2017 NBA Mock Draft

By Zach Malamud

In what could be one of the strongest draft classes in NBA history, the night is finally here for the 2017 NBA Draft. With that in mind, here’s a look at my first round mock draft:

1 Philadelphia Markelle Fultz PG Washington
2 LA Lakers Lonzo Ball PG UCLA
3 Boston Malik Monk SG Kentucky
4 Phoenix Josh Jackson SF Kansas
5 Sacramento De’aaron Fox PG Kentucky
6 Orlando Jonathon Isaac SF/PF Florida St
7 Minnesota Lauri Markkanen PF Arizona
8 New York Dennis Smith PG North Carolina St
9 Dallas Frank Ntilikina PG France
10 Sacramento Zach Collins PF/C Gonzaga
11 Charlotte Jayson Tatum SF Duke
12 Detroit Luke Kennard SG Duke
13 Denver OG Anunoby PF Indiana
14 Miami Donovan Mitchell SG Louisville
15 Portland John Collins PF Wake Forest
16 Chicago Bam Adebayo C Kentucky
17 Milwaukee Justin Patton C Creighton
18 Indiana Jarrett Allen C Texas
19 Atlanta TJ Leaf PF UCLA
20 Portland Harry Giles C Duke
21 Oklahoma City Tyler Lydon SF/PF Syracuse
22 Brooklyn Semi Ojeleye SF/PF SMU
23 Toronto DJ Wilson PF Michigan
24 Utah Anzejs Pasecniks C Latvia
25 Orlando Ike Anigbogu C UCLA
26 Portland Derrick White PG/SG Colorado
27 LA Lakers Caleb Swanigan PF/C Purdue
28 LA Lakers Terrance Ferguson SG/SF Australia
29 San Antonio Kyle Kuzma PF Utah
30 Utah Tony Bradley C UNC

 


Zach Malamud is a contributing writer for Dabuzzza. He is a radio host of The Plainview Blitz on WPOB 88.5 FM. He loves soccer and basketball and finds himself watching Manchester City on a regular basis. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Kevin De Bruyne. You can follow him on twitter at @Zachmalnyy

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2017 NHL Mock Expansion Draft

By Brett Malamud

The stars will be bright in Las Vegas tonight as the NHL Awards commence. The show will also be significant due to the unveiling of the roster for the league’s newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights. Here are my picks for the 31st NHL team.

 

Anaheim Ducks: Clayton Stoner, 24, D

Right off the bat, we start out with a tough selection. It was long rumored that the Ducks may make Jakob Silfverberg available if they chose to protect a fourth defenseman, but that didn’t happen, and Ducks GM Bob Murray opted for the 7-3-1 protection format. Defenseman Sami Vatanen could be one of those candidates to get selected and then flipped to another team. We know that there is a deal in place with Anaheim though, which should take Vatanen out of play. So I’m going to believe that the Ducks will allow Vegas to take Stoner.

 

Arizona Coyotes: Peter Holland, 26, C

While the options aren’t that attractive in the desert, Vegas must take a player from all 30 teams, and Peter Holland is a good depth pick. They could also take the 36-year-old winger Radim Vrbata on a one year deal and try to flip him to a contender later in the year.

 

Boston Bruins: Malcolm Subban, 23, G

If a team like say, the Philadelphia Flyers, wants Vegas to select goaltender Malcolm Subban for them and make a trade, that’s an option. Of course, that’s if Vegas doesn’t want Subban for themselves. I see this as an opportunity for McPhee to select his goalie of the future. Surely Marc-Andre Fleury won’t be there forever (assuming he picks him). I’d also keep an eye on Colin Miller, who I’d consider an extremely underrated talent. An offensive defenseman, Miller has a wicked shot and while his defending could use some more work, he could see himself on the powerplay regularly.

 

Buffalo Sabres: William Carrier, 22, LW

The former second round pick should be the pick here, after moving to the Sabres in the Ryan Miller trade. Being only 22, he’ll get some time to develop in the minors before making the jump up to the NHL full-time.

 

Calgary Flames: Alex Chiasson, 25, RW 

Chiasson is a player who I’ve had my eyes on for the last couple of years. The 6-3 winger also is a restricted free agent, but should be pretty easy to lock down to a deal. Vegas could opt to take defenseman Brett Kulak here instead, but with a ton of defense out there, I’ll opt for Chiasson.

 

Carolina Hurricanes: Lee Stempniak, 34, RW

Not too much talent here. Hurricanes GM Ron Francis did a good job protecting the right guys, and Vegas will probably take Stempniak as the best available player from Carolina.

 

Chicago Blackhawks: Marcus Kruger, 27, C

There is a rumored side deal with the Blackhawks that’ll see them ship Kruger along with defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk to Vegas. I believe those rumors to be true, as the Blackhawks are currently the only NHL team over the salary cap and look to free themselves from some larger contracts.

