New England Patriots

Malcom Brown, a former Texas defensive tackle, speaks at a press conference Thursday night after the New England Patriots selected him as the 32nd overall pick of the NFL Draft.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

It took every ounce of patience Malcom Brown had — but by the end of the night, the former Texas defensive tackle had finally been drafted.

“It was just a great feeling,” said Brown, who was eating barbecue when he got the call. “Your heart starts pounding real fast; you just got to take a deep breath.” 

With the last pick of the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots drafted the former Longhorn, making him the No. 32 pick overall. Brown, who had been predicted to be a top pick in the draft’s first round, said he started to feel a sense of disappointment as pick after pick went by without his name being called.

“[My emotions were] a little bit here and there,” Brown said. “I really thought I was going to be a real high draft pick.”

The Patriots lost a significant number of defensive players during the offseason, including defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, leaving a hole in the team’s defensive line. Brown said he would not let his late selection cast a shadow on his
new opportunity.

“I’m just going, and I’m going to work, and I’m just going to compete for the job as if it’s mine,” Brown said.

Brown is the first Longhorn drafted since the Arizona Cardinals drafted defensive end Alex Okafor in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. No player from Texas was drafted last year.

Brown played three seasons at Texas and was a two-year starter on the defensive line. He emerged as one of the best defensive tackles in the nation during his junior campaign at Texas.

“This is a good player,” ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said. “He can shed, get off blocks and make tackles … and he has some pass rush.”

As a backup in his freshman year, Brown didn’t have much of an impact on the defensive end. But he improved in the following years, starting all 13 games in his final season, and was recognized as a consensus first team All-American.

“Production over the last three years improved every year in the program,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “I thought he was the 12th best player in this draft.”

Draft experts predicted Brown would be drafted by the Detroit Lions, who had the 23rd overall pick, but, instead, he will be headed to the defending Super Bowl champions and to a team that has been to seven Super Bowls since 2001.

“He’ll be a success because of his work ethic,” head coach Charlie Strong said in a statement. “He works hard and comes to work each and every day. It doesn’t matter who he’s going against; he’s always looking to get better.”

Brown said he doesn’t feel any added pressure, despite heading to the Patriots.

“I’m just going to go in there and contribute whatever I have to give,” Brown said.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

It has been over a week since the NFL’s free agency period began and most of the damage has already been done. Did your team fall into our list of winners or losers?


Winners:


Denver Broncos:


Clearly the 43-8 obliteration at the hands of Seattle in the Super Bowl didn’t sit well with the Broncos, as they added hybrid defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety 
T.J. Ward on the defensive side of the ball.


The Broncos lost wide receiver Eric Decker but were able to replace him with former Steeler Emmanuel Sanders.


New England Patriots


The Patriots always seem to add the right players to fit their scheme and this free agency period was no different.


New England lost cornerback Aqib Talib to Denver but made a big splash by adding cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Patriots also added cornerback Brandon Browner from Seattle, but Browner will miss four games due to a suspension.


The Patriots were also able to resign wide receiver Julian Edelman. Edelman was a big part of New England’s success in 2013 with six touchdowns and 1,056 receiving yards.


Chicago Bears


The Bears defense was atrocious last season - they lacked a pass rush, giving opposing quarterbacks plenty of time to light them up through the air.


Chicago did lose defensive end Julius Peppers but it replaced him with Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, two solid pickups.


The Bears also added former Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, defensive back Danny McCray and wide receiver Domenik Hixon.


Losers:


Carolina Panthers


The Panthers had a rough free agency as they lost wide receivers Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Hixon.


On the defensive side of the ball, Carolina also lost cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Mike Mitchell.


Kansas City Chiefs


After a successful regular season, the Kansas City Chiefs lost a lot of momentum during the offseason. Free agency was not kind to Andy Reid and Co.


Kansas City lost offensive tackle Brandon Albert, offensive guard Geoff Schwartz, wide receiver Dexter McCluster, and defensive end Tyson Jackson.


Dallas Cowboys


The Cowboys lost their all-time sack leader DeMarcus Ware to the Denver Broncos. Losing Ware 
is a huge blow to the Cowboys chemistry as Ware was an important member of the defense. The Cowboys also lost defensive back Danny McCray to the Chicago Bears.


They did add backup quarterback Brandon Weeden and defensive tackle Henry Melton but losing Ware puts the Cowboys among the free agency losers. 

Denver defeats Patriots 26-16; Advance to Super Bowl XLVIII

Late in the third quarter, down 20-3 to the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots had a decision to make-- go for it on a fourth and two at the Denver 30 or kick a 47-yard field goal down.

The Patriots rolled the dice and came up empty as Denver sent a well-timed blitz and sacked Tom Brady.

Whether New England wants to admit it or not, the game had been long decided before that moment. Peyton Manning and the Denver offense carved through the Patriots defense which lead to a 26-16 Broncos victory.

Manning outshined rival quarterback Tom Brady throwing for 400 yards and two touchdowns. Manning played a well-crafted game, completing an AFC championship game record tying 32 passes.

“It's very rewarding when you put a lot of hard work into the offseason and the regular season,” Manning said. “It pays dividends with a huge win.”

Meanwhile, New England was held in check for most of the game. It took the Patriots over 50 minutes to find the end zone by the time they scored it was already too late.

New England was able to score 13 points in the final ten minutes but fell short when they were unable to punch in a two-point conversion to make it a one possession game.

With the win, Denver will make their first super bowl appearance since 1998. For Manning, it will be his third appearance in the super bowl, his first with the Broncos.

“We kept our nose to the grindstone, kept persevering,” Manning said. “It’s gratifying to get this win today.”

Denver will matchup against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII at Metlife Stadium on February 2, 2014.

 

Late turnovers sink 49ers; Seahawks advance to Super Bowl XLVII with 23-17 win

49ers quarterback Collin Kaepernick launched a pass in to the end zone intended for Michael Crabtree, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman tipped the pass and it landed in the hands of linebacker Malcolm Smith.

The interception sealed a 23-17 victory for Seattle and a trip to the super bowl.

“I’m the best corner in the game,” exclaimed Sherman in a post-game interview with FOX’s Erin Andrews. In another interview, Sherman said that he “knew it would come down to (the defense) in the back end to win this thing.”

The game was a classic heavyweight fight, each team delivering and taking shots. The 49ers were first to strike with a strip-fumble on the first play of the game.

Kaepernick was key to the 49ers offense, he lead the 49ers with 130 rushing yards. But the Seahawks were able to take advantage of Kaepernick’s mistakes, he turned the ball over three times in the second half.

For the Seattle offense, momentum swung their way when Marshawn Lynch scored on a 40 yard run. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson managed the game with 215 yards passing and one touchdown.

The NFC championship game was defined by the defensive play by both teams. The 49ers made two fourth down stops and forced a turnover. But it was the Seattle that landed the last punch with three forced turnovers in the second half.

“This is as sweet as it gets,” Sherman said.

“This is really special,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll added, “It would really be a mistake to not remember the connection and the relationship between this football team and the 12th Man and these fans. It's unbelievable."

Seattle will meet the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII at Metlife Stadium on February 2, 2014.

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has had a pretty good month. After returning from a potentially career-threatening injury in Week 7, Gronk has regained his position as one of the top tight ends in the league, raking in almost 300 receiving yards already.

But returning from months of arduous rehab to his superstar status on the Patriots was not even the best part of Gronk’s month.

Earlier this week, it was announced that Gronkowski would be making an appearance in the “Entourage” movie set to come out in 2014.

Just hearing about this new movie would probably make Gronk backflip for joy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4Rzvn2hnPU), but actually being able to participate? It has to be a dream come true.

Nobody exemplifies the “Entourage” lifestyle quite like the jacked-up, club-hopping, often-shirtless Gronk. He’s the perfect fit for the upcoming movie.

Gronkowski’s life itself plays out like a series of “Entourage” episodes, living from one headline to the next, and now, finally, he gets to join his “heroes” on the big screen

AFC Championship Features Rematch Between Hated Foes

In game that few people expected them to be a part of, the Baltimore Ravens enter Sunday as nine-point underdogs to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.  However, the Ravens and fifth-year Quarterback Joe Flacco weren’t phased by similar circumstance last week, when they went into Denver and pulled out a double overtime victory over the Broncos.  Can they do it again?  Here are a few storylines to follow heading into Sunday’s AFC showdown:

1) Oh, You Again

The Pats and Ravens are very familiar with each other, as Sunday’s game will make it their second straight meeting in the AFC Championship game and third playoff contest in the past four years.  Although New England is virtually unbeatable at home in the playoffs, Baltimore blew them out 33-14 in 2009 and narrowly lost 20-23 after Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds.  Clearly, the Ravens aren’t afraid of heading into Foxborough.

2) Matchup to Watch: Aqib Talib vs. Torrey Smith

Plenty will be made of the chess match between QB Tom Brady and LB Ray Lewis in this game, and rightfully so.  However, a matchup that may be more intriguing will be between Pats’ corner Aqib Talif and Ravens’ wide receiver Torrey Smith.  Smith burnt New England for 126 yards and two touchdowns when the two teams met earlier this season, and hauled in another two last week with veteran corner Champ Bailey covering him.  However, Talib, who New England acquired from Tampa Bay midseason, has brought some swagger to the Patriot defense with his fiery attitude and physical style of play.  Can he contain Smith?  The answer to that may determine this game’s outcome.

3) Can Joe Flacco Win the Big One?

Flacco’s been heavily critiqued over the past several years, as many people in the sports world have begun to wonder whether or not he has what it takes to win a championship, despite the fact that he is the only quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.  After last week’s victory in Denver in which Flacco threw three touchdowns and outplayed four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning, people had better start acknowledging his abilities.  However, out-dueling Tom Brady in Foxborough is never easy, even if Flacco has done it before.

Prediction:

Although Baltimore is no pushover and will give the Pats all they can handle, New England just has too many weapons on the offensive side, even with Rob Gronkowski out with a broken forearm.  With Tom Brady playing like well, Tom Brady, and their defense playing its best football of the year, New England will make enough plays to defeat Joe Flacco and the Ravens.

Score: 31-24

Another week and another group of players have shocked the fantasy football world, for better or for worse. Although fantasy owners no doubt wish they could have predicted these performances, that is impossible. In case you missed them, here are the fantasy football studs and duds for the NFL’s fourth week of games:

Studs:

1) Brian Hartline, WR, Miami Dolphins
With the help of rookie Ryan Tannehill, Hartline exploded against the Arizona Cardinals, breaking Miami’s previous single-game receiving record with 253 receiving yards. Hartline was active throughout the game, gathering 12 catches, including a go-ahead 80-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Despite being labeled by his critics as only a possession receiver, Hartline proved Sunday that he is more than capable of taking over a game with his speed.

2) Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
After consecutive losses to the Cardinals and Ravens, some people around the NFL were beginning to doubt Tom Terrific and the Patriots’ status among the league’s elite. Seriously? Brady made sure to quiet any naysayers, torching the Buffalo Bills on Sunday to ensure everybody knows the Patriots are still the team to beat in the AFC East. Led by Brady’s 340 passing yards and four total touchdowns, the Pats erupted for 45 second-half points, routing the Bills, 52-28.

3) San Francisco 49ers Defense
The 49ers fielded a defense full of studs Sunday afternoon against the Jets, outscoring New York’s offense 7-0 while holding Mark Sanchez and company to just 145 total yards in a 34-0 shutout. Along with sacking Sanchez three times and intercepting one of his passes, San Francisco’s defense forced three fumbles, one of which cornerback Carlos Rogers returned for a touchdown.

Duds:

1) Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Maclin was a no-show Sunday night against the Giants, registering just one catch for seven yards despite playing the entire game. Although his performance was hindered by a lingering hip injury, which kept him out of the Eagles’ last game, Maclin’s inability to get open on struggling Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara came as a surprise.

2) Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets
Sanchez looked awful against the 49ers on Sunday, completing just 13 of his 29 passes for 103 yards. Along with completing less than half of his passes, Sanchez also fumbled and was intercepted. If Sanchez continues to struggle, expect the chants for Tim Tebow to get louder and louder as each week passes.

3) Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Six days after throwing the infamous last-play “touchdown” against the Packers, even the officials would not have been able to save Wilson from himself. The Seahawks’ signal-caller struggled against the Rams’ improved defense, passing for 160 yards and three interceptions while failing to throw a touchdown for the first time this season.

The NFL’s third batch of games was filled with surprises, from the Saints blowing a lead at home to fall to 0-3 to the Vikings dominating the 49ers. Sunday’s games provided plenty of fantasy football shockers as well, both good and bad:

Studs:
1) Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Just when fantasy owners think they have it all figured out, they don’t.

Following back-to-back subpar outings to start the season, many were wondering if Charles had fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in 2011. However, the former Longhorn proved all his doubters wrong Sunday, breaking out for 233 yards rushing as well as 55 yards receiving to go along with his two touchdowns. Any fantasy owners who had Charles on the bench Sunday were kicking themselves in frustration.

2) Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Smith’s performance Sunday against the New England Patriots was one to remember. He took the field less than 24 hours after he lost his brother in a fatal motorcycle accident. Smith played incredible resilience, racking up 127 receiving yards and two touchdowns in what was by far his best game of the season.

3) Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Entering the season, new Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley vowed that Pittsburgh would get back to running the football more. Through their first two games, that was certainly the case, causing Roethlisberger’s fantasy production to suffer. However, all that changed in Oakland on Sunday, when Big Ben aired it out for 384 yards and four touchdowns against the Raiders.

Duds:

1) Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys

Following Eli Manning’s 500-yard performance against Tampa Bay last week, Romo and the Cowboys were licking their chops when the Buccaneers came to Dallas Sunday. However, Romo flopped against what was thought to be a porous defense, throwing an interception and losing two fumbles while failing to throw a touchdown pass.

2) Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

With fellow TE Aaron Hernandez sidelined with an ankle injury, many people expected Gronkowski to have a monster game against the Ravens Sunday night. However, Gronkowski was almost invisible, catching only two passes for 21 yards and failing to get into the end zone for the first time this season.

3) Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans

Johnson solidified himself as the biggest bust in fantasy football so far this season, managing a paltry 24 yards rushing against the Lions on Sunday. Sadly, that is the most yards he has totaled this season. Considering Johnson produced such low numbers in a game where the Titans put up 44 points in an overtime victory, he cannot be considered a fantasy starter until he proves otherwise.
 

Daily Texan Mock Draft

1. Indianapolis Colts — Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

When comparing Luck to Griffin Robert Griffin III, it’s easy to overlook Luck’s athleticism. But the Stanford product ran the fourth-best 40-yard-dash among quarterbacks, turned in the fifth-best vertical leap and had the furthest broad jump. He’s much, much more athletic than Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees. Luck’s arm and touch could eventually put him in that upper-echelon of NFL quarterbacks, though: he ranked seventh in the NCAA with a 71.3 completion percentage, sixth with 8.7 yards per attempt and tied for fifth with a touchdown percentage of 9.2 — meaning for every 100 passes he attempted, roughly 10 of them were for touchdowns. But will he have anybody besides Reggie Wayne to throw to in Indy?

2. Washington Redskins (from the Rams) — Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Bear with me here, but I like the Heisman Winner from Baylor better than I do Luck. In those aforementioned passing metrics, RG3 ranks better than Luck — third in completion percentage, first in yards per attempt, a tie with Luck in touchdown percentage and also a interception percentage that ranked among the best in the country (1.5, good for 12th). Luck, on the other hand, threw an interception 2.5 percent of the time he put the ball in the air — 46th in the country.

It really is arguable that Griffin III is a better passing prospect than Luck. It’s unarguable that he’s a better athlete (best 40 time of any QB, best vertical leap), one who put up whopping rushing numbers in college with 2,943 total yards and 10 games of triple-digit yardage in essentially three seasons.

One last stat: his passer-efficiency rating in 2011 was the second best ever.

3. Minnesota Vikings — Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State

USC tackle Matt Kalil has been penciled in at this spot since the combine, but it won’t be too surprising if the Vikings elect to go with this year’s best cornerback. In a division where you’re facing Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler (not to mention, Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and Brandon Marshall) twice a year, you need to be able to stop the pass.

Offensive tackles aren't full-proof options, either. Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Trent Williams are recent examples of top-10 tackles whose teams (St. Louis, Jacksonville and Washington, respectively) rank among the worst in the league (32nd, 28th, 26th, also respectively). Take Claiborne and give yourself a secondary to build on.

4. Cleveland Browns — Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Montario Hardesty, Greg Little, Ben Watson, Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, Chris Ogbonnaya…I don’t care who your quarterback is, or who you’ve got on the offensive line; you’re not winning many games with that core of skill players. That’s why the Browns have to get the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. Cleveland traded down last year (and drafted a defensive tackle, Phil Taylor, at 21) in order to stockpile picks. Those picks need to be used to help give a quarterback — for now it’s Colt McCoy — a prayer at winning games in the AFC North. Richardson steps in and starts from day one.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

With Claiborne and Richardson off the board, the Bucs have to reach a bit here to get a cornerback, but it’s a major position of need. Ronde Barber has very little left in the tank and the troubled Aqib Talib is being shopped.

6. St. Louis Rams — Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

From 2010 to 2011, Blackmon scored 38 touchdowns and hauled in 232 passes. His 3,304 receiving yards might be a byproduct of a system, but that’s insane no matter how you slice it (as is his ypc average of 14.6). He’s neither the fastest nor the tallest receiver in this draft, yet he is far and away the most productive and should immediately become Sam Bradford’s top target.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars — Matt Kalil, OT, Southern California

Since 2008, the Jags have chosen in the top 10 every year. And with little results to show for it: Derrick Harvey busted, Monroe has provided little semblance of a building block, Blaine Gabbert could be a disaster. The pick of defensive tackle Tyson Alualu is actually the best so far — and even that is saying something. So this pick needs to be right, and when you’re facing that kind of pressure, you take the best player available, regardless of need. Kalil, a potential franchise left tackle, is just that.

8. Miami Dolphins — Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

Here’s what I don’t like about Tannehill: He has only 20 games at quarterback under his belt and he was perhaps the main culprit in A&M’s choke job of 2011.

Here’s what I do like: He’s a confident, stand-up type of guy with an above-average arm.

Here’s what I hate: His 61.6 completion percentage last season, his seven yards per attempt, his 2.8 interception percentage.

And here’s what I love: He was sacked only nine times last year, so I know the former wide receiver can avoid the pressures of the Jets, Patriots and the newly-revamped pass rush of the Bills in the AFC East, and he can throw on the run. When a play breaks down, or when a receiver just can’t get open — with Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, this could happen quite often — Tannehill can make things happen with his feet.

Look, Tannehill is the ultimate project quarterback. But the Dolphins can afford to be patient. Matt Moore is a serviceable option and it’s not like the team is about to challenge New England or New York for the division. He’s worth the risk here at 8.

9. Carolina Panthers — Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

With Cam Newton and Steve Smith doing their thing on offense, it’s time for Carolina to shore up things on the other side of the ball. The NFL’s seventh-worst rushing defense would be buoyed by the addition of Cox, who had five sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss last season.

10. Buffalo Bills — Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

Despite the offseason signing of Mario Williams, there’s still work to be done to improve Buffalo’s D, which ranked 28th in total defense and 30th in run defense. Kuechly, who led the NCAA in tackles last season, gives the Bills one of the best front sevens in the league. Offensive help — mainly, receiver — can come in the later rounds.

11. Kansas City Chiefs — Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

Another pass-rush option to pair opposite Tamba Hali. Got to be able to get to the quarterback in a division where you face Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers twice a season.

12. Seattle Seahawks — Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

Probably a reach here. Then again, they said the same thing about Jason Pierre-Paul at No. 15 a few seasons ago. The Seahawks put up pedestrian sack numbers in 2011 (33, for a sack percentage of 5.7). Coples never put up huge numbers at UNC, but it’s his potential — a 4.7 40 time at 6-foot-6 and 284 lbs. — that has Seattle pulling the trigger.

13. Arizona Cardinals — Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

The smart pick might be an offensive lineman like David DeCastro or Riley Reiff, but Larry Fitzgerald has been begging for somebody to take double-team pressure off of him for the longest time.

14. Dallas Cowboys — Mark Barron, S, Alabama

The Cowboys have taken three defensive backs in the first round the last decade — safety Roy Williams in 2002 and cornerbacks Terence Newman in 2003 and Mike Jenkins in 2008. Barron becomes No. 4 here and it’s easy to believe he could be better than any of the three.

15. Philadelphia Eagles — Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

Philly chose a guard with its first-round pick a year ago, but it’s been a long time since it used such a high pick on an offensive tackle — 1998 ,to be exact. With left tackle Jason Peters possibly out for the season, now seems as good a time as any to break the streak.

16. New York Jets — Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

For a team that’s made the AFC Championship game two of the last three years, the Jets sure do have a lot of holes. The “ground and pound” offense hasn’t gone anywhere behind Shonn Greene (22nd in team rushing last season), the passing game is in a state of disillusion (21st) and the Jets finished in the red in takeaways. But dangling Poe in front of Rex Ryan — who loves taking on defensive projects — is just too tantalizing.

17. Cincinnati Bengals — David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

With a boatload of draft picks after dealing Carson Palmer to the Raiders midseason, there’s plenty of time later on for the Bengals to make a sexier choice, possibly at corner or receiver. Take the draft’s best guard prospect off the boards.

18. San Diego Chargers — Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

What is it that has caused the Chargers to fall short so often? Among other things, the team failed to establish the run it its six-game losing streak in the middle of last year, posting a paltry 98 yards per game. You’ve got a capable runner in Ryan Mathews, now give him somebody to run behind.

19. Chicago Bears — Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia

Unless the plan is to turn Jay Cutler into David Carr, it’s high time to improve the offensive line. Stick Glenn at right tackle and hope last year’s top pick, Gabe Carimi, is healthy enough to play a full season at left. Then bid adieu to J’Marcus Webb and Lance Louis, the weak links of a unit that allowed 49 sacks in 2011.

20. Tennessee Titans — Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

In a division that will one day be run by Andrew Luck, it’s imperative to have somebody who can get after the passer. Upshaw (8.5 sacks last season) can put his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 defensive set or play upright in a 3-4.

21. Cincinnati Bengals — Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Here’s that cornerback pick I was telling you about. If it weren’t for a few character issues, Kirkpatrick might have been drafted higher. Really good value here for the big, physical Kirkpatrick.

22. Cleveland Browns — Reuben Randle, WR, LSU

Randle is just the kind of deep threat the Browns need to stretch the field, and clear out the box for fellow rookie Trent Richardson. His 17.3 yards per reception ranked among the top 20 in the nation a year ago.

23. Detroit Lions — Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

Character issues, schmaracter issues. When you can get this kind of talent this late in the first round, and fill a need while doing it, you take a risk. (Jenkins was dismissed by the Florida Gators after a myriad of drug problems and he’s fathered four children with three different women.) If Jenkins can stay out of trouble — granted, a big if — he can help the Lions.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers — Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin

It has been a game of musical chairs at the right guard position for Steelers, where Darnell Stapleton, Ramon Foster and Trai Essex have been used as temporary replacements until a franchise-type player comes along. In the rugged AFC North, with Ben Roethlisberger feeling the heat, here’s the opportunity to grab a long-term starter.

25. Denver Broncos — Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

Those who didn’t flip the channel in between Tim Tebow’s series on offense most likely noticed Denver’s glaring weakness. In eight losses, the Broncos gave up an average of 150 rushing yards a game. Peyton Manning won’t be nearly as effective if he’s sitting on the sidelines watching the opposition run at will.

26. Houston Texans — Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

It’s a choice here between Wright or Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech. Because Houston needs somebody to step in opposite Andre Johnson immediately, the best bet is it’s the uber-productive Wright (one touchdown in every seven catches last season) over a raw talent like Hill.

27. New England Patriots — Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

Last year’s sack leader (16) winds up on a team that has twice seen, firsthand, what an effective pass rush can really do (the New York Giants of 2007, 2011). There's a hole to fill, too, with Mark Anderson signing with the Bills.

28. Green Bay Packers — Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State

Like Clay Matthews, McClellin is a bit of a late-bloomer who’s just now starting to pick up steam. Funny timing. Green Bay is in desperate need of a pass-rushing ‘backer to draw some attention away from Mr. Matthews.

29. Baltimore Ravens — Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

A receiver is tempting, but Adams can either replace the aging Bryant McKinnie or the departed Ben Grubbs.

30. San Francisco 49ers — Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

Call it a reward for quarterback Alex Smith who, ahem, faithfully came back to San Fran after flirting with the Dolphins in the offseason. Michael Crabtree looks like a flop, anyways.

31. New England Patriots — Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

This pick might fall into the hands of a team trying to trade up for Brandon Weeden. Among the contenders, Cleveland has the most to offer in terms of draft picks (Nos. 37 and 67). If not, Patriots should go defense again.

32. New York Giants — Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

One minor cost of the Giants winning the Super Bowl in Feb. was that two of their tight ends, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, suffered knee injuries that could cause them to miss the entire 2012 season. Fleener averaged about 20 yards a catch in his final year at Stanford and also hauled in 10 touchdowns.

Super Bowl: A Closer Look at the Numbers

This is the first time that the Super Bowl is a rematch of a regular season game since the 2007 season, in which these same Giants and Patriots played each other in the regular season finale, with the Patriots finishing their perfect regular season. In the 45 year history of the Super Bowl, there have only been 12 rematches of regular season games. It’s difficult to beat an NFL team twice in a season, as is evident by the results of those games, in which the loser of the regular season matchup came back to win the Super Bowl seven times, including three of the last four.

The Patriots had one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL this season, averaging 32 points per game this season, good for third in the league. They have been held under 30 points five times this season, and were held under 20 points in one game against the Steelers. In the Patriots losses and lowest offensive outputs, New England was done in by turnovers. The Patriots turned the ball over 15 times, with Brady throwing 8 interceptions. Against the Giants, Brady threw for over 330 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions and fumbled, which the Giants turned into 10 points.

This will be the third rematch in this postseason for New York. After the Giants beat the Patriots in week nine, they lost four consecutive games. Two of those losses came to San Francisco, and Green Bay. The Giants exacted revenge against the Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs by dismantling them at home to the tune of a 17 point win. The Giants followed that win up by beating the 49er’s in a rematch game in the NFC Championship game. That trend carried the Giants this far, but may aid the Patriots more considering that they lost to the Giants at home in the middle of the season.

The New York Giants have the best scoring defense this postseason, allowing only 13 points per game , including shutting out the Atlanta offense (the Falcons defense forced a safety against the Giants). New England, has the second best scoring offense in the playoffs, scoring 34 points per game, with a demolishing of Denver in the divisional round of the playoffs. It would be obvious to say that this game comes down to the New England offense against the New York defense, but the Patriot defense allowed 21 points per game in the regular season, while the Giants allowed 25. While the New England offense was expected to be explosive, the New York offense was also top ten in scoring this season, scoring 24 points per game in the regular season. And those stats are right, the Giants are the statistical quirk of this Super Bowl, having scored 394 points in the regular season, while giving up 400 points.

A number that will be shoved down our throats leading up to the Super Bowl is that the Giants got 48 sacks this season. The maligned Patriots defense wasn’t far behind, registering 40 in the regular season. Even into the postseason, the Giants have nine sacks in three games, while the Patriots registered eight in just two. New York has the more celebrated pass rush, which will be a major factor in the game, but the more important one may be the Patriots pressure on Manning, which won’t be a major headline anywhere you look.

There were two 99 yard touchdowns this season. The first came in week one, where Brady hit Wes Welker for a 99 yard touchdown against the Dolphins. The other came in week 16 where Manning hit Victor Cruz for a 99 yard score against the Jets. Welker had the number one statistical season in 2011, somewhat forgotten behind the tight end play. Cruz was the fifth best receiver during the regular season. Cruz was also second in the league in 40+ yard catches with nine during the regular season. Despite splitting catches, Cruz and teammate Hakeem Nicks are the top two receivers this postseason, with six 20+ yard catches, and two 40+ yard catches from Nicks.