April 27, 2017

The 2017 alternate NFL mock draft

by Dan Bilicki In: Football

While we had our official mock draft run across the Postmedia chain in Thursday’s papers, there are of course some other options that teams could go with tonight. Here are some of the alternate picks we think could go down in the top 13 picks.

1. Cleveland

Our pick: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Alternate picks: Mitchell Trubisky

This seems like the only other potential choice at No. 1 and it’s certainly a longshot.

2. San Francisco

Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

Alternate picks: Jonathan Allen, Jamal Adams, Malik Hooker, Marcus Lattimore, Trubisky, O.J. Howard.

To say that the Niners have needs is an understatement. They could go in almost any direction here, including a trade down – which probably suits them best.

3. Chicago

Jamal Adams, SS, LSU

Alternate picks: Hooker, Lattimore, Allen, Trubisky, Deshaun Watson.

We think they’re set at QB for this season at least, but you can’t rule it out. Otherwise, there are a coiuple of difference-makers they can take here, with Adams and Allen most likely.

4. Jacksonville

Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama

Alternate picks: Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffery, Trubisky, Howard, Watson

The Jags have surprisingly few holes for a team this bad. A QB is an option as the new management isn’t tied to Bortles. Also, they traded away Julius Thomas, which might pave the way for the Howard pick.

5. Tennessee

Marcus Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

Alternate picks: Mike Williams, Howard, Adams, Hooker.

Perhaps their best move would be trading back and stockpiling more assets, but there is plenty of talent, both in receiving and in defensive backs, that could be taken here.

6. N.Y. Jets

Mitchell Trubisky, QB, UNC

Alternate picks: Lattimore, Hooker, Howard, Watson, Patrick Mahomes, DeShone Kizer.

Quarterback is obviously a big and could go with any of the top four guys. If they go defence, any of the top DBs will easily slot in as a starter almost immediately. Howard would be interesting because the Jets seldom utilize their TEs in the offence.

7. L.A. Chargers

Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State

Alternate picks: Ryan Ramczyk, Williams, Corey Davis, McCaffery, Thomas.

The first real spot we could see an offensive lineman. A receiver would be a solid addition if the top DBs are gone and McCaffery would be an interesting prospect for them, considering his ability to play the slot.

8. Carolina

Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Alternate picks: McCaffery, Allen, Thomas, Derek Barnett, Williams.

If it were up to us, it’s either going to be Fournette or McCaffery. If they’re both gone, a pass rusher or perhaps a WR would be the choice.

9. Cincinnati

Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

Alternate picks: Thomas, Reuben Foster, Taco Charlton.

The big question is if they’ll take Foster, whose stock took a big hit thanks to several off-field instances during the scouting process. He’s solid on tape though, making this a tough call.

10. Buffalo

Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Alternate picks: Davis, Trubisky, Watson, Mahomes, Kizer, or any of the next four CBs.

Here’s our thought: Either they draft a replacement for Sammy Watkins, they draft an heir to Tyrod Taylor or they get someone to replace Stephon Gilmore, who left in free agency.

11. New Orleans

Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

Alternate picks: A QB, a CB or a WR.

With another pick later, they can always fill another one of their needs with that one. Taking a CB would signal that they’re not going to get Malcolm Butler. There’s also a good chance they take a QB to learn under Drew Brees for a year or two.

12. Cleveland

O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

Alternate picks: Trubisky, Watson, Williams, Davis, a CB.

Will they deal this pick to move up for a QB? The only thing we don’t think they’ll do is draft a second pass rusher after taking Garrett first.

13. Arizona

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

Alternate picks: Williams, Davis, Howard.

Offence seems like the way to go for the Cards. They’re reportedly in love with Mahomes, but could easily take one of the top WRs or the amazing TE Howard.

April 14, 2017

NBA 2017 first-round preview

by Dan Bilicki In: Basketball

Since we did a little playoff preview for the NHL, it just wouldn’t be fair to not look at the first round of the coming NBA playoffs.

Granted, our knowledge about hoops is only marginally better than about ice hockey, it shouldn’t really matter when you look at some of these matchups – most of which are real mismatches. But that’s just the first round of the NBA playoffs for you.

And, in case you were curious, our pre-season predictions, we did a lot better than in the NHL (9/16 playoff teams), hitting on 5/8 in the East (missing with Detroit, New York and Charlotte) and astounding 7/8 in the West, missing with just Minnesota over Memphis.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Boston over Chicago in six.

The Bulls got in thanks largely to the Nets resting players for no good reason in the finale, but they are a hot team. The Celtics seem like a smoke-and-mirrors No. 1 and should be tested, but will win it.

Cleveland over Indiana in four.

The Cavs might lose one game, but that’s it. It’s the playoffs now and LeBron and Co. will finally get serious.

Toronto over Milwaukee in five.

I have my issues with this Raptors team, but the fact is that they are good, versatile and have tons of playoff experience now. The Bucks are young and athletic and could steal a game or two, but not the whole series.

Washington over Atlanta in five.

Are the Hawks really good enough to be the No. 5 seed? Nobody on that team really scares you and the Wizards have one of the most dangerous backcourts in the league. Getting some bench scoring at the deadline also helped.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Golden State over Portland in five.

The only thing that is stopping me from picking a sweep is the fact that Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum could easily combine for 60 points and the Warriors could be cold during one game in the Pacific Northwest.

San Antonio over Memphis in four.

If you like teams that grind it out, this is a first-round series for you. Spurs-Grizzlies should be a methodical matchup, but Memphis doesn’t have what it takes to compete with the perennial contenders.

Houston over Oklahoma City in seven.

James Harden vs. Russell Westbrook: The top two MVP candidates (Sorry, Kawhi and LeBron) go head-to-head in the first round and it should be thrilling basketball to watch. This one should go down to the wire with the actual MVP winning out in the end. Also, how many combined triple-doubles will we see this series from Harden and Russ? Ten?

Utah over L.A. Clippers in six.

The only upset I’m taking, and it’s not much of one. The Clips have been here before and could take this series, but the Jazz are a solid, up-and-coming team that could cause problems for L.A.’s vets. This should be the end of the line for this group of Clips that has never lived up to their potential.

April 12, 2017

Our official NHL playoff picks

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

With the official Postmedia Network NHL playoff picks coming out today, there was little surprise that I was asked to make mine for our papers – probably because I refer to the sport by its proper name of ice hockey.

So, we’ll have to post them here, and I’ll even share some of my limited knowledge about each first-round series.

For the record, in our pre-season preview, I got four out eight Eastern Conference playoff teams and five out of eight teams from the West. And, in fairness, my Presidents’ Trophy pick of Tampa would’ve been a lot better if Steven Stamkos hadn’t missed most of the season.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Blue Jackets over Penguins in 6

Sid the Kid and Co. obviously have the experience as defending champs, but the Jackets are capable of going on blindingly hot runs and have perhaps the best goalie in the league in Sergei Bobrovsky in net.

Canadiens over Rangers in 5

Henrik Lundqvist tends to come up small in the playoffs. The Canadiens aren’t the most exciting team, but they can grind out victories and Carey Price can be unbeatable at times.

Bruins over Senators in 7

I don’t like the long-term forecast for the Sens. The things that teams step up in playoffs (shot-blocking, intensity, grinding out close wins) are things that that they have been playing all season. Ottawa lacks that extra gear and also real top scoring threats up front. Boston’s defence is banged up, but can work through it.

Leafs over Caps in 7

If we’ve learned anything about the past year of sports, it’s that teams of destiny, teams breaking curses and overall craziness is very much in the cards. If you don’t think the young, feisty Leafs can shock the very upset-prone Caps, you’re insane.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Blackhawks over Preds in 5

Plain and simple: The Hawks didn’t win it last year, so they’ll do it this year. I also have my doubts about P.K. Subban as a gritty playoff performer.

Wild over Blues in 7

St. Louis traded away one of their better defencemen at the deadline and went on to make the playoffs anyway. The Wild is another team capable of getting really hot thanks to its defence and goaltending. It should be close, but Minnesota moves on. Although, the Blues could be a team of destiny, ending their 50-year title drought.

Oilers over Sharks in 6

San Jose is just too old to keep up with the high-flying, young Oilers. This playoffs could be the Connor McDavid show, exposing the future superstar to any fan in the U.S. that hasn’t seen him light it up.

Ducks over Flames in 5

The Flames are an after-thought in their own province thanks to McDavid and Co. And they won’t be getting much attention with the Ducks likely to run over them, either.

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