Third And Thirty

Sports. Music. Comedy. And Other Things That Make Life Interesting.

A (Mostly) Live, Slightly Intoxicated Account of the NFL Draft’s First Round

It’s 7:30 P.M. and I’ve just settled in for what is sure to be one of the best sports nights of the year. I’ve got beer, I’ve got pizza, I’ve got my Calvin Johnson jersey. Things are looking up. The main event will be the first round of the NFL draft, but there are also two NHL Game 7’s and thirteen (thirteen!) NBA games that could have an impact on playoff seeding. I hope I can keep up.

The draft’s real strength as a TV event comes from the human element. If this thing played out like Kiper and McShay’s mocks, no one would watch. There is fierce politicking between owners and GMs; there are more Jedi mind tricks in the days leading up to the draft than there are in the entirety of the Star Wars trilogy. There are inexplicable picks, usually the result of one scout’s brief and torrid love affair with one good season’s worth of tape. Teams trade in and out of their respective positions and outsmart even themselves. They pass on 21 year old blue chip talent because they just gave an egregious contract to a 33-year-old at the same position. It’s a dramedy that unfolds before our eyes on national television, broken up only by boos and uncomfortable hugging between Roger Goodell and his new employees.

This year’s draft is seemingly decided in the top two spots but after that… who knows? There has already been an incomprehensible trade, as the Browns just gave up a 4th, 5th, and 7th rounder to move up to #3. I am baffled. Sure, Cleveland has more picks than anyone else in the draft, and they can afford to throw away a couple of them (there’s almost no way all thirteen picks would have made the roster anyway), but if Trent Richardson is the target, why couldn’t they have stayed at 4? The Vikings don’t need him, there’s no way the Bucs were going after anything but defense, the Rams have Stephen Jackson, the Jaguars have MJD and have been reported as trying to trade down… you see where I’m going with this. The only explanation I can come up with is that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf worked some kind of hypnosis trick on Browns president Mike Holmgren. My guess is that it involved hot dogs.

7:45 P.M.: The 26 prospects (a record) who decided to attend the first round were just introduced on stage, and I am amazed at Dontari Poe’s hair. It’s an abomination, but I wish more guys took chances like this. There are plenty of NBA players famous for their draft-day suits (see Joakim Noah, Jalen Rose), but their NFL counterparts are so well-coached by agents and publicists that you rarely see them step out of the black jacket/black pants box. Outside of Nick Fairley last year, I can’t even think of another guy that made me say “whoa” when they stepped onstage. Bravo, Dontari Poe.

7:50 P.M.: Things are moving too fast. ESPN is switching between personalities discussing trade rumors and team targets once ever 15 seconds. I’m getting disoriented. I hope this starts soon.

7:55 P.M.: This intro is fantastic. Gary Clark Jr. (highly recommended) is playing guitar, Ray Lewis is yelling philosophically about the past and future, and Nas is bobbing around on screen. Oh wait, Nas just started rapping. Talk about losing a step. Save me Roger Goodell.

8:00 P.M.: I’ve never been this happy to see the commissioner and his giant head. He isn’t saying much, but people are still booing. For a guy who really isn’t on TV that much, he sure is hated. And now… the Colts are on the clock! 

1.     Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck. Nothing to see here, folks. This pick has been wrapped up since November, even if it was only confirmed last week. Let’s hope he is as good as advertised, because his new team is pretty awful. He’ll have the enormous task of pulling this team back in to contention, as well as the more inconvenient task of making sure Jim Irsay takes his medication. The world is on your shoulders young man.

2.     Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III. I love RGIII. Everyone does. How can you not? But am I the only one who’s not 100% sold on his future? The Redskins gave up a boatload to get him, believing that he is the answer to two decades of insignificance. But Griffin just became the latest in a long line of guys who shot up in to the first five picks after having a Heisman-caliber season (see Reggie Bush and Vince Young). With the recent exception of Cam Newton, those types of guys haven’t had a ton of success in the NFL, especially not in their first few years. Don’t get me wrong: RGIII was amazing last year. I can’t wait to see what he can do in the NFL. But even if Griffin is the next Aaron Rodgers, he’s going to a team with an owner (Dan Snyder) who is capable of ruining any talent that comes his way (see Donovan McNabb, Albert Haynesworth, and really any free-agent signing the ‘Skins have made in his tenure) and a coach (Mike Shanahan) who appeared to be actively trying to get fired at times last season. This pick has serious bust potential, and it’s not even Griffin’s fault.

3.     Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson. There’s little doubt that Richardson is the best running back in the draft, but I still don’t get this pick for two reasons: I’ve already said that I thought the Browns could have stayed pat and gotten their guy, but besides that, why is anyone taking running backs this early anymore? In a best-case scenario, they have eight or nine years of good to great running in them. They get hurt more frequently than most other positions and, as ESPN is quick to remind us, this is a passing league. The Giants just won a Super Bowl with a fourth-rounder (Brandon Jacobs) and a seventh-rounder (Ahmad Bradshaw). The Packers’ featured back (Ryan Grant) went down early in their Super Bowl season in 2010. It’s not that I dislike the pick, I just don’t see the value. That said, Trent Richardson will be on my fantasy team next year.

4.     Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil. There were reports that the Vikings didn’t love Kalil and were actively trying to trade down, but I’m beginning to think this was all part of the Zygi Wilf trickery. Perhaps they just created some controversy to swindle some poor team (the Browns, as it turns out) out of a few picks while secretly coveting the guy. I wouldn’t blame them. Kalil was easily the best O-line prospect in the draft, and should be able to help immediately by opening running lanes for AP (if and when he returns) and protect Christian Ponder. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to make a huge difference for Ponder or the Vikes. Ponder just doesn’t look right out there. But now Minnesota has the insurance of saying they gave Ponder every shot to succeed, and I can’t imagine they’ll be horribly upset if they bottom out and end up with Kalil’s former teammate Matt Barkley next year.

