Thursday, April 28, 2011

NFL Draft Finds: 2000-2010

With the NFL Draft looming, I decided to take a look at some of the top low round draft picks in the NFL over the past 31 years. This is the third-part of a three part series, and will feature the best NFL Draft finds over the past 11 years, as of today. Now, it's possible that somebody picked last year or in 2009 could still break out and become the find of the draft. After all, a lot of players featured in the first two installments didn't take off until their third or fourth years, so keep that in mind. So, without further adieu, here are the top NFL Draft Finds over the past 11 years.

2000: Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots, Pick #199 (6th Round)

I'm sure by now that every football fan knows the story of Tom Brady. Coming out of Michigan, Brady was mainly considered to be the placeholder until super recruit Drew Henson could take over the Wolverines' quarterbacking duties. So nobody gave it much thought when the Patriots picked Brady late in the 2000 draft. However, in 2001 Drew Bledsoe got hurt, and Brady stepped up and not only succeeded, but led the Patriots to perhaps the most improbable Super Bowl win of all time. From there, Brady only got better, winning two more Super Bowl and becoming one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.

2001: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Wide Receiver, Cincinnati Bengals, Pick #204 (7th Round)

Houshmandzadeh and college teammate Chad Johnson were both drafted by the Bengals in the 2001 Draft, Johnson in the second round and Houshmandzadeh in the seventh. At first, Houshmandzadeh was primarily used on special teams, and after missing most of 2003 with a hamstring injury, not much was expected of him entering the 2004 season. But Houshmandzadeh came back better than ever, catching 73 passes and providing the Bengals with a great possesion receiver to go along with their big-time deep threat in Johnson. Houshmandzadeh kept up the good work, and in 2007 he led the league in receptions with 112. Now with the Baltimore Ravens, Houshmandzadeh has caught 616 passes for 7,091 yards thus far in his career.

2002: Brett Keisel, Defensive End, Pittsburgh Steelers, Pick #242 (7th Round)

A product of Brigham Young University, Keisel spent his first few years as a reverse to starter Kimo Von Oelhofen. When Von Oelhofen left in 2006, Keisel stepped right in and delivered 5.5 sacks in his first year as a starter. Ever since then, Keisel has been a key member of the fierce Pittsburgh defense, playing for AFC Championship teams and one Super Bowl Championship team. Keisel also played in his first Pro Bowl after the 2010 season, and even picked off a pass and ran it 79 yards for a touchdowns against the Bucs last season. Not only that, but Keisel possessed the most fearsome beard in the NFL until he shaved it off for charity last February.

2003: Dan Koppen, Center, New England Patriots, Pick #164 (5th Round)

Like fellow Boston College alum Tom Nalen, Koppen was a second-team All Big-East selection who was thought by scouts to be too small to succeed as an NFL center. Just like Nalen did, Koppen has proven his critics wrong, as his quickness and smarts proved to be quite useful to the Patriots. Koppen wasted no time, as he took over the starting center role after an injury to Damien Woody in week 2 of the 2003 season and never looked back, becoming a Super Bowl winning center in his first two years in the NFL. In 2007, Koppen made the Pro Bowl and helped the Patriots finish the regular season with a 16-0 record. Today, Koppen is still going strong, and should have a few top-notch years left as the Patriots' center in front of Tom Brady.

2004: Jared Allen, Defensive End, Kansas City Chiefs, Pick #126 (4th Round)

It's not everyday that defensive ends from a small school like Idaho State become one of the top pass rushers in football, but then again, there aren't many players like Jared Allen. The outspoken, fun-loving former roadie for Motorhead made his presence immediately felt, putting up 9.5 sacks as a rookie for the Chiefs in 2004. Ever since then, Allen has caused havoc for opposing offenses, and in 2007 he led the NFL with 15.5 sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time. After the 2007 season, Allen was traded to the Minnesota Vikings, and he's kept up the solid work since then, with 40 sacks and 2 Pro Bowl appearances in his first three seasons for the Vikings. Since Allen entered the league in 2004, he has 83.5 sacks, a mark that is the best in the NFL over the past seven years, and at 29, Allen is nowhere near done, a scary thought for opposing quarterbacks.

2005: Jay Ratliff, Defensive Tackle, Dallas Cowboys, Pick #224 (7th Round)

Ratliff spent only one year as a Defensive Tackle at Auburn when the Cowboys took him late in the 2005 Draft. After spending his first two years coming off the bench, coach Wade Phillips plugged Ratliff in as the starting nose tackle in 2007, and Ratliff stepped right in. Despite being somewhat small for a nose tackle, Ratliff is able to cause chaos in the middle by using his quickness, which is usually too much for opposing lineman to handle. In the last three years, Ratliff has played in the Pro Bowl, and collected a total of 17 sacks over that span, the most of any defensive tackle. Not too bad for a player that originally came to Auburn as a tight end.

2006: Marques Colston, Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints, Pick #252 (7th Round)

Much like Shannon Sharpe, Colston was a 'tweener' from a small school whom many NFL teams felt was too small for a tight end and too slow to be a wide receiver. The Saints picked the Hofstra product with the fourth to last pick in the draft, and coach Sean Payton was so impressed by Colston in his first training camp that the Saints traded away starting wideout Donte' Stallworth to open up a spot for Colston in the lineup. Colston made Payton look like a genius as he caught 70 passes for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns to help take the Saints to the NFC Championship game. Since then, Colston has continued to be Drew Brees' favorite target at wide receiver, and was a key contributer to the Saints title run in 2009. After five years, Colston has caught 369 passes for 5,067 yards and 40 touchdowns, marks that already put him in third place in each category in Saints history.

2007: Ahmad Bradshaw, Running Back, New York Giants, Pick #250 (7th Round)

Now we have reached the part of the article where it's somewhat murky, as players drafted this late are still quite young and have not yet reached the prime of their careers, so it's hard to say who will truly emerge as the steals of the draft. For now though, Bradshaw looks like a heck of a pick for the Giants. After playing at Marshall, Bradshaw spent most of his first year on the bench, but broke out with an 88 yard touchdown run late in the season against Buffalo, and was quite effective in the playoffs, running for 208 yards in the postseason as the Giants won the Superbowl. Since then, Bradshaw has steadily worked his way up in the lineup, and in 2010 he took over the starting running back duties from Brandon Jacobs. While Bradshaw has talent, as his 1,235 yards last season will attest, he also has shown a tendency to fumble the ball. If Bradshaw can correct his fumbling problem, then there's no doubt that he can become one of the NFL's best backs for the next few years.

2008: Peyton Hillis, Running Back, Denver Broncos, Pick #227 (7th Round)

Hillis was a fullback at Arkansas, blocking for superstar backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. In his first two seasons, Hillis had some success running the ball for the Broncos, but after being traded to the Cleveland Browns in 2010 for Brady Quinn, Hillis flourished. After taking over the starting running back job in week three last year, Hillis flourished, making his presence felt by running for 144 yards against the staunch Ravens' defense. For the year, Hillis finished with 1,177 and 11 touchdowns on 277 carries, and he added 61 catches for 477 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, earlier today, Hills was announced as the cover athlete for Madden '12, a feat that seemed impossible just one short year ago.

