Ohio Sports Time

Ohio Sports Time - Ohio sports news and opinions for college and professional sports teams in Ohio. Our mission is to discuss major sports happenings across the state of Ohio. We cover teams like the Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Ohio colleges like the Ohio State Buckeyes, Cincinnati Bearcats, all 6 Ohio MAC schools and more. Basically if it's a sport and it's happening in Ohio, Ohio Sports Time is the place to discuss it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Cleveland Indians: Indians Rumors

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There was a good article by Bud Shaw in today's PD about the Indians' recent struggles, and what it could mean in the race for the Central Division. Usually Memorial Day is a time for clubs to take a look at the state of the franchise. Mark Shapiro and Co. can't like what they're seeing when studying the Indians performance so far this season. At 24-26, the Indians are now 10.5 back on the Tigers and 9 in back of the White Sox.

Unlike last season, the causes of the Indians' early-season struggles have been largely due to lackluster pitching, not the offense which has produced 284 runs through Monday's action, 2nd in the majors to only the Yankees. If Cleveland has any hopes of turning things around they must get better production out of their starting pitching. C.C. Sabathia has pitched like a Cy Young candidate since coming off the DL, but Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook, Jason Johnson, and especially Paul Byrd have been inconsistent at best, and awful far too often.

Johnson's last start against Detroit--0 runs, 6 hits, 6 innings--saved his spot in the rotation for now. The Indians need to be ready to call up Jeremy Sowers, who has pitched brilliantly at Buffalo. Sowers should be inserted into the rotation at the next sign of trouble.

For Cleveland to string together any sort of winning streak improved play from the bullpen is a necessity as well. Improving the starters, keeping the pen fresh, should help. It is obvious however that losing Bobby Howry was a major blow, and the Indians will need to acquire another arm for the back of the bullpen before the trade deadline.

Look for recently demoted catcher Kelly Shoppach to serve as trade bait. With Victor Martinez serving as the everyday catcher, Shoppach was getting very little playing time in Cleveland. Moving to Buffalo will give the young catcher time to develop, as it will give other teams an opportunity to see him play. Shoppach could be a mediocre starter in the majors today, yet the Indians don't really need him unless Victor Martinez gets hurt for a significant period of time.

Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see one of either outfield prospect Brad Snyder or Franklin Gutierrez shipped off. Some scouts question whether either player has the offensive skill-set to stick at the major league level. It seems like giving up on such a question mark would be a good trade if Shapiro could land a solid reliever. If Cleveland gets a chance to add a veteran reliever (Eddie Guardado perhaps?) look for them to jump at it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ohio State Buckeyes: Mayes leaving OSU hoops program

Word out of Columbus is that junior guard Sylvester Mayes is leaving the Ohio State men's basketball program. A reserver guard during the 200-5-2006 season, speculation is that Mayes did not like the idea of being a role player again in 2006-2007 with the Buckeyes' big-name recruiting class coming to town. So far there has been no mention of possible schools that Mayes is looking at transferring to.

So let the speculation begin. Mayes is from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the Buckeyes have had several players in the past who have trasferred out of the OSU basketball program to local schools. Charles Macon (Central Michigan), Damon Stringer (Cleveland State), John Sanderson and Shaun Stonerook (both Ohio) have all transferred out of the Ohio State program in years past; could Mayes be the next?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cleveland Cavs: National Media Needs to Keep Cavalier Run In Perspective

I'm sick of the national pundits sticking it to the Cavs. I've had it with reading articles like this one "LeBron has a long way to go" written by ESPN Morning Pizza loud-mouth Skip Bayless. Cleveland fans should be proud of the run made by the Cavaliers this postseason against the Detroit Pistons. I don't have to tell you that down 0-2, looking like they were about to get swept, LeBron was the one who led the Cavs storming back, winning three games in a row to take a shocking series lead. Sure the next two games didn't have the endings that we would have preferred, but the Cavs didn't exactly lay down for the Pistons either.

At the beginning of these playoffs who had the Cavs making the Pistons sweat it out into a Game 7? I would guess just about the same number of people who had Cleveland actually winning the series. What's that, probably about 0.1% of unbiased NBA fans? Now because Cleveland was within one game of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals I'm supposed to believe that we failed? I'm supposed to look back on the season with hostility and discontent? I don't buy that.

Another thing that I don't buy are the constant comparisons of LeBron to Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Whether pundits are using the comparisons as compliments, or hacks like Bayless are using them as put-downs, these comparisons are way off. At this stage in his development LeBron is a better passer and is more skilled at getting his teammates involved than Michael Jordan ever was. At the same time, he's a much more dangerous scorer than Magic Johnson could be. Yet, as the critics will correctly point out, LeBron is still not as polished as either Hall of Famer, which is probably to be expected since he's only 21 years old and just completed his 3rd NBA season.

Let's repeat that again. LeBron is only 21. He just completed his 3rd NBA season for crying out loud! He led this Cavalier team all year and throughout the playoffs. LeBron took his game to another level against the Wizards, and he did it again when his whole team had their backs against the wall in an 0-2 hole against the #1 seed. This wasn't a moral victory for a young Cavalier team. This was a team performing better than anyone could have possibly predicted, gaining valuable postseason experience.

Cleveland fans, I wouldn't trade this postseason for the world. It may not have ended with a championship--or even an Eastern Conference Finals appearance. What we saw in these playoffs was a superstar coming of age. I have no doubt that if LeBron keeps improving and Dan Gilbert and Danny Ferry can continue to improve the rest of the team around him, it's only a matter of time until Cleveland can bring home an NBA Championship.

Cleveland Cavs: LeBron James’ contract & future in Cleveland

The comparisons between Michael Jordan and LeBron James will continue for years, and I can’t say that the staff at Ohio Sports Time has any reason to ignore them. Sure, Jordan is likely the greatest player of all-time, but few can argue with LeBron’s potential and his success so far. This season the Cavaliers had no business giving the Pistons a good series, let alone forcing seven games, but LeBron did not disappoint as he led the Cavs to a 3-2 series lead. While the Cavaliers were unable to close the deal it was Jordan and the Bulls who struggled to get past the same Detroit Pistons back in the early 1990’s while Jordan was developing into the eventual superstar player we know him as now.

Talk now is that the Cavs will offer LeBron James a new contract extension around July 1st. Then LeBron can sign anytime after July 12th on a contract extension that could be worth as much as $75 million over 5 years. All indications from LeBron are that he wants to stay in Cleveland and sign a long-term deal. If he were to say no to the Cavs or wait until next year’s off season to hear offers from other teams he would become a restricted free agent meaning the Cavs could then match any offer he gets from another team. As we all know, the Danny Ferry and the Cavaliers will match any offer LeBron may get. But again, all indications are that LeBron will indeed sign that long-term extension this offseason and set all doubts aside.

Now, after a bitter Game 7 loss @ Detroit, it’s time for LeBron and the Cavaliers to remain hungry and become even hungrier. The disappointment of the 4-3 series loss to Detroit needs to fuel the fire of the Cavaliers over the next 5 months until they get into the NBA preseason in October and then fuel their drive toward an NBA Championship in 2006-2007. LeBron will have a hard time topping his 2005-2006 numbers, but the Cavaliers will be looking to improve on their 50-32 record to better-position themselves for a NBA Championship run next season.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Reds Rumors: Cincinnati Reds to Send Dave Williams Packing?

The title of this post is more fact than rumor at this point as the Cincinnati Reds designated Dave Williams for assignment on Saturday. Williams had been a disaster on the mound this season, amassing a 2-3 record with a 7.20 ERA. This move proves that the Reds are committed to improvement no matter what the price, as they're willing to eat a pro-rated amount of the $1.5 million remaining on Williams' deal if they can't work out a trade, or if another team doesn't claim him on waivers. Williams does still have an option, so it's possible that he could remain in the Reds farm system playing at AAA Louisville.

