Here’s how big this Mel Kiper Jr. thing has gotten: Mel reveals his first Big Board of the 2010 Draft — which isn’t, as you might surmise, scheduled to occur until next year — and ESPN.com Insiders not only makes a huge deal out of of it but also gives us a feature entitled, “Behind Mel’s First Big Board,” written not by Mel but by Chris Sprow.
Because this is Insiders content, any link requires registration, we’ll do a deep dive — “deep dive” is a buzz phrase I took from last month’s AJC brainstorming — and give you most of the big names. Sam Bradford, the OKlahoma quarterback, is No. I overall. Eric Berry, the Tennessee safety, is No. 2. Carlos Dunlap, the Florida defensive end, is No. 3. Jevan Snead, the Ole Miss quarterback, is No. 7. And Dez Bryant and Russell Okung, a receiver and a tackle from Oklahoma State (which you’ll be seeing in 12 days), are Nos. 8 and 13.
The top running back in the draft is Jonathan Dwyer of Georgia Tech, who’s listed as No. 13 overall. (And who is, we must note, technically a junior.) There’s also no Georgia player, not that you’d expect one. (A.J. Green is a sophomore and therefore not draft-eligible after this season).
And for those who are heavy into the conference-pride thing — certainly nobody around here falls under that heading — it should also be noted that the Big 12 claims 10 spots on Mel Jr.’s top 25, while the SEC takes six. And none of those six is the most famous player in the land.
That’s correct. Tim Tebow doesn’t crack the top 25. This debate has been raging for more than a year now, and it will get only hotter as the season plays out: Is it possible the guy ranked by some as the greatest colleagian ever won’t be a first-round pick? We will, I feel certain, offer our own two cents here at Buzz, but for now you can discuss among yourselves.
Reacting to the preseason Associated Press poll, Matt Hayes of Sporting News Today does a deep dive — infectious, isn’t it? — of his own and decides Virginia Tech is overrated at No. 7 and Georgia Tech is underseeded at No. 15. Of the latter Tech, Hayes writes: “No one in the ACC can stop that offense.”
And what of Georgia, which is ranked No. 13? Writes Hayes: “For those who think it’s 2006 all over again, understand this: Joe Cox is your starter because the freshman backups on the UGA depth chart aren’t close to what Matthew Stafford was in 2006.”
For the record, SNT has Georgia Tech No. 11, Georgia No. 15. As I noted when Sports Illustrated put the former No. 12 and the latter also No. 15, that sounds close to me.
John Smoltz started a game for the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday and won it. Worked five innings, struck out nine, yielded three hits and zero earned runs. Kind of a comeuppance for those who believed, as I did, that Smoltz has nothing left. Then again: …
As Brandon Funston writes on Yahoo! Sports:
“This wasn’t Carl Hubbell striking out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin consecutively in the 1934 All-Star game. In fact, it was more like what you could conceive of if Smoltz had been asked to make a Triple-A start in advance of joining the Cardinals. After all the Padres are, without much argument, the worst offensive team in the league — Smoltz didn’t face a hitter with a batting average north of .275. But that said, you can’t help but be impressed.“
And you can’t. Smoltz struck out seven consecutive Padres over one stretch, which is good in any man’s league. That said, I hold to what I wrote when the Red Sox released him: There was no cause for the Braves to pursue the former Brave, for the basic reason that they don’t have a place for him.
Esteemed former colleague Steve Aschburner of SI.com writes at length about the Hawks’ attempts to make inroads against the NBA East’s big three, and he quotes an unnamed scout as saying it won’t work. The quote:
“I think they’re a middle-tier team again. Still have a lot of talent but if you’re counting on [Josh] Smith and [Marvin] Williams, you’re only going so far. I like the Florida kid [Al Horford], but how many of those other guys have done anything with a team? [Mike] Bibby played in good systems in Sacramento and [in college] at Arizona, but most of them spent a year or two in college. Or none [Smith]. When most of your experience is from AAU teams, it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose.”
Aschburner believes — stop me if you’ve heard this one — the Hawks need a Hall of Fame talent to win the NBA title. But, having said that, what else is there to say? The only teams who have such guys have won titles already, and they’re not apt to part with them. Would the Hawks be better served dumping everybody and deep-diving back into the lottery every season in hopes they’ll get a John Wall? I think not.
Writing for HoopsWorld, Jason Fleming waxes enthusiastic about the job done this summer by Hawks GM Rick Sund. As Fleming points out, all three of the free agents retained by Sund — Bibby, Williams and Zaza Pachulia — agreed to deals that decrease in value in 2010-2011, which not coincidentally will be the first season of what the Hawks hope will be extensions of both Joe Johnson’s and Horford’s contracts.