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Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-5

Confusion in Richmond, Changes at Bristol and Pastrana’s Impact

NASCAR officiating, Bristol’s changes and the debut of Travis Pastrana. It was quite a week for the sport and created a lot of topics for members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council to debate.

With so much to discuss, no need to delay things. Here’s a look at how NASCAR fans saw these issues:

NASCAR called a debris caution with 13 laps left in Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond with Tony Stewart leading. Stewart said the debris was a water bottle. MRN announcer Dave Moody tweeted that he saw a “big hunka metal” on the track. TV did not show the debris. Fan Council members were asked if they thought the caution was legitimate.

65.7 percent said Yes
34.3 percent said No

What Fan Council members said:
• Well I can’t say it was legitimate, but I did see them pick something up. It was right in front of where my seats were.

• I have listened to the NASCAR Officials Channel on SiriusXM enough to know that they do not throw phantom cautions and they are legit. If there is something out there, and especially if they cannot identify it, they will throw a caution.

• Absolutely not! Evidently NASCAR has brought in Vince McMahon as a consultant, and decided to add artificial drama to race(s) that needed none. It turned a great race, that Tony Stewart had earned the win of, into a tire-changing contest. Let the racers race!

• I have to trust NASCAR, but this is easily avoidable — SHOW THE DEBRIS. We don't have to trust officials in other sports because foul balls are shown to be foul, touchdowns are shown to be touchdowns. Just show the debris, and all is solved.

• Since the fans have been complaining and the press has picked it up about no drama we had plenty of it at RIR. Jeff Burton tweeted “it looked like a can to me. It was on the exit of 2 it was about 1/3 up the track.” And Matt (Yocum of FOX) tweeted “robin p told me on the plane last pm that it was a can not water bottle. Mid turn 2 like u said MkJ” And from what others said it had been there for a bit and Carl was the one screaming about it the loudest.

• NASCAR has been VERY good about not tossing out phantom cautions this season — I think that there is no reason to not believe them.

• Phantom cautions are a problem in NASCAR. There is no reason why the reason for the caution can’t be shown to us. It should be mandatory.

• This is unbelievable. One week fans are complaining about lack of cautions and NASCAR needs to do something. This week they are calling the caution bogus. 

• With all of the HDTV cameras, why can't the race producer show us the debris for every caution? They could show us the GEICO roof camera during the GEICO side-by-side commercial and the 5-Hour roof camera during that side-by-side commercial. They show us the replays for a wreck from these roof cameras, why can’t they try to help NASCAR be legitimate and show the debris?

• If David Hoots says "Put it out,” it's legitimate enough for me.

With less than 100 laps left in Saturday’s race, NASCAR penalized Carl Edwards for jumping the restart and passing leader Tony Stewart too soon. It happened as there was some confusion with Edwards’ team if he was the leader or not. Fan Council members were asked if NASCAR made the right call to penalize Edwards for jumping the restart.

75.0 percent said Yes
25.0 percent said No

What Fan Council members said:
• I really don’t see the debate here. From the replay it showed that Carl jumped the restart before the restart box. Even IF he was the leader, he still jumped the restart. NASCAR made the right call. I don't see why everybody is so up in arms about it, because that's always been the rule, regardless. End of story.

• If he jumped the restart, and there is a penalty for the infraction, then YES. Having said that, I think a black flag is a stupid penalty for that infraction. Just wave it off and make them do it again. That is WAY too harsh.

• Absolutely not!!!! I was at the race and listening to his channel, his spotter came over the radio and told Carl NASCAR said 99 is the leader, and the scoring tower called him the leader. There was obviously confusion so why didn't NASCAR call off the (re)start and get it fixed like they have done a million times before? Tony spun the tires bad, and Carl simply got a great restart like he had done all night. I think NASCAR just made themselves look terrible Saturday with two bad calls, and the only explanation was basically “sorry bout your luck.”

• Once again, I believe in NASCAR and its integrity … though I will say that in that particular situation it would have made sense to go one more lap under yellow to make sure there was no confusion.

• Clear as day. He jumped the start.

• Tony clearly spun his tires on the restart. That was a bad call.

• It was blatant. Props to NASCAR for having restart lines visible on the wall, this was a black and white call to me, no gray area.


55.6 percent called it Good
23.0 percent called it Great
16.7 percent called it Fair
4.8 percent called it Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• Loved it. I’m so glad I blew off my Saturday night plans to stay home and watch TV.

• NASCAR has a HUGE problem on their hands. I’ve been critical all year of the boring (nature) of the racing, and after seeing this race in person I gotta say it’s not the drivers being too cautious, it’s the fact that they don't get a chance to be aggressive. There is not much passing, there is nobody charging up through the field, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all in the car. The dictatorship of NASCAR has to loosen up the rules a bit. Every car is the same, therefore they just get strung out and basically run a fast-paced parade. If NASCAR doesn’t make some changes real quick, they are going to dig a hole that will take years to recover from.

• The Jimmie Johnson pit crew penalty, Carl Edwards jumping the restart and Tony Stewart’s debris caution added needed drama to this race. Without these three events, it would have been a rather dull race overall. Short track racing is always better than the 1.5- and 2-miles tracks. This Richmond race did have some long green-flag runs, but short tracks always have active racing because 43 cards don’t get spread out well at a 3/4 mile track. The restarts were some of the best moments of the race, including the last restart with about 10 laps to go.

• I saw more passing this week; some interesting pit road incidents (!) and penalties that spiced up the situation.

• For all the people that say it is boring, these past few weeks have been for the most part about how well the teams can make the best changes and compete in mostly green-flag racing. THAT is what racing is all about to me.

• Boring. I was there and it was boring. Restarts were the only exciting parts and I'm only giving a “good” rating for them.

• Another solid good race, not spectacular but kept my attention throughout.

Last week Bruton Smith announced plans to grind Bristol’s top groove to take away the advantage of that line. He said it also will narrow the groove, forcing the cars to run closer together, which could lead to the beating and banging often associated with racing there. The move was made after a decline in attendance for the spring race. Fan council members were asked if this was enough to make them want to buy tickets to the August night race there.

81.6 percent said No
18.4 percent said Yes

What Fan Council member said:
• I am going regardless.

• Hoping it makes a difference … Will wait to get tickets again though until next season though.

• Actually, I’m skipping the Bristol race this year. I really didn’t find anything wrong with the racing as it was but with the economy as it is right now I’m just going to see what happens with this one.

• I like the progressive-banked Bristol because I’d rather see guys run side-by-side for 75 laps without hitting each other instead of just plowing in the back of someone to pass. Not a fan of Keselowski or Kenseth but their battle in March was epic.

• Hey Mr. Smith, instead of grinding the top groove to “help” bring fans to Bristol. How about giving $50 gas cards to those that purchase a ticket from the BMS ticket office. In addition, the hotels that increase their rates race weekend, how about pay the difference so the race fans pay the normal rates? Because the bottom line, Mr. Smith, (is) “we the race fans DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY” with the increased cost of living.

• BMS was on my bucket list, so I am going no matter what — I am very anxious to see what happens under the lights in August!

• This is going to help bring back the racing we all love so much there! Can't wait to see Bristol back to being the special place that it's always known to be! Go Bruton!

• The racing at Bristol was fine as it was. I’m not going to get more interested in any particular race because of a gimmick.

<p> The Backseat Drivers Fan Council weighs in on the confusiong finish at Richmond, debris cautions, changes at Bristol and Travis Pastrana's impact on NASCAR.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 10:58
All taxonomy terms: Clint Bowyer, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/clint-bowyer-wear-paul-bear-bryant-helmet-talladega

NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer will be playing to the crowd this weekend as he rolls into Talladega. Bowyer tweeted a picture of his custom helmet, which pays homage to the Alabama Crimson Tide and their legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. The helmet will match his No. 15 Toyota, which will also be decked out in the crimson colors. According to Bowyer, the helmet is "Pretty Bitchin!" We have to agree.

Post date: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 10:36
Path: /college-football/boise-state-football-will-broncos-play-bcs-bowl

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 24 Boise State. The Broncos are coming off a 12-1 record with a victory over Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Boise State suffered a lot of personnel losses, but expect this program to remain a top 25 team.

Considering the heavy personnel losses from last season, will Boise State play in a BCS bowl this year?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The chances seem awfully slim to me. However, if Boise State is going to look for any consolation, the Broncos can look at 2008. In Kellen Moore’s freshman season, the Broncos still finished 12-1. With the amount of young talent on that team four years ago, it was apparent Boise State was in for an incredible four-year run. Back then, we had no clue who Moore was, much less Doug Martin, Billy Winn, George Iloka and Nate Potter, who were also freshmen on that team. In all likelihood, Boise State has those kinds of freshmen and sophomores on the roster this time around. I have little doubt Boise State is going to continue to be a high-level team, threatening double-digit wins each year, but 2012 will be the most uncertain since 2008. This time around, the new quarterback is only the most visible personnel change. The core group of seniors who went 50-3 and finished in the top 10 three times is gone. Boise State is going to compete for top-five finishes again, just not this year.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The fact that Boise State is in the preseason Top 25 is a huge testament to where Chris Peterson has taken this program over the last half decade. This team returns one starter on defense and only five on offense. And Peterson doesn't have to replace also rans and walk-ons — he has to replace some of the best players in the history of the program. Names like Doug Martin, George Iloka, Shea McClellin, Nate Potter and Billy Winn rank amongst the program's best of all-time at their respective positions. Most difficult to replace will be record-breaking quarterback Kellen Moore. For 53 straight games, Broncos fans watched No. 11 trot onto the field, and 50 of those 53 times, Boise State won. Now, the onus of offensive leadership falls to Joe Southwick or true freshman Moore clone Nick Patti.

So to land in our Top 25 with only seven total returning starters is a huge statement about the current status of the Boise State program. They no longer rebuild, they reload. Having said that, there is no chance the Broncos return to a BCS bowl in 2012. The schedule is easier than it has been in years, so a conference title and 10-win season is within reach. But a road trip to Michigan State to start the year will be impossible, while additional journeys to Southern Miss and Nevada provide interesting tests later in the year. A home game against an offensively-minded BYU team could also be tricky for the reworked blue defense. If Boise State goes 2-2 in those four games, 10 wins is a virtual lock. Yet, in order to get back to the BCS, the Broncos will have to win in East Lansing, Hattiesburg and Reno, while playing perfect football against nine other opponents. Odds are Boise State will miss at least one kick along the way, right? (Too soon?)

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It’s certainly possible, but I can’t see Boise State making a BCS bowl in 2012. The Broncos are still the No. 1 team in the Mountain West, but there are a ton of personnel losses to overcome. Seven players that earned first-team all-conference honors last season are gone, and Boise State has only seven returning starters going into 2012. Although the offense has to replace quarterback Kellen Moore and running back Doug Martin, the Broncos lost most of their key contributors on the defensive line and standout safety George Iloka.

With TCU leaving for the Big 12, Boise State is the clear favorite to win the Mountain West title. However, the schedule features enough tough matchups that the Broncos could lose two games. Boise State will be an underdog in the opener against Michigan State, while the Sept. 22 matchup against BYU won’t be easy. Wyoming and Nevada could be the Broncos’ toughest competition in conference play and both games are on the road.

Even though Chris Petersen has a strong track record of developing talent, there are a lot of personnel losses to overcome. The Broncos should get better as the season progresses, but will likely lose in the opener to Michigan State and stumble in one of the conference road games, likely against Nevada. I wouldn’t be shocked if Boise State runs through the Mountain West unbeaten, but I think 10-2 and a finish somewhere in the 15-20 range in the 2012 final polls is the most likely outcome.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I don’t think Boise State will be in the hunt for a BCS bowl. The Broncos simply lost too much talent to expect this team to flirt with a top-10 ranking at any point this season. Kellen Moore and Doug Martin will be tough to replace on offense, but the big concern, in my opinion, is on defense. Boise State was able to play with — and beat — so many BCS conference teams in recent years because the Broncos were so good on the defensive line. Now, the entire starting front seven must be replaced. It’s just not realistic to think Boise can just plug in new starters at virtually ever spot on defense and not take a step back.

Chris Petersen’s team will win a bunch of games and score a lot of points, but Boise State in 2012 won’t be nearly as talented as recent Bronco teams. On a neutral field, I’d make the ’11 Broncos a 13.5-point favorite over the ’12 Broncos.

Mark Ross
I am a big believer in what Chris Petersen has built in Boise, so I think the Broncos CAN return a BCS bowl. I'm just not so sure they WILL. My hesitation stems from two reasons - no more Kellen Moore and two difficult non-conference games. Moore ended his Broncos career with the most wins by a quarterback in FBS history.

Let's not forget that the defense will basically be brand new as well with just one starter returning from last year's unit. You just can't lose all that experience under center and continuity on the other side of the ball and not expect the Broncos to take a step back.

It's not that Joe Southwich or Nick Patti, the projected frontrunners to be Moore's replacement, don't have the talent or capability to handle the job, it's just that they've never done it before. In addition, whoever gets the nod under center to start the season will make their debut against Michigan State in Lansing. Not the ideal location or opponent to work the kinks out in my opinion. A couple of weeks later BYU comes calling on the Smurf Turf, so two of Boise State's first three games are against anything but so-called cupcakes.

The Broncos should have little trouble navigating their Mountain West Conference schedule, especially now that TCU calls the Big 12 home. But there are several teams in their conference, like Nevada, Wyoming and perhaps even Fresno State, that can't be discounted or not taken seriously. So when you combine the new faces in key places on both sides of the ball and add that to the degree of difficulty related to their schedule, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see the Broncos finish with a few less wins than they did last year. And if any school knows the difference a win can mean when it comes to the BCS, it's Boise State.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Chris Petersen’s team can reach double-digit wins (like always), but I do not think the Broncos get back to the BCS. Even with the loss of some top personnel, Boise will still be the class of the Mountain West. However, it’s difficult to see the Broncos having the same national cache with the roster attrition that includes NFL first-round picks Shea McClellin and Doug Martin plus record-setting quarterback Kellen Moore. Stud offensive tackle Nate Potter and defenders George Iloka, Tyrone Crawford and Billy Winn will also be missed. Boise has shown a penchant for winning season-openers over big-time opponents, and another opportunity presents itself at Michigan State on August 31. If the Broncos can win that one, then maybe the BCS is a possibility. Petersen has built a perennial Top 25 program, and I see the 2012 squad as a 10-2 team that wins the MWC crown but not a BCS Bowl.

Related Boise State Content

Boise State Broncos 2012 Team Preview
Boise State's Top 10 Players Since 1967

Boise State Broncos Cheerleader Gallery

Boise State Broncos Top 10 Players for 2012
Boise State 2012 Team Predictions

Greatest Moments in Boise State Football History

Jokes About Boise State Rivals

<p> Boise State Football: Will the Broncos Play in a BCS Bowl?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/boise-state-broncos-2012-team-predictions

The Boise State Broncos check in at No. 24 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: D.J. Harper, RB
With Doug Martin off to the NFL, the Boise State running back tradition falls to sixth-year senior D.J. Harper. However, the senior has struggled to stay healthy, and depth is a concern with walk-on Drew Wright listed as the backup. These two players are the only two ball carriers on the roster with game experience and Harper has shown a penchant for making the big play. Wright earned his first scholarship this spring and has established himself as the clear No. 2 option. The best way for Chris Peterson to break in a new quarterback for the first time in four years will be with a great running game.

Trap Game: BYU (Sept. 22)
Early in the schedule will be the best time to get this Boise State team as it breaks in a new quarterback, new running game and entirely new defense. The Cougars return with a big chunk of the offense and should be a bowl team in 2012. However, it should visit Boise with a 1-2 record after facing an improving Washington State team in Week 1 and visiting rival Utah in Week 3. They will be better than their record indicates at that time, and with two road trips looming for Boise State, the Cougars could easily sneak up on the Broncos.

Upset Alert: At Southern Miss (Oct. 6)
Any road trip against a team that won 12 games a season ago is going to be tough. However, the early October trip to Hattiesburg for Boise State won’t feature former star Eagles quarterback Austin Davis or offensive guru Larry Fedora. Despite replacing most of its starting line-up, Boise State should still be favored, but Southern Miss is one of the most successful mid-major programs and new head coach Ellis Johnson will have his squad ready to compete. 

Unsung Hero: Michael Atkinson, DT
With five defensive linemen departing, Chris Peterson needs to find players he can count on in the most important area of his defense. Winning games starts with a solid defensive line and Atkinson is poised for his best season as a senior. He is lighter and quicker than ever before and appears to be the vocal leader of the totally reworked D-Line. He posted a career-best 31 tackles

Biggest Game: At Nevada (Nov. 24)
No one has to remind fans of what playing at Nevada means to this Boise State program. The last time this team visited Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nev., a missed field goal cost the Broncos a trip to the national championship game. While that type of pressure likely won’t be on the line in this fall, a conference title and potential BCS bowl bid could hang in the balance for the Broncos in the 2012 season finale.

Freshman To Watch: Nick Patti, QB
The former Orlando star graduated high school early and went through his first collegiate spring practice this April. He has Kellen Moore size and skills and played at an elite level in the prep ranks — Dr. Phillips High School. He posted a 34-4 record as a starter and set school records for completions (374), yards (5,701), touchdown passes (66) and completion rate (67%) while earning Florida 8A Player of the Year honors. Class 8A is the highest level of competition in the talent-rich Sunshine State.

Comeback Player: Jerrell Gavins, CB
The redshirt senior started the first three games of the season last fall before suffering a season-ending injury. His picked-off three passes in his short three-game season and actually finished with the team lead in interceptions. Gavins played in every game in 2010 and should return to the starting line-up this fall. On a defense with only one starter returning, any experience is a welcome sight for Broncos fans.

Defensive MVP: Jamar Taylor, CB
Taylor is a complete student athlete and is the top returning defensive player on the field. He possesses tremendous work ethic and leads by example. On a defense that returns only one starter (him), the onus of leadership falls to Taylor. He elevated his game throughout spring practice and has many people comparing him to former standout defensive dynamo and first round NFL pick Kyle Wilson.

Season Defining Moment: Week 1 at Michigan State
This game might not be a season defining moment but possibly a program-defining moment. While neither team should challenge for national supremacy this season, Boise State enters a brutal environment against a team that has entered “reloading-not-rebuilding” status. The Spartans also replace their program’s greatest quarterback and will be a bowl team. But if the Broncos, with only six returning starters, can walk into East Lansing and win the first game of the year, they can no longer be considered a mid-major program — at least, until they enter the Big East.

Position Battle: Quarterback
The right to replace legend Kellen Moore won’t be easy for anyone on the roster, but junior Joe Southwick and true freshman Nick Patti both appear ready for the challenge. Southwick (6-foot-1, 191 pounds) enters the summer with the lead for the starting job and is easily the most experienced option on the roster. The Kellen Moore-esque Nick Patti graduated high school early and participated in spring camp. The 5-foot-11, 195 pound Orlando, Fla., product was a finalist for National Gatorade Player of the Year and could swipe the starting job come fall camp. 

Newcomer To Watch: Jeremy Ioane, SO
So this is stretching the definition of “newcomer” but Ioane has been on campus for two years and has made four solo tackles in nine career games. He hasn’t played much, but his recruiting hype may finally be realized this fall as he enters the starting line-up. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound redshirt sophomore could be the most significant new starter in the Boise State two-deep.

Related Boise State Content

Boise State Broncos 2012 Team Preview
Boise State's Top 10 Players Since 1967

Boise State Broncos Cheerleader Gallery

Boise State Broncos Top 10 Players for 2012
Will Boise State Play in a BCS Bowl in 2012?

Greatest Moments in Boise State Football History

Jokes About Boise State Rivals

<p> Boise State Broncos 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 06:01
All taxonomy terms: Boise State Broncos, College Football
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-boise-state-rivals

Here are some of our favorite jokes about Boise State's biggest rivals.

• What does the average Vandals football player get on his SAT? Drool.


• How many Nevada freshmen does it take to change a light bulb None. That’s a sophomore course.


