Editor's Note: This piece by Mikey DiLullo is PART 1 of a 6 (!) part series. I will link each piece at the beginning of every new article so, if this is your first time reading it, you can read them all together. Thanks for reading!
Barry Bonds. Despite his controversial nature, he was, in all likelihood, the greatest to ever pick up a bat. What made him so great? Aside from his genetics, (hell, his dad Bobby played 14 years in the majors and made 3 All Star Teams) and his teaching from a young age (his godfather was Willie Mays and grew up in a Giants dugout) nobody really knows why. But if you do, please feel free to @ me on Twitter and we'll discuss. But anyway, part of Bonds’ greatness is not just his stats, but his stories.
Who could forget his MVP vs. Cy Young battle against Eric Gagne when he won with a homer? That same season he had an OBP of .609, a major league record. Hell, he managed a .480 OBP in 2007 at 42, a mark that has since never been matched. And after this incredible season, Bonds was once again a free agent on the open market and… nobody signed him. Some may say that nobody would wanted to sign a 43 year old who could do nothing as good as he used to, but there's 2 reasons against that. First, if nothing else, Bonds is at least a draw to the ballpark. And more importantly, he was still good. He was blackballed by every MLB team, no doubt about it. So the question remains: how much greater could he have been if he was signed by anyone?
In December 2007, seeing the opportunity to make a big splash (not to mention bring in a player they failed to 14 years prior) the New York Yankees sign Barry Bonds. The move was initially panned as Steinbrenner being Steinbrenner, and the combination of how much both him and Bonds were hated made this an unpopular move. It wasn't even popular in New York, as it resulted in the trade of fan favorite incumbent DH Hideki Matsui to the Minnesota Twins for a young center field prospect by the name of Carlos Gomez. With Bonds playing the full season, he finishes with 29 home runs and a solid 78 RBI in a DH role.
In the middle of the season, he records his 3000th hit. In late September, he passed Rickey Henderson as the all time leader in runs scored. He helps lead the Yankees to the brink of the postseason, but ultimately the Rays and Red Sox are good enough to keep them out. Seeing the Yankees potential, Bonds re-signs on a 1-year contract that's team-friendly enough for the Yankees to sign Mark Teixeira in the offseason. However, with the Yankees planned outfield of Brett Gardner, Gomez, and Melky Cabrera (With Johnny Damon as the fourth outfielder) this means that the Yankees never acquire Nick Swisher. So basically instead of being carried to a ring, he helps a mediocre White Sox roster be more mediocre.
Of course, in real life the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, and now that they have Barry Bonds (who surpassed 800 home runs in April) they still do, giving Bonds his elusive World Series ring. But Bonds decides to hang them up, accomplishing all he wanted to in his career. This, however, puts the Yankees in a predicament. They no longer have a DH. All-Star Curtis Granderson is on the block in Detroit, but there's a catch: he wants to play the outfield. Since they have no Swisher, they never traded Melky Cabrera. And he's the only young Yankee outfielder (including Austin Jackson) with right field experience. So rather cautiously, the Yankees don't pull the trigger on the Grandy Man Trade.
Fortunately for the Tigers however, they find another trade partner in the AL East: the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox work out a 3-team trade with the Tigers and Mets, sending Josh Reddick and Daniel Bard to Detroit. In turn, the Diamondbacks would not send a little known pitcher to the Tigers by the name of Max Scherzer. But the problem still stands that the Yankees are in need of a DH. While Matt Holliday would be nice and they even kick the tires on Nick Swisher (hey Nick what's up man) ultimately they bring in another legend on another 1 year deal, this time Vladimir Guerrero. They also make a run at John Lackey, but ultimately he signs in Boston. And so, the race in the AL East is on. David Ortiz, Curtis Granderson, John Lackey and the Red Sox against Alex Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, CC Sabathia and the Yankees. Let's not forget the Rays in this thing either. The Yankees take the AL East by 1 game and the Red Sox get the AL Wild Card spot. However, both would have their seasons ended by AL MVP Josh Hamilton and the mighty Texas Rangers.
