In ESPN.com’s first power ratings of the 2009 season — technically, the 2009 season doesn’t begin for three months, but haven’t we learned that pro football is a year-round sport? — its panel of analysts pegs the Falcons as the NFL’s 11th-best team. (Thanks to reader Anthony Burnette for the tip.) But the Worldwide Leader didn’t become the Worldwide Leader by letting it go at that.
Each voter — there are 12, meaning ESPN has more NFL analysts than the number of players any NFL team can field at any given time — has his ballot broken down, and here’s where it gets interesting. Eleven put the Falcons between No. 7 and No. 13 in the 32-team league. The exception is esteemed former colleague Len Pasquarelli, who has the Falcons 20th.
The same Pasquarelli ranks Carolina No. 3, and the Panthers, who finished one spot above the Falcons overall, generated the widest spread of any team. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. had them 24th. Five of the 12 panelists rated the Falcons atop the NFC South.
Bottom line: With New Orleans (No. 16 overall) and Tampa Bay (No. 27) not really figuring, the Falcons would seem to stand a good chance of winning their division. Which they’ve done only three times in their 43 years of existence.
And where, you’re asking, did ESPN rank the Falcons a year ago? Last in the league. Three spots behind Detroit, which finished 0-16.
One forme Falcon went on John Thompson’s Washington D.C. radio show and was asked about a soon-to-be former Falcon. Of fellow Virginia Tech product Michael Vick, DeAngelo Hall said this, according to Sports Radio Interviews:
“I definitely think he deserves another chance to play in this league. I definitely think he can play. There’s a lot of quarterbacks that have jobs that don’t want to see him back in the league because they know that any time you have teams in divisions drafting players just to stop Michael Vick, that’s when you know the guy’s a game changer and help you win a lot of games.”
A likely Vick destination? San Francisco, said Hall, who’s now with Washington and who briefly played in the Bay Area himself.
According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, the Braves aren’t yet talking trade. (Link requires registration.) I spoke with GM Frank Wren yesterday — the fruits, so to speak, of that labor should be appearing on this blog within hours — and he said he “didn’t see any trade happening really quickly” but admitted his club has a clear offensive need.
More from Olney: “The market of quality corner outfielders available is very thin. Most who are available are seen as either too risky or too expensive.” Also this: “The Matt Holliday sweepstakes have not yet begun.”
Further down his list of links, Olney drops another name that we Atlantans will hear often between now and July 31st — Colorado right fielder Brad Hawpe. (Talking with the Denver media crew last week, their feeling was that he’ll be available.) But, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Hawpe has a funny contract: He’s signed through 2011, but if he’s traded he can void the final year and become a free agent after the 2010 season.
Oh, and here’s the link to esteemed former colleague Gordon Edes’ report on Yahoo! Sports that the Red Sox are scouting Jeff Francoeur. Boston’s reasoning: Their starting right fielder (J.D. Drew) has been hurting, and so has his backup (Rocco Baldelli). And that’s the way of the lopsided baseball world: The Braves can’t find three decent starting outfielders, while the Red Sox are shopping for a third-stringer in right.
In his second NBA mock draft, Chad Ford of ESPN.com has the Hawks taking North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson (requires registration) with the 19th pick. (Last week Ford had them taking point guard Jeff Teague of Wake Forest.) Me, I think the Hawks would be delighted to find Lawson there when they select — delighted and shocked.
The Evil Genius leaves L’il Kiffy agape!
Here’s a great item from Matt Hayes of Sporting News Today, one of many who covered the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla., hoping for just such a sight: Steve Spurrier and Lane Kiffin waiting for an elevator, Spurrier turning and pointing to Kiffin, who …
Just click the link. You won’t be disappointed.
Late addition! BrewDawg takes over the Buzz!
Faithful correspondent BrewDawg and I see the John Smoltz issue differently. He thinks the Braves did the guy wrong, and I respectfully disagree. But BrewDawg has gone to the trouble to compile a list of links regarding Smoltz’s second rehab start, and I’d be a crumb if I didn’t post them up top in proper Buzz format.
So here, from Adam Kilgore of the Boston Globe, is a recap of Smoltz’s outing in Manchester, N.H., and here, from Dave D’Onofrio of the Concord Monitor, is a look at a possible complication: Young Clay Buchholz is tearing it up in Class AAA and might warrant a call-up ahead of Smoltz. And here, from FoxSports.com, is a report about two unnamed scouts who weren’t impressed with Smoltz on Tuesday.