Posted on: June 19, 2008 1:41 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2008 9:44 pm

Cubs vs. Rays: World Series Preview

I know it's early. We're not even at the All-Star break yet, but this interleague series has been as good as it gets. Could this possibly be a World Series preview? Again, it's too early to say for sure, but the Cubs are off to a great start and the Rays have almost as many wins as they did for all of last season. I just can't help it... After watching the first two games of the series, I can almost feel the cool air of October creeping in to my house.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubbies have the best record in the majors, at 45-27, which is a better start than they had for their 1908 championship campaign. It's a franchise so long overdue for a World Series title, that you would have expected the fans to lose hope a long time ago. And, most years, they probably do lose hope. But not this season. I think that even the much-abused North Side faithful may actually believe that this team can get it done.

So, what's changed?

Everyone criticized Lou Piniella's decisions at the beginning of the year, but nobody has been talking lately. Putting Kerry Wood in as the closer, where he has done very well, was questioned. Heck, a lot of fans didn't even want the Cubs to re-signed Wood, who was once one of the most promising young starters in the game. Cubs management had faith, though, and it has definitely paid off.

What about the pitching? Putting Ryan Dempster in as a starter seemed like a stretch. Now, he has 8 wins, tied with ace Carlos Zambrano for the team lead. Dempster has even had a few outings where he reached double-digits in strikeouts. Basically, he's quickly become an ace starter, as well as a fantasy stud. With Zambrano healthy, they have a nice rotation and a quality bullpen - led by Wood and Carlos Marmol.

As far as the offense goes, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez have teamed with rookie Geovany Soto to anchor a dangerous lineup with plenty of pop; especially with Soriano in the leadoff position. New acquisitions Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome, meanwhile, have been pulling their weight as well. Just last week, Johnson hit a game-winning homer off to defeat Toronto, his former team.

It will be interesting to see if some of the guys can keep producing like they have been, but so far, the Cubs are getting the runs they need to make a postseason push.

Unfortunately, the mark of a good team is being able to carry on when those midseason bumps and bruises seem to add up. The Cubs have been OK so far, but with Zambrano's injury, they may face a tough road ahead. Alfonso Soriano needs to make a quick recovery, and Jim Edmonds suffered some kind of injury yesterday which has yet to be disclosed. They can always bring youngster Alex Pie back up, but he really needs more time in the minors has improved his hitting stroke.

Fortunately, though, the injury bug is a very communicable disease, and the Cardinals have lost one of the leagues best players in Albert Pujols. With that injury, the NL Central should be Chicago's to lose.

Unless they have a meltdown like the Mets did last year, they will be making the playoffs, and have a good possibility of playing in the World Series. As for the Cubs having a chance to break the curse, it's been 100 years, so this is as good a story, and time, as any.

Tampa Bay Rays

Manager Joe Maddon has gone up in wins each year since he became the Rays' skipper. At 42-29, Tampa Bay is just 24 games off last season's win total.

The franchise has never spent this much time over .500, especially this deep in the season. Of course, that's not entirely unexpected when you're playing in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox.

Tampa Bay will likely end up fighting New York for a wild card spot. The Yanks have been hot lately, too, and could be ready to make a run towards the top of the AL East. In years past, Tampa has had the Yankees number, so it will be interesting to see if this young team can hold off a veteran club. Currently, they are just one game behind division-leading Red Sox, and have managed to keep pace despite the suspensions handed out for the brawl with Boston.

The Rays have a phenomenal young pitching staff, and have used that rotation this year to do something that nobody thought was possible... win games. I'm not sure that most people realize just how good this staff is, and it's only getting better. Ace Scott Kazmir has started only nine games, but has gone 6-2 in that stretch... Not bad after missing the beginning of the season with an injury. Andy Sonnanstine, meanwhile, has been a pleasant surprise at 8-3.

The bullpen has been strong as well, and has not only kept the team in games, but helped it win when the starters didn't get the job done. As proof, J.P. Howell has already racked up five wins in relief appearances.

Like the Cubs, the Rays have done fairly well without key position players, including the afore mentioned suspensions. Through it all, they have managed to play some of the most exciting baseball in MLB. B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, Willy Aybar and Carl Crawford are in the upper echelon of the game's young talent, and I know they've got me tuning in. If you haven't been watching, this team's lineup is a mix of speed, power and raw talent. Expect to see those names for a while.

Now, there's talk of adding Ken Griffey Jr. to the team, and I think it would be a great move. Even though he isn't in his prime, Griffey could bring leadership to the dugout. Plus, he could DH and maybe even get hot down the stretch. Who knows?

I'm a Yankee fan, but don't think this is the year my Bombers return to glory. So, as a sports fan, I would rather see a young, hungry team like the Rays make it to the Series. Other young teams have won or made it to the Series in the past decade - the Rockies last year, the Diamondbacks and Marlins. Why can't this be the Rays' year?

World Series 2008

This interleague battle has seen Tampa Bay win two one-run games, and as closely as these teams are matched, I couldn't imagine a World Series repeat being any less exciting!

If pitchers for both teams can stay healthy and continue to put up their current numbers, these could be the potential pitching match-ups:

Carlos Zambrano (8-3) vs. Scott Kazmir (6-2)
Ryan Dempster (8-3) vs. Matt Garza (7-5)
Ted Lilly (7-5) vs. Andy Sonnanstine (8-3)
Jason Marquis (5-3) vs. James Shields ( 4-5)
Sean Gallagher (3-3) vs. Edwin Jackson (4-6)

So here's to the Cubs and Rays... Let's see if they can keep it going, and make it to the World Series - one I would definitely watch.

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 19, 2008 11:38 am
Edited on: September 10, 2008 9:46 pm

My offer to Bill Parcells

I want Jason Taylor and the Miami Dolphins to stop and think about the current situation. Really think about it.

We all know that Taylor's a defensive stud, and that he was the only bright spot on a terrible Miami team last year, but it's obvious that Bill Parcells isn't too happy that Taylor is dancing and not at mini-camp workouts.

Now, think about this... There is no doubt that Taylor wants to be an actor after he retires from football, and at age 33, he knows that time is coming quickly. In fact, he's already started to plan that career. He didn't accidentally become the first active NFL player to compete on Dancing with the Stars. He knew that it was a great opportunity for him to build a relationship with a much broader American audience... and he did that. It's a savvy move, and you would have to think he will continue to dabble in other interests over his last few seasons.

The Tuna runs a tight ship, however, and getting less than 100 percent attention is usually a ticket out of town. If he can get a few draft picks for Taylor, I know he would do it. Parcells loves the draft, and he should... he's damn good at it. The more picks the better, in his book.

Plus, there's no need to hold on to Taylor. Sure, it's the sentimental thing to do, but the team is in the midst of an ugly rebuilding process, and it will likely take a few more years to pull things back together. They did get better through the draft, but they're still nowhere near turning the corner.

Now, back to the possible trade. Miami was asking for a first-round pick during the draft, but they didn't get it. Taylor is getting older, and isn't worth a first-rounder at his age. A second-rounder, though? As a Jaguar fan, I'd give up a future second round pick, or a third and fifth, for him.

Taylor would have an immediate impact on the field and in the locker room. He would be invaluable as a mentor to Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves.

Realistically, Taylor probably only has one or two more years in him before he turns into a full-time actor, but I'd love to see the Jags snatch him up, even if it's just for a year. Win now, I say. And with Taylor falling from favor in Miami, teams could probably get him even cheaper.

From my time in Saratoga, I know that Parcells likes the bet on horses. From my time as an NFL fan, I know he's also willing to gamble on players. Here's another gamble, and I think it would benefit Miami as well as Jacksonville.

So, Mr. Parcells, if you are reading this, let me speak on behalf of Jacksonville. An offer of a third- and fifth-rounder is on the table... You, my friend, are on the clock.
Posted on: May 6, 2008 1:47 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2010 2:15 pm

PETA is clueless

I don't know about anyone else, but I think PETA should find something else to complain about. Wanting to suspend Gabriel Saez, the jockey aboard Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby, is ridiculous.

The passing of Eight Belles was extremely tragic, and as a horse racing fan, I never want to see something like that happen. But, for PETA to say Saez knowingly pushed the filly to her death... that claim is completely unfounded. Vets at the Derby say there is no way Eight Belles could have suffered her injury before the race ended.