But that's not it. No no no, we still have much more to go through. Barry Bonds not being blackballed after 2007 has ripple effects around the MLB today.
The Boston Bruins had a much different season than many, myself included, predicted. They did not have many growing pains, but rather saw their young talent flourish probably a year or two quicker than they, or anyone else, anticipated. Because of that, as the season went on, expectations were through the roof for this team, especially in the playoffs. Towards the end of the season, and even for moments in their series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it looked as if this team was unstoppable. Unfortunately, the Bruins met a team in the second round in the Tampa Bay Lightning that were simply in a different weight class. The Bruins can get to that point, and I don't think it will take much, but they first need to have a good offseason.
The Bruins have a number of free agents that could drastically change this team for years to come, depending on what they decide to do. The Bruins have nine players on the big league roster that are free agents this season and, without a first round pick from the Rick Nash trade, they need to hit on the right guys. Lets take it player by player and predict who will be wearing black and gold come next season...
Anton Khudobin: Ole' Dobby. Look, the guy had a salary of $1.2 million last season and was awesome in the role he served. There were times last season when people actually wanted him in net over Tuukka Rask as the #1 goaltender. But Dobby isn't that type of guy, and I think he knows it. He is due for a substantial pay raise, but who knows if that will be with Boston? I think he will end up exploring the market then returning to the Bruins. Both sides simply like each other too much.
Brian Gionta: Another depth guy, like you will start reading about below. He had a great NHL career, but he was not a great Bruin after being signed off the US Olympic roster. There is no reason for Gionta to be back with the Bruins next season. I would be shocked if he was, given the amount of youth that is being used on this team.
Matt Grzelcyk: The former BU captain really found his own this season, maximizing his potential and value after getting a larger role because of some injuries. The fact of the matter is that Grzelcyk is another undersized defenseman that can score. He isn't going to light it up, but he is an slightly above average third pairing guy on a decent team. I think the Bruins need an upgrade at this position, but that doesn't mean Grzelcyk is gone. Unlike others, Grzelcyk is a restricted free agent. I don't think he showed enough for a team to give up a draft pick for him. He is back.
Nick Holden: Holden is one of those depth guys that the Bruins coveted when they realized they had a great team. He never really maximized his potential with the Bruins, but he also didn't get a great shot to be the best he can be. I don't see Holden being back unless the Bruins' plan on defenseman goes terribly, terribly wrong this Summer.
Rick Nash: This is probably the most interesting guy out of Boston's free agents. This can, and probably will, end up being an article entirely on it's own. There is that much to say about this move and the impact, or lack thereof he will end up having on this team in the future. Nash was banged up for almost the entirety of his tenure with the Bruins and will be wanting a fat contract as his career slows down. However, I could also see Nash sticking with a playoff team in order to win a Cup. He has been one of the notorious losers during his time as a NHLer, so who knows what he is thinking. I would like to see him healthy on this team and provide some great secondary scoring on a line with David Krejci, but the Bruins have next to nothing in salary cap room, so they have to be certain on who they decide to re-sign. I am going to surprise some here and say Nash re-signs with the Bruins.
Riley Nash: The OG Nash was awesome with the Bruins this season, which may have meant he played himself out of a contract in Boston. Like I mentioned before, the Bruins don't really have the money to throw around at guys that they don't see as a significant piece of the future. Riley Nash, we loved ya, but you're gone.
Sean Kuraly: Like Grizz, he is another restricted guy that will be dwelling around the middle-to-end of a team's roster. I just don't see a team sweeping in and wasting draft picks on Kuraly. He will be back with the Bruins next season.
Tim Schaller: Again, the Bruins were able to hit on a bottom of the roster type of guy that had a career year. In doing so, he probably played his way out of Boston. Schaller won't want to take a pay cut and the Bruins won't overextend themselves for this guy.
