Thursday, April 22, 2010

Final Thoughts Heading Into 2010 NFL Draft

I have a cable bill, therefore I have cable. Therefore I'm well aware of the fact that the 2010 NFL Draft begins tonight. Therefore I'm about to predict a whole bunch of stuff that you'll forget about (at least until I remind you of my correct predictions). Enjoy...

1. Sam Bradford = Carson Palmer. I mean that as a both a compliment and a criticism. Give either fantastic pass blocking and we're approaching Peyton Manning territory. I truly believe that. Both Bradford and Palmer are fundamentally perfect when delivering balls seven steps deep in the pocket, but when defenders get in their face and it's time to thanks.

If the Rams select Bradford, they should (a.) sit him for a year, no matter what, and (b.) draft offensive linemen in each of the next forty rounds, or until Bradford is properly protected.

2. Ndamukong Suh is the best player in the draft, and really, I'm shocked he isn't going first overall. Bradford is certainly a worthy selection -- especially considering the fact that no position in sports is anywhere near as important as QB -- and if you hit a home run with a QB, it was worth it. Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor could have a super baby and he wouldn't be as valuable as Drew Brees in today's NFL.

But Bradford might not turn out to be Brees or Manning. And Suh might just be Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor's love child. When I'm a billion years old I will still consider him one of the very best players I've ever seen, and it would only be kind of silly for me to predict his eventual enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His performance against Texas was the best in a losing effort since Terrell Owens in the Pats-Eagles Super Bowl, and it was all I could think about as I was trying to sleep. Suh is the type of player I feel lucky to have watched.

Wherever he ends up, and it seems like a slam dunk to be Detroit, they will immediately get better. On top of being blessed with otherworldly quickness and George Foreman-like hands, winning is important to Suh. Football is important to him. You always hear how consistent effort is what separates the average defensive tackles from the great ones, well, nobody has to worry about that with Ndamukong Suh. The man dominated the Big 12 despite beating double and triple teams on the reg. A once in a generation player.

And since I'll probably never have kids, I'll be sure to tell my neighbor's kids all about him.

3. Whoever drafts Eric Berry is getting themselves a ball-hawking Pro Bowler. The NFL is a pass-heavy league, and in the past six seasons Bob Sanders and Ed Reed, both safeties, have taken home the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award, while Troy Polamalu has been undoubtedly one of the game's five best defenders over that stretch. And while he's probably a little overrated, does anyone want to look up Darren Sharper's winning percentage for me?

Pass on Eric Berry because he's "just a safety," or get yourself a guy who will lead the league in interceptions a few times...your choice.

4. In one of my last columns for, way back in January 2007, I complained loudly about Jim Tressel's closing ability with recruits; this was a week or so before the BCS championship abortion against Florida. I gave Tressel a free pass for missing on several recruits because I was convinced he was spending every free second game-planning for the Gators, as opposed to wooing 17-year-olds.

Anyway, the focus of my complaint was Tressel missing out on heralded recruits to the football wastelands of Rutgers and Arizona. Why do I bring this up on the day of the draft? Because the recruits in question turned out to be awesome'r than heck. Rutgers OT Anthony Davis (top ten projected) and Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski (late first to early second) are expected to hear their name called within the first fifty picks or so.

A few things. First, do you think Davis and Gronkowski regret not competing for national championships at Ohio State? Second, why do I do this to myself?

5. Speaking of Gronkowski, I like him better than Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham, a guy the Bengals just might scoop up in round one. Regardless, I'd prefer the Bengals pass on both at No. 21 overall. For starters, Gronkowski might be available in the second. Mostly, though, I think you pass on a tight end in the first round unless you're convinced you're getting a stud. By the way, a steady-blocking tight end who simply moves the chains is not a stud.

I won't bash the Bengals for taking Gresham or Gronkowski tonight (although maybe I should considering their injury history), but they'd better turn out to be a lot better than steady.

6. Now, if you're asking who I want the Bengals to select at No. 21, based on who might be available, I'll throw out the names Brandon Graham, Dez Bryant and Jerry Hughes. Unfortunately, Bryant won't be there (regardless of Todd McShay's mock), while Graham and Hughes project to OLB in a 3-4 (and the Bengals play a 4-3)'s anyone's guess.

***Graham's performance against Ohio State this past season (please watch the last two minutes of this video) was the best I've ever seen from a Michigan defender in the rivalry (yes, that includes Heisman winner Charles Woodson). He terrorized OSU's offensive line and owned the Buckeye backfield. Graham was stuck with lousy teammates and faced constant double teams and it never effected his motor. Winning is important to Graham, and I'd kill to have him in Cincinnati.

***I've written about this at least once before, but I'll say it again: Dez Bryant = Anquan Boldin. As long as he can avoid Boldin's well-deserved "injury prone" tag, Bryant will be a beast at the next level.

***Hughes is similar to Graham in that he's considered short (6'1), but has the natural ability to get after the quarterback. Neither are a perfect fit for the 4-3, but you can never have too many pass rushers. (see 2007 New York Giants).

(I only have a few more thoughts regarding tonight's first round...)

7. The draft hasn't even started, and I'm already annoyed by how many times Rolando McClain's "instincts" have been mentioned. Give it a rest already, boys.

8. Tell me all you want about Joe Haden's stiff hips and pedestrian forty time, and I'll tell you he was better than every other college defender not named Ndamukong Suh last year (ahead of Eric Berry). He is a super-smooth cover corner who warrants a top ten selection. Perfect amount of swagger, too. The Bengals certainly don't need corners, but if Haden somehow falls to them they should send Roger Goodell sprinting to the podium.

9. What really pisses me off is that it took the combine for scouts to tell the world that Ryan Matthews is a better player than Jonathon Dwyer.

It's hard for me to recall another player's stock confusing me more than Dwyer's. He's a big guy with lousy feet -- I've never seen him make anyone miss -- and he doesn't possess breakaway speed. Best-case scenario: 1,050 yards, 3.8 YPC. More likely scenario: Adequate goal line option.

Analyze this video and tell me why Dwyer, as recently as two months ago, was considered a first-round lock and better prospect than CJ Spiller. This is maddening

I don't have much to say regarding Matthews, other than he's markedly better than Dwyer, which should have been painfully obvious to talent evaluators well before Dwyer's unimpressive broad jump at the freaking combine. Whatever.

Speaking of (expected) non-first rounders...

10. If Tim Tebow goes ahead of Colt McCoy, I'm punching things. Lock it: Colt McCoy will win several playoff games in his career. And for what it's worth, his arm strength is better than you think, and many starting NFL QBs would kill for his feet and accuracy. Call me a homo for saying this, but Colt McCoy's a winner.

11. I spent much of 2008 and 2009 bad-mouthing Golden Tate. I wasn't really trying to put the guy down; I was merely trying to compliment the other WR at Notre Dame, Michael Floyd, a mammal I see as Plaxico Burress 2.0. But that doesn't mean Golden Tate isn't a player, because he is. He absolutely is. The more I think about it, I love Golden Tate. Similar to Rudy Ruettiger, he's not the biggest or the fastest. But he doesn't drop anything, and he made dozens of big catches in the closing minutes of countless Irish games. And his facial expression and body language always suggested that he hated losing a little more than most competitors.

12. Taylor Mays is the type of prospect you hope your team passes on, yet if you draft him you'll forget all the red flags surrounding him. Ten years ago, Mays wouldn't have slipped past pick No. 5. Now? He might go in the middle of the second round. Taylor Mays possesses every skill that Sean Taylor did (size, speed, etc.)...except for ball skills. It is unfathomable to me that a guy that big, playing in the middle of the field on a loaded USC defense could play a full season without snagging a single INT. Buyer beware.

13. Penn State's Sean Lee is a first round player, and should consider it an insult if he goes in the second round. If he's healthy, he's making a Pro Bowls.

14. I wouldn't touch Arrelious Benn with a 39-and-half-foot pole.

15. Todd McShay project's Ole Miss DE Greg Hardy and South Florida's George Selvie in the fourth and seventh rounds respectively. For whatever reason, their stock has slipped. I'm not here to argue on either's behalf, but I can tell you both know how to get after the QB, which is a skill that will always be at a premium.

16. Can I get an Amen for white receivers! Minnesota's Eric Decker is projected late second; Texas' Jordan Shipley second-third; Michigan State's Blair White seventh. For Decker and Shipley, they deserve their current ratings. As for White, he's one of the real sleepers of the draft.

17. What's the opposite of smart? Let's go with dumb. Jevan Snead is dumb. It seems unlikely, but there's a chance the former potential No. 1 overall pick might not get drafted. What makes him dumb is the fact that he left Old Mississippi after a dreadful junior season.

18. If the Bengals pass on a TE in round one (and assuming Gronkowski's off the board), I'll do cartwheel's if they grab Florida's Aaron Hernandez. Hernadez is one of those prospects that scouts focus on what he can't do (block) as opposed to what he can (turn a football game into a basketball game). Hernandez is just a great athlete with impeccable ball skills. When the balls in the air, it's his. When he's in the open field, you forget he's a tight end. He's very underrated at this point.

19. I'm a big fan of Tony Pike and even Mardy Gilyard. With Pike, I see a guy who's a better athlete with a much better arm than he showed at the Senior Bowl. He's a project at the moment, but his ceiling is as a starter, not a career backup.

As for Gilyard, I have it on the best authority possible that he's a world-class a-hole. He single-handedly tried to sink the ship in New Orleans as the Bearcats prepared for Florida. That said, he's a baller. He got caught from behind more than you'd like, but if he keeps his head on straight, he could be a devastating slot guy.

20. If you're happy with your draft, and you don't have a ton of needs going into the last few rounds, draft Florida's Brandon James or LSU's Trindon Holiday. Immediately, your kick return needs are solved. I've never understood why so many NFL teams neglect that area of the team, all under the logic of, "We'll just use our No. 4 WR back there, he returned kicks in high school." We're in the greatest era of standout kick returners and yet most teams refuse to acknowledge their importance.

21. Jesus, this thing's getting long. Mid-to-late rounders who will outperform current projections: Centarl Michigan's Dan LeFevour and Antoio Brown, Wisconsin's O'Brien Schofield (shockingly, he's black), Oregon's Ed Dickson, Byu's Dennis Pitta, Florda's Major Wright, Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson and Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards (but only as a QB). I also like a few Buffalo products who'll likely go undrafted: RB James Starks and WR Naaman Roosevelt. I told you last year that Buffalo's undrafted QB, Drew Willy, would stick, and he did (with Indianapolis). This year I'm giving Starks and Roosevelt a legitimate chance to hang around for awhile.

Oh, and I love Dexter McCluster. Take his 4.6 forty and shove it up your behind.

22. As for a player I hate, I give you the infamous LeGarrette Blount. I don't care about punching opponents, I care about ability. Blount's always been overrated. I don't like big backs that take a step or two to get going, and Blount has a slow first step (among big backs, he's the anti-Chris Wells). So, when your team drafts Blount in round five, don't fall for it when the GM tells you what a steal you got in Blount. Jerk or not, he's simply not good enough.

That's all for now, boys and girls. Forgive me for typographical errors and whatnot.


-Brad Spieser (

Monday, April 12, 2010

Jay Bruce, Mike Leake, Women's Hoops, Etc.

1. Closing thought about the fraud that is women's basketball: In 2010 UConn led the nation in field goal percentage defense as well as allowing the fewest points per game, so...clearly, the Lady Huskies (or whatever they're called) were the best defensive team in the country. That doesn't make women's basketball a fraud; it simply means UConn played better-than-average defense. What makes women's hoops so dang fraudulent is the fact that UConn also committed fewer fouls than any other team in the "sport." Can you think about that for a moment? Can you imagine a team comprised of Bruce Bowens and Dwight Howards and Lindsey Hunters committing fewer fouls than any team in the NBA? You can't, right? That's because it's fifty miles beyond impossible. Being a great defender means you're physical, and often times too physical. You cannot be a great defender without committing a fair share of fouls. Fact.

When West Virginia's men's team came within a hair of a Final Four Spot a few years back (the Pittsnogle/Gansey squad) I seem to recall a statistic about the 'Neers committing the fewest amount of fouls in the nation. But that made sense! They were atrocious defensively, and generally just tried to outscore their opponent in high-scoring affairs.

But UConn is great defensively while avoiding fouls. Which tells me (a.) they're obviously really good (relatively speaking) but also (b.) evolution is crap.

I've been hearing about the improvement of the women's game since I was in kindergarten, but it's just a joke...always has been. There will always be a few players who are much better than everyone else, and those players will play for UConn or Tennessee. And every time I'm subjected to a game I'll be forced to watch flat-footed blocked shots and shooters treating the ball like an 80-lb. boulder as they attempt a shot from the great distance of twenty feet.

2. Ok, let me make fun of women's hoops a little more. As you know I watched every move Brittney Griner made this March, and it was undoubtedly the best decision I've made in years. Highest of high comedy. It also sent me on a YouTube journey where I quickly discovered that Griner pucnhed some chick in a game this year. The following video is great for two reasons: (1.) Griner pucnhes like a girl, and (2.) the coach of the chick who got "punched" feared that her player might be out for the season. Watch the video and you'll understand why that's laughable.

3. Every time I see a graphic about the absurd cost of attending a professional sporting event, it always references a family of four, and that family is always buying bobble heads and caps and pennants and programs and small Mountain Dews and footlong weiners, and I always pull my goddamn hair out. Can't you just go to a game for three hours without purchasing an endless supply of cheaply-made souvenirs? It's three friggin' hours! Anyway, Rob Neyer recently made fun of the exact same thing, and since I agree with every word of it, I'm providing the bloody link.

4. Last year I suggested that Reds fans were overreacting to Jay Bruce's perceived struggles. It caused quite a stir on Cincinnati sports talk radio and in my inbox. Most people scoffed at the statistic of Batting Average on Balls in Play (or BAbip), and I'm pretty sure it was because it's not as simple as batting average. But some stat freaks, and I think some chaps over at Red Reporter, pointed out Bruce's low line drive percentage as a reason for his low BAbip. The argument made a bit of sense, and I conceded, privately, that my Bruce column was somewhat misguided.

But this year, I'm once again hearing that he'll never live up to the hype, and that his confidence is shot, which makes me want to punch babies. When Dusty Baker sat Bruce on the fifth day of the season to "clear his head," I couldn't take it anymore. I knew -- because I'd watched every one of his ABs -- that Bruce was beating the snot out of the ball, and his line drives were finding gloves on seemingly every occasion.

I did some quick digging, and not surprisingly Bruce's line drive percentage is 32%, best on the team. His batting average on balls in play is an unfathomable .182, second worse to only Orlando Cabrera (whose line drive percentage is understandably 21 points lower)

For the record, Bruce's 2010 line drive percentage is higher than either Albert Pujols or Hanley Ramirez, the National League's two best hitters.

Here's a quick breakdown of Bruce's LD% and BAbip compared to the 2-3-4-5 hitters in the Reds' lineup:

Bruce - 32%, .182

Cabrera - 9%, .167

Votto - 26%, .409

Phillips - 14%, .286

Rolen - 17%, .190

It's true that I'm not completely rational when discussing Jay Bruce, and maybe I want him to succeed a little too much, but that doesn't change the fact that -- no matter how you look at the stats -- Bruce has been remarkably unlucky since the start of the 2009 season.

If you're reading this, Dusty Baker, what that means is that you shouldn't sit Jay Bruce just because Tom Gorzelanny is the opposing starter. Jay Bruce won't improve against lefties unless he faces them! Hello?

5. Finally, am I allowed to strangle the next idiot who compares Mike Leake to Greg Maddux? Because I hear it a lot. I understand that both right-handers are built averagely and share similar fastballs, and I know Maddux at times seemed boring or even unimpressive, but the guy won 355 games. Three Hundred and Fifty Five! I'm a fan of Leake's and everything, but the fact remains: The odds are stacked against him ever recording 100 wins at the Major League level. Settle down, everyone.

-Brad Spieser (

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Reds Do Good Pitch Baseball In USA!

Although I've only watched one Reds game as a Vegas resident, I'm less than enthused about the idea of spending the season without Franchester Martin Brennaman. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those multitaskers who listens to Marty while watching the game -- my ADD simply won't allow it -- but I do need Marty in my life. For the past twenty-plus years I've run to the radio any time I suspected Marty would be bitching about the Reds (September is an underrated month for Reds fans). And if I'm the car when Marty starts ranting, you can bet your sweet ass I'm not getting out of the car under any circumstances. I've lived in Vegas for ten weeks, and I'm shocked at how little I've missed Skyline Chili. The Reds' season, by comparison, is one game deep and the lack of Marty Brennaman in my life is wrecking my insides.


Two quick thoughts from Opening Day before addressing the remaining 161 contests:

1. I watched Opening Day on ESPN, and witnessed Brent Musberger refer to Cards second baseman, Skip Schumaker, as a "pepper pot," whatever the F that means. Actually, I know exactly what it means (although I've never heard that particular expression). It means that Skip Schumaker is the type of annoying little gaywad that tends to find his way into Tony LaRussa's lineup on a yearly basis, but that isn't the point. The point is that George Grande retired last year and I was excited about never again being subjected to such old-time nerdiness emanating from a broadcast booth. Stick to Ohio State-Michigan, Brett. You still do that exceptionally well.

2. Of all the available arms in the Reds' bullpen, why was Mike Lincoln the first mammal to get the call in relief of Aaron Harang? Mike Lincoln. Seriously. Mike Lincoln. It was still a two-run game, and after escaping a base hit and two line-outs in the 6th, Dusty Baker allowed Lincoln to pitch to Albert Pujols in the 7th with a man on base. Ballgame.

How many tape-measure home runs does that idiot have to give up before he's no longer a part of this team? He's allowed 58 earned runs and served up 18 HRs in his 94 innings in Cincinnati. That's not only embarrassing, it's unacceptable (or should be). Making matters worse: Lincoln's only struck out 66 batters over those 94 innings.

Every time I consider Mike Lincoln a useless pitcher, I check out his statistics, which reveal that he's actually worse than I thought. At least he's not making a few million bucks this year (sarcasm). Pass the dynamite, please...


Okay, the 2010 Reds. Sure, I'm a day late, but I'm not a dollar short. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (laughter). But anyway, I'm pumped about this season. Not because I think the Reds are going to shock the world (i.e., winning more than 81 games), but because baseball gives me something to do. Unless you're poolside, summer is a pretty stupid season. But if your baseball team is somewhat competitive through August, things aren't so terrible. This is coming from a guy who hates baseball. I really do. I just like the Reds. I don't watch regular season games (not since Pedro was in Boston), and I haven't seen nine consecutive innings of a World Series game in probably five years. The sport bores me to death.

That said, I was a remote-throwing lunatic all day on Monday and I've read 100 percent of Rob Neyer's last 50,000 words, so, despite hating baseball (and that's not an exaggeration), I still know a thing or two about it. And if you've come this far, maybe you're willing to come a little further...

While I'm not guaranteeing the Reds' 2010 pitching staff to drop a Palmer-Cuellar-Dobson-McNally on your face, I'm certainly pleased with not only the present-day starters, but also the organizational depth. In years past, Travis Wood would have been pencilled in as a No. 3 or 4 starter before March. Now? He's in the minors, where he should be. But forget about Travis Wood, whose future has me encouraged, and focus on the following gentlemen.

Mike Leake: First round pick, outstanding spring training, opening the season as the No. 5 starter despite spending a total of ZERO days in the minor leagues...and yet the city isn't eagerly awaiting his major league debut. I'd be shocked if local TV ratings that night are any different than the days before and after. Trust me, in the days of "9 Million Dollar Man" Eric Milton, a fresh-faced rook like Leake would probably put asses in the seats (if only for one start). Now? He's just another in a long line of promising young pitchers.

Edinson Volquez: Whether he returns to his brilliant from of '08 or not, Volquez will go down as one of my five favorite Reds (but behind No. 11, obviously). I loved watching him work. I loved how his changeup puzzled opposing hitters. I loved watching him dig down after he mindlessly walked a couple of nobodies on four pitches. In short, I thought he was capable of just about anything. Anyway, he's out 'til August, which should have me counting the seconds until his return. But I'm not. And if I can be honest here on my American website, I'll tell you that I don't spend every second waiting until he's back on the hill. And if and when he returns, it's very possible that he won't be needed down the stretch (assuming the Reds are a little better than .500). Here again I would explain my occasional misremembrences (not even Roger Clemens would attempt that word) by pointing to Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, etc. Edinson Volquez is gone...and he's kind of forgotten. Can you imagine reading those words twenty months ago without diving off the nearest cliff?

Daryl Thompson: In case you've forgotten, Daryl Thompson is the once-promising 24-year-old righty who's still in the organization. Thompson might never pitch another day in the bigs, but that isn't really the point. I didn't hear his name mentioned all spring -- not even in a "what ever happened to Daryl Thompson" way -- which never would have been the case six or eight years ago, when vagabonds like Osvaldo Fernandez were counted on to contribute.


Since my junior year of high school I've attended Opening Days where Mike Remlinger, Joey Hamilton and Paul Wilson started for my Redlegs. I'm 29 now, so were not talking about "Since the Korean War" or anything. But Remlinger, Hamliton and Wilson...that's brutal. It's also typical. For a team with a proud history like the Reds, the chapter on greatest pitchers still includes names like Tom Browning and Danny Graves. Not bums by any stretch, but certainly not guys you'll be telling your grandkiddies about, either.

But history is about to change.

Okay, that's a stretch, because every starting pitcher has a question mark. But there are more reasons to be encouraged about the current staff (and the arms in AAA Louisville) than at any point of my life.

Mike Leake might be a savior, he might not; Edinson Volquez might return to All Star form, he might not; Daryl Thompson might pitch three perfect games for the Reds this year, or maybe he went to jail for robbing a liquor store last night. In all three cases (and in Wood's case), it's not critical to the Reds' success in 2010 that any of them record even one victory. It would certainly help, but it's not critical.

The Reds might not hit enough to break .500 this year, but they have enough pitching that 85 wins or so isn't out of the question. Low-scoring games might not be entertaining, but they prove a team's legitimacy. Jay Bruce might be a year away, and they'll definitely need another stick to go with he and Votto, but I can't imagine feeling any better about the future of the organization than I do right now. And for once, it's because of pitching.

Aroldis Chapman, John Cueto, David Bailey, Ed Volquez, Aaron Harang, Bronny Arroyo, Travis Wood. That's not a misprint.

Gimme a little luck in regards to health, mix in a smart trade, and my Cincinnati Reds might be a legitimate contender sooner than we ever imagined. In related news, Joey Hamilton was a stupid idiot.

-Brad Spieser (

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jason Heyward Helps Me Forget About Gordon Hayward

I can't stop thinking about how the lives of everyone associated with the Butler basketball program would be forever changed had Gordon Hayward's desperation toss (Hoosiers reference) been maybe three inches to the left. Three inches and Gordon Hayward would have been responsible for the greatest ending in the history of organized sports. Can you please give that last sentence an extra second of thought. The ensuing riot would have been unlike anything we've ever seen -- Indianapolis...half-courter at the take down college basketball's Super Villain...forget about it. Just once, sometime before my brain quits on me, I want to see a shot like Hayward's half-courter go through the hoop in a championship game with 0:00 on the clock. Not to be sappy or anything, but isn't that why we watch sports?

Speaking of...

Most YouTube videos that have only been viewed 334 times are complete horseshit; it's usually a crappy garage band covering "Even Flow," or whatever. This one -- some amateur job capturing Jason Heyward's first at bat -- is anything but. I could watch this sucker all day. In fact, I just might.

-Brad Spieser (