Trade Review: Chris Sale, CHW & BOS

Yoan Moncada, the key piece of the Chris Sale trade

At the 2016 Winter Meetings, the topic of a potential Chris Sale trade was prominent throughout the week. Eventually the Red Sox pounced, prying super star pitcher, Chris Sale, from the rebuilding White Sox. This was the first domino to fall in Chicago’s rebuild which included the White Sox dealing Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, and David Robertson. The Sale trade got the White Sox the biggest return, landing them four pieces in total.

The Deal: December 6th, 2016

Red Sox Receive: Chris Sale (SP)

White Sox Receive: Yoan Moncada (2B/3B), Michael Kopech (SP), Luis Alexander Basabe (OF), and Victor Diaz (SP)

General Overview: After multiple unpleasant incidents between Chris Sale and the White Sox organization, many expected Sale to be dealt over the offseason. On his way to the Red Sox, Sale joined a rotation already featuring the likes of David Price, Rick Porcello, and Drew Pomeranz. Joining a winning organization was something Sale greatly desired, so all three parties were happy with the deal. The Red Sox got the ace they desperatly needed, while the White Sox got two top tier prospects and two lower end guys who they felt could step up as well.

Red Sox Overview: No matter how well any of the players the Red Sox gave up do, it is hard to argue that they will be more valuable than Chris Sale was for them. Sale was not the only star player on the team in 2018, but he was one of the main reasons they made it to the World Series. Though doing poorly in his World Series start, without Sale, it is unlikely that the Red Sox would have even made it as far. Giving up two top tier prospects is tough, but it is hard to compare that to a World Series victory. Unfortunately for Boston, Sale’s 2019 season has been about as disastrous as possible, starting the season with an ERA over 6.00.

White Sox Overview: In the return for Sale, the White Sox got a massive haul of young talent. Just after reaching the majors, Yoan Moncada was MLB Pipeline’s #1 overall prospect in all of baseball. After his arrival, Moncada starred in Triple-A Charlotte for the first half of 2017 until his promotion to Chicago. Things did not go great for Moncada as his batting average and strikeout rate both worsened after the jump to the majors. In 2018, Moncada played the entire season at the MLB level, showing his 5-tool abilities, but again struggled with his contact. So far in 2019, Moncada has been excellent, looking like a true #1 overall prospect. His strikeouts have fallen drastically, while his HRs and AVG are both well above his previous season’s. It is a bit to early to tell for sure, but it appears as if Moncada was well worth being the centerpiece for Chris Sale. If he keeps performing at this rate, the Red Sox will soon (if not already) regret parting with him

Michael Kopech, another top prospect at the time, was dealt as a 2nd headliner to pair with Moncada. His combination of a high 90s (up to 100mph) fastball and a devastating slider really caught the eye of White Sox scouts. After doing well in Double-A (2017) and Triple-A (2017/2018), Kopech finally got a taste of the majors at the back end of the 2018 season. After a dominating first three starts, Kopech got absolutely shelled in his 4th. A day later, it was discovered Kopech needed Tommy John surgery, sidelining him for 2018 as well as 2019. He is expected to be fully healthy by 2020, and will be a crucial part of Chicago’s rotation then.

Though not as highly rated at the time, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, may turn out to be the 3rd very good player the White Sox got. A switch hitting outfielder, Basabe was traded away from his twin brother, Luis Alejando Basabe, who also played in the Red Sox organization. Though both were viewed as similar level players, Luis Alexander took off upon his arrival in the White Sox organization, and has proved himself to be an important member of their rebuild.

Victor Diaz, the 4th and final piece of the deal has not been much of a factor at all. After the trade, Diaz pitched 12 inning of relief between Class-A and Class A-Advanced, combining for a disgustingly bad 12 walks, and a 14.25 ERA. Diaz has been sidelined since 2017 due to injuries, so he is hoping to bounce back later this year. It’s always hard to tell for sure, but it appears that Diaz will be a pretty irrelevant part of this deal, essentially making it a 3:1 deal.

Chris Sale pitching vs Orioles (9/20/17)

Player Grades:

Chris Sale: A

Yoan Moncada: A-

Michael Kopech: A-

Luis Alexander Basabe: B-

Victor Diaz: D

Winner: Chicago White Sox

Prospect Profile: Wander Samuel Franco, TB

Wander Franco, TB

Wander Franco, the Tampa Bay Rays top prospect, is the next player in the Prospect Profile spotlight. Franco came in at #5 overall in my Early Season Prospect Rankings, and he is only getting better. Coming into the 2019 season at 18, Franco is one of the youngest players in all of Minor League Baseball.

Height:5’10″ Weight: 190 lbs. Age: 18

Position: SS Bats/Throws: S/R ETA: Early 2021

Overview: The future is looking very bright for the Tampa Bay Rays. With one of the best records in the MLB so far, and one of the best farm systems, they should also be expecting young pitchers Brent Honeywell, Anthony Banda and Jose De Leon to all return from Tommy John surgery this season. Wander Samuel Franco is at the top of Tampa’s prospect rankings, yet he is only 18 years old. Franco is at the top of a stacked system that contains players like Honeywell, Brendan McKay, Matthew Liberatore, Jesus Sanchez, and Shane McClanahan. Factor in current major league Rays like Austin Meadows, Willy Adames, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, the Rays have the best organizational depth in young, high-potential talent. I would expect the Rays to be in contention for the next 6-7 years at least, as they have the makings of a dynasty.

Signed in 2017 for just about four million dollars, Franco has not disappointed in his first profesional seasons, proving worthy of the large signing bonus. The switch hitting shortstop is one of the highest rated prospects by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. Coming in at such a young age (18) and already at Class A, Franco has the potential to be a complete superstar for the Rays. One of his most impressive stats is his strikeout rate, striking out only 9% of the time. Hitting well over .300 in both Rookie League (2018) and Class-A (2019), expect Franco to fly through Tampa’s system. Barring injuries, Franco will surely reach A-Advanced, and I don’t find it hard to believe that he’ll finish 2019 in Double-A Montgomery.

Ceiling: Troy Tulowitski – Currently, Tulowitski isn’t the star he used to be, so many people may have forgotten how dominant he used to be. He had a great bat, as well as a very good glove as well. During his career, Tulowitski had eight All-Star worthy seasons, and I could see Franco producing similarly to him. Franco has the tools to hit close to 30 HRs a season, while hovering around a .300 BA.

Projection: Gleyber Torres – One of the rising stars, Torres could be a very accurate comparison for Wander Franco. While its too early to tell for sure, Franco appears to be a pretty solid defender, who is an elite hitter both in terms of power and contact. Being a switch hitter is a plus as well, and he can produce from both sides of the plate, although he has more power from the left.

Floor: Willy Adames – One of the Rays former top prospects, shortstop Willy Adames was expected to be the Rays future shortstop as well as a franchise player. Adames has done pretty solid, but I’m sure they would have hoped for more. Francos expectations will be higher, so I view Adames as a worst case for Franco. If Adames is good enough to stay long term, he may have to relocate positions to make room for Franco.

Player Grades: Contact: A Power: B+ Speed: A- Fielding: B Arm: B- Potential: A+ Overall: A

2019 NFL Draft Grades: Full Team-by-Team Analysis – AFC Edition

In a surprising turn of events, Dave Gettleman and Dan Snyder may have been two of this year’s draft winners. The same can’t be said for the Houston Texans.

