1. Who are your biggest winners and losers from the first round of the NFL Draft?
AG: After drafting three picks in the first round, the Minnesota Vikings are the clear-cut winners. Many experts had defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd as a top-five talent, so to grab him at No. 23 was an absolute steal. He will make an immediate impact and should complement five-time pro-bowler Jared Allen. In the secondary, Xavier Rhodes is a big hitter who will also be a starter on day one. The Vikings were ranked 24th last season in most passing yards allowed, so both Floyd and Rhodes should help to solidify the defense. On offense, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson will play a huge role as the Vikings needed to find a replacement for Percy Harvin. Despite losing four draft picks to the Patriots, Minnesota still has five more picks available in the later rounds. The fact that Geno Smith was not taken in the first round was no surprise to me. What made the former West Virginia quarterback the loser is that the Bills decided to take E.J. Manuel instead. Statistically, Smith is a much more fundamentally sound quarterback, as he passed for 42 touchdowns to six interceptions. This is impressive considering Manuel only had 23 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Just by comparing the numbers, Smith’s touchdown to interception ratio was nearly three times better than Manuel’s.
CM: Ironically enough, the biggest winner and loser of the first round of the 2013 NFL draft were picked one right after the other. The best value pick by far was Jarvis Jones at No. 17 by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Georgia product is a fantastic outside rusher who was ranked as high as No. 2 overall in mock drafts just a few months ago. But some red flags and a spinal issue caused teams to shy away from him. The Steelers have the personnel to work with Jones’s issues and mold him into a Pro Bowler. In addition, this fills a need, as the aging Pittsburgh defense just lost outside linebacker James Harrison. The biggest loser picked right before the Steelers, and that’s the Buffalo Bills and their selection of E. J. Manuel. This pick didn’t make sense for several reasons, even though Buffalo is in the market for a QB. There were other better quarterbacks, including projected top-10 pick Geno Smith, who has better decision-making skills and is more consistent. Also, no other quarterback went, which showed there was no urgency and that Buffalo could have scooped up Manuel in the second round. They can make the case that they wanted to make sure they were getting “their guy,” but their guy was originally thought to be Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib, who played for new Bills coach Doug Marrone, and would fit well in his West Coast scheme.
GO: In the first round, I feel that many teams made very good picks, but there is no bigger winner than the Carolina Panthers. With the 14th pick, they were able to grab arguably the best defensive player in the draft, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Lotulelei was projected to be a top-three pick before he was diagnosed with a medical condition that could have ended his career before even playing in the league. Fortunately, the Panthers’ doctors said the disease will not hinder his ability. Desperate for a presence in the middle of the d-line, the Panthers’ defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy will see more one on one protections with Star in the middle. This will also help the linebackers stop the run, especially Rookie of the Year Luke Kuechly at middle linebacker. The biggest loser was definitely the Buffalo Bills. Taking E.J. Manuel, who in my opinion was the fifth best quarterback in the draft, was an idiotic move. Knowing that the team wanted to take a quarterback, the Bills should have either drafted a receiver or lineman to help build the offense around and then take someone later.
Andrew gets 3 points for mentioning the Vikings’ quantity and quality of picks. Greg gets 2 points for analyzing Lotulelei’s potential impact on Carolina. Chris gets 1 point for saying Jones is a great fit for Pittsburgh.
2. Controversial Liverpool striker Luis Suarez ferociously bit an opponent’s arm in last week’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea. What should his punishment be, and would you want a player like Suarez on your team?
AG: The 10-match ban against Suarez is simply not good enough. Suarez has a history of biting players during his playing days on Ajax Amsterdam, so after receiving a seven-match ban in 2010 for the same penalty, the punishment should be substantially increased because he has not learned. Had he played in the United States, he would not be tolerated because Suarez is too much of a liability when it comes to incidents like this. While Suarez may lead Liverpool in goals scored, they would be better without him. Currently, Liverpool is in a rebuilding stage, so it would be smart to perhaps trade him for a few younger players. If Suarez went to a team such as Real Madrid, he would be under the guidance José Mourinho who has a reputation for helping players with big egos. If Mourinho could control Suarez, then it would be a win-win situation for both teams.
CM: To me, this sounds just like Mike Tyson. Suarez is a complete head case (and possibly a cannibal). I’d give Suarez an eight-match suspension, but after seeing the English Football Association give Suarez a 10-match ban, I’m starting to think I wasn’t harsh enough. Also, if he was on my team, I would want him out. The reason for this is there are two different kinds of problem players. The first is someone like Mario Balotelli, who has caused his own share of problems and has been rather controversial, but is still coachable and somewhat normal. Then there are players like Suarez, who clearly physically harm others in the strangest of ways. Plus, this isn’t the first time Suarez has been involved in a ridiculous incident. Two years ago, Suarez was accused of making racial comments toward Patrice Evra in a match against Manchester United. Suarez was later banned for the incident, as reports came out that Suarez referred to Evra as a “negro” multiple times. Those kinds of incidents are unacceptable, and Suarez’s talent does not outweigh the trouble that comes with him.
GO: Luis Suarez is currently banned 10 matches for his inexplicable action of biting a Chelsea defender. In my opinion, I feel that the 10-match ban is a perfect punishment for something like this. This length of time can severely affect Liverpool because 10 matches is a lot when it comes to the EPL season. His actions will now not only hurt his reputation and wallet, but his whole team as well. In my opinion, great talent in soccer is overshined by stupidity, especially in the United States because it is not as popular. For example, people do not know how great of players Suarez, Balotelli, Zidane and Carlos Teves are. They only know their off-field antics or controversial on-field decisions. If you ask me if I want those guys on my squad, I would say yes in a heartbeat. In a game that has limited scoring, having a guy that can produce consistently is essential to be successful, and with proper players and coaches in an organization, having a slightly unstable personality with unbelievable ability should not be a hindrance.
Chris gets 3 points for comparing Suarez to a good head case in Mario Balotelli. Greg gets 2 points for having a strong stance on playing a player like Suarez because scoring is so rare. Andrew gets 1 point because Liverpool is not really “rebuilding.”
3. Who are your favorites to come out of each conference in the NHL playoffs?
AG: Since Sidney Crosby is expected to be back for the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference. The Penguins currently have the No. 1 offense in the NHL, and after adding all-star Crosby into the mix, Pittsburgh will be even tougher to defend. Last year during the postseason, their goalies struggled and were not rested. This season, Fleury will not be as burnt out as he has been switching off with Vokoun. In the Western Conference, it is hard to choose against the Chicago Blackhawks that have the second-best offense and top-ranked defense. They just won the President’s Trophy, which now guarantees them home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This was critical, as the Blackhawks are 17-3-3 at home.
CM: The best way to tell is to find some trends in statistics and see who may follow that trend. Hot goaltending is what a lot of people think will get you to the Stanley Cup, but goaltending in general is just as important. Two big stats to look at are goals against and goals against per 60 minutes of ice time. Last year, the Los Angeles Kings were second in the regular season in both of those stats, and they rode Jonathan Quick to a Stanley Cup. The year before, the Stanley Cup finalists, the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins, were both one-two in those categories. The two teams who could follow that pattern are the Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Rangers. Behind Corey Crawford, they finished first in goals against and second in GA60. Despite underachieving, the Rangers are playing better, Henrik Lundqvist has them in third in goals against and first in GA60, and Rick Nash could be enough of an offensive spark to get them to the finals. In the end, I like Chicago and their +53 goal differential to win it all.
GO: Like I have said countless times, the NHL playoffs are the hardest to predict out of any sport. Where team chemistry means more than anything, the teams going in hot into the playoffs, along with a consistent goalkeeper, usually fair well. Right now, I think Boston will make it out of the East. There is no team that has more depth and more motivation than the Bruins. Everyone is talking about the Penguins in this Conference, but I do not feel that they can beat the Bruins in a seven-game series. With players like Chara, Marchand, Bergeron and goalie Tuukka Rask anchoring the squad, expect Boston to play well throughout the playoffs and make it to the cup. In the West, all of the hype is around the Chicago Blackhawks. Ever since their hot start to start the season, they were deemed the favorites to win it all. Unfortunately, I feel that all of this built up pressure will end up being too much for the team, and the least talked about and arguably most consistent team, the Anaheim Ducks will come out of the West.
Chris gets 3 points for using stats. Andrew gets 2 points for going with the safe picks, Pittsburgh and Chicago. Greg gets 1 point for predicting a Ducks upset in the Western Conference.
FINAL: Chris wins Around the Dorm, 7-6-5
Quote: “Maybe Brandon will take me seriously now.”