 

Colorado Avalanche: Mikhail Grigorenko, 23, C

Grigorenko is a restricted free agent, so he’d have to agree to a contract, but he’s only 23 years old and has a lot of upside. The popular pick here has been goaltender Calvin Pickard. Pickard played very well in the IIHF World Championships, but based on how I am building this team, Pickard would see himself in the minors, and wouldn’t be a good pick here.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets: William Karlsson, 24, C

The following comes from the Columbus Dispatch: “…the Blue Jackets will pay dearly to dissuade the Golden Knights from taking [Josh] Anderson, [Joonas] Korpisalo or one of the veteran defensemen — Jack Johnson or David Savard — that they would have exposed. The Jackets are believed to be trading this year’s first-round draft pick (No. 24 overall) and a prospect (not Pierre-Luc Dubois or Sonny Milano) to Vegas for assurances that the Golden Knights will select either left wing Matt Calvert, center William Karlsson or defenseman Ryan Murray.”

With that said, I’ll take the former second round pick William Karlsson.

 

Dallas Stars: Cody Eakin, 26, C

For me, Dallas was one of the final picks that I made, and so I’m going on the best player available here, and that’s Eakin for me.

 

Detroit Red Wings: Petr Mrazek, 25, G

I will admit, I was more surprised about this non protected player more than any other in the expansion draft. But Detroit had to make a decision, and they picked the 33-year-old Jimmy Howard over 25-year-old Petr Mrazek in goal. The problem for me with this was that had they left Howard unprotected, Vegas almost definitely wouldn’t have taken him. But with Mrazek there instead, it’s definitey intriguing and there’s going to be some debate in Las Vegas on who they should select. McPhee will have some other strong options in net, with Washington’s Philipp Grubauer, Colorado’s Calvin Pickard and New York’s Antti Raanta all available, as well as Boston’s Malcom Subban for the taking. Vegas won’t load up on goalies unless they have deals in place to flip players to other teams. So while I’d like to see Mrazek be the selection, don’t be shocked if they play it safe and select center Riley Sheahan.

 

Edmonton Oilers: Griffin Reinhart, 23, D

What’s interesting about this pick is the common assumption that McPhee worked with Reinhart, who is an RFA this summer, during his time in New York. Yes, McPhee was a part of the Islanders organization from September 2015 through July 2016 before being hired by Golden Knights owner Bill Foley to run the Vegas franchise. But Reinhart was actually traded in June 2015 during the NHL Draft. But don’t think that he doesn’t know about the young prospect. Yes, Reinhart failed to crack the Isles top six before being shipped off to Edmonton. And yeah, he’s had a minimal impact in Edmonton. I’d take one last shot on him if I were Vegas.

 

Florida Panthers: Jonathan Marchessault, 26, C

The Panthers left Marchessault unprotected just after he scored 30 goals this season. Vegas should also like the fact that he is making less than $1 million for the upcoming year, and is just 26 years old.

 

Los Angeles Kings: Brayden McNabb, 26, D

At 6-5, McNabb would be a good pick for Vegas and at just 26 years old, I could see him as a player they’d like to keep on their blue line for years to come.

 

Minnesota Wild: Eric Staal, 32, C

While many were quick to put defensemen Matt Dumba in this spot, there must be some debate over this pick with the Vegas brass.  Dumba is a good prospect, and am attractive option. But I see this expansion draft deeper on defense than scoring forwards, and so Staal makes sense. Staal was Minnesota’s top goal scorer this season and could find himself as Vegas’ first team captain, after serving the role in Carolina. It’s widely thought that Minnesota will have a trade in place to have Vegas lay off Dumba/Scandella/Staal and take a player such as Erik Haula. But I honestly think that taking a player such as Staal or Dumba would be more valuable than a draft pick (remember, the Wild traded their first round pick for this season. However they do have picks for the coming years, so keep an eye on that) to take Haula. With that said, I’m taking Staal here as the more marketable asset, and if he is picked, Vegas fans will find themselves sporting his jersey on opening night.

(UPDATE: There are reports out there that Haula will sign a multi year deal with Vegas, so expect that to be the pick tonight)

 

Montreal Canadiens: Brandon Davidson, 25, D

If the Knights can agree to a deal with UFA Alex Radulov, then they should take the chance on him as he’ll provide an impact, and will take on some salary. Of course, that could come on July 1, and not picking him here could allow Vegas to take two players from the Habs. I believe that their selection here will be Davidson, who represents the youngest Montreal defenseman under contract through next season.

