Category Archives: NFL

The Problem With Legalized Sports Gambling

May 14th, 2018 will go down in history as one of the most impactful days in sports history. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the federal ban on state sanctioned sports betting is “unconstitutional.”  Dan Patrick  put it best when he said “the floodgates are officially open for other states to allow sports betting.”

Many sports pundits and gambling professionals have made themselves vocal about wanting sports gambling to be legalized.  Bringing about the “unconstitutional” nature of denying citizens the right to gamble and because “everyone does it anyway.”

A sports betting room at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Prayitno

I am a sports-gambling enthusiast. I love the science that is sports-handicapping. I talk with other sports-snobs who understand that picking a winner against the spread – instead of “straight up” – takes more skill than people give it credit for.  My best literary works come during the football season, when I pepper social media with my “Beating Vegas” articles, detailing who I feel will “cover the spread” in college and professional football.  It’s fun.  I get it.  .  . for some people.

The truth about sports gambling, is that it is an addictive and dangerous hobby.

For as long as sports has been around, the sports gambling racket has been a main source of income for the criminal element.  The guy at the corner store, the guy outside the bowling alley, your grandfather – so on and so forth – the bookie, has been a part of every neighborhood forever.  Yes, even yours.  It’s a dirty world where if you don’t pay up – you can literally lose your life.

Now with the legalization of gambling across the fifty states, just coming in a matter of time, think about the dangers this now puts on society as a whole.

People who have no idea how addictive sports-gambling is, or who have never tapped into that addictive part of their personality will now see that with gambling being legalized, it is somehow harmless.  These people who have never ventured into the perils of “chasing bets” and hitting a string of bad-luck will now feel as if they have been invited to a fun new hobby that brings no-ill-effects.

Photo Credit goes to CalvinAyre.Com / Article written by Kirby Garlitos “NFL Prop Betting Part 1: Offense”

Also, for all of those who do gamble and think this is better than the “guy at the corner store.” At least you knew what the parameters were if you didn’t pay up – those things usually involved intimidation by use of baseball bats and / or turning over a your family-owned-business to the person you owed money to.  Although those parameters never scare off the  true degenerates – for the most part, people understand the code of the streets.

Now, if gambling is legalized.  Be prepared to pay taxes on your winnings and be prepared for government agencies to start garnishing your paycheck with no questions asked if you don’t pay up on your losses.  Be prepared for people’s credit to nose-dive and be prepared to see more people losing their homes. . .

Everybody thinks of sports gambling and they don’t realize, after the first game you bet on – one of three things happens to you.

  1. You win and automatically start thinking how you can win more.
  2. You lose and begin to wonder how you can win that money back.
  3. (this is the most dangerous of the three) Winning or losing doesn’t matter at all.  It was the rush and the thrill for those three hours that you want to re-live again.

I am not here to preach.  I would be a hypocrite if I told folks how to live their lives and give them every reason to not gamble on sports.  It’s more about society as a whole.

With sports gambling being allowed, this leads us – the regular folk – to think about a placing a $50  or a $100 bet as a legal means to make some quick and easy cash in a fun way. . . All the while – it’s the casino’s, the government and the sports leagues that will be the real winners.  The rich will continue to get richer at our expense.  ‘Merica. But we’re too blinded by the immediate opportunity to make money on a game – that we won’t recognize it.

The NBA has already said they want 1% of all wagering action on their entity. That’s now.  What stops them next year from asking for 2%. . .then 3%, so on and so forth.  Major League Baseball would be the biggest of hypocrites to take on a percentage (and even support) sports gambling.  If you don’t believe that, why don’t you go and Google, Pete Rose.

There is no doubt that the idea of legalized sports gambling is on the way.  Just because something is now legal – it does not mean it is okay to do.   Be smart.  And as I always say: “Good Luck and Wager Wisely.”

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Mockery Draft 2.0

About a month ago, I did my silly little mock draft and now because of some time to kill and anticipation for this year’s draft only being a few days away – here is another.   Now instead of going with just “my gut” – I’m going with my gut, what rumors make sense, what makes sense for the team selecting and a good amount of second-guessing on my part.  So enjoy the Mockery Draft, Second Edition.

