April 18, 2014

Numbers Don’t Lie: Cavs took huge steps defensively in 2013-14

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Across from the coach’s office within the Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room is a poster-sized sheet that serves as a reminder for what this team had set out to accomplish heading into the season. All 32 NBA teams, listed in order by opponent field goal percentage—a widely-used gauge to determine defensive prowess in a game that can vary widely in the way of pace of play. Last season, when Byron Scott took that final walk, the giant metal door clicking behind him, the Cavs were listed 30th. When Mike Brown was reintroduced just days later, the message was clear: If the Wine and Gold were going to improve, it would be through defense. And while they did not make the playoffs, a goal that was clearly disseminated from the top, the team did improve substantially on the defensive end, finishing 12th in the league in opponent field goal percentage with a mark of 45.2.

Other defensive statistics also show marked improvement. After finishing the year 25th in points allowed per game in 2012-13, this year’s unit finished 16th. The Cavs (perhaps surprisingly) had the fifth-lowest average for opponent points in the paint (38.9) and had the seventh-lowest average in fastbreak points (12.1). They finished 2013-14 17th in defensive efficiency (104.8 points allowed per 100 possessions), one year after finishing 26th (106.9). Where they failed, at least in the way of being among the top third of the league, was in three-point percentage, finishing 24th (.367). 

Offensively, the team was a mixed bag as they ranked 22nd in scoring (98.2) and 27th in field goal percentage (43.7) after ranking 19th (96.5) and 29th (43.4) in 2012-13. The Cavs ranked 17th in pace of play this season—a mark that by no means has a direct correlation with success—after finishing last season 12th. They finished the year 23rd in offensive efficiency (101.3). In 2012-13, they were 23rd as well with a mark of 100.8.

Statistical improvements or regressions, at least when it comes to team-wide output, can rarely be linearly extrapolated into subsequent years. They’re largely a function of the individual players and their fit within the system. Anderson Varejao will be a year older with a partially guaranteed deal. Much will change between this unit and the one which will take the floor this October.

Many of the numbers listed above, while improvements, represent a jump to league average. The LeBron James-led Cavalier units under Brown were frequently among the best in the league. It’s clear that the team made strides defensively as compared to a year ago—a goal of theirs heading into the year—which was the goal in bringing Brown back for his second tour. If he is retained beyond this summer, it will be for these reasons, with the hopes and conviction that that poster across from his office displays something even more favorable come this time in 2015.

(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dion Waiters is Waiting For Next Year

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In his exit interview with the local media on Thursday morning, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters discussed the offseason and what the team’s goals are over the next 12 months.

“I’ve never been to the playoffs,” said Waiters. “I’m very hungry. It’s why I play every game like it’s my last. Hopefully one day—next year. Next year, reaching the playoffs—that should be everyone’s main goal. I already know what it’s like, just by the jersey retirement for [Zydrunas Ilgauskas], how the fans were. So, just imagine the playoffs.

“We all have to come in with one mindset. We can’t worry about individual goals, individual accolades. It has to be a team thing, a team mind set, and everything else will take care of itself. That’s the biggest thing.”

Waiters plans on spending the next several weeks with his son before getting back to the grind. Several players on the Cavaliers—including Waiters, in efforts led by Jarrett Jack—have plans to watch NBA playoff games from the stands over the coming weeks as a means to get a taste for the atmosphere and energy that comes with making the postseason. “I want to see how teams win,” said Waiters.

Mel Kiper Mock has Manziel to Browns, Bridgewater to Round 2

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Fans of Johnny Manziel will be happy with the latest from Mel Kiper Jr. Though laced with caveats, the fluffy-haired draftnik’s latest mock not only has the Cleveland Browns selecting the first quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft, but making that player one Johnny Football, the polarizing passer out of Texas A&M, with the trio of South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney, Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Clemson’s Sammy Watkins going first, second and third, respectively.

Manziel is not my top-rated QB, but he is the QB I believe (right now) is likeliest to go this high, as I believe a team like Cleveland, with a number of draft assets and a QB on the roster it feels can create a bridge to a young starter, is in a good scenario to take a chance on Manziel’s ceiling. The Browns owning the No. 26 pick as well as an early second-rounder gives them a chance to take a player like Watkins here if available and consider a QB later, but this is how I see it as of right now.