 

Nashville Predators: James Neal, 29, LW

If George McPhee has a deal in place with the defending western conference champions, it probably take Neal off the table, and I see Colton Scissons as a possible second choice. But I believe that Vegas sees Neal as a potential threat on their first line. After all, this is a team who have repeatedly said that they want to be good right away, while stocking up for the future at the same time. Neal would fit into that equation, even with his $5 million cap hit.

 

New Jersey Devils: Jon Merrill, 25, D

Another young defenseman for Vegas with Merrill being picked here. The Devils don’t want to lose a guy like Merrill, but it doesn’t seem likely that a side deal will be made.

 

New York Islanders: Casey Cizikas, 26, C

Newsday’s Arthur Staple reported Monday evening that the Islanders have a deal in place with Vegas to send a first round pick and Mikhail Grabovski ($5 million cap hit) to the Golden Knights, in exchange for selecting a designated player chosen by the Isles. I believe that the player is Casey CIzikas, who holds a $3.35 million cap hit. In a move that would free up $8.35 million, the Islanders would create the cap space necessary to go after coveted trade assets such as Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, and Alex Galchenyuk. They could always opt to give Vegas defenseman Thomas Hickey ($2.2 million cap hit), but if the Islanders trade defensemen Calvin De Haan, Ryan Pulock, or Travis Hamonic in a trade for a top six forward (or possibly two trades), I’d bet the Islanders would want Hickey at least on their roster. I’m going to stick with my gut and go with Cizikas.

 

New York Rangers: Michael Grabner, 29, RW

Coming off of a career year, Grabner could give the Golden Knights some help up front. This pick could end up being goaltender Antti Raanta, who has proven that he could be a number one goaltender in the NHL. I expect him to factor into the goaltender conversation for the Golden Knights if they pick him instead, or if he’s not flipped to another team first. I’ll take Grabner here though, based on the goalies I’ve already selected.

 

Ottawa Senators: Marc Methot, 31, D

According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, Ottawa could not get a deal done before George McPhee’s self imposed midnight trade deadline on Monday. Therefore, I believe that McPhee is taking Methot. Of course, there is interest in Methot, but one of the important statements from McPhee came Monday morning when discussing flipping a player to another team, where he said that if they like the player, they’re keeping him for themselves. I believe that Methot may have been one of those players that he was talking about.

 

Philadelphia Flyers: Jordan Weal, 25, C

Weak would be a good addition as Vegas seeks more young forwards. Wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Raffl is the pick here either.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury, 32, G

Fleury is the slam dunk, home run pick for Las Vegas, and is sure to be their starting goaltender come opening night, and the first face of the franchise. It also looks that they’d be getting something from Pittsburgh to take Fleury, so not much to debate here.

Fleury

Three time Stanley Cup Champion Marc-Andre Fleury appears to be Vegas Bound. (Via PPG)

 

San Jose Sharks: Brendan Dillon, 26, D

Dillon would be a good pick in this spot, being just 26, and carrying a manageable 3.27 million cap hit.

 

St. Louis Blues: David Perron, 29, RW

I see this as a deadline deal for Vegas, with them flipping Perron for more picks. He could get flipped right away though.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning: Jason Garrison, 32, D

GM Steve Yzerman is looking for a way to hold on to young defensemen Slater Koekkoek and Jake Dotchin. Therefore I am projecting a side deal here with Garrison being the pick for Vegas.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs: Kerby Rychel, 22, LW

Rychel is a good pick for Vegas here because of the upside he has. He could factor as a possible trade chip in the future if it doesn’t work out in Sin City.

 

Vancouver Canucks: Reid Boucher, 23, LW

Boucher flipped around the league this season with New Jersey, Nashville, and Vancouver earlier this season after being claimed on waivers. He has a lot of upside, and so this pick will be more about potential than anything.

 

Washington Capitals: Nate Schmidt, 25, D

McPhee could take Philipp Grubauer. McPhee could take Jay Beagle or Brett Connolly. He could even take Kevin Shattenkirk if he can get him to agree to a contract during the exclusive negotiations window. But I have the Capitals going in a different direction and selecting Nate Schmidt, who is one of the best young defensemen available to the Golden Knights. The situation in Washington is interesting because Schmidt got pushed out of the lineup when the Caps traded for Shattenkirk. But Schmidt reminds me of another quick skating defenseman that came up through the system, and made the team. That was John Carlson, and if I’m George McPhee, I’d want that on my team’s blue line.

 

Winnipeg Jets: Toby Enstrom, 32, D

I believe that Toby Enstrom is a candidate for the pick-and-flip for Vegas. With so many teams looking to get a top four defenseman, Vegas could hold the cards, and look to flip him for picks, or for a player that was protected for the expansion draft.

 

 

With this team that I’ve selected, there are sure to be some trades in place before July 1, as the team with this roster will have to sign some of these players to RFA deals while staying away from the cap. McPhee has said that he sees his team in the fifties when discussing team salary. It should be interesting to see what he has up his sleeve.