Source: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America
  1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC:  There is a strong consensus saying the Browns will take Josh Allen, but I think that’s just a smoke-screen trying to bait anyone who’d pay a fortune for the number one pick.
  2. New York Giants: Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State: In the original, I had the G-Men taking Josh Rosen. . .then I almost went with the consensus that would have the Giants taking running back Saquon Barkley – but out of nowhere I think the Giants take the guy who is as close to a guarantee in this draft when it comes to being a starter 10 years down the line.
  3. New York Jets – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Kept this the same.  This is who the Jets want, this is who they’re going to get.
  4. Cleveland Browns  – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State: Originally had them taking Chubb here, but in this case they go with Ward to help out that secondary that got toyed with last season.  Kiper and McShay have Barkley going here but running back is not a need for a team that has Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde at the moment.
  5. Buffalo Bills (in MOCKERY TRADE WITH DENVER)- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: I still have this going down and I still think it’s stupid.
  6. Indianapolis Colts – Roquan Smith, ILB/OLB, Georgia: Originally had Barkley getting drafted here but I have the Colts taking the best linebacker in the draft, who can be a leader to that defense for years to come.
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers– Derwin James, Florida State, DB: There is a lot of talk of keeping James in the state of Florida, I believe it.
  8. Chicago Bears – Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame: Almost changed this one up – there is a good chance Nelson gets taken by the Colts or even the Browns.  If Nelson isn’t the guy for Chicago, and with Roquan Smith also gone – I’d expect Trumaine Edmunds to be the pick for Chi-Town.
  9. San Francisco 49ers – Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech: You can never have too many pass rushers in this league – especially while one of them is awaiting domestic abuse charges. . .
  10. Oakland Raiders – Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama: Raiders have their eye on Smith.  They don’t get him in this version of reality and nobody wants to trade with them.
  11. Miami Dolphins – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Dolphins get the steal of the draft.  Jackson ends up starting by mid-season.  Fast forward 10 years from now – Jackson ends up being the best of the quarterbacks in this draft.
  12. Denver Broncos  (in MOCKERY TRADE with Buffalo)-  Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA : Still like this trade happening and love the fit for Denver with Davenport.
  13. Washington Redskins – Mike Huges, CB, Central Florida: Keeping it chalk two picks in a row.
  14. Green Bay Packers – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: The Green Bay front office is tired of hearing Aaron Rodgers bitch and belly ache about releasing his washed up buddy Jordy Nelson – so they give him a young target with exceptional route running abilities.
  15. Arizona Cardinals– Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: At the end of it all, Josh Rosen has to sit it out and be the last quarterback drafted out of the most-talked-about.  Cardinals make this move out of desperation and it doesn’t work out in the long run.
  16. Baltimore Ravens – Vita Vea, DT, Washington: I had him going in the twenties the first time around.  That didn’t seem right.  This looks like a Baltimore move though.
  17. Los Angeles Chargers – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: Chargers strengthen up an offensive line, for a quarterback in Philip Rivers who has the tools this year to give it all one-more-try.
  18. Seattle Seahawks – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: A lot of people have Barkley going top-five in this draft but all of that talk makes no sense.  This is a great draft for running backs and Barkley is one of those “looks can be deceiving” type of players.  As big as he his, he isn’t a “between the tackles” type of runner and has run out of the shot-gun and/or option his whole career.  This can work wonders in Seattle though, where that type of offense works well with Russell Wilson.  This is a premier spot for Barkley.
  19. Dallas Cowboys – DJ Moore, WR, Maryland: Originally had them taking Calvin Ridley, and although Joshua Jackson, corner out of Iowa or Harold Laundry, defensive end out of B.C. are probably the picks most others would assume, the Cowboys are looking to help out Dak and win with this offense as presently suggested.
  20. Detroit Lions – Harold Laundry, DE, Boston College: Almost had the Lions taking Sony Michel in this spot, but they can land a quality back in the second round.  Laundry is the last of the “real-upside” pass rushers in the first round.
  21. Cincinnati Bengals– Billy Price, G/C, Ohio State: Most likely they’d plug him in at center and they’ll go on to their general expectations of boring mediocrity for the 2018 season.
  22. Buffalo Bills – Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa: This pick ends up being a better long term one than their quarterback pick of Josh Allen (woof)
  23. New England Patriots –  Isaiah Wynn, G/C/T, Georgia Very unpredictable team, but here I think they’d lean towards the versatile offensive line prospect who they can plug wherever he fits best, on day one.
  24. Carolina Panthers – Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU: Originally had them taking a bigger receiver over Sutton, but that’s just silly.
  25. Tennessee Titans – Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Boise State : This guy wasn’t even in my original mock, but there’s a lot of buzz recently about him sneaking into the first round.  This would be a spot for him to land.
  26. Atlanta Falcons – Da’Ron Payne , DL ,Alabama: Falcons defense played better last year, no reason to stop adding to it.  Adding d-line talent against teams that like to run it like Carolina and New Orleans would help them out greatly in taking the NFC South.
  27. New Orleans Saints – Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina: Oh lets just give one of the best offenses in football, the best tight end in the draft.  Brees can make this guy a pro-bowler in his first season.

     

  28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama: With Shazier gone they are going to need a new face for the future of this defense.  I don’t think Evans is a “face” type of guy – but definitely a quality starter.
  29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma: They said they won’t reach for anybody.  If this happens though, this is just dumb luck.
  30. Minnesota Vikings – Will Hernandez , G, UTEP:  This pick didn’t change for me.  A little bit of optimism here for a team that has very little needs, except for this one.
  31. New England Patriots -Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville: Pretty sure they need a corner. . . right?
  32. Philadelphia Eagles – Sony Michel, RB, Georgia: Sticking with this pick because it’s ridiculous and pound for pound, this is probably the best running back in this year’s class.

Chicago Bears 2018 Mock Draft

2018 Draft Picks held by the Chicago Bears:

  • Round 1: Pick 8
  • Round 2: Pick 39
  • Round 3: None
  • Round 4: Pick 101
  • Round 4: Pick 111
  • Round 5: Pick 136
  • Round 6: Pick 167
  • Round 7: Pick 198

There is quite the laundry list of “needs” for this Chicago Bears team but when you finish a season 5-11, there are obviously weak spots peppered throughout the depth chart.  Last season, the Bears were 10th in total defense, and 30th in total offense.  Although defensively they were top 10 in passing yards allowed,  they also allowed a completion percentage of 64.8% and only had eight total interceptions for the year, which basically put them in the bottom of the league for that category. Offensively, the Bears were completely one dimensional, which led them to having the worst passing offense in the NFL last year.  If that was due to the inability to go vertical or the lack of trust in last year’s coaching regime in rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky — that’ll be a debate for another time. . .

Here is my 2018 Chicago Bears Mock Draft:

Round 1, Pick 8:

Quenton Nelson, Guard, Notre Dame:

Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This has been the overall consensus pick among Bears fans and draft “gurus.”  The Bears would be filling a need with arguably one of the better players in this entire draft.  He’s everything you want in an NFL guard with the power, intellect, strength and equal over achieving ability in the run and pass blocking game.  A lot of folks like this match-up not only because of the huge need but because the Bears hired Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand to do the same job in Chicago. Nelson is one of the highest rated players in this draft though, and the Bears may have to worry about teams ahead of them snatching up Nelson.  The New York Giants, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts could all benefit from drafting Nelson in the top ten.

