Monday, May 23, 2016

SNL Season 41: Ep.21





SNL closed out its 41st season with alumni Fred Armisen (and a few other former cast members). Did the season end on a high note? Onto the review






Hillary & Bernie (Cold Open) : SNL has struggled this season dealing with the 2016 election (which they'll have to figure out come the fall), but they did well with it here. We see Hillary (Kate McKinnon), and Bernie (Larry David) at a bar during last call. They have some good banter back and forth, but what made this cold open was the 4th wall breaking as the 2 dance across the SNL stage. This was one of those classic finale cold opens. (8.9)



Monologue: Over the 2nd half of this season, the monologues have either been abridged, or just randomly slap-dashed together. That wasn't the case here, as Fred Armisen brought back his "Tommy Palmese" one-man show character and put a mock one on. The pacing and timing (especially when Fred played with a random audience member) was just perfect. You could tell the crowd was just eating it up and loving every minute. (9.4)






Expedition: This was a random sketch. Three local actors (Armisen, Cecily Strong, Kyle Mooney) act out the journeys of Louis & Clark for a high school class....but in an interesting fashion. On what would turn out to be a strong night, this could be classified as a throwaway sketch, but the crowd seemed to love it, and that added some energy to it. (6.4)



"Finest Girl (Bin Laden)" (Short): We got a bit of a surprise as Andy Samberg and Lonely Island returned with a song that'll appear in the upcoming movie "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping". It was humorous enough (and Vanessa Bayer was brilliant), but the censorship of it sort of watered it down a bit. (7.1)



New Girlfriend: Fred brought back his "Regine" character, with Regine's new partner Jason Sudeikis. I'll admit, Regine has never been my favorite Armisen character, but I really think this was the best iteration of it. That was in part due to Armisen's physical comedy here, just letting loose. Aidy Bryant couldn't even look at him without breaking, and for one of the first times I can remember, Bayer just absolutely lost it. (8.3)






Farewell Mr. Bunting (short): Oh boy, Farewell Mr. Bunting. This was just fantastic. It was a takeoff of "Dead Poets Society", and we see this build-up, knowing something is going to happen. Without spoiling it, I'll just say that the build-up is absolutely worth it. This could very well become an instant classic for SNL. It was just a perfect set-up that didn't overstay its welcome. (10)




(Courtney Barnett): (8.0)



Weekend Update: Colin Jost and Michael Che have had a very consistently solid season at the Update desk. They've built up a nice rhythm and have generally interacted with each other more, showing that chemistry that they reportedly have. They've also been the best source this season in covering the election (hopefully we see more of in the fall with the Thursday Update specials SNL usually does).

Maya Rudolph made an appearance as recently impeached Brazilian President Dilma Roussef. It was nice seeing a new character/impression for Maya. She was her usual self though, just letting it flow.



Kenan Thompson revived his "Willie" character. I haven't been a big fan of this character, but this time around Kenan just brought a different energy to it. In a way, it felt sort of like Stefon.(8.4)






Escape Pod: In this sketch, Armisen goes on an escape pod away from a crew headed by Taran Killam. While saying their goodbyes, Armisen is forced to choose an in-flight meal and a movie, among other amenities. On such a strong night, this was a pretty forgettable sketch. Sure, it had its moments, but it felt like it was just sort of there. (5.3)



Theater Showcase: Quickly becoming a favorite among recurring sketches, we got another Theater Showcase. These sketches just keep on hitting all the right points. What makes it work is just how much the ensemble sells it (Mooney, Killam and Bryant especially). These are becoming a staple with this current cast. (8.4)




(Courtney Barnett): (8.5)



Harkin Brothers: This was by no means spectacular, but it was nice seeing the whole cast in this closing 10 to 1 sketch. Armisen fronted an old-fashioned band, and that was pretty much all there was to it. (6.6)



You could make the case that this was one of the best season finales in recent memory for SNL. It was one of those episodes where everything just hit more or less. Fred Armisen brought his own energy to the show, and it showed throughout. This season didn't quite reach the heights of Season 40, but it had its moments and surprises. As I mentioned earlier in this review, they have to figure out how to cover the general election come the fall though.


