Week 6 NFL Picks – The Return(t) of Tina

I know plenty of you were wondering why I didn’t post any picks last week, and there’s a good reason. After my Week 4 picks went the way of the Titanic and I lost 95 apples on a 4-8-1 record, I knew there was only one person to turn to: huge Giants fan and noted ridiculous person Cristina Dafonte.

Unfortunately due to things like “homework” and “meetings” and “leave me alone I have to make a philanthropy banner by myself” @turntuptina was not able to make picks last week, so I cancelled the weekly column. Sure, I did do well picking Week 5, finding my way back into the black on the season, but her posts usually get more clicks than mine do anyway.

In case you don’t remember, Tina went 17-11-3 last year in two weeks of picks and made me 85 apples (including nailing the Giants games twice for the Lock o’ the Week). Her picks were also two of my top five most viewed NFL picks of last year, and the only reason she doesn’t have the most viewed post is because my Week 12 picks entitled Big Daddy Indonesia gets several new clicks per month from Indonesia.

Without further ado, here are Tina’s Week 6 picks with home teams are in CAPS. All of the commentary on the games below are direct quotes and words in parenthesis are my responses. Lastly, here’s an explanation for each of the categories of games:

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games are worth 5 apples.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games are worth 10 apples.

KFC Double Down Games are worth 20 apples.

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week is worth 50 apples.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Game:

Steelers (-2) over BROWNS
I know the Steelers are better than the Browns. Right? I find it hard to care.

TITANS (-5.5) over Jaguars
Here is a running list of things better than the Jaguars:
1. Stephen Tulloch’s dancing skills
2. Cole Adrich’s teeth
3. Adam Levine’s ability to find a nice girl
4. Madison Bumgarner’s ability to pour beer into his mouth
5. Yasiel Puig’s ability to open beer with his hands
6. Corbin’s ability to control his excitement
7. Corbin’s ability to fit in a car
8. Corbin’s ability to pick a good team to root for
9. Corbin’s drinking problem
10. Corbin’s willingness to let his owner* play with his balls (*not actually Tina’s dog)
Ravens (-3) over BUCCANEERS
The Ravens are the favorite, and they’re not going to win by only 2.
RAMS (+3.5) over Niners
Zac Stacy is on the Rams. I’m going to pick the Rams.
Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Game:
TEXANS (+3) over Colts
I’m doing this to make Beth happy.
CARDINALS (-3.5) over Injuns
Without RG3, the [redacted] are horrendous. I hate the [redacted].
VIKINGS (+1.5) over Lions
I’m going with a safe underdog pick
Packers (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Because Jay Cutler. Isn’t he the quarterback of Green Bay. (No.) Who’s the quarterback of Green Bay? (Aaron Rodgers.) Oh his brother went here. The Vanderbilt connection is confusing.
Panthers (+7) over BENGALS
We’ll go with Carolina. Make Ben a happy camper. Also fuck Groll.
KFC Double Down Game:
FALCONS (-3) over Bears
I’m a new-founded Atlanta fan thanks to Beth and Morgan. Also, Morgan’s favorite player is Julio Jones (pronounced Jew-lio) not Julio Jones.
Broncos (-8.5) over JETS
If there’s one thing I learned about picking games last year, it’s don’t pick the Jets.
Patriots (-3) over BILLS
My cousin goes to all the Bills games, and her pictures are so fucking annoying.
Chargers (-7) over RAIDERS
Kayla, I love you, but the Raiders are going to lose.
SEAHAWKS (-8) over Cowboys
I’m going with the Seahawks because it’s against my religion to pick the Cowboys, but I want it to be known that I am in no way a fair-weather Seahawks fan.
We believe in Eli Manning.

We believe in Eli Manning.

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week:

Giants (+2.5) over EAGLES
Does there need to be an explanation? My apologies to JMatt. I’m sorry that you got picked by such a shitty team.
Overall record: 40-32-3Last week: 8-5-1 (4-8-1)

Apple Total: 65

Apple Total Last Week: 90 (-95)

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Week 4 NFL Picks – Who is Alfred Blue?

Panthers had to ruin my good week by losing the Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week. I really aught to come up with a less absolute name than that… Anyway here are my Week 4 Picks, the first week of byes.

Home teams are in CAPS, and as always, here’s an explanation for each of the categories of games:

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games are worth 5 apples.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games are worth 10 apples.

KFC Double Down Games are worth 20 apples.

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week is worth 50 apples.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Game:

Saints (-3) over COWBOYS
R.I.P. Dez Bryant, he died for all of our sins. But mostly the Cowboys’ sins.

Eagles (+5) over NINERS
I may or may not be upset that I left Vernon Davis in my lineup last week while Frank Gore only got 1 points and I lost by 4.6 points.

INJUNS (-3.5) over Giants
Did I ever mention that DeSean Jackson is the best?

CHARGERS (-13) over Jaguars
Here is a running list of things better than the Jaguars:
1. Charlie Manuel’s teeth
2. Phil Hughes’ luck
3. Mario Balotelli’s haircut
4. Nelly’s credit card’s utility
5. Nicki Minaj’s gastrointestinal health
6. Peyton Manning’s ability to deal with kids
7. Peyton Manning’s clutch game
8. Peyton Manning’s patience towards younger players
9. Peyton Manning’s ability to not be a thug
10. Peyton Manning’s face (did you really think I wouldn’t include this on the list?)
Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Game:
RAIDERS (+4) over Dolphins
It’s a good thing the Raiders and Dolphins are coming to London because Europeans should be used to low-scoring, boring football by now.
TEXANS (-3) over Bills
Pop Quiz: Is Alfred Blue A) the Texans’ starting running back last week with Arian Foster out with a hamstring injury B) Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III’s original stage name before choosing Aloe Blacc or C) the author of the science-fiction book The Demolished Man? If you guessed C, you’re close. That’s Alfred Bester. If you guessed B; you’re just wrong.
Lions (-1.5) over JETS
If Eric Decker is out again, do you think you could name any two other Jets receivers? I know I can’t.
Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount's dominating performances last week may have been enough to turn Pennsylvania's opinion on marjiuana.

Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount’s dominating performances last week may have been enough to turn Pennsylvania’s opinion on marjiuana.

STEELERS (-7.5) over Buccaneers

Through three quarters, the Falcons-Bucs game last year looked like a score out of Backyard Football where the Falcons got all the power ups.
KFC Double Down Game:
BEARS (+1.5) over Packers
Here is a list of wide receivers taken before Alshon Jeffery in the 2012 NFL Draft: Michael Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, A.J. Jenkins, Brian Quick, and Stephen Hill. Floyd and Wright both have far less receiving yardage than Jeffrey, and the rest are essentially cast-offs. Blackmon only played 4 games last year because of injuries and a suspension and likely won’t join the Jaguars this year after getting arrest again this summer for marijuana possession. Jenkins has yet to eclipse 150 career receiving yards and has already been traded, Quick has yet to go reach 20 receptions in a year, and Hill is now on the Panthers’ practice squad.
COLTS (-7.5) over Titans
Sure, the Titans are second in the NFL in pass defense, but that’s because teams they’re playing are so far up they just run the ball for three-quarters of their plays.
Patriots (-3.5) over CHIEFS
*covers ears* la la la I can’t here you la la la Tom Brady isn’t on a clear downward spiral la la la
Panthers (+3.5) over RAVENS
Steve Smith has been waiting six months for this game. And he specifically picked a team that was playing the Panthers this year. There will be blood and guts everywhere.
Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week:
Falcons (-3) over VIKINGS
Took the Vikings long enough to pick Teddy Bridgewater as their starting quarterback (but only because Matt Cassel got hurt). They’ll still need a real running back and upgrades at at least five other positions before competing with middling teams like the Falcons, though.Overall record: 28-19-1Last week: 10-6

Apple Total: 70

Apple Total Last Week: 5

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Week 3 NFL Picks – An All Texans Fantasy

Two weeks in, and I’m in the black. Let’s keep the good luck rolling.

Home teams are in CAPS, and as always, here’s an explanation for each of the categories of games:

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games are worth 5 apples.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games are worth 10 apples.

KFC Double Down Games are worth 20 apples.

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week is worth 50 apples.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Game:

FALCONS (-6.5) over Buccaneers
How is this game primetime and Seahawks-Broncos is not? We have the great matchup of a team that lost to Austin Davis and a team that lost by two touchdowns to the Bengals last week, so I’ll be doing anything but watching this game on Thursday.

SEAHAWKS (-5) over Broncos
Speaking of the Super Bowl XLVIII rematch, the Seahawks won their last matchup by 35, and this line is 5 points. Silly Vegas, you don’t even know how to make a line.

Raiders (+14.5) over PATRIOTS
I hate lines like this. The Raiders are bad but could very easily score a touchdown with a minute left to cut a 21-point deficit to 14 points and cover. Don’t bet on this game.

BROWNS (+1.5) over Ravens
Any game in the AFC North that doesn’t include the Bengals is probably going to be the Who Cares Game of the Week.

EAGLES (-6.5) over Injuns
I’m starting to think the Eagles could go 8-8 and win their division. Now they’re a whole lot more talented than that, but the rest of the division is more bleak than RG3’s future.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Game:

Chargers (+2.5) over BILLS
Honestly I’m surprised a team that took down the defending champions isn’t getting more respect. This is the first of four games the rest of the way this week that I pick the underdog but would still take them even if the line was flipped around.

BENGALS (-7) over Titans
I watched the Titans game last week while keeping stats for the FOX Sports broadcast (humblebrag), and the Titans looked impossibly bad. Until further notice, I’ll be picking against them every week, especially when they play playoff teams like the Bengals.

SAINTS (-10.5) over Vikings
Pop Quiz: Is Matt Asiata A) the Vikings’ new starting running back with Adrian Peterson placed on the exempt list B) one of the featured artists on Ne-Yo’s new album Non Fiction or C) my Politics and Mass Media professor? Well since this quiz is under the Vikings game, I really hope you picked A.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 4.55.00 PM

Jay Cutler got absolutely level by Quinton Dial last week. Also fun fact: he went to Vanderbilt.

Bears (+3) over JETS
Pop Quiz: Is Devonte Hynes A) the Bear’s new nickelback with Charles Tillman out for the season B) one of the featured artists on Tinashe’s upcoming album Aquarius or C) the full name of Keegan-Michael Key’s MADtv character? Trick question he’s a singer!

Texans (-2.5) over GIANTS
Some guy drafted a team of all Texans for his fantasy team and managed to win in Week 1, so colored me shocked he didn’t go 0-16. That got me thinking: what team would make the best fantasy team? It’s got to be Denver, Green Bay, or New Orleans, right?

KFC Double Down Game:

Cowboys (-1) over RAMS
I thought Vegas was supposed to to favor Dallas more because the Cowboy faithful will always bet on their team…

Colts (-7) over JAGUARS
Here is a running list of things better than the Jaguars:
1. Morehead State students’ dunking skills
2. Hardin Valley High School’s screen pass
3. Mr. Met’s new haircut
4. Arkansas State’s trick plays
5. MLB’s Photoshopping skills
6. Andrew Bynum’s hair
7. Andrew Bynum’s hair
8. Andrew Bynum’s hair
9. Andrew Bynum’s hair
10. Andrew Bynum’s hair oh wait he actually wore something normal for once

Chiefs (+4.5) over DOLPHINS
I’m not ready to live in a world where losing to the Bills by 19 leads to you getting favored by a likely playoff team by more than a field goal.

Packers (+2) over LIONS
Among the awful things said this week, Jameis Winston is getting the most press, but Reggie Bush takes the cake (in my opinion) for the straight up dumbest thing to say.

Niners (-3) over CARDINALS
Honestly I thought Drew Stanton was Drew Henson, but it won’t matter who’s under center against the Niners.

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week

PANTHERS (-3.5) over Steelers
This line makes so little sense to me that I’m worried I’m missing something. Did Cam Newton re-aggravate his back injury? Did Luke Kuechley join a human trafficking ring? What am I missing??!

Overall record: 18-13-1

Last week: 10-6

Apple Total: 65

Apple Total Last Week: 85

Categories: NFL | 1 Comment

Week 2 NFL Picks – Donkey Kong Suh

After one week of making picks, I got most of them right. Eight out of 15 to be exact. Of course, I missed the inaugural Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week, so I lost 20 apples on the week.

There aren’t even any big lessons to be learned because the games I missed were a good mix of road dogs (2), road favorites (1), home dogs (3), and home favorites (1). Take more underdogs I guess?

Anyway, I’ll be keeping up the key to my picks for the rest of the season to avoid confusion about what my different sections mean.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games are worth 5 apples.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games are worth 10 apples.

KFC Double Down Games are worth 20 apples.

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week is worth 50 apples.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Game:

Steelers (+2.5) over RAVENS
I said it last week, but I don’t think either team is that good. My usual rule of thumb (when these teams were good) was to take the points every time, so now that they’re both average at best, I think I’ll stick with that strategy.

BILLS (+1) over Dolphins
After watching Kenny Trill Hill play two weeks in row and hearing about Kyle Allen, there’s a really strong possibility that the Dolphins drafted the worst Texas A&M quarterback in a decade to be their franchise QB.

Chiefs (+13.5) over BRONCOS
Before we anoint the Broncos the supreme rulers of the universe, can we let them have one decisive victory? Denver almost blew at 24-0 lead at home.

Jets (+8.5) over PACKERS
Did you see the Jets’ offense look competent last week?? Sure, it was against the Raiders, but they averaged 6.2 yards on the ground and Geno Smith had a very un-New York quarterback game with only one interception.

NINERS (-7) over Bears
I really want to like the Bears with the combination of Jay Cutler (did you know he went to Vanderbilt??) and his big receivers (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, and Martellus Bennett) plus Matt Forte, but the team did not look great against the Bills. They got sliced up for 193 yards on the ground and turned it over three times. Once they face a real run game and real defense, they had better show last week was a fluke.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Game:

INJUNS (-6) over Jaguars
Here is a running list of things better than the Jaguars:
1. Antonio Brown’s hurdling skills
2. This bear’s ability to play golf
3. Arizona State fraternities’ taste in party themes
4. The Dodgers’ defense
5. Josh McCown’s improvisation skills
6. Chris Bosh’s photobombing
7. Chris Bosh’s photobombing
8. Chris Bosh’s photobombing
9. Chris Bosh’s photobombing
10. Chris Bosh’s photobombing while holding his daughter after a game

Cowboys (+3.5) over TITANS
Jake Locker made it through one regular season without getting hurt, so the Titans are really just in the black for the rest of the way.

Seahawks (-6) over CHARGERS
Seattle and San Diego are two of my favorite cities in the US. I could work with 60-70 year round temperatures. However, I could not live with the Chargers’ defense. They were last in the NFL in defensive DVOA last year, and after Eric Weddle and Brandon Flowers, I’m not sure I’d want another one of their players starting for me.

Eagles (+3) over COLTS
In the first half last week, the Eagles trailed the Jaguars 17-0, and Chip Kelly lost his genius moniker. Then they out-scored Jacksonville 34-0 in the second half, and Chip Kelly was a genius again. For my own sake as a Darren Sproles fantasy owner, I’m banking on him still being a genius.

Saints (-6.5) over BROWNS
Did anyone else know Isaiah Crowell was still playing football? I assumed after he got kicked off of Georgia’s team he’d go the way of Maurice Clarrett.

KFC Double Down Game:

T

This picture is too good not to post

Texans (-3) over RAIDERS
With Derek Carr vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick and no Jadeveon Clowney because of potholes in NRG Stadium, this is definitely the Who Cares Game of the Week.

PANTHERS (-3) over Lions
In today’s media session, Cam Newton kept reiterating that he’s “trying to find ways to stay protected by Donkey Kong Suh” and said it with a straight face. That’s some serious shade. I’m taking the Panthers.

BUCCANEERS (-5) over Rams
Pop Quiz: Is Austin Davis A) the newest teen country star B) the lead actor for new Disney Channel show “Girl Meets World” or C) the Rams new starting quarterback.

Falcons (+5) over BENGALS
I’m going to ride out the Falcons to start the year because I think people/Vegas are underrating them coming off an extremely disappointing 4-12 season. (Yes, I know I picked against them last week.)

Cardinals (-2.5) over GIANTS
I’m going to ride out picking against the Giants to start the year because I think people/Vegas are overrating them for winning two stupid Super Bowls with their stupid quarterback. (Yes, I know I picked them last week.)

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week

Patriots (-3) over VIKINGS
Give me Tim Brady vs. Matt Cassel, I’ll take the older guy every time.

Overall record: 8-7-1

Last week: 8-7-1

Apple Total: -20

Apple Total Last Week: -20

Categories: NFL | Leave a comment

Week 1 NFL Picks – The Washington Injuns

Welcome back to my weekly NFL picks, the column you mostly come to see which ten awful things that are still better than the Jacksonville Jaguars.

As you (may or) may not remember, I’ve been using a complicated system for my picks the last two years, weighting each game differently. I bet a certain amount of apples on each game because, of course, betting money on sports is illegal in the United States.

We have the Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games, which are worth 5 apples.

We have the Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games, which are worth 10 apples.

We have the KFC Double Down Games, which are worth 20 apples.

And finally, we have the Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week, which is worth 50 apples.

(I’m still waiting on my checks from my sponsorship companies. I think they may have gotten lost in the mail.)

The math is tough, but you’ll have to hang in here. Basically, the more confident I am, the more apples I’ll wager. I’m very unclear how I did last year because I didn’t make picks every week but I went 123-113-8 but lost 320 apples. That’s sort of what happens when you go 6-9-1 in the 50 apple games.

Really, one of the main reasons I saved face and was even that good was because friend of the program Cristina Dafonte (AKA @turntuptina) picked for me twice and went 17-11-3 and made me 85 apples. She will undoubtedly be back later this season for a guest appearance.

Without further ado, let’s get this season going strong. Home teams in CAPS.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Game:

Raiders (+5) over JETS
I’m honestly not too sure how many worse quarterback matchups we’ll get this year than Derek Carr vs. Geno Smith. I honestly feel sorry for anyone watching this game.

SEAHAWKS (-5.5) over Packers
This will always be one of my favorite games because it brings back great memories of the replacement refs. I still like to yell “TOUCHDOWN SEAHAWKS!” and no one seems to remember it. I’m setting the over/under on mentions of that game at 2.5.

Chargers (+3) over CARDINALS
I must have lost at least four Locks o’ the Week last year betting against the Cardinals, so I figured I’d start off the new season picking against them again.

COWBOYS (+5) over Niners
I’m still legitimately upset that the Cowboys didn’t draft Johnny Football. It would have been the best thing to ever happen to sports. ESPN would set up a third headquarters in Dallas and have an entire network devoted to Johnny Football, Tony Romo, and Jerry Jones. Such a shame. And it almost happened, too.

Giants (+6) over LIONS
The line’s a little too high for me to pick the Lions, but the Giants might be a big mess this year. They were 29th in rushing last year, and now their leading rushers are Rashad Jennings and Peyton “Wait how did he ever get on the cover of Madden” Hillis.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Game:

Vikings (+3.5) over RAMS
Poor Sam Bradford. Two straight knee injuries to end his seasons. You’d think he could pay someone to give him bionic knees with that $86 million contract he got.

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I’d just like to take this time to re-post one of my favorite Onion articles of all time.

TEXANS (-3) over Injuns
Lots of different publication are protesting the Redskins name in different ways. The Washington Post editorial board and New York Times will no longer print the name. Bill Simmons only writes Washington. I thought about naming different tribes of American Indians for every week in reference to that great commercial that ran during the Super Bowl, but instead I’m going with a slightly less offensive name than the Redskins: the Injuns.

Saints (-3) over FALCONS
The Falcons’ offensive line wasn’t great to start with, and then left tackle Sam Baker suffered a season-ending injury. I still like them, but not that much.

Browns (+6.5) over STEELERS
The Steelers aren’t as good as you’d think, and the Browns aren’t as bad as you’d think. Remember, Cleveland is returning four Pro Bowlers (not including Josh Gordon), signed Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner, and Ben Tate, and had two first-round picks. This could be a shockingly good team once they finally give Johnny Football the ball.

BRONCOS (-7.5) over Colts
I don’t know if any team will be able to beat the Broncos this year. Did you see everyone they added? They might be unstoppable. This definitely isn’t a reverse jinx. Nope.

KFC Double Down Game:

Panthers (+2.5) over BUCCANEERS
I can’t get behind a team led by Josh McCown being protected by Anthony Collins, Logan Mankins, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Patrick Omameh, and Demar Dotson. Also is it crazy to say that the Panthers may have a better receiving corp with Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery, and Jason Avant compared to Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Ted Ginn?

BEARS (-7) over Bills
Did you know that Jay Cutler went to Vanderbilt?

EAGLES (-10.5) over Jaguars
Here is a running list of things better than the Jaguars:
1. The NFL’s suspension policies on drugs and domestic abuse
2. Taylor Swift’s dancing in the Shake It Off music video
3. The Arkansas-Little Rock athletic director’s filter
4. This woman in a Hawaiian shirt’s quintette
5. People who have posters of Django chained up in their room
6. Jacksonville’s divorce rate
7. Jacksonville’s job market
8. Jacksonville’s happiness
9. Jacksonville’s drinking water
10. Jacksonville’s safety for its pedestrians who are walking back after spending three miserable hours watching their train wreck of a team

Bengals (+2) over RAVENS
This line doesn’t make much sense to me. The Ravens weren’t particularly good last year, and the Bengals were. In fact, only three teams (Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco) had better point differentials than Cincy.

Patriots (-5) over DOLPHINS
This reeks of classic Patriots crapping the bed to open the season, eeking out a 1-point win over an underwhelming Dolphins team. So I’m taking the Patriots to win big.

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week

Chiefs (-4) over TITANS
I’m also legitimately upset that the Titans didn’t draft Johnny Football. Every night I go downtown, there would be a not-insignificant chance I would see Johnny on Broadway, AND NOW THAT DREAM IS RUINED. Well, except for the weekend of October 5th, when, of course, I’ll be in Athens watching Vanderbilt get throttled by Georgia. Thanks, Obama.

Overall record: 0-0

Last week: 0-0

Apple Total: 0

Apple Total Last Week: 0

Categories: NFL | Leave a comment

Top 20 Usher Songs

Last summer I broke my streak of only writing about sports to give my Top 20 list of Kanye West songs. I had a lot of fun doing it, and apparently enough people liked reading it because it’s now my 12th-most read post ever.

Now it’s Usher’s turn.

Kanye is the greatest artist of our generation, but Usher was the first artist I ever saw live (with my good friends Reed Payne and Ryan Melton), and he put on the greatest performance I’ve ever seen in concert. The best part was undoubtedly when he brought a girl on stage and sang Trading Places on top of her.

Making a Top 20 list was pretty difficult (I’d love to see all your lists too) because I had to leave off some really good songs. U Remind Me, My Boo, Scream, OMG, and More, just to name a few.

And like last time, if you don’t want to read about my musical preferences, that’s just too bad. Skip this post.

Of course, this is my personal list of favorite Usher songs that are going to be different than everyone else’s. Everyone has their own personal preferences, so I don’t expect you to love every one of my picks. The real point of this post is to start a discussions about some of the best songs of the past decade plus.

20. Euphoria

Looking 4 Myself — 2012

Looking 4 Myself – 2012

Euphoria is definitely more of a new-school Usher song since he teamed up with Swedish House Mafia to make it more or less an EDM song instead of just relying on his vocals. This song is a lot of fun, and I like what Usher did on his latest album, Looking 4 Myself, which is why I have this song in over older classics like My Boo and U Remind Me.

Highlights:

“Cause the fire don’t fear the water
And the night don’t fear the thief
It’s just you and me together
Here we are, we are, we found euphoria”

“Re-introduction to a feeling I don’t wanna know
Yeah I been running but it caught me somehow
The rule was never fall in love, I did it anyway
You make my heart beat keep pumping
Why the hell you turn it up so loud?”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

There is no music video. Sad.

19. DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love

Usher1

Raymond v. Raymond – 2010

This song cracks my top 20 despite featuring Pitbull, which is a feat in and of itself. DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love didn’t quite peak as high as fellow Raymond v. Raymond song OMG (#4 versus #1), but I’ve always thought OMG had a bit more annoying lyrics. This song isn’t particularly deep, but the hook is infectious, Usher can really sing, and just like Euphoria, it’s a lot of fun.

Highlights:

“Yeah baby tonight, the DJ got us fallin’ in love again
So dance, dance like it’s the last, last night of your life, life
Gon’ get you right”

“Keep downing drinks like there’s no tomorrow
There’s just right now, now, now, na-na-now, now
Gon’ set the roof on fire gonna burn this
Mutherfucker down, down, down, da-da-down, down”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

Either when he does the Guitar Hero-esque slide in front of the windows or when the crowd just starts doing really weird things.

18. Caught Up

Usher_-_Confessions_album_cover

Confessions – 2004

Usher’s been making club-friendly hits for a while, even if his EDM phase is new. This one is have heavy on brass and percussion, which is the exact type of music I’m a sucker for. This song basically brags that Usher never falls in love but just did when he saw this girl, which is kind of odd because every other song of his is about being in love. But anyway, great song.

Highlights:

“I’m the kind of brother
Who been doing it my way getting my way for years
In my career
And every lover
In and out my life I’ve hit, love and left the tears
Without a care”

“Until I met this girl who turned the tables around
She caught me by surprise
I never thought I’d be the one breaking down
I can’t figure it out why”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

Either when he dresses and looks exactly like Ne-Yo in the beginning or when he dances in absurdly baggy dress pants.

17. Show Me

usher-looking-for-myself

Looking 4 Myself – 2012

This song has more of an old school feel on Usher’s newest album. Just like the first three songs on the list, it’s a really fun song (and heavy on percussion) and doesn’t have the deepest or most emotional lyrics. I can’t help but smile when I hear this song, though, so that’s why it’s up so high.

Highlights:

“The night is young, you know
We’ve just begun
Let’s have some fun until the moon turns to the sun
Look out the DJ’s got this party jumping
It’s easy to let loose when you sipping something
Relax, it’s what you deserve
There’s no need to be reserved, no”

“Telling you can’t control what you can’t have
You’re here, to enjoy yourself
What time, in the back of your mind
Spending what left of it on the floor”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

What a lazy artist, that Usher. Can’t make a music video for every one of his songs.

16. Bad Girl

Usher_-_Confessions_album_cover

Confessions – 2004

Bad Girl is essentially the musical version of Dikembe Mutombo’s (apparently false) quote “Who wants to sex Mutombo?” If that isn’t enough for you to listen to the song, I don’t know what you’re looking for in entertainment.

Highlights:

“Players, when you see me
Act like you know me
I keep a dollar worth of dimes
You know pimpin’ ain’t easy”

“What sexy lady is
Coming home with me tonight?
I’m ready to be bad
I need a bad girl
Super bad, baby
Get at me, bad girl”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

This seems like a big missed opportunity for a great music video, but performing it live with Beyonce will just have to do.

15. Confessions, Pt. II

Usher_-_Confessions_album_cover

Confessions – 2004

Five songs in, we finally get a sad song. Confessions and Confessions, Pt. II are really one continuous song Usher wrote with Jermaine Dupri, and since the second part comes up first on this list, I’ll go ahead and ruin Confessions. Usher confesses to cheating on his girl in part one (apparently not based on his own life) and confesses that his side chick is pregnant in part 2. For some reason, though, he thinks there’s a chance the two of them will stick together. Probably because he’s Usher.

Highlights:

“The first thing that came to mind was you
Second thing was how do I know if it’s mine and is it true
Third thing was me wishin’ that I never did what I did
How I ain’t ready for no kid and bye bye to our relationship”

“Just when I thought I said all I could say
My chick on the side said she got one on the way
These are my confessions
Man I’m thrown and I don’t know what to do
I guess I gotta give part 2 of my confessions
If I’m gonna tell it then I gotta tell it all
Damn near cried when I got that phone call”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

This is a tough choice between his surprisingly powerful chair kick and him trying to get back with his girl by grabbing her ass.

14. Stranger

Usher1

Raymond v. Raymond – 2010

Stranger is a song about how a girl isn’t treating Usher right because of a poor relationship in her past, which is a pretty common theme in his music. This one’s a little different from songs like His Mistakes, though, because he’s trying to get to know this girl instead of thinking about ending things. Great beat on this song.

Highlights:

“Say you’ll never give away your heart again
I’ll be knocking ’til you let me in
I know you told me, you rather be lonely
You don’t even know, that’s why I no longer want to be a stranger”

“Girl you independent as hell and doing by your self but
What you gon’ do when the night time gets cold?”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

Stranger has never been particularly popular, which makes it no surprise this song lacks a video. I don’t think it ever cracked the Billboard 100.

13. His Mistakes

Hereistand

Here I Stand – 2008

Here I Stand has four great songs on it, two of which are pretty sad, the other two of which are very… love in this club-y. His Mistakes falls into the “pretty sad” category, and Usher gets pretty emotional in this song. Personally, I think it’s one of his better musical songs. Then again, what do I know about music? I played percussion.

Highlights:

“And it’s killing me girl knowing you compare me to him
Always guilty before the sin
I can’t win, I can’t win
I’ll do anything to prove I love you
Baby girl would I refuse to
Pay for something I didn’t do”

“I know he did you wrong
But tell me what does that have to do with me
Trying to show you something real
Figure out what is going on
Before you look up and I’ll be gone”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

…no music video.

12. U Got It Bad

Usher8701Cover

8701 – 2001

U Got It Bad was Usher’s third ever number one single and the earliest to appear on my Top 20 list. If you haven’t heard it, the title’s misleading because he’s really just saying that love makes people really change for one another. But like in a good way.

Highlights:

“I’ve been there, done it, fucked around
After all that – this is what I found
Nobody wants to be alone
If you’re touched by the words in this song
Then baby
You got, you got it bad”

“All my people who know what’s going on
Look at your mate, help me sing my song
Tell her: ‘I’m your man, you’re my girl
I’m gonna tell it to the whole wide world’
Ladies say: ‘I’m you girl, you’re my man
Promise to love you the best I can'”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

Really I just wish I could dance like Usher.

11. Numb

usher-looking-for-myself

Looking 4 Myself – 2012

Numb is the other song along with Euphoria that Usher made with Swedish House Mafia. This one better shows off Usher’s great voice, has a better beat, and is just better overall. It’s the only song on this list that’s not about love, but it’s such a fun song. I’m honestly surprised it didn’t peak higher than 69th in the US.

Highlights:

“I’m just saying that what don’t kill only makes you strong
If you don’t recognize what is real
Then forever is a long, long, long, long time”

“Keep on doing the same old thing
And you expecting change
Well is that really insanity
Or just a losers’ game
I only trust in the things I feel
Some may say that’s strange
You better recognize what is real
Cause forever is a long, long, long, long time”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

A lot is going on in this music video, but Usher starts it off by saying “I feel like a failure, hopeless, paralyzed, numb.” USHER NO!!!

10. Confessions

Usher_-_Confessions_album_cover

Confessions – 2004

I give Confessions the edge over Confessions, Pt. II because his first verse is so iconic (Every time I was in L.A. I was with my ex-girlfriend…) and he shows off his musical range better. I also love when he backs himself up singing toward the end of the song, kind of like Ne-Yo at the end of So Sick.

Highlights:

“Every time I was in L.A. I was with my ex girlfriend
Every time you called I told you ‘baby I’m workin’
I was out doing my dirt
Wasn’t thinking bout you getting hurt
I was hand-in-hand in the Beverly Center like man
Not givin’ a damn who sees me”

“Everything that I’ve been doing is all bad
I got a chick on the side with a crib and a ride
I been telling you so many lies
Ain’t none good it’s all bad
And I just wanna confess
It’s been going on so long
Girl I been doing you so wrong”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

Usher didn’t make one just for Confessions, but he used that first verse in his Confessions, Pt. II video, so I’ll go with his totally convincing transition from talking to singing to start the song.

9. Lemme See

usher-looking-for-myself

Looking 4 Myself – 2012

Usher really shows off his falsetto here in a song about bringing a girl home. His part is pretty simple lyrically which contrasts Rick Ross’ clever lines at the end well. Ricky Rozay manages to drop a Trayvon Martin reference, find a rhyme for LeBron, and end with a clever ice/hot line in his 16 bars. It’s also pretty hard not to like the beat for this song.

Highlights:

“She says she wanna take her skirt off, be my guest
I decided to take my shirt off, and show my chest
And we’ve been sipping on that Merlot
So you know what’s next
Working intermissions, switching positions
We so explicit, oh….”

“You’ve been saying all night long
That you couldn’t wait to get me all alone
What you gon’ do to me?
Don’t talk about it, be about it
Let me see, let me see, let me see”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

The changing tattoos on the girl (which may have given inspiration to the album cover) are pretty sweet, but really who doesn’t like to see a shirtless Rick Ross? I’ll pick the scene where the girl’s tattoo spills onto a shirtless Rick Ross.

8. Love In This Club Part II

Hereistand

Here I Stand – 2008

It’s no Love In This Club, but Part II is still very good and includes guest appearances by Beyonce and Lil Wayne. That’s Lil Wayne back when he was still good, and he has two nice allusions to his best song: Lollipop. The hook of the song isn’t great, which is why it’s so low on the list, but Usher and Beyonce’s duet is so well done.

Highlights:

“Now baby girl there ain’t nothin more that I can say
You know by now, I want it more than anything
If I walk away and just let you leave
You’ll be stuck in my head like a melody”

“I know, we here together
So this must be something special
Cause, you could be anywhere you wanted
But you decided to be here with me
No coincidence, it was meant to be
Don’t be shy, come let ya boy get in
So you can tell all of your friends
He was on the remix”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

Not making a music video for his song about having sex with Beyonce is undoubtedly the biggest mistake of Usher’s career.

7. Burn

Usher_-_Confessions_album_cover

Confessions – 2004

Like both parts of Confessions, Usher wrote this song with Jermaine Dupri, although this one actually is based on his life. He wrote this song as he was nearing the end of a two-year relationship with Chilli from TLC, which must have led to some awkward conversations at home. “Hey, have you been working on any new songs lately?” “Yeah, I’m working on one about how my relationship is going poorly and I should end it soon.”

Highlights:

“Tell me why I should stay in this relationship
When I’m hurting baby, I ain’t happy baby
Plus there’s so many other things I gotta deal with
I think that you should let it burn”

“Man I don’t know what I’m gonna do
Without my boo
You’ve been gone for too long
It’s been fiddy-leven days, um-teen hours
Imma be burnin’ till you return”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

His girl diving into the pool and him jumping off the bed as they light on fire are pretty cool moments, but my favorite is when all the palm trees start burning and raining down flames. Fire is so great.

6. Moving Mountains

Hereistand

Here I Stand – 2008

What a heartbreaker of a song. Usher is trying his hardest but he can’t get through to his girl; it’s too hard for them to continue. These are some of his better lyrics, and he absolutely belts them, which makes for a really good song. I probably have this higher than most people because this was the second Usher song I ever got hooked on (after Love In This Club).

Highlights:

“But I keep climbing and hoping things would change
And the sky turns gray
And the water from the rain washes progress away
It’s like moving mountains”

“I love you, and I shouldn’t complain about it
I should take it like a man and walk up out it
Cause we will never be the same, ooh
I’ve been standing in gas and you have been the flame”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

This is actually one of Usher’s best music videos, and I don’t really have any places to make fun of it. I guess the end sequence is pretty cool.

5. There Goes My Baby

Usher1

Raymond v. Raymond – 2010

Man this is just a sweet song. That’s about all there is to it. If you don’t like this song then you’re just cold and heartless. Also: this is pretty high up there on Usher’s baby making music scale.

Highlights:

“I’ve been waiting all day to wrap my hands
Around your waist and kiss your face
Wouldn’t trade this feeling for nothing
Not even for a minute
And I’ll sit here long as it takes
To get you all alone
But as soon as you come walking my way
You gon hear me say”

“There goes my baby
Ooh girl look at you
You don’t know how good it feels to call you my girl
There goes my baby
Loving everything you do
Ooh girl look at you”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

The music video is just as sweet as the song (and it does get borderline soft-core pornographic at times), but this scene is just impressive.

4. Climax

usher-looking-for-myself

Looking 4 Myself – 2012

I know I’ve already said a song was heartbreaking before, but this is Usher’s saddest song of all. You can just hear it in his voice. It’s almost haunting. What’s kind of funny is that Climax and Euphoria both appear on his latest album (Looking 4 Myself) and their titles mean essentially the same thing in a vacuum, but the songs couldn’t be more different in style and subject. Also, this song was produced by Diplo, whose name is apparently short for Diplodocus, which makes his three to four times cooler.

Highlights:

“I’ve fallen somehow
Feet off the ground
Love is the cloud
That keeps raining down
Where are you now?
When I need you around
I’m on my knees, but it seems we’re
Going nowhere fast
We’ve reached the climax”

“I gave my best, it wasn’t enough
You get upset, we argue too much
We made a mess of what used to be love
So why do I care, I care at all”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

The music video is pretty sad too, and at one point he grabs a gun to shoot his (ex-)girlfriend’s new guy. USHER NO!!!

3. Hey Daddy

Usher1

Raymond v. Raymond – 2010

I know I gave it the bronze, but Hey Daddy might just be my favorite Usher song. I could pretty easily be convinced that my top three belongs in any order. This is in contention for my favorite song because Usher absolutely kills it the second and third time through the hook. I don’t know he can just sing so well. And I’m sorry if my descriptions for songs are slowly deteriorating; there are only so many ways for me to describe R&B. Also: Usher’s background singers singing “Hey Daddy” over and over is only slightly seductive.

Highlights:

“I just wanna get your attention
I really wanna be all up in your head
Yeah, cause what I got, you gon’ wanna get some
Yeah, but girl that’s only if you ain’t scared”

“I won’t knock won’t ring no bells
You just poke that bottom up in the air
Said I’ll get you hot, I know you, oh, so well
And when I walk in all that I wanna hear
Is you say ‘daddy’s home, home for me’
And I know you’ve been waiting for this loving all day
You know your daddy’s home, it’s time to play
So you ain’t got to give my loving away”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

I think what I’ve learned from this music video is that the ladies like Usher.

2. Yeah!

Usher_-_Confessions_album_cover

Confessions – 2004

I don’t know a person who doesn’t love Yeah! Probably because I don’t bring it up in normal conversation, but whenever it comes on, people usually immediately sing along. Ludacris’ verses are pretty iconic, the beat is infectious, and the song is just great overall. It’s just the ultimate party/club song from Usher. And in case you didn’t already know, when Usher says he’s “trying to get a little V.I.” he’s not shortening V.I.P.  Sorry if I ruined your childhood.

Highlights:

“She’s all up in my head now
Got me thinkin’ that it might
Be a good idea to take her with me
Cause she’s ready to leave
And I got to keep it real now
Cause on a one to ten, she’s a certified twenty”

“Yeah, shawty got down low said, come and get me
Yeah, I got so caught up, I forgot she told me
Yeah, her and my girl, they used to be the best of homies
Yeah, next thing I knew, she was all up one me screamin’, yeah”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

The best part of any video is when Lil Jon jumps in from out of nowhere and just starts yelling while holding his pimp cup/crunk goblet.

1. Love In This Club

Hereistand

Here I Stand – 2008

This was the first Usher song I truly got hooked on, which probably goes a long way to deciding why this is my favorite of his songs. But nostalgia aside, this is just a quality song about love. You know, with lots of other people watching. Young Jeezy absolutely kills his verse, but it’s Usher’s voice that carries the song. I’m tired of all this music analysis; Usher’s just awesome, and this is his best song.

Highlights:

“You see you’re searchin’ for somebody that’ll take you out and do you right
Well, come here baby and let daddy show you what it feel like
You know all you gotta do is tell me what’cha sippin’ on
And I promise that I’m gonna keep it comin all night long”

“Might as well give me a kiss
If we keep touchin’ like this
I know you’re scared, baby they don’t know what we doin’
Let’s both get undressed right here
Keep it up, girl and I swear
Imma give it to you non-stop
And I don’t care who’s watchin, watchin, watchin, watchin
In this club, on the floor
Baby let’s make love”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

I was going to say “wow people used to have phones that look like this,” and then I was going to say “hey there’s a Kanye cameo and I love Kanye,” but then the end of the video leads into the Moving Mountains music video, which is SO CRAZY.

Categories: Other | Leave a comment

NBA Draft Big Board: Jarnell Stokes the Lottery Pick

The 2014 NBA Draft is the most interesting drafts in years for a variety of years.

It’s not just that there are at least four franchise-altering player atop the draft – there have only been about five of those going back to the 2009 draft – but there’s a load of really good players behind them.

It’s not just Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Dante Exum, but there are going to be perpetual All-Stars in Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, and Noah Vonleh an very good starters in Gary Harris, Nik Stauskas, and Jarnell Stokes.

Stokes was a man among boys in college. Being a man among men in the NBA isn't so bad.

Stokes was a man among boys in college. Being a man among men in the NBA isn’t so bad.

Jarnell Stokes?

Most people aren’t using the Memphis native’s name in the lottery, but when you take a closer look, he’s actually one of the finest prospects in this class.

Stokes gets ripped for a lot of things unnecessarily. He’s a college junior. He’s too short. He doesn’t have great range.

But while those attributes are true, there are many reasons to like him.

The age concern is the most perplexing because it isn’t actually a concern. Although Stokes was a junior by class in Tennnessee, he actually graduated high school a semester early to attend UT as a 17-year old. He’s only 20 years old, two months older than Joel Embiid and Marcus Smart.

Age is a concern for draft prospects because analysts have found that age is one of the largest predictors for success in the NBA. The younger a player is, the more time he has to develop, and older college players often have inflated stats because they’re playing against less mature competition.

The height concern is another misnomer to me, even though Stokes measured out at 6’8.5” in the draft combine, which is below average for an NBA big man. He makes up for that lack of size with long arms (7’1.25” wingspan) and a good vertical (36”, 7th among power forwards).

Most importantly, Stokes is incredibly strong at a sturdy 263 pounds and nearly set a combine record with 22 bench press reps.

The shooting concern also bothers me because it doesn’t make sense. Stokes has never been a particularly good jump shooter, he’s a low-post scorer, not a stretch four. That’s like complaining that a point guard doesn’t have a post game.

If you see Stokes for what he is – a rebounding machine and low post threat – you’ll really like him. If you’re looking for a perfect, well-rounded player, there’s only a handful of those in the league.

Rebounding is one of the most easily transferable skills from college to the NBA, and that’s what Stokes thrived doing. He was third in the nation in offensive rebounding (4.2 per game, although he only trailed non-NBA prospects from Boise State and Morehead State).

He nearly led the league in double-doubles but was barely edged out by fellow First-Team All-SEC big man Julius Randle, a player whom he compares to closely. Randle is a half-inch taller with a 1.5” higher vertical reach, while Stokes has 1.25” longer wingspan and 2.5” wider hand.

It’s not just measurable, though, they’re both excellent low-post scorers and rebounders who put up nearly identical numbers:

  FG% 3P% FT% ORPG DRPG RPG APG BPG PPG
Stokes .531 .696 4.2 6.4 10.6 2.0 0.9 15.1
Randle .501 .167 .706 3.5 6.9 10.4 1.4 0.8 15.0

The other player I see Stokes comparable to is Kenneth Faried. If nothing else, Faried was a rebounding machine in college, leading the nation with 14.5 boards per game in 2011. Of course, the Ohio Valley Conference is easier to rebound in than the SEC, but Faried had one transferable skill to the NBA and now is easily seen as one of the five best picks in the 2011 draft.

I’m not saying Stokes will be one of the five-best players in this loaded draft – 2011 had an admittedly poor draft – but he will be a very valuable player in the pros.

Also if I’m recommending a Tennessee player, that’s got to be as high of praise as it gets.

_

Because I’ve been pressed for time this week because of covering the College World Series from Omaha. You should check out my three game stories and other cool features including a surprise visit from Sonny Gray, ESPN telling Vandy fans to top whistling so loudly, and Brian Miller proposing to his girlfriend.

Instead of doing a fully fleshed out mock draft that will inevitably go haywire when the Cleveland does something stupid with the pick like draft Dante Exum (after he turned them down for a workout) or trade it for two ham sandwiches and a future second round pick, I’ll just give you my Big Board with a few comments on each player.

If you really want my mock draft here it is: Joel Embiid’s fall to the Hornets, P.J. Hairston will go at pick #24, and Stokes will go way, way too low. Happy?

1. Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
He’s going to be very good at just about everything other than defense, and there’s no way he flops.

2. Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
It’s almost always good to bet on athletic freaks with basketball skills, even if his jump shot isn’t there yet.

3. Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
I had Embiid behind the other two before the foot injury, but I don’t think it will dramatically change his long-term potential.

4. Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Doesn’t it scare anyone that we know literally 2 things about this kid? His dad played with MJ and GMs have seen him live about once.

5. Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Dominant in college, and now he’s getting edged out by workout wonders. Randle will be clearly better 5 years from now.

6. Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Whether or not he’s a true point guard, he’s going to be a very good pro because he’s tough and can score.

7. Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
He does everything well except for shoot, but as long as he isn’t a primary scorer on his team, he will succeed.

8. Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
I just don’t get the hype on him. Seems like a Ekpe Udoh bust part 2. But he is really athletic, so I’ll keep him this high.

9. Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
I prefer Harris over Stauskas by an inch because he’s a much better defender.

10. Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
If you can get your jump shot off from anywhere and handle the ball, you can find a niche in this league.

11. Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
You didn’t really just skip to the bottom did you? Go read the intro.

12. Dario Saric, PF, Croatia
Even if he can’t come to the US for 2 more years, he’s a creative passer. If he can ever shoot consistently, watch out.

13. James Young, SF, Kentucky
Freakish wingspan and great shooting stroke. He’d be much higher if he played defense.

14. Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
I can see why people like him, but I think people are trying to project Damian Lillard’s success onto him too boldly.

15. Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Great size and a great stroke. If he continues to shoot like he did last year at Duke, he’ll be a steal.

16. Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Not a fan when he can’t defend small forwards or power forwards. Offensive versatility can only go so far.

17. Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Pure point guards are hard to come by now, and he could be the steal of the draft if he finds a consistent shot.

18. Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
An older prospect, but he can defend the paint some and really shoot the mid-range shot.

19. P.J. Hairston, SG, North Carolina
Character issues don’t matter to me much when a player shoots the way Hairston does.

20. T.J. Warren, SF, NC State
Warren has a knack for scoring even without a great jump shot. Low ceiling but high probability.

21. Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
I get that he is an athletic freak, but I don’t really see discernible NBA skills, which is an issue.

22. Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Worst case scenario: Bismack Biyombo!

23. Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
A very intriguing point forward who never lived up to his top-5 high school recruit expectations.

24. Jusuf Kurkic, C, Bosnia
Your standard Euro big man. You know.

25. Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
I just don’t see much projection left in Shabazz, but he’d be a solid rotation player.

26. Mitch McGary, C, Michigan
If he didn’t injure his back last year, he’d probably be a mid-first rounder. I like to bet on injured talent.

27. Jordan Adams, G, UCLA
He can score. That’s a pretty good skill to have if you want to make the NBA.

28. K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
Versatile defender who could really strengthen someone’s second unit.

29. Jordan Clarkson, SG, Missouri
Texas high school legend who should be able to score off someone’s bench.

30. Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia
Great name. Great size. Great vision. Great shooter. Not so great defender.

Categories: NBA | Leave a comment

2014 NBA Mock Lottery

This is my third season making a knee-jerk reaction NBA Mock Lottery, and somehow it’s my second time puzzled about which player the Cleveland Cavaliers will take first overall.

Unlike last year where the Cavaliers picked Anthony Bennett (and I had them picking Nerlens Noel then Alex Len) the Cavaliers have three great players to choose from: Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, and Jabari Parker. That trio leads what should be the best top of the draft since 2009–maybe even since the vaunted 2003 draft.

This year’s draft is very intriguing with the (perhaps over-)hyped top of the class and normally-successful Celtics and Lakers drafting in the early lottery. You can expect a full mock draft and perhaps my own Big Board closer to draft night.

1

Joel Embiid

C 7-foot 250 lbs Kansas 20 Years Old

The Cavs had two #1 picks and two #4 picks from the past three years and still missed the playoffs. They also signed a coach to a five-year deal who they fired three years earlier and canned him again after year one. With this big of a dumpster fire, I fully expect them to draft Joel Embiid, who will immediately succumb to career-long debilitating knee injuries. And then Johnny Manziel will tear his ACL. Because God hates Cleveland.

2

mil

Andrew Wiggins

SG 6-foot-8 200 lbs Kansas 19 Years Old

The Bucks really only have two keepers: small forward Giannis Antetokounpo and owner’s daughter Mallory Edens. (Shameless plug: Last summer I said the Hawks would “win the NBA Draft” last year by drafting Mason Plumlee and The Greek Freak.) I have Wiggins, Parker, and Embiid graded out as mostly equal, and since Wiggins has a less redundant skill set to The Greek Freak than Parker does, I have Milwaukee taking the Toronto native.

3

Jabari Parker

SF 6-foot-8 241 lbs Duke 19 Years Old

This one’s pretty easy for Philly. In a vacuum, Dante Exum is a similar talent to Parker, but with Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams at point guard and Nerlens Noel a cornerstone big man, Parker is exactly the perimeter player this team needs. Honestly, I would probably take Jabari Parker with the number one pick. He’s a complete player and ready to make an immediate impact on both sides of the ball. I just don’t see a way he fails.

4

Dante Exum

PG 6-foot-6 196 lbs Australia 18 Years Old

The Magic likely would have taken Marcus Smart over Victor Oladipo with the second overall pick last year, and Exum is a better Smart. The only thing that might talk the Magic out of Exum here is the thought that they could grab a quality point guard with the 12th overall pick (Tyler Ennis or Zach LaVine) and grab a quality big man (Julius Randle) with their first pick.

5

Julius Randle

PF 6-foot-9 234 lbs Kentucky 19 Years Old

The Jazz just get screwed here because they could really use another wing (say, Mormon Jabari Parker) but the top tier of wing players have no chance of falling this far. Since they’re unable to fit a need, I think the Jazz should and will go with the best available player, which in this case is Julius Randle. Utah does already have Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter down low, but Kanter is up for an extension soon, and Randle would be a fantastic replacement. They could also be a candidate to trade out of this pick.

6

bos

Aaron Gordon

PF 6-foot-9 220 lbs Arizona 18 Years Old

Gordon is a strange prospect to me because he’s unbelievably athletic but lacks a ton of basketball skills. Most of his points in Arizona came from putbacks and close shots. He’s a bit short for power forward and cannot shoot, but his motor and athleticism are so tantalizing. If he puts everything together, he could be Blake Griffin, but if he doesn’t put things together, he could be a really bad player. The Celtics really just need to draft based on upside and need anything other than a point guard.

7

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Noah Vonleh

PF 6-foot-10 247 lbs Indiana 18 Years Old

Noah Vonleh is the latest player rising up draft boards with an outstanding combine, just like fellow Hoosier Cody Zeller last season. Similar to the Celtics, the Lakers are a bit of a mess just looking for upside, so Vonleh makes sense here. He also makes sense here because I’m not a particularly big fan of this freshman (terrible name) and I’m not a particularly big fan of the Lakers.

8

Marcus Smart

PG 6-foot-3 227 lbs Oklahoma State 20 Years Old

You have to think the Kings are the absolute floor for Smart, who could go as high as 5. Sacramento needs help at the 1 and 4, making Smart a great fit. Isaiah Thomas has been a good player, but Smart is more likely to be a long-term starter at point guard. Hey, DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore, and Marcus Smart isn’t the worst core. Probably makes the playoffs in the East.

9

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Gary Harris

SG 6-foot-5 205 lbs Michigan State 19 Years Old

It’s nice to see that logo next to Gary Harris’ name, isn’t it? The Hornets need another star, but that isn’t going to be around at this pick. Otherwise, they need shooting, a backup point guard, another big, and shooting. “You said shooting twice.” I like shooting. Harris could very well be a starter soon for Charlotte with great range and perimeter defense.

10

Dario Saric

PF 6-foot-10 223 lbs Croatia 20 Years Old

After taking Parker, the Sixers could go with another forward or a shooting guard. Personally, I would love to see Parker and Rodney Hood reunited in Philly, but most teams don’t have Hood as high on their board as I do. Saric would give the Sixers great size (6’7″ at point guard, 6’8″ at small forward, 6’10” at power forward, and 6’11” at center) and another ball handler to go with Carter-Williams and Parker. James Young could also make sense here if Philadelphia would prefer shooting over an unconventional big man.

11

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James Young

SF 6-foot-8 213 lbs Kentucky 18 Years Old

Picking this late in the lottery doesn’t really solve the Nuggets’ issue of having a lot of above-average players, but Young would give them something every team could use: a great shooter. Young’s .349 three-point shooting percentage at Kentucky didn’t blow anyone away, but his sweet shooting stroke portends better results in the future, just like Bradley Beal in the 2012 draft.

12

Doug McDermott

SF 6-foot-8 218 lbs Creighton 22 Years Old

Orlando heads into the draft needing a point guard and forward depth, and with Exum on board, Dougy McBuckets makes sense here. The Magic’s two current cornerstones (Oladipo and Nik Vucevic) are great defensively with limited offense, so taking an all-offense, no-defense player like McDermott could work in their favor.

13

Tyler Ennis

PG 6-foot-3 182 lbs Syracuse 19 Years Old

Yes, the Wolves already have a point guard, and yes, David Kahn is off to greener pastures, but Ennis is more talented than the 13th player taken in the draft. He really belongs in the 8-12 range, but he’s certainly not going to be taken by a team that has Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker, Michael Carter-Williams, Ty Lawson, or Dante Exum. Ennis’ speed and mid-range shooting could work well alongside Ricky Rubio, and he could be the player Johnny Flynn never was.

14

Rodney Hood

SF 6-foot-9 208 lbs Duke 21 Years Old

It looks bad now, but going into the season, I thought no team had less talent than the Suns. Their success this season is a testament to Jeff Hornacek’s coaching skills and my apparent lack of talent evaluating skills. Anyway, I love Eric Bledsoe and like Goran Dragic, but I’m still not convinced the Morris twins and Miles Plumlee are long-term starters. The Suns will probably go for the best player with the edge going to sweet-shooting forwards, making Hood a great pick here.

Categories: NBA | Leave a comment

The Case for Jordan Matthews

I don’t often over-enthusiastically endorse players I cover for upcoming drafts because I’ve seen them long enough to see their warts.

Take, for instance Vanderbilt pitcher Tyler Beede, who I’ve greatly enjoyed covering for the past two years. When he’s on, I don’t think I’ve seen a more dominant collegiate pitcher, but I’ve also seen his command wobble, which is why I understand ESPN’s Keith Law having him fall from the 4th overall prospect to the 14th prospect.

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I’m going to make sure Jordan Matthews is on my fantasy team next year, even if it’s with the first overall pick

This is not the case with Jordan Matthews. There just aren’t any notable warts.

In my two years covering Matthews, I’ve seen a receiver quite literally put the team on his back, making several catches in do-or-die situations I didn’t think were possible.

Matthews became the SEC all-time leaders in receptions and receiving yardage despite playing without top-level quarterbacks. Jordan Rodgers, Larry Smith, and Austyn Carta-Samuels were at best good, not great; only Carta-Samuels finished in the top half of SEC quarterbacks in QB Rating, and he played just ten games in 2013. Patton Robinette was very limited when he played, mostly keeping Matthews to passes under five yards.

Furthermore, Matthews hardly had much protection in the form of another receiver. Chris Boyd and Jonathan Krause each had one 700-yard receiving years, but the defense knew Vanderbilt was trying to get the ball to Matthews nearly every time they dropped back to pass and still couldn’t do a thing to stop him.

Obviously teams don’t draft players off past performance, but it’s hard to imagine such a great college player—the most productive receiver in the toughest conference—falling in the draft. Especially one with prototypical size, prototypical speed, and enormous hands.

The knock on Matthews has been that he’s just a possession receiver and lacks the athleticism and explosiveness of other receivers. Maybe that comes about as a heuristic because Matthews is the only senior among top draft prospects, but that doesn’t make sense, since he’s actually younger than Marqise Lee and Kelvin Benjamin.

But look at the numbers from the combine. Matthews is every bit the athlete as the other six top draft prospects and is even a marginally better athlete than consensus top receiver Sammy Watkins.

Name Height Weight Hand 40 Yard Bench Vert Leap Shuttle 3Cone Age
Odell Beckham 71 198 10 4.43 7 38.5 3.94 6.69 21.5
Kelvin Benjamin 77 240 10 1/4 4.61 13 32.5 4.39 7.33 23.3
Brandin Cooks 70 189 9 5/8 4.33 16 36 3.81 6.76 20.6
Mike Evans 77 231 9 5/8 4.53 12 37 4.26 7.08 20.7
Marqise Lee 73 192 9 1/2 4.52 38 4.01 22.5
Jordan Matthews 75 212 10 3/8 4.46 21 35.5 4.18 6.95 21.8
Sammy Watkins 73 211 9 5/8 4.43 16 34 4.34 6.95 20.9

Aside from a handful of games, I haven’t gotten to see much the other six receivers, but I can tell you what I know about Matthews: there’s no way he’s going to be a disappointment in the pros. Worst-case scenario he’s a taller Anquan Boldin–a strong possession receiver–but he’s got the potential for much more.

That’s why it surprises me why teams are so down on Matthews. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has mocked Matthews as high as 22 to the Eagles, but he has him going to the 49ers at number 30 in his latest mock draft. SI’s Peter King has Matthews going 28th to the Panthers, and FoxSports’ Joel Klatt has him going 32nd to the Seahawks, but ESPN’s Todd McShay, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, and all of the CBSSports.com writers don’t have Matthews as a first-round pick at all.

The NFL Draft is nothing more than a glorified crapshoot (and I’ll admit I eat it up every single year), but it blows my mind that Matthews isn’t getting more attention considering his history, physical characteristics, and durability, not to mention his incredible personality and leadership. He’s even got such a strong work ethic that he studied up on film of cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl, even if he didn’t put on an outstanding showing there.

I could go on and on about what makes Matthews special, but there’s one thing that sticks out most to me, something his coaches have reiterated in his time at Vanderbilt: when the ball is in the air, he knows it’s his. Part of that is his massive size and giant hands (nearly an inch wider than Mike Evans’!!!) but a large part of it is also his incredible will and determination, part of what brought him from a 2-star recruit to being an All-American.

There’s a very good chance that Jordan Matthews falls to the second round in this draft, but I think that these teams will be making a big mistake. And I think history will be on his side.

Categories: NFL | Leave a comment

Johnny McCrary Podcast

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Johnny McCrary goes by Big Daddy. That’s cool.

This Wednesday, I published probably my favorite article of the year: a feature on Johnny McCrary, the likely starting quarterback for Vanderbilt next season. Because of James Franklin’s rules, no members of the media were allowed to talk to him until Spring Practice, so this article has been a long time coming.

Johnny has a very is interesting story and has a great personality, which made him one of my favorite interviews ever. There was a lot of good stuff I couldn’t even fit into the 1,200 word article, so I wanted to share my full interview of him and his high school coach Ray Bonner with you.

You can find the interview at the link below, and if you want the audio file, you can email me or tweet me.

Also please please do yourself a favor and check out Big Daddy’s Instagram feed. I’ve talked about it before in my NFL Pick this year.

The Knuckle Cast Episode #6

Categories: College Football | Leave a comment

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