Williams was acquired in an offseason salary clearing move by the Reds when they parted ways with Sean Casey and the $8.5 million in salary that he would be owed this season. From the outside, this looks like a colossally bad trade, but really the Reds were still effective in clearing 7 million dollars for a player who's offensive production they've replaced with the Hatteberg/Aurilia platoon, and who's been out with back problems for most of the year so far. Not to mention, there's still a chance that a team in dire need of starters like the New York Mets could claim Williams and take responsibility for the $900,000 still owed to him.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Cleveland Cavaliers: Today we could witness greatness

Today might be an awesome day for Clevaland Cavalier fans. With Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals tipping off at 3:30 pm ET, we very well may witness one of the best games in Cleveland sports history. In 1989 a young superstar led his rising team into a similar situation. The superstar's name was Jordan and his opponent was the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs were the heavy favorites that year having won 57 games; 10 more than Jordan and the Bulls. The best-of-5 series was tied 2-2 with both teams owning a road victory as Game 5 came back to Cleveland. As many Cleveland fans know, the game ended with "The Shot" as Jordan nailed the game-winner despite Craig Ehlo's hand in his face.

Now there's a new superstar in LeBron James. His late-game performances were questioned during the regular season, but now that he has a few game-winning shots under his belt it seems the media has cooled off and finally given him the respect he deserves. Always under intense scrutiny, James has been an ideal leader at age 21, scoring when needed, but most importantly playing the team game dishing out assists and grabbing rebounds as well. Today could be the day we see the Cavs take the next step and see LeBron force the media and the fans to come up with a new name for a big game-winning shot.

Today we have Game 7 with the winner of this series moving on to face the #2 seed Miami Heat and the loser heading home. While the Cavs will have guard Larry Hughes back after missing three games and sitting out Game 6, those who follow Hughes and the Cavs know he's not 100% healthy. Since Game 3 of the series we have witnessed a defensive battle between the Cavs and Pistons and Hughes is the Cavalier best defender. Having him on the court, even in a minor role, could be huge for the Cavaliers if they want to win today.

A few Game 7 notes:
- The Cavs are 2-0 all-time in Game 7's; 1992 Conference semifinals over Boston and the 1976 semifinals over Washington.
- In the NBA's history, home teams have won 81.7% of Game 7's (76 of 93). Last year home teams went 2-2 in Game 7's while this year home teams are 1-0.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Cleveland Cavaliers: Cavs host Pistons looking for a series “W”

Since there always seems to be a lot of talk about “W” here in the office most days, I thought I would throw out a few W’s for the fans about the Cavs and Pistons series in the NBA Playoffs.

Who – Cleveland Cavaliers & Detroit Pistons
What – Game 6, NBA Quarterfinals
Where – Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
When – Friday @ 7pm
Why – Because the Cavs have come back from a 2-0 series deficit to take a 3-2 series lead.
How – The Cavs are up 3 games to 2 because they have figured out how to play tough defense and beat the Pistons at their own game. LeBron James has shown why he should have been the NBA MVP this season by leading the Cavaliers all season and averaging 25.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game in the Detroit series. Manewhile, F/C Anderson “Wild Thing” Varejao has stepped his game up big-time scoring 10.6 ppg in the series and shooting 80.9% from the free-throw line. In the regular season Varejao averaged 4.6 ppg and shot 51.3% from the line.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Cleveland Cavaliers: Cavs top Pistons 86-84 to take a 3-2 series lead

The Cleveland Cavaliers seemed to control from start to finish in Game 5 in Detroit while beating the Pistons 86-84. But Rasheed Wallace's technical foul at the 10:26 mark in the 4th Quarter seemed to spark the Detroit Pistons in a game that saw a lot of fouls and a surprising final score. NBA fans and sports fans across the nation are stunned as the heavy-favorite Detroit Pistons who held a 2-0 lead in this series now find themselves down 3-2 after seeing LeBron James and the Cavs win 3 straight in the best of seven series. The game-winning shot came on a pass from LeBron james to Drew Gooden with about 28 seconds remaining to put the Cavs up 86-84.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Cavs face Pistons in Game 5 tied 2-2

After the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Pistons at their own game on Monday night, the Pistons remained confident. Rasheed Wallace didn't make any more guarantees, but he reamained confident that the Pistons would win the series. But in tonight's Game 5 the pressure is on Detroit. The Cavs have shown that they can beat Detroit in their type of defensive-minded, low-scoring game, and a 3rd straight loss for the Pistons would have them on the brink of elimination in Cleveland on Friday night. The Cavs, on the other hand, need to remain cool about their recent success and build off of their confidence-building wins. A loss tonight would not be devestating at all; most people thought the Pistons would win this series in 4 or 5 games. However, even if the Cavs were down 3-2 going into Friday night the Cavs will host Game 6 in Cleveland where they are 2-0 in this series and 4-1 in the 2006 NBA playoffs.

Meanwhile, it was announced today that LeBron James was the top vote-getter for the all-NBA team this season.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Reds Rumors: The Griffey Shift

No, I'm not talking about the adjusted defensive alignment that teams often use when Ken Griffey Jr comes to the plate. Actually the latest Reds Rumors have Griffey sliding over to play leftfield in the Cincinnati Reds outfield. For what it's worth, I don't believe these rumors, I'm just relaying them.

If you live in the Tri-State area and frequent the sports talk stations, you're probably familiar with a couple of local windbags known as the "Two Angry Guys". The Two Angry Guys, Richard Skinner and Tom Gamble, are on 1360 The Homer weekday mornings during drive-time. Both hosts believe (and insist on regularly shoving this belief down listners' throats) that the Reds would be improved if Griffey moved to leftfield, Dunn to firstbase, and Ryan Freel took over in center.

The argument is that Griffey will have a decreased chance of getting hurt, with less ground to cover in left, and that the team will still be defensively solid with Freel in center. I disagree. My feelings are that Griffey is a superior centerfielder over anyone else the Reds have on their major league roster, or even in the minor league system. Also, the Reds are probably better offensively with Hatteberg and Aurilla splitting time at first base.

I might feel differently if the Reds had a hot-shot centerfielder waiting in the wings in AAA, but Chris Denorfia is really more of a corner outfielder than a centerfielder. For now I think the Reds are better served to keep Junior in center, and hope that the injury bug doesn't bite.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Cleveland Cavaliers: Cavs knock off Pistons to even series at 2-2

It appears that Rasheed Wallace's "Guaran-Sheed" was nothing more than an empty promise. The heavy-favorite Detroit Pistons, who looked like they would run away and sweep the Cavs in their best-of-seven series, now see their series even at 2-2 as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Pistons 74-72 on Monday night. It was another all-around performance for LeBron James at home against the Pistons. Coming off a 21 point, 10 rebound and 10 assist triple-double performance on Saturday, LeBron responded with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists in Game 4.

The Cavs and Pistons will face off in Game 5 on Wednesday night at 7 pm in Detroit with Game 6 on Friday night in Cleveland.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Cavs face Pistons in pivotal Game Four

Unfortunately, the Ohio Sports Time blog does not have the time to write-up a game preview for tonights NBA playoff match-up between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Detroit Pistons in Cleveland. However, here is a collection of links for fans to read more about tonight's big game.

Hughes to miss second straight; Cavs to attend funeral

Scouts: Pistons vs. Cavaliers Game 4

Cleveland vs. Detroit Game 4 Preview

Cavs' Game 3 win offers map to team's future needs

LeBron's triple-double gives Cavs life against Pistons

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Indians, Reds struggle as both teams get swept

It was not a good weekend for the fans of either Ohio MLB team. Both the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies completed a 3-game series sweep over the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds to end a weekend of miserable weather and miserable baseball in the state of Ohio. For the Indians, Sunday's loss marked their sixth straight after the Royals had swept the Indians in KC earlier in the week. While the Reds were coming off a series where they beat the Nationals in two of three games, they needed a dramatic HR from Ken Griffey, Jr. to salvage the rubber match on Thursday in Cincinnati.

Looking ahead, the Tribe faces the Kansas City Royals in a 4-game series in Cleveland starting on Monday. The Royals are 5-1 against the Indians on the season but 5-24 against the rest of the American League. Meanwhile, the Reds will look to end their 3-game slide as they head to Pittsburgh on Tuesday for three games before a trip to Detroit to face the Tigers in interleague play.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Cincinnati Reds: Griffey returns, HR lifts Reds past Nationals in 11

Despite the rainy conditions, the Cincinnati Reds decided to activate OF Ken Griffey, Jr. from the DL on Thursday. It appears that was a good move. Griffey did all he could by making a diving catch in the game only to see Reds closer David Weathers blow a 1-0 lead in the top of th 9th inning. As the Reds blew their chances, including having a runner at 2B with no outs in the bottom of the 9th, the Nationals took full advantage of the Reds bullpen with 3 runs in the top of the 11th. After Washington took the 4-1 lead I shut off my Internet feed of the game in disgust, but I was pleased to be wrong as ESPN's Baseball Tonight flashed the highlight of Ken Griffey Jr.'s walk-off HR in the bottom of the 11th to win the game for the Reds 5-4.

With the win the Reds are now 23-12 which remains the best record in the National League and one full game ahead of the St. Albert Pujols Cardinals.

Ohio University Marching 110 appears on NBC's hit show Deal or No Deal

Ok, so this isn't directly Ohio sports-related, but it is indirectly related. Ohio University's great marching band, known as the Marching 110, was on "Deal or No Deal" last night on NBC. The contestant is a OU alumnus named Chad Pritchard who was the Ohio University mascot, the Bobcat, during his days in Athens from 1997-2001. "Deal or No Deal" host Howie Mandell told Pritchard that his alma mater had a surprise for him and as soon as he heard the bass drum beats he proclaimed "The 110!"

Ohio Sports Time spoke with one Marching 110 member, Dan Pittman, and when asked he said "yes, the models who hold the cases are just as hot in person."

"Deal or No Deal" will air again with the Marching 110 and Pritchard on Friday night at 8 pm ET, 7 pm CT.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cavs show life, but Pistons go up 2-0

Earlier today I said that the Cleveland Cavaliers needed to show some life and get a "moral victory" tonight to gain the confidence needed heading back to Cleveland for Game 3. If the Cavs were going to lose, they needed to make sure this was not a blowout. As the game unfolded this game had all the makings of a blowout as the Pistons led by as many as 20 in the 3rd Quarter and by 18 heading into the 4th Quarter. But LeBron James led the Cavs surge to make a game of it as Cleveland cut the lead to 5 with under 2 minutes remaining. Unfortunately for the Cavs their comeback came up short as the Pistons hung on for a 2-0 series lead with a 97-91 victory.

Cleveland Cavs: Cavaliers look to show they can hang with the Pistons

When the Cleveland Cavaliers face off with the Detroit Pistons in Game 2 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Semifinals tonight they should have more than just winning the game on their minds. After the poor showing on Sunday in the Pistons 113-86, the Cavs should also think about playing a more respectable game. While Detroit isn’t coming out and saying it, there’s no doubt that Game 1 was a statement game for the Pistons. The Cavaliers were on national TV for every game of their 1st-Round series with Washington with Nike commercials sporting the “We are all witnesses” slogan about LeBron James. Meanwhile the Pistons were taking care of business over on NBA TV, waiting for their chance. When the Cavs/Wizards series extended to 6 games the Pistons were resting up after finishing off the Bucks in just 5 games, and the Eastern Conference’s #1 seed was poised and ready for the up-and-coming #4 seed Cavaliers.

So with Game 1’s embarrassment behind them, the Cavs could really use a win. But let’s be realistic here. The Cavs first need to show they can play with the Pistons and compete with them on their home court. As much as I hate to say they need a moral victory since we all know moral victories don’t give you anything in the “W” column, I do believe that the Cavs need a moral victory tonight to boot their confidence. Sending the series to Cleveland with the Cavs feeling strong about their chance of winning some games at home could go a long way towards getting them back into this series.

Cavaliers keys to victory:
• Hold the Pistons to a normal 3-point shooting percentage – under 40% and under 30% preferably
• Flip Murray scoring in double-digits
• Efficient LeBron James scoring – 30 points on say, 22-24 shots would be nice
• Z showing on offense – 15 points, 10 rebounds

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Ohio Sports Update for Sunday - Cleveland Cavs, Cleveland Indians & Cincinnati Reds

- The Cleveland Cavaliers should probably get more space on this Ohio sports blog, and it's likely that they will as they begin their best-of-seven series with the Detroit Pistons today @ 3:30 pm ET on ABC in Detroit.

- The Cleveland Indians have lost 2 of 3 with last night's 4-1 loss @ Seattle. First pitch in Seattle on Sunday is @ 4:05 pm ET. The Tribe is 16-15 on the year and in 3rd place in the AL Central behind the White Sox and Tigers.

- The Cincinnati Reds have lost 3 of 4 but remain in 1st place in the NL Central at 20-11. The Reds have dropped the first two games in Arizona and face to Diamondbacks @ 4:40 pm ET this afternoon.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cavaliers win! Cleveland advances with OT thiller over Washington

LeBron James and Gilbert Arenas were supposed to be the players who provided the late-game heroics. Someone forgot to tell Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown about this when he inserted Damon Jones into the lineup with 14.3 seconds remaining in OT down 113-112 to the Wizards. Jones, who had not played a single second prior, saw LeBron pass to Larry Hughes who found Jones in the corner for a 2-point basket to win the game for the Cavs in 114-113 OT. The win advanced the Cleveland Cavaliers over Washington 4-2 and into the 2nd Round against the Detroit Pistons.

It was not as if this game lacked heroics, or moments of "choking" for that matter. Gilbert Arenas could not decide which of these hats he wanted to wear as he extended the game to overtime with a long-range 3-pointer at the end of regulation. But it was Arenas who missed two consecutive free-throws in the final seconds of OT which could have made the Cavs comeback much more improbable. Those two missed FT's led to a Cavs timeout, followed by the insertion of Damon Jones, and you know how it ended.

Series note: I am not sure what impressed me more during Game 6 between Washington and Cleveland, the announcers' high praise of Wizards PG Antonio Daniels or his fantastic play. Daniels averaged 13.2 ppg (22 pts in Game 6), made 53.8% from the field and hit 90.9% of his FT's. The former Bowling Green star was the most playoff-experienced player on Washington's roster and certainly played like it with a fantastic showing on national TV for six huge playoff games.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cleveland Cavaliers: We Are All Witnesses

In case you missed it the Cavaliers squeaked by the Wizards in OT 121-120, taking a 3-2 lead in the series last night. I suggest catching SportsCenter ASAP to see LeBron's game winner. The shot itself, a layup, wasn't that difficult. But LBJ's tightrope act down the baseline past 3 Wizards defenders with only 3.9 seconds remaining was amazing. Magnificent performance.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Cincinnati Bengals: 2006 NFL Draft Picks in Review

The Cincinnati Bengals put together what I consider to be a decent, albeit unspectacular draft. Below is my analysis of each player selected by the Bengals in the 2006 NFL Draft.

1st Round, #24 (24) - Johnathan Joseph - CB - South Carolina
This was an ideal pick-up for the Bengals at the #24 spot. Johnathan Joesph has spectacular speed, quickness, and possess natural playmaking skills. He doesn't have a bunch of experience, only playing one full season at the DI-A level, but that's OK for the Bengals in this spot. Barring injuries, Joseph is not going to be counted on as anything more than a nickle or dime-back for Cincinnati this season, and the Bengals coaching staff should have plenty of time to develop him into a solid cornerback.

2nd Round #23 (55) - Andrew Whitworth - OT - LSU
Andrew Whitworth is another solid pickup with time to develop for Cincinnati. With the much publicized rift between aging OT Willie Anderson and the Bengals over the past couple of weeks, it was no surprise to see the Bengals go with a solid OT in the second round. Whitworth is big and strong, with a great frame. Although, not the best athlete, or the most mobile lineman, he's been described as a mauler, and should provide good depth up front this season, and could step in as a replacement for aging Willie Anderson in time.

3rd Round #27 (91) - Frostee Rucker - DE - USC
I think Rucker might have been a reach at this spot. Rucker does a lot of things competantly, and has adequate size and speed, but doesn't stand out in any one area. The knock on Rucker is that he isn't dominant in any facet of the game. He lacks the size and power to consistently hold his ground versus the run and isn't fast enough to be a situational pass rusher. It looks like Rucker is destined to be a situational reserve in the NFL. It's also possible that Rucker could shift to linebacker at the next level.

4th Round #26 (123) - Domata Peko - DT - Michigan State
Peko may have been another slight reach, although I'm not as down on him as I was on Rucker in the 3rd Round. Peko is a big, strong prospect with good height, power, and bulk. Peko isn't a great athlete, and takes too long to change directions, but he is a very good tackler for his size. Peko lacks even the most basic pass-rush moves and can only get to the quarterback when he bowls over the offensive line, something he probably won't have much success with in the NFL. Peko's lack of athleticism or ability to rush the QB makes him destined to be a 2-down run-stopper in the NFL. This, coupled with character concerns from a May 2005 arrest probably mean that the Bengals could have waited until slightly later, and still drafted him.

5th Round #25 (157) - A.J. Nicholson - OLB - Florida State
The Bengals next pick, A.J. Nicholson, is a player with even more character concerns. Nicholson was charged with two seperate alcohol-related crimes, before his senior season in 2005. He's also been charged with resisiting arrest, suspended by the team for the 05-06 Orange Bowl, and questioned by police after a 19-year-old woman accused him of sexually assulting her. Not good.

Looking strictly at Nicholson on the field, he looks like a much better prospect. He's a ball-hawkish OLB, who lacks superb speed, but makes up for it with instincts and quickness. Nicholson is bulky with good size for a shorter LB prospect. He's a good tackler who can both blitz and drop into coverage sufficiently. Nicholson might have been a 2nd round pick if it wasn't for his off-field baggage. If Marvin Lewis and the Bengal staff can get this kid to fly right, he could be a steal.

6th Round #24 (193) - Reggie McNeal - QB - Texas A&M
It's not likely that the Bengals drafted McNeal to play QB in the NFL, but he's the type of athlete who definitely will see the field at the next level. McNeal is a spectacular athlete who could be the Bengals answer to former Steelers Kordell "Slash" Stewart, or Antwaan Randel El. It'll be interesting to see how the Bengals use McNeal as he has the superb athleticism, speed, quickness, and change of direction skills to play receiver, or return punts in the NFL.

7th Round #1 (209) - Ethan Kilmer - WR - Penn State and
7th Round #23 (231) - Bennie Brazell - WR - LSU
I don't have a lot of info on Kilmer or Brazell, but the fact that the Bengals are drafting two WRs late shows me that Chris Henry and his off-field troubles could be out the door by the end of training camp, especially if he keeps causing headaches. Wide receiver had been one of Cincinnati's deepest positions before the draft. The Bengals signed WR Antonio Chatman from Green Bay this off-season, and Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmanzadeh aren't going anywhere. Add to that Tab Perry and Kelley Washington as decent 4th wide receivers and these two draft choices show me that the Bengals aren't about to stand pat with their core of receivers.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Cleveland Browns: 2006 NFL Draft Picks in Review

The Cleveland Browns put together what I consider to be a very good draft class. Several major sports outlets are in agreement as the Browns draft is rated as a B by Mel Kiper, a B+ by CBS Sportsline, and an A by FoxSports. Below you'll see my in-depth analysis of each player selected by the Browns in the 2006 NFL Draft.

1st Round, Pick #13( 13) - Kamerion Wimbley - OLB - Florida State
This was the direction that Cleveland had been rumored to go for weeks, and no surprise that the Browns took Wimbley with their first rounder. Although he lined up at DE in college, Wimbley will play OLB in the NFL. With his superb lateral quickness the Browns hope that Wimbley will be able to help a defense that was very deficient rushing the QB in 2005.

Note: In trading with the Ravens to move down one spot, the Browns added a 6th round pick, and still managed to grab the player that they wanted.

2nd Round, Pick #2 (34) - D'Qwell Jackson - ILB - Maryland
The Browns traded up 9 spots in the second round to select D'Qwell Jackson. ILB was a position of incredible weakness for the Browns in 2005, and a position that they were not able to shore up through free agency. Jackson lacks elite size and speed, but makes up for it with some intangibles. Speficically, he has good recognition skills and takes good angles to the ball. Even if Jackson will challenge Matt Stewart and Chaun Thompson for snaps at ILB next to Andra Davis. He'll also be solid on special teams.

Note: The Browns traded Jeff Faine to New Orleans to move up in the 2nd round. According to the NFL pick value chart, it would have taken about a 3rd round pick to move up this far in the 2nd round. Chalk this down as another poor pick from the Butch Davis era.