Regarding the other quarterbacks, Kiper has UCF’s Blake Bortles going eighth to the Minnesota Vikings, but the “Big 3″ officially becomes the “Big 2 and Derek Carr” (as many had been hinting) with Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater falling to the first pick on the second day, leading to quite the haul for the Houston Texans. Carr was nabbed 2oth overall by the Arizona Cardinals.

For the Browns’ second first-round selection, Kiper jumps aboard the cornerback bandwagon and pegs Cleveland with Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller.

Depending on which game you’re watching, you could walk away thinking Fuller is as good as or better than any cornerback in this draft, and the Browns can take him expecting a player who will contribute early at a position where they lack enough depth behind Joe Haden. Fuller has good size at 6 feet tall, and not only plays fast, but gets off the ground well to challenge high-point throws against taller pass-catchers. If Cleveland goes another route at No. 4, this is obviously a slot where the Browns could go with a QB.

And to help quench the thirst of the wideout-hungry fans, Kiper closes things out with Fresno State’s Davante Adams being taken with the team’s second-round selection. Adams is a 6-foot-1-inch, sure-handed athlete who helped Carr get bumped in to the top 20.

Consensus appears to have Cleveland pegged with some combination of a quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback and offensive lineman being taken very early. While there will likely be countless mocks to unfold between today and the NFL Draft, it appears that the Browns should leave the second day with at least three of four needs having been tackled.

(Photo: Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY Sports)

Luck and Suck: FanGraphs digs in on two Tribe pitchers

Corey Kluber

Small sample sizes rarely stop the crew over at FanGraphs—if anything, they thrive on them, helping hardcore fans understand why a player hasn’t exactly done what has been expected of him, either for the better or worse. Given the small sample size discussion from our own Jon earlier this week, the latest from FanGraphs falls right in line, discussing the merits (or lackthereof) of the struggles being exhibited by two of Cleveland’s own: Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

In a post titled “Buy Low on Corey Kluber,” Scott Spratt echoes much of what Steiner said, focusing solely on the stoic one and his 5.50 ERA.

Kluber’s 8.64 strikeouts and 1.62 walks per nine innings are in line with his 8.31 and 2.02 rates from last year when he carried a 3.85 ERA for the season. In fact, Kluber’s 3.31 FIP is almost identical to his 3.30 FIP from 2013. It stands to reason that his ERA will fall in line if he continues to pitch this way.

Kluber is not unusual as a victim of the small-sample madness of the first few weeks of the new season. However, I do think circumstances have conspired to make him particularly vulnerable, and those circumstances have just improved.

To date, only the Minnesota Twins have been worse defensively in the outfield than the Indians based on the combined Defensive Runs Saved totals of the three outfield positions. The Indians have lost eight runs in the outfield, and almost all of it has been the result of Nyjer Morgan and Michael Brantley in center field.

Spratt, in addition to luck and a .411 BABiP, believes that the addition of Michael Bourn alone should allow for the fly-ball happy Kluber to regain his relative success. While it seemed crazy a few days ago, the fact that Morgan has been tagged with a league-worst five runs to this point speaks volumes to his demotion. While the article doesn’t mention the loss of Drew Stubbs as well, it does appear that if Bourn can provide at least baseline levels of defense, the team will be that much more better off—regardless of what he does at the plate.

Regarding Carrasco, things appear to be a bit less luck-based and more, well, Carrasco-based.

It’s easy to point to his 3.51 SIERA, ridiculous .400 BABIP and 53.8% LOB% and claim he’ll enjoy better luck moving forward. Similarly, it’s also simple to call him a head case, perform no analysis whatsoever, and move on. But of course, I’m not going to do either of these things. With a repertoire that seemingly appears fantastic, why isn’t Carrasco the best pitcher in baseball?

The odd thing about the inflated BABIP is that he has a allowed an LD% of just 12.9%. Given that line drives go for hits most frequently of all the batted ball types, it’s a surprise that he has allowed so many hits when the majority of his balls in play are ground balls. [...]

Although Carrasco’s fastball sits in the mid-90s and has touched as high as 96.7 mph this year and 98.1 mph historically, the pitch has been clobbered. He throws both a four-seamer and a two-seamer and both have been absolutely wretched. This year, the four-seamer, which he throws most often, has been hit to the tune of a .381 wOBA. While that’s terrible, that’s nothing compared to what hitters have done to his poor two-seamer.