Round 2, Pick 39:

Lorenzo Carter, Line Backer, Georgia:

Carter showed off his freakish ability and build at this year’s combine as the  six-foot-five, two-hundred and fifty pound line-backer ran a forty-time of 4.5.  In his senior year at Georgia, Carter had 4.5 sacks, 62 total tackles, forced three fumbles and recovered three fumbles.  The Bears have had some luck with their other Bulldog linebacker, Leonard Floyd after they drafted him in the first round of the 2016 draft.  As talented as Floyd is though, the Bears need another presence on the other side of this defense.  Carter would fit perfectly there.  (As a side note, since he and I both had these first two picks identical, I wanted to share a link to Mike Brez’ mock draft on twitter )

 (Photo by Perry McIntyre Jr.)

Round 4, Pick 101:

Tegray Scales, Line Backer, Indiana

The only reason why Scales may slip to the fourth is because he is undersized as an inside middle line backer.  Even at 6’0″, 230lbs – he might  find himself pushed around in the NFL. . . at least at first.  Scales was the first Indiana player in 30 years to be All Big Ten First Team – and in the last two years has racked up over 200 tackles for the Hoosiers.  He’s a very instinctive and fluid line backer, who can be a starter in this league.  In the fourth round if you don’t get a “star” but a “starter” that’s a win – especially one with a high football I.Q.

Round 4, Pick 111:

Nyheim Hines, Running Back, N.C. State

In this off-season, the relationship between the Bears and running back Jordan Howard has been “shaky” to put it lightly.  Howard is a top 10 running back in the league and in some circles top 5. . . the Bears may not be looking to sign him to a long term deal though once the contract is up.  They might wait in later rounds to take a shot on a running back, but in this spot, N.C. State’s Nyheim Hines should be available.  This is a back that I watched a lot of last year and he is a well-tooled running back who – if he adds some more muscle, has three-down-back potential.  He has more of an upside than Tarik Cohen and can be a more valuable X-Factor type of player if he doesn’t end up being an every-down guy.

Round 5, Pick 136:

Tony Brown, Corner Back, Alabama

Tony is more of a physical corner than a ‘lock-down’ guy – but what do you expect in the fifth round?  He’s got size and speed, a good tackler in the open field, and exceptional in special teams.  He is a physical guy too, who isn’t afraid to take on running backs, no matter how big they are.

Round 6, Pick 167

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Wide Receiver, South Florida

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

He might have more of a fifth round value than sixth, but for all that matters to Bears fans – he falls and the Bears get him.  He is a big target at  6’4″, 206 lbs and ran a forty time of 4.37.  He did nothing in college until blowing up in his senior year.  He is great at locating the ball in the air  – similar to former Bears wide-out Alshon Jeffrey.  He isn’t the most polished route runner, but is a big bodied guy who can be a red-zone target and who’s speed can help stretch the field.  If he is there in the sixth this is well worth the gamble.  If it doesn’t work out – the Bears are familiar with big, speedy wide outs who don’t contribute to the team. . .

Round 7: Pick 198

KJ Malone, Offensive Tackle, LSU or Bentley Spain, Offensive Tackle, UNC

Both of these players were put here because this isn’t a strong draft for offensive tackles, and these two guys have a possibility of going earlier than they should go.  Once again though, when speaking in “mock-draft” terms – they both could be available.  KJ Malone, is the son of NBA hall of famer Karl Malone (which does nothing for him in the NFL) who is a pretty solid, albeit at times overly-aggressive run blocker who falls somewhere between average and below average in pass blocking. . . Bentley Spain was once the left tackle for Bears quarterback Mitchel Trubisky, so there’s a relationship and trust there – but Spain may have to become stronger to be an every day starter instead of a rotation-type of player on an NFL roster.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

The Heartthrob’s Mockery Draft ’18

*Disclaimer: This Mock Draft was done before the trade between the Rams and the Patriots. A second version of this mock will be out before the draft as well.

My annual “Mockery Draft” is a way to poke fun of those who take themselves to seriously and be completely bias in what I want to happen.  Sure, I watch and love college football so I may know a little something here and there just from watching the games week to week, but does any of that really matter?  Trades and the unpredictable is what makes the draft interesting.  Here is my take on all of this craziness that may or may not happen in the first round of this year’s draft. . .

1. Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold, QB, USC: Just do something that makes sense for once, Cleveland.  I’m personally not in love with any of these quarterbacks but Darnold seems to be the one the Browns like the most.

Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America

2. New York Giants – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: They say Eli still has more in the tank, but they’d be foolish to not take a quarterback at this spot.  Once again, not in love with this quarterback class, BUT the guys this year have higher ceilings than those projected to come out next year.  Giants have to make this move now.

3. New York Jets – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma:  Yeah, I know – three quarterbacks in a row, won’t happen.  Well, it should.  Jets didn’t trade up to take anything else but a quarterback, trading into the third spot and not one or two means they have more love for another candidate not named Darnold or Rosen.  Mayfield comes with the fanfare and personality the Jets have been craving to see at the QB position.

4. Cleveland Browns  – Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State: Last year with the first overall pick they selected the draft’s best pass rusher in Myles Garrett.  Why not do the same this year and “book-end” these boys for the road ahead?

5. Buffalo Bills (in MOCKERY TRADE WITH DENVER) – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: In a move of pure desperation, the Bills draft up and select the next quarterback on their big board.  Allen is said to have the ability to throw the ball 80 yards downfield. . .that’s a talent you never need to really see in game situations though, so. . .yeah.

6. Indianapolis Colts  – Saquan Barkley, RB, Penn State – Colts traded with the Jets and got themselves the sixth pick a few weeks ago, and they better start doing something to help out Andrew Luck.  Barkley is one of my favorite players in the draft – but that’s because I’m a Penn State fan.  There isn’t anything that screams “3 down back” or “franchise back” about his game.  He’s a good kid, with talent that needs to be in the right system.  Colts have no system.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech; Bucs struggled with their pass rush this year.  Edmunds doesn’t get the acclaim Chubbs does, but in my opinion you’re splitting hairs about who’s better.