Brett Malamud is a graduate of Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy

With The Trade Deadline Looming, Are The Knicks Looking To Unload?

By Brett Malamud

When Knicks Owner Jim Dolan brought in Phil Jackson to be the President of Basketball Operations, Dolan expected Jackson to do two things:

A) Take the pressure of being a New York team off of Owner Jim Dolan

B) Attract marquee free agents to New York

Last June, Jackson attempted to do both, and the Knicks acquired three-time NBA All Star and 2011 NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls for Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant, and Robin Lopez. The Knicks also received guard Justin Holiday and a 2017 2nd round pick in the deal. To take the words of former Knick Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks were back. At the time, the thought was that the deal would turn the Knicks into a new era, and all would be well in the Big Apple.

By trading for Derrick Rose, Jackson took a flier on a former MVP and a former number one overall pick. If it didn’t work out, that would be ok too, as Rose’s $21 million salary comes off of the books at the end of the 2016-17 season. At the time, the Knicks decided that if Rose isn’t worth the headaches, they can just let him walk at the end of the 2016-17 season, and go chase a marquee free agent player. That said, the Knicks set themselves up to have over $60 million in cap space for the summer of 2017, where player of the like of Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, Rudy Gay, Andrew Bogut, Jrue Holiday, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala, J.J. Redick, Taj Gibson and George Hill would all be available. Or so they thought.

After all, the move created an attractive place for summer 2016 free agents, and Kevin Durant would be sure to look at the Knicks a little harder than he would have the week before. Players like Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Joakim Noah, who were all linked to the Knicks after the trade was made, were being mentioned as plan-B options if they didn’t get Durant.

Fast-forward a week, and they didn’t. Instead, Durant joined the Warriors, and the Knicks came away with two-time NBA All Star and former Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, on a four year, $72 million contract. Suddenly, a pipe dream was gone. The Knicks were giving $72 million to a player coming off major shoulder surgery, and whose numbers declined in almost every category each season since he was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2014.

Fast-forward eight months, and that’s a contract that the Knicks wish they never handed out. In fact, it was totally unnecessary, because the big-man that they wanted was already on the roster. That was 22-year-old rookie Willy Hernangomez, who has averaged 11.0 points and 9.4 rebounds in the month of February, all well Noah tweaked his hamstring just five games before the All-Star break.

The Knicks find themselves without that $70 million in cap space for this summer, but rather anywhere from $20-25 million. Yikes. Yes, the Knicks still have their first round pick for this season, but with Russell Westbrook off the market, and reports that Chris Paul will stay in Los Angeles for north of $200 million, the point guard market is slim pickings. Sure the Knicks could always re-up with Derrick Rose, but do they really want to spend most of their remaining cap space on Rose? Rose apparently is seeking a max contract this summer, and after multiple knee injuries, paying him a max deal wouldn’t be a wise investment. Instead, the Knicks should seek a trade, so at least they can get something for Rose. One proposed deal sees Rose being shipped to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Ricky Rubio. The move is intriguing from both sides. For Minnesota, the Tom Thibodeau-Derrick Rose reunion could work, as Rose attempts to rekindle his career in the hopes of landing that max-deal that he desires. If Rose leaves at the end of the year, Minnesota has rookie point guard Kris Dunn waiting in the wings. On the other side, the Knicks would get a solid player in Rubio, and wouldn’t lose Rose for nothing, The 26-year-old Rubio is also under contract for the next two and a half years, averaging a reasonable $14 million. Yes, the deal would take the Knicks out of the running for a marquee free agent in the summer of 2017, barring an extremely unlikely major cap dump. Normally the Knicks wouldn’t sign up for being out of the running (See Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and of course LeBron James) before the sweepstakes begins. But the timing is right and Rubio would be a good young piece to place with Hernangomez and Kristaps Porzingis.

MeloRose.jpg

Both Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony could be on their way out of New York at the trade deadline (Via CHI Tribune)

But then we come to the bigger issue at hand:

The Melo Conundrum. 

Yes, Carmelo Anthony has been shopped around by Phil Jackson. That much is confirmed. The Cavaliers, Clippers, Celtics, and Lakers are rumored destinations but it all hinges on Anthony waiving his no-trade clause, and at this rate, Melo has been stating his desire to stay in New York. But let’s explore the scenario for a bit, as Anthony is hungry for a championship, and clearly won’t get that scenario in the near future with the Knicks. The only realistic piece that would change the culture of the Knicks by trading Carmelo Anthony (if actually trading him at all) is Blake Griffin (sorry Austin Rivers fans). Of course, the Knicks would have to trade Rose first, because of the CBA rule stating that two players under a certain rookie contract extension can’t be paired on the same roster. That said, the Clippers are holding on to the hopes that Griffin stays with the team and does not view the Clippers as an aging team with a window closing fast. A fresh start with the new look Ricky Rubio Knicks on a max deal sign and trade wouldn’t be the worst thing for the soon to be 28-year-old Griffin, and as for Carmelo, he’d get a shot to go for a title with his good friend Chris Paul. The pipe dream reopens for Knicks fans, and the Knicks are back.