Batters have quite enjoyed Carrasco’s two-seam fastball. How much you ask? Oh, just a delightful .761 wOBA. That’s not OPS, that’s wOBA. In OPS terms, it’s 1.811, including a .444 ISO and .667 batting average. Yeeesh. When you’re fastballs are that bad and you throw them a combined 60% of the time, no wonder why you’re getting blasted.

Fans have always loved Carrasco’s live arm—players who can get the ball up in the 90s are just fun to watch. That said, it’s intriguing that the best pitch for guy who can nearly hit triple-digits is actually his change-up. Carrasco simply can’t locate his heat. He touches 95 on the regular, but any major league baseball player can hit that when it’s served up over the middle of the plate, as Carlos has been thus far. Whether or not Mickey Callaway can coach Carrasco—and whether or not the pitcher can be coached—will be one huge storyline heading into May, especially with Trevor Bauer tossing yet another gem on Wednesday night1.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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Footnotes:

  1. Six innings, no runs on five hits, striking out nine batters with just one walk. []

AJ McCarron will conduct private workout for the Browns

AJ McCarron wins, people

All I do is win win win…

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron will reportedly host a private workout for the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday, this according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Oh, boy. People may want to talk about his girlfriend, but get a load of this guy’s body. At 6-feet-4-inches and 220 pounds with 10-inch hands, McCarron possesses the size and stature needed to be a durable quarterback in the NFL. This kid can take—a—hit. He may only have decent arm strength that may require a crow hop to get the ball down field, but this guy…he is a mature, high-motor guy who does nothing but win. He won two—not one, TWO—National Championships while with the Crimson Tide. He’s been labled a ‘game manager,’ but he’ll be the first to tell you that he brings way more to the table. 

McCarron has all the inangibles. He’s a very confident player, yet he’ll put in that extra work in the film room! He was a Human Environmental Science major! He’s one of the few guys I know that has tattoos and bow ties—I mean, I know guys that have bow ties and I know guys that have tattoos; I don’t know many guys that have both. This kid can make all the throws—OK, some of them. But he’s done nothing but win.

[Related: Calling out the worst of all NFL draft clichés]

Browns among teams showing most interest in Michael Sam

In a story that will be bound to pick up steam as the 2014 NFL Draft nears, sources tell the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson that the Ravens, New York Jets, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns are showing the most interest in Missouri defensive end Michael Sam.

Sam was one of the more anticipated players to take to this winter’s NFL Combine, but turned in a sluggish workout where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.91 seconds, had just a 25-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds just 17 times. Sam did, however, improve on his numbers during his campus Pro Day workout at Missouri, running the 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds, leaping 30 inches bench pressing 225 pounds 19 times.

As a senior with the Tigers, Sam amassed 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for losses and was named a first-team All-American and a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection. The 6-foot-2, 256-pound college defensive end struggled during the Senior Bowl during outside linebacker drills as he attempts to transition to a new position.

Given the NFL teams listed, it appears that Sam is pegged to fit in mostly as an edge rusher in a 3-4 scheme. Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, projects to be a third-day selection who will likely have to thrive on special teams to make a 53-man roster.

Big changes coming to Cavs…Maybe

Dan Gilbert, Mike Brown, Chris Grant

So we know that Dan Gilbert is none too pleased. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ majority owner is reportedly fuming, having set his sights on the Eastern Conference Playoffs this season, only to fall just short in a year when countless teams around him missed the playoffs intentionally. Gilbert has a reputation for being short-sighted and reactionary, supported by recent firings and re-hirings. With the Cavs on the outside looking in, many assume that more of the same will be on the way, but FOX Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico says that while some changes are going to happen, no decisions have been made regarding the front office, head coach or roster.

How displeased is Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that his team missed the playoffs? Well, “enraged” was the word most used by sources to describe Gilbert’s overall feelings. “Inside the organization is like a time-bomb waiting to go off,” said one.

That doesn’t mean Gilbert will overreact and start firing everybody, sources cautioned. It does mean he is expected to strategically (and perhaps slowly) find the best fit for running the basketball side of things this summer.

That could mean keeping interim general manager David Griffin and giving him the job on a full-time basis. Sources said Gilbert has been impressed with the improved culture in the Cavs’ locker room since Griffin took over. However, Griffin landing the gig is still not considered a definite. One source close to the situation described the idea of keeping the current front office entirely intact as “shaky.”

Amico expands on the status of head coach Mike Brown, which is expected to be determined this summer. The team owes Brown four more years of a five-year, $20 million deal and is less than a year removed from a press conference where the head coach was the definitive man to lead the team for the second time. Apparently, Glbert is very unhappy with the fallout of the Luol Deng deal, especially with the growing belief that the award-winning small forward will be playing elsewhere next season.

And the priority? Make Dion Waiters Waiters and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving work as the long-term starting backcourt. Just who will be tasked with executing on this plan will apparently be the giant variable.

Vìva uncertainty!

(AP Photo/Jason Miller)

Luol Deng win’s NBA’s Citizenship Award

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Cleveland Cavaliers small forward Luol Deng has been voted the 2013-14 winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award which is presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association to the player, coach or trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for any award, but this one is special because it represents who I am as a person and where I came from,” said Deng via press release. “What I’m most proud of is that my family can look back after my career is over and realize that I was able to make a difference on and off the basketball court.  That is something that tells the true story as to who I am as a person, someone who cares about his community and wants to improve the lives of others.”

Deng recently recorded a public service announcement for the EnoughProject.org, urging peace during a time of renewed conflict in his native South Sudan. This is his latest contribution to a number of international causes, including The Luol Deng Foundation, which is a global non-profit organization that uses basketball as a platform to give hope to those in Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. In the U.S., Deng’s work has been focused primarily on the communities in which he has played, Chicago and Cleveland.  He has funded Thanksgiving and holiday events that provide meals and toys to the underserved and has also served as a mentor to the “Lost Boys of Sudan.” He is also an avid supporter of the NBA’s Basketball without Borders program and has participated in PSA’s to raise awareness for World Malaria Day.

“The breadth and depth of Luol Deng’s community service elevated him from a deep pool of committed candidates,” said PBWA President Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “But, really, all the candidates and their communities are winners.”

Photo: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving continues to screw with Cavs fans

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With less than a week remaining in the regular season, Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving continues to play games with Cavalier fans who are concerned about the All-Star point guard’s future with the team. This past weekend, Irving vaguetweeted in a way that would make a teen girl blush out of admiration, putting the following tweet in quotes.

A quick Google search leads to nothing in the way of a well-known (or even obscure referenced) quote. Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Jodie Valade dug into the ever-enlightening pages of UrbanDictionary to find out that “jumping the fence” means “the moment when you are trapped in a bad situation, and you are quickly trying to get away, hoping things won’t get worse.”

Earlier this month, the point guard was the subject of an interview wherein he was not painted in a pretty light, one which stated that “his camp” had been intimating that he yearns to leave Cleveland. The rumors were quickly refuted, Irving stating that reporters should “be man or woman enough” and ask him directly. Well, on Monday, Irving was questioned about the tweet, to which he responded, “I’m going to let you dissect that. I’m just going to let you dissect that. Whatever you want to think about that.”

The Cavaliers could be eying up a ninth-place finish in the Eastern Conference, placing them with the worst odds at the NBA Lottery and one spot outside of the postseason—this is commonly known as NBA Limbo. Irving is expected to be offered a contract extension this summer, which he could accept or decline. He’s just 22 years old, has all the talent in the world, and continues to be scrutinized every step of the way. He can will his team to victory one night and take the next one off, expecting nothing in the way of direct or indirect recourse. He holds most of the cards, but has grown increasingly frustrated when being asked to show them. Whatever he meant by that tweet, it’s going to be a long two months.

(Photo via Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Could Teddy Bridgewater slide into Day 2 of NFL Draft?

 NCAA Football: Louisville at West Virginia

The pendulum appears to be swinging in the opposite direction—and quickly. It wasn’t long ago that mock drafts had the “Big 3″ quarterbacks all being selected within the first four picks. Today, headlines are screaming that not only will this not be the case, but one of the quarterbacks may not even be selected on the NFL Draft’s first day.

