My NBA All Stars

As I’ve mentioned recently, the NBA All Star starters will be announced on Thursday, followed by the reserves being announced a week after. The starters will probably be wrong, since Dwyane Wade and Zaza Pachulia (yes, that Zaza Paculia) will be in the starting lineups and neither should be in the same state as the All Star Game. Moving past that, I’ve put together what I think the rosters should look like. All stats are accurate as of January 17, 2017.

EAST

STARTERS

thomas-isaiah-usnews-getty-ftr_7kqxdq3s1uhn1gpdmp1z56fvgIsaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics– I’d say you could call me a homer if Isaiah wasn’t one of the best ten players in the league this season. He leads the East in scoring, shooting career high percentages from the field and from the free throw line, and is top twenty in assists. In the pre-Harden and Westbrook world, leading the conference in scoring and still managing six assists per game was a rarity. He has completely dominated the months of December and January and has established himself as one of, if not the, best fourth quarter players in the league. The Cavs’ army of devoted fanboys doesn’t want to hear it, but he’s been better than Kyrie this season.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ersKyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors– The second backcourt spot was a toss up between the duo up north of Lowry and Demar Derozan. The Raptors have been the best team in the East outside of Cleveland again this season, and their offense is now operating at crazy heights, currently averaging more points per 100 possessions than even the Warriors. Though Derozan carried the team as Lowry got off to a slow start this season, Kyle’s been scalding hot since. It’s almost getting redundant at this point since you can seemingly say it every year, but he’s having the best season of his career. He’s averaging career highs in points, assists, rebounds, and player efficiency rating, while shooting a Curry-like 44% on 7.5 three point attempts per game, and is second in the league in real plus-minus. He’s the true engine for the league’s best offense.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game OneLebron James, Cleveland Cavaliers– It’s seemingly been a quiet season for Lebron, but he’s still been Lebron. Top ten in points and assists, still rebounding well, and is the best player on the best team in the East. He’s still flopping and overdramatic, still seemingly forgets the Warriors actually beat his team in the Finals two years ago and that it isn’t some one sided rivalry, but he’s still the best.

giannisGiannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks– The Greek Freak has become what everyone but Danny Ainge (shoutout to Kelly Olynyk! No, I don’t lose sleep over the fact that Giannis should be a Celtic! Why do you ask?) thought he could be. He is a (pun intended) freakish athlete that effects the game in virtually every way. He’s kept his offense at the level we saw at the end of last year, scoring at will inside, setting up teammates, and getting to the line at the highest rate of his young career. He still can’t shoot three’s, but when you can dunk from the three point line it doesn’t really matter. He’s a menace on defense and could become the fourth player ever to average 2 blocks and 2 steals a game.
chicago-bulls-jimmy-butlerJimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls– No one seems to notice or care, but Jimmy Butler has turned himself into one of the best player in the league and he keeps getting better. He’s singlehandedly kept a bad Bulls team afloat, and all his stats either are or are close to career highs. He’s third in the league in real plus-minus. I never thought he’d become this good, and I have no idea how much better he can become, but I’m not betting against him.

RESERVES

Los Angeles Lakers v Cleveland CavaliersKyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers– Kyrie is probably going to start in real life, and although he doesn’t crack my starting lineup, he’s still an all star. He’s having his best statistical season, and as the second best player on last year’s champions he’d probably make the team regardless. I don’t know how he’s only shooting 46% from the field, since whenever I watch him he never seems to miss. Everyone always wants to say he’s better than Steph, but there’s just something missing. His defense is still bad. He still doesn’t really pass, but that doesn’t matter when you have Lebron. I know there’s a lot of Curry fatigue out there, but I don’t think Kyrie is the answer.

kevin-love-ftr-042315_wpjp86vjxtqz1lpdo12prs6voKevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers– The best way to get into the #clique and make the Instagram pics is to play like the all star you were in Minnesota. He’s back to averaging 20 points a game, is top ten in rebounding, and is lighting it up from 3. Being on the best team in the East doesn’t hurt his all star chances.

maxresdefault1John Wall, Washington Wizards– Somehow always overlooked, John Wall is playing the best ball of his career and is probably the most underrated player in the league. He leads the East in assists and steals, is scoring more than ever, and is more efficient than he’s ever been. He’s leading a resurgent Wizards team that has exceeded expectations, partly due to Bradley Beal actually staying healthy, but mostly due to the fact that Wall has become a truly elite point guard capable of winning games by himself in the Eastern Conference.

derozanmvpDemar Derozan, Toronto Raptors-Mentioned above, but Derozan really carried the Raptors in the first part of the season, leading the league in scoring for a solid month. He’s cooled off slightly, but he’s still averaging a pretty efficient 28 points per game. He gets to the rim and to the line at will, and is a midrange marksman in a league full of 3 point gunners. He’s one of the most frightening players in the league attacking the rim.

635848408893220753-ap-46794507105-1Paul George, Indiana Pacers– PG13 is having another good season, but the league takeover that seemed imminent a few years ago has yet to materialize. His once elite defense has slipped this year, but his efficiency on offense has improved, with his highest field goal percentage since his rookie year. He can be streaky from 3, but he’s hot right now, and is the best player on a slightly lackluster Pacers team. In an East without a ton of legitimate all star candidates, though, he makes the team.

kemba-walker-121014-getty-ftrjpg_1f1vcl0978voj1qipxipij8znhKemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets– Fun fact: my freshman year at the University of Connecticut was the year that Kemba took over college basketball and dragged the team to the championship, so Kemba will always hold a special place in my heart. (For the mathletes out there, that would mean my senior year was the year Shabazz Napier did the same. Combine those two with the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins, and I’ve seen a lot of winning in my life. I’m an expert in winning.) However, this is no sentimental pick. After the best season of his career last year, he’s been even better this year. His shooting percentages keep getting better as his usage rate goes up. The rest of the Hornets have been inconsistent, but Kemba has kept the team from free fall with his consistently good play.

121915_jabparJabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks– The last spot on the roster could go to a few different players, but my vote goes to the player I think will win Most Improved Player. The other half of one of the most exciting young duos in the league, Jabari Parker has really blossomed as a scorer. After shooting a Wade-esque 25% from 3 his first two years, all of a sudden he’s up to 41%, while steadily bringing his field goal percentage closer and closer to 50%. His defense is….not great, but his smooth, efficient offensive game gets him onto the roster.

Apologies to: Kristaps Porzingis (he should be up for sainthood), Joel Embiid (team is too bad), Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Andre Drummond, Bradley Beal.

