2012 draft redux -- another look around the NFC North

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2012 draft redux -- another look around the NFC North

Grading drafts is never an exact science until a couple years after its conclusion. But it still is fun to pull the camera back just a bit after a month when some OTAs have elapsed and have another look, since these hold the futures of teams.

Mel Kipers 2012 Draft Review just arrived, which is a concise and entertaining look at team-by-team selections, analysis, the round-by-round overall, and a few other nuggets relative to the picks and their teams.

The Bears still get the lowest of the grades in the NFC North, a C based pretty much on the absence of any offensive line help anywhere in the draft. Mel isnt high on late picks Isaiah Frey or Greg McCoy but the Bears already added cornerback help with veterans Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite.

The first four picks, however, do rate fairly high on Mels scales, which is interesting because the other three NFC North teams receive B grades despite some real questions that warrant watching in the next season or two:

Detroit Lions

The Lions picked Iowa tackle Riley Reiff No. 1 as a projected successor to Jeff Backus at left tackle. Reiffs stock dropped precipitously leading up to the draft, in part because the evaluations were that Reiff is more a right tackle. That shouldnt be quickly dismissed, because the Bears made a minor miscalculation that direction with Marc Colombo and Chris Williams (assuming the latter doesnt re-emerge as a left tackle this year). Not bad picks, just not ones that solved a major franchise problem.

But Detroit also used its No. 2 pick on Oklahoma wideout Ryan Broyles, whose 2011 season ended with a torn ACL. Images of Marc Bradley come to mind.

Mels key conclusion here is that the Lions didnt come away from the draft with much in the way of immediate contributors. That translates into a potential draft whiff if none of Detroits last six picks, all on defense, create a major splash above their draft slot.

Green Bay Packers

The need area for the Packers was defense and the first six picks went to that side of the ball. The top two USC rush linebacker Nick Perry, Michigan State tackle Jerel Worthy get right to the point of winning up front.

Perry vs. Reiff may not happen every play twice a year, but it could provide a clear winner in the 12 draft, Green Bay or Detroit.

Minnesota Vikings

The simple reason for a B grade here is that the Vikings traded down high in the first round and still got exactly the player they wanted in USC tackle Matt Kalil. And a bad secondary got two additions from Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith late in round one, safety Robert Blanton who project as upgrades, and having former Bears DB Leslie Frazier as a head coach wont hurt.

All of it is still some months away from really meaning a lot. But drafts are worth monitoring, and Mel even gets next years started with some thumbnails of players to watch for the 2013 draft.

(Copies of the Draft Review can be ordered through Mel Kiper Enterprises at 800-696-4558)

Notre Dame schedule watch: Irish bowl eligibility far from a guarantee

Notre Dame schedule watch: Irish bowl eligibility far from a guarantee

After losing to Duke to fall to 1-3, Notre Dame isn’t making a New Year’s Six bowl this year — and, the way things are shaping up, there’s a very real possibility for the Irish to have some nervy games to get to bowl eligibility in 2016. 

Should Notre Dame beat Syracuse, N.C. State, Navy and Army, and then at least one of Stanford, USC, Miami and Virginia Tech? Of course. But Notre Dame should’ve beaten Duke on Saturday — S&P+ gave the Irish an 84 percent chance of winning and the line was Notre Dame by 21. There are no sure victories left on this schedule, starting with next weekend’s game against Syracuse. 

Before looking at how Notre Dame’s opponents fared in Week 4, a power ranking of those 12 teams:

1. Stanford (3-0)
2. Miami (3-0)
3. Virginia Tech (3-1)
4. Michigan State (2-1)
5. Texas (2-1)
6. Navy (3-0)
7. Army 3-1)
8. Duke (2-2)
9. Syracuse (2-2)
10. N.C. State (2-1)
11. USC (1-3)
12. Nevada (2-2)

Worth noting, Notre Dame would probably slot in these at No. 11, just ahead of USC and Nevada, right now. 

On to the weekend’s results:

Texas: Bye

Charlie Strong put his coaches on notice this week as Texas licked its wounds from its 50-43 loss to Cal. Next up is a trip to Oklahoma State before the Red River Shootout against Oklahoma in Dallas. 