Profootballtalk’s Michael David Smith is “hearing more talk” in league circles that the draft stock of this year’s top-rated quarterbacks is “dropping.” SI.com’s Peter King added fuel to this fire in his MMQB column, stating the Browns—along with the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Oakland Raiders—are “strongly considering” passing on QBs at the top of the draft, “and waiting until their second or third selections.” Many pundits are grouping Derek Carr, Zach Mettenberger, Tom Savage, Jimmy Garoppolo, and A.J. McCarron as a second tier that doesn’t have as big of a drop from the first as in years past.

In 2013, it was West Virginia’s Geno Smith who went from Top-10 lock to a second-day selection in a matter of days. Bortles and Manziel appear to be first-round locks as they haven’t given much reason for a slide. With a dreadful Pro Day and lukewarm grades being handed out to quarterbacks, could Teddy Bridgewater be the next to follow suit? Reports are circulating that even Bridgewater’s private workouts have been shaky. This would be the kind of fall that if it were to happen in a fantasy draft, two-thirds of the league would be Googling for unbeknownst injury news; the other third would be using last year’s magazine.

Photo: Andrew Weber-US

Clowney will not hold private workouts before NFL Draft

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What’s the down side in not attending a draft prospects Pro Day? The Cleveland Browns may soon find out.

In the wake of an injury sustained by Clemson’s Brandon Thomas, potential first-overall draft selection Jadveon Clowney will not be participating in any private workouts heading into May’s NFL Draft. “He still will visit teams and interview with coaches and GMs,” writes SI’s Peter King, “but his next show-and-tell football performance will be after the draft in a mini-camp, with whichever team picks him.”

The Browns were the only team to not have front office members present at Clowney’s (incredibly impressive) Pro Day two weeks back, citing that “being in charge of that workout is different than being at a Pro Day where it’s orchestrated and scripted.” Unfortunately for Cleveland, they’ll now see neither.

This (bound to be controversial) decision by Clowney will only serve to add to the talented pass-rusher’s mystique while making the monocles pop out of the eyes of schoolmarms like this “personnel man” throughout the league. Remember, this was the same player who was accused of milking injuries to not hinder his draft stock just weeks after being the subject of glowing columns and feature-length stories.

Isn’t anonymous character assassination delightful?

(Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports)

Month-long pranks, Colbert’s move and Bubba’s big win: While We’re Waiting

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Say something! I struggle to think of many environments—especially work-enviroments where individuals are there by chance more than choice—where any sort of prank can carry on for a full month, but such was the case with cup-of-coffee Cleveland Indian Jeff Francouer. If you’re somehow unaware of this masterpiece, let’s take a step back: Since being granted his exit from the Indians’ minor league system, Francouer caught on with the El Paso Chihuahuas. In his month with the team, the Chihuahuas, from the top down, had the long-time outfielder convinced that one of his teammates was deaf—when he most definitely is not. Even better: They created this mockumentary.

Be sure to watch all the way through—from the over annunciation all the way to the end as Frenchy finds out he’s been fooled. It’s seven minutes that are well worth your time. Hand signals.

***

Congrats, Bubba. For the second time in three years, Bubba Watson took the Green Jacket home from Augusta, capping off an excellent weekend with a 3-under in Sunday’s final round. The story, at least in the short term, may be the play of Jordan Spieth who, at age 20, was leading by two shots at the eighth tee. This kid’s future will instantly be put under a microscope as the golf world looks for the next big star stemming from the same tournament that may have simultaneously signaled the end for it’s biggest in Tiger Woods. For Watson, however, to birdie both eith eighth and ninth holes just a few hours after holding a triva contest on Twitter—well, the game may not need Spieth at all. For all that he gets criticized, Watson was nails. With a three-stroke lead on 15, Watson could have let up and played it safe, giving back a stroke or two. Instead, he took a 6-iron 190 yards, through a hole in a tree, over water and onto the green on the par-5 15th—he got there in two. Watson is quirky in a game that typically rewards stoic, emotionless behavior. He rarely plays by the book, both on and off of the course. His caddy even thinks he’s a bit crazy.

It wasn’t all that long ago when Rory McIlroy, then at age 23, was the perceived heir to the throne. So rather than searching for the next big name, maybe we should see the forest for the trees—pun, fully intended. Hell, Watson already owns Woods’ old house, fire hydrant and all.

