2021 NFL Mock Draft: Pats find their future QB in talented, offense-heavy class

The NFL Draft is a week away, and rumors have been all over the place about what will happen. One big question here in New England is how the Patriots will address their QB situation. Bill Belichick made a lot of additions this offseason, and he opted to re-sign Cam Newton. However, are all these additions meant to help build around Newton, or to help make the transition easier for a new quarterback? It will take a lot to get a quarterback in this offense-heavy draft class, but it may be worth it considering this is one of the best QB classes in recent history. I’ve answered that question and more in the mock draft below. The mock is based off a combo of what I think teams will do and what I think they should do.

#TeamPlayerPosCollegeWhy
1Trevor LawrenceQBClemsonIn my eyes, this one’s a no brainer. Lawrence looks like the best QB prospect we’ve seen since Andrew Luck between his insane accuracy, big arm, and quick release. He is a generational talent who can bring a level of success the Jaguars have never seen before.
2New logo for the New York Jets takes flight | Creative BloqZach WilsonQBBYUNow that the Jets dealt Sam Darnold to the Panthers, it’s pretty clear that they want to take the quarterback of their future here. Wilson faced lighter competition than other top QBs at BYU, but has a great skillset and might even have a better arm than Lawrence. It will take time for Wilson to adjust to the NFL but it’s a good investment for the future of this team.
3San Francisco 49ers logo Digital Art by Red VelesTrey LanceQBNorth
Dakota
State
The rumors here have mostly been about Mac Jones and Justin Fields. However, I think the Niners have their eye on a different QB. Lance dominated the FCS in 2019 before sitting out 2020, and looks to be the best FCS QB since Carson Wentz (also from NDSU). Lance will benefit from some time behind current Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo but San Fran will have someone to turn to in the case that Jimmy G is hurt again.
4
(TRADE)
Justin FieldsQBOhio StateBill Belichick is not known to be someone who trades up for quarterbacks. However, I think it’s very clear that Belichick is taking a different approach this year as he tries to thrust his team back into contention. He has been known to buy low on players, and Fields, once considered a top 2 QB in the class, has seen his draft stock plummet. I think Newton will be the bridge to the Fields era in Foxborough.
5cincinnati bengals logo wallpaper | Cincinnati bengals, Nfl logo, Nfl teams  logosPenei SewellOLOregonThere’s been a lot of buzz surrounding a Joe Burrow reunion with LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase. However, the Bengals would be foolish if they failed to provide Burrow extra protection. The Bengals offensive line put Burrow and RB Joe Mixon at risk. It should take priority over another weapon, as the Bengals already have WRs Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. In addition, Sewell might be the best o-line prospect since Quenton Nelson.
6Jaylen
Waddle
WRAlabamaChase is easily my top receiver in this class. However, I do see a QB-WR reunion happening here as Tua Tagovailoa reunites with Jaylen Waddle. Waddle missed time last year but proved to be talented and well-rounded when healthy. He’ll be a good fit in Miami, where he can develop into their WR1 without drawing too much coverage as a rookie.
7Ja’Marr ChaseWRLSUChase could make it past the Bengals and Dolphins, but if he falls to 7 I doubt the Lions pass on him. With Kenny Golladay leaving, the Lions need their next alpha wide receiver. Chase is talented enough to fill that role right away. Look at how good fellow LSU alumnus Justin Jefferson was last year. Chase was as good if not better than Jefferson at LSU, and we could see the same in the NFL.
8NFL Commentary: The Carolina Panthers, Sleeper In the NFC, or Overrated? |  Nfl carolina panthers, Carolina panthers football, Carolina panthers logoKyle PittsTEFloridaWith Greg Olsen gone, the Panthers were lacking at the tight end position last year. Ian Thomas (Olsen’s supposed successor) struggled mightily. Pitts has the potential to be one of the best tight ends ever. He would thrive immediately in Carolina. He reminds me a lot of Raiders breakout star Darren Waller, but could be even better.
9Mac JonesQBAlabamaI don’t think Jones is on par with the other four top QBs in this class. He benefitted a bit from his surroundings. However, it doesn’t seem that Drew Lock is the answer for Denver, and Jones could still be a quality starter in the NFL who’s worthy of a top 10 pick. The Broncos don’t need to trade up for a QB if they can get Jones right here at #9.
10Patrick Surtain IICBAlabamaAfter seeing nine straight offensive players go off the board, this is the perfect opportunity for the Cowboys to address their defense. I think Surtain is the best defensive player on the board after three strong years as a lockdown corner for Alabama.
11Kwity PayeEDGEMichiganThere’s a lot of different things the Giants could do with this pick, but they’ve been in the market for a pass rusher for years and Paye would fill that need at long last. He may have played in a 4-3 scheme at Michigan, but we’ve already seen recent Michigan pass rusher Chase Winovich thrive in 3-4 setups. I think Paye is capable of the same.
12Micah ParsonsLBPenn StateThe Eagles have been lacking at wide receiver for years, but I’d argue linebacker is an even bigger need. Parsons was a major playmaker for Penn State’s defense, and I think he’ll stand out on the Eagles defense as well. The Eagles get their star linebacker of the future with this pick and Parsons gets to stay in his home state of Pennsylvania.
13Rashawn SlaterOLNorthwesternThe Chargers may have signed Corey Linsley but there’s still work to be done with this offensive line. Slater has the versatility to play tackle or guard and could be a very valuable part of this line if the Chargers opt to take him.
14Christian
Darrisaw
OLVirginia TechDarrisaw has shot up draft boards of late, and the Vikings could use just about any o-line help they can get. Darrisaw would be an instant starter for the Vikings, most likely at left tackle.
15
(TRADE)
Jeremiah Owusu-KoromoahLBNotre DameThe Falcons could still use more help at linebacker surrounding Deion Jones. It would have been a reach for any linebacker at 4, but taking Owusu-Koromoah at 15 is good value for them. You could even argue he’s better than Parsons. At the very least, he’ll be a solid starting linebacker.
16
(TRADE)
Devonta SmithWRAlabamaArizona’s pressing need is at tight end, and they’d be reaching for a tight end in this spot. With Devonta Smith still on the board, I have Indy trading up to capitalize on the opportunity. Smith may be undersized, but he’s a very talented receiver who’s an excellent route runner. He’ll have the opportunity to become Carson Wentz’s top target.
17Jaycee HornCBSouth CarolinaThe Raiders have a decent secondary but lack a true leader there. Horn has the potential to shine in this secondary and become the #1 corner for Vegas. With a lot of the top receivers and linebackers off the board, corner is the right move here.
18Gregory RousseauEDGEMiamiThe Dolphins swapped edge rusher Shaq Lawson for Benardrick McKinney to add to the LB corps, but now they need another edge rusher. One of the Miami Hurricanes edge rushers would be a good fit, as they are local prospects and some of the best on the board. I see them taking Rousseau over Jaelan Phillips but they could potentially take either.
19Washington Home | Washington Football Team - WashingtonFootball.comZaven CollinsLBTulsaWashington needs two major things from this draft: help at linebacker and a better o-line. Once they have those two things they’ll be one of the most well-rounded teams in football and could make a case for a playoff run. Collins will definitely fit well here.
20Trevon MoehrigSTCUThe Bears need a long term solution at safety alongside Eddie Jackson. Moehrig is really the only safety worth a first round investment and the Bears should be able to land him here.
21Arizona Cardinals Logo PNG Transparent & SVG Vector - Freebie Supply(TRADE)Pat FreiermuthTEPenn StateFreiermuth is still a bit of a reach at 21 but is the best option for Arizona, who desperately needs a tight end. Freiermuth has picked up the nickname “Baby Gronk” and should be a capable pass catcher and blocker in the NFL, even though he’s not on par with Kyle Pitts.
22Samuel CosmiOLTexasWith Isaiah Wilson leaving after one year, the Titans are still looking for their new right tackle, and it’s one of their most pressing needs. Cosmi fits the bill for what they’re looking for and will likely be the best tackle on the board at this point.
23New logo for the New York Jets takes flight | Creative BloqCaleb FarleyCBVirginia TechThe Jets have had a hole at corner for multiple years, and the departure of Jamal Adams has only made their secondary worse. Farley would be a good start in building this secondary back up to where it needs to be for contention.
24Travis EtienneRBClemsonI think Najee Harris is the most well rounded back in this draft class, but Etienne is a better fit here in Pittsburgh. He is not a power back but is an elusive and speedy back who is capable of playing all three downs. Early on, I see Benny Snell Jr. having a role here, but Etienne will eventually be able to take over the backfield. I see a lot of D’Andre Swift in Etienne, except mixed in with the speed of someone like Nick Chubb.
25Rashod BatemanWRMinnesotaThe Jaguars may have signed Marvin Jones this offseason but could still use another weapon. Bateman adds depth to the Jaguars WR corps and like the three receivers taken before him, he has the potential to emerge as a #1 receiver. Bateman will likely be the last WR remaining from the top tier of this draft class so the Jags should take advantage.
26Nick BoltonLBMissouriThe Browns look to be a fairly complete team and with a good season from QB Baker Mayfield they could be Super Bowl contenders. The only need I really think they have is at linebacker, and that can be taken care of easily with this pick.
27Wyatt DavisOLOhio StateThe Ravens recently lost star interior lineman Marshal Yanda to retirement. Davis has the potential to fill that role in Baltimore for years to come. With the top tier of wide receivers out of the question, addressing the o-line will be a priority here.
28Christian BarmoreDLAlabamaAfter releasing a handful of guys to save cap space, the Saints will need to upgrade the defense, including the defensive line. This is a rather weak d-line class, but Barmore stands out among the rest of the defensive linemen available.
29Alijah Vera-TuckerOLUSCVera-Tucker has risen up people’s draft boards lately, but I think he fits best in a very specific role where he has the flexibility to play tackle or guard. He’ll be able to do that in Green Bay, especially with Elgton Jenkins starting to see time at center now that Corey Linsley is gone.
30How the LA Rams' new logo managed to anger an entire fanbase | Los Angeles  Rams | The Guardian
(TRADE)
Jaelan PhillipsEDGEMiamiThe Rams haven’t had a first round pick in a couple years due to the Jalen Ramsey trade. I think they’ll put a package together to move up if Phillips falls this far. Phillips shined as part of a strong Miami pass rush and could have the chance to stand out in LA’s pass rush.
31New logo for the New York Jets takes flight | Creative Bloq
(TRADE)
Najee HarrisRBAlabamaRunning backs like Harris aren’t available every day. The Jets still need to find a starting running back, and I think they’ll be willing to move up a few spots from their early second round selection to secure one. Harris’ raw strength reminds me of Derrick Henry, and unlike Henry he can catch passes too.
32Creed HumphreyOLOklahomaThe Buccaneers pretty much brought back their entire Super Bowl roster, but some more protection for Tom Brady can’t hurt. They secured a tackle in Tristan Wirfs with their last first rounder. This time around I see them addressing the interior.