3rd Round, Pick #14 (78) - Travis Wilson - WR - Oklahoma
It wouldn't be a draft if the Browns didn't select a WR on the first day. In selecting Wilson, it's obvious that the Browns are worried about Braylon Edwards' rehabilitation (he may be out until October or November) and that they know Frisman Jackson can't get open enough to be a satisfactory 3rd receiver in this league. Travis Wilson has good size and is strong, but probably lacks the elite speed of a top receiver in the NFL.

Wilson played his sophomore and junior seasons in the shadow of Mark Clayton, and didn't take advantage of becoming the primary target his senior season. That said, Oklahoma was breaking in a new QB last season, which could have accounted for some of Wilson's struggles. Wilson is sure-handed enough that if he can get into camp early and impress, he has a shot to earn some time on this Browns team with Edwards out for the forseeable future.

4th Round, Pick #13(110) - Leon Williams - ILB - Miami (Fl)
Leon Williams in a LB prospect with elite size, at 6-3, 245 lbs, and has been called one of the most physically gifted linebacker prospects in the draft. That said, Williams is somewhat of a project who lacks a lot of instincts and fundamentals, especially in coverage. It's obvious that the Browns selected Williams as a project with tremendous upside. Thankfully, as opposed to past regimes, Savage/Crennel chose to select a project on Day 2, rather than Day 1.

5th Round, Pick #12 (145) - Jerome Harrison - RB - Washington State
Jerome Harrison is the change-of-pace back that Phil Savage has been coveting since he arrived in Cleveland. Harrison is a shifty, quick type of runner who comes in the same mold as former Brown Jamel "Track Meet" White. Harrison was an accomplished runner at Washington State who gained 1,900 yards in his senior season.

Harrison also showed the ability to make catches out of the backfield, showing that he can serve as a decent 3rd down back in the NFL. Many boards had Harrison going in the late 3rd round. The fact that he was still on the board when the Browns picked in Round 5 was probably too good a deal to pass up. This could spell the end of Lee Suggs injury-riddled tenure with the Orange and Brown.

5th Round, Pick #20 (152) - DeMario Minter - CB - Georgia
Minter has the skill set that you look for in a good DB. He has good size with great speed and quickness. Minter is a good tackler and a smart player who rarely gets beat deep and has the quickness it takes to stay with even the shiftiest receivers in the NFL. The one knock against Minter is his ability to play the ball. He had 0 INTs as a Junior, only 2 as a senior, and is said to lack big play ability.

Minter probably should have come off the board by the end of Day 1, but he was suspended for two games in 2003 after being arrested for marijuana possesion, so character concerns probably kept him around for as long as he lasted. Minter could be an instant contributor as a sub-in for Nickle and Dime packages. Also, he should be an instant playmaker in Special Teams coverage.

6th Round, Pick #11(180) - Lawrence Vickers - FB - Colorado
The Browns didn't have a major need for a fullback, but as Lawrence Vickers was thought by many to be the best FB in the draft, Phil Savage and Co. just couldn't pass him up at this spot in the 6th round. Vickers has good size, and the body frame to be able to bulk up even more, which is good because he still lacks the elite strength and power that he'll need to compete in the NFL. Vickers has good speed and agility for the position as well. If he hits the weight room hard, he could be a starter at FB in another year or two.

6th Round, Pick #12 (181) - Babatunde Oshinowo - DT - Stanford
Oshinowo is a big-bodied NT prospect. The Browns were very high on him, having him rated as one of the top 3 or 4 NTs in the draft. Oshinowo has the requisite size and strength to play the NT position, although he needs to improve his speed and mobility. Hopefully learning from Ted Washington for the next two years will help him learn when to disengage from blocks, how to play the run, and when to penetrate upfield, because this guy definitely has the body to play NT in the NFL.

7th Round, Pick #14 (222) - Justin Hamilton - S - Virginia Tech
Honestly, I don't know a whole lot about Justin Hamilton. The Cleveland Browns last pick in the 2006 draft was Justin Hamilton out of Virginia Tech. The Browns took a flier on Hamilton as an athlete who played running back and wideout for V-Tech before moving to safety in '05. He's a heady player who called the defensive signals for the nation's top-ranked defense. The Browns expect him to play special teams and serve as backup safety.