Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Year for the Ages: My 2016

So today I took a step back and just really thought about the many miracles and momentous events that occurred for me in 2016, and what a year it was.

It all started a couple of days after New Year's day. I had just broadcasted a basketball game the day before, while having a terrible headache the whole time (even though everybody said that you couldn't tell I was in pain by the way I called the game). That scared me because when I have headaches that are that painful for that long, that is a sign that my shunts could be malfunctioning. I was hoping that a good night of sleep would calm the pain down. It didn't.

So my family took me into the hospital and they ran some tests, then came back in to tell us the results. They said that my shunts had stopped working and that they needed to do surgery. When I asked when, they said in about an hour. It was at that moment that I broke down. I was crying wondering “why now?”, but after I calmed down, I just took a deep breath and remembered that God was in control and His timing is always right. They performed the first surgery and it didn't go right. I was way out of it, didn't feel right, and didn't know what was going on so they had to perform a second surgery. That one was much more successful and I was able to go home after 5 days in the hospital. Thank God.

Luckily all of that took place during winter break from school, and since missing one day of college can almost be like missing a month of high school, I was there for the first day of classes of what would be my final semester of college. I did have to miss the next couple days with getting all of the stitches removed, but all in all it was a quick turnaround. Then in May the unthinkable happened.....I graduated....from college. Now I know what Tommy Callahan felt like when he found out he got that D+ to graduate. 

Graduations never really hit me like they did everybody else, whether high school or college, because I just looked at it like a phase, and those who wanted to stay in contact would find a way to and all the others would just go on their own way.

After graduation I had the opportunity of a lifetime when I got to travel to Alaska to broadcast baseball with my good friend Lance. When the day hit to leave I was filled with emotions of terror due to being my first flight, but mostly sadness knowing that I had to leave the love of my life for 2 months. Again I broke down crying when I had to leave her, but I knew that we would see each other soon. It turned out to be much sooner then we expected. 

Just a handful of days after arriving in Alaska I started to feel kind of sick and I started getting, you guessed it, headaches. Homesickness was what I was hoping it was. Even with feeling rough I was still able to do color commentary for the first baseball game, which was still a good time. Unfortunately that would be my first and last time broadcasting in Alaska.

Another thing that I didn't point out in the beginning was that shunts can have varying life spans. They can last as long as 10+ years or as short as less than a year. I had the experience of them lasting over 10 years, now I was going to experience them lasting less than a year. 

My parents back home knew that I had been feeling rough, so they would stay in contact daily. They tried getting ahold of me one morning, but I was sleeping. The problem is, my idea of sleeping in was 8:30am. It was nearly 11am and I was still asleep. So my parents knew something was wrong and got ahold of my host family who woke me up, but I was even more out of it then I was in January. They took me to the hospital, and while it wasn't very clear of what made me sick, the doctors knew that they had to remove one of my shunts as a precaution to keep the bacteria from spreading, even though they didn't know how I got the bacteria. 

Let me start this off by saying that my memory of this hospital stay is still cloudy, due to how out of it I actually was.

I do remember being scared because at that point I had had around 38 surgeries in my life, but this was the first of when I didn't have family around. I just remember it being not long after my first surgery there, and I didn't have my glasses on and just saw a blur walking towards me in normal clothes, but I could recognize the voice.

I focused and I started balling when I realized that it was my dad. Then I cried even harder when I asked how long he was staying and he said "until you are out of here."

My next surgery was 8 days later, and it was at this time that they removed my second shunt. Then they had to give me external shunts for the time being. This way they could tell the pressure inside my brain. I had these in for over a week.

After the second surgery, I was overwhelmingly happy because my mom and the love of my life were in Alaska as well. Once again, as if somebody was chopping a factory full of onions, I started crying again. This was definitely one of the most emotional times of my life.

Then at the end of June I had a surgery (more specifically, a left frontal endoscopic ventricular fenestration) where I no longer would need shunts. This was so surreal to me because ever since I was 2 years old I had to have shunts, and to think that I was shunt free was a lot to grasp. After a few days had passed, the surgery was deemed a success, and then they also removed the external shunts. I wasn't quite in the clear yet because of my slowed speech, memory impairment, and processing deficits that made it very difficult for me to even write, as a result of bruising in the brain. With therapy and time, I was able to heal, but I can still sense myself getting stronger and better fairly often.

After getting to Alaska on June 4th, I was finally able to go home in early/mid July.

Now before I had left for Alaska, I made the biggest purchase of my life, but it wasn't for me. It was for my girlfriend of 2 in a half years at the time. It was a ring. The funniest thing was we would always tease joke about it. She would just joke and say "So did you buy the ring yet?" Then I would joke so much about it that she didn't believe me when I said that I had bought it, but this time I actually had bought it and she just didn't believe it. Before I had left for Alaska I decided that I was going to ask her to marry me the day after I returned home, and that would have been August 5th. So on August 5th I popped the question, and I had the person that I was going to spend the rest of my life with. It was by far the happiest moment of my life at the time.

Then shortly after that, we went on a trip with our good friends to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for 5 days. So once again I was getting on a plane, but at this point I actually enjoyed flying. Who would've thought that June 4th would be my first flight ever and in mid August I would already have been on my 6th flight. Never would have guessed that, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

A few weeks after we had returned from vacation, I had officially had my first job in the radio field also! That was a weight off my shoulders because all I heard before and after I graduated was how difficult it was to get a job in radio. Finally I had felt like my hard work was paying off!

About a month after getting the job, my fiancĂ©  (at the time) found out that she had gotten into grad school, so we were on the lookout for a place together. It was a fun (and stressful) time, and after a lot of looking we finally got a place. We moved in near the end of December and it was a big change, but an amazing one. What a way to end a memorable 2016 to say the least. God was definitely working.

Once again thanks for reading if you made it this far!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Reflection on Calvin Johnson's Career

(Apologize for the music)

The last time that I posted any new blogs, I was a Junior in college. I'm now a Senior, and after about a year without posting anything new, I'm right back at it. The inspiration behind this post came from Hall of Fame wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Lynn Swann, when he said that he doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame because of his team's success on the field.

Swann played during a time when rules weren't as constraining as they are today, and players were allowed to just play for the most part. Swann played 9 seasons in the NFL, was a 3 time Pro Bowler, a 1 time First-Team All-Pro, and he finished his career with 336 catches for 5,462 yards and 51 touchdowns, which is solid, especially for when he played. He also played on Super Bowl caliber teams, where he and is team won 4 Super Bowls. His teammates included players like Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, John Stallworth, "Mean" Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, and Mel Blount. Many of these players are currently in the Hall of Fame. Now let's look at the flip side of the argument.

Calvin Johnson didn't have the kind of help that Swann did with those Steelers teams. No player that Johnson has played with has been a no brainer hall of famer. However, he did play in a pass happy offense, but that doesn't make his numbers not impressive. In 9 years in the NFL, Johnson has played in 135 games, has made 731 catches for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns, while also having 555 plays go for first downs, 6 Pro Bowl Selections, and was a 3 time First-Team All-Pro. Those are very impressive numbers, and they don't stop there. He had 7 seasons where he eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving, and only 2 where he didn't. He also holds many NFL records, including most receiving yards in a single season with 1,964 yards in 2012. The year before that he became the 1st player in NFL history to have at least 2 receiving touchdowns in each of his team's first 4 games, and he is 1 of only 3 players to have multiple 1,600+ yards receiving in a single season. The other 2 are Marvin Harrison (in the Hall of Fame) and Torry Holt. He also shares the record for most 100 yard receiving games in a single season with 11, tied only with Hall of Famer, Michael Irvin. Johnson solely holds the records for most consecutive games with 100 yards receiving (8 games), most consecutive games with at least 10 catches (4 games), most receiving yards over a 5 game span (861 yards) and 6 game span (962 yards), and he was also the fastest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 receiving yards (115 games). He also holds a handful of franchise records for the Detroit Lions, including most receiving touchdowns in a single season (16 touchdowns in 2011), most seasons with 10 or more receiving touchdowns (4 seasons), most career 70+ yard receptions (8 catches), most games with multiple touchdowns in one half (12 games), the most receiving yards in regulation (329 yards, which is second to only Flipper Anderson in NFL history, who had 336 receiving yards in an overtime game). Calvin Johnson is also ranked 27th all-time when it comes to receiving yardage and 22nd all-time when it comes to receiving touchdowns., which are the most for a receiver that has only played 9 years. In 2011, he had the 11th greatest receiving yardage season in NFL history, and in 2012 he followed it up with having the best receiving yardage season in NFL history. In one of his only 2 playoff games of his career, he had the 7th best receiving game, yardage wise in 2012, when he had 211 receiving yards against the New Orleans Saints.

Comparing Swann and Johnson side by side, it is staggering seeing the difference in the numbers. Granted, Johnson has played in a softer and pass-happy league, but his numbers are still amazing. In the same 9 year career span, Johnson has 395 more catches, 6,157 more receiving yards, and 32 more touchdowns.

All of these things considered, I would have to disagree with Lynn Swann, and say that Calvin Johnson definitely does belong in the Hall of Fame. Calvin Johnson's resume is simply amazing, and it's even more impressive knowing that for a long time, Johnson was the only legitimate receiving threat for the Lions. He could be in double or even triple coverage, and still come down with the ball on a pretty regular basis. I may be biased being a Lions fan, but having watched this guy play almost every single snap of his NFL career. I would be surprised if he doesn't make the Hall of Fame. I'm not an expert by any means, but I'm just giving it my best guess. Calvin Johnson hasn't "officially" retired yet, even though he has told many players that 2015 was his last season. That being said, here is to hoping that Megatron changes his mind.

Being my first post in a long time, I'm okay with it, but I do hope to get back in the habit of posting more thoughts on different topics. Thank you for reading if you made it this far, and stay classy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Kobe Bryant Factor: Post-Lakers

NBA MVP, 5-time NBA Champion, 2-time NBA Finals MVP, 17-time NBA All-Star, 4-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, 15-time All-NBA Team Selection, 12-time NBA All-Defensive Team Selection, youngest player to score 32,000 career points, only player in NBA history to have more than 30,000 points and 6,000 assists in a career. All of these accolades are claimed by Kobe Bryant, and for 19 years he has played with the Los Angeles Lakers. Could his 20th year with the team be his last? It’s very possible.

Kobe Bryant has recently told the Los Angeles Lakers that after the 2015-2016 NBA season, he will not re-sign with the team. The majority of people have come to the conclusion that this will signify the end of his career, and he will retire when his 20th season is over with….but will he actually do that? Bryant has never came out and said that he will retire after his career with the Lakers comes to a close. At this time next year, Kobe will be 37 years old and there are still a few players in the NBA at that age or older that are still playing a number of minutes. Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter, Manu Ginobili, and Paul Pierce are just a few of them, and even though he didn’t play this year, Ray Allen, who in just a couple months will turn 40, is the reason why the Miami Heat have 1 more championship trophy is their display case after hitting a clutch 3 in game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals in order to stay alive against the San Antonio Spurs. Kobe Bryant can definitely still contribute to an NBA team, and will still be able to after next year is over, barring another serious injury.

Just take a look at Bryant’s numbers to show what he can do, especially if he is on a roster where he doesn’t have to be the only player that can contribute a high amount. Before the last 2 seasons, where they were each cut short by season ending injuries, Kobe Bryant played in and started 78 games in the 2012-2013 season. In those 78 games, he shot 46.3% from the field, which is right below his career high from the 2001-2002 season, when he shot 46.9% from the field. He also averaged 27.3 points, 6 assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game at the age of 34, with Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace (Ron Artest), Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash. Kobe will have a lot more help this year compared to last year as well. If all goes well, the Lakers starting 5 could very well be Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, either Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns, and either Wesley Johnson or Nick “Swaggy P” Young. That’s a heck of a lot better than they had this year for sure, and at the very least it will be exciting and fun to watch. The big thing is, if the team stays relatively healthy, we will get a good glimpse at what Kobe still has left in the tank, and if it is close to what he was able to do in 2012-2013, then I think he will definitely continue his career with a team that is a serious contender for an NBA Championship, if they offer him a contract or if he simply expresses interest in playing for a particular team. That is because lately it’s been the players choosing where they want to play, while the organizations pay them less, and the player will take less money because they want to play with a particular team or player in order to win. Let’s just be real here too. No team is going to give Kobe close to the $25 million dollars that he will make next year with the Lakers. He just isn’t that kind of “max deal” player anymore. A team would most definitely offer him a contract at a discounted price though, especially if it got them closer to a championship when they are so close. His experience in the playoffs is definitely a benefit as well, having had success in winning multiple times. Kobe Bryant is just such a competitor, and he wants to win obviously, so I think he will take one last big shot at a 6th ring before calling it quits. Just my prediction.

I would have no idea which team the “Black Mamba” would try to head to if he were to continue his NBA career after the Lakers, but whatever team got him would have a heck of a competitor, and depending how next season pans out, maybe a solid weapon on the court that still could contribute a solid amount. We do still have another year until we figure out if Kobe will even return for this scenario to happen, but it is fun to speculate and imagine what could be.

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2015 NFL Draft: Quarterback Analysis

Well it has been a while since my last blog post, but I'm finally back at it. It's a new day, and this blog now has a more creative and suitable name in my opinion, so let's get started.

I don't know what a lot of you think about rookie quarterbacks, but to me it is the most exciting thing about new NFL seasons. With every quarterback there is potential to be something that we have never seen, either in a good way or a bad one. Both equally exciting. There were 7 quarterbacks taken in the 2015 NFL Draft and I had a quick analysis of what I thought about each one, and I attached some videos from the internet that I found on each player. None of the videos are my own, but they portray what I am talking about. Let's take a look.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jameis Winston QB Florida State - 1st Round, 1st Overall Pick

2014 Season Stats: 13 Games, 3,907 Passing Yards, 25 Passing Touchdowns, 18 Interceptions, 65.3% Completions, 12-1 Record as a Starter

College Career Stats: 27 Games, 7,964 Passing Yards, 65 Passing Touchdowns, 28 Interceptions, 66% Completions, 26-1 Record in Games Played

Analysis: I had a lot of mixed feelings when it came to watching Jameis Winston play. I can honestly say that when I watched him live, there weren’t too many plays that I saw where I was just blown away by his abilities. When I looked at a lot of his big plays, there was a lot of blown coverages and cornerbacks just not playing the ball well. The good thing there is that he can recognize the blown coverages and take advantage, and he can be able to notice when a corner is in a bad position. Those are some good traits to have, however in the NFL, there aren’t going to be as many mistakes in the secondary as Winston saw at FSU. I also like how Winston knew when to put air on the ball and when he had to put more zip on it, in order for it to get to his receiver. One thing that Jameis Winston and the Seminoles were prone to this year that will bite him if it continues at the next level, is falling behind in games early. There were many games where Winston didn’t start playing well until the 2nd half, and in the NFL you need to be on your game at all times. Going 27 games and winning 26 of them is not a fluke though either. Football is a team sport, but quarterback is the most important position on a team in my opinion, and when your program wins that much, you have to look at the quarterback. It is also well known that Winston has had many off the field issues, and that isn’t a good thing at all. With all the talent that Tampa has on the field however, with Doug Martin running the ball, and Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans catching the ball, Winston is in a good spot to succeed, with talent around him. Jameis Winston will definitely have to learn and progress, but if he can do that and mature, then it could be a good fit.

Tennessee Titans - Marcus Mariota QB Oregon - 1st Round, 2nd Overall Pick

2014 Season Stats: 15 Games, 4,454 Passing Yards, 42 Passing Touchdowns, 4 Interceptions, 68.3% Completions, 770 Rushing Yards, 15 Rushing Touchdowns, 13-2 Record as a Starter

College Career Stats: 41 Games, 10,976 Passing Yards, 105 Passing Touchdowns, 14 Interceptions, 66.8% Completions, 2,237 Rushing Yards, 29 Rushing Touchdowns, 36-5 Record in Games Played

Analysis: I really like Mariota as a person and as a quarterback from what I’ve seen, and if I had to pick between Winston or this guy, I would’ve taken Mariota. Just by looking at his numbers, you can see that he was smart with the football. He knew when to cut it loose, tuck it and run, or just throw it away when playing in college. He was definitely an acrobat at times with the football and it worked it college, but playing like that could get him hurt at the next level. For being such a dynamic weapon with the passing game and running game, he has a good pocket presence, and didn’t seem to get rattled that easily. He didn’t panic very much, and that is definitely a key trait to have in the NFL. He also had a few throws that definitely won’t work in the NFL, but he also does a great job of putting the ball where only his man can go and get it. A lot of people are worried, thinking that Mariota is simply a product of the system he was in at Oregon, but I’m not so sure about that. If you can throw the ball, you can throw the ball, regardless of the scheme that is being run. One thing that he needs to do however is learn to tuck the football more and secure it when he is running. He would be prone to fumbles in the NFL if that continues, so his offensive line needs to protect him. Mariota also comes with risk, but the reward is pretty tempting. His play can’t be described as anything other than “electrifying”, and that is just what Tennessee needs. With Bishop Sankey and Shonn Greene in the backfield, and Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, and Dorial Green-Beckham out of Missouri catching the ball, this offense could be fun to watch.

New Orleans Saints - Garrett Grayson QB Colorado State - 3rd Round, 75th Overall Pick

2014 Season Stats: 13 Games, 4,006 Passing Yards, 32 Passing Touchdowns, 7 Interceptions, 64.3% Completions, 10-3 Record as a Starter

College Career Stats: 37 Games, 9,190 Passing Yards, 64 Passing Touchdowns, 27 Interceptions, 61.8% Completions, 18-18 Record in Games Played

Analysis: I didn’t know a whole lot about Garrett Grayson going into this year’s draft, but after doing a little more research on him, I think he could do well learning behind Drew Brees. The thing that I like most about Grayson is that he improved year after year. Take his junior and senior years for instance, where he was the starter for Colorado State. During his senior campaign, he completed a higher percentage of his passes compared to the year before, threw for more yards on fewer attempts than the year before, threw for more touchdowns than he ever had before, and that was while throwing less interceptions. He improved statistically in every category, and he lead his team to an 18-9 record over his last 2 years. That shows great production, and it shows that he learns as he goes on, and he’ll be learning from on of the best in Drew Brees in the next few years. His throwing motion was a little different, compared to what you normally see. He threw sidearm for a good chunk of his passes, but he was obviously comfortable looking at his numbers. He seemed to make good decisions, and in the NFL, that is insanely important. Now he didn’t face the cream of the crop, competition wise, playing in the Mountain West Conference, but if you can throw, you can throw. If they stuck around, Grayson would have some talented receivers if they keep progressing in Nick Toon and Brandin Cooks for the years to come when he would be seeing more playing time hopefully. This guy definitely has some promise.

St. Louis Rams - Sean Mannion QB Oregon State - 3rd Round, 89th Overall Pick

2014 Season Stats: 12 Games, 3,164 Passing Yards, 15 Passing Touchdowns, 8 Interceptions, 
62.3% Completions, 5-7 Record as a Starter

College Career Stats: 47 Games, 13,600 Passing Yards, 83 Passing Touchdowns, 54 Interceptions, 64.6% Completions, 16-25 Record in Games Played

Analysis: Even though his stats from 2014 don’t jump off the page, I definitely wouldn’t sleep on Mannion. He has been pretty solid overall. Take his 2013 season as an example. He threw for over 4,500 yards, 37 touchdowns, all while completing over 65% of his passes. He lead them to a 7-6 record, but they also scored nearly 35 points per game. Sure, the team didn’t even break 20 points once during the team’s toughest streak of the schedule, when they faced #8 Stanford, USC, and then played at #21 Arizona State, while losing all 3. Those kind of games can’t be put on solely one player, even though it is the quarterback’s job to put points on the board. He definitely has room to improve, but he did solid in his collegiate career. Looking at some of his highlights, he does have a lot of arm talent. He was able to put great touch on many of his passes, and he put it in places where only his receivers could get it. He also took a few chances with double coverage, and that’s okay as long as he doesn’t get carried away, but in the NFL secondaries are a lot more talented. He does seem to make good decisions, though he can be caught holding on to the football for too long. I think Mannion could be a solid pro, even if he does start off learning behind Nick Foles, which seems to be more than likely. Oh yeah, he also is the all-time passing leader for the PAC-12 conference in the NCAA, which is nothing to slouch at. Players he is ahead of in that category include Carson Palmer, the #2 overall pick Marcus Mariota, and that quarterback who plays for Indianapolis. I think his name is Andrew Luck, and if you didn’t know, he is kind of an awesome quarterback. Not bad company to be in.

New York Jets - Bryce Petty QB Baylor - 4th Round, 103rd Overall Pick

2014 Season Stats: 12 Games, 3,855 Passing Yards, 29 Passing Touchdowns, 7 Interceptions, 63.1% Completions, 10-2 Record as a Starter

College Career Stats: 37 Games, 8,195 Passing Yards, 62 Passing Touchdowns, 10 Interceptions, 62.7% Completions, 28-6 Record in Games Played

Analysis: Bryce Petty was my favorite quarterback in this class, especially when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck. NFL QB Camp guru Jon Gruden said that Petty may have the most natural arm talent in this entire draft. When looking at a lot of the throws that he made this past year, and over his entire college career, it is hard to disagree. Some of the concern for drafting Petty came from some of his prior injuries. He suffered a spinal injury where some of the bones in his spine were cracked, and he also suffered from a concussion in college. If those injuries don’t linger in the NFL, then that could be a score for the New York Jets, who drafted him. Watching some of his highlights, he had very good touch on a lot of his throws and was able to drop it right into his receivers hands, without the defense being able to get their hands on it. There were also some plays where his receivers had to stop or come back to the ball, but in the NFL, that can be a problem if it were to continue. Baylor was a very pass happy team with Petty on board, but he showed time and time again that he could carry the load and do big things. He had a good final year, and completed a high percentage of his passes in college. I think he is in a good situation as well with New York, where he will be able to compete for the starting job right away. The two other quarterbacks that he is competing with in my eyes are Geno Smith, who hasn’t lived up to the hype after being selected in the 2nd round in 2013 NFL draft, and Ryan Fitzpatrick has never been a consistent starter in the league. With Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and Devin Smith now to throw to, to go along with Steven Ridley, Chris Ivory, Zac Stacy, and Bilal Powell in the backfield, Petty would have solid talent around him.

Green Bay Packers - Brett Hundley QB UCLA - 5th Round, 147th Overall Pick

2014 Season Stats: 13 Games, 3,155 Passing Yards, 22 Passing Touchdowns, 5 Interceptions, 69.1% Completions, 644 Rushing Yards, 10 Rushing Touchdowns, 10-3 Record as a Starter

College Career Stats: 40 Games, 9,966 Passing Yards, 75 Passing Touchdowns, 25 Interceptions, 67.6% Completions, 1,747 Rushing Yards, 30 Rushing Touchdowns, 29-11 Record in Games Played

Analysis: Near the end of the 2013 college football year, there were a lot of projections that I saw that had Brett Hundley going as high as in the top 10 of the first round of the draft, and even after a very good 2014 season, Hundley still fell all the way to the 5th round of the draft. A steal for the Green Bay Packers, who now have a pretty viable backup quarterback to step in if anything were to happen to Aaron Rodgers, and there aren’t many better quarterbacks to learn from than him. That is saying a lot, coming from a Detroit Lions fan. Brett Hundley is a great duel threat quarterback, and you can tell that just by looking at his numbers. He started all 3 years that he was at UCLA, and he never completed less than 66% of his passes in a season, never threw for less than 22 touchdowns in a season, and never threw more than 11 interceptions in a season. Those are good numbers for any quarterback, but then you have to add in the fact that he ran the ball when he had to, and ran it well. He ran for over 600 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, and the year before that he had over 700 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has a good enough frame that he could take some punishment from running the ball that much, but he needs to be careful playing like that in the NFL. It is beyond me why he slid this far down in the draft, and it could be a tough break because honestly he could probably go in and compete right away for a starting job for a handful of teams. I guess we will see what happens later down the road.

Denver Broncos - Trevor Siemian QB Northwestern - 7th Round, 250th Overall Pick

2014 Season Stats: 11 Games, 2,214 Passing Yards, 7 Touchdowns, 11 Interceptions, 58.2% Completions, 5-6 Record as a Starter

College Career Stats: 44 Games, 5,931 Passing Yards, 27 Passing Touchdowns, 24 Interceptions, 58.9% Completions, 23-20 Record in Games Played

Analysis: Being a 7th round draft pick doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed a spot on an NFL roster by any meaning of the word, and it may be tough for Trevor Siemian. He will have to beat out Zac Dysert for the 3rd, and more than likely, final quarterback spot on the roster. Dysert was also a 7th round draft pick out of Miami University in Ohio, but he also has had time to watch and learn the NFL game for a year. And learning by watching Peyton Manning up close is a great opportunity, so it will be tough. In 2014, Siemian struggled with Northwester, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns, and that isn’t a recipe for success. In the Wisconsin game specifically, he was just all over the place overthrowing players, putting the ball out of reach or too low for wide open guys to catch. He did finish his career with a winning record in games played, but I just don’t see that translating in the NFL. I may be wrong here, but there were other quarterbacks that I would’ve taken before him, but I also am not an NFL scout. We will see if he can make the roster.

Biggest Surprise - Rakeem Cato QB Marshall - Undrafted

2014 Season Stats: 14 Games, 3,903 Passing Yards, 40 Touchdowns, 13 Interceptions, 59.2% Completions, 482 Rushing Yards, 8 Touchdowns, 13-1 Record as a Starter

College Career Stats: 53 Games, 14,079 Passing Yards, 131 Touchdowns, 44 Interceptions, 62.7% Completions, 34-18 Record in Games Played

Analysis: I absolutely do not understand why Rakeem Cato didn’t at the very least get a shot to make it with an NFL roster, at least until the preseason. It’s one thing if you don’t perform on the field, but if a player like this guy doesn’t get a shot, I just don’t understand. Cato finished with the 3rd most passing touchdowns in the nation last year, behind only Marcus Mariota from Oregon and Brandon Doughty from Western Kentucky, who handed Marshall their only loss of the season by just 2 points. The guy nearly threw for 4,000 yards and ran for 500 yards, while scoring just under 50 combined touchdowns last season. That alone is great, and the guy won games. Being 34-18 is pretty darn good, and Cato started pretty much his whole college career. He played in 3 bowl games as well, and he won them all. He wasn’t just a one season wonder either. He was impressive throughout his career. His story is an awesome one as well. Rakeem Cato didn’t get signed because of his size, since he was under 190 pounds and just over 6 feet tall. However, he did get signed by the Montreal Alouettes from the Canadian Football League. Hopefully he can make the most of his chances there, and prove the doubters wrong. I’m rooting for you Cato.