In the later rounds, I think the Patriots will add a wide receiver as well as some front seven help. I could see them targeting a receiver like Elijah Moore or Amon-Ra St. Brown on Day 2. That’s all for today’s mock draft, but my coverage of the draft will continue on draft day when I take part in a livestream on The Master Plan YouTube channel with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky.

MLB 2021 Predictions: National League

April is almost here, and when the month begins, so will the MLB season. Just like in my last 7 years writing this blog, I have put together predictions for the season. We only got 60 MLB games last year, but for this year we’ll have a full 162 game season. I just went on my cousin Michael Philipkosky’s podcast, the Master Plan, to discuss all 30 teams, with one episode for the AL and one episode for the NL. Monday, I posted the AL podcast alongside my predictions. You can check out the NL podcast here, and I have my full NL predictions below.

NL East

  1. Atlanta Braves (100-62, #2 seed)
  2. New York Mets (91-71, #5 seed)
  3. Philadelphia Phillies (89-73)
  4. Washington Nationals (82-80)
  5. Miami Marlins (78-84)

This might be the best division in baseball. The Braves and Mets will be competing for the division title most likely. Atlanta has a great duo of star hitters in first baseman Freddie Freeman and outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. Their rotation is also starting to come together between younger pitchers like Ian Anderson and veterans like Charlie Morton (signed this offseason). The Mets were purchased by Steve Cohen this offseason, and he told Mets fans that the Mets would leave mediocrity behind them and act like the big market team they are. Cohen hired a new GM, and the team made a ton of moves, highlighted by a trade for shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. You also can’t forget that they have Jacob deGrom who’s arguably the best pitcher in baseball.

That doesn’t mean the other teams won’t be competitive. It will be difficult to secure a playoff spot in the NL, but the rest of these teams will at least fail trying. Philadelphia has their flaws, but between outfielder Bryce Harper, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, and a nice top two starting pitchers in Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, they have a lot of talent. This should be a somewhat competitive team, but the bullpen among other minor problems could hold them back, similar to how the Celtics have struggled this season in the NBA. The Nationals experienced a World Series hangover last year, and I think they’ll see some improvement in 2021 even though that will be tough in this division. They brought in first baseman Josh Bell alongside outfielder Juan Soto and an amazing rotation. Washington has as much star power as most teams in baseball, but they lack the depth to make a run in this NL East.

The Marlins were the joke of the division back in 2019, but they saw many young pitchers break out and lead them to a 2020 playoff spot. The outfield has really come along as well with Adam Duvall joining Starling Marte and Corey Dickerson. I think the Marlins have definitely made progress in their rebuild, more so than the Tigers and Orioles who saw surprising starts to the season last year. However, it will be hard for Miami to make the playoffs again now that they are back down to 10 teams (you never know though).

Even though the Mets and Braves are frontrunners, I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of these teams in the playoffs.

NL Central

  1. Cincinnati Reds (88-74, #3 seed)
  2. St. Louis Cardinals (87-75)
  3. Chicago Cubs (80-82)
  4. Milwaukee Brewers (65-97)
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates (53-109)

I doubt more than one team makes the playoffs out of this division. Compared to the depth of the NL East and the star power of the NL West, the NL Central is not in a good spot. I think the Reds and Cardinals will be competing for that spot. The Reds lost starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, but the lineup is still strong and the rotation is still serviceable despite depth problems behind Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo. The Cardinals were already decent last year. Now they brought in star third baseman and MVP candidate Nolan Arenado. That could put them in a position to contend, but I still don’t see them dominating this division.