8. Chicago Bears – Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame: This is my favorite team, this is their biggest need and this is my mock draft.  So in turn, they get the guy I want them to get.

Source: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America

9. San Francisco 49ers – Denzel Ward,  CB, Ohio State: Some may have them nabbing wide out Calvin Ridley here but for a team that has to play against three above average quarterbacks twice a year, taking the best corner in the draft is the smart move.

10. Oakland Raiders – Roquan Smith, ILB/OLB, Georgia:  I put this here because this is what I’ve been hearing for months now. At this point if it doesn’t happen, this entire draft will be a disappointment.

11. Seattle Seawhawks (in MOCKERY TRADE with Miami) – Derwin James, DB, Florida State: In my “complete trade” Miami also gets Kam Chancellor, so the Seahawks now have two glaring holes in their secondary.  James can play both safety and corner. . .but not at the same time. . . regardless, it’s a start in the right direction.

12. Denver Broncos  (in MOCKERY TRADE with Buffalo)-  Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA: They didn’t like that April Fools joke that Von Miller played on social media, about him being traded to the Browns. . . Elway doesn’t like people with bigger egos than his so he’ll look for Miller’s eventual replacement, who can in the meantime give them important snaps now.

13. Washington Redskins – Mike Huges, CB, Central Florida: Huges might actually be the best man to man coverage corner in this draft.

14. Green Bay Packers – Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama:  Packers have Burnett and Dix at safety but Fitzpatrick is probably better than either of them.

15. Arizona Cardinals – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Cards got kinda-sorta lucky and didn’t have to give anything up to get the quarterback who is the biggest risk but comes with the biggest upside in this draft.

Source: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

16. Baltimore Ravens -Colton Miller, T, UCLA:  They took the wrong tackle.

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: Hey, look who took the right tackle!

18. Miami Dolphins (in MOCKERY TRADE with Seattle) –  Billy Price, C/G, Ohio State:  This is a smart pick by Miami to get a guy who can play different spots on the line.  Adam Gase has got to start building this offense somewhere.

19. Dallas Cowboys – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama:  Ridley was once projected to be a top 10 pick, but here he falls to the Cowboys and this makes keeping Dez Bryant a little bit less of a thing after 2018.

Source: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America

20. Detroit Lions -Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma: In a lot of games, quarterback Matthew Stafford had to run out of the pocket a lot and just chuck it deep. . .I don’t know if that’s just how he’s played his whole career or because the o-line is bad.  I’ll guess a little bit of both.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Vita Vea, DT, Washington:  Will he last this long in reality?  Probably not.  I just didn’t want Green Bay to get him.

22. Buffalo Bills – Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa: This pick ends up being a better long term one than their quarterback pick of Josh Allen (woof)

23. New York Giants (in MOCKERY TRADE with L.A. Rams) Isiah Wynn , OL, Georgia:  Yeah, I’m believing in the hype.  The Giants trade Odell Beckham to the Rams, get this pick and probably a bunch more but they use it wisely and add a much needed piece to this offensive line (who can play every position).  Giants can easily take a wide out in the second and a running back in the third and have their offense set for the future.

24. Carolina Panthers – Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame:  The only reason they choose Brown over Sutton is because he’s bigger.

25. Tennessee Titans – Harold Landry, DE, Boston College: This ends up being a steal for this team.  They won’t make the playoffs because they have no quarterback but whatever.

Source: Leon Halip/Getty Images North America

26. Atlanta Falcons – Da’Ron Payne , DL ,Alabama: Falcons defense played better last year, no reason to stop adding to it.  Adding d-line talent against teams that like to run it like Carolina and New Orleans would help them out greatly in taking the NFC South.

27. New Orleans Saints – Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina: Oh lets just give one of the best offenses in football, the best tight end in the draft.  Brees can make this guy a pro-bowler in his first season.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama: I kind of wanted to make them trade Bell in this draft and take a Sony Michel here, but I went with the boring pick. . .sorry guys.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars -Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU:  If it’s Sutton, Brown or Moore, they need to take a wide-out here.

30. Minnesota Vikings – Will Hernandez , G, UTEP: A little bit of optimism here for a team that has very little needs, except for this one.

31. New England Patriots  – Harrison Phillips, DL, Stanford: You would think after that Super Bowl debacle that they’d take a corner back here, but nah.  “The Hood” is too stubborn to admit when he was wrong, so instead goes with help on his d-line and with a player who we will be told is very intelligent and the kind of personality that will fit the New England Patriots way of blah blah blah blah. . .

32. Philadelphia Eagles – Sony Michel, RB, Georgia:  This team knows Jay Ajayi can’t be the answer and they also know that Michel is one of the best offensive threats in this draft who can be a three down back.  The offensive minded head coach, can’t resist.

 

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NFC North Draft Needs

Minnesota Vikings:

Draft Day needs in the Draft: Defensive Tackle and Guard.

Picks in rounds 1, 2, 3, 5, (three in 6) and 7

Source: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America

When you look pretty dominant all season long and then get embarrassed in the NFC Championship game, the disappointment will be pretty tough to brush off your shoulders for the coming months.  The Vikings showed no faith in any quarterback that was on their roster last year and let them all go in free agency.  Luckily for them, they won “the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes” so that is one less position to worry about in the draft. Having the 30th overall pick isn’t too sexy of a first round pick, but it also shows that you’re a good team that needs “just a little more” to push them to that next level.  There are some pretty good guards in this draft but they’d need a miracle to land  Quenton Nelson and some of luck for either Will Hernandez or Isaiah Wynn to fall to them at 30.  Texas tackle Connor Williams seems like someone who just may fall to them though.  In the second round, they may land a talent like USC Rasheem Green, who is  a versatile and athletic defensive linemen who can line up at defensive tackle but would probably be best suited attacking from the outsides.  When you’re a good team, you can also afford to be a little cute in the third round, like getting a wide-receiver/special teams threat like Dante Pettis or a guy who is a nice polished receiver like Daesean Hamilton out of Penn State.  Either one of these guys can go in the third or fourth, and with no fourth round pick, the Vikes would have to make up their mind quickly here.  Later in the draft, watch for another sleeper pick in the receiving core like South Florida’s Marquez Valdes-Scantling, or someone to add to their defensive rotation like Ohio State’s Chris Worling.