• A man in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and asks, "Wanna hear a University of Idaho joke?" The guy next to him replies, "Look, fella, I'm six feet tall, 200 pounds, and I'm an Idaho grad. The guy next to me is 6-2, 225, and he's an Idaho grad. The big dude next to him is 6-5, weighs 250, and he's an Idaho grad. You still wanna tell that joke?" The first man replies: "Not if I'm gonna have to explain it three times."


• How many Vandals fans does it take to change a flat tire? Just one . . . unless it’s a blowout, then they all show up!


• Did you hear what happened to the Idaho State fan when he found out that 90% of all car accidents occur within five miles of home? He moved.


• Why is Idaho replacing the turf at the Kibbie Dome with cardboard? The Vandals always look better on paper.


• Things you will never hear a Vandals fan say: I have reviewed your application.


• Why don’t Idaho State fans eat barbecue beans? Because they keep falling through the holes in the grill.


• Things you will never hear an Vandals fan say: I just couldn’t find a thing at Walmart today.


• What's the difference between an Idaho football player and a dollar? You can get four quarters out of a dollar.


<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 03:48
Path: /college-football/auburn-football-will-tigers-show-improvement-2012

The college football season is a couple of months away, but the countdown to 2012 has officially begun. Athlon Sports’ 2012 preseason annuals will be hitting newsstands in early June and its official top 25 countdown began on May 1. Needless to say, picking the order of finish in each conference and compiling the top 25 is no easy task. Leading up to teh release of No. 1, Athlon’s editors will tackle some of the top preseason debates and question marks facing the teams and conferences for 2012.

Can Auburn Increase its Win Total in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Auburn waved goodbye to Cam Newton and Nick Fairley two years ago and dropped from 14 wins to eight. Now what will the departures of Michael Dyer and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn? Auburn may be in for another dropoff in 2012. I’ll try not to read too much into the way Auburn lost its five games last season, all by two touchdowns or more. The losses were to three top-10 teams (Alabama, LSU, Arkansas), the ACC champion (Clemson) and the SEC East winner (Georgia). Not much shame there. That said, Auburn’s lucky it won even eight games last season. The passing game was dreadful and the defense was nearly as bad. New defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will have nine returning starters to work with, but Auburn’s defense still has to make up a ton a ground to move into nine- and 10-win territory, especially in the unforgiving SEC West. Meanwhile, the offense is a mystery with Malzahn off to Arkansas State. Who is going to move the ball for the Tigers? Clint Moseley? Kiehl Frazier? Onterio McCalebb? A year after combining for one offensive touchdown against Alabama and LSU last season, Auburn will be in danger of being shut out by the better defenses in the league. If that’s the case, Auburn is probably closer to missing a bowl game than it is to winning more than eight.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The Tigers are the single most intriguing team in the SEC this summer. They are the biggest wildcard in the conference and will most assuredly play a huge role in the conference title race one way or the other. This team has recruited at an elite level nationally and has the talent to compete in the SEC West. Yet, inexplicably the Tigers have dramatically underachieved on the defensive side of the ball for two full seasons. Finding a quarterback who can push the football down the field will be also be imperative to 2012 success. I am almost more interested in seeing how this Auburn team comes together than anything else in the SEC this fall.

Two fantastic hires, Scott Loeffler on offense and Brian VanGorder on defense, have stabilized the coaching staff uncertainty under Gene Chizik. But these two coordinators have loads of work to do on the Plains. The talent is dripping off of this roster, particularly in the defensive front seven and along the offensive line — two areas that normally would indicate on the field success. Only time will tell if all those five-star blockers will be able to move the pile in the running game or protect the quarterback in the passing game.

Due to the upgrades on the coaching staff and the development of elite recruiting classes, this team should be improved in 2012. It just may not show up in the win column. Auburn was lucky get wins over South Carolina and Florida and failed to even compete with the better teams in the league — losing by a total of 125 points to Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and Georgia. Those four games will once again be brutal tests but at least the Bayou Bengals, Hogs and Dawgs have to visit Auburn this year. Clemson is again on the schedule as well, so another 8-5 (4-4) season is likely. But I believe the War Eagle ship is headed in the right direction and will be much more competitive this time around.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It’s certainly possible Auburn will be better than it was last year, but it may not show up in the win column. The Tigers are a team with a lot of question marks. The offense struggled last year and it may not be much better in 2012. Kiehl Frazier has potential at quarterback, but how will he fit in with new coordinator Scot Loeffler’s scheme? Onterio McCalebb is a solid running back, but may not be able to handle the full workload.

In addition to the concerns on offense, the Tigers have to figure out some answers on defense. The good news for new coordinator Brian VanGorder is nine starters are back and the defensive line could be among the best in the SEC. After the front four is where VanGorder has his work cut out. The linebacking corps and secondary have some talented players returning, but neither unit performed up to expectations last year.

In order to improve on last year’s eight wins, Auburn needs to pull a few upsets along the way. The Tigers will likely be underdogs in the season opener against Clemson and heads to Mississippi State in Week 2. It’s not out of the question to think Auburn could start 0-2. Games against LSU, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama would appear to be loses and a trip to Vanderbilt isn’t a guaranteed win.

Auburn is recruiting well, but there are too many question marks to expect a run at the SEC West title. I could see the Tigers finishing the regular season with an 8-4 mark, but would be surprised if they won more than eight games.  

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
The Tigers will be a better team than last year’s inexperienced group, but I still see them at the seven-win mark in the regular season. The 2012 campaign begins with a tough game versus the high-octane offense of Clemson in Atlanta. Additionally, Gene Chizik’s crew will likely be the underdog in SEC contests against LSU, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama. Auburn lost to the five aforementioned opponents last season by an average of 27.8 points. The talented Tigers roster should close the gap this year or maybe even win one or two of those games this year, but they also have challenging games against  Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has done great work with quarterbacks at places like Michigan, Florida and Temple a year ago, and he will need to find some production out of the position for Auburn to have success. There are veteran weapons in running back Onterio McCalebb, receiver Emory Blake and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, so the Tigers will have a shot at some upsets if Loeffler finds a signal caller. New defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has plenty of starters returning, led by All-SEC end Corey Lemonier and linebacker Daren Bates. Auburn will be an interesting team with a talented roster, but a tough schedule put the forecast at 7-5 for the regular season.

Where will Auburn finish in the 2012 SEC standings? Check back throughout May as the 2012 Top 25 countdown will be released one team a day.

Related SEC Content

10 Teams That Could End the SEC's National Title Streak
LSU or Alabama: Which Team is No. 1 in the SEC West?

Georgia or South Carolina: Which Team Will Win the SEC East in 2012?
Ranking the SEC's Running Backs for 2012

Ranking the SEC's Quarterbacks for 2012

Ranking the SEC's Head Coaches for 2012

Ranking College Football's Top 25 Head Coaches for 2012

Missouri or Texas A&M: Which Team Will Have More Wins in 2012?

<p> Auburn Football: Can Tigers Increase Their Wins in 2012?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 01:20
Path: /mlb/baseball-numbers-al-west-bullpens-kemp-and-ethier-and-pujols

Runs scored by the St. Louis Cardinals while Adam Wainwright was in the game during his first four starts this season, spanning 20 innings.

ERA of the first-place Texas Rangers’ bullpen in April.

ERA of the last-place Los Angeles Angels’ bullpen in April.

Cumulative batting average in the major leagues this season, the lowest for a season in the DH Era. In 1972, the season prior to the DH rule, the majors’ average was .244. The league batting average has declined each year since 2006.

Home runs by the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in 163 at-bats. Their teammates have combined for just three homers in 545 at-bats.

Consecutive games with a hit by the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval to start this season. Before being held hitless by the Padres on Saturday, Sandoval established a new San Francisco mark for a hitting streak to start the season, beating the old mark of 16 set by Willie Mays in 1961.

Home runs for Albert Pujols in the month of April. The future Hall of Fame slugger also had just four RBIs for the month, easily the lowest totals of his illustrious career. For the first 11 seasons of his career, he averaged seven homers and 21 RBIs in April with lows of five and 15.

<br />
Post date: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 19:52
Path: /mlb/baseballs-best-players-35-and-over

Last week we presented the best of the young guys — 25 and under. Now the old dudes. Needless to say this roster is one huge injury risk. As was the case with the 25-and-under list, I’m using Opening Day (April 4, 2012) as the cut-off. Players had to be at least age 35 on that day to qualify. I can’t tell how tempting it was to fudge on the age eligibility and include Carlos Beltran, who is 20 days too young, and Roy Halladay, who missed by 40 days. Doc immediately becomes this team’s ace next season.

A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox

Last season was the first time A.J. spent any time on the DL in his career. Remarkable. So far this season, he’s batting better than .330. Easy to run on though.

First Base
Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox

He has played close to 2,000 games for the White Sox after both the Dodgers and Reds traded him. This is likely to be his third straight .300-30-100 season.

Second Base
Michael Young, Texas

Okay, crucify me now for taking some liberty here. But Placido Polanco? Jamey Carroll? Marco Scutaro? Jerry Hairston? Not much to choose from here. At least Young has played 433 games in his career at second base, and he can still hit like a 30-year-old. He made 14 starts there last season and three already in 2012.

Third Base
Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

Clearly A-Rod is in decline, but he's still a feared hitter in the middle of one of the best lineups in baseball. And he's one of the guys on this team who isn't a liability on defense.

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

There can be no argument here. Just when you think Jeter might be slowing down, he carries a .400 batting average into late April.

Left Field
Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs

He’s turned himself into an horrific outfielder and has some horrific holes in his swing. Other than that, the Cubs should be excited about the $54 million they owe him for 2012-14. Just nudges Carlos Lee off the team.

Center Field
Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels

Yes, I know he plays right field now, but I’m sure he can still handle himself quite well in center. No doubt he’s in decline though. He has yet to homer and has as many strikeouts as hits (19).

Right Field
Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle

Ichiro is not the same player that arrived in the States in 2001, but he’s borderline All-Star quality still. Having Ichiro and Jeter hit 1-2 (in some order) makes for good table setting.

Starting Pitchers
Tim Hudson, Atlanta

I know he’s been injured, but he appears to be healthy and ready to join the Braves’ rotation without a hitch. He can lead this staff.

Ted Lilly, Los Angeles Dodgers
He’s 2-0 with a sub-1.00 ERA and WHIP this season. While those trends won’t continue, he’s still a reliable No. 3 starter for the Dodgers.

Jamie Moyer, Colorado
Anyone who is older than me can have a spot on this roster. Sporting a 2.55 ERA can earn you a spot in the rotation.

Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati
Last season looked like the end for Arroyo as he struggled mightily. But 2012 has brought new life with just two walks in 26.2 innings with a 2.70 ERA in a hitter’s park.

Bartolo Colon, Oakland
We have no idea what to make of Colon’s unbelievable comeback. He won a Cy Young and 21 games in 2005, but has won just 25 games since. But he’s allowed less than one base runner per inning this season over 34 frames. We’ll ride him until his arm falls off, then turn to Hiroki Kuroda.

Relief Pitchers
Scott Downs, Los Angeles Angels

Every bullpen needs two lefthanders. Downs limited left-handed hitters to a .179 average last season. I think that’s more indicative than his slow start this season.

Matt Thornton, Chicago White Sox
Opponents are batting .216 so far this season as the White Sox are asking him to get tough outs every night it seems.

Setup Men
Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay

Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey doesn’t get enough credit. From Soriano to Farnsworth and now Rodney, the Rays’ bullpen doesn’t seem to miss a beat. Not to mention Peralta and Benoit. So, we’re relying on Rodney in late innings in front of Mo.

Rafael Betancourt, Colorado
It was tempting to take Joe Nathan for this role, but Betancourt has proven to be consistent even in Colorado.

Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees

This may be the only position on the roster where the old guys have an advantage. We would rely on Rivera to save big games for us, no matter the age restrictions.

Chipper Jones, Atlanta

Chipper's knees just aren't responding well enough to keep him on the field. But he's a tremendous asset in selected spots off the bench. 

Jose Molina, Tampa Bay
As tempting as it was to turn to the recently retired Ivan Rodriguez, we decided to include only active players. Molina would be familiar with the backup role and capable of making starts for an extended period. And since his name is Molina, he is tough to steal against.

David Ortiz, Boston
Since this writer still refuses to recognize the designated hitter in my lineups, Ortiz would be a serious weapon coming off the bench.

Todd Helton, Colorado
Helton loses out to Konerko due to durability issues, but Helton gives the team some punch off the bench and is a solid defensive replacement for Konerko.

Lance Berkman, St. Louis
Rife with nagging injuries (but who on this team isn’t?), Berkman is a switch-hitter who still believes he can play the outfield. Truth is, he probably can as well, or better, than Soriano. Great guy in the clubhouse, just trouble keeping him healthy.

John McDonald, Arizona
Edging out Alex Gonzalez and Marco Scutaro, McDonald provides some defensive help off the bench.

Jerry Hariston, Jr., Los Angeles Dodgers
No matter who he plays for or what position he plays, Hairston contributes with his bat, glove and on the bases.

Will be Eligible Next Season
Jose Valverde, Detroit
Rafael Furcal, St. Louis
Carlos Beltran, St. Louis
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia

- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

<p> The best 25-man roster of players age 35 and older. Bad defense and lots of injury risks on this team.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 18:22
Path: /nascar/hendrick-motorsports-still-searching-elusive-200th-cup-win

The Long and Short of It

What was supposed to be a celebration has become a burden for Hendrick Motorsports. Mired in a 15-race winless drought, its longest since 2002-03, the organization remains at 199 Cup victories as the series heads to Talladega.

Whenever the team scores its 200th victory — a significant number in a sport that reveres Richard Petty’s 200 career victories as a driver — it will be more relief than triumph.

Yet, even as some focus on what Hendrick hasn’t done, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is second in the point standings and Jimmie Johnson is sixth. It’s surprising they haven’t won. Earnhardt has finished second or third four times and Johnson has done so three times. Hendrick has placed at least one car in the top 5 in each of the last five races. Twice it has had two cars among the top 5 in that stretch, including last weekend at Richmond when Earnhardt was second to Kyle Busch and Kahne placed a season-best fifth.

What makes this winless drought less dire for this organization is how much speed many of these cars have. It’s not like they’re struggling to stay on the lead lap in many races. Still, there are issues.

Gordon has struggled in qualifying. His three top-10 starts came at the short tracks. While he’s led 339 laps, second only to Johnson’s 362, nearly all of the laps Gordon came at Martinsville. He, Johnson and Earnhardt appeared as if they would all finish in the top three and give Hendrick his noteworthy victory at a track where he won his first Cup race. A late caution bunched the field and Gordon and Johnson got knocked out of the lead on the restart, symbolizing how agonizing close they’ve been to victory at times this season.

Gordon understands how important it is to score a victory soon.

“Well, it’s always important to win,” he says. “And we’re always trying to win as hard as we possibly can. It’s just like getting ready for the All-Star race. No points involved; we’re going to really go all-out to win. Well, we do it every weekend.

“But we do recognize that at this point, and it’s not completely out of the question that we could make up those points and get in the top 10 legitimately. If you look at our season last year, the amount of points that we made up from this point until the Chase, we did it. And we can do it again. But we’ve got to get a lot more things going our way than what’s happening right now. And we’ve definitely put ourselves at a huge deficit.”

Kahne has had all sorts of misfortune. He had only two finishes in the top 20 in the first six races. He fell out of one race because of an accident and another with engine problems. Gordon also had an engine problem, coming in the Daytona 500.

Even with such issues, it’s not hard to think that it won’t be long before a Hendrick car arrives in Victory Lane. Maybe this weekend. Gordon’s six victories at Talladega are most among active drivers and Earnhardt is next with five.

Johnson, the last Hendrick driver to win a Cup race, remains confident.

“My mindset from when I started and through the championships and still now, is if you run in the top 5, especially the top three week after week, you’re going to win your fair share of races,” says Johnson, who has seven top-10 finishes, tying Earnhardt for most this season. “And I fully believe in that statement. And although there are times I’ve left the track disappointed with a second or a third or whatever it may be — or 12th at Martinsville because I felt like we had a good shot at it — I still really believe in that philosophy and I’m very happy with how we’re running and the speed we have in our cars.”

LOOK AT THIS KID   The talk beforehand was about Travis Pastrana making his Nationwide Series debut last weekend at Richmond, but 18-year-old Ryan Blaney had people talking afterward when he finished seventh in his series debut.

“It exceeded my expectations a little bit,’’ said Blaney, the son of Cup driver Dave Blaney. “We thought coming out ... with the racecar all still intact and a good top-15 finish would be real nice.”

He’ll return to the series in a couple of weeks at Darlington — a track he’s never visited.

Blaney said he’ll prepare for Darlington by watching tapes of the racing as he did before the Richmond race, along with talking with other drivers.

<p> Following Kyle Busch's win at Richmond International Raceway, Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 15:08
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-washington-no-25-2012-preseason-top-25-poll

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, begins the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To commemorate the Washington Huskies being named No. 25, will devote an entire day to celebrating the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Steve Sarkisian’s Washington Huskies start the countdown at No. 25 with one preseason All-American and nine players selected as All-Pac-12 performers. Athlon Sports predicts Washington will finish third in the Pac-12’s North Division.  In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Washington is clearly headed in the right direction under Steve Sarkisian,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The offense, led by dynamic quarterback Keith Price, should score a ton of points. If the defense, which was obviously an issue last season, shows marked improvement, the Huskies will be a factor in the tough Pac-12 North.”

One Washington standout was named a preseason All-American, with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins being named to the second team.

Nine Huskies earned preseason All-Pac-12 honors, with Seferian-Jenkins on the first team. Quarterback Keith Price, offensive lineman Drew Schaefer, defensive lineman Hau'oli Jamora and defensive backs Desmond Trufant and Sean Parker were named to the second team, while wide receiver Kasen Williams, defensive lineman Josh Shirley and kick returner Kevin Smith garnered third-team honors.

Washington Team Preview

Washington's Top 10 Players of 2012

Washington’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

<p> Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, begins the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/washington-huskies-2012-team-predictions-0

The Washington Huskies check in at No. 25 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Keith Price, QB
Price was terrific in his first season as Washington’s starting quarterback and should be even better in 2012. He finished with 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns, while adding three rushing scores on the ground. Price has more mobility than the stats showed last season, but was limited due to knee injuries. The junior recorded eight games of at least three or more touchdown tosses and threw only 11 picks in 362 attempts. Price needs to play better against the top competition, as he threw for just 247 yards against Stanford, 143 against Oregon and 125 against USC. Despite losing a couple of his top targets from last season, Price should have an opportunity to improve upon his 2011 numbers.

Defensive MVP: Sean Parker, S
Despite having a talented secondary, Washington finished 116th nationally against the pass last season. With a much-needed change at defensive coordinator, the Huskies have an opportunity to be one of the most-improved defenses in the Pac-12 this year. In his first season as a starter last season, Parker collected 91 tackles and picked off four passes. With another offseason under his belt, Parker should elevate his game to All-American status and will be Washington’s top defensive player in 2012.

Trap Game: at Arizona (Oct. 20)
No matter what Washington’s record is after the two-game stretch at Oregon (Oct. 6) and home against USC (Oct. 13), the date at Arizona won’t be an easy one. The Wildcats have won three out of the last five matchups against the Huskies, including the two in a row in Tucson. After playing tough back-to-back games against Oregon and USC, the Huskies could fall victim to Arizona in the desert on Oct. 20.

Upset Alert: at Washington State (Nov. 23)
Coach Steve Sarkisian has yet to lose to Washington State in his short tenure with the Huskies (3-0), but the stakes have been raised for this season’s game. Washington State made a splash with its hiring of Mike Leach as head coach, and should own one of the top offenses in college football this year. The Cougars nearly beat Washington in 2010 in Pullman, but lost 35-28. Washington State’s last victory in this series came in 2008 and there’s a lot of positive momentum going for the Cougars heading into this year. Washington is the better overall team, but the Cougars are hungry to break a three-game losing streak in this series.