The Cubs were looking like they were in for a long rebuild after cutting contracts early in the offseason. However, after lots of rumors they decided to hold on to third baseman Kris Bryant and add some rotation depth. If they were trying to rebuild, they halted that effort. If they’re trying to contend, I don’t see them achieving that goal. The Cubs haven’t really chosen what direction to go in, and I expect that they will decide by the time the Trade Deadline rolls around. If not, they’ll be stuck in the middle for now.

The Brewers may have 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich in their lineup, but this rotation is not anywhere close to the other teams in this division. They’ll need to add pitching before they think about contending again.

They’ll still be better than Pittsburgh, a rebuilding team in their own realm. They already traded first baseman Josh Bell and I bet outfielder Gregory Polanco will be gone by midseason. That will leave an inexperienced roster with no sign of improvement anytime soon. They’ll need some prospects to develop before they contend again. That development will start by letting the MLB ready prospects like third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes start.

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (107-55, #1 seed)
  2. San Diego Padres (94-68, #4 seed)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks (81-81)
  4. San Francisco Giants (77-85)
  5. Colorado Rockies (65-97)

The Dodgers are another team that will be in their own realm: a realm of dominance. This lineup is highlighted by outfielders Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger but has a lot of talent and depth around those two including Corey Seager and Justin Turner. The lineup isn’t even the best part here. The Dodgers have David Price, Dustin May, and Julio Urias competing for their final two rotation spots! That’s because they have Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, and Walker Buehler as their top three. No team in baseball has a rotation that can compete with that. The Dodgers are the closest thing I’ve seen in a while to a lock for the best record in baseball. The question is whether the Dodgers will choke in the playoffs like they did in 2017, 2018, and 2019 before winning it all in 2020.

Everyone’s been debating whether the Dodgers or Padres will win this division. I don’t understand how you can have that debate. The Padres are a really good baseball team. In some other divisions they’d come out on top. In this division they seem to be a lock for a Wild Card spot. The Padres rotation went from inconsistent at best to one of the better rotations in baseball. This offseason they brought in Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove to bolster the pitching staff. The lineup was already strong, headlined by third baseman Manny Machado and the young Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop. However, you can’t put them on the same level as the Dodgers.

Behind those two teams, this division isn’t anything spectacular. The Diamondbacks might be the definition of average. They don’t have many standout players, but they have a serviceable lineup and a serviceable rotation. This is a high floor, low ceiling team. They will most likely be close to, if not exactly .500. They should beat up on the Giants and Rockies but cannot come anywhere close to competing with the Dodgers and Padres.

The Giants have improved between developing young talent and bringing in a couple of veterans. This isn’t their year though. Maybe next year they’ll see more improvement and cook up some even year magic. The Rockies have actually regressed since last year. They dealt away Arenado and shortstop Trevor Story and outfielder Charlie Blackmon could be gone soon too. The core of the lineup is beginning to disband and though the rotation saw some success last year, it’s nothing spectacular.


That’s all for my MLB predictions this year. Stay tuned for more baseball coverage soon, including my MLB playoff bracket which I’ll be posting at some point on Twitter.

MLB 2021 Predictions: American League

April is almost here, and when the month begins, so will the MLB season. Just like in my last 7 years writing this blog, I have put together predictions for the season. We only got 60 MLB games last year, but for this year we’ll have a full 162 game season. I just went on my cousin Michael Philipkosky’s podcast, the Master Plan, to discuss all 30 teams, with one episode for the AL and one episode for the NL. You can check out the AL podcast here, and I have my full AL predictions below.

AL East

  1. New York Yankees (96-66, #2 seed)
  2. Toronto Blue Jays (89-73, #5 seed)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays (84-78)
  4. Boston Red Sox (80-82)
  5. Baltimore Orioles (58-104)

I think the Yankees are in a good position to win this division. They lost some of the pitching depth they had last year, but this lineup is still on another level compared to the other teams in the AL East. Even with some injuries last year, the Yankees were able to dominate the AL East, and I expect the same this year. The question is whether they have the pitching staff to go all the way.

This should be a competitive division behind the Yankees. The Blue Jays, Rays, and Red Sox should all finish somewhat close in the standings. The Jays are really starting to come together. The young talent in the lineup is improving and they’ll be supplemented by new outfielder George Springer and new middle infielder Marcus Semien. Their rotation is also really starting to look sharp.

Tampa was the AL pennant winner last year, but this was a team that was highlighted by its dominant rotation and the Rays lost two of their top three starting pitchers. As a small market team, they tend to subtract in the offseason as opposed to adding. As they lose a key element of their 2020 team, they will see a significant World Series hangover.

The Red Sox should get Chris Sale back towards the end of the year, and when they do they could force the Rays into 4th place. After bringing back Alex Cora and making some underrated signings, I see the Sox finishing around .500 like they did back in 2019. However, this team is hard to read. They have a low floor (they could be a repeat of last year), and a high ceiling (they could potentially contend for a Wild Card). The signings by GM Chaim Bloom have included multiple utility players. Bloom, a University of Pennsylvania alumnus, explained some of his reasoning behind this in a Q&A at a UPenn event on Wednesday. He stated that in the past, utility players were often limited to utility role because they weren’t good enough to play a position every day. However, in modern baseball, there are utility players who can play every day at a variety of positions, like Enrique Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez who he signed. These players likely flew under the radar due to the fact that they’re utility guys.

I can’t really see the Orioles competing with these teams. The Orioles have improved since 2019, but their early 2020 success was a bit of a fluke. I think the young talent is starting to come along but it won’t be enough to make a noticeable difference just yet.

AL Central

  1. Chicago White Sox (101-61, #1 seed)
  2. Minnesota Twins (90-72, #4 seed)
  3. Kansas City Royals (77-85)
  4. Cleveland Indians (75-87)
  5. Detroit Tigers (66-96)

The White Sox are really starting to come together. They have a good ace in Lucas Giolito. The lineup is looking great between young talent like Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, and Nick Madigral and more experienced players like Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal. I think they have what it takes to make a deep playoff run this year. I have them ahead of the Twins, who choked in the playoffs last year. Minnesota has a strong rotation headlined by Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda, and Randy Dobnak, but their lack of elite lineup talent compared to other top teams is going to hold them back from more than a Wild Card. The Twins should be able secure 2nd place though, as the rest of this division is unlikely to compete.

The Royals have added talent, including starting pitcher Mike Minor, and they have a decent core led by Hunter Dozier and Whit Merrifield. However, I don’t think they have quite enough firepower to contend. I think they will get third place over the Indians, who dealt away Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor in an effort to lower payroll. Star hitter and third baseman Jose Ramirez is still in Cleveland, but the Indians don’t have any other big name hitters. They also lack rotation depth behind defending Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. Aside from Bieber and Ramirez, the Indians lack star power. The Tigers got off to a strong start last year thanks to the emergence of outfielder JaCoby Jones. They should perform better than they did in 2019, but I still don’t think they’ll be anywhere close to playoff contention in a 162 game season.

AL West

  1. Los Angeles Angels (87-75, #3 seed)
  2. Houston Astros (84-78)
  3. Oakland Athletics (76-86)
  4. Texas Rangers (65-97)
  5. Seattle Mariners (63-99)

This division is not nearly as strong as it was last year. The Angels always tend to disappoint with a lack of success surrounding star outfielder Mike Trout, but I think they’ll be able to win this weakened division. That doesn’t necessarily imply playoff success. The Angels did add some pitching help and that should put them in position to win the AL West but taking down the Yankees or White Sox will be a difficult feat. The Astros should come close as well, even though they lost outfielders George Springer and Josh Reddick. This lineup’s success between 2017 and 2019 was likely boosted by sign stealing, and the depth of the rotation is slowly dwindling, so I have the Angels edging out Houston here, but it will be close.