5.     Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon. Another trade! The Bucs received a fourth rounder, and the Jags received Blaine Gabbert’s new best friend. With 50% of the offense going through MJD’s hands last year, Jacksonville knew they had to make some moves on offense. They signed Laurent Robinson in the offseason, and now they’ve got a guy who should contribute immediately from the slot, and may develop in to a stud. Jacksonville’s pick, like Minnesota’s, is essentially insurance; if Gabbert fails again this year, executives will be able to pin it on him and not the wide receivers. But honestly, Gabbert already looks like a lost cause, and I’m not sure he’s entirely to blame. I liked him coming in to the draft last year, and really thought he could develop in to a starter given some time. But the Jags decided they didn’t have time for development: they cut David Garrard in camp and trotted Gabbert out instead. And then, as he looked progressively more lost and took hit after hit, they left him out there. I know it’s only been sixteen games, but he may not be salvageable at this point. The Jags did what they had to, but saying that Gabbert just needs more weapons is like saying a man with no hands needs more gloves.

6.     Dallas Cowboys: Morris Claiborne. Another (!) trade. The Cowboys gave up their second rounder to move up, and the Rams are now absolutely loaded with picks. While I’m sure they would have rather given up a fourth-round pick, Dallas had to make this trade. They need help in the secondary, and they need it now. On an otherwise decent (if underperforming) team, the secondary was the most obvious and glaring flaw last year, and the ‘Boys are addressing it. They signed Brandon Carr in the offseason, and now they’ve taken the highest-rated corner in the draft. And really, it seems like kind of a steal. This guy has much more potential than Blackmon, and corner is a position that is much more difficult to fix than wide receiver. Dallas is set at nearly every other position (though one could argue that Tony Romo is not the man to take them to glory) and Claiborne should make them better immediately. As a bonus, he can also return kicks, another area the Cowboys struggled with a bit last year. I never thought I’d say this, but Jerry Jones did something right.

7.     Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mark Barron. This was a great move by the Bucs. They moved back knowing they could still pick up either Claiborne or Barron and got a fourth rounder in return. Barron might be the only good safety in the draft, and with Ronde Barber likely on his way out, the secondary is going to need help. Tampa has to be overjoyed. Maybe not quite as happy as the Rams, but still very happy. If Josh Freeman and Mike Williams can bounce back, the Bucs should be closer to 10-6 than 4-12. There’s trouble in New Orleans, the Panthers are rebuilding, and the Falcons are the Falcons. I don’t see any reason why the Bucs can’t contend for the division next year.

8.     Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill. From a great pick to a terrible one. Even if Tannehill can play—and that’s a legitimate question right now, as he only played nineteen games in college—who will he throw to? The Dolphins just shipped Brandon Marshall to the Bears, and Davone Bess and Brian Hartline are serviceable but not by any means studs. This just seems like a desperation pick. The Dolphins reached for a guy that might be the sixth-best quarterback in the draft in an effort to sell hope to their fans and, in return, sell tickets. Also, has everyone forgotten what the Mike Sherman-Ryan Tannehill combo looked like last year in College Station? It was awful! They pissed away more games in the fourth quarter than Lebron James. Here are three guys I think will be better than Ryan Tannehill: Brandon Weeden, Kirk Cousins, and Nick Foles. Also, his girlfriend looks like a Barbie (I don’t mean that as a compliment). And he’s an Aggie. Boo.

9.     Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly. I like this pick. A lot of scouts say that Kuechly is the best, or at least the most complete, defensive player in the draft. The Panthers need to build the best defense they can to keep Cam Newton out of shootouts. The offense last year was pretty unstoppable, but the defense was porous, especially after Jon Beason went down. Kuechly will complement Beason nicely if Beason can stay healthy; if he can’t, Kuechly can replace him. He can stop the run and drop back in to coverage, and he’s a great open field tackler. I know I just said the Panthers were rebuilding, and I don’t expect Kuechly to single-handedly make this one of the best defenses in the league, but this team is going to beat some contenders next year.

10. Buffalo Bills: Stephon Gilmore. I love this pick. The Bills have already upgraded the pass rush by drafting Marcell Dareus and signing Mario Williams in free agency, they have a decent linebacking core, and they’ve added a ton of young talent in the secondary over the last two years. Gilmore adds to a position that was already deep and brimming with potential. There was talk that they might grab a receiver here, but they went with value instead. Good move Buffalo. Mark my words: the Bills are wild-card contenders next year. The ‘Stache says so.

11. Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe. Every year there’s a guy from a small school who works his way up the draft boards with a good year and a great combine workout. Sometimes it works out (Jason Pierre Paul), sometimes it doesn’t (Jerry Hughes). Romeo Crennel loves defense almost as much as he loves ice cream, and Romeo Crennel loves him some defensive linemen. If Poe can harness his athleticism, he will be very scary lined up with Tamba Hali. As we saw in 2010, the Chiefs are the kind of team that can win their (admittedly weak) division with a good defense, a good run game, and the occasional big play from Dwayne Bowe. But judging by Crennel’s recent history, the Chiefs may have been better off with a safer pick on the offensive line, a position of real need.

12. Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox. The Eagles moved up (and gave up two picks, a fourth and a sixth) to grab Cox. The Eagles played it smart here. They could have maybe used some offensive line help, but after signing Demeco Ryans, linebacker isn’t the glaring weakness that it was last season. Philadelphia knows that it had an incredibly talented team last year that underperformed before righting the ship in the second half of the season. This is the opposite of the Dolphins pick: the Eagles know they have good players all over the field and went after the guy with the most value. Trent Cole can take over games at times, and Jason Babin has a lot of promise. Adding Cox to the mix should make an already aggressive defense even more difficult to move the ball on. Another bold prediction: the Eagles win the NFC East this year.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd. I hate this pick. The Cardinals have a history of developing great receivers, and they already have a lot of money tied up in the clear #1 (Larry Fitzgerald). Sure, Floyd may take some of the attention away from Fitz, but who will throw to them? I know it was impossible for the Cards to get a major upgrade at quarterback at this point in the first round, but I don’t understand why they didn’t go with offensive line here. For a team that really seemed like it could compete with the big boys at times last season, this is a puzzling move. They could have used help on either side of the line, and Floyd has had a lot of off-field troubles. On the bright side, he was very productive in college despite some really bad Notre Dame quarterbacks. Good on him, because the Kevin Kolb/John Skelton combo isn’t a whole lot better.

14. St. Louis Rams: Michael Brockers. This is a good move for the Rams. Brockers isn’t as “sexy” as Fletcher Cox or Chandler Jones—in fact, I’ve barely heard his name this week, rare for a guy who’s been graded in the first round for the entire year—but he should be a solid pass-rusher, and the Rams desperately need a solid pass-rusher. It’s hard to criticize or congratulate St. Louis at this point. There are so many holes that it will be impossible to address them all, even with thirteen picks. Speaking of those thirteen picks, I think the Rams have been smart this year by stacking picks for this year and the next two, but they really need help NOW. They have what they believe is a franchise quarterback. They have a great running back who is coming closer and closer to the end of his career. They just finished the worst five-year stretch in NFL history, and, despite that distinction, this appears to be rebuilding year one. If the guys they draft this year can’t contribute immediately, they might find themselves in the same place five years from now.

15. Seattle Seahawks: Bruce Irvin. Hmmmmmmm. The first time I heard this guy’s name was via Twitter, when a beat reporter said that one team had assured Irvin he wouldn’t make it out of the first round. That team, apparently, is the Seattle Seahawks. Side note: Mel Kiper’s hair is fascinating. I can’t look away. Sid note to this side note: the beers are beginning to take effect. Anyway, I don’t even have to know anything about this guy to know that I hate this pick. Irvin is described as a pass-rushing specialist; the Seahawks do not have the luxury of drafting a pass-rushing specialist. Besides the fact that they could have waited until the second, or maybe even third round to get this guy, Adam Schefter just said the following things about Bruce Irvin:

a)    Bruce Irvin dropped out of high school.

b)   Bruce Irvin has been arrested multiple times

c)    Bruce Irvin transferred to West Virginia from a junior college (not necessarily a terrible thing, but JuCo transfers are often unpolished and take more development than four-year guys).

d)   Multiple teams said they “wouldn’t touch” Bruce Irvin in any round. Good pick Pete Carroll.

Basketball Interlude!: I just flipped over to the two games being shown in my market: Philadelphia at Detroit and New York at Charlotte. It was awful. I think I have PTSD. Was that high-school basketball? It certainly was not NCAA quality. This awesome sports night turned in to NFL draft night very quickly.

16. New York Jets: Quinton Coples. For all the credit Rex Ryan gets as a defensive guru, he hasn’t been incredibly successful of late with developing defensive players, especially defensive linemen. And Coples is a guy that, by most accounts, needs some developing. I don’t hate this pick; there wasn’t much value at any other need positions for the Jets, and the Jets do need to strengthen their pass rush. And if Coples doesn’t work out, I’m sure Tim Tebow would be happy to help out on the D-line. That guy’s a team player.

17. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick. The Bengals seem to be a team on the rise. Their defense is solid, but they lost standout corner Jonathan Joseph to the Texans in free agency last year. The secondary played pretty well without him, but when Leon Hall went down last season, the lack of depth was a glaring issue. They began to address that issue in free agency by signing Pacman Jones and Terrence Newman, but those guys are fill-ins and Kirkpatrick has Pro Bowl potential. The Bengals will probably have to grab a running back at some point in this draft (maybe even the second round), but I’m glad they bolstered their defense here instead of talking themselves in to a back that wasn’t Trent Richardson.

18. San Diego Chargers: Melvin Ingram. This is a great pick. The Chargers grabbed one of the best defensive players in the draft, and they managed to get him way lower than he was valued. This seems to happen every year: one of the consensus best players available falls to a team that wasn’t targeting him (they probably would have gone O-line here if they weren’t gifted Ingram), that team is overjoyed and implements him effectively, and everyone is happy. Instead of grabbing an O-lineman with a lower grade here, the Chargers get the guy who is probably the best player available. And why worry about the offensive line? Phillip Rivers will throw his little fits whether he’s protected or not. Good move, A.J. Smith.

19. Chicago Bears: Shea McLellin. Chris Berman fumbling for the names of free agents that the Bears signed in the offseason was the most entertaining thing Chris Berman has done all night. Why is this not on Youtube yet? Anyway, I really really like Shea McLellin. I think the Bears would have rather gotten some secondary help, but there’s no one here worth going after at this point. They probably should have gotten some help on the O-line or at receiver here, as both have been weaknesses in the past and could really use some depth. But it’s hard to argue with McLellin. The value is right, and he should fit the Bears’ system very well. He’ll be learning from two of the best in Lance Briggs and Brian Urlachler, and he may be able to fill the void that Urlachler will leave in the next few years.

20. Tennessee Titans: Kendall Wright. I didn’t see this one coming. I really thought the Titans would go with a defensive pick here, and I’m a little surprised they didn’t go with Chandler Jones or Nick Perry. The Titans aren’t in desperate need of a receiver—Kenny Britt is a true stud no matter who is throwing to him. But if Wright is developed properly, he can be a good one. I don’t see him as much of a deep threat, but having a good slot guy to take some of the focus off of Britt should help Jake Locker when he takes the reins.