Some draft analysts argue that immediate draft reactions are useless. I disagree with that. I believe that there is value in assessing a combination of how a team filled its positional needs relative to the value of the pick that the player was selected. For example, if the Falcons had a dire need for edge-rushing talent, then selected edge rushers in the sixth and seventh rounds, they did not get enough value for a positional need. This would result in a lower grade. So obviously, these teams’ grades will lean more on how the teams drafted early.

It’s clearly impossible to truly tell who the winners of the draft are the day after it ended, so I wouldn’t normally put a lot of weight into immediate analysis. But I’m right about this stuff, I swear.

Baltimore Ravens: A

  • Round 1 (25): Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma – A
  • Round 3 (85): Jaylon Ferguson, EDGE, Louisiana Tech – A-
  • Round 3 (93): Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame – A
  • Round 4 (113): Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State – A-
  • Round 4 (123): Ben Powers, G, Oklahoma – C
  • Round 4 (127): Iman Marshall, CB, USC – B
  • Round 5 (160): Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M – C
  • Round 6 (197): Trace McSorely, QB, Penn State – D+

As a Steeler fan, it pains me to see Baltimore continuing to draft well. They drafted three playmaking athletic freaks; Miles Boykin’s athletic profile is almost identical to D.K. Metcalf’s, Justice Hill is as explosive as any RB in this class, and Marquise Brown s pretty much a more refined Desean Jackson. Their offensive is slowly morphing into a powerhouse, but it all depends on whether or not Lamar Jackson can consistently throw the ball accurately. If his ball placement improves, the Ravens will wreak havoc on NFL defenses for the next 5-8 years with these playmakers. One last thing- Jaylon Ferguson may be the most productive pass rusher in college football history, and him being on the Ravens’ defense scares me.

Buffalo Bills: A-

  • Round 1 (9): Ed Oliver, DT, Houston – A+
  • Round 2 (38): Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma – A
  • Round 3 (74): Devin Singletary, RB, FAU – B
  • Round 3 (96): Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss – B+
  • Round 5 (147): Vosean Joseph, LB, Florida – B
  • Round 6 (181): Jaquan Johnson, CB/S, Miami – B
  • Round 7 (225): Darryl Johnson Jr., DE, North Carolina A&T – C
  • Round 7 (228): Tommy Sweeney, TE, Boston College – C

The Bills were lucky enough to have Ed Oliver fall to them at #9. This is what made their draft, I see him being a perennial All-Pro player in the NFL, his lateral, vertical, and north-south athleticism is off the charts, and once he fills into his frame completely, he’ll be close to unstoppable. I also really like Cody Ford, who successfully protected Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray’s respective blindsides for the past two years. I see Dawson Knox becoming a productive starter in the league, and between Singletary, Jospeh, and Jaquan Johnson, there will be at least two starters from that group. this was a fantastic draft from the rebuilding Bills.

Cincinnati Bengals: B-

  • Round 1 (11): Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama – A++
  • Round 2 (52): Drew Sample, TE, Washington – C+
  • Round 3 (72): Germaine Pratt, LB, NC State – B
  • Round 4 (104): Ryan Finley, QB, NC State – B
  • Round 4 (125): Renell Wren, DT, Arizona State – C
  • Round 4 (136): Michael Jordan, G, Ohio State – C
  • Round 6 (182): Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M – C
  • Round 6 (210): Deshaun Davis, LB, Auburn – C
  • Round 6 (211): Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma – A
  • Round 7 (223): Jordan Brown, CB, South Dakota State – C

Jonah Williams at #11 is my favorite pick of the draft, and it’s not close. He’s about as much of a sure-thing prospect as Quenton Nelson was last year, and he plays a much more valuable position. Not only did the Bengals get insane value with Williams, it was also at a position of need. The second round pick of Drew Sample fills the hole left by Tyler Kroft and the oft-injured Tyler Eifert, and Germaine Pratt will add depth at inside linebacker, their weakest position. I also really like Rodney Anderson, a big, powerful runner with receiving skills and a solid amount of elusiveness. He has severe injury concerns though.

Cleveland Browns: B+

  • Round 2 (46): Greedy Williams, CB, LSU – A
  • Round 3 (80): Sione Takitaki, LB, BYU – B
  • Round 4 (119): Sheldrick Redwine, S, Miami – B+
  • Round 5 (155): Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama – B
  • Round 5 (170): Austin Seibert, K, Oklahoma – B+
  • Round 6 (189): Drew Forbes, OT, Southeast Missouri State – B
  • Round 7 (221): Donnie Lewis Jr., CB, Tulane – C

It’s very possible that Greedy Williams and Austin Seibert end up being the only starters from the Cleveland draft class. However, Greedy Williams will be a very good starter for the Browns. It’s widely believed that Williams slid in this draft due to concerns with tackling. My response to that is the same of John Dorsey’s: “Cornerbacks are paid to cover.” Williams was the best man corner from this draft, and his long arms and good range will directly translate to the league. Denzel Ward and Greedy will make for one of the scariest secondaries in the NFL come 2022. I don’t love the selections of Sione Takitaki and Sheldrick Redwine, who are also two of my nominees for the best worst names of the draft. Redwine fills the Browns’ only true need at safety though, and I like his athletic profile. Mack Wilson is a young, raw inside linebacker with a lot of room to grow. I absolutely believe that the Browns could turn him into an impact starter. Do I think they will, though? Probably not.

Denver Broncos: A-

  • Round 1 (20): Noah Fant, TE, Iowa – B+
  • Round 2 (41): Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State – A
  • Round 2 (42): Drew Lock, QB, Missouri – A-
  • Round 3 (71): Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State – A
  • Round 5 (156): Justin Hollins, LB, Oregon – C
  • Round 6 (187): Juwann Winfree, WR, Colorado – C

The Broncos did about as much as they could’ve with the lack of picks that they had this year. They masterfully traded back from the 10th spot, acquiring the picks necessary to trade up for Drew Lock while simultaneously being able to fill a need, drafting Noah Fant, adding a playmaker that they desperately needed. With the departure of Demaryius Thomas and the tragic achilles injury to Emmanuel Sanders, there are almost zero dynamic pass-catchers on the roster, Courtland Sutton has yet to prove himself. Dalton Risner is one of the most versatile linemen in this draft class, playing highly-graded seasons at center, right tackle, and left tackle at Kansa State. He will likely become the center for the Broncos, but if needed, he can shift around the line. I didn’t love Drew Lock coming into this year’s draft, but he’s well worth the position at which the Broncos were able to select him. The biggest issue with his QB play is his inconsistent footwork, but being around two longtime NFL quarterbacks in Joe Flacco and John Elway will absolutely help him. Dre’Mont Jones was one of my favorite mid-round picks in this draft. On film, he’s an extremely slippery defensive tackle, moving laterally as if he were a linebacker. His workout numbers don’t match that, which caused him to slip in the draft. The Broncos have been thin at DT ever since the departure of Malik Jackson, Dre’Mont Jones will be a good piece for them.

Houston Texans: D+

  • Round 1 (23): Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State – C+
  • Round 2 (54): Lonnie Johnson Jr., CB, Kentucky – B-
  • Round 2 (55): Max Scharping, OT, Northern Illinois – B
  • Round 3 (86): Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State – C
  • Round 5 (161): Charles Omenihu, DE, Texas – C
  • Round 6 (195): Xaiver Crawford, CB, Central Michigan – C
  • Round 7 (220): Cullen Gillaspia, RB, Texas A&M – C

Personally, I really didn’t love what the Texans did this year. Not one of their picks was on my pre-draft Top 60 board, and they made 3 picks in the top 60. Tytus Howard felt like a total reach to me, probably as a result of the Eagles leapfrogging them to draft Andre Dillard, the far superior tackle prospect. Lonnie Johnson Jr. is a somewhat understandable pick at 54, filling the absence of Kevin Johnson and the eventual departure of Jonathan Joseph. I appreciate the Texans’ effort to bolster their offensive line, but they may have gone about it in the wrong way.

Indianapolis Colts: B+

  • Round 2 (34): Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple – B+
  • Round 2 (49): Ben Banogu, LB, TCU – A
  • Round 2 (59): Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State – A
  • Round 3 (89): Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford – A
  • Round 4 (109): Khari Willis, S, Michigan State – B
  • Round 5 (144): Marvell Tell III, S, USC – C+
  • Round 5 (164): E.J. Speed, LB, Tarleton State – C
  • Round 6 (199): Gerri Green, DE, Mississippi State – C
  • Round 7 (240): Jackson Barton, OT, Utah – C
  • Round 7 (246): Javon Patterson, C, Ole Miss – C

Chris Ballard seems to have temporarily figured out the draft. The Colts figured out their team needs (WR, Secondary,LB), found out where the value was for these positions (picks 30-90), and put their resources into dominating that section of the draft. Rock ya-Sin is a physical, instinctual corner with a good amount of room to grow. Ben Banogu and Bobby Okereke are both ridiculous athletic specimens in pretty much opposite ways. Parris Campbell is a modern Swiss Army Knife at WR. This class could easily become as successful as their class from last year.

Jacksonville Jaguars: B-

  • Round 1 (7): Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky – A
  • Round 2 (35): Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida – N/A (Injury Questions)
  • Round 3 (69): Josh Oliver, TE, San Jose State – C
  • Round 3 (98): Quincy Williams, LB, Murray State – C
  • Round 5 (140): Ryquell Armstead, RB, Temple – C
  • Round 6 (178): Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State – C
  • Round 7 (235): Dontavius Russell, DT, Auburn – C

It’s going to be interesting to see where the Jaguars utilize Josh Allen in their front seven. His blend of size, strength, speed, and instincts already make him one of the versatile linebackers in the NFL. I hope that they use Allen in a way that’s similar to Chandler Jones in Arizona; majorily as a pass-rusher. I gave Jawaan Taylor a N/A grade, he has concerns with a degenerative knee problem. The Jaguars have no problem with taking risks on talent with injury history, though (Myles Jack). If Taylor remains healthy, he’s pretty much the perfect tackle for Jacksonville. He’s powerful and quick as a run blocker, and he’s had plenty of experience as a pass blocker too. Aside from those prospects, I don’t see much else impact from their class. Josh Oliver is a big, fast tight end that is mostly seen as a project, but he does have a relatively high ceiling.

Kansas City Chiefs: B-

  • Round 2 (56): Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia – C+
  • Round 2 (63): Juan Thornhill, CB/S, Virginia – A-
  • Round 3 (84): Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Illinois – A
  • Round 6 (201): Rashad Fenton, CB, South Carolina – C
  • Round 6 (214): Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State – A-
  • Round 7 (216): Nick Allegretti, G, Illinois – C

The fact that Kansas City used their first pick of this years’ draft to select a small, fast, receiver highlights a more significant issue that arose this weekend. With the possible absence of Tyreke Hill for the entire 2019 season and perhaps longer, the Chiefs are thin outside the hashmarks. Before the draft, they had by far the weakest cornerback room out of any playoff team from 2018. They didn’t exactly address cornerback, either. They took Juan Thornhill in Round 2, an athletic freak that I love as a prospect. He has an athletic profile that strongly resembles Donte Whitner’s, so I don’t really know if they’ll be able to relocate him to cornerback. Khalen Saunders is possibly my favorite pick from the third round, he’s undersized but incredibly explosive, I think he can be a disruptor on the interior of Kansas City’s line. Overall, they didn’t really fill their most significant needs, but they drafted a solid amount of talent.

Los Angeles Chargers: B+

  • Round 1 (28): Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame – A
  • Round 2 (60): Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware – A
  • Round 3 (91): Trey Pipkins, OT, Sioux Falls – D
  • Round 4 (130): Drue Tranquil, LB, Notre Dame – C
  • Round 5 (166): Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State – C
  • Round 6 (200): Emeke Egbule, LB, Houston – C
  • Round 7 (242): Cortez Broughton, DT, Cincinnati – C

For the second year in a row, the Chargers knocked it out of the park in the first round. Jerry Tillery was an extremely efficient pass-rusher at Notre Dame this past year, and he may be an immediate starter for their lackluster interior defensive line. Nasir Adderley was a best-player-available pick for Los Angeles in the second. He showed out at the Senior Bowl, and performed well in his workouts. I see them as two impact starters by the end of this season, but I don’t see much else in the rest of their draft. Trey Pipkins is pretty much the definition of a project prospect at a position that takes some time to develop. Drue Tranquil is an athletic inside linebacker, he’ll provide depth for them behind Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman.

Miami Dolphins: C+

  • Round 1 (13): Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson – B+
  • Round 3 (78): Michael Deiter, G, Wisconsin – B+
  • Round 5 (151): Andrew Van Ginkel, LB, Wisconsin – A-
  • Round 6 (202): Isaiah Prince, OT, Ohio State – C
  • Round 7 (233): Chandler Cox, RB, Auburn – D
  • Round 7 (234): Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington – D

The Dolphins did’t have a super flashy draft this year. With their two Top-100 picks, they elected to stay in the trenches with Wilkins and Deiter. I appreciate the Dolphins draft strategy though, linemen are the first position that you want to draft when beginning a rebuild. I like the selection of Andrew Van Ginkel, a raw, rangy inside linebackers with similarities to fellow late-round pick Fred Warner. I don’t like their late-round running back picks, they have their running back depth chart pretty much set with Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage.

New England Patriots: A

  • Round 1 (32): N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State – C
  • Round 2 (45): Joejuan Williams, CB/S, Vanderbilt – A
  • Round 3 (77): Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan – A
  • Round 3 (87): Damien Harris, RB, Alabama – B
  • Round 3 (101): Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia – A
  • Round 4 (118): Hijalte Froholdt, OG, Arkansas – A
  • Round 4 (133): Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn – B
  • Round 5 (159): Byron Cowart, DT, Maryland – C
  • Round 5 (163): Jake Bailey, P, Stanford –B
  • Round 7 (252): Ken Webster, CB, Ole Miss – C+

This draft would have been an A++ if it weren’t for the N’Keal Harry pick at the end of the first round. Harry is a fine prospect, he reminds me of Dez Bryant in good and bad ways. He has ideal size for a WR at 6’2″ 228 lbs, and his workout numbers are outstanding, but he struggled to create separation in college, and he definitely will struggle in the NFL. The Patriots had a need at safety before the draft due to injuries to Patrick Chung, and it seems that they selected the oversized, fast Joejuan Williams to develop as a safety. Getting Chase Winovich at 77 is a classic perfect Patriots pick. He’s a high-motor, high-production, high-athleticism player. The only reason for him to slide to the third round is the fact that he’s 24 years old, but that’s a bad excuse not to take a player like him. Yodny Cajuste and Hijalte Froholdt are both players that don’t seem like great picks right now, but after four years of coaching from Dante Scarneccia, they’ll probably be the league’s highest-paid players at their respective positions. (Sarcasm?) Jarret Stidham is a fundamentally sound QB that throws the ball inconsistently, it’ll be interesting to see if Tom Brady mentors him similarly to Jimmy Garoppolo.

New York Jets: B+

  • Round 1 (3): Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama – A
  • Round 3 (68): Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida – B+
  • Round 3 (92): Chuma Edoga, OT, USC – B
  • Round 5 (157): Blake Cashman, LB, Minnesota – B
  • Round 6 (196): Blessuan Austin, CB, Rutgers – C

The Jets had a relatively successful draft given their lack of picks. There were several reports that Quinnen Williams was the #1 player on multiple teams’ draft boards. There was even a report that Jachai Polite was the #2 pass-rusher on the Jet’s board despite his lackluster workout showings. Blake Cashman was another player that was hurt by combine his performance and measurements. It was clear that the Jets’ strategy in this draft was chasing college production. Chuma Edoga was a player the received a ton of draft hype before this college football season due to his athleticism and success protecting Sam Darnold. His play declined this year, but getting him in the late third round way a steal for the Jets. The Jets had an extremely successful offseason. They fixed their most glaring issues as well as they could have, addressing their lack of playmaking in free agency with Le’Veon Bell, and stocking up on pass rushers in the draft. Their interior offensive line is still relatively weak, but it’s not a crippling issue.

Oakland Raiders: A-

  • Round 1 (4): Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson – B+
  • Round 1 (24): Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama – C+
  • Round 1 (27): Jonathan Abram, S, Mississippi State – A
  • Round 2 (40): Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson – B+
  • Round 4 (106): Maxx Crosby, EDGE, Eastern Michigan – B
  • Round 4 (129): Isaiah Johnson, CB, Houston – C
  • Round 4 (137): Foster Moreau, TE, LSU – A
  • Round 5 (149): Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson – C
  • Round 7 (230): Quinton Bell, DE, Prairie View A&M – C

The quality of the Raiders’ draft class may be the the most universally disagreed upon by draft analysts. Drafting a running back in the first round is pretty much criminal these days, and experts are arguing whether or not Jonathan Abram is just a box safety. Personally, I liked the Raiders’ draft. It could have been better, but it’s not going to set them back as a franchise. Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden were clear in their attempt to create a winning culture in Oakland, they drafted four players who played in this years’ CFB Championship. I love the selection of Foster Moreau late in the fourth, he has exceptional athleticism, he was a captain and leader of the LSU team for the past few years, and he fits into most blocking schemes. The Raiders had a clear plan for this year’s draft, and that’s about all you can ask for given the chaos that preceded their draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers: A-

  • Round 1 (10): Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan – A
  • Round 3 (66): Diontae Johnson, WR, Toledo – A-
  • Round 3 (83): Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State – A
  • Round 4 (122): Benny Snell Jr., RB, Kentucky – B-
  • Round 5 (141): Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan –C+
  • Round 6 (175): Sutton Smith, DE, Northern Illinois – C
  • Round 6 (192): Isaiah Buggs, DT, Alabama – C
  • Round 6 (207): Ulysses Gilbert III, LB, Akron – C
  • Round 7 (219): Derwin Gray, OT, Maryland – C

For the seventh year in a row, the Steelers have drafted a defensive player in the first round. And in the words of fellow FTS writer Adam Simkowitz, “Their defense is still not good.” I think Devin Bush will be an immediate impact player for the Steelers, I can see him finding his place in the front seven by week ten. I like the mid-round picks for Pittsburgh too. They’ve had a need for a good corner for about 25 years, so I’m guessing that Justin Layne is the answer. Diontae Johnson is a wideout that severely underperformed in the combine, but his on-field speed is unreal. He’s undersized, he creates separation at an elite level, and he’s one of the best route-runners in this class. Sound familiar? As for the rest of their draft, they seem to have picked some depth for James Conner, even though Jaylen Samuels performed at a high level as a rookie. This enables them to properly utilize Jaylen Samuels’ true versatility. Zach Gentry should end up serving as a replacement for Jesse James, who they lost to Detroit in free agency. Overall, it was a solid draft for the Steelers. Much better than last year.

Tennessee Titans: A-

  • Round 1 (19): Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State – A-
  • Round 2 (51): A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss – A
  • Round 3 (82): Nate Davis, OG, Charlotte – C
  • Round 4 (116): Amani Hooker, S, Iowa – A
  • Round 4 (121): Trevon Wesco, TE, West Virginia – B+
  • Round 5 (168): D’Andre Walker, OLB, Georgia – A
  • Round 6 (188): David Long Jr., LB, West Virginia – A

This draft for Tennessee has been par for the course on their upwards trend as a franchise. They’ve built an extremely deep roster, due to their ability to hit on a high percentage of late-round picks. Amani Hooker and D’Andre Walker were both picks of a high value, as they both produced at an elite level at their respective Power-5 schools. Amani Hooker has tackling concerns, but he’ll be able to cover well in the NFL. As for their early round picks, they selected Jeffery Simmons in the first, who’ll likely succeed Jurrell Casey as their cornerstone interior defender. He has character concerns stemming from an incident from high school, as everyone saw on national TV on Thursday, but he’s remained clean throughout college. He also tore his ACL, but it wasn’t a severe tear. It’s likely that he’ll return to full strength and go back to the extremely powerful, disruptive defender that he was at Mississippi State. A.J. Brown was my favorite receiver from the draft. He runs like a running back after the catch, and he’s able to create separation at a borderline elite level. He struggles with breaking the press, so he’ll produce the most from the slot in the league. The middle of the field will be open for him, as Delanie Walker is being phased out of the offense, and former first-rounder Corey Davis mostly works outside the hash marks. Of course all of their superb years of drafting will become obsolete if Marcus Mariota continues to be plagued by injury, never reaching his full potential.

2019 NFL Draft Grades and Analysis

With the 2019 NFL Draft all wrapped up, I will be taking a close look at many of the players selected. Here are my 1st round grades, as well as my favorite late round picks, and my winners/losers of the Draft.

Round 1 Grades

Josh Allen, #7 overall pick by JAX
  1. ARI – Kyler Murray, Oklahoma, QB: C+ – Don’t get me wrong here, I like Kyler Murray a lot. He is a dynamic athlete who proved himself to be elite during his collegiate career. As much as I like Murray, I think the Cardinals really put themselves in a bad spot with Josh Rosen. After taking Murray every team knew Rosen was going to be moved, so Arizona lost all leverage. They wound up trading Rosen for what should be an early 2nd round pick as well as a 5th. That is just inadequate for someone who was picked 10th overall just one year ago. Had Rosen be dealt before, this pick would’ve received a better grade, but the Cardinals handled this situation poorly in my opinion.
  2. SF – Nick Bosa, Ohio State, DE: A – Much like his brother, Joey Bosa, Nick was well worthy of a top three pick. It was between Bosa and Quinnen Williams for the 49ers, and they obviously felt like Bosa fit their defensive scheme better. Nick may indeed be better than his brother, so there’s really nothing bad to say about this pick.
  3. NYJ – Quinnen Williams, Alabama, DT: A – The Jets were either going to go with Bosa or Williams, whoever the 49ers passed on. After Bosa was taken 2nd, the choice here was obvious. Williams is one of the two defenders in this draft who I have absolutely no doubt will be a star in the NFL. Being paired with Leonard Williams gives the Jets a scary combo up front.
  4. OAK – Clelin Ferrell, Clemson, DE: D – This was probably my least favorite pick of the 1st round. In my mock draft, I had Ferrell at 19, and I haven’t seen him in the top 10 of any other mock. Now if Ferrell was really the guy the Raiders wanted, they easily could have traded down with a team like the Steelers, Packers or the Redskins. A guy like Josh Allen or Jonah Williams could have been a bitter pick here.
  5. TB – Devin White, LSU, ILB: A- – There wasn’t a better Kwon Alexander replacement than Devin White in the draft. White will pair with Lavonte David nicely, giving the Buccaneers two elite linebackers one again. The only other spot the Bucs could have gone this early was with a O-lineman, but David will make their defense so much better.
  6. NYG – Daniel Jones, Duke, QB: C – The more I’ve thought about this pick the less I hate it. Yes, the Giants did take Jones too early, but I feel like someone with his personality is needed in a city such as New York. Dave Gettleman obviously felt the same way, using his top pick on his Eli Manning replacement. I gave this pick a C just because Jones would likely have been available at 17, which would have allowed the Giants to get Josh Allen with this pick.
  7. JAX – Josh Allen, Kentucky, OLB: A – The Jags could not have been happier with the way things unfolded in the top 6. I’m sure they expected Allen, Williams, and Bosa all be gone by 7, but the sup-rise selection of Clelin Ferrell gave the Jags to snag Allen. Getting Allen at 7 gives Jacksonville its 4th above average D-lineman on an already stacked defense.
  8. DET – T.J. Hockenson, Iowa, TE: B+ – Joining an extremely well rounded squad, Hockenson should succeed with the Lions. Dynamic both as a pass-catcher and as a blocker, he gives Detroit an elite option at TE. Even if it doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet, Hockenson is a guy who will contribute in more ways than one.
  9. BUF – Ed Oliver, Houston, DT: B+ – As a team with so many holes on the roster, the Bills were wise to go with the top talent on the board. Ed Oliver reminds me think of a guy like Oliver Vernon, who can get to the QB and disrupt the run game.
  10. PIT – Devin Bush, Michigan, ILB: B- – Trading up to select Devin Bush in the top 10 was a very surprising move by Pittsburgh. Giving up their 1st and 2nd round in the 2019 draft as well as a 2020 3rd, the cost was quite steep. While I believe Bush can fill the void left by Ryan Shazier’s devastating injury, I would question if giving up 3 early round picks was worth it.
  11. CIN – Jonah Williams, Alabama, OT: A – This is exactly where I mocked Williams to go, and I still believe it is the best match for him. The Bengals desperately needed help on the O-line, and Williams is someone who I consider to have the potential to be a well above average LT. The only other two picks the Bengals might have taken here (Devin Bush/Devin White) were already off the board, so Williams was a very smart choice.
  12. GB – Rashan Gary, Michigan, DE: C+ – I’m personally not a huge fan of Rashan Gary, so I feel like a guy like Christian Wilkins or Jeffery Simmons would have been a better selection here. In college, Gary was very good in the run game, but really lacked explosiveness in the pass rush. The guy the Packers were looking to get, TJ Hockenson, was off the board at 12, so they really missed out on their first choice.
  13. MIA – Christian Wilkins, Clemson, DT: A- – I really like this pick for the Dolphins here. Since the Josh Rosen trade was already in the works, QB wasn’t a need here, and Wilkins was the best available player. Wilkins was ranked among the top two at his position in both run defense and pass rushing. Not only is Wilkins great on the field, but he is a well rounded individual who will be a defensive leader as well.
  14. ATL – Chris Lindstrom, Boston College, OG: B- – Lindstrom is a pretty solid addition to the Falcons O-line which already features two above average linemen in Alex Mack and Jake Matthews. He should help injury-prone Devonte Freeman stay on the field most of the season, especially with the loss of fellow RB, Tevin Coleman.
  15. WAS – Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State, QB: A- – The Redskins must have though Haskins would be gone by now. The Cardinals, Giants, Broncos, Bengals, Dolphins, and maybe even the Raiders, were all though to be looking at QBs in the 1st round. As it turns out, only two teams took QBs ahead of the Redskins, one being someone they were likely not interested in anyways (Daniel Jones). Getting Haskins at 15 give the Skins a quality QB prospect at a very good value.
  16. CAR – Brian Burns, Florida State, OLB: B+ – An athletic specimen, Burns’ explosiveness off the line of scrimmage will no doubt make an impact in the NFL. Burns should be able to get 8+ sacks a season since he shouldn’t be having to face many double teams.
  17. NYG – Dexter Lawrence, Clemson, DT: B+ – A true big fella, Lawrence ranked in the top six in both run stopping and pass rush defense. I feel like Lawrence could have a similar presence to former Giants, Damon Harrison in the run game, while being more of a factor in pass rush as well.
  18. MIN – Garrett Bradbury, NC State, C: B- – The Vikings offensive line healthy has struggled as of late, so it can’t hurt to add a 1st round center into the mix. Without any other glaring holes on either offense or defense, selecting an O-lineman was a good choice for Minnesota.
  19. TEN – Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State, DT: A- – Simmons could be one of the biggest steals of the draft. Had he not torn his ACL earlier in the season, Simmons would have surely been taken in the top 10. Simmons is joining what I believe to be the most underrated defense in all of the NFL. Looking through their depth chart, there is not a single defensive starter who I would consider to be below average, so Simmons makes that defense even better.
  20. DEN – Noah Fant, Iowa, TE: B+ – When I see Noah Fant, I am instantly reminded of O.J. Howard. An outlier at the TE position, Fant’s extreme athleticism should cause mismatches against linebackers or cornerbacks that try to cover him. While he is not the blocker that former Iowa teammate TJ Hockenson is, Fant’s athleticism and verticality are both far superior.
  21. GB – Darnell Savage Jr., Maryland, S: C+ – At the time this was a pretty good pick, getting a solid safety for a team with a weak secondary. As it turns out, safeties were not highly sought after, so they could have waited till their 2nd round pick to draft a safety. Had they done that they could have still got a guy like Taylor Rapp or Chauncey Gardner-Johnson while freeing up a pick for any other need.
  22. PHI – Andre Dillard, Washington State, OT: A+ – What a move this was by the Eagles. Trading up right in front of Houston really ruined the Texans’ selection while giving the Eagles a very high quality blocker who can take over for the aging Jason Peters.
  23. HOU – Tytus Howard, Alabama State, OT: C+ – After loosing out on their obvious target, Andre Dillard, the Texans had to look elsewhere for offensive line help. Unfortunately for the Texans, they did not really pick an NFL ready guy. More of a project, Howard will not be starting close to the same level as Dillard or other options that the Texans could have went for like Dalton Risner or Jawaan Taylor.
  24. OAK – Josh Jacobs, Alabama, RB: B- – Jacobs is one of the bright spots in an extremely weak RB class. This being said, I don’t believe he, or anyone else in the class, was worthy of a 1st round selection. Running behind a below average O-line won’t help Jacobs either, so I’d expect his production to be limited early on.
  25. BAL – Marquise Brown, Oklahoma, WR: B – The first WR off the board, the Ravens definitely did need to fill the wide receiver spot. Lamar Jackson desperately needs weapons, as he can’t perform as a runner without downfield threats. Brown is a vertical target, who can be used to help Lamar Jackson become more of a passer.
  26. WAS – Montez Sweat, Mississippi State, DE: A+ – By far the best athlete at his position, Sweat fell due to health concerns. Reports are out now stating that these conditions were incorrectly measured, so the Redskins felt like he would be worth a gamble. If healthy, Sweat could be one of the biggest steals of the first round.
  27. OAK – Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State, S: C – The 3rd first round pick of the Raiders, and another guy I’m not a huge fan of. I feel like Abram wasn’t even one of the best safeties available at the time, with 2-3 other guys I liked better. I’m not sure what the Raiders were thinking with their three 1st round picks, but as of now, I can’t say I’d be happy as a Raiders fan.
  28. LAC – Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame, DT: B – One of the best interior defenders in the pass rush, Tillery is joining a stacked Los Angeles defensive line. Not a real flashy guy, Tillery will be able to face 1-on-1 matchups almost 100% of the time, with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on the ends.
  29. SEA – L.J. Collier, TCU, DE: B – The Seahawks are going to need lots of time to bring their defense anywhere near the level it was a few years ago. I’d expect many early round picks in 2020 spent on defense as well. Collier is a quality end, someone to lessen the loss of Frank Clark. Unfortunately this means that the Seattle offensive line will likely struggle once again, making Russell Wilson’s job a lot harder.
  30. NYG – Deandre Baker, Georgia, CB: A+ – One of the best picks of the first round, the Giants traded up to select Baker, the first CB off the board. I was amazed no other corner was taken before 30, and the Giants obviously felt like Baker was a bargain here. Had it not been for character issues, Baker would have been taken well before this pick, so I believe that the Giants got lucky no other team was willing to select him.
  31. ATL – Kaleb McGary, Washington, OT: C+ – After drafting offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom, the Falcons went right back to the same spot, getting tackle Kaleb McGary. I don’t think McGary is anywhere near the play Lindstrom is, and one of his biggest issues is excessive amounts of penalties. If McGary can’t fix that, then there will be no way for him to succeed in the NFL
  32. NE – N’Keal Harry, Arizona State, WR: B- – While receiver was definitely a need for the Patriots, I was a bit suprised that N’Keal Harry was there guy here. With DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, Parris Cambell, and Deebo Samuel all on the board. Harry will fill the question mark left by Josh Gordon, but we will have to look back to see if he was the best option.

Best Late Round Picks of the Draft

ARI – Byron Murphy: 2nd (33rd) – The first pick of the 2nd round, the Cardinals must have been estate when day one ended, knowing they’d select Murphy the next day. Arguably the best CB in the draft, Murphy was a first round talent who happened to fall based upon team needs.

DEN – Dalton Risner/Drew Lock: 2nd (41st/42nd) – Two back to back picks for the Broncos resulted in a much improved offense. With Noah Fant taken in the 1st round, that totals to three talented players being added to the Broncos roster. Risner is an extremely versatile lineman who played all over the place for Kansas State. Drew Lock, My 3rd ranked QB, gets Risner for protection, and a receiving TE to throw to as well. Going into the 2019 season and beyond, I’d expect the Broncos offense to be much better than in the past.

CLE – Greedy Williams: 2nd (46th) – After trading their 1st round pick for Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns could not have expected to land a player of Greedy Williams’ caliber. One of the top tier CBs in the draft, the Browns now have Williams to pair with rising star, Denzel Ward.

LAC/LAR – Nasir Adderley/Taylor Rapp: 2nd (60th/61st) – Adderley and Rapp were two safeties that I surely though would be gome by the very end of the 2nd round. Fourtunatly for the two already stacked defenses of the Chargers and Rams, Adderley and Rapp fell into their laps. Rapp was one of the best tackling safeties in all of college football, so he will be a major presence for the Rams. Adderley is the best coverage safety of the class in my opinion, so he will be a big factor for the Chargers’ defense as well.

SEA – DK Metcalf: 2nd (64th) – Metcalf was my #1 receiver in the class, so for Seattle to get him at the very end of the 2nd is a steal in my book. Metcalf will replace Doug Baldwin as WR1, although he is a different type of player. One of the best athletes out there, Metcalf should have decent production, even on a run-heavy team like Seattle.

NYJ – Jachai Polite: 3rd (68th) – Had it not been for disastrous results at his pro days and the combine, Polite would have been picked 1st or early 2nd round. Looking to prove doubters wrong, Polite should be very good at putting pressure on the QB, while being a decent run stopper, and even dropping into coverage on occasion.

NE – Chase Winovich: 3rd (77th) – Winovich is a guy I think will really thrive in New England. One of the more underrated prospects, Winovich couldn’t have been selected to a better team to reach his potential. I definitely see Winovich becoming an above-average player, if not even better, possibly like former Patriot, Rob Ninkovich.

NYG – Oshane Ximines: 3rd (95th) – Ximines is a guy I really like for the Giants. A lot of people thought that New York would select Josh Allen with their 6th overall pick but they instead went for Daniel Jones. Later in the 1st round they got Dexter Lawrence, who is an interior presence. One other spot they really needed was edge rusher, so getting a value guy like Ximines is a great pick. After starring at Old Dominion, Ximines has a very good chance to start for the Giants as early as this year.

CAR – Will Grier: 3rd (100th) – This pick is based on the future of the franchise. Cam Newton has been suffering from shoulder problems, and his performance has been effected by that. Under contract only two more seasons, Grier could save the Panthers from spending big on Newton. I considered Grier to be a 2nd round pick, so they also got good value snagging him late 3rd.

NO – Chauncey Gardner-Johnson: 4th (105th) – Gardner-Johnson was another DB who I was surprised to see fall this late. After performing really well in his last season at Florida, and a very respectable showing at the Scouting Combine, I figured Gardner-Johnson to go late 2nd. Luckily for the Saints, they were able to grab him in the early 4th round, adding him to an already young secondary.

NYG – Julian Love: 4th (108th) – Another pick I like by the Giants, Love will be a very good CB, a position which the Giants really need. Love should be paired up with fellow 2019 draftee, Deandre Baker for many years to come.

TEN – Amani Hooker: 4th (116th) – A really high ceiling safety, Hooker should have time to develop on a loaded Titans defense, but he should also be able to make in impact in the short term as well. The hope is that Hooker’s great coverage skills will translate into the NFL, making for a versatile safety to pair with Byard.

Winners

Kyler Murray #1 overall pick by ARI

Kyler Murray – Being picked 1st overall, it’s hard not to be considered a winner. Proving to any doubters about his size wrong, Murray earned this selection with his elite performance. Also, after giving up a massive signing bonus from the Oakland Athletics, had he fallen down the board, he would have been losing millions.

Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals really cleaned up this draft. Not only did they get their franchise quarterback, but they added three quality WRs for him to throw to. On the defensive side, defensive backs Byron Murphy and Deionte Thompson were both great value picks. I also like Zach Allen a lot, making for an extremely deep draft for the Cards.

Drew Lock – Luckily for Lock, he was drafted to a team where he will surely become the starting QB by year two, if not before. Joe Flacco is clearly not the answer for Denver, so Lock should have the job whenever he is ready. Conveniently for Lock, Denver just added a great pass protecter in Dalton Risner as well as a great pass-catching TE in Noah Fant.

New York Giants/Dave Gettleman – After what seemed like a disastrous pick at #6 overall with Daniel Jones, the Giants really recovered with a pair of excellent selections in the 1st round. Dexter Lawrence and Deandre Baker are elite defenders, both in the conversation for being the best at their respective positions in the draft class. Their 3rd and 4th round picks, Oshane Ximines and Julian Love, were both value picks, and should contribute as soon as this year.

Losers

Josh Rosen – It can’t feel that good being given up on in under a year. Hours after the Cardinal’s selection of Kyler Murray, Rosen was on his way to Miami via a trade. The former 10th overall pick will be joining a very weak offensive team, where I doubt he’ll find too much success right away. With a pretty terrible offensive line, and close to no offensive weapons, it wouldn’t surprise me if Rosen performs a lot worse than he did with the Cardinals.

A.J. Brown – Tennessee might just be the worst team for a WR to be drafted to. An extremely run heavy team, even the QB, Marcus Mariota’s game is more based on the run. 5th overall pick in 2017, Corey Davis, found trouble reaching his potential in his first two seasons in Tennessee, and I fear Brown will experience the same troubles. Brown would have been much better off going to a team like the Patriots, who instead took K’Neal Harry over Brown.

Oakland Raiders – Being a team with holes all around the roster, Oakland should have been taking the best available with their first few picks. Starting off with Clelin Ferrell at 4th was a huge mistake in my opinion. There were at least 5-6 guys that would have been better picks, or trading down would have been a much better option. I don’t think the Raiders got much talent on the back end of their draft either, making for a terrible draft. Considering Oakland had some of the best draft capital (3 first round picks), I couldn’t be more disappointed with the Raiders selections.

Cam Newton – With the selection of Will Grier, it is apparent that the Panthers don’t fully believe that Newton is 100% healthy. After undergoing two shoulder surgeries, Newton may not be the same QB he was during his electric first few seasons. The hope is Grier’s presence will give Newton extra motivation to pick up his performance, and if not, be a replacement in 2021.

Te’Von Coney – Coney was someone I though would be gone by the late 2nd-early 4th. For whatever reason, Coney would up being undrafted before signing a deal with the Raiders. I’m sure Coney thought he could be picked day two as well, and he must have been shocked to not hear his name called on day three.

Houston Texans – There’s not much to say here other than the Texans just had a really bad draft. After missing out on Andre Dillard, Houston took a lottery ticket in Tytus Howard, not someone many considered to be 1st round worthy. Lonnie Johnson may wind up being a decent cornerback, but other than that, there isn’t anyone else I like in Houston’s draft class.

Russell Wilson, SEA

Russell Wilson – I’m sure Wilson thought he’d get some help on the O-line within the first two rounds, but three Seattle’s first five picks were on defense. DK Metcalf and Gary Jennings give Wilson a couple decent receiving options, but it’s unlikely they’ll have the same impact a healthy Doug Baldwin did, who is considering retirement. Also neither will make an impact when it comes to pass protection, on a O-line that has struggled many years in a row. Wilson will also be facing newly improved NFC West defenses which include additions of Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Jason Verrett, Kwon Alexander, Jordan Hicks, Terrelle Suggs, Byron Murphy, Taylor Rapp, and Clay Matthews. Couple that with the fact Wilson lacks pass protection and elite receiving options, 2019 is shaping up to be a bad year for Wilson.

Defensive Backs – With no defensive backs selected in the top 20, and only three DBs taken in the first round, I was very surprised to see many cornerbacks and safeties fall. Guys like Byron Murphy, Greedy Williams, Taylor Rapp, Nasir Adderly, and Deionte Thompson I expected to fall somewhere in the late 1st round, but most fell outside the top 50.

Mid-Major Dive

McKillop Court at Belk Arena in Davidson, North Carolina

This is going to be a new series I am going to start about diving into about different Mid-Major teams. Mid-Majors have it rough and usually are these cinderella stories who somehow preform in the NCAA tournament. This is going to look into their returning players and their schedules once they come out, or if some have been announced.

Our first team will be my favorite, Davidson Wildcats.

Davidson finished the season at 24-10 after a tough loss to Lipscomb in the NIT tournament. A 14-4 conference campaign in the A-10 and and a bad loss in the A-10 tournament left the Wildcats a bit stunned for this offseason. Bad early season losses against Temple and Wake Forest really looked bad on the résumé. As for the A-10, most of their losses were ones that shouldn’t have happened, the Saint Joseph loss by 1 early, a 3 point loss to UMASS, and a 1 point loss at home to Dayton were tough to swallow for the Cats. Davidson was eliminated from the A-10 conference tournament with a 23 point loss to Saint Louis and then again eliminated from the NIT with a 8 point loss to Lipscomb.

After a terrible way to end their season, and definitely undeserved, the Wildcats were hit with two bombshells on the same day. BOTH Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmundsson declared for the NBA Draft. They are going to have until into June to decide if they are going to return to school for this upcoming year. Without these two, Davidson is going to have a very hard time finding any sort of success next year. 6’5″ guard Luke Frampton had a really good redshirt freshman year, and if Grady and Gudmundsson come back, these three could be a real threat within the A-10. Luka Brajkovic had a very good freshman year and is the first player in a long time to add a true post feel to McKillop’s offense. Davidson’s success is going to completely depend on Grady and Gudmundsson for next season.

As for the upcoming season, Davidson has announced it will be competing in the 2020 Maui Jim Maui Invitational. A decent field will provide the Wildcats a chance to show everyone that they are a true tournament team. Included in the field, Alabama, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas, and UNLV.

Projection for next season: With Grady and Gudmundsson: above 20 wins, below 15 losses, NCAA Tournament appearance; Without Grady and Gudmundsson: around .500 record, no postseason appearance

Prospect Profile: Ke’Bryan Hayes, PIT

Ke’Bryan Hayes fielding ground balls at third base.

Pirates third baseman, Ke’Bryan Hayes, is the focus in the third article of the “Prospect Profile” series

Height:6’1″ Weight: 210 lbs. Age: 22

Position: 3B Bats/Throws: R/R ETA: Mid 2019

Overview: The best tool of Ke’Bryan Hayes is no doubt his glove. While his hit tool is very developed as well, the fielding abilities could easily win him a Gold Glove within his first few season in the MLB. Already participating in many “big stage” events such as the Futures Game and the Double-A All Star Game, Hayes has proven he is ready for the majors. After finishing 2018 at Double-A Altoona, Hayes has little left to prove at Triple-A, and should be up in Pittsburgh within a few months.

Part of a pretty depleted Pittsburgh farm system, Hayes is one of the few bright spots for Pirates fans. After seeing fellow top prospects Cole Tucker and Bryan Reynolds called up to Pittsburgh this past week, Hayes is not far behind. In what will be a rejuvenating boost for a lacking Pirates roster, Hayes will likely be better than both Reynolds and Tucker. Pirates top pitching prospect, Mitch Keller, should be up around the same time as Hayes, as bother are currently in Triple-A.

Ceiling: Miguel Andujar – Another young 3rd basemen, Andujar’s minor league numbers are not too far off Hayes’. Not showing too much power his first few seasons, Andujar really picked it up by year four. I think it is very realistic to see Hayes doing the same, as both have almost identical height/weight and similar body types. Comparable to Andujar, Hayes could hit around .280 while staying in the low 20s/high teens in terms of HRs. An advantage of Hayes is that he is much more fluid at 3rd base, a position which requires advanced defensive skills.

Projection: Martin Prado – One of the most underrated contact hitters, Prado is a guy who doesn’t have too much power, but contributes in many other ways. I see him as a very similar player, not only on the field, but in the clubhouse as well. Both Prado and Hayes have a reputation to be very great in the locker room, a plus to any athlete. Although Prado is in his mid 30s now, Hayes could very well be like Prado in his prime, with a high AVG, 10-15 HRs, 10 SBs, all while being an elite defender as well.

Floor: Yangervis Solarte – A decent ballplayer, Solarte has been around for a while putting up solid (not great) numbers. I’d say this would be Hayes at his worst, just because I’d would find it hard to believe that someone with his vision at the plate would be a below average hitter. No matter his struggles at the plate, Hayes will always be a great defender at any level.

Player Grades: Contact: A Power: B- Speed: B Fielding: A Arm: A Potential: B+ Overall: B

Early PGA Championship Predictions

Bethpage Black 18th Hole

Bethpage Black is the next course to host a major. We last saw this course during the FedEx Cup a few years back in 2016, and the last major there was the 2009 U.S. Open, the one where Lucas Glover one. Cannot say I expect a repeat of that this year. Back then the course played as a par 70 and at 7,426 yards, and when Patrick Reed won it back in 2016, it was a par 71. Both cuts were similar, 2009 it was 4 over par, and 2016 it was 3 over par. Sean O’Hair finished top 10 in both, but I also don’t see that happening again this year. Maybe he will have a round like major championship round one Charley Hoffman, but like Charley Hoffman, he won’t keep it up. As for finalist in the ’09 U.S. Open, Tiger back-doored a top-10 finish, as well as Sergio, and Rory. Hunter Mahan tied Tiger at T6 and Phil Mickelson finished T2, 2 shots back.

This post I am going to analyze a couple of dark horses, front-runners, and questionable players and dive into the PGA Championship.

Front Runners

#1. Dustin Johnson

Pretty much an obvious pick here, not much surprise. However, Dustin has not had his best even though he remains ranked number one in the world, or battling Justin Rose for it. Most recently shooting 6 over in the final round at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town finishing T28. Had a runner-up finish at The Master behind great, consistent play all week, a T5 at The Players finishing 3 shots back, and a runaway 5 shot victory down in Mexico at the WGC. In 2016 Dustin finished T18 at 2 under par during The Barclays, and made the cut but finished T-40 at the 2009 U.S. Open. Expect a made cut and a high finish.

#2. Rory McIlroy

Yet another pretty obvious selection. Rory is always a favorite for pretty much any tournament he enters in. A pretty poor couple of years from Rory ever since that FedEx Cup victory, Rory is back trending upwards. A two-time winner of the PGA, his last major victory was the 2014 PGA Championship. As of late however, he’s won the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational, and the 2019 Players Championship. As of his career at Bethpage, he finished at even and a 31 in 2016, and just slid into a top 10 finish in 2009. Expect him to play well at Bethpage this year.

#3. Brooks Koepka

Consistent theme, an obvious choice. Out of my front-runner choices, I like Koepka the best to win. Seems like he only wins major championships. The first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to defend U.S. Open victories. He’s got 5 victories on tour, 3 are majors. He just shows up when it matters, clutch gene. Its hard to say this because I don’t like to judge past results in the PGA, but he has played well in this event. Finished T70 at 7 over par in 2016 at The Barclays, I do not think Koepka will play well during the PGA.

Dark Horses

#1. Rickie Fowler

Now most of these Dark Horses are going to seem like Front-runners, but this is my opinion on these players. Fowler has played well this year, and seems like he’s always in the conversation to win majors. Picking up a win at the Waste-Management Open, Rickie just does not seem to have the game to win a major, but yet, at some points, Rickie shows us he could win anything. A very consistent player, Rickie will make the cut like he typically does, and last time at this course, he finished T7 after a very disappointing final round 74. I predict the 10th ranked player in the world to finish strong and inside the top-1o, and maybe even win.

#2. Tony Finau

Finau had a great 2019 Master, playing in the final group with Tiger and ultimately finishing T5. With only one PGA Tour victory under his belt coming way back in 2016, and even in a event that was on a off week. Finau had a fantastic 2018 major campaign. Top 10 finishes in The Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open. Last years PGA Championship saw Finau finish at T42. With the power that he has, and his ability to show up in majors, especially playing well as of late, I expect Finau to have a good week. He also finished solo 12th at 4 under during The Barclays back in 2016. I think Finau will make the cut and finish high.

#3. Matt Kuchar

He’s got 9 PGA Tour Victories, and 2019 is proving to be a GREAT year for Matt. Picking up a early victories down in Mayakoba and Hawaii, the most negative thing was the whole caddie situation. Kuchar seems like he is just a sneaky guy who can maybe get the job done. But a T64 finish back in 2016 at Bethpage has me wondering if this time is the time that Matt finally captures a major. The 2019 PGA Championship just does not feel like a tournament or major that Matt is going to win.

#4. Louis Oosthuizen

One of the best, if not THE best swings on tour, the results do not show how good it is. He ran away with the Open Championship back in 2010 winning by 7 shots, he lost in a playoff in both the 2012 Masters, and the 2015 Open Championship. A solid T7 finish at The Masters this year definitely has me interested in Oosthuizen’s stock. A very good T18 finish back in 2016 was behind a final round 67. I think that Louis is going to have a fantastic week during the PGA and I am excited to watch him.

#5. Patrick Reed

Reed has a decent track record coming into this event. He has won a couple of PGA Tour Events, he won The Masters a year ago, and back in 2016 he won The Barclays at Bethpage Black. Ranked 19th in the world, Reed has not had a great 2019 campaign. His highest finish this year comes at Sony down in Hawaii and Famers Insurance Open, both in which he finished T13. Being a past champion at Bethpage means a lot due to the difficulty of the course. And also being a past major champion gives a lot of confidence as well, especially to Patrick. However, a tough go of things in 2019 is proving tough to decide how he is going to play. Expect him to make the cut and play well on the weekend.

Questionable Players

#1. Jordan Spieth

I think everyone can agree, this is the top choice as to questionable players right now. His last win was the 2017 Open Championship, and since them we have seen him fall all the way to 35th in the Official World Golf Rankings. A rough 2018 season left Jordan stunned when he did not make it all the way to East Lake. And things seem to be carrying over into 2019. His highest finish for the year is a T21 at The Masters. Jordan has just gotten way to technical with his swing and his putting. Once that putter is cooking like it was back in 2015, expect Spieth to return to the top. However, playing like this is good for one thing for Spieth. He is trying to complete the career grand slam, and a PGA Championship where he is freed up and the main thing on his mind isn’t the grand slam, could prove to benefit him. Finishing T10 is going to help Jordan a lot, but winning seems like it won’t happen for Spieth. I expect him to not play well, maybe even miss the cut.

#2. Justin Rose

For some reason, Rose just seems shaky to me. He picked up a early win at the Farmers Insurance Open, but a recent missed cut at The Masters has me thinking Rose won’t play well during the PGA. Ranked 2nd in the world currently, and trading off frequently with Dustin Johnson, Rose is quiet and not talked about. And that is what leads to the questions around him. He has not played many events in 2019, and I really don’t expect him to play all that well during the PGA. He finished T31 during The Barclays at even par for the week.

#3. John Rahm

Rahm has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge if you don’t count the Hero World. After that win he was ranked 2nd in the world and has since dropped 11th. And a terrible shot out of a fairway bunker cost him a chance to win The Players. A T9 finish at The Masters after playing the first two rounds with Tiger is extremely good. Rahm needs to manage his emotions to be able to win. And he needs to do it even better during the week of a major. I expect Rahm to make the cut and play well, I don’t think he will win.