But it’s not looking as if Carmelo will be traded, and the idea remains—yes—a pipe dream. It’s still worth returning to the reason why all of this is happening: Phil Jackson. With a series of cryptic tweets bashing the team’s superstar, Anthony, the Knicks are quickly becoming a toxic wasteland, and as a result, the pressure is on owner Jim Dolan again. Jackson may have to make a few moves before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline to save the Knicks ship from sinking, or it could be his job on the line.


Brett Malamud is a graduate of Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy

Baseball’s Newest Stars Give Hope For Its Future

 

By Michael Burgner

The 2016 Major League Baseball season is almost to the halfway point and I think it’s high time to acknowledge all the young players rising to stardom this year. It seems as if for the first time in a long time there are a plethora of young players doing exceedingly well and taking the league by storm. There is new blood in the MLB led by the young arms and bats of players like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Kris Bryant.

It seems there hasn’t been this great of an influx of talent since I was a young fan about 15 years ago. Back then there was Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Andy Pettite, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, and many others. Of those famed players I just named half were named and accused of taking PED’s. The best in the game, the heroes of baseball but most could not be trusted. Rodriguez and Pujols are still in the league but the others have since retired and moved out of the spotlight making way for the new age of baseball.

New York Yankees v Washington Nationals

Alex Rodriguez is one of the many who have been linked to PED’s (Via HuffPost)

The steroid era plagued baseball for a long time because the stars of the game could not be trusted to be honest and play the game with the same respect the fans gave it. Now it appears most if not all of that bad blood and poor mentality are out of the league and in the past of America’s Pastime. A few may remain but the main focus now is on the new talent. It’s a class of players that young fans can be excited about, and it’s not just a couple of players it’s a wave of new players for fans to look up to.

This is exactly what baseball as a sport needs to grow and engage it’s young fans. Like all sports baseball is very much generational with everyone loving the top players of their time and passing down stories. The unfortunate issue with this for baseball is that, a generation of players is longer than in any other sport. The average career length is longer and those who are at the top typically have at least a 10-15 year career. People do not have great stories from the past generation and if they do it’s not unusual to hear “I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on steroids.”

That steroid generation or era of baseball has come to pass. Yes, people will always try to cheat the system but it appears that these new stars along with the new stricter policies in place by the MLB are prepared to play the sport with respect and heart and show the fans how baseball can be fun again. I wouldn’t be surprised if in another 5-10 years midway through this new generation of players baseball’s popularity resurges and once again becomes America’s pastime. That’s what I would like to see and I know I’ll be telling my kids about these guys for a long time.

Never Louder Than In Silence

By Michael Burgner

By now most people have heard of the horrible events that took place Sunday in an Orlando nightclub. In the early hours, tragedy struck a nightclub when a gunman took 50 lives including his own and injured many others. That same night, game 6 of the Stanley cup Finals was to be played. The Penguins won the game 3-1 and took home the cup. What I remember most about that game though is the moment of silence that the players and stadium took just before the game started in honor of the victims of Orlando.

This is something unique to sports that transcends the game itself. No matter what team you root for or against, when there is a moment of silence everybody in the stadium, arena, and at home can feel the solidarity that comes from it. Sports have the unique ability to bond us all in times of need, no matter what walk of life we come from. When a tragedy strikes our great country sports have always been there to honor those moments and reflect upon what it means to be a citizen of the United States. Sports are a constant in America whether you are a Hockey, Baseball, Basketball, Football or just all around fan there are only two days in 365 that sports are not played. Every single other day of the year sports can be counted on to be there for us in our times of need or joy.

Tonight is Game 5 of the NBA finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors the Warriors lead in the series three games to one. They took the time to acknowledge the tragedy our country has undergone taking to twitter saying “Stepping away from the court to send our heartfelt condolences to all those impacted by the tragedy in Orlando.”. The NBA sent out similar feelings “Heartfelt condolences to the family and friends impacted from this morning’s tragedy in #Orlando.” . Tonight there will be a moment of silence before the game to remember those lost and injured in Orlando. In that moment even at the highest level of competition and a championship on the line, there will be unity felt on that court and throughout the country. I will be watching to pay my respects and take on my own moment of reflection and silence.

 

 

 

Boston Red Sox: From Pretender To Contender?