The A’s will probably have the biggest drop off in the division. They have a very talented young rotation, but without shortstop Marcus Semien and designated hitter Khris Davis, this lineup is lacking standout hitters. Corner infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are improving at the plate, but that’s not enough lineup talent for a playoff team. I have them falling to third place, but finishing ahead of the Rangers and Mariners.

The Rangers failed to contend last year with an awkward mix of young talent and older players, so they’ve torn it down and prepared for a rebuild headed into this season. Joey Gallo is still here but I don’t expect him to stay for long. Seattle has some young talent that is starting to develop and could have a very strong outfield soon once Kyle Lewis and top prospect Jarred Kelenic fully develop alongside Mitch Haniger. Even with the outfield and the rotation improving, this isn’t the year for Seattle to contend.


That’s all for these American League predictions. I’ll have my NL predictions out in the next couple days. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Celebrating 7 Years of Boston Sports Mania

Today marks 7 years since I took a book out of the library and decided to start this blog, posting an MLB 2014 Preview. That’s pretty fitting considering my sports fandom began with baseball.

Just like I did in 2014 and have done in every year since, I’ll be posting my MLB season predictions before the season begins. For the second year in a row, I collaborated on these predictions with my cousin Michael. I made an appearance on his podcast, The Master Plan. I’ll have a post up about those this weekend. In the meantime, I have some special announcements to make.

I designed this new logo in commemoration of this 7 year blog anniversary as well as the upcoming Autism Acceptance Month this April:

When I was first diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, my parents were told I may never speak. I have made lots of progress since then, from learning to talk, read, and write, to discovering my passion for sports, to starting this blog. After starting this blog, I realized I wanted to become a professional sports journalist, and I have been lucky enough to have some experiences in the industry thanks to connections I’ve made through this blog.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the supportive communities that helped me along the way. That’s why I’ve launched a apparel fundraising campaign featuring this new logo to help give back to the autism community this April.

Click here or watch the video below for more information on this campaign:

I’m excited to be celebrating 7 years of Boston Sports Mania and Autism Acceptance Month with this campaign, and I look forward to keeping this website active for many years to come.

2021 NFL Free Agency Predictions: Defense

Free agency is underway. If you’ve been following my Twitter, you’ve seen updates on the free agents who have signed so far and my defensive free agency predictions. I’m writing this article to take a deeper dive into those defensive predictions. Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

It’s going to be tough this offseason for teams who need d-line help due to a shallow draft class and shallow DL market in free agency. I have the Lions and Titans, two teams with big DL needs, bringing back familiar faces in Suh and Casey. Short, the long time Panther, was recently released. I have him taking a cheaper deal with the Vikings.

Guy and Gotsis will sign a second contract with their 2020 teams, while Jones leaves Tennessee with Casey back and heads to Tampa Bay, replacing Suh.

I think Fletcher Cox will either be released or traded by the Eagles, so he could be another hot commodity on the DL market.

I have the Chargers re-signing Ingram. They’ll need Ingram and Henry back plus more if they want a playoff spot this year. The Jets and Bengals, who have lots of cap space, will also get in on this pass rush market. I have Dupree leaving the Steelers for New York and Ngakoue staying in the AFC North as he heads to Cincinnati to replace Carlos Dunlap.

I see Clowney back in Tennessee, but on a much cheaper deal. Houston and Kerrigan will also need to take cheaper deals, and I think they will get them on new teams. The Browns can bring in Houston as a slight upgrade over Olivier Vernon, and signing Kerrigan is only the beginning of what this Atlanta pass rush will need.

Note: I was unable to update these predictions after Tampa Bay’s signing of Shaquill Barrett

The Dolphins just acquired Benardrick McKinney in exchange for Shaq Lawson, but that won’t be enough to fulfill the LB corps. Barrett can play a mix of OLB and ILB for the Dolphins. Judon is asking for a lot of money, but the Ravens have the cap space to afford him. I also think Wright returns to his long-time team.

Reddick will be the Kerrigan replacement in Washington, getting reps at 4-3 OLB and DE. Van Noy heads to Cleveland to headline an underwhelming LB corps there. Davis would simply be a depth signing for the 49ers, but they need more around Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner to complete their LB corps.

This is one of the best cornerback markets in a long time. I think Rhodes and Jackson both sign back with their 2020 teams, but other top corners will move around. I have two veterans switching teams: Peterson heading to the Jets and Sherman heading back to Seattle. The Jets could really use a big name corner, and Peterson isn’t in his prime but would be the best corner on the Jets roster.

Two corners formerly from a strong Chargers secondary, Hayward and King, have also hit the open market. I have Hayward heading to the Bay Area to replace Sherman and King headed to the Raiders to supplement Trayvon Mullen in the Vegas secondary.

I see a lot of movement happening in the remaining free agent safety market. Two elite safeties in Justin Simmons and Marcus Maye received the franchise tag, and I don’t see any other notable safeties aside from Gipson returning to their 2020 teams.

I have Neal heading from Atlanta to the 49ers, a team that could use more flare to their secondary. I have the Vikings moving on from Harris and signing a cheaper option in Vaccaro. Harris will head to Arizona to form a star-studded duo with Budda Baker.

Hooker will head to Detroit after the rise of Blackmon set up Indy for a bright future at safety. Joseph would be replaced in the lineup by a young, healthy Grant Delpit if he stayed, so I have him headed to Jacksonville, a team that could use more defensive depth all over the place.

That’s all for my defensive free agency predictions. I’ll have more NFL coverage soon. In addition, the 7-year anniversary of my site is coming up, and I have a big announcement coming that day, so stay tuned.

2021 NFL Free Agency Predictions: Offense

One of the busiest weeks in sports is upon us. NFL free agency is around the corner, March Madness will be starting in just a few days, and Spring Training is in action as MLB teams prepare for the season. Today, I’m here with the first half of my NFL free agency predictions. This article will cover all offensive players, while I’ll be covering defensive players in the next one. As always, feel free to comment with your thoughts, and keep reading for my predictions below.

The NFL draft is the best route for teams who are in need of QBs, but some teams will settle for a free agent or bring in a free agent QB as a backup or bridge.

I have Winston resigning in New Orleans and getting a chance to start, but none of these other QBs are a sure thing to get a starting job. I have Fitzpatrick headed to Denver to compete with Drew Lock, but there’s no guarantee he’ll end up starting. Smith and Brissett both secure backup roles in the NFC East, while Dalton will remain in the NFC East and compete for the Washington Football Team QB job. He’ll probably compete with both Taylor Heinicke and a rookie in an open battle. Trubisky will also be limited to a backup role this year, but in Pittsburgh, he can learn from QB Ben Roethlisberger and potentially get a chance to succeed him as QB of the Steelers in 2022.

Note: Aaron Jones has signed with Green Bay, and it was too late for me to modify my RB predictions accordingly.

The only free agent RB I could see earning a workhorse role with a new team is Aaron Jones. Some of the teams who need a RB most will want to wait for the NFL Draft and target RBs like Travis Etienne, Najee Harris, and Javonte Williams. I have the Steelers, Jets, and Falcons waiting for the draft.