Detroit Lions:

Draft Day needs: Linebacker, Defensive tackle and Running back

Pick in every round except for the 6th:

Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

Let’s just be honest when it comes to the Lions: they are mediocre at best.  Sure with a new head coach, comes a newfound optimism, but we all know what Matthew Stafford is (a stat filler, who is praised by the Fantasy Football geeks) and we all know the limitations of their roster.  With the twentieth pick in the first round, their best bet is to go “best player available.” If they are lucky they should be able to get one of tho Alabama alums on their front seven.  Linebacker Rashaan Evans or defensive tackle Da’ron Payne could fill right in and be a day one starter. In the second round they could find themselves an athletic linebacker in South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard.  Offensively they’ve needed a running back since Barry Sanders, and this draft has plenty of them.  The Lions, could maybe hold out until the third or fourth and get themselves a quality back.  Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage is a nice sleeper who could go in that third or fourth round area.  Ballage is a big back (6’2″, 228 lbs) with power, speed and good hands who can prove to be a sleeper for any team in need of a back.  With a defensive minded coach though, he may look at some sleepers on defense in the sixth and seventh rounds like Tre Flowers, safety out of Oklahoma State, Garret Dooley, linebacker out of Wisconsin or Troy Apke, a safety out of Penn State, projected to go late in the draft, but adds some top level speed to the position.

Green Bay Packers:

Draft Day needs: Corner back, guard and tight end

Packers have 12 overall picks (one in each of the first three rounds, two in the fourth, three in the fifth, two in the sixth and two in the seventh)

Source: David Becker/Getty Images North America

The NFL is just dying to help out Aaron Rodgers, so they gave them four compensatory draft picks this season.  Rodgers doesn’t like his organization or his coach much and at this point the two sides seem like a marriage who will stick it out “for the kids.”  With that being said they are, as of now, the second best team in the division and need to compete with top tier teams in this league.  Although the goal with the 14th overall pick should be to take a corner, it might be hard for them to pass up a pass rusher like Marcus Davenport if he is around – but luck may be on their side and they’ll be able to nab the corner out of UCF Mike Hughes or even the safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who’s versatility all over the secondary and tackling ability would help them from day one.  This is another team that can go running back crazy in the third, fourth or maybe even fifth rounds.  Jimmy Graham has been added to a list of targets for Aaron Rodgers which includes Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, but Cobb at this point is just an overpaid part of this puzzle and adding a wide-out.  The sleeper wide receiver that I see fitting in well with Green Bay is Boise State’s Cedrick Wilson.  He’s a hard worker, with good hands and route running ability.  He’s also a tall receiver with speed who can be a red zone guy AND a deep threat.  The Packers have so many picks, their scouting team must be looking at players like Wilson and even more players like him who are on an even smaller raider with a high upside. . .

Chicago Bears:

Draft Day needs: Offensive Line,  Linebacker, Corner back

Draft Picks: 1, 2, two in round 4, 5, 6 and 7

Source: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America

The Bears were the talk of last year’s draft who moved up to get “their guy,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky of UNC.  Mitch didn’t look like a franchise guy last year, but the Bears barely resembled much of a football team in general in 2017.  The Bears addressed their wide-receiver issue by signing Allen Robinson as their new number-one wide-out and they even added Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton for good measure.  The offensive line seems to always be an issue with the Bears, even when they get it right personnel wise – an injury or two wreck all kinds of havoc. The Bears are hoping and praying they land Quenton Nelson, the Notre Dame guard, who might not only be the best offensive lineman in the draft but one of the drafts best players, over all.  If the Bears don’t land him in the first, they may try to trade back to land either Georgia guard Isaiah Wynn or another Notre Dame talent, the tackle Mike McGlinchey.  Chicago kept themselves busy in the offseason and even signed linebacker Aaron Lynch from the 49ers, but that’s not the “umph” that will help to put this linebacker rotation into the next level.  Much like what was mentioned earlier with the Detroit Lions, Chicago may find themselves looking at South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard or maybe even the freakishly athletic linebacker out of Georgia, Lorenzo Carter.   The Bears will look to get some depth and hopefully some sleeper talent with the corner position, and they may be able to find that in  later rounds with Arizona’s Dane Cruikshank or they may look in their state, Illinois State product Davontae Harris to be more specific.

 

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Not Bending For Beckham

New York Giants star wide-receiver Odell Beckham Jr., said he would not step onto a football field without his contract issue being resolved.  The “issue” being that Beckham wants to be the highest paid wide-out in the NFL.  This is a problem for the NY Giants because they are not used to being threatened by a player and because they are generally not known as a team who will overpay for talent – no matter who it is.  But this problem might find a very satisfying remedy if the rumors coming out are true.  The rumor is that the NY Giants are indeed shopping Beckham around – and the price would include a first round pick for this year’s draft.

Source: Al Bello/Getty Images North America

The New York Giants were 3-13 last season and find themselves with the number two overall pick in the draft.  The whole direction of the draft kinda-sorta depends on what the Giants want to do with that #2 overall pick.  Now, with the possibility of getting another first round pick – the Giants can try to revamp their roster the right way and look to a bright future that won’t be that distant.

The Giants have options here if they trade Beckham.  “Options” aren’t essentially granted to a team coming off of a three-win season.