Now I am in no way, shape, or form an "expert" on this, I just did this for fun and I could be way off on all of these players. I hope that all of these players can succeed in their football careers, and it will be fun to watch their careers unfold, especially with how much talent there was in this year's quarterback class. Only time will tell, but I'll have my popcorn ready as I watch it unfold.

As always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Accolades and Question Marks: A Look at the 2015 NFL Retirement Period

For this next blog entry, I decided to look at a little different aspect of the NFL game. People always seem to talk about the up and comers and players that are in their prime, but I wanted to take a look at the other side of the coin here, and check out the retirements from this offseason. 

This was a much more interesting retirement period, compared to others from recent memory. Many high profile players called it quits, along with some young players that hadn’t been in the league for more than the length of their rookie contracts. Definitely not something you see everyday, so let’s take a look.

The Less Surprising Retirees
Let us look at the most recent retiree, cornerback Ike Taylor for the Pittsburgh Steelers. At age 34, in 12 NFL seasons, he was a very consistent player when it came to playing time. Before last season, he had only missed 7 games in 11 years, but this past year he missed 11 games. From a durability standpoint throughout his career, that is what you want from a player. He has compiled over 600 combined tackles in his career, to go along with 140 pass deflections, 14 interceptions, 1 touchdown, and 3 sacks. Very solid numbers from a player at the cornerback position. The only issue my father had with Taylor, as a lifelong Steelers fan, was that he seemed to drop so many possible interceptions. That’s probably why he wasn’t a wide receiver, but he did have an impressive one as a corner.

Now sticking with the same team, but a different player in 8 time pro bowl safety, Troy Polamalu. It was sad to see Troy retire, especially because ever since I started to watch NFL football, it seemed like Polamalu was in the starting lineup for the Steelers. You could see him declining last year, but he has been a cornerstone for Pittsburgh for so long, it is going to be different seeing somebody else playing his position. Like Taylor, Troy has been with the Steelers for 12 years. In those 12 years, he has made countless eye popping plays that blew your mind. He gathered up 771 combined tackles, 32 interceptions, 110 pass deflections, 12 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, 7 fumble recoveries, and 3 touchdowns. Wow is all you can say, especially if you had the privilege of watching him over the years. He was a very soft-spoken player, but his play was everything but. He played like an animal, and treated every snap like it was his last. A future hall of fame player, without a doubt in my mind.

The More Surprising Retirees
To start off with this category, I feel like Patrick Willis is one of the first names that comes to mind. While 30 years old isn’t necessarily “young” in NFL terms, it isn’t an age that you expect players of Willis’ caliber to retire at. The man was a beast to say the very least, and he was the face of that 49er’s defense in my opinion. After being selected #11 overall in the 2007 NFL draft, he has lived up to his expectations, and then some. In 8 years, he made 7 pro bowls. That is the definition of domination at your position. In 112 games played, Willis finished with over 900 combined tackles, while breaking the 100 combined tackle mark in a season 6 times, with 174 combined tackles as a rookie. That number is pretty darn impressive to say the least. He also finished his year with 20.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, 8 interceptions, 53 pass deflections, and 2 touchdowns. A great career to celebrate, even if it did end a little earlier than we all expected. Willis also could be under serious consideration to make it to Canton, Ohio as a hall of fame linebacker.

Stephen Schilling is the next player to definitely surprise people by retiring at the young age of just 26 years old. In just 4 years of play in the NFL, he played for 2 different teams. He played for the Seattle Seahawks last season, and before that he spent his first 3 years with the San Diego Chargers, after being selected in the 6th round in 2011. He was never a solidified starter in the league, but he got playing time in 26 games, while starting 5 in his career, and 3 of them came in 2014. He played college football at the University of Michigan, and was a Lombardi Award nominee, which celebrated a college offensive lineman, who had great play on the field, while still having the type of discipline that Vince Lombardi portrayed. A promising outlook, but unfortunately ending earlier than expected.

Next up is the former #8 overall pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2011, Jake Locker. Coming out of the University of Washington, many thought that he could potentially be the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft, but that turned out to be Auburn standout, Cam Newton. Locker didn’t do what Tennessee was hoping, as he only started 30 games over 4 years. That’s less than half of what the team played over that 4 year span. He finished his career with just under 5,000 yards passing, 27 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, and a 57.5% completion rate. Though he didn’t really excel in the pros, it was very surprising that he called it quits because he still had the skill set to remain on an NFL roster. Locker however wanted to be able to get out of the NFL while still being in good health, and it is hard to fault him for that.

Now onto Jason Worilds, who was also from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 2nd round draft choice from Virginia Tech played a total of 5 years in the National Football League. This is especially surprising because of his output for the team so far in his career. In 73 games throughout his career, he brought down the quarterback 25.5 times, and 7.5 of those sacks came just last year, which was the 2nd most in his career for a single season. He also finished his career with 4 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries. Though he wasn’t a standout that offenses planned around, Worilds was still a solid starter and he had some good upside, while showing flashes of great play. Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers are known for their development of linebackers, this is still a loss for their defensive unit and a big surprise for anyone who watched him.

The last player that retired out of nowhere, who was definitely the most surprising retiree, is linebacker Chris Borland from the San Francisco 49er’s. At just 24 years old, Borland hung up his cleats after just his rookie year. In his one year with the team, Borland compiled over 100 combined tackles, 5 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, and 1 sack, which earned him consideration for rookie of the year. He definitely had a lot of upside coming out of college after playing at the University of Wisconsin, and after being selected in the 3rd round in last year’s draft. Many players had mixed reviews about his retirement, with some questioning his commitment and just wanting the money and running, while others were very comforting and understanding as to why he did it. Borland quickly diminished those who criticized him by giving back 3/4 of his signing bonus, since he only played 1/4 of his rookie contract. That definitely had to take a lot for him to walk away from the game he loved, but it’s hard to argue with a guy who cherishes his health more than his paycheck.

Whether this turns into a more common thing in the NFL or not, this was definitely a surprising retirement period in the NFL. Only time will tell if this trend will continue.

As always, thank you for reading!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

2015 NFL Mock Draft and Brief Analysis

1.    Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jameis Winston QB, Florida State

It’s no secret that Tampa Bay is very interested in taking a quarterback with their #1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. Head coach, Lovie Smith has made it clear that he likes Winston, and it seems like he is a bigger fan of him rather than Marcus Mariota. There were also rumors that the team’s current QB, Mike Glennon, has been looked at as a possible trade commodity. Winston would be in a great situation with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans to throw to, along with Doug Martin running the football.

2.    Tennessee Titans - Leonard Williams DE/DT, USC

Many look at Williams as the top prospect in this year’s draft, and it just so happens that the Titans could use help on the defensive line. Marcus Mariota has been rumored to be liked by the  Titans organization, but the team has also been said to be all in with quarterback Zach Mattenberger. With that, I think Williams will be the pick.

3.    Jacksonville Jaguars - Brandon Scheriff OT, Iowa

Blake Bortles was sacked 55 times last season as a rookie. That isn’t good, especially for the team’s quarterback of the future. There are many other positions that are a possibility for the Jaguars, but offensive line makes the most sense.

4.    Oakland Raiders - Amari Cooper WR, Alabama

Derek Carr threw for over 3,000 yards, 21 touchdowns, with only 12 interceptions. That was without many big time playmakers on the offense. If the Raiders took Cooper, he would play opposite of James Jones, and that would be a solid receiving core, and it could help Carr out a lot.

5.    Washington Redskins - Dante Fowler Jr. OLB, Florida

Washington has a few issues to address in this draft, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded back or just spent this pick on an offensive lineman. Fowler Jr. is a great player though, and could definitely compliment and help out the Redskins’ defense. Pairing him opposite of Ryan Kerrigan could be a dynamic duo on the defensive side of the ball.

6.    New York Jets - Marcus Mariota QB, Oregon

The New York Jets have done some good things so far in this offseason, mainly bringing back Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, while also adding Buster Skrine. Also on offense, they traded for Brandon Marshall to team up beside Eric Decker. Todd Bowles has done well so far, and I expect him to cement a new quarterback to signal a new era with the the Jets. I think Mariota would do well with this team, and it would be fun to watch.

7.    Chicago Bears - Vic Beasley OLB, Clemson

The Bears defense is definitely not their defense of old, so I think this would be a good pick for them to try and start to get this defense back to where they used to be. They have to start somewhere.

8.    Atlanta Falcons - Shane Ray DE, Missouri

Atlanta could use a dominant defensive presence, and Ray could definitely help in that area. With his size (6’3” 245lbs.), Ray would be a versatile weapon, and could possibly line up at linebacker in certain packages. This would be a good pick for the Falcons.

9.    New York Giants - Danny Shelton DT, Washington

The Giants are pretty set on the offensive side of the ball, and the offensive line can be addressed a little later in the draft, so I see them focusing on defense, and on the interior of the defensive line is where I see them needing the most help. Shelton could definitely help this unit and give them an intimidating defensive line when teaming up with Jason Pierre-Paul and Cullen Jenkins.

10.    St. Louis Rams - Trae Waynes CB, Michigan State

Waynes was a stud corner on the college level, and could help any team that needs help in the secondary, and the Rams are one of those teams. He would pair well with Janoris Jenkins, and could help this already solid defense.

11.    Minnesota Vikings - La’el Collins OT, LSU

Collins could step in right away for Minnesota, as he would help an offensive line that gave up the 39 sacks to their starting quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. This would help give Bridgewater more time, and it would open up more holes along the offensive line for their running game.

12.    Cleveland Browns - Kevin White WR, West Virginia

If White is available, I don’t think Cleveland will hesitate at all to take him, especially after Josh Gordon got suspended for the entire 2015-2016 season. He would join newly signed Dwayne Bowe and he would definitely help out whoever is playing quarterback for the team.

13.    New Orleans Saints - Randy Gregory DE, Nebraska

After his recent legal issues, Gregory could definitely fall in the draft. If he is there at 13, then I would expect the Saints to take him. He could definitely strengthen the Saints defense and he would be a great compliment to pair with Cameron Jordan on the opposite side. This is of course if they don’t trade Drew Brees to the Buccaneers for the number 1 pick, who would then be Jameis Winston.