***

The Nation goes Network. Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock, you’re aware that Stephen Colbert has been tabbed as the replacement for David Letterman following his impending retirement in 2015. As a huge fan of Colbert, I couldn’t be more excited for myself as a fan of entertaining television, but more so for Colbert who will finally be able to shed the character he’s played for most of the last decade over at Comedy Central. When the announcement was made and took Twitter by storm, it was met with positivity from the majority of individuals whose opinion I value. Then there are those who simply pan everything—they’re just the worst type of humans imaginable. In between, however, were those who thought it was a poor decision because they didn’t enjoy “The Colbert Report.” This is a—for lack of a better term—silly way to look at this. Sure, you can feel left in the dust when network talk shows are angling themselves toward younger crowds1, but let’s not pretend that Letterman and Jay Leno were always dinosaurs; these guys were the next big thing—30 years ago. Juding Colbert on the merits of his political-based COMEDY show is akin to saying LeBron James isn’t an All-World basketball player because the movie he was supposed to be in got shelved. This Ben Collins piece sums it up perfectly: “Now he’ll get to be himself. And he’ll be the best in the world at it.”

***

Speaking of late night. I couldn’t stay up through all of Mad Men last night. Man, is 10 p.m. is tough on a Sunday. This, however, won’t stop me from reading all about it this morning. I recommend Molly Lambert’s weekly column which should hit Grantland sometime later today.

***

And just because: Some people just can’t take a hint.

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Footnotes:

  1. The Roots are still one of the greatest things to happen to late night in a LONG time. []

McShay’s latest mock: Bortles falls to Browns at No. 4; Carr still on the board after two rounds

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Are pundits souring on the quarterbacks? After having the “Big 3″ being taken within the first few picks, ESPN’s Todd McShay still has Blake Bortles being the first quarterback to be selected, but not until the fourth-overall pick as used by your Cleveland Browns.

Conceding to his Big Board, McShay has Houston selecting All-Universe defensive lineman Jadaveon Clowney with the first-overall pick. From there, Auburn’s Greg Robinson goes to St. Louis and Buffalo’s Khalil Mack gets nabbed by Jacksonville at No. 3.

I think this pick would come down to Bortles or WR Sammy Watkins. I’m going with Bortles. While he isn’t a perfect prospect at QB, he has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this class. He has some improving to do with his mechanics, but he showed clear progress in that area during his pro-day workout, and he checks all the boxes in terms of his size (6-foot-5, 232 pounds), intangibles, character, mental makeup and leadership ability. He can also make plays with his legs and is more creative than he gets credit for.

McShay has Watkins going fifth to Oakland, Mike Evans going seventh to Tampa Bay, Johnny Manziel (who he had going fourth-overall last month) going eighth to Minnesota, and Teddy Bridgewater falling to Tennessee at No. 11.

Choosing Bortles over Watkins at No. 4, McShay once again pegs the Browns as selecting a wide receiver with the 26th-overall pick. This time, the receiver du jour is Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin, the 6-foot-5-inch giant who was hauling in passes from Jameis Winston.1

This pair of picks would give Cleveland a young and potentially explosive passing attack to develop (TE Jordan Cameron and WR Andrew Hawkins would help round out an impressive receiving corps). Benjamin has a lot of developing to do as a route-runner and is inconsistent catching the ball on tape, but he is a red-zone nightmare who does a great job of coming down with 50-50 balls.

Fans of size will also like that McShay has pegged Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the second round. The 6-foot-3-inch corner would presumably step and provide size across from Joe Haden.

Derek Carr, a player recently linked to the Browns at No. 4, does not get selected in either of the first two projected rounds.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Footnotes:

  1. “It seemed like every time I looked up I had picked another wide receiver. There are a lot of teams with needs at the position, and a lot of good receiver prospects in this draft.” — McShay []

Browns reportedly ready to match Mack’s offer “in no time at all”

Mack

Sad Alex.

Less than 24 hours after reporting that the Jacksonville Jaguars may have themselves a shiny new Pro Bowl center, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has hedged his bets with a report that the Cleveland Browns will match the Jags’ offer in “no time at all.”

Jacksonville’s offer was reportedly designed to make it as difficult as possible for the Browns to match. Also a factor is that Mack appears to desire any NFL city aside from Cleveland. But much to the center’s chagrin, Ray Farmer’s front office has the most cap space in the entire league and appears willing to use it in order to retain one of the game’s best centers. Per ESPNCleveland’s Tony Grossi, the team is well aware of Mack’s feelings, but is not about to set a precedent about disgruntled players getting to take their talents elsewhere. Not to mention: Mack is a stud.

FOX Sports’ Mike Garafolo reports Alex Mack’s five-year offer sheet with the Jaguars will make him the NFL’s highest paid center. Specific terms still haven’t been released, but Carolina’s Ryan Kalil is currently the NFL’s richest center, recently inking a six-year, $49 million contract. That deal contained $28 million guaranteed, including an $18 million signing bonus.

Joe Haden, Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron (among others) are going to command a raise at some point, but the Browns appear willing to cross those bridges upon arrival. By all accounts, Mack is going to cost the Browns at least $18 million in guarantees over the next two seasons, making him the game’s highest-paid center. How the fans react to his off-season antics, however, may be a completely different story.

Photo: Candice Vlcek/WFNY

Lonnie Chisenhall placed on paternity leave

Lonnie Chisenhall

Someone let Boomer Esiason know that Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall’s wife, Meredith, had the gall to have their second child while the team is set to begin a west coast swing.

Major League Baseball couldn’t get through their first weekend without controversy, the first bout spilling over regarding it’s paternity leave rules. Esiason, a former NFL quarterback, stirred the pot by saying Daniel Murphy (from the Mets) should have forced his wife to have a c-section so that he could be ready for Opening Day. Esiason later apologized folllowing the subsequent uproar.

The 25-year-old Chisenhall can take up to three days off which should put him back on the active roster at some point over the weekend. Justin Sellers, a shortstop, was called up in a corresponding move. He’s provided a  .199/.278/.301 career slashline in the majors. Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Francisco Lindor is off to a quick start for Double-A Akron, hitting .308/.333/.462 through his first six games.

Babies and baseball. Get excited, folks.

Jaguars to sign Alex Mack to a five-year offer sheet

Alex Mack

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Jacksonville Jaguars will sign highly-discussed transition-tagged center Alex Mack to a five-year offer sheet by Friday.

Per Schefter, Mack badly wants to play the five-year contract with the Jaguars and doesn’t want to return to Cleveland—this, of course, despite all of the posturing being done on the side of the Browns and their “feelings” about the situtation. As promised, Mack’s agent and the Jaguars will likely structure the deal in a way that will make it as difficult as possible for the Browns to match it, even though Cleveland is rife with cap space and possess the desire to retain Mack who is arguably the game’s best center.

For the Browns to pass, the Jaguars would allegedly have to make the first three years of any offer pay out somewhere between $22 and $25 million guaranteed loaded with roster and workout bonuses. While Cleveland has plenty of cap space, he issue for the Browns begin in 2015 and 2016, when some other players (Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, etc.) are in line for new deals.

The Browns will have five days to make a decision if and when a deal is officially signed.

[Related: Alex Mack may have missed the free agent party]

(Photo: Larry French/Getty Images North America)

Behold: Nyjer Morgan 2.0

Photo In the fickle world where professional baseball players trade, Nyjer Morgan has everything going against him. He’s 33 years old. He’s on a one-year deal with the Cleveland Indians, getting his opportunity thanks to a minor league deal, ultimately obtaining a spot on the big league roster solely due to an injury to the team’s every day center fielder. A season ago, he was taking left-handed cuts in Japan, but was sent to their equivalent of the minor leagues following a slow start. Domestically, he is known more for headline-producing antics and an alter ego named Tony Plush; both Morgan and Plush have worn out their welcome with several teams in Major League Baseball, including the one he helped lead to the playoffs in 2011. Nyjer Morgan may have very well been the 25th man to get his name carved into the team’s Opening Day roster, but here he stands, freshly showered following his team’s series opening win over the San Diego Padres, telling everyone within ear shot that he is as comfortable as he has been throughout his six years in the game.

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Indians option Vinnie Pestano to Columbus, recall C.C. Lee

Vinne Pestano

Fresh off of a ninth inning that left a lot to be desired, the Cleveland Indians have optioned relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano to Columbus and recalled C.C. Lee.

Pestano, who had (by all accounts) regained the velocity which had escaped him a year prior, will leave the big league club with a 13.50 ERA in three relief appearances. With a fastball that has been clocked in the high-80s, Pestano has allowed eight hits and six runs (four earned) after opening the season on the Major League roster.

Lee, 27, will be making his second stint at the Major League level in 2014, spending one day with the club on April 2 as the “26th man”.  He has made two relief appearances for Columbus, going 0-0 with a 3.38 ERA and four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings.

The team has also formally announced the recalling of Trevor Bauer who will start the second game of Wednesday’s traditional doubleheader. He’s coming off of a six-inning start with the Clippers wherein he allowed just two hits and struck out nine.

“Major League” turns 25: 15 facts you may not have known about the movie

gal-major-league-group-shot-jpg

Amidst all of the nostalgic things have have happened over the course of the last few weeks1, the one that may ultimately mean the most to Cleveland fans is the 25th anniversary of the release of Major League, which opened in theatres on April 7, 1989.

Writer/director David S. Ward, whose other credits include “The Sting” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” endeavored to make a baseball movie involving his beloved Cleveland Indians as he was a long-suffering Tribe fan who grew up in South Euclid, Ohio. With the help of Ricky Vaugh, Jake Taylor, Coach Lou Brown, Roger Dorn and Harry Doyle,  Major League became a No. 1 hit at the box office and ultimately one of the most beloved baseball films of all time.

The delightful chaps over at Big League Stew decided to break out 15 things that even the most hardcore Major League fans may have not known, including the facts that Charlie Sheen took steroids for his role as the Tribe’s erratic pitcher, and that Dennis Haysbert—who played the lovable Pedro Cerrano—really was hitting home runs.

As Cerrano, the Cuban import who hit balls “very much,” Haysbert had the honor of being the film’s power hitter. Truth was, it wasn’t totally fiction. Haysbert was the only member of the fictitious Indians who could actually clear the yard. 

“Every time I was supposed to hit a home run in the movie, I did,” Haysbert says. 

It’s a fact that Ward backs up. “He was so jacked by that,” Ward says. “He said, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever do anything more exciting as an actor.’ ”

Haysbert didn’t play baseball past Little League, instead playing football, basketball and running track in high school. His 6-foot-4 frame, though, gave him plenty of baseball power. Haysbert had so much fun shooting “Major League,” after the film wrapped, he says he joined an adult men’s hardball league.

It’s also worth digging up this brilliant oral history of the “1989 Championship Team” that was published over at The Score last summer. I proudly still own Major League on VHS. The fact that I don’t even own a VCR plays nary a role in holding on to it. I’ll be shocked if another baseball movie can ever top it, and I’ll stand in my front yard and wave my rake at anyone who dares say otherwise.

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Footnotes:

  1. Where to begin… This month marks the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death, the 20th anniversary of the release of Illmatic, the 20th anniversary of Jacobs Field, the 20th anniversary of The Offspring’s Smash... []

Cavs fans, brace yourself for the Joe Dumars rumors

The wheels are officially in motion. With news coming out that Joe Dumars will resign from his position as Detroit Pistons team president, it shouldn’t be too long before the long-time Detroit native starts to see his name turning up more frequently with regard to (fellow Detroiter) Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers are currently being run by David Griffin, who assumed the position of acting general manager following the firing of Chris Grant earlier this season. Not long thereafter, ESPN.com writer Brian Windhorst was a guest on Detroit Sports 105.1 with Matt Dery and mentioned that Dumars and Gilbert are neighbors and show a lot of “mutual respect” for one another. In what could serve as a bit of corroboration, HoopsHype tweeted that Dumars was “rumored to be in the mix” for the Cavs’ GM job, while also mentioning how awful he was in Detroit.

Dumars has spent 29 years with the Pistons franchise, as both a player and an executive, and has had a hand in every Detroit title. Conversely, Dumars drafted Darko Milicic in 2003, gave $90 million to Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon in 2009, and signed high-priced free agents Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings this past offseason, all leading to a 28-49 record in a dreadful Eastern Conference. This was once the guy who was going to land LeBron in 2010—he “had it all figured out.”

Things could be worse. After all, Windhorst also linked Cleveland to…Isiah Thomas.

(Photo: Clarence Tabb, Jr./Detroit News)