2009: Johnny Knox, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears, Pick #154 (5th Round)

Thus far, there aren't really a whole lot of breakout candidates from the lower rounds of this draft, but as we just saw last year with Hillis, a player could develop out of nowhere in their third year next year, providing of course that there is an NFL season next year. For now, my choice is Knox, a fifth round pick who has been a bit inconsistent, but has played pretty well for a fifth round wide receiver from Abilene Christian. In 2009, Knox made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner, averaging 29 yards a return. Not only that, but Knox caught 45 passes for 527 yards and five touchdowns. Last year, Knox started all 16 games for the Bears at wide receiver, and provided a much-needed deep threat for Jay Cutler. In 2010, Knox caught 51 passes for 960 yards and five touchdowns. His 18.8 ypc average ranked fifth in the NFL last season. If Knox continues to develop, he could become the best wide receiver the Bears have had since the heyday of Curtis Conway.

2010: Cody Grimm, Safety, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pick #210 (7th Round)

The son of Hall of Famer Russ Grimm, Cody was one of only two seventh rounders in last year's draft to start at least half of their team's games in 2010 (Indianapolis linebacker Kavell Corner being the other). A three-year starter at Virginia Tech, Grimm got his opportunity after Tanard Jackson was suspended for the season, and held up rather well, racking up 38 tackles and two interceptions. He even returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown. A broken fibula ended Grimm's season after 11 games, but he should be in contention for a starting role in the Bucs secondary again in 2011, provided of course that there is football to play in 2011.

Well, thanks for reading. If you have any comments about this post, than feel free to leave a comment on this blog. Also, if you have any ideas for future reviews or thoughts about the blog in general, than feel free to share those thoughts and ideas either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NFL Draft Finds: 1990-1999

In the second of a three part series, The Canon Review takes a look at some of the best low round NFL Draft picks over the past 30 years. This installment features the best draft finds of the 1990s, and include a Hall of Fame tight end and three quarterbacks that rose from obscurity to become Pro Bowlers, including one that led his team to the Super Bowl. So, without further adieu, here are the top draft finds in each year's NFL Draft of the 1990s.

1990: Shannon Sharpe, Tight End, Denver Broncos, Pick #192 (7th Round)

Coming out of Division II Savannah State College, Sharpe was thought to be too small for a tight end, and too slow to be a wide receiver. On the other hand, Sharpe proved to be too strong for cornerbacks to defend, and too fast for linebackers to cover. The Broncos made him a tight end, and two years later, Sharpe played in the first of eight career Pro Bowls. Sharpe would go on to play for three Super Bowl winning teams, the 1997 and 1998 Broncos and 2000 Baltimore Ravens. Sharpe finished his career with 815 catches and 10,060 yards, becoming the first tight end in NFL history to exceed the 10,000 yard plateau. Earlier this year, Sharpe was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

1991: Keenan McCardell, Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins, Pick #326 (12th Round)

McCardell actually didn't suit up for the Redskins until his last season in 2007, but the 12th Round pick from UNLV proved to be a top-notch receiver for many teams over his 16 year career. Released by the receiver-rich Redskins in 1992, McCardell landed on the Browns, and after a 56 reception season in 1995, he became a free-agent and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. During his six year stint as a Jaguar, McCardell exceeded the 1,000 yard mark four times, and in 2002, McCardell caught two touchdowns for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. McCardell retired in 2007, and his 883 catches ranks 14th in NFL history.

1992: Brad Johnson, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings, Pick #227 (9th Round)

Johnson spent his college career at Florida State, backing up starter Casey Weldon. So when the Vikings picked Johnson in the ninth round, no one knew what to make of a quarterback with so little on field experience in college. Johnson spent the first two years of his career on the sideline, and didn't start a game until 1996, but he proved to be a solid quarterback and led the Vikings to a playoff berth in 1997. After an injury gave way to Randall Cunningham's remarkable 1998 season, Johnson was sent to the Washington Redskins, and in 1999, Johnson passed for over 4,000 yards as the Redskins won the NFC East. In 2001, Johnson was traded to Tampa Bay, and the very next year, Johnson was the starting quarterback on the Bucs' 2002 Super Bowl winning team. For his career, Johnson played in two Pro Bowls, threw for 166 touchdowns and 29,054 yards. Not bad for a career backup in college.

1993: Trent Green, Quarterback, San Diego Chargers, Pick #222 (8th Round)

After a decent career at Indiana University, only two players were selected after Green in the 1993 Draft, neither of which played a game in the NFL. For a while, it looked as if Green would never play in the NFL either, as he was cut by San Diego, then cut by the CFL B.C. Lions before ending up on the Washington Redskins practice squad. After an injury to Gus Frerotte early in 1998, Green stepped in for the Redskins and played admirably, throwing for over 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. Green signed with the St. Louis Rams after that season, but missed the 1999 season due to a knee injury suffered in pre-season. Thanks to the play of his former backup, Kurt Warner, Green was traded to Kansas City in 2001. There, he played six years and engineered a high-powered offense during his stint there. From 2003-2005, Green threw for over 4,000 yards in each season and led the Chiefs to the playoffs after the 2003 and 2005 seasons. Green retired after the 2009 season, finishing his career with 28,475 passing yards and 162 touchdowns. Green passed for 237.3 yards per game in his career, which puts him ninth in NFL history and ahead of such quarterbacks as Warren Moon, Philip Rivers, Donovan McNabb, and John Elway.

1994: Tom Nalen, Center, Denver Broncos, Pick #218 (7th Round)

The fifth-to-last pick in the 1994 Draft was used on Nalen, an undersized center from Boston College. He may not have been the biggest center, but Nalen's quickness and smarts made him the perfect center for Alex Gibbs' zone blocking scheme, and starting in 1995, Nalen blocked for six different backs that ran for over 1,000 yards in a season. Nalen was the starter on Denver's Super Bowl teams in 1997 and 1998, and for his career, Nalen played in five Pro Bowls and started 188 games. In 2009, Nalen was voted to the Denver Broncos 50th Anniversary All-Time team.

1995: Terrell Davis, Running Back, Denver Broncos, Pick #196 (6th Round)

The third Denver Broncos draft pick on this list, Davis was perhaps the most valuable member of Denver's back-to-back Super Bowl champion teams in 1997 and 1998. Coming out of Georgia, Davis was an injury-prone running back thought to be too slow. But Denver took a chance on Davis, and the move paid off right away as Davis ran for 1,117 yards in his rookie season. Over the next three years, Davis was arguably the best running back in football, and in 1998, Davis was the NFL MVP after becoming the third back in history to run for over 2,000 yards. A knee injury slowed down Davis in 1999, and he never truly recovered his previous form, but make no mistake, Davis was an impact player. For his seven year career, Davis ran for 7,607 and 60 touchdowns, and his career mark of 97.5 yards per game ranks fourth in NFL history.

1996: Zach Thomas, Linebacker, Miami Dolphins, Pick #154 (5th Round)

Thomas was a tackling machine at Texas Tech, but scouts thought that Thomas was too small and too slow to succeed as a middle linebacker in the NFL. The Dolphins took a chance on Thomas in the fifth round, and he was so impressive in training camp that coach Jimmy Johnson cut free agent acquisition Jack Del Rio and named Thomas his starting middle linebacker on opening day. Over the next 13 years, the first 12 with the Dolphins, Thomas was one of the best middle linebackers in the game. Thomas played in seven Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All-Pro five times during his career. Thomas finished his career with over 1,000 tackles, 20.5 sacks and 17 interceptions, and in 2010 the NFL named Thomas one of three middle linebackers (along with Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher) on it's 2000 All-Decade team.