The first team that comes up in trade talks with the Giants for Odell Beckham Jr. is – surprise, surprise – the Cleveland Browns.  The Browns have been very aggressive in the off-season and are making moves that actually “make sense” for a change.  The Browns have the money under the cap to pay Beckham what he wants, they already acquired Jarvis Landry (a close friend of Beckham’s), and they have more than enough “draft-pick-capital” to trade to the NY Giants.  The Browns have the 1st and 4th overall picks and also have three picks in the second round.

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Depending on how the Giants wanted to play this, they could end up with the 2nd and 4th overall picks of this year’s draft, and in addition pick up maybe two more second round picks — if the Browns wanted to get really crazy they might throw in a first or second round pick in the 2019 draft – but that probably wouldn’t be necessary.

With those picks, the Giants could do literally whatever they wanted. They could draft a quarterback and maybe  Bradley Chubb, the pass rusher out of N.C. State.  They could take Quinton Nelson, the offensive lineman from Notre Dame and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley OR they could trade that number two overall pick to a team like Buffalo or Arizona who might trade their first round pick and some more goodies to the Giants so they can grab a quarterback.

The bottom line is, why WOULDN’T the Giants trade Beckham?  Although he is undeniably one of the most talented receivers in the league, he’s also a loud mouth, a self entitled diva -with a target on his back – and he is also coming off of an ankle injury that ended his 2017 campaign.  The Browns would and should do this deal because they can get their QB with the number one overall pick and have him set up with a pretty decent offense (better than what ANY of these top ranked quarterbacks had for themselves at college).

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The wide-receiver position is NOT the position you pay the big bucks to when you have other needs, and especially if you’re rebuilding.   The Giants have to think “big picture” here and right now they are the third (and maybe even) the fourth best team in their division.  Trading Beckham would help get things in the right direction for them, immediately.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Three Teams Taking Advantage in the Off-Season

When discussing the NFL Off-Season hype that comes around every year, some teams use this time to make  “splash” signings, while others hope to fill  holes in their roster and others just bolster what they already have.  These three teams have taken advantage of free agency and the trade-block as best as they could in 2018.

1. Philadelphia Eagles

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Sometimes, the rich, do indeed get richer.  That is the story with the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.  While some teams are scrambling to sign a free agent quarterback, or positioning themselves in the draft to get one – the Eagles, have both a Super Bowl winning quarterback in Nick Foles,  and a quarterback who was (with debate) on his way to winning league MVP in Carson Wentz.   Already having one of the more balanced rosters in the league, the Eagles went and signed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (1 year, $2.6 million), re-signing their own linebacker, the versatile Nigel Bradham and trading with the Seahawks to land defensive end Michael Bennett.   All this did was bolster an already strong run defense that in 2017 allowed 4. 5 yards a rush, which was third best in the NFL and it will surely increase their sack number (which last year was at 36 for the season) and will add even more power to the league’s best defense in applying pressure.   When you’re already at the top of the mountain, you don’t have to jump any higher, just secure your footing, and that is just what the Eagles did.

2. Minnesota Vikings

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The Vikings were thought to be the team that would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl until that NFC Championship game where they got thoroughly embarrassed by the Eagles.  The Vikings one issue was an obvious one.  When a team lets all three of their quarterbacks go and test the free agency market – it’s a telling sign.  The Vikings had just about every position on the field covered except for quarterback.  They did the only logical thing.  They went all in on the player who would demand the most money in free agency this year, former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.   They were willing to sign Cousins to a three year deal with $84 million guaranteed.  This is a gamble worth taking.  Cousins was working with a beaten up offensive line, and targets that were more often injured than capable of playing the game of football. Even then, he threw for over 4000 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.   Playing indoors for at least nine times a year (remember they have that one away game at Detroit which is also played indoors), playing for a smart organization and healthy/good players around him – is only going to make Cousins excel in Minnesota.  The offensive system will be something similar to what was run in Washington so the learning curve shouldn’t be a hurdle for him.  Aside from this signing, was also the ability to acquire defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on a one year deal.  This is a low-risk, high reward type of deal for the Vikings who have a strong front and are hoping to get a season out of Richardson in which he can try to prove himself as a force in this league again.

3. Cleveland Browns

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For all the excitement the Browns have generated this off-season, in my eyes this is more about the “hype” than actually making a difference.  Let’s be serious, after an 0-16 season, the only way to go is up, right?  The Browns realized quickly that they had no patience for DeShone Kizer at quarterback so they acquired former Bills QB, Tyrod Taylor.  Tyrod was used more as a scapegoat than anything else in Buffalo, and at least in Cleveland, everyone knows the problems come way before Tyrod had anything to do with it.  For Tyrod Taylor it’s a fresh start somewhere, where the expectations are low.   The Browns also traded for wide receiver Jarvis Landry.  Landry can get open, and he can catch.  What he does after the catch though, is usually get tackled.  Last year Landry racked up 112 receptions and could not get over the 1000 yard receiving mark.  That’s something that is hard to do while even trying to do it.  Pairing him up alongside a healthy Corey Coleman should go over well in Cleveland, if Tyrod Taylor gets the ball to them.  The Browns went all in on this offense as they signed right tackle Chris Hubbard to a five year $37.5 million dollar deal ($18 million guaranteed) to a guy who’s started 14 games in five seasons. . . The Browns also went a little nutty and signed running back Carlos Hyde, who was the 49ers starting running back for the last two seasons and has missed the 1000 yard rushing mark both times. . . but he was playing for the 49ers so we’ll give him a break on that.  It was just a weird signing because they already have Duke Johnson in their backfield and they could have drafted the more explosive, younger and versatile Saquon Barkley in this year’s upcoming draft.  If the Browns can follow these moves with a strong draft AND they are able to maximize the potential that is on this team – they can easily be the third best team in the AFC North. . .That’s an improvement at least.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Who Will Get Mad in March?

March Madness is usually all about College Basketball.  The Bracket Challenge.  The hype, the dramatics, etc, etc. . .  March is also the time when NFL fan-bases get over-hyped or overly depressed because NFL free agency has begun.

