Yes football fans, it’s that time of the year again. The world’s most popular fantasy sport, although I’d beg to differ on what’s actually the best, is sending out their initial draft packages, mock drafts, and fantasy advice to get ready for the 2010 season. I have to admit I don’t spend much time on fantasy football because of my love for the Packers, so why not put a Packers’ spin on ESPN.com’s first fantasy football mock draft?
The Packers had six players and a defense represented in the draft (the Vikings had seven and a defense), and my fanhood believes there could have have been one or two more in there. Standard rules applied when making selections, so no individual defensive players (IDPs) and only 10 teams (most fantasy leagues will have 12 or even 14).
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB: Drafted in 2nd round, (12th overall)
The Packers got to work on signing their future by agreeing to terms with three draft picks Wednesday, general manager Ted Thompson announced. Guard Marshall Newhouse, running back James Starks, and defensive end C.J. Wilson all signed with the team and will be good to go when training camp begins in August.
Newhouse, the latter of Green Bay’s two fifth round draft choices, was a three year starter for the TCU Horned Frogs and earned first team All-Mountain West Conference honors in his senior season. He started 38 of the 52 games he appeared in, playing primarily left tackle, but projects as a guard at the next level.
Come on, it was destined to go seven games. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics will battle to become the newest NBA champion when they square off in Game 7 tonight. Every game of this series has felt like a Game 7 and there is no reason to believe tonight will be any different, but at the same time it’s hard to imagine the Lakers not pulling this one out when it’s all said and done.
After the Celtics took a commanding 3-2 lead following a Game 5 win, it was strange to see how calm the Lakers were and how the momentum, that should have been in Boston’s favor, was still even at best. With the Lakers going back home for the next game and a potential Game 7, many assumed the Lakers still had the advantage. One game later, that assumption is now fact.
A Game 6 blowout win for the Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant’s 29 points and Pau Gasol’s near triple-double, has them feeling extremely confident as they prepare for the series finale at home. No one in the Western Conference had a better home record (34-7) than the Lakers this season, and they are 10-1 in the playoffs when playing at the Staples Center.
The personnel factor is also in the Lakers’ favor, as Boston’s Kendrick Perkins has been ruled out of tonight’s game after tearing knee ligaments early in Game 6, while LA’s Andrew Bynum is expected to play through a sore knee. Perkins hadn’t made much of a dent in the box score this series (averaging 5.8 points and 5.8 rebounds), but his defensive impact in the paint was something the Celtics will not be able to replicate. The team that has won the rebounding stat is 6-0 in the series, meaning Boston could be in deep trouble.
Instead, Doc Rivers and the Celtics will counter with a combination of Rasheed Wallace, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, and Shelden Williams. What was once considered to be an advantage for the Celtics in the series, their bench disappeared in Game 6 and will have to be expanded further tonight with the loss of Perkins. On the other hand, the Lakers bench combined for 25 points and stifling defense that contributed to the win. With the crowd behind them and the Celtics now being forced to jumble rotations up after 90+ games, the tides have turned in the bench department.
For as much as an NBA title would mean to each franchise, with the Lakers looking for back-to-back titles and the Celtics looking for title No. 18, there are also personal accomplishments and even legacies on the line. Phil Jackson looks for his 11th NBA title in the last 20 years (he’ll also receive a $2 million bonus from the Lakers) and Adam Morrison will attempt to bring home his second title in as many years. OK, that was a joke.
But when it’s all said and done, the spotlight will be on one player and one player only: Kobe Bryant. It’s near impossible for a player with four titles, an MVP trophy, and a Finals MVP to have his legacy determined by one game, and tonight will be no exception. Bryant and the Lakers had the most talented roster from top to bottom, but the Celtics are competing closely to be considered the league’s best unit. A loss by the Lakers won’t ruin __ incredible seasons from Bryant, but at the same time a win could make his legacy that much stronger.
With a win tonight, Bryant would rack up his fifth NBA title as well as his second NBA Finals MVP (which he might do even if the Lakers lose). It would put him that much closer in the debate over best ever and put him one more Finals closer to Michael Jordan. He hasn’t reached Jordan by any means just yet, but a win tonight puts him that much closer to one day doing so.
This game could go down to the wire, and each team will make their respective runs in the game, but it’s awfully hard to imagine Bryant walking off his home court as the Celtics celebrate an NBA title. He hasn’t been spectacular in the Finals and he’s got one heck of a supporting cast around him, but tonight’s game will be won or lost by Kobe Bryant. I won’t be betting against him when the lights go on.
It took a while because of laptop malfunctions, but here is part two of the 10 reasons the Packers can and will take back the NFC North this season. If you want to check out reasons 1-5, you can find them here. As for the next five reasons:
6. Young cornerbacks finally taking shape
Al Harris’ health will be in question and it seems as though he is destined for the PUP list to begin the year, and the Packers failed to address the cornerback position in the draft. The good news is that head coach Mike McCarthy is excited about his young cornerbacks Pat Lee and Branden Underwood. Charles Woodson is back and Tramon Williams is expected to sign his tender, meaning the Packers will have depth they failed to have last season. If Lee can stay healthy and Underwood pans out as a dime back, the Packers will have more than enough help in the 3-4 scheme.
7. Jermichael Finley now gets a full season to dominate
When the NFL season gets underway with minicamps at the end of July, the Packers should see their name in the news as potential Super Bowl contenders. However, one has his name in the headlines right now for the wrong reasons.
Cornerback Brandon Underwood was questioned and investigated in connection with an alleged sexual assault of two women last week. The incident occurred in Lake Delton the night after linebacker Clay Matthews held his golf outing.
Aaron Rodgers has had to prove himself his entire NFL career. It began on draft day, when Rodgers waited for 23 teams to pass him up before being selected by the Green Bay Packers. While Rodgers waited in the green room for over 4 and a half hours that day, analysts critiqued him any way possible to understand why he was dropping so far.
Then came the waiting game behind legend quarterback Brett Favre. After three years of waiting in the wings, Rodgers took the over the starting job in not-so-quiet fashion. Fans wanted Favre back and accused Rodgers of stealing the job and was dubbed the reason Green Bay had lost the best thing to ever happen to the city since….ever.
All the while, Rodgers calmly went about his business and progressed as one of the top quarterbacks in the league, quieting the doubters and Favre fans. Never once did he speak ill toward Favre or lash out against Packers fans (although he once told the fans in a press conference to get on board or shutup). Until now.
The Brewers and Cubs were expected to fight with the Cardinals for the NL Central crown this season, but when the two teams meet in Milwaukee tonight to start a three game series, they’ll be battling for the right to stay ahead of the Pirates.
The Cubs have dominated the series as of late, especially at Miller Park, going 17-8 in Milwaukee since 2007 while outscoring the Brewers 125-90 in that span. This season, the Cubs have won five of the first six meetings against the Brewers, including a sweep early in April.
But a month and a half later, the Cubs (26-31) and the Brewers (23-34) are struggling to stay in contention and could very easily become sellers by this year’s trade deadline.
When the Brewers signed free agent pitchers Randy Wolf and Doug Davis, it was expected that their rotation, which ranked worst in the National League last season, would be good enough for their offense to take care of the rest. Two months later, Wolf and Davis have combined to go 5-8 and have a combined ERA of 5.57, helping the Brewers to the 29th ranked team ERA and 30th ranked WHIP.
Yovani Gallardo, who will take the hill tonight against left-hander Ted Lilly, has kept the Brewers out of the cellar by going 6-2 with an ERA of 2.64. The ace has won his last six decisions and has given up more than two earned runs just one time since April 16. The Cubs have avoided Gallardo during the first two series but will face him for the fifth time in his career, where he is 1-1 with a 5.64 ERA.
The Cubs had high hopes on the season after they brought back basically the same team with the addition of Marlon Byrd and the subtraction of hothead Milton Bradley. However, inconsistency has plagued the North Siders, who have had multiple winning streaks of four and multiple losing streaks of the same number.
Aramis Ramirez is batting a measly .168 with just five home runs, Derrek Lee is averaging just .237, and the lack of a leadoff man has made the offense a mystery every game. Byrd and Alfonso Soriano have enjoyed good seasons at the plate, but there has been little balance in a lineup that was expected to help Chicago contend. On the mound, Carlos Silva has found resurgence with the Cubs and is 8-0 with a 2.93 ERA, but the rest of the rotation has failed to follow Silva’s suit.
With both team’s struggling to get to .500, the series just doesn’t have the same flair as it usually does. Both teams come in with roadtrip losing streaks (Cubs: 2-4, Brewers: 2-5) and will look to turn things around, but whoever wins the series won’t really have momentum to build off. Yes, it’s a rivalry series because of the proximity, but until either team starts making some noise in the Central, this week’s series is just another set of games in June.
Rajon Rondo has played his entire career in the shadows of three hall of famers making their run toward NBA championships, but his transformation in the 2010 NBA Playoffs has many believing the reins have been handed over to the point guard, and next year’s fantasy season will be no different.
Just as it was last year, Rondo has taken over the playoff scene and now has his Celtics just three games away from a second title in three seasons. In 2008, Rondo averaged 12 points and eight assists in the regular season before exploding for a-17 point, 10-assist average in the postseason.
The outburst of production in the Playoffs carried over into this season, where Rondo put together an all-star campaign by averaging 14 points and 10 assists, as well as shooting a career-high 51 percent from the field. His efforts gave him top-35 value after having an average draft position around 49.
Many are expecting big things out of the Green Bay Packers in 2010, but with the expected return of Brett Favre to the Vikings, returning the NFC North division title to Lambeau will be no easy task. But unlike the Vikings, the Packers have been building up to a climax of potential over the last few seasons, and it seems as though the peak is just about there. Here are the first five reasons why the Packers, not the Vikings, will win the NFC North next season. Check tomorrow for part II
1. Aaron Rodgers is one year older, and one more year experienced