Tommy Wingels: I like Wingels and I think the Bruins do too. He is a bottom of the roster guy, but he is a veteran that can provide a little leadership to a team that is very young. I am going to go against the grain and say Wingels is back with the Bruins next season.
The Patriots concluded their bizarre 2018 Draft on Saturday with a few picks that should get some fans excited. I have already highlighted the Patriots' first round selections, so if you're looking for my thoughts on them, click here. Now, we are going to talk about some guys that were picked outside of the first round. Some could become starters, while others are depth pieces and perhaps just camp bodies. Lets get to it....
Duke Dawson, CB, Florida: I am actually a big fan of Duke Dawson. He is slated to play slot corner for this team and is one of the more competitive guys you will find at the position. I think he actually has a chance to start if he performs well this summer. He can go outside as well, but slot corner has been a position of need for the Patriots, especially after the injuries to Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones. Dawson is a very smart football player that can recognize routes and match shifty receivers inside. The only area in which I have an issue with Dawson at the moment, given the position the Patriots are going to utilize him in, is his tackling ability. He can lay the big hit down, but I have watched his film and he can get beat in the open field. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Malcolm Butler. He is an undersized corner that loves to compete. If he is 75% of the player Butler was at points in his tenure with New England, then the Patriots picked up a great player.
Ju’Whaun Bentley, LB, Purdue: In my opinion, this guy was a little bit of a reach for the Patriots. Bentley is your stereotypical old school linebacker. He can get into the backfield, blitz, and lay the hit down, but he struggles in coverage. In a lot of ways, he is actually a good compliment to Christian Sam. I have seen a lot of people compare him to Elandon Roberts, which may not be the biggest compliment. I think Bentley is a better athlete than Roberts and he has better size, but I am curious to see how they utilize him this season. In my opinion, he is a good backup but he shouldn't be starting any games this season.
Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State: This is another one of those underrated picks for the Patriots. Sam made a ton of plays for Arizona State and can wear the green dot on his helmet as a Mike linebacker. He can plug up the middle of the field, but he won't be able to get in the backfield like a guy like Elandon Roberts (See Bentley for that). However, unlike Bentley, Sam can actually drop back into coverage. I don't think he will be able to stick with guys in man coverage because he is just an average athlete, but I think the Patriots will be able to utilize this guy. The Patriots again are adding bodies to a position of need.
Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami: Everyone, and I mean everyone, thought this guy was going to end up a Patriot. It was a bit ironic that a guy so heavily linked to the Patriots actually ended up here. With the departure of Danny Amendola, drafting a slot receiver like Berrios makes a lot of sense. Furthermore, Berrios has some experience in the special teams department, returning punts all four years at Miami. I am not going to start comparing him to some of the best slot receivers in the game, but this guy has a lot of ability and could be a great player for the Patriots so long as he is utilized the right way. I always find it funny how slot receivers aren't given any love in the draft. These are the types of guys that move the chains. Sure, vertical guys have the sex appeal, but give me a guy like Berrios over Aaron Dobson everyday of the week.
Danny Etling, QB, LSU: Here is your future quarterback, Patriots Nation! I'm kidding, of course. I was surprised that the Patriots even took a quarterback in this draft, but Patriots fans are starting to get crazy. They are comparing this guy getting drafted in the 7th Round to Tom Brady not getting any love out of college. Sure, have a blast, but Etling sucks. I mean, come on. The guy was so bad he lost his starting quarterback job at Purdue. PURDUE. If there is any pressure in his face, he rolls out of the pocket and everything goes to hell. In typical college football fashion, he tends to try and rely on his feet too much, which won't fly in the NFL. Etling was so mediocre last season that if LSU had a somewhat decent quarterback, then they would have been a top 10 team last season. I expect Etling to MAYBE get a practice squad invite, but don't expect him to be lighting it up at Gillette. Like ever.