21. New England Patriots: Chandler Jones. The Patriots always seem to have a surplus of picks, and they gave up a third rounder to target a real need. They signed Albert Haynesworth and Mark Anderson in the offseason last year, and Anderson ended up leading the team in sacks, but the Patriots’ pass rush was a big weakness last year. They needed to bolster the defense in this draft, and they got one of the better linemen at a good value. It seems that Tom Brady finally got the ear of Bill Belichick and convinced him to quit hoarding picks before he ends up on TLC.

22. Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden. Well, it seemed inevitable that the Browns would take Weeden at some point, but I’m a little surprised they took him this early. Cleveland was apparently targeting Kendall Wright here, but Tennessee pulled the rug out from under them and they decided to act sooner rather than later. I think Weeden will turn out OK, but I’m not sure he was worth a first-round selection. He’s 28 years old, the age that quarterbacks normally enter in to their prime, and people seem to believe that he’s worth the pick even if he only gives the Browns eight or nine decent to good years. Here’s my problem with that: most quarterbacks take about three years to develop at the NFL level. So by the time Weeden is at the level of, say, Matt Stafford (drafted three years ago), assuming he can even get to that level, he’ll be 31. He might be able to play at an above-average level for five or maybe six years, but most quarterbacks see a big drop off in play after that. I’m not sure why the Browns didn’t trade back (it’s possible they couldn’t find a suitor) or take a flyer on another receiver like Stephen Hill, who’s 6’4” and ran a 4.3 40 at the combine. The guy could be Megatron 2.0. I think he would immediately help Colt McCoy (something the Browns say they’re trying to do), if only as a distraction, and the Browns still could have grabbed Weeden in the second. (Note: As it turns out, the Browns were not committed to helping out Colt McCoy. He was apparently put on the trading block about five seconds after this pick was made.)

23. Detroit Lions: Riley Reiff. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Offensive line picks aren’t sexy, but Reiff was graded as a top 10 talent, and the Lions just grabbed him with the 23rd pick. This is a great value. I know the Lions would have liked to get a blue chipper in the secondary, but there was no one here that wouldn’t have qualified as a reach. They could have gone after another pass rusher (maybe Nick Perry) and let Cliff Avril go after the coming season, but Detroit is stacked at that position from bulky interior guys like Corey Williams to speed rushers like Willie Young. Reiff has great arms and great skills and should be able to contribute immediately on the right side, and may develop as a replacement for Jeff Backus on the left when Backus hangs it up. The only thing I didn’t like about this pick? Calvin Johnson, recent winner of the Madden cover vote, was brought out to present it. Did we really need to remind a fan base that already believes their team is cursed that their best player was just selected to be, you know, cursed? I am trying to stay optimistic about the upcoming season, but here is a sample of things that have happened to the Lions since last year’s draft:

a)    Mikel Leshoure (second-round pick) tore his Achilles in training camp and missed his entire rookie season.

b)   Nick Fairley (2011 first round pick) injured his foot in training camp and required surgery. He missed the first six games of the season.

c)    Jahvid Best (2010 first round pick) missed the last ten games of last season after suffering a concussion.

d)   Mikel Leshoure was arrested for possession of marijuana this spring. Twice.

e)    Nick Fairley was also arrested for drug charges (marijuana) this spring.

Oy. Still, I love this pick.

24. Pittsburgh Steeler: David DeCastro. I don’t know much about DeCastro. He is thought to be the best guard in the draft, and the Steelers certainly needed some help on the O-line. Unfortunately, the best line in the world can’t prevent Big Ben from getting drilled after holding on to the ball for a full fifteen seconds.

25. New England Patriots: Dont’a Hightower. The Pats traded up once again (giving up a fourth rounder) and made another great pick. I thought that Hightower was one of the more underrated prospects in the draft. He can help with the pass rush and drop back in to coverage. He can play almost any position on the front seven, and he should mesh well with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes. The Patriots knew their defense sucked last year, and they’re making it clear that it will be better next year. Unlike years past, where they traded back and picked guys with blue-chip potential, the Pats are getting guys who can contribute immediately. So far, so good.

26. Houston Texans: Whitney Mercilus. This makes sense. After losing Mario Williams and Demeco Ryans in the offseason, the Texans knew they needed somebody to help last year’s draftees JJ Watt and Brooks Reed. Mercilus has been knocked a bit as a one year wonder (he led the NCAA in sacks last year), but Wade Phillips showed last year that he can bring in young guys and play their strengths to his system. Another bold prediction! The Texans win this division handily and, if Matt Schaub can stay healthy, roll in to the AFC Championship game.

27. Cincinnati Bengals: Kevin Zeitler. Zeitler is a very solid pick here. He was part of an O-line at Wisconsin that gave Russell Wilson plenty of time to throw last year and allowed Montee Ball to run absolutely wild. The Bengals had a decent line last year, but they are smart to bolster it with first-round talent now. While Andy Dalton looked much better than expected last year, he is not the type of guy who will thrive (especially at this point) behind anything other than a rock-solid line. And the more time Dalton has, the more time A.J. Green has to break away from coverage. He’s good at that. For an organization that gets a bad rap, Cincy has been doing a lot of things right lately.

28. Green Bay Packers: Nick Perry. I love this pick for Green Bay. The Packers have shown in the past that they are capable of developing two positions very well: quarterback (see Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Matt Hasselbeck, etc.) and linebacker (see Clay Matthews). Perry is a raw talent with a lot of speed and strength who can get after guys in the backfield. I really thought he might go higher to a team that fell in love with him, but Green Bay has to be ecstatic that he fell to them. Under the tutelage of Clay Matthews, Perry should make an immediate impact for a pass rush that was lacking last year.