1997: Jason Ferguson, Defensive Tackle, New York Jets, Pick #229 (7th Round)

Another University of Georgia product, Ferguson's draft status was put into danger after he tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine, but after a positive review from Jim Donnan, Jets head honcho Bill Parcells took a chance on Ferguson late in the draft. The move paid off, as Ferguson started all 16 games in his second season, and was a mainstay on the Jets' defensive line until moving to Dallas in 2005 to play for his old coach Bill Parcells. Ferguson started for three seasons in Dallas, and when Parcells became president of the Miami Dolphins in 2008, Ferguson soon followed, helping to turn around a Dolphins team that went from 1-15 in 2007 to an 11-5 record. Ferguson retired during training camp last year, finishing his career with 127 games started, 21.5 sacks and 6 forced fumbles, as well as a reputation as being a top-notch run stopper.

1998: Matt Hasselbeck, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers, Pick #187 (6th Round)

Hasselbeck had a decent but unspectacular career at Boston College when Mike Holmgren and Ron Wolf selected Hasselbeck late in the draft. Since Brett Favre was firmly in place as the Packers' quarterback, Hasselbeck sat on the bench for three years before he reunited with Holmgren after a trade to Seattle. Hasselbeck started the 2001 season as the Seahawks' starting QB, but didn't really flourish in the role until 2003, where he broke through with a season where he passed for 3,821 yards and 26 touchdowns, leading the Seahawks to the playoffs in the process. Since then, Hasselbeck has been the starting quarterback in Seattle with a great deal of success, leading his team to six postseason appearances and the Super Bowl in 2005. For his career, Hasselbeck has played in three Pro Bowls, and has completed 2,572 passes for 29,579 yards with 176 touchdowns. Hasselbeck is also the Seahawks all time leader in completions, passing yards, and completion percentage.

1999: Donald Driver, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers, Pick #213 (7th Round)

As it turns out, the Packers are pretty good at this draft thing. Coming out of Division 1-AA Alcorn State, Driver was the 25th receiver taken in the 1999 Draft. With the exception of Torry Holt, no receiver in that draft has more career catches, yards, and touchdown catches than Driver. Driver didn't become a starter in Green Bay until 2002, a season where he gained over 1,000 yards and made the first of three Pro Bowls. Driver continued to be the main target in the Packers' passing game, and from 2004-2009 he had a string of six consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. In 2010, Driver and his mates went on to win Super Bowl 45. Driver's 698 catches is the most in the rich history of the Green Bay Packers. He also has gained 9,615 yards and caught 53 touchdowns during his 12 year career.

Well, thanks for reading. If you have any comments about this post, than feel free to leave a comment on this blog. Also, if you have any ideas for future reviews or thoughts about the blog in general, than feel free to share those thoughts and ideas either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Monday, April 25, 2011

Top NFL Draft Finds, 1980-1989

Hey, did you know the NFL Draft starts this Thursday? Yes, in what is sure to be the last event the NFL puts on until the 2012 Draft, each team is looking to find the next great player that will either bring them to prominence or keep them there. While last year I spotlighted some of the high picks that didn't quite make it (which you can read about here, here, and here), this year I decided to go in the opposite direction and spotlight some of the best low draft picks to make an impact in the NFL over the past 30 years. So, in the first of a three-part series, here are the best draft finds for each NFL draft in the 1980's.

1980: Wayne Smith, Cornerback, Detroit Lions, Pick #278 (11th Round)

With the first pick in the 11th round, the Detroit Lions selected Smith, a cornerback out of Purdue. It's rare that 11th round picks start as rookies, but Smith took over the starting cornerback role in the middle of his rookie season. After spending nearly three seasons in Detroit, Smith went on to St. Louis and was their starting cornerback from 1983-1986. For his career, Smith started 84 games and picked off 10 passes over an eight year career. Sure, Smith wasn't exactly a great player, but he did provide great value for an 11th round pick.

1981: Jim Wilks, Defensive End, New Orleans Saints, Pick #305 (12th Round)

The Saints selected Wilks out of San Diego State as part of a draft class that also included stalwarts such as George Rogers, Rickey Jackson, Hoby Brenner, and Frank Warren. Over the next 13 years, Wilks would become a solid performer along the Saints defensive line as the team climbed to respectability, first as a defensive end, then as a nose tackle. Over his career, Wilks started 154 games for the Saints and racked up 45.5 sacks, with a career high of 8 in 1983.

1982: Steve Jordan, Tight End, Minnesota Vikings, Pick #179 (7th Round)

The greatest football player to come out of Brown since Fritz Pollard, the Vikings took a flyer on Jordan in the seventh round. As it turned out, it was a great move, as Jordan would become one of the NFL's top tight ends for the next decade. Jordan was named to six consecutive Pro Bowls (1986-1991) and from 1985 to 1992, Jordan led all tight ends with 383 catches and 5,074 receiving yards. For his 13 year career, all in Minnesota, Jordan finished with 498 catches (10th all time amongst tight ends), for 6,307 yards (8th) and 28 touchdowns. Interestingly enough, Jordan's son Cameron, a defensive end from Cal, is expected to be a first round pick in this year's draft.

1983: Karl Mecklenburg, Linebacker, Denver Broncos, Pick #310 (12th Round)

A walk-on at the University of Minnesota, Mecklenburg was considered to be too small and too slow to make an impact in the NFL, but the Broncos took a chance on him in the 12th round primarily due to Mecklenburg's performance on the IQ tests at the NFL Combine. As things turns out, it was a stroke of genius for the Broncos, as Mecklenburg became the leader of a defense that went to three Super Bowls in the 1980s. Although Mecklenburg was officially listed as an inside linebacker, he played all over the place along the Broncos' front seven, and was considered to be the most versatile defender of his era.  Mecklenburg was named to six Pro Bowl squads and was a first-team All Pro three times (1985, 1986, 1989) during his career. Mecklenburg finished his career with 79 sacks, second in Broncos history, and an unofficial total of 1,104 tackles.

1984: Earnest Byner, Running Back, Cleveland Browns, Pick #280 (10th Round)

Okay, so he did have "The Fumble", but other than that, Byner was heck of a pick for the Browns. With the last pick in the tenth round, the Browns selected the running back from East Carolina, and Byner proved to be a key contributor to the Browns' teams that made the AFC Championship Game in 1986 and 1987. After five years of splitting carries with Kevin Mack, the Browns traded Byner to the Washington Redskins in 1989, and it was there that Byner had his most success, picking up two 1,000 yard seasons and being the leading rusher for the 1991 Super Bowl Champions. For his 14 year career, Byner ran for 8,261 yards and 56 touchdowns, and also caught 512 passes out of the backfield, which ranks 12th all-time among running backs.

1985: Raleigh McKenzie, Offensive Lineman, Washington Redskins, Pick #290 (11th Round)

Like Byner, McKenzie was a starter on the Redskins' 1991 Super Bowl Championship team. Not only that, but McKenzie was also a starter on the Redskins' 1987 Championship squad. An 11th round pick out of Tennessee, McKenzie would go on to play 16 years in the NFL with four different teams, with his first ten years taking place in Washington. A versatile lineman, McKenzie would start at least one game at all five offensive line positions, although he primarily played left guard and center. In 2002, McKenzie was honored for his achievements by being named one of the seventy greatest Redskins of all-time.

1986: Clyde Simmons, Defensive End, Philadelphia Eagles, Pick #233 (9th Round)

A defensive end out of Division 1-AA Western Carolina, the Eagles took a chance on Simmons late in the 1986 draft. The next season, Simmons took over as the starting right defensive end opposite of Reggie White, and the Eagles had the best pair of defensive ends in football for the next six years. Simmons developed into one of the most dangerous pass rushers in football, racking up 15.5 sacks in 1989, 13 in 1991, and a league leading 19 sacks in 1992. After leaving the Eagles in 1993, Simmons played with four different teams, and provided a boost to the pass rush at each stop along the way. Simmons retired in 2000 with 121.5 career sacks, which ranks 14th all time. In 2007, Simmons was voted to the Eagles' 75th Anniversary All-Time team.

1987: Tyrone Braxton, Cornerback, Denver Broncos, Pick #334 (12th Round)

With the next to last pick in the entire draft, the Broncos took a cornerback from Division 1-AA North Dakota State in Tyrone Braxton. By 1989, Braxton was the starting cornerback for the AFC Champion Broncos. After five years in Denver, Braxton spent a year with the Miami Dolphins, then came back as the Broncos' starting strong safety. In 1996, Braxton led the NFL with nine interceptions, while the next year, Braxton picked off a pass in the Super Bowl for the winning Broncos. Braxton retired after the 1999 season with 36 interceptions, 34 of which came in a Denver Broncos uniform, the fourth highest total in Broncos history.

1988: Dwayne Harper, Cornerback, Seattle Seahawks, Pick #299 (11th Round)

Another pick from a Division 1-AA school (South Carolina State), Harper became a starter for the Seahawks in 1989 and held that job for the next seasons. After that, Harper signed with San Diego, and started every game for the 1994 AFC Champions. A solid cornerback, Harper spent 12 years in the NFL, starting 128 games and picking off 24 passes during his career.

1989: Mark Schlereth, Guard, Idaho, Pick #263 (10th Round)

The greatest NFL player to come out of Alaska, Schlereth was picked from the University of Idaho by the Redskins. He started six games during his rookie year, but didn't become a full time starter until 1991. That year, Schlereth made the Pro Bowl and the Redskins won the Superbowl. After the 1994 season, Schlereth signed with the Denver Broncos, where he won another two Super Bowl rings and made the Pro Bowl after the 1998 season. Currently an analyst on ESPN,  Schlereth started 140 games during his career despite enduring 29 surgeries, 20 on his knees alone. In 2009, Schlereth was selected to the Denver Broncos 50th Anniversary team.

Well, thanks for reading. If you have any comments about this post, than feel free to leave a comment on this blog. Also, if you have any ideas for future reviews or thoughts about the blog in general, than feel free to share those thoughts and ideas either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Canon Wrestling Review: WWF Raw, February 17, 1997

February 1997 was a tumultuous time for the WWF. Shawn Michaels had lost his smile and vacated the WWF Title, while Bret Hart was in the midst of turning against the fans who he felt had turned on him. A young Rocky Miavia was struggling to gain fan support, while talk of an ECW 'invasion' were abound. Meanwhile, the WWF Title was awarded to Bret Hart after he won a fatal four-way match at the PPV Final Four. This episode of Monday Night Raw took place the day after Final Four took place, on February 17, 1997, and the announcers for this show are Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King" Lawler.

No time is being wasted on this episode, as 'Sycho' Sid is coming out to face the new WWF Champion, Bret Hart in a Title match. I must say that I love Sid's entrance, from his theme song to the giant "SID" sparking sign over the ring. Hart comes out to a great ovation from the fans, so I guess he's still a face at this moment. Staredown to start, but OH HERE GO HELL COME as Steve Austin enters the ring and attacks Bret Hart. The two trade blows, then Sid decides he wants some of Austin so he attacks. While security separates the two, Austin chop blocks Sid in the back of the knee, and the big man is hurt. After Austin is escorted from the ring area, Sid tries to walk off the injury (and drops an audible f-bomb in the process) and the match is delayed until the end of the show.

Clips are shown from Shawn Michaels vacated the WWF title on last week's Raw because he "lost his smile". Yes, that was the reason given. I don't remember Lou Thesz or Harley Race vacated world titles because of a 'lost smile', but this was the 'New Generation'. Then, still shots from last night's main event are shown. Vader took a nasty cut above his eye, while the Undertaker was so close to winning the title, but thanks to interference from Austin, Hart came away with the victory and the championship. But don't worry about 'Taker, because it was announced that he will face the winner of Bret vs. Sid for the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania. To the back, where Kevin Kelly is with Sid. Sid tells Kelly to shut up, then proclaims that it will take more than a knee injury to keep him from his destiny of becoming the WWF Champion. Also, he is the master and ruler of the world.

Wildman Marc Mero comes out with Sable to face off against the Nation of Domination's Savio Vega. Sable's apparently becoming more involved in matches, including smacking Leif Cassidy last night in his match against Marc Mero. Vega comes out with a cadre of Nation members, including PG-13, who are rapping over the NOD theme song. Meanwhile, Faarooq and Clarence Mason are in the crowd above the entranceway, and everybody gives the Nation salute before the match starts. Mero gives Vega a series of arm drags before Savio bails to the outside, but that doesn't go well as Mero catches buth Savio and Crush with a somersault plancha. Back in, Savio has the advantage for a while, but that changes and Mero backs Vega into the corner for a 10-punch. However, Savio drops Mero face first on the turnbuckle, then throws the Wildman to the outside so PG-13 can stomp away at him. Sable comes over, and knocks JC Ice down with a couple of kicks that don't exactly inspire visions of Kawada. Mero and Vega continue the fight, with Mero taking Vega down with a Samoan drop, but the rest of the NOD is pissed at Sable, so they chase her into the ring and cause the match to be thrown out. While Mero and Sable are cornered, Ahmed Johnson comes out with a 2 x 4, in a bright orange jumpsuit for some reason. Johnson chases off the Nation and good prevails. This match was just filler, and not very entertaining filler at that.

To the back, where Bret Hart is interviewed by J.R. and The King about his upcoming match with Sid. Hart predicts victory for himself tonight, to which Lawler takes slight offense to. Well, Bret says that he's looking out for number one because if you "don't look out for number one, you end up stepping on number two". Not quite as catchy a catchphrase as Austin 3:16. Lawler comments that Bret is probably thrilled about Stone Cold injuring Sid's leg, so Bret simply tells the King to shut up. Good one. Up next is a match between Leif Cassidy and the Intercontinental Champion, Rocky Maivia. Rocky comes out with a goofy smile on his face to a lukewarm reaction. Before the match starts, Sunny comes out to serve as the guest timekeeper. A flimsy excuse to bring her out, but I'm not complaining. Lockup to start, Leif and Rocky start trading blows with Rocky eventually getting the better of the exchange and clotheslining Leif over the top rope. Leif comes back in and the two start trading holds. While the two are wrestling, we get an interview with Hunter Hearst Helmsley in the back, who says a lot of words but the basic gist of the message is that he will defeat Rocky Maivia for his I/C Title and Goldust for getting involved in his match with Maivia last night. Back to action, and Leif starts to do a lot of holds on the left arm of Rocky. Rocky nearly gets the pinfall after a rollup, but a thumb to the eye turns the momentum back Leif's way.  After some more work on the arm, Rocky recovers long enough to get a pair of two counts with various pinning holds. However, an armbar DDT from Cassidy gives the challenger the advantage. Cassidy goes to the top after a body slam, and hits a diving axe-handle on Rocky. That gets two. Cassidy decides that since it worked before, it will work again and climbs the top rope, but this time Rocky recovers and throws Cassidy off the top. Some fists follow from Rocky, then the champ hits a cross body block from the top rope, but doesn't go for the cover. Instead, Rocky decides to finish Cassidy off with a running shoulderbreaker, and that proves to be the winning move, as Rocky retains his title. Post-match, Sunny rings the bell, while Jerry Lawler goes on a rant about ECW thanks to some fan waving an "ECW Rules" sign in his face. For some reason, Lawler compares the wrestlers of ECW to the denizins of 'Escape from New York', referring to them as a bunch of misfits who couldn't make it in the WWF. Of course, about half the roster would sign WWF contracts at some point, but whatever. Lawler concludes his diatribe by challenging the ECW wrestlers to show up on next week's Raw. Anyway, the match was decent enough, even if the audience weren't too interested in either man and therefore, seemed bored by the match.