Keion Crossen, CB, Western Carolina: I am sorry, but I had no idea who this dude was. I had to do some serious digging on him, but was able to find that he is an undersized receiver that is destined to play in the slot if he can get onto the big league's roster. Again, this guy seems like a camp body that may be able to find his way to a practice squad if he performs well in the coming months. Maybe he can make it as a special teamer?
Ryan Izzo, TE, FSU: See above. Granted, Izzo comes from a prestigious football school, but I just don't see him contributing to this team unless it is as a special teamer. At some point the Patriots may try to convert him to an offensive lineman, because he was a great run blocker at FSU, but this guy cannot catch the football. Read above, its the same story as Crossen and Etling.
There you have it, Patriots fans. This is your 2018 draft class. I think the Patriots may have gotten a couple good players, but I am a bit disappointed. I wanted more guys on defense and the Etling selection thoroughly pissed me off. Fortunately, Belichick was able to continue to trade back and the Patriots are now LOADED with 2019 draft picks. That should cast aside any doubt that Belichick won't be hanging around for at least a couple more seasons. Rookie mini camp is in a few weeks, so check back in at Biased Boston Sports for continuing coverage of the Patriots this offseason!
The first round of the NFL Draft has concluded, and it was as exciting as anticipated. The Patriots held on to their two first round picks and made some interesting draft selections as many fans believed Lamar Jackson was the next quarterback to be the heir to Tom Brady. Instead, the Patriots selected Georgia guard Isaiah Wynn and Georgia running back Sony Michel.
Patriots twitter exploded when Belichick and Co. took Wynn with the 23rd pick, which was acquired from the Rams in the Brandin Cooks trade. Eight picks later, the Patriots held the 31st pick and Lamar Jackson was still on the board. Everyone cooled down at this point but the Patriots surprised fans by selecting a running back in the first round which is very uncommon for the Pats to do.
The Michel selection has been overshadowed by Patriots Twitter, especially with pressing needs on defense that was torched by Nick Foles in the Super Bowl and medical issues concerned around Michel. Yes, Michel is now in a crowded backfield of James White, newly signed free agent Jeremy Hill, Mike Gilleslee, Branden Bolden, and Rex Burkhead, but Michel was an impactful player at Georgia and will be on Sunday for the Patriots.
Sony Michel is a great Dion Lewis replacement
While Michel isn't a once-in-a-generation running back like Saquon Barkley, Michel is the sterotypical running back NFL teams look for. His combination of vision, physicality, and burst checks off the boxes the Patriots like in a running back. Even when he's not carrying the football, he has remarkable pass protection which has been the a main priority for the Patriots thus far in the first round. His teammates constantly praised Michel for being a team leader and was rewarded for his leadership as he was team captain for two years at Georgia.
The best part about Michel's style is his ability to extend runs with terrific open field vision and creating shifty moves to pick up extra yards. Michel has great decision-making, which is crucial in the Patriots system. He isn't a running back that is always looking to handle the ball and try to play hero, he understands the discipline and responsibilities of a team which is a big reason Georgia made it to the National Championship Game against Alabama.
The only thing that separates Michel from Lewis is pass catching, Lewis was a tremendous pass catcher and came up clutch in big moments for the Patriots. The Pats will have to lean on James White to be their premier 3rd down back catching passes out of the backfield but then again, this is the same player that sealed the deal to win Super Bowl 51. In some games this season. Michel dropped wide open passes and will have to work on that aspect of his game to be a key contributor on offense.
As I said before, Michel was a team captain for two years at Georgia and is highly respected by teammates and coaches. Right from the start, this a player who is a team player and will do whatever it takes to help the team win. Instantly, he is already becoming a Belichick guy: Show up to work, do your job and perform. Here's a great quote from Georgia head coach Kirby Smart:
"I have not been around a lot of running backs that have the personality that he has. He is not afraid to step up and be a leader. Sometimes running backs just don’t like that role. They want to carry the ball. They don’t want to be asked to stand up in front of people and have to get on them if they need to or do the things they have to do."