Interlude!: Baltimore has traded out of the first round altogether. This is a smart move considering that Baltimore is really only weak at one position: quarterback. I wouldn’t be surprised if they go after Nick Foles or Kirk Cousins somewhere later in the draft. It has to be later, though, because they don’t want to hurt Flacco’s delicate feelings. Denver has also traded out of the first round altogether, presumably because they believe that they now have the pieces they need after signing Peyton Manning. This would make sense if it were true, but I’ve already discussed why it’s not.

29. Minnesota Vikings: Harrison Smith. I know the Vikings DESPERATELY needed some help in the secondary, but I don’t quite get this pick. They essentially gave up a fourth rounder to move up to this spot, but was anybody really taking Smith in the next five picks before Minnesota? Somehow I doubt it. He might be the second best safety in this draft, but second is a long way from first in this case. I think he’s a decent player, but I really think he would have been there at 35. And even if he wasn’t, the secondary needs help in all areas, and Minny could have grabbed Janoris Jenkins (CB) or Tavon Wilson (a comparable safety talent-wise). The Vikes are loaded with picks at this point, so I guess it doesn’t hurt them too much, but I really think Zygi’s Jedi mind tricks may have backfired here.

“FUCK” Interlude!: I really think there are a group of fans screaming “FUCK” right before every single pick. I’ve been hearing it from the beginning, but it’s becoming more and more obvious as Radio City gets quieter and quieter. Is this possible? Wouldn’t they have been kicked out by now? Have I heard people scream fuck 29 times on national television? I’m confused. Also, the New York Rangers won their series against Ottawa, meaning there are no remaining Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs. There are, however, teams from Phoenix, Nashville, and Los Angeles. The NHL playoffs!

30. San Francisco 49ers: AJ Jenkins. I’m confused. I didn’t hear Jenkins’ name much leading up to the draft, or during the college football season for that matter. I’m really surprised they didn’t go after Stephen Hill here if they were set on a receiver. They already have a bevy of smaller, slower guys (Michael Crabtree and new signee Mario Manningham) and they really need a big, vertical threat that’s not Vernon Davis. I know the signing of Randy Moss was intended to address that issue, but do they honestly believe that Moss has anything left in the tank at this point? I don’t understand why they didn’t go after Courtney Upshaw (how has he fallen this far?) at this point and add to a position of strength. For a team that was thiiiis close to the Super Bowl last year, the 49ers have been making some really strange moves this offseason.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Doug Martin. Doug Martin is a very good running back. The Buccaneers have a very good running back. This isn’t a terrible pick, but I really think they should have packaged some picks to Cincy’s spot at 17 and grabbed Dre Kirkpatrick. They could have even stayed here and grabbed Courtney Upshaw. The Bucs have a good young core on offense and on the defensive line, and I don’t see the value of taking Martin here. I know LeGarrette Blount has had some trouble staying healthy, but getting some depth behind him does not warrant a first-round pick.

32. New York Giants: David Wilson. I love David Wilson. He was easily the best player on Virginia Tech’s Sugar Bowl team last year, and I believe he was the second-best back in this draft. But I still hate this pick for the Giants. Much like the Browns (who traded Brady Quinn for their leading rusher in 2010), the Giants should know better. They’ve won two Super Bowls with a fourth round pick and a seventh round pick as their featured backs. Also, the Giants could really use a tight end. Everyone agrees that Coby Fleener is the best tight end in the draft; why not take him? What an anticlimactic final pick.

11:15 P.M: Well, that about wraps things up. What a weird draft. Only 26 of the 32 teams used (or even had) a first round pick. Bruce Irvin went 15th. The Patriots traded up instead of down. Cincinnati made intelligent picks. Coby Fleener, Jonathan Martin, Cordy Glenn, Jerel Worthy, and Alshon Jeffery are still on the board. Goodell gave a lot of really passionate hugs. A strange, strange night indeed. And now, only four and a half months until we get to see these guys play…

Song of the Week: April 26th, 2012

Yuck are made up of two childhood friends from England and two exotic imports: a drummer from New Jersey and a bassist from Japan. Their self-titled debut album was released in February of 2011, garnering comparisons to Sonic Youth and Pavement, and quickly making them the darlings of music critics from Pitchfork to Rolling Stone. In November, a deluxe re-issue featuring six new songs was released, and the band rocked the road (including a show with Dinosaur Jr.), most recently at Coachella.

It’s impossible to listen to Yuck without hearing the ghosts of indie greats past, and “Soothe Me” (which can be found on the re-issue) is no exception. The big, reverb-coated sound of major chords and ringing open notes carries the song throughout, and the lead guitar gracefully walks the melody through transitions. The chorus contains one of the best hooks I’ve heard in a while, and it is sung perfectly by Daniel Blumberg, who delivers the line “So soothe me, don’t use me” with just the right mix of vulnerability and resolve. The guitar solo is brief, beautiful, and understated. The song, like the album as a whole, is an unapologetic love letter to the sounds of another decade.  And when the letter is this good, who has time for apologies?

Streak For The Cash Recap: April 25th, 2012

*For the uninitiated, Streak For The Cash is a game on ESPN.com that allows players to pick the outcomes of various games and props in an effort to build the longest streak of the month. The prize: $50,000. As an added twist, there is an extra “stash” of $50,000 if the month’s winner hits 27 or more wins in a row. If the winner gets less than 27 wins, the stash rolls over to the next month. I am confident that I will one day win this game, buy an island, and drink coconut rum. Unfortunately, I have terrible luck. Or I’m just not very good. Let’s review.*

Current Streak: Win 4

Current Overall Record: 52-45-0 (.536) 

It’s been a rough week. I managed to rack up a six loss streak, and my only real shots at putting together a winning streak were derailed by what should have been a relatively safe bet on the Detroit Tigers and a golf prop (stupid golf).  Things are looking up, however, as I’m riding a win 4 in to the last days of the month. By my calculations, I only need to average three wins a day to win this thing. Wish me luck. On another note, there will probably not be a recap next week as I will either be taking exams or drinking on an island.

