Saturday, June 20, 2009

Top 10- Underrated Players in the NFL

The title is self-explanatory, no caveats, no funny stuff, just simply the most underrated players in the NFL in my opinion.

10. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, LT, New York Jets- A lot of the lack of appreciation for D'Brick has to do with who he was drafted over (Jay Cutler in particular), and the city in which he plays. He has started every game since being drafted fourth overall in the 2006 NFL draft, and is one of the league's best pass blockers. I also believe his draft spot plays into this, as there is an expectation for him to either be the best LT in the business or comparable to guys like Walter Jones, or Orlando Pace. There is a reason those guys are Hall of Famers. D'Brick can only be himself, and to this point he is a great pass blocker.

9. John Carlson, TE, Seattle Seahawks- Notre Dame stand up!!!!!! Carlson came in, and in his rookie season put up nice numbers with 55 catches, 628 and 5 TDs, with an unstable QB situation due to the injury of Matt Hasslebeck. I expect him to have a monster season this year if Hasselbeck stays healthy. He reminds me of Jason Witten. That isn't to say that he is as good as Witten, but he is a similar player.

8. Sean Jones, S, Philadelphia Eagles- Whenever the topic of safeties comes up, all I ever hear is Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. There are other guys out there who don't get the recognition they deserve at the S spot, and one of them is Sean Jones. Watching him play, he flies to the ball, looking at his numbers, he gets a lot of INTs and pass deflections. But, as is a common theme, when a guy plays for a bad team in the middle of nowhere (Browns) he won't get as much credit as he deserves. I have a new name for that, it's called Larry Fitzgerald syndrome.

7. Darnell Dockett, DT, Arizona Cardinals- He doesn't have the shiny numbers for the most part, as is the case with most good DTs, but his presence cannot be denied in the middle of that defense. He is a very good pass rusher, who often wreaks havoc for the middle of offensive lines. Look no further than the SB for evidence as he had 3.5 sacks and consistently found his way into the Steelers backfield. He can line up anywhere on the line, and be successful, and has the strength and quickness to make life hell for most offensive linemen.

6. Ty Warren, DE, New England Patriots- Warren is another one of those defensive linemen who don't have the shiny statistics but plays an intrical part of his team. He lives in the shadow of the gang of notable players in New England, including his defensive line mates Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork but one could make the argument that he has been the best of the bunch.

5. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys- I know this is a weird entry on this list, but as I mentioned in a prior entry Romo gets called overrated and bashed endlessly for a variety of reasons to the point where he is very underrated. You can talk about his supporting cast if you will, you can talk about his decision making if you wish, but the man's production isn't matched by many. Over the course of the last two seasons, Romo has put up monster numbers, throwing for 62 TDs, and 7,659 yards, yet he's "overrated", and "overhyped", meanwhile guys like Donovan McNabb are "great". Give me a break. He isn't as celebrated as he should be, and though he gets plenty of hype, he gets FAR too much hate and people are far too quick to take credit away from him.

4. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions- Coming in as arguably the best WR prospect ever, Calvin had a decent rookie season and absolutely exploded last season to the tune of 78 catches, 1331 yards and 12 TDs on the Detroit Lions, yes the 0-16 pathetic, sorry sack Detroit Lions. He has arguably the most physical talent in the game, and still has some room to improve. He arguably would be considered the number one wide receiver in the league if he was on a winning team.

3. Lofa Tatupu, MLB, Seattle Seahawks- I think this is one of those where the "lack" of eye popping athletic ability, as well as playing in the Pacific Northwest contribute to the lack of attention Tatupu gets, but the guy just goes out there and gets the job done. In a way I compare him to pound cake. For the most part, Lofa isn't going to 'wow' you, he isn't going to make any plays that will make the Sportscenter Top 10 plays, but he goes out there and gets the job done. He is coming off a bit of a down year, statistically speaking, but statistics from LBs can be twisted and molded to fit what you feel anyway.

2. Lee Evans, WR, Buffalo Bills- Evans has long been one of my favorite players in the league, and is absolutely exciting to watch. Over the last three years he has totaled 3,158 yards, 16 TDs, 16 YPC, and 200 total catches. Over the course of his career Evans has scored 32 TDs in 5 years, and has maintained the aforementioned 16 YPC clip. Evans is arguably the fastest man in the NFL, runs good routes and puts up good production despite being the only legitimate receiving option on that team, and never having played with a decent QB. Don't be surprised to see Lee Evans outproduce Terrell Owens this season, though Owens presence will create more space for Evans to work. It's scary to think what he could do with a good support system around him.

1. Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers- Jennings is one of the very few complete WRs in football. When I say complete, I mean from the standpoint that he does EVERYTHING on the field well. He rs a good route runner, he blocks well, he breaks a lot of tackles, has breakaway speed, goes over the middle to make the tough catches and scores a lot of TDs. Over the last two seasons, Jennings has put up 133 catches, 2212 yards, 16.6 YPC and 21 TDs. And still when the topic of 'Top WRs in the NFL' comes up his name is almost never mentioned. The guy just gets it done. Maybe if he changed his name to Ocho Cinco, took sharpies out of his sock, waved pom poms after scoring a TD, say 'I love me some me', cut himself a blond mohawk, fake propose to a Packer cheerleader, do situps on his lawn or just be a gigantic, self aggrandizing, narcissistic ass he would get more attention. Who knows, but he is one of the best young WRs in the game and he is getting better.

Others who garnered consideration:

Adrian Wilson, SS, Arizona Cardinals
Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers

Michael Griffin, S, Tennesee Titans
Owen Daniels, TE, Houston Texans

Karlos Dansby, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Nick Collins S, Green Bay Packers

Dunta Robinson, CB, Houston Texans

Derrick Burgess, DE, Oakland Raiders

John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons

Friday, June 19, 2009

NBA offseason

In some ways, I actually enjoy the NBA offseason more than the season itself, though as a Knick fan the offseason has featured more heartbreak than the actual season itself in recent memory. That being said, leading up to the draft these are some of the things I will be interested in following:

-Where will Allen Iverson will end up? With about half the league saving up for the potential 2010 shopping spree, it doesn't seem as if there is much money to be given out in '09. I don't see a good team signing him because of a possible disruption in chemistry. There aren't too many teams out there with cap room, and the bad teams will probably want to go the young route. The only team, off the top, I can see him signing with is the Kings if for nothing else to put fannies in the seats. I read a quote a long time ago from someone (I can't remember who), saying 'Allen Iverson is a weird case, because he's, in essence, a Hall of Famer who really isn't an ideal fit for any team'. It will be interesting to see how that situation develops.

-Where will Ben Gordon end up? The Pistons have some cap room and have been linked to Gordon, as well as Knicks F David Lee. I read that he has a promise from the Pistons which seems bogus to me. But in the event that the Pistons do sign Ben Gordon, where do you put Rip? A backcourt featuring Stuckey and Gordon, where's the defense going to come from and who is your point guard? In the event that Gordon doesn't get a contract that he views suitable, does he go overseas?

-What trades will happn pertaining to the draft, and what players will be moved? The rumors are endless, but it seems like a lot of teams are trying to move up in the draft. It will definitely be interesting

-Where will Ricky Rubio end up? He has a 6 million dollar "give-back" clause in his contract, that kicks in, if he leaves to go play in the United States. There is the possibility of Rubio staying in Spain and not reporting to the US if he gets drafted by a team in a city where he doesn't want to play. Will teams be shied off by this possibility? Who will take the chance? Will a team aggressively trade up in pursuit of him?

-What will happen with Shaquille O'neal? Steve Kerr was quoted as saying he's had "conversations" with half the league about Shaq's services. A rumor had surfaced last week about the possibility of him going to Cleveland. The Cavaliers seem to be revisiting that after turning down a Wally Sczerbiak/Sasha Pavlovic for Shaq swap right before the trading deadline. That is just another example of the great Cleveland management.

- What will the Wizards do with the #5 pick? There have been several rumblings that the Wizards are going to try and trade for a veteran with the pick and have already made offers for Ray Allen and Manu Ginobili. Will they then move Antwan Jamison, to relieve some of the burden due to the luxury tax?