Georgia guard Soloman Kindley also followed up on Michel's leadership:
"Sony, he talks to the offensive line. He talks to me often," Kindley said. "The thing about him is that he's very hard working. He pushes you to be great. If you see him during the week, he's practicing very hard, he stays for treatement, he goes to class and that type of stuff, and on Saturday he does what he has to do."
In four years at Georgia, Michel posted 3,613 rushing yards, 6.1 rushing yards per attempt, and 33 rushing touchdowns. While his receiving stats aren't pretty, 64 catches, 621 yards and 6 touchdowns, he still was able to have 4,234 yards behind the line of scrimmage and 39 total touchdowns.
His sophomore and senior seasons are his best, Michel posted 1,136 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns in his sophomore year. This was following the horrific injury of Nick Chubb that kept him sidelined all season. Michel went on to win the team’s offensive MVP, the Charley Trippi Most Versatile Award and was Third Team All-SEC honors.
In his final year he had a career year with 1,227 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Michel only made 9 career starts out of the 33 career games he's played in as he was the second running back on the depth chart behind Chubb.
Even though Michel wasn't the lead back for Georgia, he still made contributions whenever he stepped foot on the field. He won't start off as the Patriots lead back and may even be 3rd or 4th on the depth chart to begin with, but when coaches send him out onto the field, you bet he'll find anyway to help the team and earn the respect of his teammates.
Addressing Some Concerns
Patriots fans on Twitter weren't hesitant to bash Michel's medical reports and weaknesses when he was selected with the 31st pick. While the Lamar Jackson affect will have a great toll on Patriots fans for a while, the medical reports are something to keep an eye on during Mini Camp and Training Camp.
Heading into the NFL Draft, scouts were very concerned over Michel's medical problems both in the past and currently. Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi told reporters that Michel has a bone-on-bone condition in his knee that could threaten his career.
Michel battled through many injuries that shortened his season, most noticeably, he had serious knee problems, on and off ankle injuries, and a broken forearm. The Patriots will have to monitor his workload over the course of the season and limit his carries in order to sustain a healthy season especially during the playoffs.
A few weaknesses that scouts have depicted from Michel's style of play is his agility can be inconsistent due to his knee injuries. His agility sometimes cause him to have late direction when tackles are rushing towards him. Because of this, it can be hard for him to squeeze his way through running lanes and finding open creases.
So what's next?
Overall, this is a great pick for the Patriots, who usually don't draft running backs in the first round. Last time they drafted a running back in the first round was back in 2006 when they selected Laurence Maroney with the 21st pick. Michel's upside is tremendous and has a chance to become a quality NFL starting running back.
Fans will give this draft selection a low grade just because Lamar Jackson was still on the board and his long list of medical problems, but if the Patriots can tweak some of his game and cut down on the injuries he can instantly become a key contributor on offense. This only gives Tom Brady more weapons on offense and even pass protection especially at 41 years old.
The landscape of running backs has drastically changed the past few years, with players like Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, and now Saquon Barkley. Many teams feel that running backs are becoming more and more important on their teams. Maybe this is just the Patriots believing in the running back hype, or to take the pressure off of Brady having to throw the ball over 40 times a game as his career is coming down the stretch.
Michel may not be your favorite player at the moment, but when he starts putting up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers, he'll be your favorite player on Sunday.
The Patriots made two picks yesterday in order to help the offense. They were able to grab a running back in order to replace Dion Lewis and were able to grab one of the best offensive lineman in the entire country to mix in and out of the starting five. So, what do the Patriots do now?
At least in my opinion, it is clear that the Patriots still have a couple needs, most of which are on the defensive side of the football. They still lack a guy that can cover the field end to end at the linebacker position. Furthermore, I would not be surprised if the Patriots grabbed a cornerback or perhaps even another offensive lineman depending on what their plan is with Isaiah Wynn.
