Thursday, April 26, 2012

2012 NFL Draft

The 2012 NFL Draft starts tonight with Round 1. Personally I hate the new format with Round 1 on Thursday, 2-3 on Friday night, and 4-7 on Saturday. I get the business decision behind it, but it used to be a lot more fun to have it on two days (early rounds on Friday, mid- to late-rounds on Saturday). Plus, there is a chance now that your team doesn't even have a pick on the first night when all the big names go (like the Falcons this year or teams like the Patriots who like to trade out and gobble up other teams' picks).

That being said, I'm a big fan of the draft because 1) it gives you a chance to see if your team can pull in the missing pieces to get you to a Super Bowl victory 2) if you're a college football fan, then you get to see where your favorite players are going to end up playing on Sundays next fall 3) wheeling and dealing and gamesmanship is awesome 4) it's a great excuse for a drinking game (we'll get to that later).

I was toying with the idea of doing a mock draft, but there are so many mocks out there and I probably don't have anything new to say and am about as likely as being right as everyone else (I'm pretty sure it's harder to mock a draft 100% right than it is to have a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket). Instead I'm going to do a 7-round mock of what I think my team, the Ravens, could do as well as an expert's picks from fellow Spider Todd McShay:

Baltimore Ravens 2012 Mock Draft
Round 1- Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
Round 2 - Mychal Kendricks, ILB, California
Round 3 - Joe Looney, G, Wake Forest
Round 4 - Ben Jones, C, Georgia
Round 5 - Chris Rainey, RB, Florida
Round 5 - Janzen Jackson, S, McNeese State
Round 6 - Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
Round 7 - Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M

Round 1
Disclaimer: I really do not know what the Ravens are going to do with their first round pick this year. The organization is one that tends to draft the "best player available," regardless of where that position is on their needs list. Peter Konz, the Center from Wisconsin, has been tied to the Ravens for weeks, but word is that Baltimore isn't totally enamored with him, and while he might fit a need (interior offensive lineman), he might not offer great value with the 29th pick.

I see this the Ravens first round breaking down one of two ways tonight: a highly rated player on their board drops to them (perhaps Upshaw; ILB Donta Hightower, Bama; or G/T Cordy Glenn, Georgia), or they trade out of the first with someone picking early in the second round for extra picks. Konz or someone like Notre Dame Safety Harrison Smith would offer great value early in the second.

McShay's Pick: Upshaw. Not surprising. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome is a former Bama player and Upshaw fills a hole left by the departure of Jarrett Johnson.

Round 2
As much as I want to believe that Ray Lewis in going to play forever, the Ravens need to find an Inside Linebacker to become his heir apparent. Mychal Kendricks has good speed and is a solid tackler, but might be a bit undersized. Sound like anyone we know? If Hightower doesn't drop to them in the first, Kendricks could become their guy.

McShay's Pick: Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma St. I'll be honest, I liked his pick better when it was Safety Brandon Taylor from LSU (looks like his picks or fluid, so they might change again by the time this is published), but you can't fault him for looking out for Baltimore's back end.

Round 3
The offensive line has been a liability at times for Baltimore ever since the retirement of the great Jonathan Ogden. While they would love to upgrade at Offensive Tackle, the loss of Ben Grubbs in free agency (and their inability to replace him) makes the interior O-Line probably the biggest focus of the Ravens during the draft. They need someone who can step in at Guard and be productive right away. I think Looney, a four-year starter at Wake Forest, could be the solution. Current Pro-Bowl G Marshall Yanda was taken in the 3rd back in 2007.

McShay's Pick: Looney. I swear I had this one pegged weeks ago.

Round 4
Another O-Lineman? Yup. Jones is the second-rated center in the draft and could be a target of the Ravens if they pass on Peter Konz early. Matt Birk signed a three-year contract during the off-season, but he's expressed interest in grooming his eventual replacement. Jones would be able to sit and learn behind Birk for a year, which would be a plus. [Note: This is a compensatory pick; the Ravens traded their 4th Round pick last year for Lee Evans *gulp*]

McShay's Pick: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers. Joe Flacco needs more weapons. Give him more weapons. I'm not sure Sanu is the right guy, but I'm not paid to be a talent evaluator.

Round 5
Baltimore gets two picks in Round 5, thanks to a compensatory pick, the first of which might be used to select Running Back Chris Rainey out of Florida. The Ravens need depth behind star Ray Rice, but I expect them to try and fill that with a free agent after the draft (Tim Hightower?). Rainey is going to be selected because of what he offers as a diverse offensive weapon and in the return game. Safety Janzen Jackson would be going higher if it weren't for "character issues" and his somewhat strange departure from Tennessee last summer (he played at McNeese State in 2011). Could be a ball-hawking safety that would benefit from the tutelage of Ed Reed.

McShay's Pick: Michael Smith, RB, Utah State; Malik Jackson, DE, Tennessee. I really think the Ravens can wait a year to draft a backup for Rice and should look to free agency (Hightower!) and Michael Smith doesn't offer as much versatility as Rainey. Malik Jackson would add depth to the D-Line but it's not thought that he could make the transition to OLB

Round 6
Burfict was tied to Baltimore's 1st Round pick for a long time, but the Inside Linebacker from Arizona State took a plummet after a terrible combine showing compounded the concerns about his character issues (he's considered a "violent" and "dirty" player by many). If Burfict comes out with a chip on his shoulder, then he could be punishing RBs and QBs for years to come. If he doesn't pan out, well, how many 6th Round picks do? [How dare you mention Tom Brady in my presence.]

McShay's Pick: Janzen Jackson. I took him a round earlier, but I might be too high on him. Added depth at safety after taking Martin in the 2nd. Having two former UT players on the Ravens might make my girlfriend happy though (shout out!).

Round 7
Joe Flacco needs more passing weapons around him and there doesn't appear to be a solid number three receiver currently on the roster to work in sets with Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, preferably a big body that can help stretch the field and go up for jump balls. After the free agent busts that were T.J. Housh[yourmamma] and Lee Evans, Baltimore stayed away from receivers in free agency this year and could add one or possibly more in the draft. Fuller has good size and could be an interesting late round option for the Ravens if they don't pursue the likes of Tommy Streeter (Miami) or possibly Dwight Jones (UNC) in an earlier round. There is also talk that Fuller could add some weight to move to Tight End, so he could be an interesting receiving option.

McShay's Pick: Ronald Leary, G, Memphis. Added O-Line depth.

Overall I think I prefer my mock draft to McShay's, but I'm a biased fan and don't spend time watching film the way he does (or at all) and I hate when people get so opinionated about picks and players when they should stick to their day jobs. This was all in good fun. The Draft starts in almost 8 hours, so we'll find out how things shake out soon enough.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Five Ways You Know It's October

  1. The leaves are starting to change.
  2. Oktoberfest is over (Festival in Munich, Germany ended this year on October 3rd).
  3. Baseball playoffs!
  4. No one really cares about baseball playoffs because football is on!
  5. Christmas decorations and displays are already up.

College Football September Wrap Up

By popular Demand (hola padre), here's my first college football post of 2011. It comes at an important turning point for the season as a lot of teams still look to be in the hunt for the national championship. So, here it is, your contenders:

They Are Who We Thought They Were
They've looked like the preseason #1 team in the country to start the year, rolling to solid victories against a conference foe (Missouri) and a ranked non-conference opponent (Florida State). We'll have to wait and see if FSU can right the ship after losing two in a row before we can really judge how good a win that was, but the Sooners will have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves against ranked conference opponents down the road. Their slip from 1 to 2 in the polls should be nothing to worry about.

Roll Tide Roll. Alabama has looked the same it has the last three years under Nick Saban. Damn Good. Early concerns about QB play have gone by the wayside as sophomore AJ McCarron took the starting job and improved in each game this season. Having a guy behind center who completes 66% of his passes and has a 2:1 (TD:INT) ratio is all the Crimson Tide need with their talented backfield and vaunted defense. Good victories against ranked Penn State and Arkansas teams provided good tests before this weekend's trip to The Swamp to face a resurgent Florida Gators, but the game circled on everyone's calendar is LSU's trip to Tuscaloosa on October 22nd.

Better Than Advertised
Follow me on this one. Yes, the Bayou Bengals were a top-5 preseason team, but with QB Jordan Jefferson suspended for the first few games of the season the LSU offense had a lot of questions. Hell, there have been a lot of questions about the LSU offense for the last couple of years, but the defense and a little luck has gone a long way for the Tigers. However, you can't give luck credit for this year's early victories against ranked-opponents Oregon (2), Mississippi State (25), or West Virginia (16). LSU has looked impressive enough to take the top spot in the AP poll from an undefeated Oklahoma squad, and now the October 22nd showdown with Alabama is shaping up to be the biggest game of the regular season

Oklahoma State
Do you like offense? Do you like come-from-behind wins against top-10 conference opponents? Of course you do, and so does Mike Gundy and his Oklahoma State Cowboys. Okie State looks to be more than just a tough out for its Big-12 brethren this season after a gutsy comeback win last weekend against a good Texas A&M (8) team. The Cowboys are now ranked 5th in the AP and look as good as just about any team in the top-5. They've proven themselves to be a legit contender, but the heart of Big 12 play lies ahead of them, leading up to a what might be a battle for a National Championship Game berth against Oklahoma on December 3.

Contenders With Something Still To Prove
A win against Nebraska on Saturday will go a long way to show that the Big Ten have a horse in the national championship race. I've been a Russell Wilson fan since his time at NC State (he went to high school in Richmond with my buddy Carter), but his arrival in Madison has made the Badgers serious contenders and put Wilson into Heisman speculation. Having an accurate, legit dual-threat QB behind that massive offensive line to pair with a very good running game and a gritty defense makes Wisconsin one of my favorites outside the SEC to make it to the big game this year. Saturday's game is going to be a good one and could propel the Badgers into the top-5.

Despite losing their head coach to the NFL, the Andrew Luck-led Stanford Cardinal have continued to be a high scoring team that doesn't allow opponents to put up many points on the board. Victories against San Jose St., a disappointing Arizona team, and a Duke team that lost to FCS Richmond (shout out to my alma mater) aren't really anything to write home about. Neither are wins against any of the teams on their schedule for the next month. Luck and Stanford won't be able to prove anything until the Oregon Ducks come to town on November 5th, but that could be a huge win for the Cardinal. Until then it's probably a better use of your time to debate whether or not Luck will win this year's Heisman.

Virginia Tech
Disclaimer: I am a Hokie fan. It was the 1995 Sugar Bowl that really made me a football fan when I was a kid. So, with that said, the Hokies have a lot of work to do. Nothing about their first month of the season shows that they can win a national championship, but that might all change this weekend with a top-25 match up with a Clemson team that just upset Auburn and Florida State in back-to-back weeks. We've seen the pieces - offense against Appalachian State; defense against ECU - but this weekend is when we'll see if VT can put it all together. A ranked Clemson team is the first challenge of their season, and if the Hokies win in Blacksburg on Saturday, then their the way to an undefeated season, another ACC Championship, and a possible berth to the big game is all but paved. Fingers crossed.

Playoffs? Don't Talk About Playoffs.
Boise State
Hi Boise State. Welcome back to the top-5. Welcome to the Mountain West without Utah, BYU, or TCU starting next season. Yeah, the MWC isn't going to get a BCS automatic bid anytime soon, and an undefeated season with wins against Georgia and TCU don't look nearly as impressive as we thought it would four weeks ago. Le sigh. The season is still young, but it doesn't look like you'll have much of a chance to gain ground on the "Big Boys" in the coming weeks. Your only hope may be for Florida to beat Alabama who has to lose to LSU who has to lose to Florida who has to beat South Carolina who has to lose to Georgia who has to beat Florida who has to beat LSU who lost to Oregon who has to beat Stanford but lose to Arizona State who lost to an Illinois team that has to beat Wisconsin after losing to Michigan who will have to lose to both Michigan State and Nebraska who has to lose to Wisconsin (Saturday at 8pm on ABC) and maybe one other Big Ten team. You got all that? Oh wait, there's still the Big 12 teams and a possibly undefeated Clemson or Virginia Tech. So, good luck with that.

The Best Of The Rest
Nebraska (Big Ten)
Beat Wisconsin and the rest may fall into place. Until then, good luck Big Red.

Oregon (PAC 12)
3-1 with an early loss to LSU is not a bad place to be. A very good team that is poised to take advantage of the mistakes and tough conference schedules of its opponents.

South Carolina (SEC)
Ol' Ball Coach. Maybe the best running back in college. Maybe the best wide receiver in college, who's going to throw it to him? Easiest of all the SEC contenders' schedules.

Florida (SEC)
Back-to-back games against Bama and LSU. Whammy. Sorry Gators.

Clemson (ACC)
A road win against the Hokies would go a long way, but high expectations usually prove to be too much for the Tigers.

South Florida (Big East)
Lookin' good until a stinker against Pitt last night. No point in talking about anyone from the Big East anymore. Just another mediocre battle for the conference's automatic BCS bid.

Michigan (Big Ten)
That game against Notre Dame was one to remember, but did first-year coach Brady Hoke use all his magic to pull out that one? Conference games against Michigan State and Nebraska loom big.

Yes, much of this will be irrelevant in 36 hours after the first Saturday of October gets played out, but that's why we play the game. Or something like that.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hair-pulling and Indian Burns Gone Cyber

Looks like big sis has started her own blog.

She and The Brolo (brother-in-law) are about to make their second move as a married couple and my sister has decided to document it through a blog on blogspot. My parents are mostly to blame. Well, my parents and several bottles of wine. That's how things roll in my family.

M&K (initials used to protect the unaware) are about to move from Boston to Glastonbury, CT and the whole fam-damily (parentals + me) are going up to New England tomorrow to spend the 4th of July with them, check out the new place, and enjoy some Boston scenery for possibly the last time before the move. I even get to go "help" when they go to close on the house tomorrow. Should be a great extended weekend with a concert (James Taylor with John Williams and the Boston Pops), destruction (goodbye 70s carpet and wallpaper; not-so-secretly hoping to take a sledgehammer to a wall), ball game (my first time at Fenway), and lot of food and drink.

Anyways, her blog is The Big Settle and should make for an entertaining read if your into house shows on TLC or talk about wine and food and booze. She's already putting me to shame with the frequency of her posts...three in her first week. Oy! I need to get my butt back in gear.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Web Archives For All

Remember that website you used to visit all the time back in the day but then one day it disappeared into the forgotten depths of internet limbo? The non-profit group Internet Archive is working to make sure that never happens to you again by archiving websites. Their goal is to "preserve 'the ephemera of the Web'" by copying and preserving entire domains.

What exactly does this mean? It means you can navigate archived sites as you would have at any point in the site's history, even if it has moved, changed, or disappeared like hot wings at a Super Bowl party. Images, videos, documents, and links are all available. You can read about how researchers can use the site in a great article published last week by Inside Higher Ed, here. This is a great tool for researchers, but what exactly can it do for you and me?

Do you want to listen to the Grateful Dead from their live 1973 concert in Denver? Got it.

Want to watch the film-noir classic Too Late for Tears? Got it.

How about an old site that boasts a public domain copy of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World? Yeah, they got that too.

What else do they have hidden away? I recommend perusing the site and seeing what gems you can find. Try Internet Archive's WayBack Machine if you're looking for a specific url that you can't find anymore. Happy hunting.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Whole Year?

Really? This this thing has been up for a whole year? Looking back I question a lot of my posts, but unlike embarrassing love notes from high school (but seriously, I was like super excited about prom and was totally thinking about you all during history class), they will last forever in the unending vacuum (wc?) of cyberspace. Sad that when I'm dead someone may be able to find this stuff with a Google search of me. Well that got morbid. To another year!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Google Book Settlement Rejected

In NCAA Tournament-style, Judge Denny Chin rejected (think Gus Johnson "REEEEE-JECTEEEEED") the Google Book Settlement that would compensate publishers and authors for the digitization of books that Google has been working on since the mid-2000s (note: oversimplification). You can read the background of the suit here. A break down of the federal judge's decision along with the actual filing can be found here. Why let me it poorly when you can read it for yourself. Geez, I can't do everything for you.

Based on what I read, it doesn't seem that this decision by Judge Chin will in any way seriously block the progress Google has made with this project. The settlement will be tweaked and with any luck this situation will be put to bed soon. Google Books will become a great asset and resource. As Roy Blount, Jr. said in October 2008 when he was president of the Author's Guild:

"Readers are also big winners under the settlement of Authors Guild v. Google. Readers will be able to browse from their own computers an enormous collection of books...Readers wanting to view books online in their entirety for free need only reacquaint themselves with their participating local public library: every public library building is entitled to a free, view-only license to the collection. College students working on term papers will be able to point their computers to resources other than Wikipedia, if they’re so inclined: students at subscribing institutions will be able to read and print out any books in the collection."

I'm interested to see how quickly the parties to this lawsuit and settlement can respond to Judge Chin's decision and get this project back on track.