Saturday, April 18, 2015

2015 Steelers Draft Prospects: Part 3

With the 2015 NFL Draft approaching, its time for another installment of the Steelers draft prospect series. As with last year, I'll profile draft prospects who have been connected to the Steelers, through mock drafts or visits/workouts. The profiles come from

WR Devin Gardner - Michigan  (6'4'', 216lbs)

Strengths: Willing to do whatever it takes to transition from a QB to a WR. Has the thickness of frame to potentially out-muscle smaller CBs. Showed improvement with his routes at East-West Shrine Game practices.
Weaknesses: Obviously has very little experience at the position. Has below average speed and will need more time & seasoning to run functional routes.
Score: 4.86 (Should be in a training camp)

DE Danielle Hunter - LSU  (6'5'', 252lbs)

2014: 13 TFL (led LSU), 73 total tckls
Combine: 40- 4.57s. 25reps
Strengths: Has long arms with jarring power behind his hands. Is fluid & agile in space. Uses length to bat down passes and disrupt the passing lane. Uses arm-over inside moves to set up tackles for loss. Has secondary motor to pursue and chase leads to more tackle opportunities. Continues to work to improve his position vs the run & pass. His off-field character is considered "squeaky clean".
Weaknesses: Relies heavily on his athleticism & motor over skill and instincts. Doesn't have the upfield burst & bend to turn the corner. He isn't considered a naturally instinctive reactor. Has winning power in his hands, but inconsistent with how he uses them against the run & pass.
NFL Comp: Jason Pierre-Paul
Score: 5.64 (Chance to become a starter)


NT Grady Jarrett - Clemson  (6'1'', 304lbs)
2014: 1st Team All-ACC
Combine: 40- 5.06s, 30reps, 31in vert jump
Strengths: Has a compact, powerful frame and gets consistent push. He plays to the whistle and will chase plays to the sidelines. Outstanding at timing snaps and getting into lineman first. Protects himself against cut blocks and shows plus ball awareness. He's able to elude guards in tight spaces and gets into the backfield.
Weaknesses: Relies on initial burst off the snap to generate a pass rush. Plays well but will wear down in the 4th quarter. 
NFL Comp: Earl Mitchell
Score: 5.81 (Chance to become a starter)


CB Eric Rowe - Utah  (6'1'', 205lbs)
Combine: 40- 4.45s, 19reps, 39in vert jump
Strengths: Has the ability to disrupts WRs off the line of scrimmage and can mirror them out of their release. Jams & disrupts shallow crossers. Will throw his body around in run support if needed. Attacks the ball at the catch point and makes it hard for the receiver to finish the catch. Instinctive in the zone with ball skills to match. Also has experience at safety.
Weaknesses: Struggles to carry NFL deep speed. He's not a recovery type of CB. Limited as a man-cover corner. Has change of direction issues in tight spaces.
NFL Comp: Pierre Desir
Score: 5.48 (Backup/Special Teams potential)

TE Nick O'Leary - Florida St  (6'3'', 252lbs)
2014: 1st Team AP-All American, John Mackey Award Finalist (Top TE), 2nd on the team in catches, Yds, TDs
Combine: 40- 4.93s, 21reps, 30.5in vert jump
Strengths: A tenacious play demeanor. Has an understanding of space and how to adjust routes. Steps up and bolsters pass protection. Uses good technique as a run blocker. He slides his feet and keeps the rusher squared in pass protection. Rarely drops catches. Works for tough yards after the catch.
Weaknesses: Has tight hips and won't gain ground quickly out of his release. A labored runner in space. A willing blocker but lacks the natural core power to handle stronger players. Doesn't create separation in man coverage.
NFL Comp: James Casey
Score: 5.30 (Backup/Special Teams potential) 

DE Geneo Grissom - Oklahoma  (6'3'', 262lbs)
Combine: 40- 4.81s, 20reps, 37in vert jump
Strengths: Has played both DE & OLB. Has some burst off the snap. Steady in pursuit. He'll flash inside moves & quickness and could benefit from a wider rush point in the pros.
Weaknesses: Lacks lateral agility and desired change of direction. A straight-line one-note rusher. Will struggle if asked to cover in space. His play strength doesn't match the build.
NFL Comp: Frank Alexander
Score: 5.29 (Backup/Special Teams potential)

DE Corey Crawford - Clemson  (6'5'', 283lbs)
2014: Played 11 games, started 10 (Had an ankle injury)
Combine: 40- 5.01s, 33in vert jump
Strengths: A smooth mover in space with the ability to change direction and chase boot-action QBs. Flashes a second gear when in close pursuit. Mindful of contain and rarely loses sight of the ball. Active with his hands in the passing lane when sensing the pass off. 
Weaknesses: Had more missed tackles than impact tackles. Shows very little fire in his hands. He allows TEs to take him out of run plays and doesn't get enough mileage from his length. Lacks upfield burst off the snap to threaten the edge. 
Score: 4.90 (Should be in a training camp)

DT Joey Mbu - Houston  (6'3'', 313lbs)

2014: 1st Team All-AAC, Team Captain
Combine: 40- 5.54s, 22.5in vert jump
Strengths: Mindful of getting hands on opponents quickly and with good arm extensions. Very active hands and works to keep himself clean as he mirrors run plays down the line. He senses screen passess & reacts.
Weaknesses: Doesn't gain much ground as a pass rusher. Lacks power and can be uprooted from his position. He pursues too aggressively at times against the run and vacates his gap.
NFL Comp: Jerrell Powe
Score: 5.08 (Better than average chance to make a roster)

OLB Randy Gregory - Nebraska  (6'5'', 235lbs)

2014: 2nd Team All-American, 1st Team All-Big 10, Team high 7scks
Combine: 40- 4.64s, 24reps, 36.5in vert jump
Strengths: Stronger than expected at the point of attack. Able to lock out & square against big OTs and can whip most TEs. Unhinges and gets tentacles on RBs bursting through the gap. Shows toughness against the run. Can chase & limit outside runs with speed. Gets instant change of direction to hound QBs in play-action. Has stride and 2nd gear for a quick close. Has the bend & hips to convert speed to power. Can counter and recover from cut blocks. Flashes plus hand-feet coordination.
Weaknesses: Technique & feel as a pass rusher is lacking thus far. Takes occasional fake steps as a stand-up rusher. Too much time stutter-stepping tackles rather than exploding upfield. Makes it too easy for OTs to quick set him. Doesn't process what he sees very quickly. He can be redirected. Has had positive drug tests.
NFL Comp: Barkevious Mingo
Score: 6.52 (Chance to become pro bowl caliber)

DT Arik Armstead - Oregon  (6'7'', 292lbs)
2014: 46tckls, 2.5scks, 4.5TFL
Combine: 40- 5.10s, 24reps, 34in vert jump
Strengths: Explodes upfield into blockers with good pad-level and hip snap, gaining instant leverage against the run & often jarring them into the backfield. Gets good arm extension to control OL and peppers them with powerful hands. Can unlock quickly from blocks.
Weaknesses: Plays tall as a pass rusher and doesn't use his hands to gain consistent advantages. Has no reliable counter moves when the rush stalls. Will win against OL, but doesn't put himself into position to finish.
NFL Comp: Calais Campbell
Score: 6.51 (Chance to become pro bowl caliber)

OLB Bud Dupree - Kentucky  (6'4'', 269lbs)
2014: team captain, 7.5scks
Combine: 40- 4.56s, 42in vert jump
Strengths: Outstanding power with the ability to rag-doll TEs. Should be an above average edge-setter. Has an explosive closing burst. A willing thumper when he has a shot on the RB. Can drop into space play zone. Has the strength at the point to be a physical edge-setter. 
Weaknesses: Wins with athleticism over skill at this point. Will get caught taking bad angles to the ball. Needs to improve his hand fighting. He's still raw rushing the passer. Doesn't possess a go-to pass rush move.
NFL Comp: Jamie Collins
Score: 6.10 (Should become an instant starter)

OLB Vic Beasley - Clemson  (6'3'', 246lbs)
2014: 1st in school history (sacks), ACC Defensive Player of the Year
Combine: 40- 4.53s, 35reps, 41in vert jump
Strengths: Explosive athlete who's always 1st off the snap. Has quick feet & fluid hips. Able to change directions and burst to the target. Able to drop into space. Has solid instincts and an outstanding closing burst.
Weaknesses: Unlikely to convert speed to power against NFL OTs. Rarely transitioning from the speed rush to spin as an instinctual pass rush counter. Too often content to stay blocked if the pass rush stalls out. He needs to shed blockers more consistently against the run.
NFL Comp: Bruce Irvin
Score: 6.64 (Chance to become pro bowl caliber)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

SNL Season 40: Ep.18

SNL closed out this 3-week run they've been on with Empire's Taraji P. Henson. So how did she do? Lets get to the review.

The Cold open saw the campaign announcement of SNL's Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon). She was trying to appear more natural in her announcement with the help of Vanessa Bayer. It was going pretty well...if not predictable, but then Darrell Hammond showed up as Bill Clinton and this got going. Hopefully we see more of Hammond as Clinton during this 2016 campaign season.

The monologue was a singing one. While the song wasn't the best we've ever seen for one (it was about how Taraji has made it and where she could have been following her breakout role on Empire). But this monologue really got brought up by the cast members testifying, like Pete Davidson "I could have been a well-adjusted sophomore". But Leslie Jones' was the best (and Taraji's reaction). A pretty well done monologue overall.

Next was an ad for "Depends: Legends", adult diapers with various hollywood legends on them. Some of the faces were completely random, but this was pretty great (and from the looks of it, had the same actor from 'Oops I Crapped My Pants', so that's a plus for continuity).

The first skit was a CNN Headline News special on a "Hot For Teacher" case. This was mainly just a Pete Davidson showcase. Davidson has gotten out there on Weekend Update as a correspondent and in some digital shorts, but if he can start shining on sketches, then he really could have a quick breakout. Being what this skit was (a showcase), it was pretty good.

Following was a behind the scenes short on "Home 2", but featuring more hip hop/pop stars. This was mainly just a method to get more celebrity impressions (like Taran Killam's Jim Parsons, and Taraji as Nicki Minaj), but this was alright.

Next up was a QVC skit featuring Taraji P. Henson as the host and Kate McKinnon trying to sell a "3 way poncho" (with model Aidy Bryant), yet she can't find a third way to wear it. This was a pretty weird and random skit, but it was one that seemed to bask in its weirdness, and for that it was actually somewhat humorous.

With the Game Of Thrones premiering its new season, SNL decided to introduce us to the "8th kingdom" , which looks a lot like "Boyz In The Hood". While SNL has the diversity now to do this type of thing, this really was a swing and a miss. A good idea that just wasn't executed right.

Weekend Update was a mixed bag again this week. Michael Che has really improved and seems to have his own style, but Colin Jost still comes off as bland. Its like there's just something about Jost when he gets in front of the camera, that he becomes stiff. Che had some really good lines (but Update did take a line from John Oliver on the fake picture gag, which didn't come off as naturally as it does with Oliver).

The Update guests were just okay this week. Kate Mckinnon returned as Cecilia Gimenez (the artist who ruined a fresco) to talk about the horrific Lucielle Ball statue. She showed her own statues of famous comedians.

And Bar-mitzvah boy Jacob returned to talk about Passover with Michael Che.....and Jacob's  father showed up, portrayed by Billy Crystal. I was hoping for this to be better, but it was just fine (if not a little clunky at times).

Hollywood Game Night saw its return for some reason this week, with McKinnon as always playing Jane Lynch. There was at least some more writing here (and the return of Killam as Vin Diesel), but again, this was mainly just celebrity impressions. Have to wonder if the writers were just running out of gas this week during this stretch.

Looks like Sasheer Zamata has a recurring sketch now, with "How 2 Dance w/ Janelle". We last saw this during the Chris Rock episode. This time around, it felt like it had more substance. Taraji was really into this as the mother showing Janelle how to really dance (and Kyle Mooney was even better this time around). Is Sasheer finally starting to break out a bit? We'll see.

Next was a predictable "Cookie" Empire skit...involving Sesame Street. Cookie took over Sesame Street. Obviously they couldn't get too graphic with this, making sure it was family-friendly, so this was just fine.

SNL decided to do a "League of Their Own" parody, this time including Taraji P Henson and Leslie Jones who wanted to join the team. As Kate McKinnon said "with the men at war, we have to be the racists". While this was a very good skit, it felt like it was too short and ended right as it was hitting its stride.

I thought that League of Their Own parody was going to be the "10 to 1" skit, but then we got some sort of transformers/power rangers combo skit with "Connectatron". This skit lasted about 1 to 1.5 minutes....and made absolutely no sense. This would have been the spot for a Mooney interview segment or something like that.

This was definitely an awkward show. Nothing was really truly horrible (excluding 'connectatron'), but nothing really stood out. While Taraji P Henson was a pretty good host, the writers seemed to have stalled out of ideas during the close of this 3-week stretch. Hopefully they're able to rev up for the closing stretch in a couple of weeks.

Avg. Score: 7.09 (each segment was scored out of 10, and averaged, including the musical act).

Bill Hader - 8.06
Martin Freeman - 7.56
Kevin Hart - 7.51
Chris Pratt - 7.50
Michael Keaton - 7.45
Chris Hemsworth - 7.44
Woody Harrelson - 7.42
Amy Adams - 7.19
JK Simmons - 7.18
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - 7.16
Sarah Silverman - 7.15
Taraji P Henson - 7.09
James Franco - 7.07
Jim Carrey - 7.01
Dakota Johnson - 6.83
Cameron Diaz - 6.81
Blake Shelton - 6.60
Chris Rock - 6.52

Saturday, April 11, 2015

2015 Steelers Draft Prospects: Part 2

With the 2015 NFL Draft approaching, its time for another installment of the Steelers draft prospect series. As with last year, I'll profile draft prospects who have been connected to the Steelers, through mock drafts or visits/workouts. The profiles come from

CB Marcus Peters - Washington  (6'0'', 197lbs)
2014: Suspended/Later dismissed following a sideline incident
Combine: 40-4.53s, 17reps, 37.5in vert jump
Strengths: Fluidity in his hips to flip & run. Tries to intimidate WRs with his physicality. He can redirect talented WRs with his length. Active & disruptive when the ball is in the air. At his best when contesting catches and often comes away the winner on 50/50 throws. Closes on throws with above-average burst and brings some force on contact.
Weaknesses: Has inconsistent footwork and is lose with technique. Lacks the patience in press and will open up early. Can get grabby off the line of scrimmage and downfield when beaten. Overly emotional and prone to mental mistakes because of it. Doesn't take coaching well.
NFL Comp: Aqib Talib
Score: 5.82 (Chance to become a starter)

OLB Max Valles - Virginia  (6'5'', 251lbs)
2014: 3rd team All-ACC, led team with 9scks
Combine: 40-4.83s, 36.5in vert jump
Strengths: Uses leverage and snaps in his hips to withstand power against much larger blockers at the point of attack. Has all the tools to become a good edge-setter as a pro. He's too strong for most TEs to block. Has plus burst to the ball when its in his sight. Has athleticism to dip his shoulder and turn a tight corner. Has rare timing to deflect passes at the line of scrimmage.
Weaknesses: Shows very little instinct as a DE or LB. He won't always pursue the ball carrier with a revved motor. Doesn't utilize proper footwork and angles to attempt tackles at times.
NFL Comp: Aaron Lynch
Score: 5.42 (Backup/Special Teams potential)


FS Cody Prewitt - Ole Miss  (6'2'', 208lbs)
2014: 1st team All-SEC, 2nd team All-American
Combine: 40-4.60s, 11reps, 35in vert jump
Strengths: He'll squat on routes to tighten throwing lanes. Doesn't panic in zone coverage. He surprises with closing burst on the ball. He's steady as a center fielder. True to his back-side responsibilities in the run game. Has shown to have good hands.
Weaknesses: Uses a high backpedal and doesn't have the juice to explode, needs a buildup. Has average feet and is much better straight line than laterally. Can get exposed when asked to play man coverage in space.
NFL Comp: Phillip Thomas
Score: 5.29 (Backup/Special Teams potential)


TE Jesse James - Penn St  (6'7'', 261lbs)
2014: Honorable All-Big 10, Led PSU TEs with 11 career TDs
Combine: 40-4.83s, 26reps, 37.5in vert jump
Strengths: Has flashed some straight line speed in space. Will turn quickly to find throws. Works to the open space against zone coverage. He can go up and over smaller defenders in the red zone as a split end.
Weaknesses: Gets very limited separation against man coverage. Does just enough as a run blocker. He doesn't handle power & movement in space as well as he needs to as a blocker. Will try to run through defenders rather than adjusting the route.
NFL Comp: Phillip Supernaw
Score: 5.18 (Better than average chance to make the roster)


OG Tre' Jackson - Florida St  (6'4'', 330lbs)
2014: Unanimous All-American, 1st team All-ACC
Combine: 40-5.52s, 25in vert jump
Strengths: Has leverage & strength to stand and steer defenders in confined spaces. Power to jolt in his hands. Shows recovery ability when beaten in the run game. Has an aggressive play demeanor. Can take a stand when being bull-rushed.
Weaknesses: Loses his feet sliding to pick up rushers. Will duck his head into blocks on contact. Limited effectiveness in space. Too reliant on size over skill.
NFL Comp: Justin Blalock
Score: 5.70 (Chance to become a starter)


RB Jeremy Langford - Michigan St  (6'0'', 208lbs)
2014: Honorable All-Big 10
Combine: 40-4.42s, 34.5in vert jump
Strengths: Has previously played WR & CB. Has burst around the corner and can separate from LBs in pursuit. Will square up blitzers and take them on in pass protection. Has blocking & pass catching talent to play on 3rd downs. Has a good spin move and plus lateral foot quickness. Maintains balance through contact.
Weaknesses: Not a physical runner. Lacks commitment through the tackles. Can look to take runs outside prematurely.
NFL Comp: Donald Brown
Score: 5.40 (Backup/Special Teams potential)


SS Ibraheim Campbell - Northwestern  (5'11'', 208lbs)
Combine: 23reps
Strengths: Aggressive tendencies near the football. He springs into his tackles with authority. Does his job in run support, playing with leverage against perimeter runs & containment on the back side. Can mirror RB movement to shadow & hit. Adequate in range and man coverage skills underneath.
Weaknesses: Can take too long to make an initial read on play-action and drop into coverage. Has issues with dual focus on the QB and his coverage responsibilities. Will lose track of his coverage, leading to big plays. Has an average closing burst. Has had a number of missed tackles in his collegiate career.
NFL Comp: Duke Ihenacho
Score: 5.11 (Better than average chance to make the roster)

CB P.J Williams - Florida St  (6'0'', 194lbs)

2014: 2nd team All-ACC
Combine: 40-4.57s, 12reps, 40in vert jump
Strengths: Able to face up and handle business from press coverage. A bump & run specialist. Has length & strength to put a WR into detour mode off the jam. Able to turn, run and close. Able to get on top of vertical routes and smother. Can carry speed down the field. Outstanding timing and ball skills to knock throws away. A sure tackler in open space with a 2nd gear to explode into ball carriers.
Weaknesses: Opens himself up to easy comebacks. Won't be able to consistently jam savvy NFL WRs off the line. His motor runs hot & cold. Inconsistent to step downhill and attack the run.
NFL Comp: Stephen Gilmore
Score: 5.86 (Chance to become a starter)

CB Ronald Darby - Florida St  (5'11'', 193lbs)
2014: 3rd team All-ACC, Allowed just a 41.9% of completions his way
Combine: 40-4.38s, 12reps, 41.5in vert jump
Strengths: Can change directions suddenly with few false steps. Has body control to handle the strain of press-man coverage. Plays with instinct and awareness. Ready to come off his man and overlap & contest a catch or make a tackle. Recognizes route developments and makes easy breaks on throws. QBs often avoided him in college. He steps downhill and attacks against the run.
Weaknesses: Susceptible to inside releases, with feet stuttering before transitioning to close distances on loose WRs. Needs improvement with his back to the ball. Opens the door for comebacks underneath. He isn't a hitter. Gets muscled by bigger WRs. Prefers to hit with his helmet over wrapping up against RBs. Loses INTs to his below average hands.
NFL Comp: Jonathan Joseph
Score: 5.86 (Chance to become a starter)

DE Nate Orchard - Utah  (6'3'', 250lbs)
2014: Tied FBS and school record with 18.5scks, 2nd team All-American, 1st team All-PAC 12, Won the Ted Hendricks Award (top DE)
Combine: 40-4.80s, 31.5in vert jump
Strengths: Has good foot quickness. Offensive Tackles struggle to handle his inside move. At his best as a squared-up runner with a 2-way go. Has seamless coordination of his hands & feet as a rusher. Smooth hips to backpedal into space or turn & run laterally. Has the ability to discard and make plays against the run. Shows ability to use his hands to help him win quickly.
Weaknesses: Not much of a factor against the run. Will get engulfed at the point of attack. Not consistent enough as an edge-setter. He wins with foot quickness and effort over skill & counter moves. A little tight in the hips and rounds the corner rather than turns into it.
NFL Comp: Trent Cole
Score: 5.69 (Chance to become a starter)


Monday, April 6, 2015

SNL Season 40: Ep. 17

SNL continued on its stretch spring run with Michael Keaton (who last hosted in 1992). Did Keaton still have it? Its showtime...........onto the review

The cold open was a very timely one, with the "road to the final 4". They even had the results to Wisconsin-Kentucky. Basically, they used this to mock the notion of "student athletes" with Duke's Coach K (Taran Killam) announcing that their star player was going to miss the championship game because of a biology test, so a 35 yr old student "Steve" (Bobby Moynihan) was going to take his place. It was mildly amusing (mainly because "Steve" looks like an actual player that was on Xavier's team), but John Oliver did a much better job tackling the notion of "student athletes".

The monologue saw Taran and Moynihan singing to Michael Keaton about playing batman and beetlejuice. The monologue sort of played like a digital short, where they showed a clip of Taran and Moynihan as the Tim Burton era joker and penguin....and then Keaton photoshopped as Batman. This was one of the best monologues of the season.

The first skit saw SNL mock and just flat out bury CNN's "newsroom". "Newsroom" is basically CNN's daytime programming. Cecily Strong portrayed Brooke Baldwin, hitting on all the main stories....with their typical reenactments. The best one was the dance troupe reenactment on the Indiana religious freedom law. The Daily Show has frequently mocked CNN, but this was equally as good.

Next saw the return of "A Mike O'Brien Picture". In this one, Mike O'Brien bets that whoever he takes to prom will be named "Prom Queen", so he decides to ask a teacher (Keaton). This was good, but it wasn't better than "Grow A Guy" from the first half of the season.

The next skit was an "Easter Hotline" ad hosted by Sasheer Zamata reminding you to call your grandparents on Easter. Since debuting on SNL Zamata has pretty much just been background noise in sketches, so this was a good showcase for her. The best conversation shown here was between Taran and his "grandparents" (Kate McKinnon/Keaton). It just felt so real (especially when Keaton would be talking over Taran).

Next was a skit about an ad pitch, featuring CEO Mr. Wallace (Keaton). This whole skit just seemed like a bunch of ideas scrambled into one. For one, Keaton supposedly had a belly-button piercing that was bleeding as he was throwing out wild pitches. Much like last week's "dinner date" skit, this just fell flat.

It was about time. SNL ran a music video for the "Church of Neurotology", mocking scientology following HBO's recent tell-all documentary. This was certainly an ensemble short, even featuring Colin Jost. The video updated the present-day status of some of the members (So many missing and/or sued to death members). Overall, this was just brilliant.

Weekend Update was improved from last week. It was slow going at first, but then Jost and Michael Che really started nailing it with some edgy punchlines.

The 1st guest saw Pete Davidson return to talk about the "Walking Dead". Davidson went on about how he could be perceived as a zombie when smoking marijuana. This was a good bit (even featuring a 'Walking Dead' cameo), considering its been a while since we've seen Davidson on Update.

The 2nd guest saw the great Jebidiah Atkinson return (Killam) to offer his take on TV. Once more, Killam just has such a rapport here with the audience, the interactions are great.

The post Update skit was about how a family (Strong/Keaton) wanted to convert their house to a smart house. The concept didn't really work, but everyone really tried to sell it, so it wasn't a total dud.

The 10 to 1 skit went to an Easter message from Michael Keaton and his daughter, Portia (McKinnon). This was similar to the 2013 halloween candy skit with Edward Norton. This skit was just so bizarre, that it was hilarious, granted it was pretty much just a series of one-liners. Michael Keaton in particular really sold this to make it work.

This was a really strong show, getting back to SNL's 1st half pace. Hopefully it won't take another 20+ years for Michael Keaton to host, because he was brilliant; just owning the material. Its a shame Carly Rae Jepsen was so bland, or else this would likely rate among the top 2-3 shows of the season.

Avg. Score: 7.45 (each segment was scored out of 10, and averaged, including the musical act).

Bill Hader - 8.06
Martin Freeman - 7.56
Kevin Hart - 7.51
Chris Pratt - 7.50
Michael Keaton - 7.45
Chris Hemsworth - 7.44
Woody Harrelson - 7.42
Amy Adams - 7.19
JK Simmons - 7.18
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - 7.16
Sarah Silverman - 7.15
James Franco - 7.07
Jim Carrey - 7.01
Dakota Johnson - 6.83
Cameron Diaz - 6.81
Blake Shelton - 6.60
Chris Rock - 6.52

Saturday, April 4, 2015

2015 Steelers Draft Prospects: Part 1

With the 2015 NFL Draft approaching, its time for another installment of the Steelers draft prospect series. As with last year, I'll profile draft prospects who have been connected to the Steelers, through mock drafts or visits/workouts. The profiles come from

CB Trae Waynes - Michigan St  (6'0'', 186lbs)   
2014: 1st team All-Big 10, Semifinalist for the Thorpe Award. 3 INTs, 8 breakups, 46 tckls
Combine: 40- 4,31s, 19reps, 38in vert jump
Strengths: Trae loves man to man coverage. He's allowed just 2 TDs in the last 2 seasons. A bump & run specialist. He excels in deep coverage and has acceleration to contest any throw. He runs through targets and is a wrap up tackler.
Weaknesses: He would grab receivers at the top of the route at times during college. Struggles to mirror and match against quickness. His hips & feet get clumsy in transition.
NFL Comp: Antonio Cromartie
Score: 6.38 (Should become an instant starter)

CB Jalen Collins - LSU  (6'1'', 203lbs)

2014: Played all 13 games, Led LSU with 10 passes defensed
Combine: 40- 4.48s, 36in vert jump
Strengths: Has a rare combination of height, weight & speed. Uses soft bouncy feet to change direction and drive instantly on throws. He has desired awareness in the zone with extended playmaking range. Has the speed to come across the field to chase down a loose RB or WR. Is a leaper with the ability to challenge and win 50/50 throws.
Weaknesses: Only had 10 career starts. Plays with talent over technique. He's more of a straight-line burner than a fluid, change of direction athlete. He's inconsistent to turn and find/track the ball. Can hit with force but doesn't go out of his way looking for it.
NFL Comp: Terence Newman
Score: 6.32 (Should become an instant starter)

FS Gerod Holliman - Louisville  (6'0'', 218lbs)
2014: Won the Thorpe Award, 1st Team All-American, Led FBS with 14 INTs
Combine: 17reps
Strengths: He lights up when the QB looks his way. Has a smooth backpedal and fluid hips to mirror & matches slot receivers. He understands route concepts and reads QBs. A chance taker who can swing momentum. Can run through receivers with big hits, or play the ball at the catch point. He can play with sudden movements in space.
Weaknesses: Was he a 1 year wonder? Can be moved around the field by QBs looking him off. He sits on play-action a shade too long. An atrocious tackler, he's slow to break down in space and lacks balance & base when tackling.
NFL Comp: Jairus Byrd 
Score: 5.34 (Backup or special-teams potential)

CB Alex Carter - Stanford  (6'0'', 196lbs)

2014: Honorable Mention All-Pac 12
Combine: 40- 4.51s, 17reps, 40in vert jump
Strengths: Has aggressive effort to redirect receivers off the line. Shows patience from press coverage and doesn't open up his hips too quickly. A physical tackler willing to step downhill, shed the block & throw his body in a tackle. Tries to maul the receiver at the point of the catch in order to disrupt. He was matched up against NFL ready WRs at Stanford
Weaknesses: Struggles to mirror & match in man coverage against more sophisticated routes. He lacks fluidity in his hips & feet for quick recovery. He appears to lack some confidence in deep coverage. Can be a head dropper as a perimeter tackler, losing sight of his target.
NFL Comp: David Amerson
Score: 5.50 (Chance to become a starter)

CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu - Oregon  (5'9'', 192lbs)
2014: All-American, 1st Team All-Pac 12, Thorpe Award finalist, Suffered season ending knee injury in December
Strengths: A very fluid mover, he's instinctive & alert. Adjusts on the fly as the play unfolds. He doesn't shy away from tackling. He tracks the ball effectively and has plus ball skills. Aggressive for his size in press coverage. 
Weaknesses: An unorthodox defender who rarely relies in technique. Gets in trouble trying to bait throws. He spends too much time trying to read QBs & jumps routes. Can get wild & lose techniques as a tackler.
NFL Comp: Alterraun Verner
Score: 5.57 (Chance to become a starter)

CB Kevin Johnson - Wake Forest  (6'0'', 188lbs)
2014: 2nd Team All-ACC, 44 tckls, Allowed just 24 completions
Combine: 40- 4.52s, 41.5in vert jump
Strengths: Very natural in man coverage. Has the feet & discipline to play square and mirror against complex routes. He's disruptive in press coverage, alters routes and slows receivers. Flips hips & accelerates against vertical routes. Has athleticism and enough speed to recover when beaten. He supports against the run.
Weaknesses: He gets fooled by head fakes downfield and turned around too often. He's late to turn & find the ball at times. Shows too much respect to deep speed and allows separation. He was also often penalized.
NFL Comp: Sam Shields
Score: 5.93 (Chance to become a starter)


DE Owanagbe Odighizuwa - UCLA  (6'3'', 267lbs)
2014: 2nd Team All-Pac 12, 11.5 TFL, 6 sacks
Combine: 40- 4.62s, 25reps, 39in vert jump
Strengths: Strong off the point of attack. He plays with a desired anchor and strong lower body. A run defender who can chase down creases. Has the potential to convert speed to power. He never gives up on a pass rush. He can play a 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB.
Weaknesses: He's not skilled as a pass rusher. He has some durability concerns. His range in pursuit is questionable. Could be mismatched if forced to cover in space.
NFL Comp: Sam Acho
Score: 5.79 (Chance to become a starter)

SS Jordan Richards - Stanford  (5'11'', 211lbs)
2014: 1st Team All-Pac 12
Combine: 40- 4.65s, 13reps, 32in vert jump
Strengths: Good hands to make difficult INTs. Attacks the ball at high point. Has extended range in run support and doesn't mind the physical side of the position. Has the secondary motor for extended pursuit.
Weaknesses: Displays obvious coverage limitations. Has marginal recovery speed. He struggles in man coverage. Can be grabby at the top of the route. Needs improvement as a wrap up tackler.
NFL Comp: Kurt Coleman
Score: 5.22 (Backup or special teams potential)

Friday, April 3, 2015

2015 MLB Season Preview

After a long and busy offseason, its just under a week until we'll see the first pitch. So how will this season kick off? Here are my predictions. (Now during the season, I may do a "State Of The Red Sox" podcast during the 1st of the month, but don't hold me to it). Anyway, onto the predictions.

AL East
Baltimore Orioles: 88-74
Boston Red Sox: 87-75
Toronto Blue Jays: 85-77
New York Yankees: 83-79
Tampa Bay Rays: 81-81

The AL East is going to be fascinating. Every team looks like they could easily be in contention if things break right. The Orioles are reigning AL East champs, but lost some talent during the offseason (including Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis), but the Orioles always seem poised to contend ever since Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter's leadership. 

The Red Sox have really reloaded (dating back to the 2014 trade deadline). They now at least have 5 legit starting pitchers (although not the ace that fans have been pining for). More importantly though for Boston, is the offensive boost they got in the offseason. The Sox added both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. That, on top with a rejuvenated Mike Napoli (coming off surgery to fix his sleep apnea) along with a full season  of Mookie Betts, and the sky could be the limit.

The Blue Jays looked poised to finally realize their potential, but then they lost young SP Marcus Stroman for the season with a knee injury. Can the Blue Jays still put it all together?

The key for the Yankees will be their starting pitching. Can Tanaka's elbow hold up, or will he ultimately need Tommy John surgery? Can CC Sabathia come back and put up a productive campaign? And can Michael Pineda have a full healthy season?

The Rays are entering a new era, losing manager Joe Maddon to the Cubs, and GM Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers. The Rays may still have the pitching to contend though, that is if they can withstand the early injuries they've seen in spring training.

Ultimately, in such a packed division, I see the Orioles repeating as division champions. But this could be a division where everyone is in the wild card hunt.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: 85-77
Detroit Tigers: 84-78
Cleveland Indians: 84-78
Kansas City Royals: 83-79
Minnesota Twins: 77-85

I think the AL Central could be just as competitive as the AL East (minus the still up and coming Twins). The Cubs got a lot of attention for their offseason moves, but the White Sox were just as productive. They added Adam Laroche, which will give Jose Abreu some days off to DH. They also swung a deal for Jeff Samardzija, giving them a front 4 of Sale/Samardzija/Quintana, and potentially top prospect Carlos Rodon within a month's time. But that wasn't all, they also fortified their bullpen with David Robertson and Zach Duke. 

The Tigers saw their ace Max Scherzer leave via free agency to the Nationals. They brought back Victor Martinez, but how will he hold up? He's already been banged up in spring training. You get the sense with the Tigers that their window of contention is starting to rapidly close.

The Indians made some moves of their own, bringing in Brandon Moss in a trade from the A's. The question for the Indians will be how their pitching holds up.

The Royals, coming off an AL pennant winning season , might take a step back. They lost Billy Butler and workhorse SP James Shields in free agency. They could still contend, but they'll have to deal with a revamped White Sox and an improved Indians team.

As for the Twins....their prospects are within a year or two of debuting. Their time will come eventually....but not now.

Most like the Tigers, but I just think their age will get them this time around. I think with their retooling, the White Sox will break out.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels: 92-70
Seattle Mariners: 90-72
Oakland Athletics: 84-78
Houston Astros: 80-82
Texas Rangers: 76-86

The AL West looks like a 3-team race. The Angels could have problems in the back of their rotation and at second base. But they have Mike Trout.....and that's all that really matters.

The Mariners have a potent lineup that now includes Nelson Cruz, along with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. That, with "King Felix" Hernandez, and the Mariners could finally break out.

The Athletics went through a mini-rebuild, shipping off Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzija and Brandon Moss (along with losing trade acquisition Jon Lester in free agency). However, they got back some interesting pieces. They may still contend, but the Angels and Mariners will make for tough competition.

The Astros have accelerated their rebuild, trading for Evan Gattis and adding to their bullpen in Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson. Their prospects are coming up, and they could be contenders come 2016.

The Rangers may get Prince Fielder and Shin Soo Choo back, but they suffered a dramatic loss in Yu Darvish to Tommy John surgery. I just can't see the Rangers contending. 