I know a lot of people have talked about the quarterback position, and with good reason. Tom Brady will turn 41 years old in August with no clear replacement after the trade of Jimmy Garoppolo. However, look at the Patriots' first two picks of the draft. They are directly helping Brady. So no, I don't think the Patriots will be taking a quarterback in this draft, much less so in the second round.
With three picks at #43, #63, and #95 lets take a look at some names that could immediately help the Patriots out...
Harold Landry, EDGE/LB, Boston College: Many people had this guy going as early as the teens, but here he is hanging out in the second round without being drafted yet. The senior out of Boston College was a breakout player that is simply a raw talent. He has power and speed that are hard to come by, but he lacks finesse moves to get around talented tackles. I don't think the Patriots necessarily need another edge rusher, but this guy is a definitive first round talent that is dropping for some reason. With that #43 pick, if he is still hanging around, the Patriots may be forced to grab the player.
Sam Hubbard, EDGE, Ohio State: "But Pete, you just said the Patriots don't really need another edge guy!" Yeah, I know. But, similar to Landry, I just like the player. He is a borderline first round pick that is still hanging around. If I had to pick between Landry and Hubbard, I am taking Landry. But if the Patriots are looking for an edge guy, I think Hubbard could be a good guy to give a shot. He is a big dude at 6'5", 270 pounds, but he doesn't have raw athleticism like you will find in Landry. He is a bit one-dimensional in the sense that he rushes the quarterback and thats about it. I like the player, but I am not taking him at #43. If he somehow falls to #63, then I would take a better look at him.
Josh Jackson, Cornerback, Iowa: Jackson surprisingly didn't hear his name called on Day 1, but I would be amazed if he isn't snagged by the end of Friday night. Many have labeled Jackson as an abnormality, and his performance at the NFL Combine certainly did not heurt that hypothesis. However, he has long arms and can anticipate plays like the elite cornerbacks in the NFL. What he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for because he is simply a smart football player. Jackson's long arms gave him eight interceptions last season, which I am pretty high on. However, with Cyrus Jones slated to return and the Patriots adding Jason McCourty, I just don't really see the need for another corner. I do like the player, though.
Connor Williams, Offensive Lineman, Texas: You didn't think I would make this entire list without including a couple of my Horns, did you? Williams was a consensus top 10 pick before this season, when he had a serious injury and followed it up by not performing at the NFL Combine. Nonetheless, I love Connor Williams. No, seriously. I love him. When you think of nasty and mean offensive lineman, you think about Williams. He has shorter arms for a left tackle and lacks lateral quickness, especially after his injury. But if he can regain his form from 2016, then he will be a Pro Bowler. If the Patriots decide to have Isaiah Wynn play in the interior at guard, then Williams could make a lot of sense if he is still hanging around at #43.
Malik Jefferson, Linebacker, Texas: I think I may be reaching a little bit here, but it all comes down to how much the Patriots like the player. I would say Malik Jefferson is a very early third round pick, but I could see the Patriots selecting him at #63 because I don't think he is still going to be there at #95. Unfortunately, especially in these earlier middle rounds, there aren't a ton of linebackers that can make an impact, at least in my opinion. Jefferson was a three-year starter at Texas and was highly touted coming out of high school. He had some struggles earlier on, but developed into one of the most complete linebackers in the country. He can rush the quarterback, drop back into coverage, and is simply an incredibly versatile player. He does have issues in the open field and sometimes misses a tackle, however. If the Patriots really want linebackers with high upside, which I have to think (and perhaps hope?) they do, then Jefferson should absolutely be on their radar. And yeah, he has been my favorite Longhorn since Colt McCoy, so sue me for wanting him on the Patriots.
Arden Key, OLB, LSU
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, LB, Oklahoma
Da’Shawn Hand, DE, Alabama
Uchenna Nwosu, LB, USC
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado