The NFL Draft is such an amazing combination of hype and groupthink. You hear seven "experts" repeat the same thing over and over, you start to believe it's your own opinion. Often, the "experts" who repeat the same talking points received their opinion from someone else. Who probably works for a player's agent.
I don't know what the Oakland Raiders are going to do at the top of the 2007 NFL Draft. But I watch an awful lot of college football. What I know is that JaMarcus Russell, for all his reportedly inhuman gifts, isn't a great football player. He just isn't. LSU is one of those schools that (at least during Russell's nearly three years as a starter) has done just enough to be very good. But at LSU, Russell went through periods on the field where he just looked...sort of disinterested. Or maybe that's the wrong word. Maybe "bad" is the word I'm looking for. I mean, isn't LSU the team that struggled to score points against Auburn, Florida and Mississippi last year? Didn't they have one of the most fearsome defenses in the nation, but an offense that kind of couldn't get out of its own way pretty regularly? And this notion that Russell has a great deal of accuracy in his high-powered right arm isn't entirely true. He was awesome in the Sugar Bowl, I'll grant you that, but Notre Dame's defense was pathetic in '06.
Calvin Johnson, on the other hand, is amazing. I saw a whole bunch of Georgia Tech games last year, too, and came away thinking, "Boy, Johnson is a great player." And also: "Boy, Reggie Ball isn't very good." I mean, Johnson caught 15 touchdowns and 76 passes for 1,202 yards from a guy who never posted a quarterback rating above 66.8 in his four-year career at Georgia Tech. Believe your eyes. Johnson was uncoverable on the NCAA level, and defenses will have to scheme to keep two men in his vicinity the moment he steps on an NFL field. Will he score every time he touches the ball? No. But whoever drafts Johnson will immediately have a better running game, because safeties will be instructed to roll Johnson's way, and a better receiving corps, because Johnson will draw double-teams.
I know Oakland needs a quarterback. I know they've got (a disgruntled) Randy Moss. But they should believe their eyes. They should take Calvin Johnson.
The NFL Draft is this weekend. What do you think are the biggest stories, and which rookies will have the most immediate impact on their new teams?
BoDog Bookmakers, BoDog.com: You can expect to see some trades this year that will shake up the top of the draft order. A lot of teams covet Calvin Johnson, and Detroit knows this. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on your take on the situation), the Lions have loaded up on wide receivers in recent drafts. Matt Millen will make Johnson the #2 pick and then entertain trade offers for this future superstar. Meanwhile, it's hard to say which rookie will have the biggest impact without really knowing which team they are going end up on after the dust settles. If we look at the players who are the most NFL-ready, they would have to be Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Calvin Johnson and Gaines Adams, in that order.
The Yankees may be off to a slow start, but A-Rod certainly isn't. What odds would you lay that Alex Rodriguez breaks the single-season home run record this year?
BDB, BoDog.com: A-Rod has been phenomenal through out his career. Unfortunately, he's still 60-odd home runs away from that particular record, and he's actually falling behind the ridiculous pace set by Barry Bonds in 2001. Would you believe Bonds had 14 in 14 games? Barring injury, Rodriguez will come very close, but once the games start meaning a little more, pitchers will pitch around him or just give him an intentional walk to avoid his swing altogether. At this point, I would put the line at 7/1.
Are the Miami Heat absolute toast in their playoff series against Chicago, down 2-0, or do you give them a legit chance to come back and win?
BDB, BoDog.com: Dwyane Wade's shoulder injury has slowed the Flash down to mere-mortal speed. His supporting cast has been dismal to say the least, and without any extra help the injured Wade won't be able to repeat last year's brilliance. We're seeing the results of the NBA rule change to give the team with the best record home court instead of giving it to the highest-seeded team. If Miami can take two straight at home and steal the next game in Chicago, they have a chance. But it's a small one.
One round into the NHL playoffs, care to amend your predictions for the Stanley Cup? Which teams have impressed you, and who makes it to the Finals?
BDB, BoDog.com: Buffalo is still the odds-on favorite in the East, but I have to say, Ottawa has been impressive. They've always had the firepower, but now Ray Emery is showing he can stand up to the pressure of the playoffs. This gives Ottawa its first dependable goaltending since 1999. Whichever team wins the San Jose-Detroit series should go through in the West. The Canucks and Ducks will be an entertaining series with all its subplots, but I don't think either team will have enough left to knock off the Wings or Sharks in the next round.