I think it'll be a tight race, but I like the Angels to repeat.

AL Playoff Teams:

AL East: Orioles
AL Central: White Sox
AL West: Angels
AL Wildcard: Mariners
AL Wildcard: Red Sox


Lately when talking about the AL MVP, its impossible to bet against Mike I won't. 

AL Cy Young:

Last year's cy young race was a close one between Felix Hernandez and the eventual winner Corey Kluber. I think King Felix gets it this time around, as he drives the Mariners to the postseason

NL East

Washington Nationals: 93-69
Miami Marlins: 86-76
New York Mets: 84-78
Atlanta Braves: 73-89
Philadelphia Phillies: 62-100

The Nationals still look like favorites in the NL East, but it could get closer. The Nationals have one of the top rotations in baseball, that now includes free agent signing Max Scherzer. They'll start the season with some injuries, with Jayson Werth and Denard Span, but I think they'll weather the storm.

The Marlins made some big moves in the offseason, signing Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term extension, and adding Dee Gordon, Mat Latos and Dan Haren. Plus, they'll have young fireballer Jose Fernandez returning soon from Tommy John surgery. With one of the top young outfields in the game, the Marlins could be contenders.

The Mets thought this would be their year to contend, and it may still be; however they suffered a devastating loss with Zach Wheeler requiring Tommy John Surgery. They still have a handful of young pitching prospects who are on the cusp, but everything will have to break right for them.

The Braves are in a rebuilding phase as they prepare to move into their new stadium in a couple of years. They traded away Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis. Will they continue to move pieces? (Updated): Well, 1 day before opening day, the Braves shipped off star closer Craig Kimbrel along with salary albatross OF Melvin Upton Jr to the Padres for a pair of mediocre major leaguers (Cameron Maybin/Carlos Quentin), along with prospects Jordan Paraoubeck and Matt Wisler. So this is definitely a rebuild season.

And the Phillies........well......they still have Cole Hamels (but probably not for long). The Phillies are in for a long rebuild.

The NL East will be closer than last season, but its still the Nats to lose.

NL Central
Pittsburgh Pirates: 91-71
St. Louis Cardinals: 89-73
Chicago Cubs: 84-78
Milwaukee Brewers: 80-82
Cincinnati Reds: 79-83

The Pirates have been on the up and up for a couple of seasons now, and this could be the year they break out. It'll require Gerrit Cole living up to his hype, but the Pirates have a young core in place, ready to win.

The Cardinals have been a consistent team for a while now. They have a farm system that continues to just churn out player after player. Its hard to find any weakness with this team (especially with the addition of Jason Heyward), but there could be some durability issues in the back of their rotation.

The Cubs are finally arriving, as they showed this offseason adding Jon Lester. Everything would have to break right with their prospects to contend this season, but don't count them out, especially with manager Joe Maddon.

The Brewers are in an awkward stage. They aren't quite contenders.....but they aren't in a position where they have to rebuild. I think that paints them as a .500 team.

The Reds fell off towards the end of last season. With their window closing, they started a mini-rebuild, moving Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon. But with their farm system, it shouldn't be long before they move back up.

This division could go down to the wire between the Cardinals and Pirates, but I think the Pirates finally come out on top.

NL West
Los Angeles Dodgers: 90-72
San Diego Padres: 87-75
San Francisco Giants: 83-79
Colorado Rockies: 72-90
Arizona Diamondbacks: 70-92

The Dodgers look like the frontrunners in the NL West. Not only do they have the money now, but they also have the strategy, with the addition of Andrew Friedman to the front office. The Dodgers shipped off Dee Gordon and Matt Kemp, and added Howie Kendrick. They also made an international move adding Hector Olivera, although he doesn't have a starting spot this season. The Dodgers have some injury concerns in the back of their rotation, but I think they should be able to get through it.

The Padres brought in AJ Preller to the front office, and he made a host of changes. The Padres acquired Justin Upton, Derrick Norris, James Shields and Matt Kemp. Defense will be a question mark for this team, but they could contend. (Update): Defense may be less of a question with Maybin and Quentin gone. Also, their BP just got significantly increased with Craig Kimbrel in the fold. The question now is what's Joaquin Benoit's role? Could he be used to improve their SS situation? Or will the Padres just go in with a lights out set-up man/closer combination?

The Giants are coming off another world series, but they have some holes in their roster. Their rotation could be shaky, pending on Matt Cain's recovery, not to mention the loss of 3B Pablo Sandoval. It may be another mini-recovery year for the Giants.

The Rockies and D'Backs both look like bottom feeders in this division.

The Padres may challenge if it all breaks right, but I like the Dodgers in the division. 

NL Playoff Teams:

NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Pirates
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wildcard: Cardinals
NL Wildcard: Padres


Coming off a massive extension along with a retooled team, I think Giancarlo Stanton is going to have a huge year.

NL Cy Young:

He's been on a roll the last few years, and I don't think it'll stop now. I like Clayton Kershaw to win another one.

World Series:

I like the Seattle Mariners to make a Kansas City Royals' style run this year to take the AL Championship. But I like the Washington Nationals to take it all. This may be their last chance with this current roster, with the likes of Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmerman (and many more) heading towards free agency. I think this is finally their year.