Great Success!

The Pick: Los Angeles Clippers over Denver Nuggets (April 18th)

Why It Worked: The Nuggets have a lot of great pieces. Kenneth Faried is a beast, Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo make up a very athletic backcourt, and if Danilo Gallinari were playing like he did early in the season, Denver might be in the conversation as a legitimate playoff sleeper. Though I think both teams are headed for a quick playoff exit (more on that on Friday), the Clippers have the slight edge in the talent department.

The Pick: Cincinnati Reds over Chicago Cups (April 20th)

Why It Worked: Chris Volstad is a really bad pitcher on a really bad team, and he proved it by giving up 4 runs and throwing 41 pitches in the first inning. The Reds have made some horrible decisions lately, mortgaging their future by giving huge deals to Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, but they are not a horrible team. They won’t be going anywhere in October, but they, like most teams in the league, are capable of beating the Cubs.

The Pick: West Bromwich: Win, Draw, Lose by 1 over Liverpool: Win

Why It Worked: Simply put, Liverpool have been playing like a shit club since Christmas despite bringing home some hardware that no one cares about. It’s honestly more surprising when they don’t lose a game they should win at this point.

The Pick: Chelsea: Win, Lose by Win over Barcelona: Wins by 2+ Goals (April 24th)

Why It Worked: It really shouldn’t have; in the first half, Barcelona raced out to a two goal lead and John Terry was ejected. But somehow, some way, Chelsea was able to keep it together with ten men on the field and tie things up to advance to the Champions League Final.

The Pick: Tampa Bay Rays over Los Angeles Angels (April 24th)

Why It Worked: The Angels made sure they won the offseason by giving big deals to CJ Wilson and Albert Pujols, but those two players have not provided the instant upgrade that was expected of them. Pujols is in one of the worst slumps of his career, and while Wilson is not exactly struggling (2-1 so far), he is not an “ace” and will never be worth the money the Angels gave him. The Rays are the anti-Angels. They’ve built a sneaky good team through the draft, and their starting pitching is some of the best in baseball. David Price pitched a shutout and the Rays won 5-0.

The Pick: Virginia: Wins by 2+ Goals over Boston College: Win or Lose by 1

Why It Worked: I don’t even know how lacrosse works, much less why I won this prop. Virginia was just ranked higher. When in doubt, pick the higher ranking. 

Miserable Failure.

The Pick: Detroit Tigers over Texas Rangers (April 21st)

Why It Failed: After beating up on basement teams, I thought the Rangers would come back to earth against a good team with nearly equal offensive firepower. Sadly I was wrong, as the overmatched (and still developing) Rick Porcello was hammered for eight runs in the first inning. The Tigers never recovered, and the Rangers are beginning to look like a juggernaut. They have the best record, the best batting average, and the best run differential in the league. With no real competition in the AL West, they should breeze in to the playoffs and perhaps even the World Series, only to lose to a National League team that has no business beating them.

The Pick: Which player will record more points and assists in the first half? Steve Nash over Ty Lawson

Why It Failed: Nash has been playing at an incredible level for so long that it’s just hard to bet against him, especially if it means choosing a guy who, while incredibly gifted, is still not quite polished and doesn’t quite fit the description of a “pure point guard.” But Lawson has been on fire in April, posting the best numbers of his career with almost 19 points and 6 assists a game on 52% shooting.

The Pick: Orlando Magic: Win or Single Digit Loss over Utah Jazz: Win By Double Digits

Why It Failed: I honestly thought that the Magic had real playoff sleeper potential. Stan Van Gundy is a great coach, and now that Dwight is officially done for the season and can’t really cause any more drama than he already has short of bringing guns to the locker room, I thought the rest of the embattled Magic might rally around their coach and make some noise now that everyone’s counted them out. Losing to the Jazz does not bode well for that fantasy.

The Pick: How many points will Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combine for in the first half? 29 Points Or More over 28 Points Or Fewer

Why It Failed: What a strange game. Durant and Westbrook never really got going, Ron Artest knocked out James Harden with the elbow heard ‘round the world, and Kobe Bryant’s Bioengineered Knees made clutch shots to seal the win after four quarters and two overtimes. Looking back on it, the whole thing seems like a fever dream.

Bit of the Week: April 24th, 2012

Patton Oswalt is one of the greatest, and perhaps most underrated, comedians in the business. His recurring appearances on King of Queens and VH1’s Best Week Ever may have allowed him to drift in to the public consciousness, but his most well known starring role was as the voice of Remy in Ratatouille. But there is oh so much more Patton to be excited about. Since 2004, he has released four brilliant standup albums, and his most recent, Finest Hour, made its debut on Comedy Central on Saturday (if you missed it, you can set your DVR for May 2nd at 3 AM ET). He released a collection of stories and shorts titled Zombie Spaceship Wasteland in 2011 that is both funny and, at times, touching. His lead roles in the indie films Big Fan and Young Adult display his enormous ability on the big screen, which goes far beyond character acting. He has been nominated for a Grammy, he should have been nominated for an Oscar, and he live-tweets the happenings on Downton Abbey. What’s not to love?

It was hard to pick just one bit from a grab bag of classics, but I eventually settled on Patton’s story about working alongside a magician whose wrath is invoked when he is shorted five dollars.