Coordinator on the Hot Seat: Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator
No, Wilcox isn’t in any danger of losing his job, but Washington’s chances at finishing in the top 25 will rest on a much-improved defense. During his two seasons as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator, the Volunteers showed progress, moving from 69th nationally in total defense in 2010 to finishing 28th last year. The Huskies have some talent to work with, but struggled to find consistency or improve in coach Steve Sarkisian’s first three years in Seattle. Wilcox is being counted upon to make a huge difference and all signs point to some much-needed improvement on defense in 2012. 

Breakout Player: Kasen Williams, WR
Washington has a couple of players who could fill this spot, including true freshman safety Shaq Thompson, but Williams enters his sophomore year with a chance to emerge as one of the top receivers in the Pac-12. As a true freshman last season, he caught 36 passes for 427 yards and six scores. Williams did not have a 100-yard performance, but caught six passes for 79 yards and one touchdown against Oregon. With Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar departing, Williams is clearly Washington’s No. 1 wide receiver for 2012.

Unsung Hero: Drew Schaefer, C
Despite having three starters back, Washington’s offensive line is going to be a question mark early in the season. Right tackle Erik Kohler and guard Colin Tanigawa were both dealing with injuries, leaving Schaefer as the group’s lone returning starter at 100 percent. The senior has started 30 games in a row, including all 13 at center last year. Considering the concerns on the rest of the unit, Schaefer needs to stay healthy for Washington’s offense to exceed last season’s production.

Biggest Game: Stanford (Sept. 27)
If the Huskies want to have any shot at finishing second in the Pac-12 North, they have to beat Stanford on Sept. 27. The Cardinal has won four in a row over Washington, including a 65-21 rout last season. With Andrew Luck and two All-Pac-12 offensive linemen departing Stanford, second place is there for Washington to take. The Huskies have tough games against Oregon and USC in the next two weeks following the matchup against Stanford. However, considering the matchup against the Cardinal is the Pac-12 opener, it’s a chance for Washington to stake its place in the North pecking order.

Revenge Game: Oregon State (Oct. 27)
Considering Washington had six losses last year, you could pick a few different games to fit this category. However, one game stands out on last season’s results as a puzzling loss. Washington lost back-to-back games against Oregon and USC in early November and followed that up with a 38-21 defeat at Oregon State. The Beavers won only three contests last year, but has beat the Huskies in the last three matchups in Corvallis. If Washington wants to improve upon its seven wins from 2011, beating Oregon State is a must in 2012.

Freshman to Watch: Shaq Thompson, S
The Huskies won a high-profile recruiting battle with UCLA, Oregon and California for Thompson and he certainly won’t be on the sidelines in 2012. Thompson ranked as the No. 6 overall recruit in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100, and at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds already has the physical ability to play from day one. His impact may extend to more than just defense, as Washington’s coaching staff may look to get him involved in a handful of plays on offense. Even if Thompson doesn’t secure a starting spot in the fall, he will be a significant contributor to the Huskies defense in 2012.

Comeback player: Hau’oli Jamora, DE
After a strong performance in the 2010 Holiday Bowl, Jamora was poised to become one of the top defensive linemen in the Pac-12 last season. However, a torn ACL in the fourth game ended his season, leaving Jamora with just 15 tackles and one sack on the season. Although the injury was a setback for Jamora, it occurred early in the year and Jamora should be at full strength when the season begins. The sophomore will anchor one of the end spots in Washington’s new 3-4 approach and will be counted upon to be one of the unit’s top disruptors up front in 2012.

Newcomer to Watch: Travis Coons, K
Erik Folk has finished his eligibility in Seattle, leaving the Huskies with no proven kicker on the roster. Coach Steve Sarkisian dipped into the junior college ranks to fill this void, bringing in Travis Coons from Mt. San Antonio College. There’s a lot of pressure on Coons to perform right away, but having experience at the junior college ranks should help his transition to FBS play.

Position Battle: Running Back
Chris Polk’s decision to leave for the NFL leaves a huge void at running back. The depth chart is completely bare, as Washington returns two players with experience and a couple of intriguing options waiting for an opportunity. Jesse Callier is the leading candidate to replace Polk after rushing for 260 yards and one touchdown last year. However, he will be pushed by Bishop Sankey, who rushed for 187 yards and one score in 2011. If neither Callier or Sankey claim the top spot, coach Steve Sarkisian could choose to get an extended look at sophomore Deontae Cooper or athlete Antavius Sims. Cooper has missed the last two seasons due to knee injuries, so his ability to hold up to a full season of carries is a concern. It’s possible the Huskies could use a committee, but it seems more likely Callier or Sankey emerges as the No. 1 rusher.

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<p> Washington Huskies 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 21:05
Path: /college-football/washington-football-will-huskies-challenge-oregon-2012-north-title

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 begins with No. 25 Washington. The Huskies are coming off back-to-back seven-win seasons, but the program appears to be on the right track. Washington's defense is still a question mark, but the offense will be explosive. 

Can Washington Surpass Stanford and Challenge Oregon for the Pac-12 North title in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Around mid-October last year, I bought into Washington. Keith Price’s play early swayed me enough were I overlooked a porous defense that gave up 27 to Eastern Washington, 32 to Hawaii and 51 to Nebraska. The mirage was over by November. Washington’s defense should improve under Justin Wilcox, and the offense is bound to be explosive again. Still, I think there’s a tendency to forget how much ground Washington still has to make up on the way to the top of the Pca-12. Sure, Stanford’s going to take a step back without Andrew Luck, but the Cardinal still beat Washington by 34 points on the field and by three games in the standings. After the 5-1 start, Washington’s only wins thereafter came against Arizona and Washington State at home, and the Huskies still found a way to squeeze in a loss to lowly Oregon State. Washington may pass Stanford eventually, but Washington still has more holes on defense and Stanford has too strong a foundation for it to happen this year.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
There really are two parts to this debate: A) Has Washington closed the rather large gap with interdivisional rival Stanford who has dominated the Huskies by a combined 105 to 21 over the last two seasons? B) If so, can they challenge the reigning three-time Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks? The answer to the first question is most definitely yes. Stanford is losing four of the top 42 selections in the NFL Draft on offense, including all-world signal caller Andrew Luck, and is two years removed from cult of personality head coach Jim Harbaugh. The heart and soul has been effectually removed from the Cardinal football program, so some sort of step back must be expected in 2012. Washington, meanwhile, is trending in a much different direction as a reworked star-studded coaching staff has elevated the overall talent level in Seattle. Quarterback Keith Price set school records in his first season under center and led his team to its first winning season since 2002. Both teams will finish around the 8-4 mark, so the deciding factor should be the head-to-head match-up that takes place in Seattle. A win in Week 5 over the Cardinal vaults Washington into contender status. For one week, at least. While the Huskies are clearly rededicated to becoming a top ten program once again under Steve Sarkisian, they are not ready to topple the Ducks' dominance just yet. Seven days after hosting Stanford, Washington must travel to Eugene to battle with Oregon. Coach Sark has made large strides in restoring Husky Pride, but this program is still another year away from defeating the three-time conference champions in Autzen Stadium.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The gap between Oregon and the rest of the North is very wide. However, the gap between Washington and Stanford is closing fast. The Huskies aren’t ready to beat Oregon, but they are ready to beat the Cardinal for second place in the division.

Even though Steve Sarkisian has a 19-19 record through three seasons, it’s clear the program is on the right track. Washington has brought in three consecutive top 25 recruiting classes, and the program is coming off back-to-back bowl appearances. Sarkisian made some much-needed coaching changes, bringing in Justin Wilcox to coordinate the defense and hiring one of college football’s top recruiters (Tosh Lupoi) to coach the defensive line. The Huskies ranked as one of the worst defenses in the Pac-12 last season, but there’s enough returning talent to expect immediate improvement in 2012.

Even though running back Chris Polk will be missed, the Huskies will have one of the Pac-12’s top offenses. Quarterback Keith Price should build upon a successful sophomore campaign, especially with Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins returning as the top receiving weapons. The Huskies need to stabilize their offensive line and find a capable replacement for Callier at running back.

An obstacle that could prevent Washington from challenging for second in the North is a difficult schedule. The Huskies have a tough non-conference road game at LSU, while playing at Oregon and catching USC and Utah in crossover games with the South. The one break in Washington’s favor? They host Stanford on Sept. 27 in a key game for North positioning.

Considering Stanford lost quarterback Andrew Luck and two of college football’s top offensive linemen, the Cardinal are due for a step back this year. Washington has its flaws, but I think the Huskies will surpass Stanford and finish second in the Pac-12 North this year. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Washington is getting better, but the Huskies aren’t quite ready to make a big jump in the standings in the Pac-12 North. Oregon is clearly the team to beat, and I still like Stanford to finish in second, ahead of Washington.

There’s a lot to like about UW, most notably quarterback Keith Price and a young crop of pass-catchers like tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and wide receiver Kasen Williams. But there are also some serious issues with this team. I think the loss of Chris Polk will be huge. He was one of the more underrated skill-position players in the nation, and UW has no proven replacements. And what about the defense? I like the hire of Justin Wilcox, but you can’t ignore the facts: The Huskies were awful last year on defense. The secondary should be okay, but it doesn’t look like the defensive line or the linebacking corps has the type of athletes needed to make a significant improvement.

Again, I think UW is on the right path — the Huskies are in the preseason top 25, after all — but this is still a flawed team that isn’t ready to join the elite in the Pac-12. 

Mark Ross
Yes and no. I think Washington can surpass Stanford, but I don't think either will offer much of a challenge to Oregon this season. The Huskies appear to have all the pieces in place offensively, led by quarterback Keith Price. The problem, just like last year, is will they be able to stop anyone. Steve Sarkisian made plenty of changes to his defensive staff, but I still expect plenty of bumps in the road as they acclimate to a new system. Depth could be an issue as well, although Washington does have help on the way starting with this recruiting class.

With Stanford, my concerns center around one thing - and this is who is under center. There's a reason Andrew Luck was the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft and David Shaw and the rest of the offense don't have him to lean on any more. The quarterback situation for 2012 probably won't be decided until the fall and although the Cardinal should be able to run the ball effectively with Stepfan Taylor behind another solid offensive line, this year's version should not be confused with last year's. Stanford will need the running game and the defense to carry them this year, and I think that's too much to ask for in order to succeed in the Pac-12.

Who finishes second to Oregon in the Pac-12 North may very well come down to who wins the head-to-head match up between these two. Interestingly, that game happens early as Washington hosts Stanford on Thursday, Sept. 27. These two teams also have pretty much the same conference schedules, as UCLA (Stanford) and Utah (Washington) are the only Pac-12 foes they don't have in common this year. So in the end, the Bruins or Utes also could have a say in who claims second behind the Ducks.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Washington could have a special season with quarterback Keith Price leading the way, but I still project Stanford to be the top challenger to Oregon in the Pac-12 North. The Huskies offense has some quality skill players with Price throwing to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and wide receiver Kasen Williams, plus four starters return on the line. All-conference running back Chris Polk will be missed, but Steve Sarkisian’s bunch should score plenty of points. The concern for UW is on defense, where last season’s 106th national ranking must obviously improve. There is talent on that side of the ball for new coordinator Justin Wilcox, with linemen Hau'oli Jamora and Josh Shirley and backs Desmond Trufant and Sean Parker leading the way. Stanford loses some key personnel and has a tough schedule, but the Cardinal program still looks slightly better than Washington. The Huskies are on the way back to national prominence, but it may take another season before they challenge for the North crown.

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<p> Washington Football: Will Huskies Challenge Oregon for 2012 North Title?</p>
Post date: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 21:01
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL
Path: /college-football/early-2013-nfl-draft-rankings

The ink technically isn't even dry yet on some of the newest members of the NFL. 

While undrafted free agents continue to find roster spots, Athlon is already looking ahead to the 2013 NFL Draft. After polling the Athlon editors, here is a look at the top 50 NFL prospects who will be draft eligible at the end of the 2012 season. 

With a quality season on the field — and an uneventful one off of it — many of these names will find themselves drafted in the prestigious first round of the 2013 NDL Draft:

* - underclassmen with eligibility remaining

1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC (6-2, 230)
While he might get knocked for his overall lack of height — he is generously listed at 6-2 — there is no better passer of the football than Barkley. He is the picture-perfect face of a franchise off the field and in the locker room. Barring a horrific injury, the Trojans will once again have a quarterback selected at No. 1

2. Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU (6-4, 245)*
As only a redshirt sophomoe, Montgomery landed on multiple All-American teams after leading his team to the SEC title. He is a freakish off-the-edge prospect who will be a premiere pass rusher this fall for LSU. The Tigers' leading sackmaster (9.0) also posted 49 tackles and 13.5 tackles for a loss in 2011.

3. Robert Woods, WR, USC (6-1, 190)*
He may not have the freakish measurables of Megatron or Larry Fitzgerald, but there is no more explosive (draft eligible) wide receiver in the nation. He already owns multiple USC and Pac-12 receiving records and is only a junior. In two years, he has 176 catches, 2,084 yards, 21 touchdowns and is a dangerous return man as well.

4. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (6-3, 241)*
This do-everything hybrid was a Butkus finalist a year ago after leading the SEC with 13.5 sacks. The former USC transfer found a home in Todd Grantham's NFL-style 3-4 scheme and is poised for another huge season blitzing the passer. He is the most talented, most explosive hybrid player in this class as of today.

5. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (6-0, 220)*
There is a running back who stands above all on the college gridiron and his last name is Lattimore. There is no more talented, no more complete player at this position than this Gamecock. He is the only "first round" back in the college game today as it takes a truly special talent to deserve a first-round pick. If he can prove this year that the ACL injury was simply a one-time thing, he will easily be the top back off the board next fall.

6. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee (6-6, 213)*
He has the NFL frame. He has the NFL arm. He simply needs to mature into the leader Vols fans need this fall to land in the first round. He can make every throw on the field and was on pace to challenge some Tennessee school records (1,328 yards and 14 TDs in four games) before breaking his thumb last fall. Should he stay healthy and lead Big Orange nation to a bowl game, he will grade out higher than names like Jones, Wilson, Smith or Thomas.

7. David Amerson, CB, NC State (6-2, 194)*
This guy is the complete package: Length, height, speed, instincts, play-making ability and scheme versatility. He led the nation with 13 interceptions last fall, and while he shouldn't come close to that number in 2012, he is all but locked in as the top coverman in next year's draft.

8. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas (6-4, 260)
Enters his senior season with 21 starts under his belt and there simply aren't many players with his skill set. He is powerful, athletic, quick and productive. He can play the run with ease on early downs and will terrorize passers on third down. A tireless worker, Okafor is a sure-fire first-rounder next fall.

9. Keenan Allen, WR, Cal (6-3, 206)*
This is a freakish athlete. The No. 1 player in the nation at his position as a recruit has lived up to the hype at Cal. He brings elite speed, agility, ball skills, competitive edge and leaping ability. Do yourself a favor and watch No. 21 for Cal — jaw-dropping is the only word that comes to mind when watching him play. He has 135 catches for 1,751 yards and 11 scores in only 19 starts.

10. Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin (6-6, 322)
Gabe Carimi, Kevin Zeitler, Peter Konz, John Moffitt, Kraig Urbik, and Bill Nagy are the Badgers' offensive lineman who have been drafted since 2009. Wagner is the next in a long line of bookend tackles from Madison.

11. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas (6-5, 250)*
The son of NFLer Jim Jeffcoat, Jackson exhibits extreme polish and high football IQ for a player of his age. In his first full season as the starter, he posted 54 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks as only a sophomore. He and Okafor should give Texas the top defense in the Big 12. 

12. Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn (6-4, 240)*
An elite recruit coming out of high school, Lemonier broke out on a bad defense as only a sophomore. He posted 13.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks and forced five fumbles. He can get to the passer in a hurry and NFL scouts will love his measurables. He should fit extremely well into new coordinator Brian VanGorder's NFL scheme, which should only help his draft stock.

13. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame (6-2, 255)
This position, like safety or guard, generally isn't a top ten overall position. But Te'o is the best option in this class and he will likely finish his career with incredible statistics. He has the sideline-to-sideline ability needed to stay on the field all three downs and is a natural leader. A truly great year in South Bend will solidify Te'o as this class' top linebacker.

14. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama (6-5, 302)
Jones has been an All-SEC-type performer at literally every position on the offensive line. He has already excelled as a guard, won the Outland Trophy at left tackle and will be an All-American candidate at center this season. While he won't get drafted this highly if he lands at guard or center, he could go even higher if he eventually projects as a tackle. There may not be a better all-around football player in the nation than Jones this fall.

15. Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma (5-10, 200)*
This stellar athlete has played a hybrid S/OLB role for the first two years of his career in Norman. Now, with new coordinators Tim Kish and Mike Stoops calling the shots, scouts should expect a huge season from the Sooners safety. He is a freakish athlete who has as much range as any player in the nation. He is physical, a leader and simply makes plays. He has six interceptions, 6.5 sacks, 139 total tackles and 14.5 tackles for a loss — as a defensive back. Expect huge things from Jefferson this fall.

16. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (6-3, 215)
The first thing scouts will notice about Smith will be his arm. He has a massive arm that is lightning quick and powerful enough to make every throw. He has the size to grade out as a first-rounder and has been incredibly productive in the same system that just produced Brandon Weeden. He will likely break most major West Virginia passing records this season.

17. Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State (6-4, 317)*
As only a sophomore, Hankins emerged as one of the Buckeyes' most talented D-Liners. The massive tackle was all over the field with 67 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and three sacks last fall. Hankins will be the first of many Urban Meyer first-round defensive lineman, something he was known for at Florida. This big fella will be one of two potential OSU first-round defensive lineman, along with John Simon, in next year's draft. This is one stock that could sky-rocket over the next six months.

18. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (6-6, 335)*
The measurables are off the charts for big Fluker. He will need to prove his talents this season and he will get knocked for playing alongside so many talented blockers. But he will wow scouts at the combine and his team is a lock for success in 2012. There is still much to be proven for Fluker, but his raw talents are obvious.

19. T.J. McDonald, S, USC (6-3, 205)
The long-time stabilizing force of the Trojan defense will finally have to depart USC's secondary after 2012. But his resume, after enduring two sanction-riddled seasons, should be as complete as possible (especially, if USC plays for the national title). He has the size, physicality, speed, intangibles and statistics. He has posted 146 tackles and six interceptions over the last two seasons.

20. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas (6-3, 220)
In his first season as the starter, Wilson finished second in the SEC in passing efficiency and posted an incredible 24:6 touchdown-to-interception rate. He has a solid arm, solid size and solid all-around skill set for the next level. However, he needs to prove his talents against the best defenses college has to offer — LSU and Alabama. He threw for 196.0 yards per game, with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the Razorbacks' 77-31 combined losses to the Tigers and Tide last year. He has the skills needed to succeed in the NFL, but proving his mettle without Bobby Petrino on the sideline will go a long way to securing a first round pick.

21. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (6-4, 325)
This monstrosity is one name that could land in the top ten with a soild year in Salt Lake City. He claimed the Morris Trophy, given to the Pac-12's top defensive lineman, a year ago after collecting 44 tackles and 9.0 tackles for a loss. He is impossible to double team and can play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.

22. Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU (6-5, 240)*
Mingo doesn't get the same pub his teammate Montgomery gets, but his talents aren't too far behind. He is a bit bigger than Montgomery but not quite as explosive. Otherwise, their skill sets are very similar. He has the ability to play in a 3-4 as that coveted hybrid OLB/DE position. He won't have the same grade as the best player at his position (Jarvis Jones) but has first-round talent.

23. John Simon, DE, Ohio State (6-2, 260)
He is a bit undersized and will likely have to play outisde rush backer in a 3-4 or a more traditional end role in a 4-3. But there may not be a stronger player in this draft than Simon. He is an extremely physical, powerful player whose motor never shuts off. He is an all-around football player who should play a long time in the NFL.

24. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State (6-2, 185)
Banks, like Amerson, has excellent size and toughness for the cornerback position. He is a sure tackler, has excellent open space agility and led his team in interceptions a year ago with five. He posted eight tackles for a loss, a rarity for a coverman.

25. Eric Reid, S, LSU (6-2, 210)*
This superstar not only made the biggest play of the regular season last year but has more superior athletic ability than nearly every player at his position. He is a monster factor at the backend of the Bayou defense as he led this loaded roster in tackles a year ago (76). He has the size, speed, range, instincts and tackling skill to easily land in the first round.

26. Johnny Adams, CB, Michigan State (5-11, 175)
A fixture in the Spartans' Big Ten-leading defense, Adams has played in 42 games and started 28 before the start of his final season. His has adequate size, is extremely well coached, and, as corners have risen into the first round more often of late, should hear his name called in round one next spring.

27. Matt Elam, S, Florida (5-10, 210)*
This electric athlete was a well-known commodity as a high schooler when he came to Florida as the top safety prospect in the nation. He emerged as a sophomore as the Gators' team leader in tackles for a loss (11.0), forced fumbles (2) and pass breakups (7). With a good year under former safety Will Muschamp, it will be hard to keep him out of the first round.

28. Oday Aboushi, OL, Virginia (6-6, 310)
Mike London has reestablished the UVa brand name in football circles and Aboushi, with another stellar season along the line, will hear his name called very early in the 2013 draft. He will be packaged with fellow NFL prospect Morgan Moses on one of the ACC's top blocking units in 2012.

29. Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina (6-8, 267)
His measurables are off the charts (if not a bit overzealous on the official school site), and the NFL scouts will love him when he gets to the combine. He is a play-maker with ideal size for the NFL defensive line. He has started 32 games in the SEC heading into his final year and has 15.5 career sacks.

30. Alex Hurst, OT, LSU (6-6, 340)
This big fella will lead what could be the natin's best team in 2012. He has the size, coaching, experience and overall athleticism to be a first-round pick. He should finish his career with nearly 50 games of experience and potentially 36 starts against the best NCAA football defensive lines have to offer in the SEC.

31. Kwame Geathers, DT, Georgia (6-6, 350)*
He is huge. He is powerful. He plays for an NFL 3-4 scheme. Geathers could easily find his way into the top ten if he plays as well as expected this fall. He will be one of the country's biggest prospects at 6-6 and 350 pounds. He is immovable at times and NFL scouts tend to like that. Fellow tackle John Jenkins might also be good enough to play his way onto this list as well. Good luck trying to move the interior of the UGA line this fall.

32. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU (5-9, 175)*
The Honey Bagder is one of the more controversial propects in the nation. He is small. He isn't a truly great coverman. But he makes big plays on special teams and plays extremely hard. It will be very interesting to see if he lands in the first round.

The Best of the Rest:

33. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
34. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
35. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State*
36. Jelani Jenkins, LB, Florida*
37. Khaled Holmes, C, USC
38. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
39. Ray-Ray Armstrong, S, Miami
40. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee*
41. Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
42. Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas*
43. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
44. Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA
45. Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M
46. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
47. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
48. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
49. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
50. Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon

-By Braden Gall


<p> Athlon takes a very early look at who could have their name called in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 18:00
Path: /nfl/top-25-undrafted-free-agents-nfl-over-last-25-years

Undrafted free agents are signing all over the NFL, and some stars in the league do slip through the scouting cracks from time to time. Could Chris Polk, Chase Minnifield, Dwight Jones or William Vlachos be that next surprise? Here’s a look at some big-time players who earned it the hard way. Our list begins in 1987, so you will not see greats like Dick “Night Train” Lane, Warren Moon or Willie Wood.

1. Kurt Warner, QB, Northern Iowa
He played in three Super Bowls with the Rams and Cardinals and won the league’s MVP twice. He was also MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV when St. Louis defeated the Titans 23-16. Warner holds many postseason records and should make the Hall of Fame.

2. John Randle, DT, Texas A&I
The ferocious Vikings pass rusher was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. Randle totaled 137.5 sacks in his 14 seasons with the Vikings and Seahawks. He made seven Pro Bowls and was elected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.

3. Antonio Gates, TE, Kent State
The Chargers turned to the basketball court to find Gates, who did not play college football. He’s made eight Pro Bowls in nine seasons in San Diego, and Gates has amassed over 7,700 receiving yards and 76 touchdowns in his career.

4. Wes Welker, WR, Texas Tech
The ultra-quick Welker was also drafted by San Diego, but then was cut and signed on with Miami. However his numbers have skyrocketed in the New England spread system, and Welker has an NFL-leading 554 catches over the last five years.

5. Adam Vinatieri, K, South Dakota State
Some may disagree with having a kicker this high, but Vinatieri’s contributions to elite teams should not be undervalued. He has been a part of four championships with the Patriots and Colts and made a last-second, game-winner in two of those Super Bowls.

6. Brian Waters, G, North Texas
Waters failed to latch on with the Cowboys during his first year out of college in 1999, but he found a home in Kansas City the next season. The elite blocker made five Pro Bowls with the Chiefs and then a sixth with the Patriots last season.

7. Jeff Saturday, C, North Carolina
The five-time Pro Bowler anchored the Colts offensive line from 2000-11. During his time snapping to Peyton Manning, Indy won double-digit games nine times and claimed a Super Bowl XLI title.

8. Priest Holmes, RB, Texas
The former Ravens and Chiefs runner had a solid career with over 8,000 rushing yards and 94 total touchdowns. Holmes had an amazing three-year run in Kansas City from 2001-03, amassing 4.590 rush yards and 56 TDs on the ground.

9. Tony Romo, QB, Eastern Illinois
The popular Cowboys signal caller is still building his legacy, but he has already made three Pro Bowls and tossed 149 touchdowns in 77 starts. Romo’s career passer rating is a very impressive 96.9.

10. James Harrison, LB, Kent State
The 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year bounced around for a couple of years before landing back with the Steelers in 2004. Harrison has become a playmaking force in Pittsburgh, including winning two Super Bowls.

11. Rod Smith, WR, Missouri Southern
He played his entire 12-year career in Denver, and Smith’s 849 receptions put him in the top 20 in NFL history. He was part of two Super Bowl winners with the Broncos and went over 1,000 yards receiving eight times.

12. Jesse Tuggle, LB, Valdosta
The Georgia native played for the Falcons from 1987-2000, making over 1,800 tackles in 209 games. “The Hammer” was a five-time Pro Bowler, and Tuggle’s No. 58 was retired by Atlanta in 2002.

13. Pat Williams, DT, Texas A&M
The massive run stuffer took a while to make a mark in the NFL, but he became a defensive force for the decade of the 2000s. Williams made three straight Pro Bowls from 2006-08 while playing for the Vikings.

14. Jeff Garcia, QB, San Jose State
The four-time Pro Bowler starred in Canada to begin his professional career, and did not play in the NFL until age 29. However, Garcia made his mark by throwing for over 25,000 yards with the 49ers, Browns, Lions, Eagles and Buccaneers.

15. London Fletcher, LB, John Carroll
The undersized tackling machine has been a playmaker with the Rams, Bills and Redskins for over a decade now. He has never missed a game in 14 NFL seasons and has started every game over the last 11 years.

16. Arian Foster, RB, Tennessee
The Texans star runner is the youngest member on this list, but he has put up some staggering numbers over the last two seasons. Foster led the NFL in rushing in 2010 with 1,616 yards and followed that with 1,224 yards in 13 games a year ago.

17. David Akers, K, Louisville
The reliable kicker has led the NFL in scoring over the last two seasons. Akers has made 338 career field goals with a better than 82% accuracy rate. After making five Pro Bowls with the Eagles, he made his sixth last season in San Francisco.

18. Shaun O'Hara, C, Rutgers
The tough interior blocker started his career playing guard for the Browns, but he flourished with the Giants from 2004-10. During that span, O’Hara made three Pro Bowls and was a leader on the Giants Super Bowl winner in 2008.

19. Bart Scott, LB, Southern Illinois
The entertaining linebacker has played on some quality defenses with both the Ravens and Jets, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2006. Over the last six seasons, Scott has only missed one start.

20. Antonio Pierce, LB, Arizona
He had a fairly short NFL career but was a tackling machine from 2004-08 with the Redskins and Giants. Much like O’Hara, Pierce was an underrated leader for the Super Bowl XLII champions.

21. Jake Delhomme, QB, Louisiana-Lafayette
The Bayou native started slow with the Saints, but he found a nice niche with the Panthers from 2003-09. Delhomme passed for over 19,000 yards and 120 TDs during those seven seasons and led Carolina to a Super Bowl appearance in 2003.

22. Barry Sims, T, Utah
The starting left tackle for two league championship games and a Super Bowl in 2002, Sims played 12 NFL seasons in the Bay Area. He was a solid blocker in Oakland for nine years before finishing his career in San Francisco.

23. Wayne Chrebet, WR, Hofstra
The New York fan favorite was a classic underdog story, and he played his entire career with the Jets. Chrebet was especially effective from 1995-2002, when he caught 507 passes and 39 TDs during that eight-year span.

24. Josh Cribbs, KR/PR, Kent State
The college quarterback has been mainly known as a returner for the Browns, but he did have 445 receiving yards and 614 rush yards from 2008-10. Cribbs has averaged 25.7 yards on 344 career kick returns, while scoring eight times.

25. Cullen Jenkins, DL, Central Michigan
The younger brother of Kris Jenkins turned himself into a solid interior defender with the Packers and Eagles after some time in NFL Europe. He had a career-high in tackles last year with Philadelphia.

--Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

<p> Top 25 Undrafted Free Agents in the NFL over the last 25 Years</p>
Post date: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 16:27
Path: /nascar/kyle-busch-wins-richmond

Saturday evening’s Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway was not unlike many of the NASCAR Sprint Cup events over the past month. A dearth of cautions — only five, the second-least at RIR in 14 years — pockmarked the 300-mile event.

However, Richmond provided an exciting, and controversial, finish that produced an all-too-familiar victor in Kyle Busch.

While Busch had yet to win in the 2012 season, his victory marked the fourth consecutive win in Richmond’s spring race for the 26-year-old Las Vegas native. But while his past wins have been dominant, it took a string of bizarre events late in the race for Busch to cash in.

“Wherever that last caution came from, that was the saving grace — just the luck of the day,” Busch said of a debris caution on lap 388 of 400. “The guys did a fast pit stop, got us the lead off pit road, which was a huge advantage, just being able to give me the control of the restart and not have to wait on Tony (Stewart) or cause myself to spin my tires or what have you and get behind.

The fireworks started well before then, though.

A caution for debris on lap 311 changed the complexion of the race. Busch was awarded the Lucky Dog, placing him on the lead lap after being down one.

Race leader Jimmie Johnson was then issued a pit road penalty during his stop, sending him to the rear of the field. The subsequent restart found Tony Stewart the leader, with Carl Edwards to his outside. Edwards, though, believed his No. 99 Ford to be the lead car, and when the green waved, Stewart spun his tires, allowing Edwards to sprint away. NASCAR ruled that Edwards “jumped the restart” by taking off before crossing into the “restart box” — a pair of painted lines on the track prior to the start/finish line that mark when the leader can hit the gas.

Edwards was assessed a black flag, handing the lead back to Stewart. But just as it appeared Stewart would cruise to his third win of the season, the final debris caution was thrown, reportedly for an aluminum can on the backstretch.

When the field hit pit road for a final set of tires, Busch beat Stewart out and quickly jumped to a sizable lead on the restart.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. also got by Stewart, but when his brakes began to fade, the race was clearly in Busch’s hands.

“That’s what it looked like to me,” a curt Stewart said of the debris afterwards. “I mean, it was out of the groove. It had been sitting there for eight laps. When the caution is for a plastic bottle on the backstretch, it’s hard to feel good about losing that one.”

As for Edwards’ penalty, he and crew chief Bob Osborne questioned NASCAR about it during and after the race, even meeting with officials in the NASCAR hauler.

Their contention was that the team’s spotter was told by an official that they were the lead car, prompting Edwards to bring the field to green. He was also posted on the track’s pylon as the leader.

NASCAR vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, made it clear after the race that Edwards was not the leader and that he did jump the start. So his point was moot regardless.

“We had to just agree to disagree, and that’s the way it is,” Edwards said after his meeting with NASCAR. “They run the sport, and they do the best job they can, and I drive a racecar and do the very best job I can.”

by Matt Taliaferro
Follow Matt on Twitter:


<p> Kyle Busch won the Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 14:49
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-april-30

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for April 30, 2012.

  1. Dodgers—Sweep of Nationals proved Dodgers are best — for now.

 2. Rangers—Lost first series of the season over the weekend.

 3. Rays—David Price making early Cy Young bid.

 4. Cardinals—Of three NL pitchers with four wins, two are Cardinals.

 5. Braves—Craig Kimbrel has saved four of last five wins.

 6. Nationals—Respectable debut for Bryce Harper.

 7. Yankees—Only four AL teams have allowed more runs.

 8. Blue Jays—Edwin Encarnacion leading the offense.

 9. Tigers—Recent slump has allowed Indians and White Sox in the race.

10. Diamondbacks—Joe Saunders emerging as D’backs’ ace.

11. Indians—Derek Lowe and Jeanmar Gomez ERA: 2.40; other starters: 4.90.

12. Reds—Won seven of 10 with Cubs and Pirates on docket this week.

13. Orioles—Next 15 games will be tough stretch.

14. Phillies—Big games at Atlanta and Washington upcoming.

15. Giants—Won eight of 12 to get back on track.

16. Brewers—Corey Hart carrying the offensive load so far.

17. Rockies—Opponents are hitting .285, third-worst BAA in majors.

18. Mets—David Wright carrying a .506 on-base percentage.

19. Red Sox—Won six of seven against weaker teams.

20. White Sox—Next 15 games are within the division.

21. Angels—Scored 11 runs in last seven games, won only one.

22. A’s—Only AL team with fewer runs than Angels.

23. Mariners—Clean-up hitters are batting .194 with 22 Ks and 18 hits.

24. Pirates—Batters Nos. 6-9 hitting just .167.

25. Marlins—Scored 13 runs in last eight games, won one.

26. Astros—Outhomered 26-13 but outscoring competition.

27. Cubs—Won five of eight behind strong pitching.

28. Padres—4-1 when Cory Luebke starts, 3-15 when he doesn’t.

29. Twins—Four of last seven losses were by one run.

30. Royals—Jonathan Broxton settling in as closer.

<p> Athlon's weekly look at baseball's best and worst teams.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 13:41
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-apr-30

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

I gave owners the standard "don't panic" speech last week and Jay Bruce completely proved me right. On April 18, Bruce was hitting .191, went 14 straight games without a home run and hadn't stolen a base all year. Yet, Bruce belted a home run in each of his last four games, raised his average to .296 since April 18, stole three bases and drove in 11 runs. In a matter of 10 days, Bruce vaulted himself into the top five of all fantasy hitters. Never fear Albert Pujols owners, he will come around. So will Jose Reyes, Justin Upton, Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Bautista.

Here are your current Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters:

  Name Pos Team R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Matt Kemp OF LAD 23 11 24 2 .425 1.383
2. Josh Hamilton OF TEX 20 9 25 2 .395 1.182
3. Edwin Encarnacion 1B/3B TOR 14 7 20 4 .310 1.005
4. Adam Jones OF BAL 17 6 12 4 .330 .973
5. Jay Bruce OF CIN 14 7 17 3 .296 .954
6. Derek Jeter SS NYY 16 4 13 1 .396 .954
7. Ian Kinsler 2B TEX 23 5 12 2 .297 .972
8. David Ortiz UTL BOS 14 4 18 0 .395 1.098
9. Miguel Cabrera 1B/3B DET 15 7 20 0 .298 .939
10. Evan Longoria 3B TB 15 4 19 2 .325 .994
11. Curtis Granderson OF NYY 18 8 16 0 .272 1.002
12. Carlos Gonzalez OF COL 16 4 16 4 .288 .892
13. Paul Konerko 1B CHW 13 5 15 0 .383 1.123
14. David Wright 3B NYM 14 3 14 2 .397 1.094
15. Starlin Castro SS CHC 10 0 13 10 .326 .774
16. Carlos Beltran OF STL 17 5 11 5 .256 .838
17. Josh Willingham OF MIN 13 5 15 1 .353 1.163
18. Desmond Jennings OF TB 18 3 9 6 .273 .757
19. Jose Altuve* 2B HOU 15 1 10 4 .373 .984
20. Yadier Molina C STL 14 4 15 2 .316 .961
21. Nick Swisher 1B/OF NYY 10 6 23 0 .284 .972
22. Corey Hart OF MIL 16 6 13 1 .286 1.049
23. David Freese 3B STL 10 5 20 0 .333 .935
24. Mike Aviles 2B/3B/SS BOS 16 4 13 3 .284 .832
25. Andre Ethier OF LAD 11 5 24 0 .277 .887

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Rookies Unite

It happened a little sooner than maybe most fantasy GMs thought, but Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are both on major league rosters before May 1. Harper already has two hits in six at bats, including a double. He showed off his arm on Saturday night in center field and will hit seventh for now. With Harper's continued growth, and Ryan Zimmerman landing on the DL, there is certainly a chance for him to move up in the order. He plays every play at 100% and his talent is painfully obvious. I doubt he is on your waiver wire, but do not even finish reading this paragraph until you at least go and see if you can still add the 19-year old to your roster.

Trout has gone hitless in his first two games (0-7), but might actually have more fantasy value than Harper this summer. Trout has batted lead-off in his first two games and has 40 games and 123 major league at-bats under his belt already. He was crushing the ball in triple-A and has forced the flailing Angels to inject some energy into the line-up. Now, if they could just figure out a way to get Mark Trumbo into the line-up everyday. As a side note, Trumbo added 3B eligibity to his "1B/OF" status this weekend. Something tells me the Angels aren't done moving pieces around just yet. 

Big Moves

Part of the reason the Halos had space to call-up Trout was the release of Bobby Abreu. The aging on-base machine could have some value if he lands, oh let's say, in Boston or New York. Keep an eye on this guy as he generally can contribute to most fantasy rosters across the board.

Part of the reason the Nats called-up Harper was Ryan Zimmerman landing on the disabled list. After an MRI on his shoulder was negative, the Nationals are expecting their stud third-sacker to be back when eligible. It doesn't appear to be a long-term injury and it certainly explains his slow start to the season. But fans and fantasy GMs alike have to be nervous about a guy who has spent the better part of two seasons on the DL.

DL Watch

-Zimmerman lands on 15-day DL after second anti-inflammatory injection. Brad Lidge has also landed on the 15-day DL with an abdominal issue. Henry Rodriguez is clearly the full-time closer.

-Jim Johnson is dealing with an illness that has made him questionable of late for late-inning usage. Pedro Strop looks like the hand-cuff option for now.

-After seeing multiple experts, Carl Crawford appears to be out for at least a few months. For you keeper leagues, look to pick him up off the wire in late June.

-Kevin Youkilis is questionable for this week's early games with a back issue.

-Paul Konerko is questionable for Tuesday's game with a neck injury.

-Shin Soo-Choo hasn't seen the field since April 24 and is questionable with a hamstring issue for Tuesday's game.

-Josh Hamilton left Sunday night's game with back stiffness and is questionable, however, it appears he will give it a try today. Monitor closely!

-Carlos Lee is questionable for Tuesday with an ankle issue.

Current Top 25 fantasy pitchers:

1. Jake Peavy CHW 37.2 3 0 33 0 1.67 0.69
2. Lance Lynn STL 27.0 4 0 24 0 1.33 0.81
3. Stephen Strasburg WAS 32.0 2 0 34 0 1.12 0.88
4. Kyle Lohse STL 33.1 4 0 21 0 1.62 0.84
5. Jered Weaver LAA 35.2 3 0 36 0 2.02 0.95
6. Justin Verlander DET 37.1 2 0 35 0 2.41 0.86
7. Gio Gonzalez WAS 29.2 2 0 34 0 1.82 0.94
8. Roy Halladay PHI 37.0 3 0 24 0 1.95 0.95
9. Joe Saunders* ARI 30.0 2 0 18 0 0.90 0.87
10. Clayton Kershaw LAD 30.1 2 0 28 0 1.78 0.89
11. Matt Garza CHC 33.2 2 0 36 0 2.67 0.89
12. Colby Lewis TEX 32.2 3 0 29 0 1.93 1.04
13. Matt Cain SF 30.1 1 0 26 0 2.37 0.63
14. Johnny Cueto CIN 32.1 3 0 22 0 1.39 1.05
15. Jason Hammel* BAL 26.0 3 0 25 0 1.73 1.00
16. Fernando Rodney TB 9.1 1 7 8 0 0.96 0.64
17. Bartolo Colon* OAK 42.2 3 0 26 0 2.53 0.94
18. Wade Miley* ARI 21.0 3 0 15 0 1.29 0.81
19. Aroldis Chapman CIN 12.1 2 0 21 3 0.00 0.73
20. Brandon Beachy ATL 25.2 2 0 20 0 1.05 0.97
21. Kenley Jansen* LAD 14.2 2 2 24 5 2.45 0.89
22. Jordan Zimmerman WAS 27.0 1 0 16 0 1.33 0.70
23. Cole Hamels PHI 26.1 3 0 30 0 2.73 1.03
24. Jake Westbrook* STL 27.2 3 0 15 0 1.30 1.01
25. Felix Hernandez SEA 36.1 2 0 33 0 2.48 1.02

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

The Ninth Inning

The ninth inning revolving door has been a clear issue for most fantasy teams this year. Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos, Brian Wilson, Drew Storen and Jordan Walden were all quality options come draft day. Hector Santiago is now closing games for the White Sox, however, Addison Reed has yet to allow a run and could figure in should Santiago struggle. Santos, Wilson and Storen are all out for the time being. Brad Lidge was going to close in place of Storen but is hurting himself now. Henry Rodriguez and his unpredictable 100-mph fastball is now firmly entrenched in the ninth. And aging lefty Scott Downs is filling in for Walden while he tries to regain his control. Walden won't be used in even eighth or seventh innning roles either (so don't expect holds) for the time being. He should be the closer at somepoint, but track his "down-by-six-run sixth inning outings."

Keep this link handy as Athlon keeps its Closer Grid up to date all season long.


One of my favorite pitchers of the last decade has been Tim Hudson. He made his season debut this weekend and his tidy line (5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) allowed him to get the win. First, it was against the Pirates, so he will deal with some lumps. But Huddy should be rostered and close to a near-start every time to the bump. With Jair Jurrjens down on the farm, it appears that Randall Delgado's spot in the rotation appears to be safe. 

Waiver Wire Starts This Week

1. Lance Lynn, STL: at PIT (Wed.) Stats:
2. Wandy Rodriguez, HOU: NYM (Wed.) Stats:
3. Mark Buehrle, MIA: at SD (Sat.) Stats:
4. Daniel Bard, BOS: OAK (Wed.) Stats:
5. Jeff Niemann, TB: SEA (Thur.) Stats:
5a. Jonathan Niese, NYM: at HOU (Tues.) Stats:

-by Braden Gall


<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: Apr. 30</p>
Post date: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 11:28
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-washington-rivals

Here are some of our favorite jokes about Washington Huskies' biggest rivals.


• The Foo Fighters are playing Martin Stadium this fall. They're 10-point favorites.


• How many Wazzu football players does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but he gets four academic credits for it.


• What's the difference between a litter of puppies and Oregon fans? Eventually puppies grow up and stop whining.


• What do you get when you cross Washington State with a groundhog? Six more weeks of bad football.


• What do you call a beautiful woman on the arm of a Washington State fan? A Tattoo.


• What happens when Lane Kiffin takes Viagra? He gets taller.


• What do you call 20 Wazzu fans skydiving from an airplane?


• Did you hear that Washington State’s football team doesn't have a website? The Cougars can't string three "Ws" together.


• How does a Wazzu fan count to 10? 0-1, 0-2, 0-3, 0-4…


• Why do Oregon football players like smart women? Opposites attract.


Related Washington Content

Washington Huskies Cheerleader Gallery
Washington Huskies 2012 Team Preview

Washington Huskies Top 10 Players for 2012

Washington Huskies 2012 Team Predictions

Can Washington Challenge Oregon for the Pac-12 North Title?

Washington Huskies Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Greatest Moments in Washington Football History


<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team</p>
Post date: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-draft-grades-0

It's never too early to grade the 2012 NFL Draft, which saw Commissioner Roger Goodell hugging and high-fiving future Pro Bowlers and potential busts. Here's a team-by-team look at the winners and losers from this year:

Arizona Cardinals
Grade: C+

Pick. Player, Pos., School
13. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
80. Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma
112. Bobby Massie, T, Ole Miss
151. Senio Kelemete, T, Washington
177. Justin Bethel, CB, Presbyterian
185. Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State
221. Nate Potter, T, Boise State

Twin Cities product Michael Floyd joins fellow Purple Rain fan Larry Fitzgerald, who practiced with Vikings' soon-to-be Hall of Famers Randy Moss and Cris Carter once upon a time. Reminds me of Nick Fairley teaming up with Ndamukong Suh in Detroit last year; even if he would've busted under different circumstances, he should be at least above-average with an All-Pro to mimic. O-line, as always, was an issue for the Cards, who brought in a trio led by fast-rising raw tackle prospect Bobby Massie.

Atlanta Falcons
Grade: C

Pick. Player, Pos., School
55. Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
91. Lamar Holmes, T, Southern Miss
157. Bradie Ewing, FB, Wisconsin
164. Jonathan Massaquoi, DE, Troy
192. Charles Mitchell, S, Mississippi State
249. Travian Robertson, DT, South Carolina

Julio Jones has to be factored into the 2012 draft for the Dirty Birds, who traded their first- and fourth-rounders this year (along with their first-, second- and fourth-round picks in 2011) to move up from No. 27 overall to the Browns' No. 6 overall last year in order to acquire the soft-J wideout who throws hard blocks, goes over the middle and provides another deep threat across from Roddy White. Hit rewind, a vanilla draft is spiced up by a game-breaking option such as Jones.

Baltimore Ravens
Grade: B

Pick. Player, Pos., School
35. Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama
60. Kelechi Osemele, T, Iowa State
84. Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple
98. Gino Gradkowski, G, Delaware
130. Christian Thompson, S, South Carolina State
169. Asa Jackson, CB, Cal Poly
198. Tommy Streeter, WR, Miami
236. Deangelo Tyson, DE, Georgia

Bama's Courtney Upshaw was ready to be the fifth member of the Crimson Tide drafted in the first round on Thursday. Instead, the edge rusher had to stay the night in New York before being drafted by Alabama Hall of Fame tight end and Baltimore draft guru Ozzie Newsome. Upshaw will learn from and play next to Ray Lewis, and be protected by Haloti Ngata up front. Who needs the first round if that's your fate? As usual, Ozzie got his guy and collected picks for later; he's one of the best. 

Buffalo Bills
Grade: C

Pick. Player, Pos., School
10. Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
41. Cordy Glenn, T, Georgia
69. T.J. Graham, WR, NC State
105. Nigel Bradham, LB, Florida State
124. Ron Brooks, CB, LSU
144. Zebrie Sanders, T, Florida State
147. Tank Carder, LB, TCU
178. Mark Asper, G, Oregon
251. John Potter, K, Western Michigan

Stephon Gilmore's stock soared northbound all the way to Toronto, or at least upstate New York, in the weeks leading up to the draft. But the corner with fewer red flags than Dre Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jenkins didn't look too happy to be roaming with the Bills to Canada, or Ralph Wilson's temporary Buffalo home. FSU's Nigel Bradham and TCU's Tank Carder are underrated linebackers who should make plays in the domed Rogers Centre sooner rather than later. Seriously, the Bills are moving to Toronto, or else they wouldn't be playing ANY games there, right?

Carolina Panthers
Grade: B+

Pick. Player, Pos., School
9. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
40. Amini Silatolu, T, Midwestern State
103. Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma
104. Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
143. Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina
207. Brad Nortman, P, Wisconsin
216. D.J. Campbell, S, California

If Luke Kuechly is Dan Morgan without the concussions, Carolina's front office will feel like Cam Newton must every day since he enrolled at Auburn. (Cam won the BCS national title and Heisman Trophy before being the NFL's No. 1 overall pick and Offensive Rookie of the Year, as well as Under Armour's face of the franchise, for those who haven't followed the "icon and entertainer.") Kuechly is now the quarterback of the Cats' defense. Amini Silatolu was a fringe-first-rounder who adds beef on the O-line.

Chicago Bears
Grade: C–

Pick. Player, Pos., School
19. Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State
45. Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
79. Brandon Hardin, S, Oregon State
111. Evan Rodriguez, TE, Temple
184. Isaiah Frey, CB, Nevada
220. Greg McCoy, CB, TCU

Sorry, Jay Cutler. No offensive line help for you. Keep proving how tough you are. Stare down Brandon Marshall until Alshon Jeffery gets open. What do you mean he can't separate from defenders and isn't as big as he was listed during his career at South Carolina? Get that look off your face, we traded for your buddy Brandon. That's one more receiver than you've had since coming to Chicago. 

Cincinnati Bengals
Grade: A

Pick. Player, Pos., School
17. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
27. Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
53. Devon Still, DT, Penn State
83. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
93. Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
116. Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
156. Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa
166. Marvin Jones, WR, California
167. George Iloka, S, Boise State
191. Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State

Mohamed Sanu was prank called prior to the No. 27 overall pick by the Bengals in the first round. Someone pulled off a cruel joke by convincing Sanu that he had been drafted by Cincy; his agent confirmed via Twitter. I wouldn't blame Sanu if he hung up on the call from Cincinnati at No. 83 overall. I also wouldn't be shocked if the Bengals discovered who Sanu was by reading a story on Deadspin about his unfortunately well-executed crank-yank.

Cleveland Browns
Grade: B

Pick. Player, Pos., School
3. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
22. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
37. Mitchell Schwartz, T, California
87. John Hughes, DT, Cincinnati
100. Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami
120. James-Michael Johnson, LB, Nevada
160. Ryan Miller, G, Colorado
204. Emmanuel Acho, LB, Texas
205. Billy Winn, DT, Boise State
245. Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona
247. Brad Smelley, TE, Alabama

Plan A was trading the Nos. 4 and 22 picks (and whatever else it took) to move up and acquire Robert Griffin III. After that fell through, Plan B was Trent Richardson, the second first-round back (along with Mark Ingram) from Alabama's 2009 BCS national title team. There was no Plan C. So, when rumors started swirling around that the Jets were looking to trade up to No. 3 for T-Town's top runner, the Browns were forced to trade up one spot. It was the right call. Brandon Weeden, who is nearly 15 months older than LeBron James, was not the right move, however. But hey, Cleveland just added the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, no matter what an angry Jim Brown thinks. Take the Browns' paper bags off your head, Cleveland. It's okay. When Weeden grows up, he wants to be just like Colt McCoy.

Dallas Cowboys
Grade: A

Pick. Player, Pos., School
6. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
81. Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State
113. Kyle Wilber, LB, Wake Forest
135. Matt Johnson, S, Eastern Washington
152. Danny Coale, WR, Virginia Tech
186. James Hanna, TE, Oklahoma
222. Caleb McSurdy, LB, Montana

Jerry Jones might as well turn the "Palace in Dallas" (or "Jerry's House") into a year-round Scouting Combine. He did, after all, witness Morris Claiborne hurdling Ducks and shutting down Oregon receivers first-hand during the season opening 40-27 LSU win over UO in Arlington last year. Needing secondary help on their Big D, the Cowboys made a Texas-sized move up the board to get their cover man. The only question was whether it would be Claiborne or Alabama safety Mark Barron, who went one pick later to the Buccaneers. Either would have been a grade-A move.

Denver Broncos
Grade: D

Pick. Player, Pos., School
36. Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati
57. Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State
67. Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State
101. Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State
108. Philip Blake, C, Baylor
137. Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee
188. Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky

The Tim Tebow trade has brought out the worst in everyone, especially NFL Network's Rich Eisen and Mike Mayock, who got in a Day Three verbal slap-fest over super-agent Jimmy Sexton's favorite client and super-petty John Elway's least favorite person. Mayock, who refused to say the name "Tim Tebow," came crashing down after his three-day bender of Red Bull with a splash of 5-Hour Energy Drink cocktails. Eisen was more than happy to bring up as many Tebow references as possible, whenever the Broncos or Jets picked. Mayock exploded in a much-ado-about-nothing turn of events; Eisen basked in the meltdown. Turns out, Tebow wins again.  

Detroit Lions
Grade: B

Pick. Player, Pos., School
23. Riley Reiff, T, Iowa
54. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
85. Dwight Bentley, CB, UL Lafayette
125. Ronnell Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
138. Tahir Whitehead, LB, Temple
148. Chris Greenwood, CB, Albion
196. Jonte Green, CB, New Mexico State
223. Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma

The short arms of Riley Reiff pushed him down the board on draft night, after the latest Iowa tackle was presumed to be a top-15 pick earlier in the draft evaluation process. Ryan Broyles' 4,500 yards and 45 receiving TDs at Oklahoma meant something after all. U-La-La's Dwight Bentley looked so good on tape and at the Combine, the Lions only needed to draft an Albion and New Mexico State corner to sleep well at night. One of Oklahoma's Lewis linebackers better pan out.

Green Bay Packers
Grade: C

Pick. Player, Pos., School
28. Nick Perry, DE, USC
51. Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
62. Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
132. Mike Daniels, DT, Iowa
133. Jerron McMillan, S, Maine
163. Terrell Manning, LB, NC State
241. Andrew Datko, T, Florida State
243. B.J. Coleman, QB, UT Chattanooga

Brett Favre's best friend (and agent Bus Cook's client) B.J. Coleman stole the headlines for no legit good reason. Favre has a better chance of starting in Green Bay than Coleman. USC end Nick Perry and Michigan State tackle Jerel Worthy were overrated, but being surrounded with Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji may help mask their deficiencies. Vandy's Casey Hayward is a ball-hawk corner with upside. Ted Thompson took a few chances but did just fine, as usual.

Houston Texans
Grade: B+

Pick. Player, Pos., School
26. Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
68. DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State
76. Brandon Brooks, G, Miami (Ohio)
99. Ben Jones, C, Georgia
121. Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan State
126. Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska
161. Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M
195. Nick Mondek, T, Purdue

After making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the Texans did what they could to replace free-agent export Mario Williams (with the bizarro-initialled Whitney Mercilus) and help protect oft-injured Andre Johnson (by selecting DeVier Posey). Nebraska D-tackle Jared Crick could be the steal, after having his draft stock plummet due to a torn pectoral injury earlier in the season.

Indianapolis Colts
Grade: A

Pick. Player, Pos., School
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
34. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
64. Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
92. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Florida International
136. Josh Chapman, DT, Alabama
170. Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State
206. LaVon Brazill, WR, Ohio
208. Justin Anderson, T, Georgia
214. Tim Fugger, DE, Vanderbilt
253. Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois

Stanford's Andrew Luck (2012) follows in the horseshoes of Tennessee's Peyton Manning (1998), Illinois' Jeff George (1990), Stanford's John Elway (1983) and Oregon's George Shaw (1955) as quarterbacks picked No. 1 overall in Colts history. Oliver's son, Jim Harbaugh's recruit and David Shaw's security blanket is one of the better prepared players to enter the league in some time. Surrounding Luck with his Stanford teammate, tight end Coby Fleener, was brilliant. Adding another tight end, Dwayne Allen, was a move of genius. Indy acquired the top two tight ends in the draft, giving Luck a Tom Brady-style offense with wanna-be Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez comfort zone options. That said, the Colts should still battle the Jaguars for worst team in the NFL in 2012.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Grade: D

Pick. Player, Pos., School
5. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
38. Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
70. Bryan Anger, P, California
142. Brandon Marshall, LB, Nevada
176. Mike Harris, CB, Florida State
228. Jeris Pendleton, DT, Ashland

This grade is based on Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert being a clear-cut bust who is afraid to hold on to the football long enough to look downfield. It may not be Justin Blackmon's fault, but if he catches 30 passes for 400 yards, he'll catch unfair heat due to Gabbert (and who?) not being able to get him the ball. Andre Branch is a boom-or-bust. The punter pick of Bryan Anger speaks to the mindset of the organization right now. They punted this draft. And shanked it.

Kansas City Chiefs
Grade: D

Pick. Player, Pos., School
11. Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
44. Jeff Allen, T, Illinois
74. Donald Stephenson, T, Oklahoma
107. Devon Wylie, WR, Fresno State
146. DeQuan Menzie, CB, Alabama
182. Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M
218. Jerome Long, DT, San Diego State
238. Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan

If Memphis' Dontari Poe is not at least a non-BCS version of Patriots All-Pro nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who went No. 21 to the Patriots in the epic 2004 draft, than the ex-Patriots running the Chiefs (namely Scott Pioli) will be very disappointed. At 6'4", 346 pounds, Poe ran a 4.98 in the 40 and ripped off 44 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at the Combine. That will play. Or will it? He played piss-Poe against mediocre competition at Memphis. Still, the Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells coaching tree has branched out to KC; there are only so many men on Earth with Poe's measurable size, strength and speed.

Miami Dolphins
Grade: D

Pick. Player, Pos., School
8. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
42. Jonathan Martin, T, Stanford
72. Oliver Vernon, DE, Miami
78. Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri
97. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
155. Josh Kaddu, LB, Oregon
183. B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State
215. Kheeston Randall, DT, Texas
227. Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada

There's another beautiful woman moving to Miami. Ryan Tannehill's wife, Lauren (not pictured), lit up the green room at Radio City Music Hall. This pick was essentially made by first-year Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, who hired Joe Philbin (his new boss in Miami) with the Packers way back in 2003 and coached Tannehill at Texas A&M just yesterday (or last year, 2011). Anyone who thinks this is the "next Dan Marino" must have only watched the first half of Aggie games this year. Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin played next to guard David DeCastro and blocked for quarterback Andrew Luck, but he is a notch below both in terms of both toughness and talent.

Minnesota Vikings
Grade: A

Pick. Player, Pos., School
4. Matt Kalil, T, USC
29. Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
66. Josh Robinson, CB, Central Florida
118. Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas
128. Rhett Ellison, FB, USC
134. Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
139. Robert Blanton, CB, Notre Dame
175. Blair Walsh, K, Georgia
210. Audie Cole, LB, NC State
219. Trevor Guyton, DE, California

Matt Kalil is a left tackle prodigy carrying on a rich USC tradition that includes Anthony Munoz and Tony Boselli. He also has an older brother, Ryan Kalil, who is a Pro Bowl center for the Panthers. His father, Frank, played ball in the USFL and is a big talking NFL breeder at this point. But it was the ladies of the Kalil family, mom in a red dress and sister in an orange skirt who took home top prospect honors. High jumping back into the first round and taking underrated, athletic Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith was a savvy movve.

New England Patriots
Grade: A

Pick. Player, Pos., School
21. Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
25. Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
48. Tavon Wilson, S, Illinois
90. Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
197. Nate Ebner, S, Ohio State
224. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
235. Jeremy Ebert, WR, Northwestern

Bill Belichick bounced around early to get both Alabama middle linebacker and part-time sledgehammer Dont'a Hightower and Syracuse edge rusher Chandler Jones (brother of MMA champ light heavyweight champ Jon "Bones" Jones). New England also added a fringe second-third-round-type in the seventh round in Nebraska corner Alfonzo Dennard. Make your Jeremy Ebert, Wes Welker comparisons in the privacy of your own home, lest ye be judged.

New Orleans Saints
Grade: IR

Pick. Player, Pos., School
89. Akiem Hicks, DE, Regina
122. Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin
162. Corey White, S, Samford
179. Andrew Tiller, G, Syracuse
234. Marcel Jones, T, Nebraska

This is what Commissioner Roger Goodell's death penalty (lost second round) plus trading up to take Alabama back Mark Ingram last year (traded first round) looks like. Also, Gregg Williams may have told the Saints to "kill the head"; after all, the draft did die. That's not a funny joke to anyone who is familiar with Al Toon's concussion history.

