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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Reid Fragel: Former Ohio State Tackle to be biggest Draft Day Surprise

Less than a week away, the buzz surrounding the NFL Draft has already reached a fever pitch.

It all begins with the Kansas City Chiefs, who, with the first overall pick, are expected to select either Luke Joeckel (Left Tackle from Texas A&M) or Eric Fisher(Left Tackle from Central Michigan). Or the Chiefs could trade down, a less likely scenario.

Following the Chiefs, there might be a run on defensive players, among them Dion Jordan of Oregon, Dee Milliner of Alabama, Star Lotulelei of Utah, Shariff Floyd(awesome name by the way) of Florida, and Barkevious Mingo of LSU among others.

The first round should also be another banner day for defending national champions Alabama Crimson Tide, as at least three of their players expected to be drafted in the first round with a fourth-running back Eddie Lacy-expected to go no later than middle of the second round.

Then, of course, comes the debate on which quarterbacks go in the first round. I myself believe that no quarterback in the 2013 class is worthy of being picked on day one, but EJ Manuel might be a value pick if he falls to the second round or later. Many people believe that Geno Smith is worthy of a first round pick; I'd like to know who these people are so I can sign them up for a CAT scan.

But after it is all said and done, the biggest surprise in the draft won't come on day one, and it might not even happen in the first 100 picks. That is because I believe the best draft day gem is one Reid Fragel, offensive tackle for the Ohio State University. Fragel, a four-year senior for the Buckeyes, was asked by Urban Meyer and the coaching staff at OSU to convert from tight end to right tackle in 2012.  He would make the transition better than expected, helping anchor OSU's spread offense and a key reason why Braxton Miller finished fifth in heisman voting last season.

And, although media pundits haven't officially predicted where Fragel will land, I'm guessing he will be drafted somewhere around the third or fourth rounds, if not earlier. Not only did Fragel's experience as a tight end mean he possesses great physicality for a right tackle, but at 6-6 and a very fit 300 pounds( he is said to have around 8% body fat), he is also in better shape than most right tackles. And sure, the left tackle, or 'blind side' gets all the press, that doesn't mean the right side of the line isn't equally as important. In fact, an unbalanced line can be just as big if not a bigger detriment to an offense when it comes to pass protection.

So mark April 25-27th on your calendar, ladies and gentlemen. And while you wonder who your favorite team will draft when their time draws near, remember this: should they draft Reid Fragel, they will be getting the best player no one is talking about. Well, almost no one


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Columbus Blue Jackets: The New Kardiac Kids?

The Columbus Blue Jackets are the new version of the Kardiac Kids. Don't believe me, I 'll be happy to explain.

The Kardiac Kids originally referred to the 1980 Cleveland Browns and their quarterback, Brian Sipe, who won numerous games in the the final moments on the way to an 11-5 record.

Recently it seems the Blue Jackets have stolen a page from those Browns playbook, with two of their last three straight wins coming in overtime, and the other one a shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild. And while it appears controversy can't elude the reincarnated version of the Browns, the Blue Jackets keep on brimming with excitement.

Take last night's game against Anaheim for instance. I tuned in a little late, and the Ducks scored the first goal to take a 1-0 lead in 1st. After the Jackets tied the score at 1 in the 2nd, the game would be a back and forth affair that would end a 2-2 tie in regulation. Then, just as they did two nights before in Denver, the Jackets would escape with another overtime road win.

It's an amazing turn of events, especially since not more than a couple of months ago my best friend and I were looking ahead to the NHL Draft, and the Jackets' prospects of securing the no. 1 overall pick. No way either of us thought that the Jackets had a legitimate chance to make the playoffs. Yet with four games remaining, they are in sole possession of eighth place, with a chance to improve on that tonight vs. the Kings.

And it all starts with the play of their goalie wunderkid, Sergei Bobrovsky.  While I don't totally understand stats such as GAA (Goals Against Average, where  Goalie Bob's 2.03 is .3 better than last years best goalie,) or save % (Bobrovsky's .93 is also better than anyone on Columbus in the 2011-2012 campaign), I really don't need to. The eye test tells me that this kid is good, and that anyone would compare him to the likes of Dominik Hasek, Patrick Roy, or Henrik Zetterburg after being in the big league for a month is saying something. To be honest, I have watched Marc Denis, Pascal Leclaire and Steve Mason tend goal for the CBJ, and none of them showed the quickness that I have seen in Bobrovsky.

Lost in all of this might be the job that head coach Todd Richards has done with this team, however. I must admit that, following the departure of both Ken Hitchcock and Claude Noel, I thought Richards would be no more than a stopgap coach. But he has the team believing the can play with anyone, and the sky is the limit.

So while many people are quick to look to next season( in addition to their first round draft picks, the Jackets will also return this season's top pick, Ryan Murray, who never set foot on the ice), I am looking forward to seeing the Jackets make waves in this years playoffs. And to all the doubters who say this is just a product of a lockout shortened season, I say this: we shall see.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Weekend Rant: Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, etc...

Tiger Woods is staying put this weekend at Augusta National.

He just might even win his fifth Masters tournament in the process.

As social media is abuzz regarding his controversial drop on the 15th hole, the game of golf needs him to be in contention on the final day. So of course they're going to create an exception for him.

Golf purists can argue all they want that Tiger should remove himself from the tournament, but he's not going to do that. Neither would they if they happened to be in his position. When you're chasing history, sometimes you bend the rules. And if the tournament officials allow it, then you say you're fine with it too.

Look, I really don't like Tiger myself that much. In all honesty, I'd rather see someone like Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, or even Phil Mickelson(known by many as a big choker) put on the green jacket instead on Sunday afternoon. But the PGA understands the power of Tiger, and is willing to let bygones be bygones at this point. Doesn't mean it's right. Or even fair.

And to those who say that no golfer is above the rulebook, I say this: yeah right. From the moment he won his first major, there was already an unofficial rulebook created for one Eldrick 'Tiger' Woods. If you're just realizing that now, well shame on you.

So if Tiger goes on to win Sunday, historians can put an asterisk by his name if that makes them feel better. But it won't really change anything at this point.

...Kobe Bryant may have played his last game of professional basketball.

Well, not really, but even he is sensing the end is near after MRI's reveal that he suffered a tear in his achilles tendon the other night.

Many Lakers fans around the world are hoping that this isn't the end for Kobe.

As for me, while I hope he makes a full recovery, I hope that this indeed is the beginning of the end for no. 24 of purple and gold.

A man called by many the greatest Laker of all time, in my opinion he was merely a superior one-on-one player surrounded by other great players.

He won three titles with Shaq, two more with a list of All-Stars and a coach (Phil Jackson) that even LeBron would be envious of. Now, without Phil and with two of the supposed best players in the league (Steve Nash and Dwight Howard), they're barely making the playoffs.

History has already shown us that LeBron had success in Cleveland with a bunch of castoffs that no other team wants for very long. The proof is the fact that the Cavs haven't even made the playoffs without LBJ, despite the efforts of coach Byron Scott(who actually led the then New Jersey Nets to the NBA finals once upon a time).

And then there is the G.O.A.T., one Michael Jeffrey Jordan. Not only were Jordan's Bulls a contender before Phil, but Jordan also lifted the lowly Washington Wizards to near playoff status. At the age of 40. After he had been out of the game for several years mind you on his second retirement tour.

So Kobe is pissed that, at age 35, this might be the end of the road for him. Well, don't expect me to feel to sorry for him knowing that others have come back and still been successful under less than ideal circumstances.