Quick Hits: April 23rd, 2012

Sports:

  • Dwight Howard will miss the rest of the season, as well as the Summer Olympics, after undergoing surgery on a herniated disk in his back. The surgery coincides with a report that Howard told management that he would not play for Stan Van Gundy again. This leaves open the possibility of the following scenario, reminiscent of Larry David’s move to New York (h/t to the Basketball Jones): Dwight getting the surgery allowed him to stop playing for Van Gundy this season AND prevent a media firestorm about the alleged phone call. When reached for comment on this possibility, Howard stated “Dwight is getting upset. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s not Stan, it’s me.” After further probing, he stormed off screaming “Serenity now! Serenity now!
  • Mark Humber threw the 21st perfect game in MLB history on Saturday. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction: after racing out to a 9-0 lead against the Yankees on Saturday, the Red Sox gave up fifteen runs in the final four innings. When asked for his reaction to the game, Bobby Valentine said “Well, you know, I thought we played really well through those first five innings, and then, you know, yada yada yada…”  When pressed further about the late collapse, specifically the use of six different pitchers after the first six innings, Valentine responded “Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing is frowned upon… you know, cause I’ve worked for a lot of teams, and I tell you, managers do that all the time.” He then shuffled quickly off the stage and hopped in a waiting car with vanity plates reading “ASSMAN.”

Music:

  • Legends Dick Clark and Levon Helm passed last week. I don’t have too many words for this. Levon was a hero of mine, and I hope that he is able to take his ramble on the road to greener pastures. John Fogerty joined the Black Keys at Coachella this weekend to celebrate his life and play a nice cover of “The Weight,” which you can see here.
  • Ted Nugent was visited by the Secret Service after making inflammatory comments about President Barack Obama. Nugent has been riding the crazy train for years, but he is in rare form lately (he was recently charged with illegally killing a bear). Where some may recoil from or feel sadness for the legend behind “Cat Scratch Fever,” I see an opportunity. I know that CMT and others have attempted to capture the Nuge in his natural habitat for reality programming, but for maximum entertainment value, Nugent should be put in a house, Big Brother style, with (at minimum) the following people: Ginger Baker, the Gallagher brothers, Courtney Love, Tyler, the Creator, and Sinead O’ Connor. You can say you wouldn’t watch it, but you’re only lying to yourself.

Comedy:

  • Lewis Black will be competing on Jeopardy for charity. Between the stuttering and the enormous potential for f-bombs, this should be incredible.
  • Rob Riggle will host the ESPYs. I love the idea of Riggle in the hosting role; unfortunately, the ESPYs are still a pile of shit. Let’s get Riggle on the Oscars next year. I guarantee there will be 100% less Sammy Davis Jr. “impersonations.”

Other:

  • 4/20 happened. Appropriately, a statue of local hero Willie Nelson was unveiled in Austin on Friday, and Willie did a short set that included “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” When I read this story, I began thinking about the feasibility of smoking a friend’s ashes (just a sprinkle, I guess?), the emotions this would stir up, and how downright weird the whole thing would feel. And then I was reminded that TUPAC’s FRIENDS ACTUALLY DID THIS.

Song of the Week: April 20th, 2012

Delta Spirit are a bit of an enigma. They got some buzz for their first album, Ode to Sunshine, in 2007 and scored a college radio hit with the single “People C’mon.” They quickly found themselves playing daytime sets at big festivals, and those who saw them live generally raved about the performance. Despite releasing two albums and an EP since then, and touring with the likes of My Morning Jacket, not much has changed for the band since then. They have not quite faded away a la Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or Tapes ‘n Tapes, but they have never quite taken the next step forward that they seem capable of, either. This may stem from a lack of identity; the band’s first two albums were often described as “rootsy” and “Americana,” but mixed in with the strong tracks in that vein were weaker cuts that felt like throw-ins.

For the new album, Delta Spirit teamed with TV on the Radio and Smith Westerns producer Chris Coady in an effort to shed the “rootsy” label. The record, described as “transitional” by Rolling Stone, has been hailed by some as a great step forward, but many feel that the album is overproduced and a betrayal of the following the band has built. Though I’m not quite sure where I stand in this debate, one thing is for sure: I do love lead single “California.” The band’s strength through the ups and downs has always been the emotion behind the songs, channeled perfectly through the voice of singer Matthew Vasquez. “All of the feelings that I know you never felt, and all of the simple words you never said, I want you to keep them like a secret for yourself, they’re not for me…”

Also recommended: “Empty House,” “People C’mon,” “Devil Knows You’re Dead”

Streak For The Cash Recap: April 18th, 2012

*For the uninitiated, Streak For The Cash is a game on ESPN.com that allows players to pick the outcomes of various games and props in an effort to build the longest streak of the month. The prize: $50,000. As an added twist, there is an extra “stash” of $50,000 if the month’s winner hits 27 or more wins in a row. If the winner gets less than 27 wins, the stash rolls over to the next month. I am confident that I will one day win this game, buy an island, and drink coconut rum. Unfortunately, I have terrible luck. Or I’m just not very good. Let’s review.*

Current Streak: Loss 3

Current Overall Record: 38-31-0 (.551)

It’s been a rough week since last I spoke you listened. The Red Sox did in fact blow that game, and the unpredictable nature of the NHL playoffs has made it nearly impossible to build any kind of streak. Speaking of hockey…

Great Success!

The Pick: Nashville Predators over Detroit Red Wings (April 11th)

Why It Worked: The Predators were everyone’s “sexy” pick coming in to the playoffs and had the home ice advantage to start the series. They have one of the best goalies in the game in Pekka Rinne. It was a tight game, but Nashville pulled it out 3-2.

The Pick: Boston Bruins over Washington Capitals (April 12th)

Why It Worked: Despite their decent record, the Caps have looked as though they were limping through this season, firing Bruce Fuckin’ Boudreau on November 28 and getting a lot less than some expected from Alex Ovechkin. They also have a tendency to flame out in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Bruins, on the other hand, are coming off a Stanley Cup Finals victory last season.

The Pick: Dallas Mavericks over Portland Trail Blazers

Why It Worked: After starting the year off hot, the Trail Blazers decided to switch in to rebuilding mode in mid-season. They fired their coach, traded away two contributors (Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby), and, last week, decided to shut down their best player (LaMarcus Aldridge). The Blazers look like a team that is trying to ensure a spot in the lottery, while the Mavericks finally look like something approximating the team that won the title last year.

