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Cuban to buy the Cubs?

SPORTSbyBOOKS.com has referenced three links regarding Mark Cuban possibly buying the Chicago Cubs for $625 million. The original story was posted on Radar Online and eventually shot down by CNBC reporter Darren Rovell.

Rumor or not, let’s speculate. On one hand, could you imagine Cuban getting a seat right behind the home plate umpire for all the Cubs’ home games? Good grief, no umpire would want to visit Wrigley. On the other hand, and more importantly, there aren’t many owners who are as committed to their clubs as Cuban is. Let’s face it, up until this past offseason, the Tribune Co. has been one of the cheapest in all of professional sports. Cuban would certainly change all that, and possibly revive one long-suffering organization.

There was speculation that the reason why the Tribune Co. opened its wallet this offseason, was because it wanted to sell. Hmm…

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Taboo to draft a safety early? Not anymore

What has amazed me about many NFL teams in years past is the penchant for passing on quality safeties early in round one. Last year, Oakland (Michael Huff) and Buffalo (Donte Whitner) selected back-to-back safeties in the top 10, but that was an aberration and not the norm. It seems like the premium on safeties has been as valuable to some teams as the backup fullback.

However, review the safeties of recent Super Bowl teams: Rodney Harrison (Patriots, ’03 and ’04), Brian Dawkins (Eagles, ’04), Troy Polamalu (Steelers, ’05) and Bob Sanders (Colts, ’06). That list doesn’t even include the versatile Ed Reed (Ravens). Give a defensive coordinator a heat-seeking missile like Reed or Polamalu, and watch his game plan go from cautionary to destructive. This might be a stretch, but I’m willing to bet that having a complete player at safety – that is, one that is fast, smart, instinctive, and plays the run as well as the pass – will be as important in the near future as a competent quarterback.

With that said, there is no shortage of safeties in this year’s draft. At the head of it all is LaRon Landry from LSU, who had a remarkable workout at the combine. Questioned mostly for his coverage skills and top-end speed, Landry ran a 4.35 40, essentially raising his stock higher than Disney’s. Given his overall play making ability, many make a solid argument that Florida’s Reggie Nelson is a better prospect. However, I don’t think he is as NFL-ready at this point as Landry is. Other prospects include: Brandon Meriweather (Miami), Michael Griffin (Texas) and Eric Weddle (Utah). The sleeper might be Sabby Piscitelli (Oregon State), who is strong, athletic and fast for a 224-pound safety. He is a little stiff in his movement, but would be a great value in rounds 4-7.

Stanton is the third best QB prospect? Please.

After viewing the rankings on ESPN.com’s draft site, I saw that both Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. – considered “experts” in the industry – rated Michigan State’s Drew Stanton as the third best QB prospect. What? You mean the same Drew Stanton that threw for a minuscule 12 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions his senior season? The Drew Stanton that led the Spartans to a 1-7 record in the Big Ten and crapped himself under pressure at every turn?

Heading into the 2006 season, Stanton was regarded by many as the best quarterback prospect in the NCAA. After MSU’s collapse, Stanton dropped off the radar, only to rise again after Troy Smith’s national championship game debacle. This is what I find funny about these national scouts. They pick a horse, ride it, and if it starts to crumble, hop off and find another.

To me, the third best prospect in the draft is still Smith. He is extremely athletic, throws a very catchable ball and gives a team versatility as far as running the ball. Don’t get me wrong; neither prospect should go earlier than round three in my opinion, but to hear that Stanton is getting better grades than Smith is a joke. Everyone points to lack of height with Smith, but forgot what he did on the field last year, which is the only thing that should matter.


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Thomas’s stock soars, Brown’s drops at Combine

The offensive linemen and tight ends worked out Saturday in Indianapolis. Here is a brief overview:

The Real McCoy: Wisconsin OT Joe Thomas looked outstanding on Saturday. He has everything a team looks for in a prospect and if the draft were tomorrow, I’d bet my savings that he doesn’t slip past Detroit at #2. USC center Ryan Kalil was impressive too, showing great movement throughout drills and intelligence in interviews…I’ve been hearing that Miami TE Greg Olson is the most overrated prospect in the draft. Are you freaking kidding me? Olson ran in the high 4.4’s, caught everything in site and looks every bit a first-rounder. After watching him Saturday, the Bears would be crazy to pass on him if he’s still available at #31 (assuming of course they don’t fill that need in free agency).

Stock Dropping: Surprisingly, scouts are dumping on Penn State OT Levi Brown after he ran an unofficial 5.39 40, suggesting he might even drop out of the top 15. To me, that’s a load of crap, especially after what a productive senior season he had at PSU and how good he looked at the Senior Bowl. He’s fluid in his movement, doesn’t get pushed around much and can play either left or right tackle…Some scouts have Arizona State TE Zach Miller rated ahead of Miami’s Greg Olson, but he wasn’t sharp Saturday. He looked sloppy running selective drills and made the cardinal sin of dropping a pass in one exercise.

Sleeper Watch: Texas Tech OG Manuel Ramirez is an absolute monster. He’s 6-foot-4, 335lbs. and did 40 reps in the bench press Saturday. This guy plays with a mean streak, is incredibly powerful and is strong at the point of attack. The potential problem is that his learning curve might be higher than some linemen, because Texas Tech doesn’t run a pro-style offense…Western Oregon TE Kevin Boss made a couple of nice catches Saturday, adjusting his weight well and running great routes. He’s a little lean, but he’s tall (6-foot-7) and has great hands.

Buyer Beware: Scouts have raved about Arkansas OT Tony Ugoh being a “sleeper”, but he didn’t look good to me in the Senior Bowl and he pulled up lame after running a good 40-yard dash (4.99). He gutted out the rest of the combine on a bad hamstring, which was noble, but he doesn’t look very aggressive and seems to just be going through the motions…Iowa TE Scott Chandler is an interesting prospect. He is 6-foot-7, has excellent hands and runs fluid even for being so tall. The problem is he is an ex-wide receiver and often blocks like one, which isn’t good for a tight end. He’s worth a look in later rounds for teams lacking a red zone threat, but some may overvalue him.

Wade out indefinitely with shoulder injury

Dwyane Wade dislocated his left shoulder and is considering season-ending surgery to let it heal properly. If he passes on surgery, the initial estimate is that he will be out for six weeks.

Either way, don’t expect the defending champs to make the playoffs this season. The Heat was able to tread water without Shaquille O’Neal because they had Alonzo Mourning to replace him in the lineup. There is no one on the Heat roster that can do what Wade does, so Miami is in serious trouble.

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