From the "Talks Too Much Studios" here we go.
Draft Week is here. We're pretty pumped. We love the draft. You know this.
Last week we broke down the offensive prospects in this class. This week, let's do the defense. But before we get started, we must do a little housecleaning. First, here are the rules for our second-annual We Love the Draft pick contest:
• First SEC player picked (FYI — this does not include Texas A&M and Missouri, thanks for the catch, StuckinKent)
• First Titans pick (No. 20 overall right now)
• First Steelers pick (No. 24 overall right now)
• First Falcons pick (23rd pick of the second round right now)
• What team picks B.J. Coleman?
One point for each with the following tie-breaker: Who is Mr. Irrelevant, the title reserved for the final pick of the draft? (If you get this right, you'll get a special prize, but if there's a tie between entries, the pick closest to last will break the tie.) Remember, if one of the teams above trades down, then it's still the first Titans pick whether it's No. 20 overall or No. 200. Winner will get some Braves tickets, deal? (Last year friend of the show Quake of SportTalk fame won this contest and got some Braves-Phillies tickets if memory serves.)
Here are the early entries:
Alabama's Trent Richardson celebrates after the BCS National Championship college football game against LSU Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans. Alabama won 21-0. AP Photo/Dave Martin)
5-at-10 — Trent Richardson/Dre Kirkpatrick/Donta Hightower/Jeff Allen/Pittsburgh/Drew Butler
McPell — RIchardson/Kirkpatrick/Kendall Wright/Mitchell Schwartz/Denver/Jake Gdowski
LaughingBoy — Richardson/Kirkpatrick/Hightower/Bobbie Massie/Arizona/Randy Bullock
Fred — Morris Claiborne/Kirkpatrick/Hightower/Kelechi Osemele/Denver/Blair Walsh
(We have a few more but we're running short on time. We'll post them later this morning.)
We have covered almost all of the positions in this draft, and today we move to linebacker.
There is not a top-five elite player like Von Miller last year, but there are several good-to-great players that will go in the first round Thursday.
Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly is a terrific player with Pro Bowl instincts and better than anticipated measurables. He'll likely be the first linebacker to go, and he could go in the top 10. We love Dont'a Hightower for a slew of reasons: First, he learned to play linebacker in Nick Saban's system; second, he learned to be a defensive leader in Nick Saban's system; third he's almost 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds and can make plays; and finally, we loved Hightower in the Police Academy movies, so there has to be some good karma there. (If Hightower falls to Pittsburgh at No. 24, the Steelers need to sprint their card to the commissioner.)
(Side note: Both of those guys are middle linebackers, and the premium on the versatile 4-3 end/3-4 outside linebacker makes the classification of a lot of guys difficult. You could make an argument that Melvin Ingram, Courtney Upshaw and Chandler Jones may be linebackers, but we had them at defensive end Monday.)
Here's our top 10 linebackers, and there are some super-athletic guys (Zach Brown, Bruce Irvin) that can be had in the second and third rounds that have the tools to be solid-to-strong NFL players:
1) Luke Kuechly, Boston College
2) Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
3) Shea McClellin, Boise State
4) Lavonte David, Nebraska
5) Zach Brown, North Carolina
6) Bruce Irvin, West Virginia
7) Mychal Kenricks, Cal
8) Sean Spence, Miami
9) Nigel Bradham, FSU
10) Bobby Wagner, Utah State
Dodgers thump Braves
We made a commitment to stay up and give you our view of the Braves-Dodgers games this week, since they are on the West Coast and starting (and ending) so late. (Side note: That's one of the reasons we're dragging a little bit this morning. Bear with us, we're starting to feel the mojo. Clear eyes, full coffee cup, can't lose.)
Slew of tidbits to report from last night's Braves game:
First, Freddie Freeman will be a gold glove winner in the very near future. Dude made an insane pick on a first-inning throw from Dan Uggla to complete a double play. The degree of difficulty on Freeman's dig was off the charts.
Second, it's early and the season is long and you have to trust it, but each of these teams looks like they could be around the top all year. The Dodgers have a better than you'd expect lineup and Matt Kemp...
Third, sweet buckets of Babe Ruth's backwash, Matt Kemp is slap killing it right now. Dude had two singles and a walk in three official at-bats and its hitting .460. Yes, .460. His only out was a scorched line drive that Martin Prado snagged at third.
Fourth, Jair Jurrjens is incredibly hittable. In fact, if the 5-at-10 was forced to risk life or limb on getting a hit against a big-league pitcher, the list goes: Jamie Moyer, Jair Jurrjens, RA Dickey. (And one more start like Monday for JJ — three innings, five runs, nine hits and ZERO strikeouts — and we may have to re-juggle the order.)
Fifth, we all giggled at the Braves signing 128-year-old Livan Hernandez, but Fredi G used him perfectly last night. Livan pitched four-plus innings in a game the Braves trailed 5-1 quickly. Sure he allowed two runs, but any measure the Braves take to take stress off the back end of the bullpen is a good measure, be it in the fourth inning or the seventh.
Finally, David Ross is the best backup catcher since Rube in Major League II. Dude hit a long homer and threw out two of three Dodgers that tried to steal a base. Ross has made three starts since April 11 and despite the rust, he's 5-for-11 with three RBIs in those three starts. Crazy.
That is all. (Oh yeah, the Braves lost 7-2. Talk about burying the lead. Wow, the TFP sports editor would flip if this was an actual story or something.)
This and that
— Our UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown had a nice sit-down with Vols head football coach Derek Dooley. The first of many stories from their chat can be found here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/apr/24/tennessee-vols-coach-derek-dooley-sees-upswing/. This quote from Dooley, who is 11-14 entering his third season in Knoxville, was particularly telling: "I think you look at the offensive line as sort of a microcosm of where we were and where we are. When I got here, they had a combined three starts, and now they have a combined 99 starts going into the season. That's going to give you a chance, a much better chance, to go out there and compete." There's a lot of truth in that. There's also a lot of truth in the fact that competing — with a blend of winning, too — better come this fall.
— OK, who's running the New Orleans Saints? Dr. Evil? This is re-gosh-dog-diculous. After getting thumped on the knuckles with the NFL's nuclear ruler after Bounty-Gate, the NFL will send it's version of Jack Bauer and the boys to the Big Easy to investigate stories that the Saints general manager Mickey Loomis could eavesdrop on opposing teams. Seriously? Here's the ESPN story on it http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/7846290/new-orleans-saints-mickey-loomis-eavesdrop-opposing-coaches-home-games. Loomis, of course will miss the first eight games of the 2012 season for his role in Bounty-Gate. Here's saying he probably should not make plans for returning for Game No. 9. The Saints denied the allegations, of course. All the Saints need now is a tank of sharks with lasers strapped to their heads. Here's saying that Loomis may go from NFL GM to WWE "manager" real soon. Maybe he can draw on the Dr. Evil line, and remember "Well it's true! It's true! You're semi-evil. You're quasi-evil. You're the margarine of evil. You're the Diet Coke of evil. Just one calorie, not evil enough."
— Arkansas hired John L. Smith for the next 10 months, paying the former Arkansas assistant $850,000 to leave Weber State and try to uncloak the drain left in Bobby Petrino's wake of 25-year-old volleyball players, motorcycle wrecks, cover-ups and potential sexual harassment suits. Good luck John T., and we need more famous people with middle initials. Hey, Craig T. Nelson was brilliant as "Coach," Tom T. Hall is a country music Hall of Famer, and we can't forget about Mr. T. Mr. T is the Babe Ruth of famous initials. He's Mr. T, who played B.A. Baracus on the A-Team. Duh.
Watching the Yankees last night — Derek Jeter is a hitting machine, gang — the announcers talked about how there could very well be six Hall of Famers on this New York roster. Jeter and Mariano Rivera are no-brainers. A-Rod is in once the steroid hurdle is cleared. CC Sabathia and Robinson Cano look the part and are on track as long as they keep pace. And then there's Andruw Jones. Yes, that Andruw Jones, who has 422 homers, 152 steals and 10 gold gloves.
Let's play some Hall of Fame what ifs....
Answer these four with a yeah or nay, and we'll re-up the list later today. And yes, this will be a regular endeavor.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...