No Apologies to: Hassan Whiteside for the most egregious stat chasing I’ve ever seen. He’s not a good player. Like, at all.

WEST

STARTERS

james-hardenJames Harden, Houston Rockets– These first  two entries won’t be very exciting because they really need no reasoning. For my money, Harden has been the best player in the NBA this season. The move to point guard has totally unleashed his unique skill set, and now he’s leading the league in assists and is third in scoring. He’s a beast.

russRussell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder– He’s averaging a triple double.

 

 

 

hi-res-f899f3bb990f21ad085b47af2fa78144_crop_north

Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors– Crazily enough, putting one of the most talented scorers in the history of the NBA with the two best shooters of all time leads to good offense. Durant has been predictably (and otherworldly) efficient, but his defense has been a surprise. Though he’s shown flashes of being an elite defender, he’s embraced that side of the ball this season and has been a disruptive force and is currently twelfth in the league in blocked shots. He’s a decent player.

120415-nba-kawhi-leonard-pi-mp-vresize-1200-675-high_-20Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs– Kawhi “Mr. Electricty” Leonard has taken the mantle of Spurs talisman and has fully committed to the role, quietly chugging along and showing no personality while doing it. But guess what? He’s still getting better. He’s transformed himself from an athletic rebounding specialist in college into an elite offensive player and terror on defense. He’s the best two way player in the league (Lebron doesn’t try enough on defense), and has vastly exceeded all realistic expectations for what his career could be. But it still feels like there’s untapped potential here. I don’t know if the Spurs got lucky or if they really are three steps ahead of everyone when it comes to scouting and player development, but they found another potential all time great to replace the one that just retired.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Detroit PistonsAnthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans– This spot could easily go to DeMarcus Cousins, but I’m going Davis because of the absurdity of some of his stat lines. 50-15-5-5-4. 45-17. 41-16-4 steals. Seemingly every night, he’s doing something crazy. Kind of funny how after last season everyone forgot they loved Davis to fawn over Karl-Anthony Towns. Davis took it personally, apparently. He’s Mr. Glass, though. He misses like every other game with some minor injury. Kobe used to play through pain, if you hadn’t heard. Wouldn’t mind seeing Davis try doing the same.

RESERVES
curry-profSteph Curry, Golden State Warriors– How about the fact that Steph’s “down season” is still better than Kyrie’s career season? Steph is averaging more points, assists, rebounds, steals, and fewer turnovers than the man who many think (wish?) is better than him. He’s still one of the best players in the league. He’s still the greatest and most prolific shooter of all time. This is his worst three point shooting by percentages. Everyone saying he’s struggling and looking to bury him. He’s shooting 39.8% from 3. On an absurd number of attempts. If the season ended today it would be the first time in his career he shot under 42% from 3. I think he’ll be just fine.

draymondDraymond Green, Golden State Warriors– The West this year is so ridiculously stacked with potential all stars that I can only take three of the Warriors’ big four. (Sorry, big five. I forgot Zaza is an all star.) I went back and forth on this so many times, but in the end Draymond’s unreal defense this season is what gets him in. Not to mention the fact that he’s averaging more assists than last year while averaging almost one full fewer turnover a game. Plus, given the choice between the two, I would rather have the Warriors win the title than the Cavs. I feel like Draymond missing the all star game would be infinitely more detrimental to their success than Klay missing out.

gordon-hayward-122914-getty-ftrjpg_wqfrrr1g069o1nc0qpa17td6eGordon Hayward, Utah Jazz– After years of hearing about their promise, the Jazz have finally showed up as a playoff contender, lead by (hopefully) future Celtic Gordon Hayward. After years of keeping the crown fairly easily, Hayward took the title of best American white player from Kevin Love and has kept it this season. Almost makes me teary eyed to see two white boys in the NBA All Star Game. Unfortunately for analysts, Hayward doesn’t fit the traditional white guy mold. He may be scrappy and have a high basketball IQ, but he’s also a great athlete, great off the dribble, and makes the players around him better. He’s averaging career highs in points and rebounds, while shooting more efficiently despite his ever growing role on offense. Not to stray too far from his heritage, though, he’s an avid League of Legends player and was once a pro tennis prospect. Need to counterbalance basketball greatness with that kind of nerdiness to keep his whiteness levels in check.

marc-gasol-grizzlies-ftr-getty-031915_7neuch1v6caw11j9q59gvbk58Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies– I don’t know why no one thought to let Marc shoot 3s before this season, but he’s gone from having 12 career 3s before this season to shooting almost 40% while taking over 3 per game. Long been one of my favorite players to watch, Marc has taken his game to a new level. With Mike Conley missing significant time and Zach Randolph’s reduced role, Marc has the Grizzlies as the six seed in the West. He’s scoring more than ever while still dishing out his 4 assists a game and playing great defense. In many ways he and Tony Allen are the most lasting pillars of the Grit n’ Grind era, and he’s taken them into the 21st century.

r170266_608x342_16-9DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings– Extracurricular antics aside, Boogie is a true beast. Always good for at least 28-10, he’s added a pretty reliable 3-pointer this season, and has a career high PER. He still has lapses on defense, but his active hands help get his share of steals and blocks. The closest thing to the dominant big man of yore, DeMarcus can score on anyone at anytime.

chris-paul-getty-ftr-010516_ifl1w3gzvaps1jgwobqsazzyuChris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers– CP3 just keeps putting out great seasons. He leads the league in real plus-minus by a wide margin. He leads the league in steals (again), is top five in assists, doesn’t turn it over, and is shooting his usual healthy percentages. All the while maintaining a solid flop rate and continuously yelling at teammates. The actual all star game is better with him in it, as he usually finishes with about 15 assists.

Portland Trail Blazers v New York KnicksDamian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers– God, this was tough. So many players going for the last spot on the roster. In the end, I’m going Lillard. He’s having his best offensive season, with a career best turnover percentage and true shooting percentage. The fact that his defense has been so bad and he still has the Blazers in the playoffs shows how good he’s been with the ball in his hands. Let’s end this before I change my mind again.

Apologies to: Klay Thompson (ask me again tomorrow), Rudy Gobert (best defensive player in the league), Blake Griffin (too injured), Karl-Anthony Towns (how did he not make it?), C.J. McCollum, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe.

LAST SECOND UPDATE:

Chris Paul is going to miss 6-8 weeks after getting thumb surgery, so he needs to be replaced.

karl-anthony-towns-getty-ftr-112015_1i033msxfpw6w16c5vdxwbiw3u

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves– Yet another tough call, but there just aren’t many guys that can average 20-10, especially at such a young age. He’s really good, and makes the team despite his team’s disappointing season.