It’s usually fan-bases of bad teams that freak out.  If you’re a fan of the Jets, Bears, Browns, Giants or any other team that has a top-ten draft pick – it’s a nervous time.

But is it, really?

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Every team enters the off-season with holes.  Whether it be because of lack of talent on the roster or someone is being paid too much.  Regardless of what it may be, free agency – in some people’s eyes – is the “quick-fix” to all their problems.  In truth free agency can be just what a team needs to get over a hump or take them to the promised land – for example, Peyton Manning signing with the Denver Broncos in 2012 (jeez, that was already SIX years ago. . .).  Or even in 2014 when the Patriots signed corner back DOn the other hand, free-agency can be the equivalent of a broken water pipe being fixed with some duct-tape.  For examples of bad free agent signings just look up any of these Redskins signings: Albert Haynesworth in 2009, Adam Archuletta in 2006 or even Jeremiah Trotter in 2004.  .  .Oh those Redskins. . .

This season, there were names that every bad franchise’s fan base wanted them to throw money at.  So far some players have agreed to terms with teams wanting their services.  This includes “house hold names” like Albert Wilson, who has agreed to go to Miami for three-year $24 million dollar contract and Trey Burton who has agreed to a four-year, $32 million dollar contract.  Now, one isn’t saying that these men aren’t “good” and I could care less about the money they’re getting – BUT – fan bases all start to follow these type of guys on twitter and “all of a sudden” become experts on the “hidden talents” that players like these possess.

Source: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Come on, man. . .

Burton was the third best tight end in Philadelphia and Albert Wilson was probably a three or four guy in Kansas City.   If these are the caliber of players that will get fans in a frenzy because they “missed out” on these guys – then maybe, just maybe – you’ve lost it a little.

It’s easy for fans to say, get this guy – spend this money and fill that hole.  But the NFL is all about the right guys who fit in the right systems.  This is why an intelligent player like Richard Sherman, who’s only worked in one defensive system in his career, chose to sign with the 49ers who run a similar defensive scheme.   This is why teams like the Jets and Vikings are looking at Kirk Cousins to be their next quarterback.  Cousins just ran a west-coast style offense in Washington, and the Vikings and Jets (if we are to judge by their offensive coordinator hires) will be doing something of the same ilk.  Meanwhile, former Bears linebacker Christian Jones who played in a 3-4 defensive scheme is now going to play for the Lions who typically run a 4-3 defensive scheme, so if this signing turns out to be a bad one – there’s your first big clue as to why.

Listen, everyone loves free agency.  But when it comes to cursing out a general manager because he didn’t fill “a hole” with some over-priced shiny new object, there is no reason to throw a fit or curse your general manager’s family from now till eternity.  Oh, and it definitely doesn’t call for burning players’ jerseys.  That’s just stupid.  If we’ve learned anything it’s that winning teams are put together by smart people.  The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers pretty much get it.  They never want to over-pay for talent – they’d rather find those who can fit in their systems.

Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America

So if you’re team is sitting on millions upon millions of dollars and not spending it like crazy in free agency, don’t flip out.  There’s a draft and there is also a coaching staff in place that is there to make players better – imagine that. . .

I mean, if you’re a Jets fan though.  Yeah, I’d be mad as all hell, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

The Giants: In An Awkward Place

Last week, I spoke with Earnest Christian on his “EJ Talks Football” podcast and in our ramblings concerning NFL free agency, we discussed the current position of the New York Giants.  It was a difficult spot for me because I have a hatred for this franchise that goes longer than a quarter of a century. I will not get into why I loathe this franchise so much, but I will say, the reasons have scarred me since a young boy till now.

As a fan who roots against the Giants, last year was a great season.  The Giants looked pitiful, the fans were frustrated and the season was over from the start.  But if one is to really step back and analyze where the Giants are at right  now, it  is a really, really awkward place to be.

The Giants are a team that sit with the number two pick in the NFL draft.  The Giants also have a terrible offensive line (one of the NFL’s worse), an aging quarterback in Eli Manning (whose talents have been diminishing for years and may be at a “rock-bottom” point) and a contract negotiation with stud wide-receiver Odell Beckham.

Source: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images North America

When it comes to the offensive line, there are already talks that free agent guard Andrew Norwell signing with the New York Giants is already a “done-deal.”  If this is so, this is the Giants moving in the right direction in the off-season, but it certainly cannot stop there.  Maybe the Giants look to free-agent tackle Nate Solder to help solidify a rebuild of the offensive line, or they look in the draft.  In this year’s draft, quite possibly the best player in it is Notre Dame guard Quentin Nelson.  The Giants taking Nelson number-two overall though would be doubtful, and if this was the course of action they’d want to take they would likely trade down a few spots. . .just a few.

When it comes to Eli Manning and the quarterback situation of the New York Giants, new general manager Dave Gettleman, has told the New York fans and media that Eli Manning will remain as the team’s quarterback.  This was unexpected by many considering how Eli Manning has played in the last few seasons, and also considering that this seemed like a good time to just break free, and draft a new quarterback for the future with the number-two overall pick.  Instead, the Giants have given the cringe-worthy statement of keeping the decrepit QB under-center.  If this is true this means the Giants have no interest in Josh Rosen, Josh Allen or Sam Darnold.  This doesn’t mean other teams don’t though.  The Giants can easily trade out of this spot for a mini-ransom of sorts, which is ideal for a team in their position.  Also, keeping Eli Manning in there for another year, really does no damage to the rebuilding model – if the model includes acquiring pieces to an offense that would be better for a new quarterback to control.