New York Giants
Grade: B

Pick. Player, Pos., School
32. David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
63. Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
94. Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
127. Adrien Robinson, TE, Cincinnati
131. Brandon Mosley, T, Auburn
201. Matt McCants, T, UAB
239. Markus Kuhn, DT, NC State

The defending Super Bowl champs made up for Eli Manning being the third most talked about quarterback in his own city. Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez got nothing on Eli, who has two Super Bowl rings to go along with his new fast running back (Virginia Tech's David Wilson) and new big receiver (LSU's Rueben Randle). Jerry Reese has Big Blue well under control.

New York Jets
Grade: D

Pick. Player, Pos., School
16. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
43. Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
77. Demario Davis, LB, Arkansas State
187. Josh Bush, S, Wake Forest
202. Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor
203. Robert T. Griffin, G, Baylor
242. Antonio Allen, S, South Carolina
244. Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan

Vernon Ghoston Jr., a.k.a. Quinton Coples, is not the safest bet after showing "very indifferent tape" yet "Julius Peppers type ability" according to NFL Network's Mike Mayock. Stephen Hill is fast, and drafting behind Georgia Tech products Demaryius Thomas and Calvin Johnson, but he's not the prospect either Rambin' Wreck wideouts were. Baylor's Robert T. Griffin has a name grade fit for a king, but his socks don't match.

Oakland Raiders
Grade: RIP

Pick. Player, Pos., School
95. Tony Bergstrom, T, Utah
129. Miles Burris, LB, San Diego State
158. Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State
168. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
189. Christo Bilukidi, DE, Georgia State
230. Nathan Stupar, LB, Penn State

The first draft since the late, great Al Davis (July 4, 1929 - Oct. 8, 2011). "Just win, baby," was a motto that set the tone for an organization that won three Super Bowls under Al Davis, the draft day architect for 50 years in Oakland and Los Angeles, in the AFL and NFL. The Raiders have not yet properly replaced Mr. Davis, and it showed in this year's draft results.

Philadelphia Eagles
Grade: B–

Pick. Player, Pos., School
12. Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
46. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
59. Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall
88. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
123. Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
153. Dennis Kelly, T, Purdue
194. Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa
200. Brandon Washington, G, Miami
229. Bryce Brown, RB, Kansas State

Philly fans boo Andy Reid for being too predictable on game day. Well, it's just as easy to guess what Reid will do on draft day. The Eagles took D-line early (Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox, Marshall's Vinny Curry) and a project quarterback (Arizona's Nick Foles) for the QB professor, and a linebacker (California's Mychal Kendricks) to keep the faithful from rioting.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Grade: A+

Pick. Player, Pos., School
24. David DeCastro, G, Stanford
56. Mike Adams, T, Ohio State
86. Sean Spence, LB, Miami
109. Alameda Ta’amu, DT, Washington
159. Chris Rainey, RB, Florida
231. Toney Clemons, WR, Colorado
240. David Paulson, TE, Oregon
246. Terrence Frederick, CB, Texas A&M
248. Kelvin Beachum, T, SMU

The best overall draft of 2012. Pittsburgh added two plug-and-play offensive linemen, with Stanford's "can't miss" guard David DeCastro in the first round and Ohio State's "problem child" tackle Mike Adams in the second round. Both were value picks, at Nos. 24 and 56, respectively. Then, Blitz-burgh added a sideline-to-sideline linebacker in Miami's Sean Spence, a zero-technique nose tackle in Washington's Alameda Ta'amu and a triple-threat track star in Florida's Chris Rainey, who new offensive coordinator (and former Chiefs coach) Todd Haley sees in a Dexter McCluster-type role.

San Diego Chargers
Grade: B–

Pick. Player, Pos., School
18. Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
49. Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut
73. Brandon Taylor, S, LSU
110. Ladarius Green, TE, UL Lafayette
149. Johnnie Troutman, G, Penn State
226. David Molk, C, Michigan
250. Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State

The best high-five of Thursday night, South Carolina tweener Melvin Ingram hyped upped Commissioner Roger Goodell's perceived street cred with a choreographed greeting on stage, shortly after Ingram was drafted much later than he intended. The Commish hugs and has special handshakes on draft night. It's impressive. Meanwhile, the "Lord of No Rings" A.J. Smith did a solid though not spectacular job. It's doubtful that Smith or coach Norv Turner had a special high-five planned the first time they met Ingram.

San Francisco 49ers
Grade: C–

Pick. Player, Pos., School
30. A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois
61. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
117. Joe Looney, G, Wake Forest
165. Darius Fleming, LB, Notre Dame
180. Trent Robinson, S, Michigan State
199. Jason Slowey, C, Western Oregon
237. Cam Johnson, DE, Virginia

Why didn't Jim Harbaugh just draft his old Stanford players? Everyone in the Bay Area would have been happier. Illinois wideout A.J. Jenkins and Oregon running back LaMichael James add much-needed speed to the Niners offense. But both were over-drafted and are likely candidates to under-perform.

Seattle Seahawks
Grade: D

Pick. Player, Pos., School
15. Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia
47. Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State
75. Russell Wilson, QB, NC State
106. Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State
114. Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
154. Korey Toomer, LB, Idaho
172. Jeremy Lane, CB, Northwestern State
181. Winston Guy, S, Kentucky
225. JR Sweezy, DE, NC State
232. Greg Scruggs, DE, Louisville

Speaking of former Pac-10, BCS bowl-winning coaches who over-drafted prospects likely to under-perform, former USC beach boy Pete Carroll recruited a junior college pass rusher in Bruce Irvin. A couch-burner from West Virginia, Irvin has plenty of red flags waving but enough strip-sack potential to roll the dice on. NC State and Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson (along with his very-TV-aware blonde fiance and her purse dog) had more face time on day two of ESPN's draft coverage than Seattle's second-round pick, Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner, did during his entire college career.  

St. Louis Rams
Grade: A

Pick. Player, Pos., School
14. Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
33. Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State
39. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
50. Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati
65. Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana
96. Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest
150. Rokevious Watkins, T, South Carolina
171. Greg Zuerlein, K, Missouri Western
209. Aaron Brown, LB, Hawaii
252. Daryl Richardson, RB, Abilene Christian

Jeff Fisher impression starts now: The Rams got the Redskins 2012, 2013 and 2014 first-rounders in the RG3 trade; beast LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who has a LeBron James beard; Pacman Jones 2.0 in Florida and North Alabama corner-returner Janoris Jenkins; and Montana product Trumaine Johnson. FYI, Johnson, Fisher's son and Fisher's son's friend, Titans Pro Bowl return specialist Marc Mariani, all played ball at Montana and were drafted by Fisher in some capacity. The RG3 trade riches will buy the Rams high-priced talent over the next couple drafts. It's up to Fisher and Co. to make those picks continue to count. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Grade: B+

Pick. Player, Pos., School
7. Mark Barron, S, Alabama
31. Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
58. Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
140. Najee Goode, LB, West Virginia
174. Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia
212. Michael Smith, RB, Utah State
233. Drake Dunsmore, TE, Northwestern

Team Tampa 2 played press coverage in the first round, moving down to pick Alabama safety Mark Barron and moving up to grab Boise State running back Doug Martin. Both players should make an immediate impact. Barron was a two-time national champ and defensive leader for Nick Saban's Crimson Tide. Nebraska blackshirt backer Lavonte David and the West Virginia duo of linebacker Najee Goode and corner Keith Tandy rounded out a solid defensive draft for first-year coach Greg Schiano.

Tennessee Titans
Grade: C

Pick. Player, Pos., School
20. Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
52. Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina
82. Mike Martin, DT, Michigan
115. Coty Sensabaugh, CB, Clemson
145. Taylor Thompson, TE, SMU
190. Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State
211. Scott Solomon, DE, Rice

The Zach Brown Band is playing Music City. Problem is, NFL Network's Mike Mayock called the North Carolina linebacker "allergic to contact," to which Rich Eisen cracked, "can't you take Claritin for that?" Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin and Clemson cornerback Coty Sensabaugh are excellent value picks. The surprise selection of Baylor receiver Kendall Wright may say more about the organization's lack of trust in Kenny Britt, whose injuries and off-field issues continue to mount. 

Washington Redskins
Grade: A

Pick. Player, Pos., School
2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
71. Josh LeRibeus, G, SMU
102. Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
119. Keenan Robinson, LB, Texas
141. Adam Gettis, G, Iowa
173. Alfred Morris, RB, Florida Atlantic
193. Tom Compton, T, South Dakota
213. Richard Crawford, CB, SMU
217. Jordan Bernstine, CB, Iowa

Robert Griffin III's old school Redskins color scheme "Go Catch Your Dreams" socks were a nice touch for the adidas spokesman who wore Superman socks to his victorious Heisman Trophy ceremony. A true dual-threat, RG3 is a seemingly a perfect fit for Mike Shanahan's version of the West Coast offense, which Steve Young, John Elway and Jay Cutler all thrived in since the early 1990s. The selection of Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins is a fascinating but logical one. RG3 and Cousins can compete and grow together, while giving Washington two potential leaders for the future. RG3 better be able to beat out Cousins for the top spot.

by Nathan Rush

<p> It's never too early to grade the 2012 NFL Draft, which saw Commissioner Roger Goodell hugging and high-fiving future Pro Bowlers like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, and potential busts like Dontari Poe and Bruce Irvin. Here's a team-by-team look at the winners and losers from this year.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 07:46
Path: /college-football/10-teams-may-end-secs-national-title-streak

Spring practice is wrapping up around the nation, which means the 2012 college football season is just around the corner. Athlon’s top 25 for 2012 kicks off on May 1 and ends in early June with our pick to win the national title. The SEC has won six championships in a row, but will that streak end in 2012? The early odds favor a SEC repeat, but there are some threats looming for a seventh consecutive title. USC is the early favorite to end the SEC’s reign, but Oregon, Michigan and Oklahoma are strong contenders.

Here’s a look at 10 threats to end the SEC’s string of national titles in 2012.

1. USC – The Trojans are likely the biggest obstacle to a seventh consecutive national title by a SEC team. USC is still dealing with scholarship reductions, but returns Heisman frontrunner Matt Barkley at quarterback and college football’s top receiving corps. Losing left tackle Matt Kalil was a blow to the offensive line, but four starters are back. The defense returns seven starters, but the line must be revamped. Considering how strong LSU and Alabama are in the trenches, the holes on the offensive and defensive lines will be USC’s biggest issue. The Trojans have a favorable non-conference schedule and host Oregon on Nov. 3. The biggest landmines on the road appear to be an Oct. 4 date at Utah and an Oct. 13 trip to Washington. USC closed out 2011 by winning its final four games and there’s plenty of motivation to get to the national title game after spending the last two years banned from postseason play. 

2. SEC team(s) – That’s right, don’t adjust your vision. Sure, the SEC has won six titles in a row, but what if the conference beats up on each other? Alabama and LSU are the favorites to win the SEC, but it’s possible both teams end up with two losses. What if the winner of the SEC West enters the conference title game with one defeat and then loses to the East champ in Atlanta? Would a two-loss SEC team make a national title game appearance over an undefeated or one-loss team from another conference? It’s really anyone’s guess what could happen in that scenario, but a realistic possibility. 

3. Oregon – In the pecking order of Pac-12 teams, the Ducks will likely rank behind USC in most preseason polls. Replacing quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James is the top priority for coach Chip Kelly, but the cupboard is far from bare. Quarterbacks Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota appear more than capable of leading the Ducks’ high-powered offense. De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner should form one of the nation’s top one-two combinations at running back in 2012. The defense loses two first-team All-Pac-12 performers, but returns six starters. If the Ducks can get by USC in the Pac-12 title game, a trip to the national title game is certainly within reach.

4. Oklahoma – Which Sooner team will we see in 2012? Will the Oklahoma team that started 6-0 in 2011 show up again? Or is this the team that finished 4-3 in the final seven games? If the Sooners return to the form that had them in position for the national title midway through last season, this team should be a threat to finish unbeaten. The non-conference schedule is manageable, featuring games against UTEP, Florida A&M and Notre Dame. The slate is more difficult in Big 12 play, thanks to dates against Texas, Oklahoma State and road games against West Virginia and TCU. Losing receiver Ryan Broyles was a huge blow to the offense last year. However, with a full offseason to sort out the receiving corps and make adjustments to the scheme, the Sooners should be in better shape offensively. The defense returns seven starters and gains the services of Mike Stoops at defensive coordinator. Most preseason polls will have Oklahoma behind USC. However, with no Big 12 title game, it’s one fewer opportunity for the Sooners to lose, which could be important with USC likely to play Oregon two times next year.  

5. Michigan – With an opening week matchup against Alabama, we will know early in the year if the Wolverines are a national title contender. Michigan is back among the top-10 teams after a successful 2011 season, and coach Brady Hoke has this program poised to win the Big Ten title in 2012. Quarterback Denard Robinson is one of the nation’s most exciting players, but he has to stay healthy for the Wolverines to finish in the top two of the BCS rankings. Hoke also needs to find replacements for center David Molk and defensive tackle Mike Martin – two of Michigan’s best players last season. Another obstacle to overcome is the competition in the Big Ten. The Wolverines have to play Ohio State in Columbus and games against division foes Michigan State and Nebraska won’t be easy. Even if Michigan loses to the Crimson Tide in the opener, finishing the season with just one loss should keep them in the mix for a spot in the national championship. 

6. Texas – The Longhorns improved their win total by three games from 2010 to 2011. Another three-game improvement would mean 11 victories and at least an appearance in a BCS bowl. There’s a lot to like about Texas as a potential darkhorse for the national title, but quarterback play must improve. David Ash took control of the No. 1 spot on the depth chart, but he will be challenged by Case McCoy and Connor Brewer in fall practice. With the concerns about quarterback play, expect Texas to lean heavily on one of the top backfields in college football. Sophomores Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron combined for 1,225 yards and 10 scores last year, while true freshman Johnathan Gray will see a heavy role in 2012. Although the defense has to replace All-Big 12 linebackers Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, this unit should be one of the best in college football. The non-conference schedule should allow Texas to jump out to a 3-0 start. However, a challenging three-game stretch (at Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Oklahoma) early in the year will decide whether the Longhorns can win the Big 12.

7. Florida State – An ACC team hasn’t played for the national title since 2000. Could that change in 2012? The Seminoles are the early frontrunner to win the ACC, but Clemson and Virginia Tech will certainly be in the mix. Florida State has underachieved recently, but coach Jimbo Fisher is accumulating some impressive talent and depth. The Seminoles have one of the deepest defensive lines in college football and return two solid cornerbacks in Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes. While the defense could be the best in the nation, the offense has to improve for Florida State to challenge for a national title. Quarterback EJ Manuel battled injuries last year and didn’t have much help from the rushing attack and offensive line. If the Seminoles can get improved play from the line, this could be the year Florida State becomes a national title contender once again.

8. Clemson – If Florida State is a national title contender, Clemson can’t be too far behind. The Tigers claimed the ACC Championship last year, but ended the year with losses in three out of their final four games. The offense is loaded with talent, as quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and receiver Sammy Watkins could all challenge for All-American honors. The key question mark on offense will be the line. The Tigers must replace three starters up front, including tackles Landon Walker and Phillip Price. New defensive coordinator Brent Venables has some work to do, especially with a rebuilt defensive line. Clemson’s schedule isn’t too daunting, but a road trip to Florida State on Sept. 22 could decide the ACC Atlantic title.

9. Michigan State – Although Michigan is the early favorite to win the Big Ten, the Spartans will be in the mix. Michigan State has won 22 games over the last two years, but is still looking for its first BCS bowl appearance. The Spartans return 12 starters, but must replace two key performers in quarterback Kirk Cousins and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. New quarterback Andrew Maxwell suffered a knee injury and missed a part of spring practices, but is expected to have a good season in his first as the starter. The offensive line should be better in 2012, while running back Le’Veon Bell is expected to rush for 1,000 yards. If Michigan State can successfully replace Worthy in the middle, the defense should remain one of the best in college football. The Spartans have non-conference games against Boise State and Notre Dame and have to make road trips against Wisconsin and Michigan. Michigan State needs a lot to fall its way to play for the national title, but it should push Michigan and Nebraska to be the top team in the Big Ten.   

10. West Virginia – With quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey returning, the Mountaineers will have no trouble fitting into the offensive-minded Big 12. West Virginia’s offense averaged 37.6 points a game last year, but that number could increase in 2012, especially with the players more comfortable with Dana Holgorsen’s scheme. With running back Dustin Garrison’s status uncertain with a torn ACL, the Mountaineers have concerns about the rushing attack. The offensive line was also shaky last year and needs to play better if West Virginia wants to win the Big 12. The defense must replace ends Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin and cornerback Keith Tandy. The Mountaineers will also be changing from a 3-3-5 to a 3-4 scheme under new co-coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson. West Virginia’s debut season in the Big 12 won’t be easy, especially with road dates against Texas and Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers are a longshot, but if they win the Big 12, they will certainly be in the discussion to be one of the top five teams in the nation.

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Related College Football Content

Michigan or Ohio State: Which Team Will Have More Wins in 2012?
Alabama or LSU: Which Team Will Win the SEC West in 2012?

Georgia or South Carolina: Which Team Will Win the SEC East in 2012?

Ranking the SEC's Head Coaches for 2012

Ranking College Football's Top 25 Head Coaches for 2012

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Will the SEC's streak of national championships end in 2012?</p>
Post date: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 07:01
Path: /college-football/usc-or-oregon-which-team-wins-pac-12-2012

The college football season is a couple of months away, but the countdown to 2012 has officially begun. Athlon Sports’ 2012 preseason annuals will be hitting newsstands in early June and its official top 25 countdown will begin on May 1. Picking the order of finish in each conference and compiling the top 25 is no easy task. Each day leading up to the release of No. 25 on May 1, Athlon’s editors will tackle some of the top preseason debates and question marks facing the teams and conferences for 2012.

USC or Oregon: Which Team Wins the Pac-12 in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Welcome back, USC. The Trojans should return to the top of the Pac-12 in 2012, reclaiming the seat taken by Oregon the last three seasons. That’s not a knock on the Ducks, even though they lose Darron Thomas and LaMichael James. Oregon will be fine. The Ducks should be able to plug and play in the backfield, with Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas returning. Oregon is the presumptive favorite in the Pac-12 North and a possible top-10 team. That said, USC is ready to contend for a national championship. Even if Oregon is able to adequately replace Thomas with Bryan Bennett, USC still counters with a senior Matt Barkley and two elite receivers. If there’s any question for the Trojans, it’s on the defensive line where end Wes Horton is the only returning starter. USC might be able to navigate its schedule with a green defensive line, but the key to defeating Chip Kelly’s Oregon teams has been up front. Lucky for USC, the Trojans won’t face Oregon until November and they’ll do so in Los Angeles right around the same time USC caught fire last season.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
College football fans get not one but two Games of the Century in 2012 and both take place on November 3. All eyes in college football will be on Baton Rouge that afternoon when Alabama visits LSU in SEC play. Later that night, however, the West Coast will be the epicenter of NCAA action when Oregon visits USC. Not only are conference bragging rights on the line, a No. 1 overall ranking, home-field advantage in the Pac-12 title game and a potential bid to the national championship game could be on the line in the Coliseum.

Oregon returns a loaded roster with talent and depth at nearly every position. Their offense replaces quarterback Darron Thomas and star tailback LaMichael James, but should skip few beats as Bryan Bennett, DeAnthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner will keep things humming in Eugene. But are the Ducks better than last year's team that failed to defeat USC at home? The answer is no. Matt Barkley has the best receiving corps in the nation and the back-seven on defense returns entirely intact for Monte Kiffin, who continues to adapt to the college game. This is the best USC team since 2008 and is the only roster in the nation that is comparable to LSU or Alabama. Chip Kelly's team may only lose two games in 2012, and could easily play in the Rose Bowl, but those two losses will come at the hands of Lane Kiffin and the Men of Troy. Additionally, if you want to hedge your bets, the South does not claim a team that can challenge USC for division supremacy while Oregon is dealing with a dramatically improved division loaded with speed bumps. All the stars — easier division, hosting the head-to-head, returning quarterback — are aligned for the Trojans to return to the pinnacle of Pac-12 play.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Outside of the SEC West race, the battle to win the Pac-12 will be college football’s most intriguing conference to watch in 2012. Unless USC or Oregon loses two games, it’s likely the winner of the Pac-12 Championship will play in the national title.

USC is still dealing with scholarship reductions, but the postseason ban has been lifted, and the Trojans are ready to compete for the national title. Although depth is a concern, USC still has plenty of talent to round out its depth chart. Quarterback Matt Barkley is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman and returns college football’s top receiving corps. Depth on the defensive line is probably the team’s biggest question mark, but the back seven should be one of the best in the Pac-12. The Trojans also seemed to jell at the end of last year, winning their final four games, including a 38-35 victory in Eugene against Oregon.  

Although Oregon must replace quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James, the Ducks will once again be in the mix to win a national title. Bryan Bennett started one game in place of Thomas last season, but is getting a push from redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota in spring practice. James will be missed, but De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner are back to form a potent one-two combination. There are a few holes on defense, but thanks to rotating several players into game action, the Ducks shouldn’t suffer much of a drop in production.

Both teams are capable of winning the national title, but I have to give the edge to USC for the Pac-12 Championship. The Trojans knocked off the Ducks in Eugene last season and catch Oregon in Los Angeles this year. And with a win over the Ducks in the regular season, it will be a huge boost to USC’s chances of hosting the Pac-12 title game. I think both teams should be a lock to be in the preseason top five, but USC gets the nod to win the Pac-12 title.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I’ll go with the Trojans because of an experienced quarterback and amazingly-talented receivers, but the Ducks will make it tough. The interesting thing about these two quality teams is that they will meet in Los Angeles on November 3, and there is a good chance of a rematch a month later in the Pac-12 Championship Game. USC has a loaded roster, especially on offense with Heisman frontrunner Matt Barkley throwing to dynamic pass catchers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. There are a few questions on defense, but a Trojans have plenty of talent and one of the best secondaries in the country. Oregon has done a great job in recruiting as well, and Chip Kelly’s teams always put up points. Bryan Bennett takes over for Darron Thomas at quarterback, and UO has electric playmakers in Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas. Bennett and the Ducks will need to find a way to make 40+ yard plays against the Trojans, something that did not happen in USC’s victory at Oregon last year. It will be fascinating to watch the adjustments these teams make from November to a possible rematch, and I will take Barkley and the Trojans to prevail at home.

Where will USC and Oregon finish in the 2012 Pac-12 standings? Check back on May 1 as the 2012 Top 25 countdown will be released one team a day.

Related Pac-12 Content

Pac-12 Running Back Rankings for 2012
Pac-12 2012 Football Schedule Analysis

Washington or Stanford: Better 2012 Record?

Pac-12 Quarterback Rankings for 2012

Can California Beat Stanford and Washington in the 2012 North Standings?

College Football's Top 25 Coaches for 2012

Ranking the Pac-12's Head Coaches for 2012

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> USC or Oregon: Which Team Wins the Pac-12 in 2012?&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL Draft, NFL
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-eleven-april-23

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for April 27.

• SI’s Peter King details how Morris Claiborne surprisingly ended up in Dallas, as well as other first-round thoughts.

• CBS’ Pete Prisco is not sure what the Cleveland Browns were thinking with their picks of Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden.

• ESPN’s Andrea Adelson has the story on West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin, who the Seahawks selected in first round’s biggest surprise.

• Will the NBA adopt a “two and done” rule? That change would definitely have huge ramifications for college basketball.

• Shutdown Corner looks at the NFL Draft’s first round, which was dominated by trades.

• SportsGrid has a humorous take on the absolutely awful Charlotte Bobcats.

• Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times previews this weekend’s matchup of first-place teams, with the Nationals taking on the Dodgers.

• The Big Ten had to wait until No. 23 to have a player drafted, but then finished the first round strongly.

• Will Miami be talking more about new quarterback Ryan Tannehill or his wife? Not going to question the new signal caller’s decision making one iota. 

• It sounds like Vikings star Adrian Peterson is ahead of schedule in recovering from a torn ACL.

• So you want to be a first-round pick? Sounds like Mr. Irrelevant might be the way to go in our Video of the Day…

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for April 26.

• ESPN previews tonight’s NFL Draft.

• The Daily Dolphin analyzes whether Miami should draft Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

• Best car ad ever?

• Dave Miller of the National Football Post looks at the  ongoing talks for college football to move towards a four-team playoff.

• Kobe Bryant needs 38 points tonight to win the NBA scoring title. The Lakers already have the Western Conference No. 3 seed locked up, so how much will he play?

• Berry Tramel looks at the surprising news that true freshman Wes Lunt will be the Oklahoma State starting quarterback

• Would the Bills trade up to the No. 3 pick to get USC’s Matt Kalil?

• The Orange County Register looks at the Angels’ bad start and the struggling Albert Pujols.

• Clarence Hill has the Cowboys first-round possibilities down to four prospects.

• Could the Patriots trade up this year, instead of down like most past drafts?

• ESPN is reporting that the Pro Bowl might be shelved, and it’s doubtful that anyone will miss it. I remember only one play in Pro Bowl history, and it’s our Video of the Day…

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for April 25.

• SB Nation Dallas has the latest on who the Cowboys might draft at No. 14.

• Bleacher Report SEC blogger Barrett Sallee says new Arkansas coach John L. Smith “ascended to the Les Miles level of quotable SEC coaches” in his opening press conference in Fayetteville.

• Could Giants defender Osi Umenyiora be headed out of New York? Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News has the latest.

• It looks like Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel is being traded to the Atlanta Falcons on the eve of the NFL Draft.

• Could the Vikings shake up the draft and trade out of the No. 3 pick?

• Royals Review wonders if Kansas City manger Ned Yost could be fired with the team losing 12 straight game, including 10 of those at home.

• Could Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, and his first-round talent, go undrafted?

• ESPN Pac-12 blogger Kevin Gemmell looks at the still-in-flux UCLA quarterback situation for Jim Mora in his debut season.

• Jim Young of looks at Virginia Tech’s mishandling of the Seth Greenberg firing.

• The Wall Street Journal looks at the management failures of ex-NBA stars like Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas.

USC football players in an organic chemistry class? Just doesn’t sound right for guys coached by Ed Orgeron, but our Video of the Day explains…

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for April 24.

• Chris Bahn of has the Razorback reaction to John L. Smith’s hire in Fayetteville.

• New Jersey State Police are being investigated for possibly escorting a group of high-dollar sports car racers, including Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, in a 100+ mph race down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City. Maybe they were trying to get away from Snooki?

• Future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who recently decided to retire, has one of the coolest “first pitches” ever before the Rangers-Yankees game.

• Gobbler Country’s Josh Parcell looks at the legacy of former Virginia Tech basketball coach Seth Greenberg.

• Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report believes Arkansas made a solid hire with John L. Smith.

• Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett has thoughts on the league’s primetime games this season.

• Would Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis hold out again? The National Football Post says it could happen.

• The San Diego Union-Tribune dispels the rumors that San Diego State was considering not joining the Big East next season

• SB Nation in New Orleans has the latest on eavesdropping charges against Saints GM Mickey Loomis. The franchise categorically denies the accusations and may counter with legal action.

• Jon Gold of Inside UCLA looks at the impact of Ben Howland’s top-rated recruiting class after big man Tony Parker committed to the Bruins.

• Check out this “fake pass” by Tony Allen of the Grizzlies in our Video of the Day.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for April 23.

•’s “Hot Clicks” is now five years old, and Jimmy Traina celebrates with his 10 most memorable moments and 20 best videos. Wow Kate Upton, just wow.

• Here’s to hoping that Robert Griffin III is more accurate with the Redskins than with meeting hottie Alex Morgan of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team.

• Erin McLaughlin of Bleacher Report says Everett Golson made the best case to be the Notre Dame starting quarterback during the Irish spring game.

• Oh the irony, a guy named “World Peace” is ejected from the Lakers-Thunder game for a vicious elbow. Deadspin has the video of the thug formerly known as Ron Artest.

• ESPN Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett recaps the Ohio State spring game, where 81,112 turned out to see Urban Meyer’s “debut”.

• Rays Index has the video of retried NBA center Matt Geiger doing his best Steve Bartman impression. Although he appeared to be ejected, reports surfaced later that Geiger was only “relocated”. Tampa Bay is just glad to have someone – anyone – show up.

• SB Nation in Cleveland makes the case for the Browns drafting Alabama running back Trent Richardson with the No. 4 overall pick.

• Would Gus Malzahn be the right hire at Arkansas? A decision is expected soon in Fayetteville.

• Boston Globe columnist Tony Massarotti looks at what’s ailing the last-place Boston Red Sox. Think Bobby Valentine is wearing his old mustache disguise around Beantown already?

• The Omaha World-Herald has an in-depth Q&A with Nebraska coach Bo Pelini following spring ball.

• NC State’s defense dominated the spring game. Can the Wolfpack challenge Clemson and Florida State in the ACC’s Atlantic Division?

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

<p> Rounding up the web's best sports links from the NFL, MLB, NBA, college football and more.</p>
Post date: Friday, April 27, 2012 - 12:31
Path: /college-football/lsu-vs-alabama-which-team-will-finish-no-1-sec-west

The college football season is a couple of months away, but the countdown to 2012 has officially begun. Athlon Sports’ 2012 preseason annuals will be hitting newsstands in early June and its official top 25 countdown will begin on May 1. Picking the order of finish in each conference and compiling the top 25 is no easy task. Each day leading up to the release of No. 25 on May 1, Athlon’s editors will tackle some of the top preseason debates and question marks facing the teams and conferences for 2012.

LSU or Alabama: Who Will Win the SEC West in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Alabama’s win in the national championship game was so dominant, it almost makes LSU’s 9-6 win during the regular season look more like a fluke than a defensive struggle. Really, that makes more sense with the way one close, contested play – the Eric Reid interception wrestled away from Michael Williams – settled the first matchup. Given the turmoil at Arkansas, the SEC West may end up being a one-game grudge match between LSU and Alabama again and fodder for a constant debate between now and Nov. 3. LSU’s defense could be just as good as it was last season, and the Tigers’ offense could be more consistent if Zach Mettenberger is the real deal. I’d expect Alabama’s defense to take a step back – as in from the most dominant defense in the country by a wide statistical margin to merely elite. In the national title game, A.J. McCarron proved himself as more than a caretaker for the offense, rather as a quarterback who can put a game on his shoulders against another top-notch defense. Even without Trent Richardson, Alabama should still be able to run the ball behind a stout offensive line. Now, McCarron gives the Crimson Tide more balance. Even with the game in Baton Rouge, I’m going to pick Alabama to win the rubber match of the last two seasons.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This will be a heated debate for the next six months until November 3 rolls around. That is the day, of course, that Alabama must head down to the bayou to face the LSU Tigers in a third straight battle for national — and conference — supremacy. On paper, LSU has the best roster in America. The Athlon editors are dead split on who should be the pick in the West and Les Miles appears to be the only reason for the debate. If Nick Saban and Miles were to magically switch positions, the Bayou Bengals would be the clearcut, no doubt pick to win not only the SEC but also the National Championship. Removing the taste of the BCS championship game performance by Miles from my mouth is virtually impossible. LSU was the most horribly prepared team for a championship game in (at least) the BCS era and The Hat's inability to make any semblance of in-game adjustments simply cannot be forgotten. 

Saban's team isn't without its own flaws, however. A huge chunk of that legendary defense needs to be replaced and Trent Richardson is no longer running the football. While LSU can boast the best roster in the nation, Alabama may be a close second — even with the losses. Eddie Lacy, Dee Hart and freshman T.J. Yeldon will fill in admirably for T-Rich. In fact, the offense should be better in 2012. The Tide boasts the top offensive line in the nation and quarterback A.J. McCarron will only continue to develop. This, after he led the SEC in completion percent last fall (66.8%). And despite losses at wideout and tight end, the pass-catchers will actually be more explosive and talented this season. On defense, the line should be just fine and a pair of juco covermen, Deion Blue ad Travell Dixon, appear to have solidified a secondary that still has Robert Lester. Nico Johnson, CJ Mosley and Trey DePreist are no slouches filling in for the lawfirm of Hightower, Upshaw and Harris as well. Needless to say, they got some athletes at The Capstone.

Until proven otherwise, I have to stick with Saban and the Tide as the team to beat in the SEC. However — and no one outside of the Sunbelt wants to hear this — but that game down in Baton Rouge on Nov. 3 could be meaningless once again in 2012 as both LSU and Bama could find their way back to the title game no matter who wins the first meeting. LSU-Bama IV on South Beach? It's got my blood going already.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
This question is easily the most difficult of the preseason debates. LSU beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa, but was handled easily by the Crimson Tide in the national championship. So which result should we believe? 

LSU could be better than it was last year, provided Zach Mettenberger lives up to the hype at quarterback. The Tigers will have one of the top defenses and rushing attacks in college football, but won’t repeat as SEC champions if the quarterback play doesn’t improve. Although the defensive line is one of the best in the nation, there are concerns about the linebacking corps and finding a cornerback to replace the cover skills of Morris Claiborne.

Alabama has a lot of losses on defense, but there’s no shortage of talent waiting to step into playing time in Tuscaloosa. While the Crimson Tide may take a step back on defense, the offense should be better, especially with the return of quarterback AJ McCarron. Yes, Trent Richardson will be missed at running back, but Eddie Lacy, Dee Hart, T.J. Yeldon and Jalston Fowler is a capable group to carry the workload. Assuming there’s no drop-off from Jim McElwain to Doug Nussmeier at offensive coordinator, McCarron could contend for All-SEC honors.

Expect another tight battle to decide the SEC West, but it definitely helps LSU’s case that the game is in Baton Rouge this year. However, by November, Alabama’s defense will be back among the nation’s elite. And even though Les Miles has led LSU to two victories in the last three matchups against Alabama, I trust Nick Saban just a little more. I think the Crimson Tide finds a way to pull out a close win against LSU, which will clinch the SEC West title for 2012.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I’ll take the Tigers to repeat in the SEC West. Les Miles’ roster is loaded, and the only real question looming in Baton Rouge is how quarterback Zach Mettenberger will fare against SEC defenses. LSU has the best pair of tackles in the country in Chris Faulk and Alex Hurst, and that offensive line will pave the way for a crew of talented running backs. The defense will be stellar once again, led by Sam Montgomery and Bennie Logan up front and Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid on the back end. Alabama will be a contender because of elite recruiting and top-notch coaching, but there will be some tough roles to fill with the loss of four first-round picks. The Tide offensive line should be excellent, and quarterback AJ McCarron showed his potential in the BCS Championship Game. The losses on defense are significant, but Nick Saban and Kirby Smart will field another talented unit even with some inexperience. Both SEC powers will be in the national title hunt in 2012, but I’ll take LSU to be the league’s top team once again.

Where will LSU and Alabama finish in the 2012 SEC standings? Check back on May 1 as the 2012 Top 25 countdown will be released one team a day.

Other SEC Spring Preview Content:

Georgia or South Carolina: Which Team Will Win the SEC East in 2012?
Ranking the SEC's Running Backs for 2012

Ranking the SEC's Quarterbacks for 2012

Ranking the SEC's Head Coaches for 2012

Ranking College Football's Top 25 Head Coaches for 2012

Missouri or Texas A&M: Which Team Will Have More Wins in 2012?

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012

College Football's Top Spring QB Battles to Watch

College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> LSU vs. Alabama: Which Team Will Finish No. 1 in the SEC West?</p>
Post date: Friday, April 27, 2012 - 08:20
All taxonomy terms: NFL Draft, NFL
Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-grading-first-round

The first round of the 2012 NFL Draft is in the books. The Indianapolis Colts and the Washington Redskins got their franchise quarterbacks as expected. But how did your favorite team do in this year's first round? Athlon grades every pick in the first round and gives some names for each team to target in the coming days:

1. Indianapolis: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (6-4, 234)
Team Needs: QB, WR, DT, OL, DE
Montana to Young. Favre to Rodgers. And now Manning to Luck. The long awaited marriage of the Stanford quarterback to the city of Indianapolis finally took place as the Colts wasted no time selecting the best quarterback prospect in two decades. There are no weaknesses in his game whatsoever and Colts fans can rest easy despite the loss of No. 18. First Round Grade: A+

2. Washington (From STL): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (6-2, 231)
Team Needs: QB, ILB, OT, S, CB
While Luck is the most complete prospect at the quarterback position in many years, Griffin III might be the best athlete under center ever. The former track star is a savvy leader who elevated an entire program to levels unforeseen in Waco in more than 15 years. His ability to keep plays alive with raw athleticism while maintain focus down the field is a rare trait. He, too, is the complete package at the game’s most important position. The only dent in the armor could be his durability, especially considering his penchant for running the football. He has missed games due to injuries in each of the last two seasons and Mike Shanahan likely won’t let him run around too much. First Round Grade: A

3. Cleveland (From MIN): Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (5-9, 228)
Team Needs: RB, QB, OT, OLB, DE
Running backs must be special athletes to be taken in the top 20 overall much less at No. 3. While Cleveland clearly gave up too much to jump one spot – it cost four total draft picks to land the superstar tailback – the Alabama running back will likely be worth it. Richardson’s resume is loaded with personal awards, statistical records and two national championship rings. He is as strong as any running back to ever enter the league and his toughness should match the hard-nosed attitude abundant in the city of Cleveland. First Round Grade: A-

4. Minnesota (From CLE): Matt Kalil, OT, USC (6-6, 306)
Team Needs: OT, CB, S, DT, WR
The Vikings have many needs but protecting their first round investment under center with the clearcut top blocker in the draft was an excellently boring move. Kalil has played in an elite pro-style passing attack that is as close to the modern NFL schemes as there is in college. He has the size, pedigree, experience and athleticism to keep Lions, Packers and Bears off Christian Ponder’s back for years to come. This was an excellent day for Vikings fans as they added Kalil and three extra picks to drop one spot. First Round Grade: B+

5. Jacksonville (From TB): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (6-1, 207)
Team Needs: WR, OT, CB, DE, RB
Wide receiver is the deepest position in this draft and Blackmon certainly topped the list. He has the size and speed to be a dangerous play-maker across the middle and down the field. He played in a pass-heavy system that padded his stat line, but his level of production has dwarfed the rest of college football for two straight seasons. His ability to consistently produce when every coach in the nation is trying to stop him has been remarkable. The idea to support the young Blaine Gabbertt with a talent like Blackmon is an obvious one, but was the price worth it and does this team have other, more pressing needs? First Round Grade: B

6. Dallas (From WAS through STL): Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU (5-11, 188)
Team Needs: CB, DT, DE, G, LB
Tyrann Matthieu got all of the headlines but anyone who knows football knew that Claiborne was the real star of the LSU secondary. The Thorpe Award winner is the best pure coverman in the nation and a dangerous return specialist in his own right. He possesses extraordinary feel for the football and will attack it with tremendous ball skills. This was a pricey pick for Dallas but there is little-to-no downside with this Bayou Ballhawk. First Round Grade: A-
7. Tampa Bay (From JAC): Mark Barron, S, Alabama (6-1, 213)
Team Needs: S, CB, OG, LB, RB
It was shocking to see Roy Williams comparisons pop up on twitter heading into the draft for Barron. The Alabama safety is one of the safest picks in the entire draft and is the only elite playmaker at his position in this class. Barron is much more athletic, fluid, agile and versatile than the former Oklahoma Sooner. One thing Barron does have in common with Williams, however, is that they will both decapitate anyone with their hands near the football. Tampa Bay showed excellent patience here and added an immediate plug-and-play contributor along with additional picks with this maneuver. First Round Grade: B+
8. Miami: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M (6-4, 221)
Team Needs: QB, S, DE, WR, OT
The first real reach of the draft belongs to a team that has featured 16 different starting quarterbacks since Dan Marino retired. Tannehill is the first Texas A&M passer taken in the first round and is the first quarterback the Dolphins have taken in the first since Marino. The Aggie passer is a long-term project who has loads of development still to go. He threw for 283 yards per game but tossed 21 interceptions in his 19 career starts. He finished 12-7 as a starter and his teams consistently choked in the second half of play. Tannehill is a tremendous athlete who has loads of upside. This is the definition of high-rick, high-reward at this stage in the draft. First Round Grade: C+
9. Carolina: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College (6-3, 242)
Team Needs: ILB, DT, CB, OT, DE
From one of the riskier picks in the first round to one of the safest, Carolina added a heartbeat to the middle of its defense with this selection. There have been few linebackers to emerge from the collegiate ranks with as much polish and experience as the Eagles tackling machine. He consistently produced huge numbers for a team that offered little in the way of defensive support. Like Barron, Kuechly is easily the top player at his position in this class and offers little downside of any kind. First Round Grade: B+
10. Buffalo: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina (6-0, 190)
Team Needs: CB, OT, CB, WR, OLB
Gilmore has played a lot of football in a great conference. Yet, his game needs plenty of refinement for him to justify a top ten pick. He has great size but lacks fundamentals when tackling and in some coverage schemes. He is best when the play is in front of him as his natural instincts aren't are advanced as they should be. His excellent size could provoke a move to safety, where his range and size may be better utilized. First Round Grade: B-
11. Kansas City: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis (6-3, 346)
Team Needs: DT, LB, DE, G
Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson and now Dontari Poe. Analysis from talking TV heads just about summed it up “his game tape isn’t that impressive” and “not many intangibles.” And that was when Mike Mayock was trying to be positive. The biggest red flag? Poe was not a dominate player at a very mediocre level of play at Memphis in Conference USA. His defenses were atrocious, his teams lost four out of every five games and he failed to produce any significant statistic on the sheet. Poe looked great in shorts and a t-shirt at the combine, and no one can argue with his raw physical upside, but he disappeared from August to January – when they play actual football games. This one could hurt for years. First Round Grade: D
12. Philadelphia (From SEA): Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State (6-4, 298)
Team Needs: DT, OLB, S, OT, DE
The Eagles knew who they wanted, and when the Chiefs reached on big Poe, Philly didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Cox. The massive defensive tackle has been facing elite level centers and guards in the SEC. There may not be a better way to prepare for the next level than competing with the William Vlachos and Patrick Lonergans of the world. He can play inside or out and will be be a disruptive interior player. Brockers may end up being the top tackle in this class but Cox isn’t far behind. First Round Grade: B+
13. Arizona: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame (6-2, 220)
Team Needs: WR, OT, DE, QB, OLB
This pick was a bit peculiar considering the many other holes on the Cardinals two-deep, but there are also a lot worse things than lining-up Michael Floyd opposite of Larry Fitzgerald. In fact, they have similar builds, styles and talents, but that isn't the only thing the two stud wideouts share. Floyd and Fitzgerald both hail from the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Arizona now boasts arguably the top two wide receivers to ever come from the talent-rich St. Paul-Minneapolis area. Floyd’s only knocks – off the field focus and nagging injuries – are things that should be helped by day-to-day contact with one of the best models of professionalism in the game today. First Round Grade: B-
14. St. Louis (from WAS): Michael Brockers, DT, LSU (6-5, 322)
Team Needs: DT, WR, OT, CB, LB
A massive run-stuffing, pocket-collapsing defensive tackle is a rare commodity in the college ranks. But Michael Brockers is just that and he did it against the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi State. Not Tulane, UTEP or Rice. Jeff Fisher and the Rams did an excellent job building a massive draft board loaded with extra picks while still landing their guy in the first round. Brockers is the best tackle prospect in the draft. First Round Grade: A-
15. Seattle (From PHI): Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia (6-3, 245)
Team Needs: DE, LB, WR, OL, TE
Yes, Irvin might be the best pure pass rusher in the draft. Yes, he might have the most explosive first step in the class. And yes, he was a huge reach at No. 15 for Pete Carroll. Adding some picks and dropping down was a smart move, but Irvin has major question marks. His off the field issues aside, Irvin is a one-trick pony. He was barely good enough to play on first and second down in the Big East much less against the 49ers. Irvin feels like a much better fit on a team that is one pass rusher from the Super Bowl, and that is not the Seahawks. First Round Grade: C
16. NY Jets: Quinton Coples, DL, North Carolina (6-5, 284)
Team Needs: DE, OLB, WR, OT, ILB
This is an interesting pick. The Jets may never have expected him to be still on the board and he likely caused a slight audible. His versatility along the defensive line has to be an intriguing quality for Rex Ryan’s multiple front defense. His ability to slide inside and play tackle could be invaluable on passing downs. He is a massive prospect who appeared to, at times, let the troubling situation around him last fall affect his output. If he stays committed, his rare physical talents should help him succeed in the defense-friendly Jets locker room. First Round Grade: B-
17. Cincinnati (from OAK): Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama (6-1, 185)
Team Needs: CB, G, SS, DE, DT
The third Crimson Tider to go in the first round has been long considered a first round pick. Kirkpatrick was the No. 1 defensive back prospect in the nation coming out of high school and went on to win two national championships under Nick Saban. He has incredible height and length for a cornerback and exhibits elite speed. His size might precipitate a quick move to safety where he could bulk up slightly and play with rare speed and athleticism. His fluidity and play-making skills in man-up open field situations will be the determining factor as to which position he plays. First Round Grade: B-
18. San Diego: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina (6-1, 264)
Team Needs: DE, OT, DT, G, S
If Ingram were two inches taller and his arms two inches longer, he might have been the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. He is a bit undersized for a pure defensive end but his raw athleticism for a man his size is simply remarkable. He moves incredibly well in space and can be used all over the defense in a variety of roles and positions. He is active, strong, quick and savvy and at his best when rushing the passer. First Round Grade: B+
19. Chicago: Shea McClellin, OLB/DE, Boise State (6-3, 260)
Team Needs: DE, OT, G, DT, CB
“Assassin” was the word Chris Peterson used to describe the Boise State Bronco hybrid. As part of a senior class that won 50 of 53 games played, McClellin proved game-in and game-out that he belonged playing against elite competition. He is tough, strong and fluid enough in space to drop into the open field when needed. Opposite of Julius Peppers, the hard-nosed lineman should have plenty of chances to make plays against the law firm of Rodgers, Stafford and Ponder. First Round Grade: B+
20. Tennessee: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor (5-10, 196)
Team Needs: WR, S, CB, DE, OL, LB
The Titans feel comfortable with Jake Locker as the future under center, and, with Chris Johnson signed for the near future, wide receiver was one of the key missing pieces on offense. Kenny Britt or no Kenny Britt, Wright will fill a giant void in the slot that has been empty ever since Derrick Mason left. His overall production was likely inflated by his offensive system and quarterback, but this speedster is a dynamic play-maker in all phases of the game. He can stretch the seam, work underneath, take hand-offs, return kicks and maybe even throw a pass or two if needed. Wideout might not have been the most pressing need, but Wright fills a position that’s been missing for years. First Round Grade: B
21. New England (From CIN): Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse (6-5, 266)
Team Needs: DE, DT, LB, DB, C
On a rare night where Belichick moved up twice in the first round, the Patriots dramatically upgraded their front seven. It started with giving up a third rounder to move up to snag a complete package at defensive end. Jones has the size and raw athletic ability to play all three downs for the Patriots complicated defensive system. The Pats had to find someone to get pressure on the opposing quarterback after ranking near the bottom in pass defense a year ago. Jones certainly does that. First Round Grade: B
22. Cleveland (from ATL): Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (6-3, 221)
Team Needs: RB, QB, OT, OLB, DE
If this gunslinger was six years younger, he would be the guy heading to South Beach, not Tannehill. Oklahoma State’s all-time leading passer will turn 29 in October, and other than his age, has virtually no weaknesses. He could use some vocal leadership classes, but he has huge statistical production, the Pokes only Big 12 championship, the big frame, strong NFL arm and modest off the field lifestyle conducive to NFL success. The only worry in Cleveland should be how will a Longhorn and a Cowboy co-exist in the same locker room? First Round Grade: B+
23. Detroit: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa (6-5, 313)
Team Needs: OT, CB, OT, G, LB, RB
This was not a great year for offensive tackles. It makes evaluating the Reiff pick all that much more difficult. On one hand, Detroit has to be happy with landing the consensus No. 2 tackle prospect in the draft at No. 23 overall. But the Iowa Hawkeyes struggled to protect the quarterback or open up any running lanes a year ago. Were the Lions simply a victim of position scarcity or did they get a star dropped in their lap? Only time will tell. He is likely more of a right tackle than left for the time being. First Round Grade: B
24. Pittsburgh: David DeCastro, G, Stanford (6-5, 316)
Team Needs: G, OT, DT, LB, DB
It seems like the Steelers have been trying to stabilize their offense line for the better part of a decade. Landing this nasty, snarling interior lineman is a major step in the right direction. He has played in power pro-style attack and excelled at an elite level. Stanford’s best two year run in history was directly tied to this offensive senior class. And this savvy road-grader was a huge piece of the puzzle. Any help Big Ben gets up front will be welcome. First Round Grade: B+
25. New England (From DEN): Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama (6-2, 265)
Team Needs: DE, LB, DT, DB, C 
If Belichick wanted a battering ram to place next to Jerod Mayo on defense, he could not have asked for a better first round pick than Hightower. The massive linebacker dealt with some health issues over the course of his career at Alabama, but the heavy hitter helped lead what was possibly the best defense in college football history. He won two national championships and fits the 3-4 scheme perfectly. Moving up to grab this burly backer was a sly move from the Draft Master. Packaged with Jones, New England’s defense just took a major step forward. First Round Grade: A-
26. Houston: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois (6-3, 261)
Team Needs: DE, OT, G, WR, CB
This talented edge rusher was arguably the top sack artist in the nation last fall. The Big Ten is loaded with stud offensive tackles and Mercilus was still able to wreak havoc in opponent’s backfields. The Texans have plenty of talent at the outside linebacker/defensive end positions and likely had bigger needs. To that end, this pick is a bit surprising. He will have to gain strength and bulk to see the field in obvious running downs - and justify this selection. First Round Grade: C+
27. Cincinnati (From NO through NE): Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin (6-4, 314)
Team Needs: CB, G, SS, DE, DT 
Kuechly, Barron and Zeitler were the three safest picks in this year’s first round not named Luck. The big burly Badger blocker has excellent size, polish and experience against elite level competition – see Jerel Worthy, Devon Still, Johnathan Hankins, K-Short, Jordan Hill and John Simon. He is a nasty finisher who has played in a complicated pro-style attack for years. Zeitler adds exemplary protection for franchise quarterback Andy Dalton and will help improve the ground game. Along with a few extra draft picks and Kirkpatrick, the Bengals had one of the best nights in the league on Thursday. First Round Grade: B+
28. Green Bay: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC (6-2, 271)
Team Needs: OLB, S, DE, RB, CB
Consistency is the name of the game for Perry. He has all the talent in the world but the motor tends to throttle back at times. When he decides to press the gas pedal, he can produce exactly what Green Bay is looking for – an edge pass rusher to pair with Clay Matthews who doesn’t have to come off the field on first and second downs. When he backs off, he can disappear from action for more than a few plays. If he stays focused, he will be a nice addition to the Dom Capers 3-4. If not, fans are going to be pointing at what Courtney Upshaw will be doing in for years to come. First Round Grade: C
29. Minnesota (From BAL): Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame (6-2, 213)
Team Needs: OT, S, CB, DT, WR 
This is a heady player who has loads of career starts under his belt in South Bend. But he likely landed in the first round based more on positional scarcity and team need than any other player taken last night. After Barron, there was little left at the safety position with first round talent. The question about Smith will remain his overall speed, agility and explosiveness at the back end of an NFL defense against the likes of Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Brandon Marshall. First Round Grade: C+
30. San Francisco: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois (6-0, 190)
Team Needs: WR, G, DE, CB, OLB
The 49ers might need a wide receiver at some point in this draft, but this felt early. And since it’s the deepest position in the draft, Jenkins going here was a bit of a surprise. Jenkins was incredibly productive in his final season on campus but offers no one special talent. He is an average sized player with above average speed and solid quickness. He is a solid overall player, but how much better is he than the 10-12 wideouts that will be taken in the next two rounds? First Round Grade: C+
31. Tampa Bay (From NE): Doug Martin, RB, Boise State (5-9, 223)
Team Needs: S, RB, CB, OG, LB
Boise State’s talent is finally starting to pop into the first round. Martin, after McClellin, became only the fourth Bronco ever selected in the first frame of the draft. While Martin doesn’t possess one elite trait – breakaway speed, massive size, etc – there is nothing that this tailback can’t do. He can play all three downs, has the strength and power to move the pile, the quickness to get to the edge, the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and pick up the blitz. The Bucs would have jumped at Pensacola native Richardson had he been there at five, but moving back once to land Barron and then back up to snag Martin was a savvy move by Greg Schiano and company. First Round Grade: B
32. NY Giants: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech (5-9, 206)
Team Needs: RB, OT, LB, DT, S
Super Bowl champions rarely have massive holes to fill and so this pick was used to reach just a bit on a high quality talent. Wilson is a game-changing back with explosive big-play ability and slashing running style. He is low to the ground and incredibly powerful in his lower body – think Ray Rice with more burst. He posted big numbers in two years as the starter at a high level of play in the ACC. This was a bit early for Wilson, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with this pick. First Round Grade: B+
-by Braden Gall

Ranking the First Round Picks:

  Name Pos. NFL Team Pick Grade
1. Andrew Luck QB Indianapolis No. 1 A+
2. Robert Griffin III QB Washington No. 2 A
3. Trent Richardson RB Cleveland No. 3 A-
4. Morris Claiborne CB Dallas No. 6 A-
5. Michael Brockers DT St. Louis No. 14 A-
6. Dont'a Hightower LB New England No. 25 A-
7. Matt Kalil OT Minnesota No. 4 B+
8. Mark Barron S Tampa Bay No. 7 B+
9. Luke Kuechly LB Carolina No. 9 B+
10. Fletcher Cox DT Philadelphia No. 12 B+
11. Melvin Ingram LB/DE San Diego No. 18 B+
12. Shea McClellin LB/DE Chicago No. 19 B+
13. Brandon Weeden QB Cleveland No. 22 B+
14. David DeCasrto OG Pittsburgh No. 24 B+
15. Kevin Zeitler OG Wisconsin No. 27 B+
16. David Wilson RB NY Giants No. 32 B+
17. Justin Blackmon WR Jacksonville No. 5 B
18. Kendall Wright WR Tennessee No. 20 B
19. Chandler Jones DE New England No. 21 B
20. Riley Reiff OT Detroit No. 23 B
21. Doug Martin RB Tampa Bay No. 31 B
22. Stephon Gilmore CB Buffalo No. 10 B-
23. Michael Floyd WR Arizona No. 13 B-
24. Quinton Coples DL NY Jets No. 16 B-
25. Dre Kirkpatrick DB Cincinnati No. 17 B-
26. Ryan Tannehill QB Miami No. 8 C+
27. Whiteney Mercilus DE Houston No. 25 C+
28. Harrison Smith S Minnesota No. 29 C+
29. AJ Jenkins WR San Francisco No. 30 C+
30. Bruce Irvin DE Seattle No. 15 C
31. Nick Perry DE Green Bay No. 28 C
32. Dontari Poe DT Kansas City No. 11 D

Other NFL Draft-Related Content

NFL Draft 2012: First-Round Review
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2012 NFL Draft First-Round Primer
2012 NFL Draft: Ranking the Positions
2012 NFL Draft Sleepers and Steals
2012 NFL Draft Busts: Ryan Tannehill and Dontari Poe
NFL Draft History: Busts, Sleepers and Solid Picks - Part 1
NFL Draft History: Busts, Sleepers and Solid Picks - Part 2
Biggest Busts in NFL Draft History
2012 NFL Mock Draft: Our First-Round Projection
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2012 NFL Draft: Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III
2012 NFL Must-See Match Ups
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<p> NFL Draft: Grading the First Round</p>
Post date: Friday, April 27, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL Draft, NFL
Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-day-twos-best-prospects

After the dust settled on Day One, or the first round, of the 2012 NFL Draft, eyes in 32 war rooms returned to their draft big boards. 

Who is still on the board that we didn't expect to see? (Upshaw) Who was taken way too early at the end of round one that we had targeted late in the second round? (Jenkins) Which positions are still loaded with talent? (WR, DE)

These are all questions GMs are floating at subordinates of all types. With only 32 names crossed off, there is still loads of talent still ripe for the picking. And if the good teams are any indication - Giants, Packers, Patriots, Ravens, Steelers - then the most important day of the draft might just be No. 2.

Related Content:
NFL Draft: Grading the First Round

NFL Draft 2012: First-Round Review

Here are Athlon's Best Available Players:

1. Courtney Upshaw, LB/DE, Alabama (6-1, 272)
Physical monster at the point of attack who can dominate his side of the ball. He won two national championships at Alabama and was a part of the best defense in two decades of college football. He will be a steal for some 3-4 scheme on Day Two.

2. Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska (6-0, 233)
In only two short seasons, David injected his name into the Huskers record books with nearly 300 tackles. He can play sideline-to-sideline and will fill agianst the run between the tackles. He is one of the few excellent 4-3 weakside backers in the draft.

3. Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State (6-2, 309)
A bit on the short side, but few have been as productive agianst elite level offensive lineman as Worthy. The star of the Big Ten's best unit, Worthy helped lead his team to the Big Ten title game.

4. Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia (6-5, 345)
Versatile prospect was the SEC East champs best blocker a year ago. He could be successful on the next level at either guard or tackle. The interior of the line feels like the most likely destination for Glenn.

5. Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin (6-5, 314)
Arguably the best center in the country a year ago, Konz led what turned out to be three of the most prolific offenses in school history. He is a leader along the line and helped push the Badgers into consecutive Rose Bowls.

6. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford (6-6, 247)
Athletic, tall, handsy tight end is truly the only elite prospect at the position in this class. Orson Charles has a chance to be productive but he is not anywhere near the same size as Fleener. His pro-style background will help him adapt quickly.

7. Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State (6-2, 214)
Smart, savvy, poised, mature leader of a program that won 11 games for the first time in school history - twice - under Cousins' control. He is the school's all-time leading passer in nearly every category and has the size and arm strength to be a starter in the NFL.

8. Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State (6-7, 323)
The suspension has cast a shadow of doubt over Adams' overall dedication to the game. If he is focused and committed, there will be few better values than this big blocker on Day Two.

9.Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford (6-5, 312)
David DeCastro's partner in crime, Martin has been responsible for protecting Andrew Luck's backside for the last three seasons. He is a two-time all-Pac-12 performer and has the tools to a contributing right tackle very quickly.

10.Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall (6-3, 266)
Speed, edge rusher who was very productive against lower level of competition in Conference USA. He is likely the top pure pass rusher left on the board.

The Best of the Rest:

11. Devon Still, DT, Penn State
12. Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana
13. Mychal Kendricks, LB, CAL
14. Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn
15. Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
16. Jeff Allen, OG, Illinois
17. Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
18. Bobby Massie, OT, Ole Miss
19. Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
20. Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson


-by Braden Gall

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NFL Draft 2012: First-Round Review
NFL Draft: Grading the First Round
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NFL Draft: A Look at First-Round Trades
2012 NFL Draft First-Round Primer
2012 NFL Draft: Ranking the Positions
2012 NFL Draft Sleepers and Steals
2012 NFL Draft Busts: Ryan Tannehill and Dontari Poe
NFL Draft History: Busts, Sleepers and Solid Picks - Part 1
NFL Draft History: Busts, Sleepers and Solid Picks - Part 2
Biggest Busts in NFL Draft History
2012 NFL Mock Draft: Our First-Round Projection
2012 NFL Draft Stock Watch
2012 NFL Draft: Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III

2012 NFL Must-See Match Ups
2012 NFL Schedule Highlights

<p> NFL Draft: Day Two's Best Prospects</p>
Post date: Friday, April 27, 2012 - 07:00