 

What is the best pizza chain?

toppizzachainscollage_blog

Every football weekend usually gets me thinking about pizza, but the playoffs get my pie-centric brain working overtime. Growing up, I always hit up my favorite local place for some ‘za as I watched playoff football, but ever since I moved out (be honest, after the Pokemon blog you thought I still lived at home. I don’t hold it against you) I’ve had to switch it up. No more go-to spot has opened the door for more experimenting and, much to my great joy, plenty of the Big Three: Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and Papa John’s. But which is the best? As is natural in playoff time, someone needs to be crowned the winner. Before we get into it, if you consider yourself too good to indulge in chain pizza, you can get the hell out right now. The Brian’s Den is a socialist commune for pizza, and everyone gets a fair shake. Yes, you can get better pizza at plenty local places. But you can also get worse. All pizza is good pizza, no matter what is says on the box. Now, let’s get to the tale of the tape.

Pizza Quality

I guess the most important category to start with is the actual quality of the pizza. It should go without saying that we’re talking about the basics. Default crust, sauce, and cheese, at most one topping. Just the pure pizza experience. I’ll say this about Pizza Hut: It’s awesome if you have it once a year. Once in a blue moon I’ll get a random craving for Pizza Hut and it’s probably the strongest craving I get for any food. It can’t be ignored. But once you start having more often than that you start running into trouble. I recently tried Papa John’s pan pizza. It was better than Pizza Hut. Pan pizza is Pizza Hut’s calling card. If someone does your supposed strength better than you, that’s a bad sign. It’s hard to remember what Domino’s was like before their big redesign a few years ago, but they hit the ground running and haven’t looked back. The new garlic crust is awesome. The sauce is good and the cheese is fine. Considering the only adjective I can think of to describe Papa John’s Pizza is that it’s pretty good, this is a win for Domino’s. Extra points for possibly having the least bad aftermath.

Winner: Domino’s

Specialty Crust

Hinted at above, but Papa John’s pan pizza is awesome. It’s better than their regular pizza by a mile. Domino’s non-regular options are so bland and subpar that I seriously question why anyone would bother to get them. Pizza Hut gets points for sort of creating stuffed crust, but stuffed crust sucks.

Winner: Papa John’s

Breadsticks

I was tempted to just throw breadsticks in with rest of the sides, but they’re too important not to recognize. Breadsticks are a staple of the pizza chain menu, and each one brings strong entries. Pizza Hut’s breadsticks are excellent. The seasoning meshes perfectly with the bread. More than anyone, Pizza Hut’s breadsticks are an extension of the crust. If Pizza Hut’s pizza was as good as the breadsticks, I’d be tempted to go more often. Domino’s has quality breadsticks, as well, with the added wrinkle of being baked as one big piece that you rip pieces off of. It lends itself well to cheese and other toppings, but we’re talking straight breadsticks here. I get them every time and always enjoy them, but Domino’s has the weakest of the three. I feel like not many people know it, but Papa John’s is a titan of the breadstick world. They’re thicker than most places, but high on natural bread flavor. That’s a plus for me. I think they’re the best for dipping, and, most importantly, are great cold. Pizza Hut’s aren’t. That’s the only thing separating these two Hall of Famers.

Winner: Papa John’s

Sides

Here’s where we factor in pretty much every non-pizza, non-plain breadstick food everyone offers. This is an easy win for Domino’s simply because of the chicken. Their chicken nuggets, or whatever they call them, are great if you get them plain or with the various toppings they offer. The cheesey bread is good too. I honestly couldn’t tell you what other sides Papa John’s has and if you get wings from Pizza Hut you should probably go in for a psych evaluation.

Winner: Domino’s

Best Gimmick

Kind of felt bad that Pizza Hut is getting left behind here, so this is for them. No one takes chances like they do. Whether it’s pretzel crust, that New York style thing they tried where it was just regular pizza but like 24″ in diameter, or the P’Zone, Pizza Hut is always at the forefront of innovation. I tried the pizza they had where the crust was just a bunch of pigs in a blanket and it changed my life. Jury’s still out on if the change was positive.

Winner: Pizza Hut

Desert

Though I will admit to trying most of the menu for research purposes, you’ve got to be in a pretty dark place in your life to be getting pizza chain desert regularly. This would be a tie between Pizza Hut and Domino’s for their cinnamon sticks, but Domino’s pulls away with the chocolate lava crunch cakes. Domino’s asking if you want to add one to your order online is the strongest temptation I can think of.

Winner: Domino’s

Delivery

This is the only category that prevented this from being a fatal four way. Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready pizza is so good and so underrated that I have to give it a quick shoutout. They don’t deliver though, which is just about the only requirement to get into this debate. The big three are all pretty even here. I’ve had both fast and slow delivery times with all of them. However, when I was in college the only one we had was Domino’s and they were open super late on the weekend. It may seem biased, but the importance of that fact cannot be overstated.

Winner: Domino’s

Mascot

A pretty rough category all around. The Pizza Noid is stupid, as is that speed box folder Domino’s tried to impress us with. Pizza Hut’s recent ad campaigns have been a combination of boring and annoying, as they keep trying to get in on the new trend of just being super weird and random in commercials and hoping people remember it. They don’t remember, and they probably hate the ad. Papa John seems like a decent guy and I don’t really care about Peyton anymore, but J.J Watt, man. He’s just so fake and insufferable. It’s an upset he hasn’t gotten his grandma on one of the ads yet, and an even bigger upset he hasn’t gotten his great grandma in one. He still hangs out with both of them, you know. Not sure if you would, though, he never mentions it.

Winner: Nobody

Well, it’s pretty clear that Domino’s is the winner. I don’t think I really thought it would be this apparent when I started, but you never know what can happen during the course of a debate. Domino’s rewards program where you get free pizza if you order enough is just the icing on the cake. Domino’s runs away with it, proving that in the chain pizza game, as in life, every detail matters.

pizza

I hate NBA All Star fan voting

This Thursday the NBA will announce the starting lineups for this year’s All Star Game. Ideally, it’s a snapshot of the league that season, with the best five from each conference matching up with each other before the game inevitably devolves into a layup line. It’s also voted on by the fans. They are aloost always wrong. Thankfully, they finally took complete control away from the fans and added in a players and media vote to help curb the madness. A lot of times, I don’t have a problem with it. For example: As it stands right now, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love would be starting for the East. I don’t think they should be starting, but they are both legitimate All Stars this year, so I don’t really care too much. But Dwyane Wade is also in line to start. And that’s where my anger begins.