Overall Score - 7.94

Ariana Grande - 7.95
Fred Armisen - 7.94
Tracy Morgan - 7.94
Larry David - 7.73
Elizabeth Banks - 7.53
Adam Driver - 7.22
Chris Hemsworth - 7.20
Amy Schumer - 7.18
Matthew McConaughey - 7.13
Brie Larson - 7.08
Tina Fey/Amy Poehler - 7.03
Ryan Gosling - 6.92
Peter Dinklage - 6.80
Melissa McCarthy - 6.78
Julia Louis Dreyfus - 6.51
Russell Crowe - 6.38
Drake - 6.24
Miley Cyrus - 6.07
Ronda Rousey - 5.78
Jonah Hill - 5.13
Donald Trump - 4.92


Monday, May 16, 2016

SNL Season 41: Ep.20






SNL had its penultimate episode of the season this week, hosted by Drake. So how was it? Onto the review







Cold Open: Donald Trump/Chris Christie: This would have been a perfect way for SNL to jump on the "John Miller spokesperson" story, but while briefly touching it, they went with a more basic Trump/Christie veepstakes open. There were a few decent lines (including one on George Zimmerman), but all in all this was just really basic (despite getting Jay Pharoah making a brief appearance as Ben Carson). (4.9)



Monologue: It was nice getting a fully fleshed out monologue for once. Drake started rapping about all the memes revolved around him and how he's more than just a meme. The timing may have been a bit off, but at least this was an actual full idea. (6.5)



Rental Car: Beck Bennett and Vanessa Bayer played a couple looking to rent a car for their honeymoon, but Drake and his boss Jay had some problems. There didn't seem to be any real punchline or premise here, but Drake and Jay just had a lot of chemistry. If not for Jay and his mannerisms, this sketch would have been a disaster, but the pairing of these two saved it. (7.0)



American Ninja Warrior (short): Bobby Moynihan looked to compete on American Ninja Warrior for his friends and town, destroyed by a tornado. However, on the actual course, it went just as well as it would for you or me. It may have been a one-note joke, but Bobby just sold it with his determination on his 2nd and 3rd attempts, even trying to literally run across water. (8.0)




Dennis Walls & The Cookies: A supposed retro PBS show, Walls (Drake) had irritated the director, leading the director to sabotage the show with a tiny saxophone, a spinning bed, and other inconveniences. The premise was there, but it just didn't play out. And the spinning bed portion felt too much like Will Ferrell's "Mark Jensen Family Christmas" sketch. (4.5)



Office Boss With Drake: Paul Ryan (Taram Killam) looks for a 3rd party candidate to run, so of course he goes to Baby Boss (Bennett). It was a bit out there that Ryan would want a Baby Boss presidential run, but it was just nice to see this character again. Beck really goes all out to sell this, from his movements to dialogue. (8.0)





(Drake): (5.5)



Weekend Update: Update with Colin Jost and Michael Che continues to be consistently solid this season. Jost and Che have found a nice rhythm where they riff on a topic. 

The first guest saw Kate McKinnon's "Olya" return. Olya talked about the connections between Putin and Trump, mocking America for what could happen with a Trump presidency. In my opinion, this was one of the best iterations of Olya.
Leslie Jones made an appearance, discussing why its never too late to find your calling. This wasn't one of her best, as it felt really abridged.

Finally, Jay Pharoah showed up to discuss another "secret rap meeting" about Jay-Z's response to "Lemonade". Drake showed up, debate Jay's impression of him (which was pretty spot on). (7.3)   



Black Jeopardy: Black Jeopardy made a return, with Drake basically playing himself (a Black Canadian) who isn't aware of some sayings. This was more or less used as a jumping off point for Canada jokes. Probably the weakest version of this sketch. (6.2)



Drake's Beef (short): This short saw Drake throughout his week on SNL imagining responses to various beefs, whether from Aidy Bryant taking a chair, to Leslie Jones not paying him mind in a hallway. It was a good thought out idea, but it made its point and ran a bit long. (6.7)



(Drake): (6.8)



Chaperon: Talk about a 10 to 1 sketch, I have no idea what this was. Drake played some Hulk Hogan like school dance chaperon, and then Taran showed up as Drake's character from 15 years in the future. There's weird, bizarre sketches with something of a premise, and then there's whatever the heck this was. (3.5)



A bit of an odd up and down episode. SNL continues to struggle politically, as they still don't know how to cover Trump properly. The one bright spot was the chemistry that Drake and Jay Pharoah had. Here's hoping the finale closes the season on a high note.



