reach the Big-12 title game, they should be favorites against Nebraska, but that’s a big if. Oklahoma State has traditionally struggled against the Sooners and I think that continues behind the arm of Landry Jones and the pass catching of Ryan Broyles. Pick: Oklahoma-35 OSU – 31

 

That’s all the time for this week, but tune in next week for a recap of all the earth-shaking college football excitement. Enjoy your turkey day.

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By Evan and Matt Ream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Wednesday November 24th, 2010, the newly formed Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps FC are going to partake in the MLS Expansion draft. The purpose of an expansion draft is to give expansion teams a pool of players to work from so they don’t have to sign all of their own as free agents, thus making the transitional period into the league much easier.

The Rules of the expansion draft are simple:

· Each team takes turns selecting players from the list of available (unprotected) players until they have selected ten or passed

· Each MLS team can protect 11 players

· Generation Adidas players are automatically protected and do not count towards the 11 that a team may protect

· Each team can lose a maximum of two players

· If a team losses a player, it has the right to protect and additional player for the rest of the draft.

 

These are just a summarized version of the rules. For the full version click here and if you wish to see the list of available players, click here.

 

For this mock draft, I took charge of the Timbers while Matt took the Whitecaps. Here are Matt’s thoughts before the draft:

[Matt’s] thinking before the mock draft was that a) Vancouver need a solid base to work with, because defense wins games, b) not many amazing attacking players would likely turn up and c) it helps to have a few years of MLS experience. Although Vancouver have a full squad of players in camp right now trying out for the team, many of them don’t have a whole lot of professional or MLS games under their respective belts, or if they do, the games were in lower division European or other foreign leagues. I used this knowledge to make some picks I thought would help Vancouver be successful (and not finish dead last as some expansion teams have done). 

 

Meanwhile here is what I was thinking:

Portland have already signed some interesting players from lower leagues in Steve Cronin, Eddie Johnson (not the one who plays for Fulham), Ryan Pore, and Bright Dike. Both Cronin and Pore have MLS experience, which should help them, although neither of them was particularly impressive in their first stint. Meanwhile they also traded for New York Red Bull’s castoff Jeremy Hall who has a ton of potential and should be an opening day starter. Out of these five players, Cronin is a starter for sure and I think they hope that two of the remaining four will become regular starters. I think Portland are looking for the best deals possible in this expansion draft, and looking to come away with some definite starters.

 

So without further waiting, here are our picks (note, Portland has the first pick):

 

1. Portland select midfielder Dax McCarty of FC Dallas, Dallas protects midfielder Eric Avila

Evan: I think this is the clear #1 pick. McCarty may not be the best player on the list (Jimmy Conrad is probably better), but he is the best combination of skill, age, salary (around $150,000) and potential out of everyone on this list. He is a proven starter at a position that is tough to find (central midfield) and a possible All-Star. McCarty is clearly the best deal on this list.

Matt: I agree, the Whitecaps would have loved to start their draft out with Dax McCarty.

 

2. Vancouver select defender Julian Baudet of Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle protects midfielder Nathan Sturgis

Matt: Colorado used this big, strong central defender as a late game sub in the playoffs, but I think he could easily start for an MLS team. This will help Vancouver build a strong spine to compete with.

Evan: I’m not so sure about this pick. I think if Vancouver wants a central defender to pair with Jay DeMerit they pick Jimmy Conrad, or if they want to go younger, Patrick Ianni, but you obviously rate Julian Baudet a lot higher than I do.

 

3. Portland select defender Jimmy Conrad of Sporting KC, KC protect forward Birahim Diop

Evan: As I said before, Conrad is probably the best player on this list and drafting him along with McCarty give Portland two definite starters and a very strong spine to start off with. Conrad is a great locker room player and a proven winner; he could be Portland’s inaugural captain.

Matt: I didn’t pick Conrad because I think he and DeMerit are too similar of players, but I definitely thought about it.

 

4. Vancouver select midfielder Ned Gravaboy of Real Salt Lake, RSL protects defender Robbie Russell

Matt: David Duchovny look-a-like and midfielder extraordinaire, Grabavoy is a two-way force in the center or outside of midfield. He was an integral part as a sub in the playoffs during his 2005 and 2009 MLS championships.

Evan: This is the definition of a safe pick. Gravaboy will never be a great player, but he will always be a good one and he is a valuable addition to any team.

 

5. Portland select defender Anthony Wallace of Colorado Rapids, Colorado protects midfielder Wells Thompson

Evan: This could be the steal of the draft. Wallace started at left back for the MLS Cup winning Rapids. Left back is often the hardest position to fill when building a team, so to get a player on the rise that is a solid starter is great.

 

6. Vancouver selects midfielder Dema Kovalenko of LA Galaxy, LA protects forward Mike Magee

Matt: Every team needs a hard-hitting workhorse and with LA’s Supporter’s Shield run of last year, I think Kovalenko still has a few years left in the tank. It killed me to pick him, (because I hate him), but I think he will help prevent Vancouver from being countered on with his tireless running and covering of teammates (as well as professional fouls every now and then).