The common line you always hear when people like me complain about undeserving players being voted in is that it’s a game for the fans so it should be what the fans want to see. That’s all well and good, but why do we then use all star appearances when discussing Hall of Fame candidacy? When Kobe is up for enshrinement, among his many accolades his 18 all star appearances will be mentioned. At least five were undeserved. Popularity doesn’t suddenly make someone good.

ykuwteohnwmec5ugugft
Never Forget

Dwyane Wade is not an All Star. His team stinks and he’s having his worst season. Almost all of his per-36 minute numbers either are or are close to career lows. The only thing he’s randomly doing better is shooting 3s, but a blind person who had never heard the word basketball before would be a better 3 point shooter than Wade has been. There’s at least 15 players in the Eastern Conference more deserving than him and someone is going to get screwed because people like Wade for some reason. Twenty years after his retirement everyone will forget the countless dirty plays and will just see all those totally legitimate all star appearances and think he’s a top ten player ever. That’s not right.

While we’re at it, Carmelo Anthony is currently 6th in front court voting. Which means if the entire roster was decided by fan voting he’d make it. Melo STIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINKS. How anybody can watch this guy and think he’s an all star is beyond me. He’s on yet another embarrassing, bum ass Knicks team and scoring the worst, most hollow 22 points per game maybe in league history. He cared about passing and defense for like a month in 2013, but that time is long passed. He’s pretty much the entire reason the Knicks are horrible, too. He and Derrick Rose create new ways to ignore the best player on the team Kristaps Porzingis. His massive contract and refusal to waive his no-trade clause have hampered the league’s worst front office’s pathetic attempts at roster building, and they’re caught in between tanking and being the sixth seed. Or, they would be if Carmelo wasn’t a dreadful excuse for a star. Same with Dwyane Wade- someday people will look back and see all the all star starts and be like “oh, wow, Carmelo was really good. He must have been a great player and a great teammate and a great leader and not a coward who thinks winning gold medals against teams with at most three NBA players is just as good as winning an NBA championship.” He’s horrible and if you think he’s good, you’re horrible too. Either don’t let stupid fans decide important things that impact a player’s “legacy,” or don’t have all star appearances matter for the Hall of Fame.

And I really hope that in one of the toughest times to make the all star team in the Western Conference, where three or four very deserving players will miss out, I don’t have to explain why Zaza Pachulia making the starting lineup would be the dumbest, most inexplicable and nonsensical thing to ever happen in the history of American voting.

Divisional Round Picks

We’re back with some more fearless, peerless predictions. If you were paying attention last week, you’ll notice that we didn’t do so hot. Fret not, dear reader, because it was only a test. A way to weed out the truly devoted from the fair-weather fans. Now that I’m confident only the most loyal of readers remain, I’m willing to give my true, infallible picks. Some great matchups this week, and my beloved Patriots take the field in an important scrimmage against Foxborough High School. Let’s get to the games.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)

The first of four rematches sees the Seahawks travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons. The Seahawks won the previous game thanks to a predictably missed pass interference against Richard Sherman. While it would be easy to say that since the Seahawks are on the road they won’t get the benefit of literally every single call during every game played since 2012, but the reasons they lose go deeper than that. For starters, Atlanta’s offense is insane. Top five in passing and rushing yards per game. Number one in scoring. Number one in offensive DVOA. This is quietly one of the greatest offenses ever facing a defense that, while very good, is missing its best player. Opponent passer rating has gone up and they only have one interception since Earl Thomas went down. Seattle’s ugly destruction of the hapless Lions made them look far better than they really are. The Seahawks offense isn’t very good. Granted, the Falcons defense is very bad, but not bad enough to sink them in this matchup. Seattle just doesn’t have enough weapons to keep up. Everyone loves to say Matt Ryan can never get it done, forgetting he was once on the goal line with a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Atlanta is going to score, and, as the home team, is going to get the benefit of the whistle. I can’t wait for Richard Sherman’s post game anti-official rant. Come at me 12s!

Pick: Atlanta -4.5

atlanta-falcons-lady

Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots (-16)

Will the Brocket Ship return to orbit or will Terry Bradshaw collect a nice royalty check as Failure to Launch airs for three hours on Saturday night? I think we all know where this is going. I will say this, though. I usually prepare myself for the doomsday scenarios. The unthinkable Patriots losses against inferior opponents. Those thoughts haven’t even begun festering in my mind. If Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo both die on the field, everyone on the Pats D blows their knees out, and Goodell takes out the lead official and becomes the ref WWE-style and the Texans win, this would be the most embarrassing loss of my lifetime. Worse than losing to Rex Ryan. Worse than the Bruins blowing a 3-0 lead to the Flyers. Worse than the Red Sox completely no-showing last year against the Indians. Nothing could top losing to this JV squad. On a lighter note, without the Redskins in the playoffs, my streak of consecutive football posts mentioning the god of quarterbacks Colt Brennan was finally snapped. I was hoping the Raiders would give me a reason to bring him up again, but, alas, they lost. The only connection I could find is that he played for the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League in 2011. The Patriots almost moved to Hartford once. This game is going to be such a blowout I wouldn’t be surprised if Nantz and Simms start talking about this eerie coincidence in the fourth quarter.

Pick: Pats -16

loser-patriots-fans

Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys (-4.5)

I have two schools of thought about this game. The first is that there’s a real possibility the Cowboys repeat the beating they put on the Packers in week five. This Cowboys team is perfectly built to beat the Packers. The Packers’ small front seven can get swallowed in the wake of the righteous wave of fury cast down upon us by the immortal beings known as the Cowboys Offensive Line from their Holy Seat on High, the ball control offense keeps Aaron Rodgers off the field, and though the Cowboys have a vulnerable defense, they actually intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass in week 5, a true accomplishment. On the other hand, I don’t really want to be on the other side of Aaron Rodgers. Benefitting from my fairly obvious jinx attempt last week, he slayed the dragon that haunts my nightmares, and, for that, I am eternally grateful. He’s the most naturally talented quarterback I’ve ever seen and he couldn’t be hotter. 19 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last eight games. That’s insane. I don’t think the Cowboys relatively weak defense will really be able to contain him, even with Jordy Nelson, the NFL’s leader in touchdown catches, sitting out. This could be a weird shootout, with the Cowboys driving down methodically and scoring after 7 or 8 minutes with the ball, then the Packers responding instantly, lather, rinse, repeat. This won’t be a defensive game, and I think it goes down to the final drive. With apologies to fellow UConn Husky Byron Jones, (random tangent: My senior year I took a one credit basketball class because I had so much free time. You just showed up and played hoops. Byron Jones was in the class and he wasn’t allowed to play with everyone else, either by his own volition or administrative decree. He would just go to a basket no one was using and dunk for an hour. It was breathtaking.) Packers at least cover.

Pick: Packers +4.5

7f6c7a63d83eb11a72263faa6e6989af

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5)

This is an interesting game and a rematch of a Steelers blowout win. I expect a different game this time around. For starters, the Steelers aren’t going to go up 22-0 right away this time. I know they just destroyed the Dolphins, but, if you read last week, you know that I predicted that they’d wipe out the hapless Dolphins easily. The Chiefs lead the NFL in takeaways, and Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 88 interceptions in his 93 career road games, including 17 in his last 14. That adds up to bad news for the Steelers passing game, despite the fact that the Chiefs run defense is putrid. Everyone always love to trash Alex Smith, but if he just keeps feeding Travis Kelce and breakout star Tyreek Hill they should be able to move the ball effectively against an average Steelers defense. Every little thing matters, and the Chiefs special teams unit is probably the best in the league, lead, of course, by Hill. And if you still weren’t convinced, this game was just moved to 8:20 pm. Night games in Arrowhead usually end badly for opposing teams, as the best fans in the league (suck it 12s) cause havoc. Chiefs roll.

Pick: Chiefs -1.5

chiefs-fans-build-beer-tower-fight-mannequin-challenge-in-loss-vs-buccaneers

This Chargers move feels like the biggest rush job of all time

So last night the Chargers announced that they’re moving to Los Angeles. Dean Spanos, the Chargers chairman, has been threatening to move for fifteen years like a jumper on the windowsill. No one thought he’d do it. No matter how many times the good people of San Diego voted against public funding for a new stadium, no matter how many new stadiums around the league made Qualcomm look like trash, no one thought he’d do it. Well, they finally did it, and they seem totally unprepared. First, they unveiled this new logo:

No offense to whoever spent 10 minutes in photoshop whipping this up, but that logo stinks. It’s so generic. The old Chargers logo is so great and distinctive. Why change it? At the very least, why change it to that? Then news comes out today that they’re going to play in the 30,000 seat StubHub Center until the Rams’ new stadium is finished. They couldn’t even get the Colosseum or Rose Bowl. They get a little rinky dink stadium that they probably aren’t going to sell out because no one in Los Angeles cares about the Chargers. The Raiders are still more popular, and it’s been 20 years since they played there. It’s like the Chargers were just as surprised by the move as everyone else and they’ve been scrambling to put everything together. Supposedly they haven’t even talked to the Rams about sharing a stadium yet! It’s just a puzzling situation all around. I mean, it doesn’t effect me either way, but it just seems like a strange way to do the move. As long as they don’t ditch the powder blues.

Our first reader email!

article-2486093-192977f400000578-697_634x417
How I feel right now

There are important milestones in every blogger’s life. The first post. The first return reader. Inevitably selling out to the first offer that comes your way. And with apologies to my friends at Halls and Vicks, without whom I couldn’t possibly be fighting off the intense cold I’m currently dealing with, I haven’t quite reached that level of success. However, I did just receive an important gift: my first reader email. Granted, it was actually a text, but reader email sounds better. He (you didn’t really think it would be a girl, did you?) has a Burning Question that he needs answered. It’d be rude to keep him waiting any longer.

Reader WhiteKong asks:

“Idea for blog: something about the unwritten rules of switching sports teams. Like how you have to have a team picked before you’re 10 and you can’t ever switch it. And if you do the stigma surrounding it.”

Great question, WhiteKong, and thanks for reading! The murky waters of sports fan ethics can be difficult to navigate, but luckily for you, an expert helmsman is guiding your ship. There’s a lot to parse through here, but let’s start with the obvious. If you earnestly switch allegiances after being public with your old one, you do deserve to be cast out into the leper colony that is the bandwagon jumping community. However, it’s not always that easy.

For example, if your favorite team relocates, and, this is important, if you’re from the general area, you can switch teams. However, if you picked the team at random (a topic for another time), only the most egregiously unethical move (Colts, Thunder) can reopen your allegiance. For example, if you’re a Rams fan who was born and raised on the East Coast with no connection to St. Louis, you’ve got to stick with them even though they moved to L.A. The team stinking is not a valid excuse for team switching.

Poor performance does present another challenge, though, that tests your resolve as a sports fan. How do you hold off the temptation that the eye candy around the league gives? I struggle with this constantly, not necessarily because of poor team performance (literally none of my teams have been bad in like, 20 years) but because of appealing or new playing styles, exciting players, cool jerseys, really anything that can catch the eye. In college I a crisis of faith as a proud Celtics fan. I had to convince myself to root for the team when Rajon Rondo was the best player. They played slow, couldn’t shoot or run any kind of offense, couldn’t really defend, and were just generally horrible to watch and destined to finish with 44-48 wins. Meanwhile, the Spurs were crushing teams with the ball movement that’s commonplace today. The pre-title (and bandwagon) Warriors were running and gunning, casting up ill-advised 3s at will. Even the Grizzlies, who played a nearly identical style to the Celtics, were more appealing because of their passion and infectious personalities. It was the toughest challenge I’ve faced as a fan, but I held true. I looked at it this way: A married CEO may bring in a new secretary every week. Each one hotter than the last. But, at the end of the day, his wife is who he comes home to. At the end of the day, I knew that the Celtics winning the championship would still, even with such an unlikeable team, give me the most joy. It’s up to you to muster up the fortitude to stick around through the lean times. Look for beacons of hope, like Kristaps Porzingis or a good Color Rush jersey. Because I guarantee a lifelong Lions fan will get a lot more respect than a “lifelong” Warriors fan will.

Which brings up to the final obstacle, and one that I, unfortunately, have no secret to overcoming. What to do when your team becomes good after being bad? More specifically, what to do when the actually win a championship? How do you avoid that most feared of insults: accusations of bandwagon jumping? Luckily for 10 year old me, Twitter wasn’t around when the Pats won their first Super Bowl after decades of being mostly futile. Otherwise I myself may have had to fend off such charges. If, for some reason, you actually are a lifelong Cavs fan, how do you separate yourself from the legion of Lebron fanboys that fill your timeline with non-stop and unabashed bandwagon drivel? How do you separate yourself from the crowd that refuses to be anyone but Real Madrid when playing FIFA online? (No joke, one of my friends in college bragged that he was great with the 49ers in Madden 14. I’m pretty sure at least half the roster was 90 overall.) Well, there is no foolproof strategy. Besides abstaining from sports arguments that expose your rooting interests (unrealistic, I know), the only thing you can do is always have proof of your fanhood. Make your Twitter avatar a picture of you in Cavs gear that was clearly taken in 2002 or earlier. Make sure you have a physical copy of that picture with you at all times. Always have backup. Never leave the house without bringing someone that can confirm that you did, in fact, like the Seahawks before Russell Wilson. Never go online unless you know that person is there with you. Unless you already have one, don’t go out and buy a retro jersey, especially if it’s for an ironic player. Nothing exposes a hipster poseur faster than an Adonal Foyle Warriors jersey. And never, under any circumstances, try to intimidate your accuser by talking about how much you know about the old teams and how they were better. Because if your accuser is a bandwagon jumper himself, nothing will satiate his desire to declare the new better than the old ad nauseam. It’d be a never ending argument. And, if your accuser is not a bangwagoner, you’ve just insulted their fandom and intelligence. Other than that, the only solution is waiting until the team stinks again. Sometimes it’s fast. No one remembers that Heat fans used to be exactly what we view Cavs fans as. In fact, they’re probably the same people. Other times, like in my case, the teams are dominant indefinitely. Just be patient. Eventually, your declaration of fanhood will be met by the same apathy as 95% of professional teams. Other than that, it’s kind of a dilemma you have to solve for yourself.

So there you have it. About a tenth of my thoughts on sports fan etiquette. WhiteKong, I hope your questions are answered. All others, I hope your worldview is just a little clearer. Keep the reader requests coming. I’m more than happy to be your pilot through the rough skies of life. Now all we need is a comment section.

Which Pokemon would be the best at football?

2000px-international_pokc3a9mon_logo-svg

With the NFL playoffs starting up and the college football playoffs wrapping up, it’s safe to say football has been on my mind non stop recently. It’s seeped into all facets of my life, and all of a sudden I’m seeing zone blitzes in my morning cereal. So, naturally, I was looking for a way to tie football to everyday life for the next Brian’s Den exclusive. Luckily for me, I already had something I could do. So, on this most joyous of days (my birthday), I figured I’d bring you people something special.

I’m pretty sure it started when I was home on break during my freshman year of college, but the founding doesn’t matter. What does matter is that me and my buddy Steve asked the question: what would happen in Pokemon played football? And so, we created the Pokemon Football League. We would assign everyone positions, simulate games, and progress the players from their type-based colleges through the first pro draft. (I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I have talked to a girl before. It was only once, but it happened none the same) On PFL nights, it was the place to be if you liked eating a bunch of pizza and talking about fake football scenarios.

Anyway, after years of film study, countless pro days, and meticulous analysis, I, the Mel Kiper of Pokemon, am ready to present my first mock draft. Keep in mind, this only covers the first draft class. I will neither confirm nor deny that I have put together a full ranking of all 802 Pokemon, along with big boards for all seven generations. Without further ado, I present my rankings. This is an NFL-style top 32, or four rounds of the 8 team PFL draft. Your life may never be the same.

250px-150mewtwo

1. Mewtwo (QB/FS)
Cam Newton. Ever heard of him? He can be pretty good, right? That’s what Mewtwo is. Big, strong, fast, a transcendent mind, and, as one of the few Pokemon with something resembling hands, the perfect quarterback for any offense. He’s almost always the best athlete on the field, and his football acumen and dedication to preparation and proving critics wrong mean he can always get better. He has no ceiling.

machoke

2. Machoke (WR/TE/RB/QB/OLB/MLB/DE/DB)
The ultimate athlete. If Curt Hennig was a Pokemon who was pretending to be a football player, he’d be Machoke. Any position on the field, he can play and dominate. His best position on offense may be tight end, where he is an instant mismatch. Prime Vernon Davis crossed with Earl Campbell. Creative offensive coordinators will have no problems getting him the ball and watching him go. On defense, he can be a one man wrecking crew, capable of setting the edge or controlling the middle, either as linebacker or safety. A jack-of-all-trades sent from God to control football games, Machoke could be the best second pick ever.

250px-009blastoise

3. Blastoise (OL)
Ask any coach: championships are won up front. Blastoise is the best offensive line prospect ever evaluated, able to play any position on the line. His smarts and game awareness make him the perfect center, his speed and strength and ideal guard, and his quick feet and hand placement the ultimate tackle. No matter what spot he’s playing, he’s always a leader and coach on the field. He’s the type of player who will be a captain from the moment he shows up as a rookie until his Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony.

golem

4. Golem (DT/C)
He’s the defensive version of Blastoise. An immovable object in the middle of the defensive line, Golem can control a game without making a single tackle. His mammoth strength and lightning quick first step allow him to destroy offensive lines and opposing quarterbacks. He’ll often occupy two or three blockers, freeing up his teammates to make plays. On offense, he’s a true road grader who can make the most mundane running back an All-Pro. He’s another rock solid leader (get it?), and isn’t plagued by the character issues and poor decision making most rock-type Pokemon suffer from. Whereas Blastoise is a pure technician on the offensive line, Golem represents pure power and strength. He’s a great cornerstone for a successful franchise.

250px-149dragonite

5. Dragonite (TE/DE)
If Gronk had wings, he’d be Dragonite. A beast with a matchup advantage against anyone, Dragonite’s size means he’s always open. A guaranteed touchdown in the red zone, Dragonite will leave defenses scratching their heads and licking their wounds as they pick up the bodies he’s left in his wake. On defense, he’s a solid 3-4 defensive end, good against the run but not much of a pass rusher.

250px-065alakazam

6. Alakazam (QB)
The second quarterback on the board, Alakazam had the highest Wonderlic score ever measured. He has Alex Smith-level scrambling ability and can process the game two steps ahead of everyone else on the field. He’s got a decent arm, but his otherworldly accuracy more than compensates. A true film junkie, Alakazam can act as his own offensive coordinator. Has some durability issues. Future coach.

250px-142aerodactyl

7. Aerodactyl (SS/WR)
If you don’t see Rodney Harrison when you see Aerodactyl, then we aren’t looking at the same thing. A true headhunting safety, Aerodactyl is known just as much for his late hits as his playmaking ability. He exemplifies rock-type players: dirty hits, big celebrations, and the ability to get it done when it matters. His range is unmatched, and his ball skills are far better than most strong safeties. He’s comfortable in the box and loves stuffing the run or blitzing, and holds his teammates accountable. If you can handle the antics and poorly timed penalties, he can be the centerpiece of a dominant defense. As a receiver, he won’t win games for you, but he’ll move the chains. A good third option in the passing game.

250px-059arcanine

8. Arcanine (DE)
When evaluating players, a key question is do you place more value a player who is good at everything and great at nothing or a player who is great at one thing and okay at everything else? When the singular skill is as good as Arcanine’s pass rushing, the choice is easy. Arcanine won’t do many things, but the one thing he does do he does better than anyone in this draft class. He’s got only one goal every play: hit the quarterback. He led the college ranks in sacks the last two seasons, and though the evaluation process showed some serious flaws in his run defense, his pass rushing can totally take over a game. He has a nose for the ball and is always making big plays. He’s a game changer on the edge of your defense.

250px-106hitmonlee

9. Hitmonlee (QB/MLB/K)
The only kicker on the big board, Hitmonlee is the traditional strong armed qb. He’s got a cannon for an arm and loves to go deep, which can get him in trouble sometimes. Will throw plenty of interceptions. If he ever pulls it down and runs, tackle him early, because this long strider is gone if he hits the open field. Doesn’t have the best pocket awareness, and can run himself into sacks sometimes. A rare quarterback/linebacker combo, Hitmonlee is a rangy 3-4 middle linebacker who racks up tackles and interceptions. Has a massive leg and can hit field goals from anywhere. Questions as to whether he has already reached his ceiling after winning the Oak Award (the Pokemon Heisman) last year.

250px-006charizard

10. Charizard (TE/DE)
The most popular player in America rounds out the top 10. Though some undoubtedly wanted to see him a little higher, his poor combine performance and slight reputation as uncoachable hurt him a little. Still, his on-field production and pure talent speak for themselves. Though not as dynamic as Dragonite, Charizard is a metronome of a tight end, slicing apart defenses up the seam with a steady diet of 15 yard gains. He won’t make you miss, but he’ll run you over and is an excellent blocker, better than many offensive line prospects. Defensively, he looks more imposing than he actually is, and he often freelances and gets himself caught out of position. With the right coach, he can be a consistent All-Pro and possible Hall of Famer.

mew

11. Mew (RB/CB)
Mew doesn’t look like much, but he’s a true difference maker on the field. He’s a shadow on defense, raking as the best cover corner in the draft. His anticipation and ability to quickly diagnose plays makes it seem like he’s in the opposing huddle at times. On the off chance he gets beat, his recovery speed and ball skills allow him to shut down any pass thrown his way. He’s a shifty running back, probably best suited as a third down receiving back.

250px-127pinsir

12. Pinsir (MLB)
In today’s game, not many middle linebackers can rank this high. Just shows how skilled Pinsir is. He’s best in a 4-3, where he can patrol the middle of the field, coming up to stop the run or dropping back, where he is an athletic, instinctual coverage man. He brings the wood every time and is the quarterback of the defense, reading plays and making adjustments. He doesn’t really have a role on offense, but he never leaves the field on d.

250px-005charmeleon

13. Charmeleon (WR/LB)
The prototypical number one receiver, Charmeleon is the perfect weapon to build a passing game around. With great hands and athleticism, he is capable of making the spectacular catch, but his route running ability usually means he doesn’t have to since he’s so open. He’s got below average speed, but that doesn’t stop him from creating big plays. He’s a beast after the catch and can go around or over defenders. On defense, he’s best positioned as a 4-3 outside linebacker, where he can use his athletic ability to shut down entire halves of the field. Slight character concerns off the field.

abra

14. Abra (WR/CB)
Underestimate Abra at your own risk. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s the fastest and quickest player in this class. He’s a devastating kick returner, flipping field position or taking it to the house every time he touches it. He’s an ace route runner as well, befuddling defenders from either the slot or outside the numbers. You can try to keep him from going deep, but you’ll fail. On the other side of the ball, he’s a good cover corner who has a tendency to jump routes. He’ll generate a lot of big plays, but he’ll get beat a lot, too. His size produces obvious durability concerns.

250px-034nidoking

15. Nidoking (G/T/DE)
One of the most imposing looking prospects on the board, Nidoking’s physicality is his greatest asset. As on offensive lineman, he mauls people in the run game. His pass protection footwork can be inconsistent at times, but he’s strong enough to cover it up. He’s a super aggressive defensive end, which can lead to him being caught offsides or out of position. Still, his penetration can kill an opponent’s game plan.

machamp

16. Machamp (DE/DT/TE)
A top 5 talent with huge upside, Machamp’s litany of off-the-field issues keep him this low. He essentially splits his time equally between being suspended and being eligible, but when he does play, watch out. With almost superhuman strength, Machamp is an absolutely dominant force on the defensive line. He can shed blockers at will, beat double and triple teams like nothing, and has mastered the art of batting passes down at the line of scrimmage. He racks up quarterback hits like a middle linebacker gets tackles. He’s even a good tight end on offense, good at blocking and in space. But again, pick him at your own risk. In the right environment, he’s a steal and a future Hall of Famer. In the wrong one, be prepared to crash and burn.

250px-141kabutops

17. Kabutops (OLB/DE/TE)
Kabutops is a versatile and athletic edge defender. His greatest assets are his speed and length, which allow him to be a pass rushing force and strong in coverage. Lacks strength in the run game, but can be a constant game wrecker for opposing passers. Has skills with the ball in his hands, but good luck getting him the ball. Has the worst hands we evaluated.

250px-145zapdos

18. Zapdos (FS/WR)
A rangy and instinctual safety, Zapdos is the ultimate centerfielder. Diagnosing plays before the snap, Zapdos is always in the right position to make a play. With great speed and athleticism, can break up passes and take them the other way. Willing, if unenthusiastic run defender. Deep threat as a receiver, but lacks refined route running ability.

250px-143snorlax

19. Snorlax (DT/T)
The strength of this class is in the trenches, and Snorlax is yet another top line prospect. A massive space eater, Snorlax is a premier nose tackle. With the size and strength to be a defensive line unto himself, Snorlax rates as the best run defender on the board. He needs to be double teamed every play, if only because he’s so much bigger than every offensive lineman. He’s doesn’t have the quickest feet, and has serious effort problems. With his size and strength, he’s been able to get away with taking plays off against lesser competition, but he won’t in the pros.

250px-107hitmonchan

20. Hitmonchan (QB/WR/OLB)
A bit of an odd player, Hitmonchan is the rare physical quarterback. Forced to play receiver in college, he displayed good athletic ability and hand eye coordination, but his true calling is as a power running option quarterback. Blessed with a huge arm but not with accuracy, he can be a frustratingly inconsistent passer. Long strides and an eagerness for contact make him a weapon in the run game. Has shown ability as an edge-setting outside linebacker, but probably best to focus on quarterback. Very emotional player with a knack for getting in scuffles.

raichu

21. Raichu (RB/OLB)
The first true bell cow running back on the board, Raichu is a talented ballcarrier. His college numbers suffered because of dismal offensive line play and the coaches’ foolish devotion to his more popular backfield mate, but his true talent will shine in a professional offense. Very good speed and quickness as well as vision add up to an explosive runner who will constantly rip big plays. Comfortable catching the ball and in pass protection. Has slight conditioning concerns and could do with some time in the weight room. Defensively is best served to be a 4-3 outside linebacker, but he’ll most likely be too burned out to contribute on that side of the ball.

250px-112rhydon

22. Rhydon (T/DE/DT)
He looks like an identical clone of Nidoking, but Rhydon has his own skill set. Rhydon is a great run blocker and consistently good pass blocker. He has a good base and strong hands. He’s a versatile defensive lineman, able to play 4-3 tackle or 3-4 end. He’s not an explosive pass rusher, but he is good against the run. He’s not an elite athlete, so he may not have much of a ceiling, but his floor is a Pro Bowl player.

250px-128tauros

23. Tauros (OLB/DE)
There’s a logjam of talent in this part of the draft, but in today’s game, elite pass rushers get top priority. Tauros is relentless, going full speed every step he takes. Though he’s a glorified situational pass rusher, Tauros can pack tons of production into limited snaps. Effort is a skill, and Tauros gives more than anyone. He’s a bit of a hothead, and don’t expect him to contribute much in any other facet of the game, but put Tauros on in passing downs and watch him go.

250px-056mankey

24. Mankey (RB/MLB)
A bulldog of a player, Mankey doesn’t let his physical limitations stop him from making an impact. A grinder of a running back, he’s a tough runner who fights for every yard between the tackles. When he gets to the second level, defensive backs will be wary of trying to tackle this bowling ball. Lacks top end speed and isn’t great in the passing game. Can be a blur on defense, flying around sideline to sideline from his middle linebacker spot, but often overcommits and is left out of position. As his game is based on effort, he may not have much of a ceiling.

250px-075graveler

25. Graveler (DT/G)
A player that could be the steal of the draft, Graveler is way too talented to be this low. However, his role in the embarrassing hazing scandal at Rock University lead to a season long suspension, during which he had multiple run ins with the law. However, get him on the field and he’s a menace. A true mauler both blocking and defending the run, Graveler moves bodies at will and is a terror as a pulling guard. Quick enough that he’ll rack up a fair amount of sacks from the middle of the line. Very likely that he’ll face another suspension after being drafted. If you’re willing to put up with that, and the probable later suspensions, he’s one of the most talented players in the class.

250px-055golduck

26. Golduck (WR/CB)
A great pro day puts Golduck ahead of other prospects in this range. Golduck is a technician of a receiver who can break ankles with his route running. Though he doesn’t have elite speed, he’s very quick and can get in and out of his breaks in the blink of an eye. He’s got great hands and always seems to get open on third down. With the ball in his hands, he can make defenders miss with ease. He’s a solid cornerback, but his lack of athleticism will prevent him from shutdown status.

250px-078rapidash

27. Rapidash (OLB)
Another pass rush specialist, Rapidash is a thoroughbred athlete. Doesn’t have the most fluid hips, struggles with side to side movement, but straight line speed is almost unmatched in this class, let alone among outside linebackers and defensive ends. Breathtaking plays can mesmerize, but make no mistake: this is a one dimensional player. Ask for anything outside of rushing the passer at your own peril.

250px-062poliwrath

28. Poliwrath (MLB/FB)
An old school middle linebacker. Will stuff the run with big hits and intimidation. Arrives at the ball with bad intentions. Decent in zone coverage, but man coverage is usually a problem. Lacks speed but has elite strength and instincts. Willing to do the dirty work and is a born winner.

250px-061poliwhirl

29. Poliwhirl (QB)
Benefitting from a dearth in quarterbacks, Poliwhirl is an average signal caller at best. Doesn’t have a good arm but is accurate underneath, he is best served in a run first offense. But, teams need quarterbacks, and, in this class, anyone will do. He is a smart and high character player who will embrace a role as game manager. It would be unwise to ask him to do more.

250px-125electabuzz

30. Electabuzz (WR/TE/OLB)
A bit of a tweener on offense, Electabuzz is somewhere between an h-back and a full blown wide receiver. Lacking the elite speed of an outside receiver or the size of a tight end, he makes his living using guile and his incredible combination of leaping ability and length. Split him out wide in the red zone for jump balls or drop him inside where he is a surprisingly tough blocker. More of a 4-3 outside linebacker than a 3-4 one, he is a steady, if unexplosive, defensive player.

250px-066machop

31. Machop (WR/CB)
Though many give more credit to the pass-heavy system than his ability for his eye popping reception totals in college, Machop has talent as a slot receiver. A crafty route runner, he lives over the middle and feeds off contact. Not a lot of speed to burn. Good hands, but not on the same level as Machoke or Charmeleon. Best served as a cover 2 corner, as his lack of speed can leave him vulnerable in man to man.

250px-057primeape

32. Primeape (MLB/OLB/FB)
The ultimate grinder, Primape won’t stop until the last echo of the last echo of the whistle, and has justly earned a reputation as a player that lives in the margins between playing hard and playing dirty. Much like his cousin Mankey, his lack of athletic ability doesn’t stop him from leaving everything on the field. Can play 4-3 outside linebacker or middle linebacker. Plays mostly on emotion and instinct rather than preparation and intelligence, and it can show at times. Not a lot of room for improvement: what he showed in college is exactly what you’ll get in the pros.

NEXT FIVE

Magmar (WR/SS), Nidorino (OLB), Pikachu (RB/WR/CB), Drowzee (C/DT), Charmander (RB/CB)

Top Coaching prospects

Magneton, Magnemite, Porygon

Future Red Zone host

Mr. Mime

So there you have it. However long that took you to read, I’m sure it was the best time you’ve ever spent. If you disagree with my rankings, we’ll just see how the draft shakes out. I know people will be upset about Pikachu, but serious toughness and durability concerns lowered his rankings. Now, time to see what I got for my birthday.