Holy macaroni it’s been a little while since I’ve written a blog. I know it must have been a tough few weeks for all 20,000 of you that wait with bated breath for my genius in depth analysis of what is going on in the sports world. Or maybe what’s going on in my scattered, messed up brain. Well, bate no more. Wait. No. That’s not the message I want to get across. Continue to bate. Always bate. But now you can breathe without bating because I am back. I just returned from a week in Mormon country/ weak alcohol land. Utah. The good news is, I didn’t come back thinking that Jesus will return to some crap town in Missouri. I still think just one wife sounds like way too many. I’m still very much into drinking alcohol and caffeine with the occasional use of tobacco thrown in. Basically, I returned without being converted. I was never truly worried about being brainwashed but when you are 30 years old and have not even a slight hint of direction in your life, anything is possible. Just the other day I was offered a free place to live and a new job as long as I provided a hit on this elderly woman’s son and it took all of my internal strength to decline the offer. Anyway. I actually had an awesome time in Utah hiking through national parks and saw landscapes and sights that I had never seen before. I also drank IPA’s that were only 3.2 ABV. There are terrible laws in Utah that prohibit beer being over 3.2 ABV in almost all situations. I learned that beer companies actually make versions of their beer to sell in Utah that are much weaker than their standard brews. So, because of this, I had to drink twice the amount of liquid than I normally would to function and therefore somehow gained weight despite hiking 10 miles per day. Quite a feat. Utah is promoting obesity. Plain and simple.Continue Reading …
With the upcoming NFL Draft beginning Thursday night, April 26th, I figured it was appropriate that I peer into my crystal ball and reveal how the first three rounds will unfold. Without further ado, here is my 2018 mock draft!
- Cleveland Browns- Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Cleveland takes another swing at quarterback, drafting a player who has shown poise and potential.
- Projected Trade:
Bills get Giants pick #2. Giants get Bills picks #12, #22, and a 2019 1st-Rd. pick
Buffalo Bills- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Buffalo couldn’t rely on the perfect cold-weather quarterback falling to them, so they move up to select their man, Josh Allen.
- New York Jets (From Colts)- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
This pick is between Rosen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, but with a team that showed signs of being competitive, the Jets will choose the most NFL-ready prospect at the position.
- Cleveland Browns- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
With their second pick in the draft, Cleveland elects to draft the best player available, continuing to build an electrifying, scary offensive attack.
- Denver Broncos- Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
After trading Aqib Talib, the Broncos want to find an immediate replacement, so they draft the most versatile defensive-back available.
- Indianapolis Colts (From Jets)- Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
Indianapolis is ecstatic, as the player they covet will still fall to them at pick-6. They add the cornerstone to their defense for years to come.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Derwin James, DB, Florida State
The Bucs have numerous holes on their NFL-worst defense. Derwin James can play multiple positions and will provide stability at the back-end.
- Chicago Bears- Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
The player many consider to be the second-best prospect in the draft falls to the Bears, who will simultaneously fortify their running game and protect Mitch Trubisky with this pick.
- San Francisco 49ers- Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Despite signing Richard Sherman, the 49ers still need secondary help. They select Denzel Ward to play opposite him and in the slot.
- Oakland Raiders- Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
After toying between Edmunds and Roquan Smith, the Raiders go with upside, drafting the 19-year old Virginia Tech prospect to revamp their linebacking core.
- Miami Dolphins- Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Unsure of Ryan Tannehill’s future, the Dolphins pounce on the opportunity to draft a proven leader, selecting Baker Mayfield as their quarterback of the future.
- New York Giants (From Bills via Bengals)- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
After losing Justin Pugh in free agency, the Giants begin rebuilding their offensive line by drafting Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey.
- Washington Redskins- Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The Redskins begin their draft by fortifying their porous run defense. They select the daunting stuffer Vita Vea.
- Projected Trade:
Chargers get Packers pick #14. Packers get Chargers picks #17 and #84.
Los Angeles Chargers- Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Chargers desperately need linebacker help, and they’re shocked that Roquan Smith fell to pick-14. Thus, they trade up with Green Bay to select him.
- Arizona Cardinals- Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Sam Bradford is not the long-term plan in Arizona; they pull the trigger on the former Heisman Trophy winner and develop him for a year.
- Baltimore Ravens- Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
The Ravens know how much money they can save by letting Flacco go next year. Jason has hammered home how keen they are on drafting a quarterback; they go ahead and get one at pick-16.
- Green Bay Packers (From Chargers)- Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Despite trading back, Green Bay still gets their guy. Josh Jackson will stabilize the defensive backfield that the Packers have worked on heavily in recent years.
- Seattle Seahawks- Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ravens take him at pick-16, but he is too good of a prospect for Seattle to let go by.
- Dallas Cowboys- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
After cutting Dez Bryant, the writing is on the wall: the Cowboys are taking a wideout with their first pick. It will come down to either Ridley or Moore, and they choose the receiver from the blue-chip school.
- Detroit Lions- Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Matt Patricia loves having run-stoppers in the middle of his defense, and Da’Ron Payne is a beast inside who will do just that.
- Cincinnati Bengals (From Bills)- Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
Cincinnati may have the worst offensive line in football, so they take Isaiah Wynn to start its rebuild.
- New York Giants (From Bills via Chiefs)- Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
After toying with the idea of drafting Saquon Barkley with the 2nd pick, the G-Men pick up an extra pick and still fill the need with Derrius Guice.
- New England Patriots (From Rams)- Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
The Pats desperately need secondary help. Carlton Davis is an underrated cornerback who will fit well opposite of Stephon Gilmore.
- Carolina Panthers- DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
DJ Moore will provide Cam Newton a young, promising talent to build a rapport with. Carolina’s receiving group is shaky, so they fill a need here, too.
- Tennessee Titans- Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
Mike Vrabel’s son just committed to BC, so he will have the inside scoop on Harold Landry’s health. If Landry falls this far (which he very well could), this pairing makes perfect sense.
- Atlanta Falcons- Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
The Falcons will continue to bolster their interior pass-rush by selecting the Florida tackle who has risen up draft boards.
- New Orleans Saints- Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
The Saints have lacked production at tight end since trading Jimmy Graham. This year they will finally address the need and select someone similar in Goedert.
- Pittsburgh Steelers- Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Planning for a future without Ryan Shazier, the Steelers draft Rashaan Evans – an overlooked stud – to anchor their linebacking core.
- Jacksonville Jaguars- Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
With DJ Moore and Calvin Ridley off the board, the Jags fill a secondary need by drafting Kolton Miller to help keep Blake Bortles upright.
- Minnesota Vikings- Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
The Vikings are stacked on both sides of the ball so I could see a trade here, but I think they will take the best player available and have Mike Hughes fill in opposite Xavier Rhodes to bolster a scary secondary.
- New England Patriots- Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
New England could use a linebacker to play next to Dont’a Hightower, and Leighton Vander Esch has the potential to be an impact starter.
- Philadelphia Eagles- Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
After cutting CB Daryl Worley, the Eagles have a spot to fill. Luckily, one of the best prospects at the position falls to them in Alexander.
- Cleveland Browns- Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
- New York Giants- Lorenzo Carter, EDGE, Georgia
- Cleveland Browns (from Texans)- Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
- Indianapolis Colts- James Daniels, C, Iowa
- Indianapolis Colts (from Jets)- Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Connor Williams, OG, Texas
- Chicago Bears- Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
- Denver Broncos- Billy Price, C, Ohio State
- Oakland Raiders- Justin Reid, S, Stanford
- Miami Dolphins- Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
- New England Patriots (from 49ers)- Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
- Washington Redskins- Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State
- Green Bay Packers- Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
- Cincinnati Bengals- Rasheem Green, DE, USC
- Arizona Cardinals- Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon
- Los Angeles Chargers- Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky
- Indianapolis Colts (from Jets via Seahawks)- Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
- Dallas Cowboys- Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State
- Detroit Lions- Ronald Jones III, RB, USC
- Projected Trade: 49ers get Ravens pick #52. Ravens get 49ers pick #59 and a 2019 4th-Rd pick. San Francisco 49ers- Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
- Buffalo Bills- Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
- Kansas City Chiefs- Da’Shawn Hand, DE, Alabama
- Carolina Panthers- Duke Dawson, CB, Florida
- Buffalo Bills (from Rams)- Martinas Rankin, OL, Mississippi State
- Tennessee Titans- Tegray Scales, LB, Indiana
- Atlanta Falcons- Dante Pettis, WR, Washington
- Baltimore Ravens (from 49ers via Saints)- Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
- Pittsburgh Steelers- Jessie Bates, S, Wake Forest
- Jacksonville Jaguars- DJ Chark, WR, LSU
- Minnesota Vikings- Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
- New England Patriots- Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond
- Cleveland Browns (from Eagles)- Tony Adams, OG, NC State
- Buffalo Bills (From Browns)- Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech
- New York Giants- Luke Falk, QB, Washington State
- Indianapolis Colts- Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
- Houston Texans- Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama
- New York Giants (From Buccaneers)- James Washington, WR, Clemson
- San Francisco 49ers- Kemoko Turay, EDGE, Rutgers
- Denver Broncos- Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
- New York Jets- Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
- Miami Dolphins- Fred Warner, OLB, BYU
- San Francisco 49ers- Kyzir White, S, West Virginia
- Oakland Raiders- Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
- Green Bay Packers- Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
- Cincinnati Bengals- Oren Burks, LB, Vanderbilt
- Washington Redskins- Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn
- Arizona Cardinals- Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
- Houston Texans (From Seahawks)- Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford
- Dallas Cowboys- P.J. Hall, NT, Sam Houston State
- Detroit Lions- Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana
- Baltimore Ravens- Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
- Green Bay Packers (From Chargers)- Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma
- Carolina Panthers (From Bills)- Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State
- Kansas City Chiefs- Isaac Yiadom, CB, Boston College
- Los Angeles Rams- Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA
- Carolina Panthers- Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M
- Tennessee Titans- Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin
- Atlanta Falcons- Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, EDGE, Oklahoma
- New Orleans Saints- Riley Ferguson, QB, Memphis
- Pittsburgh Steelers- Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
- Jacksonville Jaguars- Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia
- Minnesota Vikings- Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
- New England Patriots- Godwin Igwebuike, S, Northwestern
- Buffalo Bills (From Eagles)- Daeshawn Hamilton, WR, Penn State
- Arizona Cardinals- Jalyn Holmes, DE, Ohio State
- Houston Texans- Marcus Allen, S, Penn State
- Denver Broncos- Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
- Cincinnati Bengals- Kurt Benkert, QB, Virginia
The biggest Ravens news in recent weeks has been the rumor that the team is “in” on Louisville QB Lamar Jackson. Jackson, a former Heisman Trophy winner, was one of the more electric players in college football for the past two seasons; he would certainly bring a new brand of football to a city that is clamoring for it. But could this just be a smokescreen? I mean, how likely is it that the Ravens actually draft Joe Flacco’s successor at pick 16? And if they do, will it really be Lamar Jackson?
NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks brought the Ravens interest in Jackson to the attention of the country when he suggested that the team may be looking to trade back, accumulate more picks, and secure the former Louisville Cardinal as the future face-of-the-franchise. He connected dots between the Ravens’ coaching staff, their recent signing of RGIII (who has a similar playing style), and their pre-draft meeting with Jackson before eventually coming to the conclusion that – if he was available at 16 – Baltimore would pounce. While his argument certainly holds its own (especially when put in perspective: every rumor our there is nothing more than a theory), the most likely reality is that Ozzie & Co. are bluffing, hoping that other QB-needy teams will jump ahead of them and consequently force other players down the board.
Common sense would suggest that this will be the case. It’s Ozzie Newsome’s last year as general manager, John Harbaugh is most definitely on the hot-seat, and the fanbase is begging to watch January football again. Together, those factors would make it incredibly shocking to see the team select a signal-caller with their first-round pick. Considering the other holes on the team, such as tight end, wide receiver, interior lineman and EDGE, it is unlikely that the current brass elects to plan for the future rather than address current needs.
However, the “future” that will undoubtedly be eluded to if the Ravens draft a quarterback is not as far off as some may think. Joe Flacco is another poor season away from being an almost-definite cap-casualty, so bringing in the heir apparent wouldn’t be the biggest mistake. In fact, I personally wouldn’t mind seeing the team draft its future starter at the position – especially if they were able to trade back in the progress. And for that reason, if pick 16 rolls around and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announces that “there has been a trade,” I would almost expect the Ravens’ eventual selection to be a quarterback. Even still, though, I wouldn’t expect the pick to be Lamar Jackson.
Bucky Brooks’ theory relied heavily on the Ravens’ coaching staff and the addition of Robert Griffin III. In a vacuum, his points would suggest that the team runs an offense with a mobile quarterback. But, to disprove this theory one must look no further than the quarterback under center for the past 10 seasons. Joe Flacco is not a mobile quarterback, and though it is certainly feasible for the team to change directions, the identity of the offense – and the franchise as a whole, for that matter – doesn’t fit Lamar Jackson’s style. For years the team has dominated the trenches, running a ground-and-pound offense. Even this past year the Ravens returned to that strategy, making their running game a strength. The direction of the offense seems to fit a pocket-passer much better than a scrambler, and for that reason, I believe the Ravens may have their sights set on Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Rudolph is a big, strong quarterback with an accurate deep-ball that could entice Baltimore as he may remind him of their current QB. His numbers are staggering – he has the most wins in Oklahoma State history – and the tape suggests that they are accurate. The only potential knock on Rudolph is the fear that he could be the product of a specialized system and therefore may not translate well at the NFL level. Even if this is the case, Baltimore’s offense may be a great fit for him.
What’s more, Bucky Brooks’ acknowledgment that the Ravens could be looking to trade back and select a quarterback plays more into the belief that they covet Rudolph, as Lamar Jackson seems to be on everyone’s radar and consequently may not be available at pick 16. If the Ravens traded back to pick 20 with Detroit, however, they could select Rudolph and add, say, pick 117 in the 4th-round to their arsenal. Doing so would allow them to fill their other needs in the middle rounds, which appear loaded with quality depth and terrific value. And (here’s a fun idea), the Ravens could be so inclined to select WR James Washington with their 2nd- or 3rd-round pick, reuniting the former Oklahoma State superstars for years to come.
I believe that the Ravens will take a signal-caller at some point in the 2018 NFL Draft. I also believe that they could take one in the 1st-round. I do not believe, however, that it will be Lamar Jackson. Instead, I believe that Baltimore holds significant interest – an interest that they could act on – in Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. And if they trade back to draft him, I’d be praising Ozzie’s work one last time.
After the Baltimore Orioles uninspiring start to the 2018 campaign, the flaws that have plagued the team, the management, and the front office in years past appear relevant once again. Over-aggressive hitting has resulted in piles of strikeouts, poor bullpen management has lost at least one game, and dumpster-fire additions have stunted the development and emergence of key prospects. All of this has me thinking – and realizing – just how badly the Orioles have spoiled their future.
Yes, I have written on this subject before, focusing on their inability to deal Manny Machado and receive a quality return and therefore jeopardizing a quick rebuild. This week, I realized that – though that has become the present issue – the current state of the team would have been much more promising if the team hadn’t made a grave mistake two years ago. When the Orioles resigned first-baseman Chris Davis, they crippled their future far more than we realized at the time. Here’s why:
Despite his disastrous numbers since signing the contract, the commitment the team made to Chris Davis has strapped them at the position. For starters, Davis’ contract forced now fan-favorite Trey Mancini to shift from his natural position to the outfield. While that transition has gone smoothly for Mancini, the Orioles’ depth in the outfield – especially in the coming years with Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, DJ Stewart and Ademar Rifaela – creates a logjam. If the O’s had let Davis walk, Mancini could have filled in at first base and the team could have implemented an outfield platoon or orchestrated a trade to further bolster the roster.
In addition, if the team hadn’t invested so heavily in Chris Davis, perhaps they would be willing to do so for Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, the team’s real stars. And this fact is crucial because the team is closer to relevancy than many believe. If the Orioles locked up their cornerstone players for the next 5 years, it is quite possible that their farm system could surround the two stars with the pieces necessary to win a championship.
The Baltimore Orioles biggest problem has been its pitching. That’s why they collapsed last year; it’s why they have skeptics this year. While part of that has been the owner’s unwillingness to sign pitchers (or, if they do, signing the wrong ones), the primary issue has been the lack of development by high draft picks devoted to pitching. However, the Orioles have a fair number of pitching prospects moving forward, and they could be the makings of a solid rotation in the coming years. While Dylan Bundy figures to be the team’s ace moving forward (he looks the part, too), hurlers such as Hunter Harvey, Keegan Akin, and David Hess look on the verge of breaking the major league roster. Further down in the minors there are even more prospects. 2017 1st-round pick DL Hall, who the Orioles felt was a steal at their position, will enter his first full professional season and looks to be an exciting left-handed arm. Alex Wells, another southpaw from Australia has thrived so far in his career, owns the “best control and command in the Orioles’ system,” according to MLB.com. He is the Orioles #11 prospect and pitched to a 2.38 ERA at Delmarva last season. Following Wells is 2016 draft pick, Cody Sedlock, a right-hander who pitched at the University of Illinois. Although his debut season was somewhat underwhelming, Sedlock could prove to be a valuable back-end starter at some point down the road.
While contemplating the Orioles’ farm system, I came up with what I think the roster could look like 3 years from now. For the purpose of this article, I will have one column showing a lineup with Chris Davis and without Manny Machado or Jonathan Schoop, as well as a second column showing the opposite outcome.
2021 Pitching Rotation:
- Dylan Bundy (RHP)
- Hunter Harvey (RHP)
- Kevin Gausman (RHP)
- Alex Wells (LHP)
- Keegan Akin
** At this point in time, Cody Sedlock and DL Hall would likely be knocking at the door, and Alex Cobb could still be in play considering he is on a 4-year deal.
2021 Lineup/Defense W/ Davis 2021 Lineup/Defense W/O Davis
- Cedric Mullins – CF 1. Cedric Mullins – CF
- Austin Hays – RF 2. Austin Hays – RF
- Trey Mancini – LF 3. Manny Machado – SS
- Chris Davis – 1B 4. Trey Mancini – 1B
- Ryan Mountcastle – 3B 5. Jonathan Schoop – 2B
- Tim Beckham – SS 6. Ryan Mountcastle – DH
- Anthony Santander – DH 7. Tim Beckham – 3B
- Chance Sisco – C 8. Anthony Santander – LF
- Second Baseman (No Prospects) 9. Chance Sisco – C
In my opinion (and I’d imagine, the opinions of many others), the lineup without Chris Davis is far better than the other, as it has a blend of speed, power, and – most importantly – contact. Considering the projections of the prospects listed above (that is, Mullins, Hays, Mountcastle), this order would not only be as feared but likely more feared than today’s Orioles lineup. Supporting that offense with a deeper, more balanced and – hopefully – more consistent pitching rotation could mean danger for other AL teams.
Unfortunately, though, Chris Davis is still in the club, Manny Machado will be long gone, perhaps wearing pinstripes or dodger-blue, and Jonathan Schoop will be reaping the benefits of a new contract – let’s just hope it’s with the Orioles. And even though a portion of this week’s blog should serve as a source of hope, as the O’s do have some talent in their system, it should be taken with a grain of salt, as the outlook would be so much more hopeful if the Orioles had handled their business wisely just three offseasons ago.
Adam Jones’ walk-off home run on Thursday afternoon marked the Orioles’ 8th straight Opening Day win and capped off an absolutely awesome day. The 3-2 11th inning win was reminiscent of the past 2 Opening Day games; each of which ended with a walk-off, first a single by Matt Wieters, second a home run by Mark Trumbo. Needless to say, there’s something special about Opening Day, especially in Baltimore.
For Orioles fans, many of which have sat through over a decade of exhausting, brutal losing seasons, Opening Day offers a revived sense of hope – a hope that has, in recent years, become more realistic. This year, as the fanbase is seemingly split with high and low expectations, the O’s victory on Opening Day had everyone leaving happy and excited for the season to come.
While Adam Jones’ late-game heroics were certainly enough to inspire, they should not overshadow what a terrific baseball game was played on Thursday. Jake Odorizzi tossed 6 shutout innings, holding the Orioles to 2 hits, but Dylan Bundy outdid him, going 7 scoreless innings with 7 strikeouts. The two hurlers matched each other pitch for pitch, keeping batters off-balance and fans on the edge of their seats. Every pitch was crucial, like a playoff game. That’s why right-fielder Craig Gentry catch robbing Eddie Rosario of a 2nd-inning home run was not only amazing but also clutch. Then, after 6 ⅔ innings of scoreless baseball, Caleb Joseph came through with a 2-out, 2-run triple into the right-centerfield gap, giving the Orioles their first lead of the season. Still, just as the O’s appeared poised to close out their first win of 2018, the Twins stormed back on Brad Brach.
Brach, who opened the season in Zach Britton’s closer role, struggled to find the plate, and eventually surrendered a 2-run, game-tying blooper to pinch-hitter Robbie Grossman. Camden Yards was shocked. All of a sudden the hope that came with the Opening Day spectacle was sucked from the ballpark. That is – until two innings later, when Adam Jones jumped on the first pitch from Fernando Rodney and sent it into the left-field stands.
As the masses filed out of Camden Yards, Adam Jones was everyone’s favorite player, and rightfully so. He is the undeniable leader of the team; he’s been that since his first Opening Day with the O’s 11 seasons ago. As a young adult, he’s been the leader for as long as I remember, and as that, Adam Jones is indispensable. Thursday afternoon showed why. In a game where the offense was struggling to get on base, much less score, the captain was 0-4 with 2 strikeouts. And yet, as the game moved to the bottom of the 11th inning, there was nobody I would have rather had led off. With Adam Jones, you know that at the least, you will get his best effort. He will not go down without a fight; he will not go down without having a good at-bat. All it took was one pitch, but Adam Jones brought everyone to their feet in a hurry. He put the team, and the entire fanbase, on his back, as he usually does, illustrating his importance to the city.
With all the Orioles players set for free agency at the end of this season, one player should be the absolute priority: Adam Jones. For all that he’s done for the Orioles, for his role as the face of the franchise and the face of the franchise’s revival, Adam Jones should be rewarded. He is a lifetime Oriole, and the front office had better make him one.
Well, the Orioles finally gave in to the well-overdue prospect of signing Alex Cobb this week, filling the hole in their rotation in the process. The meaning of this addition is obvious, but important to state: Alex Cobb, when at his best, will make the Orioles a competitive team in the AL. But, in relation to the conference elites – the Astros, Indians, Yankees and Red Sox, as of now – how competitive can the O’s really be? In this week’s blog, I will answer that question and others. Before beginning, though, I must make two things clear. First, I will assume that the backup catcher role will be won by Andrew Susac. Second, injuries will not factor into my projections; I will assume that everyone will be fully healthy throughout the season. Now, without further ado, I present my predictions for the 2018 MLB season.
Orioles Everyday Lineup and Statistics (AVG/HR/RBI):
- 3B Tim Beckham – .263/21/68
- LF Trey Mancini – .285/28/74
- SS Manny Machado – .327/38/123
- CF Adam Jones – .272/24/82
- 2B Jonathan Schoop – .304/27/98
- 1B Chris Davis – .243/33/86
- DH Mark Trumbo – .259/13/39
- C Caleb Joseph – .248/15/45
- RF Anthony Santander – .251/18/51
Orioles Starting Rotation and W-L/ERA
- Alex Cobb – 16-7/3.42
- Dylan Bundy – 14-10/3.76
- Kevin Gausman – 13-8/3.88
- Chris Tillman – 11-9/4.15
- Andrew Cashner – 10-12/4.53
A few notes from the previous two sets of predictions:
- Yes, I believe that Manny Machado will have a career year and will be in the thick of the MVP race. He is in a walk year and wants to get paid. I just wish it was by the Orioles.
- Anthony Santander has impressed me this spring, and by mid-May, I expect him to have surpassed Colby Rasmus as the regular right fielder.
- You may have noticed that Mark Trumbo’s stats are drastically down from his typical performance. This will be explained further in my…
Bold Predictions for the 2018 Season
- The Orioles will trade Mark Trumbo by the end of June to make room for OF Austin Hays. After doing so, Anthony Santander will replace Trumbo as the everyday DH and Hays will play RF.
- The Orioles will keep Manny Machado and once more push for a deep playoff run.
- Baltimore will have 4 players (Machado, Schoop, Mancini, represent them in the 2018 All-Star Game.
- Chris Davis will belt 15 home runs in the month of August, propelling the Orioles back into contention for the division crown.
- The New York Yankees will fail to reach the postseason.
I’d imagine this last prediction may leave you shaking your head and wondering how I have the division shaking out. Here it is.
2018 AL East Standings (W-L)
- Boston Red Sox: 95-67
- Baltimore Orioles: 88-74
- Toronto Blue Jays: 82-80
- New York Yankees: 79-83
- Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94
And now for the AL as a whole, in order of playoff seeding:
- Cleveland Indians: 100-62
- Houston Astros: 97-65
- Boston Red Sox: 95-67
Wild Card Teams:
- Baltimore Orioles: 88-74
- Minnesota Twins: 87-75
A month ago I wrote a rather critical article on the Orioles, expressing doubt for their 2018 season outlook. As you can see, my feelings have changed. The addition of Alex Cobb will solidify the rotation and provide the anchor that the team has lacked since 2014, with (the good) Chris Tillman and (the even better) Wei-Yin Chen. Finally, the Orioles will have the sound pitching that complements an offense that will mash. I expect 2018 to be an exciting year in Baltimore, as they integrate youth into the core of players we have grown to love over the past 6 seasons. This team has been successful before, and I believe that they will be successful again. Let’s hope I’m right.
Tiger Woods! Yeah, there was some pretty decent basketball this weekend. Yeah, UMBC became the first 16 seed to knock off a one seed since 2004, when, Lisa Fink knocked off Jennifer Lopez in the ’64 hottest women alive’ bracket, hosted in my basement.Continue Reading …
The upheaval of the Ravens’ wide receiver room has begun. On Wednesday night, the team announced that it had reached agreements with two pass-catchers: former Cardinals burner John Brown and former Redskins receiver Ryan Grant. However, as the new league year officially began on Thursday afternoon, a surprising turn of events left Grant’s contract null and void. The 6’0” wideout failed his physical with the Ravens because of an ankle injury that doctors later revealed was suffered in the final week of the regular season. Interestingly enough, though, this may have proven to be a blessing-in-disguise for the Ravens (and some fans even believe the results were calculated, but more on that later).
The signing of John Brown is simple enough; it makes sense. The Ravens were looking to get faster on offense, improving their big-play ability while finding more reliable targets for Joe Flacco. When healthy, Brown is a home-run hitter. As Newsome claims, he can run the entire route-tree efficiently and can track down a deep pass well. The key for Brown, as it has been for many receivers, is to stay healthy, which is why he was seeking a 1 year “prove it” deal at $5M. Brown is a boom-or-bust signing with the potential to oust former 1st-round pick Breshad Perriman as the primary deep-threat on the current roster. The talent is there, as Brown is 2 years removed from a 1,000-yard, 7 touchdown season. The main question will be whether or not he stays on the field enough to replicate those numbers.
The controversial signing is Ryan Grant. Despite Grant’s strong hands and impressive route-running ability, the Ravens would have inked him to a shockingly pricey contract at 4 years for $29M. Many questioned whether the cost matched the productivity. For instance, Grant has never had a 100-yard receiving game in his career, and he failed to significantly impact a Redskins offense that needs wide receivers itself. And, somewhat unsurprisingly, fans criticize owner Steve Bisciotti, citing his prediction that the franchise would “make a splash” in free agency. So far, after whiffing on high-profile receiver Allen Robinson and even the mediocre Donte Moncrief and Marqise Lee, Ozzie Newsome has failed to do so. Still, Ryan Grant would have provided a young, controllable receiver that would have acted as a building block for Baltimore’s new offense. While most critics looked at Grant’s contract and believed that he was meant to be the new #1 receiver, this was not the case. Rather, Grant would have likely been a secondary receiver, with reliable hands to help move the chains. The Ravens were not done, and Newsome supported this at Friday morning’s press conference by stating that the Ravens would have continued to pursue receivers after signing Grant.
Now, here’s where the previously-mentioned blessing-in-disguise comes into play. On Thursday afternoon, the Oakland Raiders signed former Green Bay Packer receiver Jordy Nelson and subsequently cut wideout Michael Crabtree. From the get-go, Crabtree – who has since stated that he grew up a Ravens fan – was linked to Baltimore, and he quickly scheduled a meeting with the team. On Friday, the two sides committed to a 3 year, $21M deal, noticeably more favorable than the one they gave to Grant. Even though Crabtree is slightly older than Grant, he is equally reliable and provides a more daunting red-zone target (Crabtree caught 25 touchdowns in his 3 years in Oakland). The Ravens will hope that Crabtree will replicate these statistics in Baltimore, where he’s had success in the past. Crabtree has caught 4 touchdowns in their last 2 meetings, including a game-winner in the back of the end zone in 2016.
The main reason that Crabtree’s signing is so beneficial for Baltimore, though, is that it gives the team considerable flexibility moving forward. While Grant’s contract may have left Baltimore with room to make 1 last signing, Crabtree’s likely means that the Ravens could add 2 more players. One of these targets appears to be another cap-casualty, former Lions TE Eric Ebron. A strictly pass-catching tight end, Ebron could be a dynamic target over the middle of the field and provide explosiveness that the Ravens have severely lacked at the position. He currently has visits to three other teams lined up, though, so Baltimore will have to make an enticing offer for him to don purple next year. While it is also entirely possible that Newsome decides to add to the offensive line with the remainder of the team’s cap, I will stick – for the sake of this blog’s title – to name offensive players that team brass could be interested in.
The most obvious choice is Mike Wallace. The 31-year-old has garnered little excitement thus far, and as a result, his price could drop right into the Ravens’ range. What’s more, Wallace has already established a rapport with Flacco, meaning his fit in the offense would be seamless. Pairing Wallace with Crabtree, Brown, and a draft pick would give the Ravens an interesting group.
Another option is former Brown and Redskin Terrelle Pryor. One year removed from a breakout season, Pryor bet on himself with a one year deal in Washington only to watch himself lose snaps to guys like, well, Ryan Grant. While a reunion with Cleveland appears imminent, Pryor would give the Ravens a potentially dominant outside receiver opposite Crabtree.
At tight end, Baltimore’s options are somewhat limited, but Martellus Bennett and Julius Thomas are intriguing options. Both have had up and down careers, but when used frequently have put up impressive numbers. Flacco loves to throw to tight ends, it’s quite possible that he could get the best out of them.
Baltimore is likely to make at least one more move to improve the offense before the 2018 NFL Draft, it’s only a matter of whether or not that player is at wide receiver or tight end. Regardless, by adding speedster John Brown and Anquan Boldin-esque receiver Michael Crabtree, the Ravens have started their revamp nicely. If the rest of the offseason is handled well, the purple and black could find themselves back in contention next winter.
On this week’s podcast, Jerry and Jason had the privilege of speaking with UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin, the inspirational star of this year’s NFL Combine. Griffin, who lost his left hand at age 4, has persevered through unimaginable circumstances throughout his life, continually finding himself undervalued and overlooked as he pursues his goal of playing football in the NFL. Now, Griffin’s dream appears likely to become a reality. After shocking scouts by bench-pressing 20 reps despite a prosthetic hand, Griffin ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any linebacker in Combine history, posting a 4.38 mark. Further, Griffin exhibited tremendous character in team interviews. No doubt, his draft stock has risen significantly. Griffin’s success has me thinking about the Ravens, who have a somewhat under-the-radar need at linebacker.
While defense will surely come second in this year’s draft, Baltimore could use both a pass-rusher and a counterpart to CJ Mosley inside. And, despite heavy attention being paid to offensive playmakers, the Ravens have a number of options at different points in the draft. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised – or frustrated, for that matter – if Ozzie Newsome grabbed a stud at one of these positions in the first round.
At pick 16, it appears increasingly unlikely that a skill-position offensive player will make sense. Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley may not be available, and Maryland wideout DJ Moore is likely more of a second-round prospect. While an offensive lineman could certainly be in play, there are a few players that would be quite intriguing if available. First, if the Ravens want to pair Mosley with a fast, athletic linebacker and create a scary duo in the middle of the defense, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith fits the bill. A sideline-to-sideline defender, Smith would be an excellent complement to Mosley and would fill what is likely the defense’s largest hole. Other options at ILB are Alabama’s Rashaan Evans and Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch. Both are similarly exciting talents, and Vander Esch continues to see his stock climb, though neither are receiving quite as much praise as Georgia’s Smith.
At EDGE, Baltimore would have to seriously consider pouncing on UTSA lineman Marcus Davenport if he were available. Davenport has a rare blend of size and speed, and could immediately provide an heir to Terrell Suggs’ throne. However, because of his immense potential, Davenport is probably the least likely of these prospects to be on the board at pick 16. So, Baltimore could look to bolster their pass rush by selecting Boston College standout Harold Landry. After an outstanding 2016-17 season, Landry took a step back this past year and suffered an injury that left some wondering if his NFL potential was declining. But, after an impressive Combine and a seemingly successful recovery, Landry is firmly planted as a first-round selection and has rejuvenated the excitement that was following him the year prior. What’s more, it is very likely that Landry will be available when the Ravens pick, and though many think he is more fit for a back-end selection, if Baltimore feels that he is a strong choice, don’t be surprised if his name is on their card.
Beyond the first-round of the draft, Baltimore has a few options to solve the pass rush (this year’s draft is somewhat dry in that area), and a plethora of options at ILB. The most obvious choice if Baltimore elects to take an EDGE player is LSU’s Arden Key. Key, an extremely talented player with a first-round grade, has seen his stock drop because of off-the-field issues. He reminds me a lot of last year’s pick Tim Williams, and if he fell to Baltimore in the third-round, I would support his selection. Another option on day two is Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Undersized for his position, Okoronkwo has seen his draft stock slide despite impressive numbers in 2017-18. However, the pass-rusher could follow in the footsteps of a former Raven and Bronco, the similarly undersized Elvis Dumervil; his productivity makes him worth a mid-round pick.
At inside linebacker, the Ravens could find multiple mid-to-late-round names appealing. In rounds 2 or 3, Vanderbilt’s Oren Burks possesses impressive coverage and ball skills that would make him an intriguing option alongside Mosley. Other day-two names include Iowa’s Josey Jewell, whose production overshadows his physical gifts, and South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard, a Senior Bowl player who has a knack for getting behind the line of scrimmage. In the later rounds, the most intriguing name – in my opinion – is Virginia’s Micah Kiser. A 6’0” linebacker, Kiser is a hometown product of Gilman. While he doesn’t possess the speed of some other ILB prospects, Kiser is an instinctive and willing tackler that would improve the Ravens run defense. Another option at ILB is a more developmental player: Florida State’s Matthew Thomas. A player with special physical gifts, Thomas is 6’4” and fast. Unfortunately, his first-round potential is dampened by his apparent lack of awareness, which will likely make him a day three selection. Still, the Ravens have a track record of producing successful linebackers seemingly out of nowhere, and Thomas’ physical traits would leave the defensive coaches with a lot to work with.
However, despite all the names I just listed, the most intriguing prospect – and one who could possibly play either position – is this week’s guest Shaquem Griffin. At Central Florida, Griffin produced consistently impressive numbers that were backed by his awe-inspiring Combine performance. Aside from his on-the-field potential, though, Griffin would be a surefire leader in a Ravens locker room that – as many fans have discussed before – has lacked one since the departure of Ed Reed and retirement of Ray Lewis. Griffin’s story is inspiring, his play on the field is exciting, his potential is immense, and I would love to see him wearing purple come September.
The Baltimore Ravens are rumored to be one of the favorites to land WR Jarvis Landry via trade. With an obvious need for a dynamic, chain-moving pass-catcher, the move would excite many fans and could bring the offense closer to where it needs to be. This rumor has a fair amount of legitimacy, too. After all, Baltimore attempted to trade for Landry at this year’s deadline, and one could assume that they might still hold interest. In addition, Steve Bisciotti and Ozzie Newsome have both stated that the top priority for Baltimore’s offseason is to bring playmakers into the locker room. Newsome added fuel to the fire at this weekend’s NFL scouting combine, when he suggested that the wide receiver group will receive a complete overhaul. Still, how likely is it that the Ravens pull the trigger on a trade? And, if they do, would it even be worth it?
Landry signed his franchise tag with the Miami Dolphins this week, giving him a $16 million cap number if the Ravens decide to take him on. While this number would strap the team against their budget for the offseason, it would likely be restructured into a long-term deal. If the Ravens do not feel confident that they could sign Landry to a multi-year contract, they will not commit to a trade. Regardless, Jarvis Landry will command a sizeable contract. The Ravens will have to love his talent and feel he will instantly revamp the offense. This brings our attention to his skillset.
Jarvis Landry has arguably been the most successful slot receiver in the NFL since he entered the league in 2014. Averaging just over 100 receptions per season, Landry would certainly provide a safety blanket that QB Joe Flacco could trust. However, the primary knock on Landry is his lack of YAC (yards after the catch). Last season, the wideout averaged 8.8 yards per reception, meaning his after-the-catch playmaking ability – something the Ravens desperately need – is lacking. Is such small productivity worth $16 million? Likely not. What’s important to remember, too, is that Baltimore will not only have to cough up the money for the 6-foot wideout, but it will also have to complete a trade with the Miami Dolphins to acquire him in the first place. And, judging from similar trades in years past, their price tag could be high. For example, the New England Patriots acquired WR Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints last offseason. They exchanged him for a first-round pick. While Cooks is more prolific a target than Landry, Miami could demand a second or third-round pick. Considering the plethora of pass-catchers in those mid-rounds in this year’s draft, I would rather have the opportunity to select a real dynamic player – perhaps Maryland’s DJ Moore or Memphis’ Anthony Miller – than bring in Landry.
There’s no question that Jarvis Landry would improve the Ravens’ passing attack; he is a reliable target with good hands and strong route-running skills. To that point, I would support his acquisition if Baltimore was able to trade for him without draining their few mid-round draft picks. If Miami would part with Landry for a 2018 5th-round pick and a 2019 4th-round pick, I think it would behoove the Ravens to agree. Baltimore could subsequently look to extend Landry on a $12-14 million contract, allowing them to make a few smaller moves in the offseason. Trading for Jarvis Landry would be quite the statement; it would bring in a young receiver with All-Pro potential. However, trading for Jarvis Landry would not be an immediate fix for the numerous holes in Baltimore’s offense. They would still need a big, red-zone target and deep-threat at receiver, as well as a pass-catching tight end. Landry’s contract would likely force the Ravens to address each of these needs in the draft. For this reason, Jarvis Landry – in my opinion – is not worth the investment.