The Pick: Any Other Result over Arsenal: Wins by 3+ Goals (Wigan Athletic @ Arsenal)

Why It Worked: I have to assume the Streakmaster was high when he put this pick out there. I know that Wigan is a very bad team, and I know that Arsenal is a pretty good team. I know that Robin Van Persie is capable of making people look stupid at any time. But Arsenal are not world beaters, and they should not be picked to win by 3 or more goals against anyone. I thought Wigan would give the big boys a fight in an effort to stay out of relegation territory, and I was right: Wigan won 2-1.

Miserable Failure.

The Pick: Which player will card a lower front 9 score? Charles Howell III (or tie) over Martin Laird

Why It Failed: It’s a fucking golf prop. I have no idea who either of these gentlemen are.

The Pick: Boston Red Sox over Tampa Bay Rays (April 13th)

Why It Failed: The Red Sox ruined my streak last week, but I thought I would go back to the well that had poisoned me. My reasoning was this: a) the Sox were on a terrible run to start the season, so I expected Bobby V to get them going again (in retrospect this was a terrible line of thinking) and b) Josh Beckett is the closest thing that they have to a consistently good pitcher. I will not be picking the Red Sox for the remainder of the season, unless it’s to finish in 4th in the AL East.

The Pick: Vancouver Canucks over Los Angeles Kings (April 15th)

Why It Failed: The Canucks went to the Stanley Cup Finals last season. They won 51 games this season. I didn’t think it was possible for them to go down three games to none against a team that was extremely shaky throughout the regular season and snuck their way in to the playoffs as an 8 seed. But I was wrong. Until next week…

Bit of the Week: April 17th, 2012

This week’s selection comes from Amy Schumer, who you may know from Last Comic Standing or her now somewhat infamous appearance on The Roast of Charlie Sheen. She has also appeared on 30 Rock, Delocated, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Her first album, Cutting, was released last year, and she has quickly become a rising star in the comedy world. Unlike some female comedians (I’m looking at you Whitney Cummings), her jokes don’t rely on gender-based tropes, but stand on their own for the sheer discomfort (and the laughter that springs from that discomfort) they are capable of causing.

That stinging brand of humor is on display in this week’s bit, in which Amy discusses drinking….and abortions.

Amy Schumer- Blackout Drunk

Note: I apologize that the video is not embedded. Unfortunately Comedy Central’s website is behind the times. 

For more about Amy, you can listen to her appearance on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast.

Quick Hits: April 16th, 2012

Sports:

  • The NHL Playoffs kicked off last Wednesday. People all over Canada and the Midwest will be reveling in the unpredictability of it all, as 8 seeds rise up to beat 1 seeds and teams from places like Florida somehow make deep runs. The rest of America will loosely follow the action until the NBA playoffs start.
  • Dwight Howard has a herniated disk in his back. Coach Stan Van Gundy says there’s a 50/50 shot that Howard will return for the playoffs. If he doesn’t, however, Magic fans can take comfort in the knowledge that Howard is quitting on the team from the bench this year. I hear it’s slightly less painful that way. 
  • Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino was fired last week after it was revealed that he had lied to school officials about the circumstances of a motorcycle wreck that caused four broken ribs and a cracked vertebra in his neck. Say what you will about the guy, getting fired for having a motorcycle wreck with your 25-year-old girlfriend that you wrongly hired as an employee is one hell of a way to go.

Comedy:

  • Jim Gaffigan released his new 75 minute standup special using the “Louis model,” which allows fans to pay $5 to download the special from his website. You should buy it.
  • These Chevy Chase voicemails are fantastic. Is there a real conflict between Chevy and Dan Harmon? Is it all a marketing ploy? Who cares? It’s the funniest Chevy’s been in years.

Music:

  • Coachella kicked off with the first of two weekends on Friday. The Black Keys, Radiohead, and others have received strong positive reviews. Also, Tupac really is still alive.

Other:

  • All three of the top finishers in both the men’s and women’s divisions of the Boston Marathon were Kenyan. I’ve got this set to auto-post around this time every year.

Song of the Week: April 12th, 2012

“The definition of Phantogram seemed to fit our band to a tee. A Phantogram is a two-dimensional optical illusion that sort of pops out when you look at it at a 45 degree angle or with 3-D glasses. So, sound-wise, we’re a two-piece band with a goal to create very stereophonic sound. We just thought it was very fitting.”- Spinner Interview, 2010

The first time I saw Phantogram, I didn’t know what to expect. When they took the stage, Sarah Barthel walked over to the keyboard and Joshua Carter strapped on a guitar. I thought I was about to hear a series of ballads featuring fingerpicked guitar, heavy piano chords, and male-female harmony. It came as a surprise, then, when they began playing “When I’m Small.” From the opening sounds of a grainy drum machine, to the banging opening guitar riff, to the ghostly vocal refrain, Phantogram seemed to make much more noise than a two-piece should be capable of.

Since that day in 2010, the twosome have been bringing their sound to the masses, touring with Beach House, The xx, and Yeasayer, among others. Though I missed the release at the time, they dropped an EP (Nightlife) in November that has been on heavy rotation for the last week or so. For the song of the week, I’ve chosen one of the songs from that EP, titled “Don’t Move.” There is a lot to love about this track: the call and response “oooh”s, the irregular beat, that brief, ecstatic horn sample. The song is full of breakdowns and buildups, as though it is constantly decomposing and regenerating; like the band’s namesake, it is never more than a slight shift away from being something completely different.

Also recommended: “When I’m Small” “Mouthful of Diamonds” “Running From the Cops” “Nightlife”

For more about Phantogram, you can read the 2010 Spinner interview, or follow them on Twitter. For tour dates, see here.