Think about what PETA is claiming... If it happened as those radicals suspect, than this horse was running on two broken ankles. Yeah, not very likely.

The injury occurred when the horses slow themselves down after the race. During that time, the jockey stands up (sorry, I don't know if there is a more correct term) to relieve the weight from the horse. If those ankles were broken before the race, there's no way she would have made it that far.

I've been around the track enough to know that trainers, owners and jockeys all love the horses. I've seen that love first-hand at the Saratoga Race Course and at horse farms in the area. I know that fatalities happen, and the most current stat I've heard since Saturday's tragedy is 1.6 deaths per 1,000 races. If you factor in that there are probably an average of 8 horses per race (I'm guessing on this one), that's only around two deaths per 8,000 horses.

You have to remember, these jockeys are putting their lives on the line to ride these great athletes. I've seen three jockeys fall during one race. It happens a lot, and it's dangerous. I can be lethal.

Why would a jockey risk his life to ride a horse with broken ankle? It just doesn't make sense. PETA saying that, "Saez didn't have any regard for Eight Belles," is like saying he didn't have any regard for his own life. A statement like that is crazy or stupid, and in this case, probably both.

But there has to be someone or something to cast blame on, right? Yeah, they're trying to find something, because God knows it can't just be an unfortunate accident.

It's the whip! If PETA wants to talk about the whip, fine. It's been used in horse racing forever, but if they want to try to change something, that would be a much better place to focus their attention.

The horse was a girl! The fact that people are now saying that a filly shouldn't have run in the Derby is just as crazy as PETA. Rags to Riches beat the big boys last year, and Eight Belles obviously could have done that this year.

Too much racing! Lastly, I've heard people say that they should spread the Triple Crown races out. Normally, horses have at least a two-month rest period between races, but to win the Triple Crown, a horse must endure three races in just over a month. That's kind of the point, though. It's hard to do.

No more horses die in those races than at any other time. Besides, changing it would take all the integrity, history and drama of the Triple Crown.

Stop trying to find a reason, PETA. It's a tragedy, and one that will always be remembered by horse racing fans... but that's all it is.
Posted on: May 2, 2008 11:50 am
Edited on: September 10, 2008 9:52 pm

Almost Derby Day

One day until my favorite day of the year... Derby Day! The first leg of the Triple Crown! Well, maybe not my favorite day of the year, but you get the picture.

I don't think this is the year we find the next Triple Crown winner, but there's always that chance, and that's what makes it exciting. Whichever horse wins tomorrow will already be 1/3 of the way there, and then the anticipation will really start to build.

The chances are never great, but I can always hope.

Look at last year... All three races were spectacular, but three different horses won. I'm not taking anything away from any of those horses, but all horse racing fans would love to see a Triple Crown winner in their lifetime... and I haven't had the chance.

Maybe it's time for a literal "dark horse"? This year's 20-horse field doesn't have any one horse that has a lot of hype around it. In recent years, there was usually one overwhelming favorite, but not this year. I know Big Brown has the best odds, at 3-1, but he hasn't raced that many times, and having the outside post isn't exactly lucky. Only one horse has ever won the Derby from that post... and that's over 130 years of history.

Looking back to 2007, one of the horses that was supposed to be a Triple Crown hopeful isn't even in the field. War Pass started off great, but couldn't buy a win towards the end of last year.

That's old news, though, as we focus on the present favorite. I personally don't like Big Brown, mainly because of his post. The rest of the field seems evenly matched. I guess I'll just have to wait and see with everyone else.

I don't need to know the winners anymore. I worked in Saratoga Springs for the past four years, and got multiple chances to go to Saratoga Race Course and take in the beauty of the grounds and horses. That's what it's about for me. Any chance to watch the best horses in the world in such a classic setting. I was able to see Street Sense and Rags to Riches last year, among others, and they were both a treat to watch.

As I won't be in Kentucky for the Derby, you better believe I'll be glued to the set at home or at a bar. I'll probably place a few bets, but never expect to win it big.

My picks:
Colonel John - Z Fortune - Gayego - Big Brown

Category: Horse Racing
Posted on: April 28, 2008 11:13 pm
Edited on: May 4, 2008 5:20 pm

NFL Draft Grades

I'll start off by saying I am no expert, just an avid sports fan and took in my fair share of the NFL draft this weekend. Pizza, beer and some picks leaving me scratching my head. My mock draft exploded like many others mainly because we can't predict what trades might be made. Granted it is too soon to tell how this draft will pan out, but just based on needs, talent and potential I'll give this a shot. So without further ado here are my grades.

Arizona Cardinals: They addressed offensive line last year with Levi Brown but still needed more in this draft to open some holes for James and give whoever plays quarterback some time to throw the dam ball. They didn't had any depth at o-line until the 7th round, but they did address their secondary needs with their first pick.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should be a solid corner in the NFL and is the Cardinals best player taken in the draft. I like that they took three defensive ends because that is a huge need for this team. They are betting on one of the three to be a solid pass rusher. Also to picks of Early Doucet and Tim Hightower are inexpensive picks to bring in depth at both positions. Edge is getting old and Doucet provides insurance in case Boldin is traded (especially with him unhappy with his contract).

Grade: B

Atlanta Falcons: Arthur Blank needed a face of the franchise so they can finally put the Michael Vick saga behind them. I question the choice of Matt Ryan with the third pick because Glenn Dorsey would have been a stud on their defensive line. I know teams were worried about his injuries but he is a difference maker on D. They could have gotten a quarterback in the second round pretty easily considering how far Chad Henne and Brian Brohm fell.

Taking Sam Baker in the first round and trading up might be a stretch but they felt he'd be gone by their next pick. I agree with taking some line help to protect your new franchise QB, but it might have came pretty steep. The thing I like is that they added a lot of picks to their defense.

I think their best pick was Chevis Jackson from LSU. He will be a starter at CB and was a great pick in the third round.

Grade: B-

Baltimore Ravens: I started off really liking the first round trade with Jacksonville and getting more picks to rebuild. Then trading back up to take Flacco baffled me. I know they need a quarterback now that Steve McNair called it quits and Kyle Boeller never panned out. I think Flacco would have been there at No. 26 for the Ravens and they would have had more picks to use.

I really like taking Ray Rice in the second and having him team up with McGahee in the backfield.
Tavares Gooden and Tom Zbikowski should fit right in with the Ravens defense and be contributors. They didn't get any huge picks in this draft but filled the teams needs. If Flacco pans out and is the franchise QB the Ravens hope obviously this draft grade goes up.

Grade: C+

Buffalo Bills
: I think the Bills came out of this weekend with some starters and a lot of good role players. I love the Leodis McKelvin pick. He gives them youth in the secondary and a future starter. Getting James Hardy in the second was a steal and I also like the pick of receiver Steve Johnson in the seventh. I wouldn't be surprised if he becomes a solid slot receiver for the Bills.

If the Bills can stay healthy they could be a surprise team in the AFC this year. They played tough last year and lost some close games. These picks should fill in some key holes.

Grade: B

Carolina Panthers: Taking Jonathan Stewart at No. 13 kind of shocked me. I thought they would go for Branden Albert with this pick. The Panthers weren't worried about Stewart's injury coming into the draft and think he and DeAngelo Williams will be a heck of a tandem and they might be right. Getting Jeff Otah was a huge pick in a few ways. He's a big guy and will be an immediate starter on the line.

Charles Godfrey is a hard hitting safety and Dan Connor fell to the third round and is a steal and a half. He will take over for Dan Morgan in the middle and should start right away.

Grade: B+

Chicago Bears: The Bears had a ton of picks to make this team better and try to get back to the playoffs. The NFC North is wide open, but unfortunately for Bears fans the only pick that will have an impact is Chris Williams. He will protect either Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton and should help open some holes for the running game that was no existent last year.

After Williams I don't understand any of the Bears selections. Taking a running back in the second confused me. I don't know much about Forte, but a receiver or d-lineman might have been a better choice. There were a lot of great receivers and a solid running back class this year. Earl Bennett should pan out for them but they could have gotten a better guy in round two. Not taking a quarterback in any round makes no sense. Grossman and Orton both have one year deals and they need a QB to build around. Taking a guy in the later rounds would have been the smart thing to do especially with Colt Brennan and Andre Woodson falling into the sixth round.

Grade: D-

Cincinnati Bengals: Cinci got much needed help on defense in this draft which is good. Pat Sims and Keith Rivers will be starting this season for the Bengals. They should improve one of the league's worst defenses. I know Marvin Lewis keeps saying he is going to sit Chad Johnson and not trade him so with that in mind they drafted three receivers. Chris Henry is gone and TJH wil assume the No. 1 receiver role. Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson are both good size targets and could give Carson Palmer a few more targets.

Corey Lynch will be a force on special teams and battle for a starting spot at safety. He could be a wild card for this team and with a sixth round pick is a good value. He has a ton of potential and should help this team out.

Grade: B

Cleveland Browns:
The Browns did as much as they could with limited second day picks. If you take in consideration the studs they got on their defensive line for their picks this is a great draft. They go two defensive run stoppers in the middle of the line for their first few picks. They improved the D and added role players through the draft. The Browns felt Shaun Rogers and Cory Williams, proven starters, were better than taking a chance on rookies. They were 10-6 last year and are hoping these guys get them over the hump and into the playoffs.

Martin Rucker is a big target and should give Derek Anderson an option five to 10 yards out in case he gets in trouble.

Grade: B

Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones went with his Arkansas boy in Felix Jones. Marion Barber III is used to being the home-run hitter for the Cowboys and not being the main man. I'll be interested if he can step up and be a No. 1 back. He wants to get paid like one and I think that is why Dallas went with Jones instead of Mendenahll. Barber might have felt more threatened if they took Mendenhall.

Mike Jenkins is a great pick and will be a starter for many years. Even if Pacman Jones is reinstated having a lot of corners is a must in the NFL. Jenkins is by far their best pick. Bennett is a huge tight end and will be a nice target for Romo. Teamed with Whitten, Bennett will get his fair share of catches in the red zone.

Grade: A-

Denver Broncos: Ryan Clady will be a 10-year starter for the Broncos and is a great pick. The rest of their picks can be seen as need picks, but none will be immediate starters. Eddie Royal should be their third or fourth wide receiver this year and there is potential he could become a nice target for Jay Cutler.

The pick I like the most is a guy I don't know much about. Ryan Torain was a fifth round pick and we all know what happens with running backs Denver takes in late rounds. I see this guy rushing for 1,000 yards within his first three years in the league.

Grade: B

Detroit Lions: This was an unusual draft for the Lions. What I mean is they didn't take a wide receiver in the first round and actually got some nice prospects. Apparently the Lions liked
Gosder Cherlius a lot and took him to protect Jon Kitna. Getting rid of Kevin Jones the Lions main need in this draft was running back.

I was really shocked they passed on Mendenhall in the first round but at least they didn't take a receiver. I am a big fan of Kevin Smith and thought he'd be a great investment in the third or fourth round for any team. Detroit thought so too and traded up to take him first overall in the third. They will be extremely happy with this decision.

Jordon Dizon and Cliff Avril will solidify their defense and I think Caleb Campbell will be a good special teamer. If he gets a chance to play safety or linebacker for the Lions he will be a huge value at a seventh round choice. Just because the Lions drafted unlike they normally do they get a great grade.

Grade: A

Green Bay Packers: The Packers were one game away from the Superbowl and didn't have too many needs in this draft. They had to address their aging corners and replacing Cory Williams on the d-line. Picking Jordy Nelson with their first pick was odd to me. They didn't need a wide receiver, but they must have seen something they liked. Taking Brian Brohm in the second was a great value especially seeing how he was projected to be a first rounder in last years draft.

They don't have a back up for Aaron Rodgers and Brohm is a good start for them. If Rodgers falters, Brohm could step in, but if he has to become a starter this year, it will hurt his progression. Give him two or three years and he could be the man in Green Bay.

The rest of the draft just fills needs which is what the draft is for, but none of the guys jump out at me. Taking Matt Flynn in the seventh struck me odd too. I see Green Bay signing a veteran to back up Rodgers and let Brohm mature and no room for Flynn. Unless they have other plans for him.

Grade: C+

Houston Texans: I think the Texans were worried this miss out on an upper echelon offensive lineman in this draft and made a stretch for Duane Brown. He should be a starter but they probably could have traded up to take him in the second round or trade their first rounder for a few more picks.

The Texans have a good defense and got some nice back ups and possibly future starters in Xavier Adibi and Frank Okam. I really like Steve Slaton in the third round. Good value and he should give them a nice option in the backfield.

Grade: C

Indianapolis Colts: Indy didn't have any holes to fill. They just use the draft to get role players and back ups that might one day be starters each year. No first round picks for the Colts or really flashy picks but they should be on top of the AFC South yet again. Jacob Tamme should compliment Dallas Clark nicely giving Peyton Manning yet another option to throw to. I like the pick of Mike Hart in the sixth round. He rarely fumbled at Michigan and can definitely get those hard yards. I see him as a nice back up or third string running back for the Colts.

I was unsure why they took three centers, but after listening to so analysis I guess they plan on converting one or two of them to tackles. Picking the most talented players at their position in the round. Makes sense and Tony Dungy has a way of moving guys around on the line and keeping Manning protected.

Grade: C

Jacksonville Jaguars: As a Jaguar fan I'll try to be objective with my grade. I know the teams biggest need one a defensive end and they got who they wanted in Derek Harvey. Projected as the best d-lineman in the draft and Jacksonville likes guys from Florida this makes sense.

Giving up two thirds and a fourth for him was a bit much and I know he was a stretch at No. 8. I'm glad we will see him as a Jag this season but have to think if this was too much. I'm happy they didn't give up any picks next year. Looking back at it, I don't think any other team would have swapped first rounders without adding an additional first rounder next year. And I think Buffalo would have taken him at No. 11 if he was available. For Baltimore they wanted Matt Ryan, didn't get him so the trade made perfect sense (then moving back up to grab Flacco made no sense)

That being said I hope he works out. Quentin Groves could be a DE or linebacker depending on how much he bulks up before the season. Thomas Williams adds depth at linebacker which I like because Mike Peterson has been injury prone. I really like Trae Williams in the fifth. He will start off behind Rasheen Mathis, Brian Williams and Drayton Florence but going against Indy, the more corners the better. I absolutely love that pick.

I was upset they didn't add depth on o-line or even trade further back in the fifth round to get another seventh rounder. I would have liked to get Caleb Campbell as a safety and give him a shot and use him on special teams. Jacksonville's last pick on a running back??? Maybe for returns other than that not sure on him.

Grade: C+

Kansas City: They needed a lot of help from this draft and they got it. Glenn Dorsey will be a force on D and getting him at No. 5 was a steal in my book. Then moving up to get Branden Albert to protect your QB was a nice move too. First round was huge (and just because they are both big guys). Games are won in the trenches and they will fight for you for sure.

Brandon Flowers will compete for a starting job in the secondary and Brad Cottam gives either Croyle or Huard a big target opposite Tony Gonzalez. Jamaal Charles will compliment Larry Johnson nicely too. This is a two back league now and he should be a nice fit for the Chiefs.

Grade: A+

Miami Dolphins: Jake Long is going to be a long time starter for this team and was the smart choice at No. 1. Chad Henne dropped farther than I thought he would and will make it interesting in training camp. I don't think its fair to give up on Beck because he didn't have a line in front of him or Ronnie Brown.

It is interesting that Henne and Long keeping the Michigan connection alive. Parcells is a master drafter and probably figures to bring in his guy for QB of the future in Henne and a guy that protected him for four years in Long. Smart move. I thought Jason Taylor would be traded and what I hear Jacksonville was the team they wear dealing with. If they were asking a second rounder and pair of thirds or possibly future picks I'd be pissed if Jacksonville didn't make the trade. But a first rounder for someone who will be 34 at the start of the season wouldn't be worth it.

He might have gotten them a championship but if he got injured it'd be like drafting a bust in the first. For Miami keeping him and having him tutor the young guys on D that got drafted. Not flashy, but this was a typical Parcells draft.

Grade: A

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings didn't have a first rounder but getting Jared Allen was even better. Their two defensive tackles require at least three guys blocking them and if Allen can gets a single blocker its lights out. Their defense was good before and now probably the best.

John David Booty was a really nice pick in the fifth. Could be their future quarterback. Tavarias Jackson did win games for them last year but I'm not sold on his arm. If he falters Booty could lead the team to the top of the NFC North.

Grade: A-

New England Patriots: Trading down to No. 10 was smart. Jerod Mayo gives them youth at linebacker which i a key position on their defense. I think he was a stretch at No. 10 but I heard the Patriots had him just below Rivers as the best linebacker. They might have been able to trade down again and get more picks but must have felt the need to get him while they could. Terrence Wheatley gives them a much needed corner.

The rest of their picks were two more linebackers, another CB, WR and QB. The quarterback in the fifth round...they got me with that one. Don't know much about the guy, but the Patriots must have liked something about him and could be a nice backup for Brady, even though he never gets injured.

Grade: B

New Orleans Saints: Sedrick Ellis is solid. Trading up ahead of the Bengals was a good move. Carl Nicks is a nice offensive lineman and should compete for a starting job within the next year. I like the pick of Adrian Arrington from Michigan. He should be another fast, young receiver to add to Brees' arsenal.

Grade: B-

New York Giants: I said from the start Kenny Phillips would be a Giant. He is a hard hitter and should solidify their secondary. Robert Henderson could be a sleeper for them. He is a big, strong guy and fits in the mold of some of their late round d-lineman they have chosen over the years.

Not sure about Andre Woodson. He is a good quarterback and will be the third stringer most likely. They didn't really need a QB in this draft but I guess you can never have too many. I heard more than 60 quarterbacks were used last year so even a solid third stringer is a must.

Grade: B

New York Jets: Vernon Gholston is going to give them a force on defense and I don't think he will be a bust. He should fit the Jets system and get around 5 to 8 sacks this year. Trading up to get Dustin Keller shocked me a bit. They must have thought he was getting snatched up in the seven picks between No. 30 and their next pick in the second. He is a good pass catching tight end and should be a nice option for Pennington or Clemons.

I thought the Jets were going to take a different quarterback in this draft but Erick Ainge is a guy that can manage games and is second behind Peyton Manning in touchdowns at Tennessee. Marcus Henry is a big target but I'm sure Jets fans were hoping for a big time receiver out of this draft.

Grade: B-

Oakland Raiders: Darren McFadden is a great football player and could be the best athlete in this year's class. If I was Oakland I would have taken Glenn Dorsey. He would have given them a big guy on defense that was horrendous last year. I know Russell needed help on offense but they put some money into Fargas last year after he was productive for them and Michael Bush was injured and they don't know what they have in him.

And they are paying for Rhodes and Jordan still and neither of them panned out. They were barely below the salary cap and are most likely looking at some penalties for cutting some players to make room for McFadden. The Raiders didn't address offensive line which needed at least one starter out of this draft.

Grade: C+

Philadelphia Eagles: Philly needed a flashy receiver for Donovan McNabb and think they got him in DeSean Jackson. Trevor Laws was one of few bright spots on Notre Dame last year and should start right away. I like the picks of Matt McGlynn, King Dunlap and Mike Gibson for the o-line. All three have potential to be starters and all are huge.

They should keep McNabb protected and open more holes for Westbrook.

Grade: B

Pittsburgh Steelers: They went with the best player available and if I was a Steeler fan I'd be extremely happy. Rashard Mendenhall is a great running back and in Pittsburgh's system should flourish. Teamed with Willie Parker, they could rush for more than 2,000 yards or they should rather.

Limas Sweed gives Big Ben his big receiver and should learn the ropes nicely from Hines Ward. Bruce Davis and Tony Hills should both bolster their respective lines. I was surprised they didn't get more help for the o-line, which was their biggest need. I like the pick of Dennis Dixon.

Dixon should be the third string QB but will most likely be used in the slot and at running back. He is quick and can obviously throw the ball so look for Pittsburgh to have a few more trick plays this year.

Grade: B+

San Diego Chargers: Antoine Cason gives them another corner that should be No. 3 on the team. He has good hands and is a really nice pick. They didn't have many picks but I really like Jacob Hester. He is listed at a fullback but is quick and torched much of the SEC in his college career. He should be a nice compliment to LT with Michael Turner now a Falcon.

They got what they needed and added depth. Nothing huge, but a nice class.

Grade: B+

Seattle Seahawks: Lawrence Jackson was a little stretch for a first round choice but they knew they needed a DE and there weren't many higher tier in this class. Like Jacksonville, they got what they needed most. My favorite pick for Seattle is Owen Schmidt. He was a solid choice in the sixth round and loves to hit people. He will open holes for whoever runs the ball for the Hawks and if he gets the chance to run the ball, look for him to roll over dudes.

Grade: B-

San Francisco 49ers: Three of their six picks were on the offensive and defensive lines were they needed the most help. Kentwan Balmer will be a nice fit for the Niners, but many aren't 100 percent sold on him. He's a big guy at 6'5'' and should take some heat off of Willis.

Grabbing o-line help should make Alex Smith smile. Reggie Smith will probably have the biggest impact as a rookie. He will most likely start or at very least be the third corner for San Fran.

Grade: C+

St. Louis Rams: I really thought they were going with Glenn Dorsey who was tops on their board. Not sure why they went with Chris Long, unless they got him cheaper for what they could sign Dorsey. Long is a solid player but for Rams fans I hope having a hall of fame father didn't give him too much hype.

Regardless he was a nice pick for the Rams. They needed a stud on the d-line and they got one of the best. Donnie Avery??? Blew me away. I know no team was big on any of the receivers, but Donnie Avery? James Hardy and Devin Harris were big guys who I thought might be taken first at their position.

Besides Avery they got two other receivers which with Isaac Bruce gone, shows the youth movement at receiver. They got some help on the o-line which is getting older so they filled a need there.

I like Long but still I can't get over the fact of Avery. Unless he is a superstar the grade can't be too high.

Grade: C+

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Aqib Talib should start opposite Ronde Barber and learn the ropes from a good veteran. Nice pick at No. 20. Dexter Jackson isn't big, but gives them youth and quick receiver.

I like Dre Moore the DT from Maryland. He is a big guy and will fill the hole the Warren Sapp left when he became a Raider. In Tampa's system they need a big DT and Moore will not disappoint them.

Geno Hayes is a nice second day pick and will be a special teamer but I wouldn't be shocked to see him starting within a year. This kid is good in my opinion. I don't know much about Josh Johnson from San Diego but Gruden likes QBs and this guy might be the future. Jeff Garcia is getting old and has a year left and Chris Sims will probably getting traded this season.

Grade: B

Tennessee Titans: Wow. I was floored when they took Chris Johnson in the first. He is fast but I didn't have him in the first round for talent. If he went mid-second round I would have said nice pick. They take a lot of running backs early in drafts and they don't pan out. I would have taken a gamble on James Hardy or Devin Thomas.

I know the experts think Thomas was a one hit wonder at Michigan State, but when you look at the draft it is all about taking a chance that these young college kids can make the transition to the pros. Vince Young needed a big target. That being said Lavelle Hawkins was a nice pick in the fourth. Is he enough for Young, I'm not sure, but if they got another receiver before him for more insurance I'd be more comfortable as a Titan fan.

The pick of William Hayes had NFL guys shocked because apparently no one had him getting drafted. As a fourth rounder he better be good or this will be the biggest stretch in draft history.

Grade: C

Washington Redskins: Apparently new coach Jim Zorn wanted offense and wanted a lot of it. Devin Thomas, Malcom Kelly and Fred Davis were all projected as first rounders at one point prior to the draft. Getting all three in the second round was a dream come true for Jason Campbell. The fact you got three potential first rounders but didn't have to pay the price of taking them in the first round is a huge gift.

Yes he has Santana Moss and Chris Cooley but adding these three guys to the mix gives the Redskins a lot of possibilities and formations. Grabbing Colt Brennan late on the second day was a nice pick too. If he bulks up and Zorn can mold him, he should be a good quarterback in a few years. Project player for the future of the franchise or trade bait?? Either way it was a nice pick.

Grade: A

Category: NFL
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or