By Michael Burgner

Last year, the Boston Red Sox came into the 2015 regular season as one of the hot teams to watch, giving lots of hope to their fans. They had signed on Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to create an offensive powerhouse, and on the pitching side they added Rick Porcello who had been improving and seemed to be poised for his best season to date. That plan fell to shambles. They ended up finishing dead last in the AL East (78-84) and their big signings ended up being some of their worst performers. Hanley Ramirez finished with a .249 Batting Average, playing in only 105 games due to a shoulder injury. “The Kung-Fu Panda,” Pablo Sandoval, seemed to have lost his chi and batted only .245 with a slugging percentage below .400 (.336). Rick Porcello was no help either, posting his only non 10 win season. Red Sox fans could not have been happy.

This year however it seems to be a different story, the Red Sox are tied for first place and 10 games over .500 (34-24). They seem to be doing everything right, being the only team in the AL East that is over .500 both on the road and at home. Their pitching staff is doing better with the addition of Craig Kimbrel and David Price. David Price has been solid for the team posting a 7-2 record in 12 starts. Rick Porcello has also stepped it up returning to a solid pitcher with a 7-2 record. Craig Kimbrel was one of the top relievers in the game before signing with the Red Sox for 4 years/$42 million and he has continued his success.

The real key to their turn around this year though has been their offense. After getting over his shoulder injury, Hanley Ramirez is now batting .277, but the most impressive player is Xavier Bogaerts. The 23-year-old seems to have finally come into his own and is batting an AL leading .346 average. The team has the highest batting average in the MLB(.292) which is .15 higher than the next team Pittsburgh. David Ortiz does not show signs of slowing down at his age, leading the MLB in RBI’s. But the question becomes: can he keep it up? Can the whole team keep up this pace of leading in Batting Average and RBI’s? Even if they do, they’d have to be wary of their team’s overall ERA 4.35 if they want to continue the success throughout the season.

2016 NFL Mock Draft

By Ryan Crawford

Welcome to the 2016 NFL Draft. Just like 2015 it looks like quarterbacks go 1 and 2 and the top talent slides a little. Without further adieu, lets get this party started.

 

  1. LOS ANGELES RAMS (from Tenn) – Jared Goff – QB – California

This is a pretty easy choice for the average draft prognosticator, as the Rams did not trade up to the number one spot so they could draft defense or a tackle. They want to make a big splash as they move to LA and they feel Goff is the natural choice to lead the franchise to the west coast. Les Snead and Jeff Fishers job security will be tied to Goff’s development and overall success but they feel they have a good defense and plenty of offensive weapons to put around him. There are many who feel that Carson Wentz is a more natural fit for their offense but it seems clear that the Rams have settled on the California kid with the big arm and a high ceiling.

  1. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (from Cle) – Carson Wentz – QB – North Dakota St

Like the Rams, the Eagles did not move up to this spot to take anyone other than a  quarterback. Wentz is the clear-cut choice at number 2. These two QB’s are really 1 and 1A and ewrrword is the Eagles are more in love with Wentz anyway. He’s big and strong, makes every throw and can avoid trouble with his legs. The only question has become whether Sam Bradford will be there with him for the first year or two. Looks like the answer to that is probably not.

  1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS – DeForest Buckner-DT-Oregon

Once the Rams and Eagles jumped up to be in position to grab the two quarterbacks, the Chargers ended up in the enviable position of being able to choose the best player in the draft who was not a QB. In the weeks leading to draft night the prevailing sentiment was that although they already had two tackles, Laremy Tunsil would be too good to pass up. However word has filtered out in the last few days that the Chargers are thoroughly smitten with DeForest Buckner and he clearly plays a need position for the team. Unless this is an elaborate smokescreen to get a team to give up a couple of picks to move into that slot, I am going to take the bait and give Buckner to the Chargers. What does make sense to me would be if Jacksonville or Baltimore wanted to jump Dallas for Jalen Ramsey then the Chargers could get a pick and still grab Buckner at 5 or 6. Unless Dallas loves Buckner too?? Hmmmm…

  1. DALLAS COWBOYS – Jalen Ramsey-CB-Florida State

No matter which way they go the Cowboys should get a great prospect. To me the most natural fit for them is Ramsey. He and Tunsil are generally regarded as the top two talents in this draft and he fills a big need for the Cowboys at the same time. He can play safety or corner and can match up positionally based on the opponent that week. I could see teams trying to jump to number 3 or 4 to get him. In the end I think he is the Cowboys pick. On another note the Cowboys can use a running back in the draft and I’m sure they like Ezekial Elliott but I think the chatter of picking him at 4 is purely a smokescreen to hide their true target.

  1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – Joey Bosa– DE– Ohio State

I don’t see Jacksonville picking in this spot. I could see them jumping up to 3 or more probably trading down for a couple of picks. Miami for Elliott and Tennessee for Tunsil or Stanley seem to be the most logical trading partners. If they stay at 5, they can decide between Joey Bosa and Myles Jack. I will give them Bosa because Jack’s knee problem might scare them off.

  1. BALTIMORE RAVENS – Laremy Tunsil- T- Mississippi

Well it looks like 2015 all over again when the top rated talent falls to the 6th pick in the draft. Ozzie Newsome always picks the highest guy on his board and you can’t get much higher than Tunsil. The Ravens will be thrilled to plug this guy in for the next 10 years.

  1. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS – Ronnie Stanley-T- Notre Dame

Ronnie Stanley has steadily risen up the draft board and rumors have him going even higher than 7 to the Niners. The 49ers have been more decimated by injuries, defections and early retirements than any team I can remember so they need to start from scratch. To me that means building up the lines and Stanley is a great start.

  1. CLEVELAND BROWNS (from Phi) – Josh Doctson- WR- TCU

A surprise pick for many draft pundits but after all it is the Cleveland Browns. With Josh Gordon out yet again, the Browns have a glaring need at Wide Receiver and this guy has all the tools. At the end of the day I do not expect the Browns to be picking in this slot but rather a few spots further down. Still, I think Doctson is their man.

  1. TAMPA BAY BUCS – Vernon Hargreaves- CB- Florida

The Bucs need some work in their secondary and would love to get their hands on Jalen Ramsey. That doesn’t appear likely so the 2nd corner on draft lists is Vernon Hargreaves who would be a great fit. Other needs for Tampa are a pass rusher, the offensive line and another wide receiver. Chatter around about them trading down to the middle of the round as well. Tennessee a candidate at 15.

  1. NEW YORK GIANTS – Jack Conklin- T- Michigan State

A big nasty tackle to help keep Eli Manning upright. Doesn’t have the athletic ability of Tunsil or Stanley but will make up for it with toughness and a mean streak that allows him to get the job done. Giants GM Jerry Reece is under a lot of pressure to have a good draft and this guy is a nice start

  1. CHICAGO BEARS – Myles Jack – LB- UCLA

His bum knee caused this drop to 11. Fully healthy, Jack would have easily been a top 5 pick. The Bears check him out medically, clear him and then pounce on him. Another possibility for the Bears is to move this pick in a deal with the Jets for Muhammad Wilkerson but that seems to have lost some steam

  1. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – Sheldon Rankins-DT- Louisville

The buzz is that the Saints have their eye on Paxton Lynch as a long-term successor to Drew Brees. While I think that Lynch is a good prospect, the Saints defense cannot stop anyone and they cannot afford the luxury of drafting a player in the first round who will sit and learn for two or three years. A more likely scenario is that they pick up a run stuffer who can also rush the passer like Rankins and pick up a QB prospect on day 2 of the draft.

  1. MIAMI DOLPHINS (from Phi) – Ezekiel Elliott- RB- Ohio State

Elliott is the wildcard of the draft. You can see his name in mock drafts going anywhere from the Cowboys at 4 to Texans at 22. When the Dolphins tell everyone they are comfortable with their stable of running backs, they are blowing smoke. I think at the end of the day Elliott will be a Dolphin. We will see what pick they take him with.

ElliottDraft2016

Ezekiel Elliott is going to be the wildcard of this draft and can go basically anywhere in the first round (Via AP)

  1. OAKLAND RAIDERS – Shaq Lawson – DE – Clemson

The Raiders are building a ferocious defense with speed and power, which was always the Al Davis way. Adding another player to rush the passer off the edge only makes them more difficult to stop. Lawson is a powerful rusher who makes plays. Corner is another possibility here with William Jackson III the most likely candidate.

  1. TENNESSEE TITANS (from LA) – Taylor Decker -T- Ohio State

The Titans are in the market to move back up into the top 10 to draft one of the offensive tackles to protect Mariota. If they aren’t successful in their attempt they will settle for Decker. Decker is a very highly rated prospect in a deep pool and can be plugged in from the first day of camp.

  1. DETROIT LIONS – Laquon Treadwell- WR-Mississippi

The Lions really need to replace Calvin Johnson and rebuild parts of their offensive line. The top 4 tackles are gone but Treadwell is still on the board. Treadwell is a gifted receiver who plays faster than his 40 time and provides a much-needed big target for Matthew Stafford.

  1. ATLANTA FALCONS – Leonard Floyd- LB- Georgia

Falcons are pleased and surprised that Floyd drops to them at 17. Another pass rusher for Dan Quinn’s schemes should help improve a Falcons defense that was torched in the second half of 2015.

  1. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – Noah Spence- DE/OLB- Eastern Kentucky

When is the last time the Colts had a good defense? Wasn’t Bubba Smith on that team? This guy can rush the passer and although he had some past issues that gave him that dreaded “Red Flag”, word is he’s past that and checked out clean for all the teams. The Colts have also been linked to Ryan Kelly and the 4 top tackles if they slip down as they need to protect Andrew Luck better than they have been.

  1. BUFFALO BILLS – Paxton Lynch- QB- Memphis

Leave it to Rex to spoil the Jets plans at 20. Not sold that the Jets were on Lynch as much as others are but I don’t have to be. Only Rex has to be. Lynch is a very good prospect with a cannon and quick feet and the Bills need a top flight QB to compliment their defense. It will take him a year or two to be ready but this pick should pay dividends down the road.

  1. NEW YORK JETS – Darron Lee – LB- Ohio State

Jets need an edge rusher with speed to help the defense and Jets can figure on whichever edge rusher the Falcons don’t choose. Lee has been a demon for the Buckeyes and will fill his role nicely in Todd Bowles’ defense

  1. WASHINGTON REDSKINS – Jarran Reed -DT- Alabama

The Redskins were 28th in rushing yards allowed per game last season and a run stuffer in the middle of their 3-4 defense is a must. Adding a top prospect like Jarran Reed to the mix can only help.

  1. HOUSTON TEXANS – Corey Coleman- WR- Baylor

It’s no secret that the Texans are in the market for a new receiver for Brock Osweiler to throw to. Corey Coleman is a speedster who can stretch the field for Osweiler and open things up for DeAndre Hopkins. A good choice for the Texans

  1. MINNESOTA VIKINGS- Michael Thomas – WR- Ohio State

The Minnesota Vikings are next on line for a wide receiver. Will Fuller is next man up at the position and I originally had him going to the Vikings but he’s a 170 pound burner and Thomas seems to be a better fit. The Vikings are looking for a big physical receiver and at 6’3 and 212 pounds, Keyshawn Johnson’s nephew has the size and the bloodlines.

  1. CINCINNATI BENGALS – Ryan Kelly -C- Alabama

A hot name who is moving up on many draft boards, Kelly is a plug and play guy who could play center or guard in the NFL. The Bengals can use interior linemen to help protect Andy Dalton and generate more of a running game. Kelly makes a lot of sense for the Bengals but he could go earlier.

  1. PITTSBURGH STEELERS – Karl Joseph- S – West Virginia

Many of the so called experts seem to be tying the knot between Joseph and the Steelers. The Steelers secondary is a mess and they have been looking for Troy Polamalu’s replacement for two years. Joseph is next up to fill that huge void in the Steeler lineup. One of the top corners like Apple, Jackson or Alexander are strong possibilities here as well. One thing seems for sure. The Steelers will be picking someone to play in their defensive backfield.

  1. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – Germain Ifedi- T- Texas A&M

The toughest pick to figure out. The Seahawks have talent everywhere and have picked the best available athlete under this regime. Their top needs include a young corner, help on the offensive line and a speed rushing linebacker to replace Bruce Irvin. Ifedi seems to be drawing the Seahawks attention and he’s the pick here.

  1. GREEN BAY PACKERS – A’Shawn Robinson -DT- Alabama

The Packers are in the market for players that fit into their front seven. The Packers have been linked to 3 Alabama players in Robinson, Reggie Ragland and Jarran Reed but Reed is gone and Robinson can replace BJ Raji. They would love to line up Darron Lee opposite Clay Matthews but would have to move up a few spots to get him and Ted Thompson has a tendency to stay put. Ragland would have been the pick but late reports of an enlarged aorta probably drop him out of the first round

  1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS – Vernon Butler-DT-Louisiana Tech

The Chiefs are in the market for linebackers, wide receivers and defensive line help. I think it comes down to Will Fuller at the receiver slot and Vernon Butler to anchor the line inside. The choice is Butler.

  1. ARIZONA CARDINALS – Kevin Dodd – DE- Clemson

The Cardinals need secondary help and an edge rusher to help their defense. Dodd is the best edge rusher still available and would be a nice fit for the Cardinals D. Chatter has them trading down to add a pick or two.

  1. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – N/A

Forfeited the pick in deflategate but don’t be surprised if Belichick and company make a draft splash and move into the lower half of the round.

  1. CAROLINA PANTHERS ––Eli Apple- CB – Ohio State

With Josh Norman gone to Washington and three of the top rated corners still on the board, this becomes a choice of not which position, but which corner. Mackensie Alexander and William Jackson would be good picks but we will go with Eli Apple.

  1. DENVER BRONCOS –- Dak Prescott – QB –Mississippi State

While we all know that doing a mock draft is basically educated guessing, this pick is anything but educated. It’s purely a guess and a hunch on my part. Watching Prescott throughout his college career, the thing that I took away was his toughness and his ability to escape the defensive rush. Did I hear someone say Russell Wilson? Maybe that was the little voice in my head but the Broncos do need a QB, right?