Get Er Done! – Now!

The sand in the hour glass is withering away. When I say withering away I don’t mean like Nicholas Cage’s acting career. Speaking of which, his redemption will come when either they make a sequel to The Rock or National Treasure. Both are those movies no matter how far into it, no matter how many times you have seen it, you can’t turn it off. The Rock was on the other night and found I could get through a good deal of the movie in between each of John Lackey’s pitching. John Lackey has become to me what Duane Starks was a few years ago. Anyone remember that guy? Anyways back to this lockout. Time is running out, and it is running out fast. The game of leverage is now over. This is no time for a pissing contest.

Finally, after 110+ days of back and forth bankers hours type days, the sides are serious about getting a deal done. The part of all of this that I still can’t wrap my head around and same with the idiots over in the NBA is this. Why for the love of God wasn’t this all being worked out in the months before the CBA ran out? Personally, if I were an owner or higher up in either league, I’d have a team of negotiators and lawyers working around the clock drafting up proposals, having conference calls, meetings, and forums to keep the pace moving forward. Anyone who says this isn’t about greed and money has the mindset of a Lindsay Blowhan. Are some of these owners good business men, savvy, and sharks in suits? Absolutely, we have one who built a palace down in Foxboro. Bob Kraft however is a fan of the game and that is what separates him from many owners. Does he still look out for number 1? Of course he does, that is why he is a billionaire. I think Bobby wants to make sure the league is stable, his franchise can remain on the upswing (note remain on the upswing), and everyone wins in the long run. I go back to my previous point about not having this lockout being worked on around the clock, it infuriates me to think that because of laziness, greed, and seeing who has the bigger Mandingo (shout out to my Rockets teammates), that this deal wasn’t done months ago, even before the current CBA expired. Now that retired players are now throwing their two cents in just screws this all up even more. We as fans have the right to be mad, ask questions, and even drop off as fans, but we can’t do that.

If you poll 100 people, I can guarantee that 95 of them will be even more excited for this season, given the fact Free Agency is going to be a bigger shit show than what happened down in Florida earlier this week. Crazy to think that pirate hooker is going to be walking the streets (probably literally) five days from now. Fans are ready for football and everything that goes along with it. The time to get a deal done is now. They should be putting in as many hours there are in a day, with different teams taking different shifts until it is agreed in principle. I’ll send some entertainment from Lace or Flash Dancers up on 5th Avenue to help ease any tension in the room. From there the deal should go straight to whatever judge, court system needs to approve it and the league season should be opened for business.

Big ups to Albert Breer, Sal Pal, and Mort from the NFL Network and ESPN for looking like hot dog vendors over the last few days in NYC probably sweating like a whore in church during their sidewalk stakeouts. I’m off to Vegas in a few days for some Blackjack and of course putting in my bets for the 2011 season. I’ll give a cut to whomever picks a winner, either that or I’ll send some entertainment your way much like the guys are getting in NYC.

Follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/mikeprocopio

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Top 20 of 2011

With the NFL Network making us wait another week to see the 10 of the remaining 20 players left in the Top 100 of 2011. I put together my Top 20 players of 2011 (based on who hasn’t been taken yet in the NFL’s Top 100). Call it hometown bias, but I’m going with the facts that Tom Brady tops this list of players. The first ever unanimous MVP winner gets the nod, followed by our Super Bowl MVP right behind him.

Hey with the owners meeting this week to try and sort this mess out, what else do we have to talk about? Big Ben letting us know the Steelers had some offensive workouts? Michael Vick signing autographs in NJ? Let’s have some fun with this…

1) Tom Brady – New England Patriots
2) Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
3) Michael Vick – Philadelphia Eagles
4) Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
5) Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings
6) Peyton Manning – Indianapolis Colts
7) Andre Johnson – Houston Texans
8 ) DeMarcus Ware – Dallas Cowboys
9) Clay Matthews -Green Bay Packers
10) Peyton Hillis – Cleveland Browns
11) Darrelle Revis – New York Jets
12) Rashard Mendenhall – Pittsburgh Steelers
13) Charles Woodson – Green Bay Packers
14) Ed Reed – Baltimore Ravens
15) Troy Polamalu – Pittsburgh Steelers
16) Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons

17) Haloli Ngata – Baltimore Ravens

 18) Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans
19) Nnamdi Asomugha – Oakland Raiders
20) Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals

Let the tearing apart begin…

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Hollywood’s Gift to Us

Each year there seems to be one movie that comes out sports related that tends to be a big hit at the box office. Some of them are big flops while some of them become classics, staples in a team’s film watching before a big game, encyclopedias for motivational quotes, or just feel good high-five your friend kind of flicks. Coming across one of my all time favorites over the weekend, it prompted me to put together this article, to help ease the tension on the ruling coming up later this week on the lockout. Now this will probably create more controversy than most articles due to people’s likes and dislikes, but hey there is no football news to discuss right now, other than the moron coach from Ohio State stepping down.

Top 5 Football Films

1) Rudy – Out of all four major sports, this has to be the biggest feel good, follow your dreams, tear jerker movie for any sports fan. If you don’t get goose bumps when Devine throws him in the game, you have no soul.

2) Any Given Sunday – This movie was filled with stars, over dramatic hits, football, and hot chicks. Pacino’s locker room speech for the title has become the foundation for a certain beer’s radio commercial, and any movie with LL Cool J in the backfield is a good thing. The only thing that would make this better is if Pacino ran off with the hooker at the bar.

3) The Program – When a juiced up defensive end smashes his head through a windshield for cracking the starting lineup, you know the movie is going to be a good one. This was a great depiction of how college programs can be run, some of the adversity these guys have to face, and how James Caan can really play any role.

4) Little Giants – Polk High’s Al Bundy as the antagonist, a wannabe Ghostbuster as the protagonist, and a female linebacker who turned out to be an adult film star when she became of age and you have the makings of a great kids football movie.

5) Necessary Roughness/Varsity Blues – Kathy Ireland kicking and a whipped cream bikini, enough said.

Top 5 Basketball Films

1) The Pistol: The Pete Marovich Story

2) Hoosiers

3) Blue Chips.

4) Glory Road

5) Semi-Pro

Top 5 Baseball Films

1) Major League 2

2) Field of Dreams

3) Rookie of the Year

4) The Scout

5) For the Love of the Game

Top 5 Hockey Films

1) Mighty Ducks 2

2) Miracle: 1980 Olympic Story

3) Slap Shot

4) Mystery, Alaska

5) Mighty Ducks

Top 5 Golf Movies

1) Happy Gilmore

2) Legend of Bagger Vance

3) The Greatest Game Ever Played

4) Caddyshack

5) Tin Cup

Others

Vision Quest, Rocky Series, The Fighter, The Wrestler, Invictus

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Some of the Sophomores

A player’s leap between their rookie season and second year gets mentioned as the most important. They have been entrenched in the team’s system, in season and off season programs, training camps, and inside the locker room. A draft full of diaper dandies last season makes 2011 (if the owners and players get their heads out of their asses) to be teed up as one of the most interesting in regards to player development. The Patriots inserted some massive widgets into the offensive and defensive engines in 2010 with both sides having marquee playmakers. Here we will dissect some of the integral players who could see a major jump in not only playing time, but in the highlight reel presence as well.

WR – Taylor Price
Taylor got some playing time in at the tail end of the season when home field and the first round bye were sewed up. I am confident that missing OTA’s, due to Ohio University being the only school on the planet graduating so late, seriously hurt his rookie development. Taylor is a big, physical wide receiver who I think will replace Brandon Tate this year on the depth chart. He could be that missing piece to stretch the field and (I hate this term more than anything) take the top off the defense. However, I do see the Patriots addressing a ‘go-route’ type veteran WR to help mentor him. Let’s just hope they don’t turn out to be Joey Galloway and Torey Holt.

TE – Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez
Emerging as two of the best young TE’s in the NFL during their rookie campaign speaks for itself. Gronk, with probably the worst training camp hair cut butchering of all time, played at a Pro Bowl level in both the running game and passing game. He was an absolute beast in the Red Zone and made some big, TOUGH, catches in games on the road. I think of the laser that came out of Giselle’s Lady Boy’s hand in Pittsburgh. Hernandez, a late round pick due to smoking some ganja in college, made teams pay for passing on him. I’ll never forget being at the Meadowlands when he faked a safety out of his jock strap for a massive gain. Right then and there I knew this kid was going to be good. Both of these guys are only going to improve and make opposing defensive coordinators lose sleep on Saturday nights planning for them.

LB – Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes
Thank God Shaq beat out Cunningham for the longest lingering calf injury of all time this year. Cunningham, for the most part, underachieved in 2010. He showed some glimmer of promise in back to back games late in the year, but was never a player you noticed or heard mentioned during the broadcast. Cunningham has great awareness and field vision at the LB position. I won’t compare him to Tedy Bruschi, but he has that type of nose for the ball. Brandon Spikes has a same nose for the ball as well, but doesn’t have the speed of a top flight LB. With a few off the field issues in 2010, you can’t argue it derailed his development as a player and a professional.  Let’s not forget Dane Fletcher too.   He made some significant contributions in 2010.  I feel out of the rookies on the defensive side of the ball in this column, Cunningham will make the biggest push in 2011.

DL – Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick
Following Kyle Love on Twitter, I see that he is working out like an animal during this ridiculous lockout. Love played a great role with Mike Wright and Ron Brace both going down to injury this year. Brother Love was tough against the run, but a bit weak in the pass rush. Then again, the entire Patriots pass rush was horrid except when Buffalo or Miami was on the schedule. Deaderick, as we were told during the season, had some attitude issues that effected his play time. He had a few games that I sat there saying, this kid could be good. Those games were few and far between though. Also that flat top? Come on man …. (insert all time Patriot Hater Chris Carter voice)

CB – Devin McCourty
There really is nothing else to say about this guy. He took a few lumps early in the season, but was learning from covering the best WR and best QB possibly of all time every day in practice. McCourty was a second team All-Pro in just his rookie season, and the sky is the limit for this kid. With lighting fast closing speed, better than average tackling skills, and an eagle’s eye for the ball, I think he is a year away from being a true “shut-down” corner.

Some predictions for 2011 for our 2010 Rookies..
Devin McCourty – 2nd Team All Pro (Pro Bowler)
Jermaine Cunningham – Leads Patriots in Sacks with 8.5
Brandon Spikes – 3 INTs , 2 FF, 1 TD
Rob Gronkowski – 55 Receptions – 780 Yards – 9 TD (Pro Bowl alternate)
Aaron Hernandez – 46 Receptions – 610 Yards – 6 TD
Kyle Love – 4 Sacks – 34 Tackles
Brandon Deaderick – Cut in Training Camp
Taylor Price – 36 Receptions – 452 Yards – 3 TDs

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Champions Are Made Not Born

Driving home to Boston from Long Island after a wedding at 1:00 AM has its advantages and disadvantages. Of course being tired, having to drive with the window down from Route 84 onward, and fearing for your life while dozing off aren’t too positive, but you are able to do a lot of thinking and pondering while moseying on through that 150 mile stretch of dead space people call Connecticut. I drove by the Storrs, Connecticut exit which is home to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion UConn Huskies. I saw the sign that mentioned them as champions. Champion is one word that gets thrown around far too much now a days. Everyone is the champion of something or some place or some league. The definition of a champion goes far deeper than being at the top of the podium, or looking down on the other teams in the standings at year end, or even the ones who hoist up the “championship” trophy at the end of the season. Being a champion consists of so much more and not many athletes, coaches, owners, etc embody it the way a certain few do.

I was told at a young age when doing judo, that winning consists of many elements. Now as a young kid I didn’t understand it and what is scary is now people my age and older still think Charlie Sheen is “winning”. This guy is a washed up TV actor, with multiple kids, and marriages with a serious drug problem. That my friend’s is not winning. Winning comes from leadership, excellence, confidence, discipline, respect, perseverance, goal setting, and modesty. Many athletes are great at excelling, but their character completely over shadows anything they accomplish on the field. Look at Lebron James, he is one of the best players in the NBA, and he is finally now starting to show some of these other traits that make up a champion. I can think of handful of others right off the top who are piss poor role models whom are self proclaimed champions, Desean Jackson, Santonio Holmes, Albert Haynesworth, Plaxico Burress, the list goes on and on. On the flip side we have some amazing players who are the spitting image of a champion, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, Aaron Rodgers, and even Adrian Peterson. Granted Adrian hasn’t won anything yet outside of some individual awards, but he goes about his business, there is no showboating, and just an all around great person/athlete. Much like Larry Fitzgerald, he is the same way. I bring this back to Patriot Nation and our draft. Bill wants to draft football players who love to play and love to win.

Winning isn’t a sometime thing, it isn’t a when you feel like it kind of thing, it is an all the time thing. It starts when you wake up, lift those weights, do those runs, sprints and hill climbs. Winning are those workouts you have to drag yourself to or practice you don’t feel like getting off of the couch for. Winning is being a sportsman and being classy both on and off the playing field. Winning is handing the ball to the ref after a touchdown or shaking an opponent’s hand after the game. Winning is striving to outdo your last results and always raising the bar, and never settling for mediocrity. I think we as a society have become too comfortable with being average. Sometimes it takes seeing others succeed, us failing, or having other champions that we are surrounded with motivate us to excel to hit that extra level we didn’t think was possible. The Patriots as a team have a mixture of each of those players. We have the classic underachievers, whom we ask why they even dress each week. There are those workmen like players who show up each week and do their job. Then there are the champions, the guys we know are giving 1000% percent each week that embody what being a Patriot and a winner is all about.

Now if we can only get the actual “leaders” of this lockout to start acting like champions, we might have some actual football stories to talk about.

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Welcome to New England: Nate Solder

Welcome to New England Nate Solder. I’ll be honest with you. You weren’t on the top of my list for draftees I’d be writing this column to. I, along with the rest of Patriots Nations, figured we’d be talking about Cameron Jordan, Mark Ingram, JJ Watt or Ryan Kerrigan. These were the “make sense” and playmaker type picks Patriots Nation was looking for. It turns out we drafted a fleet footed, Andre the Giant resembling, smack you in the mouth tackle out of the University of Colorado. Originally I was apprehensive and very judgmental of drafting a tackle so early, that many thought would be available at both pick twenty eight and thirty three. As the pick marinated, I thought to myself this could be good for a few reasons. This will free up cap space with Matt Light and allow us to potentially resign Logan Mankins to a long term deal, which he deserves more than anyone. He has dedicated himself to this team when on the field, and talking with him last week he is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. You will learn a lot from him. Tom Brady said he is one the meanest dudes in the league, and the kind of guy you want blocking nose tackles and defensive ends who are trying to kill you. Once you sign, this will sure up the offensive line of monsters for a long time. Also don’t pull a Michael Crabtree on us. You don’t seem to be that kind of guy, so prove us right. Having this job comes with great responsibility. You will be protecting the backside of the most iconic sports figure in the area since Bill Russell. I wrote an article on this a week or so ago about his importance and divine image to the public here. The worst part about a letdown is, I’d hate to have to answer to Giselle, whom we all know wears the pants in that Commonwealth Avenue penthouse, if Tommy Terrific gets a scratch on him or has one of his lady locks torn out. Remember the little hip twist, white guy dance he did down in Rio with his small time pimp pony tail? Well Mr. Solder, you’d have to answer to the creator of that. I can speak for most of Patriots Nation when I say I’m excited to have you here. There is a movement towards youth on this team that has been very veteran populated during its iconic Super Bowl runs. You are also in very good company, when it comes to drafting linemen early in the Coach Belichick era, Logan Mankins, Ty Warren, Richard Seymour just to name a few. Coach Scar sees huge promise in you. Based on the scouting report, you have been raved about in regards to intangibles, being coachable, toughness, and of course greasy fast speed. Any Joe Bag of Donuts can have those traits, but being a good football player who loves the game is what will separate you from the others. We are all looking forward a long and successful career for you here in New England, and if it isn’t, getting an ass kicking from Giselle isn’t half bad.

Here is the NFL Scouting Report on this beast
Nate Solder spent a couple years as a tight end at Colorado, first as a redshirt in 2006 and then as a freshman in 2007. He played in all 13 games in 2007 (mostly on special teams, and in special situations as a blocking tight end). While he certainly spent most of his time blocking, he did catch three passes for 50 yards on the season. For his sophomore campaign Solder added 30 pounds and was moved to the tackle position. Despite the adding of the weight, Solder remained surprisingly quick and has been timed running a 4.8 40-yard dash.
Solder immediately stepped into the starting role at left tackle and did not miss a snap the entire 2008 season. While there was some time needed to adjust to the position, it was a pretty smooth transition since he spent most of his time blocking as a tight end anyway. The 2009 season continued to cement Solder’s status as a superb offensive tackle. For his efforts, Solder was the only offensive lineman who was not a senior to make the All-Big 12 First-Team. That led to many preseason accolades heading into the 2010 season and Solder has been a rock in the offensive line and continues to get bigger and stronger.
Solder has everything one could want from an offensive lineman. He is strong and quick and has gone up against some of the nation’s best defensive ends in the Big 12. A talent like his will not fall past the first two rounds of the draft.

I’d like to wish a big congrats to one of my long time friends Brad Leclair on his wedding this Friday. I wish you and your bride nothing but wealth, happiness, and house music.

Also I’d like to give a thank you from one of my twitter followers PatsPrincessLA for the idea for this column.

Up next will be Welcome to New England: Ras I Dowling

Feel free to comment, tweet, or post this to your wall. Also don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you have any additional comments, feedback, want me to drink bleach, or jump off the Tobin.

Mike Procopio
Email: mike.procopio@gmail.com
Twitter: mikeprocopio

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Football: The New England Mindset and Connection

Listening to these idiots about birth certificates, fake deaths of the most evil man since Hitler, and a reality show star with awful hair, I wanted to reflect a minute on the game we have all come to love. With all of the hate and negative things going on in today’s world, people need something positive, something they can all share, and something they can all have agreement on even if it is for a few hours a week. Regardless of race, gender, orientation, or religious belief thousands of people flock together in one place once a week with the same common purpose.

While this is going on, millions of other “followers” are joining that same weekly rally with the same end goal in mind. Football has become a way of life in this country. Baseball has taken a backseat to the NFL. Debate it all you want, this NFL is America’s game now. From September until February, Sunday afternoons have become a bookend in American culture and our economy. Your supermarkets, casinos, liquor stores, and bar rooms all reap the rewards of the NFL. It has also become part of our culture as individuals.

I challenge each one of you to tell me they aren’t constantly checking their fantasy teams when their significant other has dragged them to some pointless baby shower, children’s birthday party, or in-laws house. We’ve also gotten the phone call at 12:30 on a Sunday to pick up some milk, eggs, or some other God forsaken item we’ll never use. Then we come to notice while in the supermarket, we see a dozen other fans just like us waiting in the express line with those God forsaken items we’ll never use wearing a wrinkled Ben Coates or Vincent Brown jersey checking their watch KNOWING kickoff is moments away. When I eventually take the plunge into wedlock, it will be understood that Sunday obligations outside of FOX, CBS, NBC, and ESPN will be few and far between.

Honey, if you are reading this, I’m dead serious.


Tom Brady has definitely given us some great moments since taking over for Drew Bledsoe back in 2001. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

We are lucky enough here in the New England area to have been spoiled in the last decade. Having four Super Bowl visits, two World Series wins, 2 NBA Finals appearances, and multiple Final Four finishes, we have seen more in these past ten years than other cities have had …. EVER. For the younger folks in this region, this “feeling” started back in 2000. Mo Lewis graced us with a brutal hit on Droopy Dog Drew while galloping towards the sidelines over a decade ago. Everyone remembers the Bledsoe gallop right? Watching him run was worse than witness Brady on the move.

It isn’t as painful as Bledsoe pulling his Brett Favre moments and just heaving the ball into no man’s land, or him holding onto the ball Tony Romo style and getting crunched, but it was bad, real bad. So Brady came in and eventually led this team to three Super Bowl titles and the greatest regular season in NFL history.

From there we met Bernard Pollard and Brady’s knee massacre in the season opener in 2008. By the way, we can thank Lil Wayne for the Brady injury just as much as Pollard. Kevin Faulk decided to go get stoned at the Weezy Young Baby concert and was suspended for that first game. Having him in that backfield most likely would have knocked Pollard on his ass rather than on his stomach for the patented “leg lunge” which ended Brady’s season and some thought his career. Tom rehabbed and has had one amazing season and one “Brady-like” season since his return.

Two early playoff exits still sting, especially in the manner which they went down. Though extremely disappointing and discouraging, here we are, wanting another helping of this sport we have all come to grow and love. The day after Aaron Rodgers hoisted the Lombardi trophy above his head, folks here in New England were talking about the draft, the combine, what we did wrong having a 14-2 season.

Think about that for a second. A 14-2 season and as fans were disappointed. Anything short of a Super Bowl with TB12 and BB running the show is a failure here. We have become extremely spoiled in this area by the success of the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots, and fingers crossed Bruins, that the bar is set incredibly high. The bar is set that high, because the players and coaches have put it there. That is where my fondness of these teams comes from. How each of these teams, players, and coaching staffs make winning a priority and losing is not an option. The competitive spirit of each member of these teams has transcended to the public and why it has become a way of life for some people.

You may say that this is just sports, with guys making millions of dollars for suiting up to entertain us, but we as a society have become so inebriated with the success and failures of our teams that it seems to be more than that. Some people are self starters and don’t need motivation to succeed, but the fire and tenacity that is shown from these athletes and coaches alike are a great message for everyone, especially our younger generation.

Now if the owners and players can play nice and stop acting like toddlers we could start talking about real football related topics.

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Patriots Draft Review – Rounds 1-3

First off, I’d like to express my deepest thanks to the US Navy Seals who brought justice to one of the most horrific figures in world history. Osama Bin Laden was confirmed dead by President Obama just before midnight last night. A pretty significant sports event was transpiring when the announcement came across the wire. A major league baseball team from NY and another from PA were tied in a 1-1 game in the 9th inning. Numeric symbolism…. Perhaps, but this is a great win for our nation and for those who passed on ten years ago. The fight against terror does not stop, but this was a victory for all those who fight against it day after day.
I guess there is really no “good” time to get sick and be bed ridden. However, the NFL draft is one time where you hate to leave your TV. Being sick for the majority of the weekend, I was able to watch as much Rich Eisen and Jon Gruden as I could handle. Gruden, I could watch and listen to all day. His bromances with every “guy” on the board and in the draft is perfect for television. I could go on and on about some serious head scratchers, like Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, and the Jets 3rd round pick out of Hampton, but I’m going to focus on the Patriots and why I feel this was a successful draft for the boys from Foxboro.

1st Round – Nate Solder (OT – Colorado)
When it comes to drafting linemen early in a draft, the Patriots have had close to 100% hit rate in the BB era. Logan Mankins, Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, and now Nate Solder are all first round picks during Bill Belichick’s tenure here in New England. Solder was worked out by legendary line coach Dante Scarnecchia and Bill’s faith in him was definitely a key piece to making this draft choice. Solder has amazing speed for such a massive guy. One of the fastest linemen at the combine, Solder was described as a late first or early second round pick. Kiper and other analysts thought it was a reach to grab him at 17, but the Patriots felt he was the “best fit player for their program” and I feel he will make an immediate impact once Light leaves via free agency. The Solder pick should result in a Mankins long term deal, while also locking up the offensive line for the duration of Brady’s career.

2nd Round – Ras- I Dowling (CB – Virginia)
Besides having one of the coolest names in the draft, Dowling was a first round prospect at the start of the 2010 season. He is a big physical corner, an insane athlete, and has extremely long arms. However he comes with a price of the injury bug. Dowling had a variety of injuries last year but has been medically cleared by the Patriots staff. This is a pick when I first heard it announced, I let out an enormous F-Bomb. Another cornerback, really? Then I let the pick marinate for a little bit and some clarity came with it. There is Bodden coming back from injury, Arrington being a massive overachiever, and the jury still out on Wilhite and Butler, this pick does make some sense. Let’s also not forget about “Big Bang Clock” being part of, oh just a small thing called a shooting down in Florida in the off season. Maybe Dowling will be a great nickel back, maybe he will be slid into strong safety, we will have to wait and see once mini-camps start. The one piece that does aggravate me here is he could have been around much later in the draft. Address the pass rush! I said this until late Saturday afternoon. My buddy and I actually said via text message “Watch them go draft a tight end, because we are so depleted in that department.” Low and behold, we went and did it a few hours later.

2nd Round – Shane Vereen (RB – California)
Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger, so with the Patriots drafting a hardnosed running back in the second round, this should come of no surprise Vereen is great in pass blocking situations and was praised for his maturity and smarts by BB. With a strong emphasis on special teams, Vereen also has a history of playing the gunner position. Can we expect him to be a Kelly Washington type player? A possible replacement for Kevin Faulk is the most likely.

3rd Round – Stevan Ridley – (RB – LSU)
This was my biggest gripe of the entire draft. I hate to sound like a broken record here, but where is our pass rush coming from this year? Ridley is a grinder. He can tough out the short yards, keep the clock moving, and was a beast at LSU last season. I think of the last two draft picks as a Chris Johnson/LenDale White or DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart type tandom. Technically right now there is Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk, The Law Firm, Shane Vereen, and Stevan Ridley in the Patriots backfield. Taylor should be retiring as will Kevin Faulk. Morris is a free agent who they will probably let go. Woodhead was signed last year and The Law Firm is also a soon to be free agent. Another question is, why not take Ingram at 28?

3rd Round – Ryan Mallett (QB – Arkansas)
If the successor to Tom Brady is going to be the Bode Miller of the college ranks, so be it. Mallett reportedly has a terrible work ethic and approach to the game, but he loves football. My message to Bill or anyone else who buys that line, if you don’t love football, you are in the wrong god damn game! Mallet loves football so much, he almost quit after his sophomore year, but his Dad talked him out of it. He transferred out of Michigan to head to Arkansas where he really transformed his game. Mallett has a rocket arm, amazing accuracy, and great pocket presence. Apparently his only issue is mental toughness and being coachable. If anyone can break this trait it will be Brady and Belichick. Out of all the picks, I am most interested to see how this guy performs come preseason. I am also intrigued to see if this pick becomes a Montana/Young, Favre/Rodgers type of mentoring project for Tom Brady.

This year was a successful draft for the Patriots however the glaring need is still in the pass rush. We loaded up on picks again though we could dump them to sign a free agent once free agency begins. That would be the most practical theory but practicality doesn’t seem to exist down in Foxboro. Whatever we think is going to happen, typically doesn’t. This weekend was a clear case of that. Some will say New Orleans had “our draft” this weekend. They had the Patriot “fan” draft, but also lost a first rounder and have to sign two first round picks in the process. The proof will be in the pudding once the season starts, if it ever does.

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2011 First Round Mock Draft

Below is my 2011 Mock Draft for the 1st Round.

1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn – J-Russell Part Deux

2. Denver Broncos – Marcell Dareus, DL, Alabama – Tighten up that hole filled run defense. 

3. Buffalo Bills – Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M – hopefully detaches Sanchez’s head from 18 year old diddling body

4. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia – Who will throw to him? Mike Brown will find some way to screw this one up too.

5. Arizona Cardinals – Blaine Gabbert, QB – As Gruden said on his QB University program..“Hey Gabbert!”

6. Cleveland Browns – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama – Can Colt throw the deep ball? This guy is a vertical monster.

7. Houston Texans – Traded from SF – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU – Houston wants this guy bad. This guy is a  freakish athlete and great at jamming receivers at the line.

8. Tennessee Titans – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn – Auburn’s defense was anchored by this beast last season.

9. Dallas Cowboys – Tyron Smith, OT, USC – Best tackle in the draft. He reminds scouts a lot of Jake Long.

10. Washington Redskins – Robert Quinn, OLB/DE, North Carolina – I could see Washington going QB here, but linebackers are a big need for Shanahan.

11. San Francisco 49ers – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska – They overpaid for one CB recently, this guy is the real deal and could be starting over him within a year.

12. Minnesota Vikings – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson – Great spin and swim moves off the snap. Watch out Aaron Rodgers and Babyface Cutler if this guy comes to the NFC Central.

13. Detroit Lions – Anthony Costanzo, OT, BC – Any guy who gets mad at himself for getting beat twice out of 500 snaps is worth a first round pick in my book. Stand up guy, smart football player as well.

14. St. Louis Rams – Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois – With the deep talent at defensive line this draft, Liguet hasn’t been the first name mentioned out of many scouts names. I guarantee if this was last year, he’d be top two or three on the defensive line depth chart.

15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama – I can’t see him making the jump to the pro level right away. A bad wheel and average 40 times makes me hesitant. I wouldn’t waste a 1st rounder on him.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado – If he can live up to ½ of what the previous Jimmy Smith who played for the Jags did, he will be in a good place. Del Rio’s job depends on it.

17. New England Patriots – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin – Please don’t trade this pick, please don’t trade this pick, please don’t trade this pick.

18. San Diego Chargers – Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal – Another stud in the Pac 10. Athletic, strong, the total package.

19. New York Giants – Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA – This guy is just what the Giants need on defense. That mean streak Antonio Pierce had at one time, is in this guys belly times 10. Watch out Mr. Vick.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Pouncey , C, Florida – A lot of people don’t see him dropping this low, but I do. I think his brother has made a big name for him, but wouldn’t be shocked if he went earlier. Someone needs to open holes for Blount and protect Josh Freeman in the long run. Who better than a Florida alum?

21. Kansas City Chiefs – Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple – Another defensive lineman with freakish athletic talent. Wilkerson may not be a name you’d like to draft, ask the Bengals that one, but was the best defensive player in the Atlantic 10 last year.

22. Indianapolis Colts – Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois – Joseph Addai is the Bob Sanders of the offense. He is a great talent when on the field, but that is when he is on the field. This speedster could be great catching passes out of the backfield, but picking up the blitz may be an issue.

23. Philadelphia Eagles – Brandon Harris, CB, Miami – Ellis Hobbs as much as I despised him in New England may be retiring. Asante Samuel is on the back 9 of his career. Harris is a good fit for Andy Reid’s defense who had a tough time at points last year stopping the pass.

24. New Orleans Saints – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue – Set this guy up next to Big Willy Style Smith and you have a scary 1-2 tandem on that defensive line. He is also athletic enough to line up at OLB as well.

25. Seattle Seahawks – Andy Dalton, QB, TCU – With the former BC star possibly leaving Seattle, now is the time to start looking to the future. Can anyone also get over the fact Marshawn Lynch caused an actual earthquake during their playoff game?

26. Baltimore Ravens – Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami – This guy can go get the ball, strong, good hands, and excellent route runner. Mason is getting old, T-Housh isn’t happy, and Boldin isn’t that vertical threat that Flacco needs.

27. Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame – Replacing the best tight end in NFL history won’t be easy.

28. New England Patriots – Trade for 2012 First Rounder – This surprise any of you?

29. Chicago Bears – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin – His job will be to protect Jay Cutler’s backside.

30. New York Jets – Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia – Fits perfectly into Sexy Rexy’s system. He is the talkative type as well which makes him a perfect fit for the Jets.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State – Big Ben took some massive hits last season. The offensive line was filled with injuries as well. He is a perfect fit for the Steelers.

32. Green Bay Packers – Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor – He will be opening holes for Ryan Grant and whatever RB is drafted in the second round by the Packers.

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The Lockout, Draft Needs, and Matt Light Benefit

Walking into the Liberty Hotel  for Matt Light’s Lockout Breakfast I was thinking to myself, what really has changed with this lockout in the past 24 hours. There was an injunction granted and the lockout lifted, but how will players, coaches, and ownership react now. It is almost like a junior high school dance with all the guys on one side, the girls on the other, and everyone holds their breath to see who makes the first move.

According to sources, Patriots are going with the “wait and see” mentality while other teams are trying to organize workouts and telling players to report at 8:00 AM. This whole thing is one big mess but I did learn some things today I hadn’t known previously. Everything we hear about an 18 game schedule, rookie wage scale, expanded benefits for the retired players, all of those things are low hanging fruit and we aren’t too far apart with. The place where we are worlds apart, as NFLPA* Rep Pete Kendall said, is in the revenue sharing. Owners don’t want to open their books to prove the numbers they are reporting are truthful. Peter King, whom is a very down to earth guy, seems to think this will take time but they need to get back to talking and being honest, especially the owners. The players who are really freaking out over this are the free agents. They have no idea where they are going to go, where their families are going to have to move to, and essentially they are unemployed. They have an even bigger urgency in getting this done. A lot is going to come out of the next few days while the players prepare a response to the stay put forth by the owners.

Mike Reiss from ESPNBoston, shined some light on the Patriots draft needs with Peter King adding some insight as well. Free Agency is a great backup for drafts as teams typically stock up on players before the draft to have insurance in case of draft busts. You’ll remember the Patriots have done this over the past few years with players like Torey Holt, Joey Galloway, Shaun Springs, and Leigh Bodden. Some of these work out, and some of these turn out to be released while someone else from the draft steps up.

Having free agents on the offensive side of the ball right now, most of whom protect Tommy Terrific’s model loving frame, would allow us to make an assumption the Patriots will draft in that direction. The Patriots have three picks in the top 33, one of which I can almost guarantee they trade away for 2012 or 2013, as BB likes to stock up on those. Matt Light is a free agent, Dan Koeppen‘s contract is up after this year, and Logan Mankins is ….well who knows where Logan will be. If Pouncey is there, I say we grab him. Bill seems to feed into the Urban Meyer stamp of approval on his players, so he may be the first pick at 17 for us. Now if free agency comes into play before the draft, throw all of these things out the window and let the chaos ensue.

My Draft Needs Rankings Are:

1) Pass Rusher – DE or OLB
2) Guard to replace Neal and potentially Logan Mankins
3) Tackle
4) WR
5) QB

The Matt Light Foundation is a charity which helps “knucklehead” kids as he puts it stay out of trouble and do constructive things with their time and energy. A lot of Boston bigwigs in the legal world and teammates of Light’s showed up this morning for this great event. Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Brian Hoyer, Russ Hochstein now of the Broncos, Dan Koeppen, Peter King from SI, and Mike Reiss from ESPN all were in attendance.

The Liberty Hotel was a great host, with great food, and all for a great cause. There were some fantastic auctions with Peter King driving up the prices on each item, rightfully so. There was an open panel for members of the audience to ask questions to anyone they wished.

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