14.    Miami Dolphins - Shaq Thompson OLB, Washington

Miami could definitely use an offensive guard here, but there aren’t any that are worth taking this high, so if they stick with this pick, I think it would be a smart pickup to get Thompson. He could step in immediately and help the Dolphins defense at the linebacker position.

15.    San Francisco 49ers - Malcolm Brown DT, Texas

The 49ers have faced some tough losses with Chris Borland and Patrick Willis this offseason by retirements. I expect them to address the defensive side with these losses, and though it isn’t at linebacker, I see Malcolm Brown being a good pick. He could help with the losses that the 49ers have suffered and step in and help right away.

16.    Houston Texans - Andrus Peat OT, Stanford

This would be a smart move for the Houston Texans. Peat would be a big help for a Texans offense who has questions at quarterback at the moment, and he would help their offensive line quite a bit. If they were to trade down however, I wouldn’t be surprised.

17.    San Diego Chargers - Todd Gurley RB, Georgia

With the loss of Ryan Matthews, the Chargers need a starting running back to carry the load for the team, and Gurley could be that guy. Even though he had a serious injury to his knee, he seems to be on track to heal correctly. Big risk player, but he also comes with big reward potential. The past 3 seasons at Georgia, Gurley has averaged over 6 yards per carry. No matter what level, that is impressive.

18.    Kansas City Chiefs - Ereck Flowers OT, Miami (FL)

The Chiefs didn’t have a single receiving touchdown from a wide receiver last season, so that is also a huge possibility here, but Alex Smith was sacked 45 times last year. If he doesn’t have time to throw from the pocket, it doesn’t matter who he is throwing the football to.

19.    Cleveland Browns (From Buffalo) - Eric Kendricks ILB, UCLA

This pick would make sense, and it would complete a very intimidating linebacker core that already includes Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, and Karlos Dansby. This defense would be scary, and it can only help them keep pace with the rest of the AFC North.

20.    Philadelphia Eagles - Eli Harold OLB, Virginia

Chip Kelly has made the most noise in the offseason this year, and it isn’t a secret that he is looking to make a run this year. With Harold, that would strengthen a linebacking core that is led by newly acquired Kiko Alonso. It isn’t a flashy pick, but it would be a good one.

21.    Cincinnati Bengals - Landon Collins SS, Alabama

Collins is a very talented player out of Alabama, which is pretty much a breeding ground for NFL players. He would certainly help the Bengals secondary.

22.    Pittsburgh Steelers - Kevin Johnson CB, Wake Forest

The Steelers defense has been acquiring many young and talented defensive players in the early rounds of the draft in past years, and I look for that trend to continue. Johnson would pair well with Cortez Allen, and he could fill the void with the loss of Ike Taylor.

23.    Detroit Lions - Melvin Gordon RB, Wisconsin

With the loss of Reggie Bush, Detroit may be looking for a back to fill that role. Theo Riddick played well last year when called on, but having three capable running backs is very intriguing. I think guard is a bigger need, but none are worth taking this high.

24.    Arizona Cardinals - Alvin Dupree DE, Kentucky

Dupree would probably play outside linebacker in Arizona’s scheme, and I think he would definitely help fill a need for a team that is looking for a push to make it to the big game, especially with Carson Palmer running out of time to win that big game at quarterback.

25.    Carolina Panthers - Marcus Peters CB, Washington

The Panthers are a tough team to figure out. They have the capability to beat any team that they square up against, but they also have the capability to lose to any team as well. I think Peters would definitely help their secondary that doesn’t have any shutdown corners.

26.    Baltimore Ravens - DeVante Parker WR, Louisville 

If Parker is still on the board at this time, then I think it is a no brainer for the Ravens. With the loss of Torrey Smith, they need somebody to help fill the void that he left, and Parker could do just that.

27.    Dallas Cowboys - Arik Armstead DT, Oregon

The Dallas Cowboys are almost a complete team, and I think with this pick, Armstead would be smart. Defensive tackle looks to be about the weakest spot for this team, so I see them taking care of that right away.

28.    Denver Broncos - Cameron Erving C, Florida State

Peyton Manning only has a couple years left in the league, and to make sure that he can be the best that he can be, the Broncos should draft a player to protect him. Erving could be that player, and it would be a smart pick for them.

29.    Indianapolis Colts - T.J. Clemmings OT, Pittsburgh

After obtaining Frank Gore and Andre Johnson in free agency, the Colts top priority should be to keep Andrew Luck upright, so he can totally utilize the weapons he has at his disposal. Clemmings can help with that objective.

30.    Green Bay Packers - P.J. Williams CB, Florida State

With the loss of Tramon Williams leaving for Cleveland, the Packers are weaker at the cornerback position, and in a division with Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, and Alshon Jeffery, I don’t know if the Packers will take their chances. Williams could help them.

31.    New Orleans Saints (From Seattle) - Jake Fisher OT, Oregon

The Saints received this pick from the Jimmy Graham trade with Seattle, and I think Jake Fisher would be smart here. Giving Drew Brees as much time as possible is only a bad thing for opposing defenses, but never for the Saints’ offense.

32.    New England Patriots - Jaelen Strong WR, Arizona State

If Strong were to still be available, Bill Belichick would be very tempted to give Tom Brady another target to throw to. Brady turns average receivers into seemingly great ones, so imagine what he could do with Strong, who is already greatly talented.

As always, thanks for reading this everybody. It seriously means a lot. Now this is my best guess as to what will happen, though in reality I may only get a handful right, but hey that’s the fun of it.