Hey, Jesse James was on TNN's Prime Time Country a few days prior, so good for him. Kevin Kelly is out in the ring and introduces Goldust and Marlena for an interview. Goldust is not too thrilled about Hunter Hearst Helmsley's obsession over Marlena, and promises to make Hunter pay for his indecent proposal. Goldust continues his point by stating that the only way Hunter will get to Marlena is over his dead body. Marlena gets the mic, and proclaims that despite all the weird actions and psycho head games, Goldust is all man and more of a man than HHH will ever be. Well then. That brings Helmsley out, and the two men jaw at each other for a while before Hunter grabs a drink and throws it in Goldust's eyes. Helmsley then pounds away on Goldust before laying him out with the Pedigree. Marlena is none too thrilled about this turn of events, so she slaps HHH. Helmsley looks back in anger, but WAITAMINUTE, a female 'fan' jumps over the guardrail and puts Marlena in a reverse bearhug, shaking Marlena like a ragdoll. That 'fan' would later be known as Chyna, but the announcers had no idea who she was at this point in time. Marlena has to be carried to the back by Goldust.

The Headbangers come out to the ring to face the Hardy Boys, who are not high enough on the card to even receive a proper entrance. The Headbangers waste no time by going right after the Hardys before the bell rings. Jeff gets a couple of moves in early, but after he tags in Matt the Headbangers take control of the match. During the middle of the match, we go to the back where Faarooq and the rest of the NOD are interviewed. Faarooq claims that Ahmed Johnson is not a man of the streets, but that Ahmed is lucky since "most people have to die to go to hell, but you're already in it". Faarooq also claims to be Ahmed's devil and the Nation are his demons. Faarooq finishes the interview by challenging Johnson to a 'Chicago Street Fight'. Back to the match, and the Headbangers are punishing match with moves such as a bodyslam into the ropes and a cross body block from the top. Thrasher misses an elbow drop, which gives Matt a chance to tag in Jeff. Jeff throws a couple of dropkicks at the Headbangers, but takes a big bump off a Mosh clothesline. Mosh sets Jeff up for a powerbomb, and Thrasher comes off the top with a legdrop for the Stage Dive, which gets the three count. Not a bad match, but nothing memorable.

Up next is the WWF Title match between Bret Hart and Sid. Sid seems to be walking without a limp, so his leg must be fine. The Hitman's music hits,  but before he can get to the ring, Steve Austin attacks him in the hallway. Sid comes back there and security must separate the three men. Once again, the title match is delayed. Kevin Kelly is with WWF President Gorilla Monsoon, and despite the delays, Monsoon promises a WWF Title match tonight. EVERYBODY HERE COMES Flash Funk with the Funkettes. He's here to face Slammy Award winner Owen Hart. The two exchange armbars to start the match, then after some other holds, both men try a dropkick at the same time, then have a standoff. While Funk and Owen do a series of Monkey Flips out of a double-knuckle lock, ECW head Paul Heyman calls in the show and tells Jerry Lawler that he and the rest of the ECW athletes will be there on Raw next week. The two trade insults for a minute before Heyman hangs up. Owen knocks Funk down, then tries to go for a sharpshooter, but his manager Clarence Mason is on the apron for some reason. Owen is distracted by this, and Funk dropkicks Hart over the rope. While Owen argues with Mason, Funk dives off the top onto Owen. The British Bulldog comes out, and tells Mason to scram. Back in, Funk gets a two count after a backslide, then Owen gets a two count after a German suplex with a bridge. Stone Cold Steve Austin is interviewed next, and I'm really getting tired of every match being interrupted by an interview. Stone Cold feels he should be champion because he won the Royal Rumble and Shawn Michaels vacated the title, so in protest he will open up a keg of whoop-ass upon the WWF. Back to action, and Owen tries for a splash in the corner, but misses. Funk goes on the attack with a back drop, then gets a two count after a cross body block from the top rope. Funk slams Owen down a goes back to the top, where he connects with a moonsault. Somehow, Owen kicked out of that as well. Owen reverses a Funk Irish whip, and Bulldog hits Funk in the back with the Slammy Award, allowing Owen to hit a spinning heel kick and get the three count, with Bulldog holding Funk's legs down from the apron. Good match between two good wrestlers, even if the constant interruptions detracted slightly from the action.

Beehtoven's Ode to Joy plays through the loudspeaker as Hunter Hearst Helmsley comes out for his match. A video recap of Chyna's actions against Marlena plays before Bart Gunn is introduced as Helmsley's opponent. Meanwhile, the Honky Tonk Man is the guest commentator for this match for some reason. While Helmsley's standing in front of the announcer's table, J.R. takes this opportunity to ask about the mysterious woman attacking Marlena, and Triple-H denies any association with said woman. The match starts with some arm wringers by both men while HTM talks about his quest to find the next great superstar to mentor. Helmsley takes a dropkick to the mouth from Bart, who then follows up with an armbar while J.R. plugs the WWF Hotline. I really don't care much about this match, and neither do the announcers as they talk about everything but the match. Eventually, Goldust runs in and chases Helmsley through the stands, giving Bart Gunn a countout victory which was probably forgotten by the next show. This match was filler and the only purpose was to further the Goldust-Helmsley feud. That said, it was probably the worst match of the night.

A clip of Dr. James Andrews is shown in which he talks about Shawn Michaels's knee injury. Apparently, Michaels may or may not need surgery depending on how the knee responds to four to six weeks of rehab. It is finally time for the WWF Title match between the champion, Bret Hart, and Sycho Sid, provided that Steve Austin does not interfere again. The match starts with both men trading punches, Bret backs Sid in the corner, only for Sid to turn it around and fire away a few shots to the gut. For much of the first few minutes, the match is an exchange of punches and kicks, with a few moves mixed in. Bret uses the Russian leg sweep and the side backbreaker, while Sid employs a short arm clothesline and a backbreaker of his own to great effect. Sid's got Bret trapped in the corner and seems to have the advantage, but Bret remembers that the Sycho one has a bum knee, so he attacks it with kicks at first before going to work on it. Bret has Sid down and drags him to the post, where he first slams the knee against the steel before debuting the ringpost figure-four. I tried that once with a bedpost, but it didn't go too well. Anyway, back from break, and the Hitman still is attacking at Sid's knee. Just when Hart seems to have the advantage, Sid comes back and hits a big clothesline. He follows that up with a legdrop for a two count. Sid slams Bret hard down on the mat, then climbs to the second rope. This seems like a bad idea, but Sid, after nearly slipping, comes down with a leg drop that sort of connects and gets another two count. A chokeslam is attempted by Sid, but Hart gets out of that and backs Sid against the ropes. He charges for a cross body block, but Sid moves and Hart hits the ropes instead. Sid goes to attack, but Bret uses a back drop in desperation to dump Sid out of the ring. WAITAMINUTE! It's Austin again from the crowd, but Sid has none of that and punches Stone Cold in the face before getting back up on the apron. Sid tries a sunset flip, and remarkably, it's looks rather decent, but Hart rolls through and locks on the Sharpshooter. While the ref is checking on Sid, Austin gets on the apron and hits the Hitman with a chair behind the ref's back. One powerbomb later, and we have a new WWF Champion. Post-match, Sid celebrates, but is interrupted by the Undertaker, and the two big men have a staredown as the show closes. Good match, although it was slightly hurt by Sid forgetting to sell his injury. Still, the best match of the night.

Overall, this show was kind of a mixed bag. On one hand, the Hart-Sid storyline and match was compelling, and Owen and Flash Funk had a pretty decent match as well. On the other hand, a lot of the other matches were just pointless filler, and I was really getting annoyed by all the constant interviews interrupting the matches, especially when the subject had nothing to do with the match at all. I guess this was a decent show, so I'll give it a 5.5 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading. Remember, if you have any ideas for future posts at the Canon Review, than send them to me either by leaving a comment, by e-mail at, or by telling me if you happen to find yourself talking to me.

Owen Hart vs. Flash Funk - WWF Raw 2/17/97 by smarkschoice

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Canon Movie Review: Hollywood Homicide

Today's review is about a 2002 film that did not do so well at the box office, losing over 40 million dollars, Hollywood Homicide. Directed by Ron Shelton, Hollywood Homicide stars Harrison Ford, Josh Hartnett, Master P, Lena Olin, Martin Landau, Dwight Yoakam, Isaiah Washington, and Robert Wagner as himself. In this movie, an up-and-coming rap group is brutally murdered after a performance, and it's up to a pair of detectives, Joe Gavilan (Ford) and K.C. Calden (Hartnett), to solve the case. The duo try to solve this case while juggling their other professions, as Gavilin is a real-estate agent, while Calden is an aspiring actor who also runs a yoga studio in his spare time. As they get deeper and deeper into the case, the duo find it harder and harder to manage both the case and their other projects. Presumably, hyjinx ensue. A few notes about this movie, and I'll try to avoid SPOILERS as much as possible, but I'm sure some will slip in there.

- As Joe Gavilan, Ford does a decent job, though I got the feeling that he was basically playing himself for two hours. As for the character itself, while at first the idea of a detective being more concerned with his next real-estate deal was somewhat humorous, the constant co-mingling between Gavilan's cop life and real-estate career gets tiresome, especially during the extra long chase scene at the end of the movie. To me, I didn't think Gavilan was a particularly likable character, as he came across as more of a desperate shyster trying to hustle an extra buck or two than a heroic figure. Even when you found out that Internal Affairs officer Macko (Bruce Greenwood) was hell-bent on bringing Gavilan down, part of me felt that Gavilan probably deserved it.

- Opposite of Ford is Josh Hartnett's portrayal of detective K.C. Calden. While Hartnett wasn't neccesarily bad in this movie, he didn't bring anything extra to the table, and frankly, I felt that any number of young actors could have played the same role as well, if not better, than Hartnett did in this film. Of course, the script doesn't do Hartnett any favors, as Calden is basically a young cop who gets a lot of tail and, like everyone in Hollywood, wants to be an actor. Well, of course he does. Calden also doesn't seem to be very good at his job, as he's a poor shot who also has a severe problem with dead bodies. One wonders how a cop as young as Calden gets to the rank of detective despite being less than stellar at his craft, but I guess you're supposed to ignore that.

- Shelton and screenwriter Robert Souza (a former cop who also moonlighted as a real-estate agent) decided to pack the script of Hollywood Homicide with as many cop-movie cliches as they could get away with. There's the investigation by the hard nosed cop from Internal Affairs whose sole purpose seems to be to complicate matters, there's the gruff police lieutenant in charge (this time played by Keith David) whose sole purpose is to bark orders. Also, there's the twist that Calden's father was also a cop, and he was killed in the line of duty. Conveniently enough, Calden gets a chance to avenge his father's death and bring down his crooked ex-partner (played by Dwight Yoakam). Heck, there's even a fight over a girl in this film, as Gavilan has unwittingly stolen Macko's girlfriend, a radio psychic named Ruby (Lena Olin). There's so much cliches packed into the script that at the end, none of the storylines are allowed to stand out, so you end up getting a bunch of brief glimpses at each one without any background or real meaning behind them.

- If you like your movies packed with cameos, well Hollywood Homicide is right up your alley. Not only does Robert Wagner play himself, but you also get Gladys Knight playing the mother of a young rapper (played by Kurupt) whom the police is after, Master P as a club owner looking for a new house, and Smokey Robinson as a taxi driver. Perhaps the most interesting cameo is that of Lou Diamond Phillips as a cop undercover as a hooker. So, if you ever wanted to see Lou Diamond Phillips in drag, well I'd suggest you watch this film immediately.

Overall, there's not really a whole lot to say about Hollywood Homicide, because the film lacks substance. It's a paint-by-numbers buddy cop flick which tries to be clever, but ultimately falls short. Worst of all, it seems as if the film is caught in a middle ground between a comedy and a drama, and at the end, it's not humorous enough nor dramatic enough to be either. There's a few humorous moments in the film, and the climatic chase scenes, while overly drawn out, have a few intriguing action sequences, but it's not enough to make up for a muddled story and mostly boring first hour of the film. Overall, I'd give Hollywood Homicide a 3.5 out of 10, as it's a rather unremarkable film that offers hardly anything original and is well below the usual efforts of both Harrison Ford and director Ron Shelton. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this review or Hollywood Homicide in general, then share them by leaving a comment. Also, if you have an idea for a future review, then share those with me either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Canon Movie Review: Blow Dry

See, I told you that it wouldn't be two weeks before another post on The Canon Review. Rather, it's only been a couple of days, so perhaps that's a step in the right direction. Anyway, today's review is of the 2001 film Blow Dry. Directed by Paddy Breathnach and written by Simon Beaufoy (who also wrote the screenplay for The Full Monty and Slumdog Millionaire, among others), Blow Dry stars Alan Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Josh Hartnett, Rachel Griffiths, Rachael Leigh Cook, and Bill Nighy. In Blow Dry, the British Hair Styling Championships are coming to the small town of Keithley, which inspires a salon artist named Shelley (Richardson) to try to get her old team back together and compete. However, Shelley's ex-husband Phil Allen (Rickman) and their son Brian (Hartnett) aren't exactly on the best of terms with Shelley, seeing as she left them for Phil's show model Sandra (Griffiths) some 10 years ago. But Shelley wants to make things right between everyone, as she has recently been told that she is dying of cancer, and wants her dysfunctional family to come together as a unit and figures that the competition will help in that pursuit. Meanwhile, hundreds of stylists have come to Keithley in pursuit of this year's title, including two-time defending champion and Phil's old rival, Raymond Robertson. Raymond has employed his American daughter, Christina, as a model this year, but things grow complicated once she strikes up a relationship with Brian. A few notes about this film, and there may be SPOILERS, but I'll try to keep them to a minimum.

- This film actually reminded me of a couple of other films, actually. A comparison that I saw a lot about this film was to the 2000 film Best in Show, which was similar in that both films dealt with offbeat people in a competition. Blow Dry also shared some similarities with the 1992 Strictly Ballroom, although it wasn't quite as over the top and glamorous as Ballroom was. After watching Blow Dry, I kind of want to watch those other two movies again, which may not necessarily be a good thing for this movie.

- As Phil Allen, Rickman does a nice job in portraying him as a bitter man who once tasted greatness and now carves out a simple living cutting hair in a simple barber's shop. In fact, he does such a good job that it became hard to imagine Phil as once being a flashy hair-stylist. But once the final scene rolls around, Rickman is also able to portray his character in an over-the-top yet humble manner, a multi-layered portrayal which really sticks out compared to all the other hairdressers.

- The best acting performance in this movie would have to be Natasha Richardson's portrayal of Shelley. Richardson was able to play a part that's been played hundreds of times before, the terminally ill woman wanting to tie together all the loose ends, and plays the part better than most. She's able to be both vulnerable yet strong, positive yet cynical, and plays Shelley with a levity that is often missing from roles such as these. Even though the script doesn't exactly do Richardson a lot of favors, she's able to take what she's given and deliver a great performance anyhow.

- Josh Hartnett and Rachael Leigh Cook are also in the movie, as a pair of young adults who knew each other as kids and are now reconnecting after years as young adults. Cook plays Christina, the daughter of hairstylist Raymond Robertson, who is not above cheating to reclaim his crown as Britian's best hairstylist, while Hartnett plays the son of Phil and Shelley. Hartnett attempts to speak with a British accent throughout the film, but it comes and goes a lot of the time, while Cook plays an American who happens to have a British hairstylist for a father. Either way, neither Hartnett or Cook are particularly outstanding in their roles, and their storyline just seems like filler most of the time.

- This movie also has a lot of supporting characters, some of which are stronger than others. Bill Nighy as Raymond Robertson is very effective in his role as the over-the-top villian of the film who will stoop to any level to win. Meanwhile, Warren Clarke provides quite a few laughs as the mayor of Keithley and the MC of the hair competition. There's also a subplot involving a model (played by Heidi Klum) and two stylist brothers that provide a couple of laughs, but really just seemed tacked on to the script, probably as an excuse to cast Heidi Klum.

Overall, Blow Dry is supposed to be a comedy about an underdog team of hairstylists coming together to win the big game, so to speak. But there's too much drama in this film for it to be a comedy, and it's too muddled of a film to be considered a straight drama. Blow Dry is a good film, but ultimately it's also a film that's not particularly memorable and outside of Richardson's performance, the acting is hit-or-miss. I'd recommend seeing it, especially if you are a fan of Alan Rickman or Natasha Richardson, but it's not exactly an essential film that everyone must see. Overall, I'd give Blow Dry a 6.1 out of 10, as it's good in a lot of spots, but not great. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this review or Blow Dry in general, then share them by leaving a comment. Also, if you have an idea for a future review, then share those with me either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Canon Review Better Late than Never 2011 MLB Preview

Hey, it's that time of the year again, where the baseball season starts anew and everybody's in first place. Or at least it was nine days ago. However, I have been too busy, lazy, sick, or whatever to contribute to this blog in the last two weeks, so here is the 2011 Canon Review Baseball Preview with nine days worth of hindsight. A lot has happened in eight days, as the heavily favored Red Sox have started out 0-6 and have millions of Sox fans panicking, while Rays OF Manny Ramirez has decided to retire rather than face another suspension due to use of performance enhancing drugs. Meanwhile, the Orioles have surprised many by getting out to a fast start, while the Phillies, Rangers, and Reds have surprised less people by also getting out to fast starts. So, with nine days behind us, let's take a look at what else is in store for the remainder of the 2011 season.

Predictions (* = Wild Card)

American League

AL East
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees*
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Baltimore Orioles

Despite their 0-6 start, I'm still picking the Red Sox to win out in the AL East, simply because they have the most talent out of any team in that division by far with the additions of OF Carl Crawford and 1B Adrian Gonzalez to an already strong lineup. Yes, they have questions about their rotation and C Jarrod Saltalamacchia has failed to impress so far, but even so, the Sox are still the best team here. The Yankees may be a bit long in the tooth at some spots, but with stars like 1B Mark Teixeira, 2B Robinson Cano, 3B Alex Rodriguez, and SP C.C. Sabathia, the Bronx Bombers are still a force to be reckoned with. Any team with the amount of power the Blue Jays have to be considered a threat, and if their young rotation comes together this season, then Toronto could make some noise in the AL East. The Rays have just lost too many quality players, and it doesn't help matters that 3B Evan Longoria is hurt. Not to mention the abrupt retirement of Manny Ramirez, although it's hard to say whether or not the Rays will exactly miss a 1 for 17 hitter. The Orioles swept the Rays last weekend, and seem to be much improved, but I'm still skeptical about their chances, and I think they're still a year or two away from contending.

AL Central
1. Chicago White Sox
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Cleveland Indians

The White Sox have a powerful lineup boosted by the acquisition of DH Adam Dunn. With a solid rotation and a bullpen anchored by hard throwing lefties Chris Sale and Matt Thornton, I predict that Ozzie Guillen's team will emerge from a tight three team race to win the division.  The Tigers signed C/1B Victor Martinez to give a boost to an offense powered by 1B Miguel Cabrera. While the Tigers have a good team, I think they have too many issues in the infield to win the division. If the Twins' 1B Justin Morneau and closer Joe Nathan come completely back from injury, then there may be postseason baseball in the Twin Cities again. However, both the White Sox and Tigers should be better teams this year, so the Twins will find it difficult to defend their division crown. The Royals have an immensely deep farm system, but most of their top prospects are still a year or two away from the majors, so while Kansas City's on the right path, expect another tough season for the Royals. The Indians have some solid young players like C Carlos Santana and RF Shin Soo-Choo, but the Tribe is in rebuilding mode and are at least two years away from contention.

AL West
1. Texas Rangers
2. Oakland Athletics
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4. Seattle Mariners

Yes, the Rangers lost Cliff Lee, but they did add 3B Adrian Beltre to an already potent lineup and remain the most talented team in the AL West by far. The Athletics have some great young pitchers in Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, and Gio Gonzalez, but Oakland could use a little more offense, even with the additions of OFs Josh Willingham and David DeJesus and DH Hideki Matsui. The Angels missed out on Carl Crawford, so they made a panic trade for OF Vernon Wells that really doesn't help their team a whole lot. Despite the presence of SPs Dan Haren and Jared Weaver, the Angels have a look of a .500 team. The Mariners have defending Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez and perennial All-Star OF Ichiro Suzuki, and that's pretty much it.

National League

NL East
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Atlanta Braves*
3. Florida Marlins
4. Washington Nationals
5. New York Mets

While the Phillies do have some injury concerns, particularly with 2B Chase Utley and closer Brad Lidge, the Phils' awesome starting rotation and an offense powered by 1B Ryan Howard should be enough to give them a fifth straight NL East crown. If not, the Braves are in prime position to ascend to the throne, with a pretty decent rotation of their own. At the very least, I expect the Braves to nab the wild card spot. The Marlins still have SS Hanley Ramirez, and a top hitting prospect in RF Mike Stanton. But overall, the Marlins have too many holes to compete this year. Yes, the Nationals signed RF Jayson Werth to a megabucks contract, but their pitching still remains thin, especially with phenom Steven Strasburg out for the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Mets are a mess right now, and I wouldn't be surprised if they decided to go on a full-scale fire sale at some point during the season in order to rebuild.

NL Central
1. Cincinnati Reds
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

This is the worst division in baseball this year, but even so the NL Central has three teams definitely capable of winning the crown this year, and the Cubs could even make a run if things go right for them. The defending champs, the Cincinnati Reds, are anchored by last year's MVP in 1B Joey Votto. While 3B Scott Rolen may take a step back this year, 2011 could also be the year that young outfielders Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce break out with All-Star caliber years, and if that happens, look out. If the Cardinals had SP Adam Wainwright available, I'd pick them to win the division. Alas, Wainwright's out for the year, so despite the presence of 1B Albert Pujols in a contract year, I still can't put them ahead of the Reds. The Brewers made a big move in trading for SP Zack Grienke, but unfortunately, Grienke's out until May with a rib injury. But a team that includes players such as OF Ryan Braun, 1B Prince Fielder, and SP Yovanni Gallardo should definitely be considered a contender. The Cubs seem to be in a weird spot right now, as if they can't decide whether to rebuild or not. But Chicago still has some talented players, and if guys like OF Alfonso Soriano and 3B Aramis Ramirez can play up to their massive contracts, then the Cubs could be the surprise team of the NL. The Astros have some good players like RF Hunter Pence and SP Brett Myers, but the majority of their roster is below average. The Pirates have had 18 losing seasons in a row, and despite a good start and some young talent like 3B Pedro Alverez, it's quite likely that 2011 will be season number 19 without a winning season.
NL West
1. Colorado Rockies
2. San Francisco Giants
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. San Diego Padres
5. Arizona Diamondbacks

Other than the AL East, the NL West may be baseball's strongest division. The Rockies have solid pitching staff and a powerful lineup led by SS Troy Tulowitzki and OF Carlos Gonzalez. Just like last year, I'm picking the Rockies to emerge as the champs come October. The defending World Champion Giants still have an excellent pitching staff powered by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, but they still have some issues about their offense to make me wonder whether the Giants will even get back to the postseason. The Dodgers are a strong team that just seem a step below Colorado and San Francisco, while the Padres still have a strong pitching staff, but their lineup really lacks power after the trade of 1B Adrian Gonzalez. The young Diamondbacks certainly have enough talented players to surprise some folks. Ultimately, I picked Arizona last, but if they can get their bullpen straightened out and new manager Kirk Gibson gets breakout seasons from OFs Chris Young and Justin Upton, then Arizona will be a team that can hang with anyone.

World Series Predictions: Rangers over Rockies

In the AL, originally I had the Red Sox winning the pennant, but they seem to have a lot of issues with their pitching, so I changed my mind and am now picking the Rangers, a team with just as potent a lineup as the Red Sox and somewhat less issues in their pitching staff, especially since Neftali Feliz is back in the closer's role. In the NL, the Phillies seem to be the favorite, and with their four aces in the rotation, I can see why. Call me crazy, but I think the Rockies are simply the most talented team in the National League, and they have both the pitching and lineup to get through any series. At the end of the day (or season), I expect the Rangers to learn from last year and win the World Series in six games.

Awards Predictions:


1. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox
2. Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers
3. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
Dark Horse: Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins

Gonzalez has spent the majority of his career playing in relative obscurity in a park that greatly suppresses production. If he can handle the heat of playing in Boston, expect Gonzalez to put up a monster year and win his first MVP award. Last year's MVP, Josh Hamilton, is still among the most gifted players in the game. It wouldn't be surprising if Hamilton provided another MVP caliber season, although he does have some issues with staying healthy. Heading into his fourth season, Longoria must have his best year yet if the Rays expect to compete in the AL East. However, an early season injury greatly affects Longoria's chances. Keep an eye on Morneau, who was putting together MVP-caliber numbers before a concussion sidelined him last season. If Morneau can come all the way back, he certainly has the power to become an MVP candidate.


1. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals
2. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies
3. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
Dark Horse: Jason Heyward, OF, Braves

Pujols is the best player in baseball, and if that's not enough, he's playing for a new contract this year. Tulowitzki provides the power of a top-notch slugger with the glove of a slick fielding shortstop. If he can put it all together this year, Tulo could win his first MVP. Votto won his first MVP last year, and should be in contention again provided that the Reds stay in contention for a division crown. Heyward may just be 21, but even so, he has the talent to turn in a monster season this year.

AL Cy Young Award:
1. Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners
2. Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox
3. C.C. Sabathia, SP, Yankees
Dark Horse: John Danks, SP, White Sox

Last year's winner, Hernandez may not play for the best team, but as he showed last year, you can overcome an unspectacular win-loss record as long as you dominate the league. Lester has long been expected to become the ace of the Red Sox, and this may be the year. A 20-win season is not out of the question. Sabathia has a great lineup behind him, and a 20-win season is certainly in play is Sabathia continues his excellent pitching work. It may just be a gut feeling of mine, but I feel that John Danks is going to have a big year for the Sox this year, winning 18+ games with an ERA under 3 and becoming the ace of the White Sox. He certainly seems to have the right stuff to become a top-notch pitcher.

NL Cy Young Award:
1. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies
2. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants
3. Cliff Lee, SP, Phillies
Dark Horse: Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers

Halladay won the Cy Young last year, and should be his same excellent self this year as well. Lincecum may not get the best run-support, but the two time Cy Young winner is still amongst the very best pitchers in baseball, and a third Cy Young could be in the not too distant future. The big free agent signing of 2011, Lee gives the Phillies yet another pitcher capable of dominating the league. If Lee gets enough run support, he could definitely win 20 games. Keep an eye on the 23-year old Kershaw, as few pitchers on the planet have better stuff than the young Dodgers' ace. As long as he stays healthy, Kershaw should be one of the top pitchers in baseball this season.

AL Rookie of the Year Award:
1. Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Rays
2. Michael Pineda, SP, Mariners
3. Kyle Drabek, SP, Blue Jays
Dark Horse: Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals

Hellickson has been compared to a young Greg Maddux, among others. While that may seem a bit premature, the Rays feel that Hellickson is ready now, and I think he will prove the Rays were right in trading Matt Garza to open up a spot for Hellickson. Pineda has been compared to his current teammate, Felix Hernandez, and if Pineda comes anywhere close to the excellence of King Felix, then he's a definite contender for this award. The son of a former Cy Young winner, Drabek has been one of the most hyped prospects in baseball over the past couple of years, and now it's time to see just how good he can be. Although Moustakas has started the season in the minor leagues, don't be surprised to see him in Kansas City in the next month or so. If he gets the call, Moustakas has the bat to make a huge impact and possibly a run at the AL Rookie of the Year award.

NL Rookie of the Year Award:
1. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves
2. Arlodis Chapman, SP, Reds
3. Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants
Dark Horse: Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves

Okay, so Freeman hasn't exactly set the world on fire thus far, but the young first baseman will get every chance to prove he can stick in the show, and he should find his footing rather quickly. Chapman, the young Cuban fireballer, should make a major impact for the Reds this season, although it's hard to see him winning the award if he's only going to be used in middle relief. Belt made the Giants out of spring training, and if he hits the way he did in spring training, then the Giants may have their second straight ROY winner. Although the Braves haven't come out and said it, Kimbrel is for all intents and purposes the Braves closer, and with his 97-mph fastball, a 40 save season is a very distinct possibility, provided that Kimbrel doesn't lose his control.

Well, thank you for reading the 2011 better late than never Canon Review Baseball Preview. Don't worry, it will not be another two weeks before posts again, as I suddenly have a lot more free time on my hands. Remember, if you have any ideas for future reviews, or comments about this or previous reviews, then send them to me either by e-mail at or by leaving a comment on the blog.