Overall Score - 7.08

Ariana Grande - 7.95
Tracy Morgan - 7.94
Larry David - 7.73
Elizabeth Banks - 7.53
Adam Driver - 7.22
Chris Hemsworth - 7.20
Amy Schumer - 7.18
Matthew McConaughey - 7.13
Brie Larson - 7.08
Tina Fey/Amy Poehler - 7.03
Ryan Gosling - 6.92
Peter Dinklage - 6.80
Melissa McCarthy - 6.78
Julia Louis Dreyfus - 6.51
Russell Crowe - 6.38
Drake - 6.24
Miley Cyrus - 6.07
Ronda Rousey - 5.78
Jonah Hill - 5.13
Donald Trump - 4.92

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

SNL Season 41: Ep.19



SNL began its final stretch of the season with Brie Larson. How did it go? Onto the review.





Cold Open: Church Chat - This was a pleasant surprise, as Dana Carvey appeared as the "Church Lady". The Church Lady went on to discuss some topical events (such as "Lemonade"), and then interviewed Ted Cruz (Taran Killam) and Trump (Darrell Hammond). The actual interview portion of this cold open could have been better, but it was just nice seeing Church Chat make a return (plus we got to see a possessed demonic Ted Cruz). (7.0)



Monologue: Being Mother's Day weekend, this monologue was like an abridged version of the Reese Witherspoon episode where we saw pretty much all of the cast members' mothers. The monologues have been pretty shoddy recently, so this was alright in comparison. (6.3)


New Barbie (ad): This was one of SNL's better political takes recently. It was one of those Mattel ads, introducing "President Barbie", and trying to tell the kids that they could be anything they wanted. It turns out the new barbie isn't as much of a hit to the kids. This could be painted as some people no longer thinking its a big deal to get a female president, especially coming off of the heights reached with Obama. But that's just one potential view on it. (8.4)  




Near-Death Experience: The Ryan Gosling abduction skit made a return, this time dealing with near-death experiences. Brie Larson was able to hold it more together than Gosling did, but of course its Kate McKinnon who just makes this work. She's able to get to Bobby Moynihan and Aidy Bryant, who can't seem to even look at her without breaking. You could make the case that this version was better than the original. (8.2)




Baby Shower: The women of SNL were featured in this sketch about Brie Larson's baby shower, but more importantly, about "the cut" (the short, up-do that a lot of mothers have). The premise was that you don't know when, or where, but eventually you'll get it. It really played off like a Twlight Zone episode. It may have run long, but it was a pretty good premise for a sketch. (7.0)


(Alicia Keys): (6.4)


Weekend Update: Colin Jost and Michael Che got into some pretty edgy material this week.
The first guest saw fan favorite "Laura Parsons" (Vanessa Bayer). Just her inflection in saying the worst things as a kid actor is hilarious.


Sasheer Zamata made an appearance, talking about Larry Wilmore's WHCD address and the "n"-word. She was making some good points, but it felt like the timing was off with her lines.

Pete Davidson was also on, discussing Mother's Day, and how his mother got on twitter to defend him from online trolls. (7.7)


Game Of Thrones: Jon Snow: SNL lampooned Game Of Thrones and the total non-surprise that were the events surrounding Jon Snow. Now, I don't watch Game Of Thrones, but I pretty much got the idea, via social media responses. Probably dumb given what was in the sketch, but lets just say it was about how it took them forever to get around to the obvious. (8.0)




Quiz Whiz 2018: This was another good political sketch. It didn't mock any moment in particular, but was set in 2018, asking the question to a pair of contestants (Taran, Brie) on who the GOP runner-up was, and no one could get Ted Cruz's name despite a number of lifelines. The turning point came towards the end where it was revealed that Brie was actually playing Heidi Cruz, and then they sang a song dedicated to President Trump. SNL is going to need more political sketches like this with the way the election is going. Its tough to lampoon anything particular right now. (8.5)





Kickstarter (short): This saw Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett return with a kickstarter ad based on a prior Kyle character. In terms of mocking kickstarters, I guess this was on point, but it just wasn't my thing. (4.9)


(Alicia Keys): (6.5)



Dead Bopz Ad: Another impressions sketch, but with old-school musical artists. This was interesting at times, as artists like Leslie Gore and Tupac tried to take on current songs.(6.0)



SNL had a fairly strong return for its season end stretch. I'd been worried that this season was going to end on a bad note given the fairly poor April stretch, but this show revived the season. Brie Larson really brought it, she really seemed like a natural.


Overall Score - 7.08

Ariana Grande - 7.95
Tracy Morgan - 7.94
Larry David - 7.73
Elizabeth Banks - 7.53
Adam Driver - 7.22
Chris Hemsworth - 7.20
Amy Schumer - 7.18
Matthew McConaughey - 7.13
Brie Larson - 7.08
Tina Fey/Amy Poehler - 7.03
Ryan Gosling - 6.92
Peter Dinklage - 6.80
Melissa McCarthy - 6.78
Julia Louis Dreyfus - 6.51
Russell Crowe - 6.38
Miley Cyrus - 6.07
Ronda Rousey - 5.78
Jonah Hill - 5.13
Donald Trump - 4.92


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

American Idol: Top 100 Performances



American Idol wrapped up its final season "for now". Love it or hate it, you can't deny that Idol produced 15 seasons of great artists and great music. On top of that though, it produced some terrific live performances. So many that its pretty tough to narrow it down, but that's exactly what I tried to do. Of course, this list is completely subjective, so feel free to comment or post some your own top performances that may have missed the cut. Without further adieu, here's my grand top 100 list (a farewell to Idol of sorts).

(All rights to original artists, American Idol/19 Entertainment/Simon Fuller)



100) Ruben Studdard (AI2) "Kiss And Say Goodbye" - The Manhattans






99) Matt Giraud (AI8) "So Small" - Carrie Underwood




98) Allison Iraheta (AI8) "Alone" - Heart




97) Thia Megia (AI10) "Out Here On My Own" - Irene Cara ("Fame")




96) Carly Smithson (AI7) "Come Together" - The Beatles




95) Mandisa (AI5) "I'm Every Woman" - Chaka Khan




94) Allison Iraheta (AI8) "I Can't Make You Love Me" - Bonnie Raitt




93) Jessica Meuse (AI13) "You And I" - Lady Gaga

Jessica Meuse - You & I - American Idol 13 (Top 4) by IdolxMuzic



92) Alex Preston (AI13) "A Beautiful Mess" - Jason Mraz

Alex Preston - Beautiful Mess - American Idol... by IdolxMuzic



91) Quentin Alexander (AI14) "I Put A Spell On You" - Screamin' Jay Hawkins




90) Candice Glover (AI12) "Ordinary People" - John Legend




89) Brooke White (AI7) "Let It Be" - The Beatles




88) Kelly Clarkson (AI1) "Respect" - Aretha Franklin




87) Chris Daughtry (AI5) "Wanted Dead Or Alive" - Bon Jovi




86) Casey James (AI9) "Heaven" - Bryan Adams




85) Jason Castro (AI7) "Hallelujah"- Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley




84) Anwar Robinson (AI4) "What A Wonderful World" - Louis Armstrong




83) Caleb Johnson (AI13) "Faithfully" - Journey




82) Clay Aiken (AI2) "Build Me Up Buttercup" - The Foundations




81) George Huff (AI3) "Take Me To The Pilot" - Elton John




80) Pia Toscano (AI10) "River Deep - Mountain High" - Tina Turner




79) Anoop Desai (AI8) "Always On My Mind" - Willie Nelson




78) Alex Preston (AI13) "Fairytales" - Alex Preston

Alex Preston - Beautiful Mess - American Idol... by IdolxMuzic



77) Kimberly Locke (AI2) "New York State Of Mind" - Billy Joel




76) Tyanna Jones (AI14) "Stay" - Rihanna ft. Mikky Ekko





75) LaToya London (AI3) "All By Myself" - Eric Carmen/Celine Dion




74) David Cook (AI7) "Music Of The Night" - Andrew Lloyd Webber "The Phantom Of The Opera"




73) Caleb Johnson (AI13) "Dazed & Confused" - Led Zeppelin




72) Jax (AI14) "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" - Cher/Nancy Sinatra




71) Kris Allen (AI8) "She Works Hard For The Money" - Donna Summer




70) Crystal Bowersox (AI9) "Come Together" - The Beatles




69) Haley Reinhart (AI10) "What Is And What Should Never Be" - Led Zeppelin




68) Siobhan Magnus (AI9) "Paint It Black" - The Rolling Stones




67) Elliott Yamin (AI5) "A Song For You" - Donny Hathaway




66) Bo Bice (AI4) "Whipping Post" - The Allman Brothers Band




65) Trent Harmon (AI15) "Sharp Dressed Man" - ZZ Top




64) Pia Toscano (AI10) "I'll Stand By You" - The Pretenders




63) Clay Aiken (AI2) "To Love Somebody" - The Bee Gees




62) Jessica Sanchez (AI11) "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" - Jennifer Holliday "Dreamgirls"




61) David Cook (AI7) "Eleanor Rigby" - The Beatles




60) LaToya London (AI3) "Somewhere" - "West Side Story"




