Browns Draft Preview

Browns players at the new uniform reveal at the Cleveland Convention Center on April 14. Photo Credit-Nate Nealon

Browns players at the new uniform reveal at the Cleveland Convention Center on April 14. Photo Credit-Nate Nealon

This Thursday is the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, a night where the Browns have the opportunity to make some noise. Cleveland has two first round picks at the 12th spot and the 19th spot. I love the NFL Draft and have watched the 2014 film based on the Browns, Draft Day, to get ready for the big night. In the movie, fictional Browns owner, Anthony Molina, tells general manager, Sonny Weaver Jr. (played by Kevin Costner) to make a splash. Weaver does this by trading for the number one pick, then later that night he makes deals that help him to reaquire the draft picks he gave up to move to the one spot. The Browns may not make cinematic like moves this year, but Browns general manager, Ray Farmer, needs to make a splash! After a disappointing off-season filled with “text gate” and no major free agent signings, Farmer must address some serious needs with the first two picks. Here is a list of five players that the Browns have been linked to.

1. Devante Parker: Wide Receiver-Louisville

Louisville wide receiver, Devante Parker. Photo Credit-chatsports.com

Louisville wide receiver, Devante Parker. Photo Credit-chatsports.com

The Browns signed veteran receivers Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline this season. They are both solid pick-ups with experience, but production wise their best is behind them. With Josh Gordon sitting out this season due to another suspension, the Browns will need a number one receiver and Parker is that guy. At 6’3″ he is a big receiver with explosive speed. Parker is a play maker which is what the Browns desperately need. If Parker is still available at 12, look for Cleveland to take him.

2. Danny Shelton: Defensive Tackle-Washington

Washington Defensive Tackle, Danny Shelton. Creative Commons

Another serious option for the Browns at the 12th spot is defensive tackle, Danny Shelton. At 339 pounds, Shelton is the defensive monster that the Browns need. He is excellent at stopping the run and is a space-eater that swallows up blocks. Defensive tackle, Phil Taylor, was hurt the majority of last season and drafting another tackle would give the Browns a back up option. Pairing up Taylor and Shelton would make them one of the most feared defensive duos in the NFL.

3.Eddie Goldman: Defensive Tackle-Florida State

Florida State Defensive Tackle, Eddie Goldman. Photo Credit-newsherald.com

Florida State Defensive Tackle, Eddie Goldman. Photo Credit-newsherald.com

If the Browns address the need for a receiver with the 12th pick, then look for them to take a defensive tackle at the 19th spot. At this point in the draft, Shelton will be off the board, but there will still be some strong options at DT available. Malcolm Brown from Texas is one option, but it is possible that he will be picked before the 19th spot. Eddie Goldman will still be available and would be a great pick up. Like Shelton, Goldman is a great run stuffer and he can eat up blocks. Goldman’s physicality against the run is a huge selling point, but he struggles with pass rushing.

4.Todd Gurley: Running Back-Georgia

Georgia running back, Todd Gurley. Photo Credit-onlineathens.com

Georgia running back, Todd Gurley. Photo Credit-onlineathens.com

Another option with the 19th pick would be Georgia running back, Todd Gurley. Last season, Gurley put himself at the top of the Heisman conversation with 773 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns in the first five games. In week 6, he was suspended for four games for violating NCAA rules. When he returned on November 15, he tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the season. Gurley has since been medically cleared and would be a steal for Cleveland if he falls this far. The Browns tandem of rookie running backs, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West showed bright spots last season, but were often inconsistent. One week they would have huge games and then the next week they would struggle. Gurley has a blend of speed and power that should not be overlooked. If Gurley is still on the board, I could see the Browns pull off a shock and take him at the 19th spot.

5. Marcus Mariota: Quarterback-Oregon

Oregon quarterback and 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota. Creative Commons

Oregon quarterback and 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota. Creative Commons

One name that has been linked to the Browns countless times over the last month is Marcus Mariota. The Browns quarterback dilemma is the top discussion of their off-season every year. This season has been no different with the puzzling signing of veteran journeyman, Josh McCown. There have also been reports that Cleveland has tried to trade for Philadelphia’s Sam Bradford twice. Many fans and experts seem to forget about Johnny Manziel. Manziel has been written off by critics after his disappointing rookie season and his voluntary time spent at a rehab facility. I am not ready to give up on Manziel after only seven quarters of play. Johnny showed a great deal of maturity by getting help for his off the field issues and he is ready to focus on football. Drafting Mariota would mean that the Browns have given up on Manziel and that would be a major mistake. Also to draft Mariota means that the Browns will have to trade some draft picks or even a key player to move up and grab him. I think Mariota is overrated and Ohio State helped to prove that by exposing his pocket passing inability in the National Championship game. Ray Farmer fueled speculation last week when asked if he would trade both the 12th and 19th pick for Mariota. Farmer responded by saying “Sure, why not?” Browns fans get ready because if Farmer has his way we may have two Heisman Trophy winners on our roster this season.

My bold prediction for this year’s draft is that the Browns will take Devante Parker with the 12th pick and Eddie Goldman with the 19th pick.

Cavs Playoffs Preview

The NBA regular season wraps up this week, as the Cavs prepare for their first playoff appearance since 2010. The Cavaliers will finish the season with a homestand against the Detroit Pistons on Monday and the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. The Cavs officially clinched the Central Division and the two seed in the East this past Wednesday. Like many experts, I believe that Cavs will win the East and advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in franchise history. Let’s take a look at the road the Cavs will have to travel to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a NBA Title.

The Eastern Conference Standings as of April 12. Credit to nba.com

The Eastern Conference Standings as of April 12. Credit to nba.com

Three days remain in the regular season and the Cavs are still unaware of who their first round opponent will be. Four teams are still alive for the final two spots in the East. It appears that the Celtics will be the seventh seed after they  won back-to-back games this weekend over a resting Cavs squad. It is possible that the Brooklyn Nets or Indiana Pacers could jump into the seven spot, but I think Boston will hold on. The Celtics are the more desirable opponent for the Cavs in the first round. The Cavs easily could have swept the Celtics in the regular season, but wisely chose to rest LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and J.R. Smith. The Cavs have a clear advantage and will make short work of the Celtics in 4 to 5 games.

The second round will provide a more intriguing matchup for the Cavaliers. The Cavs would play the winner of the Toronto-Milwaukee series. The Cavs won the season series over the Raptors 3-1. A Cavs-Raptors series would display some great one on one matchups. Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov would face Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas in a battle of bigs. Another fun matchup would be Kyrie Irving versus Toronto’s Kyle Lowry. I could see this series going 5 to games 6 with the Cavs winning due to the play of the big three. Even though, Toronto has an advantage over Milwaukee, don’t count out this Bucks squad. Milwaukee has a talented young team that could give the Raptors a tough time. If the Bucks shock the Raptors, I think the Cavs would easily win the series. Milwaukee lacks playoff experience, while the Cavaliers have plenty of it.

The Eastern Conference Finals will obviously be the toughest challenge for the Cavs. I expect a Hawks-Bulls matchup in the Conference Semifinals. I would rather see the Cavs play the Bulls because of their longtime rivalry. However, I think the Hawks are more likely to advance to the Conference Finals. Regardless of which team advances, I can see the Cavaliers going six to seven games with either of these teams. Chicago can be a very dangerous team, but their biggest problem is staying healthy. Derrick Rose just returned this past week after a successful surgery that repaired a medial meniscus tear in his right knee. Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler both missed some games due to injury. The Cavs won the season series against the Bulls 3-1. In all four games, the Bulls were missing one of their three stars. A Chicago team at full strength would give the Cavs a good series, but I think the Cavs would still come out on top. The Cavaliers dropped the season series to the Hawks 3-1. Some people would find this concerning, but the first three games came before the trades for Mozgov, Smith, and Iman Shumpert. LeBron James also sat out the third game, which is another reason why Cleveland struggled. The Cavs improved in the final meeting with Atlanta, but still lost the game 106-97. At the time of that March 6 meeting, David Blatt was still tweaking his bench and defensive sets. The Cavs have been on a roll since then and have a won a NBA best 32 of 41 since mid-January. The Hawks play as one team which is key, but they lack star power and a good bench rotation. The Cavs have plenty of star power and a bench that is deep with playoff experience.

My bold prediction is that the Cavaliers will win the Eastern Conference and will play for a chance to bring Cleveland it’s first professional sports championship since 1964.

Blues Traveler: How Dion Nesmith’s long road through the NCAA brought him to Hofstra

Editors Note-In honor of tonight’s National Championship game I would like to share a piece I did for my sportswriting class. The assignment was to write a feature on a Hofstra athlete. Enjoy!

The college career of Hofstra senior, Dion Nesmith, has been a long, but rewarding journey. Nesmith’s college athletics career spans three universities and two different sports. The loss of one sport rekindled the love of another for the graduate student.

Hofstra Senior, Dion Nesmith, brings the ball up court in 2014 CAA Quarterfinals against Delaware. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Hofstra Senior, Dion Nesmith, brings the ball up court in 2014 CAA Quarterfinals against Delaware. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Nesmith began his college career in 2009 at Northeastern University as a redshirt freshman on the football team. He accepted a scholarship with the Huskies after being a standout on the football and basketball team at his hometown high school in Union, New Jersey. Nesmith also played baseball during his freshmen year of high school, but eventually focused on just two sports. When contemplating where he would attend college, he was faced with a tough decision. “Looking forward, Northeastern was probably the best academic school to offer me a scholarship so I took it and ran with it,” says Nesmith.

On November 22, 2009, just one day after the Huskies won their final game of the season, the University announced that it was dropping the football program after 74 years because it was too expensive to maintain. Faced with uncertainty about his athletics career, Nesmith had another tough decision to make. “The months leading after it were tough because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, if I wanted to keep playing football or play basketball or just go to school,” says Nesmith. “It’s tough you know, you’re eighteen years old and you have to make a decision for the rest of your life.” He was recruited by multiple schools for football and even took a visit to Central Connecticut State. In the end, he went back to his first love and accepted a basketball scholarship at Monmouth University.

Nesmith sat out his first season at Monmouth due to NCAA transfer rules. In two seasons with the Hawks, he averaged 13.3 points per game and started 88 of 93 games. He graduated from Monmouth in the spring of 2013 with a degree in finance, but he still had two years of eligibility as a graduate athlete remaining. Nesmith decided to transfer once again and finish his athletic career on the Hofstra University basketball team “I thought it was better for me to go someplace else and maybe expand my game a little bit and Hofstra was the right place for that,” says Nesmith.

Nesmith joined a rebuilding Pride squad that had lost five players to criminal activity and had just fired its head coach. Nesmith was ready for the challenge of leading a young team and playing under new head coach, Joe Mihalich. “I thought it was a fun role making a good change at place like Hofstra, where good things usually happen,” says Nesmith. In his first year with the Blue and Gold, Nesmith averaged 13.3 points and 4.2 assists. This past season, he proved once again to be a key member of the team by averaging 11.1 points per game and helping to lead Hofstra to their best season since 2010-2011. The Pride had a 20-12 record, which included an appearance in the CAA Semifinals, and bid to the College Basketball Invitational. “Dion gave us a lot of experience,” says Hofstra guard/forward, Ameen Tanksley. “He showed us the will to win and how to pull tight games through.”

Looking back on the many changes that have occurred during his college career, Nesmith says that he has no regrets about how things played out. “I wouldn’t be in the place I am now and the position I am to do things going forward in my life if those events didn’t happen and I’m not upset with any of them,” says Nesmith. Now that his college playing days have come to an end, Nesmith has begun to look towards the future. He will graduate from Hofstra in May with a MBA degree with a concentration in business analytics. “Right now I am trying to pick an agent so I can go overseas to play basketball, but I am also weighing my options back home maybe getting a job with my MBA,” says Nesmith. After a long, but successful journey in the world of college sports, it is safe to say that Nesmith will excel in whatever path he chooses.