I have Carson headed to Buffalo to lead the committee with Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, giving the Bills an extra flare to their run game when he’s healthy. I had the Seahawks replacing Carson with a RB who’s arguably better in Jones. The rest of these backs, like Carson, will be in time shares. Bell will take the third down role in New England with James White and Rex Burkhead leaving. Fournette will head to Philly, who wants a RB to pair with Sanders. Drake will head back to Arizona for a committee with Chase Edmonds.

Gallman, who I have back in New York, should get some reps early in the season as Saquon Barkley recovers and replace Barkley in the case of an injury. The Giants don’t have a backup for Barkley on the roster right now so bringing back Gallman or bringing in someone else is important.

The free agent WR market will be one of the most active parts of this free agency, as several high profile wide receivers capable of #1 roles hit the open market. I have Golladay headed to Jacksonville as they bulk up the offense for Trevor Lawrence. I also think Allen Robinson will be traded to resolve his dissatisfaction with the franchise tag (I have him headed to Miami). Those two aren’t even the only significant names available.

The Patriots are another team that could use a #1 receiver, and I think Fuller fits the bill. He really proved himself in his contract year with the Texans despite a PED suspension cutting his season short. I have AB headed to the Ravens to form a duo with his cousin Marquise. Davis heads to Detroit, as they have limited money but only have 2 WRs on the current roster (I do also expect the Lions to draft 1-2 receivers). The Colts will probably be in the mix for guys like Golladay, but I have them signing a cheaper former Lion in Marvin Jones to play next to Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell.

Smith-Schuster heads to Washington, as he was good in a #2 role with Pittsburgh when AB was there and would be good in a #2 role with the team who needs it most. It would take pressure off Terry McLaurin and make the offense easier to work with for whoever the new QB is.

In addition to these guys, Zach Ertz and David Njoku could receive attention on the trade market, and Kyle Pitts could easily land a starting job via the draft. I think the Patriots and Cardinals will wait on a tight end in hopes of landing one of those guys.

Meanwhile, expect the Chargers and Titans, two other teams with a big tight end need, to resign their 2020 tight ends to new contracts. I also have Tonyan, a restricted free agent, returning to his 2020 team, the Packers. The second tier of tight ends will see more movement in the free agent market. I have Everett leaving his time share with Tyler Higbee for the Jaguars starting TE job. Similarly, I have Burton, who was part of Indianapolis’ TE trio, headed to Carolina. The Panthers could still easily pair Burton with Pitts from the NFL draft. I have Cook, an older tight end, headed to Cincinnati to add depth to young QB Joe Burrow’s offense.

I have a lot of top offensive linemen resigning with their 2020 teams, including Linsley, Williams, Mack, and Andrews. If they resign Andrews, they probably won’t need Thuney as they can run with a starting o-line of Trent Brown, Michael Onwenu, Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Isaiah Wynn. I have Thuney headed to the Chargers, who probably need to sign multiple interior o-linemen this off-season. It will be hard for Fisher, who was released by the Chiefs, to land another left tackle job over guys like Orlando Brown (who will probably be traded to a team in need of a LT). I have him landing in Seattle and playing the right side.

That’s all for this portion of my free agency predictions. Stay tuned for my defensive predictions in the next 24 hours.

Final March Madness Bracketology: Where teams stand with conference tourneys in action

We’re just a few days away from Selection Sunday, and several tickets to March Madness have been punched already. What’s not clear is where these teams will be seeded, and which teams will make it on at-large bids. Below I have my final projection of the March Madness bracket. Teams that have already punched their ticket are included, and the rest of the conference winners are based off my predictions. Feel free to comment with your thoughts and keep reading to see which teams could be in and which teams could be out.

The Bracket

Gonzaga is the first team to enter the tourney undefeated since Karl-Anthony Towns and the Kentucky Wildcats in 2015. This Gonzaga team has plenty of experience between Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi, and Drew Timme and a top NBA prospect in Jalen Suggs. The Bulldogs often fall short in March but it’ll take another powerhouse to defeat Gonzaga this time around. Iowa might very well be that powerhouse. After a rough patch in early February, Iowa has rebounded thanks to dominant performances by Luka Garza and improvement from Joe Wieskamp. They recently got revenge on Ohio State and have found their way back to the 2 line.

The Jayhawks have looked like their usual selves of late, and they are the only team to defeat Baylor this year. The loss of David McCormack could hurt but I still have them as a 3 seed. The defending champion Cavaliers struggled in late February as they fell to Duke and NC State but they still look to be a top 16 team. Texas Tech, who lost the title to Virginia two years ago, has failed to stand out so far this year. However, they’ve kept up with an extremely competitive Big 12 and that is impressive on its own.

Tennessee has seen some rough losses lately but I still think they have the depth to make a deep tournament run and should end up as a 6 or 7 seed. Oregon, on the other hand, has rebounded after mid-season struggles. This week they took down UCLA and got revenge on Oregon State. Led by Will Richardson and Chris Duarte, Oregon is my pick to win the Pac-12. That’s not a huge feat this year but should be enough for the top half of the bracket.

Saint Louis is seen as a bubble team by most but I think their wins over LSU and St. Bonaventure (in the regular season) should secure them a safe spot in the tourney. They did get swept by Dayton and were a little tripped up by the long COVID pause but other than that they posted a strong season. I have them against Wisconsin, a middle of the pack B1G team, in the 8-9 game. Drake may have lost to Loyola-Chicago in the Arch Madness final but I think their undefeated start and competitiveness with a ranked Loyola team warrants a spot in the tourney. I have Western Kentucky here on an autobid; their upset of Alabama is the reasoning behind their high seed. They end up with a higher seed than Big East teams Xavier and Providence, who I have meeting in the First Four. A 22-1 Winthrop squad gets the 13 seed here after punching their ticket, and fellow ticket punchers Morehead State and Oral Roberts have lower seeds. Norfolk State and Siena should come out on top of their conferences as well.

Illinois has lost more games than the other 1 seeds in this bracket, but considering they have wins over Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio State and their worst loss is against Maryland, they deserve to be on the 1 line. Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn could lead them on a very deep run. Houston has a better record than Illinois but has faced lighter competition and has a loss to AAC basement dwellers East Carolina.

I have Texas as the third ranked Big 12 team in this projection, as they swept Kansas and have many other significant conference wins. Arkansas is also one of the best in their conference. They had a light schedule early on, but now have wins over Alabama, LSU, Florida, and Missouri. Speaking of the Gators, I have them as a 7 seed after an up and down but overall strong SEC performance.

UConn is another team that I’m higher on than most. With James Bouknight back, UConn has appeared to be unstoppable. I think they are absolutely capable of topping Creighton and a banged up Villanova team in the Big East tournament. Led by the Mobley brothers, I have USC securing the highest Pac-12 seed, but don’t be surprised if they fall short in the Pac-12 tournament.

In the 8-9 game, I have Clemson and BYU. Clemson has been rather inconsistent this season, but led by Aamir Simms they have enough quality wins to be in the top half of the bracket. BYU came very close to upsetting Gonzaga in the WCC final. Even without that win they have a solid resume. Nah’Shon Hyland has taken a huge step up this year to lead VCU all the way to the Atlantic 10 finals. Whether or not they win that game, the Rams should make the tournament. They’re a safer bet than teams like Louisville or Colorado State, who have posted solid seasons but lack the big name wins for a tournament resume that stands out. Rounding out the region I have Liberty, UNC Greensboro, Appalachian State, and Mount St. Mary’s (already punched tickets) as well as Prairie View who I see joining them.

Baylor had a rough patch coming off their COVID pause when they fell to Kansas. Other than that, Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Mark Vital have led the Bears to Big 12 dominance. Florida State suffered a rough loss against Notre Dame, and they also have a UCF loss on their resume, but their ACC success and impressive record convinced me to keep them on the 2 line. Ohio State has declined from their top 5 status after losses to Iowa and Michigan State, but should still secure a pretty high seed barring any B1G tournament upsets. Purdue has won when they’re supposed to win and they swept Ohio State, so that secures them a safe spot in the top half of the bracket. They still don’t have the kind of resume the Buckeyes have. Villanova, who was at one point on the 1 line, has had a rocky second half and just lost Collin Gillespie for the season. They’re down to a 4 seed and could be prone to a first round upset.

LSU lacked standout wins early in the year, but recently took down Tennessee and Missouri, so they’re safely in the tournament now. Missouri, meanwhile, has fallen to the 10 line after extreme inconsistency. Yes, Missouri has a great veteran core led by Xavier Pinson. Yes, Missouri’s wins include Tennessee, Oregon, Florida, and best of all Illinois. However, they’ve also lost to teams like Mississippi State that are barely even NIT material and have failed to improve as the season progresses like some other teams have.

I have Missouri taking on a 7 seed that has also fallen down the bracket, Oklahoma. The Sooners were among the Big 12’s elite teams until a loss to Kansas State that was only the beginning of a 4 game skid. Oklahoma is now just 14-9 and seventh place in the conference. In the 8-9 game, I have McKinley Wright-led Pac-12 contender Colorado and A10 contender St. Bonaventure. Both these teams have been competitive in their conference, but being competitive in a conference like the A10 isn’t the same as being competitive in the B1G or Big 12.

Syracuse had a rather underwhelming start to the season, but topped UNC and Clemson this week to give their resume a major boost. They secure one of the last four byes, while Ole Miss and Boise State will have to meet in the First Four. I have Abilene Christian, Grand Canyon, and UC Irvine winning their conferences to join UMass Lowell in rounding out this region.

Michigan has struggled down the stretch, dropping 2 of their 3 games last week, but they still deserve a 1 seed after winning the B1G regular season title. Alabama won the SEC regular season title, but they have some non-conference losses that stand out and drag their resume down. Herbert Jones could lead them on a deep tourney run but I’m concerned that they will struggle against unfamiliar opponents in the tournament. Creighton has also had an up and down season. They’ve come close in every game, which has led to a mix of impressive wins and disappointing losses.

I’m not huge on the Mountaineers; I don’t feel they’re as good as Big 12 counterparts Kansas and Texas but I do have them in the top 16 as most people do. They have kept up with the Big 12 but I feel like their resume is similar to Purdue’s. It’s solid but it doesn’t stand out. I do have them above Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State is still waiting on a verdict in a case that would have banned them from this tournament but they are eligible for the tournament until evidence against them is proven. Despite a strong Big 12 season and impressive performances by Cade Cunningham, they got swept by a bottom tier Big 12 team in TCU. In between those two is San Diego State, who won the regular season title in the Mountain West and also has a victory over UCLA. They may have lost Malachi Flynn but they could still make a run after disappointment from the cancellation of last year’s NCAA tournament.

Loyola-Chicago came out on top of a Missouri Valley Conference that’s stronger than usual. I don’t have them in my top 25 like AP does but I do think they’ll secure a strong seed in the tournament. They’ll secure a higher seed than Virginia Tech and Wichita State, who I have meeting in the 8-9 game. Both those teams pulled off major upsets but lack other good wins around it. The Hokies topped Villanova and Virginia, while the Shockers picked up a win when they hosted Houston.

Blue bloods UNC and Michigan State have had a harder time securing a tourney spot than they do most years, but after strong finishes I think both will make it. UNC recently beat Florida State and Sparty now holds wins over three of the top four B1G teams. Not far behind the blue bloods is Colgate, who has excellent advanced metrics and a 12-1 record. Akron and Eastern Washington should win their conferences and line up behind Colgate, while Cleveland State and Drexel already clinched a spot.

Bubble Watch

The Terps just barely miss the field of 68. They have a good handful of wins including one over Illinois but they had a rough week, losing to Northwestern and for the second time, Penn State. Utah State is also very close. They were definitely competitive in the Mountain West, but struggled a bit in non-conference games, the worst of which was a loss to South Dakota State. Georgia Tech has crafted a decent tournament resume after significant ACC success, but they are just 13-8 after beginning the season with two losses to mid-major squads: Mercer and Georgia State. UCLA has been alright, but they have not had many opportunities for big wins in the Pac-12, and they have not stood out like Oregon, Colorado, and USC have. UCLA’s biggest win by far is over Colorado, and they’ve dropped games to bottom half Pac-12 teams that are nowhere near tourney material.

Memphis has also had a fairly bland resume. They topped Wichita State, but that’s by far their biggest win, and it’s not enough for March Madness. Rutgers’ road struggles have continued this year, and they fell to teams like Penn State and Nebraska on the road. St. John’s took down Villanova, UConn, and others, but has been wildly inconsistent, so it’s unclear how good they truly are. NC State has a win over Virginia that boosted them onto the edge of the bubble but that alone won’t be enough for a bid.

Most of these teams still have a chance to make the tournament if they make a run in their conference tournaments. It will be harder for teams like Utah State, UCLA, and Memphis than B1G teams like Maryland and Rutgers, but it’s possible. NC State already lost to Syracuse in the ACC tourney, but the other 7 teams all still have a realistic chance to secure an at-large bid or even an automatic bid.

I can’t wait for March Madness to begin, and I’m sure many of you feel the same way.

Red Sox Spring Training Preview: How much improvement should we expect?

It’s been a long winter, but somehow, some way, baseball is already around the corner. As snow melts and temperatures warm up north, the Red Sox and every other MLB team are down south getting ready for the season. The regular season begins on April 1, and leading up to that date I’ll have multiple preview posts out.

That all starts today. I’ll be giving my thoughts on Boston’s offseason moves as well as what the team needs this season to succeed. Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Off-season in Review

Garrett Richards' stuff reminds Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora of  six-time All-Star Kevin Brown; 'This might be cool' - masslive.com
Garrett Richards is at Spring Training with the Red Sox after joining the team this off-season. Photo via Mass Live

The Red Sox will lose outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi as well as multiple relievers, but Chaim Bloom was busy making moves this off-season and managed to bring in a good number of players while still staying under the luxury tax threshold. Here are my thoughts on his signings:

OF Hunter Renfroe

Renfroe was Bloom’s first signing of the offseason. His price was low considering a rough 2020 season. At his worst, Renfroe is still a rotational outfielder and depth piece. At his best, he can be an everyday starter. Considering the depth the Red Sox have added, it’s unclear how much Renfroe will be used, but he’s likely to have a significant role with the team. I’m not huge on this signing. It’s hard to tell how Renfroe will perform and I feel the Red Sox could have gotten more with the money they spent on him. He does have potential to contribute something meaningful to this team though.

UT Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez

Hernandez, a long time Dodger, was one of the top utility players on the free agent market and one of two that the Red Sox signed. The Red Sox will likely give him time at second base and in the outfield. The Red Sox were in need of extra personnel at both of those positions, so a jack of all trades like Hernandez is a great fit for the Sox and he came at a bargain, just $7 million per year. 2020 was a down year at the plate for Hernandez. However, he is normally not only a versatile defender but also a reliable starter at the plate. I think the Sox will try to use Hernandez almost every day, it’s just a matter of where he plays.

SP Garrett Richards

The prime of Richards’ career came in 2014 and 2015 with the Angels, when he posted a 3.19 ERA across 58 starts. Injuries derailed Richards over the next handful of years until he underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2018. Richards returned to the mound in 2020 with the Padres, posting a 4.03 ERA in 10 starts. No, it wasn’t a full on bounce back, but it was impressive for someone coming right back from surgery. I’m expecting him to improve upon that performance this year now that he’s had more time to recover. Early reports out of camp have been optimistic about a Richards bounce back year. This is an underrated signing by Chaim Bloom that will make a big difference for the Sox rotation.

RP Adam Ottavino

Bloom acquired Ottavino from a crowded Yankees bullpen. In Boston I think he has the potential to be a reliable late inning reliever. He had a rough 2020 season, but dominated in both 2018 with the Rockies and 2019 with the Yankees before that. Ottavino will have the chance to rebound this year and potentially even become the Red Sox closer if he’s able to do so.

RP Hirokazu Sawamura

Sawamura is coming straight from Japan, where he was a successful late inning reliever. He’s a low risk signing by the Red Sox as he comes at just $1.2 million per year. He has the potential to compete with Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, and others for the closer role but even if he’s not able to do that, I don’t mind the signing at that price. I think the Red Sox could have done more to seek out a true closer, but there are some decent options in the current bullpen.

OF Franchy Cordero

Cordero came to the Red Sox in the Andrew Benintendi trade. I expect him to get some playing time as an outfielder, especially in lefty-heavy lineups. Cordero has showed potential in his career thus far but hasn’t had a big break through yet. Until that happens, he’ll be limited to a rotational role. He provides good depth in the outfield though.

UT Marwin Gonzalez

Gonzalez, the long time Astros super-utility, has spent the last couple of years in with the Twins. He has regressed since his Astros days, but he’s still a versatile player and a reliable utility guy. This signing didn’t make too much sense after the signing of another utility player in Hernandez. However, the Red Sox still needed more depth and this is one way to add it.

What the Team Needs to Succeed

Red Sox re-hire Alex Cora as manager despite cheating scandal
Alex Cora was re-hired as manager of the Red Sox after a one year suspension. Photo via USA Today

Last year was an ugly one for the Red Sox. However, Alex Cora is back and this roster is very different from what it was last year. When I look at this roster, I see an average team, but I also see the potential for more (or less).

At their best, this team can compete for a wild card. The lineup contains big names like Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez in addition to lots of depth. I don’t expect many traditional positional battles in the lineup, as I expect Cora to experiment with different lineups as he utilizes the versatility of Hernandez, Gonzalez, and others.

The rotation looks to be stronger than it was last year. Eduardo Rodriguez is back and Chris Sale should return by June or July. Behind those guys are Nathan Eovaldi and new addition Garrett Richards. The Sox will have the option to use a promising youngster in Tanner Houck, returning veteran Martin Perez, and/or failed Phillies starter Nick Pivetta to round out the rotation. The Sox will likely make their decision on the starting five in Fort Myers. If everyone plays at their best, this could be a great rotation, but that would be a big ask considering Sale is coming off Tommy John surgery and E-Rod is coming off a lost 2020 season due to myocarditis.

The bullpen doesn’t have a clear cut closer now that Brandon Workman is gone, but has late inning options in Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, and Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura. The Sox would be an even better bet to succeed if they added another bat through free agency, but there aren’t many guys left on the market and they can probably piece together a strong season without that.

The Red Sox aren’t going all in on contention yet. They aren’t rebuilding either though. This is a year in which they have a chance to find their footing and gain momentum towards future playoff runs. If they can craft good lineups utilizing the rotational players they have and some of their starters rebound, they do have a chance to be a wild card team, but I’m not necessarily expecting that. I’m expecting an improvement from last year, but that improvement could range anywhere from simply surpassing the Orioles in the AL East to snagging a playoff berth.

I’ll have an official MLB predictions post out later in the spring, so stay tuned for that to see where I have the Red Sox finishing.

Bracket Preview Day Bracketology: Projecting the Committee’s Top 16 plus more

Today at 12:30 PM, the March Madness Bracket Preview special airs on CBS. The selection committee will reveal their current top 16 teams and divide them by region. I have predicted their top 16 and built a bracketology around it. Just like last time, the conference winners are based off who I feel would win a conference tournament based on what we’ve seen so far. The top 16 is as close to an S-curve as possible, but a perfect S-curve would not allow for top 4 B1G or Big 12 teams to be placed in different regions. Keep reading to see which teams made it, which teams didn’t, and which teams are on the bubble. As always, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Top 16 Teams

  1. Baylor Bears (#1 overall)
  2. Villanova Wildcats (#6 overall)
  3. Ohio State Buckeyes (#12 overall)
  4. Alabama Crimson Tide (#15 overall)

Baylor remains the #1 overall after dominating several strong opponents in the Big 12 and remaining undefeated. Villanova fell to St. John’s, but I still have them as a 2 seed after an impressive season overall. Besides, St. John’s might be better than we thought, as they’ve also taken down UConn.

I’m not fully bought into the Buckeye hype quite yet. They had a very shaky start that included losses to Northwestern and Purdue. If they can beat Michigan this season I’ll be sold, but I just don’t think they have the star power of a #1 seed. Alabama is normally a #1 seed for football, but this is the best they’ve been for basketball in a long time. ‘Bama is dominating in the SEC, and that alone warrants a top 16 resume. However, they’ve struggled outside the conference, falling to teams including Stanford and Western Kentucky, preventing them from the top 10 in my book.

The Rest of the Region

The Jayhawks are normally part of this top 16, but in a year when most of the typical top teams have struggled mightily, even Kansas has been affected. They have still been alright this year, but they haven’t really stood out from the rest of the Big 12 like Baylor and some other teams have. Led by Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State is also a middle of the pack team in a strong Big 12. Their resume gets weighed down by TCU sweeping them. Purdue has had a solid season in the B1G with Eric Hunter Jr. back in the lineup after missing time early. However, the Boilermakers haven’t done anything too mind blowing, and their best wins by far are the ones over Ohio State.

I have Clemson and Colorado in the 8-9 game. Aamir Simms and the Tigers have been inconsistent but they are worthy of a spot on the bracket. Advanced metrics project the Buffaloes as a legitimate contender, but they have a loss to Washington, arguably the worst team in a weak Pac-12. They have some other questionable losses on their resume as well. The Rams, also a Colorado team, have really impressed this year. They began to get on people’s radars when they split with other top Mountain West teams like San Diego State and Utah State. More recently, they also split with Boise State, proving that they’ll be in the mix for the conference title here.

LSU is in an interesting situation. They have been more consistent than pretty much any other team in the league, but their only somewhat notable wins have been against bubble teams like Arkansas and Ole Miss. They’ll need to beat at least one top 25 team to have a solidified tournament resume. I have two New Jersey teams, Rutgers and Seton Hall grabbing two of the final at large bids. I’m lower on Rutgers than most because of their inconsistency and road struggles.

Rounding out the region is projected conference winners in Winthrop, Cleveland State, UMBC, and HBCUs Prairie View and Norfolk State.

Top 16 Teams

  1. Texas Tech Red Raiders (#4 overall)
  2. Illinois Fighting Illini (#7 overall)
  3. Tennessee Volunteers (#10 overall)
  4. Virginia Cavaliers (#13 overall)

Texas Tech has posted a rather strong season in the Big 12 with Mac McClung in the mix. In this competitive of a conference, I think the Red Raiders are deserving of the 1 line. Illinois started off slow, but they have proven themselves as a title contender. Ayo Dosunmu led them past Iowa, and their only notable bad loss has come against Maryland, a team that has been wildly inconsistent and upset top teams despite losing to lower tier ones.

The Vols have had some rough moments, but they’ve been among the top teams in the SEC and I think they have the depth of a championship contender as well. Virginia has been conducting business as usual ever since the San Francisco loss. They did fall to Virginia Tech on the road, but they’ve had a strong season overall. They’ll have their biggest test yet when they face Florida State.

The Rest of the Region

West Virginia has been a middle of the pack Big 12 team, and I don’t know how well they’ll be able to do in the tourney without Oscar Tshiebwe. UConn had a rough patch without James Bouknight, but Bouknight is back so the Huskies should show people how capable they truly are soon enough. It’s become clear that USC is the best team in the Pac-12, so they round out the Top 25 and grab a 7 seed here. Led by the Mobley brothers, they recently took down UCLA. In the 8-9 game, I have MW contender San Diego State against A10 contender Saint Bonaventure. Both these teams have posted strong seasons in conferences that aren’t quite Power Six, but should still be able to send multiple teams to Indianapolis.

Louisville hasn’t been overly impressive in the ACC, but they have a good enough record in the conference for a tourney spot. Both the Cardinals and Terps have been somewhat inconsistent this year, resulting in lower seeds. Xavier is 11-2, but they don’t have many big wins. They’ve performed at an average level in the Big East and their biggest win came against Oklahoma during their strong start to the season. I don’t see them as a surefire tourney team like many people do. Projected conference winners take up the rest of the bracket here.

Top 16 Teams

  1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (#2 overall)
  2. Houston Cougars (#8 overall)
  3. Iowa Hawkeyes (#11 overall)
  4. Wisconsin Badgers (#14 overall)

Gonzaga is clearly a top 2 team in the nation, but I think Baylor edges them out for #1 right now. Houston may have lost to East Carolina, but that loss doesn’t ruin their strong resume that includes a win over Texas Tech and wins over most other AAC teams. Iowa’s had a rough stretch that includes a second loss to Indiana, but you can never count out Luka Garza. Garza has been the best player in the country this season and could take Iowa on a deep run with enough help. I’d say Iowa outmatches B1G rival Wisconsin, who has had some big wins but also several questionable losses.

The Rest of the Region

Oklahoma, like Kansas and WVU, is a middle of the pack Big 12 team that I have on the 5 line. I have the Gators as a 6 seed still. I’m still impressed by the fact that they’ve kept up with the SEC’s best without Keyontae Johnson. They’ll be extra motivated to make a deep run in Keyontae’s honor. Virginia Tech has wins over Villanova and Virginia, but also losses to Pittsburgh and Penn State. That inconsistent resume places them just outside the top 25 in my eyes. I have St. John’s, the other team who beat Villanova, in the 8-9 game. They’ll take on Drake, who I’m still a believer in despite the loss to Valparaiso. Unless the Bulldogs get swept by Loyola Chicago, they should still be a tourney team.

The Ducks are down to a 10 seed as they fall behind USC and Colorado in the Pac-12. I still have Western Kentucky as an 11 seed, as their resume towers over the resumes of most mid-major teams. WKU gets a higher seed than two of the final at large teams, Syracuse and Ole Miss. Jim Boeheim and the Orange definitely have a bubble team after a respectable, but unimpressive season in the ACC. Ole Miss is a bubble team right now but should only move up the bracket from here. I feel that their upset of Tennessee is only the beginning of a strong SEC resume. The rest of the bracket is just projected conference winners. Liberty is the clear cut Atlantic Sun favorite, while Sam Houston State, Colgate, and CSU Bakersfield have a tougher road to an autobid.

Top 16 Teams

  1. Michigan Wolverines (#3 overall)
  2. Texas Longhorns (#5 overall)
  3. Florida State Seminoles (#10 overall)
  4. Missouri Tigers (#16 overall)

I think Michigan is pretty clearly the #3 overall team after a dominant season in the B1G. Texas is among the top teams in a strong Big 12, so I have them just behind Texas Tech and on the 2 line. I’m higher on Florida State than most, but they’ve had several big wins in the ACC and I think they can make it a very close game against Virginia. Missouri has had a lot of big wins, including one over Illinois, but they are too inconsistent to be much higher. Half the time they play like a 1 seed, and the other half of the time they play like a bubble team. They have a strong veteran core led by Xavier Pinson, but I can’t put them top 10 considering their losses to teams like Mississippi State. They also had a very close call against TCU.

The Rest of the Region

Without Ty-Shon Alexander, Creighton hasn’t been the dominant force they were a year ago. Marcus Zegarowski has played well but Creighton has let almost every game get way too close, leading to some ugly losses including Georgetown and Butler. Most see Indiana as a bubble team, but the fact that they swept the Hawkeyes makes me think they are capable of big things. Minnesota should be a tourney lock after handing Michigan their only loss, but their road struggles are weighing down their resume. Saint Louis and North Carolina have both posted respectable, but unimpressive seasons. I think both are good enough for the 8-9 game, but no more than that unless they add some more big wins to their resumes.

UCLA, like Oregon, has fallen behind in the Pac-12. They’ve struggled without Chris Smith, and my expectations for the rest of UCLA’s season are very low. Loyola Chicago should be able to make the tourney alongside Drake, but a lot depends on how the games between those two teams go. Belmont is one of only a few mid-major conference winners that I have above the 13 line. Their one-loss season is very impressive. I also have Wofford, Toledo, Siena, and Eastern Washington earning autobids.

Bubble Watch

The Razorbacks have advanced metrics on their side, but I’m not impressed by any of their wins this year. BYU did lose to Pepperdine, but they still have a borderline tourney resume. The Aggies (also from Utah), would be on the bracket if it weren’t for their South Dakota State loss. That loss isn’t a deal breaker but they’ll need some more impressive wins to make up for it. Michigan State is struggling in a competitive B1G and lacks significant wins. They’ll need Tom Izzo to lead them past some stronger B1G opponents if they want a spot in the tourney.

TCU has wins over Oklahoma State already, so if they can win one more significant Big 12 game I’d say they deserve a spot. Stanford has been decent, but it will be hard to build a tournament resume unless they dominate the Pac-12 the rest of the way. Memphis and Wichita State would likely need to beat Houston to make the tourney at this point.


That’s all for today’s bracketology. Selection Sunday is in just 4 weeks, and the Bracket Preview today will build even more hype for that event.