59) Jax (AI14) "White Flag" - Dido




58) Jacob Lusk (AI10) "A House Is Not A Home" - Dionne Warwick




57) Mandisa (AI5) "I Don't Hurt Anymore" - Hank Snow/Dinah Washington




56) Melinda Doolittle (AI6) "I Got Rhythm" - George & Ira Gershwin





55) Casey Abrams (AI10) "I Put A Spell On You" - Screamin' Jay Hawkins




54) Sonika Vaid (AI15)"Bring Me To Life" - Evanescence




53) Clark Beckham (AI14) "The Trouble With Love Is" - Kelly Clarkson




52) La'Porsha Renae (AI15) "Come Together" - The Beatles




51) Jessica Meuse (AI13) "Blue Eyed Lie" - Jessica Meuse

Jessica Meuse - Blue Eyed Lie - American Idol... by IdolxMuzic



50) Crystal Bowersox (AI9) "Up To The Mountain" - Patty Griffin




49) Elise Testone (AI11) "Vienna" - Billy Joel




48) La'Porsha Renae (AI15) "No More Drama" - Mary J. Blige




47) James Durbin (AI10) "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" - The Shirelles




46) Clark Beckham (AI14) "Georgia On My Mind" - Ray Charles




45) Jessica Sanchez (AI11) "The Prayer" - Celine Dion & Andrea Bocelli




44) Crystal Bowersox (AI9) "Long As I Can See The Light" - Creedence Clearwater Revival




43) Candice Glover (AI12) "I (Who Have Nothing)" - Ben E. King




42) Kris Allen (AI8) "Ain't No Sunshine" - Bill Withers




41) Nadia Turner (AI4) "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" - Dusty Springfield




40) Adam Lambert (AI8) "Tracks Of My Tears" - The Miracles




39) LaToya London (AI3) "Don't Rain Om My Parade" - Barbara Streisand "Funny Girl"




38) Melinda Doolittle (AI6) "Home" - Stephanie Mills "The Wiz"




37) Carrie Underwood (AI4) "Alone" - Heart




36) Clay Aiken (AI2) "Bridge Over Troubled Water" - Simon & Garfunkel




35) Tamyra Gray (AI1) "A House Is Not A Home" - Dionne Warwick




34) Lee Dewyze (AI9) "Treat Her Like A Lady" - The Temptations




33) Sarina Joi Crowe (AI14) "Mama Knows Best" - Jessie J




32) Blake Lewis (AI6) "You Give Love A Bad Name" - Bon Jovi




31) Jessica Sanchez (AI11) "I Will Always Love You" - Whitney Houston





30) Melinda Doolittle (AI6) "I'm A Woman" - Christine Kittrell/Peggy Lee




29) Crystal Bowersox (AI9) "Give Me One Reason" - Tracy Chapman




28) Trent Harmon (AI15) "Waiting Game" - Parson James




27) David Archuleta (AI7) "Imagine" - John Lennon




26) Jordin Sparks (AI6) "I (Who Have Nothing)" - Ben E. King




25) Jena Irene (AI13) "Creep" - Radiohead




24) Melinda Doolittle (AI6) "Sweet Sweey Baby (Since You've Been Gone)" - Aretha Franklin




23) La'Porsha Renae (AI15) "Diamonds" - Rihanna




22) Katharine McPhee (AI5) "Over The Rainbow" - Judy Garland




21) Joshua Ledet (AI11) "It's A Man's, Man's, Man's World" - James Brown




20) Chris Daughtry (AI5) "Hemorrhage (In My Hands)" - Fuel




19) Jennifer Hudson (AI3) "Circle Of Life" - Elton John "The Lion King"




18) Kris Allen (AI8) "Heartless" - Kanye West




17) Casey James (AI9) "Jealous Guy" - John Lennon




16) David Cook (AI7) "Hello" - Lionel Richie





We're now starting to get to the top of the list as we get to the top 15, so from here on out I'll include just a few blurbs about the performances. The following are performances that I consider "A+" quality.



15) Constantine Maroulis (AI4) "Bohemian Rhapsody" - Queen
(Constantine may have mugged the camera while performing, but he certainly sold every single performance, including this one. Its always tough to do a really good abridged version of "Bohemian Rhapsody".)





14) Adam Lambert/Allison Iraheta (AI8) "Slow Ride" - Foghat
(This was arguably the best duet performance Idol has ever seen. The resident rockers of Season 8 just let loose.)





13) Elise Testone (AI11) "Whole Lotta Love" - Led Zeppelin
(I feel like Elise was under-appreciated both among her season, and overall among Idol's pantheon of rock performers.)




12) Joshua Ledet (AI11) "When A Man Loves A Woman" - Percy Sledge
(Joshua had a certain flair to him. At times he went over the top, but he was always entertaining. He took you to church with performances like this.)





11) Melinda Doolittle (AI6) "My Funny Valentine" - (Jazz Standard, famously recorded by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald & Frank Sinatra)
(Melinda has made a number of appearances on this list. She was able to do a variety of different genres, from rock and Broadway, to even jazz. She could simply do it all.)




10) Jena Irene (AI13) "Can't Help Falling In Love" - Elvis Presley
(People look down on some of the later seasons, but you can't argue that Jena had a standout performance with this. Throughout the season she was able to both rock out, and also give tender performances on the piano.)




9) Trent Harmon (AI15) "Chandelier" - Sia
(There was just something magical with this song and Trent. He reprised it for the finale, and was somehow able to add even more to it. Just the way he builds and picks his moments makes this performance.)




8) Candice Glover (AI12) "Lovesong" - The Cure
(Much like with the previous performance, there was something with this song and Candice that just clicked. She was able to command the stage.)




7) Joey Cook (AI14) "Fancy" - Iggy Azalea ft/ Charli XCX
(I'm not sure Idol had seen a performance quite like this. Joey put a "Postmodern Jukebox" spin to this Iggy Azalea track and created a moment with it. Sidenote: since Idol, Joey has done performances with PMJ)




6) David Cook (AI7) "Billie Jean" - Michael Jackson
(David upped the ante on what was expected for future contestants. Here, David did a Chris Cornell version of the MJ classic. You never quite knew what to expect from him week to week.)





5) Fantasia Barrino (AI3) "Summertime" - "Porgy and Bess"
(Talk about an intimate performance, here Fantasia was able to enrapture the audience with this tour de force.)





4) Haley Reinhart (AI10) "House Of The Rising Sun" - Traditional Folk Song
(Haley was greatly under-appreciated during her Idol run. It seemed judges were always finding ways to pick her apart, but even they couldn't do that with this. Honestly, anyone wanting to do "House Of The Rising Sun" on a singing show should second-guess themselves, because Haley absolutely slayed it.)





3) Bo Bice (AI4) "In A Dream" - Badlands
(Talk about risky performances, Bo decided in Top 3 week to do this performance A Capella. There are so many things that could have gone wrong, but Bo just zeroed in and made this work. Idol hasn't seen a performance like this.)





2) Kelly Clarkson (AI1) "Stuff Like That There" - Betty Hutton
(What made this performance so impressive was just the pure difficulty of the song at hand. But Kelly, the original Idol herself, of course was able to fully attack this song and made it look like it was a regular in her songbook.)





1) Adam Lambert (AI8) "Mad World" - Tears For Fears
(The quintessential American Idol performance. Adam was able to combine theatricality to his style without it coming off as too much, if that makes sense. This performance was just incredibly subtle and lyrical. In my opinion, the best Idol performance.)




Thursday, April 28, 2016

Steelers Draft Prospects: Part 2



Better late than never, its time for the Steelers Draft Prospects series. With the draft quickly approaching, there will just be 2 parts to this, comprised of only confirmed prospect visits. The player summaries all come from NFL.com



DE Dean Lowry (Northwestern): 6-6, 296lbs
combine: 4.87(40)/30reps/32.5in vert

'15: 2nd All-Big 10, 46tckls/3scks

Strengths: Comes off the snap with burst & good pad level. Great motor and good playspeed. Willing to pursue the ball with consistency or effort. Play frame to fit classic 3-4 DE spot. Always active. Tackle finisher. 

Weaknesses: Not as aware of the ball as he needs to be. Gets stood straight up at contact as a bull rusher. Pad level & narrow base rob him of bull-rush power when rushing from inside. Dull-straight ahead rusher with no pass-rush plan. Marginal playmaking change of direction. 

Grade: 5.2 (developmental/special teams potential)




S Trae Elston (Ole Miss): 5-11, 195lbs


Strengths: Physical hitting as a tackler. Will explode into and through ball catchers attempting to jar the ball lose. Leaper who challenges the catch aggressively at the high point. Soft hands to finish INTs. 

Weaknesses: Stiff-hipped. Recognition in coverage can be a step late. Doesn't consistently gets jumps necessary to range from center-field to challenge sideline throws. Lackadaisical pursuit. Lacking size/speed combination.

Grade: 4.99 (50/50 chance of making roster)




WR Pharoh Cooper (S.Carolina): 5-11, 203lbs


combine: 15reps/31in vert

'15: 66rec/973yds/9TDs, 1st All-SEC

Strengths: Especially fast with first 3 steps off the line. Reaches top speed almost instantly. Operates with excellent balance & body control. Seamless change of direction out of breaks opens early passing windows. Will break off routes and improvise to free space when route is compromised by coverage underneath. Strength to play through contact.

Weaknesses: Was unable to reach big-play throws downfield. Battled focus & concentration drops at one point. Hip tightness creates rounded routes and limited wiggle room after catch. Relies on straight line quickness over speed or agility in open field.

Comp: Josh Reed

Grade: 5.67 (backup/eventual starter)




S Karl Joseph (West Virginia): 5-10, 205lbs


'15: 5INTs

Strength: Play-making safety with man-cover ability and plus ball skills. Quick to get head around and find the ball, always opts to try & take the ball away rather than break up the pass. Leaper who challenges at high point. Plays run & pass with great urgency. Can pedal & shift from deep zone.

Weaknesses: ACL injury concerns. Play-making aspirations can lead him to vacate his area a step early. Some change of direction limitations. Desire to assail leads to occasional technique breakdowns as a tackler.

Comp: Antoine Bethea

Grade: 5.96 (Could become early starter)




DT Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss): 6-3, 294lbs


  combine: 4.87(40)/28reps/35in vert

'15: 2nd All-American, 7TFL/3scks

Strengths: Plus movement skills and runs like a DE. Has reactive explosiveness for expanded range as a tackler near line of scrimmage. Wrap up finisher. Good lateral quickness, can win race across face of blockers. Improvement as pass rusher. Has a decent spin move.

Weaknesses: Disappointing production. Ducks head off the snap, losing track of the ball. Tightly wound, straight-line athlete. Inconsistent effort after his initial pass rush move is thwarted. Was suspended for the Sugar Bowl, charged with marijuana possession. Personal character & work ethic concerns.

Comp: Sharrif Floyd

Grade: 6.32 (chance to become good starter)




CB Sean Davis (Maryland): 6-1, 201lbs


combine: 4.46(40)/21reps/37.5in vert

'15: Honorable All-Big 10, 88tckls/3INTs/5FFs

Strengths: Size to battle TEs. Leaps & challenges aggressively on 50/50 throws. Around the ball and in the mix. Comes firing downhill with purpose when it's time to get help against the run. Looks to lay the wood to receivers and make them feel it. 

Weaknesses: At times, disastrous in man coverage. Slow, upright backpedal and clunky when turning to run. Missed tackle numbers are troubling. Allows too much separation and can't click and close on throws.

Comp: Duke Ihenacho

Grade: 5.58 (backup/eventual starter)




FS Justin Simmons (Boston College): 6-2, 202lbs


combine: 4.61(40)/16reps/40in vert

'15: 2nd All-ACC, 5INTs

Strengths: Able to process layered routes in front of him and finds his fit. Consistent in coverage and reads play development quickly. Can handle man coverage against TEs and bigger slots. Will sprint from high to low as soon as he reads run & leverages well to the sideline. Rarely tries to initiate tackle early. Allowed no broken tackles, few missed tackles. Talent as a gunner, cover team experience.

Weaknesses: Can be dragged for a ride against size when tackling. Hip tightness creates some chunkiness when forced to change directions quickly. Will shut down deep cover responsibilities prematurely. Becomes spectator rather than participant if he feels like he can't range to deep balls outside the numbers. Can be fooled into over-committing to a side.

Grade: 5.59 (backup/eventual starter)




DE Dadi Nicolas (Virginia Tech): 6-3, 235lbs


combine: 4.74(40)/14reps/41in vert

'15: 7TFL/2.5scks, Honorable All-ACC

Strengths: Lightning quick inside moves. Plays with desired upfield burst. Experience at OLB. Bouncy athleticism in space and looks natural dropping into space. Good burst to make up ground quickly while chasing the ball. Runs through tackles with as much force as he can muster. 

Weaknesses: Lack of functional strength. Easily redirected as pass rusher & washed down against the run. Labors to disengage. Can be controlled by quality TEs at point of attack. Below average instincts against the run. Needs to eliminate false step from his get off. Below average body control in space overrunning plays that are there to be made. 

Grade: 5.28 (developmental/special teams potential)




CB Cyrus Jones (Alabama): 5-10, 197lbs


combine: 4.49(40)/10reps/33in vert

'15: 2INTs/7PBs

Strengths: Plus play strength. Able to reroute and maintain positioning on receivers. Willing to mix it up & likes to test receivers early in the game in an attempt to intimidate. Excellent in run support. Excellent return man.

Weaknesses: Run game awareness wanes when matched up in press coverage. Not able to run with pure man-cover speed. Plays with average balance. Inconsistent finding the ball in man coverage. Needs better awareness of receivers behind him in zone coverage. Big WRs can go up & over him in the redzone

Comp: Steven Nelson

Grade: 5.57 (backup/eventual starter)




CB Ken Crawley (Colorado): 6ft, 187lbs


combine: 4.43(40)/36.5in vert

'15: 46tckls/1INT/13PBs

Strengths: Shows patience out of back pedal. Won't open to one side or the other based on basic, first move by receivers. Has mirror & match ability on step and go routes. Consistent tackle production. Balanced approach and usually drives through RBs' legs in run support.

Weaknesses: Issues with discipline in coverage. Allows people over the top of him with go routes & double moves. Plays high in his backpedal. Doesn't trust his technique down the field. Needs more play strength and assertiveness to challenge blockers in run support.

Grade: 5.08 (back end of the roster)




WR Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma): 5-10, 194lbs


combine: 4.48(40)/20reps/41in vert

'15: 2nd All-American, 86rec/1,288yds/11TDs

Strengths: Terrific route quickness. Creates instant separation for anticipatory throws. Runs variety of routes from the slot. Clean with his double moves. Adjust routes to ball placement. Not afraid over the middle. Adjusts for difficult catches. Willing to jump into a CB and get after him as a blocker from the slot. 

Weaknesses: Lack of play strength shows up from time to time. Strong CBs with good feet can cause issues for him in press coverage. Can be redirected in his routes and will get trapped against the sideline at times. Reliant upon clever routes to get over the top against true speed. Not much of a catch radius.

Comp: Tyler Lockett

Grade: 5.91 (Could become early starter)




CB Brandon Williams (Texas A&M): 5-11, 197lbs


combine: 4.37(40)/18reps/30.5in vert

'15: 37tckls/7PBs

Strengths: Flashed a quality burst to the ball from his backpedal. Steady & sure tackler , enough mass to hit and stick to big receivers & RBs coming his way. Blazing straight-line recovery speed.

Weaknesses: New at the position. Slow to process combo routes and find shifting zone responsibilities. Allows too much separation. Stiff in his transition. 

Comp: Nick Marshall

Grade: 5.39 (backup/eventual starter)






RB Devontae Booker (Utah): 5-11, 219lbs
 combine: 22reps

'15: 2nd All-Pac 12, 1,261yds/11TDs

Strengths: Patient runner but decisive when he sees the crease. Flashes above-average feel for the way running lanes shift and change. Features excellent vision. Can maintain play speed when changing directions and cutting. Crisp footwork approaching line of scrimmage. Able to string together slew of moves in succession.Effective pass catcher with soft hands. Willing to do his part in pass protection.

Weaknesses: May not be able to add more weight without compromising quickness & average speed. Fumbles could be a concern. Average getaway speed.

Comp: Jeremy Langford

Grade: 5.7 (could become early starter)




S Jayron Kearse (Clemson): 6-4, 216lbs


combine: 4.62(40)/16reps/31.5in vert

'15: 2nd AP All-American

Strengths: Straight line athlete with long strides who is able to come from two-deep and close ground quickly on deep sideline throws. Will read QB's eyes and shade coverage accordingly while staying deeper than the deepest receiver. Able to contribute immediately on special teams.

Weaknesses: Play demeanor and effort level can best be described as blase. Slow to set presnap. Slow to diagnose counters at the line of scrimmage. Can be mismatched in man coverage by shifty slot receivers. Production levels should be much higher considering his build. Too many busts in coverage leading to free running receivers.

Grade: 5.39 (backup/eventual starter)




RB Tyler Ervin (San Jose St): 5-10, 192lbs


combine: 4.41(40)/17reps/39in vert

'15: 1,469yds/13TDs

Strengths: Short-strider in tight confines with ability to make sudden directional change. Combines smoothness with quick reaction time to avoid traffic. Plus lateral escapability. Quality hands, can function as a pass catcher with some matchup potential. Very good play speed and can punch the gas to top speed quickly. Return man experience.

Weaknesses: Runs come to a screeching halt against quality, bodied-up tackle attempts. Balance through contact is poor and has trouble grinding legs through arm tackles. Not a one-cut runner. Limited in his routes and times looked like he was going through the motions if he didn't expect to get the ball. 

Comp: Akeem Hunt

Grade: 5.38 (backup/eventual starter)