Source: Al Bello/Getty Images North America

Finally, we come to the Odell Beckham drama.  With a heavy emphasis on the word “drama” because that’s all Odell is.  Well to be fair, he’s also a top five wide receiver in the league, and one of the two biggest play makers in football (next to Antonio Brown).  With that being said, Odell wants to be the highest paid receiver in the league.  Oh sorry, the highest paid player in the league.  Yeah, no thanks.  This comes at a terrible time for the Giants, but this is a business.  Odell is playing his hand correctly and you can’t blame him.  The truth is, Odell is a star.  A star in New York.  That equates to bigger things than just the football field.  But in the same breath, Odell is someone who came into the league with injury issues, and last year started the season missing week one with an ankle injury and then had his season cut off due to a left ankle fracture in week five.  Odell also has the reputation of being a petulant child and a general pest.  He has a huge target on him from defenders all over the league because he tends to show boat and talk trash — BUT he is the best player on this roster. . . by far.  The question here is, do you really pay a receiver that much (we’re talking in the ball park of ($17 million a year) while rebuilding?  Even if Odell signs a deal of a realistic $14-$15 million a year – where does the sense come in for all of this?  Teams that have the wide-outs with big contracts only make noise if the rest of the team is solid – like the Steelers or the Falcons — but even then – no championships.

This is a very awkward time indeed for the New York Giants.  If I said I feel bad for them, I’d be lying through my teeth.  The petty little demon inside of me is grinning ear to ear.

By the way, we only discussed their offense and how they should go about fixing that. . .this defense gave up the second most yards in the NFL last year as well. . .so uh. . .Good Luck out there with the rebuild G-Men.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

The NFL’s Quarterback Problem

So in old news,  NFL quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo signed a five-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers for $137.5 million, with about $74 million of that guaranteed.  In the quarterback “free agency” market, Garoppolo was the most attractive option (pun-intended) because of his age and ceiling.  The 49ers decided to tie up a big chunk of their money to the quarterback they believe is going to be the key to their success because that’s what you’re “supposed to do.”

Right?

Eh. Who knows really.  In the case of Garoppolo he went 5-0 in the five games he played.  He also threw seven touchdowns and five interceptions in those five games – but, for what it’s worth – the 49ers were convinced that was their guy to give this massive contract too.

For the record, I like Garoppolo and hold no ill-regard toward the 49ers organization. I really don’t care what they do, and if Garoppolo can get paid – props to him.  This isn’t even about Garoppolo, it’s about the quarterback position and how ridiculous the pay-grade is for that position.

Everyone will tell you until they are blue in the face – you need a quarterback in today’s league.  Sure. Who can argue that? The league has changed in ways that they want you to throw the ball more.  What has over-paying a quarterback really gotten anybody though?

Ask the Detroit Lions, who paid “their guy” Matthew Stafford a five year deal amounting up to about $27 million a year. That contract was given to him in August of 2017 and in July of 2017 Stafford’s record against winning teams was 5-46.  That’s not a typo – FIVE and FORTY-SIX.  Stafford has been the starting quarterback for the Lions since 2009 and they’ve had three playoff games with three playoff game losses.  Sure he puts up great garbage time stats for fantasy football geeks – but all in all, it hasn’t worked.

Ask the Seattle Seahawks, who were loving life when they found a diamond in the rough who they drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft.  Most teams don’t find their starting QB in the third round.  They did.  They rode it out – made him a star, he performed well and they even won a championship out of it.  After 2014 and a new contract the Seahawks realized they needed to trim corners.  They couldn’t keep offensive linemen, secondary players etc — and because of that the team has suffered.

Ask the Baltimore Ravens, who were the greatest victim of the “okie-doke” as Joe Flacco played the best stretch of games in his life when he was nearly perfect on the Ravens playoff / Super Bowl run in 2012.  Lucky for him he was in a contract year and the Ravens “HAD TO” keep their Super Bowl QB.  So they paid him $120 million over the next six years.  That $120 million has gotten them average to below average play from the QB position since then. (Side Note: It’s difficult to even watch Ravens games with him at quarterback).

There are a whole list of others – just look around the league.  Eli, Cutler, Romo, Cam, Luck, Matty Ice, Dalton – all aren’t terrible – some are actually the reason for any success that their team has had – BUT – was the money that was tied into that position really worth it for the teams mentioned?  Eli kept getting paid when he was passed his prime, Cam might’ve already peaked – as well as Matty Ice and Luck. . .

Folks, we just saw a back-up quarterback, who was nearly done with the game of football – win the Super Bowl.  And for all things considered – the injured starter, Carson Wentz, probably would’ve had the same results and he is in his second year of his rookie contract.

General managers have collectively shown that they do not care for long contracts with running backs. . . and often with wide-receivers and corner backs they tell the player “test the market and come back to us.”  With quarterbacks though, it’s always “What do you want?  Here it is.  Sign this.” (Unless you’re Kirk Cousins, of course)

Maybe I’m old fashioned but these games are always won in the trenches.  If you are not stocking up an above average offensive line, or an above average defensive line, then what are you – as a G.M. really doing?

Nick Foles showed in the Super Bowl, if you’re a competent quarterback who is comfortable with the system you’re in – you should be fine — especially if the pieces around the offense have bought into the system.  This is what you see every year from the Saints, Patriots, Kansas City and L.A. (Rams) – we also saw it for two of three years with Kirk Cousins in Washington.

The truth is, until a general manager and coach have the “you-know-whats” to tell a “star” quarterback “no” and that they believe in their system and finding a player who can run the system as effectively – these ridiculous contracts will never stop.  Fans will complain and you’ll get killed by the talking-heads on sports television but financially it’s a great move, if you really know you’re job.   Finding a starting quarterback is hard  – yes – but these quarterbacks have to realize how fortunate they are to find systems that are working for them.  Look at “great” wide receivers, corner backs, running backs – even line backers – who leave for a pay-day, find themselves in a system that doesn’t fit into their skill set and are released.  What usually happens to those players?  They look to find the system that got them that big money deal and try to prove they are still “great.”

Quarterbacks are special, but not special enough to hamper a team moving forward, financially.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio