Josh Morgan

A U.S. Open to Remember

June 20th, 2011 at 12:03 pm by under Sports

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, poses with the trophy after winning the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, June 19, 2011. McIlroy won the U.S. Open for his first major with a record setting 16-under 268. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

So who came into Sunday thinking the U.S. Open wasn’t over quite yet?  Who thought Sunday in Bethesda might end up like Sunday at Augusta?  Who said “uh oh” after Lee Westwood birdied the first hole and looked poised to make a run at the unproven Northern Irishman?

My guess is that there was plenty of doubt in people’s minds when 22-year-old Rory McIlroy walked up to the first tee on Sunday, despite all that he had accomplished through 54 holes.

He never trailed.  He increased his lead each day.  His swing was silky smooth and his putter was rock solid.  But what about his nerves?  What about people’s doubts?  What about his doubts?  Was an eight stroke lead safe in the hands of a kid just two and half months removed from his 22nd birthday?

You better believe it.

It only took three shots to know that this major championship Sunday would be anything but a meltdown.  Rory McIlroy was simply magnificent.  His birdie on the first hole left no doubt that this U.S. Open was indeed over.  Sure, there was still a lot of golf to be played, but that birdie sent a message to the rest of the field saying, “don’t even think about it.”

He continued to hit great shots despite his big lead.  He didn’t want to cruise to victory, he wanted to dominate.  He may not have the demeanor of a Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus, but don’t think for a second that this kid doesn’t have a killer instinct.  He let his game do the talking.

Speaking of talking, how about some of the reaction from other tour players following his eight-shot win at Congressional.

“Nothing this kid does ever surprises me,” said 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.  “He’s the best player I’ve ever seen.”

And this from Phil Mickelson. “You could tell that Rory’s had this type of talent in him for some time now and to see him putting it together is pretty neat to see.”

Even Tiger Woods couldn’t help but congratulate McIlroy after his dominating performance saying, “What a performance from start to finish. Enjoy the win. Well done.”

Now, I’m not going to start comparing Rory to Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus, or anyone for that matter, but this win can’t be overlooked.  What he was able to accomplish over the course of four days in what is widely known as the toughest test in golf, was nothing short of impressive.  And to think, had he hung on at Augusta, he would be heading to the British Open with the first two legs of the grand slam already under his belt.

His talent is undeniable, but so are the lessons he has learned.  Maybe he doesn’t win the U.S. Open had he won the Masters.  With all great golfers, we can always look back to one turning point in their career that catapulted them into stardom.  Some may say it was this past weekend’s U.S. Open.  I, however, will forever argue that it was the Masters.  It was that tournament when Rory McIlroy realized just how good he could be, but that talent alone isn’t enough to win.  You have to know how to finish.

That Sunday at Augusta was probably the longest round of golf he’s ever played.  But each and every tormenting minute made him a little bit stronger.  He felt the pain, frustration, and even embarrassment of a Sunday collapse in a major.  And that’s a feeling he never wanted to feel again.

After seeing him this weekend…I can’t imagine he ever will.

Content from the Associated Press was used in this article.

U.S. Open: 5 players to watch

June 13th, 2011 at 6:21 pm by under Sports

Matt Kuchar hits from the sand to the 18th green during the final round of the Memorial golf tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio Sunday, June 5, 2011. Kucher finished at 15-under par, tied for second with Brandt Jobe. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

The second major of the year tees off at Congressional this Thursday and the field is WIDE OPEN!  And no, it’s not just because Tiger Woods is out with a knee/achilles injury.

It’s been an exciting year on tour, highlighted by what seems to be a weekly playoff for either the tournament champ or the number one ranking in the world.

So who’s the favorite heading into the 111th U.S. Open?  Here are five players to watch when they tee it up on Thursday.

5. Adam Scott
Scott played very well in the year’s first major at Augusta and is itching to get that first major under his belt.  He will actually have Tiger Woods’ caddy Steve Williams on the bag (with Tiger’s permission of course), at a course that Williams is very familiar with.  Unfortunately for Scott, he’s got history working against him…no major champion has ever won with a long putter.  If he gets the ball rolling like he did at the Masters, look out.


4. Jason Day
I guess I like the Australians to play well, although I don’t plan on adding Geoff Ogilvy to this list.  Day can get on a roll like few others can on tour right now.  His consistency scares me a bit, but with the way others have backed into championships lately, I can see a run on Sunday getting Day into contention.  He’s has to avoid the blow-up though.  He’s still a young kid and a couple of bad holes could crush him  Bad holes are okay…really bad holes are not.

3. Lucas Glover
My long shot, if you will.  Picking from the American golfers is a chore right now but I like Glover’s toughness.  He has the resolve to get through four grueling days at the U.S. Open, as he did in 2009.  He won earlier this year and he seems to quietly find his way onto leaderboards in big tournaments.  Is he playing like he did in 2009?  Probably not.  But I think he’s as mentally tough on tour as anyone, something that can’t be overstated in golf’s toughest test.

2. K.J. Choi
Choi made a believer out of me at The Players Championship and gives me no reason to believe he couldn’t walk away with the U.S. Open.  So often K.J. just can’t seem to put four rounds together.  But his triumph at The Players not only proves to me, but to him as well, that he can play championship golf.  A level head and a straight hitter is never a poor choice at a U.S. Open.

1. Matt Kuchar
I think it’s finally his time.  Matt Kuchar took his time to make a name for himself on tour, but his arrival has been worth the wait.  He’ll make that arrival official Sunday evening.  He’s been so good over the last two years.  It’s almost been annoying seeing his name every Sunday near the top of the leaderboard.  He’s won a few times and he’s been close at the majors.  But that will change this week.  This guy deserves a U.S. Open and he’s got the game to back it up.  He’s long enough, consistent enough, and tough enough…and that’s enough for me.

Picking winners at the Belmont Stakes

June 9th, 2011 at 2:43 pm by under Sports

Shackleford, right, and Animal Kingdom, left battle through the stretch during 136th Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 21, 2011, in Baltimore. Shackleford won the Preakness by a 1/2 length. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

After a long two-week layoff, it’s finally time for the final leg of the Triple Crown!  Unfortunately, we don’t actually have a horse that has a chance at the coveted title, but we have a lot of good horses with a chance to win.  Should make for a great race this Saturday at Belmont Park!

Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and Preakness winner Shackleford are both in the field and don’t be surprised if those two are up front once again.  But remember, the Belmont is the longest of the three Triple Crown races.  Animal Kingdom has looked strong at the end of both races, but I’m a little worried about a front-runner like Shackledford.

And don’t forget about Nehro, the runner-up to Animal Kingdom

in the Kentucky Derby.  He’s back after passing on the Preakness and will likely have the freshest legs of the top contenders.  He stands as the second favorite to Animal Kingdom, just ahead of Shackleford.

One other horse to watch is Brilliant Speed.  That’s all I’m gonna say about him…I’ll brag about him later!

Anyway, here’s a complete rundown of the post positions and who I think will win the final leg of the Triple Crown.  Good luck!

Belmont Stakes – Saturday, 5:30pm/central
1: Master of Hounds (G. Gomez, 10-1)                             Win: Nehro
2: Stay Thirsty (J. Castellano, 20-1)
3: Ruler on Ice (J. Valdivia, Jr., 20-1)                              Place: Animal Kingdom
4: Santiva (S. Bridgmohan, 15-1)
5: Brilliant Speed (J. Rosario, 15-1)                                 Show: Brilliant Speed
6: Nehro (C. Nakatani, 4-1)
7: Monzon (J. Lezcano, 30-1)
8: Prime Cut (E. Prado, 15-1)
9: Animal Kingdom (J. Velazquez, 2-1)
10: Mucho Macho Man (R. Dominguez, 10-1)
11: Isn’t He Perfect (R. Maragh, 30-1)
12: Shackleford (J. Castanon, 9-2)

Picking winners at the Preakness Stakes

May 19th, 2011 at 10:23 am by under Sports

John Velazquez rides Animal Kingdom to victory during the 137th Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 7, 2011, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

It’s leg two of the Triple Crown!  Surprise Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom leads a field of 14 horses to the gates of Saturday’s 136th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Downs.

I had some success in the Oaks and Derby.  In the Kentucky Oaks my horses finished 1st (Plum Pretty), 3rd (Zazu) and 4th (Joyful Victory) while in the Derby my horses finished 2nd (Nehro), 3rd (Mucho Macho Man) and 8th (Dialed In).  It’s a whole new cast of fillies in the Black Eyed Susan but should be a great race with horses like Wyomia and Royal Delta.  As far as the Preakness goes, I’m convinced Dialed In is a lot better than his Derby finish.  I do think Derby winner Animal Kingdom has a great shot to win this race because the field, once again, isn’t very impressive (no Nehro and still no Uncle Mo).

Anyway, here’s a complete rundown of the post positions and who I think will win the two biggest races of the weekend: The Black Eyed Susan and the Preakness Stakes.

Black Eyed Susan – Friday, 3:46pm
1:   Royal Delta (J. Lezcano, 3-1)                                Win: Wyomia
2:   Hot Summer (R. Dominguez, 5-2)
3:   Coax Liberty (G. Gomez, 8-1)                                Place: Buster’s Ready
4:   Wyomia (J. Leparoux, 9-5)
5:   Buster’s Ready (J. Velazquez, 8-1)                       Show: Royal Delta
6:   Love Theway Youare (J. Rosario, 15-1)
7:   Art of the Hunt (TBD, 20-1)

Preakness Stakes – Saturday, 5:19pm
1: Astrology (M. Smith, 15-1)                                       Win: Dialed In
2: Norman Asbjornson (J. Pimentel, 30-1)
3: King Congie (R. Albarado, 20-1)                              Place: Animal Kingdom
4: Flashpoint (C. Velasquez, 20-1)
5: Shackleford (J. Castanon, 12-1)                               Show: Mucho Macho Man
6: Sway Away (G. Gomez, 15-1)
7: Midnight Interlude (M. Garcia, 15-1)
8: Dance City (R. Dominguez, 12-1)
9: Mucho Macho Man (M. Maragh, 6-1)
10: Dialed In (J. Leparoux, 9-2)
11: Animal Kingdom (J. Velazquez, 2-1)
12: Isn’t He Perfect (E. Prado 30-1)
13: Concealed Identity (S. Russell, 30-1)
14: Mr. Commons (V. Espinoza, 20-1)

Click on this link for a look at a photo gallery of every Preakness winner since 2000.

Concealed Identity

No end in sight for Tiger

May 10th, 2011 at 5:15 pm by under Sports

Tiger Woods chips from a sand trap along the seventh green during a practice round for The Players Championship Tuesday, May 10, 2011 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

I told you not to pick him in your Masters pool.  And I don’t want to hear that he was tied for the lead going into the back nine on Sunday, because I’m not listening.  Let’s be honest, he  never had a chance to win that tournament and he doesn’t have a chance to win this week at The Players Championship either…just ask Bubba Watson.

This past Wednesday Watson said the following: “I’ll just go ahead and say it.  I think Tiger’s going the wrong way.  I think he’s so mental right now with his swing.  Just go ahead and play golf.  He used to hit shots, he used to bomb it, he used to do all that stuff.”

THANK YOU!  Bubba finally said what everyone else was thinking.  Tiger is so wrapped up in every little facet of his new swing that he’s simply forgot how to be Tiger Woods.  He’s not letting his talent lead the way.  I know he’s gone through a swing change in the past and come out better for it, but I’m not so sure this change results in more wins.  As Bubba said, just go ahead and play golf, Tiger.

Woods responded to Watson on Tuesday, saying Watson’s statement was “interesting.”

What’s interesting is that Tiger used to use these statements from other golfers as fuel to his fire.  Remember what Stephen Ames said when asked if he had a chance to beat Tiger in the 2006 Accenture Match Play Championship… “Anything can happen…especially where he’s hitting the ball.” He was right, anything could happen, and what happened was Tiger laying a 9&8 beat-down in the ensuing match.  Back then you didn’t mess with Tiger.  Now, I’m not sure he can do anything about it…especially at The Players Championship.

Tiger has only one win at The Players and that was all the way back in 2001.  Since then he’s only finished in the top 10 once, an 8th place finish in 2009. Aside from that finish in ’09, Tiger hasn’t played a complete 72-hole tournament here since finishing 37th in 2007.  He skipped the tournament in 2008 with an injury and withdrew from last year’s tournament with a neck problem.

So what can we expect this week from the world’s no. 8 golfer? Probably a lot more of the same.  Honestly, I think Tiger might be in danger of missing the cut for the first time in his career at The Players Championship.  His putter is off and he’s admittedly a little rusty after his time off from resting his knee/achilles.  I just don’t think Tiger’s anywhere near what he used to be and I’m not sure we’ll see the Tiger of old yet this year.  Will we ever see Tiger back in championship form?  I’m not sure.  I’m not going to doubt the guy because I’ve seen first-hand what he’s capable of on a golf course.  What worries me the most, however, is what he’s capable of off of the course.

Tiger, do us all a favor, listen to Bubba.

Picking winners at the Kentucky Derby

May 6th, 2011 at 11:47 am by under Sports

Exercise rider Carlos Rosas takes Kentucky Derby entrant Nehro for a workout at Churchill Downs Thursday, May 5, 2011, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

It’s the most exciting two minutes in sports. The 137th Kentucky Derby will leave the gates at approximately 5:30pm this Saturday.

Here’s a complete rundown of the post positions and who I think will win the two biggest races of the weekend: The Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky Oaks – Friday, 4:45pm
1:   Joyful Victory (M. Smith, 5-2)                                Win: Joyful Victory
2:   Lilacs and Lace (J. Castellano, 12-1)
3:   Summer Soiree (G. Saez, 5-1)                              Place: Zazu
4:   Kathmanblu (J. Leparoux, 4-1)
5:   Suave Voir Faire (M. Mena, 50-1)                          Show: Plum Pretty
6:   Zazu (J. Rosario, 4-1)
7:   Her Smile (G. Gomez, 20-1)
8:   Bouquet Booth (R. Albarado, 20-1)
9:   Daisy Devine (J. Graham, 20-1)
10:  Street Storm (S. Bridgmohan, 50-1)
11:  Holy Heavens (K. Desormeaux, 50-1)
12:  Plum Pretty (M. Garcia, 5-1)
13:  St. John’s River (R. Napravnik, 30-1)

Kentucky Derby – Saturday, 5:30pm
1: Archarcharch (J. Court, 10-1)                                   Win: Nehro
2: Brilliant Speed (J. Roasario, 30-1)
3: Twice The Appeal (C. Borel, 20-1)                            Place: Dialed In
4: Stay Thirsty (R. Dominguez, 20-1)
5: Decisive Moment (K. Clark, 30-1)                             Show: Mucho Macho Man
6: Comma To The Top (P. Valenzuela, 30-1)
7: Pants On Fire (A. Napravnik, 20-1)
8: Dialed In (J. Leparoux, 4-1)
9: Derby Kitten (J. Castellano, 30-1)
10: Twinspired (M. Smith, 30-1)
11: Master Of Hounds (G. Gomez, 30-1)
12: Santiva (S. Bridgmohan, 30-1)
13: Mucho Macho Man (M. Maragh, 12-1)
14: Shackleford (J. Castanon, 12-1)
15: Midnight Interlude (V. Espinoza, 10-1)
16: Animal Kingdom (R. Albarado, 30-1)
17: Soldat (A. Garcia, 12-1)
18: Uncle Mo (J. Velazquez, 9-2) - Scratched
19: Nehro (C. Nakatani, 6-1)
20: Watch Me Go (R. Bejarano, 50-1)

FOX 11 Grades the Packers Draft

May 1st, 2011 at 8:53 pm by under Sports

Kentucky wide receiver Randall Cobb walks on stage after being selected in the second round of the NFL football draft by the Green Bay Packers at Radio City Music Hall Friday, April 29, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)

With the 2011 NFL Draft now in the books, it’s time to hand out the grades.  We’ll start with the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers!

Green Bay Packers:

Drew Smith: A-
I liked the drafting of a tackle in the first round, which shows excellent future vision from Ted Thompson.  The fact that he also most likely replaced the significant departing free agents (Brandon Jackson, James Jones and maybe Daryn Colledge) was a solid move, and he also addressed the biggest glaring weakness of his championship team: the return game.  I love the pick of Randall Cobb, who will get a shot to be a contributor on offense, but has a chance to be a star as a returner.  Did they need two tight ends?  Probably not, but with Derek Lee probably gone, and Finley’s health still a bit of a question mark, it never hurts to have some redundancy.  I will be shocked if all ten make the roster, however.  With this group and the talent on the team now, including injured players coming back, if half make the team that will be a successful draft, seven out of the ten would make it great.

Paige Pearson: B
The Packers put great emphasis on drafting big bodies in early rounds and they did that in selecting tackle Derek Sherrod. Addressing the aging tackles (Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher) was a must for the Packers. The Packers also addressed a need by drafting Randall Cobb. The wide receiver out of Kentucky says he has no problem returning kicks and punts. As for the latter part of the Packers draft, they treated it like free agency. We’ll see if it pays off down the road.

Justin Felder: B+
It’s tough to grade, since before the draft we all pegged the Packers needs as OLB and DE; but as Dom Capers told us after all was said and done, the team seems to be much more comfortable with the guys they have than we thought they were.  Love the first round OT selection and I think you should beat the bandwagon and get your Randall Cobb jersey early because he’ll be a fan-favorite, but I feel adding talent at the spot opposite Clay Matthews would’ve been more valuable than a third running back (assuming Brandon Jackson won’t be back).  Perhaps not drafting a defensive lineman early means the team will (attempt to) bring back Cullen Jenkins, but the Packers final pick, DT Lawrence Guy, could develop into a solid DE in Capers’ system.

Doug Ritchay: B
When the players haven’t even practiced, it’s hard to grade a draft class. However, Sherrod’s addition settles the tackle position for years, and Cobb and Williams could turn into good offensive weapons.

Josh Morgan: B+
Nothing flashy, as per usual for Ted Thompson and the Packers, but the quality and quantity was definitely apparent.  Derek Sherrod eases any concerns that people have with Chad Clifton, while Randall Cobb may end up being the best pick in this draft class.  With Donald Driver not getting any younger and the possibility of losing James Jones to free-agency, Cobb will likely be asked to produce in his first year.  Driver still has some catches in him, don’t get me wrong, but his most important role this year might be to get Cobb ready for the future.  Alex Green is as tough as they come and D.J. Williams might be that diamond in the rough that most teams look for later in the draft. Don’t be surprised if he gives Andrew Quarless a run for his money in camp.  As for the rest of the draft, the Packers definitely tried to stockpile with three sixth round picks and two in the seventh. With no free-agency for now, the Packers used the end of the draft to bring some extra players in. Overall, the Packers added solid talent, high character, and plenty of depth.

Arizona Cardinals: B+
Kind of feels like they took the “best-player-available approach.” Probably got the best player in the draft in Patrick Peterson, and Ryan Williams is going to be a star. Picking up LB’s Sam Acho and Quan Sturdivant later were great value picks.

Atlanta Falcons: B
Made the biggest draft splash by trading up to get Julio Jones, but didn’t really address their needs on defense. LB Akeem Dent will contribute, but won’t be a difference-maker. RB/ATH Jacquizz Rodgers is a dynamic player and dynamite talent. But will they stop anyone?

Baltimore Ravens: B
Of course the Ravens went defense in the first round, albeit after missing their slot. Jimmy Smith is a physical corner with a ton of upside. They also picked up a couple WR’s to bring some youth to an aging receiving corps.

Buffalo Bills: B+
The Bills just got a lot better on defense. DE Marcell Dareus will be an instant difference-maker along the Bills defensive line, while CB Aaron Williams is a first-round talent they were able to get in the second round.  The only reason this isn’t an A is because the Bills did nothing to help a mediocre offense.

Carolina Panthers: C-
Well, they got QB Cam Newton. But Newton’s still a project and the rest of the picks aren’t going to be household names any time soon.  The worst team in the NFL didn’t get much better…

Chicago Bears: B-
The Bears had to be happy getting a guy like OT Gabe Carimi to fall to them late in the first and Stephen Paea is a beast at DT, but with only five picks in the draft the Bears weren’t able to address any needs on offense.

Cincinnati Bengals: B+
You just gotta love the top two picks in WR A.J. Green and QB Andy Dalton. If nothing else, these two picks bring some excitement to a franchise that doesn’t have too much to be exited about.

Cleveland Browns: B
Browns got great value in this draft by making the early trade with the Falcons.  They were able to move back in the first round and still get great talent and a BIG body in DT Phil Taylor.  DE Jabaal Sheard will likely start for the Browns next season and WR Greg Little will be a threat for the lackluster Browns offense.

Dallas Cowboys: B-
Some nice variety for the Cowboys in the first three rounds with OT Tyron Smith, LB Bruce Carter and RB/ATH Demarco Murray.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure Demarco Murray fits this team very well and they failed to draft anyone of note in the secondary.

Denver Broncos: C+
LB Von Miller will be my preseason pick for Rookie of the Year, but John Elway appears to still be learning at this whole NFL Draft.  Then again, he didn’t handle it very well when he was drafted either…

Detroit Lions: A-
DT Nick Fairley was the steal of the draft at no. 13 and I can’t wait to see him next to Ndamukong Suh next season.  Titus Young is a dynamic receiver and RB Mikel Leshoure provides the “thunder” to go along with 2010 selection Jahvid Best’s “lightning.” Lions are still thin in their back seven though. Probably should have been addressed.

Houston Texans: A+
Bottom line, the Texans got three players with first-round talent. Adding DE’s J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed will provide quite a scare for opposing QB’s when teamed up with pro-bowler Mario Williams, while Brandon Harris very well might start at corner when the Texans open up the 2011 season.

Indianapolis Colts: C+
The Colts got a couple guys that will help protect Peyton Manning in OT Anthony Castanzo and OT Ben Ijalana, but defense is still a huge concern. I understand wanting to protect the franchise, but this Colts defense is nowhere near championship caliber.

Jacksonville Jaguars: B
The Jags got their quarterback of the future to fall to them at them at no. 10.  They then took the rest of the draft off…Okay, that might be a little harsh, but I don’t see any of these guys stepping in and making a difference this season. Gabbert alone, however, is enough to carry this draft class to a decent grade.

Kansas City Chiefs: C-
Apparently the Kansas City Chiefs can’t handle success. After a surprising 2010 season, the Chiefs followed it up with one of the worst draft classes in the league.  They reached for WR Jonathan Baldwin and they reached for C Rodney Hudson. Third-round pick, LB Justin Houston, who was thought to be a late-first, early-second round talent was a nice pick in the third.  Chiefs needed weapons on offense, not sure they got them.

Miami Dolphins: C+
The Dolphins went with the safe pick in the first round with C Mike Pouncey.  But then they went with a luxury pick in RB Daniel Thomas in the second round and questionable WR choice in Edmond Gates in the third. Miami has needs and they weren’t addressed, in my opinion.

Minnesota Vikings: C
After what was almost a comical year for the Vikes, they didn’t do much to stop that downward momentum.  QB Christian Ponder was a huge reach at No. 12 and while Kyle Rudolph is a great talent at tight end, last time I checked the Vikings had a pro-bowl caliber tight end in Visanthe Shiancoe.  DT Christian Ballard was a good value pick later on, but otherwise pretty ho-hum for the Vikes.

New England Patriots: C-
Why is everyone so excited about this Ryan Mallett pick? The Patriots have a back-up QB that they are very high on in Brian Hoyer.  I’m kind of getting sick of the Patriots antics in the draft and really not impressed with the talent they accumulated.  Nate Solder will be a good tackle, and that’s all I’ve got…

New Orleans Saints: B+
Despite picking near the end of the first round, the Saints made the most of it.  They started with the very talented DE Cameron Jordan from Cal and then traded up to get RB Mark Ingram.  If the Saints can find a way to work Reggie Bush into that offense it’s going to be tough to stop.  Greg Romeus was a great value pick in the 7th round.

New York Giants: B+
The Giants did some nice work in the early rounds with CB Prince Amukamara falling to them at no. 19 and then getting DT Marvin Austin in the second round.  And look out for WR Jerel Jernigan from Troy. With a solid WR corps in New York, look for Jernigan to be open quite a bit across the middle.

New York Jets: B
DT Muhammad Wilkerson was a nice get late in the first round while DT Kendrick Ellis will help solidfy the middle of that Jets defensive line. I also really liked the pick of Jeremy Kerley in the 5th round.  Watch out when that guy touches the ball.

Oakland Raiders: D
And the Raiders have once again proved why they are the Raiders. Oakland didn’t have a first round pick and they didn’t seem to pay much attention after that. Stefen Wisniewski will probably end up being a good center, but they could have got drafted him at least a round later.  CB DeMarcus Van Dyke is fast, but that’s about it.

Philadelphia Eagles: B-
Well, apparently the Eagles weren’t impressed with David Akers’ misses in the playoffs against the Packers.  They made a pretty loud statement by taking kicker Alex Henery in the 4th round.  Of course, they did have 11 picks so they had to pick someone there. But really, the 4th round?

Pittsburgh Steelers: B
DE Cameron Heyward will be a staple of the Steelers defense for years to come and Marcus Gilbert will eventually work his way into a starting role. Probably could’ve addressed some needs at the skill positions but they’re the Steelers, they’ll be fine.

St. Louis Rams: B+
Well, this grade is based off the big unknown that is DE Robert Quinn.  After being suspended for the entire 2010 season at UNC, Quinn will at least be fresh when he suit up for the Rams.  As for the rest of the draft, St. Louis made sure they got some weapons to put around last year’s top pick Sam Bradford with TE Lance Kendricks, and WR’s Austin Pettis and Greg Salas.

San Diego Chargers: B
Well, the Chargers couldn’t play defense last year, so they made sure they tried to fix that.  First three rounds went DE Corey Liuget, DB Marcus Gilchrist, and LB Jonas Mouton.

San Francisco: C+
Really like LB Aldon Smith…in a 4-3 defense. Unfortunately the Niners run a 3-4. He’s a good enough player to make the transition but it might take awhile. Not convinced Colin Kaepernick is the QB of the future in San Francisco either. Let’s wait and see on this one…

Seattle Seahawks: C
Don’t mid the Seahawks going offensive line with their first two picks except for the fact that 1st round pick James Carpenter should have been picked in the 2nd round at the earliest. And I guess they’re hoping that one of the three defensive backs they drafted can guard someone.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B+
This could end up being the best draft class, or it could blow up in the Bucs face. Both DE Adrian Clayborn and DE Da’Quan Bowers have medical concerns but if they can find a way to stay healthy, both guys will start next season. Bowers could be a pro-bowler as a rookie. Also look for DB Ahmad Black to start in 2011.

Tennessee Titans: B-
Jake Locker over Blaine Gabbert? I don’t see how.  I guess they said he’s the anti-Vince Young…in that case, great pick. In any other case, that’s a reach. LB Akeem Ayers was a nice grab in the second round, but the quarterback will continue to be a problem in the Music City.

Washington Redskins: C-
How don’t you draft a quarterback? Donovan McNabb won’t be back and Rex Grossman has already proved he’s not the answer.  DE Ryan Kerrigan will be a stud on defense but defense isn’t the problem right now.

Badgers in the NFL Draft

April 20th, 2011 at 12:08 pm by under Sports

Wisconsin defensive tackle J.J. Watt (99) is seen before the first half of an NCAA college football game against Northwestern Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

After a banner year for the Wisconsin Badgers football team, which came oh so close to a win in the Rose Bowl, a number of players are now looking to the next level.  Six players, in my opinion, at least have a chance of getting drafted when then NFL Draft kicks off on April 28th.  Here’s a breakdown of where I think they might land.

J.J. Watt – Defensive End:

What a player.  There’s not a team in the NFL that wouldn’t want a player like J.J.  His motor is endless, yet he’s not just a motor guy.  He’s talented, he’s smart, and he has a nose for the football.  He just seems to be a part of every play.  Whether he’s knocking down a pass, sacking the quarterback, or even blocking a kick, Watt was one of the biggest impact defensive players in the country.

Projection: 1st Round, 18th overall, to the San Diego Chargers

Gabe Carimi – Offensive Lineman:

One of the best offensive linemen in the country.  The 2010 AP All-American and Outland Trophy winner (best offensive lineman in the country), was probably the best pass blocking lineman in the country.  He’s big, strong, and maybe most importantly, athletic.  And just like his defensive counterpart Watt, Carimi is incredibly smart both on the field and in the classroom.  He likely won’t be the first or second offensive lineman taken, but you can count on Carimi being a staple of any offensive line for the next 10 years.

Projection: 1st Round, 22nd overall, to the Indianapolis Colts

Lance Kendricks – Tight End:

One word.  SLEEPER! Comes from a long line of great Badgers tight ends over the last five years including Travis Beckum (Giants) and Garrett Graham (Texans). The 2nd -team All-American has had a number of injury problems but his talent is unquestionable.  Had the Badgers been more of a pass-friendly offense, Kendricks could’ve been the top tight end in the country.  Needs to become a little better blocker to be a good pro, but the guy can get open and has great hands.  He’ll probably drop further in the draft than he should, but whoever takes a chance on him won’t be sorry.

Projection: 3rd round, 80th overall, to the Jacksonville Jaguars

John Moffitt – Offensive Lineman:

Joined his offensive lineman counterpart Gabe Carimi on the 1st-team All-American list.  He’s not nearly as athletic as Carimi, but don’t sleep on how quick this 314-pound beast can be.  He started 42 of 45 games in a Badgers uniform and is poised to start for a very long time in the NFL.  The only thing that drops Moffitt in this draft is that athleticism.  Is he gonna be able to hang with the top-tier defensive linemen play after play in the NFL?  Probably not right now, but give him some time. Moffitt, like the rest of his Badgers teammates, is a very smart and coachable player.  Let’s see what a little time in the league can do for him.  I think he could be a steal in the fourth round.

Projection: 4th round, 131st overall, to the Green Bay Packers

Scott Tolzien – Quarterback:

Tolzien is a tough one.  You want to think there is potential for him in the NFL, and there very well may be.  But right now he’s nothing more than a backup.  Tolzien obviously played in a very run-oriented offense at Wisconsin, so it will be interesting to see how he responds in a more balanced attack.  Tolzien can play from under center as well as in the shotgun.  He’s a tough kid that’s willing to take a hit, unfortunately his courage is not always rewarded.  His mediocre arm-strength is definitely a cause for concern.  He just seemed to make too many unforced errors, even when things appeared to be rolling at times.  I do think he gets drafted though, and I strongly believe he can make a roster.  Let’s give him a few years, you never know with a guy like Scott, you just never know.

Projection: 6th round, 199th overall, to the Kansas City Chiefs

John Clay – Running Back:

Oh what could’ve been for John Clay.  It’s not how we all expected it to end for the bruising running back.  Arguably one of the best backs in program history, leaves the Badgers quietly after his junior season for the NFL.  If Clay is at any other school he probably returns for his senior season.  But with the emergence of Montee Ball and James White, the John Clay era in Madison rightfully came to and end.  He would share carries and probably have his draft stock fall even further than it has.  But, that’s not to say I’ve given up on Clay.  I still think there’s some potential and a fresh start in the right situation could be a game-changer.  He’s still a darn good back and has some size and athleticism to make defenders think.  But there are obviously some questions.  Can he stay healthy?  Can he stay committed?  I hope he can, because big John can still be a player, I have no doubts.

Projection: Undrafted free agent

Here’s a look at my 2011 NFL Mock Draft.

Here’s a look at a Badgers Photo Gallery.

2011 NFL Mock Draft

April 12th, 2011 at 2:44 pm by under Sports

Auburn's Cam Newton (2) carries the ball as Oregon's Kenny Rowe (58) falls to the turf during the second half of the BCS National Championship NCAA college football game Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton, QB – Auburn

2. Denver Broncos – Marcell Dareus, DT – Alabama

3. Buffalo Bills – Von Miller, LB – Texas A&M

4. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green, WR – Georgia

5. Arizona Cardinals – Blaine Gabbert, QB – Missouri

6. Cleveland Browns – Da’Quan Bowers, DE – Clemson

7. San Francisco 49ers – Patrick Peterson, CB – LSU

8. Tennessee Titans – Nick Fairley, DT – Auburn

9. Dallas Cowboys – Tyron Smith, OL – USC

10. Washington Redskins – Julio Jones, WR – Alabama

11. Houston Texans – Robert Quinn, DE – North Carolina

12. Minnesota Vikings – Aldon Smith, DE – Missouri

13. Detroit Lions – Prince Amukamara, CB – Nebraska

14. St. Louis Rams – Corey Liuget, DT – Illinois

15. Miami Dolphins – Mike Pouncey, OL – Florida

16. Jacksonville Jaguars - Ryan Kerrigan, DE – Purdue

17. New England Patriots – Cameron Jordan, DE – California

18. San Diego Chargers – J.J. Watt, DE – Wisconsin

19. New York Giants – Anthony Castonzo, OL – Boston College

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Adrian Clayborn, DT – Iowa

21. Kansas City Chiefs - Phil Taylor, NT – Baylor

22. Indianapolis Colts – Gabe Carimi, OL – Wisconsin

23. Philadelphia Eagles – Jimmy Smith, CB – Colorado

24. New Orleans Saints – Muhammad Wilkerson, DT – Temple

25. Seattle Seahawks – Ryan Mallett, QB – Arkansas

26. Baltimore Ravens – Cameron Heyward, DE – Ohio State

27. Atlanta Falcons - Justin Houston, LB – Georgia

28. New England Patriots – Mark Ingram, RB – Alabama

29. Chicago Bears – Nate Solder, OL – Colorado

30. New York Jets – Marvin Austin, DT – North Carolina

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Akeem Ayers, LB – UCLA

32. Green Bay Packers – Brooks Reed, LB – Arizona

Why not to pick Tiger to win the Masters

April 6th, 2011 at 12:44 pm by under Sports

Tiger Woods putts on the 18th hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Wednesday, April 6, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

A tradition unlike any other…picking Tiger Woods to win your Master’s pool. Sorry, not this year.

Tiger, for the first time this millenium, is not the favorite to win at Augusta National–and he shouldn’t be your pick either…here’s why:

  • He hasn’t won a tournament in 17 months (Australian Masters, November, 2009).
  • He’s going through a complete swing overhaul, including his stance, his grip, and his takeaway.  This isn’t just some minor tweak to his swing, this a complete change from a stroke that won him multiple major championships with Hank Haney.
  • He can’t putt
  • He can’t putt–wait, did I say that already? Despite his swing changes, Tiger has given himself opportunities to win or at least be in contention over the weekend, but his putting has let him down.  He’s using a mallet-style putter for the first time in his career and he’s just not been able to be consistent enough to be competitive.  Tiger used to be considered the best “par-putter” in the game, meaning he had this special quality about him that allowed him to roll in that important par putt when he most desperately needed it.  Tiger’s game is naturally wild, yet he always found a way to make the putts when he needed them…not anymore.
  • The field is too good.  It used to be Tiger and everyone else.  Now, however, “everyone else” is a lot tougher to beat.  The young talent on tour proved to be worthy in 2010 as Tiger dealt with his personal problems.  From the young stars like World No. 1 Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, and Rickie Fowler to the veterans like last week’s winner Phil Mickelson, along with Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Wisconsin’s Steve Stricker, the field can no longer just be called the field.
  • Finally, and I think most importantly, Tiger just isn’t Tiger.  Here’s what I mean.  Forget the swing, forget the putting, forget the competition, forget everything about his game for a second.  What made Tiger Woods the most feared player in the history of the game was his presence.  Over the course of his career Tiger has had an aura about him that, for all intents and purposes, gave him a couple strokes on the field.  That sense of invincibility was gone the minute allegations about his infidelities surfaced back in 2009.  Tiger was larger than life…he said it himself.  Now that larger than life figure is just another golfer. A golfer looking to regain the form never seen before on the PGA Tour. The golfer looking to regain that edge that not only put fear in the minds of his opponents, but into the gallery as well.  Tiger Woods was the most untouchable and intimidating person the world of sports had ever seen.  But not anymore.  Now it’s truly about golf.  There’s no intimidation, there’s no aura, there’s just 72 holes of golf at Augusta National, and despite his past success in year’s first major, it’s the major flaws in his game that will keep him from green jacket number five.

My Pick:

Phil Mickelson (11-2 favorite in Vegas) - I liked Phil before this past week in Houston but was concerned with the driver.  After watching lefty split the fairway all weekend I find it hard to bet against him. Phil knows as well as anybody that Tiger is not himself.  He knows that if he wants to go on a major-run that this is the time.  As was mentioned above, the competition is getting stiffer and it’s probably just a matter of time until Tiger gets back to his winning ways.  No way does Phil let this opportunity go.

Others to watch (Vegas odds):

Bubba Watson (20-1) – Big hitters have a huge advantage at Augusta.  Right now, I think Bubba is the most consistent of the big hitters.  If he can scramble effectively and roll in a few putts expect him to be near the top of the leaderboard.

Rickie Fowler (50-1) - How about getting your first tour victory at Augusta?  It could happen this week for Rickie Fowler.  He’s a great ball-striker and definitely has enough length to compete.  He also has a flair for the dramatic with all of the crazy outfits and bright colors he wears.  Here’s some advice Rickie, you might want to wear a dark green or yellow on Sunday.

Long shot:

Steve Marino (80-1) – He always seems to be at the top of the leaderboard in the first couple rounds of every major but can’t keep the momentum throughout the weekend.  He’s played well of late…can he find a way to put together four rounds? I think he’s a got a chance.

Enjoy the tournament!