Nevada: Lost, 24-14, at Purdue

Purdue committed four turnovers and still won by 10 against a Nevada side that, after making back-to-back bowl games, should’ve done better than this. But hey, at least Nevada got a sack, meaning that for part of the afternoon Notre Dame was the only team at the FBS level without one. 

Michigan State: Lost, 30-6, vs. Wisconsin

So maybe Michigan State’s offense really isn’t as good as it looked against Notre Dame’s defense? Tyler O’Connor threw three interceptions and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes (18/38 for 224 yards) as Wisconsin charged out of the second half with 17 third quarter points to cruise in East Lansing. Losing this badly at home qualifies as embarrassing for Mark Dantonio’s Spartans, but it doesn’t make Notre Dame — which was picked apart by O’Connor — look any better, either. 

Syracuse: Won, 31-24, at UConn

Eric Dungey threw for 407 yards and two touchdowns against Bob Diaco’s Huskies, with 270 of those yards and both scores courtesy of receiver Amba Etta-Tawo. Dino Babers’ up-tempo, passing-oriented offense could very well cause this shaky Irish secondary some problems at MetLife Stadium on Saturday. 

N.C. State: Bye

The Wolfpack had the weekend off before opening ACC play with a home date against Wake Forest next weekend. 

Stanford: Won, 22-13, at UCLA

Ryan Burns’ touchdown toss to JJ Arcega-Whiteside was the game-winner, and Soloman Thomas returned a fumble 42 yards with no time left to make this margin look a lot greater than it actually was. Christian McCaffrey rushed for 138 yards and Stanford held Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen to an 18/27, 248 yard, one touchdown evening. Next up for the Cardinal is a Friday night trip to Washington that could have College Football Playoff implications. 

Miami: Bye

An extra week to prepare for a road trip to Georgia Tech — which was blown out by Clemson last week — isn’t the worst thing to get ready to face the triple option. 

Navy: Bye

At 3-0, Navy is in a good position record-wise but the transition away from Keenan Reynolds hasn’t been entirely smooth. Navy travels to Air Force next weekend before hosting Houston on Oct. 8. 

Army: Lost, 23-20, at Buffalo

Army’s No. 1 placekicker was injured, and backup Blake Wilson missed what would’ve been a game-winning 34-yard field goal at the end of regulation. Instead, Army was dealt its first loss of the season in overtime to a fairly weak Buffalo side. At 3-1, Army is still in its best position in six years, but this is still a stinging loss. After a bye next weekend, Army travels to face Duke. 

Virginia Tech: Won, 54-17, vs. East Caorlina

Hokies quarterback Jerrod Evans threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 97 yards and another score in a pasting of ECU, a perennial group-of-five upset specialist (ECU beat N.C. State earlier this year). Outside of that turnover-filled loss to Tennessee, Virginia Tech has looked pretty good so far in Year 1 of the Justin Fuente era. They have a bye next week before a trip to North Carolina that’ll be a good test for their ACC Coastal chances. 

USC: Lost, 31-27, at Utah

The Trojans are 1-3, and that there’s a very real path to that season-ending game against Notre Dame having bowl eligibility implications for both teams. USC led by 10 late in the third quarter but allowed a 15-play, 93-yard scoring drive that ended with an 18-yard game-winning touchdown for the Utes with 16 seconds left. How much longer does Clay Helton have in Los Angeles?

Cubs, White Sox react to news of Jose Fernandez's death

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Cubs, White Sox react to news of Jose Fernandez's death

The baseball world was rocked Sunday morning by the news that Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident at the age of 24.

"All of baseball is shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez," Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "He was one of our game's great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organization and all of the people he touched in his life."

Chicago baseball teams and players shared their own messages on Twitter after the news broke.

Born in Cuba, Fernandez had a long and dangerous journey defecting to the United States. Unsuccessful attempts to defects were followed by prison terms, and during his successful attempt, he rescued his mother from drowning after she fell overboard. He was only 15 years old at the time.

Fernandez, who won National League Rookie of the Year honors in 2013, was twice named an NL All Star, including this season. He had a sparkling 2.58 ERA in his four big league seasons. After dealing with injuries that limited him to 19 combined starts during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Fernandez was stellar this season, posting a 2.86 ERA and striking out a whopping 253 batters in 182 1/3 innings.