Evan: Dema is certainly a useful player, but is he too old?

 

7. Portland select defender Kyle Davies of FC Dallas, Dallas is eliminated from the player pool

Evan: Kyle Davies was the U-20 captain at the last U-20 World Cup, and is apparently MLS ready right now. He didn’t find much playing time last year, playing behind George John and Ugo Ihemelu who are much more polished. Davies also struggled with injuries, but this looks like the perfect opportunity for him to develop.

 

8. Vancouver select defender Dasan Robinson of Chicago Fire, Chicago protects midfielder Peter Lowry

Matt: I like Robinson because he can play center back or outside back, is very athletic (think poor man’s Marvell Wynne), and has some experience.

 

9. Portland select midfielder Collen Warner of Real Salt Lake, RSL is eliminated from the player pool

Evan: This pick makes a ton of sense. Warner was stuck behind a stacked midfield in Utah, unable to get playing time. Warner played his college soccer at Portland and had a stint with the Timber’s U-23 team.

 

10. Vancouver selects midfielder Miguel Montano of Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle is eliminated from the player pool.

Matt: Although he did come off with a red card during his first MLS start, Montano does have a bright future. He possesses the skill, vision, and dynamic off the ball movement that few players in MLS can boast. I think he’d help Vancouver stay competitive as an expansion team.

 

11. Portland select forward Joseph Ngwenya of Houston Dynamo, Houston protects midfielder Corey Ashe

Evan: Ngwenya doesn’t have the best goal scoring record, but I think he is a player that a lot of teams are interested in. He still hasn’t had a breakout season yet, but he is better than most of the other attacking players in the expansion draft, and could be a starter for Portland.

 

12. Vancouver selects forward Ilija Stolica of New England Revolution, New England protects midfielder Pat Phelan.

Matt: The big forward helped make a difference in a New England side lacking offensive punch without Taylor Twellman. It’s always good for a team to have a target and Stolica will provide one for Vancouver.

 

13. Portland select forward Chad Barrett of Toronto FC, Toronto protect forward O’Brian White

Evan: Chad Barrett may get a lot of crap for his inability to finish, but he does average about a goal every four games in his career, which is better than most of the players on this list. Barrett is not the answer, but he is certainly a stopgap.

 

14. Vancouver select defender Tim Ward of San Jose Earthquakes, San Jose protects midfielder Brad Ring

Matt: Ward is a versatile, young, and an underrated passer. A large part of San Jose’s run to the Eastern Conference Final, he will help Vancouver on either side of the defense.

 

15. Portland select midfielder/forward Arturo Alvarez of San Jose Earthquakes, San Jose is eliminated from the player pool.

Evan: It is rare to find a player with this amount of flare and skill in the expansion draft. Alvarez is still relatively young and can be an impact player, it just remains to be seen if can be a more consistent threat.

 

16. Vancouver selects midfielder Shea Salinas of Philadelphia Union, Philadelphia protect midfielder Andrew Jacobson

Matt: Salinas is super-fast and can be used just about anywhere (played forward in college, midfield in San Jose, Peter Novak tried him at outside back in Philly).  He’ll help Vancouver stretch the field and maintain possession.

 

17. Portland select defender Devon McTavish of DC United, DC protect defender Jordan Graye.

Evan: McTavish, though not always a starter, is as versatile as they come. He is capable of playing any defensive position as well as outside midfield. He is by no means an amazing player, but every winning team needs a few “glue” guys like McTavish.

 

18. Vancouver selects midfielder Luke Sassano of New York Red Bulls, NY protect midfielder Austin da Luz

Matt: Sassano was getting some playing time at center midfield in New York until Tony Tchani was drafted and Rafael Marquez was signed. He has played outside back as well, although it was under the failed experiment that was Juan Carlos Osorio. I’d expect him to provide midfield and defensive depth for Vancouver, as well as help build for the future.

 

19. Portland select defender Cory Gibbs of New England Revolution, New England is eliminated from the player pool

Evan: Cory Gibbs is the perfect type of player to take a late round flier on. Though he is 30 years old, Gibbs provides invaluable experience from the national team as well as from Europe. Gibbs has been injury prone in MLS, but he can certainly start the first few games while Portland prepares Kyle Davies. Gibbs can also play left back if needed.

 

20. Vancouver selects midfielder Gerson Mayen of Chivas USA

Matt: Mayen is yet another midfielder who can play in the back. Good skill and passing ability, and can also attack well down the right flank.

 

There are definitely some quality players available, even ones that we didn’t pick, such as Sanna Nyassi, Patrick Ianni, Nathan Sturgis, and Pat Phelan. I think both teams hope they come up with four to five quality starters tomorrow, and if this mock draft is any indication, they definitely will. Join us tomorrow for our Expansion Draft Recap!