-What will the Knicks do with their pick? Being an avid follower, I've heard that they like damn near every prospect. I hope that Stephen Curry falls to the Knicks, but I don't see it happening. Do they like Jordan Hill enough to take a shot? Ty Lawson? Will the Knicks use their bankroll to acquire a pick or two? With the Knicks going strong for the summer of 2010, hitting on this pick is an absolute must. Will David Lee be a part of a post-draft swap of picks?

-What will Cleveland do to please LeBron James? With the roster painfully devoid of talent, Cleveland has to try and do something to get better, but at the same time cannot take on too big a contract which would sabotage their chances at getting another top FA in 2010, to pair with LeBron in an effort to keep him in Cleveland.

-Will the Celtics make any noise? Will they make use of Ray Allen's expiring contract? I read that they offered Memphis Kendrick Perkins and Bill Walker (who?) for the #2 pick in the draft, and that sounds like offering a bag of marbles for a potential star player. Will they move up? If so, how will they do it? Will they break up the core group of players?

-What will the Phoenix Suns do with Amar'e Stoudemire? His contracts runs out after this season, and his name has been floated out there in trade talks. Will the Suns keep him and try and extend him after the season? Will they keep him and try and move him at the deadline? Will they try to move him for a combination of young talent/expiring contracts?

-Will the Nets move Vince Carter? Cleveland has shown interest and San Antonio (who has shown interest for a long time now) also has inquired about Carter. The Nets have been reluctant to move him but with ownership supposedly losing money, and Carter not being a difference maker on a winning Nets team, it makes you wonder how long before the Nets pull the plug.

-Where will Jason Kidd end up? Portland will definitely be interested, they have been trying to get a veteran PG for a long time. Will Dallas try and keep him at all costs? Who else will get into play? Knicks? Pistons?

Top 10 QBs under the age of 30 years old

This list is based on almost strictly production, and future potential as well as ability. In other words, I don't put much weight behind this winner/loser stuff, and I put a high value on 4th quarter performance. This is simply 'Who is the better pure QB', as well as to a slightly lesser extent who I believe will succeed more in the future.

10. Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens-
I definitely think Flacco gets far too much credit for the Ravens playoff run, as he did nothing but babysit essentially, but I've already beaten the topic of 'winner/loser' to a pulp. Flacco has all the physical tools you want in a QB, and seems to have the desire to get better. If the Ravens get him a WR (Marshall?), Flacco could be one of the top QBs in the league for the next decade.

9. Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans-
While this guy cannot stay healthy, when he is actually on the field he is very effective. Last year in 11 games, Schaub threw 15 TDs, 10 INTs, 3,043 yds and had a 66% completion percentage. Now if he can stay healthy, he has plenty of weapons at his disposal like Steve Slaton, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels and enough ability to make use of these weapons.

8. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
- The only reason he is so low, is because he is a rookie. Ryan came in and took the league by storm in his first year, shutting up many of the critics, myself included. I can only imagine with another year in the same offense, and being surrounded by weaponry such as Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White, Jerrious Norwood (the most underused player in the NFL this side of Leon Washington), and Mike Turner. The sky is the limit for Matt Ryan.

7. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants-
Eli is one of my favorites in the league, ant his spot on the list will probably be surprising to some, but Manning played under control football for the first time in his career last season, and I think he succumbs ability wise to the rest of the guys on the list. Eli will probably never be "great" statistically and from a "eye test" standpoint, but when the game is on the line there are few QBs in the game more trustworthy than Eli.

6. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers-
I have a weird way of ranking Ben Roethlisberger. His toughness, his leadership and most of all his ridiculous habit of pulling magic out of his hat in the fourth quarter has me place him in the top 5 in the NFL. There is no one I'd rather have with the ball in his hands in the fourth quarter. That being said, Roethlisberger has a lot of flaws, and has only been impressive statistically for one season in the NFL, and since I am rating on mostly ability and production that's what pits him 6th.

5. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers-
I debated back and forth for a few minutes between Rodgers and Romo, but being consistent with my theme that Romo is actually one of the more UNDERRATED players in the NFL, I went with Rodgers at this spot. Rodgers came in last year, after about a decade waiting on Old Man River to move on. He threw for 4,038 yards, 28 TDs and 13 INTs and led the Packers to a top 10 offense. The future is bright in Mr. Rodgers neighborhood.

4. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
- As I mentioned above, I think Romo gets hated on to the point where he is actually one of the NFL's more underappreciated and underrated players. After all if EVERYONE and their mother says the guy is overrated, does that make him underrated? I call that the 'Tiki Barber argument'. Every one on planet earth said Barber was underrated, so if everyone acknowledges that he is underrated, how he is still underrated? Anyway, back to Romo, the guy has always had the luxury of having Terrell Owens around him and has put up monster numbers, throwing for 62 TDs, and 7,659 yards over the course of the last 2 seasons. Along with great production, he has a great feel for the pocket and makes Dallas' offensive line look a lot better than it is. He has some decision making deficiencies at times but perhaps he gets better with that over the course of time.

3. Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears-
The 2-5 segment of this list was really thought provoking. I like Cutler's production, and the fact that he did it in his second year starting as well as him probably having among the most raw talent at the position. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts this season going from having a guy like Marshall compared to having a guy like Devin Hester (is that night and day or what?) , though I do think the fact that he is a good, accurate QB who gets the ball there in the blink of an eye could make the players around him better. Also, I think Matt Forte is arguably the biggest benefactor of the trade, since he will have more space to do his thing. The Bears should do their best to build their offense around Jay, get him some reliable pass catching targets to compliment Olsen and their running game. If they do that they'll have their first franchise QB since World War I.

2. Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
- As I said earlier the 2-5 segment of this was very thought provoking. I had Palmer at every single spot at one point or another, before I finally settled on the #2 spot for him. He is coming off an injury plagued campaign, where he struggled and eventually was KO'ed for the season, a quarter of the way through it. But the two seasons before that he did throw 54 TD passes and for over 8,000 yards. It's hard to argue with a guy with Palmer's natural ability and total production rebounding and playing like the elite QB he is.

1. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers-
Even though he throws the ball like he is in a shotput competition at the Olympics, Rivers gets the job done. He gets better each season and last year led to a 34 TD, 11 INT, 4,000 yard campaign. He has a nice set of weapons at his disposal. Having stability around him as far as the playbook helps immensely. It seems like everyone understands that except the Washington Redskins. Barring any injury problems Rivers should and probably will put up big numbers on a consistent basis for the San Diego Chargers.

Just missed the cut:
Matt Cassel, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Jason Campbell, QB, Washington Redskins
Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Top 10 players in the NFL under the age of 27

This list is based on, performance now and future potential. The list is actually more heavily weighed toward future potential. I also take into consideration my thoughts on the general positional and player value
around the league.

10. Terrell Suggs, LB, Baltimore Ravens

Suggs has long been considered one of the more fearsome pass rushers in the entire league, but it's his versatility that might separate him from the rest. He is a jack of all trades in the Baltimore system and has been one of the most important pieces of a perennial dominant defense. The sky is the limit for T-Sizzle.

9. Haloti Ngata, DE, Baltimore Ravens

Ngata is getting better by the minute, and will be a key in the Baltimore defense for now and in the future. He's a DE in Baltimore, and is one of the best 3-4 DEs in the entire league. His versatility allows him to move around on the defensive line, as he is one of the most versatile defensive linemen in the NFL.

8. Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans

Super Mario has made a name for himself with 26 sacks over the last 2 seasons, silencing all the critics who blasted the Texans for taking him with the #1 pick in the 2006 draft. He has size and ability that isn't matched by many.

7. Patrick Willis- LB, San Francisco 49ers

Since he was drafted, Willis has been one of the most dominant MLBers in the league He, in essence, was the 49ers D in '07, and he's the guy that keeps it going. In the last two seasons notched over 300 tackles his first 2 years, on top of 15 pass deflections, 5 sacks, and 1 INT. I know statistics aren't everything for LBers, but it's hard not to like Willis given his raw ability and production.

6. Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears

With his ticket now punched to Chicago, Cutler moves on with a lot to prove. Thus far in his career, he's improved gradually from season to season, and has as much raw ability as any QB in the NFL. As he gets older and more seasoned he should be able to master the nuances and subtleties of the QB position and maximize his potential. Ultimately, I think with a couple more top notch seasons, he can leapfrog several people on this list.

5. Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets

After 2 stellar seasons in the league, Revis has already established himself as a top CB in the eyes of many. With his abilities in man coverage, his opportunisitc ways and physical ability Revis looks to be a franchise cornerstone for years to come.

4. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Fitzgerald might have the best hands I have ever seen from the WR position. 1400 yds and 10+ TDs in 3 out of his 5 seasons in the NFL, 46 TDs in 5 years, insane athletic ability and a playoff run last season that dreams are made of make Larry one of the NFL's best players

3. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions

I know it's early to put Calvin Johnson here, especially ahead of Larry Fitzgerald but did you see what this kid did last season? 78 catches, 1331 yards and 12 TDs on the Detroit Lions, yes the 0-16 pathetic, sorry sack Detroit Lions. The guy is arguably the best WR prospect EVER and probably would be widely considered the #1 WR in the sport, if not for the whole 'Winner-Loser' stuff that is beaten like a rented mule. And the scariest thing about Calvin is that he could potentially get better.

2. Adrian Peterson, HB, Minnesota Vikings

Essentially, Adrian is 1B on this list. 601 carries, 3,101 yards 5.2 YPC and 22 TDs. The man is as gifted as any running back in the game today and continues to get better. If the Vikings actually consider utilizing him in the passing game (a QB who can find him without using a compass could help in that regard), he could be that much better.

1. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys

I'm still not quite sure how he didn't win Defensive Player of the Year this past season, compiling a mind blowing 20 sacks, but this guy is an unbelievable football player. Is there anything he cannot do? The best pass rusher in the business, and the best 3-4 OLB in the business, Ware has absolutely dominated to the tune of 53.5 sacks in 4 years. He is a dominant, unstoppable force who is also a do-it-all LBer. I definitely think Ware will eventually set the record for sacks in a season, when it's all said and done.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cleveland seems to be starting the 'Keep LeBron here' campaign

The offseason hasn't even started yet and there are rumblings about the Cavaliers making moves to try and keep LeBron James happy and in Cleveland for the foreseeable future. After the disappointing, and quite underwhelming performance the Cavaliers supporting cast put up in the series loss to the Orlando Magic, the Cavaliers front office has some decisions to make in an effort to enhance the playing conditions and the chance at a championship(s) for James.

In an article on SLAM ONLINE, I read that the Cavaliers are looking into the possibility of signing Rasheed Wallace to a 2 year, 10 million dollar pact (mid level exception I'm assuming) or the possibility of trading with the Clippers for PF Zach Randolph. At this point, I don't think getting Rasheed Wallace does much for them. Yes, he is much better than Zydrunas 'Big Slow' Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao but how much better at this point? Is his heart into the game? Can he keep his head throughout the games where he feels he is being "persecuted by the referees? There are a lot of questions surrounding Wallace, which would make it a risky signing since in all likelihood that would put a fork in any thought process of signing Chris Bosh to compliment LeBron James.

As far as Zach Randolph is concerned, there is no questioning the man's talent. He can get you 20 and 10 in his sleep, though after watching him for a season and change in NY I am not convinced he can put his ego aside for the greater good. Now LeBron, who is arguably the best leader in the entire sport as well as the game's best player, can probably reign him in, and get him to buy into the team aspect. Zach is very talented, but he doesn't play defense and is quite literally a black hole with the ball in the post. This is another risky proposition since Zach has 3 years and $47 million left on his deal, and that would also put an end to any dreams of LeBron playing with Chris Bosh in a Cavaliers jersey.

This offseason might very well be a make or break for the Cleveland Cavaliers and their future plans. If they sign Wallace or trade for Randolph, and the season ends up in another disappointing loss where LeBron has to do everything, and no one else does anything how will LeBron react to that? If they stay status quo, then what happens if and when they lose at the same point next season? Does LeBron take that as management not trying to get him some help and bolt? Does he take it as a challenge to stay? Who knows, but about half the teams in the NBA will be watching the Cavaliers and their movements quite closely this offseason and throughout the upcoming regular season.